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898 reviews in total 
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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Refreshing and controversial reinterpretation of the biblical story., 17 December 2014
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie is not an updated version of the 1956 movie The Ten Commandments. Instead it offers a new interpretation of the biblical story of the exiting of the Hebrews from Egypt. This movie tells the story not as a biblical epic but as an action/adventure. Instead of being a morality tale, with forces of good and bad clearly delineated, the story rather is about who will win in a struggle for power. Throughout the movie, Moses' actual identity remains ambiguous. Even Moses himself is never certain of it. What he is certain of, however, is his foster brother, Rameses II, tried to kill him. And this is where this movie and the 1956 movie diverge the furthest. Whereas in the former Rameses is portrayed as the personification of evil, in this movie his character undergoes the fullest development. This movie portrays a Pharaoh who in many respects is a victim of circumstances. The plagues, which are a result of divine intervention, are now presented as result of natural occurrences. The question is: at what point will Rameses connect these plagues to his policy toward the the slaves? In the 1956 movie the audience knows why Rameses is being punished: he has incurred the wrath of the Lord. In this movie, such a connection is at best tenuous. In this movie God's messenger is represented as a child. This has significant psychological meaning. Moses feels guilty over having left his family, and so when communing with the child, he is in effect communing with his son, Gershon. This implies that Moses is psychotic. As for Rameses, once he decides that the slaves are more of liability than an asset, he frees them. Moses wins but his victory is qualified because now he has to take on the responsibility for guiding an entire nation, which means he can become another Pharaoh. This fear is not unfounded because his political legitimacy ever fully established. Indeed, his mental state is always a question. As for Rameses, he is left vanquished, but his kingdom, though battered, still intact. Who really wins is a coin toss. As for the performances, Christian Bale turns in a masterful performance as Moses. It is impossible to fairly compare his performance with that of Charlton Heston's. Except for the name, both portray two entirely different characters. The same applies to Joel Edgerton's excellent portrayal as Rameses II. Edgerton's Rameses is complex, three-dimensional person who is neither wanton nor corrupt, but is driven to extreme measures by circumstances beyond his control. The most dramatic moment in the movie is when Rameses's son dies. Here Rameses, and Neferteri, are in torment, their loss so profound as to defy words. Later on Rameses, not without justification, asks Moses, what kind of people can worship a god that kills children. Moses can only reply that Hebrew children did not die which evades the question and just further infuriates Rameses and and raises a question as to which character, Moses's or Rameses's, personifies evil?

0 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Tepid., 2 December 2014
6/10

This movie is only mildly humorous. The plot is goofy but not that funny. Why this movie is so tepid is a subject that is open to debate. After all, it is not a cheaply made production. It has a wonderful cast and has solid cinematography which is meant to intensify the excitement. Maybe it has to do with the essential banality of the story. Comedy of course does not have to be high brow; low brow can work too. This movie chooses the low brow approach and the result is low brow. If one is a fan of low brow humor, then this movie should prove entertaining. Yet such a result is not assured. The story is a cross between a Three Stooges short and Abbott and Costello, but lacks the sharpness and originality of both acts. In short, this movie offers no new or innovative comedy routines but rather a tired rehashing of standard low brow fare, hence it's mild humor. The movie attempts to be raunchy but comes off as gratuitously distasteful, which by its very nature is not humorous.

Updated version of the James M. Cain novel., 23 November 2014
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This series bears only a superficial resemblance to the 1945 movie and even less of a resemblance to the novel, not so much in terms of deviation from the actual storyline but in terms of character development. Here the principal character, Mildred Pierce, is transformed from a frumpy, conventional, clueless, hapless, lower middle class woman into a sultry, vivacious, sexually provocative vixen who pursues her goals through sex. Her daughter observes all this and tries to emulate her mother, which produces conflict because there is only room for one vixen in the Pierce home. Mildred goes through men like a knife through butter (to use a well traveled simile). First she drives away her first husband, then shacks up with her lawyer, then hooks up with a member of the "gentry" (he plays polo) who becomes her second husband and boy toy, and then when things don't work out for her, winds up back with her first husband who apparently is a gluten for punishment. Mildred's manipulativeness is matched only by her emotional insensitivity which at times is so transparent that it is a wonder that anyone can be found anywhere hear her. Amazingly, Mildred cannot understand why her daughter, Veda, hates her, revealing a denseness of thought which underscores Mildred's shallowness and limited intellect. If any character in this story has a legitimate gripe, it is Veda. Growing up in an intellectually and spiritually stale environment, and surrounded by people whose sense of social consciousness stops at the dinner table, the bar room or the bedroom, it is not surprising that Veda cannot wait to flee from everything that reminds her of her mother. Her mother's universe is like a gaping black hole (another simile)- it is empty. In fairness to Mildred, she is a product of a culture that values superficiality, so maybe she can't help being what she is - a superficial and pretentious person. As for the series itself, it is high-quality production that captures the smallness and drabness of Mildred's humdrum world. Ironically, set in "sunny" Southern California, almost down the road from Hollywood, in the 1930s, this story is anything but sunny. Most of the scenes are dark, drab and full of shadows, like Mildred's personality. Mildred rarely laughs, her usual countenance is a scowl. She's also cheap and a penny pincher. There is nothing heroic about her. She is distant from her employees. She has one friend - her business partner, and even that friendship is tenuous. When in need of advice or support, she turns to men, but only when it suits her needs. She is selfish, self-centered, judgmental and prissy. Although the men in her life care for her, she treats them like dirt. There is nothing about her that is dignified. But she excels in two areas: sex and cooking, using both to her advantage to survive in a culture where men predominate and people like eating good food. As a parent, she is emotionally and physically abusive. She is not a above physically smacking her daughter. At times the story becomes almost morbid as the dysfunctional nature of the mother-daughter relationship becomes more apparent and extreme. Probably the most appealing character in the story is Monty Beragon who sees through Mildred's pretentious and manipulative ways, for which he pays the price by becoming a convenient target for Mildred's wrath. Kate Winslett's performance as Mildred Pierce is outstanding. In this series she "is" Mildred Pierce. She captures the essence of the character to the letter. Her performance is a tour de force. She deserves any and all accolades she may have earned for her performance. To compare Winslett's performance with Joan Crawford's would be unfair. Both play different characters in different renditions of the story. Guy Pearce's performance is also excellent as the cynical yet honest Monty Beragon, Mildred's lover/second-husband. Beragon is the only one who has the courage to confront Mildred. Far from being a heal, Monty Beragon is symbol of the beaten-down Depression-era man who has lost everything except his name and is trying to salvage what remains of his self-esteem. He is struggling to maintain his dignity while his world is falling apart. He cares for Mildred, and for a while Mildred reciprocates as long as she can use him to satisfy her own physical needs and wish to improve her social status. The series contains explicit sex scenes which further reveal Mildred's sultry and lascivious nature and magnify the lie that she is living. She uses the facade of a rational businesswoman to hide her own social and intellectual inferiority. The only thing she has going for her is sex. She needs men to help prop up her fragile ego. Veda knows this and detests her mother's phoniness which Veda loathes. Mildred believes that everyone wants to use her when in fact it's the other way around - she's using them, shamelessly. If anyone has any doubts as to Kate Winslett's abilities as an actress, one need only to watch this series and those doubts will be dispelled.

Excellent and provocative treatment of a controversial figure., 21 November 2014
10/10

This movie offers a non-sensationalized account of the career of Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Although the movie is not unbiased, it still manages to avoid becoming an outright polemic arguing in favor of assisted suicide. The movie presents both sides of the issue. The title character, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, is portrayed as a victim of a justice system that is too inflexible and biased to afford him justice. Hence, he is treated as a criminal for doing something that he believes is beneficial his patients, which is assisting them in exercising their right to die. Dr. Kevorkian is portrayed as a crusader for patients' rights which he claims are being ignored by a medical establishment that would rather permit a patient to die in pain than to end the suffering. Kevorkian's argument is compelling. The problem is, as depicted by the movie, that Dr. Kevorkian is assisting his patients without any outside controls as would normally be expected for any kind of treatment modality. This leaves him vulnerable to criminal prosecution which occurs, thus effectively ending his medical career. Al Pacino's resemblance to the actual Jack Kevorkian is uncanny; his performance is outstanding. He captures Kevorkian's rage, sense of indignation and his commitment to his cause. There is no question that Dr. Kevorkian believed that he was doing right by his patients. He knows that he is going it alone and that it is only a matter of time before he is stopped.

5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
An attempt at epic story telling that does not quite make it., 20 November 2014
6/10

A long, tedious movie. It attempts to be an epic but fails. It attempts to say something profound, but the message is garbled. The movie attempts to mix jumbled pseudo-scientific dialogue with a melodramatic subplot involving a father and daughter, producing a muddled story with little dramatic power. The movie contains elements from 2001: A Space Odyssey and the Matrix, with its bombastic musical flourishes and the special effects meant to depict extra-dimensionality, all pure Hollywood. Matthew McConaughey is the principal actor; his character, Cooper, is the central figure of the story; the rest of the cast are supporting characters (their placement in the credits notwithstanding). McConaughey gives an interesting performance, which includes several scenes in which he weeps, which for a leading man is remarkable. The depiction of earth as a doomed planet is unconvincing and the plan to colonize other planets half-baked and one that tests the limits of plausibility. Being a science-fiction movie, stretching the boundaries of science for literary purposes is to be expected, but this movie asks the audience to accept certain premises that just do not make sense (e.g, acceleration of time; relationship of time to gravity; time as a material object). This movie is proof that when Hollywood attempts to deal with time warps, time holes, multi-dimensionality, relativity, and other complex scientific theories, the results can be less than optimum.

They are grumpy, they are old, and they are men., 15 November 2014
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

They are grumpy. Going at each other. Nasty. Neighbors. And it's all because of women. According to this movie, life is about sex. It's sex that keeps you young, or at least thinking young. The grumpiness is wonderful and funny. It's tit-for-tat as two oldies keep on feuding, sounding as ridiculous as they act. Introduce a woman and things get worse. Two guys fussing and fuming like two little kids, and that's because they're not getting what they crave for - tender loving care from the opposite sex. They roar like bears but they're really teddy bears who need a momma bear to keep them comfy. The movie presents an idealized portrayal of women as being naturally soft and nurturing - and it works! Introducing the sexual factor is not a literary contrivance. It's true. The movie is not making it up. The metaphorical imagery suggested by the two principals is unmistakable. John and Max are lonely men who feel so marginalized and so inadequate that they are projecting their rage onto each other. And they do some nasty things that really hurt. Ariel just adds fuel to the fire as she plays off the two men, making them even agitated. Now the sexual juices are flowing for the first time in years and they can't handle it. They are reliving puberty, but this time it has a tinge of desperation because they are old. If not now, then when? Sex is equated with life; who wins the women is the survivor. To find out who wins, watch the movie.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
You wanna make a buck? Go buy a camcorder., 15 November 2014
6/10

Some movies are good, some are not good. This movie rates in the latter category. Lou Bloom is no Travis Bickle and Nina is no Betsy and Los Angeles is no New York City circa 1976, and this story in no way even remotely approaches Taxi Driver in terms of sheer terror or its sinister portrayal of a dysfunctional society. In short, the story is flat and stale. This is because the theme of seedy people in the seedy underside of society has been done so often that it's now a cliché. One need only to watch Chinatown or Crash to get a glimpse of the underbelly of Los Angeles. Indeed, even Pretty Woman (1990) deals with that subject. The 1949 movie The Third Man is set in a city that's not only seedy, but divided into sectors as well. The relationship between Lou and Nina is stretching the limits of plausibility. Lou is not that maladjusted and Nina is not that desperate. Lou hits on a way to make a living and he's good at what he does. There's nothing wrong with that. He likes being self-employed and being his own boss. It satisfies him emotionally. Good for him.

High-quality entertainment., 27 October 2014
9/10

This movie is endearing and entertaining. It is endearing because of the story and the setting. It's about working class people trying to hustle their way through life in New York City. Thomas Mitchell gives what may be his best performance in cinema. He dominates the movie; he also has the best lines which he delivers with gusto. Rita Hayworth is absolutely charming as a dance hall girl from Brooklyn (PS: Hayworth actually was from Brooklyn). Douglas Fairbanks Jr. is the tough guy whose brittle on the outside but really a good guy, something that he is trying, unsuccessfully, to hide. The movie is compact, well-acted, and dramatic, with lots of humor interspersed throughout the story. In short, this movie provides high-quality entertainment.

Birdman (2014)
12 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
Michael Keaton is back., 24 October 2014
10/10

Michael Keaton is back. He thoroughly dominates this movie. He drives it forward, he makes it happen. Keaton's presence is so powerful that it shapes the entire story. This movie is about personal identity, artistic integrity, and the meaning of life. What is someone supposed to do if they believe that their life is a sham and a waste? At what point does the actor as artist stop dishing out garbage to earn a buck? How is one supposed to make sense out of their life when they believe they are a sell out? The story is set in the perfect place to deal with these issues. Where else but in a theater can such varied themes be played out? One can empathize with Riggan's plight as his self-doubt more and more conflicts with his need to achieve something worthwhile. Can he do it? Or is he merely a hack trying to pass himself off as something that he is not? He believes himself to be a failure yet does not accept it. This contradiction generates a tidal wave of emotion that makes Riggan such an incredible character.

Fury (2014)
8 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Brutalizing effects of war., 21 October 2014
10/10

In terms of sheer dramatic intensity, this is an excellent movie. The movie explicitly depicts the brutality of war. In doing so, the movie takes certain literary licenses. First, the movie shows US Army soldiers committing war crimes, specifically the murder of prisoners of war and wanton acts of looting and plundering. The movie also depicts US Army soldiers as being intoxicated, both in and outside of battle, and fraternizing with the enemy. The movie also shows US Army units planning highly risky operations relying on only the flimsiest of intelligence regarding the disposition of the opposing forces who, even at this late stage of the war, are still formidable. Nevertheless, the five principal characters, the crew of the tank, are treated with reverence, and deservedly so. Although isolated, they remain at their post to complete the mission. The heroism of the US soldiers in the European Theatre of Operation is an established historical fact. This movie is a testament to that heroism. Brad Pitt gives a compelling performance as the tank commander Sgt. Collier who so closely identifies with war that he cannot separate himself from the instrument, in this case a tank, through which he acts out his violence. The rest of the cast is also excellent, but this is Pitts' movie and in this movie he is the star.


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