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18 reviews in total 
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Stander (2003)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Melancholy Look at the Mythology that was the 'Stander Gang', 12 January 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Having resided in the Transvaal during the 80s when the 'Stander Gang' rode the high veldt while pillaging and robbing banks at every turn they maneuvered their 1982 Ford Cortina XR6 Interceptor, I can safely vouch now and from a great distance, that the historicity of the film is somewhat accurate. Well, with some minor reservations...

But I won't say the same for the 'tone', make that, theme. This film, which had the potential to be gute South African cinema was cast almost entirely with a huge liberal bent; way too much PC for my liking. To wit, the director tries hard, maybe even succeeds (with unsuspecting viewers) to portray Andre Stander, former S.A. Police detective, now turned hoodlum/mayhem master as a black benefactor. Make no mistake: the real Stander was no such thing. On the contrary, he was an opportunist; he only sought avenues for quick, easy plunder. It came in the form of easy pickings; always in the form of robbing banks; sometimes his gang knocked over four branches a day. Some twice!

And Stander always enjoyed the fruits of his labors. He had a penchant for fast cars: the likes of several yellow Porsche Carerras hardly escaped his lusting eyes. The same can be said for the other forms of ostentatious debauchery: fast women, probably drugs, clubbing and wining and dining in the trendy Joburg suburbs of Mayfair and Sandton; just to name a few.

But Stander had help. The South African media also had a penchant for debauchery. Their non-stop 24/7 coverage no doubt fanned the flames of this budding myth. As if scripted, Stander and his gang would never disappoint either. At the hint of a hot lead or the attraction of a pretty, young teller longing for her 15 minutes of fame, the infamous gang would always burst on the scene. As expected, the media hounds never missed a scent and the chance to further expound the bank robbers meteoric rise to stardom.

More often than naught, the brazen robbers were well received in the newspapers as well as on the S.A.B.C. TV channels. Both of them. The Gang, was now officially the Republik's own version of Robin Hood; but the motley trio was never given a 'merry band of fellows' moniker though.

Thomas Jane gives a good/bad account of the main man: Andre Stander. His two accomplices, Allan Heyl and Lee McCall were well portrayed as well; so were the entire supporting cast members and extras. The sets of 70s/80s Joburg were expertly re-constructed: all too eerily, realistic.

Ofter during the viewing, I felt s strong longing to return home. But not back to the future...

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Miraculous? Maybe not. But Still a Delightful Surprise, 23 September 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

For sure, the producers have brought to bear some simple Biblical truths. And then they expounded on those to create a masterpiece film. Better yet, this film is a wonderful real life testimony to getting to know the universal and heavenly glory that is the, One, True Living God. The journey begins with Faith; matters little if the source is in the form of a tiny mustard seed or of something more common and useful. Like a dusty yet moist but always forever tasty mouth watering spud! I like mine mashed.

But I'm miffed as to why others would come on this site just to spew their vitriol for this film. Makes no sense when the target audience is altogether conspicuously disclosed in the title: FAITH like Potatoes. Guess they can can't help themselves. OK. We get it...

Back to the main points...

This film chronicles the plight of a white family's struggle to carve out an existence in Southern Afrika: plot weaves along nicely. Start to finish. The main character Angus Buchan, and his family fall on hard times. This necessitates selling the farm in Zambia. And then getting out. In a hurry. Taking what little possessions they have including a small stash of money ostensibly the proceeds left over from the sale, Angus begins the Exodus. Quickly he discovers a trail. It heads due south. More important, they'll steer free and clear of Zambia.

And Angus doesn't stop until the Peugeot wagon reaches the Republik: South Afrika. There he does what he knows best. He immediately buys another farm. Thus setting him and his family up for me to quote the old adage: History does repeat itself! The setting now is the bushveldt. They don't even have living quarters. An old travel trailer is the sole item available for shelter. It has to do even though it looks like squalor.

Now thoroughly ensconced in the new wilderness, Angus, begins the arduous task of tilling ground so that he can break bread each evening with his family. Although the going is tough, he enlists the help of the local natives. Some he is endeared to. Others are fired. Almost immediately. But Angus plows ahead.

The local South Africans are all too soon enamored with the transplanted ex-Rhodie Scot. They take him to the inner sanctum of the town's life as one of their own. But, Angus takes to drinking. A lot! He's unhappy; confides all his miseries to an understanding wife. She though can't handle his moods.

Then one bright shining Sunday morning the whole family winds up sitting in the front pews of the Methodist Church. Now hogtied, Angus hears first hand a testimonial of a recent 'conversion'. The South African oke spoke in earnest. I believed him. Not Angus though. He can't handle the truth; he heads straight to the ladies bar; he consoles himself much in the brandy; even shares his miseries with the town's policeman, who, is sympathetic and is in much need of company himself. The two bond.

At that point, there's just enough foreshadowing that suggests that God has other plans. A church elder attests to that same sentiment. His candor speaks aloud. "I believe God is tugging at your heart. Angus, you're a good man." And he, er, God was right.

Thereafter, Angus though unwittingly begins pondering the existence of God. He does this mainly while lounging amongst the corn stalks. Seriously, right then I was concerned for Angus' safety; hoped that those lingering, sneaky puff adders obeyed God's word too. No worries. Out of the blue, the epiphany light shone down....

Overall, this film despite it's low budget was better than I expected. The acting is superb. The disparate characters all fit the plot. And the cinematography though digital does deliver some breathtaking views of the Suid Afrikan bushveldt. And of course, the message was that Faith is the first step to know God. If you took that leap then you soon learned that the next step was equally important: Trust in the Lord. Angus did. Even when his mates told him that he had eaten too much mielie meal. But what did they know...

Now it's entirely apropos that I thank all those who helped make this film happen; that in itself is a miracle. One can only hope that there are more Christians out there. Just like you. Who in the blink of an eye would do the same; stand in the breach for the Faith.


Traitor (2008)
1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
TORTUOUS TRASH; - 10 and Not Fahrenheit either, 9 June 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Based on the glitzy DVD jacket, I didn't see it coming: the disappointment

Had I bothered to read the credits, I would have drop-kicked this one back to the bargain bin's bottom. Writer: Steve Martin? Are you kidding me? Inspector Clousseau should have made a cameo. For certain, this oh so dreary spy/political film was in dire need of comedic moments. EG. How about a word from the disgraced Inspector. "Hello, my friend the internet."

Speaking of comedy, why'd they include Jeff Daniels? He of little or no faith added nothing to the already convoluted, Ahem, plot. A good 'bad' example. When he and Cheadle tried to disguise their clandestine meeting after a crazed terrorist 'friend' showed up (unannounced) I half expected Harry to blurt out what he does best. "I'm shaving!"

BANG! BANG! One and Dunn. Dead. Gone! Even his designer threads could not belie this mistake in casting. And it showed. Jeff, even stood out. In the rain. Fake though it was.

I'll back it up a bit...

This film lacks substance. And a plot. And some good intelligent subterfuge. But what it lacked in substance it more than made up for in horrible acting. Don Cheadle, as the lead character, Samir Horn, the American Muslim-come-lately but always high on Koran quotations is unconvincing. To wit, we don't know who Samir is-was-or his wannabees.

For hours Cheadle's expression is rigid; speech is stunted; his interaction (other than a few clumsily staged karate chop-chop scenes) with the other characters both baddies and goodies is bizarre.

Same case can be made for the pursuers: the FBI. Guy Pearce as 'good cop' Roy Clayton is a study in twisted logic. Not the J. Edgar type we have grown accustomed to. Other than a constant grimace and an over pierced U.S. Southern accent, Pearce, like the film, looks tortured for the most part. Acts like it too. Make that all the time.

Ditto. For his partner in anti-terrorism, Max Archer (here we go again with those fake designer labels) played by ex-Hawaii 5-0 cop, Dano. Er, make that Neil McDonough.

In appearance, the whole FBI anti-terrorism central command skits are knock-offs and really sound like episodes from CNN's Wolf Blitzer's 'Situation Room'. Martin, perhaps should have wrote this horrible script for the fake newscasters instead. Sans the comedy...

Moreover, the Muslim terrorists are equally bad-good-inept. Depending on which verse of the Koran is quoted. Even Pearce gets into the act. He, of deft/daft intellect is so quick to wipe the crime slate clean; for any heinous deed, including murder. In his defense Guy growls: "The Koran says so. So did my Baptist Minister daddy." Guess this line was necessary. To create religious tension. So far, the marauding Crusaders of yore are spared blamed. That title is reserved for America. All of its people. No one is spared. Then a toast. The terrorists raise their champagne glasses. But not to Allah. Unless the flutes are without alcohol. Righttt...

And chief terrorist, bottle-washer and bag-man, Nathir, played by Raad Rawi, who likes to hold mens' hands in tightwad prayer circles comes across, well, like TV's Monk. Looks like Tony too!

Hard for me to find a bright spot. There were some glimpses. Fleeting though. Those came in the form of Mozhan Marno, as 'Leyla'. Including the classic rock song may have pushed Martin's I'm-to-be-taken serious boundaries. Seriously, where were those?

Time for one more, memorable but deplorable designer moment. Another fake name. Maybe straight out of People Magazine: Archie Panjabi, as, Chandra Dawkin. No doubt about this one: another fake and useless character inclusion.

Won't torture you anymore. Do yourself a favor. Don't rent or buy this foible of a film. That was really all about horse chit. And dumb chatter. Except for Harry Dunn. Jeff's only real, believable character.

Nixon (1995)
1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Nixon: Poor Redux; more like (sour) mashed over 'All of the President's Men/JFK', 26 December 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Maybe overall the film wasn't that bad but many times the 'plot' descended into the pits/depths of poor cinema. Oliver Stone, if his intent was to portray former President Nixon in a sensitive even sympathetic light, the final cut didn't attest to that fine sentiment.

Yeah, there were some poignant scenes that sort of cast the brooding politician often photographed with a permanent five-o'clock shadow in a cleaner, shinier light. For example... President Nixon's encounter with some student protesters at the Linclon Memorial comes to mind: especially the exchange with the 19 year old female. Her assertion pierced Nixon deep. I paraphrase:

"So, you're powerless."

Nixon's response though was mere fodder for the next volley.

"No... Change takes time. I am able to control the 'system' some of the time."

The girl pounced on that one.

"Sounds like a wild animal."

Really, that's about the only scene where Stone cut President Nixon some 'slack.

Then there's the drinking bouts. In this film, everyone drank and drank like there was no tomorrow, no presidency. Only occasionally and for mere seconds did any of the cast stop to eat/breathe/despair. By my count, Mr. President had 60 double whiskeys in a little over two hours. Now if you mix in the champagne cocktails and Texas chili dogs, Dick, was well over the legal limit for breathalizing with civility.

The good...

Anthony Hopkins, in his portrayal of 'Treeky Dick' gave a good account of himself but maybe not that of the real man. The supporting cast were just that. No one member stood out or forward as outstanding. And there were plenty of moments where some subordinate should have grabbed the baton and done something, anything useful. For sure, Stone didn't coach them in any strong direction. Too much ad-liberalism...

The bad...

Why mention Howard Hunt and then not follow up on the foreshadowing? Better yet, why cast Ed Harris as the mystery man if in the film he was relegated to holding the bag-man? Makes no sense but helps the plot meander...

The ugly...

If you're going to be kind, Oliver, please cut the cursing. Even Bob, scuza me, J. Edgar Hoover said as much. Yes, presidents who occasionally curse are no less presidential. Seems to me though that Stone wanted to cast a crooked, accusatory finger at Nixon even while the latter gazed affectionately at the larger than life portrait of the famous and much beloved Civil War president, Lincoln.

That's a bit unkind.

OK, Nixon paid his vows (when the camera was on him) to IKe's portrait as well but no homage what-so-ever to John's. And whenever the besieged President Nixon encountered the real white house ghost, Dick followed the script but not before he poured a drink. Then he punted.


Oliver's film shed little if any new light on who Mr. Richard Milhouse Nixon really was. To wit, Stone's rendition is a mere whitewash of what he could/should have done for the disgraced former President: tell the truth. In that regard, this film didn't even probe the surfaces.

I'm more befuddled than ever. My guess: so is the surviving Nixon family. They and Richard Nixon deserved better. Hope history is as kind to the man as Henry Kissinger portended.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Title Says It All, 11 July 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Easily the best film I've seen on the grim subject. And it's British to boot (no pun intended)!

It's 1931 inside the Weimar Republic. The first scene opens with S.A. leader Ernst Rohm giving a rabble rousing speech to his loyal followers. Of course, pugnacious leader Rohm and the storm troopers all wore their infamous brown shirts. The uniforms too are not exactly cut from the Ralph Lauren designer stable. Still that bland color helped to convey the dim even dire mood of the German populace at the time.

Although, I still don't know why Rohm broke from spitting invective in German to finishing his fiery rhetoric in Cockney English. Ah, yes, there's that British connection.

In the hall, we catch a first glimpse of Karl, one of two Hoffman brothers. He believes in Hitler's Reich. And in fact, Karl's so smitten that he's convinced the odd mustachioed political upstart would preserve the trade unions and all those other misconceived values that pure socialists so esteemed.

'Not so', says his older and supposedly wiser college educated brother, Helmut. However he too is soon caught in the spreading Nazi web. Soon, make that right way, Helmut abandons his own dreams. He quits his studies at the university after meeting, face-to-face, toe-to-toe, and point-to-point his new mentor: Reinhard Heydrich, number two in the S.S. chain of command. Of course, Heinrich Himmler heads the soon to be notorious men dressed in black Nazi killing machine. His wire rimmed spectacles though give him (his bad intentions) away.

Now the S.A and the S.S are savagely competing for the hearts and minds of the populace, especially the army. And those two diametrically opposing forces form the basis of the plot. We watch, as first Karl then too soon Helmut both get drawn into the killer vortex of Nazism. We even catch some good dark glimpses of the evil mind behind the evil devices: Reich Chancellor Adolph Hitler.

The soon to be appointed Fuhrer doesn't disappoint in a cinematic sense either. During 'The Night of the Long Knives' black coated Hitler delivers one of the more 'memorable' lines. His diabolical reply to the captive S.A. leader is almost bone chilling. It was to me.

"What have you done? You're traitors! You will all be shot!"

No doubt about it: that in-character outburst set the tone for the rest of the bloody scene and the entire film. Know what I mean? Moreover, the Wehrmacht was on move. Poland was targeted. And on the horizon, the German Panzer Divisions had already sighted in Mother Russia.

Too bad none of the world's civilized took Hitler's threats seriously. Well, only after the wholesale slaughter of innocents, did Britain and the U.S.A. mobilize and finally declare war on Germany .

Alas, too little, and way too late.

Split Second (1999) (TV)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Not Bad for a BBC Film; Not Good Either, 23 May 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Now I've seen a younger Clive Owen in action; well, not exactly.

His actions outside the occasional head-butt are limited in this flick. It's supposed to be about road rage but the film didn't really delve too deeply in the subject. Much rather, it meandered all over the map. Specifically I saw some nice shots of Edinburgh, atop the bridge.

Clive's cast as a corporate lawyer on the verge of 'losing it'. Gathered, at the center of his personal maelstrom was much pressure from his job. You know:dog-eat-dog work environment. OK, they don't eat that stuff over there.Probably their diet consisted of Cornish hens and haggish.

Soon we're taken 'behind the scenes. Clive's home life doesn't help him either. His wife's one bossy nag; his best mate or 'droogie' (also a lawyer) is hooked on drugs; feeds those to Michael (Clive) too. Then his best mate's girlfriend enters the fray. She's almost overt with her intentions. To wit, she's got a bead on Clive, too but for something other than legal services.

In short, we don't hear or see nearly enough from the victims of the crime (traffic fatality): the deceased cyclist's girlfriend or his family. This BBC drama's all about Clive, his career, his needs, his sacrifices. (He even screams the last bit, aloud). Throw everyone else under the bus (two tier), if you may.

They did...

Last word: everyone in the film is unhappy. That is standard British fare for the 1990s. Still, did they have to go to such boring lengths to make their point, time and again. Hey, BBC...

I got it but I'm not buying anymore.

Something else...

Stanley Kubrick's 'Clockwork Orange' dealt with these all too banal British type topics with ease. More important, he did so by limiting the 'sleaze ball' factor. BBC, pay more attention!

Good (2008)
2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Not Good Enough, Not Even Close, 4 May 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Not expecting 'Masterpiece Theater', I rented this flick hoping that it explored an interesting theme: mercy killing or euthanasia. It didn't happen.

The director/producers not only forgot to 'explain' the link between the nutty literary professor (Mortensen) but they completely gave up on exploring the facets of the Nazi fascination. Yes, in one scene we glean some snippets. Even there the 'subject' is fumbled then abandoned.

Instead the actors switch to their normal mold: wooden, stunted speech using a modern English vernacular. Can you imagine the horror on hearing SS Command barking orders with a Cockney accent? That obtuse behavior actually happened all the time in this film!

The whole film was horrid. There was no fluidity to the scenes. It's obvious that this low budget flick was cobbled together in any old disjointed fashion. And it showed.

And why do these nouveau rich breed of directors resort to inserting a porn scene when all else fails? Well, we know the answer but I'm still tired of this schickt. Now, it happens all the time. Well, the director hails from Brazil, so... Nah!

This film is about as far from redemption as Judas was from the Cross. It should not have been released from the cutting room floor. Even better: toss it on the pile of books to be burned. The director even bungled that scene. Actually there was no rhyme or reason for any of the scenes.

Then why'd they release it? Can't wait to hear their answer, not.

5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Day of Wrath = Cinematic Disaster. In English: Rubbish, 23 April 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Despite its all-star cast (Christopher Lambert, Brian Blessed, James Faulkner) this film falls flat. And it happens right from the opening scene. Thereafter, it's caught in a never ending free fall. Last glimpse, this trash production spiraled straight into the abyss.

This should have been an interesting tale. After all, at its core theme is the Spanish Inquisition. How can you muck that up? Well, the Mexican director did. As an excuse he proffered.

"We in Mexico knew about the Inquisition. Europe on the other hand much rather chose to hide it."

Uh, sure you did. And if he had such esoteric knowledge which he wanted to share, it didn't appear on film. Instead he offered us the usual: porn, bloody gore and much stilted acting even dreadful humor.

The script was fine. The problem was that the actors/director failed to 'execute' (scuza the pun). This failure of epic proportions is most noticeable in the dialog. Unfortunately the speeches were well, oh so wooden.

Here's a prime example. Ruy (Lambert) a main character the town's honest but too much of a wine-imbibing servant addresses his mother.

"There you go again. You speak in a mystery language. I'm confused."

Want another one? The new Governor (Brian Blessed) tries to act contrite in the confessional with the Inquisitor's much prying (real) priest.

"Bless me father for I have sinned. Blah, blah, blah...(he does say these banal words). In the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit."

Holy Cow! Even at that early 'flash' point, I wanted to puke.Too late. The Inquisition was in session. It had to get better, but I was wrong. Make that, the director took another tangent. It seems he sailed back to Mexico, where he belongs.

The film though did have a few redeeming qualities. One came in the form of a Hungarian mercenary (played by a real Magyar). Blessed hired him. So, how could he not be good/bad?

The second was in the costume and set designs. Both were masterpieces. And its no small wonder. Again, real Magyars worked behind the scenes. Like me, they would not settle for anything less than all world perfection. At least the Magyars got their act together.

You may already have guessed: the author too is a real Hun, by the way of Sicily though.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
What a Ridiculous film about Argentina's Darkest Period. Imagine that (they didn't)., 11 April 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If you have to resort to chicanery including the likes of clairvoyance, many explicit scenes of sodomizing 'actors', child rape and other equal horrors to get your message across well then you should place 'phony' in your title.

Not only was the film's major theme (unlawful detention of political opponents) overshadowed by the much porn shooting, the whole purpose for producing this trash remains unclear.

The producers/directors/actors together should be ashamed for participating in this folly. By far this is the 'worst of the worst' of any international films I've viewed.

Moreover, I can't believe that anyone would financially back such poppycock. Well, believe it or not, they did but to their disgrace.

This film doesn't even deserve a single star. Really, I wish I could get back the whole two hours I wasted.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Sometimes A Man Finds Redemption on the Road He Chose to Avoid It, 2 April 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Those are not my words. However, they're a good titular fit for this brave film.

Finally one filmmaker chose to take a closer look. And then he had the courage to expose the human aftermath of terrorist deeds. In this case, the setting is Northern Ireland, near the capitol, Belfast. For sure many of us are well familiar with the sectarian violence that gripped the emerald isle, long as I can remember.

And for decades the international media gave us frequent snapshots of the 'progress'. We either saw the bloody carnage scene of a pub blown up by the Provos or we were transported to cemetery. There the grief stricken members of a Catholic family laid to rest one of their own. Usually it was a young male Catholic, 'freedom fighter' if you will.

Most likely he suffered a violent fate. And no doubt he was murdered by the IRA's sworn enemies: the Protestant Orangemen. These Brit zealots usually banded together in select (and outlawed) groups. Two organizations featured prominent: the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) or the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary).

In the film, Alistair Little (Liam Neeson) sides with the Protestants. Why not? He's born there. He's one of them. Then as a teenager he volunteers to join their 'cause'. As an act of loyalty he murders in cold blood, a Catholic contractor. The victim's younger brother, Joe Griffen, witnessed the brutal scene.

James Nesbitt portrays the lad, now grown to man size almost 30 years later. At the behest of an Irish TV program, Nesbitt agrees to meet the murderer. They would chronicle and film the emotion charged 'live' meeting.

Still plagued by guilt of not warning his slain brother, Nesbitt lacks the courage to follow through. Moreover, he has serious doubts about the 'reconciliation' process. Northern Ireland isn't South Africa.

Liam Neeson too suffers from guilt over his earlier life. Even though he was incarcerated for 11 years he's not convinced that fact or act of contrition will placate Nesbitt. He too has doubts about this encounter.

This film explores their eventual impromptu mano-y-mano meeting later. That occurs late in the film after the original planned,orchestrated televised 'interview' failed. With much pain filled emotional depth we the viewers are called to witness the latter tumultuous event.

With as much sensitivity as they could possibly serve, the producers and the director handled all the scenes as true professionals. Still, they did not shirk their duty to broader humanity either. They let it all play out: the good, the bad and the all too ugly.

And I'm glad they chose that 'honest' tact. Anything less would have been, well, fluff.

One final note...

Both Neeson and Nesbitt gave stirring, moving performances in reprising their real life characters.


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