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Clouds of Sils Maria

More like a novel
After a first watch, I was wholly disappointed with Clouds of Sils Maria. Metafiction, as intriguing as the concept is by itself, was used to pretentious effect. Not to tell a story, but to try and instill distinction into a story that is inherently aimless.

However, as I found myself quite unable to interpret the plot in a way that made sense, even in hindsight, the characters kept haunting me in a way that reminded me of Mulholland Drive by David Lynch. A film that has to be endured, has to engulf you, like a trip.

So upon a second inspection, I learned to appreciate Sils Maria not in any rational vein, but rather on an intuitive, experiential level. It doesn't have to make sense to be enjoyable. These characters are breathtaking and memorable in their own right.

Sils Maria is very much a film ABOUT films. So a certain affinity with filmmaking is basically a prerequisite for anyone watching this.

So yeah, it's too abstract, and contrived. And it has too many foreign accents, also on account of Stewart and Moretz being the only two cast members that really shine. The first in her familiar and established phlegmatic style, perhaps too much on autopilot -- I for one have a hard time accepting Stewart won the César award for her role, as I've seen her top this performance more than once. On the other hand, Moretz impresses by devouring what little screen time she gets -- a remarkably powerful display of talent.

The rest of the cast, however, is seen wrestling with the cerebral plot, that seems more suited to a novel, with its numerous parallels, reflections, additional layers, and fourth wall breaks.

But hey, this is art-house. And as an actor's movie, it satisfies. As a story, though, it feels like a novel that shouldn't have been made into a film.

Camp X-Ray

An okay but apathetic picture
I had a hard time understanding why the two main characters develop such a strong connection. It's not like their dialogue is so keen or even abundant, think Hannibal Lecter/Clarice Starling, that you'll notice an unlikely chemistry unfolding. Neither is there an awful lot we know about them, which is unpleasantly surprising given the film's length, but which admittedly does add to the glaring emptiness that is life in Camp X-Ray.

And while there's a somewhat exciting sense of dread looming over the first half of the film, including fecal cocktails, shrink files, and literal references to Lecter indeed, it all gets really tame the further you get into the movie. A part of you is hoping for a violent confrontation, or at least a narrative resolution of Stewart's character's flagrant but excusable gullible nature. Yet here Hannibal Lecter turns out to be really just a loving, sensitive, and innocent man.

Oh well.

Regardless, the leading players remain fine actors, and the many closeups of Stewart's facial antics in particular elevate Camp X-Ray to an aesthetically attractive watch. There's a whole array of expressions this woman can display in a matter of seconds, even when none are required, and it's a good thing the director let her have her way. But as far as the story goes, this film sadly thrives on her and Moaadi's inspired interpretations only.

Still Alice

Alzheimer's as a backdrop for something we all suffer from
To my great pleasure Still Alice wasn't all just about that horrible disease, Alzheimer's. Chances are it would've been a bit too tragic. Removed from what most people can truly relate to.

Rather, halfway through the movie I started hoping the story had something else at its heart, and well, I wasn't disappointed.

You know--in family life, as parents, children, brothers, and sisters, we take for granted we should all love each other, and care for each other, unconditionally. But the truth is, we have a special bond with some of them, and not with others. We try to play nice, but when things take a bad turn in life, we show ourselves for who we really are. Whether we like it or not.

Back to Still Alice--Lydia, the outcast daughter. Her choices and ambitions are looked down upon by everyone else. Yet the very first thing we see happening in this film, is Alice responding very affectedly to a token present from her "well adjusted" daughter, Anna. Make no mistake, this is an intentional opening. Alice's birthday at which Lydia is ironically missing.

Later, while Alice's state deteriorates rapidly, all Anna is occupied with is her own pregnancy. She's just glad her twin babies won't inherit the Alzheimer's gene. And that sums it up. This character was made unsympathetic on purpose.

Alice's husband, John, at least feels sorry, eventually. Admits to it. Not just by preferring his career over being with his wife, but it's in these little things. By being absent at Alice's speech at an Alzheimer's conference. By patronizing her when after a month, she finds her precious phone back, while what he really should've been doing is helping her find it the day it got lost. But he admits to all of it, yes. Towards Lydia alone, mind you. Crying in her arms.

Not to my surprise, Lydia is shown using her failing artistic career to move back to the east and care for her now helpless mother. One should note that while being on the other side of the country, she videocalls her mom regularly when the rest of the family isn't all that -genuinely- concerned.

Even during the final minutes, when Alice is barely able to speak anymore, and more poignantly, every other character isn't even in the film anymore, there's no hint of contempt, annoyance, neglect, selfishness, or ridicule in any of Lydia's actions or words. Just unconditional love for her mother, which the last scene confirms. As literally as it gets.

So at the risk of sounding self-important, yet without assuming I'm the only one who got this out of the film, I would recommend watching Still Alice in this context and see if you can relate to it. It's nothing to be ashamed of. You can't like everyone. Not even your own family. But as long as there's one of them that loves you for who you are, then you're good to go.

And I think that's a stunningly honest message.

Welcome to the Rileys

An unpretentious film—very nice
While she's struggling with her lines in some scenes, Stewart pulls it off and is certainly expertly cast. I can't imagine what 18-year-old would've been a better candidate for the role of runaway stripper Mallory. Something about that gritty face, that strikingly unglamorous attitude, that hint of tomboyism in her looks, voice, and mannerisms, that works like magic.

She drapes her character with subtle neurotic tendencies and seemingly improvised facial expressions, and when she lets loose, there's no stopping her. The amount of profanity borders on being intolerable, but is brought with such convincing teenage angst that it avoids turning cheap.

The pace of the film is relaxed without getting tardy, although I did get the impression you only get to really know the characters when the story draws to a close, as if you're watching a pilot episode.

The epilogue disappoints doubly as it presents a somewhat forced positive outlook, something the film is in no need of. While it is clear how plot events might have served as a catalyst for improvement in the lives of troubled married couple Gandolfini and Leo, Stewart changes from self-destructive hooker to neat schoolgirl, from one scene to the next, and nothing lingers to explain any bit of that transformation.

I read that director Jake Scott didn't inherit every one of his father's movie genes, but there are similarities that shouldn't go unnoticed: here we have a plot that falls short when evaluated critically, especially in terms of credibility and logical sense, yet I found its aesthetic presentation, acting performances, and profuse melancholy too addictive to even want to think about the story anymore... a liberating experience I've come to love about most of Ridley's movies, anyway.


Loved the irony
The ultimate message this film is telling you is to think for yourself and not accept everything that's thrown at you. Considering most of the comments around here it horribly fails at delivering that message. I truly think the important point the filmmaker wanted to make is one of irony, and I am glad to see at least some people share my thoughts on that account. If you're going to watch this film with an open mind, you should arrive at roughly the same conclusion. If you don't, you're just one of those tons of alleged conspirators mentioned in the film.

Apart from irony, this film also has great fictitious value. How annoying then to see your roommates actually worrying about chips being implanted in their heads.

The Prestige

The Kayzer Soze syndrome (SPOILER ALERT)
All I want to tell you about The Prestige is that it definitely suffers from the Kayzer Soze syndrome. For those who do not know who Kayzer Soze is -- go watch The Usual Suspects. Since the release of that film there have been quite a lot of Hollywood releases that have tried to copy the formula from Usual Suspects. The problem is, however, 1) the formula is sucked dry by now, and 2) in order to amuse the audience, they need to feel respected and not be messed with. It's not the amount of plot twists that matters, it's the quality. The Usual Suspects had a single plot twist and it was a brilliant one. The Prestige has a whole bunch of twists, none of which are credible or intelligent. And, one must not forget (SPOILER ALERT), the only one dumb enough to use the twin brother concept as a cover-up for plot holes, is Jean-Claude van Damme. Oh, and I must admit, apart from the plot, the acting, cinematography and directing itself is pretty good. Especially Jackman has shown to be more than a mere Muscles from Brussels or whatever town he's from.

V for Vendetta

A nice one
V for Vendetta is a nice movie, and in my opinion better than the Matrix (or at least part 2 and 3 of that trilogy). It excels in delivering astonishing visuals and a different approach to the politically engaged movie making. The drawbacks, however, reminded me a lot of the Matrix trilogy. First of all, there is this enormous amount of intellectual blah. Intelligent movies convince the viewer of their wisdom by not constantly trying too hard to be that clever picture. This is not the case with V for Vendetta, and what is left is a lot of pretentious gibberish that may lead some viewers to believe that they are clever for understanding this movie, but nothing more than that. Secondly, human interaction and behaviour is not at all present. When I think about the characters of V for Vendetta, I think of nicely drawn comic characters. I know the story is based on a comic, but moving images require a whole other type of dialogue than still drawings. Also, I had problems with the masked protagonist and the bigger-than-life voice that supports it. Natalie Portman wasn't too convincing either with whatever accent it was she was trying to utter. Finally, comic-to-movie translations work as well as novel-to-movie translations, which means they don't work at all, except for those few exceptions of brilliance. V for Vendetta isn't one, but worth a watch in the end for its original value.

King Kong

Lack of humanity
This is a great movie, check my rating. I will not explain why, because you can read all that in other comments. The only con of this movie is the same as is the case with Lord of the Rings, and probably all of Peter Jackson's productions: a lack of humanity. There isn't a single character in King Kong that possesses even the slightest touch of humanity. The way people converse, respond, act, (try to) show emotions, it's simply too plastic. Think about Lord of the Rings: was there a single character that you found sympathetic? Was there a single moment of human interaction that reminded you of real life? Nope, and the same goes for King Kong. The alleged romance between Watts and Brody makes no sense at all. Jackson adds all kinds of irrelevant subplots that show even more his disability to properly display human behaviour. That being said, the rest of the film rocks. That's all I wanted you to know.


Mere pretentiousness
Slipstream obviously is a bad movie. Now there are two types of bad movies. The first is of the Steven Seagal-category: meant to be cheap fun, and that's what it is. Poor film-making, but somehow fun to watch. The second category is where Slipstream fits into: meant to be original, innovative and artful yet all you get is mere pretentious junk. A Steven Seagal-picture knows it's terrible but doesn't want to be any more than terrible. Slipstream tries to be terrific but is actually the opposite, so in the end it's annoying as hell. The whole movie you're thinking: whoever made this should be sent to prison for insulting the intelligence of man. To sum up some of the things that went wrong with this flick: 1) the director uses all kinds of advanced techniques, mostly derived from The Matrix, for no purpose at all (a little like Swordfish but a thousand times worse), 2) the acting is totally unconvincing, people dying everywhere and the protagonists behaving like nothing is the matter, 3) huge plot holes everywhere, 4) an incredible load of editing errors, 5) everything is ripped from other movies, 6) this is the worst thing I've ever seen, 7) you shouldn't watch it, 8) forget all the positive comments around here. Thank you.

King Arthur

Why is it that...
Why is it that everyone hates Troy/Alexander and of course King Arthur while the same masses have embraced the Lord of the Rings-trilogy before they'd even seen it? It just doesn't make sense to see LotR getting a top ten all-time rating in IMDb's top 250 while this piece gets dissed. It's the same stuff, and if you believe King Arthur is a rip-off then think about Lord of the Rings. I've seen that stuff going on in Willow, Braveheart, perhaps even Robin Hood or Dances with Wolves. There's nothing original in Hollywood film-making so a lack of originality is an argument of nothing. King Arthur sucked just the same as Lord of the Rings did, but on the other hand, seen from the Hollywood point-of-view, it rocked. Just the same. Clive Owen was no worse than Aragorn, believe me. And by the way, at least this flick had a very cool character: Tristan. I cannot recall any character from Lord of the Rings that even came close to the mystical value of Tristan. Well, maybe Galadriel/Cate Blanchett ("All shall love me and despair!") However: stop being hypocrite.

The Others

Great stuff Spoiler Alert
I don't really care for the so-called clever twist (some reviewer around here calls it the Keizer Soze-syndrome; funny ;)), but the film itself is absolutely great. Especially the cinematography rocks. Nicole Kidman has never been recorded more beautifully. What a woman. Great long blond curly hair in this one. Also good kid actors. I hate those normally, but the boy is really good, with that embodied innocence. *** spoilers *** And I really like the part where the ex-husband returns home. Sad, cold romance at its best. Undeniably touching. The only problem I have is that when I saw it in the theater, there was this explicit scene where you see Grace killing her children and blowing herself away. I watched it on TV last night, but never saw that scene. A total shame. Death to PG-ratings. Oh and I love Nicole Kidman.


Great story, bad production
This is such a movie that makes me think: if they had only given it to a decent director... You see, the acting is terrific, except for Duchovny, which is sad, because he got most of the line since he's the narrator. But Pitt is marvellous (as always - speaking as a heterosexual, so I mean his acting, just in case) and Lewis and Forbes are good as well. The story is also quite interesting: doing research for your book on serial killers with the assistance of one. The problem with this movie is that it suffers from mediocre direction/cinematography and particularly a bad soundtrack. The music sounds as if it was written for a softporn series, and add to that Duchovny's sleazy and boring narrative voice - at some points in the movie you're starting to think you're actually watching such a series. I can't believe no one else mentioned the awful music in their comments. Never use electric slide guitars in a movie soundtrack! It ruins the whole atmosphere. I thought is was going to be something like a non-Tarantino-esque 'True romance', but instead I got a decent yet very mediocre and out-of-a-dozen serial killer flick. Nice, but certainly not memorable. (Sorry for all the hyphens by the way.)

AVP: Alien vs. Predator

You knew it was going to be bad...
So why bother watching it? I don't know, I did so too... only to have my expectations proven right.

Some personal ratings of relevant pictures: Alien : 5 stars, Aliens : 3.5 stars, Alien3 : 3 stars, Alien: Resurrection : 2 stars, Predator : 4 stars, Predator 2 : 3 stars, Aliens vs. Predator : 1.5 stars (it's still a movie about the two greatest e.t. beings of motion picture history, you know). --- And I do believe sequels can rock, I really do, but with these series they just get worse and worse --> so stop releasing Alien and/or Predator movies, for art's sake! You've ruined their once great reputation! But for me the Alien series ended with Alien3 anyhow, Resurrection was a total shame. When Ripley died, the trilogy ended appropriately and unconditionally, so all Alien movies thereafter are fake... er... at least that's some way to save the Alien legacy ;). But indeed, AvP sucked. Why? Please read any random review around here. The annoying thing is, however, I initially thought it had been directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (great... alternative movie making!), but it was that other Anderson from the videogame movies... Anyway: 1.5 stars. It may have gotten two of them if they hadn't made the Predator team up with that anti-Ripley chick (you noticed the audience chuckling, too, didn't you?)... mwoahaha... how marvellously ridiculous that was! Brilliant stuff, people.

Matchstick Men

Perhaps predictable...
Well, I guess Matchstick Men really was predictable for all you omniscient movie bozos, but then again that's easy to say AFTER you've watched it. "Well, it could have been an absolutely luvvvly movie, but I saw it coming for two hours, so it was utter rubbish." Get out of here. And even if you do saw the ending coming, does it make it a lesser film? Think about that. Endings never work for me anyway, the whole movie does. Matchstick Men was brilliant. Normally I like Ridley Scott's work for his directing, but this time around it was the acting. Cage was superb, and Lohmann equally good as the Lolita. Yes, Lolita. I was honestly happy to find out that she wasn't really fourteen years old when they shot it, because otherwise I'd be one hell of a paedophiliac. And I didn't saw the ending coming. You know why? Because I can't be bothered with foreseeing the ending. I get bothered with what's going on on the screen. I've got no time left for figuring out whatsoever is going to happen. I don't feel like impressing my friends by knowing it all along. So judge a movie by its own aesthetic quality instead of your personal 'foreknowledge' or whatever insight in movies you think you've got. It's an excellent movie which probably none of us could have made the same way themselves. You know it.


Good with the right frame of mind
Okay, we know that Brad Pitt isn't the one to play Achilles (if only for his blond hair) and that the overall acting is pretty weak, and that the dialogue is so unintentionally funny now and then, but what do you expect from a 200 million blockbuster? Epic action, and that's what you get. So in that perspective, I think Troy was pretty good.

Troy's action scenes make up for its lack of originality. It's nothing new since Braveheart and/or LOTR, but Braveheart's action was good, so what's the big deal.

Also, the actresses were great. Not in terms of acting, of course, but when a woman has got like ten lines dialogue I don't really care whether she can act or not. Diane Kruger was great looking, and so was Saffron Burrows, the latter being one of the most beautiful women I've seen in Hollywood for years. For a moment I thought it was Veronica Zemanova (minus the breasts).

Sean Bean is always terrific, despite the short time he's given in this flick. Eric Bana was not-so-good, but acceptable. Orlando Bloom was terrible as always, and by saying 'terrible' I actually mean 'annoying', but I guess Paris was, like Legolas, meant to be annoying anyway, so great job, Orlando. All other characters were so superficial I will not mention them. And Brad Pitt is one of the greatest actors of his time, but this just wasn't the right role for him. He's at his best when playing slightly f*cked up guys like in Snatch or 12 Monkeys. But that aside, I think he did relatively well in Troy anyway.

Well, what more can I say - terribly bad in every possible way but so epic, so so enjoyable. Switch off your intelligence and any other artsy-fartsy vehicle you have and have a great time. The 163 minutes will be over like 1, 2, 3...

Twelve Monkeys

close to being perfect
there was never a single movie that could make me cry. now there is. i've seen it for about six or seven times by now, and i keep getting wet eyes at the ending scene. this is just the purest sense of drama ever displayed in motion picture history. and everything else about it is superb as well - i could mention it all, but there are no words that can even begin to describe the beauty of 12 Monkeys. go see for yourself. for me, this is definitely the best piece of art of all time, regardless how naive it may sound. close to being perfect, what did i say, it's just simply solely perfect. i mean: if you have like ambitions to become a director yourself, 12 Monkeys is disencouraging, because there's no way you'll ever even come close it. (forgive my euphoria.)

Mulholland Dr.

Stop thinking and watch
No one should watch this movie as one would normally do. Don't expect yourself to follow the story, because you can't. Don't think that one thing must always relate to another, because in this case it will get you nowhere. You'll have to watch this movie without perceiving it as a traditional movie. See it as some sort of experience you've never had before, or even better, a dream. You'll find your own dreams pretty boring after seeing Mulholland Drive, that's for sure. And no, it's not the vagueness, the unresolved structure of this movie which makes it so great, and most of all: you don't have to be highly intellectual to understand or even appreciate this movie. Just let it come over you and never use your wits, but your senses instead. Like a dream.

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