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93 reviews in total 
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Walkabout (1971)
Exit from Eden, 21 October 2014

Much has been written about the cinematography of "Walkabout" and it's certainly a beautiful film, with amazing visuals of nature in the Australian outback, but also contrasting shots of the built environment of modern civilization. Certainly anyone interested in a visually stunning film should check this out and few will be disappointed.

Looking at it as a broader film, it's still very interesting. The story of a brother and sister abandoned in the Australian outback and surviving with the help of an Aboriginal teenager, it feels like an experimental film at times but has a coherent and easy to follow story at its heart.

I chose to interpret it as a pretty straightforward story about humans rejecting their simple roots as hunter/gatherers to live in the built, civilized world where meat comes from the butcher, and the regret at having made that trade off, at having given up Eden to live tediously in the city. The film certainly lays on this sort of symbolism heavily. This sort of story might be enlightening if I hadn't seen and read it so many times before, but nevertheless it was done powerfully here and provided me with something to think about.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Thoughtful, entertaining thriller, 23 March 2014

In "The Desperate Hours", we have Humphrey Bogart in his second-to-last film as hardened criminal Glenn Griffith, who has escaped from prison with his brother and a brute named Kobish. They happen upon the typical American family, the Hilliards, and invade their home with great brutality for a 1955 film.

"Man must protect his family" has become a very long-lived genre to this very day, and this movie is a fine entry in it. Fredric March's Dan Hilliard is realistic and even inspiring, in an early scene he explains to his son that he is afraid, and he's not ashamed of it. Through his dialogue and thoughtful acting, we are able to believe in Dan Hilliard as an honest everyman doing the best he can in a difficult situation, which keeps these sorts of movies from become unrealistic flights of fantasy.

The pacing is very good, with nary a dull moment as the desperate hours tick by. Bogart's tremendous acting kill any chance of audience boredom, as you see his character's interesting clash between the desperate honest man and the desperate criminal.

The soundtrack is almost nonexistent, rare for Hollywood in this era, but it's quite welcome, as it adds to the gritty, desperate feel of the film.

This is really a very fine thriller that has stood the test of time. It may not have explosions or death-defying stunts, but the emotional conflict is what these movies are based on, and this movie has it in spades.

Influential, engaging, one of the best animated series ever made, 11 February 2014

"Batman: The Animated Series" is such a rare jewel. The episodes are short and self-contained, aside for some 2-part cliffhangers. The animation is at times crude, with all of the big blocky male characters. The storytelling is definitely aimed at children.

And yet this is so much more than the sum of its parts. The series is perhaps most notable within Batman for bringing moldy, golden-aged villains and stories into a respectable modern form. It also introduced some of Batman's greatest characters, like Harley Quinn. For an afternoon cartoon series, this had an amazing and totally positive impact on the Batman franchise.

More than just its innovations, I enjoy the episodes for their oddly perfect rendering of the Batman mystique. They are dark without being disturbing, they capture the feeling of a man who wanders the city at night fighting crime in such an interesting way. The music is wonderful, all of the shadows and bleak settings are perfect, and the extensive use of classic cars and art deco architecture sets an incredible mood, capturing the feel of golden age Batman with none of the corniness. Sometimes the stories seem a little simplistic, there are plenty of plot holes and technical implausibilities, but the episodes just look so good and evoke such a powerful mood that I'll probably be rewatching this series on and off for the rest of my life.

Sister (2012)
2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Slice of a sad life, 25 December 2013

In "Sister", we find 12-year-old Simon living a desperate life with his sister Louise in cheap public housing in an industrial town near (but literally below) a ski resort inhabited by the ultra wealthy. Louise works sporadically cleaning ski chateaus, while Simon seems to be the main breadwinner through his dubious job of swiping ski equipment and selling it as a one-man black market.

This sad story is presented in an atmospheric, minimalist way, making full use of the picturesque setting, yet managing to make the grandeur of the mountains and the luxury of the ski resort mostly just serve to make the viewer aware of the sadness of the two main characters.

The movie is definitely sociological in nature, making the viewer wish some outside party would intervene and help with this horrible situation. No particular moral or message is presented, I'm not sure one is implied even subtly, except that the world can be a very sad place for people at the bottom, even in a place like Switzerland that is often portrayed as an ideal society (it certainly isn't in this movie).

The only fault I could really find was that the movie dwells for so long on Simon's thefts in the first half of the movie, which are not all that entertaining, and beyond establishing that his life is like that, I'm not sure that we really needed the full 45 minutes of him being a ski resort kleptomaniac. Nothing else in the movie felt unnecessary, or even worthy of criticism... for what it is trying to be, this movie is quite good, especially in the second half.

My only advice is to not expect anything upbeat. I found this movie rather depressing. That hardly means it's not a good movie, of course. Just brace yourself for one sad slice of life.

SLC Punk! (1998)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Punks and posers, 17 June 2013

"SLC Punk!" is the charming story of Steveo and his pal Heroin Bob (who does not actually due heroin), two hardcore anarchist punks in the unlikely setting of Salt Lake City, Utah. To anyone who's grown up different outside of the hip big cities, I think this movie will strike a chord, even if your scene wasn't punk rock.

The setting definitely works to this movie's advantage. The punks are at constant war with the rednecks (which includes the police) and rivals of the Mods. The beer run to Wyoming and soul-searching trips to the salt flats are some of the real highlights of the movie and elements that take advantage of the setting in Utah.

The movie is shot in a stylish, fourth-wall breaking style. I found it to be extremely reminiscent of Trainspotting, which came out a few years earlier. It doesn't do so well in comparison with that particular movie, which has funnier laughs, much more dramatic lows, a crisper plot, more dynamic use of music... and so on.

This is hardly to say "SLC Punk!" is a bad movie, it is completely worth a watch, especially if you have any affinity for punk rock or being a social outsider.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Action-oriented western, 11 April 2013

"The Professionals" is one of those westerns made when the genre was getting a little tired, but before it was okay to completely throw out the old rules. The story is simple enough: a wealthy land baron hires four professionals, who are each the best at what they do, to go on a daring mission deep into Mexico, amid a faltering revolution, to bring back his kidnapped wife. Lee Marvin leads the band, playing a grizzled veteran of that revolution, with Burt Lancaster receiving top-billing and playing a dynamite expert who is easily tempted by women and adventure. The crew is rounded out by a bow-and-arrow and tracking expert (Woody Strode) and a veteran horseman (Robert Ryan).

This is definitely a movie that hangs its hat on action, with shootouts spaced periodically through the movie to keep the audience awake and a signature raid on the Mexican revolutionaries/kidnappers camp at mid- film that was only a notch or two below similar scenes in more modern films, and was thus very enjoyable. These scenes were fine, albeit a little silly with the Lancaster's bottomless supply of amazing TNT.

However, the rest of the movie plods on predictably. There are definitely attempts at character development but perhaps the wooden Lee Marvin as a central character makes the whole thing hard to enjoy except when the bullets (and TNT-laden arrows) are flying. I was definitely disappointed when the spectacular camp raid scene ended too quickly and I realized there were still over 30 minutes of film left with the best scene in the rear-view mirror.

I would watch about 20 or 30 other classic westerns before getting to this one. It's not bad, the action sequences were certainly worth the price of admission in 1966, but it shows why the traditional western as a dominant genre was living on borrowed time.

Brooklyn is Burning, 10 December 2012

"Dog Day Afternoon" is the more-or-less true story of an inept Brooklyn bank robbery by Sonny (Al Pacino) and Sal (John Cazale). The robbery is comically inept from the start, with a third accomplice getting cold feet and leaving, and Sonny's massive bag for the cash dwarfing the few thousand dollars the bank has in the vault, as the mid-day pickup has occurred already. After starting a fire to burn records of the traveler's checks they're stealing, neighboring business owners are tipped off and the chaos begins.

This is definitely a movie about chaos. A crowd gathers to enjoy the drama, at first cheering on Sonny as he famously chants "Attica! Attica!". The movie is about so much more than just an inept bank robbery, as clearly we are seeing a society in confused, quasi-rebellion against corrupt authority, but as in real life, the rage in this movie doesn't really go anywhere, with the crowd more interested in cheap thrills than politics. The media is on hand in droves, turning the standoff into the night's feature entertainment for the entire city, especially once they learn that Sonny was married to a woman-in-a-man's body by a defrocked priest. The crowd turns to homophobia and gay liberation protesters show up as darkness falls on the scene.

Meanwhile, Sonny is manic as he tries to keep his hostages in check, manage the emotions of his dim-witted accomplice Sal, negotiate with police for a helicopter and jet to the tropics, or maybe Algeria (or Wyoming). He also has to deal with no less than both his wives and his mother, in conversations that in a darkly funny way show that even amid a hostage standoff his basic problems with the people in his life are inescapable.

The movie is shot in a cinema verite style aside from a musical intro, with no background music. It is effective for the most part. I found that the movie drags as it goes on, unfortunately, especially over the very long phone conversation between Sonny and his new wife. The movie starts out so wildly unconventional, based on perhaps the most preposterous bank robbery ever committed, but its ending seems to be done more in the style of a typical crime film of the 1970s. Perhaps that is how events really unfolded, but I found the way it was presented to not quite live up to the film's tremendous start.

This is nevertheless definitely a film worth watching, it is as quintessentially a movie of 1970s New York as Taxi Driver or anything by Woody Allen. It is also one of Pacino's greatest performances, and some of Lumet's best work.

Evening news melodrama, 30 October 2012

"Broadcast News" is one of several newsroom movies made over the years, the story involves a talented reporter and writer (Albert Brooks) who the network brass clearly doesn't have on the fast-track because of his abrasive personality and lack of good looks, a rising star producer (Holly Hunter) who is great at her job but lacks social skills in the extreme, and a pretty face with no confidence in his reporting skills (William Hurt) is rising meteorically on the basis of his presentation and simple luck.

The news reporting elements of this movie are fantastic. They are engaging and fun to watch, and give the appearance of realism. The problem for me was that most of the movie was about a melodramatic love triangle between the three leads. It just didn't seem to work for me, each was a flawed person in an unlikeable way. I can see what they were going for but it just didn't come off as a compelling love triangle to me.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A weird romp across France, 19 October 2012

"Going Places" is the English title of a 1974 French film with two of the famous actors of the era, Gérard Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere, as freewheeling hoodlums of highly questionable morality. The episodic movie follows their adventures as they try to, among other things, live without working and give pleasure to frigid to women. The latter endeavor includes seducing a soldier's bride on a train, literally chasing a woman through the streets, picking up a woman randomly as she leaves prison, and what becomes their ultimate challenge, giving pleasure to Marie-Ange, who is all too willing to have sex but has never had an orgasm.

No one would ever accuse this movie of being politically correct. It is sexist, the heroes are brutish criminals, but the point isn't really that they're doing anything noble or should be forgiven for their sins. It is more of a meditation on self destruction, although I think the fun of this movie is just the tragic black comedy of their hopeless adventures, not analyzing it for some deeper meaning.

I enjoyed the soundtrack a lot, well the main theme that kept being repeated, and the credit music was a perfect coda. This is a great French film from the 70s, check it out.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Hard to watch but worth it, 25 August 2012

"Christiane F." is one of the first mainstream movies about heroin addicts, and perhaps the first about very young ones. Supposedly the film was quite shocking because of the age of the characters (and actors) as well as the graphic drug use scenes. We meet Christiane F. when she is 12 and already getting into hallucinogenic drugs. Her friends are all interested in heroin and she starts is deeply addicted and prostituting herself by age 14, as is her best friend Babsi, and her boyfriend Detlev.

With the characters rapidly deteriorating before your eyes and stooping ever lower to get their "dough", this is definitely a downer of a movie, as I guess all heroin movies are, but given the ages of the characters and the stark setting of Berlin at the height of the cold war, this one is especially bleak save for a few brief moments of teenage bliss before they are all addicted to heroin, and David Bowie's performance (Bowie composed the soundtrack and performs a song, his name attached to the project quite possibly helped it be made and contributed considerably to its success).

Made in 1981, "Christiane F." clearly paved the way for "Trainspotting", but really can't match it in terms of stylized drug use scenes and really exciting scenes set to perfectly chosen pop music, despite Bowie's role in the production. Actually this movie makes "Trainspotting" look downright cheerful. It is incredibly bleak and parts are quite difficult to watch, but that is due to its emotional power. Feel-good movie this isn't, but it's absolutely worth watching. Just don't expect it to leave you in a good mood.

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