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The Lost Battalion (2001) (TV)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
trumped up dialogue and bad editing do injustice to the original story and heroes involved..., 12 February 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Lost Battalion of WW I. The original battle this film is based on, which produced no less than seven Medals of Honor and numerous Distinguished Service Crosses, took place in the Argonne Forest in France during the waning months of WW I. It was part of the final great Allied push known as the Meuse- Argonne Offensive (Sept-Nov 1918). The Battalion was cut off for nearly a week, from the evening of 2 October until early morning 8 October, when elements of the 77th Division AEF were able to break through German lines to the south of the battalions position and relieve and reinforce their position.

The battalion itself, actually a combination of three battalions (six companies of the 308th, one from 307th, and two companies from 306th MGB) entered the Argonne with nearly 600 able-bodied men on the 2nd, and left with less than 200 unscathed on the 8th. The atrocities they endured and the heroism exhibited is self-evident, without the need of embellishment, which is precisely what this film does.

It may be somewhat unfair to bash this film universally, which is why I gave it a rating of three stars rather than one. The cinematography was excellent and the acting was good if not great. I'm not certain if I would have cast Rick Schroder as Major Wittlesey, a result of trying to garner a larger audience through name recognition rather than on the merit of subject alone. Unnecessary and a mistake in my opinion. I also understand this is a made for TV film, lacking a big budget and aimed at smaller audiences. But the flaws in this film aren't budget related. They are a direct result of historical inaccuracies and bad dialogue.

While the individual soldiers involved and timeline seem to be fairly accurate to what I've read, the writers have taken a great deal of liberty in mixing up certain events and the players involved. "Major" Prinz was presumably a Lieutenant for one, and it was a wounded private who was captured and returned (reluctantly) to Major Wittlesey with a request of surrender, not Lt. Leak. The plane shot down was a two-seat De Haveland DH-4 biplane with a pilot and navigator, each awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, not a single-seat with only a pilot. Might sound nit-picky, but these guys are heroes and major inaccuracies like these do them an injustice, in my opinion.

Plus, the six-seven day nightmare seemed to take place over only a day or two in the film. Bad editing may be the culprit, although it is possible the script was light to begin with. I imagine it's pretty tough to condense all that the battle entailed into a hour and thirty minute movie, but it can be done. Perhaps throttling back on some of the campy dialogue may have provided the time for a more accurate portrayal. You get the sense that the film is trying to shove honor, moral courage and heroism down your throat by telling you how heroic everyone is over and over and over, rather than just demonstrating it and allowing you to form your own opinion.

If you have absolutely no knowledge of the battle, have no interest in historical accuracy, and are looking to kill an hour and a half of your time you may find the film enjoyable. The cinematography was great, acting fair even good in parts, but the end result is a skewed portrayal of the actual events that took place and cheapens the memories of those involved.


2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Not what I expected, 31 October 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I love animated movies and Pixar reigns supreme, virtually uncontested. That said, The Pixar Story doesn't really do justice to the franchise or the quality of the films themselves.

It's clear from the outset The Pixar Story is going to be more about commercial success than animation, more suited to an MBA graduate than the animation enthusiast. Very little emphasis on art, heavy emphasis on box office.

The financial aspect could still be an interesting story to tell, but it rings hollow as mild adversity early on is portrayed as an epic struggle to get Pixar launched. And after each mammoth success is outdone by the next, the focus is solely on the financial aspect, and the stresses of each new director to make their film a bigger box office hit than the last.

It's really a documentary about Pixar the business, not Pixar the animation studio. If you are an animation enthusiast, skip it.

16 out of 27 people found the following review useful:
A Tremendous Letdown..., 11 February 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Given the storyline and cast, I convinced myself this would be a good film, even when in the first few minutes it became evident it wasn't. So I stuck with it in the hopes it would either grow on me or turn itself around.

It didn't...

Assuming you've read the synopsis, I won't go into detail about the story. It's not unique. But when well executed, these types of "thrillers" can hold your attention and keep you guessing. This one didn't. The director chooses to tell you everything verbally so the need to follow twists and turns is nonexistent. This takes away from any possible suspenseful buildup and causes the story to drag.

On screen chemistry between Swank and Morgan is fairly thin. This could add realism, given the storyline and each characters perception of reality, but it doesn't. Morgan never really seems at ease throughout the entirety of the film, as if he is cognizant of the camera at all times.

Simply put, it's hard to pinpoint what specifically causes this film to miss. No one single item delivers the death blow. Acting, cinematography and story, while not exceptional, are all at least adequately done. Swank does a passable job, and even despite what I consider to be a sometimes wooden, sometimes overcompensating performance by Morgan, he still manages to get the general creepiness of his character across.

That leaves a weak script and lackluster direction as the most likely culprits. Possibly bad editing as well. Regardless of what is to blame, the end result is simply a bad movie.

Unfortunate given the story and cast. I really expected much, much more.

A sad disappointment.


Black Swan (2010)
7 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
dark and twisted..., 21 December 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I think it may be premature to judge Black Swan based solely on the opinions you read here and on other film forums. It really is something you have to see and judge for yourself. It seems most viewers who were disappointed, as is almost always the case, went in with expectations the film didn't deliver.

Personally, I knew almost nothing apart from the obvious; director, cast, and its not so subtle alluding to a ballet production of Tsychovsky's Swan Lake. That's it. When the darkness and chaos ensued, I was hooked.

I wholeheartedly agree the subject matter has been done before, what hasn't really. I don't think it's been done like this, however. It's completely predictable yet will still find you totally unprepared for the twists. It's dark and oppressive, but beautifully shot and with plenty of creative camera work. It really is a visual feast, albeit a very dark one.

There certainly are some scenes which are completely over the top. Most feel it adds to the film. Adds either to its ridiculousness or to its brilliance. Either way, those scenes add a whole new dynamic to the film.

Regardless of how some may feel about the film overall, it's difficult to argue against this being one of Natalie Portman's most memorable roles. She owns her character. In fact, the entire lead cast does an impeccable job, from Cassel to Kunis to Hershey.

Winona Ryder, if I am to list any specific shortcomings, I feel is somewhat miscast. She plays a fairly important character, yet a very small role in the film overall. Not much to work with in her defense, but still, nothing very memorable either.

Personally, I feel this is one of 2010's best films. I don't usually pony up for dark and melodramatic films, less so for ones involving ballet. But something in the way Aronofsky puts it all together, as well as the strength of individual performances, most notably Portman's portrayal of Nina, grabbed me and drew me in. And it didn't let go until long after the credits rolled.

Haunting, dark, disturbing, wonderful and brilliant... 9/10

1 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
"In the end you have to decide for yourself what to believe", 22 January 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The first review I read about this film hit the nail squarely on its head.

It stated, and I agree, that this is not a film for everyone. If you enjoy the subject matter, you are more than likely going to enjoy the movie. Regardless of how many reviews you read.

In fact, you're better off knowing as little about the film and the mild controversy surrounding it as possible going in. Then you can make your own conclusions without the added bias.

Personally, I didn't take away much from the film. I have no issues with the fact that the subject matter was either !!SPOILER!! entirely fictional or largely exaggerated.

I lay down the challenge for a movie to impress me simply by making the decision to watch it. I came to be entertained. If a movie wants to lie to my face to pull off a Blair Witch style hoax, then more power to it. But regardless of fact or fiction, I need to believe. At least on some level.

And The Fourth Kind fails to do that.

I felt the performances were entirely canned. I enjoy Milla in many of her films. Some I don't. She is certainly not an actress suited to any role, and this one I found to be beyond her depth.

Koteas and Patton both turn in solid performances as is their usual, but overall the movie was pretty weak. I've read how some viewers were on the edge of their seats or nearly under them and that puzzles me as this film had virtually no effect on me at all.

It all comes down to what you believe, just as Milla states in the movie. If the subject matter intrigues you, I recommend you see the movie. If it doesn't, then I recommend you avoid it. It's just not good enough to hold your interest otherwise.


Case 39 (2009)
3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Didn't know what to expect and got what I expected., 21 January 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Let me start by saying that I went into this movie knowing only that it was a suspense/horror flick but not really knowing anything beyond that. If you choose to go in blind as well, the build up to where things are headed is actually pretty good. When I finally did realize just where the film was leading me, I was like "Ohhh, I see what's going on now." And the movie had me...for the moment.

Then things got...not good. And I began to lose interest as the movie became muddled. To all the Bridget Jones lovers, don't pounce on me. I'm simply expressing an opinion. Zellweger's performance was actually one of the better aspects of the film. I found her to be genuine and believable.

But the movie itself wasn't very cohesive. And after a really good, albeit slow start, you would expect the film to pick up speed and for things to really start happening. But they don't. Scenes were just too disjointed to really get anything going.

And there are a few scenes of dialog between the young girl and her adult counterparts that are meant to be disturbing and simply aren't. I didn't find the young girl's performance to be as riveting as other reviewers have, apparently. But I didn't get a single chill on the back of my neck and I would expect to with a film like this. None. Zero chills.

I would have rated it lower, the cheesy special effects in the later scenes really had me just, I don't know, shaking my head. But the movie does have some redeeming features. As I've said, Zellweger seemed really, genuinely scared. Cooper is decent. McShane is decent. I don't know the names of the little girls parents, but they were decent. Those decent performances were the only thing saving this film from Direct to DVD.

If you're really into !!SPOILER!! demonic possession flicks then you may enjoy this. It's obvious some viewers really did. It may just come down to personal taste. Personally, I would rather do back-to-back Bridget Jones screenings than have to sit through most of this movie again.

And I am NOT into chick flicks... so for me that's saying something.

Carriers (2009)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
a different approach to the "virus" genre., 28 November 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I enjoyed this movie for the simple fact that it takes a somewhat different approach in telling the "viral outbreak brings on the end of the world as we know it" theme.

Without giving too much away, there are a couple of things that separate it from the rest.

First, you aren't going to see any red eyed flesh eating zombies chasing after the uninfected with snarls and jerky camera movements, so don't expect to. This films virus doesn't affect people that way.

Second, the way the virus affects the populace and the choices the characters make and are faced with seems much truer to how things would play out in real life.

The difficult decisions, the contradictions. You get a sense of the conflict each character goes through when faced with a tough, possibly life ending decision. It leaves you wondering "would I do the same thing, am I capable of that?". Will you ultimately choose self-preservation over everything? Over friends? Over family?

The acting is good, not stellar, but I don't know that it could have been acted out any other way. The characters seemed believable and true to their roles. Chris Pine was especially good. And you can always rely on Christopher Meloni to provide moral fiber in a film.

Definitely worth seeing if you want a little more story and a little less blood, or you're tired of seeing "28 Days Later" rips.


0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Skadoosh!!!, 7 October 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In my opinion, the mark of a good animated film is whether or not you see the actor's faces behind the characters they are portraying.

If the actors do their jobs well, and the animators theirs, you should be drawn into the story completely. So much so that you aren't watching Jack Black or Dustin Hoffman on screen, they don't exist here, you only see their animated counterparts. By this standard Kung Fu Panda is a resounding success.

The attention to detail in Kung Fu Panda is absolutely superb as well. Facial expressions, twitches, raising an eyebrow, rolling an eye, are all done to incredibly realistic effect.

Couple that with equally fine voice acting, in particular by Jack Black and Dustin Hoffman, and you have a very good film. Add a nice heart warming story and some humorous dialog and you have a great film.

A must have for any animated film collector of any age. 8/10

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
almost really really good., 27 August 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Bottom line is, if you like Coen Brothers movies, you'll likely enjoy The Brothers Bloom. I'm not implying TBB is a Coen Brothers rip-off, simply that it fits within that genre, whatever that genre actually is.

The film is very funny and enjoyable through most of it. Some of the early scenes between Adrien Brody and Rachel Weisz are sidesplitting. And let's face it, Rachel Weisz is an absolutely adorable actress and person. Any film with her in it is going to bolster its rating on that fact alone, and she delivers the goods too.

However, TBB has some big misses as well. We're introduced to characters without really getting to know anything about them, why they are there and what real relationship they have with the Bloom brothers. Despite the fact that they are very obviously important to the brothers and the story both.

Some of the scenes were overly melodramatic for the initial lightheartedness of the film as well. Adrien Brody's character was a little too tortured by morality and self-angst to be believable or enjoyable, considering the life he has chosen for himself. This, despite having an epiphany two thirds of the way through the film which really could have opened his character up, but sadly didn't. It fell completely flat leaving you wondering why they even left it in the film in the first place. Much of the film leaves you feeling this way.

But despite this, The Brothers Bloom is still a very enjoyable movie. It's faults are easy enough to overlook if you just want to enjoy a movie for its cinematic eye-candy, a good cast, and some very funny scenes. A solid 7/10.