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Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001)
When Kubrick is Not Kubrick
Kubrick was a genius. Spielberg is a genius. But, they are different types of geniuses and they don't mix or match. No genius can do it the same way, which is why the person is a genius. They best you can do is get another genius that has a similar thematic view.
Kubrick's clever dark philosophical view simply does not match with Spielberg's common mass entertainment view. Spielberg was simply the wrong genius to complete the work. All of Kubrick's later works (even the one-off Spartacus) have a dark philosophical vision and satirical point to make. It's like trying to mix Socrates with Nietzsche or even Aristotle. They're all great, but very different. The decision to use Spielberg was too superficial ("who's recognized as the best film director right now, generally speaking?...").
It didn't work, not because of Spielberg's genius movie-making technical skills, it didn't work because of Spielberg's lack of the dark philosophical satirical vision. Spielberg is a genius at making a movie that wows an audience; Kubrick is a genius at making a movie, perhaps a satire, with a dark view of or exposition of ironic hypocrisy, in human beings and society.
Just look at the expressions of George C. Scott in "Dr. Strangelove" in the war room. A manly sophisticated general, with oodles of power, making childlike pouts and expressions. It's not meant to be funny, per se, it's meant to make a point. But you have to see it. And, that's all the difference in the world.
Perhaps the Greatest Satire Ever
This movie is perhaps the greatest satire (and dark comedy) ever written, filled with hyperbole, irony and clever wit. Simply genius and no way around it. It's a political statement, wrapped in wry clever humor. This is why Stanley Kubrick is, in my own view, the best director ever. It's so intelligently rendered. George C. Scott's manly "Commanding General" persona wrapped in childlike goofy expressions are simply classic.
Pet Sematary (2019)
Creepy and Fun
It's no Exorcist, but it way better that It and Hereditary. At a mid-7 rating, I had to choose and went to a 7. It kept me interested with balanced pacing. I enjoyed it at the theater. Thumbs up.
The Highwaymen (2019)
At Best, Okay
There simply was nothing special about this movie. Costner played in his usual slow style, and Harrelson demonstrated no special dynamic from the script. The chemistry was fine and the acting was fine, just nothing special. Moreover, it is the same with the story itself, slow and staid, without necessarily drawing any deep thought or emotion. Actually, the period sets and costumes were excellent. Overall, a very narrow channel of story and emotion, a bit of history, but simply nothing special. For example, No Country for Old Men is currently rated 8.1, and this is No Country for Old Men, not even close.
Black Panther (2018)
Overrated, And Not Really a Great Story
Notwithstanding the genre, which I enjoy generally, this story just never really grabbed me. In fact, it took a few sittings to watch to completion. The hook does come, but too late in my view.
I thought some direction was overdone, in the sense that the director wants the audience to feel something, and is perhaps not sure it's been accomplished, so does a closeup on a character demonstrating that feeling. (Eg., I don't need a long close-up of someone saying "weeee" to know I should feel exhilarated, and it's off-putting.)
Generally, the acting was good, but I must admit that I did not care for Andy Serkis in the villain role, which I thought was overacted, although I usually like him (particularly in the little gem, Einstein and Eddington). Again, a direction issue, not an actor issue.
Overall, I just don't think the story itself was sufficiently well-told and directed to merit a higher rating. In my view, it was a real gift and way-off to be nominated for best movie. In my view, this movie is not even in the same story-telling ballpark as, eg, the wonderfully told story, Green Book.
Green Book (2018)
Great Movie for Free-Thinkers, and Others
This is a good story, and nicely told and acted. It's worth watching a few times, because it has a few tiers and points of view for assessment. (From whose point of view, inside-out or outside-in, etc.)
For a prejudiced person, it probably will not cause the trauma needed for deep change, but perhaps for someone on the fence, it will teach something. For an inviting free-thinker, it is a pleasure of truth.
There is the usual hypocrisy juxtaposition, such as in the Godfather. In the Godfather, assassination scenes were cut into the communion scene. Here, it's acts of prejudice followed by religious symbols and prayer.
Starting conflict, the growth of bond, transformation and redemption. Low-key comedy along the way, which was nicely balanced to the message and tone.
There is a great discussion in the car, too subtle for some, about the complexity of a human being, but the singularity of how prejudice is formed. That is, how we form opinions based upon one criterion, when a human being is complex. Again, it is subtle, but the movie balances nicely that human beings in similar roles, including roles of power, all do not act the same.
Well-done. This story and the acting duly earned its awards.
Quirky Style Noir
This movie is a gem, because it's different in a Tarantinoesque or Ethan Bros stylistic way. In B/W with flashbacks in color. It has a bit of a low-budget feel, which actually provides some character that works for it. Good casting.
A very clever story, like a Fargo. A "loser" trying to find a pot of money the location of which is encoded within a self-help book. So, the story progresses on a multiple story-lines. Finding the money requires that he improve himself along the way.
Then, apart from flashbacks, there are two story time tracks, one being current time, and the other being the prologue where we learn how we got to current, working toward intersection.
There are subtle nice touches, like the piano notes music that fits the movie tone extremely well. And, eg, a scene where two women are in a car with the camera facing them through the windshield, which is cracked, just to keep the subconscious edge.
Overall, a different quirky story that is creative and interesting, and it does a great job executing the movie it intended to be.
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
What Might Have Been
Had I not read all the comments about the production facts for the title, my comments would have been, I think, rather similar.
The film, as it was released for my viewing, started great and ended fair. The ending simply just feels tacked on, without appropriate segues.
The richness of the filming, the period, the contrasts, are wonderful. The personalities are rich and we become invested. Then it ends like a 5-minutes remaining/times-up final examination.
As for parallels with Citizen Kane, we see again a perspective on wealth, success, money and how they weave. The setup was superb, and, yes, it really does feel like at least 45 minutes is missing.
And, even with those flaws, what remains is still excellent viewing. But, it cannot be a 10, because it remains here incomplete and potential unfulfilled.
Booty Call (1997)
Classic Raunchy Crazy Funny
There's The Godfather, then the Death Race 2000, then there's Braveheart, then there's A Man for All Seasons, then there's Booty Call. This movie is a classic, an underappreciated raunchy hysterical classic. You can't rate this movie against the Godfather. It has to be rated for its own artistic intention. Crazy silly classic funny scenes. This is the funniest of the genre, and it's timeless.
Sex Education (2019)
Get Casting and Story
Great casting, each part well-played. Both leads, playing Otis and Maeve, deserve awards. Great characters and kept me interested the entire season.
Unbreakable was great, Split was good, this was maybe okay. The clearest indication of the standard for this movie was M. Night's clearly indulgent cameo, which simply intruded. If care for the movie was the highest concern, M. Night would not have entered in such an indulgent and interruptive cameo. This was a paycheck for Willis and Jackson, and an indulgence for M. Night. The purists may like it for whatever subtlety only the purist perceive. I'm maybe an enthusiast, so, for me, not good.
Bird Box (2018)
A journey to nowhere
Mildly entertaining, as such. It was a journey, but it really did not lead anywhere. Not a great investment of time. I think this would have bombed on the large screen. You just never get an anchor to frame reference for the characters, little development, and what there was weak. There's really nothing to "understand" in the movie, just a lot of stuff happening. Kept waiting, but never gelled.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
The Real Story
On a certain level, the stories are slow, disjointed and have insufficient time to develop the characters in each vignette. But, that's really not the story.
The real story is more abstract. The real story is to feel the character of the Old West from a number of different human perspectives. The chicanery, competition, loneliness, injustice. Telling the story in vignettes allows discrete perspectives that would be difficult using a unified story line. So, I would suggest that, as you watch, you try to see through the particulars and extract the general.
The real character is the character of the Old West.
High Art Storytelling
First, I took the advice of another reviewer and turned off the dubbed English and put audio back to Basque, then put subtitles on English. This allowed a more pleasant viewing experience, with audio being naturally in line with the acting. (The English dubbing seemed incongruent with the acting and the subtitles.)
Second, I thought this movie was excellent as a study in art. It is somewhat raw, which is the charm. The story is, as another reviewer stated, in the nature of Grimm's Fairy Tales.
I admit that I might be a victim of my culture, and, art aside, I think the story still did not grip me as much as I might prefer. It could be a lot of things, such as my own impatience with a foreign movie. Also, the story seemed to be disjointed in flow.
So, overall, a good watch, particularly for artistic value, for the right mood at the right time.
Luke Cage (2016)
Kudos to the Casting Director. Just kept getting better through S2.
The Greatest Showman (2017)
I thought it was well-implemented. Of course, more fiction than fact, so that's not really part of the review. A few loosely tethered facts at best. Great music and spectacle. Well-paced. Overall, nice job in entertainment.
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Too Long, Brooding, Dark and Slow
The title sums it up: Too Long, Brooding, Dark and Slow. Had potential with concept but it simply did not implement well. Too many long, brooding, dark and slow sequences....
First, Brian Cox needs to win an Emmy. He hits the nail on the head in every scene and hold the view with the power he purports to possess. Like George C. Scott as Patton, Cox was made for this role. A great job.
Second, the characters here are complex, but you have to appreciate it. They have strengths and weakness, no one is clearly a villain, relatively, of course.
Cox should win an award, and perhaps the show.
Batman: The Movie (1966)
First I gave this an 8, but I was worn down in concession to give it a 10 realizing that I was being too in-the-box, and movies like this are so wildly ridiculous as to be genius. The Joker, Riddler and Penguin were superb, my personal favorite being Frank Gorshin as the Riddler. The shark scene in the beginning purposely sets the intended tone. There are some really subtle gags, if you pay attention, even a Pontius Pilate quotation... This film would absolutely have been a 0, except the weight of the cast, takes it over the fine line, as Napoleon said, "From the sublime to the ridiculous there is but one step."
Fair at Best
I saw some great reviews, so I went to see it rather immediately. Nothing but a fizzle. The horror, if that is what this is, was way too predictable, drawing on Rosemary's Baby and the Exorcist, but without any of the charm or tension of those classic works. Nothing new or original. Forgettable.
[6/13/18 Edit] I did actually like the sound and sound effects, and then, if it wins an award for sound, they'll make it sound like an award for great horror, which it certainly is not...
Death Race 2050 (2017)
It Isn't What It Is
Death Race 2000 was an original cinematic charm. A timeless gem with great casting and raw implementation. This one tries too hard to capture the original magic and fails. Everyone's trying too hard without the same natural charisma. The characters in the first were cast as naturals, but not here, which is the flaw. Loved the original. Perhaps a concept that does not replicate well, but this one's not even close to the original. The first, a classic; this one, forgettable.
Death Race 2000 (1975)
What It Is
I gave this an 8 because it does so well what it intends to do. It does not intend to be The Godfather or Braveheart. It is intends to be a great B-movie cult flick that is so silly of sorts that it is crazy genius. The beauty is in the casting, too, which carries the schlock. One of a kind and mandatory viewing for every movie buff. A timeless work of art. Btw: The 2050 follow-up is not close.
Jolted. Punched then Kissed, Punched then Kissed...
Overall, the movie was just okay for me. However, the flashback approach prevented a flow, like getting punched then kissed, over and over. Then, you get tricked regarding the story-line. Did not really teach me anything, did not learn anything (maybe a few boating concepts), never grabbed me on the love story (how could it, punched then kissed...). Very little character development or backstory of the characters. Love story was superficial, because there was no real dramatic connection at that level. I thought the cinematography was good.
A Grand Charmless Mess
No charm, and a jumbled superficial grand mess. Harrison Ford played a handsome rogue, and, like Sean Connery as Bond, the story was rounded with a bit of wry wit. Here, the attempts at comedic relief and wit are misplaced and rough.
There is simply no genius in the script. I cannot say it's the direction or production, it's simply not a well-formed story. Things are happening too fast, too expectedly and without development. Even Yoda makes a bland nonsense appearance. Luke acts very unJedi-like and even trite.
It's just bad and forgettable, and, at 2.5H, I must say it: I could not wait for it to end. You don't learn anything, you don't feel anything, and you're not suspended by anything. With a good story, it could have been a magnificent production. But, it is not a good story, it is a bad story with some hooks to perpetuate the series.
When I left the movie, I thought I would be alone; lo and behold I am not.
The Fountainhead (1949)
Let Me Count the Ways
There are many ways to watch this movie, and the way you choose to watch it will tend to determine how you rate it. You might compare it to the book, or set it against a standard of expression for a philosophical idea. Or, you just might watch it absolutely for itself, in a sort of self-defined manner. Everything depends upon the standard of judgment.
I admit that there were parts of this movie that seemed awkward or condensed from a story perspective. However, such as each his or her own, we tend to like a movie that hooks us, often by attaching to something inside ourselves. Something in the movie with which we identify.
What I loved about the movie is the essential message: the man's own belief in himself was a stronger force than the attacks could break down. Make the man an outcast, ridicule him, take his money. Take away everything society offers. Then we see what makes the man. Such as it was for Socrates, Jesus, and many others. Take it all away and there is nothing left, but the man and the principle that the man holds. This is the integrity of the man, and it is what holds the man together, from the inside out, not the outside in.
The strength of the many is not the truth, the strength of the many is simply the many. The truth can stand alone, naked, and all by itself. The less adorned, the more essential. All strength comes from the inside, that is the only true source of strength, and nothing is as strong if reliant upon an external.
Roark listens to the kingdom that is inside of him, and he wins without ever attacking, simply by staying true to himself.