Reviews written by registered user
|58 reviews in total|
A friend of mine gave this DVD to me at a film program I was presenting at the library. He said he didn't want it back. His loss. This is the greatest movie ever made . . . for $180. The special effects alone are worth more than the price of admission. My favorite line comes near the beginning from one of the victims: "At least I don't have to hear her sing." Some of the characters can be seen reading their lines, but that just makes it all the more hilarious. Turns out I recognize a few of the many names in the credits, including the dean of the department where I teach film appreciation. I still can't believe it only cost $180. There must have been more than that spent on ketchup, red Kool-Aid, strawberry sauce or whatever it was.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Saw this at a preview screening in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. There was a lot more to this movie than meets the eye. Though some Christians may not be able to get past the film's R rating, there is something deeply religious about this movie. An innocent man may die for another's sins. It is also very Irish: Padraig Pearse's "blood sacrifice" was necessary for Ireland to come into existence. The bleak Irish coastline is almost a character unto itself. Amazingly, there is quite a bit of humor in this film, too. I haven't quite figured out what M. Emmet Walsh was doing in this picture, but he was just one of a very strong ensemble of actors, led by the brilliant Brendan Gleeson. Possibly Ireland's masterpiece.
I saw this at the Canadian top Ten Film Festival at the TIFF Lightbox in Toronto in early January of 2013. It was preceded by a "Mavericks" Q&A featuring Director Sarah Polley with the Festival's Artistic Director. Polley is best known in the USA as an actress in films such as Splice. This is her third feature as director, all of which have been chosen for the Canadian Top Ten. Even though it is a documentary about her family, it is quite riveting, with more than a few surprises. The interview style, camera work and narration are both innovative and effective. One of the interviewees asked her if she has any idea what she is doing, and she said no. After you see this, I think you will disagree. Sarah Polley is one to watch . . . as a writer-director.
I saw this at the Toronto film festival on September 11, 2010, under
the title, "The Edge". I walked in prepared for a heavy dose of Russian
gloom. I like Russian literature, especially Chekhov, but I'm always
reminded of these lines from a David Massengill song: "What's wrong
with the Russians? Have you read their novels? They all die in
brothels." In this case, there is nothing wrong with the Russians. This
movie grabs you from the start and doesn't let go. Don't get me wrong,
this is not a lighthearted movie; it has serious subject matter and
complex issues that the characters must deal with . . . and there is
plenty of gloom to go around.
Here is the situation in Siberia: At the beginning of World War II, while Stalin and Hitler were still honoring their non-aggression pact, Germans and Russians were co-existing in a remote labor camp. Eventually, Stalin sends his thugs to oust the Germans and declare the Russian inhabitants to be collaborators. At this point the film opens with a young girl running for her life. Four years later, the fighting is over and a Soviet war hero has arrived to work on the town's steam engine. The only Germans left are the illegitimate child of one of the Russian women . . . and don't forget that running girl.
I found myself missing some of the subtitles because I could not take my eyes of the compelling characters and the actors who play them. The standouts are Vladimir Mashkov as the hero and Anjorka Strechel and Yulia Peresild as the women who love/hate him. But his true passion is the steam engine, which he races through the snowy Siberian woods.
The steam locomotive chase sequences are the best put on film since Buster Keaton spectacularly crashed a Union train into Oregon's Rock River in The General (1927). It's as though director Uchitel is rebuilding the train and the bridge Keaton destroyed eight decades ago and a half a world away.
Unlike Keaton's masterpiece, which should have won an Oscar in 1927, this film is Russia's entry into the 2010 Best Foreign Film Oscar competition.
Java Man Reviews "Iron Man 2"
Originally appeared in LakewoodBuzz.com May, 2010.
While the identity of most super heroes remains shrouded in mystery, billionaire inventor Tony Stark (Downey, Jr.) has been publicly revealed as the breast-plated bad-boy known as Iron Man. Unlike Batman or Spiderman, Stark has to deal with things like Senate hearings, jealous G-Men and rival CEOs. Everyone wants the Iron Man technology. Meanwhile, over in Russia, a metallic mastermind named Ivan (Rourke) is steeling himself to challenge Stark for world supremacy. Returning from the original Iron Man are Stark's trusted assistant Pepper Potts (Paltrow) and army liaison "Rhodey" Rhodes (Cheadle). New characters are Natasha Romanoff (Johansson) and Nick Fury (Jackson) both of whom add a big dose of scene-stealing appeal.
REVIEW: 3 of 4 Java Mugs
Sequels are inevitably compared to their originals and more often than not they don't measure up. Because of the cast, this one could have been an exception: Downey is still a marvel to watch and Paltrow may be even better in this version; Cheadle, who replaces Terrence Howard, is also fine. Rourke and Rockwell as villains and Jackson and Johansson as intriguing spy types are all fascinating; and Shandling as the chairman of a Senate investigating committee is hilarious. But the screenplay is very much by-the-numbers, and it just doesn't add up. The captivating characters and stimulating situations which distinguished the original have given way to long and loud action sequences.
But if it's action you want, you've got it; these scenes are very well done and are accompanied by lots of heavy metal music (what else?). The cinematography is also noticeably sharp with a lots of excellent aerial views. Great location work in and around California, and in Monaco during the principality's Grand Prix, also adds to the film's visual vitality.
I waited in a long line to see this movie, but it was worth it because of the enthusiastic audience that surrounded me. Come early to get a good seat--and stay late through the end credits for a big hint at what may be coming next from the franchise.
Java Man Reviews "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" Originally
appeared in LakewoodBuzz.com July, 2009.
The film opens with our hero, Harry (Radcliffe), hanging out in a late night café perusing his copy the Daily Prophet and flirting with an eye-catching waitress. They make a date for the end of her shift, but Harry can't keep it because he is whisked away by His Beardness, Professor Albus Dumbledore (Gambon). They soar into the night and arrive at the home of Horace Slughorn (Broadbent), a former Hogwarts lecturer who Dumbledore is trying to persuade to return to his old job as Professor of Potions. Slugborn, with his unique technique of recovering past memories, may be the key to the psyche of one Tom Riddle, a former student who has morphed into the vile Lord Voldemort. Thus begins the sixth adventure of Harry and his conjuring cohorts Hermione and Ron (Watson & Grint) as they divide their time between studies in sorcery and the looming confrontation with Voldemort.
Oh, and that crazy Slugborn mixes one humdinger of a love potion.
REVIEW: 3 1/2 of 4 Java Mugs
Other than the fact that they are both British, and that each is destined to save the world, Harry Potter and James Bond have one other thing in common: Their movie franchises have logged the highest box office totals ever, with Potter likely to pass Bond by the time you read this. Another item that may please the Potter fans is that there will be ten Best Picture nominees this year instead of five, giving the Potter cast and crew a pretty good chance to work some magic on the red carpet.
The story is basically a set-up for the final episodes of the series; an engaging set-up, but a set-up nonetheless. Yet it works. I sensed that most of the patrons of the sold-out midnight showing I attended would have plunked down good money to watch the next two films until dawn.
There is more attention paid to character than in previous Potter outings, but some of our favorite villains make only token appearances. Those dynamic Death Eaters and the deliciously evil Bellatrix Lestrange (Bonham Carter) are in far too few scenes; and Voldemort appears only as a threatening cloud formation. Not to worry, though. We will certainly see more of them in 2010 and 2011 when the series wraps up with the filming of the final book in two parts.
The performances are up to the series high standards. Radcliffe and Watson are fine, as usual, and Grint has much more to do this go-around and does it well. Of course the Hogwarts faculty, portrayed by British acting legends such as Smith and Gambon, are a joy to watch. Rickman as Snape and newcomer Broadbent as Slugborn are standouts.
Director Yates and his team have created a bleaker and more ominous Hogwarts, no doubt setting the stage for the dark themes that are to follow. Atmospheric cinematography in Norway, the Scottish Highlands and dozens of English prep schools provide backdrops which are cunningly combined with outstanding visual effects.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Reviewed by Terry "Java Man" Meehan
Originally appeared in LakewoodBuzz.com December, 2005.
The film opens in a large stadium where the Quidditch World Cup is in progress, and Ireland and Bulgaria are about to take to their brooms. As Harry and his pals (Radcliffe, Grint & Watson) are about to enjoy the spectacle, the stadium is attacked by a hoard of Klan-like pointy heads known as the Death Eaters -- minions of the feared Lord Voldemort (Fiennes), the arch-fiend who will be Potter's likely nemesis for the balance of the series. The Death Eaters are repelled, for now, and so its back to Hogwarts for the film's main storyline... the Triwizard Tournament. The other two competing schools are the husky, pumped-up boys from Durmstrang and the lithe and lovely girls from Beauxbaton. The imaginative arrival of the visiting teams sets the exciting tone for the rest of the film. The Goblet of Fire chooses the finalists -- one from each school -- each of whom must be at least 17 years old. As wide-eyed, 14-year old Harry looks on, he is astonished that the Goblet spits out an unprecedented fourth name... his. As Harry battles dragons and Death Eaters through mazes and lagoons, he must face up to the most daunting challenge of all... getting a date to the Triwizard Ball.
REVIEW: 3 1/2 Java Mugs out of 4
If Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry were located anywhere in the real world, it would be forced to close its doors by protesting parents and outraged lawmakers. But,thankfully, the paranormal prep school exists in the imagination of author J.K. Rowling, and in our own collective imagination, thanks to Klove's bewitching screen writing and Newell's wizardly direction.
Though some of the miniature sets are given away by hasty camera moves, the film's production design more than adequately creates a wondrous world where witches and warlocks can live and work. England and Scotland provide stunning exteriors, while an endless supply of British prep schools contribute fascinating interiors.
The spine of the story, the Triwizard competition, is compelling and easy to follow, even for those unfamiliar with Rowling's rambling prose. Some younger viewers, however, may cringe at the scarier scenes, and thus the PG-13 rating. Subplots abound, and add immensely to the film's entertainment value... Coltrane's giant Hagrid finally finds romance with the even taller headmistress of Beauxbaton; and the 14-year-old leads agonize over how to get dates for the Triwizard Ball.
Radcliffe gives his best performance yet, and Watson continues to blossom into a sexy-smart scene stealer. The supporting cast is once again a who's who of a seemingly never-ending pool of Irish-English master actors and actresses. Especially welcome is the addition of Gleeson as "Mad Eye" Moody, the professor who teaches Defense Against the Dark Arts. His quick-pan, zoom-lens eye can spot a student goof-off from across the commons. Though Smith has fewer scenes this go-around, her Jean Brodie-esquire comment to a fellow faculty member is one of the funniest lines in the film.
This is a cinematic treat for anyone, young or old. And, you'll be happy to know, according to the credits that "no dragons were harmed during the filming of this movie."
Java Man Reviews "Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban" Originally
appeared in LakewoodBuzz.com July, 2004.
Harry (Radcliffe) and his pals Hermione and Ron (Watson and Grint) are now in their third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry when news arrives of the escape from prison of the notorious murderer Sirius Black (Oldman), who is after Harry. "Protecting" the students are the Dementors, sinister wraiths that can suck souls from the bodies of their victims. Harry acquires a marauder's map which has special powers that come in handy as the story progresses, especially when a werewolf begins to prowl the grounds. Hagrid (Coltrane) introduces the three friends to Buckbeak, a hippogriff (half bird, half horse), who may be a match for the nocturnal beast. Most of the Hogwarts faculty is back, with some new additions, including Professors Lupin (Thewlis) and Trelawney (Thompson).
REVIEW: 3 1/2 Java Mugs out of 4
Harry Potter (Radcliffe) transforms an obnoxious dinner guest into a hot-air balloon. Hermione Granger (Watson) lands an uppercut to the jaw of the despicable Draco Malfoy (Felton). These aren't the well-behaved, precocious preteens of the first Harry Potter movie. They, along with their primary audience, are growing into teenagers -- and are not to be messed with.
There's an edge to this movie, thanks to the brilliant direction of Cuaron, one of Mexico's bright young movie makers and director of one of the best films to cross the Rio Grande in recent years... Y Tu Mama Tambien.
Though the story follows much of the formula of the first two episodes, sharp writing and directing elevate the material beyond author Rowling's rules of order. Especially effective are the tricks with time travel, which can be appreciated even more on a second viewing.
Young performers Radcliffe and Grint continue their fine work, but the revelation this time is Watson's portrayal of the smart, assertive Hermione, a character who provides inspiration for young women in the audience and young actresses as well. There's been some talk of bringing on newer, younger child stars for future episodes, but I'd like to see these three actors take the characters into at least their late teens.
As for the older players, there seems to be an endless supply of great British character actors who can be called upon to fill any vacancies among the Hogwarts staff. New for this outing is Gambon who capably fills the Dumbledorean robes of the late Richard Harris; Thompson as the hilariously nearsighted tea-leaf reading Sybill Trelawney; Thewlis as Professor Lupin, the Dark Arts Defense teacher with a suspicious surname; and Oldman as the dreaded Sirius Black who is in dogged pursuit of Harry.
Shot in England and Scotland, the look of the film complements the mystical material very well, while the computer graphics, animation and the other cinematic "magic" add to an enjoyable experience for the entire family.
Java Man Reviews "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" (Rated PG)
Originally appeared in LakewoodBuzz.com December, 2002.
In this, the second of a planned series of seven films, a strange creature named Dobby visits Harry Potter (Radcliffe) while Harry is at home on summer vacation with the dastardly Dursleys. The "house elf" warns Harry that a deadly new menace--one that turns students to stone--is wreaking havoc on his beloved Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. With his friends Ron and Hermione (Grint and Watson), Harry returns to Hogwarts and begins to search for the Chamber of Secrets, where he hopes to locate and destroy the source of the evil. According to legend, a strange serpent stands guard at the chamber door, but Harry must also contend with a diary that writes itself, evildoers from Hogwarts' past and suspicious characters who turn up in all corners of the paranormal prep school.
REVIEW: 3 of 4 Java Mugs
Near the beginning of the movie, we are flying over an extraordinary complex of buildings that seem to be made up of well-carved, picturesque miniatures. As the camera moves closer, however, we actually enter a full-sized room and have magically arrived at Hogwarts School, thanks to one of the many compelling visual devices employed by the filmmakers.
The faculty and staff at Hogwarts remain deliciously eccentric, played by British film legends such as Oscar winner Maggie Smith and the late Richard Harris. But the ones to watch are the three cohorts in conjuring who lead us through the halls of Hogwarts to places we never thought could exist. New to the cast is Dobby, a computer generated house elf, and Branagh, a hapless teacher of the dark arts. Dobby is far less annoying that Stars Wars' infamous Jar-Jar Binks; Branagh, unfortunately, is not.
Topnotch production design and cinematography combine with slick editing and well-orchestrated action scenes to provide a fast-paced, sumptuous visual feast.
Can the cast and crew keep it up for seven films? Rowling is still writing and her fans are still buying the books and the movie tickets.
Java Man Reviews "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" Originally
appeared in LakewoodBuzz.com December, 2001.
As an infant, Harry Potter (Radcliffe) was deposited on the doorstep of his mean aunt and uncle, and has been living with them and sleeping in a cupboard below the stairs. On his 11th birthday he learns that he's a wizard when he's invited to attend the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. Once he arrives at the paranormal prep school he becomes friends with the clever Hermione (Watson) and the courageous Ron (Grint). He also encounters the hilariously outlandish instructors (Harris, Smith, Rickman and Hart) and the gruff but gentle groundskeeper (Coltrane). While Harry and his friends compete with the other houses on campus, they are also drawn into an adventure involving a mysterious wizard who wants to steal the Sorcerer's Stone. The courage and cleverness of his friends rubs off on Harry and, as the movie ends, his life as a young wizard is... just beginning.
REVIEW: 3 1/2 of 4 Java Mugs
The movie version of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series has been long awaited by young readers and their parents, and they won't be disappointed. The screenplay is quite faithful to the book and is fascinating enough to hold any audience's attention despite the 2 1/2 hour length. Episodes are strung together without much transition or explanation but this is a minor fault, since it allows that much more of the story to reach the screen. The dialogue is fast paced and witty, with plenty of high-spirited humor.
Some of the movie's best lines come from Coltrane's character who keeps amazing himself by revealing secrets he is supposed to keep. Radcliffe admirably inhabits Harry's trademark eyeglasses and closely matches the visual image that has emerged from the buzz around book series. As the character closest to "normal," he is our guide into the movie's weird and wonderful world. Watson and Grint are also delightful as his cohorts in conjuring. The witches and wizards who run the arcane academy are played with enormous relish by some of the best British actors at work today, led by Harris, Rickman, Hart and Smith (who, like Jean Brodie, seems forever in her prime).
There are wizards off-screen, too -- those in charge of bringing key episodes to life. Lavish cinematography and imaginative set design capture the central images of the book, including the high-flying Quidditch match (played on turbo-powered broomsticks) and the crucial Wizard's chess match. Computer visuals are combined with actual locations to give the setting a sort of realistic unreality. John Williams' superb score further enlivens many of the key scenes.
And there's more to come. Kloves has already written the screenplay for the second installment and is currently adapting the third novel, while Rowling is about to publish her fifth book in the series.
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