Caledonia Twin #1

IMDb member since September 2000
    Lifetime Total
    25+
    IMDb Member
    18 years

Reviews

Tess of the D'Urbervilles
(1998)

The visualization of Hardy's imagination
If I may be so bold, I would say that this particular adaptation of Tess of the d'Urbervilles is just what Hardy had in mind when he wrote his masterpiece. However, it's difficult to put into words just why one production works so well. For me, one crucial ingredient was the music. The music in this production is emotive, a bit lively, innocently hedonistic, playful and lilting, but with a definite, bittersweet note illustrating the transient glory and ups and downs of Tess' too brief, and unfortunately, mostly tragic life. The beautiful Justine Waddell plays the role of Tess with great talent and simple dignity. In particular, I liked the scene in which she says there's no point learning about history only to discover that there have been countless other people like her in the past living through the same kind of drudgery. Oliver Milburn, who played Angel Clare, brings a new kind of skeptical optimism to the role not as apparent in Peter Firth's portrayal back in 1979. Milburn seems more angelic and innocent and innocuous in manner, posture, appearance, and in facial expression. He is open and appealing, very easily seducing the heart of Tess in spite of her reservations. His treatment of her when he has discovered her secret seems all the more callous and tragic for his previous admiration and light-hearted demeanor. But kudos must go to the directors and cinematographers of this production. From the opening scene of the maidens dancing in the field, the visual shots in this film are rich in beauty and light, at least when all is well. Even the drear scenes to come are depicted with absolute visual integrity and adhere faithfully to Hardy's vision and eloquent natural language. In particular, I like the fact that in this film, the last scene at Stonehenge has been more accurately portrayed from the book than in the previous version, 1979's "Tess". (Ie. the atheistic comments have not been censored out when Tess mourns with despair that Angel and she will never meet again.) All in all, this film is worth every moment watching. Not only are the dialogues delightful and the themes intriguing, but many will be captivated simply by the glorious scenery and by the beauty and demeure grace of Tess herself. My rating: 10/10

Wo hu cang long
(2000)

Excellent
This was a very excellent film which not only showcases Chinese language (Mandarin), culture, and scenery but also adds an element of lyrical mysticism and magic to the martial arts film genre. I enjoyed "Crouching Tiger hidden Dragon" immensely and did not find the subtitles distracting at all. However, Western audiences may not be prepared for such a tragic ending, as one typically expects of a Chinese film; crouching tiger also offers far more storyline, plot, and character development than the average martial arts flick. Ang Lee's tasteful direction can be thanked for that. I give the film a *10/10*, with a note that filmgoers expecting meaningless staged fights and badly dubbed dialogue, a happy romantic ending or intermittent comedic interludes will be disappointed. Personally, I thought the film was fantastic.

The Hunt for Red October
(1990)

Sure it's American Cold War propaganda, but so what? It's got the ingredients masterpieces are made of.
*Warning: some spoilers here.

When I first saw "The Hunt for Red October" back in 1990, I was impressed by the stunning cinematography, and though the film doesn't stand up nearly so well among today's top caliber special-effect films, "The Hunt for Red October" still has something to offer which many more modern action film competitors do not: an engaging plot. "The Hunt for Red October" is one unexpected moment after another (even if you have read the book), suspenseful, the kind of film that for once fulfills its promise to keep you at the edge of your seat. Yes, the film is unashamedly "pro-American", but it is not completely unsympathetic to the Russian side (though granted only the defectors are shown in a sympathetic light); nonetheless, it is still enjoyable to watch. I was also struck by what one critic said regarding Poledouris' fantastic score, that he thought this was a Russian classic; in my ignorance at the time, I also looked for Poledouris' music in Russian import shops, convinced that it was something from the days of the great five composers, including Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Borodin, and Rimsky-Korsakov. Yes, Poledouris' score is that good. In my opinion, the stirring music of "The Hunt for Red October" propels the action and keeps one's attention riveted to the screen when the visual shots (slow turning of large submarines...) might begin to lose one's attention. It is true that often the subtitles are strangely (or incorrectly) translated. True also is that Captain Ramius' (Connery) Russian accent is absolutely atrocious (with Sam Neill's almost as bad). Neverthless, I found this didn't affront me as much as I thought it might; Connery's presence is decisive and his manner is entirely convincing. And why shouldn't he be rebellious against the Soviet bureaucracy or have an odd accent?... Ramius is a NON-RUSSIAN, *Latvian* Captain with no real loyalties to the foreign Russian communists in Moscow who have control of Latvia... Moreover, Sam Neill is nothing short of compelling in his portrayal of Ramius' confidant, Vasili Borodin, despite the imperfect accent. When he says "I would have liked to have seen Montana", I found myself thinking, "Any other actor and that remark might have seemed comical..." Yet with a display of almost naive, exuberant charm, Neill pulls it off. For me, his death was the most moving moment of the film. Peter Firth (of 1979's *Tess*) is remarkable in his performance as the political officer, and by way of comparison with everyone else, his Russian accent *is* quite good. James Earl Jones makes a brief but notable appearance as James Greer. Joss Ackland, another underrated actor, is also quite good as the disappointed Lysenko (his last scene near the end is marvelous). But the best performance of this film, in my opinion, has got to be that of Alec Baldwin. Considering his liberal, democratic political views, he has done a fantastic job convincing us that he IS Jack Ryan, the unexpected hero, the smart wise guy with no field experience who jumps headlong into an international incident and saves the day with his wits, tenacity, and reckless courage. He is the only one who stops to consider Ramius' intent, the only one who can avert a major international crisis. His relationship with the older Ramius is intriguing... by the end, it is almost as though he is the son Ramius never had. Yes, it all seems pretty unbelievable. But "The Hunt for Red October" makes one believe every moment, and that is why this action film is so memorable. Even if you don't ordinarily like action films, you will probably enjoy this one. My rating: 8.5/10

Gladiator
(2000)

A triumphant achievement from all angles
So what if Commodus was actually murdered in his bathtub? And honestly, do we care that he actually ruled with his father Marcus Aurelius as co-emperor for several years before Marcus Aurelius died? At least, these are some of the facts which have been rearranged in "Gladiator", but why not take liberties with poetic license?! Great cinema is about drama, and this is not a documentary, nor will the audience be disappointed by what they see. Gladiator gives the audience what it wants: the human connection. History is not flat, lying on a page. It was real, as real as today is now, and in Gladiator, history is alive, visually compelling... transporting. What higher compliment could we give than that so many people have been able to instantly identify with a time and place that most of those watching this film have never given much thought to before? How can this in itself not be called a triumph? And I would even argue that the writers of these historical epics *must* truncate and rearrange so many aspects of one historical era to reproduce the whole for our understanding... thus aspects of the equally despotic Roman emperors Caligula and Nero are merged with the character of Commodus... but Gladiator is not merely a visual success, or that merely because of its fantastic special effects. It is quite simply a compelling story. We all support Maximus in his fight to avenge the murders of his wife and son. We all love to watch the strangely intriguing performance of the ambitious, luminously mad emperor Commodus... and the delicate maneuvering of his politically-minded sister, Lucilla! The acting in Gladiator is also reason enough to see the film. Not only have we the last performance of the great Shakespearean actor Oliver Reed playing Promximo, and the incomparable Richard Harris as Marcus Aurelius, but two new luminaries on the cinematic horizon: Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix. If great acting can be accomplished with the simple movement of the eyes, if great acting, as has often been said, can be achieved with and within the subtlety of a single expression, then these two have mastered the art of great acting! A telling point would be to see the film dubbed into Italian (close to Roman Latin); this would prove, I think, how talented these actors are in the expressiveness of their emotions through the eyes and body language, as well as through their fantastic speaking voices. As for Connie Nielsen, I have to say that she was excellently cast as the elegant Lucilla; had Ridley Scott substituted her for any other more well-known but less capable Hollywood actress, I think the role would have been the film's greatest weakness. In fact, it was a wise choice to cast this film with extremely talented but less well-known actors (though NOT ANY MORE!), or else Gladiator may not have seemed so realistic, nor made so powerful an impact on so many. I would recommend this film to anyone. My rating: 11/10.

Pride and Prejudice
(1995)

Simply the Best
This adaptation has got to be the best realization of a Jane Austen novel ever produced! If you are trying to choose one Jane Austen film or tv series to investigate from among the recent productions, pick this one! I can't imagine anyone disliking what has to be the most charming, amusing, romantic, and timeless classic of the modern age. Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle are simply captivating as the seemingly implacable, resentful Mr. Darcy and vivacious but sensible Elizabeth Bennett; they make the perfect foil for each other with entirely believable, electrified performances. The Pride & Prejudice supporting cast is also outstanding, in particular the odious Mr. Collins and almost obnoxiously silly Mrs. Bennett. My rating: 10/10.

Spartacus
(1960)

Epic cinema at its best
Laurence Olivier, Kirk Douglas, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov... with such an assembly of actors, how could this film not be extraordinary? Well, it is extraordinary. I am not going to go into a long history of the slave revolt under Spartacus; see the film and enjoy every minute of it (and if you like that, there are many different academic books on the real life of Spartacus, as well as classic Roman texts to be found). Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) is a stalwart, reticent, but bravely rebellious slave-turned gladiator whose spirit cannot be broken, and yet he finds it in his heart to love the lovely British slave, Varinia, (Jean Simmons) with a fierce loyalty and tenderness that really gets the emotions going... Laurence Olivier (Crassus) has never turned in a finer performance in my opinion (a bare description could hardly do it justice), and Charles Laughton (a fine actor virtually unknown outside the acting world of today) *IS* the licentious senator, Gracchus. Tony Curtis does seem a bit out of place in the cast, but he makes at the very least, a sincere (though somewhat stilted-sounding) Antoninus. All in all, this is one of classic cinema's best. My rating: 10/10.

The Robe
(1953)

Moments of greatness
Warning: possible spoilers. I first saw "the Robe" about fifteen years ago... and marveled at the artistic quality and acting within the first half of the film... imagine, ancient Rome in all its glory! Years later, I still find that "The Robe" offers moments of greatness, but its main appeal for me is no longer predominantly of a visual nature. It is the love story of "the Robe" which endures in my mind. No matter how cynical one is tempted to be when revisiting an old favourite film, the story between Marcellus and Diane still manages to evince strong emotions; it still has the power to convince me of the strength of the love between them. All in all, I would say that "the Robe" is a worthwhile viewing for the classical or religious enthusiast; however, I found the latter half of the film in parts overly dramatic and religious, in particular as Victor Mature's character and the new Christians begin pontificating rather heavily... but then again, I did find the strength which his new religious revelations afford Marcellus rather uplifting in an odd way, especially towards the end of the film, when Marcellus is tested over how strongly he can hold to his newfound religious beliefs... and triumphs so bravely. If you can sit through an epic, this film is worth a go, and if you admire fine acting, you'll enjoy the fine performances of the greats Richard Burton (later in Cleoptra) and the lovely Jean Simmons (who also starred in Spartacus), especially the first scene in which they meet again after many years... My rating: 8/10 (it would have been higher if the film had been less "preachy")

As Good as It Gets
(1997)

Maybe not as good as it gets, but certainly hard to beat
Warning: possible spoilers!

"As Good as it Gets" is definitely one of the best films of 1997; only L. A. Confidential and in some respects, Titanic, match this level of cinematic quality, though for entirely different reasons. While L.A. Confidential more clearly deserves the award for best plot, As Good as it Gets could arguably beat it for best writing and performances (in my opinion, it is a toss-up between the two). This film is not a big blockbuster which blows you away with superfluous special effects, but rather a slice-of-life story brought to film with fantastic, intriguing, and amusing writing and incredibly vivid, daring, and raw, emotional performances; and though perhaps the plot of "As Good as it Gets" was somewhat predictable, real life can also be, given the same assembly of characters and situations... But make no mistake, "As Good as it Gets" is well worth watching for the characters alone, as motley a crew of eccentric, on-going NYC survivors as you will find on the silver screen. All in all, it has to be said that this is a superb comedy with golden moments from Nicholson and Hunt, in particular the scene in which Helen's character receives the nicest compliment of her life. Though I had no inkling of who exactly Greg Kinnear was before I saw this film, his performance was so remarkable that at moments, I was stunned to have been so deeply moved by it. He is truly one of the most talented actors to appear in recent years, and should win an academy award before the end of his career. As a comedy, "As Good as it Gets" lived up to its most daring name in 1997, easily standing head and shoulders above the rest. See it. My rating: 9.5/10.

While You Were Sleeping
(1995)

Guaranteed to chase away the blues
This film could easily be recommended as an over-the counter prescription against depression! It is quite simply charming. Before I saw it, I admit I was not the greatest Sandra Bullock fan; ten minutes into the film, I had more than changed my mind and made a complete 180 degree turn in my opinion of her. Sandra Bullock is truly endearing in this hilarious case of mistaken identity romantic-comedy; it's easy to see how she has become a household name after it--there is really something fresh, sincere, and approachable but also compellingly vulnerable about her character Lucy Eleanor Moderatz. Yet we cannot help but admire her integrity, her battle of conscience against continuing to deceive Peter's family, and wonder--"Why *should* she be lonely? Why is it so wrong what she's doing, since she's clearly come to love this family?" The interesting, unusual view of a typical Chicago winter and delightfully quirky writing in "While You were Sleeping" as well as the fine performances of the supporting cast, are also an integral part of the overall success of this film. Bill Pullman's character Jack, the hard-working Everyman, is not presented in a patronising light, and I found this ordinary hero refreshing. So many more patrician films tend to praise the likes of his elder brother, the highly successful, power/wealth-driven businessman Peter, and portray the hard-working everyman as nothing more than a crass boor with few, or with obscure ambitions. Moreover, Sandra's portrayal of the sweet but unglamorous, next-door girl turned heroine Lucy, shines among a plethora of more common female performances in films (such as "Pretty Woman") which more directly resort to an overt Cinderella storyline. "While You Were Sleeping" is among the best romantic-comedies of all time. Anyone with a sense of humor could not be disappointed by it. My rating: at least a 9/10

Utomlennye solntsem
(1994)

Maladetz! Bravo!
Having read all of the negative commentaries on this film, I would first like to point out that severely criticising the period of Soviet history in which Utoml'ennye Solntsem takes place, and in that effort, condemning the people of that era such as are portrayed in this film as being entirely culpable for their actions, is all very well and good to do from hindsight, and from the safety of a soft computer chair in the modern-day West. Because of course, no one is tortured today in the West for a casual remark against the reigning despot; nor do we live under the threat that our families may be sent off to Siberia as one of the consequences of our actions, great or trivial. I myself can't say what I would have been willing to do under the circumstances that existed during the time of the Soviet purges, whom I would have betrayed just to survive, or if I would have the courage to make some kind of moral, social, or political stand, and if I think I could have? Well,if we all admit it to ourselves, we know that torture will break any man eventually... In watching this film, I think that we should keep in mind that we are not necessarily here to judge but to take the director's journey to another time and place: and yet we should still be able to remember and respect the fact that what we are seeing here is a piece of the history that lies beneath the modern day Russia. This history is a shadow that has cast its pall over the lives of every Soviet citizen since then, including Mikhalkov. The fear of the purges that swept over the Soviet Union during the 1930's and 40's is a kind of fear that will fade, but never die away entirely. So, what can be the point in overly criticising Mikhalkov or any one in the former USSR for surviving under the system as it was before glasnost, knowing what they knew of the state and the full extent of what it could do and had already done (Stalin's purges may even have claimed 20-40 million lives)? If Utoml'ennye Solntsem is Mikhalkov's attempt to exonerate his "cooperation" with the Soviet system within his own time, what has he really got to vindicate or to feel guilty about? That being said, and despite the fact that numerous films, books, and media have copiously used this subject to tell a story, it is not a subject which can be exhausted but a rich treasure of unusual human experiences. And, as some have pointed out, this film is far more than just a story of revolutionary politics or a tale of betrayal: it IS a love story, between men and women, and between men and their motherland. Moreover, I was sincerely moved by the love triangle between Marussya, Mitya, and Kotov. Utoml'ennye Solntsem is not, however, a film that will make you laugh often, and would not at all were it not for the undeniable charm of the bold little Nadya. Utoml'ennye Solntsem will make those who appreciate the tragic element within history, and in particular, this era of political turmoil, shed more than a few tears. Because the truth lingers behind this tale, the truth of a time which was a nightmare few of us can imagine... or would want to. In my opinion, the great thing about this film is that it throws us back for a while into that era and portrays what was good about it, what remains good, despite all obstacles; the film is a tale of love that survives the most extreme of human conditions. It is fascinating and compelling, brave and tender, horrifying, and real. Not for everyone, but certainly a masterpiece within its genre.

Okno v Parizh
(1993)

More than meets the eye
Warning: perhaps a spoiler here.

I have to agree that Okno v Parizh is an unexpectedly delightful comedy, though the premise of the film might at first glance seem a bit ridiculous... a magic window that takes a group of Russians directly to Paris? Yes, exactly, that sounds a bit ridiculous, but it's a load of fun, too. And this group of inter-window travellers soon embarks on an adventure where they must (for a moment) brave (or happily succumb to) the delicious terrors of the temptations of capitalism... Okno v Parizh is hysterical but also makes some serious points if you look below the surface. In fact, it is amazing how well the film manages to keep a light-hearted tone throughout, despite the obvious dangers the film portrays within St. Petersburg, where the group of Russians must return and where an unsuspecting French woman is transported through the magic window... Overall, I give this funny film high marks: 8/10.

Il mostro
(1994)

Classic Benigni
Not at all like "Life is Beautiful", but entertaining and uproarious at times. It is a pity that Benigni films are not more readily available worldwide (outside Italy), in particular "Non ci resta che piangere" AKA "Nothing to do but cry" is a Benigni gem that is perhaps the best of all his films but nearly impossible to find. "Il Mostro", now available in the US, offers moments of comic genius and is altogether worthwhile to watch. My rating: 8.5/10

Rebro Adama
(1990)

and don't forget the humour
I agree with the comments already made on this film; it is beautiful, realistic, gritty, overloaded with sharp humour and a lyrical quality within the imagery of the nostalgic sequences, imagery that is intangibly appealing yet unmistakably evocative. Though this film may at first glance seem unexciting to the action film fan, "Rebro Adama" has more than enough action crammed into a film less than two hours long; the lives of the family are turned upside-down in a short time, and the future for the family becomes raw, unpredictable, as unpredictable as the future of Russia was in 1990. Moreover, I couldn't help but admire the cheeky, almost caustically humorous, tough teenage girl, Nastiya. This is an excellent film I would recommend to those who appreciate dark, realistic humor and unpredictable, independent film story lines that leave no contrived aftertaste. My rating: 8/10.

Jean de Florette
(1986)

Jean de Florette makes more sense with Manon des Sources
Just a few words of advice to anyone planning on watching the film "Jean de Florette": go ahead and rent "Manon des Sources" at the same time and save yourself a lot of unnecessary anguish anticipating what will happen to little Manon and whether or not Cesar and Ugolin are ever punished for their petit mal pour un grand bien, ie. their selfish little crime in the name of achieving a big dream. The secret of Jean de Florette's past, and an unexpected little secret it is at that, is discovered in the second film, and it's well worth the wait to find it out! Actually, I am surprised not to have heard a word here of mention about the two fine novels by Marcel Pagnol (whom I believe also directed the first Jean de Florette film back in the 50's); it's interesting to see how closely the films follow the action and plot in the novels. In general, I would recommend Jean de Florette to an adult audience (since children may find the subtitles too much of a challenge for a short attention span). And though I'm certain a lot of English speakers don't ordinarily like reading subtitles, je pense qu'une personne d'une culture differente puisse apprecier Jean de Florette et Manon des Sources;. That is to say, Jean de Florette is a tender human story with universal appeal that I think most people would enjoy. My rating: 8/10

Chariots of Fire
(1981)

A competition of wills, not merely one between men
"Chariots of Fire", a story primarily revolving around the lives of two men: Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, was to my mind, thoroughly engrossing from start to finish. Perhaps because it is a film which shows a great understanding of human nature and the psychology of competition between two men. Yet each man struggles with something greater than the mere running of a race. Liddell is hard pressed to maintain his integrity and faith under duress. A devout Scottish protestant, he must choose between racing on a Sunday or not, and thereby show or deny his sense of allegiance to God, though it would be so tempting to rationalize that running the race at the Olympics would actually be fulfilling his duty to King and country. At the same time, Abrahams struggles with his own perfectionism, his own discontent within himself, his own driving ambition to win above all else, and to deal with the agony of defeat. Add some fantastic music, painstakingly realistic examples of cinematography, a few nail-biting cliff hangers, the sting of unjust racial prejudices at work, and more than a little foul play, and you have yourself a winner here. I absolutely love this film, though I would not say it is for everyone. My rating: 10/10.

Das Boot
(1981)

Best of the fleet
If you have ever wanted to know what the nightmare of the U-boats was about, this film is the definitive answer! Having just seen the cheap imitation "U-571", I have to say that it does not at all compare to the original German subtitled version of "Das Boot". I never found "Das Boot" at all tedious despite its considerable length; on the contrary, every moment seemed to submerge the viewer's mind deeper into the horrific reality of the film, and into the subconscious of the captain and his crew as they faced the grim reality of the odds against their survival. (I agree with whoever it was that called it "claustrophobic", but that was also one of the horrors which afflicted the senses prevalent in this film.) Kudos to Jurgen Prochnow, a remarkable actor in a difficult and emotionally demanding, psychologically draining role. I enjoyed reading through the insightful user comments of this film; so rarely does one find so much elucidation on the crucial elements which make a film work or not work. Those of us who have seen and appreciated "Das Boot" are pretty much unanimous in our praise! But this is a film that the squeamish and faint-hearted should avoid. My rating is 10/10.

Gladiator
(2000)

A triumphant achievement from all angles
So what if Commodus was actually murdered in his bathtub? And honestly, do we care that he actually ruled with his father Marcus Aurelius as co-emperor for several years before Marcus Aurelius died? At least, these are some of the facts which have been rearranged in "Gladiator", but why not take liberties with poetic license?! Great cinema is about drama, and this is not a documentary, nor will the audience be disappointed by what they see. Gladiator gives the audience what it wants: the human connection. History is not flat, lying on a page. It was real, as real as today is now, and in Gladiator, history is alive, visually compelling... transporting. What higher compliment could we give than that so many people have been able to instantly identify with a time and place that most of those watching this film have never given much thought to before? How can this in itself not be called a triumph? And I would even argue that the writers of these historical epics *must* truncate and rearrange so many aspects of one historical era to reproduce the whole for our understanding... thus aspects of the equally despotic Roman emperors Caligula and Nero are merged with the character of Commodus... but Gladiator is not merely a visual success, or that merely because of its fantastic special effects. It is quite simply a compelling story. We all support Maximus in his fight to avenge the murders of his wife and son. We all love to watch the strangely intriguing performance of the ambitious, luminously mad emperor Commodus... and the delicate maneuvering of his politically-minded sister, Lucilla! The acting in Gladiator is also reason enough to see the film. Not only have we the last performance of the great Shakespearean actor Oliver Reed playing Promximo, and the incomparable Richard Harris as Marcus Aurelius, but two new luminaries on the cinematic horizon: Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix. If great acting can be accomplished with the simple movement of the eyes, if great acting, as has often been said, can be achieved with and within the subtlety of a single expression, then these two have mastered the art of great acting! A telling point would be to see the film dubbed into Italian (close to Roman Latin); this would prove, I think, how talented these actors are in the expressiveness of their emotions through the eyes and body language, as well as through their fantastic speaking voices. As for Connie Nielsen, I have to say that she was excellently cast as the elegant Lucilla; had Ridley Scott substituted her for any other more well-known but less capable Hollywood actress, I think the role would have been the film's greatest weakness. In fact, it was a wise choice to cast this film with extremely talented but less well-known actors (though NOT ANY MORE!), or else Gladiator may not have seemed so realistic, nor made so powerful an impact on so many. I would recommend this film to anyone. My rating: 11/10.

When Harry Met Sally...
(1989)

A modern masterpiece
"When Harry Met Sally" is certainly the wittiest romantic comedy of all time. It is also perhaps the most daring romantic-comedy ever produced, and I say this out of respect for its sheer honesty about the roles of physical attraction, sex, and friendship between men and women. For a long time I accidentally avoided the film, though as a graduate of The University of Chicago (where Harry met Sally at the beginning of the film), I finally decided to rent the film, a decade after its original release. As it turns out, all this time I have been missing one of modern cinema's greatest masterpieces. Rob Reiner has brought to life a gem of a screenplay, and the inspired performances of Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, as well as the supporting cast, create scenes that capture the true essence of people and relationships as they are in life; I never felt that either Harry or Sally were merely "characters". The chemistry between them worked for me; though at times I did feel that Meg Ryan took Sally Allbright's wilful, almost wooden naivete a bit far. (And to be honest, I fail to see how The University of Chicago could have ever produced a Sally Allbright, whereas Billy Crystal's Harry, with his skepticism, quirky humor, and his insight and questions on the subject of human nature, *would* feel right at home at the U of C. ) All the same, this is not the type of film that comes along every day; Rob Reiner's achievement with this film is of a quality that should stand the test of time. I find it hard to imagine anyone not enjoying this film. My rating: 10/10

You've Got Mail
(1998)

A far far better thing than I expected
*warning, there may be an unintentional spoiler here:

I avoided this film for a long time, as I generally try to avoid flippant, trite, cotton candy fluff or neurotic-obsessive romantic-comedies, or films which I dread may fall into these categories. But I have to say, I did enjoy You've Got Mail much much more than I ever expected to, having rented it two years after the film's original release while living on the upper east side of Manhattan, partially because I suppose I was curious to see what another New York film would whine about. Sadly, Meg Ryan did not, as usual, stretch her range very far for this film, but once again as far as the demands of her role are concerned, she was well cast. Nevertheless, in this film, she does manage to be charming. There was a moment in which I found myself unexpectedly moved by her for the first time, in the scene where she relives a memory of "twirling" with her mother. Though I was never a Meg Ryan fan before, I found I liked her character in this film and her performance of the stalwart Kathleen Kelly (could she really exist in New York, though?). And though I have begun to feel that Tom Hanks is becoming a tediously ubiquitous face in Hollywood, much like Gerard Depardieu in France, I found his performance intriguing, as he avoided the pitfall of another clean cut Jimmy Stewart type nice guy role and allowed himself to appear as a modest modern villain: the head of a soul-eating big books corporation. Greg Kinnear's eccentric performance as Kathleen Kelly's writer/boyfriend Frank is very humorous and shines within the supporting cast. In general, this film is enjoyable, even though the plot is somewhat predictable. I liked it nonetheless and would recommend it, to sentimentalists and skeptics alike. Tom Hank's partial reformation and quest for redemption and reward is particularly believable and cleverly concocted. This is a romantic-comedy lover's must-see, and others will like it, too. My score: 8/10

Braveheart
(1995)

The Best Film ever Made
I think I was about four years old the first time I climbed the tediously tiring thousand steps to the top of Wallace's monument outside Stirling, 7 miles from my Papa's house in Dunipace, Stirlingshire. So of course, I have always heard the stories of William Wallace, heroic patriot of Scotland, but never before had Wallace's story seemed so real, so tragic, so compelling and noble, as the first time I saw it realized in glorious color as it was in Braveheart. Though since I first saw the film in May 1995, I have heard some people criticize the historical inaccuracies of Braveheart, I can say for my part that this film brings to life the essence of Scottish spirit and Scottish pride as many Scots understand it, and that is ever so much more important than the force of any nit-picking negative criticism launched towards Braveheart. The power of what Braveheart conveys on an emotional level is reason enough for all Scots to value the film, but it also appeals to what is universal in all people and what all of us value, yearn for, and fight for: Braveheart appeals to our sense of justice and forces us to ask ourselves the question, "What price is any one man--am I--willing to pay for freedom?" It shows us the unconquerable spirit of one man and one nation, and kindles in us all a new sense of our own fortitude, strength, and valour. I cannot imagine anyone being disappointed by this film, in my opinion, perhaps the best, or at least the most enjoyable, film ever made.

Vor
(1997)

Fantastic
I thoroughly enjoyed this film and would recommend it to anyone just for the fantastic expressions of little Sanya's big blue eyes! For those who enjoy high caliber independent and foreign films, this is a piece of gold not to be missed.

Le dîner de cons
(1998)

A breath of fresh air
All I have to say is that I laughed so hard I cried while watching this film. I had no idea what to expect from one moment to another and loved every meandering minute of mishap and mayhem, in particular the misguided efforts of the bumbling idiot, Francois Pignon. Le diner de cons is not at all like so may of the more typical, predictable Hollywood films. It is a truly enjoyable breath of fresh air that kept my attention to the end.

Ridicule
(1996)

Cutting humor truly a cut above
I have to say that this film is certainly not for an audience with a predilection for sophomoric or low-brow "hu-mah". The action in this film is nearly entirely a matter of verbal cut and thrust and quick repartee. A period piece shot in pre-revolutionary France in the days of King Louis and Marie Antoinette, Ridicule portrays an era when wit could earn a passport into courtly favor, and one verbal faux pas could ruin a man's reputation and position in society. Charles Berling's performance as Ponceledon, the rustic nobleman trying to bring his petition to drain the disease-infested swamps of his region before the King of France, is in a word, superb... Fanny Ardant is also a well-cast Madame de Blayac, the dexterously duplicitous countess who appears disposed towards aiding Ponceledon in his suit. Ridicule is a genuinely delightful comedy. I recommend it highly even to those who do not speak French. My rating: 9/10.

Tess
(1979)

Not to be missed
This is a film adaptation of a novel which for once does justice to the original vision of its author. I highly recommend it to anyone who has read Hardy's classic. Though I thoroughly enjoyed Justine Waddell's performance of Tess Durbeyfield in 1998's BBC production, Natassja Kinski's performance is equally unforgettable in this particular, very poignant cinematic adaptation by Roman Polanski.

Messidor
(1979)

Move over, Thelma and Louise
Messidor is not only the original Thelma and Louise, in my opinion, it is far more realistic and believable in its plotting and action. I thoroughly enjoyed the film from start to finish and would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Thelma and Louise. However, the film also shows more of the realistic but negative side of the life of fugitives... though the cinematography of Messidor is fantastic, with panoramic views of the Swiss countryside, some of the longer visual sequences may seem extraneous to those who might be anticipating non-stop action. Yet the game of adventure that the girls play lacks the aftertaste of Hollywood artifice, seeming truly spontaneous, natural, and creating a more lasting impact with the resulting consequences. Moreover, the film's dialogue and characterization are strong. Having seen Messidor, I can now understand why this film is considered a classic.

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