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Dead Behind the Eyes
23 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The Best:

1. The color is great.

The Worst:

1. Emma Watson can't act. She has a disconcerting Posh British accent that's markedly different from all the other characters, who sound American, even though they're all supposed to come from the same village. In addition to that, she has one expression throughout the entire film. I kept wondering what a young Julie Andrews-type could have done with this part and it made me wanna cry.

2. Kevin Kline can act but doesn't. As usual when he is on film, Kline underacts to a fault. He too has only one expression during the whole movie.

3. The Beast wears a lifeless digital mask that looks, well, lifeless. Regular make-up would have been so much better. Unfortunately, every time he is on screen, you just can't forget you're looking at a special effect that moves awkwardly, with a voice that's slightly out of sync.

4. Mrs. Pots and the rest of the "enchanted" non-human characters do not benefit from the transition to "live action". In the original version, the teapot, the cup, the candlestick, etc. were some of the liveliest characters. Here, the new animated objects barely have a hint of a face so, without facial expressions, there is no character and, without character, there is no personality.

5. As Jimmy Kimmel once said, "Here in Hollywood, the only thing we value more than diversity is congratulating ourselves for valuing diversity." The producers' politically correct decision to cast Black extras as some of the villagers is not only historically incorrect but distorts the reality of how Black people were treated in 18th Century France.

6. The movie is too kinetic. The camera never stops moving, every scene is broken up into countless cuts, all from different angles. I frequently found myself needing the action to stop and let me breathe, but no. This new B&TB is an assault on your senses a-la Transformers. For what's supposed to be a fairy-tale romance with a heart, this is the wrong stylistic choice.

7. More is not more. The size of the production overwhelms the story. Yes, every buck of the 160 million-dollar production is up there on the screen, but this particular story would have benefited from a simpler production. As it is, it seems the director grabbed every opportunity to unleash a cast of dancing thousands upon the audience, together with giant sets and frantic editing. The intimate story between Belle and the Beast gets buried under the massiveness of it all.
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Agatha Christie Would Be Proud
16 July 2017
A riveting thriller, written with wit, precision and nerve, directed with great visual flair, and acted by a group of actors who must have loved every ambiguous note in the roles they played - and played them to perfection. With plenty of flashbacks within flashbacks and narratives within narratives, but always perfectly clear and taut, this movie is everything a mystery should be.

Personally, I love whodunits. I especially love them I know I can't trust what I'm seeing and when I suspect the answer is being flaunted right before my eyes but I'm so engaged in the story I don't have time to figure it out. Well, this is it. Absolutely engaging from the start and with the kind of ending you never forget.

A 10. Not to be missed.
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Lights Out (II) (2016)
Your run o'the mill scare-jump horror movie.
9 March 2017
No character development, no involving narrative, no suspense build-up, just a poor excuse for a basic plot with a series of scare jumps done a thousand times before - girl walks towards door, something mysterious lurks behind it, will she open it or will she not? She tries to open it, it's locked, so she turns around to leave and THE CREATURE IS RIGHT BEHIND HER! Shocking, not frightening. What is more shocking is all the reviews here giving this mediocre horror movie a gazillion stars. It's disturbing that this is what the horror film genre has come to with an almost complete disregard for building an engaging story that makes sense and involves the viewer emotionally. Even the music, strings shrieking every time the monster shows up, is the same music found in a hundred other movies. I agree with those who said that a clever visual idea first presented in the Lights Out short has been developed into an insipid mush. I stopped the movie an hour and 5 minutes into it, didn't care what happened any more, and the worst thing that can happen to a movie is when it doesn't get you to care about its characters. 6 out of 10.
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For the record...
17 February 2016
Arturo de Cordova was not Spanish, he was Mexican. His first language was Spanish, but that does not make him "Spanish." Mexican and Spanish are two different things.

The film aired today on TCM. It was a rare showing of this movie, which I have been hunting down since reading about it in Mitchell Leisen's biography 43 years ago. It was then that I read and never forgot about the sumptuous Oscar-winning Technicolor cinematography. I was heartbroken to see it in an extremely washed-out transfer but anything is better than nothing. Would it be possible for Universal to place this on a list of important restorations, given its place in Oscar history?
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Disconnect (I) (2012)
Hollow and Shallow
15 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I'm not going to spend a lot of time writing about this turkey, except to save you your hard earned bucks and a couple of interminable hours.

This movie is nowhere near CRASH, which everyone seems to be comparing it to and which, despite its awards, was not the greatest movie in the world either. But anyway, don't be fooled by other users' comments describing this as an accomplished movie. The characters are complete stereotypes and not good ones at that. For example,young people in their 20's are shocked when informed that a stranger could steal their personal info by sending them a virus online? Really? Maybe in 1999 but, today? A TV producer and her colleagues celebrate with wine in the control room when her "piece" airs on TV. I mean, where in the world do TV news people pop a bottle when a supposedly good piece airs? So ridiculous. And the most absurd plot line of all: a 15 year old is tricked into posing nude on the Internet (or whatever) by a non-existent classmate! Not in this world, folks. But the list goes on and on.

DISCONNECT wastes a bunch of good actors and tries to pass for serious filmmaking by using a shaky camera an a lot of cross-cutting but that's all it is: a shaky camera and a lot of cross cutting.

4 stars out of 10, don't waste your time.
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So-so at first, then a little gem.
8 April 2012
LA CARA OCULTA starts out mediocre, with dialogue that seems cranked out by a ten year old without much imagination -- "Hi, how are you? Good and you? Good, thank you. Would you like something to drink? Yes..." And so on. TV soaps have better dialogue.

Quim Gutierrez' performance is at best lacking. He has two facial expressions that actually look very similar. And Martina Garcia reminds me of Jessica Alba in terms of her looks and her bare minimum acting skills.

I thought the movie might be a bust until, half way through the film, Clara Lagos shows up and the movie becomes a heart-pounding thriller with top notch acting and a series of fascinating and very creepy twists.

My advice: stay through the first so-so hour and you won't be able to turn it off.

And yes, Quim Gutierrez should have rehearsed the role of an orchestra conductor better and...

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The Iron Lady (2011)
Streep 11 The Movie 6
28 November 2011
I saw The Iron Lady at a packed WGA screening this past weekend. As a Meryl Streep fan and someone who appreciated Phyllida Lloyd's work on Mamma Mia, I was really looking forward to this film.

The result for me was... a mild disappointment.

Let's start with Streep's performance. She is, as always, amazing. Seconds after the movie started, the audience gasped audibly at an astounding close-up of her looking uncannily like an older Thatcher. From that point on, she becomes the character and she IS the film. Her voice, her physical presence, her ability to communicate subtly under layers and layers of latex make-up is nothing short of jaw-dropping. She will undoubtedly be nominated for an Oscar and possibly win for the third time and, of course, she more than deserves it. I could go on and on, but I'm sure the reader gets the picture.

Now a little about the film.

The Iron Lady felt to me more like a one-woman show than a dramatic movie. Its star is at the center of every scene and you can't take your eyes off her. The rest of the characters come and go, always effectively portrayed, but this is without any question a film that centers on a performance more than on a story. This made it at times fascinating and at times plain redundant as the audience is quite familiar with the historical events it depicts and the film, quite frankly, doesn't add anything new to what everyone already knows or imagines.

It occurred to me that the film would have been far more interesting, story-wise, if it had centered on a single episode in Thatcher's life that was evocative of what she was about. Instead, the film goes on and on from one famous episode to the next, with notorious characters dropping in and out, and famous speeches being scrupulously re-enacted. It is admirable in its recreation of a career but hardly revealing. But that, as they say, is the movie I wanted, not the movie it is.

When The Iron Lady plays on TV on some future date and I happen upon it while channel-surfing, I will probably stop and gasp again at its amazing actress' performance. With any other performance at its center, I would probably move on to the next station.
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The Road to Disappointment
30 November 2008
How are you going to keep the viewers down in the theaters now that they've seen Mad Men? With pedigree maybe, but maybe not.

Revolutionary Road would have had something new to say two years ago, just before the AMC television series hit the cablewaves. Today, it just feels like we've seen it all before, and much better. Only this time it's said by stars, big stars, three of them reuniting from the one of the biggest movies of all time, throwing their acting around like they're auditioning for Oscar himself. But does that a good film make?

The story of the proverbial "folks who live on the hill", whose lives turn out to be much darker than any of their friends and neighbors would imagine, offered many opportunities for departure from past films and television shows. But this new Sam Mendes film does not take advantage of those opportunities and plunges instead down a path of self-destructive discontent that's too much of a predictable standard to feel revolutionary at all.

To make matters worse, this road is loaded with clichés about suburbia, the emptiness of middle-class existence, and the loss of dreams and individuality, all wrapped in the same smoke-booze-and-infidelity excesses as its more sophisticated television sibling.

Leonardo Di Caprio replays the same character we've come accustomed to seeing in his hands, all lava-like intensity and pain behind his child-like face. For my money, he gives an adequate but mostly unmodulated performance that is all tears ready to burst out of his eyes with every marital twist of fate. Weren't those mad men in the 1950's the ultimate experts at keeping it all in? Kate Winslet doesn't fare much better or much worse. But Michael Shannon, in a well-written part, gives the one performance that should be remembered at Oscar time.

Not the best from the director of the impeccable American Beauty. A 6.5 out of 10.
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Fantastic execution of a mediocre script from a so-so idea.
21 January 2007
OK, so Alfonso Cuaron is a great filmmaker and this movie is worth watching if only for the stunning camera-work and the action choreography which sometimes goes on for blocks and blocks. There are a couple of set pieces which I won't spoil here that are right up there with the best of Spielberg and Hitchcock.

Unfortunately, the plot has more holes than Swiss cheese. As someone said before, why not try cloning? And why can dogs and chickens procreate, but not people? And on and on it goes. The story is also kind of too simplistic -- "The revolution has started!" I mean, isn't that what the Marxists were saying about the revolution 70 years ago? Also, I personally detest dirty movies, that is, movies where everyone is filthy from beginning to end, the sets are completely polluted from beginning to end, everything seems to reek of smoke, booze, bombs, urine and feces,and where there isn't a trace of humor. Movies about the future like this one make me long for the "shopping malls" of Logan's Run (well, not really, but almost). The relentless grit made me itch from about 10 minutes on.

I give it a 6 and say, wait to see it on DVD. I hope that a great filmmaker like Alfonso Cuaron will find a better script next time.
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One of the Best Argentine Films of All Time
23 October 2006
I saw this film many years ago in a truncated (pan and scan) format on television. Despite the fact that the original widescreen photography was gone, I was mesmerized by the Rashomon-like style of the film, with its several versions of the same story about a woman who may or may not have existed at all, and who may or may not have been murdered. It all sounds terribly obscure, but the film's narrative is completely accessible and engaging, almost like a film noir soap opera, and its story extremely interesting.

Rosaura a las 10 is considered one of the best Argentine films of all time. At the time it came out, other films like the aforementioned Rashomon and George Cukor's Les Girls that also played on the theme of the subjectivity of the truth were popular with film audiences.

Rosaura a las 10 enjoyed a restoration to its original CinemaScope dimensions a few years ago and it would be a treasure to own on DVD for aficionados of Argentine films and this kind of story.
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The Reagans (2003 TV Movie)
OK Miniseries, Great Acting
30 November 2003
Whoever wrote THE REAGANS clearly doesn't buy into the Reagan "mystique" that so seems to send conservatives into a paroxysm of admiration for Ronnie, his wife and their politics. That aside, this is a not a great movie. The story is well known to all (everyone from Patty Davis to Donald Regan wrote about it), the dialogue is so-so and the low-budget limitations show throughout.

But it is simply amazing to watch Judy Davis and James Brolin as the famous couple. The resemblance to the originals is so astounding sometimes you forget you're watching a drama. What's more, both actors take a thoroughly human approach to their characters, never falling into farse or exaggerations. Both deserve at least acting nominations for these roles.
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The Missing (I) (2003)
23 November 2003
This movie is so far from being any kind of classic, it's not even funny. Which kills me, because I love Cate Blanchett, I love THE SEARCHERS (which remotely, very remotely inspired it) and I loved the trailer, which suggested a kind of Horror-Thriller-Western hybrid that might have worked, had it been done right.

The blame goes to Ron Howard, who has got to be a candidate for the shallowest directing this side of Don Taylor. Now, Howard knows what substance is supposed to look and sound like, he just doesn't know what substance is. This is not just a problem with THE MISSING, it's a problem with every picture Howard ever made. But THE MISSING, not having a very strong script to begin with, stumbles and collapses under Howard's empty heavy-handedness.

THE MISSING also suffers from that worst of current Hollywood maladies, EXTREME AND UNNECESSARY LENGTH! At 90 minutes, it might have been a nifty little thriller. At 136 minutes, it wallows and succumbs by trying to become "an important motion picture".

Here's a suggestion, when they make the DVD, offer the public two versions of the picture accessible through seamless branching: the theatrical version as directed by Mr. Howard, plus the version that would have been directed by the guy who made the trailer. Now there's somebody who knows what he's doing.
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A Hoot
2 November 2003
If you don't get the campy fun in movies like PORTRAIT IN BLACK, DEAD RINGERS, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE, DIE DIE MY DARLING, STRAIGHTJACKET and SUNSET BOULEVARD, you probably won't get DIE MOMMIE DIE. If you do, you'll probably be howling like the audience I saw it with.

Although shot on an obviously ultra-low budget, MOMMIE still works on many levels. It's funny, campy, naughty, witty and Charles Busch shines in the role of Angela Arden, which he reprises from his own stage play. Thankfully, they didn't give the part to a woman, which is what ruined the tone of another Busch screen adaptation, PSYCHO BEACH PARTY. Busch is pitch-perfect as Angela and the fact the you never forget he is a man greatly helps bring out the campy tone of the story.

This is a must see for those who like to watch MOMMIE DEAREST every couple of years or so for a good laugh.
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Ripley's Game (2002)
Excellent, Involving Thriller
28 September 2003
Liliana Cavani's RIPLEY'S GAME is a treasure of a thriller, far more noirish, better crafted and more suspenseful than the tediously self-indulgent THE AMERICAN FRIEND, and with knock-out performances by Malkovich and Scott. It's a shame that it didn't have the commercial success it deserved. Not to be missed.
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Burnt Money (2000)
Badly Written, Directed and Acted
28 December 2002
I heard much about this movie and was looking forward to it, but my God, what a disappointment! Endless scenes of meaningless diatribe go on and on, and while (in all fairness) the leads are OK, the supporting cast feels like a competition for the worst acting of the year.
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Talk to Her (2002)
Absolutely, Positively the Best of 2002
17 December 2002
Almodovar reaches new heights with this incredibly touching, beautifully photographed and acted movie. HABLE CON ELLA touches many themes and explores many characters, but the story is unmistakably one and one alone, and you won't know it until virtually the last frame of the film, where it all suddenly makes total sense.

Don't let anyone spoil the surprises (there are some, none of them shockers, but all of them important enough that you should know nothing about them until you see the film). And enjoy this sensitive, funny, loving movie.

Can't wait until the DVD comes out!
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Single-Note Movie - Scott's Poorest
22 December 2001
BLACK HAWK DOWN is, as you would expect from Ridley Scott, a technically impeccable picture.

BLACK HAWK DOWN is also the most monotonous, uninvolving, all-been-done-before, who-cares-if-the-good-guys-die movie Ridley Scott has ever directed.

After 2 and 1/2 hours of relentless, repetitive action a-la SAVING PRIVATE RYAN that includes the same kind of jittery cinematography and frantic pacing as the action pieces in that other film, you realize why that worked and this doesn't. The "slow" parts of SPR told you stories that made you care. BHD gives you no such background to the characters or the action. Many of the actors look alike and are often photographed to look alike, so that after a while you don't know who's alive, who died, and you don't really care.

Scott pummels you in sequence after sequence with the shots of "the enemy" attacking, killing, dying. The camera treats the enemy as an amorphous mob that, like vermin, keeps on coming.

And on and on it goes.

Skip this one.
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Utterly Forgettable Diatribe
23 November 2001
Impossibly boring, self-indulgent, presumptuous Argentine film "a-la-francaise". The characters are poorly developed, the situations are artificially written, and the movie goes nowhere. Hard to believe anyone could care about this except the director. This is one to miss at all cost.
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Evie Glam Babe vs. Anck the Dowd?
14 October 2001
So you're wondering how the Patricia Velasquez character looked so hot in the first movie, and looks so dowdy in this one? Look no further than Rachel Weizs! Isn't it a little too funny Weizs struts her stuffy bookish self around this movie in tight clothes that are more 1985 than 1930, her eyes made up a-la Sophia Loren, her hair "cascading" over her naked shoulders?

Here's what I think happened.

Rachel (to the producers): "OK, I'll do the sequel, but I get costume approval for my character and the Egyptian tart. And she doesn't get to wear that "naked" dress of hers. And she doesn't get to wear any make-up. And I'm the babe in this one, even if I play a mum! And the lighting on me is going to be glamorous, do you hear me? GLAMOROUS! And hers isn't. And I kick her arse. And she dies eaten by bugs. SCREAMING!"

You look at them and tell me if I'm wrong.
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2 July 2001
Stupid, aimless, convoluted, preposterous would-be comedy that misses from about 5 minutes in and goes down all the way. In the process, it piles up the moronic plot twists and the inconsistencies. No reason to go on and on here, but when are the writers of murder stories going to accept that in the age of DNA your characters cannot get away with switching identities with a corpse. Agh!

PS: And is Matthew Perry ever going to learn to act without his hands in his pockets?
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Grand Slam (1967)
9 May 2001
This is a truly great caper in the RIFIFI tradition, with plenty of twists and surprises, spectacularly high-tech (for its day) action set pieces and glamorous location work in Rio de Janeiro, Rome and around the world. Many other capers since THE GRAND SLAM have borrowed shamelessly from it -- ENTRAPMENT being the latest that springs to mind -- but, trust me, this one did it better than the rest all the way to its uncompromising, un-Hollywood ending. This is the one to catch if it's ever around again!
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Yentl (1983)
6 March 2001
Another abominably self-indulgent monstrosity from the empress of unabashed kitsch and narcissism. What in the world is "The Nails" thinking when she picks these little projects for herself? And why does she have to direct, act, write, sing, do the costumes, the catering and the gaffing? Does she know any limits? No! Which is why this movie has nothing to do with the original story. Instead, it has everything to do with what Streisand hallucinates she is (young, beautiful, greater than female and male combined, limitless) and what she hallucinates the world is about (glory, triumph and more glory). But who cares. I just hope she can keep me laughing, because these turkeys she bakes are so preposterously hilarious there's nothing to match them in the laughs department.
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Davis and Blanchard Impeccable as Garland
25 February 2001
As network biographies go, this is not exceptionally different from the rest but for the astounding portrayals of the central character, in this case Judy Garland, by the two actresses who play her. Judy Davis and especially Tammy Blanchard, through painstaking characterizations (and a little help from award-level make-up work) succeed enormously as the drug-addicted Garland in this often too kind made-for-television movie. And like all TV biopics, this one's a little predictable, a little too low budget and a little stereotypical in its "how fame hurts" depiction of Garland's life. But again, Davis and Blanchard are amazing, sometimes eerily so, as Judy, so much so that you forget you're looking at a performer and not the real Garland sometimes. A must-see for Judy (both of 'em) lovers.
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The Gift (2000)
Like a 1940's Woman's Picture
29 January 2001
Billy Bob Thornton, Tom Epperson and Sam Reimi's THE GIFT is like an old-fashioned Warner Bros. woman's picture of the forties with a horror twist, and Cate Blanchett is incandescent and absolutely compelling at its center. If for no other reason than to see her shine in the role, in an absolutely hypnotic performance, see this film.

The story is staple Hollywood thriller stuff, and I won't go into it here because I'm sure many others will already have done that. There is an unknown killer, suspects who turn out to be innocent and all the usual murder story material. The difference is in the Deep South location, the mostly unglamourized "trailer park"-type characters and the local color. And Cate Blanchett, who will hopefully be with us for a long, long time.

If you love (and miss) all those old Olivia de Havilland and Bette Davis pictures, if you wish someone would remake MILDRED PIERCE, if you detest movies about women that feel like they belong on Lifetime, this is the movie for you.
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Not a Top Campbell but a Worthy Second-Placer
10 December 2000
First of all, let me just say that I really like Martin Campbell's work, especially GOLDENEYE, which is in my view one of the best two or three Bonds, and THE MARK OF ZORRO, a rousing adventure in the old Hollywood style. I liked VERTICAL LIMIT also, not as much as those other Campbell films, but enough to feel like my 6 dollars were well spent (I saw a matinee show).

However, at 100 million dollars, I think the film is underproduced. First of all, why it was decided not to photograph a big screen adventure like this in scope beats me. Campbell is a master at using the wide, wide screen in spectacular ways and LIMIT, restricted to the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, feels claustrophobic and unexpansive despite the locales it supposedly takes place in.

Second, while some may like the special effects in the movie, in my book the film suffers from too much digitalization and too many obvious CGI's. The helicopter scene, with the characters hanging on for dear life thousands of feet above ground, is obviously filmed on a set that's lit like a set with a cyclorama that looks like a cyclorama. Something similar happens with the opening sequence in Utah (just compare the obvious artificial quality here with, say, the opening rock climbing scene in MI:2).

There are literally hundreds of shots in the movie that are obviously shot in the studio's green room and later composited with live action backgrounds that look artificial -- too digital, if you will. (These, folks, are the kinds of shots we'll be looking at years from now saying, "Wow, did we really buy that back then?" like we do when we see films like THE MOUNTAIN today). Campbell is a master action filmmaker and has such a good sense of how to photograph action sequences that you almost forget you're watching phoniness most of the time. But still...

Finally, Chris O'Donnell is too puppyish for this part. He looks good, and acts alright, but the film would have benefited from a bonafide film star like Brad Pitt or Matt Damon.

All of this notwithstanding, VERTICAL LIMIT is better than most movies out there and well worth the price of admission.
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