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A Simple Plan (1998)
I can't understand the ecstatic reviews. This movie looks good but is hampered by unsympathetic characters doing foolish things. Why does Hank confide in his brother, a known loose cannon who can't keep a secret? Why don't they just split the money up in the first place and go their separate ways? Yes, the dramatic tension increases in the second half of this overlong movie, but two hours is more than is needed to tell this tale. The most interesting character is Hank's wife Sarah, who for some reason turns out to be the criminal mastermind of the bunch. And of course who can forget Gary Cole as the fake FBI guy they basically just hand everything over to despite Sarah's prescient warning. Even the sheriff himself didn't ask to see the FBI badge! The action is just too random and illogical to add up to a good plot.
Get Out (2017)
Best Original Screenplay? As in, hasn't been done before?
I join those who feel this film is overrated.
It's not terrible, just sort of an urban mashup of "Rosemary's Baby" and "Seconds." (There is even a minor character named Roman.) Why the cult this time is white people turning themselves into (kidnapped) black people is just kind of odd to me. I recommend "Seconds" as a good film about people taking extreme measures to become someone else.
The actors here who play the personality transplant victims are excellent at suggesting their internal struggles. It's very gory at the end and suffers from the predictable horror movie cliche of NOT getting out!
The Crowd (1928)
Technically advanced, not much of a story at all
No doubt this film deserves a place of honor in the way it is filmed. The crowd scenes, for one, are impressive, especially considering the technology available at the time. But the story is really not well though out. Sure, it's about the trials and tribulations of a young couple, but after an auspicious start the young man turns out to be a n'er-do-well, and his hapless personality is never really examined. Too much of the early parts of the film are spent dramatizing how normal and ordinary their early life is, then it all falls apart as he fails to hold down job after job for reasons that are never explored. He isn't a drunk, and he doesn't have PTSD from the war, so......what happened? Is he depressed? At the end, they all go out to watch a movie and laugh, in a particularly eerie crown scene. No wonder this movie wasn't popular ! !
Bad Teacher (2011)
One Of My Favorite Comedies Ever!
The talented Cameron Diaz is at her best in this brisk comedy about a "bad" teacher who does all the wrong things and triumphs in the end. Despite her questionable methods, she has a gift for guiding students through middle school and life in general. Wonderful performances from Jason Segal, Lucy Punch, Justin Timberlake, and the supporting players. The situations are far-fetched but make sense in their context. Sure it's a little gross, but nothing major. I highly recommend it.
The Unsuspected (1947)
More Mess Than Gem
Many reviewers here call this a "hidden gem," but to me it's hidden for a good reason. Yes, the lighting is interesting, sort of noir Victoriana - the backgrounds are busy but dramatic and distinctive. But the plot is slow and convoluted, and it lacks the crisp narrative style of "Laura," to which some compare it. Poor Claude Rains, who is good in anything, is paired with so many actors who tower over him that his small stature is rather jarringly accentuated in many scenes. Not a total washout, but not a masterpiece either.
Win Win (2011)
Total Waste Of Time
I agree with the reviewers who found this movie contrived and phony.
To praise it, you first have to accept that Paul Giamatti's lawyer character, with whom we are supposed to sympathize, would commit the most execrable kind of legal malpractice and elder abuse. So far as the fraud goes, you have to wonder why the lawyer doesn't simply arrange to keep his wealthy elderly client in his own home, per his wishes, since he is well to do and could afford a full time live in caregiver. Why put him instead in a retirement home? To contrive what very little dramatic tension there is in this feeble tale.
Then, you also must believe that the evil absentee drug abuser gold-digger daughter of the elderly man can somehow turn out to be a fresh-faced cutie pie who's about ten years too young to play the degenerate mother of the 17 year old son. (You also must believe that the son has a full time hairdresser on the premises, as his strange bleached out 'do always looks the same, but this is the least of the problems.)
All in all, this movie is fake, false, and maudlin, bereft of realistic situations or characters. I gave it three stars seeing how everyone seems to feel obligated to say nice things about the actors, even if the movie isn't very good.
The Square (2008)
"A Simple Plan" Goes Awry Down Under
Unlike some rapturous reviewers, I don't get the appeal of this movie at all. It is violent, senseless, and then violent some more. Why is everyone in Australia heavily armed, except our hero? The performances are fine, but what good is that if the movie is too long and the plot hard to follow? If you want to see a coherent drama concerning a big bag of hot cash, rent "A Simple Plan" and call it good. (Length requirements constrain me to add that the movie concerns a married man and a married woman who want to run off together. She spots a stash of cash her husband has hidden in the attic, and they scheme to get it by - hiring an arsonist to burn the house down after she steals it! Unfortunately, that doesn't work out too well because the arsonist's girlfriend doesn't get to him in time to call the whole thing off, and the husband isn't fooled anyway. Meanwhile, hero has some cash flow problems of his own by taking a kickback at work. A character who threatens to expose him impales himself accidentally, but our hero feels compelled to bury the body secretly anyway. The two schemes of thievery are vainly interwoven as if they somehow share a parallel theme other than concerning stolen money, but the Edgertons just aren't that skilled at the loom.)
Heaven's Gate (1980)
The Reviews Here Are The Best Part !
I was curious to see this one of the "Big Three" movie fiascos (the other two being "Ishtar," and "Waterworld," your list may vary) and so gamely gave the "director's cut" a try on TCM the other night.
I was not disappointed by the awfulness of this movie. I wish I could understand what those who think it's some kind of unappreciated masterpiece see in it. To me, Mr. Cimino is a director (and, let us not forget, also the writer) who cannot tell a story and does not respect his audience. This film is, after all, longer than "Gone With The Wind," but - unlike that fine film - scene after scene has nothing to do with anything before or after it, the dialogue is unintelligible in many places and anachronistically modern in tone, and the whole thing is unattractively photographed in sepia, as if to say, "look at me, I'm sure making a historical epic alright!" With all the unnecessary crowd scenes, it's easy to see why this thing turned into a money pit.
I appreciated many of the other comments on this movie here on IMDb, they hit the nail on the head. With regard to the various dancing scenes, I admit I did enjoy the one on roller skates, but can someone tell me where the orchestra was that was churning out all that high volume orchestral music on the lawn at Harvard in 1870? (Or did it just come down from Heaven?)
Whatever modest talents Mr. Cimino may have demonstrated early on in his career, apparently he deteriorated into a raging egomaniac somewhere along the way. Still, this movie probably could be edited down into some kind of small character-driven film. That would be a fun computer game. I would buy "Make Your Own Heaven's Gate" if it ever becomes available.
Between Two Worlds (1944)
Pretty Darn Good
I stumbled upon this film on TCM and found it engrossing enough to watch all the way through. It is a bit "talky," but that's what you want in a play, after all, so long as it's not boring!
Unlike some other reviewers, I found the music track intrusive and distracting and feel the movie would have worked more effectively without it, letting the words create their own "music," so to speak.
The performances are serviceable all around, with perhaps Edmund Gwenn the standout, as some have noted. I also enjoyed the "surprise ending," sort of a unique twist in this genre of "we're not-quite-dead" tales.
In any event, the next time this one comes around, I recommend it!
Read the Book, Skip the Movie
The book wasn't perfect but could have, in the hands of a skillful screenwriter, been transformed into a terrific movie. After all, this was a real, true-life courtroom drama set in an exotic American locale, with many colorful personalities to weave around the main tale. But the writer of this mess was no weaver, inexplicably adding his own new characters and events and gutting the drama of the crime and its subsequent legal and social effects. He didn't think it even worth mentioning, much less emphasizing, that Mr. Williams was subjected to FOUR trials, finally achieving an acquittal not in Savannah, where the case and the players were notorious, but upon a change of venue to Augusta, where no one cared. What a wonderful film this could have been about Savannah culture and society in general, and Mr. Williams in particular, as played out against the backdrop of the Georgia legal system. Even as a travelogue, it doesn't work, since not enough of Savannah is shown and described. A total bomb, in my humble opinion, but I gave it a 2 for effort.
Rachel, Rachel (1968)
Joan Woodward and the rest of the cast give wonderful performances, but this would-be character study is slow, ponderous, and obvious. Rachel is depressed and needs a new attitude. She rappels off a number of characters (a woman friend, a man friend, her mother) and at the end finally develops courage enough to start the second half of her life somewhere else. I thought this movie was a tedious downer when I saw it in a theater in 1968, and now with my wisdom and maturity of 40 years later, I still think it is more heat than light. As another reviewer here observed, Paul Newman had the clout to get it made, and vanity projects generally don't acquit themselves well. It was show-offy daring for its time, I think that's why it got so much buzz.
Across the Universe (2007)
"Rent" Meets "Mama Mia"
I give an E for Effort to Julie Taymore, but the problem is she didn't know when to quit. The movie veers from the sublime to the soporific, bogged down by a banal boy-meets-girl story that should have served only as a backdrop to move the musical scenes along, since it's not an interesting or original story in itself. The characters are more generic than "Rent," and the tunes are sewn into a less coherent whole than "Mama Mia," or "Hair," but this movie offers some imaginatively staged musical scenes and special effects which are in a class of their own. The elements of 60's social history are well suited to the music which originated at the same time, but the tone of the film becomes unpleasantly heavy, given that the film doesn't really have a point of view and eventually just dissolves into the gooey love story. Well worth seeing, but don't feel bad if you can't make it all the way to the end.
Neither Good Nor Bad
This is one of those movies that's a darling of the critics, but there really isn't much that hasn't been said before, and better. It reminded me a bit of the movie "Chocolat," which centered on a much stronger single woman character, but without the surreal charm. The male characters - even the bad husband and the stalker who becomes a different husband - were more complex, if not well developed, than the wimpy female leads, whose lives seemed to stand for the propositions that: 1) women don't need men, and children don't need fathers; 2) adultery is the key to relieving boredom of any kind, and 3) even a stalker is better than being single. That the gruff Andy Griffith character would go off and never be seen again, leaving the legacy of a life-changing gift, was totally predictable. To all this triteness, I must say BAH.
Not So Uplifting
Here we have a movie about a bright and creative woman who for some reason chooses to make a life with a man who can only be described as a stupid drunk. They then compound the problem by having a huge number of children they can't afford to feed, and home life is very precarious. We learn nothing of the woman's own background that would help us understand why she made such poor choices for her life. The feel-good ending implies that her children turned out happy and successful, but what a lot they were put through to get there! This is a maudlin movie that is more pathetic than inspirational, because the heroine doesn't overcome adversity so much as bring it upon herself. I assume the book must have been better.