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A balanced portrayal of the Mossad & terrorists
Steven Spielberg has hit a rare home run with this film; an emotionally charged examination of the work of an unofficial elimination squad. Based on what the Mossad claims are highly questionable sources (which lends no small amount of credence to the story), the film traces a great portrait of the self-righteous, unreasoning "logic" that drives the never-ending strife in the middle east. People are killed because of what they are instead of who they are, and it is an ever escalating situation. Both sides pay for it in ways they never could have imagined, much of the time the innocent victims are found in the form of families . A great film.
The Handmaid's Tale (1990)
This film is not about adoption...
To whomever it is that wrote the comment that this is an excellent film portraying an alternative form of adoption, you've totally missed the boat. This film is about class warfare and sexual slavery. It is about the degradation of humanity and the rich over the hungry and weak. If this is one of your favorite films, you like it for all the wrong reasons.
Waking the Dead (2000)
Another truly great character study from Keith Gordon
Following in the big footsteps of "The Chocolate War", "A Midnight Clear" and "Mother Night", Waking the Dead" is perhaps the most cohesive and satisfying film by Keith Gordon to date. This is a film composed of two parts. The first part is a love story which takes place in America but focuses on the violent overthrow of the Salvador Allende republic in Chile. Fielding Pierce, the protagonist, is an idealistic naval officer from a working class family. He meets Sarah (played by the always lovely Jennifer Connelly), a free-thinking social activist, and they begin a whirlwind romance. Soon, though, she leaves for Chile, where she is murdered during the coup d'etat staged by Pinochet. Fielding, of course is devastated, and it leaves a scar on him which still hasn't healed when the film flashes forward to the eighties, when he has gotten into politics. Attached now to an important politico's daughter, Fielding has to make some important decisions regarding the ideals he holds so important while coping with a tremendous loss he never really came to grips with. Many critics have panned this film for being contrived and unbelievable, mostly because of the "ghost" sequences and the chronological flashback "vignette" structure which Gordon uses to paint the story. I found it refreshing after so many Pulp Fiction wannabe timeline films having been made in the last 10 years. Also, isn't it a bit wonderful to see a film that equates personal emotional turmoil with personal idealistic/political turmoil. In the midst of dealing with the loss/reincarnation of Sarah, Fielding is forced into making hard choices about what kind of man he is going to be; a member of the political machine or a true servant of the people. A rare treat.
Gangs of New York (2002)
Great depiction of civil war New York, terrible plot
This could have easily been a very effective historical drama, but Scorsese must have been pressured into Hollywooding this film with a really stupid love story. The gang wars, the Tammany Hall graft, and draft riots were so well depicted it would be unfair to fail a film like this, but the love story is so BAD it almost sinks the whole thing. Leo needs to quit "acting" all the time. Cameron Diaz needs to do a nude scene when it is appropriate. Daniel Day-Lewis was fantastic.
The Last American Virgin (1982)
Bold, uncompromising slice of eighties teenage life
"The Last American Virgin", along with "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" is one the last great teen films ever made. It is tender tale of envy and unrequited love set in the early eighties. Much-maligned by critics that it was a sophomoric, banal attempt to recreate the magic of "Fast Times at Ridgemont High", these same critics fail to recognize that the two films were actually filmed concurrently during late 1981, and released at only slight intervals from one another. Either way, the studios would never allow such a bold and uncompromising portrayal of the issues many male teenagers are confronted with as they reach their sexual maturity. Especially considering the heart-wrenching discovery the protagonist, Gary is confronted with in the end. American Pie this is not. The story revolves around a trio of male teenagers, and their mostly unsuccessful sexual pursuits. Gary is the least successful of the group, hence the tagline LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN. Secretly, Gary lusts after Karen, who is involved with Rick, his best friend. Rick and Karen begin having sex, and Karen gets pregnant, only to be dumped by Rick, who is not interested in the obvious responsibility which lies before him. Gary glides into help Karen, which leads to the aforementioned, unexpected conclusion. Overall as a film, I find it was very successful as a comedy, as a commentary on the sexual dilemmas of young men, and a remarkable coming of age tale dealing with issues such as envy, unrequited love and abortion, which are just as pertinent today as they were over twenty years ago. Also, it has one of the rockingest soundtracks ever made!!!
Kissing Jessica Stein (2001)
Jessica isn't the only one confused at the end. I thought this was a mostly great film that got a bit too self-conscious and formulaic at the end. Highly recommended, just prepare yourself for a cheesy conclusion.
Peter Jackson, not Tolkien, knows best??? Whatever. Awful!
As "Harry Potter" is one of the best book to film adaptions ever, and one of the most satisfying, considering that Chris Columbus and Steven Kloves wouldn't seem to be ideal candidates for making a great film, "Fellowship of the Rings" has to be about the worst ever. Why? Because Peter Jackson had the resources available to make an honest adaption rather than the overblown, unfaithful special effects extravaganza that he gave us. Stick to the source material, and it's amazing what the results can be. Imagine yourself more creative or smarter than the author, and you just plain stink. As does this "Hollywood" movie.
BTW It was nice to "learn" that Saruman was actually under Sauron's direct command the whole time, and that Gandalf was aware of it, and that Arwen is actually the amazonian version of the elves.
Childhood's End (1996)
Brilliant multilayered depiction of American society
I caught a screening of this film on the Independent Film Channel three years ago, and recorded it because I had to go to work, so I've had ample opportunity to watch this film and analyze it in more than a cursory manner. Quite simply, this is a great, uncompromising film depicting people in unconventional relationships in an extremely fair and honest fashion.
Childhood's End is structured around the development of two relationships. The first one to develop is between Greg, a whiz kid photographer, and a friend of his mother's, Evelyn, a fortyish, sexually adventurous divorcee. The core of their relationship, which initially appears to be a shallow May-December/Oedipal sexual attraction, develops quickly into a deeper attachment, much to the horror of their family and friends alike. Two of these friends are Rebecca, an anxious teenage loner, and Denise, and outed lesbian. They fall in love, and form a relationship against the background of their troubled family lives. I don't have a fancy, polished way of explaining why it is that this movie is a great one. All I can tell you is that I've never seen anything so non-judgemental, or honest in all my life. These characters are not cardboard creations. Greg is an egomaniacal overgrown teenager shagging his mom's former best friend. This is not done for a laugh, and it isn't very pleasant to watch up close. Rebecca and Denise are in love, and that's just the way it is. The scene where the make love for the first time is the most explicit sex scene ever filmed, but somehow it is the furthest thing from pornography that I've ever seen, too. This film develops in a very unconventional fashion. I was constantly surprised by the frankness of the dialogue, and the direction that the plot took near the end. I'm not doing justice to all the other characters in the film( such as Chloe the model, who ends up as a Vegas showgirl), but there really are way too many to mention in the detail they would deserve. I look forward to the second film from Jeff Lipsky, whenever it may come.
Deeper than I thought.
This film was much better than I thought it would be. It is set in a world where corporations have replaced the world's governments, and all the people are subject to the corporations demands. All facets of life are controlled by the board; your mate, your job, when you have to quit. One man, a sports star, refuses to quit when told, and Rollerball is about his struggle to stay alive as a result of his obstinacy. James Caan delivers a sensitive performance as Jonathan E., the Rollerball star of the world. He is haunted by the absence of his former mate, Ella, played by Maud Adams, who was ordered away after a member took a fancy to her. When he is confronted with a forced retirement, Jonathan E. embarks on a quest to find information about the world before corporations, to keep his place in the Rollerball hierarchy, and to regain the woman he loved. The director's commentary on the DVD is outstanding.
Very shallow, if it is beautifully shot and acted
"Unbreakable", the latest feature from M. Night Shyamalan, is a
beautifully shot and acted film that suffers from a quite commom
problem of today- the storyline sucks. Melodramatic, simple and
with another one of those "Really?" endings, "Unbreakable" fails to
make any substantive observations about humanity( it's subject
matter) or the trappings of invincibilty, except to say "Hey, that's
pretty cool." If handed a large project, Shyamalan is destined to be the next
Michael Cimino. He just doesn't have it.
Very average attempted "art" flick
Soderbergh has become the metaphor for Hollywood; overrated, clueless about story, and clueless about color symbology and imagery. Traffic would have been a much better film in the hands of, say Paul Schrader or Martin Scorsese, than Soderbergh. He is just too much of a sap to make a "message film"(anybody see Schizopolis? He actually wrote that...) This film makes Clear and Present Danger seem like a masterpiece, at least on the drug issue.
Malcolm X (1992)
By focusing on, and even celebrating, the rise of Malcolm X and his legacy of heightened militancy in the Black Muslim movement of Elijah Muhammed, Spike Lee has totally butchered the point of X's autobiography, which ends with him embracing all of mankind and coming to grips with the anger(totally justified!)and resentment that he held for the whites he dealt with in his life. This should have been a story of inclusiveness, concluding with a certain joy instead of this childish "I am Malcolm X" black hero c***. Malcolm is a hero for everyone, and should be praised by everyone for his angelic ability to accept and forgive the world that so often wronged him. Why do you think Elijah Muhammed had him killed? Because he didn't feed on hate anymore, and wanted others to feel the same way. That would have destroyed the Black Muslim message, the most blameful of heresies. This is irresponsible, manipulative, self-indulgent film-making on a scale equal to "Birth of a Nation" as it rewrites history in an all too convincing manner. Shameful.
School Daze (1988)
slice of 80's life
I don't really enjoy many of Spike Lee's films, but I did enjoy this one. I was in college when it came out, and I always considered it a pretty accurate depiction of college campuses, and of the political and social undercurrents existing everywhere in the late 80's(apartheid, integration vs desegregation, viability of black campuses). I think it was pretty bold to make a quasi-musical in only his second film; much bolder than making the race-sensitive accusatory dramas he's been making since Do The Right Thing. I think Spike is potentially a great movie maker if he can get past these issues he seems to be so stuck on: white people are evil, white people(especially jews) are plotting the death of the black man, it's okay to denigrate and hate whites cause "they" did that to us in the past. School Daze will allow you to gaze at the talent that was, and could be, Spike Lee.
A Wedding (1978)
Cool Altman ensemble
I found this to be an interesting and insightful portrayal of the different strata of American society, and how flexible and inflexible they can be when confronted with issues they MUST deal with. It's a wedding for Christ's sake! Can't miss that! I think it's beautiful that Altman, borrowing heavily from various forms of Commedia dell'Arte, tragic plays of Shakespeare, and other classic literary works, uses a wedding to create the tensions throughout the film. Remember, this is the bride and groom's special occasion, yet everyone else seems so put out and upset with having to deal with one another, as if they are the ones going through with the ceremony, that they will be the ones marrying each another. In today's world, this is an absurd notion, and Altman knows it. You get the feeling he really enjoys watching this all-american, suburban family cringe at the idea of being married to the mob, though all of them know this is probably the last time they all be together. He's always had such a cynical view of the nuclear family. This would really be one of Altman's best films if it wasn't for the silly pretentiousness of some of the roles, especially Mia Farrow's. I must admit that I love the ending, which most people I know hate.
Great adaption of a great book
This is such a wonderful, strict and honest adaption of Hooker's book I'm surprised that Altman stayed away from literary adaptions for such a long time after he made this. I wish Duke had been a major part of the series, as well as Spearchucker. This is a much more liberal, real world than the series. It horrifies me when a series fan is so disdainful of the film.Why they don't like it, I'll never understand. Robert Duvall as Major Burns is the all-time perfect casting!
The Naked Kiss (1964)
Superior Fuller fare
This is a film about sex offenders. It works on many different levels, and is successful on all levels(prostitute/pimp, sexual harassment, sexual abuse of children and adults). It does drag a bit at the end, but like many of Fuller's social dramas it makes a ton of valid points about how society bats the blind eye towards the transgressions of the affluent and prosecutes with vicious intent on the "dregs". I think Constance Towers is great as a "recovering" prostitute, and that the scene with the little girl near the end is one of the most upsetting scenes ever(if you have the gray matter to interpret what's going on). This is definitely on the same level as Pickup on South Street and Underworld USA.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
The great film of the nineties.
I love everything about this film; the characters, the dialogue, the music, the colors, the crazy plot. I wish Tarantino's follow-up to Pulp Fiction had also been an ensemble piece, but my guess is that he wanted to avoid being pegged as a certain kind of storyteller. In my book, he's only one kind of storyteller: a great one. Outside of Short Cuts, this is the best film I've ever seen. 10 stars.
Short Cuts (1993)
The Perfect Film(10 out of 10)
I've always considered Robert Altman to be an artist rather than a "director" in the conventional sense. He has always allowed his actors, working within specific guidelines, to take the lead in creating their own impressions of the roles, dialogue and even the music of his films. Much of the dialogue is improvised, if not all of it, and he shoots more film per scene than any other director working today, sometimes as much as 60 hours per hour of footage shown in the final product. A great admirer of jazz, you could say that Short Cuts is Altman's Kind of Blue. It is seminal, familiar, unpredictable, sad and, most of all, so accurate in it's portrayal of how we act in every possible situation you could think of. I don't think I'll ever forget Andie McDowell responding to Lyle Lovett about her son's death, or how Buck Henry took pictures of the dead girl floating in the stream, or how Fred Ward wouldn't bring the body back, but made sure to bring back the fish. It was all so true to me.
A Bridge Too Far (1977)
Superior blockbuster(8 out of 10)
I think "A Bridge too Far" has been much maligned for all the wrong reasons. Considering how large the project was, and how many egos Attenborough must have had to deal with, it is amazing how well the film works on the many levels it is operating. This was definitely his training ground for Gandhi! The battle scenes are second only to Stalingrad in my opinion, especially the street fighting scenes in Arnhem. I've been told they are the most realistic by veterans. I have to say that Anthony Hopkins is absolutely fantastic in this. I love that you can see him thinking about how bad things are in Arnhem while he is rallying his troops to fight on. Sean Connery and Robert Redford are also really good in their respective roles.