Reviews written by registered user
|9 reviews in total|
I had read the bad reviews, Woz's comments about the film and my wife
had read Issacson's book. Three strikes against the film we were about
to see. But within minutes we were both drawn in, fascinated and
entertained by the film. A really good film, perhaps even a great one.
It is not insanely great, but more about that later.
What do you want from a film about a historic and important person? If you want homage to "a great man", go see Spielberg's "Lincoln". If you want a numbing "by the numbers" history lesson, go see Lee Daniels' "The Butler". But if what you want to see is a raw portrait of a highly flawed genius, go see "Jobs". The arrogance, the intelligence, the salesmanship, the insensitivity, the cruelty and yes, the ability to see what people want before they know they want it; it's all there. The Mac, the iMac, the iPod and everything else Apple marketed was the manifestation of a vision. A vision of creating something way beyond the ordinary, making complex technology simple and making ugly machines beautiful. That was Steve Jobs' vision and it comes through in the film loud and clear. Yes there are omissions- Xerox, Pixar, NEXT (almost not there) and of course the post-2001 products. But as I said in the title, if that is what you want, go read the book. This is not a film as history of Apple or biography of Steve Jobs, it is about Steve jobs the person. If you cannot see that, I feel sorry for you.
Yes, there are weaknesses. Ashton Kutcher's Jobs character walks funny for no apparent reason. Some characters are too superficially sketched. And yes, I agree that it should have been clearer as to how the Mac acquired its revolutionary user interface. But these are quibbles. Mr. Kutcher, the director, Joshua Michael Stern, and the writer, Matt Whiteley, take it from me- Forgive them (critics) for they know not what they are saying.
This french film starts with a Dustin Hoffman look-alike actor being driven by a black driver (Omar Sy) who is fond of Earth, Wind and Fire music and has a swagger made popular by many a black Hollywood actors including Eddie Murphy. In the typical Hollywood fashion he comes from the wrong side of tracks (think of Murphy in Trading Places), but ends up living in a Paris mansion (again echoes of Trading Places) taking care of a quadriplegic (François Cluzet). Somehow he learns to take care of his patient and in fact becomes quite an accomplished male nurse. The transition is mildly amusing, and won't bother you if you checked your skepticism at the door before entering the movie theater. If you have any doubts about whether or not this film is in the genre called Hollywood fantasy, you have to see what our tough man with heart of gold does next. He decides to teach his boss how to be a good father and ultimately becomes cupid for his boss. The film plays on the obvious disparities between expectations and attitudes of the privileged and under classes in ways that are funny. If you wish to enjoy this film, please keep your expectations low and ignore the obvious visual and other tricks. One of the early scenes shows a row of shoes and socks of the candidates waiting to be interviewed for the nurse's job. As the camera pans, all candidates are wearing shiny shoes with clean socks, but one pair stand out for being dirty and incongruous. Of course, they belong to Omar Sy's character and he gets the job at this super-rich household. How fuuunny!! I predict that in two to three years there will be a Hollywood clone of this film with Dustin Hoffman and Chris Rock playing the main characters. And it will be a box office hit.
Every once in a while you come to see a film that you have heard a lot of buzz about and are afraid that it won't live up to it; but it does in spades. "Beasts" is such a film. I saw it at the Traverse City Film Festival and it is nothing like anything I have ever seen before, and may not see again for a long time. With a cast of non-professional actors (the father in the film is played brilliantly by an "actor" named Dwight Henry, who apparently worked at a bakery that the producers and the director used to visit!), a story that is part fantasy (with an homage to the book "Where the Wild Things Are") and part excruciatingly painful reality regarding parts of the U.S. south, the film creates almost an alternate universe. This universe is built out of society's discards, both people and things, but is complete with existential questions, disasters of biblical proportions and a compelling storyline. Hushpuppy is the name of a six year old girl living in and around the backwaters of Louisiana along with her father, chickens, pigs and other animals. They are part of a community of people who have such strong connection to their dilapidated surroundings that they resist the government's efforts to relocate them even after a Katrina-like storm. Central to the film is the relationship between Hushpuppy and her boozing father, who at first appears to be weak and completely wasted. Hushpuppy, played by an amazing newcomer with an impossible to spell and pronounce first name, has a rich universe inside her mind which both frightens her and gives her strength. Through disasters, adversity and trials that would defeat even strong-willed adults, Hushpuppy's mental universe becomes more and more real to her. Will she tame the beasts of her mind, or will she be defeated by them? It is well worth taking this dark and glorious journey to find out.
It is often a mistake to read a review of a new film prior to seeing it in theater. The review can raise expectations that cannot be satisfied, and can spoil the fun of discovery even if the reviewer does his/her best not to include spoilers. Luckily for me this film was an exception to this rule. I read its review by A.O. Scott in NYT before deciding to see it, but the review did not prepare me for the impact that the film had on me. The probable reason for this lucky discrepancy is that this is such an original film that it is hard to summarize it in a review. So, I won't attempt to do so. Yes, it is about a planet called Melancholia and yes, it is about a sense of melancholy Kirstin Dunst's character experiences, but the way the two are connected is hard to explain. It is, however, worth waiting for all the two hour length of the film for this relationship to unfold. In fact, it is much easier to say what the film is not, than what it is about. Yes, the film is about a strange planet, but it is not science-fiction. Yes, the film is about mental illness, but it is not a psychodrama. Yes, it has recognizable veteran actors such as John Hurt and Charlotte Rampling, but the most compelling performance is by the relatively young Ms. Dunst. She constructs a character that is elusive, troubled and entirely compelling. Wow, what a performance! Those of us who have grown to think of her as the harmless white bread love interest of Spiderman, better think again. It would have been so easy for her to turn her character into an Ophelia, but she didn't. Here is a young actress with considerable talent who can give a subtle performance. I also laud Lars von Trier for his bold treatment of the subject of mental illness and different ways of coping with it. Mr. von Trier is always provocative, but sometimes rather irritating in his films. In Melancholia, he has achieved something very difficult- a provocative and highly original film that transcends genres and expectations, but satisfies nonetheless. Bravo!
Of late Hollywood and Bollywood have been performing a strange dance. Big name Hollywood studios have signed contracts with Bollywood studios to produce films together and actors from both the industries are flying 10,000 miles to act in films produced by their opposites in the other continent. The difference is that while in most cases the exports from Hollywood have been grade B actors (Josh Hamilton in "Outsourced") and comedians past their prime (Chris Kattan in "Bollywood Hero"), the movement in the other direction is of supposedly grade A actors (Aishwarya Rai in "The Mistress of Spices"). Regardless, they have one thing in common- they manage to find mediocre projects and cannot rise above the material. Take for example of Mallika Sherawat, a "hot" actress from Hindi films, in this film. The film is based on a lame and worn idea of how opposites attract, made into an unfunny comedy. Ms. Sherawat is as bad as the material. She cannot even jog convincingly, let alone show any conflict about falling in love with a man who is politically against what she stands for. The simple irony of a black man trying to defeat the first black man running for President on a major party ticket, doesn't seem to occur to anyone in the film! The only good thing about Ms. Sherawat's performance is that it is no worse than that of her fellow actors in the film. All appear to be amateurs. It goes to show that the equation- Speaking English plus acting in Bollywood films equals being a Hollywood actress- does not compute. Whose hare-brained idea was this? How many such lousy half-Indian complete duds are going to be made?
Nora Ephron's treatment of the lives of Julia Child and Julie Powell as parallel stories of self-discovery is a delight. This is not a film with a high concept like "Benjamin Button" or great intensity like "The Hurt Locker", but it largely succeeds in what it sets out to do- provide an entertaining account of two lives that were intertwined in an unusual way. We see the progress of Julia in the 1950's and '60s in mastering French cooking and then writing the first authoritative book in English on the subject, while Julie mastering the same craft using Julia's book and videos fifty years later. Both find the process confidence-boosting and providing a structure and meaning to their otherwise somewhat boring lives. The pair of Meryl Streep (as Julia) and Stanley Tucci (as her husband) are simply divine. Their rapport is genuine and they make their half of the story believable without much apparent effort. You know you are watching a great performance when the actor makes you forget about the endless hours of practice that went into making the final product you see on the screen. Amy Adams and Chris Messina do a perfectly adequate job as the Powells living in a walk-up in Queens, but their story seems a bit thin at times and somewhat improbable. I did not buy that after a full day of work a woman with no culinary training would successfully embark upon making the complex recipes in Julia Child's book "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". Over 500 new recipes in 365 days without nearly a single disaster? Give me a break! Where did she get all the ingredients? Did she have time to go shopping every day? How did she afford all this? Who ate all the large portioned meals? Did some of the recipes taste awful? If you have tinkered in the kitchen trying out new things, you know what I am talking about. That's the fairy tale part of the movie. Regardless, Ephron makes us want to see Julie succeed in her endeavor and that is no small accomplishment.
This is a pale imitation of the Die Hard franchise that just sucks. The low ambitions of the movie are clearly on display when the terrorists hold the Vice-President hostage and he has to call the White House to beg them to transfer some money. In most movies of this genre the President is kidnapped or held hostage because after all he (or she) is the most powerful person in the country with finger on the nuclear button etc etc. Would most Americans have really been worried if Dick Cheney had been kidnapped? The honest answer is- probably not. Why the terrorists would choose a Stanley Cup final to carry out their operation and why, despite many explosions around them, the audience inside the hockey stadium is oblivious to the situation, are unanswerable questions. Let's just say this film is really hokey, not hockey. Those who liked the film and found it to be exciting should get a life.
Let me see- Bad acting, predictable plot, poor direction; what else could be bad? This would be a good effort if the average age of the participants was 12. Mediocre. Let's see what this film is about. It is about two guys living in a house with a woman who is just a roommate. We can guess, of course, that the woman will end up pairing with one of the men before the end. The woman has a friend who is uppity for no apparent reason- sorry correction- she has a boyfriend who is a high power agent in Hollywood. Correction- he is just a slime ball who preys on young females desperate to get into movie business. He is so crude that he wouldn't last in any business for more than 5 seconds, but for her girlfriend he is God. And one of the house-mates has a girlfriend who becomes a religious fanatic and a lesbian. Who thinks up such crap anyway? Actors mostly stand around stiffly to deliver their lines. Just because the actors are young and attractive does not make this relevant or interesting. This straight to DVD venture should have gone straight to nowhere.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw "Wild Strawberries" again after 30 years (Traverse City Film
Festival) and I was as much affected by it today as I was then. Dr.
Isak Borg (Victor Sjöström) is a bitter old man who lost the twinkle in
his eye and love of people during 78 years of a hard, but successful
life. A domineering stern mother and an unhappy marriage have left him
without apparent emotional attachments. A strange dream shakes him out
of his routine and he makes a sudden decision to drive to the town
(Luund) where he is to receive a high honor. His daughter-in-law,
Marianne (Ingrid Thulin), joins him on the journey, but he is totally
uninterested in hearing about her problems. On the way to Luund, he
decides to stop at an old house where he spent his youth with his 9
siblings. A patch of wild strawberries takes him on a journey in time
to his youth when he was madly in love with his cousin Sara (Bibi
Andersson). All of a sudden the memories awaken in him the pain of
losing Sara and the failed relationship with his wife. The latter
memory finds echo in the relationship of a couple that they pick up on
the road, but he also meets an old patient Henrik (Max Van Sydow) who
thanks Isak for some unspecified kindness in the past. The road crew
becomes decidedly interesting when they pick up hitchhikers, a lovely
and lively young girl named Sara (Bibi Andersson again) and her two
boyfriends. Little by little and in often imperceptible ways we see Dr.
Borg soften and become more human. By the journey's end, Isak has come
a full circle. He has reconciled with his own past and achieved a kind
of peace few are lucky enough to acquire.
Victor Sjöström is fabulous as the old man and others are cast perfectly as well; many of whom are usual participants in Ingmar Bergman's adventures. Bibi Andersson looks radiant and it is easy to fall in love with her. Ingrid Thulin's character is also changed by the journey and she goes from being a cold and estranged wife to one who is beginning to understand and like her father-in-law. People taking a "journey" or road trip is a popular theme in films, and this is one of the most effective ones. It sometimes resembles "Midsummer Night's Dream" in its ability to find magic and meaning in the woods. Except for a brief Dali-Hitchcock inspired scene in the beginning, there is nary a false note. It is vintage Bergman.