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Death Proof (2007)
A Mastery Of Film-making vs.Much Hyped Nostalgia Piece
After the trio of "Reservoir Dogs", "Pulp Fiction" and "Jackie Brown", a review of any work from Quentin Tarantino must always be about the director/screenwriter himself. As painful as it is to feed anymore compliments on his abilities in screen writing, he truly did revolutionize the way films are made. Not the non-linear nature of movies nor the stylized violence but the way his characters approach the situations he creates for them makes him an original. It's 'all in the dialogue' for the filmmaker as obviously seen and heard in this film. An interesting observation, Tarantino's forte in his writing doesn't appear to be dialogue but in his character development.
A hugely unfortunate decision then, it seems that this "Grindhouse"/'B-Film' idea would be the way to showcase his latest original work. Had this film not been involved in this project, it would be obvious to most anyone the quality of his work. His films doesn't pander to trends and pop-culture but actually creates them in a seemingly intentional manner. It is annoying, but that doesn't mean were being subjected to a feature-length advertisement. There is content in all his works and it is also here in this one.
Packaged alongside Robert Rodriguez's movie and several trailers celebrating the 'Grindhouse' experience, this film doesn't fit in very well. It looks like the bad second movie of a double-bill show, which it turns out to be... but this complete version, separate from those other works proves very much that he has turned out another excellent film along the lines of his "Kill Bill" volumes.
As with what he's done with "Kill Bill", Tarantino has taken aspects(gimmicks... it seems) of(mostly from) certain genres and turns it into an original, diverting, entertaining film. It's been said that what he's personally 'into' at a particular point in time is what makes it into his films and it seems true. But personal prejudices aside, one sees a mastery of the medium and a deep appreciation for it coming from a talented filmmaker that is truly impressive. This is the quality one hopes to see from future releases.
Seen as a work amongst traditional 'Grindhouse' movie, "Death Proof" apparently fails with it's excessive dialogue-ridden scenes and inappropriate 'homages'. Seen as another piece from Tarantino's 'canon' it's something else entirely and it's actually, genuinely great.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Deep, Infectuous and Extremely Complex
Re-reading my first comment on "Lawrence Of Arabia", I felt as if I had been shamelessly promoting a movie. Yet, somehow I would never want it removed for it was truly one of the greatest movies I have ever had the viewing pleasure. Overwhelming yet still seemingly down to earth, "Lawrence Of Arabia" proves to be just like the title character, an enigma. How talented the cast and crew are to have crafted such a magnificent and intense experience that will live in this and many other viewers' mind for as long as I can remember.
I don't want to comment on the acting, historical accuracy, story, screenplay or film-making aspects of this movie because I might just end up ruining the essence of what I and some others see as an incredible biopic. I certainly don't believe this movie fails on any aspect as far as I can see. If anybody hasn't seen this before, has four hours to spare and an open mind then please go see it. You may not get as much satisfaction as I did but as long as you keep an open mind you will find some good things worth seeing.
FINAL NOTE: Do not watch any other version except the Widescreen version for the reason that it was made for, in and only for Widescreen. Also the Bigger the display, the Better.
Out of the Past (1947)
Few Are As Excellent As This One
"Out Of The Past" is a film that surpassed all my expectations. Few films have satisfied me as much as this. Believable characters with a great story makes this and other films like it good, but what separates this from all other 'Film-Noir', detective stories is it's dramatic mood. This is the only film I've ever seen where I know what's likely to happen yet somehow I find myself deeper and deeper in it's story. I find myself amidst all of the danger, disappointments and betrayals and still wanting more. No other movie will probably surpass this one's greatness (though some may be as great).
Eerie yet provocative, "Out Of The Past" is handled with seemingly great care by it's director, Jacques Tourneur. From the great camera shots of the trees in the forest location to the shots of San Francisco full of shadows at night, I was already impressed. Acting by Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, and every one of the cast only cemented the mood that made this movie so easily watchable. I consider this one of my favorites and one of the best movies I'll ever see in my lifetime.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
A Disturbing Masterpiece
Stanley Kubrick's film of "A Clockwork Orange" is quite possibly the most apalling, sadistic, disgusting movie ever made. At the same time, it is also an intense, meticulously crafted, creative masterpiece. It is difficult to admit in our society that this film is a masterpiece because it's main character, a psychotic criminal that routinely exercises in rape, violence and Beethoven, can encounter injustice from a social group that we support and trust... government. Although 'Alex' (the main character) perform disturbing criminal acts, what the government did to him in this film was worse. It is extremely difficult to watch, yet it contains the film makers' brilliant observation of society. It is a film that demands to be seen (several times to be near-completely understood). Hopefully, the people who have not seen it should try to keep a very open mind while watching this. Not for the weak-at-heart.
The Big Sleep (1946)
Suspend Your Disbelief And Be Confused
Quite possibly the most complicated detective film ever made, "The Big Sleep" is can be definitely called a classic. This film proves that a movie does not need an understandable plot to be good. All those viewers who berate films because of the plot (lacking or complicated)should realize that just because a certain film does not fit into a mold like so many other films does not mean it's terrible. All it means is that movies can be good no matter how different. "The Big Sleep", a great film from great director Howard Hawks is complicated but good enough to be entertaining without understanding the plot. Considering how big Bogart was during the time this was made in Hollywood, we should all try and suspend our disbelief about all the women falling for him instantaneously. All in all a great fun movie.
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Scary and Heartbreaking Landmark Film
The Manchurian Candidate is a tense and dramatic political thriller. Released in theatres in 1962, this film hit hard amongst the American public which saw it before it was promptly banned due to the events which soon followed. "Life...", I suppose "...imitates art." (art, of course being a loose term). It is as difficult a film to watch as it is to get away from. Except for a few racially stereotypical elements, 50's TV show style cinematography and rather odd moments and scenes, this is still a great film. These are most the details that I can say about the film without ruining the enjoyment for the others who have not seen it.
'Silence' and 'Hannibal': Two Brain Films
"Silence of the Lambs", the film that preceded this film starred Jodie Foster as "Clarice Starling" and Anthony Hopkins as "Dr. Hannibal 'The Cannibal' Lecter" in Academy Award winning roles. "Hannibal" stars Julianne Moore as "Clarice Starling" and Anthony Hopkins back from Silence as "Dr. Lecter", the title character. As I write this, there haven't been any awards given to "Hannibal" nor award nominations so any future readers, bear with me.
First off, "Silence" is a good film from many standpoints. Story, acting, direction are all excellent. Unfortunately, "Silence" suffers "age-wise". As time goes by more and more viewers should realize what a negative effect time has had on this film. From the technical facilities, hairstyles, even the character's idealisms become outdated. I suppose we should wait and see what will become of this film 50 years from now. Still, no one can deny the marvelous work done by all involved in this film. The sequel definitely had big footsteps to follow.
"Hannibal" (even though many try to deny) is truly horribly done. The blame really must go to the director. Ridley Scott, who directed "Thelma & Louise" has forgotten what was good about his earlier films. Myself, not being a fan of his, saw some great things in his direction of "Blade Runner" and "Alien". Maybe, he wasn't responsible for those films after all. With "Gladiator", "Hannibal" is a capsule of his 'money-making' best but his 'creative' worst. There are enough plot holes, one-dimensional characters and confusing editing to annoy the most patient viewers of this film.
While "Silence" lets you use your brain, "Hannibal" shows theirs and eats them. Uninvolving and plotless (A 'Psychological Thriller' without a plot?), it eventually become annoying. Showing off does not make for a good show.
Spielberg's Best Creatively
"Schindler's List", "Saving Private Ryan", "Jaws", "E.T.", "Raiders of the Lost Ark", are just some in the list of movies that Steven Spielberg made as a director. They are great films in their own right yet somehow they don't seem suited for the director. "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan" seem too intense for the director who made "E.T." and yet "E.T." seemed like it had a rather adult theme not suited for younger children. "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" is a standout among his most creative works. It was made when he was younger and in a time when his creativity meant success. A fantastic fantasy that has something to offer for everyone and special effects used to dazzle and not to overwhelm.
This is the film which truly should be considered his greatest for it expresses the director's talents and doesn't show them off. Spielberg's honest ideas seem ridiculously simple minded in "Saving Private Ryan" and too complicated to be understood by the target audience of "E.T.". The speeches and mannerisms of the soldiers during the quiet moments in "Ryan" feels out of place and takes away feelings of distress that the battle scenes had. The whole adults versus kids routine in "E.T." feels right but gives a negative view of adults to the children watching.
"Close Encounters" is by no means a perfectly executed film. The scenes with Richard Dreyfuss' character's family seem uneven and unexplained. Nevertheless it is Spielberg's best work for it's amazing depth and wonderous nature.
Star Wars (1977)
Defining Moment Of The 20th Century
"Star Wars" is perhaps the most successful movie franchise of the 20th century. From movie ticket sales alone, it has made George Lucas a very wealthy man. Add the toys, games, t-shirts and other merchandise and it should establish Lucas as part of history. A person has just got to start wondering how this movie ever become so incredibly profitable. Although this movie is watchable and even innovative, I really cannot put "Star Wars" in the same categories as impressionable films like "Sunset Boulevard", "Stagecoach", "Casablanca", "The Bridge On The River Kwai" and even "Pulp Fiction".
My reason for saying that pertains to one factor, director George Lucas. Although many would argue, I think that Lucas is not a good director. He always seems to be lacking focus with Star Wars' story, in which was almost the case with "American Graffiti" (Thankfully, he didn't). I'm very impressed with the innovative visual effects of "Star Wars" as I am with any film afterwards that ever utilized it justifiably in connection with the certain film's story (it's sequel, "The Empire Strikes Back" is much better in many aspects). Unfortunately, outside of it's visual delights, it just doesn't have anything that other films hadn't already shown (even if this was made for children). From the whole "boy leaves home" beginning (Mickey Rooney has done it before with more feeling) to it's much appreciated "bar room scene" (straight out of many westerns and even some war themed films), there isn't anything we haven't seen before. Although the whole galactic twist on which the movie is based is totally original, majority of the ideas are still pretty much re-hashed from greater films (Kurosawa's "Hidden Fortress", Errol Flynn/Michael Curtiz movies, etc.).
To re-evaluate, the bad parts consists of lack of originality. The idea's, topic's and situations' originality in which a film's greatness lies are sadly missing. The good parts which are visual design in terms of special effects and costumes definitely proves it's place in being a great landmark picture. I just don't recognize it as the one of the greats. This reaction could be the result of years of watching movies again and again and unexpectedly realizing a certain film's depth and lasting capabilities. A good, not great movie full of innovation yet lacking any depth that is only realized when seen again.
The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
Flawed Above-Average Mystery
"The Lady From Shanghai" is known better as a film studio mishap than the good movie that it is. Orson Welles, one of the most celebrated film makers in history, directed, acted, as well as wrote this movie like he did so many others. Unfortunately like many of the others, in regards to the film studio's rights and ownership advantages, it was butchered. Sure, the film is in circulation on home video and such means but you're not getting the original Orson Welles film. What you get is a studio version of the Orson Welles film.
The film is a good mystery nonetheless but one who knows these facts about the film can not help but feel a bit unsatisfied. One can certainly appreciate that whenever a person's work is disassembled and taken away, one has to feel a certain loss and dismay. Orson Welles is one of the very best in his craft as his "untouched" films show. Though even in flawed studio treatments of his films like "Lady From Shanghai" it is still apparent that it came from the gifted hands of a talent.
This film may be a bit difficult to follow but a mystery should be. The manipulation of the viewer is the key to the greatness and therefore essential to any mystery film. If a mystery film doesn't make sense then it takes some entertainment out of a mystery and this movie does make sense after some observations on a second viewing. With extra viewings, hopefully you should see and appreciate bits of talent that only proves that Orson Welles deserves the accolades that he received in the latter half of his life. A film with a story not to be told but seen.
"The Lady From Shanghai" - Flawed yet still entertaining.