Reviews written by
jomo25

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13 reviews in total 
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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Loses much in translation, 20 December 2006
1/10

(I don't have the credit list and can't remember the names)

This adaptation loses much in its translation from the page to the screen and from O'Brien's witty use of English into German. It's funny because it's so bad, bereft of the O'Brien's clever games with language and characters.

O'Brien's story gains much from the Irish Catholic setting in Dublin. His writing, like Joyce's, depends much on the character of the city and its inhabitants. All this is lost in this adaptation, which has no sense of place or time.

The production is amateur: the sets are very poor and the lighting is wrong. The performances are OK; the actor playing the Pooka MacPhellimey comes out best. The narrator looks wrong.

O'Brien's book remains more enjoyable to read and this little-known and little-seen film ought to remain so.

Fight Club (1999)
10 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
The most superficial movie I've seen: a film of pretentious ideas and excellent style, 21 August 2003
6/10

Edward Norton plays the nameless narrator whose life radically changes when Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) enters his life. Norton plays a character who can't sleep and finds respite in the many groups that help people tackle cancer or give up smoking. He meets Marla, a creature just as dependent on those support groups as he is.

Tyler Durden's arrival turns Norton's world upside down as he highlights how consumerist and pointless his life has become. They lash at each other and find violence eases their dissatisfaction with the world. Others join them as fight clubs emerge across the country. Tyler and Norton's character come to believe that they can take the dissatisfaction and help change the world and they develop something called Project Mayhem. But Norton begins doubt Tyler and becomes troubled by Tyler's origins.

It's easy to see why this movie has become popular with heterosexual males from late teens to early thirties. It's an expression of discontent with modern life, challenging expectations, capturing adolescent and middle-aged angst and distilling it into a movie put together with great panache and flair.

Norton and Pitt give showy performances typical of their work. Pitt is clearly trying to break away from the pretty boy image established by A River Runs through It and Thelma and Louise. Bonham Carter, similarly, is attempting to change her prim Edwardian image (A Room with a View, The Wings of the Dove) for something more shocking.

It's an exercise in style with its flashy editing and obvious special effects. It's probably Fincher's best film to date but the points it makes are hypocritical. One scene encapsulates this: Pitt and Norton look at an advertisement and ask whether this is how a real man is supposed to look. But this is exactly how both Pitt and Norton appear; it is the image movies like Fight Club perpetuate; it's the ideal that movies like this reinforce. Pretentious and glossy entertainment.

The Game (1997)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Excellent thriller, 21 August 2003
7/10

Nicholas van Orton is a successful businessman. His brother approaches him on his birthday. His present is a recommendation to play `the Game', operated by Consumer Recreation Services. Tormented by his father's suicide and his divorce, Nicholas decides to take play the game but he quickly finds that it becomes too much for him.

Fincher follows up his impressive work on Se7en with this excellent thriller. He quickly establishes Nicholas van Orton as a model American businessman. He's clever, shrewd and appears to be in control of his life. The Game strips Nicholas of control and forces him to examine and reassess his priorities in life.

Fincher's direction is subtle and effective. He's less flashy here than he would be with similar material in Fight Club.

Douglas gives a commanding performance. He's on screen almost all the time. He's plays character that he plays often and plays well.

The supporting cast have little to do but they perform adequately, especially Armin Mueller-Stahl and James Rebhorn.

Fincher could learn from this film. Here, the thematic elements play out well against the strong narrative. His films focus on a discontent with the American way of life, a questioning of values, what it means to be successful. Nicholas learns that his family, his ex-wife and his brother, are the most precious and meaningful part of his life. It may seem an obvious lesson but it's one well worth the ride that this movie offers.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Looks good but that's about it, 20 August 2003
6/10

Three mysterious murders in Sleepy Hollow bring Ichabod Crane from New York City to investigate. The victims have lost their heads. Crane is a modern thinker in 1799, believing that sense and reason will solve the mysteries. But, it seems, the townspeople are right to fear the headless horseman as Crane's investigations bring more ire and death.

Burton's telling of the famous legend looks impressive. The lighting, make-up, special effects, costumes and sets capture the ominous mood and create a grim, spooky world. Visually, Sleepy Hollow is a stunning achievement.

But the movie is let down by unnecessarily eccentric performances and some weak writing.

Depp creates a character who comes across as a man of strong principle but he's a coward, screaming at the sight of spiders and rightly being put off by the horrible things he sees in investigating the murders. His character comes off as inconsistent though entertaining.

The portrayal of apparent romance between Depp and Ricci is particularly facile; almost childish. The script is to blame for Ricci's bland performance. The writing also falters in having the whole movie explained away: movies are about showing, not telling.

Burton once more proves that he's a great stylist. His weakness is in the stories he chooses to tell. His characters and stories are too simplistic to achieve an insight into the human condition. Burton here fails to capture any of the childlike wonder or magical fantasy of Edward Scissorhands or the exploration of failure in Ed Wood. He's produced an interesting piece to look at but its pleasures remain superficial.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Impeccable film-making with an excellent lead performance, 13 August 2003
7/10

Billy Bob Thornton plays Ed Crane, a barber who learns his wife (Frances McDormand) is cheating on him with her boss, Big Dave (James Gandolfini).

Meanwhile, Big Dave turns down an opportunity to invest in dry cleaning brought to him by Creighton Tolliver (Jon Polito). The dry cleaning business interests Ed and he decides to blackmail Big Dave to raise the money he needs for the venture.

Big Dave later tracks down Creighton and beats the truth about him. He confronts Ed about what he has done, forcing Ed to take control of events instead of existing in the background as if he wasn't even there.

As expected for the Coen brothers, to describe the story on paper is not to do them justice. The story is brilliantly constructed and continues to unfold in unexpected ways. They introduce a number of elements that make Ed Crane their most complex male character so far, much more interesting and intense than Ray from Blood Simple and colder, more sinister than Jerry Lundegaard (Fargo).

Billy Bob Thornton's performance at the centre is superb, capturing the observant nature of Ed Crane and making some of his colder actions seem sympathetic and understanding. His tender scenes with Scarett Johansson are highlights as he admires her from a distance, not for her beauty, but for her talent. It's just an example of the complexities of his character and the nature of the film.

The movie looks fantastic. It's finely shot by Coen regular DoP Roger Deakins, whose work here is gleaming and polished without being intrusive or showy.

This film succeeds where othe efforts, notably Blood Simple, have faltered. The Coens make time to explore the troubled relationship between husband and wife, tracing the unhappiness that leads to further misery and turmoil.

0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
See it but don't think about it, 13 August 2003
6/10

Jeff Bridges is the Dude, the easy-going hero who exerts himself no more than he has to except at the bowling alley with friends, Donny (Steve Buscemi) and Walter (John Goodman).

The Dude is drawn into a kidnapping scheme by one of Los Angeles' wealthy inhabitants, the Big Lebowski. Some heavies barge into his home, demanding money, and they defile his rug. The Dude tells Walter, the testier of his friends, and he becomes infurtited and determined to get the price of his rug. What follows is a series of quirky, funny events.

The central premise reminded me of Scorsese's After Hours and even The Wizard of Oz. The Dude is surrounded by wackiness and all he seems to want is to get back his easy lifestyle as an unemployed bowler.

This Coen effort comes in marked difference to their other more intelligent crime thrillers (Blood Simple, Fargo) is a relative disappointment. They have produced a pointless story with funny incidents but it doesn't build to a compelling climax or have the necessary emotional punch.

The movie looks good as usual for the Coens but it lacks the dexterity and overall panache of, say, Fargo and The Man Who Wasn't There. The fantasty sequences play like musical numbers from older movies but they serve little point and stand out more as showy bridging scenes.

Bridges and Goodman are fairly good in their parts, though neither are at their best here, but their characters lack depth. This is hardly challenging or very interesting material.

This is one to take as the Dude himself might watch a movie. See it and enjoy it but don't criticise it or think about it too much.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Remarkable first feature by a notable talent, 13 August 2003
7/10

The Coen brothers debut feature film is an excellent thriller with plenty of twists and the markings of Joel Coen's first-rate visual style.

Dan Hedaya plays the owner of a bar who hires M Emmet Walsh to spy in his wife. Walsh shows him photographs of his wife sleeping with an employee at the bar. Hedaya decides to have the pair killed with Walsh's help. But things do not go according to plan.

In their debut, the Coens deal with material that has served them very well since. Adultery and cimes that go wrong have proved central to most of their work since. They inject their story with enough surprises to keep you watching, even if their effort lacks real emotion or any real development of their characters.

The performances are merely adequate because the characters are so thinly drawn. The relationship between Hedaya and his wife is not properly explored to explain how they parted. All we have to see his how horrible Hedaya's character and Hedaya etches a mean unhappy man. Getz acts satisfactoriyl, while McDormand and Walsh excel in the movie's showdown.

The movie is an extraordinary piece of film-making. It's shot well and the editing is particularly remarkable. Some montages that stand out including the love-making scene at the motel near the beginning of the film.

Shots of driving cars, headlights in the distance, criminal plans backfiring, marital breakdown, Frances McDormand: some of the elements of the Coens' best work are firmly established in Blood Simple.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Impeccably filmed with excellent lead performance, 13 August 2003
7/10

Billy Bob Thornton plays Ed Crane, a barber who learns his wife (Frances McDormand) is cheating on him with her boss, Big Dave (James Gandolfini).

Meanwhile, Big Dave turns down an opportunity to invest in dry cleaning brought to him by Creighton Tolliver (Jon Polito). The dry cleaning business interests Ed and he decides to blackmail Big Dave to raise the money he needs for the venture.

Big Dave later tracks down Creighton and beats the truth about him. He confronts Ed about what he has done, forcing Ed to take control of events instead of existing in the background as if he wasn't even there.

As expected for the Coen brothers, to describe the story on paper is not to do them justice. The story is brilliantly constructed and continues to unfold in unexpected ways. They introduce a number of elements that make Ed Crane their most complex male character so far, much more interesting and intense than Ray from Blood Simple and colder, more sinister than Jerry Lundegaard (Fargo).

Billy Bob Thornton's performance at the centre is superb, capturing the observant nature of Ed Crane and making some of his colder actions seem sympathetic and understanding. His tender scenes with Scarett Johansson are highlights as he admires her from a distance, not for her beauty, but for her talent. It's just an example of the complexities of his character and the nature of the film.

The movie looks fantastic. It's finely shot by Coen regular DoP Roger Deakins, whose work here is gleaming and polished without being intrusive or showy.

This film succeeds where othe efforts, notably Blood Simple, have faltered. The Coens make time to explore the troubled relationship between husband and wife, tracing the unhappiness that leads to further misery and turmoil.

Pocahontas (1995/I)
Not a favourite, 9 June 2003

Pocahontas, an independent native American, aspires to something greater than marrying a heroic but boring warrior. Her chance comes when Captain John Smith arrives in another New World seeking adventure. They come to understand one another and fall in love. But Smith's leader, Radcliffe, strives to achieve the glory of the Spanish and is willing to destroy the native people to get his gold.

The human characters in Pocahontas are a lifeless bunch. Smith, a bland hero, lacks vigour. Pocahontas is not as strong as Beauty and the Beast's Belle, charming like Jasmine in Aladdin or pleasantly naïve like Ariel in The Little Mermaid. Radcliffe's pompous and arrogant character follows a line of British-accented villains, a tired idea but more apposite in this film. Radcliffe is the most engaging human character. The antics of the racoon, the hummingbird and Radcliffe's dogs are far more amusing, especially Miko's bullying Percy.

Alan Menken's score follows the patterns of his previous work for Disney (including the enchanting Beauty and the Beast). His contribution with lyricist Stephen Schwartz is weak. The movie lacks snappy numbers such as `Be Our Guest', `Friend Like Me' or `Hakuna Matata'.

While the animation is often exhilarating, the backgrounds in Pocahontas are drear. The forest could have been an exciting setting for the banal story but the artists have left it as drab as the other contributions to the film. The approach to the surroundings in Pocahontas is minimalist, unlike the stimulating settings of The Little Mermaid (under the sea) and The Lion King (Africa).

Pocahontas, Disney's first animated feature based on fact, is a sober, conscientious and rather depressing movie, almost guaranteed to put an adult audience to sleep. The kids may enjoy the antics of Miko, Percy, Flit and Radcliffe but the main story will still bore them.

7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Excellent film [possible spoiler], 9 June 2003
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Howard's End chronicles the intertwining lives of three English families in the early twentieth century. The Schlegels and Wilcoxes are prosperous and well educated. The Wilcoxes are proud of their family and their property, particularly Howard's End. Helen Schlegel meets the third family when she inadvertently steals Leonard Bast's umbrella. The Basts are poor and aggrieved by their troubled pasts.

The Wilcoxes become anxious about the Schlegel's interests in Howard's End, while Helen Schlegel concerns herself with Leonard Bast's fate. Their intriguing stories encompass romance, illegitimate pregnancy and manslaughter.

Jhabvala's well-written script is a faithful adaptation, offering an interesting insight into the England of times gone by. The story contrasts the generous Schlegels with the avaricious Wilcoxes and explores the relationships that people can form with their homes. It superficially probes the plight of the poor through Leonard Bast. The romance between Henry Wilcox and Margaret Schlegel is rather under-developed though the tender moments between the two during their engagement are managed well.

Emma Thompson excels in her role as Margaret Schlegel, conveying the elegant kindness and caring of her character without being cloying. Thompson ably handles Margaret's chattiness and politeness, creating a sympathetic character with her expressive face and gestures. Anthony Hopkins also performs adeptly as Henry Wilcox. He discreetly reveals Henry's loneliness and misery beneath his cold, almost heartless exterior.

James Ivory directs the ensemble cast competently. He handles scenes conceived on a grand scale, such as Leonard's visit to an insurance company, impressively. The superb photography captures the beauty of Howard's End even under grey skies, while the opulent sets adequately recreate the period.

Howard's End, Merchant-Ivory's third Forester adaptation, looks and sounds beautiful, though sometimes its splendour diminishes the subtle plot and character intimacies. Still, it makes for intelligent entertainment, a rare thing for modern movies.


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