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The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
What the negatives don't understand
To be honest I haven't watched this film in many years though I did see it in the theater when it first came out.
What I did do is just finish reading the book, and that seems to be what all of the reviewers who gave this negative reviews don't understand: this film is a movie of a book. So if you don't think that an alien was the right subject, or that getting water was realistic don't blame it on the film, blame it on the nook's author.
As far as being a good rendition or interpretation of the book, that is another concept altogether. As with all Hollywood interpretations the film takes its own path. Newton wasn't taking water back to his planet, he was sending a ship back to start a alien invasion as they had exhausted their planet's resources and couldn't manufacturer enough fuel to get the last remaining 300 survivors, of their own wars, to Earth.
As to being good sci-fi, that is also another concept. The book fell far short in that area. The predictions were too close in time, and even with that very few of them came true (a dissolving coffee pill, the lack of smell to all products, limited real foodstuffs, all never occur) with a few exception possibilities being some of Newton's film (a possible digital camera reference) inventions.
Beyond that the book sometimes didn't make sense, especially a part of the ending where Newton records an album of songs in his alien language hoping for FM radio airtime, which doesn't occur. The album is actually messages to his fellow planet dwellers that he won't be building a ship and they shouldn't be thinking Earth is the salvation they expected. The part that doesn't make sense is that Newton had so much money he could give away a million like it was nothing so he certainly could have paid to get his music played on the air or even bought his own radio station and broadcasted it himself.
Although I remember thoroughly enjoying the film I give it only 56 stars now because I haven't seen it in years and I am not sure how well it will hold up. For those that didn't like that Clark played a hick that is also part of the book.
For those complaining about the gratuitous sex scenes, they were a product of the era the film was made, so get over it.
Abe & Bruno (2006)
B Grade film appropriate for pre 10 year old children
I read the other 3 reviews - yes the acting is bad, but that is only if you are holding it up to much better work. The main character (who seems to have 10th billing) is Abe, a supposedly OLD GRUMPY Guy who neither looks "old" nor realistically pulls off "grumpy", but remember that I am an adult seeing this through the adult eyes a an avid movie buff.
The film has its moments - though admittedly they are few. If I was a young child this film would probably be quite good. In fact my expectation is to watch this with my 3 year old grandson who I think will find it quite enjoyable once someone watches it with him and explains things as the film progresses. I have the feeling it will be a movie he will want to watch often.
Unfortunately, from the adult viewpoint the acting is restrained like in the opening scenes where Abe is running away from what we quickly find to be Bruno the ape but he isn't really running - he is just sort of giving the impression that he could be running. Again, an adult look vs. a child's eye view probably makes the world of difference.
There is also a lot of what seems like attempts at comedy for the sake of making the film palatable for any adult who might have to supervise the youngster watching the film, like when Abe corrects his leaving the toilet seat up to appease Bruno's sensibilities on this subject.
This is basically examples of what to expect from "all" of the acting in this film, not just the actor portraying Abe. As an adult you'll find that the actors are acting, waiting for each other's lines and the occasional opportunity to step on someone else's line.
I was actually a little amazed that the three kids in the film got top billing as the Abe character and a few of the other adult actors seem to be the main characters, but that is just another example of who this film is geared towards.
As a film that I would categorize as an "After School Special" candidate for mid-western (I would have to drop it a few points for either coast) pre-teen family viewing I rate this at the higher end of the spectrum. If I was rating it for my own viewing pleasure I would unfortunately have to give it a flat out zero.
Funny Games (2007)
Good film - Liked original better
This film is played straight with two distinct exceptions. At one point one of the killers looks into the lens and talks to the audience questioning the viewers as to whose side they are on and then admitting that recognizably they must be on the side of the family, as if to either suck the viewer further into the story, attempting to make them a part of the killers' actions or as a warning that to be on the side of the family is to be on the losing side. It seems that this one point, at this one moment in the film, the film maker wants the viewer to know the ending, and is betting that even knowing so they will watch the film to its ultimate, now pre-disclosed, ending.
As to MuzikJunky and steandric's synopsis' I don't know where they got all that psychobabble about this film being ". . . a deconstruction in the way violence is portrayed in the media" or an " . . . exploration of our violent society and how depictions of violence reflect and shape our culture". Sounds like they both read the same promo notes. They did get it right with their spoilers as it is about a middle-class family who submits both physically and mentally to torture, violence, and eventually death foisted upon them by two young white-gloved visitors while they are starting their vacation at their lake house vacation retreat, which happens to be the next stop (house, having just performed the same experience at the neighbors) for the pair of young, serial killers on an excursion through the lakeside neighborhood.
Here's what both versions of this film are: A clear indication of the adverse effect of following the "state of submission" constantly proscribed to the general citizenry by politicians and their ilk.
Here's what I thought while watching both of these movies, had the family: 1.) understood the power of self protection they would have found a way to get a kitchen knife and attack the two killers. 2.) owned a firearm this couple would have been able to defend themselves after they were left alone in the house.
Had the father internalized his pain he could have attacked the one killer while the other was outside with his wife and possibly saved his family.
Even without a firearm, had the family understood the power of self protection the wife wouldn't have run off alone for help, they would have armed themselves and fortified their position, instead of one of them running off in the night looking for help.
Unfortunately, as the remote control reenactment proves when the wife finally does exert a sense of self protection shooting one of the killers, the film makers never intended to portray the state of "self protection" and were only interested in portraying the "state of submission". This scene also holds the one exception to the showing of on screen violence. We actually see the killer's chest explode with blood and gore when the wife shoots him with the gun. And we get to see it twice, the second in reverse replay, as if the filmmaker was saying, yes, I broke my rule, just as I earlier broke the rule of allowing the actors to speak to the audience, but, by providing the killer with the ability to use a remote I not only wiped away what I showed, insofar as to negating the visual but, just as I allowed the actor to cross the line of reality/non-reality that is film, I am making sure that the audience now realizes that this is indeed just a film and nothing more.
A final spoiler the almost sounding philosophical discussion between the two killers while sailing the family's boat to their next victims in which It appears the filmmaker was attempting to define film, or at least this film, led me to think of the psychobabble in MuzikJunky and steandric's synopsis'.
The reality was they were talking about a science fiction story that in some way could almost be considered an ever so slight synopsis of the film's plot.
But all of this leaves the viewer with a problem understanding what the filmmaker is trying to say. Why make this film? Why allow the two incidents (the actor talking to the audience and the replay of the killers death to eliminate that it occurred) of film rule to be broken? The killers never appear to have enjoyed what they are doing.
Could the fact that their Funny Games do not seem to amuse nor bring them joy or fulfillment be a mirror of the experience of viewing a film that film audiences have been living with since the invention of movies first occurred: One watches, and is left wanting more, feeling unfulfilled, not knowing what will really happen next.
And for those of us who are true film addicts: wanting to see yet another movie, even if it is about a completely unrelated story.
Rachel Getting Married (2008)
Calling a SPADE a SPADE
Ten minutes into watching this movie I was thinking: how much longer will this last? This film sort of reminded me of the time my neighbor brought their daughter's wedding video over and, to my wife's embarrassment, I fast forwarded thru the ceremony, in front of them. By that ten minute timeframe I was already thinking how this is like the worst possible wedding video experience you could have ever lived thru - combining the bad wedding video with the pre dinner and all the other new age wedding experiences that have developed in the years since I attended my first wedding, at the age of 6 when I was the ring bearer at my cousin's wedding. During the pre dinner scene I just wanted to hit the fast forward button and get to the drug addict sister's speech -a bit of crappy standup that quickly turned into the very flat climax of the scene - which I already figured was going to be her chance to embarrass herself and her family while ostracizing everyone else.
The hand held camera work, changing film quality and grain, and the MTV hectic editing style totally removed any possibility that I might have been immersed in the "film experience", that thing that films are designed to do. Plus the story line was way too flawed, like how is it only the ex-addict daughter realizes the mother shouldn't have left a known drug addict to babysit a child (BIG), or, how come the daughter ends up with a split lip from a smack down with her mother but the mom doesn't get even a bruise from the daughter's Mike Tyson punch to her kisser (MINOR) during a scene where the mother erupts into complete anger while telling her daughter she killed her brother. Here's my take: cold and indifferent mom who had long lost any maternal feelings to her children was already having an affair with her soon to be new husband and left drug addict daughter with son while she snuck off for a quickie, tellingly shown in her priority to leave the wedding to take care of her husband's travel arrangements in the face of her daughter's clearly expressed need for some motherly interaction.
The PC attendance to the Diversity detail was too obvious and annoyingly in your face, leaving me to contemplate what Diverse element may have been excluded, and leaving me with the impression that I had just seen a bad film about a wedding that should have made number 1 on one of those TV reality shows about the world's most horribly designed theme weddings.
As to the acting, Rachel, the soon to be husband, real dad and mom, step mom and dad, and all of the other supporting actors and actresses were all played quite well, to the point where one would expect that all of those people were probably just like that in real life. Anne Hathaway's performance was just as good though it didn't leave me believing anything other than that she was an actress playing a role, which was probably more because of the writing than anything else. I sort of had the feeling that Lumet idea for character development for this role didn't go beyond what would happen at a wedding where one of the daughters was a drug addict who had previously killed her brother.
What would have made this film good would have been if it were a documentary, a real documentary, not a film, falling incredibly short of attempting to be . . .
Across the Universe (2007)
Please don't call this BEATLES
First off let me relate a story that will demonstrate my clear bias to this film going in My wife had bought the CD based on some review that she had read or on some one's recommendation, it doesn't matter which. She played it for me in the car one night. Before it got to the third song I pulled it out of the deck and tossed it. The music was so bad it was insulting. I couldn't believe that anyone could possibly consider these bastardized renditions of some of the Beatles' greatest songs as music fitting to listen to other tan corporate CEOs who only cared about how much money they might bring in with sales.
Now, if you had to rank this film against others of its nature, say, Hair or Jesus Christ Superstar, from that era, then, you'd have to rank it 5 stars. The movie accomplishes what it attempted to do with each song matched to entertaining visuals, though more often than not the songs' content don't match to the lyrics or to what the Beatles were saying or living at the time they wrote and performed them.
But the fact is this film should be rated a negative star or two. This film wasn't made in that era, it isn't that era, it is today, here and now.
Fast forward to the future, some time into the present. I was preparing to do my wash as a good documentary (Shut Up and Sing the story of the Dixie Chicks controversy no I am not a fan, but the film was good documentary coverage of what they went thru) had just ended. I took a quick scan of what was next offered on the movie channels that I subscribe to and saw this film's write up, thinking, a movie revolving around Beatles' songs, how bad can it be, besides, I'd be in and out of the room doing the laundry, so if I missed any of it, at least the songs would help me pass the time. How wrong I could have been never crossed my mind. Unfortunately I didn't put the CD and movie in the same context until I was well into the film.
Just to set the record straight I stopped paying attention to this film before it was halfway through I only wish I had a fast forward function on my set as I would have liberally used it during the time I was watching the film. I also want to state that I did not turn the film off, I did not walk out, I just tuned out.
Given there are well over 400 reviews in this Amazon posting I didn't read them all, though I did my best to read as many of the negative ones as possible, once again, showing my bias. I started by reading the positives and found that they were basically all along the same lines, praising the greatness of the artists, the director, the visuals, and the accomplishments of all of their visions. I guess they were the same people that Mama Mia was created for.
About all I could add to the line of positive thoughts about Across the Universe is that the film did its best to follow thru with an exploration of that era's look, feel, and philosophies, while attempting to include all sorts of events and music innovations (was that woman supposed to Janis and her boyfriend Hendrix), although, those were bastardized as well, ala Woody Allen's Zelig style, and later Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump.
Maybe I'm thinking of Across the Universe was a mutation birthed by a copulation of THE FILMS Hair and Godspell.
If you want to see a movie with Beatles' songs in it see Hard Day's Night, see HELP, even go see Yellow Submarine (not one of my favorites though great music) but whatever you do, don't see Across the Universe and then walk around telling people you just saw a great Beatles film because all you saw was this bad piece of crappy celluloid. If you want to hear great Beatles' songs, listen to the Beatles. Listen to any one of their songs, song by them, and then compare it to the songs in this film. If you think these were as good, came even close, or were actually better, then . . . you, my friend, are just a fool without a hill.
Note: I'm not a fan of the films Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and Tommy (OK, not a Beatles' film but all of these films are of the same mindset, look and feel), but this ain't no Tommy, it ain't no SPLHCB (though I guess that was what they were thinking), and it ain't a decent attempt at properly portraying the Beatles' songs.
PS: I find it extremely unfortunate that the writer, director, and producers felt they needed to coop the aspects of British music history (the way they used the Beatles' final roof concert as a plot dressing in the closing of this film turned my stomach) that they did in this film and morph them into some sort of American bastardization of life seen thru American eyes during that era. But I guess that was what this movie was all about, morphing life into their desire to make money. Am I wrong or did this movie only last 3 weeks in theaters?
In the Cut (2003)
psychological thriller vs. visually stylistic art flick
In the Cut "In the Cut" Meg Ryan, Jennifer Jason Leigh.
The film is touted as a psychological thriller in which the main character increasingly becomes afraid of her selected love interest while at the same time desiring him - throughout she is wary about the motives of the various men with whom she has contact-a s well as her own motives - but is more of a detective serial murder mystery with what appears to be a switch: The Ryan role is the main character as well as a possible victim or maybe even The Victim.
Although I found this film to be slow, especially during the sex scenes, with a little too much total nudity of Ryan, to the point where one would question this role as a career choice (or possibly lack of career choices), the film was extremely artistic with tons of knock you over the head non-subtlety all filmed in a very visually stylistic form from the opening credit pedals falling dreamlike scene to the scene where the climax ended. Ryan poignantly portrays the New York City teacher, possibly wannabe writer, who, lost in her own seemingly dead-end sensual non-sensual (introduced by answering no to her sister's questioning of "Do you feel happy when you wake up every day") world and confused by her choices (the detective, his partner, her student, her seemingly psychopathic ex-boyfriend) believes she is investigating the darker side of passion (metaphorically depicted in the subway poetry she is drawn to) by becoming involved with a sexually ambivalent homicide detective as an almost directive by which she can follow her half sister's suggestion to fulfill the "get dick into her" role that she herself hadn't been able to fulfill.
Unfortunately, the plot seems to be full of improbabilities and the audience is asked to accept action that either don't seem to fit, have no reason for existing, or are at odds with all of the character's development: A young woman is decapitated head is left in Ryan's garden, a location point that doesn't make any sense in light of where the other bodies are dumped and only acts as the plot vehicle initiator of the relationship between Ryan's character and the detective, as neither did the latter selections of victims unless the killer's focus had always been the Ryan character herself, under which circumstances the first killing doesn't made any sense.
Ryan's character collects sentences, sayings and new slang as a hobby that describes as being passionate about words which, although appeared as if it would blossom into a good plot point never does and in actuality never seemed to have anything to really do with the story. She never uses any of the ideas that she seemed to get a hold of and by the end of the film this plot sub-story not only doesn't have an ascertainable point but the audience is led far enough away from it that it becomes completely forgotten. Other then acting as an attempt to further develop the character and give her some more substantial reality its only reason for existence was as some link "to the dark" side of her passion and as both a metaphor and reason to follow-up on the men she is attracted to.
Her half-sister Pauline played by Jennifer Jason Leigh is vividly a confused and possibly unstable woman, yet Ryan's character not only follows her advise but seems to desire her lifestyle and look. Their close friendship is never explained and doesn't seem to make any sense and one would rightly expect Ryan's character to straighten her step sister out instead of blindly accepting and encouraging her to the point of flippantly laughing at the sister's announcement that her ex-lover's wife is taking out an order of protection to restrain her from what is obviously stalking like it was a fun happening aspect of her step sister's lifestyle that she wished she herself had.