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29 reviews in total 
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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Dead Poets' Society Shanghaied by British Navy!, 5 May 2004

You know, most of the midshipmen and many of the younger sailors DO look like they got lost on the way to the Dead Poets' Society set. Do they all have to look like Ethan Hawke? In a way, it kind of figures. Director Weir directed Dead Poets' Society.

I have to say, though, that Russell Crowe made a better ship's captain than Robin Williams would have.

Seriously, did anyone on this side of the pond understand the dialogue? I watched at home and played and re-played certain scenes so I could make some sense of the dialogue. At times, I thought I was watching Darby O'Gill and the Little People. I expected Little Max to exclaim, "I am King Brian of Knocknasheega!"

Even so, it was a good movie, and it accurately depicted two-thirds rum and the lash) of what life in the Royal Navy was like (omitting, happily, the other third: sodomy).

The cinematography is superb. The attention to detail, especially the uniforms and weaponry, is likewise superb. I thought there was fairly good character development between the Captain and the Surgeon, but it isn't clear why the cultivated midshipmen aren't back at Rugby enjoying a scrum.

It's pointless to nitpick. It is an entertaining film. Sit back and relax. 8 out of 10

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Keira Knightley as Winona Ryder, 27 March 2004

This movie is a composite of every action fantasy pic made since . . . well, since The Goonies.

Every scene was purloined from some other movie. I must admit, I was slightly stumped trying to remember where I had heard, "Jack, Jack," before, but then I recalled the 1976 version of King Kong, and Charles Grodin's appeal to Jeff Bridges' character: "Jack, Jack . . . ."

I was amazed at the resemblance of Keira Knightley to Johnny Depp's old flame, Winona Ryder. When Johnny's tattoo is revealed, I half expected it to reveal "Wino," not some reference to the East India Company. (You do know that Johnny altered his "Winona" tattoo to read "Wino," don't you?)

You know, this movie does nothing more than overload the senses. In fact, it's an assault on the nervous system. This is what movie making has become.

This movie made Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes look like Citizen Kane.

This movie ranks in IMDb's Top 250. Sad.

Open Range (2003)
Not Shane, But Highly Entertaining, 14 February 2004

First, I wish to thank Kevin Costner for making Westerns. Although long out of favor, they tell America's "story" better than any other genre (and even if you don't like the story, there's always the cinematography -- have a look at "Legends of the Fall," when you can).

It's not "Shane," but it isn't bad. Unlike Shane, here is a real twist: the Free Grazers are the good guys; the sod busters are the bad guys. Very interesting.

Many of the movie's parts appear elsewhere: Silverado and Lonesome Dove come immediately to mind. Who cares . . . .

I wondered whether I would look at Robert Duvall and his character and see Texas Ranger Augustus McRae. Indeed, sometimes I saw Gus (for example, in the bar room scene where he delivers his lecture on good vs. evil), and at other times I didn't (for example, during most of the gun fight). I think Duvall has a hard time living down Captain Gus, and he knows it. So what .. . .

The gunfight is extraordinary. The weapons were historically accurate, the sounds were right, and the poor marksmanship was realistic. The re-created town is a masterpiece. This long scene is a work of art.

The relationship between Costner and Bening isn't really developed, the evil sheriff and the maniacal rancher don't have enough screen time, what motivates the last-minute heroics of the townspeople is unclear, and the movie, itself, with the exception of the gunfight, could have been made for television, but everything considered, it is a highly entertaining film.

Rent this movie and enjoy it.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Extraordinary Effort Yields Rich Rewards, 18 July 2003

Steve Schear's review (a few reviews prior to mine) is "right on the money," so it makes my task much easier. I will explore a few side issues.

First, to the many people who found the movie "offensive," try to understand that not everyone shares your view of history. I am sure there were scenes in "Gangs of New York" that equally offended you, because in that movie, Northerners were betraying their racial hatred, and such things do not fit neatly into today's prevailing view: North, Good; South, Bad. Hurrah for Director Ron Maxwell, who sets the tone very early, when Gen. Lee tells Montgomery Blair: "I never thought I would see the day when a President would invade his own country."

Second, the movie is very careful to point out that Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee were STILL in the Union at the time of Fort Sumter. It was only Lincoln's call for volunteers to wage war on Americans that caused these states to secede from the Union. Until then, they had refused to follow the lead of the Lower South's Cotton States.

I said this about "Gettysburg," and I will say it about "G and G." I am sorry that the director did not find a way to accurately depict the carnage on the battlefield (like "Braveheart" did, for example). G and G did a better job than Gettysburg in showing that one artillery round could eliminate an entire file of soldiers, but missing from the film is the decaptitations, the "exploding" bodies, the splattered brains, and the man in front of you who simply "vaporized." There were first hand reports of soldiers being wounded by flying "teeth" and "shards of bone." Now, where do you suppose the teeth and the bone came from? I guess there is no way to adequately capture such carnage on film, Braveheart notwithstanding.

I am also sorry that Director Maxwell could not replicate the mad dash of the animals from the woods as Jackson's 25,000 men silently crept up on Hooker's right flank at Chancellorsville. First hand reports described the Union camps as being overrun by deer, raccoons, skunks, and varmints of every kind, fleeing the woods and rushing into the open ground of the camps. Now, what do you suppose was in those woods causing those animals to rush through the Union camps?

The movie is long because the War was long. The scenes showing Stonewall Jackson's loving relationship with the little girl ("Anna") are touching, and important to understanding his character. Yes, he was an Old Testament Joshua, but was capable of feeling and sadness.

The soldiers on both sides are depicted as quite human, and the scene where Johnny Reb and Billy Yank exchange coffee and tobacco is moving. It happened, and Director Maxwell captured it perfectly.

The DVD contained a number of worthwhile extras. I learned something, too. I have read hundreds of books about the War over forty years, including many first hand journals and diaries, and I am satisfied that slavery was NOT the primary cause of the War. It is taught that way because it doesn't require any analysis. Slavery is bad. No, the War was inevitable because the sections, North and South, despised each other, and once the North pulled ahead of the South in the Electoral College (and Virginia could no longer control the White House), the North started shoving the South around, and the protective tariff, alone, prompted the Nullification Crisis in the 1830's and sewed the seeds of secession thirty years later. But what I learned, despite all of the above, is that, from the slave's point of view, the war WAS about slavery. And that point of view must be factored in among all the others.

The movie was a herculean effort. Stay with it and marvel at the directors' energy and effort. It is a monument in filmmaking.

186 out of 301 people found the following review useful:
Suppressed History Finally Surfaces, 2 July 2003

I am a Civil War "buff," so I wanted to see this movie the moment I heard it was being made. Yes, the New York Draft Riots did happen, just two weeks AFTER the Northern victory at Gettysburg, demonstrating that the outcome of the War was anything but certain, even after Lee had been forced to retreat to the south bank of the Potomac River. Today, many would find this surprising.

The movie did take some license, however. There was no wholesale firing on civilians by Union soldiers. In fact, reported deaths after three days of rioting were less than one-hundred. Many of the dead were randomly selected blacks, who were hanged and mutilated (which was accurately depicted in the film). Today, many would also find this surprising, because the schools teach that the North was good, and the South was bad. The truth is that blacks were subjected to inhumane treatment everywhere, especially in the Nothern cities.

There was also no firing by offshore naval vessels. That was artistic license. (My source for all of the above is a doctoral dissertation that was published about ten years ago titled "The New York City Draft Riots.")

The movie makes the important point that the North had run out of "home grown" manpower to fight the South. Had it not been for Irish and German volunteers through 1863, and black volunteers in 1864, the North would have sued for peace. The 1864 Democratic Platform promised to bring the War to a swift and speedy conclusion.

Bravo to Scorsese for bringing all of this to light. In the meantime, the movie is about twenty minutes to long. The brothel scenes, the "uptown" scenes, and some of the scenes in the catacombs struck me as slow and superfluous. On the other hand, the street scenes and the scenes of the random gangs (of which I wish there were more) were glorious.

One thing Scorsese left out, however: The mountains of animal and human waste in the streets! Not long after his movie was released, the History Channel produced a documentary on the Five Points area, and it is staggering to consider the tons and tons of animal and human waste piling up in the streets, and the thousands of gallons of urine running in the gutters. There were old photos of waste in the streets stacked six feet high. Needless to say, infant mortality in such a fetid environment was about 50%. Scorsese leaves this out, and there is scarcely a horse in the movie.

Day-Lewis does a superb job with a character that is unevenly developed. He is a homicidal thug in the beginning, a menacing, but somewhat benign, presence in the middle, and a psychotic killer in the end. It isn't really clear why he vacillates the way he does. Bi-polar, I guess. DiCaprio proves he can act, and he exudes a manliness he did not possess in earlier films. Diaz turns in a creditable performance. The cast of thousands adds a nice touch to the film.

I would never say this is a "great" film, but it certainly is worth a look. Kudos to Scorsese for the herculean effort, and a tip of the kepi for the poetic ending, which reminded me of the ending in 1936's "San Francisco."

4 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
AKA How My Turkey Got Plucked, 28 June 2003

Oh, boy. I wanted to like this movie. British imperialism, pageantry, uniforms, action . . . what a potent brew! What a toxic mess!

First, the director never does make up his mind whether this is a "love story" or a "buddy movie."

Second, there are too many scenes . . . and they are muddled, at best.

Third, the cinematography is too confusing, and the camera never does take advantage of the topography.

Fourth, who is the Sudanese, and why does he keep helping Harry? His friendship with Harry is actually more compelling than Harry's friendship with his regimental messmates.

How does Jack get back to London? Don't ask.

The dungeon scenes make no sense.

The battle scenes are unimpressive, save for the few aerial shots.

Where was "Rule Britannia" when we needed it?

The film is a disaster.

For a good movie with a similar theme, see "The Light Horseman." And, there is always the superb "Gallipoli."

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A Classic Morality Play, 20 May 2003

First, I do not see this film as a continuation of the Sergio Leone films, which were "high opera." The spaghetti western trilogy told simple stories, and had simple, tidy endings. This film is a character study, and it requires multiple viewings to absorb its nuances. And as for an ending? Pick one.

I agree with those who find similarities in this film and in "Unforgiven," a film that did not work for me. This film, however, worked for me on many levels.

Who exactly is Eastwood's character (the "stranger")? It isn't clear, but there are many clues, and the answer to the riddle keeps us returning to the film time after time.

There is something between Eastwood's character and Verna Bloom's character. What is it? What does she know about the stranger? It's hard to say. She, herself, is a very eerie presence.

Billy, who plays "Mordecai," nearly steals this film. Interestingly, he played the mayor of the Munchkins in "The Wizard of Oz." The sheriff is superb, and so is the barber (who shows up again in "The Outlaw Josie Wales" as the ferry operator). Where does Eastwood find these people?

I thought the three "bad" guys were miscast. Geoffrey Lewis does not come across as a psychopath to me. On the other hand, I was happy to see that one of his buddies was the creepy guy who worked at the diner in "In the Heat of the Night." He could have played Norman Bates.

It would have been better if the three gunslingers at the beginning of the film -- really bad looking dudes -- had switched roles with the three "bad" guys at the end of the film.

This is a very stylish, if violent, movie, and the fact that it is a western is superfluous to the story it tells. In exposing the dark underbelly of the small town, the film reminds one of "Blue Velvet," which followed years later.

This film isn't for everybody. One wonders if Eastwood deliberately made "The Outlaw Josie Wales" three years later to reassure fans that he could still make a traditional western. In fact, as a traditional western, "Josie" ranks with "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," "The Searchers," "Shane," and "Red River."

This film is not for traditionalists. It is a challenge for many. But, it pays off in so many ways, and I highly recommend it. 9 out of 10.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
When Character Was King, 7 July 2002

Warning: If the Coen Brothers or David Lynch define your taste in film, disregard this review and move on.

Yes, I borrowed the "one line summary" from the book about President Ronald Reagan, but, among other virtues, this movie emphasizes the role that character plays in the lives of honorable human beings. This film is full of honest, decent people, and they have integrity to spare. In a word, they have "character."

A small nitpick: Unless you know the history of WW II, you probably don't know that, from Captain Correlli's arrival on the island to the fall of Mussolini, 3 and one-half years have passed. The average viewer might think the romance was of the "whirlwind" variety. That is not so. The romance develops slowly, which gives it both dignity and meaning. The film's deliberate pace may be the director's way of marking time.

Some reviews have criticized Cage's Italian accent. The Italian-speaking members of my family assure me that his accent is quite good.

The history was right on the mark. Yes, the Germans turned against their Italian allies, who, for the most part, were reluctant allies from the start. If you find that shocking, keep in mind that the French Mediterranean fleet was blown up by the British in 1940, just after France's capitulation, lest it fall in the hands of the Vichy government, or worse, the Nazis.

The depiction of the Italians as educated and cultured was a compliment to an educated and cultured civilization.

This film was beautifully photographed, and its story was lyrical. The script was not thought-provoking, nor was it clever, but here was a situation where confusion and cleverness were not needed, nor would they have been appropriate.

The story is tender, and the message is uplifting. The characters are honest, brave, earnest, sympathetic, and likeable. It's a nice little film. 8/10.

Editing Achievement, 5 July 2002

Whether or not you like the "short" version, you owe it to yourself to see the long version, i.e., "Apocalpyse Now--Redux," to appreciate the amazing editing that went into the film to produce the short version. It was not only brilliant, it was courageous. I cannot imagine what was going through Coppola's head when he axed the sumptuous plantation scene, but he did it, and, in the final analysis, the scene WAS superfluous and unnecessary to the story. The encounter with the USO Playboy Bunnies was also dropped, mercifully so.

There were other more subtle edits that worked out well. For example, in the long version, the Sam Bottoms character steals Robert Duvall's character's surf board. This little bit of mischief, and Duvall's reaction to it, diminish Duvall's stature as the uber warrior, and dilute the impression he has made on us, the viewers. Both are fully restored in the short version.

The longer version does explain, however, what happened to little Larry Fishburne. And the longer version also connects Sam Bottoms' drugged out, zoned out character to the fatalities that occur among the crew before the party reaches Kurtz and his command. I got to where I despised the Bottoms character. In the short version, he's just plain old "Surfer Joe."

The two versions of this movie have given me a greater understanding of the painstaking process behind editing.

As for the movie, it is a masterpiece, I think, but with a less than fully satisfactory ending, not unlike the United States' 13-year involvement in Viet Nam. Maybe that was Coppola's point.

The short version is not kind to Brando, but the long version restores some luster (but not much) to Brando's reputation. The long version does help to develop Brando's character (Kurtz), which is needed. Even so, Kurtz is a murky guy, just like the world he lives in, and I would have to think that they are the deliberate creations of Coppola.

"Apocalypse Now" is a superb depiction of war and all of its many ambiguities. For a much earlier treatment, see Milestone's "All Quiet on the Western Front" (1930). Bravo, Mr. Coppola!

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Uh, Seriously Folks, 4 July 2002

Please, drop what you are doing, and borrow, buy, or rent Alan Bridges' brilliant film, "The Shooting Party" (1985). (If you can't find it, look for it on the Bravo channel.) Then, compare/contrast that film to/with Altman's movie.

Uh, seriously folks, ever since "Nashville" (1975), Altman has been coasting. If someone had just told him then, that, for the sake of the listening audience (except for those watching at home with the benefit of subtitles), it helps if the actors take turns talking--one at a time--perhaps we would have been spared more than a quarter-century of auditory confusion, to say nothing of having to turn the volume all the way up to distinguish the half-dozen English/American/Scottish dialects that assault you from every direction, and in competition with background noise, as you must in this movie. Really, what was originally a clever convention is now an annoying and unnecessary contrivance.

And then there is the small matter of the story. "Nashville" convinced Altman that he could film a succession of scenes, most of them disconnected, and he would have a story. The next year (1976), Altman rolled out "Buffalo Bill & the Indians," really one of the worst movies EVER made, and yet a few critics raved about it, evidently convincing Altman that he had found THE formula. There is a tiny story hidden away in "Gosford Park," but it does not emerge until the last twenty minutes.

It's not that "Gosford Park" is a bad film, it isn't. Instead, it's an ordinary film. Nothing exceptional. The actors? Sure, they're talented, but they weren't challenged in this movie. This is not Shakespeare.

And the costumes? They hardly make a film. Check out Buffalo Bill's and Annie Oakley's duds in the 1976 film.

I had a slight problem with the setting--1932. It would have been better had the story been set in 1922 or, better, in 1912 (see "The Shooting Party"). By 1932, Britain was in the middle of the worldwide depression (it was not just an American phenomenon), and the lifestyle depicted in "Gosford Park" had essentially disappeared (although obviously not the class distinctions). This is a minor nitpick.

I do think Altman had trouble deciding whether he was making "Murder by Death," "Clue," "Upstairs, Downstairs," or the extraordinary "The Shooting Party." It contains elements of all four. There wasn't a single scene in the movie that was not derivative of some other movie or television series.

There have been so many truly excellent British productions in the last ten or 15 years, but this wasn't one of them. It's an expensively produced melodrama that is nice to look at, but it took too long to tell, and has almost nothing else going for it. See "The Shooting Party."

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