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Valiant try, but imbalanced and overlong
8 May 2014
There are some great parts to this film, and there is some strong craft at work, but as a whole, the film suffers from imbalance and then struggles to maintain pace.

What starts off as ostensibly a comedy changes its genre completely by the middle. Whereas there are attempts at silly humor for the early going, they are dropped completely in favor of the action/intrigue aspect before too long. It's very strange to be halfway through and remember the early tones of the story, now all but forgotten.

There are strong points: the photography is great; the fight scenes are good (too many cuts, but still good); the philosophical struggle the characters face is well-drawn.

There are also some low points, but overall the film I'd say is worth watching - just be ready for two different halves.
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Nice premise, horrible execution
8 October 2011
The opening montage is artful and interesting, and as you're watching the movie, you probably are interested in the premise, that life would be very complicated if you couldn't recognize faces any longer. So you sit back and prepare for something that might be along the lines of "Insomnia", an thriller with a real foundation in psychological manipulation, with twists and surprises to keep you guessing.

And after that opening montage, it's pretty much all just clichés and tired plot devices and stale acting. We've seen the leads do much better than this. The 'filler' scenes are so trite they feel like they were written and shot in one take. And the 'action' scenes are shot in a way that does engage us at all. And as for the plot itself... have we ever seen a woman fleeing a villain and trip before? Have we seen the protagonist stuck in a situation where the hero has to rush to save her but he can't get to her quickly? And finally, the main crux of the film, the face blindness, is interesting for about three minutes, and then it gets incredibly stale, and yet we have to sit through another hour+ of it. Give this story to Chris Nolan and you'd have something fantastic - but this incarnation of it is really not worth wasting the time on.
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What did you expect? That will answer your questions.
4 May 2009
Being an X-Men fan since the early 1980's, I was bound to see this movie. Hearing about the generally terrible reviews, my expectations were sufficiently low coming in. What did I expect -- not Tolstoy, not Kurosawa. What I got was a pleasant surprise.

Film reviews are becoming less and less critical (pardon the pun) to a film's success, especially when you consider those for genre films. There are plenty of people who will always review a horror film as terrible, for example. And most critics are not fans of the superhero genre, save those they grew up with, perhaps Christopher Reeve's first couple. Are they going to like "Wolverine"? Not likely, and not important to anyone else's enjoyment of the movie.

This is a summer blockbuster, and it works just fine. It does not, in fact, have gaping plot holes, terrible inconsistencies or many of the other easy targets that we're hearing about. Did these people see the first three (if we include the Brett Ratner misfire)? People are going to see this movie mostly for the action and the actors, but there is actually quite a good deal going on beneath the surface -- for the genre fans.

If you don't like superheroes, why would you bother going to see something like this in the first place? Don't. If you're an X-Men/Wolverine fan, it doesn't matter what other people think, you're going to see it. But for anyone else in between, just temper your expectations within the genre, perhaps do some background reading on who the characters are (you should know who Gambit, Deadpool and The Blob are, for example), and maybe even try to find some friends to go with who are genre fans.

Within the genre, it's honestly not bad. A step up from X-Men 3, a good deal better than Daredevil and Punisher, but really not close to X-Men 2 or The Dark Knight.

Finally, if you haven't seen the original three of the series, it's quite fine to see this one first, you won't get any spoilers from Wolverine.
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A breakthrough in so many ways
24 March 2006
Filmmakers are always trying to find ways to innovate, trying to find a new story or way of telling their story that hasn't been done. The great majority fail in this quest, but there are a select few that do manage to change things, or to open a new door.

Journey From The Fall is one such film, a film that tells a story that other filmmakers have not. It is also a gorgeous, meticulous and incredibly moving piece of art. These two things coupled means that this film will hopefully stake a place in the medium, and have a chance to reach a wide audience -- because this is a story that must be heard.

I, myself, am Caucasian, and do not have ancestors that had to bear an inhuman journey in some stagnant, oppressive hold of a boat, crammed in with other families in the faint hopes of escaping the aftermath of the Viet-Nam war. And yet, I was so, so moved by this film. Its ability to connect with the viewer transcends race and history. Knowing that you're watching a true story, knowing that these people and so very many others have gone through what these characters have, I promise, it will rip your heart out.

I think the biggest question we have about prospective movies is, 'why do I want to see this?' to which I'd answer that this is such a huge piece of history that we simply haven't heard a thing about. All those stories about American troops going off to the war, coming home, living with the ghosts of the VC, agent orange, the Khmer Rouge, rejection at home, etc etc... with all of that, we have no idea what happened in that country after we left. It's time to start finding out -- and this film is the first step.

This is truly an achievement of artistic and technical brilliance, and stands out in every category a film can. Bring your tissue, you won't soon forget this.
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Vastly understated and underrated
12 September 2005
I'm terrifically surprised at all the middling reviewing of this film, to the point where I feel I have to echo the last few reviews that stand in opposition.

This is a film that just does it right. Unlike so many other dramas with heavyweight casts, this really feels like it's about the story, not the work. Kidman, aside from slipping into her native accent on a handful of words, is fantastic -- perhaps her very best. Harris, like Streep and maybe two or three other actors, brings a real humanity to a role that any other actor would just fill out.

But most of all, everything is in the background and hence subservient to the story. The gorgeous lighting, scenery, dialog -- the whole craft of the film is done the way it's supposed to be done, in the damn background. That all said, I think the real reason this film is slighted is because it's a little too good for the average viewer. It doesn't live up to their idea of what a lit-cum-drama is supposed to feel like. I just have a feeling that in several years this will be revisited and appreciated much more. Now, I'm going to go watch it again!
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Elektra (2005)
I WANTED to like it, I really did
23 April 2005
A vote of four is not appreciative of what I've just watched, but in my heart this is a one, because it answers one question better than any other comic movie: "how could you possibly screw up material this good?" I honestly can't say how a comics neophyte would come into this experience, but the context was quite loaded for me. I've been an Elektra fan since her first appearance in Daredevil comics, and over time, she became simply my favorite character. Even years after my days of actively reading comics, I still feel as attached to her as any fictional character in comics, film or literature.

She is truly archetypal -- the ultimate duel of good an evil inside the heart of one person. So strong, yet so vulnerable. So icy cold, yet the most passionate fire is locked up inside. She's the perfect manifestation of a rose, so beautiful, but with the sharpest thorns... even the most careful handler can't help but get hurt.

As much of an Affleck fan as I am not, I really didn't mind the Daredevil movie too much, and didn't even mind the odd casting of Garner as Elektra, so it really disappointed me how much this movie failed to hit the mark on some of the greatest comics stories ever created.

The Elektra Saga is pretty close to the pinnacle of comic book mastery. It's raw Frank Miller weaving such fantastic tales... the story, the art, the dialogue, it's just so adaptable. That series of books was so ripe for 1-3 films, it's sick. I just can't imagine how it could have been turned into this movie. Not with Avi Arad and his track record. Not after seeing Sin City, a complete masterpiece of comic adaptation.

To get a little specific, I enjoyed Stick, the little girl, and that's about it. Tattoo and Typhoid Mary are alright, but the rest is just so hollow when weighed against its parent material.

It's too bad this didn't come after Sin City, it really breaks my heart! Sin City has been successful enough that people can finally see that Frank Miller is the one to adapt Frank Miller, and he should have a say in any way that his material is put onto the screen. Perhaps we weren't ready with Robocop2, and Batman was credited to Tim Burton, but let's hope that from here on out, Hollywood and Frank can get along, because I personally can't stand the idea of another Elektra tragedy.
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Forgive me if it's been said a thousand times
6 June 2004
Really. Come on.

What's the deal with Michael Madsen?? How did he end up turning in the worst performance of all time in a Bond movie?

I have to draw the suspension of disbelief line here... with all the ridiculous plotlines and stunts, I just can't deal with it anymore. Sure, windboarding off a glacier, that's possible, but this guy? -- no, sorry.

Since it appears I have to add more lines in, let me make it very clear: Michael Madsen! Worst acting! Ever! In a Bond film!

If at any point I'm hired to write a Bond script, I think we know which character is going to be killed.
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Drive (1997)
How did this slip under my radar?
2 August 2003
I just have to convey how shocked I am after seeing this on cable late at night, and discovering how much The Matrix lifted from it. My hero worship of the Wachowski Bros has taken a serious hit after realizing that they took not only concepts but some of the major fighting bits straight of of this film. I'm not against influences or allusions, but there's some serious thievery going on.

Not that this doesn't happen all the time -- not that Star Wars isn't a great movie despite taking so much from Hidden Fortress; not that the Gladiator OST isn't great despite virtually copying Holst's The Planets; but Resevoir Dogs is crap because there's nothing original to it.

Now, Matrix is still fantastic filmmaking, and Drive is pretty crappy (although still impressive for the budget), but I'm massively disappointed to see that things like the subway fight and elements like the 'fist bouquet' and moves like Neo's flexing dust off his shirt are all stolen from this movie that not many people see.

The question is, do the brothers credit Drive at all? I know they talk about their references in general, but have they mentioned this? I'd hate to think of them in the same light as someone like Tarantino, who steals and gives no credit.
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Standard fare, but worthy for Dick fans
14 May 2001
PKD is a good subject for a documentary, but this piece is hampered by a lack of visual stimulus, a slow-starting narrative, and especially an overload of silly graphics.

The content starts getting intriguing and compelling about half-way through, but it takes some time to get there, a shame, since it seems that there is plenty of material to start off this direction at a much earlier point. In addition to this, there is a sequence of CGI that is repeated again and again, that is painful to watch, but is unrelenting. Although removing it would make this a very short documentary, it is cruel to leave in.

All that said, if you're a fan, you might as well watch it, there is plenty of interest, especially if you thought Jason Koornick was a spazz in grade school.
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Silverado (1985)
The Western of the 80's
18 September 2000
Take a Western. Open with a guns-blazing scene with genre veteran Scott Glenn, then run the credits through a shot straight out of The Searchers. It sure seems that this film is heading toward the same ground that almost every other Western has covered...but you'll quickly find that this one is on ground all its own.

I am admittedly not a fan of Westerns. There are those that I find to be really terrific, but I can live without most of them. Silverado was the first that really showed me something other than the Fords and Hawks (classics to be sure) that I grew up with--the second was Unforgiven.

Silverado takes an unlikely cast, most of whom have not seen much time in the old West, outside of Glenn. People like Costner, who for better or worse (better) is in top form. Kevin Kline and Brian Dennehy, who are both at their charming best. All the leads really shine, in what feels like a troupe effort, wherein it seems like they are a tight-knit group of co-artisans.

Kasdan's direction is where it pretty much always is, so if you appreciate his work, you certainly won't be let down here. Anyone who can write and direct a great performance from Costner deserves ample praise. And speaking of the script, written by Lawrence and brother Mark Kasdan, it is really one of the best. It manages to weave all the elements of the genre around some of the best dialogue a Western's ever had. Danny Glover may have been thinking of bad Western scripts when he says, "That ain't right. I had enough of what ain't right."

Still, there is something beyond all of this, something that I think I'll attribute to the collaborative nature of filmmaking, and that is the soul of the film. It presents itself as something that doesn't take itself too seriously, however it is heavy enough to carry any classic fan of the West. What may be the most amazing thing about the film, is how long it is. I believe the available print comes in right around 2 hours, and the pacing and length feel just right...but there is a longer print that adds nearly *90* minutes! Rumor has it that this print is only in the hands of Kasdan himself, and he has no plans to show it to anyone. I, for one, would nearly die to find out how there could be another hour and a half. Maybe someday...
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Rushmore (1998)
You heard it hear first...
12 March 1999
In the fine tradition of films like Johnny Suede, this movie made me smile a crooked little smile from the opening shot to the final curtain.

Let's hope this stays posted on IMDB for a while, because I want to look back at in in a few years, and remember saying that this is the type of film that I would like to make. Not necessarily the genre or tone or anything so nearly tangible, but rather the entire feeling one takes away from it, and how the aftertaste lingers in me, inspiring me to bring my own work up a notch.

Famous last words, or a brave new beginning, we'll have to see!
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A noble effort...
6 January 1999
It takes quite an amazing group of people to make a great epic. Aside from great source material, really all the components have to be superb, and it has to be put together in such a way that the viewer is not left wondering what happened to a decade (see: Queen Margot).

Most of the necessary pieces are here, but there is something missing, some element that keeps it from being a truly great film. It is certainly a good one, a movie that is worth seeing, and worth doing so on a big screen, thanks to its beautiful scenery between France and Italy. The stars are very watchable, and the story is tight enough to keep your attention throughout. Unlike many films of its genre, it is not overlong.

Ironically, I found myself comparing it to another Binoche epic, The English Patient, which made me wonder what was lacking in light of what I consider to be a finer film. In the end, it may be simply that the latter had a novel that was more compelling, or a lead (Fiennes) that was just more riveting.

The story is of two people fleeing the outbreak of cholera in early 19th century France. Angelo is attempting to return to his native Italy, to join the revolution, and Pauline is searching for something... They manage to aid each other's flight.

In the great tradition of French period epics, this is not the pinnacle, but it is near the upper echelon. It's worth a shot.
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Dead Ringers (1988)
Cronenberg and Irons in top form.
9 October 1998
Jeremy Irons has turned in some great performances, but this easily tops the list of his work. Set in a cold, bitterly sterile environment by Cronenberg, Irons is able to work his mastery in dual roles as two brothers whose ties are deeper than anyone can imagine.

Dead Ringers is so eerily put together, that the viewer at once feels trapped into a claustrophobic life with the Mantle brothers, and there is no outlet. The film delves into a few themes, the two most interesting being the relationship between two identical twins, and where people go where there is no way out. The Mantles are so close that they suffocate one another, and communication and caring with anyone else is not only much less in comparison, but it feels so 'other' that it can't ever seem to work. This leads to the feeling that they are so self-contained that there is almost no point in exploring the outside world, if not to feel pain...and pain they do find.

The movie can be difficult to watch at times, as it puts the viewer in an unpleasant state through much of the story, however, it does not overwhelm the positives put in place by a strong script and a meticulous directing job. That in mind, what makes Dead Ringers so worthy, and so hard to step away from--even after its conclusion--is Irons, who gives one of the great acting performances in all film.
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Out of Sight (1998)
Great, even for Clooney!
8 October 1998
I'm not going to go on about what a talented director can do for average actors, but this movie is all Soderbergh. He does something fairly original, here, with surprisingly good results.

"Out of Sight" is a Film Noir for the 90's. It tries to take all the great elements of the genre, and make them work in a modern-day context---and it succeeds! Example: the femme fatale figure is not very politically correct in the 90's; it's not acceptable to blame all the evils of the world on a woman, is it? Soderbergh twists this by making Lopez the antagonist, but as the law enforcer this time, not the law breaker. This sensibility holds throughout the film, as we feel like we're watching a Film Noir, but without having to remind ourselves of what year we're in.

The sight and sound in the film are top-drawer, including a fantastic, funky soundtrack. Get ready for some Noir tension, an intriguing romance, and some serious Soderbergh style!
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Ghostbusters (1984)
Tell him about the Twinkie.
7 October 1998
That's a big Twinkie.

One of Murray's best films for lines, still quotable, more than a decade later.

As a comedy, the pacing is terrific, the cast is top-notch, and it brought together Murray and Ramis, who made Groundhog Day (nuff said!).
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A near-masterpiece for the right person
7 October 1998
No, this is not the perfect film for everyone. In fact, it may be the sort of thing that you need to be in the right mood for... Then again, there are those that loved "City of Angels", but thought that "Wings of Desire" was slow and boring.

This is the anti-Joel Silver film. Forget the explosions, "End" is clearly disdainful to the successful formulas that make Hollywood films work. The pace, while not as slow and deliberate as "Paris, Texas", still takes its time, and allows the viewer to explore all sides--not just of a shot or a line, but a moment. This is one of Wenders' great strengths, his disregard for hammering things home. He has such a poetic sense of subtlety, that very few film-makers have ever matched it. To some, this will feel like plodding, and misdirection, but it is a choice, a very clear choice, that works perfectly in what it tries to accomplish.

There aren't any elements of "End" that I thought could have been improved much. The dialogue seemed a bit rushed in spots, but technically, everything else is terrific. The ensemble cast complements itself well, there are some great cameos, such as Sam Phillips accompanying a hand-held tape player, and the soundtrack ia gorgeous. The themes are as rich as apropos as can be, and the visuals are so well thought-out they could have come from Kubrick.

This is a slow-paced, heavy, convoluted film. My vote for film of the year.
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Johnny Suede (1991)
Keeps you smiling all the way through.
7 October 1998
This movie really comes out of nowhere, and stays fresh and intriguing from the first shot to the last. I couldn't stop smiling for a moment, it was so wonderfully weird!

The story centers around a pair of snazzy shoes, that are found by Pitt's character Johnny, then change his entire life. There isn't a great deal of plot, which is fine, because the story is driven by the bizarre people in Johnny's life, and the way in which he reacts to them.

The best thing about "Johnny Suede" is that you really don't know what people are going to say or do next. The most 'normal' person in the story is Keener's character, who is strange just for liking Johnny so much.

The photography and sound is fairly minimal, due to budget, but in a way, it really adds to the ambience of nothingness in Johnny's life. The directing of actors is really first-rate, and the script is a gem. Oh, and the hair is a must-see.

If you're in the market for something out of left-field, then this hits the spot!
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Dead Calm (1989)
A far cry from Clancy.
7 October 1998
Remember way back when Noyce was doing independent films? Yes, before the days of the Tom Clancy films et al, he was making great little films like this one.

Dead Calm is all about atmosphere. There is such a dark, brooding feel to every scene, that it almost upstages the great performances by the three leads. Zane and Neill are at their very best here, but again, they give way to Noyce's brilliant use of the ocean to create an uneasiness that makes every moment gripping.

As is often the case, the set-up is simple: a couple meets a stranger; the setting is vast but claustraphobic; and the cast is small. While the story is something of a rehashing of Polanski's "Knife in the Water", the directing is very much its own, and Zane's character carries the story in a much different direction.

This film isn't perfect, but it is a fantastic effort by all involved, and deserves at least one look--you'll want more!
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Blue Thunder (1983)
Infamous villainy
7 October 1998
As is the case with most technologically-centered films, Blue Thunder was destined to show its age quickly. It certainly was exciting when it was released, but the fascination with the toys featured is not still there.

Thunder has two things going for it, today. First of all, the theme of Big Brother is brought to light though the surveillance equipment mounted on board the copter. Through the protagonists, we are given a glimpse of how vulnerable we truly are to prying eyes, the old Orwellian concept that grows closer as the years roll on--no coincidence that the movie was released the year before 1984!

The second triumph for the picture is the wonderful screen presence of Malcolm McDowell, who is so wonderfully despisable, that even his children cheered to see him fail (according to him). My vote for his best work as the antagonist.
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TRON (1982)
Enjoyable cyber-fluff
7 October 1998
Al Gore's favorite movie was one of the first films to feature a great deal of computer animation, and the first to create (or at least enhance) an entire environment. Tron was also one of the first to deal with the fear of computers taking over, from the computer's point of view, which is a fairly well executed theme.

That said, aside from some wonderful graphic concepts and the usual good work from Jeff Bridges, Tron doesn't have much below the surface. Anyone looking for philosophy will be disappointed, but if you're in the mood for some atmospheric family action, then Tron isn't a bad pick, especially if the family has a video-game junkie.
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Slap Shot (1977)
The one great hockey film.
7 October 1998
There haven't been many hockey movies, but among the small lot, this is easily the finest. It takes a cock-eyed look at the sport, and what it takes to make it work at the lower levels.

One of the most violent anti-violence movies, Slapshot puts itself right in the middle of a debate between using "goonism" or not, in order to win hockey games. Newman is the player/coach of a failing team that is suddenly "blessed" with a trio of goons, the Hanson Brothers (no, they don't sing). Through them, the team starts winning by beating up the opposition, which causes an argument over the ethics of it, and how it affects the game. The answers are given on both sides, making its statement that the only clear path is ambivalence.

Another good theme is the look at the small-town life, when the industry is failing. Newman and his troops, like all the workers in the town, must show a lot of passion for their work, even when it's tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

While there is a decent degree of seriousness in the movie, it is the physical comedy that prevails, offering the funniest moments ever seen on ice. The great thing about "Slap Shot" is that is doesn't try to do too much, it just plays itself out, and like Newman's character, is what it is, and that should work just fine, thanks!

This won't make any movie-of-the-year lists, but it's worthwhile watching for some very funny moments--if you're a hockey fan, then it's indispensable!
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Musical Pinnacle
7 October 1998
There are movie stars, and then, there's Cagney. He can take over a movie like "White Heat" with a scathingly tough intensity, or he can charm you like he does in "Dandy". Here, his screen presence is as magnificent and vast as is possible.

Cagney plays George M. Cohan, one of the early stage greats, who wrote such songs as "Over There" and the title tune. The film is something of a linear biography, hilighted by some of the best musical numbers ever put on film. Although the film features an incredible cast, and one of the great American directors, it's hard not to think that it's all about Cagney. For an actor known for being a gangster, it's worth a double-take to see such a fantastic song and dance. Modeled on Cohan's dancing, Cagney nonetheless has his own style, and what a pleasure to watch!

All the usual Hollywood elements from the 1940's are here, but it's the star that makes "Dandy" shine. One of the truly classic musicals, this film is worth watching over and over.
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What a chase!
3 October 1998
A wonderful trio of director, writer and actor make for a tremendously compelling lead character, one of the best anti-heroes since Film Noir. An over-all excellent movie, with a sharp twist on everything, "Live and Die" showcases Peterson at his best, and features maybe the best chase scene ever put on film!
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Henry Fool (1997)
A Small-Town Epic
21 September 1998
A stranger comes into town, and awakens a sleeping...poet.

What an amazing, pleasant surprise this film is. After being a Hartley fan for several years, I had grown used to his style, and was greatly enjoying watching him evolve and mature as a director over that span. Henry Fool is nothing short of a breakthrough, for an already talented filmmaker. Hartley compromises a bit of his style, to make a film that surpasses everything else he's done.

Henry Fool is to small towns, what Lawrence of Arabia is to war. The landscape is not vast, the scnenery is not panoramic--but the emotions and depth of feeling is. The thought that goes into every gesture in this film seems to illuminate, every gaze goes in two directions, within and without. The characters are so well explored and developed, that we don't want to part with them at the end. The story is not only brilliant, but when combined with Hartley's direction, it works on every level, leaving an impression that kept my mind mulling over it for days. One of the hardest things to do in film is subtlety, and Henry Fool finds it, to perfection. My pick for film of 1998.
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The Abyss (1989)
An unexpected miracle of a film
8 September 1998
The Abyss had two things going against it, after production was wrapped (for the story of one of the most incredible productions ever, see the Laserdisc ). First of all, There were two copycats, Leviathan, and Deep-Star Six, that managed to open before this film, making the original seem like the copycat. Secondly, the movie was cut down horribly by the studio, something which Cameron takes the blame for, saying that no one wants to see a three-hour movie (well, maybe Titanic!). The studio cut made the film no better than a very good f/x film, with a strong, but muddled story, and some really interesting characters, to go along with the usual brilliant Cameron visuals.

Since its release as a "Director's Cut", I have managed to sway each person who has seen it, into dubbing it a "spectacular piece of cinema." With the added scenes, the story makes sense, the finale has the right knockout punch, and the love story really takes center-stage.

What the full version offers, is truly one of the great Hollywood love stories of our time, with one of the greatest scenes in recent years. This is really a film for everyone, with unparalleled visuals, a tense story, and a terrific message, that love can conquer all. If you have the chance, don't miss out on the Director's Cut, on as big a screen as you can find!
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