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Happy Now (2001)
This movie unjustly suffers mostly from clichés heaped upon it.
It's a Welsh Twin Peaks parody, they say. Too Welsh to be funny - not enough Twin Peaks to work in the end.
In short: This movie is a victim of false expectations.
Yes, there are certain similarities if one spends the whole time comparing, but that does this movie great injustice. The few 'blatant' takes on Welsh culture clichés take NOTHING away from its positive charme - except for nit-picking Welsh viewers, perhaps. To 'foreign' viewers it's a convincing fresco of provincial life, as well as a Chabrol movie seems to non-French viewers. The Twin Peaks connection exists only on a formalistic plane.
Call me stupid, but I feel that this has a far more honest and less pretentious appeal than said cult hyper-soap. Give it a chance. It's more than the sum of your pre-conceptions.
Faa yeung nin wa (2000)
The Gentle Revolution of the Heart Against Restrictions Of Convention
This is a masterpiece. Nothing more - nothing less. Closed minds will call this film boring, slow and... cold.
Forget all such preconceptions. Prepare for a love story of a different kind. This is a lesson in detail, subtlety and refinement. Watch it and forget the Hollywood code of instant gratification.
Learn to flow with another pace and the almost extinct art of gentleness, honest passion and subtlety.
Almost nothing 'happens' in this movie, and all the time everything happens in one's mind. A gesture. A look. A movement. Nothing is without reason. Everything is charged towards the thresholds of pain, relief, regret and still hope.
This is an achingly beautiful movie.
The Flight of the Phoenix (1965)
They Broke The Mould After This One
Let's face it, there are movies which stick, no matter how times change, no matter what's the latest fad in technology to avoid the strain of storytelling, no matter how 'in' or 'out' a genre currently is.
This one's a classic in the only valid sense of the word.
I won't lose many words on the contents. Others have done that admirably, already. Just this: A plane crashes in the desert, and someone devises the outrageous plan to build a new plane from the wreckage. A simple stroke of genius. THE 'disaster movie'. Top notch actors and performances down to the smallest part.
A character play of the solid traditional kind. Don't EVER underestimate the power of good storytelling and acting!
This 'simple' movie easily de-classifies 99% of the current Hollywood output. Flight Of The Phoenix is a gem from the all-time precious handful of real classics, defying every rule from the ivory tower critics.
I bet my life on this: FotP won't disappoint you on whatever level.
Give it a chance and take a ride on the firebird.
* Ulrich Fehlauer
Prince Valiant (1954)
There are only few - VERY few - classic sword & sorcery adventures out there which deserve more than a glance. Yes, this one's pretty ignorant of Hal Foster's original, and I pity that. But as far as 40's/50's first class adventure romps go, this one ranks right beneath the all-time classic 'The Adventures Of Robin Hood', bravely levels with 'Ivanhoe', and easily settles above 'Knights Of The Round Table'.
This is a classic Sunday afternoon couch with a bag of chips movie.
As long as you don't expect something else, this is the movie for you.
9 out of 10 for what it is and always will be.
England, My England (1995)
To Touch The Nerve Of What Is Truly English, Listen To Tony Palmer
An odd thesis, indeed, to put upon a movie about Henry Purcell.
But hear me out, fair Ladies and honourable Sires. This is the opportunity to hear about the greatest artist before the face of Albion to put justice as well as artistic congeniality before the memories of the greatest spirits to fire up our imagination. Oh yes, a spirit and talent to match his subjects. There hasn't been a master of 'portraits' since Hohlbein or Hilliard, who caught the essence of a spirit as close, detailed and true to its core as Tony Palmer. So, what better master to call upon the task of giving the greatest English composer a face to last beyond the brittle pages of an encyclopedia?
I dare the claim that Purcell was and is the eternal master of the achingly, painfully and gloriously beautiful - the indigo and forest green shades of melancholy music to tease the gentlest tears from stone.
Yes, Tony Palmer's piece is a masterful fresco of the Restoration, but still it's but a frame to what Purcell was all about. Palmer NEVER sells his subjects short for hidden agendas.
To give this claim substance, the best of the best for this task provided the music: John Eliot Gardiner & The English Baroque Soloists.
You can't possibly aim higher than this, and this movie achieved even beyond my biased expectations. The cream of the English acting craft: Simon Callow and Robert Stephens to give music to the words of masters John Osborne and Charles Wood.
Bugger me, but is there any claim out there which can come up with a more suitable setup?
Gather, people, Anglophiles and friends of the core to humanity.
Settle into your favourite chair and surrender to the sound-kept peak of aching beauty.
Grand Canyon (1991)
Damned To Stay The Unheard Poem Of Our Lives
This is and will stay Hollywood's most criminally underrated movie about life... and how to live with it. No smart answers. No solutions. But every worth-while question gets its honest reflection.
Sometimes sentimental. Sometimes giving up on the unsolved future. Sometimes kissing the brow of the undeserving. Always scary and beautiful.
I know, not really a logical assessment, but if you saved yourself a fraction of your... well... 'innocense'..., a fraction of your desire for a solid horizon to look at, you will love this movie without a second consideration, and you'll need a LOT more time to explain that to yourself.
A very personal confession: The soundtrack makes me cry over what I've lost and gambled away for the prize of cynical safety. Nothing will come back. I am the child of black jokes. But 'Grand Canyon' reminds me of the ever-lasting loophole into hope.
This is the movie I will never be able to praise sensibly.
'Grand Canyon' will stay my guilty pleasure.
This is a truly beautiful movie. I had almost forgotten in my hard-boiled pride what that word means..., until I watched 'Grand Canyon'..., and had to watch it again... and again...
High Road to China (1983)
Aah... they don't make 'em like that anymore...
Anyone who thinks the headline's a joke, stop reading NOW!
This was one of my first 4 videos I ever bought, and it's also one of those which are likely to be worn down by continuous use rather than neglect. I love old-fashioned movies, and I love good movies. This one is both. The story's utterly predictable, and it's done the traditional way. In fact, I wouldn't've been surprised to see it as a 1947 movie with Cary Grant, Walter Brennan and Maureen O'Hara in the lead. Romance! Thrills! Spills! Adventure! Nothing more. Nothing less.
You know what? The more I get stuffed with multi-million dollar technology, perfect poses, perfect CGI, and ever so cool and nifty action, the more I love movies like 'High Road To China'. Don't expect the world. Don't expect all at once. Expect adventure, subtle humour, slow pace, human stories and and a standard happy ending which somehow doesn't need any justification at all. It's a 'small' movie. No comparison to the Indy Trilogy. This works perfectly on TV and has no place in modern cinema.
And you know what? I don't care. I love this movie. Chic-flic, adventure, small-time romance..., all is true. Go, have a nice Sunday afternoon at home. Cuddle up with your love and relish one of the last good hours the future has to offer. It'll give you more than a hype-stuffed Blockbuster of today. I love The Matrix. I'm glad someone finally managed to get Lord Of The Rings on celluloid. But I'd be crushed to hear that movies like High Road To China are finally a thing of the past.
Hmm... are they by now? Cos one thing's fer sure, overblown stone-cold wrecks like Titanic or Pearl Harbour are no substitute.
Autumn in New York (2000)
Defense Of The Impossible
Most of the previous reviews are right. This is a horribly predictable tear jerker. But most of the previous reviews are also wrong, because it's an HONEST tear-jerker walking on old and over-used stamping grounds. It doesn't matter that we know the ending long before the movie reached its second half hour. It doesn't matter that it's been trying to repeat 'Love Story' before the century dies. It's too sweet, too predictable, too much cut from the drawing board..., and yet... Joan Chen somehow manages to put her finger on what moves us all: To be loved. Bugger the consequences, the wisdom of time, the black knowledge of experience..., silly love is the answer before sense as well as death sets in. And who has the right to contradict that? Logic? Experience with a thousand other movies? I don't know. Nobody has the right to know. We need the pink horizon of last hopes. This movie points at it without an intelligent excuse. I like this movie - even though I know it isn't a 'good' movie by established standards. Both Gere and Ryder are working perfectly within the narrow boundaries of what's required. If we want to hear it is another matter. This never will be a classic. But it's a movie to like for what it's trying to do. Take a leap into the predictable and discover why it can't be killed by even the smartest contradiction.
Even the oldest and tackiest story should be allowed to be told, as long as the storyteller loves the story more than the payment.
The Duellists (1977)
The Casting Of A Perfect Shadow
The Duellists is remarkable in lots of ways. For one, it's a masterpiece debut. It's also one of the very rare films putting a director on the map who keeps delivering what the debut already displayed in abundance. What's more, it is even rarer in so far that this movie hasn't aged a single day, which can't be explained away with the fact that it's a period piece. It stands the test of time as flawlessly as two other legendary debuts, Orson Welles's Citisen Kane and John Huston's Maltese Falcon. The flipside displays a mystery. The Duellists is an almost totally unknown film. To this day it hasn't earned what it had cost to make it in 1977: 900.000$. That, without doubt, makes it the most underrated masterpiece by one of THE directors of his generation.
The basis was simple and commanding: The adaptation of the classic Joseph Conrad story 'The Duel'. The result is a lesson in perfect cinematic storytelling. And it's also a lesson in the forgotten art of low budget moviemaking. Not a single frame suggests that 'more' would've been better. The required economy of every single aspect of production always finds its perfect answer in the execution of the story. What you can't see or hear doesn't need to be there. It's as simple as that. Suffice to say, Ridley Scott being the director he is, The Duellists is visually superb and at the same time devoid of a single frame just being there to look good. His visual style is completely dependent on the substance of the story as well as the acting. That becomes blindingly obvious in his weaker films, where he resorts to 'beautifying' an empty shell. No other great director is as much a slave of the story's quality, before he can become its master. But once a strong moment, a powerful dialogue, a strong character hits his senses, he 'translates' their life into his unique visual language. In that he is almost without comparison. What we sometimes later perceive as only beautiful is always as essential to the story as a note in a symphony is essential to the next one to make 'sense'. The almost hauntingly arcadian, rural opening shot of the movie is a perfect example. The little girl with her geese leads us through innocence and peace across the screen... and bumps with us into the towering Husar blocking the path. No words. Just eyes making the girl lead her geese away from the path, away from what the Husar is guarding against unwanted onlookers. We're already hooked into the story on more than one level, and the cut to the duellists on the open field tells us where paradise ends. That's Ridley Scott in his purest form. The beauty of his style is in fact visual drama, and the power of his language is as visible now as it was in 1977. In 'Gladiator', watch the transition from Maximus's cornfild dream to the tortured earth of the battlefield in Germania and you'll see what I mean. That's why Scott is also an actor's director. He always makes sense to them and the characters with every move of the camera and sets them in the best possible light for what's required. He likes good actors, which isn't as normal as one might think. There isn't a hollow second to be found in each and every performance on The Duellists. That the casting is flawless down to the last extra helped, of course. All this explains much of the ageless quality of the movie. No hollow set pieces to 'jazz it up a bit'. Only authentic locations and no built sets. Costumes, makeup, props... everything totally convincing and fitting to the period. It's virtually impossible to determine the movie's age without knowing the actors. Scott turned an ageless story into an ageless movie. An excellent script and extremely good acting all round helped him do it.
For me The Duellists is the first of 3 consecutive masterpieces (the other two are, of course ALIEN and Blade Runner), unrivalled since John Huston's first 3 films.
10 out of 10 Ulrich Fehlauer
To Catch a Thief (1955)
The Unrepeatable Lightness Of Hitchcock
This movie will always be fated to linger in the shadows of the critics's as well as stern Hitch fan's appreciation. It gets constantly and unfavorably compared to established 50's masterpieces like The Birds, Vertigo and of course Rear Window.
Bad move, if I may say so.
If I remember rightly, it was Noel Coward who once called it 'Hitchcock Champagne', and I still think that's the best possible term to encapsulate it. It simply is of no use at all to compare it with the above mentioned, 'heavier' classics. TCAT is feather light, almost completely devoid of contents, full of style and done with such flick-of-the-wrist ease that it seems almost from another world of moviemaking - a world where the art of intelligent fun, subtle, crisp and perfectly taylored dialogue, a stunningly well performed casualty of the acting craft and a master's touch in holiday mood haven't died out, yet.
Don't get me wrong, I have no wish to push this movie into contention with all the 'superiour' classics. That would spoil the fun, for starters. But it's still THE prototype as well as masterpiece of its kind. It spawned a lot of copies, most notably Stanley Donen's successful attempts like 'Charade' or 'Caprice' or many elements of TV's criminally underrated Remington Steele series.
And it's a testament to how extremely difficult it must be to make it all look ever so easy, because no-one really reached the hights of this lightness after that.
The script is a wonderful exercise in light sophistication and the extinct art of what was known in the first half of the century as a 'well-made play'. (Terence Rattigan and Noel Coward having been the most prominent masters in that genre) So, it's no wonder that Grant and Kelly lap it up like the last water in a desert. The dialogue truly sparkles. And while we get pummeled day by day with always the same promotion interviews for yet another blockbuster from the drawing board, TCAT shows what it really means to watch masters of their craft having a good time on the highest level of skill. Yes, it's old-fashioned, and one shouldn't wish those times back artificially, but I'm ever so glad that each period has its own gems to offer..., gems never to lose their luster.
I'm pretty sure, Pierce Brosnan would be extremely flattered if one would compare some of his moments on screen with Cary Grant's style in TCAT. Some of the new pros haven't lost touch on what makes the old masters timeless.