smakawhat

IMDb member since October 2000
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Reviews

The Rider
(2017)

A true cinematic MASTERPIECE
It is at this time in America that we have a fresh update not just of it's gorgeous landscape, but a more modern tale of the open spaces and characters that inhabit it. Throw in a gorgeous cinematography and you have one of the most memorable films I have seen in years.

The Rider focuses on a family, and particularly one son who after an unfortunate competition accident, is stuck not just in a sea of empty direction, but a loss of his true identity.

He is guided by other riding friends, a somewhat dis-interested father, and his disabled younger sister.

This film could be filed with obvious tropes, the big Karate Kid like comeback, family redemption, but instead it has the unique ability to keep things intensely real. The characters don't even seem like they are acting, there is a real sense of the Western camaraderie and landscape out on the plains, a Holden Caulfieldesque genuine relationship with a sister so real as if Salinger wrote it himself, and a look into a culture that has been updated for the 21st century.

The cinematography along with the main characters angst, ooze off the screen in burnt and dark rolling hills of pathos and glory. The images and storyline offer such an intense look in a life that many can only barely grasp. The movie's effect is so striking, that in a particular scene when a simple horse is ridden, it is one of the beautiful, haunting, majestic and gut wrenching images you will ever witness on screen.

Director Chloe Zhao has crafted one of the most amazing looking and storytelling pieces of Americana in ages, while lead actor Brady Jandreau pulls off a character and role with such passion and ease, it's as if he was a modern James Dean and John Wayne all rolled up into one.

A not to be missed film.

Moonlight
(2016)

Leaves you with people and places you can't stop remembering
Director and screenplay writer Barry Jenkins has managed to craft a whole new experience that is one part meditative, another part long lasting and masterful.

A simple coming of age story is told through gorgeous cinematography, some of the best I have seen on films in years. The film is awash in a sort of "tropical drab", dark hues of blue appropriate moonlight and leaving a refreshed almost improved 80s neon, as the story of "Little" is acted during 3 periods of his life by 3 different actors, all of them equally brilliant.

The film is like a slow rolling ocean wave, one that builds and builds always having a sense of light climax hitting the screen. Plot aside which is for the most non-existent, the actors simply perform wonderfully (all of them) in the film showing the trials and tribulations of a young boy trying to grow up in a dysfunctional one parent household.

I don't think I've ever seen a film where so much expression was conveyed by an actor just simply by the use of his eyes. The 3 actors who play the main character really seemed like the same person, it's astonishing, as they walk through bleached out section 8 walls, between gorgeous palm trees, bright colors, and the beach so nearby that seems to be the respite from the madness so close to home.

The culture and the landscape and story is so uniquely portrayed that it's refreshing. The film pictures Miami bathed wet streets, neon, diverse colors of its people and the places and qualities that surround them with a story that's so unique, but must be so common place about grown African-American men who at their even biggest physical prowess are still children inside.

I left the theater with a sense of feeling how wonderful this was made, but also not crazy about it being a total masterpiece as some critics have claimed. However, it's strength is in making you remember these characters and what the future holds for Little long after the film ends. I still feel even today that I hope "Little" finds out who he really is. I still think about it days after seeing this story, and how Little will be, and perhaps that in its own right makes it a masterpiece.

Café Society
(2016)

Just makes me only solidify one thing..
It has been years since I have written a review, and this film finally prompted one.

It's classic Woody, mixed in with sepia tones and brilliant cinematography. Blue Jasmine was terrific, but Cafe Society falls particularly flat. So don't give me that Woody still doesn't have it in him. But he dropped the ball on this one for a particular reason.

Eisenberg is actually a good fit. He fills the classic niche character 's that are so common in Allen's film. Neurotic, angst driven and often clumsy and clueless. Throw in some Jewish guilt and Eisenberg fits in well. Carrel is fantastic. I also wish somehow Parker Posey had more lines too.

The film actually manages some interesting characters, but is not that plot driven, more on going with situations and atmosphere that is wonderfully accented by brilliant scenery. The film even while short does drag and does fall at parts, even if it takes awhile to get going.

The biggest problem is like a giant elephant in the room and that's Kristen Stewart. Let's face it... the woman CANT ACT to save her life. She's wooden, monotone and emotionless. Watch her on screen is like watching paint dry.

So much time I spent watching this thinking this could actually be an exceptionally good film if someone else was cast in her role.

But in the end, I still can't figure out how this woman even has a job in Hollywood. She's like this in every film I've seen. Horrible.

Better luck next time.

Boyhood
(2014)

A crowning achievement in film
Simply STUNNING viewing. 9.5 out of 10, and one of the most amazing films I have seen in years, I can't stop thinking about it.

Often films and coming of age stories show a very condensed viewpoint in a short time frame. Boyhood is actually the opposite in many ways. Clocking in at nearly 3 hours, you witness years pass in vignettes and scenarios as we follow the life of a young 5 year old boy called Mason and has family. The film concludes with 18 year old Mason going to college.

It's the same actor (if you didn't know already before hand). As with all the rest of the cast, shot over 12 years, as they age, physically change, and move on. In many ways there is no plot, all you are to witness is the experience of what happens next, and how life is to be shaped.

A fictional family life is portrayed in Texas, with numerous congenial scenes that everyone can relate to. Backseat fighting, shenanigans of youth, friends lost from moving away, but it's the context that is captured when you see it as real life literally grows on the screen. Friction and challenges are often presented, such as a mother who is intelligent but often makes bad decisions. The family dynamic swings from positive to negative, often with no warning. It provides great contrast as to how you see Mason's character grow up. A second father run in, and a new group of family members is a highlight, a tense period in life that if it were up to me should get Marco Perella an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor (if flat out just give him the dam thing).

The film also has hallmarks and often reminds me of the Up documentary series, except it's a work of fiction. My only one complaint, if minor, is that it seems to have a hard time figuring out which note to end on. But the other great achievement is that I never wanted this film to end.

The amount of risk the film makers took with this project is just mind boggling. What if the actors quit? or died? or just evolved into not being able to make their performances click on screen. But in the end it works, and it's a miraculous achievement.

This is the power of film, and what it can do, and nobody has ever done something like this before, on such a scale. And it pays off BIG.

In many ways the title seems wrong, it should just be called Family, or maybe just "Life" as it was. It's power is you don't just witness great performances, you see your life on screen through Mason. Every grown man will recognize every challenge, stumble, success witnessed by this actor in a very subdued straight laced performance. You observe it physically, emotionally, and metaphorically take shape on screen.

Raw, unflinching, groundbreaking, a cinematic triumph.

Guardians of the Galaxy
(2014)

Fun in spite of itself
I haven't seen a summer popcorn flick in ages, let alone written a review of one in some time. However, if an excuse to see a gun totting raccoon with a rag tag bunch of misfits doesn't get me interested, then I'll consider this a lifetime opportunity missed.

Guardians of the Galaxy at first seems to start off like any sci-fi block bluster but quickly separates itself from the rest of the pack upon first viewing. The hero (Peter Quill) is a goofy, smart ass, unintentionally funny character as he sets on collecting an artifact for ransom. In the end, his goods are stripped and a bizarre bunch of misfits just like him set to get it back. The artifact's "the orb" importance becomes more clear, as we learn if it falls into the wrong hands it can unleash unparalleled destruction on the planets and galaxies.

Films like this suggest for you to suspend your disbelief, the bad guys never shoot straight, the heroes dodge all the bullets, the evil guys never time their powers right. We never take these things seriously, and more so the film takes these to more moronic highs. A walking plant and raccoon make an interesting pair, spitting off dialogue that isn't cliché. Quill has an affection for cheesy music, and it's discussion and genre in significant moments amongst other characters who just want to save the world, makes much for much moronic viewing. After all the aliens have no idea of this foreign concept that makes no sense to them. The female character is all green, giving a nod almost to Star Trek and an interest of Captain Kirk that Quill must conquest, but takes a much more realistic turn.

Aside from the fact that a brute character doesn't understand the concept of metaphors, the filmmakers have also bathed this picture in a fascinating light. Giant reams of purple blue and green bathe the screen with interstellar light, creating a universe that doesn't look like anything we have seen before on screen. Even the characters and aliens look like... aliens, with the exception that some are still bi-pedal, many skin tones are represented, never mind a blue bounty hunter who kidnapped Quill as boy, seems to wield the most dangerous knitting needle known to man. His presence and somewhat Texas?Alabama accent (which adds to even bigger irony) seem just the perfect fit as the absurdity grows larger when Quill and him cross paths. Each opportunity is an excuse for him to remind Quill he's lucky he wasn't eaten alive by him and his henchmen when he was first captured.

In reality the film mocks itself and its own ideas for telling us that this is all ridiculous and just dumb fun so come along for the ride. The whole thing knows it's absurd, and it's dialed up to 11 by the film-makers giving us a thrill that is the perfect escape for summer.

It's not brilliant or amazing, it's quite stupid, but if it was perfect it would ironically be a heck of a lot less interesting and enjoyable. It's the self mockery and stupidity that makes the film work ingeniously. If anything it's the perfect movie to not take things seriously, and bathe yourself in the wild characters and colors on screen. In the end it's a great interstellar trip and escape unlike any you have been on before, and that's really all it needs to be.

American Teen
(2008)

Really just awful...
I couldn't help but watch this film and think how incredibly empty it was. When if anything it should be the opposite.

The makers of American Teen place themselves in the lives of a classes senior year of school. We are to witness the usual cliques of several teens who go through the growing and learning pains of life.

In the end though, the dramatic moments and the loud soundtrack, quick editing, sound bite moments end up making the real people in this film come across as caricatures in their own movie.

The film is bombastic and in your face, when it needs to step away and tone down. When the intimate or poignant moments are described in someones life, it becomes flashy and gimmicky with distracting animations.

When it's suppose to poignant, its 2 sentences and over. You really don't get to know these kids other than what is described in the first 10 minutes of the film.

Scenes are played out of teenage life that everyone can relate to, but with the cameras around, it feels forced and coerced, regardless of whether the incidences are true to life. Someone is dumped by text message on their cellphone, so how do the film-makers capture that in real-time??? You get the sense the viewer is being cheated. A documentary is suppose to let the story unfold by itself, at it's worst American Teen actually becomes "predictable".

The idea of getting into a high school and capturing every detail of intimate moments with the kids, seems to have created a world that almost feels like its scripted when the cameras are around, and overly dramatic, when it doesn't have to be.

All the senior adults in the movie that are related to the kids (parents, teachers) even come across as nothing but pure buffoons who we don't get to know either.

It really does feel like the film-makers project some sort of ideas as to how this one town is a template for every high school in America, when it's really not that simple.

In the end though I wouldn't discourage people from seeing it, but the American teen is way more complicated than this, and the film-makers just haven't got it.

Jesus Camp
(2006)

innocence forgotten
Enter the world of Jesus Camp, a brilliant documentary that chronicles the life of several people who attend or set up a "Jesus Camp" in (ironicaly) Devils Lake North Dakota.

Filmmakers Heidi Ewing, and Rachel Grady decide to focus mostly on the children that attend, with some focus on minister Becky Fisher who is one of the main architects of the camp.

Right away the filmmakers show a growing underlying change in the evangelical movement, to politicize their beliefs. Voice overs start talking about the newest supreme court nomination of Alito. However, once the focus starts on the kids who attend the camp the film gets its bearing.

What becomes obvious is that paranoia and fear is driven into the kids. There is Ashley a young girl, and Levi an older boy who seems to be on the quest to become a minister and preacher himself. It's obvious he likes the attention that is given him. But the kids are still kids, Levi and his friend go out into the woods and do what all kids do, explore find a scary spider, Levi even mentions, I like to throw rocks.

But then they are back in lessons again, scarred out of their boots in a sermon as they are being told to stay away from Harry Potter, abortion, and that they are essentially dirty from all the sins they carry. Most of them can't hold back the tears. Levi mentions he said he was saved when he was 5 years old (I can only think of the horrible things that he must have been guilty of to be converted (too much sugar cereal maybe?) ) The filmmakers do the smart thing and let the pictures and words speak for themselves. There is no voice over narration, no probing questions from the film-makers to the subjects themselves. There is no debate. The words from the kids just come out, and they are frightening. A sense of brainwashing can only be observed as the kids talk about how they have to fight in gods army, and that everyone else has to be 'purged'. Never mind that at one point kids are worshiping at a card board cut out of George Bush.

Some scenes literally look like they could have came from the movie "Triumph of the Will".

But the brilliance is shown in the innocence that these children loose and don't seem to enjoy in. What young kid needs to know about abortion? or be cleansed of all the horrors of the world? Why can't the kids just make up their own minds with everything but in front of them? When do kids ever get to just.... play? They are hints in the film at that, kids will be kids, little late night camp ghost stories, some break dancing.. it's all in good fun, and perfectly fine.

But it seems like Jesus camp just wants to crush their spirits.

Kudos to the film-makers for showing it real.

Shijie
(2004)

Unmatched surreal universe brought to life
How can you truly show disconnection. I think I have truly seen a master in action with Shijie, a film that takes place in a world theme park (this place does really exist) in China.

Zhang Ke Jia is a masterful director. His use of colour and character direction is unreal. One of the things he uses to great effect are arches and hallways. Characters appear in them, or look out of them in what is some of the most visual photography I have ever witnessed. There is also a great conversation scene between two characters who don't share the same language, and the use of reflected light that is truly remarkable, make sure to watch for this scene. But it doesn't end there.

Zhang also does something so miraculous that I thought would be impossible. He borrows heavily from Ozu, particularly a scene that is reminiscent of Tokyo Story and makes something that is uniquely his own.

The basic synopsis of "The World", is of the lives of the workers in the theme park. Some romances develop, a foreign Russian worker Anna is introduced to the group even though she and another Chinese girl Tao don't share the same language. Everyday trials and tribulations happen for these young adults who are trying to work in the 'New China'.

Somehow though with all the issues involved, rural people coming into the cities, technological communication, the erosion of China's agrarian past, the fakeness of place, the exploitation of workers and lead up to prostitution, the camaraderie of friends, the cheapness of life.. somehow all of these themes are jumbled into a glorious presentation that you can't take your eyes off of.

The film is beyond surreal, its real setting makes it all more spectacular and that more effective. I had a hard time separating the actors from the characters, at times I thought I was watching a documentary and I prayed or hoped for someone to do well and be happy and find themselves thinking that these were real people in harsh sometimes difficult situations. "The World" has this effect on you, you can't begin to believe the beauty and harshness it shows, and it tricks you in the most crafty way.

The World is a truly fantastic small place in more ways than one...

Rating 9 out of 10

Murderball
(2005)

A Triumph!!!
Having seen one of the most brilliant documentaries several years ago called Hoop Dreams, I though there could be nothing that could even come close to its raw passion and emotional power. After witnessing Murderball, I realized I was wrong.

This documentary that follows a select group of quadriplegic athletes provides just the perfect amount of tension and joy, as witnessing the former trials of Arthur Agee, and William Gates and family in Chicago.

Some background is given on the sport as to how it's played (no less ironically on a basketball court), but Murderball's greatest asset is the depth in which it probes the players backgrounds and challenges, and our understanding of what it means to be in a chair (more than likely) the rest of your life.

Like Hoop Dreams, it isn't the games or the run up to the championship that becomes the most exciting part (as great as that may be), but is found in the little moments when a father makes an effort to be at his sons recital, an old friend comes to watch his buddy at the paralympics in Greece, a recent quadriplegic first gets into a "mad chair" for the first time, or a group of players confront a former coach and mention his "treasonous" grounds. It is the access the filmmakers have gotten to not just film games, but to be at the right place at the right time in these players lives. That is what separates a brilliant documentary from just a good one, also the filmmakers and distributors have believed in this film, and it contains some very slick production work to boot.

In the end, the audience for the most part who will be watching this as able bodied people, will come out with a sense of glowing pride for these athletes who play this crazy (perhaps) insane sport. This movie more than anything is about EMPOWERMENT, and the drive that succeeds in us all. When you watch these people in action you suddenly even begin to question how much you shouldn't complain about the everyday nuisances compared to what these players deal with on a regular basis.

It breaks down the barriers we people have towards individuals in wheelchairs to realize, that you know these people aren't always reflecting on what happened in their life as a lost chance, that they are okay, and more importantly you know what.. some of them may dam well be real jerks, but you know what.. that's okay too. But by golly, don't you dare even feel for sorry for them, just be glad that if you have a Zupan, Bob Lujano, or an Andy Cohn in your corner you may just have one of the coolest friends on the planet, and be a lucky person indeed. Cause for the most part they probably stand taller than you in every way.

Rating 9 out of 10

Me and You and Everyone We Know
(2005)

wow what a surprise
I was quite surprised by this film. For someone who has never made a film before (this being Miranda July's first venture), the result is incredibly welcoming.

Miranda plays Christine, an artist that earns money by shuttling old seniors through a taxi service (hey how else are artists suppose to earn an income!). One day while at a department store she sees a shoe salesmen and develops a big crush on him. Christine is a kooky odd character and it turns out the salesmen Richard is as well to some extent. However, Richard is not quite ready to jump into a relationship cause he is just in the beginning of a painful separation. His two children are also on the sidelines watching Richard slowly crumble, and they retreat into their shells by spending a lot of time online.

There are other characters too who are all connected in some way or other, and it provides some entertaining subplots. I won't go into detail but they are all fantastic. What is really impressive about 'Me and You' is that Miranda July has created a universe that people inhabit that we rarely see on film. I was also amazed how the film was composed and the dialogue that was written. The characters that inhabit Miranda's world are all very odd but very real, they all speak a strange language, but we all understand everything they say and what they are going through. You get the sense that everything said which is so strange and perhaps unnatural is so teeming with life and reality. That is not easy to pass off without being arty or coming off as pretentious, there is even room for many comedic moments, and an art director becomes the pun of an unlikely joke that you don't even see coming.

The key theme throughout the film is about trying to communicate with other people who don't speak the same language as you do. In many ways its frustrating cause you are so different from everyone else, hopefully you can find the right person who is on your same playing level. That is the real success of Me and You, in it's done marvelously for a first time writer/director.

This is a remarkable display of talent, and no it's not a Solondz rip off as much as Solondz has similar work. It's her own creation and a well deserved one that I don't think anyone else could have pulled off.

One of the best films of the year Rating 9 out of 10

Batman Begins
(2005)

Christopher Nolan is a genius
Finally Hollywood has figured out that you don't take a talent like Nolan and mess with his creations. Nolan has given the only serious looking Batman comic adaptation I can think off. Christian Bale isn't just a man in a costume, he is literally put into a metamorphosis. The screenwriters have connected what matters most and that is the transformation from a naive rich kid, to man who conquers his own demons.

Secondly this film looks so much like the panels of a DC comic book, that the similarities are unreal. Bale as a young man looks so much younger than the reserved changed Wayne even on film, although Bale of course never ages in the picture. The shots of the death of Wayne's parents are so much like the comics that I was transported to reading them again.

Nolan has a great touch for directing darkness (not just physical but mood as well), and playing with shadows. This Batman, we hardly see, and foes drop around like flies before we the audience can figure out what is going on.

Dr. Krane, is also brilliantly cast as a sinewy doctor that looks like he will waste away at any moment.

Not quite the perfection of Memento or Insomnia, but it's good enough for me.

8 out of 10

Bin-jip
(2004)

Stick with me here..
Having witnessed Kim ki Duk's masterpiece in the past "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring", I was eagerly interested in this well received next venture.

3 Iron, is very similar in style to Spring Summer, there is very little dialogue, and the story tells itself. However, I had to admit that after about 65% of viewing this film, admiring the characters, I was still kind of wondering if this film was going to go somewhere. It had to make some direction. Only the last 3rd brought me back and really showed me how ingenious this film is.

The lead actor Hee Jae really performs one of the most memorable performances, with hardly saying a word, his arching brows or glare in his face conveys every emotion masterfully compared to other actors who would have to say a million lines. I won't go over plot details that have already been discussed, what is interesting is that all the houses the two break into are all of couples in some stage in a relationship, one breaking down, one that is well established and peaceful, one that is young and virile, but perhaps inexperienced.

It all seems to be a metaphor for how two beings meet to co-exist and compliment each other, particularly the final scene that ends with the two anti-heroes meeting up and finding their lives in perhaps perfect balance.

Be patient with this film, STICK with it, it's well worth it. Extremely dreamy and poetic and masterful.

Rating 8 out of 10

Cinderella Man
(2005)

Made for the Oscars
As much as Howard has captured the bleakness of the depression 30's era, and a well talented cast provides some good performances, Cinderella man is very much a formula picture where we all know how it is going to turn out, but will just go along with the ride.

What I would call this "Seabiscuit" of boxing, is tailor made for the Oscars for its easy to identify story line and spirited typical feel good plot device.

You know who the good guys are, and the bad guys are overplayed. So much so that Max Baer comes off as a complete psychopath in this film.

If you like formula movies this one is tailor made for you, and the boxing scenes will leave you pummeled. I swear my hands hurt after watching this. But if you pine for something with a little more creativity and less paint by numbers I would steer clear of it.

7 out of 10

Der Untergang
(2004)

Stunning!!!
This was one of the most brilliant war films I have ever seen in my life. The description and portrayals of the Reich are one of absolute shocking madness, and what a performance by Bruno Ganz. It could be so easy to make a mockery, or comical, or over the top performance, but no. When you see Ganz up on screen you are literally staring into madness, you really think it's "him".

Amazingly executed, wonderfuly crafted, insanely scripted by the demons that only "der Fhurer" could provide, der Untergang is a flat out MASTERPIECE.

Nobody in this film is sympathetic, that is beyond obvious. The greatest thing this film shows (ecspecially those people who are it's detractors) how his followers so blindly led him and were gutless to stop anything, so much so that when Magda murders her 6 children it becomes the most powerful scene on film I have witnessed in many years.

A MUST SEE!!

Uzak
(2002)

Masterpiece
It has taken me about a year now after seeing this film to write about it. Lord knows I have wanted to, after witnessing it I knew I saw something I hadn't seen before but wasn't sure why. Now after reflecting for quite some time I know, it's these characters that even now I still can't stop thinking about.

Distant briefly and slowly tells the story of a relative (Yusuf) who comes from the rurals to live briefly with a well off to do photographer (Mahmut) in the city in hopes to find employment. However it becomes clear that after Yusuf hypothesizes the idea of being a sailor and his employment prospects dim, that he's really searching for something else, some sort of purpose in his life.

Through all this soul searching we are taken through seasonal surroundings that are filmed exquisitely. The context in which they happen makes the scenes more powerful in 2 particular ones when a girl Yusuf has been following suddenly meets up with her significant other, and the look of Yusuf's face as he looks into a basket of fish and the shot and light that reflects off his tortured face. That scene in itself has to be one of the most gorgeously filmed pieces I have witness in I don't know how long.

In the end Mahmut has his own demons too, but ends up confronting his relative that he is not really trying to find a job and is forced to ask him to leave, in a scene that is very simple but has the feeling of true heartbreak.

What the viewer is left with is lots of reflecting and pondering for these 2 people who everyone can see a piece of themselves in. You should not be put off by the pace of this film it is truly worth every single breathtaking second.

Rating 10 out of 10.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
(2004)

God Awful!
This has to be the most smug, trite, pointless film I have seen all year, and it is certainly the WORST.

Wes Anderson is a running joke. He simply puts cute things up there, puts characters through the most ridiculous motions while exclaiming gee look what I can do!! and somehow it's suppose to be funny. It isn't and it gets old real fast! OOOOoo look I am going to make this character topless for the first half of the film, and then not for the rest and never give an explanation why. OOOoo I'll make this guy air Kentucky yeah that's funny!! Oooo I know I'll make this character pregnant that's killer!! Here's the problem.. after 5 seconds it's stale.. like this film chewing on cardboard. Characters are never developed, the talented cast particularly Murray recites dialogoue in the most monotone stillted manner, and the plot goes nowhere. A father son bonding ends up having no merit. I saw this in a small theatre with about 50-60 people and NOBODY laughed at it..

Worst off the fan-boys think Wes is a genius..

Rating 3 out of 10.

Sideways
(2004)

Paul Giamatti for president!!!
Fantastic all around performance from the entire cast, particularly Paul as the lovable neurotic looser who just oozes Charlie Brown like persona.

Wonderful script about 2 best friends who seem to be polar opposites but somehow balance each other out, going on a week gettaway before one of them is about to be married. Outrageously funny and touching all the same!! This movie will make you feel so good after its over, and without question make you very thirst and hungry for the joy of life!

Paul Giamatti for president!!

Rating 9 out of 10

Vera Drake
(2004)

Surprisingly Underwhelming
As much as Mike Leigh has wonderfully captured the bleakness of post cold war middle class England, he has also made not much of a story for us to ponder.

Much of this film is left unsaid, and as wonderful as the cast is and the great lead performance, much of the power and passion that could be aroused in this film is left untouched. The sideline of the story of Ethel does provide some other avenue for us to look at it, but it also seems a distraction from keeping the viewer away from the real heart of the matter in the film. That is probably the thing that I left the theatre most from this film, in that it was rather unremarkable and ended just as underwhelmingly.

Rating 6 out of 10

Danny Deckchair
(2003)

Unimpressive [Possible spoilers]
With a good cast set you would think that the actors in "Danny Deckchair" could easily make something memorable and enjoyable. Problem is they go through a paint by number script, where plot twists are visible a mile away, and the characters aren't even given enough dialogue to give them any real personality or distinction. It's as if they were doomed from the start.

An eccentric working class bloke with an ambitious wife, is set to go on a camping vacation when his wife cancels (no doubt from hints in the film that this isn't the first time) cause she wants to take an important business client on a sale. As a result Danny finds out and is distraught thinking his wife is cheating on him after he sees her being driven around by a wealthy sports reporter.

Driven to desolation he starts making a hair brained scheme to fill a deckchair attached with balloons. why? well cause he's Danny. In the end he gets lifted off and essentialy dissapears. Days later he ends up crashing into a rural town where all the locals are all smiley faced, and happens no less to fall in the backyard of an attractive woman..

ho ho... gee I wonder what will happen next. At this point the audience is set to think on autopilot and for good measure just so the director thought we would be led astray there are complimentary scenes of people jumping in a fountain at a big dance, Danny winning the townsfolk over, and a jealous co-worker of the girl who of course starts finding out his identity. gee never would have guessed that.

This is also not a mystery if you've seen the trailer.

It's a shame cause the cast is great but they have litteraly nothing to work with, or have any memorable lines that make their characters stand out and be memorable from all the other cliche/loving find yourself films. Even though this film bills itself as a comedy from the trailer, there are hardly and funny moments in the film, or even any laugh out loud dialogue.

Aside from the trip on how Danny got to this point, that's about the only thing memorable, and it's about 10 minutes of the film that makes it interesting, and another 85 minutes of waiting for something to happen.

An unremarkable movie, can't recomend it.

Rating 5.5 out of 10

Fahrenheit 9/11
(2004)

Go see "The Control Room" INSTEAD!!
Moore is back, faster meaner more aggresive than before. With more publicity than you could shake a stick at, Moore has produced Fahrenheit 9/11, a look at the 4 year legacy of the Bush presidency.

In the end though as a movie fan FIRST, and a staunch CRITIC of the current administration second, I can only say that Moore's atempt in this film comes off as too didactic and too much of a raging diatribe.

The rage is already apparanet. Look at the postings on this board, and the polarization of the voting. People are either producing 10's or 1's. There's a lot of emotion involved obviously in it simply because of the film. The film is simply too much of a rant, and not much of a story.

Moore's message is there and it's probably the most 'damning' expose I have ever seen. However, for the most part the payoff becomes a complete preaching to the converted, or the complete opposite of stigmatising people and enraging their hatred of Moore even more. This film isn't going to sway anyone.

Moore's biggest problem stems from not putting a story that we don't already know. There is some great trademark Moore humor in the film, and he does a great deal of shutting up most of the time and let the audience connect the dots, but there are only a few interesting personalities and what special moments in the film come off as very stagey.

The documentary called "The Control Room" about the Al Jazeera news network is much superior documentary compared to this film. There you will see real people and get the idea of how the media can shape a conflict, and it does what a great documentary is known for, capturing those special moments on film as they happen and you can't plan for.

In all, Moore has hit a home run and lots of people will be asking plenty of questions afterwards, and yes its entertaining, but there's far better out there, even from Moore himself. America will have more questions after seeing it, and it's a landmark important film historicaly that people will be talking about for ages, but it is not the best film, not the best doc, and not even the best documentary on the media and Iraq. But it is worth seeing I can guarantee you that.

Rating 7 out of 10

Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo bom
(2003)

An Amazing awakening journey!!
Kim Ki-duk's latest film simply tells the life of 2 monks who inhabit a temple that exists in a setting that seems one could only dream. The setting is a small pond that is nestled between several mountains and within this pond a simple temple floats in the center, through the ever changing seasons. It is within the changing seasons that we follow a young mentored monk from boyhood, to manhood.

The first story involves the young monk smart-alecking around and tying rocks to animals for fun. The next morning he awakens to find a giant stone tied to him by his master. Considerably immobile and begging his master that he has learned his lesson, his master does not remove the stone until he orders the young monk to go release all the animals first. If any of them are dead he proclaims, you will carry that stone in your heart forever.

There are many spiritual teachings that are throughout the film, and the story continues with the young monk's education. Other seasons show him as an inexperienced teenager, and then as an adult later. For sake of spoilers I will not say what happens, only to suggest that the first story hints that the young disciple is headed towards a life of possible tragedy. However, what happens isn't so much of importance, but the setting it happens in. Kim Ki duk hasn't created so much as a film or a story, but a journey of exquisite beauty that happens around the viewer. You are literally forced to do nothing and await this films exquisite beauty, and the film isn't so much entertainment as it is a meditation for the soul.

From within the lessons and beautifully shot seasons that occur, you are surrounded and literally "enveloped", in the temples beauty. Every single shot in this film, from the cinematic grand pictures of the temple by itself, to simple shots of just someone climbing up a hill, is perfect. EVERY SINGLE ONE!! More importantly the poetic pace of this film forces you to look and relax and await the beauty that surrounds the temple. The most spectacular shots involve the camera remaining motionless, and the landscape changing and more importantly MOVING around the participants. This effect is simply indescribable and powerful in terms of putting the viewer not just in a great film, but as an observing participant in the story. It's as if we can sit back and watch the lives of these people from some holy juncture.

I can honestly say in my several years of strongly watching and reviewing films that I have never seen a film that was so powerful, and effective on the viewer, but was so incredibly simple and extremely subtle to get that effect. It is a great deal of masterwork that Kim Ki-duk did to pull off such strength while just letting the story and the surroundings tell things by itself.

I have seen it on the big screen twice and upon second viewing its power was even stronger and more unforgettable. It is certainly a film that deserves some award merit come February, and one that I will never forget.

Rating 9.5 out of 10

Salmer fra kjøkkenet
(2003)

Pure GENIUS!!
How do you make a film… no SELL the idea of a film, whose premise is the following? Take 1950 era Swedish scientists, whose goal is to find men who live alone in the wilderness and study their ‘kitchen habits' at home for the purpose of building a more efficient living space for people. I am sure if any writer walking into Hollywood with that script would be instantly flogged before he even set foot in a studio executive boardroom. A story like this obviously seems to set itself up as a comedy, since the story is so obviously absurd, but what viewers come out with after witnessing this film is the great appreciation and the bonds the characters create. This is a truly touching masterful picture, from a premise that has the most bizarre source that I don't know how anyone could have even come up with. That premise is quite something, since it seems that the idea of studying male behavior in a kitchen in the backwoods of Norway is either going to be a complete disaster or something extremely memorable. Luckily it is the latter of the two. Isak Bjornsson is a scientist out to study a ‘subject' named Folke who lives by himself and has literally no friends. Folke unwittingly is part of this experiment which involves Isak sitting in a giant chair overlooking his living space, as if he was the judge in a tennis match. Also Isak is supposed to follow certain rules set out by his employer. He is not to disturb Folke's living space, nor talk to him. If this isn't a unique bit of Scandinavian humor I don't know what is. If this film were to fall flat or even be just a short funny comedy, it would only fixate on the stupidity of this premise. Somehow a guy who sits in a log cabin miles away from civilization, who can put up with a stuffy repressed scientist whose main purpose is to write excruciating details of a man who literally spends his day doing nothing, is actually quite a funny situation for comedy. Kitchen Stories does not fail in that sense, but the ingeniousness is that Kitchen Stories is smarter than that.

The film suddenly takes the viewer to ask what the real purpose of these 2 men in the movie are and the focus provides and glaring and obvious point. They are essentially both alone in their lives for different reasons and they in a way need each other. But not of course in the sense of a dying love, but in a great sense of male camaraderie and caring that is essential to the idea of a great friendship

Gradually, the bond between scientist and subject breaks down, and both men start evolving a strange set of rules and create a friendship that comes off as the most genuine and heartwarming I've seen on screen since this year started.

As this relationship and some good subplots develop, the comedy takes another turn as Isak tries to hide from his boss ( a man who only ‘dreams' of what the future possibilities of kitchens may look like), that he has engaged his subject in what is obviously, ‘caring' humanity. The nerve!

I loved this film from the moment it started till its tender conclusion. It had only a short run in my area, and even after what must have been several months since I've seen it, I still think about it and a giant smile comes across my face.

It is touching, heartwarming, very funny, and just flat out great. It is the best film I have seen so far this year. If you ever get a chance to see it, go immediately. It shows the perfect beauty of the bond between us all as people, in the most kooky, unique bizarre way. And that in itself… is pure genius

Rating 10 out of 10

Les triplettes de Belleville
(2003)

Brilliant subtle sensory overload
An animated co production from France-Canada and Belgium, The Triplets of Belleville tells the story of a champion cyclist who is kidnapped by an underworld crime syndicate during the Tour de France. The grandmother and her trusty dog Bruno who raised and nurtured the kid go on an adventure to rescue her son, along with the help of three former triplets who sang and danced in the roaring twenties.

However, this simple story line is not what draws the viewer in to its greatness, it is the world in which this story plays out that is a slight jolt to the senses in the most wonderful way. The animation is filed with slow plodding but memorable characters, the dog particularly has to be on of the most realistic animals I have ever seen animated. The backgrounds are LITTERED with detail and references; proportions of characters are completely `out of WACK' with the rest of their bodies. The cyclists have drumsticks for legs, a grandma wears one giant platform shoe, the gangsters are menacingly and stupidly square. It's quite ingenious, and I don't think I have seen animation like this ever. The characters feel, look, and particularly the movements are what keeps you watching and glued to the screen as you anticipate what kind of freak oddity you may see next.

There is little dialogue in the film, and to some degree I think that is done on purpose. For the most part you really are suppose to absorb the crazy world these characters inhabit, such as the cities that stretch to teetering heights beyond the clouds, crowds of fat characters, and a delightful restaurant atmosphere that has the most memorable maitre d'.

It's very difficult to put into words what this film is. There is so much subtle sensory overload (if I could use no other word) that it is hard to keep track of everything. But what emerges is a sense of playfulness and sly mockery of just about everything you can imagine. It really is a great piece of eye candy and humorous adventure. Definitely a must see.

Rating 8 out of 10

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara
(2003)

There isn't a more important film at this time that everyone needs to see right now
The latest documentary from Errol Morris, gives a brief chronicle of Robert McNamara. McNamara sits in front of the camera speaking to the viewer about his life in the US primarily as Defense Secretary during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. The film gives 11 segments on McNamara's wisdom, and it is broken down into many key crises he was involved in. The main ones being the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the second being the legacy of the Vietnam War.

If these two events aren't fascinating enough in their history as it is, McNamara gives the viewer a startling and in depth look at to how horrible leaders have to make decisions in the face where many lives are at stake.

The opportunity for a film like this is great for it to become a soapbox for McNamara to show off his ego and spout of his legacy. It also could have been a propaganda piece for which Errol Morris could have used against him. In the end it is neither. It cautiously comes off as an important warning for all of humanity, and for new world leaders to pay attention to. Simply put McNamara just asks people to listen to what he has to say about what he has been through, and that maybe perhaps some one will learn from it.

McNamara comes off as neither proud nor regretful for anything he has done. His stoic mannerisms even at the old age of 85 are sharp as a tack and amazing to witness. But it is his insights into the brink of how close we came to complete annihilation in the early 60's, and the failure to understand the purpose of the Vietnam war and how leaders dealt with it, gives an all inspiring sense of awe and shock as to what really was going on.

Chilling phrases are uttered and when you hear them coming from this person they will stick with you forever. McNamara elaborates that if America lost the war with Japan, he doesn't think for a second that he and people like Curtis May, would have been tried for war crimes against the Japanese people. He holds up 2 fingers barely a centimeter apart and proclaims, this is how close we were to nuclear war. It's an amazing piece of work that Errol Morris has had access to, and we as viewers are able to witness.

The film also gets to show some more insights that are quite charming, which takes away some of the dread. McNamara's description of his first press conference with Kennedy as Defense Secretary where he was hauled out and claimed he was scared to death, is shown and the old footage played of him in the 60's shows him absolutely petrified.

Needless to say, Errol Morris has pulled off a winner here showing an old veteran of crisis giving a cautionary tale for today's world. It is a fascinating, engrossing, scary, humbling, and more importantly amazing documentary to witness on screen.

Rating 10 out of 10

Les invasions barbares
(2003)

Dignity
Deny Arcand's latest film brings back the original cast of "le Decline de l'empire American" in the story of a dying university professor named Remy. Remy is dying of cancer and is stuck in a typical overcrowded hospital in Quebec. He is a leftist teacher who is still passionate at heart about his causes and beliefs, but refuses to budge when his son arrives to try to get him treatment in the US. His son Sébastien who is a high flying investment broker out of London, tries numerous ways of convincing his father to leave, and then ends up resorting to trying to bribe the hospital unions and administrative staff.

Sébastien's intention are without question good even if his methods are questionable, but as old friends of Remy come to re-unite it becomes apparent that the polar opposites between father and son need to be reconciled. It's only early on in the film we learn that Remy's womanizing past ways with numerous mistresses were what alienated him from his son.

There are also eye opening appearances into Canada's overburdened health system, the differences between the United States and Canada, the burden that others take on of being in a loveless marriage, and all the other types of invaders in our lives that challenge us. Many of these are explained through the fine acting of the father and son in dramatic and even humourous ways from Remy's insistence that he voted for medicare and will die in Quebec and that his son should just get back on a plane since he probably has some meeting in Hong Kong he is late for.

The story takes and even more ingenious turn as Arcand uses a drug addict's addiction and even the societal police force that is to keep addicts in line, in a most ingenious storytelling way that is not typical in modern cinema. He shows that both sides can be compassionate and even helpful to anyone. Jose Marie Crozee who plays the addict ends up giving one of the most memorable performances of the year.

There are numerous themes that abound in The Barbarian Invasion, but the one that will come to everyone's attention the most is the concept of dignity. For the most part, the life that Remy has lived is filled with all sorts of pain and triumphs and it would be too easy to drag out a long battle between the father and son who have at first glance nothing in common. But what emerges is a celebration of life and comfort that most people don't get in their last days on earth, surrounded by friends and family with conversations and past lives remembered and everything all wrapped up. Now that's dignity.

Incredibly touching, smart, irreverent and witty like charm abound in this very pleasurable film. All the actors are at the peak of perfection giving fantastic performances in what is one of the most loveable films of the year. And of course Arcand makes a trademark appearance. :)

Fantastic work.

Rating 9 out of 10

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