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WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS. I'm afraid I came to watch the sneak preview of Nolan's Insomnia at UNC Charlotte with two preconceived notions: a) that it couldn't be nearly as good as the Norwegian version, which I'd seen on television in England, and b) that because Nolan's a sort of anti-Hollywood, "maverick" director, I'd actually end up being surprised by how good it was anyway. As it turns out, (a) was true and (b) wasn't. Okay, so the story takes place in Alaska to make it possible to have "the midnight sun," so we can give the main character insomnia--but there wasn't any light! The cinematography was DARK! So, in the modern Hollywood fashion, if you have a movie about a serial killer (or any "dark" subject), you HAVE to film it dark. That was a shame, especially considering the fact that the Norwegian version actually did use really, really bright cinematography very well--it was film noir where light was the dramatic force, as one critic put it. Another problem with Nolan's version: the big American cowboy-movie shootout at the end. What's with that? Can't have a suspense thriller without tacking on a big round of the "let's-blow-each-other-away-with-big-semi-automatic-weapons" game at the end? Very disappointing. Also, because everyone had a gun, there was absolutely no element of tension from the fact that the protagonist accidentally shot his partner with one. In the original version, the protagonist (being a Swedish cop) is the only one carrying a gun (the Norwegian police don't carry guns), which gives us the twist that if only he hadn't brought his gun, his partner would've lived. Another problem: mumbling characters, especially Al Pacino. I think I could understand the Norwegian better! Another problem: did Christopher Nolan really have to make the protagonist such a squeaky-clean good guy? Sure, he framed a suspect who he was sure was guilty. Sure, he shoots his partner in the fog. But he's still very obviously the "good guy" and Walter Finch is the "bad guy." Finch plants the wild card in the boyfriend's house, and the detective has to valiantly try and go back to get it--quite unlike the original version, where the detective plants the weapon himself. Guess we should all just believe that guilt and insomnia never affect our reason or morals (which I thought was the point of the movie in the first place). And one final problem: the way the female detective finds the 9mm cartridge casing and then mulls over it for so long. That's not really a style problem, but it adds a lot of time onto the film and destroys anything subtle about the film, about her, about morals--just beating a dead horse, really. Anything good about this film? The premise was fine. Good story idea. The script wasn't bad, either, minus the elements I've already mentioned. I especially liked the joke where Finch says he tried to be a cop but they wouldn't take him and the detective replies, "Should've tried internal affairs; bet they would've taken you." In the entire, almost-full theatre, only my friend and I laughed at that one. And one last thing...when I watched the Norwegian version of Insomnia, I was scared. When I watched Nolan's version, I got scared, but for a different reason. Whenever something violent would happen, like the detective shooting his partner, or Finch punching the girl, the theatre around me would explode with laughter. And that frightened the **** out of me, to be living in a place where people see that kind of violence (and pain) on the screen and laugh.
Well-made detective series.
This is probably the last comment I'll write from England, as I'm flying back home to America after a year here in a couple of days. Unfortunately, that also means I'll be flying away from Bergerac on the BBC. I discovered this marvelous old detective show a short time ago, and since then I've enjoyed every episode of the programme I've seen. John Nettles is so cool and calm in the title role, and the cast of regulars is fun to watch and full of life. The plots are interesting, though not overly contrived. As much as I enjoy reading Agatha Christie books (and watching BBC adaptations of them), I sometimes find her plots a little too twisty for their own good. Bergerac's plots don't suffer this [ever-so-slight] malady. The scenery on the island of Jersey is beautiful, though I don't know whether it was filmed there or not. One might suspect (and hope!) that the crime-rate is somewhat less than represented in the show, but since watching Bergerac, I seriously want to visit the island and find out for myself. Also, if I do manage to visit Jersey sometime down the road, I have reason to believe I'll be able to pick up the BBC signal and watch re-runs of Bergerac to my heart's content! I recommend this police detective show to anyone who enjoys British television drama or detective shows. One last thing: I really love the tune they play at the end of the show. Hope I can get a recording of that sometime!
Official Denial (1993)
Keep watching--you'll thank yourself after thirty minutes or so
I watched this film on late-night television, as has become my habit in my year-long sojourn here in England. At first, I thought it looked pretty stupid. Actually, at first it was stupid. But I kept watching for no real reason other than that I was too lazy to get up and cut off the telly, and then I discovered that this was really a moving, thought-provoking picture. Paul Corliss, who starts out as kind of an unlikable character (even when you know he's right about the aliens), gets progressively better as the film develops, which leads me to believe he was played by a damn fine actor. His wife, who starts out looking like a nagging, annoying (but pretty) nuisance develops into a strong and likable character. The general and Colonel Lerner, who both start out looking like typical, knee-jerk reacting, firepower-crazed officers develop in separate directions; the general gradually reveals himself for what he is--a thinking, caring authority (who nevertheless knows his job), and Lerner becomes the kind of villian it's easy to dislike--an un-thinking, un-caring, letter-of-the-law authority. Even the tight-lipped government agent near the end of the film (whose name is "not important") makes his potentially boring and/or unbelievable single-scene role a pleasure to watch. At the special effects end, this movie is visibly cheap. We viewers who have been conditioned by digital effects to believe only in realistic (though uncommonly smooth-looking) extra-terrestrial beings and vessels can only see these B-movie effects as...well...B-movie effects. However, if you can suspend disbelief as if you were in a theatre, this movie is immenently watchable, not the least because of its engaging and inspiring story. Without revealing too much about the end of the film (which I partially guessed beforehand), I can say that the viewer can come away from this film ready to try and make this world a better place to live in, and feel that we the human race are not doomed to kill each other off or pollute our planet beyond recognition. Long live Earth.
One good movie comin' right up
I keep finding real gems of films on late-night television here in England, and Grand Tour was no exception. Anyone can enjoy this film, whether they're a major sci-fi buff or not. As a matter of fact, I didn't figure out until I was pretty far into the movie that it was sci-fi at all! Which is to say--this movie might be the closest representation of what *would* happen if visitors from the future or outer space or somewhere showed up. Hollywood makes no appearance in this film. The story is intelligent, coherent and easy to follow. Every detail is taken care of easily and completely, so the story hangs together marvelously, unlike some sci-fi movies I could name. Everyone acts well and believably. Jeff Daniels proves his worth as a serious actor, and Adriana is one of the cutest and least-annoying child actors I've seen. The character of Oscar adds just the right amount of humour the movie needs. The script avoids cliches, as does the concept. I think the producers should've gone ahead and released Grand Tour theatrically, instead of merely on cable TV. Then maybe a wider audience would've (or could've) seen and enjoyed this fine example of what a good director can do with good actors acting a good script from a good story. What can I say?--the movie's good.
McGee and Me! (1989)
Eighties fashion and timeless values
The McGee and Me series is probably the best of Christian television in years. The stories for each of the episodes are well thought out, and the shows are well filmed, and the whole effect is very engaging. Okay, that's the film critic person talking. Here's the eighteen-year-old kid who used to watch the videos regularly. The shows are great for pre-teens and early teens. The New Adventures of McGee and Me aren't quite as good, but they're still worth watching to see how no one but the Nick and Derek have grown up at all (everyone else had yet to hit puberty, I guess, or else it had no effect on them). My brothers and sister and I have long had the McGee and Me series in our repertoire of "in-jokes." Whenever anyone in my family mentions "angles," someone always imitates Nick (in "Back to the Drawing Board"), where he makes a funny gesture and says, "...with all those ANGLES and stuff!" Every kid, Christian or not, ought to see the McGee and Me series just to get some good lessons on life disguised as great entertainment. Besides, eighties fashion is coming back in...
Paradise Road (1997)
This world needs more vocal orchestras.
I've never seen a women-in-a-Japanese-concentration-camp film before, so, unlike the writers of some other comments, I think Paradise Road is a mighty fine film. I couldn't guess what was about to happen, although I could guess the ending pretty well (in a prisoner camp film, who can't?). But I was never sure who would survive and who would die. About the characters: I've never really cared for Glenn Close in films before, but this is the best I've ever seen her act. I didn't really like her character, but the actress can't be blamed for that. The actress who played the German doctor obviously had the hardest part, but her performance was marvelous, to the point that it didn't seem like a performance: she was believable. She was probably my favorite character. The other characters were also interesting, and all were well-acted, particularly the part of the Japanese interpreter. I sensed a dig against me and my fellow Americans in the characters of the American women, but that's to be expected and it wasn't as bad as in other films I've seen. About the music: the music was fantastic. Dvorak's New World Symphony and Ravel's Bolero are two of the most beautiful classical compositions ever. Since the scores used in the film were the same ones the original ladies used, it's not hard to hear why the original Japanese guards might've been charmed to listen, and why this film was made about it! After hearing the pieces in Paradise Road, I feel that vocal orchestra ought to be an art practiced wherever there are voices to sing. As everyone else seems to feel, this movie isn't a dazzling, artistic drama breaking new ground in the world of film. But it is a good movie worth watching.
Every Which Way But Loose (1978)
See you in the funny papers.
This is another film I caught on late-night TV, and that's probably where it belongs. On the other hand, I enjoyed every minute of it. That's not to say most people would, or even most Clint Eastwood fans--but this is my comment and I liked the movie! I agree with a former commenter who said that the Orangutang film is a distinctly American art form. I couldn't agree more, having seen Cannonball Run II, and also being an American. Actually, being a Southern American, this film led me to wonder why a country/western culture comedy film was set out in California (mysteries of the universe). So, about the film: Clint Eastwood can't go wrong, as far as I'm concerned (acting, that is). He's just too cool to hate. Clyde the ape is too lovable to hate, and as others have said, he's the main comedy star in the film for sure. I didn't notice that the lead lady's voice was so bad, and I really liked the song she sang a couple of times in the film. Aside from Clint himself, my favorite character in the movie is Echo (What? Echo). She's the best-looking lady in the film, and she's inspired me to introduce myself to inquisitive strangers as "Echo" from this day forth. And the rest of the characters...well, let's just say they fit into the rest of the movie pretty well. Who would I recommend this film to? You, of course. Seriously, I recommend this movie for Clint Eastwood fans who want to be astonished, Orangutang film fans who want a laugh, and adventurous people who are willing to try out a totally genre-less film. See you in the funny papers.
Breaking the Waves (1996)
An ever-so-slightly American/Christian perspective
As an American, I see plenty of American-looking films with precise, polished camerawork, and rich colors, and these elements can often make a film worth watching. Breaking the Waves contains neither, and it is a film worth watching. Some movies that go out of their way to avoid conventional filming techniques sacrifice story clarity and basic viewability, but Breaking the Waves sacrifices neither. Usually, handheld camerawork in a film annoys me greatly, but it was somehow used very effectively in this one. Emily Watson is a brilliant actress in this film, to the point that I (an actor) forgot she was an actress. I wouldn't say this is the best performance by an actress ever, simply because crazy people are easier to play than sane ones, usually. The actor who played Jan is surprisingly good; I say surprisingly, because his part is the type which could easily be screwed up, and he didn't screw it up. The rest of the cast is great, because they're believable, and I really appreciate the fact that the director didn't go out of his way to make Americans look completely heartless and/or stupid, as many non-Americans suppose we are. About the story itself--there are two perspectives you can take on it. You can see it as sacreligious, or you can see it as spiritual. I choose to see it as spiritual, and feel that the director is criticising the Pharisaical attitude of the church elders instead of Christianity itself. If anything is wrong with this picture, it's the director's tendency to resort to shock value to stir up his audience. The story itself should be able to do that on its own. But this is still a fine film, and see if you don't feel just as surprised as Bess late in the movie, when God doesn't talk to her for the first time.
Without a Kiss Goodbye (1993)
A top-notch made-for-TV movie!
I liked the movie. On the other hand, I thought it was a tear-jerker and that was just fine with me. The whole story was so sad. But like the Aussie said, there was a strong mystery element in there, and I was a little disappointed at the end when the whole thing didn't get pinned on the one I believed to be guilty! But on the whole, this is a very good movie, especially considering it's a made-for-television movie, not to mention a courtroom drama. Both genres earn little respect in the Hollywood-oriented film world to-day. Being an American, I can appreciate the feelings of the two main attorneys in the movie--the feelings that justice ought to be carried out, despite the failure of the system, or in this case, the original defense attorney. Since this is a true story, I'm happy to learn there are lawyers out there with enough of a shred of decency to actually try and serve the truth. About the actors: I don't know why they're no-names--I thought they were all very good, especially the small-town sheriff (character development--swift but sure!). The whole thing made me want to act in made-for-television movies! I recommend this film to anyone who can appreciate good acting, good filming, and a good story told simply and effectively.
Pray for the Wildcats (1974)
The don't make 'em like this anymore...
I agree with Teresa. This movie is a cheesy. But, on the other hand, I thought Andy Griffith did a fine job of being a bad guy for once. William Shatner, of course, played the part of William Shatner, but then, I just like him because he's Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise. Robert Reed was pretty good, too, and if you see this film, check out the interior of his house--I swear it's the same house as the one in the Brady Bunch! And sure, the film is completely dippy, and the plot's weird, and the effects are royally hand-made, but I still think this is a film worth watching, if only for the interaction between the well-known television personalities. Besides, where else do you get a chance to see William Shatner referring to someone else as "The captain?" The don't make 'em like this anymore...maybe that's a good thing. But see it anyway!
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
They don't make 'em like this anymore...
I saw Conan on the TV last night thinking, "Oh great, nothing better than Conan the Barbarian to watch." Then I realised that I was watching a terrific movie. Sure, some things like the actors and special effects date the movie pretty solidly. But the movie was just great! I figured out pretty soon that the music was uncommonly good, and I was pleasantly surprised an hour or so into the movie when I discovered James Earl Jones was the villian, back to his old "I am your father" tricks! Conan also showed me something I both never expected, never had seen, and probably never will see again. What am I talking about? Arnold Schwarzeneggar hitting a camel across the face! I recommend this film to anyone even remotely interested in action movies and cultural icons. "There is warmth in fire. Wouldn't you like to warm yourself by my fire?"
Still of the Night (1982)
Still of the Night, b/c you'll be asleep
I've yet to see Meryll Streep in a movie I enjoyed, though, to be fair, I must mention that the only two Streep movies I've seen are this one and Out of Africa (which stunk). This movie never took off, but it did have some good bits in it. At times I saw some terrific acting from Schneider, and also from Streep, but the story just moved kind of slow. There were also some good bits of suspense when Schneider adopted the habit of wandering into dark places by himself. The auction scene reminded me a bit of the auction scene Cary Grant steals in North by Northwest. Unfortunately, there were no such charismatic actors or genuinely gripping scenes in this film. I'd recommend the film only to someone who was into the eighties.
A Midsummer Night's Dream (1985)
Live and at its best
This is the best version of Midsummer's I've seen, of the three I've seen (1935, James Cagney as Bottom; 1981 BBC version, Nigel Davenport as Theseus; this one). I'm afraid, though, that all the fairy characters seem to be acting just a little too full of themselves, especially William Hurt. Not that that's too bad, especially in Hurt's case, because he's supposed to be kind of self-centered anyway. The rustics (eg. mechanicals, clowns) were very funny, especially in the Pyramus and Thisby scene at the end. This is the funniest version of Quince's prologue you'll find, and it's probably the way Shakespeare intended it, to boot! The lovers, though their haircuts and makeup date them like anything, act their parts well, and you can actually enjoy their super-long mid-play scene (if Hermia's voice doesn't drive you crazy). In this show Bottom and Puck don't seem to be the centers of the play, as in most productions. Probably the most engaging thing about this version of Midsummer's is that its live; although Shakespeare does remarkably well on film (considering its age), his works are still enjoyed best by the group he originally wrote them for, the live audience. I recommend this film for drama, Shakespeare, and film buffs alike.
Paul's hair is the best part
This movie was very, very boring. I can't really say it should have been edited down to two hours and then it would be better, because there isn't two hours worth of good movie material there. The actor who played Paul was good. Actually, all the actors and actresses seemed very realistic, but that's just not enough to make the movie interesting. If someone wants to make a movie, they ought to have a story to tell first. In Ma Vie Sexuelle, there was no story. Anyway, the atmosphere and the camera work was good. But the movie still stinks. I'd only recommend it to someone in prison who's watched every other movie in the world first. Or to someone I wanted to show what cool hair looks like...
Inspiring, sad movie
SPOILER ALERT 'Alex' is a very sad movie. I always find it very sad in any movie when true love is wrecked by one party dying. That's even worse than 'Romeo and Juliet,' because then at least you get the idea that since they're both dead, they're together. But when Andy dies Alex is all alone. Great. So how can you go on after a thing like that? Well, that's where the inspiring part comes in, when Alex learns to accept Andy's death and keep up her dream. Andy was a large part of that dream, I'm sure, but everyone dies, and we the living can only accept it when the people we love die, and try to keep our life together. This movie isn't the best I've ever seen, but it was worth watching, if only to make me sad enough to think about life. Anyway, if you like swimming, you'll probably enjoy it (swimming in tears, that is).
The Jokers (1967)
From the best years of Comedy
Like another of the commenters, I saw this film on the late night telly. I loved it all the way, and as an American, managed to appreciate some of the British humor. One joke, in particular, that made me laugh up a storm was when some guy tries to explain the bomb plantings by blaming it on "the Mafia." Michael Crawford sniggers, "Surbiton branch?" I recommend this film to anyone who wants to be entertained by one of the first films in what would become the best years of British comedy.
A Man for All Seasons (1966)
A Kid Who Liked the Film
Well, I'm an eighteen-year-old American living outside of London, but I've been watching A Man for All Seasons since was a little kid. I was less than ten years old when I first saw AMFAS, and I remember that I had wanted to watch a Disney. But after seeing AMFAS my mind was far above where it would have been had I watched that Disney. AMFAS is a timeless movie. People will watch that film decades down the road and wonder who these amazing actors and actresses were, who could perform so believable a story. And speaking of the story, it's uplifting, interesting, historical and well-written. One thing I find amazing about this movie is that though it's very different from the original play (which I found amazing), it's just as powerful in every way. For those who have seen this film and love it as I do, I recommend Chariots of Fire, an equally uplifting and well-made movie (and also featuring Nigel Davenport). A Man for All Seasons deserves every award it was given, and more.