davidgoesboating

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Reviews

Out 1, noli me tangere
(1971)

The Potential of Cinema
One has to be careful whom one tells about watching 12-hour long films. It could become easy for people to assume that this is some kind of regular occurrence - in fact, even in the world of 'arthouse' cinema, such mammoth running times are extremely rare, for obvious reasons. This is one thing that Hollywood and art cinema share in common: the generally accepted running time of 90-120 minutes, with a minority of movies that dare to approach, but rarely exceed, the three-hour mark.

For this reason, a film like Out 1 (runtime: 729 minutes) is a challenge for even the most hardened cinephile, and it goes some way in explaining why it has only ever been screened on a handful of occasions and remains extremely hard to find.

Originally devised as a TV series by maverick Nouvelle Vague director Jacques Rivette, it raised little interest from the French networks, and wound up being given a brief theatrical run instead (Peter Watkins was forced to do much the same with his brilliant nuclear war pseudo- documentary The War Game, although that had more to do with state censorship than issues with running time). Shown a couple of times in 1971, Out 1 has re-emerged at a handful of Rivette retrospectives over the last two decades, and many who have seen it, including esteemed US critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, have acclaimed it as one of the greatest films of all time.

Is it? Well, yes, if you like Rivette. That alone is a big 'if', as Jacques Rivette has never been a commercially successful director. Only two of his films were hits (Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974) and La Belle Noiseuse (1991), both superb), and many remain difficult to find on DVD today (Out 1 only recently became available over the internet after a rare videotape was uploaded). Nevertheless, he is greatly respected within the film community, and with good reason - his playfully surreal narratives, sense of pacing and use of improvisation set him apart as one of cinema's most unique and satisfying film-makers.

Out 1 deals with a theme that re-occurs throughout Rivette's work: the nature of acting, particularly in the context of theatre and improvisation. His fascination with acting make Rivette's films a far more collaborative process than many of his contemporaries, as the improvisational aspects allow actors to have a far more active role in determining how the film comes together. Out 1 is roughly divided into four major narratives, gradually intertwining and blurring as the film develops: two consisting of acting troupes, each trying to devise post-modern theatrical adaptations of Aeschylus plays; the other two individual petty thieves (played by Nouvelle Vague icons Jean-Pierre Léaud and Juliet Berto) pursuing eccentric methods of making money; and an overarching plot involving a mysterious Balzac-inspired conspiracy centred around an organisation known as 'the thirteen'.

As with any Rivette film featuring a 'conspiracy' narrative, the mysteries and secret organisations are little more than a red herring. As the characters are slowly explored and revealed and their plans and interpersonal connections break down, the film becomes increasingly symbolic of post-1968 ennui and the decline of the ideals of that era. For a film made in 1971, these were remarkably prescient themes; another French director in Jean Eustache would tackle this topic equally satisfyingly in his 1973 masterpiece The Mother and the Whore. But this is not the limit of Out 1's scope.

Comprised of eight episodes of roughly 90 minutes each (the beginning of each episode has a brief, abstract black-and-white still montage of the events of the previous chapter), Out 1 is no less watchable than any quality TV series, and may even be better experienced on a one-episode- at-a-time basis. This is not to say that it doesn't remain challenging even when viewed in segments. Like most Rivette films, it uses the first few hours to simply establish the characters before embarking on the plot, of sorts, and some of those early scenes (particularly the sequences depicting the actors' heavily abstracted 'exercises') seem interminably long. These scenes are important, however, not just as an exploration of the improvisational acting methods that play both a literal and a metaphorical role in the film, but as a method of adjusting the viewer to the somewhat languorous pace of the film. Paradoxically, long takes make long films far more tolerable for an audience, and this understanding of pacing has led Rivette, along with more modern directors like Michael Haneke and Béla Tarr, to create films with less commercial running-times that nevertheless retain the capacity to leave viewers enthralled.

In a film that is in many ways about acting, the acting is fantastic. Many famous Nouvelle Vague faces appear, including the aforementioned Léaud and Berto, the outstanding Michel Lonsdale and Rivette regular Bulle Ogier. Even another legendary director in Eric Rohmer has a great cameo as a Balzac professor who appears in a pivotal scene. The people and architecture of Paris c. 1971, though, seem to have an equally significant role - the city landscapes, crowd scenes and interested onlookers freeze Out 1 in time, a document of a place at a point in history.

After a little more than 720 minutes, the film ends on an impossibly brief, enigmatic note; yet, the exhausting journey that the viewer has taken is so full of possibilities, intricacy and spontaneity, that one would be forgiven for wanting to start all over again from the beginning, or see the next twelve hours in the lives of these characters. For those who have watched many kinds of cinema and think they have seen everything the art form has to offer, Out 1 is a reminder that cinema has the potential to be so many more things and diverge in so many more directions than current conventions allow. For film-makers, film critics and artists of all disciplines, this is something to be cherished.

Australia
(2008)

If you want cliché and contrived melodrama, this is the movie for you.
Really really average movie, I'm not sure if it was supposed to be a parody... if it was, it was too well-disguised. Not one character in the film was anything other than a caricature, the worst being the sneering bad guy with the moustache. Come on, really? In the film's favour, it does have exciting and even exhilarating moments, at least in the film's first half (at which point it could have quite comfortably ended, actually). If the film had ended halfway through, I might have been able to overlook its more clichéd tendencies. However, the longer it ran, the more the movie was exposed as little more than a hackneyed mess.

The stolen generation thing was a real problem as well. This is the film's primary message - the injustice of the stolen generation and the impact it had on the children. Yet how can this concept be treated justly in a near-parodic film where every single character is a cardboard cut-out, and every event seems contrived and unrealistic? Where the villains are racists brimming with hatred and ignorance, and the heroes are thinkers ahead of their time dealing with concepts that are way deeper than this movie could ever reach?

The Dark Knight
(2008)

A disappointment - but what did I expect?
Let me preface this by saying that I did not enter the cinema wanting or expecting to dislike this film. I had heard nothing but praise for it as a film, and despite my usual preference for less mainstream fare, I decided to take a chance in the hope that it might indeed be a great work of cinema.

Furthermore, I should add that this may well be one of the best superhero movies ever made, and indeed, may even be one of the best action films ever made.

So perhaps it is unfair for me to criticise this movie too heavily, inextricably bound by its genre as it is. That is to say, perhaps it would be unfair, if it were not so seemingly unanimously lauded by critics and fans alike. Of course, we all know that the Internet Movie Database top 250 is not necessarily a great reflection of quality, but even so, you would think that the film that now heads this list should at least be in the ballpark of the greatest movies of all time.

In my humble opinion, it is far from it. Indeed, even for what it was, and what it was trying to be, I don't believe it was entirely successful. Sure, 146,000-odd IMDb users might disagree with me, but you've got to factor in the massive hype surrounding this film when viewing the critical reaction. It is worth asking, how will this film be viewed in 12 months? 20 years, even?

Either way, let me address what, in my opinion, are the major flaws of the movie.

It might seem unfair to criticise it for the genre to which it belongs, but I believe that the cinematic art has far, far more potential than the action movie genre allows it. For example, however well "Road Trip" compares to other films of its kind, it is still justly recognised as a poor film. Returning to this movie, I don't think you would find much argument in defining the action genre as depending upon explosions, cheap suspense, cheesy dialogue and formulaic/contrived plot lines. Can one fault such a successful and popular mix? I believe so, because popularity does not necessarily amount to artistic merit, and film is, after all, an art form.

One of the cornerstones of a great film is acting. Heath Ledger's admittedly excellent performance aside, the acting in this film is not that great. Maggie Gyllenhaal is wasted in a poorly written role that does not allow her much to do, while Aaron Eckhart is never convincing, and even approaches hamminess once the big plot twist has been revealed (Which, while a good idea in concept, is made to look silly due to poor dialogue). Christian Bale, in the title role, is utterly uninspiring, Michael Caine (himself a great actor) is given a clichéd and predictable role, and Morgan Freeman's character seems to be there for little reason whatsoever.

The plot, meanwhile, often appears contrived. There were several confusing moments ("Why is he here now? When did that happen?"). Sure, further viewings might serve to explain these apparent shortcomings, but my first impression was that of an average script. As for the ending, I'm torn between commending it for its idea, and condemning it for its silliness and blatant preparation for another sequel.

Of course, the film is not completely flawed. As stated above, Heath Ledger is an unusually convincing movie villain, and I commend the film for avoiding gratuitous violence. The dialogue and acting, while at times poor, are probably at a far higher standard than most movies of this kind, and the story itself has some interesting concepts, and unfolds nicely at times.

Therefore, in the realm of action films, it deserves praise. Even in the realm of Hollywood film, perhaps, it deserves praise. However, as a representative of the cinematic art form, it does not - and that, in the end, is a true measure of a film's overall quality.

Annabelle partagée
(1991)

Undiscovered gem
When I found this film on an old VHS at the university film library, I didn't know what to expect. I had never heard of the director, never heard of any of the actors, indeed, never heard of the film.

It's hard to find words to describe it. The only comparison I can think of is, perhaps, a song by The Cure - an emotionally touching, beautiful tale of love, that is filled with a sense of melancholy and moodiness, and yet never falls into melodrama or self-pity.

Some might find the sex a little explicit. But then again, this is a film about relationships, relationships that consist of little more than sex... it only seems natural that the intimacy should be given its fair share of screen time. Still, the sex never threatens to overwhelm the rest of the film - this is no 'soft-porn' dressed up as art, by any means.

Anybody who has ever felt isolated or lonely should get something out of this film. Delphine Zingg's beauty is matched by the gentle, sometimes removed, camera-work; the dialogue, while at times dense and philosophical, nevertheless has its own beauty.

From what I'm aware, this film hasn't even been released on DVD. Francesca Comencini doesn't seem to have directed anything else of note, and Zingg has only acted in a handful of movies. I would strongly recommend getting your hands on this film, somehow... so you too can join me in wondering why Annabelle Partagee is still such an unknown masterpiece.

Daddy Nostalgie
(1990)

A melancholy kind of beauty
Daddy Nostalgie looked promising right from the outset. A film by Bertrand Tavernier (director of the gentle, beautiful 'Sunday in the Country') starring Jane Birkin (so superb in La Belle Noiseuse) and Dirk Bogarde (who stole the show from Gielgud and Burstyn in Providence... no mean feat at all) - it was hard to imagine this being anything other than a quality film.

And yet, even I was surprised by how good it was. So few films allow you to truly empathise with the characters, but this movie is an exception. You really feel for Birkin's character, as you see the hurt she still feels from being ignored as a child. The best scenes are those between her and her father - he, trying to make the most of his last days, and she, trying to make the most of her last days with him. Even the crabby mother is given a degree of character development as the film moves on, but in the end she takes a back seat to the performance of the two superb lead actors.

A sensitive, mature film with truly beautiful cinematography, this is one that will surely be appreciated by anyone who has had to deal with family relationships at any stage in their life.

Coeurs
(2006)

Brilliant direction smooths out the flaws
I only discovered Resnais very recently, when I saw the masterpiece Providence. Since then, I've been keeping an eye out for his films, so when this turned out to be showing as part of the French Film Festival, I knew I had to see it.

How would I rate it? At first, I wasn't so sure. Although it had its hilarious moments right from the start, I was starting to wonder if this was a film worth watching more than once. Indeed, if it had been directed by anybody but Resnais, it may not have been.

It was in the second half, though, that the film really hit its stride. The meeting between Dan and Gaelle (who up to that point were fairly uninteresting characters) was superb, and was quite realistic and engaging. This made the conclusion so much more heart-wrenching, even though the consequences did seem a little clichéd. Also, I immediately warmed to Andre Dussollier, who is able to say so much with his facial expressions.

Possibly the drawbacks were the characters of Nicole and Charlotte. It was hard to really sympathize with the former, and I thought the latter was a little odd - it seemed like she was overacting for humorous effect, which was fine, but when it came to her making a serious point, you weren't sure how to take it exactly. The whole porn thing was a little wacky as well and, apart from creating some laughs, seemed a little contrived.

Those issues, however, did not seriously detract from the film. The dialogue was excellent, and the highlight (with the exception of the afore-mentioned meeting) was the ending. It seemed like Resnais had been waiting to get to the end of the film just so he could pull off some artiness, but there is no doubt that it worked. The scene with the snow falling in the house (partly reminiscent of Tarkovsky's Solaris) was great, as were the final moments showing every character in familiar yet distorted places, to show their loneliness and/or unhappiness. The basic final sequence has been done many times before, but the way Resnais directed it put it in a class above the rest. As anyone would tell you, endings can be crucial to a film, and this film's ending was superb.

One final comment - this was a case where I thought the English title was a lot better than the French one. 'Couers' (which I believe, from my limited knowledge of French, means 'hearts') is a little dull compared to the English title of 'Private Fears in Public Places' which, while perhaps not perfectly relevant to the film, is still an excellent title all the same.

L'étoile de mer
(1928)

Beauty indeed
I saw this (and several other films by Man Ray) as part of a DVD collection of avant garde shorts.

This one, however, stood out above all the rest. This director clearly had an ability to capture the surreal and dreamlike that David Lynch or Jan Svankmajer would envy. I was simply in awe throughout the 16 minutes this was on screen.

One great aspect, though, about this short film, was the music. Now, the music may not have been part of Ray's original intentions, but it fitted this film perfectly - haunting and hypnotic. Reminded me a lot of some of the incidental music from Tarkovsky's Stalker.

This short definitely gets a 10.

Hannibal Rising
(2007)

Possibly the Worst Film I Have Ever Seen
Ah, what a blatant excuse for hyperbole those four words usually are: "The Worst Film Ever".

Yet this film, I believe, can qualify for this title, and I will explain why.

Firstly, the acting, cinematography, music, script, indeed the whole thing was a big cliché. Yes, that is what we sort of expect from Hollywood these days, and is the reason why I avoid Hollywood films, but I can safely say there was nothing original in this movie.

Next, the execution. The acting was poor - not "Plan 9 From Outer Space" poor, but certainly cringe-worthy.

The film was, as it intended to be, incredibly disturbing (in my opinion, anyhow). Unfortunately, what the filmmakers failed to realise (and they are not the only ones guilty in the last few years) is that there has to be a point to the gratuitous violence. There was certainly no point to be found here.

The violence concerned me on another level. It seemed to, in a way, almost glamorise the cruelty. I think the perfect illustration is in one scene, after finishing off a brutal and unpleasant killing, the character of Hannibal mutters a witty, and somewhat ironic line. Is this supposed to make the audience laugh? It seemed that way, but at that moment the audience was dead quiet.

I do wonder, to be honest, what drives people to make films like this, other than purely making money. The only thing this film achieved was to provide a back-story to The Silence of the Lambs, itself a fairly average film that looks like a masterpiece compared to this. Is such a back-story, however, necessary? The above mentioned film worked fine on its own; one can therefore only conclude that the producers have attempted to wring as much cash out of that film's popularity as possible.

I freely admit that I still believe that the cinema is a valid medium for art. Movies like Hannibal Rising, however, are as artistic as a McDonald's Commercial. However, there will be many more of these types of movies made, because that is the mentality of Hollywood today. If this makes you feel depressed, don't. There's plenty of talent in the world of film-making today. Just look toward a little continent called Europe.

Solyaris
(1972)

Almost Perfect
I had the tremendous privilege of seeing Solaris on the big screen as part of the Russian Film Festival a few weeks ago. I had seen it on video, but seeing it on the big screen only emphasised how good the film was.

A common complaint about this film is that it is too slow. This is somewhat understandable - the notorious 'freeway scene' near the beginning of the film lasts a good 5 minutes, at least, and Tarkovsky has always been one for long shots.

Solaris is far from boring, however. One is filled with amazement at the immense beauty displayed through so many sequences in the film, and so many images stick with you long after - the lake at the beginning of the film, for example. Or the temporary absence of gravity on the spaceship. The painting with the hunters and the village. The blinding light as Kelvin starts to experience his fever. Or, even, simply, the beautiful Natalya Bondarchuk.

I'm somewhat interested that this film is referred to as the 'Russian answer to 2001'. While both are filled with amazing shots, this film bears little resemblance to Kubrick's masterpiece, and yet is its equal, at the very least.

It is when watching the film's final shot, one that ranks among the best in cinematic history, that it finally dawns on you completely. You have just seen a masterpiece.

Perceval le Gallois
(1978)

A unique piece by a unique director.
When one talks about the French New Wave, names like Godard and Truffaut would be the first to come to mind. And yet, I find that it is this severely underrated director, Eric Rohmer, who is probably the best of the lot. Rohmer's films are unique. I have never seen anything like them, and yet in a way they are all the same. The plots often contain similar outlines, and you pretty much know what you're going to get when you sit down to watch one of his movies. Perceval is different, to say the least. Not only has Rohmer left the settings of 20th century France to go back in time, he seems to have entered a parallel universe as well. Perceval exists in a world with painted backdrops, metal trees, fake castles and musical accompaniment to much of the dialogue. One of the things I love about Rohmer's films are that they are so unpretentious, yet remarkable. Such adjectives are definitely applicable to Perceval. It should appeal to all of those who have once had an interest in the legends of King Arthur, French cinema, for that matter cinema in general. Or, simply, just see Perceval if you want to see a brilliant and unique film.

Week End
(1967)

Mixed feelings about this one
I can't help but love the humour that this film uses. It reminded me a lot of L'Age D'Or, except more extreme. I laughed out loud several times, including the apparently notorious traffic jam and Emily Bronte sequences among others. The story line makes no sense whatsoever, but then again neither does Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and everyone loved that. The humour here was so offbeat and refreshing, I had just about decided that Godard's strength must be comedy (his other films, including Alphaville and Contempt, had done little for me).

Now for the negative, and specifically the scenes where Godard tried to incorporate a strong political message. Although the whole film is a political message to some degree, we can all laugh at the actions of the main characters because they are so ridiculous. It was the serious scenes that were not only boring, but sort of sad because of the outdated political message they were trying to convey. Sadness certainly came to mind during the African man's speech on Marxism, especially considering the state that African countries are in today, partially as a result of their systems of government. This was the film's strongest weakness.

I'll admit something... I lost my way a little after the English tourists were captured. I lost track of the main characters, and was sort of at a loss to what was going on. Thus I think I missed the whole point of the film in the end. And I hope the 'hippy' scenes were trying to be satirical because if not, that's pretty sad.

Overall, a good film, one I'd watch again, but as for Godard - major doubts here.

L'enfant
(2005)

Who is the Child?
Going to the movies isn't something I do much these days. I figure that there's so much brilliant classic cinema out there on DVD that I have to catch up on, and frankly most of the stuff at Hoyts just doesn't cut it. I might go with some of my mates now and then to see Superman Returns, Spiderman 2 or The Benchwarmers, but naturally there's not much to get out of the actual film.

This is why it's such a privilege to see a film like this on the big screen. There were no clichés. No ridiculous jumps in logic or plot contrivances. Realistic characters. No Music (the few films I've seen that don't contain music have all benefited from it - I often think, life doesn't have a soundtrack, does it?).

Some may see this differently, but I thought one of the main strengths of the film were the characters. Bruno is a weak, immature character, but also very human. Despite all his mistakes, one doesn't judge him, one simply observes, and really feels pity for him. It can be guessed perhaps that he and Sonia messed up in their teenage years a little bit, and were pretty immature, thus the fact that they are practically living on the streets. So it should be little surprise that when Sonia has a child, Bruno is far from ready to be a father, and in his immaturity wants to sell the child for the cash that he feels is so important. I think 'The Child' is Bruno. But think of it this way - how many young fathers would do the same if they were living in similar circumstances, in fact how many young men from far more privileged backgrounds simply walk out on mother and baby? I think Bruno loves his girlfriend and wants the best for her, but is just too immature to realise how much the baby means to her, and should mean to him.

Money, or lack of, runs throughout the film as a central theme: It is for lack of money that Bruno steals, and ends up in jail, that he sells the baby, that the pair have to sleep in homeless shelters (because he sublets her apartment). I think this is used to show just how fragile their lives are.

I would certainly recommend this film to anybody who wants something different from the usual Hollywood trash. If that is all you have been raised on, this film will provide an eye-opening experience -- that yes, films don't have to follow the set Hollywood formula, that scenes can be emotional without strings playing in the background, horrifying without violence (such as in the water sequence, where one could really feel the panic that the two characters felt), that characters can express their feelings the way you or I would.

Seriously, go and see it. If you, like me, thought Cannes lost a lot of credibility when they handed out the 2004 palm d'or, it's pretty much restored with this.

Ten Canoes
(2006)

More people need to see this....
I would highly recommend this film for those who are interested in Australian aboriginal culture, but also for just about anybody who wants to see a different movie. As the narrator, the great David Gulpilil, says, it's a different story, but still a good one. I didn't expect that the movie was going to be funny, but it had more than its fair share of light hearted moments, including really the entire storyline, which in hindsight is quite funny. A word of warning however: there are several scenes that are somewhat, well, earthy: Let's just say I can't really recall ever having seen human feces in a film before. But you will be glad to know that the emotional scarring is not as severe as first thought ;)

If anything, what this film reinforces is what we should have already known : that basically we are all practically the same, regardless of skin colour, culture or religion. You know I can't really believe that there haven't been any other films about Aborigines before Europeans settled here. Because this film was bloody fantastic.

The Last Temptation of Christ
(1988)

Not your average Jesus film
This film begins with a disclaimer that it is fictional and not based on the gospels. This is just as well, as it slightly prepares the viewer for one of the most bizarre movies about Christ ever made. In contrast to the strong, silent character that Jesus is usually portrayed as (eg Ben Hur, King of Kings, Passion of the Christ), this incarnation is weak, emotional, and for much of the time seems completely off his head. Some familiar names such as Judas Iscariot, Mary Magdalene and John the Baptist have roles, but they are all also entirely different characters to the ones that people would be used to. Judas, for example, is a much stronger character than Jesus himself, and only betrays Jesus because he begs him to do so. It takes a while for the viewer to get their head around the role reversals and warped storyline, but everything (sort of) happens as it should, right up until the scene where Jesus is hanging on the cross. To state it simply, at this point things start to get very weird.

The Last Temptation of Christ is incredibly unique, but is not for everybody. The film sometimes deviates quite sharply from the traditional view of the life and personality of Jesus, and there is a fair amount of sex and nudity, so people who have serious religious beliefs will probably feel uncomfortable watching. All the same, I would recommend this movie as a must see for any avid film watchers, quite simply for the reason that there has never been a film like it, and never will be another.

Nineteen Eighty-Four
(1984)

amazing adaptation of a classic book
In my opinion, 1984 by George Orwell is still the best novel I've ever read. So when I borrowed this film on video (it still hasn't been released on DVD in Australia shamefully), I didn't know what to expect, as I thought it was going to be almost impossible to put Orwell's masterpiece on screen without messing anything up. However, this is a exactly what the director achieved: he made a film which is not only a perfect film version of the book, but also a classic in its own right. John Hurt is perfect as Winston, while Suzanna Hamilton and Richard Burton (in his last ever film) are great too. It is hard to find fault with the film, so it seems strange that it only has an average rating of 6.9 on this website (and generally only gets 3/5 in film books; Fahrenheit 9/11 gets 4/5... what is this world coming too?). This is probably because of the darkness of the film, and some of the more agonizing torture scenes towards the end of the film. However, I thought the rawness of the film, the slightly faded look, and the amazing music score all contributed excellently to the film. Admittedly it is not exactly light watching, and some viewers might find it a bit oppressive, but in my opinion this was all in keeping with the classic book that it was based on.... in fact I would recommend any directors who wish to make an adaptation of a famous novel, to look at this film and see how its done.

American Pie
(1999)

No classic, but surprisingly good.
OK first things first. When I watched American Pie for the first time I didn't expect much at all... from what I'd heard it was a pretty dumb "gross-out" comedy that was every 15 year-old boy's favourite film but was highly over-rated. I was right in some ways.... some of the humour is a bit silly and predictable, and there is no doubt it was over-rated - this film is no classic. However, I found it surprisingly enjoyable. Most of the humour was actually really funny, and I found myself laughing a fair bit while watching the film (that hasn't happened since Team America ;) ). The film does get a bit sappy towards the end when it tries to push a few predictable messages about love, but it still carries through to the end well on the strength of the characters. Jim is lovable and sad at the same time, his Dad draws laughs every time he appears on screen, Stifler, Finch, Sherman and of course Michelle are great characters as well. However I found Oz and Kevin, and their respective girlfriends, rather annoying. American Pie is by no means a great movie, but I feel that it did well for what it was trying to achieve. I recommend that you give it a try some time, no matter what you've heard, its actually a decent film.

Titanic
(1997)

Alright film, but over-rated
This may contain spoilers...... OK just a little bit of background to this review. Firstly, yes I was one of that 0.01% who did not see this movie at the cinemas when it came out. Secondly, when I did see it for the first time on TV last year, I missed the first 45 minutes. However, I saw enough of this movie to see how ridiculously over-rated it was. Firstly, the positives, and there weren't a whole lot. Number one: yes, the special effects were as good as they were supposed to be. The design of the Titanic was amazing. Also the bit at the end where the ship sinks was incredible. Number two: Kate Winslet has a nice body, and you do get to see a lot more of it than I thought you would...... although one could be a bit cynical about that scene, that they only put it in to get more people to watch it. That's about it for the positives. Now for the negatives: Leonardo Di Caprio can't really act. OK, I thought he did well in Romeo and Juliet (which is one of my favorite movies) but his acting and dialog are just really wooden in Titanic. The characters as a whole are just one-dimensional. One of the most laughable points was though how many life-or-death situations there are for Leo and Kate in the last hour (yes, the movie takes forever to finish). First Leonardo gets locked down below deck as the water level slowly rises (ooh will he survive????) and of course gets rescued by Kate Winslet after about 15 minutes. Then Kate's evil fiancée (yes not much room for development in that character) starts shooting at them so they have to run back 5 levels deep before deciding to go back on top. Here they face a literal "class barrier" (big metaphor there of course) a big iron gate, which, with help from the other battling workers, Leonardo bravely breaks down. Forgive my sarcasm, but it was hard not to roll my eyes throughout this whole sequence. Then after narrowly surviving half a dozen near-death experiences, Leonardo dies in the lamest way possible. Instead of attempting to find another piece of debris to float on in the water, he rather unnecessarily lets winslet have the whole piece of wood to float on, and lets himself freeze to death. But perhaps the worst part of all was the sequences where we go back to the old 101-year old version of Kate Winslet telling the story, with a bunch of young scientists passing social commentary on it. I've always hated this idea, because it gives away the ending of the film. The viewer knows that she will survive, and Leonardo won't. Which sort of takes away from any of the suspense. Anyhow, I would recommend this movie to anyone (not that you haven't seen it already) but go in with a low expectation and you might find it a decent film. Certainly don't watch it, though, expecting to see a film that deserved 11 Oscars, cos you will be disappointed.

Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey
(1991)

Hilarious dumb comedy
Before reading this, it may be important to realise that I haven't yet seen Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. But after watching Bogus Journey, it's high on my 'to watch'list. The movie has a wacky but simple plot line. Two guys get killed by evil robots of themselves, go to heaven, hell, in between, and return to Earth with the grim reaper to destroy the robots. Bill and Ted are basically lovable idiots who walk around saying 'dude' all the time and play air guitar riffs every time something good happens. Although it begins to wear off after a while it is hilarious the first few times. The film also delivers some classic one-liners: "I can't believe we just melvined DEATH!" and when they arrive in hell: "We got totally lied to by our album covers". The whole hell sequence is insane but the movie begins to get a little lame when Bill and Ted get back to Earth. The rest of the film survives mainly on fleeting moments of idiocy (such as the "time game" at the end), and the rather sappy "serious line" at the end: "The best time is now. And the best place... is here" just doesn't fit with the feel of the rest of the movie. The Grim Reaper gag (which involves him unwillingly following Bill and Ted around) is great, but by the end it has lost its humour somewhat (eg the reaper rap, which would have been funny earlier in the film, but seems a bit tired at the end). Apart from all that, I couldn't stop laughing throughout most of the film, and I'm looking forward to seeing Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure as soon as possible.

The Game
(1997)

genuinely fantastic film with major flaw
Movie viewers usually enjoy it when a twist is thrown in at the end of the film. Perhaps Alfred Hitchcock deserves some credit for inventing the idea, and some might say it is the secret behind M. Night Shyamalan's success with movies such as the Sixth Sense. However, a twist at the end isn't necessarily always good. Sometimes it is little more than ridiculous. This is the case in The Game. The Game has all the hallmarks of a great movie. Suspense, action, dialogue, and great intensity as Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) tries to figure out what the hell is happening to him. Things get worse and worse for Van Orton (all the money is sucked out of his account and he is left for dead, and penniless in Mexico) and on his return to America he sets out to find who was behind the plot. It turns out that it was all a big hoax set up by Van Orton's brother to get him to enjoy life more. It is a clever idea, but one has to wonder if the ending was tacked on because the movie was getting too dark. The revelation at the end that everybody was acting, and the bullets shot at Van Orton in a few scenes were blanks (one has to wonder whether the script writers realised there was a major problem in that you actually see the bullets shattering glass, making holes in walls etc.) feels something like hearing a joke that builds up for 5 minutes and ends with a silly pun. Anyhow, this is a classic film, and who knows, some people may like the ending, but in my view the final explanation is so weak that it brings the rating down from a 9.5 to a 7.

The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith
(1978)

Politically driven film with few positive elements
If you're the sort of person who enjoys being depressed, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith is the film for you. A short summary of the film is as follows. Young half aboriginal/half white boy is raised by a white Christian family. As he goes off to find a job, he discovers that every white person in the world is actually a racist. He tries to get over this fact by trying to lose his 'black soul', and become more like a white man. He is constantly cheated and laughed at by his white employers. Of course there is only one thing a decent person can possibly do when faced with this. He goes and chops up a couple of women and young girls with an axe. Sound fun so far? Well it gets better anyway, but I won't give away the whole plot in case you actually want to watch the movie. Of course one might say, but isn't the message important? Well, no. It is true that Aborigines were generally considered inferior at the time, and that there was some racism going on. But this film ruthlessly exaggerates it to prove a point, which appears to be that white society is a corrupter of black people. Leaving aside the negative storyline and the political point-scoring, however, the acting is fairly decent, and score is alright too. Apart from that, don't bother watching this.

Romeo + Juliet
(1996)

Great version of Shakespearian play
I thought this was a fantastic version of the original Shakespearian play. While, in my opinion, the lead actor Leonardo Di Caprio was good without being brilliant, the others perform magnificently. The soundtrack is possibly the best I've heard. Another credit is that it might actually get kids vaguely interested in Shakespeare (or may not), as at least I have found I can recite some parts of it word for word. Probably the only problems were the title (Romeo and Juliet would have been cool, "Romeo + Juliet" sounds really tacky) and some of the slightly strange editing at times. The whole thing of people speaking Shakespearian in a 21st century world seems a bit strange, but in my opinion it works. This film is certainly in my top 10 all time films.

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