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Collateral (2004)
2/10
very disappointing
20 February 2005
This film held my attention for about 20 minutes, then it was one absurdity after another; one convenient plot manipulation after another that caused me to lose any semblance of interest. First: no cabbie would have such total independence from the dispatcher - we hear from the dispatcher twice - the first time he gets chewed out by Cruise (yeah, like THAT is going to happen) and the second time to relay that Foxx's mother called. Absurd. Anyone that's been in a cab, much less DRIVEN one, would know that you just don't drive around L.A. all night without checking in or there would be hell to pay not to mention cops looking for you. Cabbies get robbed and/or killed all the time, their disappearance would not go undetected. Second: the body left in the trunk - did Cruise just sort of space out that teeny piece of evidence? Third: good thing a neutron bomb hit L.A. that night so there was no traffic hardly anywhere. Uh huh. It's so helpful that targets in dark, noisy clubs sit where there is bright white light on them so they can be seen clearly not to mention the ease with which our main characters get away in the midst of the (eventual) chaos as the club empties out; the coyotes/wolves crossing the street, the subsequent awful musical interlude, the pseudo-psychological banter between killer and driver were enough to make me roll my eyes. ...And the list just goes on and on. This is not an adult thriller unless you're on meds that dull the senses. This is a mess of a film in spite of the acting being good -- the writing is just sloppy. There is nothing here that Hitchcock would appreciate, as some would assert. Hitchcock had plot conveniences and "coincidences" that would seem implausible, but in the hands of a Master, they were pulled off...not here, though. This is a good example of American cinema: "people don't want anything serious to think about, they just want to be entertained for a couple of hours".

Rent this if you must, but for me, it is 2 hours of my life I'll never get back.
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Shogun (1980)
still worthwhile
15 November 2003
I first saw the mini-series on TV when it came out. I was like millions of other viewers who made sure they were home night after night to see this epic. Now that it's out on DVD, how could I resist? Seeing it on a much bigger screen than existed in the early 80's, I immediately was appalled by the bad hair pieces of almost all of the Japanese actors. It took a while to get used to the seams and wrinkled skullcaps and the makeup that didn't really match. The only other "ouch" moment, for me, came in the opening shot of the "Erasmus" being filmed from a helicopter with Orson Welles narration. It was impressive up until the helicopter shadow goes right over the boat and the water!..... I was amazed that wasn't edited out in post. Ah well. When you watch the bonus material, you get an idea of what a monumentally difficult project this was from the language and custom difficulties to the famous TOHO Studios being about 25 years behind the times with their equipment...not to mention the tank where the shipwreck was filmed. I don't know if I agree with the director and producers that if it wasn't for 'Shogun' sushi would not be as popular in the U.S. as it has become, but it certainly sparked an ongoing interest in Japanese history and culture in me. It will always be one of the crowning achievements for television. It's a miracle that it came off as beautifully as it did. Just don't watch the 2-hour mess that is on video.
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Clockers (1995)
6/10
a teaching tool
3 September 2003
I've watched this film twice. It's good, no doubt. But one thing that isn't mentioned here is that it seems to be a film by Spike Lee to teach the white man what it means to be a black man - especially in the projects of Brooklyn. I found myself saying "message coming in" at certain parts of this. And the trains.....come on. It's like Lee thinks, "what kind of "hobby" can a white person relate to?" so he picks trains...not ONLY that, but the main character doesn't like sports or b-ball or anything but trains, clocking and Mylanta. The first half hour is strong and then the "let's include the white man in on this conversation" comes in and it feel obvious. Lee needs to just tell a story and not be so concerned with the audience - whatEVER color it is. The cinematography is excellent - the characters are great...but Lee is too concerned with making sure the whole color spectrum can relate to his stuff.... which, for me, is just a little too self conscious. I dunno.....6 out of 10 for me.
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Faces (I) (1968)
Difficult but worth it
20 August 2003
I have only recently become acquainted with Cassavetes films and I am continually impressed. This film was made on a shoestring budget filming primarily at night because the actors had day jobs. The working title, I understand, was "Dinosaurs" which sums up things up nicely. This is an important film since it shows flawed human beings especially in a time that was truly in upheaval - the late `60's. But Cassavetes was already anticipating the attempt at overthrowing the status-quo. This is a hard but fascinating film to watch. The masks, the self-loathing, the fear, the confusion of intimacy, the now tired slogan of the war between the sexes with entertainment all driven by prescription pills, alcohol and cigarettes...it's all here. Is it "real" or is it "contrived"? Even a well acted scripted play still can penetrate us. The people and conversation "inane"? You bet. Go to work or a club and listen closely -- we live lives that should never be filmed. Cassavetes films as if he's eavesdropping. Lastly - I could not imagine this film or 'Shadows' in anything but b/w....even if he COULD have afforded color stock. Excellent film.
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Performance: The Changeling (1993)
Season 3, Episode 5
outstanding....
18 August 2003
I felt compelled to add this since the only other review is so negative... I saw this on a videotape of a friend of mine and it blew me away. The extreme violence and state of mind of the Jacobean era truly outclasses Shakespeare. This is, not only a wonderful play, but a wonderful rendition by this cast. Elizabeth McGovern opposite the smarmy Hoskins is sexy, evil and outstanding and, to my mind, Hugh Grant has done very few things better than this. If I could find this film I would buy it in a heartbeat. If you find it somewhere, rent it, borrow it and watch it with attention -- it deserves that much. Great play and great film......
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Shadows (1958)
very impressive...
16 August 2003
This is the 3rd Cassavetes film I've watched and by far the most riveting -- and I can't tell you why. I realize there's a "debate" about it being improv. or not - but it doesn't matter. There is more honesty in this film (racial and otherwise) than in many others with far higher budgets. I was mesmerized thru the whole thing. New York in the early 60's is a sight to behold, but it's only the perfect backdrop to this film. It's the kind of art that you realize can only be done once. And this was it. The scenes at the MET with the Henry Moore sculptures and others underscored this for me. The movie was made once. The "score" was perfection. There can be no sequel, thank God. This is why film is considered an art form.
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James Horner is the star
12 August 2003
I've read a goodly number of the reviews here and I tend to disagree with most of them. True, Brad Pitt is too pretty for this but the real problem with him, as with most of the actors except Hopkins, is the idea of "buy-in". They just aren't fully invested in the thing emotionally. When Pitt gets "riled" and does a "Fight Club" number on someone -- he's in his element, but otherwise, no. And I won't even mention that mane of hair on the front lines in WWI...please...and the preposterous notion that all 3 brothers would be in the same unit at the same battle at the same time....absurd, but handy. The "Indian sequence with the heart' in the middle of the war truly bordered on the hilarious for me - that was an eye-roller, but I 'got it'. It's the MUSIC that makes it epic and grand and underscores the magnificent scenery. However, even James Horner can get a little too heavy-handed for my tastes.

One aspect that I found most accurate as far as much of 'real life' goes and disturbingly unnoticed is the female role. She gets the goods from all 3 of them. How nice for her. She can 'lament' all her other loves while living rent free, work free (unless you count wrangling horses with Brad)and for the most part doing quite well for herself. She just appears and ruins the whole bloody family. Well, that's the "Fall" I suppose and the legends associated with it. To me, it was nauseating to see her divide and conquer for 2 hours. Those poor saps. If she hadn't come along, well, I guess there would never have been a movie or a book. The suicide was just plain bizarre....but, well, ok fine.

I don't rate this film all that highly but not because it's "convoluted", it's not --- it's very straightforward, it just requires too many leaps of logic. Maybe 4 to 5 stars..... I've seen it once and that's plenty.
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worth the time invested
9 August 2003
I agree with the above comment completely. O'Neill is not everyone's cup of tea, but if you ARE interested in some of the greatest American dramas ever penned, then O'Neill is for you. Yes, his plays are long and arduous but they reveal so much about the human condition, not to mention the writers', that it is worth the time it takes to read them or, as in this case, watch them. 'Mourning' may not be the best to cut your teeth on, so I might recommend "Long Day's Journey Into Night", "Moon for the Misbegotten" or "The Iceman Cometh" -- but no matter which you choose you are in for a wonderful theatrical and personal experience. This DVD was also enhanced by afterwords by Dr. Erich Segal and I appreciated his insights greatly. Highly recommended.
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it's what film is about
8 August 2003
I was told long ago in some class on play analysis (whatever that is) that the title of the play/film is the main character...what it's about. "Airport"; "Terminator" etc. And here the "Killing" is the major plot point -- but the real star, the core is Cassavetes telling a story. That, to me, is what film making is - creating a narrative story. Yes, it's "slow", but for really slow I would direct you to Eugene O'Neill...but it's still a GOOD slow. What IS the movie about? The mafia? Strip clubs? The underbelly of L.A. or even America? It seems to me to be about choices. Ego. Pride. Confidence. Loss. It just goes on and on..... so much of the film is uncomfortable and claustrophobic, as was "Opening Night" that it's nearly unbearable...but there's something to that. I highly recommend this film. It's amazing what a director can do with so little money; 70's restriction of "the 7 words" and most probably a short shooting schedule. It lingers in spite of itself. Needless to add, but Ben Gazzara was wonderful. As with other Cassavetes characters words are not needed -- the face tells all.
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crap for crap's sake
30 July 2003
I must agree with other opinions here that this was an utter waste of time on my part and money on the producer's part. Pretty sets and colorful cinematography does not Art make; much less art. I was tempted to walk out of this film when I realized 'Damn,I'm at home!'. Films that are bizarre are not the issue: this was one of those experiments to see how far the public can be fooled into thinking that the director actually has a vision or purpose other than putting something on the screen. The bizarre and ugly can many times be beautiful and thought-provoking, the pretentious can not. Even 'Happiness', which I found to be a morally bankrupt film, is far better than this look-at-me attempt at movie-making. Thank God it was half-price night at my local video store.
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Seize the Day (1986)
happy dispair
19 July 2003
I have to say that Robin Williams has come a long way regarding his acting. This is an early work and one that probably had folks confused since he was best known as the manic comic. But this Saul Bellow story of dispair and humor would have been considerably more depressing (good or bad) with, perhaps, Dustin Hoffman in the lead. Being 1986 and for TV, this was quite a groundbreaker. Don't get me wrong, I liked it -- I just couldn't help but wonder what a re-make would be today with our current abilities (and obsessions) at making rage and dispair truly palpable. There was a bit too much self-awareness on the part of the director/writer at making sure there was comic relief where none was needed......
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definitely the 70's
25 January 2003
I have to add my 'one thumb up one thumb down' to this film, but only because the portrayal of court room scenes, lawyers and prisons have come so far since this film. IN IT'S DAY it was most probably a daring attack on the judicial system, but even TV shows today are more daring - 'Law & Order' and all of it's offshoots, 'The District'(ironically with Nelson who was in this film), not to mention 'OZ' on HBO. I agree, there were attempts at comic relief from Jeffrey Tambor, or at least I think they were, in spite of his mysterious breakdown. I am still not sure how 'funny' the suicidal judge was. But one glaring timewarp was the god-awful music. Whoever says that soundtracks are not all that important needs to see this film. One reviewer here said they thought they were watching a porno movie - and that's pretty funny - but the music here was along the lines of typical '70's cop shows. I wonder how much of the film could be salvaged if a new music track was scored for it.... In any event, it went as far as it could go FOR THE PERIOD and in spite of the tearful histrionics of Pacino (who I think is a fabulous actor) it was not horrible...just a time warp.
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Amélie (2001)
haunting and happy
20 January 2003
This is a film that is, to me, being American, very French - and that's a good thing. The entire film is happily haunting - while I was watching I was thinking it was cute, frothy, beautifully photographed, but light and airy - it was not a serious, frowning drama...... *but*.... it is a work of art on many levels, not only the wonderful acting, colors, music.....but it pops up in my mind when I am not expecting it and brings a smile, a memory and a sense of connectedness that I find refreshing. I highly recommend this film. Do not hear it dubbed, the music of the language is wonderful, and the subtitles are not a distraction.
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very Mamet
21 December 2002
David Mamet once said, in essence, that acting and actors just weren't that big a deal - an actor learns what to say, stands where he's told to stand to say the words and that's that. When Mamet directs his own work that's exactly how it seems. This is a very complicated plot and I have to admit, though I only went thru it once, there are some glaring plot holes that multiple viewings would either clear up or not...but overall, it's a fascinating story. If you're looking for action or even emotional outbursts, you won't find them here. Some of the acting (directing) is quite wooden and stiff...but that's Mamet. I love his use of language and the way people use each other. So I recommend this for sure. I'm just glad he didn't direct 'Glengarry Glen Ross'.
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