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dj_bassett

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218 reviews in total 
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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
A masterpiece, 28 July 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Arguably the finest movie ever made about the French resistance. (The only other film I think ranks with it is the documentary THE SORROW AND THE PITY.) Here it's reimagined in typically Melvillian terms as a glum, stark, rewardless battle for survival -- and, in part, something like "a good death". As I'm sure other commenters have said, it's interesting that for the most part we don't see the Nazis, and they're certainly not represented as "Nazis", a group with a certain set of beliefs or motivations. Rather, it's about battle itself: the constant sense of doom, the tawdry needs for killing former friends, the sense that the only real choices are how one dies. People float a lot of existentialist references around, but I wonder if Melville wasn't more influenced by Hemingway, who had much the same sort of philosophy. It's a genuine classic.

5 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
New-Agey, 28 July 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Hippy-dippy nonsense as an up-and-coming gymnast learns about life and love from a spiritual convenience store clerk, of all things. Will probably please fans of the book -- it feels like a faithful adaptation -- but is closed to anybody who doesn't already like the book. There's not much of a plot, the Nolte-aphorisms sound like they came from Pat Morita in THE KARATE KID, and frankly the whole set up seems absurd to me from the get-go. A movie that pretends to plumb the depths of human experience really ought to deliver something more than "seize the moment". The gymnastics are photographed well, and the movie is occasionally interesting to look at, but that's about it. Silly beyond belief.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Disappointing, 15 July 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The effects are good.

Johnny Depp remains amusing.

Keira Knightley is very beautiful up there on the big screen. I don't think she's well-cast in these big budget action spectaculars, though: she has a modest, quiet kind of talent that is just better served by costume dramas and romantic comedies and the like. Too much of the time she just feels drowned out by the action. And also, frankly, no offense to the girl power contingent, but who wants to see her in guy's clothes fighting? I fully agree with Sparrow: she should be in a dress or nothing at all.

Orlando Bloom is a stick. I keep forgetting he's even in the thing.

The movie more generally suffers from being fundamentally misconceived. Did anyone really care about Bloom's father issues? Or Ms. Knightley, torn between the two men in her life and then burdened with a third potential love interest? No, of course not. We all wanted to see the same damn movie as the first one, but this time with Depp as the star. Well, he's not exactly in a supporting role here -- this is more of an ensemble piece -- but he has to share a little too much screen time with everyone else, because this is a straight up continuation of the story. Like we care. This is especially a problem in the beginning: the set up is long and craftsmanlike, but it's all in the service of a bad idea, and it just weighs things down.

I also thought the movie just didn't know how to end, until finally it just stops -- while we wait for the sequel, in a pretty ham-handed cliffhanger.

I'll probably see the third, but I'm not optimistic.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
I liked it a great deal, 15 July 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'm no fan of the character, who strikes me as fundamentally too powerful to be very interesting. But I have to say this very careful, canny movie doesn't take a false step -- it is a very smart blending of modern CGI, evocations of the much beloved original, generally good acting that conforms to what we expect of the characters while still managing to push things forward, and ideas about what Superman is and means that are surprisingly fresh -- which I think is a very very hard thing to do with a character this old. I liked how the story arises naturally out of the end of SUPERMAN II without a lot of winking and nodding in that area, especially.

I think it manages to succeed on all levels.

5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Utterly ridiculous, 3 July 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Absurd movie features an evil presence growing out of Susan Strasberg's neck...just sort of because, the presence revealing itself as a nearsighted naked midget, Tony Curtis aging badly in Seventies wear, Burgess Meredith in a stupid cameo, Stella Stevens in an equally bad cameo, and Michael Ansarra as an unconvincing medicine man who clicks a couple of sticks together when he's not talking haughtily about how his ways are better than the white man's. All of this equals INCREDIBLY AWESOME, of course.

The climax features bad special effects, even for this period; Tony Curtis yelling, some kind of Native American version of Cthululu, computer manitous (don't ask) and Susan Strasberg topless. All that's pretty AWESOME as well.

Abby (1974)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Actually not too bad, 3 July 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Although it's a kind of movie that's more interesting to talk about than actually see, ABBY isn't too bad at all. A blaxploitation knockoff of THE EXORCIST, it rings some interesting changes on the subtext, becoming more a kind of muddled musing on the sexual revolution than anything else. The acting is reasonably good -- Marshall, always fine, is very commanding in the Von Sydow role, and Carol Speed runs a thin edge of hysteria here and there. The best thing in the movie are the scenes of the men shaking their heads, trying to figure out what happened to the sweet wife they thought they knew.

Movie suffers from a low budget, and shows every cheap cent of it. Plus it doesn't even attempt to be scary, which doesn't help. But it's worth seeing for the performances, for the Girdler connection, and for it's status as one of the more thoughtful blaxploitation ripoffs.

Fun, though slight, 3 July 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Jack Black is a friar in a remote Mexican village who deep in heart longs for the glory of the Mexican Wrestling ring. It is what it is -- a very light slapstick comedy -- but what it is ain't too bad at all. Jack Black, firmly upholding the tradition of the Goofy Fat Guy in comedy, mugs for the camera and does a lot of silly things with brio. The theme, such as it is, of not denying your gifts but using them for God, not personal aggrandizement, is an oddly sweet one, and the whole winds up in a cheerful, almost old-fashioned kind of way. Very smart movie-making from a commercial point of view, it threads the gaps between a lot of America's current poles expertly. Recommended, it's hard to know who wouldn't like this, actually.

7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Superior to OLDBOY, 19 June 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was hesitant about this, as I didn't like OLDBOY at all. But I think this is a big step up and a much better movie more generally. Unlike the deliberately off-putting OLDBOY I found it much easier to believe in these characters, and care about their plight. Also, while the moral quandaries in OLDBOY were contrived beyond belief, here they're much more seriously presented and mulled over. Suffers from hesitant endings (there's two false endings before the thing actually ends), a needlessly jumbled screenplay, and, essentially, from the fact that the director doesn't really have clear ideas on vengeance himself. A lot of the movie's incoherence comes from the director not really knowing, I think, what he wants to say.

So not a great picture. But pretty damn good, and a much more interesting examination of these themes than OLDBOY.

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Frustrating, 11 June 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There is much that is really standout about this movie, so much so that I'll hesitantly recommend it. Still, this is a deeply flawed movie, and it's frustrating, because it could've/should've been so much better than it turned out to be.

The good parts: it's utterly beautifully shot. In a fine year for cinematography in the movies this is some kind of high point, and is probably recommendable on that basis alone. (It demands to be seen on the big screen.) Production design is amazing -- you can smell the sweat and filth on these characters. The direction is remarkable all around, especially the framing of the shots. And it's impeccably acted up and down the line -- Ray Winstone in particular takes a very contrived character and makes him human and believable. It's a remarkable performance, in it's way, and I'd love to see him get an Oscar nomination for it.

The script is the big problem. It's very weak -- the plot makes no sense, the moments of Solemnity are pompous and cheesily pretentious, and many of these characters don't "exist" so much as they are poetic conceptions, stand-ins for ideas about violence. The movie is predictable in it's twists and very difficult to take seriously -- which is what it so obviously wants to be.

Very reminiscent to my mind of A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, another movie where bravura movie-making overwhelms a substandard script.

Disappointing Way to end the Series, 3 June 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Actually, I don't understand why they decided to end this -- it's been profitable and there was a lot of goodwill invested in the characters after the first two. Certainly there's more interest in this than there ever was in, I don't know, an Elektra movie or something.

But as a conclusion this is pretty shoddy. If you know and like the characters you'll like this -- the real pleasure of this series has been the spot-on casting throughout. The movie really rides on that, as well as the accumulated goodwill, because other than that it all feels hurried. Far too much story in far too little space: we see three major characters die, more change their roles drastically, maybe a half-dozen new characters are added on both sides, apocalyptic fights right and left (that don't go on as long as they need to). The whole thing feels really pro forma, like the movie makers weren't interested, ultimately, in it. It's very strange.

There are two sizable story lines here that could've stood on their own as movies; smashing them together does nobody any good.

It still has it's moments: Jackman is still wonderful as Wolverine, I think Berry is more comfortable as Storm. There's a lot of in-jokes for the fans, and even in this denuded state it's not actively awful. But it could've been a lot better -- it just feels depressing, as it stands.


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