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511 out of 777 people found the following review useful:
The blame starts with Chris Weitz and goes north., 12 December 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The opening scene was the very first clue that this film was going to be the barrage of formula drudgery that it ultimately turned out to be. Weitz began by unveiling all the information which the reader isn't even aware of by the end of the first novel in a horrific attempt to follow the footsteps of The Lord of the Rings with an opening prelude. Much of the intrigue of Pullman's storytelling is derived from the careful progression of revealed information, letting the reader know only as much as it needs to at any moment, and no more. The mystery is not only lost, it is purposely banished by the blundering slate of exposition which begins with the prologue and carrys on through the film's duration. Every bit of exposition has the feel of a technical bother that must be gotten out of the way so that the action scenes can make some kind of sense. But the real kicker is the obviousness. The obviousness ranging from New Line's less than subtle attempt to repeat a miracle (LOTR), to the individual lines in the film ("Why am I here? What do they want? What is she going to do with me?"), and everything in between. Show, don't tell, is the first rule of third grade story writing, a class these film makers clearly missed.

The film makers (Chris Weitz and everyone above him) have absolutely no respect for their audience. Somehow they expect people to go to a film like TGC for the action sequences and great CG. They expect people can't make inferences and connect the dots unless it is entirely spelled out for them. And the really amazing thing, is that in spite of spilling every possible secret of the narrative before the audience could possibly start to wonder about it, the tangle of facts are hugely more confusing than the novel.

This is a fumble truly.

It was too big of a project for Weitz and there was way too much (it would seem) direction from above the director making this superb story of amazingly real characters in an amazing, whimsical world nothing more than a long string of pretty CG which amounts to a fantastically muddled flop.

I really have to say that the first mistake made was the same one made by Walden Media with the Chronicles on Narnia: making a children's film out of something that wasn't child-material. His Dark Materials are not for children, Narnia wasn't either. They fit into a genre of literature clearly not understood by Newline, Walden, and film studios like them: Novels. Just because the main characters are children people readily assume they are children's stories, but Pullman's work, more so even than Narnia, is written with an intelligent, imaginative, but somewhat cynical audience in mind. Sure their isn't graphic sex and foul swearing, but the themes addressed in his books are not of a pre-teen nature in the least. The main character in the Sixth Sense is a pre-teen, but no one would assume the bulk of the audience would be ten year olds. Somehow in the fantasy realm, studios have seen giant dollar signs over the heads of young children and grasped for material with a previously established audience that appeals to this demographic.

What they forgot about Lord of the Rings is that it was directed by a genius, a genius who cared about both the source material and making as good a film as possible, someone who actually understood the language of film, something that cannot be said for Weitz or anyone above him responsible for this film. Jackson was a dark film maker, his previous films Brain Dead, Heavenly Creatures, and The Frighteners preparing him to deal very appropriately with the material of the Lord of the Rings. Material which, while far denser than Narnia or Compass material, was no more deserving of a serious handling and of caring, talented hands.

The question I have to ask is do the people responsible realize what they have done wrong, and if they do, do they care? My guess is they will begin to care when TGC loses money and perhaps they will begin to understand that audiences don't want a bunch of CG action sequences or pretty costumes. Audiences, for every genre and category, want a good story well told with characters that they care about and mystery they can feel. Maybe the next time they spend 180 million dollars they will ponder this, and maybe then we will see something worthwhile. Until then, we can expect nothing more than a steady stream of Narnia-Compass-Eregon-Etc. drivle from the studio machine.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A strong execution of a difficult subject, 19 November 2005

By difficult, I don't mean to say that bio pics aren't common, even dime a dozen, or that they are attempting something new. What I mean is that it takes extraordinary ability to rise above the normative bio pics and make a piece which is masterful and genius in its own right, not just interesting to those who are interested in the subject matter.

Pheonix plays Cash flawlessly. His deliberate, easygoing manner, his crooked half smile, and his twangy but honest voice. I give this film a nine out of ten not because I think it is better than ninety percent of the films ever made, but because it did an absolutely terrific job with the potential that it had. It is a very invovling, very real, very honest treatment of the life of Johnny Cash.

Alexander (2004)
22 out of 38 people found the following review useful:
wow., 20 January 2005

From the moment I saw the trailer for this epic, I was quite anxious to see it. I love Anthony Hopkins and Val Kilmer, Collin Farrel was fantastic in The Recruit and other films, and Oliver Stone was making it. How could it possibly go wrong? When it came out I was loathe to believe the reviews which slammed it and tore it to pieces, and finally I went to see it on the biggest screen I could find and I gave it the best chance it could have had. What a loser. This film, although just over three hours, feels like an eternity. The plot wanders all over and feels far more like a made for TV docudrama than a major feature film. After the first scene or two the pace slows to a crawl, but does pick up for a battle scene or two. However even these which are well realized and intense briefly, fail to resolve, and we leave the battle field wondering what the heck just happened. I don't care how historically accurate or inaccurate it is, it is a horrible story. Perhaps Stone should have found one event around which to base the film instead of trying to give a passing overview. The characters were completely non-empathetic and there was simply no chemistry or development of his loves, both male and female. The real Alexander the Great may or may not have slept with his male friend, but I somehow doubt that he was the feminine eye-shadow sporting, sensitive lad that this film portrayed him as. Or if he was, they shouldn't have made a major Hollywood film about him because the market of people interested in such an antagonist is a tiny fraction of the typical filmgoing audience. All said and done, the horse vs. elephant sequence was brilliant (appart from some odd and poorly justified colour alteration) but the rest of the film had me glancing at my watch every few minutes, hoping that I could leave this disgrace of a film.

Memento (2000)
1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
By far the most creatively made movie I have ever seen., 15 August 2004

Simply amazing. I will admit that it has little redeeming quality message wise, but the film is superbly made, and is really an original creative work of art. I cannot even begin to fathom the technical complexities of writing a script chronologically from two points in time, having the story work from those two points toward each other until they meet in the middle, and make all of it make sense only then, and yet manage to build suspense and keep peoples' interest up to that point. Simply stunning acting on the parts of Carrie Ann Moss and Guy Pierce, and just enough comedy to keep it from being as dark as it could have been. The plot twists keep changing everything you already knew, and there are plenty of moments where you think, he did that because....oh. It is quite a roller coaster of a film and comes off artistically as about a nine out of ten.

0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
More than a movie, 28 February 2004

This film could not have been made by anyone but Mel Gibson. The path he has followed through his carreer led him quite plainly and unavoidably to this film, a place I am certain he did not expect to find himself. This film is in a category of its own. There has never been a Christian or other film of this importance and magnitude. It is extremely difficult to attempt to describe this film with mere words. A picture is worth a thousand of them, and every shot of that film contains its own meaning. The essential truth is that many will not like it. Many will hate it. Not because they don't appreciate the quality, but because they despise the message. Christ suffered for us, suffered more than our imaginations can even fathom, and that presents the idea that we owe Him. This does not sit well with many viewers. Many will try to pass it off as saying that they didn't like it because Mel Gibson has some gruesome fixation on violence or some such rubbish, and they may even themselves believe this to be true. But the crux of the matter is, their hearts are hardened. They refuse to let themselves belive the truth because it is too harsh, too painful, and too demanding to believe. This movie may be shunned at the Oscars, the box office(not likely), by critics far and wide, and still be the most heavily impacting on the entire world that has ever been produced. I believe it will.