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Hopeless Hollywood mainstream
This 200 minute monster turns up on cable every now and then, and it always reaffirms my original opinion. How did this get made, and why would anyone think it requires over three hours? The art direction, sets and lighting are all so humorously fake, as bad as the acting. After some local color shots early in the film, it goes mostly indoors with a lot of languorous suffering and unhappiness. Is it an amazing, dense epic that requires its 3 hours? Not a chance. Your time is wasted by things like a café fight scene where Rock gets in a fistfight with the racist owner. It goes on relentlessly, with one facial meat-punch after another as these two fly over tables and chairs and not one person in the place gets up to stop it or flee. After maybe three solid minutes of this poorly enacted brutality, we cut to Rock at home in a family scene with a light bruise on his face. Anyone knows that a few face punches leads to stitches and probably broken hand bones, but he is chuckling with his baby. Well, that is but one example of the weird surrealism of this stinker.
A timepiece, lame but not charmless.
Weird how things like this got made back then. Truly amateurish in all ways, but created out of a real love for the west, horses and ranch life. I get a kick of films like this, ones that try to be semi-documentary in content as they deliver a thin story. We are shown clips of salmon spawning, wild horses running, old fashion lo-glitz rodeo, Indians doing a tribal dance for show. In-between, there are men punching, flying, riding and shooting, and a really lame love story. Take it for what it's worth, I enjoyed it as a pre-dawn distraction from insomnia. I liked all the western plaid coats and handsome hair, but would've liked more pickup trucks.
The War Zone (1999)
This movie has it all, not in a good way...
I know that incest and sexual abuse within families is a MAJOR problem, seemingly in all societies. And I believe it could be a good or meaningful topic for a movie.... but this is not it. This film is so uniquely, surrealistically dismal and disgusting in the events portrayed, that it became more about how it was shown and could it be shockingly, relentlessly depressing, not a credible depiction of the way this problem exists within families. Therefore, it became exploitive of this issue rather than meaningful.
Besides the issue of the molesting father, we get a gratuitous, shocking car crash... relevance to the story: zip! We get all sorts of female nudity around the house, including long shots of the teenage daughter's breasts while in discussion. Relevance: zip! Including the silly concept of a girl sleeping naked under a single blanket in an old house in England's winter...why? Just so the blanket could be shockingly pulled away, of course. Add to all this the Euro style of filming where tight shots linger on barely lit sad faces for silent minutes at a time. It was like the director just wanted to practice everything you might do in a Eurotrash horror movie, but give it a topic that might propel him into the realm of "meaningful". I'm not buying it. And WARNING: Do NOT bring this home for the family thinking you are going to see something enlightening about normal family issues. This is a rough, ugly, sad ride thru some real prurient exploitation.
An electrifying indictment
I just saw this last night on HBO. Astounding closeups of some of the people involved in short track oval amateur racing in small town Indiana. I grew up in small midwestern town myself, so I am no stranger to car obsession and odd ways to kill time, but what this film shows about current rural America is kind of frightening.
These people drink, insult and intimidate each other, and waste time destroying old cars in this very aggressive form of racing, use disgusting language, all with their children and mothers present. While this goes on, their town is going bankrupt around them, and these folks seem only to want to extract revenge from each other on a dirt track. The meanspiritedness of it all makes the biggest impression, even the women are threatening each other in bar scenes. I don't know what has happened to the US, is this all the result of years of violent movies and bad taste music videos?
The Rounders (1965)
Entertaining enough, don't expect greatness.
It's true what most commenters here have said...this is well acted by the two leads, and the scenery is spectacular. But the sad sack situations and the outdated sexist humor wears on the viewer after a while, parts of it seeming like a slow version of Benny Hill.
The art direction, casting and photography are all so realistic and good, it would have been interesting to see these qualities used on a "real" story about the misfortunes of modern ranchers.
There might've been an Oscar in there somewhere if these resources were put to serve a story by one of a number of Western writers, and it would've rung true.
El cielo gira (2004)
Gorgeous, if ambiguous, documentary about rural life
This film is perhaps a little weak in conclusions or opinions, unlike many documentaries that set out to make a persuasive or political point. Instead, it reminds me of evidential films made by cultural anthropologists. It presents a stirringly beautiful slice of lifestyle that is disappearing from the developed world, showing elderly people who maintain joys, comfort, and wisdom in spite of poverty and a lack of modern education. Regardless of what you expect or read into it, however, the filming is stunningly beautiful at times. The photographer used natural light to great effect in saturated, well-composed video. Also, there was an engaging tendency to keep the camera rock still during long shots, while characters moved through the space. It was very refreshing to watch these stable, gorgeous environments with calm people occupying them; a stark contrast to the modern, jittery, hand-held style, and almost a remedy for a jittery, modern lifestyle. I saw an un-subtitled version and know little Spanish, but found it very enjoyable anyway, just enjoying the visual aspects.
Hollywood Ending (2002)
Good premise that falls short
I have liked a few Allen films, and admired parts of many more, both serious and comical. There is obviously a lot of talent and ideas in them, but I can't help but wonder why so few of his movies are good as a whole work. This is a great example.
The premise of a director going suddenly blind from psychological stresses just as he is about to make his biggest picture is full of possibilities, but too many of the scenes are built around arguments by small-minded people instead of developing humorous or visual situations of any length. We are told that the direction and the dailies of the film being created are chaotic and make no sense, but we are never shown any examples. Instead, we are merely told that the shooting of the movie proceeds week after week with everyone believing a viable movie is being made, even though the cameraman is being driven mad by the poor direction. Well, which is it? We don't get a taste of either the absurdity or the viability of the process to buy into the idea or laugh about it.
Instead, a lot of time is spent with woody Allen's character refuting one gorgeous live-in partner to reminisce and argue with a beautiful ex-wife while rejecting the advances of the movie's young buxom starlet. In other words, Allen's alter-ego is on display yet again with women averaging about half his age. All the while Allen's extremely nervous gesturing and pleading for help as he gropes around blindly makes him look not only very old, but also dim-witted, and certainly not attractive enough to garner this attention from women. What could be funny is played up to such an annoying extent that I lost sympathy and patience for his situation.
That said, there are just enough scenes with humor and good acting (Hack, the director's agent is particularly well cast) that I did chuckle from time to time, the sets, scenes, lighting and the colors are all appealing. It was not in general, a painful experience, just not a very funny or meaningful one either.
Broken Flowers (2005)
Too close to sleepwalking
I like some of Jarmusch's work, I like slow, artsy films, I like Bill Murray and loved "Lost In Translation." This film, though, is just too dead to bounce off the floor, and completely far-fetched. I don't mind looking at parts of it because of the honest scenery, some good star turns, some fun music, basic pleasures that are missing in many really bad movies. But still, it plods pointlessly as Bill Murray sleepwalks thru the part. The numerous character sketches could've been interesting if developed but the film leaves all the best parts dangling to get back to dreary Murray and his pilgrimmage into his own navel. And the scene where the young girl suddenly appears totally naked for no reason proves that the authors knew they had nothing going on to keep the audience's attention, so they threw in some old fashioned sexist prurience to create a buzz.
The Fisherman and His Wife (1998)
Quirky and charming
This is similar to many non-Hollywood romantic comedies, a long and endearing saga of a couple's journey through family life and earning a living. The charm here is in the offbeat ways they go at their work and interior decorating....which involves Japanese styling, including tanks of Koi. The settings and the problems are absolutely real, but there is a humorous backdrop provided by little absurdities, like pet fish discussing the state of the couple's relationship from their view in the fish tank. The scenery and colors of the settings are delicious, and it was an entertaining enough drama about domestic life. The female lead is dynamic and charming in her portrayal, though she seemed a bit manic at times.
The Big Chill (1983)
Not perfect, but still excellent
Cable played "The Big Chill" Saturday, and I have to say it is still excellent. It's not perfect...but tries and attains enough in its successes to more than make up for uneven acting and some clumsy, too-sweet moments in the script.
And although the concerns of the people seem somewhat thirty-ish and need to be considered in the time-period of the eighties, the conversations about friendship, morality and life-choices are still important and deftly worked into the storyline. It was a hit driven by good writing about somewhat believable humans, which is much less common in mainstream movies nowadays, especially ones with such a big name cast.
And that fun, fun music doesn't hurt either.
I agree that it may have been copied from "Return of the Seacaucus Seven" (which is fine in its own way), but see Chill anyway. There are many, many clever bits in the written and shooting script that make great creative use of the medium of film.