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94 reviews in total 
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Elysium (2013/I)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A fine & worthy follow up to "District 9", 20 August 2013

The problem with Neill Blomkamp's last film was that it came from absolutely nowhere for paying people like me & floored us. Obviously. we all asked how was he going follow that act?

The answer to that question is "pretty damn well". "Elysium" gives him bigger stars & a bigger set of toys to work with & probably gives his buddy, Sharlto Copley, a bigger paycheck.

This is a constantly entertaining BIG sci-fi film filled great visuals, interesting characters & a very satisfying story with as much political subtlety as a Michael Moore film.

So what if Jodie Foster is rather one-dimensional as a villainous "suit" (think "Avatar's" Quaritch wearing Armani)? She makes that one dimension very entertaining. Matt Damon may not be Bourne-terrific here but he is fine form nevertheless. His "Max" has a story we actually care about. The two standout performances here are Wagner Moura as the computer ace, Spider & Copley as the hit-man/machine/sociopath/mercenary, Kruger. Unlike the two idiot scientist who almost ruined "Pacific Rim" for me, Moura has fun with the role without ever making fun of the role. There is hardly any humor in this movie, but that doesn't make it a downer. Copley has a voice & a way of speaking that I'm sure seems very strange to anybody living in the western half of the U.S. As he showed in "District 9" & the terrific "Europa Report"(his other "E" sci-fi movie this summer) he has a unique screen presence that always holds our attention. I don't know if this makes him a particularly good actor, but he is fun to watch. Kruger is written as a scary guy & Copley makes him one.

Blomkamp keeps things moving at a fast pace that never seems rushed. There is only one fight scene that seems a bit like overkill (unlike just about all the fight scenes in "Man Of Steel" -which I otherwise loved). There is fairly bloody stuff going on throughout this movie. One scene nearly matches the infamous self-abortion in "Prometheus". The gore flashes in front of you quickly & never lingers. Just keep the kids home.

This movie is probably not going to go over very well with people who keep their bank accounts on the Cayman Islands, but for the rest of us it is rollicking entertainment

3 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Super-charged, over the top, the "S" stands for "WOW!", 17 June 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I don't get the venom being spewed at this movie. Evidently I saw a different movie.

The movie I saw is called "Man Of Steel". It is an intelligent & very well thought out movie that has all the hallmarks that made "Batman Begins" such a pleasure --an "origins story" that has never been explored in the depth that it is here.


---Henry Cavill is great in the title role -even better than Christopher Reeve. Cavill & the 2 kids who portray the young Clark never hit a false note. It'll be interesting to see how he does when he has to wear the fake glasses more as the barely glimpsed grown up Clark Kent.

---Michael Shannon as Gen. Zod is ferocious & driven. I've really liked Shannon for a long time. He delivers another Shannon-esque performance.

---the rest of the cast is excellent: Crowe is Crowe, Amy Adams is the best Lois Lane ever, Kevin Costner, Dianne Lane & Laurence Fishburne all have crucial moments that they matches some of the best work they've ever done.

---David Goyer's screenplay from a story he conceived along with the legendary Christopher Nolan may be the best & most thought out of any of the "super-hero movies".

---Zack Snyder brings this all together with the confidence it needed to pull it off. His visual gifts are on FULL display. There were times when I couldn't help to smile in delightful awe at the stuff his team was putting before my eyes. ("The Bourne Identity" shot that pulls back to reveal humpback whales swimming above a drifting Clark was a hoot.)

---The only knock I have about this movie is that is does get a bit overwhelming more than a few times. The action scenes raise the bar for these things so high that you lose sight of the ground on a few occasions. (Maybe the 3D IMAX didn't help.) I'd rather see a movie that gives me too much rather than too little. However this movie never dragged for a single second.

It isn't aimed at kids. This is Superman for adults, but it is not nearly as dark as Nolan's Batman Trilogy.

If this is not the best movie of this genre then it certainly belongs in the Top 5 (along with Snyder's vastly under-appreciated "Watchmen").

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Darker & Still A Lot Of Fun, 27 May 2013

This new ST movie lacks the freshness & surprise factor of the franchise's reboot. (The last ST succeeded way beyond our expectations.)

However, it is still a blast to watch. The characters play off each other beautifully, Burt Cumberbatch makes a great villain, the script inverts (subverts?) things in surprising & satisfying ways and there is just the right amount of sly humor to go with your popcorn.

I was most surprised by how heavy & philosophical this movie got at times. Star Trek has never tried to hide its humanistic beliefs. That's what has helped make this such a viable & potent franchise over ALL of these years & virtually forced its resurrections by it fan base. (BTW: I don't call myself a Trekkie --Trekker?-- not that there is anything wrong with that.)

The negative backlash is unwarranted & it definitely has a right to exist. All I know is that I got my money's worth of way above entertainment.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Blissfully Off-Kilter, 4 February 2013

If I could nominate 6 movies for my top 5 slots then this film (along with "The Sessions") would fill that 5th slot.

This is one cool, hip, droll & clever movie that revels in it independence without being arty-(youknowwhat). It is emphatically not a thriller but it stays one step ahead of you to the finish. Derek Connolly & Colin Trevorrow work as writer & director as seamlessly as DNA molecules.

None of this works without winning performances by Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass (who is also in the year's best film, "Zero Dark Thirty"), Jake Johnson& Karan Soni. Their characters could've so easily been stock rom-com types that are turned upside down, but Treverrow & Connolly don't destroy the apple cart. They let quite a few of them loose. It's Twilight Zone conventional. If there is an antonym to "oxymoronic" this movie defines it.

This is a really sweet movie for people who are sweetness-adverse. The sci-fi element is almost a con. It reminds me a lot of a great Nicholas Meyer movie released decades ago called "Time After Time". This movie is in that league. It's a movie for all but the dimmest of wits.

0 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
All The President's Men At War, 13 January 2013

(First off I'll say that anybody giving this film less than 7/10 is a f**king idiot although the 1st Amendment stills applies to y'all. Go back to GlenBeckistan & wait for Ahnuld's new movie.)

Kathryn Bigelow/Mark Boal's follow up to their Oscar winning "The Hurt Locker" is as tightly focused as that intense thriller but not nearly as exciting because it paints a much broader canvas over a much greater amount of time.

This film reminds me of Alan J. Pakula's 1976 film "All The President's Men"in pacing, tone & brains. ZDT is a procedural depicting digging for clues & evidence discovery. It invites the audience to go along on the process that includes trust issues & backing off & pushing on. Though it may not be as flat entertaining as the excellent "Argo" (& "Lincoln") it is very compelling material that Bigelow expertly depicts.

I think that Jessica Chastain is fantastic as Maya who drives the whole "hunt for Bin Laden" along at some great personal costs. Her face often captures the pain that goes along with the gain.

Bigelow & Boal treat the audience as adults --smart adults-- by not spelling out everything in bold capital letters & black & white. The climatic raid that finally gets UBL plays out in very matter-of-fact manner. It seems almost slo-mo at times but it shows military expertise that has already been played out hundreds --if not, thousands-- of times in training& actual operations on the battle field. I don't remember ever seeing a climax staged in this way. It is a virtuoso effort by a director at the top of her game who is not afraid to change things up.

This is a tough film to categorize. I think of it as a "compeller" rather than a "thriller", but I was caught up in it every single second.

Lincoln (2012)
5 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Memorial worthy movie making., 21 November 2012

Steven Spielberg, America's greatest movie director, has made over 20 feature films. He's had a few misses, but mostly he's been very good to excellent & he's had a few outright classics & "Lincoln" is one of those classics.

Daniel Day-Lewis gives one of those very few hype-proof performances. No matter how much praise you have heard about his portrayal of the 16th President Of The United States you are still not quite prepared for it (reminding me of Heath Ledger's work as "The Joker" in this regard). His Lincoln is very lived in, worn but not worn down, looking like the weight of the nation is upon his shoulders & looking strong enough to bear up under it. He's funny, warm, calculating, coarse, smarter than most, but wise enough to know he doesn't have all the answers. He has a code that will not break. Day-Lewis's turns in a performances that rates alongside Pacino's Michael Corleone & Ledger's villainous turn as my all-time favorite.

However there are other great performances in this film, most notably by Tommy Lee Jones as a crucial ally to get the 13th Amendment passed during the final weeks of Lincoln's life that the film covers. Every key actor in this prodigious cast has a moment or two that stuns.

None of this is possible without a script by Tony Kushner that may even surpass Day-Lewis's work. It features more than a few speeches written with a love of the language--of English & the English of that time-- rarely heard anywhere in America & they are often thrillingly delivered by a cast up to the challenge. It is also rich in irony (I don't think the Democratic Party during this period would've won the "black vote".)

So all that Spielberg has to do is yell "Action!" & "Cut!". Of course it's not that simple. The great gift of a great director is to know how much guidance is needed to get the job done. There are no obvious Spielberg moments here (like another Kushner scripted movie, "Munich", that he directed), but you know that you're in the hands of a cinematic master.

John Williams' score is subtle. Michael Kahn's cutting let the moments breathe without ever dragging out too long. Janusz Kaminski has said that he merely let his cinematography "serve the story", but he's being a bit too humble. His shots are a stunning parade of shadows & natural light. They don't call attention themselves but, nevertheless, it is a beautiful movie to watch. The set design, costumes, art direction & everything else are Oscar worthy.

"Lincoln" isn't a movie you "should" see (although you should) it is a movie you'll want to see. Despite it lack of physical action it is every bit as entertaining as "Argo" & "The Dark Knight Rises".

Argo (2012)
3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Another step in the right direction for Ben Affleck., 14 October 2012

This just a flat out enjoyable film that crackles with suspense, intrigue, intelligence (literally & figuratively) & some very sly humor. It also may be the year's best film.

This outrageous tale of hostage rescue would be impossible to believe if it weren't true & that alone makes it a lot of fun to watch. However the fun is weighted down by the seriousness of what is at stake --real lives in real situations. This is first & foremost a very serious film that doesn't ignore the lunacy of its plot. I can't remember a film that had it both ways -- being both very tense & wickedly funny at times-- & gotten away with it like "Argo" does.

Chris Terrio's script will be studied in film school. Director Affleck has been really good & really really good before ("Gone Baby Gone" & "The Town" were hugely enjoyable), but here takes another big step forward by taking a wild, woolly, huge story & making it look so easy. The movie begins with a lollapalooza hostile takeover of the U.S. embassy in Iran (a great sequence that tops even the action scenes in "The Town") then dials that energy down a bit with never losing its tension & momentum. It also pulls off the trick that "Apollo 13" did by keeping us on edge with a story whose outcome was decided decades ago.

On top of all of this are some very good, if not, great work by the actors. Alan Arkin should be a lock for a Supporting Actor nomination & Bryan Cranston should be considered too. Both have the benefit of having some of the best lines in a screenplay full of them & make the most of them. Affleck is suitably restrained as the CIA ex-filtration agent who is the fulcrum of the heroics here. That restraint is key in making his command of the situation believable without question. John Goodman is in fine form as well.

I left the theater with a lump in my throat & damp eyes. It is that kind of movie.

Looper (2012)
1 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
It was the best of Time & the worst of Time, 4 October 2012

Imagine if James Ellroy, Raymond Chandler or James M.Cain had written a sci-fi movie then we'd have the 1st half of "Looper". Now imagine if Terence Malick had written & directed a sci-fi movie then we'd have the 2nd hour of "Looper".

The first hour is sci-fi noir almost as visionary as "Bladerunner". It is sharp, nasty, thrilling, brutal & inventive. Rian Johnson does such a great job with cracking dialog, cracking visuals & sharp cuts that it almost kills me to say that when this movie goes out to pasture it just about "buys the farm".

"The Departed" died when Nicholson's character croaked. This film almost dies when it goes into a field of bad dreams. Its pacing completely changes. A head rush becomes a marathon.

The performances are well above par. Joseph Gordon-Levitt can carry a film as he proves here. (His work in "The Dark Knight Rises" had surprising gravitas.) Bruce is Bruce. The make-up didn't distract me one bit due to the acting. To say that Jeff Daniels is under-appreciated has become a cliché.

I give this movie a 11/10 for the 1st hour & a 5/10 for its 2nd hour. The math loop adds to 16/20 = 8/10 (=4/5 for you math teachers).

Mr. Johnson, can you keep the same editor for the entire movie next time?

9 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
If this had been the 1st Bourne..., 20 August 2012

If any movie deserves a Medal of Valor or an "A" for Effort this year I doubt there'll be a movie any more deserving than this one.

TBL is a really cool movie that is a lot of fun to watch, really well acted & directed. The script is convoluted but so what? It's not like the other "Bourne" films were lessons in straight ahead plotting & that is part of their appeal. You must pay attention to them.

Renner is an excellent choice to carry the "Bourne" DNA. In this movie the best plot twist is that he does it & very well. Rachell Weisz is the other best addition to the "Bourne" mythos. She is a lot of fun to watch.

The set pieces are waaay better than I thought they'd be. The sci-fi element is totally plausible & welcome.

HOWEVER, Paul Greengrass & Matt Damon raised the bar so high in the 2 prior Bourne movies you had to know that it couldn't be beat. It isn't here & not due to lack of effort.

There are nuances that Damon brought to character --a certain wistfulness, melancholy, doomed acceptance-- that Renner got better at capturing as this movie went on. This is Renner's best role since "The Town" & he makes a lot of it.

I guess the thing I miss most about this version of the legacy is what drives a lot of people nuts about director Paul Greengrass. I love his style of directing. His unfairly maligned visceral style really keeps me on the edge of my seat & joyfully off-balance. That jittery feeling is mostly lacking here & ergo about half of the adrenaline rush --but miraculously only half.

If you can separate TBL from the other "Bournes" then this is a movie that rates higher than the 7 stars I give it.

4 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
A near perfect arc., 8 August 2012

It's taken me awhile to fully digest this beautiful & tension wrought epic of chaos descending & grace ascending.

If Christopher Nolan hasn't topped himself with this 3rd Batman film he sure as heck has come close.

Christian Bale's Wayne/Batman carries this film as much as he does the 1st of the trilogy with a haunting performance that damn well better get at least a nomination for Lead Actor.

Anne Hathaway's Selina Kyle ("Catwoman" is never said here) is as much fun to watch as Michelle Pfieffer's iconic turn in the same role in 1992. She is a real kick to behold for Catwoman fans like me.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt's idealistic cop Blake may be the biggest surprise here. His acting is not the surprise (this guy has already proved his chops) but the weight of his role is. I don't remember seeing Levitt with as much gravitas as he has here.

Tom Hardy's Bane is truly terrifying. He delivers two of the most brutal beatings I've seen lately in film & certainly tops anything I've ever seen in this genre. Bane doesn't get under your skin like Ledger's Joker. Bane can be explained --he has a cause-- while The Joker defies explanation.

Marion Cotillard is in the mystery role & is every bit as good as she was in "Inception".

Sir Micheal Caine, Gary Oldman & Morgan Freeman are all in top form too.

The movie drags a bit during the first half of the third act but then recovers with a heart-stopping &, finally, elegiac ending that moved me to tears. This maybe the most heartfelt film Nolan has ever made (although "Inception" was pretty bloody moving). As gigantic as this movie is (Nolan has really improved as a director of action) it ends on a very wistful, beautiful & poetic note.

The production values are off the scale. Try to catch this film in IMAX because it is astonishing.

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