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Powerful- a must see!
I saw this movie today and I was deeply touched by it, particularly toward the end. This movie shows the day Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated.
This movie is not about a story or suspense or character development. We know what happened; it is a part of history. What the movie did for me is to make it real. There were real people with their own life stories, who started the day as a normal day, and experienced something that must have changed their lives forever.
It is a depiction of America in 1968. Some things are applicable even now- that is shown through the individual characters. There are several short stories within the big picture. For me the most effective part was seeing clips of Bobby Kennedy's speeches. It showed what kind of man he was. Everything built toward the climax- the shooting- when everyone was happy and celebrating Bobby's win in the California primary. It was heartbreaking and I was in tears.
The last montage during the credits was wonderful too.
The all-star cast certainly helped, but not many characters were very developed (hard to do when you are showing them for such a short time). I thought Jose'- the kitchen guy, Diana (lindsay Lohan) and Sharon Stone (beautician) still managed to make impacts. At times the movie dragged just a bit, for me (particularly parts of the Hopkins-Belafonte scenes). However, it is a deeply moving film and watching it really made an impact on me.
The Far Pavilions (1984)
A great romantic tale against a historical backdrop; a visual feast
The Far pavilions is based on M.M.Kaye's book 'The far pavilions'. It is a good but not completely faithful adaptation of a 1200 page novel condensed into a 5-hour miniseries, on a two-disk set.
It is a visual feast depicting the British period in India, in the 19th century. The central character Ashton/Ash Pelham-Martyn spends first 11 years of his life in India, as an Indian (Ashok), after his birth parents who are British, are dead. Upon his return to India (from England), as a member of the British Army, Ash meets again the love of his life- Princess Anjuli- who was his childhood friend. She is about to be married to an old man who is a ruler of a princely state (Bhithor) in India. Anjuli is doing this only to help her younger sister, while sacrificing her own love. Anjuli, a Rajput woman with one-fourth Russian blood in her, would keep her word even though it means sacrificing her love for Ash/Ashok. While narrating their struggle against a society that strongly believed in caste and race, the movie paints a picture of the British and the Indians in that period of history quite well. The art direction, background music, and cinematography are excellent, showing the richness of the land. Many scenes were filmed in Rajasthan, a western state, that is rich in history of its people. The snow capped peaks of the Himalyas are lovely.
Ben Cross does a superb job of expressing the inner struggle of Ash (Ashok/Ashton) as "two persons in one body" and the passionate but disappointed lover of the princess Anjuli. Amy Irving succeeds in showing the quiet strength, pride and sadness of Anjuli. Many well known actors have added to the characters- Christopher Lee as Rao Saheb (the uncle of the two princesses), Omar Sheriff as Koda Dad- the horse expert, and others.
Where the movie/miniseries comes up short is toward the end.
About three fourth of the miniseries stays faithful to the book. However, the last 300 pages have been condensed considerably, and the events are shown in a different order. The fight in Afghanistan and the death of Wally Hamilton (and others) takes place earlier in the movie.
In the book Anjuli, after escape from Bhithor, goes through a period of recovery. She has been emaciated due to starvation and torture. There are few signs of this in her appearance when she escapes Bhithor with Ash and his companions. In the book Ash marries her on a boat, because no one would perform religious rights for them. Although married, it is too dangerous for them to openly live as a couple. They eventually decide to move to a valley in the Himalayas -their Far Pavilions. The miniseries ends after escape from Bhithor, when Ash and Anjuli are finally together for good. Some of the earlier scenes (the wedding, the Suttee ceremony) are long drawn out. They could have been shortened to include the rest of the story, in its original order (the Afghan war takes place after the escape from Bhithor in the book).
I had a problem with making Koda Dad such a major character in the movie. In the book, although an important influence on young Ash, he was not on that trip to Bhithor. He had long retired. Including him took away from some of the other characters like Sarji and Ash's favorite horse Dagobaz.
The first disk is much more entertaining and more faithful to the book than the second one.
The end in the miniseries seems sudden, compared to the slowness of earlier parts, and has less impact than in the book, which takes the time to show the struggles and strengths of the two main characters.
Other than that, this is a good adaptation of the book. It fits in the 'movie' format. I like the book better for its details, but the movie is a feast for the eyes. It created in me the desire to read more about this period in history. Definitely recommended.
World Trade Center (2006)
A little disappointing
I went in there with very high expectations because the review in the local newspaper was very positive. I came out a bit disappointed.
The movie started great- we all remember that morning, what were we doing when we saw the news. It was nice to see what the people involved were doing that morning- for example McCoghlin getting up at 3:25am to go to work, driving to his office, it being just another day, etc. The men knew nothing about the second tower since they were rushing to the first one. The images were astounding, even though we have seen them hundreds of times by now. The reactions of the people in NYC were shown well. The whole scene was recreated as it happened that morning. The movie really built up to the point where McCoughlin and Jimeno and others in their group got trapped.
It was good to see initially what the families were doing, how did they find out, their worries, etc. However, at some point the movie lost the intensity and got in a rhythm of WTC rubble-Family worries- WTC rubble - Family worries.....and so on. Even though this was the focal point of the movie, I think it would have been better to show what was happening to their other team members whose names McCoughlin called out when they first got trapped. We only saw one of them. They could have shown a subplot around the marine that came to the rescue of these two. While they were trapped, I think it would have helped to divert the attention to other areas of the WTC just to exemplify the horror that had just taken place. Afterall this was a story of many heroes, and not just the two officers and their families. The movie just did not reach the heights I had expected it to reach, although I did shed some tears along the way. I think including some other people in the story would have made the story more interesting from a movie perspective. Otherwise one might as well see a documentary, and there are some very good ones about 9/11/01.
The acting by Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena was good as the two officers. It is challenging for any actor to express with only the face, without moving and without using hands and legs. They did a very believable job of showing what these two officers were going through. I read that the real life characters and their wives were very involved in the making of this movie, so I have to assume all the scenes were based on real life events. In the roles of the wives Maggie Gyllenhaal and Maria Bello were OK. Maggie was more believable than Maria, whom I liked very much in A history of violence but she seemed to be constrained by the role itself in this movie (just one or two emotions). However, the real star of this movie is the art direction. The visuals are great and they create the main impact. The weakness is the story, and I don't mean any disrespect to the heroes of 9/11/01.
I cannot help comparing this experience with United 93. That one had me riveted. At some point in WTC I just wanted it to end. The back and forth between the families and the two men trapped under the rubble somehow got old. IMO the director needed to find a more creative way of showing it to really hit it home.
I still gave it 8 out of 10 because it still is a very powerful experience. It just did not meet my very high expectations.
A History of Violence (2005)
Brilliant and haunting
I managed to finally see this film- on DVD. That worked out well because the special section at the end is very good and informative.
The storyline is about a small town restaurant owner and family man Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen in his finest role) who has two unexpected visitors at his restaurant - two cold blooded killers Leland and Billy who pull their guns on everyone there. Tom kills them and becomes an instant hero. However, all the media coverage exposes him to unwanted company. Gangsters Carl Fogarty (brilliantly portrayed by Ed Harris) and his henchmen visit Tom in his restaurant and insist that he is Joey Cusack, a gangster who in the past had disfigured Fogarty. Tom denies being anyone but Tom Stall. In a stand off at Tom's house he kills the the gangsters (this was one of the most effective scenes in the movie), but his past identity is revealed to his wife and son in the process.
Viggo Mortensen does an amazing exploration of the personalities with very few words but extraordinary facial and bodily expressions. Finally Tom goes to Philadelphia go to settle the issue, hoping for a peaceful resolution with Richie Cusack (in an amazingly complex performance by William Hurt), but ends up in more violence. Tom returns to his family but knows how much has changed between them. He is apprehensive as he enters. Will they accept him? Edie and Tom stare at each other and the rest is left up to the imagination of the audience.
The violence is brutal, but short in duration. It does not drag. The sex scenes are meant to show how the relationship between Edie and Tom changed (happy and playful at first, and angry/complex later). Everything in the movie has a purpose that leads to the development of the relationships and the story itself.
As Director Cronenberg has superbly crafted this drama/thriller. He is supported by brilliant acting by all the main characters who give Oscar worthy performances. I was disappointed that only Hurt got an Oscar nomination. This film definitely deserved a best picture nomination for 2005.
The screenplay is to the point; no scene is wasted. The cinematography uses the light very effectively. Howard Shore's musical score is haunting and beautiful. This is a film that one does not forget easily because it brings out the issues of violence in our society, good/bad, who are we really, do we know ourselves and those around us, and so on.
This is a serious and mature art film. If someone goes there to see lots of action and special effects, he/she will be disappointed. I highly recommend it to those who have an appreciation of the fine art of movie making.
Lady in the Water (2006)
Definitely worth seeing
Before I went in, I knew that it was not a horror film, although there were scary moments. The critics have been Luke warm toward this film, so I did not know what to expect but I wanted to see it because it was produced by M. Night Shyamalan.
I love the creativity and imagination Shyamalan brings to his movies. It's not about special effects or spectacular fights; there is a real story and a purpose to it, as in his other movies.
Paul Giamati's character (Cleveland Heep) finds a sea nymph in the swimming pool of the apartment complex he manages. He tries to help her go back but there are dangers outside. Eventually he is able to get help from many of his tenants to accomplish the goal. In the process everyone learns something. Cleveland works out the pain from his past.
I loved the fairytale type narration. The story unfolds gradually, and Shyamalan has done a good job as director and actor (he has a substantial role in this). He is one of the best story tellers of our time. Whether you like the movie or not, he is very original and his movies always have a message.
The suspense was in 'who is who'- the guardian, the healer, the guild, etc. Every character we saw in the beginning had a purpose in the end. If not for great acting by Paul Giamati and Bryce Dallas Howard, this movie would not have been half as effective. I hope Giamati will get an Oscar nomination this year. His speech toward the end, addressed to his family, made me cry.
I really enjoyed this movie. I was riveted throughout because it kept unveiling new things. M.Night Shyamalan has done it again- an original, creative, entertaining movie. Well done.
United 93 (2006)
An honest and powerful film
I was deeply touched by United 93. I had already read the reviews before I saw the film and that may have diluted the experience just a bit. Still it was an emotional, powerful experience for me. I was crying just as the people were boarding the plane, others going through their routine activities, like just another day. They were so innocent; they did not know that their lives would soon change forever or end.
This film is not just about the passengers aboard United 93. It is also about the air traffic controllers, because they went through the whole thing along with the flights. Imagine sitting there trying to guide the flights to safety and finding out that two of them had just crashed into WTC. The frustration of the red tape was shown very well. The passengers of United 93 came across as heroes at the end.
Nothing was overacted. The power of this movie is in its honesty and understatedness. I read that some of the characters were played by real people that went through that experience. Normally when we go to movies, it is fiction, unless it is a documentary. United 93 is not a documentary. It is a tragic story of a tragic day in our lives- one that changed us forever in a way.
I am surprised that United 93 is not doing as well as I had expected at the box office. Everyone in this country (USA) needs to see this movie, lest we forget what happened on that fateful day.
One last thing- why did I not give it a 10? I thought the end was just a bit less effective. I don't mean that they needed to show the plane crash; we all know how it ended. The movie needed just a little something uplifting at the end, but that is just my opinion. This is a powerful movie, made with sincerity, and it does not manipulate the audience. I loved it.
Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Beautiful yet disappointing in a way
Jane Austen's most popular novel has appeared on the screen many times successfully. I was almost afraid that it would be boring, but this wonderful story will never grow old.
First the positives.
The camera captures the beauty of the English countryside and makes this a worthwhile movie going experience. Brenda Blethyn and Donald Sutherland are excellent as Mr. & Mrs. Bennett. Judy Dench is good as always in the small role of Lady Catherine de Berg. Keira Knightley looks stunningly beautiful, and overshadows the elder sister Jane who is supposed to be the beauty in the family. Matthew McFayden's Mr.Darcy is handsome and sensitive, but needs more pride to be like the character in the book. Mr.Charles Bingley was amiable but just a little too sweet. Lyida the youngest sister and Mr.Wickham were played well in limited roles. The humor which is present throughout the novel is just as effective in the movie. One scene that is effective in the movie is when Elizabeth tours Pemberley and walks around the museum. She sees the statue of Mr.Darcy (I think in the book it was a painting, but can't be sure) and her expressions soften. We can see that her opinion of him is changing and perhaps she is regretting what she missed.
Now the negatives.
Keira Knightley's Elizabeth looks too modern in her posture, walking style, and even hairstyle. She is brilliant in some scenes (esp. when she tells Mr.Darcy that he would be the last person in the world she would marry). In some other scenes though all she seems to do is narrow her eyes or smile. The fault may lie in the script, which is not completely honest with Austen's novel. In the book Mr.Darcy proposes to Elizabeth at the Collins's house, and second time at the Bennett house (outdoor, IIRC). The movie took liberties with the locations. Darcy and Elizabeth somehow meet in the rain when he proposes to her the first time. What was she doing all alone there? This was supposed to be 18th century England. In the second proposal scene, which is even worse, They both wander outside early morning and run into each other ("I could not sleep"; "Neither could I"). The dialog sounds too modern, and so is the scene. The screen writers would have been better off using Jane Austen's writings which were much more effective.
The movie is more effective when it is following the book closely, particularly the dialogs and locations. I was disappointed in the way some things had been changed from the original version and it did not improve the movie. It did the opposite. It would have been good to show at the end how Mrs. Bennett was thrilled to see 3 of her daughters married, and shots of the two couples -The Darcys and The Bingleys- would have been more appropriate than the romantic last scene between Darcy & Elizabeth. I wish the screenplay had been written better.
Overall the movie is worth seeing, in spite of the flaws, because of the beautiful cinematography, and good acting by the cast.
Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)
A beautiful picture
I waited to see this movie because of the lukewarm reviews it got from the critics. Still I could not avoid seeing it because the subject was very interesting, and Rob Marshall is a good director. I also knew Zhang Ziyi from Crouching Tiger. How bad could this movie be? I went in with no expectations and was pleasantly surprised. This is a beautiful, sensitive movie, with strong characters and excellent performances. The music is wonderful. John Williams has used Yo Yo Ma's cello and I.Perlman's violin very effectively to create an atmosphere.
The reviews I had read did mention the beautiful cinematography, but according to them there was nothing else. I strongly disagree. I have not read the book and I am not familiar with Japanese culture, particularly the Geisha culture. However, as the drama unfolded, I felt closely connected to the characters- even the mean ones. I was totally blown away by the performance of child actress Suzuka who plays the young Chiyo who later becomes Sayuri, the Geisha. The Japanese male actors were also very good, particularly Ken Watanabe, who I had seen in the Last Samurai. Gong Li was great as the mean Geisha. Michelle Yeoh is always good. I thought Zhang Ziyi should have been nominated for the best actress in a leading role Oscar. This is an unfamiliar field for her. She is not even Japanese. She had to learn all the intricacies of being a Geisha, and express the deep emotions. She is outstanding and she definitely carries the movie.
I read that the poor showing at the box office may have hurt her chances. However, Mrs. Henderson or TransAmerica were not exactly blockbusters. I am afraid that the race of the characters may have been a factor. Even though there are emotions and drama in the movie, the expression is different in this culture. I am afraid that the critics and the public just did not get this movie. I wonder if it was too subtle for them? It does not have the usual Hollywood type violence/chase/sex type drama. I wonder if that is why the critics said it is stationary? I agree that the movie slows down in the middle, but it picks up speed again toward the end. Since i had not read the book I did not know how it ended. I was relieved that it had a relatively happy ending. The Geisha did not suddenly become a wife but she found the love she was seeking- something Geishas are not privy to.
To me, it does not matter what race or nationality the actors are, as long as they perform well, and there is superb acting in this film. My own lack of knowledge of this culture was not a hindrance to my enjoyment of the movie. I think this is a superbly crafted movie and if someone is hesitant to see it because it did not get 4 stars from the critics, should definitely go see it for himself/herself. You may be pleasantly surprised just like I was.
The Squid and the Whale (2005)
A major disappointment
I heard this movie was an Oscar contender and had received rave reviews from critics. I am among the few that found it totally tasteless. The topic was good- divorce and its effect on a family. The acting was stellar by all 4 main characters. However, the foul language by just about every character, in nearly every scene, and some very offensive actions were too much for me.
There was humor in the movie, and some of it was even good but it was often contaminated with the offensive language. I am not puritanical; I can handle four letter words but they should not dominate the dialog the way it did in this movie.
Inspite of that, the movie held my interest until it came to a crashing end.
What really disappointed me was the ending. It was too abrupt, too vague, and basically it was not like an ending. It is OK to have an open ended 'ending', that is subject to interpretation, but it needs to flow better. This one did not. I had to wait until 90 percent of the movie was over to hear 'The squid and the whale' and shortly after that the movie ended, with these two entities in the museum.
Overall, a bid disappointment. I have no problem with Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney getting Oscar nominations (if they do); they deserve them, but the movie as a whole does not work. JMHO.
Moskva slezam ne verit (1980)
Wonderfully entertaining and touching
This may be the first Russian movie I saw that did not end tragically. There were the normal problems of living in Moscow, particularly for the 3 young women trying to make it under very difficult circumstances. The things they do (particularly Lyudmilla) are funny and yet give us a glimpse into how difficult it must have been for them. Katya, the main character, goes through her trials but comes out on top. She does better than anyone else (out of the 3), even raises a daughter (without a husband), but she secretly longs for a man in her life. After many failed attempts are relationships she accidentally meets the man who turns out to be the perfect one for her. However, they too go through some struggles before coming to the final realization that they belong together. It is a wonderful story of struggles, successes, and life in general. The acting was wonderful, particularly the actress who played Katya. Her young daughter (Alexandra) was adorable. The scene I liked the most was Gosha invites Katya and her daughter to a picnic, to get to know each other better (after declaring that he is going to marry Katya). Katya is tired and she just falls asleep in a chair in the fresh air. Gosha gently puts a blanket on her. Very simple, but very caring and touching. There are many wonderful moments in the movie. The humor is sprinkled throughout and it is very refreshing to see a movie like this one. The most valuable thing to me was it gave a glimpse into life in the USSR, and yet we can relate to the story and the characters on a human level.
A Love Song for Bobby Long (2004)
A very enjoyable film
I thought it was too slow in the beginning, and even in the middle, but it held my interest throughout. I am a huge fan for Scarlett Johansson, and she was the main reason I saw this movie (on DVD). I had wanted to see it in a theater, but it was released to so few theaters, it was frustrating. I don't understand why some movies are released very late and to very few theaters. I would have nominated Scarlett for an Oscar for this role. She is such a terrific actress that can play any kind of role. Incredibly she was still only 19 when this movie was made (Pursy is 18). She has given so many great performances that it feels like she may be older than 19. She is a very mature actress who really gets into the character. I particularly liked the scene toward the end where she is asking Bobby about her childhood. In this movie she is a rebellious teenager- Pursylane-, trying to find herself. John Travolta, who is also one of my favorite actors, does full justice for the Bobby Long. This was a highly competitive year for a male actor in a lead role, and without the exposure neither of these wonderful actors could be nominated- what a shame.
The storyline is simple, and I did not know for a while where it was going. I was happy with the rather traditional end- I would not have guessed that little secret. I like it when there are no questions left when the movie ends. I never lived in the deep south, so I cannot comment on the accuracy of the surroundings, accents, etc. However, having visited it once, I feel that the atmosphere was created very well. The different characters whose lives were touched by the late Lorraine- Pursy's mom, really add to the story. She is the main thread throughout, and we feel her presence even though she is dead.
I really enjoyed watching the deleted scenes and interviews on the DVD.
The only reason I gave this movie only 7 out of 10 was that it dragged in several places, and that could have been avoided. Other than that, a really good movie.
It was worth the wait!
I waited for this movie for 3 years and decided to see it on the opening day- something I have never done for any movie. It was spectacular in its special effects and battle scenes, and fast and effective in its story telling. It makes quite an emotional impact toward the end when Anakin finally falls in the river of lava and has to be rebuilt into the masked Darth Vader. The acting was excellent. Hayden Christensen shows the conflicting emotions very effectively. Ewan McGregor made me cry at the end, and so did Natalie Portman. Ian McDiarmid is back as 'the emperor' and the dark Sith Lord Darth Sidious. He is scary and disgusting at the same time. It is easy to see that Anakin accepts him as his master and does not question him out of fear. Anakin/Darth Vader spirals into the dark lord very quickly by killing the innocents. We keep wishing that he would return to Obi-Wan and the Jedi but we already know what happened in the original trilogy.
The story blends very well with the original trilogy. The music is dark throughout, as is the mood. Occasionally there are lighter moments because of Artoo and Yoda, but basically it is an emotional movie that makes a big impact. Even with the violence, it does not go totally out of control, and I will have no problem taking children to this movie. Lucas deserves a lot of credit for the whole series and a lifetime achievement award for changing the face of cinema.
I highly recommend it.
The Woodsman (2004)
I had high expectations of this movie, as I had read raves about it. The only redeeming factor is Kevin Bacon's performance. The movie drags. Too much sex on the screen takes away from the main point of the movie. The truth I was waiting for never really came out. I was bored and at times irritated by this movie. I am not against a criminal being given another chance, but I am sure there are better ways to portray this. There are only a handful of good scenes that make the point. The scene where someone leaves a flyer with Walter's (Bacon) mug shot in his locker was effective. The initial scenes that showed curiosity at workplace about his past seemed to take the movie in the right direction. The scenes with the psychiatrist/therapist could have been used better to help us understand Walter but that understanding is never reached. The sexual relationship between Walter & Vicki is over emphasized to the point you miss the fact that she is actually helping him deal with his emotional problems. There are too many loose ends. Toward the end Walter beats up another child molester, and we never find out the outcome of the visit of the seargent to Walter's apartment. This movie is a wasted opportunity. It could have been a message to look at an ex-convict with an open mind but the way it is shown is ineffective.
In Good Company (2004)
Delightful comedy with a serious message
This could have been a really great movie, but for its ending. The theme is corporate politics, age discrimination, and what really matters (family). The three main characters Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid), Carter Duryea (Topher Grace)- Dan's new boss after the takeover, and Alex (Scarlett Johansson)-Dan's college age daughter are portrayed beautifully by these three talented actors. For me the pleasant surprise was Topher Grace. He was very believable as a young man who suddenly makes it to the top but is really just a young man at heart, struggling with the question what he wants to do with his life. Dennis Quaid is superb as the slighted sales magazine exec, in his multifaceted role as corporate exec, husband, and father. Scarlett Johansson looks radiant and is a delight as always. There are two things in my opinion that kept this movie from being a top movie (best pic nomination). The biggest one is the weak ending. It is not only vague but it seems like a patch or an afterthought. There needed to be a smoother ending. The other is the background music, which does nothing to enhance the movie. The movie is carried totally by the 3 characters, and the dialogue which generates plenty of laughter. After seeing so many dark movies in 2004 (particularly toward the end) this was a refreshing change for me. I enjoyed the movie very much and I was curious about how it would end. Unfortunately the end was not strong enough to really make an impact.
This is not just your usual comedy. It is meaningful. It deals with some serious social issues- downsizing, corporations changing hands to make more money, how it affects peoples' minds, their families, age discrimination, and so on (for older people). The younger people have their problems too- not knowing what they want to do with life, chasing careers that may not bring them happiness, and so on. I wish this had been a stronger movie at the end. I gave it 7/10 although it could have easily been 8/10 or even 9/10 with just a little adjustment in the last part.
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
One of the best movies ever
I went to see Million dollar baby after reading raves over it. I carefully avoided reading anything that alluded to what happens in the latter part of the movie, but I knew it was going to be emotional.
This is a story of a young woman (Hilary Swank)who has nothing, but she wants to be something/somebody by learning to box. Her persistence pays off when a well known trainer (Clint Eastwood) agrees to coach her, though reluctantly. With training and hard work she becomes highly successful, and almost unbeatable. Her finances improve 'considerably'.
The movie is told from the eyes of the trainer's assistant (Morgan Freeman). That alone gave me a hint of what was to come, but I was not prepared for the turn the movie took. I was totally overwhelmed. It was such a powerful experience that next morning I was still feeling the emotions. The acting is subtle and powerful by all three major characters. There is no melodrama, no overacting, which shows that emotions CAN be communicated with subtlety just as powerfully as with any other approaches. Eastwood deserves a lot of credit as director.
Major SPOILER ahead: There are several unanswered questions, like what happened to the boxer who injured Maggie by throwing an illegal punch? What were the legal implications? Did Maggie or Frankie or Freeman's character feel a rage over what had happened? The events in the movie are obviously devastating and these questions may actually be only minor points when it comes to developing the characters. Nothing could reverse what happened to Maggie, and what Frankie eventually did was out of love, which made it 'right' from my perspective. I am still heartbroken for these characters. This is what life is. It is not a 'feel good' movie but it is a very powerful one. It definitely deserves the best picture Oscar nomination.
The boxing gym atmosphere is created very well. The minor characters too are portrayed well. I thought the crazy guy was a bit of a nuisance in terms of the flow of the story, but again the purpose was to create an atmosphere and bring characters to life. This was done extremely well. There are touches of humor throughout, which add to the entertainment value, but this is a movie that will make you think about life, values, and our intentions.
I will probably see it again to fill in on anything I may have missed. I highly recommend this movie to anyone that appreciates drama.
Hotel Rwanda (2004)
This is one of the best movies I have seen. Certainly the best so far this year. I am embarrassed to say I was ignorant of the events in Rwanda in 1994. Like one character in the movie said, people in other countries will see this on TV and say it is so horrible, but then they will go out and eat dinner. This movie skillfully tells of the horrors - the conflicts between Tutsis and Hutus, the genocide, without overdramatizing it. It was more like telling the facts. It held my attention from beginning to end.
I remember one scene is particular. Paul (Don Cheadle's character) and his van driver are returning to the hotel late at night and suddenly the road is bumpy.
Paul asks the driver to stop the van and steps out. Actually he falls out because he has just stepped on a corpse, and then the horrifying scene- he is surrounded by a very large number of corpses.
There are also some very warm moments in the movie- Paul's family, his friends, employees, acquaintances, and the 'powerrful' people- his relationships to them are portrayed beautifully. He uses all his negotiations skills to save lives of over 1200 people. Without him they would have certainly died. He was a real hero who never gave up.
The acting and direction were great. Don Cheadle is brilliant as Paul. I hope he will be nominated for the Oscar. He gets excellent support from the cast, and particularly Sophie, who plays his wife in the movie.
It is hard to describe in words how effective this movie is. All I can say is- Go see it.
Beyond the Sea (2004)
Well acted, but not quite a top notch film
I went to see this movie with no expectations at all. I did not know much about Bobby Darin, except that he was a popular singer who died young. I did not know any of his songs, but I had heard that he had married Sandra Dee, who I saw in a rented tape of Summer Place. I saw an interview of Spacey on Larry King Live and it got me interested because Darin's son seemed to support this movie. I like Kevin Spacey as an actor and he does a very good job of bringing out the person in the Darin character. I was amazed to see that he could sing and dance quite well. Kate Bosworth, who looks beautiful as Sandra Dee, does justice to the character. Considering her young age, it is astonishing that she played the actress over a range of age. I liked the first half of the movie. The movie should have attained greater heights in the second half but it did not.
The child 'Bobby Darin' kept interfering with the flow of the story. Introducing the child worked well in the first part of the movie, but toward the end it brought the movie down quite a bit. Particularly the last conversation between the two Darins, and the sing & dance after Darin's death were uncalled for, or it should have been very brief. The movie lost its intensity due to the addition. Earlier, when the secret about Bobby's mother is out, and he publicly acknowledges her as his mother, it was a high point of the movie, but it got lost. Toward the end when he performs great ("He is back!!") in a night club, just before he is rushed to the hospital, it was another high point. Darin's conversation with his son, and the son opening the suitcase which indicated that Bobby had passed on, were touching. However, again, the final song diluted it for me. It would have been much more effective to not bring back the child for so long, and instead a gallery of Darin's pictures while performing would have been more effective after his death in the movie. Another way would have been to simply add a footnote after his death.
From what I heard, in real life Darin and Dee divorced (the movie shows the tensions between them quite well) and he remarried. From the movie one would think that they never divorced, and that they were separated for only a brief period while Darin moved to an isolated spot and lived in a trailer in an effort to discover himself.
I was shocked when I first heard that Kevin Spacey was going to play Bobby Darin. I thought he was too old to play someone who died at age 37. Spacey does an admirable job of portraying the character, and directing the movie. Still it was hard for me to forget the difference in age. I cannot comment on the singing because I have not heard Bobby Darin's songs.
Inspite of its flaws this is a pretty good movie (7/10). Definitely worth seeing once. However, those more acquainted with Bobby Darin's work, may have a different reaction to it.
The Aviator (2004)
I went to see this movie with very high expectations. It was supposed to be a certain Best Picture nominee that would finally get Scorcese his Best Director Oscar, and possibly the best picture Oscar too. Given the history of the Oscars, it will not surprise me if Scorcese wins the Oscar for his not so good effort. IMO neither the movie nor the direction lives upto the hype. Half way through the movie, I was bored to death. When it finally ended, with DiCaprio saying the same sentence 20+ times (it was quite irritating), I heaved a sigh of relief. There is too much detail, not enough pace, and the screenplay is nothing to write home about. There is some good acting, which may be the only saving grace of this movie. Dicaprio brings out the eccentricity of the main character quite well, but the story never really takes off. One good scene in the movie is when the Howard Hughes character has to defend himself. Leo carried that scene well. Overall, a HUGE disappointment.
Finding Neverland (2004)
Beautiful, touching, heart warming.....
I am going to run out of adjectives describing this movie. It is glorious. The screenplay, the acting, the cinematography are all superb, but most of all Johnny Depp. Is this the same actor that played Captain Jack Sparrow last year? What a range he has, as an actor! He is understated in his portrayal of James Barrie the play writer. Kate Winslet is beautiful, and the children are just wonderful. The toughest acting job belongs to Julie Christie and she does wonders with it.
Barrie, who has been unsuccessful as a writer and in his personal life, finds his muse in Sylvia (Winslet)- a young widow- and her 4 children. Their growing friendship is frowned upon by the society and Sylvia's mother. However, that is what Barrie really needs to write a great play. As the story develops we feel a part of the lives on the screen. When Sylvia becomes seriously ill, we sort of know what is going to happen in the end, but we cling to a hope that may be she will recover. James and Sylvia love each other but it is shown in such a beautiful and subtle way that it is a wonderful change from the crudeness we see on the screen these days. Sylvia wants to see 'Neverland' which is a creation of Barrie's imagination. When she is unable to go see his play on the opening night, Barrie brings the play into her house. By this time tears were flowing down both my cheeks and would not stop till the end. Everything is done so beautifully that I cannot describe it. I am definitely going to see this movie again.I hope it gets Oscar nominations for best picture, director, actor, actress, supporting actor & actress, cinematography, musical score, editing, and screenplay. I give it a 10!
The Clearing (2004)
Subtle and interesting movie that makes a point - SPOILER
I am not into action thrillers but I was pleasantly surprised by this movie because of the different angle it takes on a kidnapping. The suspense builds and builds and at some point I realized what was going on (I am trying to avoid spoilers). Still it did not diminish my interest. The way it unfolds, it is about people and relationships, and not so much about the kidnapping itself though it acts as a trigger to bring out those points. The acting is superb. Helen Mirren is outstanding as the wife who is always in control, even in such a difficult situation. Willem Dafoe gives yet another praise worthy performance as Arnold, the kidnapper. Robert Redford, in a role that fits his age, gives a very controlled and good performance. All these characters could have been screaming at the top of their lungs, given the tense situation, but everything is underplayed and subtle. That is what held my interest. This is a realistic movie, so don't go there expecting a Hollywood type ending (I hope I did not give away too much by typing this). I definitely recommend this movie, but it is not for everyone.
Beautiful, sensitive, and touching
I finally saw this movie, and I am glad that I did. The storyline has been described by many already, so I won't go into it. It held my attention from beginning to end. I loved the landscapes of the old USSR. The life depicted in this movie seems very realistic, and the acting is SUPERB by all three main characters- Sania, Katia, and Tolian. They are very natural, not acting at all. The suffering is heart wrenching and seems almost unavoidable. What would a single mother do to raise her son in the 1950's in Stalinist USSR? She takes the opportunity, regrets it after a while but cannot really break through. Ekaterina displays the mixed emotions beautifully without going over the top. Same with Vladimir who plays the soldier aka Thief. However, the most amazing performance is given by Misha, the little boy who plays little Sania, for 90% of the movie. His piercing blue eyes, his happy smile and his tears stole my heart.
A must see if you want to see a movie that touches your soul.
The Horse Whisperer (1998)
Beautiful scenery, good acting
I have not read the book, but as a movie I found this to be quite enjoyable. Having lived in Idaho, I loved seeing the big Montana sky and the colors of the west. The story of the injured girl (Scarlett Johansson) and the horse is touching and it should have been the primary focus of the movie. Unfortunately the romance between the girl's mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) and the horse whisperer (Robert Redford) is often distracting from the main story. The detailed scenes about life in the west drag at times, and once again detract from the main story. Scarlett Johansson is fantastic in the role of the angry kid. Kristin Scott Thomas, Chris Cooper, and Sam Neil are wonderful in their respective roles. I found Robert Redford a bit unconvincing as a horse whisperer/western cowboy. This movie would have had a much greater impact had it focused better on the main story.
Lost in Translation (2003)
Second time was charm
Joey-tribiani was right. I hated the movie the first time I saw it- in a theater. I actually fell asleep at one point. I decided to watch it on DVD just to find out if I missed something that others noticed and raved about. I was surprised to see that I really enjoyed the movie. Not only that, I could appreciate the subtlety, the way the two main characters behave toward each other- from being total strangers to soul mates. In a traditional movie they would have fallen in love, but here they just enjoy each other's company, knowing that it is a temporary thing, and yet meaningful in a strange way. Bill Murray should have received the Oscar for this. Scarlett Johansson is one of my most favorite actresses these days. Her unique beauty and intelligence really set her apart. She portrays the character Charlotte with such ease, she is not acting at all. The only criticism I have of the movie is that at times it drags a little. It is interesting to watch the different places Bob & Charlotte visit, but the story does not move at all. The story itself is very simple and it is not an action packed movie. That's what I appreciated during my second viewing- this time on DVD. I am going to watch in one more time to appreciate it even more. I really enjoyed the hospital scene and how Bob & Charlotte start caring for each other in subtle ways. It is not romantic but it is touching.
Their relationship is mostly platonic. However, after Charlotte discovers that Bob slept with another woman, she is slightly upset. Bob follows her to the restaurant and she makes reference to his age. She must be feeling hurt and mad. On their last night in Tokyo they hold hands in the restaurant. The last scene where Bob asks the driver to turn the taxi around, and Bob and Charlotte finally embrace, let their emotions out, and give a goodbye kiss, is very well done.
I am not sure the screenplay is Great, but it is very creative and unique and Sophia Coppola deserves credit as screen writer and director for producing this movie. I am glad that I did not dismiss the movie after seeing it the first time. So those of you who thought it was an awfully boring film, rent a DVD and you might be surprised.
The Notebook (2004)
Sensitive and wonderful
It was nice to see a sentimental movie based on human emotions, instead of the usual special effects or violence. The cinematography, acting, and music was fabulous. I particularly liked the young couple. They had great chemistry between them and it really made the movie excellent. The older couple was very believable too. James Garner and Gena Rowlands portrayed them so well. By far this is the best movie of 2004. I loved the way the story unfolded. Another thing I liked about the movie was that there were fresh new faces- Ryan Goslin and Rachel McAdams. Rachel in particular was very beautiful. Joan Allen was also very good in the role of Allie's mother.
I would highly recommend this movie to anyone that cares about human relationships and emotions.
Hauntingly beautiful and powerful
I was totally immersed in this film, from beginning to end. The music is haunting. The cinematography is unbelievable, and the acting is brilliant. I went through many different emotions watching this movie, with just a dozen other viewers in the theater. It would not have mattered if there were 100 viewers or just one. I was totally absorbed in the drama that unfolded on the screen.
Many other reviewers have already narrated the outline, and various interpretations, so I will not go into those. The most gutwrenching moment for me was when Vanya (Ivan- the younger son) runs after the boat that contains their father's body, and calls out "Papa..Papa..." and runs after the boat, in a failed attempt to save the body. This is the son that has consistently rejected the father and expressed the most doubts about this man really being their father. Sometimes the 'cruetly' of the father is unbearable to watch. He leaves his son in the middle of nowhere, and drives away with his other son. The younger son is drenched in freezing rain before the car reappears, apparently after many hours. I remember being very angry at that point. Despite the apparent heartlessness of the father, there are hints of caring. I wondered if the father had been through some traumatic experiences which made him resistant to any emotions (other than anger)? In the end the father runs after Ivan, and for the first time - when he climbs to the top- calls out: "Vanya- son...." just before he falls and dies.
When the father dies, the brothers seem to reverse their roles. The older brother is the 'designated leader'- father gave him the watch so he has to take responsibility, and he does. The boys don't just leave their father's body there. They find a way to move it to the beach, into the boat. After the father is dead, they almost seem to love him.
I am sure I am going to think about this movie for a long time. I just saw it a few hours ago and I cannot get the images out of my mind. This movie is about relationships and situations that shape our lives. There are lots of unanswered questions and one can put in the details, based on one's background. This movie is a masterpiece.