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Super 8 (2011)
I won't go through the entire plot line...you all know the story by now. The actual craftsmanship in creating this movie is just fine. the effects are good, the sound/lighting/camera work...all just fine. The actors are VERY good...particularly the children.
Abram's directorial style, especially in relation to the kids, mimics the Spielberg style as used in "ET" and "Close Encounters". You know...people talk over each other...families depicted in the seventies look very "busy" and hyperactive, etc.
The story is so full of holes you could drive a truck through them. If the alien could not be stopped with the combined might of the pursuing military just how, pray tell, were they able to control it at Nellis airbase? And how were they able to get it on board a train? And if the alien has the power to suck away energy forces...why didn't it do this to the train??? Sorry...far too illogical.
Now...to the music. Michael Giacchino is no John Williams or Jerry Goldsmith...no way. Oh yes...the music is okay, in a TV show kind of way...but it doesn't have the thematic development and magic that Williams would have brought to this film. The only decent piece of music appears in the last ten minutes of the film and even then the theme is very underdone. Perhaps, Michael, you should go and have some long talks with John Williams before he leaves us for good.
Overall this film was like a junk food meal...quite delicious and filling but still leaving you with a certain feeling of emptiness, of being let down by much promise but limited delivery.
Star Trek (2009)
I waited for months before venturing to write a review of this film. This is a Star Trek reboot for an addled and ADHD-suffering modern generation. There is precious-little substance to this film at all apart from the roller coaster ride of effects and (poor) music.
Oh the actors did a good enough job...that wasn't the worry. It was the nonsensical and silly script that wrecked it for me. The too-convenient twists and plain hokum plot devices like "red matter"...red matter???
People are jumping up and down and writing that JJ has revived a "dead" franchise. Better that it stayed dead than get the JJ "LOST/FRINGE" treatment. Gene Roddenberry's ashes would be glowing in anger if he could see this trite nonsense.
Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009)
If you love your dog...watch this film.
I watched this film with no preconceptions and not really knowing much about the story beforehand. All I knew was that it was based on real events in Japan. I deliberately didn't read the blurb on the DVD case because I wanted to "discover" the story for myself.
I have always owned and loved dogs. Some people love their cats but I'm amongst the many who just really care for their pet dogs. Now I won't spoil the story for you except to say that after a bit of a slow start this film draws you in. As another poster said...it will teach you much about the quality of love and loyalty.
I can only warn you to have plenty of tissues on hand because if you are a human being with functioning emotions you are going to cry...a lot! I am a fifty year-old "grumpy old man" but I bawled like a baby for nearly half an hour after watching this film. I also let my Staffordshire Terrier come up onto my lap (and she is VERY heavy) and I hugged her for an age! I will never look at a dog the same way again after seeing this film and I will treasure it for as long as God allows me to live.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
I didn't like it and if you can overcome the hype, you might not, either.
Unnecessary gratuitous violence, twisting real history in some sort of alternate timeline of events, the use of music which does not marry well with the images on screen (...sounds more like Quentin's temp track of all his old favourite bits of music...)and the levity with which a very real tragic part of human history has been dealt with.
The acting was okay. The cinematography was reasonable. The direction was nothing out of the ordinary and the editing...ho hum.
And this Tarrantino guy is meant to be a new Hollywood genius??? Well...give me John Ford, William Wyler, Robert Wise...etc...etc... any day! Hollywood...down the tubes you go!
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
A necessary lesson.
I won't summarise the film or talk about its technical and artistic brilliance. It is a brilliant film which depicts WW2 as it was, not the sanitised versions we were used to seeing from the 50s onwards. But, to me, there is a more important lesson to be gained from this film...
I went to see this film in a suburban cineplex here in Australia. On the night there was a huge audience and a large group of teenagers who'd wandered in because the film they wanted to see had a full house (I overheard them saying this...). They were boisterous and noisy and sometimes obnoxious as kids can sometimes be at cinemas. But after the first five minutes of the film they were dead silent and they remained so for the rest of the film.
I looked at their faces as they exited the theatre at the end of the film. All were ashen-faced, drained...some clearly close to tears. I was happy about this because a film had hammered home to a bunch of modern kids the reality of war without them having to experience it first hand, thank God. All at once they learned that war is horrible, sometimes necessary and best avoided. I'm sure they learned to look at the elderly survivors of this time in human history with a new-found respect. In short, they grew up considerably and without any physical pain as a result of watching this masterful film. And for that, I thank Spielberg profusely. Bravo, Sir.
I won't give a plot outline for this episode of LIS. Watch it for yourself to experience one of the best episodes of the entire series and perhaps one of the finest hours of TV made in the US at the time. I saw this episode when it first aired on Australian TV in the mid 60s in glorious monochrome. It had a huge impact on me because it was the first time I think I ever contemplated the nature of the universe, of existence and life.
How could anyone not be hooked by this wonderful story with a simply superb score written by the then "Johnny" Williams. The final few minutes of this episode contain, perhaps, the finest music themes ever composed for a TV show, bar none. To this day the final scenes of "My Friend, Mr. Nobody" can move me to tears and they will for you too.
Lost in Space (1965)
Oh, it was so good!
"Lost In Space", whether you love it or hate it, was grand fun for kids growing up in the 60s. I know, I was one of them. I was 6 years old when this show premiered on Australian TV in glorious black and white in 1966. It created an absolute flap around the school yard and I fondly remember running about the grounds with my friends yelling "Warning, warning!" in my best imitation of the robot. Most kids my age just loved the show and I think this was due to the quality of the ensemble cast and their amazing talents, especially Jonathan Harris and Billy Mumy. The scripts, whilst admittedly corny in seasons two and three, were generally very literate and well written and some of the season one episodes are worthy classics of science fiction, especially episodes like "My Friend Mr. Nobody." On that note, the "Nobody" episode was sheer brilliance. The hauntingly beautiful score by a young "Johnny Williams," the quality of the story and the sheer wonder it evoked...just beautiful! I well remember being moved to tears in the final scene when "Mr. Nobody" reveals what he truly is...surely one of the most powerful scenes of any science fiction show of the period.
The other important element, for me, was that Jonathan Harris was brilliant in his use of the English language and his constant sniping at the robot was a source of inspiration for me to learn more about words and their meanings. It worked so well I ended up becoming a teacher...thanks to "Lost in Space."
The Last Mimzy (2007)
Heart warming and uplifting.
Many films these days are like a fine Chinese meal. You enjoy the experience whilst it lasts and then...you feel empty again. You won't feel this way watching this film. I could wax lyrical about how magical and wonderful it is but that would do a disservice to a film that uses Science to instill a beautiful message.
This film isn't just for kids...all can enjoy it, and should. If you want to feel a true sense of awe and have some sort of affirmation that the future will be a better place, watch this film. This is the first film that I have truly enjoyed in a number of years. I hope that you enjoy it too.
The Paradine Case (1947)
I won't go into the story, which has been better explained by other contributers. The direction of this film, by Hitchcock, is first rate, as is the "film-noirish" camera work. The score by Waxman and Dessau is also excellent. The actors struggle bravely with trite dialogue and a fairly obvious script, which is this movie's Achilles heel. It is watchable but not one of Hitchcock's best films, more so because of the story's quality than for any technical reason. Generally speaking, there are quite a few story loopholes and the character of the hapless manservant speaks English far too well to be a struggling foreigner.
Gregory Peck does a fine job in this film but I wonder why a British actor wasn't picked to play the part. After all, Peck was playing the part of an English barrister and his accent didn't exactly match the image. Hitchcock's trademark camera angles and tricks are all here to see and that's what makes this film interesting from a film connoisseur's point of view. With a tighter script and and more-believable dialogue this film could have been one of Hitchcock's better efforts.
The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)
Great 60's Western
Great old-time western with a wonderfully-rousing Bernstein score. I have a further continuity error to add which hasn't been listed by IMDb... When the boys first return to the house in which their mother died the painted backdrop behind the fly-screen door shows a wagon wheel in the background. After the first cut-away from John Wayne's character the backdrop is different, with no wagon wheel. Following the second cut-away, the wagon wheel returns. If you rent or buy the DVD (as I did) you can slow motion this section of the film and you'll see the continuity gaffe clear as day. Nit-picking, I know, but you'd think that this would have been picked-up in post-production.
Anyway, regardless of the errors...this is a fine example of a typical "John Wayne" western...good story, well told with fine acting and a great musical score. For fans and students of Wayne's acting style this film offers a special moment. When John Wayne's character is walking towards the bank to settle his dead mother's affairs there is a particularly long shot of Wayne walking towards camera. The shot displays John Wayne's forward-shouldered gait that was a trademark of his western characters.
If you like westerns you'll like this film...most enjoyable.