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Crash (I) (2004)
Racism's ugly head.
16 July 2006
The best film of 2005 IS the best because it examines race not just from different cultures but from many different classes of society as well. The powerful, the rich, the poor, the middle class and the emotionally disturbed all clash in a film that continues to try and teach us that we are all the same at the same time as we are all different. As I put the pieces of this ensemble together, comparing it to films like the safe and dated 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner', to the eternally relevant and timeless classic 'Do the Right Thing' serve to show 'Crash' as truly unique and invigorating because its tragic and near tragic moments leave it open for debating how we rationalize our fears based on our treatment of each other which often gets out of control as quickly as a fire and we are unable to control it.
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Unlike ANY crime film. And that's a good thing.
16 July 2006
David Cronenberg works best when his psychological and macabre sense of blood curdling chills is done while involving the real world. Films like 'Scanners', 'The Fly', and 'eXistenZ' will always have a special place with me but when Cronenberg's "mad scientist" vision invades his camera lens in a more realistic sense such as in 'The Dead Zone' or 'Dead Ringers', we are left imagining what the possibilities of human nature are from a more constructive point of view. This film, about a man's mysterious past with gangsters and how it comes back to haunt him and his family is made all the more compelling by performances from Ed Harris, Maria Bello and the long forgotten William Hurt in a comeback role that has him in one of the most unique supporting performances of the year. Viggo Mortensen proves he can act quite well away from the land of 'Lord of the Rings' and turns in great work here. This may be David Cronenberg's best film ever.
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Munich (2005)
Terror's impact and the endless cycle of violence.
16 July 2006
Steven Spielberg is far from done as a film maker. As a 30+ year veteran of the big screen, Spielberg is continuing to evolve and re-invent himself with each decade. From the popcorn entertainment of 'Jaws' and 'Close Encounters' in the 70s to the moving human feelings obtained from 'E.T.' and 'The Color Purple' in the 80s to the world shaking 'Schindler's List' and 'Saving Private Ryan' in the 90s to the present, Spielberg is in total control because his true talent is in his choices. 'Munich' takes no side in the dispute between two sides in the most volatile conflict of the last 50 years on planet Earth. By taking no side, Spielberg has managed to take both sides and show them as equally flawed and equally human. The subject matter is the star performer of this film and the actors are merely taking their cues from it and while this film has been heavily criticized for its politics, no matter how this film was presented, it would have been criticized. How then do you make a film this sensitive in subject matter so attractive? Only Spielberg knows and he has managed to convey his vision convincingly. Extraordinary.
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Walk the Line (2005)
Johnny Cash comes to authentic life.
16 July 2006
Musical biographies of the past 30 years have been absorbing. 'The Buddy Holly Story', 'The Rose', 'The Doors' and 'Ray' have all been successful and following in a similar path is this film with a simple story telling technique, stellar performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon as Johnny Cash and June Carter. 'Walk the Line' is not afraid to show the flaws in the greatest country/crossover performer who ever lived because Phoenix is allowed to balance the performer and the man equally in a way that seems memorable on both ends and the chemistry between the two leads in magical in the traditions of old fashioned story telling.
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McCarthyism is alive and well in the Bush era.
16 July 2006
In the early part of the 21st century, we see that the news and information industry continues to attach itself to whatever sells despite the fact that it caters to the lowest common denominator. In the days of pioneering news man Edward R. Murrow, we see a man determined to stop senator Joseph McCarthy, an opportunistic politician who would destroy the very freedoms U.S. society enjoys in order to preserve them. Similar things are happening today so this film is all the more prophetic. George Clooney co-authors and directs a film of limited length but at 93 minutes, it runs just long enough to hold your attention and challenge modern day authority. Something few have been willing to do. No other actor could have played Murrow as well as David Strathairn does here.
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Transamerica (2005)
Felicity Huffman shines.
16 July 2006
This film is a closely knitted piece of cinema that gives a whole new meaning to the road movie. Actress Felicity Huffman plays a man in the process of a sex change who finds out that she/he, has a teenage son living in New York City who has become a gigolo and drug user. Rescued from this life, the young man is given a free ride out of his troubled period to find out he has another life waiting that he may have trouble eventually embracing. Huffman's performance is the real element that gives the film substance. She drives the film while struggling with her character's sexuality and the film is even handed, well written and finishes with complexity and those who only embrace the traditional concept of family, may be moved to a whole new level of tolerance after seeing this film.
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Syriana (2005)
The real world of corruption, business. And did I mention.....corruption and business.
16 July 2006
This film has been described by many as "a thriller for people who read the Financial Times". While that may be true, this film fits into a description that labels it "a sign of the times". Corporate greed is at an all time high. How it destroys people's lives and the backlash that follows is a classic example that says for every action, there is an equal re-action. It also demonstrates how those involved in international crimes don't even care about their own foreign operatives and that their lives are disposable in the long run. George Clooney stands out as a CIA operative who realizes he may have been on the wrong side of the fight his whole life. A well written piece by Stephen Gaghan that is extremely difficult to follow in detail. It's not for those with short term memory problems or short attention spans.
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The gay issue is simply incidental.
16 July 2006
Let's be clear about something. Late night talk show hosts can poke fun all they want at gay issues but this film is simply a well made and leisurely paced film about love and its consequences. The gay issue, as far as I'm concerned, is simply incidental. I didn't care if it was a story about gay love, straight love, animal love, alien love, materialistic love or any other kind of love. And if you doubt this, ask yourself one simple question. Would Heath Ledger's wife in the film have left him if she discovered he was in love with another woman instead of with another man? Probably. Adultery is adultery. Director Ang Lee took hold of this material and deliberately took his time to tell a story about two lonely and extremely ordinary people and articulated the sensitivity of the perceived issues on screen and treated them with brief visual images of the controversy and made solid acting and acceptable sentimentality rule the screen.
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Genteel and cheerful boxing movie.
16 July 2006
As boxing movies go, this one certainly can't compare to 2004's 'Million Dollar Baby' or the original 'Rocky'. However, Russell Crowe is convincing in the role of Jim Braddock, a man struggling to reach the top of his profession and while the underdog story has been done to death, audiences still love it because they always see themselves in their heroes' role. I liked the subject matter and the idea of the film a lot more than its execution, which admittedly, is flawed. Depression era people struggling to make something out of their lives. Crowe's children in the film represent my father's family and his siblings growing up. Something I've learned about in my life, and I'm glad there are those with big hearts like director Ron Howard, still brave enough to make these films in an era when no one seems to care about the impoverished anymore.
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King Kong (2005)
1933 dated. 2005 timeless.
16 July 2006
Although Peter Jackson directed this almost note for note like the way he directed the LOTRs trilogy, it still is a fluidly filmed piece of entertaining cinema milked for all its worth and if something isn't broke, why fix it. Likewise, the performances are solid, particularly the ones by Jack Black and Naomi Watts. The scene involving Watts dancing for Kong, trying to entertain him, was probably the neatest trick in the film as it showed Kong's compassionate side. Also, Jackson decided to make Kong as sympathetic, if not more so than the original 1933 version, and technology has allowed Kong to have almost human like qualities in his expressions and emotions. A good film that will probably go down as a worthy re-make to a landmark film. Now, if Hollywood could ever turn out a great movie based on an old t.v. show, they might come full circle.
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10/10
Truly a legendary achievement.
29 November 2005
Before all of the present day knucklehead mash of mindless teenage movies, this intelligent, Oscar nominated (for best picture) film shows the last night of summer retreat for a group of young people in a small northern California town, one of whom is about to head back east to attend college. Richard Dreyfuss provides the intelligence, Ron Howard the aloof personality, Paul LeMat the muscle, and Charles Martin Smith the comic relief as the four main players in director George Lucas' first major breakthrough in movies before his adventure with the 'Star Wars' films began in 1977. 'American Graffiti' and 'Star Wars' are the only truly great films that Lucas has been involved with and 'American Graffiti' is shot like a documentary, edited with care, written with charm and performed with excellence by a cast that will always be remembered for this film that helped them launch careers that would take them to the top of their profession.
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Mixing the history of the super hero genre and re-inventing it
25 March 2005
Taking the super hero genre and transferring it to Pixar animation is a brilliant idea. The writing, the wit, the fast pace and the incredible technical aspects associated with the film's action is sensational. I loved this movie in the best traditions of family entertainment. Creator Brad Bird has made a film that took me back to my youth in terms of my memories involved with watching such classic shows as 'Batman' and 'The Incredible Hulk' and at the same time, mixed it with elements of my experiences of watching Disney animation from the late 60's to the mid 70's and this hybrid of mixing popular culture from the past with the technology of today is the best definition of "re-invention" that we have had in a very long time.
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The Ring (2002)
The paranormal variable !
26 February 2005
Technology. Looking at a videotape can kill you in this movie. Are there really curses in the world? Well, look at King Tut's tomb, the Boston Red Sox, the Chicago Cubs and my experience with the lottery. After a little light humour, getting serious is what this movie is all about. The performances are good, the technology is excellent and the story has twists that are hard to resist. It's evenly paced and has no slow spots. I like the fact that a sequel is being planned and given all of the sequels that we get that are based solely on making money, this seems to be the kind of story that can work with multiple stories done the right way. Perhaps the killing influence in the next film will be a DVD? :-)
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Wow !
26 February 2005
This is probably the most technically efficient James Bond movie in a very long time. Involving the North Koreans as villains is quite interesting considering what a closed society it is. The Bond films have always done a good job at making the villains a nation that is currently in the news stirring up trouble in the world. Pierce Brosnan has always been a fine James Bond and I hope he continues to make more Bond films but it doesn't look like it will happen and I say bring on Clive Owen as the next James Bond. The masculine traits of Bond have always been convincing and Owen seems to be a perfect fit for the role. Let the legend of Bond continue...forever!
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The future North American third world
26 February 2005
As jobs continue to be outsourced from the United States and Canada to third world countries, those doing the dirty work probably don't know or don't care that they are creating a third world for the citizens they are taking jobs away from in these two countries. 'The Corporation' shows the environmental, social and political irresponsibility of profiteering. It also shows how the world may be affected several generations from now. Using misdeeds from the past and potential misdeeds from the future, this documentary shows how government has become powerless and a tool of industry and how the shareholder is the most important thing a company can count on without any conscience whatsoever. A shattering masterpiece.
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The desperation of poverty
26 February 2005
Catalina Sandino Moreno is fascinating to watch as a young Columbian girl who trades her dignity for exposure to the criminal world out of desperation to get money for her family by becoming a drug mule and smuggling the goods into the United States using her stomach filled with pellets that are loaded with drugs. She meets others in the trade on her way to America and this film is extremely plain and simple but it packs a peculiar power in its realistic look and director Joshua Marston has crafted a drug film influenced by Steven Soderbergh's brilliant 2000 film 'Traffic' as Marston uses the hand held effect of camera use to demonstrate the unsteadiness of a world that destroys those that try and prosper from it.
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The Terminal (2004)
Magical intimacy
26 February 2005
Tom Hanks masters a European accent in this gem of a film that brings people together from different cultures who have one thing in common...preserving their humanity. Hanks plays the citizen of a country flattened in a brief war and he is now man without a country, a displaced person and is not allowed to leave customs at JFK airport and must stay in the terminal while bureaucracy plays itself out supervised by a self serving government official with political aspirations (Stanley Tucci). Catherine Zeta-Jones plays the apple of Hanks' eye as a flight attendant and Steven Spielberg's ability to keep himself grounded as a film maker with all of the success he's had over the last 30 years proves that he is not just a legendary film maker, but a regular guy as well.
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The Aviator (2004)
Hollywood tradition preserved!
26 February 2005
The best film of 2004 is a throw back to old Hollywood and has the visuals to back it up. Martin Scorsese directs his most ambitious film to date that will rank as one of his best in the history of his career. Scorsese doesn't use his quintessential style that audiences are used to from his early days in the film industry. Instead, Scorsese's approach to the material here, while unsentimental as his films usually are, is totally majestic in style and matches the maverick personality of it's protagonist Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio). DiCaprio is brilliant as the aviation pioneer, industrialist and film maker who always did things while thinking big in typical American fashion and while he was deeply flawed as a person, he prevented a monopoly in the airline industry that perhaps prevented other monopolies from taking place and saved the true American spirit of competition from being destroyed. Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn and Alan Alda as a corrupt senator add to the support of this film that, along with DiCaprio's performance, make it the grand epic that it will be remembered for. A true classic!
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Hotel Rwanda (2004)
Devastating!
26 February 2005
The genocide in Rwanda in 1994 was overlooked by the world who have no excuses this time to do something about the genocide in Sudan that is currently taking place as this review is being written. We need a constant reminder that the world's genocide does nothing to solve anyone's problems and 'Hotel Rwanda' casts a positive light on one citizen of Rwanda.....a man named Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), a hotel manger in Rwanda who saved over 1200 people from the genocide by sheltering them in his hotel. Aided by his wife (Sophie Okonedo) a UN general (Nick Nolte), and his staff, Rusesabagina became an important hero that has rightly been characterized in this film by director Terry George and one hopes this film will be remembered as importantly as 1984's 'The Killing Fields'.
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Ray (I) (2004)
Straight forward like the old days.
12 February 2005
Taylor Hackford directed this film is a very conventional manner. Perfect if you ask me. Since it isn't fiction, there is very little inventiveness required. The history of the story is, in a sense, its own director and Hackford just guides it along, makes it all even and the film is never boring. Jamie Foxx gives one of the most realistic performances in the history of the movies with his portrayal of Ray Charles. He IS Ray Charles. He has to win the Oscar. There is no other competition from 2004 and if Foxx doesn't win the Oscar, it will be the biggest blemish on the Academy's reputation in a very long time. 'Ray' is truthful, entertaining to the max and is beautiful to look at since its visual frame work is so authentic.
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Mr 3000 (2004)
An accurate look at sports egos.
6 February 2005
I liked this movie. Bernie Mac is convincing, funny and a reflection of the selfishness of today's athletes that has turned a lot of people off of professional sports. A friend rented it as a surprise and I was impressed with its accuracy dealing with an athlete's ego and how everything is about him and forget about everyone else. A little bit of a twist comes in the film and while I don't think I've ever seen another film with more product placements, 'Mr. 3000' is worth a casual look and although it is about baseball, it is a wake up call with NHL hockey currently at a stand still and a reminder that any sport can be dragged through the mud at anytime.
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The non-glorification of boxing!
6 February 2005
Clint Eastwood has done it again. He has reversed the thinking from old school Hollywood that violence is glorious. 'Unforgiven' was the anti-western masterpiece showing that old west America wasn't just about the guys in the black and white hats and it was the film that defined Eastwood as a director. 'Million Dollar Baby' shows that Clint is making the best movies of his career over the last 15 years. Unlike 'Rocky' where the fight is uproarious as you cheer and the hero gets the girl in the end, 'Million Dollar baby' shows how ugly boxing violence is and why the sport has degenerated into a low brow competition in recent years.

Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman deserve Oscars for this film as their performances are raw, heartfelt and just plain worthy. Eastwood also deserves his second Oscar as best director and this film is superior, yes, superior I say to Martin Scorsese's over rated 'Raging Bull' from 1980. Made on a relatively low budget with no special effects, just the good old fashioned elbow grease that Hollywood use to consume itself in, 'Million Dollar Baby' might be the best picture of 2004 for its message as well as for its creative talents.
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THX 1138 (1971)
George Lucas starts shaping the future
23 January 2005
'THX-1138' is a film of admirable qualities. Sublime, not over done and just compelling enough to be memorable. The chase sequence, for a low budget film, is brilliant. Getting top actors like Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasence also helps a great deal.

As a futuristic film, Orwellian in its presentation, Lucas tries to show what might be one day so we can strive to avoid it. With gaps growing between rich and poor, global terrorism and the misguided wars launched to exterminate them, along with skyrocketing cases of AIDS and global poverty, 'THX-1138' might not be the eventual fate of the future but a road similar to it looks like it might be in the process of being paved.
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For the pure of heart
23 January 2005
Luke Skywalker. The ultimate role model for children. Brave, caring towards his family and friends and most important of all, pure of heart. A great role model for children to follow as they establish their heroes in the movies.

This final installment in the 'Star Wars' saga is filled with great family entertainment and those who complained that the Ewoks stole the film visually are entitled to their opinion but they're what distinguish the three films as this one is the most family oriented.

George Lucas once stated that he was going to make nine 'Star Wars' films but after saying that six would be enough, 'Return of the Jedi' is indeed chapter six and a great way to close a series which will endure hundreds of years from now when people take a look at this age of cinema.
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10/10
Darker, more fluid advancement in the story line but not necessarily better
23 January 2005
George Lucas' 'Star Wars' trilogy is the greatest fantasy story in all of film history. Yes, even better than the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy. 'Lord of the Rings' is fine work but the characters aren't as well developed as in 'Star Wars' and they are too long. Also, each 'Star Wars' film stands out better than each 'Lord of the Rings' film. Three chapters in 'Lord of the Rings' is one big movie while 'Star Wars' is a space western, 'The Empire Strikes Back' is a dark, attractive and Gothic work of art and 'Return of the Jedi' is like a Disney film. Each has their own personality. As far as trilogies go altogether, 'The Godfather' films will always be the greatest in movie history'.

I love 'The Empire Strikes Back' but I can't go along with the assertion that it is better than 'Star Wars'. I was one of those people that saw 'Star Wars' every weekend for a year when I was 11 and 12 years when a child's admission was only 50 cents to a dollar. There was such a magnificent freshness to 'Star Wars' that audiences couldn't get enough and when adjusted for inflation, 'Star Wars' is the second biggest box office film is history, second only to 1939's 'Gone with the Wind'. Meaning that these two films sold the most tickets in motion picture history.

'Star Wars' even created the entire concept of the modern day blockbuster and influenced hundreds of films after it, is the biggest movie in the history of popular culture and created a new religion. A recent poll in Britain asked people to identify their religion and a substantial portion of them wrote in "Jedi Knight".

'The Empire Strikes Back' does advance the story line forward greatly, has a convincing and blossoming love story between Han Solo and Pricess Leia and gives us the showdown we want. It also introduces us to the legendary Yoda and a new key player in Lando Calrissian and has some breath taking special effects. But 'The Empire Strikes Back' owes its success to 'Star Wars' but has to be given credit for the fact that it teaches people, especially the young, that the good guys don't always win and that the fight for what's right sometimes seems impossible.
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