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raktratt

5 reviews in total 
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Under Fire (1983)
33 out of 37 people found the following review useful:
Revolution in Latin America: Salvador (1986) vs Under Fire (1983), 8 November 2005
9/10

A version of this comparison has already been posted over at "Salvador" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091886/

Salvador is Olvier Stone's best work and James Woods' finest performance. Perhaps my only regret about this movie has to do with it not going nearly far enough in depicting the brutality of the US client regime in El Salvador. But this observation does not count, as it doesn't have anything to do with the film as presented. A critique of Salvador would do much better to note that there are very few films about the political situation in Central America, period. Persons who are interested in the subject matter might do well to compare this Stone effort with the much earlier Under Fire (1983), a film which boasts superlative performances by Nick Nolte and Gene Hackman. Under Fire is perhaps one of the most under appreciated films, not just of the 1980s, but of all time. Both Under Fire and Salvador are head and shoulders above Ken Loach's limited tale of a Nicaraguan refugee's individual trauma - Carla's Song (made much later in 1996). Both earlier films were made at the time Central America was a major obsession of the Reagan Administration (which went so far as to suggest AK-47 toting Sandinistas were about to invade the Texas border). On account of this background alone, the respective cast and crews of both films deserve the sort of praise we should usually reserve for true artists rather than Hollywood's employees.

Both Salvador and the much earlier Under Fire are very close in their subject matter: portraying disinterested journalists who only after becoming aware of the gravity of the situation in which they find themselves turn unsympathetic towards clients of the American Empire. The sort of journalists which have been entirely purged from the corporate-owned "mainstream" or "embedded" press in the United States (and the EU too).

Both films do an outstanding job of noting the protagonists' rivals in the form of spin doctors for the regime whether from the US State Department or the corporate media. Characters like Salvador's ANS reporter Pauline Axelrod (played by Valerie Wildman) force us to recall the perverted scribblings of James Lemoyne (New York Times), the godfather of Embedded American Journalism; his students honored in that tribute to the corporate press, Welcome to Sarajevo (1997). Call that film for what it is: the anti-Salvador.

Under Fire goes much deeper than Stone's film in questioning the ethics of journalism and the sort of circumstances which compel individuals to look at the bigger picture. The depiction of the conflict between Hackman and Nolte, on both personal and professional levels, makes it a very rewarding film. Salvador's portrait of a troubled has-been photojournalist who undergoes a sort of radical shock therapy in a war zone is different, but certainly no less interesting.

I have to give the decisive edge to Under Fire for drawing much more attention to the nature and breadth of the foreign support upon which the corrupt Central American dictatorships relied. Salvador has a US helicopter turn up in the middle of a battle, an ambassador portrayed as indifferent, and that's about it. Under Fire, in contrast, has excellent performances by a young Ed Harris and Jean-Louis Tritignant as pro-regime killers, roles which draw attention to the nature and morality of those embattled dictatorships.

Salvador counters with a much more interesting profile of some of the members of the so-called "government" and its military. In Under Fire, we just see Anastasio Somoza depicted as an insignificant car salesman type in the background who also happens to be the latest heir to the dynasty which ruled over Nicaragua for much of the 20th century. This was a wee bit dissatisfying.

The major differences between the films are technical and stylistic. Some may prefer Stone's use of tight editing and rather fanciful action sequences. I personally preferred Under Fire's determined efforts to bring out as much stark realism as possible on screen especially in the battle scenes, which are among the most authentic attempts to portray urban and guerrilla warfare in the history of cinema. No, it's not as pretty as Tom Cruise dropping bombs to the accompaniment of Kenny Loggins, and any film which reveals as much deserves special praise. One wonders if "Under Fire" or "Salvador" could be made in Hollywood today.

A 9/10 for Salvador and a 9/10 for Under Fire, and again hats off to all associated with films which one can hardly imagine being made in this Orwellian or "embedded" age.

11 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
Geraldine Macewan's Marple very good, 30 September 2005
7/10

In this most recent TV version of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, Geraldine Macewan brings some refreshing vigor and humor to the role of the spinster sleuth. Whether she's making the police look foolish for refusing to cooperate, or working her way into the confidence of witnesses and suspects, Macewan's Marple is always a pleasure to watch.

Of the four Macewan Marples I've seen, "A Murder is Announced" does not have the strongest supporting cast and this was perhaps the only significant weakness of this very well done mystery.

On the other hand, the screenplay is good, and at times quite clever. Whether it comes close to the quality of the Agatha Christie text, however, is something else again. But it's TV after all, remember that.

The Macewan Marples do offer a lot technically with very nice camera work; lighting, staging and editing which arguably serve as a partial justification for a remake of the series.

But it is Geraldine Macewan's presence on the screen which is the single best reason to view this latest incarnation of Miss Jane Marple. Macewan has this entire catalogue of facial expressions which serve as part of her take on the role. 7/10 for A Murder is Announced.

6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Fans of Christopher Guest's movies won't be disappointed, 28 September 2005
10/10

An excellent ensemble cast, excellent writing, and many, many more laughs than goals. "The Tournament" is a six-part mini series broadcast by CBC Television in early 2005 (January 3, 2005 premiere).

Fans of Christopher Guest films ("Spinal Tap" "Waiting for Guffman" "Best in Show") will instantly appreciate the effective use of the mockumentary style in portraying a small Canadian town (Briarside) and its Pee-Wee hockey team, the Farqueson Funeral Home Warriors, gearing up for a big tournament in the city of Chateauguay. Much of the focus is centered around one working class family in particular, the McConnells, with ambitious zealot Barry (Alain Goulem) living vicariously through his son, Robbie (Martin Huisman), who really prefers jazz dance and ballet to hockey. Mom Janice (Paula Boudreau) can only grouse meekly to the camera while forced to endure Barry's self-absorbed fantasy life as the father of a future NHL professional. While Barry looks at Chateauguay as just another step for Robbie on the way to the big leagues, Janice views the medium-sized Quebec city as her Paris vacation. Barry is an auto parts gopher gone bonkers with his dream, even going so far as to build a crude 50-yard vestibule connecting his home to the limits of the neighboring county so his son can play there too. As a consequence, his marriage suffers. He just can't convince Hausfrau Janice of some fundamental God-given truths such as "Vacuuming's easy...hockey..hockey's hard." He's completely oblivious to the fact his boss still has a thing for his wife Janice, a former flame back in high school. Sounds all pretty small town-ish so far, but stick with it. You'll be glad you did.

Alain Goulem, as the lead, is without question the star of the show, but the performances from the entire cast are very good. This includes the child performers, most making their debuts. Particularly endearing is the foul-mouthed Denim Farqueson (Annie Bovard), who plays goalie on a boys' team and can't stand her wimp undertaker father (Richard Jutras). Cameo appearances are usually failures, but not here. Boston Bruins and Canadian national team legend Phil Esposito appears as himself, and rises to the quality of the rest of the cast. Christian Potenza, playing Barry's best friend, and Tracy Hoyt, as sponsor Hal Farqueson's wife, are especially noteworthy.

I usually yawn at intrusive efforts to insert a little PC propaganda into a TV show such as showing off "how well our predominantly white society integrates minorities" or some such blather. So I was pleasantly surprised that the portrait of an immigrant Indian gynecologist and his family was a major part of the story and not just another patronizing exercise in tokenism. Instead, it's great fun to watch Dr. Mohindar Singh (Cas Anvar) drop his usual well-mannered reserve to go toe-to-toe with Barry and fight for son Kumar's place on the team. All of Barry's antics infuriate him, especially the deliberate mispronunciation of his boy's name as "K-mar".

The hockey action is limited to a few minutes, and it's almost always peripheral. Most of the focus remains on the antics of Barry and the other parents in the stands. This is not some lame hockey movie like Disney's Mighty Ducks series.

It's a satire, it's a comedy, it's a barrel of laughs, and yet it is also at times a very accurate reflection of Canadian culture and the struggle to endure the winter months. About the only negative criticism one can try to stick The Tournament with is the charge that such subject matter as hockey parents; soccer moms, etc. is way too easy, and you could get more than a few chuckles just by going down to any amateur hockey rink in North America. Fair enough, but that still doesn't stop people from wanting to see Will Ferrel in Kicking and Screaming, does it? I found The Tournament so much better than that well-intentioned American effort. An unqualified 10/10 for "The Tournament" (2005).

Salvador (1986)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Revolution in Latin America: Salvador (1986) vs Under Fire (1983), 27 September 2005
9/10

Salvador is Olvier Stone's best work and James Woods' finest performance. Perhaps my only regret about this movie has to do with it not going nearly far enough in depicting the brutality of the US client regime in El Salvador. But this observation does not count, as it doesn't have anything to do with the film as presented. A critique of Salvador would do much better to note that there are very few films about the political situation in Central America, period. Persons who are interested in the subject matter might do well to compare this Stone effort with the much earlier Under Fire (1983), a film which boasts superlative performances by Nick Nolte and Gene Hackman. Under Fire is perhaps one of the most under appreciated films, not just of the 1980s, but of all time. Both Under Fire and Salvador are head and shoulders above Ken Loach's limited tale of a Nicaraguan refugee's individual trauma - Carla's Song (made much later in 1996). Both earlier films were made at the time Central America was a major obsession of the Reagan Administration (which went so far as to suggest AK-47 toting Sandinistas were about to invade the Texas border). On account of this background alone, the respective cast and crews of both films deserve the sort of praise we should usually reserve for true artists rather than Hollywood's employees.

Both Salvador and the much earlier Under Fire are very close in their subject matter: portraying disinterested journalists who only after becoming aware of the gravity of the situation in which they find themselves turn unsympathetic towards clients of the American Empire. The sort of journalists which have been entirely purged from the corporate-owned "mainstream" or "embedded" press in the United States (and the EU too).

Both films do an outstanding job of noting the protagonists' rivals in the form of spin doctors for the regime whether from the US State Department or the corporate media. Characters like Salvador's ANS reporter Pauline Axelrod (played by Valerie Wildman) force us to recall the perverted scribblings of James Lemoyne (New York Times), the godfather of Embedded American Journalism; his students honored in that tribute to the corporate press, Welcome to Sarajevo (1997). Call that film for what it is: the anti-Salvador.

Under Fire goes much deeper than Stone's film in questioning the ethics of journalism and the sort of circumstances which compel individuals to look at the bigger picture. The depiction of the conflict between Hackman and Nolte, on both personal and professional levels, makes it a very rewarding film. Salvador's portrait of a troubled has-been photojournalist who undergoes a sort of radical shock therapy in a war zone is different, but certainly no less interesting.

I have to give the decisive edge to Under Fire for drawing much more attention to the nature and breadth of the foreign support upon which the corrupt Central American dictatorships relied. Salvador has a US helicopter turn up in the middle of a battle, an ambassador portrayed as indifferent, and that's about it. Under Fire, in contrast, has excellent performances by a young Ed Harris and Jean-Louis Tritignant as pro-regime killers, roles which draw attention to the nature and morality of those embattled dictatorships.

Salvador counters with a much more interesting profile of some of the members of the so-called "government" and its military. In Under Fire, we just see Anastasio Somoza depicted as an insignificant car salesman type in the background who just happens to be the latest heir to the dynasty which ruled over Nicaragua for much of the 20th century. This was a wee bit dissatisfying.

The major differences between the films are technical and stylistic. Some may prefer Stone's use of tight editing and camera angles and rather fanciful action sequences. I personally enjoyed Under Fire's determined efforts to bring out as much realism as possible on screen especially in the battle scenes. The author admits that many years ago he would have preferred eye candy in all of its Hollywood forms, but maturity and experience in watching film has changed all that.

A 9/10 for Salvador and a 9/10 for Under Fire, and again hats off to all associated with films which one can hardly imagine being made in this Orwellian or "embedded" age.

Mastermind (1976)
7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Madcap Pythonesque mock-up of Hollywood's "Asians", 24 September 2005
8/10

A side-splitting spoof of western perceptions of Asian culture as presented by Hollywood, beginning with Charlie Chan and Fu Manchu in the 30s and 40s and then straight through to the James Bond and early kung-fu era.

No need for any sort of substantive plot as we chuckle along at the antics of bumbling inspector Hoku (played by Zero Mostel) as he follows the trail of robot-thieving criminals (this is supposed to be set in Japan after all). Along the way our hero meets up with various unexpected dangers from Japanese keystone cops and a police captain bent on suicide (played by veteran Japanese actor Frankie Sakai). The "action" is frequently interrupted by our hero's fantasy dream sequences of his previous incarnation as a great samurai and moments of Zen-fortune-cookie clarity. Fans of Japanese cinema will also note that experienced actress Keiko Kishi makes an appearance as the hero's love interest.

Great fun for some of us, but the humor, and especially the parody, may well not be to everybody's taste, especially those already deeply offended by the subject of ridicule, one of Hollywood's largest and oldest sub-genre catalogs.

I don't think the 1976 date stated above is accurate, as the film was made much earlier. As noted above, it was never released in theaters. It has appeared as the late-night movie on North American television occasionally before being released on VHS in 1999.

It should be noted that Hollywood was still churning out various strange representations of Asian culture well past the time this movie was made. It's too easy to see Cato (as played by Bruce Kwouk) of the Pink Panther movies in harikiri-deathwishing Captain Yamada, just to cite one example.

Well worth an 8.0 for those of us who really enjoy this kind of silliness