Posted on 3/06/12 01:58 PM
McCabe & Mrs. Miller is a desperately haunting and poetic film... It's almost impossible to describe what I thought of it, as I fell in love with it and my opinions could exceed the limit of objectivity, but this deserves an attempt.
If you expect a traditional Western you will probably be disappointed - it has left out all the myths that the genre has symbolized for so many decades. In fact, the director himself, Robert Altman, labeled it as an anti-western. With its dark imagery and unusual story, it paved the way for modern pieces of art such as Unforgiven, There Will Be Blood and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
Removing all the varnish applied to the Old West, the film gives an honest account of John McCabe, a man who is essentially a gambler. Luck put him in a relatively comfortable position of power and wealth as he arrives in a remote north-western town at the turn of the 20th century. Leaving a strange but discreet past behind him, he's ready to set up a business of his own, and a brothel for the local miners seems like the right idea. Constance Miller comes to offer him partnership. Seeing great potential in the plan, she is willing to run, and work in, a fine whorehouse. McCabe reluctantly accepts, but their business proves to be flourishing - and it surely wouldn't have been as clean and as respectable without Mrs. Miller's intervention. Then, as they prove to be one of the growing community's leading citizens, things start getting out of hand as the inevitable truths of capitalism unravel.
The film is mostly about the way the two leads interact with each other. McCabe is smitten by Miller's manners, and from their first encounter it's obvious that he has fallen into a dizzy spell. Some might call it love but it really is the desire for something that you can't fully obtain, something too distant. This Constance Miller who calls herself a madam is a whore, doesn't have much of a heart and doesn't try to hide it, yet she's enterprising, shines with the charm of a real lady, and, deep down, she's a sweet person. Their relationship is awkward and not based on love, but there is an indescribable feeling to it.
Julie Christie embodies her role magnificently (Al Pacino called her the most poetic of all actresses, watching this you can understand why). Warren Beatty is very convincing as the cigar-smoking John McCabe, a pathetically flawed man, not a hero, but a man you can identify with, for his weaknesses as well as for his strengths. The photography of wet, muddy landscape and Leonard Cohen's music confirm the melancholy mood. The pace is cautious and succeeds in revealing only as much as necessary, yet isn't slow and keeps the story going, as the details are paid attention to. The directing is perfect for the film - the characters and their conflicts, the dialogue, the humor: all perfect. Everything fits, what else can I say?
This is, in my book, one of the most understated masterpieces in the history of American cinema. It is strange and peculiar, and not for everyone to like and understand. But McCabe & Mrs. Miller is a unique and powerful film - it accomplishes everything it sets out to do.
Posted on 3/06/12 07:10 AM
West Side Story is one of the most famous musical films of all time for a good reason. It is flawed and somewhat repetitive, but what the heck, it's a musical right? It is an experience memorable for its sweet romance, great choreography, and Leonard Bernstein's timeless music. The Romeo and Juliet story is well transposed to modern times, and overall it feels really enjoyable. Natalie Wood is brilliant in the lead role even though she doesn't pass off so well as a Puerto-Rican...
At the end of this film I felt quite impressed. West Side Story has stood the test of time as a classic and is still easily recommendable.
Posted on 3/06/12 07:04 AM
The Fellowship of the Ring is visually and emotionally complex, and a near-perfect combination of art and entertainment. It's rare that anything of that genre manages to enchant, move, entertain and shock as brilliantly as The Lord of the Rings.
It might be perceived as boring, dull and repetitive, but J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy will never be forgotten, and time has proven that even with the recent onslaught of fantasy into litterature, The Lord of the Rings remains at the very top. Now, how is that possible? Maybe because the three volumes were released almost 60 years ago to critical acclaim and have now come to be regarded as one of the milestones of british litterature. They are intricately written and woven in such a way as to affectionally show what life and history really meant to the author as he was trying to pass it on to his readers. Tolkien, a renowned philologist, spent a lifetime writing, revising, compiling, editing, and re-revising his work: the dream to create the ultimate legends through his own imaginery world. And The Lord of the Rings, the most accessible and universally popular of his writings, is also his most accomplished.
As a huge Tolkien fan, I have read most of his books and I'm very familiar with its terms, languages and lore. As I belong to one of the later generations, I've been initiated to The Lord of the Rings through the films and the hype surrounding them - so I don't know if I would love the films as much if I hadn't, in a way, grown up with them, and if I had read the books before. But even now as I watch them somewhat more objectively, I can easily say that the whole trilogy is a wonderful adaptation of Tolkien's work. Peter Jackson got it right and put together something remarkable here, as he succeeded in projecting the creator's vision while still giving it his unique artistic touch, making the films his own thanks to spot-on direction.
The story in The Fellowship of the Ring is rather well transposed to the big screen and flows with intelligent pacing, filled with moments of action and thrills as well as moments of sheer wonder - supported by character development! It may sound easy to mix all of those when you have a 3-hour running time, but is it really? They have managed to bring us a condensed reworking of the book while keeping its charm and its magical touch. Only one detail worth mentioning from the screenplay (a mistake that has been pointed out over and over again...): the omission of the Tom Bombadil encounter, which in the book was sweet and fit the mood of the story at its point in time. But oh well, we've heard enough of it, and the fans will eventually forgive whoever is responsible for that dreadful deed...
Anyway, what I love about The Lord of the Rings in general, but especially in regard to The Fellowship of the Ring is that, despite its extensive use of special effects, it takes great advantage of scenery and cinematography to convey the beauty and grandeur of the surrounding world. And visually, from the green pastures of The Shire to the harsh, brasen land of Mordor, it remains true to how Tolkien might have imagined it.
The Fellowship of the Ring isn't considered to be as epic and intense as The Two Towers or The Return of the King, but in my opinion it is, though by a small margin, the overall-best and most consistent of the three. It is an awe-inspiring hommage to Middle-Earth and its creatures. Here we really get to know the characters and their conflicts, and even with some failed casting, the actors are convincing. There are enough battle scenes to keep the film going, too: the Nazgul encounters, the passage through Moria, the Uruk-hai assault on the Anduin shores...all carried by unforgettable music.
The Lord of the Rings is a stunning piece of work, it is dark and brooding but ultimately poetic, beautiful and compelling. Years after its release, it still gains in watchability and popularity, defining it into a modern classic.
Posted on 3/06/12 06:59 AM
Out of Africa is a very beautiful film, filled with stunning cinematography and great music, but it is extremely flawed. Although Sydney Pollack isn't a bad director, here he fails to convey any sense of pacing and the film drags and drags and drags, without a strong enough script to support its length.
Some of the characters are very complex, and the actors who portray them, Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, pull it off perfectly, with the supporting actors also doing a good job. Based on a true story, it tells of Karen Blixen, a Danish baroness who through a loveless marriage comes to own a coffee plantation in colonial Kenya. Near the times of World War I, she meets Denis, a big-game hunter, and they slowly begin a doomed love affair. This film deserves credit for how it shows relationships, and life, in a realistic and touching way, but unfortunately none of it manages to be very interesting...
I usually love long films that take the time to develop its characters and their surroundings, yet I have to say this one made me uncomfortable and bored me, as I couldn't keep up with its slow pace and its poor story. Even awe-inspiring shots of african landscapes don't quite make up for what the film couldn't achieve.
Out of Africa is passable in my opinion, and is still worth it for those who enjoy complicated romances, at least without expecting something too exciting or out of the ordinary.
Posted on 3/05/12 01:06 PM
In the line of a saga like Harry Potter, Twilight takes the phenomenon of an acclaimed book with loyal fans and turns it into an even bigger phenomenon, made only for the teenagers who hype over it, and who never could've thought that vampires existed before Stephanie Meyer invented them the way she did (vampires don't sparkle in the sunlight, we all know that). I haven't read the Twilight books and I never intend to, but this film was truly annoying to me. I finished watching it a year after I started it, and as painful as it was to sit through, while watching I kept asking myself the same questions: What is real dialogue? What is good acting? What is an interesting, compelling story? What all makes what we, too often, call good cinema? Obviously that made me realize that good dialogue, good acting, and a good story with a continuity of tone are the complete opposite of what is featured in this film.
The dialogue is horrendous, every single line is cringe-worthy! How anyone could agree to make a mainstream film with such bad dialogue is beyond me. Add to that how those lines are spoken with such lack of confidence, believability and realism, and it's just overwhelmingly uncomfortable. Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart both have their moments, but overall their level of acting is abysmal, it's like they're lost somewhere out of their characters. The love story is very strangely done - its mood changes every second. And the only real moment when something can happen - that I might have cared for - lasts barely ten minutes. So... The good things in this film, such as the cinematography or the music, aren't even worth pointing out.
In spite of my trying to like Twilight because of so many girlfriends who adore it and have, like others around the world, transformed it into a cult, I could not help considering it one of the worst films I have ever seen, and not wanting to sound mean or too harsh, in my honest opinion it will soon be forgotten along with its generation of rabid fans.
Posted on 3/01/12 06:39 PM
Casino is sadly overshadowed by the superiority and popularity of Scorsese's masterpiece Goodfellas, being very similar in genre and style. Yet even that doesn't make it less interesting or less entertaining, and it has earned to be set apart from Goodfellas. Its more colorful, attractive setting make it worthwile, and its cinematography, camera-work, as well as use of music remain original. Still after several viewings, the grandeur of Casino never fails to impress me.
Now, this surely isn't a movie for everyone. It is harsh and extremely violent, and the constant use of the word "fuck" (422 times in almost 3 hours) could be enough for it to be dismissed as plain disgusting... But its true power resides in its pace and in its characters. Casino is especially effective in the manner it depicts what eventually will and must happen to the people we've shared lives with on the screen.
Written by the winning pair of Goodfellas, Pileggi and Scorsese, and again adapted from a true story, it tells of the rise and fall of a big crime empire partly set in one of Las Vegas's most prestigeous casinos, the Tangiers, headed and run by De Niro's character, Sam "Ace" Rothstein. How he handles his affairs and even his personal life, troubled mostly by his trophy wife Ginger (Sharon Stone), is impressive but will lead him to no good, as he is egocentric and hard-tempered. His acquaintances range from Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci, again perfect in the role of a degenerate), a boyhood friend sent over to control the street life, to the real bosses and their clean-cut businessmen who make the deal look legal. Anyway it`s quite pointless here to remember the whole story, but it`s necessary to know that everyone gets a piece, if only a small piece, of everything, but in the end nothing lasts, and painful is the downfall...They all seem to deserve what's coming to them, and it's shocking, affecting, unforgettable - the result of great storytelling.
So many technical and stylish achievements but, mostly, details, have come to make Casino one of the most brilliantly crafted and best directed films I`ve had the pleasure to see.
Posted on 3/01/12 05:17 PM
I didn't experience anything memorable in Avatar - its story is boring and unoriginal, the dialogue made me cringe, the character development is minimal as is the emotional impact. Yes, emotionnally it is very dull and predictable. It was, at least for me. The special effects and visuals are definetly well made, but even that isn't anything terribly new for a high-budget blockbuster. Here, they took it to a higher level, sure. But honestly, could you ever describe special effects as 'perfect', can special effects replace simple film-making and acting?
Basing a movie's power solely on the value of its computer-generated imagery is ridiculous. And in the end, the "world" that James Cameron created is more like a Star Wars rip-off that takes itself too seriously...which is too bad, because Avatar had enormous potential, all it needed was a good script! It has failed to raise the bar in movie experience, as its story, and the way it is told, are neither new nor interesting. And in that sense it is average roller-coaster entertainment.
Posted on 3/01/12 05:15 PM
Some will be moved by Invictus, and some won't, one reason being that everyone has had different experiences with life and with movies, but it must be hard not to appreciate Clint Eastwood's precise, involving direction. It seems like he gets better and better with each of his efforts, and he always has this ability of his own to draw you into the story - making it ever more compelling with masterful editing and great actors. Morgan Freeman, after trying to make a film on Nelson Mandela for a long time, eventually found an interesting approach to one of the highlights of his life as President of South Africa and portrays the man with dedication and realism (Mandela himself said that he couldn't think of any other capable actor for the role).
The rest of the cast didn't disappoint. Matt Damon is excellent as François Pienaar, the rugby captain ready for improvement and greatness but shaken by his country's broken moralities. Was his afrikaani accent overdone? I don't know - but it sounded real.
The film tells of Nelson Mandela's first term as President and the changes he is prepared to make to South Africa. He was elected not long after being imprisonned by the previous government for 27 years. Apartheid has torn the country apart and he does everything in his power to reunite his people through peace, forgiveness and understanding. The Springboks must win the 1995 Rugby World Cup. The team has become a symbol of losing and of disappointment, but somehow Mandela manages to restore their image by giving them hope and motivation.
The rugby matches are intense, and you don't need to know much about rugby to be affected by them.
I also have to mention the music used, as it seemed to represent the South African atmostphere the right way and it fit the nature of the film. The film's message is subtletly handled and delivered, the political subtexts aren't too distracting and the characters to the smallest roles are intricate. It's both a look at Nelson Mandela's larger-than-life personnality and the world of sports. Some parts are a little useless or even go over the limit but with a solid script, impressive performances and clever pacing, the film is memorable.
Again, some can be moved by it and some can't, and I wouldn't recommend it to everyone... I for one was watching it in the right mood. Although Invictus is a flawed film and not a stand-out masterpiece, I was impressed by its mastery in directing and acting.
Posted on 4/09/10 05:03 PM
Clash of the Titans is a remake of the 1981 movie of the same name. It's a CGI cinematic feast that tells of the heroic exploits in Ancient Greece of Perseus the demi-god, son of Zeus. Randomly he's involved in a Gods' war that he doesn't understand (or that anybody really understands for that matter), and in one day evolves from a fisherman who had never had much involvement in anything to a kick-ass swordfighter determined to cut Medusa's head off and end the Kraken's terror. We know he's a demi-god, but come on...
This movie was somehow enjoyable because, I have to admit, the action sequences were well handled and the editing wasn't as hard to follow as I could've expected. But with such a bad story and screenplay it is extremely hard to accomplish anything worth remembering as anything but a total disaster. What it represents is not remotely close to what Greek Mythology is like (there never was such a thing as a Kraken and certainly not controlled by Hades, who never interfered and remained mostly neutral) and it's not even loyal to the original Clash of the Titans. Here I found myself laughing in mockery at most of the lines and at almost all of the situations. The film was maybe made affectionally in regard to its source, but there is nothing logical or meaningful in any way about the characters and their intentions. It also seemed to me like everyone was changing sides every few minutes, making it all even more devoid of any emotion or attachment to the action.
Therefore, Clash of the Titans is in my opinion completely pointless, and at best just another easily forgettable "popcorn flick". To be honest it makes me wish that Hollywood could stop making movies like this all over the place, because although I had some fun laughing for the wrong reasons, without any kind of good story and characters there is nothing no matter how good the special effects are, and that's what there was in this one: Nothing.
Posted on 4/08/10 05:59 AM
Mankiewicz's Julius Caesar is an astonishing production that succeeds in capturing the essence of a Shakespeare play. Even though I didn't know the play well, and have never read it nor seen any stage performance of it, it got me hooked right away, and Shakespeare's own language could be felt and understood clearly, purely. I am not very educated in Shakespeare's theater legacy, but this movie was to me a wonder as well as a test of patience and concentration.
It is the story, all too famous, of the plot to kill Caesar by Brutus and Cassius along with other members of the Senate who don't support Caesar's views anymore, believing his growing ambition will lead to tyranny. Mark Antony, played by Brando, loves Caesar, and holds the conspirators in contempt although "they are all honorable men". This develops into epic proportions of evocative and poetic dialogue, speeches and confrontations.
Now, what I found absolutely mesmerizing in this movie is the acting. Marlon Brando walks onto the screen and it's as if time had stopped, I simply couldn't take my eyes off of him. It's definetly one of his most memorable performances, the way he represents this powerful, angry yet understanding character is breathtaking. All the other actors are excellent, from James Mason and John Gielgud, to Deborah Kerr who has a brief but important role.
Overall Julius Caesar is a prime exemple of a good play adaptation, featuring some of the greatest actors of its time together to create a worthy experience.