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The Master

Waste of 137 minutes
I gave this movie a 2 because of the outstanding art direction and period detail, which is so good there are only a handful of films that have pulled it off as authentically as is done here. Even small details such as a toothpaste tube is covered.

The acting is interesting, but there is no point or interest to any of the characters. The main character, Freddie, is a pervert and a raging alcoholic, who doesn't change at all through the course of the story. He's just shy of being repulsive. I couldn't find any other characters to care much about.

There's no plot to the story, no linear development. Scenes just seem to hang in the air for a second and disappear. Nothing gets tied together.

The worst thing about this film are the absurd flashback sequences. We see Freddie, a broken down 35 year old alcoholic drifter, with no social skills, in a relationship with a prom queen, after the story has set him up as a creep who cavorts with prostitutes and other undesirables, That makes no sense, especially considering the fact that the girl's family seems to accept their relationship. I can't tell if it was supposed to be a deranged fantasy.

The Grey

Absurd, waste of time
Most of the people heading to see this would be men looking for a survival flick. It's not, it's an implausible and absurd waste of time. The story is so artificial it makes the June 1969 issue of the Invincible Iron Man (#32 Where Walks the Weirwolf) look like a Pentagon budget report. Some of the more credibility defying stunts include: Liam Neeson in a 300 mph plane crash into the ice and emerging from the wreckage with a slight scratch on his left hand, Neeson (wilderness expert) convincing his fellow survivors that the best place to avoid ravenous wild wolves is in a dark forest, jumping off 150 ft sheer cliffs, jumping into icy rivers, fighting said wolves with miniature airline liquor bottles. Watch instead the same plot done better in "The Purple Plain" (1954)

The Wolfman

Bring back Roger Corman
Today you might be better off attending a bonfire of $20 bills than going to the movies. That's what it's come down to. How much money do they throw at this garbage? One hundred million? More? Same old thing. No writers in sight. We got art directors, lighting experts, cinematographers, even...hmmmm...maybe...actors...but we ain't got no writers! This is the Wolfman for the crowd who is buzzing on Red Bull and Mountain Dew. The scares are supposedly produced by loud noises and sudden movements. There is an attempt at atmosphere, yes, but the special effects typically overwhelm it. Needless characters are introduced, and their main purpose seems to be to shoot more guns.A little sadism and torture is thrown in. Gotta get those teenagers gasping.

Anyway, the special effects of man/wolf transformation is kind of blah. We saw it all before thirty years ago. Naturally, if you pay your ten bucks, you get to see explosions. In a wolfman movie? Yeah. That's modern screen writing for you.

District 9

Typically absurd
This film can be used as a primer on how to produce typically bad contemporary movies.

First, take a script from an old TV show (in this case, episodes from The Outer Limits) and fancy it up a little to fill out 2 hours. Next, add a few million dollars of state of the art special effects. Film much of the story using a hand-held camera, and be sure to bounce and jerk it around so everything gets really confusing. Lastly, produce an interesting trailer that misleads audiences into thinking this might be a half way intelligent film.

This is a typically absurd modern movie, just as bad as all the rest that have been produced for the short attention set. Any attempt at a meaningful story degenerates into explosions, robots, and machine gun fire. An absolute waste of time.

The Road

Just in time for the holidays!
Yes...here is a holiday movie to cheer you up, or else get you in the spirit of the season! This movie is about starving people trudging across a desolate landscape trying to avoid cannibals...that could be a nice set up for some action, but believe me, it's not. The film involves very little action. For the most part it's grim, dark, dreary, and depressing. It trudges along at the same pace as the starving, freezing, desperate characters, which is, as you might expect, not too fast.

Okay...so it's grim dark, dreary and depressing, you say...could be fascinating just the same! No, it's not...there's no explanation as to why the landscape is so desolate. I guess one night everything just died. Or caught on fire. Or something. Nobody can explain. But apparently there's only a couple thousand people in the country that have survived. They seem to have eaten all the food in a matter of months. Anyway, I can't say it enough...it's grim, dark, dreary and depressing. And boring. And slow.

Inglourious Basterds

Don't Bother With It
There are war movies, and there are war movies. Some people call "Casablanca" a war movie. I don't. War movies are supposed to depict actual fighting...you know, shooting and combat. I always feel especially cheated when they promote a film as a 'war' movie, and it involves little or no artillery fire. This film portrays a few minutes of horrendous bloodletting, but no actual on screen 'combat'.

It's the same old stuff you've seen from Tarantino. Threats, hostile situations, characters being backed into a corner, more threats, murders and mutilation. It features the usual round about dialogue, except here it goes on and on and on.

Some of the actors are entertaining. One guy gives the worst performance as Hitler I've ever seen. Brad Pitt acts like a clown.

So this isn't really a 'war' film. I thought it might be an updated version of the "Dirty Dozen" but it doesn't resemble that one at all. Just a collection of drawn out confrontations that leave you really cold. Don't bother.

The Hurt Locker

Why You Should See This
A few years ago, I decided I would never watch a movie about the war in Iraq. I am still not sure why, maybe because the few that were made had a definite political viewpoint...and everybody knows from which side that point of view comes. Post Vietnam war films, with the exception of World War II movies, had to be filmed through either a cynical filter or with the simplistic energy of the revisionist. So the filmmakers all jump on eagerly at the Stone/Platoon template ...you know, the one that portrays most American soldiers as loud psychotics eager to commit an atrocity at the first opportunity.

I decided to see "The Hurt Locker" based on a couple of reviews I read. I decided not to look at a trailer but to see it cold. In this era of 150 million dollar budgets, special effects driven stories and standardized scripts, watching this movie was like taking a step back in time, maybe to the '60s. The low budget filmmakers then, like the producers of the Hurt Locker, had balls...no patterns here, no obvious viewpoint...this is as good as the greatest war films of the past, no matter what the budget.

There is some criticism on this site about the technical inaccuracies. I salute their observations. But the small or even obvious mistakes don't distract from this masterpiece. It's hot, dangerous, stress filled, glaring and believable. I've never seen Jeremy Renner before, but his performance is the highlight of a years' movie-going experience. I also liked seeing Guy Pearce and especially David Morse in small but hard-hitting roles.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes

Why The Critics Are Wrong
My dog just died at the vet's, I was 10, so my mother, fearing for my emotional well being, stopped at the movie house to show me this flick.

Yeah, I can understand all the criticism directed at this movie, I can understand how it doesn't match up to the original concept, I can understand how they could have gone with another storyline and it might have worked better. But 'Beneath The Planet Of The Apes' was a product of its time, the studios rarely made sequels in the '60s, writers and producers were always looking for new ideas, and there were more talented and creative people in the film industry. They wanted something different, and they made it. So you gotta take it or leave it on that.

Now, back to my mother and me when I was ten. Thank God I wasn't watching some Disney movie, starring Kurt Russell and an invisible chimp, that would have depressed me more. Instead I got James Franciscus, crashing his spaceship in a nuclear wasteland, imprisoned by apes, forced to beat the crap out of a gorilla, making his way through destroyed subway tunnels, touring the subterranean ruins of New York, defying murderous mutilated mutants, killing people with spiked iron bars, punching Charlton Heston,and finally attacking a gorilla army single handed with a cool looking machine gun as the mutants are about to set off their "Doomsday Bomb". Hey-you cant get into that, you ain't even an American! They don't make them like this any more. The era of creative film-making is long over. Nowadays Bruce Willis will make the same movie ten times in a row. For all its faults, Beneath The Planet Of The Apes offered us something different, and in a very short running time too. It was meant to entertain, maybe throw in a little blatant social commentary, sell a few candy bars, and then fade away. But notice it hasn't faded away. People still watch this movie, and still like it, years after Die Hard disappears into a film vault. It has the mark of effort on it, and it's never boring.

The other reviews on here are all good, and their points are well taken. This is a sequel from an era without sequels, but it can stand on its own. I saw this never having seen the first movie. It was cool to a ten year old then, and fifty years from now, it will be cool to ten year olds of all ages.

The Assassination of Richard Nixon

Not Only Is It Depressing...
Not only is this movie depressing, dull, dreary and dragging, it has a nasty little pretentiousness to it. Yes, it's a couple hours of boring nastiness, almost a feat in itself. If it wasn't so painful to watch, I'd nominate it as a landmark in the history of bad cinema.

Sean Penn, noted Venezuela tourist and depressing film veteran, gives an irritating performance as a nasty little loser. The main character, a wretched, failed tire salesman, does absolutely nothing in this story that has the slightest bit of interest to the average film viewer. The story goes on and on, documenting not only his failings but his inability to cope with them. Basically, it's two hours of a jerk feeling sorry for himself.

This is based on a true story which did not deserve to have any money at all invested in making a feature about it. It's a bad story, for one, with nothing, absolutely nothing, to recommend the time needed to watch it. The disconnect between the Hollywood 'intellectuals' and the film going public continues. It's not gonna get any better.

Enemy at the Gates

Add A Script To The Budget
Millions of dollars spent on sets, great actors, technical advisers, authentic weapons, equipment, etc....and it all went for nothing, for want of a decent script.

Stalingrad was one of the most dramatic battles in history, and it's worthy of more than one movie, and certainly deserves a saga better than this. It all seems like a tremendous waste of an opportunity. The setting is just too big for the story.

The cat and mouse game between snipers could have been pulled off with drama and suspense, but the scenes are clumsily handled. There is no buildup in tension. The German sniper is shown to be more skilled than the Russian hero, who seems to get by mainly on luck...there is no even matching of skill. The sniping scenes are short and ineffective, except for one in which the German holds the Russian at bay, which turns out to be the only exciting scene in the film, but only leaves you unsatisfied and looking for more.

I began to think it would have been much better not to have even shown the 'enemy' German...maybe just short glimpses of his hand or his eye, and make him out to be like a supernatural figure. Ed Harris has got the perfect look and acting ability, but he hasn't got much to work with here.

A major flaw in this film is the weird point of view. We are supposed to identify with the Russians, and yet, from the way they are portrayed, they are as bad or worse than the Germans. We never understand exactly what they are fighting for, or what would motivate them to defy the German invaders and not turn against Stalin themselves. From the comments of my Russian comrades on here, it appears this film is full of clichés.

This is another film in which scenes of combat just don't hold up. Brightly lit trains full of German troops with wide glass windows pull into a war zone. Germans and Russians shoot their own men for no discernible reason. Everything is portrayed as a big wild melee with no tactics.

Yes, the photography, sets, acting, are good, but the dialogue and overall clumsiness of the story add up to a very distressing and unsatisfying tale.

Pork Chop Hill

Fragile Victory
As much as I despised the television show M*A*S*H, with its fraudulent substitution of Vietnam War era attitudes and Korean War settings, that's nothing compared to the disappointment I have in the average American's total disregard of history. Movies like Pork Chop Hill, while not a masterpiece, sometimes emerge from obscurity as a singular reminder of forgotten sacrifice.

By the '70s, the media was confusing the Korean and Vietnam War,to the point where the average American saw the two conflicts as part of one big imperialist US government scam, designed to beat down the poor and oppressed and mislead generations of American citizens for reasons of pure rascality. In reality, Korea was a United Nations effort that should have had the support of even the most fanatical leftist.

In "Pork Chop Hill" Gregory Peck's character talks of the sacrifice American soldiers made. "Because of what they did, millions live in freedom today," he says. This is as true now as it was in the '50s. Just watch the news reports comparing the horrors of North Korea to the booming South Korean economy. It is all thanks to the American GI.

The action in this movie was as good as it got in 1959. The battle action was the best yet seen, though not on the same graphic level that we can expect today. However, the cast is much more interesting, mainly because we don't have the outstanding character actors now that we had then. Woody Strode, Harry Dean Stanton... They are all here, and they can't be beat.

This is a fast moving film that can be enjoyed on more than one level. The best line is the one spoken by Peck's lieutenant: "Victory is a fragile thing." In war, as in life, no statement ever rang more true. I believe this film should be seen as a tribute to the sacrifice of the 36,000 Americans who died in combat in Korea.

Between Heaven and Hell

Another Out Of Nowhere
Another reviewer said it best when he called this film 'unpretentious'. Today, of course, most films are pretentious and overblown. Maybe it's because we now live in a pretentious and overblown country, one where people would never listen to the message of a movie like this.

This is one of those rare occurrences where a movie is so well done it seems to exist outside its era. This film was made in 1956, which is amazing, considering the outstanding photography and the striking characterizations. Nobody talks or acts like '50s characters. Things seem a little more dangerous, more savage, so that it would seem you were watching a film from the '80s instead. Of course, in the '80s they didn't make movies like this, they made pretentious ones. But they should have.

The big war films of the '50s were usually full of stock characters and unlikely situations, crammed with out of place stock footage. An example of that kind of mediocre war movie is 'To Hell And Back'. This movie is everything that 'To Hell And Back' was not. 'Between Heaven And Hell' has more interesting and unique characters, more authentic weaponry, and the photography is of a much higher standard.

The reasons why some rather dull movies become well known, while others, like this, remain obscure, has always been a mystery to me.

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

Spend Some Time With Bob
Errol Morris is the guy who made the greatest ads ever seen on TV, the famous Miller High Life commercials. I loved the camera movements and the faces. For this documentary film, Morris has achieved an incredible feat of film making: The camera moves without moving, the action unfolds off screen and still reaches new heights of tension and foreboding, and the special effects, what little they are, do what special effects generally are not meant to do, encourage deeper thought.

McNamara himself is both frightening and familiar. He is not a leader, he could never inspire people. Inspiration was left to men like Kennedy, with their eloquence and spirit. McNamara is no idealist, no fanatic, no genius. That was not his job, and he is above all a man who knows what his job was and is. McNamara is an artist of common sense, a man who can apply extreme sense, statistics and logic to solve a problem. In his case, the problem was foreign policy, or the application of incredible force to direct foreign policy.

In some ways, McNamara's cold logic is frightening, but he understands why it is frightening, and why others might view him as an extension of the evil that comes out of the force he applied. But, as man with common sense, he knows that. He is more of a philosopher than the German officers who claim they were only following orders, but he admits he was part of a mechanism that made so called evil decisions. Was there a limit to how far McNamara would go? The film kind of leaves that question up to the viewer.

McNamara's common sense and communication skills qualify him for a great interview. He does not play to the camera, backtrack his words, cover up, or simplify. He tells everything like it was. I'm not sure if I like him, but I wouldn't mind spending a couple hours firing questions at him. He'd probably get annoyed and storm away though.

The film contains unexpectedly good music and great film clips. The special effects, particularly the one showing numbers and statistics falling as bombs on a helpless city, are fascinating. The best scenes are in slow motion, as McNamara walks through a crowd, an old man moving past people who have no idea he was once the most powerful man on the planet.

Figures in a Landscape

Who Are They And Why
Here is another film that has just dropped mysteriously out of sight. Why some movies never make reappearances in these days of DVDs and the internet is just as strange as the whole story that takes place here.

Two guys are on the run in some South American-looking country, their hands tied behind their backs. They are chased and sometimes menaced by a black helicopter, like something out of a conspiracy nut's nightmare. A hopeless situation? Maybe, but the character played by Shaw is so tough, the score is evened up a bit.

As the film progresses, the action grows and so do the questions. Who are they? What country are they in? Why are they there? How can they ever get out? Shaw's character becomes more interesting as the story unfolds, and more enigmatic. Is he insane? A mercenary? An escaped killer? There is always a suspicion you might not find out, but you keep watching anyway.

I read the novel this is based on, it's a great story and written in my favorite style, but the ending is different. I'm waiting to see the film again, looking for a DVD soon.

Das Boot

Easily Best Sub Movie
Submarine films are usually good, even if they're bad, and this is the best, and it's not bad at all. Few films have such great art direction that you can feel the temperature actually depicted in the scene, and smell the setting as well. Here you can smell diesel fuel, fifty men and hot metal. The sound effects are fantastic, no other film has ever shown depth charges like this one, and has captured the terror of what it must have been like to ride one out.

Another example of perfect casting, the faces of the crewmen are unforgettable, so you don't get them all mixed up, which is a problem in war films depicting a lot of men in one place. This is very different from today's movies where everyone has that 24 year old bland overfed and overexercised southern California look. The guys in the sub here look pale and exhausted, stressed out and sick after weeks at sea. Still, they come across as very likable, which helps to identify with them as they face such danger from the enemy and the elements.

I saw this film in 1982, but I think it was a shorter version, it was released at a time when there was very little interest in warfare so it was rare to see something so compelling. I saw the 200 minute version recently and was amazed at the length, to me I thought I had just watched maybe a 90 minute movie. That's a sign of how intense the story is. I also preferred the German language version.

Tarzan the Magnificent

Great Effort By Scott
I'm writing this a few days after Gordon Scott's life has come to an end, so this review is a tribute to his life and career , especially his characterization as Tarzan, which many consider the best ever brought to the screen. Gordon Scott had a great screen presence as well as underrated acting abilities, and we really need more of his films released on DVD.

"Tarzan the Magnificent" is his last Tarzan film, I think, and it was released in 1960, right after "Tarzan's Greatest Adventure" which I consider the best Tarzan film ever made. This film is not as good as that one, though it comes close, therefore coming in as the second best Tarzan film ever made. In any case, Gordon Scott again does a fantastic job portraying the ape man. I think he was the only one who convinced me that physically he could take on lions and crocodiles as well as Sean Connery.

The plot of this movie is basically the same as "Greatest Adventure." Tarzan pursues and battles a gang of jungle crooks. (What the hell are backwoods moonshiners doing in Africa anyway?) Here there is a psychological angle as well as slam bang action. The location photography is great too. The ending is a little too similar to the last outing, but hard hitting just the same.

Gordon, wherever you are, thanks for the great entertainment!

Colour Me Kubrick: A True...ish Story

What's The Point
Either DVDs have created too many niche markets, or big time filmmakers have become so disengaged from public tastes that they're willing to come up with anything and shove it in our faces, thinking we will find interest in things that are just not interesting.

In recent times, Sean Penn filmed a story about a psychopath who tried to hijack a plane and crash it into Washington D.C. It was based on a true story about a nasty creep who only caused a lot of people trouble and killed some men. Did he rate a motion picture being filmed about his life? No. What was the point, except arrogance on the part of the filmmakers.

Colour Me Kubrick is the same type of story, about a nasty little loser who pretends to be someone else because A.) He wants free drinks B.) he's a nasty little loser, or C.) he wants free drinks. That's it. That's the whole story. Funny? No. Interesting? No. Sad? Only in that so much money was wasted on this project.

If you're interested in Stanley Kubrick, there is no reason to watch this film, it really has nothing to do with him. The thief who uses his name has no interest in Kubrick or even watches his movies. Generally, the whole thing is a waste of time.

Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence

Big Scam
Movie distributors are the only business people to get away with false advertising. They are always trying to grab your money by promising one thing and giving you another. They marketed this film, with posters and publicity, as a war movie. I gave them my money, and was fooled again. It's not a war film, it's not even an adventure tale, it's really just a waste of two hours of film footage mainly showing people talking to each other.

I can only remember a scene in which David Bowie, as a prisoner in a Japanese POW camp, eats some flowers. The only other thing I recall is that Bowie was not named Lawrence, that was some other character who was equally uninteresting. Usually I can generally remember the storyline of movies I've seen even years ago, but this was similar to watching icicles melt so I kind of dismissed it from my mind.

La battaglia di Algeri

Raises Too Many Questions
It must be impossible today to discuss this film without branching out into broader political observations. The Battle Of Algiers may be more relevant today than it was in 1966, though the situations we face today are different to some degree, it's uncomfortably close to what we're seeing every night on cable news. This is one of those movies that everyone has heard about, but fewer have seen.

Filmed in a neorealist semi-documentary style, which was striking in the '60s but less impressive today, the film has the feel of old news footage, and to modern audiences unused to such a look, it might be hard to distinguish. Besides the obvious visual style and lack of professional actors, American audiences would now, as they have in the past, find it difficult to respond to a film that does not offer a clear/cut black and white storyline. Though it makes somewhat of an effort to portray both sides, the filmmakers sentiments are clearly on the side of the Algerian national resistance movement. This is one area that might raise a lot of questions. Obviously the issue of Algerian independence and its struggle cannot be recounted in a 2, 3 or 10 hour movie and it would take about 1,000 interviews with players of both sides for an outsider like an American to form any type of semi valid opinion about the events.

Lately the catchword in the U.S. is "I support the troops," though the ones who say it never can give a satisfactory response as to what it means. Supporting the Paras in Algeria obviously meant supporting their temporarily successful methods, that is, torturing suspects for information. For this film to make a statement on that it could have used more graphic scenes. The use of torture and savage methods by the French Army, while proving successful in Algiers, cost them the support of the French people and led to the downfall of the government, so it was a two edged sword which Americans should pay attention to. I think the entire issue should have been recounted here in more detail.

While the subject matter is even more timely today, the film making style is not, but anyone interested in current events as well as the history of Arab nationalism and revolutionary movements would be interested in this. I especially liked the character of the colonel as played by Jean Martin, he portrayed an effective and decisive leader without resorting to any kind of cliché, and you could respect him no matter where your sentiments were, a character I wish we'd see more of.

Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo

See This If You Don't Like Westerns
When I was a kid, nobody liked westerns. Our fathers had fought in the Korean War, and the astronauts were racing in space. Cowboys seemed old, dusty, and boring. Then along came three guys to change all that. One was good, the other bad, the other ugly. Or maybe they all had those three characteristics in them. But they arrived at one hell of a showdown, and it changed things.

This is not just an action filled western, but a sweeping commentary on the American character, as witnessed by an objective outsider. His aim was true.

By the mid 60s, the western formula, and perhaps the action film itself, had become too stale and conventional to evoke any enthusiastic response. Leone gave us not just a new perspective on film violence, but for the first time a director blended the most fascinating elements of American history, both mythical and real, into a traditional western story.

The storyline, involving three untitled men propelled by avarice into uncivilized territory, could serve as a fable for the expansion of the American frontier. Against the sun-blasted background we see the elements that have shaped, in different ways, the essential American character: warfare, technology, weapons, hardened individualism. Previous western films might have explored related themes, but never with the exciting visual style shown in this one.

The characters are men we really have never seen before. They are enigmatic, inscrutable, and fascinating to look at. Leone leaves their pasts unmarked so we can eagerly fill in their backgrounds on our own. As their journey in pursuit of lucre ends, we are presented with the best showdown in the history of the western. The quest, exciting as it was, culminates in one of the best endings in movie history.

The score of course is famous in itself but welded to the fascinating visuals and characters it becomes one for the ages. Amazing it took an Italian director filming in Spain to make the essential "American" western film. You don't like westerns? I urge you to try this and see things from an outsider's point of view. His aim was true.

Per qualche dollaro in più

Western Stripped To Its Basic Elements
Many consider this film the most perfectly realized of Leone's trilogy, though I prefer the grander sweep of The Good The Bad and The Ugly. This is the best film in the series to start with, though, being slightly more polished than Fistful Of Dollars, and it's easier to follow as a template of the Leone style.

Contrary to popular critical opinion, this is definitely not a 'revisionist' western. What Leone has done has stripped the traditional western story down to its essential elements and flipped it. Basically, this is an ordinary western saga seen through a distorted (or clearer, depending on your viewpoint) lens. All westerns were generally made with the same characteristics, that is, a good guy and a bad guy. The good guy was simple: a lawman or rancher protecting something. The bad guy was usually the more interesting one. Leone made the so called 'good guy' more interesting, and more vicious than the villain. The story becomes the mirror image of the American Western, reflected from the deserts of Spain.

Eastwood, despite the dispute of others, is "The Man With No Name", and it's not only his identity that's unknown, it's his motives, his purpose, his origin. He's the focal point of the story, even though here he spends a lot of background time, letting Van Cleef and the others stand out in many striking scenes. This is Leone's genius at work. We never forget Eastwood is there, somewhere.

The two great characteristics of the trilogy are the close-ups and the music. These are better done here than in the others. Seeing this film for the first time, I was struck by the faces, which seemed to jump out of the screen from another place and time, definitely not the west of "Gunsmoke". The soundtrack, both stirring and haunting, will be celebrated a century from now. But the most amazing thing about this movie is that a film created on another continent and with a cast and crew of mostly Europeans is considered one of the greatest American Westerns.

Der Untergang

Truth Stranger Than Drama
I think that in a thousand years of Western History, there has not been a more dramatic saga than that of the rise and fall of the Third Reich. No screenwriter could come up with a harder hitting tale than the rise of a man like Hitler and his eventual demise. It seems too incredible in an era of constant entertainment that this actually took place, but what makes it even more amazing is the way the whole story ended.

The whole history really took place in an astonishingly short time period: Hitler rises up out of epic conflict, spreads his evil message to his villainous followers, people join in his evil plots for their own self interests and lust for power, they spread misery and destruction over the world with their fantastic destructive weapons, and finally they are vanquished and driven by their enemies underground where they die at their own hands, while their country is destroyed around them...No wonder fiction writers have been working on this same basic premise for more than sixty years.

This story is not fictitious. This is one of those rare movies where the real events could only have differed only slightly from what is depicted on screen. This is an amazing decision on the filmmaker's part, to unfold the events in a semi-documentary fashion, to avoid dramatic overacting, which is too easy to do in depicting these types of people, and provide an unbiased look at the events of the end of the war.

There have been a lot of movies made about Hitler's last days, but I think the reason this one stands out is that it unfolds at such a calm and steady pace. Certainly here is the best depiction of Hitler on-screen. Too human? Maybe, but that makes him all the more disturbing. Viewers might question how far each evil Nazi officer is removed from each one of us, and whether we might have the guts to take a higher path when it comes down to it.

I would have liked to have seen a few more battle scenes featuring individual combat, but the movie squeezes a lot of info and characters into its running time, and not a shot is wasted. Among war movies it's most similar to "The Longest Day", and like that film it works because it stays away from nationalist sentimentality. Very disturbing, but entertaining and fascinating all at the same time.

The Deer Hunter

Movie That Makes You Go Hmmmm
The first hour of this movie concerns a bunch of guys at a wedding reception. They spend their time drinking and not saying much, so we don't know who they are. Hmmmmm. Eventually we learn that these guys are going to 'fight for their country in Vietnam' (apparently without joining the army first.) At this point, you'll really start to go 'hmmmm....' The guys, who work in Pennsylvania, leave the wedding reception, still boxed out on beer, and travel (a 45 minute drive) to the Canadian Rockies to hunt elk. Hmmmm.

Next, they show up in Vietnam. Apparently they made a special deal with the U.S. Army to serve in the same squad. Hmmmmm.

Next, they are all in a hut in the jungle playing Russian Roulette. I think they are being forced to by sinister villains, but I'm not sure. Hmmmmm.

Two of the guys are rescued, but one guy disappears, to pursue a career as world reigning Russian roulette champion. Seven or three or five years later, DeNiro goes back to Saigon to rescue him. Apparently the roulette champion had been lucky enough to last years playing this deadly game and made a fortune. Will his luck hold out? Hmmmmmm. Anyway, The last day the Americans are in Vietnam, and refugees are killing themselves to rush the last helicopter at the embassy, DeNiro shows up on a commercial flight, casually strolling through the Saigon airport. Hmmmmm.

I think they call it suspension of disbelief. Hmmmmmm.

Dawn of the Dead

Fighting The Crowds At The Mall
When I first saw this film on its initial release, I viewed it as a very shocking horror film. More than most movies, the violent images stuck with me, and the creepiness of the plot disturbed me. Recently, I saw it again, and realized I had missed out on the real theme of the story. Maybe even the filmmakers themselves didn't realize the deep meaning...until...BLACK Friday!! That's right....Black Friday, that over-hyped, media celebrated circus of mindless American consumerism, wherein hordes of numb materialistic shoppers rush to malls, climbing over each other, even lurking in dark parking lots all night to feast on...whatever.

Dawn of the Dead is way too far ahead of its time. The story of four survivors of a mysterious plague who battle zombies for control of a shopping mall might hit a little too close to home. But it never misses. Funny, suspenseful, violent (but really lousy blood spattered effects ) its got everything you need for everyone in the family. Check out the final image and you'll know what I mean.

Highly recommended, but my only question is, what happened to the great cast? I never saw any of them again.

Tears of the Sun

Another Fine Mess
Dark, confusing, unexciting mess of jungle scenes and bland action that adds up to another typical shoot-em-up. Scenes of violence heaped on each other in technical and amoral style, leaves you cold and resigned rather than shocked and disturbed. The one outstanding thing about this movie is that it is destined to be one of the most forgettable of the decade.

There is very little background story here. We don't know who the hell the characters are, nor do we care. Generally they spend their time slogging through the jungle. They stop, shoot somebody, use their gadgets, sweat a little, shoot and slog.

Bruce Willis again gives his trademark portrayal of Bruce Willis. That is, Bruce Willis being tired, hungover, irritable, cruddy and miserable. After the twenty-seventh time it gets a little tiresome. There was a time when he first started I thought he might be interesting, maybe do a western. Alas, he's got the imagination the rest of Hollywood has.

My recommendation is that there is absolutely no reason on earth to watch this movie.

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