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Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
Typical 'Late Woody' fare: annoying instead of entertaining
It's been ages since Woody Allen made a decent movie. Small Time Crooks, Match Point, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Cassandra's Dream and this one: all of them terribly clichéd, hollow and with a total lack of movie-making skills.
Take this one: an annoying voice-over, which does nothing more than literally describing each and every scene ("They go to a restaurant, have some wine and talk") sets the tone. The acting too isn't terribly engaging with Rebecca Hall more irritating than sexy, Scarlett Johansson terribly under-used and the usually fine Patricia Clarkson in the typical Diane Keatonish role of the kind of woman you rather not want to get into a conversation with. Only Penelope Cruz is decent, but has such a small and confusing part that one can't really understand why she won prizes for this.
And the story? You tell me. Two American female tourists get caught up in a complex relationship between a Spanish painter and his ex-wife. Could be interesting, but the result is not. This is all presented in typical Woody-fashion: all talk and nearly no play. But if you expected any insights, a slight bit of entertainment or something else than the usual clichés about Spain and his inhabitants: look further.
Can we make a deal that from now on Woody Allen gets the treatment other directors who make this hollow, borderline amateurish and self-indulgent fare get? Time for some retirement, mister Allen.
Non ho sonno (2001)
When you watch a Dario Argento flick, you know what to expect. Still, being a sucker for a good slasher pic, I still give these movies a chance. You get the gore, you get ... Well, that's about it. The acting, of course, is awful. The script? Well, I wonder if there ever was one. Seems like they improvised this one over some good pot. Thrills? Not really. Even the killings are fake as hell. I know, that's what Argento stands for, but one has to wonder: why has this guy gathered such a reputation? Is it because "it's so bad it must be good"? I read someone's comment here that if you don't like this film, you know nothing about movie making. No kidding?
Not so bad at all
This is one of those films that critics deem to be "in bad taste". A film with a reputation like e.g. RHINESTONE (though MEATBALLS definitely has a cult following). I don't really understand the fuzz about it. This film isn't bad, isn't good, but is really nothing special at all too. BUT it has an enjoyable Bill Murray performance, some chuckles along the way and characters that are, well, tolerable (unlike many other similar movies). The overacting is cut down to a minimum and the "villains" are sized down as well, which is a good thing. In short: don't expect a believable, dramatic story, nor big laughs or great acting. But on its own terms, this is decent stuff. 6/10
Tipping the Velvet (2002)
No Brokeback here
In short, this is one of the worst of the so-called prestigious BBC-series. I'm not a huge fan of the "big gay movie" of these days, Brokeback Mountain (a good movie, but not a masterpiece), but after having seen this series, I must say that that film at least tried to understand the relationship between two people. This series is a mockery of all things lesbian.
First of all, the directing is the worst thing about the film. Whatever emotional impact could be expected of this soapy script, director Sax ruined it. This guy seems to think this story needed a Guy Ritchie approach. I mean, come on, we're talking lesbianism at the end of the 19th century here. What's with the endlessly repeated "focus" shots then? Or the short cuts? The fast forward-ism (worked well in Requiem for a Dream, about drugs, here it doesn't make any sense)? And does this guy even know how to get a better performance out of an actor (see below)? Secondly, the acting. I have no major problems with the way everyone acted, save lead Rachael Stirling, who was absolutely not up to this role. But then again, the role itself couldn't really be anyone's cup of tea. With Stirling's over-affected way of acting and misplaced intonations however (not to mention her strange voice), this character was anything but believable, let alone interesting.
And in the end, the entire cast was simply defeated by a terrible script and lousy dialogue. I don't know if the book by Sarah Waters is any good, but if it's anything like this piece of bad soap opera, I don't understand why it ever was considered to be essential women's literature, and why it should be turned into a movie. The rags-to-riches, riches-to-rags and rags-to-riches-again story isn't even the main problem. This has been done a thousand times before, and often with much better results. But not a moment did I believe these characters; often I even got embarrassed by the cheesy words they spoke at each other. And do some people still think falling in love is best shown by one person gasping at the other from scratch? And what's with the oysters? Was that supposed to be a lesbian metaphor? And really, couldn't they have come up with a better title? No, I really can't understand why this series is rated above 8 here on the IMDb. This is a downright embarrassment for anyone who 's gay or lesbian. This ain't a film about the Victorian era, this is film making as if it still wás the Victorian era!
Le notti del terrore (1981)
Even as dubbed Italian gore films go, this one is very low-class. Even the make-up is below par. None of the death scenes are terrifying. Rather boring actually (zombies walk slowly, people wait, get themselves killed in gruesome fashion). Shocking? Well...if that's the only reason for this film to exist, it should be in deep burial ground itself. I won't go into acting, story, zombie character (amazing how you discover new stuff about zombies in films like these ;-)and other very important stuff (for normal films). I've watched a lot of this sort of films by now. This one is one of the worst. Made by people who obviously had nothing better to do. 1/10 (and even lower) After all these years, the only good gore films for me are the ones Peter Jackson (thé Peter Jackson) made (Braindead, Bad Taste). They had a good sense of humor in them. I don't see how you can tolerate films like these without a sense of humor. This one treats it all very seriously (though you gotta laugh at its ineptness), as a result it's a downright turkey, with no merits at all.
...and justice for all
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!!!!!!! (I suggest you read this after having seen the film) I don't know if what I'm gonna say can be regarded as a "spoiler", because after all, this is a documentary and maybe a lot of people know what happened. It's quite impossible too to discuss this without giving away the ending.
This documentary (though this one plays out like a terrific film) chronicles the trial of Michael Peterson, but at the same time tells you more about morality, prejudice, justice and Southern mentality than you could've imagined. The director used a fly-on-the-wall approach to the subject, which was very appropriate in my opinion, though some people clearly regarded this as being biased. But you can't argue what you CAN see in the film...
Now let me start by saying that I won't go into details about the case (in which novelist Michael Peterson was found guilty of murdering his then wife, Kathleen; the case is now up for appeal, by the way). The facts, testimonies, evidence, etc. you have to see for yourself, whether it be in this documentary, television footage or in some archive. I won't even go so far as to say that Michael Peterson didn't murder his wife, because after all I wasn't present at the trial (and even that isn't always a guarantee for justice) and I've only been offered this material in the form of a documentary (by French film maker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade) of about 6 hours. So maybe he did it, maybe he didn't. But I've studied the law myself for several years here in Belgium and after having seen this film and having read about the case whatever I could find, I really can't conclude otherwise than by saying that there's at least enough reasonable doubt to set Peterson free.
For me, more important than the technical discussions in the film (some people seem to KNOW that for example doctor Henry Lee sold out to the defense side), is the human and moral aspect at play here. I díd see the four sons and daughters of Michael Peterson standing behind their (step-)father all the way (with the exception of Kathleen's daughter Caitlin). I díd hear prosecutor Freda Black talk about the "filth" she found on Peterson's computer, talking about the homosexual pornography she found ("no relationship, but pure sex") and the triumphant look in the other prosecutor Jim Hardin's eyes (though he did his best not to show it) when he found the pornography. For these people it was apparent that the dubious sexual ways of Peterson were enough from the start to declare him guilty. I can't even begin to understand how it is possible that the homosexual stuff was allowed in the trial, or how it was possible that the autopsy report (by the clearly highly incompetent "expert" Deborah Radisch (does she even know she's not allowed to make judgments in her report?)) was put out on the internet, before the case started.
Worst of all however, I was shocked by the decision of the prosecutors to bring the death of Elizabeth Ratliff (a close friend of Peterson, about twenty years ago, who died in "similar" circumstances) into play here (they even dug up her corpse again). What were they trying to prove with that? That Peterson is a serial killer who strikes once every twenty years in the proximity of a staircase? Well, that doesn't go with the theory of Kathleen Peterson finding out about his bisexuality and getting herself killed. What was the motive of Peterson in the Ratliff case by the way? Not one single answer on that by the prosecutors.
No murder weapon, not a decent motive and not one decent theory by the prosecutor about how Michael Peterson could have killed his wife (judge for yourself when you see the staircase of the title). But a lot of dirty tricks, e.g. bringing in Peterson's sexuality, his writings (fiction!) and the death of Elizabeth Ratliff, and plenty of wild theories (e.g. the blow-poke). For me that's enough (multiplied by ten) to conclude there's reasonable doubt in this case, but the jurors concluded otherwise. Beyond a reasonable doubt is a fine concept, too bad some people use it so light-heartedly.
But it's not hard to guess why Peterson was convicted. Not because the prosecutors showed he was guilty, but because he's bisexual, quite rich and white (a majority of the jurors and the judge were black), and because, well, let's face it, the juror system simply doesn't work. The prosecutors knew very well which buttons to push (the emotional and moral ones, not too surprising in these Bush times) and even after all had been said and done (and Hardin and Black clearly didn't even have faith in a guilty verdict anymore), those issues simply made the difference. So what if there's no proof, we can't stand the man, 'kay? I could comment on the dubious role the judge (allow everything, no matter if it's relevant; if it can hurt Peterson, bring it on), some media (ignore what's been said on the trial, ask silly questions and make up a story of your own), the police, medical examiner Radisch and some of Kathleen Peterson's relatives (I understand their grief, but what her sisters did was preposterous) played here, but enough for now. You be the judge.
Like Peterson's lawyer said (more or less): "The outcome did not surprise me. It shook the foundations of my belief in the justice system, in humanity, morality and myself." I doubt if the world we're living in today is as safe as some people will have us believe. Just look around you. Who would like to be judged by such "peers"?
A day in the life of...
This short by young fellow Belgian Jonas Geirnaert is already notable for the fact that the guy went to Cannes with his yet to be finished film, actually his graduation film (not yet judged by his teachers), won an important prize and had a remarkable speech afterwards saying "Don't vote Bush, in case Michael Moore shouldn't have the chance to say that this evening". This got him the recognition of a large part of the public, not in the least Moore himself. So, maybe we got a major filmmaker of the future on our hands here, ...with or without the help of MM. Now, is the short worth the fuzz? Pretty much so, yeah. It's a pretty darn funny and imaginative short, all the more remarkable by being the product of such a young filmmaker. I'm not sure what it's it trying to say, I guess you can interpret it in different ways, but I surely liked it and laughed several times. Catch it if you can. 8/10
Il vangelo secondo Matteo (1964)
I found this movie to be rather critical towards Jesus Christ and the whole of christianity, unlike most (American) movies (which is not a bad thing as such). This film has frequently been praised as the ultimate film on the life of (the) Christ. But I simply think Pasolini meant something else when making this film. This is not THE tale as we know it, this is Pasolini's vision, even if it's the Gospel according to St. Matthew. Jesus Christ comes off here not as the ultimate goodness in human form, but more as a pretty intolerant and even sectarian figure. And some of his deeds and the events in his life are presented in such a way that it's even hard to understand why people nowadays even bother to believe in them. I don't know if that's what Pasolini meant (after all he was a fervent marxist and known homosexual, which might explain (partially) a more hostile view towards the roman-catholic church), but I have strong feelings he did.
The Accountant (2001)
Simply the best short film I ever saw. Imaginative, funny (did I say funny? I mean HILARIOUS)and one that can be viewed over and over again to get the whole picture. This reminded me of the great work of the Coen Bros(especially THE BIG LEBOWSKI). Seems very absurd and scores as great for almost the whole duration (about 30-35 min.) of the (short) movie, until the end, when it becomes a masterpiece. With all of this in mind I'll be happy to watch it again for sure, if I can get my hands on it once more. Just caught this on Dutch television but shorts don't come by so often on TV, so next time I'll surely try and tape it. Won't be for all tastes, but won't kill you either ;-) and I simply loved it. 10/10 ( a first for a short in my book)
Downpayment on Murder (1987)
Aims for Hitchcock, fails, but not bad alltogether
Not a bad little film, this one turned out more than I thought it would be. The story has a lot of Hitchcock in it: aggressive man gets kicked out of the house by his wife, then turns against her and eventually plans to murder her. There are some twists along the way you won't expect in a film of this kind, though it's not exactly unpredictable either. Same with the acting: pretty decent (Gazzara, Bailey, Morse,...), with some stereotypical roles filled in rather nicely (e.g. David Morse as one of the detectives, dressed in outrageous 80's outfits), though I could have done with a better leading lady. And same with the story too: realistic up to a point, but not all the way. It's a bit like walking a tight rope between pretty good and mediocre. I give this one an average rating (in the most positive sense of the way): 6/10.
De zaak Alzheimer (2003)
Don't believe the hype
Don't we all love (the products of) our home country? This seems to be the case with this film. It's getting numerous rave reviews in my home country, Belgium, but the only reason I can think of why this is happening, is because it's a Belgian film. This is actually Hollywood film-making, but with Belgian actors and situations. It ain't worse than your average Hollywood thriller, but it ain't exactly much better too. It's like the director, Erik van Looy, is shouting out: "Look what I can do: I can make a perfect copy of a Hollywood policier!"
In copying the Hollywood style, he surely has succeeded. It almost seems like every scene is an exact copy of what you have seen in superior films such as SE7EN (right up to the package of the killer at the end), MEMENTO (the notes on the lead character's arm), the Michael Mann films (the look of the film), etc. You could compare this film to those films, but that would be unfair: this simply has none of the greatness nor the originality of those films.
Thus said, the biggest problem of this film is its originality. You could predict every story "twist" as the films comes along right up to the final shot. It's quite enjoyable nonetheless, though it gets more and more frustrating in the end when you realize nothing surprising will happen.
Can you blame the actors for all of this? Well, I was never a big fan of Belgian actors and I still feel the same way. Some are pretty good, others are simply not believable. Actors like Koen De Bouw and Jo De Meyere get excellent reviews, but are quite disappointing in their one-dimensional approach to their characters. Jan Decleir is regarded as our best actor (he appears in almost every Belgian film), and he delivers with a decent, if not great, performance. Werner De Smedt is always watchable, though I liked him better in the Academy Award-nominated IEDEREEN BEROEMD! (not a great film either by the way, though I really liked that film's lead actor, Josse De Pauw). The supporting roles fare generally better, especially Dirk Roofthooft in a small but pivotal role, and actresses like Els Dottermans or Hilde De Baerdemaker (though their roles don't add up to much). But for a better actors' film, watch Tom Barman's ANY WAY THE WIND BLOWS (though actors and style is all that one's got).
Now, you might have guessed that I'm not a big fan of Belgian films, unlike most of the people I know, but I really wouldn't bother watching this film if you're not Belgian yourself. You could just as easily watch mediocre Hollywood fare like KISS THE GIRLS, BLOOD WORK, or another SE7EN/SILENCE OF THE LAMBS rip-off. De Zaak Alzheimer (The Alzheimer Case) is watchable enough, and at times rather funny, but I think mostly to Belgian audiences. The rivalry between the different Belgian police units, or the scandals in which almost every Belgian politician, advocate, prosecutor, or whatever is embroiled are quite amusing, but this film has really not that much more to offer. My rating would be a mere 5,5/10.
P.S.: for a good Belgian film, see if you can find ALLES MOET WEG (Everything Must Go), MANNEKEN PIS, ROSIE or (more or less)DAENS. See that I don't dislike em all? -)
What's wrong with this one?
Now, there are lots of films that are total trash, and when I saw the comments and reviews on this one, I thought I was in for a real stinker. Big surprise: I actually laughed several times during this! Dialogue unfunny? I've heard some good stuff here (e.g. the comments by Stallone on his rival Barnett, as well as the dialogue of these two), and you could do a lot worse. And I mean A LOT! Bad acting? Now, Sly will never be an oscar-winner (though he was pretty good in COPLAND), but at least he's likeable. I've never seen Steven Seagal or my fellow countryman JC Van Damme being likeable. Dolly may not be the greatest actress either, but hell, she CAN sing (and I thought I couldn't stand country!)and she's adorable in a way that even reminds me of Marilyn Monroe. Love it when she laughs too. Well, and with support from actors such as Ron Leibman (Razzie nominee? This guy is funny and appropriately slimy)and Richard Farnsworth (THE STRAIGHT STORY, always a pleasure to watch). The singing? Well, if ya like Dolly's singing, there's plenty of it in this film. And Sly ain't that bad either. Not great, but hey, what you expect given the story. This is supposed to sound like this, this ain't the biography of say Garth Brooks! I even liked the macho country singer singing about his girl ending up in pieces (lol).
I know, this ain't the greatest comedy of all times, this ain't a rave review, and people (especially critics) like to make fun of Sly and Dolly. But you can do a lot worse than this and end up with films such as BAD DEFENSE or BATMAN & ROBIN, EXCESS BAGGAGE, SHALLOW HAL or (shudder) BLIND DATE (with Bruce Willis). I was really surprised that I ended up enjoying this, and that I actually laughed a couple of times. The story has almost no surprises, but it ain't terribly cliched either. And that, people, is more than you can say about 90% of the comedies these days. 6/10
I know that some films (I mean: European films), that are very bad films, are being regarded as great cinema by certain "critics", only because they're non-American. I saw the 8.1 IMDB score for this film and noticed the fact that this was being selected for certain big festivals. Don't let this fool you! Unless you're one of those people that likes mind-numbing films like this, and call it great art afterwards, skip it! The film contains one hilarious scene after another (a similar, Italian, film popped into my mind, the terrible PREFERISCO IL RUMORE DEL MARE (I prefer the sound of the sea)). The problem with these films is that they're not only boring, like some other strangely praised films, but that they almost play like camp. I mean, let's face it, the acting is horrible (I mean: soap opera-level), the story has not one surprise (this has been done endless times before, connecting several storylines: SHORT CUTS, MAGNOLIA, PLAYING BY HEART, only much better), not one realistic character in it (some true freak-seeing along the way, notice the hilarious zombie-like daughter), and so on and so on.
As if that's not enough, the film is 135 min. (count it!) long, and at the end the director opens his can of sentimentality. After a film with such hilariously bad dialogue and scenes that made the public at the preview screening laugh at so much incompetence, well... This is an insult to cinema, and only receives high ratings because it happens to be in "another" language, in this case Spanish. Strange world we live in...3/10
Having not seen the first X-MEN, I wondered if I could make sense of the story in here, since the first film was especially about introducing the characters. I must say I haven't had any major problems getting "in" the story, though some things asked for some explanation. Now, the film started out terrific: opening credits, first scene involving the new character of Nightcrawler (incredible, though I would have liked to see more of him), the escape from the ice cage, the raid on the mansion,.... I admired the fact that Bryan Singer didn't choose to copy THE MATRIX (like so many other films), and thought he did a great job here. I also liked how all of these characters used their specific "qualities" (there are some amazing ones in this film). However, the second half of the film wasn't up to par with the first half. It wasn't bad, but the story just had too many lulls, especially near the end. A pity, given the terrific start. Nevertheless, watch this one for the excellent action scenes. Some of it will get your heart pumping. 8/10
The Magdalene Sisters (2002)
Fails to achieve its goal
I really wanted to like this film, really. But it simply didn't work for me. The acts depicted in this film are shocking and utterly despicable and there have undoubtedly been serious wrongs in these monasteries; the film itself however falls flat on its stomach. ALL of the characters simply are caricatures of themselves, even the girls. And the story is nothing more than one sadistic act after another. Shocking? Yes. But after watching this film, what happened seems barely believable, because of the afore-mentioned reasons. And I don't think that's what they meant to do here. What a pity. 5/10
Die Another Day (2002)
Over-the-top, even silly, but loads of fun and thrills
The new James Bond has arrived and it's a good one. Not excellent, not very good, but nothing less than "good". After the minor GOLDENEYE and the even weaker THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, this one has got the thrills to keep you tightly on the edge of your seat, the women (Berry and Pike), and lots of fun and chuckles (nearly every line in the film must be containing a sexual reference). The best thing I can say about this James Bond, is that it catches up with recent action movies. TWINE failed to do that and made the series look rusty, yes, even 'old'. But this one is tough (kinda reminded me of the last good James Bond, LICENCE TO KILL), funny (Moneypenny's big scene is a riot)and makes the world's top spy look good again...finally.
I have to admit that the film can't quite sustain its terrific start til the very end, and the film goes more over-the-top with each step it takes (but hey, it's a 007 flick!), but it's got stunts and fight scenes coming at ya in lightning pace, and some nice surprises too along the way. Notice the opening credits. Notice the fear in James Bond's eyes at the start (a first for the series!). Notice the spectacular gadgets. Goodie goodie, this must be the best James Bond can ever get. Because, let's face it, when we go see a James Bond film, we're not looking for the best film of all times, we're looking for a good time. And that, ladies and gentlemen, D.A.D. offers...abundantly. 8/10
P.S.: Madonna has a cameo and the following fencing scenes (Madonna not included however) may be the best of the movie. P.S.2: Lee Tamahori directs this flick. He made a quite impressive film back in New-Zealand (ONCE WERE WARRIORS), but has gotten more and more into the action genre ever since his arrival in Hollywood. THE EDGE was passable, ALONG CAME A SPIDER was pretty bad, but I noticed that, though he's doing a decent job here (the frequently used slow-motion and cuts are however a bit jarring), the special effects are not always convincing (the ice water scene with the parachute). This was the case for the opening scenes of "SPIDER" too. Can't this guy get the best f/x people in Hollywood? Or does he always use the same folks?
Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
Gives a new dimension to the word "tiresome"
ANOTHER slasher pick? Yes, it's the new Halloween, the 7th or 8th in the series, lost count. No 7th or 8th film in a series is any good, the 4th, 5th and 6th usually aren't neither, but that's ok. Actually, I had some hopes for this film, walking in the theater. The original Halloween was one of the best in the genre, with never-dying Michael Myers entering the big-screen in spectacular fashion. But the second in the series was already far beyond par, and the rest was pure formula (haven't seen any of em though). Then came H20: 20 YEARS LATER, which benefited again from Jamie Lee Curtis' presence. Not a good film, far from being a stand-out in the genre, but at least it had SCREAM-writer Kevin Williamson on the credits, and was actually pretty enjoyable too. So I thought: well, maybe this new Halloween will have some suspense too, maybe some surprises (I'm a sucker for surprises). But what I saw...well, I'm still speechless. This film was even worse than most stupid entries in this genre.
First of all, we get a stupid explanation for the fact that Michael is STILL alive (unbelievable if you saw the previous one). Then we get Jamie Lee Curtis in the mental hospital. What happens next, might show her attitude towards the series by now. The beginning has actually nothing to do with the rest of the film, it isn't even a good opening to this film, unlike the SCREAM-intros. Then we get to see the actual film, which is pretty much, like one of the characters puts it, Halloween meets the Osbournes, or Big Brother, or the German movie DAS EXPERIMENT, or whatever. You put the usual bunch of irritating high-school friends in one house, put some cameras on top and let Mike (umm...Michael) Myers do his thing. Is it thrilling? Nope, it just seems Myers is doing a routine slashing in here. There's no suspense at all, just people getting killed like you knew they would. Not hard to guess that the "smartest" will survive. Is it funny? Yeah, if you can laugh at lame dialogue and the aforementioned irritating characters. If that's your thing, fine, shows why all these dumb-headed high-school comedies nowadays are such a success. Oh, and it's so dumb-minded that you can't even stop shouting at the screen: "Oh, come on! As if..."
But what could you expect from a movie that was directed by the same man that directed Halloween II? It's so formula that you cannot only predict everything from the first til the last minute, but it's so bad that the last-minute surprise is even more irritating than usual. It's so obvious by now that, indeed, "Evil never dies" , that it's even boring to see these people trying to put M.M. to rest, without being ultimately successful. How long will they go on with this and what's the point of making another movie like this if nothing works out in the end. I'm sure Michael must be pretty tired by now. But maybe we get a Halloween: 60 years later, in x years time, where Michael is a geriatric patient, killing off his fellow patients. Maybe that would be a thriller! As far as this one is concerned: it's more of a thrill finding ways to stay awake while Michael is doing his thing than watching this bore. 1/10
Yeah well, it's still a shock, what DO you expect?
We all now what happened by now on that dreadful date. We've seen it over and over again. That's the difference between the United States and most of the rest of the world. The States got live coverage of what happens. So we all got to see the plane crashes in New York a year ago, and that's what made it even tougher to swallow: we were confronted by it, in the face terrorism, no denying it. Not far away in some obscure Yugoslavian, Asian or African country, but in what some people believe is the capital of the Western world. Well, you can't deny the cruelness of these acts, you can't think of a simple word of sympathy for the deeds of these men, that's for sure. Once more religion has proved to be just a means to an end in some people's hands. But as I said: we all now that by now, and the world remembered this day today.
The IMDB asks me to give a score for this documentary by the French brothers Naudet. Well, I can't give a score on content, since these men merely registered what happened. Their amazing experience as witnesses to this day, amidst of all, is remarkable and so is the fact that they went there and came back to put it all on film. But that too, I can't judge, on a film score basis. What's left is the putting together of the images, the editing and the narration. And that is, well, pretty ordinary. For instance, the tone at the beginning of the documentary is all wrong. We get to hear a voice-over talk the same way as it's done for trailers for big Hollywood blockbusters and Robert de Niro narrates as if he were presenting a show. At a certain moment I even felt as if I was watching something that they better not had shown. I saw the images, and yeah, they still had an impact, how could they not? But it wasn't the same as when you were watching this a year ago. No, it felt like a neatly put-together documentary about the attacks on September 11th. And it didn't feel as real as it should've been by far.
Why the terrible voice-over, why the narration by Robert De Niro, why telling what happened all over again...why not simply show the images and let us think about em, let us admire the braveness and understand the fears of those firemen and all the other people involved? Why shove it down our throat as if we couldn't understand what happened any other way? What DID we actually learn from watching this film? Something we didn't know yet?
Well, the only thing I can say is that I hope there won't be a film about this too, because I'm pretty sure what the tone of such a movie will be. And yeah,it would be a big blockbuster too. And yeah, producers will say that the object is not to make money but to remember, as they did with this documentary. But the claws of Hollywood are already firmly put around this film, don't let this happen again. And that goes for everything concerning the film. As a documentary: 6/10, tops. As an account of that day: uncomparable and timeless. Just remember that there's more to it than is shown. I hope children will learn that for years to come.
Smart take on a Greek myth
I was impressed by this animated short. It had some very clever animation and provided an interesting take on a Greek myth. Can't remember the name, but I think it's about this man who tries to eat fruit from a tree, but every time he reaches for it, it gets eaten away by giant birds. That's his eternal punishment, kinda like Sysiphos, who rolls his rock up a mountain just to see it roll down every time he reaches the top. Finally found a short that I admired, and that had something to say too. 8/10
Chiome d'oro (1993)
Maybe I don't know a thing about short films, but I wasn't impressed by this one. I would say: just listen to the beautiful piece of classical music that accompanies this short, because the animation doesn't add a thing to the music, even distracts sometimes. What's the point of this? 5/10
The Second Civil War (1997)
Way over it
I noticed that a viewer thought this film was far better than WAG THE DOG. Might I disagree? This film is in many ways not on the same level as WTD. That film had acting, subtlety (despite its outrageousness), wit and brains. This film has neither. It's a stupid stupid (not to mention racist)thing that goes over-the-top too often. Way too often and waaaaaay over it. And it simply hasn't got the actors too for this sort of things. WAG THE DOG had De Niro and Hoffman (among others), this film's only virtues are James Coburn and Denis Leary (though the latter's part is seriously under-written, as are all parts actually). All of the others simply don't fit in. Perlman, Hedaya, Beau Bridges, Elizabeth Peña, ... none of them make sense in his/her part.
And as far as the story goes... Well, if you're looking for subtlety, look somewhere else, because this one makes sure that you're not only not caring about the characters, but also that all of its attempts at black comedy or satire fall short(it had one good thing though, but I can't remember it)and that none of the events depicted seem believable. yes, it tries to give th e film a sense of reality by making the governor look like President Clinton, the president a dim-witted puppet and the head of News Net a sensationalistic b***ard, but all what it's trying to say sounds hollow and, yes, racist. See, for a film like this you need a careful handling of the subject. This film goes for cheap shots and smashes all of its messages without realizing it. A bad job for director Joe Dante, who really is more at home at the comedy-horror genre than at this political satire stuff. How to succeed in saying nothing at all. 4/10 (maximum)
I have to
I just saw this incredible film by Jessica Yu and just have to say something about it. Actually, it's not really an achievement in filmmaking, the images and words used here really tell all there is to it. I simply can't describe it, you have to see it for yourself (if you're interested in life). Words just ... aren't enough to say what kind of man Mark O'Brien was. No, even that isn't saying enough. I just want to praise his parents for their incredible loving, his friends for respecting him as a human being and, of course Mark O'Brien himself, for, well, just being who he was. I really learned from these 35 minutes, more than from most people I have met and from most films I've seen, books I've read,... This man's thoughts about God, life, his poetry,... I reckon many people won't expect that from a man who can't live outside his machine, who actually hasn't got a body, at least not like most others. But his thoughts and courage reach far beyond those of most people who have the ability to move and do things Mark O'Brien can't. Or "couldn't", because he passed away after the making of this film. So this is for you Mark, and for all the others who have the courage to make life worth living for all of us, and who teach us things that matter. And thanks to Jessica and all who worked on this, for telling this story. Here's to all of you!
Black Hawk Down (2001)
Film vs. reality
I can hardly believe the ratings this film is getting. You can't say Ridley Scott has made a bad film, but to state that this is a masterpiece...no, the film 's got just too many flaws for that. This is a case where the truth is harrowing, but the film version simply isn't. And the reality behind the film just isn't enough to make it a good film, as one ought to know.
First of all: haven't we seen enough of this sort of American patriotism in films? Yes, these men might be heroes, but the way they're being depicted in BHD simply doesn't seem realistic. Add to that a soundtrack that is simply so inappropriate and pompous at times and you get the feeling that you are actually watching a movie and not something that really happened. Nothing wrong with that...if that's what you're trying to sell it for.
Second, the dialogue, which is simply stupid. Are these guys really the macho types they're being presented as? Do they utter the stupid phrases you get to hear in this film? For their sake: I hope not. This film has got nothing of the intelligence and philosophy that a film like Saving Private Ryan for example did have. The actors too aren't really top-class. No Tom Hanks in this movie. Even Ewan McGregor and Tom Sizemore (who was in SPR too!) don't offer the performances you'd expect them to deliver. And Sam Shepard hasn't been in too many good movies lately too. Another thing is the storyline, which seems to be missing. The film consists of one long shooting, and that's it. Why not make more out of the obvious despair and fear these soldiers must have experienced? Finally, in the closing scenes, mention is made of the fact that 19 U.S. soldiers were killed...together with over 1,000 Somalis. This is presented as nothing more than a footnote, but there's hardly a sign of a critical approach to the intervention of the U.S., nor do we get any motivations. And can't we say after all that, due to this intervention, which was supposed to be almost bloodless, the U.S. made things even worse? 19 soldiers, yes, but what about the 1,000 Somalis, who are being depicted as savages, who kill each other and anyone who tries to break them up? The facts are pretty actual nowadays, but the situation in Afghanistan (or the attitude of president Bush)clearly shows that nothing is changed after the events in New York. And this film, more macho behaviour than reality, doesn't help much either. I gave this film a "6", but when I think about it, that seems to be far too much for the actual result. As I said, the subject alone isn't nearly enough to make up for the shortcomings in the making of the film. They should've known better...
The Christmas Tree (1996)
Let the music play
This could have been quite a charming tale, though it really has very little to say. It's about a nun and a tree, and a guy who befriends them both. Not much more to it than that. But what's really a shame is the overly sentimental approach of directing actress Sally Field. Each and every scene works its way to a certain climax, the music swelling in the background, enter the violins, etc. Really quite amateuristic and not a great directorial effort by Sally Field. The performances are nothing special too. Forgettable fare. 4/10
Qianxi mànbo (2001)
Hurray for Asian cinema!
Right, this one gets 7.1? Let me put it this way: if this would have been an American film, it would be somewhere in the upper half of the bottom 100 on these pages. But it's Asian, so hey, it must be good!!!
Indeed... What we have here is an example of a film without a story. Well, apparently it's about a young woman. She has a "relationship" with a young man (really?). Why? Who cares? He gets mad, she gets mad, he gets mad, he wants to have sex, she doesn't want to, she walks out, she comes back, etc. And it goes on and on like this for about two hours. (119 minutes!!!!!!) Oh yeah, she also meets two brothers and another guy, and that's about it. Anything happening? Nope. Any insights? Nada. Any emotions? What did you expect? What about some real good acting then? Nah, have to disappoint you. Hey, but don't you think the techno music is great? Yes, it suits the film very well, because it also goes on and on and on... I could write a review too that goes on and on. Instead I'm thinking of writing a letter of complaint to the makers of this film. I thought the first film to receive a 1/10 from me on the IMDB would have been an old monster movie, but at least these films provide some laughs from time to time. This one doesn't, except for a hysterical one when you realize you have spend your money on watching this. As I said: 1/10. (why can't we give 0/10 anyway?)