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Don't get me wrong--I enjoyed this movie. It was cute but a little too cute, it was funny but a little too silly, and it was moving but a little too melodramatic.
I don't get the incredibly high rating here and elsewhere. I believe that this film currently sits in the Top 35 on the IMDb Top 250 movies list, and I'm baffled. I LIKED this film, but I didn't love it. Here's why.
It's gimmicky. Yes, gimmicky is bad. Voice-over narration, considered by many to be a poor technique, made sense in this film, because it had that fairy tale/fantasy feel to it. However, the narrator discussing the random likes/dislikes of the characters was just a cheap gimmick. Showing us scenes of a fly beating its wings and telling how many times it can beat its wings, telling us about how two wine glasses danced unseen on a table--all of this was just too much of a gimmick for me, akin to artistic masturbation. Sure, you CAN do these things. But that doesn't mean you SHOULD. When a movie has to point things out like this and essentially force them down your throat with a voice-over narrator, it's a cop-out. Lazy writing. Try showing us what you want us to see without telling us and beating us over the head with them.
I like quirky films. But the level of quirkiness in this movie gets too out of control for me. While I understand that there is purposely less a sense of reality in this film than in others, the characters became a bit cartoonish, some altogether detached from reality. Again, overquirkiness smacks of a gimmick. A cheap ploy to get people to like your movie.
As I said, I enjoyed the film. It was original, and its theme refreshing in this day and age. But I don't quite think it rises to the level of one of the greatest films ever made. As always, take my comment with a grain of salt--I do not speak French so had to watch it with subtitles. I'm sure there could be something more than words lost in the translation. Perhaps I would have been less aware of the movie being a fake story if I hadn't had to read subtitles to understand what was happening. But then again, I was able to enjoy Apocalypto.
Superman Returns (2006)
Needed a Better Plot--SPOILER ALERT!
I recently saw SR on the IMAX, which was entertaining in and of itself and certainly made the movie more enjoyable. Many have commented on Routh's Superman/Clark Kent, Spacey's Luthor, and Bosworth's Lois Lane. I will not touch upon their performances in depth, other than saying I thought they all did very good jobs with their roles.
I believe that the main problem with the movie is its plot, or lack thereof. Drama is about conflict. The stakes have to get consistently higher and higher to follow any sort of dramatic arch.
The climax of the movie was Superman v. New Continent, and whether he has the strength to dislodge it and toss it into space. It made for very boring cinema, IMO. But this was only one conflict in a series of conflicts at the end of the movie.
The plot needed to be reworked so that there was one, single, climactic event. All conflicts need to be brought to a head and resolved in some manner in one, final event for the plot to work. Instead, I got a series of "let's go to the Rock Continent to do this" snippets that had no emotional punch.
1) Marsden and Routh, each, fly out to Continent to save Lois. Marsden can't do it without Routh's help. Routh saves the day. Marsden and co. leave the Continent.
2) Routh flies back to the Continent to face Luthor. He gets into trouble. Marsden and co. have to fly back to the Continent. Routh is taken away from the Continent.
3) Routh flies back to the Continent, but has no further conflict w/ Luthor, to save the day. He gets into trouble, and ends up in the hospital.
Way too much back and forth to the Continent for any emotional impact. What the plot really needed was one, overall conflict involving the Continent, where all issues were resolved. Instead, it was done piecemeal, and became way too repetitive for me. If that wasn't possible, then the Continent idea should have been scrapped during development. There were three (purported) climaxes during this sequence, and the main involved Superman's ability to move a large rock. It just didn't work very well.
A lot of the movie, I think, was set-up for the sequels. This isn't bad in and of itself, so long as the movie is entertaining in and of itself.
Overall, I think the script needed to be tighter. That could have cut down on the length of the movie and made the conflict much more dramatic. I'm not saying a movie has to be two hours as opposed to two and a half, but two and a half only works where the plot calls for it and where dramatic impact is not lessened.
Still, it was a better movie than most other movies we'll see all summer. My faith remains in Singer.
Waste of Time (SPOILERS)
Before all you indie-lovers out there jump all over me, having read the title of my post, please allow me to post this disclaimer:
When a film tries to do something "different," I am generally more lenient with it when it comes to story, acting, dialogue, filming, etc. AS OPPOSED TO a film that is created by a cookie-cutter, formula, etc. For example, I enjoyed The Final Cut starring Robin Williams because of the interesting premise, despite some pretty serious flaws in the movie.
Bearing that in mind, November still failed in my book.
I am of the opinion that the third act, whatever you want to call it, was what really happened. The preceding two acts were Cox' character coming to terms with what happened. Okay. There were some interesting things going on in the film itself: the constant reversal of images (negatives v. real pictures), the sounds, the colors, etc. I'll admit that some of that was clever.
Unfortunately, the movie was plot less and, ultimately, pointless. All we get is an extremely contrived sequence of what amounts to nothing more than character development without motivation, following a random, inexplicable act of violence. Okay, so she accepts her death at the end. Well, okay. Alrighty, then. That's all I can say about it. It has no meaning to me beyond that mere statement. After 75 minutes (that felt more like two hours), that's all we're left with. Her character tried to deny her own reality, grieved through it, then ultimately accepted it. Contrast her first encounter with her mother with that which occurs in the third act, which I'll admit, it pretty cool when looking at the whole picture.
It's clever because it SHOWS the audience character development symbolically and through "action." That's what puts its a cut above the typical pop culture novel that reads "He was angry. He couldn't believe what was happening. Then he got sad. Then he accepted it and moved on."
It fails because, in the end, the film has wasted a lot of time and energy on a punch line that could have been told in five minutes.
There is no plot. There is no "explanation" of her motivations, either. Why does she move from denial to despair? Why does she move to acceptance? I'm not saying a film has to beat the viewers over the head with reasons and its messages, but to create a story, the author has to provide an answer to these questions. The better authors do it by suggestion, implicitly. There is, obviously room to leave some doors open in a story. The lesser authors resort to exposition such as quoted above. And then there are those who attempt to muddy the waters to make them appear deep, who are, for lack of a better word, guiltier of a greater crime than the lesser authors. I believe this film fell into the third category.
You can fight convention all you want. Some argue that convention is a bad thing. But convention is convention for a reason. And sometimes, it has come upon some universal truths. Show, don't tell, for instance. Less is more, for example.
A story needs a plot. Characters need motivations. Character development without motivation is a contradiction in terms. I applaud the effort, the innovation, etc. I look forward to possibly seeing some more films by the director/writer in the future. But this one fell short.
The movie would have worked better as one hour Twilight Zone special. But it still would have needed a plot.
Total Recall (1990)
Open to Interpretation, So Here's Mine. . .
Let me start by saying that, yes, this movie is open to interpretation. But that doesn't mean everyone can't give their own interpretations and offer reasons for them.
Here's mine: the whole thing was NOT a dream.
Quaid's dreams in the beginning of the movie when he's still in his "regular life" with Sharon Stone--his actual memories trying to poke through. The movie establishes later that he had a relationship with Melina before he was with Sharon Stone.
Many scenes take place without Quaid being present and/or when he is unconscious. These scenes are totally inexplicable if it's all his dream/implant.
Watch the Rekall Center scenes--the technicians are talking about him, while he's knocked out. We would not experience this if it were all supposed to be his dream. One of them says "we didn't implant it yet" meaning they did not implant his little vacation and that there was a "memory cap," which had erased or locked away all of his memories. All this happens when Quaid's knocked out. If this were all a ruse/part of his implant, they would have done it while he was awake to make him think it were true. Instead, only the viewers experience this.
The reactors, Melina, etc. that pop up during the Rekall Center scenes-- The techs were asking Quaid questions about his preferences. He was already hooked up to their monitoring machines while this was happening. He begins to fall asleep while they are monitoring his mind. He doesn't verbally answer the last question. But somehow, the techs know what he wants. This can only mean they get this info from their monitoring machines, which are hooked into his mind. Of course they pull these things (Melina, the reactors, etc) out of his mind because they were already in there from his real life as a secret agent.
Sharon Stone, the agent's sweat bead do not make sense if it is a dream.
Of course he can use kung fu moves, he's practiced and perfected these things while training as an agent to the point where he merely reacts with these movements, and doesn't think about them. He did not have occasion to use these things as a construction worker, so they did not "pop out of nowhere" during that time in his life. Kind of reminds me of Jason Bourne. You can have your identity wiped but still retain non-identity things, such as kung fu skills, intelligence, etc. Bourne finds out, as he needs to do something, that he can do it.
Last point--if it's a dream, then this movie totally sucks. I'm not a viewer who likes to know he's invested two hours in a movie with great action, plot twists, intrigue, and a great ending only to find out it's all been a dream. What the hell was the point of the last two hours, then? It was all happening in his mind, so it didn't matter one iota? A thriller only works if there's real danger, with actual consequences. If the consequences are this average, everyday construction worker gets lobotomized because someone has screwed up his implant, then the universe is a sick, malevolent place, isn't it? Kind of contrary to the whole outcome of the plot--the good guy wins, saves the planet, gets the girl. A true thriller/actioner operates on the premise that the side of good can win, and does.
You Can't Fault ROTS For Continuity Issues (Personal Review)
Allow me to preface this comment with a general opinion of the film--great. Not perfect, but great.
The opening scene combines visuals, with sound, with music to create a breathtaking display. Wow. One of the densest sequences ever, if not the.
The plotting overall is tight, given the limitations imposed by the original trilogy (in the end, it's still Lucas' fault, obviously). I won't excuse him or belabor the obvious.
Many complained about Anakin and Obi-Wan going through the routine of killing droids in the beginning, that it was gratuitous. To the contrary, the opening sequence is very important. It serves to highlight their increased skills individually AND to show their ability to work together. Their (mis)adventure through Grievous' ship shows the viewer that they have both come a long way in their relationship, totally trusting one another. They have a deep bond built upon mutual respect of the other's talents. This, in turn, makes their confrontation in the end all the more tragic.
Of course, there are problems with the film that are not excusable. With Grievous, I fear Lucas has created another throw-away character, who is utterly undeveloped. As with Darth Maul, there was potential. The same can be said for Dooku.
But the plot is excellent with regard to Anakin's turn to the dark side. There are layers upon layers of psychology at play there. And I would point out that Lucas needed Anakin to be somewhat sympathetic. Otherwise his return to the good side in ROTJ is inexplicable and contrived.
Many fault the film for the continuity errors between PT and OT. I say that you CANNOT fault ROTS for these problems. These were put into place when Lucas wrote the OT. Fortunately, there was a limit to his "editing" the OT in the Special Editions, so he did not go back and delete certain scenes which are now problematic. It is apparent that, while he may have had a general idea about the backstory when he created the OT, he most certainly did not have these stories fleshed out to the degree which is, in hindsight, required. There are many continuity errors, and I will not list them, because they have been discussed on these boards ad nauseam. I will just say that some have been resolved, others have been questionably resolved, and others are just irreconcilable.
My only point is that, when considering ROTS, one should not fault it for continuity errors between the trilogies. These problems stem from Lucas' initial work with the series.
The acting, oh the acting, was much better. As well as the dialogue. I thought McGregor was fantastic and owned the role. Indeed, we see his character come to life and progress into the Obi-Wan we knew and loved. Picture him aboard Padme's ship, near the end, waiting to confront Anakin. The poise, the intelligence, the mastery of his emotions (we know that he was very conflicted about facing Anakin)--he had transformed into Alec Guinness. Only after his task is complete does he allow his emotions to get the better of him. And by then, they are totally appropriate.
Wait, did I forget to mention that this movie was incredibly moving? Certainly was. We now understand Anakin's motivations/illusions. We now understand how and why the Jedi Order was almost wiped out.
And the imagery and symbolism used was extremely clever. Mustafar is Hell, and it is there that Anakin fully becomes Vader, where he is at home. He has made his deal with the devil. Juxtapose that with the fight in the Senate Chamber between Yoda and Palpatine. Palpatine literally and figuratively controls and is destroying the Senate. It was no small coincidence that Lucas had him Force=controlling and launching Senate pods at Yoda, destroying the room where democracy used to reside.
I gave it a 10. I wish the ratings would allow me to give it a 9.5, because I don't think it's as good as A New Hope or The Empire Strikes Back (which I think both deserve a 10). But then again, it's a totally different movie. Lucas wanted to give us three-dimensional characters in Anakin and Obi-Wan, and he has definitely succeeded.
I can't wait to see it again. And I can't wait for Christmas when, supposedly, it will be available on DVD. I hope it breaks every conceivable box office record.
Addendum--It deeply saddens me that this has fallen out of the Top 250 on IMDb. I'm not familiar with how the voting on IMDb works, so I won't start saying dumb things like "somebody rigged it," or all the idiots who voted 1 brought it down, because I'm sure their votes were probably not counted. But this film is one of the better entries of the best fantasy series ever created. It's certainly better than ROTJ, which has secured its place in the Top 250. Oh well.
The Best Line of the Year (SPOILERS)
Wow. I thought this movie was good, until Team Zissou came upon the mythical shark and Zissou asked the question "I wonder if it remembers me?" with tears in his eyes. At that point, the movie became great. My fiancée and I had gone to the theater to see The Aviator. When that sold out, we tried to get Hotel Rwanda tickets, but that sold out. The Life Aquatic was our third choice, and when I originally saw the trailer, I thought "that looks good, but maybe it'll be a rental." I was overwhelmingly surprised. The movie is funny, intelligent, and yes, poignant. And Bill Murray was fantastic. I'd say he deserves the Oscar, but Jamie Fox does too for his career performance in Ray. In that one scene, Murray conveyed so many things with one line--he understood. He understood that all his life, all he ever wanted was to be remembered. He understood that that was pathetic. He understood that Ned Plimpton had probably asked the same question to himself his entire life, concerning his father that never was. He understood that the shark didn't remember him, even though it had had a profound impact upon him. He understood, in turn, that he had had a profound impact upon people he didn't 'remember' such as Ned as a child and his fan base.
Willem Defoe shined as well in a quirky, but excellent, performance as a German engineer who adores Zissou. The humor was off-key, but hit every time.
Now, I want to see Rushmore and The Royal Tenanbaums. THank you Wes Anderson and Bill Murray.
Boogie Nights (1997)
Low User Rating? (SPOILER ALERT)
This movie is not in the Top 250. Does anybody else have a problem with that? Especially considering that it has been hailed as one of the best films of the 90's, got the nod for Best Picture, and received countless positive critical reviews.
On the other hand, I could see how some would love this movie and others would hate it. So it goes with a P.T. Anderson movie. I absolutely hated Magnolia. I found it one of the most "annoying" films I ever saw. The Intro annoyed me; the frogs annoyed me; John C. Reilly's character annoyed me.
What's great about this film is that it is NOT about pornography. It's a character study; it's a moving story about an unconventional family. None of the porno scenes in the movie are there for the sake of nudity; each serves a specific purpose to advance the plot and reveal something about the characters.
And the last shot where the camera follows Burt Reynolds through the house is one of the most memorable, if not one of the best, scenes filmed in recent memory.
I can't say enough good things about this movie. But what I would like to see is a thoughtful critique of the movie. I have encountered (on this board) negative reviews that mostly sound like this--this movie was pointless, it was stupid, the characters were weird, etc.
Who else thinks this deserves a higher rating?
The Final Cut (2004)
Great Idea with Poor Execution (SPOILERS WITHIN)
As the summary reads, great idea. But there are some major problems with this movie.
The relationship--very poorly done. We have no idea why Mira Sorvino is attracted to Robin's character. She even has lines that beat you over the head with the theme of the movie "What about your life?" or "You have to live your own life." We get it, we don't need to be told that Robin lives his life through others. In one scene she tells him she doesn't want to be with him in the bookstore(paraphrasing), and fifteen or twenty minutes later she's back over his place. Why does she act this way? I don't know. Her character was poorly drawn. The best part about their relationship was when she discovered that Robin had been watching her with her previous boyfriend.
That added some complexity to the situation and Robin's character.
Jim Caviezel--I usually like him. He was good in Count of Monte Cristo, Frequency, The Passion. But he was just GOD AWFUL in this movie. Every line he spoke in this movie was so forced and way over the top. His line to end the movie almost made me laugh at how overly theatrical it was. He didn't need to say anything at the end I thought. Just by showing us what he was doing, I believe that the director made his point. But no, he beat us over the head again with the message.
The (sub)plot concerning the head business guy--I couldn't tell what plot was supposed to be the focal point of this movie. He's working on this rememory, then discovers he has an implant, and the movie seems to lose direction.
The grieving wife--Near the end, Robin goes to tell her that the disc has been destroyed so that he will be unable to do the rememory. She is WAY too forgiving and accepting here. To her, this is the last way she will be able to connect with her husband, whom she apparently loves very much (enough to fight a court battle to get the implant released). Instead, she just nods her head and basically tells Robin "that's okay you've destroyed my last chance to experience my dead husband." He did blame it on a technical malfunction, of course, but I don't think that would have lessened her anger really.
Robin has an implant--WHOA! Cool idea for a twist, but did the Director not think this through? Perhaps I'm wrong about the facts of the movie, so I'll lay out what I think is true: The cutters work for the company that makes the implants, right? Do you seriously think that when Robin applied to be a cutter, the company didn't have him in some sort of database as one of the implanted people? Don't you think they'd want to check on that? Especially considering they probably asked him questions about his personal life. It's just too hard to willingly suspend disbelief this far. Granted, he obviously told them he had no implant, but still, wouldn't that be in a computer somewhere?
Social Commentary/Thematic Material--The protesters, the stigma of being a cutter, etc. These were cool ideas but poorly expanded upon. It's tough for me to explain why, because I would argue what wasn't in the movie, as opposed to what was.
Feel free to rip me apart. Again, I thought this was a great idea and the Director has shown us some promise. But there were some major problems with the film.
I've seen the movies hundreds of times, but this just occurred to me. Does anybody else think it's "far-fetched" that the Rebel Alliance would let six (counting the two droids) people to try and rescue Han Solo, in the middle of this galactic war in which they were desperately losing, from Jabba the Hut? I'm not ragging on Solo or anything, because he's a bad-ass, but wouldn't duty, in this set of circumstances, come before friendship?
Forgetting for a moment that at the end of ESB it's Lando and Chewie who go to Tatooine to rescue Han (do they get there, Lando gets off the ship, and Chewie comes back alone?), you have to assume that Lando was out there with Jabba for awhile. I mean, he had to establish himself as a guy Jabba could trust. That had to take time. I'm assuming Jabba just wouldn't let anybody work for him, especially in a position where the person would be in close proximity with a weapon.
Also, isn't there a good chance that Jabba knew who Lando was, being a friend of Solo's? Or did Lando's brilliant disguise hide his identity well enough so that nobody on Jabba's staff would realize it was him?
So, assuming that Lando was out on Tatooine for awhile (I don't know, a month or two), then Chewie flew back to get Leia, returned with Leia, they were both captured, etc, then Luke comes out not knowing that Leia and Chewie's plan had not worked and storms into Jabba's throne room with hundreds of henchlings looking to kill him. . .etc, etc, it probably took a lot of time. And from my understanding, the Rebels didn't exactly have a lot of time to spare.
Aside from the Solo rescue being the most poorly conceived plot point in the trilogy, does anybody really think the Rebel Alliance would just say, okay, you six go out there, take your time, rescue Solo, because the war will wait? I mean, come on. Luke was the Alliance's (as far as all except Yoda and Obi-Wan knew) only person with any chance to defeat Vader and/or the Emperor. But the Admirals and Generals all said, go ahead, risk your life on Tatooine to get back Han Solo?
Army of Darkness (1992)
AoD v. SOTD and Various Editions of AoD on DVD
Alright--two questions for everybody. I start with the controversy. I recently saw Shaun of the Dead. I am a huge fan of Army of Darkness, but I think that SOTD edges it out for humor, emotion, and scares. All in all, I'd call SOTD a great film, but I'd call Army of Darkness a great movie, if you'll bear with my snobbiness for a minute. What does everybody else think? I loved how SOTD paid homage to AoD when Shaun says "Ash called out sick today."
Second--I only own AoD on VHS. Before you stone me to death, I really want to purchase AoD on DVD, but there are like three special editions/director's cuts, etc. Which one is best. I've seen the regular version, the Director's Cut, one where the DVD cover is actually like the Necronomicon, and the 2-disc Boomstick Edition. Which one's worth the investment. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.