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Elle s'appelait Sarah (2010)
Ignore those who say this is a split film, half powerful, half weakit's all of a piece and it's good!
I side with those who rate this film very highly, and find those who argue more negatively to be unconvincing. I'm glad to read in some of the other reviews that the novel upon which this film is based is quite wonderful. But please don't let that opinion become a stick with which to beat up a very good film in its own right. (I knew nothing about the novel before watching the film; I didn't find the jumps in time at all confusingby now such editing has become commonplace and allows us to see connections that would otherwise be much more obscure.) Furthermore, the objections to the modern-story you will read in some user reviews miss the point. Of course it is "flatter" than the story of what happens to Sarah during WWII and after. How could it not be? But that is a necessary dramatic technique. The reporter becomes obsessed by a need to find out more and moreto follow Sarah's story wherever it must take her; and in doing so, she finds a way to cope with problems in her personal life, and she is recaptures a terrible chapter in history that is almost impossible to imagine. The further we get from the time WWII and the holocaust, the more "unreal" such stories are in danger of becoming: fodder for mindless comic-book action movies and alternative realities. I like Captain American, to be sure; and Inglourious Basterds is a great film in its own way, too. But the historical record does need to be kept alive, and brought home with immediacy. And yes, these things could well disappear from memory. This novel and film have found an intriguing way to tie us to the past, and to allow many many fine actors to shine. Highly recommended; but be warned: it is not an easygoing experience!
The Conquest of the Air (1936)
Alas: Not the film it was meant to be!
To clarify some questions raised by other user comments, I quote from the liner notes to a CD collection called "Classic British Film Music," which includes a suite from the score Arthur Bliss composed for the original version of the film:
"CONQUEST OF THE AIR was planned as an epic chronicle of mankind's romance with flight from the early legend of Icarus to speedy aerial circumnavigations of the modern age. This history was to be retold as a series of lavishly mounted tableaux vivants featuring, among others, Hay Petrie as a corpulent Tiberius Caesar ... and Laurence Olivier in fine voice as the grandiloquent balloonist Vincent Lunardi. However the film was not immediately released--appearing belatedly in 1940 in a much truncated form--running for only seventy-one minutesand with many of its original sequences either missing or drastically curtailedbut with additional scenes added impress the extent of Britain's growing military airpower. During the wholesale dismantling of the original footage, no account was taken of Bliss's music, which was copped up along with the film stock" .... (Liner notes by David Wishart)
So keep in mind when viewing the film as it now survives that this is a very poor "remix" of something we will almost certainly never see, and that might have been very fine.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
This film is certainly worth the price of a ticket, and I highly respect Nolan for wanting to shoot it on film. It generally looks very good. It's also loaded with "big scenes" for all sorts of secondary characters, and it was certainly a nice surprise to have Liam Neeson and Cillian Murphy return.
But what it comes down to is nearly three hours of pulse-pounding music, slugging, maiming, explosions, and the obligatory "funny" one-liners that come after brutal violence. It is indeed a brutal mess. Bane, super villain #3 in the trilogy, is like something out of those Mad Max movies, via television wrestling. The cultivated voice is a hoot, given his barbaric character. This all comes out of the old James Bond movies, and before that the criminal masterminds of countless pulp books and comics. But what does he offer that's new, except a seemingly supernatural ability to do whatever he wants and not be stopped? He can hire a company to dig holes and plant bombs under a city the size of New York, which has a super-powerful police force that has stopped all crime? Meanwhile, how does Bruce Wayne, having escaped from Hellhole prison (in some nameless Middle Eastern desert country?) get back to the USA? And how does he suddenly "manifest" himself in Gotham? Others have pointed out many flaws in police behavior. The sudden disruption of the market, coming at the same time as Wayne supposedly bankrupts his own company-this doesn't capture the attention of the SEC and other organizations? The Board can meet that very next day and make radical changes, despite having gone bust? The city that is the center of American capitalism can be taken over by a revolutionary mob of criminals, and the American economy doesn't collapse? What happened to the stock market the day AFTER Bane took over?
What especially bothered me here was not so much the flawed plotting as the tedious pacing, the drawn-out series of climaxes, and the way the film suddenly just reverses course to give us a "happy ending." Batman "rises" just like Jake the Snake and then, despite a broken back, can accomplish all sorts of feats that a 25-year old marine would be hard-put to sustain.
The place where it all goes wrong, as I see it, is the football stadium sequence. That sudden catastrophe has real terror and captures the current American nightmare of being destroyed somehow both from beyond and from beneath our own soil, by enemies within the "body politic." Nothing can quite top this moment after that, and instead we are left to gape at physically impossible stunt flying, school buses with children being shot at by policemen (!), and a time period that is much too short for the carrying of a nuclear bomb to a "safe" detonation site. (No tsunami? No radiation worries? No dead fish piling up on shore?) And if Wayne was using autopilot, where was he?
I think every good or entertaining movie gets at least one or maybe two "gimmes" when it comes to flaws in narrative logic. If we're having a great time, we don't want to poke holes. But when again and again you start thinking, "Now how could THAT happen?" or "How did she get there" or "What happened to his seemingly fatal knife wound (and who fixed it)?" etc etc well, then, enough is enough. (Here's one more: Selina gets a job as a maid at a party at Wayne Manor and then cracks his safe, getting a copy of his thumb print. How did she ever find the safe, if Wayne had become a recluse and the only staff around was Alfred? What did she know that we don't?)
Movies today have to be so "big" and "brutal" and filled with terror(ism) to make people sit up and take notice. We forget that a story like this was once much simpler and could be told in a clear graphic comic-book style that had far more excitement, because that medium is much thinner and doesn't want you to think everything is "really" happening. (You project your own imagination onto the story, rather than having the story impose itself on you.) But when you have to make billions of dollars on a franchise, and spend four years on a project this size, the sense of values is all skewed. Who can really take pleasure at a film's ending, after such momentous turmoil has been stirred up?
To make it worse, the whole thing has deep fascistic implications, that at least in the first two Spider-man movies were much less obvious. I'll take Tobey Maguire over Bale's gravel-voiced Batman any day, and feel that the world is a much better place with him around. He's sweet. And for a superhero, that's saying a lot!
Minority Report -- Mediocre first half, better second
This film deserves to be seen, but it does not warrant such abundant high praise as given by others. The first half has many scenes in which the acting is wooden at best (e.g., the actress playing the nurse in the doctor's office is terrible), and many of the character bits fall flat. Note, for example, the moment when Jo Jo comes into the bar and tosses a coin tip to the flashy pianist. When the pianist grabs the coin with his left hand, the music keeps right on playing as if he had three hands. The bit is supposed to signify Jo Jo's "coolness," due to his friendly relationship with the black musician, but the soundtrack error undermines the intent.
Making things worse is a gravely under-par musical score. The music is always trite, and, as another commentator has noted, it is often mixed too loud. This becomes most obvious in the doctor's office scenes, where the sugary "love theme" comes on way too strong. Perhaps the composer was trying to write against the tone of the film to give it more weirdness, but I doubt it. Many other noir films of this period have scores that are much more effectiveeither more over the top and jazzy or more restrained. (Rozsa's noir film scores have powerhouse openings, then tend to be quite reticent until the ending.)
To be fair, I wish the DVD version now available had the complete auto murder sequence (with Gillie running over her victim twice!), because I am sure that would have made the film stronger overall. And seeing it in a theater with a revved up audience would certainly make it more fun. But even so, this is an example of a film that got overrated due to its being out of circulation for so long. Sure it's dark and nasty and weird; it's just not very good.
Du levande (2007)
Ingmar Bergmanwith zombies! (Not a good thing!)
I am glad to see some dissenting views from the general acclaim. I give this a 6 because it's clear from his commentary on the DVD that the director has lofty goals, and no doubt a distinctive style. But this film makes Jim Jarmusch's movies seem miraculously fun! If I must have a diet of minimalist cinema now and then to keep me from ODing on over- produced H'wood claptrap, give me something that's more meaningful and beautiful. And all that hideous Louisiana Jazz Band music! In this context it has about as much "life-affirming" quality as a Benny Hill loop played about a 100 times.
Yes, there are some lovely moments, most notably the wedding dream that nearly ends the film. (Too bad it didn't, but it can't, can it? We have to follow it up with some more darkly "humorous" vignettes, and the Kubrickian final sequence of airplane bombers coming over the city. Huh? This is meant to be menacing, but it seems more ham-fisted and silly, whereas the plane flights in Dr. Strangelove were both bone-chilling and beautiful.)
In his commentary, Andersson says he never could identify with the characters in Bergman's films, because they were all "professors, doctors," etc. In the first place, this is simply false. In THE SEVENTH SEAL, for example, and SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT, and many other Bergman films, characters of many social strata are represented. In the second place, if one wants to make films about "common" people (a very patronizing and smug way of looking at the world), at least make them intelligent and full of changing moods. Otherwise it seems like you despise the people your movie is supposed to be about and addressed to.
It's really a movie about zombies, but no one ever bites or gets bitten. The horror
For those of you who object to changing a word of Christie's books or altering (= developing) Poirot's character: there have been so many filmed versions of the story, what's the point of just doing the same thing over again?
The script (by Stewart Harcourt) gives Suchet a chance to be more brilliant than ever, and modifies many details of the story in order to make it both more concise and in its own way more moving and more plausible. The1974 film version with Finney turned the whole thing into high campnot a bad idea! But this version brings new depths to the story and new resonances.
Those who object to the introduction of Catholicism, etc., seem to ignore the way this version begins: Poirot watches his own methods of "justice" go terribly wrong when a military man whom he has proved to be a liar, and whom he castigates with terrible vehemence, commits suicide in front of him. Then he witnesses the stoning of an adulteress in Ankara. Surely a man as brilliant and cultured as he must either take such experiences to heart or not be a human being worth knowing or caring about. Poirot's brain is made of grey cells, not computer circuits. He is brilliant but vain; polite and yet capable of brutality in words if not deeds; generous yet coldly formal. What's wrong with throwing a Catholic sensibility into the mix, especially when he is growing old, and his upbringing must be coming back into mind more and more? Anyway, such is his character in this version, and I find it fascinating.
Finally, a word of praise for the superb direction of the episode (Philip Martin). Acting, camera angles, lighting, pacingall have great style and verve, and the music (Christian Henson) adds considerably to the tension and forward momentum.
In sum, I share the enthusiasm of all the others here who have found this a wonderful episode. Thank you, David Suchet, and all others involved!