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1/10
Incomplete
4 February 2011
This film is not the true version of "Blake of Scotland Yard." This is a truncated feature-length version of a 15-Chapter Serial. Its more than 400% shorter than it was intended to be and hence that accounts for all the issues you will read about in other reviews. This is truly unfortunate because it means the ruination of a great serial. If you visit the serial's IMDb page (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0028637/) you'll not that it's average user rating is double what it is here.

Unfortunately, this false version is the only one which is available from Amazon so it truly is a case of buyer beware. Please don't judge this work by the worst version of it but instead look for a full version which is 15 chapters and 303 minutes long.
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1/10
Zzzzzzz
28 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I came. I slept. I left. I wasted my time what a piece of garbage. The thing doesn't move at all, it lasts forever, scenes are overly drawn out and several of them are redundant. It took the film about an hour to establish some sort of premise otherwise it was just wasting its time with eye candy and gimmicks. The acting, including Johnny Depp who was great in the first film, was all flat and boring. The grotesque sea creates Davey Jones and his minions lost whatever appeal they had the feeling of repulsion separated from all other emotion isn't effective. The Black Pearl had at least some legs to stand on, however, wobbly. This series followed (or follows I shudder at the thought) a progression of getting progressively worse and longer. The first was good but too long by a half an hour, the second bad and too long by 45 minutes this one was god awful and shouldn't have started in the first place. Orlando Bloom's character doesn't really die which is a joke and I didn't care about anything that happened in it for a second. And the ending, or should I say endings, may be in fact worse than The Return of the King because at least those multiple endings were preceded by a great film. This one was barely watchable. I liked the first Pirates of the Caribbean a lot and felt, due in part by running time, that I wanted to see the story resolve itself though I really could care less. Now I wish I hadn't.
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10/10
A Masterpiece
12 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Fanny and Alexander not only encompasses all the work that Ingmar Bergman ever did. It is truly a symphonic film experience. It is musical in the way it flows visually the way the shots move and the way the story moves about from character to character. The music itself is sparse and perfectly placed the monotonous and ominous notes add the perfect weight to nearly the last half hour of the film.

In this film there are so many brilliant and unforgettable scenes: Carl's breakdown in front of Lydia, Alexander's Story about the Ghosts, Alexander's Interrogation by the bishop and Alexander's meeting with Ishmael are all the quintessence of Bergman's greatness and absolutely unforgettable.

In a much overused film cliché literally every frame of this film is a Rembrant and is also Sven Nyqvist's most accomplished work.The colors are vibrant and brilliant and the frames are intoxicating.

Sight and Sound magazine consistently has placed Fanny and Alexander in the top ten films of the past 25 years a few years running and it is well deserved. It is absolutely brilliant and a masterpiece that is nearly without parallel.
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10/10
A testament on behalf of us all
2 May 2004
Warning: Spoilers
-possible spoilers-

The Passion of the Christ is most definitely a film by Mel Gibson. With this film we see a man stake his claim as an elite director. Even prior to hearing about this project I had eagerly anticipated Gibson's 3rd Film.

His first two films in my eyes were a resounding success. The Man without a Face is a harrowing tale about redemption and the living past in small town America. In it Gibson played a man who was accused of inproprieties with a former student. Eventually, he had an accident and had his face burned and was convicted of manslauhgter of the same student. Several years later he is seen as a freak and lives as a hermit in a small town. He gets a chance to teach again when a young man Charles Norstadt, played brilliantly by Nick Stahl in one of the top screen debuts of the past 15 years, needs his help to pass a test and escape his broken home.

Gibson's directing style was non-existent in this film. It was invisible cutting and the classic Hollywood technique. Yet the results were extraordinary. What we get is a testament of friendship and a denouncement of persecution that is as moving as it is enthralling. Due to its subject matter The Man without a Face hardly made a dent at the box office and hardly garnered Gibson notoriety for his skills as a director.

A few years later, however, came Braveheart. It was a critical and financial success. While some people find Gibson's use of slow motion to be heavyhanded, Braveheart and subsequently The Passion of the Christ show Gibson to be the shrewdest innovator in the use of slow motion effects in god knows how long because I generally hate them. There isn't a thing about this film that isn't great. Gibson has probably also received undue criticism because he was the second actor in a short period of time to win the Oscar for Best Director (Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven) yet both were very well deserved.

The second film for a director is usually his make or break film if his first is a success. Gibson knew that Bravheart was a hard act to follow but he found a way to try and outdo himself. He went behind the camera and stayed there to make The Passion

Stepping back from the film for a second I want to wonder for a moment why people are so surprised Gibson set out to make this film. Mel Gibson operates his own production company called Icon Productions, the logo is apparently an Icon of the Virgin Mary. The seeds were sewn long ago. More importantly we must note that every great director has either made a film about Jesus or has contemplated it.

Gibson's style is hardly unchanged. A detractor may say he took the Braveheart formula and applied it to the Passion but what we find here is Gibson's emrgence as an auteur. A man possessed, intent on making his film his way and may all those who don't like it please step out of his way. The first bold and brilliant move on his part was to shoot the film in Aramaic and Latin. While I was skeptical at his chances of having it released without subtitles, having seen them with subtitles I can honestly say they well could've been removed. We don't necessarily see this film, analyze this film or appreciate this film so much as we experiencce it. It couldn't have been any more difficult or real if he made it in 'real time.'

My favorite part of the film is that Gibson cuts away from the Stations of the Cross and the Crucifixtion itself to: The Last Supper, The Kiss of Death, Jesus washing the Disciples' Feet, The Sermon on the Mount, The Stoning of Mary Magdalene, to put into focus, to make real to us that through his death Jesus would absolve us of our sins and give us life everlasting; to show us that even amidst the brutality and the humiliation he suffered there was a reason to it. I seriously considered taking a break from the torture of seeing this film. I found myself questioning Mel Gibson at times in the film but I feel what really bothered me was that Jesus had to go through this. It was painful to watch but that doesn't make it any less real or artistic. There is a scene where he is being flogged by Roman soldiers that is so incessant that just hearing numbers shouted out in Latin sends shivers down your spine.

As violent as the film was it makes the miracle of Easter which we witness for but a brief second at the end of the film all the more amazing and all the more of a blessing. Yet The Passion of the Christ takes on an added dimension because it is also a brilliant document of those who witnessed and suffered through Jesus' death, as we too suffer and witness it. One of the more brilliant moments in the film is when an unnamed woman risks her life to run past soldiers and gives Jesus a cloth so that he can sop up the blood on his face. It is obvious this is the Shroud of Turin but it is so subtley and beautifully done its a highlight in the film. Another amazing aspect of the film is the depiction of Mary. I like most Catholics I hold Mary dear to my heart, she is the ubermother for lack of a better word. Yet cinematic depictions of her always seemed to fall short of accuracy for some reason left unknown. Gibson points it out where Mary is snapped out of her suffering and is a mother. She runs to her son's aid. Jesus at this point gives Mary a huge kiss on the cheek. That coupled with a great flashback scene really show the fullest relationship between Mary and Jesus I think I've seen. We also Peter's denials of Christ done in a very original way along with Judas' suicide.

Ultimately, it took me a while to draw these conclusions about the film because it is such an atypical film. Its not entertainment and its not a docummentary. It's quite simply a man's love letter to Jesus Christ. A testament on behalf of us all that we are 'not worthy to receive him' yet so great is his love that he receives us all.
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Peter Pan (2003)
10/10
Best Film of 2003
10 January 2004
There should be a rule that bars people from remaking a story when the definitive edition has been made. While I loved the much maligned 'Hook' and Disney's version PJ Hogan created the perfect version of this tale. It uses more from the book than ever and even improves on some elements. The proper theatrical conventions are kept like Hook and the Father being played by the same actor and also the proper ones were done away with like a woman playing Peter's role

This is the way the story of Peter Pan should be told The imagery is balanced between fantastical and realistic. Every single character is perfectly cast, especially Jeremy Sumpter as Peter. The special effects were so amazing and unique I was actually surprised to see that Industrial Light and Magic did them. The film flows beautifully with scenes that seem as if they are pulled straight from my dreams.

This is a story that has alway been very dear to me and I feel that people are making way to much of this film. Peter's escape embodies a fear all children suffer from at one point or another: growing up. This is the essence of the film and the conflict is heightened by the fact that Wendy loves Peter and for him to love her back he knows he'd have to grow up. One day we know we must grow up. As children we envy Peter's being but know that our destinies are more those of Wendy, Michael and John. As adults we find Peter's dream of perpetual childhood beautiful but as we see his heart breaking because he cannot change who he is and live with the Darlings, so do ours. For that is our plight. There is not an audience this film can't play to for that very reason.

It's a heartwarming, swashbuckling, Funny, adventurous, to say that its an experience doesn't do it justice. This film is truly a dream come true.

It's impossible not to like this movie. Open your heart, shut off your brain and watch Peter Pan the way it was meant to be seen.
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Love Actually (2003)
10/10
One of the Year's Very Best
22 November 2003
Love Actually is one of those brilliant experiences where a trailer sends a jolt through your soul and whets your appetite. You anticipate the film hopelessly counting down the days but trying not to think about because you're afraid you'll hype the film to death.

Then you see it and are dumbfounded. They caught lighting in a bottle. You get what the trailer promised and more.

This film has no pretensions and doesn't do those stupid reversals most romantic comedies do when the result of the story is pre-ordained. This film is no more or no less a tale of people seeking to find happiness in their lives and to share that with someone else. It's a romantic comedy for real people. And for those people in the cliché of ‘people who hate romantic comedies'

This film makes you glad to be alive. It's cinematic bliss. If you're looking for a purely visceral, emotional experience with a lot of laughs you should definitely see this film.

All the storylines do not detract from the emotion or the narrative structure. Upon first viewing pieces of each characters tale may seem as if they're spread too fart apart. And you find you want to get back to the Prime Minister's story or Jamie's but by the end you love all the stories. And the pay off is great.

It's one of the year's very best.
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3/10
Almost Escapes Being A Waste of Time (SPOILERS)
15 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers
This film actually manages to be mindless enjoyment for 2/3 of the journey. Sadly, the film ends up being too 'confused.' While I know some of the plot contrivances are standard of 'buddy cop' films I got drawn in to the characters who foil each other brilliantly but in the end the film relies too much on chase sequences as a crutch and I lost interest.

The filmmakers did a great job of getting the characters alone and doing their own thing and we got to see who they are and identified with both cops early on. We formed our own opinion instead of being force fed a view of them through constant bickering.

In the end there is too much going on and it detracts greatly from what could've been an enjoyable piece of escapism. Here's what's concerning Joe Gavilan (Harrison Ford) at the end of the film:

1. His real estate deals 2. His affair with a radio psychic 3. He's being investigated by internal affairs 4. The homicide investigation

If you add in Casey's concerns you fond out he wants to be an actor and avenge his father's death. Now some of these things do come together and even come together well but all the plot elements come together amidst this bogus chase that is so long and pathetic that I hardly have time to break my ennui and give a crap about what just happen. The impressive screenwriting acrobatics cannot overcome the bad filmmaking.

As if a ridiculous chase sequence wasn't bad enough, one which has four separate sections and could last close to half an hour, wasn't bad enough, Joe Gavilan fields calls about his real estate deal while chasing the perpetrator with a gun. All these extra-curricular plot lines and jokes make it absolutely meaningless to me whether or not the criminal gets caught. We already forgot or no longer care about the murder plot at this point because multiple plot-lines and eye candy of the chases have numbed us beyond all comprehension.

While I could go on about the chases and how they ruin a decent story, I won't. This could've been a very enjoyable formula film but it got much too big for its britches and it turned into a redundant waste of time. Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett actually did rather well and a small appearance by Gladys Knight is worth noting. Sadly none of the actors can help this hopelessly misguided film from being forgettable.

While this will probably be better than the likes of "The Hulk" and "Lara Croft II" that still doesn't make this film good. I once heard that Harrison Ford claimed to only make films that eh thought would make money, I'm not sure if that's true or not. What is true is that to get great box office you don't need a great movie or a great actor, this film has neither in its lead roles. My advice to Harrison Ford would be: to stick to Indiana Jones because at least you can still run.
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The O'Keefes (2003)
On the Pilot -- "It's Brilliant!"
11 June 2003
Anyone who doesn't like this has had their mind numbed by the major networks.

First off the premise is a unique one that I haven't seen treated anywhere else. The fact that these children are sheltered sets the tone for the show. Most of all I applaud this show because it's not afraid to be intelligent.

With so many put-downs and inane one-liners on television its refreshing to see television that has snappy dialogue. Every joke absolutely worked. Even the joke about hippies, which are a target I don't understand and the jokes often miss, was great. The test of a good comedy is when you see jokes coming and they're still funny and "The O'Keefe's" passes with flying colors.

A good set is crucial to episodic television and the O'Keefe's home is a great set that represents their parents protective attitude. Judge Reinhold was actually truly great playing on his strength as a condescending actor brilliantly, and Joseph Cross also plays his character to perfection.

It's one of the best pilots I've ever seen. And with lines like "My dad says watching TV is like letting the media urinate in your eyes," I wish I wrote it.
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Hafið (2002)
10/10
Brilliant
19 May 2003
It's great to go into a film knowing nothing about it before hand. This was the case when I saw "The Sea." While you can easily see it was adapted from a play the themes are consistent and handled cinematically for the most part.

The first thing that is apparent is that the casting in this film is ridiculously perfect. No actor feels out of place. Speaking of which neither are any of the scenes. It is rare to watch such a multi-character film and never be left confused about who's who. All the characters are sharply defined and they all illustrate the struggle amongst family, between the generations and the joining or avoidance of a globalized world.

The scenes in the pool and the scenes with the black sheep are accessible symbolism that serve comedic or story functions such that the audience is never lost. Another amazing thing is that even though all the characters have undesirable traits they're all funny and identifiable. The only place the film falters in anyway is that the father has a speech that's a little too long at the end. With the way the film cuts the framing of the story is very surprising.

The acting all around is great but those who stand out are Gunnar Eyjólfsson, Hilmir Snær Guðnason, Hélène de Fougerolles, Guðrún Gísladóttir and Elva Ósk Ólafsdóttir.

Whenever watching a foreign film, especially one from a culture I'm not that familiar with, I always look for two things: 1. does it seem indigenous and not overly influenced by Hollywood? 2. While being indigenous does it communicate a universal message and/or theme. "The Sea" succeeds in both cases.
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Holes (2003)
10/10
When Disney doesn't Over-sell their films...
19 May 2003
They actually have a good film on their hands...

First, I do believe that I have to see this movie again because what most impressed me about 'Holes' is that it didn't insult its target audience for one second. When a story is good, like this one is, Kids don't care if it's long or complicated. Story is all that matters and everything they're focused on this story has great characters who are all well played.

Sigourney Weaver and Jon Voight are fantastic in their roles. Ms. Weaver's performance along with the direction of the story completely fooled me. Tim Blake Nelson, also does a great job as the kind of guy who'll pat you on the back just to find a good place to stick a knife in, what was truly impressive is that as the movie progressed i started hating him. That is also the strength of the "gang" they watch out for each other but aren't necessarily friends all the time. X-Ray also got on my nerves alot times.

The characters in this film nare not the same and what is the most realistic is their interaction.

As for the structure of the film its brilliant anyone who thinks this movie will confuse kids is clueless. If anything the filmmakers try a little too hard to establish the multiple-storylines in the beginning. I never read the book but the structure does seem very novelic indeed and its a great fantasy. Most impressive of all was Patricia Arquette's performance, honestly i had confused her with Daryl Hannah for most of the film (and I've never liked either of them her and Dule Hill's interaction really made the 1800s segment work.

Like I said it requires another viewing but this yet another great Disney live action film like last year's "The Rookie" Disney has abandoned it's Eisner instilled holier-than-thou attitude on occasion and they are making films that Walt Disney himself may have liked because they respect the audience instead of pandering to them.
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Rose Red (2002)
10/10
La Danse Macabre
19 May 2003
From reading "Stephen King's Danse Macabre" I saw what a passion Stephen King had for the haunted house premise in horror fiction. If one watches "The Shining" you may think he already did his haunted house story (after all what is a hotel?), however, the book is a much different creature that goes beyond cabin fever, telepathy and diving into insanity. After 26 years of scaring America the Master of Horror has found its home and it is "Rose Red."

After "Storm of the Century" one could hardly hope for a more ghastly tale to grace the small screen but Stephen King outdid himself again. In the first chapter of the tale dread sets while we learn the histories of all our participants and invariably side with Dr. Joyce Reardon, superbly played by Nancy Travis, having only seen her in sitcoms I was truly in awe of her performance it was one of many which left me spellbound in this film. The second chapter is two hours of gut wrenching taut tension and the end neatly closes up King's tale in one of the finest climaxes he's ever written either in prose or for the screen.

Craig R. Baxley showed that "Storm of the Century" was no fluke. His combination of slow pans, lightning, fast zooms, skewed angles and pretty much the entire mise-en-scene of the piece added to what was already an amazing tale. His directing paired with Gary Chang's chillingly masterful score add to create an atmosphere that is absolutely intoxicating. Along with Nancy Travis another notably brilliant performance was that of Matt Ross as Emery Waterman. Ross completely immersed himself in the part and played King's best pest to date. David Dukes who played Miller was also fantastic and who sadly lost his life after completing this project was wonderful and I also congratulate the producres for not pulling any punches with his character but merely dedicating the entire mini-series to his memory. The colorful interplay of the ensemble characters rival if not surpass his best multi-character works ("It," "Needful Things," "Desperation").

This film also boasts some of the best and most convincing CGI i've seen to date. It was supernatural only when need be other than that it looked utterly convincing and frightening. Another thing that resonates after watching "Rose Red" is that this is indeed one of his nastiest collection of characters not since "The Stand" did he even come close to having a contingent of nasty characters such as this but even still they are all likeable in at least one way or another. The undertones of religion and evil hit home harder than ever before. I'm not going to give anything away but if you analyze it you won't find clear cut good guys and clear cut bad guys.

Stephen King has delivered one of the most bone-chilling suspenseful mini-series of all time. The format seems truly to have been created for his work. In "Rose Red" Stephen King invites us to dance the Danse Macabre.

"It's a dance and sometimes they turn off the lights in this ballroom. But we'll dance anyway, you and I. Even in the dark. Especially in the dark. May I have the pleasure?" (Danse Macabre, 15). Believe me Mr. King the pleasure has been all I mine. I hope we can dance again real soon.
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7/10
Made for Viewers of the Show (Many Many Many Many Spoilers)
3 May 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Ok, I admit it, when the networks fail to provide you with originality you go to cable programming. While it may be on the head and didactic at times it is funny and at times more honest than network dramas, barring 'Everwood,' of course. Being a fan and knowing that Disney has a track record of ruining great things I had my doubts.

The first half of the film is seriously flawed in that the filmmakers didn't know whether or not this was a "long episode" or a "feature film." Detracting from the beginning are, in shopping list fashion so as not to be belligerent: 1) Ms. Ungermayer; 2) Miranda (Lalaine) getting written out of another story;

3) inconsistent cutting between storylines, inconsistent character behavior with the show (The MaGuires); 4)Disney's own marketing machine overplays its hand by pointing out that Paolo's accent is hammy and not authentic in their "Movie Surfer" segments;

5) There are also bad canned music choices and remixes;

6)The cartoon is back. 7) And other little idiosyncrasies that annoy the avid viewer (ie geek).

I gave this laundry list to point out that the second half of this film gets much better. It seems like the filmmakers finally figured out where the episode format could come into play, even though they forfeited the first act, unforgivably. The Dogme style of cinematography employed by Jerzy Zielinski added a dreamlike and surrealistic quality to many of the scenes that needed it, and it was a welcome choice unlike the changing of director from either the usual Savage Steve Holland or Steve de Jarnatt. The fuzzy images the Danish have given to the world work beautifully and of course shooting in Rome helps it almost have a surrealistic quality.

Stumbly direction aside the actors all eventually give their usual performances and some their all, Clayton Snyder (Ethan) is hilarious as ever playing his irreverent goof and Ashlie Brillaut (Kate) both foil and oppose the characters they were placed with (Gordo and Lizzie, respectively).

The filmmakers had an advantage when making this film. The subtext was in place. Everyone who watches the show knows these characters inside and out. So like Star Wars geeks we eagerly anticipate what we know is going to happen and hope it happens in an exciting and different way than expected. The first half of the film is stilted and awkward for a number of reasons perhaps due to the fact that the way the story was being constructed, the average viewer may need 2h30m to get into it. However, this is a niche film - not a blockbuster- so it should've been character all the way. And that's what it was in the second half. The new characters were set and the 'tried and true' felt comfortable again.

The latter portion of the 2nd act is pure Lizzie Maguire.

The 3rd act is pure visceral-cinema, in my mind that's the best kind.

So despite all its faults I give this film a 7 of 10.
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10/10
Whimsical and Funny
16 April 2003
While Disney cartoons all too often have a great sense of propriety to them, as opposed to the Warner shorts that are loud, unapologetic and even considered vulgar at times by todays reactionary and revisionist censors. Disney has always been viewed as more boring and benign by most kids and as more sly and underhanded by many adults.

Taking that into consideration "Funny Little Bunnies" is whimsical Disney animation at its best and its unapologetically funny. I almost hate myself for writing that first paragraph because people, especially after they study film take these cartoons too seriously. They're called "Silly Symphonies" for a reason. That's what they are silly all things we find offensive today were a norm in 1934. That doesn't make it right it just makes it a fact.

Anyway, if you shut your brain off for eight minutes you'll have a really great time. The story is simple and humorous without being too dumb and the animation- which I suspect was done on 3-strip technicolor is beautiful.

I dare you to enjoy it
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Mary Poppins (1964)
10/10
Let This Film Take You Into Its World
4 April 2003
Warning: Spoilers
:::::some spoilers::::::::

I recently saw this film for the first time in years and it struck me as kind of odd but simply because I wasn't watching it as it was intended to be seen. No matter what you believe about Disney and his subplots or pseudoplots all of his films are for children first and foremost, they're just not solely for children. Mary Poppins is probably one of his most simple and joyful creations.

The story is so unpretentious we forget what it is at times: Mary Poppins is a nanny on a mission to reunite the Banks family and she succeeds. In the middle she takes them on magical adventures with her assorted cast of friends.

This is the kind of film that the term suspend disbelief was created for. Things just happen in this movie and you have to accept them, like a child accepts them: Seeing is believing. Of course, this being a musical the songs are essential and they are fantastic, my favorite changes day by day or viewing by viewing.

The special effects, and mixing of live action and animation are years ahead of its time. The acting which some may critique is dead on the money. Dick Van Dyke, in dual roles, plays a caricature of both a chimney sweep and an old bank partner (at first I questioned the casting but now I see it was truly inspired and a surprise). None of the characters are meant to be played subtly and some, like Mr. Banks, require moments that are way over the top. Even Julie Andrews isn't as understated as she usually is (While on the subject I do believe the Academy feared having her win 2 consecutive Oscars even though she deserved it for the Sound of Music much more).

Ina film where old men shoot cannons off their rooftops at what they think are Hottentots, how can one question the reality of the situation or whether Stanislavski would've approved of the acting method? You can't it's a film of pure imagination for those who know how to use it. It is whimsical, touching and a pure delight. If you just sit back, relax and let this film take you into its world you'll have a great time.
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City of God (2002)
10/10
Captures Lightning in a bottle
4 February 2003
"'Cidade de Deus' captures lightning in a bottle. Like many, if not all of the internationally reknowned Brazilian films of the past decade 'Cidade de Deus shows us a segment of the Brazilian population in near perfect cinematic simulacrum. A story whose structure is indebted to "Citizen Kane" and is just as intellectually stimulating, this films narrative moves circularly telling the tales of many characters who become the central figures in a 'favela'. Rarely is criminality portrayed in such dimension, there is not one 'no-nonsense, tough as nails, born a jerk will die a jerk in this but. The characterization separates and explains the motivations of each main cast member perfectly. The word circular works also to describe the nature of the story which is one of crime and corruption; it is something that never ends as we all know but the filmmaking is so captivating that we expect a 'happy ends' but love the truth the film shows regardless. The Samba-infused score and frenetic cinematography work hand in hand to add rhythm and emotion where it is needed but the cold, shocking and gut-wrenching scenes are left as is and work wonderfully. This is a film worth multiple viewings and careful examination and is a rarity a great piece of art that ALSO makes a socio-political statement.
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Kidco (1984)
9/10
A Diamond in the Rough (Many Spoilers)
2 February 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Kidco is another one of those fantastical films of the 80s with a grounded theme. It was written by Bennett Tramer who went on to create probably the most famous television show that's "So Bad It's Good," called Saved by the Bell. This film tells the story of Dickie Cessna, played aptly by Scott Schwartz. We start off watching his Keno scheme at school which is busted by the principal. He's the quintessential 80s hero; anything for a buck but he's the little guy because who's gonna come after him? The crummy feds of course, to paraphrase Dickie. We first meet with these agents when they come to inspect his father's ranch because the board of taxation needs to appraise his assets. First, Dickie gives them bad directions and then when they arrive his sister's lead them to the barn where they supposedly live and put on this act of misery. Dickie's father tells him he has to stop running scams in school so he takes him up on the loophole. Yet then he stumbles on to a legitimate business opportunity when he sees they throw away piles and piles of manure everyday and all the local companies are complaining that Orville Peterjohn, the town tycoon, is charging them an arm and a leg for fertilizer. They are then charged with not paying sales tax, not having a seller's permit and not listing the contents of the product. Not only are they brought to trial but Dickie and Betty Cessna decide to defend themselves. This provides for some of the most hysterical moments in this film. At one point Dickie decides he needs to deliver a speech to state his case and says in closing 'The United States could've been the greatest country in the world but they had to go and bust Kidco.' This is also a film that deals heavily with the fundamental differences between children and adults and Dickie says "Youth is wasted on the young. Children should be seen and not heard. Your honor, if we believed in cruddy old sayings like that Kidco wouldn't have made a cent." While Dickie's vocabulary is lacking he is always brutally honest and has no problems insulting a lawyer which is always fun to watch and what this film has which I think is great is a triumphant defeat. They get out of the sales tax because their father has already paid sales tax on the hay and oats the horses ate that became the manure. It's a great moment because you see it coming and Dickie says "Your honor we're getting taxed at both ends!" The judge under heavy media and political scrutiny to be easy on the kids quickly dismisses the charges. Then the prosecutor reminds him the other charges still stand before the court. There is a plea bargain struck because there's really no way they'll be absolved. They'll be given a special seller's permit and must pay practically all their profit's worth in fines. The triumphantly they walk outside. There is a gathering of thousands of kids and Dickie gets up before them and starts talking riling them up. Neil, a cub reporter who's been helping them out give him a box full of orders for Kidco T-Shirts then Dickie grabs a bullhorn and says: "And we wanna tell you, you just made us enough dough to pay our fine…and buy supper for ever kid in San Diego! Maybe now those bozos will pick on someone their own size" then he announces plans for a new shirt with his picture on it. And the kids chant 'Kid-co, Kid-co, Kid-co.' Some of the details in this film are really what make it work instead of baseball pennants over his bed Dickie has Pennants of Ford, Standard Oil and General Motors. And at the very end there are protest signs that read: 'In Kids We Trust,' 'Peter Pan Lives," "Children's Coalition," "Kids Liberation" "Suffrage for Kids" and "Equal Rights for Kids." These signs are fantastic. The whole tone of the movie is perfect. In many films made in the United States children are given little or no respect as people they are portrayed as stupid, whiney, troublemakers. Few and far between are the films that treat them with any respect. This film screeches for and demands that respect. Not only that but it's a great portrayal of big business in the 80s where kids were also looking for money and identifying themselves with corporations. Kidco might be a strange and unusual little film but it is most definitely funny and it is definitely a film of the 80s,a nd I think it's great.
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Amélie (2001)
6/10
Great to a point, but slips (Spoilers)
31 January 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Unlike Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Cité de enfants perdu which never has a period, or moment of greatness, Amélie manages to be great and wonderfully inventive for about the first half hour until Bretodeau gets his box back. After that it's as if we've watched the origin story of a super hero and then watch her go about her daily routine (changing from Clark Kent to Superman, so to speak). The film then hits a structural snag, whereas, now Amelie has satisfied the desire of one man she goes off and tries to help everyone almost at once and we are told of these incidents simultaneously. The film had its greatest grip on me when we were focused on one story, there would've been nothing wrong with vignettes after all it was good enough for Truffaut in Small Change. Amelie begins wonderfully, with voice-over narration of her early life which the French seem to be masters at, the best example of voice-over being in Leolo a Quebecois film. Her childhood full of its strange events come across as hilarious whereas other cultures might have botched them making them distasteful, the death of her mother being a perfect example. The quirky humor is about the only thing that never leaves the film from the ticket taker who now punches holes in plants, the stuffed dog, the traveling gnome etc. When Bredoteau finds his box we flashback to what memories those items held for him in what are truly beautiful moments of the film. This is my moment of highest involvement, that sequence was a pinnacle which the narrative never achieved again. Part of the problem is the predictability the film later runs into. I'm terrible at guessing the ends of movie but once we were introduced to Nino and told of his past I knew that he and Amelie would end up together. So obviously, it was nerve-wracking and annoying that she was so painfully shy and prolonged the movie unnecessarily. Then there's the almost American complication in the relationship between Georgette and the bar drunk by her talking to Nino were so uncalled for. Then we also have the "Glass Man" and Amelie pondering Renoir's painting. While in the beginning it's commenting on Amelie is subtle it becomes more and more overt as the film moves on. The there are Jeunet's shots of Amelie smiling to extract her cuteness for some affect and frankly she's not all that cute and the shots are inorganic which is even worse. The special effects also eventually become pedantic when the key in her pocket shines, it makes me wonder what kind of film this would've turned into if Jeunet had been given a Lucas-like amount of special effect allowances in the budget. The cinematography in this film is quite spectacular but in certain instances the effects downplay what they have been able to do with the camera. The change in structure of this film ultimately creates a domino effect. While I can't re-write the film I wonder if I would be nit-picking so much if there hadn't been such a shift in the way the story was told. In the end Amelie is an enjoyable experience that may just have indulged its premise a bit too much-6/10.
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The Vanishing (1988)
8/10
Everything it should be (Spoilers)
31 January 2003
Warning: Spoilers
This film exemplifies many things I like to see in films but rarely get enough of. Often times in Hollywood films we get interesting concepts that never live up to their full potential. In The Vanishing we get a film that forgoes cheap thrills and pace to examine the characters involved in a very thought-provoking way and it manages to achieve a greater level of creepiness than most American films would. After having first watched this film I was looking around in all directions as I walked around and here's why. One of the first things that strikes you is the music. There's a deep base bottom and it doesn't overly-anticipate the moment but still highlights the film with an overtone of foreboding which is just magnificent. And as this word could apply to the film as a whole it is especially significant in the antagonist; subtlety. Played by Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Raymond Lemorne is a great villain because he's believable, well defined and most frighteningly in the end we even understand him and worse yet he seems real.

Another thing this film has going for it is the way the film isn't told chronologically. We first see the vanishing and the desperate search in the first few hours, then we are introduced to Lemorn, peg him as the man, see his routine and see that three years have gone by. All through out the film we will skip through time for large periods. The disappearance of Saskia will be filled in over and over again until the actual events are seen through their entirety. And the last piece only falls into place at the very end. Amazingly, with this unusual structure the film is not hard to follow in the least and certainly much more intriguing then the conventional linear plot we're used to seeing in the United States. The 'reality' of these events are set up in many way by director George Sluizer. Firstly there was great used of subjective camera and the 'Zero Degree Style' common in the States is completely abandoned. The other touches of reality come as we delve into the two main characters: Rex and Raymond. Raymond, the criminal, is first only seen in a very one dimensional manner. We see him a s a fraud who seems to be scoping out the store for possible victims. Then later in the story we see him begin to formulate his plan, to perfect it over and over again. The one scene where we see him as a biology teacher is just enough to show us that these people could be anyone and can fool you so easily. There is also the scene where Rex is waiting for him at the restaurant. Rex says he's waiting for Mr. Montmejan and that happens to the waiter's name. The commonness of the name adds profound statement about the plausibility of the plot. The tension of the film is also aided by McGuffins, or botched attempts by the professor. In one scene we see him pick up a young girl, we know already that him locking the door is where he makes his move and poisons the girl but it's his daughter. He also runs into a former student of his and tried to get her in his car and we see a chilling example of how he may have escaped justice for so long for even when someone calls him on it their content to just get away. There's also the scene where Raymond is out of focus in the background as Rex looks around for him. This is also another great scene of anticipation.

Rex's relationship with Lieneke and also his quest are also quite believable. He reaches a point where all he seeks to know is the truth. The Vanishing is also greatly helped by some really good dialogue. The image of the Golden Egg as related by Saskia through her dream sort of predestines the film in a way as we'll see they both have the same fate, however, that is not a fault of the film. I firmly believe that there are only so many ways a story can end and it's not how it ends that always matters but how you got there. The Vanishing is a toned down psychological-thriller that'll get under your skin. It's a film that's had my imagination captive for a week. It's not only a prime example of a psycho-thriller but also of well-structured and executed character studies. It's a great achievement.
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10/10
Makes the remake look like a bad joke (SPOILERS)
31 January 2003
Warning: Spoilers
It is impossible for me, having been exposed to The Birdcage first, to not compare the original and the remake. Almost from the word go I sensed a great disparity within the two films even though the remake ended up being and uninspired copy and paste writing job. The first thing that lends itself to creating a different tone is the music composed by Ennio Morricone. The music in the Birdcage by Mark Mothersbaugh and Jonathan Tunick is forgettable seeing as I've seen the remake three or four times and can't remember a single note while I've seen the original once and can still remember Morricone's score.

Ennio Morricone's gentle music takes us into a world that we shouldn't be afraid of. The key word to thinking about his music is sensitive. It exudes softness, tenderness which is aped by the action and the actors who are not ridiculous characterizations but with real people and real emotions. Due to the fact that all scenes include practically the same dialogue it is a huge complement to Ugo Tognazzi and Michel Serrault that they made their characters more three-dimensional and real than Robin Williams and Nathan Lane.

The American interpretation of this film is also vastly different than the French. Due to the fact that this film deals with homosexuality which is a topic that still is tinged with taboo here Americans have to turn the film into a farce of a farce. In other words the movie has to be ridiculously over the top to be accepted. The pathetic part of the remake is that it perpetuates stereotypes and while the stereotypes do exist (for how do stereotypes come into being?) by merely making them more human we can see beyond a stereotype to the person portrayed. A perfect example of this is the opening scene. They are the same in both films. Renato (Armand in the American version) tries to get Albin (Albert) onto the stage to perform his act. In the American version Nathan Lane makes his character seem like a whining melodramatic pain-in-the-you-know-what because of this the scene is very funny but emotionally superficial. In the French version practically the same dialogue is spoken but because of the way Michel Serrault delivers his lines and because of the more subdued expression he has on his face the words take on weight. They have meaning they come across as real concerns for the relationship as opposed to a paranoid delusion and an excuse not to go on stage. It made me believe the affair was a possibility all over again and made me forget about the son and his impending marriage.

The deception of the possibility that Renato is having an affair is aided by the son's appearance. In the American version he was clean-cut and Ivy League here the son in full 1970s look long hair included.

La Cage aux folles in 1978, even in France, was a more progressive film depicting a gay relationship, a gay couple who had raised a son and how the couple still had to pretend in certain social situation while longing to be completely honest. By 1996 in the United States homosexuality was not such a hot topic of controversy yet a slapstick-esque context is the only way the mainstream will be able to accept gay characters. Dramas about homosexuals are sole dominion of the art houses.

This is a film that does something very difficult to do. It takes a situation that is rich with comedy and imbues it with humanity and warmth. Making this a layered comedy which is something rare regardless of the country the film is made in. Le Cage aux folles is a really fun film which takes a serious look at human relationships and society's perception of people's lifestyles without putting any one down or getting preachy. It's a lot of fun.
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10/10
Good and Simple (Spoilers)
31 January 2003
Warning: Spoilers
"A Man and a Woman" is about the simplest and least pretentious romantic story you are bound to find. This statement is important because most often the problem with the romantic comedy or the straight romance is that the story is often too contrived, far-fetched, and/or lacking in true human emotion. In this film we see how two people fall in love and better yet we don't even get a happily ever after type of ending but rather we see that these two people are willing to love again after having lost their first spouses. This film is also interesting in the way director Claude Lelouch structures his narrative. Not only do we never over-deal with the fact that they both lost their first loves we also find this information out at different times in the story and the information in the film is also communicated very visually which is interesting as opposed to hearing dialogue which if poorly delivered would come across as ham-handed. The psychological focus of the tale is definitely Anne Gauthier (Anouk Aimée). She is more the focus because we see both her falling in love with her first husband, Pierre, while "Samba da Bênção' by Toquinho and Vinicius was played. On a side note, the addition of Samba to a French film shows how much broader their cultural horizons are than ours are. It matter not that they might not understand Portuguese for they recognize the Samba as probably the most wonderful sound ever created. We see Anne meeting her first husband and also how he dies. Then as she consummates her relationship with Jean-Luc we see her thought process as she flashes back to her time with Pierre and how difficult loving another man is for her. One of the best parts of the film on Lelouch's part was when Valérie (Valérie Lagrange), Jean-Luc's first wife, is in the hospital after his accident. We see not only her strife but the passage of time through a series of jump cuts. I found this technique much more effective than a series of dissolves or on very long take. In this sequence we also see how sometimes telling can be more effective than showing as we do not see her commit suicide but rather hear Jean-Luc say it with sadness in his voice. Another interesting technique in this film was alerting between color and black and white. In the very beginning of the film it was used solely to differentiate between a flashback and the present tense but rather in a reversed way. The flashbacks were in color. This presents the present as more gritty and not as joyful whereas the flashbacks may not have been happier they certainly were more colorful as they are with most people. What's impressive about 'A Man and a Woman,' as is often the case with a lot of French films is it's simplicity. We deal with real people in a real type of story, plot devices and formulas are completely thrown out the window. And in this film what we get is a much more enjoyable experience than any Hollywood formula could possibly provide.
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Casablanca (1942)
7/10
Pure Entertainment (spoilers)
31 January 2003
Warning: Spoilers
In Casablanca what is most noticeable is the way separate filmic elements join to create a whole. Under the supervision of Michael Curtiz all the necessary ingredients to make this film successful come together magically. I use the word successful because that's what the film is. It does what it sets out to do. It's fun to watch and not high art nor the most involving and deeply moving experience in film history but it works. Curtiz's direction deserves to be mentioned first with all the ballyhoo and trumpet-tounged praise this film receives I had never known the name of the man who directed the film. In this film not only does he construct a very well-told visual narrative but he also provide some frames that floored me, most noticeably an establishing shot of The Blue parrot including an actual blue parrot, and the shadow used to establish La Belle Aurore. His insistence on his casting decisions also made the film what it is as a landmark in Hollywood history. Changing any one of the actors would likely have made the studio's prediction of it being a flop-come-true. Humphrey Bogart could not have been better suited for his part. For through most of the film we see Rick Blain as cool and unflinching. Only in the flashback do we see his more emotional and less pragmatic side. Slowly we see revelations he helps the Humgarian girl he also quarrels with Ilsa over their failed love affair. Even in this film we find Bogart in his persona of the heroic loner which we would find in many of his films. In what is probably the best piece of casting was Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa. Aesthetically Bergman has one of those faces that was just made to be filmed in black and white. She is luminous. She plays Ilsa to a tee and truly makes the love affair back drop of the film both during the flashback sequence and when she pleads in tears for Rick's assistance. In every film romance both actors have to be equals and suited for one another, this pair is. The secondary players were also crucial. In such a way they can scarcely be called secondary characters. The most artistic part of Casablanca is that Curtiz both in the beginning and towards the end takes us amongst, little vignettes, snatches of the lives of the people who live their temporary existences in this town that's merely a gateway to Lisbon, then America. With the dual story of refugees and the love stories the secondary characters take on even greater importance. Claude Rains, when he's on the screen it's like there's no one else around. His excuse for closing down the café was the only dialogue that stuck in my head after so many years without having watched it. Rains plays his character in such a way that his change of heart at the end is justified and, as written, he is the most complex of all the characters. Peter Lorre, played Ugarte, he was absent through much of the film but Lorre with that voice always leaves an impression with the audience. He also seems to exude a kind of helplessness in this part. Syndey Greenstreet seemed to be the Fat Man out of The Maltese Falcon but in the end he helps his share of people and does a good job also. What made itself apparent to me this time as opposed to the first time I saw the film was the omnipresence of propaganda in Casablanca. Propaganda is often regarded as a four-letter word, and that's not always the case but it should always looked at with suspicion. In this film it's handled so intelligently and it's Positive-Propaganda, meaning that it's a call to action rather than a character assassination or anti-something. Rick is told "Isolationism isn't a practical policy.' He's the only American character of the major figures this is a call to action for the American public to support the US war effort in Europe. The propaganda in this film is so incisive, intelligent and organic to the plot that it shows what a powerful medium film really is. It's interesting to note also that the film was made up of cast and crew mostly from Europe, director Micheal Curtiz, Peter Lorre and Paul Heinreid (Victor Laszlo) were born in the Austro-Hungarian empire, Igrid Bergman was Swedish, Claude Rains and Sydney Greenstreet were English and Colonel Srasser was played by a legend of German cinema Conrad Veidt. What we have in Casablanca is film that can be enjoyed from any angle you look at it. It is a film that will transcend generations for years to come.
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Freaks (1932)
6/10
Overrated
27 January 2003
I was told by someone that this was the only horror film he'd ever seen that had any sort of 'timeless resonance' with him. Upon seeing the film and reading these reviews I'm left scratching my head. The one word that came to mind as I was watching this movie was that it was flat. Also, there are many misconceptions about this film.

One, aside form the ending there is no horror in this film it is a drama that toes the line uneasily with melodrama. Two, I don't find the freaks vulgar and/or offensive which is what categorizing this film as horror indicates. While their plight is sad and this film does portray their objectification well all it does is feed on our juvenile fear of the odd-thing which frankly doesn't frighten me.

'Freaks' was a shocking film and controversial upon its release, however, now it merely comes across as dated. If you wanted a list of milestones in horror film history this film would be there, however, on a ten best list I'd most definitely exclude it.
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The Hours (2002)
10/10
Symphonic
24 January 2003
As I listened to the score of this film which was practically incessant in the first 30 minutes of this film I got goosebumps, Philip Glass truly composed an opus for this film. The Hours grabs you immediately and never lets go. Not that it matters but the trailer for this film is the perfect set up because you should go in prepared to expect a lot of cutting between the stories and that's what you get is absolutely masterful editing.

It is almost impossible to review this film having only seen it once, however, I do know that few movies have left me with such a feeling of anticipation and yet the emotional response from me was still natural and I did get taken by surprise a few times as I watched this film. The acting by all those involved is absolutely breathtaking there are no small time roles here and plenty of big time actors I don't think I've seen a more impressive trio than Kidman, Streep and Moore each of their characters is laid out perfectly and while in a sense each is imprisoned by something the reactions are all different and make sense. The supporting cast lead by the chameleon-like Toni Collette is just as impressive every character makes a major impact. It is perhaps the best example of dovetailing and of incorporating back story that I've seen to date. Yet with all this artistic achievement the film is not cold and aloof but it makes you think and it tugs at your heart constantly.

This film deserves all it's accolades not only for a brilliant script but also for the amazing direction of Stephen Daldry who has now seriously burst on to the scene with his 2nd consecutive brilliant film. The Hours,n especially Daldry deserves to take home all these awards because Daldry can make films for 50 years to come and not top this it is as grandiose as a 'Citizen Kane.'

10.
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10/10
Wondrous (some spoilers)
24 January 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Under the guise of an educational documentary Chuck Jones here again astounds with one of his most impressive works. Here he not only breathes life into but creates a story about two geometrical figures. In a way this film reminds me of the Ludwig von Drake educational shorts by Disney with the distinction that Jones makes the "math" the center of attention and makes these shapes seem real, instead of having the narrator be overbearing. This film was nominated for Best Picture at the Cannes Film Festival. And it's no wonder it's a great and original work that is a metaphor for human relationships more than anything else. It's also worth noting that this film was unusual and unique when it came out and will continue to be so as the nature of animation has changed drastically. If you have the chance watch this master work by a master director.
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10/10
One of three Gems
24 January 2003
While Chuck Jones has been given his just desserts as an animator he is awfully underrated as a filmmaker and should be considered as one of the top directors of all-time regardless of medium. Not only have his works inspired the likes of Steven Spielberg, Chris Columbus and Joe Dante but his characters were always human.

In this short we get the most rounded character Chuck Jones ever created not only because he was "Flesh and Blood" but because he (Ralph Phillips) went through a range of emotions (boredom, whimsy, regret, anger, self-indulgence, loneliness) than most of his characters ever did. This film is a testament to Jones's art. In just 21 minutes Chuck Jones created a character who doesn't shine as brightly but is just as memorable as Bugs Bunny.

10/10
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