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291 reviews in total 
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War Horse (2011)
Disappointing, 26 November 2014

This is the story of a pair of horses as they move from owner to owner in the time of WWI. The main protagonist Albert Narracott is a handsome boy who has only one attribute. He loves his horse. He has no interest in anything or anyone else. Nobody considers this peculiar. He is so one-dimensional, he is monumentally boring.

Benedict Cumberbatch does an cameo as the eccentric Maj. Jamie Stewart whom I mistook for a Prussian general.

But the rest of the people in the movie might as well have been computer generated. They march. They get covered in mud. They shoot. They die. They are like animated tin soldiers.

There is smoke, mud, a cast of thousands, explosions and more smoke, more mud, more casts of thousands and more explosions. It is a miserable depressing slog, not something you would submit to voluntarily.

The inseparable pair of horses were identified as male early on, then female. Spielberg never lets you get a look to discover the true story. The horses run, leap, rear, drag heavy loads, feign injuries, fall: about everything you could imagine a horse could do. That photography is very good. That would be the main reason to view the movie.

polemic on antisemitism, 6 November 2014

Part of this movie is watching Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Celeste Holm lounging about in rococo luxury looking fabulously glamorous. Over and over Peck and McGuire insult each other, apologise overly profusely and kiss with the passion of Siamese fighting fish.

The rest of it is a bit like a George Bernard Shaw play, where the actors have a philosophical discussions about anti-Semitism exchanging long speeches. It is contains quite deep discussions of various types of prejudice. It gets a bit preachy at times. At times it backs speeches with music reminiscent of Battle Hymn of the Republic -- way over the top.

Dean Stockwell plays the son Tommy. He is an angelic, hyperactive child who provides the only welcome action in the rather static film.

The basic plot is Peck pretends to be Jewish in order to write a magazine story about the prejudice he experiences. The prejudice is relatively subtle. I could hardly see it being sensational enough for a series in a magazine. I suppose the writer did not want the audience to discount that such prejudice happens, rather to say, "That is pretty bad, but what really happens is much worse."

There is no scene when Peck gives the bad guys a swift kick in the pants. The fight has just started and it is up to you in the audience to do battle.

a look into an alien world, 2 November 2014

Land of the War Canoes is a black and white silent film remastered in 1973. Mainly they added a sound track. All the dialogue is in Kwakiutl without subtitles. The film is in terrible shape. It needs modern day digital retouching to fix the wildly fluctuating exposure levels and age damage.

It is a surprisingly long film. The plot is two tribes warring over a female. It has sorcery, head hunting, whale hunting, many tipped canoes.

The best parts are the athletic dancers in clever costumes to mimic various birds, animals and insects.

Everybody looks the same, so it hard to keep track of who is fighting whom.

The main value of the film is how alien it is. None of the attitudes, dress, food, customs... is familiar. The beauty of the film comes from the many elegant war canoes.

not a real Star Trek Movie, 28 October 2014

This is the most disappointing Star Trek film I have seen.

The first problem is it is a prequel with all new actors, none of whom look like or sound like or even act like the originals. The ship is inexplicably now ten times larger and more complex. The warp drive and transporter technology are different than they should be. The bridge looks like it were designed by Klaus Lagerfeld, completely unrecognisable as the Spartan original. It takes getting used to the new characters and completely different sets. Someone seeing is as their first Star Trek movie would not have these difficulties.

The next problem is this not really a Star Trek film. In a normal Star Trek film, you encounter some alien civilisation with odd customs and get to explore the ramifications of that difference. Instead, this film is about warring egos with fist fights and gun fights to settle the matter. Boring!

There is no subtlety, other than trying to figure out whom it is safe to trust. You spend an extreme percentage of the film watching CGI of things blowing up. Boring!

There is just the briefest, but intriguing scene where Captain Kirk seduces two ladies who have slithering tiger tails.

Star Trek is not known for its plausibility. There is a lovely bit of dialogue poking fun at that characteristic when Kirk gets a dressing down. However, it strained my credulity past the breaking point when they would show the ship with huge gaping holes blasted into it, then show inside shots of people screaming "we lost all power", then showing everyone running about with full lighting having no problems breathing.

very loosely based on the book, 28 October 2014

The Movie Enders Game is only loosely based on the book. The only similarity I could see was in a one line summary of the plot and the name of the protagonist. 10 year old Ender Wiggin in the book was a little bulldog of a kid, without remorse, introspection or personal relationships. Ender Wiggin in the movie is a skinny, delicate kid with a much more complex character, interested in strategy, seeing the world from the perspective of his opponents, flirting with any females nearby and cleverly assessing any possible advantages and disadvantages in any conflict. He is perhaps the most intelligent fighter in movies. The best parts of the movie are watching him deal with people attacking him. The actor Asa Butterfield is a little too delicate to be believable as Ender the fighter, but he projects the intelligence well. He has some of the magic of a superhero with an unusual power.

The movie starts with typical military brainwashing, lots of saluting, push-ups, insulting sergeants, racing to line up... This part bored me to tears. It has been done a million times before. The only difference was some uniforms modelled on the sexy suits motor cycle racers wear.

Ender, being younger and skinnier and bright, attracts some really vicious bullying. The administration encourages this. This is a school to learn mass murder after all. Ender deals with this with a combination of intelligence, philosophy and surprise. It is one of the more realistic depictions of bullying I have seen in movies.

Then we have the zero-g acrobatics. For what seems an eternity we watch people dangling on wires zooming about in a dome, sometimes clinging to each other. These exercises to me seem completely pointless. These shots obviously took a lot of time and effort to get, and the editor was reluctant to cut them down to reasonable length.

The movie is much more explicit than the book. The philosophical musings in the book are handled more with inference.

The music was composed by a relative of the guy who did the score for Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments. It was syrupy and heavy handed. It made some otherwise exciting scenes come out silly.

Much of the movie is spent watching CGI graphics. No matter how good they are, pictures of planets and space craft blowing up get pretty old pretty quickly.

If I were the director, I don't know how I could make this feature film without introducing many more subplots. But I would do a lot of pruning. The director seems to think if seeing thing X is exciting, seeing thing X thrice is three times as exciting.

It is a thoughtful movie, about the necessity for restraint in conflict, and becoming too sure you know what you opponent is thinking.

I did not see this movie in the theatres, because I was boycotting Orson Scott Card and his anti-gay bigotry, which is not apparent in either the book or the film.

A must for Twin Peaks Fans, 9 October 2014

The movie starts with two FBI detectives investigating the murder of hooker Teresa Banks. Chris Isaak as tough guy Special Agent Chester Desmond is heart-thumping handsome. Kiefer Sutherland plays his meek sidekick Sam Stanley. Then, before they even get started, they both suddenly disappear and nobody seems to care.

The rest of the movie is exclusively about Laura Palmer, the girl whose murder forms the core of the Twin Peaks series. Sheryl Lee was cast in the TV series for her ability to impersonate a good-looking corpse. She has a body like a Playboy Vargas drawing come to life. To my astonishment, she was a totally convincing actor in very complicated and demanding role. I simultaneously hated her, wanted to throttle her, pitied her, and wanted to help her shape up.

This is very R-rated movie, packed with female nudity, drug taking and violence. There are many grotesque scenes of teenage girls having sex with hideous older men.

Laura is addicted to cocaine. She gets her drugs by charming Bobby, now a drug dealer, hooking, and trading sex for drugs. She takes any drug without even asking what it is. She abuses her body so badly, but oddly it remains in perfect condition.

Bob, the evil homicidal spirit that possesses people and makes them kill, take on an alternative explanation. Leland sexually abuses his daughter Laura. Laura is in denial about her willing participation and hallucinates that her father is some grizzled intruder Bob.

Many of the characters from the TV series get to make a short appearance. If you had not seen the TV series, these appearances would make no sense. The actors are still young and beautiful, just as they were just after the TV series was filmed.

The story unfolds with the inevitability of the biblical crucifixion story, leading inexorably to Laura's murder, tying the movie in neatly to the first episode of the TV series.

They replaced Laura Flynn Boyle with the much leaner Moira Kelly to play Donna Hayward.

There is the usual Lynch strangeness, a backwards-talking dwarf, a boy with a pointed nose mask, a old lady beckoning, a one-armed man... but it does not overpower and spoil the movie continuity.

One continuity problem with the movie is you are puzzled how you could possibly have missed what wild lives Bobby and Donna were living right from episode 1.

tentative, timid, but how else could it be?, 8 October 2014

It is difficult to make a movie about childhood abductions. You can't risk traumatising the child actors. You dare not make it so realistic that you are accused of producing porn for sexual predators that encourages them to crime. What actor wants a role more stigmatising than Norman Bates? apparently Tom Arnold.

This movie tackles the problem by showing a series of events perhaps 1% as traumatic as a real abduction, letting you fill in the other possibilities with your imagination. They chose a child actor for the abducted child, Leslie, who had no skill at acting at all. She is not in the least convincing, which makes her performance unreal, sort of a Kabuki telling of a story rather than a realistic re-enacting of events.

Certain things made no sense. Young Leslie is hopelessly naive. No child of her age could be that unaware of the dangers of interacting with strangers. The abductors do a dry run and release Leslie to identify them. That makes absolutely no sense.

Later we see Leslie as a teen. She smokes. She is addicted to cocaine. She is a hooker and a pimp. She treats her friends with contempt. She lives in squalor. She has a general screw-you to everyone and everything. The only bright spot in her life is a boy, Donny, who was abducted around the same time she was who has maintained his devotion to her, even though she spits on him.

A counselor (John Malkovich) figures out who she is and arranges a visit home to be reunited with her parents. The family is like the Ward and June Cleavers. She feels too soiled to fit in and leaves in the middle of the night without leaving word. And the movie ended.

I could not decipher what she planned to do next -- try to find her boyfriend, take up hooking again, something else? I did not really care. She had become such a selfish monster.

You saw no transition from the lamb-like abducted child to the hard- boiled hooker. They seemed two completely unrelated people. If someone were to make another film with a similar theme, they should fill in some of the transition.

Though he gets top billing, Malkovich has only a bit part, most of which he spends reading forms aloud.

Hackers (1995)
incompetently written, fun, 7 October 2014

Making a movie about computers is difficult. Even the latest equipment looks ridiculously antique within a few years of release. There is not really anything to see -- just people sitting at keyboards. You must interpret it poetically. There is not much action. The public has no idea what is really going on.

The best attempts, like Tron, work at two levels, direct action for the kids, and subtle in-jokes and metaphors for the computer savvy.

Hackers has lots of energy, but it is downright silly.

For a start, the techno-babble is complete gibberish. The screenwriters did not even know the difference between a modem, a screen and RAM. I think they composed the dialogue by looking up computer jargon in a dictionary and throwing the words into a hat. They make zero attempt at plausibility.

This incompetence quickly destroys the illusion we are viewing whiz kids capable of bringing down civilisation as we know if they so chose.

Most of the dialogue is theme and variation on "I'm the king of the castle, and you're the dirty rascal". It sounds like something first graders would say. It is so juvenile, it is jarring.

Another jarring thing. Dade and his mother stayed in a one-bedroom apartment where mom slept on the couch. Yet Dade had thousands of dollars to spend on clothes and hairstyling.

There is a goony character called Cereal. He appears to be brain damaged, perhaps from too many drugs. Yet we are supposed to believe he took over all TV channels of earth.

But the main problem with the movie was the lead Dade, played by Johnny Lee Miller. He was badly miscast. His hair was expensively bleached and each curl pressed into place. He wore a leather jacket costing thousands of dollars that Liberace might have coveted. His facial features were so sharp he could cut cheese with them, but he had no sizzle. He came across as soggy as yesterday's waffle, a sort of young Lawrence Welk. His voice was as flat as Houston astronaut ground control.

Angelina Jolie did a great job with the atrocious dialogue they handed her. She was like a time bomb about to explode. It is too bad the movie was not written more around her acting skills.

A touch I did like was the way the characters got around their city with dazzling speed on roller blades. It added some visual excitement and flash.

Some of the CGI visuals to poetically represent hacking into computers were of course completely unrealistic, but at least interesting and metaphorically evocative.

A movie is a team. The writers were incompetent though the basic plot was quite clever. Most of the actors were great. The visual effects people were ahead of their time (but of course dated now). A movie is as good as its weakest link.

ambiguity squared, 6 October 2014

I cannot tell you the plot of this movie. I am uncertain what happened, and if I told you a version, you would likely not believe me.

Christian Slater plays Bob Maconel, a mousy, picked-on middle aged man. He hallucinates that his goldfish talk to him and bully him. He hallucinates/imagines killing his co-workers.

You never know what is his imagination, his hallucination or twists of the screenwriters' mad fantasy.

He deals with sadistic bullies for co-workers. One is female, who enjoys coming on to him, then suddenly crying out sexual harassment. I wanted a particularly sticky end for her, but was unsatisfied. Another, the man at the next desk, goes postal.

One character is Venessa, a beautiful young woman paralysed from the neck down. She is a self-centred power tripper and tries to force Bob to help her commit suicide. We never know if she can be trusted or if she is just a scheming manipulator who uses Bob as a "spoon" to care for her.

You see so many versions of events, you have to put on hold your decision of whether what you just saw was real.

The problem with this movie is has no proper protagonist. Bob is just a colourless, mumbling dishrag. It is hard to care one way or the other what happens to him.

I thought it odd that no one asked Bob why he had a loaded gun in his desk at the office, with which he shot the worker who went postal. Perhaps in the USA this is common. The only question was why he did not shoot sooner.

Venessa explained the clasp on her bra to Bob, her caregiver, who had to bathe, bum wipe and spoon feed for the last few months. Surely by now he would already thoroughly understand female clothing.

Much of the plot is Pythonesque. Bizarre things happen and everyone keeps a perfectly straight face and pretends they are ordinary.

One amusing scene is Venessa ordering Bob around commanding him not to be "weak" not to let people push him around.

The movie just seemed to meander after a shotgun start. I lost interest about half way through.

Half Moon (2006)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Grim Torture, 5 October 2014

It is a story about a famous elderly patriarch tyrant going a journey with his ten sons from Iran to Kurdish Iraq to give one final concert.

On the way he repeatedly encounters police and military who vandalise and terrorise just for the sheer pleasure of bullying.

The route is a bleak mountainous landscape. I could not imagine even a goat eking a living much less people. Everyone is dirty and unkempt and not completely sane. The singers smoke and hack up phlegm.

They wish to have a female singer to accompany them, but even travelling while female is illegal. It is infuriating not being able to smash the ignorant thugs who enforce this stupid law.

It goes from bad to worse to worse to even worse. The concert never happens. This is a gruelling film. The characters evoke pity rather than sympathy. One of the sons has a pet cockerel that looks a bit like a miniature dinosaur. Not even he is spared the gratuitous cruelty.

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