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An entertaining social commentary/comedy
14 November 2004
A friend loaned me this film and I'm glad he did. I am not knowledgeable on either the history of Simon Bolivar or current day Columbia, but this was not a barrier to enjoying the story. The protagonist is a lead in a very popular historical soap opera in which he plays Simon Bolivar. It is clear that the TV show is not going for historical accuracy, but is content to focus on Bolivar's love affairs. The script calls for Bolivar to be shot before a firing squad. Our protagonist begins to identify strongly with the character, especially the latter's dreams of a unified Columbia. He bolts from the set just before he is shot and visits the current president of Columbia who is a fan and invites him attend a political rally, where he feels he can benefit from the actor's popularity. A series of adventures ensue in which the lead character fluctuates between his own identity and that of Bolivar, moving more toward the latter as the film progresses. The humorous situations that follow are able to show how Bolivar's dream of a united Columbia have been thwarted by selfish politicians on both the right and left. This type of film often unravels about half way through, but "Bolivar Is Me" manages to reach the ending with flying colors. Very enjoyable on several levels. 7 of 10.
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Idiot (2003– )
Yes, it covers the entire novel, very well...
4 October 2004
Vladimir Bortko's Idiot is a faithful translation of Dostoyevsky's novel. I had read the novel again just recently before watching this 10 part, nearly 10 hour miniseries and I don't think that any of the key characters or events are left out, which is quite a feat in itself. All the characters are true to the novel. I found that parts, especially in the second half, were slow, but I found the novel to be slow in those parts as well.

As an American with no knowledge of Russian, I had to rely on the translation, which varied from very good (at least grammatically correct) to nearly incomprehensible. It was as if the translator went occasionally crazy and then recovered. However, it was good enough in all parts to follow although I found myself hitting the pause button to read some of the longer captions. The DVD, as far as I know, is available in the US only at

I found myself comparing this version to Kurosawa's. I think the two Russian male leads (Prince M. and Rogozhin) were as good as their Japanese counterparts, which is saying a lot, since Masayuki Mori and Toshiro Mifune were great in those parts. Mironov and Mashkov both capture the essence of their characters, the Prince's innocence and Rogozhin's violent love--hate relationship with Nastassya. I don't think the two female leads were as good as their Japanese counterparts, but it's difficult to beat the great Setsuko Hara. Kurosawa's film, cut down to 166 minutes, could only present a fraction of the novel's events and characters, but did a great job in choosing the ones to include. Only the character of Lebedev was really missed in the Japanese version. Lebedev, by the way, is terrific in this version. The Russian version really lets you get acquainted with the more minor characters like Hippolite and Keller.

Inna Churikova is a standout as Lizaveta Epanchina, a key character in both the films and novel.

Definitely recommended for fans of the novel and anyone who likes to settle into a good ten hour drama.
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Just exactly what you expected
28 September 2004
These comments are directed to people who have not seen this film AND are not highly religious. Don't waste your time. It is exactly what you probably imagine it to be. A huge amount of blood and beating, no character development whatsoever, no dramatic arc or humor, nothing whatever to indicate why this person is being beaten so savagely. The Jews and Romans, with the exception of Pilate and Simon of Cyrene, are completely cartoonish and one-dimensional. The very limited amount of time spent on flashbacks that might give some context to Jesus's character is a waste of film. Yes, the devil is an interesting character, but isn't he (she) always?

This is a Christian pep rally, nothing more. And it certainly does not adhere to the Bible in its details. Where have you gone Max von Sydow?
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Early Kurosawa is very enjoyable
10 September 2004
I have watched this several times and enjoyed each viewing. It's a very early Kurosawa, apparently done on a shoestring of a budget. However, we can already see Kurosawa's talents in pacing and setting up shots. Kenichi Enomoto as the porter appears out of place at first with his over the top mannerisms and broad comedy, but he fits into the story and breaks up the slower pace of some of the scenes. For Kurosawa and samurai fans, I think this will be more than just a curiosity. This has an early appearance of Masayuki Mori (the murdered husband in Roshomon) and a fairly early appearance of Takashi Shimura (leader of the seven samurai). I recommend this for the usual suspects.
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A terrific Setsuko Hara/Kurosawa film
5 September 2004
In my opinion, all of Kurosawa's films from 1946 through 1966 (I've seen about 18 which are available on video) are highly recommended. They are not only good the first time through, but hold up to multiple viewings. The star of No Regrets For our Youth is Setsuko Hara, who also starred in Kurosawa's The Idiot and in several Yasujiro Ozu films including Tokyo Story and Early Summer. From what I have heard on the commentaries, she was a big, big star in Japan and it's easy to see why. She conveys a tremendous amount of emotion and generates great sympathy for her characters. She was outstanding in Tokyo Story. We also have a short appearance by Takashi Shimura as a bad guy.

I was very impressed by how the film made the characters convincing in both the first act where they are college students, and then again nearly 10 years later. The characters have changed not only in appearance but in personality and mannerisms. It made the passing years very convincing.

The film is interesting from both an historical viewpoint and as a pure drama. This was made just a year or so after the Japanese surrender in World War II, and we get a good feel for how the militaristic government in Japan was able to gain the unquestioning support of most of the population. Some things never change, do they?

Highly recommended, although if you are starting out on Kurosawa, you may want to try something from the 1955 to 66 period.
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Not swept away by this cultish film
2 September 2004
Based on the trend of the comments here, I'm in the minority in not being swept away by Festen. The plot device of sexual abuse seems to have awed many viewers here. I think it was well handled and the idea of the father's power over his family and how it is challenged was interesting. However, the dogme rules of hand held digital cameras and natural lighting hurt this film in my opinion. Some hand-held shots are fine, a whole movie full of it is just annoying. I think the good (not great) acting was really compromised by the lack of adequate lighting, giving it almost a Blair Witch feel in some parts, which is no compliment.

As a point of reference, I found myself comparing this film to Pinter's The Homecoming. They both deal with estranged sons coming home to dysfunctional families (though they differ greatly in how the son confronts the father figure). They could not be more different though in execution. In Festen we have the constantly moving camera while in the Homecoming the camera is often static, since it is basically a recording of a stage play. I thought Homecoming was superior in terms of acting (THAT was great acting!) and cinematography. Again, I think the dogme rules actually detracted from the performances in Festen. I would give it a 7 out of 10, mostly for the way the family, immediate and extended, reacts to the confrontation between father and son.
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Stray Dog (1949)
A classic Kurosawa, Shimura, Mifune collaboration
26 August 2004
Although Toshiro Mifune usually gets the lion's share of attention, I am a very big fan of Takashi Shimura, who plays the older, wiser detective to Mifune's young, mercurial rookie detective in Stray Dog. Their other teaming up around the same period was in Kurosawa's Drunken Angel, where they each play very different parts but still have a sympathetic relationship. Shimura's most famous roles were as the dying bureaucrat in Ikiru and the Samurai leader in Seven Samurai. I really liked him in Stray Dog because, in the way he smoothly extracts information from shady characters and efficiently makes use of his time and effort, he is the perfect contrast to Mifune, who lashes out in all directions to recover his stolen gun. A real bonus in this movie is seeing actual locations in Japanese cities during the American occupation following WW II, while Japan was still recovering economically. The summer heat is a physical presence in this film, oppressing all the characters day after day, much in the same way as in High and Low, another terrific Kurosawa police thriller. Highly recommended.
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Very, very entertaining, but you have to learn who's who
24 August 2004
I won't distinguish between Parts 1 and 2 because I love them both and I'm really not that concerned about why Stalin loved the first one and hated the second. I had to watch these two films a few times to figure out the relationships between the characters and even after 10 or more viewings, I'm still seeing something new each time. These two films rank in my top 10 favorites of all time (if not the top 5). Why? Even though made in the 1940's, both films, especially Part 1, retain certain features of silent films but in no way look dated or old fashioned. The closeups of the characters and the way they look at each other reminds me of Dreyer's Joan of Arc. I have in mind the shot where Prince Kurbsky and Ivan's wife are in a closeup looking at each other and Ivan's aunt, his chief adversary, moves into the shot between them. Each one eyes the other in turn. Whether this is formally expressionism or not,I'm not sure, but it works incredibly well.

The relationships between the characters are a primary mover of the film and I don't think they can be fully appreciated with one viewing (at least I couldn't). I defy anyone to figure out who all these people are the first time through. We have Ivan, his wife, his wife's family, Ivan's aunt and her relations, the boyars (barons), the archbishop (2 of them), the ambassadors, Prince Kurbsky (who resembles John Barrymore), the king of Poland, Ivan's advisors and bodyguards, etc, etc. Each one plays a specific role in these two epics. The arc of the relationships between Ivan and Prince Kurbsky and between Ivan and Fyodor Kolychev (later Archbiship Philip)are great fun to watch. The commoners who become Ivan's loyal retainers cannot understand why he simply does not kill all the boyars (nobleman) who are plotting against him. Ivan will eventually do that but he also makes clear that his loyalties lie as much with his family as with the "dogs" who have contracted "boyar's disease", that is, sucking up to the czar. Ivan tries to retain the friendship and loyalty of Kolychev, who has retired to a monastery. Ivan raises him to archbishop and hopes to have a friend in the church. Kolychev, however, remains loyal to his family and the other boyars in condemning Ivan for usurping the title of czar. The scene where Ivan crawls on the floor and pulls on Kolychev's 20 foot robe asking for his blessing is unforgettable.

Once I became familiar with all the characters and their relationships, I found no slow or boring parts in the whole of the two films. There are some great set pieces such as the flashback to Ivan as a child where he watches as his bribed ministers fight with each other over which foreign power should get Russia's land, or the celebration where Ivan decides to do away with his aunt's dimwitted son, who the boyars are supporting as a rival to Ivan. I could go on and on, but my point is that these two films can greatly reward anyone who makes the effort to get to know them. These are immensely entertaining and stand on there own. They don't need an art appreciation course to convince you that you are supposed to like them. See them on the Criterion DVDs. 10 of 10 for each Part.
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Upon second viewing, disappointing
23 August 2004
I greatly enjoyed Kill Bill Vol 1 and would happily give it a 9 out of 10. It had the right combination of goofiness and real action. I watched the Volume 1 DVD the night before I saw Vol 2 in the theatre, so I was all primed. While I did not like it as much as Volume 1, I thought that Volume 2 was pretty decent after the first viewing. I enjoyed David Carradine, Michael Madsden was excellent and the Kiddo/Elle fight was pretty good. I felt the ending dragged, but I was willing to put up with that as a change of pace. I still would have graded it an 8 out of 10 at that point.

After watching the DVD of Vol 2, I really have to downgrade my rating to a 6 or less. Bill really gets BORING! Now I know why Kiddo left him--she couldn't stand any more of those long-winded stories of his. There's nothing wrong with long stretches of dialogue if the characters have something to say. Bill's philosophical ramblings collapse under their own weight. They certainly cannot be supported by the plot and characterizations of either Kill Bill volume, unless they were cut down to about 1/3 their length, and then we would have been left with very little movie.

I'll be re-watching the Volume 1 DVD from time to time, while Volume 2 collects dust. Let's call it 5 out of 10. That doesn't make the 6 out of 10 needed for repeat viewing.
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The darkest of the Zatoichi series
23 August 2004
Zatoichi in Desperation is the most somber and darkest Zatoichi film that I have seen in the series, both in terms of photography and plot. It's interesting that Shintaro Katsu, who plays Zatoichi, was the director. He was certainly going for a different look and style and got it. Most of the scenes are darkly lit and there is a claustrophobic feeling to the shots. The bad guys, composed of the local yakuza (gangster) mob, are meaner than usual and the body count of innocent villagers is far higher than usual. Zatoichi himself also suffers more at the hands of the evil doers than usual. This was the next to last entry (#24) in the series before the 17 year hiatus between #25 and 26. Things get back into the more typical Zatoichi style in #25. This film would have been appropriate as the last in the series. It has the feeling of "an ending". A very interesting entry, but not one of my favorites. As always, recommended for Zatoichi fans.
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Another solid entry in the series
23 August 2004
Zatoichi's Conspiracy has our hero returning to his hometown and making the acquaintance of his "sister", a young orphan raised by the same old woman who raised Zatoichi. The bad guy is an official who also grew up in the same village and was a childhood friend of Zatoichi. He appears to be befriending the village by paying off their tax debt, but lays claim to the village quarry, which serves as the only source of income besides farming. A high point of this film is the appearance of Takashi Shimura, the hero of many Kurosawa films including Seven Samurai, as the guardian of Zatoichi's new-found sister. The ending is a little bit of a copout as Zatoichi struggles to decide whether he can bring himself to kill his old friend. A solid entertaining entry to the series.
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Contempt (1963)
A film should stand on its own and not require an art appreciation course
20 August 2004
Godard's New Wave film about movie making is really quite boring for the most part. Bardot gives an excellent performance, but much of it is extremely repetitive and annoying, especially the scenes with her screenwriter husband in their apartment, which is a large part of the film. One scene in which they discuss whether or not he should take the writing job and go to the filming on Capri is ludicrously belabored and will really test your patience.

Some good points: It was fun seeing Fritz Lang playing himself as a rather benign elder statesman-type director. Jack Palance is also good as the over-the-top ugly American producer. The scenic photography of Capri is beautiful. Georgia Moll as Palance's assistant was excellent as was much of Bardot's performance, when she was saying the same thing over and over.

This is the type of "art film" that gives foreign movies a bad name. It oozes pretension, as does the commentary track that goes with the Criterion release. The "meanings" given for many of the scenes appear arbitrary and I don't see how anyone without a deep background in the films and film makers of the period would come up with these ideas. I guess that's the attraction of films like this, but I'm not going to pretend I liked it. I watch at least as many foreign films as US films and I am a great fan of the French films of the 30's, 40's and early 50's from Renoir, Clouzot, Bresson, Carne and Cocteau, so this is not xenophobia. I liked Alphaville but most of the French and Italian films of the late 50's and 60's leave me cold. Obviously this is a matter of taste, but I think a film should stand on its own merits and not require an art appreciation course to validate them.
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Orpheus (1950)
A great story with great imagery
20 August 2004
This is my favorite Cocteau film and the most accessible of the Orpheus trilogy, which includes Blood of the Poet (1930) and The Testament of Orpheus (1960). It tells the story of a poet's love for both his wife and "The Princess", a shadowy figure who conducts humans to the underworld upon their death. Orpheus is obsessed with the figure of Death and, ignoring his pregnant wife, follows her into the underworld. The Princess, in turn, falls in love with Orpheus, conducts Orpheus's wife into the underworld, and is eventually punished for "breaking the rules". The underworld is portrayed as a bureaucracy where drab clerks hold hearings in small drab rooms and bring down the wrath of the "rules" on anyone who does not play out their specified role.

Maria Casares is superb as the Princess but François Périer is my favorite character, Heurtebise, the Princesses assistant who also "breaks the rules" by falling in love with Orpheus' wife. Jean Marais is also excellent as the poet Orpheus. Cocteau comments on the role of the poet in society through the role of Orpheus. The young avant garde crowd has turned against Orpheus and now worships the vacant Cegeste. Orpheus asks his publisher what he must do to regain their admiration and is told to "astonish us". When the police inspector is about to arrest Orpheus and then, upon recognizing him, lets him off and asks for his autograph, you know we're not in Kansas (or anywhere in the US).

Several of the characters (The Princess, Heurtebise and Cegeste), played by the same actors, repeat their roles 10 years later in The Testament of Orpheus, passing judgement on Cocteau himself. Their scenes are the best part of that film.

This is a very beautiful film that I've grown to like more and more upon repeat viewings. 9 out of 10.
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Red Beard (1965)
A story of transformation
17 August 2004
The heart of this excellent and final Kurosawa/Mifune collaboration is the transformation of the young doctor from a cocky and arrogant intern interested mainly in prestige and advancement (he plans on being the Shogun's personal physician) to a doctor who's primary goal is to provide medical treatment and emotional support to the poor people who rely on a public clinic. The trick was to make this transformation believable and in my opinion they succeeded. Through a succession of events that tests the young doctors preconceptions, he moves through an intellectual, emotional and physical transformation (becoming quite ill and being nursed back to health by a patient he has recently cared for)that is wholly believable. He not only sees the clinic and its patients in a new light, but is able to reconcile his feelings toward his former finance who had jilted him. Mifune shows a new side to his character as he becomes embarrassed, grunting and huffing, when his protege begins to emulate him. A very moving film supported by an excellent musical score. Another feather in Kurosawa's cap.
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Seven Samurai (1954)
Memorable characters and one of the best action movies of all times
17 August 2004
Having seen Kurosawa's Seven Samurai at least 10 times, I still see something new every time I watch it. I don't see how anyone, especially a non-Japanese, could possibly absorb this movie in less than 2 or 3 viewings. I've always been surprised at how each of the 7 samurai can make such an individual impression on you even if you can't understand Japanese. Although Toshiro Mifune is often considered the star, for me its Takashi Shimura who is firmly fixed at the center of the movie. He is the guiding moral force from the moment of his appearance in the film and can capture the viewer's attention in a way similar to Alec Guinness. Mifune's character can be annoying at first in his loutish behavior, but he gains stature throughout the film and eventually becomes a unifying force second only to Shimura. Minoru Chiaki as the woodcutting samurai provides a subtle humor and the others look to him to boost their morale. Daisuke Kato is another very familiar face to Japanese movie fans and provides an excellent foil to Shimura as his second in command. Yoshio Inaba is very good as the samurai who is recruited by Shimura and quickly builds a strong rapport with him. Seiji Miyaguchi as the "expert" warrior, dedicated to honing his skill as a swordsman is a very low key yet likeable character. Ko Kimura as the young hero-worshipping samurai, as well as the love interest of the peasant girl, wishes to be a great samurai, but is easily distracted by a field of flowers or a pretty face. The peasants in the village being defended by the samurai each have their own defining characteristics as well.

In addition to the wealth of interesting characters, we have a terrific action plot--the defending of the village from 40 marauding bandits by the small troop of samurai--, and a more subtle secondary plot involving the distrust of the samurai by the villagers due to the historical interaction of these two classes in feudal Japan. All of these plot and character elements are woven together into an unforgettable epic, but, at least in my opinion, its not one that can be absorbed in a single sitting. While it's similar in this sense to another of my favorite epics, Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West, it is more complex given the number of characters.

I can only say that your patience with this film will probably be well rewarded if you take the time to give it multiple viewings. You will also have the pleasure of seeing many of the samurai and villagers pop up in other Kurosawa films and films of other Japanese directors. If you like Mifune and Shimura in this one, catch them in Stray Dog and Drunken Angel in very different settings and parts.

This one is 10 out of 10 without a doubt.
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Entertaining vampire entry
16 August 2004
I understand how people can get upset if one of their favorite books is not accurately translated, but the quality of a film and the faithfulness of its adaptation are two different issues. Most of the negative comments for this film are from people who were annoyed that the plot did not follow Anne Rice's book. I enjoyed many of her earlier novels, but eventually tired of her style. I don't even remember if I finished Queen of the Damned, so I wasn't carrying that baggage. The plot of the movie, however much it does or does not follow the novel, is perfectly coherent. The acting is good for the most part. I did not care for the part of Jesse, but LeStat, Akasha, Maharet (Lena Olin)and especially Marius were all good. A little too much pyrotechnics, but that's a minor complaint. The interplay between LeStat and Marius was my favorite part. I liked how Marius looked after LeStat even though he was against his plans for exposing the vampires. Not great, but a decent addition to the genre.
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Right near the top of my Bergman list and any other list
16 August 2004
After watching this film 4 or 5 times over the years, it has moved into the top spot on my Bergman list and is one of my all time favorite movies. There is not a wasted moment in this film. It consists of one great set piece after another. What a cast! Gunnar Bjornstrand gives the best performance of a clergyman since Claude Laydu in Diary of a Country Priest and even outshines him due to the interaction with the rest of the cast. Ingrid Thulin is just outstanding as his former mistress, not only in the long closeup where she bares her soul to Bjornstrand through a letter she has written, but in several scenes where she endures humiliation after humiliation from him in an effort to cut through the wall he has built around his emotions. We also have the little community of church inhabitants--the cynical organist, the hunchbacked handyman, the stern rector. Each one challenges Bjornstrand's faith in a different way. Above all, we have Max von Sydow as a depressed parishioner, looking to the pastor for a reason to continue living and finding none. As we learn in the supplementary material to the Criterion DVD, Bjornstrand was quite sick with bronchitis during filming and this adds to the credibility of his performance. This is absolutely a 10 out of 10. A great,great film.
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Better than I had any right to hope
15 August 2004
I go with the group that came away pleasantly surprised. This could easily have been far worse. Good points: Coherent plot that does not try to tie into the previous films; excellent alien monsters and queen; loved the predator's bad attitude; Lance Hendriksen; a couple of good showdowns between the predators and aliens. Bad points: The whole rest of the cast; many of the early predator/alien contacts too jumpy--I just HATE those quick cuts; too few really good encounters--I felt a little cheated that the movie wasn't longer with a few more good one on ones between aliens and predators. Certainly not as good as Alien 2, but for my money, at least as good as any of the Predator movies. I don't think you'll be disappointed unless you really have you mind set against it.
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Trainspotting (1996)
Good dialog but just doesn't connect with me
11 August 2004
Warning: Spoilers
We have a group of young male friends that include 2 sociopaths (Sick Boy and Begbie),a dimwit (Spud), and two fairly normal guys, Tommy, and the main protagonist, "Rent Boy" (McGregor). All except Begbie are heroin users, which is portrayed as an alternative to lower middle class "normal" life in Scotland. Tommy decides to give drugs a try and quickly comes down with AIDS. Begbie (Carlyle)is a really distasteful violent criminal with no redeeming qualities. The other characters are interesting due to the dialog rather than anything inherent in their characters. Anyone who likes dark British humor (eg, Naked) will find this entertaining, at least to a point, as I did. There is some very funny dialog, as when the boys are out on a scenic countryside walk and one exclaims that the air is so clean, and another replies that when you live in a "shite" country like Scotland, the clean air don't enter into it. Rent Boy tries to get clean, gets a job, but is ultimately pulled back into the crime and drug scene by his friends. Whether he ultimately escapes is anyone's guess. At the end of the film, my feeling was similar to the one I had for Requiem for a Dream-- namely, things evolve pretty much as you would expect for a group of heavy drug users. Trainspotting, however, has far better dialog than Requiem which really carries the film, although I did not find any of the characters interesting in themselves. I give this a 7 out of 10. Like Requiem, many people are awed by this film, but I don't think this has much repeat viewing potential for me.
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A Coen Brothers miss
31 July 2004
I like many of the Coen Bros. films and others just don't work for me. This is one of the misses. When I first saw the movie advertised, it looked like a typical Hollywood package which I was happy to skip over. When I saw it was a Coen Bros., I gave it a shot. I loved Clooney in O Brother Where Art Thou. My reaction after watching Intolerable Cruelty was-- a typical Hollywood package. The characters were completely unbelievable, moving from sharks to romantic saps in an instant. Nicolas Cage's H.I. McDunnough in Raising Arizona had more depth and the plot of that film was more believeable than this one. I did like Clooney's assistant and his boss. Five out of 10 is the best I can do for this.
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Different from the original but good
31 July 2004
Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance was quite different from the first Lady Snowblood. That one concentrated on the story of her revenge for deeds against her mother 20 years in the past. This one uses the framework of the clash between the rising authoritarian nationalist movement under the first Meiji emperor and the rising class of urban poor led by intellectual nihilists. It's pretty funny seeing kids skipping down the city streets singing songs about Japan being victorious over Russia in the 1905 war. Our Lady is swept along by these events rather than controlling them. After being sentenced to death for her deeds in the first film, she is "rescued" on the way to the gallows by the emperor's secret police and recruited to infiltrate the nihilists who have documents that could bring down the government. Lady Snowblood switches sides and we progress through torture, bubonic plague as a weapon of mass destruction, and class warfare. The film is carried more by the characters around Snowblood than by her, especially the two anti-government brothers that Snowblood befriends, as well as the police chief, who can't get a break in this movie. He's the bad guy but reminds me of Inspector Clouseau, whether falling off his horse or getting his eye poked out. However, she does what she needs to do and provides the action we expect. Altogether, I enjoyed this one better than the first. 7 of 10.
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Great story, great duel, great finish
31 July 2004
Samurai III: Duel on Ganryu Island is the closing film of Inagaki's Samurai trilogy, the story of Musashi Miyamoto (Mifune). It is one of the best samurai films on its own and has the advantage of having the characters' history established in the first two films of the trilogy. This film abounds in good characters: Musashi's two disciples, a young boy and a horse trader, who exchange good natured barbs and loyally support Musashi; the two women in Musashi's life, good girl Otsu and bad girl Akemi; the brigand leader and his henchman, who was formerly Akemi's stepfather; and of course, Musashi's nemesis, Kojiro Sasaki, who is outstanding in both this film and Samurai II. Kojiro is actually a more interesting character than Musashi and reminds me of Tatsuya Nakadai's performance in Sword of Doom. The climactic duel on the beach with the rising sun in the background is amazing. Side note: This film has four of Kurosawa's Seven Samurai actors: Mifune, Shimura, Kato and Chiaki. See the whole trilogy.
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Wow! Tatsuya Nakadai in Zatoichi
27 July 2004
I couldn't believe it when I saw Tatsuya Nakadai (Yojimbo, Sanjuro, Harakiri, High and Low, Ran, etc,etc) pop up in this Zatoichi episode as a crazed, jilted husband out for revenge on almost everyone, including Zatoichi. I noticed the credits had a variation of his name (Nakayo, I think it was). We also have Masayuki Mori (Rashomon, The Idiot, etc) as the mandatory evil boss. Only this time, the evil boss is an evil SUPERBOSS, he's blind (and therefore obviously much more dangerous) and resembles Fritz Lang's Dr. Mabuse. We also have a great humorous side story with Peter (the blind younger brother in Ran) playing an effeminate pimp who tries to seduce and kill Zatoichi --a riot--in order to enter the local yakuza gang. There's also a very funny scene with two roadhouse employees that had me laughing out loud. The cast, characters and plot really set this one above many of the Zatoichi's, including the one Katsu did with Toshiro Mifune (Zatoichi vs. Yojimbo). The film is directed by Kenji Misumi, who directed some of the best Zatoichi films as well as several of the Lone Wolf and Cub series. An absolute must-see for Zatoichi fans and highly recommended for sumarai movie fans. As a Zatoichi movie, 11 out of 10, as a samurai movie or on any other basis, 9 of 10.
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Eijirô Tono makes this one of the series best
24 July 2004
This is the 15th Zatoichi installment and one of the best in my opinion. The color cinematography is beautiful, especially a scene where Zatoichi approaches his adversaries at night in falling snow. Eijirô Tono (the innkeeper in Yojimbo who befriends Mifune) does a great job as Senzo the swordmaker, who it turns out was the maker of Zatoichi's sword. The plot is typical Zatoichi but the characters are better drawn than usual. The swordplay seems better than usual as well. There is also a little more humor and its very well done. Instead of the mysterious stranger who Zatoichi always has to fight after he wipes out all the evil Yakuza bosses and corrupt government officials, there is a comical gambler character who challenges Zatoichi to a dice "dual". Highly recommended for Zatoichi fans.
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A Man Escaped (1956)
Good, but driven by plot and style rather than character
24 July 2004
After watch Diary of a Country Priest, also directed by Robert Bresson, which I greatly enjoyed, I was looking forward to seeing A Man Escaped. I found I did not get involved with the main character nearly as much as the first film. I don't think this will stand up to repeat viewing and that's one of the main measures I use for ranking a film. This movie is really rather clinical in its depiction of characters and events. His escape is a problem to be solved by discipline, ingenuity, courage and lessons learned from others who are not so successful. I think the movie came alive to some extent when the young collaborator is put in the main character's cell. The latter must then make a decision: Kill him (he may be a German spy) or take him along. I can only give this a 7, but still recommend it.
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