Reviews written by registered user
bobt145

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36 reviews in total 
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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Gripping, 24 June 2011
9/10

A review of a young couple's life, in flashbacks, from the beginning in Italy to San Francisco and back, in love, in denial, in the struggle to come to terms with life itself.

Lina Wertmueller's direction dives right to the heart of the angst of love, its feeling of closeness and its opposite feeling of being unable to fully connect, an impossible dream of emotional need clashing with the physical isolation of each.

Candice Bergen and Giancarlo Giannini are particularly magnificent in the violent, extended fight on the night full of endless rain.

Their friends, often seen as groups of faces, provide a Greek chorus of comment, detached and occasionally mocking.

This is yet another terrific reason to keep the VHS player working!

7 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Caution: The Big Bite, 6 June 2011
8/10

In a film that takes its viewers from The Big Bang to the future, "The Tree of Life" achieves much of the poetry of Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," awakens a sense of wonderment in the patient viewer, yet leaves us wondering about what it says of human interaction.

Perhaps Malick has simply taken too large a bite for one film.

It is certainly a bold effort. And that, in and of itself, is something to appreciate. Very few attempts at such universal themes as meaning, spirituality, our place in time, have been made in the last 25 years.

The O'Brien family of Waco, Texas is the human focus of the film. Their home is in the shade of a magnificent, arching tree of amazing size. You may have never seen one like it.

The tree serves as the frame of "The Tree..." Intercut between family dialog and children's play, Malick gives us reminding gazes at its trunk, its largest branches and the sky above it. It is as if the tree is a cosmic umbrella, an always present frame for the scurrying below.

It is Malick's reminder that humans then and now are not the end-all of creation, not the reason, not even reason in the sense of Descartes. We are just a microscopically small part of the amazing Universe.

If we're lucky, we'll find our own meaning along the way and have our memories to define the journey.

Don't see "The Tree..." if you want plot or resolution. This will be a polarizing movie. I would say all but ten percent st the showing I attended didn't like it. As one other visitor to the Men's Room afterward said, "That stunk." He was not a thrill seeking, attention challenged man. He was older, of the type who has seen hundreds of good movies. Yet, he just didn't get it.

I can't decide whether some of the negative reaction is isolated to just the family story. Malick might have done it differently. removed a disturbing sense of violence in the father, Brad Pitt. Perhaps made the mother more substantial, less intuitive. But isn't that what mother's are? He was certainly telling us that the details didn't matter, as if their sum, no matter what specifics, would always spell lives only important to their immediate memories.

Not sure. Still thinking about it. And that is the aspect of the film I liked most.

6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Difficult Passages, 22 April 2011
9/10

A modern train glides smoothly over a ravine bridge against a framed backdrop of snow-covered peaks and deep valleys.

It is a breathtakingly scenic surprise that sharply contrasts with the passengers crammed into the train, exhausted, heading home for a day or two after a week's wait at the city train station.

Lixin Fan's film of three consecutive New Year's migrations provides startling insight into modern China and the devastation that recent industrialization has wrecked upon a country once steeped in family-centered culture.

A young girl offers prayers for her grandfather. He has raised her and she doesn't really know much at all about her parents.

They have spent her lifetime in Guangzhou's factories making jeans for the world and sending money back home in hopes their children (they also have a younger son) will receive a strong education and rise above the menial factory work.

It is an aching portrait of modern China that should be seen.

6 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Very dark, even unexplainable, 15 April 2011
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

(possible spoilers)

As I nodded in and out of consciousness, one word kept going through my groggy head.

"Why?" I thought. "Why?"

As I started to wrap my mind around the concept, it hit me like a ton of bricks and I was out like a light again.

In the recesses of my throbbing skull, there were voices, voices that had the answers.

Alan Ladd puts up with a pounding from William Bendix because he knows it will get him in a hospital bed with a good looking nurse?

Veronica Lake is using Brian Donlevy because she thinks he's gonna win something, but what? An election? Control of the eighth ward? Some Cliff's Notes for this thing?

Oh I like a lot of the material, taken as isolated scenes. Ladd dangling from a window, the search for a shooter in Donlevy's office that never gets explained, the scene where Ladd makes out with the publisher's wife in the living room causing the publisher to blow his brains out upstairs.

Well, maybe those aren't the ones I liked. The room is spinning and I'm fading out again. Damn, where's that envelope of magic script writer powder when you really need it?

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Nostalgic, even in 1957, 11 April 2011
9/10

This marvelous romance transports us back to a different time, when passions were just as they are now, but repressed, if with difficulty.

Deborah Kerr is magnificent, keeping her control, yet radiating her inner feelings in unmistakable glances, pauses and such. Cary Grant, yes, who could possibly imagine themselves as Cary Grant, not even himself.

It is a proper romantic comedy, but it is set in the time of Elvis, Little Richard, Fats Domino and Bill Haley. "An Affair to Remember" teeters precariously on the brink of sentiment and soapsuds, yet pulls back from those traps every time.

We will never know why a ship sailing from England to New York City stops at the French Riviera. Perhaps to view the films for that year at Cannes. "Friendly Persuasion" takes the Palme d'or, but the jury prizes are shared by Andrzej Wajda's gritty "Kanal" and Ingmar Bergman's classic, "The Seventh Seal." It is as if we are crossing from a time of then to a time of now.

"An Affair" was one of the last of its mannered kind, a film that could both hold belief and hold off the coarser, more open world that had already claimed its foothold.

Restrepo (2010)
30 out of 33 people found the following review useful:
Stop and Think About It, 6 January 2011
8/10

It's a strange way to fight, without ever seeing the people you're shooting at and who are shooting at you.

The strongest aspect about this viewpoint documentary is its lack of an opinionated narration. The filmmakers--who deserve commendations of their own for putting themselves in the line of fire for 15 months--let the soldiers and their activities tell the story, the firefights, patrols, attempts to communicate with the Afghans, mundane chores.

And they let the viewer judge for meaning.

It isn't possible, however, to truly capture a year and three months in 90 minutes. I did find it curious that so much interview footage was cut. If you see it on DVD, don't miss the interviews shown under special features. Perhaps the director-cameramen wanted to keep the ratio heavier on footage than interviews.

In one omitted interview, the unit Captain admits that he thought he was responsible for losing even one soldier. He also mentions that one of those killed was the unit Sergeant Major's son. There should have been some way to weave this into the story.

Another soldier says he hates the terms "you did what you had to do" because he doesn't think he really had to do it. Says he doesn't think God will greet him with a playful punch to the shoulder and say "you did what you had to do." It's powerful stuff, the included and the omitted footage. For the most part we fight now with volunteers. The mix of soldiers is a bit different than it was when there was a draft, but "Restrepo" shows that American forces still bring a wide range of backgrounds and reactions.

And it shows that most are still so young that we are still sending kids to do the jobs old men ask them to do. They are brave, fearful, obscene, committed for the wrong reasons, committed for right reasons, and committed for no reason at all.

It's a powerful view.

Black Swan (2010)
4 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Swan Diva, 17 December 2010
5/10

Natalie Portman's performance in "Black Swan" reminded me a bit of Isabelle Huppert's magnificent job in Michael Haneke's "The Piano Teacher." The self-destructive parallel's between the two roles, coming from opposite directions (Black and White Swan?) are startling.

What's also startling is the effect of both overall movies.

I would never recommend the Haneke film. Why would you want to obsess over a woman who's sado-masochism ranges from breaking glass in a young girl's coat pocket to hysterical sex on a men's room floor.

With Portman, why would you want to watch, even in horrific fascination, this obsessive creature with such a masochistic core. She literally hurts herself repeatedly and succumbs to the fingering of the ballet director in seconds after rejecting him at first.

There's one scene where Portman is in a tub of water. She immerses herself. The Baptism reference is obvious. From underwater, she sees blood dripping into the tub, first from her rival whose face appears, then from a cut on her own hand.

She has lived her frigid, ultra-disciplined live as a slave to her craft for so long, when faced with success and the demands of a manipulative director, she begins to go mad.

I can think of only a couple of viewpoints from which one would appreciate this study. Either as someone who sadistically enjoys seeing her unravel or from the viewpoint of someone who identifies with her masochism.

As I can't come up with either viewpoint, my only question is 'Why would anyone want to watch this all-encompassing pain?' Huppert won best actress at Cannes, Portman will win at the Academy, but that still doesn't answer the question.

Still Life (2006)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Don't See the Trailer First, 24 November 2010
8/10

Jia Zhang-ke has given us a marvelous capsule of China rarely seen on film.

His searching husband and wife cross paths looking for their respective mates after years at the only moments the story could have been told.

Before the Three Gorges Dam, none of the metaphoric, yet very real destruction of the old towns would have been taking place and three months later they would all be under water.

The cinematography allows us to slowly absorb the beauty of the spot on the Yangtze River where the dam is being constructed, while the stark lives of demolition workers play out in contrast.

The new China is a runaway engine of modern economy and it is tossing countless lives aside with its speed.

These aren't views shown in the films of the previous generation of Chinese directors. Made recently enough to have a direct connection to today, we see a country where cell phones bring the same changes to the people who use them as they have here. We hear and feel the influx of popular music in a land where traditional music is so beautiful.

And most of all, we see how the people affected by the future flooding survive, bouncing sometimes numbly from home to shelter as they are evicted from locations with 2,000 years of history.

This is a personal film for the director and that too says a lot about the strides the Chinese society has taken since the days of Chairman Mao and even Tiananmen Square.

Ever since I figured out the plot line of "The Sixth Sense" after five minutes because of giveaways in the trailer, I have resisted them. If I'm in a theater, fine. But I don't go looking for them.

DO NOT see the trailer before the film. Three of the very best and most surprising scene are given away in a short, 50-second promo.

But do see the film. Very good.

Hereafter (2010)
252 out of 344 people found the following review useful:
If we are Here now, we need an After, 22 October 2010
9/10

On the way home from seeing this terrific movie, I stopped at a light, a few cars in front waiting to turn right. Around us, the sun had just set, a full white moon was high and the reflections of brake lights bounced off gas stations and car dealerships.

What an amazing world we live in. There is so much in the five miles between my house and the theater where I saw the movie that I could never experience it all. Moments arrive and disappear and the the people shift, move, appear and disappear.

I think most of us need some kind of assurance that it all goes on forever, that our open windows aren't just blacked over and sealed at death.

Clint Eastwood has made a quiet, reflective, thoughtful film on this condition, this need for forever. It's not a flashy paranormal probe of ghosts and goblins, spirits and such.

Taking three central lives we see our need for a hereafter from a French woman who has experienced something before being revived, from a twin boy who has lost his brother and from a lonely man who seems able to capture something from beyond this life. Or perhaps he just captures something from those who come to him.

Cecile De France is stunning as a television reporter who touches her own death and returns. Frankie (or is it George) McLaren is good as the young boy. And Matt Damon's restrained performance is a revelation.

Eastwood has the assured hand that allows long segments in French with English subtitles and a juncture with two disasters and such a touchy-feely subject, and yet it works. Quietly. Thoughtfully.

He also has the good sense to let us draw our own conclusions.

Park Row (1952)
8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Park Row Gets the Fuller Brush, 21 October 2010
8/10

Sam Fuller was a newspaperman in his younger days. This is his love letter to his earlier craft, with a full dose of Fuller filmmaking prowess.

I doubt that Fuller was ever well-budgeted. He made do, and boy did he.

The office of the paper is a tight web of cubicles (that are torn down at one point) that cast dark shadows and patches of light. Fuller allows his camera to capture repeated black and white shadow portraits of the characters, their emotion forming the full frame of a shot.

At other points, the camera tours the tiny den as characters move through it as if it were dancing a marvelous ballet Outside is a square, statues of Benjamin Franklin and Horace Greeley and a narrow street allegedly populated by newspapers.

This is all Fuller has to work with, but he makes it work so that even though your subconscious is saying, well, that doesn't look quite realistic, your movie viewing buys in and ignores the tells, absorbing the essence of the scene. Terrific film craft, more than just cinematography.

Can't argue the storyline is up to the filmmaking, but there are touches that Fuller sprinkles throughout that are marvelous.

The newly found paper buys its paper from the butcher. On the floor is a box of unsorted type. It took me back to junior high school in upstate New York, where for a marking period, we had print shop and learned to sort our type and grab it to compose a line in a hand-held device.

There's Otto Morgenthaler, a character borrowed from history, who actually did invent the linotype machine and first use it at the New York Tribune, which is referred to as a competing paper in the film.

The statue of Benjamin Franklin is still there, at the end of Park Row. At one time, the street held The New York World in the Pulitzer Building, Greeley's New York Tribune, The New York Times at #41, the Mail and Express, the Recorder, the Morning Advertiser, and the only other survivor, The Daily News at #25.

In the story, set in 1880s, AP is referred to. The concentration of papers eventually led to the Associated Press, located on Park Row, but that wasn't until 1900.

In the next decade, the landscape was dramatically altered with the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. It not only cast its shadow over Park Row, but also caused some of its buildings to be demolished for ramp space to the bridge.

Why were the newspapers all there? Strangely, it's never mentioned in the film. Park Row is right around the corner from City Hall, the NYC Police Headquarters and the financial district. That's a pretty good nexus for news.

This one doesn't pop up very often. If you find it, watch and enjoy.

(My ratings are usually to the next highest star. In this case, about 7.5)


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