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10/10
A biased but beautiful documentary about a brilliant mind
20 November 2003
One never knows what to expect out of rock films. Going into Tupac: Resurrection, I half expected another mediocre blaxploitation groaner. The other half expected a gushy MTVish drool-fest out to promote the soundtrack artists, including current corporate media darling 50 Cent.

Resurrection is neither. The producer is not some slick Hollywood mogul with no understanding of rap except as a source for making a quick buck. Instead, Afeni Shakur, the late rapper's mother, takes charge. As both executive producer and the dominant force in her son's short life, her personal agenda impacts every frame. Like all documentaries, this is an extremely one-sided account, and it is likely due to her input that the movie downplays the darker aspects of Pac's self-destructive downward spiral after his move to Death Row Records. Nor is the film harsh enough on Tupac's seemingly endless capacity for paranoia and irresponsibility.

Fortunately, she also makes the crucial decision not to dwell on more tired hash-rehash of so called East Coast/West Coast rap war, which the movie clarifies as less of a reality than a media event. Nor does it choose to linger on the numerous rumors and conspiracies surrounding Tupac's murder.

Shakur and director Lauren Lazin wisely decide to let Tupac's voice carry the film. Lazin wisely refrains from using the masterful, propagandistic gimmicks of a Michael Moore documentary. There are no distracting interviews or massively-edited montages. As a result, the movie has a lyrical, sacred tone. History has mystified Pac as a martyr for West Coast gangsta rap, although during his lifetime he only released one such album. Few choose to remember that Death Row was the twilight of his life, that he spent the first half-decade of his career recording in the East where he grew up. It is here that the film takes its cue.

Resurrection lays bare a magnetic, arrogant, charismatic spirit that immediately affirms why Pac remains one of rap's only true megastars. Though the film is not hard enough on how his growing obstinacy may have hastened his demise, it does not shy away from the controversy, the premonitions of death, the sex abuse conviction, and the inflated ego. The result is a well-drawn sketch of man aware of his genius but haunted by demons, a tortured soul navigating a realm more thuggish than he was at his core, a contradiction which plays as a general commentary on rap's manufactured images.

This movie's production value alone easily outclasses nearly every other cinematic work that has ever pretended to be about hip-hop. It bears little resemblance to How High or Belly or to the shameless self-promotion of the vanity project 8 Mile, which was so sanitized as to kill any revelations it might have made about its star Eminem, the most high profile rapper to yet arise. I don't understand how someone could praise 8 Mile for its beauty and honesty (it isn't) and then criticize this film.

By contrast, the sincerity of Resurrection solidifies Pac's reputation as `the only rapper that matters.' It shows why he is peerless and maybe the greatest artist the genre has yet produced: whatever can be said about his music, as an intelligent personality there is simply no one else in his class. He is so much more painfully relevant than all star rappers, and the sharpness of his observations on everything from politics to poverty leaves dust in the eyes of all his contemporaries. He represents a paradigm that has become all-too-rare in a musical form now dominated by cartoon images: a constructive rather than destructive point-of-view.

A ball of contradictions, Tupac is finally much more complex and brilliant than most people would expect. People are uninformed and uninterested in hip-hop probably will get little out of this movie. Those who know will realize that the biggest tragedy is that not that Tupac died before reaching his full potential, but that other young black men with similar sensibilities rarely reach his level of visibility. 9.5/10.
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Misery (1990)
10/10
Shining, shocking dark comedy in the Hitchcock mold
25 March 2003
Writer William Goldman and director Rob Reiner do Hitchcock proud with this one. It has all the elements: a seemingly innocent place and situation invaded by a growing sense of sinister dread until a breathtaking climax. The intelligent script is peppered with moments that will either make you cringe or make you laugh, depending on how morbid your sense of humor is. It is a harrowing movie to watch the first time around. The crew has done a good job of making you feel Paul Sheldon's pain. Few films torture the audience like this one. In fact, I venture to say this is the best film of its kind since "Psycho" thirty years earlier.

The acting is good all-round. Farnsworth steals every scene he's in with his sardonic and relentless sheriff - he did not get enough accolades for what would have been a routine part in a lesser actor's hands. Caan is solid and underplays beautifully, and the inimitable Kathy Bates carries the film with her alternately hysterical or ridiculously-sappy Annie, the psychotic Sheldon fan. Her performance is a throwback to Hollywood's old days - it's not subtle, not quiet, and borders on over-acting. This is not method acting, this is showing off. But Bates makes it work, investing Annie with enough pitifulness to make the character complex and, thus, hold the role together. This movie is famous, of course, for making Kathy Bates an overnight sensation as everybody went into the movie wanting to see what Sonny Corleone looked like as an older man, but left with accolades for Kathy Bates on their lips. She is absolutely terrifying and unforgettable in this role and perfect for it.

Brilliant performance that elevated a 7-star thriller to 9-10 classic status.
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10/10
A courageous, important film. Puts the "must" in "must-see."
30 November 2002
The phrase "this is a must-see film" is so overused it barely bares any meaning anymore (One of my best friends told me "Spiderman" was a must-see film earlier this year...gag.)

Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine" may be the first, true, without-a-doubt must-see film since "Schindler's List." It is so meaningful -- so subversive and so different from a lot of the ewonderfully entertaining but ultimately empty tripe on the screen nowadays -- I don't know how he got this movie so widely distributed.

It is NOT a gun-control movie; I have some conservative friends who liked it simply because Moore makes a point to not make this a gun control movie (Moore is in the NRA, an accomplished marksman, and understands the complexities of gun culture). It does start as a gun control movie, but ends up in a completely different place. The whole point is that it can't be the guns, so what is it that makes Americans so violent?

This is not as affecting as Moore's other masterpiece, "Roger and Me," but it is even more important. Whether you agree or disagree with Moore's questions, at least this film asks a vitally-important question. In times like these, we need more thought-provoking movies such as this. I do not always agree with Moore, but I was moved by the courageousness of this film.

One of the great non-fiction films of all-time and easily one of the top three movies of 2002. 9.5/10.
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Spider-Man (2002)
1/10
couldve been a great film, but...
2 November 2002
spiderman was so frustrating for me, because it was halfway there. it takes a script with dialogue and characters so ridiculous it begs to be presented as total fun, action-filled camp like the old batman television series. instead, the filmmakers took it too seriously, and tried to take a sophisticated approach, like the batman movies.

the result is a confusing, relentlessy-mediocre film in which the audience doesn't know what to feel. everything is hybrid. you have peter's uncle, who is a serious character, then you have his aunt delivering camp lines like "eviiil! eeeeviiil!" you have a well-done spiderman costume next to a green goblin that looks a kids' action figure. is mary jane supposed to be a funny stereotype, or is the character just badly-written? we never know.

people have blamed kirsten dunst for being a bad actress, but who could possibly deliver such lines as "I better run, tiger!" with any degree of competence? this is one of the dumbest roles ever written for a female actor of any generation. i doubt most respectable actresses would fire their agent if even offered the role, which is a throwback to the kind of girlfriend's you'd find i a 30s B-movie. i applaud kirsten for even trying.

this is the perfect example of what happens to a script after its been through development hell. this movie had floated around hollywood since the 80s, too many people put their version on it, and the result is just "blah." neither good nor bad, this is the kind of movie you see and never think about again, or the kind you love as a child and then deny later on.

no wonder James Cameron, Ang Lee, Jan DeBont and David Fincher all declined to direct the script. it really is bad. sam raimi, a very capable director, nearly saves it with his refreshing sense of style, but he didnt go far enough. it's not bad, it's not good, it's your typical 5/10. yawn.
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The Ring (2002)
10/10
A Complex, Multi-layered Chiller (the simple-minded need not apply)
31 October 2002
It appears only time will redeem The Ring. The response to it reminds me of the hoopla surrounding Blair Witch Project: mixed reviews from critics, a pleased audience, followed by a swift and bitter backlash.

Like Blair Witch, film history will no doubt be more fair, since again we find audiences going into a movie expecting an American horror film, like I did, and coming out with something rich and layered.

Unfortunately for an audience used to simplistic, straightforward stories, The Ring becomes something much more complex. It's not a linear, Aristotelian story. It's very Eastern in its use of circular time, of yin-and-yang. Everything is not neatly wrapped-up at the end. It leaves you with a myriad of questions and a bad taste in your mouth.

That bad taste is why it took my friends and I multiple viewings and several discussions to decide if we liked The Ring or not. It begs for -- and holds up under -- multiple viewings. This is a movie for careful viewers. Important details and lines are delivered only once, and even then they are mysterious. Certain elements have double- and sometimes even triple-meanings. Your understanding of it hinges on being able to interpret symbols.

In other words: there's a lot of figuring out to do. What critics are calling plot holes I call vagueness. A plot hole means that the explanation is just not there: it's a goof. In The Ring, it's all there, it's just not all-spelled-out. There's a difference.

If you're the type of person who likes your movies wrapped in pretty paper and handed to you in a bow, do not bother investing time in The Ring. This is not a cheap horror movie. The horror may be choppy, jumpy, maybe even old. But the meanings are very subtle, and the meanings are where the meat of this movie lie.

And to be fair to the movie, lots of it is damn scary, too.

I don't think anything like this has been seen on the American screen before. This is a higher level of film-making. Bojan Bazelli's cinematography, which does not deserve to be an afterthought here, is masterful...this is one of the best movies ever made. 10/10.
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The Ring (2002)
10/10
forget the plot holes, this is an instant-classic chiller
25 October 2002
The Ring is not a horror movie or even a thriller. This is definitely a "chiller," an emerging genre which seems to be blossoming after the success of The Blair Witch Project. Like other movies of it's ilk, it combines the sometimes sickening fright value of horror movies with the thrillers' unique way of packing a suspenseful detective story into a ticking-clock ("i hope they make it...i hope the make it...").

It's a distinctly non-Hollywood kind of filmmaking, I can't think of any of the popular chillers of the past few years that has been particularly satisfying for an American audience so used to nice, neat endings. The one that came closest to tying everything up, The Sixth Sense, is also the most celebrated, interestingly enough.

Yes, a lot goes answered at the end -- some of it is deliberately ambiguous, some of it begs questions that actually SHOULD have been answered, and a lot of it can't make any sense. This movie's biggest flaw is asking questions that it never even attempts to address, let alone answer.

But plot is not the strength of this film. It's strength is an impending sense of dread -- the waiting for the horror to happen -- and this movie is so great for making you feel that dread almost constantly. There are great stretches in the film when nearly nothing "scary" in the traditional sense happens, but looking around in the theater at all the covered faces, you would think somebody was getting knocked-off every three minutes.

Kudos to the director and the cinematographer Bozen Bazelli for creating what I think is the most visually-arresting movie since Requiem for a Dream. I recently saw a preview of the director's upcoming project Butterfly, which, despite being a science-fiction melodrama, is just as hard on an audience as The Ring. It's what you see and how it is shot that frightens you, rather than you what know. Zimmerman's score is incredible -- I just bought it today, and I saw the movie last night.

There's nothing here to challenge last summer's The Others as the best of the new chillers, neither will this film keep you up at night (like Blair Witch did if you saw it before the hoax was exposed). But it is a feast for the senses, and well-worth the money, which is true of few movies these days. Ignore the plot holes, and just LOOK.
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Overlong propaganda...with some great moments.
5 September 2002
Not a bad film, particularly in its historical importance. Reportedly, the Warner brothers and Edward G. Robinson all fought to make this film, which was made at a time when Americans, remembering the devastation of WWI, were still wary about entering another European conflict.

Structured a little strangely -- we don't get enough of our favorite character, Robinson's, who is a prototype of the thirties G-Man. He has some great lines, particularly when cutting down the bad guys. It's interesting to see him on the right side of the law for once, and equally interesting to see Paul Lukas, best known for playing the anti-Nazi hero of Watch on the Rhine, playing a German sympathizer.

An almost-unrecognizable George Sanders steals the show (doesn't he always?) as a hardcore Nazi soldier.

The movie is heavy-handed propaganda which becomes almost comical with its over-dramatic narration and failure to recognize the irony in its supposed hate of propaganda. The narrator does offer up the movie's most hilarious line, describing how the Germans manufacture "mass stupidity."
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Spider-Man (2002)
1/10
???
31 May 2002
i dont know what to say. this movie...was horrible. the most predictable, fake-looking piece of hogwash...i have no explanation for the money it's making...this makes millions and the others and moulin rogue dont...im...speechless...
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The Others (2001)
10/10
Easily the Best Film of 2001.
25 May 2002
Lord of the Rings??? Ha! This was the best movie from that year, hands down...better than Moulin Rouge, Monster's Ball, Shrek, In the Bedroom, A Beautiful Mind and all the rest. Many people have compared this movie to The Sixth Sense, but note: this movie was written BEFORE the Sixth sense ever came out. Alejandro had this eerie little gem planned for years, which makes it even more of a marvel.

This is also the superior movie because of the all-around great acting that Sixth Sense lacked in places. Fioluanna Flanagan -- an all-time underrated character actress -- plays the maid with stunning precision. Compare this to her other great "maid" role in the TV movie The Legend of Lizzie Borden. And Eric Sykes as the bumbling-yet-creepy Mr. Tuttle does extremely well, delivering the movie's funniest line...you'll know what I'm talking about. It's made hilarious simply because of his pitch-perfect delivery.

Also, these child actors, Akina Mann & James Bentley, are unbelievable -- I kept wondering where on earth the casting director found them. They're sort of a dark version of the Mary Poppins kids and every bit as good if not better. Bentley, especially, manages to be cute and terrified without also coming across as annoying and over-the-top like other, more-acclaimed child actors.

Nicole Kidman is gorgeous here. She's really hot. Besides that, I do believe Kidman's performance here is inferior to the role in Moulin Rogue -- people simply think this one is better because it's a dramatic film (most people do not realize how hard it is to do comedy well, let alone musical-comedy). In fact, this movie is more of a dramatic chilly family melodrama that horror. It's not really scary or even suspenseful; that is, even if you figure out what's going on early on, the tension and the dramatic storyline will still keep you watching, as happened to my best friend when we saw it. However you count it, Kidman is definitely a goddess, starring in the two best movies to come out of one year.

The Others is just well-done, nothing fancy, but with a few brief moments that will have you screaming at the screen. Well-acted, extremely well-written (very, very rare nowadays), and brilliantly directed...this is one of the best movies ever made in my opinion.
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3/10
Boo.
25 May 2002
what a boring movie.

i was warned it's not for people who haven't read the books -- and have no interest ever doing so. i should have heeded those warnings.

i was grateful enough to run into Elijah Wood not once, but twice, a few months before this unfortunate movie (video game?) came out. we chatted both times, and he was such a cool guy and i was so charmed by him that when I realized he was starring in this, i rushed to see it.

i wish i could see him again to ask him what he thought of the script.

the good: Elijah Wood (vastly underrated as an actor; he carried this), Ian McKellan (i have long suspected and am now convinced that he can play any role, in any movie), production value, and Gollum (just as i imagined, so creepy!)

the bad: i could go on for a while. i'm still p***ed they didnt do the hobbit in live-action. its the only one i read, and i thought (im clueless) thats what this was. aside from that personal problem...where was the plot? i mean god. how many times did we have to watch the same scene...fix, six? gandalf waxing poetic about the evil (insert place) of so-so inhabited by the terrible (insert obstacle0 so-and-so. its like watching dungeons and dragons, except they never die and have to start over.

and come on, the "special" effects. was it supposed to look like a computer drawing? that really ruined it, unless thats what they were going for...? plus, i dont get what the fairies had to do with anything (although liv tyler is really cute), and i really wish the movie had an actual ending.

and i know its a fantasy, but how can they defeat all those things over and over again where thousands before them have failed? and if the ring is actually that powerful, why do i care about them anyway? if theyre invincible, it works, but theres no story. and if theyre not...then they shoulda died. but, whatever.

i guess you either have to be in the mood, or be a lord of the rings fanatic. my aunt, one such fanatic, keeps telling me that the 2nd book was the best, so im hoping it will live up. it was nice seeing my acquaintance-in-passing elijah onscreen. but id rather have been playing zelda or even mario brothers. i hope the next one has an actual story. i'm certainly not paying 12 dollars for a IMAX ticket again though.
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Spider-Man (2002)
1/10
you've got to be kidding me, PLEASE tell me you're kidding me
24 May 2002
aside from the upside-down kiss (movie-history moment) -- this is the cheesiest movie ive ever seen ever in my life. no, seriously. why, you ask?

the scene where tobey is bouncing off the walls, flipping with hang-time beating up the high school bully in front of a crowd of people...and no one says a word about how strange it is?

willem dafoe's costume...ahahahahahahaahhahahahahahaha. i have halloween costumes from 3rd grade that are more scary.

the dialogue...must have been written by the same people who do "Barney" and "Pokemon"

the green goblin...why does he do anything? we never find out. he's mad at his boss. ok, he gets him...then he's mad at world, apparently...why?

the scene where the green goblin WHO HAS BEEN TRYING DESPERATELY TO FIND OUT WHO SPIDERMAN IS knocks him unconscious...then doesn't take off his mask???? HELLO HOLLYWOOD??? ANY BRAINS IN THERE???

the fake tears...we see tobey with dry eyes, we cut away for 3 seconds, we cut back: he has tears running down his face?

the ending...oops! there wasnt one.

i could go on forever had i bothered to stay awake.
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Memento (2000)
1/10
Not so much a movie as an intellectual display...Films should be made for audiences, not for filmmakers
16 December 2001
Sigh.

Let me first point out the tremendous amount of good in this film.

First, Christopher Nolan and young filmmakers like him are to be commended and supported for stretching cinematic conventions and taking chances with the medium. Memento is certainly an important film, a very innovative move from the older flashback structure that has gotten to be somewhat overused. What a refreshing directorial debut, to the point that I think it rivals Orson Welles's famous directorial debut. Kudos to Chris Nolan!

Also, there is Guy Pearce. He is outstanding in what must have been an extremely challenging role, and I cannot praise him enough. He succeeds in making us feel sympathetic for a character we never really understand, and that is indeed difficult. To me, this performance is head and shoulders above most if not all lead male performances of the same year.

Skip the bad, onto the ugly.

Some have tried to give the rest of this film the benefit of the doubt. I cannot. This is another one of those annoying intellectual-exercises-disguised-as-motion-picture a la American Beauty whose popularity I can only ascribe to their sheer complexity. The latter tried to use a complex theme to pass for worth; this one tries a complex structure.

Unfortunately, the foundation of a good movie will always be a good, cogent story with strong, well-developed characters (at least in my opinion). Memento has neither. Told forwards, the plot (or non-plot) would be mediocre, even boring. As it is, told backwards, it just makes no sense. I'm not sure it would make sense told regularly. Inventiveness is great, but it is not enough to make a film one of the greatest films of all time (ahem, Citizen Kane). I would put Memento up there with Kane as one of the greatest DIRECTORIAL EFFORTS of all time. But simply put, great direction alone does not equal great film. There are also such things as writing and character, which have been lost in the age of the auteur.

I cannot be the first to have noticed the plot's crucial non-sequitor. If the main character couldn't remember anything after the incident, he wouldn't be able to remember that he has a memory problem. However, he constantly tells people this, and it proves to be of central importance to the plot (which is full of other holes). He also has nothing that he would see every morning to remind him. I understand that in real life, this condition does allow you to remember some things, but the film makes it clear that the main character remembers nothing. I'm not merely picking at the film, for this plot hole actually is the plot. And I'm not quite sure how Chris Nolan or anybody involved with the film managed to miss it. Maybe they didn't care? That's likely, because this film does center more around slick direction than great writing.

There is a saying that applies: to break the rules, you need to know them. This movie could have been brilliant if Christopher Nolan had taken the time to write a wonderful movie in real time. THEN, had he decided to tell it backwards, the effect, if done right, would have been awesome. However, I left this film just as confused as I was throughout. Even the endless speech at the end that was (I think?) supposed to tie everything up did not help, not to mention the fact that the "long explanation by an authority" is a trite, amateur denouement to begin with. It hasn't really worked since Psycho -- which, lord have mercy, is apparently a lesser film than Memento according to IMDB voters -- since the Psycho ending speech was merely tying up loose ends that the audience already knew rather than rewriting the film in seconds like this one does.

Frankly, I'm sick of movies that cater either to the box office (Titanic, Gladiator), or critics (American Beauty & now Memento), and somehow end up being branded as great. Movies should be watchable and entertaining, not simply there to win awards so that film nerds can pat each other on the back congratulating their brilliance.

If you want writing, character, plot, direction AND complexity, see The Shawshank Redemption or All About Eve. Memento is not the movie for you, and so far its the most overrated movie of the century.
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6/10
Superlative nail-biter marred by gutless ending.
29 October 2001
Viscerally, this is a stunning film. The New York interiors are beautifully-rendered, and both Polanski's cast is to be thanked for breathing life into his own tepid script. This movie is not for impatient. It moves very slow, but if one pays attention to the various plot details, it will have you biting your nails throughout. Rosemary's Baby reels you in almost from the very beginning and sets you squarely on the side of the protagonist, the beautiful Mia Farrow in a very believable, subtle performance. There is great dramatic irony in the horror's complex discovery plot -- you find yourself almost screaming at the film because Rosemary is too naive and charmingly honest to suspect what the audience has already gathered: that there are terrible forces and terrible people out to get her.

The very fact that you root so hard for Rosemary -- and believe so much in her integrity -- makes the film's ludicrously-scripted and childishly-shot ending all the more trite and hard to follow. I won't give it away, it's too silly for anything but the actual experience, but suffice it to say that whether or not you agree with the decisions that are made, they are a hard pill to swallow. Of course, it's only Polanksi manipulating his audience even more, like he does throughout the movies early hours. Like I wrote, you have to see the ending to (un)believe it: it does not taste good.

I have reserved the highest praise, though, for a trio of superlative performances. First, there is Ralph Bellamy in a tiny role; however, what he demonstrates is a firm grasp on the craft. In his few minutes of screen time, he manages to be sinister while seemingly doing nothing. In fact, Polanski admitted that his favorite scene in the whole movie is Bellamy retrieving Farrow from an office later on in the film. With only a few lines, Bellamy reveals his power as an actor.

Secondly, there is Farrow, who deserved all the raves. Against the hopelessly miscast Cassavettes as her husband, Farrow's performance is a tour de force without the force -- she does all her acting quietly. She is so beautiful, so fragile and so earnest that it no wonder how quickly you fall in love with her. I doubt very much that any other actress could have pulled this one off, and if there are ones which could have it's a testament to Farrow's performance that you still can't picture anyone else as Rosemary.

This is movie is not over-the-top (until it's end). If you want a bloody slasher film, you should not rent this one. It is an intelligent, suspenseful thriller. Were it not for the incredible ending, this one would have been an easy 9/10.
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Goodfellas (1990)
4/10
Still schizo
20 August 2001
I saw this movie again a few days ago. I think I enjoyed it more...their are a lot of nuances I didn't catch the first time. I think the layering makes it exceptional, though the plot itself is still excessively episodic, jumpy and alienating.

By the way, in my previous review of "Goodfellas," I said that Francis Ford Coppola is dead. I should have put it in quotations. It was a joke in reference to the fact that Scorsese is still making good movies and Coppola hasn't really done anything worthwhile since...god, since before I was born. Feels dead to me.
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Goodfellas (1990)
4/10
Classic direction, though schizophrenic.
31 July 2001
This film is considered the definitive mob film, probably more because Martin Scorsese is quite possibly the best living American director. If Francis Ford Coppola (director of "The Godfather" trilogy) were still alive, he may disagree with this assessment -- and if he did, I would have to agree with him.

Granted, the direction is brilliant, especially on the opening credits, the beginning of Liotta's flashback, the psychedelic feel of the end, and the stunning tracking shot that introduces Liotta and Bracco's first date, but there are so many postmodern innovations that the viewer is veritably jarred. With repeated viewings (which have made this film a classic) this alienation is felt less so, but there is nothing here to challenge Coppola's christening scene.

Nonetheless, not enough can be said, especially about this movie's acting. Pesci's star-turn is celebrated, but kudos must also go to the always underrated Liotta whose subtley suits his role perfectly. De Niro is wasted but good playing the role he always plays (could he be anything less than good?) and Paul Sorvino is perfectly understated in a supporting role. The real praise must go to Lorraine Bracco, the only character to experience a full spate of emotions. She is the most convincing female character ever in a gangster film and doesn't have enough scenes, to my taste.

The plot - what little there is - weakens the film. The main character's ambiguous goal is to become a gangster, but this does not drive the film. Events happen to him, rather than grow out of his own actions making him difficult to sympathize with. The unsatisfying ending is too quick (as if Scorsese knew his movie was getting a tab bit overlong) and also unsatisfying, though he did the latter on purpose as a point of theme.

Overall, a must-see film, though I prefer the better-directed and more engaging plot of "Casino," which, unfortunately is often-panned as a rip-off of this film. Both film's are ridiculously and violent unlike the early Hollywood gangster flicks which were juist as - if not more - thematically effective.
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Psycho (1960)
10/10
Two Words: Hitchcock's Best (...and you know that's no small feat!)
31 July 2001
Yes, everything you've heard is true. The score is a part of pop culture. The domestic conflict is well-known. But nothing shocks like the experience itself.

If you have not seen this movie, do yourself a favor. Stop reading thse comments, get up, take a shower, then GO GET THIS MOVIE. Buy it, don't rent. You will not regret it.

"Psycho" is easily the best horror-thriller of all time. Nothing even comes close...maybe "Les Diaboliques" (1955) but not really.

"Psycho" has one of the best scripts you'll ever find in a movie. The movie's only shortcoming is that one of the characters seems to have little motivation in the first act of the movie but as the story progresses, you realize that Hitchcock (GENIUS! GENIUS! GENIUS!) in a stroke of genius has done this on purpose, because there is another character whose motivations are even more important. Vitally important. So important that you totally forget about anything else. I was lucky enough to have spent my life wisely avoiding any conversation regarding the plot of this movie until I was able to see it in full. Thank God I did! The movie has arguably the best mid-plot point and climactic twist in thriller history, and certainly the best-directed ending. The last few shots are chilling and leave a lingering horror in the viewer's mind.

Just as good as the writing is Hitchcock's direction, which is so outstanding that it defies explanation. Suffice it to say that this movie is probably the best directorial effort by film history's best director. I was fortunate enough to see this movie at a big oldtime movie house during a Hitchcock revival. Janet Leigh, still radiant, spoke before the film and explained how Hitchcock's genius was in his ability to 1) frighten without gore and 2) leave his indelible mark on the movie without overshadowing his actors (like the great Jean Renoir could never do). "Psycho" is clearly its own phenomenon, despite all the big-name talent involved.

Hitchcock does not disappoint by leaving out his trademark dark humor. His brilliance is in making a climax that is at once both scary and hilarious. When I saw it in the theatre the audience was both gasping in disbelief while falling-on-the-floor laughing.

One more thing...

Tony Perkins. Janet Leigh got much-deserved accolades for this film, but it is Perkins who gives what remains the single best performance by an actor in a horror movie. He is so understated that his brillance passes you by. He becomes the character. The sheer brillance of the role is evidenced by the ineptitude of the actors in Gus Van Sant's 1998 (dear God make it stop!) shot-for-shot "remake." Though the movies are nearly identical, Hitchcock's is superior mostly because of the acting and the atmosphere (some of the creepiness is lost with color). This is made obvious by the initial conversation between Leigh's character and Perkins, a pivotal scene. The brilliance of Perkins in the original shines even brighter when compared with the ruination in the remake even though the words and the shots were exactly the same. The crucial chemistry in this scene lacking in the remake gives everything away and mars our understanding of upcoming events. The fact that Perkins could never escape this role - his star stopped rising star as it had done in the 50s - proves that he played the part perhaps too well.

I keep using the word brilliant, but I cannot hide my enthusiasm for this movie. It is wholly unlike the overblown, overbudget, overlong fluff spewing all-too-often out of Hollywood today. "Psycho" is simple, well-crafted and just the right length.

Eleven-and-a-half out of ten stars.
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10/10
Hitchcockian!
24 May 2001
Wow, I am amazed that this film is so overlooked, especially considering the reputations of its director (Dieterle) and its star, Miss Bette Dave. Fog Over Frisco is probably forgotten because it had the misfortune of being released the same year as Bette's Academy-rocking star-turn as waitress Mildred in Of Human Bondage. Nevertheless, she is true to form in this early role. I enjoyed this film's fast past and lack of fluff. If you liked "L.A. Confidential" you will enjoy Fog Over Frisco's complicated plot and ambiguous characters. The plot structure was strangely reminiscent of "Psycho" -- except that Psycho was made twenty-six years later! Seems Hitchcock was not the first to shock his audience unexpectedly...
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4/10
I don't get it.
31 March 2000
As a suburbanite, I found this movie offending. The exaggerated stereotypes are really unfunny, and the plot completely escapes me. Maybe I'm just happy with my life, but I didn't get this film at all, nor why some people enjoyed it so much ("Ummm...it was just a paper bag.") I was impressed with Annette Bening's performance, which was excellent. She's the only reason I would suggest anyone see this movie.
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