Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Blue Jasmine (2013)
Cate Steals the Show
"Blue Jasmine" is a classic tragedy brought up to date with recent events. And very much the center of this story is Cate Blanchett's portrayal of Jasmine. Every time that she was on the screen, I was riveted in watching an amazing performance unfold. It was a tour de force. And I would be shocked if she was not nominated for an Academy Award.
There is also some comedy by Woody in contrasting people's manners and life styles. But the seriousness of what is happening often undercuts the humor. Because Cate's character moves through the story in such a powerful way, laughter is often held back. While Woody tries to keep things light with music and some funny moments, the story will come back to Jasmine. And she is a character that cannot be ignored.
The rest of the cast is very good in providing the background for Jasmine's tale as it moves back and forth in time. And the locations fit the world of the wealthy or of more average blue collar characters.
But in the end this is about Jasmine and Cate's performance.
Interesting to look at but that's about it
"Sunshine" didn't work for me very well.
1. The basic idea of the movie/MacGuffin was unrealistic and this was pretty obvious to me since I know a little bit about astronomy and physics.
* The first premise of the movie is that the sun is dying/losing power/going dark. Science knows a lot about our sun. The sun will die out in about 5 billion years. And no special object could make it lose brightness. The Wikipedia "Sunshine" article discusses this.
* The second basic premise in the film is that; if the sun was "dying", that the people on earth could do something about it. No bomb that could be carried by a spaceship (even one with the mass of Manhattan) would be able to reignite the sun.
3. The goal of the characters was predictable. They are trying to save life on Earth. It was pretty obvious to me that the movie would not have a depressing ending. So, I knew how the film was going to end after hearing the introduction.
4. A predictable movie isn't a bad thing if the interaction with the characters is interesting. But several of the actors in "Sunshine" were not that convincing.
First we have the captain, Kaneda, played by Hiroyuki Sanada. This was a very important role. But Sanada's English was not very good and that limited his performance.
Cliff Curtis as Searle and Troy Garity as Harvey were not memorable. And this set up another predictable plot point.
5. I knew who was going to die. In the movie some of the crew members need to be sacrificed. It became clear to me that the less effective actors were going to go. And they did. The only exception to this was Trey played by Benedict Wong. He had some good moments but since he caused a major catastrophe, I knew that Trey was also going to die.
6. "Sunshine" at the end turned into a slasher film because a crazy character entered the story. It was not very interesting or scary to me. Frankly, by this time I was ready for the movie to be over.
** What did I like? The photography and editing stand out as being pretty creative. There was lots of movement with the camera and there was quick editing with pictures of crew members. It felt pretty fresh. The sets and special effects of the sun and the ship were well done.
There were also a few moments in the movie that I really enjoyed; a quiet chat between Robert Capa (Cillian Murphy) and Cassie (Rose Byrne); crew members exploring another ship; and the despair of Trey.
** "Sunshine" is interesting to look at but it doesn't have much more beyond that.
The whole film (almost) is now available
Over the years I have been watching increasingly longer versions of Metropolis as new footage has been found and put together in different releases. Finally, in 2010 almost the entire movie was released on DVD or Blu-Ray by KINO. And now that I've seen the complete film, I feel I'm able to do an accurate review.
* The complete Metropolis is one of the greatest movies ever made, silent or sound. Metropolis has a spectacular use of miniatures, impressive sets and special effects for its time. The original music score (in a new recording by KINO) is one of the best I've heard, fitting every mood. The complete story is interesting with its focus on class, the danger of oppression and anarchy. This complete version now has a back story which explains many of the motivations of the characters. There is also plenty of interesting symbolism in Metropolis including from the Bible and about the structure of society.
* But while the restoration of the movie has taken a tremendous leap forward, the new footage has only been partially restored. So, some sections have lots of lines from scratches. It is still watchable though. Hopefully more money will eventually be found to digitally improve the new images. (This kind of digital restoration costs over a million dollars per film so, it's going to take time.)
* But my review is about the movie itself. Now that Metropolis is almost complete, we clearly have a brilliant landmark in the history of film.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (2009)
I liked the story
Despite the almost unanimous negative reviews by viewers and professional critics, I liked "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt". Why? This movie is a combination of an old-fashioned mystery story combined with an indie film style.
I have been a longtime fan of old detective films and I also like modern low-budget independent movies like "Management" and "Little Miss Sunshine". This combination of styles; old-fashioned mystery and indie low-budget, didn't bother me.
I accepted that many of the actors were not the greatest around today, or that the lighting and sound was almost never polished and was often primitive. And that the music soundtrack was just adequate.
But what I very much enjoyed was the story itself. This is a great mystery plot which kept me guessing. And I like those kinds of stories.
My Super Ex-Girlfriend (2006)
A Superhero and the Comedy of Life
My main reason for liking the movie is that with the hundreds of superhero movies that have been done, none of them seem to be about people who have usual problems. Superheroes are almost always completely noble. And super villains are almost always evil lunatics.
"My Super Ex-Girlfriend" was very different. The comedy comes from how a superhero deals with life. I also really cared about the Uma Thurman character. She seemed really lonely in her role as a "savior" who can't even have a quiet dinner without having to save the world. Many of the problems of life; first dates, keeping secrets, breaking up a relationship are touched upon in the movie for our superhero to deal with. And that set up many funny situations.
As for the people who criticized the movie, I think an important thing needs to be remembered. This is not a typical superhero movie. This is an adult comedy which happens to have a superhero. So, if you keep that in mind, I think the comedy works really well.
imho at least, BB ;-)
Match Point (2005)
Woody Allen repeating plots
I've seen many Woody Allen films and for some reason he is able almost completely rehash characters in one movie after another.
In "Manhattan" we have a character who's cheating because he can't control his passion. In "Hannah and Her Sisters" we have a character who is cheating on his wife because he can't control his passion. In "Crimes and Misdemeanors" we have the same thing, again a character who is cheating.
So now I am supposed to be impressed with "Match Point" because there is a character who's cheating on his wife? Well, I'm not.
As for the earlier Woody Allen films, the cheating part was a subplot. There were different stories interwoven, sometimes with comedy, which made those movies more interesting. With "Match Point", the cheating story is the entire film. I knew what was going to happen because this movie followed the pattern already set in the other films right up to the end.
No other filmmaker is able to get away with this repetition. I was more than not impressed with this movie. I was frustrated.
Gojira: Fainaru uôzu (2004)
I like some Godzilla movies but I am not a serious fan. I hadn't seen a Godzilla movie since "Godzilla 2000". That film was OK, but for me the basic Godzilla plot has been repeated so many times that while G2K was good, it was not great.
With "Godzilla Final Wars" we have a different approach to a Godzilla film. It has taken a standard Godzilla story and combined it with every recent popular action film style. You have mutants, space aliens, a matrix type hero, a Japanese anime style bad guy, and even a Chuck Norris kind of hero. There is even a touch of Star Wars.
The special effects combine the usual miniatures of the Godzilla style with clever blends of CGI, Hong Kong action and a touch of Bullet Time.
But while the movie is well made, unlike many recent action films, GFW never takes itself too seriously. The acting is often over-the-top and the characters get to have fun playing with their costumes and their Kung Fu moves. And one action stunt where a person is jumping around a motorcycle and is skidding on the pavement at high speed is so outrageous that it becomes hilarious. But that is an obvious choice by the filmmakers.
The editing of the movie is quick. The music is driving. And the story which gets more absurd with each scene (where baby Godzilla is trying to drive a truck or the Mothra girls start singing) we know a lot of this is for laughs. And then we get to the final climax where our favorite G monster does some great wrestling with the bad guys.
I think of it as a bending of the Godzilla genre as "Kung Fu Hustle" did for martial arts films. Watching GFW was very enjoyable and now I own the DVD.
The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986)
An intense story of a young woman's survival
If the movie lacks anything it is the beauty of the photography in films like "Quest for Fire" and "Windwalker". Otherwise I can't find any serious flaws. It is rare to find a decent movie about prehistoric peoples. "Quest for Fire" is the best movie of this kind in my opinion but "Clan of the Cave Bear" is a close second.
I am not trying to compare "Cave Bear" to the books by Jean M. Auel. To me the film takes the best part of Auel's story and makes a pretty good movie. The later Auel stories become more romance novel fodder and to some that may be more entertaining. "Clan of the Cave Bear" is not romantic. It captures the brutality of prehistory very well for a fiction film. I've seen documentaries about the Neanderthal and was surprised how accurately "Cave Bear" showed that time. The flaws in human nature are shown in all their rawness in this movie. There is prejudice, oppression and abuse in full force. What makes it bearable for me is how the Darryl Hannah character is able to deal with this and eventually over come it.
"Cave Bear" also shows some of the ritual of stone age culture with the Shaman and the hunting rites of passage. There is some beauty in that culture. But the bottom line for these people is survival and that was a very difficult thing to accomplish. They were scratching and clawing (literally) just to eat and raise children. And sadly we know that they are doomed (except for a few Neanderthals who possibly interbred with Cro-Magnons).
This kind of documentary approach in "Cave Bear" will not thrill those who want a stone age comedy-romance, "Caveman", or a special effects absurdity of prehistoric people fighting lots of dinosaurs, "One Million BC", (which is historically impossible). But if you can appreciate an intense story of a young woman's survival in the wild and her experience with a lost stone age culture, then I recommend "Clan of the Cave Bear". 9/10
Superior Sci-fi Film
Like Total Recall, Impostor was based on a short story by Phillip K. Dick. (Dick's stories were also the inspiration for Blade Runner and Minority Report.) In my opinion Impostor is a solid science fiction film.
The core of these stories by Dick has to do with the nature of reality and Impostor is no exception. If we have memories implanted in our minds, how can we tell what is real and what is an artificial memory? Added to this in the movie is the change in a society that comes from years of war. Can we have freedom and human rights when anyone can be a spy? This combines two great traditions in sci-fi; illusion vs. reality (Total Recall) meets taking over our minds and bodies by an alien power (Invasion of the Body Snatchers).
Add to the great story concepts is superior acting by Gary Sinise and Madeleine Stowe. The supporting cast is good with Vincent D'Onofrio playing a complex character. Is he a villain? Nothing is as it seems.
With all of these positive comments, I cannot give the film a 10/10. This is a low budget film which first started as a short film and grew into a feature. While the story of Impostor IMHO is superior in some ways to Minority Report and much better than typical sci-fi, the lack of money for Impostor shows.
The director, Gary Fleder is no Speilberg, Ridley Scott or even Paul Verhoeven. Sometimes the pace of the film seemed to need tighter editing. The script in the central part of the film could have used more work to learn more about this world. And the music was just ok in supporting the action and emotion of the film.
Still Miramax was right to decide on making this a feature film rather than a short subject or straight to TV film. Impostor has some great sci-fi story ideas and good performances. 8.5/10
Starts With a Bang; Ends in a Whimper
The culture of the "People, all the People" has been Ken Burns' great theme. In the first two thirds of "Jazz" he eloquently presents these grand ideas. From Armstrong and Ellington to Billie Holiday and Benny Goodman we are swept along in a vibrant, multi-layered story of something special that would change the world.
But once the documentary reaches the 50's, the tale takes a radical turn. There is a lot of focus on drugs and broken lives. This may be important but these sad endings lead the film on a downward emotional spiral. (I understand why Spike Lee detests jazz musician's stories focusing on drugs.) But at least the music is good.
When the so called jazz music of the 60's and beyond is revealed, we see that the climax of this film is a betrayal of its beginning. The "People's music" has vanished. We see that "real" jazz is elitist and narrow and for the most part is a musical dead end.
We find that "real" jazz is played on acoustic instruments such as trumpets and saxophones. So, electric jazz guitarists are almost never mentioned as well as any electric keyboard players. And the only correct modern style comes straight from Be Bop. We hardly hear any Latin jazz or Fusion.
The great music promoter John Hammond once said that his most satisfying discovery was George Benson. Of course we never hear about Benson because he was popular and he plays electric guitar. No, instead the film's ending becomes an overblown promotion of Wynton Marsalis who since he acts as the film's "senior creative consultant" brings the great story down to an example of petty ego.
Overall "Jazz" has seven excellent episodes about a vital part of history and its effect on the world's music. Enjoy these and after that I would gently suggest to quit while you're ahead.