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Christmas with the Kranks (2004)
One of the most boring films I have EVER seen...
I'm not even sure why I sat through this film. Even when my attention wasn't fully on it, it still managed to almost put me to sleep, quite literally. For a start there is no real story arc, plot, or any real emotional investment in anything...the film's premise is basically about a couple (well, mostly Tim Allen's character) who want to 'skip' Christmas, and go on a cruise instead, much to the chagrin of their neighbours, who pressure them to...suddenly their daughter, who has just left two weeks ago, tells them she's engaged to a man (in a space of 2 weeks) and wants to surprise them by returning home with him...the usual Christmas-time clichés, surprisingly few real laughs, and all the feel-good tosh, can hardly begin to redeem this snorefest. Tim Allen's 'character' is as flat as cardboard, while it was a bit torturous having to ignore Jamie Lee Curtis' character's irritating screeching and squealing.
The only highlight was the pretty scenes of the lit-up houses during a White Christmas, honestly...
Underwhelming and a bit boring
Saw 'The Force Awakens' yesterday and I have to say it left me...pretty underwhelmed. After six films I think I'm pretty Star Warsed out. Thematically it just seemed like a re-hash of Episodes IV and V, this new character 'Rey' being just another Luke Skywalker, a 'nobody', a scavenger on a desert-like planet that bears striking resemblance to Tatooine, who is unwittingly pulled into the whole saga by destiny. The story of the renegade Storm Trooper didn't really resonate as much as it could have. The whole relationship between Han Solo and this new villain: we've seen it before, nor did he seem very menacing to me, at all (not that I would want to be stuck in a room with him). Just like a lesser Darth Vader. As one reviewer mentioned as a stand-alone film, this seems like so many PG-13 action films we've seen. The plot was a bit predictable and clichéd at times, though the pacing wasn't too bad, but overall I didn't feel much suspense. It's like we'd seen it a hundred times before. I don't think the presence of the original three - now middle aged - really saves it. Little of the plot seems to follow much of the Star Wars post Return of the Jedi mythology that some fans might be familiar with, it just felt very disconnected. I haven't really been a Star Wars fan for years anyway, and if this is a third trilogy, I doubt I'll be watching the next if it's more of the same. Just my opinion, anyone else feel the same? Possibly, I have to say, the most lacklustre Star Wars film since the Phantom Menace actually.
Weak, clichéd plot, stretches the bounds of plausibility
Just saw 'Lucy'. The premise is interesting - it definitely extends beyond the realm of transhumanism into territory usually the preserve of spirituality and religion, most explicitly in the scene where Lucy and the first humanoid 'Lucy' touch fingers in an allegory to the Micheangelo fresco. It was all too easy to think of Lucy attaining god-like status, as she progresses to fully using her brain and cerebral capacities. How that works is never quite explained. Although there is a theory I came up with that brains are sort of 'receivers' of universal consciousness that ties in well with this, but in reality, I don't think using '100% of your brain' will really give you all these superhuman or superhero powers.
The plot was probably the most disappointing part of the film. Beginning in Taipei, Lucy's boyfriend sets her up (presumably) with a Korean drug ring that is using people as mules smuggle in a drug (although whether they know the full capabilities of the drug is seemingly unclear) that is synethesised 'CPH4' a chemical that mother's release that stimulates bone growth in fetuses. Their goal here is not that clear. Basically another 'catch the bad guy' plot, intertwined with Lucy's (Scarlett Johansen's) evolution into some kind of superhuman and beyond. A lot of the action scenes and pseudo-science (which in itself is not a sin if properly worked out in the alternative logic of the universe) have been seen before. I'll give it 5.5/10.
uplifting in parts, but felt the plot was a bit weak
Given the hype surrounding this I was looking forward to seeing Ben Stiller's ambitious directorial and acting opus. I found it quite inspiring (yes, I agree with some reviewers it did feel like an ad) in parts, yet I felt there was something missing about the film. His quest to search out the legendary photographer he had been working with (but never met) becoming a sort of 'finding himself' through being adventurous.etc, I don't know if it quite worked as well as it should have. I mean was it really realistic that his main motivation would be to travel all that way for a simple photograph? I just felt it could've been done better. The cinematography and acting was pretty good, I think Stiller isn't bad at dramatic roles, although I agree with some reviewers he tends to play the same character in many of his films, whether they be comedy or drama, e.g. in Meet the Parents, Along Came Polly. I kind of miss him doing his more outlandish roles like Zoolander, Dodgeball or even his bit- part in Happy Gilmore. I wasn't a big fan of Tropic Thunder btw. But yeah, I can understand the mixed reviews. Still, I found it a reasonably enjoyable film.
Greatest Cities of the World (2008)
One of the best most balanced overviews of great cities
Presented by Griff-Rhys Jones. This aired on telly here a few years ago, and when I saw it at the ABC (our BBC) shop I decided to get the 6-part series. I think it's one of the best doco series' on cities there is. Most documentaries on cities, I find, like the NG 'Megacities' series, either focus too much on one aspect and not on the city as a whole (e.g. the Megacity episode for London focused mostly on Heathrow, for HK on the port, I mean seriously?), on dry history or are travel docs, which are great. I find Lonely Planet has too many things on some avantgarde theater group, whereas I want to know about the CITY itself: the neighbourhoods, the vibe. It's great to hear individual stories, but I like broader overviews.
I think this series strikes a good balance between both. There are plenty of shots of the same famous landmarks, and aerial views of the city, but also interesting vignettes of city life/peculiarities. I think his social commentaries at least try to get beneath the surface of what life in the city is like and as a presenter he's pretty good. For the episode for Sydney, for instance, it didn't tend to focus on places OUTSIDE the actual city like the beaches, national parks (although of course included that too) like docs on Australian cities always tend to do. At least it talked about Sydney CITY itself.
The Godfather (1972)
Epic gets caught up in itself...
Few other films revel in their sheer pompousity as 'The Godfather.' I must say that I do not dislike this film; it is a classic and deservedly so, and still one of the best gangster movies. Its just it tends to take itself too seriously, and you can't really relate to the characters. Don Corleone is not as violent and ruthless as expected (he fails to take revenge after Sonny's death). It would have been more thrilling to watch the Godfather carry out a brutal payback executive or unparalleled brutality.
The film was too slow and long for my tastes, and lacked action and suspense. The best scenes include the scene where Al Pacino has to kill an enemy of the family, near the end when Don Corleone dies and of course the memorable 'Machine-gun death' of Sonny.
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
The only reason I knew of Midnight Cowboy was because it was in the AFI Critic's Top 100. For a top 100 it is not a very well known movie; indeed, I had to look hard to find a copy, I got the DVD version for about half-price. Surprisingly it was only rated M15+ (the uncut version).
I doubt many will take notice of this review (more like comment) so I'll make it brief.
This is perhaps one of the strangest movies I've seen, partly because of the use of montages, artistic filming (very art-house) and the unusual theme. There are many things in the film I still don't understand (I've seen it twice), and it makes for an emotionally confusing film.
The filming and acting were very good, and it is the larger than life characters which make this film memorable. The main character is Joe Buck, a 'cowboy' from Texas who moves to New York to become a male prostitute. He meets the crippled conman Enrico 'Ratso' Rizzo and, of course they become friends going through the usual escapades. What makes the film interesting is the two characters are so different.
I felt the film didn't really develop the relationship between Buck and Enrico Rizzo for the audience to have any real emotional connection, although the ending is certainly quite sad and tragic. You probably already know what happens by reading the reviews, but its pretty obvious from the start.
I personally think the film beautifully and poignantly explores its main themes. The deprivation of humanity (shown by the darkness of the city streets, the breaking-down tenements). Most of the characters in the film exist beyond the law (a conman, giggolo.etc) yet you can't help liking them. Joe Buck is endearing because he is so naive and optimistic, while we begin to feel pity for Ratso later in the film.
I think the film was rated so high because it was certainly very ground-breaking for its period. At the time (And even now) it was definitely not a typical movie (quite art-house). At a time when the cinema was dominated by tired westerns, musicals and dramas a film with such an unusual theme as Midnight Cowboy pops up.
On a personal level, I must say I quite liked the film. The imagery conveyed a dream-like quality. I particularly liked the scene at the party, the music, images etc stay in your mind for a long time after watching. However, as a movie for entertainment's sake it was a bit lacking (not really my style of movie) in thrills. This is a film to be savoured and appreciated, rather than a cheap thrills action flick.
Although I would hardly consider myself qualified to analyse this film, the characters and their motives were quite interesting. From what I understand from the flashbacks, Joe Buck was sexually abused as a child by his grandmother, although it still doesn't seem to be relevant to the story. He is a happy-go-lucky young stud, who suppresses his darker memories. The religious connotations in the film are also puzzling. Some have suggested a homosexual connection between Buck and Ratso, although I fail to see where they have got the idea from. The theme of homo-sexuality in general is more than touched upon in their conversation, and later in Joe Buck's encounter with a lonely old man, but it has little to do with the main story.
Certainly from a technical point of view one of the finest films of the decade (it has more of a 70s feel to it than a 60s feel) and revolutionary for its time touching on subjects few other films dared to do. While it has a simple, sentimental story to it (disguised by a hard edge) the beauty of the film is in the strange, often psychedelic sequences.
Pure Disney Magic...
Note: Spoiler contained Few films explore the human psyche as Disney's 'Pinocchio' released in 1940 - a year that heralded a golden decades of classics from the great studio. Its themes and story are truly universal. Indeed, the Disney version of Pinocchio was a film integral to my early memories of childhood and perhaps those of millions of other children (and adults) at heart. But aside from sentimental emotional attachments, Pinocchio is a fine work of art. Technically superb, with an engaging storyline, Pinocchio is truly is a timeless classic and a beautiful film...
Few people in the Western world are not familiar with Pinocchio: the mischievous wooden puppet who redeems himself from his not-so-angelic ways, and is finally rewarded for it. Most children are more familiar with the watered down (and some say corrupted) Disney version than the original by Carlos Collodi. I recommend that all children should also read the original book, as it perhaps explores more 'adult' themes, not subjugated into the naivety of the child-world of the Disney Pinocchio. Yet the latter is not as rosy as many Disney offerings - indeed there are some frightening scenes which could be hardly suitable for small children. The scene where the Coachman 'transforms' into his inner sentinel is genuinely disconcerting.
Pinocchio was Disney's second offering, after the highly successful and ground-breaking 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' of 1937. Indeed, Disney created an entirely new type of film. The animated feature: the world's and characters of these animated worlds were as 'real' to the audience as any real film. Indeed, the fact that the characters in these films do not exist in real life make the characters all the more convincing. In a sense, the characters inhabit the film as a figure in a painting.
The film is a visual delight. The sophistication of animation at the time was almost unheard of, and extremely sophisticated. The scene were the clocks tick in unison was particularly difficult, as was the Monstro scene. Colours and textures are vibrant and lifelike, while the characters are modeled beautifully. Indeed, for pure animated wizardly Pinocchio rivals many present day cartoons.
The direction of the film, sound effects and voicing were very good. Dickie Jones, as a young Pinocchio is well-cast. Direction and 'shooting' was far ahead of many films of the time; the early scene where the 'camera' pans across the rooftops of the village reputedly cost over $20,000.
Yet the visual and aural aspects are only there to bring the story to life, and this film, as much as any other, displays the strength of good storytelling. While highly moralistic, the film opens with Jimminy Cricket: an endearing, street-smart wanderer who is perhaps more memorable as Pinocchio himself. Geppeto is the kind puppet maker who carves Pinocchio out of wood, who is subsequently granted his wish when Pinocchio is made a real boy. Obviously, Pinocchio does not go to school and this leads him into all sorts of trouble. After escapades in the theatre, Treasure Island and the bottom of the sea he is redeemed by risking his life to save his father.
Pinocchio is perhaps the most remarkably 'flat' and lifeless character. He is a 'cipher' without any distinct personality traits. On the other hand, the characters which inhabit this fantasy world (supposed to be set in Italy) are the most memorable of any animated feature. There's Honest John, the wise-talking conman (or con-fox), Lampwick and of course the three villains or 'baddies.' Stromboli is a hot-tempered showmaster: bloated and greedy, he is the epitome of the school bully. The Coachmaster lures boys by the promise of a life of fun and enjoyment, however they are duly punished by him.
In conclusion, Disney's Pinocchio is a tribute to old-fashioned storytelling. While Disney may have been a bit too creative with the original Collodi story, he triumphantly succeeds in canvassing perhaps one of some of the greatest concepts in humanity. That of Good and Evil, Redemption, loyalty and sacrifice. Disney was no doubt successful in transferring Collodi's timeless moral onto the screen.
Bad Taste (1987)
Comic gore at its best (or worst)
Contrary to the summary line, I did not particularly enjoy this movie - that isn't to say that is it does what it is supposed to do perfectly: blatantly show some of the goriest comic violence ever (very unrealistically, I might add) for the mere sake of violence.
Indeed, it is hard to imagine this excuse for a film was made by Peter Jackson, who directed the great Lord of the Rings trilogy. Aside from the amateurish filming and acting, the special effects can be described as nothing short of abysmal. Even considering the tight budget, some of the effects were very poor. For example, the use of red cordial as a substitute for blood. Obviously young Jackson had not heard of fake blood.
But aside from that, it is obvious the film's premise achieves what it attempts: to make a film violent for violence sake. There are no ringing plot lines which make us react emotionally to the violence: just a combined disgust and humour. I didn't find this as humorous as I expected; some good lines are when Derek says, 'I'm a Derek, Derek's don't run.' And the final scene when Derek chainsaws his way through an alien and says to himself, 'I'm born again.' Indeed, the black humour is perhaps not black enough.
The plot is mind-numbingly tactless. A small New Zealand town is overrun by aliens disguised as humans. The enigmatic AIDS is commissioned to destroy them before they take over the world. After 100 minutes of blood-splattering action, well you can probably guess...
Overall, the film just seemed very poorly done. Despite the frequent action, it failed to keep my attention for any period of time. Even the most violent scenes in the movie got tiring, and you began to get used to even the most horrific gore. Recommended for those without any brains.
A little strange...
I must say I don't share the same high praise as the other reviews here, and I thought a little balance was needed. Not that this is a negative review of Vertigo (its not really a review as such, just a little musing), but its just that I don't think it quite deserves its title as one of the Top 100 films of all time. While I admit I have only seen the film once, that one viewing is more than enough for this type of movie.
Firstly, I found the storyline a bit over-dramatised and at times confusing. While the basic plot is fairly simple, the various plot twists and turn can often one wondering where the film leaves off. For example, when the main character John 'Scotty' Ferguson (played by Stewart) meets 'Judy' who was playing 'Madelline' the whole time. The viewer is not told whether Stewart knows Judy is Madelline or not as if would seem pretty obvious they are the same person. I also don't get the end scene, how is 're-enacting' the scene supposed to cure Detective Ferguson's vertigo? But that's probably my lack of understand.
In addition, the characters were often inconsistent. Why does Judy suddenly become so trusting of Det.Ferguson? In the first half of the film, there's a sense of unreality of the whole story that's quite hard to pick. As if the entire movie is a whole dream. Stewart's character of a hard-nosed detective is played out well, although he quickly becomes obsessed and paranoid later in the film. Indeed, his character is multi-layer and in many parts of the film we see a darker side to his nature. The character of 'Madeline/Judy' obvious differs from the first part preceding the 'real' Madelines death, and the second scene.
In terms of technique, the movie was perhaps typical of detective type movies of the period which used music scores to add drama and suspense. I thought the score was a bit much at times, and could have just been toned down a bit. What I mean is that what was actually happening on screen was not sufficiently suspenseful to require such a soundtrack.
Anyway, I'll give it 7/10 stars. Its a fascinating movie that everyone should watch, I just found the plot a little messy