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Religion is Evil
Whilst this film is a bit rubbish and not very funny (the sh*t demon is simply the most awful piece of film making ever), one must applaud the effort to expose the evil dogma of the Catholic church. This religion wallows in opulence whilst huge numbers of its adherents cry in hunger and poverty, this 'religion' speaks out against the use of condoms in aids-ridden Africa... this religion collaborated with the Nazis and refused to condemn the Holocaust. I just wish Kevin Smith has worked a little harder at producing a thoughtful and intelligent script, and not one that shoe-horned all his old mates into a piece that rarely rises above the level of school-boy humour.
Religion in all its forms offers nothing but intellectual slavery, backward thinking atrophy, offensive racism and extremism that will ultimately result in the death knell for the human race. It needs a great film to expose this. Dogma is not that film.
Bring It On (2000)
Best Movie Ever Made - Better Than Lawrence of Arabia
My top five movies are:
1.Bring It On 2.Shawshank Redemption 3.Citizen Kane 4.Lawrence of Arabia 5.Ran
This film scales the heights of storytelling at its most visceral and eschews the prosaic mundanity of the standard teen-flick that was so ubiquitous in the nineties. Taking as it does the cutthroat world of cheer-leading in the US, it wrenches a tale so shatteringly shocking from this backdrop that you are left breathless and reeling from the sheer tour-de-force of passion, betrayal, lust and, yes, humour.
My first watching left me reeling with its heady brew of excitement, salacious internal fury and brilliantly twisting turning tale. Nothing, but nothing, will prepare you for this film. You will need to watch it over and over again just to absorb the gut-level blows the script delivers; then you will view it some more to start picking up on the subtle nuances and almost unnoticeable directorial touches that serve to keep you engaged and flummoxed at an almost subliminal level.
The Buffy alumni of Kramer and Dushku are worth the price of the DVD Special Edition alone but mix into this the (still, my beating heart)almost perfect Dunst, Union and Bell and frankly, you have a phalanx of unbearable beauty, talent and teasing Lolita-esqe innuendo.
I am not worthy to explain the plot - I simply could not do it justice. But, please, I implore you, watch this film and then vote for it with Ten Stars. The only shame is that the stars dial don't go up to eleven like the buttons on a Spinal Tap amp.
Submit to the avuncular charm of Sparky Polastri and thank the Lord for Peyton Reed.
Not bettered until Legally Blonde.
...finally, for those reviewers on here that recommend that those involved with this film f*ck off and die - well, really, get a life, an intellect, a sense of humour and proportion; and learn to spend your time more productively. It is my personal mission now to get this film recognised for the masterpiece it is - just to p*ss you off.
Workmanlike but boring
I caught this movie on Sky Premiere this week and it filled 80 minutes. Being from the UK, I had no baggage coming to this film. I understand that the case received saturation coverage in the US, featuring as it does the essential ingredients of murder, sex and betrayal. I didn't realise that the screenplay was adapted from a book by Amber Frey, which clearly put the balance in her favour. During the movie, she came across as a person of integrity and high morals. What a surprise then, when I searched her on Google after watching the movie, to discover that she had written the required book, appeared on numerous chat shows, sold the film rights, etc.
Ah well, I suppose you can't blame someone for making a buck or two.
The film itself is serviceable but bland as you would expect of a TV movie. The central roles are all played by actors who bear a startling resemblance to their real-life counterparts. None more so than the actress Janel Moloney playing the role of Amber Frey. I am not familiar with Moloney's work in the West Wing but I assume her soporific turn here was a reflection of the real-life nature of Frey. If it's not - then, please excuse me, but this was a performance that ran the gamut of emotions from A to B. Considering the situation she found herself in I am surprised she remained so calm and composed - almost icy.
As usual in TV movies, there are huge leaps in the narrative and the audience is expected to fill in the holes. For example, one minute she is alone in the world after the revelations about her ex-boyfriend, the next, she is in bed with a massage colleague and has been made pregnant by him.
Finally, the courtroom scenes built up no tension whatsoever. They seemed tacked on almost as an afterthought.
All in all, it passed the 80 minutes, but if it had been a moment longer, it would have been too long.
There is probably a decent film to be made of this case - this ain't it.
Theodore Rex (1995)
$33m and not a penny of it on the screen!
Wow... what would you do with $33m? Let me give you a choice; you can either a) shred it and flush it down the toilet or b)make a film based on the premise of Whoopi Goldberg as a hard nut futuristic cop partnered with a rubber dinosaur who uses terms like "I didn't butt trumpet" and blows raspberries on the basis that this is funny. That's right, you would choose the option that has more merit - flushing down the toilet.
This has to be seen to be believed. I cannot even find the words to describe how bad this film is. It doesn't even fit into the "so bad - it's good" category. I actually have it on the television as I write - and whilst watching I felt the need to come onto IMDb and register my disgust.
Considering Jurassic Park was made a couple of years before, how on earth did they think that audiences would any longer tolerate a man dressed in a rubber suit? WG should have simply walked and damn the consequences. Everyone concerned will go to hell for this criminal waste of money.
I have to stop writing - I am about to implode.
It's not that it's bad - I just don't like being taken for stupid!
There are far too many high quality reviews on this film for me to make any real impact with my humble views. However... I re-watched Armageddon on TV a few nights ago and now, ten years after it was unleashed, I feel I can take a more pragmatic view.
Most of the articulate and intelligent reviews that have already been written cover off the preposterous nature of the science which underpins the woeful script. For example, the varying degrees to which gravity obeys the laws of dramatic tension rather than the laws of physics, the absolute necessity to have some serious Gatlin guns mounted on the drilling vehicles (what were they expecting annoyed aliens?), the ludicrous notion that NASA would let the moronic men-children anywhere within fifty miles of a shuttle - rather than simply train their own highly disciplined astronauts to operate a drill, the cardboard cut-out Russian cosmonaut whose script direction read "SHOUTING" at the beginning of each line. And... nukes with big green countdown read-outs on them, 12-inch diameter drills that make 36-inch diameter holes, Earth shorn of time-zones and the amazing a ability to put on sun-glasses whilst wearing a space-suit helmet. You get the gist, the list is endless.
All these and many other inconsistencies, inaccuracies and failures of reason are just about forgivable if the movie delivers what it is meant to, which on some levels it does, I suppose. The thing that really gets me though, and this is the bit that I find pretty unforgivable, is that the makers of the movie assume that I (and you) are morons who will let these issues go without questioning. Maybe for some of the Cletuses and Darlenes out there well, OK. But the vast majority of us average intelligence movie goers will say, "Whoa, hold on buddy. Do you expect me to swallow that premise or this notion?" To which Bay and his ilk say, "Sure, why not, eat your popcorn." That's what really irks me. The fact that they had all this money to spend and they used four dollars of it on technical advice for the script. Sheesh.
"Space dementia"... really, I ask you.
Blood Diamond (2006)
Excellence Out of Africa
To some, this movie is an un-holy alliance of Hollywood money grabbing white supremacist war mongers, overpaid crap actors and no-nothing politically naive writers. You only have to scan the "Hated It" one star reviews to see some of these points of view. There are some particularly bizarre viewpoints out there in the general cinema going populace of the world.
Others, however, have rightly given this movie the acclaim it so richly deserves. It must be incredibly hard to find just the right balance within a script when trying to combine the raw emotional gut-punch needed to convey the central message of a serious movie, whilst still making it entertaining enough to pull in crowds that will help to recover the budget. Edward Zwick and Charles Leavitt, director and writer respectively for Blood Diamond have fashioned a tour de force of film-making that exposes to a wider audience the harsh social and political realities of many African countries. Blood Diamond ranks alongside The Killing Fields in its sterling portrayal of man's inhumanity to his fellow man on an epic scale, whilst still retaining at its core a human interest story that can ground the audience that might be otherwise overwhelmed by sheer and pointless brutality.
The principal leads in Blood Diamond give performances that are both powerful and sensitive as required and special mention must be made for Leonardo di Caprio. Di Caprio is rapidly becoming a cinema great; his on-screen presence commands the film throughout and his acting abilities are rapidly becoming exceptional. Recent movies such as The Aviator and The Departed serve only to confirm this. After all, who is going to argue with Martin Scorcese's view of Leonardo's acting talents? Referring back to the one-star haters of this movie, I cannot understand how people can find fault with his Afrikaans accent, which is superbly judged and studied throughout the running time if it wavers at all (which I don't think it does) it is worth remembering that he is, after all, an actor putting it on for crying out loud. (Actually, as an aside, I am getting disappointed by IMDb letting through so many ill-conceived and poorly judged two or three line reviews by people who can't even take the time to spell correctly. I thought that there was ten line minimum requirement for review?) Anyhow, I am not going to deconstruct the plot others have done that here far better than I can. Suffice to say that Blood Diamond fully justifies the praise afforded it, to all parties concerned. It deserves ten stars and will take its place among the pantheon of modern epics that deliver blistering social commentary as well as thrilling spectacle.
Thanks for reading!
Exceptional Film Making
It is a bit late in the day for me to be offering a critique of Titanic - especially given that there are so many eloquent and knowledgeable reviews already posted here. However, I would like to offer my retrospective view of this film after having just re-watched the piece and the alternative endings on the special DVD release.
I was enthralled with Titanic when I saw it at the cinema and I was equally captivated when I watched it again on the video release. What struck me more than anything else was the sheer passion for the project displayed by director James Cameron. I had been a huge fan of Cameron and his body of work leading up to Titanic; he seems to be a filmmaker who truly understands that blockbusting, crowd pleasing cinema is just as vital and has as much integrity as small independent and more cerebral films. An unfashionable view, I guess, but blockbusters with a bit of soul are possible! Clearly Cameron invested a great deal of time, energy and resource investigating the doomed Titanic and the circumstances surrounding her demise. The lengths to which he and his crew went, to re-create events, locations and fittings faithfully can only be applauded. When you read the Goofs section here, it seems almost a shame to pick holes in an otherwise superbly crafted film. Also, let's not forget that Cameron is a truly technically innovative film maker; his early use of CGI lacks some of the seamlessness that we now expect, but back then it was truly jaw dropping.
Cameron is a director of huge quality but he is also a man that seems to divide opinion. Some people seem to hate him and cite his egotistical cry of "King of the World!" at the Oscars as justification for this (although he was clearly just paraphrasing his Jack Dawson character and letting the world know how he felt, not who he thought he was). He is also, apparently hard work on set; but let's face it, what perfectionist isn't hard work? I am one of those who think that Cameron makes fine, entertaining, spectacular and thoughtful films and he should be thanked for that.
Titanic is majestic cinema that delivers a romantic story against the backdrop of probably the most famous and resonant maritime disaster of all time. The plot is admittedly slight, but when you have the drama of the sinking of Titanic how much plot do you need? One of the nice things about the DVD is that you can see the alternative ending where old Rose shows Bill Paxton the Heart of the Ocean diamond, which is what I really wanted to happen when I first saw the film because the crew of the salvage vessel had some doubts about her story. I found this incredibly satisfying so if you haven't seen it, check it out.
Overall, looking back over the decade that has passed since its first release, Titanic had stood the test of time. It is an exceptional film executed in style by a singular and forward thinking director. The only downside that I can see it that it probably exhausted Cameron and took him off in other directions his output has been pretty woeful in the intervening years. Hopefully Avatar will be a marvel! 10/10
Excellence of the highest order
The secret to writing a great comedy series that will live long in people's affections is knowing when to end it. A famous example is Fawlty Towers, John Cleese did exactly the right thing shutting the doors to that dreadful Torquay hotel when he did. Too often a hit series is milked to death until the law of diminishing returns takes over and the programme becomes a shadow - or even a parody - of its former self. Ricky Gervaise and Stephen Marchant clearly know this and chose the perfect time to draw the wonderful "Office" to a close. They also knew exactly what fans of the series wanted - Dawn and Tim together. Anything less would have been a clear betrayal of the fan base.
I am not going to deliver the plot to you here, partly because I could not do it justice and partly because you must see this for yourself. Make sure that you watch the preceding episodes and first Chrsitmas special first though. However, I will declare that in my humble opinion, this programme is likely to never be bettered as comedy on the small screen. Forget the laugh-a-line sit coms of the US and the awful canned laughter of the UK. Simply revel in the glorious dissection of the human condition, the frustrations of under-achievement and personal delusion on a grand scale, cringe at excruciating faux pas and marvel at pomposity and sexism of breathtaking scope. All without a laugh track.
This is sublime. Do not die without having watched it.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)
Glossy but ultimately vacuous
Mr. & Mrs. Smith seems like an initially appealing prospect but ultimately ends up as a vacuous and unfulfilling experience. You approach it hungrily, with its wonderfully tempting component parts all laid before you; alluring and glossy. The exquisitely quirky beauty of Angelina Jolie, the sheer testosterone of Brad Pitt, the intriguing premise of the set-up, the money that will no doubt be lavished upon the project, the scope for comedic interplay and a complex plot of cross and double-cross and, hopefully, some blistering action set pieces. Well, it's all there but somehow the sum is not the equal of the parts.
Essentially, all the parts fail spectacularly. The leads fail to develop any real chemistry, the plot is too simplistic to the point of being non-existent, the true comedy moments can be counted on one finger and the action is generic and, frankly, boring. Brad and Angelina do a reasonable job but they are not one of cinema's finest pairings, struggling as they do to inject any true charisma or personality into their parts. Vince Vaughn is wasted in an essentially cameo role (I can't help thinking that quite of bit of him must be on a cutting room floor somewhere) and the plot delivers no suspense whatsoever.
The set-up has been seen before where one or both partners in a marriage are not what they appear to be (most notably in James Cameron's True Lies) and has been executed to a much higher standard. The script itself is leaden and the direction is flat and lifeless. The ending is stunningly abrupt with no resolution, as if everyone concerned with the production simply decided to stop filming and go home. Extraordinary. Assuming that there are two rival "agencies" out to get them then just polishing off a few henchmen is unlikely to stop that happening.
Ultimately, you will sit through a couple of hours of pouting and macho posturing and come away feeling just a little cheated as if the producers thought that getting Brad and Angelina together would be enough. (Interesting piece of trivia is that Nicole Kidman was the first choice to play Jane Smith that actually might have been more interesting!). Still, don't take my word for it take a look yourself and make your own mind up.
One of cinema's finest moments
Let's face it all of us want to believe in UFO's and, many of us do. Back in those dark dismal days of the 70's we were all largely just waiting for the mother ship to pitch up and whisk us all off to Alpha Centauri, or some such place. In the event, sadly, no one came. However, in 1977 a chap popped up called Spielberg who had decided that he would bring to the screen his vision of what it would be like if a race of benign and benevolent beings from across the universe decided to make Earth a stopover. Spielberg was still basking in the afterglow of the blockbusting success of Jaws, his first major movie released in 1975. This follow-up was to cement his reputation as a deliverer of bankable summer must-see movies and E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark were still in the future.
Firstly, it has to be said that everything else aside, one of the primary reasons for the success of the film was undoubtedly the public's hunger at that time for effects laden sci-fi which had been kick started by the release of Star Wars. The audience was the same and also, at that time, the "event" movies were few and far between so movies like Close Encounters benefited from repeat visits. Also, the emergence of new film technologies, coupled with the uninhibited visions of the clutch of new wave wunderkind directors (Lucas, De Palma etc.) was delivering jaw-dropping special effects, the like of which had never been seen before. It is all to easy to forget in these ho-hum days of CGI that, back then, the spectacle of the mother ship turning itself upside down over Devil's Tower and a battered X-Wing taking on a Death Star were hugely impressive, breathtaking, in fact.
The release of Close Encounters was premature at the time because Spielberg's vision was not quite complete and when he was given an extra $2m to film some additional scenes he came up with Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Special Edition, which was released in 1980. Following on from that, there have been several different versions of the film but the best and most satisfying was undoubtedly the first theatre release. The extra 15 minutes of footage shot for the Special Edition, largely concentrating on the experiences of Richard Dreyfuss in the alien ship at the end, add nothing to the story and in retrospect even Spielberg has admitted that this was a mistake. It represented the gilding of an already superb lily.
Spielberg turned to Dr. J. Allen Hynek, one of the world's foremost UFO experts and between them they attempted to craft a theory of what first contact with an alien race would be like. Interestingly, they came up with the struggle to communicate and understand rather than F11's firing nukes at a craft the size of Manhattan. This is to be applauded and probably illustrates some of the more socialist thinking of the time. Certainly, it could be argued with a reasonable degree of certainty that any race that had managed to collaborate to build the craft required to travel interstellar distances had probably gotten overt the need to make war by then. The magic of the final encounter is reflected in the upturned faces of the awed scientists and not in the faces of hard-bitten marines and is a theme Spielberg would return to at the end of E.T.
There are three principal characters in Close Encounters; Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), the everyman power worker telepathically tuned in to the visitors, Jillian Guiler (Melinda Dillon) whose young son has been abducted by the visitors and finally Claude Lacombe (François Truffaut), a UN scientist. The film follows the path of each of them to the destiny that awaits them at Devil's Tower in Wyoming, the chosen site of the alien visitation.. The casting was pretty much perfect Dreyfuss had lobbied Spielberg furiously to get the role (Steve McQueen was the first choice) and actually fitted the role perfectly. François Truffaut was a coup for Spielberg who didn't expect the great director to say yes to the part. In the event, he too fitted his part like a glove and was able to play the beguiled and dignified Lacombe at a perfect pitch. Being French also gave it an international air and not US centric, which also helped the movie.
Other collaborators on the movie included composer John Williams who has given most of Spielberg's movies their unique cinematic atmosphere down through the years and Douglas Trumbull whose special effects, as mentioned earlier were of a quality not seen before even in Star Wars. It could be reasonably argued that the real "star" of Close Encounters is the mother ship; that "wow" factor ranks alongside your first sight of a Jurassic Park dinosaur, your first experience of Titanic's CGI imagery, when CGI was young, or the climatic battle of Return of the King. In the seventies - it was simply awe inspiring.
I was privileged to see Close Encounters in the cinemas the day it was released in the UK and it has stayed in my imagination from that time. It is a film of the cinema and for the cinema. It is diminished on the television and our savvy kids will see nothing but a rather long melodrama with some spaceships. ID4 it ain't and it's all the better for it! 10/10
'Breaker' Morant (1980)
Excellent and intense examination of betrayal
Breaker Morant is a superbly crafted and compelling comment on the role of moral responsibility and humanity in a time of war. Director Bruce Beresford has coaxed a series of excellent acting performances from some great Australian talent. Justice here takes a back seat in the face of politicking and compromise expediencies. This film is a highly charged examination of culpability, affording an eclectic mix of viewpoints.
This is a challenging and thought provoking work, that drills into the hopelessness of the central characters who, we realise, are ultimately doomed. The trial is suffocating in its intensity and staging. The case is simple; three lieutenants are on trail for executing Boer POW's. They were acting under orders but the higher echelons have distanced themselves from the general orders. They are effectively scapegoats.
The director feels strongly about the material and story and gets right under the skins of all concerned. Ultimately though, even though we end up with the downbeat ending, it is still an excuse for the killer line: "shoot straight, ya bastards. Don't make a mess of it!" Watch this film and enjoy excellent performances, an absorbing script and Australian cinema of the highest order. 8/10.
Batman Forever (1995)
Like Warhol's famous "fifteen seconds of fame for everyone" remark, eventually, all Hollywood actors will play Batman. In this film it is Val Kilmer's turn. This time he gets a new girlfriend and a new sidekick, Dick Grayson (played by an ever so wooden Chris O'Donnell). Actually, I am probably being a bit unfair on O'Donnell who does turn in an acrobatic and workmanlike performance but he is just a bit bland.
After all the Gothic doom and surreal gloom of Burton's take on the Batman character this film is definitely lighter in tone, with some nice touches of humour and a bit of colour. Batman has acquired a new girlfriend as well; Dr. Chase Meridian played with sultry effectiveness by the ever-beautiful Nicole Kidman. Kidman's character is a psychiatrist who is an expert in split personalities which is handy given that both villains suffer from that very disorder.
And the film's principle strength is the two villains for the price of one: Jim Carrey as Edward Nygma the Riddler (e-nygma geddit??) and Tommy Lee Jones as the deranged Two-Face. Both performances are wildly over the top with huge amounts of scenery chomping going on but they are good value for money. The "riddles" hark back to the heady days of Frank Gorshin's take on the character in the 60's TV series
I am not going into the plot here it's almost throw away; needless to say that both dastardly villains want Batman dead for different reasons. The story flits about and there are plenty of strands to keep you occupied but the direction is solid and linear and there some nice romantic triangles in which to indulge yourself involving the Bruce/Batman/Chase relationships.
Schumacher's directorial take is a very different one to Tim Burton's and, as I previously mentioned, he has brought a lighter tone to Gotham. It feels more like a real city than the dark fantasy world of the previous films. As far as Kilmer is concerned; he makes a better Bruce Wayne than Keaton but under the cloak and mask it could be anyone.
A 7 rating for an entertaining couple of hours.
Oh my, such a great tale so artlessly told. Verne, for those of you that don't know, is (or rather was)one of the true visionaries of science fiction literature. JTTCOTE is one of his evergreen tales that has been endlessly re-made and re-worked by Hollywood. It even spawned a long-forgotten 70's cartoon series.
This film is does not serve the Verne's legacy well. There has clearly been money spent on it - some of the special effects are workmanlike - and a few of the c-list actors can turn in a decent performance when put to it. Here however, they are there for the paycheck and nothing more. I could live with that if they were at least working with a good script but everywhere you look there is cliché piled upon cliché and sloppy directing and production design.
I guess if you really want to know about this film, watch it and see for yourself but I warn you now, it's about fifteen hours long. At least that is what it felt like! But I guess the best flavour of the piece comes from the fact that the women of an underground undiscovered tribe of natives wear make-up, speak English in a late 20th century idiom and shave their armpits with some kind of incredibly close shaver. And they dance disco style! All this in the nineteenth century...
Go on, try it. It's one of those "so bad, it's good" type movies...
Chunky Roll-Necks Ahoy!!
I am re-visiting the first season of the original series a long time after my first viewings. I watched Man Trap and then Charlie X and everything was bumping along nicely. I was enjoying the gradual build of characters and sets... and then I watched this episode.
I found >Where No Man Has Gone Before> far more fascinating from a historical ST developmental point of view, than I did for the story. In essence the story is workmanlike and solidly performed and does pick up some pace toward the end. But what keeps your eyes on the screen is the first incarnation of Spock, those chunky roll-neck sweaters that pass as uniforms and the marvellously wooden acting of some of the supporting players. (Check out the early scene where the Heads of Section arrive on the bridge - they come on in tight formation and remain that way for the next ten minutes...)..
This is an essential episode for any true admirer of the ST universe - this is where it really kicked off!
Pure Comedic Gold from Ricky Gervaise
Every so often, England hits the comedic mark and creates a benchmark to which all else must aspire; Monthy Python, Dad's Army, Fawlty Towers, Only Fools and Horses and, of course, the simply faultless "The Office". The writing team of Gervais and Merchant crafted in that series some of the most achingly funny and desperately well observed depictions of the human condition ever committed to film. "The Office" struck a particular chord with me because I have spent most of my adult life in sales and they nailed the highs and lows of that career brilliantly.
Moving on then to their new offering; "Extras", I am happy to report that the observational skills have not deserted them. This time the central character (Andy Millman) is again played by Ricky Gervais, only, unlike his David Brent character, Millman is astute, caring and worth the time of day. Unforutnately, like Brent, he is also trapped in a spiral of underachievement.
Andy Millman is an film extra, a background artiste, who aspires to a real acting role and the central theme of each episode is his quest for a "line" in each film in which he appears in the background. Along side him is his (seemingly) only friend, a frustrated thirty something woman, Maggie Jacobs (superbly played by Ashley Jensen), whose sole aim seems to be to find a husband / longterm partner. Add into this mix a chronically crap agent (Merchant himself), a nemesis in the shape of another extra who seems to be getting lines and a liberal sprinkling of cameoing "A" list guest stars and you have a wonderful platform on which to build a spankingly funny series.
And wow... do they hit a home run! Every second of each episode is deliciously funny and acutely observed. Highlights to look out for are the Ben Stiller/Dodgeball opening weekend grosses scene - the Golly scene in Maggie's apartment - the "Are you really a Catholic scene" and, above anything you will have ever seen in a TV comedy, the entire Les Dennis episode.
Les Dennis will be lost on Americans but for those of us who have followed his plunging career, you can only weep for this superbly written and judged performance. Pathos doesn't even begin to cover it.
Also, anyone who can look at Kate Winslet again without thinking of that "phone sex" scene is a better man than me.
Please, please, watch "Extras". It may, for some, be an acquired taste but once you have that taste, its like a piece of Swiss chocolate - exquisite.
And no laugh track either - yay England.
Ocean's Twelve (2004)
A cinematic mugging
I think this film is meant to be a piece of installation art. It is a heist film that has robbed millions of people of small amounts of money, whilst cleverly featuring no actual heist on screen. Brilliant. Bravo. Author! Author! Please, I implore you, do not watch this movie. It re-defines the word "dreadful". The reviews here tell you all you need to know. The appalling acting - the total lack of a script - the confused direction and editing - the painful sight of Julia Robert pretending to be Julia Roberts and the mighty Bruce Willis standing around waiting for his cheque.
I just want to post a warning that you will feel mugged and dirty afterwards.
Brilliant and peerless
If you are reading this review (or indeed any other) trying to assess whether or not you should watch this film then please read no further and just go and slip in the DVD (Extended Version) and let the sights and sounds of Middle Earth wash over you. Nothing I, or indeed anyone else, can say should help you to form an opinion prior to watching. I guess the audience for the three films fall into two distinct categories; those who have read the books and those who have not. Those who have not, in my experience, tend to be overwhelmed by the absolute majesty of the vision but a little non-plussed by the actual story - seeing it as just some rather dopey fantasy; a Star Wars trilogy set in past times for the modern audience if you like. Then there is the "yes, I have read the books" class who in general seem to have a kind of smug arrogance grounded in comments such as "they left out too much", "its not what I imagined" or "Of course its all an allegory for the rise of the third Reich".
Tolkein bemoaned the lack of an heroic mythology for the English people and he sought to create one in his Rings trilogy of books. My opinion is too humble to count - but if you want it, I believe he succeeded. The epic backdrop, the heroes and villains, the rich history, the races and the languages are all utterly plausible as a long cherished story handed down over many generations. Peter Jackson and his team must be congratulated not only for their wonderful realisation of Middle Eath and its inhabitants; but for crafting a series a movies that captured the very essence of what Tolkein was trying to achieve.
Well done also for leaving out Tom Bombadil.
Taking Lives (2004)
The good, the bad and the ugly...
PLOT SPOILER IN FIRST PARAGRAPH ALERT!!! Let me say up front that I am a huge fan of Angelina Jolie and I think she brings a great depth to more or less all the characters she plays (with the obvious exclusion of Lara Croft). Here I got the feeling that she was more or less sleep walking through the movie until the point at which she realises that she has slept with the killer. Here I completely bought into her genuine sense of shock at her own ineptitude and lack of judgement.
This is a "by the numbers" thriller which tries hard to throw you off the scent but ultimately fails. I think that is because Ethan Hawke is dreadfully mis-cast and you just don't warm to the guy or his character from the off. It is also a stretch to think that Illeana (Jolie) would fall for him hook line and sinker as he just doesn't carry the charisma that the task would need.
Overall, this film does not serve up the required shocks to drag it into a higher rating but it does have two effective moments. The first one on the mattress; if you've seen the movie you'll know what I mean, and the other is the "slap" scene - genuinely shocking.
This is a movie that tries hard. Everyone in it has been a whole lot better at other points in their careers but overall it's not the trainwreck some would have you believe.
Incidentally, after his turn in Phonebooth - is Keifer Sutherland getting a taste for these walk on cameos?
Blast from the Past (1999)
A whimsical interlude...
A delightful and engaging rom com that both intrigues and satisfies on many levels. The basic set-up is a nice conceit that sees our hero, Adam Webber (Fraser), being born and raised in a nuclear fallout shelter, after his parents make it their home when they mistakenly believe a nuclear war has broken out between the US ans Russia in the early sixties. His parents (Walken and Spacek - both brilliant in their respective roles) bring their son up to be a "gentleman", socially adept, articulate, engaging and respectful of others. Of course, all of this clashes with the attitudes of the populace when he is forced to visit the outside world.
A chance encounter with Eva Rustikov (Silverstone - other than Clueless, never better)leads to a series of misadventures in which they both learn new values. He gets an education in the very different world of 1999 and she gets a few lessons in humility and humanity.
The plot is nicely judged and the incidental characters are realised well. The payoff in the last couple of scenes with Walken are both funny and poignant.
This is a feel good movie - warm and unassuming. Don't look for plot holes, goofs or inaccuracies. Just enjoy the film.
War of the Worlds (2005)
Get A Life!!!
I cannot believe how much negativity there is out there for this film! OK - so there are some sizeable holes in the plot, there are some distinct changes to the story (naturally), there is Dakota Fanning's screaming and there is a sharp ending. So what? This movie takes the good decision to maintain the POV of Mr. Average Joe (Cruise) and his attempts to wrap his head around the fact that aliens are invading the Earth and everything he knows is exploding around him in big balls of fire. He is dazed and confused but recognises that his primary goal is the protection and survival of his children. This is a neat juxtaposition of the set up in which we learn that he is a crap father with little or no parenting skills whatsoever - in fact he is selfish and frankly a bit of a loser.
SS sticks with Cruise's POV and doesn't get lost in the need to have lots of war room scenes and failed fighter / tank / nuclear bomb attacks on the invading tri-pods / mother ships etc. I liked that fact that all we know as the audience is what we could realistically expect the central characters to know. Therefore, we don't know why the aliens are here - they just are and they're ripping the joint up! As far as the children are concerned. I'll admit that I wanted to punch out the son's lights a few times but hey, he's a teenage boy with raging hormones and a real chip on his shoulder about his ineffectual father. As for Dakota Fanning, well, all the whinging geeks out there who have decried her panicking and screaming clearly have no idea what it is like to have young children, especially frightened or hysterical young children. I do. I have two daughters who, when they were younger, could cry up a storm when they needed to.
This film has some startling special effects, especially in the sound department - which I haven't seen mentioned. The CGI is effortless and seamless. The Tripods are frightening and awesome. I do have a gripe about the aliens - they are stunningly like ID4's aliens which I found odd. But, hey, there is nothing to say that two people cannot have the same vision of what aliens may look like.
There are the appropriate nods in the direction of both the book and the original film but I think the updating works well and should be applauded. The acting is excellent - both from the POV of the bewildered and sometimes ineffectual Cruise character, to the kids, to the general despair of those periphery characters we meet along the way.
If I have one reservation, it is the final scene of reunion between the mother and children. I think she should of had a couple of sooty smudges on her cheeks and perhaps a small rip in her blouse (I have deducted a point appropriately). Other than that... a cracking popcorn munching blockbuster!
Tru Calling (2003)
Head needs re-wiring
What the hell went on in this girl's head? Let's see shall we? You're being offered a series of your own by Joss Whedon, the chance to expand the wildly popular character that you have made your own in an already adored series... so a built in audience guaranteed and a surefire hit. On the other hand - why not take a chance on a show with a format that can go absolutely nowhere. Look, I am a huge ED fan and I think she is simply stunning but this decision was on the level of turning down the Beatles... sheesh...
And the review? Well, it had some nice touches but on the whole it stank. Avoid.
There are some awfully long and intricate reviews here that concern themselves with the minutae of Anakin's fall into the clutches of the Dark Side (TM), the ramifications of the poor acting and the shortcomings of the script... well, that's all as may be. What you really need to know is that this is a visual treat, an engrossing story and a seamless link into the events of the original film.
The Star Wars films were never about story or acting - they were about special effects, lightsabre duels and having some fun. (Oh, and toy merchandising). What will satisfy you most about this movie are the references to the original film and the inexorable process that leads us to where we know we are going; Anakin becomes Darth, Luke and Leia are born, Obi Wan and Yoda go into exile etc...
I thought that the scenes showing the Anakin's transformation into DV were stunningly well crafted and genuinely disturbing. When he tries, GL can actually do "dark" quite well. Parents of small younglings beware! I won't bore you with endless dissection of the story - go and judge for yourself. But from where I sat, I had a good time. I smiled at the cheesy dialogue, I winced occasionally at the wooden delivery of some lines, I jumped back when Jar Jar's face filled the screen (albeit briefly) but I also loved it...
Home run, George...
This movie is absolutely stunning in so many ways. The casting is superb, with the possible exception of Sam Rockwell, who quite frankly is irritating for large portions of his screen time. He needed to display a more subtle take on his character and remember that the Zaphod was a smooth operator; not a nutcase. Martin Freeman's take on the everyman Arthur Dent was right on the button; he nailed the bemused and bewildered manner perfectly. This will come as no surprise to fans of The Office. (His bemusement in the face of David Brent and Gareth was as funny as any of the mugging going on around him.) A special mention for Bill Nighy... a class act from any point of view. Another huge plus for the movie was its retained "Englishness". It would have been all too easy to transfer the action to the mid-west of the US and put a full range of American actors in the movie - but the whole point of the book would have been missed. Essentially, the book plays upon the discovery by Dent that the universe is in fact just a bigger version of England - complete with pointless queueing and unlimited bureaucracy. Lastly, the visual effects are stunning and in one set piece (the "factory floor" - you'll know it when you see it) absolutely breathtaking -easily on a par with anything George Lucas can come up with... My rating is 42. Go and see it - its more than worth a couple of hours of your time.
Fun but incoherent plot...
Sahara is based on a book by Clive Cussler of whom I know very little, although based on comments and posting that I have read here - he clearly has a legion of fans. I have read a couple of Dirk Pitt novels but I do not remember them that well other than the fact that in one of the books, Cussler put himself in the plot in a small role. Whether this was to lend some kind of reality to the story or if it was out of some sort of vanity - I don't know.
What I can tell you about the film is that if you approach it from the popcorn munching, brainless level that we all have to assume from time to time, then it occasionally delivers with some nice set pieces. Forget the bitching about the leads not exactly matching their respective descriptions from the book. That is pretty much irrelevant.
Matthew McConaughey delivers a nicely judged performance in the role of Dirk Pitt. He performs the heroics solidly enough; looks reasonably buff and has a nice sardonic edge to his character. It's a pretty standard action-hero role. Al (Dirk's buddy cum sidekick) is played by Steve Zahn and this too is a nice turn, with all the dorky charm required of a good sidekick, but also handy in a sticky situation and not a clueless oaf - which can be so irritating. Penelope Cruz is a cardboard cutout as a feisty doctor and lacks any real chemistry with McConaughey but they got in on in real life so maybe there was something I didn't spot. I loved William H. Macey but he is always so damn watchable in everything he does that we should expect nothing else.
However, that aside, the action is poorly paced and not quite on the mark as it seems to sit awkwardly with the main plot - which is where the whole thing comes gloriously undone.
There really appears to be no real narrative cohesion. The script appears to bash several interesting plot lines together with no apparent connectivity. For instance, part of the plot revolves around an ironclad ship that escaped a blockade during the American civil war, loaded with gold, and then crossed the Atlantic to turn up of the coast of Africa to head up a river in Mali and then become beached and covered in sand. This was recorded in some cave painting and was recalled in the legend of a "Death Ship" by some locals. It apparently bought a disease that wiped out a lot of life. What all this means to us the audience is nothing because none of the questions posed by this series of events is answered in the film. Why did the ship cross the Atlantic? Why was it called a "Death Ship"? What was it's destination? Who was on it? What happened to them? The filmmakers went to a lot of trouble to build a super set of the ship only to fill it full of holes - rather like the plot! The rest of the plot is based around a river being polluted with poisonous toxic waste from an illegal chemical dumping site run by a French baddie (nice for it not to be an English baddie for once!!). The suspense is built up because the toxic waste is nearing the Atlantic and if it reaches salt water it will exponentially multiply to cover all the water of the world. However, once they kill an evil warlord and the CIA assassinate the French baddie by serving him a dodgy drink of water in a restaurant - everything is OK. The toxin is miraculously cleared up and an antidote developed.
If all this plot description sound like nonsense to you - it should. I wrote it down as I saw it. Completely confused and no amount of charisma in the lead roles is going to cure that. I guess it is all the fault of the director; Breck Eisner(the son of Michael Eisner). I don't know how he got this gig (snigger) but if it was my money - I wouldn't be handing him the reins of a big budget again anytime soon.
Go and see it for some ridiculous over the top action but don't try to make sense of the plot - 'cos there ain't one.
The Ladykillers (2004)
Not as bad as some say....
This is not as bad a bad movie as many other would seem to want you to believe. It does not really bear comparison to the original because it has been made differently and updated for a modern audience. Tom Hanks, contrary to other comments I have seen here, is quite excellent in the lead role. His hammy, Poe-esquire disguise, is clearly compensating for the lack of intellectual gravity to which he so anxiously aspires. And, although I understand that Hanks did not watch the original prior to filming, it is a neat coincidence then that he chose to insert false teeth (see Alistair Simm in the original). The supporting characters are nicely fleshed out with some helpful introductory vignettes and although some of the film comes across as a little too "Uncle Tom's Cabin" at times; I think we can forgive the Cohens. There are some great laugh out loud moments of pure slapstick and some nice subtle touches of more gentle humour. This does not stack up against some of the more lauded of the Cohen's work - Fargo - Barton Fink - but it is an enjoyable and worthwhile slice of cinematic time. Beware of plenty of (uneccesary) bad language.