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I Am Sam (2001)
5/10
Yes you *are* Sam!
20 March 2002
"I am Sam" is about a mentally disabled father, Sam (Sean Penn) who fights for the custody of his 7-year-old daughter Lucy (Dakota Fanning), with the help of lawyer Rita (Michelle Pfeiffer) and neighbour Annie (Diane Wiest).

It has a good humanitarian side to it; it is a reminder that mentally challenged people deserve to be treated kindly, and that sometimes they are more capable of giving love than people with better I.Q.s.

Sam adores his daughter, who loves him just as much but she is smart enough to notice that her mental capacities are superior to his. They share such a wonderful complicity that I find it hard to believe that a father-daughter relationship can be that solid. The premise is incredible. No one ever raises any questions about Sam's ability to raise his daughter until she is seven! Sam is the father every child wishes to have: he is caring, patient, loving, giving and selfless. He cares too much for her and not enough for himself; I'm no psychiatrist but it is commonly believed that autistic people are much more self-centered than that!

Another unrealistic part: with all due respect to mentally challenged persons, I doubt that a restaurant as popular as Pizza Hutt and a coffee shop as famous as Starbucks would actually hire someone like Sam, regardless of his position.

Moreover, everyone in this movie seems to be afflicted with some sort of a mental or emotional problem. Lucy suffers from anxiety, Sam and his close friends are all mentally handicapped, Rita has problem communicating with her son and her marriage is falling apart, Annie has not left her room in years, and even one particular doctor who testifies against Sam in court has developed a guilt pattern because her son died of an overdose.

All of these elements combined make the viewers feel they are being manipulated in a somewhat obvious manner.

Finally, let's be objective here: the whole movie focuses on reuniting Sam and Lucy, regardless of Sam's handicap and how the latter would lessen the girl's mental and educational growth. Undoubtedly, Lucy would never find a more loving father, but she also needs 'regular' people's guidance and besides, he needs assistance himself!

The filmmakers were obviously not sure how to end the movie in a believable manner, therefore the ending was ambiguous. Lucy most probably ends up being "shared" by Sam and her foster family, Rita seems to have regained her son's trust, and Sam's mentally challenged friends will have the same habits for the rest of their lives, like video night every Friday.

So I guess that is a (sappy) happy ending. Again, not very believable and too many questions are left unanswered.

Overall, the movie is good; it is very moving and at times, it does put a smile on your cynical face. :) Everyone gives an excellent performance, even Fanning, though I find her character a bit too smart and perceptive for her age.

The soudtrack rules! But then again, I'm a Beatles addict, so it's hard for me to be objective. I enjoyed the scenes of Sam and Lucy together and how certain Beatles cover songs fitted the mood and situation. Sam is a Beatles freak himself; he named his daughter Lucy Diamond after "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and throughout the movie, he uses analogies related to the band's life and songs to express his feelings and point of view; those portions of the script are clever and make his character interesting and rather 'creative' compared to, say, Rainman.

Fortunately, the movie did not stay in the courtroom and ended on a football playground.

"I am Sam" has garnered Sean Penn a Best Actor Oscar nomination, and he truly deserves to win that award.
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7/10
One thumb up and one thumb down
20 March 2002
I came out of the theater with a nauseous stomach. Being Lebanese, I had experienced war, and this movie just managed to bring back that sick feeling of fear mixed with morbid fascination.

And yet another "based on real facts" movie to honor American heroes. In 1993, 19 American soldiers perished in a raid that was ordered to bring about the defeat of the Somali militia and, consequently, the end of the hunger crisis in Somalia. Even though it was a civil war, the U.S. thought of it as "a genocide" and dispatched 123 elite soldiers there for a simple mission that turned out to be totally nightmarish for Americans AND SOMALIS ALIKE, mind you (1000 Somalis died that day). But, since Pentagon had to approve and stamp the script prior to production, I'm not surprised the movie turned to be such a (visually stunning!) propaganda. The American elite soldiers are courageous, attractive, humanitarian, compassionate, and so on. The Somalis on the other hand are portrayed as a mindless, ruthless, bloodthirsty, chaotic mob.

The movie was realistic, sometimes too realistic, i.e. too gory. In my opinion, Scott crossed the line between movie and documentary, and because of that the movie fails as a movie and the documentary fails as a documentary. This is as far as the overuse of gunpowder and bloodshed is concerned. And when I say bloodshed, I don't mean close-ups of severe wounds, but insert shots of decapitated soldiers, and of 'idle' fingers, hands, legs, and intestines all over the place.

Some of the characters were recognizable and easy to follow in the heat of the action (duh, as if Hartnett and McGregor were going to go unnoticed!). But to be honest, sometimes you just lose count of who got killed and in what circumstances and who managed to survive. And because of that, you just don't sympathize with them when they express pain and anger due to the loss of their comrades.

The clichés were inevitable: "tell my parents that I fought well", "kiss my little girls", Rangers and Deltas leaving posthumous goodbye letters with the soldiers left at the base, a soldier calling his sweetheart home and leaving her a love message on her answering machine (yep, she missed him by one second cause she was, of course, shopping). One element of surprise: usually, in movies, when a soldier is seen gazing at the photo of his sweetheart and/or children, it's a sign that he will die very tragically very soon. Well, not this time: the only soldier who is shown doing the above is incredibly lucky; he survives a plane crash, the angry armed mob, and he is the only American soldier of the Raid who to be held captive by the Somalis; yet he is eventually released. I couldn't help notice that.

I'm done with the cons of the movie, now I'll move on to the pros.

Needless to say, the action was dazzling, sensational, suspenseful, etc, etc. There was never a dull moment, but it was a tad confusing at times.

The strongest point of the movie was the superb editing. The insert shots of the Somali victims were poignant: heartfelt music, grainy photography, lonely "skinnies" (and how dare they call them that in the movie, by the way?) wandering in the ruins of their city, with their moving expressions of grief and confusion. I particularly liked the opening scene of the film, it managed to pull out the desolation, misery, and suffering of the Somalis.



The moral of this movie? It doesn't matter if the U.S. have every right to butt in other countries' civil wars, what matters is that every American soldier on foreign soil must be brought back home, dead or alive. Mostly dead, in this case.
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6/10
Unpretentious romantic drama; sweet but not memorable
10 February 2002
First of all, I've never read the novel by Maeve Binchy, so I'm not going to make a comparison between the book and the movie.

The plot:

Set in the 50s. Three young Irish girls with distinguish personalities get their share of lessons about friendship, love, family, betrayal and college life.

The characters:

Minnie Driver is very convincing as Benny, the straightforward, sensitive, caring, and humorous virgin with plum curves, a radiant smile, and expressive eyes. She is an only child and lives with her modest family, taking the bus on a daily basis to go to college in Dublin.

Chris O'Donnell is Jack Foley, a wealthy medical student and rugby star. He is attractive and a tad naive. He and Benny fall in love, their attempts to get close to each other, both in the physical and the emotional sense, are clumsy (because they lack experience), but sincere and touching.

Geraldine O'Rawe is Eve, Benny's lifetime friend, an orphan who was raised by the nuns but who has enough guts to ask for and obtain a scholarship, and stand up for Benny against Nan when need be.

The pretty Saffron Burrows plays Nan, Benny and Eve's childhood friend, who left the village early to live with her family in Dublin. She is very aware of her attractive looks, and attempts to use her wannabe sophistication to trap a wealthy man into marriage when she becomes pregnant with his baby (predictable). But the man rejects her (again, predictable), and so she betrays Benny by seducing Jack and claiming afterwards that she is carrying his child.

Alan Cumming is excellent as Sean Walsh, Benny's father's employee who constantly attempts to seduce the young girl, to no avail. You will probably hate him in this role, he truly is despicable, manipulative, sexually obsessed, voyeur, irritating, etc. His hairstyle (a fringe on the right please) and suspenders make him look ridiculous. In one word, Walsh is a real pain, but Cumming gives an excellent performance here. His sleezy mimics cannot go unnoticed.

The Irish landscape, with its hilltops, pittorresque rivers, woods, small roads, and adorable cottages is one of the fine aspects of the movie.

There isn't much to analyse here, the story line is simple and the dialog pretty straightforward. The overall atmosphere of the film is friendly, warm and 'cozy'.

There is definitely an emotional bond between Benny and the viewers, unless you're too much of a cynic to sympathize with a sensitive, self-conscious, modest girl set on a (realistic) journey of womanhood.
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From Hell (2001)
7/10
A far-fetched but stylish 'Hell'
29 January 2002
From Hell turns the mystery of Jack the Ripper, that late 19th century murderer of prostitutes, into a double political and religious conspiracy. A bit too far-fetched because this pseudo-conspiracy includes the British royal family and a fanatic Masonic ‘sect'. Nevertheless, the movie does a fine job at hinting to the ridiculousness of religious and ethnic discrimination, and it succeeds in portraying the oppression of low-class women.

Johnny Depp returns as the serious investigator (as last seen in Sleepy Hollow, notice the similarities?); he portrays Inspector Abberline, who follows his intuition and visions to solve his cases, and is appointed to solve this particular mystery. Depp's performance is genuine because he obviously takes his role very seriously. Abberline is clever, melancholic, psychoanalytical, clairvoyant, and, above all as opposed to his superiors, moral, even human. He is troubled of course, having lost his family in tragic circumstances, and is addicted to opium and laudanum, which aid him in his ‘visions'. In the end, he sacrifices his relationship with Mary Kelly (and consequently his only chance for happiness) out of fear for her safety. An epic 'hero', more or less.

The presence of his assistant (Robbie Coltrane, Hagrid in Harry Potter) is fortunate. I say fortunate because his character prevents the movie from taking itself too seriously. His sarcasm is tinted with genuine compassion towards the murderer's victims and a respectful affection towards Abberline. Coltrane gives a truly fine performance there, though it doesn't compare to Ian Holm's.

Ian Holm (Bilbo in The Fellowship of the Ring) plays a double-role in the movie, and the transition from the poised physician to the devilish fanatic was remarkably done in terms of facial expression, voice tone, elocution, and, symbolically, size and makeup. In its own way, this movie is expressionistic.

The prostitutes, or ‘unfortunates' as they would rather call them, look and sound exactly as they're supposed to. They are worn-out, cynical, foulmouthed, but, in their own way, they look after each other. The odd one out here is the female lead, Mary Kelly, played by Heather Graham (argh!). She is too clean, too pure, and too elegant to be the companion of the other women. She is supposed to be of Irish decent, and naturally, the filmmakers made her a red-head. And a flamboyant one at that, with obviously dyed hair. Her so-called Irish accent sounds as convincing as my Swahili. If you should ever want to cast Heather Graham for your film, make sure you never show a close-up of her face; she's got the most inexpressive pair of painted ping-pong balls, er, eyes, I've ever seen.

And now for the visuals: the only description that would fit here is ‘psychedelic'. London has never looked foggier, with a smoky red sky and overall reddish ambiance. Abberline's visions of the murders are somewhat unsettling and gory (blood, flies on body parts, hazy photography etc...), but it's never cheap horror. Even the murder scenes are cleverly ‘choreographed' so that we experience the act more through sound and feel rather than explicit violence. The whole mood of the movie is more graphically melancholic and dark than cheap and gory, really.

Though not quite ‘from hell', it's the survival of the fittest in the gloomy streets of Victorian London, where corruption rules till the end.
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7/10
Good potential, visually impressive, but...
26 December 2001
Pros: Does justice to the book; excellent acting; good special effects.

Cons: Not suitable for very young children; confusing storyline for those who haven't read the book(s).

Need I write about the plot, when all four of the Harry Potter books have done so well and have been devoured by children and adults alike? To briefly enlighten those of you who, for some reason, (weren't you at least curious???) haven't even opened a Harry Potter book...



Harry Potter is an 11-year-old orphan who is admitted into the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, mostly because his parents, who were killed by an evil magician when he was a baby, graduated from there.

Each book of the series focuses on one academic year in the life of young Harry. The reader 'grows' with the character.

The first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, is more of an introduction than a book on its own, a sketch, rather than a complete painting. That is why, in my opinion at least, it shouldn't have been made into a movie in the first place. You would think a 2 1/2 hour-long adaptation should be sufficient. But it's not. Although it does justice to the book, especially in the portrayal of the characters (they're exactly as you would picture them to be!), it skips out many parts of the book. And since the book itself wasn't 'complete', how can you expect a movie adaptation to be completely fulfilling? I think the movie is almost incomprehensible to most of those who haven't read, not the book, but the entire series! The beginning must have puzzled them a great deal, and the ending was obviously rushed. The details revolving around the sorcerer's stone itself don't translate well from page to screen. Too many questions are left unanswered. And the satirical fun that made the books such an entertaining read was almost absent in the film.

I can't stress enough on how fine the children's performance was. Daniel Radcliffe IS Harry Potter, at least physically he is. His expressions are very convincing. Unfortunately, director Chris Columbus doesn't allow his 'inner' feelings to surface much, except in one scene when Harry discovers a magical mirror that reflects one's deepest desires. It is only then that we feel Harry's pain for the loss of his parents. Also, the director doesn't succeed much in portraying Harry's miserable life when he is staying with his aunt, uncle and his fat cousin Dudley. In the book, he is the main character because we are allowed into his confused, painful, and sometimes happy feelings, in the movie he is the main character mostly because the title says so. Rupert Grint, who plays Ron, Harry's first and closest friend at school (my favorite character, actually!) was simply magnificent. His mimics when he is scared or confused are just adorable! Emma Watson (the slightly irritating but studious and audacious Hermione) was remarkable in her 'show-off' scenes. The adult characters were fine, but what is more important is that none of the kids were annoying or whiny.

I was very disappointed with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named/Lord Voldemort though. The magician gave me the chills in the books, but was almost unnoticeable in the film. You would say: "What??? THAT killed Harry Potter's parents? THAT is terrorizing the entire community of magicians that they wouldn't even speak out his name? Puhleeeeeeze! Even a kid watching this wouldn't feel the 'threat' of the character."

The hair and makeup were very well done, especially on Hermione, the gatekeeper Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), Headmaster Albus Dumbledore (an almost unrecognizable Richard Harris, folks!) and all of the female professors. The creatures however, especially the Centaur and the Goblin, looked very fake. Even the centaurs in Xena and Hercules looked more credible, for as much as a mythological character can look real anyway. ;)

The effects involving the indoors of Hogwarts were surprisingly fantastic. I was impressed with the ghosts and the 'active' characters in the paintings.



The setting was great! Hogwarts is THE fantasy place to be; a medieval castle with almost limitless proportions, moving staircases, elegant dormitories with vivid colors...And mouthwatering, well presented dishes for meals, folks! In contrast, the Black Forest has a dark and terrifying ambience, with predominant black and dark blue colors, as well as the inevitable thick mist.

The soundtrack was fantastic; it provided a suitable background for the 'suspenseful' and 'witchy' parts of the movie. However, I could swear I heard an adaptation of the Wedding March in some scenes! Odd...

I'll lighten up now, and conclude by saying that the overall movie was quite enjoyable, entertaining, etc.etc. Suitable for both children (not too young though, some scenes might scare them!) and adults. You will not get bored. But you might get confused. And it might leave you slightly unsatisfied.

Your answer to this would be: "Hey, be thankful that the book had material for at least 8 hours of film, yet it had been compressed into a 2 hour-and-a-half flick." Well then, why make this into a movie at all? Why not make this into a mini-series? That would surely be a success. Every season will cover one of the books. And, as a series, it would seem perfectly normal if many questions were left unanswered during a few episodes.
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7/10
Magnificent characters!
12 December 2001
With a cast like Yul Brynner as Chris Adams, Eli Wallach as the bandito Calvera, Steve McQueen as Vin, and Charles Bronson as Bernardo O'Reilly, this movie is guaranteed to please the audience. Directed by John Sturges, it is, I believe, the only American Western that paved the way for the Spaghetti genre. The intense violence, the macho presence of the 7, the quasi absence of any female lead, and especially the setting (a Mexican pueblo!) were definitely not ingredients of the romantic American Western.

And for this alone the film deserves some recognition, for being ahead of its time, so to speak. The basic plot is not particularly intense: a Mexican town is constantly being robbed of its crop by 40 banditos, led by Calvera. When 3 of the inhabitants decide to rebel, they head to an American town, initially to buy guns. They end up hiring 7 men who decide to support their cause for various individual reasons, but definitely not for the low pay!

This Western is not a classic because of the action scenes (which were not that spectacular) but because it focuses on the characters. Each man learns something of value from this mission, and each of them has a haunting past, though we are never told the details. Chris and Vin are lonely drifters and invincible gunmen with moral principles and a dash of compassion. For instance, in the beginning of the film, they team up to give a Native American a decent burial in a little town's cemetery, despite the locals' strong opposition. Chris, after siding with the 3 Mexicans's cause, takes the initiative of finding the right men for the job. Bernardo O'Reilly is half-Mexican half-Irish, and he's the one who has a special relationship with the kids of the Mexican village. He is good with the rifle, but doesn't fail to give the children a good lecture on the responsibilities of their fathers. Lee (Robert Vaughn), is a fugitive and is always dressed elegantly, even during combat. I liked Britt's character's best. Played by James Coburn, he is really fast both with a gun and with a knife. Look out for the first scene when we're introduced to his character, where an insisting gunman keeps on provoking him until he gets what he asked for. Never in that scene does Britt lose his cool, taking small ‘naps' in between provocations. It's a real laugh, that scene! Actually, the first part of the movie, where we are gradually introduced to each of the 7 men, is the best part. Harry (Brad Dexter), is a strange character; the only reason he goes for the job is that he is convinced, for some reason, that there is gold mine near the Mexican village. Throughout his conversations with the villagers, he keeps on referring to the mine, much to their perplexity and much to Chris' amusement. Then there is Chico (Horst Buchholz), a young, persistent, and proud gunslinger wannabe. He is the only one of the 7 to ‘win' in the end, as he decides to settle down with a woman in the village. Other interesting characters were that of Calvera and of the village's Old Man (played by Vladimir Sokoloff). Calvera is a proud bandito who keeps his word (surprisingly!), and the Old Man is a wise, courageous, and respected figure in the village. `You hear that, Sotero? Do you hear what he said?..Ride on!..To ME!' (Calvera) `Only the farmers have won. They are like the land itself; you helped rid them of Calvera the way a strong wind help rid them of locusts. You're like the wind blowing over the land and passing on…Vayan con Dios!' (Old Man) Another feature that makes this a memorable movie is of course Elmer Bernstein's score, which was used for many years in TV cigarette ads.

The best line, which poignantly illustrates the drifter's eternal loneliness, comes at the end of the movie when Chris tells Vin that "The Old Man was right. Only the farmers have won. We lost. We always lose..."
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9/10
The most multi-genre movie ever made!
8 December 2001
And a very spectacular one it is! ‘Le Pacte des Loups' (which somehow was inaccurately translated into ‘Brotherhood of the Wolf' in English-speaking countries) is, without a doubt, the most multi-genre movie ever made. A mix of the period costume, horror, thriller, Film Noir, martial arts, action, historic, erotic and romance genres. You would think that such a movie would be too awkward and too heavy a blend, a ‘clumsy collage'. It certainly is ambitious; it combines elements from ‘The Matrix', ‘Sleepy Hollow', ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon', and several other films. But it turns out to be a successful masterpiece of the French cinema, the second pleasant French surprise this year, after the much-acclaimed `Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain ». The plot is loosely based on a real mystery that took place in 18th century France; the Beast of the Gévaudan used to terrorize the population by killing the women and children (but not the men!). This myth had never been solved, and director Christophe Gans decided to give this mystery a completely new dimension.

The plot takes place in 1766, in Gévaudan, where the King dispatches two men, the Knight Grégoire de Fronsac and his ‘blood' brother Mani, a Mohawk from New France (Canada), to track down the Beast and ultimately kill it. Little did the two companions know that their mission would also involve a Papal conspiracy, religious fanaticism, bigotry, and even love.

Many mercenaries are sent to Gévaudan to catch the Beast, but it is not until the last few minutes of the movie that you find out the astonishing truth (not to worry, the latter will not be revealed in this review!).

The cast is real eye candy and the characters stand out: there is the naturalist and libertine Knight of Fronsac (played by Samuel Le Bihan), Mani, a mysterious Mohawk who doesn't say much but turns out to be a Shaman and a Martial Artist (played by renowned actor and Martial Artist Mark Dacascos), Jean-François de Morangias (Vincent Cassel), a bitter and cynical one-armed gunman, his virginal but witty sister Marianne (Emilie Dequenne, Cannes prizewinner for ‘Rosetta'), Sylvia (Monica Bellucci, ‘Under Suspicion'), a dangerous and captivating tarot-reading Italian courtesan, and the list goes on. Yes indeed, there are two strong female roles featured in this movie; though they're completely opposite, they are in love with the same man.

The movie is visually stunning. The outside scenery is an ideal Gothic setting: damp landscapes with much fog and a hostile atmosphere, as opposed to the rich indoors, with its vivid colors, expensive fabrics, and luscious entertainment. The costumes were spectacular, too. Watch out for a highly imaginative scene, where a nude woman ‘dissolves into' two mountains.

The music was composed by Joseph Lo Duca (yes, that same guy who did the scores of the series ‘Xena' and ‘Hercules'); it certainly has an effective presence in the film, and succeeds in bringing out the suspense and drama. The sound effects are sometimes exaggerated but they add character to the overall atmosphere.

Christophe Gans does, however, get carried away sometimes with Matrix-like shots which interrupt action scenes with slow motion and freeze frames. He does it too many times in the movie. But the fight scenes themselves were not bad, as Mark Dacascos has already proven his martial arts qualifications in Crying Freeman. Naturally, many might criticize the movie because the fight scenes involve kung fu and kickboxing instead of the expected muskets and French savate. Even the tribe of savage French peasants who were hostile to the two newcomers from the start seem to be well trained in these disciplines. Odd, but somehow that doesn't seem out of context, in a movie that blends so many genres with such dexterity.

Another objection the audience might have would be: why are there little sub-plots which start out fine but never end? One example of that is a mutual, platonic relationship between Mani and a savage tribe girl. She is his only female interest in the movie yet their story is never explored. But I shouldn't spoil the movie for you, so enough of that!

Finally, a few words about The Beast itself. It is not like any other monster you've seen: it looks like a werewolf disguised as a porcupine, it has claws of iron and it has the power to disappear at will, which makes the chase scenes very suspenseful. Fortunately, we do not see much of it, and it always appears out of nowhere, which makes it hard for audience to predict where it would attack from.

‘Le Pacte des Loups or ‘Brotherhood of the Wolf' (if you insist) is certainly one of the most expensive French productions ever made. Go see it; fortunately, it is not dubbed but has subtitles, but make sure you watch the long version (144 minutes); you wouldn't want to miss one second of this atmospheric masterpiece, and take my word for it, you will not find one second boring.
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8/10
Real adventure!
8 December 2001
Naturally, I already saw this movie ages ago. But it so happens that I've just seen it again, a few hours ago, and would like to add my comment. :^) One thing is for sure: there was never and there never will be a hero like Indy, nor real big-screen 'adventure' like in this trilogy (with the exception of The Mummy). Now that we made that clear, let's say a couple of things about TLC.

Pros: Action, action, and action. Obvious and fantastic chemistry between Ford and Connery. The secondary characters performed very well (especially Marcus and THAT Nazi official).

Cons: a 500-year-old knight? C'mon! And the female lead was just terrible.

I rated it 8/10

That's it, my 2 cents for today. Have a nice day, and remember, there is only one true on-screen hero: Indiana Jones!
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Druids (2001)
6/10
Definitely not a Hollywood epic
5 December 2001
First of all, I'd like to say that I saw the original version of the movie, the title of which was much more appropriate ("Vercingétorix"), as this movie focuses on the Celtic hero and not on Druids. The movie uses a lot of fancy French words, and their English translation might seem odd to you, but the French version is really not bad! Therefore, you might not enjoy this movie if compared to, say, Gladiator. For your viewing pleasure, forget you ever saw Gladiator and Braveheart.

And remember that the Celts were known for their eloquent wording and gestures, so do not rant about how 'fake' the acting was. The thing is, the movie is pretty realistic in this sense, so realistic in fact that it's almost a documentary, and a bit dull for those of you expecting attractive hunks driven by raging passion. Some of those who have seen it said the actors, especially Lambert, had bad hair in the movie, as though they were rock stars of the eighties. Hello, people, this is not a Hollywood film where the hero has to look cleancut and shaven and nicely dressed! This IS how the Celts living in Gaul looked like, so get over it! There were some nice scenery in the movie, though they were not exploited to add romanticism and grandeur. The one thing I'm really glad about is that the two 'love' stories in the film were NOT used to spice up the mood. They were discrete and original, though some may criticize the lack of emotion shown by the characters. The costumes were a bit fake, they were obviously made of cheap material, especially the uniforms of the Romans, but I figured that's more historically accurate than those shiny, clean, perfectly sown costumes in Hollywood epics. The soundtrack is beautiful, but I know that only because I have it on CD. Sadly, it's almost non-existent in the movie, and the best song on the soundtrack is not even used in the film! I fail to undertand why the soundtrack hadn't been exploited in the movie; it would have clearly played a major role in the (occasionally present) emotional manipulation of the audience! If you're interested in Celtic heroes, do watch it, it's the only film about Vercingetorix and it's not THAT bad!
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Ivanhoe (1982 TV Movie)
10/10
A timeless epic!
24 November 2001
This is one of my favorite movies of all times. And the best version of Scott's tale as of yet. A+ for the professional and highly convincing cast, the costumes, the beautiful scenery, and the 'rich' plot. A good drama, a great epic, and a romance in times of chivalry and honor (i.e., in extinct times!).
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6/10
an odd attempt, but an attempt anyway...
21 November 2001
An odd film.

An interesting plot. Two (and only two!) stunning characters (why David and Gigolo Joe, of course!). That said, did Gigolo Joe really fit in that story? Wasn't the movie a bit too long? Shouldn't it have ended when David finally 'found' that blue fairy? Throughout the movie, weren't you constantly comparing it to 'Bicentennial Man'? Wasn't David's mother annoying? She wasn't convincing either now, was she? But wasn't the final scene with her nicely filmed and surreal? And were these perfectly depicted, highly original aliens or what?

An odd film.

Make that, an odd attempt of a sci-fi film.
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not that bad!!!
21 November 2001
I'm surprised by the negative feedback I've been reading and hearing about this series. Do not compare it with series like 'Xena' or 'Sinbad', because this is obviously a different attempt for fantasy/adventure. Sure, the story has nothing to do with the real Tell, so what? At least the main character doesn't behave like an invincible hero. I believe that, in a kingdom like Kryll, it's okay to have crystal arrows, wizards, rebels, faeries, and wolf-men... Those of you looking for some kick-ass fighting scenes will be disappointed, because that's not the point of the series. The characters of Aruna and of Leo were very well performed, despite the sometimes thin dialogue. I would say this is not bad, if not compared to other fantasy/adventure series. And the theme song is somewhat appealing.
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Titanic (1997)
what's with all the hype?
21 November 2001
There were three good sides to this film: the beautifully filmed sinking scene, the sets and costumes, and Billy Zane's performance. Add to that the tragic story of the real Titanic, naturally. Besides this, that theme song is irritating, Kate Winslet's performance sucks and her character is simply annoying, and pretty, clean-cut Di Caprio isn't believable as his character, looks wise that is, his performance is not bad. His (double) performance in the Man in the Iron Mask is better, much, much better. All in all, I don't think the movie deserved all that hype, and I definitely wouldn't vote for 'The Titanic' as the best movie of all times. Still, it was a clever idea to use a famous tragedy as an excuse for a lame attempt of a love story!
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Xena: Warrior Princess (1995–2001)
the good stuff overwin the not so good stuff
21 November 2001
No need to get philosophical about this series. On one hand, you have historical inaccuracies, a few unnecessary and redundant episodes, the recycling of most of the cast playing different characters, and a slowly deteriorating last 2 seasons. But on the other hand you have beautiful scenery, good acting (especially the characters of Xena, Joxer, Autolycus, Callisto and Ares), suspense and spirituality (The Debt, The Deliverer...), humor ('The Quill is mightier' episode is hilarious!), cleverly constructed episode titles, an ambiguous relationship between two extraordinary women (though Gabrielle is irritating at times), and above all, adventure, swords and sorcery! This is what it's all about folks: an entertaining pass-time! Don't forget that! The series does have some flaws, but the good stuff overwin the not so good stuff and that is why this is one of my favorite shows ever!
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when fantasy, adventure and comedy collide!
21 November 2001
When fantasy, adventure and comedy collide, they make a great entertaining show that doesn't take itself too seriously. Add to that the stunning performance of the two leads, the beautiful scenery, the highly imaginative plots and the cleverly constructed titles...and you'll have your tasty brew!
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9/10
The best part of the Cave of the Golden Rose series
21 November 2001
I loved all of the Cave of the Golden Rose series but the fourth part is my favorite because of the introduction of Tarabas' character.

My comment concerns all 4 films: beautiful, breathtaking photography, original and creative plot, excellent cast (especially Alessandra, Nicholas, and Bridget Nielson!), moving music, great script with parts that make you want to reach for that tissue box no matter how old you are, appealing soundtrack...etc.. But what is most striking is that, for once, it is the princess who journeys to save the prince, and NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND!

Too bad The Cave of the Golden Rose didn't get the recognition it surely deserved. Maybe it's because it's not an american production. That said, the dubbing wasn't always good!
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6/10
entertaining, but the title fools you ;-)
21 November 2001
Don't let the title fool you, it's much more attractive than the movie actually is! Still, the film wasn't bad. The acting was odd, the effects were from the Stone Age, but the humor, the adventure, and some fantasy elements make the movie worth watching...on a boring afternoon when you have nothing else to do. I paid 1 buck for it so I don't feel like it was a waste of time and money!
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Brotherhood of the Gun (1991 TV Movie)
6/10
Not your Classic Western, but nevertheless a Western
21 November 2001
This is not bad, though the ending was a bit too hasty for my taste. And there were hardly any scenery, which is somewhat strange for a Western. The film contains the key elements you normally find in American Westerns, but it does look like it was made in the 1990's. :-)
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Amélie (2001)
10/10
A flawless 'down-to-earth epic' and romantic comedy
18 November 2001
This movie is flawless. It is absolutely superb. Kind of reminds me of "Chocolat", but it's even better. The cast is great, especially the main character, with her incredible innocence and expressive mimics. The editing is pretty creative. The photography is striking and highly atmospheric: I liked the warm colors. The setting makes you want to live in this dreamlike Paris. The plot is simple, honest, refreshing, touching. The soundtrack is very à la française, with haunting valses played on accordeon. I had the chance to watch the original undubbed version, and I can assure you the script is not bad either, with some hilarious passages! Do not miss one of the best movies ever made. You don't need a hero like William Wallace to touch you deep inside. You need an idealist and thoughtful woman-child who wants to play guardian-angel. :-)
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5/10
spaghetti western?
18 November 2001
I agree that Klaus Kinski's performance was, as usual, stunning, especially when he attempts to seperate the two men fighting by hitting them and screaming: "I said love!" hehe... Is that a spaghetti western? In its own way, I think it is. The director is Italian. There weren't any fancy editing or haunting score though. Nor a striking character. Nor an amazing performance. The movie is pretty straightforward, almost real. Settling scores. Revenge. The lone and mysterious anti-hero. Gangs. Violence. All-in-all, it was so-so, but not a total waste of time. There were some fun moments. But it was just too...plain. You know what I mean? I bought it for less than a buck, so I didn't lose much. ;-)
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thought Leone could only direct spaghetti westerns? think again!
15 October 2000
I've seen 'A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS', 'FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE' and'THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY' at least 3 times each. The more I watched them the more I admired the Leone/Morricone duet. I stumbled upon 'ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA' a few days ago and decided to buy it..or buy THEM actually, for the movie is divided into two parts of two hours each. At first, I couldn't find Leone's touch in the film: I mean there are no extreme long shots intercut with extreme close-ups, there are no sharp Lee Van Cleef features, there is no Clint Eastwood squint...and no Morricone's creative sound effects. I felt disappointed...then I thought:"hey, that film is somewhat like Citizen Kane, where events aren't told in choronological order. Plus Leone and Morricone have done it together again, so I'll give that long film a shot". And the movie indeed turned out to be great: DeNiro's acting is superb, the makeup is perfect, the cast is 'homogeneous', the plot elements are as complex as in any spaghetti western, the violence is intense..and the music..well Morricone's score in this film is as haunting as any of the scores he had worked on...a sad, melancholic song, and every time it is played the characters' emotions are externalized..a tune that emphasizes the role of memories in a person's life...I would say that film is very realistic, especially when it comes to sex...and ambition. Personal ambition comes before friendship and love, yet these very bonds of friendship and love last a lifetime. I can't think of what else to add, except that you should give that film a chance..watch it until its end, and please..do not fast forward if a scene appears too long to you. You'd be missing out on a lot of emotion and creativity.
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10/10
THE ARCHETYPAL SPAGHETTI WESTERN
12 July 2000
Before giving a comment, let me introduce the film to the readers: in 1964, Italian Director Sergio Leone made `A Fistful Of Dollars' starring Clint Eastwood and (the gorgeous!) Gian Maria Volonté. A year later, Leone made `For A Few Dollars More', and, in 1966, his masterpiece `The Good, The Bad and the Ugly'. The 3 films are known as `the so-called Dollars trilogy'.

I watched the films in the wrong order, but I must say that FAFDM is an archetypal `Spaghetti Western', a genre characterized by a deceivingly simple plot, few but ironic lines, absurd coincidences, and intense violence. In FAFDM, Gian Maria Volonté and Lee Van Cleef gave a stunning performance, the former as a psychotic criminal, the latter as a cynical bounty killer. And, in the middle, the laconic man with no name (Clint Eastwood), another bounty killer, pairs up with either of the other two, depending on his interest.

The soundtrack of that film, provided by the creative Ennio Morricone, was cleverly used to match the scenes. Watch out for the scene from the past where Volonté rapes Van Cleef's sister, and for the crosscutting between Van-Cleef's eyes and Volonté's face in his ‘wanted' portrait. And Eastwood counts Volonté's men in terms of how much money their heads are worth!

That film is rather long, but highly creative and entertaining. I've watched it 3 times and will watch it a 100 times again.

If you're looking for THE Spaghetti Western, `For A Few Dollars More' would be it. And, trust me, you should own all three films, like I do, and their breathtaking soundtracks…
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