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Jesus Camp (2006)
If you are Left you will love it if you are Right you will sigh
Culture wars. Culture wars. I live out here in Portland, Oregon, USA and I get access to all of the left wing films out here; they are quite popular. I wanted to see this one in particular because I have been watching with interest the attempt by some on the left to paint the right with the "crazy Iyatollah brush" (fanatical religiosity) - to try and link in people's minds Muslim terrorists with middle western evangelicals.
Well, this film is a true Rorschach test to see which side of the culture war you are on. If you are on the left and you want a film to get you all fired up about the dangers of the evangelicals forcing you to have unwanted babies and pray at school, this is for you. If you are on the right and want to see how the left perceives *you*, this is for you also. If you have no dog in this fight, leave it alone. Mostly I found it boring.
The Illusionist (2006)
Would have made a better Twilight Zone Episode
I was very disappointed after seeing the trailer and being a big Edward Norton fan to be presented with this rather mediocre piece. What could have been a rather enjoyable film if it had stayed on this side of the illusionist/spiritualist line became rather laughable when ghosts started appearing on stage (or even off stage in the case of the boy). The fun for me in this would have been if the _illusions_ had stayed at least plausible, *illusions*! For instance, the Orange Tree. Paul Giamatti, was, as expected, flawless (it does a heart good to see an interesting looking person for a change instead of variations on Ken & Barbi). The film looked fabulous and I thought it was a nice variation on American produced period films *not* to use Britain or America but Eastern Europe for its setting. However, all in all, I think Rod Serling would have been better able to present this plot in 50 minutes on an old Twilight Zone episode.
Ordinary People (1980)
Why does "Raging Bull" and "Ordinary People" have to come out the same year?
It is just one of those twists of fate that so many superb films that all deserve an Oscar all come out in one year. I am glad that "Ordinary People" won, in that year I was only a little older than the protagonist, the character Hutton played, and I connected so deeply with this film at the time. I remember my mother was worried about me being such a fan of the film, thinking at the time that somehow I equated her with MTM's character's emotional problems (I didn't, of course). If anything, I was jealous of Sutherland's rendition of a father (I had a male version of Beth for *my* father). I just got done watching it again fully 25 years later and it packs just as big an emotional punch as it ever did, perhaps more for me now that my parents are gone and even this painful glance into family life in the '80's brings on more than a little nostalgia for me (even the clothes, the music, the language...the cars! - all remind me of my teens). And yes, I fell in love with Elizabeth McGovern all over again (she was so sweet as the understanding girl friend in this piece) - so Liz, get divorced and come back to me!
So Proudly We Hail! (1943)
Saccharin War Romance, but important
As a film goes, this one is rather dated, saccharin sweet romance (way - way over-the-top in the romance part). However, it is one of the few films that bothered to show the sacrifices that Red Cross Nurses, Doctors, and medical staff made during World War II. Because of that, it is an important film to see so that we can all appreciate their important contribution.
I just got done seeing it and I entered "World War II Corregidor" into Google and read several web pages that go into detail about the role Red Cross Nurses played in World War II. In http://www.gendergap.com/military/usmil6.htm it explains what actually happened on Corregidor and the part the nurses played. So, if you see this film - take a moment and educate yourself. If you are an American or affiliated with the Red Cross - you can take a moment and feel pride in their accomplishments. My late mother was a Registered Nurse who worked with the Red Cross after she "retired", so in my heart I paid homage to her and her generation by watching this film and reading the history behind it.
Anyway, pretty decent film except for the romance. Worth viewing.
In Enemy Hands (2004)
I can't believe people like this stinker
The screenplay was pretty lousy to begin with - but I guess I can give the actors credit for doing a good job for what they had. Macy is a favorite of mine and I give him credit for taking risks - so I find it hard to give him a bad review. It is, well, the problem is that the proposition the whole film is based on lacks credibility and the dialog is weak. It was so sickeningly "give-me-a-hug-its-wartime" and "we are at war but we really love each other" - man, it is like Barbara Streisand wrote this *war* film.
I can't believe so many people liked it. I wasted $3.99 on pay-per-view because of the comments on this board. The overall quality of this stinker barely comes up to a USA movie of the week, let alone a theater release. It was so bad that at the end I half expected the joint German/US crew to join together for a chorus of "Kum Bay Yah".
Pride and Prejudice (1995)
As Close to Perfection as Drama can get on Television
This project, along with Emma Thompson's reimagining of "Sense and Sensibility", both filmed in 1995, contributed to the renewal of the popularity on both sides of the Atlantic of Jane Austen's work and the costume drama that the British Television and Film Industry does so well, and for good reason. The talent involved - Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle, Crispin Bonham Carter, Benjamin Whitlow and the wonderful Barbara Leigh-Hunt on the acting side, Jane Austen on the writing side, and the BBC on the production side - almost guarantees a quality production, but as this is, in my opinion, the best Austen dramatization yet to appear on film or television. Of course, having the luxury of being able to basically shoot the novel without abridgement (327 minute mini series) is an advantage that this production has over the filmed versions, the most notable of which was the 1930's production with Sir Laurence Olivier as Darcy.
Surprisingly, the most effective casting was perhaps Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet, an American playing the famous English Rose. For pure enjoyment, Benjamin Whitlow and Alison Steadman's comedic performances playing off each other as Mr. and Mrs. Bennet was a real highlight. Also, it is no mystery why Colin Firth got type cast as Darcy he appeared earlier in the costume drama Valmont, but he seems to be most remembered for this `Darcy'; he seems to be made for this role (wasn't it amusing that his character's name in `Bridget Jones Diary' was `Darcy'?)
Anyway, this is a wonderful production and I can't think of any significant critism so for me, this mini series is a close to perfection as Drama can get on Television.
Lost in Translation (2003)
More like a painting than a film
I think the film didn't really function at the plot level so much - it functioned down in the gut. Sort of like the feeling you get when you are in an art gallery and latch onto a particular piece and you stare, stare, stare until you feel the painting rather than just look at it. I can't really think of another film experience quite like it - except perhaps snatches of a Merchant-Ivory film like "Howard's End" or "Room with a View" - even though both of these examples do indeed have a plot, there are certain moments in those films that set an emotional tone that is similar to what I felt when I watched "Lost in Translation". This is an artistic film that deserves more attention than I think it will get - but I am sure glad I saw it.
On a side note: as good a job as Bill Murray did, it would be interesting to see a version of this film with Clint Eastwood playing the lead.
The Sum of All Fears (2002)
Awful... Just Awful
Someone noted that it was stupid to compare a movie with the book it is based on. Personally, I think it is natural to do so when the quality of the plot (the aspect both mediums have in common, a plot) is considerably changed between the two, either for the better or the worse. In this case, the movie chooses to change the "baddies" from Arab terrorists to Nazi's??? The one thing that makes a Clancy novel so good is its ability to project verisimilitude in its fictional scenarios - one feels like "this could happen" while reading, that is what makes it thrilling!
Why, oh why, did the film maker choose Nazi's over Arabs as the villains - the real Nazi's need walkers to get around, they are so old. The new neo Nazi is so laughable as an international threat... Rejects from Jerry Springer launching a complex plan to steal a nuclear warhead!!! Hah! If you listen to the comment track on the DVD, Clancy snorts and laughs when this topic is brought up; it is obvious what he thinks about the plausibility of Nazi terrorism. I got the impression that it was the director's wishy washy smooshy PC politics that motivated this lame change in the plot - if he had problems with the plot he should have passed over the project, not wimpify it as he did.
Finally, the choice of Affleck for Ryan! This casting choice bewilders... he seriously lacks the gravitas of either of the previous Ryan choices. They should have used Liev Schreiber who plays John Clark for the Ryan role instead - when they are on the screen together it is so obvious who one follows and takes seriously on screen, Schreiber just blows Affleck away. This lousy choice of leading man ranks up there with casting Lazenby in the Bond series.
Lame, lame, lame. I hope they just put a bullet in the series rather than use the same creative team again.
With such a good cast one would think that something better could have been done. This film is SO lame it will only work for someone under the age of 17 and/or an IQ considerably less than 100.
I agree with those in this forum who have suggested that this would have worked much better as a five minute Saturday Night Live script - the rest of the 90 minutes was a waste of time.
Fine Romantic Comedy - one of Hugh Grant's Best
It is too bad that heavy dramatic films get so much attention at awards time at the expense of comedy, which is harder to pull off in the first place. I have read reviews of this film which call it a "lightweight tale". Perhaps it is, but I have watched it now probably three or four times and have enjoyed it every time. Hugh Grant shows his considerable charm and Tara Fitzgerald is lovely and engaging.
The story is a bittersweet tale of loss, home, and redemption set in Wales during the First World War. Although it is definitely a comedy, still it shows the devastation and loss experienced by the home front during WWI and how the community suffers and yet survives. The comedy plays against this serious theme with the quirky characters in the village and the humorous attempts they make to keep two traveling map makers in the village long enough so they can add twenty feet to their "hill" so that it will be a "mountain" on the maps, which is has been until the map makers found that it fell short of the thousand foot definition.
I give it ***1/2 out of ****.