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Life on Mars (2006–2007)
9/10
Terrific story and cast
29 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I ran across this snow and watched it on a hunch. What a surprise! The premise, writing and cast are all terrific. This quickly became one of our favorite shows. At the surface it is a mystery about what has happened to Sam, and how he can get back to his life. But the brilliant premise make us think about the nature of reality, and how one would deal with being in that situation. (SPOILER!) As the first season unfolds it becomes clear that he is in a coma. However, what isn't clear is whether or not he is truly experiencing a time shift or just having an hallucination. Maybe both could be right! I'm sure the excellent writers will have some clever twists to the story as it wraps up in season 2.
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10/10
Triumphant and heartbreaking
27 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
***SPOILERS*** This is a beautifully crafted film about three young girls stripped from their families in 1930's Australia as part of a program to modernize aboriginal populations. Now called the "stolen generation", these children and their families were subjected to a policy that was unimaginable in its cruelty.

Note- You MUST see the making of the film documentary as part of the special features. It is an excellent examination of the film making process, and the challenges of working with amateur child actors.

But the most moving part of the documentary was the filming of the scene where the girls were taken from their families. The pain the actors were feeling was completely real, as this was their shared history, and they were completely in the moment. I was overwhelmed by it, even more so than when I watched the scene from the movie itself. The images of the actors doubled up in anguish after the filming is haunting.
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Disappointing Thriller
4 May 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers!

This movie could have been terrific. Great cast, director and setup – too bad the story falls flat.

I can suspend belief for a movie. I can take an outrageous premise and plot, but I expect the characters to behave believably within that context. Unfortunately, the story line has their characters doing things they just would not do in real life.

Spoilers!

For example, Ruby (Leelee Sobieski) has to share a room with her brother. She orders him not to peak at her as she changes, but he refuses to avert his eyes. So she goes out in the hall to change, and of course, is spied on by her guardian. Sorry, but every teenage girl knows how to commandeer a bathroom for privacy. If you wanted to set up a spying scene there are more believable ways to do that.

It would have been very easy to make this movie better. Make the characters more believable, add some twists that aren't obvious, lose the gangster subplot, and come up with an ending that isn't laughable, and it would have been a much better movie.
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The Ring (2002)
8/10
Surprisingly good
28 March 2003
The Ring surprised me. I have to admit, I didn't expect much. My son rented the movie from Netflix, and before I sent it back I thought I would check out a few minutes. I was expecting a teen slasher movie. However, I was quickly hooked by its stylish imagery and interesting characters. Some of the scenes were very David Lynch.

I like a story where the characters behave (more or less) believably in unbelievable circumstances, and I think they did a pretty good job in that regard.

The pacing of the movie is very good. I never felt the story was dragging or jumping to far ahead.

Extras were minimal on the DVD. I would have like a directors commentary, or "making of" segment. Maybe there is a second disk I didn't have???
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Robbins/Sarandon Manifesto
22 March 2003
This is a romantic look at 1930's liberalism, with a ham-handed script that pits the evil fascists against the enlightened intellectuals.

It tries to be a little of everything, and doesn't quite pull it off. It alternates from a comedy, to poignant vignettes of depression era poverty, to a musical, to farce, to political drama. I just felt Robbins couldn't make up his mind as what this film was supposed to be. I am guessing that most of it wound up on the cutting room floor, and maybe a longer film would have allowed some of these themes to develop more completely.

It has one of the largest casts I've ever seen. It seems everyone in Hollywood wanted to get in on this one.

The biggest problem I had with the film was that if you weren't one of the warmly-portrayed socialists, then you were either a simple minded right wing alarmist, or a big businessman in bed with the fascists.

One thing is clear - Robbins and Sarandon yearn for the days when being part of the far, far left was fashionable.
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Eraserhead (1977)
10/10
A bizarre and disturbing world
18 April 2002
There are several reasons I watch a movie - I want a good story, I want to have fun, or I want to go someplace that doesn't really exist. Eraserhead takes you to such a place, and what a strange, disturbing world David Lynch creates.

For me, what Eraserhead does is to create a macabre, nightmarish world more effectively than any other movie I have seen. It is a trip to hell, and when it is over you feel completely disoriented. I have shown this movie to friends, and they all were "wierded out" by the experience. And that is what Lynch, I believe, really is trying to do. He wants to suck you into his bizarre fantasy, and he succeeds quite well.

The only movie that had the same effect on me was Adrian Lyne's 1990 film, Jacob's Ladder. That movie is also an emotional roller coaster, with some of the most disturbing imagery ever put on film.

So if you decide to experience Eraserhead, don't try to analyze it too closely, just let it wash over you and take you planet Lynch.
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Memento (2000)
Brilliant & original
13 May 2001
Just when I thought everything had been done in film, Memento proves there can still be original ideas. It has a brilliant plot device, an outstanding script, and terrific acting. I loved it from beginning to end. Or is that from end to beginning?

By the way, the memory condition Leonard has is indeed very real. Over time these sad people do come to know what their plight is, and some things can be absorbed into memory. But they say it just like you woke up in a strange place, not knowing where you are, every moment of your life.
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Nothing to say
5 March 2001
Stranger Than Paradise is a nicely crafted movie. There are many things to admire, and clearly Jarmusch is a talented film maker. However, I found the bare narrative style kept me from finding out anything interesting about the characters. Over and over I thought someone was going to say something only to have it sputter into a pregnant silence.

Don't get me wrong. I think a moment of silence can be extremely effective as in David Lynch's brilliant Eraserhead. And Jarmusch uses them just as effectively here. But I found myself wanting to find out more about these quirky losers.

And maybe that was the point. There was nothing going on with these people.
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One to study
2 April 1999
If you love film, spend some time getting to know this movie.

There are few movies as finely crafted as Raising Arizona. The dialog, directing, music and cinematography are impeccable. And it is just plain hilarious!

The pacing of this movie is particularly good. It would be easy for this movie to careen out of control, but Joel Coen's direction and Michael Miller's tight editing keep that from happening.

Joel and Ethan's writing is always brilliant, but this movie may be their best so far, Fargo notwithstanding.

There is an endearing sweetness to this film. We never feel like H.I. and Ed are truly evil (despite their actions), and even Gail and Evelle have their charming moments.
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