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|435 reviews in total|
Scenes of a Sexual Nature has the makings of a lovely British drama - a
more subtle and less schmaltzy version of Love Actually, maybe. Indeed,
it has a cast as strong as that of Love Actually - even if less filled
with stars - and a wittier, more intelligent script. The terrific
writing and wonderful chemistry between the actors (who include Ewan
McGregor alongside slightly-lesser-known character actors like Mark
Strong, Tom Hardy, Catherine Tate, Eileen Atkins, Andrew Lincoln, Gina
McKee and Benjamin Whitrow) make almost every scene a pleasure;
whatever the movie has, works.
Unfortunately, it just has too little. There's some hint of a connection between the various stories once or twice, but it feels forced, and there's no real thematic connection either; and because stylistically it's completely plain and simple, there's no stylistic connection either (the kind that works well in Jim Jarmusch films). Which makes the whole movie little more than a series of short skits, most of which don't have any satisfying ending or real message or theme, leaving the viewer unsatisfied and a little bit hollow. There's just no real movie here. It's a decent watch and has some good scenes, but in the end it's more frustrating than it is enjoyable.
In recent years many movies, including Lilo & Stitch and The Princess
and the Frog, promised to be a "return to the classic Disney feel", but
Winnie the Pooh is the one that really did it. The new film
successfully embodies the sweet innocence of classic Disney and of the
original Pooh stories, and makes for one of the best true children's
films in recent years - one that's truly innocent in a way rarely seen
these days, and that's lots of fun for the adults too. The very
naturalistic animation is also a real pleasure, and the original songs
- some of them by indie favorites She & Him - also feel like they were
dragged right out of the original Disney films.
My only complaint about Winnie the Pooh would be that it's too short; though interestingly, in a way it's the first real feature length film to focus on Pooh himself - "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" was really a collection of three short films. Following several movies that deviated greatly from the source material - like the Piglet and Tigger movies - the 2011 version returns to the original Pooh stories, and creates a single plot combined from several of the short stories. It works fantastically well, and rest assured that there's little reason for even the most vehement Pooh fan to be concerned about the treatment of the wonderful original books.
Falling Down is one of the strongest action films from the 1990's, and
a sharp reminder that Joel Schumacher was once capable of subtlety and
smart stylistic choices, rather than just throwing out every visual
tool at his disposal at the camera.
The story of one ordinary man who had enough of society and goes on a violent rampage reminded many people of Taxi Driver, a comparison which doesn't do Falling Down justice. At the heart of Falling Down is a fast-paced action movie, and the psychological depth and social condemnation of Taxi Driver is nowhere to be found. However, the film does do a terrific job of throwing the viewer into the protagonist's neurotic, claustrophobic state of mind with minimalistic but effective editing and camera work.
Veterans Michael Douglas and Robert Duvall put a lot of heart into characters who, on paper, are little more than clichés. In the end, what makes Falling Down work so well is that in spite of a script quite rich in clichés and one-liners, it feels like an intimate independent film as much as a Hollywood action blockbuster.
If you've never seen a Tinto Brass movie, this is not a good place to
start. Tinto is at his best when he's not taking himself seriously, and
in Monamour he attempts some sort of depth that he just can't pull off.
What's worse, the plot feels like a recycled version of one of his
better films - 1992's Cosi fan Tutte - but with all the wrong choices
made; Cosi fan Tutte was light-hearted and featured a strong female
lead in Claudia Koll, who was in charge of her own fate the whole time;
the lead in Monamour is a despicable and unlikable character who
succumbs to the will of men around her. While the two characters end up
having similar journeys, the viewer just can't forgive Monamour's Marta
as he did Diana from Cosi fon tutte. And the fact that the movie takes
itself so seriously makes the erotica disturbing and off-putting,
unlike the playfulness in Cosi fon Tutte.
Monamour has good cinematography and some well-shot sex scenes which are both a given with Tinto, but the sex is more disturbing than it is enticing. While Cosi fon Tutte was almost feminist (sort of) and is lots of fun for a couple to watch together, Monamour feels more like a horny old man's fantasy, and it just doesn't work.
Tinto Brass is usually referred to as either a misunderstood genius or a talentless hack. Cosi fan tutte ("All Ladies Do It") proves that he's neither one. When he doesn't take himself too seriously (which, unfortunately, he does quite often) the man is perfectly capable of creating fun, well-polished, strict entertainment. Cosi fan tutte certainly slips into the realm of pornography on occasion, but it has a sense of lightness and fun that breaks the ice and avoids real discomfort, and even, in some ways, a certain feminist sensibility (though the moral of the story shouldn't be taken as a very serious statement). It's a funny, sexy, beautifully shot erotic comedy that doesn't drag along too much and should be quite a lot of fun for open-minded couples to watch together.
Maybe I'm just too old to appreciate it, but finally seeing Superbad for the first time I just can't figure out what the big deal is. It's not that it's bad - it's just extremely generic. It's a teen sex comedy with crude, familiar jokes and gags, lots of slapstick, decent chase scenes and a couple of gross-out moments. It's completely beyond me how a movie like Superbad is considered by so many 'the best comedy ever made' - even if you ignore the existence of more intelligent comedies of the past like The Big Lebowski, Airplane, and the entire catalogs of the Marx Brothers, Mel Brooks and Woody Allen (the list could go on and on), even in its own limited genre there is very little to tell Superbad apart from the rest. It doesn't help that the two leads - played by Jonah Hill and Michael Cera - aren't interesting or likable (though they're both fine comedians who do their best) and the romantic interests are completely flat. Actually, the only laughs in the movie come from Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Seth Rogen and Bill Hader who are supposed to serve as some sort of side story - but if the side story is more interesting than the main plot, something is wrong. Superbad has no subtlety, no subtext, no real originality and is probably best watched while drunk or high.
The mater of the courtroom - Sidney Lumet - returned to the genre he
made his own 25 years before in 12 Angry Men, and this time he was
armed with a script by David Mamet and with Paul Newman in the lead. A
dream team like this promises nothing less than superb filmmaking, and
The Verdict indeed delivers; it's a practically flawless legal drama,
wonderfully and wittily scripted, and Newman delivers yet another
fantastic performance in his much celebrated career. He creates a
realistic, multi-faceted character who gets the audience fully invested
in the trial at the center of the story - this time not around a murder
or a rape, but the less sexy but just as important world of medical
The Verdict is, to all intents and purposes, a nearly perfect movie. It's entirely a genre film though - it lacks a special something that could have made it a timeless classic by its own right like 12 Angry Men or Witenss For the Prosecution, there isn't a strong moral dilemma, a strong twist or an interesting enough conflict, and the ending is oddly anti-climactic. Ultimately it's more about the personal journey taken by Paul Newman's character than it is about his conflict with any other character, or about the trial at hand. This just stops it short of being a classic, but it's still a great movie and a captivating character-driven drama.
There's no point in serious argument about whether or not The Image is
pornography, because it clearly is. Though it may not be considered
hardcore pornography in the sense that there's no penetration shown
on-screen, the sexual content is more explicit and shocking than any
porn you've ever seen, to the point of going beyond arousing and into
But The Image is also unmistakably art, and it's one of the few films that managed to merge the two successfully, much more so than the soft erotic dramas which were a dime a dozen in the 70's and 80's. Rather than just romanticizing sex, The Image is a disturbing and intelligent film about domination and sexual psychology, and in between the sex scenes you'll find surprising amounts of character development and a tight script (excluding the god-awful narration, which I could really do without); add to that excellent acting from the three leads - especially Rebecca Brooke, who truly sells her performance with her shockingly convincing face and body language (not to mention how gorgeous and sensual she is), and gorgeous cinematography which juxtaposes the brutal violence of the acts with the pastoral and serene French backdrops, to a truly eerie and enticing result.
It goes without saying that The Image isn't for everyone. It succeeds as pornography - being enticing and arousing even for those with barely even a fleeting whimsical interest in S&M - but it's also very disturbing and difficult to watch. But if you can stomach it, it's definitely recommended.
Last Night is an original and intelligent Canadian independent film
that takes a literal look at the phrase "live each day like it was the
last day of your life"; it starts with the hypothetical situation in
which the world is about to end, and the date and even the time are
known to everybody (don't look for any scientific logic behind that -
the actual method of the apocalypse is left intentionally unclear), and
follows several characters who have different ideas of how they want to
spend that final day.
The concept is appealing and immediately creates an infinite number of possibilities; the script makes the most of it, though I feel it could have been better. My main problem is with the main character - played by writer/director Don McKellar - who takes up a large chunk of the screen time but is far less interesting than most of the secondary characters (this is not because of McKellar's acting but mainly because the character is probably an avatar for McKellar himself and therefore far less extreme). This, couple with acting that is sometimes great but often wooden and lacking in emotion (a strange trait of many Canadian independent films) makes the film less effective emotionally than it should have been, and keeps it in the category of though-provoking allegory and intellectual exercise. As such, it's a wonderful little film and a very unusual one.
The Running Man won't appear on anybody's list of best Stephen King
adaptation (there's hardly any similarity between the novella and the
movie) and as far as sci-fi movies from the 80's go it's a far cry from
intelligent, brooding pieces like Blade Runner, Alien, 1984 or heck,
even Back to the Future. But in spite of all its flaws - the clunky,
campy vision of the future; Schwarzenegger's performance that is bad
even by his meager standards; the script full of silly puns and
one-liners - it's still very watchable, very entertaining, and even, at
times, poignant and effective.
Despite taking it in a much lighter and more campy direction, the movie managed to maintain the main points King was trying to get across, and those are still relevant; while The Running Man TV show is clearly defined as a spoof of pro-wrestling and the growing fondness for violence in entertainment, it's every bit as easy to compare it to today's reality shows, and it should be remembered that it predates The Hunger Games, Battle Royale, Black Mirror and other movies and novels that toyed with similar ideas. Arnie and everyone else ham it up a bit too much for the analogy, and the cautionary tale that hides beneath the surface, to really be taken seriously, but Richard Dawson as the sleazy host is enough to sell it, and he delivers the best performance of the movie and one of the best villains of the 80's.
When all's said and done, it's important to remember that The Running Man is still a movie which was made in the 80's, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. That should be enough to clarify that it's not to be taken too seriously, and that plot holes and bad acting come with the territory. If you watch it seeking nothing but silly entertainment and action, you'll get all that, and maybe a little bit of subtext while you're at it.
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