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Happy to see the Issue Adressed, but this is not a Classic
Sure, pilots have big egos - and when it comes to portraying a bad-boy with over-blown self confidence, Denzel Washington always seems to fit the bill. The drawback is, that when it comes to realism this film can't hold a candle to Lost Weekend - a very believable tale of an alcoholic who decides to turn over a new leaf when he meets a woman worth quitting for, only to prove to himself a hopelessly addicted alcoholic who CAN'T quit. "Flight" shows the can't-quit stuggle, but never shows an ounce of the self-loathing that alcoholics feel when they fail at serious areas of performance. The ending is a farce and totally unconvincing, although it's dramatic. I would have preferred Chris Cooper or Ed Harris in this leading role and made the character FAR more emotionally unstable in order to make the "redemptive" ending work. I did not find the ending believable in any way. So. GOOD movie? Yes... brilliant or classic? Not so much.
The Pacific (2010)
Sad that More Pacific Veterans Were not Alive to See Their Story Told
I admit this series is not perfect as entertainment. Frankly it's more of an experience. The project is very violent and has a lot of language in it and very few happy moments. However, I appreciated the emphasis on the hellish aspects of fighting in this theater and de-emphasizing the story of the bomb that ended the entire war. The camera work very much places you in the scene with the men in combat, and it generates a fatigue on the audience. I must say, by the time the story gets to Okinawa, you are very tired of the pattern of mud, rain, exhaustion, and putrid filth. Contrast the uninhabited islands and total lack of sympathizers of the Pacific War with the European theater where the occupied peoples under the Nazis and Fascists were glad to see American troops and gave them shelter and food in a few instances. God bless the men who fought the Japanese Imperial Army. Our enemy were absolutely going to take it all the way to the last man standing. My grandfather served in the Navy in the Phillipines in this conflict.
The Detective (1968)
So Much Potential for Story - Thrown Away
Part of the Film Noir genre is the romance angle with a powerful female lead. This neo-noir fails on that point offering a watered down, trifling character portrayed by a non-threatening Lee Remick, whose eyes the director seems obsessed with capturing long expressionless shots of. Sinatra's acting is fine, but the film technique... I can't explain how it makes him seem uncool, and the character of Leland is extremely cool and wildly open-minded for the time. Trouble is, they go very far out of their way to make him seem at once overly modern, and decidedly anchored in his values. Doesn't work. I didn't care for the camera work at all. A brilliant performance by Tony Musante as the basket-case ex-lover of the murdered gay man in the opening sequence is dminished by not properly photographing it. Great story and plot. Very sadly executed in a "message over story" way.
Black Swan (2010)
I Thought It Would Be Depressing, but It's Not
I avoided this at the box office first-run. I just watched it (9/2012) on HBO. It is is very well made. The main reason I am writing this review is not only to let people know that it's interesting and moves along well. It's nothing like I thought it would be. More importantly, I have seen the film characterized in a number of ways in other reviews or summaries. There seems to be a consistent pattern of declarative statements being made about characters in the film in areas where the movie is ambiguous. One of the reasons I LIKE the film is because you can't be sure where reality ends and Nina's drug/pressure-induced imaginings begin. Mila Kunis's character of Lily is key in this area of uncertainty I am describing, but certainly not the only one. The thematic touchstone of people encouraging Nina to "Lose(her)self" sets the stage for this psychotic metamorphosis.
American Dreamz (2006)
Don't blame the cast. Bad script, bad directing.
Really badly paced, with a weak script. Lots of hate-filled messages and non-stop unfunny stereotypes that a teenager would dream up. Big-time hate going on for George Bush, which radically dates the movie. Too bad because there is some decent talent here who could have made it funny if only the producers were so focused on mocking American Idol, and perhaps more specifically - its audience. Which... is exactly who would have bought tickets to this film if only it were a loving poke at Idol, instead of a mean-spirited disdain. And for the record, I don't watch the show or care about it. The only reason I am not giving it a 1 is because the cast didn't write this piece of S.
The Ides of March (2011)
I thought this was going to be interesting, or exciting, maybe intense and it was none of those things for the first HOUR. Unbelievably talented cast - Clooney, Giamatti, Tomei and even the great character actor Greg Itzin. The most thrilling of which to watch on screen was the never-disappointing Phillip Seymore Hoffman. I spent a buck-thirty on my rental, and I kind of want my buck back. The story is about a very left-wing Democrat, running against another Democrat for President. His true-believer campaign speech writer is offered a position with the competitor's campaign. These leads to an unfortunate series of events which makes him seek revenge. The revenge plot doesn't really start up until 3/4 of the way through the movie. Too slow and vague for my tastes. Found my mind wandering. Wanting to get up and do other stuff. Ryan Gosling unfortunately could not hold my attention. I very much hope other people enjoyed this movie, but I just couldn't stay interested. Although I did stick with it until the uneventful ending.
Swedish Version is Darker and More Violent... but
Swedish Version is Darker and More Violent... but don't kid yourself, the American film *clearly* required a serious edit to pull it under an X rating for violence alone. I'm not put off by the way the filmmakers have presented this material; it is tasteful and not gratuitous. Sensitive persons will be bothered by the violence and implied violence against humans and animals, however. The Swedish version has better costuming for Lisbeth, but it's easier to work with the romantic notion of Daniel Craig's Blomkvist. Most importantly, the American ending leaves in a scene that clearly demonstrates Lisbeth's emotional state. This becomes important for the subsequent stories. For the above two reasons alone, I would advise viewers to see the American version if they are only going to bother with one. On style, I prefer the grit and darkness of the Swedish version. It's more noirish. Absolutely not suitable for kids.
Skillfully Made, Not Just a Bunch of Mindless Action
It's not an intricate plot like a thriller, but it's also not a tedious chase film with no substance. Yet, it has the most brilliantly conceived and choreographed action gags, very much in line with what you would expect an animation writer to be exceptional at.
The production values are high, but it's not just a bunch of mindless action and karate chopping thugs that bore you to tears; it has a story involving launch codes. It's a fun ride, wonderfully edited. Very hard to tell the real shots from the fake, except in one obvious visual effect scene, where I personally would have chosen to combine miniatures or models and combine it with CGI, instead of just going all-digital. Enagaging, without being unfamiliar or taxing. NOT a Cruise fan, but he does a nice job.
Great cast including Anil Kapoor for you "24" fans, and Slumdog admirers. "The girl" is played by the beautiful Paula Patton and what modern movie is made these days without Tom Wilkinson, who gets a day and a half's worth of work in as a D.C. poltical operator.
I saw it in IMAX. Worth it!
War Horse (2011)
Too "Lassie" for Adults; Too "Platoon" for Kids.
The first half hour of War Horse is so golly-gee and baby-ish that it's silly. It turns into a different film in Act II, but doesn't improve. The director daftly chose to present a very violent war with men slashed with sabers, blown to bits, burned with mustard gas, and mowed down like grass by the terrible Maxim guns, but no blood. It's so P.C. to eliminate the blood, but the violence is really loud and violent, so I don't get who wins? The story very predictably plods along with this "miraculous" horse being relayed from one loving caretaker to another. Emotionally, they do "get you" with some great tear-jerker scenes, but I just can't figure out how they are going to market this. What age of kid wants to see a depressing movie about a boy losing his horse? What adult wants to see a predictable, kid-like horse movie with no mojo to it? Animal lovers, especially horse owners may have a hard time with a few scenes, but don't worry! A scene where a live, but injured horse is crushed by a tank is ... not shown. Huh? that's right. It's edited out. The scene makes no sense, but at least it's P.C. If you want to watch a brilliant horse movie, see Secretariat instead. I guess your mileage may vary, but I wanted to warn people that this must not be thought of as family fare for smaller kids. Too violent, long, and emotionally intense for young viewers. I wouldn't watch it again nor recommend it.
The Descendants (2011)
I Didn't Connect with This Material, but Good Acting
I assure you I have enough tragedy in my life to match or best this film's theme, but I couldn't feel anything for the characters. I wanted Matt (Clooney) to get a "win" in, amongst his tragic and overwhelming circumstances - but that's about all the passion I could muster. I welled up in the right scene, but I left the theatre feeling unmoved. The characters never felt real. The actors conveyed the material beyond what was really there, but for me that didn't rescue the film. For the record, Clooney in Michael Clayton was nothing short of perfection. "Up in the Air" very emotional and real. Big ups to Judy Greer the skilled character actress who kills it in everything she's in. Her performance in this as Julie Speer is no exception, but again, her big scene plays like the production minimized it rather than amplified it. For those who got something out of the film, glad you did. But had to speak for the minority.