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Explosive action, predictable and gory story...
So - it's not All bad; but the sad thing is, it could've been such a solid historical epic with a little more effort
as-is, it really seems to fall between stools so that it's neither a blockbuster format film to satisfy family audiences, nor a super-hero fantasy movie, but something in between but not good enough to qualify as an Original. Some good actors turn in solid but uninspired performances - perhaps uninspired because of the stolid script, peppered with modernisms but with odd echoes of something along the lines of what Vincent Price might have spoofed, only this is supposed to be serious. Kiefer Sutherland's attempt to be a Baddie with an English accent is baffling (this being about 1,700 years before the British Empire was invented, along with the upper-class English accent of that particular ruling class), and his by now standard Sociopath personality replete with cold-hearted butchery is flat and boring because we've seen it all before. Carrie Ann Moss as the Pompei'i mother of the heroine and mistress of her important husband's house, looks the part impressively, but is rather wasted otherwise. Kit Harington, though possessed of suitably poetic pools of romantic ruminations in the form of beautiful eyes which melt when he sees a suffering horse, or his true love, seems ludicrously athletic and strong by contrast to the top gladiator with whom he shares a cell
in other words, it sorely stretches the imagination, that he can complete the various amazing feats of swordsmanship and so forth when up against legions of guards and other gladiators. The mistress of his heart is extremely well-cast as she bears an astonishing likeness to a classic painting of a lady of Pompei'i
but otherwise, even her huge brown eyes ever emoting cannot hold our attention, since she simply doesn't have sufficient to do besides be the object of ardent love (from our hero) and lust (from our English accent spouting Kiefer being a bad Roman overlord). The plot line is also strangely thin, considering. But above all what was missing from it was some sense of perspective about catastrophic events. I find it impossible to believe that people in Pompei'i wholesale stayed in place while the walls and ceilings were crumbling, citing the anger of the Gods. Though history has many sad instances of people denying the hard evidence of impending doom until too late, surely these ancients knew what an erupting volcano could and would do? Surely, then, Vesuvius exploded much like the sudden striking of the San Francisco earthquake - without warning? Unlike a tidal wave or tsunami which centuries ago could not be foreseen or prepared for, in this movie, the pending eruption provides plenty of signs which IF they were ignored, would surely have been interpreted with some alarm, with some suitable reason placating the populace - for example, The Gods are Angry, so Let's Sacrifice more Slaves and Gladiators! (Though I'm not convinced there's any evidence of that having happened in Pompei'i, so I suggest it strictly in service of the so-so storyline!) That could have provided a platform for Reason vs Superstition (for example), which would surely have been preferable to the heroine's weak 'Why are the Gods doing/what have we done to deserve this?' (though that would have been the start of that sort of discussion, I suppose!). Obviously this movie has no aspirations to the philosophical or spiritual - it is all about high emotions and overwrought action, in such excess that it is exhausting to watch and in the end we hardly care what happens to any of them (and as it turns out, they are all doomed, anyway
which makes me wonder whether the writer stopped caring about the characters, knowing their fates!?). From start to finish, the overall message we get is that life in those days was brutish, unfair, and therefore mercifully short. Which it probably was - but this was a movie, so we needed to care about the characters anyway.
But now to the Good: the opening credits over the falling snowflake-like volcanic ash, the music score throughout, the set designs (particularly the opening battle scenes in Britain, as well as some of the halls of Pompei'i), and most of the spectacular special effects (notably, the erupting volcano wracked harbour with ships being seemingly attacked by projectiles from exploding Vesuvius), and most of the costumes were all well observed and executed. The horse wranglers did a great job (I found myself far more concerned about the fate of the horses than the fleeing citizenry of Pompei'i!), so that overall one was left with a strong impression of that catastrophic event in a city far away and many centuries ago, having been immersed in it for an hour or so. But besides that - which is worth something, IMO - the movie as a whole didn't amount to much.
Cher Luc - your Lucy is le mess-du-chaud j'regrais!
OK so my 'franglais' aside - as a fan of the Fifth Element (which like most fans I've watched about 5 times!) and the witty, fast-paced Transporter films, I was intrigued by the ambitions of Lucy and in full readiness to be wowed by whatever progressive quantum physics-ish theories or summaries Monsieur Besson was positing
only to be completely frustrated & disappointed...from the early and amateurish editing conceits of cross-cutting National Geographic footage of hunting lions with the unfolding plot line all the way to the no-doubt secretly amused but on-screen on podium pontificating Morgan Freeman sporting serious demean strapping the Ueber-female in the sexy form of the seriously underutilized talents of Scarlett J into some sort of chair with electrodes to record whatever wisdom she would wow the assembled Great Minds of Europe with while the Great Police Chief of Paris assured them he'd 'try' to keep a violent Chinese drug cartel at bay so they could complete their all-important downloading process prior to all being killed (potentially), but which sadly was a feat evidently beyond the means of the entire Paris police to achieve
sheesh, the list of anomalies is as long as this violent yet ultimately yawn-worthy yarn of hotch-potch theories springing from an apparently atheist writer/director's mind. I seriously, simply couldn't believe what a hot mess it all was! It seems that all auteurish early success male independent writer/directors go thru this particular stage of middle age (in the case of M.Night Shyamalan, early middle-age...perhaps because his success was so great and SO soon?!) creative crisis when they're determined to make Something Serious & Significant - but by stepping outside the perimeters of what they do best, fall flat on their fully funded faces! So sorry. Hope for better ( = MUCH better!!!) next time. Merci, beaucoup! :)
The Physician (2013)
Beautifully filmed and staged, but not for the squeamish...
or anyone English with a modicum of knowledge of History! Because that final shot of London with the completed Tower of London - after the movie clearly stated it started in the year 1021 - was SO jarring, it really ruined the ending for me, personally! This after 2 and a half hours of successfully suspending disbelief over so many maybe-it-'twas-really-so (i.e. back then in the 11th century) moments in scenes so attractively staged and nicely acted, that I was willing to believe them: But that willingness was shot with that final shot! :( Beautiful film but a BIG mistake to cast the relatively unknown Tom Payne in the leading role, IMO; though certainly NOT recommending the makers cast Shia LaBeouf or one of the Jonas bros (!?!) - HOWEVER, the star power of Ben Kingsley was undeniable and made poor Mr. Payne pale by comparison beside him
which is not what one wants, surely, from one's primary (and in almost every scene) player?
(Noticed that the primary producer was just promoted to C.E.O. of U.F.A., perhaps he's not held accountable for casting inconsistencies?!)
Overall definitely worth watching and listening to due to a very nice Howard James Newton-esque score, but dangerously similar to the many (also very attractive yet too slowly paced) filmed Biblical stories shown on T.V. as made-for-TV movies on channels such as TBN, 3ABN. and Lifetime.
The Switch (2010)
Mediocre man makes good against all odds...
- yet another attempt in what seems like a recent (i.e. over the past 10 years or so) relentless trend trying to placate, pacify and assure Mr. Average (& in the audience!) Dude that he CAN Have It All, just by Being Himself - as personified by the main character's pathetic excuse for a modern man (played by Jason Bateman - himself an average & average looking actor); when Oh When will this trend run its course, PLEASE?!? Because it's simply ludicrous & borderline insulting to an audience to show some Story about how an urban mediocre modern man (written deliberately in lower casing, please-to- note!) eventually and with an absolute minimum of effort gets a wife as depicted by Jennifer Aniston, i.e. fantastic looking (replete with golden tan despite living & working in NYC), well-groomed, smart, sweet-natured, yet somehow with a great/dream job which ALSO pulls down a well-above average salary! PLUS this lucky dude gets to miss out on all the awkwardly tricky becoming-a-father stuff, e.g. a pregnant mate going through mood and body swings, post-natally disinterested in sex, years of changing diapers, months of sleepless nights due to a screaming and/or teething baby, 'terrible toddler' tantrums, etc! HOW lucky is HE?! WHAT exactly did this amazing (apparently/evidently!) tho' average dude DO to deserve or just plain GET such ABOVE- average Good Fortune? Errr exactly NOTHING. Nope. Nada/Nichts/Niente; he just bungled along in his boring sweaters and pessimistic (which predictably, he calls 'realistic') 'tudes & views, marginally amusing and somewhat smart, holding down a good job where his significantly older, more charismatic, more confident and/or worldly buddy uselessly counsels him - because Mediocre Man (ok so we'll allow an upper case when paired with the former since it now fits!) is impervious to changing his way of Being, because (presumably) he has some stubborn sense (judging by the dull narrative over the whole movie) that SOMEHOW, Things Will Go HIS Way, if he just sticks to being himself long enough !?! There are no breakthroughs of insight, no therapy (for his abandonment issues - which surely would've been re-triggered when the (undeclared) Love of his Life leaves NYC for her native Minnesota?), precious little character development beyond an upgrade in wardrobe (from sweaters to natty shirts & jackets) and hesitant stepping/dragging into latently desired fatherhood - as would surely ANY guy in his 30s, in love with the mother and besieged with the attentions of an adorable 5 (nearly 6!) year old boy who so evidently resembles himself WOULD (@ any rate, I'd defy almost any guy NOT to respond/develop such feelings under such circumstances, so there's nothing special about Mr. Average doing so!). Somehow - because Someone Up There Loves him?! (unspecified; this is NOT a movie about Faith, only dogged faith in Self, for no special reason) - without being especially attractive, charismatic, charming, witty, smart, energetic, forthcoming or overtly loving, and despite being emotionally reserved/intimacy-inaccessible, reticent in actions, deeds & words, and repeatedly missing out on every single God-given opportunity to declare his love for this gorgeous catch-of-a-future-wife woman, and ruining her chance with another eligible, exciting, energetic, great-looking and openly loving man who seems to excel at several things (notably, a Carpe Diem 'tude!) - unlike him - in an outrageously rude, selfish and completely inconsiderate and long overdue outburst of self- expressing during an important gathering/party of her friends and future family and in front of said adorable child whom he accidentally fathered, who has been practically begging for him to BE his Dad, but whom he has thus far entirely denied that explanation & reassurance due to his own inexplicable & inexcusable timidity, he IS excused (eventually) - without offered apology, apparently!?! - and skips even the most basic bare-bones effort of declaration of his feelings, proposal of marriage, offering of a ring - in short, ANY situation which risks rejection - which is all part of what makes a man & defines ANY one's character, man or woman - and by a modicum of dependability (as a friend) plus sheer fantastic luck likewise entirely inexplicable, leaves ALL the proactive Doing to the woman when in real life she would be (rightly!) seething with resentment, sense of rejection, unappreciation, and - last but not least! - anger over having been duped! It's absurd, ridiculous, and offensive to expect us to believe such scenarios are likely in life, and a subtle endorsement of everything which is wrong with modern western urban men who wimp their way through every situation and relationship while women in the modern urban West struggle to straddle some unspecified and unstraddalable(!) gap between being both a woman AND a man because modern men don't/won't do the work of BEING Men, and want their female mates to figure it all out for them while grumbling about being emasculated by women who want It All: Yeuch! A firm thumbs down all around except for the adorable child who sadly still has no sufficient role model for manhood, and is well on track for roundly resenting his too-capable mother for 'smothering' him, i.e. for being significantly and obviously superior to his father from almost every standpoint! Roll on the 22nd century and robots mates/men and basting sticks & anonymous semen & artificial insemination all around! Surely no worse a travesty than what was represented here in 21st century's mutual mates of flesh & blood..? !
Tried to watch this, but...
basically, it was unwatchable; 45 minutes into it I gave up; admittedly, I could tell after the first 10 minutes (i.e. after the prologue retelling of the original fairy tale) that I wasn't the target demographic or audience but that's no excuse (IMO) for the awful spectacle of ugly old women being gruesomely murdered by a handsome man & largely skin-tight leather-clad (which showcases her generally straddling - and ample - thighs) young woman clearly enjoying their 'job'; it felt to me like watching mediaeval Bonny & Clyde type psychos with serious granny issues
nor was there any excuse for such a poor plot-line and almost complete absence of wit in the script. I'm all in favour of updated 'takes' of traditional tales and spinning out alternative story lines on classics - but creatively; otherwise it's just a disservice to a tale which teaches children about self-empowerment in terrible circumstances (courtesy of the extensive work of Bruno Bettelheim, we have an understanding now of the importance of traditional fairy tales, even those which are traditionally gruesome
but FOR A REASON!) and when they have NO weaponry, with only their wits to defend them
what a travesty of THAT teaching, this is
.the only 'redeeming' aspects are the contributions of the Art Department, otherwise the lowest review I've given any movie, ever, and to which I'll add a resounding UGH!!!
Gravity: the title is either a misnomer or metaphor...
in my opinion, neither quite explains the title which was part of the reason I had so little interest in seeing what looked like (from the trailer) yet another flick about explosions in Space and debris-splattered disasters; so it was a genuine surprise to finally find out that that's NOT what it's primarily about - in fact, this film isn't really and truly 'about' Space at all
The storyline slowly but surely reveals it's baseline Story to be about the fight for life after losing life - not literally, but emotionally and spiritually - in the wake of the devastation of grief. So after suspending disbelief for the umpteenth time (e.g. we're asked to believe a sequence of totally improbably events all taking place 500 km above Earth - which incidentally once again visually supports a theory I've heard and agree with that in actuality, our planet is itself suffering from a misnomer as by all evidence it ought to be called Ocean instead!), we let ourselves be seduced by the beautifully apropos music in tandem with Bullock's moving performance of a person who has only been existing instead of living - and now needs to make up her mind, whether she's willing to fight for life - which ironically has been taken from people around her who it's clear all wanted to live, but didn't. Her metaphorical salvation (OK so I personally objected to the utilization of the Clooney character as a stand-in for Christ! But let it pass
) and rebirth, culminating in the humble last-word utterance of an otherwise unremarkable script ('Thank you'), which was by this point a prayer reduced in simplicity to the essence of this experience and gratitude for having made it back, moving me to tears - and coming as it did after our witnessing her tremendous struggle, was genuinely and unusually good
particularly, in a film emerging from Hollywood and masquerading as an action movie! I was impressed by such artful use of technology appealing to mass audiences while hiding an important message: Life IS worth fighting for, and we all die eventually anyway, so why not try to enjoy the ride while it lasts? :)
Nannerl, la soeur de Mozart (2010)
An appropriate use of the movie/film medium...
inasmuch as THIS is what it's good for - amongst the perhaps most obvious one of entertaining - i.e. the ability to take us on a trip through history and meet people within the context of what we know, rounded out with a good writer's imagination
and as a result, make us THINK about what really happened, and/or how it FELT to be the people portrayed, in those days; what other medium can do this as easily, really and truly? I adore film-making for this capacity but it's so often overlooked in the mad rush for box office profits, which puts movies firmly in the money-making Entertainment category, first and foremost, frequently regardless of content, characters, correct costuming
So, I loved this movie and found it completely absorbing, though I'm well aware it won't appeal to 'the masses', basically because it's a quintessentially French ('foreign') film which lacks the overt Drama and character arcs of Hollywood and the colourful characters and quirky story lines of other U.S.A. movies. It's food for thought over food for entertainment (though I WAS entertained in the process, too - but then I possess an old-fashioned attention span of more than 5 minutes, and don't need a car-chase or anything to blow up in order to feel something!) ;) Especially telling were what are most likely the historical truisms; the fact that Nannerl was an older sister who almost certainly DID co-create (if not co-write, as she was refused tuition) her famously talented younger brother's early works, completely uncredited - and this of course is a perennial problem for female artistes everywhere, even today (if it's not their brothers, then for their boyfriends &/or significant others who absorb their contributions as natural extensions of themselves, rather than acknowledging them at very least, as addendums given to them as gifts by another person other than themselves), along with the problem of not receiving sufficient support from their fathers for their innate talent, on the basis of being a girl. I really appreciated the fact that the entire problem of gender was shown throughout this film in a genteel and non-bombastic way, by comparisons and conversations void of overtly angry emotions - which, and we so easily tend to forget this fact - were within the context of the society(ies) shown in this particular time & place, INDULGENCES which really & truly only the most powerful (e.g. the Dauphin), could afford to show, far less, vent; we forget, the era of all-out Self-Expression in the West really only arose post-war across all classes & societies. This was not Italy, after all, nor America or Britain in the '60s or '70s+, but chiefly the priories and courts of France, a couple of decades BEFORE the revolution; best behaviour between family members so close-knit as the Mozarts, who for so many years shared such close quarters as coach carriages and bedrooms in the houses of hosts, was likely the norm; feelings festered under the surface because it wasn't safe to fully express them, and then they were complicated - painfully - by deep feelings of love, appreciation, and humility fostered by the awareness of how much humiliation the average person had to put up with during the course of their lives, just to survive; the waiting on a prince for 3 whole weeks while he indulged in excesses they could never afford, wasting this talented family's time, which they would have had to 'swallow' without a whimper, was a very good example. We in our (relative) freedom forget how self-expression is a part of being free - which most people were not. No matter how talented - which evidently, Leopold, Nannerl & little Wolfgang ALL were, back then, talent was the ticket but not the money-maker, per se & women never owned any money anyway, no matter what work they did, nor even who they married. So they were the subjects of men, which feminist point is pointed out succinctly yet never with a big banging of any drums! The fact that Mrs. Mozart adored her talented, forceful and resourceful husband, was a bonus - and later in life, a model unconsciously copied by her famous surviving (remember, these were her only two children who lived, so death was an ever-present reminder to boot in the lives of these people and indeed most of the populace back then) son, but was not necessarily guaranteed in every marriage. The touching small scene of the ill-fated fifteen year old future Marie Antoinette already doting on pleasing her deeply troubled young widowed husband, speaks volumes to this - she was a woman of her time, determined to make the most of her lot in life, ergo, to become a good and dutiful wife something which Nannerl simply cannot strive to do till the advanced (back then) age of 32 - and when we watch this movie in it's entirety, even setting aside the imagined/fictitious aspects of her story - we know, why.
Under Suspicion (2000)
Just one thing to add...
to everything else already said about this film - which I gave a 7 out of 10 rating due to the outstanding performances by Hackman, Freeman and Bellucci (who here transcended her fairly squarely decorative role in ways I haven't witnessed her managing to do in any of her other roles, sorry to say, so far - !), despite detesting the directing (which I suspect was exacerbated by bad editing, to boot
) - I wish to add what I notice seems to be missing from almost all other reviews (pro & IMDb); the very real problem of reducing a person down by the process of police (or any official or organised) interrogation which can indeed result in a person credibly confessing to crimes NOT committed; not to make the claim that most of the inmates of the incarceration system confessed to crimes not committed, but high-profile, high pressure crimes can really become a sort of psychological pressure-cooker, perhaps in collaboration with a media circus, reducing wrong results - and thereby not only 'breaking' an otherwise OK or perhaps even decent & upright person caught in the wrong place @ the wrong time, but permitting the actual perpetrator to get away with an unspeakable &/or awful crime. Ironically, serial killers & sociopaths KNOW that, and so manipulating others in ways which will most likely result in this sort of thing IS their thing! (I recall there was a famous case of precisely this in England with a serial killer who started during the war, when getting away with murder was relatively easy, then through a series of elaborate manipulations, resuming his murdering while cunningly framing another for it afterward.) By way of a more simple example; a friend of mine's mother was once questioned by the FBI on the basis of a matter carried out by someone with her exact same name, which mistake revealed itself during the course of their conversation and so was corrected - but she said that by the end of the interview/interrogation, she herself was questioning whether she really was the person she and her family & friends knew herself to be, or the one they THOUGHT she was! Which is hilarious on the one hand, on the other hand it shows how when convinced persons in authority assert something with sufficient confidence, their conviction can be so compelling as to have unintended consequences.
Obviously this movie revolves around the relationship of a very flawed couple caught up in a painful & toxic marriage, and a detective who is motivated by his own largely unspoken post-divorce demons, in addition to his genuine outrage over the crimes committed and concern for the public and other potential victims (justified, as he's unable to prevent a third crime - and as a direct result, could be argued, of taking up SO much time trying to pin the first two on the guy under suspicion and in his custody during the time of the 3rd crime ), and being - as already pointed out - really & truly a play, not a movie, it visits much (mostly murky!) subject-matter much more suited to staging than filming, IMO. But as-said, the acting is outstanding in this and worth watching for that, as well as perhaps this very pertinent and perhaps also primary point - which I really want to make, as I really think it matters. :)
The Chase (1966)
Through the Past, Darkly...
With movies such as Selma now making the Golden Globes & soon also Oscar Sweeps, it's pertinent, I think, to revisit epic - albeit, flawed - films of in-your-face racism & bigotry from over half a century ago, when those themes were still so much more current, therefore, their depiction inevitably more raw & with less tendency to sentimentalise; it's easy to see how much of the material touched too many nerves at the time of release to receive good reviews, and the brutality & general ugliness of so many of the characters portrayed - although portrayed exceptionally well, many by actors now well-known whose careers were still in infancy - IS wearying after a while. However, this is truly one of Brando's best performances - period, and IMO, one of Jane Fonda's best, too; beautiful, sexy, angry, unfaithful (basically, torn between two men, one of whom messed up by bowing to conventional expectations at a key moment in their lives, thereby effectively messing it up for all three of them, romantically & personally) yet in almost odd juxtaposition, faithful when it really counts, I found her far more believable in this than in any of her other almost-always over-acted roles (e.g. the awful, also once again opposite Redford, 'Barefoot in the Park' from the same time-line), and her tragic fate was so well UNDER-played, as she walked away to what we already can predict is likely to be an ignominious & uncertain future after being loved ardently by two men, my heart bled for this unlucky survivor of the 'GoetterDaemmerung' style finale! No tears or lamentations necessary - we 'get' it, already
:( Also interesting was the perhaps slightly over-emphasised saint-like aspect of the unlucky 'Bubba' as played by Redford, not even so much because he's entirely innocent of crimes accused & now ruining his young & virile life, but because he has an unexpectedly grown-up response to the revelation of the affair between his (beloved) wife & old friend, while others around him have hysterics over it; he alone seems to truly understand, love is not necessarily non-inclusive. When he lays out his sadly doomed, desperate plan to them both, it is moving that he remembers to give her a choice - even though she's HIS wife
in a town full of ugly & apparently over-sexed citizens, he seems to understand, she's not his possession, and seems to be the last person inclined to call her a slut, when everyone else is!
Certainly, Brando's IS the stand-out performance, in part because he has the most complex - and believable - character's role; also liked Angie Dickenson's on-point performance, never straying into the melodramatic despite many opportunities, and was engaged by a young Robert Duval's perfect portrayal of a really unattractive man/husband - a precursor to all the complexly tortured personalities he was to play in future etc. In short, this movie is becoming a classic, despite it's bleak portrayal of a nasty, bigoted, largely lawless, racist town in Texas and tendency to 2-dimensional characters, overall; the fact that it has now become a period piece, fascinates for the simple everyday way of life (cars, costumes) of what was still privileged white Middle America enjoying (?!) an excess of wealth & wellbeing, being wasted.
An American Dream (1966)
- transport yourself to a stylish, faux mid-Sixties Los Angelean world, where adults say things such as 'It's not my Scene' to each other with perfectly straight faces, and Janet Leigh (sporting a simply fab Vidal Sassoon bob) almost outshines an absolutely ghastly, stereotypically awful Poor Little Rich Girl played with all the power of a snake-charmer by the superb ueber-diva Eleanor Parker. Everyone is somehow affluent and healthy, yet bitter and twisted ah, those were the days! (?!); what sublime self-indulgence we wish we could all afford! Doubt whether a world like this really ever existed, but sure dig the groovy music, baby! (Oh, and the original title is significantly more apt than presumably Mailer's cynical 'An American Dream'? Sheesh..!)