Reviews

7 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Bigoted and populist but not all of it...
24 March 2003
This was a thought-provoking documentary that fell into the trap that bedevils many "controversial" documentaries. It is not presented as an unravelling of the truth but as a series of arguments to back a foregone conclusion. We all know Moore's religious, social, anti-corporate bent but by his own admission he lives in a million dollar home in NYC. He argues what we expect him to argue and no-one can accuse him of not presenting it humorously (very, in the first 30 min) and with much rhetorical force. Indeed the climb-down that he forces Wal-Mart into is extraordinary and worth the whole film. However, he mixes cause and effect in the most duplicitous way. He implies that the welfare for work programme is to blame for the death of a six-year old child at the hands of another. My parents have left for work every day for as long as I can remember for work at between 6 and 7 in the morning and I have never felt the slightest inclination to take a gun to school. Europe is living proof of that fact that large-scale state funding of just about anything, including welfare doesn't work. Look at Europe's pensions and National Health fiascos; financial time-bombs that will blow society apart. He implies that the presence of a Lockheed-Martin base in Columbine is indirectly to blame for the aggressive gun culture that resulted in the Columbine massacre. He neglects to say that it is the largest employer in the town and in some measure responsible for it's survival. He also implies that the bellicose nature of United State's politicians is to blame for this US gun culture and he trots out the usual litany of US blunders. To be sure the US has been less than perfect in its international interventions but lately its record is much, much better. Moore mentions Kosovo and the civilians that were killed. What he does not mention, again selecting the facts he reveals with care in order to support his thesis, is that, first, this intervention was done against the wishes of the UN and secondly, that it resulted in the saving of millions of Muslims, mark that Muslims, lives. Another moment in US history that no one mentions is the Cuban missile crisis. Had not the US spent considerable amounts on defence and the weapons that Moore so decries and had the strength and the bravery to out-stare the Russians the outcome would have been very different and Moore's life and that of the rest of us would be much altered. The point of the documentary should have been to show up just how racist and disingenuous Charlton Heston is and in that it succeeded breathlessly well.

The US, a beacon of the free world, is undoubtedly riddled with defects. They happen to be the same defects that all other democracies have. However, the US, as the leader of the free world is held up to scrutiny far more. Its enormous strength is its freedom. What other country would allow the dissemination, nay laud (he has just won an oscar) a documentary that so comprehensively attacks US culture. However, the US attracts large-scale and virulent envy and needs to defend itself and the way of life it represents. Time and again against world opinion they have reached for their guns and their young men's life to defend us despite our protestations. I for one, hope that they don't tire of our pacifist bleating. In the end pacifism will end up killing far more people than war. I don't think Mr. Moore understands that or if he does, unfortunately, it doesn't fit in with his conclusions.
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Mr. Deeds (2002)
A bitter disappointment
2 November 2002
Never have so many actors disappointed me so deeply, for so long. The acting, the plot, the script, the direction and the stunts were all of abysmal quality. The plot-summary (although that's an insult to decent hard-working plots the world over) is as follows: Sandler, wearing his trade-mark dead-pan (i.e. not acting) expression plays a pizza-man whose uncle (whom he's never met) leaves him heir to his multi-billion dollar entertainment company. Sandler goes to New York obstensibly to sign and bring his money back and leaving the company to be run by those who know. Ryder, a tabloid hack after the story and who does no more acting than the occaisional pout, furrowed brow and thrust breast, pretends to be a small-town girl from Iowa appealing to his small-town instincts and following a quite ridiculous John Macenroe cameo she falls in love with him; and he with her. But it all falls through when he finds out who she really is. I won't bore you with the rest but you can probably figure it out yourself without too much trouble, in fact you'd probably do a far better job than Sandler and company. The dialogue is unbearably weak, the jokes are as funny as a poke in the eye (in fact, please poke me in both, I might laugh then) and there are more cheesy stereotypes than a Van Damme film only without the choreographed fights.. oh! except for the one in the cinema as people scrambled for the exits. The only lighthearted moment (which ironically is quite inadvertant) is when Ryder, at the moment at the mercy of US justice for attempting to help Sachs clear some stock, is asked by her boss what she spends her money and she answers "On shoes and stuff.." and you could feel the whole cinema shouting "YES! BUT WHAT DO YOU SPEND YOUR MONEY ON!!" It is extraordinary that with children dying of hunger and me needing a new motorbike, money, and considerable amounts of the stuff, should be spent on this kind of tosh. If you want to see a butler ghosting around the place properly, if you want to see how overnight wealth can be made hilarious, if you want sparkling dialogue and witty situational comedy don't go and see this film. Go and see Murphy, Ackroyd and Elliot and Co. in "Trading Places". That's how it's done, Mr. Sandler.
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High Crimes (2002)
5/10
hackneyed and gimicky...
8 August 2002
Why did big names Freeman and Judd agree to do this film. Franklin, the director produces a film that is continually, artificially and artlessly attempting to deceive the viewer into a state of tension and then letting the viewer down with a bathotic bump that neither engages nor frightens. He should study Hitchcock. He should also study a Few Good Men, the film that this film attempts to emulate and having seen it he should leave this genre well alone. Poor script, obvious plotline, saggy tension and frankly weak characterisation from all of the main actors. Go out and hire A Few Good Men, and I don't normally particularly recommend Tom Cruise! (er.. except in Magnolia.)
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9/10
Comedy as it should be....
1 December 2001
I have seen this film many times and I like all bad teachers want to give it ten out of ten but feel that it would be unfair to other good films. However, I do think that this is one of those rare gems: a perfect comedy. It is I would venture one of the greatest comic films of all times. Matthau and Lemmon are perfectly matched and mismatched. The script is so sharp that you need to staunch the bleeding. The story is well known and has already been described in other comments. The two leads give extraordinary performances, the girls are superb and the situations are side-splittingly funny. Not one swear-word in sight (mark that Hollywood, you don't have to swear to be funny, you have to be witty) and the move from stage to film is seamless. They don't make'em like this any more. Timeless.
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5/10
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear....
20 November 2001
What a desperate, desperate shame. I suppose you are riding for a fall if you look forward to a film for months but truly this was more than disappointing. The idea is fine and obviously the technical side in the hands of a master (the special effects are quite stunning). But the story, Mr. Spielberg, the good old fashioned skill of story-telling has deserted you. Were you blinded by the fact that you had to honour the considerable memory of your dead mentor? The use of voice overs is lazy and indicates lack of planning. The fact that the last half an hour of the film is entirely serviced by voice over bodes ill for the conclusion of the story. And indeed that is the problem. Up until about half away the film spins you round with emotional dilemmas and social comment. Wonderfully acted and beautifully shot it gets so bogged down in it's own convolutions that you are dying for a 4x4. Spielberg paints himself into a corner and can't get himself out again, hence the voice overs and the conclusion of the story which is fantasy (as it should be) but really too much. Was he trying to create an ending similar to 2001?. In any case go and see the film and marvel at the first hour but save some popcorn for the second half... oh! and take a book.
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Sumptuous, well-acted, an elegant revision of the old romance
9 January 2000
This is the third of three interpretations of Anna Leonowens´diaries and probably the best, although maybe because the other two now look slightly dated.

The real discovery in this version is the King himself. Yun-Fat Chow is truly imperious in his portrayal of the King caught between the Scylla of compassion as an intelligent man and the Charybdis of authority as an absolute ruler. His rueful admission of Anna as an equal is masterfully worked and his tender submission to his own feelings of love towards her is movingly portrayed.

Jodie Foster, sporting an English accent that she never feels utterly comfortable with, does an admirable job of the fiendishly difficult Anna. Stiff and Victorian yet progressive and, in spite of herself, sensitive. Her only drawback is with children. Her relationship with Louis, a solid performance from Tom Felton, is stilted and artificial. Whenever she has to work with children she uncomfortable and makes the viewer uneasy. Luckily the film does not hinge around this relationship but this occasional hiccup makes the film, and her performance especially, a little bumpy.

The story itself is well told although the sub-plot involving the new concubine is maybe given a little too much relevance. Although it serves as the turning point in Anna´s relationship with the King, allowing him to show real compassion for the first time and peels back the glittering exterior of the regime for the viewer to see the cruelty underneath, I feel it could have more sharply portrayed, although the denouement could hardly have been more powerful. The romance between the King and Anna is well judged and intelligently paced. It never becomes overpowering and the chemistry between the two is plainly palpable.

This relationship is, of course, the centre of the film and is beautifully played by both. It must be said that they are wonderfully supported by the wealth of Asian acting talent on show. Randall Duk Kim, especially, as General Alak and look out for the three bodyguards who maintain their "insclutability" almost until the end.

The scenery is extraordinary and although there are too many close-ups for it to be truly called an epic, the photography is excellent. One long sweeping view of the royal steamboat on the river between banks of dense rain forest is pure African Queen meets Apocalypse Now! The remarkable colours and painstaking costumes are striking and even Bertolucci would be grudgingly admiring. They tint the film with a glittering, authentic hue which combined with the sumptuous sets makes the film the perfect setting for this fairytale romance.

The film is well worth seeing if only for Yun-Fat (or is his surname Chow; I don´t know if the order of his names has been westernised) and the luxurious mantle with which the whole film is cloaked. For those of you who generally don´t like Foster (and there are quite a few of you) go and see it anyway. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
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Sensitive, funny, intelligent, beautiful. Unmissable
5 December 1999
A little French gem that wraps you up in the lives of a group of friends in the 1920´s in France. Wonderfully acted and superbly directed, the story meanders gently through a number of seasons tracing their friendship and "amours", interlacing the finely drawn characters and sub-plots with consummate skill. At no time does the story flag, or become convoluted and the ending is simple and uncontrived. The photography is superb and reminiscent of "Manon des Sources"; Eric Cantona is surprisingly good as a champion boxer and even enlarges on his 1996 Selhurst Park performance. You will emerge from this extraordinary film edified and enriched and thanking the heavens that Hollywood isn´t the only place that makes films.
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