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238 reviews in total 
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Should have stuck closer to the book, 20 June 2014

Evidently in order to simplify the plot, this version of BRIGHTON ROCK starts off on the wrong foot and never regains its balance. The start of the book (and of the 1947 movie) shows us the murder of an innocent man. An impecunious, promiscuous middle-aged woman with an innate sense of justice refuses to let the murder go unsolved. In this new movie, the murder victim is a violent thug and the middle-aged woman is a friend of his, so the pure and disinterested quest for justice is muddied up by the woman's personal motivation and the victim's own culpability. Moreover, she isn't wanting for money, so her quest for justice, while still dangerous, is less quixotic.

There is also a problem with the young gang leader and his girlfriend. The book contains certain extremes of characterization that the movie might indeed be excused for avoiding, especially in the 21st century. The gang leader is supposed to be in his mid-teens, while his gang members are adults, and if that were on the screen before your eyes it would be harder to believe than in a book. Still, although both movies used actors out of their teens, this time the fellow scarcely looks boyish; he's balding deep at the temples. And his girlfriend in the movie makes less of an effort than in the book to turn her attention away from his evildoing. It's understandable that a movie in 2010 would not want her portrayed as hiding her head in the sand; but by reducing her naiveté, as in taking away the innocence of that murder victim at the beginning, the movie becomes more a tale about those other people, the criminals who are unlike you and me, and less a story where we can find people to identify with.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A snapshot of a vanishing point, 17 June 2014

The movie seems to be a look at the vanishing of first-hand memories of the Holocaust on both the German and the Jewish/Israeli sides. The grandchildren of the Holocaust generation have not been told much, but they do bear scars that they may not know the reason for. Not knowing is not healthy, but the sources of the knowledge are disappearing.

As this picture is painted, Israel is greatly oversimplified. It looks almost as if no Jews ever lived in Israel other than European refugees and their descendants. Few dark-skinned Jews and, by the way, no Arabs- - although the Israeli army is portrayed as a soul-destroying force and presumably there are Arabs somewhere to serve as its victims.

I have no idea how autobiographical the original story is, but the movie involves some mentally handicapped Israelis and in order to make the movie work, these people must, despite their mental handicaps, converse in English, and they must be pretty well disciplined most of the time. No problem leaving them alone while the male and female leads step out for a heart-to-heart conversation; or letting them go into the sea.

The heroine herself is a confused and conflicted character with a very specific back story, but that's a good thing. As Fitzgerald is said to have written, go for the individual and you'll get the type; go for the type and you'll get nothing. Hanna is a good example of the first case and the mentally handicapped Israelis are an example of the other case.

There's a reason Crime and Punishment is a long book, 14 June 2014

IMDb acknowledges Dostoevsky as a contributor to the script. The movie is rather long but it's rushed nonetheless because it's taken upon itself at least three stories each big enough for a movie in its own right: a gambler who ultimately endangers himself in a risky crime in hopes of settling his debts, the planning and performance of that crime, and the criminals' subsequent attempts to keep themselves undiscovered. So the script winds up showing a heist that the police deem too well planned to be the work of everyday criminals, but time isn't taken to show us how exceptional the planning is. The gambler's friends follow him into the dangerous crime without considering the downside more than a moment. The policeman investigating the crime has the criminal under his nose because the gambler is a reporter by profession and works closely with the police. A big addition of screen time could have solved all those problems and more; we would have been looking at a TV miniseries. Or perhaps a novel of Dostoevskian length. Meanwhile, we're reminded that Aki Avni, the lead actor, has what it takes to return to stardom whenever he gets his groove back.

The title was accurate but deceptive, 7 June 2014

If I understand correctly, the lengthened title "The Nutcracker: The Untold Story" wasn't used till the movie had already failed under the simple "Nutcracker" title. I can understand that "The Nutcracker" by itself leads to false expectations. As a matter of fact, I ran into the movie on TV just as it was ending, the kid was singing to the music of Tschaikowsky's piano concerto, and I said to myself, "Wow, they've run through all the beloved Nutcracker music and they've had to add even more Tschaikowsky!" So I made a point of catching the movie again, from the beginning this time, and where were the Nutcracker tunes? Quite absent most of the time, although when they popped up they were sometimes interestingly reworked. They would have made a nice addition to a movie that was not expected necessarily to include them, but they were rather pitiful in a movie that you'd expect to be much more Tschaikowskian than it was. Although the nutcracker belongs originally to Hoffmann rather than to Tschaikowsky, and the basic elements of Hoffman's story aren't all thrown away for the movie, it's not Hoffmann that people care about these days. Keeping the nutcracker out of the title might have been too much to ask, but I think that adding to the title was the right idea. "Mary and the Nutcracker" or some other variation might have warned people that this is far from your standard version. On its own overall merits, rather than just its musical merits, I think the movie deserved to do better, although as others have pointed out, it can't be recommended for kids of all ages and between those too old for the formulaic rescue-the-kingdom story and those too young for the shock moments, the demographic of the target audience is kind of slippery.

Hora 79 (2013)
Plenty entertaining, if you don't mind another geezers-can-do-it movie, 3 June 2014

We used to be among the best. Now we're old and we've been out of touch for years. But if we reunite, maybe we can summon back those abilities and... pull off one more bank robbery? sing our old hits? finally defeat the Sheriff of Nottingham? In this movie, the plot is the same but the skill involved is folk dancing. And basically the movie works. You have to believe that on short notice some twenty adults can find time for a couple of weeks of intensive rehearsals, and you have to accept a coincidence here and a cliché there, but the movie also contains some surprising moments and the cast is good. The director says that rather than trying to find actors who could dance, he found dancers, put them through a lot of preparatory acting exercises, and gave them parts that drew on their own personalities. Maybe the results were too good; he wound up with a lot of characters and not enough screen time for each. In one or two cases, I think I failed to remember who's who. But the hero is the ensemble, and they're an easy bunch to root for.

Seems impressively authentic, except too neatly microcosmic, 29 May 2014

Back before Israel pulled all its troops and settlers out of Gaza, there were Israelis picketing with signs that said "If you flee Gaza, Gaza will pursue you." In fact, that is what happened. As of this writing, the Gazans have no Israeli soldiers to throw stones at any more, but they're lobbing missiles at Israeli civilians. Anyway, this movie takes us back to those previous days, certainly no picnic, when Israeli soldiers patrolled inside Gaza. With the skill, weapons, and numbers at their disposal, the Israeli soldiers are unable to keep order. They can't plan past the next moment; threats go unimplemented and promises go unfilled. The only thing constant is the unpredictability. In such a setting, a well-constructed plot isn't easily spun. This time, meaning no offense to the photography and music, the task of holding attention falls to the dialogue and characterization; and both are quite professional but the lack of a structured story arc from scene to scene is still felt. Moreover, the same characters come along by coincidence again and again, which would be fine if the movie were a stylized parable but doesn't come off well when the situations are being played for realism. Still, although I never served in Gaza, I think that future generations could do worse than watch this movie as a reminder of why Israel was so strongly tempted to leave Gaza despite the warnings that leaving would do no good.

A sleeping prophet, daughters in conflict, and lush visuals, 9 May 2014

It seems that when the Israeli cinema turns its attention to the country's Moroccan community, it likes to dwell on the community's embrace of the supernatural-- in the previous films "Sh'chur" and "My Lovely Sister," and in "Orange People" as well. The writer/director has explained that "orange people" is a metaphor for "creative people." In this movie, the creativity gene passes from generation to generation, but in each generation it's expressed differently and the result is intergenerational tension. The linchpin of the movie is Rita Shukrun, who impressively portrays the matriarch, a sleeping prophet a bit like America's Edgar Cacye. There is a conflict between her two daughters, who are both more concerned with creating cuisine than with fortune- telling, but the script chooses to postpone the revelation of the reason for that conflict; I think that in doing so, the script sacrifices some traction. Another problem is that the major male character is rather a cipher, missing the magnetism that the script seems to attribute to him. But on the positive side the movie offers lush visuals, including location shots from Morocco, and the drama is seasoned with plentiful humor and intriguing dream sequences. Everything is integrated into a vision in which the progress of the generations is, like walking, a sequence of repeatedly losing and regaining balance.

Well structured, good characterizations, 9 May 2014

If the movie were fiction, better central characters couldn't have been imagined. Danny, the Auschwitz survivor, has wrestled down his traumas by taking ownership of the experience. He takes pleasure in demonstrating his toughness by overlaying his recollections with humor. His daughter, on the other hand-- for whom the experience is only second-hand-- gives more evidence of suffering than he does and would rather leave the subject alone. The third side of the triangle is Danny's son, who has embraced Orthodox Judaism and acts as a quiet stabilizing force. In the course of a trip to Auschwitz, where Danny wants to assert ownership by spending a night in the barracks, Danny meets people who aren't won over by his humor or awed by his survival, and his resentment comes to the fore. His son and daughter do their best to manage the situation.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A well-depicted episode of historical importance, 13 April 2014

This is a fairly straightforward, authentic-looking story about how the Jewish community of Iraq, having been part of the local society for two and a half millennia, was hustled out-- somewhere between expulsion and rescue-- after Iraq found itself on the losing side of Israel's War of Independence. (Iraq has no border with Israel, but sent troops anyway.) The story is shown through the eyes of a boy who sees previously hidden political activism and attitudes among his family and friends come to light, for better or worse, as the crisis develops and he is forced to take on adult responsibilities. Daniel Gad, as the boy, is too old-- or at least too big-- for the part. We're forced to mentally subtract a few years from his appearance. The period scenery, on the other hand, looks good except that there can be no very broad outdoor photography because there is too much modernity in contemporary Israel where the shooting took place. The film is almost entirely in Arabic; among the audience, those who know the language took delight in some salty and picturesque phrases that were lost in translation. Based on a novel and evidently filmed with the novelist's cooperation (he has a cameo), the film seems to take care to touch on several different angles within the political and social scene-- friendships between Jews and Muslims, the communist movement that was active during the same period, the assimilationist option extending even to conversion, the Zionist movement, the arrival of Arab refugees from Palestine, and the cultural influence of the West. For those unfamiliar with the experience of Jews in the world of Islam, it's an interesting picture and it suggests an important added perspective on today's tensions.

Not bad, but who's the audience?, 12 April 2014

The movie starts by introducing Puck, who has an oddly mechanical- sounding laugh and a rather ugly face. Maybe children find him charming, or maybe the decision was made that Puck doesn't have to be charming, but I think an opportunity was lost there to engage the audience through Puck the way Shakespeare is usually thought to have intended. The plot does have a little to do with Shakespeare's comedy, but it's mostly the characters who have been borrowed, along with a touch of Don Quixote and the witches from Macbeth. I saw the movie in Hebrew, where the title is simply "A Midsummer Night's Dream," just like Shakespeare, but I understand there's an intentional alteration of the title in Spanish and in English to go with the major script difference. Shakespeare's story has been largely replaced by the familiar device of a quest with the characters (including the bad guy who's along for his own evil reasons) interacting along the way. The witches and a handful of glowing fairies are, like Puck, lost opportunities for interesting visualization, but the villain is well conceived and original-looking, as are Oberon and Mustardseed. There are also some animated musical instruments that appear now and then but are gone again before much attention can be paid. The music itself is quite entertaining throughout the movie. But while some opportunities to entertain children are lost, the script doesn't rise to the level that would firmly hold the interest of adults, so I get the feeling that the effort-- and it's obviously not a small effort-- is lost somewhere between the two audiences.

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