12 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
25 March 2005
This movie is only useful if you want to understand what is wrong with so many Americans these days. It shows how the real world can be reduced to a white-black, good-bad, us-them, American-everybody else cartoon. I'm more than a bit scared that legions of people may not know the difference between such simplistic cartoons and reality, and base their political views and behaviour on a simpleton understanding of the world like this. Right wing, Bushite, American hung-ho trash that should come with a health warning: this movie may poison your mind.

Shame about Hackman. Remember 'Mississippi Burning', Gene?

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The Matrix (1999)
Disappoints upon reflection
2 March 2005
The Matrix is not a bad film, it keeps you involved because of the slow uncovering of the complex and bizarre plot, the twist and turns as the movie unfolds, Agent Smith as the perfect baddie and of course the pretty wild action sequences. The atmosphere is suitably dark and the special effects are excellent. All good enough for a fine evening of movie entertainment, right?

Unfortunately there are some rather big problems as well, and they really bug me the morning after watching the film. Truth is, I am really struggling with the plot. I am quite a fan of science-fiction so that in itself is not what bothers me. I don't even mind the questionable assumption that human bodies can be harvested for power generation without having to input more energy than they produce. No, the real doubt I have is simply: why this Matrix? Why do the machines even bother to go to such lengths as this incredibly complicated computer programme that makes humans think they have an actual life? Why not just let them rot in their pods and good luck to them? What do the machines get out of it? Surely it costs vast amounts of energy to keep this programme running and hook up all the humans to it? Why do they do it? What's the point?

Also, why do Special Agents have any limitations at all? If they are computer programs, and the world they operate in is a computer programme too, why are they not simply all-powerful and invulnerable to bullets and other attacks? A computer programme has no physical limitations - anybody with a games console knows this. Why bother shooting at a virtual body with virtual bullets?

I realise these are fundamentals required for the plot to work, but I find the problems a bit too glaring to overlook. When you think about it, this film is no more than an excuse for the (in themselves quite good) special effects. Therefore, in the cool light of day I can't give this film more than 4 stars.
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8 Mile (2002)
Not bad
1 March 2005
This is actually not a bad movie. It is a bit limited in scope, a week in the life of a young working-class guy living in a dilapidated part of Detroit. Split-up from his girlfriend, having to move back in with his Mum and her violent boyfriend in a trailer, fired from his job - at the start of the movie his life has hit rock bottom. All he has left are his buddies, and his only outlet is the rap scene where he is struggling to be accepted because he is white. And initially it goes wrong there too, when his talent fails him in a critical contest ('battle').

In the middle part of the film he slowly finds himself back, but it is not an easy road. He meets a girl and loses her again, there is violence with a competing rap gang, big trouble with his Mum and her nasty boyfriend, and he struggles in his new job in a steel factory.

Then, at the end, he 'finds himself', goes back into the rapping 'battles' and soundly defeats the reigning champion who is also the leader of the competing gang, and all should be well.

But is it? Many people call this a typical Hollywood story, but the film does actually not have the typical Hollywood ending: he doesn't get the girl and he only goes back to his mind-numbing job in the factory instead of breaking through as a rap star. He may still escape, but we don't get to see it and we will never know. Equally likely he stays stuck here for the rest of his life - the film doesn't tell us.

I think this is a fairly effective film with exactly the right bleak atmosphere, shot in the winter in an awful run-down part of Detroit, almost a slum. There is some good friendship and some nasty hatred and mindless violence. Eminem's acting is not all that bad given his lack of experience, although most of the time he is just in some kind of sullen mood. The actors playing his buddies keep him straight, but Kim Basinger is simply awful. An interesting glimpse of a sub-culture that many of us won't know at all.
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Brave, but lousy script
27 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Anybody who dares to make a French Resistance movie after the runaway success of the TV spoof 'Allo Allo' gets 5 points for bravery, no less.

Unfortunately, bravery is not enough to make a good movie. Even bravery coupled with excellent actors, nice cinematography and an eye for detail is not enough. Any film can be ruined by a poor script and Charlote Gray is no exception.

The whole tale is just so unlikely. The way Charlotte gets 'picked up' by the British Secret Service - the guy making the first approach is such an annoying bore, why on Earth would she accept his invitation for a party instead of throwing his business card in the first available bin? Then, she falls in love with this pilot (how's that for cliché's?) and of course he is shot down on his next mission ('don't worry' he said - naturally). So, she joins the Secret Service (as simple as that) and trains to become an agent in the hope to go to France and find him. Now that is really strange - this training would take months, so why would she expect him to still be at the place he was shot down if and when she ever manages to get there? Wouldn't he likely be back in England, or in a POW camp in Germany? Anyway, training over, she gets sent to France on her first mission. But this is very strange - we don't really get any insight in what this mission actually is. She delivers a couple of radio valves to a French contact, but why these haven't simply been dropped as a parcel is a mystery. Later in the film she acts as intermediary between a locally based English agent and the Resistance. Why do they need to send in another British agent to act as intermediary? Why not let the local agent liaise with the Resistance directly? There seems no rhyme or reason for her being there at all.

At the handover of the valves, her contact is arrested (more mysteries - why does this contact insist to receive the valves when she is about to be arrested? A sure way to torture and death!) and Charlotte has to hide. But does she hide? No, not really - she goes to live with the father of the young Resistance leader under the pretext of working as a housekeeper. And next thing, she happily cycles to town as if there was no risk at all that the initial contact would have told the Gestapo all about her drop! So why is she hiding in the first place? A mystery.

And so it goes on and on - every twist of the plot makes it more unlikely. Why do the Resistance take Charlotte along when they attack a train? Why does the Resistance leader risk his life and his group by standing on the street shouting at the Germans? Why do the Germans kill the Resistance fighters in a trap instead of capturing them for interrogation? How do the Germans know where the young Jewish boys are being hidden? In the end, the whole point of the movie seems to be to paint a love triangle against a backdrop of the French Resistance - wow, we really needed a film like that! The script simply sucks, and the actors don't know what to do with it either. The cinematography is very nice, but then of course it is hard to go wrong when filming in the French countryside.

Five stars for bravery, that's what I promised, so I will stick to that.

If only that policeman had said 'Good Moaning', I would have given it six stars for even more bravery.
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A gem
18 February 2005
This is truly a precious gem of a movie. It shows how story, screenplay and acting is all you need to create an impressive film that conveys deep emotion and a multi-layered message. At the first level the film is about the escape of three small girls from their forced internment in an institute for mixed-race children, and their subsequent heroic trek through the Australian outback in search of their home and family. Their dogged determination in the face of thirst, hunger and exhaustion, not to mention the determined pursuit by the authorities who want them back, has been portrayed to perfection by the three inexperienced child actresses. The cinematography is superb, the music by Peter Gabriel is evocative and avoids cheap sentiment, and the post-script makes you sit up and gasp.

But there is a lot more to it. It would have been easy to portray the 'Protector of Aborigines' as some kind of a Nazi monster, but the film makers avoid this cheap trap. Played by Kenneth Branagh, he is portrayed as an honest bureaucrat and a man of his times who is convinced that what he does is for the good of 'his' people, even if 'they don't realise it'. He is an idealist who doesn't understand how misguided he is by placing lofty ideology before basic human respect. Never does he wish harm to the girls, even as he ruins their lives by the forced separation from their mothers and their deportation to an alien environment thousands of kilometres away.

Similarly, the policeman who has to actually go out and take the children away is not painted as a sadist monster, but rather as someone who does his job in accordance with the law and conventions of his age. You don't feel sympathy for him, of course, but you can't help feeling that he is just another ordinary guy you could meet anywhere, doing what most people would consider a decent job.

These characters point to the ultimate meaning of this film. Exceptions aside, it is not us, individual persons, who are crooks that take delight in hurting others. Rather, the ultimate problem is the society and culture that we grow up in. A society whose rules and norms become so impersonal and abstract that it can trample basic human respect and still claim the moral high ground.

If we disagree with the notion that the law must take priority over empathy with individual people, and watching this film will make you seriously think about this, we should not so much look at improving ourselves as individuals, but rather critically inspect the accepted norms of our society and consider very, very carefully if so-called 'collateral damage', to use a currently common euphemism, can ever justify the suffering that it invariably entails. I am not so sure anymore, and this excellent film has helped me shape my thinking.
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Great entertainment!
18 February 2005
The Last Crusade is in my opinion the best action-adventure film ever. The story with the Grail is interesting, far-fetched of course, but it adds an interesting element of depth to the old good guys - bad guys theme. The pacing of the film is excellent, it is a wild roller-coaster ride from beginning to end that never slackens. We meet a whole range of different characters, each portrayed as individuals with more depth than usual in this type of movie. The interaction between Indiana and his father is believable and again makes this film different and better than the run of the mill action flick. Locations, stunts, train, boat and plane chases, even a tank battle - there is enough here to satisfy any action junkie.

But what I liked best is the humour. Where James Bond films make you smile from time to time, this one had me laugh out loud every five minutes. The film makers know that they are here to provide entertainment and don't take themselves too seriously. X never marks the spot - YEAH RIGHT! I won't describe the jokes and gags because I don't want to spoil it, but if you don't find this movie funny I suggest you go and tend to your stamp collection instead of watching films. It is a complete hoot, and what more do you want for an evening of uncomplicated fun? Ten out of ten in its genre!
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Gladiator (2000)
Pointless gorefest
7 February 2005
What we have here is a mixture of Ben Hur and Braveheart, and unsurprisingly it sucks.

The main objective of the film seems to be to cram as much gore as possible in the space of a single movie, without bothering about trivialities like story, character or meaning. If it purports to show the beastliness of staged human fights to the death it utterly fails because it only lowers the viewers to the same voyeuristic level as the Romans themselves.

Who cares about Maximus, a cardboard character with revenge as his only motivation? What to make of the crazy editing in the fight scenes that makes it impossible to understand what is going on? What with the bizarre geography and time lines? How to make sense of the opening battle which is claimed to be about a German settlement, yet takes place in the open and shows cavalry charging through a dense forest? Why the fake poetry of the hand in the wheat field? Who cares? Gore, gore and more gore, that is what sells tickets and, incredibly, delivers Oscars.

The only thing I could appreciate, contrary to many others here, is Joaquin Phoenix' portrayal of Commodus as he descends from mere creepiness into downright raving lunacy. Nice bit of acting. All the rest is a waste of perfectly good celluloid.
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Braveheart (1995)
No, not for me
7 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The early part of this film is reasonably well made, it takes sufficient time to introduce the characters, set the scene and build up the story - but only until the first major battle. After that it quickly loses its way, and from there on the whole thing becomes more and more implausible and, frankly, ridiculous - the Princess of Wales negotiating with Wallace, and falling in love? Wallace singlehandedly murdering the Scottish nobles? Wallace conquering York, the North's greatest fortress? Come on, please... I don't mind too much if a movie takes liberties with history if it helps the story, but in this case the story itself becomes totally unbelievable, and with that, the film.

The characters become mere caricatures of themselves without any further development, the film becomes repetitive, boring, way too gory, and ends in utter obscenity with the execution scene. Several times during the second half of the film I was on the point of switching it off out of boredom and sheer annoyance. Way too long and insulting to the viewers intelligence. Why do so many people think this is a masterpiece? A mystery...

4 **** out of 10 because of the first hour and some nice views of the Scottish scenery.
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Very good
5 February 2005
This is a very good anti-war movie. It shows how the young and naive are being brain-washed to think that somehow it is their duty to kill and die. Big words like Fatherland, Kaiser, God, Patriotism. But it is always the young generation that does the dying, whilst the old men discuss strategy over a beer. War has lost whatever legitimacy it ever may have had when the leaders left the front line to lead from the back, safe in their headquarters miles away from the killing. Sending young boys to their death whilst claiming it is eventually for the Good is the ultimate cowardice. Some get their come-uppance, such as Cpl Himmelstoss, but most live their lives in the comfortable cocoon of their self-righteousness – the school teacher, the father, the Kaiser himself.

But sometimes a young soldier sees through the scam, as when Paul kills a Frenchman by sheer instinct, only too late realising what he has been forced to do to someone who might have been his brother. But even then the cultural impregnation is too strong for him to follow his true human feelings and draw the only logical conclusion. And of course in the end he pays the price himself. Destroyed - for what?

That is the lesson that we all should take to heart, to this very day.

A very good film based on an exceptional book.
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Is this a joke?
5 February 2005
Believe it or not, but I had never seen a Star Wars movie before! For some reason it all passed me by the first time round, but the other day I saw this one in the video shop and I thought, why not, I probably should give it a go for a change.

I couldn't believe my eyes. What a ridiculous load of trash! The only way I can make any sense of it is if this is some kind of children's project - you know, a film made for children, by children, with children as actors and so on. Please tell me that this is so!

Because, if this is for real, a serious attempt at movie making, I think I will have to go back to my own planet and wipe the whole sorry thing from my mind.

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