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Without the shadow of a doubt, Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious
Basterds" is the most expensive, the most profitable, the best crafted
and the most enjoyable Nazi exploitation B-movie ever made.
Tarantino is probably the most talented filmmaker of his generation and he shows us why once again with a gem of a picture. "Inglourious Basterds" is a movie which, just like World War II itself, makes the viewer experience a whole combinations of emotions before it's over. Sometimes shocking, sometimes hilarious, while also having strong emotion, suspense, fascination and absurdity, the movie is a joyous mix of war movie scenes that we never get to see in any other war movie.
"Basterds" contains a nice cast of stars who make the movie work perfectly. In the main role, Brad Pitt plays Southern-American Lt. Aldo Raine, the leader of a squad of Jewish-American soldiers (and a few German renegades) whose job in occupied France can be summed up as this: go hunting Nazi soldiers and giving them a free scalping session. "Each man must carry out 100 scalps to accomplish his mission", Raine says to his crew.
The surprising Austian actor Christoph Waltz plays the part of Nazi colonel Hans Landa, also known as "The Jew Hunter". His initial role is more or less the same as Raine, but in the opposite direction. He tracks Jews and... well, you get the idea. And much like Raine, Landa is intelligent, but also very sly. He can simultaneously become as charming as a cat, as rapacious as a vulture and as dangerous as a bear. And Waltz perfectly embodies this man. The acting prize he received at the Cannes Film Festival for his Landa part was fully merited. And he should eventually be considered for the Best Supporting Actor Award at Oscar time.
French actress Mélanie Laurent plays the third character in importance in the movie: Shoshanna Dreyfus, who escaped from the cruel colonel's claws and became the owner of a small movie theatre in Paris. And when she meets the star (Daniel Brühl) of an upcoming German propaganda film, she gets to receive many high-ranked Nazi officers (including Joseph Goebbels and Adolf Hitler himself), which would be the perfect moment to unleash her vengeance against the Third Reich.
Put all of these ingredients in the blender, press the "hi" button, add a few more juicy and spicy scenes, and then you get a full explosion of flavours, each one tastier than the others. Quentin Tarantino is an accomplished director, but his biggest talent still resides in his capacity to write stories and screenplays. If you think that age can get a hold on the great QT and tone down his explosive creative impulses, only a small glimpse at "Inglourious Basterds" will make you think otherwise. Tarantino's talent has remained perfectly intact and everything that turned his other movies into masterpieces is here to create another one.
And the main part of Tarantino's talent consists in grabbing our attention and to keep it firmly without inserting any action, nor making the story move forward in significant ways. Tarantino's dialogues are always filled with fascination and to listen to the movie without keeping much attention to the screen is thrilling. There is simply no other filmmaker in the world who can do such a trick.
And when comes the time to get into the action, Tarantino builds a story filled with twists, as well as surprising and spectacular scenes which hold the moviegoers in suspense until the very end. And you can forget all the historical veracity. "Inglourious Basterds" is not a docudrama, far from it. It's simply the kind of movie that a European director working with a tiny budget would have made if his only goal was to get a mock of Hitler and his Nazi pawns.
Don't try to get into any deep meanings regarding what you see on screen. There's absolutely no symbolic about a Jewish squad who scalp Nazi soldiers or let them live after they carve Swastikas on their forehead with a knife. Don't try to understand anything about the climax of the movie in Shoshanna's theatre, even as brutal, spectacular and unexpected as it can be. The characters' dialogues are tasty, but they are not metaphorical. The entire movie is just one big pollution.
Actually, Quentin Tarantino's entire filmography is one big pollution. Is there anything to understand in "Reservoir Dogs" ? In "Pulp Fiction" ? And especially in "Kill Bill" ? There's nothing to understand. "Inglourious Basterds", just like those movies, is nothing more than an unhealthy drug which you quickly get addicted to, even though you're conscious of its repugnance. But is there anything wrong about that? If the movie is funny, brilliant, intelligent and leaves smiles on the viewers' faces after the credits roll, frankly, what would be wrong about that?
And once again, Tarantino gives die-hard movie buffs the occasion to get into a handful of delicious movie references. Shoshanna's theatre is filled with French movie posters from the Occupation era, something film historians will love. And as for the atmosphere, we're treated with scenes which seem to come out from the more intense Spaghetti Westerns and re-worked the WWII way. And it wouldn't be complete without a few samples of Ennio Morricone's music, would it?
If you consider the sky-high expectations for this movie, "Inglourious Basterds" is exactly what we would have expected from the great Quentin Tarantino. Let's hope he'll never change his style and remain into the unconventional side of Hollywood film-making, because there's really no other man on this planet who treats cinema the way he does.
"WALL-E" represents the perfect mix between innovation and tradition.
Pixar, the supreme leader in computer animation, has conceived a
feature film which expands animation to a technical level which had
never been reached before while treating it with very simple narrative
concepts, which we could recall from old silent movies from the era of
Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
The director of "WALL-E", Andrew Stanton, treats his movie as a huge tribute to science fiction, by inserting many different themes and concepts, such as robotics, interstellar travel, the apocalyptic concept of a desert Earth, mega-corporations and space colonization.
"WALL-E" is a family movie, but that doesn't necessarily mean that audiences have to content themselves with simple themes and ideas. And it's fine. But the fact that the movie works so well is intrinsically linked to the genius of Pixar's screenwriters. Those guys have effectively created a complex story with an extremely simple narrative structure.
The story opens around year 2800. The first shot opens on a spatial background with planets and galaxies and the camera then moves to reveal the Earth. But is that really the Earth? A first look seems to show our planet enveloped in a yellowish atmosphere, contrasting with the ocean blue to which we're so accustomed. When the camera then zooms upon the Earth, our initial fears are confirmed: the whole planet is a huge desert, complete with totally empty cities and huge towers of garbage compacted in cubes. That sight fills the entire landscape.
Those garbage towers are the work of WALL-E, the hero of the movie. For the last 700 years, his workdays are exactly the same: he picks up the garbage he finds (and he's far from lacking of work on that level), transforms it in huge cubes and organizes them in towers. But he keeps in his shelter a few objects which catch his attention and which he doesn't dare to sacrifice.
And then one day, a huge rocket arrives from the sky. From it appears EVE, a female robot whose primary function is to inspect the Earth in order to determine if it can sustain life once again. The timid WALL-E makes contact with EVE and shows her his artifacts, among them is a small plant, an ordinary discovery for WALL-E, but a rather significant one for EVE.
In less time that it takes to say it, the two robots find themselves aboard the giant spaceship Axiom, where human beings, now ridiculously obese, gelatinous and lazy, live in an Utopian lifestyle, courtesy of the Buy 'n Large mega-corporation.
WALL-E and EVE live an extraordinary and thrilling adventure during which they will fall in love. Yes, you read that well. Not only do the robots in this movie have a well-defined gender, they are also able to express emotions as strong as love.
Even if some of the robots in this movie have a language and a vocabulary as developed as humans, most of them communicate with only a few words, often pronounced in a slow and detached way. WALL-E, for example, reminded me of R2-D2, since he primarily communicates and expresses himself with electronic sounds rather than with syllables. And I think it's way better that way, because it makes him more innocent, more charming and more attractive than if he'd expressed himself with more words.
The way that these robots express their state of mind lies mostly in specific movements, body language and facial expressions. For example, when WALL-E curls up his mechanical limbs towards his body while lowering his tremendous "eyes" (actually cameras), you don't need words to explain what he's feeling. That's the same situation for EVE. She has some kind of video screen instead of a face, where luminous blue spots light up to simulate eyes. When those blue spots are arranged in her face in such or such pattern, a very precise feeling is expressed.
What a fusion! I had never seen such a convincing mix of technology and emotion in a film before. Even in "A.I.", where a robot designed to look like a boy is programmed to express love.
This masterstroke is due to the animators at Pixar, who clearly demonstrates once again who is the master in the domain of computer animation. Not only character animation is exceptional, but the presentation of an apocalyptic desert world is also breathtaking. The realism of the opening scenes is mystifying for an animated movie. There are some moments in which you could forget that you're watching an animated film.
"WALL-E" is an excellent science fiction movie, but it's also an excellent tribute to science fiction movies. Andrew Stanton has inserted in his film a lot of references to pictures such as "2001: A Space Odyssey", "Star Wars", "Blade Runner", "Idiocracy" and "I Am Legend". And in the great tradition of Disney movies, important life lessons are learned in "WALL-E", and their importance is as capital as it can be, considering the state of the Earth after humans have decided that it was easier for them to forget those precious life lessons.
However, I found very ironic the fact that a Disney picture would carry a message against mega-corporations and against the concept of brand loyalty.
Overall, "WALL-E" is an absolutely extraordinary movie. Fans of animation and science fiction will surely appreciate it for its technical and narrative qualities, but families and kids will definitely fall under the charm of those two robots and their heart-melting love story. A must-see!
Edgar Rice Burroughs would have once suggested that his Tarzan
character would fit perfectly with animation. If that anecdote is true,
then we could say that Burroughs was a visionary man. But I don't know
at which point his vision would have met the one that Disney Studios
used to realize their own version of the man raised by the gorillas.
"Tarzan" is among the most spectacular adventures ever made by Disney. Not only the animation is astonishingly innovative and breathtaking, but the story, the characters and the wonderful songs from pop superstar Phil Collins will undoubtedly satisfy the youngsters and the grown-ups.
Tarzan's story has been adapted to screen a rather incalculable amount of times in the history of cinema, most notably in the middle of the 20th century with Olympic athlete Johnny Weissmuller in the title role, but this "Tarzan" is the very first feature-length animated movie about the man-ape, and it takes advantage from every benefit that animation could bring in its presentation, but especially into the characters' development.
The relationship which Tarzan keeps up with the gorillas, which he considers his family, are never really convincing in live action. And the attempts made to give some personality to the jungle creatures had never really allowed the viewers to express any sympathy towards them. We just have to look at the movie adaptation of "George of the Jungle" to be convinced.
But here, the jungle animals are really likable and their depth allows to give to the story a much stronger foundation than everything that was done before. The relationship between Tarzan and his gorilla "mother" Kala (voiced by Glenn Close) is incredibly touching. Tarzan is also surrounded by funny and entertaining sidekicks, such as tomboyish gorilla Terk (voiced by Rosie O'Donnell) and coward elephant Tantor (voiced by Wayne Knight). Even Kong-like Kerchak (voiced by Lance Henriksen) is rather well developed beyond his monstrous stature, and his attitude towards "strangers" kinda recalls Shere Khan in "The Jungle Book".
And talking about "The Jungle Book", "Tarzan" inevitably sparks comparisons with the 1967 Disney classic, since both movies own many resemblances. Both of them talk about a human kid whose parents have died and who is raised by the jungle beasts. And when comes the moment of choosing their true place, between the animals and the humans, both Mowgli and Tarzan are confronted with heartbreaking dilemmas. So which one of the two movies is the best? Well, there again, it depends of your preferences. "The Jungle Book" benefits from a gallery of characters that is larger, more diversified and more elaborate than in "Tarzan". And that's probably on the weaknesses of the latter movie. Besides the gorillas, the elephants, a few baboons and one leopard, Tarzan's jungle seems to be rather huge, but also rather empty. And the musical numbers are way livelier in "The Jungle Book", and they are incorporated better into the story. The Phil Collins songs in "Tarzan", as good as they might be, sometimes give the impression that the images we see are merely a pretext for music videos which we could find on the MTV channel.
The greatest advantage of "Tarzan" on "The Jungle Book" is the quality of its animation. Beside Tarzan's jungle, Mowgli's habitat looks like a botanical garden. In order to give more dimension to the African wild environment in which the characters live, the animators at Disney have created a new animation process called "deep canvas". This process gives more dimension to the jungle, giving the realist impression that the characters are moving themselves into a three-dimensional universe. The results are astounding. The illusion is pitch perfect. Thus we could bill "Tarzan" as a 2.5D animated movie.
This process allows animators to conceive astonishing sequences where Tarzan moves from one vine to the other with the movements and the style of a skateboarder and also to create action and chase scenes which turn a trek among the branches and the vines into an authentic roller coaster ride. The images are often dizzying. Some of them might even be too much dizzying to my taste and I would have had no objection to slowing some scenes so I could appreciate them better.
That kind of new technological development clearly shows that Disney is still the number 1 animated house in the world. It also demonstrates that, in spite of the constant rise of computer-animated features, movies made in traditional animation still own their place inside our film universe. I don't want to take off anything from computer-animated movies, but I have always preferred movies made in traditional animation. I have always felt that emotions and feelings were stronger and more authentic in that format instead of in 3D animation. There are some truly touching moments in "Tarzan" and I don't have the impression that those scenes would have had the same impact had this movie been realized in 3D animation.
With the exception of Tarzan himself, there are only a few human characters in the movie and they are not among the most memorable ones. Jane maintains an interesting, but rather ambiguous relationship with Tarzan. Her father is your typical British scientist, while Clayton the hunter is not one of the most threatening nor interesting villains we have in the Disney filmography.
Beside a few glitches, "Tarzan" still is an exceptional animated movie and a must-see for Disney fans. There is no better introduction to the world of Tarzan than this movie. Of course, beyond it, there are the Weissmuller movies, but if you consider their relative absence in today's shop shelves, Disney's movies is a more-than-perfect alternative. There is no doubt that it belongs among Disney classics, along with "Aladdin" and "The Lion King".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Of all the Asterix movies, this is the one I love the most. The
comic-book-to-screen adaptation is faithful without being too much
linear (which was the problem with "Astérix le Gaulois"). The animation
is much acceptable without being outstanding, but let's not forget that
it's not a Disney feature.
The movie respects generally well the events of the book. The Romans, led by the great Julius Caesar, invade and quickly conquer Britain. However, a small village keeps resisting to the invaders. One of the village's inhabitants, Jolitorax, is Astérix's cousin. He goes to Gaul to ask for help and for magic potion, so his village will be able to face Roman legions.
Asterix, Obelix, Jolitorax and Dogmatix (who was not in the book) embark towards Britain with a barrel of magic potion for Jolitorax's village. But before they can yell victory, they will have to face many events and deliver great battles against Romans.
The film works well on two levels. First, it's a pretty decent introduction to a real event in history. The territory we're talking about was really named Britain around 50 BC and the Romans really invaded it at about the same era. The city of London was really called Londinium at the time and the cities of Camulodunum (Colchester) and Durovernum (Canterbury) are also mentioned.
But the story was also an occasion for French comic writers René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo to make fun of their neighbors from the other side of the English Channel. The English (or Briton) stereotypes and habits are constantly ridiculed or parodied in some way. In the original French language version, the Britons speak with a heavy accent and expressions that you don't hear in French ("Je dis", the nouns and adjectives are inverted comparatively to the French language). That's why the original version is much more enjoyable to watch.
I could roll down a long list of parodies made in the whole movie. We only have to think about weekends, the continual British bad weather, their bad culinary tastes, the fact that they drive on the left side of the road, rugby and their "funny" language.
Of all the Asterix movies, this is the funniest, and by far. The parodies listed above are obviously funny, but many gags and scenes are simply hilarious. We only have to think of the boarding of the Roman galley, the prison break, or the wine "tasting" in the caves of the Roman palace that quickly (and predictably) degenerates into a Roman orgy.
What prevents this film from ranking as high as "Astérix et Cléopâtre", it's probably the fact that the latter was turned into a musical with such excellent songs, which made that transformation simply irresistible. But "Astérix chez les Bretons" doesn't rank pretty far behind "Cléopâtre".
The adaptation by Pierre Tchernia has to be underlined and some new elements have to be mentioned, such as the double wordplay made by Caesar about his invasion of Britain. It's also very funny of seeing wooden replicas of the Big Ben bell-tower, the Palace of Windsor, and also of the Tower Bridge. The addition of Dogmatix into the story is much appreciated in the sense that it's a well-loved character and his role in the movie is very much real.
A delightful running gag stars Stratocumulus, whose attempts of informing his superior, General Motus, always end with a fall and a pathetic trip and a collision with one of the General's marble statues.
Something that doesn't change however is the somewhat ambiguous ending. It's great to see the village winning over the Roman legions, but what about the future? Will they attack once again? Will Jolitorax's village still be able of defending itself? Those questions involve that maybe the trip of Asterix and Obelix was useless.
The final words by Getafix also fall short, even if his intervention had well begun.
So, to sum up quickly, for those who love the Asterix comic books, this movie is a must-see. After all, there are few tolerable Asterix films. "Astérix le Gaulois" is too much linear, while the movies co-produced in Germany ("Asterix in America" and "Astérix et les Vikings") are not good and the live-action adaptations are not much better.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
To be perfectly honest, I'm not the kind of moviegoer who waits to see
the critics' reactions or to witness the box-office numbers in order to
determine if I go watching a movie or not. Usually, my mind is made up
several months before the release.
I love Batman movies, but I expected to wait until the DVD release of "The Dark Knight" to get hold of it instead of going to the theater right away. But after hearing about the numerous laudatory reviews about the movie and witnessing the box-office records being beaten one after another in so little time, you'll understand that I couldn't resist. And now being able of talking about the movie in a retrospective way, I can tell you that I would have regretted my first choice.
If "The Dark Knight" is that much praised and that much seen, it's because it's well deserved.. Whether a moviegoer is a fan of Batman or not, whether (s)he's curious about Heath Ledger's final role or (s)he doesn't give a damn, it'a movie that can satisfy anybody, independently of what's looked for.
The story begins shortly after "Batman Begins" ends. How much time, exactly? The movie isn't very clear about that, but we quickly figure out that there hasn't a lot of time spent between the end of the first movie and the beginning of the second one. The Wayne Manor is still under re-construction, so Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) and his servant Alfred (Michael Caine) have to live in a penthouse for some little time.
Meanwhile, criminals haven't been totally eradicated from Gotham City's map. And one of them, the manic and schizophrenic Joker (Heath Ledger, in the role of a lifetime and a death-time) appears and doesn't take much time before spreading even more chaos and terror in the streets of Gotham.
Harvey Dent (a surprising Aaron Eckhart) is the new district attorney in the city and his energy, his ardor, his determination and his intelligence fascinate the inhabitants of Gotham. He has fallen in love with Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), Bruce's childhood sweetheart, and he works closely with the few honest cops of the city, all personified by scrupulously honest Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman).
Obviously, when you think about the Joker, you can imagine that it won't be an easy game to win. But even if you're anticipating a lot from him and his performer Ledger, let me tell you that you'll be completely spellbound once you see it for real.
Many journalists and professional critics imagine that Ledger could be granted a posthumous Oscar for his performance. Even if there are a lot of movies that will be released until the ceremony, and that many great roles will be unveiled before that date, I have to say that if Ledger receives a nomination, I wouldn't be surprised at all. I can imagine many of you having a suspicious look about the possibility of seeing a comic book villain awarded with an Oscar, but believe me, Ledger's performance is breathtaking and will silence many skeptics. It's simple: Ledger didn't play the Joker, he WAS the Joker. His appearance is very convincing (thank the make-up artists), but his voice, and especially his twitches with his tongue demonstrate the whole scale of his role. It's too bad that he's dead, because Ledger had everything he needed in order to become a new Brando or De Niro.
But the biggest drawback about Ledger's performance, it's that he steals almost all the publicity, while another actor who deserves some recognition is almost completely overshadowed. I'm talking about Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent, transformed at the end of the movie into Harvey Two-Face. Eckhart is astounding and he also delivers the performance of a lifetime. He is completely convincing as Harvey Dent and he is even more as Two-Face. As for his facial make-up, you can see it, but you can't believe it. It completely flabbergasted me for the rest of the movie. I think that "The Dark Knight" deserves a nomination for Best Make-up.
The story is particularly complex and the movie, with its two and a half hours, may be a bit too long. Some would say that the movie is impossible to follow, that he contains a lot of useless characters and that some scenes could have been shortened up. I shall acquiesce to these complaints, but I also think that director Christopher Nolan deliberately created a film based upon the Joker's personality: manic, chaotic, merciless and full of surprises.
Nolan proves once again his great mastery of mixing action scenes with the psychological side of his characters. The cinematography here is even more extraordinary than in "Batman Begins". Here's another man who should be awarded with an Oscar in a more-or-less distant future.
Besides Ledger and Eckhart, the other actors play their own role with professionalism. My only complaint concerns Maggie Gyllenhaal, who I think is totally miscast, especially after that Katie Holmes played the role of Rachel Dawes in the first movie. If you compare both pictures, it looks like Rachel has aged of about fifteen years between both.
This film makes us realize two things. First, Heath Ledger had a lot of potential and his premature death will earn him a place in the category of the stars dead too quickly, among with James Dean and River Phoenix. Second, Ledger's performance, paired with Jack Nicholson's one in the 1989 "Batman" proves that the Joker is the #1 villain in all of the comic book medium.
"The Dark Knight" will probably be venerated as Heath Ledger's swan song and as Aaron Eckhart's breakthrough. It will also be probably treated as cursed, considering Ledger's death, Bale's arrest and Freeman's accident. One thing is sure, it will forever be a great movie and the immutable testament of a legend gone too quickly. Hence the saying: "Only the good die young."
Combining big-budget special effects with irony and sarcasm-laden
dialog, "Ghostbusters" is a one-of-a-kind sci-fi fantasy comedy as
entertaining as it can get.
The movie stars Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, three graduates from the great schools of "Saturday Night Live", "SCTV" and "National Lampoon", as three "scientists" whose specialty is to detect and hunt down ghosts of all kinds. They form a team called the Ghostbusters and they offer their duties to whoever wanting to get ridden of a ghost.
After some troublesome beginnings, the team quickly becomes very popular and is able to eradicate dozens of paranormal creatures from every corner of Manhattan. They are in such demand that they need to hire a fourth crew member, played by Ernie Hudson. However, their skills and their knowledge are soon going to be rudely tested when a destroyer god from the Babylonian era is getting ready to penetrate into our world and to spread chaos in a Judgment Day fashion.
This kind of scenario could reminisce anybody of such disaster movies from the middle of the 20th century, monster movies such as "King Kong" and "Godzilla", or even contemporary blockbusters, filled with rumpus, destruction and special effects intended to terrify and provoke some panic. "Ghostbusters" is all of that at once, but it dissociates itself from the bunch in its own particular way.
Instead of presenting itself as a drama, a thriller or an action flick, "Ghostbusters" is introduced as a heavy special FX comedy. Chimeric idea? Maybe. But the result is simply delectable, because of the quality of the special effects, but mainly because of the humor brought out by the stars of the picture, beginning with the master of irony, Bill Murray.
Murray plays Dr. Peter Venkman, the unofficial leader of the group. His on-screen appearances are always delightful, his lines being almost always stamped with irony and impassive humor. Murray is very much at ease and he does whatever he wants in front of the camera.
Murray's two accomplices (and the co-writers of this movie), Aykroyd and Ramis, are not relegated to oblivion anyway and, together with Murray, the three of them have a good lot of chemistry. At moments, they can become as funny as Murray is.
Sigourney Weaver is also a part of the cast in "Ghostbusters". She plays a violinist who quickly realizes that her refrigerator could very be some kind of portal towards a parallel dimension. Rick Moranis plays her nerdish neighbor. Sometimes nice, sometimes unpleasant, it's actually very hard to really care about Moranis' character in this movie. It becomes easier when he is pursued and possessed by the Sumerian demons, but we actually do care much more about Sigourney Weaver in that situation.
Ernie Hudson, a relatively underground actor, is fairly attractive as the fourth Ghostbuster. He represents somehow the link between the ghost trackers and the ordinary people.
Nonetheless, the actors from "Ghostbusters" are generally overshadowed by the impressive special effects required for that kind of movie involving creatures from another world and innovative technology to hunt ghosts. But the actors find themselves rewarded from that move. Thus, we see "proton packs" with extremely dangerous, but extremely convincing beams. We also see ghosts that are both frightening and funny, the green wiener-eating "Slimer" being the best example.
But how could we forget the unforgettable climax starring the most unlikely destroyer in New York City history: the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man? It is without any doubt the most famous scene of the whole picture and it's not without reason. His arrival unleashes the greatest panic attack from the movie's extras, because of his menacing stature. But in the viewers' case, they can't help themselves from smiling and laughing when they see that surreal giant walking in the streets of Manhattan, even if they know that this monster is not so much different from Godzilla, save for the hideous and repulsing appearance.
So "Ghostbusters" is technically innovating, comically revealing, but it's globally some really tasty entertainment that everybody will be able to appreciate. Everyone will be able to find at least one element that will satisfy them. Those who love spectacle and eye-popping sequences will be delighted by the special effects. Others will respond to Bill Murray's lines with an inescapable smile. And let's not forget the eponymous theme song from Ray Parker, Jr. that will play in the heads of people long after they've seen the film.
So, twenty-five years later, we can still watch "Ghostbusters" without telling ourselves that this picture comes from another era. The majority of the special effects have aged well, even if some of the moves from the demonic dogs begin to look like those created by Ray Harryhausen for "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms". So, it's still easy to love the movie, just like if it was just being released.
Since the first silent movies of the early 20th century, there have been a lot of comedies that were created. But among those which tried to insert big-budget special effects to counterbalance their comic moments, "Ghostbusters" is among the best, if it's not THE best. It's really some pure crazy fun.
While the majority of biopics focus on personalities who were the best
and/or the most popular in what they did, "Ed Wood" tells the story of
the man who is considered today as the worst filmmaker of all time. It
must be said right away that the life of Edward D. Wood, Jr. is far
more interesting and fascinating than those of many other popular
Hollywood legends and this movie shows why.
For starters, Wood was a filmmaker who defined himself as a writer-director-actor-producer, much like his idol Orson Welles. However, unlike Welles, Wood didn't have any magic touch, he never showed any visible talent in his movies, should it be his own or those of his faithful associates.
Ed Wood is played here by Johnny Depp, in what might probably be his best dramatic performance ever. Wood is portrayed here as a fiery film buff who is well decided to leave his mark in Hollywood. His main characteristic is his unequaled optimistic attitude and this attitude pushes him to go forward, even in front of the most insuperable problems. He is always able to find a ray of sunshine inside the most devastating reviews. But in a movie like "Ed Wood", the hardest thing to do would be to find some negative in such a genius and entertaining film.
"Ed Wood" is directed by Tim Burton, probably the most weirdo of all mainstream Hollywood directors and the most capable of presenting the life of Wood and his motley crew of misfit collaborators in the most adequate way possible. Besides Wood, we can find the veteran star of "Dracula" Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau), drag queen Bunny Breckinridge (Bill Murray), the "amazing" Criswell (Jeffrey Jones), Swedish wrestler Tor Johnson (real-life wrestler George Steele) and TV show host Vampira (Lisa Marie).
The actors are fantastic in the sense that they are able of recreating such bad acting roles with that much conviction. Once Burton's camera starts rolling, we can see their real talent in front of us, but when Wood's camera starts rolling, they become pathetic, unconvincing and they deliver the Wood-written lines without even realizing their absurdity.
The movie is shot in black-and-white, which is frankly the only logical option for this kind of motion picture. Honestly, how could we imagine in color those sets that we can only see in black-and-white? How could we possibly imagine "Plan 9 From Outer Space" in color? The recreation of Wood's turkeys is simply perfect. The story is set in the 1950s, the era where Wood directed his worst projects: "Glen or Glenda?", "Bride of the Monster" and "Plan 9".
The 1950s, it must be said, represent the golden era of the Z-movies in Hollywood. Although there have been many classics, like "A Streetcar Named Desire", "High Noon" and "Ben-Hur", this era is much remembered for those horror and science fiction flicks interested in the atomic age and monsters derived from it. Besides Wood's masterpieces, we can also mention "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms", "It Came From Beneath the Sea" and the Japanese opus "Gojira".
The 1950s is also an era where the studio system still prevails and the directors are always at the mercy of the producers who are the supreme authority and they own a veto over every aspect of the movies. And it can even go well outside of the movie. For example, in the "Bride of the Monster" making, Wood is forced to modify his cast and even his ending in order to meet the requirements of his main financier. And for "Plan 9", he must go under baptism (and so must his friends), so a group of Baptists will finance the picture. This adds even more to the incredible, as if the movies were not enough.
Even if "Ed Wood" contains numerous scenes showing the stupidity and the lack of talent of the protagonists, there's still some fair level of intelligence emerging from the picture and some goofy statements suddenly become full of sense. For example, Bela Lugosi, even if he's been addicted to morphine for twenty years and lost nearly every bit of his talent since he made "Dracula", is able to deliver some interesting utterances, such as why the Dracula character is more interesting than the Frankenstein character and why women should love the classic 1930s horror movies from Universal.
The actors from the movie are all tremendous, but two of them clearly stand above the others. Johnny Depp plays his Ed Wood role in an immaculate way. He knows how to write a script, how to shoot a picture and he's able to detect some qualities in people that very few would be able to see. That's why he casts Loretta King (Juliet Landau) just by watching her commanding in a restaurant.
Depp also seems to be very comfortable when comes the time of wearing women's clothing, just like Wood did in real life as a transvestite.
In the case of Martin Landau, the scale of his (Oscar-winning) performance is difficult to surround. Simply said, he is better as Lugosi than Lugosi himself was. His Hungarian accent is perfectly convincing and he delivers very interesting quotes ("This is the most uncomfortable coffin I've ever been in"). His relationship with Wood is touching and extraordinary. Lugosi finally meets someone who still believes in him and who is able to find him some new work.
"Ed Wood" is without a doubt the greatest Tim Burton movie for the moment. The Ed Wood story couldn't have been directed by anybody else than him. Instead of ridiculing Wood, which would have been too much easy and far less interesting, Burton seems to celebrate him and making him a symbol for those who idolize movies and absolutely want to leave their mark in Hollywood, whatever the result be good or not. "Ed Wood" is the ultimate proof that cinema is far more than a job and an art. It's mysticism.
When we talk about bad movies, we often say that they are so because
they are weird, strange or because they don't make any sense at all.
But "Being John Malkovich" is just too much weird and too much
complicated to be rated as a bad movie.
John Cusack stars as Craig Schwartz, a struggling puppeteer who lives with a dog, a talking parrot, a chimpanzee and an almost unrecognizable Cameron Diaz as his wife.
Craig badly needs money, so he takes a job as a filing clerk and he works for a New York firm located on the seventh-and-a-half floor of a Manhattan building.
Things just get even stranger when Craig discovers a secret tiny doorway that leads him directly into the mind of actor John Malkovich (played by John Malkovich). After having lived a quarter of hour into Malkovich's head, Craig is ejected from it and mysteriously finds himself on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike, just outside New York City.
Craig and his new colleague Maxine (Catherine Keener) have the idea of making people who want to live the same experience pay for it. So, Craig and Maxine "rent" Malkovich's mind fifteen minutes at a time and people become a famous Hollywood actor for that amount of time.
"Being John Malkovich" is directed by Spike Jonze, better known for his numerous music videos, and masterfully written by Charlie Kaufman. His screenplay is brilliant and of an almost unreached level of originality and perfectly allies surrealism and the philosophy of mind.
Jonze evidently does a great job in the director's chair, with some astonishing and breathtaking moments. Unfortunately for him, Kaufman is the real star of this movie and so is his simply unreal and completely crazy story. At some moments, we could find ourselves wondering what does Kaufman have in his mind, if he didn't simply put his brain on autopilot and went on a wave of automatic writing.
Only a few examples are enough to illustrate my point of view. First of all, we get to know that Craig's wife works in a pet store, but is it a good reason to keep a dog, a talking parrot and a chimpanzee named Elijah in their apartment? And then, we get to wonder how can people work on the seventh-and-a-half floor of a building. And when we finally get the "rational" explanation, we wonder why we asked that question instead of shutting up.
And the characters we get to meet are not any more normal. The first example is the secretary who interprets every word wrong. Then, Craig's new boss, Dr. Lester, who is 105-year-old and who drinks almost exclusively carrot juice, which explains why he "pisses orange".
But except the surrealist moments, the movie is also one of the most thought-provoking and philosophical motion pictures of the recent years. Actually, 1999 seems to be the year of philosophy in Hollywood with the releases of "John Malkovich", "The Matrix" and "Fight Club".
The film cleverly plays with the themes of identity, celebrity and the body/soul union. Is living for a moment as a famous person is worth it? Is it legitimate? And if it was really possible, would there be a real danger of "playing" with a person like the characters of the movie do? "Being John Malkovich" is an intellectual comedy drama unlike any other. And the first term is the most important of the three. With such a mix of surrealism and philosophy, it's definitely not a movie for the weak minds. You have to love these two things and complicated stories as well, or else you're gonna quit on this movie about halfway through.
And the most controversial aspect of the film is the relationship between Maxine and Cameron Diaz as long as the events pass. There are moments that are gonna put some people away, if they are not instantly outraged and/or scandalized.
With everything I've said about the movie, there's only one adequate way to describe it : it's a movie that takes chances. And this attitude gets rewarded by the viewers' admiration and amazement.
I perfectly understand that it's not everybody who's gonna love "Being John Malkovich". But I believe that it's a movie that deserves to be watched. Not necessarily loved, but watched for sure. Because we have to salute the originality, the eccentricity and the vision of every artist involved into this project.
"Being John Malkovich" is one of the rare proofs that we can both stimulate our mind and our moralities by watching Hollywood actors. And this fact is enough for us to appreciate the movie as a whole.
He's back... for our greatest pleasure.
Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) has aged, but he is still the great adventurous thrill-and-treasure-seeking archaeologist we all know. And this time, he embarks himself into his most extraordinary and most sensational adventure since the first time we saw him in 1981.
The movie opens in 1957. To make a quick calculation, that's nineteen years after the events of the third movie and it also corresponds exactly to the lapse of time that passed in our own time. The Nazi villains have been replaced by the no-less dangerous Soviets, and most especially the icy black-haired scientist Irina Spalko, played with mastery by a perfectly convincing and terrifying Cate Blanchett. She's probably the greatest adversary in the history of the franchise.
After the Ark of the Covenant, an Hindu sacred stone and the Holy Grail, the MacGuffin of this new adventure is a mysterious crystal skull from an ancient south American civilization linked to the Maya people. This skull, we quickly discover, is actually linked to a civilization endowed with a superior intelligence. In other words, extra-terrestrials. By the way, the movie opens in the famous Area 51 and references to Roswell are made.
The crystal skull seems to be some kind of key that would allow to its owner to discover the city that the Spanish Conquistadores called the Eldorado.
Dr. Jones is accompanied this time by a young motorcycle-riding greaser named Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf). He will also meet in his trip the professor Huxley (an eccentric John Hurt) and none other than Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), the female hero of the first movie, "Raiders of the Lost Ark".
We can see from the beginning that Indy is getting old outside, but that he is also as fiery and fearless inside as he was nineteen years ago. And throughout his adventures, we realize that he is not the only one. Director Steven Spielberg and executive producer and screenwriter George Lucas bring some immensely contagious energy and fun to this fourth volume. It seems that they drank from the Holy Grail from "The Last Crusade" themselves. "The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is made with a feeling of found youth and we can easily take a liking to it at each scene. The result is the best Spielberg movie since "Saving Private Ryan".
The action scenes are as exciting to watch as they were before and the characters are puzzling and hide all kinds of surprises. However, it must be said, the surprises in this case can arouse all kinds of reactions. They can be very divergent, depending of the viewer.
First, there's the Mac character, played by Ray Winstone. What he does in the movie is never really clear and his usefulness here becomes very questionable. We could have gotten rid of him and it wouldn't have changed anything to the movie, except maybe an economy of a few minutes in the playing time.
Then, the link that exists between Indy, Marion and Mutt is revealed halfway into the movie and it can make many jumping. And the die-hard fans of the franchise have a great change of scratching their heads wondering if the screenwriters made a mistake or not. But I don't want to say too much neither. You have to see it by yourself and believe (or try to believe it).
And even if the Indiana Jones series are based on exoticism, action and improbabilities, there are limits not to trespass. We might have been repeating this for the last twenty-seven years, but Indy is not Superman. But there are moments in the movie where the filmmakers seem to forget it. And add the fact that he's now sixty-something years old.
From the beginning, we can see surrounded by above a hundred Soviet soldiers in a huge warehouse and he's able to escape miraculously unharmed. Action isn't missing, but the small amount of realism doesn't take too much time before totally fading away. And a few moments later, we can see Indy surviving even more miraculously to a nuclear explosion... I think I've said enough.
However, these mistakes are quickly forgotten once the movie ends. The final events in the jungle are a moment of pure enjoyment and it's the best time to insert what are probably the only CG images of the movie. We can't believe our own eyes.
And the action scenes not generated by computer aren't bad either. Especially the action scenes and the chase scenes by car and by motorcycle. And let's not forget the duel between scientist Spalko and young Mutt.
I just hope that this fourth film is the final one on the list. Not because I didn't like it, far from it. But the climax makes me believe that we don't need to add more. And even when Indy comes out of the darkness after nineteen years, to add a fifth one would only be an easy marketing trick.
"The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" will attract as much money to the producers as the highly magnetic namesake skull, but viewers and especially the fans of the series will also get satisfied. And the latter will get sure that this fourth film is precisely not a simple easy marketing trick and that the will and joy of shooting an Indiana Jones adventure just wrapped up the creators and it can only have positive consequences.
So you all Indiana Jones fans, delight yourselves! You have waited enough. Appreciate with as much joy and as much fun this gift of the gods that the greats Steven and George offer to you. And you will be grateful.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Sword in the Stone" is the Disney version of the Arthurian legend,
adapted from the first of four books by T.H. White telling the life
events of the young Arthur, before he became king. It is also the last
feature-length animated film from the company of Uncle Walt to be
released before he died. In addition, it is the first solo effort of
Wolfgang Reitherman who would later direct other great animated movies,
such as "The Jungle Book", "The Aristocats", "Robin Hood" and "The
The movie was released in theaters on Christmas day 1963, almost one month to the day after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. This dark moment in American history established a striking and timely parallel with the dark atmosphere prevailing in England as depicted in the animated film.
"The Sword in the Stone" begins by the death of a heir-less king. One night in London, an astral light comes down from the sky and a sword lodged in an anvil itself embed into stone mysteriously appears. On that sword (which will be later known as Excalibur) are inscribed these words: "Whoso pulleth out the sword of this stone and anvil is rightwise king born of England". With nobody being able to accomplish the impossible feat, England remains king-less and the period now known as the Dark Ages begin.
The movie then shifts to the great hero Arthur himself who is only a not-so-smart puny runt nicknamed Wart (Rickie Sorenson). Venturing into the forest, Wart literally falls on the house of the powerful and wise, but absent-minded wizard Merlin (Karl Swenson) who lives there as a hermit with his educated pet owl Archimedes (Junius Matthews).
Merlin, convinced that the young Wart is destined to a great future despite what his physical appearance could reveal, begins to learn him about great life lessons in his fashion by changing him into a fish, a squirrel and a bird.
In general, I'd say that the film is not bad, far from it, but it is also far from being excellent. The plot is generally short and somehow empty, but it also contains some rather useless over-long passages.
But there's absolutely no doubt that this picture has a lot of ambitions and it has things to show to its audience. In fact, "The Sword in the Stone" is one of the most instructive Disney movies for the kids, not only because of the number of lessons that can be learned, but also because of their clarity and their direct character, which make them easy to catch and understand.
But I would have liked to see these lessons more treated on-screen when Wart becomes king. Merlin predicts celebrity and a bright future to the young monarch, but the young boy has no idea how to govern a state. It's at that moment that the learned lessons should have emerged and Merlin should have mentioned them.
After all, Wart's adventures with his mentor brought out the three most important characteristics of a good king: wisdom, love and intelligence. So "The Sword in the Stone" is for kids what Machiavelli's book "The Prince" is for adults.
Unfortunately, even if it's instructive, "The Sword in the Stone" loses points when it comes to the capacity to wonder, astonish and entertain. The animation is often spoiled and the sets are visibly nothing more than static colored paper sheets on which animators make mobile characters streaming in and out. It's a colorful movie, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it is alive.
And yet, the dark atmosphere of the movie is also reflected in the presentation. Some people will say that it's OK since the pictures adequately re-create the era and the society at the time, but let's not forget that we're talking here about a children's movie. In such a case, the dark (and not much cared over) images become depressing, boring and not much enjoyable to watch.
There's also a cruel lack of lively songs, which looks pretty bad for an institution like Disney. The songs go so much unnoticed that it becomes almost impossible to remember their titles.
There are some great moments however. The teaching sessions were Wart becomes an animal, accompanied by either Merlin or Archimedes, are entertaining and they lead to exciting and dangerous moments, where there's no lack of thrills for nobody. The best moment remains the magical duel between Merlin and the witch Madame Mim (Martha Wentworth), where the two opponents ceaselessly change themselves into different animals and give a high-level spectacle of which we are the lucky spectators.
The three main characters are also unforgettable. Wart's psychological evolution is well tangible. We can see at the beginning that he is puny, clumsy and naive, but also full of potential. And as he learns, he finds the courage to confront his adoptive tutor Sir Ector (Sebastian Cabot) and even his powerful teacher Merlin.
The magician himself is presented as somebody who is wise, but also absent-minded, which renders him quite funny. Unfortunately, he often loses himself into his futuristic anticipations, which leads to pathetic anachronisms and uninteresting discussions.
Archimedes is also intelligent and resourceful, but he is also touchy, cynical and often very grumpy. It means that we have as many reasons to like him as we have to hate him. And unlike Merlin, Archimedes prefers to keep both feet on the present ground, rather than thinking about the future.
"The Sword in the Stone" is not one of the greatest movies of Disney's career, but it nevertheless remains an instructive and funny picture, the kind of work that only Walt and his partners can make.
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