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Amongst the Worst Films I have Seen
This film is just truly awful in every respect. The film is full of consistently bad acting and formulaic set-pieces, wooden stock characters doing illogical things, and that's the least of the film's problems, in fact they are some of its stronger elements. The story is not merely absurd - which alone would not necessarily warrant such a harsh review and it is at east somewhat "original" in detail. The real problem with the plot is that is internally inconsistent, one example being (SPOILER) how the humans are able to stop the tornadoes and that the mere act of stopping the tornadoes somehow kills the sharks, which had been perfectly fine before the tornadoes enabled them to really wreak havoc on land. The special effects are terrible, and I mean terrible, utterly unbelievable. The result is that this movie is so bad it is beyond beyond funny - it is so so bad it is just exceedingly dull, tedious, irritating, and even embarrassing and painful to watch.
Amazons and Gladiators (2001)
Just a Bad Film
Perhaps it arguably deserves two stars as I have seen worse, but I haven't seen much worse and this overall is, for me fully in the bottom of the heap. I feel that once we're talking about the differences in quality between really bad movies, it doesn't matter that they all get one star even if some are "better" than others, if they're all terrible anyway.
The only decent thing is that Patrick Bergin at least is capable of acting and this occasionally shows through in nice details and nuanced expressions here or there, but that is all.
The production values or cheap and not convincing, which is the least of the problems here.
The actors other than Bergin are terrible, simply terrible. They are wooden and deliver wooden lines in a wooden manner. Nothing about them is remotely convincing.
The story is preposterous, not least of all because of the entirely groundless use of "Zenobia" as some sort of noble rebel leader among ill-defined Celtic or Germanic tribes when in fact she was a queen of a wealthy city state client kingdom of Rome in Syria, partly fighting against Rome at times yes, but not a leader of freedom-loving NW European tribes.
The end is predictable yet totally unconvincing.
Good, exciting, but not fully cohesive or convincing
This is a nicely paced action/thriller movie about a hunt to stop some terrorists that has nice points but ultimately is not entirely convincing and leaves certain things unexplained or overly convenient.
The overall story is well-used but developed with some nice twists and unique details. It has some nice characterisations and Sean Bean's central character is particularly nicely shown to be complex - violent and easily swayed to kill "Arabs" or the like or those he sees as likely terrorists, with a somewhat jaded and prejudice attitude but developed nicely with explanations into this while also showing his own developing realisation that he may be a bit too blindly prejudiced and easily led in that direction. The central terrorist similarly is nicely fleshed out as a complex person, idealistic and honorable but torn apart and confused by these very feelings and the events of his life, while the complexities, cynicism, and in some cases hypocrisy of some of the terrorist leaders is also nicely shown. It also does a good job of showing a couple of the other terrorists as unsure of themselves, fearful, and doubtful.
There is good cinematography and some nice editing and many well-developed scenes. The bombing of a café is one example that is nicely done.
The weakest point in the film for me is that there are too many plot leaps that the viewer must make, gaps that are simply not dealt with or which are unexplained, making things at certain times seem either confusing or unbelievably convenient. Ultimately, I am left with the impression that the film needed to be, or was supposed to be, longer but that certain explanatory scenes were omitted. A crucial portion taking place at a hotel is a key example of how it all happens without any explanation or prior information given the viewer, as to why some characters are there or why they are doing what they are doing at that time. The same is true of the roles of some of the characters, such as Sean Bean's partner, who is not developed or portrayed sufficiently despite some nice details about him popping up.
Killing Them Softly (2012)
Good film, good acting, but doesn't come together
Overall, this is a good film with a basically fine story with potential, nice cinematography, and good acting, but the parts don't really come together, it fails to maintain suspended disbelief, and the story ends up being fairly predictable while not entirely convincing.
Cinematography and directing were good, at times excellent, with some nicely artistic shots, some unusual and compelling usage of slow motion in key scenes.
The constant use of news events and speeches by Obama and W relating to the economy and society were interesting and tied somewhat nicely into some of the thematic issues of the film, but ended up being a bit heavy handed, as were the thematic issues, which were ultimately expostulated in a speech at the end that, while nice in of itself, really seemed somewhat forced and out of the blue with respect to the characters.
The acting on the whole is very good, often excellent. There are some good characterisations and portrayals of characters, Gandolfini and Liotta particularly standing out as provided nice, memorable performances. Liotta is especially wonderful in (SPOILER) the beating scenes, no doubt also due to some nice script-directing attention to detail and realism in how one might act.
However, at times it is almost overplayed and gratuitous, perhaps due more to the script and editing that lingers too much on what is clearly good acting with a lot of nice details in the mannerisms, etc. This ends up leaving us feeling that we are watching good actors demonstrating how to do the job well rather than being absorbed in the events. It breaks the momentum and leaves us with fairly disjointed set-pieces of nice acting and dialogue that don't necessarily flow and at times, as with Gandolfini's appearances, seem incorporated only to showcase some nice dialogue rather than adding anything meaningful to the story. Those scenes in part remind me of the adage that if you introduce a gun, it had better be used at some point, Gandolfini's character being the gun who is showcased nicely yet never used - being explained away and vanishing from the movie without ever actually having a point int he plot.
SPOILER - As for the overall plot, it is a potentially interesting plot, despite the fact that it is clearly fairly worn - crooks hold up illicit gambling ring and are hunted down, but the real problem is that it develops in an entirely predictable and unconvincing manner. For the most part, everybody you expect to die, dies, and pretty much when and in the manner expected, the only exception being the one who is instead arrested, again not entirely surprisingly. Those who survive are the ones expected. Moreover, in order to make it possible for the central character, the hit-man played by Pitt actually to discover the identities of the robbers, the plot relies on the all-too-convenient, facile, and somewhat unconvincing solution of having one of them blabbing about it to a known associate of the usual enforcer of the card-game/mob syndicate (for whom Pitt's character is filling in). While this is not in of itself too much of a stretch necessarily, it is well worn, predictable, and in this instance not convincing in part because one of the robbers just happens to have been doing another deal with him, the other robber was apparently aware of that but did not realise it until after the fact, and the man who hired the robbers made a big show of being very careful not to hire the one who blabbed because he seemed like an unreliable junkie, but then ended up, with no real explanation, hiring him anyway, leading to him being involved and then spilling the beans to the enforcer. It stretched credulity.
In the end, the movie is overall an interesting, stylish, nice-looking hit-man/crime/heist film with some good characters and good acting, but which does not really come together. I feel it to be an example of a film made by people who had some great ideas about characters and directing and who wanted to showcase good acting, good cinematic effects, etc., but didn't know how to develop these cohesively with a convincing or truly interesting plot or tie them all together.
Odd Man Out (1947)
Incredible, Timeless, Compelling Classic
I shan't say too much about this film really, and I don't think I need add much, but this is such an incredible, powerful, beautiful, and moving masterpiece, that I just have to say something. Reed will probably always be best known for The Third Man and that is almost certainly always going to be his best-known movie, and with good reason: it is a masterpiece among masterpieces. Unfortunately, this tends to overshadow Reed's other great films and the fact that Reed was not a one-shot wonder who had one happy success.
Not to forget that other masterpiece, Fallen Idol, Odd Man Out is not a film that should lurk in the shadows of another. If among the works of another director, it would shine bright, leaving others in the dark, and this, I believe, is a great testament to how incredible a film maker Reed was. Odd Man Out is perhaps Reed's most moving and emotionally sublime film, incredible particularly for 1947. It shows to full effect Reed's mastery of visual artistry, but also portrays an utterly compelling, insightful look into people and their souls, duty, love, justice, and happenstance. This film amazingly, often subtly, and always naturally, smoothly, and compellingly, digs into many basic elements of humanity. Some of my favourite lines from this film, which embed themselves so well, touch on the fundamentals of human life. I may forget the precise words but I want to finish with some lines that sum up the insight of this film: The police officer says "It is my duty to ensure justice," to which the priest, debating with him, responds "it is the duty of all to do justice"; when one man says "is he dying?" another responds "we are all dying"; and when one man asks "what is faith?" the other responds, simply yet utterly accurately "life."
The Tin Star (1957)
Excellent, Thoughtful Western
This is among the best American Westerns of the 1950s. It does an unusually good job of avoiding the clichés, corniness, and trite sentimentality that needlessly bedeviled too many of its contemporaries, including the films of the much-vaunted John Ford. It addresses touchy, relatively avoided issues at the time, such as US/European relations with American Indians (although admittedly, John Ford did an unusually excellent job for the time in his earlier Fort Apache) and handles them in an intelligent and unusually grey manner, rather than being black-and-white or overly preachy. Of particular note is the story's approach to the half-Indian/half caucasian kid Kip, the outlaw half-Indian/half caucasian McGaffey brothers, and the nasty, Indian-hating Bogardus, the real villain of the film. The storyline is thoughtful and handles the characters well.
Serial Mom (1994)
Should've Been Funny But Isn't Remotely
This film should have been wonderfully and darkly funny and we had high expectations when we watched it back in 1995. It really seemed as though it was going to be hilarious. However, it fails miserably and utterly. The parts which should have been darkly humorous are simply dark and unpleasant, and usually dull. When it's not dark, the film is simply boring and it drags on far too long. It seems that the film makers, Waters, et al., thought that the dark, inherent absurdity of the events are innately funny and they made no effort actually to make them funny. They were wrong. A story about an apparently typical "soccer-mom" type who kills people can be extremely funny if done properly, but in and of itself, a story about someone like that is simply a story about a murderer. As a result, the whole thing is a tedious waste of time that leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Il gattopardo (1963)
Beautiful, Thoughtful, With Some Outstanding Moments
This is a beautiful and thoughtful film about the changes occurring in Sicily after 1860, with the unification of Italy and the disappearance of the old Kingdom of Sicily. It explores these changes and and changing role of the old aristocracy through the experiences of the Prince of Salina. Overall it is an excellent film with many beautiful scenes, much contemplation, and a great exploration of the prince's character, views, a realisations.
It has some absolutely incredible moments, particularly the grand ball at the end, which is handled wonderfully. The film perfectly captures the prince's feelings, sadness, and sense of separation or isolation from the rest of the seemingly happy people at the ball and I don't think that I have ever seen this phenomenon handled so powerfully. The whole atmosphere of the ball, with the prince sweating and feeling in a daze while others laugh, giggle, dance and gossip, is wonderful, as is the horrible din while people go to get food and chat away whilst eating. It is unusual in that it perfectly captures such negative aspects of big, "festive" parties so rarely even addressed, much less demonstrated so flawlessly. The fact that such feelings of isolation and the like are a fundamental reality of big parties, especially when one has a lot on one's mind, makes this all the more forceful and compelling.
However, the film has some weaknesses. It does not bring everything together quite perfectly and fails to completely hit the nail on the head. I understand the transformations in the film and the prince's emotions, yet there is too little information underlying all of this too really see the bases for these thoughts, etc. I needed to extrapolate and rely on my own knowledge of the historical circumstances, none of which really should be necessary. The result is that I can easily see how audiences may be confused or uncertain what it's all really about. Moreover, it introduces scenes or issues that seem to have no point, lack an explanation, and go nowhere. Some seem at first to have significance, but then go nowhere and this tends to distract from the central plot and themes of the film while leading to potential confusion about the point of the scenes, as well as expectations that the issues will arise again. However, while these points to me prevent this from being the absolute masterpiece that it could have been, they do not seriously detract from the film and are only minor dents in the film's incredible strengths.
Touch of Evil (1958)
Some Great Directing, But the Story is Lacking and Unconvincing
This is an uneven film with both very good strong points and serious flaws that ultimately I think is overrated.
Many people seem to love this film and I can see why. Much of the camera-work and cinematography, editing, use of sound, shadows, close-ups, etc., is incredible and some even brilliant. The long tracking scene in the beginning is perhaps the prime example of this and it is simply wonderful. This scene and others do a great job of building tension and atmosphere, and setting the mood, such as the shots of Vargas, Quinlan, and others looking around the town at night. Other scenes like the one where Joe Grandi is trying to intimidate Vargas's wife are also wonderful.The story certainly has many promising aspects such as the basic issue of Quinlan's nature, goals, and tactics, Vargas's attitude toward them,what this drives Quinlan to do, and the ultimate trouble this all creates. The exploration of Quinlan's character is a particularly interesting subject and Marlene Dietrich's line at the end is great.
However, Dietrich's line rings hollow and comes across as both insincere and melodramatic because the film as a whole is not compelling or convincing. The film's the underlying plot and the screenplay itself are wanting, although some of this may be due to editing as well. Ultimately, the subject matter just fails to fully impress or convince. The story doesn't work and in the end one comes away not really being convinced or caring about any of it. The pieces don't all fit together and some of the elements seem jumbled. Some scenes, moreover, are inexplicable and seem added without apparent purpose to the story or without explanation as to their relevance. A good example is the scene with the two women joining the Grandi toughs at the motel. That was unexplained and went nowhere. What was the point of having it and who were the women? Other elements, such as the very ending itself, seem perfunctory. In addition, promising elements were not fully developed or explored and either only hinted at or left hanging.
Ultimately, this film starts promisingly, has a subject with potential, and is very successful most of the time in creating the right mood and tension, and yet it becomes lost and jumbled, and fails to convince or fulfill its apparent goals.
O Lucky Man! (1973)
Strange and Interesting; Surprisingly Compelling
To say the least, this is an odd movie. It has no real "plot" per se or at least not a continuous , cohesive storyline but, in a manner somewhat reminiscent of La Dolce Vita (and I mean pretty loosely), it follows one man as he drifts through various events and people, and how those experiences do or do not affect him. The events are also rather surreal, often very strange, brutal, or sexual, and at times a bit disturbing. The commonalities or unifying elements throughout, aside from the character, are constant social commentary, often rather harsh; the fact that the whole film is a series of apparently random experiences, each by happenstance leading to the next, and an ultimate conclusion; and the fact that in the end the events change the character.
I won't say that this is one of my top choices of films to watch on a regular basis, at least not if I just want to relax and have a good time, but it certainly is interesting and strangely compelling. Despite the often tense situations and some humour, etc., I douybt most people would find the film particularly fun or exciting, so one should certainly not expect that. Nevertheless, there is something about the film, perhaps a mixture of the oddness, the apparent randomness of it all, the impacts of the events and people, and McDowell's great portrayal of a seemingly clueless but sympathetic character, that draws the viewer in to care about the events. The result is that the viewer does want to keep watching throughout the roughly 3 hours to see what is going to happen next. There is something gripping about the lack of a particular story line so that the viewer wants to see what seemingly random, unconnected event will follow and whither it will lead. In the end, the viewer does see a progression and how the film ends up with essentially a counterpoint to the beginning.
In addition, everyone is enjoyable to watch. This is particularly true of McDowell, of course, since he is usually great and is the one constant person throughout. He wonderfully portrays his character Travis and Travis's transformations.
At the same time, the viewer also constantly encounters numerous points, images, events, etc., that work themselves into the viewer and make the viewer think, even if not right away.
The film also has a great soundtrack that I think really helps the film. The songs have a way of deeply embedding themselves in the viewer just as McDowell's character and the events themselves do. The lyrics are also quite telling and catchy.
This film is certainly not for everyone and I'd say that the average moviegoer would probably not like it or at least be confused or bored. But, for some, at least, this will be an enthralling and gripping film.
I also think that any thinking person who takes the time to sit through this film, even one who does not especially enjoy the movie while watching it, will at least appreciate, and be affected by, parts of the film. There is a lot here to ponder, some extremely obvious, some almost unnoticeable. Some of it is in the specific events or characters themselves, some in the apparent randomness of these haphazard events leading into each other and ultimately changing McDowell's character, Travis. This latter element is clearly seen in how he changes from the very beginning to the very end.
Ultimately, this is a movie that I doubt anyone can fully appreciate right after viewing it, much less while actually viewing it. I think that full appreciation requires at least some time to digest the film after wards and possibly another viewing later. I won't say one could ever fully understand all of this film, as I don't think anyone can, while there are probably many ways to interpret a lot in this film.
I recommend that anyone who likes "different" or thought-provoking films, etc., to try it, be patient, and aftewards just think about it or let it wander around in your mind for a while without actively trying to think about it. I think that the film will work itself into a viewer's mind and stay there, without any effort on such a viewer's part, and that even someone who wasn't sure about the film right after watching it will be affected and appreciate something from it.