105 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
The Program (1993)
Excellent Football Film
20 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
You do not have to be a great fan of college football to appreciate this film but I suspect watching it might offer you a change to become a fan. Visually, the movie is quite lovely. It has a lush warm tone that is unaffected but effective.

I like this film. I like the story. I like the way the film is executed. I find the story and characters credible and interesting. The contrast of themes or counterpoint of themes works well. The then young actors seem realistic. They are multidimensional. In fact, this is one of the best football movies.

Dialogue is playful intelligent, and perceptive. The film uses multiple points-of-view and varies them in interesting ways. There are subjective reaction shots and asides that give the narrative great interest. I love the helmet camera images.
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Gunmen (1993)
What the Heck?
19 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Had the makers of this movie developed something from the scene where the protagonist drops the little girl from his motorcycle to the nuns, they might have made a memorable film. Of course, the film ends on a note about the little girl and the nuns but that is not the movie one gets.

Roger Ebert recounts the secession of stolen elements from actual motion pictures and defines part of the problem with this mess. The film simply replicates quotes from other works.

Sometimes, the film has a certain visual beauty but nothing ever comes from that beauty. The narrative is incoherent. Threads form and disappear. Nothing happens in all the rush of action. Humour almost works but again never forms patterns or stories.

I do not know what the makers of this film intended. I doubt that they knew. Several films might have happened; not one did.
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Pandemonium (1982)
Save Your Microwave Popcorn
25 August 2012
"Pandemonium" had potential but fails. The production obviously involved effort and even care. Almost nothing seems to click in ways that are genuine parody. The silliness is simply silly.

The overall look of the film is ugly. That would not be bad were the ugliness not apparently accidental rather than by design.

I have rarely seen a film that wastes such a remarkable cast thrown away in an aimless script. Individual effects reveal a good eye for film design but the narrative never engages one. Surly, the people involved in making this film sensed that it lacked focus. I wonder when it got to editing what one had on film, that one just did what one could to splice the mess into something that vaguely resembled a movie—well, their effort failed. It never becomes even the semblance of a parody. There is no soul here, not even a ghost of one. How could so many talented people be wasted this way?

Save the microwave popcorn for something funny and fun. Skip this one.
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Abandon (2002)
I Did Not See It!
8 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Warning, this review reveals the outcome. Please do not read it if you have not seen this movie. This film is much better than the reviews indicate but one has to deal with a subtle conclusion. We seem to have trouble with ambiguity in film narratives. Further, the point-of-view at the end of the film is like that of a modernist novel. I appreciate criticisms of "Abandon" but I think it deserves to be what it is.

"Abandon" never lacks focus. If you follow closely, you read a coherent narrative. Katie Holmes' performance is the core of the narrative but fine production qualities, direction, and attention to details are also important. There are lapses, perhaps, though I will have to watch it again to know this. This is a quick review. The film deserves better.The clue is to hide as the victim even if you are not.
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The Perfection of What It is.
7 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Do we leer when we watch films by Bertolucci and Woody Allen? Do you leer? For all their supposed investigation of the celebration of nubile women by middle aged and old men, neither filmmaker quite convinces me that he has quite the interest in these young women that all the artifice, music, flowers, lovely scenery, and other settings suggest. I know that actresses report liking to work with Mr. Allen, as do actors. I am aware that we no longer make that gender distinction but humour me for a moment. Bertolucci has a reputation for pushing actors to full disclosure, as it were. No one discloses anything here.

I just saw "Stealing Beauty" for the first time this week during the summer 2012. I find it implausible that a large household of odd mostly male characters would devote a summer contemplating the virginity of a girl. Leering defines, I suppose, a theme for a film as much as any other topic. The loss of virginity seems to me the theme of adolescent films but a bit too much and too little for a film filled with randy old men but these old men seem long past being randy while the young men mostly seem nascent old me without substance.

Roger Ebert as usual pins this film in his review. Read it. The men, young and old, lack substance and the nubile girl never becomes a person. Woody Allen usually suggests that the object of desire is a human being and an engaging one at that. Bertolucci does not bother. I rate his film highly because here Bertolucci perfects his leering.
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Religion Majour Likes Film by Philosophy Majour
6 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Simply put, "The Tree of Life" is one of the finest films I have watched. That is my initial prejudice. Now, my sister probably would not care much for this film though she might surprise me by liking it simply because it is not in Italian, German, Swedish, Spanish, French, or Japanese. I ordered a copy as soon as I finished watching it the first time even though I do not yet own a BluRay player.

The film does not remind me of "2001: A Space Odyssey" even though one of the same special effects people worked on both films. It does not remind me of "Stand by Me" though I like that someone linked them—I understand why Rooprect compares them. The film is impressionistic more than expressionistic and, thus, does not recall for me Fellini, though one finds traces from the history of cinema, especially European Modernism. I see and hear some overtones from Antonioni.

At university, I took my major in religion, even though I am wildly agnostic; Mr. Malick the director, I think, took his in philosophy. The film makes great use of ellipsis and ambiguity; this is not a movie for fundamentalists or those who seek clear and distinct ideas. Like "2001". the film narrative and iconography are highly tensive open to polyvalent interpretations and experiences.

A large number of people took part in making this film; it deserves detailed analysis and praise—too much for a précis and subjective one such as this.

As I note from time to time, I do not rank films but seek to enjoy each one on its own terms. If you bring to this work desires for a film outside the vision of this work, you might entirely miss apprehending this great work. This film does recall Mr. Malick's graceful "Days of Heaven" but it is not a remake of that work or any of his other films.
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For What It Is, Lovely in a Way
26 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
For a low budget imitation of a great classic film, this movie has a certain visual beauty that hints as the physical loveliness of the Formal 1 racing circuit. The women wear exquisite outfits, the montages work as travel log. Fabian looks like a classic Grand Prix driver from the time. Missy Farmer is lovely looking as is Talia Shire.

What I saw was dubbed it seems. The dialogue sounds unreal. The music seems to be an imitation of French romantic films.

The film does not work. The story does not engage me. I do not care about the narrative and somehow the montage lacks crispness and cohesion. Still, it almost works in a way. It almost seem an undertone or overtone to "Grand Prix" This is like a memory of a dream and that is a compliment.
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A Variation, Not a Copy
26 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Granted that probably only Alfred Hitchcock could successfully replicate one of his films, this remake works in its own way. I measure films on terms appropriate to the individual work. This version is more than competent; it entertained me. I very much enjoyed it.

I agree that not only the stars but the entire case make this film. The technical aspects of it are flawless. The continuity is seamless, the dialogue surprising fresh, and the action believable. I do not think remaking this work is pointless—it is a variation and a pleasant and amusing one. I think that the pacing of this work is better than that of the original
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Fly Away Home (1996)
Treat Yourself to a Sense of Joy and Wonder. Great Family Film.
9 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Sctmpir's review nails this film, which celebrates a young female character with immense richness, complexity even, and grace. I think that the treatment of women in this work is among the most finely nuanced and intelligent I have ever seen in any film.

Carroll Ballard, who directed the gracious and almost unbearably beautiful "Wind" as well as "The Black Stallion", "Duma", and "Never Cry Wolf"--all films that have an almost sentimental tone but a tone really closer to romantic in the classic Victorian sense of awe and wonder at life itself—controls every aspect of the narrative. This film might seem close to but is never saccharine. It is about wonder in the sense of awe.

Anna Paquin exhibits brilliance as an adolescent actor that overwhelms me, in part, because there is never anything trite or coquettish that often mares the role many fine young actresses play. The role here required immense transparency, poise, and nuance.

Dana Delaney has the same poise, apparent simplicity, attention to nuance and understatement as Ms. Paquin. No actor is better than Jeff Daniels is when he expresses understatement and subtly—remember him, for example, in "Pleasantville" and "Purple Rose of Cairo". Tim Kerry is a great boon to the film but everyone seems outstanding to me.

Caleb Deschane is a master of magic hour cinematography, which works exceptionally well here. He did, for example, "The Right Stuff" with Philip Kaufman directing, "The Passion of the Christ" with Mel Gibson directing, "A Woman Under the Influence" with John Cassavetes, and "Being There" with Hal Ashby. He also directed the thoughtful film "Caruso". The attention to detail in this movie amazes me. There is not a bad frame anywhere in the film. That, of course, is in part the work of the editor Nicholas Smith.

Music by Mark Isham is a tad dramatic but still lovely. Mr. Isham is one of the most productive of film composers.

And the airplanes are terrific. The aerial images alone overwhelm me and recall the imagery from "Wind", one of my favourite action films. The flight though Baltimore alone is worth the price of admission and it one of utter majesty. One plane was the one used in the true story behind the work.

As usual, I am not up to doing this fine work credit that it earns. I want to own a copy of it.

I rate it ten because I judge films on their individual merits, not necessarily in comparison with other works.
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1969 (1988)
Subtle and Effective Memory of a Turbulant Interval in Our History
26 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The reviews of the films posted here intrigue me. Each of us has his or her memory of the time if we lived then. Many works set in that period are frantic, tumultuous, and intense like that interval in our history. This film is reflective, tender, and elegiac. It is more like a memory of the time than a depiction of it. That might explain the negativity in some reviews. I understand the negative reviews.

The film certainly does echo the dread, alienation, and complexity feeling one experienced as cannon fodder or potential cannon fodder or overheated and misplaced patriotism or not entirely pure protest. The film is not really about Vietnam or hippies but about recalling Vietnam and hippies. It is something of a dream like the "Summer of 42", a coming of age story that might not quite ring true to the actual moment.

Obviously, the director deeply felt this film. It clearly is a personal work. I find the script tight, complex, and engaging. The direction is as tight and focused. The then young actors work brilliantly with the seasoned ones.

Robert Downey, Jr. and Wynona Ryder were long ago two of my favourite then young actors and Kiefer Sutherland is every bit their equal. Mariette Hartley has long been an actress I very much admire. Bruce Dern is almost underrated though he has had many great roles. He has played in some of my all time favourite films and is a reason why those films are favourites. Mr. Dern underplays effectively here. Often his genius is to overplay but he modulates and does something else here. Meanwhile Joanna Cassidy is a national treasure.

Films about the sixties require soundtracks that mirror the time and the selections here are splendid. In fact, the music does what the narrative does not quite do—voice the turbulence, desperation, and underlying rage of the late sixties.

I must mention that this work is beautifully photographed and edited. It is a fine film about the late sixties and the tragedy that time was in our national life. I think that everyone worked at a high level to make this film It is a small masterwork.
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Cold Turkey (1971)
Delightfull, Funny, Playful, and Perceptive Satire
17 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this film several times on television before I finally came to love it. I have come to measure films on their own terms, not necessarily my idealized ones. The movie is extravagantly playful with polemical outbursts and subtle undertone as well.

The image of the town doctor with a pacifier is, perhaps, my favourite icon, a simple, silly, but funny one. How being on the cover of a national news magazine trumps realization by the pastor of how shallow the town is a lovely motif. I liked the pastor's desire to serve in Dearborn, Michigan as a desirable goal. I think that Pippa Scott's character defines the reality behind the story. Her pastor's wife is a fine work.

Again, this is a movie I did not see when it was first released and would not have seen. That was my loss; for what it is, this is fine entertainment. Tgibbs279 gets this one right on target.
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Do Not Miss This Dance
16 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Delightful with the reviews posted already telling many reasons why, "A Dog's Breakfast" does telegraph the ending early but the playing out is deadpan fun. The film works at all levels from cinematography to editing, to acting, to music, and all else. There is not a wasted line, a wasted frame, or a failed turn in plot.

At first, I felt a tad put off by Patrick but then I related him to eccentric people I know and fell into watching the story play out with a final playful twist or turnabout.

By the way, I loved the sister character and actress. She is delightful.

Music by Tim Williams is a key player. The editing by Jason Schneider never has a bad cut.

This movie is much better than many highly promoted and expensively made films.
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Ski Party (1965)
Tops in What It Is!
16 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
As with films about teenagers, the actors seem rather old. Dwayne Hickman is ancient even for 1965 but who really cares? The gags are silly. Confusing a Swede with a Southerner is not quite funny. Robert Q. Lewis would have been dated in 1965, let alone now.

The girls' bottoms, however, are nice as are their tops. I still have no idea who watched these movies at the time of their release. The teenagers I knew at the time were—well, not likely to have cared for these films but the movies might have been background for other activities. Who wants to make out during a Bergmann film? The soundtrack is not bad, however. It has James Brown! The scenery is okay. I think that these films might have created a space for such classic titillation feminist works as T.O.P.S. I like how the filmmakers worked in a pool scene at the ski resort. I used to go to those places and they did have pools (and bikinis).
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Last Embrace (1979)
Interesting Entertainment
3 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
"Last Embrace" deserves its bad reviews. Imitation of Alfred Hitchcock requires more than respect and deep appreciation. The Miklos Rozsa score does sometimes intrude even though he often wrote film noir scores and a famous score for Mr. Hitchcock that the director did not like. Sometimes the score works extraordinarily well. Well, this is not a Hitchcock film but still, I like this movie. It imitates but also foreshadows director Demme's later great terror oriented mysteries.

Mr. Demme is not mechanical or rigid in his use of Hitchcock devices and themes. This film narrative engages one on its own terms.

The casting is particularly effective. The late Janet Margolin enriches the film and counts in part for my high score.Roy Scheider, as always, has immense presence Locations in New York encase a time when the city looked particularly rundown and that somehow defines an effective iconography though I have no idea why. This movie deserves closer analysis than this but others probably could do that more effectively than I can at the moment. I very much appreciate the review here by Dorian Tenore-Bartilucci.
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Jaws (1975)
A Summer Outing
1 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
To see how gifted Steven Spielberg is simply watch the second film in the "Jaws" franchise, a fairly entertaining movie. I do not know how he maintain such faultless narratives; I have never analysed his film closely, but watching them I have a sense that nothing too much is ever there andnothing too little is left out. In a sense, I do not want to learn too much. I simply enjoy his work.

I appreciate that, though his kind of film making might have undermined the making of small films, Mr. Spielberg has always been conscientious about celebrating good movies. The interplay of simply effects (or simply looking effects) such as the classic line, "You're going to need a bigger boat." I am not profoundly impressed with some reviews and analysis of this film, though some ideological criticism amuses me. Again, I avoid too much analysis here. The finale of the movie with two protagonists swimming in from the sea has a lightness of tone and humour that crowns a splendid summer outing. I had not seen the film until now (2012).
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Eagle's Wing (1979)
29 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
"Eagle's Wing" baffles me. Visually, it is incredibly beautiful, though I do not understand the iconography and whatever symbolism plays within it. I cannot set it in a historical period though commentators have explained that aspect of the film. I am not certain who the characters are and sometimes I am not certain who the actors are.

I do not see anything particularly innovative. Sometimes conventional elements, such as an intrusive musical sound track near the end of the movie, seem superfluous.

I suppose the film is mythic but I am almost clueless about what that means here. There are scenes in which the trappings of wealth and power seem meaningless within the forbidding but lovely landscape.

"Eagle Wings" lacks the wryness of Samuel Becket, the clarity of the monoliths or the personality of HAL from Stanley Kubrick, or the grit of John Ford but the captured girl is pretty even if she is abandoned in the wilderness. For some reason, I like this movie. It is a nihilist masterpiece.
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Route 30 (2007)
Unique and Charming Small Film
23 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I like this film. It utterly charms and fascinates me. I rate it highly because it feels unique to me. First watching it without any forewarning about the nature of the movie, I felt a tad disoriented as the narratives seemed incoherent or rather not related to each other but then by the time I finished watching I was enchanted.

For one thing, the film is lovely to look at. The setting is exquisite. The characters are quirky but not weird or straw figures. They are interesting. I especially enjoyed Nathalie Boltt, as the Jenny Wade obsessed Gettysburg tour guide. There is a splendid transparency about that character. On the other hand, the hunters seem a tad off and the visit to the Christian Scientist threw me, but the lovely section about the Amish woman feels satisfying. It is all played to perfection. I want to watch this one again.
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The Ledge (2011)
Cool, Intimate, Thoughtful Film
19 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Location shooting for "The Ledge" took place in the town where I live, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Much of it was shot within a few hundred yards of where I worked for many years and where I walked after work. That prejudices my reaction to this movie. The locations work well and in no way distract from the narrative.

I think Matthew Chapman intends this as a serious film. He does not dwell on the intellectual differences but the emotional outcome of those differences between atheist Gavin Nichols and Christian fundamentalist Joe Harris. The news detective Hollis Lucetti received earlier the day of the incident frames the narrative with counterpoint. This subplot in the end does not distract from the overall narrative but does indeed frame it.

I very much endorse the review here by Kevin Dugen. The acting is fine; the scenes between Mr. Hunnam and Ms. Tyler felt authentic as did those between Ms. Tyler and Mr. Wilson. The young men seem to have great potential. They play well with Ms. Tyler. Terrence Howard is excellent as the young detective.

What dominates the film is the icon that is Liv Tyler. She is simply lovely. I do think that seeing her bound and gagged in classic images from that genus seemed unnecessary to the narrative though Ms. Tyler is even lovely in that state. The lovemaking is intimate and warm, rather tender, I think.

For a small budget movie, "The Ledge" looks very good. Because of Liv Tyler and the location shooting, I rate it rather highly. Regardless, I heartily recommend it.
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Wonderful Conclusion to a Tradtion
13 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
"Odds Against Tomorrow" embodies and, I suppose, calumniates "film noir" though as a sort of message or propaganda movie. Propaganda here is not pejorative but descriptive even to the extent that the film ends with excellent if blunt irony.

I think that I most enjoy the high contrast cinematography by Joseph C. Brun, though, perhaps, none of it is technically innovative. It simply embraces and exploits a rich tradition. I very much liked the scenes shot in Central Park. I enjoy watching this one with the sound off simply to celebrate the look, but an excellent jazz score by John Lewis is another joy.

The casting is outstanding. Ed Begley has a stony, rough face that defines the tone of the work. Robert Ryan always distinguishes himself. And Harry Belafonte is well into his campaign to remake America. I love Shelly Winters, especially in a scene when he prepares to go out to work to take care of Slater.

Gloria Graham with just an open coat and a black bra with her pout defines sexual vulnerability. We sometimes forget her range. Robert Wise always seem in charge in his films. The screenplay by Abraham Polonsky sounds authentic.

There is even an appearance by Wayne Rogers as a soldier in an early performance in his career. I think this is an almost lost classic. It deserves attention.
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First Rate
7 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The film is John Irving weird and thus delightful in its way. The sense of light in the film is what delights me, almost delights me most about the movie. I recall lines from an Alun Lewis poem "Remember in the play of happiness . . . the joy is in the sharing of the feast. . . . ." I think that is what makes this film—a sense of shared joy, of exultation. The interplay of symbols and references passes easily enough and one almost smiles—almost.

What most deeply touched me was the character Lilly. I know her. The image of her not passing the windows but going to them while the wind blows through the large empty room echoes many films after the gentle scene of Lilly returning to her typewriter to write the simple message, "Sorry, just not big enough. " I have been there and know why she refuses to pass the window.

For me, that is all the film really needs to be outstanding. That is the film for me.
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A Way to Salvation:
23 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
"True Confessions" continues to be one of my favourite films. Many reasons define it as a great motion picture. Ulu Grosbard seems not to be well known but he is a great director, even if I do not always understand his work. The script based on one of the writer John Gregory Dunne's novels and written with his wife Joan Didion and Gary Hall is a tight, complex, nuanced, and satisfying story. Cinematography by Owen Roizman has a fine noir look at times and a great historical look at other times. The set design by Marvin March and art direction by Stewart Campbell facilitate these effects as does costume design by Joe Tompkins.

Music by George Delerue with period pieces haunt imagination and define a tonality that lingers in memory.

The cast is rich. Some critics think De Niro does not convince as a priest, but, in fact, he get is just right. Robert Duvall, De Niro, Charles During, Cyril Cusack, Kenneth McMillan, Ed Flanders, Rose Gregorio, Burgess Meredith, and several others work as a fine ensemble, as if they were all part of a Swedish acting group. This is an elegant, adult film--a masterwork and like fine wine rich three decades after its release.

The film is not anti-Catholic but instead celebrates how a priest finds salvation. The film ends on a fine note like excellent coffee at the end of an elegant meal. I very much appreciate this film and apologize for not writing better about it.
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Entertaining 50s Western with Some Terrific Music
16 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I liked this film. I had never seen it until recently. Mr. Presley was a good actor; he had great potential. The entire cast does a fine job. Robert Webb was a solid director. Richard Egan and Debra Pagett did fine work. I found the narrative engaging. The story was complex as were the characters. I wish that Mr. Presley had had a chance to hone his craft with good instruction and other good material. He clearly had ability to create convincing, interesting, and well-rounded characters.

The cinematography has a crisp look with good balance and tonalities. The locations don't remind me of Texas but that was common for westerns at the time this movie was filmed. I grant that the ending feels a bit forced, but the overall story works.

The music did not have much, if anything, to do with the narrative but, heck, who cares. It is terrific.
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Number One (1969)
Do You Know What It's Like to Miss?
1 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This is a long movie. The narrative replays the same motifs repeatedly—with the same clichés too many times. The script calls out for Woody Allen parody. The melodrama has a late fifties feel to it—with domestic violence and alcoholism seen from the point-of-view of the perpetrator. This is not "North Dallas Forty", which came a decade later. I suppose that the film takes itself seriously—a bit too uncritically. Yet, I like the movie. I very much like it.

Charleston Heston centers the entire film with his distinctive underplayed and often under-appreciated range and depth. Jessica Walter and Diana Muldaur actually seem a little bit too old for the characters that they play, but watching them is a joy. Bruce Dern foreshadows future characters he played. John Randolph seems so young in his role that I had to struggle at first to recall who he is.

The script by David Moessinger seems a bit too overwritten for my tastes but the narrative works. The direction is professional but the pace is slow. Some of the effort to show off New Orleans grows old, but, as someone who lived there, I do not really mind.

I enjoyed the location shots of New Orleans, where I lived for over a decade. Much of it looked familiar to me, even though I did not move to the city full-time until eight years after the film. I lived near the old Tulane Stadium. Seeing the Saints play in sunshine delighted me. This is not my sort of movie, but it works well as it is. Mr. Heston is the keystone to a well-made effort.
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I Guess We Both Are
26 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I like the review of this film by e-warn-1 and the historical details related on this IMDb site. William Norton's excellent script and expert direction by Lamont Johnson obviously structure this ambiguous and engaging film narrative. Every component of this film works for me.

Before this film, I did not know the work of actor Helmut Griem. He is a fine counterpoint here to one of my favourite actors Brian Keith. The story is credible. The look of the film is, for the most part, believable, though some mistakes do intrude but not enough to depreciate my appreciation of the work.

I do not need to replicate the plot summary. I scored the film highly because I enjoyed watching it. It is a crisp story but with pleasant ambiguity. I wanted to indulge in a little of the water of the Gods as I watched it. Next time, I hope I have some of that beverage.
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Hoffa (1992)
Mythic Narration
16 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Danny DeVito's elegant masterwork film "Hoffa" tells an important story about America. Mr. DeVito's film is a Midrash, a riff, an interpretation of the life of union organizer and leader James R. "Jimmy" Hoffa. The narration unfolds richly through David Mamet's screenplay, excellent performances by the players including most of all Jack Nicholson and Mr. DeVito. By the way, J. T. Walsh shines again here.

Cinematography by Stephen Burum and editing by Lynzee Klingman and Ronald Roose exfoliate the intricate production design by Ida Random and other production details. The people working on this film are all top notch.

As I indicated, the film is not historical but interpretative. The narration is deliberately ambiguous and tensive, open to varying responses just like Mr. Hoffa himself. Still, I understand criticism of the film for its historical and even narrative flaws, but this is a mythic work, which has its place and serves a good purpose. In a way, it is a counter myth to those about John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert.

For production design, acting, cinematography, editing, production values, and acting, Mr. DeVito's work deserves a solid ten. That does not mean the history is complete or accurate.
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