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Cloone at his pompous worst
23 February 2019
There is a good idea for a movie here but this wasn't it. It's slow, confusing and boring--and did I say slow? The movie suffers terribly from a self-conscious effort to make viewers grasp the IMPORTANCE of what they're watching, made worse by Clooney's interminable and self-important voice-overs. This is a great cast wasted on what is ultimately a boring docu-drama. It just confirms you should never see a movie where the star is also the director and writer, unless it's Eastwood. Clint would have done something great with this story but Clooney just couldn't--or at least didn't.
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So bad that all those swooning positive ratings must be fake
30 August 2018
This is a truly awful, pointless, interminable movie. Bad acting, no plot to speak of, making no point, giving no insights. The movie is a stream-of-consciousness mess. The idea that this miscarriage made it into the IMDB Top 250 makes me suspect that a studio publicity department has simply paid people to leave fawning reviews--or maybe it's one guy assuming a bunch of identities and leaving multiple fake reviews. I had hoped IMDM is better at policing this kind of misconduct but the obviously doctored reviews for this movie make me doubt the integrity of the IMDB rating process.
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Pororoca (2017)
10 May 2018
Aside from the wholly unintelligible title (and, yes, I am fluent in Romanian), the film is depressing and way too long. Every scene is drawn out to interminable lengths, as the camera lingers on unnecessary details. I get it that the director was trying to establish a mood, but it comes at the cost of making the viewer impatient for something to happen. Something eventually does happen but it's not worth the pain of getting there.

The acting is good; the principal actor, Bogdan Dumitrache, is very good. The dialogue is credible. The production values are good. One just wishes this had been brought to a close in 90 minutes rather than 152.
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Vastly overrated
19 February 2018
It's hard to see what people see in this movie. Lancaster is his usual overwrought character and Curtis struggles with a story that makes little sense. All of the characters are caricatures--far more a Hollywood screen-writers idea of life in New York in the 1950s that anything approaching reality. The frequent, shrill jazz music is probably meant to impress but mostly grates. The film is dated and deserves to be retired.
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Twelve Chairs (1971)
Not nearly as good as the Mel Brooks version
21 February 2017
The tag line suggests this movie was made because the Soviet Union "couldn't stand the unauthentic version." They should have quit while they were ahead. The Mel Brooks version is light, funny, upbeat and short--compared to this monstrosity that takes almost 3 hours to view. It is true, Brooks changed the ending while this version is true to the Ilf and Petrov version, but that only improves the story. This is a plodding, un-funny, self-conscious and dreary movie, most of which should have been left on the cutting-room floor--in other words, a typical product of what passed for art in the Soviet Union. Worth seeing only so you can appreciate how much better the American Version is.

Incidentally, there is also a Cuban version of the story, set in post-Castro Cuba, which is also totally unwatchable.
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Nebraska (2013)
Pointless and slow as molasses
2 January 2014
The movie is dull, pointless, depressing and presents nothing new or interesting. The characters are a bunch of low-lives who have nothing interesting to say because they are basically dull people. The main character, Woody Grant (played effectively enough by Bruce Dern), has no redeeming virtues at all, and you wish someone would just give him a swift kick in the butt.

The plot, such as it is, moves at a snail's pace, inducing boredom and, ultimately, sleep. I went with two of my adult sons and about halfway through we had it and walked out. I almost never walk out of a movie I've paid good money to see but I just couldn't sit through this one.
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The Master (2012)
A wasted 144 minutes. Avoid at all costs!
31 March 2013
Pointless, plot-less, slow, meandering, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, way too long, devoid of any redeeming value. This is the worst movie I've seen since Mulholland Drive--maybe since Eraserhead. Joaquin Phoenix is even homelier than in previous movies and way too old to play the part of a sailor leaving the service after WWII. His acting is wooden and stylized, like he has an acting coach pulling his strings in every scene. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who is one of my favorite actors, is wasted on this train wreck of a movie. All the actors go through the motions of delivering their lines, obviously having no clue what emotion to put into them, because they are as confused as the audience about what the heck is going on. The writer/director shows obvious contempt for the audience by larding the movie with gratuitous disgusting scenes. How they managed to bamboozle the public into shelling out $32M at the box office is beyond understanding. All those critics who recommended this stinker should never be trusted again.
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Electrifying from beginning to end
25 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I was convinced Atlas Shrugged could not be put on film, but this movie proved me wrong. It has a contemporary look and feel, while retaining the Art Deco elegance of Rand's novel. The acting is superb, particularly Taylor Schilling as Dagny Taggart and Grant Bowler as Hank Rearden. Bowler manages to cram more meaning into a half-cocked eyebrow than most actors in a dozen lines of dialogue, and Shilling captures the sleek, cold elegance of Dagny, while giving just a hint of the passion simmering beneath the surface. Indeed, all the performances are impeccable.

This is a beautiful movie to watch, with sets, locations and costumes that are both gorgeous and convincing. The run of the John Galt Line is thrilling, and when it crossed the bridge made of Rearden Metal, I wanted to stand up and cheer.

Director Paul Johansson (who also plays John Galt) obviously knew exactly what he wanted to put on the screen, and manged to do it. He is faithful to Rand's story, and in particular to the philosophical message that is at the heart of the work, while maintaining the excitement of the plot.

During her lifetime, Rand did not allow the novel to be made into a film, perhaps for fear that the movie would not be faithful to the book. It's too bad that she didn't live to see this movie because, I believe, she would be surprised and pleased by how well it captures the essence of her work. This is clearly a labor of love that will help make Rand's ideas accessible to many who have not yet read her work. And it's exciting and rewarding for those of us who have been Rand fans for many years. Can't wait for Parts 2 and 3.
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Stupid, boring and pointless
31 December 2008
There's nothing here--don't waste your time seeing this. The movie tries hard to be artsy and gropes for some meaning, but succeeds only in being slow and dull. The characters are unattractive, the story line is largely non-existent and the film meanders for 114 minutes but seems much longer. To the extent it tries to be a horror flick, it fails as well as it's not the least bit scary.

If you want to see something good in the theater, go see Doubt, Slumdog Millionaire or The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. On the other hand, if you liked Eraserhead or Liquid Sky, you may think this piece of drivel is swell.
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Frost/Nixon (2008)
Frank Langella IS Nixon
26 December 2008
Frank Langella delivers a stunning performance. For those of us who remember Richard Nixon as President, he comes to life on the screen. The face, the stoop, the mannerisms--they're all there. This is not an actor playing a role; it is as if Nixon himself is on screen. And it's not a wholly unsympathetic portrayal. Nixon does not come off as a monster or as deranged, more as someone to be pitied than despised.

The other performances, including Michael Sheen's, are very solid, but Langella has done something truly extraordinary by removing the impression of an actor playing a part. I'll be very surprised if he doesn't earn an Oscar nomination, or even and Oscar as best actor for this performance. Langella has certainly come a long ways from his excellent performance in the underrated 1970 Mel Brooks film, The Twelve Chairs.

Forst/Nixon as a whole is riveting. Given that it's a fairly simple story with a known ending, this is quite an achievement. You don't have to be a Watergate junkie to enjoy this film; even a passing familiarity with those momentous events in our history is sufficient. Not a moment of the 122-minute running time is wasted--or dull.
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A feast for Beatles fans and maybe also for those who aren't
28 October 2007
I'm not a fan of Julie Taymor (I hated Titus) so I was a bit leery about going to see this movie. Still, as a Beatles fan, I decided I should see it on the big screen. I went with my 19-year-old son, and we both enjoyed it very much. The film is a visual and auditory feast--sort of like a long music video--yet connected by a linear plot and sub-plots. For those of us who came of age during the 'Nam era, this brought back some vivid memories. But it's the music--a continuous parade of Beatles hits--that is the real treat. Somehow the plot, the (sometimes surrealistic) imagery and the music blend together for a sensual tour de force. Don't miss this movie while it's still playing in theaters; it just won't be the same on a small screen.
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The Prestige (2006)
A sorry excuse for a movie
22 October 2006
There is nothing profound or interesting about this movie. It is choppy and confusing, and seems like it drags on forever. It has long series of plot holes instead of a plot. The two main characters are neither interesting nor likable. The main premise (which leads to the great "denouement" at the end) is not only obvious, it's ridiculous. The movie says nothing about ambition or the quest for perfection or any of the other deep stuff people pretend to see in it. It's about a couple of guys so consumed by mutual hatred and envy that they can't seem to get a life of their own. This movie makes The Illusionist seem plausible and coherent by comparison. A waste of talent, especially Michael Caine's.
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King Kong (2005)
I'll never see another Peter Jackson film again
24 December 2005
This giant turkey flew in late for Thanxgiving, but it managed to waste three precious hours out of my life anyway. Interminable and self-indulgent director's shots, action that defies even the most determined effort at suspending disbelief, terrible acting (especially by Jack Black, who should never, ever be given more than a cameo role), a muddled plot that moved like molasses in winter and huge CGI effects that look very much like CGI effects--all of these make this a movie to be endured, not enjoyed. The ape alone was good, but his relationship with the Naomi Watts character is hardly any more understandable than in past King Kong movies. No doubt we have to believe that Kong sees her as beautiful and delicate, just as we do--which means that he must see himself as brutish and ugly. That is a problem that plagues all Kong movies but I had hoped that this one would somehow solve it, but not a chance. This is not a director that's interested in plot or character, or even in making the movie intelligible to viewers. This is self-indulgent directing of the worst kind.
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Serenity (2005)
Weak, cheesy, trite-- with some pretty good special effects
3 October 2005
I wasn't planning to write a review, but after reading all the gushing comments by others, I feel an obligation to do so. I've never heard of Firefly and walked in having no idea what to expect--except that the movie had gotten so much hype. I was severely disappointed. It's not the worst movie ever made--or even the worst sci fi movie, but the movie is weak in just about every way that counts. There is nothing new about the plot or the action--small band of rebels fighting evil empire. Where have we heard that one before? The largely unknown (to me) actors were just not very good or very subtle; the roles they played were cardboard cutouts; the action meandered over an interminable 119 minutes, though it seemed much longer. (And yes, I had was able to get a soda refill AND a bathroom break--without losing much continuity.) The special effects were pretty good, especially in the beginning, but if I see another movie where fleets of spaceships slam into each other while battling in close quarters, I'll surely scream. And then there were the really cheesy and wholly inexplicable items, such as, why does one of the characters traipse around in a spaceship wearing a new evening dress in almost every scene (and how did she manage to get all those dresses on board anyway)? And, why does the captain speak lines that sound like they come from a combination of GI Joe and Max Headroom?

But the worst part is the really poor payoff, after having to endure what is essentially a soap opera for almost two hours. The big secret they're chasing down--the big, BIG truth that will bring down the government, turns out to be sort of silly. Would anybody really care 15 years later? I sort of doubt it.

Anyway, I can't say I hated the movie--at least I didn't fall asleep. But don't be fooled by the hype. This is an utterly forgettable movie, and you can easily wait to catch it on a long flight or on DVD. Or miss it altogether.
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The Return (2003)
Not much of a movie--slow and pointless
11 September 2005
There is very little new in this movie--or much of anything at all. There is hardly a plot; the action, such as it is, plods along at a snail's pace. The acting is fine, but none of the actors display any emotional range. The father is always subdued; Andrei is always bushy-tailed; and I wanted to slap Ivan around hard for his constant belly-aching and the sour faces he kept putting. Had I been the father, I'd have been tempted to drown him in the lake with my own hands.

The nice scenery and pretty good photography just don't carry this film. There's no there there. When you're done, you want to punch someone for the two hours out of your life you lost.
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Slow, boring, predicable and preachy
5 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I thought this movie would never end. The plot is a thinly disguised disinformation piece about how westerners, and particularly large drug companies, are taking advantage of Africans out of greed. No anti-western and anti-business cliché is omitted, and they are trotted out in a monotonously predictable fashion. Though the movie takes for-e-ver to plod through its torpid paces, there is no mystery here about how it will come out, or why. There are no plot twists, no startling denouements, nothing even mildly surprising. Endless camera shots--closeup and wide angle--of African poverty is supposed to give this movie higher meaning, but that motif has been done so much more effectively--and realistically--in other movies, like Hotel Rwanda, where the suffering is palpable. Here it is just a vehicle for carrying the movie's anti-western message.

The love story between Fiennes and Weisz is barely believable. Fiennes plods his way through another romance with all the spark of a Basset Hound, while Weisz plays the overwrought uber-vixen. These two people have nothing in common, as becomes pretty clearly early in the movie. Fortunately, she gets bumped off early but, unfortunately, insists on reappearing in flashbacks.

The ending is pathetic and pointless. Surely a smart guy like the Fiennes character is supposed to be can find a better way of publicizing the story than going to the middle of nowhere to get butchered--like maybe faxing the secret letter to the London Times. These kind of plot-holes--or more accurately plod-holes--are typical for the movie as a whole which has builds one implausibility on top of another. Like why would a savvy politician Luke Pellegrin *write* a letter like that? And why would Woodrow leave Tessa with the letter and trust her to lock it up, if it was that critical to his career?

The film's only redeeming feature is the gorgeous photography of scenery and wildlife, but that's been done before too, and need not be endured in a film that is so poorly constructed and hits you over the head with propaganda in almost every scene. The sad truth is that there is exploitation of Africa documented in this movie, and it consists of the people who use the scenery and poverty of Africa to make this sorry excuse of a movie--for their own fame and profit.
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Garden State (2004)
There's nothing here to like
5 September 2004
It's been a long time since I've seriously thought about walking out in the middle of a movie, but with this film I can mighty close. Instead, I dozed off for a while. There is nothing interesting, novel, imaginative or deep about this movie. It tries very, very hard to be lovable, but succeeds only in being annoying. The plot, such as it is, seems like it was made up by a bunch of college kids sitting around stoned, and the dialogue sounds like it was written on the back of an envelope. Zach Braff looks like he's on a heavy dose of Quaaludes for the entire movie, and pretty much everyone else looks like they forgot to take their Prozac. Worst of all, there was nothing funny about this movie--it's mostly sappy and boring. I thought I had seen the worst movie of the year last week when I saw "Exorcist: The Beginning" but I found myself longing to be back watching that movie, which at least had some interesting special effects. Miss this movie at all costs.
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*Much* better than the original
29 March 2004
For all the hype it gets from its small but devoted cadre of fans, the original Dawn of the Dead is really, really cheesy. A mall with a gun shop and tons of ammo in it? A few zombies that move slow as molasses in winter? A helicopter that can take them outta there whenever it gets too dangerous? Where's the terror in that? Most of the movie is spent playing around in the shopping mall.

Not so with the current version. The zombies here are mean and *fast*--and there are zillions of them. The terror and despair are real--as is the drama. Everything is precisely calculated and has its reason. Characters change as they live under the strain of balancing compassion with survival. Unlike the cardboard cutouts in the earlier version, these are real people confronted with an unimaginable horror. Some respond better than others, but both the action and the character development make sense and ring true. Even the music is far superior to the original. This is a masterpiece that has borrowed little more than the title from the original--and a good thing too.
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Spartan (2004)
This is sooooo bad, it reeks
21 March 2004
Pompous, silly, predictable, pointless .. . those are only some of the adjectives that came to mind in watching this movie. The plot has so many hoes in it, you could sell it as Swiss cheese. The characters are cardboard cutouts--total cliches. There is quite a bit of gratuitous violence, but who really cares if some of these totally lifeless characters get knocked off? Mamet's writing has gotten worse and worse since his 1992 masterpiece, Glengarry Glenn Ross, and his directing is choppy and confusing. I kept hoping he'd recover, but after this dark, mindless, trashy little miscarriage, I've lost all hope. I doubt I'll ever go see anything he's written or directed again.
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15 March 2004
Whatever else this film may have, passion is not among them. (Yes, I know "passion" in this context doesn't mean emotion.) Though the violence is brutal and graphic, it is curiously devoid of emotional content--there is a detached quality about Jesus's character that makes him seem beyond human suffering, and hence beyond human compassion. Sure, the scourging is bloody and protracted, and the crucifixion scene is gruesome, but Caviezel renders such a detached performance that it's hard to feel much empathy. Of course, this is an inherent tension in portraying Jesus as both man and God, but other movies involving Jesus--Ben Hur, for example--manage to make a much deeper emotional impact without being nearly so graphic. The other main characters, too, seem strangely detached.

The only character in the movie who seems real--and shows genuine suffering--is Judas who, from the first moment on-screen, shows ambivalence about his decision to betray Jesus, then regret, then despair. A remarkable performance by Luca Lionello, an Italian actor I've never heard of before, but one worth watching.

The film is beautifully shot, and the use of Aramaic and Latin do add verisimilitude, but in the end the movie left me cold, and I was seldom moved to think back on it after I left the theater. Perhaps Mel Gibson is counting on viewers to bring their own emotional content to the movie, and doubtless many do, but in the end the director has failed to give us any new insight into Jesus, his life, his suffering and his death. Which is too bad because, whether one is a Christian or not (and I'm not), the story of Jesus does have much of universal significance that a creative artist could explore. The film is no doubt popular in large part because it gives Christian believers a graphic representation of the events central to their faith. But it is a missed opportunity to reach out to those who do not already share that faith. And this is very much contrary to the universalist tenets of Jesus's teachings.
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Annoying, Predictable, Not funny
1 March 2004
Warning: Spoilers
OK, I've seen Jack Nicholson about a dozen too many times playing Jack Nicholson, so I stopped going to any movie with Nicholson in them. But friends told me this one is different--it's fresh, it's funny, it's different. Well, it's not. Nicholson is Nicholson, only more so. The other actors are OK, but they get pushed out of Nicholson's huge ego. The story is inane and boring. Some of the scenes involving Nicholson's anatomy are disgusting. The ending is as implausible as it is predictable. Yep, hard to believe you could come up with something both implausible and predictable, but once you buy into the bizarre premise that (spoilers ahead) Amanda Peet is hot for Nicholson's flabby body, and that Diane Keeton would give Nicholson a second thought after Keanu Reeves puts the moves on her, then you'll believe anything. Worse than how Nicholson looks is the utterly despicable and self-centered character he plays. That he winds up with an attractive woman who adores him only goes to show that if you have lots of money you can get whatever you want, even love.
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Vastly Overrated
3 January 2004
Yes, there are some amazing shots of flying birds, but it goes on and on and on showing different birds doing basically the same thing--flying, roosting, landing, flying some more, eating, flying--there's a lot of flying. The narrative is terse and uninformative. You are given no idea WHY these birds are migrating, and sometimes you can't even tell WHERE they're going (like where is the "Boreal forest"?) You are told very little about their way of life, other than the fact that they do a lot of flying. The sequences skip around geographically and by species, with no apparent connection. And it goes on and on and on and on and on ... . If you have insomnia, the DVD is a very good investment.
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Bad Boys II (2003)
Bad, bad, very bad boys
9 August 2003
It's hard to explain just how awful this movie is: Silly, slow-moving, boring plot; leaden dialogue; lack of personal chemistry among the characters; feeble and failed attempts at humor; and longer than eternity. The light repartee between Smith and Lawrence that made the original such fun has been replaced with something resembling the carping of an old married couple. Smith does his best with the material handed him and still has occasional flashes of charm, but Lawrence has sunk entirely into the persona of a spinster aunt. This is not just a movie where you have to suspend disbelief; you have to disconnect your mind entirely. The people behind me were engaged in a long conversation for entire the second half of the movie--something that always annoys me terribly, but in this case I didn't complain because I really couldn't blame them--and their conversation was more interesting than the movie anyway. All the mayhem and blood and crashing vehicles and spectacular special effects--which I generally enjoy--could not save this movie from sliding into a sinkhole of triviality and ennui.
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Willard (2003)
Even worse than the original
16 March 2003
The 1971 version of Willard had at least a surface plausibility, and carefully avoided going over the top with fairly nuanced performances by Bruce Davidson in the title role and Ernest Borgnine as the mean boss. No such restraint is evident in the current version. Crispin Glover is as nuanced as a mannequin, rendering a performance that is at the same time wooden and over the top. The normally fine character actor R. Lee Emery is little more than a cartoon. Everything is so implausible and overdone in this film it was hard to keep from laughing--and many in the audience didn't even try. While the original Willard was definitely creepy, this one tries so hard to be camp it manages to be only sorry. I doubt I'll willingly go see Crisipin Glover in anything again. Yuckers!
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A Beautiful Film that Deserves to Be Seen
10 November 2002
The director manages to pack a lot of local color and drama into a spare 82 minutes. The costumes and scenery are gorgeous, and the acting is superb. And the story itself is both poignant and uplifting. A romantic drama in the Ayn Rand tradition.
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