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Thanks for taking the time to have a closer look at my profile.
I'm from the Netherlands and I was born in the year 1989. I am currently studying accounting & control in Amsterdam.
In case you might be wondering where my alias/screen name stems from, it refers to the type of engine in the back of the Porsche 911, which is a Flat-6. I am a great fan of Porsches and especially their struggle for perfection concerning the 911, which is the only new car still having its engine in the wrong place, in the back.
Back to films, which is why I am here on the IMDb in the first place. A lot has been written about cinema, a lot can be said about it, but I just like to share an overview of my tastes in the wide world of cinema.
Let's start with some of my favorite directors. All of them made many personal films, and some of them still do, which besides telling good stories also give insight into their own personal lives. They're all great craftsmen too, with an intricate knowledge of how to effectively tell a story and communicate emotion through cinematic means. They are:
- Alfred Hitchcock
- Roman Polanski
- Martin Scorsese
- Steven Spielberg
- Fran�ois Truffaut
- Paul Verhoeven
Truffaut's films always touch me on the deepest emotional level, with his honesty prevailing throughout. Through his films you really seem to get to know the man, his passions, his struggles and his anxieties. Verhoeven's films touch me on an more intellectual level through their clever and poignant satire, but also through their daring, yet honest portrayal of human nature. They also never cease to amaze me with their burstling energy. Polanski is a master at creating atmosphere and implied terror, but his touches of absurdity are great too. Scorsese's films are always full of energy and vitality, where Spielberg's are perhaps the most entertaining and sentimental. Hithcock has inspired them all, with his incredible ability to tell his stories through purely cinematical means. Although his genius was mostly contained within the suspense genre, his influence reaches across genres and over decades.
An aspect of film which I think is often overlooked is film music composing. In the end, a film's muiscal score greatly defines its emotional depth and richness. A film without music would be quite boring, however great all other aspects might be. When a score touhes upon exactly the right emotions, it can truly lift a film to another level. Many bad films have been saved by great scores this way and many masterpieces feature great engaging music.
My favorite composer is Jerry Goldsmith, because of his ability to really capture the essential emotions in even the worst films and to package those in extremely engaging music, which supports the visuals and enhances the emotional background. His ability to write action music has in my opinion never been matched, but he could also score character like no other. Georges Delerue is another favorite of mine. He could write the most beautiful melodies, which reach straight into my heart. Director Ken Russell said about him: "If you wanted to evoke a beautifully sunny day and it was raining, Georges' music could bring the sun out. Not many people can do that. Only God and Georges Delerue."
For an overview of my taste in film, you could check out my list "A Matter in Taste" (http://www.imdb.com/list/96mBk9qACMs/) and for some suggestions on films with great music, check out "20 Beautifully Scores Films" (http://www.imdb.com/list/LDOj6pErtiM/).
Thank you for reading.
In short: a list showcasing my taste in film.
Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
Jerry Goldsmith excels where most else fails.
Rambo: First Blood Part II; Directed by: George P. Cosmatos; Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Charles Napier, Steven Berkoff et al.
This is the kind of film I watch when I want a straightforward action film: one invincible hero and a lot of very bad 'bad guys' who are just waiting to get killed. Sylvester Stallone is John Rambo, our invincible hero who wants his country to love him and calls war his home. But let's forget Stallone's serious intentions with this film for a while and just focus on the incredible fun this film delivers in the action department. If you want action, you need villains, and the film offers some good ones. There are a great many Vietnamese soldiers, but let's not forget the number one enemy: the Communists. In short: "Rambo: First Blood Part II" delivers a lot of action, a lot of laughs and somewhere amongst the dead bodies lies its message. Before I go into a more detailed analysis, let me sketch you the film's story.
The film opens in an American labor camp, located somewhere on the globe, where Rambo is working out the sentence he got after the first film. Colonel Trautman (Crenna) can get him out if he goes back to Vietnam to find some P.O.W.'s. He agrees to do so, naturally, but when he' on his way to the camp the American government once again lets him down, betrays him and thus leaving him on his own amongst the evil forces. He's captured by the Vietnamese, who are aided by Russian colonel Podovsky (Berkoff, who previously acted as the villain in "Octopussy" and "Beverly Hills Cop"), who is very, very evil. After being electrocuted as a means of torture by a big Russian bad guy, Rambo escapes with the aid of his female ally Co (Julia Nickson), who happens to be in love with him. Incredible enough the story has room for a romantic scene between the two of them. She seems to be the only one who thinks Rambo isn't expandable, except colonel Trautman, Rambo's faithful commander. Murdock (Napier), the American in charge of the operation and responsible for betraying him, is now Rambo's primary target, but first Rambo has to deal with an entire camp of Vietnamese soldiers and a Russian attack force. Rambo naturally has no trouble at all killing every single one of them, be it with bullets, arrows, explosive arrows, knifes, or his muscular body. He also manages to save the P.O.W.'s along the way: mission accomplished. Murdock isn't very happy with this, since there are no more obstacles between him and Rambo's revenge, but luckily Rambo isn't the worst guy to be around with.
This very sophisticated story is filmed competently by George P. Cosmatos, who handles large action set pieces while also providing some nice scenery shots. What really makes this film so much fun to watch is something else though. This film wouldn't be the 80's action 'masterpiece' it is without Jerry Goldsmith's magnificent score. His synthesizers never sounded this cool and he wields his orchestra with so much thrust that the score seems to drive the action and the visuals, instead of the other way round. Goldsmith understood the incredible cheesiness of the film and scored it accordingly, with a deliciously over the top action score. Its incredibly heroic theme makes the action seem like a ballet and the 'tender' scenes between Rambo and his female companion are scored gorgeously dramatic. Dominating all of this are Goldsmith's ferocious synthesizers, with a dominating sort of chainsaw sound, which is just too cool for words. This is truly a masterpiece amongst action scores and perhaps the most energetic score ever. Without its score the film would be utterly pathetic, with it, it almost becomes a great film. Almost
for even a great score can't save a fundamentally bad film. As I see it the key to enjoying this film lies with your intentions towards it. If you watch this film with the intention of having a fun time, enjoying the indestructibility of John Rambo and the ease with which he kills off dozens of bad guys, you'll be thoroughly entertained. Ironically though, Stallone thought this film was a very serious endeavor and that Rambo was a very serious acting job. I wouldn't be surprised if he believed he could get an Oscar for it. If you watch the film like Stallone intended, you'll see this film for the failed attempt at serious filmmaking it is. There is a message, but it lies somewhere between the dead bodies on the battlefield, as a casualty of war. That is, it could be that the film's message is one that's close to your heart (which it isn't to mine), but it is still out of place in this film. It remains a failure in many parts, but what it does bring is tremendous fun, hence my positive rating of 6 / 10 for this film.
Islands in the Stream (1977)
"Oh boy, I was learning fast there at the end."
Islands in the Stream (1977); Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner; Starring: George C. Scott, David Hemmings, Hart Bochner, Clair Bloom et al.
This film didn't attract too much attention to itself, even though it marks the reunion of Franklin J. Schaffner and George C. Scott, who first collaborated on the magnificent "Patton", and it's an adaptation of a Hemmingway novel. It's almost forgotten by now, but luckily Paramount released a DVD of it, so that today's audience can discover this wonderful 'forgotten' film. I bought this film for the pairing of Schaffner and Scott and the score by Jerry Goldsmith. To say the least: I wasn't disappointed.
This is a contemplative film, with many low-key scenes and a slow pace. It's about Thomas Hudson, who has retreated to an island in the Bahamas and is working there quietly as an artist. His best friend Eddy is there too and he's looked after by Hudson, because he is a rummy and gets in a fight a bit too often. Joseph helps Hudson out in his daily business and the two are close friends. The film is made up of three chapters. The first chapter is called "The Boys" and is about Hudson's three sons visiting him for the summer. His eldest son, Tommy, is from his first marriage and the younger two, David and Andrew, are from his second marriage. While the oldest and the youngest sons can get along with Hudson really well, it's David who holds a grudge against him for leaving him and his mother. Only after a fishing trip, where he struggles with a marlin for over three hours, does he forgive his father and does he embrace him. During their stay on the island, the Second World War draws closer and they can see burning ships on the horizon. After the boys have left, they receive a letter from their father, stating that he misses them very much and that their time together made him happy again. This chapter serves to pinpoint that although Hudson loves his retreat on the island, he also misses his boys really much and that they might be more important than himself. The second chapter is called "The Woman" and is about Hudson's first wife, Audrey, visiting the island. They talk a lot about their love for each other and the reasons for their failure together. When they're at Hudson's house and she starts drinking more and more he realizes that she's here to bring him very bad news. "The Journey" is the final chapter and tells the story of how Hudson finally realizes that he has to be with his boys on the mainland, instead of remaining forever on his island. In a way he decides to finally live again. He goes on a journey to the mainland, but the war gets between him and his goal. On the ocean he has to take a group of Jewish refugees onboard, because their ship was raided by the Cuban coastguard and they barely escaped. He decides that he should take them to shore, but when he does so, he has to escape the coastguard himself. The journey ends on a river somewhere nearby the Cuban coast, where Hudson pays a high price for his decision to start living again.
The film is beautifully filmed by Franklin Schaffner and the cinematography by Fred Koenekamp is gorgeous. Continuing their great working relation, Franklin hired Jerry Goldsmith to score the film. He delivers one of his most touching and most beautiful scores. It fits the film perfectly, capturing the emotional state Hudson is in with an almost melancholy theme, which is as restrained as Hudson and the film itself. There's a more whimsical theme for the boys and there is a majestic cue over the marlin fishing scene. Goldsmith also captures the rhythm of the ocean with his music. He's able to perfectly merge the emotions on screen with his music and he adapts his themes beautifully and in keeping with the heart of the film. The score thus becomes the film's heart and perhaps the best part about it. This is one of the best scores ever composed for a motion picture.
The performances are magnificent too. George C. Scott delivers a very subtle and beautifully executed performance, capturing the essence of Hudson's feelings and making his struggle feel entirely realistic. His performance is restrained, yet it gives a great view into the heart of the troubled main character. David Hemmings also delivers a great performance, making the audience feel sorry for Eddy, but also love him, He also makes Eddy's and Hudson's friendship a joy to watch. Clair Bloom as the first wife and Julius Harris as Joseph are great too, as are the actors playing the boys. Especially Michael-James Wixted as David is great, but Hart Bochner (as Tommy) and Brad Savage (as Andrew) deliver good performances too.
The film is very restrained and quiet and feels very real. The audience gets time to relate to Hudson as the film slowly tells more about him. The emotions are therefore never forced, nor do they feel faked. They feel real and the emotional journey becomes entirely believable and understandable. This approach is sadly quite seldom in Hollywood films. There's one problem though: the final chapter feels a bit off in relation to the other two chapters. The film moves into a chase and Hudson suddenly sympathizes a lot with the refugees, where he was much more restrained at first. Therefore the final chapter is not completely in line with Hudson's character. In the book he chases a German U-boat crew, instead of getting sympathetic with Jewish refugees, which sounds more right for the character. The last scenes are really powerful though, as is the final impact of this film. It made me quiet afterwards, contemplating the journey I had just taken with Hudson, but it also left a warm feeling behind.
Micmacs à tire-larigot (2009)
Jeunet at his best: A refreshing comedy which will brighten up your day.
Micmacs a tire-larigot (2009); Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet; Starring: Dany Boon, Julie Ferrier, André Dussolier, Dominque Pinon et al.
The announcement that Jean-Pierre Jeunet was making a new film made me happy and after seeing it I am even happier. Mr. Jeunet has delivered some weird, but exquisite films and this one is no exception. It is like a crossover between his earlier films with Marc Caro and his later ones. There are the whacky characters with weird hobbies from his earlier work, but it's not as dark as those. It actually has a bright atmosphere, like "Amélie".
In the film's opening we see a soldier failing to disarm a mine. Then follows a cut to some apartment in Paris where a phone rings. Some boy's mother picks it up and starts crying, while we're watching the boy's face sadden. Jeunet doesn't need any dialogue to convey what has happened. We move forwards in time and we see the now grown up boy, named Bazil (Dany Boon), working in a video store, watching a classic film. Outside a chase is going on, shots are fired and a pistol falls. Bazil stands up to watch this scene unfold, when he's hit by a bullet. The camera moves in on the TV screen and when that film ends, the Warner Brothers logo appears and "Micmacs" starts. The opening credits remain in the black and white of the finished film and a classic Max Steiner score plays gloriously over the credits, which was great to see once more on the silver screen. In these first minutes alone we already witnessed some of the most creative film-making of the decade. Jeunet has always been a very visual filmmaker and this prologue alone proves that he masters the art of visual storytelling. There's no need for dialogue. After the titles we see a doctor deciding Bazil's faith. Getting the bullet out of his head can permanently paralyze him and leaving it in can cause death at any moment. A coin decides for the latter option. At home he's in for a surprise though: his apartment has been rented out and his job has been taken. Luckily he can get his hat back from some neighboring kids, but that's about all he has left. He decides to earn money by performing on the streets, where he is picked up by Placard. He takes him to a scrap yard where he lives alongside other outcasts of society. These are all weird characters in the best Jeunet fashion. There is Tambouille, who takes care of them like a mother. There's Calculette, the daughter of a carpenter and a sowing lady, who can measure up anything and anyone with one look. There's Petit Pierre, who makes strange puppets from old materials (like a dancing dress). Then there's a person obsessed with his Guinness Book of Records entry for fastest living cannonball, Fracasse. Last but not least, there's the snake lady named Caoutchouc, who can assume all sorts of unnatural stances. And let's not forget Remington, who is part of the gang too. Their little society collects junk, making it into all sorts of sellable things, thus giving it a second life.
On a day though, Bazil finds the weapon manufacturers responsible for making the landmine which killed his father and the bullet which struck him. He decides to get his revenge, but only with the help of the unique talents of his comrades. His plan is weirder than you could possibly imagine. It basically involves getting the two manufacturers to destroy each other. How this is done is truly unique and very funny. They gradually turn up the heat and start irritating both in the name of the other. The way in which the plot moves forward and how the characters interact is typical Jeunet. It's by no means a serious film, but Jeunet delivers his fantasy world with great conviction, yet not taking it too seriously. That's why all of it works and makes perfect sense within this fantasy world and why it's great fun. Jeunet also provides a lovely touch by making some self-references. On multiple occasions we see our main hero driving past a poster of this film and in one scene he's eaves dropping on one of the weapon tycoons, when he accidentally lowers his microphone in the wrong chimney and overhears a scene from "Delicatessen". Another great touch was showing the power of modern day media like Youtube.
All actors played their characters well, with their strange characteristics brought forward in a very believable and endearing manner. Dany Boon shines in a performance reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin. He makes his character funny, touching and sad without the aid of dialogue, relying solely on body language. He does have some dialogue, but it is kept to a minimum. Dominique Pinon is a joy to watch as always. Although we've seen him as strange characters before, he remains fresh and he delivers another great oddball performance as Fracasse. Julie Ferrier plays Caoutchouc, who is in need of love and a great deal of attention and she acts really convincing. During the course of the film she and Bazil fall in love, which is shown very subtle. This makes it a joy to watch and when they finally kiss, it is such a tender moment. The other actors making up the gang are also wonderful, as are the two weapon tycoons. They're played by André Dussolier and Nicolas Marié and they make for very convincing villains with some bizarre habits.
Beautiful visuals and shots add even more, making this film a treat on all levels. It's incredibly funny and sometimes very touching, but above all it made me laugh and smile. The film still delivers a serious message about weaponry though, without it getting lost in the fun and without giving you a guilty feeling about feeling happy afterwards. This film is like a cool summer's breeze: completely refreshing.
The Detective (1968)
Strong themes and acting save this otherwise messy film.
The Detective (1968); Directed by: Gordon Douglas; Starring: Frank Sinatra, Lee Remick, Jack Klugman, Jacqueline Bisset, Robert Duvall et al.
This relatively unknown film features an impressive cast and a score by Jerry Goldsmith, which were my main reasons for watching it. It has strong themes too though: homophobia, corruption and moral crisis. These are ingredients for a challenging drama, but sadly the film doesn't use them well.
The film has two parts, which are intertwined with some flashbacks. The first part features Joe Leland (Frank Sinatra) investigating the murder of a homosexual, the second part features him investigating a mysterious death and the flashbacks involve the relationship between Joe and his ex-wife. Thematically it's quite involving. Joe Leland is a no-nonsense cop who has to make some tough moral decisions. His colleagues have no respect for homosexuals and they even mistreat them, while Joe beliefs they deserve a fair treatment. In one scene, Nestor (Robert Duvall) is hitting a gay suspect and Joe must stop this, so he knocks Nestor to the ground. A brave thing to do when most of your colleagues act like Nestor does. Another conflict involves politics. Promotions depend on them and politicians care more for money than for solving crime and the bad conditions for those living on the streets. Joe believes in hard work though and he wants to make the city a better place. These aspects make for the central moral problem of the film. Joe gets a promotion because he solved the first case very quick, but doubts if he got the right person. Joe's doubt is shown really well in a scene which features Joe and some colleagues watching the suspect getting the electric chair, but Joe can't watch. The second part of the film focuses more on the corruption in the force and on a political conspiracy. Joe, with the help of Dave (another rare honest cop, played by Jack Klugman), finds out about this through Norma MacIver (Jacqueline Bisset) who suspects there's more to her husbands death than meets the eye. This interests Joe since it gives him the opportunity to show that he wants the police to be clean and honest. But when Joe starts digging, he learns some terrible truths from the death of Colin MacIver (William Windom) and what that means for himself. It appears MacIver's death and the death of the homosexual are linked together. This second part works really well story wise, in how it is linked to the first part; the two become one in story and theme. Finally, there's the love story between Joe and Karen (Lee Remick). While it's a tragic story and features some interesting problems, it fails to really fit in with the other parts of the film. Karen can't commit fully to Joe, since she can't stay away from other men, which Joe can't cope with and therefore they separate. This makes Joe a sad person, but it doesn't have a real importance to the overall plot and therefore feels more like a random side story. The only connection is that Karen's psychiatrist is connected somehow to the death of MacIver, but I think that connection is too weak.
The film is a bit of a mess though, which comes from the fact that it deals with different time periods and some rapid shifting between locations. Continuity is a major problem for the love story. It appears Joe and Karen met some time before the murder of the homosexual, but at some point the flashback seems to go into the timeframe of this murder and you loose track of where we are in time and it becomes confusing. This isn't helped by the bad use of locations: at some point we think we enter Karen's apartment, but a phone rings and Joe answers and it appears to be his apartment. This all makes it unnecessarily difficult to follow and to understand in what stage of their relationship we actually are, thus harming the emotional aspect. The transition between the two parts of the film is awkward too, since we suddenly jump forward for an unknown period of time, which made me feel somewhat lost in the film. I couldn't help but feel that with some more care from the writer or director, these problems could have been solved and the film would've felt more cohesive and the situations more emotionally involving.
Director Gordon Douglas went for an 'experimental' approach, but this doesn't work. For example: he shoots persons talking to each other, but lets them talk straight into the camera, which frankly doesn't add anything and works distracting. The opening shot features a New York street upside down, only to reveal that the camera is filming the streets' reflection in the car roof, which I found to be annoying, as were some bad back screen projections. The attempted style doesn't work properly and becomes distracting, making the film feel dated. The actors deliver good work though. Frank Sinatra delivers a strong performance, yet Lee Remick wasn't really special. The supporting cast is fine too, with a lovely Jacqueline Bisset, a strong Robert Duvall, a friendly Jack Klugman and Horace McMahon delivers a strong performance as the police captain. The portrayal of the homosexuals is quite over-the-top though, with Tony Musante being the most over-the-top as the psychotic suspect. The film is scored by Jerry Goldsmith, but I found it to be one of his weaker scores. It's a sad jazzy score, portraying the problems haunting Joe, but I didn't really like it. The underscore in scenes between Joe and Karen works the best and is quite pleasant, but overall it was slightly disappointing.
All in all, this is a film which dares to tackle a controversial subject, but is brought down by continuity problems and a failed attempt at innovative filming. The acting and the moral problems Joe is presented with make this film earn a positive rating though.
"The human adventure is just beginning."
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979); Directed by: Robert Wise; Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Persis Khambatta et al.
This film marked the transition from television to the silver screen for "Star Trek" and is part of the reason why "Star Trek" is still such phenomenon today. Sadly though, this film is regarded as one of the lesser entries in the series today and in my opinion this is unrightfully so, because I regard this as the best Star Trek film and a great film in general.
Let me start with a short plot outline. We first witness the approach of a giant cloud, which will be the main character. From there on, we move to the crew of the refitted Enterprise. We see how Admiral Kirk takes command of the Enterprise from Captain Decker (Stephen Collins) and how Spock joins the crew later on, after having rejected pure logic as the way of life. There's also a new bridge officer onboard: Lt. Ilia (Khambatta). The ship's crew is now complete and together they're about to intercept the mysterious cloud which they must stop before it reaches Earth. A journey of understanding begins, because for the crew to stop the entity, it's necessary to uncover its motivations. They learn parts from Ilia, who has been taken by the invader and has returned in the form of a probe to observe the crew and she tells them that V'Ger (the invader) wishes to speak with The Creator. Spock also plays a role in uncovering more of the mystery, as he takes a space suit and journeys to the inner chambers of V'Ger, where he mindmelds with it and learns a great deal about how it thinks. In the end, the crew finds out who The Creator is and an explanation to V'Ger's behavior.
The film is very slow moving, but that's part of what makes this film as great as it is. The film takes a philosophical approach to "Star Trek", making a slow furthering of the plot appropriate, since it gives you time to reflect on the information you're given. Besides the philosophical aspect, the film dares to take time for showing us how beautiful and elegant space travel actually is. Call it an epic approach, which already becomes apparent by means of an overture. Furthermore, it features a six minute scene in which Admiral Kirk and Scotty take a tour around the refitted Enterprise. The model is truly breathtaking, as is the set design. The bridge looks like it could really be used in a space ship and Engineering never looked better. The film features more extensive modeling work, which is all extremely well-crafted. Once we have reached the outskirts of the cloud, we journey to its center, to where the actual entity is located and this costs us about fifteen minutes. Once again we see great special effects, as we first move through the cloud, followed by the fly-over of an enormous space ship. We then move inside, to reveal an even more astounding interior. These scenes could have been done in two minutes, but luckily the film takes the epic approach and shows us all. Through this approach we really feel the mystery of space and the threat the invader poses. This approach calls for a good musical score and Jerry Goldsmith more than delivers that, he actually delivers an almost divine score. It matches the film exactly and it enhances the film greatly, taking it to another level. The score embodies the romance in "Ilia's Theme", the excitement in the "Main Title", the elegance in the Starfleet music (especially in "The Enterprise") and the mystery and danger in the V'Ger cues, which sound really otherworldly thanks to the use of the 'Blaster Beam'. Never before have I heard a score which melts as perfectly with what's on screen as this one.
I already mentioned the philosophical approach which is at the heart of the film. To me, this film embodies what "Star Trek" is about. It's about humanity in the broadest way; it's about what humans have to offer, about what makes us a good species. In the end, it's perhaps hopelessly optimistic about humanity, but the concept is brought in such a believable manner that you believe in it and it's a concept I want to believe in. That it's so believable has to do with the fact that it's science fiction, which gives the opportunity to put down an evolved human race, without the context of the present. Besides the human theme, the film also poses big questions, like: why are we here, where do we come from? Such questions are seldom in a major motion picture, but they are worthy of exploration in a film.
One last aspect: acting. This is not one of the film's better aspects, but it's by no means bad acting. Opinions on William Shatner's acting talents differ, but I don't mind him. The other original crewmembers deliver good performances and Leonard Nimoy excels as Spock, in search for answers to life. Persis Khambatta looks gorgeous as the bald Ilia and delivers a nice performance. My only quibble is the subplot about the tension between Kirk and Decker, which feels somewhat out of place in the overall film, but that's not the actors' fault, but that lies with the script.
What makes this film so great is that it doesn't shy away from being a real science fiction film, in the Gene Roddenberry style. There are universal human values to be learned in the context of the future and space, without shying away from real science fiction and the exploration aspect. This film balances these aspects really well and thus becomes really involving and challenging. Combine this with great modeling and special effects work, a score which is divine and a lovely slow pacing and you've got a philosophical, exciting, adventurous and above all, a true "Star Trek" film.
The Boys from Brazil (1978)
Surprising performances, some good tension, but a silly plot.
The Boys from Brazil (1978) Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner Starring: Laurence Olivier, Gregory Peck, James Mason, Walter Gotell et al.
The first thing which attracted me to this film were leading actors Laurence Olivier, Gregory Peck and James Mason, all three not being in their younger years anymore. It's always nice to see aging actors acting alongside each other, because they can sometimes be quite surprising. Before moving on to their acting though, I will describe the plot of the film.
The story starts in Paraguay, late seventies, where Barry Kohler (Steve Guttenberg) discovers that several high ranking Nazi party members are having a meeting about something which seems important. He learns that Dr. Josef Mengele (Peck) himself will be leading the meeting and that they're talking about killing 94 men around the globe. He therefore contacts legendary Nazi hunter Ezra Liebermann (Olivier) to tell him about it, but he doesn't seem interested and is too busy with other things. Only when Barry is killed while he's talking to Mr. Liebermann on the phone, does Mr. Liebermann understand there's something really sinister and important going on. He starts an investigation which brings him all around the globe in search for clues. As he comes closer to the truth the Nazi's become more cautious, except for Dr. Mengele, who won't allow Liebermann to kill off his master-plan. Eventually he must take matters in his own hands when Eduard Seibert (Mason), an old friend of Mengele, tells him that the Nazi party won't support him anymore. By this time Ezra Liebermann has discovered the sinister plan of Dr. Mengele, which will bring glory to the Arian race once more when the time is right. Liebermann must race to prevent Mengele from executing his plan and they finally meet at the house of the next potential murder victim. This final confrontation must stop Mengele in his tracks, but it becomes quite brutal, as the two old men struggle for victory.
The story begins really interesting and mysterious, but when you learn the goal of this sinister plan, it becomes somewhat laughable. It just doesn't make any sense. Luckily there are enough good qualities to the film to make up for the silly plot. First off, there's some good to really good acting, so there are indeed a few surprises by the older cast members. Gregory Peck is great to watch as Dr. Mengele, his only truly unsympathetic role. He plays Mengele a bit over the top, but it all works, especially since Peck is consistent in his performance and he makes it fun to watch, without losing a credible side to Mengele's evilness. The best scene he has is when he sees Mundt (played by Walter Gotell, known mostly for his roles in the James Bond franchise) on a Nazi party, while he should be killing his targets. He throws him on the ground and starts strangling him in front of the crowd. When the two are separated, he proclaims: "He betrayed me, he betrayed you, he betrayed the Arian Race!!". It's a great and fun scene to watch. The scene following this one is great too. We see Mengele learning from Seibert that Mundt was back because the operation got canceled. This conversation is really well done and has a great feel to it. James Mason, who plays Seibert, is nice to watch alongside Gregory Peck. It may not be a standout performance, but it is a good one, making Seibert feel like a real character. The best acting comes from the legendary Laurence Olivier. He plays it more subtle than Peck does and he's utterly believable as the frail old Nazi hunter who won't give up. He's at his best when he gets agitated (look for the scene between Ezra and Frieda Maloney), but his acting when he learns about Mengele's plot is some of his best too. Sadly though, I found the acting of Steve Guttenberg and Jeremy Black to be lacking. Guttenberg was unconvincing in my eyes and Jeremy Black was annoying and not really convincing too. These important characters are therefore not really believable, which does hurt the film a bit. The rest of the cast was adequate though, nothing bad, but nothing really special too.
The direction by Franklin J. Schaffner is good; he keeps a nice pace and he builds the tension well. The action scenes are handled quite believable and some of them are quite brutal. I am referring to the final confrontation between Liebermann and Mengele, where a number of dogs brutally attack them. There are some beautiful scenery shots as well, the best one being a dam in Sweden, surrounded by snow covered mountains. The shots of Mengele's villa, which is located at a lake, surrounded by jungle, were done well too. The fore-mentioned dam scene is a good one from an emotional point of view too. It features Mundt meeting an old school friend on top off the dam and it seems they're just being friendly, but then suddenly Mundt attacks him and throws him over the top, revealing that the person actually was a murder target.
To help set the atmosphere of the film, Franklin Schaffner is helped (once again) by the great Jerry Goldsmith. His main theme, based upon an Austrian waltz is lovely, but especially the Nazi theme and the action music are really good. His music helps set the mood of the film really well, although the previous collaborations between the two were more memorable.
All in all this is a really nice thriller, which has a strong build up and nice action, but features a silly plot. It's saved though by good acting from the lead actors and a noteworthy finale to look forward to. Watch this if you want to be entertained and thrilled and if you like to be surprised by older actors.
My vote is 7/10.
Under Fire (1983)
A really nice and mostly involving film about civil war and journalism.
Under Fire (1983); Directed by: Roger Spottiswoode; Starring e.a.: Nick Nolte, Joanne Cassidy, Gene Hackman & Ed Harris.
"Under Fire" is a film well worth seeing. The main reason I saw it was because I heard good things about Jerry Goldsmith's score for the film, but the cast and subject matter are also good reasons for checking out this film. Especially Nick Nolte, who delivers a really good performance as Russell Price, the photographer who slowly loses his objectivity and becomes more and more involved with the civil war in Nicaragua. He and Claire (Joanne Cassidy) go on a search for rebel leader Rafael (rumored to be dead) and it's during this search they get more and more involved with the war. Russell is asked to photograph the dead Rafael as if he's alive so that the rebels can continue their revolution with a continuing flow of supplies. This means breaking with his objectivity though, but following his heart and feelings. Later on he also discovers that the photographs he has taken (to show the world what's going on in Nicaragua) are being used against the rebels, whom he chose to help. His journalist friend Alex (played by Hackman) joins in again, because he wants an interview with Rafael, not knowing he's already dead. This part of the story is really good. There are lots of emotions and the feeling is real. You feel for Russell for getting more and more involved and his motivation for the choice he made is well exposed and feels true. Based on what you see, you would've made the same decision. This is greatly due to the fact that you're really placed inside the action, so to speak. You witness what Russell and Claire are witnessing and Russell, being a photographer, has to be right where the action is. We witness all sorts of things (also involving Ed Harris as a mercenary for the government) and through the culmination of these events you get really involved in Russell and Claire's journey and their decisions.
There's another part to the story though. Claire and Alex are partners in the beginning of the film, but Claire breaks up, only to fall in love with Russell during their journey. This part isn't exactly a good addition to the story, since it's distracting from the general story and it's inconsequential to what's going on. Besides that, when Russell tells Alex about him loving his (ex-)girlfriend and her loving him, there's no real tension between them. For this side story to work better, it should have been expanded. That wouldn't have been a good idea either, because then it would have been even more distracting from the central story and the emotional core of the film. The best thing, in my opinion, was to leave it out. In the ending it also leaves us with a bit of a corny moment, which doesn't make it better. Luckily these parts aren't too distracting and they don't disrupt the flow of the film too much.
Another criticism is that I found the first half hour of the film to be quite boring. I think this is mostly due to the fact that nothing really happens and I somehow didn't really care for the few things happening to the main characters in this first half hour. We start to care when the action and the journey begin though. So, the first half hour is short on emotion and thus becomes somewhat boring. The film also has some political things to say, but only in one situation does this become preachy. A nurse tells Claire that 50,000 civilians died, but that the death of one American journalist made the American government give the rebels support. This exchange wasn't really necessary and came a bit out of nowhere, which causes it to come across preachy. Other political exchanges (mostly involving Jean-Louis Trintignant) aren't like this and feel in accordance with the overall film. I already named the score, but I can now judge for myself. It indeed is a really good score by the great Jerry Goldsmith. It brings out the emotions and makes you really involved with the film. Besides that, it adds a great atmosphere and fits the film like a glove. One last remark needs to go to the acting, which was generally good. Nick Nolte stood out as the best, but Joanne Cassidy was quite good besides him. Gene Hackman didn't have much to do to be honest, but he delivered what he had to and he made his character believable.
All in all this is a really nice film to watch. It's mostly involving and the emotional journey Russell and Claire make is really nice to follow. Besides a few down sides, like an unnecessary love story, this film holds up really well. Watch this if you have two hours to spent and want something with some depth to it.
I rate it 7/10.
The Wedding Party (1969)
An oddity, which can't be called good, but which does have a heart.
The Wedding Party (1966, but unreleased until 1969); Directed by: Brian De Palma, Wilford Leach & Cynthia Munroe; Starring e.a.: William Finley, Robert De Niro & Jill Clayburgh.
This film has two things which made me want to see it: it being Brian De Palma's first feature film and it being Robert De Niro's first feature film performance. The film offers quite a nice little story though. Charlie (Charles Pfluger) is getting married to Josephine (Jill Clayburgh) and visits his to-be in-laws, the Fish family, for the wedding rehearsal. He starts doubting his decision of marriage though, and his friends Alistair (Finley) and Cecil (De Niro) try to persuade him to go through with it.
The black and white film is speeded up in many scenes, to give it a fun and comic feel, as the old silent comedies did. In many scenes the film even becomes like a silent film, since most of the outside scenes were filmed on stock without sound. Voiceovers give you background talk in these instances, which is mostly inconsequential to the actual storyline. The speeded up film is complemented with jump cuts of people talking to each other, like when Alistair and Cecil try to convince Charlie that the institution of marriage is a bad thing, because it takes your freedom away. In this scene it works quite well, but it's used quite frequently and not always to best use. This style gives the film its fun and light atmosphere, but it's also used too many times and it thus becomes repetitive and you loose interest halfway through scenes. Most apparent of this is the scene where the groom runs away from the wedding and Alistair and Cecil try to catch him and bring him back. It goes on for too long and somewhere halfway through the scene, it no longer holds your full attention. This style is recognizable De Palma though, since he also uses it in "Greetings" and "Hi, Mom!". However, in these films it's used in a better way. There's a really nice scene where it does work beautifully though. At the banquet the evening before the wedding, there are numerous toasts to the bride and groom and with each toast the guests drink a glass of alcohol and thus many glasses are emptied, with the guests getting tipsy. With jump cuts this is shown really nice and it becomes quite funny. If this were edited in a more conventional way it wouldn't have worked half as good.
On to the acting. To be honest: it's nothing special. Charlie, our main character, isn't portrayed well by Charles Pfluger (who, according to this site, hasn't acted in another film) and he sometimes becomes somewhat unlikable, which isn't right for the story. Robert De Niro and William Finley were nice as the friends of the groom, but their performances were nothing special. Since it are early performances they are fun to watch though. The rest of the cast isn't special either, but then again, the material isn't really suited for a grand acting performance, it calls for some oddball comedy and that's delivered by the actors.
What was a bit surprising to me is that the subject matter, about having doubts about getting married, was portrayed quite well. While it's primarily a comedy, the dramatic element about it is still felt. Now don't expect a drama, since the film truly is a comedy, but the subject is treated with honesty and thus you can feel for the groom's doubts. As a whole though, the film is a bit of a mess. Many comedic moments fail to be really funny and the style is a bit overused, making the film feel somewhat overlong. But De Palma perfected this style in his later efforts and there it did work really well. In all honesty it can't be called a good film, but the film does make you feel good afterwards and has got a heart (something missing in many films). So, I recommend it to everyone who's interested in how De Palma started out and in early De Niro, or anyone with an open mind who wants to have a fun hour and a half. Don't watch it if you like your films more straightforward and more conventional, since the film is an oddity and quite unique.
I rate it 5/10.
A failure, with only a handful of highlights.
Nighthawks (1981); Directed by: Bruce Malmuth; Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Billy Dee Williams, Rutger Hauer, Persis Khambatta et al.
The film follows two NY undercover cops, Deke DaSilva (Stallone) and his buddy, Matthew Fox (Williams), and how they become involved in an anti-terrorist unit. Their mission is to hunt down international terrorist Wulfgar (Hauer), who is assisted by Shakka (Khambatta, known mostly for her role as 'Ilia' in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture"). They've made the city of New York their next target. The plot is quite straightforward, but it has got some potential, especially with Rutger Hauer cast as the terrorist and Stallone as a tough cop. The end result, however, doesn't use this potential. This is mainly due to (a) an almost complete lack of logic and (b) the absence of a convincing reality.
Starting with the unconvincing aspects. Our two main 'heroes' are supposed to be quite uncontrollable and tough-guys, but they only show this through shouting at their colleges, at their boss, at Wulfgar, or by just looking mean and angry. I think this is due to the lack of good direction, the lack of quality acting and the lack of a good script. Wulfgar isn't very convincing at being a terrorist either... You only have to look him in the eye with an angry facial expression and he pulls out a gun and starts shooting, in the middle of a disco (!). This isn't due to Rutger Hauer's acting though, since he delivers a really good performance. He brings a great flair to Wulfgar and makes him quite scary, considering the material he has to work with. He stands out as a highlight amongst the other actors. His assistant, Shakka, is portrayed as a merciless woman, but that's as far as her character goes. Persis Khambatta doesn't bring anything more to her role than the very limited script offers her, but she is adequate. Although others qualify Stallone's performance as one of his best, I found it to be quite bad. We're supposed to feel for DaSilva struggling with his (ex-)girlfriend and with him being trained to think and act like a terrorist, in order to take Wulfgar down. But, he isn't able to make DaSilva a real character, he doesn't bring him to life so to speak and therefore I couldn't care for DaSilva. This is also due to the bad writing, because these two points are completely underdeveloped in the script (and/or handled badly by the director) and should have been worked out much better in order for them to work properly. As it is now, the scenes where DaSilva gets upset over becoming like Wulfgar don't make much sense, because you don't get the feeling he's becoming like Wulfgar. Much of the potential drama is thus missing and this hurts the film badly. Billy Dee Williams is quite nice to watch though, but this is more due to his persona than to the character he's portraying, because he hasn't got much to do, besides following DaSilva around and in one occasion help him stay on the team. A note must go to Joe Spinell, for portraying Lt. Munafo (DaSilva and Fox's superior officer) quite well, he stood out as positive.
On to my other major criticism: the absence of logic. First, the mentioned scene with Wulfgar pulling a gun in a disco. It's completely illogical for a calculating and professional terrorist to pull a gun on someone he's never seen, especially in the middle of a disco with hundreds of people around. The chase scene following this is quite well done though and is one of the highlights of the film. Another example: Wulfgar keeps his suitcase full of weapons and explosives at a girls place without locking it. Upon her opening it, he just shoots her and conveniently leaves a map behind for the police, with the last place he bombed circled. At the film's ending Wulfgar is supposed to be dead and by what we have seen, the logical conclusion is that he is dead, but he magically reappears for a final act of terror and a quite stupid twist ending. If we were given at least a simple explanation for his survival it wouldn't be such a bad thing, but now it just doesn't make sense. I can suspend my disbelief in films, but there has to be some logic to what's going on and that logic is missing in this film.
Because you're uninvolved with most of the characters and because you keep noticing illogical plot points, the film begins to drag. Through all this, you just lose interest in the film and want it to end. Towards the ending it does pick up a bit though. There's quite a good scene on a cable-lift cart. Wulfgar and Shakka take everyone in the cart hostage and a rare moment of good film occurs. It's the best thing the film has to offer, followed by the fore-mentioned chase scene, involving a metro. These are sadly the only real highlights, besides Rutger Hauer, and they are too little to save the film.
Concluding: this film becomes uninvolving and therefore quite boring because of bad characters, uninspired acting by most involved, bad directing and an important lack of logic. There are too few highlights to make this film earn a positive rating. Only watch this when you want to see another good Rutger Hauer performance, or if you think you won't mind the things I disliked about it.
It scores 4/10.