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Jesus Camp (2006)
If you are Left you will love it if you are Right you will sigh
Culture wars. Culture wars. I live out here in Portland, Oregon, USA and I get access to all of the left wing films out here; they are quite popular. I wanted to see this one in particular because I have been watching with interest the attempt by some on the left to paint the right with the "crazy Iyatollah brush" (fanatical religiosity) - to try and link in people's minds Muslim terrorists with middle western evangelicals.
Well, this film is a true Rorschach test to see which side of the culture war you are on. If you are on the left and you want a film to get you all fired up about the dangers of the evangelicals forcing you to have unwanted babies and pray at school, this is for you. If you are on the right and want to see how the left perceives *you*, this is for you also. If you have no dog in this fight, leave it alone. Mostly I found it boring.
The Illusionist (2006)
Would have made a better Twilight Zone Episode
I was very disappointed after seeing the trailer and being a big Edward Norton fan to be presented with this rather mediocre piece. What could have been a rather enjoyable film if it had stayed on this side of the illusionist/spiritualist line became rather laughable when ghosts started appearing on stage (or even off stage in the case of the boy). The fun for me in this would have been if the _illusions_ had stayed at least plausible, *illusions*! For instance, the Orange Tree. Paul Giamatti, was, as expected, flawless (it does a heart good to see an interesting looking person for a change instead of variations on Ken & Barbi). The film looked fabulous and I thought it was a nice variation on American produced period films *not* to use Britain or America but Eastern Europe for its setting. However, all in all, I think Rod Serling would have been better able to present this plot in 50 minutes on an old Twilight Zone episode.
Ordinary People (1980)
Why does "Raging Bull" and "Ordinary People" have to come out the same year?
It is just one of those twists of fate that so many superb films that all deserve an Oscar all come out in one year. I am glad that "Ordinary People" won, in that year I was only a little older than the protagonist, the character Hutton played, and I connected so deeply with this film at the time. I remember my mother was worried about me being such a fan of the film, thinking at the time that somehow I equated her with MTM's character's emotional problems (I didn't, of course). If anything, I was jealous of Sutherland's rendition of a father (I had a male version of Beth for *my* father). I just got done watching it again fully 25 years later and it packs just as big an emotional punch as it ever did, perhaps more for me now that my parents are gone and even this painful glance into family life in the '80's brings on more than a little nostalgia for me (even the clothes, the music, the language...the cars! - all remind me of my teens). And yes, I fell in love with Elizabeth McGovern all over again (she was so sweet as the understanding girl friend in this piece) - so Liz, get divorced and come back to me!
So Proudly We Hail! (1943)
Saccharin War Romance, but important
As a film goes, this one is rather dated, saccharin sweet romance (way - way over-the-top in the romance part). However, it is one of the few films that bothered to show the sacrifices that Red Cross Nurses, Doctors, and medical staff made during World War II. Because of that, it is an important film to see so that we can all appreciate their important contribution.
I just got done seeing it and I entered "World War II Corregidor" into Google and read several web pages that go into detail about the role Red Cross Nurses played in World War II. In http://www.gendergap.com/military/usmil6.htm it explains what actually happened on Corregidor and the part the nurses played. So, if you see this film - take a moment and educate yourself. If you are an American or affiliated with the Red Cross - you can take a moment and feel pride in their accomplishments. My late mother was a Registered Nurse who worked with the Red Cross after she "retired", so in my heart I paid homage to her and her generation by watching this film and reading the history behind it.
Anyway, pretty decent film except for the romance. Worth viewing.
In Enemy Hands (2004)
I can't believe people like this stinker
The screenplay was pretty lousy to begin with - but I guess I can give the actors credit for doing a good job for what they had. Macy is a favorite of mine and I give him credit for taking risks - so I find it hard to give him a bad review. It is, well, the problem is that the proposition the whole film is based on lacks credibility and the dialog is weak. It was so sickeningly "give-me-a-hug-its-wartime" and "we are at war but we really love each other" - man, it is like Barbara Streisand wrote this *war* film.
I can't believe so many people liked it. I wasted $3.99 on pay-per-view because of the comments on this board. The overall quality of this stinker barely comes up to a USA movie of the week, let alone a theater release. It was so bad that at the end I half expected the joint German/US crew to join together for a chorus of "Kum Bay Yah".
Pride and Prejudice (1995)
As Close to Perfection as Drama can get on Television
This project, along with Emma Thompson's reimagining of "Sense and Sensibility", both filmed in 1995, contributed to the renewal of the popularity on both sides of the Atlantic of Jane Austen's work and the costume drama that the British Television and Film Industry does so well, and for good reason. The talent involved - Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle, Crispin Bonham Carter, Benjamin Whitlow and the wonderful Barbara Leigh-Hunt on the acting side, Jane Austen on the writing side, and the BBC on the production side - almost guarantees a quality production, but as this is, in my opinion, the best Austen dramatization yet to appear on film or television. Of course, having the luxury of being able to basically shoot the novel without abridgement (327 minute mini series) is an advantage that this production has over the filmed versions, the most notable of which was the 1930's production with Sir Laurence Olivier as Darcy.
Surprisingly, the most effective casting was perhaps Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet, an American playing the famous English Rose. For pure enjoyment, Benjamin Whitlow and Alison Steadman's comedic performances playing off each other as Mr. and Mrs. Bennet was a real highlight. Also, it is no mystery why Colin Firth got type cast as Darcy he appeared earlier in the costume drama Valmont, but he seems to be most remembered for this `Darcy'; he seems to be made for this role (wasn't it amusing that his character's name in `Bridget Jones Diary' was `Darcy'?)
Anyway, this is a wonderful production and I can't think of any significant critism so for me, this mini series is a close to perfection as Drama can get on Television.
Lost in Translation (2003)
More like a painting than a film
I think the film didn't really function at the plot level so much - it functioned down in the gut. Sort of like the feeling you get when you are in an art gallery and latch onto a particular piece and you stare, stare, stare until you feel the painting rather than just look at it. I can't really think of another film experience quite like it - except perhaps snatches of a Merchant-Ivory film like "Howard's End" or "Room with a View" - even though both of these examples do indeed have a plot, there are certain moments in those films that set an emotional tone that is similar to what I felt when I watched "Lost in Translation". This is an artistic film that deserves more attention than I think it will get - but I am sure glad I saw it.
On a side note: as good a job as Bill Murray did, it would be interesting to see a version of this film with Clint Eastwood playing the lead.
The Sum of All Fears (2002)
Awful... Just Awful
Someone noted that it was stupid to compare a movie with the book it is based on. Personally, I think it is natural to do so when the quality of the plot (the aspect both mediums have in common, a plot) is considerably changed between the two, either for the better or the worse. In this case, the movie chooses to change the "baddies" from Arab terrorists to Nazi's??? The one thing that makes a Clancy novel so good is its ability to project verisimilitude in its fictional scenarios - one feels like "this could happen" while reading, that is what makes it thrilling!
Why, oh why, did the film maker choose Nazi's over Arabs as the villains - the real Nazi's need walkers to get around, they are so old. The new neo Nazi is so laughable as an international threat... Rejects from Jerry Springer launching a complex plan to steal a nuclear warhead!!! Hah! If you listen to the comment track on the DVD, Clancy snorts and laughs when this topic is brought up; it is obvious what he thinks about the plausibility of Nazi terrorism. I got the impression that it was the director's wishy washy smooshy PC politics that motivated this lame change in the plot - if he had problems with the plot he should have passed over the project, not wimpify it as he did.
Finally, the choice of Affleck for Ryan! This casting choice bewilders... he seriously lacks the gravitas of either of the previous Ryan choices. They should have used Liev Schreiber who plays John Clark for the Ryan role instead - when they are on the screen together it is so obvious who one follows and takes seriously on screen, Schreiber just blows Affleck away. This lousy choice of leading man ranks up there with casting Lazenby in the Bond series.
Lame, lame, lame. I hope they just put a bullet in the series rather than use the same creative team again.
With such a good cast one would think that something better could have been done. This film is SO lame it will only work for someone under the age of 17 and/or an IQ considerably less than 100.
I agree with those in this forum who have suggested that this would have worked much better as a five minute Saturday Night Live script - the rest of the 90 minutes was a waste of time.
Fine Romantic Comedy - one of Hugh Grant's Best
It is too bad that heavy dramatic films get so much attention at awards time at the expense of comedy, which is harder to pull off in the first place. I have read reviews of this film which call it a "lightweight tale". Perhaps it is, but I have watched it now probably three or four times and have enjoyed it every time. Hugh Grant shows his considerable charm and Tara Fitzgerald is lovely and engaging.
The story is a bittersweet tale of loss, home, and redemption set in Wales during the First World War. Although it is definitely a comedy, still it shows the devastation and loss experienced by the home front during WWI and how the community suffers and yet survives. The comedy plays against this serious theme with the quirky characters in the village and the humorous attempts they make to keep two traveling map makers in the village long enough so they can add twenty feet to their "hill" so that it will be a "mountain" on the maps, which is has been until the map makers found that it fell short of the thousand foot definition.
I give it ***1/2 out of ****.
Federal Protection (2002)
Big Stinko - laughably bad
How do these scripts get made anyway? Why would a good actor like Armande Assante agree to this brain-dead piece? I hope he got paid well. This stinker couldn't have read well.
This film had so many holes, I won't bore you with them all (each scene seemed to have several) - bad accents (the one head mobster sounded like he was from LA not Jersey, or maybe even Canada) - annoying soundtrack. The "comedy" aspect - like a chick who sticks the heel of her pump into a guy's forehead wasn't funny or believable. This same lady who has absolutely no scruples (she kills her brother-in-law at the end of that scene for some reason or another which isn't really explained *and* she is sleeping with the guy) later on in the film decides she will sacrifice herself for that same sister - huh? There is also a golf bit that is supposed to be funny - it may have been a little funny the first time but when they pulled the same bit at the end all it did was elicit eye-rolling moans in our little audience.
The acting was uniformly awful except for Armande - in fact, the film is almost watchable during his scenes. To think that someone on this forum said this junk was better than "Whole 9 Yards"!
Save your time, watch an episode of "Sopranos" instead, or, better still, watch "Whole 9 Yards".
Clever Entertaining Film, just recast the leads
I thought "Jade Scorpion" was a very funny film and quite entertaining. However, it was sadly lacking in the casting. Woody is just getting too old looking to play the leading man with young women. If he does continue to play this role, he should at least get women who can act like they are attracted to him regardless, but Helen Hunt didn't seem up to the job. Sorry, but some actors can continue playing the leading man into their seventies, but unfortunately for Woody - he just doesn't have the genes to do it.
Helen Hunt. I am a big fan, but she didn't look the least bit attracted to Woody - there was ZERO chemistry between them - and worst of all they just didn't banter well together. The one thing about all the successful Woody female costars is that they could deliver the Woody banter, so much so you could see how these two people could love each other. Well, I don't know what the problem was here, but Helen just didn't deliver the Woody dialog well. She is obviously a good actress, she definitely delivered in "As Good as it Gets", even though there was an age gap there between her and Jack Nicholson, you could see them together - but she was just not convincing in "Jade Scorpion".
I think Woody should write himself more plausible characters to play, or perhaps just direct plausible actors in his brilliantly conceived films. After all, "Jade Scorpion" was well written and shot - I thought the plot was very entertaining. I just think he should have recast the two leads, his part and Helen Hunt's.
Any Given Sunday (1999)
When I saw "Platoon", I was blown away - I thought, wow, I'll go see anything this guy puts out. "Wall Street" was also pretty good. Then I saw "JFK" and "Natural Born Killers" and, well, I can pass up an Oliver Stone movie now. I finally got round to seeing this one, "Any Given Sunday" and now I just want to avoid ol' Olly.
Personally, a little bit of hand hold, jumpy, "realistic" camera work will go a *long*, *long* way with me. It takes me out of the film and just annoys me generally. Admittedly, a sports film will have a certain amount of this - but do we have to see it off the field as well? I don't see how this makes any artistic statement, it is just exhausting. This film is non stop jumpy short cut camera and editing work which just gives me a headache. It is possible there was a good story there before it was given this sound bite short cut treatment - though it is possible there was never a good story there. I'll never know, I'll never watch it again to try and pick it up. Was this a truly cynical attempt by Stone to appeal to our supposedly short attention span?
Anyway, I'm almost totally cured of Stonecraft. Hopefully his upcoming film about Alexander the Great ("Alexander") will remind us all that the director of "Platoon" has returned and the director of "Natural Born Killers" and "Any Given Sunday" has retired. I'm going to read reviews carefully before I put any money down to watch "Alexander", but hope springs eternal. I love historical drama and this subject area hasn't been covered in film before to my certain knowledge, so I hope Mr. Stone has returned to his talented roots and makes his new film from the heart, as he did for his Vietnam movies.
Weird and Fun, a Nice little Picture
I'll grant you, this isn't for everyone. But there is a lot to recommend this film, fine acting, fun characters, great photography, and a haunting score (by Director Yokum). Also I thought that the use of the Western metaphor was interesting, as it is often used as the stage for American morality tales. What it lacks is a consistency - it would have been a much better film if this cinematic purgatory had some rules that were understandable.
Everyone seems to be dead and fighting out their last battles before going to heaven, but what does it mean that some characters get shot and "die" and others continue on with similar injuries? Is this one characters' purgatory and the rest are actors? Or is this a shared purgatory - and if so, what does it mean to die? When "dead" are they dispatched to Hell? Do the ones that survive get to go to San Francisco with Bridget Fonda (sounds like heaven to me <g>)? And what did the government agent do to be included in this anyway (the funniest performance in the film by Bud Cort - though Jeter comes in second as the emasculated rapist)? That said, it was engaging to think of justice and the afterlife in the American West circa 1900, especially with a little humor.
This piece has intelligence and a sense of fun and experimentation which is pleasing to see once in a while - I just wish the writers had gone the extra mile to tie it all together a little more. I'm not saying they had to be obvious, but the lack of consistency held it back from being a great effort to merely an interesting one.
Anyway, I enjoyed it - it was a breath of fresh air in an art form which is too often predictable and simplistic. Don't let the ratings fool you; some people get mad when they don't get their regular meat and potatoes served, even when they get a delightful piece of sushi.
Floating Away (1998)
We need more of this
Caught this staying up late watching cable. Pity that its obvious flaws (Paul Hogan as a transplant Australian just didn't work) kept it from a larger audience. The sincerity of the delivery and the fine acting by Rosanna Arquette definitely makes this worth while. Anyone who has had problems with addiction can attest to the authenticity of the work: it is nice that for once a film is made that deals with Alcoholism without condescension or stereotypes, just raw truth and compassion. I haven't read the book ("Sorrow Floats") but I think I will now. I wonder if the book also has the somewhat unrealistic ending which I think also hurt the work a bit.
Notting Hill (1999)
Heartwarming Break from Reality (in a good way)
I find myself watching this when I need a pleasant break from reality - both leads are perfectly cast and work together well. Aside from a slight goof where the Julia Roberts' character remarks on how good the tuna is at a restaurant when earlier in the film it is established that she is vegetarian (this is what happens when you watch a film too many times). At any rate, a first rate little comedy.
When you listen to the DVD commentary you find out that most of the exposition on the other characters (the friends) has been cut out - I wish the filmmakers would rerelease a version with this put back in (assuming it was shot and not cut from the script itself). I enjoy the other characters nearly as much as the stars and wish they had more screen time anyway - to find that at one point they *did* is frustrating and disappointing.
Anna to the Infinite Power (1983)
Woof! Looks like my 7th grade project!
I got a Super-8 camera and two teen pals of mine to make a movie for my 7th grade English class, but I didn't get to put it on HBO! I just caught this on Showtime this morning on my way to work and was amazed that this sort of amateur bubblegum could make it onto a major pay channel.
Come to think of it, if Showtime put this rubbish on, perhaps they would take a look at my 7th grade project!
Blood Work (2002)
Should be "Bad Work"
I was shocked at how bad this movie was. After about 20 minutes into the film, I noted that the dialog was so cheesy and inauthentic I thought I was watching a Segal or Norris flick. I stopped the film and looked at the DVD cover again to make sure that Ebert & Roeper gave this crap two thumbs up!?!?!
The film did get marginally better after that - so I sat through to the end. It didn't take too long, however, to figure out who the killer was: Jeff Daniels stuck out like a sore thumb. There were some aspects of the plot that were interesting and if the project was directed better with a screenwriter who could write _believable_ dialog, this could have been quite a good film. I suspect that the book that this was based on *was* a good thriller.
Personally, I can't recall having seen anything Clint has directed that was terribly good anyway. However, he *can* act and has on numerous occasions shown himself to be a fine film actor. I think he should stick with that and start playing some meaty roles that reflect the fact that yes, Clint is becoming an older man, and he can't be Dirty Harry anymore. So, evolve Clint! Take some character roles for a change and don't embarrass yourself with roles that lead you down the road of becoming a has-been, lame, geriatric action hero.
Son in Law (1993)
Unbelievably Bad. This deserves a big Bronx Cheer!
It amazes me that anyone would find Pauly Shore entertaining: he is basically one joke that gets stale *real* fast. He has his little "California" jerk vocabulary and a basic stock of lame jokes. Mainly, he is just obnoxious.
That said, I watched this movie because I was up sick and there was literally nothing else on but infomercials, otherwise I would have turned it off after 30 minutes. Anyway, the film could have been OK if Pauly could have just turned off his spiel and just played it as a comic actor instead of, well, Pauly.
Anyway, I'm sure Pauly fans will like it anyway - but if you are not a Pauly fan, stay away from this crock of manure.
I had to leave this comment after seeing that another user actually gave this film a 10/10! (Maybe it was Pauly!!) Personally, I gave it a 3/10 because they didn't have any mike-in-frame shots, didn't drop the camera, and the supporting cast was pretty good.
K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)
Bogus plot device unnecessary
I liked the movie OK - but I would add that a thermonuclear explosion is not even remotely possible when a nuclear reactor has an excursion event (as was depicted in the movie). What would happen is a melt down followed by a thermal explosion, which would not have been mistaken as a nuclear explosion by the US and therefore would not have caused a retaliatory response. I am a trained and qualified nuclear engineer and this just would not happen in a light water reactor (Chernobyl was not a light water reactor).
It is too bad that even though they went to great pains to make the submarine experience accurate (and they did) that they chose to foist this inaccuracy on the public, who already fears nuclear power beyond the point which they would if they knew the facts. Now, they have yet another reason to fear nuclear power based on inaccuracies perpetrated by this film.
Spring Forward (1999)
Sincere, honest film making - Superb!
It rarely gets this good. This is proof that you don't need $50Million to make a supurb, accessible, thoroughly enjoyable film. What you do need is a thoughtful script and a dedicated cast - which this project has in abundance. I got the same feeling after seeing this film as I get when I see a good, live stage play. The film drew me in and I felt as if I was communicating with the cast and the writer.
Liev Schreiber and Ned Beatty were so good...I could have sat and watched them together for hours. I didn't want to leave them at the end of the film.
I can't recommend this film enough - see it, you won't be disappointed.
Shining Through (1992)
Implausible BAD film
I'm sorry but the lack of at least a plausible plot in a drama is an almost insurmountable obstacle for me to enjoy a film: "Shining Through" is an example of this problem. In my book, it is the absolute responsibility for a screenwriter to present the audience with a believable story; otherwise one cannot lose oneself in the film - which is the whole point of the film experience, especially historical dramas. I lose patience with the argument that "this is just a movie" or "go see a documentary if you want accuracy" whenever someone defends a film with an implausible story. Drama loses its impact when one isn't presented with a situation that one cannot imagine oneself involved in. The same could be said for anachronisms in historical drama, but in this area the director is responsible and "Shining Through" actually scored pretty well in this area; I didn't see any obvious clues that the story was filmed 40 odd years after the fact.
In addition to the implausible screenplay, the acting was weak: especially Melanie Griffith. She just isn't the strongest actor in the world. In the right roles, she can be enjoyable to watch and she is certainly one of the most attractive people out there, but this role required an acting ability she just doesn't have. Michael Douglas, on the other hand, is a fine actor - just caught in a real dumb movie. (The throat gag is so ludicrous)
Anyway, this is a 3/10 if ever I saw one. The only films I score lower than this are ones with huge technical gaffes like microphone in frame or dropping the camera.
Excellent film! But a tad too much Hero Worship
Let us chalk another one up for Michael Mann! His direction - combining a stunning visual style and pace - deserves high praise. Normally I am not one to sit still looking at fight scenes for too long, but the clever use of Ali's inner dialogs during the fight kept me interested. Also, as usual for Mann's films: I love the sound/music mix. Remember the sound track for `Manhunter' and `The Insider'? This is just as good if not better.
Will Smith's and Jon Voight's performances (and the whole cast for that matter) were so shockingly good that one almost forgot that one was looking at actors on a screen. For a moment I thought I was watching `When we Were Kings' instead of `Ali'! I knew ever since "Runaway Train" that Jon Voight was a major talent but Will Smith! Amazing. Amazing. I look forward to Will's next challenging script.
I do believe that if `Ali' has a fault it is that the script was unbalanced: too far into the hero worship category if the film is trying to be an accurate biography. Ali is/was/always will be a great man, but he isn't quite the sainted figure that the script makes him out to be. I felt that Ali's treatment of Joe Frazier prior to the 1971 bout - painting him out to be a "Tom" and pro-establishment - was self serving and unfair, especially since it was Frazier that gave Ali the chance to regain the title when he didn't have to. This wasn't really touched on in the script and I think it would have been to the films' advantage to show Ali's faults as well as his considerable strengths. Still, Ali has unwavering devotion to his faith, loyalty to his friends, willingness to stand up to the moral outrage of the draft during Vietnam... Come to think of it, compared to our leaders today, Ali maybe does deserve some hero worship after all.
15 Minutes (2001)
Takes itself a tad seriously, but some good action sequences
This film follows the exploits of two visitors to the US from the Czech Republic and Russia. In short order they learn of the Insanity Defense and how some criminals profit handsomely from selling their stories and decide to make a career based on this premise. An arson investigator and a famous criminal detective are tracking them down. Sort of an action film, but also seems to dabble in social criticism.
The film is pretty weak when it gets down to it because it tries to be two things at the same time and fails at both of them. It fails as an action film as every time the pace and action heat up the film takes a left turn to take some time on the "social commentary" tack. It fails on the "social commentary" tack as I don't think it is making especially profound statements. I suppose it tries to make the case that media's representation of violence perpetuates it. Ho hum... This is something new that we need to be informed of? This has media relationship with the salacious and the violent has been accelerating ever since the OJ case - and everyone knows it and most everyone hates it (but watch it all the same). Since the only way that this will change is if the people who make these decisions for the media refuse to air this stuff - I doubt that anything will ever happen, no matter how many "social commentary" hollywood films come out.
The area of the film that the film was more successful (but in the end wasn't enough to save the film) with was the action sequences. What made these worth while watching was the actors who played the two killers, Karel Roden and Oleg Taktarov. They were great fun. Keep your eyes out for both of these actors, they have something. Especially Karel Roden. Apparently he already has proven himself in multiple roles in films marketed outside the US. I can see him playing the heavy on a 007 film. The action sequences were well done and the plot could have been interesting if the whole media angle was dropped. And I hate to say it - but I think that in this case the film would have been better off if the Deniro character survived. I thought the two main characters played by Deniro and Burns had a good repartee and the film started losing its way once the character Deniro plays was killed.
Anyway, some good stuff here but nothing to go out of your way to see. If it shows up on cable and you can't find anything else ... maybe.
The Tao of Steve (2000)
Entertaining, Insightful, Funny, Moving
Entertaining, Insightful, Funny, Moving.
This film was a delight to see. Immediately after viewing the DVD I ran the director's commentary that was nearly as entertaining to listen to as the film was! All of the participants in the commentary (including the director, writer, and both leads) were intelligent, amusing, and and very entertaining: I wanted to invite them all over for dinner and play poker and talk philosophy (and of course, the Tao of Steve) until dawn. I take that back, after viewing the stunning photography of the film, I want them to invite *me* to dinner in Sante Fe! I did have to stop the film to look up solipsistic, though <g>.
I want to see more where this came from and so will you if you choose to view this wonderful film!