Reviews written by registered user

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112 reviews in total 
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20 out of 31 people found the following review useful:
*** 1/2 out of ****, 19 December 2002

Truffaut's homage to the American gangster film stars Charles Aznavour as a smalltime piano player in a bar who has a secret past that he keeps hidden. The film almost falls into the trap of not being an homage to the gangster film, but rather being one itself. What saves it is the film's unique wit and charm - it's a blend of humor, romance, and gangster film. The gangsters themselves are quite funny, casually discussing everyday matters in a way that certainly had to influence Quentin Tarantino when he was writing Pulp Fiction. Some of the jokes are funny just because they are so silly (i.e., the gangster swearing his truth on his mother's grave). It's this sense of humor and the fact that the movie doesn't take itself seriously that sets it apart from other gangster movies of the day.

*** 1/2 out of ****, 19 December 2002

With Bringing Out the Dead, Martin Scorsese returns to the same territory as Taxi Driver, with Nicolas Cage starring as Frank Pierce, an ambulance driver burnt out from his job and in desperate need to save someone. Like Taxi Driver, it takes place late night on the streets of New York, with a main character on the brink of insanity. However, while there are surface similarities, the characters and themes are completely different. Taxi Driver is about loneliness and the struggles of a man out of step with society. Bringing Out the Dead is about guilt – Frank is haunted by the `ghosts' of those he failed to save. Scorsese and writer Paul Schrader carry over their wit and humor from Taxi Driver, only to a far greater extent, which gives the film a strange tone. There are numerous spots that walk the line between harrowing and hilarious - laugh out loud jokes interspersed with violence and blood. What is the result? Somehow these two mix together well to capture the strange insanity of the life that Frank lives. This odd mixture will be sure to put off viewers, and it doesn't seem quite right at parts, but on the whole it is quite effective.

The only thing this movie lacks that Taxi Driver has is an unforgettable main character – Frank is a fully developed character, portrayed brilliantly by Nicolas Cage, but he doesn't have that uniqueness that Travis Bickle had. Everybody can see a little bit of Travis Bickle in themselves, but Frank's situation is so unique that at times it is difficult to relate to him. In fact, at times, he is even overshadowed by some of his partners, who are hilariously insane and over the top, superbly portrayed by John Goodman, Ving Rhames, and Tom Sizemore.

Perhaps the comparisons to Taxi Driver are unfair – Bringing Out the Dead stands firmly on its own two feet. It's not perfect, but it is an incredibly ambitious project, and Scorsese and Cage deserve kudos for even taking the chance of making this film. When all is said and done, the merits far outweigh the flaws, and this goes down as a valuable addition to Scorsese's canon.

Seconds (1966)
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
*** out of ****, 14 December 2002

John Frankheimer directed this dark thriller about a man who gets a new identity and life through a secret company. It's well made and incredibly disturbing. Every frame of the film has a sense of uneasiness about it, and the viewer never really becomes comfortable. This works sometimes but fails at others – regardless of final result it means that the viewer is probably going to have an unpleasant experience along the way. The premise feels like an episode of the Twilight Zone (in fact, it does bear something of a similarity to one), and if the film were tightened up a little more in would've been incredibly effective. The beginning is slow going but absorbing, and at the end it becomes fascinating and disturbing. However, the midsection of the film lags and meanders, with extended sequences such as the hippy party and the other party dragging on for far too long. Very flashy direction by Frankheimer - while many of the compositions are immaculate, others are simply showing off. For all its flaws, it is definitely original, and among the weirdest films ever made.

Witness (1985)
*** out of ****, 14 December 2002

Peter Weir's first Hollywood film places Harrison Ford as John Book, a big city police officer, who, after investigating a case involving police corruption, hides out in an Amish community. Ford's performance is spectacular, proving his capabilities as a dramatic actor. Many of the scenes work well – Weir uses his trademark `stranger in a strange land' theme to create an interesting premise. The little details about Amish culture and how Book fits in with them are fascinating. However, in the movie's attempt to tell several different stories – a love interest, the culture clash, and the police conflicts – lead to the latter one being undeveloped and almost feeling unnecessary. To make matters worse, the film resolves itself in a very standard, tacked on payoff, that seems grossly out of place in an otherwise touching, well crafted film. A very strong film overall, brought down just a little by Hollywood's desire to please its crowds.

Wise Guys (1986)
13 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
** 1/2 out of ****, 13 December 2002

Mildly enjoyable diversion seems grossly out of place it De Palma's canon. The premise is interesting - two loser hoodlums (Danny DeVito and Joe Piscapo) try to screw over a mob boss and end up getting hunted down. However, it is never particularly funny and the story isn't really that interesting. De Palma's directorial mastery is nowhere to be seen here - the direction is competent but the script never really gives him a chance to demonstrate his skills. Not as bad as some make it out to be, but certainly a failure, especially considering that it came between Body Double and Casualties of War, two of De Palma's best films.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
**** out of ****, 13 December 2002

One of the greatest directorial debuts of all time is not just incredibly frightening, but it's a tour-de-force by Mario Bava. The cinematography and direction is spectacular – few movies in history have ever had such immaculate shot compositions. Horror movies today decide to scare us by having the bad guy jump out at us or by drenching the film in blood, providing the audience with a moment of shock. Bava uses the sets and the atmosphere to generate a feeling of terror that lasts throughout the entire movie. This idea succeeds because of Bava's direction, not because of the story or the acting, which seem a little bit silly and contrived. Certainly not flawless, but amazing in so many ways that it is worthy of its reputation. One of the most influential horror films of all time – its influence can be seen on films ranging from Brian De Palma's to Dario Argento's.

Nashville (1975)
7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
**** out of ****, 12 December 2002

Robert Altman's best film is a fascinating look at twenty-four people whose lives all revolve around a political rally in Nashville. Somehow manages, in two and a half hours, to take a detailed look at all of the characters, comment on politics and our obsession with celebrity, and capture the essence of everything that is American. The loose structure of the film makes it difficult for the first third of the movie or so, but once we start to know the characters it becomes emotionally gripping, with some truly moving scenes. Not without its flaws, but a one of a kind film nonetheless.

Casino (1995)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
**** out of ****, 11 December 2002

A fascinating look at the mob-operated Las Vegas casino industry, Casino is a success on every level. Despite being three hours long, it never gets boring – it's driven by brilliant direction, superb acting, and an interesting screenplay. Covers familiar ground but never really feels like a retread of Goodfellas, although some make that claim. The only real similarity is Joe Pesci's character – while he delivers a fine performance, I can't help but feel that his presence is largely their because of his success in Goodfellas. Regardless, it can hardly be considered a flaw in the film, and it works very well. An excellent addition to Scorsese's already impressive body of work.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
*** out of ****, 10 December 2002

Directorial debut of Michael Cimino is an entertaining, if not particularly distinguished, action piece / buddy movie. Cimino's strong direction, combined with two very charismatic leads (Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges) and a solid script makes it an entertaining way to spend two hours. Ultimately though, it feels like just a Eastwood vehicle, punctuated by a strange tacked on ending. Not the best work of anybody involved, but a solid effort.

4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
*** out of ****, 6 December 2002

Fascinating Cassavetes work has Ben Gazzara playing Cosmo Vitelli, a California night club owner who, after racking up a huge gambling debt, is given the opportunity to clear it by killing a Chinese bookie. Cassavetes's distinctive style allows for a raw emotional feel that couldn't have been captured by any other director, and, like A Woman Under the Influence, it puts the viewer directly into a very real world populated by very real characters. However, at points the film loses itself amid some of it's lengthy, nearly plotless sequences. Necessary viewing for Cassavetes fans – people looking for a straightforward story should look elsewhere. One of the truly unique creations of 1970s cinema.

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