Reviews written by
Tom-497

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16 reviews in total 
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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Moving Character Study and Bogus Melodrama (SPOILER), 22 March 2003
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film is excellent when it focuses on Pacino as a man whose attachment to an increasingly unpleasant job is turning him into a nervous wreck. It's a moving and believable story that many working people will be able to relate to.

Unfortunately, the film is pretty mediocre when it focuses on Pacino as the center of a conspiracy. At one point we see a poster for the wonderful "Parallax View," a 70s paranoid-thriller. But the political intrigue in this film is in nowhere near the same league. It seriously detracts from what might have been a great Cassavetes-style drama.

Still, there are a lot of good things here -- 8/10.

SPOILER:

If you had just been stabbed, wouldn't you head for the hospital, rather than home for some TV? Unless the final moments of this film are suggesting an element of suicide, they are highly unbelievable. And even if there is some death-wish involved, it's still pretty unconvincing and works only on a symbolic level.

7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Strong Version Overall, 31 December 2002
8/10

For the most part, this is a first-rate version of the play, and the current mean score -- 7.8 -- is a lot more reasonable than the ridiculously low "weighted" average of five-and-a-half.

Kevin Kline is excellent for the most part, especially when he's being quietly contemptuous and bitterly ironic. He only falters somewhat when trying to express loud rage. At these points (thankfully rare) he bellows in a melodramatic, actorish manner and occasionally rolls around on the floor ala Curly in The Three Stooges.

Special note should be made of Peter Francis James, who plays Horatio. He's excellent as Hamlet's one real friend. His attempt to act like a true "Roman" actually brought a tear to my eye -- the only time I've ever gotten weepy during this particular play.

8/10

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Overacted and Overwritten at Times, But Enjoyable, 26 December 2002
7/10

It's 1936 and a bunch of people come and go in a San Francisco bar. One of them is rich but unhappy. He drinks champagne by the gallon and is constantly doing favors for the others, including a whore played by Patti LuPone.

There's not much of a story, and the acting and dialogue tend to be over-the-top. Still, along with the sometimes sentimental hamminess comes an odd liveliness that makes this worth watching.

I especially liked the final few moments, in which all the characters give a pat on the back and a thumbs-up to someone who has committed a very serious crime.

7/10

9 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Very Good Overall, 14 November 2002
8/10

As others have noted, Jason Robards' performance as Brutus has real problems, particularly at the start. While playing the character as vague and distracted is certainly justified by the text, Robards often appears just this side of comatose. James Mason was far better in the older film version.

The biggest and best surprise is Heston's strength as Antony. He believably conveys an interesting mixture of loyalty, craftiness, and ambition. And his work in the funeral oration is well-paced and well-directed. Overall, this version has a lot going for it -- it's among the better Shakespeare adaptations that I know of.

9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Worth Seeing for Gielgud and Richardson, 11 August 2002
7/10

Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud are excellent and make the play well worth seeing.

All the action takes place in the dusty courtyard of a "home," whose patients are aged and mentally disturbed. The viewer is left to decide just how crazy they really are.

At times it's quite moving to watch Gielgud and Richardson struggle to remain polite, engaged, and coherent as they converse. Richardson does inept card tricks and Gielgud pretends not to notice the repeated screw-ups. When, finally, John does quietly point out a mistake, it's as if he has punched Ralph in the gut.

In unfortunate contrast to such subtle force are the two female roles -- the actresses only occasionally rise above their annoyingly screechy, caricatured dialogue.

7/10

Heist (2001)
Many Twists, Few Surprises, 27 March 2002
6/10

I'm a Mamet fan -- I'd strongly recommend the film version of Glengarry Glen Ross (and the stage version of American Buffalo, too).

But I found Heist pretty weak. For all its twists, it's incredibly predictable. And for a film that relies almost totally on story rather than on character, there are far too many plot-holes.

I did get a slightly surprised chuckle out of a possible nod to The Wild Bunch (silver rings!). Mostly, though, Heist struck me as a second-rate knock-off of The Sting.

6/10

Medea (1969)
4 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
Horribly Dubbed In Its Original Language, 2 January 2002
4/10

This Italian film is terribly dubbed -- in *Italian.* It looks as though the whole movie was shot without sound, with the dialogue incompetently added later. In my view, this problem destroyed what would have otherwise been an interesting film.

4/10

12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Pretty Good Despite Weaknesses, 30 December 2001
7/10

I gave "Mack the Knife" a 7.

It does have some weaknesses:

1) A couple of unfortunate cuts -- "Moon Over Soho" and "What Keeps Mankind Alive?" were the ones that seemed most notable to me, especially since Mack refers to "Moon" late in the film, as though he had in fact sung it earlier on. 2) Translations that are more bland than they need to be -- for instance, Jenny and Mack's ode to "that whorehouse where we used to live" has been considerably toned down. 3) Occasional overacting. 4) Laughably bad (but generally short) dance sequences. 5) Weak ending -- but that's a problem with the original, too.

The film also has some strengths: 1) Good songs remain, including the opening and closing "Mack The Knife"; "Pirate Jenny," which looks like something out of Pink Floyd's "The Wall"; and the cat-fight duet between Lucy and Polly. 2) Likeable performances by all the leads, especially Julia.

In all, a mixed bag, but I'm glad I watched it.

30 out of 34 people found the following review useful:
One of the Best Literary Adaptations I've Seen, 6 February 2001
9/10

This exceptionally well-done miniseries easily surpasses both the Vidor and Bondarchuk versions. It makes the most of its nearly 13 hours, featuring many excellent performances, strong cinematography, and a good script. In addition, the director's use of long takes really allows the actors to *interact,* adding to the overall feel of realism.

Hopkins is likeable and believable as the twitchy, self-conscious Pierre. Dobie is excellent as the somewhat distant Andrei -- he succeeds in being handsomely iconic without seeming stupid or wooden. In fact, it's hard to imagine a more effective performance of this role. And Morag Hood is very good as Natasha, once the character ages a bit (it's hard to accept a woman in her late '20s as a 14-year-old).

The writers and actors also avoid the cardboard characterizations of historical figures that so often plague historical fiction; the main adversaries in the "War" -- a self-important Napoleon and the disfigured, forthright General Kutuzov -- are both vividly portrayed.

There are occasional weaknesses, but for the most part, this is a wonderful production.

9/10

28 out of 37 people found the following review useful:
The Best Miniseries Ever Made, 18 January 2001
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a great film/miniseries. It's the story of a man who gets out of prison in Germany between the two World Wars. He becomes involved with pimps, prostitutes, and Nazis. Facing various temptations, he is too easily led by others.

While it's not hard to see a political analogy with the whole population of Germany, this main character, Franz, is brilliantly played by Gunter Lamprecht, who gives us one of the most memorable portrayals in film.

In addition to incredible acting, "Berlin Alexanderplatz" features a beautiful score. The series' only fault is the final episode, in which the fairly realistic narrative of life in pre-WWII Germany gets tossed out the window.

Instead we get an hour or so of fantasy involving angels, late-70s liberal German rhetoric, nuclear explosions, etc. This last episode reminded me a bit of "Godfather III" -- not bad, but quite a letdown after the greatness that precedes it.


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