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138 reviews in total 
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The Sting (1973)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
One Cool Caper, 5 February 2013

I was very pleased with myself, having avoided absolutely everything about this Best Picture-winning classic. I have never seen a Paul Newman film before, and was disappointed by Redford as Gatsby. I didn't even know what this film was about. Absolutely nothing. And it made the film that much better.

The Sting is about con men performing 'the long con' on a shady banker, as revenge for a former partner. With throwback title cards we are walked through the process, which comes down to an elaborate gambling hoax. It was a bit frustrating to not know what was going on though. Not even the surface-level plan. And for a modern audience, 'straight poker' is a bit alien. Nonetheless, comprehending the plot is the most thinking you'll have to do during The Sting.

Don't expect a life-changing moral or social criticism: entertainment is the goal of this slick, 30's set robbery. Take it at face value, enjoy the genius writing and oh-so-cool leads, fall for every hook and have a few laughs: The Sting is lots of fun, 40 years on. 8.5/10

"And outside, the silent wilderness surrounding this cleared speck of the earth struck me as something great and invincible", 20 January 2013

I saw Apocalypse Now almost two years ago, before I really got into film. I had previously seen Saving Private Ryan, and loved and respected it. I was in disbelief it wasn't the #1 rated war film on this website, so I sought out Apocalypse Now.

I hated it. I hated Apocalypse Now so much. It wasn't boring, and cheesy, or even pretentious- it was just wrong. But over the next few months, something changed, and it really grew on me. And it grew. And eventually I realized: I loved Apocalypse Now. I bought it on Blu Ray, the tremendous 'Full Disclosure', and just saw it again because one of my classes is studying Heart of Darkness.

I was right.

Apocalypse Now is more than just the greatest war film ever, it is one of the greatest films ever, period. A tower of cinema, an achievement in both the technical and artistic fields.

In the Vietnam War, parallelling Conrad's original ideas in Head of Darkness, Cpt. Willard returns to Vietnam and is given an assignment to kill Colonel Kurtz, American war hero. But after the first act, the war is really stripped from the film. Context is established. It's bigger than that.

From start to finish every aspect of Apocalypse Now aims for absolute perfection. The opening montage mixes helicopters, Willard's hotel nightmare, and The Doors. Not The Beatles, not the Stones, but the Doors' raw, controversial track, The End. We learn who Willard is, and over a really unnerving tape, about who Kurtz is. Or may be. There are beautiful shots of vast forests and mountains, more intimate walks through the jungle and of the river, brilliant lighting of characters, horrifyingly beautiful sets with hanging bodies, ancient ruins and bizarre alters. The sound quality is without a doubt the greatest in film. Apocalypse Now is more than a film with a plot and an idea, it's an experience. No credits, no titles. Nothing to distract.

And in the end, what does it come to? Knowledge, perspective, accidental strength from the weakness of others. What, where is freedom? It isn't spelt out exactly what the intent is, but there are several, and having knowledge of the source material is a huge help.

A second chance is one of the biggest rewards I'v ever given myself. To experience Apocalypse Now again, in a new light, is an experience I needed. An amazing piece of art. 9.7/10

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A flurry of love and rage, 20 January 2013

'Real' is a word I would use to describe Silver Linings Playbook. Romance films tend to follow a very set formula, of either hurt or very well-off people meeting someone new, it changes their lives, they have a falling out, but make up, kiss and then the movie ends. When it boils down to it, Silver Linings doesn't change this formula. But it plays very well within the rules with its quirky and believable set of characters.

Pat (the wonderful Bradley Cooper) just got out of a mental hospital, and he seems fine. That is until he starts reading, or goes running- he is bipolar, but you couldn't tell from looking at him on the street. I think that's the idea- not all mental illnesses scream in your face. Pat wants to rekindle his marriage, but it becomes painfully clear early that it's a big delusion. Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence, one of the few young actresses of critical and artistic merit) who is a firecracker of a character. She's flawed like Pat, but a bit more in- your-face about it. Most of the film follows their oddball relationship, with much influence from Pat's parents (Robert deNiro, the film god, and Jacki Weaver). From his parents, we can see a bit more into Pat's life than the 2 hours afford us. Chris Tucker shows up several times to humorous effect, and other charmers include family friend Ronnie and Dr. Patel.

Beyond the excellent characters, acting and writing, Silver Linings is conventional- expected shots of moving sidewalks which pan out to see Pat running, or the big 360 degree kiss, are hallmark of romcoms. The plot is straightforward, the pacing fine.

Silver Linings is very similar to Russell's past film, The Fighter; a conventional story with exceptional people. But by looking through the eyes of the relatively unstable, Silver Linings gets ahead of its competition to make an enjoyable 2 hours. 8.4/10

...Look Closer, 7 January 2013

Rear Window is perceived to be a Hitchcock staple, and with good reason. You've got your star protagonist; a young, blonde leading lady, and a real- world scenario that provides plenty of his trademark suspense.

In one of those premises that is just meant for film, Jimmy Stewart is an injured photographer who gets interested in his apartment block. And for the first half hour, that's all that happens. We meet his not-quite- mutual girlfriend Lisa, charmingly played by Grace Kelly. Then we look at the neighbours and see a bit of who they are. One in particular catches Jeffries' eye, a salesman who likes to take late night walks...

And thus the caper begins. How can you build a case from an apartment, bound to a wheelchair? That's where all of the action takes place, leading to a certain enclosure in the film, but also a sense of home.

The question becomes, did he even do it? Jeffries works to prove it, but we also need convincing too. And Detective Doyle doesn't believe it, and our own loyalty wavers too. Once the film picks up, and it slowly picks up until the tense finale, we aren't quite sure which way the story will go.

First, eat while watching the film. The first act is slow, and maybe even a bit too long. Second, it's certainly dated, more so than say Psycho or Rope (I give Rope the slight edge to this film). Certain elements, including one very important camera flash, breaks the otherwise sublime tension that had been building to a crescendo the entire film. The falling action is also quite weak, an issue that soured the ending of North by Northwest as well. If you've enjoyed Hitchcock's other work and look past these issues then Rear Window will knock you out, but in the grand comparison these are issues that other films don't have.

Is Rear Window a great film? Yes. Is it one of the absolute best films ever made? Not quite. It is one of Hitch's finest, but that doesn't make it faultless- his films all have the same issues with slow beginnings and fast endings. Nevertheless it is a wonderful 50's thriller that makes for a fun time. 8.5/10

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
An Epic of Knockoff- Biblical Proportions, 6 January 2013

It's worth noting right off the bat that I've never seen anything Monty Python before except for the Ministry of Silly Walks. No, not even Holy Grail. Yet. But I expected quite a bit from Life of Brian, seeing as the Pythons are some of the most revered comedians of all time.

I was sadly disappointed. Life of Brian just never hit an exceptionally high, focused note. To start, the whole thing looks like a B- movie. It's as visually cheesy as a late 50's movie, and while the star of a comedy is its writing and delivery, the poor technical delivery is a major distraction.

Then we move into the plot- I feel that Brian suffers from a poor plot that can't live up to its premise, if that makes sense. The initial scene, the manger next door, is a fantastic idea. The 'mistaken messiah' is genius. But the 'protesting Jews' that makes up half the film made me scratch my head- why? It's unfocused and the point is unclear, so I was always edgy and it distracted further from the comedy.

Into the actual jokes themselves, some hit with me and others failed. The best parts of the film are Palin's "Biggus Dickus" questioning and the final scene, peaking with the Jewish Peole's Front Suicide Squad. The whole Messiah angle is made humorously relevant if you consider the idiots at Westboro Baptist. But there are jokes that flew over my head or just didn't register- a man in drag isn't a winner for me, and a strange, Otherworldly scene- which my parents told me was out of their TV series- made no sense.

I was initially very sour about this film. It's most likely that there's a generation gap thing, although I do have a lack of affinity for comedies as a whole. Although even a day has been kind to this film- it's worth noting I felt the same way about Apocalypse Now when I first saw that, and that's another unfair comparison I've made with this film. I can't believe these two films were played beside each other in a theatre (or not, in Norway). Anyway, to parents wishing to show old comedies to the younger generation, don't start with this one. 7.3/10

The American Classic, 3 January 2013

Up in Canada, To Kill A Mockingbird was our novel studied in the eighth grade. I don't remember too much about Grade 8 now, and even less about the book, except that it was dreadfully boring for a 13-year old: I was too preoccupied by Lord of the Flies. Not even the movie could gather my interest.

I'm a bit older now and a lot more educated, so it was time to really take in this treasured film. And wow, what a difference a few years makes. This film, extraordinarily faithful to the source, grabs the atmosphere and setting of the film and spells it out on screen. TKAM is a wonderful story of adult issues through a child's eyes, under the watchful eye of moral hero Atticus Finch.

In just over two hours the effects of the Depression in the South is seen, as well as the lingering racism and prejudice of the Civil War, the vivid imagination of children and the effect a strong parent can have on children. The themes have very positive stances: this is no Grapes of Wrath. The film is family-friendly except for several contextual uses of the N- word.

Though it is a positive film, it is not an easy viewing. Like any great example of any medium, To Kill A Mockingbird is dense and not extremely easy to follow, due in part to its age and content- there's virtually no "action" and the one true scene of physical conflict is weak compared to the rest of the film. Another way to say it is that if you have a meeting with a film buff and you want to appear smart but haven't seen many classic films, don't start with this one.

I remember seeing the AFI's Heroes and Villains list and being a little put off by Atticus' place... but I can't now. He's a model parent and an inspiration to all- he has integrity and a calm persona, never letting his temper flare. Peck's voice is so assuring, and he just looks like an upstanding citizen who knows that kids are kids and that it's more important to go with what you believe is right than what others would try to make you do.

Seeing To Kill A Mockingbird is to read the book- a slow but expansive look at a slice of time through young eyes. It's a shame this came out in the same year as Lawrence of Arabia- one year either way and it may have received the awards to place it physically in the halls of time, if not our hearts. 9.3/10

Rain Man (1988)
My main man, 1 January 2013

Seeing Rain Man reminds me of The Graduate, another of Dustin Hoffman's most popular films. Some films tell big stories about the nature of humanity, or our social dynamics, where other films tell a nice contained story. Both of these films are in the latter, and thus the degree of how much one will like the film comes down to a viewers' taste. I really liked both of these films, but consider the Graduate to be far superior- but that's just me. I'm sure there are many people who are the exact opposite. Anyway, Rain Man is an exceptionally charming film with broad appeal due to its positive messages about family and lifestyle.

The topic of autism is handled incredibly well. The process of Charlie meeting his brother and being impossibly fed up with his shortcomings is sadly believable for his character, as is his gradual acceptance and caring, though not without his outbursts. A week such as this wouldn't completely reinvigorate a person, but it certainly changes his perspective from his enclosed world of money.

The two leads are brilliant: Raymond's mannerisms are so believable, and his presence is soft but powerful. His foil is his brother Charlie, greedy and inconsiderate. He's a p****. But time brings these unknown brothers together believably, with no one single moment of 'the big change', hallmark of bad 'transformation' films. Raymond is the catalyst for Charlie's change in the scientific definition: he himself does not change. The film may make it seem like Raymond too has evolved, but he hasn't. His routine has. A year after the film finishes he would be right back at the start, albeit with a caring brother.

Rain Man is a great story from an efficient script with enjoyable dialogue and a smooth pace. The technical side of the film is conventional: costumes, music and set design is very 80's. Some films have greater potential than others, and Rain Man achieves all it can. 8.5/10

2 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Al dente, 27 December 2012

In many ways, Django Unchained is very similar to Inglourious Basterds. They both are derived from European B-movies and are set in times where the world wasn't on the top of its game. But whereas Basterds worked precariously around the mass armed conflict at the time, Django fires six shots into the heart of the issue that has generally been turned away from in cinema: slavery. And where Basterds was a decidedly more dramatic film with only small bits of humour, Django is usually less serious but with select instances of pure pain. In a year of blockbuster disappointment, Django Unchained stands tall and free, delivering almost 3 hours of cinematic goodness.

Right from the first frame it's apparent that there's another very important influence on this film, and that is the spaghetti western. From the font of the opening titles to the throwback theme songs, Django is a movie about slavery with the style of a certain Italian filmmaker. This "neowestern" as I shall call it doesn't contain long stares in ghost towns, but has plenty of shooting and flair. And with a name like Tarantino's attached, you know it's getting the double dose of brutality.

I mentioned earlier the humour is more apparent than in Basterds. The shootouts are ridiculous, the characters zany, and it's always a pleasure to hear Samuel L. Jackson saying the N- word and m*****f***** in the same sentence. I want to especially point out the scene with the KKK for being especially hilarious, and the audience agreed with me that Django is fairly light considering how the topic could be taken. But, like the famous "How am I funny?" scene in Goodfellas, the South as it is often presented to us in films such as Gone with the Wind (for the record, this film affects my opinion of that one negatively) is quite ridiculous. Sure, we can laugh at the old white folks being astonished to see "a n**** on a horse", but things like that happened. People were horrible and slavery was one of the great abominations in human history. And on two occasions, like Tommy deVito, Tarantino drops the facade. Two scenes that still play in my mind, gut-wrenching scenes highlighting the cruelty of man. Django Unchained is violent, but only in these two scenes is it truly disturbing.

But after the scenes hit home the dresses get put back on and you are graciously welcomed to Candyland again. The writing is expectedly top notch, able to return to a warm place after unflinching brutality. The dialogue is laden with profanity and wit, complimenting the action scenes for a very briskly paced film that feels much shorter than its 2 hours 45 minute runtime.

The characters tentpole the film though. Django, the slave reborn as a vengeful killer, has all the style, moves and flair of a gunslinging hero. Although it's his name in the title the film belongs to DiCaprio and Waltz. Leo's Calvin Candie is a despicable man who relishes what he does, and leaves all traces of prettyboy hero Leo at the door. And Waltz as the bounty hunter Dr. Schultz is a quirky and good natured man. I think it's the beard. Very much unlike his last role in a Tarantino film.

Samuel L. Jackson plays a curiously loyal house slave who I can only describe as Candie's b****. His character is never really fleshed out, and though he gets a lot of great lines his presence feels a bit off. Likewise, Django's wife Broomhilda gets very little to say despite being the subject of the film's quest. She was mostly just... there.

Without a doubt Tarantino's films are incredible, movie lovers' movies. And Django Unchained is no exception- little references and unmatched style make a fantastic ride. But a problem that I have with them is depth. The only message that is really taken away is that slavery was brutal, but that isn't really treading new ground. The characters also see little development: Django goes from an angry slave to an angry hunter and Candie's is a functioning monster the whole way through. Only Schultz really changes and it's great to see, so I wonder why he didn't give Django any more transition. For this I can't put Django in the pantheon of classics, where I have to compare it to films such as Bridge on the River Kwai and American History X. Perhaps however time will be kind to Django and it may gain admittance in the same way Raiders of the Lost Ark did. Nonetheless, Tarnatino and Western fans won't be disappointed by this, one of the best films of the year. 8.7/10

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
I'm not stuck in here with you, you're stuck in here with me!, 15 December 2012

Have you ever found a piece of old schoolwork and realized how dumb you were? That now, with all of your more developed skills, you could've done that same assignment to a higher degree of quality or ease? That's how I felt watching One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest for the second time. 2 years ago I enjoyed the plot, characters, and ending, but now, 2 years and over 150 films later, I can appreciate One Flew Over for what it is: a masterpiece of fiction, and a deceptively challenging piece of art.

I'll jump past the plot synopsis and get to the heart of the film: R.P. MacMurphy. The slacker, rebel, that kid in class who just wouldn't listen. How can you deal with a character like MacMurphy? Is something wrong with him? This is a major thematic point in Cuckoo's Nest, and the answers aren't simple. What gives someone the right to make choices for another? What is the point that someone can't think for themselves? Is there a point? Questions beget questions, especially around the idea of "authority".

That authority is personified by Nurse Ratched. She looks like an authority figure: icy glare, skull- like face. Instantly you dislike the nurse. You're pointed in that direction by the patients. But personally, when looking at her character objectively, I didn't find her bad for most of the film. Let me elaborate: a few weekends ago I met an children's organ transplant doctor. It is the most noble of work, but visually I could tell it took a toll on him. He wasn't rude, or volatile, or detached, but what he described himself as "serious". Working in healthcare, seeing things go wrong, that wears you down. I believe Ratched, working (for a long time), hearing mental patients yell about trivial things such as cigarettes, day after day, takes its toll. You wouldn't be a cheerful soul after years of that. Of course at the end she does flex her cruelty and we really grow to resent her, but for most of the film I thought she was just doing her job.

This is a great film to analyze because it's so opinionated. Two similar people can see it, and based off of their own experiences will draw very different conclusions about the message and characters. Many others hate Nurse Ratched. I'm sure there are those out there who don't like MacMurphy. Some will say control is necessary, others that freedom is the most important thing out there. Cuckoo doesn't really force you into believing one certain way.

The hospital itself if juxtaposing: the setting is a plain, boring hospital with drab white everything, but the characters are quirky and colourful. I loved them all, and didn't find anyone really annoying: Chezwick's extremity, Tobar's big reactions, the Chief, General, Billy, and a near- silent Stanley Kubrick-alike. This band of misfits are a joy to watch, and have some laugh-out-loud moments like Martini eating the dice and the basketball game.

Despite the hospital setting, Cuckoo is a generally smile-inducing film with a fantastic script that develops its characters well for the conclusion. And oh, the end. It is really a twist, but the second you realize what's happened, how the chips have fallen, you give an audible gasp. This is one of the great film endings, bitter and sweet, but very satisfying. It may even bring a tear to your eye. 9.4/10

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Charming, quirky, and tender, 11 December 2012

Billy Wilder is a really swell guy. He takes serious matter and makes it entertaining: Sunset Blvd. blew me away, and now The Apartment has put a big smile on my face. Wilder injects this uppity- atmosphere into almost every scene and it makes the film a pleasure to watch, no matter how serious the plot gets. And behind the charm of Lemmon's C.C. Baxter, there is a serious plot.

The Apartment is about Baxter, a New York business cog, trying to move up in his company not through hard work, or extra socializing, or self- pitching, but by lending his apartment to his coworkers' extra-martial affairs. Being a 60's film, this cannot be said directly, but the hinting is so strong you pick up instantly. The film is quite liberal, content-wise. The film shows that blackmail goes both ways: Baxter may believe he has the upper hand, with his clients on a string... but he does not, and he sinks deeper into his lie. Of course it comes across humorously, with his neighbours scolding him for his 'sexpot' antics, though the good doctor would also like if his body could be donated to science.

Baxter is quite a character, an innocent everyman with his own set of faults and quirks. Lemmon is magnetic: we always root for Lemmon, even as he tells pitiful lies to his landlady and can't stand up to his clients. Even his borderline creepy knowledge of Ms. Kubelik comes off as just charm. An immensely likable character.

The object of his affection, Fran Kubelik, is also quite a charmer. Her problem is men, but she knows it. She doesn't fake innocence. We have all known that flirty girl who ends up on your nerves... but Fran isn't that girl. Wilder knows just how to handle his characters.

Now, more than 50 years after its release, trying to look at The Apartment academically is strange, because its era has passed. Things like that don't happen any more. Right? Perhaps not as specifically, but the cost of power is a universal theme. What do you sacrifice to try and get ahead? Property, dignity, even your love? C.C. Baxter knows how much he'll give, but also what he won't. The film ends positively, which is nice, and deserving, especially after seeing Sunset Blvd. The Apartment is wonderful, sharply written and performed, and makes a great evening. 8.9/10

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