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The Cell (2000)
1/10
The most disgusting film I have seen in ages
19 January 2001
Although this film is supposedly a psychological thriller about what goes on in the mind of serial killer It is nothing more than a disgusting, voyeristic, pornographic tour of the torture of a woman and the abuse of a child. I don't say that the film is pornographic because of any nudity or sexual imagery (although there was plenty of the latter). No, I call it pornographic because we are supposed to sit in our comfortable chairs, happily munching on popcorn, and watch as one young woman suffers by slowly drowning, and another is tortured with drowning, and while a small child is beaten and maimed: this is sadism as entertainment, and I think that the casual display of violence in this way is far more destructive and immoral than any nakedness or sexual activity. The fact that in this film the violence is sexualised, with young women made out to be dolls and placed in provocative poses highlights my characterisation of the film as pornographic. At the beginning of my piece, I said that this film is intended to be a "psychological thriller". Well, it isn't. If there is any doubt in anyone's mind that the woman in "The Cell" will be rescued (or by whom), or if Jennifer Lopez's character will "come back" from the killer's mind then you should be in a half-way house, as you will be unable to care for yourself in a modern society. There is no tension. There is no examination of anyone's motives or character (with the sole exception of the killer, and even in this case, the only purpose of the examination of his mind is to titillate, not to enlighten). I cannot understand what merits this film displays apart from the artfulness with which it is shot. This in itself is not (or should not be) an excuse to display abuse and torture. Those who took part in this film, particularly those who funded it, shame. To those who watched and were not sickened... remember (or indeed learn about for the first time) Kitty Genovese, the woman murdered in front of 38 witnesses, none of whom did anything to help her (not even call the police). Can we really watch very realistic torture scenes such as those constructed for this film and not feel sickened? I hope not.
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Public Enemy (1999)
8/10
An interesting look at prominent Black Panther Party members 30 years on
19 July 2000
Many people who were alive in the sixties will remember the Black Panther Party. They were the scary looking black guys with leather coats, black berets and guns.

They patrolled black neighbourhoods causing trouble and killing policemen... right?

Only if you believe the propaganda. What this independent film makes clear is that the Black Panther Party was a radical progressive movement, who along with Students for A Democratic Society, and the ACLU and NAACP helped change the United States in the sixties.

Do you also remember the breakfast clubs so that children didn't have to go to school hungry? Do you remember the books that were an important part of training a Black Panther Party member? Do you remember the fact that the Black Panther Party members had every legal right to do what they did?

The movie makes it clear that the reason tat the Party members carried guns was to protect themselves from Police brutality. In the end, I think that their policy backfired, and they were targeted much more violently then they might otherwise have been for that policy.

The movie combines coverage of sixties footage with shots of four members as they appear now. Even though they have been subjected to harassment, imprisonment, and brutality, what shined clearly through, was that these are intelligent, articulate and determined people who have made the very best of their lives and kept to their ideals.

The most emotional part of the movie was when the people talked about their comrades who had been killed. They fought against the "pig" power structures in society, in order to give their people a better life. They look around now, and see that over the last 30 years, things have not got better, instead, they have become much worse, and the question was asked: "Did our brothers die in vain?"

It's not too late to make the answer "NO!"
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Romance (1999)
1/10
Less than great
21 February 2000
This movie is to filmmaking what Foucault is to philosophy: pretentious, boring, meaningless twaddle.

The thing that I liked best about the film was the camera work. I thought that the angles, and camera motion was very effective. However, everything else was the worst cliche of French films.
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8/10
A truly disturbing, truly bleak movie
7 February 2000
My title isn't to imply that this movie isn't worth seeing. If you can stand the despair, this movie is fantastic.

I found that the words of the Greeks came back to me as I was watching The Debt Collector. "Those whom the gods will destroy, they first make mad". It seemed apt for a modern tragedy in the tradition of Sophocles.

The best technique that Neilson used was lighting. It's rare to have a movie that goes from such brightness to such gloom. The wedding scene, for instance, was as bright and cheerful as you expect such a scene to be, but after Keltie's parting shot, we are outside, in the rain, the dark, the gloom... perfect!

The violence is something that others have commented on. It is so unlike the Hollywood violence that we are accustomed to seeing. This violence is very real, and more shocking and horrifying because of it. All the male lead characters were capable of violence, and it made me wonder how close we all are from such displays.

The Debt Collector is a story of hatred gone to extremes. It spoke to me of how hatred and revenge are empty ideas... and how it is much more important, if difficult to forgive those who have harmed you, and not to live in the past.

This movie is not for everyone, but if you are interested in tragedy, then you should see this film.
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Scarfies (1999)
10/10
The best New Zealand film yet
8 August 1999
We seem to do brilliant "black" films. This one is no exception. A superb black comedy. The characterisation of all the players is superb... they seem real, and their actions are entirely consistent with their histories as we know them.

Often in New Zealand films, they are let down by the production values. Not so here. This film could have been produced anywhere in the world. The editing is adept and crisp, and the cinematography is supurb. Direction is equally taught. I was literally on the edge of my seat during the climax, and my heart rate was elevated for many minutes afterwards.

If this is the future of New Zealand film, then GIVE THE FILM COMMISSION MORE MONEY!!!!
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Entrapment (1999)
5/10
A completely average movie in every respect
27 May 1999
I've read that some people thought this was an "edge of your seat, nail biter".

Well, maybe if you are able to turn off your whole cerebral cortex while watching.

There were no surprises: "Are they going to fall???!!!??"

Answer: "No."

It was not bad, that is, it was well shot, the settings were exotic (although exactly which juristiction the FBI had in KL is anyone's guess!

But it was not, by any possible means, good.
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Office Space (1999)
9/10
This movie was my life
24 April 1999
Office Space is a beautiful, skewering comedy about what it is to work in a cubicle.

If you work in a dehumanising little box, or you just like Dilbert, then see this movie. Not only will you recognise your co-workers, and your bosses, but also all those irritating aspects of box-life will be shown to you in a whole new light.

There were some teenage girls watching the movie at the same time as my friend and I (we worked together). As we laughed and laughed, one of them shouted to us, "It's not *that* funny!". My friend replied, "You haven't lived it yet!"

Brilliant!
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Convictions (1997 TV Movie)
8/10
A surprisingly humane and intelligent movie
12 February 1999
I was very surprised by this film. I expected it to be a typical, simple story about the mother of a murder victim. Instead, I found it to be a humane exploration of what it is to hate, and to live life in the past. There was no black and white, no "goodies" and "baddies", rather the characters were real humans, with real strengths and weaknesses. The two principles were played in a sympathetic and sensitive manner. The film is slow paced, but that matched well the phases of this film, first, the exploration of hatred, and then the increasing understanding of mother and murderer.

Nothing about the story seemed contrived, and each of the plot elements followed logically from what had gone before.

The message of this film. Love yourself and others, live in the now, but do not forget the past.
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The Governess (1998)
1/10
One of the most boring movies I have ever seen
4 February 1999
This movie had an excellent premise, and could have been a fascinating look at racism, attitudes to women at work and male female relations in England early last century. However, it simply turned into a soppy love story. But what was worse, is that the love story was totally unbelievable. The acting was for the most part poor, the direction confusing, but most of all the screenplay and the story were non-existent. The only thing I liked about the film was how dark it must have been before electric lighting. I really got a sense of just how little light one candle puts out.
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