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Gone with the Wind (1939)
A true classic
"Gone With the Wind" is one of those films that I've had recommended to me for most of my life, but had never actually gotten around to seeing...until recently. Let me establish that I am not, by any means, a romantic guy. Unquestionably, the genre this film would be placed in is that of Romance, or possibly Romantic Drama if you want to be really specific. But...in another review (Star Wars Episode II) I mentioned films that rise above their genre and become something more, something nearly everyone can enjoy. "Gone With the Wind" is one of those films. The story surrounds Scarlet O'Hara, and her struggle to survive and regain the style of life that the Civil War took from her. She starts out as a manipulative, largely false and uncaring young woman, whose only real care in life is to get her way. She is "in love" with Ashley Wilkes, largely, in my opinion, because she can't have him. Ashley is a nice enough man, but he certainly isn't the type for Scarlet. In the beginning of the film, the characters are nicely established. The acting is top-notch, the writing is excellent, and this is one of those films you just have to see to believe. This is another of those films that I really can't comment on too much without giving away parts of the plot, so at this point I'd advise you to stop reading if you don't want to risk having something given away to you. SPOILER WARNING. Now, my philosophy on the film--you aren't supposed to like Scarlet. She is manipulative. She is shallow. She rarely shows compassion for others unless it will get her something in return. She lures two prospective husbands away from other girls via lies and false affection (not that the men aren't partially at fault there) and then basically makes the men miserable for what little time they live afterwards. That's simply the way she is for most of the film--a person who uses the misery of others, from slaves to prisoners to her husbands, to enhance her own life. Ashley says it himself in the later parts of the film, commenting that her use of prisoners in her business is wrong, that she should hire people (and, incidentally, that he'd intended to free his family's slaves when his father died and they became his, if the war hadn't done it first). Her entire life is focused around getting something she cannot have--Ashley Wilkes. He is husband to Melanie (who is, incidentally, a sweet and kind woman who sacrifices herself for everyone else, and eventually dies because she gave too much of herself). Scarlet is living in a fantasy world, where everything revolves around her, and refuses to accept that things will not go her way. In the middle of the film, this gives her strength, and allows people to survive...but once her home is safe, she becomes unbearable again. She never changes, never realizes that the needs of other people matter too. Even poor Rhett (who, to be fair, is quite the manipulative and false man himself, and is certainly not without fault) is manipulated by her, constantly pushed aside despite doing everything he can to show her his love, until finally his heart is broken and he can take no more. The end of the film, where Scarlet finally turns to Rhett after Ashley finally musters up the will to tell her "no" for good, isn't uplifting..."Tommorrow is another day" isn't hopeful. It's tragic. Scarlet still cannot accept the loss of something she wanted. Rhett will never return to her, because she's caused him too much pain, but she will keep on trying, manipulating people, because she is still unable to let other people's needs go ahead of her own. Maybe it's just my way of seeing it (I /have/ been told that I "missed the point," that somehow Scarlet's manipulation should be accepted because it is a search for security--I feel that's a reason, but not an excuse)...but in any case, I immensely enjoyed "Gone With the Wind," despite hating Scarlet, and any movie that can inspire me to write for this long on just one of its many characters and points, on just a small part of the film, is certainly worth a look. Watch and enjoy.
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Overall, a very flat film
Don't get me wrong--"Clash of the Titans" is an entertaining enough film at times, and I didn't feel like I'd wasted my time watching it...but, having heard it praised a great deal over my life, I have to say I was disappointed. The special effects aren't the problem--not only were they actually quite good for the most part, but I've never had a problem getting into even films with awful special effects, so long as the acting and/or writing is good (old Star Trek episodes, anyone?). The problem in this film is that the acting is, quite frankly, wooden and emotionless. The actors portraying the gods do a good job...just about everyone else is unconvincing...to the point of taking a person right out of the film. It isn't so much that they're actively bad as it is that they're just...boring. Bad acting is fun to watch--I can at least have fun "MSTing" it. Boring acting isn't...it's just drab, not bad enough to give me allegedly witty comments to make about it, but not good enough to be worth watching. That's where most of the actors in this film rest, particularly the lead male, playing Perseus. The writing is pretty sloppy at times, too...for a few examples, we're told that Medusa's blood is poisonous, and that if anyone touches it they'll die...but we're never told, to my knowledge, that it also happens to be able to be used to turn little scorpions into big scorpions for a fighting sequence that seems only placed in there so one of the main characters can get killed (which inspires, unsurprisingly, no emotion from Perseus). For another example--we build up to Pegasus for the entire movie, and it's finally freed and used by Perseus...and is knocked out of the sky moments into the fight. Unless I'm recalling things incorrectly (which is possible, it's been a while since I saw the film), Perseus proceeds to defeat the monster without Pegasus' help. If you're going to put a supernatural winged horse into the film and build to the hero using it for half the movie, you really should have it actually be useful for more than just the basic transportation to the final battle. Yes, there /should/ be a remake of this...or rather, another film based on the same Greek myths. Ancient mythology contains a lot of great stories, and they deserve better films than this as representation. Overall, a decent film, but not deserving of the term "classic" by any means.
A decent sci-fi film
There are some films that go beyond their genre, becoming something greater, something that nearly anyone can enjoy, with powerful performances and excellent writing and directing. The Sixth Sense. Gone With the Wind. As Good as it Gets. The original Star Wars Trilogy. The Matrix. Films that may not be without flaws, but nevertheless are an inspiration to watch. Star Wars Episode II is not one of those films. It is a sci-fi film...that's all. As those things go, it's certainly decent enough, and definitely worth watching, but it isn't anything particularly special. Anyway, here ends the comparison to other films, and begins my commentary on this one alone. "Attack of the Clones" is, largely, the story of Anakin Skywalker's coming of age, and his difficulties in dealing with his love for Amidala and the subtle manipulations of Palpatine as he learns the ways of the Jedi from his teacher, Obi-Wan Kenobi--who he believes is holding him back. This is set against the larger story of the political troubles of the Republic, which is faced with a terrible choice between watching planets split off and destroy the unity that once was or fighting those that rebel and watching the destruction arise even quicker as they destroy the very principles upon which it is based. And at the head of it all is Palpatine, a scheming mastermind who uses all the others, from senator to Jedi, like pieces in a chess game. It's a great setup, and could lead to an excellent plot. Unfortunately, it's derailed early on in the film...in part, due to the performances given by some of the actors. Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman are the focus of a great part of the film as Anakin and Amidala...and come off as very flat. The emotions they portray seem false...as though, really, they were just trying too hard. It doesn't help that the writing for their many scenes is generally overdone, with the lines written in such a way that they simply can't be said in a natural manner. There are a great many scenes between the two in the film, and each has very little true point being there...it would've been far better to have fewer scenes, with more meaning in each. What is so unusual about this film is that it really seems to have been written and directed by two different people. By contrast to the Anakin/Amidala parts, the Obi-Wan parts of the film are quite excellent, extremely entertaining and filled with neat plot points and stellar performances by just about everyone involved. Ewan McGregor, in particular, does an amazing job of portraying Obi-Wan, exactly as he should be portrayed, and brings the character to life in a way few actors can. His parts of the film save it, easily...though they perhaps also make the Anakin/Amidala parts more depressing to sit through, because of the stark contrast. It's really very odd. I have several problems with various parts of the movie's plot. Most, probably unsurprisingly, fall within the Anakin/Amidala parts of the film. I won't comment on most of them, because often it'd spoil parts of the movie for those who haven't seen it...but I will comment on one thing. *SPOILER WARNING* Anakin's attack on the Tusken Raiders was horribly handled--in my opinion, the attack should not have happened in this film, especially not if it is going to be ignored for most of the rest of the movie, outside of one single scene. I'm not saying that it should've been the focus of the rest of the film, but the writing seemed to suggest that watchers are expected to look at Anakin in the same way they always have...when he's just slaughtered an entire camp, men, women, AND children. *END SPOILER* In any case, "Attack of the Clones" is worth watching, if only to form your own opinion on the film. It was certainly entertaining, which is all I really ask for when I go to a movie...but in the end, it is only a decent sci-fi action film, that had so much potential to be better--not because of the Star Wars name, but because of the honestly great idea for the general plot. Oh, yes, I also feel obligated to mention that Yoda is great.
Kaubôi bibappu (1998)
On another level...
The story of four bounty hunters (and a dog) and their adventures over various planets, Cowboy Bebop rises to a different level, above almost any other anime I've seen--Record of Lodoss War being the sole exception to this point. The storytelling is excellent--each episode is obviously carefully written, the personalities of the characters ringing true, the plotlines intricate and interesting. Apart from Record of Lodoss War, this is the only anime--in fact, the only show in general--that I've been able to watch without seeing a single episode I didn't like. Even the worst Cowboy Bebop episode is very entertaining, and all get the viewer involved with the characters. If I have one complaint, it's that Cowboy Bebop is too short...at the end, I didn't want to leave Spike or the others behind yet. Especially Ein. Cute pup. Favorite episodes, for the curious: "Sympathy for the Devil," "Ballad of Fallen Angels," "Black Dog Serenade," and "The Real Folk Blues (2-part)." Ideally, I'd just list about every one, but that would defeat the purpose of listing my favorites... In any case, watch this show! Start to finish, it's an amazing ride.
One of the funniest films ever.
Shrek is a very, very entertaining film. There have been many attempts to take the classic fairy-tale genre and stand it on its head, going back to "Fractured Fairy Tales" on the old "Rocky and Bullwinkle" cartoon (and probably further, but that's the first I saw), but none succeeds so magnificently as Shrek. The film takes the classic theme of a princess trapped in a castle and guarded by a dragon, and a prince who sees her in a magic mirror and wants her for his wife--and adds an ugly, rude, yet oddly lovable ogre, sent /by/ said prince, as the hero. Add huge groups of fairy tale characters and references to classic stories, Eddie Murphy as a wise-cracking donkey--I'm sure the directors just let him talk about whatever he wanted to and just found a way to work it in--gloriously brilliant comedic lines, outlandish situations (Shrek's little wrestling exhibition is great, and the Dewlock(sp?) song kills me every time) and the fact that the plot is actually quite good in and of itself, and you have an instant classic. A few too many crude jokes bring the rating down a bit for me, but the movie is still absolutely brilliant.
Surprised the heck out of me.
I won't deny it...I went into FF:TSW expecting visually stunning animation and not much else. (When will I learn not to go into films with any expectations, good or bad?) What I got was far from one of the best films I've ever seen, but still very, very entertaining. As I've stated in other reviews, I don't like to comment on animation unless I have nothing else to talk about. So I won't. Final Fantasy's story is good--the general idea is great, and very creepy in general. It does, however, seem very rushed...particularly at the beginning of the film, which is especially distressing since if you miss one thing out of all the stuff they've got to establish, you simply won't understand any of the rest of the movie and will likely despise it for the rest of your life. If you /do/ manage to get all the little details the movie throws out, the rest of the plot actually makes sense, and believe me, movies are a lot more entertaining when they make sense. There are still moments when the plot seems rushed, and there's certainly more they could do with it, but in general it's a nice, suspenseful ride. The voice acting is pretty good. Some of the lines seem forced, but most of the dialogue sounds very natural, making it a lot easier to suspend disbelief and get wrapped up in the story. The action sequences are probably the least important part of this film, but they are amazingly well-done. I guess I can't talk about choreography, really, with a film made in this way, but whatever the term, the action flows extremely well, and the characters in them show more emotion and involvement than a lot of live-action stars. It evades the problem I have with a lot of action films...scenes in which the fighters/runners/whatever have looks on their faces that just scream, "We're just running through memorized choreography, not actually battling for our lives." I suppose the emotion might be easier to show with an animated character who doesn't have to concentrate on finding his spots and all, but even so, I have to give the FF guys credit for showing it.
You may have wondered why I haven't commented on the games yet. Yes, I've played them. Yes, I like them. No, I won't comment on how strictly the film sticks to their concept or how far it strays from them. This film should be judged purely by its own merits, not by its relationship to the games, just as each new FF game should be judged on its own, not compared to the rest of the FF series. If a film or game is a remake of something, I'll compare it to the old one...if not (and this film isn't) I'll let it stand on it's own...which Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within can certainly do. It isn't a masterpiece, it isn't a great film, but it is certainly good and well worth watching. Oh, heck, one comment on the animation. Magnificent. There. And one on the soundtrack. Great. There. Okay, now I'm done.
Out of the three DBZ films I've seen--Dead Zone, The World's Strongest, and Tree of Might--The World's Strongest is the one I most enjoyed. The plot is decent enough: evil guy tries to take over the world, Goku and pals have to stop him...there's a little bit in there about Goku's rival/ally, Piccolo, getting mind controlled and having to fight Goku. This all leads up to some nice, fast-paced action with the least stalling ever featured in DBZ. ^_^ What's really great about the action in this film is that unlike most other DBZ stuff, it concentrates mostly on martial arts rather than the flying and massive blasts of power and charging up that is the center of the action on the TV show. The martial arts action is very well-animated, and the fights manage to be very dramatic for the most part. Now for the bad. Gohan...sings...a...song...in...honor...of...Piccolo. I will never get those few minutes of my life back. "Di di di, Pic-co-lo..."
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! Sorry...having flashbacks. That is seriously one of the most screwed-up, insane songs in the world and I worry that the people who made that sequence were on some sort of mind-altering substance...there is no other explanation for its existance. Anyway, fast-forward past THAT insanity and this is a film you should enjoy.
Dragon Ball Z with the loooooong stalls cut out...
Entertaining. Didn't have a lot of substance, but it has a lot of good animation and fighting action. The plot is halfway decent, but don't even try to fit it into the DBZ timeline...apparently this is after Frieza, but Goku can't go Super Saiya-jin. I think. In any case, the fights are excellent, the dubbing is pretty nice, and this film really shows how exciting DBZ could be if they cut the trademark DBZ Long Stalling/Charge-up Sequences out of the cartoon, and maybe half the episodes...anyway, in general, it's pretty nice.
Doragon bôru Z (1989)
That's all I can really say about this film. It's DBZ...like Tree of Might and The World's Strongest, it really...doesn't fit into the timeline for the show at all, though it is supposedly placed just before the beginning of the TV series. The action is pretty nice in general. The plot has a nice enough base, with a good background establishing why these guys hate each other and all. Pretty good in general, there... The problem is...there's a lot of really weird stuff. I mean, really weird stuff. Like The World's Strongest, there's a really, really odd song in this one that could only have been created in a drug induced haze...disturbing is the fact that Gohan, while singing, is pretty much drugged out himself. Creepy. The villains are odd and rather comical...moreso than the usual DBZ type--this seems more like it was made as a Dragon Ball movie rather than a Dragon Ball Z movie. In general, its entertaining enough, but...just...strange.
Mission: Impossible II (2000)
Suspensful and exciting
Two crafty and skilled spies go head to head in an exciting action film from director John Woo. MI2 is an adrenaline rush, plain and simple. Woo's experience in crafting brilliant action sequences and insane stunts is combined with a nice, involving storyline and characters the viewer cares about to create an excellent film. There are some edge-of-your-seat scenes in this, and it's seriously a thrill to watch. It isn't without it's problems...some of the high-tech gadgets are rather unbelievable, for instance, but not in such a way as to seriously hurt the film. Also, the introduction to the plot (and indeed the plot in general) seems rather rushed...spending a little more time on that could've made the movie even more entertaining. Still, overall, it's an excellent film that I really enjoyed watching.