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Road to Perdition (2002)
Too many problems
How do messes like this get made? I guess the book was probably pretty good and Mendes thought he could bring it to life on the screen. WRONGO! SPOILERS. The kid sneaking in the back seat was just too contrived. How many banks does Hanks' character have to hit before the mob gets wise and places some hitman to whack him? (That was just plain silly). The forced comic relief of the driving lessons was bad. If Newman's character loved Mike Sullivan's family that much we need much more turmoil to justify his protection of Connor. Much more time/effort/character development was needed to buy into that. And though I could have overlooked it if the film had been better overall, Hanks is simply unconvincing as a mobster.
The Good Girl (2002)
Just a few notes:
1.) The title is ironic folks. Jennifer's character does bad things and it hurts a lot of people who, incidently, aren't so nice themselves.
2.) It was much too self-aware to be a good black comedy. The voice overs were too derivative of Raising Arizona (magniloqunet words in a heavy southern accent).
3.) It was too hard to sympathize with either Anniston's character or Holden. The later was too annoying (even to the point where I began to enjoy the writer's obvious attempt to reveal him as the horrible writer that he really was--rather than root for him) and the former was unable to garner the sympathy needed to cheer for her to break free of her mundane life. Maybe it's just that most of us, in fact, lead mundane lives ourselves, and realize that such existances make the world go round, and thus get tired of the constant criticism of it. (Imagine if everyone that conducted the day-to-day business of society decided to "be special")
4.) There were a few funny moments: the other female clerk with her wry, irreverant commentary that is slipped in without warning or pause, the remark by the store manager after Holden's death that he was a thief and a distrubed young man and that "what we should learn form all this is not to be a theif or be disturbed", and the part where the dog rips the sheet away from Bubba ( I laughed out loud at that).
Great premise, flawed execution.
I have always noted how the term "the good ol' days" seems to have an automatic association with the 50s and that this view seems to be perpetuatied by the sitcoms of that era. Though I think that are few who would openly claim life was really like that back then, I think on an unconcious level we tend to idealize that portion of the past. (For what it's worth I don't think we are a whole lot different than our 50s counterparts, we are just more apt to show our ugly side today via a lack of decorum or simple pride--think "Jerry Springer"). So the idea to enter this antiseptic world with "real" people with modern values was a good one (though not orignal of course).
Though this film has numerous flaws (the inconsistency of color-changing, the ever-preaching main-character, the overwrought, forced ending, the silly fact that they were transported into the sitcom world via a TV remote--just to name a few) its overall merit still makes it an important, thought-provoking work. It is a strong study of reality vs. fantasy/memory and how life is lived in respect to both. In fact I think that a compelling thesis could be made in comparing this work with two other existential films: "The Truman Show" and "Groundhog Day".
One note for the reviewers that complained that too many comentators were overanalyzing this project, listen to the DVD commentary, it's informative (is what a commentary should be in my opinion--10% technical film making, 10% antedotal behind the scenes stuff, 10% comment on the actors and 70% dicussion of the themes, characters and what was trying to be expressed), but borders on the pretenious.
The Ring (2002)
Good premise but the film is unrefined. Here is how to fix it:
1.) The opening scene is awkward. The girl had expectations of being wacked (her & day anniversary was coming up) and she's acting silly. And if all these kids who watched the video are aware of what's going to happen (or have suspicions) why are they all seperated. A scene with them all together as time runs out, where some believe and some don't would have been much better.
2.) Don't make the first victim the cousin of the main character. Since she is a journalist the oddity of the kids' deaths (as well as the rumors) her looking into it would have been justified. Maybe later on have a close relative of her's get killed.
3.) Their should have been more victims that she ran across in her investigation to build up tension.
4.) The relationship between her son and the girl was okay but it needed to be fully explained. As it is it's weak. The kid could be presented as the strange young lad that he is with an imaginary friend. Then as the plot thickens we find out who the friend really is. Need some reason for the boy to be picked though.
One Hour Photo (2002)
Character development. It is important. The only character with any depth is Williams'. By developing the family the ending may have led somewhere. As it stands (SPOILERS) Sy's breakdown is weak. There is very little tension and Sy simply grabs a knife and takes some dirty pictures. Something more insidious would have been more intriguing.
The Bad News Bears (1976)
My friends and I all saw this when we were 12-13 and we were very impressed with the fact that the kids cursed like we did. Such verisimiltude would fall to political correctness nowadays. Brillainat script that uses character development to make the film. Both Buttermaker and the Bears grow, but in a gradual way. This patience is evinced in the Bears' new winnig ways, which comes slowly and thus gains believablity. A funny and poingnant classic that was the precursor to all those "Mighty Duck" films as well as that "Hardball" flick.
By the way, skip the sequels. They stink.
Summer of '42 (1971)
Another great one from the late 60s/early 70s era of American films
I saw this on televison when I was about 14 and the timing couldn't have been better. Other than the pruient scheme it engendered inside of me in which I would keep close watch for any local women who suddenly became widowed, this touching story inspired me in many positive ways. A great, lyrical story that has several fine moments that surrond two fantastic scenes: the risable drug store part, and the poignant dance shared by Hermie and Dorthy that is masterfully shot. The epitome of the "coming of age" genre.
I want my $8.50 back!
"The Sixth Sense" is in my Top 20 of all time, but I found "Unbreakable" unbearable, and now "Signs" to be a sign that good ol' M. Night is a one trick pony. Now I have no problem suspending disbelief when warranted but this borders on the ridiculous. SPOILERS!!!! I could level a list of flaws but I don't want to be pedantic, so I'll just cover my top three: 1.) As rightly noted by so many others the inconsistancy of the aliens' powers is a huge problem 2.) The reason they choose to stay in the house (a vote? you've got to be kidding me) is weak--comon' how about their car doesn't work or they aliens are already outside, etc 3.) A total lack of verisimilitude in terror, the kids were way too cool and the adults barely pick up an object (any object-which would be a natural reaction) to defend themselves until the end. Instead Mel picks up cooking utensils and makes dinner. In fact that scene with Phoneix going up the stairs to see if the aliens were gone without grabbing an ax, hammer or anything was one of the most implausible moments I have seen on film.
Well I did like the faith restored portion, and I thought the flashbacks (and coincidence/destiny) were well woven into the thick of things. Also the part when the Doctor tells Mel that one of them is in his pantry was really strong and showed potential, too bad I just wasn't able to overcome the fact that these aliens who can mask their ships in mid air can't get out of a pantry. I think some type of terrestrial creatures would have been better suited here.
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
One of the last of the great early-mid 70s flicks. I watched this years ago and loved it, and recently I watched it again while attending a Hostage Negotiation course (the point was to demonstrate what not to do). A compelling character study, outstanding acting, and superb character development. Someone mentioned that the crowd is the most interesting character and that's true. They cover all moods that are conveyed in the film. SPOILERS. The "sex change" aspect nearly takes the film to the point of being ludicrious, but because it is based on an actual incident it would have been wrong to exclude it. Oh and the "I liked to be kissed" line is a classic.
European Vacation (1985)
I respectfully disagree with most reviewers here, this flick is funny!
I am surprised that many don't care for this sequel to the brilliant original (as I am that many actually like the "Christmas" and "Vegas" outings which I thought were atrocious). Maybe it's because my wife and I were living in Europe when we saw this and could really relate. (SPOILER) An especially funny part for us was the French waiter and the subtitles, if you've never been in a country where you don't speak the language maybe you won't find it as humorous, but for us it really hit home because in the back of our minds we realized that many of the folks we encountered could be saying anything about us and we wouldn't know the difference. Good stuff!