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Sharpe's Waterloo (1997)
Sharpe's Waterloo...A few sighs
This last major Sharpe episode in the original block of series ties things up nicely and given the limited TV budget does a neat job of portraying Waterloo. Best of all, for those of us who've grown to hate Jane Sharpe, it provides a satisfying end with Sharpe not responsible for her downfall but she having a disaster none the less. However...
The book tries not to fall into the trap of having Sharpe basically win the battle but as usual the TV series has him practically doing so despite the fact, plain and simple, that in a fit of anger at the incompetent command of the Dutch prince William, he leaves the field and abandons his men at a crucial stronghold and a crucial point. I can't imagine Sharpe going so far nor Wellington sparing him after the battle.
The French for once are allowed to fight fairly well not being gunned down by the dozen by Sharpe's chosen but would it have been so hard to admit that the battle was nearly lost at the farmhouse Sharpe and his men had been holding? Perhaps this relates to Sharpe's abandoning the place...It would look bad if the hero were shown to have nearly caused the loss of Waterloo in a hissy fit. While kudos to the series producers and director for being willing to show Sharpe shooting a superior officer he believes is killing his men, it would have been equally courageous for Sharpe to realize his lack of restraint nearly cost the battle. Sad to see two of Sharpe's last faithful chosen men killed after surviving so much. Nice to finally in this episode see Harper remembering that he has a wife after he'd seemed to have forgotten her in the last two and although he joins in the battle he pulls out soon as he's convinced the victory is won and he's had his peek at Boney.
Iron Man (2008)
A fine retelling of the Iron Man story, with Stark, the best of the Marvel heroes because he is so believable...A genius who turns his near-dead body into a super-hero's through tecnnology not magic or alien origin, etc. Robert Downey, Jr. is right on form as Tony Stark, making him a bit less noble at start. Jeff Bridges plays a fine snarky nemesis and the story is solid as Stark seeks redemption for his past.
The one drawback is Paltrow as the love interest...The chemistry just isn't quite there. However, the story is set early enough in the relationship and paced fast enough to carry you over the clumsiness of the feeling-out love scenes. Either Gwen's gotta go or they've gotta learn to strike some sparks. But, it's nice to see our greatest younger actor hit his stride again. May we continue to see him on a role.
Just a couple of points to add
The "complete" Metropolis now out with the original film score is a revelation...Don't miss it.
(Possible spoilers) The Thin Man in all his villainous glory and with his great moment of nobility restored, too often dropped from versions. Yoshiwara finally revealed to us in Georgi's wild night of frenzied partying. Josaphat given new life as scrappy fighter and courageous friend. Freder getting to really show his hero chops in the Workers' City flood. Rotwang's real plan and motivation revealed properly and fully. And Maria/roboHel, resplendent and indescribable. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Argentine film distributor who loved this film enough to buy the uncut copy just after premiere and keep it (more or less) safe and to the dedicated film preservers there who found and saved it for us.
If you haven't seen the 2010 restoration, you must.
A few points
Just a few points. 1)Caesar damaged the Library but it was obviously functioning well until Hypatia's death in 415. Scientists like Hero continued to do research, correspondence confirms it was in use throughout the Imperial period. After her death, we hear little of it, though to their credit several Christians tried to save the precious knowledge there. 2)Hypatia's friend the Bishop of Cyrene did not betray her as the movie suggests. It was due to his praise of her brilliance in his letters to others that we have documentation that she was a great scientist. 3) Cyril did use the mob in his struggles with the Roman governor and his own Christian opponents. It's not anti-Christian to be honest about that. The brutal, often murderous in-fighting between Christian sects, often centered around a single figure such as Cyril or Arios was an important crippling factor in the defense of the Empire during the calamities of the fifth century and later in the seventh helped to weaken the surviving Eastern Empire against attack by the new Islamic power. Gibbon's claim that Christianity "softened" the Empire is belied by the violence but there's no doubt Christianity did not provide the fully unifying force Constantine had hoped for.
A very fine, well acted movie. At points it does become a bit unfocused and I agree a tighter script would have helped.
Si j'étais toi (2007)
An old movie theme, soul transfer, gets new life in this film by Vincent Perez. Though some have called it a "thriller" even a "horror thriller", it's anything but. Just to add to the previous comments, I was very intrigued by the idea of taking what's usually played for laughs-a mother's soul trapped in her daughter's body and looking at the potential consequences in a dramatic situation. Thoughtfully and well done, with the parents torn between their desire to be and stay together and their love for their lost daughter. Ms. Thirlby is terrific in switching between the various characters of mother/daughter/joint personality. She makes the transitions quite believable, even disturbing. And while the movie does avoid crossing a certain sexual line, the tension in the temptation for the mother to resume her life at her daughter's expense is made clear. David Duchovny does a fine job as the father, a decent man trying to do the right thing in a bewildering and impossible situation. His own shifts from caring dad/loving husband to overprotective parent/bitterly jealous husband and back are well done and understatedly believable. The wonderful Lili Taylor gets less screen time but her Hannah character is a dominant presence throughout the film. A moving love story on two levels-a couple for each other; a father and mother for their daughter.
The Fountain (2006)
Tremendous film reaching for the sublime...
While this magnificent film should be seen in a theater it's worth it to see the DVD background and the intense devotion to the story by the various designers and crew caught up in the vision. Indeed, it's fun to see actors Jackman and Weisz pulling back a bit at times to poke a little fun at their roles. That said, there's little to add to the above reviews as to the film's imagery and beauty. I would suggest that the "Future-2500" segments may come close to overreaching at times for some but for me were enthralling. The acting was outstanding and career-making for the leads and the support alike...The Grand Inquisator and the Francisan being two especially fine performances.
Spoiler...My own view of the film follows a few others in feeling the 1500 segment is 2006 wife Izzy's book, her attempt to help her husband as well as herself deal with the inevitability of her death, while the 2500 segment is husband Tom's final chapter, written at her request in which he finally comes to terms with her death. The true ending for me is Tom planting the seed of the amazing Guatamalan tree which furnished a cure for both aging and cancer-one which came too late to save his wife- and then at last saying good-bye to her. But I'm probably being too pragmatic.
A hard film for me to watch, sharing some of its issues, but one you should not miss.
Shrek 2 (2004)
Shrek II excellent
An excellent sequel that carries on the tradition of the first bringing several new and well-thought-out characters, particularly the delightful and delightfully wicked Fairy Godmother and the charming Zorro takeoff Puss-in-Boots. A happily married Shrek and Fiona are invited to her home kingdom of Far, Far Away by her parents who've no idea their plan for ending the princess' ogre-by-night curse has taken an unexpected turn. Shrek with forebodings of disaster reluctantly is persuaded to go, Donkey, undergoing some problems in his relationship with Dragon, hitches a ride, and the story moves us to the Beverly Hills-like kingdom of Far, Far Away where Fiona's parents King Harold and Queen Lillian are not exactly delighted to meet their new ogre-in-law.
The original plot is deepened by offering details of how and why Fiona was locked away in her tower and the secret of her curse ends up being revealed in hilarious fashion at the end. Rupert Everett narrates a charming repeat of the fairy tale that opened the first Shrek and gives a great turn as the vain and rather nasty Prince Charming. Antonio Bandaras has great fun spoofing his Zorro character as the heroic if somewhat limited by his feline condition, Puss-in-Boots. But the show is stolen by the arrival of the Godmother, Fairy that is, brilliantly and hilariously played by Jennifer Saunders, who it turns out had a rather dark stake in ending Fiona's curse.
Marie Antoinette (2006)
Another vote for could've been great but not quite.
Sofia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette" is an interesting, entertaining film that comes close to greatness, particularly in its creation of the bubble-like world of privilege and infighting, tempered by the earthiness of Louis XV, the kindness of Louis XVI, and the kindness and vivacity of Marie herself. It's very much on key there and I don't mind that Ms. Coppola backed away from trying to give us historical vignettes on the collapse outside the little world of Versailles. However for the film to really work, it needed either some grounding in the outer world of suffering France or at least a proper, utterly shocking blowout scene when reality comes crashing in. Instead we get a rather mild and tepid deflation. Just the historic, tragic scene of the royals trapped in their crashing little fairyland, their loyal handful of Swiss guards butchered, and Louis bravely facing the mob, Marie with him, earning the respect of a young Napoleon in attendance should have provided the material necessary. Louis and Marie certainly don't deserve more compassion and sympathy than their abused, starving subjects but setting them solely in the Versailles fairyland gives them the impression of having no role or responsibility...They're like pretty dressed dolls on display, with nothing to do, waiting to be broken, till the world suddenly makes them human again. And maybe to some limited extent that was part of the truth...But if so, then we need to see the explosion that made them come to life...And death.
The Prestige (2006)
Don't forget Rebecca Hall
Not much to add to the comments about a film that will be remembered as an outstanding milestone in the careers of Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, and Christopher Nolan. Except to note that Rebecca Hall turns in a heartbreaking performance as the loving, tragic Sarah, victim of her husband's obsession, despite his partial (not exactly the right word but what is) love for her. Her perceptive take on the secret defining her husband's twisted nature is the essential clue in the movie, though so subtly put that it's almost impossible to catch until that secret is revealed.
What a year for great movies! "Illusionist", "Scarlet Veil", "Prestige", "Last King of Scotland", "Babel", "Scandal", etc, etc...And even the flawed films like "Good German" had riveting performances. Film is back this year in a fantastic way and "Prestige" is one of the, if not the, best.
The Illusionist (2006)
I agree, a wonderful, truly awe-inspiring film, and likely to remain one of Edward Norton's most memorable performances in what is now sure to be the career of a great actor. In addition, Philip Glass' score was excellent, a perfect supplement to the beautifully muted cinematography. Watch for the carriage ride with the Crown Prince in disguise where his Chief Inspector played by Paul Giametti reminds one of Orson Welles. I wasn't impressed with Mr. Giametti in "Sideways" but this film establishes his credentials. Rufus Sewall and Jessica Biel should also not go unmentioned-both are outstanding. Another thing that impresses about the film is the attention given to the lesser characters...The Manager, the mysterious Magician, the Doctor, the police aides. A piece of craft and a thing of beauty...You won't want Eisenheim's performance to end.