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A taut, inventive thriller.
An inventive, suspenseful exercise in claustrophobia. A Japanese thriller that sets itself a tough challenge by being entirely set in two rooms. Not completely successful, but taut, surprising and well-acted. One might find the film somewhat reminiscent of SAW two men trapped in room and pitting against each other but unlike that film it dares to stay with its premise and keep the hero locked in his cell throughout the film. It's like watching a lab experiment. Some might find the contained suspense tedious, but this reviewer found it enthralling. The sound and imagery of the film are stunningly well realized. This is a certainly a good film to use to show off a good home video system. Just right for a late night movie fest, when one is in the paranoid mood. It certainly kept me awake that night.
Smokin' Aces (2006)
Quentin Tarantino has a lot to answer for
I won't say this is the worst movie I've ever seen, but it's certainly the most annoying. With smug satisfaction dripping from every frame and a wholly unjustified confidence in its own (non-existent) cleverness, this is the cinematic equivalent of that pretentious art-school dropout who holds center-stage at a late-in-the-year graduate school party and makes you want to drag him out to the driveway and pummel him with rancid cheese. With action that's noisy rather than exciting, plot "twists" any third grade viewer of "24" could see coming ten miles away (SPOILER coming up. It's right in the next line! Don't blame me if you actually want to see this movie. Blame yourself. --) Any chance that the two characters who are mentioned as having had plastic surgery might end up being the same character?! Also with fake cynical shocks (oh, wow big movie star killed in the first act lucky for him), and attempts at humor that make Jar-Jar Binks look like Peter Sellers (The Tremor Brothers? Holy Christ, please pour the popcorn golden flavoring in my eyes before I have to see them anymore!), this is an mind-numbing exercise in everything that sucks about current cinema masquerading as an indie flick. And to make it even more offense, after all the fake hip Tarantino wannabe posturing (and don't get me wrong, I love KILL, BILL I even loved Neveldine and Taylor's CRANK) it actually expects us to take the characters seriously at the end and get all misty eyes about the fate of Alica Keys and about Ryan Reynolds' moral choices and getting misty eyed about anything to do with Ryan Reynolds may be asking too much for any audience.
My favorite review of this one came from the Philadelphia Weekly; SMOKIN' ACES is "the worst film of 1998."
Where was Don Knotts?
I was surprised to find Don Knotts left out of the Memoriam section during this years awards. He's one of the most beloved comics of his generation. His films made a fortune? GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN. THE INCREDIBLE MR. LIMPETT. Classics. I know Barney Fife was a TV character, but still, he's one of the most influential comedians of the post-War years. And he didn't even get a mention in the Memorial section? Let's not go into the fact that the composer of the GODZILLA theme was left out. That might be consider an obscure credit for an American awards show. But Don Knotts? Who's more classic that Don Knotts? What's up with that?
The Pearl of Death (1944)
Murder My Sweet link
There's a comment in here about elements of the story resembling RKOs MURDER MY SWEET with Dick Powell and implying that RKO ripped off this Universal feature. It should be noted that the plot elements originate with Raymond Chandler's novel FAREWELL MY LOVELY (also filmed as a Falcon movie with Tom Conway and under its own title with Robert Mitchum). All in all, quite a lot of adaptations, some ligit, some not. But the novel came first, so all (including his Sherlock Holmes feature) were borrowing from the best - Raymond Chandler. This version is a good one and Rondo Hatton plays the part also essayed by such actors as Ward Bond and Mike Mazurski. Still, Mazurski in the RKO feature MURDER MY SWEET has to win the championship - he combines danger, brute force and heartache better than any of the others.
Some powerful stuff
This is independent film-making at its best. A powerful unique story that would have threatened and confused development people at all the major studios. The only way to make a movie like this is just to damn well go ahead and do it and that's just what Ray McKinnon seems to have done. The tale he tells is like something out of Flannery O'Connor - twisted, dark and painfully honest. This is the kind of naked, sincere flimmaking that one seldom sees in this country anymore. Directors are too interested in being cool and hip to really reach into their hearts and find the dark core. Not that the film is without humor - but the laughs are dark and honest. McKinnon himself almost steals his own picture as the villainous snake - he's as fair from his saintly preacher of DEADWOOD as he could be. He engages in a fistfight with Billy Bob Thornton that is one of the best, most real fight scenes I've seen in a film in years. The editor doesn't cut away when things get too painful to look at. Indeed that's the philosophy of the whole film - to show pain with an unblinking eye. CHRYSTAL reminds of the best films of 1970s - it doesn't pander, it doesn't take easy short cuts. It remains steadfastly true to itself. See it.
A brilliant film about film making
Many people seem to be reacting to the racial aspects of this film. I'd like to talk about it as a marvelous film about movie making. Few films have shown in such an entertaining way, the madness it takes to actually make an independent film. Few films have portrayed as effectively the little family that is built when a film is being made - a family that bonds, fights, falls apart, grows to hate and love each other with equal measure. Whether you know or care about SWEET SWEETBACK'S BAADDASSS SONG isn't the point (myself, I've never seen the film), what really comes through is the sheer love of the insanity of film making. If you love movies, this is a movie you'll love.
Hornblower: Loyalty (2003)
Good, but is it Hornblower? Read the books!
By now this series has attracted its own set of fans, so the issue of how faithful it remains to the Forester stories may be moot. Still, I've always been puzzled by one element of the credits -- the show never seems to say which of "the novels of C.S. Forester" a particular movie is based on. LOYALTY and DUTY are loosely based on HORNBLOWER AND THE HOTSPUR, the tale of Hornblower's first command. Gruffudd, though a good enough actor and quite charming, seems to miss what was always the key element of Forester's Hornblower -- his constant self-doubt and crushing insecurity. The power of the novels comes from Hornblower's inability to see his own heroism and greatness for it is. He might be a hero to the world; to himself he was always the gangling Midshipman who was "seasick at Spithead." Julia Sawahla, on the other hand, is a perfect choice for Maria. A comment objected to her seeming "dowdy" -- that is precisely the point. Hornblower's unhappy marriage and unrewarding personal life were always intended to contrast with his glory on the sea. The show is fine -- the books are true classics. If you like the show, be sure to read the book.