Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
A really, really great trilogy...crammed into one movie.
Australia proves that you can have too much of a good thing. I liked every scene in Australia, and yet the resulting whole is less than the sum of it's many, many parts. Imagine if George Lucas hadn't trimmed his original story idea before attempting to make the first Star Wars film, and you've got Australia.
Australia should have been what it is on it's most elemental level: a trilogy. There's a western, then a love story, followed by a war movie. If they'd had enough guts to bet on the success of an initial, trimmed down, fleshed-out film, this could have been one hell of a movie franchise, a la Back to the Future, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings. As it is, it's a beautiful, well-acted, imaginative, overly-long epic, too long on run time and too short on critical story details and subtext.
Don't get me wrong, I like Australia. But a smaller portion would have been more satisfying, and would have had me clamoring for more.
Space Riders (1988)
Amateurish waste of a racing hero's talents.
As a film buff who watches obscure B-movies, hoping to discover a forgotten masterpiece, and a big motorcycle fan, I was excited to find a bargain VHS copy of Space Riders, featuring Barry Sheene, motorcycle racing World Champion in '76 and '77.
The movie opens with ultra-dramatic, super-slow-motion shots of racing motorcycles, leaned over hard in a turn, two and three abreast. Obviously, this is real racing footage, and it's downright breathtaking. But then we switch to staged footage of Barry's motorcycle, obviously strapped bolt upright to the bed of a camera truck. My hope of uncovering a hidden film treasure quickly fades. What follows, unsurprisingly, is the most unconvincingly faked motorcycle crash stunt ever filmed ("unsurprisingly" because, for those not familiar with motorcycle racing history, the former champ actually did suffer a horrific and widely-publicized crash a year or so before the filming of Space Riders.) From there, the film quickly becomes confusingly jumbled. It jumps between grainy stock footage of real Grand Prix races, "movie of the week"-caliber scenes featuring Barry, and subtitled scenes of unknown Japanese businessmen, always talking about having the best and fastest motorcycle in the world. In one such scene we discover that they are assured racing victories by seemingly having just invented the clutch lever. Later, after teammate Yamashta crashes while hallucinating that a Samurai is chasing him on another bike, his wife expresses her grief by sobbing uncontrollably...while repeatedly doing wheelies up and down pit row.
The real racing footage is, well, realistic, but also really confusing, because the audience never knows which bike is supposed to be whose. Also, the producers must not have purchased the rights to ENOUGH footage; the same shots get used over and over.
The story is tied together through minutes-long voice-overs of an unseen "track announcer" who captures the realism of an excruciatingly boring announcer by mumbling and stumbling. But listen close; he's telling you the entire plot. Much easier than actually acting it out, don't you think? Thankfully, the film eventually uses the clearly understandable Spinning Newspapers Device to let us know the race results. Yes, really; it's THAT cliché.
The biggest disappointment of this movie is the fact that there is so little of Barry in it. Of the 93 minutes this movie lasts, Barry is on-screen for only 18 minutes; all the rest is racing footage and other actors. On camera, Sheene displays the sincere yet breezy confidence that endeared him to the public. In a better movie, he could have been a very enjoyable dramatic actor. The only scene in which Sheene seemed awkward and ill-at-ease was the final "championship" podium interview. Barry seemed uncomfortable pretending he'd won a contest that he really hadn't. Or perhaps I just felt uncomfortable for him. A documentary of Barry Sheene's struggle to race competitively in 1983 would be a much more interesting film, and a much more fitting legacy.
Lost in Translation (2003)
Just because it's effective doesn't mean it's a good experience.
What this movie intends to do -- to create a troubling dissonance in the viewer through subtle and realistic scenes of claustrophobic alienation -- it does remarkably well. The acting, the script, the camera-work is all spot-on.
Unfortunately, its deft touch left me feeling deeply depressed. This film's manifesto seems to be that none of us can ever truly connect to anybody else. No attempt at love (friendship, devotion, or romance) can ever successfully overcome the barriers between people because of our different lives and circumstances, regardless of whether we share the same culture or not.
It's like an entire film of watching people cling to a life raft, only to discover that no rescue is possible regardless of what they do, or where they go.
How completely depressing a lesson.
Little Murders (1971)
Watch it all the way through before judging.
Some movies are a journey you must commit to, no matter what. And Little Murders is this sort of film. Halfway through it, I was thinking, why am I watching this junk? But the quirky, engrossing performances by the uniformly skillful cast kept me in the story, as bizarre as it was. I wasn't sure I liked where the film was taking me, but I kept agreeing to keep watching, sometimes scene by scene. But as Elizabeth Wilson utters (or actually thinks) the film's final line, I finally "got it." It was a trip worth taking, and the destination made it worthwhile, even though it covered some pretty rough territory along the way.
Implausible and corny, but stylish.
What this movie delivers - namely flashy uniforms, swaggering braggadocio, BCKWAs (black college kids with attitude), and rhythmic drumming - it delivers in spades. What it lacks is a believable storyline. The movie starts out well enough, and kept my interest during the initial set-up. But it became clear by the middle of the film that every character was going to remain strictly one-dimensional, and every interpersonal relationship was, too. Every major pair of characters has a single conflict or issue to work out, and they don't interact except on that level. Characters make telegraphed choices and react in a vacuum; there is little character development or nuance to the story. The circumstances that develop and consequences that result are quite implausible. This movie takes the age-old storyline of "boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again," and adds "boy gets drum, boy loses drum, boy gets drum again" to the mix. It doesn't freshen the formula much.
It's not just about the glasses.
Others' main criticism of this film--namely that Macy suddenly looks Jewish upon donning his glasses--is misplaced. The glasses are just the little bit of change needed to CONVINCE others he's a Jew. The scene in which he says to his boss, (paraphrasing) "but you KNOW what my background is," along with another discussion with his mother, suggests that he's had to fight this same assumption in the past. The glasses now make him look just Jewish enough to "confirm" his neighbors' and co-workers' existing suspicions. Then there is his new wife's large nose and taste for loud clothes, which OF COURSE means she's Jewish. The whole point of the film is how those little stereotypical nothings become the entire basis for judging others.
If he has a lisp, he must be gay. If he has long hair, he smokes dope. If he's Hispanic, he's got a knife...and if he has round black glasses and he's slight of build, he must be Jewish. Those statements all sound equally (im)plausible to me. If the conclusion people were jumping to in Focus was reasonable, the whole point of the story would be lost.
Of Unknown Origin (1983)
Hey Bart, it's just a RAT!
(Slight, generalized spoilers)
This film can't decide if it's going for psychodrama or boogie-man horror.
The script and Weller's performance are a cut above the usual B-movie fare, and do a surprisingly nice job of conveying Bart's increasing compulsion. Watching Weller's character tilt more and more toward obsession was memorable and unexpected. This film actually reminds me a bit of the Twilight Zone episode, "Nightmare At 20,000 Feet," in which an airplane passenger's behavior goes from normal to extreme. At the end of the film, I was subtly and cleverly left pondering whether Bart had gone permanently over the top or, with his ordeal over, was now free to resume his previously normal behavior.
That side of the man/rat equation is the good part. On the other side, The film tries too hard to make us scared of the rat. I really couldn't go along with Bart on his wild ride because of that one one fatal flaw: it's a rat. It's not a dragon; it's not a worldwide plague; it's not even some sort of space gremlin ripping apart an airplane wing: it's a rat. Sure, it's a big rat. It's a mean rat. It's a very uncharacteristically smart and resourceful rat. But it's still just a rodent. I was a bit skeptical whether his obsessive fears were justified. Unlike with the Twilight Zone script, I'm not confident that this was intentional.
Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
Too Uncomfortably Surreal
Most of the time I enjoy surrealism as a source of humor in film, but this one made me very uncomfortable. I finally figured out why: Napoleon, Pedro and Deb live in a subtly eerie, perpetually awkward world which is all they know, but they clearly don't really belong in it. They're geeky and socially inept, but they, themselves, are not that different than any normal young teenager. Many of their actions are just honest attempts to best deal with the weirdness around them (with limited success). There were a few potentially funny scenes, but I couldn't enjoy them. I was too disturbed by the knowledge that these reasonably realistic teens were trapped forever in a surreal world of bizarre adults, mean classmates and unpleasant situations, and that the sole purpose in putting them there was so the we, the audience, could laugh at their clumsy inability to deal with it all. Surrealism can be funny, but the characters in this film aren't in on the joke.
Several close friends were sure I would LOVE this movie. They were amazed when I reported back to them that my wife and I greatly disliked this movie--then we discovered that they were popular, confident cheerleader types in school, and I was an awkward, geeky outsider. I remember the pain of getting laughed at for just trying to fit in clearly enough that I can't laugh at somebody else in the same situation, even if they're fictional.
This has become my "litmus test" movie. Before anybody gives me a film recommendation, I ask them, "Did you like Napolean Dynamite?" If they say yes, I discount their opinion.
Hollywood Shuffle (1987)
When this film first came out, I saw it and loved it. For years, I've quoted (and, as it turns out, misquoted) a few of its lines--some of the funniest I've ever heard. I recently watched the DVD version with my wife, who'd never seen it. She wasn't impressed, and I can't say that I blame her. I was surprised how tedious and un-funny some stretches of the film are, and how disconnected the various skits were. The funny parts are still riotously funny (Nearly every second of "Sneakin' In The Movies with Tyrone and Speed" is laugh-out-loud funny), but other parts are boring and flat. The film-noir parody is especially poor, with unfocused, stale gags delivered slowly and without zest. A final note: those easily offended by four-letter words should skip this film. In keeping with its urban "street" vibe, rough language is pervasive--especially in the funniest scenes.
Autumn in New York (2000)
Who cares, just DIE already.
Let me sum up what I learned from this movie: If you're an aging, philandering jerk, you can restore your relationship with the daughter you abandoned by seducing a terminally-ill girl half your age, cheating on her, then grieving over her unavoidable death. If that sounds like "real life" to you, you're gonna LOVE this movie.
Ryder plays an early-20-something girl who falls for a 48-year-old restaurant owner. The lead characters "fall in love," but their relationship is strictly 2-dimensional. We're never given any clue about what is actually attracting these two people to each other. Her terminal illness is also totally unbelievable; Ryder's character has quite normal capabilities for the most part, until she suddenly gasps or unexpectedly falls over unconscious at crucial moments. The plot is totally disjointed, with very little understandable cause and effect established between various actions and reactions.
Gere is a decent actor, at least when he plays his usual stock character (the rich, self-centered playboy). He has some stupid lines to deliver, but he manages to be the only believable thing in the movie. But that only allowed me to hate his character with a passion. He's not just a womanizer, he's a big enough jerk to --now, try to get all this-- have quickie sex with an old girlfriend at his best friend's house, during a children's Halloween party, which he is attending with his current, dying girlfriend, whom he says he loves more deeply than anyone else he has ever known. After lying about the tryst, Gere finally tells Ryder that he HAD to have sex with another woman because he was "scared." Oh please! The screenwriter must be equally a jerk, because he obviously thinks we will actually LIKE this creep. After that kind of behavior, not only do I fail to like him, I can't care at all what happens to him.
Of course, Ryder's poor little sick girl quickly melts and forgives him, and believes him when he whispers to her he loves her. Frankly, at that point in the film I was thinking, "She deserves whatever she gets. Neither one of these people have a clue what love is." For some reason, by the end of the film, Ryder's sickness and death makes things okay between the restaurateur and his estranged daughter. Why? How? Who knows! Who CARES; I was just grateful the film was over!