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What a let down. Koyaanisqatsi was brilliant, Powaqatsi was quite good, Naqoyqatsi is the same thing all over again, without the beauty and profundity.
It's not that I don't sympathise with the meaning behind the film, but bombarding me with images of dollar signs and corporate logos is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. The majority of those who view this movie do not need to be chaperoned around these issues.
The film feels structureless and jumps back and forth from one point to the next and then back again. I suppose you could argue that this reflects the chaotic nature of the films subject matter, but to me, that's just making excuses for a poorly conceived narrative.
The computer graphics don't work well at all. They often feel like an excuse to show of a few fancy special effects and already look dated (Max Headroom came to mind on several oc...oc...oc...occasions.). They just don't have the beauty of a 'real' image.
To add insult to injury, the film has been stretched out from a 4:3 aspect ratio to 16:9 so all of the people appear distorted. This is because the stock footage used was 4:3 and they couldn't be bothered editing it to fit into a widescreen presentation. They just stretched the lot, and when you watch the DVD it is very noticeable. It's claimed that this was a deliberate move and not a decision based on technical difficulties, but I'm not sure.
Overall - I'd say watch koyaanisqatsi again - it's the only film out of the three worth repeated viewings.
Stir of Echoes (1999)
Stir of Echoes is a very good horror thriller in the traditional sense. It's the story of a guy who gets hypnotised and develops precognitive psychic abilities which he can't control.
Kevin Bacon is excellent and shows he can be a leading man, while the rest of the cast performs well. Sets, special effects and cinematography are all very good - nothing flashy but solid.
It has shocks and suspense, especially in the first half, and although it could be accused of being a little clichéd, it never strays too far into the 'seen it all before' category.
The second half of the film turns into a more traditional thriller but still holds up well, unlike similarly themed movies such as 'What Lies Beneath.' This is because it is pleasingly short, lasting around 90 minutes (the correct length for a film of this type). There are some plot strands that aren't explained, but this can be forgiven because of the film's running time.
Although not mind blowing, it has a decent payoff at the end and left me satisfied that I'd just watched a good movie. Not a great one, but a good one. Pick this one up cheap on DVD.
Make no mistake -- you need to get into the right mood to properly enjoy this film. Try watching it with your cynical or populist friends and they'll pour scorn upon it. Don't try to convince others to 'get it' as they won't.
The best thing to do is to turn off all of the lights, pump up the sound and absorb yourself in the spectacle that unfolds on the screen. If you do this, you'll experience one of the most breathtaking, moving and exciting pieces of art ever. There are few films that reach these heights -- 2001: A Space Odyssey is the only one that instantly comes to mind.
Don't analyse it until it's finished. Talking through it will ruin it. I've found that the film works best on an emotional level so switch your brain off and just watch and listen. By the time it's finished, you'll feel like you've been on an exhausting and exhilarating journey that you'll want to take again not long afterwards.
Cube Zero (2004)
An unintentional comedy
This was a real let down because I was hoping for so much. The storyline was meant to extend the mythos of the Cube but only really added more mundane questions whilst answering those that would have been better left a mystery.
We are shown how the cube works and even given its purpose, which is a shame, as the best thing about the movies was wondering what the cube is and what it's for. The removal of the paranoid absurdity of the whole situation leaves one feeling slightly deflated. I liked it better when the cube was explained as a cash guzzling project that had spun out of control and had no overall purpose apart from to justify its own existence. In essence the cube was a gravy train without a driver -- it had a kind of perverse logic to it that you can see in many misguided projects today.
It's difficult to care for any of the characters either. None of them are allowed to develop as there are two separate plot lines that only come together at the end. Each plot line tries to establish itself but neither has the time. This leads to the film feeling stretched and cut short.
The 'lab rats' that are in the cube are a bunch of cardboard cut outs who we hardly get to know before the inevitable happens. The guys working outside of the cube are the same. It's a shame as all of the characters had potential, just not the time to realise it.
The worst thing of all is the character of Mr Jax who is a ridiculous parody of a Nazi commanding officer mixed with Mr Bean and Basil Fawlty. This character is impossible to take seriously but is also completely unfunny. I actually found myself grimacing when he was on screen and half expected him to come out with lines like 'vee have vays of making you talk!' Absolutely dire - it practically ruined the movie. At first I thought it was the British comedian Rik Mayall with a joke plastic eye stuck to his face. That would have been preferable.
To round things off, the ending was poor with a stupid terminator style villain and a 'was it all a dream' sequence. What a shame.
Overall - a big disappointment, especially if you're a fan of the brilliant first movie.
Rent this one or borrow it from a friend.
Arlington Road (1999)
Good but not great
Arlington Road is a very enjoyable movie. There's action, intrigue and an intelligent message. It asks something of the viewer as the plot seems full of holes, but on closer inspection, it's actually fairly sound.
At times the acting seems a little over the top. As one reviewer mentioned earlier, at times, characters are reminiscent of those in Rosemary's Baby in their sinister mannerisms. The main protagonist's deteriorating state of mind allows for this depiction -- as the world crumbles around him, things seem to get a little strange.
Overall, I'd recommend this movie to those who like intelligent thrillers. There are better out there (Collateral, The Game, Identity, The Negotiator, Training Day etc) but this one is certainly worth a watch.
The Scorpion King (2002)
I enjoyed The Mummy and it's sequel, The Mummy Returns, so I was quite hopeful when I popped this movie into my DVD player and dimmed the lights.
The plot line was everything I expected it to be including a muscle bound hero, damsels in distress, camels, sand storms and a funny little Arab man sidekick who is a rogue with a heart of gold.
Just think the Mummy mixed with Stargate and a hint of Indiana Jones. On paper, I was expecting a great night in, but it didn't quite work out that way.
The sets and special effects are all reasonable (but not great) and the acting is passable for a movie of this type. The plot line is the usual fare - good vs evil with sword fights galore.
The problem lies in the script and the ineffective characterisation. There was just no reason to feel for the characters and not once did I care what happened to anyone in the movie. Despite repeated attempts to create high drama, it all felt a bit pedestrian and lifeless.
Still, I can recommend this movie if you particularly like the genre and fancy something light, but don't expect to be exhilarated, just mildly entertained.
Little Britain (2003)
Not as good as everyone says...
I like Little Britain. It's reasonably funny with clever gags and sharply observed situations. Despite this, I can't help but agree with some of the reviewers here when they say that it is VERY repetitive and quite derivative. The fast show did characters better and The League of Gentlemen did sick (but funny) jokes better.
There's a slight vacuum in British 'alternative' comedy at the moment. It's been brilliant over the last decade with shows like the aforementioned LOG, the Fast Show, Big Train, Spaced, Reeves and Mortimer, Smack the Pony, Phoenix Nights, The Office etc.
All of these shows have finished. Lucas and Walliams, talented though they may be, should be thankful for this or they might not have so many awards on their shelves.
Urban Gothic (2000)
Thrash Metal Horror
I really like Urban Gothic in a number of ways.
It's wildly uneven and you never know what you're going to get. Half the episodes are boring, predictable or just plain funny (see the episode called 'pineapple chunks' and you'll understand.) The other half are brilliant, unusual and original.
It's violent and doesn't pretend it has a moral reason to be that way. The fact is that gut wrenching violence can sometimes shock and horrify. We're not talking 'video nasty' proportions here, but you'll wince at some of the scenes. Because of this capacity for violence and its cheapness, you're always on the edge, wondering if something horrible is about to happen. This is no sanitised hollywood production and it's all the better for it. It feels grubby - the title sequence really demonstrates what the show is about.
This is really cheap on DVD - I managed to get series one for about 9 quid.
I'm off to order series 2!
28 Days Later... (2002)
Post Apocalyptic Classic
I felt compelled to add my opinion to the comments here as this movie is being unjustly slaughtered.
It's not a zombie flick - if you're expecting 'Dawn of the Dead' you may be in for a let down. The people who are infected with Rage have a disease and don't eat human flesh. Sure, they run around in packs and attack the uninfected, but the film isn't about claustrophobia and cannibalism.
It's clearly homage to Day of the Triffids (and to a certain extent The Omega Man.) There's nothing wrong with that.
One of the reasons why 28 days later is being attacked here is because of people's erroneous expectations. People watch a movie trailer and think they can tell what the film is going to be like. We should learn that this isn't the case and often trailers just show the most action packed or exciting bits - I thought this was widely known!
To those who were disappointed when they went to see the film because they expected an out and out thriller, maybe they should have done just a little bit of research first. This is why we have the IMDB right?
To an earlier reviewer who made a snide remark towards British films, perhaps it'd be worth considering how many films are made in Britain compared to the US, and what proportion of those are high quality. Britain doesn't have much of a film industry compared to Hollywood, but I could name lots of good movies from both countries (and lots of Turkeys.)
******************** ***SPOILERS BELOW*** ********************
Those who point out holes in the plot are being a little harsh. When they drive into the tunnel, it's obvious that Frank (the driver) is suffering from a mental breakdown. Cut the guy some slack! He's just spent the last few days getting over the death of his wife (and everybody else) whilst protecting his daughter from bloodthirsty lunatics with a baseball bat and a riot shield. The guy's feeling a little crazy. Jim points out that it's a stupid idea to go underground but he's ignored.
In response to another point about the way the soldiers wanted to get 'laid,' this is explained by Major West as an attempt to give the men some hope of a future life that may contain some normality (a family and children perhaps.) Clearly, this isn't what happens and the soldiers have turned into callous thugs, but there is logic here. If you were the leader of a group of isolated men in a post-apocalyptic situation, would you not state that it is important to find women and attempt to build families and save the human race from extinction? In situations of extreme stress (like wars) noble men can commit terrible acts and good intentions can be warped by desperation.
If you look a little deeper into this movie, it becomes apparent that it's not about zombies at all, but rather about the perilous state of the human condition. We think we are civilised and 'good' but what happens to us when the excrement hits the fan? Does the 'goodness' evaporate away leaving only savagery?
This movie seems to be saying that we turn a blind eye to the terrible things that are going on around the world because they're not happening to us. Status quo is maintained for those that live in wealthy nations, but as soon as our the rug is pulled from under us, we turn into the same people that we see brutally killing eachother on the six o'clock news. When our security is taken away, we cease to see people as individuals...they become casualty reports. Women become incubators or objects that are easy to brutalize (Bosnia anyone?)
Our morals and civility are eaten away as self-preservation kicks in big time. As Jim finds out towards the end of the film, you don't need to be infected to get the rage...it's already within all of us and is waiting to come out.
If this is the case, should we accept our innate violence and go with it when it's needed, or should fight against it and struggle to contain our selfish desires?
All of the characters in the film (apart from the young girl) go through this moral crisis. Selena learns that survival isn't everything when it's at the expense of one's self respect, and Jim learns that violence is sometimes necessary and in some situations may be unavoidable.
For those of you that have seen Straw Dogs, a similar ethical difficulty faced by the main character. Does one use violence to prevent violence?
The question isn't really answered in either film. I was sickened by Jim's descent into barbarism, but wondered what I would do in his situation. Probably the same thing.....a scary thought.
Lots of other questions were raised in this movie and it left me thinking for quite a while. It also left me excited and repelled by the fact that it is very violent. In response to the earlier comment, which recommended skipping the first scenes if you're watching it with children, take my advice - don't watch any of this film with kids. It contains extreme violence throughout and deals with adult themes that are definitely not for the young.
To sum up, I implore you to not be put off by the negative comments about this movie that are expressed here. If you like intelligent films - this is one to try. Just don't watch it with your auntie Mable - she probably won't like it.
Moon 44 (1990)
Give it a miss...
I'm suprised about the amount of positivity expressed towards this movie as it is quite poor. As a long standing SF fan I was looking forward to it, despite it's low budget and the fact that the director's subsequent movies have been less than satisfactory.
The good points: The special effects are reasonable (although not great) and the set designs are excellent (quite reminiscent of Alien.)
The bad points: Cliche after cliche hits you until you can't take it seriously. The handsome tough guy cop who smokes a cigarette out of the corner of his mouth. You'll hate this character unless you like one dimensional humourless carboard cut out stereotypes.
The muscle bound convicts who bully everyone else. IS this a prison for body builders or something?
The geeky computer wiz kids and their quirky humour. How we laughed.
The obvious 'good guy saves the day' ending.
Malcolm Mcdowell. Why does he take movies like this? Such a fine actor is wasted here.
The plot holes are too numerous to mention here but there are lots and lots - probably about 44.
There really isn't anything to like about this film apart from the average visuals.
I advise you to give this one a miss and pick up a very similar but far superiour movie called 'Outland' starring Sean Connery and directed by Peter Hyams.
I agree with most of the posters here. This is lightweight entertainment but it's great fun, especially if you like your SF. Performances are reasonable - there's some action, a love interest and some nice effects. There's also some pretty bad effects - I'm talking about the snake man which was like a rubbish version of Ray Harryhausen (of whom I'm a fan, but this just sucked.)
A special mention goes to the music which will not be on your list of top sound tracks.
Don't expect anything much - just sit back and enjoy this slice of 80's pulp SF.
Wo hu cang long (2000)
I was really looking forward to this movie and finally got round to catching it on DVD. Firstly, I admit that I watched the dubbed version which, although approved by Ang Lee, was stunted and did the film a disservice. The voice acting was wooden - simple as that. Hey - it was late and I didn't fancy keeping an eye on subtitles!
The plotline was interesting but nothing special - the story of a stolen sword intertwining with that of a young woman who must decide which path she wants to take in her life. It's quite long winded but worth sticking with despite it ham-fistedness because the loose ends are tied up quite beautifully.
The only great thing about this film is the visuals that are simply stunning. The fight scenes are over rated and what really stands out is the gentle cinematography that frames the story in a mythical almost childlike fashion. It's basically a fairytale - just imagine you were to write down the story on paper and read it to your children (once upon a time there was a mighty sword....)
I was left fairly cold by this film, despite the beautifully poetic ending. I disagree with what some others have written in that I don't think this is a better film than Gladiator. Visually it could be argued that it is superior, but in all other ways it is inferior.
It is a good film in it's own right and is well worth your time, although whether you'll return for repeated viewings is another matter.
From the Dead of Night (1989)
One for Lindsay fans only..
Seems to me that a lot of the posts for this movie are from Lindsay Wagner fans and TV watchers. I'm neither of those and am putting forward my point of view as a horror/SF fan - perhaps providing a little bit of balance to the comments here that seem to consist of 'this is really scary' and 'Lindsay we love you.'
I watched this movie hoping for some chills and it certainly delivered...eventually. There's lots of good things on offer including some very tense scenes, reasonable acting and good direction (check out the scene where Joanna is in the lift and feeling claustrophobic - excellent stuff.) It's not a classic by any stretch of the imagination but it passed the time and had a few good frights.
On the negative side, at times it's painfully slow. Some scenes are shown more than once - for example we get a long panning shot of a a woman reading tarot cards, then later in the film we get the same shot again. This is probably because the original TV movie was shown in two parts, so the audience wouldn't have noticed and it might help them to recap the plot. I did notice and was tempted to hit fast-forward more than once.
As for the plot, despite what some others have said, it has little originality. If you've seen 'flatliners' (admittedly released one year later) you'll notice similarities immediately.
Much of the spookiness is engineered using cliched stuff such as skulls, candles and the ever reliable tarot cards. I almost jumped out of my seat with shock when the woman did a tarot reading and turned over the......*gulp*....'death' card. Scary stuff.
It's obvious from the start who Joanna is going to fall in love with (If he's good enough for Delenn he's good enough for anyone!) and the ending is unsurprising and actually a bit of an anticlimax. It's on the lines of 'oh look - if we just do this everything will be alright in the morning..'
To sum up, I got this DVD for about four pounds in the UK and don't think it was worth the money. It's exactly what is says on the tin - a TV movie with everything you'd expect from one. Watch it if it comes on cable, borrow it from a friend if you must but don't buy it, unless you're a big fan of Lindsay Wagner.
House on Haunted Hill (1959)
I can't add much to the other reviews here - there's a pretty balanced perspective on this movie.
Personally, I loved it! It's not scary but the atmosphere is perfectly created somewhere inbetween Scooby-Doo, the Adams Family (original TV show) and your perfect haunted house daydream (skeletons, severed heads, secret passages etc.)
Don't take it too seriously and you'll love it. Curl up with a loved one, get some popcorn and turn the lights out. It's a classic of it's type.
The Boondock Saints (1999)
Boondock Saints is an interesting film that's worth seeing. It's the story of two devoutly religious American Irish men who decide (are chosen?) to kill a lot of the underworld lowlife in their neighbourhood.
The main questions raised in the film concern the legitimacy of killing criminals and the failure of the justice system, all mixed up with some religious symbolism.
If you think this all sounds really heavy and deep, think again. As one previous reviewer pointed out, this movie steals from lots of other action/gangster films such as 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' and 'Pulp Fiction.' There's a lot of stylised violence, slow motion and flashbacks. The whole thing is self consciously hip in a Tarrantino kind of way which can be a good thing, and in this case it mostly works.
The plotline and acting are quite good. One minute your eyes are assaulted by violence, and the next you're laughing as something funny happens - it's quite unusual in that it mixes the two fairly successfully. At times some of what happens verges on the ridiculous (when they fall out of the ventilation shaft) but it all fits in with the tongue in cheek nature of the picture.
One thing worth mentioning is the terrible accents and Irish cliches. It's up there with 'Shaft' as an example of taking the traits of a particular grouping and amplifying them tenfold. Take it from me - not every Irish person is a cheeky chirpy chappy who is always happy to buy you a pint of Guinness, a drunk salt of the Earth type or a Westlife style pretty boy! And the barman who mixes up his proverbs and swears a lot is straight from 'Father Ted'!
Still, this didn't detract from the proceedings too much and I thoroughly enjoyed the film. It's nowhere near the greatest film ever as some reviewers have said here (what planet are such people on? I suspect they're impressed with fancy editing and guns) but it's good entertainment and a nice first time effort from Troy Duffy (although I'd like to see something a little more original next time.)
Rent it or buy it cheap.
Vanishing Point (1971)
As a fan of 70's movies I was really looking forward to this film. Unfortunately, I was let down by a few things.
The acting is reasonable, but with so little script, there's little characterisation to latch onto. I understand that the main character Kowalski is supposed to be a loner and doesn't say much, but if this is the case, the supporting characters need to bring something more to proceedings. As it stands, the only other character worthy of note is Super Soul and and although he does an adequate job of playing the stereotypical soulman, it's not enough.
I like films with a plot. I don't mind if it's drawn out or confusing as long as it's there and it makes me think. This movie so wants to be deep, and yet it fails. The idea that Kowalski is a symbol of freedom is all well and good, but since what he's doing is pointless and benefits nobody, how is he free? Because he decides to drive dangerously fast so he can get a better deal on some drugs when he gets home? I don't have a problem with the pro-drugs nature of the movie, but as for a statement of freedom, I don't see it. Lets say he runs over someone and kills them - how is he free?
In reading the reviews here, many people seem to have misinterpreted the meaning of this film. To me, it's more of a statement of a man's reaction against his despair at the downturn in his life. He feels so isolated and ruined - his previous jobs were ace racing driver and top cop and now he's a lowly car delivery man. He goes on one final pointless race, but this time it's against the world (hence his last self destructive act.)
It's one final act of defiance against a life with a rapidly vanishing point (hence the title in case you're not paying attention.) If it is to do with freedom, it's only in that he frees himself from his miserable life.
Even if this is the meaning behind it (if there is one at all) the film doesn't deal with it very well.
Likewise, the characters he meets along the way are woefully underused. The religious cult has little point (apart from perhaps symbolising the breakdown of traditional religious beliefs) and only just makes it onto the screen before its gone again. The two homosexuals he picks up on the road are disposed of before we know anything about them. The police officers are just stupid planks for him to run off the road a la Smokie and the Bandit. The traveling dude who collects snakes - he barely even had a chance to establish a character before he's gone again. The nude motorcycle rider - let's face it - she was just there for us guys to look at (not that I mind, but why not give her a reason to be there rather than some contrived idea that Kowalski rescued her when she was a kid?)
On the plus side, I did enjoy the car chases, although considering they're the main focus of the film, they weren't even as good as those in other movies (Bullitt, French Connection etc.) Likewise, the music was good, but not great. What I did like a lot was the fact that this is a period piece - it personifies a time when the hippy movement was breaking down and society was in a state of flux. It's stylised in a way that I really enjoyed and at times reminded me of Duel or more applicably Easy Rider.
To sum up, if you're a fan of 70's movies - this one could be for you. If you enjoyed Easy Rider, this isn't anywhere near as good but is well worth a look. Not a classic, but very interesting.
The Legend of Hell House (1973)
One of the best
This is a classic haunted house plot line executed with quite some style. Four people are sent to a spooky mansion to determine whether the afterlife exists - if they spend a week there they'll each be rewarded with £100,000. The group consists of a psychic investigator and his wife plus two mediums, one of whom barely escaped the house with his life 20 years previously.
The tale unfolds in a cliched way - fog, leering statues and a malevolent cat, but it's tempered by a minimalist edge. There's little music and when it is used, it's very effective (in a similar vein to Philip Kaufman's 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.) We're given the time and date at the start of some scenes, as if it's a scientific journal of events or a documentary. The cinematography is perfect with judicious use of unusual angles and lenses to create a surreal off beat effect.
Unfortunately, this film doesn't quite reach the heights of other classics like 'The Wicker Man', 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers,' 'The Haunting' or 'The Others' because of it's ending. I won't spoil it here but suffice it to say that it's unsatisfactory. It could have been fine if clues had been given throughout the movie - perhaps flashbacks to the tormented life of Belasco to help us understand the suffering and eventual madness he went through. As it stands, it seems pretty lame which is a shame as the rest of the movie is almost perfect.
If you like the films mentioned above or are a fan of 70's movies - this is a flawed classic. It comes highly recommended.
What a shame
I had high hopes for this movie. It has a stellar cast featuring some of my favourite actors, is based on a supposedly brilliant book and claims to be for the more cerebral viewer. Throw in a mix of eccentric characters, voodoo and murder and we have a potential classic.
What we end up with is a drawn out mess with a great movie in there somewhere. I agree completely with what an earlier reviewer said in that there's too much time wasted on incidental characters. Both Lady Chablis and Mandy Nichols are almost irrelevant to the murder investigation, but take up large chunks of screen time. At least Chablis is funny (I say team her up with Cusack and remake the lethal weapon movies) but the Mandy character was completely irrelevant.
Then there's the plot. It could have been great. The mix of eccentric characters, unusual setting and cultural mixtures offered the chance to create something really original. The movie begins and I'm wondering who these people are, what secrets they hold and what is really going on. I suspect that all will be revealed and I wait expectantly.
I wait and wait but nothing really happens. The story goes down the courtroom drama route, popping in for a bit of apparently irrelevant voodoo on the way and ends up feeling like a melodrama that doesn't know whether it's a comedy, a thriller or a mixture of the two. I was never sure, but I laughed more than I was thrilled, and I didn't laugh much.
The acting is decidedly downbeat. Cusack is solid as always, but never brilliant. I'd like to see him play a different character from the intelligent but slightly hapless liberal. Spacey isn't great and Jude Law hardly in it at all. Nobody shines - it's all very mediocre.
And yet I can't say I didn't enjoy it. I half suspect that with repeated viewings, something will be revealed to me that could make me more positive towards it. It's as if there's something there that I can't quite grasp. Maybe it's just that it has all the attributes of the type of movies I like, but hasn't the quality in any area to raise it up to the level of great.
As an aside, is anyone else irritated by the constant use of overweight voodoo women who appear to be blind (but can see...oh yes...) and laugh knowingly to themselves? Her character reminded me of the voodoo priestess character from Lucasarts' The Secret of Monkey Island games.
I'd say rent this one or pass on it completely.
Not quite Se7en...
...but almost. The similarities are there for all to see. A uncorruptable cop, a rainy city, an intricate plotline involving a clever serial killer and a noirish feel to the whole thing.
Make no mistake - like Se7en, Fallen is a very good movie.
The acting is great for the most part (especially from Denzel) although it's depressing to see Donald Sutherland (one of my heroes) wasting himself on yet another meaningless chief of police/army/prisons role. John Goodman was a bit hard to accept as a hard bitten cop, but that's my fault rather than his as his acting was good, I just can't quite shake Rosanne out of my mind.
The plot is good despite some oversights that if examined closely produce logic problems. Examine almost any movie too closely and you'll find these - you're either willing to accept them (as long as they're not too major) or you're not. I fall into the former camp - when we see a movie we're only witnessing a slice of what is going on. There may be a perfectly good reason why Azazel didn't transfer into Hobbes from the beginning - just because the plot doesn't spell it out to us doesn't mean it's a logic flaw.
Azazel's transference from person to person produces some really good scenes, especially when Gretta Milano is fleeing from him, and when Hobbes accosts him on the street after his visit to the precinct. The ending is a pleasure and has a classic twist - the use of the flashback sequence at the beginning was inspired.
Overall - there's quite a lot going for this movie - I'd go as far as to say that it's one of the best thrillers of recent years. With good performances, plot and an intelligent message somewhere within, Fallen is well worth your time.
I like their Pizzas too
Movies like Goodellas need no introduction. Almost everyone's seen it and everyone (in their right mind) highly rates it. It's inspired countless imitators and parodies - De Niro has made a living out of playing Jimmy...I'm beginning to wonder if in future he'll see it as a weight around his neck as he must get offered every gangster role in Hollywood.
I rewatched it a couple of weeks ago and it still stands up as a fantastic piece of cinema. The acting is top notch and the script fantastic - the oft quoted Pesci scene 'you think I'm funny? Funny How?' is still very effective. The soundtrack is great, blah blah blah...
Yup - it's very good. If you haven't seen it (call yourself a movie buff?) then do so. If you have - see it again. My one negative comment is the crappy quality of the DVD - will somebody get their act together and release an anamorphic widescreen version with some decent extras? Like I'm not breaking your balls, but this is one of the greatest movies of the twentieth century and deserves some respect...
Retro Sci-Fi Heaven
It's movies like this that make the 70's my favourite decade for film.
It's the story of one man's refusal to accept his assimilation into a society run by corporations. Jonathan E is a participant in a violent sport called Rollerball. He becomes so successful and popular that he begins to supersede the sport itself - comparisons in the twentieth century can be made to figures like Muhammad Ali or Michael Jordan.
The corporations that run the world also run Rollerball and use it as a method of control. They see people's violent instincts as a threat to the status quo and use the sport as a social tranquiliser. As such, the game is excessively violent, the participants risking death. The spectators support their teams aggressively and frequently enter into near riots. When it's all over, they return to their homes and jobs, Rollerball having provided an outlet for their frustrations.
Then things begin to go wrong. If Jonathan E becomes too popular, it threatens the efficiency of the mechanism. Rollerball must reflect the way society works - nobody can succeed as an individual.
The heads of the corporations get nervous and decide to force Jonathan to retire. He doesn't understand why and refuses - as a consequence, they change the rules so that each match gets more and more deadly in the hope that he'll be killed and the anti-individualistic ethos will be restored. The more violent the games become, the more violent the spectators become...
It's a thought provoking plot that makes one consider the role of television, sport and social control. It reminds me of what happened to Ali when he spoke out against the Vietnam war - the powers that be tried to discredit him. He scared them as he had so much influence on public opinion.
Take a moment to consider the popularity of so called 'reality TV' shows like Survivor and Big Brother. Are they so different from what is depicted in this movie? Like Rollerball, their essential ingredient is human suffering. If we're truly honest, we want to see the people argue. It's even better when we get a closeup of the pain on their face right? If they need to go without food for a while to get to a stage where they're at eachother's throats - all the better. Sure - we all say we're not like that - but why do we watch? It's an uncomfortable thought isn't it. To keep ratings high, the traumatic things the participants have to go through are getting worse and worse. How long will it be before national humiliation isn't enough to maintain the viewers interest? Does anybody really believe that the program makers wouldn't include shows with violent aspects if they thought they could get away with it?? What will reality TV be like in 20 years?
The acting in the movie is excellent with James Caan, John Houseman and John Beck doing great jobs. Like the society in which they live, they come over as cold - distant. It's pitched just right.
The sets are fantastic and are mostly real buildings that were specially selected to create the look. Again, they're sterile and perfectly put over what's going on.
The cinematography is great, especially when we get to see the three Rollerball games. Closeups and fast cuts work well giving a good feeling of speed and brutality. The shots of the crowd are especially effective and look like a real riot (just look at real life scenes of soccer violence from here in the UK and you'll see the similarity.)
To summarise, if you're a fan of 70's cinema or Sci-Fi, Rollerball is an absolute must. Some say the middle part of the film is boring, but if you watch properly and give it some thought, it's integral to the meaning of the whole picture. The three games of Rollerball are breathtaking and if you just like action movies, it's worth seeing just for those. With the new DVD giving it a fresh lease of life, it's well worth checking out.
Babylon 5 (1994)
Babylon 5 is the greatest science fiction show in the history of television.
A bold statement I know, especially when one considers the original series of Star Trek which is certainly the genre's most celebrated. It's true to say that Star Trek has had a much greater cultural impact and has lasted longer than any other SF show, but when watching it again, it has dated. I'm not questioning the brilliance of some early episodes - they're still well written and thought provoking - season 1 of the old series is still fantastic. However, Babylon 5 is the Star Trek for today in that it deals with issues in a modern context. Whereas ST was a bunch of cleverly disguised morality plays about 1960's issues like communism, nuclear war and racial prejudice, B5 deals with social control, economics, war, governmental corruption, social psychology and spirituality. Although the issues discussed in Star Trek haven't gone away, they're not foremost in the psyche of mr average anymore.
Alongside the fact that B5 discusses issues at the forefront, it has many other virtues. The main one is that the story continues from episode to episode - even now when I re-watch season one (just released on DVD) I can see events taking shape that will lead to major plotlines in future years. I'm not just talking about Data gradually becoming more human or Worf tussling with the dying Kilingon Empire every 7 or 8 episodes ... I'm talking about characters and plots that can be seen to be evolving each week without an obvious good guys vs bad guys scenario.
I can't remember how many times I've watched a B5 episode and had a flashback to an earlier one - the sudden realisation of the importance of an event that seemed insignificant is very satisfying. Even in the 5th series, you'll be thinking back to an episode in series 1 and feeling smug that you got it.
'Ahhhh! That's what it meant!' You'll be saying that a lot.
The characters are wonderfully fleshed out by some great actors. They're complex beings who have to deal with temptations and failings as well as triumphs and successes. Sometimes things go deeply wrong and (get this Trek Fans) IT'S NOT SORTED OUT BY THE END OF THE EPISODE!! That's right - people change realistically - everything's not reset each week! Don't get me wrong - I'm a huge Trek fan myself, but it's always irked me that everything is just so hunky dory (don't people have arguments on the enterprise?)
It's very satisfying to see a character that you've come to know and love wrestle with their morals and sometimes make the wrong choices (just like we all do.) In the end, we all knew the various crewmembers of the Enterprise would do the right thing. You can't say the same for the characters on B5 - they're fallible and thus much more interesting.
There's many other great things about the show, but for me, the story and the characters are the most important. Sure, I know it doesn't look as expensive as Star Trek and yes I know it's hard to get into because it's not a whole load of 'one shot' episodes! If you like Star Trek and consider yourself intelligent - step up to the next level and watch B5!
I guarantee that if you stick with it for a while, you'll be glad you did because the payoffs are enormous. If My girlfriend can like it - anyone can....
Free Enterprise (1998)
A Niche Movie
Free Enterprise is the story of a group of guys who are hitting 30 and trying to deal with life, work and relationships. Sounds like every other coming of age/rites of passage drama doesn't it - you're already yawning at the prospect right?
Well you shouldn't if you like the Sci-Fi genre, especially Star Trek. The characters are obsessed by the show and constantly talk about it, quote it and collect everything to do with it. When they're not sure what to do in their relationships or jobs - they wonder how Captain Kirk would handle it. When it comes to choosing between paying the electricity bill or buying a classic action figure, they opt for the doll. Women leave them and they get fired - suffice it to say they're not happy with their lives.
In the middle of all this, they meet Bill Shatner in a bookstore. To say that they're excited is an understatement and when he offers them the chance to help him with his new acting project, they readily accept. The Shatman is a Sci-Fi god - he can do no wrong, right?
Well, it doesn't turn out quite like that. Along the way, everyone learns about themselves and some myths are shattered. Shatner isn't Kirk - action figures are not more important than electricity bills and sci-fi is a great hobby as long as it doesn't get out of control.
Whether or not you'll enjoy this movie depends on your own life and experiences. I found it to be amazingly accurate in many of it's observations, but then I'm not too dissimilar to the characters. I'm 30, a Sci-Fi/Star Trek fan and see employment as an impediment to my leisure time. I don't feel that wearing a suit and being 'responsible' is something to aim for and have no desire to be corporately assimilated. I'm pretty much like the guys in the movie, although I'm nowhere near as obsessed (that's what they all say right?)
They're living a parody of my life and the life of many others like me.
As such, for me the movie was interesting and funny, even poignant sometimes, but I'm pretty certain it won't be the same for everyone.
I found some of the points made in the plot were spot on, for example:
Why is it that collecting every episode of Star Trek is 'boys with toys' but women can own fifty pairs of shoes? Isn't that just the same? If Sci-Fi is juvenile, isn't spending hours on makeup and clothes simply 'girls playing dressing up games?'
What is the point of a $50,000 engagement ring - it has no use apart from to look pretty! To say it's a sign of love is crap - wouldn't some genuine care and affection be better? It's a sign of greed, not love - a cheaper ring could be just as beautiful.
There are many more examples, and while watching it with my girlfriend there were more than a few knowing looks passed between us. Sure - I don't buy action figures and she doesn't own fifty pairs of shoes, but similar issues are often discussed. That very same day when I bought the Free Enterprise DVD, she was salivating over another pair of shoes and I almost bought the new Rollerball DVD...
To sum up, Free Enterprise is funny and interesting, but if you don't like Sci-Fi it's mediocre and probably quite boring. The acting is passable but not brilliant and as everyone else has said, Shatner steals the show easily. It's a shame he doesn't get a lot more screen time (Maybe he finally realized that if he monopolizes the camera too much his colleagues will end up hating him....)
If you like Star Trek and Sci-Fi - you have to get this movie. If you don't, i'd say give it a miss.
=============================================================> Incidentally, there's a comedy show on TV in the UK called 'Spaced' that has lots of Horror/Sci-Fi fanboy film references. If you like Free Enterprise or enjoy British comedy and you get a chance to see it, check it out.
Don't Answer the Phone!
If I had to choose one word to sum up this movie it'd be 'ingenious.'
Leonard Shelby has a rare memory disorder - he can't remember anything since he had a blow on the head after fighting with his wife's killer. He knows everything about himself up to that point, but new memories gradually fade and are quickly lost. He'll be talking to someone but will forget how the conversation started. He'll wake up in a hotel room completely ignorant of how he got there. Since his last memory is of his dying wife, he lives in grief and his only goal in life is to catch and kill John G - his wife's murderer.
The film opens with the final scene in the plot and gradually takes you back through the story so that you only know why events take place after they've occurred.
This means that you instantly empathize with Leonard - there's no way you couldn't as like him, you don't 'remember' what's gone before. It's a rare breed - a movie that manages to transfer you into the mind of the main character using the film making technique rather than the plot. Like it or not, while watching it YOU TOO have a memory disorder and are forced to see the world through Leonard's eyes - truly ingenious.
As it goes on, you gradually realise that all isn't it seems and nobody is as they appear. I'm not going to give anything else away as it'll spoil it, but suffice it to say that it has a great twisting story, excellent acting and is shot beautifully in a minimalist noirish kind of way.
It's a film that needs multiple viewings - I certainly had to watch it two or three times before I understood exactly what's going on, but when all the pieces finally fit together it's a great feeling. The region 2 DVD has a hidden feature that allows one to watch the film rearranged in the correct order (it even has the credits running backwards at the beginning etc) which means that when you've finally worked it all out, you can check that your deductions are correct and that you properly understood. This is a brilliant feature and certainly adds to the film's longevity.
There are very few films that offer an experience as engrossing as this, although it's not for everyone. If you're the kind of person that likes to work things out for yourself using the available evidence (just like Leonard) then this is for you. If you like your movies to be clear cut and easy to understand on the original viewing, this may not be to your taste.
For me, it's one of the greatest films of recent years and comes wholeheartedly recommended.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
They don't make 'em like this anymore, that's for sure...Lawrence of Arabia is one of those movies that defines the term 'epic.'
Without going into the plot in too much detail, it's the story of a British army officer serving in Turkey in WWI. He's sent on a rather vague fact finding mission and ends up falling in love with the desert and it's constantly in-fighting tribal peoples. He attempts to unite them against the Turks and when doing so, embarks upon a journey of self discovery.
Firstly, alongside 2001: A Space Odyssey, this is the best looking film I've ever seen. The cinematography is nothing short of magnificent with some shots leaving one to ponder how they were achieved at all (the documentary on the DVD answers some of these questions.) The scene where Lawrence blows out a match and we cut to an image of the blazing sun is reminiscent of the famous scene in 2001 where the neanderthal throws the bone into the air and we cut to a similarly shaped spaceship. Yes folks - it's that good!! (The image of the sun is the only shot in the movie that's not real - they tried shooting it but it burnt holes in the film, so it's actually a painting.)
The restored 220 minute version looks immaculate - it's as if it was filmed yesterday. Nick Roeg worked as second unit cameraman on this movie and it's clear where he got his inspiration from to make 'Walkabout' nine years later.
The acting is superlative with Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn and others putting in great performances. For me, Alec Guinness was a strange choice to play Prince Feisal and I was never fully convinced, but he still puts in a credible showing - just not his best. O'Toole does a good job of conveying Lawrence's confusion and inner turmoil - at times his eyes say far more than dialogue ever could.
The scale of the film is amazing - thousands of extras, towns built from scratch and full on battle scenes. Despite what some philistines seem to think, there is no substitute for real people charging on real horses with real buildings. There's no trickery in this movie (apart from the aforementioned painting of the sun) and it shows - anyone who champions the use of CGI should watch this film and eat humble pie.
As many others have said, you could easily write pages and pages about this movie. If I was a film student, It'd make a great essay. If you haven't seen it - do so. If you consider yourself to be a fan of intelligent cinema, rush out and buy the DVD as soon as possible, settle down with some munchies and watch the full 3 hours 40 mins. It never drags - It's quite simply one of the greatest movies of all time - period.