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Mo' Better Blues (1990)
A fun, jazzy and delirious.
I am shocked this film has such a low IMDb score! I watched both this and Crooklyn the past few days, and this is the better film.
It has all the flaws of Lee's films - tonally all over the place and a tad overlong.
But that's why I love Lee. He is always interesting. I love Inside Man, a more conventional film for Lee, but Mo' Better Blues is far more personal. This is quite clearly a work of love for the director. The cinematography is stunning. The fast dolly shots are similar to that of Scorsese and Hitchcock. The colour is wonderful too, full of rich blues and reds on the New York skyline.
The story is pretty good too, though you will have seen it all before. The tale of a jazz musician and his band, through their highs and lows: in terms of live and music. The acting is all round great, headed by Denzel Washington as Bleek, the artist who loves the music more than his friends. Wesley Snipes is Shadow Henderson. This is back when Snipes didn't have to phone in a performance in a silly action film. Lee himself, and Joie Lee also give fine support.
Let's not forget the music, which is what the film revolves around anyway. If you don't like jazz, I guess this film isn't for you. I myself liked it, it had me tapping my feet all the through.
The film is a little long and can sometimes lose its way, but this is a very enjoyable film, a solid effort from Spike Lee.
Although I wouldn't say this is a great Lee film, it is still very solid. There isn't a story as such, instead it is a love letter to childhood and family life in Brooklyn. Imagine Radio Days, including the sentimental streak.
The actors are great and this movie only goes to prove that Delroy Lindo is one of the best actors around. Zelda Harris as the young girl, Troy, is also brilliant. Alfre Woodard is the pivot of the film, around which most of the film revolves around - even if she has less than Troy.
Tonally the film doesn't quite click. Sometimes the original music is quite sour and does not fit with the images. Some scenes seem forced.
But the amazing soundtrack helps put things right.
Even though the film isn't perfect, it has a great soundtrack and a very unique take on things.
Le souffle au coeur (1971)
A tender, witty and often raw coming-of-age film from Louis Malle.
The film follows Laurent, a 14 year old boy, who is coming to terms with love and sex.
The relationship between the son and his mother is played with brilliant conviction.
The music score has some great jazz on it, from Parker to Gillespie.
Le Soufflé au Cour also has a great script, where the characters are totally believable and have depths beyond your average film-fare. The actors don't need to have a tic or a physical disability to stun you.
The pacing of the film is often very slow and doesn't have much direction, but that doesn't matter.
This is a subtle film, one which I am sure you will enjoy.
28 Weeks Later (2007)
Good sequel, not as good as the first.
28 Weeks Later was a sequel I didn't want to see.
The first film was so good in my books, that the idea of a sequel would undermine the whole thing. Fortunately, this film is hugely enjoyable.
The set pieces are thumping; the first ten minutes is a relentless siege upon a survivors den. The editing is extremely fast, which hardly gives the viewer any time to see what's going on. You're either going to love this or hate this.
The story is pretty good, considering it's a sequel. It revolves around a family - the father (Robert Carlyle), a cowardly figure, who you can actually sympathise with; the daughter, who looks after her brother, who apparently have special blood. I won't spoil any of the film for you, but suffice to say, when the family enter the quarantined district, things get a little out of control.
The involvement of American troops is not exactly inspired, meaning that we get some very clichéd military speak, which undermines the whole urban grittiness of the first film. Still, the actors are good and some of the best action sequences come from the military side of things.
Overall this is a very good film. It sometimes meanders - the film wanders into gung-ho action flick mode sometimes. But that's not exactly a big quibble - if you want a really entertaining film to see this week, see this one.
Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973)
The sad one.
Peckinpah's tale of two friends on opposite sides of the law doesn't play out like a typical western. In fact, I think it was Biskind who said this film was completely miscast - but still worked. I disagree on that, but I do see some truth in it. The film is quirky to say the least - like a quiet rock and roll elegy to the West.
The story is simple enough yet it meanders, through the landscape of America and of the character's minds. We see the violence of America, the sex, the booze and all. It's a great backdrop for a cat and mouse tale, even though that does simplify the film somewhat.
Pat Garrett may hunt down Billy, but I often ask myself, why does he do it? It is to satisfy his new-found status as sheriff? Garrett used to be an outlaw, now he finds a need to find an identity, to prove himself on the other side.
The music is wonderful, written and performed by Bob Dylan who supports the wonderful Coburn and Kristofferson. There are some scenes which just utterly touch the soul...where "Knockin on Heavens Door" plays. That sounds very soppy of me, but you have to see it to feel it. If you like Westerns, you will really feel the impact of that scene.
This is a melancholy western. The dying of traditions. The ageing of a country.
This countries getting' old, and it's time we got old with it.
Romanzo criminale (2005)
Average crime film.
Critics compared this to the likes The Godfather and Goodfellas - I wasn't convinced by these comparisons, nor should you.
It's no where near as good as Goodfellas or The Godfather, which is what people have compared it to. The director can't decide whether to have the viscera nature of Scorsese's film, or the elegant violence of The Godfather.
Most of the time I was bored by this film. It takes itself far too seriously and feels about as populated as Chernobyl.
It is like the character Ice - cold; a gangster film which is passable and doesn't have much heart.
Basically, if you have to see one western, watch this one. From the opening credits, you can tell its going to be a stylish, bloody ride.
What I admire most about this film is the attention to detail. Leone doesn't rush scenes; sometimes we have shots up to five minutes without dialogue.
Tension chews nearly every scene as we observe the eyes and hands of the characters. It's as much a film of greed and civil war, as it is about deception.
The acting is perfect all round. Clint, Wallach and Cleef are all amazing in their roles. They manage to live up to their roles of good, bad and ugly well, but it's not as clear cut as that. The characters in this film are all morally ambiguous and so they should be. At a time like the civil war, even the "good" can be "ugly".
Great direction, superb acting and amazing style. The film is very efficient at telling its story - and the ending is amazing.
Definitely watch this.
Could have been much better.
What a waste. I thought I was going to get a balls-out action film; tense, tight and rock'n'rolling. Instead, I got an MTV, teenage semen sweat fest.
Alright, maybe I am being harsh. But this film should have been much better. The pacing was wrong, the action didn't have enough oomph and it just wasn't that fun.
Statham is good in the film, as Chev Chelios, a man who has to keep his adrenaline levels up to stay alive long enough for a cure. This is a great idea - Speed on the cardiovascular system.
The director took the wrong direction for this film. I know the whole manic rushing and flashy editing was done to show the anxiety of the character, but it just ended up looking a mess. The ending was atrocious as well.
The film would have benefited from a tighter script. For a film about rushing, the film wasn't very action packed or thrilling. Admittedly, some of the scenes were done well, but this is a missed opportunity.
Imagine this film remade with more efficiency, more thrills and a better use of Los Angeles - surely one of the most under developed characters in the film.
Watch it once for some good action scenes, but if you are like me, and like pacing and action in good measure, you might get angry watching this confused effort.
Hobson's Choice (1954)
Great performances...bad pacing.
I have been in the habit of watching David Lean's films recently, with Blithe Spirit, Great Expectations and Oliver Twist being viewed to great satisfaction.
Hobson's Choice is not as good as those 3 films. Although the performances are pitch perfect. Laughton and Mills are polar wonderful as their character's and surely De Banzie gives one of the best turns in any Lean film.
However, it is the pacing that undoes the film for me. It starts off with great zip; the exchange of dialogue between father and daughters and De Banzie's moulding of Mills. By the end of the picture, everything seems a little drawn out - the spark of the earlier scenes has died out.
Still, it's an entertaining film and is worth at least one watch. Don't think you'll be in for one of Lean's best efforts though.
Ghost Rider (2007)
Entertaining, nothing special.
First and foremost, this film is not in the vein of Batman Begins. Nor is it very similar to Spider-Man 1 or 2. As a whole experience, it is probably most like Daredevil, the director's other stab at the Comic Book genre.
The start of he film is much too fast, therefore rushing the back story. It's a shame, because the film should have really utilised the western setting to a far greater degree. The atmosphere could have been really great, with John Carpenter style Gothic settings. Instead what we got was a fairly generic Texas.
However, the film was still entertaining. Cage is always fun to watch, and it was clear he was having fun in this role. The comic touches between him an Mendes was cool and definitely made the film flow better.
What I was there for was action, and Ghost Rider delivers this well. Although the film is rated a 12A in the UK, I was still fairly impressed with the special effects, where the people were all consumed of life. The CGI was blatant, but I didn't mind.
You see, the director's intentions were pretty obvious. This was an entertaining film, which had hardly any surprises, but did pack some good action and fun performances from Cage, Mendes, Bentley and Fonda.
There were moments of soppy-sweet bullshit that makes me cringe in films like these (the Spider-Man 2 wedding moment - eurgh) but overall it was a fun film.