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For Good (2003)
slow yet atmospheric and gripping; very good value
It is remarkable how badly a good movie can be received in its own country. Perhaps the contemplative pacing and intersecting of past and present along with the inter-splicing of two of the key characters just had too much competition from the succession of Peter Jackson blockbusters.
Contrary to many reviews from fellow New Zealanders, I found the movie atmospheric, thoughtful, compelling, and well acted. Indeed, I was startled to realise it was a local product, the 'feel' of it being more Nordic.
There is a jarring turn toward the end when it suddenly shifts gears into action-thriller. However this is soon resolved satisfactorily - and not over-predictably. One could argue it was indeed necessary to the story.
There has been some criticism to the effect this movie gives little insight into the subject of rape and murder. Yet those involved in making this film have been involved for years in working with .... rapists and murderers! One wonders what such critics expected? Is the truth of the matter just too banal for those in film-land to find 'convincing'?
Halifax f.p.: Playing God (2001)
Emily Browning, of course
Halifax FP is an OK series, featuring our own (New Zealand born) very pretty Rebecca Gibney in the lead role. The early episodes - as a I recall them now some years later - were probably the strongest.
I saw this particular episode some two to three years ago. The performance by Emily Browning was a revelation! It is rare that I remember any actor's or actress's name, but Emily's was burned into my brain by her unbelievably mature and insightful portrayal. She shone, and frankly ran rings around our (sadly well outclassed) star of the show.
I was pleased, and not at all surprised, when I heard last year she'd won the role in Lemony Snickett. I'm not surprised - as I just learned - her interests include literature, philosophy and psychology (imdb bio). I hope she continues to bring her special insights to her acting, and that she will be seen, internationally, for a long time to come.
The world will certainly be the richer for it.
Brilliant; different; but clearly not for everyone!
I was lucky to buy - and watch - this movie before I looked it up on IMDb, as the comments here would doubtless have put me off! I respect anyone's right to not like a movie of course, and to say so. But I am surprised by some of the reasons given.
'The acting was terrible'/'the script was rubbish': a ha, OK...so we all know how people in this situation should act and what they should say? But of course we do; they should act in the expertly modulated delivery of a professionally trained and honed actor - voices dripping with the carefully rising degrees of tension dictated by the director's dramatic vision...except, oh wait, that makes _real_ people in _real_ situations terribly bad actors (just listen carefully to yourselves and your workmates or family sometime)! And this is the problem I have with almost every movie that depicts real people such as, in this case, astronauts and scientists. _Real_ people actually do talk all at once, hesitate, talk in monotone when they're trying to mask their feelings, etc etc.
That brings me to _this_ movie which surprised me with its honest attempt at realism: the voices sounded authentic, as distinct from other movies in this sub-genre such as 'Mission to Mars' and 'Red Planet' where dialog was all "acted" and the astronauts seemed like the writers' _idea_ of an astronaut rather than a real astronaut. However in this movie I suspect the almost documentary, real-people-talking feel of it was a deliberate instruction on the director's part.
'the story did not explain everything that happened': hey, welcome to the real world people! The fact this movie did _not_ neatly tie everything up struck me as one of its best features. It added (again) to the realism.
Realism (note I do not say 'reality', this is fiction after all) - combined with an amazingly evocative sense of atmosphere and mystery (aided by a superb soundtrack that continued to haunt me) - is why I think this movie is brilliant. Actually one of the best I have ever seen.
As a scientist (albeit decidedly _not_ an astronaut and decidedly _not_ having ever been "Stranded") I found the voices, reactions, decisions, and thought processes authentic; the events and experiences throughout the movie believable; and even the climactic discovery credible: indeed to me it mimicked perfectly a sense of what scientific mystery is all about. I found it a totally satisfying movie experience.
The voting clearly shows this movie is not for everyone! Only a small minority gave it ten as I did; and the most frequent choices were either 1 or 6. Still I wonder if some of the sixers at least might not reconsider on a more thoughtful viewing, looking at it as a highly non-formulaic work?
I note the director (who also took a lead acting role here, 'very badly' of course) has one other movie to her credit, apparently with a documentary style to it. I think that reveals a lot about her approach here. I also think I shall watch her career-arc with interest.
Andrew Niccols excels in producing thought-provoking work. This movie is no exception, but adds a large helping of gently satirical humour. It is laugh-out loud funny. Although I rate the much more serious and slow-paced Gattaca his best movie so far because everything contributed to a coherent and satisfying package, with Simone he has produced a much more accessible work.
The negatives? In places the ideas are spelled out more than they need to be (perhaps Niccols has been accused of obscurity in the past and tried to compensate?); and some of the acting lacks engagement particularly that of Catherine Keener, as though she couldn't quite figure out what sort of touch (light? OTT? dramatic?) to aim for. However the work by Al Pacino and Evan Rachel Wood more than makes up for it.
Overall still a thoroughly wry, amusing piece. Highly recommended.
The Avengers (1998)
Can be enjoyed if not taken too seriously. Quirkiness a plus.
Apart from the technical effects, the other strength of this movie is that it recaptures the quirky eccentricity of the original series featuring Emma Peel, but is otherwise nowhere near as good. Not a movie one would want to see again. But disengage your critical faculties and it's enjoyable enough. Particularly recommended for teenage boys (e.g., my son!).