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23 reviews in total 
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4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Enjoyable documentary, worth a look despite some flaws, 23 November 2008

In a nutshell: director James Cameron and his crew (among them his engineer brother Mike, German WWII veterans, DP Vince Pace and a bunch of equally brilliant scientists and historians) join a Russian research ship in order to film the wreckage of battleship Bismarck, a ginormous Nazi cruiser sunk by the British (or was she?) in May 1941 off the coast of France, or as the commentary by Lance Henriksen dubs her: "the Death Star of her time".

This is a docu-fiction type of documentary. Phenomenal archive footage and stunning present-day images are blended (sometimes not flawlessly) with CGI schematics as well as stiff period dramatization. As much as I love Jim Cameron's movies (I truly think he's one of the most important filmmakers working today, even his lesser efforts in the fiction domain being better than 95% of their rivals IMHO) I wasn't introduced yet to his documentary work. Now that I've seen "Expedition: Bismarck" I honestly can recommend it to anyone interested in history, underwater filming, or just documentaries altogether. That being said, some of Cameron's flaws or shortcomings as an artist were more visible here than in his previous work, and it prevented me to completely dive into it.

Cameron's brand of tech-heavy obsession transpires logically more here than in any other film. There is a strong emphasis on engineering aspects and basic underwater physics. As much as it's portrayed efficiently with much pedagogic concern, it might be a bit hard to follow for the younger - or less tutored - audience. The first 30 minutes skip quite bizarrely through the historical facts, the Bismarck being portrayed in such a hammy manner than its sinking in comparison seems like a mere footnote. As much as this choice pays off later on, I still found the intro quite unbalanced and suffering from a poor dramatization that looks like a cheap A&E biography.

Another annoying aspect was the historical theories submitted by the film. Much like another Cameron-produced documentary (you know, that obnoxious movie about the tomb of Jesus?) some established historical theories are being challenged here by the filmmakers. And even if I don't believe in any bias on their end, the way they present their "discoveries" is way too rushed or opaque to be credible. Sometimes James Cameron and his mates sound like smug, arrogant tomb raiders jumping to conclusions while said conclusions are neither really explained nor sustaining their arguments. Nothing in this movie shows a lack of good faith from the filmmakers, but the way they mistake themselves for History detectives is totally out of place.

That being said, these flaws are quite forgettable compared to the astounding undersea filming. This is truly the most breathtaking marine film since Louis Malle and Jacques Yves Cousteau's groundbreaking 50's film "Le monde du silence". And more importantly, the usual criticism toward Cameron's work (a so-called coldness and lack of emotion) is here negated by the very moving story of two 80 year-old men who survived the sinking. The genuine emotion from those two German WWII vets not only humanizes the story, but shows how young spirits could've been brainwashed by the Nazi propaganda. Yesterday's enemies being today's friends gives this movie a well-earned upbeat ending that never feels staged or stolen.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Good, relentless action film. But still a leap back compared to Casino Royale..., 31 October 2008

In a nutshell: I, for one, found Bond's latest "Quantum of Solace" quite enjoyable but with some annoying flaws. Almost non-stop action with some sarcastic bits of humor (but never to the point of making the hero look silly or ridicule himself, like a Roger Moore 007, or Downey's Iron Man more recently) and all-around good acting. On the other hand the script is weak and quite messy, uselessly convoluted for the paper-thin story it tells.

Direction-wise this is *not* a cheap Bourne rip-off as some people have claimed here and there. It truly feels like a Bond movie. The action is frenetic, filmed pretty much in the same vein as "Casino Royale", which is a good thing. Sure, there are some bold tracking shots and not-so-steady cam, but never to the point of being too shaky. It's used efficiently, not in a show-off way. A Bond movie has to be spectacular and if clearly not groundbreaking that one hits the mark.

But as far as I'm concerned, the rest wasn't as tight. The direction is somewhat repetitive (especially when establishing one of the countless new locations, when the director abuses of music and multiple cuts to amp up the exposition scenes, as if the action scenes weren't titillating enough). The story is poorly introduced and it gets worse with every new character hitting the screen. As for the usually excellent Mathieu Amalric playing the main baddie, he's given too few too late to really shine. His very last scene with Daniel Craig is really good, the fights are brutal and the guy clearly has the charisma to stand against Bond, but plot-wise he's really wasted.

Now, for the lame mistakes they cleverly avoided: no Michael Bay editing style. No - or at least very few - obnoxious product placement. No annoying or miscast Bond Girl. The movie is not shying away from the violence, with possibly one of the highest body-counts in the whole franchise. This is still the assassin Bond we're given (with another great performance from Daniel Craig), not the caricatured spy. The opening title sequence is being designed by newcomers in the Bond universe and they made a very good job, blending all the ingredients without being too flashy and that actually benefits the song from Jack White and Alicia Keys. I found said song much more enjoyable during the credits than without them - where "Casino Royale" gave me the exact opposite feeling.

Unfortunately, almost everything else was handled more firmly by Martin Campbell and the producers in 2006. Marc Forster does a decent job and took some interesting decisions regarding the tone as well as some specific scenes (without spoiling much, I'd say that his use of Puccini's "Tosca" was quite original) but sometimes too much action is detrimental, even to an action movie.

All in all, a good but flawed Bond movie whose downsides could have been easily avoided. Following "Casino Royale" was doubly harmful; not only because of its inherent quality, but also for the writers' mishandling of its legacy. If the next Bond tries again to tie some loose ends from "Quantum of Solace", I just hope they'll learn from their mistakes and give it a more coherent feel. No one wants to suffer the decreasing quality of the post-GoldenEye Bonds again, right?

JCVD (2008)
146 out of 158 people found the following review useful:
Interesting movie, with a terrific performance by Van Damme., 5 June 2008

Interesting concept from french director Mabrouk el Mechri: real action star Jean Claude Van Damme is engaged into a bitter legal battle for his daughter's custody. Said daughter is mocked by her classmates for her father's antics, and prefers staying with her mother. Ridiculed by the media and smarty-pants naysayers, condemned to shoot sub-par B-movies in eastern Europe, almost broke and devastated by his little girl's condition, Jean Claude flies back to his native Belgium in order to find solace. After an odd encounter with small time crooks, his life and perception by the public will be changed forever.

From a direction/scriptwriting point of view, the movie is somewhat lacking focus. It's relying a bit too much on inside jokes and heist movie clichés, for better or worse. There are some truly great moments (the opening scene is hilarious - any scene using Baby Huey's "Hard Times" tune cannot be bad anyway; the court scenes are cleverly written and the very last shot finds a perfect balance of emotion without being overblown or tear-jerking) and the whole film deserves praise for being original and clever. However it stretches some scenes way too much, uses an awful bleached color scheme that could turn off some people (it's just a detail, but it annoyed me throughout the whole screening) and uses unnecessary flashbacks instead of sticking to a more tight storytelling, which could've benefited the movie in my humble opinion.

However, these little flaws are nothing compared to the enormous heart this movie displays. Jean Claude Van Damme may not be Daniel Day Lewis or Sean Penn, but he gives an astounding performance in this film. He's very comfortable in the comical scenes, but his acting chops really shine when the movie gets emotional. His long monologue, looking at the camera, and the audience (and perhaps even God) is nothing short of amazing. In his own words, he really begs for a second chance not only in his career, but in life. He's incredibly moving (acting in his native language helps a lot) and above all doesn't try to pretend he's something more than a washed up movie star, with a somewhat limited vocabulary. He just asks for one more chance, and judging by this flick he truly deserves it.

Overall, a nice surprise for those unfamiliar with "the Muscles from Brussels" and a refreshing comedy. Except a few complaints about the pace and the direction it's a highly recommended movie. And hopefully the beginning of a new career for JCVD.

Borsalino (1970)
4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A good gangster movie with two of the greatest French actors, 5 December 2007

Borsalino tells the rise and fall of two small-time crooks in 1930 Marseille. Their rivalry soon becomes a strong friendship, allowing them to reach a place in the sun among other gangsters, even threatening the truce between the two ruthless families that control the city.

Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon shine in this enjoyable recreation of the ever-corrupted French city. The sets and costumes are terrific, and the music by Claude Bolling became an instant classic. So classic in fact that the director Jacques Deray over-uses it in some parts. The secondary characters are interesting somewhat but clearly overshadowed by the two leads. As for the script, it manages many enjoyable moments wandering between funny and tragic bits, however it is too hammy to totally convince and is not helped by a very dated type of editing. I don't know if it was to mimic the style of older gangster movies, but the movie should've been tighter on that point.

All in all, a very decent French movie. Far from flawless, but recommended.

7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
An interesting take on the 70's France., 17 September 2007

Georges Lautner, famous French director of classic comedies such as "Les tontons flingueurs", "Les barbouzes" or latter, more serious work like Jean-Paul Belmondo dark actioner "Le professionnel" blends laughs, gunshots and pot-smoking hippies into a decent, sometimes even hilarious comedy where French rednecks and free-loving, bare-chested youngsters learn to go beyond their mutual dislike and live in harmony in a deserted village. But some mysterious events raise the awareness of the local police force and murder, gunfights and T&A ensue.

Some of the funny parts are a bit dated, but it's still both an enjoyable comedy with somewhat visionary scenes (like an hilarious criticism of placement product) and Lautner's direction is pretty solid, even 30+ years later. The acting is solid too, with many familiar faces (the late Paul Preboist as well as Andre Pousse, Henri Guybet and the great Michel Galabru) for those who know 70's French cinema... Oh, and did I mention many semi-nude scenes with gorgeous hippie girls? Not a masterpiece, not an exploitation flick either, but an enjoyable movie nonetheless.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A decent 80's romantic comedy., 9 August 2007

This French film is quite different from the movies of its era: mostly French cinema was about comedies (silly or clever, gross or sophisticated) or drama. "Signes extérieurs de richesses" is one of a kind: a romantic comedy with (somewhat) social relevance.

Jean-Jacques - nicknamed Gigi - (the always great Claude Brasseur) is a successful veterinarian. His pet clinic is full of wealthy women, as well as his bed. So, when the IRS sends an average-looking girl (Josiane Balasko) to check his fiscal files, he's not really impressed and even laughs about it, too confident in his accountant Jérôme (the hilarious Jean-Pierre Marielle) who reveals himself to be a crook. Now, Gigi is busy with serious money issues, his clients' pets to care about, and the ugly-but-lovable IRS agent who makes his heart tick...

The characters are really well written, the hero is neither totally an asshole, nor a truly sympathetic guy. Same with the IRS girl shown first-hand as a dragon lady, and who reveals herself a shy, fragile woman seeking love.

Overall, a nice surprise from an otherwise mediocre era for French cinema.

Andalucia (2007)
12 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
Too many clichés, not enough heart., 23 June 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw an advance screening of this film and I was literally bored to tears. I haven't seen Alain Gomis' previous works, but that one is a real mess.

This is the story of Yacine, a young social worker trying to leave his past, his low-life friends and his family behind him. He finds a job at a soup kitchen and soon the audience is drifting in his stream of consciousness from a one-night-stand to another, his obsession with a female model, his quest for his roots and odd encounters with homeless folks.

Except for the use of the music, a decent cinematography and a few refreshing funny parts, this film totally misses the mark by awkwardly blending *every single cliché* you could expect from a French independent movie (not only French, as the director quotes - or knocks off - Spike Lee's signature "floating shot"). Between "social realism" and fantasizing, professional actors and "real people" (the latter acting far better than the former - go figure) the movie reeks as much of amateurism and demagogy as it lacks authenticity and heart.

For instance: just as you were thinking the director spared us the sexual identity crisis (the most outrageously unoriginal and overblown cliché of the genre) the main character kisses a guy for no apparent reason. But that's after he tried to beat him up. And lectured him about his origins, his job, his looks...

Of course, the unsympathetic nature of about every character doesn't help. If handled correctly it could be a breeze of fresh air and a clever change from the always nice characters we're accustomed to. But in the end it's not the case. Speaking of which, the ending is so silly it makes Hollywood endings look bold in comparison.

You may give it a try, but at your own risks.

11 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
An awfully directed, terribly adapted version of one of the greatest stories ever., 18 June 2007

Every fan of the original novel must cringe while watching this amateurish rendition of Alexandre Dumas' classic tale of vengeance. And every person who hasn't read it yet should avoid it at all costs.

The Count of Monte-Cristo is one of the most adapted novels in the history of Cinema/television. And oddly not a single adaptation was even remotely faithful, if so entertaining. However this French mini-series had the perfect length (6 Hrs) to succeed in putting on screen the innumerable characters, themes and places where so many failed miserably for almost a century.

Well, better luck next time, I guess. As Josee Dayan provides what is arguably one of the worst Monte Cristo ever put on screen. Which is somehow an amazing performance considering the challenge...

You're in for six LONG hours of mediocre performances, lousy direction and terribly cheesy writing. Of course Dumas' style was also very heavy and somewhat ham-fisted, but it never harmed the main plot and even managed to convey the social criticism, as well as contain the over-the-top situations and strengthen the emotion.

This horrible mess has nothing. No social relevance, no engaging "larger than life" drama or adventure. The sets are cheap and the art direction ugly. And above all, the emotion never translates from the book to the screen. Not a single minute out of 360. Nice achievement.

Oh, and did I mention that they *changed* the ending? Turning the amazing, challenging and beautiful conclusion of the novel into a ridiculous piece of garbage the worst Hollywood hack would be ashamed of.

Avoid this thing. Seriously.

Gladiator (2000)
2 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
A decent B-grade Peplum turns into an overblown blockbuster., 16 June 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...and if you think that "overblown blockbuster" is a pleonasm, wait until you see this movie. Even if it's not completely shabby, the amount of self-indulgent, ham fisted dialogue coupled with the sheer stupidity of the script makes one wonder...

Ridley Scott used to be a visionary. Which doesn't really translate in his poor rendition of the ancient Rome. Colors, framework, costumes: the art direction is very weak. The script is so formulaic and falsely clever it's almost insulting. And the editing rarely shines. The action is either boring or gives serious headaches; only one scene really stands out: Maximus (painfully portrayed by a sleepwalking Russel Crowe) leads his enslaved friends to victory by resorting on their old warrior reflexes.

Nothing really shines except that scene; the supporting cast is bland (Connie Nielsen) when not irritating (the usually great Joaquin Phoenix gives a really bad performance as the emperor Commodus).

But the most hilariously bad moment is the climactic battle: Ridley Scott and the hack who wrote this should be ashamed. The whole movie tries to re-write history (I'm not even calling that revisionism) introducing modern, Christian philosophical and moral values in the story through Maximus' perception. If we trusted the movie, Rome was a beacon in a world of barbarians. This ends up giving the hero the upper hand in a duel against Commodus, avenging his family with the sacrifice of his life. This whole ending, not only ridiculous on screen, is truly aimed at the blood-thirsty audience who needs his fix of "eye-for-an-eye" climax to feel satisfied, like in a good ol' "Death Wish" Bronson flick. Not only this is an historical lie (too bad for a movie that tries so hard to feel "realistic"), but it really misses the mark emotionally as the real demise of the emperor showed true poetic justice, as opposed to the self-righteous, overwrought lines Crowe delivers.

As for the "revisionism" complaint, I'm asking you: what if, 2000 years from now, a screenwriter comes up with a WWII epic comic book movie (not unlike a peplum of our times) where Captain America (Maximus) single-handedly defeats Hitler (Commodus)?

Well, it *may* turn out good. If Ridley Scott isn't directing.

RoboCop (1987)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
An amazing ride. Spectacular, dark, funny and above all meaningful., 16 June 2007

This movie is both a reason not to lose hope in Hollywood, and at the same time painfully reminds us how tame, boring and stupid most of the action genre has become.

Paul Verhoeven never used more efficiently the unparalleled resources Hollywood has to offer. With a decent - but not overblown - budget, he manages to show a spectacular display of action and great special effects that you can still watch today without laughing, unlike many other 80's movies.

The story (a cop working in a corruption-ridden society is brutally murdered and turned into a robotic law enforcer) is fairly simple, and in other hands could've ended like many other childish action movies. But the satiric tone and the full-frontal violence not only validates the humor, but helps the audience to understand the social critic without hammering it down. It's a moral tale, but certainly not a lecture.

The unbelievable boldness of the tone and the nifty execution turns this sci-fi/political pamphlet into a "Clockwork Orange"-like phenomenon. It's not aimed at kids, but if the brutality wasn't so over-the-top it should be shown to the youngest moviegoers, as the REAL action movie. No over-use of CGI. No annoying sidekick. No stupid humor or "satisfactory" ending. No compromise.

The 21st century truly NEEDS a movie like this. Not a remake, or a reboot, or whatever fancy name the studios come up with. Just a new kind of no-nonsense, clever, ambitious big budget movies that doesn't insult the audience's intelligence for a change. To settle the score with subsequent shallow Hollywood flicks whose makers brag about carrying on RoboCop's legacy while reaching for the lowest common denominator ("Iron Man", anyone?). To set a new standard in blockbusters, an alternative to silly, brainwashing and heartless "entertainment". The sooner's the better.

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