Reviews written by registered user
|127 reviews in total|
It took many years and many viewings before I could say that I liked
this film better than A New Hope. But careful examination tells all -
by every conceivable measure this is a better picture. The characters
are more fully developed, Vader is even more evil, the score gives us
the chilling Vader theme and the story is more interesting. Now that
the six films are complete, The Empire Strikes Back is even more
compelling and interesting than it was before we knew its Big Secret.
All great heroes are flawed, and Luke Skywalker is no exception. Empire reveals to us in full that the inner battle he will have to fight is worse than any enemy he will face. As we meet for the first time Yoda, the wise Jedi master (we find out in Sith why he is on this jungle planet), we learn what a Jedi is, what his responsibility is and just how difficult that life will be. Luke, however, wants immediate gratification - he wants to help and wants revenge.
The film cuts back and forth between Han Solo and Leia's pursuit by Vader and Luke's training and ultimately leads to the greatest scene of the six films, the epic light saber battle between Luke and Vader. And, if you are one of the 12 people on the planet who do not know the outcome, the less said the better.
Empire rightly holds a place in the IMDb top 10, combining Action-Adventure, space opera and even the best elements of a super-hero film, into an infinitely watchable, entertaining movie. **** out of ****.
As a parent, I deeply admire this film for adhering to a PG rating. It
could have gone over the top in the battle scenes and with gore and
completely ruined itself. Its jaw-dropping box office success was due
to the fact that is was the best family film of 2005 and one of the
better ones in many years.
Narnia's story is well known. Four young English children trying to escape World War II are sent to a large country home. There, they stumble upon an old wardrobe which leads them to the mythical land of Narnia, where strange and friendly creatures live. Narnia is cursed to a permanent winter while it is under the rule of the icy White Witch, devilishly played by Tilda Swinton. The four siblings soon find themselves in a battle for their own lives and for the very freedom of Narnia itself.
The parallels to LOTR are many, but Narnia comes across as LOTR-Lite. The battle scene at the end is exciting, not scary and Andrew Adamson has perfect sense in when to cut a scene and how far to take things. Yes, its frightening, but just enough.
And, as an allegory of the life of Jesus, it has a strong moral message that allows for some great conversation with your kids after the film.
Well made, wonderfully acted, good (but not great) FX, this is a film worth owning if you have kids, and maybe even if you don't. ***1/2 out of ****.
It will be interesting to see how history treats this film, whether or
not this will be Philip Seymour Hoffman's Dog Day Afternoon, Silence of
the Lambs or Raging Bull. Whether it will be held with history's truly
great performances. I think it should be, and likely will.
Capote is a great film, well made from every aspect, with a strong supporting cast, tight script and engaging story, but it is all overshadowed by one of the best performances in a decade or more. PSH inhabits Capote, his cartoon-like voice, mannerisms, paranoia, ego, gestures. This is made all the more amazing by the fact that this movie is not a hero-worship picture - it tells a generally unflattering tale of a man who was willing to go to any extent to finish his book.
Capote tells the tale of the writing of In Cold Blood, the first "non-fiction novel", entertainment reading based on an entirely true story. Capote travels to the small southern town to write about the brutal murder of a family of four. How it affected the townspeople. He soon finds that he has a novel in the making. One that would make him the most famous writer in America, stop his prolific career and hasten his death.
By chance, Capote meets one of the accused killers, Perry Smith. A lonely and confused man, mistreated as a child but with many hidden gifts. Truman views him as a kindred spirit saying "Its as if we grew up in the same house." But the dilemma strikes - if the novel is to be completed, then Perry (whom Capote has at least inwardly fallen in love with) and his partner in crime must be put to death.
Although we know how this will end for both Smith and Capote, the journey is extraordinary as we watch the manipulation on both sides of the jail cell. In the background is Nell Harper (Cahterin Keener) Capote's friend gaining notoriety for To Kill A Mockingbird. (Capote says of the film at its premier "I don't see what the fuss is all about.") She acts as the films moral centre, telling Capote the truth about himself, which he knows but does not want to hear.
PSH deserved an Oscar nomination two years back for Owning Mahowny and I implore anyone as gripped by his performance here as I was to seek that small film out.
Capote is a worthy best picture nominee on its own, made better by a lead acting performance for the ages. **** out of ****
Good Night and Good Luck enters into the territory of films like Appolo
13 and to a certain extent even Revenge of the Sith which tell an
intensely compelling story to which everyone knows the ending. It is an
unenviable task, to be certain. We know the start and end, what we are
interested in is the details. GN&GL is an engaging, skillfully made
period piece which make no bad decisions.
Telling the story of the fabled and public battle of Edward R. Murrow and Senator Joe McCarthy, director and co-start George Clooney does a near perfect job of transporting the audience back to the 50s. An age when America's most respected news anchor would still smoke on TV. When communism was what terrorism is today.
The key to this film is casting McCarthy as himself, using only newsreel footage and actual McCarthy speeches and quotes, rather than having him played by an actor. This gives a documentary-like authenticity to this film that it would otherwise never have and it is the key to its success.
The film portrays Murrow as an intelligent man, defender of freedom of the press, eloquent and of the highest integrity, which he was. It portrays McCarthy as an likely-insane demagogue, power hungry and exploiting fear, which he was. In other words, it completely succeeds in re-telling the tale. David Straithairn, long an underrated character actor adds great depth to what could have been a one note performance as Murrow.
GN&GL is, however, style over substance and craft over content. It does not stray even the slightest from its mission, and thereby may prove to be a little dull for some viewers. If you are the type who can watch a movie and appreciate it for its skill, then this is worth watching. ***1/2 out of ****.
Geri's Game is a brilliant, funny original short from Pixar. A senior,
Geri, sits in a park and plays a game of chess with himself. We get to
see both perspectives, himself and himself the opponent, as well as the
perspective of an observer to the entire game. The expressions on
Geri's face while he loses to himself and the ultimate way in which he
wins are priceless.
Free of dialogue, but abounding with colour, image, expression and humour, this is everything a short should be.
An Oscar winner for best animated short, it helped solidify Pixar as the pioneer's in computer animation. They are still to this day yet to make a false step. ***1/2 out of ****.
THe Penguin Christmas Caper is a blisteringly funny and fast paced
little short that is far funnier that the film from which it spun.
Private, the least insane of the gang of Madagascar Penguins, decides to venture out into the streets of New York to buy a present for the lonely Polar Bear, who is all alone on Christmas. He is mistaken for a chew toy, and brought home by an old lady to be a present for her vicious, salivating but tiny dog. THe rest of the crew embark on a rescue mission.
Skipper barks orders, Kowlaski has the logistics and Rico, he just wants to blow something up. The jokes are in every line, and every corner of every frame of this short. Its ten minutes well spent. ***1/2 out of ****.
Boundin' tells a four minute tale of a young, puffy white lamb who
wanders freely, is happy and dances through life until one day, he is
shorn and shattered. Left out in the rain with nothing but his pink
skin he mopes around until a Jackalope (whatever that is) bounces by to
convince him that everything is OK.
As narrated by the director Bud Luckey in a sort of 6/8 time country and western poem, this short is light, lilting, funny as can be and packs a wonderful message. It is not so much about tolerance as it is about being proud and comfortable about who you are. It is also likely the only animated short ever to use the word Heliotrope.
If you have the Incredibles DVD then you have this short. We watch it every time we run through The Incredibles. ***1/2 out of ****.
What a brilliant, original and challenging film this is. Eternal
Sunshine of the Spotless mind likely falls into the category of
romantic comedy, but that would put it on the same shelf as America's
Sweethearts or Two Weeks Notice. This is immeasurably more.
Charlie Kaufman is the prolific writer of quirky and bizarre screenplays. Since 1999, he has written three films (including this one) that you can strongly argue were the best pictures of the year. He writes unique and almost deliberately odd movies, but they never some across as weirdness for its own sake.
How to describe the plot? (This is not a plot-driven film). Jim Carrey is Joel - as bit of a loser who lacks confidence in himself. Kate Winslet is Clementine, a blue haired off the wall kooky chick, the exact type that Joel should repel. They start a relationship and are in love.
As the relationship goes sour, they have a quick and nasty break up. Clementine goes to firm that can erases memories and has Joel erased from her mind. Joel decides to do the same, but his memories of Clementine are so deeply entrenched that they refuse to go away easily.
Kaufman and director Michel GOndry take this simple sounding premise, tell it in a non-linear format and take it in directions no viewer can predict. The result is a touching, haunting and moving emotional experience that will linger with you long after the film is over. If you liked Being John Malkovich and Adapation, chances are you will like Eternal Sunshine as well. This films could not be more different, but they have the common threads Kaufmans pen.
Carrey and Winslet are backed up by an amazing support cast, including ELijah Wood, Kirten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson and Mark Ruffalo.
Here you have a memory loss film where the characters choose to loose their memory. The film examines the moral, social and even logistic implications of this, without losing the nature of the romance. It takes every convention of it genre, chucks it out the window and starts from there. ***1/2 out of ****.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is a wonderful film. Loking back,
Chris Columbus, the great pop film maker, deserved an Oscar nomination
for this film. THere are no wrong choices, showing the world of
Hogwarts from Harry's eyes, letting us discover this strange and scary
world with him.
It is by no means violent and is as scary as it needs to be. Most children will be able to handle this film and sleep soundly the same night.
What I love about the movie, more than the CGI and special effects, is the building of the relationshio with Ron, Hermoine and Harry. Really, they are three outcast nerds and in spite of Harry's celebrity and power and new found wealth, he chooses them for friends forsaking the likes of the other rich kids. It is a subtle but very strong positive message for kids.
In spite of its running length it can easily hold a child's attention, jumping from trolls to dragons to goblins to quiddich matches, mixing it all in with moments of trues pathos as Harry discovers the truth about his family. Daniel Radcliffe succeeds in portraying Harry as a likable, flawed, emerging hero, fascinated with his own power, but keeping everything in check. (one of the great achievements of this film is how well it is cast, considering the huge number of speaking roles).
Aside from a little uneven acting from the young newcomers in the cast, this film does not strike a wrong note. ***1/2 out of ****.
2005 was a weak year for animation to be sure. Madgascar stands up
well, but in other years would have looked weaker than it is. It is a
light, funny and wonderfully inoffensive family film, but all those
good qualities make it a tad dull.
Madagascar knows how to make use of peripheral characters. The penguins, King Julian, the scared subway passengers, the monkeys all add to this movie and make it more interesting. Its lead, Ben Stiller's Alex the lion is the dullest of the bunch.
Madagascar opens in Central Park Zoo, where Alex is the star of the show. He loves his life. Luxury, steaks to snack on daily, legions of adoring fans and an endless parade of cheesy merchandise bearing his image. His friends Melman the Giraffe (a hypochondriac with all the medication he needs) and Gloria the Hippo (no body image problem here), seem content, but not as in love with the zoo as Alex.
Marty the Zebra, perfectly voiced by Chris Rock, is in a different zone. He runs on his treadmill, longing for the wild. He does not really know what that this, but he know instinctively that that is where he belongs. One day, h breaks out of the zoo and wanders Manhattan looking for the wild. This leads to the movie's funniest scene, with the escapee Zebra asking directions from a police horse.
Marty's friends chase after him to try and coax him back to the zoo, but all are caught and shipped off to a wild life reserve. On the way, their crates fall from their ship and they land in Madagascar.
From there, the story does not really go too far. It stays funny largely thanks for Sasha Baron Cohen and Cedric the Entertainer, but it is lightweight in comparison to its contemporaries.
If you are looking for a fun couple of hours with the kids, Madagascar is funny enough for the mom and dad crowd. Although the sequel has been announced, it is mediocre entertainment at best. *** out of ****.
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