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Missed by so much
This had the potential to be a great episode. They squandered the opportunity in favor of a "feel good" resolution in a fashion that has become well known in Star Trek fan circles. The set up is good, the dialogue and the mystery are plausible. I liked it, maybe loved it, up til maybe 3/4 through. But then... they pulled their punch. They set up some truly wrenching decisions for Wesley and his friends, but never deliver any real price for making the hard choices.
Finally, Wesley is in an adult world where he is not just the helpful boy wonder. He's adrift, with no clear guidance on what to do. In fact, some of that past has put him here. He's so accustomed to being an overachiever that it bites him badly here, and he needs guidance. Consequences for his actions, negative ones, are at hand and right in front of him. And then ... they aren't. He suffers some personal anguish and embarrassment, maybe, but no more. He comes down a few pegs in the eyes of his mother and Picard. Then everyone goes back to work. In short, the writers forgot the story was set in a serious legal and military situation and decided to save a beloved character instead. They treated negligence, insubordination, and manslaughter like schoolboy infractions. He killed a fellow student, so he had to repeat some courses and everyone would know. Boo Hoo.
This wasn't (merely) cheating - a man was DEAD due to willful disobedience. If THAT isn't a near capital honors violation, what would be? Wesley had violated a known standing order, knowingly put himself and others at risk of their lives, got someone killed as a result, then lied about it repeatedly. His punishment is to spend another year at one of the finest schools in the Federation? He should have been facing jail time. Expulsion should have been the least of his worries. Pathetic.
Colin just does not belong in the clan.
This film is a bit of a disappointment. I was primed to see another chapter of the Highlander story, and that is what I got. But, it wasn't a very interesting chapter.
I give this film an A for Visual Production. Wow! The colors, the line quality and rendering, the smooth tracking, the foreground - background separations and tracking, all of it was just enrapturing. I rarely was pulled out of the visuals to question or second guess what was done.
I give it a B for Sound Production. The vocals and soundtrack were good, but not stunning. It was clear, and the emotions came through at the right times. I was left wanting a bit more in sweep and depth though. I guess I was looking for THX and got stereo. Considering the great visuals, the sound suffered in comparison.
I give it a C for Story. Just very lackluster. It started well. The potential for interesting characters was there at every turn. But they didn't integrate into the Highlander mythology well at all. And they had every opportunity. Colin as the Protagonist, and Marcus as the Antagonist, are both just cardboard cutouts. Worse, Marcus is cut from better cardboard than Colin. He at least has a Darth Vader imperial feel that doesn't need much explaining. Colin is a young goof at the beginning, and has grown into an old, angry, and bitter goof by the time the action of the film picks up. Even his guardian angel points this out. I just was not impressed by his story, or the general arc of this film.
The side characters and their stories were actually more interesting to me. Colin meets a few women along the way, and they have some substance behind their facades. Two exhibit some real leadership qualities. This is hinted at, but left completely unexplored. The "gun moll" even seems to have an interesting back-story (a woman(!) fighting(!!) in a medieval Japanese army?) but she too is just wallpaper in the end. Very pretty wallpaper, but nothing more. You find this out then can immediately forget it. Just wasted writing. I think with a few tweaks this could have been a smörgåsbord. Instead it was like window-shopping. Frustrating! Overall, if you want a flashy movie, this is it. The visuals are top notch in all respects. But Just * Don't * Think * About * It. Especially if you would like to see a story that runs somewhat in parallel with the first Highlander film or the television series. Colin just does not belong in the clan.
Children of Men (2006)
Pull my finger
Really a surprisingly deep movie. A relatively normal guy gets sucked into the troubling events that surround him. Can he rise to the challenge, or sink back into the rut he wants his life to be? This film has a lot of message, but it isn't terribly preachy. From what I saw, most of the Social Significance was background filler. This film is about some people doing some stuff, living life, and about some other folks that intrude on that. The really great thing is how the ordinary people survive the Great Events. Or fail to do so.
I'm just impressed as hell with Michael Caine and Clive Owen. Both turn in some great performances. Caine's may be his best in years. Moore, Ejiofor, Ashitey, and the others are good too. The acting was wonderful. Real people with flaws, not cardboard cutout action heroes. I think I'd have to attribute any faults at all to writing or direction. The flow just wasn't quite there. But each individual scene was stunning.
By the way, watch for the symbolism. Both classical and pop culture. Again, the background tells a story, if you know what to look for. They even worked in Revelations 13, and made it make sense.
The Holiday (2006)
Rough Start, got better
I felt Camereron Diaz's character was far too cardboard for words. She starts out as a cold career woman and pretty much stays that way for at least half the movie. Kate Winslet is also handed a cutout for a character, but it isn't nearly as well defined. Hers is more of a cypher, a woman that wanted to do more, but didn't. I gotta hand the acting award to Winslet, she took her role and made her a likable person, with subtlety and depth. I never got to like Diaz in this. At best she warmed up into an "ordinary" emotionally developed person.
Of course, the whole film revolves around the inside life of writers and of film-making. So as they were dropping terms like "meet cute", all I could think of was that they had just done a "meet cute" by describing it. Overall, it was a too self-conscious and formulaic rom-com. The elements were showing throughout. However, in the end, the romance does shine through and I liked it. Jude Law in particular exercises a thin role into something worth seeing.
King Kong (2005)
About a half hour too long
If I had to change any of this film, I would cut back on the set up for the happenings at Skull Island. That first hour drags in spots. I definitely looked at my watch more than necessary. Once they get there and after they leave * THIS * FILM * ROCKS !!*
The characters are all pretty well drawn. Black is great as Denham. A total manipulator. He as much as says he is a con artist to your face and then proceeds to con you anyway. Naomi Watts as Ann Darow is wonderful. She doesn't really shine until she gets to the island, and most of her lines are screams. But I really got the feeling for her relationship with Kong in every scene. It really was almost a pantomime play, and she carries every bit of it very well. Brody doesn't have enough to do, but he is great in all his scenes as well. His Driscol realizes late what he really wants, and spends a lot of time playing catch-up. I would have liked to see more of Chandler and Kretshmann. Their characters had some meat behind them, but we didn't get to see much of it.
Rating the action and scenery, A+. The plot was thin, but we knew that going in. Acting was good all around. I have to point some fingers at Jackson for falling in love with the tech though. He was able to do a lot, so he did. Mostly that was good, but not in every case. The whole thing needed some tightening. It takes an hour to get to Skull Island, 70 minutes to see Kong. We spend another 70 minutes there before heading back to New York. It isn't even that whole scenes needed to be cut, he just needed to get to the point a bit faster. 30 seconds here and there adds up. Overall, B+
Dark, stylish, growing up
That is the overall impression I had coming out of Goblet of Fire. The twists and traps were not as unexpected as I had hoped, but danged if the feel of the movie had not gotten edgier. Up to now I had felt the films were pleasant, but now I might actually like to go there and meet these people. They have grown from 1 dimensional kiddie stories, through 2-D matinée heroes and into (almost) 3-D people with inner lives and feelings and conflicts.
My biggest problem with the film is the pacing of the story. There is a backdrop plot that never really seems very important. Except it is life threatening! You would think people would care more. The movie is set up around the events in the competition, so the pacing is driven by it. But it isn't driven far. "tomorrow you face the biggest challenge of your life. We can't help you. Get some sleep." The other competitors are cardboard cutouts. Too bad, they would probably be interesting.
Against this is Harry and his friends trying to figure out what is trying to kill Harry, while they sort out their budding emotions. This part was great. As I said, I'd like to know these people and the world they live in. This is where the new people are really great. They have great introductions, diverse backgrounds. One is a world class athlete! And that is all you ever learn. All that setup wasted. I'd have preferred learning more about them and the world of magic than dealing with the competition. But that would have killed all the action in the movie.
Overall I give it a 7. All the pieces are well done. Each performance was fine. the writing had problems but I can forgive them. But the pieces were not put together, and that stopped this film from being really great.
October Sky (1999)
Small Town and Big Dreams
This film really captured what it was like for me to live in a small town. We were a little farm town caught on the edge of the space race, and every day you could hear and see the planes that have been famous in history X-15, B-52, SR-71, U-2, etc. But we also had the day to day life of going to school and work around the house in a little town. October Sky is a great depiction of exactly what it was like to have the big world pressing around you, but still be caught up in the little things of a very ordinary life. I was getting goosebumps all through it. Especially when a model rocketry hobby (I did them too) turned into more than just a passing fad.