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57 reviews in total 
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Hidalgo (2004)
Excellent story about endurance, 8 March 2004

Where are critics coming from, saying this is an Indy Jones or Mummy wannabe? Where is the temple-robbing, the undead-fighting, the Nazi-fighting? Did I watch a different movie?

I loved this film. The chemistry between Mortensen and Hidalgo was amazing and touching. That was the true love story of the film and it was nice that the screenwriters didn't bow to convention and pair Hopkins up with Jazira for a final clinch.

The scenery and cinematography was beautiful. The script had only a few lapses (notably the "western justice" part), and the supporting cast, devoid of big-name stars apart from Omar Sharif, all did extremely good jobs to make the movie flow. Mortensen seemed comfortable without all the Jackson paraphenalia around him, playing a more low-profile hero than the over-burdened Aragorn. Will definitely be getting the DVD.

10/10 - and yes, I know the real Hopkins was an inveterate liar and the movie wasn't fact-based. I watched it as an adventure film and totally loved it.

5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
A 6/10, missing alot even as a film, 6 January 2004

This movie could really use an EE -- BADLY. Characters are just picked up and discarded (Eomer, in particular), Eowyn's battle with the Witch King will, with luck, be expanded. It was over before I knew it and the editing was shabby. Too many oliphaunts and CGI, atrocious battle tactics on the part of the Rohirrim (sure, charge into a head of 10 story beasts even though we have bows and arrows and can shoot from a distance - sounds good!), meaningless inventions (Arwen's life tied to Ring, the Arwen "to leave or not to leave" flip flop, the Lembas Conspiracy, and that stupid Legolas-Oliphaunt trick), a limp confrontation scene with the king of the dead, no resolution to Saruman (the main bad guy of the first two films, if you've forgotten), and the worst hatchet job on an established fictional character (Denethor, Denethor, Denethor). Horrible, horrible. Plus a cheesy bed-jumping scene and coronation where the cheddar flowed in abundance. It was a mess that I hope the EE will mend somewhat, but there's a lot to fix. A LOT. A disappointing end to a trilogy that began with a masterpiece in FOTR.

On the plus side, David Wenham, Billy Boyd and Sean Astin. They were brilliant and made it worth spending the money to see it once. Their performances were true and heartfelt, though Faramir sadly dropped out of the picture because PJ unwisely cut the Houses of Healing sequence.

It's not worth the hype and I didn't think this once in a lifetime film event would end so sadly.

Horrid sequel, 22 October 2003

It took me two viewings to appreciate The Matrix, but that was because the first time I saw it, I was confused as to what the story was. The first time (and only, as far as I'm concerned) I saw this sequel, I was bored, amused and disgusted by turns.

What was an interesting kernel of an idea in the first film has been extended way beyond what it should be in Reloaded. Drawing the story out (what there is of it) over 3 films is only making apparent just how slim the plot is - lots of poofery around a good idea and meandering around, taking its own sweet time to conclude. Even though the story lines are very different, I can't help but compare it to Lord of the Rings. LOTR is taut with an objective in mind, whereas Neo just keeps kicking (and now flying *snort*) his way around with new story threads coming up all the time to explain this or that, or just to muddy the comprehension waters for the hell of it. From what I understood, he's really the sum total of program anomalies that has a cyclical life. If I cared, I would go to the theater is a few weeks to see how it is all wrapped up, but Reloaded had me rolling my eyes so much that I doubt I'll even part with the $5.25 matinee fee. If there is even a scintilla of repeats of the Zion bongo fest and the interminable and repetitive fight choreography, I'll never watch it.

As a fanfic writer (in the LOTR fandom), I am so tempted to send a Mary Sue Litmus Test to the Wachowski Brothers, asking them to run Neo through it. It'd be interesting to see what score they come up with. (I got a 37, with 35+ being a hopeless Sue). Odd that I didn't notice Neo's Sue-ish qualities in the first movie, but after seeing Reloaded, they are so apparent. Bringing Trinity to life (with the 'ole heart squeeze trick *snicker*), flying, having all those other uber-superpowers, being "the One" in a prophecy, etc. etc. etc ad nauseum. So perfect and powerful it's ridiculous. He's an embodiment of what people wish they could be. I.E., a perfect Mary Sue.

In all fairness, however, I did give it a 3 - but only for Hugo Weaving. But even you couldn't save it, Hugo baby.

"Taken" (2002)
9 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
What a waste of time..., 15 October 2003

I watched this entire series, hoping beyond hope that it would get better, but it never did. The "evil" govt. agents were so hilariously awful that it was a form of entertainment in itself. Joel Gretsch as Owen Crawford had so many "bwahahaha!" moments I had to remind myself that this was not a comedy. Heather Donahue, looking perpetually constipated, compounded the whole MST3K experience. Top that off with the annoying Dakota Fanning's "deep" observations in that scratchy little waif-whisper of hers and Max Headroom's bizarre-for-the-sake-of-bizarreness scientist, and you have prime MST material. Since Mike and the bots weren't there, I did my best. But it wasn't enough to make the pain stay away.

A wretched waste of film, time, and money. I don't know if this was an attempt to take Close Encounters of the Third Kind to an expanded level, but Steve, you failed MISERABLY. All of your last half dozen or so flicks have stunk. You're getting too serious and preachy. Give me Indy 4 and I'll watch it gladly.


To be fair, however, I thought Desmond Harrington was the sole redeeming feature of this and afterwards I realized he was the same guy in Luc Besson's The Messenger. He impressed me there as well. The only thing is, The Messenger is an excellent movie for the most part whereas this one just sucked on alien toast.

From Hell (2001)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Fine, up until the end, 29 July 2003

I much prefer the TV movie with Michael Caine. That one was more based in fact. This film just went winging off into the ozone near the finale with messianic Freemasons and a convoluted "solution" that had me shaking my head and wishing for a more straightforward mystery, which is what The Ripper is. The Hughes Brothers were in love with the freaky dream sequences and imagery (which were interesting visually), but left the plot hanging. The gore was a bit overdone and almost became a fetish, in fact a bit comical in places. Having the Ripper speak was a bad move because anyone with half an ear would know who it was.

The best thing about this movie was the ultra-real atmosphere of Victorian skid rows and Johnny Depp.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
I was amazed, 21 July 2003

I did not expect to be as blown away by this movie as I was, considering the source material. It was a surprise to see this goofball adventure yarn become quite extraordinary cinema. There are some healthy doses of Errol Flynn-Basil Rathbone derring-do (Bloom and Depp buckling swash in the smithy shop) along with great comedic moments and memorable characters -- I need not mention that being Depp's manic and hilarious Jack Sparrow. A manlier, gayer pirate has never lived. He would have walked away with the movie completely if Orlando Bloom had not been well nigh perfect as the earnest love interest, looking pretty damn good in those nice-fitting duds and delivering his lines seriously to counterbalance Depp's utter insanity. Geoffrey Rush looked like he was having a fun time snarling "arrr! me buckos!" around the deck and the whole ride was worth my money. The only negative is Keira Knightly's bizarre way of holding her lips. Must be an affectation, because I have seen the same maneuver on Renee Zellweger and Michelle Pfeiffer (in years past). Irritating little mannerism, that.

Anyway, can't wait for the DVD!


1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Where is Margaret George's book in this mess?, 8 July 2003

Having read George's "The Memoirs of Cleopatra" in record time and enjoyed every page, I was psyched to realize that they'd made a movie of it. Then I watched it and wondered if they'd have done better to bury the money out in the sand somewhere. This movie was a cheesy mess that might as well have had George's name struck off the opening credits, for all the faithfullness it had.

The movie unfolded as more of a connect-the-dots kindergarten primer to the life of Egypt's queen, with a bit of sex thrown in for the adults. It was pedantic and boring, and the performances were either too flat or overblown. Varela was a Cleopatra straight off the covers of paperback romances and her line delivery in many scenes was laughable. Timothy Dalton tried to make the most of Caesar, but he was too grand for his made-for-TV surroundings. He did look like he was having fun, though, camping it up in pools and beds. Billy Zane was acceptable in parts, but his oratory sadly lacked grandeur. Rather he came off as a snarling pitbull with all clarity lost. Rupert Graves, though I admire him in other roles, looked ridiculous as Octavian and was less menacing than a Powerpuff girl. There was no hard edge to him, which is what Octavian/Augustus possessed in spades.

The sets, especially the Star Trek sky shades of red and purple, as well as the obvious sound stages covered in sand and plastic palms, was risible. Only when they got outdoors did it start to look a bit believable.

The only redeeming part of this awful film was Daragh O'Malley as Ahenobarbus. He was as understated and effective as he was in the entire Sharpe series and it is a shame that actors such as he are constantly stuffed in small character roles in films of "importance." He would have been more suited than Zane as Antony. The real Antony was burly, brawny and a drinker and O'Malley could have pulled off that role. He has the physique, the personality, and the lungs. I wouldn't even have minded an Irish brogue - anything other than the wispy wastrel playboy that Zane offered.

As an adaptation of George's book, it fails. Even as entertaining pseudo-historical fare, it fails. I think I'll stick to the Burton-Taylor version or even DeMille's version with Claudette Colbert. One thing I am thankful for: at least these producers didn't butcher Colleen McCullough's novels. I shudder to think who they would have chosen to play Sulla.

2/10 - for Daragh O'Malley

Vendetta (1999) (TV)
12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Really enjoyed it, 12 May 2003

Although it has one of the more depressing endings ever filmed (and I normally don't like that kind of thing), I was unable to stop watching it. The story, no doubt simplified for the screen, was engaging and has me interested in seeking out Gambino's book to get the broader picture as well as the facts. :) Christopher Walken's accent was a tad iffy, but he wasn't the main attraction of the film. The collection of players were extremely well-balanced so that everyone had a chance to do their stuff and be memorable and they were! Darragh O'Malley as the Irish investigator was a pleasure to see after the days of Sharpe's Rifles and Joaquim de Almeida likewise captured interest with his diginified performance. Bruce Davison and Edward Herrmann as the warring attornies were also solid and interesting. I completely enjoyed this film.


30 out of 34 people found the following review useful:
A great melodrama, 30 April 2003

Yes, the plot is a bit cliche but the performances certainly make up for it! Garbo, only in the early years of her career, gives an incredibly smoldering performance as the unredeemable temptress Felicitas, who snags the hapless Leo (John Gilbert) into a web of sex and lies. Look at that sly smile as she's trying on her widow's weeds -- very effective. John Gilbert, the heir of Valentino's mantle, proves that he surpassed the master lover with a believable portrayal of a man who realizes that he's way over his head but can't help himself. He does indulge in a bit of histrionics, but is very restrained compared to other silent lovers of the era. Only his performances in "The Big Parade" and "Downstairs" better this one. As Felicitas' second husband, Lars Hanson has the looks and talent to hold his own on the screen with his two incredibly dynamic co-stars. He amazed me opposite Lillian Gish in "The Wind" and "The Scarlet Letter" and it's a shame that he made so few movies in Hollywood before returning to Sweden.

Clarence Brown keeps the narrative flowing with a healthy balance of humor, drama, romance and action. MGM's stock company of character actors (William Orlamond, Polly Moran, George Fawcett and Eugenie Besserer) make an appearance and provide excellent supporting players to the three stars.

I found the Carl Davis score to be absolutely perfect for the images up on the screen, and the music when Garbo and Gilbert dance and two necking sessions reflect the raw passion. It's just stunning and I can't come up with enough words to describe it. After Buster Keaton's entire body of work, this movie ranks as my #2 favorite, tied with The Wind.


Red Dragon (2002)
OK, but not spectacular, 7 April 2003

Maybe the whole Hannibal Lecter franchise is wearing itself out -- or that no other installment can even approach the original chills and thrills of Silence of the Lambs -- but Red Dragon left me lukewarm. I don't think enough explanation was give to Dolarhyde's character and his obsession with transformation. That's what tripped me up the most.

Dolarhyde was a sympathetic character and naturally I didn't want him to die, but the ploy he used to spring up again was the same Lecter used in Lambs and for this viewer, it was a case of "seen it." I have not read the book, but I assume that a blind woman is in that as well. It's a horrible cliche to have a blind girl bring out the human side of a monster -- the Poverty Row flick, The Brute Man with Rondo Hatton, did the same thing 50 years ago and it still stunk.

I am becoming increasingly disenchanted with Edward Norton. In Primal Fear, he was a stunner, and in American History X as well. However, in most of his movies since, I am seeing the same type of performance over and over. You could pretty much switch his roles in The Score and Red Dragon and not know the difference. His delivery is the same, his mannerisms are the same... Is he becoming a one-note actor already? A shame, since he showed so much promise.

Anthony Hopkins managed to recreate Lecter, but again, it just doesn't have the zing and chills from Lambs. In Red Dragon, I laughed at his witticisms like they were one-liners, instead of the nervous and uncertain feeling I got when we first were introduced to him. His jokes were macabre then, now they're just funny. The eerie edge has been worn away.

Still, I give this 7/10 because it wasn't the wretched "Hannibal" and it had the bonus of a buff, naked Ralph Fiennes. That's worth the price of a rental alone.

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