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Charley Varrick (1973)
Not good - I wouldn't waste my time watching this again
Last night, casting about for something good to watch on Netflix streaming, I saw this movie relatively highly rated on Netflix so I came to IMDb to read some more in-depth "real-people" reviews.
Top on the reviews was a gushing one with these particular sentiments: "In my opinion it is the most under appreciated movie ever made and the best movie to come out of the 70's (yes, even better than THE GODFATHER, DAYS OF HEAVEN, TAXI DRIVER and APOCALYPSE NOW). It is also one of the ten best movies I have ever seen."
Foolishly, I believed that (and other positive IMDb reviews) and proceeded to waste the next 111 minutes of my life watching this movie.
It is definitely nowhere near "The Godfather" in terms of anything - story, script, acting, locations, production, soundtrack, anything.
When I saw Don Siegel's name as "Director" of "Charley Varrick" I had some high hopes - Don's original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" is a classic. Too bad, this 1973 flick with Walter Matthau was such a 70s era disappointment.
Yes, it had a storyline that did make sense and which tied up the loose ends at the end, but it was just so schlocky "70s" that it is almost embarrassing.
As much of a non-fan of Matthau as I am, he did act competently (see him in a little-known Kim Novak classic, "Strangers When We Meet" where he has a bit role as a skin-crawlingly smarmy lascivious neighbor - he was really good in that).
All in all, this is not a movie I would not spend the time to watch a second time, and have some regrets even having watched it the first time.
Only a "3 out of 10" mostly because the thin plot did make sense, some of the supporting character actors were quite competent, and it was Don Siegel after all. Oh, and also because the "You've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?" Andrew Robinson actor of "Dirty Harry" fame plays another unstable criminal in this movie.
My advice is, don't waste your time on this one - it wasted mine.
Worth a look - I would give it a 6.5 out of 10
It can be hit or miss for you, depending on your tastes, and depending on how much you read the other reviewers' comments here but I thought it was worth a look.
Definitely not your typical big budget Hollywood movie, but more of a slightly quirky indie tone, with its offbeat characters, few special effects and set locations, and plausible-but-never-encountered-in-typical-real-life interwoven professional-crime-crew storyline.
Beyond the story, there is something noteworthy I would like to point out - there are many examples on screen of a creative director with a definite taste for visual flair and creativity. For example, some scenes that stand out are:
- the opening scene with the cleaning-the-windshield set-up
- the blacked-out "through" shots as you see individual safe deposit boxes being pulled out, which then reveal someone's face in a multi-faceted pattern
- the two match cut scenes where someone strikes a lighter, and then later where Willie is getting hit and Finn is shown taking the fall
One thing that was slightly jarring, and reminded me that yes this was an indie effort, was how the sound sounded kind of "hollow" and "off" at times. Don't know if it was the miking or the sound editing/post-production.
Yes, the story could have been tightened up here and there but still a more-than-serviceable effort by some promising up-and-comers.
(p.s.- Who would have guessed that you would find 3 [!] exact title matches when searching for "2:22" on IMDb?!)
The Losers (2010)
The title certainly fits
Maybe it's because I haven't read the source comic book that this is based on, but I don't think so.
I sat for almost the entire movie without really being too impressed about it except for these scenes: 1) The helicopter and the "donut" surprise 2) When Jensen does a credible take on Journey's song, "Don't Stop Believin," as he's posing as a courier to infiltrate Goliath's building 3) The telekinetic face-off in the elevator landing 4) When the Indian guy says,"Thank for for meeting us at a single story facility," and 5) The reasonably funny conversation about the merits of a "classic yellow banana Pinto"
Other that that, I never got really engaged in the movie. It was pretty much explosions-by-number film-making with a script that seemed always about a half-beat off. Plus it had a lot of stupid, nonsensical dialog lines that were aiming for "cool" or "edgy" but just fell flat. I'm surprised that we didn't see the actors grimacing more at having to deliver that stilted dialog.
Not an awful movie, just a rather forgettable one.
Read the other reviews and rent the movie if you like shooting and explosions without much good story or scene set-ups.
Yip Man (2008)
Just go get it - you won't be disappointed!
Being in the U.S., I had never heard of this movie, but checking today for something worthwhile to rent from Redbox.com, I kept seeing this movie in the inventory.
I couldn't figure it out - it was titled "Ip Man" but had a Chinese guy striking a martial arts pose on the DVD cover. Let me tell you - this movie has the most unfortunate coincidence that this historical character's real name probably most naturally conjures up in an English-speaking person's mind a techno sci-fi storyline about "I.P. Man."
Good thing I was curious enough about this "Ip Man" to search it out on IMDb here, be pleasantly surprised about its (current) 8.2/10 rating, and read all of the glowing reviews.
And all of the posted reviews here are correct - the fight scenes are varied and incredible, the storyline (although historically debatable in its entirety as filmed) is well-scripted for rousing drama, some humor, deference to traditional Confucian values about family, community, and country, and of course, amazing martial arts action.
From the very opening title frames, you can tell that this is not another one of your grade-B or C poorly-dubbed and shot chop-socky imports. The opening credits sequence is very classy and high quality in style, typeface, and accompanied by a driving, urgent, drum-based orchestral score that goes on to play a continuing emotionally rousing major role throughout the rest of the movie.
The first scenes in the movie itself are reassuring in their set design and decoration, the lighting, the cinematography, camera movement, costuming, and acting. You get the immediate impression that this is a high quality dramatic movie, and not just another quickly slapped-together excuse to string a lot of over-the-top martial arts scenes and slapstick comedy together with the barest of plot lines.
Be forewarned though since this is a native Chinese language film, if you don't speak the language, you're better off watching it with the original Chinese audio on and just reading the English subtitles. Turning the English audio dubbing on is very distracting because the vernacular slang they use just doesn't fit the more serious nature of the period and place (c'mon, do you really expect to call a young child "Kiddo" in a higher class family in 1930s China?).
One tip - on the rental DVD, in Set Up, choose the "English - Full Feature" option for Subtitles. Apparently, if you just choose the plain "English" subtitles option, it only gives English translations of things seen in Chinese in the movie but not the actors' actual dialogue, which obviously will be of very little use to the non-Chinese speaker.
True, there are a few minor fake-y bits here and there with a fighter stretching the realm of believability with a slightly-long jump or other acrobatic move, but nothing that will distract you from believing in the true artfulness and complexity of the execution of the wonderfully choreographed fight scenes. (You will find yourself going back again and again after the movie to replay the major fight scenes to just take in the artistic athleticism in those shots. Talk about how Ip Man uses opponents as human speed bags in a couple of pivotal fights!)
A few observations about the Extras that were on my rental DVD: (1)The director, the actors, the fight choreographer, everybody that was interviewed was just so unfailingly polite and complimentary of each other in that culturally Asian way; just kind of nice, although it bordered on the almost saccharine if they weren't so sincere about it; (2) When you watch the few deleted scenes that are included, you will agree that the director and/or editor made the right decisions because the movie and storyline played much better without them; (3)You will be somewhat surprised by how "tame" some of the actors who play some of the macho characters in the movie seem to be in real life; (4)And you will be quite surprised which actors had what level of martial arts experience coming into this film; you won't believe it based on what you see in the movie, especially with the amount of time they had to learn to get to that level of expertise
At the bottom of the DVD box, there is a tagline of "Mentor of Iconic Legend Bruce Lee." I predict that once this movie gets a wider audience through word-of-mouth and uniformly high ratings on here and other movie review sites, people will get to know who Ip Man really is, and he will no loner have to rely on his later historical connection to Bruce Lee to cement his rightful place in the martial arts superstars firmament. (In this movie, you get to see some of the dress and fighting moves that Bruce used in his iconic breakout movie, "Enter the Dragon." Maybe he was honoring Ip Man his teacher in that way?)
Bottom-line: If you like martial arts action movies, this is a no-brainer. If you like quality historical docu-dramas with rousing true life underdog patriotic heroes, get it. It packs an even larger emotional wallop if you're ethnic Chinese and know about the atrocities the Japanese committed against the Chinese people before WWII. And if your wife can stand a little blood and some violent martial arts (but nowhere near the blood, guts, and gore of typical R-rated movies these days), then she will probably like it too - the fighting scenes are appropriately driven by the drama, and Ip Man always sees fighting as the last resort. Plus the story is full-bodied involving the importance of family as well as doing the right and honorable thing as an individual.
Wish James Cameron would make a surrogate of this movie...
If IMDb would allow half-star ratings, I would say this is about a 5.5 out of 10 because it is only slightly above average.
The concept and basic story idea is intriguing but something about the movie really doesn't carry it through. I think if James Cameron had been in on the screenplay and done the directing, it would have been an excellent movie worthy of its premise.
As it is, it is not terribly bad; just not overly engaging.
I think part of it is Ving Rhames doing that dreadlocked "Prophet" thing - it was almost laughable seeing him in that fake hair get-up. I couldn't take him (or his bodyguard goons) seriously; it was almost as if they were doing their characters tongue-in-cheek.
Too be sure, all of the surrogates looked really nice, in that artificially perfect sort of way. Kudos to the hair and makeup people on that. Even Bruce Willis' surrogate turned back the clock about 25 years and made him look pretty good. In his normal ragged "human" state, he looked like he was channeling an over-the-hill Billy Joel.
And what was it with that fake-y "G.I. Joe, The Rise of the Cobra" superhuman copycat street chase scene? Once again, not a "bad" movie, but not the great one it could have been in better hands.
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Watch it if you've never seen it before; truly a 4-star look into a real life most of us aren't familiar with
Just caught part of this movie again tonight as part of TCM's annual "31 Days of Oscar" special programming in celebration of the Academy Awards.
Although I've seen the whole movie before, this is one of those movies I can't help but watch and be drawn into, whenever it's on.
The acting, the characters, the real-life stories and challenges, the variety in pacing, the underlying music, the sentiment snapshot of that important transitional period in our history, and the kind of "offbeatedness" of some of the glimpses back into that era and time. There's always something to admire and to appreciate once again when it's on.
Check out the many creative scene set-ups and the flow of the camera, especially the scenes involving mirrors and other artistic framing. Also, the deep focus shots, too. Quite a lesson in creative directing and innovative camera technique on its own.
And then -- there is Myrna Loy! Something about that coy, knowing, impetuous smile/smirk and those big expressive eyes,reminiscent of "The Thin Man" series, gets me every time. What a wonderful wife to have!
(p.s.- Teresa Wright always reminds me of a younger Donna Reed, too.)
Terminator Salvation (2009)
Someone should have Terminated this movie series after T2
An only passable action film looking for a story.
What can I say? And to think, I thought T3 gave the movie franchise a bad name.
Herky-jerky plot, confusing storyline, uninteresting characters.
Christian Bale channeling an angry Batman but without the mask; rapper Common giving acting a bad name; Sam Worthington looking close enough to Christian Bale to be his brother and cause confusion; everybody with perfect Crest Whitestrips teeth in this post-apocalyptic world; Star, the little mute black girl, does a shallow imitation of the Feral Kid from Mad Max's "The Road Warrior;" logic and plot holes throughout; need I go on? I can see why the Redbox rental DVD had no extras - it wasn't worth anybody's time to do them, or maybe it was the hesitation to want to be further associated with this hollow movie.
Good thing I got to rent this movie for free; I'm not sure it would have even been worth the usual Redbox $1 per night. I'm sure glad I didn't pay theater prices to see it.
Bottom-line: If you've seen the first two Terminator movies, this is a total let-down.
Yes Man (2008)
Just say "No" to "Yes Man" unless...
...you're under the age of 25 and uninventive comedy and PG-13 crude sexual humor is what makes you laugh.
Seriously, how did this movie rate a "7.0" on IMDb?? Maybe they should start requiring an age and/or IQ factor to help normalize the final user ratings for movies...
Granted, there was the basic premise of an interesting idea in this movie, but there was so much lameness in so much of the movie that it was just basically (to me) unfunny. Then again, if you just get into stupid mindless gag-type comedy and rather tasteless crude sexual humor, then maybe it might rate a 7.0 or greater for you.
There were a few clever as well as a few sweet moments in the movie (i.e., respectively, when Carrey's various "Yes!"-inspired self-improvement forays come in handy in unexpected ways, and scenes with Zooey's big hound dog eyes doing their best emotive magic), but very few.
What a shame, and what a waste of Carrey's comedic talents. Sure, he's been a big commercial success the last 10-15 years, but you would have to be older than 25 to really remember and appreciate how truly comically inventive and talented he was as he became a surprise star in the Wayans Brothers' show "In Living Color" on the then-fledgling Fox Network.
As for "Yes Man," my advice is to just say "No" if you're over 25 or 30.
"Duplicity" refers to you being the dupe and thinking this movie will be better than it is
Another poster, gary-444 from United Kingdom, said it best in his IMDb comments about this movie titled "Conned" on 24 March 2009, so I won't repeat what he said.
I also agree with what another poster said somewhere else, that motherhood has indeed been kind to Julia Roberts figure-wise (although facially, she certainly has aged quite noticeably; there were a few ill-advised tight close-ups where she looked almost "skeletal" in the head shots).
Here's the lowdown - through the first 30 or so minutes, all of the supposedly witty and clever dialogue between Clive and Julia just seems to be forever off half a beat, and not really believable. Their two characters never really seem to have the on-screen chemistry the script was calling for, and so the audience really doesn't care for them as much (at least I didn't).
The various contrived flashback device just didn't seem to work and only added to further confuse the story, not illuminate it.
Perhaps most damning - don't lie down on the couch for any part of this movie, because you too may find yourself nodding off for a bit and not really missing it.
The only good things about the movie - if this is really the extent to which intellectual espionage takes place in the corporate world, then that was certainly eye-opening and interesting. And the story resolution was "interesting" but not totally unexpected.
I rated this movie only 2 stars out of 10 because although there were a couple of interesting things about it, otherwise I thought it was mainly a waste of time, with the real determinant being: no, I would never spend any time ever watching any part of it again.
My recommendation: if you want to see a spy thriller/romance/intrigue movie with real witty reparteé, rent Hitchcock's classic "North by Northwest" instead. Now, THAT'S a film that I never grow tired of re-watching whenever it comes on. And that, my friends, is the sign of a true classic.
The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)
Some great film-making scenes in this movie...
I stumbled upon this movie on TCM already in progress and only caught the last two-thirds. However, I thought it was great.
You can read about the story lines and the actors elsewhere, but I'd like to point out what I thought were two especially well set-up, lit, and with great camera direction. (There may have been more in the first third of the movie but I missed that part.) The first classic shot is when Lana Turner is doing her character's powerfully emotional final scene in the movie she's shooting. Our camera perspective pulls back from that shooting-scene-in-progress to show all the surrounding production staff and crew hands all in rapt attention.
Just check out all the perfectly positioned people in that scene, and how dramatically lit the scene is as the camera plays up and around the assembled workers! What perfectly-cast extras (or maybe they were real crew hands) who all "looked" their parts! And all the stereotypical body language poses! Just a great visual sense of knowing what it should look like. And the crowning touch is the smile that slowly and appreciatively appears on the worker sitting way up by the spotlights at the end of the scene. Great realized piece of directing. I would rank it up there with some of the revolutionary stuff boy-wonder Orson Welles did.
My other favorite "director's scene" is the very last scene at the end of the movie - note the acting, the lighting, the expressions, and the body movement and body language. Just a great piece of ensemble work, both in front of and behind the scenes. Classic! (p.s.- I also liked the way they did the end credits with clips from the movie for each of the primary characters along with their real name, so you could SEE who's who. It's a shame more modern movies don't do that...)