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Flawed But Pretty Nifty
I actually liked this film a lot; I like Christopher Nolan's stuff. "Memento" was stellar. And although there are many plot holes, contradictions, and other bits of carelessness in the filmmaking process, it's still a visually stunning experience -- one that led me to watch it several times. Also, it helps to turn on the DVD's subtitles in order to discern what the heck Saito is saying during several key scenes.
I didn't get too hung up on trivial inconsistencies because the movie moves along at a lively pace. To paraphrase Ariadne, it's more about the feel.
OK, so if you're in the middle of a dream, and "an extremely powerful sedative" is being used, you end up in limbo if you get killed. However, because Yusuf tailored the sedative to leave inner ear function unimpaired, the falling-to-your-death sensation will still wake you up even if you're many layers deep. So why didn't they just drop Saito if they were worried about losing him to limbo? Oh, and if you've never been in limbo before, you automatically end up in the infinite depths of the subconscious world of one of your co-dreamers who might've been there before. In other words, let's just make stuff up and call it good.
Nevertheless, "Inception" is still a nifty flick with plenty of cool visuals to keep you interested. It's a fun ride.
Galaxy Quest (1999)
This film has it all!
I can't say enough about Galaxy Quest. It is truly the perfect Sci-Fi spoof. From the subtle humor and little jabs, to the all out, in your face comedy. It's all done so beautifully it's almost scary. I can watch this movie over and over and never get tired of it. Maybe I need to get a life or something, but I'll be quoting lines from this movie for years. This film will remain a cult classic for years and years, while films like American Beauty will gradually become obscure memories of film genre. The obvious parallels to the original Star Trek are handled with such fun, I envy the creativity and wry humor of the writers on this one. Hey, we need a Berilium Sphere, and there happens to be one on a nearbye planet and we can get there if we reconfigure the solar matrix in parallel for endothermic propulsion.....We'll do that!!! And how about the chompers....priceless!!! And check out Sigourney Weever's reaction to see what they overdubbed. Her reaction to the chompers is not exactly, "Screw that!!!." Watch that part again, and you don't have to be a lip reader to see what she was actually saying. It's hilarious. They could have actually done away with phrases like, "Screw that," and, "There is no Goddamn ship," and not have lost a single bit of the family quality which makes this movie truly great. I can't think of a better family movie aside from Toy Story 2 for best family films of 1999. One could go on quoting all the best lines from Galaxy Quest and still not scratch the surface of what makes this film truly amazing. Add this movie to my all time top 20 list. One of the few I can watch along side my 9 year old son, and share a laugh. That's what it's all about, right?
American Beauty (1999)
Great Soundtrack by Thomas Newman
Here, we have a typical case of the music dominating the actual story line. Thomas Newman is a wonderful composer. Anyone who has seen Shawshank Redemption will recognize the haunting and beautiful sounds interwoven throughout the fabric of American Beauty. At times Newman's music is really the only thing holding this film together. Musically another strong moment is Lester running out of his house while The Who's "The Seeker" blares. I love The Who, and any movie containing a rarely played Who powerhouse tune has to get some kudos. Other than that the movie is mediocre. It's okay as a comedy of sorts, but there's not a whole lot going on here. The big message is be thankful for every moment of your life. Okay, thanks, got it. Best film of the year? I don't think so. Best Actor? Sorry Kevin. Actually I think the kid from Sixth Sense should have won best actor. He really did have a leading role, but they never nominate a kid lead for best actor. Remember Christian Bale in Empire of the Sun? Didn't get nominated for a thing, and he was absolutely brilliant. But I digress. American Beauty will not go down in history as one of the greatest movies ever. I doubt it will be remembered as anything special five years from now. In short, mediocre. Good music, though.
Fight Club (1999)
Brilliant statement of American Culture
Aside from the what has already been said regarding Fight Club, there are some exceptionally brilliant moments in this movie. The first 40 minutes are the most intriguing for me. I especially liked Edward Norton's character and his narration concerning the support groups, insomnia, material posessions, his condo, and his work. I particularly enjoyed his negotiating with Marla on how to split up the support groups. When he and Tyler have their first fight there is a pause, and he says, "Let me tell you something about Tyler Durden." Then he goes into this whole thing about the part time jobs which Tyler holds. That little digression is perhaps one the most brilliant five minutes in film I have seen. Although this movie really is a "Dark Comedy" of sorts, there are many socially true statements made. For instance, Tyler saying, "The things you own end up owning you." Exactly! The imagry throughout the film is fantastic. Apart from the fight sequences, which are well crafted, we have the cave sequences with the power animal...great stuff! And of course that old abandoned house. Edward Norton and Brad Pitt have some of the best on-screen chemistry I have seen. They blend perfectly. This is the best chemistry Norton has had with another actor since his work with Matt Damon in Rounders. Overall, Fight Club approaches a rare perfection. The dialog and narration are its greatest strengths. Easily one of the top 5 movies of 1999.
Icht schlicken dokken, lug dee lug......
I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard during a movie. Harland Williams is a genius. "C'mon all you Chinese....." Who comes up with this stuff??? I got the feeling that the directors and writers just told Williams to work around the script and improvise whatever he wanted? Some of this stuff is so off the wall, you wonder just how much was scripted. And this is not your typical Jerry Lewis slapstick. Williams has a great deal of pure talent. Anyway watch it and just enjoy the wonderful absurdity that is Rocket Man.
Meet Joe Black (1998)
Great concept, a tad long.
I liked the idea, but I think they could have cut certain scenes down considerably, saved time, and still have made this film impactful. For instance didn't the scene in the study when Bill first sees Joe kind of drag on just a little too long? Maybe I'm a little impatient, but I kept thinking, "Okay okay, we get it! Let's move it along!" In fact this holds true for many scenes, including that first family dinner scene with Joe. They could have wrapped up this movie in a nice, tidy 2 hours without losing any of the emotional qualities. As far as the ending, didn't Brad Pitt seem like he was having a few problems believing his own lines. I thought I saw him struggling to maintain a straight face while saying something to the effect of, "Well, I don't really know what happened after the coffee shop, but hey! Looks like you got a nifty little party going on..." Me? I guess I'd be just a tad more disoriented and just a smidgen more incredulous as to how one minute I'm in a coffee shop with the woman of my dreams, and then suddenly I'm standing with her at a groovy soiree dressed in a tux. But hey, that's me. I guess I'm funny that way. Brad just seems to go with the flow on that one. And how about Susan. She seems to accept the death thing pretty well. I mean her father disappears over a hill with some guy she falls in love with who just happens to be death, right? Then the guy comes back alone, and all she can say is, "I wish you could have known my father. C'mon, lets party." And off they go hand in hand. I really did like this film, however. There is an undeniable emotional quality, especially during the scene with Bill and Susan near the end. A little long, however. Ridiculous in certain parts.
Disturbing Behavior (1998)
Possibly one of the worst 10 movies I've ever had the misfortune to see. Poor premise, poorly acted, real poor ending, and an overall piece of trash. I can't believe anyone would shell out money to see it. I can't believe I spent the time to watch this thing. What really bothers me is someone in Hollywood decided this was a good enough movie to inflict on the public. Poor choice.
I have lost a great deal of respect for John Malkovich
You take a great story, excellent script, and a superb premise, and then you ruin it with the most pathetic Russian accent ever. I've been a Malkovich fan (Well at least for the most part) since Empire of the Sun. I've seen him dish out wonderful performances amidst poor movies, but what we have here appears to be the opposite. I really liked this movie, but Malkovich and his terrible accent almost ruined it for me. I can only imagine when this movie was being made the directors, producers, and all involved probably stood by, but didn't have the guts to tell Malkovich that his accent wasn't working. C'mon, you can't tell me they didn't notice it. They should have said something, but I'm sure they didn't want to insult the great actor. Some guys just command too much respect. Like no one was going to tell Williams his Boston accent wasn't cutting it in Good Will Hunting. I don't know, maybe it was intentional. Maybe Malkovich made this movie and did this accent just to see if anyone would actually say anything. He's probably sitting back and laughing about it with friends. It was way too flagrant to be unintentional. He was flaunting it for crying out loud. He even fell out of the accent at the end with that final outburst. Watch it again. Either way I've lost a great deal of respect for the man. No one should get paid that kind of money for such a ridiculous performance.
The Spanish Prisoner (1997)
I had to see it twice, and I'm still not sure if I get it
I first saw this movie about four months ago, and then again last night. I got a completely different take on the twists and on the ending from the first time. I thought I got the ending the first time I saw it, and I decided that what was presented was in fact the way it ended. However after a second viewing I found some small bits and pieces throughout the story which gave me a completely different take. Maybe I'm just paranoid, but there are so many fine points to this drama that I'm still not sure who the bad guys really are or if everyone encountered was in on the scam. I'll have to watch it a third time and really pay attention to the obscure details I probably missed the first two times. Riveting, but not at all satisfying. This is probably why I liked it so much.
Ego vs alter-ego. 2 personas, 1 person
If you consider the two main characters as just one person, the film is fairly interesting. Is it a coincidence whenever Duke starts to come down, his lawyer suddenly disappears? Whenever he is completely toasted, Gonzo is right there committing all the sickest and most heinous acts imaginable while Duke stands by and observes. I wonder if Thompson's view of lawyers as scum of the earth has anything to do with always casting his depraved alter ego as a lawyer. If you watched it thinking this was a pointless romp through a world of hallucination brought on by the excessive consumption of drugs and alcohol, well...okay, maybe you're right. However, watch it again and consider the possibility Duke and Gonzo are the same person. Terry Gilliam is a brilliant director with a unique vision of the world. This was not his best effort, but consider the material with which he had to work. The repetitive constraints of the theme enables Gilliam to do little more than inject some of himself into a rather boring story without getting too silly. It would have been much too easy for Gilliam to turn it into an all out comedy. After a while of watching it and getting it the first time, we get the same thing bashed over our heads during the second half of the movie. Is there a point in telling the same story twice in one movie? The two parts of the story pretty much parallel each other, except the second half is on a much larger scale with a far greater amount of depravity. Good concept, highly repetitive, decent directing, and competent acting. This was not Gilliam at his best (Brazil and 12 Monkeys are far more representative of his brilliance). This was a bold departure in many ways for Gilliam, but will probably become one of his more forgettable offerings.