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QB VII (1974)
It was too long, and Anthony Hopkins telegraphed the fact that he had something to hide from the very beginning.
I read the book before I saw the miniseries when both were new. I again watched the miniseries, and though my memory of the book has faded, it could only be much better than what made it to television. Maybe my familiarity with the book helped fill in the gaps when I first watched the series.
It would have been very interesting to explore Kelno's motivations--a need to atone? A death wish? Did he really hate Jews, as opposed to simply being a coward who collaborated? Anthony Hopkins certainly conveyed a troubled individual. It would have been interesting to find out why.
And Cady--he was a total louse in the first half, and then was suddenly redeemed and transformed by his father's death. Not believable. And wasn't that Juliet Mills as the first Mrs Cady? A totally wasted part.
I don't regret watching it again. A seventies miniseries was not usually created or edited to be compelling and concise, but to furnish enough material to surround a sufficient number of commercials.
The Ghost Army (2013)
Why is this not a movie?
I was reminded of Clooney's "The Monuments Men." As much as I liked Clooney's movie, I think these guys and their story would be ideal material for a film. The Monuments Men involved the plan to save priceless art, but Frankenheimer had already used that theme for The Train. On first impression, the camouflage brigade seems almost a parody of The Dirty Dozen. The idea of assembling a squad of specialists, drawn from professionals in the fine arts, is something new. A war movie featuring various artists, art directors and designers for film and theatre, recording engineers, not only to create camouflage but later to create decoys, plus it all being TRUE--how could such a film not make a mint? I totally loved this documentary, and I am very grateful that the recollections of many of the participants were recorded at last. It is a shame that their story was not told sooner.
War and Remembrance (1988)
This series was broadcast before the creation of IMDb, and so the comments are from people who actually saw the series, rather than being engaged just to inflate the rating.
Perhaps I might have done without the soap opera romances, but I suppose they were necessary to make the characters more realistic. I won't repeat the superlatives, and mention only a couple of the many things which impressed me. The late G. D. Spradlin played Admiral Spruance at the Battle of Midway, and as I watched the scene I was touched by the restrained but eloquent performance. I knew nothing of Spruance, and after the episode, I looked him up online. Not only did Spradlin physically resemble Spruance, but the restraint was one of Spruance's defining traits. And also his unusual willingness to be open to the opinions of others. The writing was well-served by Spradlin's remarkable performance.
And Gielgud in Part VIII. OMG.
The Big Sky (1952)
I love this film--it makes me feel good every time I watch it. I'd seen it when I was a child, and loved it then. However, for decades later, I confused it with The Far Horizons which was released a few years later. Could there be two upriver boat adventures involving a pair of heroes and one Indian princess? Sure enough.
The film may not be faithful to Guthrie's novel, but there were too many unmarketable items, such as having heroes with dark sides, and a generally "down" ending. Rape, murder, and racial hatred are not usually found light-hearted adventures. A film with serious characters who experience adult problems is not something that could be sold to kids, such as myself when I first saw the film. For example, I saw The Searchers when I was a kid, and was clueless. I vastly preferred The Big Sky. More fun.
So if you take the book and subtract the adult themes and plot elements, you are left with a film that was hugely entertaining to kids, as well as to any adult looking for pure escapism.
Under the Skin (2013)
I did not like the film. I did not feel obligated to like it, though I generally like and support independent films. I just didn't get it, though I suspect there was not much to "get." Any viewer who approaches this film thinking that it is in any way a typical sci-fi film is in for a grave disappointment. I knew it was not typical before I went to see it, but just because a film is unique does not mean it is also good. It is very beautiful--lots of evocative scenery, with no real point that I could see (the bleak mountain lakeshore in mid-film, for example). The "soundtrack" is mostly sounds, with very little intelligible dialog.
The film may be well ahead of its time. Perhaps in about twenty years, I will be able to appreciate its qualities. Anyone seeking any more immediate enjoyment should look elsewhere.
I was so wrong
Before today, I had seen this film only once, in a cinema when it was released. Over the past fifteen years, I seem to have developed very fond recollections of what was in it--so much so that I rented the film to watch again today. I wanted to enjoy again what I recalled was a terrific film.
And then I saw my original IMDb rating: 5/10. What was I thinking back then? I believe that there is so very much in this film, that it is nearly impossible to fully appreciate the film in a single viewing. There are so many ideas in the film that provoke further thought. I think this film was so far advanced from the usual mainstream movie that the traditional process of a viewer finding things in the film to relate to his or her "real life" was reversed: since first seeing the film, I have found so many things in my own life that I can relate to the events in Magnolia.
The Oscar nominations: Tom Cruise, screenplay, song. Won zero Oscars. I can't explain that. Except to say that in 1999, I was wrong to rate the film only as 5/10. I can only assume that the Academy was equally mistaken.
Twelve O'Clock High (1949)
I don't see it as a "war" movie
I ask myself how I could have improved on this film. I can't think of anything. So I give it a 10.
There are perhaps five minutes total of actual combat, and the remaining two hours are devoted to exploring the humanity of the individual fliers. There are no flashbacks to establish characters, no extended reminiscences to furnish a backstory. There is simply the drama of soldiers placed in the immediacy of battle.
I saw this film for the first time today. I'd avoided it for decades: another "war" film, one that a TV series was made out of. (Yawn.) Boy, was I wrong.
I won't give away anything in the film. I will say look for examples of its amazing humanity in Dean Jagger's performance--the line about trying to remember the faces, and the line about the letters he had to write. But Jagger has no show-stopping soliloquy--just perfect. And then there was the bit about a conversation with a nurse in the hall.
And I noticed that the theme and basic plot set-up for this film were exactly the same as Joseph Heller's Catch-22.
Artists at work
I preferred this to Gentlemen's Agreement, if we must limit the comparison to similarly-themed films. I have read too much about what this film could have been, should have been, would have been, but for . . .
Criticizing a film because it was not the film you would have made is beside the point. Please go and make your own film. For example, I've seen complaints that the film was an insufficient exploration of anti-Semitism. If the film were made last year, I'd probably agree. But consider the time-frame. 1947. The theme of the source material featured gay-bashing rather than anti-Semitism. That theme would certainly have been interesting, addressed in a film from that year.
But woulda coulda shoulda . . . That's not a valid criticism for a film made under the constraints that existed then. Making a 1947 film which "sympathized" with Jews just further cleared the way for the director's place on the blacklist.
Let me offer only a simple example of the artistry in this film, which transcends any kind of "message": there is a scene near the end, when soldiers are shaving in a group washroom. The composition of that scene (involving mirrors) and the shots in it--simply breathtaking. I don't know if that scene was the product of the director or the cinematographer, or both. But OMG, what a wonder this is!
Red Dawn (2012)
This film might have been vastly improved (i.e., at least made endurable) had the "Wolverines" been a scout troop and Hemsworth would be their leader. The action would not have been any more believable, of course, but at least the producers might claim that it was supposed to be funny. As it is, there are some funny moments, but not nearly enough to save the film or to recommend it as a comedy.
The "plot" was certainly not new (and it wasn't new in the earlier version, either). The multiple car crashes in the first ten minutes kind of set the tone for what was to follow. I think the film would have gone straight to cable had they not paid multi-millions to Hemsworth.
All Is Lost (2013)
Don't take a metaphor literally
It is very interesting that about half of the IMDb remarks deal with deficiencies in sailing. I really don't think that was the point of this film, or that it was to be taken literally, such as "Titanic." I don't think the film's target audience was sailors.
Here are a few things to think over: Did he set out alone? Maybe he set out with a companion, who he murdered. Or who died of a heart attack and was buried at sea. Maybe the companion was the more experienced sailor The lack of backstory leaves room for a lot.
The message in a bottle. Watch the hesitation as Our Man decides what to do after sealing the jar. What is he thinking?
As for the ending: Passed by two ships. A third approaches at night. Light is needed. We know from the initial voice over that his rations are running out quickly. An impulsive and dangerous act results in an "All In" plea for rescue--it's then be rescued or die. There is no guarantee of success. He is placing his life in Other Hands.
Our Man may be a negligent and uninformed sailor. And we all know that no sailor would kill an albatross.
Outstanding film. A total failure as an instruction on sailing technique. But maybe, just maybe . . . the instruction was about navigation of uncharted waters?