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Lost in Translation (2003)
Not quite cinematic...
On the positive side, it's not quite cliché. I like that. It does feel very truthful. A scenario that more or less could happen. But, so was my trip to the grocery store, but I didn't chose to make a movie out of that. Actually, maybe there's an Oscar in it if I do.
The main problem I had with it was, it's just not entertaining. Not particularly funny, not deep in terms of character or plot, and just not engaging. A fish out of water movie star from America crosses paths with another fish out water American. They check out Japanese night life, talk about the ups and downs of being married, and check out some more bars. And there's some marginal comic hijinx along the way. It's a romance where the lead characters don't sleep together, and for that it should be applauded. It's an original approach, but the problem is, it's still a dreary, uninspired meandering character piece, WHICH IRONICALLY, only has superficial characterizations. Hell, even some Hollywood action movies layer their characters more deeply. I'm left with a kind of vacuous feeling. So much of the writing felt like filler. And this won best Screenplay?
**1/2 out of ****
Jane White Is Sick & Twisted (2002)
One of the worst films I have ever, or will ever see
Forgive me for taking what looks to be a zero budget indy, and holding it up to movies of higher budgets. Frankly, the movie plays out like the worst that any student filmmaker have to offer. Painfully unoriginal, uninspired, and unfunny. Remember one of the opening sequences of `Natural Born Killers'. The one taken from the point of view of Juliette Lewis? In that scene, she visualized that her life was part of a sitcom, complete with laugh track. Pretty inspired. Now, imagine someone ripping off that concept, and making a 90 minute movie from it that's devoid of any creative thought, or even a basic understanding of comedy. Everything in this movie has been done before, and been done infinitely better. Throughout it, I just couldn't help thinking to myself, why the hell am I watching this? I felt myself becoming psychically older. I felt brain cells dying. Life didn't seem so bright anymore. Yes, this movie was done on a `low' budget, but let's call a spade a spade, I rented this thing based on the recommendation of what must be either people involved in the movie, or people so desperate for entertainment, that sniffing glue must be a viable entertainment choice for them . There are no hints of talent are to be seen anywhere. Avoid this like the plague. Zero out of 10 stars. But on the positive side, they did a nice job with scene transitions.
Crimson Tide (1995)
Fast paced, exciting, edge of your seat entertainment!
Every time I've watched Crimson Tide, I'm always shocked to see just how involved in it I get. From the visceral intensity of Tony Scott's masterful direction, to Hans Zimmer's top notch score, to the stunning multi-colored visuals, to the somewhat familiar but perfectly executed writing. This, to me, is what Hollywood filmmaking is all about. Story and visuals given equal importance. The second hour of this film is possibly the most continually involved and exciting I've seen, or at least in recent memory. A modern classic.
Excuse me, stylish?
I find it ironic that a film considered by some as `stylish' is devoid of suspense, or any kind of visual flair... The directorial style seems to be simply point the camera and shoot (look at that scene between Peterson meeting Hannibal for the first time - the scene cuts back and forth between two medium shots - then compare it to the direction of Ratner's same scene in the legitimately `stylistic' Red Dragon). One or two slow motion shots and jump cuts do not constitute style to me.Moving on, the soundtrack is mainly non-existent to inappropriate, I don't believe Brian Cox for one second as a serial killer (maybe an exhibitionist), the plot is NOT as clear as it should be, dialog is too on the head, key scenes are simply talked about and not dramatized, Tom Noonan isn't the least bit frightening or sympathetic as a character with the potential to be both, Steven Lange as the reporter is so over the top I almost passed out (look at Philip Seymore Hoffman in the same role, amazing difference) the color scheme belongs in Miami Vice, and the ending simply boils down to a simple shoot out with ridiculous jump cuts. I don't love Silence of the Lambs, but I think its light years about Manhunter. I think my mother got it right when she stepped into the room as I was watching it, and asked if it was one of my friend's student films. But hey, I do think that William Peterson IS better than both Jodie Foster, and Ed Norton who plays the same role in a fairly uninteresting, uninspired manor. I should be judging this film on its own merits, but frankly I don't see any, other than some good plotting, which is no credit to Michael Mann, simply the source material which was infinitely better executed the second time around. The whole production of Red Dragon must have used this as an example of what NOT to do. Thank goodness.
Back to the Future (1985)
As close as a film gets to perfect
If this film were first released today, it would probably be ranked #1 on this sites top 250 list. But, the flavor of the day is Lord of the Rings. Unfortunate.
This film captures everything I love about the movies. From perfectly structured writing, vivid often hilarious characters, a majestic score, twists, turns, and an out and out creative concept. And in the words of writer/director Robert Zemeckis, perhaps the one pure gem he had in him as a writer.
It's only down side is occasionally less than stellar acting (Claudia Wells) and less that stellar audio looping. But, the great far outweighs the bad. Recommended to anyone and everyone. 10 out of 10.
Ignore the sequels... Entertaining, but not at the same level.
ANOTHER attempt at objectivity
I think I speak for the majority when I say Phantom Menace was a blemish on the name of Star Wars. A mediocre movie following in the footsteps of classics. Three years later, Lucasfilm brings us Attack of the Clones. A vast improvement of the prior installment, containing some of the greatest cinema moments of the past decade, and some of the worst. Both so good and bad, simultaneously.
The good: Story (the rise of the empire through manipulation and trickery), the effects, action, art direction, music (as John Williams returns to near classic form), and the fun factor.
The bad: the romance (possibly the worst I've ever seen for a non student film), Natalie Portman scenes in general, the romance, any Queen related scene, the majority of the dialog, and finally, the romance.
The acting ranges from good (Ewan McGregor, Christopher Lee, Ian McDiarmid) to lobotomized (Natalie Portman, Sam Jackson).
Ultimately, it's enjoyable and exciting; reminiscent of the original trilogy. That's if your willing to forgive it's weaknesses.
Overdirected, overwritten, and just plain overrated
Story: A meager little elf inherits an all powerful ring and must destroy it before it gets into the wrong hands. Hmmm, that sounds like a good storyline, for one ninety minute movie! The screenplay is so prolonged in making its point that it borders on absurdity. I don't care if it's faithful to the book, it does not make for good storytelling, well, unless you consider a Thin Red Line a strong narrative.
I believe in lucid writing. Interesting characters. Good pacing. Effective dialog. Good acting, and strong action (if the story calls for action) -- Well, I think the acting and action are effective as is the photography and score, but the dialog is painful, devoid of any humanity (yes, I know the story doesn't deal with humans), the elves are irritating beyond words, the story is marginal and repetitive. Gets the ring, escape from the bad guys, continue on the quest to get rid of the ring. There's too many characters (for a lucid, tight storyline), there's too much mugging for the camera, making the whole experience for me anti-involving. And frankly, I just kept waiting for it to end. It does have one great sequence, I'll give it that. The bridge. But, I'll wait for video to see Two Towers. I hope I enjoy it a lot more.
The Contender (2000)
Only a man could write dialog like...
"you don't want a woman who hasn't been getting laid with her finger on the red button" says Joan Allen's character. Yep, this fine writer has neglected himself a career writing for soft core porn so he could write insightful character studies like THE CONTENDER. Frankly, I'm not a Democrat or Republican. I disdain what's become of both parties. That is, the maintenance of power by any means possible. I've seen how dirty Republicans can be, and I've also seen how dirty Democrats can be. The film only chooses to indict one of those parties.
Now, if you are, as a viewer, a very left wing Democrat (Roger Ebert), I think you'll love this film. It's well acted, well filmed, and matches the party ideals. Most of the cast is excellent, especially Gary Oldman. But, if you are Republican or non-partisan, I DO NOT recommend this movie. It lacks objectivity. The film seems to have been made more in the interest of promoting Democratic ideals than for telling a truthful, insightful view into politics. So much COULD be said, and almost none of it is.
Is it a bad movie? No, but I can't say it's a good one either. Frankly, I would like to see some damned objectivity from Hollywood instead of the perpetual exaltation of the Leftist mantra. If you're interested in seeing a painfully honest depiction of politics, I would recommend seeing Bulworth instead. It manages to be highly entertaining and get it's point across. And, unlike this movie, it's not a whitewash.
An attempt at objectivity
It's almost impossible to set aside the expectations of what this film could've been. I'm as big of a fan as there is of the original trilogy. I loved the characters, the look, the pacing, the sense of wonder, and endless hours of thought that must have gone into the writing. They were simple, clear, and as effective as sci-fi fantasy can be. Scenes rarely felt recycled, and they usually concluded taking a surprising twist you didn't expect.. i.e. Luke's defeat of the Rancor monster by closing the gate over him, Luke cutting off the front of a Speeder bike, sending the rider twirling about, etc. We were entering worlds through the eyes of characters who were more or less fleshed out, and in every scene, there's was something clever. This cannot be said of the Phantom Menace.
As much as I want to call Phantom Menace the worst film of all time, it's really not fair to. It's just an okay movie in my opinion, and the opinion of MANY. Everything on screen is basically something we've seen before. Whether it's battle droids ala Terminator 2, or a pod race ala Jedi meets Ben Hur, but somehow still lacks excitement. A scene of Phantom might go the following way: battle droids shoot lazers at Obi-wan. He runs away. Whereas think of an escape scenario in EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Remember the scene where Han Solo was trying to escape from the imperial cruiser. First there was an unexpected flight through a meteor shower, then landing inside the belly of a creature, the landing on top of the cruiser they were following. That was wonderful clever, well thought out writing. Phantom writing is just so routine and uncreative.
The Phantom menace storyline is actually very complicated. If I understood it right, two jedis are sent to negotiate a peace treaty between a petty band of merchants who have formed a blockade over a planet, but they're really being backed by renegade element (Darth Sideous) in the galactic senate. Rather than cave in, the Jedis are attacked and flee to the neighboring planet as it's attacked by the invading Phantom Menace (trade federation). They befriend a sea creature who looks like a cartoon, and attempt to involve his underwater friends into .... yada yada yada. The story is extremely muddled. It's not clean. It ultimately feels like it's about.... nothing. How about... a nice clean, direct, effect storyline, just like each installment the original trilogy. Let's analyze... A NEW HOPE, it's the story of a farm boy who aspires for something more, leaving his home behind and embarking in a mission to rescue a princess from the clutches of a power villain who's the threat to freedom to the know galaxy. He saves the princess, and defeats the villain.
There you go, a simple, effective storyline. The layers, characterization, and magic, etc. is what you add to that clean story concept. But at the heart of any strong story, the spine exists. Lucas spent years writing the original, and he made every element as clear as could be. So, imagine the Phantom Menace was the following:
A noble Jedi sets forth to defeat what he believes is a threat to the galaxy, only to discover that the villain was set forth by his own mentor. He defeats the villain, but not his mentor, and the movement known as the empire begins.
So many possibilities. So many wondrous worlds never visited. So many characters under, or just not developed at all. Most of the actors spoke their lines as though they didn't know what the hell they were talking about. And then on top of that, the look of the film was just so... blah. I'll take the ships, weapons, vehicles, architecture of the originals any day.
I can accept this film as an experiment. And had it been an ABC movie of the week entitled, BEFORE THE WARS, I'd like it a heck of a lot more. But as is, it defames the originals. >