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Almost, but not quite, unlike Hitchhiker's
In the novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, when Arthur Dent attempts to make the Nutrimat machine in the Galley on the Heart of Gold produce tea, there's a brilliant gag, one of many that the screen treatment of Hitchhiker's inexplicably omits. In both book and movie, Arthur sips the concoction that the machine produces and grimaces, but in the book, Arthur then proclaims: "It's almost, but not quite, unlike tea."
That sums up this movie mistreatment in a nutshell: it's almost, but not quite, unlike The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Hammer, Tongs and company have tried to simultaneously remain loyal to their source material yet create a cohesive conventional movie. By attempting both, they have utterly failed to accomplish either.
Granted the Hitchhiker's the Movie team faced a daunting challenge in forcing a non-linear loose yarn into a tight linear narrative, and shouldn't have felt compelled to slavishly adhere to every jot and tittle of the novel, but that doesn't mean that they had to do a hatchet job of an adaptation. The crudely executed cuts and changes they made were utterly ill-considered and arbitrary.
By trimming way too much lean along with the fat, and crudely grafting on tired Hollywood devices, Jennings, Goldsmith and Kirkpatrick have sliced the life out of a complex and vivacious masterpiece. The "it's not supposed to be exactly like the book" defense isn't nearly sufficient to excuse this crime against the memory of the late, great Douglas Adams.
This is one project that should have been consigned to Development Hell for eternity. Like Lunkwill and Fook, the seekers of the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything, the filmmakers seemed to be so hell-bent on coming up with an "answer" to a filmed adaptation of HG2G that they forgot to stop and formulate the proper "question" of how to properly do it. Those who have waited patiently for this movie will come away as disappointed as the descendants of Lunkwill and Fook, who after waiting 7.5 million years finally received their Answer: 42.
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
The Hypocrisy of the Christians
I love how Christian moralistic zealots slam the unrealistic stylized fantasy violence of movies like "Kill Bill" but fall all over themselves to embrace the excessively graphic realistic violence of this movie. What's so holy and sacred about a guy getting thoroughly beaten and abused for two hours? Oh yeah, it's from "The Good Book". So if Mel Gibson's next project is a porno about the seduction of Lot by his daughters, will the Religious Wrong rave about that too? Face it, Bible-thumpers: this movie is poorly made fiction, like the book upon which it's based. For a far superior take on the New Testament, you are urged to watch Martin Scorsese's Last Temptation of Christ, The (1988).
Were randomname and I even watching the same movie? Phredd-2 is absolutely correct that this horrible trash sold out the "Duncan" series in truest commercial Hollywood fashion. For starters, the title is just awful -- I much prefer the working titles that Edison Manufacturing Company, producers of the series, were using: "The Muslin Menace" and "Attack of the Clouds". The use of black and white film and the decision to omit sound were techniques that were daring and innovative in the first two movies, but here are just trite and predictable. James C. Duncan does the best he can with this abysmal material, but newcomer Fred C. Devonald overacts in unbearably amateurish fashion. The departure from the proven "Duncan" formula is puzzling. I fail to understand why Dickson & Heise would draw the focus of the storyline away from Duncan. By replacing the certainty of the Duncan storyline with the ambiguity of Duncan OR Devonald, they make the material too clever by half. In keeping with IMDB's policies, I too will not reveal the so-called "surprise twist" but I will say that it was totally predictable, and I will add that the potential novelty of the Muslin Cloud becomes just another tired and contrived plot device. It remains to be seen if a better version of this piece will appear in the upcoming "Duncan: The Director's Cut" DVD.
Dickson & Heise continue to break ground
I must respectfully disagree with randomname as to this stunning sequel. While "Duncan Smoking" took the Everyman character of Duncan on a pan-universal quest to find meaning and fulfillment in an empty universe, "Blacksmith Shop" raises the stakes by introducing us to the mysterious character of "Another". This transmogrifies the dramatic arc from a desperate soliloquy to an epic dualistic struggle. The directors have once again chosen to film on black and white stock with a silent sound mix; daring choices that are wholly appropriate for this type of radical and possibly even controversial material. I cannot even begin to imagine what the concluding chapter in this trilogy will bring.
Duncan Smoking (1891)
A dramatic triumph
This wonderful work is the type of cinematic masterpiece that Ingmar Bergman could only aspire to but never achieve. The dark composition and masterful use of light and shadow are evocative of the best film noir. The understated minimalism is utterly profound. In a particularly brilliant stroke, the director has chosen to forgo a soundtrack as well as any sound effects in favor of a silent sound mix. This ingenious choice drives home the despairing, nihilistic worldview of this piece. Dickson & Heise have created the type of bold, daring work that only nineteenth century artistic visionaries could produce. They have launched the "Duncan" trilogy in strong fashion, and I greatly anticipate the next two installments in the series.
"Never mind" this maudlin mess
I haven't read the autobiography upon which this made-for-TV piece was based, but as someone who greatly admires Radner's work, I'm pretty disappointed in this insipid flick. I was hoping for an insightful behind-the-scenes look at the stories behind Radner's comedy, but instead was presented with a treacly piece of hack movie-of-the-week style melodrama. There are a few interesting surreal touches, such as *SPOILERS* a scene where an entire SNL studio audience turns into Radner's father, and a nice scene of Radner finding out she has cancer montaged with the "saccharine" number from her Broadway show, *END SPOILERS* but overall the film -- "I call it a film, not a movie" :-) -- was far more sugar-substitute than treat. You'd be far better off renting Best of Gilda Radner, The (1989) (V) than watching this.
The Court (2002)
I agree 100% with Mr. Leone's compare-and-contrast review of this show and "First Monday" (2002). IANAL, but even as a layperson I can tell that FM thoroughly sacrifices legal accuracy for maudlin melodrama. I'm sure The Court doesn't get things precisely right law-wise either, but it seems like they're at least striving for realism, and unlike FM, they haven't pulled any stunts so far that I can point at and laugh at as being completely off-the-wall.
I too had a healthy dose of skepticism upon first viewing TC, but I've been suitably impressed so far. There have been a few hokey moments (scenes with Field's character and the weepy bleeding-heart clerk for instance) but overall, the performances and presentation have been subtle, restrained, and intelligent. My overall impression is similar to my feelings about executive producer Carol Flint's other venture, "ER" (1994): while this show isn't completely free of the contrivance and tear-jerkiness endemic to all television dramas, the overall quality is such that I'm willing to overlook a few peccadilloes.
Kudos in particular to Chris Sarandon for his work. He does a wonderful job of straightforwardly playing a character that in the wrong hands could have been reduced to sappy saccharine.
The Osbournes (2002)
Bloody f***ing hilarious
Rude, crude, crass, tasteless, off-color, indecent, obscene, perverse, and blooming sodding funny. Reminds me of the early episodes of "South Park" in that the humor is so bad that it's good. You've got to love a show that features a frank and detailed discussion between a mother and daughter regarding thong underwear vis a vis yeast infections. They're all f***ing mad!
Less funny than a colonoscopy
Groin-grabbingly bad. What a tragic waste of the talents of John Cleese and Ed Begley, Jr. Peter Tolan should have stuck with "The Job". I've seen a lot of bad TV in my day, but this program LITERALLY gave me a stomachache it was so godawful. I predict that ABC will very rapidly be pulling "Wednesday 9:30 (8:30 Central)" from the Wednesday 9:30 (8:30 Central) time slot. Try again, program development people, but next time, BE MORE FUNNY!
Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)
Almost a rival for Plan 9 From Outer Space as worst movie ever. One of those movies that you just have to shake your head at and wonder how on Earth the flick got made. What else can you say about this movie except what MST3K said? "Manos, the.... hands of fate."
Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001)
A seminal cinematic event
WARNING MILD SPOILERS
There are certain works that provoke strong reaction, positive or negative, but regardless of ones opinion one must acknowledge that the work represents a significant event that alters the artistic landscape. Kubrick's "2001" was one such work, and the Spielberg/Kubrick meld-piece "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" is another.
Love it or hate it, one cannot simply consign this movie to insignificance. Personally, the movie blew me away. I actually cried at the end of it, and I haven't cried at a movie in over ten years. I wholeheartedly disagree with some of the comments I've read about this movie. I did not think that the ending was simply a "tack-on"; I thought it was a poignant epilogue that drove home the film's points about the quest for meaning and validation in life. The entire film, ending and all, had an epic feel much like that of "2001" or even "Lawrence of Arabia".
I also fail to see how one could accuse Spielberg of not being at all "Kubrickian" in his direction. There were plenty of dark, disturbing, and claustrophobic moments that harken back to Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" or "The Shining" and plenty of visceral, violent moments that smacked of "Full
Metal Jacket" or again "A Clockwork Orange".
Granted, Spielberg is guilty of some glossing and some manipulation, because of which I give this movie a 9 and not a 10, and he does blatantly steal from his own "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" at the end, but there was enough profundity and thought-provokingness to the movie that I was able to look past the mild flaws. A good amount of the material would have raised my "give me a break" hackles if handled less skillfully, but darn it, I bought it. This movie is eminently rewatchable and discussable.
Disclaimer: I am in no way related to or affiliated with anyone even remotely involved with making "A.I. Artificial Intelligence".
The Straight Story (1999)
A refreshingly slow-paced, simple, yet profound Odyssey
Thank goodness for David Lynch, because no Hollywood studio would ever make this movie. I could imagine the reaction of a producer at a megastudio being pitched The Straight Story script: "Rural midwest setting? Old man driving cross-country through cornfields on a lawnmower? Are you completely meshugah???"
The beauty of The Straight Story is that it is simultaneously pedestrian yet compelling. It works because it neither plays into nor overplays its material. It's a classic "real frog in the magic garden" story about an ordinary person dealing with extraordinary, but not outlandish, circumstances.
Freddie Francis' gorgeous photography, Lynch's laid-back direction and Richard Farnsworth's fantastic treatment of Alvin Straight tell a compelling "less is more" Odyssey-style zen-filled tale. It's not light viewing -- there are no rapid intercuts or quick payoffs -- but bear with the low-key pacing, because this picture really earns its dramatic moments, unlike the oversentimentalized schmaltz of "Forrest Gump" or "The Cider House Rules".
This movie, in a sense, is the antithesis of Fargo. Fargo and The Straight Story share the same setting, but unexpectedly, Lynch never devolves into treating rural midwesterners as sinister caricatures like one would expect based on his previous work. Neither does he nor do his writers, Roach & Sweeney, fall into the trap of Disney-fying the story. The characters are portrayed realistically and three-dimensionally: flawed but basically good-hearted people.
Finally, the ironic thing about this movie is that it would be completely unbelievable if it weren't based on a true story!