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eagle_owl

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22 reviews in total 
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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A thoroughly absorbing and original work., 19 April 2005
9/10

Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett star in this unique film, as two people who meet and slowly fall in love. However the relationship is somewhat rocky, and slowly begins to deteriorate. After one particularly nasty row, Winslett decides to have Carrey erased from her memory.

Amazingly it turns out that there exists a procedure that allows her to do just that, even though everything else points to the film being set in the present day. The futuristic machines that facilitate Carrey and Winslett's memory loss seem somewhat out of place in this thoughtful drama about the pitfalls of relationships, and the film seems intent on enlightening us about how the memory-wiping technology works. Better they had glossed over this, and allowed it to remain a mystery.

The film also devotes some time to examining the lives of the people who carry out the procedure, who to be honest are pretty incidental to the main plot. These sections aren't particularly enlightening, as they just seem to mirror the problems that Carrey and Winslett are experiencing.

Carrey is a revelation in this film, showing that he is capable of far more than just energetic mugging in dubious comedy vehicles, and gets his career firmly back on track, while Winslett finally puts Titanic behind her, delivering an assured performance.

Overall this is a thoroughly absorbing and original work, which invokes bizarre technology, and is so bonkers at times that you occasionally forget that it's basically a simple film about relationships. It's superbly thought provoking, and only slightly marred by its tendency towards science fiction.

Dogville (2003)
Challenges the boundaries of what we can expect from films., 19 April 2005
8/10

Nicole Kidman stars in this extraordinary film as Grace, a woman on the run from mobsters, who is taken in by the residents of a small and isolated town called Dogville. Gradually the townsfolk turn against her, and blackmail her into accepting increasing levels of abuse, but there's a twist in the tale.

The film's most startling feature is the fact that all the action takes place on a set, representing the town, with no buildings and no scenery. When viewed from above, the town has the appearance of a giant Cluedo board. This has the effect of making the town seem far smaller than it normally would.

This is far more than just a stylistic flourish. As the audience is able to see through walls, they can view everything that goes on in the town, provided of course that the camera is pointing in the right direction. This emphasises the elusiveness of privacy in a small community where everyone knows everyone else's secrets.

While the townspeople act as if the walls are solid, in fact they are only too aware of what goes on behind closed doors, but won't act to disturb the superficial calm. This makes a negative suggestion about human nature; that given the chance human beings will exploit vulnerable people rather than protecting them.

Because there is no scenery to serve as a distraction, the viewer's attention is solely focused on the performances, which are uniformly superb. Kidman demonstrates that despite her star status she is not averse to taking risks, and Paul Bettany is excellent as the man who tries to defend her against the rest of the townsfolk.

Dogville challenges the boundaries of what we can expect from films, and does so with considerable success. The only downside is the end credits, which unnecessarily court controversy, and spoil an otherwise subtle film, which deserved better.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
An important indictment of the Vietnam war., 19 April 2005
8/10

Tom Cruise stars in this true story as Ron Kovic, an idealistic young man whose life is transformed when he is paralysed while fighting in Vietnam.

In many ways this is a very good film, which shows how circumstances can cause someone to change from being an idealistic young man eager to do their duty, into a bitter person who believes there is nothing left to live for. It's a tribute to Cruise that his performance makes this transformation so believable, and it is this film more than any other in which he removes any lingering doubts about his talent as an actor.

The film is somewhat let down by uneven pacing. A lengthy set-up is followed by a brief sequence of actual fighting in Vietnam, in which Kovic is paralysed. There then follows a sequence in which he struggles to recuperate and come to terms with his disability. Most of the rest of the film shows him becoming increasingly disillusioned, and alienating everyone who tries to help him cope with his disability.

Not until the very end does Kovic realise he has something to live for, and re-invents himself as an anti-war protester. Because the film spends so long focusing on Kovic's bitterness, it doesn't leave enough time to explore his redemption. For this reason the film isn't quite rounded enough, but it still provides an important indictment of the Vietnam War, seen through the eyes of one man.

5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Fails to deliver a coherent narrative., 19 April 2005
3/10

Drawing inspiration from the Pinocchio story, this film is about a robotic child who yearns to be human. He is given to a family who are mourning the loss of their son, but soon their natural son re-appears, causing the robotic child to be sidelined.

The film is clearly delineated into separate acts, which fail to come together in a coherent narrative whole. The early scenes in which the boy attempts to enjoy a normal family life could have been the basis for an interesting morality tale, but all this good work is wasted in the 2nd half, as the plot veers violently out of control.

This lack of discipline is typified by Jude Law's character. He plays a 'love droid' who lives in some kind of pseudo-Blade-Runner city, but is almost totally redundant. His early section of the plot is extremely underdeveloped, and his only connection to the rest of the film is that he tags along with the robotic child for a while.

The film's disjointed plot is understandable to some degree given that both Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg were involved in directing. The end of the film is very reminiscent of Kubrick's earlier work on 2001: A Space Odyssey, but the twists that are required to get to this point often strain credibility to breaking point.

Hampered by a lunatic plot, the film still earns points for sheer audacity. However, in striving for both entertainment and profundity it only succeeds in falling flat on its face. Spectacular both in its ambitions and the extent to which it fails to live up to them, A.I. is a major disappointment.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Brilliantly tackles the problems of modern life., 19 April 2005
9/10

Falling Down stars Michael Douglas as William Foster, a man at the end of his tether. He's a defence worker who, whilst sitting in a traffic jam, suddenly abandons his car. He is desperate to regain contact with his ex-wife, and decides that he must be re-united with her, but she is terrified of his mood swings, and wants to keep him away at all costs.

As Foster makes a beeline for his wife, he meets a diverse array of people. He doesn't have enough money to pay a shop owner, and thinks his prices are too high, and so trashes his store. He strays into the territory of some urban youths and narrowly survives a drive-by shooting.

These are essentially a series of self-contained sketches, each of which illustrates a different problem of modern life. Even though Foster behaves in a way that seems highly irrational you still sympathise with him, and it's questionable whether he is really any crazier than the society in which he lives.

Foster's nemesis is Prendergast, a close-to-retirement cop played by Robert Duvall. As Foster causes mayhem wherever he goes, Prendergast starts to see a pattern, but he is hampered by many of his colleagues, who think he is just imagining things, and trying to delay his retirement as long as possible.

The sections featuring Duvall are quite conventional. The cop nearing retirement is a well worn cliché, but here it's effective, as these scenes lend the film some variety, and complement Douglas's scenes rather than detracting from them. The two main protagonists are both sympathetic in their different ways and each is single minded in the pursuit of their objectives, but it's impossible for both to succeed.

There is a surprising amount of comedy in the film, black though it is, generated by Foster's extreme reactions to seemingly innocuous events. Against all the odds the comedy succeeds, mainly thanks to Douglas, who turns in one of his best ever performances, as a man pushed too far by events beyond his control.

Foster could be dismissed as a lone nut-case, but there can't be many who haven't contemplated acting as he does at one time or another. He sees himself as just an ordinary man trying to live a normal life, and is genuinely amazed when told he is considered a bad guy.

Falling Down is a terrific film, which illustrates some of society's problems through the travails of its central character. It's amazingly effective at getting its point across, while retaining some ambiguity on the question of whether Foster is a hero or a villain. That's left for you to decide.

4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Shows far more originality than 99% of films., 28 February 2005
8/10

Bruce Willis plays James Cole, a man from a future where the world has been devastated by a deadly virus, who is chosen to go back in time and try to find out how this came about.

Directed by Terry Gilliam, Twelve Monkeys bears many similarities with his earlier film Brazil, but somehow feels more complete. Brazil was a weird, and at times brilliant futuristic parable, with crazy characters offset against grim cityscapes. However it failed to mesh into a coherent whole, and had a plot that amounted to little more than a dash from one mad sketch to another.

Twelve Monkeys largely succeeds in improving on the things that didn't work in Brazil. Gilliam has reined in some of his more bizarre ideas, and paid more attention to keeping the plot moving, making this a far more balanced work. Even so, Gilliam remains true to his own uniquely quirky style, making Twelve Monkeys strikingly different from the average science fiction film.

Bruce Willis plays a character far removed from his usual action movie stereotype. As a man set adrift in a strange world, he demonstrates that he can do more than just blow up buildings. Brad Pitt also gives a terrific performance as a mental patient, although it does become a tad irritating after a while.

Being a time travel film, there are many plot holes in Twelve Monkeys, but this is unavoidable in any film on this theme, since whatever approach is taken to the possibilities of time travel you are bound to create inconsistencies. For example, this film's notion is that the time in which Cole lives is the present, and everything up until this point has already happened, so it is impossible to change the past. However, surely every action that Cole takes in the past must impact on events in some small way, through the very fact of his presence.

Twelve Monkeys is an ambitious and impressive film. Of course many of its ideas are derivative, but it shows far more originality than 99% of films. It succeeds in being simultaneously entertaining and thought provoking, and deserves to be regarded as one of the best science fiction films of the 90's.

Rain Man (1988)
48 out of 62 people found the following review useful:
Shows the way forward for issue driven movies., 22 February 2005
8/10

Tom Cruise stars as a used car salesman, who is angry when his father's inheritance is left to his older autistic brother (Dustin Hoffman), whose existence had not been revealed to him.

The film is built around its two assured central performances. Hoffman gives an excellent portrayal of a man with autism, totally unable to comprehend the real world around him. Cruise is no less impressive. While he is essentially playing to type, his character's attitude changes so gradually throughout the film that you barely notice, and without Cruise's subtle performance this transformation would be much less credible.

This is a highly commendable film, which, despite tackling a tricky subject, refuses to succumb to sentimentality. In giving autism such publicity, the film has hopefully helped to lessen the stigma brought on by ignorance of this condition.

Rain Man's great success is that it shows the way forward for issue driven movies in Hollywood. Its success at the box office demonstrates that taking a risk can pay off in spades, provided that the film is good enough.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
A poor excuse for a blockbuster., 22 February 2005
2/10

The original Mission Impossible film, starring Tom Cruise as agent Ethan Hunt was a pretty good attempt to update the 60's TV series for a new generation. Sadly the sequel has failed to live up to the modest standards set by its predecessor. Tom Cruise reprises his role, but probably wishes he hadn't.

This is a poor excuse for a blockbuster, with dull characters, and a plot that only exists as an excuse for some mind-numbing action. Its style is heavily indebted to the Matrix, a sure sign that nobody had any faith in this franchise's ability to compete on its own terms. This end result is a film that never really establishes an identity of its own. There are one or two effective moments, but they can't outweigh the negative aspects.

As if that wasn't bad enough, this is a John Woo film, and so we can't get by without a few of his trademark doves flapping about the place. I've got nothing against the doves per se, but they're ludicrously out of place here.

The performances in this film leave a lot to be desired. Tom Cruise goes through the motions, Thandie Newton's character is unmemorable, and Anthony Hopkins seems totally disinterested, as well he might. Worst of all though is Dougray Scott's horrendously over-the-top villain.

What you're left with is a very lacklustre and severely disappointing film, where only the action scenes linger in the mind, and even these are barely original. It only serves to make the original Mission Impossible look even better by comparison.

4 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
A worthy conclusion to a terrific trilogy., 22 February 2005
9/10

The final part of the Rings trilogy is very similar to the previous instalments, as you'd expect since they were all filmed at the same time, but provides a suitably epic conclusion.

There's no doubt that Peter Jackson has done a terrific job of creating a film that stays true to the novel, without following it religiously. This is exactly how he handled the previous instalments, and it's arguably an even greater achievement this time, given that the final novel is perhaps the most tedious of the three. The last 20 minutes could have been edited down however, as they prove to be something of an anticlimax.

It was disappointing that Christopher Lee's Saruman was omitted entirely from this final chapter, as in the novel Saruman appears one last time as the hobbits make their way home, and suggests a darker ending than the one we actually get. Dramatically however I can understand why Jackson made this decision.

The Oscar success this film received seems a tad on the generous side, unless you see it as a tribute to the trilogy as a whole, and not just The Return of the King. A worthy conclusion to a terrific trilogy, it can't match the impact generated when The Fellowship of the Ring first burst into cinemas in 2001, but that's hardly surprising.

I, Robot (2004)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Skims over the surface of some weighty issues., 22 February 2005
6/10

Will Smith stars in this Isaac Asimov adaptation, as a future cop who is deeply suspicious of robots. His fears seem well-founded when one of the new generation of robots apparently goes crazy following the death of its inventor, but the more he investigates the more complex it becomes.

This is a competent film, which goes some way to getting across the central message, that an excessively ordered, peaceful and regimented society is a bad thing, and that it is better to retain what we have, a society of fallible human beings. Humans may make mistakes, and sometimes they make colossal ones, but if you eliminate this aspect of human nature then society will stagnate.

While much of the film is about ideas, an equal amount is given above to traditional action fare, and there are a number of energetic sequences, in which the special effects are put to good use. The highlight sees Smith driving through a tunnel with robots clambering all over the bonnet of his futuristic car.

When all's said and done, the film doesn't quite deliver. Smith seems more subdued than usual, and his dialogue includes some fairly forced quips. A bit more of his Fresh Prince persona would have been welcome here, although perhaps this was ruled out to avoid turning the film into a comedy, and depriving it of a suitable level of dramatic tension. For once Smith is not bigger than the film.

Despite an intriguing plot, I Robot skims over the surface of some pretty weighty issues, without really tackling them head on. It's agreeable enough, but remains a mild disappointment.


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