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phd_travel

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728 reviews in total 
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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A courageous movie - deserves more praise, 29 January 2014
10/10

Kudos to Brian de Palma for making this brave movie. There aren't many movies that show war crimes by U.S. soldiers. Most Vietnam war movies focus on the impact of the war on the U.S. soldiers. The effect on civilians in Vietnam is often too painful and unpopular to deal with. It is a movie that shows Vietnam as tragedy for everyone involved not just the combatants.

The true story of the rape and murder of a Vietnamese farm girl and it's exposure by a soldier who refused to take part is shown in a straightforward and unflinchingly direct way. The rape and murder itself is beyond heartbreaking. Yet the story isn't one sided. It shows the perpetrators being in such a horrid situation that allowed something like this to happen. The movie shows the difficulties and consequences of being a whistle blower - how relevant today.

Michael J Fox gives a very moving and sympathetic performance showing he is a fine dramatic actor. My initial misgivings of him as being mainly a comedic actor were quickly dispelled. Sean Penn gives a totally believable performance as the idiotic sergeant in charge. The Vietnamese actress Thuy Thu Le's performance is so good that it's almost too painful to watch.

This movie isn't as famous as it should be and deserves a place among the most powerful and well acted war movies of all time.

4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
A travelogue with a very slow story, 27 January 2014
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie is way too slow. The story about Life Magazine closing down and the last issue would be interesting if the story had unfolded more quickly with more interesting characters and some historical context. But the imaginings of Walter are off on a tangent. The pace needed to be much faster and the dialog more witty and interesting.

On the plus side the travel photography in Greenland and Iceland and Afghanistan is breathtaking. The skateboard ride is quite fun too.

Ben Stiller as director and star needed to tighten things up. The romance with Kristin was so mundane.

A nicely photographed movie with a slow and lackluster story.

Romeo & Juliet (2013/II)
3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
He's way out of her league, 25 January 2014
2/10

This is a tale of a woefully miscast movie. As Juliet, Hailee's isn't right for the part. She just didn't act like she was passionately in love - not even puppy love. Her delivery of dialog wasn't clear. She looks younger than her age - more tween than teen and her looks aren't special enough. Douglas Booth as Romeo is more beautiful than Hailee. He looks older than he is so it seemed a bit predatory. He manages his lines okay. There isn't much chemistry between the two. Too bad Lily Collins dropped out - she would have been much better.

As far as supporting cast is concerned, Damian Lewis as Juliet's father acts well but too Royal Shakespeare Company for the rest of the cast - like he dropped in from the theater. Natascha McElhone looks more like Romeo than Juliet so don't know why she was playing Juliet's mother. Mercutio is okay but Tybalt is overacted by Ed Westwick who played it like a cross between Chuck Bass and a bull in a ring, flared nostrils and all. Paul Giamatti should have moderated his accent a bit to sound vaguely European.

The tacky and overblown musical score is all wrong especially compared to the memorable and famous 68 movie score. It actually interferes with the dialog in some parts. Would have been better to have just used some classical music or had nothing at all in many scenes.

The only good thing is the on location filming in Italy which is picture perfect.

What a waste.

Shocking weight loss of the actors aside, interesting lesson about the FDA, 23 January 2014
9/10

One of the most memorable things is the weight loss to the two lead actors both Matthew and Jared. Jared Leto is unrecognizable as the mincing cross dresser. Matthew is painfully thin especially considering what he used to look like. Apart from the weight loss Matthew does give a convincing and believable performance. So does Jared. Their performances are deserving of the awards won so far. Jennifer Garner is less perky than usual and is good too. The story doesn't drag and has some humor and light heartedness which keeps it from getting too depressing. Maybe it didn't have to emphasize the drugs and promiscuity quite that much - just enough to show how he was infected.

What is unexpected is how interesting the story about the treatment drugs and the FDA. Not since And the Band Played On has there been such a good movie about the disease from a medical scientific point. The government interference in the best treatment and having to go abroad for better options is a good lesson for any disease.

5 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Well acted and still effective, 20 January 2014

The story is powerful and shocking after all these years. It's as effective as a horror movie without any ghosts or blood or supernatural goings on. The family cruelty and tragedy is still painful to watch.

The atmosphere and direction are good and evocative of the time. The claustrophobia of the attic comes through.

Ellen Burstyn is perfect as the wicked grandma. Her coldness and vindictiveness really jump out on screen. The still young looking Heather Graham actually is quite right for the role. She looks pretty, selfish and silly enough to be the weak and terrible mother without overdoing it. She is better than the blank faced Victoria Tennant in the 80s version. The angelic looking young cast is good too. Kiernan Shipka (from Mad Men) is good at acting like she has the weight of the world on her shoulders. Mason Dye is suitably clueless then disillusioned. The incest is portrayed as delicately as could be for this story.

Worth watching. Hope lifetime makes a sequel.

Well worth watching - exciting story & good cast, 19 January 2014
10/10

This 3 hour mini about Chinese workers building the Canadian Railroads is actually very watchable and well made.

The story is well written, exciting and yet not too far out. It manages to have a gutsy brainy heroine as a central character who is a brilliant dynamite expert, with a family mission who manages to have a romance. And the whole saga finishes with a non clichéd ending. The melodramatic and action parts of the story fit in to the historical setting quite well. It has a good balance between modern sensitivities to the historical injustices and an entertaining story.

As the heroine Sun Li the Chinese actress does a convincing job against some more established actors. In her no make up boys get up, she believably manages to attract a few admirers. Peter O'Toole has a brief but memorable supporting role in the beginning. Sam Neill plays a railway company boss. His son played by Luke Macfarlane of Brothers and Sisters develops a relationship with the heroine. The acting all round including the Chinese supporting characters is high standard.

Worth watching.

2 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
New cast is good and the story is current, 16 January 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This fresh story (not based on a Tom Clancy novel) is quite current. Financial sabotage and terrorism are linked in a plot that our hero Jack Ryan must foil. Nice filming in Moscow. Good pace and a few surprises in the story make it a good thriller. The story is quite exciting especially the chase through Moscow but the NYC part felt a bit too easy to foil.

Chris Pine looked a bit old for the establishing scenes but he is right for his part. He isn't supposed to be a super action hero, he's a doctorate financial analyst and looks suitably non operational. He's likable enough to carry on this series. Younger than Harrison and more brainy looking than Ben.

Keira Knightley looks super lovely especially when she doesn't smile and super slim. Before seeing the movie I thought she might be too slim and elegant for the role but it actually her looks are a good thing because she looks intelligent enough to be the doctor and special enough to carry a lead role. A new generation leading lady beautiful and smart instead of the more homely types they had before in her role. Look forward to seeing more of her. Plus she has chemistry with Chris Pine.

As the villain, Kenneth Branagh has a decent Russian accent but he doesn't look Russian. At least they got Baryshnikov - a real Russian to add some authenticity though his screen time was too little. Kevin Costner looks a bit past retirement for his role. Maybe he could shed a few pounds and dye his hair.

Worth watching.

Old fashioned and modern at the same time, 15 January 2014
10/10

This very good Vietnam war movie about the first major conflict between North Vietnamese and U.S. troops is old fashioned in some ways and modern in some ways. It turns out to have the best aspects of being both old fashioned and modern.

It's old fashioned in it's patriotic heroism of the characters and that the soldiers are too good looking. Chris Klein plays a brave hero, Greg Kinnear a brave helicopter pilot and of course Mel Gibson is the religious and dedicated Colonel in charge. Watching this movie in 2014 again it's quite amusing to see Jon Hamm and Taylor Momsen in a supporting roles. There is no political agenda here about being in a wrong war etc. It's about the heroism of the soldiers not whether they were on the right side or not.

It's modern in the realism of the well choreographed battle scenes and graphic injuries. But it's not as gross as Saving Private Ryan. Also it's sympathetic and unbiased towards both sides Vietnamese and U.S. It actually is quite a clear depiction of the overall battle instead of a confusing mess that some war movies are. There is a good setup of characters prior to the battle and you can clearly see who lives and dies.

There are some faults. The filming location & vegetation didn't look like Vietnam at all. Couldn't they have planted some more suitable trees here and there? Poor Madeline Stowe as the dutiful military wife, probably the most beautiful actress of her generation did something to her lips that made her look strange for a few movies. Thank goodness the cosmetic procedures have settled down since. And what is wrong with that crazy long hair? It's a good solid war movie that's moving without being preachy and exciting without being too violent.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Not a comedy at all and Meryl is miscast, 15 January 2014
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The story is about a bitter sick vindictive drug addicted woman and what happens when her daughters and their spouses / partners and her sister's family come to visit her upon the death of her husband. There is a bit of hillbilly behavior, molest and almost incest. Is that supposed to be funny? Meryl has a certain sweetness which isn't right for the embittered woman. She just isn't the right actress for the role. She isn't jittery enough like the stage version. Julia Roberts acts suitably unhappy throughout as the separated oldest daughter. Juliette Lewis plays the idiotic younger daughter. Dermot Mulroney is good as her sleazy beau.

The story is not as good as a Tennessee Williams Southern drama. I'd say skip it. It was a mediocre play that undeservedly happened to win all these awards and it's now a so-so movie.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Always unexpected deserves to be the hit of the season, 15 January 2014
9/10

This show is great because it's got the right balance of likable characters, good acting, a bit of unresolved mystery - who is her father and what's up with the hubby. So it keeps you tuning in to see what the connection is between the two leads, the young FBI agent and the mastermind criminal. It's a crime show that is not too gruesome or sickening and so far isn't repetitive. Each episode you don't know how things are going to turn out and the pace is good.

James Spader's best acting quality is his masterful delivery of dialog which makes you watch every word he says carefully. But physically what happened to him? Wish he could shed some weight and grow his hair longer.

Megan Boone is convincing because she isn't an impossibly beautiful actress being a bit full in the face. She is pleasant looking enough to watch week after week and looks like she could be in law enforcement and have a school teacher husband.

Worth watching.


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