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smakawhat

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239 reviews in total 
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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Just makes me only solidify one thing.., 8 September 2016
5/10

It has been years since I have written a review, and this film finally prompted one.

It's classic Woody, mixed in with sepia tones and brilliant cinematography. Blue Jasmine was terrific, but Cafe Society falls particularly flat. So don't give me that Woody still doesn't have it in him. But he dropped the ball on this one for a particular reason.

Eisenberg is actually a good fit. He fills the classic niche character 's that are so common in Allen's film. Neurotic, angst driven and often clumsy and clueless. Throw in some Jewish guilt and Eisenberg fits in well. Carrel is fantastic. I also wish somehow Parker Posey had more lines too.

The film actually manages some interesting characters, but is not that plot driven, more on going with situations and atmosphere that is wonderfully accented by brilliant scenery. The film even while short does drag and does fall at parts, even if it takes awhile to get going.

The biggest problem is like a giant elephant in the room and that's Kristen Stewart. Let's face it... the woman CANT ACT to save her life. She's wooden, monotone and emotionless. Watch her on screen is like watching paint dry.

So much time I spent watching this thinking this could actually be an exceptionally good film if someone else was cast in her role.

But in the end, I still can't figure out how this woman even has a job in Hollywood. She's like this in every film I've seen. Horrible.

Better luck next time.

Boyhood (2014/I)
0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A crowning achievement in film, 11 August 2014
9/10

Simply STUNNING viewing. 9.5 out of 10, and one of the most amazing films I have seen in years, I can't stop thinking about it.

Often films and coming of age stories show a very condensed viewpoint in a short time frame. Boyhood is actually the opposite in many ways. Clocking in at nearly 3 hours, you witness years pass in vignettes and scenarios as we follow the life of a young 5 year old boy called Mason and has family. The film concludes with 18 year old Mason going to college.

It's the same actor (if you didn't know already before hand). As with all the rest of the cast, shot over 12 years, as they age, physically change, and move on. In many ways there is no plot, all you are to witness is the experience of what happens next, and how life is to be shaped.

A fictional family life is portrayed in Texas, with numerous congenial scenes that everyone can relate to. Backseat fighting, shenanigans of youth, friends lost from moving away, but it's the context that is captured when you see it as real life literally grows on the screen. Friction and challenges are often presented, such as a mother who is intelligent but often makes bad decisions. The family dynamic swings from positive to negative, often with no warning. It provides great contrast as to how you see Mason's character grow up. A second father run in, and a new group of family members is a highlight, a tense period in life that if it were up to me should get Marco Perella an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor (if flat out just give him the dam thing).

The film also has hallmarks and often reminds me of the Up documentary series, except it's a work of fiction. My only one complaint, if minor, is that it seems to have a hard time figuring out which note to end on. But the other great achievement is that I never wanted this film to end.

The amount of risk the film makers took with this project is just mind boggling. What if the actors quit? or died? or just evolved into not being able to make their performances click on screen. But in the end it works, and it's a miraculous achievement.

This is the power of film, and what it can do, and nobody has ever done something like this before, on such a scale. And it pays off BIG.

In many ways the title seems wrong, it should just be called Family, or maybe just "Life" as it was. It's power is you don't just witness great performances, you see your life on screen through Mason. Every grown man will recognize every challenge, stumble, success witnessed by this actor in a very subdued straight laced performance. You observe it physically, emotionally, and metaphorically take shape on screen.

Raw, unflinching, groundbreaking, a cinematic triumph.

3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Fun in spite of itself, 5 August 2014
8/10

I haven't seen a summer popcorn flick in ages, let alone written a review of one in some time. However, if an excuse to see a gun totting raccoon with a rag tag bunch of misfits doesn't get me interested, then I'll consider this a lifetime opportunity missed.

Guardians of the Galaxy at first seems to start off like any sci-fi block bluster but quickly separates itself from the rest of the pack upon first viewing. The hero (Peter Quill) is a goofy, smart ass, unintentionally funny character as he sets on collecting an artifact for ransom. In the end, his goods are stripped and a bizarre bunch of misfits just like him set to get it back. The artifact's "the orb" importance becomes more clear, as we learn if it falls into the wrong hands it can unleash unparalleled destruction on the planets and galaxies.

Films like this suggest for you to suspend your disbelief, the bad guys never shoot straight, the heroes dodge all the bullets, the evil guys never time their powers right. We never take these things seriously, and more so the film takes these to more moronic highs. A walking plant and raccoon make an interesting pair, spitting off dialogue that isn't cliché. Quill has an affection for cheesy music, and it's discussion and genre in significant moments amongst other characters who just want to save the world, makes much for much moronic viewing. After all the aliens have no idea of this foreign concept that makes no sense to them. The female character is all green, giving a nod almost to Star Trek and an interest of Captain Kirk that Quill must conquest, but takes a much more realistic turn.

Aside from the fact that a brute character doesn't understand the concept of metaphors, the filmmakers have also bathed this picture in a fascinating light. Giant reams of purple blue and green bathe the screen with interstellar light, creating a universe that doesn't look like anything we have seen before on screen. Even the characters and aliens look like... aliens, with the exception that some are still bi-pedal, many skin tones are represented, never mind a blue bounty hunter who kidnapped Quill as boy, seems to wield the most dangerous knitting needle known to man. His presence and somewhat Texas?Alabama accent (which adds to even bigger irony) seem just the perfect fit as the absurdity grows larger when Quill and him cross paths. Each opportunity is an excuse for him to remind Quill he's lucky he wasn't eaten alive by him and his henchmen when he was first captured.

In reality the film mocks itself and its own ideas for telling us that this is all ridiculous and just dumb fun so come along for the ride. The whole thing knows it's absurd, and it's dialed up to 11 by the film-makers giving us a thrill that is the perfect escape for summer.

It's not brilliant or amazing, it's quite stupid, but if it was perfect it would ironically be a heck of a lot less interesting and enjoyable. It's the self mockery and stupidity that makes the film work ingeniously. If anything it's the perfect movie to not take things seriously, and bathe yourself in the wild characters and colors on screen. In the end it's a great interstellar trip and escape unlike any you have been on before, and that's really all it needs to be.

24 out of 47 people found the following review useful:
Really just awful..., 22 June 2008
3/10

I couldn't help but watch this film and think how incredibly empty it was. When if anything it should be the opposite.

The makers of American Teen place themselves in the lives of a classes senior year of school. We are to witness the usual cliques of several teens who go through the growing and learning pains of life.

In the end though, the dramatic moments and the loud soundtrack, quick editing, sound bite moments end up making the real people in this film come across as caricatures in their own movie.

The film is bombastic and in your face, when it needs to step away and tone down. When the intimate or poignant moments are described in someones life, it becomes flashy and gimmicky with distracting animations.

When it's suppose to poignant, its 2 sentences and over. You really don't get to know these kids other than what is described in the first 10 minutes of the film.

Scenes are played out of teenage life that everyone can relate to, but with the cameras around, it feels forced and coerced, regardless of whether the incidences are true to life. Someone is dumped by text message on their cellphone, so how do the film-makers capture that in real-time??? You get the sense the viewer is being cheated. A documentary is suppose to let the story unfold by itself, at it's worst American Teen actually becomes "predictable".

The idea of getting into a high school and capturing every detail of intimate moments with the kids, seems to have created a world that almost feels like its scripted when the cameras are around, and overly dramatic, when it doesn't have to be.

All the senior adults in the movie that are related to the kids (parents, teachers) even come across as nothing but pure buffoons who we don't get to know either.

It really does feel like the film-makers project some sort of ideas as to how this one town is a template for every high school in America, when it's really not that simple.

In the end though I wouldn't discourage people from seeing it, but the American teen is way more complicated than this, and the film-makers just haven't got it.

Jesus Camp (2006)
136 out of 167 people found the following review useful:
innocence forgotten, 7 October 2006
9/10

Enter the world of Jesus Camp, a brilliant documentary that chronicles the life of several people who attend or set up a "Jesus Camp" in (ironicaly) Devils Lake North Dakota.

Filmmakers Heidi Ewing, and Rachel Grady decide to focus mostly on the children that attend, with some focus on minister Becky Fisher who is one of the main architects of the camp.

Right away the filmmakers show a growing underlying change in the evangelical movement, to politicize their beliefs. Voice overs start talking about the newest supreme court nomination of Alito. However, once the focus starts on the kids who attend the camp the film gets its bearing.

What becomes obvious is that paranoia and fear is driven into the kids. There is Ashley a young girl, and Levi an older boy who seems to be on the quest to become a minister and preacher himself. It's obvious he likes the attention that is given him. But the kids are still kids, Levi and his friend go out into the woods and do what all kids do, explore find a scary spider, Levi even mentions, I like to throw rocks.

But then they are back in lessons again, scarred out of their boots in a sermon as they are being told to stay away from Harry Potter, abortion, and that they are essentially dirty from all the sins they carry. Most of them can't hold back the tears. Levi mentions he said he was saved when he was 5 years old (I can only think of the horrible things that he must have been guilty of to be converted (too much sugar cereal maybe?) ) The filmmakers do the smart thing and let the pictures and words speak for themselves. There is no voice over narration, no probing questions from the film-makers to the subjects themselves. There is no debate. The words from the kids just come out, and they are frightening. A sense of brainwashing can only be observed as the kids talk about how they have to fight in gods army, and that everyone else has to be 'purged'. Never mind that at one point kids are worshiping at a card board cut out of George Bush.

Some scenes literally look like they could have came from the movie "Triumph of the Will".

But the brilliance is shown in the innocence that these children loose and don't seem to enjoy in. What young kid needs to know about abortion? or be cleansed of all the horrors of the world? Why can't the kids just make up their own minds with everything but in front of them? When do kids ever get to just.... play? They are hints in the film at that, kids will be kids, little late night camp ghost stories, some break dancing.. it's all in good fun, and perfectly fine.

But it seems like Jesus camp just wants to crush their spirits.

Kudos to the film-makers for showing it real.

The World (2004)
15 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Unmatched surreal universe brought to life, 12 October 2005
9/10

How can you truly show disconnection. I think I have truly seen a master in action with Shijie, a film that takes place in a world theme park (this place does really exist) in China.

Zhang Ke Jia is a masterful director. His use of colour and character direction is unreal. One of the things he uses to great effect are arches and hallways. Characters appear in them, or look out of them in what is some of the most visual photography I have ever witnessed. There is also a great conversation scene between two characters who don't share the same language, and the use of reflected light that is truly remarkable, make sure to watch for this scene. But it doesn't end there.

Zhang also does something so miraculous that I thought would be impossible. He borrows heavily from Ozu, particularly a scene that is reminiscent of Tokyo Story and makes something that is uniquely his own.

The basic synopsis of "The World", is of the lives of the workers in the theme park. Some romances develop, a foreign Russian worker Anna is introduced to the group even though she and another Chinese girl Tao don't share the same language. Everyday trials and tribulations happen for these young adults who are trying to work in the 'New China'.

Somehow though with all the issues involved, rural people coming into the cities, technological communication, the erosion of China's agrarian past, the fakeness of place, the exploitation of workers and lead up to prostitution, the camaraderie of friends, the cheapness of life.. somehow all of these themes are jumbled into a glorious presentation that you can't take your eyes off of.

The film is beyond surreal, its real setting makes it all more spectacular and that more effective. I had a hard time separating the actors from the characters, at times I thought I was watching a documentary and I prayed or hoped for someone to do well and be happy and find themselves thinking that these were real people in harsh sometimes difficult situations. "The World" has this effect on you, you can't begin to believe the beauty and harshness it shows, and it tricks you in the most crafty way.

The World is a truly fantastic small place in more ways than one...

Rating 9 out of 10

Murderball (2005)
25 out of 30 people found the following review useful:
A Triumph!!!, 7 August 2005
9/10

Having seen one of the most brilliant documentaries several years ago called Hoop Dreams, I though there could be nothing that could even come close to its raw passion and emotional power. After witnessing Murderball, I realized I was wrong.

This documentary that follows a select group of quadriplegic athletes provides just the perfect amount of tension and joy, as witnessing the former trials of Arthur Agee, and William Gates and family in Chicago.

Some background is given on the sport as to how it's played (no less ironically on a basketball court), but Murderball's greatest asset is the depth in which it probes the players backgrounds and challenges, and our understanding of what it means to be in a chair (more than likely) the rest of your life.

Like Hoop Dreams, it isn't the games or the run up to the championship that becomes the most exciting part (as great as that may be), but is found in the little moments when a father makes an effort to be at his sons recital, an old friend comes to watch his buddy at the paralympics in Greece, a recent quadriplegic first gets into a "mad chair" for the first time, or a group of players confront a former coach and mention his "treasonous" grounds. It is the access the filmmakers have gotten to not just film games, but to be at the right place at the right time in these players lives. That is what separates a brilliant documentary from just a good one, also the filmmakers and distributors have believed in this film, and it contains some very slick production work to boot.

In the end, the audience for the most part who will be watching this as able bodied people, will come out with a sense of glowing pride for these athletes who play this crazy (perhaps) insane sport. This movie more than anything is about EMPOWERMENT, and the drive that succeeds in us all. When you watch these people in action you suddenly even begin to question how much you shouldn't complain about the everyday nuisances compared to what these players deal with on a regular basis.

It breaks down the barriers we people have towards individuals in wheelchairs to realize, that you know these people aren't always reflecting on what happened in their life as a lost chance, that they are okay, and more importantly you know what.. some of them may dam well be real jerks, but you know what.. that's okay too. But by golly, don't you dare even feel for sorry for them, just be glad that if you have a Zupan, Bob Lujano, or an Andy Cohn in your corner you may just have one of the coolest friends on the planet, and be a lucky person indeed. Cause for the most part they probably stand taller than you in every way.

Rating 9 out of 10

5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
wow what a surprise, 8 July 2005
9/10

I was quite surprised by this film. For someone who has never made a film before (this being Miranda July's first venture), the result is incredibly welcoming.

Miranda plays Christine, an artist that earns money by shuttling old seniors through a taxi service (hey how else are artists suppose to earn an income!). One day while at a department store she sees a shoe salesmen and develops a big crush on him. Christine is a kooky odd character and it turns out the salesmen Richard is as well to some extent. However, Richard is not quite ready to jump into a relationship cause he is just in the beginning of a painful separation. His two children are also on the sidelines watching Richard slowly crumble, and they retreat into their shells by spending a lot of time online.

There are other characters too who are all connected in some way or other, and it provides some entertaining subplots. I won't go into detail but they are all fantastic. What is really impressive about 'Me and You' is that Miranda July has created a universe that people inhabit that we rarely see on film. I was also amazed how the film was composed and the dialogue that was written. The characters that inhabit Miranda's world are all very odd but very real, they all speak a strange language, but we all understand everything they say and what they are going through. You get the sense that everything said which is so strange and perhaps unnatural is so teeming with life and reality. That is not easy to pass off without being arty or coming off as pretentious, there is even room for many comedic moments, and an art director becomes the pun of an unlikely joke that you don't even see coming.

The key theme throughout the film is about trying to communicate with other people who don't speak the same language as you do. In many ways its frustrating cause you are so different from everyone else, hopefully you can find the right person who is on your same playing level. That is the real success of Me and You, in it's done marvelously for a first time writer/director.

This is a remarkable display of talent, and no it's not a Solondz rip off as much as Solondz has similar work. It's her own creation and a well deserved one that I don't think anyone else could have pulled off.

One of the best films of the year Rating 9 out of 10

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Christopher Nolan is a genius, 20 June 2005
8/10

Finally Hollywood has figured out that you don't take a talent like Nolan and mess with his creations. Nolan has given the only serious looking Batman comic adaptation I can think off. Christian Bale isn't just a man in a costume, he is literally put into a metamorphosis. The screenwriters have connected what matters most and that is the transformation from a naive rich kid, to man who conquers his own demons.

Secondly this film looks so much like the panels of a DC comic book, that the similarities are unreal. Bale as a young man looks so much younger than the reserved changed Wayne even on film, although Bale of course never ages in the picture. The shots of the death of Wayne's parents are so much like the comics that I was transported to reading them again.

Nolan has a great touch for directing darkness (not just physical but mood as well), and playing with shadows. This Batman, we hardly see, and foes drop around like flies before we the audience can figure out what is going on.

Dr. Krane, is also brilliantly cast as a sinewy doctor that looks like he will waste away at any moment.

Not quite the perfection of Memento or Insomnia, but it's good enough for me.

8 out of 10

3-Iron (2004)
54 out of 69 people found the following review useful:
Stick with me here.., 27 May 2005
8/10

Having witnessed Kim ki Duk's masterpiece in the past "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring", I was eagerly interested in this well received next venture.

3 Iron, is very similar in style to Spring Summer, there is very little dialogue, and the story tells itself. However, I had to admit that after about 65% of viewing this film, admiring the characters, I was still kind of wondering if this film was going to go somewhere. It had to make some direction. Only the last 3rd brought me back and really showed me how ingenious this film is.

The lead actor Hee Jae really performs one of the most memorable performances, with hardly saying a word, his arching brows or glare in his face conveys every emotion masterfully compared to other actors who would have to say a million lines. I won't go over plot details that have already been discussed, what is interesting is that all the houses the two break into are all of couples in some stage in a relationship, one breaking down, one that is well established and peaceful, one that is young and virile, but perhaps inexperienced.

It all seems to be a metaphor for how two beings meet to co-exist and compliment each other, particularly the final scene that ends with the two anti-heroes meeting up and finding their lives in perhaps perfect balance.

Be patient with this film, STICK with it, it's well worth it. Extremely dreamy and poetic and masterful.

Rating 8 out of 10


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