Reviews written by registered user
Paul P

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11 reviews in total 
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Blow-Up (1966)
2 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Real Mixed Bag, 14 September 2000
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Rarely have I seen a movie so entrancing in one scene and so jarringly awful in the next.

The title sequence deserves the hype it gets as a masterpiece of editing. Minutes of silence pass by as the protagonist delves deeper into the mystery of his photographs. . .and to me it was absolutely hypnotic. Unforgettable.

And yet.

The director keeps pulling back. He seems much more interested in glamorizing the playboy swinging-60s lifestyle of his hero.

I've seen comments on the IMDB boards to the effect that movies like Easy Rider, The Graduate, and Harold and Maude have aged poorly since the 60s/early 70s. I kind of agree. But those movies seem as fresh and vibrant as today's sunrise compared to the photo-shoot, sex scene, or rock band sequence of Blow Up. Austin Powers almost seems like a documentary re-creation, not a send-up, of these grating set pieces.

In sum, a promising mystery ruined by an attempt to graft on a near self-parody of 60s hipsterism. And ultimately not as deep as its most loyal critics protest. . . .

****SPOILER (note also that the ending is given away w/o warning by other reviews below)*****

The much hyped final scene is just an art-house version of that old friend of the desperate screenwriter: it was all just a dream. . .or WAS it???????!!!!! Gee, we haven't seen that before.

Hair (1979)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A good movie musical, 19 August 1999
9/10

As with most musicals, much of whether you enjoy Hair will depend simply on whether you like the music. I think it's great, from the exuberant choreography of the opening "Aquarius" number to the silliness of "Black Boys/ White Boys" to the stunning finale. Also of note is the "Be In" sequence. It's extremely difficult to depict subjective, drug-induced mental states on film, and this one does it well.

In general, the adaptation to the screen is excellent, primarily because it adds a story to build the songs around. Additionally, the movie wisely cuts out most of the shocking-for-the-sake-of-shock-value aspects of the stage version (including the cast-call nude scene). And the decision to film several of the musical scenes outdoors rather than on a set was excellent. I do think a couple more of the weaker songs could have been axed, however.

If you supported the Viet Nam War, you probably won't appreciate the depiction of military officers or the general tone of the film. But a strength of Hair is that it doesn't romanticize its hippie characters. They are mostly depicted as immature and irresponsible. In a strange way, this is also the movie's central weakness, as it is often very difficult to root for some of the would-be protagonists. Fortunately, the decision to build the story around Claude and his dilemma makes Hair much more than a collection of good song-and-dance numbers.

Dreams (1990)
3 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Beautiful but not absorbing, 19 August 1999
4/10

First, I want to acknowledge that Dreams is one of the most beautifully filmed movies I've ever seen. It also contains several very haunting visual images, including the woman in "The Blizzard" and the soldiers in "The Tunnel."

That having been said, the pace of the movie is awfully ponderous for my tastes. Shots that need last just a few seconds go on, literally, for minutes. While this does give the viewer a chance to drink in the imagery, I think it tends to undercut the theme of the movie. I remember my own dreams as fleeting glimpses of another world. But these "Dreams" seem like never-ending clinical stares. For me, the movie would have been just as effective if it was an hour shorter.

Next, it was irritating that several of the dreams, such as the first one, started to tell stories and then abruptly stopped. I felt teased. Either tell a story or don't.

The movie is further weakened by the fact that the worst segments come near the end. The political theme that these attempt to develop is not particularly original. And the explicit message is not particularly characteristic of the mystery and enigma I associate with dreams.

Before you dismiss me as uncultured, I do like many experimental and art-house flicks. I just feel that this one has little to recommend it other than the visual style.

Entrapment (1999)
6 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Don't get trapped in the theater with this one, 11 May 1999
2/10

Sean Connery cashes a check, and Catherine Zeta-Jones becomes an early front-runner for a Razzie worst-actress-of-the-year award in this unimaginative and often laughable movie.

While there are a couple mildly interesting heist scenes, the movie throws most of its energy into trying to build sexual tension between its two uninteresting lead characters who--as in so many bad movies of recent years--were born half a century apart. The flimsy mood is broken whenever they speak to each other, which they do in dialogue that seems like it comes from a Saturday Night Life parody of itself ("it wasn't clever, it was. ..PERFECT!"). The title of the movie is spoken in one of the dumbest exchanges of all.

If you manage to stay to the end, you will see Entrapment disintegrate into a bunch of bad cliches. These include the heroes dangling from the top of a skyscraper by a steel cable (which of course must start to snap) while a crowd of thousands of people below (that is looking up, no less!) doesn't notice. Then there are several surprise revelations that don't fit with the logic of what has happened earlier. Apparently, the writers felt that they could make up for writing a by-the-numbers heist script by ending with the tired thriller cliche of a-half-dozen-pointless-plot-twists-that-make-no-sense.

On the plus side, there were several things I learned about the business of cat burglary from this movie: (1) If, after you steal a piece of art from a museum that is swarming with police, you and your partner feel it necessary to stop outside and scream at each other at the top of your lungs, don't worry. Nobody will notice you! (2) Apparently, a bank won't notice if several billions of dollars are suddenly shifted into a new account. (3) While I have had posters damaged in the mail after sending them in cardboard tubes (which subsequently got crushed), cat burglers are not afraid of this happening to a priceless canvas. (4) The easiest way to break into a skyscraper is to scale to the top on the outside.

17 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
Enjoyable slice of film about childhood, 4 May 1999

Small Change is a movie about the many children in a French town. It will irritate those who want a strong plot line. Although there are a couple continuing threads, particularly about a boy facing physical abuse at home, the film is mostly episodic and jumps randomly among dozens of children and unconnected events. In that sense, it is sort of like the way we tend to remember our own childhoods. I liked the approach.

There are several memorable sequences. I enjoyed the girl who wants to go out to dinner on her own terms and the spur of the moment "double date" at the movie theater.

One of the strengths of Small Change is that doesn't try to play up the cuteness of the child actors or overly-sentamentalize its subject matter. It is about the frustrations as well as the small joys of childhood. The adult characters are also very realistic, some of whom like kids and some of whom don't. The school teachers are the most sympathetic, one of whom seems to articulate the film's theme in a strong a monologue near the end.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Backs away from interesting relationships, 17 April 1999
5/10

The characters seemed real, much of the movie was fresh, and for a while it looked like LOL it would turn into a charming off-beat love story. Unfortunately, the relationships aren't explored deeply. And we never get to know the Queen Latifah character at all.

The movie ends rather abruptly after little development. I guess there's nothing wrong at aiming for an ending that has the messy feel of real life. The problem is that the director wants it both ways and throws in unrealistic scenes like the massage for no other reason than to crank up the sex content. And there's a really bizarre fantasy sequence that doesn't fit the movie's tone at all.

I can't quite recommend LOL, but will add that my wife liked it more than me. Maybe women in general can better sympathize with the female lead and her search for personal fulfillment. I wanted to see more of the relationships.

4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
For liberals wanting reinforcement of their worst stereotypes, 17 April 1999

I'm politically left-wing, so I have nothing against the liberal slant of Bob Roberts per se. But a movie having a message I agree with isn't enough to make me like it.

Bob Roberts offers a ludicrous caricature of a Republican candidate as a corrupt, lying, violent, racist criminal. Gee, thanks for giving me such a thoughtful exploration of why I should disagree with conservative policies. The movie is very heavy-handed and makes its attack on conservatives so personal that I almost wonder if Robbins lacked the confidence to take on the content of their political ideas. If you have convinced yourself that every Republican is somebody who (like Bob Roberts) makes David Duke look like a centrist, then nothing in this film will challenge your preconceptions.

But the weakness of this movie isn't really why I'm commenting on it. What is interesting is comparing it with Dead Man Walking, which is an infinitely superior film that also touches on political debate. That movie is great exactly because Tim Robbins showed good, likable people on both sides of an issue. He dealt with the death penalty by letting us feel the honest emotions of everybody rather than trying to paint one group as inherently evil and one as inherently good.

This movie is worth a look only to witness the maturation of a filmmaker.

There is only one rule: Never challenge the audience, 26 March 1999
4/10

It's sometimes interesting to compare different versions of the same story. Cruel Intentions was better than I had expected. But I have a couple observations on why Dangerous Liaisons is a much superior film.

One of the memorable aspects of Valmont's (John Malkovich's) seduction of Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer) was that he wanted her to continue holding her beliefs about chastity dear but violate them in spite of herself. I found it to be a truly devious premise.

But in Cruel Intentions Sebastion seduces Annette by convincing her that having sex is really a fulfillment, rather than a repudiation, of her beliefs. I understand that the original script was changed from having Annette try to stand by her belief in virginity until marriage to having her concede to believing only in virginity until true love. That was supposed to make her more sympathetic to the audience (read more sympathetic to the filmmakers themselves). Good grief, what a cop-out. Why does it have to be bad to have a character with unconventional beliefs? Now we have a character who is supposed to be opposed to premarital sex for the sake of the plot-but no she's not really opposed to premarital sex because such a person is beyond the ken of Hollywood-so the entire "challenge" that Sebastion has made for himself has been phony the whole time. For me, it turned Annette into a weak wishy-washy person, making her less rather than more sympathetic. [Note: I am not a Christian fundamentalist nor a cultural conservative].

So why does Annette fall for this manipulative snake? Malkovich was able to triumph by appealing to Pfeiffer's religious vanity; making her believe that she was responsible for his (feigned) conversion to a better way of life. But there is never any reason why Sebastion becomes appealing. Annette is smart enough to see through his lame come-ons at first. I guess if she stayed smart that would be unappealing also???

Finally, we have Sebastion turning suddenly sensitive. If you've seen both movies, you know what I'm talking about and the contrast. After the triumph, Malkovich's Valmont continued his sexual conquests. Again, I suppose they think it would be hard for us to feel "sympathetic" if Sebastion were truly conflicted rather than turning into an utter milquetoast overnight.

Talk about losing your nerve.

Haunted (1995)
17 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
An overlooked spooky story, 23 January 1999

This movie must not have gotten much attention when it was released because I had never even heard of it when I happened to catch it on a cable movie channel. As somebody who likes spooky (but not conventional horror/ gross-out) films, I found it to be a real sleeper.

The story is about a psychologist who specializes in debunking the supernatural and his becoming a house-guest in an old mansion that one resident claims is haunted. For a while, the plot remains pretty conventional, with a lot of strange and unexplained events that may or may not be practical jokes, dreams, psychological delusions, or a real ghost. But before it is over, there are several twists that I did not expect and had not seen before. Give yourself a treat. This one has been largely overlooked.

6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
I feel left out of the 2001 love-fest., 23 January 1999
4/10

I wish I could appreciate this movie as much as most film buffs seem to. I do admire some of its imagery--the cut between the bone and the space vehicle, the star child, etc. The use of music is very effective. And I suppose some of the special effects were impressive at the time. But from the standpoint of storytelling, 2001 really leaves me cold.

(1) The pace, at times. . .actually the whole time. . .is excruciatingly slow. This includes several endless minutes of ugly and gratuitous special effects that start immediately after going into the monolith near Jupiter. When people talk about the the movie's technical superiority, they never seem to mention this part. I guess I don't mind a movie taking its time to get to a good payoff, but this crawling progression is ridiculous. Additionally, no payoff ever really comes, which leads to my next complaint.. .

(2) I don't care for the way the film fails to explain itself. I truly defy anybody to understand what the monoliths are, or what happens in the end, without having read the novel. I read the book several years after first seeing the movie, and was filled with much more wonder by it. If Clarke did not mind revealing what his story meant, why did Kubrick have to be so stubborn in making it all so mysterious? It's one thing to be ambiguous or suggestive. It's another to make no sense at all.

(3) There are no characters that can be identified with. While others say this is part of the film's genius, I heartily disagree. The expressionless humans are actually more creepy than HAL.

I met an aspiring director once who told me he thought 2001 was the best movie ever made. When I asked him to explain why, one thing he mentioned was that it was great to watch in the 70s with a room full of people who were stoned. Maybe I was born too late.


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