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The Dark Knight (2008)
Excellent of Kind But Vastly Overrated
The Dark Knight already has far more comments than anyone will read, making me doubtful mine will get much notice. But someone has to say this movie does not belong in the top ten where the voters have currently placed it. If not for that I would probably praise its good points more than criticizing its flaws.
The main flaw is the large number of plot holes, how the Joker was able to plant his bombs in the hospital and on the ferries being the biggest. Rather than make the story credible, the filmmakers seem to rely on lots of big-budget action, visual effects and seriousness of tone to carry the audience past such quibbles.
I note the rating drops considerably among older voters like me and suspect there's a clue there in why all the nine- and ten-star votes have been cast. If this movie is compared mainly to superhero films, then yes, The Dark Knight is probably at the top, having an unusual amount of complexity to it, especially on questions of moral ambiguity. I do like that the Joker attacks Batman and his allies by giving them moral dilemmas. I also like the development of Two-Face, a credible hero gone bad.
If there are readers out there who haven't seen The Dark Knight, I recommend the film with reservations. If you take superheroes seriously you will love this, but if you're not impressed by over-the-top action or are inclined to look back critically, you may be disappointed
Remember the Titans (2000)
Not Great But Memorable
REMEMBER THE TITANS is a good movie but not as good as the best sports movies like CHARIOTS OF FIRE, BULL DURHAM or even FIELD OF DREAMS. While there is conflict, we never forget what we knew coming in, that the good guys were going to win. And the music soundtrack always lets us know that a big moment has come. What's memorable is not the acting, writing, or directing, though they all show solid workmanship, but the surprise is that this is a Disney film which doesn't play like a Disney film. There's no slapstick comedy or disgusting eating scene. And while there are cute kids and serious injury/death scenes, these are underplayed. Maybe there's hope for Disney after all.
Fire & Ice (2008)
Better Than the Average Sci-Fi Offering
Right now eight people have rated this movie at 8.8. Believe me, it's nowhere near that good. I'm suspecting that, the others having seen a lot of dreck on the Sci-Fi Channel, are actually floored by mere competence.
What F&I has going for it is a coherent plot, good sets, decent photography and likable characters. What's going against it is a formula script and adequate-to-poor special effects. The dragons do their job, if not always imaginatively but the really laughable creatures are some orc-type walking bushes called the Forest People. Fortunately their two appears are brief.
Also too brief is John Rhys-Davies performance as the hero's mentor, predictably the best in the film. The reluctant hero (Tom Wisdom) and plucky heroine (Amy Acker) are adequate and easy to watch. The rest of the performances are by-the-numbers, though none outstandingly bad.
The best way to enjoy this movie would be to skip to the last half-hour, specifically to the final hero-versus-dragon battle. When that's over, you can turn it off.
Little Women (1933)
Saying I hated this film is perhaps too strong a word. Like most here I found it charming, with excellent acting and production. The problem is that I find the March family just too good to be true. I suspect the four sisters were what Victorian women wished their daughters would become and many would try. None of the sex and intrigue of modern female films is present here. I suspect it's no accident the 1933 film is generally considered the best of the film versions--the further modern society has gotten from the Victorian ideal, the harder it is for the actors to espouse it. While Katherine Hepburn may indeed have been born to play Jo March, I confess a partiality for Paul Lukas among the performers, his acting not reminding me of other roles where I've seen him.
Having missed the book and other film versions of the story, I'm glad to have seen this one but I doubt I'll be looking at the others. But I am curious whether anyone has done a good parody of this story. It seems to be crying for one.
Secrets of an Actress (1938)
Melodrama or Comedy?
The reviews I've found call this a melodrama but it could also be labeled a comedy, though the laughs are not all intentional.
Take the scene where George Brent tries to convince Ian Hunter that backing a Broadway play is a bad investment. No matter how accurate the figures he throws up are, the audience knows anytime a film's stars "put on a show", it's going to be a hit.
What we might no expect is that the supporting characters are more interesting than the leads. It's not so surprising with Gloria Dickson since she's playing the villain but when the best friend (Isabel Jeans) steals every scene from the romantic lead (Kay Francis), we know the picture is in trouble.
The big problem is the film is not melodramatic enough to be a melodrama and not funny enough to be a comedy
Mamma Mia! (2008)
Smart Guys Will See This Chick Flick....
with their dates. Sure, most females will see whatever the guy wants but if the guy wants their relationship to go further, he can't do better than this. There's lots of romance but not a single sex scene (not a fault). If you're like me, you'll be crying more than laughing, though the movie's very funny and not at all dark. No, what moves me to tears is that these people all act better than we'd give someone in their situation credit for. I'll let others describe the plot though I went in thinking it'd end with everyone getting married. Maybe the play did--I only read the original reviews--in any case, the movie's ending is much better. Otherwise I'll just say this is a story where you wind up actually liking these people.
The Misfits (1961)
Act of God?
Though I can't really fault the writing, the performances or the cinematography, I have to call The Misfits an unsatisfying picture. It's not simply that the story's a real downer or even that it was Clark's and Marilyn's last film--actually they couldn't have picked a more appropriate vehicle for the end of their careers. No, what I feel is that Arthur Miller simply couldn't come up with a real good conclusion to his tale. Perhaps he should be given credit for not tacking on a fake happy ending at the close. I note that in his earlier, greater works (Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, A View from the Bridge) he wound up killing off his protagonists. Here he left everyone alive and it's almost like God did the dirty work for him with Gable's heart attack. I can't blame Marilyn, especially since the bad publicity may have hastened her end as well.