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28 Weeks Later (2007)
The Tarzan Syndrome
Juan Carlos Fresnadillo is a hack. He's another one of those mediocre, jerky camera directors who hasn't a clue how to tell a story or create tension. Worst of all he is an over-user of what I call the Tarzan Syndrome (Based on Tarzan, the Ape Man, 198) which means you don't actually see any action, just lots of fast-paced shots adding up to nothing. This boring film was really like a hour-plus Windex commercial. Every other scene had somebody putting their fingers, bloody or not, on glass. I am sure Juan has some kind of explanation for this silly device, but it got boring really fast. So did all the gore scenes, which were, in essence, identical in pace.Films like this are only fun as a game. How many scenes can you predict before they even happen? Despite the praise of some misguided critics, 28 Days was a terrible film and this is an unwatchable sequel. I won't reveal the ending, because I can't. I got through half of this film when I decided it wasn't worth my or anyone else's time.
Fur very fuzzy
I am a smart person. But I didn't get this film at all. Is it about Diane Arbus or not? How many of the incidents are real? And if the Downey character existed and his bizarre apartment had all those outre photos, does that mean that Diane wasn't that innovative after all but merely an imitator? The better question is how do these films get made. It takes a ton of money to hire all these talented people, get talented set designers, photographers, makeup people, stylists, etc. Aren't they aware while they are filming that this is a film very few people will want to see? Or don't they care? The unfortunate thing is that it really commanded my interest for about fifteen minutes, but soon the slow-talking, tentative Kidman got on my nerves as did the downy Downey. Plus, recalling being prepped for an operation, I couldn't get over the fact that, once shaved of all that hair, he would have been an itching maniac rather than a happy stud. Sorry, I am sure this film was made with the best intentions, but, unfortunately, it wasn't made with the most entertaining results.
Perfect Stranger (2007)
Perfect Strangers far from.
Your first clue that this film was a loser was the trite and overused title. The second was the self-conscious character name Harirson Hill, "who owns the biggest ad agency in New York." The third is that you are supposed to believe that Giovanni Ribisi is supposed to play a secondary character a la Jimmy Olson. Now that you know this film is el stinko, you can relax and count the clichés. There's one! The obligatory eating Chinese food. There's another! Everyone is super-skilled with computers. The fabulous apartment on a working girl's salary is always good, especially when accompanied by a fabulous wardrobe. The direction is about as bad as it gets, the plotting as silly as possible and the ending the kind of cheat that audiences detest and have from the days of Mary Pickford. Bruce Willis seems to be out to take over Michael Caine's "I will appear in any film." title and poor Halle seems to forget she has a reputation to maintain. Ribisi, usually great, hasn't seemed so insignificant since his first appearance on "Friends." I would love to see a documentary on how directors like James Foley get to be directors, when they don't have vision, pacing, taste or a clue where to put the camera and when. Don't confuse this review with the "Perfect Strangers" of 1945, 1950 and 1984 or any of the TV movies with that name. All of them had to be better, they just had to be.
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
Third Bourne not a charm.
After reading all the glowing reviews and having loved the first two Bournes, I was eager to see this film. And, of course, with Matt Damon as the star, how could it be anything but great? But the reviewers must lack any kind of discrimination because the film was a bore. And it didn't even star Matt Damon. It starred the camera, which was a complete ham throughout: bobbing, weaving, leaping, panning, jumping, spinning, doing everything but capturing real action. The fight scenes were what I call "Tarzan and the Snake" shots. (In 1981's "Tarzan, The Ape Man" we don't actually see our loin-clothed hero battle a snake, just some quick still shots.) Damon was, as usual, strong, but the story, when you could see it, was nothing but all the chase scenes you've seen in a hundred films from "Bullitt" to every Bond. Stiles, Allen, Strahairn, Finney et al were wasted, the apartment-jumping chase scene (borrowed from the last MI) was hilariously unlikely (doesn't anybody live in that neighborhood?). Pity, the first two Bournes were tight, exciting, believable. This was a string of clichés lensed by a cameraman on too much caffeine by producers who had the arrogance to think that today's reviewers are so film-illiterate that they would fall for lots of fast-moving shots but very little real action. And damned if they weren't right.
Alpha Dog (2006)
Alpha Dog. The poodle that wants to be a pit bull.
Once again we have another faux tough guys and gals film, this time courtesy of upper-middle-class director Cassavetes who has large cast of characters who are all the same person regardless of sex. Each one has the same angst, swears repeatedly in the same manner, and spends a lot of time having the very same manner of sex as everyone else in the film in their all-the-same spacious bedrooms. How can all these dysfunctional adults hold down jobs to pay for those fantastic houses? Anyway, from the beginning, you couldn't care less if they were all murdered, so there is no one to root for. Even the supposedly innocent kidnapped brother is a twit of the first order. Pity too, because the cast are mostly talented and attractive young actors (Justin Timberlake, Emile Hirsh, Alec Vigil) who deserve to begin their careers in something substantial. Most of the adults are forgettable except for the brave Sharon Stone who must have the Bette Davis gene for being willing to look haggard, and Bruce Willis who is becoming the new "I will appear in anything" Michael Caine. This movie has essentially been made again and again by different directors, each trying to prove that he is a tough guy, a maverick, an anti-hero. How? By making sure that no one has morals and using the f words as much as possible. Another tiresome device is all these truly heterosexual males constantly make homoerotic comments to each other that would cause a real straight guy to break your nose and they call their girlfriends bitches, which,I suspect, would have the same effect. I am sure many people will like this film who think that swearing, violence and misogyny is like, you know, duh, deep. But I think it's sad the the son of two giants has so little to say.
The Last Time (2006)
A good film. An incredible Keaton.
Before reviewing this film, let me state that I don't think there's another actor who can create as much interest and tension as Michael Keaton. I often wonder how different the career of this beyond-brilliant actor would be if he had played the second Batman. Anyway, The Last Time is Michael's film. He looks great, he's thin, he's complex and he's outwardly cold. Which makes you wonder why he would put up with so many of Brendan Fraser's flaws, even if it meant getting to romance BF's beautiful wife, Amber Valletta. The story was for the most part compelling, though I wasn't totally comfortable with not knowing what the corporation actually made (Was I supposed to?) and why Daniel Stern was so hilariously freaked out. Near the end,the film took an emotional dip which led one to guess the ending before one should. Despite many flaws in logic, I think this was a fascinating film and would recommend it to anyone. My main complaint is what it always is: the swearing. Not because I don't like swearing, but it's always those false Hollywood-type vulgarities that everyone uses in the film, but very few men employ in real life. How do they come up with these sexual-scatological-homoerotic/phobic and ultimately silly curses. Try using any one of them at a business office, and you'd be out the door or on the carpet. Good film. Good performances. However, Michael Keaton, deserves to be in much more important films.
Tôkyô monogatari (1953)
Reading too much into Tokyo Story?
I saw this movie for the first time this week and was amazed at how much one can love a film that moves so slowly, has no tracking shots, and no powerful protagonist. One can easily understand why it is considered a masterpiece and after viewing it, you are still somewhat haunted by this tale. But I still have questions I wish I could ask the director. For instance, while the elderly parents were treated rather shabbily by their children in Tokyo, how can we find them (the children) at fault when the parents were so dull and malleable? Am I supposed to feel sympathy for them or merely observe? Even when they went away to the spa, they seemed like strangers to each other. Not knowing Japanese customs it was, of course, odd to see so little affection between family members. Also, is there a gay theme here? Was the widowed daughter-in-law still unremarried because she didn't want a man. The closest thing to affection was when the kindly daughter-in-law left the old man's home and bid goodbye to the young female schoolteacher, his caretaker. Before the movie ends the teacher wanders to her classroom window to watch the girl's train pass by. There seems to be a romantic melancholy in this scene out of keeping with any other segment of this wonderful film. Am I seeing something that was never there?
Harsh Times (2005)
Do harsh people make Harsh Times?
Harsh Times is a film I almost turned off during the first fifteen minutes because it seemed so false. But having stayed with it, I found it fascinating, not because of its language and violence, but because all the performances were outstanding, notably Christian Bale, and like any good car wreck one wants to see who dies and who survives. At the same time one wonders who makes these films. What director is driven to tell such a hopeless and violent story? and why do directors and writers believe that every low-life swears in the same tone of voice? Many criminals, like straight people, don't swear at all, much less incessantly. So, while I think this film is worth seeing, I go with my original premise that it is, like most of these, films essential false: It's the fantasy of middle-class filmmakers who want to behard-bitten, macho, tough guys a script idea which was probably discussed at the sushi restaurant or some expensive cocktail lounge before driving home to their safe middle- of upper-class homes.
Super break for Ben
Ben Affleck was lucky to star in Hollywoodland, because this snail-paced film is so badly directed that one hardly notices what a rotten actor he is. Even the usually brilliant Bob Hoskins and Diane Lane seem amateurish in this director's hands. Not only is this film riddled with clichés, but the flashbacks are too frequent and too dull and Adrien Brody, like everyone,seems fake. Since I was a child when Superman died, I cannot even accept the premise that we children were all that bothered by his death. George Reeves was a lumpy, mediocre actor who was lucky to have landed this role. He is far too insignificant to be the subject of a movie. So, in a way, it seems only fitting that this film is so ordinary. I don't even understand the title, since I believe the Hollywoodland sign came down long before the 50s.
A roaring bad time
Prey should be retitled The Stupid Family Goes to Africa. If one took this film seriously, which would be a mistake, one could say that this dysfunctional family was responsible for the deaths of several persons who would have been just fine if this family hadn't come to the Dark Continent to make it even darker. Knowing nothing about the private lives of lions, I can guess that the plot was probably highly inaccurate as I cannot imagine why a pride of lions would set their sights on these silly people when there are lots of zebra and wildebeest running around. As I sat open-mouthed(with awe at the lousy direction) waiting for the ending, I felt certain that a film this bad would have to end with one of the most offensive of movie clichés and indeed it did when Peter Weller said, "Let's go Home." This is what I would have said at the beginning of the movie if I had seen it in a theater.
A thriller until the end
Loved "Unknown" from the very beginning. Great premise. Terrific acting. Lots of plot twists. But this film, like so many others of the genre, holds your attention until the very end, and then the climax isn't clear enough. Without spoiling the ending, I would say I understood 80% of the ending, but was still pretty much in the dark about some of the characters and plot points, which wasn't the director's intention, I'm sure. It was great to see Jim Caviezal in a leading role, but he still does not have the strength to carry the film. Once again Kinnear has proved he can do just about anything. The comparisons to Reservoir Dogs is valid, but this film relies more on tension than violence which makes it far more intriguing to watch.
What was this film about?
I am sure that Loverboy was a well-meaning film, but it seemed like a vanity production in which Mr. Bacon asked all his friends to appear in it for nothing. While Kyra is a wonderful actress and never looked better, who cared what she wanted or even understood it? This script was so maudlin and confusing that I totally lost interest after 40 minutes and fast-forwarded to the last scene, which seemed to have nothing to do with anything I had seen, suggesting they didn't even get to the story until sometime long after I had given up. Mr. Bacon is a great actor but if he's going to attempt directing he should find a better script.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
Muddled mystery makes no sense
Despite a brilliant cast, this remote film is a pastiche of every other popular comedy-crime drama of the past decade, and a weak attempt at being another Pulp Fiction. It's Shane Black's directorial debut and it shows. No sympathetic characters, no clear storyline, no wit. While some of the one-liners are amusing, most of them fall flat. How can you get involved in a story when the characters are obviously not real people but just living cartoons who behave in a manner completely unlike any living people? Downey is great as always. But Val should complain to his agent as it will be hard to climb back to star status after this silly role. The best that can be said about this film is that it could turn out to be a great game. One could take each scene and try to name the movie from which is was taken.
Funny Games (1997)
Funny Games is an allegory
I found this one of the most distasteful films I had ever seen. That is, until the next day, when it became clear to me that it was an allegory for the Holocaust. I won't go into all the parallels I drew, but I am sure many of you will see what I mean on re-viewing this film. The eggs, for instance, at the beginning I think represent the wealth of the Jews in pre-War Germany contrasted with the needs of those with less (the two visitors). The couple shared their eggs, but they wanted more and thus attributed their want to the owner's greed. Also, think how the Nazis used fear to turn family members against each other. The film opens with the rich couple in their luxury car playing games about recognizing music rather than really listening to it. Was the dog a German shepherd by design? When one of the victims could escape, she didn't. Their innocence after the eggs situation reflects the German Jews unwillingness to recognize the signs of the coming holocaust. One of the games was obviously a Nazi-style "Sophie's Choice" exercise in terror. I am adding to my review, though I haven't seen the film in years and know there are many other parallels which other viewers will fnd it they look for them. A very disturbing, but important, film.