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Manderlay (2005)
20 out of 30 people found the following review useful:
A Critique of Black America as much or more so than one of White America, 12 February 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In the age of quick cut MTV-style action packed cinema, danish director Lars von Trier brings welcome relief in the form of minimalist backdrop, and insightful dialogue. Reality TV eat ya heart out.

Manderlay is the second film in Lars von Trier's "USA - Land of Opportunities" trilogy, in which the Danish writer/director takes an outsider's observations on American society, culture and politics.

Following on from Dogville (2003), Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) is separated from her gangster Father (Willem Dafoe) in the town of Manderlay and the cotton plantation owned by Mam (Lauren Bacall), run by her small population of slaves (including Danny Glover).

Idealist Grace decides that it is her duty to "free" the slaves, unbeknownst to her that the slaves don't want to be "freed" and want Grace to take over as "Mam". Institutionalised and compartmentalised into groups by traits previously, the former slaves once freed, force Grace to enact tough gangster justice on the ill-disciplined and the unfortunate.

A hard critique on Black America for preferring the safe life of servitude and full bellies, instead of seeking full and unconditional freedom. Both the elder black statesman Wilhem (Danny Glover) and the young proud black buck Timothy (Isaach De Bankolé) both sell out their own people in each his own way.

In the end, its the liberal black man that is hanging at the tree by his neck, and Grace finds out that proud Black America prides itself on being "who we are because you made us".

Poor idealistic Grace could only whip them and run away as fast and as far as she could from these Graduate Americans.

LVT takes the moral high grounds in this second part of the trilogy on human nature and weakness (not seen Dogville yet), and Bryce Dallas Howard gives a "wide-eyed innocence of youth" performance. Danny Glover and the rest of the cast carry her and the film to a higher level.

LVT Concludes the film with a photo montage of American racial injustice, from Martin Luther King Jr to Rodney King to Dubya.

He misses out Condeleeza, but maybe her time will come in the third part "Washington".

Magenta (1997)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Giving a camera to a Monkey ??, 21 January 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

*****spoilers of sorts I am being harsh but someone must have been pretty high during the making of this movie....

It had some sort of story, but the character Magneta is not the main thrust of the movie, despite the fact that she is the indirect cause of unfortunate event half way through the film, but at no time is she the main character.

Maybe thats why her acting is so insipid, the actress comes to the realisation that the movie is just a male homoerotic fantasy with pretensions to greatness in a convoluted tell-all lovers' confession at the end. David lynch this ain't.

The director in retaliation cut a bunch of her scenes out.

Strictly for Julian McMahon fans only in his usual overacting....some nice acting from the wife and the jilted lover.

As for magneta, she bails out somewhere near the start, either that or she needs some acting lessons. She does not act lolita-innocent nor scheming seductress.

David lynch this ain't.

7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Not Something Hollywood would do, but something Hollywood would copy/rip-off, 30 December 2005

Crass, homophobic and yet so charming, not something Hollywood executives would give the go ahead on without major revision in order to make it audience friendly and thereby more dull.

It tells the story of Frank Faust who is willing to sell his soul in order to win back his maiden. However the pact with Mephisto's son is not honoured by Mesphisto Junior in a twist of sexual awakening. And even Poppa Memphisto gets to join in the shenanigens.

It's a film that you either love or hate depending on your view of life. It's fun, it's light-hearted, the acting is spirited, the pace is brisk.

Plus you get a stream of German celebrities from boris becker to claudia schiffer to laugh with, as they play themselves

The Bobo (1967)
5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Clouseau comes of age, 2 August 2005

Along with the Party, the Bobo marks peter sellers as a great actor, and not just a comedian. It's also listed as the Blue Matador, and you will see why by the end....

This bittersweet romantic comedy tells a story of the matador aspiring to become a singer. Peter sellers, BOBO of the title, takes on a bet from a Theater owner to seduce Olympia (Britt Ekland), the most desirable courtesan in Barcelona, who has rejected all of the theatre owner's advances. The reward is that the BOBO can perform at the theater.

The semi-Clouseau sets out and steals the heart of the courtesan, much to the surprise of everyone (see, women do like nice guys). The only problem is that the courtesan finds out about the bet (ouch, nothing worse than the woman's fury).

Terrific chemistry between Sellers and then-wife Ekland that even Kubrik could not extract from Cruise-Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut.

Do not expect a Pink panther/clouseau slapstick here, although there are plenty of laughs. Its just a sweet comedy of manners that not even Woody Allen achieved.

I don't understand some reviewers hate for the ending; what did they expect from Sellers. The ending was fitting with the film and not the Hollywood styled happy endings. Still, there was enough love and respect from the protagonists to signify mutual everlasting friendship.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Citizen Kane in color !!!, 25 February 2005

Don't blame Citizen Kane for the Hollywood cheese that came after it. This is essentially the story Orson and Mankiewicz wrote for Kane, but without the meticulous artistic eye or flair for story-telling. But what you get is the cheesy Hollywood lines, and sappy ending.

Still it's fun to watch, with some fine scenes. The masses lapped up American soapies like dallas and dynasty, that came after it, so it couldn't be called a failure by any standards.

Kane gave the audiences in America and worldwide, a glimpse at the American dream. "The carpetbaggers" and "Valley of the dolls" gave that American dream mass appeal.

Hollywood formula: handsome male power, encircled by beauthiful rich female socialite; destiny can be explained by (bad) childhood experiences. Freud rejoice....the American dream

268 out of 379 people found the following review useful:
Citizen for all Ages, 11 February 2005

What do you say about a movie more analysed than is enjoyed, more envied and despised than any other piece of cinema: well documented for its perceived portrayal of William Randolph Hearst, and his efforts to have it destroyed....It has survived and now stands at number one on the AFI's top 100 list, for a movie that didn't even win the Oscar for its year of release.

What can you say about the cinematography and direction and acting, that hasn't already been said? The lighting, the camera angles, the new visual techniques and trick photography used for the first time in an American movie to great effect. Special mention has to go to the acting of a 25 year old Orson Welles, an aspect the least highlighted.

The grand-daddy of the American Soap Opera, it tells the life of Charles Foster Kane, from his humble beginnings, his mother's giving him up to a wealthy guardian, and his building of a newspaper/radio empire. It sees Kane go from an idealistic journalist to a powerful mogul able to manipulate history through his media empire.

Despite all his money and power, Kane is not immune to the hand of destiny, and oh how she slaps Kane the old American way. A married Kane is caught through pure "innocence" with a "singer" and a scandal erupts, costing Kane the state governorship; you can guess the instigator of the scandal-mongering: the incumbent governor.

In the first part of the movie, we see a Kane adored by the public and employees but we don't see the reason why his relationship with his wife deteriorated, shown in a powerful film sequence of spouses drifting apart through the years. In the second part we see his relationship with the "singer" whom he took as his second wife, and how he uses her to try and manipulate public opinion of himself, just as he had used the media empire previously. The only problem is that his second wife isn't as competent as the media empire was in gaining respect or adoration; she is just terrible as an opera singer. But Kane wants to prove to the public that the "singer" who he was caught with, was more than "whore" and that he had the power to shape public opinion; she even told kane that she didn't want to be a singer. It is the cruelest thing any man could have done to another human being; manipulated for his own ends. William Randolph Hearst was said to have been less angry about his own portrayal than that of his mistress, Marion Davies.

The movie broke new grounds for cinema also, in its story-telling: we see first the death of a recluse Kane in his old age, and then there are flashbacks from newsreels and investigations and interviews of reporters piecing together the life of Charles Foster Kane and his dying word "rosebud".

The reporters never found out what his dying word meant, but the audience is shown what it "is". No single word can describe a man's life after all, so what does it mean??? lost childhood innocence and happiness??

This movie bred a bunch of copycats like "The Carpetbaggers" and "Valley of the Dolls", and inspired the great TV soapies like Dallas and Dynasty. Many other movies from different genres have copied and perhpas bettered the camera work and lighting and yet this movie has stood up well through the 60 years from its sheer brilliance and originality.

Despite its greatness, Citizen Kane seems to have taken some victims along the way. At age 25, Orson Welles starred, wrote and directed his masterpiece, but because of various reasons, political, envy, hatred, he was never able to match it. The other victim seems to have been Dorothy Comingore as Susan Alexander, mirroring the career of Marilyn Monroe who came after her.

A great movie thats stood the test of time. See it for what it is: a fantastic piece of story-telling firstly, only then can you see its greatness.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
More Human than Human is our Motto, 6 February 2005

A lot of reviews have described this film as film noir, but i don't even know what film noir is.......what i do know and what i agree with most reviewers is that this is the greatest SCI-FI film ever, and possibly the best film ever....why?? simple lines that mean something to EVERYONE.

1. Living in fear is what it means to be a slave.

2. More human than human is our motto.

3. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in the rain....

Love Story (1970) only had one cultural defining line, this one had three! maybe thats why it flopped at the box office: too much for the average film-goer to digest.

The set design and the custom's would make all the CGI in recent movies green with envy at the power of the imagery of near-future of humanity.

And its a question of humanity that this film poses: what it is to be human.

The plot is quite simple: A member of an elite unit of policemen, Bladerunners, is pulled out of self-retirement to hunt down an group of Replicants, humanoids that serve as "slaves" to "humans" in the off-world colonies. Off-world colonies are designed for the elite and rich and famous, whilst the poor, the sick and the "unsuitable" remain on earth. We get to see a polluted, dark, debauchered world of Los Angles 2019.

This blade runner is Deckard (Harrison Ford) who has to do some detective work to find out why these Replicants have returned to earth and to hunt them down and "retire" them.

What he finds is the head of Tyrell Corp, and his assistant Rachael. Tyrrell tells Deckard that his corporation has a new design on humanoids that would safeguard humanoids against anti-social behaviour: memory implants. By giving the humanoids a past they can have a better vision of who they are and where they going, so emotionally be able to handle the work that they do (ie. pleasure or military), since Tyrell corp humanoids are more human than human.

What is NOT clear to Deckard at this stage is why the Replicants have returned to earth. Tyrell corp has a failsafe device built into all the off-world humanoids: Four-year lifespan. The Replicants have come back to earth seeking to extend their life. They seek their MAKER. (And you can add another line from that scene too: "the light that burns twice as long, burns only half as bright")

The final confrontation between Deckard and the leader of the "escaped convicts" Roy batty (brilliantly played by Rutger Hauer, as the "Aryan" killer we come to sympathise with), nails this film as a masterpiece.

Direction from Ridley Scott is brilliant as is the cinematography, littered with clues and questions about what it means to be human: is it memories, family photographs, joy of learning a musical instrument, loved ones, 9-to-5 job, dreams of a better place, simple facts of life, like death. Or is it that Corporations should be allowed to make "humans".

This movie works on so many levels: is it really about the future, or a reminder of the past? Didn't we just barely get through the African slave-trade and greatness of a Martin Luther King Jr in opening our eyes to what it means to be human???

Certainly "living in fear is what it means to be a slave".

EDIT: there is a lot of debate about the Theatrical cut (TE) verses the Directors cut (DC); i think both are equally good...My opinion is that the TE is just slightly better. It has the Ford voice-over explanation which gave it that 1940s detective feel, and a contrasting ending that provided the audience with hope for the future. Its been mentioned that Ford gave a laconic narration in protest when the studio made scott add the voice-over. Ironically it made the voice-over better, it gave Deckard the war-weary edge: i mean the bladerunner did shoot people who were UNARMED, one IN THE BACK, and two females. "Aren't you supposed to be the Good man" queries Batty.

Also in the DC, Scott i think is writing the story backwards from the expectations of the audience: he added the question of whether Deckard was a replicant. In art, the original and spontaneous take is always the best, so that u don't get labeled pretentious. The real question is whether Deckard is "human".

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Ultimately an excellent movie, weighed down by great expectations, 16 January 2005

Great masterpieces are often god-given to the lucky, ONCE a lifetime....It would seem unfair if the "once-a-lifetime" rule was not enforced.

Unfortunately for M. Night Shyamalan, his masterpiece was the "Sixth Sense" and it came at an early stage in his life, personally and professionally. The village brings out the writer/director's uncanny ability to challenge the senses, but it still won't break the "once-a-lifetime" rule for the director unfortunately.

Nevertheless, "the Village" is the "Love Story" for the 2000s; what can u say about a M. Night Shyamalan movie that cant be classed as a spoiler? whilst we don't get a foul-mouthed beauty in Ali Macgraw, we do have the innocence beauty of newcomer Bryce Howard. The two things that the movie lacked when compared to the 1970s favourite is the awesome musical theme and the tragic ending.

At some point in the movie, M. Night Shyamalan "the romantic" killed M. Night Shyamalan "Hichcock-wannabe", and thereafter ensued a need to explain to the audience everything that needed to be explained, whether it was needed was debatable.

The turning point might have been when Edward Walker tells his daughter "not to scream too much". At this point in time, we are lead along the path that the father is willing to send his blind daughter alone into the forest, no matter how just the reason may be, knowing of certain death and "not to scream too much". At this point in the movie, we are gleefully happy to pile hate on the father and cheer the courage of the young girl. Unfortunately, the path M. Night Shyamalan subsequently takes "surprises" everyone, including the horror-buff crowd.

M. Night Shyamalan "the romantic" brings the "twist" forward. And despite having a few minor twists later, the "twist" brings the audience back into their seats, when at that particular time, they were immersed in "the Village". And it would seem a jarring experience for many critics.

The acting for the great cast is overall adequate, but none particularly award-winning. Newcomer Bryce Howard, needs to learn how to act "blind", to sense the world with her hearing rather than her sight; to her credit she grew into the part, acting blind rather than acting a cripple with a cane. "Love story" 1970 didn't have great acting either. And like its predecessor, "the Village" tries to have a cultural defining tag line too. "Sometimes we don't do things we want to do so others don't know we want to do them". Prententious? perhaps. M Night who has an ethnic background brings a cultutral sensitivity rarely seen on American films.

The Village is ultimately about culture and cultural identity, myths, and religion: the things people do to survive in the world, the mechanisms for survival. And of course the power of love.

Overall the Village is an excellent movie, highly recommended. Perhaps if the director had stuck to the styles of his earlier works, it would have been better received.

44 out of 98 people found the following review useful:
The Worst Big Budget Movie in history, saved by the Tolkien name, 11 January 2005

If this movie did not have "based on book by JRR Tolkien", it would have canned like Waterworld and other big budget disasters.

Having "based on book by JRR Tolkien" does not guarantee success even if the scriptwriters followed the book word-for-word. And yet Peter Jackson and fran Walsh et al, took it upon themselves to re-write the LOTR book and change the characters almost diametrically opposite to what they were written. AND IT DIDN'T WORK AT ALL. A director/producer is entitled to modify the book to make it accessible on screen. Hardly one change from the script team worked at all, in this case. Gandalf took the brunt of the bastardisation in ROTK, after Aragorn got butchered in the TTT if not in FOTR.

In FOTR, Peter Jackson was lucky in making a clone of the Bakshi cartoon, and it turned out fine with the new additions on the DVD. Once the cartoon ended in TTT, however, jackson just ran out of ideas and inspiration.

ROTK is brash and loud and BIG (and COMEDIC !!) production but the substance isn't there, despite drawing from the BOOK of the CENTURY. Some dialogue were puzzling: "Go home SAM". Was there a taxi available nearby? Others were just bad: "A Diversion". Thanks legolas.

There was a lack of suspense, and a total lack of sacrifice (both sides seemed evenly matched), camaraderie, nobility. The forced emotions and acting and soft lighting, only go to reveal how clichéd this "anti"-Hollywood movie really is. Is it then any wonder, that christopher lee wanted off this badly conceived and edited project.

Enjoy it as a fantasy film, AND AN INSIDE JOKE from the scripting team that no one really gets (and nothing more despite 11 Oscars; thanks for the effort Peter, but please have the self-respect to refuse sympathy Oscars). Or if you really want to kill 3 hours, with the kids.

People just want to believe so desperately that the Tolkien movies are as good as the books. When the hype will have died down, the merits of these films will be judged accordingly.

The fact that Chris Tolkien (son of the author) remains silent on the Trilogy speaks volumes on the quality of the trilogy as an extension of his father's writing.