23 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
The Counselor (2013)
No Amount Of Money Can Make You Great
16 June 2014
We were told about this ahead of time, that in the Last Days it would become very dangerous. Two of the things that make the days dangerous are that men become lovers of Self and lovers of Money. Selfish and greedy are the kind of people that are on display here. They are experts at their craft, with all of them at the top of their game. Including the writer and director. That is part of what they want us to see. There are no hero's or heroines, only wolves and one queen of the damned. She thinks herself a predator of predators, but she is only full of pride. Two odd events occur because of it, one with a Ferrari the other speaking to a priest. As with Hannibal Lecter, she does these things out of sheer contempt for others.

The only virtue was murdered in a snuff film and thrown out with the trash. You don't see it, but more than implied; it is clearly understood. If you know what you are looking at. You are in fact expected to. It speaks only the language of those in the know. This is a sharp slick well heeled and highly polished view of the way we are now. At least at the top of the food chain of those that devour each other. How we have become as a people and a society who placed acquiring things above the saving of souls, more than a century ago. You don't have to be a drug dealer to fit in here, just shallow and materialistic. A very west coast ethos is portrayed, especially that of Southern California.

By the end of the film evil is speaking of its own purity. Which is a flat out lie because the position it is taking is a false position. It does no exist. Its false premise is that of Evil being the equal opposite of Good, which is dualism. Not Christianity. Many who do not perceive the difference between them think the two are the same thing, but they are not. The difference is vast. Lucifer is a fallen archangel who was created good and of his own free will became bad. God is not his opposite, God does not have an opposite. The opposite of Lucifer would be Michael, another archangel. The one who kicked him out of Heaven.

Good and evil are not opposites and they are not equal, not even a little. Evil is a parasite of good. A bank robber, a drug dealer or a murderer are all going after good things. They are just going about getting them the wrong way, that's what is evil. Choosing the wrong way to get what you want. Because there is a right way. Houses and cars and money are all good in themselves. Evil needs good just to exist, good does not need evil at all. Any more than you need some parasite sucking your blood or eating your organs. You would be much better off without them. That's what the next world is about, all of the Good none of the bad.

Money is not the root of all evil, the Bible does not say that. It says the Love of money is the root of all evil. This film is an excellent portrait of that. It would be a mistake to think this only applies to drug traffickers. This kind of thing is done in business every single day by men and women throughout the entire world, among the rich and the poor. Men are stabbing each other in the back and cutting each others throats by the millions, in normal acceptable business practices. Criminals are just much more straightforward about it. More visceral more immediate, more honest. They are just very very mistaken.

Most convicts don't think they deserve the punishment they got, their only regret is that they were caught. What we keep seeing here is a bunch of people who haven't been punished, living their lives as though there won't be a reckoning. The darkness does not comprehend the Light. It never has. The Judgment will change all that. Nobody you know has ever gotten away with anything, and nobody will. It's not over yet. There are some nuggets of truth here and there, it is as well written as Mamet or Clancy. But it's not the truth that sets you free, that's another fractional misquote from the Bible. It is only the truth you know that sets you free. Let me give you a little. Jesus said

"This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." John 3:19-21 (NIV)

Nobody is getting away with nothing
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Noah (2014)
True Believer
27 March 2014
Russell Crowe was the right man for the job. Just as Charlton Heston was the man in his time to play Moses, so was Crowe in this time to play Noah. What many who are unfamiliar with the Bible would not see, is that they were both playing prophets. It is not personality that carries any weight here, but position. For a prophet is even more of a position than a president or a king. They are chosen and anointed by God. Driven men, they are very severe in their demeanor. They are still that way today.

Prophets in the Bible were the ones who crowned the king. They did that because they outrank them. That's what the cross comes before the crown means. It is the man of God who comes before the man of the people. It does not matter whether we like that or not, it's not our show. It is God's. All of it belongs to Him. He has just given us some lights and a camera for a few minutes, and then we stop breathing. Even our breath belongs to Him. God is not shy about being God. He likes being God and He is good at it.

Industrial Light and Magic who has put out the lions share of so much of the unforgettable special effects since we were kids, continues their most excellent work here. As good as they are don't be fooled by all the smoke and mirrors. A very real fallen angel is the master of that. Deception is what he specializes in. It means something is going on right in front of you, but because you don't see it, you don't think it is happening. We are so distracted with the phony that we've been trained to believe what is not going on right in front of us, just because we see it. Jesus warned us again and again about massive deception in the Last Days, and that they would be like the days of Noah. This movie shows the divide well.

You can only see God with the eyes of your heart, which is your spirit. Not the organ pumping your blood. He made it that way on purpose. He does not reveal Himself to people who don't believe in Him. If you think He doesn't exist because you don't see Him with your eyes, then you have fallen for the biggest Lie in history. When you were supposed to be listening for Truth. God only wants people who love the Truth. The rest will miss the boat. Noah descended from Adam and Eve, who were not led out of the garden by something they saw. They were led out by something they heard. What is it you are hearing.

Noah was a prophet and a preacher of righteousness, the Bible says so. He isn't famous for being Noah, He is famous for being a Prophet. Just as Abraham, Moses and Elijah were, after him. Throughout all of Scripture the main thing prophets do is speak God's Truth. Almost all of it is delivered in one of two ways. As a threat or as a warning. You cannot get mad at a prophet for being a prophet. That is not only his job, it is his Call. To despise them for doing what they are supposed to would make your own position ridiculous, and expose you as a hypocrite. No matter what your beliefs.

It is no accident this movie was made now, even though it is director driven. Timing goes with authority. There is only one Authority. The movie has come out for His purposes alone, no matter what any others have attached to them. And He only has to get in it a little. He is a big God. If you knew Him, you would find it funny how careless people are being with their future. Most would not gamble with 5 dollars the way they are gambling with their eternity right now. Which is determined entirely in this life. When your time here ends, you go where your god goes. There is only one God. All the rest is Idolatry. I didn't say that, the Bible does. The film gets it right in the big strokes. The nature of the prophet, the shape of the ark, the global flood. The rest won't matter. Soon.

As the prophet of God the voice of Noah was the most important of his generation. Do prophets still speak today. Of course they do. But if you don't even believe in God, you won't hear them. That will matter not at all, except to you. Kenneth Copeland, Keith Moore, Rick Joyner, they're all prophets. Huge ministries. Two of them are global. They've been around for decades. We're partners with all three, but we are a partner ministry with the biggest and most despised. Brother Copeland. We tell of some of the more shocking truths of Noah's day in the Wordpress link below.

The voice of God's prophets is still the most important voice in the earth. You better get in on that before it's too late. Warnings only last for awhile. If God is real and the Bible is true, what kind of prophet would I be if I didn't warn you. Believers believe the Bible. If you don't believe the Bible you are not a Believer. If you don't believe in God or the Bible then it doesn't matter what you think about Noah. It only matters what you think about Hell. God is not keeping anyone out of Heaven, they have refused to come in. Get in while the getting is good friend, there's plenty of room. Your entire cost has been paid by a Friend, but you have to believe. In the Bible believing is simply a choice. Just like it was in Noah's day.

Brother Greg Mullins

Full Grown Ministry
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You're so sly, but so am I
31 August 2013
It was a bit difficult getting up the motivation to do a write up for this one, as it does not inspire. But it is very believable, with a realistic feel in script and action. Both sharp and taut throughout, this is meant to be more intellectually stimulating than adrenaline releasing. A movie that makes you think. I found the tone and atmosphere, at least in part, to be comparable to Roman Polanski's recent effort in The Ghost Writer.

There seems to be a resurgence in recent years in both the practice of and appreciation for the well honed tension that Hitchcock was famous for. This has some of that. It seems that making what most would call a good movie was not the aim here, as much as having something to say, and wanting it said well. Which it was. What was said bothers you a bit, after.

If you combined elements of the legal drama in Syriana, the syntax of a big brother government in Enemy of the State, along with the perfect pace and proper tension in The Ghost Writer, you'll have an idea of the movie. Perhaps that's what he was aiming at. It isn't as good as any of those films. But definitely worth seeing if you want something more cerebral.

Without giving anything away, it seems they were very clever in an almost feigned attempt at a happy ending. A bit of psychological warfare I think. You'll have to see it to know what I'm talking about. Much too lite for such a serious threat. But then, that was probably the intention. It kind of helps drive it home and makes it stick to you. Some complained about it being too short. I do want my money's worth, but I don't think the time affected the quality of the movie.
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Anna Karenina (I) (2012)
A Very Creative Effort
23 June 2013
I once asked Dustin Hoffman if he had any favorite movies or actors. He replied that he had favorite performances. Referring it seemed, to much smaller periods within a film. There are several shots where Keira is picture perfect, but this role was not for her. This performance ruins our memory of her former success under Joe Wright. Especially her first, which is her most unforgettable. Black Swan did the same for Natalie Portman, another of our cinema sweethearts. Which I walked out of.

Her part here needed to be much deeper and more complex, but instead it was shallow and trite. The way Anna was portrayed was out of place. Whether by acting or writing I don't know. Either way it was a mistake. All of the male leads, four at my count, complemented each other perfectly and were well done. Some surprising cameos among the women.

I didn't see it at the theater after hearing about the stage within the movie technique, which has actually been done in a few good movies. I didn't see it as a problem. The recent film Anonymous about Shakespeare began this way, as do others based on plays of his. Julie Taymore in her solo attempt to put Titus on film blended styles while injecting modern means and mechanism into near ancient settings, and pulled it off very smartly. Both of these were good films and highly worth watching. I point this out as there were many complaints about it in other reviews.

It isn't the blending of the modern and the ancient, or the use of multiple styles in itself that is a problem. It's more a question of whether it works, and how well it was done. I believe here it does. Peter Greenaway excels at this kind of film making. We sometimes forget how shallow we have become as a society. What a melange and patchwork our culture is. Are we surprised it shows up in our films.

There are some moments of clarity in the movie that are almost bewitching. While others present motion picture as painting or poetry. Some very good transitions. Overall I believe it to be a very creative effort. It is a blending of choreography, stage, and cinema with a desire to please the eye and entertain our emotions. It was only the moral ambiguity and modern sensibilities between the two lovers I found contemptible. Both of them being out of time and out of place.

Love is the great conquerer of lust. As lust is the great destroyer of love. I believe the author intended this to be about the second. It is a mistake to think movies from books should be the book. Just as it is wrong for an amoral people to replace the beliefs of a moral people . . with their own. Especially when borrowing or telling their stories. One of the great enjoyments for all lovers of period pieces is going back to a time when people knew morality and understood what it was, and most agreed with it. Whether or not they actually were moral is entirely . . another story.
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Letters in the Desert
14 September 2012
Warn my friends! Save my friend! These are 2 of the lines spoken at two different times by a very noble but desperate man who had everything, and I mean everything going for him. He spoke these words to another man who had nothing, and came from even less, but was willing to help. This other man belonged to a tribe of slaves, spoke English and Arabic, but was a Christian. He would adorn himself with different pieces of white jewelry which among his people, spoke of the number of men you had killed. His name is Abou.

Harry is the man who had everything but through one selfish decision, lost it all. After seeing the pain his mistake caused all those who loved, respected and admired him - he regrets the foolish decision, and attempts to restore what was lost. This very fine film is filled with virtue, honor and the great strength required to redeem yourself after doing unintended damage to some of the most precious things we possess. Our relationships. Especially the strong right good ones - the ones you would lay down your life for. It is a story mostly of recovery. And is the exact opposite of the everyone deserves a trophy attitude which plagues our modern generation. How refreshing.

While in the enemy prison at Omdurman in the Sudan, Heath Ledger's character has to be one of the most pitiful sights you'll ever see. A bright young British Calvary officer, the son of the General, engaged to a beautiful woman who loves him, a leader among his men, and surrounded by a tight knit core of his closest friends, all in the same regiment as himself . . . is reduced to human rubble. It is at his lowest point that Harry learns to overcome the Fear that led to his tragedy. The movie has been intentionally injected with several modern sensibilities which did not and never would have existed at that time, you'll know them when you see them (or hear them). They serve only to weaken the story and the film, all in the name of political correctness. Though plenty of the original Light is left to keep it right.

I believe this to be Heath Ledgers most mature role by far, alongside Wes Bentley's shining performance as the ideal soldier and friend. With a great cast all around, I am amazed at how many people have missed this movie. It is every bit as good as Gladiator or Troy, just different - and with a much more moral story. It is a classic film made from a classic novel about the way we were . . . not that long ago. One of my favorites. Anyone who appreciates the ever increasing rarity of good movies made from good stories should see this film.
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Alexander (2004)
One of the greatest Generals of all time
4 September 2012
I met Oliver Stone while sitting at one of my regular coffee haunts in southern California, when he asked about what I was reading. I said it was my favorite biography on Alexander and that it was for the the 6th or 7th time, that it was the only one I know of written by a woman, and it was by far the best one. I told him I had read 5 including 2 from the ancient sources, and I do not read biographies. That Alexander had been my only exception. While we were talking, it seemed that he looked vaguely familiar, but I didn't know who he was until hearing months later that someone was making a movie about Alexander.

When I found out that it was Oliver Stone doing the picture, I just shook my head and smiled. We had been the only 2 people on the small patio of this downtown coffee house. Years later when I discovered he had donated 100k to the foundation (?) of this long dead Oxford graduate lesbian who lived in South Africa, whose writing seems to be generally disliked by classicists and scholars everywhere - I was certain it was him. At one point while asking me about the book, I told him no one had the balls to make a movie about Alexander. Not a real one. He must have taken it as a challenge. But then if you know his movies, someone like him would.

I don't have time to go into all the error, misunderstanding and lack of well known and widely available historical knowledge by so many, of the same sex relations during the entire span of ancient Greek might. From Homer to the Spartan hegemony to 5th century Athens to the Empire of Alexander, almost everybody did it, they were all married - and nobody was gay. Such terms, the idea and attitude they convey, as well as modern societal norms did not exist in that society or at that time. It is a historical non sequitur to apply what we know and how we live to what they knew and how they lived. And that's coming from a Preacher, who believes every word of the Bible. I just happen to like Alexander, and have studied him for almost 20 years now.

This film is highly accurate and well worth watching. But if you're not interested in Alexander - you won't be in the film. It's about one of the most influential men in history, but it is about a man. It's a great war flick also, but the action is incidental to the man. Not the other way around. With the exception of one movie with Richard Burton from at least 50 years ago, there are no other films about Alexander. It has a great cast with all giving strong performances, and Colin Farrell was perfect as Alexander.

We're talking about a guy who named one town after his horse and another after his dog. Who gave lavishly to everybody, inspired lifelong loyalty and rewarded it. Who knew thousands of his men by their first names and had personally saved many of their lives as well as payed off many of their debts - with his own money. He restored many conquered rulers to their former place (under him of course), and tolerated to live many who he knew hated him and wanted him dead - both in Athens and in his own camp - when he could have easily had them killed and nobody would have said anything, but he did not. Arrian says of Alexander that unlike other Kings, he repented when he knew he had done wrong. Knowing all that will help you know the man a little, and I think help you enjoy the film more.

I have read a fair amount by men who seemed to me jealous of him, and others who made the aforementioned non sequitur of judging him by the standards of their day instead of those of his own. It's also worth remembering that one of his boyhood friends and most trusted generals, Ptolemy, was the man responsible for the Hebrew Bible being translated into Greek - giving us the Septuagint. His son ( Ptolemy Philadelphus) finished the project. Giving us the very foundation for the Bible we have today.

When Alexander became King of Macedon at a little past 20 years old, all that he had inherited from his father were a few gold and silver cups, less than 60 talents in the treasury and debts of 500 that he owed. Upon borrowing 800 more, he gave away everything he had to friends and loyal supporters, some would take nothing from him. The man who would become his second in command, Perdiccas, asked him"What are you keeping for yourself ?" "Hope," said Alexander, to which Perdiccas replied "That I'll share."
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The Thing (1982)
Quality does not Age
17 May 2011
This is one of the classic Guy films. Horror sci fi as it was meant to be - a real story with good acting. Giving us something missing from almost all horror movies - depth and character. Providing a much needed respite from the cardboard cut outs pasted and slashed throughout, that have been filling the genre for decades. Which has given this style of movie-making it's well deserved reputation and status - of being both Invalid and Not Art. Though John Carpenter himself has been one of the staunchest purveyors of such ilk, it is my humble opinion that he did well with this one, and maybe two others.

One of the best uses of curious as a tool, it lures you in a bit unexpectedly with a somewhat whimsical, almost playful beginning. Rich in atmosphere, while stark in landscape - you find yourself as intrigued by the people as you are the monster. The remoteness of the region gives a true sense of the isolation of the real life McMurdo Sound Naval Station (as it was called when I was in the Navy) which is on the very southern tip of Ross Island in the Antarctic, and is the portal for all things going to the South Pole. I think now it's simply known as McMurdo Station, with the story taking place at a small satellite station outside (probably fictional), as McMurdo is mentioned in the film.

Kurt Russell who started acting as a kid when I was a kid has never taken Hollywood too seriously, which I've always thought was pretty cool. He's done his share of trash films over the years, but there's been a handful of roles that have more than demonstrated his caliber as one of our great actors. His version of Wyatt Earp is by far the most recognized and almost as good as George C. Scott's Patton. I said almost. He's the center of a strong cast of seasoned actors with many recognizable faces and solid performances. I watched it last night with a good friend who had never seen it, and it was just as good as when I first saw it in the theater - almost 30 yeeeaaars ago. Add it to your library, you'll watch it many times . .
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The Alamo (2004)
So much Heart
30 May 2010
The realism of this version gives it more heart than just about any movie that I've ever seen. Like several others on the site, I'm surprised at how few people have seen or even heard of this unknown gem. The casting of the core characters is superb. Dennis Quaid is exceptional as the unyielding and visionary Sam Houston, as is Jason Patric playing a smoldering James Bowie, whose restrained aggression is as commanding as the knife he's so famous for.

Patrick Wilson is the perfect fit for a Colonel Travis that has too long needed rescuing from the almost prissy rendering proffered in John Wayne's celebrated production of The Alamo, which is also good - but this is the one for our generation. The self-effacing Davy Crockett played by Billy Bob Thornton is both endearing and charming in his genuineness. The whole production is both very likable and believable.

A beautiful and unexpected mystical quality runs through much of the film, from the formation of Texas and Houston's pursuit of his vision, to Bowie's dreamlike memories of his former life and later attempts to heal him, to the legend surrounding the life of Davy Crockett. It's an excellent movie with a beautiful score, and stands as one of the very few that is both one of my favorite war films as well as one of my favorites period.

California and New York are the center for both the liberal media and the liberal elite mindset as a whole. There is rivalry, jealousy, and strife between all men and their various institutions, at every level of all Society. It's no surprise to find it here. It has been this way since man fell from God's grace 6000 years ago in the Garden of Eden. Don't let anybody fool you, it is the anti conservative sentiment of this elite - against both the former President and the very successful southern state he hails from, that is behind this vitriolic and acidic denouncement of something not just good, but very good. A politician is someone who will compromise principles to stay in power. Set the politics aside and see this movie on principle - you'll feel its power, and you'll enjoy it . . . immensely.
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Ha-Ushpizin (2004)
The exact opposite of Fable!
8 May 2010
This is such a sweetheart of a film! Like many simple honest stories it is both Inspiring and Edifying, and very easy to misunderstand or just miss completely - if you're looking for the sensational, or if you're not one of the Faithful. In the Hebrew Tanakh it is declared by G-d Himself speaking through His prophet that all the gold and all the silver are His. He is the maker of planets and the true King of the Universe, and is not intimidated by our Indifference toward Him or our constant Refusal to give Thanks. He is angered by it, and the Bible says so. Money in itself means nothing to G-d, and only has any value at all because it means something to us. Faith and the giving of Thanks are what please G-d and make us Rich in His eyes.

Thanks for both the life He has given and the continual daily provision for that life is something Adonai has assigned to each of us as one of the most important parts in our dialog with Him. Most of us have failed in speaking our part enough, many have never done it at all.

If there is anything practical that you could take from this film it would be to follow Malli's most excellent example - and cultivate a lifestyle of Thanksgiving. Everyday. As a Christian Minister who is a prophet and teacher in full time ministry - I could not illustrate a better rendering of a life of Praise, in this short but heart warming hour and a half movie. Virtue is on display here as true believers walk out their steps of Faith with a sincere desire to please God and keep His commandments.

I found it both odd and very telling that so much of the commentary here which is secular, mistakes true Faith for fables and plot devices. This is a film about true believers by true believers - the miraculous is what we live in. God is a God who answers prayer, but only for those who let Him be God in their life. Deus ex machina has no relevancy where God is the machine. It is a rare thing, but if there is anywhere in cinema where the belief system of the Unbeliever does not apply - it would be here. Where the Scripture is thought infallible and God the only Reality, to make such comparisons would show only how much the entire point was missed, how much one didn't get it.

Faith is all about what is not seen, if you can see it then it's not Faith. Everything that happens physically is determined spiritually, and most of what we can see of the spiritual on this side is usually very subtle - because God wants us to live by Faith. He doesn't need to know that Faith works, He lives by it Himself - we need to know that our Faith works. If you go looking for the spectacular you'll miss the supernatural, most of which will occur in your Heart (not your blood pump), which is your spirit. I'm so thankful He gives us a lifetime to get good at it, but only if we walk in it. Shalom . .
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Black Irish (2007)
The most Sincere movie I've seen in many years . .
31 March 2010
What an excellent movie. With surprises all around. It would have been so very easy to make this exactly what was expected of it - a mediocre Indie Drama about a typical dysfunctional American family, with this one happening to be Irish and from Southie. What we get instead is one that fell through the cracks, as it went right to DVD. The critics and distributors missed this one. Had someone besides the author believed in it and packaged it right - it would have been a hit. It is well written, well acted, with several unexpected turns toward the Light - by multiple characters facing their own dilemma. The kind of differences that separate the bland from the sublime. I'm speaking of subtleties not the spectacular. So if you go in looking for the spectacular - you'll miss the supernatural. Which is almost always, subtle. It even manages a happy ending, which is tricky at best with a story like this. Well done all.
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Howards End (1992)
So subtle, yet so very clever . .
1 February 2010
So subtle, yet so very clever. There are some films you watch again and again just because you like them, or something about them. Even if you don't think them among the best ever - they're one of your favorites. This is not that. There are others you really have to watch several times just to penetrate the layers of things hidden - multiple meaning and real subtext. Modern film goers aren't used to this. Many find even the idea of intelligent films that require your intelligence to watch them, a foreign concept. This is one of those.

Now mind you I'm not saying this is a hard film to watch, it is not. It's extremely easy to watch, and very enjoyable - if you like people (or at least the idea of liking people). If you don't like people, you probably won't like this or any period piece. This movie actually has something to say, which is easy to miss. Meaning if you stay on the surface of it, it's very easy to take for granted - looking at the lovely and missing the principles and truths on display. Attention is something you have to Pay, and some are simply not willing to do that. They feel the price of the ticket should have covered it.

If you love excellence then you'll love this film, because it it is filled with excellence. It's not fast paced like a thriller, but not a single moment of the film is wasted. All the transitions from scene to scene are seamless, and every scene is full. The language here is the language of relationships. With one of the stronger underlying themes being that of the Biblical law of reaping what you sow, and accountability for one's actions.

Pay special attention to where the film begins and the offense (morally) that occurs there, where the film ends - and who is given what would have been theirs (at least in part) had the right thing been done instead of the offense, and the way that it all comes about. Which is part of what causes you to not notice it. Believe me, it is so subtle pretty nearly everyone misses it. In an almost altruistic sense the story comes full circle by ending exactly where it began. Watch how the inanimate objects of an umbrella, a sword, and a house participate in the flow of events, and thereby the direction of lives. This is probably the most nuanced film you'll ever see, and it is a masterpiece . . .
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Syriana (2005)
Smart, Slick Political Thriller!
28 January 2010
There are movies that are timeless and classic. But there are also movies that represent the time you're in, or perhaps it's better said - are for your time. I can't think of a better one for the first decade of the new millennium. This is a taut, fast paced, political thriller that some may find hard to keep up with. Though Babel and Constant Gardner are of the same genre, and received slightly higher marks on IMDb - I believe this to be a much better movie.

The story is a clinic on the competing interests of the two empires of big business profits, and the absolute control of government deciding what will and will not happen within it's sphere of power. Both entities are knit together tightly with the suffering and loss of the people whose lives are consumed by them. You'll have to see it several times to really get a hold of what's going on, but it's well worth it. Intelligent films are a rare treat, and this one is razor sharp.

A powerful law firm, the oil company they represent, the U.S. Government, and the al Sabai (?) family ruling an unnamed Arab country - are the 4 main players. Though the real power lies only with the government and the oil company, equal screen time is spent with the supporting cast of the law firm and royal family, who at various levels - do their bidding. This is a film about power, the corruption of power, money - and the attempts to manipulate power or money on some level, by almost everyone in the film.

Stephen Gaghan somehow produces a few pristine moments of peace or clarity in the midst of much turmoil, which I'm beginning to recognize as a mark of his. He did it in Traffic, and he does it here. They feel almost like an emotional oasis of simplicity, like you and a friend so deeply engrossed in a conversation in your car parked on the side of a very busy street, that you don't even notice what's going on around you. George Clooney, Jeffrey Wright and Chris Cooper standout in their performances. It's a great film that's well acted and well cast, and a reflection of the way we are now . . .
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American Myth
24 January 2010
America like England before us, does not possess it's own mythology. We borrow from the European, Roman and Greek. This begins and ends like an American Myth - and I mean that as a compliment. It is such a well told story. Indiscriminate in it's scope, and beautiful to look at throughout, it is hard to imagine a more finely crafted tale at an important time in our history that gives us a sense of place as a nation.

We see here so much of the contradiction in both our nature and existence. That of good intentions with unintentional consequences, deep loyalty peppered with lifelong jealousy, the desire to honor while carelessly injuring, hating what was done but loving the one who did it. Our attempts at harmony on the outside while yearning for the unattainable on the inside - are contrasted well here.

It is a masterful display of unfulfilled desire and selfishness seeking it's own satisfaction at the cost of someone else losing theirs. With this and the other film of the same year, Brad Pitt goes from star to superstar. All of the parts are well cast and well acted, with the beauty and allure of Julia Ormond as a perfect compliment. This is one of the new American classics, and I believe one of the top fifty films worth owning.
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Vanity Fair (2004)
Immensely Enjoyable!
18 December 2009
I didn't read the book, though it was one of the Director's favorites from her high school days. Which means her departures weren't ignorant but intentional. Many of the movies in my small library are some of the best of film literature that we have, so there is a great appreciation for it on my part. But I don't think it impossible to make a good movie that differs from the book. Apparently this one, like so many - does.

The movie is sumptuous, and beautifully so. It is, as I'm sure others have said, a feast for the eyes. I found it to be most excellent in every way, including both Reese Witherspoon as the lead, and the events coming full circle to a happy ending. If you enjoy the best of Merchant-Ivory, Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, or any other well made period piece - I can't imagine you not enjoying this. It is well worth the watching.

Since the entire production crew was a gaggle of women (I say that lovingly), there are visible elements of underlying political and social commentary favoring the feminine. Which is simply an observation, diverging from Mira Nair's small denial to the contrary. It was well written, well acted, well shot and well directed. I've enjoyed it immensely, several times, and will several more . . .
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Medicine for your soul . . .
26 November 2009
We have a saying in Ministry - if it's Old to you, it's not Real to you. The fine lines of this classic gem of a film are as lovely as the grand sailing ships she portrays. Many compared and complained that Mel Gibson did another version of Braveheart in the Patriot, and that Russell Crowe does another Gladiator here.

Well it ain't so, and these are the ones for whom the sacrifice of a life lived for country, and the timeless truths of virtue under fire, friendship born of suffering, and something bigger than yourself - are not real. Goodness and doing the right thing have become old to us as a people, and it is costing every one of us.

We want to be entertained, we crave stimulation, and are addicted to ourselves. This film is the opposite of all that, and it is Good - and good for you. It will speak medicine to any heart that hears what it has to say . . .
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Criminal uses political label to cover crimes
6 November 2009
Terrorism by the State, and terrorism by it's citizens are both despicable. Even worse is letting agents of a repressive foreign regime beat down another people in their own country in front of their own police. It's almost unimaginable, except that it happened. With that said, Andreas Baader was nothing' but a two bit outlaw accustomed to getting his own way by bullying everyone around him into submission.

There was nothing noble, altruistic, or virtuous in anything he said or did - just selfishness and oppression. He wasn't part of any revolution, it was nothing but a cover for as much criminal activity as he could possibly get away with before he was taken down. He was the only big fish in the very small pond of his followers, and he liked it that way.

Germany had been so badly beaten in the two biggest wars the world had ever seen, and was a very fragile democracy that was uncertain of it's own authority. Only in the modern age of media could a myth be born of such social detritus. The movie was well made and well acted, but the subject was not worth shining any light on - not even the light of a projector. He wasn't fighting tyranny, he was the tyrant . . .
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A most enchanting movie
6 May 2009
There are a few great films about artists like Camille Claudelle, Goya in Bordeaux and Tous Les Matins du Monde (All the Mornings of the World). But this is the only film I can recall about a piece of art, and the remarkable journey it takes, with many people through distant lands, over hundreds of years. With all of it fitting nicely into 2 hours of great cinema, drawn from a most exceptional story. Perhaps I should say stories - as there are many, and of course the stories are about people.

I don't think a great cast necessarily means famous names, lengthy reputations, or even a lot of acting experience - but one that simply works well. Meaning actors (or acting ability) that fit the characters, with a flow of believability or at least the right feel. Some of the best movies I've ever seen have had several cast members that were never heard of before or after being seen in the one film I saw them in. Here everyone fits. From the child prodigy in Vienna to the instrument expert in Montreal (Samuel Jackson) - this film is well cast. Shot on location in at least 4 different countries, this is storytelling at it's best. One of my favorite films, it is one of the truest examples of what good movie making is all about. It also happens to have an inanimate object (a violin) as one of the stars of the show.

Like so many of the rare occasions in your life when something happening seems like a dream come true, it would sound like a fairy tale if you told it. It's that way here. This is a real gem of a movie and a bit of a fairy tale, but it is one for grown ups . . . and a most delightful one at that.
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Spartan (2004)
As close as movies come to the world of spooks and special ops . . .
23 April 2009
I've been a fan of David Mamet since The Untouchables, and a half a dozen films since, including Glengarry Glen Ross and Ronin. His writing is so exacting - it's surgical. And among the best in the Industry. It seems no writer in film exemplifies the dominant (lone) male psyche better than he does - he is one of my favorite writers. I say lone because most of the leads in his films are either solo, or if married you don't know it. Even in The Winslow Boy, which was a period piece. In his films, the Dialog is definitely the star. Realizing that is key to enjoying his films.

As a Deep Sea Diver in the U.S. Navy for many years, who spent time with the Special Boat Unit and 5 years with EOD (the bomb squad), I can tell you that he speaks the language of the military elite, and the military at large - better than anyone. In his film Spartan, we have the perfect marriage of the nuances subtleties and atmosphere of the shadowy world where special ops are used as federal assets for unofficial or non military missions. I believe Spartan is as close to capturing this as movie making ever comes.

Val Kilmer is a much better actor than many of his more famous contemporaries, and is probably the performer they wished they were. Though he's never really gained the notoriety or superstar status. I think most guys would agree that his Doc Holliday in Tombstone was the best ever, with due applause to Dennis Quaid's. Here he plays a Marine Gunny (a Master Gunnery Sergeant here) assigned to special ops (probably after Recon) and was the perfect fit for both this film and Mamet's script, which combined with his talent - was one of his best. Tom Clancy is the only other modern writer of this caliber that captures the military mindset and does it so well, but in a different way. Though the title probably refers to the Spartan ideology of one well trained man being better than a hundred who are not, there is a picture here offered of the very Spartan lifestyle lived by so many in the military of any nation and is well represented. A great film! I couldn't recommend it more.
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Seamless - Effortless - Masterpiece.
19 April 2009
This is the Quintessential period piece! The flow of it is so seamless, that like classical music or a beautiful piece of art - you never tire of it. It marks the end of the expansion of prosperity, change and invention of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, that for the first time in history, brought into existence a large, educated middle class. It is the span of this society and it's events that were both passed on to us as a nation, and have had a greater influence on our modern day than any other period. As they were the beginning of the modern era. By the 1930's we come to the end of the rigid class system that had evolved during these periods. This story is in fact all about the servants and is seen from their perspective. Regular working class people, their lives and loves - they are it's real champions. I believe it to be the finest film ever made on the subject, and one of the finest films period.

Easy on both the eyes and the mind, it is effortless to watch. And one of only 3 films that I find myself returning to over and over again, more than any others. Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson who have so many great performances, do their best work here. Here in cinema is a display of excellence in the ordinary, and a celebration of both understatement, and unrequited love. We are only observers here in the sense that there is nothing to figure out, and what we observe is the perfect Servant. One who applies himself wholeheartedly to his craft, and finds contentment in doing his job well. A rarity in both life and cinema. I find it very telling that perhaps the finest English film was a collaboration of men from two former colonies - India and the U.S., a Japanese author, a Celt in the male lead, and a screenwriter from Germany married to an Indian, who has spent most of her life in India and America. These are the people that school us in the culture that birthed our own, and so much of modern western civilization. None of them are English.

The perfect fit that I think James Ivory often reaches for is achieved here. It is a movie without sex, violence, or bad language, which are often added from a lack of strength, not as proof of it. This movie is a tribute to everything good that is England. Merchant and Ivory couldn't have done better.
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One rough Western . . .
17 April 2009
This is an Australian film, and an Australian Western at that. It didn't get a lot of press or a lot of play, and I didn't even get to see it until I rented it one day - from the library! It is so well done as a film, and I believe probably one of the best Westerns ever made. Coming from a life long John Wayne fan, that's a lot to say. But it is so rough and gritty and hard - even the violence is hard. And it is violent. Though none of it is gratuitous, with all of it in context, and very believable. Realism is one of the film styles I am drawn to, and this is definitely that. It lacks all of the polish of Tombstone, which is a great Hollywood western. In fact, it is the complete opposite. I think only Unforgiven reaches some of the rawness here, and I say some. There is one scene of vengeance that is even a bit much for me, and pushes it almost to the edge of watchability. But just the one. The cast is excellent, with outstanding performances by all, most notably Ray Winstone as the chief good guy and John Huston's boy Danny as the chief bad guy. Danny Huston's performance is very understated, which I think right for the character. This is one of the few films in my collection that I would say is not for everybody, perhaps only for the adventurous. I say that as a conservative. as I look at the morality in anything I see - and will gladly walk out of a film if they're preaching the wrong message. If you can get past the hardness, it is almost a haunting film, even a little mystical. It stays with you for days.
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if you could only have one . . .
14 April 2009
This is my very favorite film! As much as I like Gladiator and Troy, they always seem so distant. Perhaps this being closer to our time and fought on our turf, just before we set off on our own as a nation - it speaks more to me. Only Mel Gibson and The Patriot come close to the excellence in cinema that tells of this time. Like a lot of guys, I am easily won over by big, epic, sweeping, romantic stories of war and heroism - I enjoy them immensely. This is the one I enjoy the most.

I think in part it's because all of the tribes at war here, are presented in a favorable light. The French and the British, Mohawk and Huron, the settlers and colonists - you like all of them! There are bad guys too, but it's the Noble men that stand out. And there are noble men and the showing of honor throughout. I'm sure Mr. Cooper's great telling of a good story has a lot to do with it - the writers always do. But it's the movie we're talking about.

It might just be my imagination, but it seems that Michael Mann always does something with the lighting. I think it goes all the way back to his Miami Vice days. It seems to affect the intimacy, or the way we view the people. But I could be wrong. His two best films are this one and Heat. With the greatest shootout anywhere being the one in Heat. Daniel Day Lewis wore the part of Hawkeye as though it had been tailor made. What an excellent performance. But then he's famous for the study he puts into his characters.

There are some seemingly smart strong people in every group presented here, no one tribe has all the virtue. In that sense, they are equals - a rarity in storytelling and movie making. So much of history is crowded with the master and servant relationship that also ends up in much of our literature. And there is always an element of truth to that, but it's not the whole truth. Don't forget, it's the winners who always write the history. Seldom does a conquerer speak well of a vanquished foe.

The character of Chingachgook, the older Mohawk and former chief, has got the coolest weapon in the form of a Mohawk throwing axe. It's so big it looks like a rifle when it's slung over his back, but it's not.

This is not at all a Western, which occupies a unique time period in our history between the end of the Civil War and the early 1900's. One hundred years before there was ever a west to have cowboys in - there was the Frontier and frontiersmen. A completely different time, place and people - not related to the cowboy. This is their say, let them have it.

It all takes place during the time that the British and French are fighting for control over the fur trade in the north all the way up into Canada, and the sugar trade all the way down south into the Caribbean. Sometimes wars are about the land, but many times they're about the money coming from the resources. This is one of those times, and the heat of the battle over this money is the French and Indian War - at least on land. Which covers the period of our story. You never hear that in movies or novels, but that is the history of it. When left to themselves, Cain will always kill Abel - over something.

I leave it on that note as it ties in perfectly with the sense of remorse and longing we're left with from the story. But you'll have to watch this most excellent movie for yourself to see what any of that means. I don't think you'll be disappointed. It is a rich tale, a grand sweeping romantic action adventure epic, a satisfying movie, and a most beautiful one at that.
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Screen Two: Persuasion (1995)
Season 11, Episode 3
13 April 2009
This film is so flawless, it's hard to think of a place where it misses a single beat. I'm a great fan of the Merchant/Ivory cannon, and believe them to be unbeatable in their perfection of the Ideal. Here we are given a masterful lesson by Roger Michell in the perfectly Real. And it's OK to like both. I do not agree at all with the premise that romance and long dresses make any movie a chick flick, which is a fairly modern invention - both in grammar and a particular vein of shallow popular movie making. This is not that, and I cannot watch a true chick flick - they're not even good movies, none of them will be named here, you know which ones they are.

Most of the well known period pieces made in the last 20 years are some of the very best movies we have. I think them not so much an acquired taste, as an appreciation that must be learned. Like many of the finer things and varied seasons of your life, it took someone showing you before you knew what you were looking at, or looking for. It is that way here. Once you see the truth they have to tell, then decide you don't prefer them - at least you've validated your own choice through actual experience. But to dismiss them out of hand from ignorance, or prejudice, or misplaced masculinity makes such a view less relevant. And I think more importantly, causes you to miss out on something you might find quite beautiful, had you seen it.

For the uninitiated, let me take a moment to explain. It is the inner beauty of good people, the proper behavior and right conduct toward others as a societal norm - just because they are others like yourself, not because you wanted anything from them. Real Gentleman and True Ladies. This all happened for the first time in history on this scale and at this level within the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Though this is the period right before the Victorian, they are directly connected and that's what is on display here. It will feed your spirit if you let it. All of which comes out of the ethics and morality of Christian nations, and does not trace back to any other cultures on the earth.

Just as the West came out of the Greece of Alexander, the modern world was birthed by the Britain of this time, and everyone knows it. The turn into the 20th century is the end of the England we Americans as a society, came out of. We did not get this goodness in us as a nation from ourselves, we got it from someone who had it before us. Good Infection as C.S. Lewis calls it. There is hypocrisy, contradiction and cruelty, of course, and people who are not so nice - that comes with a fallen race. But that is not what you are being shown. There is no excellence in the error of men, there is no light in their darkness. Darkness is the absence of Light - Light displaces it. All of the bad that men have done to each other is hardly worth making a film about, on it's own.

Good films come from good stories, and stories get their strength from the Power of Words. Like the ones I'm using here. It's a power that God put into words, man had nothing to do with it. Films and stories are important only because Words are important. If it sounds like I'm preaching a little, you can't fault me for that - that's what Preachers do. So do film makers, film goers, writers, and people - like you. All with something to say, when given a chance - will say it. And everything ever said will be Judged.

Thus ends my attempt at persuasion, for those of you who might give great period pieces a view. Let their good words minister, let their morality speak. In an age where people have become products, and talk is cheap. You'll get a little bit of help from the Light that is in them. A spoonful at a time is all we are given, because a spoonful is all we can handle. Pictures, and words and stories of the way people used to be. The goodness of God is the goodness that you see. Including the goodness in films like Persuasion - an example of how good film making ought to be.
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Unpretensious yet magical . . .
12 April 2009
The real mastery in this film lies in the beautiful simplicity of it's childlikeness. There are few movies in Cinema that portray the innocence and unfeigned nature of children - before the loss of their transparency on the way to adulthood. I know the French film Ponette might come to mind for some lovers of cinema, but that was shot entirely from the perspective of little children almost to the exclusion of grown ups. This film shows the stark contrast of the two worlds by interweaving them, with childhood itself being one of the main characters, as landscapes were for John Ford in so many of his Westerns. Toward the end, it reaches for the sublime in moments of Michelangelo.

For me, the emotional interaction of these very young non actors made the movie spiritual to some degree by way of it's sheer honesty, without compromising the true spirituality in the principles and very adult themes of good vs. evil, betrayal, forgiveness, reaping what you sow, the coming Judgment, and finally - true friendship born of selflessness. Something we adults could learn more from by becoming more like little children ourselves, myself included. I believe this to be one of the best expressions of the young mind in realism, without crossing over into the fantasy that is so common in film today. How refreshing.

Of course all of this speaks for the excellence of the Director and the Writer, who gave us such a beautiful picture. Something that could only be pulled off by adults, albeit with at least the fond memory of a child, if not the heart of one. The cinematography, the very intentional and gorgeous classical score, along with much subtle but deep contrast, make this a modern classic that I will enjoy again and again. I hope you do too.
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