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steve.schonberger

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55 reviews in total 
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Reprise (2006)
11 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
Tedious story, pretentious directing, admirable acting., 19 May 2008
4/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Philip (Anders Danielsen Lie) and Erik (Espen Klouman-Høiner) are friends, both writers, both fans of elder writer Sten Egil Dahl (Sigmund Sæverud). They finish their books around the same time, and dare to submit them only by dropping them into the mailbox at the same time.

While awaiting a reply, they hang out with their guy friends, a superficial bunch of misogynists who think girlfriends are a drag on creativity, free time, and ability to be interesting. IMDb lists Henning (Henrik Elvestad), Lars (Christian Rubeck), Morten (Odd Magnus Williamson), Jan Eivind (Henrik Mestad), and Geir (Pål Stokka), but I couldn't keep them all straight.

Philip's book is accepted; Erik's is not. But while Erik suffers self-doubt and possibly, Philip suffers a nervous breakdown.

A voice-over narrator (Eindride Eidsvold) blames Philip's nervous breakdown on his obsessive love for his girlfriend Kari (Viktoria Winge), who is advised not to visit him in the mental hospital to avoid making him worse. He reminisces about the trip he took her on to Paris, where he tricked her into falling in love with him, as he remembered it.

SPOILER PARAGRAPH: Meanwhile, Erik manages to beat his book into publishable condition, and his editor Johanne (Rebekka Karijord) tries to talk him out of his title, Prosopopeia, which the editor considers too obscure. (The film doesn't ever define it; I had to look it up. It's a Greek word meaning "anthropomorphism" or "personification".) When it sells, he feels obligated to dump his girlfriend Lillian (Silje Hagen), apparently thinking himself too good for her once he's a published author. But he wimps out, and sticks with her.

When Philip has recovered enough to be released from the mental hospital, they go back to their routine with the annoying guy friends. He tries to write another book. Kari and Philip meet up again, and they go back to Paris in hopes of repeating the falling-in-love trip (apparently the "reprise" of the title, which means roughly the same thing in Norwegian).

Near the end, someone dies.

Director Joachim Trier uses a style that is distinctive, but I'm not sure it's good. In most shots with more than one person, he frames the people just a little too tightly, with backs of heads in two-shots crowded out, and people on edges of group shots only half in the frame. Every scene seems to have a desaturated blue color to it. To the film's credit, the shots are in focus, and although most or all shots are hand-held they're steady. I rate the directing fair (5).

The director and Eskil Vogt wrote the script. Although the directing isn't much good, the script is the film's worst weakness. Philip is mentally ill, which could make him an interesting subject for a film, but all the film does with his illness is show him enter and leave a mental hospital, and fail to write a decent second book. Erik struggles with his self-doubt and apparent lesser writing talent, but the film's presentation of him is so vague that his struggles aren't interesting either. Their literary idol is vaguely interesting in his brief screen time, but he's a bit part at best. Their male friends are unlikeable, but not in an interesting way – they're just a bunch of guys who hang around and complain about women.

The most interesting characters are the three women. Kari is the best-developed character in the film, even though she gets less screen time than Philip or Erik. Johanne is interesting because she actually does something other than whine about teen-angst, which the mostly late-20s characters should have outgrown. Lillian is a small part, but she's interesting because the misogynist chorus seems to have a special dislike for her, which could be an interesting story.

One good point in the script is that there are a few scattered scenes that are funny – not great comedy work, but at least it was a break from the tedium. Overall, I rate the story lackluster (4).

The acting is all solid, most notably that of Viktoria Winge. But the good acting goes to waste on a script that is dull, and directing that obscures the performances.

One good point of the film was interesting music, featuring Norwegian bands and various punk rock.

On the basis of the lackluster story, and other elements that don't do much to elevate the film, I rate it lackluster (4) overall.

My wife and I saw this at the 2007 Seattle International Film Festival. It was even worse for my wife than for me. She had seen it in Norway, sucked in by favorable reviews. She didn't like it. Then she ended up seeing again, because of an unannounced festival schedule change. I suggested she slip out and shop, or otherwise have some fun, but I figured I'd sit through it to see if it just didn't work for her. But she decided to give it a second try, thinking maybe there was something admirable about it that she missed the first time. No such luck; it was just as boring the second time.

Offscreen (2006)
5 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Good acting and directing are wasted on a shockingly awful story., 5 May 2007
1/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Nicolas Bro is an obsessive actor. His marriage to Lene Maria Christensen is in trouble; she's fallen out of love with him. Instead of a normal approach, such as couples counseling, he decides to make a love story film, starring him and his wife. He borrows a camera from director Christoffer Boe (also the film's real-life director) and starts recording everything. His obsessive recording further alienates Lene, and gradually drives away all of his friends, even Boe.

MILD SPOILERS:

Eventually, Lene flees to Berlin, asking her friends to keep her new address secret. This drives Nicolas even deeper into obsessive madness. His in-laws (Karen Margrethe Bjerre and Niels Weyde) try to talk sense into him, expressing concern, but he just hassles them for her address.

A friend from his stage-theater group takes his tapes, because he's recorded stuff some of them consider private. She offers to return them on condition that he sign a statement that he won't release them in public. He wants them back unconditionally, and they argue. (I'm not sure how that argument resolved, or whether it's before or after Lene's departure to Berlin.) He recruits Trine Dyrholm to play his wife so he can finish his film project, but they have creative differences that derail that effort.

With the help of Lene's credit card bill, which arrives at their home address (presumably because she forgets to get new credit cards with a different billing address), Nicolas figures out where she is in Berlin. He goes there, and tracks her down. He spies on her, discovering she has a new boyfriend. He approaches her, and after she excuses herself from her friends she takes him to her hotel room to talk some sense into him. They talk late into the night. When Nicolas finally dozes off, she records a goodbye message with his camera, and takes it away from him in hopes that he'll finally quit filming everything.

BIG SPOILERS:

Instead of abandoning the project, Nicolas moves to a cheaper apartment, and sells his comic book collection to pay for a new hand-held camera and a set of surveillance cameras he installs in every room of the apartment. He meets a woman at a bar (I think Trine, since I assume Lene was still in Berlin) and when they go for a walk he knocks her out with a baseball bat. He drags her to the new apartment, where she regains consciousness, and fights her way free of him.

He heads for a bar and gets roaring drunk, boasting about the beating and complaining about how she fought her way free. Apparently the other idiots in the bar think he's full of crap, rather than confessing a crime, because they don't do anything.

Before word about the beating spreads, he meets another woman (I think a friend from his old stage-theater company), and invites her to another bar, where he gets even more drunk. Concerned for his safety, she escorts him back to the new apartment. She comments on the cameras, then observes the plastic all over the apartment, and speculates that he's renovating. No such luck – he beats her bloody with a broken-off table leg. She doesn't wake up. He positions her in various poses for his cameras, as if she were his long-lost wife.

Word of the first beating apparently gets around, and a bunch of guys go looking for Nicolas. He slips out of his apartment just in time, and evades them, but they discover the bloodied woman there. They track him down and start beating. Someone grabs his camera to record the beating, as if finishing his film. The film concludes as he sits unconscious, with squirts of arterial blood indicating his dwindling pulse.

END SPOILERS.

Cheerful music plays over the end credits.

Most of the cast of this film play characters with the same name as the cast members themselves. IMDb credits them as "Himself" and "Herself", and although the characters resemble the cast members in some respects they're not really playing _themselves_. For example, Nicolas is an actor in real life, and collects comic books, but as far as I'm aware he's neither insane nor married to Lene Maria Christensen. The characters would best be credited as "fictionalized himself" and "fictionalized herself".

Nicolas Bro is very good as nut-job Nicolas. Trine Dyrholm is also very good. In fact, most of the acting is solid, with the exception of Christoffer Boe, who is lackluster at acting.

The directing, by Christoffer Boe, also isn't bad. The camera work plays well with the movie's premise of an actor obsessively filming himself. The hand-held shots are shaky enough to fit the premise, but steady enough to present the story. The static-camera shots are framed imperfectly enough to fit the premise, but again well enough to present the story. The scenes are assembled in a way that gets the idea across well enough.

But the admirable acting and good directing go to waste.

The critical problem with the film is the story, written by the director and Knud Romer Jørgensen. Once we've seen Nicolas fail to revitalize his marriage to Lene, then alienate her and his friend with his obsessive recording, that plot direction runs stale and turns repetitious. His attempt to rescue his project with Trine is a decent change of direction. His trip to Berlin would have made a good conclusion, given how Lene handled him there. Had it ended at that point, I could have given the film a rating of 6.

Unfortunately, the writers didn't think that was enough for a feature film project, or maybe they just couldn't figure out a good closing scene to wrap up after Berlin. Instead, they continued in a direction that felt like it was meant more for stupid and offensive shock value, ruining an already-shaky film.

86 out of 125 people found the following review useful:
The story is the key to the movie, and it's very good., 16 June 2006
8/10

Looking out his window, DJ (Mitchel Musso) sees a creepy-looking house (Kathleen Turner). It's owned by Mr Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi), who really doesn't people on his lawn. Toys that end up there disappear, taken by Nebbercracker to discourage trespassing. DJ catalogues the lost items, but his parents (Catherine O'Hara and Fred Willard) aren't interested in his observations of the house. Just before Halloween, his parents leave him home, in the care of babysitter Elizabeth (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who prefers the nickname "Z". His friend "Chowder" (Sam Lerner) visits, and joins his observation of the house. They spot Jenny (Spencer Locke, who is a girl whose parents stuck her with a boy's name) about to try to sell Halloween candy to Nebbercracker, and hurry to talk her out of approaching the house. Before long, they discover that Nebbercracker isn't the only thing that's creepy about the house. The house, it seems, has a life of its own.

This movie started as a script that sat unproduced for years, for want of technology and the right people to make it. The technology that went into it turned out to be the same sort of animation as _The Polar Express_, digital animation based on motion capture. Like _Polar_, it has a stylized look rather than attempting photorealism, but instead of taking the look of paintings in a book, it took the look of extremely detailed dolls and doll accessories. But with motion capture driving the movements of the characters, they end up with a lot of personality, which overrides their stylized look. The animation is least effective in the climax scene at the end, where it exaggerates the action just a bit too far for my tastes, but even there it's pretty good. Most of the time the animation is excellent, with just the right degree of exaggeration to fit the stylized look. The sets are very good, particularly a construction site near the house. I'd rate the animation very good.

More important than the technology is the story. What really makes the images on the screen interesting is the way they serve the story. Comparing with _The Polar Express_ again highlights the point -- this movie had a solid story, compared with _Polar_, which expanded a very thin children's book into a feature-length story. This movie's story isn't in a class with the best of Pixar, but the film-makers are clearly aware of the fact that the strength of the story is very important. I'd rate the story very good.

The voice and motion capture performances, shot in only 34 days, are almost all excellent. My favorite was Maggie Gyllenhaal, who was wonderful in her supporting part as babysitter "Z". The least satisfying, I thought, was Jon Heder (as video-game master "Skull"), and he was good, just not great. Even Kathleen Turner, as the house, performed in the motion capture space, moving around in a neighborhood constructed of foam. I really hope that the director wasn't joking when he said he might include her motion capture video as a DVD extra. Nick Cannon, as a rookie police officer, was probably the funniest character, relative to his screen time.

Kathleen Turner's presence in the cast is a bit of a nod to executive producer Robert Zemeckis, who cast her as Jessica Rabbit in _Who Framed Roger Rabbit_. She was thrilled by the part, which gave her a grotesque role to mirror her glamorous role as Jessica Rabbit. Other Zemeckis references are more obvious. Most obvious one is in the opening, featuring a leaf. Another deals with a basketball -- originally an accident during production. Others may exist, but it's not packed with pop culture references like the _Shrek_ movies.

Directing an animated film is different in a lot of ways from directing live action, which makes it more complicated to rate. Directing this movie involved directing both the motion capture performances and the camera positioning. The director took the script, and made complete storyboards from it. From those, he made an animatic, which guided the way he directed the motion capture shoot. Because of the way character interactions affected the results, he said that he ended up throwing out all the storyboarding, but I'd guess he meant that figuratively. The character interaction looked really good, better than almost any animated movie I've seen. I'd rate the directing excellent, in a class with Pixar.

Overall, I'd rate the movie very good, mostly on the strength of the story. Kids are usually easy to please, and they'll probably find the movie excellent. Adults are harder to please. Where _Shrek_ emphasizes pop culture references for adult appeal, this movie targets adults' memories of childhood, effectively drawing adults into enjoying it like the kids in the audience.

Credits: There are a few additional scenes after the credits begin. Don't run out right away. Stick around at least until the fine-print credits roll.

Personal appearances: The director, Gil Kenan, and a couple of the producers (I don't know which ones, but not Spielberg or Zemeckis) were there. The director took questions from the audience, and answered very enthusiastically -- he seemed like he was thrilled to see his film in front of a real audience, and not burned out from hearing the same questions over and over. He was really nice to the kids in the audience, and behaved like he was new to the experience of being the center of attention. He signed lots of autographs (including one for me), and seemed genuinely pleased that people cared enough to ask. That's a reaction that one might expect for the director of something obscure, but uncommonly nice for the director of a big-budget summer movie.

The US rating is "PG", for some scary scenes and (supposedly) "crude humor and brief language". The crude humor is minimal, compared to typical movies aimed at kids. I can't think of any inappropriate language.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A coming-of-age story starts out promising, but disappoints toward the end., 18 May 2006
5/10

Honey (Kong Ling) and her three best friends enjoy a summer at a sea-side resort near Hong Kong. On their way there, they stop at a video store and buy a few VCDs. Later, they return to the same resort for one last summer together, before Honey leaves for university in Beijing. TT (McChing Mak) looks like the odd one out, with her unfeminine clothing and hair. Sammi (Isis Lee) seems to be drifting away from the others, thanks to her interest in a boy. Later, Honey gets to know Bitters (Larry Chan), who she had first seen at the video store.

Meanwhile, Baby (Dolphin) spends a summer in the same town, on vacation from her Hong Kong job. There she makes friends with local brothers To (Chan Ming To) and Fu (Yin Wong Bong).

The title refers to the fact that movies on VCD are typically split into one-hour segments, sides "A" and "B", and that the setting is a sea-side resort.

All of the acting performances are at least good. The actresses who played Honey and TT stand out as very good. Scene-by-scene, the directing (by Ah Chiu) was mostly very good. Some scenes were excellent, most notably a dare involving TT, and a couple of nicely-photographed scenes that included a kitten. But the directing couldn't overcome two jarring leaps of focus in the story.

The script (by three writers) was good until the first leap in focus. After that, it never really got back on track. The middle segment didn't really have much to say, and the final segment didn't return to a point that concluded the initial story.

Overall, I thought the movie was fair -- a big disappointment after how well it started.

Language: Mostly Cantonese, with occasional English borrow-words, with English subtitles. One scene also includes Putonghua (Mandarin) and English.

6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
A fine coming-of-age story with some shaky philosophical science fiction, 19 June 2005
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In the film's alternate history, Japan is partitioned between the US and the Union (presumably the post-WWII USSR). The Union side has built a giant tower on Hokkaido, so tall it's even visible from Tokyo. Two teen boys just across the straights from the island are fascinated with the mysterious Tower, want to build an airplane to visit it, and get jobs at a factory in the area. The rest of this paragraph has possible mild spoilers. They let a teen girl in on the secret, and she becomes fascinated with it too. That near-obsession with the Tower disrupts their lives in various ways, starting with strange dreams.

This was a pretty strange film. The relationships between the characters are very well portrayed. We get a pretty good feel for the three teens, though a change in one of them as they grow up is less clearly defined. The boys' boss is an interesting supporting character. The plot works well as an influence on the three teens' lives, but it weakens as it steps deeper into a blend of science and philosophy.

The movie works best up until the mystery of the Tower becomes fairly clearly revealed. Afterwards, the philosophical science fiction distracts from the very good character-based storytelling. However, because it's something so far from the ordinary, I recommend it quite a bit more strongly than I would a more typical movie.

I saw the movie in Japanese, subtitled in English -- with the amusing exception of about three lines of English which were subtitled in Japanese.

5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
One of the worst cinematic messes I've had the misfortune of viewing, 21 December 2004
3/10

I saw this movie a long time ago, actually wasting money to see it in a theater. It was uncommonly terrible, as if a high school drama club had been given a film budget and a shaky _X-Files_ parody story for a screenplay -- and then tried to shoot it as serious drama instead of parody. No, that's not fair to high school drama clubs -- I think they'd do better than this.

The plot is the cliché of space aliens who abduct rednecks, do some humiliating procedures on them that vaguely resemble invasive medical examinations, and then release them back into the human world, where hardly anyone believes them because their story is ridiculous. The story claims to be based on a true story. I suppose it could be a true story in the sense that people occasionally claim to be abducted by space aliens, but it had the feel of a parody that someone was trying to take seriously.

The acting ranged from lackluster down to pitiful. Even James Garner wasn't much good -- maybe he realized he was slumming and couldn't put his heart into it. The effects were mostly cliché and cheap-looking, but one of the medical humiliation sets was pretty good. I don't remember whether the directing was any good.

Mercifully, my memory of this piece of trash has faded, but it would have been even better if I had never seen it at all.

The Hours (2002)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Hours and Hours, 8 February 2003
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I haven't read the book, or anything by Virginia Woolf, so my impressions may differ from viewers who have read _The Hours_ or Woolf's writings.

The movie has three parallel stories. One is set in the 1920s, and focuses on the historic Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman, difficult to recognize with the prosthetic nose and frumpy clothing), with her husband (Stephen Dillane) as the only important supporting character. Another is set in the 1950s, and focuses on a woman (Julianne Moore) who appears to have a happy life situation, but is nonetheless visibly melancholy. The third is set in modern New York City, and focuses on a woman (Meryl Streep) who is a close friend of a man (Ed Harris, also difficult to recognize) who is suffering gravely from AIDS.

I found the historic story line dull from start to end, with the exception of the opening scene, where Woolf drowns herself, hinting that the remainder of her story line will tell us more about _why_ she eventually kills herself. Her story line showed us _that_ she was miserable to the point of suicide, and indicates that she's suffering from what we'd now call clinical depression, but I never felt like the movie took us inside her suffering. Instead, it was like watching someone suffer, without ever understanding the misery or being able to do anything about it. I could feel empathy with her husband, but I felt like the movie was trying to take us inside _her_ without success, rather than trying to show us her suffering from her husband's viewpoint.

The modern story was similarly dull during the beginning of the movie, but got more involving as it progressed. In the beginning, we could see that the sick man, a noted poet, was miserable and depressed because his illness was getting worse in spite of his medicine. Streep's character was putting her life on hold emotionally in her efforts to comfort him. She was planning a big party to celebrate the poet's receipt of a major poetry award. The story became more interesting with the introduction of some supporting characters, but only really took off when Streep's character went to pick up the poet for the party. That set interesting events into motion, and brought in a very interesting supporting character.

The only part of story that had me hooked from the start was the one set in the 1950s. In that one, Moore's character was gloomy, for no obvious reason -- she didn't even appear to be clinically depressed or otherwise unhealthy, mentally or physically. Her children were the envy of a friend who visited her. Her husband seemed to be nice, and they appeared to be living a comfortable life. The story grabbed me by setting up the nature of her unhappiness a mystery, and the story stayed interesting by showing what she did as a result of her sadness.

Now that I've complained about how dull more than half of the story was, I have to praise some things that were good about the movie. The acting was outstanding, and deserves lots of award nominations, even the great acting that went to waste in the dull parts of the movie. The three female leads were amazing, and Ed Harris was impressive too. The directing was impressive in a number of ways, notably the cuts between story lines, but when the directing technique is more interesting than some of the story lines, the directing should have kept looking for a way to keep the story itself interesting.

I usually don't notice the score, but in this case I noticed it, found it a bit intrusive. It sounded like every other Phil Glass composition I have heard, which might be interesting a few times, outside the context of a movie, but didn't work for me in this case. If you like Phil Glass, you might like the score separately, but I would not have chosen it for this movie.

I left out some giant spoilers, because they would not make this review more interesting for those who aren't seeing the movie. If you think you might see the movie, be careful to avoid spoilers from other sources, because they're likely to hurt this movie more than most.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A pretty good special effects showcase that loses much of the book's verbal charm, 20 October 2002
7/10

I liked the movie, and though it did a pretty good job of presenting a "Cliff's Notes" version of the book. (Well, not really. Real Cliff's Notes typically include analysis along with the synopsis that students sometimes use to avoid reading the whole book.) For someone who has read the book, the movie is somewhat superfluous, although it is a decent effects showcase. For someone who hasn't read the book, it's a good shortcut to the story, although it misses a lot of the verbal cleverness of the book.

Since most people who are likely to be interested in the movie have already read the book (unless they're parents there with kids who are fans), and the movie doesn't add anything to the book in terms of storytelling, the only fair way to rate it for most viewers is on the basis of the effects. In terms of technical craftsmanship, I thought the effects were very good, but they weren't so hot in terms of artistic creativity. That is, the effects were mostly stuff that we've all seen before, but it was very skillfully done collection of stuff we've seen before.

Compared to the long history of mostly-awful fantasy movies, it's an outstanding movie, near the cream of the crop. But since it was released in a year that also included the first Lord of the Rings movie, it looks pretty weak. But just think how brilliant it would have looked if its main fantasy competitor had been something like the cartoon Lord of the Rings, the Dungeons and Dragons movie or Ator the Fighting Eagle.

(I didn't actually see the D&D movie; I was warned off by critics. But I did see Ator way back when, and then saw it again by mistake when it was re-released with a different title, and even wrote an IMDB review for it.)

Cleopatra (1963)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A triumph of set design over story-telling., 17 December 2000
6/10

The good news about Cleopatra is that the sets were spectacular. Maybe Rome and Alexandria didn't look that way, but the sets do a great job of suggesting the magnificence of the capital an empire and the capital of its richest subject kingdom. Maybe the triumphal arch hadn't been built in Cleopatra's time, but it makes a great setting for her grand entrance into Rome.

The costumes were impressive too, even if they more closely resemble early 1960s fashion than the 40s and 30s B.C. Elizabeth Taylor's huge wardrobe was the highlight, but most of the costumes were interesting.

Unfortunately, great sets and costumes don't make a great movie, although they do show how the movie became the most expensive movie ever (which it remains, adjusting for inflation). The movie just doesn't remain interesting through its entire four hours. Even some of the battle scenes are dull, even though that's usually a highlight of ancient-world movies. (There are some good battle scenes too, however.) The problem is that the movie lacks focus in trying to tell a story. Sometimes it's a historical drama, sometimes it's a romance story, and sometimes it's just a showpiece for the great sets. Five writing credits are listed, and it certainly looks like a committee wrote it.

The Cleopatra-Caesar is the better portion of the movie. Caesar is an interesting character, aware of his mortality, seeking power in spite of the burden of power, and attracted to the much-younger Cleopatra. Cleopatra wanted to rule the world, and sought it in the bedroom as well as in the throne room and on the battlefield. The historic Cleopatra's allure was said to be in her voice and her words, not her appearance; with Caesar the movie often suggests her charisma, while Taylor's beauty is a very agreeable divergence from history. Had the movie raced through the events after Caesar's death, it would have been much shorter and better.

Unfortunately, the movie really drags during the Cleopatra-Antony portion, except in scenes with the delightfully unpleasant Octavian. Antony seems little more than a sucker for Cleopatra's charms, rather than a general and politician who was shrewd enough to make himself one of three co-rulers of Rome, but not shrewd enough to avoid his eventual fate as Octavian's rival. Cleopatra's goals are no longer clear, but wind down from her earlier ambition to rule the world to her scaled-down hopes to retain rule of Egypt for herself and her son. Rather than dramatizing the events, it just uses them as bridges between scenes of spectacle.

With so much time to tell about Cleopatra and Antony, the movie should have been able to show more about the characters. Cleopatra makes the blunder of seducing the number-two man in a Triumvirate that couldn't last long before the number-one man seized sole power. The movie fails to tell us how someone so astute would make the mistake of choosing the wrong ally, or standing aside until she could ally with the winner. Was Antony the one who seemed likely to prevail at the time she committed herself? Did she feel the need to take a side before a victor could be predicted, and fail to charm Octavian? Or did she choose badly because she was romantically smitten with Antony? She might hide the reason from Antony, but the movie shouldn't hide the reason from viewers. The characters need motives to be interesting.

The most interesting character in the Cleopatra-Antony part of the movie is Octavian. He is a much more interesting character, and the movie shows us more about him than the leads, even though he gets much less screen time.

The Cleopatra-Caesar part of the movie is pretty good, and the spectacle is impressive throughout, but the story gets lost in the Cleopatra-Antony part. Maybe the writers got bored after Caesar's death; I certainly got bored after that.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
cheesy but entertaining action, 24 July 2000
5/10

This movie is not a literary dramatization of classical mythology. Instead it's a melodramatic action movie. The plot takes some long divergences away from the mythological sources, and has a few bits that don't quite make sense, but it does the job of carrying the characters from one action scene to another. The introduction tells us that Perseus is an honorary Son of Hercules, for no apparent reason except maybe to link it with the many Italian Hercules movies.

The acting is only occasionally good, but it's never terrible either. The costumes are pretty basic, but set the mood well. The sets are mostly simple too, but also get the idea across. There are plenty of extras in scenes that need them. The fights are sometimes well-choreographed and performed, but sometimes look dumb.

The lighting is almost always bright sunshine; even night scenes look sunlit, just slightly underexposed. The pan-and-scan was sloppy, and sometimes shows obvious losses, like people split vertically while they're talking. The cinematography probably looks better in widescreen versions.

The worst part was the monsters. The dragon looks decent, if low-budget, but doesn't move well in scenes it shares with actors. It's also a bit on the small side, but it's big enough to threaten a warrior in leather and bronze armor. It looked like a model of some sort, rather than a person in a dragon suit. In contrast to the dragon, Medusa is terrible, even though she's the title character in some of this movie's many titles. She looks like a leafless tree walking around on exposed roots, with a single glowing eye. Myths described her as a woman with snakes for hair, and looks so hideous her gaze turned people to stone.

The music sometimes took itself too seriously, but it kept the mood going pretty well. During the Medusa scenes, the score turned squeaky, as if the musicians were laughing at what they could see were dumbest scenes in the movie. Often it sounded better-suited to a Western than an ancient myth setting.

In parts where the movie is good, it's quite entertaining. When it's bad, it's still entertaining in a "so bad it's good" sense. As long as you don't set your expectations too high, you should be satisfactorily entertained.


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