Juni78ukr

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Reviews

Camp Nowhere
(1994)

A little bit silly but surprisingly cool.
A little bit silly but surprisingly cool.

Camp Nowhere was in many ways what I exactly expected; a little bit silly but funny and lighthearted family flick enough entertaining to keep us watching for 90 minutes. Christopher Lloyd is funny and likable while the kids are also delivering some funny and sweet moments.

Basically it's a story of a bunch of kids who are going to different summer camps and for some reason each of them is not very happy about that idea. With a help of a former drama teacher they are deceiving their own parents each time in a rather funny and specific way and starting "Camp Nowhere" for all summer long with no adult supervising. Of course the kids are just mostly goofing around and having fun (and to be fair that's what they are supposed to do in summer) but at the same time they are becoming friends and eventually learn some positive values.

Sure some stuff is far-fetched and hardly believable but who cares this time, anyway? It's a nice family entertainment which adults can survive without much pain and quite possible even enjoying with a thought that sometimes it might be much better to ask your offspring what he or she really likes and wants to do. Christopher Lloyd's character could be really annoying but this time his performance is rather cool and enjoyable while all the kids are trying to do their best and obviously having a great fun at the same time. The jokes are not that crude as they are used to be in many similar movies and the movie concept is not serious enough for real kids taking it as a good idea. It's also nice to see some modern stars in their first big screen appearances.

Eres mi héroe
(2003)

13 years old boy and the strong wind of changes.
Theme of adolescence and coming of age in difficult times is well known in world cinema and from first look it seems that "You're my hero" adds nothing new to old formula. However, with first shots and scenes of the movie it's easy to realize that you get much more than you bargained for.

Incredibly bright and sincere story of a boy on verge of adolescence never leave you indifferent, his discoveries and joys, disappointments and grief give you chance to endure with our hero all his emotions and struggles. The audience easily becomes a part of the story of Ramon and a part of his little triumphs and tragedies. Sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter storytelling never lets you down and immensely attracts you but at the same time the world around the characters is changing. Spain struggles for freedom and democracy and echo of events in the country eventually reaches the boys.

It is mid 70s and the last days of oppressive regime Franco. More and more people went to streets, demanding changes and all that they were deprived during long years. But for 13 years old Ramon it's time for moving to new place and new school and he already know that it always promises nothing good for him. Sunny Seville becomes a new episode of his life and another test for three main rules, which helped him to survive in all years of traveling from one place to another. Every school and every street had its bullies and a new kid was always bound to be their first victim.

The first rule: don't fight – it just making everything worse and they will beat you up, the second rule – don't snitch - they will never forgive you and the third rule - don't cry – that is all what they always want from you. The battle for survival has begun from the first day in new school and playful question of principal about Ramon's favorite football team. After some attacks from classmates the first rule is broken and everything changes but surprisingly help came from outside.

Franco dies and it leads to no punishment and an unexpected vacation brings new possibilities for Ramon to look at the world around him with new eyes. What is more unexpected that after his attempt of standing for himself former bullies begin to talk to him and even gradually accept him into their close company. No more trying to be invisible and new friends give a chance for awakening of new feelings and emotions. After watching smuggled "Playboys" and rather dirty jokes soon come first kisses and first love while the country is also changing. For many years everything about political and sexual freedoms was suppressed by civil and religious authorities and it is time to challenge them. People come to fight for their rights and at the same time new words are coming into world of boys, already filled with emotions, feelings and tensions: "freedom" and "fascism", "free election", "civil rights" and "amnesty".

It is so much important that rising of the country and those who care for its future is not just a background for the main story of Ramon and his mates. Director Ramon Cuadri and the actors so skillfully and authentically transmitted that atmosphere of social struggling that the country itself and all those people become important characters in the movie. As you always feel strong sympathy for poignant and sincere Manuel Lozano as Ramon you are also starting to care about people fighting for what is right or for school teacher who is challenging the whole system. Such a strong emotional uplifting for the audience is in my opinion one of the greatest possible achievement for filmmakers and the actors. Bright young Spanish talent Manuel Lozano is absolutely terrific here, he successfully conveys to us all strong emotions and feelings of main character without any sighs of uncertainty or overacting. His incredible and mature performance marks him as one of the most talented young actors nowadays and I definitely would like to see more movies with him. Although standout Manuel Lozano is mostly stealing the show, the other main characters also have their moments of glory, particularly the leader of the boys David (also an excellent performance of young Felix Lopes) and school teacher Mateo (Toni Canto). Both of them did incredibly well in some quite important and poignant scenes. It is worth to mention also that despite very harsh language the movie is absolutely suitable for young viewers, in many ways it is even intended for teen audience, probably accompanied by adults. It doesn't look crude or repulsive; it's just intimate and poignant in tradition of famous "Stand by Me" and other masterpieces about childhood and adolescence experience. Well written and rather appropriate soundtrack with a couple of songs is a good addition to strong visual part.

Here the first steps to adult life mean not only awakening of new strong feelings and losing of childhood innocence. It also brings rediscovery of political freedom and its meaning and sort of soft sexual revolution in society. Adulthood brings new discoveries and disappointments, triumphs and letdowns but these bitter and sweet memories of adolescence stay with you forever.

You're my hero (Eres mi heroe) is a very strong and poignant story of adolescence in time of changes and definitely one of the best movies I've seen in last months. It's not perfect and perhaps if you make this as a goal you could find some minor drawbacks but I simply couldn't resist because my emotions during the movie were so immensely strong. When the credits were rolling all that I could do was to cheer and applaud.

Congratulations to anyone involved and highly recommended.

Oskar & Josefine
(2005)

Surprisingly likable family film
Oskar and Josefine (released in Russia as Thorsen's Medallion) is a surprisingly likable European family/fantasy film I randomly picked up in a videostore. Much later I found that it's a sort of sequel to a very popular and successful Danish TV series "Jesus and Josefine" but of course I've never heard of it before. In short words it's a Christian related story of a girl Josefine who with her friend Oskar come to the past and meet Jesus who at that time is just a young boy. Some reckless acts lead to ultimate changes in future and Josefine must try to fix everything before it will be too late.

After a rather short introduction of the above mentioned past events we meet our heroes Oskar and Josefine at the railway station in Copenhagen. Now the friends are on vacations and they are going to countryside to spend summer at Oskar grandparents' farm. The place looked quite and beautiful until Josefine met Thorsen, the old man who gave her time machine and whom she eventually has defeated in original TV series. This time he is full of remorse and persuaded Josefine to take another gift, a magic medallion which can bring her through the time and back home but only for three times. Accidentally Oskar and Josefine come to the past and meet Oskar's ancestors who lived at the same farm 400 years ago. However one act of kindness from modern girl creates a chain of unexpected events that changed course of the past and even threatens Oskar's existence in this world. The game becomes too dangerous and now two children with a help of new friends have to find a way to resolve the problem and return home.

I don't know if it sounds any promising or not but I really enjoyed Oskar and Josefine. The production quality is pretty good all over the film. It was filmed in different locations in Denmark and everything looks more or less plain and simple. Hovewer from the first minutes it's also easy to see that there is always something beyond that. With careful camera work and light even ordinary things and places become rather extraordinary and memorable. What is also important is that visuals are not overused, they are just where it's necessary for the story and their quality is acceptable and convincing, particularly for a low budget film.

The same thing is about the plot, where "acceptable" is definitely a key word. Of course with a close look it's not too hard to find some minor logical problems and sometimes the plot unrolls itself too smoothly and straightforward but I don't want to be harsh on it. What's even more I don't need it because good points easily outweigh all possible drawbacks. The journey of two likable characters is not just a shallow fantasy adventure, it's a story of moral values, loyalty, friendship and courage against cruelty, ignorance and superstitions.

With two emotional and memorable performances of leading actors (Pernille Kaae Høier and Mikkel Konyher) Oskar and Josefine become an enjoyable 80 minutes film that is definitely a worthy choice for family audience all over the world. It's also nice to see that European filmmakers are ready to invest money into family film-making even sometimes without strong hopes for commercial success. I'm glad that this time they succeeded and the film become a solid hit in Denmark. Definitely a worthy effort.

8 out of 10

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
(2007)

Absurdity rules at World's End
This comment may contain minor spoilers.

I greatly enjoyed the first Pirates movie because it brought something new and fresh in the world of Hollywood blockbusters. The Dead Man's Chest was in many ways below original, the story had much more chaos and less common sense. However despite all its flaws the second movie still was entertained enough to keep you on the edge of your seat and enjoy the show for two and a half hours.

I wish I could have said the same about the third. The charm and romance ultimately have gone and instead of them all what we've got is visually attractive but totally ridiculous marriage scene and some pretty week dialogs all over the movie. In a few minutes it's also became clear that the Pirates of the Caribbean is not the movie for the young ones anymore. The scene of hanging in the beginning was so much over the top that it made me cringe. Of course the first two parts of trilogy probably deserved PG-13 rating but they hardly contained any strongly unappreciated for young children material. Now the movie based on Disney's theme park, which attracted children with their parents from all over the world, has lost family audience.

There is nothing original at the World's End, everything what was brand-new, funny and enjoyable in first movie now became annoying and at best it's worth only a few cheap laughs. The script is a total mess where one preposterous scene change another with ridiculous, though technically solid and impressive visuals. What is even worse is that somewhere towards the middle of the movie the characters become almost uninteresting to the audience. With all these inexplicable plot twists and continual betrayal from anyone there's no point to care about our heroes. No matter who will die or who will survive and all that remains is idle curiosity what will happen next, where incredibly wild imagination of the screenwriters finally could bring us. All possible attempts to make things add up eventually failed and in the results writers got lost in the labyrinth of betrayals and plot twists they constructed. There is no point to tell anything about dialogs – nearly everything is banal and clichéd.

The acting is pretty much the same as in two previous parts. Johnny Depp has much less screening time now and his character is not in the center of all events. Somehow it happened what Captain Barbosa who was the main villain in first movie now became actually the most attractive and worthy character. The main antagonist – nearly almighty Lord Beckett is just a bloodthirsty murderer who maniacally chase our heroes all other world without a clear reason. Elizabeth looks like a curse for everyone who fell in love with her or just approached her and Will is as always indecisive and unpredictable. I don't think that was the way the audience wanted and there is no much logic about all of this. The final battle is a complete theater of the absurd. No one has any idea where those enormous fleets (absolutely impossible for that period) came from and what was looking as the greatest sea battle of all-time turned into long duel between two ships with its strange conclusion.

Visuals in the movie are pretty good, sometimes impressive or even spectacular but with too many plot holes, wide discrepancies and lack of logical ties all other the movie they can't save the third adventure of the Pirates from sinking. It's remarkable how strongly screenwriters did their best trying to avoid mentioning any real names or locations on world map. Singapore is the only one place that connect the movie with the real world but this connection is lame in historically inaccurate because there was no British in Singapore in that time, only harmless fishermen and small Portuguese, later Dutch outpost. The entire movie looks like a box of candy with beautiful cover but bitter to taste. The commercial product was made and delivered to customers and the studio is already counting thousands of gold coins coming from all over the world. The final became one more proof that future sequels are quite possible but it's just a matter of money and in the extreme case they can always rise anyone from dead or go even further to make hundreds of million dollars.

Anyway it's worth to see what became of potentially one of the all-time best trilogies or as we can say now potentially endless franchise, but if you're interested in more than preposterous conglomerations of visuals, long but pointless battle scenes and cheap jokes you might be disappointed. The poor storyline ruined nearly everything.

Hoot
(2006)

Sweet and enjoyable family movie with a strong message inside.
Saw the movie a couple of days ago on DVD. I believe it was basically fair adaptation of Carl Hiassen's bestselling novel, which I've read recently and also enjoyed. I liked the movie too and the only serious problem for me was its short runtime. I suppose that making a movie as short as it is possible it's a dream of any director/producer/screenwriter but that's not the best approach. In Hoot they cutted some parts of the book which caused that the scenes in the movie are not always well connected with each other.

However much more important thing is that bright satirical stile of Hiassen's novel has survived in the movie making it a decent choice both for children and grownups. This kind of humor is not crude and vulgar as we used to see in most of modern comedies but just sweet and lively. Add also beautiful shots of wild nature, original story with quirky characters and good message inside. Combine all of this together and in the result you'll get Hoot, one of the best family movies of the year, very lively and enjoyable.

The acting is at least decent, particularly for that kind of movies. Logan Lerman who's indeed a very talented actor was very good as the main character. He impressed me in his previous works I've seen before (leading roles in "A Painted House" and "The Butterfly Effect") and this movie didn't become an exception. Overall all young actors' performances are uniformly strong and likable. Much more surprising for me was Luke Wison's performance. He was simply terrific in his supporting role of officer Delinko that every his appearance on screen at least brought a smile to my face. It's impossible not to mention also excellent performance of Tim Blake Nelson (Curly Branitt) with perfectly suitable for his character accent and both John Archie and Robert Donner in their little but memorable supporting parts.

The last thing but not the least is the music. Never been interested in Jimmy Buffett music before and to be honest never heard of him before I watched a trailer for Hoot featured his song from the movie. Anyway his style has caught my attention and even bought two of his albums. His compositions featured in the movie including final theme "Good Guys Win" perfectly fit in the movie, they are so much riveting, lighthearted and lively. There is also a fragment of Brie Larson's song in the movie which is too short to create an opinion on her vocal talents or lack of them.

I've almost forgotten one of the most important things about Hoot. The owls are really cute and so beautiful.

Overall grade: 8 out 10. It definitely has its flaws and most likely it won't win any significant award but it's one the most likable and enjoyable family movies I've seen recently and what's even more important it's heart is in the right place.

Eragon
(2006)

Mediocre at very best
Actually I saw Eragon at some kind of press screening about two weeks ago but only today I got enough time for writing some brief comments.

I've read Christopher Paolini's book (both of them to be precise) about a month before and to say the truth I wasn't impressed at all. So it's easy to understand that my anticipations weren't sky high although some moments from numerous trailers and clips have drowned my attention. Besides not being a fantasy fan I'm usually quite tolerable to this genre.

The only reason that I wasn't particularly disappointed leaving the movie theater were my low expectations. Anyone who expects something more than mediocre fantasy movie or something fresh and original will be clearly disappointed with Eragon. Obviously the biggest desire of the filmmakers was to make the movie as short as it possible. It was a stupid idea. They succeeded in that goal and for the most parts all what is happening on screen looks chaotic and very often illogical. What is more the entire story line of the movie can cause numerous questions and even incomprehension from all viewers who are not familiar with Paolini's book (whether you like it or not). Too many parts of the book were skipped or completely modified. Some fantasy world we know almost nothing about, dragon riders, evil creatures, the tyrant and rebels – all of that is too unclear and undisclosed and besides many of us will find that they have already seen that kind of story several times before. The director also failed in his attempts to impress the audience, make us feel involved in the events on screen. It's just emotionally cold movie with uninteresting poorly developed characters and pathetic villains, who are even more cartoonish and sketchy. What is even worse than that dialogs in the movie seems to be written by a twelve years old. It was so pathetic. The final battle is just a conglomeration of poorly united single scenes without much sense.

Now, about what is not so bad. I'm not going to blame Edmund Speelers in anything. He wasn't that bad, although his incapacity to carry the movie on his own is evident to anyone. There is nothing to blame in the supporting actors. They did their job relatively well and the real problem is not in them, it's the imperfection and poor development of their characters. From technical point of view Eragon looks much better. Despite all the fears the dragon looks pretty good. It obviously that the masters of visuals tried to do their best and they are mostly succeeded there. The flying beast was really good and looked quite real both in relative immobility and in flight. Some of the flight scenes became the most impressive in the whole movie. The filming locations are well selected and the scenery is breathtaking. It proves that you don't always have to cross half the world to find good locations for filming.

The best grade I can give Eragon is 5 out of 10 and I know that I'm probably too generous here. Thanks for reading.

The Thief Lord
(2006)

Probably one of the best non-American family adventures in recent history.
The Thief Lord was released in my country a couple of months ago and for some reason this movie almost immediately caught my attention. A German family adventure/fantasy movie with English language and with English actors – all of that seemed quite unusual and therefore interesting to me. At the same time I never heard of Cornelia Funke's novel of the same name so I didn't know exactly what to expect from the movie.

I watched Thief Lord today and actually I liked it. It was really fascinating to see something fresh and different from typical and often annoying Hollywood family stuff. For young ones Thief Lord is an enjoyable family adventure with talented young cast against the background of one of the most beautiful cities in the whole world, Venice. For grown-ups besides that it's a story of bitter loneliness and sometimes misunderstanding which unite most of the characters. Two brothers, fifteen years old Prosper and much younger Bo, after death of their parents are separated. The younger goes to the old childless relatives and Prosper has been sent to an orphanage. But brothers can't live without each other and for six years old Bo Prosper is the only person who cares about him and loves him so much. Desperate, they run away. They have nowhere to go in the whole world and they are heading to Venice, the city that their mother loved so much. But the city is not welcome to runaways with no money and only unexpected help of a mysterious boy, who called himself Thief Lord and saves them from more troubles. Bo and Prosper join him and his team of orphans who find a refuge in a deserted movie theater. Soon our heroes learn that ancient city is full of surprises and what's is more that some strange magical things can happen there. They become involved into rather unexpected events and lives of different characters collide in Venice. We meet a lonely wife and husband, who also heading to Venice, trying to find a runaway child, who was merely a way to suppress their own loneliness, a lonely detective, who was hired to find Bo and some other characters. However, finally for many of our heroes resolution salvation of their personal problems will come in a rather unexpected way for each other.

But the loneliest and most suffering from that is mysterious Thief Lord himself who is trying to keep his secrets inside of him. This key character is playing by Rollo Weeks, who looks very good in his rather complicated part. Both Aaron Johnson (Prosper) and Jasper Harris also left very positive impression from their acting, self-reliance and naturalness. Despite rather short running time of the movie the development of most main characters is not bad. We know enough about them to feel sympathy or antipathy to them and we are not indifferent to them, which is very important for such a story. The acting among adult cast was also not bad with most memorable and likable performance from Jim Carter as Victor.

Thief Lord in the beginning the movie is fast paced and probably a little too short but mostly it's exciting well-filmed film with interesting and original story. The soundtrack one it's own looked very good and it's a very good addition to visual part even if sometimes the music is abstracted from what we saw on screen. And let me to say that visuals for such low-budgeted production were also not too bad. If you are looking for a good non-American family adventure film on English language as an alternative for Hollywood production featuring talented cast, probably you would be unable to find better choice than Thief Lord. Also it's worth to notice that the movie mostly successfully avoids typical and clichéd for American family films crude humor and language.

I know possibly I'm too generous and surely Thief Lord is not a flawless masterpiece but I rated it 9 out of 10. Unfortunately such enjoyable and beautifully shot family movies so rarely appear in our movie theaters or video stores.

And the last one thing that I almost forgot to mention. The title song "Orphan skies" is pretty cool and I liked it very much.

The Chumscrubber
(2005)

A dark indie satire
There are two kinds of independent movies, those that belongs to the first one passes unnoticed for most moviegoers. They are playing mostly in art houses and patiently waiting for you in video stores. At the same time, movies from the second and much smaller group for some reason (which is hardly explainable sometimes) get all possible attention and sometimes they can replace mainstream production in theaters.

Chumscrubber, which obviously belongs to the first group, is a rather unique and courageous satirical attempt of showing on the surface quiet and peaceful life of suburbia and middle class people there. Welcome to Hillside, a town where all people know each other and at the same time, no one of them cares much about others. But, the unexpected event brings some changes to a monotonous life of the town.

Dean Stiffle's best friend Troy, a teenager who supplied drugs to a local high school commits a suicide and a company of school tough guys believe that Dean knows where to find Troy's store. After the school, they kidnap Dean's brother Charlie but they make mistake and take a wrong Charley, thirteen years old Charlie Bratley. It's not completely a kidnapping; for some of them it looks just like a funny game and even for Charlie himself, big boys and a pretty girl at least for the first time is a funny company and amusing experience he have never had before. Dean gets a threatening call but to his surprise and relief, he sees his brother playing video games in a neighboring room. He expectedly gives "I don't care" answer and mistake soon will be revealed. Day passes but no one from adults don't see what's going on. They are totally absorbed in planning their personal lives and making own careers and unable to see anything above that. The only subject for Dean's father is his books on psychology, which he is trying to use on his son while his mother is elsewhere trying to sell some herbal medicine. They don't see that the family is falling apart and then his brother Charlie found a way to escape reality in video games, Dean, who is one of very few relatively normal teenagers, become an outcast among his schoolmates and withdraw into himself. Troy's mother spends all the time telling her neighbors that she doesn't blame them for her son's death. Divorced Charlie Bratley's mother for a long time has been planning her wedding with city's major, who becomes obsessed with a strange visions and ideas. She doesn't even notice his son's disappearance and talking to him through a closed door. Billy who is the head of the company and its inspirer bring Charlie to his home but his parents also don't see anything special. "It's for school" is a perfect answer that assures everyone that everything is on its tracks and in order. Even a direct truth is taking as a joke. The children are completely left on their own and soon Dean realizes that nobody's noticed that a kid is not home for a long time and he's the only one who could do anything to resolve a conflict even if it is no concern of him.

The movie cast unites too many famous actors for a small budgeted indie movie. The adult actors always have good performances of their satirical characters, but they are mostly the background of the story, where the main stars are young actors and their characters. Jamie Bell (mainly known for his first role in Billy Elliot) who is playing the main young character is excellent and his ability of creating required accent deserves the highest praises. Justin Chatvin is strong enough as a company leader Billy and the youngest of characters, Thomas Curtis as Charley Bratley steal the show in a couple of crucial moments.

Such rather absurd satirized image of selfish behavior combined with blissful ignorance works pretty well with adult characters in the movie. This is satire that doesn't make you laugh watching the movie, its just make you think why such things could happen. Unfortunately, on the contrary, important young characters are underdeveloped and sometimes the movie doesn't give us a reasonable explanation for their acts and way of behavior. The story itself also has perceptible lapses and problem points, which don't let creating a complex image and evoke obvious questions. However, despite some problems with characters, continuity flaws and possible overusing of symbolism without a certain need, the director was able to make a mostly captivating picture that brought me to deep thoughts for a while. The main problem is that the movie and its intensive climax don't give any solution or escaping for the situation as well as it doesn't give the answer for above mentioned question why such Hillsides are possible. The Chumscrubber is a striking contrast to mainstream movies, a movie that obviously worth seeing and makes you think, but because of its perceptible flaws and partly narrow-minded approach, it's unable to reach complete success.

8 out of 10

A Series of Unfortunate Events
(2004)

A story of the real children in a surreal world.
Have been not familiar with popular books on which the movie is based I was not exactly sure what expect to from the movie and to my great surprise I quite liked it. Surprisingly excellent and stunning on a visual level the movie has lots of appealing for both children and adults it was one of the best high-budgeted film I've seen in recent memories.

From a very beginning we came into a very strange and rather gloomy and surreal world. The story begins when three Baudelaire children, become orphans when they parents died in a fire that destroyed their home. After such an unfortunate event they are taken to they closest relative count Olaf and since then their unfortunate adventures begin. The children are fourteen years old Violet, twelve years old Klaus and infant Sunny. They are smart and fearless, they always support each other and believe that there is always something, there is always a way. Despite living in rather strange world and many less than ordinary situations, they are real children, though every one is extraordinary in a different way, and they have real feelings and emotions, they make real decisions and always care about each other.

The story despite being rather dark is satirical and positively unusual and funnier than I could expect with incredibly soft and suitable Jude Law's narration, which is never (on the contrary to most of movies when narration is an important part of storytelling) annoying or overused.

Even if Jim Carrey's involvement sometimes was too strong and he stole the show, the main heroes are Emily Browning and Liam Aiken who as I believe were equally good in their parts. This time I have to agree with the director who said that they were very suitable for playing those characters. At the same time I like and respect Brad Silberling's approach and what is the most important that the movie did not turn into something too dark, too silly, too satirical, too stylish or too perceptive. There is always a sense or proportion and common sense. The decorations, costumes and make-up are excellent all the way and deserve many good words. Without such hard work, it would be simply impossible to create so strong on visual level movie with numerous memorable and capturing my imagination scenes. The movie soundtrack written by Tomas Newman sometimes is dark, sometimes is light and uplifting and it's a very good and suitable supplement to a visual part.

After watching Lemony Snicket's I was disappointed that there is no direct plans of making a sequel, possibly because of less than expected commercial success of the movie. Whatever happens in the next books with our heroes the story is just unfolding in the movie based on the first three books. The connections have been made and there are many secrets yet to be revealed. Most likely, the main problem that the movie has faced was its marketing as a Jim Carrey movie. He is a very stylish actor and his appearance in the movie could attract some viewers while at the same time turn away others. He is excellent playing a very colorful character of count Olaf but as a narrator says this is a story (and rather satirical story) of the three "reasonably attractive orphans" and their struggles to find a place in that rather unusual world. The real stars in the movie are Violet and Klaus with Emily Browning and Liam Aiken who played them. I still don't know is that a perfect adaptation but I think it was a pretty good motion picture. However, despite being very good the movie after watching it I thought that it still lacks something, something hardy perceptible. Maybe because it was the compilation of three books, the story was too rushed and the movie was just a little shorter than it could have been. Finally, the animated titles are very nice and worth your attention.

Grade 8.5 out of 10.

Pete's Meteor
(1998)

An unusual film with ridiculous and implausible story and Mike Myers as the only reason for seeing it.
The only reason for me for watching this little known Irish film was the question could Mike Myers have played a normal, dramatic character. Well, he could and his acting was pretty good but unfortunately that was probably the only good thing that I can say about this film. In the beginning film follows life of twelve years old orphan Mickey who lives with his brother and sister with their somewhat eccentric grandma. Despite some strong language it looks like a family film but after a while it becomes clearly that Pete's Meteor is a hardly suitable for young audience drama. And the worst is that it is a drama with so much ridiculous and even totally implausible plot. One preposterous story line turns into another and all the time there is no much sense in the events on screen. I suppose when a life drama needs a meteor or what is more something that looks like even more ridiculous spiritual content that's a really bad sign. The characters are not much better than a story. Despite all his troubles young Mickey by no means is not a likable character but it's clearly was somehow we were supposed to care about him and even feel strong sympathy to him. It doesn't work. The same thing with other characters. They are mostly as ridiculous as the story itself with the title character (although he wasn't the main character) as the only bright spot. Towards the end of the movie I still had a strong hope that there is something behind of all that improbability and absurdity. Unfortunately even if the writer of the story had such intentions (and I'm sure he had) in the film they are hidden and practically imperceptible under such a weird script.

Grade: 3 out of 10. Those of you who are interested in seeing Mike Myers as a drama actor can watch Pete's Meteor for that reason but the rest of viewers most likely will be bitterly disappointed.

Beyond the Sea
(2004)

Far beyond my expectations
I wanted to see this Kevin Spacey's work since I for the first time heard about Beyond the Sea but somehow the movie was released in my country only last month. I didn't know a thing about Bobby Darin and his music so his story and everything I saw in the movie was completely new for me. For this reason I can't say anything how fair it was to real life of Bobby Darin and all my comments are about the movie as a piece of art and Spacey's work both as director and actor.

To begin with I liked it, actually liked very much from beginning to the end. With his attempt of creating a very distinctive biographical picture of a complicated and strong man Kevin Spacey do his best and created an excellent motion picture, which works practically on every level. The movie skillfully and very often visually breathtaking shows Darin's life through his eyes and through the eyes of a young boy, who plays young Bobby. Bringing in a story throughout the movie young Bobby was a very clever move of a director and all the time his appearances are well-timed and interaction with other characters is excellent and exceptionally memorable. Kevin Spacey gave one of his best performances in his successful career and I'm very glad that it came on the movie he also directed. His artistic performance is so intimate and genuine that it was able to stroke my chord. He brought to life an image of a man who struggled in his attempts of reaching fame and how difficult fame and popularity could have been for a man. And the fact is that the strongest people suffer more from such a burden. At the same time the movie slightly touches some rather serious political issues but without turning into political discussion or controversy. Spasey's singing is impressive and it's very important that musical and song sequences are never overlong and they are perfectly implanted into the main story line. Beyond the Sea never looks like many other musical movies, story-story-dancing-song-story-song or something like that, you know what I mean. Music and songs are organic parts of the story and in for me it is one of the best achievements of a director and a lead performer. The last Bobby's (or Kevin's) song on stage is an incredibly strong and emontopnal moment. It touched me immensely and this time I prefer to take it as it was in the movie no matter is it a truth or a pure fantasy. The musical score and songs throughout the movie is one of the best I've seen in recent years and they are obviously worth recognition and listening by themselves.

But the success of Beyond The Sea is not a success of one man. All the main actors gave very good performances. It is really impossible not to mention here Kate Bostworth as Bobby's wife Sandra Dee, John Goodman as his manager, Carolyne Aaron, Bob Hoskins and a newcomer Wiiliam Ullrich who perfectly plays young Bobby. Skillful work of camera (operator's work by Eduardo Serra) was able to catch these performances along with director's ideas and recreate quite authentic atmosphere of different periods of American history and culture. Kevin Spacey's Beyond the Sea is a relatively rare event in world of formulaic and commercialized motion pictures and it's a bit of shame that it's not appreciated by many as it deserves.

10 out of 10

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
(2005)

A very rare treat that for two hours made me leave my criticism behind.
I've read Clive Lewis's books and somehow almost liked except the crucial thing he has made in the end of the last book with his heroes that I couldn't neither accept nor understand. However except this one thing I found the books mostly pretty good written so I was quite interested in seeing this adaptation. Somehow the obstacles prevented me from seeing all previous weeks and only yesterday I was able to see it on one of the very last shows in my city and the fact is on the contrary to the majority of high-budgeted movies this year I quite liked it.

The key factor of the success Andrew Adamson's Chronicles of Narnia is that the director found and established a balance between clear Christian thematic elements of the books and values common and understandable to all people. The same thing is about the moral messages of the story, which are pretty clear, comprehensible and suitable for audience all over the world, no matter to what culture we belong to. The adaptation follows the book all the time and we have got all the reasons to call it a very close adaptation. Despite some flaws I believe it's a pretty good adaptation. The movie begins from a scene of German bombings on London and then four children are going to countryside to avoid the danger of the war. Soon the adventure begins and our heroes come into the magical world of Narnia. The winter landscapes were mostly quite convincing but there were some problems related with Edmund's character. The line of the poor boy who is acting that way just because he wants some candy seems not a perfect way to show the character of the hero. It is obvious also that the filmmakers sometimes were forced to make a compromise between a magic world of the book and common sense and cold logic. Some criticism about hypothermia and other things really has the point but I don't see any way for the filmmakers to completely avoid such problem moments. Going further we see in the world on Narnia new landscapes and new wondrous creatures, which are overwhelmingly well created and look quite believable. In the second part of the movie there are obviously a few references (or maybe even borrowing) to Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy but overall Adamson's construction of the oncoming confrontation and the final battle is very impressive, emotional and truly moving. Very good cinematography excellently captured the beauty of the Narnia and successfully transmitted to us all emotions and feelings of the characters.

Another thing in the movie that really fascinated me it's the performances or four young actors, who were playing two brothers (William Moseley and Skandar Keynes as Peter and Edmund) and two sisters (Anna Popplewell and Georgie Henley as Susan and Lucy) Pevensie. Except the one above mentioned moment personalities of their characters are very good developed and all four actors were able to bring these characters perfectly to life with all their feelings, emotions and inner struggles. Tilda Swinton's White Witch is also a rather strong character and her performance glows with perceptible coldness and evil. The sound effects are quite good and the score is a nice supplement to a visual feast on screen while the special effects as already mentioned are also mostly pretty good and believable. Personally I've found some minor problems with minotaurs design but at least they were much more better than in any motion pictures before. But one more time I have to return to Adamson's directing. It's very important that in his first serious live acting movie he resisted the temptation of transforming the story into something adorable from the outside but inwardly shallow and sliding down into superficial and vulgar jokes.

With well-deserved incredible success of the first movie and with Adamson's approach the studio have perfect prospects for creation one of the best franchises in the story of cinema. The Lion, The Witch and Wardrobe is easily one of the very best high-budgeted movies of the year but I have to make the last note. The movie has some violence, which is too strong for PG rating and some frightening sequences so it's mostly suitable for kids over ten or eleven.

My grade 9 out of 10

Flight of the Navigator
(1986)

A classic family movie
For the fist time I saw Flight of The Navigator when I was a kid, nearly twenty years ago. I remember young soviet kids flocked into the theaters to see a strange American movie and somehow taped it but too many time has passed and all these years it was like a rather unclear distant memory for me, a distant memory of something pretty good and even beautiful. Since then I was unable to find it and watch it again and only recently I caught in on a cable TV channel. Despite being twenty seven years old now I still liked it a lot.

Flight of The Navigator is a very good Sci-fi family movie despite (or some people could say thanks to) it is not as overloaded by the special effects as most of such modern movies. That left enough place not only for pure entertainment bit also for emotions and some pretty nice scenes with rather good dialogs. It the story of an eleven years old boy, who after a strange and quite inexplicable contact with something looked like an alien ship got moved through the time into future several years ago, which passed for him like a couple of hours. In this future he takes an adventure to find an explanation what really happened with him. Flight of The Navigator is a very enjoyable movie for whole family, which deserves much more appreciation than overwhelming majority of recent family movies.

9 out of 10

Duma
(2005)

Terrific picture of beauty of wild nature and power of human heart and friendship
Many years ago Carroll Ballard (little known that time) with already famous in that days Francis Ford Coppola created a stunning visual treat called The Black Stallion. Now more than twenty fives years later this exceptionally talented director (unfortunately I haven't seen his Fly Away Home) brought to us another terrific masterpiece, movie filled with beauty and love.

This time it is a story of Xan, twelve or thirteen years old boy, who lives with his parents on their farm somewhere in the heart of South Africa. Their life is very close to what we can call harmony with outward things and particularly with wild nature. One day Xan with his father accidentally found on a road a helpless cheetah cub and since than Duma (they picked up such a name because Duma on Swahili means cheetah) became a part of the family. Soon bonds of friendship or love (depends on how you would call that) tie the boy and the animal but as wisely said Xan's father they can't breed Duma forever and some day they must set him free. However some unexpected obstacles forced them to move into a big city and after an accident in the school Xan realizes that the time has come and he must do something for his friend. So the adventure begins. I guess some people could find that hardly possible but than our heart tells us sometimes we can do things hardly explainable and the movie shows us that Xan is not a cosset city boy. He must travel through hundred of miles and many tests and finally he grow up during this adventure. Although there is nothing spoiled in Xan's character (there are obviously some similarities with Kelly Reno's Alec from mentioned The Black Stallion) throughout the movie we can see that he is just a more or less ordinary boy who is doing the things he believes in. And that's the most important here is somehow his innocence and pure heart is able to awake the best in people around him. This character is brought to life by Alex Michaletos, who was terrific playing such interesting and memorable character. This newcomer for hour and a half makes me feel sick about most of overrated today's Hollywood young stars. His performance is full of life and very believable all the time. Eamonn Walker (who plays Ripkuna, a mysterious man whom Xan meets in his journey) is a good and very suitable choice for that character. Among other decent supporting cast it is worth to mention Campbell Scott and Hope Davis as Xan's parents.

The cinematography is excellent all over the movie from subtle shots on the farm to beautiful shots of wild savanna and desert. There is a feeling of harmony and some easy to feel beauty here. However it's quite important that the director always know sense of proportion and the movie never looks like a Discovery or Animal Planet show. One of the main heroes, the beautiful cat is also perfectly shot from different angles. Nice music with lots of thematic African elements excellently supplements all the rest.

Duma is a very beautiful, intelligent and poignant movie about discovering, love, friendship and all positive in human beings. This message of the movie is quite simple. The beauty, love and human kindness still can save our world and this is worth fighting for. Unfortunately these values are not very common to modern Hollywood production. This movie didn't get a wide distribution with reasonable marketing campaign, which it definitely deserved (unfortunately in our commercialized world you hardly can sell anything without good marketing). In my personal opinion Duma is one of the very best motion pictures of the year, and the only second movie that earn my respect and got highest possible grade from me (the other one was Dear Frankie). Congratulations and my sincere gratitude to Warner Bros., Carroll Ballard and all people involved in making this spectacular masterpiece. I'm also so happy that I was able to watch Duma on English, not only a dubbed version (although this time it wasn't really bad).

Thanks for reading.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
(2005)

For the first time Harry Potter movie bitterly disappointed me.
These comments might contain spoilers, especially for people, who haven't read the book

First of all, don't get me wrong. I'm not a hater and I liked JKR books (although I never mentioned them among the best books ever) as well as three previous movies (more first two more than third) so I went today to see Goblet of Fire to the biggest multiplex theater in my city. My expectations were high but this day I went through one of my biggest disappointments caused by a motion picture.

From very first shots of the movie, when I saw Barty Crouch junior, next to Voldemort I had a terrible feeling that something's wrong here and this feeling grew with every minute. And soon things were getting worse. After about fifteen minutes I realized that the movie is falling apart into numerous separate scenes (twenty or thirty – I didn't count, which looks like TV clips) or episodes hardly connected with each other or without such connection at all. Mentioned scene at Riddle house was followed by another one, already at Burrow (Weasley's home) and a minute later we are at Quidditch World Cup a couple of minutes before final match begins. But after only several shots (not bad) there was another gap and now (without quidditch at all) we see our heroes under the tent after the match. Another pause, another gap - that's happening all the time. After a half an hour two very simple questions have rose in my mind and completely captured it. Who wrote this script? And who was a guy who directed this movie? Despite numerous previous opinions, I have to say that fourth movie does not justify the book, does not justify its characters and its atmosphere. Too many things (and unfortunately important things) were completely missed or drastically changed that I begin to think that initial idea of making two separate movies wasn't bad at all. Most of characters and particularly such new characters like Cedric, Krum or Cho are entirely undeveloped. Albus Dumbledore from the greatest wizard of modern times was transformed into some kind of a silly old man. Krum, who wasn't mean at all in the book, become different in the movie. But what's the worst Cedric's character also suffered a lot. The scene in the labyrinth before they took Goblet was definitely one of the best in the whole book. All their inner struggles and hesitations have completely disappeared and instead of that we got ridiculous chase between Cedric and Harry. Cedric's death in the book is a really terrible loss and emotional episode because he's a truly good and honest character but we don't feel that in the movie. All scenes from Triwizard tournament in reality became one of the most ridiculous action sequences I've seen in a long time. At the beginning some genius has invented a dragon flying and chasing Harry all over the castle while everyone is waiting on their seats. What a load of rubbish! Next task was a lake, almost all the time deserted and quiet (except for mermaids, who were just watching) and finally there was the labyrinth. Somehow this ridiculous labyrinth was also completely deserted without any creature inside so the third task was transformed into a preposterous chase between lines of hedges. And I can go on and go on. Overall, the movie is very raw and rather shallow and incredibly rushed. Most of people in the movie theater, who haven't read Harry Potter books were completely disoriented and confused after only a few such mentioned in the beginning separated scenes or episodes. Mike Newell's direction unfortunately wasn't any better than a disastrous script. Instead the way of the book, common sense and cold logic he has chosen a way of cheesy coolness, surface polish, primitive dialog, and cheap and rather silly laughs. But this superficial coolness in most of cases is fake and senseless like in the scene with that stupid dragon or in the scene with Moaning Myrtle. Even with visuals there was nothing particularly astonishing and most of a few really memorable moments were already in the movie trailers. Another negative consequence of this kaleidoscopic rush was the acting. Alarmingly often there was simply no room acting. Among the very few things that I really liked were Emma Watson's performance and rather short the ball scene. Not pretty much from the whole movie. The other huge problem is that the movie in most of parts is emotionally flat and it is obviously that it wasn't supposed to be emotionally flat. The ending as practically everything else was rushed and shallow with rather a pathetic phrase, which we also already heard in a movie trailer. I've almost forgotten that somehow legendary John Williams was replaced and without his music the movie also has lost something appealing.

Certainly, I have no idea why so many people claim fourth Potter as the best Potter movie so far, as well about its commercial success. After the end of the credits the whole theater was dead silent and fair part of the audience looked pretty disappointed. I was pretty disappointed too and one thought bothered me the most. I believe that we a better script and with different director this movie could have been incomparably better and visually stunning (also because the fourth book is much deeper than previous three). And the very last thing I have to notice. Russian translation was really terrible.

Dear Frankie
(2004)

One of the best films I've seen in recent years – beautiful and poignant.
Dear Frankie is a one of very few sleeper films, which unfortunately so far didn't find the audience it deserves but got exceptionally positive responses from overwhelming majority of those who saw the movie. To my great sadness also it is obviously that this film is too good and too beautiful to be released in my country, where the audience is favorable to dumb action films and shelves of numerous video stores are mostly filled by dumb Hollywood blockbusters. However after a couple of months of unsuccessful searches eventually I found a DVD and watched Dear Frankie. What's the most important I was fortunate enough to watch original movie on English (even if some accents were a bit hard for me), not a miserable dubbed version (I'm also getting sick of constant lost in translation in such dubbed versions). The movie was immensely beautiful and captivating, sweet and sad at the same time. Actually I have to say that I loved every minute in the movie.

I guess there are enough of good reviews here, which tell what this movie is about but anyway, I will write a few lines because the movie deserves more attention and recognition. Dear Frankie is a story of a single mother with a nine years old son, Frankie. Frankie is deaf but he is a very smart boy for his age. He knows his father, only by letters they write to each other but his mother has a secret. All that time she was trying to protect her son and collected his mails from a postbox and write back. Because Frankie is also practically doesn't speak those letters are the only way for his mother to hear his voice. But the ship, on which his father is supposed to be, is coming to the port where they live and the mother hires a stranger to play his father for a one day in a desperate attempt not to ruin an illusion she has created for her son. I agree that for some of you that could sound like sentimental rubbish. But the story is so well masterfully created and well paced that every single scene is important here as well as every subtle detail. The director carries out his ideas and thoughts into practice extremely well and definitely deserves all the praises. Characters development was also one of the best I've seen in last years. The acting is also excellent all around. Emily Mortimer created terrific performance of s a single mother, who is trying to avoid her son's father and protecting his son. Gerard Butler plays perfectly Stranger and it's very nice to see his feelings and attitude to the family by some gestures, words and other minor but very significant details. And what is worthy of one of the highest possible respect is Frankie's character. He is not just a boy who is looking for our sympathy or even pity. Frankie is a very clever boy and he looks at the world with his own view and notices much more than most of people who surround him. Jack McElhone has incredibly strong and one of the most memorable performances of child actors in recent memory. This film with such wonderful performances transmits to us real emotions and feelings of its characters and it evokes the same from its audience. The cinematography, also a work of movie's director Shona Auerbach, is as good as her directing. She perfectly captured all emotions and feelings of characters and the beautiful shots of Scottish coast are very appealing and truly memorable. It is really fascinating to see how practically all the time the movie avoids the clichés and the ending is not an exception. Dear Frankie is a movie that will stick in your mind for a while, it's very poignant and sometimes sad but entirely sweet and beautiful.

An excellent movie all around and easily one of the best movies of the year. 10 out of 10.

The Deep End of the Ocean
(1999)

Strong performances shine in this good family relations drama
I never heard of a Jacquelyn Mitchard's book on which the movie is based but somehow something about Deep End of the Ocean has attracted my attention. After long searches last week I watched this movie on DVD and I have to say that I liked it, though maybe I liked in a different way than other movies. Although I don't rank this movie among my favorites I think Deep End of The Ocean is worthy of your attention and it definitely has its moments.

The story begins when we have a look at life of Beth Cappadora (Michelle Pfeiffer) a strong woman, who has an average, relatively successful and happy American family with three kids, but soon their life is falling apart because of an inexplicable disappearance of the youngest of their sons, three year old Ben (the other son, Vincent is seven). Everyone is blaming himself for such terrible loss and getting lost in their own feelings and emotions. While her husband Pat (Treat Williams) is trying to bring his family life back on normal tracks, Beth from the first look is suffered the most and using words of one of the characters she is "making career of being unhappy". After nine years of imitating a normal life they move into another city and one day they meet a boy, who lives in a neighborhood. Immediately they realize that he is their son, who they have lost many years ago but after such wondrous discovery the question is what will be a family's reaction as well what will be a reaction of a boy who doesn't remember anything about his real parents and family. So it's easy to notice that the movie consists of two parts, when first smoothly passes into second. The story is relatively good developed and is rather sad at parts, although I believe that overall Deep End of the Ocean is not enough emotional as a movie with such subject is supposed to be. I liked characters development in the movie except Michelle Pfeiffer's character Beth, which in my opinion is overly contradictory and complicated. Somehow such characters are common for Michelle and she is mainly coping with her part. Her husband, Pat, who is trying to restore lost connections looks much more convincing and Treat Williams's performance really impressed me. Finally, characters of two brothers, Vincent and Sam and relations between them are one of the strongest parts of the movie. Both Jonathan Jackson and Ryan Merriman are excellent at their characters and I have to say that I particularly liked the ending of the movie. Obviously some people could find this ending sappy and made for TV but I would certainly disagree with such an approach. Even if it was a little rushed the ending is very satisfying and contains the best (and the most memorable) scenes in the whole movie. This ending made me for some time forgot about any criticism I should notice some minor faults besides already mentioned in my review, which fortunately are unable to make an influence to my overwhelmingly positive impression of Deep End of The Ocean. Although, Ulu Grossbard's direction is mostly decent, some scenes are not so carefully made as most parts of the movie while some other parts (fortunately not many and not in the crucial points) as well as some dialogs are not free from using rather formulaic clichés. But I want to say once again that despite these minor notes of criticism (remember that nothing is perfect) I think Deep End of The Ocean is a pretty good movie, which deserves not to be missed.

My grade 8 out of 10

Like Mike
(2002)

An okay family movie, which unfortunately at times loses its point and turns into rather silly NBA promotion
Like Mike is a quite formulaic and cheesy family movie about an outsider who is having dreams of becoming somebody famous and of course his dreams come true. Our hero, Calvin Cambridge, (played by Lil Bow Wow) lives in an orphanage in Los-Angeles, near basketball stadium where his favorite NBA team – L.A. Knights plays (by the way fictitious team, real teams in L.A. are Lakers and Clippers). He also loves to play basketball very much and l this game is the only sweet thing that he got in his miserable life in an orphanage. But he is just an ordinary thirteen or fourteen year boy without any special talent for playing his favorite game. One day his finds old sneakers, which are supposed to belong before to some famous basketball player and he believes that was legendary Michael Jordan. After a short confrontation with his rival those sneakers get stuck on a power line and when Calvin is trying to get them back the lightning hits near him and he is shocked by power line. Soon he realizes that his shoes are magic and they give him extraordinary abilities for playing basketball and he wins an exhibition match against real NBA star. There is nothing surprising that after such win he become a player of his favorite team Knights and his life is going to change. The magic promised in the beginning of the story is gone within few minutes and we just see how young celebrity is trying to get into contact with his new partners and fragments of NBA matches with our hero who easily become one of the best players in the whole league and jumps like a … well I don't know exactly like what but one is obvious that he beat some records with his jumps. So Calvin became a NBA player and a celebrity but somehow he has no contract and he still has no any money. Sense of reality is obviously completely lost here. Numerous and mostly silly appearances of actual NBA stars throughout the movie (though some basketball fans obviously would like that), with mentioned scenes of basketball matches and inside the team scenes make that some parts of the movie look like a some kind of silly NBA promotion. And all those basketball elements of the story most of the time easily overshadow all possible morale messages in Like Mike. Well, I believe I have paid enough attention to the movie plot and negative elements and flaws. Despite all above mentioned besides its primitiveness Like Mike is a harmless movie (today that already means something) and not so rude, compared to some recent family friendly movies. The acting is mainly mediocre (the bad guy was really pathetic) with Morris Chestnut (as Tracey Reynolds) as the only bright spot. The chemistry between his character and Lil Bow Wow (who also in some moments shows some acting abilities) is one of a few really decent moments about Like Mike. In the conclusion if you are looking for a good family movie I would rather recommend to find something else than Like Mike, though some kids might like it, particularly die-hard basketball fans.

My grade 5 out of 10.

Arlington Road
(1999)

Preposterous plot goes down and leaves mainly dissatisfaction and unanswerable questions
I will try to avoid major spoilers but it would be nearly impossible with such problem plot.

Arlington Road is a movie that is very promising in its beginning but immensely goes downhill when the story unfolds. It is devoted to one of the biggest problems of modern society – terrorism. And here is the main and insoluble problem of the movie – the plot. The movie with such actual and troubled theme needs more than others movies a well-developed and plausible story but too many things go wrong in Arlington Road. Our main hero is widowed college professor Grant Faraday (played by Jeff Bridges), who has nine years old son and recently lost his wife, a FBI agent. The conception of her death during some anti-terrorist action and what is more the scene of ten years old kid shooting at strangers by the reason of guarding his home is ridiculously preposterous and disturbing as hell. For some coincidence (it is really impossible to count such coincidences in this story) our college professor teaches some indeterminate subject about terrorists and their way of thinking. One day after an accident with a little boy, he carries him into the hospital and than he finds out that he is a son of his new neighbor (played by Timm Robbins). He doesn't know anything about him but the boys become friends and this family is looking very friendly. But after noticing some strange things our hero begins to suspect that his neighbor is not the man he claims himself to be. His doubts become suspicions and grow more and more when trying to finds out who his neighbor is our professor finds out that years ago that man has been involved in a terrorist attack against a government building. After a series of hardly believable coincidences he will know truth and get involved in events he never expected to. But even all that I saw on screen before last fifteen minutes I can describe mostly as hardly believable, the preposterous ending ruined everything. Professor Faraday in a critical confrontation beat up our evil genius (Tim Robbins character) he leaves him and run but after that the person he just beat up and left gives a command to begin their plan. Climatic chase scene was ridiculous and the precise ending… I agreed with all people here who said that it was one of the most unexpected plot twists I have ever seen but in the same time it was certainly the most ridiculous and implausible (not to mention one of the most disturbing) movie ending I have ever seen. I think only people who want suspense at any price can accept such course of events. I finally we get an explanation that practically everything from the beginning to the end of the story was planned by mentioned evil genius. Give me a break, please. And I don't even mention all numerous stereotypes in the movie.

Besides that the point of the movie is unclear to me and I can't imagine a movie with such theme without it. Beware your neighbor? As it was already noticed in other reviews this is trivial fed for paranoia. Our society always balances between total neglect of a problem and such paranoia and both extremes are equally dangerous. The other possible idea here is that terrorist attack can't be organized and performed by a single person. That doesn't work much better because the movie doesn't show any strong steady organization around Oliver Lange. All that we can see is several people, most of them are definitely mentally sick, united and most likely manipulated by a very cunning fanatical person.

With such story the acting (which is definitely not bad) is practically wasted but there is no point to blame actors or director because I believe that no one could make anything decent working with such ridiculous and implausible script.

My grade 3 out of 10 (mainly for decent acting). Thanks for reading and sorry for my bad English.

Oliver Twist
(2005)

Very good and mostly fair classic adaptation from a famous director
It's not an easy job to make a good adaptation of a famous classic novel, especially with numerous previous rather successful attempts. Moreover in my country last generations that brought up on comic books and video-games in their majority don't show any interest to such classic tales. When I went to the biggest multiplex in my city (the only theater in the city that showed it with only one screening per day) to see Oliver Twist I wasn't surprised when I noticed only five or six people in a cinema hall. However a minute or two before the beginning of the movie my melancholy thoughts were interrupted by a huge crowd of teen boys in uniforms which looked like uniforms of some kind of military school. In a moment I realized that their school administration organized collective screening for its students and without movie trailers before or any advertising movie has begun.

Without any introduction I found myself in world of Charles Dickens, 19th century England. From very beginning of this film to the end for two hours I was riveted to the screen and captured by this visual work of art. Oliver Twist turned out to be good adaptation, at parts abbreviated and reductive but very fair to this period of history with all its social problems and that's the most important to Dickens' atmosphere and bright ideas personified in his characters. The sets and decorations were impressive and eminently suitable. In hi s Oliver Twist Roman Polanski skillfully follows the miserable life of an orphan Oliver Twist, who trying to escape from tremendous destitution of orphanage and workhouse came to London and must survive in the gutter with dregs of society of that period. However in world of Dickens most of these people are not villains and Polanski successfully emphasizes that. They are just fighting to survive as they could in conditions of ignorant, cruel and cynical society. This on the surface respectable society turns out to be the world of indifference and ignorance. In this criminal Fagin, a buyer of stolen goods with all his vices, who sheltered boys and made from them street pickpockets, is definitely not the worst evil. Fagin's boys despite survival in such terrible conditions didn't lost completely the most important – signs of humanity inside them. The scene with sincere but hopeless protest of Artful Dodger (a smart reflection of the clash between Oliver and his bully Noah Claypole in the beginning of the story) to the only personified truly evil character Bill Sykes and his remorse after giving away Nancy is the best confirmation of that. These two characters of Fagin and Bill Sykes are played by Ben Kingsley and Jamie Foreman. Ben Kingsley played Fagin without most stereotypes while Jamie Foreman perfectly playing Sykes evokes very impressive feelings of cruelty and pure evil of his character. Young Barney Clark created a very memorable performance of the title character, Oliver Twist. He excellently expresses innocence and some awkwardness of Oliver. Finally, it is worth to mention another very good performance of Harry Eden as Artful Dodger and remarkable work of all actors who played supporting characters.

Although most of the audience clearly were disappointed (no visual effects and explosions, no swearing or sexual references) I found Oliver Twist one of the best films I have seen this year. I'm not sure is it the adaptation of wondrous Charles Dickens classic novel but it's definitely a pretty good one. I just hope that this excellent work of the skilfully director despite all struggles will be able to find its way to people's hearts.

9 out of 10

The Emperor's Club
(2002)

Unfortunately this is nothing like Dead Poets Society
Thrilled by numerous comparisons and analogies with Dead Poets Society I watched The Emperor's Club Maybe I expected too much but however I was disappointed. The promising story about a teacher who inspired his students turned out to be a far from spectacular and hardly inspiring movie with plenty of strangely prepared and rather questionable moral messages.

The movie follows a long experience of William Hundert (played by Academy award winner Kevin Kline) as a professor in a privileged and prestigious school for boys, particularly two episodes from his life divided by a long period of time. He is an idealistic teacher who believes that the main purpose of his work is moral development of his students, in his own words moving their characters. That sounds pretty good but from very beginning of the movie it meets some problems. Professor Hundert teaches history, precisely ancient Roman and Greek history. But besides this Hundert's history classes (I guess not the subject of primary importance in such schools) the movie is pretty ignorant about the rest of normal life in the school, the rest of teachers (by some minor details we can guess that not all of them share Hundert's beliefs) and students. Our group of students take Hundert's history classes every day, in their free time we can see that they're talking about them and learn by heart events and names from Roman history while they dearest ambition is a victory in a traditional school competition based on knowledge of Roman History. At least it's a bit strange and it leaves some kind of emptiness. Moreover Hundert's approaches of reaching his difficult way of moral development of his students are not very clear. Besides for a few sentences like "importance of living rightly" or "what will your contribution be" mentioned in a movie trailer most of the time we can see literally only learning of ancient history and in rare moments its interpretation, by the way, rather superficial and also questionable. The conception of moral development by only education is also a doubtful moment. There are two important scenes that bring some self-contradiction of the story. First one is when professor Hundert notices that one of his students is reading a history book about famous Carthaginian general the only words he found to say that this material is not included in school program of his course. Pretty strange for such a teacher. The second is related with main moral opponent of professor Hundert, Sedgwick Bell. Despite all above mentioned contradictions of the story it insists that before Sedgwick's arriving into that school there was a full idyll. So here we meet Sedgwick Bell, a son of a senator, who pay no attention to studying and whose behavior is rather too glaringly for others. It looks like a personal challenge for Hundert and after the first signs of understanding and possibly even sympathy between them the student eventually let him down. Here's the main movie conflict, a moral confrontation between good and evil and the beginning of future Sedgwick's moral degradation. However it's also not very clear. When Hundert meets Sedgwick's father despite his intentions (second important moment mentioned before) he comes just as a teacher complaining about a bad student and despite his attempts he is unable to rise above that. What is more the movie never shows teenage Sedgwick as an evil character. His character is too stereotypic image of modern American politics (well, not only American) but all that we can see in the movie is just a childish pranks, teenage rebellion easily expected in his age and situation. His lack of good manners in his first days in the school is obviously also signs of protest not rottenness or vicious character. The last part of the movie which obviously was supposed to show moral triumph and superiority of professor Hundert and his students over Sedgwick Bell is also has its contradictions an problem points . Now we meet new Sedgwick Bell, a successful citizen, businessman and politician. The movie asks a question what cost his social achievements were reached but the idea of re-matching school competition after many years as well as the fact that these lessons of ancient history survived in memory of former students after such a long time is far-fetched. The same thing is with an imposed impression that throughout the years all students except Sedgwick were successfully moved and inspired by professor Hundert. Using words of other authors, possible message of bad apple or leopard spots that evil is always evil meets lots of problem here. Another message about purposes and means (the end justifies the means) is looking much more suitable here.

Aside of the story there are some positive things here. The movie tries to avoid clichés usual for such a movies, cinematography is good here, some scenes are quite good and finally the acting in the movie is obviously not bad but unfortunately most likely The Emperor's Club is a movie where numerous flaws of the story and weakness of some moral messages easily outweigh all the rest. Kevin Kline and young casts have decent performances. To sum up my thoughts The Emperor's Club is a far from greatness but watchable movie, a movie full of large but unrealized ambitions and wasted opportunities. Well, at least on the contrary to majority of Hollywood production they tried to make something decent and memorable.

School of Life
(2005)

A very likable film that deserves much more recognition than it got
School of Life (stupidly renamed on Russian into The Teacher of The Year) is a very likable and enjoyable film. It's funny and heartfelt film but at the same time it's much more than typical high-school set movie, much more intelligent than everyone could expect. Despite the film couldn't avoid some clichés and at parts it become a bit predictable that's a case when we simply don't care about such possible minor flaws in the film and just enjoy it.

The center of the story is an ordinary school in a small town when its legendary teacher Stormin' Norman Warner, who won the teacher of the year forty three years in a row, dies and new teacher, an incredibly cool and attractive person Michael D'Angelo (excellent performance by Ryan Reynolds), comes to the school. But what's the most important he share and deliver his coolness with everybody and ordinary boring life in this school takes some changes. The only man who is not delighted with Michael's appearance is Matt Warner (another one very good performance by David Paymer), the son of the legendary teacher, whose dearest ambition is to keep on a family tradition of winning best teacher award. The way of characters behavior as well as their transformation is very believable to me. Ryan Reynolds and David Paymer are very good in the lead while all the kids actors are awesome. Also the film is well shot, has a remarkable soundtrack with very suitable songs and contains lots of very impressive scenes: some of them are really funny while the others are heartfelt and inspiring. It is just the film that such kind of film's supposed to be: very enjoyable film that at the same time manages to carry strong and intelligent messages in a very good way. As some people here before I can only add that I wish to had such a teachers during my school days (I know it's kinda stupid but that's all I can say). Very good film indeed.

9 out of 10

Road to Perdition
(2002)

A true masterpiece
Road to Perdition, a movie undeservedly overlooked at that year Oscars is the second work of Sam Mendes (and in my opinion his best work), a director who three years before won Oscar for his widely acclaimed but controversial American Beauty. This is a terrific movie, and at the same time ultimately poignant and sad.

It's a story of a relatively wealthy and happy family from outward appearance during difficult times of Depression when the, Michael Sullivan, a father of two children, played by great Tom Hanks (I'm not his admirer but ought to say that) is a hit-man for local mafia boss, played by Paul Newman. His eldest son, a thirteen years boy Michael Sullivan Jr., perfectly played by young Tyler Hoechlin, after years of blissful ignorance finds out what is his father job and on what money their family live. Prompted by his curiosity and his aspiration to know truth he accidentally becomes a witness of a murder, committed by John Rooney, son of his father boss. Such discovery strikes an innocent soul and it caused numerous events that changed his life forever. The atmosphere of the period, all the backgrounds and decorations are perfectly created, editing and cinematography are almost flawless while the story is well written. But the main line of the movie, the most important moments and points of the movie and the key factor of the movie success are difficult father-son relations in bad times. They are shown so deeply, strong and believable. Tom Hanks does excellent and has one of the best performances of his career in a quite unusual role for him and all acting across the board is superb. Finally worth to mention a very nice score by Paul Newman and in the result we get an outstanding work of all people involved in making this beautiful (but one more time sad) masterpiece. I believe Road to Perdition belongs to greatest achievements of film-making of this decade and undoubtedly one of the best films of the year.

My grade 10 out of 10

War of the Worlds
(2005)

Good outweighs bad
Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds is an impressive, realistic and pretty disturbing world of terror. He created a world so much violent and disturbing that I have no idea how this film could get only PG-13 rating. His view of disaster is far different from almost bloodless and sterile Roland Emmerich's Independence Day and Day After Tomorrow and other similar movies. As one of the movie's characters said all that happens in the movie is not a war, it is an extermination. All the achievements of human civilization are useless and cannot protect humans from invasion. So people are leaving on their own and as always in some of them bad times awake the best, and some of them the worst. For main character Ray, played by Tom Cruise, the only goal is protecting his two kids and surviving. The theme of the family relations in such difficult moments that was implanted into the storyline is very important in the movie. All three main characters are well written and developed. Tom Cruise is good as a father, who all the time should make decisions trying to protect his children. Surely he is not perfect here but I think it is completely his type of a hero and I can hardly imagine another actor in that role. Two children, Robbie and Rachel (rebel teenager and his younger sister) were played by Justin Chatwin and Dakota Fanning. To me Robbie's character is the most interesting in the movie. I really doubt that it was really necessary to use twenty three years old for playing sixteen years old but in any case it is obviously that Justin Chatwin did excellent job playing his character. At the same time I can't share all praises about Dakota Fanning. She was good enough but nothing extraordinary. Among other supporting cast only Tim Robbins is worth for mentioning but his dark character is very similar to his role in Mystic River. Personally I liked the way of using special effects in the movie. They are very impressive, practically all the time they are in the right place creating the strong atmosphere of terror and destruction all around. But the most important is that they have been created to show this invaded and shattered world at eyes Ray and his family, not at some abstracted view as most directors do with only purpose to impress audience with cool but senseless visual effects. Turning back to the movie's plot I have to admit that with close look it is possible to find some minor plot holes and logical variances. Fortunately all such minor drawbacks are always somewhere in the background because all attention is riveted on Cruise and children. During the entire movie without any exception we can see only what they see, we know what's going on and about this invasion and aliens only what they know. So Spielberg War of the Words is much more the story of an ordinary family during alien invasion which must unite and surpass own problems and misunderstanding than story of Earth being invaded by aliens. That's why Spielberg's War of The World works so good and makes so strong impression.

Taking all above mentioned into account watching War of the Worlds I was sure that it is a very good movie, definitely one of the best this year. Until the ending. It was incredibly unsatisfying and came so abruptly that I was so much confused and I could hardly believe my eyes. Of course it is possible to find some grounds, philosophical and other points of such an ending but anyway it's not work here. Completely does not work. Despite that I suppose that several hardly explicable minutes of the ending can't outweighs all positive in this film. Definitely it's still worth seeing but think twice before taking young kids with you. With better ending or at least with same but more developed ending I would rate War of the Worlds 9 out of 10. Overall my rating is 7.2 out of 10.

Sorry for my bad English.

Ocean's Twelve
(2004)

A sequel like many others - a tasteless moneymaker
Three years after incredibly successful and one of the year's best Ocean's Eleven Steven Soderbergh brought to us this sequel which is lacking everything that made original Ocean's Eleven such a good film: original and thoughtful story, decent acting and directing. But with all its success Eleven is a film that don't leave reach opportunities for a normal sequel, at least for the whole Ocean's team sequel. But Mr. Soderbergh has decided to make it so screenwriters were forced to find a way for Ocean Twelve, way stupid and unnatural. Now, the reason to unite Ocean's team again three years after Las-Vegas is Mr. Benedict who seeks the revenge. He has lost no money because of insurance but anyway he wants his money back as compensation from Ocean's team so they need to come back to action. That sounds pretty stupid as well as ridiculous entire story. Nobody cares about characters and acting is mediocre at best. I hope after this disappointment will be no Ocean's Thirteen.

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