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Ben_Cheshire

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337 reviews in total 
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Shattered (2007)
5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Annoying woman, Johnny McNoFace and Pierce Brosnan: 'nuff said., 20 October 2009
1/10

Maria Bello is annoying; her husband is a Johnny McNoFace and Pierce Brosnan is more nauseating than he's ever been. This is one of those movies where two everyday people get ordered around by a nauseating criminal who treats them like he's directing actors, but like he just knows what's going on and he won't let them in on it. He's snide and superior and unlikeable, in a bad way. Its an irritating kind of character, and Pierce has been annoying in everything except James Bond, with his arch eyebrow-acting.

Its the kind of movie that you turn off after ten minutes because you've seen it all before and then never think about ever again until you run across it on TV, as I did tonight, and realise you hadn't missed anything.

Reviewer's Favourite movies: Pulp Fiction, Dances with Wolves, Lawrence of Arabia, Die Hard.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A bit implausible learning-film for Polanski., 9 October 2009
6/10

A good-looking Polish couple nearly run into a hitch-hiker. Five minutes later, depending on how good your subtitle translation is, they're justified in inviting him to go yachting with them.

Young Polanski made some beautiful films in black and white, all influenced by Hitchcock. This one, his first feature-length, is well regarded, and has been given the full Criterion treatment, yet it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I can think of many interesting films centred on boat-rides. The African Queen, Apocalypse Now, Dead Calm. Most of them lack focus. I'm personally not a fan of most of them, but in this case I found this film picked up a sense of motion once the boat-ride started. The motives of the characters was unclear to me due to a poor subtitle translation with many untranslated passages (Australian release distributed by Umbrella, always a port of something else. Definitely not Criterion.) But despite allowing for gaps of dialogue, I can't imagine any justification that would make me accept why a man would invite a stranger onto his private boat along with his beautiful wife; and then not even seem bothered when she lies around in her bikini and begins looking longingly at the hitchhiker.

Also, the jazz score feels inappropriate at times, being not composed specifically for the film, and suggesting a carefree mood, rather than a purpose-composed score which might have suggested something deeper or sinister going on underneath the placid surface of the film.

CONCLUSION: surprised I was ambivalent, when I've loved all other early Polanski.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Unpleasant, but not in a good way., 29 September 2009
3/10

"Tell me about my vagina." To enjoy this film, you'll need to a) turn off your disbelief entirely, as it features a fairly preposterous and exploitative premise b) put up with unpleasant characters and unpleasant happenings, without expecting any thrills or pleasures at all c) be interested in the craft of acting.

Jeremy Irons' portrayal of a set of twins is a case study in the art of acting, but unfortunately I found this movie so unpleasant I couldn't keep watching after about an hour. It wasn't anything specific, like scenes of visceral body-related gore that Cronenberg specialises in, and that I usually enjoy, but just that after an hour I couldn't spend time with these unpleasant characters any more, and both their souls and, plainly, their faces, just made me glad to be rid of them.

I feel sort of petty to be panning a film based on this kind of thing, but as unpleasant as Jeremy Irons' twins are (though a brilliant technical feat of acting), it was actually Geneviève Bujold I couldn't look at any more. I just couldn't hear another line sounding preposterous in her thick accent any more. Perhaps its my aversion to hearing how unconvincing performances can be when they're combating a thick natural accent, perhaps she's just a very unattractive woman, but I must apologise, I couldn't do it. So, before you assume I'm a bad person and judge me, consider the possibility that you might find a similar problem with this one.

6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Perfected the clichés that made every filmmaker want to rob casinos., 29 September 2009
10/10

"Bob the high-roller," as he was called in the translation I watched; loves gambling. He's also a thief. Everyone thinks he's retired, including the police sergeant he keeps in touch with. But he suddenly gets a taste for it again, and decides to put a group together and rob a casino. Remade un-memorably with Nick Nolte as The Good Thief, this black and white French original created the clichés that made the whole world sing, from Ocean's Eleven (1960), Reservoir Dogs (1991), Casino (1994) and every other breezy heist movie ever made. Stanley Kubrick said he stopped making crime movies because Melville made the perfect one here.

Great characters, a memorable score with jazzy sections, great performances, and probably the best pacing and story of any heist/noir/crime movie from the 30's, 40's or 50's. This is just guaranteed compulsively good entertainment, and as a first experience from Jean-Pierre Melville, instantly encourages me to see everything else he did. My next steps will by Le Cercle Rouge, Army in the Shadows and Le Samourai.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Sentimental gem from the master with the moving camera., 29 September 2009
7/10

A once famed concert pianist receives a letter from a woman that he can't place; luckily Max Ophuls is around to jog his memory, basically illustrating her letter which tells the story of her life and encounters with the pianist. The question is: how significant were her encounters with him that he doesn't recall them? A simple story told beautifully, with Joan Fontaine appearing as the woman and narrating her letter. French heartthrob Louis Jordain plays the pianist, and both he and Fontaine are marvellous here.

A beautiful sentimental film from Max Ophuls shot in gorgeous black and white, in a standard 1:33.1 aspect ratio. This is a great place to appreciate Ophuls' taste for sentiment, lush choreographed dolly and crane shots, and high living.

It is a small story, however, gently paced; a mood piece.

G.I. Jane (1997)
1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A cutesy name for an abrasive and confronting film about prejudice., 29 September 2009
6/10

Demi Moore is one female Seal out of water.

In most cases of discrimination, the minority party is a small percentage of the total population. They have friends, you might say. Here its one against the world. The odds aren't hardly fair. The environment of prejudice here is completely believable. We don't need much convincing that Navy Seals training is a hardcore testosterone-fueled boys club. And its a scary place to be. I'd liken it to a girl put into an all-boys public high-school. She's eaten alive at every turn. The viewer is put in the position of such vulnerability, because we are aligned with the one woman in a world full of bitter, threatened soldiers, constantly passing sexist comments and threatening to take advantage of the female Seal.

There are moments that border on exploitation: Demi Moore's implants are put to good use in a sequence doing pushups in a short cut-off shirt, set to Three Dog Night's Mama Told Me (Not to Come). There is a speech intended for dafter viewers by an African-American character sympathising with Moore by likening her to his grandfather who was refused navy service on the grounds that African-Americans can't see at night (A surreal anecdote, but believable.) On the whole, however, the film is well made in Ridley's late style, which is to say, less style than his earlier pictures. It has several glimpses of the striking lighting which characterised his earlier pictures. My recommendations are as follows: 1) If you're looking for a silly movie, this is not one. Its dark.

2) If you're looking for a dark war training picture, or a good drama, then I recommend it.

3) If you're going through all Ridley Scott's movies as I am, this is a good three-star picture, but probably won't be one of your favourites by the end, which for me so far are Alien, Legend and Blade Runner.

2 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
I had no reason to be nervous..., 26 September 2009
10/10

I was nervous seeing this. Death Proof was a major disappointment, it felt all talk and no fun compared to the joyful Planet Terror; and my first experience with Kill Bill had left me scarred and distrustful of Quentin. I guess I thought I knew who he was after P.Fiction, R.Dogs and J.Brown; and probably all I wanted from him was witty dialogue. I guess I hadn't really paid attention to the other aspects of those films which QT has chosen to indulge long-term 1) they're all genre-exploitation 2) they all feature Surprise Symphony pacing, with long stretches that lull you into a sense of comfort, then sudden climaxes, of which several of his finest to date are contained in Inglourious Basterds.

Even though I love Kill Bill now, and plan to never see Death Proof again, I decided to expect nothing from Inglourious Basterds. I decided that even if I didn't like it, I might grow to like it some day. Basically, all my fears were unnecessary. IB is an immediately satisfying and mature work of art, with incredible pacing and structure, and stories that pay off big time.

More than anything else, IB demonstrates, perhaps just how much restraint QT is capable of. The moments are wrought with such Also, QT has finally given us some real characters, who seem to think and feel things. (Though obviously with a Tarantino-style panache). And damn it we really care what happens to them; which is something I don't think I've ever felt during one of his movies. This is landmark maturity from a director who has usually sacrificed sentiment for style. Not that this is a sentimental movie; God no. But I'll leave all of that up to your experience. Save to say that unless you're a bit squeamish and don't like violence at all, you'll want to see what Quentin Taratino has made for you.

As someone who was a big fan of early Quentin; and hesitant follower of the Kill-Bill saga, IB finally makes Quentin into a fully-rounded and satisfying filmmaker; his most mature work to date, sacrificing none of his flair and style. Should go down in the books as his best film, if not as historically important as Pulp Fiction.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A movie with great promise, 26 September 2009
2/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Bromance involving a wicked old jaded comedy actor (Adam Sandler) and the wide-eyed ingenue he hires to be his assistant while he deals with his illness by ignoring it and getting back into stand-up comedy.

Its true that Funny People is a mature work from Judd Apatow, but I consider Knocked Up and 40 Year Old Virgin about the two maturest movies in the genre ever made. You might argue that's because its a genre about boys refusing to grow up, talking about their genitals and refusing to settle down. Judd has always been prepared to take those kinds of guys and basically force them to grow up or settle down, which is the riskiest thing you can do in that genre.

Funny People is less of a high-concept film than his two previous efforts, particularly as the plot wends its way following the characters and their relationships. One of its central themes is a very interesting one about what's its like to be a comedian and have to deal with the more serious aspects of life, like the news that you have a life-threatening illness, most obviously. If his previous films seemed often bloated, despite their strong focus, Funny People suffers badly in its final hour. Unfortunately for Funny People, there seem to be many hours to choose from in Funny People. For all its two hours and twenty-odd minutes, Funny People seems far far longer. It could have benefited from picking one thing to wrap up by the 90 minute mark; Funny People seems intent on wrapping everything up, and using many words to do it, instead of ever using a single image, which is what separates films from plays. This is down to the way Judd works; his scenes are often pieced together from riffs and variations the actors have done on his material during filming; which is why his actors, who are usually comedians themselves, always use words to resolve things. This problem could have been solved by excising entire improvised scenes and replacing them with single images, to save us all going through unnecessary arguments, where characters often talk about their themes and feelings, which if Judd had written it, would be bad writing. To put it simply, Judd's movies tend to lack what Hemingway described as the iceberg principle: what you see is only the top of the iceberg; it hints at the rest of the story underneath. This principle is obviously more suited to dramas than comedies, where the most important thing is humour, so things necessarily are a bit more explicit than in dramas.

Being a fan of Judd's work in general, you grow to accept his faults, but the strengths of Funny People make it a real shame that it lost its focus so badly in the final hour. It contains Seth Rogen's most charming performance to date, and Adam Sandler creates Judd's most fascinating characters to date. Its filthiness lacks the variety of previous efforts, mainly being repetitions of the word "cock." Unfortunately there are only so many times this word can be used in a movie before it begins to sound like a fetish. Yes, its that bad.

Here be spoilers, as I need to discuss the offending portion of the movie. Sandler's character is a really bad guy. He presents as a villain in the opening. By 90 minutes we nearly forgive him how he treats people and grow to not mind living with him; but then Judd felt it necessary to give his wife, actress Leslie Mann, and their two children, all of who featured memorably in Knocked Up as Paul Rudd's family, along with Australian actor Eric Bana, a sizeable chunk of screen time. Sadly all these characters are completely unnecessary and they dissolve what once was an interesting situation into the oldest of Hollywood clichés, a love triangle. The problem was it was enough work to get us to like Adam Sandler's character, and get him to start being nice to Seth Rogen's character, that we were satisfied when that occurred, at 90 minutes. It simply wasn't necessary to do all that French farce business surrounding Eric Bana being Leslie Mann's new man and them sneaking behind his back, all the while the only interesting storyline (Seth Rogen) sits on the couch minding the kids.

So, a movie with great promise that severely broke its promise through poor discipline and an inability to draft its material and cut its fat to create a far better-tasting meal.

Silverado (1985)
3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Four cowboys struggle against bad direction to make a throwback western script come to life., 16 September 2009
2/10

Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Danny Glover and Kevin Costner play four cowboys struggling against bad direction to make a throwback western script by the writer of such classics as The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Some fare better than others. Danny Glover makes a lion sized effort. Scott Glenn is nearly convincing. Kevin Kline and John Cleese seem to have the least respect for the genre and their place in it, and give entirely unconvincing performances. Kasdan, an engineer of the beloved Star Wars saga, made his much-loved directorial debut with The Big Chill, which he also directed, and my theory is that he should stick to scripting. The script of Silverado is great fun, providing plenty of material for a terrific western, but the weaknesses are all in the making of the actual movie. Kasdan clearly was not a source of strength on set, for starters, as no-one exhibits a sense of being comfortable in what they're doing, let alone the sense of bravura we're used to in a good western. If you came here for fun and excitement, can I suggest you try The Quick and the Dead instead, which is a much more unique film, anyway; and if you came here for beauty, likable characters and an epic western, go to Dances with Wolves instead, its terrific! Lastly, if you were after comedy, I'd suggest you go to a comedy. My favourites are Groundhog Day and This Is Spinal Tap. Silverado was not a comedy script to begin with, it was just a rollicking action/adventure western with some solemn extended speeches. However, if you're young or haven't seen many westerns, you just may think this is as good as it gets, so go ahead, make your day.

Simple Men (1992)
1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Ponderous and empty play-like film... Er, I mean, its a Hal Hartley!, 10 February 2008
4/10

Imagine a Hartley film with good acting; these people just make his writing sound pretentious, but I'm sure it could sound merely clever in the mouths of better actors.

One thing I'll tell you about this movie is its IMDb page is misleading in several ways. The genre listing "comedy," the title and the plot point of two lads betting about making a girl fall in love with them, might indicate you're in for a fairly lightweight, fun movie; perhaps even a teen-movie. But this is no She's All That; its a talk-heavy script and the actors perform it in a ponderous but stagey manner; there's no sense that this is anything but a staged reading of a Hal Hartley script.


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