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|43 reviews in total|
I had read the novel that "The Shooter" was based upon, "Point of Impact" by Steven Hunter. It was an engrossing read and I could not put the book down until I finished it. The one thing that struck me was what a good film it would make. After seeing the film, I saw something very different from the source material. First, the events of the novel are brought up to present day as opposed to 1991 when the events of the first novel took place and the main character is marksman who was on a special mission in an African country protecting contract workers putting up a oil pipeline as opposed to Vietnam. Mark Wahlberg is a likable actor and perfect in any protagonist role he plays but may have been too young for the role and still has the East Coast/Boston thing going when the character was supposed to be a Southerner. Characters were missing, the drama and motivation is also missing in favor of action sequences of which Antoine Fuqua has made a specialty. One scene has an old gun expert virtually explaining out all of the narrative and background for what seems like 10 minutes to get around having the movie deal with it itself. The villains are not even despicable enough, they don't have enough screen time and we basically see characters getting roughed up by nameless thugs who are quickly dispatched in two minutes. The character of the FBI agent Nicholas Memphis was an important one in the book. He is a marksman also but haunted by a mistake that rendered his deceased wife paralyzed and is a clumsy agent who rediscovers his capabilities once more when he learns of inconsistencies and aids Bob Lee in clearing his name. All of this swept aside and Nick Memphis is merely a rookie agent fresh out of the academy and it doesn't help that Mike Pena doesn't even play up the comic relief potential of the character merely looking like he is constipated with something in his eye. This could have been a great action film but it chose to go with big explosions and bloody shootings with a younger cast at the expense of a compelling, suspenseful story with characters who were real and that you cared about. I know this is not a book review site but I had the same feeling after watching "Sum of All Fears" where they changed the nationality of the villains and made Jack Ryan young in the guise of Ben Affleck. I judged the film without taking into consideration the literary source and found the film to be rote, banal and underwhelming.
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I have always seen silent films as comedies such as those of Charlie Chaplin or Harold Lloyd. I had not seen the more serious works. Having seen "The Unknown" on television, I never imagined that I would have been moved by a silent film. Lon Chaney's expressions are so clear and jump out of the screen at you. He conveys a mixture of anger, sadness, and seething hatred hiding underneath a forced smile. It is all in his eyes. Also, you see a young, fresh faced Joan Crawford, as the beautiful assistant to Chaney's supposedly armless knife thrower. The lovely assistant has issues where she is afraid of men's arms which is why she is so at ease around Chaney who has a shady past and keeps some strange secrets to himself, including his desire to "own" his lovely assistant. The lengths that he goes to are unbelievable and disturbing. Who would expect less from Tod Browning. This was a fascinating, effective film work.
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French director, Louis Malle's "Lacombe, Lucien" is an honest film about one young man's journey into accidentally becoming a Nazi collaborator during occupied France in the 1940s. Pierre Blaise was not an experienced actor when selected to portray the titular character. This could have been disastrous in most instances but Malle's instincts pay off. Blaise's boyish looks and blank stare are the perfect mix in pulling off the tabula rasa that is capable of evil if the circumstances are right. Lucien works as an orderly and helps out at a farm where his mother is shacking up with the owner while his father is in a German prison camp. He goes through life doing chores and farm work taking delight in killing animals whether it is for food or just for something to do (as in the scene where he kills a song bird out of boredom). This rugged, survivalist approach to life is ideal for a life on the farm in the country, however; the world has changed and after being rejected by his teacher to join the Resistance, Lucien seeks to find his place and purpose. By accident, he has a tire puncture on his bike and finds himself at the collaborator headquarters after curfew. Lucien is accepted by them and given drinks, prestige, money, and fine clothes especially after inadvertently turning in the school teacher who had previously rejected him. Taking to this newfound prestige, Lucien uses his power over a Jewish tailor and his family to court the tailor's beautiful daughter, France, and holds the fact that he can turn them in anytime he likes to force them to accept him and to woo France. Lucien is such a misfit that he has no concept of family and thinks bullying his way into their lives will make them accept them. In a strange way, they begin to grow on each other. The tailor even says, "No matter how hard I try, I find it difficult to dislike you." to him. Even in his very limited way, Lucien grows to care about them but can only go so far as he is completely devoid of emotion when consoling France and forces her into sex after she becomes hysterical about her father being sent away. This film conveyed what is the most troubling about this period of history which is that the people who collaborated were regular people who only cared about getting prestige even though it was temporary and it was hollow and devoid of any integrity. They dance, drink, laugh it up and listen to both the German and English news and "split the difference" in order to get a semblance of the truth. One aspect of these scenes was the Great Dane. The way the dog is filmed it was as though he is subtly performing. Sitting quietly, leading Lucien up the stairway and offering a consoling paw to an upset France. The other intriguing character is that of the hotel maid. A homely looking woman whose face shows a life of hardship, reveals upon initiating Lucien into losing his virginity that she is biding her time until the Americans win which is a certainty, only to hurl anti-semitic insults at France upon seeing her with Lucien. This hatred was not borne of any nazi sympathies but rather her frustration at the fact that France has beauty, youth and is treated as an equal for the party and most of all she has Lucien's affections. Despite the maid's strong feelings for Lucien, he has no feelings for her or most people. His show of affection is throwing money at them whether it is his concerned mother or the Tailor's family after being hurt by him. Up to a tragic conclusion that is merely mentioned in text on the screen, the film is powerful in its' simplicity whether it is in the main character or the seemingly peaceful scenery. The most powerful scenes are between Lucien who is a brute with clout and the tailor who tries to cling to his civilized, bourgeoisie ways despite having lost all prestige and status and is very trepiditious around this boy brandishing this power over him and his family that could destroy them so that he can be accepted by them. I am still thinking about this movie 2 days after watching it, very chilling indeed especially since the young actor, Pierre Blaise would die in a car accident with two companions (Time Magazine, Sept. 1975) a year after the film's release.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Audition" is really the first Takashi Mikke film that I have seen. After hearing a lot about the new wave of Asian films that bring extreme violence and sexuality to shocking effect, I was not sure what to expect. I was aware that it had been a horror film and that something disturbingly horrific was going to happen by the film's end but it still managed to catch me off guard. The film starts off innocently enough with a widower encouraged by his teenage son to put himself on the market and find himself a new wife since he is not getting any younger. He goes about it in a novel way, having a friend in the film business who puts on a bogus casting call to help him find a woman who will be good "marriage material." At this point, this film could be a light romantic comedy. The man becomes bewitched by one of the women, Asami, who is very quiet and seems to be more than meets the eye. The two start to date and see each other more and the man slowly learns little by little about Asami and a tortured past. When the man undertakes his own investigation into her past and it is learned by her that the audition was merely a pretense for him to ask her out, he finds himself in nightmare he would never have dreamed. Many will say that the film is too slow and does not give any indication to being a horror film in the early part of the film. I think this makes the final 20 minutes of the film all the more effective. We are in this man's daily life of solitude and sadness and are with him when he becomes rejuvenated after finding Asami and just as shocked and surprised by what she really is capable of doing. The performances are very good, especially that of the actress who portrays Asami, she brings a mix of vulnerability and danger that is perfect. I found myself going back and forth between feeling sympathy and loathing towards her character. There are definitely disturbing imagery and brutal scenes of torture which are graphic and not for the feint of heart. As far as an initiation into the work of Takashi Miike, this film will be good barometer for whether or not you are ready for some of his other work.
This film was a surprise because I came across it on the Lifetime Movie Network and watched a few minutes to kill some time before another program began and found myself entertained. First of all, what rescues this from being standard direct to video fare is the direction of action film helmer Mark L. Lester. In addition, the cast which includes James Remar and Adam Baldwin, has some underrated talent in it. Most surprising of all is the dynamic between Julie Le Page as the hit woman with the lam and former "Baywatch" babe, Erika Eleniak as a single mother with her troubled teenage son on road trip to her mother's place in Texas. Julie hits all the right notes as the manipulative, sociopathic hit woman who regards the unwitting mother and son as ride over the state lines with a stash of a million dollars. The female characters are strong, Julie, physically and Eleniak as the mother fighting for her son's life and makes the film very compelling. The road movie through the desert crime caper is nothing new nor original ("Thelma and Louise," anyone) but the performance of the sexy Le Page and the twist of ruthless hit woman teamed up with single mom trying to do the right thing brings a very interesting dichotomy to what could have been an otherwise forgettable film.
"Yu Ming is Anim Dom" ("Yu Ming is my Name") is an extremely clever short film that speaks volumes with a very simple, straightforward narrative. The film follows young Yu Ming, a young Chinese man, who is bored with his life working in shop for his family. A dreamer, he randomly picks a spot on a spinning globe to move to and comes up with Ireland. Checking out a book in the library, he learns all he can about Ireland and sees that Gaelic is their official language. Yu Ming then sets out to teach himself the language. Upon moving to Dublin, Yu Ming finds that no one can understand him. Because of this he feels as though he is not speaking it correctly and does not understand that most of the people can only speak English and they mistakenly think he's speaking Chinese. Although comical, it is sad at the same time and shows an outsider more interested and knowledgeable in the Irish culture than the natives themselves. It shows a loss of cultural identity that may or may not be reversable after so many years. I have to say that the film inspired me to learn more about Gaelic as well: GJUNG is Anam Dom. : )
"Harry and Tonto" is one of those films that surprises you. It seems very simplistic with an old man traveling with his trusty cat, however; there is more to the film than that. Harry(Art Carney) is a 72 year-old man displaced from his apartment building in New York that is scheduled for demolition. This is when his journey begins taking him from his son's home and comes across various people along the way including Ginger, a 16 year-old hitchhiker, a former lover with a shaky memory (Geraldine Fitzgerald), his bookstore owner daughter, Shirley(Ellen Burnstyn) in Chicago, a vitamin salesman, a Las Vegas hooker and an Indian Chief. Harry is an intelligent man in his twilight years prone to fussing over his aging cat. The film is good natured and at the same time sad. It plays as a slice of life movie but one thinks of the old saying, "It is not the destination but the journey that matters." Art Carney gives a very real, complex performance while being understated and I am not surprised that he won an Oscar for this film. I am glad that I finally came across this film and certainly appreciate it more as an adult than I did as a kid.
Having seen the original "Hills Have Eyes" and was bowled over by Alexander Aja's "Haute Tension," I anticipated his take on this recent remake of a well know horror film. I have to say that Aja stayed true to the original but then built upon that further and made some improvements that worked. The effects were impressive, most notably, the mutant make up effects and the acting was better especially with the characters of Bobby and the son-in-law. The infamous trailer attack scene is much more brutal and shocking than the original. The only problem I had with the film was that it dragged in places much like the original had and the characters are never really sympathetic but rather a bunch of boorish, whiny people (with the exception of the older daughter and the dogs). Having watched the original, I knew who was going to die and I think this took away from the intensity but Aja did a wonderful job at recreating and updating the film for today's audiences.
I watched this on a Spanish language channel in Orlando, FL back in the early '90s. They did something right with "Ladrones du Tomba" since I watched the entire film and did not speak very much Spanish at the time. It has all the ingredients of an entertaining slasher: cool, low budget Indiana Jones angle with the grave robbers, foolish, reckless teenage characters, a zombie killer with a battle axe and a beautiful "last girl" that has lungs to give even Jamie Lee Curtis a run for her money. It doesn't have a big Hollywood budget and a lot of the night time scenes were dark and murky but it did not skimp on the blood and gore. The latter looks fake at times but this was not unusual for this time period for special effects. LDT is a must for B-horror movie aficionados if you are able to find it.
"Shark Attack 3: Megaladon" is not only direct to video fare but an unintentional laugh fest. Some movies lend themselves easily to being heckled as seen with "Mystery Science Theatre 3000" and this keeps up the tradition. I think what made this hilarious was that the people who made this were probably thinking they were coming up with a cool film with clever, witty writing and, of course, it comes across as making a fool of itself. Let's start with the junk science: supposedly the shark was being attracted by electrical pulses being generated by a fiber optic line underwater(this is not the case), not to mention the dubious nature of the shark tooth and the chock-a-block stock footage, some of which looks as though it was taken in the 1950s. Second: The lady scientist who changes from being a bookworm to seductress asking her crew if they're checking out her a55 again. There is also the lovable rogue hero who cracks wise and spouts one memorable line that stops the film cold in its track and leaves the viewer in abject disbelief(I had to rewind it to make sure I heard what I heard). Not to mention the special effects which run the gamut from photoshop (one friend said that boat superimposed over the real footage of a shark coming out of the water was reminiscent of "Land of the Lost") to flat out Commodore 64 era CGI. There was one old dude who reinvented the English language ("Abso-f*cking-lutely!", "Bull-f*cking-sh*t!)and even a bad lawyer joke("They're the sharks you should be worried about!" (drumbeat) Another note is that I thought most of the actors had bad speech impediments and looked as though they were reading cue cards, however; it appears as though Bulgaria is filling in for Mexico and that these were Eastern European actors trying to speak English with a Mexican accent which came out as something closer to a stroke induced slur. Also, keep an eye on the scenes when they are supposedly going at full speed in their boats and when they cut to a close up of the actors, the water is calm and still. As poorly made and acted as this film was, it was so bad that it was entertaining and should be elevated to cult status like "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes."
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