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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Movies often succeed or fail based on whether they have the right tone, and this one is a big success, 14 November 2005

CLOCKWATCHERS is a rare breed of film: it works as a comedy for a while, and then transitions into serious, basic drama without breaking a sweat. That's not easy to do at all.

The saddest story in this movie is...actually, there are several stories that are pretty damn depressing (in a good way, not in a causing viewers to need a lot of alcohol to get over seeing them). The relationship between the four temps never seemed like the Ya-Ya Sisterhood or anything like that, but it was still a shock to see how rapidly things deteriorated between them. And the brilliance of the kaleidoscope-like script by the Sprecher sisters is evident in how the responsibility for the loss of friendships changes with different viewings. Is it the fault of Margaret, who is too smart to play dumb but might be much more happy if she could learn to try? Of Iris, who at a crucial moment makes a judgment about Margaret, and then doesn't correct it? Or Paula, who is the first person to turn on Margaret and only seems interested in her own life? Or Jane, who is a shell of a person? Maybe it's Cleo the full-time worker, or Barbara the officer Rule Bitch, or---the situation that the company puts them all in, hoping to assign blame, not unlike what I was considering.

I related more strongly to this movie having been an office temp worker than I suspect I would have if I'd never taken on such work. The company I worked at was actually a great place, and my boss was a terrific guy who knew mine (and everyone else's) names. Yet the work was mostly repetitive typing and filing, there were times when I simply had nothing to do and ended up scrambling to fill the time, and the thought of doing a job like that for longer than the period I did it (eight weeks) would have been like a prison sentence embedded in free society. I decided to leave because I needed to find a full-time job, and was lucky to do so about a month after my last temp day. CLOCKWATCHERS gets the tone of temp life down pitch-perfectly; no matter how good being a temp can be, it's a lower caste in the office system, period.

And the last few scenes, where Iris pulls off a downright brilliant plan to help her friend at last, is a perfect capper here. 9/10.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A superior entry in the "Die Hard-on-a-what have you" sweepstakes, 28 October 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I went into an Atlanta theatre in 1992 to see this film with some college acquaintances by chance; some people in the group wanted to see 1492: CONQUEST OF PARADISE, others said hell no, I didn't really care. The argument became moot when that movie was sold out and Under Siege was playing at the right time for us to buy tickets and go on in.

Two hours or so later, I was incredibly impressed. Yes, this is a formulaic movie, but so what? What's wrong with a movie that takes a reasonably clever premise (a U.S. warship is taken over by a grab-bag of ex-CIA agents, mercenaries, turncoats, and apparently a joint Swedish-Italian-North Korean submarine battalion; problem is, there's one guy on board who can beat them almost single-handedly) and provides twists and turns from beginning to end? This is a well-constructed film, something many critics and even fans don't really seem to recognize. For example, there is a scene where the good guys are able to ruin a system the bad guys want to use, and that leads into a situation where the bad guys have to unveil another system--and then one of the bad guys fixes the first system, and that leads to the good buys being able to pull a HUGE surprise on them!

I wouldn't say the story here is plausible, but it allows for the willing suspension of disbelief, and fit in well with the time frame of 1992--when the Cold War was over, but it wasn't clear what would become of the U.S. military and intelligence bodies, so this film kind of considered that on a very light surface level before plunging into the action.

There are some things about Under Siege that don't work. Ereka Eleniak's character has such poor dialogue and is so out of place that even a good actress would have been stymied in dealing with her, and her role in a showdown between Rayback and Colm Meaney's Dauber is completely unbelievable The only other plot points that had me just saying "oh come on now" involved two helicopters and dealing with a very unpleasant missile's flight path; I won't go into more detail because spoilers aren't my base of interest.

Bottom line is that I saw that movie in regular theaters, then saw it again at a second-run theatre (there seemed to be a lot more of those 12 years ago) then rented it, watched it several times on HBO and have recently watched it about five more times on the STARZ! Action Channel. I'm a huge fan and not sorry about it. 9/10.

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Marked by a convergence with a unique event in TV history..., 7 May 2004

I only watched one episode of this show. It aired during the summer "burn off" period of 1995. It was not terrible, not great, nothing that would have kept me glued to the TV if it had stayed on NBC's regular schedule for longer than it did.

But Madman Of the People is linked in TV history with a show that will be remembered for as long as this one will be forgotten. When MOTP was slotted on NBC's 1994-1995 schedule, it had the 9:30PM EST spot between SEINFELD and a freshman drama called ER. Guess what show took that 9:30 spot and went on a blockbuster run that only ended 20 hours ago?


Let me put it this way: NBC made a very good call that time!

45 out of 65 people found the following review useful:
Not A Great One, But Accomplishes Rule #1 For A Horror Film, 13 June 2003

I've read almost all of the reviews here and honestly, I cannot argue with many of the negative points that are raised here. The movie DOES use the "Halloween" name while having only one tiny thread of connection to the Michael Myers movies that came before it and would come later (and that thread, involving a lab technician, can be charitably described as really lame). It is boring in stretches, the idea of Tom Atkins hooking up with Stacey Nelkin is pretty ridiculous, and the plot makes no sense if you think about it for more than 5 seconds.

But I don't hate this film. Why? That's very simple. The first rule of a horror film is to scare the viewer and HALLOWEEN III has scared the hell out of me every time I've seen it! It's hard to pinpoint why, exactly, but the atmosphere of the movie is a huge factor. This film is jammed with ominous synthesized music (very 80's touch), cold and sharp-looking camera work, and a feeling of overwhelming dread and fear. It's very hard to establish atmosphere in any movie or TV show; I was talking about this movie with my brother--who said that he didn't think it was scary at all--and I compared it to THE X-FILES. Both that show and this movie were able to quickly drag me into their bizarre and frightening worlds.

I don't think I could flat-out recommend a movie with this many huge problems, but I'd say it might scare the viewer, and that's not so bad considering how many abysmal horror movies do nothing else right and cannot get that deceptively simple task completed, either.

Smarter Than Sexy--and Superb, 2 June 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I am very grateful that my brother saw this movie before I did. Not because he was going to give away any plot spoilers (he never does that for any movie unless someone asks, and I made sure not to) but when I asked him what the movie was like, he said it was not just a sex romp but an insightful drama with great writing. He thought it was a great movie.

Having just seen it, I'm in complete agreement with him. There is a lot of explicit sex in Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN, but it's not gratuitous or glamorous or inexplicable. The sex and particularly the nudity in this film is woven with considerable finesse into the story that the director, writers and actors really wanted to tell--the story of modern-day Mexico, where the events of Julio, Tenoch, and Luisa aren't overshadowed by the political upheaval and economic earthquakes rumbling through their country, but instead mirror them.

The master stroke device in this movie's narrative comes each time the audio suddenly fades to total silence, and allows the narrator to comment on events such as a tragic death or the bittersweet history of Tenoch's nanny. What makes this technique so brilliant is that (to my recollection) it is not applied to anything that the main characters say, except for a crucial fight between Julio and Tenoch. They are the narrators of their own action and only at the end does the narrator look outside them to provide commentary that is incredibly sad but also touching. Not many movies go from very good to outstanding in the final 5 minutes but Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN does.

The standout performance here is by Maribel Verdu. The movie works because of her character, her sad history, her understated intelligence (she doesn't think she's as smart as the movie shows her to be) and her rainbow of emotions in dealing with these two horny, unformed, goofy but somehow-likable kids. If she wants a starring career in Hollywood, my guess is it won't take her long to get one.

The only weaknesses I can point to are some speechifying that hammer home the film's unabashedly left-wing political views--which are otherwise presented in less-haranguing human terms--and a ridiculous narration that tries to tie this material to 23 pigs (you'll see what I mean!). Besides that, this is a masterpiece. 9/10.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Terrific Performances + Implausibilities/Bad Ending = Good Movie That Could Have Been Great, 24 October 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Contains Spoilers!! THE LAST CASTLE is the kind of good near-miss film that, in a way, is much more frustrating than a film that is truly and unredeemably awful. People watch a film like KUNG POW! ENTER THE FIST and know (if they hated the film--I'm assuming most people who saw that abomination didn't like it very much) that nothing could have been done to save it. But THE LAST CASTLE is a movie that's faraway and so close; the things in it that work aren't blotted out by the stuff that doesn't, but they are overshadowed to an unfortunate extent.

What works? Simply put, the performances, especially the lead performances, are superb. Robert Redford has never had a problem playing characters who are leaders, who are used to getting what they want. The brilliant twist on that, presented through General Eugene Irwin, is that Redford doesn't just start out not really wanting anything, he basically finishes the film that way too. Oh, he wants Colonel Winter to lose his job and to give the ex-soldiers in the prison their pride and respect back, but he wants nothing for himself--after he concedes that he will not have a chance to have a relationship with his daugher and grandson. That 1 scene with Robin Wright Penn ends up selling, believably, Irwin's turn from wanting to do his time quietly to being a martyr for the cause of others. He doesn't even seem to hate Winter that much, he's just disgusted by him, and driven to show that he's a better military man at 10% of his resources than Winter is at 100%. Mr. Redford is great at showing a man who lives for the burden of command, even though that burden has left him imprisoned and could kill him.

James Gandolfini is even better as Winter. It's very interesting, the way Mr. Gandolfini changes his persona so subtly to fit the role of Winter. Obviously, one difference is that his voice is almost deathly silent, a fair cry from the booming rage/joy/commanding nature of Tony Soprano, but his voice is also leeched of emotion; there's none of the introspection and black humor his Leroy had in THE MEXICAN. Something bad happened to Winter (never revealed explicitly what that was) that ruined him. He knows that he is all that he can be and that it's not nearly enough, and that Irwin either has the parts he's missing or had the life that enabled him to find them. The brilliant development in Rod Lurie's script is seeing how much Winter hates himself, and is ultimately not surprised that Irwin doesn't even care enough to hate him in return. This was an Oscar-caliber turn by Mr. Gandolfini. The other performances are on the sides, but Mark Ruffalo, Frank Military, Clifton Collins, and Steve Burton are all great in roles with rich characterization but limited screen time. And Delroy Lindo commands the screen in his brief turn as a General who doesn't even try to hide that he believes every word of Irwin's over Winter's.

That's what drives the first 3/4 of THE LAST CASTLE and is very compelling. Unfortunately, 90 minutes of terrific filmmaking are badly undercut by the poor finale. Oh, in a dramatic sense this kind of climax is good, and the final scene is actually good, but the action scenes here are pathetic. There's no clear sense of action, the items the prisoners use are deus ex machina overkill, and the climactic effort (by Ruffalo's helicopter pilot) had me snickering when I should have been enthralled. So it was a mixed bag, but when a movie keeps you going for most of a 2 hours+ length and has such great acting, it gets a positive overall review.

Note: Some folks have criticized the "flag-waving" material in the film and said it reeked of hyper-patriotism after 9/11. THE LAST CASTLE finished filming long before 9/11, and the emphasis on the American flag in the plot of this movie is not only appropriate, but intelligent in showing the role of the flag in military leadership. Ironically, the early posters for THE LAST CASTLE featured an upside-down American flag (the distress signal), which were quickly (and also appropriately) changed after 9/11 to ones with Redford's and Gandolfini's faces.