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|13 reviews in total|
Just the other day I stumbled upon an animated short called
"Sebastian's Voodoo". It runs about 4 minutes with closing credits and
was made by a sophomore student on a shoestring budget. It has it all
story, characters, visuals, drama, climax, finale, meaning. Now you
need to hear it again it's under 5 minutes.
I'd have thought that the stuff that runs one and a half hour, features Keanu Reeves and Renee Zellweger (I guess) and cost at least several millions should be able to offer at least something along those lines, shouldn't it? I mean if it is not by design in the same category as, say, "Mechanic: Resurrection" that is not a piece of totally senseless action entertainment which does not even pretend for a second to be anything more than that? Unfortunately, it's not the case here.
It's obviously not a movie one would want to write a dissertation about, so let's be brief. Good news first. The story is semi-OK with a couple of more or less legitimate twists. After two decades of preparation Keanu Reeves delivers something that remotely qualifies as acting (at any rate his lawyer here is perceptibly less wooden than in "The Devil's Advocate" and the remnants of his trademark acting quality are somewhat justified in the context of the plot). That's it.
Now, would it be good enough? It's not that anybody asked for my opinion, but as far as I'm concerned not quite. What would be the justification of a multi-million project with major stars if at the end of the day the outcome feels, as one reviewer pointed out, like a TV show episode? Except for paychecks for all parties involved?
The truth is that the movie feebly hints at some points but they are dropped halfway and ultimately not really made. My guess would be that it might have been different in the script but changed during the production it would explain why one of the main characters suddenly becomes kind of 'unnecessary'. It is as if the movie was afraid of getting too poignant and chooses to play it safely.
The direction is equally mediocre and all about 'been there done that' (repeatedly) thing. It does not even hint at any original vision. No, that's not true. At some point you can have a glimpse of Renee Zellweger's (still guessing but definitely not a body double's) naked posterior. Despite the fact that it's not as ample as it used to be, this revelation is commendable. And it's never been done before. But again that's it.
Then again, since patent mediocrity has always been the main specialty of mainstream Hollywood, this all is not surprising. What is, however, is why people like Keanu settle for it time and time and time again. With his ability as a performer mentioned he is hardly in a position to be picky. However, with his financial ability he certainly is.
Why not to produce meaningful mid-/low-budget projects and finance them with his own money to retain total creative control while minding their commercial potential as well? Reportedly Keanu tried something of the sort recently. But, apparently due to a half-measures approach implemented, wound up with "Exposed" after "Daughter of God" was gang raped by Lionsgate executives.
Well, Neo, everybody falls the first time. Get a decent crew of inventive dudes who actually have something to say and try again. Stir this morass a little. Who, if not you? Because even "Exposed" has more meaning, real drama as well as artistic and, ultimately, overall value to it than "The Whole Truth".
The genre of the movie is described as a drama/thriller. In fact, the only thrilling thing about it would be having to decide what's more dubious here the writing or directing. Or what's less interesting about the lead his face or his acting. The only remotely redeeming quality of this movie in terms of its performances is the participation of those two gentlemen you can see on the poster in the background. They at least somewhat deliver a minor feat given the material that they're given. So, obviously, the material itself has none. And the only real mystery you may need to unravel is why three men responsible for a handful of mediocre horrors conspired this time to produce a horribly mediocre thriller which literally contains nothing. If you want a comparatively decent drama involving corrupt corporations and providing some social commentary - watch "The Constant Gardener". If you want a stylish "corporate thriller" subterraneanly reflecting upon human nature - watch "Demonlover". This one is hardly any good for anything. However, there is still something really dramatic about it it's realizing that this kind of stuff is all Hollywood has to offer to the great ones like Pacino today.
However, the marketing certainly is. It's not as exclusively idiotic as
in the case of Cormac McCarthy/Ridley Scott's very formidable "The
Counselor" (what you should know about that picture is that it's not a
plot-driven thriller about trafficking, but an existential drama so
gloomy that "Se7en" seems to be offering more hope in comparison
now look at its poster), but the poster and the plot summary for this
one produced by the studio and featured on IMDb are obviously
misleading as well (even after the studio did its totally uncalled for
re-editing of the material) and create false expectations. Hence
disappointed viewers and the abysmal rating.
So what else "Exposed" is NOT:
- This is not a movie starring Keanu Reeves. In fact, Reeves' character plays a very insignificant role in the developments. But unlike Emily Blunt's virtually 'non-existing' lead in "Sicario" that ultimately ruins that otherwise interesting and well-directed flick, it doesn't ruin anything here, because this movie more or less manages to get through the studio's irrational indeed interference and somehow remains centered around a female protagonist played by Ana de Armas. And Reeves should have been credited in the same way as Mira Sorvino is "and Keanu Reeves".
- This movie is not an action thriller either. Police work and corrupt cops are present but seen from a different angle.
What is "Exposed" then? Despite all the carnage caused by the studio's decisions, it's still a legit psychological drama with half of its dialogue in Spanish, which structure resembles those another Spanish speaker Borges found fascinating in many Chesterton's stories we have two explanations: a supernatural one and a realistic one. While all the story lines are not perfectly pulled together again, probably thanks to precious alterations introduced by the "suits" overall, the writing is competent. So is the directing. The acting could have been better at times, but it doesn't affect the movie in any critical way. All in all, it's a quite decent one slightly above average.
If I'm not mistaken, Terry Gilliam said that after a nuclear disaster there will be two surviving species: cockroaches and studio executives. Well long live Cockroaches!
Although not too many people outside the land that produced this
picture have even heard of it, it may be one of the best TV movies ever
made, plain and simple. And, probably, the best one delivered by the
great tandem of Russian film-makers Grigori Gorin (writing) and Mark
Zakharov (directing) with "The House That Swift Built" being the
The script is nothing less than brilliant. The general concept is original enough as we happen to be presented not with fairly funny narratives invented by the legendary Baron Munchausen, but rather with the fairly dramatic story of the Baron himself. Which is complemented by an interesting take on the title character that turns him from a nobleman and famous raconteur into a noble dissenter and romantic rebel. But the development and dialogue still bring it to another level. The latter is virtually entirely comprised of quotable witticisms. And the whole construction explores serious problems like freedom and conformity, personal happiness and personal integrity, the hypocrisy of a society and the way it tends to treat those who choose to challenge its norms and confines. Since it's a TV movie featuring a cast of superb stage performers, the realization is overtly theatrical. But it is so in the best way possible.
Given that, as far as the dialogue is concerned, all phrases and inflections matter, an excellent translation is of the essence here. But if you manage to get one you won't regret a bit of your effort while enjoying every minute of this piece. This movie is very clever and funny but also filled with some wonderfully moving poetry. So it's likely to make you both cry with laughter and smile through the tears.
While this movie is nowhere in the vicinity of "Rocky", let alone "The
Terminator" - and obviously was not designed to even try to be - it
still feels like a pretty solid one. Which, after a long string of
previous disappointments from its two leads should probably be
considered a pleasant surprise. It actually has some plot, dialogue,
performances and meaning. It has also one definitely refreshing aspect
Throughout the 80s most of Schwarzenegger's characters/movies were either covertly ("Commando", "Predator") or overtly ("The Running Man", "Total Recall") anti-System. Then the guy embarked upon a series of dubious collaborations with it both on- and off-screen: from serving as a Governor to starring in all sorts of propaganda crap like "Collateral Damage". In this one, having fortified himself with some Nietzsche, he goes back to the Resistance with a vengeance. Which, considering that the current mild model of our Matrix-esque social arrangement seems to be on the way to a hardcore Orwellian version, is good news. Let's hope that Dutch will listen to his old buddy Blain, transform into Emil Rottmayer in real life as well, leave the Rebloodicans faction of the Democons gang and join Ron Paul's Revolution.
For something, which obviously belongs in the department of mainstream
entertainment, this movie is actually quite dense with meaning and even
possesses some real drama. Though it begins as just another superficial
sci-fi flick, soon enough a series of twists, which are there not to
simply add to your amusement but to tell a story that is meant to
convey some significant message, transforms the initially ordinary plot
completely. And also, if not fully justifies, but at least thoroughly
explains apparently perfunctory performances.
The rest is up to you to see and understand - the movie is, in fact, pretty rich in metaphor. And despite its post-apocalyptic futuristic setting it's not an escapist fairy-tale. It's about us today. It's about people who've accepted the mode of existence when you do "not ask too many questions". When you simply "do not want to know". When your "job is to not remember". And you choose, as one prominent character from another, even more poignant, sci-fi feature put it, "living your lives oblivious". But it can be termed differently - you choose sleepwalking into an abyss. So to really appreciate this movie do not expect just a piece of pop-corn entertainment.
Unfortunately, the movie has some totally unnecessary supplement at the very end that seriously diminishes the dramatic effect and dents the way in which it expresses its overall message. But if you get out of the theater right after the first phrases of the main character's afterword you'll indeed have enough to think and feel about long after. The questions this movie poses are serious: do we live to forget, to refuse to know or to look for the truth? And when we ourselves are on the brink of becoming just a memory - do we want to make it fighting or crawling?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Since the comparison between this movie and M. Night Shyamalan's
"ghost" piece is inevitable because both of them are based on pretty
much the same idea allow me to start with saying that while the latter
works out perfectly (its predictable but still formidable resolution
included), the second implementation of this idea provided by Alejandro
Amenabar seems to be a little less effective.
In the case of "The Sixth Sense" the viewer - even if equipped with five basic ones only - can start to suspect something at the very beginning of the movie. Somewhere halfway into it it's simply impossible not to know what's going on there. But due to the inventive way in which the feature is structured nothing happens to be ruined through it. And despite our possible foreknowledge both the first and second part of the movie can be described as equally fascinating.
"The Others" is another story. Here it's also possible to figure out what's going on somewhere in the middle of the feature - it must be admitted not without a little help of your being acquainted with "The Sixth Sense". But - albeit the movie is very well made in terms of its atmosphere - nothing particularly holds your attention neither prior to nor after that moment. Besides, if Night Shyamalan manages to implement the original idea in question with great consistency and without a single instance of cheating, Amenabar's flick does not seem to be completely impeccable in this respect - for example, I might be missing something but should we presume that before the curtains happen to be altogether removed the "real" family never tried to open them? Nevertheless I believe "The Others" can be considered a minor masterpiece. All you need to do to let this miraculous transformation happen to the movie is to perceive it not as a somewhat epigonic attempt at exploiting an idea which has already been properly utilized once, but rather as a quite ingenious screen adaptation of Henry James' "The Turn Of The Screw". Indeed, parallels between the two pieces would be multiple.
In the case of James' magnificent novella what we have on the surface is a "ghost" story about two children being haunted by apparitions of servants and their governess who is in a desperate attempt to protect them. However, according to more recent interpretations - which seem much more plausible than earlier readings - the story that had really been written by James and skilfully hidden behind the first one is a horrid drama of children betrayed by their protectress - not out of malicious impulse, but on simple and unfortunate grounds of being mad. Which would be the core structure and meaning of "The Others" exactly.
If we go into details we find numerous other correspondences: two children (but in James' story one of them survives the ordeal), a totally isolated abode where events take place, apparitions of servants who supposedly pose a threat, occasional attempts of the children to rebel against imposed "protection". Even the reason for madness is probably one and the same in both cases - the passionate love turned by circumstances into an impossible one. But the main thing is connection between the structural frames of these pieces with exactly the same pattern transpiring in both of them: we follow the story of children haunted by ghosts and come to a shocking revelation - there is no ghosts, but the tragedy is deeper than we could ever imagine. So if this movie was, in fact, inspired by James' work, what we have here is a perfectly accurate rendition of the original idea into the language of film. And, probably, one of the most brilliant screen adaptations of a literary work among all ever undertaken.
The first fifteen minutes of Gus Van Sant's "Last Days" strike you as
the last days of the movies as the auteur - who not for the first time
embarks upon such merciless cinematic techniques - offers shots, which
look like ones made with the equipment borrowed at a nearby pawn-shop.
In a while you realize that it wouldn't be the only instance of the
director repeating himself - those Rashomon-like time loops emerge -
the device had already been used in "Elephant", and in that case its
purpose was somewhat more clear. You begin to doubt whether it's worth
it. Make an effort. It is.
The deeper you plunge into a sombre atmosphere of the movie, the more hypnotic it feels, and the more congruous the techniques chosen by the director to approach his subject appear. Unlike "Elephant" - where the same austere ways work out well only at the beginning of the movie, but acquire a staggering quality later into it, and, in the end, leave the audience bereft not only of a conventional resolution, but also any sensible substitute. In this case nothing stumbles halfway and a dramatic tension increases unabatedly.
Despite the seemingly rambling narrative - or rather a virtual absence of it - this Van Sant's "meditation on the theme of death" is, in fact, pretty strictly structured. In a certain way following the tracks of Travis Bickle from Scorsese's "Taxi Driver" we will be following Blake (an exceptional minimalist performance delivered by Michael Pitt, who also provided a song which is to become the main contribution to the most powerful scene of the movie) through all the circles of total isolation. The outer circle is represented by various accidental characters like a kind of salesman who expatiates in a benign manner on massive opportunities of a new repair station while looking at someone who is actually dying in front of him. Or a couple of church crooks who are selling salvation in retail with a handsome discount on week-ends. The inner one - by an array of "friends" who do not seem to find it appropriate to interfere in this quiet passing away unless something really urgent arises - for instance, they occur to be in need for a jet heater.
But what we encounter here is not Bickle's alienation from the world which still exists out there and, however ugly it might seem, inspires his final Bloody Mass which can be interpreted as nothing less than a breakthrough to it at all costs. It's something else. It's the total, utter and complete loneliness of a man forgotten on another planet at the moment when he finds out that his home one has just exploded. And as Blake turns to his last refuge - music, we begin to anticipate the imminent ending as something that might be not an end, but an exit.
The main character is muttering almost all his lines in the way that makes it almost impossible to comprehend him. This device applied throughout the film is reminiscent of the design of that celebrated scene from M. Antonioni's "The Adventure" where the characters are roaming the deserted island calling out to each other, but unable to establish any real communication. So it's been here. Until this scene comes along.
The one that justifies all the exertion the movie might have required from you to get to this point. One room, one man, one guitar - and a heartrending account of the desperate search for a ray of hope in the world where there is none left. With its inevitable ultimate conclusion - if you are not to give up your quest, you'll have to look outside. Which he does - a naked man on the naked earth. On a Saturday evening eight hundred years ago in Umbria St. Francis of Assisi died in the same way.
Although this movie, produced by a modern film-maker, is touched with an almost Bressonian austerity it's worth your efforts. If to name just one thing, you're going to be rewarded with the scene which, along with that gazing through the dance studio's windows from P. Almodovar's "Talk to Her", for instance, contributes to the collection of genuinely dramatic moments provided by contemporary cinema.
It was utterly predictable an outcome - a much anticipated screen
adaptation of Dan Brown's indeed horribly written, but quite
entertaining (and even somewhat thought-provoking - quite a feat for
the area of contemporary mainstream entertainment) in terms of its
plot, and certainly humanistic in terms of its message, "The Da Vinci
Code" turning out to be a disappointment. What has become a surprise is
the extent of it. Actually, it was an announcement of Ron Howard to
become a director on this project that instantly turned a cheerful
anticipation into a concerned apprehension. Mr. Howard is commonly
known as a conscientious workman, but nothing more than that. While in
this case some real creativity was needed. Well, judging by the result,
even the director's not quite imaginative craftsmanship seems to have
been seriously exaggerated.
The way in which the movie is made clearly suggests that its creators assumed that their potential audiences were acquainted with the book. I might be mistaken, but it's immaterial - a good portion of those who wound up as the viewers of this one, if not the overwhelming majority of them, WERE familiar with it. So I wonder if it ever occurred to the creators that they were actually supposed to come up with some idea in order to overcome this unfortunate circumstance? And if you come to think about it there was only one approach that gave a chance to stay faithful to the book and, at the same time, provide people with something which wouldn't reduce their experience to a dubiously entertaining undertaking of getting themselves acquainted with a weather forecast for yesterday.
To illustrate this point allow me a brief deviation. For any sentient viewer the ending of M. Night Shyamalan's minor "ghost" masterpiece is more than predictable - after all the answer is being delivered in plain words somewhere in the middle of the movie. Nonetheless, the finale with its "revelation" works out superbly and is indeed quite overwhelming. It's just that it's rather strikes you with its dramatic than surprising effect. That was exactly the way to go on this occasion.
The similar shift of emphasis - enigmas giving way to drama - might have saved this adaptation. Through creating a dense atmosphere, arranging meticulously all elements in every scene, introducing, if necessary, sensible alterations to the original developments, and engaging some real acting it was possible to try to shift accents from mysteries to the dramatic meaning behind their resolutions, characters' feelings about them and gradually transpiring behind each of those events the general message. Thus it was possible to repeat the effect as it occurred in the process of reading of the novel - despite the fact that, strictly speaking, none of those revelations would be something actually new to the audience. Consider, for instance, Mr. Shyamalan's ingenious use of a chain of subplots for deviating our attention in a very organic way from contemplating the obvious truth and creating the perfect emotional landscape which in turn is then used to sweep us away in the end. So it can be said that such an accomplishment was well within the capacities of a mortal. But, obviously, far beyond the abilities of two creative "corpses" who teamed up here to write and direct.
And , unfortunately, what we are offered instead as a result of their joint efforts is just an idiotic recountal of the novel's well-known events in pictures - obviously meant for those who failed to develop their reading skills. And properly speaking those pictures suck. The performers exchange their lines in a hasty manner which would be more appropriate for a first reading rehearsal. As to Mr. Howard's directing skills in general manifested here they simply seem laughable up to a certain point in the movie. After that point it ain't even funny anymore. Though the director has certainly managed to provide one single contribution to all the original mysteries - when for some profoundly enigmatic reasons decided to make Jurgen Prochnow with his "a working class hero is something to be" looks pose as a refined French aristocrat.
It also should be mentioned that Mr. Brown had probably made a mistake when he rejected the initial proposition to turn his book into a TV production. Had the material been properly rendered it might simply have exceeded all the reasonable time limitations applicable to a theatrical release. As it is the movie does the same thing - but in terms of its quality. And now what can be said? - A CON HID VICE, DET.
It's great after years of quasi-esoteric nonsense - for instance, if we
consider the most sensible among possible interpretations of "Lost
Highway", we'll simply get an evil twin/male version of this latest
accomplishment - Mr. Lynch has come up with something at last that can
justify his reputation as one of the most interesting directors
nowadays - a "straight story", but delivered through such a complex,
and yet immaculately pulled together, piece of work that it makes
practically a perfect movie.
The only slight disappointment is the movie's comparative failure at the box-office. But the persistent unwillingness of pop-corn audiences to apply any kind of exertion to the viewing process, which resulted in the relatively modest box-office figures in this case, doesn't diminish in any way a sheer perfection of this work - definitely one of the all-time gems produced by this department of cinema.
The first scene which instantly elevates the movie to this level is that coffee-shop dream recollection conversation. With its eerie atmosphere and exquisite composition this scene can make you feel creeps in broad daylight. It's also one of the scenes which explicitly introduces the motives of different realities, difficulties that can be encountered if you wish to identify the "true" one, and possible horrible consequences of this wish being granted.
But where these motives, along with all other elements of this sophisticated construction, reach their prime and create a really breathtaking puzzle is in the audition scene. Incidentally, it's quite interesting that a metamorphosis your perception of this scene should undergo to get you to the core of its elaborate design and impeccable realization is very close to one that occurs in the course of apprehending Edouard Manet's eminent masterpiece "Luncheon on the Grass".
The central objects on the painting are two well-dressed men and a well-undressed woman - with some park scenery used as the background. With the exception of the lady's a bit audacious outfit what we see seem to be just a regular depiction of a picnic. At first glance it is just a natural glimpse of the reality. But if you examine the painting more closely you start to notice various puzzling details: its very strange perspective which rather resembles some theatrical setting than a real vista; an incongruous set of fruits scattered around the tumbled basket which do not belong to one season etc. And through them you come to a conclusion - what you see is not just a plain reflection of superficial reality.
In the same way, carefully examining all the elements of the audition scene - while taking into account the overall context - you break through its surface and see how seemingly simple developments rearrange themselves into something far more complex and ominous, and the main character disintegrates giving away the indications of her apparitional nature - long before the moment when the final dreadful explanation is clearly presented. Thus Lynch masterfully creates a thrilling hieroglyph of apprehension with menace, death and tragedy lurking dimly but right in the middle.
It's curious that we can find another parallels between the design of this scene and the Manet's painting - not to mention the motive of sexual defiance which is immanent in both of them. For instance, at the beginning of the audition the would-be director is giving some instructions to the performers. One of them contains this obscure guidance that they should act like "...the two of them with themselves...". Though it mightily looks like this dude doesn't have the slightest idea what he's talking about, as the audition proceeds the players somehow happen to follow this vague instruction. And it appears that, despite their more than a close contact, there are moments when Betty is communicating not to her partner but to someone or something else. And this oddity is another clue to the core of the hieroglyph mentioned. Those three characters on the Manet's painting surprisingly also do not look at each other. And their refusal to do so, which creates separate universes within one seemingly coherent group, is similarly one of the critical keys to the metaphor hidden behind its surface.
The mentioned theme of different realities remains persistent through the following scenes to reach its climax once more - during the outstanding Silencio club sequence. When Betty and her friend start to sob vehemently over a song which is being "performed" on the stage, we once more fall for this overwhelming presentation too - taking it as real. The actual drama and horrific significance of these desperate attempts to cling to what seems to be real but proves to be not is to become clear just a few minutes later. All you would have to do is to make several final steps through the terrific dreamscape of this movie. Where you travel from one nightmare to another and in the end encounter the reality to realize that the nightmares were a comfort.
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