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Sunrise Takes Us Into Darkness
The opening few minutes of Sunrise are at first compelling and overdone all at once. When scenes remain on screen for too long and are repeated often - it begs the question..."does this film maker have a grasp on the importance of his story or simply aiming for extended stylish pop-art"? For an artistic director turned feature director 'Sunrise' is Mumbai born Partho Sen-Gupta's second full length movie as writer/director.
The story is an important one, given that thousands of children go missing each year with most ending up in the repulsive child sex trade. So perhaps Sen-Gupta's movie could have been worthy of better shape and some conventional styling to add a little more accessibility to its nightmarish eye-of-the-beholder dreamscape. As it stands, it's unsure where the protagonists's guilt-ridden psychic dreams and reality merge - making it difficult work for general audiences looking to lock-into something tangible. Jean-Marc Ferriere's Cinematography is dazzling, considering the locations and he makes remarkable use of lighting and a water drenched setting. Most of the youthful cast also do well given their difficult subject matter - though perhaps more could have been done to better develop a couple of these situations.
Good but maybe could have been better with less art and more class.
The Good German (2006)
This Good German Proves Unworthy
Style is everything in this soulless film. Clooney delivers nothing other than Clooney, Blanchett her usual wooden hot as ice whore and Toby Maguire a foul mouthed scumbag who thankfully is made redundant but, not quite soon enough. The WW11 40's settings look great in crisp B/W (well, color drained b/w). The Ted McCord and James Wong Howe (etc) styled photography is the real star and without this I would have fallen asleep as did others. Cigarette company's must throw bags of money at film-makers who move into this era, as my eyes and lungs were burning just watching the unrealistic depiction of all those cancer sticks burning at every minute.
It's difficult to believe this screenplay was adapted by the same writer as 'Quiz Show' - what a come down or was it the fault of the novelist who's one and only work this was?. Not one character has any redeeming qualities - leaving us no-one to care for. This also leaves the viewer with little interest in following an overly convoluted story. Thomas Newman's music score leans towards being a neat copy of Bernard Herman's 'Kane', Psycho', (etc) with Steven Soderbergh's direction modeled along the lines of Wells, Hitchcock, et all. While most of the film is technically good looking some scene's are let down by vastly over-lit sets. Soderbergh also acquits himself as a most capable cinematographer (as Peter Andrews?) but, the story is cold beyond any warming. Could have been improved greatly with better writing. Looks like most audiences wisely knew to stay away - making it little wonder the money did not flow back into this huge budget, cloned, box office bomb....
Lost Boy (2015)
Lost Boy Will Keep You Looking
This odd outing by LeGrand productions is one of those borderline movies that seem to be on the verge of very serious comment with leanings towards exploitation. The story has its beginnings in truth and it's ending in supposition. It's well acted by most all, well photographed, well written with a keen sense of character and suspense. Direction is better than average, if not perfect but, very good in terms of its television origins.
The premise is strong - locking into the nature of vulnerability and the desire for something to be true regardless of the accompanying possibilities. The characters are drawn from the sad situations we see happening around us daily and the outcomes are in line with their difficult situations. There are lessons to be learned from this tense situation, especially for those contemplating sharing their home and families with others from a troubled background (not that this cant be a rewarding experience). Just be aware the road to recovery can be fraught with challenges. Recommended for those who appreciate stories emulating from today's headlines.
A Room Without A View You Wont Forget Easily
When the four main components that make a movie better than average are brought together the result can be striking. First, is the importance of a good script with a strong story that many should be able to relate to & when this essential element has its basis in fact, it's already well ahead. Emma Donoghue's script supplies all this. Follow with a director who has a personal passion to bring this particular story to life & Irish born (of Eastern Jewish parentage) Lenny Abrahamson was the right choice.
If Performers have a large role in convincing us to care and feel for the subjects they play - this film certainly has those! Next comes someone to create images that will draw us into each situation and with Award nominee Cinematographer Danny Cohen ('The Kings Speech') this is almost perfectly achieved. I say almost, as the 11 x 11ft set he was given to capture a large degree of his shots in would have been extremely limiting - this no doubt created obstacles i'm sure everyone would have preferred to do without (referring to a couple of clumsy but minor, hand help shots). A sympathetic producer who wants the best result caps a good production off.
Stephen Rennick's sensitive Music Score and carefully detailed Editing lifts this work even higher. Multi-talented Brie Larson certainly earned her well deserved Oscar as 'Ma', with young Jacob Tremblay surprisingly impressive as son Jack. All cast members work hard to make this harrowing film unfold in a naturalistic manner. When generally mindless 'action' movies win massive amounts of Awards and spend obscene amounts of money achieving this it's refreshing when a life affirming gem like 'Room' comes along to add balance to the industry. With the task of pleasing everybody being just about impossible - some won't be able to relate to 'Room's' highly claustrophobic, personal situations so, the hard and fast action aficionados won't understand the accolades. Others will be astounded and may even come back for a second visit.
If being technical, I'm perhaps a little perplexed as how the 'garden shed' with its skylight kept the screams out of neighbor's ear range and the captors in for so long but, perhaps this demented captor had rebuilt the internals with heavily padded materials - I understand the original situation this story is based on took place in a European cellar (not sure why this was altered). Maybe the captor was also overly naive in not checking the body in the carpet (?). Other than these plot details , 'Room' is not to be missed by appreciators of discerning films.
The Hateful Eight (2015)
The Hate Filled 8th
Seems a huge pity movies like this even find an audience let alone progress beyond the scripting stage. That people have lowered their expectations to Tarantino's sub-standard content is incomprehensible. Some misguided individuals tend to think sensationalist 'nigger' calling (among endless other perversions) coupled with violence on both sides, acts as a deterrent for racial bias, not so - it's more likely to encourage it! Looking at just one aspect of the technical dept; Producer/distributors like the Weinsteins will foolishly give this hugely overrated movie maker large sums of money to play out his immature fantasies, so they can garner profits from his folly. Who else would be fool enough to indulge him with a budget that allows for Filming in Ultra Panavision 70mm? especially for a film where up to 90% of story takes place in a dingy snow bound cabin?! It's also little wonder this director covers himself by using the same cinematographer for the majority of his works - without this talented chap to grace his titles they would probably look rather limp. With all this money and talent, technical reality is still thrown away with the obvious over lighting of a set - which in all historic fact, could only have been a dim candle lit situation sure we all want to see the subject but, such super bright led lighting in the 1800's is rather ludicrous.
Taking a quick look at the moral dept; Further testimonies to a general lowering of standards can be found within some of the analyses written about the subjects of these movies. When third rate hatred and ultra violence replaces intelligent observation or character study - it shows critics and fans have allowed themselves to become blinkered. Some, unbelievably, argue these movies are serious studies of social history, while completely overlooking the simpleton approach taken with dialogue, characterisations, and historical accuracy. Only an industry out to make profits from over the top graphic violence and obscenity would defend these actions - against claims made by numerous health professionals the world over. In one particularly repugnant sequence a victim is stripped naked at gunpoint, forced to walk through snow, then told they would be spared if they performed fellatio while the perpetrator screamed obscenities only to be shot through the head at the end of the act. What is this if not the writer/director's own perversions being acted out on screen? So much extended moronic nonsense is thrown at the audience including someone being shot between the legs at point blank range, then somehow being able to laugh while they drag a woman's body (dangling at the end of a hangman's rope) up and over a ceiling rafter - with the energy to hold her struggling body in the air till she dies. It beggars belief that anyone could write such trash let alone commit it to film. What's in the minds of those who laud this stuff? - certainly not intelligence or any understanding of morality.
Prolific Italian composer Ennio Morricone said after his first collaboration with Tarantino he would never work with him again. Tarantino knowing the value of having Morricone's name on his credits - simply made an offer he could not refuse, giving even more of the producers finances to entice him back. While the Academy saw fit to award an Oscar to the score, it remains just another re-run of earlier Morricone works and sounds every bit like the composer never saw a frame of the movie (which he didn't!). Morricone was 'too busy' to look at any of the footage and simply sent in a score that, many others agree, was then rather poorly used in the final cut. Such an odd business. Yet again Tarrantino copies Sergio Leone's 'Once Upon a Time in the West' (+ others) right down to the over-length 3hr running time (someone should introduce him to the cutting room floor). The endless episodic 'Chapters' and somewhat corny voice-over, at times reduce the pace to a plodding bore.
If this is Tarantino's 8th movie then spare us the 9th and 10th. Hang up your guns or consider turning them on yourself and spare the world any further sludge.
Valley of Love (2015)
A Slow Journey To No Particular Place.
At the close of this movie I half expected the name Roman Polanski might appear. Many of the under-explored themes and situations bring to mind vague occult aspects from several of his works. First and foremost is the promise of a ghostly re-appearance by the dead son of two French movie actors. They've received letters from their son following his suicide - instructing both to meet in Death Valley USA at specific times - where he will mysteriously reveal himself to them one last time (If not yet seen and you don't want to know anything about it there may be some minor spoilers following...)
On the way to this event there are some bizarre happenings. The disturbing vision of a deformed girl in the middle of the night talking about death. A Wolf's (or Dog's) mutilated head in a bag, left in a toilet block. None of these situations are further explored - they just seem to happen for the sake of it. Cultists and film study groups will have a field day 'making-up' theories on the hidden deep and 'meaningful' messages.
Gerard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert give strong performances playing their own 'names sake's' and Cinematographer Christophe Offenstein bathes it in glossy images. The haunting minimalist music by Charles Avers is effective and it's disappointing to find the composer's name not included on this IMDb listing (trust this may be remedied). Director/Writer Guillaume Nicloux seems bent on being the replacement for Polanski and nearly bores the viewer to death with endlessly-long walking shots of his stars going somewhere or nowhere. Sometimes it's mildly compelling but ultimately empty.
If you're into talkie supernatural themes or questions without answers you may find comfort here, otherwise be warned...
Essentric Humour Laced With Grim Reality
What can you truly say about an Icelandic film that features - as the principal story line - two sheep farming brothers who've not spoken to each other in 40years? Yes, it looks good (this part of the worlds film makers are the last to leave a scene on screen for long enough for the viewer to fully say they saw it!). Only problem here, is the scenes, like the story, are minimalist. The performances are untypical so you feel you could be watching a documentary about the actual farmers of the region - this is a plus. The landscapes are stark and shot to capture the vast emptiness with cold honesty.
The music is as stark and cold as the story and surroundings - also a plus. The story reminds us of the sibling rivalry that raked several Biblical families and nations. The real star just could have been the astoundingly intelligent dog who acts as the go-between-postal service between these two somewhat ignorant men - this animal has to seen to be believed. The tragedy of devastating livestock diseases that sweep through these isolated farming communities is understandably gut wrenching for every poor soul involved but, the main focus of the story poses other asides that don't seem to be fully explored.
If you, like me, don't feel satisfied with open-ended finales...endings where you have to imagine the final outcome, then you may not be fulfilled by the final fade out. Yes, there are only two possibilities as closures but, which one was it! OK, there is a resolve to some relationship aspects --but you felt that coming anyway-- so what about survival? the possibility between life or death in these frozen outdoor situations is as minimal as the story and gets to be less so with each exposed minute...
Overall this is reasonably good character study (albeit odd characters) that keeps you watching even though it could have offered a touch more. Not for Action aficionados but at least it beats the cheap World Movie channel's usual perverse trash-fests hands down!
Postcards from the Edge (1990)
Seems 'Postcards' has elements of real life and fiction that some have taken seriously. Not sure it could be said that Fisher truly rose to respected movie star prominence - seems perhaps writing was her forte (or perhaps sadly, as this film suggests it was the addictions that got in the way). 'Postcards' also has the opportunity to say something profound about several very serious human afflictions (especially in Hollywood) but remains instead happy to sell itself off mostly as suss humor.
Appeares Carrie's mother Debbie Reynolds wanted to play the mother role but director Mike Nichols said she wouldn't be right for the part. So much for some of those suggestions about this being based on certain family facts. My guess is it might have been easier to write about part of the life you're living than the one you have to create from scratch. The movie makes some good statements about the mirage that is movie making and has numerous terrific performances, both acting and musically. Then there's also that treating doctor who asks to take the actress out for a date...to the movies!
It's a grim story of self destruction wanting to be taken as 'fun'.
Tell the World (2015)
Have to admit when a friend gave me this DVD and I looked at the cover, was expecting this production to be just another cheaply done, unconvincing 'story of a church'. How wrong I was! From the first image on screen, I was drawn in and astounded at the strong production values and remained so till the very closing scene. I also kept expecting the performances to leave me wanting to hide my face in embarrassment - this didn't happen. It's rare to find such a professional cast and production crew allocated to a movie of this kind. Perhaps the DVD cover could do with a minor re design - just to give it a little more of an appealing appearance (even though it's quite good as is - ?) Perhaps some viewers not interested in the subject might find it a little bland at times but I was fascinated. Worth investing the time to watch.
Tommie-Amber Pirie as Ellen White, had me wanting to cry along with her during many powerful emotional scenes. Stephen MacDonald fully convinced as her supportive husband, in fact most all cast members were well above average. British born Cameraman Peter Moss (cameraman under D.O.P. Don McApline on 'Breaker Morant' '8o) captures all the stunning beauty of the rural county side and adds visual depth to the many dramatic scenes throughout this deeply moving drama. Moss has as director, the award winning Kyle Portbury who keeps the story moving with his strong guidance.
Canadian Composer Catalin Marin beautifully underscores the action and characters - the musical arranger is not listed on this IMDb page but all orchestrations are splendid. Some reviewers have made a point of noting what they felt was 'fiddling' by the producers - claiming they made alterations to the directors original work. Maybe this is so, maybe not?. But, are not the producers the folk who put up all the money and employ the director? So why these complaints? I imagine the result might have been the length of the finished movie - yes it was a little long but, it at least held your interest - so apart from being a little episodic (as is the nature of the story anyway) - it leaves me unsure just what these complaints are all about?
I had heard and read parts of this historical story over the years but never was it made so clear before this production. I'm not all that sure how much difference it makes but tend to agree that, according to the early calendar, Saturday is the seventh day of the week - this then is the true Sabath, making it the day we were meant to worship (not SUN-day) There are also of course, still some who continue to put prophetic dates on Christ's return, but why?...If his coming is told in scriptures as being: "Like a thief in the night" why would you need a circle on a calendar! Just be ready at ALL times.
A Very Good Glimpse Of What Could Have Been...
Smile isn't a film that's likely to please many action movie watchers. Some may not have the patience needed to understand its fine intentions. It's actually a film with much to say - being essentially an introduction to the World Wide Doctors Gift fund. The beginning of the movie sets the scene perfectly - a kindly shanghai worker, perfectly played by Luoyong Wang ('Bruce Lee Story'93) finds an abandoned new born baby girl and takes her home to selflessly give the child a better chance for a decent life. This causes friction between his wife an son.
On the same day in California USA another baby girl is born into the family of a Doctor and his wife. The parallel story that unfolds in the US tends to wander into story details that detract from the main theme - slowing the movie unnecessarily. Katie, the California girl who's very well played by Mika Boorem, has all she could want materialistically but she's not generally given to care for anyone other than herself. Enter one of her school teachers Mr Matthews, played by the interesting Sean Astin ('Lord Of The Rings' 1-2-3.). During the last school year Mr Mathews was involved in taking students to China to voluntarily participate in the medical charity group 'Operation Smile'. He's now attempting to recruit a new group to return this year. This eventually brings the two same-day-born girls together. Unfortunately, first time feature writer/director Jeffrey Krammer tends to gloss over some of the more important details - while other padded situations seem to receive a little more attention than they deserve. The movie would have played better being at least 20min shorter.
A recipient of the prestigious American Cinematographers Award: Director of photography, Edward Pei (Panther '95) gives the film a truly striking visual treatment. For one reason or another the movie tends to offer far more believable performances during the Chinese sequences than the states. An interesting sequence has the Chinese 'dad' and adopted daughter out watching a Roy Rogers film projected at an outdoor mall! complete with loving shots of the 35mm (no less) projectors. What makes this unusual is that a scene like this takes a good deal of setting up, especially in the days of video projection. Seems Dale and Roy Rogers set up a grant/fund to keep family entertainment alive - hats off to them both!
The wives don't shape-up all that well in this story, with Katie's mum the lovely Linda Hamilton (Dante's Peak '97) seeming to fly off the handle too easily and Danial's wife played by Jia Song showing no feelings for the little deformed orphan. While 'Smile' may have flaws, the only story to seriously consider is the 'Operation Smile' program's ability to bring people of other lands together in care, also offering the all important potential for personal growth. An understanding of one of life's most vital aspects--the ability to care for others as you would have them care for you-- Those looking for an examination of life-changing situations could enjoy this most.