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bigburlybear

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5 reviews in total 
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Ben-Hur (1959)
0 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Plot and leads fail to deliver the goods, 16 September 2012
4/10

This film is a remake of an earlier film based on a 19th century novel by Lew Wallace.

It tells the story of a Judean prince, Judah Ben-Hur, who is condemned into slavery for a crime he did not commit by the man who was his best friend as a child, Messala. Ben-Hur is driven to return to Jerusalem to exact revenge against Messala.

There are many good things about this film - the sets, the cinematography, the costumes and the supporting cast. However, the major flaws of the film are the script and the lead actors: these are terrible.

The script is very cheesy, making as many biblical references as possible. It also attempts to give the impression of being historically accurate, which is bizarre. The inaccuracies are almost as long the book.

The Romans and the Jews were allies, and had fought together. Jew legions supported Caesar Augustus to defeat Marc Antony in North Africa. Consequently, Jerusalem was exempted from the erection idols. Also, the Jewish religious leaders at the time were collaborating with their Roman overlords and making the governor rich. So rebellion was far from the mind of the Jewish leaders.

Also the reference to "patriots" is simply anachronistic. I could go on with this, but it would not be useful.

The two lead actors - Charlton Heston and Haya Harareet - neither are convincing and they are both very wooden and completely out of their depth. The support actors carry them - showing much more skill and conveying much more of the story and the emotional impact.

The plot is also rather meandering, and has many rather confusing jumps. Why would Messala start asking Ben-Hur to inform at their first meeting? Why would he not then use the leverage of tile against him to inform, instead of sending him away? Why would he consent to the marriage of the slave girl he loves to a man she doesn't care for? Then comes the most confusing part, on the galleys, Ben-Hur is unchained. when the galley is rammed, he is able to escape, freeing the other slaves. When he comes above, instead of joining the pirates and therefore freedom to escape back to Jerusalem and revenge, he fights for his Roman captors. Why? The famous chariot race is staged like a NASCAR race - together with the pace cars, I mean pace horses. This is a spectacular sequence - but it is made absurd by the 20th century sensibilities: of the Boadicea blades on Messala's chariot, the stretcher bearers running out comically to collect the battered bodies, Pilate announcing the drivers &c.

Another problem is that Ben-Hur's mother and sister were locked away in solitary confinement for years while he was away. Somehow they contracted leprosy without contact with anyone - this is never explained.

Despite the wonderful sets, costumes, pageantry and support cast, this film falls down on the basics - the plot and the lead actors failed to deliver.

Water (2005/I)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A poignant, beautiful and tragic film, 16 September 2012
9/10

Water is set near the river through the city of Varansi.

Chuyia, who is about 8 or 9 years when the man she married died, although she does not remember her him. Conforming to Hindu customs she is taken to a house of widows to live out her life - although she does not want to go.

The house is dominated by two women - the fat domineering Madhumati and the strong, confident head of the house, Shakuntala. In the house, she also meets the beautiful Kalyani - who secretly owns a puppy which she shares with Chuyia. One day, the puppy runs of, and Chuyia runs in pursuit. Narayan catches the puppy and brings him back to Kalyani and is struck by her.

Naryan comes from a very rich family and is becoming a lawyer, and is also a progressive and follower of Mohandas Gandhi. He wants India to modernise and to be freed from the traditions he thinks are backwards. So he is willing to break to taboos against widows.

Thus, the romance between Kalyani and Narayan starts.

Central to the film, are the problems and stigmata faced by the widows. Since they can't work, they must beg to survive. This is often not enough, so Madhumati pimps out the pretty widows to wealthy men in the city. And sometimes the girls being pimped out are very young.

When Chuyia first meets Madhumati, she remarks that she was Chuyia's age when she first came to the house of widows. Later, remarks that her husband died when was first having sex with her - indicating that one of the problems is the sexual exploitation of children.

There are many cultural and political reference that I was not able to understand. The cultural include the tree under which Kalyani and Narayan embrace.

The political element is also very strong - the veneration of Mohandas Gandhi and the Congress Party as the saviours of India. There were also many religious references and comments that I did not understand, that made the film controversial. This is also given away by the quoting of statistics at the end of the film.

The cinematography, the soundtrack and the acting were all brilliant. It was tightly directed and very well paced. Deepa Mehta has certainly shown her talents as a director, and I will endeavor to see more of her films.

3 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Paganism and Nihilism, 3 September 2012
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

From the outset the film is slow and looking for tension: the camera work achieves the mood very well. The shots of the Volga are beautiful.

A man's wife dies, and he calls a friend to help bring her body to the lake where they had their honeymoon and to burn her body on the lake in their ancestral tradition.

The real drawback of the film is the dialogue - nobody speaks like that!!! The dialogue is strained and extremely formal - so much so that it is comical - which loses the pace and tension. This is unfortunate, since the film otherwise communicates very well the brutality of the ancient pagan world view.

The Girls (1961)
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A sophisticated romantic comedy, 26 August 2012
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a very lighthearted comedy set in a forestry working settlement in Siberia. All the single workers live together in dormitories, and during the day they also work together.

Our 18 year old heroine, Tosya, has just arrived from Crimea, where it is not as cold, and is rather naïve, and rather unprepared for the climate and the situation.

Ilya and Filya, are single young men and rivals - they are best workers in the settlement, and leaders of their teams. And being young men they enjoy competing with each other in everything - including love. So, when Tosya first makes her appearance, Ilya and Filya make a bet for a fur hat, that she will fall in love with Ilya within two weeks.

Thus the comedy starts, and follows the trajectory of many Romantic Comedies.

What sets this from other Romantic Comedies is that is manages to avoid maudlin sentimentality, and also makes many observations and subtle social criticisms.

Love and marriage is not put on a pedestal, and married life is not the "happy ever after". The girls have discussions about what love is, and what is sufficient for love Vera has separated husband, and we are introduced to her burning his letters in the dormitory oven.

Nadya has reached the age of 28 and is unmarried, so is accepting marriage to Ksan Ksanych, an unattractive manager: the comment is that at that age, a woman would be happy to marry a goat. Although to be fair to Ksan, he obviously loves her and dotes on her in his awkward way.

Anfisa, the most beautiful woman in the settlement,realises that although all the boys like spending time with her, the do not necessarily love her, but want her as a trophy.

An example of the social commentary is that Nadya's finané, Ksan, is delaying their marriage until they have a flat to move into together. Housing shortages were a common problem at the time in the Soviet Union and such a decision was common. And sometimes people would have marriages delayed a couple years due to random decisions of the local authorities.

The only criticism of this film is technical - there are some editing inconsistencies, but it is a gem of a film.

77 out of 99 people found the following review useful:
juvenile and lazy, 27 February 2012
2/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Two elite CIA agents, Franklin and Tuck, operating out of Los Angeles are suspended for fouling up an assassination operation in HK. Since they have nothing else to do, they start looking for women. As fate would have it, they fall for the same woman, Lauren.

So in brotherly comradarie they agree to compete for her. For the unfortunate woman she goes suddenly from having no male attention (not really believable but there you have it) to have two virile, interesting and attractive men pursuing her.

This is where the high comedy should begin: but it is very ham-fisted and relies heavily on over the top action and sexual innuendo. The banter is forced, and the jokes are too predictable.

We, the viewers, see that of the two men, Tuck (the less attractive one) is upfront and genuine, and Franklin (the more attractive one) is rather deceitful and willing to lie to impress the girl. However, the deceitful one actually falls for the girl and scorns all the other women is currently sleeping with to be with Lauren. The script gave no plausibility for this change, and even within the genre it is a bit too much.

We know which one she chooses - the more attractive one of course!!! And somehow she manages to maintain the relationship when she realises that Franklin know absolutely nothing about Klimt, and really does not help out at the animal shelter, and is impossibly egocentric.

But since this is a romantic comedy, Tuck couldn't be left out in the cold - no, there is another woman brought in to save him from loneliness.