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"Show some creativity!"
I, a longtime computer user ("geek" if you prefer), watched this on TV last night and immediately regretted it afterward. Possibly the film could have been better after several script rewrites, but I doubt it. I wonder if the writers were aware of how bad the script was; looking back, Gary Winston's line, "Show some creativity!" (spoken to the company's lawyers), strikes me as ironically appropriate if applied to the movie as a whole. The plot seems a crude and obvious attempt to dramatize the battle between closed-source and open-source software, plainly ripping off the Microsoft antitrust case and adding a conspiratorial element that is highly derivative of Grisham's "The Firm." Creativity is not the only thing the movie is missing -- it also lacks plot coherence, convincing acting, realism of the computer and security systems, non-distracting camera effects... I could go on, but won't because it's not worth the time and energy.
Family burdens laid thick, then lightened
When a retrospective of films directed by Mikio Naruse played in my area a short while ago, I saw quite a few of them in a short span of time, including many of the ones considered classics -- "Repast," "Floating Clouds," "When a Woman Ascends the Stairs," and so on. While I enjoyed them all, some of the plots and characters of the films became muddled in my mind because of the compressed time frame in which I saw them.
Yet parts of this family drama, "Inazuma" ("Lightning"), keep coming back to me months afterward. I think it's because the story resonates so closely with my experience -- that of a young adult trying to make his or her way in the world while struggling with the simultaneous tug and repulsion of one's blood relations. The movie realistically portrays the frustration and misery that can occur within a family under adverse circumstances. But it contains a tinge of hopefulness as well.
Most of us, at one time or another, have become disgusted with members of our family and have felt like running away from them rather than dealing with them and their attendant obligations. "Familiarity breeds contempt," the saying goes. At such times we might even feel more comfortable associating with strangers than with our own kin. That pretty well describes the feelings of Hideko Takamine's character, Kiyoko, during this film. She is the youngest of four adult siblings, each fathered by a different man by their now graying, hapless mother. As the story progresses, Kiyoko becomes increasingly frustrated at her flawed siblings and their constant bickering, begging, and self-pity until she decides she just can't stand them anymore and moves across town in search of a more tranquil domestic life. And for a while she seems to find it.
This probably doesn't sound like a pleasant film to watch, and indeed much of the movie is one agonizing episode after another for Kiyoko. But these episodes often play out in humorous fashion. And the sublime conclusion makes this film especially memorable. Without being too specific, I will say that the ending sequence, in which Kiyoko and her mother have it out with each other, is a masterfully filmed composition of acting, dialogue, and music. It's stirring on many levels. One part of that scene, in which Takamine gazes out her window to the house next door, keeps returning to my mind week after week.
"Lightning" is an emotionally true and ultimately quite satisfying portrayal of an young woman's search for personal happiness in the midst of familial conflict. Much of the credit should go to Takamine's expressive acting, Naruse's skillful intercutting, and Fumiko Hayashi's deftly written story. This is the second of Naruse's films based on stories by Hayashi ("Meshi," a.k.a. "Repast," was the first), and fortunately there would be four more: "Tsuma" ("Wife"), "Bangiku" ("Late Chrysanthemums"), "Ukigumo" ("Floating Clouds"), and "Hourou-ki" ("A Wanderer's Notebook"). I haven't seen "Wife," but the others are all worth seeing, in my opinion. For now, though, "Lightning" is the one I regard with the most affection.
Turbulence 2: Fear of Flying (1999)
a flight of fantasy
** review may contain mild spoilers **
I saw this film on television recently. Because its subject matter is evocative of the 9/11 attacks (despite being filmed two years prior) and our current terrorism fears, it held my interest longer than I expected it would. But to be sure, in the genre of thrillers this is a "C" movie--definitely not in the "must-see" category. If you are looking for action and suspense, this movie has a little bit of both, but you will have to accept a lot of unrealistic plot details along the way. Indeed, by the end of the movie the cumulative effect of the scarcely believable plot and the uninspired dialogue had me chuckling inside. If you like to laugh at mediocrity, then this movie might do the trick for you.
The performances are decent at times, but mostly forgettable. Flashdance's Jennifer Beals, who plays the heroine, and Jody Thompson, a young female passenger in a minor role, are not bad to look at. Unfortunately, for most of the film they are just shrinking in horror as helpless hostages. Tom Berenger, who plays the villain, does a passable job of Cain-raising as an off-his-rocker terrorist, but his character more often strikes the viewer as silly and stupid rather than scary. Craig Sheffer delivers a bland performance as the hero, a former airplane pilot who became a technician/engineer after a flying accident and now has a chance to redeem himself. Plain-looking techies don't usually make good leading men, and Sheffer's Martin Messerman is no exception.
There are few chances for the actors to shine, as the dialogue that they must recite vacillates between the trite and the ridiculous. And the character development is thin, so there's not much depth or motivation underlying the actions of the major players. There is too little chemistry between the lead actors to provide much fulfillment at the end of their shared experience. The film's few attempts at humor are pathetically unfunny, although many other lines that were not intended to be funny may elicit laughs for their absurdity.
Some of the unbelievable moments in the film have been already mentioned. I will add a few more. As in many films, the villain never can bring himself to kill the person who poses the greatest threat to his mission, despite the inherent logic of that act. Also, the plane is supposed to be flying amid severe atmospheric turbulence throughout (consistent with the title), but for long stretches in the middle of the movie, all rocky movement seems to cease as far as the passengers are concerned. And the toxic agent is alternately described as nerve gas and then anthrax.
The movie includes lots of technical details related to 747's that seem to slow down the story without adding much useful realism. Some airline industry consultants are named in the credits at the end, so apparently the script was vetted by knowledgeable people, but that fact makes the scientifically doubtful moments even less excusable.
If you must see an airplane thriller, see Air Force One. If you've already seen Air Force One, the Airport, Airplane!, and Die Hard series are all superior to this clunker.