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Thank You for Smoking (2005)
From the hilarious and witty opening credits (brilliant) to the end this is a great satire, very intelligent.
And Aaron Eckhart is in the Jimmy Stewart mold: he has a wonderfully goofy look about him and would have fit well in any Preston Sturges film. Who knew he was a very gifted comedic actor (without the over the top shtick of Jim Carrey, etc. He just has to use his face and I cracked up. The whole cast was terrific (ensemble casting at its best). And William H. Macy just confirms that he is one terrific character actor, no matter what role he plays. He's a scene stealer, alright but Eckhart can hold his one.
The Constant Gardener (2005)
Could have been and should have been better
The theme is important and relevant and there are many people doing the work of Tessa. However, this is not the film. The acting, to begin with, is not worthy of this topic. Rachel Wiez is not a very good actress to handle a role such as this one. Julie Christie she is not. Susan Sarandon yes. Rachel Weiz no.
Ralph Fiennes, however, was so much better an actor that one really cared about him. But the picture made no sense and I wondered how this man could get away with the things he did.
b Possible Spoiler Alert For someone who dies at the end, it was no surprise. I'm amazed he didn't die earlier. Ham's son doing all that work on the computer was not too believable, to me, anyway.
And lastly, the dialogue was almost incomprehensible. It was hard at times to make out what they were saying.
There's a great story to be told. This one didn't tell it.
Match Point (2005)
Well, Woody has hit rock bottom. How original: boy wants to rise to the top and marries boss's daughter and then falls in love with a would-be actress.
Now there's an original story only this time performed by two utterly inadequate actors: Johanssen and Rhyse Meyers. Boring as hell.
Now, I suggest you watch Alain Delon in Purple Noon as a man on the rise to the top and/or Michael York in the amazing Something for Everyone, truly a masterpiece that has been grossly neglected.
Skip this one. Watch Crimes and Misdemeanors, which is much better and with Martin Landau. But Woody's movies are getting quite tiresome and there is no spark, such as that in Love and Death, Zelig, Take the Money and Run, Bananas. Not to mention Hannah and Her Sisters. I think the emperor has no clothes and the critics cannot see this.
Simply one of the best series since I, Claudius
This is simply one of the towering series on television: amazing acting, first-class scripts, directing. No expense spared and it shows it. Gripping from start to finish and I'm hard put to pick who is the best actor, but Ray Stephenson as Pullo leads the pack. My Roman history is pretty rusty but I get the feeling it's fairly accurate. The opening scene (and music) is the best since the snake slithered across the television screen at the beginning of I, Claudius. So sorry next season will be the last. Sorrier still, the HBO did very little to promote this wonderful series. I cannot see how this show can ever be broadcast on network or commercial cable. They would have to cut 3/4 of each episode. And I'm waiting for the s/t to come out; I love Jeff Beal's music.
Law & Order: Criminal Intent (2001)
Best of L&O shows
I watch it primarily for the stars. Love D'Onofrio, one of the most underrated talents around. His performance in Men in Black was hysterically funny (would love to see this actor do more physical comedy); his performance as the dying man on Homicide: Life on the Street, was heartbreaking. The whole group on this show is terrific but I would love to see more of Jamey Sheridan, playing a good guy for once (or twice). He's another underused actor.
While I love Chris Noth, I'm not too thrilled with Sciorra so I hope they drop her. Mainly, I watch for D'Onofrio. One cannot take the police procedure seriously because if any real-life cops used these techniques, their cases would be thrown out of court. Cannot imagine anyone not asking for a lawyer. If you throw that out of your mind and just enjoy, it's a fun show.
I'm addicted to this show.
The Da Vinci Code (2006)
Terrible, as I suspected it would be
From the moment I heard Hanks would be Tom Langdon, my heart sank and I knew the picture would sink too. Too old, too lacking in charisma, too wooden an actor to portray the viral, young and handsome Langdon (but not that young). Russell Crowe would have been perfect: professorial, handsome in a rugged way, and very charismatic. Tatou, ditto. No spark. These two alone would sink this movie. And Bettany was no albino. His skin was too dark and he didn't look sinister enough.
POSSIBLE SPOILER AFFECTS Didn's play true to the book. For one thing, Sophie WAS Sauniere's granddaughter and her brother survived. Her grandmother was the women seen making love to her grandfather in a ritual ceremony which Langdon explained to her. That hokum ending with the entire family and group was off the wall.
Plus there were more clues from the scroll than those given in the film.
don't waste time with this movie. Go read the book. Great read on a long airplane ride. Impossible to put down. This picture, however, was interminable.
Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye (2002)
Levi steals the show
I think the show is aimed for the younger group of viewers (late teens, maybe early twenties). Brains go on hold for this one.
The premise it takes place in DC is ludicrous. Names, places, streets are mythical.
Character are stock people and reality is left at the door. And I do not like "religion" brought into it.
POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT In one episode, the suspect was mentally slow and they grilled him unmercifully to get a confession, which would have been thrown out of any court since he asked for his sister and they refused. No lawyer present anywhere. They got Sue to get a confession out of him which he recanted. Had he really been the killer, he would be walking through all those errors. And Sue was kind of slow to respond to her being used for political purposes.
END OF SPOILER ALERT
But Levi steals the show. I love Goldens and the opening where he jumps in the tub is too cute for words.
Strictly for the teenybopper set.
Der Untergang (2004)
I happened to watch this on my On Demand service and from the beginning I was glued to my television. I had not heard of this movie but I loved Bruno Ganz from Wings of Desire. His performance of Hitler was extraordinary. This was no caricature (such as Anthony Hopkins or Derek Jacobi) but flesh and blood and terrifying, especially at the end. All the acting was first rate but Carinna Harfouch and Ulrich Matthes and the Goebbels were so horrifying that I had to tell myself they were actors at the end. I have never seen two monsters portrayed so realistically. The scene with the children at the end will stay with me always. (And I've read about what they did and seeing it reinforced my unbelief at the inhumanity of these two, not that Hitler and the Germans were any different but this scene just really shocked me.) However, I did find Traudl Junge's innocence at the beginning unbelievable; I cannot believe she didn't know what was happening, especially being up close and right after the war, assuming she really was that stupid, she should have seen the light.
Spoiler for those not having seen this: She took the pills but of course never used it. Her actions at time rang false. I just didn't believe Junge's innocence, not after three years.
But those are small criticisms; the picture was well done and not at all cheap and exploitative. This picture was almost like being there.
La passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928)
I rewatched this film shortly after viewing Robert Bresson's proces de Jeanne d'Arc, another film, made in 1962, also using the actual trial transcript. In both films, the English looked like soldiers from the First World War. In any event, the Dreyer film is superior (not to denigrate the Bresson film which is a must see). Added to the beauty is the score by Richard Einhorn with singing by the Anonymous 4. After composing for the film, Einhorn composed an oratorio called Voices of Light inspired by the film and it is a beautiful piece of work.
At the end, I was literally crying, not only because of Jeanne's death but because before her body became ashes, the citizens were crying "Saint." (Where were they before?) And then the English beat and killed them. The English kept invading France for the French throne and eventually, after many wars and tens of thousands dead (not to mention bleeding the English treasury dry) gave up. I think the reason Jeanne was destroyed was because she was a woman, encouraging the French to fight back. The English were too stupid to realize that they were making a martyr out of Jeanne. Had they been intelligent, they would have given up on the throne altogether.
A brilliant and haunting film. And buy the cd Voices of Light.
Procès de Jeanne d'Arc (1962)
Joan no terrorist
She was fighting to keep the English out of France, which the English kept invading in hopes of seeking the French throne, which they were never to do. (Hope springs eternal, I guess). The English were the terrorists; they once invaded Scotland killing tens of thousands of men, women and children in a rage because the Scots refused to let Henry VIII's son, Edward VI, marry Mary, Queen of Scots. Joan was protecting France; if not a saint (whom the Church did not recognize as such for 500 years) then she was a fighter whose only sin was being a woman and encouraging the French to defeat the hated English who bled their (English) treasury dry in order to gain the French throne.
This is a wonderful picture with the dialogue from the actual transcript. (Also see La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc, made in 1928, which covers the same territory and uses the actual transcript which is brilliantly done and leaves me crying at the end.
Some background is in order to understand Joan/Jeanne and what she was fighting for and the king was a wimp.
After having seen Wozzeck, Elektra and Iphiginia, all of which are depressing films, I have to say this was the most shattering of all.
Possible Spoilers I think the tapes were the McGuffin of the movie. It was really about what lies under the surface of a seemingly happy marriage when terror stalks them in the form of surveillance tapes being left at the door, along with grisly child-like drawings and how they each face the terror. It seems the past is never far beneath the surface, either for people or a country and what they do comes back to haunt them, if not destroy them. Some scenes are truly shocking and come as a blow to the viewer. And the ending was true to life. Some people in the theater were puzzled; I was not. The French don't tie up endings nice and neatly.
Daniel Auteil plays the repressed, aloof husband beautifully. In fact, he plays aloof and repressed in many of his films. But beautifully, though. I'm racking my brain to find if he ever played in a comedy. Binoche, too, is such a great actress and really inhabits a role. The interaction between husband and wife rang true.
As noted above, I do not understand why yellow bold subtitles cannot be used. There was one scene where the subtitles were impossible to read. Luckily, it wasn't one of the "major" scenes but annoying as hell, just the same.
This is a movie that sticks with you for a long, long time.
Elektra and Iphigenia
Possible spoilers if you haven't seen Iphigenia I recently watched the opera Elektra with Birgit Nilsson and nibbling back of my mind was didn't Agamemnon sacrifice his daughter? If so, why would Orestes and Elektra be so hell bent on killing their father when he murdered their sibling? If you had seen Iphigenia, then you would have seen that she was hell bent on revenging her daughter's death. Maybe Orestes and Elektra forgot about their sister, loved their Dad so much they could forgive him for his deed or maybe they were just glad their sister was gone. time to reread the plays.
However, I loved the movies and Irene Papas is a real force of nature.
Regarde la mer (1997)
I taped this due to the recommend in the NYT television section and it was right. I kept getting apprehensive from the moment the backpacker turns up. The suspense of approaching terror reminded me of the growing sense of horror in Chabrol's Le Ceremonie.
Two quibbles: what mother would leave her baby in the bathtub for only a few seconds. And what mother would leave her baby alone on the beach? The mother obviously had a dark side to begin with; she was lonely (trying to reach her husband for several times without success) and was an easy prey to the backpacker. While the ending horrified me, it shouldn't have surprised me. What was great is the movie didn't drag on and was short.
Definitely worth watching and it left me shaken for a long time after-wards. Like Le Ceremonie, it will remain in my memory. Horror doesn't mean slash and gore.
South Pacific (1958)
Beautiful, despite critics' criticisms
This is my favorite R&H musical and I play the original Broadway s/t frequently because I love Pinza.
I agree with an earlier poster who commented that Mary Martin was much too old and earthy for the young innocent Nellie. Mitzi Gayner was perfect. I also love the different hues for the singing. It does give the movie a different feel to it.
Of all the R&H musicals, this one was the best to transfer to the screen (with exception of King and I). Too bad they can't find a complete reel of the latter movie.
And my favorite song from the show/movie is This Nearly Was Mine, a heartbreaking song if there ever was one. Pinza breaks my heart on the OBC recording. Tozzi is good, too, but Pinza is the peak.
And R&H were pressured to drop You've Got to be Carefully Taught and they refused. The racial prejudice runs right through the picture without hitting you over the head with it and it was way ahead of its time. But then the book was written by James Michener who had an Asian wife and who knew about prejudice.
I love this movie -- still!
Bush's Brain (2004)
Too bad this wasn't shown on television before the election. But then, again, never underestimate the power of the American electorate to be duped. Witness the bug the Republicans claimed was put in the Republican opponent's office before the election for Texas governor.
And I always thought Cheyney was the brains manipulating Bush. Whatever, it seems Bush has no mind of his own and is completely controlled by Rove! I remember Atwater repenting his deeds (but only after he was diagnosed with fatal brain tumor). His repentance was too late. Rove will never repent.
The saddest portion was the attack on Cleland by those who never fought in a war. That was really hard to watch. Not even McClain could save him from his loss.
La battaglia di Algeri (1966)
Must be seen by all Americans.
Americans do not seem to learn from history of the French: first in Vietnam (we lost, as did the French who were smart enough to give up earlier) and now in Iraq (an unwinnable war, which the French knew would not be winnable).
To understand the film better, it would be wise to read Alisair Horne's brilliant book, A Savage War of Peace. To say this film represents both sides is not true. The French, supposedly the more civilized country, looked down upon the Algerians and as the violence started coming from the Algerians, the French escalated their violence (in absolutely appalling methods) thereby increasing the Algerians' violence. Would the French have responded to calm, reasoning with the Algerians? I don't think so. The British did not respond to the colonies' plea for release; it took a Revelutionary War to do that. Is revolution only acceptable to Americans if we do it but not good if other countries do it? Would slavery have been abolished if not for the Civil War? I don't think so. Would the Civil Rights Act of 1964 have been passed if the violence of the white leadership of the south hadn't acted so murderously towards the activists for the blacks? I don't condone violence in any way but sometimes people feel there is no other way and the US should not be hypocritical of the frustration and pain that cause people to rebel in the only way they know how.
This film is amazing and Pontecorvo had to put a disclaimer about the reality at the beginning of the film because it looked so real.
But read the book!
Paradise Now (2005)
I haven't seen such a brilliant and intense film since Battle of Algiers, also about a people's fight for freedom and the brutal repression they suffered under (the French).
I've been to Israel (1967) and Nablus and what is now West Bank and have seen the horrible conditions there. The problems there I think stem from the governments of both sides, each thinking their side is wrong. Violence begets violence and acts of desperation, such as is seen in Battle of Algiers which was done I think in the sixties. There was one seen where a woman goes into a café and leaves a basket full of explosives and leaves. While appalling, the film leaves the viewer (at least me) with sympathy for the freedom fighters from the oppression of the French (shades of Iraq today).
Paradise Now shows the consequence, also, of the US's blind support of Israel and whatever Israel does, including sales of millions of dollars in military aid, financial aid, even when Israel illegally builds settlements where they are not allowed to. Ever since the US recognized Israel, the relationship between the two countries has been very lopsided Wit the Arabs left out of the loop and the hatred engendered by this blind obedience resulted in 9/11. People I know will throw brickbats at me but in this country no tolerance of criticism is allowed and AIPAC has dominated this country so that any politician who criticizes Israel is doomed to not be elected.
Blind hatred such as that of 9/11 did not appear from nowhere. And I think this film helps show the despair of the Palestinians that is lacking on television.
SPOILER ALERT!! While my sister told me they both gave up the project (she got this from a review and I was shocked), the ending was not quite that. One did change his mind but the other went ahead, after hesitating, and the look in his eyes at the end was chilling beyond belief. I doubt whether he thought he was going to Heaven with two beautiful women to greet him there. Even one of his handlers admitted he didn't know but Said's hatred of the occupation and his life, going nowhere, without hope, was staggering and haunting.
END SPOILER ALERT To be fair, there are many Israelis and Jews in this country sympathetic to the Palestinians and are against what Israel is doing but their voices are too few and rarely given a larger viewing on television.
I will not be surprised at the arrows thrown at me for my statements.
Still, whichever position you take, this is a must-see movie. (I also recommend Battle of Algiers.)
A History of Violence (2005)
Unnerving and Unforgettable
This movie left me shaken on so many levels. This is the first Cronenberg movie I have actually liked and while his other films were disturbing (Videodrome, for example), to me they were off the wall. This film, however, real and brutally honest.
My one qualm was that Stalls' family was too perfect. All three people come in to comfort the little girl? However, that aside, the characters were real and you can feel for them, especially for Stalls, who has tried so hard to erase his past. However, the movie says it's not possible to erase your past which seems to come back and bite you. Or for most people, anyway. The brilliance of Mortenson's performance is that you can see in his expression that just under the surface is a brute killer and then a few seconds later his "better" side comes to the fore.
The scene where he attacks his wife first and then has brutal sex with her was truly terrifying to me. My first reaction was that he raped her and I still think part of that was true. She was actually trying to get away from him when he dragged her and then pulled her clothes to have sex with her and she then acquiesced. Is Cronenberg suggesting that women like violent sex or that sex is violent? That scene really frightened me, almost more than the other violent scenes.
And is violence genetic or just beneath the surface of us all as when he son brutally assaults his bullying schoolmate after taking his insults far too long? And lastly, what sickened me was the apathy of the students watching the bullying and then watching the attack without interfering or calling the authorities.
This film stuck (and still sticks with me) like glue and I'm still wrapping my head around it to sort it all out. I'm not sure whether I like myself for feeling sorry for Tom and hoping his family takes him back.
But then is there hope for redemption for those who commit violent crimes? Wow!
How to Steal a Million (1966)
My absolute favorite Hepburn
Of course, there are so many great ones such as The Nun's Story, Robin and Marian, Charade. But this one I've watched even times than Charade.
First, Peter O'Toole is totally enchanting as the man who comes to steal. Hugh Griffith is a riot as Bonnet, Audrey's father. Eli Wallach has a totally demented sparkle in his eye as the tycoon who is after the Bellini statue. The music is in sync with the story; totally delightful and you know from the beginning it will be a lark.
And Peter O'Toole so handsome, young and dashing (before his drinking aged him), a completely different role after Lawrence of Arabia, and showing a wonderful flair for physical comedy.
They Don't Make 'Em Like this Anymore
Perfection! Truly funny with the two greatest stars to light up the screen and a terrific cast of supporting players. I watch this whenever I'm down in the dumps or need cheering up. (It's on tonight on TMC; don't miss it.) And those one liners! I can't imagine any stars today who could deliver such lines as "You know what's wrong with you? Absolutely nothing." There are a zillion such lines. And I don't think Audrey Hepburn ever co-starred with anyone who she didn't click with. Sean Connery, Humphrey Bogart, Peter O'Toole, Albert Finney.
You can have sexual chemistry on the screen without showing it. Today, they would have these Reggie and Brian (et al.) in bed together.
A wonderful movie!
A timely subject very poorly done
Because of a recommend in the Times I watched this movie. Like watching a flower grow only a flower has a great result.
Where to begin to comment on how bad this movie is? Well, maybe with the script and direction. Where did these kids get these guns? Has the school not learned with Columbine and have security? Why were there no police after the shooting and everyone was in slow motion? Then there was the clown (or mentally challenged student who kept on walking while everyone was fleeing and no one told him to run). And the school looked half empty to begin with. Nothing about this movie made sense. Better to watch Bowling with Colombine.
Awful Beyond Belief
This movie confirms my belief that Nicole Kidman couldn't act her way out of a paper bag. Stilted is too good a word to describe her acting. And she looks as if she had a terrible face (but then she always looks like that). I have yet to see her in a picture that impressed me. As for her performance in To Die for, well, Tuesday Weld did that fabulously in Pretty Poison.
Just as bad was Cameron Bright who played Sean. He was totally obnoxious and I would have given him the gate from the get-go. His looks just didn't evoke any sympathy from me and Lauren Bacall looked as if she was wondering why she was in this movie.
Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)
Bravo to George Clooney
There is not much more I can add to what already has been said about this wonderful picture. I too am grateful that Clooney showed the real McCarthy. Had he used an actor, viewers who were not familiar with him would think the actor was over the top. (Did anyone notice a very young Bobby Kennedy sitting at the table with McCarthy?) I have my own opinions about Kennedy but I won't air them here.
Strathairn is wonderful, as usual, and I'm sure it won't be his last great performance. He is consistently amazing.
May I recommend viewing Point of View, a documentary featuring tapes of the actual hearing? Definitely worth checking out.
I was surprised to find tears running down my face at the loss of courageous newspeople willing to speak out. Murrow was absolutely right and television has destroyed the political process with it's ten-second soundbites, talking heads and propogation of lies and smears with no one willing to take on these talking heads who spout venom. I personally think voters were more intelligent back then, when sponsors like, yes, Alcoa made possible shows like Playhouse 90, Alcoa Hour featuring performances by young actors who would become stars. One such was Paul Newman (and the shows were live, not live on tape).
Orfeu Negro (1959)
A true masterpiece
This film is gorgeous on so many counts: the color, the story, the actors, Rio at Mardi Gras and absolutely the fabulous music of Jobim and Bonfa. I bought the LP when it came out and I play the music all the time. I cannot imagine anyone seeing this beautiful retelling of Orpheus and Euridice without falling in love with it. And Marpessa Dawn is a beautiful Euridice; I believe Cocteau met her in Paris and I was dumbfounded to find out she was an American (or is, if she's still living).
Possible spoiler but I don't believe it is: And Death is absolutely chilling as he mingles in the crowd.
La belle et la bête (1946)
This is a stunning film for the eyes and senses. The black and white photography is so beautiful that I'm sorry more films are not made with black and white. The images alone could stand alone and framed and I would be hard pressed to name my favorite moments: the candelabras in the hall with the eyes following Belle; the moment when the Beast carries her over the threshold and you can see the transformation as she changes from poor farm girl to an elegant princess. Marais was wonderful as the Beast; he could break your heart but I agree with an earlier poster that he looked too much like the prince. But that's a minor detail and this ageless story about love, greed, jealousy and redemption.
I think I'll watch it tonight.