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A History of Violence (2005)
Start over and re-do it Cronenberg
Simply put, there are way too many problems, mis-hits, and under-achievement here to enjoy this effort. Pros : good story, great characters. The Cons : Not enough Ed Harris (he was the best character and an extraordinary actor)- where was he? Mortensen's character was never developed enough- he remained a mystery up to the final credits, some meaningless and disturbing sex scenes, and basically a juvenile script with some laughable lines. Start over take these wonderful actors, storyline, learn a lesson, and expand a bit here Cronenberg- you've been around too long for such a mediocre effort. I was disappointed.
United 93 (2006)
Realistic and powerful
It seems as though the creators of United 93 were prepared to make a film that respects Sept.11, 2001. This film negated any notion to "Hollywoodize" the film, over-sensationalize the events, or attempt to make the viewer teary-eyed. Kudos to them for taking this angle and because of this, a wonderful, powerfully honest, and realistic film emerged from this.
My only problem with the film was the seemingly "shakey camera" annoyance, the extremely small lettering in the sub-titles during the hijackers conversation (had to keep rewinding), and the somewhat disturbing misses during action sequences that the camera could never quite focus on. It was as if the cameraman was a passenger desperately trying to film and never having the ability to get to the core of the action. Other than these directorial flaws, a must see for it's realism, honesty, and respect.
Super Size Me (2004)
Super Size me, FAT, well "no Kidding"
OK, Morgan Spurlock has this experiment, we all heard it, I won't go into it. The film takes along with him on his journey for 30 days on nothing but McDonalds for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Also, he doesn't exercise. "So what" is what I say. He became unhealthy, fatter, and had a general lousy feeling. Surprise? I'll answer everyone with a resounding "NO." That's the major fault of the film. We already know this. Second, why are we watching a hospitalized obese man on the operating table go thru stomach surgery? Why are we listening to his girlfriend talk openly about their sex and his penis? And why are we getting close ups of his vomit on the parking lot of McDonalds? Hey Spurlock, we get the idea, are you trying to get this an "R" rating, or just force the extremities on us. Lay off. Another minor fault is that Spurlock never lets us into his mind about his mental condition. What's going on in your head? We know how you feel, but tell us what your thinking,huh. Despite these major letdowns, I'll very mildly recommend this doc simply because he raises issues about kids and children and how they are being rather exploited thru marketing and unhealthy foods in school- and why children are being served what they are. This is what the film should have focused on- children, NOT adults. This was the best issue the film raised, and possibly what the film should have been about.
Lastly, I'll admit, Spurlock has a sort of engaging personality filled with subtle humor that gets addictive. I found myself enjoying the film almost based on this. He may as well have been talking about paint thinner for 2 hours as far as I'm concerned. 6/10 solely for the children issues and Spurlock himself.
The Flight That Fought Back (2005)
Use your imagination....not the docudrama
This docudrama is an important piece of American history which no one will ever forget. It brings us much closer to the events on flight 93, the plane which failed in its attempt to massacre the Capitol building in Washington D.C. due to the heroic efforts of passengers and crew. This is it's strength. Its weakness is the films attempt to well over-dramatize the aftermath of human feelings and emotions with pieces of dream-like sequences of the passengers while having voice-overs from family and friends. Just watching and listening to their honesty in their faces and eyes was needed here - nothing more. The writers thought that cutting away from family member interviews to heaven-like dramatizations would enhance the effect on us, then we end up just wondering why it's being "styled." Its blunders aside, the film educated me not only on this memorable day, but the strength of the human spirit. The mixture of the ordeal and family interviews, which help us to learn about these heroes, is wove together nicely. Despite the outcome of this horrific day and the terrors the world has endured, this docudrama is an important one, and one we should view with pride.
Satin rouge (2002)
Slight, but pleasantly satisfying......
Satin Rouge is not a film that will grab you and swallow you up. What it is is nothing less than a sweet little story of a very short time in the life of a mother and daughter. The relationship is a bit strained as the father has passed and the mother is still holding on to what once was. While looking for her daughter one evening, as she has become quite strict, she stumbles upon a small cabaret of belly-dancers who proceed to welcome her. She be-friends them and slowly begins to open up. There is a quiet love-triangle involved, and it is all well done.
The major strength of Satin Rouge is it's sweetness, as each character is loving and kind, as we wish the world would have more of. The human condition is well exposed. the performances, albeit slight, are fine as well as the casting. Our only concern with the film is its bland storyline that might not have enough to hold the viewer's interest. Those who do will probably be smiling in the end.
The Gambler (1974)
The Gambler: A Review.
Hmmm. This is a difficult film to analyze. Reason being, it succeeds in many ways- and fails in others. This film is the story of Axel Freed, played by James Caan. He is an addict. And this is the nucleus of the film, addiction. After reading most of the reviews here, I fear some people missed this. If anyone has ever been an addict, or knows someone, friend or family, that is, will connect. Others may just go through the motions. He is a hard-core gambler, who takes insane risks, namely sports, no matter what the cost. In this respect, the film succeeds in its depiction of this side of human trials. Other than this, we sit through too much "fill in". Caan being a college professor is hard to imagine (yes, anyone can be an addict, but we don't want to see him teaching a college course!).His relationship with his Grandfather seems to only tease us, as it comes and goes. The film also shows its age, as it is quite dated. This brings us to the films major flaw, its ending. The Gambler may have the honor to own the most inexplicable endings in film history. The writers failed so miserably here, you wonder what their thinking was. It tried way, way, way too hard to intrigue the viewer, that it left us only puzzled, nothing more. Ultimately The Gambler succeeds. Why, It depicts successfully what it's about, addiction. On this level, it's an enjoyable sit-through, as James Caan is a pleasure to watch in this role, as is each character. Burt Young, is another terrific character that the film needed to show more of. His 10 minutes of screen time wasn't enough. An ultimate slime ball that only came and went too darn soon. Most of the dialoge is top-notch, as Freeds "connections", as well as Freed are downright terrific to listen to, even funny, as we go through his gambling "adventures". Despite its flaws ( some people inexcusably shot their?!*@! and rated this film 9/10 or 10/10, I guess Casablanca or The Godfather is in the same league to them) I enjoyed this film, as you will too. 7/10. Thanks.
21 Grams (2003)
A successful risk......
While watching 21 Grams I realized they took quite a few risks in this unique film-making technique. The story constantly evolves around three people - Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, and, Benicio Del Toro. Each are leading tragic lives that are intertwined together. They present the story in segments that range from past through the present. This leaves it to the viewer to put the pieces together. The main problem with the film is that we are left at such a distance that it seems we are viewing the film from so far away that we are unable to know these characters very well- or develop any real understanding of eaches purpose, especially the Penn character. Why was it so important that Penn find the where his donor heart came from? Why did he ruin a his relationship with his loving girlfriend. Why did he ruin his second chance at life. I don't know. All this being said, this is quite a unique and very involving piece of film-making with wonderful performances that packs quite an emotional punch. Despite its several flaws, no one can deny its unique style and its story of self-deprication and tragedy. Recemmended. 7/10.