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5/10
Visuals, yes. Almost nothing more.
8 January 2004
Warning: Spoilers
This review may contain minor spoilers.

There is almost no use in viewing a movie, and merely minutes or hours afterwards rate what one have seen. It is easy to be affected by the first visual impact, and forget much else. When we rate a movie we do not only rate this visual impact, but also story, development, scenery, emotion, cinematography, effects, acting, and lots of other parameters. There has now been some time for me to ponder about my opinion on this movie, and compare it to other movies. I am very picky about them. In this review I will try to explain why this movie falls short, as does many other movies in the same category, and also explain why less is more.

The third installment of The Lords of the Ring, called The Return of the King, is the last movie in a trilogy, based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien. Now, I would prefer to call this a movie based on characters created by Tolkien, because in an adaption of a book, no changes in story can really be made. As another reviewer put it, a director can choose freely in filming parts of a work by Shakespear, but it would be absolutely out of the question for the director to add scenes or change the story to his own liking. Could anyone imagine MacBeth being proclaimed the King of Ireland, and not order the killing of his best friend, just because a director thought it would be a tad nicer? Peter Jackson though, seem to have no problem in doing just that with the works of Tolkien.

Less is more. In The Return of the King, we are constantly being shown the obvious, in excess. Nothing is really left for the viewer to imagine for himself. The fall of evil (which by the way is a character we know almost nothing about) and the dark powers are shown with the explosion of a volcano, the crumbling of a tower and the utter cave-in of an entire domain. All this is obviously to state the already obvious - evil has fallen. Nothing is left for the viewers own imagination. I believe this is the real shortcoming of computer graphics. Since everything is possible to visualise, that is what is done. Back in the old days filmmakers had to rely on imagination, invention, and mere camerawork to create suspense. Nowadays we get all the readymade visuals rubbed in our faces. In great detail. One does no longer need imagination when going to the huge budget movies.

The acting is also one-, or at best, two-dimensional. The acting and actors are, in many cases, only used to make simple statements about the story. Everything is telegraphed in advance, from "this is an evil character", to "I am in doubt", and "He is brave". In clean-cut, simple storylines, there are simply no room for surprises. Even the good versus evil is reduced to good characters only doing good things, and evil characters evil things. In that way the viewer never have to think for himself. One never have to ponder the question "What is this persons true intentions?". I find this over-simplification of characters and acting dull. In The Return of the King, there are plenty of it.

Direction in this movie overuse slowmotion, close-ups, and special effects. One could liken this to a chef building towers of beautiful decorations and details on a dinner plate, but forgetting about the overall taste of the food. Many times, the most delicious and inspiring plate is the one with only a few ingredients, but cooked and served with care and skill. This is what differs Peter Jackson from great directors such as Fellini or Tornatore. Less is more.

The music score is also a disappointment. If one wants to create epic adventure movies, the music score is very important. In this case Return of the King falls short of movies like Star Wars and Indiana Jones where anyone can remember and even whistle the scores by heart, or the achievements and contributions to movies of composers like Ennio Morricone. They are great examples of when emotion is picked up and carried by the music. Even now, I cannot remember a single melody from The Return of the King. The music was drowned out by the overly use of special effects. Last time I saw this happen it was in the Matrix movies.

To come to a conclusion about this movie, it would be that it is a great movie in special effects and grand scenery, but apart from that it is like going to the nearest fast food restaurant to get ones belly stuffed. The only scene that really stuck with me was the lone song in the great hall while the riders set out to their doom. Actually it was the only true scene I can remember where some was left for the viewers own imagination.

A big budget and special effects does not automatically make a good movie.
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5/10
Too much of most of it
5 January 2004
I have the impression the LOTR trilogy is in the same category as Matrix and others like them. A first movie is made to set a standard, but subsequent movies are not able to live up to the first. Such was my impressions from watching this third installment of the LOTR trilogy.

I really wanted to like this movie. This was when all would come to an end. When the story would be wrapped up, and all come to a conclusion. For me, this movie missed its mark with a couple of yards. But wait, there are nice things to say too. The scenery was good, and nature gave an overall impression of vastness and divergence of a country in turmoil. From the green fiends of Shire to the dark lands of Mordor.

From there things started to go downhill. I have seen plenty of movies being able to tell twice the amount of feeling in merely half the time of LOTR. The pacing is uneven, and many many loose ends hang from the story. No, I do not want to wait for the four hour plus DVD edition to see what becomes of i.e Saruman, I wanted to see conclusions, but in many cases all I get is a bunch of question marks.

All I can say about the acting was that it was meager, hidden behind layers upon layers of CGI. Today I hear people hail the detailing of Gollum as the best CGI ever, and he is quite impressive, but nevertheless obviously computer made. If not for the voicing of Serkins, Gollum would be long forgotten in a couple of weeks.

The CGI way too often shades the underdevelopment of the story. For example, when the heat of the battle actually gets tense and interesting, and when we see reinforcements come to aid in still hopelessly outnumbered forces, all of a sudden the tension is gone. It is all wrapped up in the same way the battle of Helms Deep in The Two Towers, leaving me only with a "Hey, what happened!?". CGI can enhance elements in a movie, but it can never be all there is, as it does in the LOTR trilogy, escalating by each movie.

Characters are quite two dimensional. No development takes place, and treating the royal son of Glóin as a slapstick-one-liner-sidekick only serves to disappoint me.

Best movie ever? Well, no! It is an Ok action flick, but with better pacing, better acting, and better story telling, this could have been THE movie. As for epic battles, I would prefer Spartacus anytime, without even a touch of CGI, but still extremely tense and impressive.

I feel robbed of an experience. In my book, this gets a 5 out of 10. In visuals it is astounding. In everything else it falls rather short of lots of other movies. Too bad. I really wanted to like this one.
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Life of Brian (1979)
9/10
Some things in life are bad...
4 January 2003
This movie was made back in 1979 folks, believe it or not. Even so it breathes a fresh wind even today. As I write this 1979 is 24 years ago, and 24 years is a long time, but "Life of Brian" does not apply to that time scale anyway.

Monty Python stands out in history as the group bringing comedy to an entirely new level. Everyone seems to have at least one favorite movie, scene or one-liner that has stuck through the years. The TV-series are still aired at times as well as the movies, and every time I watch them they make me laugh as much as they did the fist time.

Numerous comedians and groups have tried to copy the very special Monty Python humor throughout the years, but no one even comes close of succeeding, I think not even the sometimes reunited Pythons themselves to be honest. Yes, the humor is both utterly stupid and silly but also intelligent and cunning at the same time, without using cheap slapstick tricks. It is, in one word: unique.

The story in "Life of Brian" is simple. A newborn in the stable next to the one where Jesus is born is throughout his life repeatedly mistaken for being the Messiah. And it does not amuse him a bit!

The movie itself contains numerous now classic scenes and dialogue, not to mention the closing scenes and the song "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life". In a way I can understand why it ticked off Christians around the world who claimed it to be blasphemous, but on the other hand I cannot.

If you are looking for a bonus, the interviews with the Pythons on the making of this movie is a must!
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Amélie (2001)
10/10
She makes ME fall in love too!
2 January 2003
To start off with, I heard a lot of good things about this movie when it was on the big screens but never got around to see it before it disappeared. Sitting here, long after in the aftermath, I might never forgive myself for missing that opportunity. Eventually I did get around to see it, though a small TV never does a film the same justice a theater does, and being a bit sceptic about the small hype this movie caused made me prejudice about it, but I must say I have never been so wrong before. And I am happy saying it.

This movies biggest crime, and yet its biggest asset, is that it is in French. Subtitles just does not bring full justice to a movie like this, and it is bound to scare off most of the audience not used to subtitled movies. Sad to say so, but I believe it is the truth. I do not know any French at all, but I sure wish I was fluent watching this movie!

Compared to most other films "Amelie" (and I will stick to "Amelie" since "Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain" is a bit long to write) is based on a rather ordinary and plain story everyone can relate to, but it is given to us in a very special kind of way, mixed with wonderful little subplots and an almost chaotic amount of details. We get to see and experience the world and especially Paris through the filtering eyes and fantasy of Amelie, A Paris that might feel small and limited on the screen but in fact is just as big as it is in the eyes of Amelie.

Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet brings to life the world of Amelie with colors, masterful camerawork and a few special effects (Well, I have certainly felt like melting a couple of times too in my life!). Some people I spoke to before seeing "Amelie" criticized it for being too childish and unrealistic, but I believe it is an essential part of the movie since Amelie herself is a very childish and imaginative young girl. She just happens to fall in love one day when she decides to embark on a quest. Jean-Pierre Jeunet manages to bring us along without losing control of the set or the plot. It is exactly this kind of movie that could easily be overdone and lose all of its magic in the hands of the wrong person, but Jean-Pierre Jeunet never slips a single time. For you who think you never heard of him before he is actually the same man who brought us "Alien 4" back in 1997, (I still refuse to believe he was involved in that horrible film...), and the wonderful "Delicatessen" in 1991.

Audrey Tautou could not be overemphasized for her importance in portraying Amelie. I am a bit embarrassed admitting it but I was almost falling in love with Amelie myself, forgetting she was only fiction on the screen. However she does not carry "Amelie" solely by herself. The cast makes an excellent whole and it is hard imagining switching anyone without affecting the whole outcome. Everyone manages to make the most out of their role and even though we only get to know some of them briefly they come alive just as much as Amelie herself does.

I could go on forever about "Amelie". It contains so many details and switches in tempo and camerawork it has to be seen more than once to take in and understand everything. Damn it, "Amelie" made me happy, laughing out loud at times, and very few movies affects me like that.

I very rarely give movies a 10, and I was indeed considering a 9 for a while, but for me this is one of those movies I will come back to time after time. Long after the CG thrills of hyped fantasy movies and big budget Hollywood productions have faded and been forgotten, Amelie will still be jumping around in my heart, doing all those silly and charming little things I wish I dared to do too...
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9/10
It hurts to watch
17 January 2002
It not only hurts to watch this movie, but it must have hurt to make it as well.

We are thrown into the everyday life of Big Jake, a once Maori warrior, now a drunkard who lives with his family in a suburb in New Zealand. Beth, his wife who gave up her royal heritage for the love of Jake, now live an unpredictable life not knowing the moment to moment temper of her husband shifting between loving, caring and violent drunkard, who nevertheless think he is in control of the situation though his only way of communicating really is with his fists. They have children, the sons representing a split in choice of life when one of them find the faith and trust he needs in the study of the original Maori culture, the other falling deeper and deeper into the brutal trust of a street gang, both in the consequence of lacking a guiding father figure. The eldest daughter, literate and silent, a loner with few to talk to, is the one taking care of the family, keeping it together in its permanent state of desperation, love, hurt, drinking and violence until...

Yes, this movie hurts to watch. Sometimes it is too close to reality and no matter what happens you always feel for the persons involved. Jake has pride but lives a life far from what he would want it to be when alcohol takes over. Beth is constantly aware of what she gave up and why, but her love for Jake is deeper than the cuts and bruises. Everything taking place in a society where the pride of the warrior has faded in the stained wallpapers and unemployment of the suburb, and the hope for something better to be is the only thing left to struggle for. They all try to find ways of living their lives, and one must feel compassion with that, even though it hurts.

I sincerely recommend this movie for everyone to see, but be aware of some very disturbing scenes.
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8/10
Hidden between the fighting
22 December 2001
Let me begin by stating that I take almost childish delight in watching martial arts movies. I love the acrobatic movements and perfectly synched fighting while the story is often just a vague framework linking the eyecandy fights.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, as it refers to the hiding of yourself to someone else, is much more than just another Hong Kong martial arts movie. Quite the opposite to why one is used to watch Hong Kong movies, the fighting scenes are more like interludes between the different parts and acting out of the story, rather than being its main purpose.

This movie was not quite what I expected, it came out way ahead of that. The twin story of love makes up the main plot, circled by the subplot of a stolen sword. However, anyone who plan to see this movie for its fighting scenes will perhaps get a bit disappointed since it make up only a tiny fraction of the total time. (But do not fear, the quality and choreography when it happens makes it well worth waiting for! It is breathtaking!).

Perhaps it should not even count as a Hong Kong movie at all? Many scenes rely on subtle glances and facial movements, making the movie slow and perhaps unbearably boring to anyone who expects action and fighting throughout, but nevertheless is most important to the story and the "crouching and hiding" of the characters to each other.

My advice is instead to concentrate on the main story and how it comes to a full circle in the end as what was hidden finally is brought to light. The story is beautiful but not always obvious. Watch for what is hidden and crouching, what happens when it is brought into clear vision, and the ache of understanding why it had to be.

I loved it, not for being a Hong Kong movie, but for not being it.

See it. Just see it.
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9/10
Modern classic
4 February 2001
Violent movies about odd friendships seems to strike an inner chord within most people. So did this one with me. An elder hitman living somewhat outside common society suffers a moment of weak heart and lets a young girl into his life. It brings on a turmoil of welcome as well as unwelcome change and a kind of unspoken relationship between lost souls evolves.

It all sounds a bit cliché, but don´t be misled. This film is entertaining and at the same time most unpleasant to see. A hitman is not a good human, but everyone deserves happiness and friendship. Everyone can feel love, even a hitman. That´s why this movie is unfair.

One word summary: beautiful! Music by Eric Serra and Sting adds an extra touch to the whole picture. A must see, a modern classic.
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La Haine (1995)
10/10
Uncomfortable indeed
2 January 2001
Well, where shall I begin?

I saw this movie for the first time some years ago and was immediately struck by the thought that this was not an acting movie but a documentary of some sort. However, it is an acting movie and quite an astounding one indeed. The one thing I noticed was that the actors used no character names but their own! An odd but very effective tool for making the intense and improvised dialogues more realistic. Furthermore the movie is entirely black & white erasing many of the emotion-enhancing colour effects and it takes place in the timespan of a single day. All of the above makes small but important add-ons to the overall impression and dark undertones throughout the picture.

This movie is about hate. Its also about how kids of today act as individuals and in groups. Sometimes its all boredom but hey, that´s how it is. I guess the red line in this movie is about what hate does to us. The rookie policeman knows no hate. Watch him as he has to watch what he does not want to see. Try to pry into his mind. What will he become? What does the man in the public toilet really mean?

See the movie through. See it one more time, then try to make up your mind about what you´ve seen. Do you feel sympathy or antipathy? And what really happens in the end?

Only you have the answers. One thing is clear though, it will not leave you untouched.
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The Postman (1997)
1/10
Drama? Comedy?
25 June 2000
My God! I saw this movie some years ago and thought it would be one of those epic time-less adventures. Sad to say so, but I just couldn't help laughing through the entire movie. The story is nice, but the acting is meager, the dramatic parts of the movie is peak comedy and the action is merely boring. This is almost three hours of non-stop waste of time.
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10/10
Tears and Laughter
25 June 2000
See this movie! I have seen it numerous times and each time makes it even better. The intense story about lifelong friendship between a child and an old man and the deep, never fading force of true, though lost, love between man and woman makes it a landmark, not to mention the magic closing scenes. This is a movie to love, to see over and over and over again.
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