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Goodbye Solo (2008)
Ignore people complaining about the ending
A lot of people have talked about the ending, saying what it lacked, and I STRONGLY DISAGREE with all of the comments posted so far. Most comments have acknowledged that this is a character film, but along with that people need to recognize that it moves towards a character based ending. There is indeed an 'ending' to this film and I think it's a very pointed and poignant one. The very ending of the film sees Solo preparing to take the flight attendant exam again and rehearsing questions with Alex. This is the difference between Solo and William: resilience. I don't think the film or Solo judges William for the choice he makes, but what the whole movie comes down to is this question: Are you William or are you Solo? Really, most of us are a composite of both, and we go from being one to the other, sometimes in a matter of hours.
The film gradually works to an ending as Solo constantly steps up his strategies to try and stop William. In the end he realizes he cannot change William's life and he chooses to respect William's decision. Solo's willingness to drive William to Blowing Rock is both an act of acceptance and defiance. He accepts William's choice, but he knows that deep down William does view him as a friend and Solo is there to make the final choice as hard as possible. I believe that is why Solo brings Alex along - he had just read William's journal entry saying 'I wonder what she (Alex) will become'. Maybe Solo hoped that wondering about what Alex would become would serve as a final incentive for William to change his mind. But William is William. Thankfully though, Solo is also Solo, and in the end his optimism wins out.
Another commenter drew attention to 'Happy-Go-Lucky' and I think that's a really good comparison. Both are films about people (Solo and Sally) who are eternal optimists that suddenly come face-to-face with people who have become hardened pessimists (Although, to be fair William in Goodbye Solo is very clearly a deeply sensitive and hurt man). How will these optimists react? Will they give in to the 'dark-side'?
I think there are a lot of potential readings for this film: -it's about family: William has a daughter and grandson but never sees them; Solo has made Alex his daughter and loves her as his own. -it's about multiculturalism in a non-political, non-pandering way. Why is this man who has emigrated to America so positive and seems so blessed by his non-traditional family, meanwhile the generational American is disconnected from his family and has given up on life?
-It's about compassion - a very rare thing. -It also could be (and this is a bit of an out-there reading) a metaphor: an angelic figure helping a man crossover into death. Think about it; Solo wants to be a flight attendant. Solo represents a kindness and compassion that we sense if William had encountered earlier in his life may have saved him. But as we learn from William's journals he is still very sensitive and does appreciate Solo's friendship. But it's all too late. It reminds me of Sarandon in 'Dead Man Walking' telling Sean Penn 'I want the last face you see to be one of love'. Is Solo that face for William?
I found this movie deeply moving and was blown away by it. Yes, it is slow, but it's also very deliberately paced. Bahrani is a truly unique voice in cinema right now. Ramin Bahrani is sort of hybrid of David Gordon Green and Scorsese. Watching this guy's movies is knowing that you are watching an emerging talent. I believe that in the very near future this film will be regarded as a landmark in cinema. I hope more people see this film because I truly think it is one of the best of the last decade.
The Office (2005)
a rough start, but brilliant
I love The Uk edition, and probably hold it dearer than I ever could this American version. However, the Office (US) has truly come into its own. the first season was a fumbling mess that tried to regurgitate the UK version verbatim. And when the show went into new territory the footing was more than a little unsteady. However, from the get go Season 2 found its own voice and became a great program in its own right.
Steve Carrell and Ricky Gervais are both brilliant, but very different actors/comedians. the smartest thing the show did was to let Carrell make Michael Scott his very own. David Brent is a completely different entity and perhaps more abrasive, but Scott works as a different sort of awkward and un-self aware being.
This is no cheapo American imitation. the show is completely its on even when it has borrowed aspects of story lines. However, since the 2nd season it has been the best comedy on US TV. The secondary characters in the show may have a single line in an episode but it's completely memorable and hilarious.So for all the lovers of the original give it a shot and you will not be disappointed. The American version is just as nuanced as The Birtish version. The show really takes on American issues and attacks some of the more hypocritical aspects of American culture the same way the UK version did. Pay attention and don't dismiss this great show. People will remember it for years to come.
Awful, even if you didn't love the original
I was not a huge fan of Rob Zombie's first two movies. I thought both were okay films, but believed that he had potential to develop into a great director. When I heard he was remaking Halloween I had to wonder: why? Remakes stink for the most part, but at least directors take on mediocre films and TRY to make them better. However, the original Halloween is well regarded film that has aged gracefully. I immediately doubted Zombie's version would be very good, but I never expected this disaster.
Zombie turns this into a story that focuses on Michael more than Laurie. This does not work. What's the point? What made Myers so scary in the first place was that he was a blank slate (hence the blank face of his mask); a force of unstoppable evil that you could project your worst fears onto. Zombie tries to humanize him, but I can't imagine how he thought this would make the film more scary.
The whole film is shot in a sort of shaky hand-held way a la '28 days later'. In that film it worked: the film set up a deserted Manchester and THEN zoomed in on its characters and their struggles. Here, Zombie never lets you see anything or soak up the environs. Haddonfield is supposed to feel like your typical quiet suburb; Haddonfield MATTERS within the context of making the original Halloween work. Zombie never lets you see what's happening, even the kills are such a mess of shaky camera work that there is no effect. You never know exactly how people have been killed.
Suspense! Where's the suspense? Carpenter understood suspense. It drove the original. Zombie just pummels you with murder after murder. You never invest in any of the characters. You don't care about Laurie at all. Horror parodies often mock the standard horror scene of someone running from an attacker only to find a locked door where they pound on it hoping for it to be opened by someone on the other side; and of course the door is opened just as the killer nears their target. It maybe cliché, but that type of scene can work. But you have to care about the person reaching for that door!! I never feared for Laurie because I never cared for Laurie here.
Why does every male in this movie have long hair at some point? Why does it appear to start in the late 1970's and then when it says '15 years later..' seem as though it is present day? The seventies ended more than 15 years ago!
Remakes generally stink. This is the worst of the lot. Rob Zombie apparently did not understand the original Halloween or what made it tick. It sucks that they remade an already great film (and this will likely turn off any potential new fans to the franchise). It sucks even more that Zombie was the one to do it. But worst of all it sucks that Zombie failed so miserably.
The Fountain (2006)
Unfocused but Ambitious
It's boring for the first 30 minutes, doesn't set itself up properly, and it's hard to care about the characters on any real level, but I highly recommend this movie. An odd way to preface it indeed, but a movie this ambitious deserves respect. In the end I did enjoy this film, but its flaws are very evident. A large part of the reason I wanted to see this film was because of Aronofsky. I loved his first two films, and see this as a worthy if less focused entry into his body of work.
By now it's becoming clear that Aronofsky is interested in people and their obsessions. In 'Pi' we had a man fixated by math, 'Requiem' was about people obsessed with finding hope via drugs, and here we have the Jackman character who is obsessed with one thing across three different incarnations of himself. The themes of love and the life cycle are muddied by contradictory aspects of the central characters personality. On the one hand Tommy is an obsessed scientist, on the other he is a man in love. Aronofsky seems to want us to believe that he searches for everlasting life so that he may have everlasting love (sorry). However, do we really believe that his obsessions are driven by love? No. Tommy would be fixated on his ideas regardless of his love. These sort of contradictions exist throughout the film and weigh it down, ultimately preventing it from being a great film. All the characters outside of the two main ones are 2-D and perfunctory at best. Burstyn seems to be the only other real character here and her only role is to agree with Tommy that Izzie is indeed wonderful.
If you like the ambition of films like 'Wings of Desire' or 'Donnie Darko' see this movie, but know that the final product here is less successful than those two films. But it's a worthwhile disappointment.
The Stand (1994)
Best Adaptation of king EVER!!!
I love what Mick Garris and Stephen King were able to do with this one. I love horror movies, and I love King's work, and this has to be the best piece of horror cinema from the early 90's. The opening three minutes of this film provide the scariest opening to any film ever. I use the word film here because Garris was able to excellently navigate the line between TV vs. Film and create something so good it deserves to be regarded as a great film. No, it does not do the book justice, but no one could. Considering it is 6 hrs they manage to pack a lot in and translate ideas from the novel form to the screen with a great precision. King's teleplays have often left much to be desired (ie Desperation, The Shining). Howver, King really understood how to re-write his text in order to make a stronger motion picture. this is one of my favourite films. I highly recommend it to all King films even those traumatized by negative encounters with his screen adaptations in the past. This is the exception to the rule.
Everything about this is perfect. Usually with King adaptations the second half of each teleplay has been far weaker than the first half, but not here. the 3rd and 4th parts of the miniseries are a traumatic shift as minor themes and major themes are reversed, however it does work. Garris's direction is magnificent and really captures the isolation of the film and the sense of terror in the air (literally). If you have not seen this one but are thinking about i and have made the tour on over to IMDb to read this: don't even bother renting, buy it.
Misses the Mark
"Desperation" is one of my favourite King books. One of the problems in translating such a novel to the screen is to keep intact the cohesive eerie feel that the whole book has, and the organic way King links the horror and religious aspects of the text. The book deals with David's religious values as a beacon to fight evil, however, in the film David's religion is used merely as a tool to preach. King's book makes religion a supernatural and mysterious force in David's life. In the telefilm Religion is a much more dominant theme particular during the last half.
Mick Garris has done a fantastic job with every thing he has touched, especially King adaptations. This time he misses the mark by a long shot. The acting is quite poor, despite a talented cast. Scenes are never allowed to unfold, but are forced along, thus not giving the viewer a chance to soak up the atmosphere the way a King story demands. The child actor looks like he is perpetually about to cry ( a la Neve Campbell circa 'Party of Five'). Their is absolutely no rhythm to anything in the film, it's all forced.
Bottom line: you can miss this one. However, no one should miss Garris' s 'The Stand' which is an unbelievable work, and a daring accomplishment.
Ideology not racism
In terms of being a great film, this film is indeed flawed. It often feels like an episode of a TV show (namely hill street blues or the like), and the final 15 min seems to force an ending while sentimental pop songs play over top.
That being said I have to applaud some of the ideas this film is able to work through , its cast, Paul Haggis, and some of the Eastern influenced music in the first part of the film.
People who dislike this film tend to describe it as simply a film with a message, and talk about it as merely a film about racism. People who tend to enjoy this film tend to pinto to one moment as encapsulating the whole of the story , and that is the moment where Sandra Bullock' s character says " I feel so scared and angry all the time, and I just don't know why". Of course her friend loses interest in speaking to her at this precise moment, indicating the fact that friend doesn't want to discuss such a dark complex issue. This is about ideology, not racism. For those who dismiss the film as simply ask yourself why the film is arced by the story of Don Cheadles finding his brother's body and his mother's lost faith in him. does that story line have to do with racism? I think not.
If one approaches the film as being about ideology and not simply racism the film becomes a much more tightly wound and focused piece. The gun shop owner, the most overtly racist character in the film, feels just as out of place in his country as the women he speaks his vile words to. One of the interesting the films does is portray characters in a certain light and then play your preconceived notions against you. Matt Dillon is very racist to a woman, yet saves her life. His duty as a police officer and his obligations toward another human being outweigh his racist ideals, and thus he is forced to act. ( my favourite moment is when Thany Newton looks back and shakes her head no, as if his actions have complicated him in such a way that she cannot reason). Terrence Howard stand by as his wife is violated, but later he tries to redeem himself by over reacting. Ryan Philippe must save him feeling a sense of guilt knowing what the man has gone through. Both men have pushed them to the limits of their understanding of themselves. Finally we are given Michael Pena's character who is attacked by the Persian man ( a minority attacking another minority), but the gun does not go off.
What we are given is elevating situations of people's humanity overriding their values to reveal a deeper loyalty to their fellow human beings than even they may realize they have ever had. The question is never why they react the way they did, the trouble for each is that their hesitation to act appropriately in the first place forced them into far more volatile situations. their understanding of themselves is complicated but their deeper humanity is revealed.
Many people ind the scene with Pena screaming as his daughter is shot, but the gun not going off as hokey. However, I think the moment serves as a moment of suggesting that the lines that separate people are often arbitrarily made ( ie NOT divinely ordained). Whereas the uniting forces are in fact naturally occurring and not merely social designs.
Ultimately, as I said, the film works through a few powerful ideas (Think Foucault, Said, Rushdie), but fails in some ways. But Haggis set out a lofty task for himself and came as close to succeeding as is possible.
The Last Kiss (2006)
I love ambitious films and often forgive them for their flaws solely based on their strive to challenge ( and ultimately respect) their audience. But this one is tremendously ill conceived. I enjoyed Paul Haggis' "Crash" and actually would consider it a movie that strives for greatness and to a degree fails; however, it is in the end a poignant and challenging film that takes the often black-and-white ideas that people bring to notions of race relations and navigates the murky gray waters that reveal the complexity of the issue. "Crash"reveals the potentials for redemption in the individual characters lives and the catch 22 ideology that makes the possibilities for hope, the mere slivers of light, a blatant and beautiful driving force behind his film. However, I often felt that "Crash" felt more like a television show than a film, and while that sometimes benefited the narrative and the themes of the film it was also detrimental.
Here, Haggis gives another film that feels like a television show and tries once again to navigate the murky gray waters, but this time the failings far outweigh the ambitions. The cinematography and the directing are quite poor. If one sees the film on DVD in a television format often times characters are almost entirely cut out of shots because they are separated by too much distance in the shot, so we simply see a corner of two peoples faces. This is not the fault of the director but it draws attention to the fact that all the shots consist of a series of close-ups, the film never makes use of its environments. It becomes quite boring visually over time. The director simply does not understand his script in the end or the subject matter.
To return to Haggis, the worst thing about the film is the script, which was obviously never evolved and nurtured. This not to blame Haggis, but merely to suggest that in the end the reason the film falls flat is going to be blamed on the poor writing. Braff is not the best man for the job and often pulls out his comedic gesturing at the most inappropriate times detracting from serious moments of the film (ie as he fights with his girlfriend about his indiscretions). Bilson is totally wasted here. I have never really liked her, but thought she was quite good here. However, she is given a one-dimensional character and has little to work with. Ultimately, this film seems to confront the idea of people who feel trapped in their relationships. However, the central story of Braff's love triangle seems to drive the film, while the other stories are just excess fat that takes valuable screen time. None of the different stories advance one another in any way or compliment one another. The film cannot be called a meditation on its subject because it seems to try to force a plot on to the film. (Although, what has Braff or the audience really learned- or at least confronted- at the films close?).
One of the producers said that "the film opens with a man getting married who has a seemingly perfect relationship". What? We see that character twice: at a bachelor party with two strippers, and at his wedding. Why on earth do we assume he is happy? He has one line of dialogue. This film doesn't explore anything or take a stance on anything. The fact that producer assumes that the audience will assume this character is happy reveals how flawed the film makers understanding of their subject really is. Isn't it a black and white notion to assume that someone who is married is content in their relationship? As though they have reached the finish line and snagged one for the long haul. In fact, isn't that sort of black and white ideal the very thing this movie is supposedly confronting?
Simply put: See David Gordon Green's "All the Real Girls". It deals with the same themes and even ends in a similar fashion to this film. Green gets it and his work is a well crafted labour of love, this film is an unfocused mess that does not understand its characters, its own subject matter, or the genres that it is derived from