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Kirsten Dunst acting excellence if embarrassing
NEGLIGIBLE SPOILER AND ONLY THROUGH THE FIRST 2 MINUTES
I don't often get embarrassed; having gone to school in the early 1970's, I can only recall being embarrassed twice when seeing someone else have sex. This was one time, even though technically that's not what Ms. Dunst's character was doing. She was just listening to music, but it was one of the most erotic performances possible. What made it embarrassing to me was that both the character and the actress were about 15. How did David Warry-Smith, the Director, communicate with her? "Say, listen, Kirsten, ah, well, you presumably have never done this before, but just pretend your having the most incredible sexual experience of your life, no, not just your life but anyone else's life. I'm sure you'll do fine." And then walk back to his stool and try not to die of embarrassment. And how did she do such an incredible job? That's a question I don't think anyone should know the answer to.
Shattered Glass (2003)
Quite believable, says this former investigative journalist
As the subject line above says, I have to admit to an insider's point of view. I was an award-winning investigative reporter and editor working in newspapers, magazines, wire services, radio, and network-affiliate TV. I quit journalism in 1980 in large part because of the ever-increasing number of talent-challenged first-year "journalists" who wanted to be the next Woodward/Bernstein, and worse, the willingness of management (especially in local television news) to hire and even promote them. To be honest, however, I would have to add that the low pay, true even at places like The New Republic, was a major factor to an expectant father.
So I am sad to say that I completely buy the characterizations presented in this docudrama on Stephen Glass' time at that august magazine. The only thing that didn't ring true was that I never met anyone who had the time or inclination to be as considerate of his fellow journalists as Steve Glass apparently was. My wife pointed out that she never met one journalistic co-worker she would spend time with if she had the choice. I would admit that the nicest I knew were, at best, benign. I should add that I was NOT the nicest I knew. Even I didn't like me those days.
Getting back to the film, I can't speak to what actually motivated this particular person to fabricate 27 of 41 stories at a very major national magazine. The film suggests that he was too eager to please, and perhaps that is true. But that probably wasn't what motivated Jayson Blair (at the New York Times) or others who have recently been exposed as serial fabricators. Ambition unrestrained by ethics, unreasonable pressure to succeed due to premature promotions, other unknown and perhaps unknowable motivations... they probably figure into these sorts of disasters. But what is certainly true, and given very short shrift by the film, is the role journalistic management plays. To put a rather fine point to it, too many editors do not know how to, or perhaps just don't like to, do their jobs.
Too many times I see on national news programs statements treated as fact that somehow I can't believe were ever fact-checked. Just today I saw an episode of HBO's RealSports where an amazing statistic was mentioned: that a certain percentage (I believe about 4% but wasn't taking notes) of people who start playing poker as young kids go on to have gambling problems. I instantly asked myself: where did those statistics come from? Poker playing among the very young (pre-college-age) was probably a fairly rare thing before the past couple of years. How would they know today that 15 years ago such-and-such a percent would later have problems? If you understand statistics you would know that you can't find gambling addicts now, ask how many played poker as young kids, and extrapolate any useful estimate of future danger (100% of alcoholics once drank socially, but that doesn't mean 100% of social drinkers go on to become alcoholics). So did some editor at RealSports check this out? Why don't I believe someone did?
In writing this six-paragraph movie review, perhaps to be seen by no one, I checked things over time and again for accuracy. Oops: I misspelled Jayson Blair; fix it. Spelling errors no one cares about in this Internet-only story: check the entire piece in an external spell checker. In all I made almost two dozen changes. No one reading this will notice, or if they do, care. But that is what I do because I once was an editor.
It is this instinct for distrust of EVERYTHING anyone says or writes, including oneself and one's own work, that I believe is missing in far too many editors today. It is this shortcoming that allowed Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair et al to last so long before being exposed. It is a major weakness in journalism, and the lack of acknowledgement of this weakness is the only fault I found in this otherwise excellent film.
28 Days Later... (2002)
Excellent end-of-the-world scenario with a flawed ending
Although the plot is very unoriginal, I especially liked this version of the story because of the leisurely pace that sets the mood without letting you get bored. The Director didn't mind relatively long sequences without dialog when it was called for; I'm not sure a Hollywood-made film (this one was made in the U.K. by a U.K. company) would have been willing to do this. Ever since Star Wars the reigning action-movie concept in Hollywood seems to be action every 7 minutes max.
I also liked the cinematography. There were great shots (extremely wide, taken from an unusual angle, etc.) that were unorthodox and in another film would have gotten in the way, but here they helped set the mood of a few people isolated in a huge city.
I imagine it would be an even better experience in the theater, where the larger format and viewer being in the dark would have enhanced the feeling of isolation.
**** SPOILER *** The one flaw is the ending, and unfortunately it is a bid problem. In the penultimate scene, the male protagonist (Jim) is shot in the stomach. Now, even in a modern big city, stomach wounds are very often fatal, and virtually always so without prompt surgery. Not only will the victim bleed to death, but even if the bleeding can somehow be stopped, peritonitis will almost always set in. Nevertheless, without anyone having more than a pharmacist's knowledge of medicine, with no surgical tools, and after a car ride where he would certainly have bled out, Jim survives. The last scene shows him hale and hearty, running over a meadow. I suppose there could be some explanation, but none was given, and it broke me out of my "willing suspension of disbelief."
Nevertheless, I give the film a "9". Definitely worth watching and re-watching.
Post Impact (2004)
Truly awful; full of obvious holes
Someday I'm going to learn not to waste my time on made-for-TV movies shown on the Sci-Fi Channel (on USA cable). Admittedly, the special effects on this one were above its normal 1950's B-movie level. Nevertheless, the plot is full of obvious holes that even a child would choke on (e.g., people being shot in all four limbs and still able to win a hand-to-hand fight against an expert fighter). The acting is wooden, the editing is abrupt and annoying, and much of the key dialogue is incomprehensible even with repeated playbacks on a good sound system using a digital feed.
This one isn't worth watching even if you are terminally bored. Read a good book. Heck, read a BAD book; you wouldn't have the intelligence to visit IMDb and own a book THAT bad...
Exciting despite major flaws
I have to admit a strong prejudice against science fiction films that are so scientifically inaccurate and unbelievable that they are embarrassing to those of us who actually like SF. (Note: Star Wars isn't science fiction, it's fantasy, which doesn't have to follow rules). If I were Joseph P. Allen, the NASA consultant, I would die of shame. If you can't spot most or all of the flaws, then you probably don't care.
Besides the above, most of the characters were so forgettable that when they died you couldn't remember what they looked like! Many of the scenes on the asteroid looked like what they were: indoor sets under harsh lighting. I could go on but you get the picture. Brainless mind pap.
I must admit that despite everything I still enjoyed watching it (!) because of the off-the-top performances and some (but definitely not all) of the special effects. Nevertheless, my judgement is that while adolescents may like Armageddon, the best film of this type is Deep Impact, released the same summer.
Flawless thriller with humor
The film combines a great script, perfect acting by a first-rate cast, suspense and humor. From the first moments to the great ending it rivets your attention. Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw lead a tremendous cast (read the list for yourself) who all give great performances.
A must-see "9".
Possibly the best SciFi satire ever.
This film could have been a simple action flick, but it avoids that completely by having an intelligent plot, interesting lead character, and incredibly on-target satire of late 1980s trends. Although very violent, I can't really say it is gratuitious since the violence always serves the plot. A must-see, I rate it at 9.
Il mio nome è Nessuno (1973)
Very funny film that also is a great parody of Westerns
This film starts out funny and continues until almost the end, when it turns serious in a pleasant way. It works on both the level of comedy and also as a satire/parody of Westerns, especially of the "Spaghetti" kind (which it is itself). The English-dubbing is a bit bothersome until you stop noticing it, but the film is very stylistic of great Westerns, which is deliberate and itself quite funny.
Be wary of poor quality copies aired late at night, as (1) the film is tightly edited and won't support further editing common to late-night movie stations, and (2) the soundtrack has been very uneven and of poor quality every time I've seen the film (seven times before I stopped counting). Definitely worth it for people who like Westerns.
Surprisingly funny throughout
I saw this film on TV in the middle of a sleepless night, and found myself laughing out loud. The film manages to be funny by taking itself very seriously. Not nearly as good a satire as "Airplane," I'll admit, but still a great sendup of alien infection movies. The only problem I had was the casting of David Duchovny in the lead role; I felt he was trying much too hard to be funny, which is of course the fastest way not to be funny. Still, his forced performance does not do significant harm to the film.
For those who are interested in a more serious literary treatment of the same subject, read David Gerrold's "Chtorr" science fiction series.
Velocity Trap (1999)
Barely watchable, completely predictable
This film has a completely predictable plot, shallow characterization, poor acting, and a terrible ending. Suitable for watching late at night when you absolutely cannot fall asleep, after which you will learn there are worse fates than counting sparkles on the bedroom ceiling.