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12 reviews in total 
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August (1996)
4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Excellent & True to Chekhov, 8 February 2008

This is a lovely, well considered and well paced version of Chekhov's famous play. It is both amusing and sad, really a perfect balance. The title is a little misleading because this is actually UNCLE VANYA, not an adaptation. The characters' names have been altered and a brief mining accident has been added, but it is otherwise nearly a word-for-word translation, well worth watching. Hopkins is a wonderful Vanya (Ieuan), shifting moods rapidly from farce to frenzy. Kate Burton is a fine Yelena (Helen), not surprising because she worked for many years at the Williamstown Festival under Nikos Psacharopoulos, a director renowned for his Chekhov productions.

9 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Mannered Obfuscation, 20 August 2007

I've respected David Milch's work and looked forward to this series. But where "Deadwood" had bite, resonance, and an historical patina that allowed us to imagine Milch's compact, grinding, elliptical language filtered through decades of eccentric expression, this series is sadly pretentious. The cast is good (although Shaun reminds us that it takes actors to be "real"), generally doing an excellent job of believing and justifying. And some sequences rose above the rest, such as the brilliant surf-riding resurrection of John and Shaun. But the script ties vague, simplistic messages to a Saroyanesque story--a quirky parable of acceptance and renewal, laden with arcane spiritual allusions. The use of mythic action and the over-use of jargon, even pidgin, obfuscate the tale even for a careful listener (or CC reader). I suspect the mannered events and language were meant to make us labor for the message, the better to "treasure" it. But there's a huge difference between grasping and savoring truly complex concepts, such as one might gain from Shakespeare, Beckett, or Stoppard, and merely deciphering whimsical twists and bent lingo to arrive at a commonplace tale.

Patriotism (1966)
7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Gore with Kitsch, 1 February 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a beautiful black and white version of Yukio Mishima's short story, titled Patriotism in English. It depicts the love suicide of a Japanese lieutenant (of the pre-WWII Imperial Army) and his wife. Artfully staged and photographed, it was filmed without sound. There is an audio track of Wagner's Liebestod, but occasional dialogue is shown only as moving lips, and the basic story is conveyed by hand-written scrolls. The silence has a cool, distancing effect that plays well against the core violence of the piece. The lieutenant's hara-kiri is shown graphically--predicting Mishima's own death some four years later. The choice of the Libestod was a bit obvious as a bridge between Mishima's romantic fantasies and those of his equally theatrical German predecessor. This, and the predictable blood spatters, lend a touch of kitsch to this otherwise powerful film. I ordered this from, and got a two disc set. Both show the entire film, one with Japanese writing, and one with English scrolls substituted.

11:14 (2003)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Brilliantly Implausible, 7 January 2007

I caught this tonight on the Sundance channel and was absolutely riveted. This is a wonderful dark comedy, meticulously planned and artfully performed by a fine ensemble cast. Writer/director Greg Marcks deserves high praise for pulling off multiple Feydeau turns with his cars and corpses. There may be holes or lapses in the plotting, but every time my wife or I thought we spotted one, along came a twist that plugged the hole--and perfectly.

As implausible as the coincidences may seem, the execution is perfectly polished. The photography, effects, and timings are perfectly handled, and the actors offer details of real behavior that breathe life into the meshing gears of this ingenious plot.

The Tempest (1960) (TV)
5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Excellent - Holds Up Well, 26 December 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Of the very few versions of THE TEMPEST which are available as videos, this may be the best. It is not bowdlerized (as claimed by another commenter) but simply edited for limited television time, and rather cleverly adapted at that. Maurice Evans' Prospero is warm and generous of spirit. He chooses to forgo some of the majesty of the role in favor of delightfully quirky and very human touches. Roddy Macdowell gives a detailed portrait of Ariel, and Richard Burton succeeds in capturing the ingenuous side of Caliban. Lee Remick and William Bassett are young and sexy and speak verse well. The toughest transition in the story-- Prospero's abandonment of his vengeance-- occurs too quickly, with too little effort, but this is a common failing for THE TEMPEST.

Actors not credited in this listing may be found on the IMDb page under "Hallmark Hall of Fame." They are William LeMassena as Antonio, Geoffrey Lumb as Alonso, and Chris Gampel as the Boatswain.

Spitfire (1934)
15 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Flawed, but a real gem, 12 August 2006

Other reviewers seem to be comparing this delightful old film with standard streamlined products of the 40s and later. But "Spitfire" belongs to an older tradition, and it's a rare example of theatrical naturalism translated to film. Naturalism was always a dicey affair, attempting to study real (i.e., non-glamorous) people in folksy environments, and usually failing because written by authors of "a class above" for sensational purposes. I found this quaint vision of hill folk very appealing, representing a kind of nostalgia for Americana imagined although never real--yet nevertheless enjoyed by mainstream audiences. The young Hepburn gives an awkward but dazzling performance, fully inhabiting her naïve, sentimentalized Trigger Hicks, delivering her lines in a vigorous and truly delicious stage "Hillbilly" dialect. Don't miss a chance to travel on this strange, charming time machine.

Predictable but Fine Anyway, 2 July 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Sometimes a predictable ending is just TOO predictable. Sure enough, this pseudo-Faustian comedy ends up with our girl Andy back in the arms of her original boyfriend, and back with all that's good, wholesome, non-fashionable & non-French.

But along the way, it is witty and wise about the shifting sands of our morality. To be smart and elegant turns out to be more than airheaded and snooty. There are good-hearted souls even in the world of fashion (well, at least in the movies), and there's much to admire in their tough competitive ethic and leadership abilities, and we get some honestly compelling arguments for the importance of the art and the industry.

This is a beautifully made film with a sharp script and some very classy performances--from Streep, Hathaway, Blunt, Tucci, and Baker.

My complaint about the handling of Miranda's twist on the double cross is that she takes too long explaining herself. She confronts Irv with a list of top photographers and models who will stay loyal to her no matter what. C'mon, is THAT plausible? But overall, this is a sharp, satisfying satire, both cool and sweet.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
One to Remember, 7 March 2006

This film is a treasure. I first saw it in the local movie house in Ashland, Oregon, in my second season with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The theater owner screened it for one night only, I believe, as an "art film" that might appeal to a small off-beat crowd. The whole Shakespeare company showed up, and we were enthralled by the acting and stunned and moved by Kubrick's lean, masterful story of an historical cover-up perpetrated by autocratic generals in collusion with lower-ranking opportunists and cowards. Based on a blatant miscarriage of justice in the French army of World War I, the film had a powerful impact on our generation--in the post-Korea, pre-Vietnam era. It is a classic indictment of the corruption of men in war. I believe it holds up very well and that no one who sees it at the right time of their life will ever forget it.

16 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
McDonagh's parody?, 7 March 2006

McDonagh is a brilliant story teller and fully deserves his Tony nominations and his Olivier Award for Best Play (The Pillowman). His critics have questioned his use of casual cruelty as a dramatic device, although he always grounds violence in a social context or connects sadism to particular characters' proclivities. This film is beautifully acted by Brendon Gleeson and especially Rúaidhrí Conroy, sharply photographed, and well directed by McDonagh himself. For technique alone it is Oscar-worthy. But the whole piece strikes me as an absurdist joke with insufficient resonance. This is a mélange of destructions, an indulgence in violence that reduces and parodies McDonagh's better scripts.

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Extraordinary marriage of acting and film craft, 31 July 2005

This is the first Haneke film I've seen--and it is absolutely hypnotic. I heard in advance that it was a thriller, so there were times when I was impatient for action. Gradually I realized I was imposing a Hollywoodized attention span onto a rich and complex work. It won me over completely.

Much has been said by other reviewers about the strengths of this superb work. What strikes me most is that Haneke is a director who really trusts his actors--and as a true artist of film he knows how much time to give them.

He makes us all really pay attention.

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