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The Way (2010)
Understated and therefore very moving
This movie exceeded all expectations, which were already very high. All kudos to Emilio Estevez for an excellent screenplay and superb direction. The photography, too, was wonderful. I think this will go down as one of Martin Sheen's best ever performances. He underplays his role (due to Emilio's direction?) which makes it all the stronger. In fact, it's the understated quality of the whole film that makes it very moving. It never descends into sentimentality but you still feel the grief of Martin Sheen's character as he makes the pilgrimage his estranged dead son never completed. At the same time, there are a lot of funny moments, which lift it from becoming a depressing journey. The gradual coalescing of the four very different main characters into a unified group works very well. Each of them has a different reason for making the pilgrimage and, to begin with, they seem to have nothing in common, but it's still very believable when they start to relate to each other. Emilio and his father Martin have every reason to be very proud of this film. It works on every level.
Worst movie I have seen
I read some of the reviews of this movie before I watched it, and expected it to be good. Instead it was probably the worst movie I have ever seen. Not even Liam Neeson could rescue it from being complete rubbish. It was riddled throughout with clichés and stereotypes, along with non-stop fights, shootings, chases and virtually everyone being killed by Neeson in his search for his kidnapped daughter. It could have been a good story if some subtlety had been used in tracking down the villains but there was none, and the ease with which he found them was laughable. in addition, the total lack of concern for any of the other girls was appalling. The ending was especially pathetic. Suddenly the daughter, after the nightmare experience she had gone through, was back to being the all-American happy teenager that she was at the start of the film. Totally unrealistic.
A total delight!
I loved this film, managed to see it twice even though it is on very limited release in the UK (why??) Shaun Evans as Sam is totally believable as the charming ingenue who sleeps with the 'boss' in order to get a job. Amanda Ryan as Kate is less convincing and seems a little superficial (even though she tells Sam at one point that he is the one who is 'shallow'). Bob Hoskins and Lesley Manville provide the subplot superbly well, with a lot of humour. Anthony Head camps up his fun cameo as the gay lover. For me though it was Stockard Channing who stole the show - brilliant as Sheila, the hardened PR executive who, despite herself, finds herself falling in love with her young lover. The scene where Sam was finishing their affair, and then the scene at her brother's when she discovers who Sam is now sleeping with were both superb, with Stockard showing everything in her facial expressions and eyes. However, I did feel that at the end there was a scene missing - when everyone else was linked together happily, I felt there should have been a brief shot of Sheila - alone in her luxurious but unlived-in apartment, maybe reflecting on the loneliness of her life. I wish this film would come out on DVD, or at least be shown on TV so that I could record it, as I could definitely watch it more times.
Amazing Grace (2006)
This was an inspiring film about William Wilberforce and his efforts to ban the slave trade in the British Empire (not just to ban slavery in Britain as some reviewers have suggested).
I have always connected Wilberforce with banning the slave trade, but did not realise how just how difficult his struggle had been. Nor did I fully appreciate before just what vested interests he had to oppose.
Ioan Gruffudd was superb as Wilberforce, wrestling with his faith, and his political career; Albert Finney as John Newton, the slave owner- turned Christian, has turned in what must be one of his best performances ever (Oscar for best-supporting actor must be on the cards here) and Michael Gambon as Charles Fox was exactly as I had always visualised Fox.
The film was sometimes confusing with its flashbacks - maybe a few more subtitles showing actual years would have helped with this? Also, for me, one of the most pertinent statements - and I cannot now remember who said this - was that in Britain the workers in the mines and the mills were almost in the same position as the slaves - owned body and soul by their masters. The only difference being that they had not been deported forcibly from their homeland.
But then the film was more about the slave trade i.e. the boats in which they were transported - horrendously - and less about the conditions under which the slaves later had to work.
One step at a time - and it was a start, the deportation of slaves ended in the British Empire in 1807 and globally in 1833.
The treatment and eventual freedom of slaves was longer in coming, and of course full civil rights for the descendants of those slaves took another century in the USA. Maybe Wilberforce was in a sense 'reincarnated' in Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jnr.
Gods and Generals (2003)
Not as good as Gettysburg
I have mixed feelings about 'Gods and Generals' and think maybe it should have been entitled 'Stonewall' or something similar, as it revolved totally around Stonewall Jackson. Portrayed brilliantly by Stephen Lang, Jackson dominated this film - unfortunately to the exclusion of the sequence of events of the Civil War. We saw 1st Bull Run (possibly to explain why Jackson earned the nickname Stonewall) and then the film jumped to Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. So what happened to the Peninsula Campaign, and even more to Antietam/Sharpsburg, which was never even mentioned?
I disagree with other reviewers about Robert Duvall as Lee - he came over as pale and lifeless, never once did we see any emotion from him, even when he heard that Jackson had been badly injured. His comment that Jackson 'had lost his left arm. I have lost my right arm' was delivered with no expression at all. He may have looked more like Lee than Martin Sheen did in 'Gettysburg', but at least Sheen showed Lee as a man with deep feelings, which cannot be said for Duvall who was more like a cardboard cut-out.
Jeff Daniels, appearing again as Joshua Chamberlain, was as brilliant as ever, wonderful actor portraying a truly remarkable man.
The War at Home (1996)
Powerful and disturbing
I had never heard of this film and only got it because I am a Martin Sheen fan. Now I am stunned as to why it did not receive the praise and recognition that it truly deserves. The four characters all make you feel for them, the father trying to assert his authority, the mother still clinging to traditional family values and both trying to keep up appearances despite the total fragmentation of their family, the daughter wanting her own life and the son haunted by his experiences in Vietnam. One felt that this was a scenario that must have been played out in thousands of 'ordinary' families after Vietnam. Emilio Estevez as Jeremy was superb - totally unhinged by his war experience which none of his family could relate to. The screen chemistry between him and his real-life father Martin Sheen was amazing. And there were times when Emilio's anguished face was so like Martin's in "Apocalypse Now". I feel sure that just as Martin has counted Apocalype as one of his best films, Emilio will count this one as one of his best too. The scene with the gun was totally mind-blowing, as all the emotions were there on the family's faces. Brilliant acting by Estevez, Sheen and Kathy Bates. I watched the film for the first time last night - and today the lead story in the news was about a Gulf War veteran who had shot several members of his family. How many more young men are going to have their lives destroyed by war?
I bought the Gettysburg DVD because I am a Martin Sheen fan, but almost forgot about watching him, as the whole film was such an amazing depiction of Gettysburg. In fact Sheen's performance was a little disappointing; while I could appreciate the dignity and humility that he portrayed as Lee, I felt he lacked Lee's strength and charisma - but I did like his accent, and felt that he did look like Lee. His finest moments were receiving the cheers of the men before Pickett's charge, which was a very moving scene, and then his anguish after the failure of the attack when he said 'It's all my fault.'
However, for me it was Jeff Daniels as Chamberlain who was the most memorable character. He was totally believable as the college professor turned colonel, and all his emotions were there on his face. The battle at Little Round Top was awesome with the bayonet charge.
Longstreet's beard was a real distraction but Tom Berenger faithfully played the part of Lee's most trusted general, and the discussions between him and Lee about tactics were extremely well done.
Richard Jordan as Armistead reduced me to tears when he talked about his friendship with Hancock - two friends on different sides, fighting against each other, a situation that was replicated by many in this war.
Stephen Lang as George Pickett was exuberant and enthusiastic, which made the final scene with him even more emotional when he told Lee 'I have no Division.'
The 3rd day battle scenes were absolutely superb and looked very authentic.
Once I had seen the film, I definitely wanted to know more about Gettysburg - I have already ordered two books about the battle. This maybe is the best recommendation I can give for this film, it really makes you want to know more.
Beyond the Stars (1989)
I enjoyed this film
Martin Sheen was the highlight of this film without a doubt. His portrayal of ex-astronaut Paul Andrews was very believable and also very emotionally charged, one could really feel for this man and all that he had been through. The scene when he drunkenly revealed some of his innermost feelings was exceptional, as was the confrontation between him and the ex-NASA engineer. Christian Slater as the 18-year old who wants to become an astronaut had some good moments, particularly in the conflicts with his father, but his romance with Mara was unconvincing. The other characters were more like cardboard cutouts, apart from the Whale Man (F Murray Abraham) in a cameo role. My only real criticism however was the ending - yes, we knew right from the opening sequence that there was something that Sheen had discovered on the moon, but the ending took the film into improbable sci-fi, which did not fit well with the believable realism of the rest of the story.
The Sentinel (2006)
Entertaining but Not Convincing
Good for an evening's entertainment - but the plot was unconvincing. Garrison's affair with the First Lady was unreal and passionless; the President was a cardboard cut-out. And who were the real villains anyway? Nothing was developed or explained sufficiently. I still don't know why they wanted to kill the President or how the mole got involved. The villains were nameless and undeveloped, so you never felt involved in their plot. Michael Douglas and Kiefer Sutherland did their best to inject some reality into the story - the chase and confrontation were good. But Kim Basinger and Eva Longoria were both unbelievable in their roles, Basinger totally lacked character and no way could Longoria have been a Secret Service agent. This could have been a very good film but somehow it missed the way, with too many unanswered questions. Disappointing on the whole despite some very good scenes. And did they use the 'West Wing' set for the White House scenes? - I kept expecting CJ or Charlie to appear!
The West Wing (1999)
Back in 1999 I watched the first couple of episodes and gave up because they all talked too fast and I had no idea who everyone was! But earlier this year I bought the DVD set of the 6 seasons, and have played them over and over again, because once I got into it all, I was hooked! And Friday night this year was sacrosanct while I watched the 7th season on British TV. Jed and Abbey Bartlet, Leo McGarry, Josh Lyman, Toby Ziegler, CJ Cregg and Charlie Young are such believable and individual characters, all with their own strengths and weaknesses, I have nothing but admiration for the actors who played them so convincingly. I have seen Martin Sheen in many film roles, but this must be the one he will (rightly) be remembered for, he was born for this character! The highlights of this series are way too many to mention, but Sheen's cursing of God in 'Two Cathedrals' has to be one of the most dramatic and memorable moments of the whole series.
Brilliant - happy but so sad too!
I loved this film, having seen it in 2006 for the first time 27 years after its first release! It really showed Michael Douglas' early potential to become the Oscar winning star he became in the 80's, everything was there - nice guy, caring, all the mannerisms, facial expressions and voice intonations that he later did so well, but I think this was the absolute best of his early roles. OK so he was the messed up guy that he portrayed so often, but in this film he had an ambition that took over his life, almost to the exclusion of everything else. I really felt for his kids - embarrassed by him at first, but then so thrilled for him. And the finale - well, he could have won the gold medal, but that would have been unreal and wrong in the context of the film, instead we saw him battling it out to the very end - and I had tears running down my face when he finally entered the stadium. I rate this one of the best Douglas movies!
Adam at Six A.M. (1970)
Interesting early Douglas film
This film is the latest acquisition to my collection of Michael Douglas videos and DVD's, and the IMDb user reviews prepared me for what to expect from the film. The main interest for me was to see Douglas in one of his first films - and to see just the same mannerisms, facial expressions and voice intonations as in his most recent films! The story itself I found mainly improbable - what was the point of the long and irrelevant intro? We needed to see more at that stage of just why Adam was dissatisfied with his life. I also couldn't for the life of me see what Adam found attractive in Jerri-Jo - she was so shallow, surely he could see that from when he first met her?? OK for a summer fling maybe, but getting engaged to her?? Give me a break! The best scenes of the film were those with the labourers - you could understand why he enjoyed being with them - and they were the only scenes that rang true for me. Plus the ice cream tub at the end - nice one! But where did Adam go? Back to his unsatisfying life again? How sad!
Shining Through (1992)
Highly implausible but highly watchable!
Having read the IMDb reviews about this film beforehand, I was not sure what to expect but, despite all the implausibilities, I was still hooked until the very end. OK, so there are many criticisms you could make about the accuracy and detail etc, but it was still an exciting film. Somehow too much was crammed into the film so that it did not allow the characters to develop fully - Douglas' character remains an enigma (except that he did at least survive to marry Linda), Melanie Griffiths' character smacks of 'dumb blonde who hasn't a clue what she is doing'which is a bit unfair really but that is how she came over - and who knows what Joely Richardson's character was really up to? And Liam Neeson's part could almost have been played by an extra! This film could have been much better if it had had more depth - the actual story had so much more potential which the film failed to reach. And yet it was still very watchable - and I would happily see it again - because at least I know now that they made it over the white line into Switzerland!
Excellent - best Kennedy film ever.
I saw this on TV when it was first aired (and thought it was brilliant) but had not seen it for a long time until I recently bought the video set - and realised why I wanted to see it again. It has to be the best ever film about the Kennedy era. All the characters look right, and if you listen to Martin Sheen delivering the inauguration speech (and look away from the screen), you can *hear* the voice of JFK - I almost thought Sheen must be miming to the original soundtrack, but he had the accent to perfection, and also the mannerisms. Blair Brown as Jackie seemed to 'grow into' the role and got so much better as the film progressed. Geraldine Fitzgerald as Rose was exactly as I had always imagined her and Vincent Gardenia was sinister as J Edgar Hoover (why on earth is the FBI building named after this obnoxious man?). I was less keen on John Shea as Bobby - he seemed too weak somehow. The assassination scenes are horrific - but they were in real life, and it would have been wrong to underplay them. 10/10 from me for this film.
The American President (1995)
I love this film
This is my favourite feel-good movie of all time. It is funny, heartwarming, and I would vote for Michael Douglas as President any day! He is so 'Presidential' but very human at the same time, the ideal image of a President (though I'm not an American!). Some of his expressions are wonderful - eg when Robin says something about parading him as the lonely widower (wow, wonderful reaction), and when Lucy plays 'Hail to the Chief' (nice self-deprecating grin). There are so many great throwaway lines in this film too, they make me laugh every time. Annette Bening is great - what an expressive face she has. Martin Sheen is superb as Chief of Staff - brilliant actor - and Michael J Fox is so intense. His speech about leadership is just so good. But the speech to end all speeches has to be Andrew Shepherd's press conference speech near the end of the film - wish the present American President could make a speech like that!
It Runs in the Family (2003)
I enjoyed this film!
I'm a Michael Douglas fan, but this film has made me a Kirk Douglas fan too, I was so impressed by the courage of this 88+ actor - OK his stroke has left him with a speech defect but wow, he can still act! Hard to imagine him now as Spartacus. But he so obviously enjoyed his role. When he danced with his wife, it was so moving. And after her death, when he went to the fridge after his jog and there were no glasses of water there for him, that was so sad. Cameron Douglas was a no-no for me, wasn't impressed at all, and Rory McCulkin just didn't ring true either. Bernadette Peters was OK, but I felt the 'green panties' issue was contrived and overplayed (and also unresolved at the end). Diana Douglas was wonderful - made me wonder why she and Kirk ever divorced as the love between them was so apparent (or was it just good acting??). But the real moment for me tho was when Alex/Michael said to his father Mitchell/Kirk - Could you at least have a little bit of approval about my life?' Was that Alex to Mitchell, or was it Michael to Kirk? I wonder.