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One of the best films I've seen in many years
You will have to bring your brain to enjoy this movie. It doesn't talk down to the audience. It doesn't cheat the audience. And anyone who thinks it's anything less than a work of art didn't see the movie I saw from my perspective. I detested Dark Shadows, the last film from this producer/writer duo, but if they spewed out that to get to this, they are forgiven.
Benjamin Walker is superb in this. He's as big as he needs to be to encompass the metaphor. As one might surmise, this isn't about vampires. It's not about the Civil War. It isn't even about Lincoln as much as it is about the moment in time he represents. In fact, the last few scenes clue us in that the director/writer believes the war is still going on, and I agree with them.
I simply adore this film. Yes, it's violent, but it's not as bloody as it might have been. It is also pitch perfect. If they had gone one degree more in any direction, this film might have been howlingly silly, but if you're bright enough to get what the director and writer are getting at, I think you'll love it.
Benjamin Walker is now one of my favorite actors, and I've only seen him in this The rest of the performances -- as well as the casting -- are first-rate, too. The only bad note is the really bad age makeup on Mary Todd Lincoln, but when a film is so good that you notice stuff like that, it's easy to forgive.
I can't recommend this film highly enough.
Dark Shadows (2012)
Insults about half of the original fans
With the admonition, "I never liked the bitch anyway," the Willie character in the new DS dispatched my favorite Dark Shadows character, pretty much summing up Depp and Burton's apparent opinion of her. For me, Dark Shadows was about Julia and Barnabas. Their chemistry created the dynamic that made the show work for me. I'm not only a first- generation DS fan, I'm the co-author of the Dark Shadows Companion.
Johnny Depp, supposedly a first-generation fan, even though he's two years younger than I am and I'm supposedly very young for a first generation fan, apparently thinks Barnabas Collins is part moral icon, part victim of his crotch. I wonder if Depp was watching the same series I was. As much as I loved the original Barnabas, I see no trace of the character in his interpretation. Frankly, the minute he murdered Julia, the whole movie collapsed for me -- the implied oral sex scene was bad enough, but the killing finished it. In the House of Dark Shadows big-screen remake this was accepted by fans because the series was still on-going. Depp does not have that salvation.
I really don't care that she's alive for the sequel. I doubt there will be a sequel. If there is, it's still not the characters I grew up with.
However, we're supposed to be reviewing what the film is, not what it's not. What it is, is an overstuffed suitcase that somebody sat on in order to zip it shut. It spills out all over everywhere. The cohesiveness is forced. The characters are largely unrecognizable. As I watched the film, I was at first taken by the wonderful graphics, but Collinwood seemed to morph into Disneyland's Haunted Mansion.
There are some good performances, it's occasionally slightly funny, it's graphically intense and interesting, but Depp and Burton seem to have nothing but contempt for the original series. I'm sorry, but flawed and bad as it could be, Dark Shadows was still far more compelling on its tiny budget than this movie was with its huge one.
What a shame -- and a waste. I really wanted to like it.
Dave's World (1993)
I LOVED Dave's World
I'm a great fan of truly funny TV shows (early Seinfeld, etc), and I think Dave's World is easily worthy of being in that class. It never failed to make me laugh. The characters were likable, all the actors were first-rate, and there are still lines my husband and I trade back and forth. I'm a writer by profession so perhaps that explains one reason I love it so, but I think anyone who has ever stumbled along while crossing the bridge between youth and middle age will recognize themselves in it.
Every issue brought up on each episode was delved into with great insight and inherent humor. Who couldn't love the Thanksgiving episode with Dave continually on his way to shower and get dressed, and yet we see him at the end of the episode, still in his bathrobe at dinner? As a Christmas baby, I loved Shadoe Stevens' character and his riff on being born on that holiday. Great stuff for real people to identify with.
It's not high, sophisticated comedy, but that's part of its charm.
Horrible, awful cheap movie
What's not to dislike? From the mega-cheap production values, to the terrible performances (the non-European accents -- and stereotypes -- are the worst), it's infinitely awful. They might have considered reading an actual book about Antarctica, that might have helped the script although I doubt anything outside of burning it would have prevented this abomination on film. In Antarctica, you simply can't physically do 75% of what they showed characters doing. It's not just a really, really cold place. When Dolph Lungren is your star performer, you have a serious problem from the start. They couldn't even agree upon the time of day (when in doubt, take wristwatches off your performers and off the walls of the sets.
The Field (1990)
Filled with interesting Irish cultural assertions but too many stereotypes
I simply don't like cultural stereotypes -- it's lazy and emotionally stunted thinking. While we are given many extrapolations about the Irish (I'll leave it to the Irish to interpret them), we have a galling stereotype of an American. It's no more "right" than the stereotypes of the Irish seen in some Hollywood films (as a UK reviewer observed). You're insulting my people -- something that isn't right no matter whose people are being insulted. But then one person's bigotry is another's righteous opinion, it would seem.
The film itself is about a half hour too long. Harris is wonderful but then he's always wonderful. The themes and ideas I'll leave to the Irish to judge.
Now enjoy clicking "No" to the review.
Eddie and the Cruisers (1983)
A film about art and passion
This is one of my favorite small movies of all times. It draws off a lot of artistic partnerships for inspiration with its underlying theme of "words and music" and the seeming contradictions in life, art and relationships that go into making something beautiful and real. The characters are wonderfully rendered and the performances are pitch perfect. The music is haunting when it should be and always exciting to listen to. Eddie's struggle is the eternal struggle of the artist, who wants to be great, in contrast to his friend who suggests, "They're just some guys from Jersey". The ending is the perfect ending. The film, while not the perfect film (since a perfect film doesn't exist), is one of the few of which I actually own a copy. It you haven't seen "Eddie", I promise you, it's nothing that you think it is ... any more than "Eddie and the Cruisers" are "just some guys from Jersey".
The Flying Nun (1967)
It's all about the 'ship
The primary reason this series was as immensely popular with young girls as it was, was the relationship between Carlos Ramirez and Sister Bertrille (the secret is out -- most of the little girls of my era desperately wanted Sister Bertrille to run off with Carlos ... and no matter how TPTB tried to dissuade them, that fact never wavered). The two actors had amazing chemistry, a fact which no doubt reflected their friendship which lasted through the years. Forget the ludicrous premise and the almost cut-and-paste plot lines, the show has a gentle, genuine sweetness about it that just doesn't show up on TV these days. It's not treacly at all, despite the cynicism thrown at it. It's far from the worst TV show in the history of the medium. And it's a joy to see the work of Alejandro Rey, who had far too short a life.
White Noise (2005)
Unbelievably, horribly, historically awful film
There's no point in even offering a synopsis of this genuinely terrible waste of time. The topic matter (EVP/ITC) is a very valid field of research. This film, however, used the premise to promote what is an astoundingly weak work on every level. Michael Keaton must have owed someone a LOT of money.
The premise is interesting. The beginning of the film is even involving, but we then become lost in a sourmash of narrative that never even tries to make its point. The ending seems tacked on, as if they didn't quite know how to end it, so they drummed up some ludicrous, over-the-top statement to eek out a few tears, perhaps to cloud the eyes of the audience from how bad the ending truly is. There are moments in this film so truly bad that you're left not even knowing what has just transpired.
For heaven's sake, avoid this film at all costs, even if you're interested in the subject matter.
It's Shakespearean because these are Shakespeare's people
Much of the American midwest and south was settled by the Elizabethan English and those who came from them. For so many years, US people from this heritage have seen Hollywood westerns talked through with slack-jawed English spoken as dumb contractions. Much of my own family came from Ft. Smith, Arkansas, which was a major trading post with Deadwood, and I heard all the stories that are heard by people from my background. I love so much the language in Deadwood, especially the profanity couched in elegant English. This is the manner and expression of a very specific group of people who truly brought European settlement to the west. They were tough people and the hardness of living tended to drive people to one extreme or another.
To those concerned that the "bad guy" in Deadwood is played by a Brit, I might point out that McShane is playing an American. More often than not British actors are used in such roles because they require great talent and training without the high price tag needed to pay for talent in the protagonist role (in other words, Hollywood actors).
Besides, this is English history in its own way. And really, it's the history of all human beings, stripped of pageantry and pretense.
Brian's Song (1971)
One of those movies that holds up over time
Of course it's 70ish and schmoopy and over-the-top with sentiment...it wouldn't be the sweet movie it is if it wasn't all those things. I just watched this film as a jaded 45 year old, having first watched it (a year after my best friend's death at the age of 9) when I was a little girl. This film helped me deal with my own grief. It stands out as one of the very few "made for TV" movies of the period that I still think of fondly...and the viewing of it shows that it primarily holds up to the test of time. It still is a thing of integrity and a sweet if less complicated (in a good way) paean to the essential qualities of humanity on the way to friendship.
Like someone else said, I dare ya not to cry during the "I love Brian Piccolo speech".