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18 reviews in total 
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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
a solid political thriller, 13 January 2009

I ran into The Package on TV the other night and was pleasantly entertained. I'm quite surprised not to have heard about this movie since it has a star-studded cast and a renowned director. Maybe the reason for being relatively unknown is the film's genre, the political thriller. Anyways, The Package is a solid film with a good pace and a story that probably was more relevant back in the day but still enjoyable today. As for the actors, Gene Hackman stands out of course, he's always been good at portraying military characters. It's amazing to see his ability to bring intensity on the screen, especially when it comes to face-to-face confrontations. His scenes with John Heard are good examples of this and he will bring this to another level with Denzel Washington in Crimson Tide. It was also interesting to see Tommy Lee Jones in a bad guy role earlier in his career. For fans of Hackman and Jones The Package is a must see, for others it's a safe bet for worthy entertainment.

Elegy (2008/I)
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
just beautiful, 4 January 2009

Elegy is a beautiful film. Quite possibly Isabelle Quixet's most accomplished and mature work to date. She might explore similar themes over and over again but still she manages to put on a new layer of meaning each time. This time it's about the possibility of love beyond age and the difficulties of commitment. Elegy is a character driven piece, one that draws its power from the dialogues and interplays of the actors. An important part of the director's job is to bring out the best from his or her actors. Isabelle Quixet pulls this off brilliantly. Ben Kingsley gives one of the greatest performances of his career as the professor who is trying to get in terms with ageing. He had a really difficult job because he had to convince the viewer that even at his age he is man enough to seduce a beautiful young woman played by Penelope Cruz. Kingsley succeeds no doubt because never for a minute during the film have I thought that their relationship wouldn't ring true or seemed unrealistic. Penelope Cruz brings her usual charm and grace to the film and as it is said in the movie she is a work of art. I don't remember seeing her more beautiful than in Elegy. It would be blasphemous no to mention the supporting cast as well Patricia Clarkson, Peter Sarsgaard and Dennis Hopper all bring their best to make the film work. It was especially good to see Mr Hopper in a meaningful role. The music and cinematography should be mentioned too because they each contribute a lot to the overall experience. I must admit I left the theatre deeply moved and thought about the movie for several days. Strongly recommended for those who appreciate movies that have the courage to be slow, dialogue-driven and emotional.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
At last the Coens' biting satire is back, 4 January 2009

Following their hugely successful and equally brilliant No Country for Old Men the Coens have returned to their all too familiar territory: the black comedy. The good news is that their approach was different than in case of Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers, which were in my view lesser works for their mass appeal oriented humor. With Burn After Reading the biting satire is back: plastic surgery, internet dating, body building/shaping, the marriage-adultery-divorce triangle and even the CIA are all targets that get their fair share of the Coens' poisoned arrows. As always, a terrific cast supports this endeavor. First and foremost Brad Pitt has to receive special credit, not only for being the funniest of the lot but for willingly making a complete fool of himself for the role and doing it brilliantly. Actually this shouldn't come as a great surprise since he was equally hilarious as Mickey in Snatch and also as Jeffrey in Twelve Monkeys but this time he's funny in a completely different way. And this is a quality great actors share: always showing something new, something we haven't seen before. As for the rest of the cast it seems that the males got the funnier parts, Malkovich is great, Clooney is good (somewhat reminiscent of the character he played in O, Brother), while Frances McDormand could've been funnier (her name is spot on though). Other highlights include all the scenes that take place at the CIA (the concluding dialog between JK Simmons and David Rasche is a killer) and the first phone conversation between Pitt and Malkovich is deadly, too. So, what we get is a true Coen-style black comedy that provides numerous laughs and altogether great entertainment. And if you want to search for something meaningful beneath all this fun, you'll find that the movie is about how egoistic, lonely and lost we are when we elbow each other out of the way to accomplish our petty goals. It may not be as strong as The Big Lebowski but nonetheless proves that when it comes to sarcastic humor the Coens still stand way above the rest.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Impressive cast, disappointing movie, 15 November 2008

I stumbled upon "The Secret Agent" amongst the cheap DVDs at a mall and this should have been a sign of warning. But you never know where you can dig up a hidden gem and with this impressive cast this film certainly looked a safe bet.

Well, as it turns out acting is the only facet of the movie that doesn't disappoint. I especially liked Jim Broadbent's Chief Inspector Heat but the real surprise is Robin Williams, who turns in a convincing performance in one of his few darker roles. His scenes with Depardieu at a bar are the rare highlights of the movie.

Acting aside, there isn't really anything worthwhile that the movie could come up with. The story wasn't engaging enough to hold my attention I kept pushing the display button on the remote to see how much longer I need to endure. Also, since the movie is set in nineteenth century London I was constantly thinking about how they could find the locations or build sets to make the film believable, which is a clear sign that the filmmakers were not up to the task in that respect, since had the illusion been alright I wouldn't have been thinking about that in the first place.

Overall, a below average affair with a strong cast which the film itself couldn't live up to.

Fall Time (1995)
6 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Fall Time is Waste of Time, 13 November 2008

Man, how I regret wasting my precious time on this film. Fall Time is so awful that I kind of feel ashamed to have it in my DVD collection. Not for long though… Don't be fooled by the Sundance nomination (how this piece of junk achieved it is a mystery) and the promising cast: Fall Time is an annoyingly bad film. Its plot is contrived, the developments of the story border on the ridiculous and to top it off the acting is poor. Even those actors who proved elsewhere that they can do much better (Mickey Rourke, Sheryl Lee) fail to impress.

When you feel that it is a movie that you are watching and not a story that you could immerse yourself in, when you see sweating actors instead of characters or cheap sets instead of real locations you know that the illusion you expect to get from a film will not arrive this time. Try as I might I would be hard pressed to find a single redeeming feature in this film. I only gave it 2 stars to reserve 1 for the absolute black holes of cinema. Avoid it like the plague!

4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Not quite the new Delicatessen, 26 October 2008

I think when you make a movie about butchers that use a "special kind of meat", it's inevitable that your film will be compared to and measured against a former masterpiece Delicatessen that uses pretty much the same premise. And if you do this comparison, sadly The Green Butchers will fall short.

It lacks the visual gags of the French classic, its characters are underdeveloped and kind of distant and the story has its bumps, too. As far as the humor goes, there are a couple of good lines but altogether I didn't find the film particularly funny. And it's not me against black comedy because I like the genre but I think a film like this in order to be really amusing needs characters that are genuinely funny in their quirkiness. Unfortunately in Green Butchers there weren't any and on top of that the scenes involving the twin brother were more embarrassing than comic. I also felt that the two Danish stars were not as comfortable in their roles as they should have been to be able to portray them effectively.

So the Danish Delicatessen was a bit of a letdown for me considering the high standard movies from Denmark have set lately. Maybe if you see it without having Delicatessen in your mind the experience would be better (it won't be an easy job because the filmmakers were obviously aware of the French movie and included various hints at it throughout).

Deception (2008/I)
8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Doomed to be forgotten, 19 October 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The thriller is one of the genres I enjoy most so I give it a chance every time a promising one appears on the horizon. And Deception had promise: Ewan McGregor, Hugh Jackman, and Michelle Williams, actors I think highly of; Dante Spinotti, brilliant cinematographer of Heat and LA Confidential; and a story of anonymous sex, a secret list and white-collar crime.

Unfortunately, Deception turned out to be a film of unfulfilled promises. The script lacks the least bit of originality, if you've seen a thriller or two, you'll figure out the "twists" in no time. Even the film's title reeks of zero imagination, it simply gives away the one thing that should be kept hidden until the second half of the movie. Not to mention the various hints that enable even the less imaginative moviegoers to see the turns of the story from miles away. This is not how you make a thriller that should keep you guessing what will happen next… It's quite frustrating to watch a scene (the money transfer to Spain) and think "oh, this is when I'm supposed to be holding my breath for Ewan to succeed! But hey, something's wrong, I don't give a damn!" It is clearly a sign that the movie does not work.

The only saving grace of the film is the cinematography and there are a couple of good scenes between McGregor and Williams but they only make Deception barely watchable and cannot save it from its fate: complete oblivion.

9 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Home is not safe anymore, 12 October 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As a big fan of the genre I prefer horror films that show less and leave much more to the imagination. If you are into this type of stuff, The Strangers is your movie. Maybe it's not the most original flick out there but it uses the gimmicks of the art to great effect.

Last year's 'Vacancy' offers a good point of comparison because of the similarities in storyline: a young couple with problems in their relationship ends up at a remote house only to fall into the hands of some very disturbed individuals. But the resemblance ends here: 'Vacancy' is sort of okay, but it does not leave a lasting impression.

The Strangers however stayed with me for days afterwards and I know that some of its scenes and lines ("Because you were home"…) I will never forget. It's much scarier than 'Vacancy' and its villains are a lot more menacing, too. It is because we never get to know who they really are or what motivations they have. The masks hide their true identities and their intentions remain unexplained. I like the idea that even if they shed their masks in the end we still not really see their faces. Not knowing by whom and why you are about to lose your life is one maddening prospect indeed.

I think one reason why the movie works so well is that it takes time to introduce our protagonists. Getting to know what happened between them brings them closer to us and thereby they become people to root for and not just victims that we don't care about as is the case with a lot of contemporary horror movies. Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman not only look good together; they are able to portray a relationship that looks real, which is not too common in the genre. Because we care for them it is much easier to put ourselves in their shoes and thereby the 'it could happen to us' aspect works better, too.

Another thing to mention why the film worked is that our protagonists were attacked at their (summer) home not at a cheap motel or at some other impersonal location. Home is supposed to be safe and when this image is shattered and you start thinking about how safe you really are at home, it's terrifying to realize how vulnerable we are to evil.

Maybe it's a little far-fetched to state and Alfred Hitchcock would surely say it's only a movie but I still think that good horror films are reflections of our times and the anxieties we face and The Strangers touches on some of these really well and thereby not only giving a memorable movie experience but some food for thought as well.

Reckless (1984)
A memorable debut for James Foley and Aidan Quinn, 20 August 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I caught Reckless on TCM the other night and it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. In the beginning it seemed like the all-too-familiar small town college romance thing with the quarterback, the cheerleader and the outcast but as the story developed I found myself more and more intrigued. And the reason for this was the inspired acting by Aidan Quinn (his first movie ever!) and Darryl Hannah. The chemistry between them was exceptional and as their relationship unfolded the movie really came alive. Credits must be given to the then first-time director James Foley for directing their scenes in a down-to-earth, natural way. Maybe the script is not too original and we've probably seen these characters before, nevertheless the film manages to grasp the relative pointlessness and hopelessness of the industry town milieu really well. Although our two protagonists come from different family backgrounds which–under normal circumstances–would produce totally divergent ways of life, they still find each other and share the common desire to escape from the lives that are laid out for them in order to step on a road less traveled. The top-notch performances and the unmistakable 80s atmosphere make it well worth looking out for this film.

4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
a messy piece of work, 3 August 2008

If you have high expectations (like I had) for Roger Donaldson's next film after the brilliant 'The World's Fastest Indian' (IMHO one of the highlights of 2005), let me give you a fair warning. For me, unfortunately, 'The Bank Job' turned out to be a let-down. My overriding impression of the film when I walked out of the theater was that the movie was a messy piece of work. It's a half an hour too long, its multiple story lines never quite find their proper course (some of them are downright superfluous) and the ending, particularly the final scene, is preposterous. Without memorable scenes and characters, it's the type of film that you'll forget in a day's time.

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