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A Remarkable Production Feat
John Woo's intense camera, and editing is a remarkable feat in this film. The camera is always moving, always involved, and fast paced editing make for a powerful, action-packed movie.
John Travolta gratefully hams his performance, alongside the demented acting of Nicolas Cage. The two actors are rightfully having a blast in this movie, playing outsized and campy action villains and heroes.
However I find the movie lacking in its vapidity and many extraneous scenes. Many of the characters are poorly acted and written, and there is little sense in the story. Despite its style and masterful execution, I still find it lacking, even as a piece of pure fluff entertainment. The movie is outrageous and entertaining, but nevertheless, pretty horrendous.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Loud, brash, expensive trilogy ender.
Falling into the trap of so many recent second sequels, having to live up to the hype of its prequels, a bloated meandering story, a huge budget, and a giant cast of characters to create a loud, blustering finale.
The huge cast stops us from truly delving into characters, and we are left with actors turgidly spewing a stale script about wealth and redistribution and other poorly written themes.
Fighting for space amongst the action, the thundering soundtrack booms repetitively, growing in intensity throughout.
Nolan this time seems unable to edit his movie into concise chunks instead layering, action scene upon action scene, with little lay up except for a short gasp between action scenes. He is unable to build a steady rhythm and I find myself exhausted after the first hour of fireworks.
The production is fantastic, the effects truly amazing, as objects explode, crash, and hurtle explosively all over the screen. A disappointing finale, that struggles with its serious aims, as it sends its caped hero in a violent adventure to overcome other violence, with his particular brand of self-righteous vigilante violence. A grand disappointment.
Der Name der Rose (1986)
Sean Connery leads a great cast in this visually beautiful adaptation of Umberto Eco's best selling novel.
A myriad of themes are interwoven into this wonderful mystery movie, as Sean Connery's Sherlock-ian monk unravels the mysterious deaths occurring in the abbey.
Wonderfully shot, the film makes great use of its mountain landscapes and the beautiful architecture of the abbey. The production is admirable, their costumes and props are all very realistic, and the lighting is some of the best put to film. Jean-Jacques Annaud's camera is patient and restful, lending a very naturalistic air to his film and letting us comfortable bask in the medieval setting.
Moments of humour abound, amidst the gore, sex, and ignorance. This helps break up the mystery, and the evil forces at work, giving us moments of rest and igniting our modern view to highlight the themes of hypocrisy and the primitive ideas of these simple folk.
Of particular note is Ron Perlman who performs with great sympathy, humour, and disgust as an outcast hunchback. Of equal note is F. Murray Abraham, whose powerful voice, is put to effective use as a villainous inquisitor. Christian Slater is fine as the young monk, filled with naivety and exuberance. Sean Connery is good in the lead and puts in a fine performance.
Except for a few editing issues and an abrupt sexual liaison, the film is masterfully put together and an eighties treasure; one of Sean Connery's last great films, and a marvellous European production.
Schindler's List (1993)
My problem with Schindler's List is its portrayal of the Holocaust. As Stanley Kubrick said: "The Holocaust is about 6 million people who get killed. Schindler's List is about 600 who don't." Schindler's List hankers for success, not only its story, but in its artistic and commercial success too. It is a wonderfully produced, beautifully shot, honestly acted drama about success in the greatest human tragedy in recent times. Despite its good intentions, it loses its honesty, its integrity, in its bid as an entertainment venture and commercial interest. A film warning us about the Holocaust ought to serve as a painful warning, to be educational and true in its facts, not have someone you artistic license to curb a story and make for a better film experience. If honesty is at stake, dramatised events can be ineffectual.
La passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928)
Filled with visual power
Carl Dreyer's skill in weaving this intense, abstract work, telling a story with a flow of images is genius. The towering figures of the priests, elongated by sharp camera angles evoke the works of El Greco. Renée Jeanne Falconetti's performance is of sublime power, her great eyes expressing so many emotions throughout the movie, we are simply hypnotised by those deep pools.
The film's editing creates great rhythm within the movie as it builds our sympathy, our emotions, and keeps us hypnotised by the visuals. The composition of his images is remarkable and his evocation of the period outstanding. The movie is both a historical document, and an artistic statement on the power of film.
This film is a towering artistic achievement.
A visual feast
Metropolis features huge, wonderfully designed sets, a cast of thousands, and great visual design. The story details a collision between classes, the poor working class, consigned to the depths, and the industrious living in the bright city above. The city is beautifully realised given the effects of the day, lights, automobiles, aeroplanes, and vast crowds living and breathing in the city, machines are superimposed on top of another in a series of endless work, the workers move in a tired trance, synchronised as if in a slow dance to the death.
The move is a little too long and dawdles, instead of justifying its entire two and a half hour length. Despite this the images are captivating, the social commentary is justified, well reasoned and well presented. The references to the Tower of Babel are welcome, if a little obvious, and completely unnecessary to actually detail. Fritz Lang has particular skill at telling a story with just images, and directing his actors to give well considered performances. His visual metaphors, as workers struggle with giant clocks, or are sacrificed to the hunger of the machine, are particularly evocative.
The acting is expressive, as the actors struggle to say so much, without saying anything at all. The editing and effects are good, obviously dated, but in sync with the film as not to be awkward or distracting. The costumes are designed well, and Maria the robot is superbly designed.
Remarkable suspense and story-telling
Overlong for sure and with a rather abrupt ending, this remarkably suspense filled film, is quite spellbinding at points, able to view several facets of society and interweave a number of stories with great clarity.
Peter Lorre gives an impassioned performance, playing a servile and repugnant child murderer, before finally giving a powerful speech rebuking his captors and supplying an emotional and sympathetic statement on his plight. His performance is so good, we understand his problems, and any murderous intent we once had is quickly drained.
As an essay on justice, and its motivations, the film weaves in its themes with great skill, the director able to juggle, drama, suspense, and a very real message with remarkable impact.
The cinematography is amazing, able to tell a story with its powerful image easily: a strong visual drama. And the directors ability to illuminate the room and create emotion with his images is also very good, creating a paranoid or claustrophobic atmosphere with ease. Music is used sparingly, and the taut silence of chases, is particularly good. The editing is amazing for a film of this age, and create good tense storytelling with both complexity and clarity.
The film lags a little in places, and could be tightened up all round, to create a taut, powerful thriller. But otherwise it is strong all round, with great images, performances, and production.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
This film's production is marvellous and detailed in such a degree to make your suspension of belief ease you into a convincing piece of speculative fiction. Lacking any human drama, and leisurely in pace, the film features many mundane scenes documenting life, but with many profound consequences.
Exposition is told by various news items, Kubrick's ability to tell a story with images is amazing. A rather simple story depicting human evolution, and conflict with technology, there is little dialogue, but the use of images tells the story compellingly and not without a loss understanding. The images are utterly effective in reaching out to the viewer. The images themselves are strong, generally quite beautifully, and discretely shot, to not disturb the reality the film sets forth.
The acting is very natural, the astronauts are cool and collected, professional at their jobs, and staying away from any unnecessary human emotions to mar the story. HAL 9000, is wonderfully played, his chipper voice a dead set against the human actors, his words filled with almost sarcasm and arrogance, before his genuinely emotional exit.
I like the way humanity's next great venture, that of space travel, is juxtaposed with a symbol of humanity's next great evolution. 2001: A Space Odyssey plays like a documentary filled with wonderful music flow perfectly with the images, and fits the enormity of space adventure. It a glorious undertaking, of great ambition, but shot with such naturalism as to convince us of humanity's achievements. Above all, it is an optimistic movie, of humanity's glowing future.
This movie is slick, intense, and well acted. It has an interesting concept, and the basis for a classic future-noir. Instead it has two disjointed story elements, messily pasted together to stretch the movie to the two-hour mark. The initial concept of time travel, and its implications of meeting your future self, are entirely thrown away to stage a series of well crafted, action set pieces, complete with a blaring electronic soundtrack, and lots of shooting. The pace never lets up, the movie is an adrenaline rush from start to finish.
But it is also a wasted opportunity. Aside from the distracting CGI involved in morphing our lead actors' faces together, the movie looks great, a combination of film noir and western designs spruce up the speculative future. The production design, including costumes recalls Blade Runner.
The story is a messy pasting of confusing plot elements all thrown in to make you forget how ultimately pointless this exercise was. And when it degenerates into an action chase filled with throbbing music flashing guns, all is lost.
Half an hour too long, unfocused, and in the end nothing more than an action movie that dreams of being Inception. A wasted disappointment.
Lucky Number Slevin (2006)
Derivative, self-regarding, indulgent.
A movie based on the earlier nineties' successes of Pulp Fiction and the Usual Suspects.
Endlessly self-regarding in its quirky, catch-all script. It tries to be smart, funny, and interesting. It has a bright production design, and great costume design for the characters. It's camera trickery and editing features the same ultra-cool, slick hip-hop edits derived from earlier smarter films.
The flashback narration too is directly copied from earlier, better movies. The acting is stale, even from the large cast of veteran talent including Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley.
With all of its flashy verve and gimmicks it is ultimately empty and hollow.