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United 93

What else can be said?
If a film had to be made depicting the events of that dark September day, this is the perfect answer. The director brilliantly avoids making this a typical Hollywood production with heroes and villains, subplots, etc. There is ample drama in just depicting what really happened on Flight 93 based on what we know from passenger phone calls, ATC logs, data recorders, etc. The characterization of events of the actual hijacking,rebellion, and eventual crash of United 93 depicted in this film almost certainly match what actually occurred.

I respect how the film portrays the events from the terrorists' point of view without passing judgement. They were undoubtedly scared as well, but driven by their loyalty to their cause and the glorification of their god. That said, we should never forget the courage and ultimate sacrifice given by the passengers of Flight 93 who tried in vain to save the lives of others.

This film will forever remind us of their valor.

The Compleat Beatles

Saw this on TV one night and was awestruck
Some time in the 80s this aired on TV and I happened upon it. I have always been a fan of the Beatles, but after seeing this documentary I had a whole new appreciation for their remarkable history. What struck me the most was the extent that George Martin influenced the band. He truly was "the fifth Beatle". McDowell's narration is superbly executed, and the writing/directing is such that it flows smoothly, keeping the viewed interested--like reading chapters from a good book. I was able to find a used VHS copy of this documentary on EBay but am really hoping they come out with a DVD since I find myself watching it over and over again. I love sharing this video with friends who have even a passing interest in the Beatles.

Napoleon Dynamite

Just Not Funny to Me
I am from Utah and had a few people recommend this movie to me. I was unaware that there was this "Napolean groupie club" of people who are fanatics about the movie, quoting lines and such. I went into the film completely expecting to love it since I like quirky films in general. From the beginning, though, I was bored. There were maybe two places I laughed out loud at the deadpan or slapstick humor, but overall it was a disappointment. I kept waiting for something to happen, waiting to like at least one of the characters, but no. The film is quirky, yes. But it is also disjointed and cliché. Mostly, though, it is just plain boring.

Remember The Emperor's New Clothes? Well, THIS MOVIE IS NAKED!

3 of 10 stars.

October Sky

I loved this movie. It is one of the few movies that I have consistently recommended to friends to rent and have had all of them thank me for the referral. The film has some powerful themes that are beautifully scripted. The acting is superb all around (Chris Cooper has never turned in a bad acting role in my opinion!) The message of this film is so well delivered, so powerful, that it moved me to tears the first time I saw it. Not sad tears, which are easily solicited by cinema formula, but tears of joy--a rare thing.

Although I did not grow up in the 1950's, I believe this film honestly portrays the mood and setting of the time. Given today's harsh world with all its complications, watching this film is a welcome escape to a time of innocence, wonder, and discovery. Highly recommended!

Touching the Void

best climbing film ever made
Cliffhanger. K2. Vertical Limit. Such have been the lame offerings from the mainstream film industry. As members of the climbing community, my friends and I would sit through these films and laugh out loud in the theater at the most inappropriate times as the heroes said or did utterly preposterous things that made all climbers cringe or burst out laughing. Sure, these movies are fiction and made with maximum entertainment value in mind. But so was The Eiger Sanction, which had been the most realistic climbing film to hit the big screen. But at least they tried to make it some realism.

Then there is Touching the Void. A documentary about one of the most intense survival stories ever told. As another reviewer noted, the strength of the human spirit and will to live demonstrated in this story is akin to Shackleton's epic Endurance. After visualizing the extent of suffering a human can endure and still fight to survive, one feels humbled and not worthy of complaining about the trivial discomfort most of us whine about in our daily lives!

The remarkable thing about this film is how the director managed to maintain suspense throughout, even though the outcome was known from the beginning. I read the book many years ago and knew the story well (it is sort of a legend in climbing circles and often told), but I found myself emotionally drained when Simpson finally arrived at the camp and yelled out to his partner, only to hear silence. He "lost a piece of himself" at that moment, and finally accepted that he was going to die. Of course the viewer knows he is not going to die, but we are made to feel his utter defeat and surrender. It was at this point, that Simpson accepts his plight: he touches the void.

Excellent narration and acting. The makers of this film went through great efforts to make the climbing equipment and techniques as real as possible. They did a great job explaining some of the technical aspects of climbing so that the lay person could easily relate to what is happening.

The physical conditions under which this was filmed are undoubtedly the most difficult in the history of cinema. There is a documentary about the making of Touching the Void that is worth seeing as well.

10/10. Don't wait for the DVD. See this film on the big screen!

You Can Count on Me

Flows like a River
An excellent "slice of life" film. Beautifully acted, directed, and a perfect musical score for the mood of the film. Although some have noted that this film appears to have no plot, it is very engaging nonetheless. I was drawn into the characters, and I think viewers can identify with them more so than in most 110 minute films. This had Academy Award for best actress (Laura Linny) written all over it.


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