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c_alton

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24 reviews in total 
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Solaris (2002)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Preferable to the Tarkovsky film., 2 December 2002

Steven Soderbergh's version of "Solaris" is a breeze compared to the near-static and long movie directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. As a viewing experience I appreciate the new film's thematic focus and shorter running length. The source novel on which both productions are based is really too complex to be visualized fully--which is not about romantic love per se, but about large philosophical questions and the limits of empiricism and epistemology--so I expect the author Stanislaw Lem to dislike the American adaptation of his book as he did the Russian version. (Incidentally it is said about the polymath Lem that, if it wasn't known he writes science fiction, he would have been a Nobel prize-winner.) But like the book Soderbergh strives to eliminate the trashy elements that are so much a part of the fantastic genre--robots, space battles, aliens, ray guns, etc, all the stuff you'd expect in a Star Trek or Star Wars movie. The result is an intelligent, mature, thoughtful, and in my opinion very watchable contribution, though perhaps not as ground-breaking as some have claimed it to be.

The horror is in the awfulness of the script, 1 December 2002

The creature special effects aren't bad, but even the best effects couldn't begin to compensate for the mind-numbing script. "Eight-Legged Freaks" aims for the easy-going tribute/satire tone of "Tremors" and "Lake Placid," movies that unambitiously riff on old silly monster movies. Instead, it misses in a scattershot way that's remindful of "Mars Attacks," only dopey and unfunny. Rather than trashing stereotypes and cliches like the aforementioned movies it merely recycles them, such as the scene in which rescuer David Arquette unbelievably outruns an exploding fireball on a dirtbike. The acting performances are sometimes painful to watch. All told, a truly tedious, wearisome, and headache-inducing movie.

An enjoyable Ludlum adaptation, 29 November 2002

Contrary to expectations, "The Bourne Identity" is a satisfying action-spy-suspense film. And it's made as though everything after the 1970s never occurred, a rather old fashioned movie in texture and technique. An over-used device like amnesia should have been a liability but never really slows up the intriguing narrative. Also the audience is ahead of the story when it comes to the mystery of who crossed-up the protagonist, but again it proves to be less of a stumbling block. Doug Liman, as director, keeps things stripped-down and on the ground--as opposed to the improbable comic-strip antics of James Bond--and at least makes the proceedings quasi-convincing. Matt Damon as mysterious-action-hero-in-search-of-his-past is likeable here and does a good job kicking butt. Unfortunately Franka Potente has little to do as does Julia Stiles in an almost throwaway bit part.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
The aliens (and commies) are among us!, 28 November 2002

One of the earliest, if not the first, movies to use invasions from outer space as a science fictional way of urging a Cold War America to stand guard against the spread of Communism. And true to the Joe McCarthy spirit of the times, it displayed a deep-seated mistrust of intellectualism. But even discounting the political subtext "The Thing" is a tense, first-rate thriller, about a military detachment, one very plucky woman, and a group of scientists stationed at a lonely Artic outpost uncovering a humanoid alien being in the ice, who upon defrosting promptly goes on a rampage for blood. Certainly not as gross as the John Carpenter remake, the black-and-white movie resorts to simple devices for shock and horror, such as opening a door and seeing your worst nightmare standing in front of you. The American soldiers are red-blooded, competent, confident, can-do guys fighting for their lives while the bumbling scientists try foolishly to communicate with the otherworldly intruder. Although not credited, it is widely believed that Howard Hawks, not Christian Nyby, helmed the picture. Also there's a daring bondage scene that has to be seen to be believed.

Sleeper (1973)
Hi. I'm Rags. Woof! Woof!, 28 November 2002

There are other Woody Allen fantasy comedies I prefer, for instance "The Purple Rose of Cairo" and "Zelig." But "Sleeper" has memorable, brainy bits that I still find funny like the Volkswagen dug up after 200 years and starts the first time. And the giant banana peel that Woody somehow manages to slip on. The movie plays on the familiar dystopian scenarios--"1984," "Brave New World," etc. Woody at least has enough respect for the science fiction genre to consult one of its leading practitioners, writer Ben Bova, before he commenced skewering. He might have used H.G. Wells' When the Sleeper Wakes as a starting point.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Murphy's Law, not Chaos Theory, 24 November 2002

"Jurassic Park" will always be noted in cinema history for featuring the most groundbreaking development in special effects since Willis O'Brien brought King Kong to life with stop-motion animation. Thanks to computer generated images, dinosaurs live again. But Steven Spielberg didn't originally plan to use CGI--he had more mechanical methods in mind--but turned to the rapidly evolving world of digital resources late in production, which indicates a technical savviness and flexibility on his part. Spielberg is anything but a technophobe. This is in contrast to the movie's Frankenstein theme, an inveighing against scientific hubris. Just because we can doesn't mean we should. The sequels should have taken the message more to heart.

Apollo 13 (1995)
Failure is not an option, 24 November 2002

Since so many NASA insiders seem pleased with "Apollo 13," including astronaut Jim Lovell, I assume the story is fairly true to what actually happened. There was carping over some over-dramatized aspects and use of poetic license, but it's difficult to avoid criticism of this sort if the goal is an entertaining recreation of an historical event and not a documentary. (Ron Howard and company suffered harsher reaction to "A Beautiful Mind" for essentially the same approach.) As far as I'm concerned, the movie is a rivetting one, a triumph of the human spirit against fearsome odds, against the lethal and unforgiving expanse of outer space. The actors did a creditable job, in particular Tom Hanks as Lovell and Ed Harris as mission controller Gene Kranz. The computer graphics are spectacular. A footnote: "Apollo 13" is the first movie to use real weightlessness or zero g (via the Vomit Comet).

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Murphy's Law, not Chaos Theory, 24 November 2002

"Jurassic Park" will always be noted in cinema history for featuring the most groundbreaking development in special effects since Willis O'Brien brought King Kong to life with stop-motion animation. Thanks to computer generated images, dinosaurs live again. But Steven Spielberg didn't originally plan to use CGI--he had more mechanical methods in mind--but turned to the rapidly evolving world of digital resources late in production, which indicates a technical savviness and flexibility on his part. Spielberg is anything but a technophobe. This is in contrast to the movie's Frankenstein theme, an inveighing against scientific hubris. Just because we can doesn't mean we should. The sequels should have taken the message more to heart.

An X-Files episode, 24 November 2002

If you like The X-Files tv show, you'll probably like "The Mothman Prophecies." The story dynamics, atmosphere, and approach to borderline, elusive phenomena appear to be similar. Frankly I'm surprised Richard Gere and Laura Linney are in this picture--it doesn't seem to be their type of material. Not that they phoned-in their performances--pardon the pun--but the movie is clearly plot driven. "Mothman" is, ultimately, more startling and eerie than terrifying, and I hope nobody takes its subject matter seriously. Director Mark Pellington is a director to watch for on future projects.

Henry V (1989)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
once more into the breach, 23 November 2002

Kenneth Branagh's film of "Henry V" is yet another testament to the timelessness of Shakespeare's verse. While Lawrence Olivier's version--stagebound for the most part and pageantly colorful--serves a jingoistic purpose during WWII, a morale booster for the Normandy invasion, Branagh is more concerned in displaying the brutality of war and the ruthlessness of monarchies in the light of post-Vietnam and post-Falkland Islands times. Personally, I can relate more to Branagh's earthy production than to Olivier's, though I think at this date Olivier has proven to be more of the Bard's actor. Yet both films are fine renditions of the play in my opinion. They inform and complement each other.


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