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The Deadly Companions (1961)
Peckinpah's first directorial outing contains most of the dominant themes of his films.
The Deadly Companions was Sam Peckinpah's directorial debut. It's a western filmed in Arizona. Clearly he was no master of his medium when he made it, but it contains most of the dominant themes. Here we find the chase/quest which creates conflicts for the main character. Here too the connection of violence to children shown in his great movie, The Wild Bunch. And themes of loyalty/betrayal are also touched on. As in The Getaway, the heroine is a tough dangerous woman not afraid to kill to achieve her goal, but also capable of love even under horrendous conditions. Peckinpah's begins his celebration of violence in The Deadly Companions, but does not do it well yet. Some of the acting and much of the plot is laughable, but a fan of Peckinpah's work will want to see The Deadly Companions.
Open Water (2003)
An young couple go on vacation and experience a pure accident.
Open Water is one of those rare movies that tells a straightforward story in a straightforward way because that it is the only way it can be told. I rate it excellent because the film-makers have understood this and done their level best to get out of the way. The movie contains what it needs to contain. We hear film-makers talk about how they achieved this effect or suggested that emotion. There is no need for any of that in this movie and, to the credit of the film-makers, there is none of it.This movie is a true horror movie because it describes events that not only could happen but actually do happen practically every day. Because of this, this is a movie everybody should see once. Entertainment has nothing to do with it.
The Robber Bride (2007)
TV movie turns Margaret Atwood's comic novel into comic thriller
Margaret Atwood novels have not fared well as movies because she is far more interested in ideas than stories. The Handmaid's Tale had such powerful ideas it wasn't surprising the movie version disappointed. I'm not sure if Atwood was trying to write a comic novel when she wrote Robber Bride or trying to get as close as she could to a mystery novel. As with so many of her efforts, she wasn't successful at either, but the quality of her work makes reading her worthwhile anyway. CBC was pretty daring even to try to turn the novel into a TV movie. They chose the easy way out and turned it into a comic thriller. It works as well as other comic thrillers, better than the recent CTV adaptations of detective novels. It is the acting by Mary-Louise Parker, Amanda Root and others which earned it an above-average rating for me. Maybe with more money they could have turned it into a good cinema film.
Blood Diamond (2006)
A Hollywood movies tells an African story full of death and violence and presents it with impressive truth.
Because I lived in Sierra Leone, in fact in Kono, the diamond-mining area of the country, for three years, I had to see Blood Diamond as soon as it came out. It is an excellent movie. Although it was not filmed in Sierra Leone, it captures the reality of the country to a remarkable degree. There is a great deal of violence in this movie, but that violence is organic, realistic, fitting to what happened there. They even manage to convey the fact that the people are as astonished by this violence as we are; Sierra Leone used to be one of the safest countries in the world. The movie tells the facts about conflict diamonds quickly and accurately. DiCaprio's performance is impressive, certainly the best by him I've ever seen: he is totally believable as a white African. Jennifer Connelly's role is much smaller but she makes the most of it. Djiman Housou has enormous physical presence as the brave Mende fisherman. This movie just gets so many things right that the few places it departs from reality are entirely forgivable. I would heartily recommend this movie to everyone; it is the best Hollywood movie I've seen in years.
A ship full of Africans ends up in the USA in 1839 and a trial is held to determine their fate.
I wish to comment about this movie mainly as someone who lived in Sierra Leone for three years. This movie contributed greatly to knowledge of even the existence of this country around the world and to the correct pronunciation of its name. Sadly the brutal civil war fought there and the reality of "blood diamonds" have also made Sierra Leone much better known today than when I lived there. Then the people of Sierra Leone were friendly, kind and welcoming. They were aware of the history of slavery mainly because of the small Krio population living in Freetown. The Krio were the returned slaves, the first group known as Nova Scotians because they were brought there by way of Nova Scotia. Though really a very small group, the Krio have a disproportionate influence in the country. The Krio language, what we often call pidgin English, is probably the most commonly spoken today. The movie tells of the tribal wars which were part of the history of the country and the slavery which existed throughout much of Africa. I did hear the few Mende words I remember during the movie. The handshake at the end of the movie is, in fact, the handshake used in Sierra Leone when I lived there.
Crna macka, beli macor (1998)
A comic romp among some scoundrels and losers living on the Danube.
This movie is a mix of Marx Brothers, Jacques Tati, Monty Python-set in a world of gypsies and mobsters living on the Danube--with the Wrong Box, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and My Big Fat Balkan Wedding thrown in for good measure. Marko is a Groucho Marx-like figure whose schemes just shove him and his family deeper. Her turns to two gangsters, Mafia godfathers: one is a sick old man who wears a combination Star of David, Crescent and Cross around his neck, watched Casablanca over and over and gets around in a motorized wheelchair. The other is more flamboyant, has lots of gold chains and keeps his cocaine in a crucifix. This one cheats Marko and then demands that Marko's son Zara marry his only unmarried sister, Afrodita. But Zara is in love with blond and very modern gypsy. Unlike the Marx movies, the young love interest adds rather than detracts. Be warned: you'll read obscenities in the subtitles and see animals fornicating. There are bizarre juxtapositions of contemporary objects with "primitive" realities of the setting--and lots and lots of geese.
Nothing But the Best (1964)
A working class striver reaches the top the smart way, by cheating, lying and thuggery.
I cannot recall having even heard of this movie until I saw it advertised in the TV listings as part of a series of British movies otherwise unrelated to each other in any way. The cast is wonderful particularly Denholm Elliot. Alan Bates gives the part the bland vacancy it requires. The song that opens the movie was of its time and was so bad I almost stopped watching. And the rest of the movie is never quite right. The movie tries to tell the story that Lindsay Anderson told so well in O Lucky Man, and falls far short...but most movies fall short of O Lucky Man. It's worth seeing for another reason: it illustrates very well the mentality that led to Margaret Thatcher.
40 Days and 40 Nights (2002)
In despair at the state of his life, a very sexually active young man vows to give up sex for lent and then meets the girl of his dreams.
The main idea of this movie was so intriguing, I decided to watch it: a very sexually active young man is so frustrated by his life that he decides to give up sex for lent then meets the girl of his dreams. It provides an opportunity to explore ideas: the true value of sex in a relationship, questions of openness and honesty. Will the girl be understanding and patient? How will other people react? The movie actually meets all these expectations but apart from the man and the girl themselves (to a certain extent) it does it in such a crude destructive way as to spoil the experience. It has its moments, but the humour just didn't work for me.
Plunkett & Macleane (1999)
If you would like to know more about 18th century England, you might find Plunkett & Macleane an educational and agreeable romp.
I was disappointed with Plunkett & Macleane. Having studied both the history and literature of 18th century England, I was looking forward to a movie set in that period. It does touch on many aspects of the times: gambling, brothels, prisons, lawlessness, class distinctions, but it also contains many anachronisms particularly in language. The greatest weakness I found was that Jonny Lee Miller, as Macleane, was unconvincing as someone everybody instantly took for a gentleman. Liv Tyler is an asset to any movie but, through no fault of hers, her character was equally unconvincing. Robert Carlyle was much better as Plunkett, but Robert Stott's performance is the best thing in the movie.
Possible spoilers: 1)The Robert Stott character really would not have fought a dual with a lower-class person like Plunkett. 2)Why would the movie-makers imagine that wanted criminals could easily escape to the British-controlled American colonies and be safe there?
Heart of the Beholder (2005)
Heart of the Beholder is the story, based on real events, of a man destroyed by persecution who managed to come back and achieve a measure of revenge.
The Heart of the Beholder is the story of a dreamer who finally achieved one of his dreams: his own business, a chain of video stores in St. Louis, Mo, only to be driven out of business by a group of fanatics who are outraged when he won't remove The Last Temptation of Christ from the shelves of his stores. It is, as they say, based on real events. In fact, the movie was written and directed by the man himself on the advice, he says, of Robert Wise. Undertaking the project helped in his recovery process. At the time I write this, he is having trouble getting distribution for the movie.
This is a story that needed to be told. The trouble is that the movie isn't very good, more like a worse than average TV movie. The actors in the main roles don't quite pull it off. Michael Dorn in wasted in a small role. Greg Germann's performance is the best in the movie.
This is definitely a movie to see on DVD because all the background information is what makes it interesting. We learn that the most unlikely things depicted in the movie actually did happen. Freedom of speech is everywhere under threat so everybody should either see this movie or read about the story on-line.