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Veronica is a teenage girl that has done something to upset the local "Camorra" mafia. Mimmo, a teenage boy who sells ices (slush) on the streets, has been given the task to watch over her until the local boss of the area, Bernado, has time to come along and take care of the problem. Mimmo is unwilling, but compelled to cooperate in his task, while Veronica is flippant and understandably not co-operative. The scene is some deserted warehouse near Naples where the two develop a bond and mutual respect for each other's undesirable position despite the circumstances, both being caught up in the wrongdoings of daily mafia life. The film progresses at a gentle pace, and both characters are likable and inevitably they come to an understanding. Despite the slow pace, for me the film works on several levels. It successfully conveys that feeling of dread, evil, ignorance and misogyny that exists in the all-pervasive Italian mafia life, that feeling of helplessness, of having to accept that this is how things are, without reason but just because it is the total abuse of power. Great acting from the two protagonists who apparently are debutants on the silver screen, and also by the mafia thugs who remind me of the occasional unsavory types I have come across while living in this great, but severely flawed country, that is Italy.
Action scenes over-done
It's a mixed bag, but as a fan of LOTR this film was a bit of a disappointment for me. There were some well-scripted scenes and welcomed additions to the book, and some good acting, but my main gripe with this film is that the action scenes have become ridiculous and I'm surprised that Peter Jackson succumbed to this industry trend where the main characters survive impossible 1 in a million situations. Worse is the fact that many of the invented scenes were of this nature, extending the film to well over 2 hours and requiring 3 visits. Is it really possible to fall hundreds of feet and survive without a scratch? Or survive huge boulders being thrown all around you while you stand on a moving mountain? Fantasy this may be, but I'd call it ridiculous. Peter Jackson, and other movie makers, should perhaps look to The Game of Thrones for more realistic action and fight scenes. I don't mind if a film veers from the book if it is to cut short or to make connections - but this film adds scenes to bore us to tears with unnecessary, impossible and repetitive action scenes. I won't be going to see the next installment in 1 year - I'll wait until it arrives on satellite TV, such is my disappointment.
Cowboys and Angels (2000)
I've seen this film several times and it has never failed to move me or hold my interest right to the end. The film starts out with Danny, a lovely guy that has just been ditched by his future wife. In coming to terms with this he meets Jo Jo, a mysterious and attractive woman that takes over his life. Danny is so overwhelmed by her that he follows her on her favourite pastime of attending weddings all over town, uninvited and somehow unnoticed. There is a surreal feel to many of the scenes with the aid of an enigmatic soundtrack. Particularly memorable is a scene where Jo Jo goes to the aid of a bridegroom having doubts and whispers to him some magical words that lift his state of confusion. There's clearly something out of the ordinary about Jo Jo and yet Danny seems too besotted with her to probe into her background. But one day Jo Jo disappears leaving Danny in a bigger muddle than ever. After being knocked-out by some louts outside a bar he is woken by Candice, and on the story goes. The film works thanks to the natural feel to the acting and the clever handling by the director of the paranormal subject matter, i.e. angels. A wonderful idealistic romance that resolves well, but tinged throughout with sadness.
The Secret of Moonacre (2008)
This is a film suited to children so perhaps I shouldn't be writing this review, although my two children didn't seem overly impressed. The problem I have with this film is that we are served up with what has become a very much repeated storyline over recent years after LOTR. Inevitably we have a piece of jewelery that holds magic powers, that has been lost and lead to feuding families, and the little star of the film must rectify matters. The sets and costumes are top notch and are what make the film really worth watching. The acting is mediocre to say the least, in particular Tim Curry as one of the feuding family heads, although I will say that Dakota Blue Richards as the child puts in a decent performance. Very few of the characters do anything that makes you really empathize with them, and I don't recall being moved in any one moment of this long film. I give it a 5 out of 10 thanks to the sets and costumes.
Satisfactory film about Italian life and politics
I thoroughly enjoyed this film for the great performances of the two lead actors (only later did I find out they were debutants) and for how well Tornatore brought us a vivid picture of life in Sicily over a period lasting from the 20s to the 80s. We are reminded of just how strong a grip fascism had over Italy in the early parts of the 20th century, and how the average Italian had little power to offer an alternative. Sicily is depicted as a place of poverty, corruption and confusion. Life is tough and for many it's only their faith or their ideals that keep them going. The star character is a man that does not lie down easily to the fascist influence, challenging the system with little success, taking a few beatings along the way. He marries a local girl that was destined to marry into the rich and fascist way of life, bearing many children and leading as pure a life as possible given the harsh conditions. We come to understand why socialism and communism has a strong following in southern Italy. This is the story of one man's fight to raise a family with dignity, as a political activist hoping to make things better for the common people of his town, requiring heaps of courage given the dangers of speaking out against fascism in those days. Overall the film succeeds although doesn't offer anything I haven't seen before regarding Italian and especially Sicilian life. My vote 8 out of 10
Ghost Town (2008)
A very funny film
For Ricky Gervais fans, you're going to love this film. For the rest of you, leave your skepticism behind, and take off your film critic hat, and just sit down, perhaps with the rest of the family, and enjoy this delightful comedy. Who cares if Ghost comedies have been made before, and that there are some clichés in there? How else are you supposed to react on seeing ghosts? In fact I thought the plot and delivery was quite original given that it's not entirely a new genre. But what makes the film are the continuous laughs from scene to scene. Ricky Gervais is perfect for the role as a miserable anti-social dentist. I thought there was wonderful chemistry between him and Tea Leoni despite that she's clearly too sophisticated and attractive for him, but it really doesn't matter. This is a comedy, there's no need to get so uptight about these details. Greg Kinnear was perhaps the only unconvincing actor as the dead and cheating husband, but not enough as to spoil the film. There were some notable scenes, in particular as Gervais is quizzing his doctor (Kristen Wiig) about what happened during his colon exam, aided by an equally funny lawyer (Michael-Leon Wooley). And in the end there were even some touching moments that did not at all detract from the style of the film. In essence though this film is about Ricky Gervais and his unique style of delivering laughs - that daft smile, his attention to silly details, his accent - there's very much of the Office in his performance and that is how it should be - that is Ricky Gervais and he shouldn't change it one bit. There are very few films that catch the attention of myself, my wife and my two kids from start to finish, but this film did it. 9/10.
Seven Pounds (2008)
This film could not fail for me, having actors Will Smith and Rosario Dawson starring. Nevertheless the director Gabriele Muccino should be commended for making a film that at first confuses you, then intrigues you, and finally moves you. The film moves along slowly, but is paced just nicely at 2 hours as we gently build up the past that is leading to the present. There are those situations in life you hope never happen to you, those occurrences that can be through some ill twist of fate, or one terrible moment of distraction. How would we behave in such a situation? This is how the character of Will Smith behaves, attempting to positively influence the lives of those that need it, and more importantly, deserve it.
Fed up of these action films
Films like Transformers have just lost all sense of reality. I know sci-fi cannot be 100% realistic, but there has to be a limit. Transformers just goes on and on for over 2 hours, action scene after action scene. Sure, the special effects are great, although a little annoying at times as it's a little too in your face and close-up. The plot is really feeble, which is why I guess they had to pack it so full of action. I get the feeling that Hollywood is continuously trying to out-do itself, and with films like this has forgotten the importance of a convincing storyline and a semblance of reality! As I watched I just got the feeling that nobody of any importance was ever going to die, whether the transformers or the actors, no matter how far they were thrown are how hard they were hit, despite buildings falling all around them. To add to the disappointment, we were treated to some terribly cringe worthy lines from some of the transformers towards the end. I think films like Transformers are simply an insult to the public's intelligence, but judging by some of the reviews here I'm perhaps living on another planet.
I know this film follows closer to the book than the original, but that does not automatically ensure it's a better film. I'm afraid I preferred the original - Johnny Depp was just too weird for my taste, and if that was how Wonka was supposed to be, then I can understand why Gene's Wilder's interpretation was of a warmer Wonka. But also this new version bored me. We went from scene to scene without any real continuity - I didn't get to dislike the other kids as much as I should have done - it all seemed very shallow. There wasn't enough depth in the characters of the other children and their parents. I believe the original film took license to make a film that was actually better than the book, rather than attempting to stick to it. Also in this film the Chocolate factory itself disappointed me - I actually found it a depressing place. To save the film was the acting of Charlie and the family who were all great, as was Christopher Lee as Wonka's father.
Broken Flowers (2005)
Here again Bill Murray acts the part of a dull washed-up middle-aged man. After seeing Lost in Translation, I'm beginning to wonder if this is the only way he can act in a serious role. The film had the premise for being so much more interesting. After being left by his latest girl-friend, he receives a letter from an anonymous ex-girlfriend saying he has a son that has come to search for him. So Bill goes out visiting his old girlfriends to try and find out for himself who this son is. What follows is a serious of meetings with his old flames, where he hardly says a word, doesn't explain why he's visiting, and then leaves to see the next one. Really, what was the point? Much film is spent watching him getting in and out of cars, driving down highways, through countryside, and so on, and perhaps those are the most interesting parts. The film does keep you watching, as there is a mystery to solve after all, but I found the end a complete let down.