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schogger13

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30 reviews in total 
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Avalon (2001)
76 out of 88 people found the following review useful:
Where Does The Heart Freeze Sooner? or: A Cybercar Named Desire, 14 January 2003

There is an interesting parallel between The Matrix and Avalon. The first is heavily based on Manga/Animee style, in visual dynamics much more than in pace as well as storytelling, the latter IS an Animee movie without the animations - in fact, Avalon is a VERY typical Oshii film in every other aspect going.

It's slow. It has to be. It either bores you stiff or chains you to a subtle, incredibly intense way of visual storytelling - takes you back to a time when the attention span as well as the will required to catch a drift - to hold a thought and work on it - lived longer than a few seconds.

On the surface, this movie is what one could call a cyberpunk poem. For that alone it already claims a unique position amongst whatever one might want to compare it to at first glance. A chillingly dark and detailed as well as beautifully crafted ballad of a heroine seeking much more than sense between realities and illusions. She seeks the home we all desperately try to cling to in belief for lack of knowledge.

As always in Oshii's movies, one has to be prepared to be drawn into the unsettling realm between suffocating rules of conduct and complete uncertainty to get at the tiny grain of hope hovering so painfully close to the wheels that try to grind you.

The dialogue doesn't tell us much. In fact, the more wordy the explanations get, the more they deflect us from what we see and feel. That's pretty much what Ash has to cope with as well to find the way to HER reality as well as illusion.

To call the acting understated, slow and painfully introverted would be an understatement in itself. To call it bad for that would be the most idiotic conclusion. Malgorzata Foremniak (Ash) is a true discovery. The intensity and sheer impact she can give to 'silence' alone makes her the ideal Oshii actress. There is no empty move, no hollow gesture, no shallow expression in her entire performance. Quite an accomplishment if one keeps in mind that Ash leads a depressingly empty, hollow as well as shallow life on the surface.

It's an equally depressing fact that this incredible Polish actress will stay in obscurity as far as the billion dollar mainstream movie world is concerned.

The cinematography and lighting by Grzegorz Kedzierski is nothing short of exquisite. So is Barbara Novak's production design. Budget-wise, this is a B-Movie, but they all turned that restriction into a virtue.

One last praise has to go to the composer as well as the musicians. The title track 'Avalon' alone, a grand piece for orchestra, choir and soprano, is nothing short of a masterpiece.

As I said, this movie is a poem. Take a quiet place, wind down from the hassle of your day and let yourself sink into illusions which might even show the occasional glint of YOUR reality.

* 10 out of 10

Schogger13

64 out of 75 people found the following review useful:
The Casting Of A Perfect Shadow, 16 April 2003

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

59 out of 66 people found the following review useful:
Damned To Stay The Unheard Poem Of Our Lives, 14 August 2003

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...

Schogger13

Henry V (1989)
55 out of 69 people found the following review useful:
A Worthy Successor After 5 Decades, 30 December 2002

Let's get one thing straight: It was Olivier who finally cracked the concrete heads of film producers open and proved that it was possible to put the bard of bards on screen without even an American audience falling asleep after 10 minutes. Sure, after all this time his Henry looks ancient, pretentious and artificial, but so will Blade Runner after 50 years, and still both mark a watershed after which none could be done like anything before. Odd comparisons? Maybe. But fitting.

Branagh's Henry finally set a tone worth to succeed the initial awesome blast unleashed by the most powerful actor for generations, and I'm sure Branagh would be the last to deny Olivier's version the place it deserves in British movie history. Times were ripe for another tone - but times before had needed Olivier as much as the following ages will need Branagh.

I'm an obsessive fan of both versions - both for entirely different reasons - and both merging perfectly what I love most about Shakespeare's eternal works.

Branagh's film is timeless - of this time - without ever being trendy. Olivier's is timeless - as well as of its time - as long as we keep an understanding of its time.

Olivier praised the eternal flame, the eternal smell, of Shakesperean theater, as always reaching far beyond the confinds of its subject - beyond the confinds of the wooden circle of 'The Globe'.

Branagh went right for the jugular, without ever loosing grip on what makes this play a play beyond its subject, and THE play about that subject.

Has anyone considered the vital difference between Branagh's and Olivier's versions? I doubt it. Where Olivier conjured up the intoxicating smell of fresh 15th century glue from the sets rising into the audience's noses, come here straight from the bear fights, whore houses, sermons of zealots and whatever had to flee London's stern moral walls of those times, Branagh cut right to the bone of any hardened 'modern' movie goer.

Behold: Derek Jacoby's prologue is a piece of speech which will forever haunt, enchant and cover me in goosebumps - firing me up to see what comes as well as see what Olivier as well as Branagh had done with the only play ever to merge humanity's lust as well as dread for the subject of war.

Of course, Olivier's version couldn't even dream of matching the intimate intensity of Branagh's. But how could it?

Ok, I won't further dwell on it, but for the last time, consider the father to fully understand the son.

Now, having shed the overpowering shadows of the past, Derek Jacoby steps into the dark of the expecting stage - striking a match...,

"Oh, for the muse of fire..." ... and off we are, lured into the torrent of the bard's unique and eternal magic.

I consider Henry V the best of Branagh's Shakespeare adaptations, even though I wouldn't want to be with any of the others on pain of death. This one's flawless, perfectly cast, perfectly executed and perfectly acted by Branagh himself.

From Burbage to Garrick to Keane to Inving to Olivier to Branagh... it is a glorious lineage to follow in love and admiration for the bard of Bard's ambassadors.

Schogger13

39 out of 41 people found the following review useful:
Some Old Pearls Don't Ever Lose Their Shine, 8 October 2002

Ok, some facts to get a few potential misunderstandings out of the way: This is an early 80's British production. So, everybody expecting the highest US production standards and a gloss factor 10 should back off NOW! Everybody else will have an HONEST ball of a time rediscovering one of the most underrated, and at the same time most precious gems in Fantasy TV as well as movies. This isn't only the definitive blueprint of the 'modern' conception of the Robin Hood tale, as well as 'modern' fantasy, it's also a 25-part journey through high quality Fantasy story-telling as we've ever encountered it before or after. Too bold? I don't think so. Re-watch the excellent DVD collection (the last part will appear in November) and marvel at the originality laying foundations to almost every similar project going.

Be aware! It's old-fashioned and VERY simple! It's demanding and VERY clever! Contradiction? Not really. It's a child of its time as well as a prototype of what's to come. But everyone who's still kept a sense for the simple, as well as most precious prospects in story-telling, will be delighted. This is a unique gem that can only be surpassed by a greater budget coupled with at least a similarly good script. Let me tell you: That hasn't happened yet.

Re-educate yourself in the unique virtues of early 80's UK television. You won't be disappointed.

Schogger13

"Dune" (2000)
45 out of 70 people found the following review useful:
Guilty Pleasures, 25 June 2001

First, a small catalog of guidelines for the 3 main types of viewers, and what they can expect from this mini series.

Type One: The Dunatics. For them, nothing can match up to the gospel according to Frank Herbert, so, choices are reduced to 2. Either make allowances towards both limitations and possibilities of the TV format to encounter the new and frivolous concept of fun, or refuse to watch this on the premise that any cinematic adaptation short of congeniality amounts to blasphemy by nature.

Type Two: The Lynch Mob. For them, the 84 adaptation justifies making allowances towards the novel by sheer impact of Lynch's surely unique, but also highly controversial vision - sometimes even questionable, where both Herbert and Lynch share an uncomfortable leaning towards social Darwinism and Riefenstahl-type aesthetics/ideals of 'Uebermensch' and 'Untermensch', sometimes even drifting into fascist cyphers. Noble savages versus the pit full of rotting (and of course 'sexually depraved', by showing the 'classic' negatively coded combination of cruelty and latent/outright homosexuality in men, and deception/treachery and offensive sexuality in women) carcass of the old and degenerated system of the imperial hierarchy. But the belief in 'higher breeding' (birthright of leadership/superiority) transcends both and is never put in question - not even by our 'hero' after the real necessity of a political marriage was gone. Recommendation: Watch Dune 2000. With a certain selective view applied, it'll serve as a welcome spare parts depot for their thesis that the 84 movie casts a shadow which can't be shed by any future attempt. Visually, this new version has enough thinly disguised 'Lynchisms' to justify a gloat session.

Type Three: The Players. They are the least dogmatic section of viewers, first and foremost on the look-out for 5 hours of 'other-worldly' atmosphere and storytelling beyond the mind-numbing standards of SF TV. Recommendation: Have fun and a few good 'goosebump moments' beyond mere popcorn TV.

General aspects:

Looks Let's face it, this one is split. The photography, costumes (matter of taste) and the built sets are excellent but highly individual. One either loves or hates it. On the whole, it looks more like a Visconti epic than Hollywood coded SF. CGI, backdrops, matte paintings and 'outdoor' studio sets, on the other hand, are so unbelievably clumsy and unprofessional that they can easily spoil the whole thing if one isn't capable of blotting them out of one's prime perception. The budget is no excuse. Half a crew from the minimal budget wizards on Farscape would've finished classes above this shambles.

Script This is far better than most give it credit. It has flaws, but they derive mostly from particular expectations of the Dunatics or the Lynch Mob. They tried to loose a bit of the extremely sterile and formalized dialogue from the books and the 84 movie - sometimes going overboard by making them talk too '90's casual' - but on the whole achieving a good compromise between Herbert's and Lynch's extremely artificial diction and something that could be recognized as 'normal' talk in such a highly ritualized environment. On the whole, they stayed closer to the book than the Lynch version, but messed up on a few small but sometimes vital details without an apparent reason. That's of no consequence for those who haven't read the original, but a pity, nonetheless in some cases, especially the lame portrayal of the Fremen. (significance of water in all its aspects)

Acting A mixed bag, here, but mainly due to the 90's approach to characterization/diction rather than bad acting. That sometimes backfires heavily, especially in the case of the lead. The whole concept - no matter how 'updated' it's supposed to be - hinges on a rather simple but nonetheless vital construct of a messiah. So, first requirement is to emanate something 'beyond' a mere character. Messiahs are NEVER characters. They are cyphers to carry and focus ideals no mortal could match up to. Herbert's Paul has at least to function/convince as a kind of Jesus with a pump action to inspire massive battles for the greater good. In that, Alec Newman fails almost completely. Half of that is down to a simple lack of presence, and the other half to Harrison's direction. Granted, Newman portrays a more 'real' person than McLachlan's aseptic and super moralistic uber-noble, but that is the last thing required for such a role. The actor who played Gurney, though, was a total wash-out and shouldn't even be mentioned in the same breath with Stewart's interpretation. But there, the pit is already reached. Most other performances range from adequate to good (in the case of non English speaking actors sometimes hampered by the sheer inability to give life to the words beyond mere translation..., with one notable and no less than exquisite exeption)

The acting highlight is set by Ian McNeice's Baron. This is the real gem of the whole piece - and most likely to be hated by both Dunatics and the Lynch Mob. He gives an outrageous Baron! Pure ham, brilliantly constructed to bypass the extremely limited and one-dimensional boundaries of that character set by Herbert & Lynch, like acid, skilfully sprinkled over the plump exterior to outline the hidden and multi-layered menace and the REAL danger. For the first time, one can really see the magnitude and cunning of the Baron's long-term agenda. At the same time McNeice splashes the character's homosexuality at the screen like a paint bomb, thereby totally disconnecting it from his evilness. This Baron is an evil man who merely HAPPENS to be a homosexual. Here, his sexuality is his only Achilles heel - his 'weak' spot amongst ppl who use exactly that to bring him down. An absolutely brilliant acting twist to de-cloak the nature of the co-existing true evil in the same person. And McNeice's Baron doesn't only say he's intelligent and downright exceptional in his scheming skills. He proves it more than once against a whole menagerie of 'allies' constantly underestimating him.

13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Pearls In Your Pocket!!, 3 July 2001

It's not easy to explain the charm of something utterly original without resorting to worn-out labels and clichés. But since it's one of Farscape's greatest strengths to take a cliché and wring its neck til something totally fresh drops out, I'll apply the same technique, here.

Imagine a show which starts like Buck Rogers with brains... for 7 minutes - until it slams you head-on into Star Wars for grown-ups... dips you into shrill comic book SciFi images and jumbles 'em up til nothing - absolutely NOTHING - is left of the drab TV SciFi routine we're used to since Kirk wrestled his first rubber-suited monster in 68. Trekkies, Gaters, X-Filers... yes, even some Babylonians will absolutely detest this show. On the other hand, people who loved such diverse movies as Dark City, Clockwork Orange, Brazil, Blade Runner, Dark Crystal, Excalibur or even Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas will love this show. This is SciFi with a very small Sci and the biggest Fi for bloody decades. LEXX only tried and failed to be what Farscape accomplishes with ease and VERY unusual grace for TV standards.

General pace and atmosphere are almost the anti-thesis to shows like Star Trek and Stargate, which suddenly seem extremely sterile, well-mannered, insufferably prudish and politically correct.

Imagine Jim Henson & Frank Zappa, young George Lucas and Terry Gilliam doing a pilot for an SF show, and you're getting pretty close to what awaits you on this show.

Visually, this show is classes above the competition. Technology is only the brush in a painter's hand. What you DO with it is what counts! And there, Farscape far exceeds the limitations of its comparatively small budget.

Sticklers for scientific possibilities will hate this show..., but fans of visual storytelling and the sheer joy of 'play' will adore it. In some respects, it's outrageous Fantasy in SciFi clothing.

The acting is easily the most fresh piece on the US TV menue. No wonder, though, since only the lead is American, and in this case very much and rightly so, which gives Ben Browder's superb work a new and highly enjoyable angle. (Your proverbeal Regular US Guy lost in space amongst the weirdest collection of Aliens constitutes the basic concept of the overall plot) It was a stroke of genius to leave all others to their own accents and acting styles. (mostly Australian, British and Kiwi) To call the general style of acting, editing and 'pacing' on this show only refreshing, would constitute the understatement of the decade. All genre trademarks aside is the acting of an unusually high standard, but almost reckless towards the codes of 'proper' TV acting. MAJOR discovery of a formerly hidden gem: Claudia Black as Aeryn Sun.

Having said all this of course includes the foregone conclusion that it's purely a matter of taste, in the end. But anyone game for an extremely enjoyable rollercoaster ride on the stilted clichés of SciFi is in for a hell of a journey!

Which reminds me, the UK DVDs (PAL) are easily the best TV releases in picture and tone quality I've encountered. The Stargate DVDs, for instance, seem like a grainy insult compared to those.

Ulrich Fehlauer

Happy Now (2001)
13 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Hidden Gem, 1 September 2004

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.

* Schogger13

15 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
To Touch The Nerve Of What Is Truly English, Listen To Tony Palmer, 15 August 2003

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.

Schogger13

19 out of 30 people found the following review useful:
Loosen Up, 3 September 2003

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.

* Schogger13


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