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45 reviews in total 
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Skyfall (2012)
3 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Best of the Craig Bond Films, 17 November 2012

Daniel Craig is without question in this reviewers opinion a great actor. The roles he has played as James Bond are not his greatest work and the reason can be the the stories and the Bond character are not demanding enough to pull the best out of Craig. Bond has had a formula that must be followed or he fails at being bond. His vodka martinis, his trysts with and treatment of "girls" or beautiful women requires little talent. In fact requires little less than to look, walk and talk in a suave and sexy way. But that's our James Bond so those who play Bond are judged not by their overall acting ability but by the way they play the role to our satisfaction. So we develop the fan clubs for Connery and Moore and even Brosnan for those that managed to play the role for at least three times.

Craig, in Skyfall does his most credible job as Bond and show his overall acting ability to a greater degree, making this film one where Bond is a bit deeper than most others. I can say that the Craig section of the Bond films did release us from the obligatory monster sets and monster king pin "Dr Evil" kind of villains. No kitty cats to pet and no sharks to feed and that is a relief because then the story has to rely on other things to entertain the audience.

Skyfall does take the audience to other spots in the world but the focus of the story is London and Great Britain. Is this good? Perhaps but London herself is no a very sexy city to use as a backdrop or even as a main stage. In spite of many great individual buildings with interesting architecture, it does not have that overall sense of intrigue or sexiness. Perhaps it is simply not different enough for most of us. But the story is an English story this time and the villain targets London for his nastiness.

The villain is the number one best villain as far as character is concerned. Javier Bardem, the super evil killer tank that could not be stopped in No Country for Old Men, the one that had ice cold freon running in his veins has has been out done by Bardem in the role of Silva. So totally ruthless without a drip of conscience for the evil he plans and carries out you are amazed at how much of a connection you make with him. Just as the quote from Goldfinger has become almost universally known James Bond asks "Do you expect me to talk" Goldfinger replies "No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die." The quote from Skyfall will be Bond:"(dodging an explosion) Was that for me?" and Silva's reply with a laugh is: "No, but that is". If you've seen the film you know what the scene is. If not, you'll still be just as surprised.

Special Effects are not the star in this film as much as the often have been but the stunts still reign supreme. Bond can still do things and survive things that would kill the ordinary man in fit condition. But that is why we like him. He is virtually indestructible. In Skyfall however, his mortality is shown more than any other Bond film to date. This seems to make him even more of a hero. He suffers and yet does not fall, well that's not exactly accurate.

All said, Bond is more human, more sensitive and less a chauvinistic brute wrapped in suave dressing. He is more one of us and for that all the more amazing what he accomplishes without super powers, super gimmicks and super effects. It is a pleasant relief that after 50 years in the field, Bond can still carry the flag.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy Excellent, 26 April 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Once I rate this 10 what more is there to say. The movie could not be better. First, the story is one of the best spy stories ever written - especially about the cold war. Second, the technical aspects are also top shelf. It does help to know the story, to have read the book or to at least have seen the Masterpiece Theater production of the same title with Alex Guiness. Both actors, by the way play the character superbly. But if you have not seen or read the story, then pay attention. Every scene, every dialog is important. Many flash backs and the story is not told in a linear manner. Keep the various time frames straight and you will put the story together as it develops. Do not expect the unexpected...expect that George Smiley will find the mole and will settle many accounts, as will others. Colin Firth is again one of the best actors ever to be on screen. Somehow he can absorb the person he is playing to such an extent, we forget it is Colin. Tom Cruz cold learn a lot from Colin. Not all the dead stay dead so keep your eyes open.

True Grit (2010)
Not a 10 or even a 9 But Still a Great Movie and Story., 29 January 2011

Not a 10 or even a 9 but the Coen brothers bring their superb touch to the remake. As a avid Western buff, I was very eager to see this film. I had seen the 1969 film in a tacky little theater in Virginia Beach 41 years ago. Nothing about this newer film is really better than the John Wayne version but it still holds up as a great and entertaining film.

The two films very obviously have two different approaches to tell the story originally created by Charles Portis in the book. From a different beginning and a very different ending, we see that this is a story about Mattie and not Roster. Marshall Cogburn is very important but the story comes from the journals of Mattie Ross' life and not from Roster Cogburn. While watching the film I kept looking for a larger presence in the story from Cogburn and then realized that this was the greatest difference and the Cogburn character was not the driving force as in the first version 41 years ago. I believe it is because, as good as Jeff Bridges is, he is not and never will attain the stature John Wayne had achieved by the time he played this role. But because of that, it was more Cogburn and less Bridges.

Better points include a more realistic age for the actor playing Mattie, a 14 year old girl. LeBoef is a more believable character, young and very dedicated to his calling. Maybe only a Texan can appreciate the difference between Matt Damon's and Glen Campbell's performance. The exchange with Col. G. Stonehill is better not having to play it around the persona of Strother Martin. It shows the intelligence and presence of mine that Mattie possessed.

Points that were weaker include a very awkward LeBoef in his first conversation with Mattie. The obvious age difference sets this up. I was not convinced by Josh Brolin's portrayal of Chaney the murderer. Continuity errors are rampant as if the audience will believe in an 8 shot revolver or an amazing shrinking and growing rope.

But never mind any of this, the movie is from the same book and this screenplay has less of a fairy tale ending than did movie made in 1969.

The Ghost (2010)
8 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
The Story Makes the Movie, as it Should, 24 April 2010

Whatever one may think of Roman Polanski for other reasons, no fan of film-craft can honestly deny that he is an excellent film maker. As a director, he understands how fundamentally important a good story is in the making of a good film. His skill is very clear in Ghost Writer.

The story's main character, "The Ghost" is hired to take finish a writing job because the first ghost turned up dead. The book is supposed to be the memoirs of a former British Prime Minister Adam Lang. Under extreme time pressure from the publishers, the Ghost must juggle the priorities and interests of almost everyone else in the story. He quickly realizes that he has become a tool for influences he does not really know. Although he protests the increasing mystery with, "I'm not a proper writer you know, I'm a ghost writer and not an investigation reporter." But he can not avoid the draw to investigate. And so is the viewer is drawn into the story trying to solve the questions that keep coming up.

It was such a relief to watch a film where the camera is actually placed on a tripod. It is also a relief to watch a film that does not have to inject naked bodies and steamy sex scene even though we do get a brief shot of the Ghost's bare buttock and there is a sexual encounter, the sequence enhances the story by allowing the viewer to exercise their imagination. Actually, the act is less important the why the act takes place.

This is one movie that can very easily be spoiled if certain parts are revealed before the movie is viewed. Avoid the reviews that contain spoilers until after you have seen the movie - especially if you want the greatest satisfying experience possible.

2 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
A movie that ends where it was headed - nonsense in nowhere., 20 April 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Even the collection of great actors Clooney, Bridges, McGregor, and Spacey was not enough to give this movie a reason to watch. I'm convinced that this movie was written while the author was at a party with friends and was stoned or high. It must have been a group effort with each friend providing their ideas for the story and each one is included.

There is essentially no plot. One can hardly even write a synopsis of this film - but we try. "Looser journalist Bob Wilton, desperate to make some kind of mark in his world and impress his wayward adulterous wife, decides to take at face value the story of one certified lunatic. To get the story, Wilton must track down lunatics #2 & #3 to research the story. In the process #2 takes him on a journey through Iraq through what is a drug-head trip and Wilton converts himself into a lunatic. Wilton becomes his imagination and lives as if it is his reality." That might make a good story but, it doesn't have the cohesiveness to make any sense and each unbelievable event has no or very little connection to the rest of the film. Some of the events are funny such as when #2 stares at a cloud in and effort to practice his "cloud bursting" skill, he takes his eyes off the road in a flat dessert and runs into the only rock able to total his vehicle. It must have been the revenge of the cloud that placed the rock in the middle of the flat road. When finally we get to see #2 stare at a goat, the joke is dead, as dead as the goat and not at all funny.

There is a funny part, when the whole "camp" is fed LSD by #3 in its breakfast of eggs and in its drinking water. The troops begin to trip and actually do things that are hilarious. Some get into a tank and drive it through the security gate and into the desert with no destination or mission, it goes back and forth in the background of the following scenes. The breach in the fence allows the prisoners of war, - oh, this post was a holding jail for captured enemy we see - to escape into the desert. Again the problem is, it has no connection to the rest of the story.

Without a story, there can be no climax and no ending so the writers and director have Lunatic #2 & #3 fly off into the sun in a helicopter (that seems to come out of nowhere) leaving Wilton, now certified lunatic #4 to "carry on the mission". We ask, what mission? The copter literally flies off into the sun like the cowboy rides off into the sunset in a western. But that is not then ending after all. We are smitten with having to watch Wilton go back home and come to terms with a wife that prefers another man and maybe that is what was needed for his peace of mind all along - to be rid of an unloving woman both physically and emotionally.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
What it is and What it is not, 17 April 2010

I came into possession of this film with the purchase of a 5 disk/20 movie set called "Spaghetti Westerns" Apache Blood does not belong in this collection but that is not my greatest disappointment with the film.

The story and its ending is the only value this film has and we will give 4 stars for that alone. No other effort in the making of this film deserves any stars at all. The directing is awful and the only thing worse is the editing which was probably done by the director. At first I thought that the film was a student project done by a student that flunked out of film school. It is a sin what was done to a provocative story about the treatment of the so called "Indians" (native Americans) because of the prejudice, bigotry and hate of the invaders of their land.

We make no comment on the acting. It is difficult to critique the actors performances with the obvious sub-amateurish directing. The director just did not know when to say "cut"; did not understand screen direction; did not know that one does not have to play the whole journey or day to communicate distance or time.

Extremely protracted scenes of being on the run or on the chase made this movie too long by 30-40 minutes. We can not blame the editor too much since the director probably provided minimal options. Then, to add even more, the end has a recap that is totally unnecessary and presumes the viewer won't understand the ending without it. Instead, if you do watch this movie, stop it when the recap begins as it only confuses what is the best part of the movie.

One reviewer here states that if you make it half way through then stick around for the end, its worth it.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Count Leo Tolstoy, a life revealed., 15 April 2010

Because of "War and Peace" even those of us who had never read it or even seen the movie or knew that he was a Count thought we knew who Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was. He was the Russian author that wrote that immense tome. We are wrong, unless we are a scholar and student of Russian life, history and literature, we've never know who Leo Tolstoy was.

Revered in his time and and by the Russians still today, Tolstoy was in the opinion of this critic and many others, one of the top three novelists of all time. Time magazine compiled and published a list of the 10 greatest novels of all time, Tolstoy's War and Peace and Anna Karenina placed took places 1 and 3 respectively.

The Last Station is the story of the last year of the Count's life. Played by Christopher Plummer, he is still vigorous and active but he is also fragile and under the constant watch of his physician. All around him seem to know that he is at the end of his days. Influences in his life range from Chertkov, a devotee and somewhat leader of the "Tolstoyan movement" that has captured many of the youth of the time. It was about self awareness, self denial, nonresistance and nonviolence. The movements principles as put forth by Tolstoy influenced Gandhi and Martin Luther King. But Tolstoy exempted himself from the rules - most notably chastity. In his 80's he was still sexually active after fathering 13 children with his wife.

The Last Station is powerful, thoughtful, and shows a very spiritual man who struggles with his convictions. Chertkov is played by Paul Giamatti superbly. He is passionate to get Tolstoy to leave his works and legacy to the Russian people. Tolstoy's wife Sofya, played by Helen Mirren knows him, loves him and is passionate to stop Tolstoy from robbing their children of their inheritance. The conflict between Sofya and Chertkov has no love lost, they despise and distrust each other as much as two can.

Examples of the Tolstoyan followers and their idealist youth are seen in the characters of Valentin and Masha. Valentin is hired by Chertkov to be Tolstoy's personal secretary and Chertkov's mole by keeping track of the activities of Sofya. Masha is the blessed relief of youth and love in the story and can see right through Vanentin's wobbly commitment to Tolstoyan life style rules.

This is a movie that will rank at the very top of our list for a long time, it is deep, satisfying, sorrowful, disheartening, joyous and painful. It is life as it was and is for great people of influence and wealth. I keep the rating one star down from 10 because even though Plummer does a faultless job of playing Tolstoy, I kept seeing slivers of the personality of Captain Von Trapp. When an actor has played such a great role, he/she have either made the first character so much of them or they have taken on so much of the first role that it shows up in subsequent characters they play - especially for the avid movie buff.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Surprise November, 10 January 2010

I watched this movie because of Sandy Dennis. I don't know a lot about Dennis but I have been watching her movies to become more familiar. She has a quirky way about her that it wonderfully exploited in this film. She never fully reveals why she does what she does with her men in this movie. Whether it is truly to provide therapy for her guests or if it is a clever way of having intimacy without commitment is no made clear since she has an angle in just about every other enterprise she runs.

What makes this movie good is how well Dennis play the character which fits her quirkiness. While the movie is a great comedy, it has a compelling ending. Of course if you've seen the 2001 version, then it has already spoiled it for you. But if you, like me, have not watched the 2001 version because....well because then this movie will be very enjoyable. There is no Keneau stardom stardom to get in the way and you will enjoy the characters.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Authentic Holmes, At Last!, 2 January 2010

EXPERIENCE THE REAL SHERLOCK HOLMES This is the authentic Sherlock Holmes, not the antiseptic version played by Basil Rathbone or Jeremy Bretts. The Robert Downey Jr. Holmes is closer to the Holmes created by Sir Arther Conan Doyle than any other portrayal I have seen. Holmes was a mess. An addict of many things and almost uncivilized. Holmes was also brilliant and expert in many things which this movie shows when no other have. As most genius characters, he did not fit in his world or his world's expectation of proper behavior.

In this film, Guy Ritchie has left his marks, for certain and one of his marks is to portray life as it was or is in any period his characters are set. London itself was a filthy dirty city during that period. Good personal hygiene was pretty much found only among the upper class. So the setting is authentic as is the character. For those who have trouble understanding the story, or finding the mystery to be solved, that is, in itself authentic to the books. Frequently Holmes is solving a different mystery than the readers (and in this case the viewers) are led to believe. Twists and turn-abouts abound, authentic to a Doyle plot. In the end...well in then end I will not spoil it, but will strongly recommend this movie as the best Sherlock Holmes I have seen to date. If you want to experience the authentic Holmes - a genius misfit, then see this movie.

Avatar (2009)
7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Excellent on so many levels, 2 January 2010

We have only one complaint about this movie. Many good reviews have already been written here...many also are spoilers which is a shame. The experience should not be spoiled by anything other than ones own imagination which, for this film is not difficult. It does not take much predicting to preceded the story in your mind as you watch. Very few surprises are written into the story but that in NO WAY takes away from the power of the story. All a viewer needs to know before hand are what is presented in story synopsis which do not reveal the ending or resolution of any number of conflicts that arise in a good story. We compare the impact of this movie to that of the Lord of the Rings. The fantasy creatures become very believable very quickly and give the viewer a sense of being among them. We completely forgot all the hype about the animation and effects and watched the film in 3D (highly recommended) as if we were watching life action. Our only complaint is in the casting of Sigourney Weaver. She does not have the ability to act beyond her past roles. Alien clings to her like irremovable paint. The film excelled in finding so many good actors that were not beset by past roles. Putting Sigourney Weaver in the role she plays could only be compared to casting Nicolas Cage instead of Sam Worthington and John Travolta instead of Steven Lang. Thank goodness Cameron had the sense not to do that.

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