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47 reviews in total 
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20 out of 40 people found the following review useful:
that VOICE...., 18 May 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I watched Star Trek TOS in its first run - I'm that old. And I've watched every Star Trek offering since. This was the happiest I've been with the franchise since the first Wrath of Khan! The cast has settled in nicely for a WILD ride. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, as Kirk and Spock, respectively, are far more nuanced this go-around. The look of the film is excellent and all supporting cast passable to very good. I know the action wasn't REALLY nonstop, but it seemed to be. The writing - the old switcheroo in the script - was massively clever. My only disappointment was that Benedict Cumberbatch didn't have more screen time. He is mesmerizing every time he's on. I was really hoping he'd have a big scenery-chewing barn-burning quotefest from Moby Dick, but no. To hear him say "From hell's heart I stab at thee..." in that VOICE...

Quo Vadis (1951)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Not as wonderful as the book, but a solid and moving epic, 17 February 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I have assigned Quo Vadis as required reading several times at my school, and so I am intimately familiar with the book, which is superb. This movie holds up very well in comparison, though there are some wonderful things missing. This is basically the tale of the conversion to Christianity of a Roman soldier through his love of a Christian girl, set against the backdrop of Nero's rule and his eventual persecution of the Christians after the great fire in Rome. What I love about the book is the fact that Vinicius's conversion is neither easy nor instantaneous - he struggles, and only even bothers because he loves Ligia so much. He goes from being a boor who takes a Christian girl to an orgy to a Christian who is willing to die for his beliefs. Any treatment that skips over that aspect of the story is unworthy, and at least this movie does not skip over that lightly.

Robert Taylor is a bit wooden as Vinicius - the book reveals his inner struggles much more vividly than his movie does, and I think the movie loses points for that. Taylor's iron-jawed performance is adequate, though. Deborah Kerr is overwhelming for Ligia as written. Ligia is young and fragile -almost ethereal - certainly not the little spitfire that Kerr plays.Kerr was really too old for the part, but Taylor probably was too, so at least they match. Leo Genn has a nice, light touch as the charming, brilliant, and urbane Petronius, but not the godlike good looks of the character as written. Marina Berti is appropriately gorgeous as Eunice,the slave who loves her master, Petronius. Everyone comments on Peter Ustinov's performance as Nero - it is really quite good! He is simultaneously childish, diabolical, selfish, and pathetic. You really want to kill him by the end of the movie. Patricia Laffan is good (that is, supercilious) as Poppaea, Nero's empress who has the hots for Vinicius. Other standouts include Finlay Currie as the apostle Peter and Buddy Baer as Ligia's thick-witted and gigantic bodyguard, Ursus.

The movie itself is GORGEOUS - I don't know the budget, but it had to have been huge. The word "epic" definitely applies. The persecution of the Christians is not softened a bit - I still find it shocking, even today. The fire in Rome is also stunning. The music is also a fine example of the genre.

What I miss in this movie is Vinicius's near-death experience at the hands of Ursus. Because he is injured and cannot be moved, he HAS to see and hear how the Christians live and bear their persecutions with such patience. Vinicius is also brought face-to-face with what his selfish desires have done to Ligia - taken her from a loving home and thrown her into poverty and danger.Then he is left to wonder how she can still love him at all. And the revelation of Ursus's childlike beliefs is quite moving, and mostly missing. Vinicius is tormented by all of this until almost the last pages of the book. His having to fend off the empress's advances is mostly missing too.

Having said all that, I do like this movie very much and recommend it. See it if you get the chance.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A pleasant surprise, 8 February 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I read many a Tarzan and maybe one or two John Carters in my youth, so I was familiar with the source material, but this movie got such execrable reviews I didn't go see it in the theaters. I should have realized that nothing could be as bad as those reviews! Really, this movie is quite good - certainly better than the dreadful Avatar, to which it's sometimes compared.When I think of all the rattletrap thoughtless pieces of junk that DO make money (I'm looking at YOU, Transformers, GI Joe, Clash of the Titans, etc.)I cannot see why this one failed. I can't speak to its fidelity to Princess of Mars, since I didn't read that one, but I found the plot serviceable and even unexpectedly moving for a Disney sci-fi extravaganza. John Carter's initial damaged mental state adds a dimension some of these other movies lack. Taylor Kitsch seems committed to the role, and is quite good. The home scenes cut with battle scenes on Mars were effective and sad. His palpable distress at leaving Mars and his desperate efforts to get back were rather rushed, but well-done, and I liked the bit with "Ned" at the end. You could spend a worse two hours at the movies.

Skyfall (2012)
6 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Made me happy!, 11 November 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I have been a Bond fan since Day 1 of Dr. No, and have followed the various iterations of Bond with varying degrees of delight and/or disgust. But I'm always there for the new films. I have been so pleased with Daniel Craig's turns as Bond - even in QofS. Now all the pieces so carefully placed fall in line. This is the most "full-on Bond" of the Craig movies. One hears familiar themes, sees familiar characters, and falls back in love with the familiar formula. AT last we have a worthy opponent again - Javier Bardem is a hoot, and almost runs away with the movie. But only almost. Craig settles into the role even better, and Judi Densch is, as usual, pitch-perfect. The movie looks as a Bond movie should - gorgeous, elegant, with every dollar right there on the screen. Shanghai is especially striking, as is an Istanbul chase with Hagia Sophia in the background. We've got a new Q and two new someone elses, all of which I think I approve. Music's good, sacrificial Bond girl appropriately hot, and my beloved Aston Martin DB is there, so I think we're all set. Go see it immediately!

Prometheus (2012/I)
4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Oddly, I liked it..., 16 October 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...and I agree with almost all the complaints about idiot plot points!

This movie is so beautiful and asks such big questions that I found it easy to forgive or ignore the fact that the main characters acted very, very stupidly and/or improbably at times. I am a sucker for Ridley Scott's visuals, though - I always have been. But gosh, he blows the roof off with this one. Never has a movie (except maybe 2001) made me feel more insignificant. Scott just nails space and the alien planet. I'm not sure how I feel about the appearance of the Engineers, but I think I'm kind of OK with it - at least I can't think of a look I'd prefer. The scene with David at the controls of the Engineer ship was just magical to me. When I heard this was going to be a prequel to Alien, I was alarmed, since I consider Alien just about a perfect movie, right up there with Jaws. I am perfectly satisfied that not every "i" was dotted and every "t" crossed. I'm actually happy that the ending of this movie does NOT fit perfectly with the beginning of Alien. Again, I invoke 2001 - not EVERYTHING has to be explained. I prefer the mystery. The cast...hmmm. I could almost see Scott straining for the same mix of working stiffs with higher eschelons that he had in Alien. Did not love Guy Pierce at all. Noomi Rapace photographs very oddly at times, but I think she was acceptable. The whole cast is just so overshadowed by the film itself, I almost tend to forget them. I did very much like Michael Fassbender's turn as the android David. What a little Pinocchio he was. His performance was ALMOST ruined by some bad writing/inexplicable action, but it turned out OK. The story is basically compelling, but would have been much better served with competent and more realistic character development. Everything everyone says about stupid character actions is true - unprofessional behavior from supposed professionals, inexplicable mood swings, yep, all of it. It just didn't bother me as much because these people are just amoebas in the face of what they find, anyway.I liked Scott's take on religion as well. It has become quite the style of late to discount religion or reduce it to the products of simple minds. I like that smart people in this movie still "choose to believe." My biggest gripe? Same as everyone else's - the c-section. No matter HOW many drugs one takes, action will simply not be happening after that. She should have been flattened by the drugs alone. But I got over it. One more thing - this movie just MIGHT be more like Blade Runner than it is like Alien.

The Artist (2011/I)
3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Charming and effective, 30 December 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I started in a different mindset than most watchers, I think, because there are some silent films that I LOVE, namely Birth of a Nation, Nosferatu, and especially Metropolis. It was odd to consider going to a new silent, but I'm SO glad I did! This movie may not be what you expect (though in many ways it's quite familiar), but it is utterly affecting. The leads are likable beyond reason, and the supporting cast is great and sometimes familiar as well. Please, people, don't write this off because it's black-and-white and/or silent. (SPOILER - it's not ALL silent, and when the director chooses to use sound, it's a shocker because one so quickly gets used to silent mode!) Some of the music will be familiar to Hitchcock fans - name that tune! I'll bet this takes some awards, and justly so. Just see it.

Goldfinger (1964)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Goooollllldddddfiiingahhhhhhhhh....., 10 October 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I approach this review with such joy. Even though You Only Live Twice is my favorite Bond, I think Goldfinger runs a very close second. I have a theory that the best Bond movies all have themes sung by Shirley Bassey. The makers hit their stride with this one - villain, assistant villain, girls, and gadgets are all pitch-perfect. Connery seems even more at ease in the role (if that's possible), and everything plays out just right. And could I let this review go without mentioning the Aston Martin!?! I saw this movie when it came out in theaters and I was about 8. I didn't know from cars, but I knew I wanted that one! I'm now 55, and that lovely desire has never gone away. It has been a total gas to see the Aston back in the Craig films. (At 8, I also didn't get the joke about Pussy Galore's name - this was pre-any-kind-of-rating, remember). I did read the books when I was a little older, and it is rather interesting to note that Pussy is a lesbian in the book, because of, as I recall, a rape. Of course, our Mr. Bond would be the one to snap her out of it. I recently re-watched the movie and was struck by how good Gert Frobe was as Auric Goldfinger - he really has some nice little quirks you have to watch closely for. Just total Bond goodness - macaroni and cheese for your mind.

Cypher (2002)
Low-key Ultra Cool, 12 September 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I ran across this on cable, and only watched it because I had NEVER seen Jeremy Northam in ANYTHING modern. This was really a stylish little thriller along the lines of - I dunno - Matrix (not much) + Italian Job (cross/double cross)+ 1984 (dystopia for everyone). Northam is excellent, as he always is. He himself is the cypher of the title, I think, and as he peels away the multiple layers of his identity, you can see the panic under the desperately cool exterior he tries to maintain. The end came as a complete surprise to me, but maybe I'm easily fooled. It's hard to get some of Lucy Liu's (ahem) LESSER roles out of your mind when you see her in this, but she acquits herself well enough. Well-written, and well-executed - I recommend this with great enthusiasm.

1 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Whither Robert E. Howard?, 27 August 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I wanted very much to like this movie. Conan books were the stuff of my youth. I even managed to enjoy the Schwartzenegger outings (the 1st much more than the 2nd). The commercials made me excited about the look of the film and the look of Jason Momoa as the eponymous lead. I always thought Arnold was too bulky for the as-written "lithe" Conan. But Lord have mercy - I just saw this and was SO disappointed. It's not the actors' faults, really.The script is just a by-the-numbers violent-guy-with-a-sword-and-an-agenda exercise with NONE of the panache of the source material. If only I could have for one fleeting moment seen the Conan of the books - "a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic wrath and gigantic mirth." You know, the barbarian that, though his manners may be lacking, has the great soul of a king. The movie was completely unencumbered by any pretense of stylish writing.

Maybe it is the actors' faults a bit - Rose McGowan is camping it up for sure, and Stephen Lang is just as dreadful and un-nuanced as he was in the equally dreadful Avatar. Rachel Nichols as The Spunky Heroine is just blah. Why would she be able to fight as well as men who constantly train and outweigh her ( a "monk") by a good hundred pounds? One of many things that is never really explained. Ron Perlman is always a treat in any movie, but is rather wasted as a Cimmerian who can perform c-sections without even looking. Who knew?

Who okayed this mess? The usual cabal of Hollywood hacks. Please guys, could we just for ONE MOMENT HAVE SOME DECENT, NOT PANDERING, WRITING? OK - I'm done.

Xanadu (1980)
OH, come on - it's fun, 9 August 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Yes, it's silly and the plot BARELY supports the musical numbers, but as a piece of 80's musical frivolity, it stands alone. The funny part is how oldster Gene Kelly still manages to hold his own against much younger talents in what turned out to be his last singing and dancing role. God bless him - he looks like he was having fun. Olivia Newton-John was being groomed as a solo star in this - well THAT failed, but she's still wholesomely charming. Michael Beck in the romantic lead is NOT that good (I think he didn't even sang for himself), but he's a typical 80's hunk, so there you go. At least the culturally literate will enjoy the Muse references. The whole thing is a giant neon/short shorts/leg warmer throw-up, but it's darn cheerful. How serious we all were about roller skating... And the soundtrack is great - "Suddenly" and "Magic" are two of my real guilty pleasures! Give it a shot - it's fun to watch, even just to make fun of the wretchedly excessive costumes.

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