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136 reviews in total 
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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A cliché, dumb script not worthy of the good performances., 29 January 2009

"Pride and Glory" is a lot of hot air and self importance but not a lot of substance, Norton's and especially Farrell's performance (who blows his costar - who'd have ever predicted that? - out of the water) belong in more original, gripping, intelligent and better paced work.

Some people effervesce talking about Voights 'award worthy' performance. I thought he was horrible! I've lost all my respect for him. "Transformers", "Tomb Raider", "National Treasure" were all terrible career moves. Not since 2004's "The Manchurian Candidate" has he performed adequately.

I can stand cliché comedies and formula thrillers, but rehashed drama's annoy me. I find it impossible to get sucked into a drama if I don't buy the characters. Had this not come out only one year after "We Own The Night" I wouldn't have attacked it as much I suppose.

I went into my theater with huge expectations since I am both a huge Norton and Farrell fan. I came out wondering why Norton tries these action roles (shouldn't he be utilizing his talents for works of art?) and why Farrell followed up the terrific "In Bruges" with this dud.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Uneven melodrama with terrific performances., 29 January 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Revolutionary Road features such astonishing acting that you almost forget to keep your critical eye focused on the film as a whole. I have to begrudgingly conclude that Mendes' work fails to break a whole lot of new ground.

The comparison with American Beauty isn't completely fair since there's a fifty year gap between both, that's especially important for the concept of "the American dream" and the role of women in society. April's ache stems partly from her obligation to be a housewife. "The American dream" in the 1950's seems to consist mainly of martini lunches, monkey suits and "darling" houses on wide avenues. In American Beauty, the same goes for Carolyn's version, but Lester considers juvenile values holy, the laws of rebellion, freedom, rock'n'roll and recreational drugs.

Both of Mendes' films are poignant but unquestionably Revolutionary Road isn't half as relevant as American Beauty. Mendes' work isn't diminishing in quality, but it is stagnating. RR definitely outranks the passable Road To Perdition but never outclasses American Beauty, except maybe for the astonishing confrontation where Di Caprio's freak out made my heart stop for about half a minute. I believe it's only fair to hold every new film up to the light of an artist's best work. He does seem very skilled at bringing out the very best out of his cast, Di Caprio, Shannon and foremost Winslet impress . Especially the scenes where she lashes out at Frank are great, those wide, ruthless eyes are really against her natural acting style of more warm, genial characters.

The scenes with John Givings were subtle (and welcome) comic relief from the constant tension between the couple, and his observations helped the audience understand the relationship better. The dialog did well in cutting to the chase without being too theatrical. David Harbour performed admirably but neither his side character nor any of the others worked for me. They're purposely over the top and clichéd, which worked much better in the black comedy of American Beauty then it does in this serious drama.

Another problem for me: the lack of ambiguity. I realize April has an unstable nature, but she is by no means bipolar. She was right in all arguments, though her obvious flaw is the cowardice of avoiding confrontation( which destroys a marriage in the long run). I suspect the film's intention was to spark dialog, as in: some agree with Frank, others with April. I did not feel it reached that goal at all. For a movie dealing with such a poignant moral problem, it should have been less black and white. The plot was by no means completely predictable, but I knew from the instant they talked about going to Paris that he would get an opportunity at work and that she would get pregnant. I wouldn't dare claim I guessed how the third act would play out, I'll be honest, that shocked me.

The characters were so unlikeable, it felt like watching a Neil LaBute movie sometimes. April had some admirable qualities but I only felt sorry for Frank and the other characters caught in suburban hell. Maybe they should have granted us one or two scenes in between the meeting of Frank and April and the play, scenes of a happy marriage. I desperately wanted to empathize with the characters but had a hard time doing so. Another problem with the story for me, was the expected heavy drama at the end. The movie would have done just fine without the tacked on ending, cutting right after the breakfast scene.

All things considered, Revolutionary Road means a step in the right direction for director Mendes, and a confirmation of his exceptional talent, but it's not the timeless classic American Beauty is and I hope the director can live up to his dwarfing theatrical debut someday.

6 out of 38 people found the following review useful:
Less impressive than 'Changeling' but it has the heart in the right place., 13 December 2008

Clint Eastwood's thinking about anything but retirement as he released no less than two movies this year. It's rumored that this will be his swan song when it comes to acting. And he's very good in a role that brings back memories of his past famous characters, most distinctively 'Dirty Harry'. The film's equipped with yet another heartbreaking, beautiful score and quality songs (golden globe nomination already in the bag), again an own composition from the hands of Clint and son Kyle.

The movie itself definitely lacks ambition and the narrative sort of strolls along a lot of the time, I'm not too crazy about the overdose of moralistic lessons either. Especially the religious theme I couldn't stand. The movie opens when Walt Kowalski's wife passes, and he's left to live alone in his neighborhood, a part of town ridden with immigrants. He forms an unusual friendship with a local Asian-American boy, he becomes the boy's mentor and teaches him about manhood and the importance of hard work.

The movie's sweet, but almost sickly so, which annoys a lot of movie fans, who are usually a darker kind of people. Never the less, the movie's features a great soulful Eastwood and an uplifting message. Don't be surprised if you catch yourself chuckling once in a while too, some of the dialog hits your funny bone, luckily it's intended that way.

Oh and remember, a racist character never ever means a racist movie, quite the contrary.


1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Unaccomplished remake, a waste of Connely's talent and time., 12 December 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Jennifer Connely, Keanu Reeves and young Jaden Smith (son of Will) head up the cast for this remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic where an extra-terrestrial robot visits Earth to turn the human race away from their own annihilation, warning them that the continuation of their warfare will instigate it. Much like other highly applauded films inspired by politics ('The Manchurian Candidate' for instance) the relevancy and strong message procure half the artistic value. Back then, the crisis was named Cold War. Now, it's called Global Warming.

Unlike 'The Manchurian Candidate's' remake, this one doesn't work very well. If I say 'The War of The Worlds' by Spielberg outclasses TDWESS, some alarm bells should be ringing. While Connely occasionally lifts up the level, the internal logic of the story annoys. The fact that Klaatu only reveals it's true purpose (saving 'earth' from mankind) late in the movie can only stem from shortage of plot. Which makes the abrupt and unfulfilling ending even more bizarre and laughable. On one hand you have enough time to stretch Klaatu and Connely's character's interactions with an unnecessary road trip, on the other hand the storyline's ending is sloppy. The last scenes are supposed to be the most engrossing but left us only shrugging our shoulders. Other elements that should have everyone scratching their underpass is hardly enough protection against a storm of death. It doesn't help either that the supposed strong suit (and the only praise I read about it as of yet), the CGI makes the robot a rather laughable stick figure instead of a terrifying, indestructible alien.

Countering those major flaws are a masterfully acted cameo by John Cleese as a Nobelprize winning scientist and the occasionally conveying all the world's worries, eyes of Jennifer Connely. Good remakes are few and far between. Especially compared to 'I Am Legend', that other recent Apocalyptic recreation of a Classic, it comes out looking poorly.

4/10, and I'm really not being too harsh.

Filled with small pleasures and gentle comedy., 27 November 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

John Cusack stars as Nick 'the zone' Falzone, an air traffic controller who orchestrates thousands of safe plane landings every year . The flame of his marriage dimmed out a little throughout the years but basically he's got all his ducks in a row, having mastered his job and being the undisputed king of his workplace. A series of opening-scenes document Nick as a popular jester and a charming womanizer. Confidence, popularity and fulfillment are the keywords. He's always been the pilot of his life, skilfully steering it away from near-crashes or even turbulence, however it goes into a tailspin when new colleague Russell Bell (Billy Bob Thornton) joins his work group. Their rivalry drives both men to the edge of lunacy, they strain every nerve to annoy each other and what starts out as innocent taunting turns into mean-spirited attacks. When Nick sleeps with Russell's wife(a seductive turn by Angelina Jolie) both marriages threaten to fall apart and Nick's fear of reprisal combined with the high stress factor of his profession - uneasy lies the head that wears the crown - start to prevent him from competently executing his job and lives hang in the balance...

The setting's well-chosen for the mind games, it's conceivable that battles for the alpha-male position take place in stressful, highly competitive work environments, in this case air traffic control, where the air is loaded with more testosterone and adrenaline than among firemen or wall street traders. Anti-stress devices and methods grace the screen abundantly, from biceps-training hand pumps and stress relieving squeeze balls to zany ailments such as letting a landing plane overhead; the turbulence causing one to spin right off the ground into a sort of whirl motion (making for one of the movie's best scenes).

A couple of problems stare you right in the face, first of all the rivalry between Cusack and Thornton never takes a sufficiently interesting form. Sure, the relationship isn't completely frictionless but it's hard to believe Cusack ever threatened Thornton's masculinity, whereas it more or less works the other way around. Cusack being his usual smooth-talking charmer seems harmless, and when Tornton admits near the end of the movie he loathed Cusack's character to such degree he scared himself, literally wanting to kill his rival, I didn't believe him for one second.

With 2 hours runtime, the film still appears too short to be able to work out all plot lines, the marriage issues subplot never reaches takeoff speed which causes the ending to fall totally flat. If one can turn a blind eye to the less than satisfying resolution, you'll find plenty of subtle comedy treats along the way. 'Pushing Tin' isn't the kind of comedy one can enjoy watching with one eye on the screen whilst doing something else. The fun usually lies in half-sentence jokes, looks between characters and charming one-liners you need to prick up your ears for to catch all subtleties. The sharp dialog ("If you ever want to sleep at night, don't marry a beautiful girl. ") and the cast's performance gives this lukewarm rom-com an edge over it's peers.

"Huff" (2004)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Saving Grace? Platt., 16 November 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'm going to avoid the irony here by steering clear of pretentiously reviewing 'Huff', the self-aware trendy title that forebodes the show's predictability, lack of inventiveness and genuine emotions. Above all, 'Huff' remains the little engine that couldn't. One can experience the creator's (Bob Lowry) ambition and goals slowly fade away, likely due to an overdose of people putting in ideas. 7 directors? Really??!! "Huff" contains a lot of ingredients out of which a creative mind could fashion a great television drama. The first few episodes the faults are hard to find in a murky sea of outrageously over the top, contrived plot lines and a large amount of (intentionally?)unlikeable characters. But watching a great deal of episodes in a row quickly makes the concrete faults bubble up to the surface: semi-intellectualism and manipulation.

Faithful fans of the similar, horrifying and unwatchable 'Grey's Anatomy' and other air pollution, will certainly gobble this up, however I don't like to be spoon fed. Life is hard and if somehow you feel yours seems like less of a mess by watching talking props having an even harder my guest. But don't be naive and pertain to the notion that 'Huff' is genuine in it's emotional scenes or tasteful in it's attempts at comedy. 'Huff' never slows down long enough for people to realize they're conned into feeling something for narcissistic, overbearing, smug, hypocritical and - above all - cold characters. The writers opt for the use of new dramatic events every episode, instead of working out plot lines properly and letting characters evolve, it's like one of those car wrecks where cars keep slamming into one car and end up in a pile-up of twenty cars and you can't even tell what exactly happened but boy, if it isn't dramatic.

It's gratuitous nudity and other R-rated content doesn't help either. I have nothing against nudity in film, but who in the world ever thought a woman sticking her finger up a man's a.. is a hoot. If you want that kind of sexual, no boundaries humor, but executed with more taste and god forbid a sense of humor, watch 'Californication' instead. This is the last straw for 'Huff'. Even the flamboyantly funny Oliver Platt can't save it from being a train wreck. The only enjoyable moments come from him and the interactions he has with some of the other more likable characters such as his secretary or the clueless Kelly. His character and the schizo Teddy are the only two characters that made me want to watch the last season 2 episodes. 'Huff' contains just that handful of interesting stories to make me mourn the waste of them. Teddy finding love despite his illness aroused my interest, and Tupper's run in with Sharon Stone's character surprised me as well. Perhaps the most interesting segments of all were the interactions with Anjelica Huston's delightful (and wonderfully portrayed) character, the fellow shrink (who, I must say, is thrice the shrink 'Huff' is) There are plenty of terrible ones too that should never have seen the light of day. Who honestly cares about miraculous healing from cancer(which I'm sure angered a lot of people who had the bad luck of coming in contact with the big C), the badly acted character of Paula(the religious nut with her stone-age beliefs and the self-righteousness to boot), or the whole Mexico fiasco? Who ever understood the necessity of the spat between 'Huff' and his wife. They're both so unreasonable and demanding, how are they ever going to work their issues out in a healthy way? I feel the writers are almost blessed not having to solve those puzzles.

2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Unforgettable Masterpiece., 15 November 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

'The Dark Knight'...the first title of a Batman-film without the actual name of our beloved hero. Even though this masterpiece is wrongfully titled after the masked crime fighter's nickname, the whole movie revolves around it's villains: Harvey "Two Face" Dent (portrayed skilfully by Aaron Eckhart) and "The Joker" (who has no known name other than his alias). The first task of the special effects and make-up department: make the villains look menacing. "Two Face"s visage's heavily disfigured by a burn wound, the wound looks like it's only just stopped smoking a second before we lay eyes on it, Dent's stare is unsettling as he's forever horribly grinning. Quite an other approach than the unintentionally funny melted plastic mask of Tommy Lee Jones.

Director Nolan (The Prestige, Memento) plays out his trump cards optimally by not overexposing him on the screen, Heat (well, the joker actually, Heat ceased to exist as he made himself vanish into thin air, the ultimate method actor) steals the whole film, he stares right into your soul and describes the ugliness he sees in all of humanity (it's unpleasantly accurate) - it's hard to describe exactly how he accomplishes that, as I said before countless times, excellence is hard to describe - his madness crawls under your skin so deeply, you never doubt for a second the authenticity of this dangerous mad man. He's a sadist through and through, one that appears to need others' pain and suffering like oxygen.

"I had a vision, of a world without Batman. The mob ground out a little profit and the police tried to shut them down, one block at a time. And it was so... boring." (Joker about Batman)

"You are just a freak, like me!" (Joker to Batman)

A strange relationship comes to be between the arch rivals. Not necessarily one of mutual respect but of understanding, banished out of a normal life, called 'freaks' by citizens, the need to keep each other alive is almost as great as the one to annihilate each other.

Every single little detail of Ledger's portrayal works, the nervous ticks (the smacking of the lips), the way he growls and bites (the last syllable) of his words, that bone chilling high pitched giggle. One of the absolute highlights - a stroke of genius - is the scene where a fake Batman's tortured by "The Joker", Ledger doesn't even come into frame, solely the sound of his voice manages to send shivers down my spine. Absolutely terrifying and deeply disturbing. This masterful eye for detail achieves that "The Joker" becomes more than merely the sum of his parts. It's not so much his weapons that provide him with great power but his mind games, we witness as he manipulates Batman and Dent by beleaguering them, and succeeds in pulling them down to his low morality level, it's fascinating to see the evolution of the characters. His madness lingers throughout the whole film, even in scenes where he's absent, we descent deeper and deeper into the darkness to end up at a scene beyond brilliance: the disorientating (the whole film the camera movements scream 'chaos!!!') 180 degrees camera movement of Nolan when "The Joker" dangles upside down out the window of a skyscraper, and then that evil, demon laugh resounding into the night air, psyching out every single member in the audience.

The Dark Knight's an experience beyond cinema.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Invigorating, 12 November 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Now, I argued with myself about rating this a 9: I sooner award an imperfect ambitious effort with a lot of good intentions with some extra credit than a lesser effort from an experienced and famed director. We can only keep benefiting from acclaimed directors' work for a little time, the search for new talents to refuel audience members' creative needs is a road with more let downs along the way than rewarding and invigorating watches.

'The Lookout' is one of those movies that fills you with hope. Not only does it know how to be subtle and how to pace, it's an economic production, fresh without being far fetched, without trying too hard to be quirky it succeeds to become that way through only a few lines of dialog by Jeff Daniels' sightless character. His character illustrates that handicapped people have every bit as much a right to be flawed (impolite, inconsiderate) than the rest of us. Daniels' sells his lines with such a seeming ease that you wonder why he bothers making comedies of questionable taste (RV).

First time director (but long time screenplay writer) Scott Frank puts his faith into the hands of Joseph Gordon-Levitt to carry the movie, and those who keep an eye open for the next generation of Academy Award winners will know that household name well already (Brick, Mysterious Skin). It's rare to find young actors with such a great deal of exciting movies on their belt, with that in my mind, it's still crystal clear that 'The Lookout' is a - for the time being - career-defining performance. His portrayal of the frustrated, tangled up amnesiac Chris Pratt borders on perfection. His face going to stone, heart nearly stopping, when a friend of his painfully reminds him of the restrictions and impossibilities in his love and professional life. A forced smile, sad eyes looking at us from out of the mists of despair. It becomes painfully clear to him that he's treading water when he's denied a minor loan by his dad. He ignores all his instincts and is exhorted by Gary Spargo into a 'business' deal. Gary's a self-declared friend of his sister's, though when asked about, she has no recollection of him. Chris agrees to help a gang of thugs rob the bank he's employed at, but when he does a volte-face on the plan at the last minute, his bridges are already burned and the misplacement of his trust in two-faced Gary dawns on him. As he rises above his weaknesses (he can't sequence events, has trouble with short-term memory,...) and saves his roommate's life, he takes a first step towards getting his life out of the tailspin...

'The Lookout' entices with it's sincere message of hope, impresses with it's performances (both Daniels and Levitt pull out all stops) and amazes with writing that makes your head spin (the pacing in particular is masterful). Movies that explore extremes can fascinate, but the road 'The Lookout' takes, the one in between emotionally intelligent and intelligent in the more narrow sense of the word (brainy), can lead to excellence too when the right urgency's present in the writing and acting, a little bonus on top of that is the simple, pretty cinematography. Despite the similar sounding premise, 'The Lookout' is nothing like 'Memento'. Nolan's brilliant thriller's script is monumentally intellectual, it's goal is to explore that extreme, while 'The Lookout' ambitions to move it's audience without forced emotional moments whilst also providing a clever plot.

Swing Kids (1993)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
An insightful movie told from a refreshing perspective; the realistic and less than perfect characters are the film's strong suit., 11 November 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Robert Sean Leonard, Christian Bale and Frank Whaley give stature to the "Swing Kids", a movement of German teenagers who rebelled against the Nazi-ideology by playing an dancing to swing music in clubs( forbidden for being 'black and Jewish music'). The threesome comes from substantially different standing and differ as night and day in personality as well. Bale brings to life another extrovert character(Thomas), dancing tightrope on that slim line between self-confidence and arrogance. Whaley's character (Arvid) is intelligent and musically gifted, yet bruises like a peach, his emotional fragility a result of a crippled leg which condemns the artist from ever dancing to the music he loves and plays (the tragedy of the deaf composer and the blind painter all over again). These two characters occupy two ends the scale, and are both dangerously unstable, unlike our third and main 'kid': Robert Sean Leanord's character (Peter), an ambitious and idealistic youngster, a type commonly referred to as a 'golden boy', the whole world awaiting to be conquered by him. Yet he also has an Achilles' Heel: his father's death early in his childhood.

As often the bond between the gang seems stronger than it is, everyone gets along great when there isn't a care in the world, theirs only consists of smoking cigarettes, guzzling drinks and dancing with girls in hip clubs. When they try to lift a radio in another one of their mischievous antics, Peter gets captured and his hand is forced into joining the 'Hitler Jugend', Thomas happily tags along stating 'we can have the best of both worlds, HJ by day, Swing Kids by night'. Arvid, the most insightful of the gang, warns them of the dangers of getting brainwashed by Hitler's foul propaganda but it could not be helped, soon Thomas takes a turn for the worse and tension in the once so close-knit group mounts. Playful remarks regarding Arvid's handicap turn into insults of impurity, Thomas is so caught up in the world of cool HJ gadgets and perks that he neglects to notice he's being manipulated.

The thriller elements don't form the core of the movie, they're useful as a means to an end, to keep the viewer focused so he doesn't miss a second of the interesting characters, the interactions and dialog are really what matters the most. The lack of attention for politics makes 'Swing Kids' special in the war-drama genre. It's a bold yet smart choice. This approach (and the soothing swing club intervals) made it easier to watch than most in the genre, which I think keeps the movie from alienating young audiences. It's pleasant to watch the history of pre-war Germany through the eyes of rebellious young citizens and subsequently (as a young man) being able to identify more with and relate to the characters. The government in place at that time was accepted, just like we accept the supreme command now, it's highly plausible kids could see more light in standing up for a sort of symbolic value namely 'Swing Music' (rather than forming political movements), which of course is connected with freedom of arts...and so forth with freedom of expression.

'Swing Kids', though certainly engrossing and accomplished, is fairly uneven and at times loses the audience's attention with gratuitous melodramatic scenes. Near the end the focus strays from intelligent dialog and interactions towards silent melodrama. Paired with Robert Sean Leonard's underwhelming performance (yet again), it's a small blemish on an otherwise highly recommendable film.

Elegy (2008/I)
4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Cruz is monumental in this musing about mortality, monogamy and love., 6 November 2008

Astonishing at times, a lot of a very impressive Kingsley's scenes are stolen by a monumental Penelope Cruz, this is her finest work yet. Inexplicably 'Elegy' still isn't cut out to be a grand masterpiece, the instant Cruz vanishes from the screen the film's urgency slowly fades, only to return in the last couple of scenes when she does. What is grand about it are the dialogs, in particular in the first half of the film there are memorable lines galore, the second half holds some beauties as well: all the exchanges between Hopper and Kingsley are pure gold, as they scope women and talk about regrets and getting old. They're a pair of womanizers with an unusually precise ability of self-evaluation and display a moving honesty in that judging.

Other elements that stood out: the meditations about aging and monogamy, love and life, are very well done. The film tries very hard not to manipulate but instead observe and let the viewer do the thinking. It's very rare to find a movie that possesses such a quality.

Even the best script in the world makes for a lousy film without the actors to sell it, besides Cruz being a tad old for the role the casting is inspired, Patricia Clarkson also leaves an impression as Kingsley's ever-giving yet never-demanding lover, perhaps the only woman who ever understood him, it's a beautiful character and Clarkson portrays here with grace and dignity. It's about theme these actors got the opportunity to star in a film that deserves their talent, especially Kingsley hasn't done anything memorable in way too long.

For those among you who in the meantime have gotten the impression that 'Elegy' is just another depressing, humorless, grotesque excruciating drama, don't worry, you're way off. Except for the ending the film never gets preachy or alienates it's viewers through pretentious cinematography, unnatural dialog or a series of unrealistically dramatic scenes following one another from beginning to end.

If you'd look at the film, or the book, again in a couple of years it'll have considerably changed. As a youthful guy, reviewing a film about mortality, I can impossibly estimate how my perception will change as the years pass, but I suspect it'll become an even more interesting (yet probably more painful to watch) piece of art.

Don't miss this one!

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