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Serenity (2005)
1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A treat for old fans and newbies, 8 January 2006

Much ink has been spilt in praise of this film and I can only concur with all of it. This is as exhilarating a sci-fi/action film as any moviegoer could ask for. The movie contains just the right amount of stunning visuals and elegant action sequences to give audiences the eye-candy they crave without subjecting them to sensory overload a la the second Star Wars trilogy. Disappointed fans of that saga know too well that just having a skilled technician at the helm who is capable of visual acrobatics is not enough to hold viewers' attention for the duration of a feature film. In fact, all the bright lights and loud noises can become grating or, even worse, outright boring if the technician isn't also an artist capable of constructing intriguing characters, listenable dialogue and a meaningful plot. Those three elements are what make viewers give a damn about what they're watching on-screen and, thank goodness, Joss Whedon supplies them in droves.

I'll admit that, before watching Serenity, I was not convinced of Mr. Whedon's much-hyped genius. I still think that Buffy was tremendously overrated and the original Firefly series made barely a blip on my radar. My loss. After enjoying Serenity so much, I feel outright envious of those Firefly afficionados who had the chance to view the movie not as an introduction to this delightful universe full of fascinating characters but as the culmination of a storyline they had long loved and suffered for. That said, it is a credit to Mr. Whedon's talent as a scriptwriter that he immerses us initiates so gracefully and efficiently into his cosmos that we never once feel at a disadvantage. What's more, he does it with wit, humor, pathos and most of all the courage to earnestly confront us with difficult ideas and plot-twists that a less confidant filmmaker might either retreat from or cynically empty of meaning. In his first feature, Mr. Whedon has proved himself an auteur with brains, heart and guts, which is what fuels my hope that Serenity will find a wide enough audience that it can transcend the slightly pejorative category of "cult-classic" and take its place as simply a classic.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Profane and true, 27 June 2000

After making one uproariously entertaining film, `Clerks', and one absolute bomb, `Mallrats', writer-director Kevin Smith has come back and shown us what he's really made of. `Chasing Amy' has all of the amusing pop culture references and scatological humor as his first two pictures, but now Smith brings to the screen a maturity and sensitivity when dealing with relationships that will take many of his detractors by surprise.

While the premise (guy meets girl, guy falls for girl, guy finds out girl is only sexually attracted to other girls) sounds just like the setup for lots of sophomoric jokes about reproductive anatomy, which do abound, it is also the starting point for one of the most perceptive films about love ever, rivaling Woody Allen's `Annie Hall' and Richard Linklater's `Before Sunrise.' Smith's strengths are in never exploiting the material to the point at which the audience tunes out, and in drawing characters who, despite the initially far-fetched scenario, seem entirely real to us and, at times, frighteningly like ourselves. In this particular field, credit must be given to the cast, all Kevin Smith regulars, who give touching and convincing performances across the board. It is no small feat to act with the comic timing that the screenplay demands and also deliver the deep, heartfelt emotion that makes the film stand so far out from all of the current sexploitation pics that we are bombarded with these days.

Although Smith's follow-up, `Dogma', was a disappointment (I guess his films are like the Star Trek series, in which every installment alternates between great and excruciating), he has proven once and for all that he is one of the most talented directors in the business today. For those interested in seeing a great movie about love, "Chasing Amy" is not to be missed.

Spectacular, poetic, beautiful, 28 December 1999

There is a moment in each great film when I know that I am watching something special and what was a pretty good movie becomes a great one. I knew that `American Beauty' was a great film when Ricky Fitts, played by Wes Bentley, zoomed his camcorder lens past the shallow, seductive Angela (Mena Suvari) and onto the reflection of the deeper and more genuine Jane Burnham (Thora Birch). That shot basically sums up the oh-so appropriate tagline for the best film of 1999, `... look closer.' The film never lets us down from there. It challenges us with issues as far-reaching and deep as the true meaning of beauty and the struggle to find some worth in life, to simply how we, if we should, relate to our own children. Even with all this baggage that would sink lesser films into excessive preachiness, `American Beauty' is never anything less than completely entertaining with its biting humor and rich visuals. Kevin Spacey's performance is a masterpiece of nuanced understatement, just as Annette Bening is perfectly overstated. Though we know from the first few minutes that the film is a tragedy, it does not make us any less sad when the inevitable climax comes. If the ending is not entirely realistic, it is, in a deeper sense, entirely true. `American Beauty' is `The Graduate' for the 90's generation.

The best film of 1999, 28 December 1999

The title says it all. Beautiful. That's what the film is about, and that's what the film is. From Wes Bentley's inspired monologue on the subject of Beauty itself, to the shot of the bag framed by the heads of the two lovers, to Lester Burnham's dream sequences of rose petals, this movie flooded me with beautiful images and ideas. A story of suburban angst and disillusionment worthy of comparison to `The Graduate', coming from the unlikeliest source (Alan Ball, screenwriter for TV's `Cybill') and sublimely acted by Bentley, Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Mena Suvari, Chris Cooper and Allison Janney, this film sparkled with an iconoclastic yet, in the end, gentle idealism that I have not witnessed since my favorite film of last year, `Pleasantville.'

16 out of 30 people found the following review useful:
atrocious, nauseating, reprehensible, 26 November 1999

This movie was absolutely terrible! I loathed it thoroughly. It was emotionally manipulative, exploitative, sentimental, sappy, saccharine, formulaic, aaagggghhhh! I can't go on long enough how much I hated this film. How could Robin Williams agree to make such an awful film? I wish I could collect my thoughts together well enough to coherently explain what was so bad about this, but I am just so angry at this movie that my emotions cloud my mind. Vomit!

528 out of 962 people found the following review useful:
When does the hurting stop?, 11 October 1999

This movie is a perfect example of when what could have been one of the most brilliant movies ever is made, through the incompetence of only one man, into one of the worst. I cannot list in detail the number of ways this movie could have been made better, and they are all mind-bogglingly simple and all George Lucas's fault. Even so, I will try to condense them into a short list.

1. Actors/Casting - I have to give all of the actors credit for this because I know they tried their best, even Jake Lloyd. The movie did not give me a single reason why I should have cared for any of the characters and I can't explain why I did anyway.

I can't count how many times people have told me how much better Haley Joel Osment would have been in the role, and I am almost inclined to agree with them. Supposedly there's something dark and ominous about the Anakin character that all of the Jedi council can see, after all, he's gonna be Darth Vader, right? Osment projects that fear which leads to anger which leads to etc., and Lloyd just looks like your run-of-the-mill blond California Cabbage Patch kid. I'd call Jake Lloyd a terrible actor if it weren't for what the great sci-fi writer Orson Scott Card, who personally knows Lloyd, observed: "Jake Lloyd's a good actor, and it's a pity you didn't get to see that on-screen, since he had no direction or screenplay. In the same way, Liam Neeson is a great actor, but you didn't see that onscreen because he had no direction or screenplay."

Which brings me to my second fault:

2. Direction - Let's face it, George Lucas has lost it. He has gone from the great actors' director he was when he made American Graffiti to a special effects artist gone wildly out of control. I do give him some credit: It takes a lot of deliberate effort to sap all of the energy and life out of Ewan McGregor.

3. Screenplay/Plot - This is the section that really makes me wince, and proves that there is nobody left in Hollywood with the courage to tell George Lucas that he can't write. I mean, logical inconsistencies aside, this dialogue is simply ridiculous. If a first-grader were called in as a script consultant, he could most likely have improved this movie.

There are a thousand instances of questionable logic in this movie like, why did Queen Amidala reveal herself when she did? Why did she want to go back to Naboo so badly if it would do no good whatsoever and she would probably just get killed? Are we supposed to believe that a ten year old is going to have twins with her eventually? Why is she called a Queen anyway, if Naboo is supposed to be a democracy? Do the natives of Naboo share one collective brain cell to elect a teenager to run their planet? And what kind of name is Naboo anyway?

Beyond that, it doesn't even make sense in terms of the rest of the established Star Wars universe. For example, the shields that repelled blaster fire, obviously added so the death count would be lower and they could appeal to the 'family' market. Why do we not see them in the later episodes, when they seem to be of immeasurable tactical value?

As for the so-called 'Phantom Menace' conspiracy, does the initiation into the Jedi knighthood include an IQ curtailment? Why didn't those clods figure out at once that Palpatine was behind it all along? In the end, I found myself rooting for Palpatine/Sidious, simply because he was geometrically more intelligent than any of the other characters and would probably do a pretty good job of ruling the universe. At least he would be a better emperor than George Lucas is a screenwriter.

Well, it seems that I didn't do a very good job at condensing, but oh well.

I am ashamed to say that I saw this movie three times and hated it more each time. That it has grossed over $400 million makes me wonder that the entire American society doesn't grind to a halt as soon as someone sees a bright shiny object. Did I mention that the special effects were too amazing for their own good?

Don't talk!, 7 October 1999

Before I make any comments on the quality of this film, I must first ask, nay plead, that those of you who know the secret not tell anyone who hasn't yet seen it. Guard your comments when talking to those in the know, because you never know who might just be passing by that you spoil it for. I know how much it hurts, for the secrets to both 'The Crying Game' and 'The Usual Suspects' were given away to me by so-called friends.

That out of the way, I must say that 'The Sixth Sense' is as almost perfect film. Bruce Willis acts masterfully in a role that one at first might think him mis-cast for and Haley Joel Osment puts in a performance far superior to much of the adult acting I have seen in recent years. It has been a long time since a child has been called to play such a difficult role, and I can't control my dismay that he was not cast as Anakin Skywalker in the newest Star Wars episode. Of course, Jake Lloyd might have done just as well under the awesome skill of writer/director M. Night Shymalan. The story is meticulously crafted, and the ending is a true mind-blower. I hope this movie is not looked over come Oscar time.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Good concept ruined by talentless leads, 26 July 1999

This film has the makings of greatness, but falls so short after the first scene. The vibrant visual style and art direction is brilliant and the director handles the updating of the classic 16th century love story almost seamlessly. On top of that, the supporting cast, especially Postlethwaite, Sorvino and Leguizamo are well suited to the roles.

It all falls apart, however, when we are introduced to our leads. Leonardo Dicaprio has proved himself to be a talented actor in such films as "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" and "This Boy's Life," but his just isn't him at his best. He tries hard, but he's inexperienced with Shakespeare and can't get himself around the unnatural language and rhythm. Those lines he doesn't mangle he shouts unintelligibly.

Clare Danes gave us a good performance in "The Rainmaker," but is totally uninspired in this role. Her style is flat, and she delivers the lines with as much talent as the average highschooler would in a school production.

The director had what could have been a very powerful and entertaining movie, but undermines it with the casting of two singularly unsuited actors in the title roles for the sake of drawing more of the MTV teenage crowd to the box office.

For a better rendition of Juliet, I suggest Olivia Hussey in the 1968 Zeffirelli version. For a better Romeo, try Gwyneth Paltrow's transgender performance in "Shakespeare in Love."

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Most frightening concept ever, 24 June 1999

Since I was a little boy (not so long ago, now that I think about it), I have always been afraid of being in the woods at night and this movie has managed to squashed any chance of me ever overcoming that phobia. It has accomplished the amazing feat of conveying the terrible essence of one of humanity's basest, most primitive and most overwhelming emotions: pure unadulterated terror. The makers of this film understand perfectly that what we can't see is a thousand times more petrifying than what we see acted out in front of us. While we may be a bit shocked by a shot of Jason slashing up a girl at a summer camp, it is only the fear of the unknown that can truly terrify a man. The human imagination will always be able to think of something more frightening than what can ever be shown on a movie screen, no matter how much gore is piled on. Give credit to the writer and director who have created what is undoubtedly one of the most original films of the decade, and most likely the scariest film that anyone will ever want to tremble through.

I beg of you, do not see this movie unprepared. DO NOT BRING YOUNG CHILDREN TO THIS MOVIE, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE PLANNING ON GOING ON A CAMPING TRIP! I cannot emphasise enough that I am still having nightmares from this movie. Watch at you own risk.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
This film is really about Jean Brodie's remarkable effect on her "little gels", 1 February 1999

When I first viewed this film, I began watching in the middle, not giving myself an adequate chance to see the characters develop, which is not how I would recommend this excellent movie be watched. What I did see inspired me to immediately check the video out from my local library to complete the viewing. While Maggie Smith undoubtedly deserved the Oscar she won in the title role, I think this film is really about the effect she had on her girls, especially Sandy (Pamela Franklin). It is remarkable to watch Sandy mature far before she is ready, and then turn against the mentor who encouraged her, but also kept her standing in the shadow of her other, shining protege. The final scene is truly marvelous.