Films seen in 2006: The reviews: January, February

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  1. February

  2. feb-02:

    Touch of Evil (Welles, 1958)

    - Here my feelings are almost the same as for The Magnificent Ambersons. Greatly directed, impeccably acted, but I found it a little cold. Apparently Orson Welles lacks the right handle for suspense unlike master Hitchcock who created Vertigo in the same year. Still a strong movie with some memorable scenes. I give it four out of five stars, even though it rather tends towards three and a half. But who cares.

    ****

  3. feb-03:

    /Halloween/ (Carpenter, 1978)

    - I will just enumerate what fascinates me so much about this archetypal horror film: the low budget, the incredible efficiency, the brilliant and subtle mise-en-scène, the terrifying score, the intelligent writing, the decent acting, the extreme realism, the psychological credibility of its characters, and so on. See it, more than once, because it becomes better with each viewing. This was now the fifth or sixth time I have watched it, and I never become tired of it.

    *****

  4. feb-04:

    Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (Tarantino, 2003)

    - Everyone here around knows what I think about Pulp Fiction. This should also explain why I was so surprised finding myself liking this movie so much. With a great Uma Thurman, an excellent script and a lot of directorial devices, Tarantino builds up a movie of unique charme. Seeing fountains of blood splashing out of cut arms or legs sounds nasty, but in fact I found it pretty amusing. The plot is constantly involving, and the music by Ennio Morricone is terrific.

    ****

  5. feb-04:

    Oldboy (Chan-Wook, 2003)

    - One of my first experiences with recent Asian cinema. Oldboy is a thoroughly fascinating, visually stylish (note the green and red tones) and very coherent trip through the human psychology. Due to the brilliant acting, the characters are profound and absolutely believable, which is of primary importance for such a film.
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    The clue at the end is genuine, and throws a completely different light on the entire movie.
    It is remarkable to see how director Chan-Wook Park manages to catch the claustrophobic atmosphere that is constant and omnipresent, but maybe he could have stretched the storyline's potential a little more. In spite of some unnecessary violent scenes, this is an unusual, and therefore difficult-to-watch and unique film which will stay in your mind for quite a while. I hope to see more Korean films soon. Recommendations appreciated.

    ****

  6. feb-05:

    Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (Tarantino, 2004)

    - Contrary to Volume 1, the second part is a little dragging at times, because the plot moves on much slower. The ending is a little disappointing, and that is why this movie loses a lot of the first volume's charme. But I think you should better have a look at chum's discussion. Still a decent movie.

    ***

  7. feb-05:

    Crash (Haggis, 2004)

    - Of the five "Best Picture"-nominees this year, Crash was the one that interested me the least, and that reveals being the best of the three I have seen so far. It is a masterful example of an effective and affective approach to the explosive theme of racism. Without kitsch or wrong sentimentality, director and writer Paul Haggis tells stories about various people living L.A. who meet each other within 36 hours. Even more enjoyable is the fact that the movie does NOT seem overconstructed, which is given through the excellent screenplay. With Matt Dillon, Ryan Philippe, Tony Danza, Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Terrence Howard, Michael Peña, Brendan Fraser and Thandie Newton, the mindblowing cast could give the wrong impression that this might only be an exhibition of overpaid Hollywood stars outplaying each other in hypocrisy. This is another reason to see this intense drama, because you will be very positively surprised by the honest and unvain performances. Above all, Michael Peña, Don Cheadle, Terrence Howard and Thandie Newton are terrific.Even though the storyline may be at times a little predictable and Haggis sometimes overeggs the pudding, Crash is all in all one of the most revealing and human films about racism of the decade.

    ****

  8. feb-09:

    In the Mood for Love (Kar-Wai, 2000)

    - Direction, acting, musical score, writing, photography, editing- Everything is masterful in this beautiful and melancholy love story. Maggie Cheung is mesmerizing.

    ****

  9. feb-10:

    /Diabolique (Clouzot, 1954)/

    - The third time I watched this masterpiece by French director Henti-Georges Clouzot, and it was still as frightening, terrifying, gripping, and involving as the first time.

    *****

  10. feb-11:

    Do the Right Thing (Lee, 1989)

    - My first real experience with New Black Cinema. Even though Spike Lee's approach is not uninteresting and he manages in a masterful way to transmit the heat in the movie to the spectator, there would certainly have been better and much more effective ways of direction. The mixture of comedy and social drama is so unbalanced that you eventually don't know which side to decide for, but you also feel that the middle way is the worst possibility. Whether it was Lee's intention or not is secondary, fact is that the characters and their fates leave you completely cold and indifferent. All in all there were most definetly some ideas of great potential in it, but its execution pends somewhere between mediocrity and weakness.

    **

  11. feb-13:

    Beverly Hills Ninja (Dugan, 1997)

    - Even though Luke reviewed another movie, I think I can quote him here and say "I'm not wasting words on this crap."

    0

  12. feb-14:

    Driving Miss Daisy (Beresford, 1989)

    - Although it might be at times a little stagey, Bruce Beresford's best film is a deeply human, greatly acted (Morgan Freeman, Jessica Tandy, Dan Aykroyd) and well-written film. Sometimes it appears a little sentimental and predictable, but it is Hollywood story-telling at its very best. Recommended.

    ****

  13. feb-14:

    Morte a Venezia (Visconti, 1971)

    - A beautifully done oeuvre by one of Italy's greatest directors. Even though it is at times a little dragging, the end is very intense and Dirk Bogarde is amazing.

    ****

  14. feb-17:

    Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Weir, 2003)

    - Apparently Peter Weir is not the right man for the big stuff. The otherwise well-done sea drama is especially in its numerours action scenes lame and really unexciting. Weir's rather calm and sober mise en scène obviously doesn't fit into this kind of pictures. Furthermore the narrative structure is weakish, as there is no actual plot and the entire film remains unfocussed and therefore lengthy at times. And I won't lose any words about Russell Crowe now...

    ***

  15. feb-17:

    Wrong Turn (Schmidt, 2003)

    - Clichéd, predictable, unoriginal, stupid, ridiculous, and completely forgettable. Avoid. Enough said.

    *

  16. feb-18:

    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Hooper, 1974)

    - Unfortunately this was the cut German version (the only available one here around). 15 minutes were taken out, so that the movie ran just a little over one hour. What I have seen is still a great horror film with an incredible atmosphere. Very good, but too short. Some day I'll try to get a UK import.

    ****

  17. feb-18:

    Scary Movie 3 (Zucker, 2003)

    - Rarely funny, stupid anyway, but at least a little better than the two first films. But in these "quality" classes, we don't even talk about "good" or "better".

    *

  18. feb-25:

    /The Vanishing (Sluizer, 1993)/

    - Unfortunately I missed the original on TV, and so I had to rewatch the Hollywood remake. Well, what can I say? It is not bad at all. The acting is good, there are some well-done scenes, but overall it is just not enough. The ending is pretty stupid in my opinion.

    **

  19. feb-26:

    The Night of the Creeps (Dekker, 1986)

    - Funny, lighthearted entertainment with some good 80s-flair. Not as dumb as it seems to be at first.

    ***

  20. feb-26:

    Brokeback Mountain (Lee, 2005)

    - Ang Lee’s most recent work and the days before the actual Academy Awards ceremony already claimed big Oscar winner, is roughly about two young chaps who fall in love with each other while herding sheep on Brokeback Mountain in Wyoming in 1963. At least, that is the basic point of the story. The whole is based on a short story by E. Annie Proulx (“Shipping News”, “Close Range”). From an artistic point of view, Brokeback Mountain has got numerous positive aspects which already push it above the vast majority of the movies made in the past years. First off, the acting performances are all in all fine. It is a pleasant surprise to see how Ledger and Gyllenhaal try to get rid from their sunny boy image, and how Michelle Williams wants to put off her Dawson’s Creek type. All three of them succeed in a marvellous way. The photography is beautiful and catches some wonderful landscapes. Furthermore it is greatly crafted, and stands among Ang Lee’s best directorial achievements. The score by Gustavo Santaolalla underlines very well the film’s prevailing mood, and gives the already impressive pictures additional expression. Yet Brokeback Mountain reveals its greatest strength in the development of its characters. Ang Lee masterfully avoids the clichéd view of homosexuality given through media, and entirely focuses his story on Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar. Due to the time Lee takes for his characters and the stoic images, the movie on the one hand advances in a very slow pace which may put off some people, because slow storytelling is certainly not the general trend in cinema at the moment, and on the other hand offers psychologically deep and therefore believable characters. Actually there is not one single person in the movie that seems superficial or one-dimensional. This already is a major point in favour for Brokeback Mountain. Plus, the sex scenes are beautifully shot, and find an excellent balance without being voyeuristic. Another advantage which makes out of this an outstanding movie is that it doesn’t try to justify homosexuality, just because there is absolutely no reason to justify it, as there is nothing wrong with it. This said, I’m not sure about the directorial intention then. As it is not a pleading for homosexuality, what was Ang Lee’s purpose to make this? Where is the difference between Brokeback Mountain and any other movie about a love prohibited by society? Granted, this film is artistically well-done, but what else? Is it only the point that it is a romance between two men that counts? Ang Lee will certainly not convince any homophobes to give up their wrong point of view, and to tolerate what they refused so far. (Most homophobes won’t see the film anyway.) And those who want to see this movie are in general already open-minded. Maybe I’m splitting hairs now. Anyway, there is still another big drawback. Like Good Night, and Good Luck., Brokeback Mountain also has some problems in its narrative structure. Its scheme is a little unfocused, so that the film appears more than once like a simple row of small episodes in the love life of the two men. Moreover, there is no real climax in it. At least, none you would immediately recognize as one. Whether this is a sign for the movie’s subtlety I don’t know. All I know is that, at the end, when the end credits began, I was surprised, because I still waited for the film’s tense point to come. The supposed climax (
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    Jack Twist’s death
    ) is not really effective. Again, this was probably intended by Ang Lee to be subtle, and that is always a positive point, but still I feel he could have made more out of the potential of that moment. Because of this, there are no really intense moments. Maybe I insist too much on those scenes, but otherwise a movie soon is swept away in my memories. I hope this won’t happen with Brokeback Mountain, but I’m afraid that is what will happen in the days to come. That is also why I think there are some better 2005-films. Broken Flowers by Jim Jarmusch still remains my favourite of the year, closely followed by Crash. After having now seen four of the five “Best Picture”- nominees (all except Capote), I now keep my fingers crossed for Crash. Maybe my expectations were too high for this one, as I was prepared to see a masterpiece like Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby. This is not to say though that Brokeback Mountain is a bad movie. By no means.

    ****

  21. feb-27:

    Cruising (Friedkin, 1979)

    - After Brokeback Mountain, I watched this well-done and atmospheric thriller by William Friedking, who deals in a very different way with homosexuality as Ang Lee does it. The pre-AIDS New York leather scene becomes the scenario of a violent and dark film. Al Pacino is brilliant, in an unusual role. But as already for The French Connection, this is also full of stereotypes and clichés. All in all, it isn't that bad though. Well, actually it's pretty good. Maybe a guilty pleasure, but with a good clou at the end. I give it the solomonic and arguable rating of 4 stars.

    ****

  22. feb-27:

    House of the Dead (Boll, 2003)

    - Absolutely dreadful. This causes brain damage. Avoid it!

    0

  23. feb-27:

    Videodrome (Cronenberg, 1983)

    - Cronenberg's acid media satire is based on a highly original idea. Unfortunately he doesn't develop the story's entire potential, so that, at the end, you feel this could have been more. The film is good, but not overwhelming.

    ***

  24. feb-28:

    Sophie Scholl- Die letzten Tage (Rothemund, 2005)

    - Alas, this is the only Best Foreign Language Film-nominee I have seen so far. If I'd had the choice, I'd have picked Paradise Now instead. This doesn't mean that Sophie Scholl is not a good film though. At the moment, Germany wants to work up its past, especially the Second World War, which is highly respectable. But I think at the same time that too many movies about Germany's past will make the population used and less sensitive towards these subjects. The story of Hans and Sophie Scholl is very interesting, of course, but it never shocks the spectator as much as Downfall for example. Therefore it might just pass unseen. That is to say I'm not sure whether a sober direction was the right choice for such an issue. The film is at times lengthy and even a little boring, so that the few more violent and striking scenes (particularly towards the end) even appear incongruous. It's nevertheless a valuable contribution, specially since right wing extremists are again gaining popularity in some parts of Germany.

    ***

  25. January

  26. jan-01:

    The Hulk (Lee, 2003)

    - What an awful start for 2006! In fact, I have never been a big fan of the Hulk, neither of the comics nor of the Lou Ferrigno- days. So why did I watch this? Well I was curious how a skilled director like Ang Lee (who has made the excellent 'The Ice Storm') would handle with the adaptation of a comic. Now I wish I'd never found out. The worst part is the protagonist himself. While Eric Bana gives a so-so-performance, the Hulk is incredibly cheap-animated. The movie cost well over 100 million dollars, and more than once you ask yourself: What have they done with all that money? Couldn't they afford a better Hulk? Actually the visual effects in general are laughable. Furthermore the Hulk's actions are often so exaggerated that it even becomes ridiculous. Fatal for a movie that takes itself more serious than it should. The most interesting part of this is the screenplay which is in its principles well-done, but in its execution frustrating as it just doesn't fit. Another negative point is the lack of a balance between the psychological moments and the action scenes. More bad than good is also Nick Nolte who shows through his awful "performance" that his time is definetly over and that he should better retire. Next time (but I hope there won't be a next time) they should better take Sam Raimi or Christopher Nolan as director instead of Ang Lee.

    *

  27. jan-02:

    King Kong (Jackson, 2005)

    - In spite of the really bad trailer and the fact that this is the remake of one of my most-beloved classics, I went to watch it with high expectations. While writing this review, just some hours after sitting for over three hours in the theatre, I must say that I’m in awe of Peter Jackson, more than ever before. Now there is no doubt left to me that he is one of the best active directors, and that he is the man for the big stuff. King Kong is especially amazing on two different levels. Firstly the film is technically mesmerizing, and tops the high standards Jackson set himself with The Lord of the Rings- trilogy just two years ago. What looked so bad in the theatrical trailer, now reveals being a visually fascinating trip to the “heart of darkness” and back to New York City of the 30s. And there we are at the next point: the art direction is great, and contributes a lot to the movie’s prevailing flair. This said, I just have to add that Jackson has managed once more to withstand the temptation of using too many special effects (the Lucas-syndrome). The story and the characters always overweigh, even in the brilliantly edited action scenes. The second major point in its favour are the characters themselves. The actors are well-cast (above all Adrien Brody who is fine as Jack Driscoll, but also Naomi Watts who is a worthy successor to Fay Wray and Jack Black who I found for the first time bearable), and for the genre convincing enough. Jackson and his fellow-writers have fortunately left enough space for the characters, and so the sixty minutes before Kong appears are not redundant, but, in my opinion, absolutely necessary for their psychology and the credibility of the story (in fact, the film is much more realistic than the original). Actually all of the larger roles (Brody, Watts, Black, Bell, Serkis, Kretschmann, etc.) are deeper than you may expect. And even after the first hour, when the action really begins, the characters still continue to be three-dimensional. But also the relationship between the white woman and Kong is more convincing than in the original, which is mainly due to the fact that even the ape has got its own psychology. In many greatly directed and moving scenes, Jackson illustrates that the actual protagonist has got feelings, and is not just a monster. Another important point of discussion is certainly the film’s length. At approximately 190 minutes, you may think that it is overlong, but that is definitely not the case. The film is constantly thrilling and involving. Some critics accused Jackson of not having added anything to the original. Here again I disagree, because he has indeed contributed a lot of new aspects to the story (wherefrom would he otherwise have taken the additional hour?) Rather ambiguous is on the other hand the fact that the spectator exactly knows how the story is going to end (I guess, everyone knows the ending, even without having seen the original). This again can also be seen in a positive way, as it somehow gives the story more pep. So, after the highly recommended original and a first (rather weak, but not absolutely bad) remake by John Guillermin in 1976, Jackson comes up with his own version, which is more splendid and visually more beautiful than any other Kong-movie. It’s entertainment on a very high level, and it comes damn close to both, The Lord of the Rings and to the 1933- classic. Whether the original or the 2005 version is better, is up to you to decide. I like them both equally. Judge for yourself, but be sure to see this marvellous adventure film. (Note: I’m still not sure whether children under 12 should see this, as it features some really frightening scenes.)

    ****

  28. jan-03:

    /Ghost (Zucker, 1991)/

    - In fact, I watched this as there wasn't anything really interesting on TV yesterday. My impression for this film is still positive. Alas, at each viewing, the negative parts become increasingly striking. Lets just begin with the cast. I agree that this is mainly based on my personal disgust for Patrick Swayze, but another leading actor like Kurt Russell would have fit much better. Demi Moore is OK, not worse than in any other movie I have seen her in. The problem with her is just that her acting is always so cold and uninvolving. The required balance is however brought by the hilarious Whoopi Goldberg who steals the show and really deserved her Academy Award and also a short appearance by the late Vincent Schiavelli. Another drawback is the weak, because kitschy and predictable story. Yet Ghost has got some great and memorable moments and is all in all good entertainment. Not more, not less.

    ***

  29. jan-04:

    Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (Bowser, 2003)

    - "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom." Kris Kristofferson quotes William Blake, and epitomizes at the same time this documentary feature about the New Hollywood Generation. This epoch spans the years from 1967 to 1976, and was the birth of great film artists such as Brian De Palma, Steven Spielberg, Francis Coppola, Sam Peckinpah or Martin Scorsese. It is remarkable how entertaining this documentary has become, which is mainly due to the well-structured "collage" of numerous interviews with Peter Bogdanovich, Cybill Shepherd, Michael Phillips or Arthur Penn. This said, it's regrettable that the film leaves out interviews with Coppola, Spielberg, Scorsese, De Niro or Pacino. It would have been more interesting to hear what most of these people have to tell themselves, instead of being all the time told about them. The fact that the outsiders of the outsiders, Brian De Palma, is majorly left out is not positive either. Still, in spite of these drawbacks, this is a well-done, very informative and interesting inside into the era of "sex, drugs and rock'n'roll that saved Hollywood".

    ***

  30. jan 04:

    /The Deep End of the Ocean (Grosbard, 1999)/

    - This thoroughly uninspired drama is based on an unoriginal and superficial idea. Still with a better direction this could have become a psychologically profound and pretty interesting study of child kidnapping and the parents' life afterwards. Unfortunately this isn't the case, and Ulu Grosbard prefers flat and stupid dialogues, an uninvolving storyline and a totally unbelievable and kitschy ending. Moreover the characters are just stereotypical and therefore no identification possibility is given. Whoopi Goldberg and Michelle Pfeiffer are OK (but have already been better, the first on in Ghost [see above] and the latter in The Age of Innocence), but Treat Williams is very pale. The film's major problem is however that it is overloaded. It wants to describe marriage problems due to the husband's big ego, a mother's psychology after the kidnapping of one of her children, parents' difficulties with a rebellious son, the influence of the media, etc. For a movie that lasts approximately 105 minutes, this is too much and each of these topics is treated in a very superficial way. So, forget about this!

    *

  31. jan-06:

    All the President's Men (Pakula, 1976)

    - 1976 seems to have been a very good year. Scorsese's gritty masterpiece Taxi Driver, Lumet's media satire Network, Robert Moore's overlooked crime spoof Murder by Death, and now I've had the occasion to see All the President's Men which lived up to my high expectations exactly as it should. In a very functionalistic way (so no redundant love story or noticable tensions between Woodward and Bernstein) this film is greatly directed and strongly written. Pakula needs no action to get some very intense and incredibly thrilling moments, while the political context itself becomes more than once just secondary. This isn't necessarily negative, as otherwise the film would have been hyper-complicated. Instead the director takes out the most important parts of the Watergate- affair. The acting is absolutely fantastic. Robert Redford is excellent. I never found him better (not even in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). But the rest of the cast is great as well: we have Dustin Hoffman, of course, Jack Warden and Jason Robards (who got his well-deserved Oscar for that movie). The ending is especially interesting, as it is pretty ambiguous: some may find it a little too "fast", but, in my opinion, this is the best possible ending Pakula could choose (above all because it is very subtle). Recommended.

    ****

  32. jan-07:

    /La vita è bella; Life Is Beautiful (Benigni, 1997)/

    - The TV program was on that evening for once very strong, and it gave me the possibility to choose between rewatches of three great movies. Benigni's La vita è bella, Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark and Newell's Four Weddings and a Funeral. I eventually decided to watch the first one, and a third viewing confirmed my opinion that this is the best of the three choices, and one of the best foreign-language movies I have seen to date. This still remains the most intense depiction of the horrors of World War II, and is in many ways better than Spielberg's Schindler's List. Actually, the movie can be split into two parts. The first hour is supremely funny, and all in all typical for Roberto Benigni. Serious moments are already present, as this part above all shows the development of fascist ideas in Italy. The second one takes place in the concentration camp, but Benigni doesn't lose any of his vitality and inspiration in direction or acting. Through the force of laughter, many scenes become even more striking and horrifying. Moreover the movie remains thoroughly intense (in fact, I've never witnessed such a strong heart-beating while watching a film), and each of the numerous memorable scenes (
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    such as the great ending
    ) go under the skin. But it is above all Benigni's ability to hold a perfect balance between tragedy and comedy which gives this masterpiece much of its strong and powerful effect on the spectator. This said, I feel I have to add that it is NOT manipulative, but deeply human and therefore even more touching. Highly recommended. A must-see.

    *****

  33. jan-08:

    The Fly (Cronenberg, 1986)

    - Before beginning with sharing my views, I have to admit that this is now the first and only Cronenberg I have seen. But I'm curious at seeing more, because I was very positively surprised by this horror classic. Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis are not just the perfect cast, but Cronenberg's direction is very inspired and original. In spite of some (for my taste, really shocking) splatter scenes, the horror is for three quarters of the movie very subtle. When the climactic action takes place in the last quarter, you feel that the director has just waited for the right moment to come up with it. As I haven't seen the original yet, I cannot compare it, but what I can say is that the make-up (Oscar!) is astonishing and gives the film additional intensity.
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    It is impressive to see how Goldblum changes first into Michael Jackson and then into a gigantic fly.
    While hearing the story, one may suspect that the movie could be at times ridiculous, but that is definetly not the case. In its unique way, it is permanently thrilling. Great horror movie.

    ****

  34. jan-08:

    Serial Mom (Waters, 1994)

    - This was as good/bad as expected. John Waters' critical attack against the American Way of Life is a bitter satire. Still I'm not sure whether some of the very exaggerated scenes contribute much to the credibility not of the film, but rather of the message Waters tries to transmit. The story itself is in fact pretty simple, but represents a good base for the entire movie. Moreover the film is often very funny, but in exactly these comic moments the flick loses a lot of its satirical wit, unfortunately. The last 30 minutes are just lame and fully predictable, so that at the end you feel that there was much more potential in the original idea than what Waters made out of it. Still Sam Waterston and especially Kathleen Turner are fantastic. The two-star-rating may be a little hard, but it's just not good enough for three stars.

    **

  35. jan-10:

    Love and Death (Allen, 1975)

    - This overlooked and therefore underrated movie counts among Allen's best comedies. It's above all its intertextuality which is so fascinating and interesting. Already the title is an allusion to Tolstoy's War and Peace (the movie takes place in 19th-century-Russia), and the movie is full of references to Ingmar Bergman (especially the ending, alluding to Persona and The Seventh Seal). But even without knowing any of these works, this still remains a highly entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable comedy. As usual for Allen, the subjects are metaphysical (the title already indicates it!) and the deriving dialogues absolutely fantastic. The hilarious film could easily be Allen's funniest work, along with Sleeper, of course. This one is even better though.

    ****

  36. jan-12:

    Good Night, and Good Luck. (Clooney, 2005)

    - Puh, what a day. We arrived almost too late to see the film, and were afraid that there would be no seats left. Then we discovered that the movie hadn't started yet, and that there were only 5 people who wanted to see it, one of them sleeping throughout the entire 95 minutes. Moreover I had the opportunity to see both, this one and the easily comparable All the President's Men within less than 7 days. So, in its functionalism and objectivity, Clooney's work is clearly inspired by Pakula's great film, and this is already a major point in its favour. The fact that it was shot in B/W shows that it is certainly not a mainstream film (as you might expect when you read Clooney's name). The screenplay is very good, and the cinematography excellent (the least you can say). The inclusion of archive footage and the exhaustive research are other positive aspects. But it is above all David Strathairn (an actor I hardly knew till now) who gives an excellent, Oscar-worthy performance, and reveals a very interesting acting. Still not everything under the sun is good, and Good Night, and Good Luck. has got some flaws. First of all, it is not everyone's taste, and some knowledges about McCarthy-era and Cold War (you can learn through listening carefully to some of Billy Joel's songs, and stook surely agrees on this :) )are required, because otherwise it will be pretty difficult to follow the happenings. The movie's general style reminds of a documentary feature, and therefore you shouldn't expect any really intense moments (also the movie's climax isn't clearly defined). That is also why the subplot with Robert Downey Jr. and Patricia Clarkson doesn't fit too well into the movie's prevailing objectivity. Furthermore, if you're European (as I am), you may be less sensitive about this topic than Americans (as Europe wasn't directly involved). Especially now, in 2006, this movie should open eyes for what is going on right at the moment under Bush-government. All in all, this is a surprisingly well-done historical document. So, if you like 20th-century-history, you'll find this movie very interesting . Others will accuse the film of being too dry and emotionally totally uninvolving. In my opinion, both is true.

    ***

  37. jan-13:

    Sunrise- A Song of Two Humans (Murnau, 1927)

    - This beautifully shot and thoroughly memorable film is a milestone for the silent film-era, as it is incredibly innovative and inventive. Especially the dream sequences are surprisingly timeless and brilliantly done. The acting is great, and the direction even more. The only regret I'd have about this is that it is at times a little kitschy.

    ****

  38. jan-14:

    1941 (Spielberg, 1979)

    - Wow, what a crap. Spielberg could have made an intelligent and witty war satire, but instead he prefers unsubtle and dumb "humour" (it doesn't even deserve this name) and an unfocussed "plot" (again). In spite of the good cast (Aykroyd, Belushi, Mifune, Beatty, Oates, Stack) and a cool performance by Christopher Lee, the entire movie is predictable in its jokes and the ending is a relief for the spectator. Rarely funny and often getting on your nerves, this is just a waste of actors, time, material and celluloid. Forget it.

    *

  39. jan-14:

    Gloria (Cassavetes, 1980)

    - What a contrast to Spielberg's dumb 1941! Through the better-known remake by Luc Besson (The Professional starring Jean Reno, Natalie Portman and Gary Oldman), you may roughly know the storyline: gangster lady Gloria has got to protect a 6 year-old boy whose parents have been killed and who owns his father's ledger containing information about the mob. On a second level, the relationship between Gloria and young Phil which gets tighter throughout the two hours is the central theme. Cassavetes takes a lot of time to tell his story, and for those who like the fast rhythm of The Professional, this film might be a little slow. But it's due to this slow narration that the characters gain a lot of psychological depth, which makes their actions believable. The atmosphere gives a very good impression of the prevailing mood of the early 80s. Another major point in its favour is the fact that the film remains close to reality, in the development of the plot, and in the depiction of the milieu where the action takes place. Bill Conti's great score underlines this feeling very well, and contributes a lot to the constant thrill reigning in the cold and mostly peaceful frames. A considerable part of the film's greatness weighs on Gena Rowland's shoulders. Once more she shows that she is one of the finest actresses in film business. Her acting is straight, honest and real. The same could be said about her husband's direction. A glorious movie!

    ****

  40. jan-14:

    /The Fog/ (Carpenter, 1980)

    - I love, love, love this film. It is John Carpenter at the peak of his career. Just two years before he had made the brilliant Halloween and now this gritty and unbelievably effective horror flick. The original idea is very simple, but due to this the movie gains a lot of efficiency. Moreover it is permanently entertaining and thrilling. The atmosphere is intense, and the score (Carpenter composed himself) makes it even denser. Actually, you don't see very much of these ghosts-zombies-whatever coming out of the fog, but you feel the constant danger that reigns in Antonio Bay and that will eventually overcome its inhabitants. All this becomes even more admirable when you consider the very low budget Carpenter and his film crew had to use. However, compared to Halloween, The Fog reveals some flaws. In the 1978-horror-masterpiece, the atmosphere was even tighter, and, contrary to these foggy beings, Michael Myers was not supernatural which made him more threatening. But, despite these minor drawbacks, The Fog works better than 95% of all the other horror movies I have seen, and another viewing may even increase my rating to solomonic five points. As for now I'll leave it at 4 stars. I also want to add that I refuse to see the 2005-remake which can burn in hell.

    ****

  41. jan-15:

    8 ½ (Fellini, 1963)

    - Oh what a fascinating movie. At first, I was a little afraid I wouldn't really get into this film, but after approximately five minutes I was proved wrong. More Felliniesque than the brilliant La dolce vita, the director evokes some of the visually strongest and strangest scenes I have ever seen. Soon you understand that it is not just the portrait of a middle-aged filmmaker who lives a deep crisis. No, we are also shown a part of a life of a human being, a human being that could be you, that could be me. But at the same time you feel how personal the film is, and therefore it is even more fascinating how Fellini masterfully manages to involve every spectator, each of them in a different way. This is majorly due to the fact that there are innumerable ways of interpretation for the various dream sequences. Ovation also for Mastroianni who is terrific as the director's alter ego. This movie masterfully illustrates that film is art.

    *****

  42. jan-18:

    The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (Cassavetes, 1976)

    - Frankly said, I don't like this movie even though I generally love Cassavetes-movies. This one has some very strong scenes (e.g.
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    the killing of the chinese "bookie"
    ), but it is overall boring. The story is somehow weakish and its development lengthy (the film lasts endless 105 resp. 135 minutes). One of the few great aspects is Ben Gazzara who gives at least some depth to his character and bears the entire movie upon his shoulders. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie could have been both, a study of the milieu and a depiction of a human being's innerlife. Unfortunately it fails on the two levels. Now while writing this mini-review three days later, my memories are already fading, and that is never a good sign. Still this flawed motion picture doesn't change anything about my high opinion about this highly skilled filmmaker.

    **

  43. jan-19:

    Dawn of the Dead- Director's Cut (Snyder, 2004)

    - After Romero's disappointing Night of the Living Dead, this was just my second zombie-movie, and then only a remake of the 1978-classic. Lets begin with the positive elements as they are few. If you like splatter and Gore-effects, this might be the right movie for you. The make-up is pretty good, and through that the film spreads at least some charm. If you endure to the very end, you should also watch the end credits as they are ... well, be surprised. What bothered me on the other hand were the predictable storyline and the stereotypical characters as well as the stupid dialogues. But if I expect profound protagonists, intelligent conversations and a well-executed, elaborated plot, this might not be the right genre. However I regret very much that Snyder didn't make more out of the atmosphere which had a lot of potential (therefore I really want to see the original). That is why the flick is rarely scary, and at times even ridiculous and completely laughable. The ending itself, so before the cool end credits, is just awful and reminded me of a 08/15- TV movie. All in all I feel there was more to do with the interesting idea. Oh, and since when are zombies able to run?

    **

  44. jan-20:

    /Citizen Kane/ (Welles, 1941)

    - I remember that, when I first watched this film, I was disappointed. The problem was that I had expected to see the best film of all time, as universally claimed by critics. But now, after a fourth or fifth viewing, I love it each time more, and that is really a sign for a great movie. But how to praise a film that gets so much credit, and in a way still not enough? It is more complex (thematically and artistically) than any other film you may see in your life. I think the title "most important film of all time" would definetly fit better for this masterpiece. And finally the tagline says it all: It's terrific.

    *****

  45. jan-20:

    /Batman Begins/ (Nolan, 2005)

    - I was happy to discover that this movie didn't lose much of its greatness when I now watched it on a small screen. Not at all, I'd even say that it has gained some points. Nolan's direction remains (especially for the genre) astonishing, and visually impressive. Moreover it is surprisingly well-scripted, and the plot is intelligently and elegantly elaborated. Yet, the greatest point in its favour is the brilliant cast. Christopher Nolan managed to unite some of the best contemporary actors for his film: Christian Bale (the best Batman since Michael Keaton who remains unreachable), Michael Caine (very decent as Alfred), Morgan Freeman (do I need to say more?), Tom Wilkinson, Ken Watanabe and above all Liam Neeson who steals the show (and that is very much to say with these co-stars). This is easily the best Batman-movie so far, even better than Burton's. I say "so far" as I want to see more soon. A date is fixed for 2008 only, but then hopefully
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    with Adrien Brody as the Joker
    .

    ****

  46. jan-21:

    /Million Dollar Baby/ (Eastwood, 2004)

    - The second time I have seen this brilliantly directed and acted drama, and it is still as hard to swallo as the first time.
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    It seems like a nice and ordinary boxing movie untilm the film's turning point. After that, Eastwood entirely focusses on the euthanasia and proposes a very valuable discussion on this topic, without enforcing anything upon the spectator. Whether what Frank Dunn does at the end is right or wrong, is up to each spectator to decide on his/her own. Certain is that it will stick to your mind for quite a while. The Academy did well in choosing this human and deeply moving (but unkitschy) motion picture as best film of 2004.

    *****

  47. jan-22:

    The Omen (Donner, 1976)

    - Despite the predictable and unoriginal story, this movie features Gregory Peck, a great score by Vangelis, some very scary moments and a cool ending. Enough reasons to see it.

    ***

  48. jan-22:

    Rashômon (Kurosawa, 1950)

    - In my opinion, this masterpiece by Akira Kurosawa is as important for film history as is Orson Welles' Citizen Kane. I enjoyed every single moment of it. A must-see.

    *****

  49. jan-22:

    Matchstick Men (Scott, 2003)

    - A small gangster comedy that fails on several levels. First of all it is uninspired (and uninspiring) and completely predictable (in spite of a few surprising moments). Furthermore it is not consequent enough in the portrayal of the neurotic protagonist. This leads to the movie's major drawback: the leading actor. If you know the excellent TV series Monk, you'll immediately compare Nicolas Cage to Tony Shalhoub, and Cage just doesn't withstand that comparison. It seems as if Shalhoub had been born to play Adrian Monk, but Cage's acting is superficial and shallow. The story is conventional, and the jokes are rarely funny. The only positive aspect is Sam Rockwell who is terrific.

    **

  50. jan-23:

    Peeping Tom (Powell, 1960)

    - If you watch this movie, you immediately think of Psycho. Not only were both made in the same year, but all two of them have similar stories and feature comparable characters. Even though this cannot reach Hitchcock's masterpiece at any level, it is still 100 minutes of intense and very thrilling entertainment, at times very discomforting. My review isn't very long, because, days after, I'm not sure about my thoughts. I feel there was more potential, but the final result is still great.

    ****

  51. jan-24:

    The Magnificent Ambersons (Welles, 1942)

    - Recently AJDaGreat and Lbangs had a discussion about The Constant Gardener and both agreed that it was a film you rather admire than love. While I also agree on that, I think it is the right way to describe my thoughts on The Magnificent Ambersons. Its cinematography and narration are both admirable (even though far from Citizen Kane's class), the acting fantastic (above all the underrated and always-great Joseph Cotten). Still I found it a little dragging in the middle part, but that doesn't weight too much on the final (positive) impression.

    ****

  52. jan-25:

    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Nispel, 2003)

    - First off, the positive elements which prevent this weakish horror remake to eventually fall into the trash-class of recent films of the genre. Some moments are indeed creepy and quite scary, and the ending is well-done. It doesn't create no suspense of any kind, but at least some tension. Another major point in its favour is that the screenwriters fortunately decided to renounce to unnecessary humour (just take Wes Craven's Scream which fails because of comic elements) and to entirely focus on the main action. What is less positive on the other hand, is the all in all predictable development of the "plot" and the completely redundant gore. In Dawn of the Dead, the massive use of blood had its charme, but this movie is drop dead serious and therefore many splatter effects don't fit. So not completely forgettable. I definetly need to see the 1974-original.

    **

  53. jan-26:

    The Incredibles (Bird, 2004)

    - I'm always a little reluctant when it comes to animation, but this was a positive surprise. After an entertaining start, the middle part is disappointingly dragging, but after that the plot becomes again more interesting, but not less predictable. But hey, it is an animation film. What do I expect?

    ***

  54. jan-27:

    /Casablanca/ (Curtiz, 1942)

    - What am I supposed to say about the greatest classic in film history? About the most sublime love story? About the most beautiful movie ever? About a motion picture I could see again and again? About a film full of memorable quotes? About the movie with the greatest cast of all time (Bogart, Bergman, Rains, Henreid, Veidt, Lorre)? There are not enough superlatives to describe this timeless masterpiece. See it now (or if you already have, rewatch it)! It's an order.

    *****

  55. jan-27:

    Hitch (Tennant, 2005)

    - It's as much a shame to watch Casablanca and this uninspired, nerve-killing, forgettable, stereotypical, predictable, boring and overall lame movie in the same day as it is to mention both in the same paragraph.

    *

  56. jan-28:

    Assault on Precinct 13 (Carpenter, 1976)

    - Along with Halloween and The Fog, one of the pivotal works of John Carpenter's golden years in the late 70s. With a very low budget, the director managed to achieve one of the most effective and unconventional action flicks of the last 50 years. What do I say? Of all time. The cast is majorly unknown (which is refreshing), the settings and number of characters limited (which gives additional pep to the action) and the cinematography and editing are inventive. As usual for Carpenter's early work, the self-composed score contributes a lot to the movie's intense atmosphere. The story is simple, and therefore great (and reminds by the way of the recent happenings in Paris in october/november 2005). The action is brilliantly choreographed, and at times so elegant that I thought of West Side Story while watching this. Furthermore it features on the most shocking scenes I have seen to date (the ice-man scene). The screenplay is intelligent, the direction well-crafted. Which makes the whole even more striking, is its extreme realism (a point I already enjoyed very much about Halloween) and its psychologically believable characters. Now I'm through all the important elements of a great movie, and therefore I come to the conclusion that Assault on Precinct 13 *is* a great movie. Not to be missed, under no circumstances.

    *****

  57. jan-28:

    Munich (Spielberg, 2005)

    - This was the first Spielberg I have seen in the theatre since 9 years (1997), and at the same time the most interesting (because most ambitious) work by the world's most successful director since many years. Munich succeeds on many levels. A first positive aspect is that it doesn't only focus on the happenings in Munich 1972, but that it rather concentrates on Israel's revenge after the terrorist attacks. Already by choosing his cast, Spielberg did a good job. Eric Bana is surprisingly convincing, and manages to illustrates very welll the changes in his character's personality. The point is that in the movie there are no killers, only victims. This underlines the film's pacifist ambition. Furthermore Spielberg wants to see both sides, Palestineans and Israeli. With this neutrality he also denounces the absurdity in fighting terror by using terror. Some scenes are very touching (
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    e.g. the conversation between Avner and Ali
    ), without ever being sentimental. They are accompanied by a masterful score by John Williams (also his best work for many years). Moreover, Munich is also a valuable study of paranoia, vengeance and violence and its consequences on both populations. For Spielberg's standards, the movie is subtle which is only positive for such a topic. On the other hand, he unfortunately let in some scenes which do not seem to fit (
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    for example, at the end, the alternating between the sex scene and the happenings in Munich
    ). Some dialogues are a little flat, and the movie does not always holds the optimal (and difficult to achieve) balance between drama and thriller. But all in all this is Spielberg's best work since Raiders of the Lost Ark (25 years!). A highly interesting approach on terrorism, rather than a historical document. Recommended (with some reservations), and to be discussed.

    ****

  58. jan-28:

    The Interpreter (Pollack, 2005)

    - In spite of some good, but rare moments, this badly acted (Kidman is awful), unambitious and pretty dumb thriller is as forgettable as are most of the recent polit-thrillers (with the only exception of The Constant Gardener).

    **

  59. jan-29:

    Catch Me If You Can (Spielberg, 2002)

    - A lighthearted, comparably small comedy by Steven Spielberg featuring good actors (especially Martin Sheen), an intelligent narrative structure and a peppy 60s-flair. Alas, this minor work is also overlong, and therefore at times almost unbearably boring. Above all the ending should have been much shorter. What remains at the end is a tedious and unambitious film that had the potential to be much more than a simple cat-and-mouse-game.

    **

  60. jan-31:

    House of Wax (some guy from Catalonia, 2005)

    - Some reviews are totally superfluous as they can easily be summoned up in one single word: Crap. That is also the term that best epitomizes this horror garbage. But I think I'll add some adjectives like ridiculous, predictable, repetitive, unoriginal, stupid, laughable, etc. The worst part is Paris Hilton (a Razzie, please!), but she stars at the same time in the only good scene of the film:
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    her movie death
    . Blasphemous would be another word to describe this movie, because the makers really dared to show an extract of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? in it (you can see Bette Davis in it).

    0

Author Comments: 

/rewatch/

*****

- Masterpiece

****

- great

***

- above average, good

**

- average or even below

*

- bad

0

- recommended if urge for nausea
The list

Pheeeeww, we totally disagree about The Hulk... but hey, I'm a big fan of the comics and the 70's TV series as well, so that figures...

The TV series were and still are IMO laughable. It's a waste of money and T-shirts. :)

Re: All the President's Men (Pakula, 1976)
Well said. I'd throw into the mix a great screenplay by William Goldman. Not only did the script have to carry the movie but it has passed into common usage. Goldman was justifiably irked that Mark Felt was widely quoted as having said, "Follow the money" when he came forward as Deep Throat. I am irked that Bob Woodward now colludes with power.

Woodward colluding with Bush and the Republicans? Wow, that makes me sad.

Re: King Kong (Jackson, 2005)
I would claim that, until he returns to active duty, James Cameon will remain the heavyweight champion for "big stuff". Cameron is the man who went from the the low budget Terminator with the mechanical hand and forehead/eye stripped of their flesh to the Queen Alien of Aliens. In The Abyss he invented the water tentacle...

Let's all take a moment to silently reflect on that.

There was nothing like it before and everything changed after. He then made True Lies with the Seven Mile Bridge scene which began the integration of multi-SFX. It's over a decade old and it still holds up... unfortunately so does the racism of its depiction of Arabs. Next Cameron made the first $100 million dollar movie, Terminator 2: Judgement Day. (I am eagerly anticipating the return of Cameron to the Terminator franchise for Terminator 4: The Recall.) He showed everyone what to do with the water tentacle technology with the liquid metal T-1000. Remember the leap into the helicopter? The liquid nitrogen freeze-walking? The shotgun blasts blowing holes into the T-1000 before he takes a punch?

Finally, Titanic. No matter what you think of the plot, the performances or the total disregard for the laws of hypothermia he sunk the unsinkable Titanic before our eyes and made a grade B chick flick into the highest grossing movie ever. James Cameron did all of this in a little over a dozen years.

He has used Super 35 for The Abyss, for Titanic he (and his brother, I think) invented a new kind(s) of camera(s). Battle Angel will use new 3-D technology. As much as the Dread Spielberg might be responsible for the economics of the modern blockbuster James Cameron is responsible for the slavish reliance on CGI-osity and technology in today's movies, budgets measured in the dozens of millions and the Ahnuld. Oy! the Ahnuld.

I am taking nothing away from Peter Jackson. My love for him stems, in part, from the fact that he (as does Cameron) sets out to do the impossible... and then does it. Sometime next year, almost a decade after Titanic, James Cameron will try to defend his title. Until then Peter Jackson is just holding his belt.

...and probably letting it out a few notches.

OK, Cameron is undeniably an important director. And his two Terminator- movies are excellent. Still I think right at the moment Jackson is the master of the big movies (since 2001). And Cameron would rank third, after George Lucas on #2. Yet I'm sure that, when Cameron returns, he will get back to the top spot.

PLUS Jackson's four "big" movies are all great. IMO that's not the case for Titanic. Nor for True Lies. And also Aliens, which may be a really good film, cannot withstand the comparison with LotR or King Kong.

Interesting reminder, 0dysseus. I wonder if Cameron can make as large a technology leap in Battle Angel as he has with several past films, or as Jackson has with Gollum and Kong. A few other important technology movies since Cameron's (sort of) departure come to mind: The Matrix and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

I always show up for major technology innovations, just to see the spectacle. Alas, the only ones of the past 1.5 decades I think are maybe a little good are The Matrix and Fellowship of the Ring.

I'll bet you $50 we don't see Cameron's Battle Angel in USA cinemas in 2006. Do you accept?

Oh, add Russian Ark to Matrix and FF.

I completely disagree about Hulk...but then again, I thought very little of Peter Jackson's new, incredibly overblown King Kong.

Guess I'm an oddball. ;-)

Yes, there seems to be some disagreement about The Hulk (surprisingly much, in fact) here around. Still, I think it's awfully done in almost every possible way.

I like King Kong on the other hand very much, but maybe that's due to the fact that I'm also a great fan of the 1933-original.

Perhaps I'm the oddball. :)

I like the 1933 original too, it's one of my favorite movies.

Maybe that's why I wasn't taken with Jackson's version.