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Parca

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Undeserving of your attention, 15 February 2002

This is a good movie - for 30 minutes. And these moments do not make up a compact 30 minute segment. No, they are a few moments here and there (only about 5 of which last for more than a minute) spread out throughout the entire film. The remaining 2 hours and 10 minutes are waste, where we get snippets of several characters who are slightly interacting together, developing aborted plots and character semi-portraits. About a third of these characters are speaking in soft voices with thick common accents and low vocalization, making their snippets of dialogue even more pointless to the untrained ear. They might as well have included static to replace those moments, because there's nothing interesting to look at either (regardless of the costume and set design Oscar nominations, which are merely for the ability to recreate the look of an English mansion falling into decadence in the 1930s, not because any of it is eye candy; filler nominations, if you ask me).

Despite the crowding of characters and Altman's alleged legendary abilities to weave many stories and characters together and explore them fully, there's only about 6 to 8 characters that we really get to know about (and for half of those, most of their information is revealed in the last-minute exposition at the conclusion of the film). And unfortunately, only three characters are regularly entertaining: a rich socialite grouch (played by Maggie Smith), a nobleman who dreams of being an entertainer yet is met with flops, and a police inspector's smarter assistant. Unfortunately, the latter two are left to a side. Thus, it's up to Maggie Smith and her character (Constance) to carry the movie for us. After a while, you share her grouchiness towards the fellow socialites. Smith's nomination is deserved, although it is odd that she's in the supporting actress category, when her name is top billed in the credits, not to mention the movie opens and closes with her. I guess the lead actress is considered to be Emily Watson, who plays Constance's servant, Elsie, a character who serves as a vehicle to connect the other many characters, although Elsie's emotional gamut is limited, and some of her decisions are inexplicable. Helen Mirren is also top billed, although she's in the background during the entire picture, except for the last 10 minutes, when at last she gets a chance to show off her marvelous acting talents and tells us something about her character.

Supposedly, "Gosford Park" is a murder mystery spoof. Actually, that plot line does not develop until 1 hour and 20 minutes into the film. In other words, there's practically an entire standard movie before the advertised plot develops. The rest is a look at the different interaction between social groups in old Britain. If you've seen ANY other movie about the British elite and their servants, then you've seen and know everything this movie has to offer on that topic. And it isn't an entertaining take on the division (don't expect any humorous "Tom Jones"-like direction here). The screenplay offers some amusing lines here and there, but most of it is bickering, or random lines spouted by obnoxious characters, like Bob Balaban's gay filmmaker of Charlie Chan flicks - geez, can't Altman make a movie without lamely attacking Hollywood's elite? "The Player" is 10 years old, and wasn't that great to start with.

To round out "Gosford"'s problems, Robert Altman directs this in a limp, standard, hardly caring manner, with even some amateurish moments (e.g. overly dramatic music bursts out when a servant is informed that her hard work of the previous night was meaningless). He does have the occasional interesting shot, but those are quite few. His Oscar nomination just shows the influence of Hollywood politics on these awards ("let's give him an Oscar before he kicks the bucket" - Altman is 77 years old and Oscarless to this date). Heck, the only deserving nominations are for the actresses. It's troublesome that the wittiest writing of the movie is featured in the its poster, yet it has a best original screenplay nod.

The best thing I can say is: hey, at least it isn't "H.E.A.L.T.H."! But it sure does not deserve any of your attention.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A mixed bag..., 3 February 2002
5/10

This movie suffers from an uneven use of humor. At times (particularly in the first half) it just recreates the summer camp movies of the early 80s, without really inserting many jokes, and expects it to be funny as is, because it is showing you how stupid these movies were. Unfortunately, by hardly twisting the genre, it just winds up as another stupid summer camp movie. About half-way through it changes - somewhat. First, it starts introducing unexpected bizarre scenes (e.g. the trip to the city). Secondly, it at last starts making fun of the conventions of those films (e.g. the only sex scene is a gay sex scene; the slutty advisor goes way overboard with who she picks as her partner-of-the-moment; the kids unexpectedly boo a horrible talent show piece in which the participants had made a great effort; nobody wants to play the great underdog sports event; and the ending perfectly skewers the "nice geeky guy wins the girl of his dreams back from her jerk boyfriend" ending). But a lot of the jokes fail or come off as too weak. And many storylines are brought back only for the reason that they are threads left hanging around, and not because the writers had anything inspiring to do with them. The movie doesn't really end - it just pretty much stops. Then again, it doesn't have a real beginning of a story (something which disorients you at first).

The best that can be said is that the actors involved did their best effort. However, the writing and directing were not up to par. Don't believe the hype of this being a "hidden gem". It's more of a nice-looking cheap rock, and the only discovery that you will make will be when you find it to be a decent time killer when you run into it on cable one afternoon and have nothing else to watch.

1 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Interesting premise goes nowhere, 23 January 2002

I watched the version that had the title "Zeder" on the box, and described it as a serious horror film. I was disappointed. After an odd intro scene with some horror that doesn't make much sense, we start an interesting thriller that promises to lead to some serious horror. Unfortunately, it does not keep its promise. Half-way through you realize that once again you've been suckered into another Italian thriller about some guy who for no reason sets out on a complicated investigation, which throws in the occasional macabre scene to try to convince you that it is a horror film. When all life has been drained out of it and you no longer care for what the clues will lead to, it drags on for a few more minutes, and then tags on an easy ending which is filled with plot holes, and features a zombie priest.

This is the type of movie that should be remade: interesting premise and a few interesting scenes that wound up as a bad product. Tinker around with it a little, get a stylish director, and perhaps this one day will be a classic. As it is, right now its a waste of your time.

5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Yep. Look later... Watch other films first., 23 December 2001
6/10

I fail to get the "brilliance" of the film. Roeg does some editing that is interesting by moments but that is just pure show-off at other moments, detracting from the story. Perhaps this was done because the story is nearly non-existent. It starts out with a good, chilly introduction, depicting a little girl's drowning. Then it goes nowhere - well, it goes to Venice, and just sits around, waiting for something to happen. The entire sense of horror comes from two old ladies, one whom is blind and has a face that is hard to look at. One (or both?) is psychic, who claims to be able to speak to the dead daughter of the couple. Donald Sutherland's character has a few visions which he cannot distinguish from reality (nor can we), which creates some more tension - but not much more, except for confusion, most of which is cleared up in the end. And there's a couple of moments in which the lead characters are in danger. It's all a bunch of red herrings. You are basically waiting around for a story to start, and it never does. That is, until you reach the very ending, which pretty much comes out of nowhere, constructed out of bits and pieces of things leftover from throughout the flick. And Roeg throws in one of the most bizarre (and unexpected) killers in all horror movie history. Clips from the entire movie flash before our eyes. An odd, chilling funeral scene follows. The End. This pads out 100+ minutes of film, which could have been shortened to 50, given the lack of material. Don't get me wrong; I enjoy long horror films with stylish direction, as long as the director can keep things interesting. Roeg does little here, unfortunately.

Oh yes, and there's a sex scene somewhere in there, which has become famous. What the hell is so special about the legendary sex scene? It's not particularly erotic. It's quite tame and rather cold. And the cuts with scenes of the characters dressing up is distracting, not "artsy". Roeg has been able to do more erotic scenes in his other films (e.g. "Performance"). It doesn't help that Donald Sutherland was going through his odd-looking phase, with the large curly hair.

In my opinion, only the beginning and the ending are worthwhile. Recommended only for horror movie completists, some fans of Roeg's other flicks (although some will be disappointed), and the art film snobs.

7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Awful in every aspect, 15 November 2001
1/10

Everything in this movie is bad. The title is hilariously bad. The plot is a 1950s cheap sci-fi reject. The acting is uniformly horrendous. I mean, you get the feeling that these actors were told to just be themselves, and they couldn't get THAT right. Not one word is pronounced in a genuine-sounding form. The dialogue is mind-numbing. The humor is beyond idiotic. At best some of the conspiracy references were mildly amusing, although highly unoriginal in a post-"X Files" era. The best humor is unintentional, and even that is not enough. The cinematography was lame, with people crowded into one small space for some shots, shaky camerawork in other shots, lone people captured in the side rather than the center in what were supposed to be key shots, and an overall cheap-looking quality of film that reminds one more of a Cinemax soft-core porno. The special effects were outdated by 20 years, with the best effect being a blatant rip off of both "Terminator" and "Predator". I usually don't mind imitations of good things from other movies, but this was too much. There was slow-motion overkill, particularly whenever the 'murdercycle' showed up. The editing was bad. The score was severely unexciting and unatmospheric. The characters were heavily boring. And you have to wonder why it takes something as powerful as the 'murdercycle' to break into where it needed to break in to retrieve what it was looking for, particular given that it can materialize anywhere it wants to (talk about extraterrestrial intelligence). The costumes were boring. The set design was lifeless. And there's all sorts of things that don't make sense, like one guy getting shot in the back by a cheap laser beam from the 'murdercycle', which causes the GROUND beneath him to explode, making him merely flip around without a scratch, in typical action movie fashion. And the worst part of all is that everyone involved in the film is taking it seriously.

One could say that this would be the movie that most of the cast and crew would remove from their resume later on in their career. Unfortunately, none of the people involved in this flick look like they have a career ahead of them.

Island of the Dead (2000) (TV)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Interesting atmosphere, weak story..., 15 August 2001
5/10

What starts out as an atmospheric ghost story, ends up being just another "when bugs attack" flick with several giant plot holes (such as: hey, what happened to the other people on the island?). The direction makes it better than most straight-to-video horror flicks, as does the casting of Malcolm McDowell and Talisa Soto (two people who should get more and better work). But the odd screenplay makes the latter half of the movie go down the drain. Not bad, but could have been better. Only for hard-core horror fans who want to watch a slightly better than average straight-to-video horror flick.

10 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
Shut off the VCR, go talk to a friend, 5 May 2001

This is the anti-movie. There are no interesting visuals (unless you count Wally's never-ending forehead). There is no plot. This is just some off-off-off-off-off-off-you-won't-believe-how-off Broadway play put on celluloid, brought to you by the people who believe theater is superior to film, and thus film should be subdued to just being recorded theater. Or it is just a pretentious director desperately trying to be artistic by filming the most absurd thing: two friends just giving us the greatest hits collection of their conversations, which they think are the most interesting on Earth. The conversation can actually be interesting from time to time, but the two guys are so unfocused and incoherent that they majestically ruin the potential of making one great monologue. For example, Andre mentions that he went to India, but felt horrible when he came back, because he had only been a tourist. Instead of dwelling on this point, he goes on to talk about cults and what not. Apparently, both actors/writers were trying to see who could beat Woody Allen in neurotic rambling. In other cases, their stories are rather interesting, but you wish you could actually see those stories recreated on film, rather than just have the characters talk about it. This statement will sound shallow to many of you, but, hey, it's a freaking film! Remember why cinema was invented! To show us things we wouldn't otherwise see.

Yes, I know that people find all these little meanings in the movie. That's because the movie invites you to find a meaning, because otherwise you cannot understand why this thing was made. However, I'm of the kind of people that believes that if you really try, you can come up with great philosophical meanings in any movie, even "Robot Monster".

I say that instead of watching this movie you just go out with one of your more interesting friends, get some coffee or beers, and do your own pseudo-philosophical story-telling. It's a lot more fun, and you can probably come up with at least the same level of material. Unless you have no interesting friends, in which case you should go find some instead of sitting around reading film reviews on your computer...

Kolobos (1999)
Argentoesque nightmare... "Inferno" meets "Cube" meets "The Real World", 5 November 2000

Has anyone here seen Dario Argento's "Inferno"? It's a movie where a bunch of people die due to - well, the plot doesn't make sense really. It's just an atmospheric nightmare - a VERY atmospheric nightmare. The main point is to scare, not to narrate a story (I'm sure Peter Greenaway would appreciate it; if he ever removes his head from his rear).

This movie aims for the same concept. It starts out with the standard badly written intro scene that somehow transports us to a hospital. Then the movie's plot swings into action. Luckily for everyone who detests all those "Real World" marathons (or moron-a-thons, better said) that MTV shows every other weekend, AND "Big Brother", the foode- er, characters are engaging in some sort of similar setup. We all get to meet them and their quirky differences. When they get TOO annoying, suddenly a sawblade starts flying out of nowhere and takes out one of them. Then some thick metallic barrier covers up the entire house, and more corpses start to pile up.

Then it goes to do successfully what the awful "Blair Witch 2" tried to do; screw with our heads as we see images on video of people being killed and/or going insane, and then see the same characters popping up out of nowhere unscathed. And there it just stops making any sense whatsoever, as the characters die. and come back, and die, but "were really dead the first time only that not", and then not. Meanwhile, you are wondering how the heck the killer got all those objects in there, how he/it can manipulate everything, how he/it got in, and what the heck is he/it. It all boils down to an ending that makes sense only in the strangest way possible, and makes you wonder exactly what was the order of events in the whole movie.

I appreciated the nightmare-like quality that a lot of modern horror classics in the 70s and 80s had that movies in the last 10 years have been lacking for the most part. It isn't a great movie, but it's a worthy rental, for a horror fan.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Better than I expected, but..., 11 October 2000

I was happy when I learned that the new "Hellraiser" was going to go back to the originals: a dark story about people doing hellish things, with the Cenobites barely appearing from time to time, despite being the apparent cause of it all. I'm a big fan of the first one, and own the collectors' edition video. I thought the second one was alright, but seemed to be more of a generic fantasy movie of the 80s with some dark things going on. The third and fourth ones were quite bad. So as you can tell, I'd rather watch something closer to the first one. To all the fans of the latter two who just want to watch another Peter Atkins-penned movie of a superpowerful Freddy-wannabe who kills people massively by transforming reality with extremely gory results, until some dumb blonde figures out the riddles, just go watch "Wishmaster".

However, I still had my doubts after reading the bad previews, and learning that it was written and directed by the same guys who did "Urban Legends 2", which has the worst screenplay of a mainstream horror movie in years. The Clive Barker said he hated this one. And I had acid flashbacks of the last two sequels.

But, of course, I rented this flick as soon as possible...

The positive: it has what turns out to be a good horror story, although nothing new. The last 20 minutes do deliver some chills (which are unfortunately absent from the rest of the film). And, as on its own, it's a slightly better than average movie. Good ending (although overdone).

The negative: Not so great as a "Hellraiser" movie, though. Too many elements are lacking. It doesn't have the gothic atmosphere, style, pace, and very dark look of the others. The great score is also absent. Nothing is added to the mythology. The new cenobites just look 100% like those white worm-faced humanoids that run rampant in horror media nowadays like the remake of "Carnival of Souls" and the TV series "The Others". Except for a redux version of Chatterbox, that is. And the whole movie is basically just another straight-to-cable thriller with the last half hour being "It's a Wonderful Life" as hosted by Pinhead.

So: know what you're going to watch, if you don't want to be disappointed...

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Disappointing..., 21 January 2000
7/10

Without a doubt, this is a movie with a great script and a great cast that delivers exceptional performances. Too bad the director and/or the editor had no idea how to piece it together. Tim Robbins, the same guy who made "Dead Man Walking" go at the speed of 1 cm/h, decided to rush through this film. The flow is awful. Only the last scene and a few other scenes spread throughout the film are adequately paced and left to develop and sink in. Otherwise, Robbins was too busy trying to make as many continuous shots as possible and working with the actors, instead of making sure that every scene worked well and hooked in emotionally. So we are left feeling detached, or abandoning a scene before we are ready to do so. It's a shame. I particularly felt sorry for the scene were the crowd is marching to the new theater. It should have been a key scene, but wound up being nothing. Ironically, the fast speed made the film feel slow and made it soporific by moments.

Overall, the stories and the characters were underdevelop. Similarly, the film's main discussion, the prostitution of the artist, is left only slightly deeper than the superficial level.

Still, the film is not bad. There are a couple of good scenes there, and a lot of good dialogue and great performances. But wait for it to pop up on video or TV. I can't rate it higher than **1/2.

A final warning, for John Carpenter fans: the guy playing William Randolph Hearst is just some guy that has the same name as the director, and is not THE John Carpenter.


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