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Legends of the Fall (1994)
Beautiful Scenery and Tragic Romantic Story Marred by Pretentious Music...
I watched enthralled by the lush countrysides, wonderful production values, convincing and heartfelt acting, within the sphere of romanticized ironic events. However, the music, which was an ever-present distraction succeeded in drowning out the dialogue, at times, and when it wasn't doing so it seemed out-of-place in its purposeful attempt to add grandeur to scenes that needed no such addition. In fact, the music's loud volume was so off-putting, in its attempt to unnecessarily telegraph emotional content, that it only added an overblown pretentiousness to the proceedings. With that said, I gave this film a rating of 8, which - without the overwhelming musical score - probably would have netted a 10, for all the other elements it had going for it. Sometimes less is more and if the music had been a subtle background inclusion, rather than an overpowering entity unto itself, I believe this movie would have benefited rather than suffered as a result.
Schindler's List (1993)
Mawkish and Needless Over-dramatization Ruined a Potentially Powerful Story.
After watching the well-crafted and riveting "Judgment at Nuremberg," I was prepared for a worthy follow-up - companion piece - in "Schindler's List." This over-rated film was a dismal disappointment to me. Anyone with a heart and soul could have felt the suffering and tribulations - of the Jewish population - without the director resorting to heavy-handed dramatic subterfuge, telegraphed to elicit sympathy for their plight. Furthermore, the movie could have been cut by at least an hour and benefited from that alone. Conversely, Liam Neeson's final scene was so over-the-top and downright hammy that it was totally unbelievable to me. All in all I deeply resent this important subject matter treated in such a forced-fed or programmed manner that precluded the audience from forming their own conclusions and allowing us to arouse genuinely deep-felt compassion for the victims of these atrocities... If simplicity is elegance this lengthy, haphazard hodgepodge lacked the class it should have displayed and as a result left me cold. I unreservedly recommend those who actually liked this picture to view "Judgment at Nuremberg" to distinguish the difference between mawkish, self-indulgent directing and true art.
Cheap and tawdry in every way.....
This piece of awful tripe is not only the most cheap, tawdry, seedy and sordid mess I've ever had the misfortune to waste my time viewing, but it serves the added disgrace of discrediting, for me, every critique ever written by Roger Ebert. After seeing this mind numbing pile of trash, penned by him, how can anyone with any common sense, or even a modicum of good taste, consider his reviews remotely credible? I mean anyone responsible for writing such an unappealing and worthless script cannot possibly be qualified to pass judgment on other screenplays or on the filmed presentations of such. Furthermore, The actors, uniformly, suffer from the worst make-up and hairstyles of any movie I've seen and the costumes, as well as the production values weren't much better. The trite and overblown "message" at the end of the show literally made me shake my head in wonder. The bottom line is that this is the raspberry of all time, or the turkey of all turkeys...
Lola rennt (1998)
A Morality Tale
Rather than reiterate what others have been lauding as the main strong points of this movie, such as frantic speed, pulsating soundtrack, etc., I want to muse on one particular facet. There is a message beyond the obvious one being made that each and every act we commit can have a direct impact and, essentially, has a domino effect on many lives.
It is introduced with the lyrics: "Do the right thing." to one of the songs within the movie, the exact piece and when it's played escapes me, now. This is a most uplifting and profound lesson I gleaned from the movie. While the first and second episodes were focused entirely on the breakneck quest for money, at almost any cost, the last segment concentrated on a higher force, which added humanity to the plot. Lola put her trust in something, or someone, beyond her realm - in a fervent prayer for help - and the scenario changed from base reality into reaffirmation of faith and thereby became inspirational.
"A Little Priest" wasn't religiously carried out, but otherwise...
Apart from the "A Little Priest" scene, which was wasted, as the perverse humor that should have prevailed was completely missing, along with one of the stanzas, this was a gem of a movie. Depp's Sweeney Todd/Benjamin Barker although a bit one note and lacking in dimension was still compelling and who knew he could carry a tune? The duet he sang with Bonham Carter, in particular, was quite nicely done, in fact. I think a more boisterous and lusty rendering of Mrs. Lovett and an uplifting ending, with Anthony and Johanna escaping together, would have fared better and wouldn't have detracted from the overall Grand-Guignol theme. But, still, I enjoyed the film and most of the music, which is more than I can say about the majority of Broadway musical film adaptations.
The Upturned Glass (1947)
A very fine neurosurgeon, impeccably portrayed by James Mason, who teaches criminology as a sideline, recounts a certain case study to a class during a lecture. The case deals with a man he deems to be sane, but who commits murder to avenge a murder. Mason, who has honed his great gift to heal, as a way of replacing the human connection his personal life lacks, has become detached and somewhat obsessive in his perspectives, as a result. Although he doesn't reveal it, to the undergraduates, we discover through the course of his story that he is the protagonist in the example he's presenting. He renders the murder as having been smoothly and successfully carried out, however we learn immediately thereafter that it actually has not yet been accomplished.
Mason's skillfully controlled persona, as the neurosurgeon, is letter perfect and one gets the feeling that his assumptions regarding the way in which a guilt ridden former lady love died are most probably true. Although an inquest rules it as an accidental fall, gossipy detractors place the blame on the woman's, self-centered, opportunistic sister-in-law, who has much to gain financially by the woman's death. Mason's doctor character feels compelled, out of vanity, to justify his revenge to the unwitting students and then sets out to put the final segment of the plot into action.
Murphy's law and irony prevail causing the retaliation to not come off nearly as seamlessly as planned. Moreover, while looking for a place to dispose of his murder victim's body Mason meets up with another more sardonic doctor, whom he's forced to give a ride to and is subsequently obliged to assist. Mason operates on and saves a young patient's life, only to be castigated and labeled, as mad, by the other doctor for his motives. The other doctor, who at one point is asked to fetch a medical supply from Mason's car, discovers the camouflaged body of his victim in the back seat but, without turning Mason in, rather asserts a moral dilemma, which figuratively then literally pushes Mason over the edge.
The title of the film comes into play in the form of an analogy the other doctor makes to a glass precariously perched to fall, crack and break, comparing it to Mason's unsound mind. Mason gets the point and abruptly does a swan dive over an abyss, into the sea. We are left to ponder whether it was a consequence of being faced with his monumental conceit, or hypocritical notion of altruism, that ultimately causes his undoing.
The noir aspects of its film techniques aside, this is a brilliant character study and Mason's superb achievement, alone, in creating a complex, sympathetic murderer makes the movie well worth viewing.
Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965)
Not all that it's cracked up to be...
In my opinion, after having seen the film, many of the reviewers - who gave it over 4 stars - were far too generous. Maybe they're rabid fans of Olivier's. But, whatever the case, only those devoid of common sense didn't realize, even before his Inspector decided to check, that there would be some record of Lynley's trip to England and that Dullea was the culprit. However, my first guess was that he had some incestuous love for his sister, which would have been more interesting than the over-the-top whacky nut job he turned out to be. The maniacal mess doesn't deserve more than the 4 out of 10 stars, at best, as far as I'm concerned...
Basic Instinct 2 (2006)
Well, well, well, here we have the nasty novelist Catherine Tramell at it again. She manipulates everyone and everything she can, creating drama, so that she won't get bored. Her efforts result in art imitating life, or could that be vice-versa? This time around she's visiting England and her attitude is as hardened as her facial features. There's nothing, whatsoever, subtle about it. She sets her sites on an analyst, with a guilty conscience and spins a web of lies and deceit designed to drive the poor sucker mad. His friends and foes alike, as flies would do, get stuck in the sticky netting and die by way of her calculating strategies. It's all for the sake of a good storyline for her latest best seller, a thriller based on her victims and the circumstances she enmeshes them in. I'm purposely reserving my comments for Sharon Stone, since the film is really a showcase for her and she is the main focus around whom the first class production values and excellent soundtrack revolves. Aside from a few instances of unnecessary trite dialogue, for which I deleted one point, the acting and story are uniformly well done.
The only thing a bit difficult to understand is how Stone's Catherine manages to snow the seemingly intelligent women, as well as the vainglorious men she plays with. Apart from an initially sly, glib meeting with Charlotte Rampling's character, an analyst cohort of the 'leading man,' we aren't really privy to her approach, or technique, used on other females. Most of her motivation is predominately sexual, with violent undertones, so it's somewhat of a mystery as to how she manages to deploy the heterosexual women who are vital in her plot. Her quest for complete control, despite whatever risk involved, is rapacious and positively palpable. But the more mature ice-cold Catherine displays no hint of vulnerability, as she did in her earlier veneer and is seemingly guided by pure unadulterated hatred. Does she succeed in her Machiavellian treachery? It's worth the time spent watching to find out.
Sharon Stone portrays Catherine as a stylish, mockingly evil, villainess. Although I've read many negative critiques regarding her hair and overall appearance in terms of age, these comments are only opinions based on the superficial aspects of her physical presence. Since she is supposed to embody beauty, both of face and form, some reviewers have gotten caught up in their own personal estimations and judgments of what signifies beauty to them. The purposeful blunt hair cut is chic, modish and sophisticated, exemplifying Catherine's, sharpness. Her face, while more mature, still holds up to scrutiny as being extremely attractive. Her breasts are shown on a few occasions and appear to have been enhanced, to prevent sagging, but it was very good work if that's the case. All in all, as far as femme fatales are concerned, simply put, Stone is in the same class as the best of them...
I Love You, Don't Touch Me! (1997)
An Intelligent Romantc Comedy, with Heart
Regardless of what some of the more jaded and pseudo sophisticated critics may say this little film is not only charming, but it has a significant message to impart. A woman, who believes that she should care enough about herself not to give her virtue away to any or every Tom, Dick and Harry, is faced with the dilemma that life is passing her by while she awaits the man of her dreams.
She's 25 and has not yet surrendered her virginity despite the fact that she feels passionate about wanting to find someone who cares about her and who she cares about, too. Furthermore, the element of physical attraction must also be present, in the equation, otherwise she knows it just won't be right. One can blame Disney's romantic renderings, of the happily-ever-after prince and princess fairy tales, for the high standards this woman has. However, by the same token, morals enter into her viewpoint, as well, when dealing with married men who hit on her.
She's simply an idealist who writes and performs music, with longing and intensity, about what she wants and doesn't want to have to settle for less than the beauty of true love. Experiencing one fiasco after another she begins to see how impossible the perfection she's seeking is to achieve. She learns the lesson: "Be careful what you wish for," first hand. And it finally dawns on her that the man she was searching for is not the dramatically handsome, charismatic type, oozing with finesse and savoir-faire, but -instead- the somewhat nondescript and stalwart, supportive friend she's loved all along...
The ensemble of actors are uniformly real and believable in their parts. Michael Harris, in particular, playing a famous composer who equates women with food, is very attractive and sensitively seductive as the engaging cad who deflowers the leading lady. The tunes and lyrics, to the songs Marla Schaffel sings, are soulfully written and performed movingly, with great pathos. I highly recommend this film to everyone who has ever yearned for love and for those who continue to do so.
Jules et Jim (1962)
Another Drama Queen Bites the Dust...
Despite the radiant beauty of its hopelessly misguided leading lady and solid performances by the entire cast I'm truly stumped as to why this film gained such popularity and a cult following. The story was, in my opinion, boring and overly long. The characters, other than the tortured husband, were a bunch of worthless nitwits, who lacked any dimension or depth of feeling. Why is it that instead of finding the ending tragic I simply felt that a couple of people, who caused a great deal of pain to others, wasted their lives and my time were put out of everyone's misery? What a dismal disappointment this film, which I had looked forward to seeing, turned out to be...
Unreal Dialogue and Boring Story...
I had heard so much hype about this movie and the leading character's performance. When I saw it I wondered what all the fuss was about. The dialogue was unrealistic, as young people in small rural towns do Not talk like that and the 'quirky' characters were boringly pretentious, rather than endearing. The sarcasm was Not clever or funny and the characters were strictly two dimensional. Ms. Page is very cute and spunky, so that must be why her less than stellar performance was lauded. Too bad the controversial out-take, with the neighbor, whose furniture was moved to Bleeker's lawn didn't make it into the film. It would have woken a few people up, but I guess most film makers take the safe route rather than boldly put themselves out on a limb. Refraining from rocking the boat seems to be the latest trend in churning out family fare, nowadays... Ugh!
Will Shakespeare (1978)
Will Shakespeare Must Be Rolling Over in His Grave...
Well, with all due respect to the brilliant actors associated with this production I must heartily disagree with the previous good review, evidently penned by a rabid Tim Curry fan, of this disenchanting mini-series. I felt Ian McShane, in particular, was totally wasted in his role -as Marlowe- and although Tim Curry did the best that could be done, with the sub par material, he was altogether forgettable in the lead. The ambling, misguided, largely fictional account of William Shakespeare's life was aided somewhat by adequate production values, but was not worthy of being aired on prime-time TV, in the US. In fact the ABC network considered showing it, at one point, but was rightfully disappointed with its clumsy, substandard contents. View it if you must, Tim Curry aficionados, but everyone else, I just thought you should be warned...
An Inspector Calls (1954)
Inspector Poole, NOT Goole, can be considered our collective conscience.
I have an excellent copy of this rare and wonderful film and Alastair Sim introduces himself -distinctly- as Inspector Poole, the daughter's fiancé asks a police officer about the Inspector using that name and the police officer repeats the name. Goole is a rather gruesome reference to ghoul, I think, and the benevolent Inspector was not at all depicted as a creepy or menacing man. J.B. Priestley meant this piece to be as much a morality play as a mystery, I believe. The Inspector was supposed to be either an angel on a mission or God himself giving these unconscious people a chance to redeem themselves for their thoughtless and compassionless actions... The performances are uniformly top notch and Alastair Sim's, in particular, rivals his unsurpassed portrayal of Scrooge in the finest version of "A Christmas Carol." I highly recommend this film as a first class lesson in the common foibles of human nature and how we have the ability to achieve salvation if we take responsibility for our faults.
Worth Winning (1989)
Well Worth Watching With Women
The summary title alliteration is intended. Yes, this is a boy meets girl formula story, which starts off stereotypically in many respects. However, as the main characters start to develop and take shape, they become quite charming and actually fairly well rounded. There are several witty scenes and for an essentially fluffy romantic comedy it is better than most. I give it the highest rating for excellent casting, 1st class ensemble work and top-notch entertainment. All the ladies look gorgeous and Mark Harmon does, too. Eye candy and art, aren't these the main components of any and every outstanding film achievement? This engaging confection is beautifully rendered, skillfully performed and although not of hard hitting significance a classic of the light "feel good" genre.
In the French Style
This motion picture contains all the requisite elements of a true Classic. It's a magnificent comedy/drama lovingly told, with superb performances by wonderful actors, and includes lushly gorgeous scenery as well as impeccable production values, all in perfect measure. Although "Gone with the Wind" has received far more hype since its creation, it never made me laugh and cry, or expressed love with such depth and heart. "Fanny" is a REAL epic film worthy of Genuine praise. Why this movie is not yet available on DVD is a mystery. Hopefully, this oversight will soon be rectified. Until then, my advice is to grab a scarce VHS copy while they're still being offered on the secondary market.