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Life Is Sweet (1990)
A real gem
29 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I've only seen Life is Sweet twice—first when it came out fifteen years ago and again just last night. The last fifteen years certainly haven't dimmed my memory about what a wonderful movie this is.

It's funny that the only two people in this critics' forum who don't like the movie are American. I'm not American-bashing, but many American films have the big names, pretty faces and lots of explosions. You generally won't find these in a Mike Leigh movie. Instead you'll find wonderful stories, great characters and perfect acting (I could watch Jim Broadbent make toast and reading the morning newspaper).

For some reason this movie really resonated with me over the years and I remembered so many little details that spoke volumes. The Decalogue, for example. Mike Leigh's movies are brilliant in terms of Decalogue (Jim Broadbent's "That is an evil spoon" has to be one of the greatest lines in cinema history).

Life is Sweet isn't a happy movie, but it is a joy to watch.
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Van Helsing (2004)
16 December 2004
I don't understand all the bad press this movie got. In a way, maybe that's for the best. Like The Avengers movie (which got similarly scathing reviews) my expectations for Van Helsing were absolutely rock bottom. So it turned out to be a very pleasant surprise when I found the film to be fun, entertaining and quite enjoyable overall. People here are complaining about the CGI monsters. What's the beef? This is the 21st century. What do you want? A very well done CGI Mr. Hyde (voiced by Robbie Coltrane, no less) or some guy in a ripped tuxedo baring his teeth a la Spencer Tracy? Fire up those computers and bring on the CGI! Actually I found the CGI effects quite good for the most part. You want bad CGI, then check out James Bond surfing down a glacier in Die Another Day.

So I'll join the minority and say that Van Helsing is well worth watching. Jackman is fine as always and the rest of the cast holds their own. The plot is just fine as well. This is a monster movie, not The Usual Suspects.

Pop yourself a big bowl of popcorn, sit back and enjoy the ride.
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After all, it runs for three hours. Seems like thirty.
14 November 2004
I tend to agree with those whose reviews here lean toward the negative. Perhaps The Deer Hunter was so lauded at the time because it was ground breaking in terms of its subject matter--the Vietnam War. Fair enough. But that still doesn't make this a great movie.

The pacing in The Deer Hunter is excruciating at times. Trusty shows Peter Zinner as the editor. Who is this guy? Was he asleep the whole time? That wedding scene should have ran for twenty minutes, not sixty. I don't have a problem with it running for four hours if the length served a purpose, but here it didn't.

And the story? I had expected a realistic depiction of Vietnam-as-hell and the effects of the three men once they returned home. Instead we get some overblown Russian roulette nonsense. Cut out forty minutes from the wedding and add forty minutes of the stinking, horrifying, soul-destroying experiences Vietnam soldiers endured and you'd improve the movie immensely.

Plot holes big enough to fly a Huey through. Other reviewers here cover them very well. How about Christopher Walken's character as the "famous American" who has apparently played Russian roulette dozens, if not hundreds, of times and the odds never catch up with him? Except when De Niro shows up. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Some good performances, especially by Streep. But a real yawner for the most part.
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3 August 2004
What's not to like about The Commitments? An absolutely brilliant film in terms of story, acting and, last but not least, fantastic music.

Director Alan Parker delivered a wonderful film with an ensemble cast that give outstanding performances. Ironically, most of these talented actors weren't actors at all, but rather musicians. Parker took the brave step of casting singers and musicians in the hope that they could act rather than the other way around. And the gamble pays off brilliantly.

One of the things I like most about The Commitments are the small, non-sequitur moments peppered here and there throughout the film. Like the boy waiting at an elevator in a highrise tenement holding on to a horse. "You're not taking that thing in the elevator," Jimmy Rabbitte says. "Yeah, I have to," comes the reply "The stairs would kill him." Like The Snapper, The Commitments is full of real, surreal and beautiful moments. Mix them together with an outstanding cast and great music and you've got a perfect film.
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What's all the fuss?
29 May 2004
I'm glad to see that there are a number of reviewers who, like me, didn't like The Royal Tenenbaums. Reviewer Jamie Roberts hits the nail on the head. Yes, we all get "it" (the quirkiness, the irony, the deadpan humour, etc.), but the "it" doesn't make the movie good by default. The pacing comes at a snail's pace and the characters are unappealing for the most part. Fantastic cast, but wasted. And I'm having problems with the "Bill Murray Syndrome." Which is to say that every serious movie he's in has people praising it to high heaven, but I just don't get it. Rushmore, Lost in Translation and The Royal Tenenbaums all have the following in common: a serious Bill Murray, agonizingly slow pacing and characters that you want to push off a cliff.

I kept waiting for the appeal of The Royal Tenenbaums to kick in and it never did. A real disappointment.
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Logan's Run (1976)
Dated, a bit silly, but still fun
23 May 2004
I was twelve when Logan's Run came out and I thought that it was the best thing since sliced bread. It blew me away. So when I picked it up recently on DVD and watched it for the first time in twenty-eight years I was wondering how it would fare after all this time.

Well, not too badly. Many of the IMDb reviewers of Logan's Run hit the nail on the head when they say that this film is definitely a product of its time. Yes, the special effects are sort of laughable now (the teeny tiny maze cars zipping through the a model of the city that looks about six inches tall), but you have to judge those sorts of things in the context of the time they were made. As strange as it may seem to people who now expect Lord of the Rings-quality special effects, Logan's Run was cutting edge in its day. And a few of the special effects still stand up fairly well. The light envelope that comes down over the Carousel or the matte shots of Washington. Not great for twenty-first century film-making, but a minor miracle for 1976.

The story has more holes than a piece of swiss cheese and the acting is a bit touch and go, but that doesn't get in the way of a fairly entertaining movie. Seeing the movie all these years later I suppose the few moments of bad acting hit me more than anything else. As a kid I thought that Peter Ustinov's old man was brilliant, but now it just seems like awkward overacting. Which isn't to say that his character isn't somewhat endearing.

Michael York, a really wonderful actor, misses the mark a few times, but generally he and Jenny Agutter do a fine job.

Listen, this isn't a brilliant movie, but it does have its moments. Most science fiction movies made in the 1970s haven't endured the test of time especially well. With the purple mascara, pastel-coloured costumes and hair feathered like a great phoenix. But all in all I still found Logan's Run to be an entertaining and enjoyable trip back to the strange world of 1976.
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The Way Home (2002)
Real potential, but a big disappointment in the end
17 May 2004
I have to join the minority here and agree with the astute review of BusterLA. Are we watching the same movie?

The film has a few things going for it. The scenery is beautiful and it's brave writing to have one of the two main characters mute. But overall the film was a big disappointment.

One film critic described the little boy, Sang-woo, as a "sociopath" and I don't think that's too far off the mark. Everyone expected him to be bratty, but I certainly didn't anticipate that he'd be such a complete monster. And the whining! I recently saw the wonderful "Sexy Beast" and half way through I couldn't help but think "We doesn't someone just kill him (Ben Kingsley's character)?" In "The Way Home" I spent most of the movie thinking that the boy didn't need a grandmother who was patient and indulgent, but rather one who would give him a good spanking.

That was the main problem for me. I expected the boy to change, but he really didn't. The film is short, only 85 minutes and it wasn't long before I was saying "This rotten kid has only twenty minutes left to redeem himself. . . . . . fifteen . . . . . ten . . . . . . five . . . . .."

The poster for "The Way Home" shows Sang-woo and his grandmother broadly smiling for the camera--a moment never seen in the film. The grandmother never smiles. Or frowns. She's got a sweet nature, no question, but I found it hard to sympathize with someone who was so lacking in emotion.

Listen, I certainly didn't want a pat, saccharine ending with the kid going from demon to angel in less than an hour and a half. But I was hoping that I would at least sort of *like* the boy by the end. No such luck.

With a few tweaks to the script, this could have been a really delightful movie (along the lines of the similarly themed and very enjoyable "Kolya"). As it stands I watched "The Way Home" with an equal mixture of boredom and irritation.
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A triumph deluxe
17 May 2004
The films of John Waters aren't to all tastes, but if you like, say Pink Flamingos, then you'll love Multiple Maniacs.

Waters' film-making career can be divided roughly into four categories:

  • unseen first works (Roman Candles, Hag in a Black Leather Jacket, Eat Your Makeup)

  • early filthy works (Multiple Maniacs, Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble)

  • more mainstream works (Polyester, Hairspray, Crybaby)

  • later missing-the-mark works (Serial Mom, Pecker, Cecil B. Demented)

In my opinion, there's no question that his early filthy works are the best and that Multiple Maniacs is perhaps the best of the three (or at least tying with Pink Flamingos).

Some of the reviewers here criticize the film for being badly acted or low budget. That's missing the point. Waters' films were never meant to couple the acting of Olivier with Industrial Light and Magic special effects. These are low budget gems that deliver equal amounts of shock and laughter.

Multiple Maniacs is one of Waters most perfect films in terms of the dialogue. The continual arguing between Lady Divine and Mr. David (the wonderful and elegant David Lochary) is almost operatic. The rest of the characters (most from John Waters early ensemble, the Dreamlanders) is absolutely outstanding. Mink Stole and Mary Vivian Pearce are pin-point perfect and Edith Massey is a gem in her screen debut. The late, great and much-missed Cookie Mueller gives the best performance of her career as the free wheeling daughter of Divine.

A black and white treasure from John Waters early career. Brilliant dialogue, hilarious scenes and a bravura climax make Multiple Maniacs a cinematic masterpiece.
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