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409 reviews in total 
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23 out of 31 people found the following review useful:
Blistering assault on the degrading effects of warfare, 5 May 2005


Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 (Panavision)

Sound format: 6-track Dolby Stereo

(35mm and 70mm release prints)

During a routine field trip at the height of the Vietnam War, a young soldier (Michael J. Fox) rebels against his commanding officer (Sean Penn) and other members of his patrol when they kidnap a defenceless Vietnamese girl (Thuy Thu Le) and subject her to a terrifying physical ordeal.

Unfairly overshadowed by the simultaneous theatrical release of Oliver Stone's pompous - but still impressive - BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY (1989), Brian DePalma's CASUALTIES OF WAR recreates a harrowing incident from the Vietnam conflict - first reported in 'New Yorker' magazine in 1969 - in which a group of otherwise decent men succumbed to their own worst impulses and committed a terrible crime. Filmed with typical cinematic bravado by master craftsman DePalma, the movie uses every inch of the scope frame to convey both the duality of the landscape (vast swathes of breathtaking countryside, where sudden death lurks around every corner) and the moral vacuum which stretches the two central characters (Fox and Penn) to breaking point. Crafted with blistering simplicity by screenwriter David Rabe (himself a Vietnam veteran and author of the acclaimed stageplay 'Streamers'), the soldiers are depicted as brave individuals whose principles are shattered by their traumatic combat experiences, leaving Fox to essay the role of peacemaker in a world where all the rules have been turned upside down. Thuy - a model with no prior acting experience - is truly heartbreaking as the soldiers' terrified prisoner, and her ultimate fate is so horrific (arguably the most disturbing set-piece of this director's entire career), many viewers will be too appalled to see the film through to its inevitable conclusion. All in all, this uncompromising drama emerges as one of DePalma's strongest films to date.

2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Subdued shocker, despite vivid gore scenes, 4 May 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: Mono

An Edwardian doctor (Eric Porter) uses newfangled Freudian analysis on a young girl (Angharad Rees) who turns out to be the daughter of Jack the Ripper, and just as deadly...

Unlikely Hammer horror, in which a respectable society figure takes charge of a beautiful young waif without attracting so much as a whiff of scandal, even when she takes to murdering all and sundry with a variety of lethal implements (broken mirrors, hat-pins, etc.)! L.W. Davidson's screenplay wanders aimlessly from one murder to another, sacrificing the material's inherent subtext (Porter's obvious attraction to Rees) in favor of commercial melodrama, and the tone remains subdued throughout. Some of the gore scenes are surprisingly vivid, even for Hammer, and these were clipped from the original US release (despite an R rating from the MPAA), though the complete version is now available on home video. Porter and Rees give excellent performances, and the climax in St. Paul's cathedral is a definite highlight, but the rest of the film is strangely hollow and unaffecting. Directed by Peter Sasdy.

53 out of 63 people found the following review useful:
Magnificent, absolutely magnificent, 4 May 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Sound format: Dolby Digital

(10 episodes)

The trials and tribulations of Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, from the D-Day landings in Normandy to their capture of Hitler's Eagle's Nest in Austria at the end of World War II.

Co-produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, HBO's epic 10-part miniseries (based on a terrific bestselling book by the late Stephen E. Ambrose) was the most expensive TV undertaking of its day, costing a massive $120 million to produce. And, as the old saying goes, every penny is up there on the screen. Borne from the success of Spielberg's SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998) - with which it shares a similar dramatic and visual style - BAND OF BROTHERS' recreation of a glorious (and hard-won) chapter in American history assumed an even greater patriotic significance during its initial US broadcast, when it coincided with the horrific events of September 2001. Written with economy and grace, and directed with emotional intensity by a series of directors (including Phil Alden Robinson, Richard Loncraine and Hanks himself) whose combined efforts achieve a genuine aesthetic uniformity, the movie is a masterpiece of storytelling and historical documentation. Punctuated by horrific battle sequences, in which the camera is placed within mere inches of the death and destruction, the film transcends its educational remit by focusing intently on the human cost of war. Almost every episode opens with testimony from surviving members of Easy Company (none of whom are identified until the end of the series), which further strengthens the emphasis which BAND OF BROTHERS - book and film - places on the bonds which drew them together in times of conflict. And, because it's a true story, there's no telling from one episode to the next which of the 'characters' will live or die, which makes it all the more potent and visceral.

The entire production represents quality writ large: Beautifully filmed on various European locations (including the UK and Austria), the movie is noble without being the least bit pompous or austere, and it manages to humanize a large cast of essential characters with small touches of humanity and humor, all of which serves to heighten the sense of terror as they descend into the maelstrom of conflict. The first - and longest - episode is deceptively staid, featuring David Schwimmer (a long way from TV's "Friends") as a cowardly, bullying commanding officer whose tyrannical methods nevertheless shaped Easy Company into a fighting force which eventually cut a swathe through the heart of occupied Europe. Brit actor Damian Lewis takes the spotlight thereafter as Easy Company's most respected platoon leader, with Ron Livingston as his right hand man. Other standout performances in a flawless cast include Matthew Settle as battle-hardened platoon leader Ronald Speirs whose wartime career was distinguished by numerous acts of bravery (fuelled by a unique - if morbid - personal philosophy), Shane Taylor as company medic Eugene Roe, Neal McDonough as 2nd lieutenant 'Buck' Compton (laid low by his horrific combat experiences), and Donnie Wahlberg as 1st sergeant C. Carwood Lipton, who maintained the morale of his fellow soldiers, even when the odds seemed stacked against them. Every episode has its merits, but stand-outs include David Leland's 'Bastogne' (ep. 6), which recounts the horrendous circumstances surrounding Easy Company's involvement in the Battle of the Bulge, and David Frankel's 'Why We Fight' (ep. 9), in which the full horror of the Nazi regime is uncovered in a German forest. Additionally, the closing moments of chapter 10 ('Points', directed by Mikael Salomon) are truly heartbreaking.

It's doubtful that a more fitting tribute to the men of Easy Company could have been devised than BAND OF BROTHERS, a truly remarkable film in every conceivable way. By turns engrossing, provocative and *deeply* moving, it stands as a testament to those who fought and died for our freedoms, almost a lifetime ago.

Fine opening to ambitious fantasy trilogy, 3 May 2005


Aspect ratio: 2.39:1

Sound formats: Dolby Digital Surround EX / DTS-ES / SDDS

Somewhere in Middle Earth, an unassuming hobbit (Elijah Wood) comes into possession of a powerful ring coveted by evil forces throughout the land, and he embarks on a quest with elves, humans and fellow hobbits to destroy the ring once and for all.

The first in a trilogy of fantasy films based on J.R.R. Tolkien's epic novels, helmed by the unlikely figure of Peter Jackson (previously responsible for splatterfests like BAD TASTE and BRAINDEAD). Despite a three hour running time, the film is invigorated by strong production values, excellent performances (especially Ian McKellen as a helpful wizard, Viggo Mortensen as a brave mortal who joins forces with his otherworldly brethren, and Wood as the hapless hobbit entrusted with a sacred mission) and a breakneck pace which remains faithful to the spirit of Tolkien's endeavors. The computer generated castles and landscapes are breathtaking in places, but Jackson is forced to overplay his hand in this respect, and the trickery loses some of its impact after a while, but there's no denying the craftsmanship and dedication of the production team. Christopher Lee plays the central villain with frightening gravitas, and there's a wealth of fine supporting players, including Liv Tyler, Sean Bean, Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving, amongst many others. An extended version of the film has since appeared on home video. Followed by THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (2002).

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Scraping through floorboards at the bottom of the barrel..., 3 May 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 (Nu-View 3-D)

Sound format: Mono

Whilst searching for a (literal) ghost town in the middle of nowhere, a young reporter (Emmy Smith) picks up a grizzled hitchhiker (Joseph Haggerty) who tells her two stories involving flesh-eating zombies reputed to haunt the area.

An ABSOLUTE waste of time, hobbled from the outset by Haggerty's painfully amateurish performance in a key role. Worse still, the two stories which make up the bulk of the running time are utterly routine, made worse by indifferent performances and lackluster direction by Brad Sykes, previously responsible for the likes of CAMP BLOOD (1999). This isn't a 'fun' movie in the sense that Ed Wood's movies are 'fun' (he, at least, believed in what he was doing and was sincere in his efforts, despite a lack of talent); Sykes' home-made movies are, in fact, aggravating, boring and almost completely devoid of any redeeming virtue, and most viewers will feel justifiably angry and cheated by such unimaginative, badly-conceived junk. The 3-D format is utterly wasted here.

Hunting Season (2000) (V)
3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
3-D - dreadful, disastrous, dispiriting..., 3 May 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 (Nu-View 3-D)

Sound format: Mono

A woman (Cindy Pena) arms herself with an arsenal of lethal weapons and heads into the woods to take revenge against four masked hunters who beat her boyfriend (Michael Walker) to a bloody pulp and subjected her to a brutal sexual assault.

Marginally superior 3-D offering from the same stable as CAMP BLOOD (1999) and its embarrassing ilk, featuring a spirited performance by Amazonian beauty Pena as the vengeful, leather-clad harpy seeking revenge on four irredeemable slimeballs, leading to a genuine twist in the tale. Jeff Leroy's direction is lively and competent (including a fair number of off-the-screen 3-D effects), but the rock-bottom production values and unflattering camcorder photography conspire against any and all good intentions.

Camp Blood (2000) (V)
6 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Home movie with delusions of grandeur, 3 May 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 (Nu-View 3-D)

Sound format: Mono

Whilst hiking in woodland near the deserted Camp Blackwood - site of an unsolved murder ten years earlier - four young city-dwellers are targeted by a masked psychopath who kills their guide (Courtney Harris) and stalks them through the woods with murderous intent...

Low-rent time-waster, filmed on camcorder utilizing the Nu-View field sequential 3-D format. There's a plot, at least, but the script adheres closely to an established blueprint (with obvious nods to the likes of "Friday the 13th", "The Burning" and "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre") without adding anything even remotely new or interesting to the formula. Director Brad Sykes - also responsible for similar 3-D efforts like THE ZOMBIE CHRONICLES (2001) and BLOODY TEASE (2002) - cites the early works of George A. Romero and Sam Raimi as key influences on his career, but while those filmmakers challenged the mainstream with their no-budget efforts, Sykes uses video technology merely to imitate his cinematic heroes, resulting in a home movie with delusions of grandeur. Aside from the 3-D format, there is NOTHING here to warrant anyone's attention. Followed by CAMP BLOOD 2 (2000).

Urbania (2000)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Gay man struggles to come to terms with tragedy, 2 May 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: Dolby Digital

Haunted by recent tragedy, a young gay man (Dan Futterman) encounters various wild characters whilst pursuing a stranger (Samuel Ball) whose life is inextricably bound with his own.

Aside from a fragmented opening montage which annoys more than it informs, there's much to admire in Jon Shear's study of sadness, alienation and urban mythology, based on the stageplay 'Urban Folk Tales' by Daniel Reitz (who co-wrote the film's screenplay). Futterman is terrific as a man torn apart by grief, seeking closure through his pursuit of a rough stranger (Ball), though the reason for his odd behavior is kept back from the audience until the climax, when quarry and prey are brought together by a series of dramatic revelations. The gorgeous Matt Keeslar (SPLENDOR) plays Futterman's boyfriend with loving grace - their scenes together are warm, tender and more than a little sexy - and Shear makes the most of a fine supporting cast, including Alan Cumming (as a former party animal, now dying from an AIDS-related illness), Lothaire Bluteau (JESUS OF MONTREAL), Josh Hamilton (ALIVE), Paige Turco (TV's "The Agency") and Christopher Bradley (hunky co-star of David DeCoteau's LEATHER JACKET LOVE STORY). Quirky, dramatic and heartfelt, URBANIA is an unusual entry in recent gay cinema, and worth a look.

NB. Samuel Ball plays the mugger whose life takes a radical turn for the worst following a late night encounter with Joey Potter (Katie Holmes) in 'Downtown Crossing', a memorable stand-alone episode of TV's "Dawson's Creek" which first aired in 2002.

X-Men 2 (2003)
Hugely impressive sequel delivers the blockbuster goods, 1 May 2005


Aspect ratio: 2.39:1

Sound formats: Dolby Digital / DTS

Following an attempt on the US President's life by what appears to be a rogue mutant (Alan Cumming), the school for 'gifted youngsters' established by Prof. Xavier (Patrick Stewart) is raided by military factions opposed to the integration of mutants into American society. The X-Men are subsequently forced into a collaboration with their mortal enemy Magneto (Ian McKellen) to clear their names and destroy an all-powerful threat from humankind...

Opening with one of the most astonishing action set-pieces of recent years (underscored by the 'Dies Irae' from Mozart's 'Requiem'), and closing with an extended confrontation between Good and Evil that tops anything in the original X-MEN (2000), Bryan Singer's powerhouse sequel ups the ante in terms of spectacle and excitement, whilst simultaneously expanding and developing the radical subtext (a minority group forced to take a stand against prejudice) inherent in the original Marvel comic strip. Beautifully filmed, and performed with gusto by a dedicated cast (including Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen and Brian Cox, relegating Patrick Stewart, James Marsden and Anna Paquin to secondary roles this time out), the narrative unfolds with bold precision, constantly surprising the audience with inventive visuals and heartfelt emotional drama (the mutant 'coming out' scene - played with knowing irony by young Shawn Ashmore - will resonate especially with gay viewers). Also, this is one of the few movies in recent years to use the Super 35 format in a defiantly cinematic manner, with none of the concessions to television which usually characterize this 'fake' widescreen process. Followed by X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (2006).

X-Men (2000)
Surprise! A blockbuster with brains, beauty, heart and soul..., 1 May 2005


Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 (Panavision)

Sound formats: Dolby Digital / DTS / SDDS

Against a backdrop of social exclusion and intolerance, a new breed of superhuman 'mutants' - ordinary people with extraordinary powers - are forced into a confrontation with supervillain Magneto (Ian McKellen), who plans to launch a devastating assault on the world's non-mutant population.

Bryan Singer's magnificent film (based on the Marvel comic book) transcends genre expectations without skimping on the spectacle and melodrama inherent in modern blockbusters. David Hayter's clever script provides an almost entirely character-driven rationale for its flashy set-pieces, and Singer is able to convey a wealth of information at high speed without obscuring the film's primary thematic concerns (tolerance, individuality, finding your own place in the world, etc.).

The performances, too, are uniformly excellent: Stewart and McKellen are unlikely adversaries, but these immensely gifted actors add real depth and nuance to their respective characters. The younger members of the X-Men team (including Halle Berry, Famke Janssen and James Marsden) look suitably spectacular, while Ray Park (Darth Maul himself!), model Rebecca Romijn-Stamos and wrestler Tyler Mane also provide visual fireworks as Magneto's villainous henchmen. Elsewhere, Anna Paquin (THE PIANO) provides the film's emotional core as a young girl targeted by Magneto because of her unique powers, while Hugh Jackman takes center-stage in a star-making role as the most reluctant recruit to Stewart's team of superheroes (his verbal conflicts with rival Marsden are often joyously funny). Production values are predictably solid, betraying little or no evidence of the film's rushed production schedule: Newton Thomas Sigel's scope photography conspires with John Myhre's astute production design to render a silver-blue color scheme that subtly emphasizes the movie's comic-book origins.

While Singer insists the movie's subtext is critical of all forms of intolerance, closer scrutiny suggests more specific concerns about homophobia: Bruce Davison (LONGTIME COMPANION) plays a rabble-rousing politician who frightens Congress with exaggerated 'scare-stories' about a sub-culture they don't understand, while hate-filled protesters gather on the steps outside to wave placards that condemn the 'infiltration' of mutants into schools, churches and society at large. Sound familiar? This interpretation may not have been the central focus of the original comic strip, but Singer's intentions are so conspicuous, and so heartfelt, it's a miracle (and, frankly, a blessing) he was able to get away with it at all. Is this the world's first $70 million dollar 'gay' movie? Not quite, but it provides plenty of food for thought. Followed by X2 (2003).

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