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Mrs. Doubtfire, murderer.
The story is engaging and thought provoking. The location setting is well used. Supporting cast is good. Swank is very good. Pacino is great.
And then there's Robin Williams. This isn't his first serious role, but alas, even as a villian, he still uses the same delivery, and the same outward personality, "Son of Mork". It's not that he's a bad actor, it's just that he's extremely... well, let's be nice and call him "consistent".
Maybe that helps him get roles. Maybe casting directors figure that he has this large fan base that will come to see any movie he's in. When Robin Williams is in a movie, you know what to expect from him. He delivers a foolish consistency for little minds.
Big names always bring baggage from previous roles to the screen with them. I haven't seen Swank's Oscar movie, so she was new to me. Pacino might have brought back a few memories of previous characters, but at least you saw a cop, not an actor. With Robin, you see Williams.
For that reason, I like unknown actors. And if there ever was a movie that did not need big names to help it make an impression on the viewer, it was this one. This waw a good story, well made into a movie, such that you could call it "art" rather than "industry".
Little Nicky (2000)
I have never seen a movie turned into such a piece of garbage by one character. I don't mean Adam Sandler the actor, I mean the way over the top way his character was presented. I've never seen such extreme overplaying of a character. He's a whining, stammering, bent-over, fidgeting, totally annoying basket case of humanity with his long hair plastered down over his face, and on and on. It was like the creators of the movie stayed up way too late dreaming up ways to make this character pathetic.
This might have been an ok movie, but every time Sandler's character came into a scene (most scenes), I just cringed by the pathetic overacting. After seeing this movie, I hated Sandler for a while until I recalled him in The Water Boy, a movie I enjoyed. It wasn't Sandler so much as the incredibly stupid way he was directed and how his character was designed.
There was a lot to like about the movie otherwise, but that character kept coming in so often, that the overall enjoyment of the movie was completely ruined.
I guess you might like Little Nickey if you enjoy the sights and sounds of a shivering miniature poodle that won't stop whining and barking for a second. On second thought the poodle isn't as obnoxious.
Words fail me. This movie totally stank thanks to that one character.
Magia verde (1953)
Disturbing voodoo documentary
I remember seeing this movie back in the fifties, at a small town theatre that had a special program of non-Hollywood movies. I
remember seeing the pain on the theatre manager's face as some disturbing animal sacrifice scenes were being shown. From what I recalled, it was well made, had lots of vivid imagery and sounds. It's been too long since I've seen it to give it a good critique, but from what I recall, it was a pretty interesting movie, if a little disturbing at times. There's a lot more gore in movies today, but you knew that in this movie, it's real.
Ivan Groznyy (1945)
Sure ain't Hollywood!
What an amazing picture. Some of the wierdest acting I've ever seen, this is definitely NOT a movie for someone who thinks
that modern Hollywood has the lock on filmmaking.
The lighting is harsh, usually from the side and below, so
that many times the nose of an actor shades one of the eyes.
And those eyes! Never have I seen so much use of the eyeball in a movie. Lots of shifting, rolling, wide open eyes, in
closeup full frame face shots. The acting is often robotic,
and there are lots of shots with two actors right face to
face, with synchronized expressions. I also loved the voices, especially Ivan's booming baritone, which is especially
effective coming from a rather thin looking man.
But it all works! I found myself laughing over and over at the bizarre camera, lighting and acting methods employed.
Whether this humor is intentional or not, I don't know or
care. A laugh is a laugh. Which is not to discount the
dramatic effects that came at the same time. It's just
the kind of laughter that comes from the excitement of
seeing such boldness of art.
Alas, the movie suffers from technical problems, which
can be forgiven due to the time and place in which it was made. The sound quality is poor, and the subtitles are
impossible to read at times, although 3/4 of the time I just ignored them. It's pretty easy to tell what's going on.
Again, this film is not for everyone, but it is a must for any serious student of filmmaking. It's a refreshing and education departure from Hollywood's "realism is everything" mentality.
Meet Joe Black (1998)
I guess this movie is for people who like to watch make-believe rich people and fantasize about how they must live. So by all means, cast it with pretty Brad Pitt, Claire Gooeylani and Anthony Hopkins, who has worked his way up from a butler in some other movie.
Hopkins, who probably couldn't screw up a role even if he tried, is the only character in the movie who doesn't come off making you crave sucking on toilet paper soaked in imitation maple syrup. Pitt plays the "Angel of Death" sorta... How clever to have the Grim Reaper act cuuuuute!
Oh, there's some sort of storyline, some kind of high-falutin' big deal message to the movie about (who would guess?) LOVE, and well, yawn. Claire What's-her-lani plays Hopkin's character's daughter who happens to be a doctor, and I guess it's supposed to be meaningful that a doctor falls in love with Mr. Death, although when I mentioned that to the people who watched the movie with me, they just laughed. Maybe the two have a love affair just so you can get all dewey and fuzzy watching such cute people mumble at each other and make cow eyes.
And I gotta hand it to them, 'cause it was one of the dewey and fuzziest fall-for-me scenes. Oooh, that ULTRA SOFT voice that Claire ???Lani has! I don't know, is that some kinda electronic effect that they use? She sounded like a persian kitten purring in a down sleeping bag on a hot summer day, and was about as easy to understand. Is that supposed to be sexy or something? Is that the way she really talks? With that pencil neck of hers, I'd expect more of a squeak. Shows what I know.
I recommend this movie for people locked into a trailer park lifestyle, to get some ideas going on how they're gonna spend their lottery winnings. Oh, those rich people are SOOOO fuzzy!
The Two Jakes (1990)
LA Oil, grease and slime, ca. 1950
What I really liked about this movie was the atmosphere. It takes place in L.A. around 1950, and the cars, clothing, settings and such were right on. This was still in the postwar design transition from deco to modern styles, and we get to see lots of good scenes of the way things must have looked when L.A. was in an oil boom.
Speaking of booms, the plot involves a new drilling technology called "directional drilling" that even many oil drillers didn't know about then. It allowed someone to place a drilling tower "here", and extract oil from "there". For example, you put your drilling tower on a cheap plot of land known to have no oil, and then extract the oil from some proven pumper.
Sometimes this can be dangerous. In one scene there is a housing development going in -- imagine L.A. housing developments around this time -- vast. Someone in a new house sits down on the crapper and goes to light a cigarette and "oil boom causes housing boom" so to speak... kinda like the rural-urban legend of grampa lighting his pipe and igniting the methane in the outhouse, except in this case it's petroleum gas, and those houses are all connected by sewer! Must be seen to be appreciated.
I confess I haven't seen Chinatown, but can say that this is a fun movie. Has a good plot, and lots to look at, too.
Best Mifune + Kurosawa samurai flick
If you like Mifune as a samurai, this is the one not to miss. Unlike Seven Samurai, where he's not really a samurai, in this one he is a fully-qualified, if masterless samurai. This is more of a "pure samurai action" movie than Seven*. The story is simpler and moves along faster, and Mifune doesn't have to share the spotlight with others so much. It's his movie, and is he ever "bad"!
There's a scene in the movie that puzzles me, I had to watch it several times, and still don't get it: It's where some government officials visit the village our hero's "saving", and soon find themselves passed out on some spiked sake... the man who's serving them goes up to each of the two passed-out officials, and replaces their little bottles from behind, and then gives their sleeve a snap as if to straighten out the fabric, and gives a little snappy salute or something I can't figure it out, maybe you can.
If you like samurai movies, you just gotta see this one, no getting out of it. Dig the theme music for Mifune's character played on a baritone sax.. he's baaaaaad!
A strange thing happened to me while watching this movie for the first time: About halfway thru, I lost the desire to pay attention to it. It's not that I lost interest, just that I lost the feeling of need or obligation to pay attention in order to get the most out of it.
Cinematic enlightenment? Or just fatigue?
Hmmm... probably a little of both, combined with the knowledge that it I can always watch it again.
This really is a different movie, and I can see it being played on my VCR time and time again, at times when I want to "watch something", but don't...
There's just so much to it, so much to think about, so much to see, that one time thru will only give a little sip. And I'm afraid that there are times when it does help to read the subtitles -- although much of the time there are no subtitles.
The thing about it is, rather than "teach" Buddhist philosophy, it "gives the experience". It follows its three characters on the path, and gives lessons on letting go.
There is a scene where a young boy returns to the grave of a bird he'd buried a few days before: Unable to let go of the bird, unable to accept death, he finds that yes, life goes on, but in ways that he was not ready to accept or understand! In an instant, he's startled by the cry of another bird, and falls from a ledge into a pool of water (there's a lot of water in this movie), where he thrashes about like he's drowning -- and then he stops trying to swim, and simply allows himself to float. Get it?
Lots of eye candy, lots of mind candy. If you're a Buddhist, or in any way interested in Buddhism, you must not miss it for anything! If however you're not interested in the least about Buddhist philosophy, but ARE interested in cinematic excellence, see it. It's a masterpiece!
The Bounty (1984)
Third best Bounty story yet!
I'm a little surprised at the comments others have written on this movie, and it causes me to wonder if they've seen the two earlier "Mutiny on the Bounty" movies they are comparing it with. To me, the first one is of great acedemic interest for acting and cinematography, the second one was an absolute masterpiece, while this one was a mixed bag.
Indeed, if it weren't for Anthony Hopkins as Capt. Bligh, this movie would be a yawner, except to fans of wooden ships and/or Tahitian women. And to be sure, this version does the most respectful job of portraying the Tahitians, both in terms of authenticity and respect. Tahitians are actually given some acting responsibility in this film, which I liked. Also, the crew looked the most believeable.
Yet there was something lacking in this movie that made it pale in comparison to the other two Bounty films.
Specifically, it lacked an actor to play the part of Mr. Christian. The part was given to Mel Gibson instead. Maybe that was intentional, to put emphasis on Hopkins' Bligh character.
Then again, maybe Gibson or his writers were afraid to "let it all hang out", for fear of being compared with the BRILLIANT performance given by Brando in the earlier version. Alas, keeping a low profile didn't work for Gibson. I guess the moral of the story is "never follow an animal act".
Another thing that bothered me about this movie was how the *screen* was cramped. Seems like all the onboard action was shot about three feet from the characters' noses. Now granted, the Bounty was small as ships go, and all ships are crowded, but to be reminded of it over and over? In fact, we weren't. I'm only speculating as to why the *screen* looked cramped and too often dark. The effect was to make the movie itself look small!
For "wooden ship fans", this movie does deliver at times, we get to see them trying to round the Horn, and it don't look like fun, no indeed! Strangely, I noticed a few seconds of what I could swear was the exact same footage as used in the '60's version of the film.
I don't want to be too hard on this movie, and it's pretty hard to follow two previous versions of the same story, both of which were classics. Although this was not a great movie, it was a very good one, and best of all, if you liked any one of the three movies, you've got the other two to see!
Some might say that it's not fair to compare any movie or actor with another, but in this case, it's just too much fun. It's amazing to see how three different movies can tell three different versions of one or another aspect of a story. Much of that story is a matter of speculation and legend, more of the story depends on who you believe, but much of the story is a matter of the court record! In one, we have Bligh punished, in another we have him aquitted with a commendation, and in another, we have him aquitted with a reprimand! OTOH, we get to see that same coconut shell scale being used to ration out food on the lifeboat.
All in all, there are three fun movies to watch, two of which could be considered great.
La vingt-cinquième heure (1967)
Think you're immune to Nazism?
I stumbled upon this movie whilst flipping channels on the teevee late one night. It has continued to hold my interest some twenty years later, because of the important real-life lesson it teaches us about the dark side of human nature. And although it tells a true story that takes place in WWII, it is amazingly apropos to the ugly things happening in Europe today.
If you thought "ethnic cleansing" as it's called today, has anything to do with race or ethnicity, you'll think differently after viewing this story.
I guess I'd been pretty naive in thinking that evil follows any prescribed set of rules. Evil is as evil does.
This movie teaches a valuable lesson, and I recommend it especially to e.g. church groups or civil rights organizations.
I don't expect it will be too easy to find and rent, but I'd really like to see it again, because there is one amazing scene in it which gives a totally unintentional yet interesting glimpse of the banal intricacies of "race expertise". In this scene, the protaganist, who was taken prisoner by the Nazis at the beginning of the war, is "discovered" by an SS race authority, and ushered into a room. There the two play a sort of guessing game, where the SS officer is able to determine where our hero (Anthony Quinn's character) came from -- and where his ancestors came from. Well "come to find out" that Quinn's character isn't a member of an "inferior" race after all, but to the contrary, he's a perfect, archtypical Aryan! Which doesn't mean a whole lot to Quinn's character, who is more interested in talking about the towns, rivers and mountain ranges that the SS guy had just been naming... Nevertheless, being a perfect Aryan archetype has its perks. Among other things, he gets to leave his job in a slave labor factory where he wears striped rags, and into a slave modeling job where he gets to wear tailored Nazi uniforms. Yeah, it's a better gig for sure for a guy who always did appreciate wearing nice clothes... until the Allied armies arrive, and recognize his face from magazine covers.