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Rating History

Casablanca (1943)
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Rick: If it's December 1941 in Casablanca, what time is it in New York?
Sam: What? My watch stopped.
Rick: I'd bet they're asleep in New York. I'd bet they're asleep all over America.

What is there to say about Casablanca that hasn't already been said? It is, bar none, the greatest movie of all time. A set piece, with an outstanding cast of character actors, a great story, wonderfully acted on every turn. It is ranked top marks and received accolades by everyone, including this reviewer.

So what else can be said about this film about what makes it so great?

Well - aside from the usual suspects (heh) - the epic romance, the scenes, the characters, the dialogue and all the other great features provided in this fim, there is one other, often over-looked, aspect of the film that very few people tend to give close examination.

There are, on-going within the film, numerous running themes that weave their way throughout the picture. It is like watching someone making a fine cloth. There are the themes of love and despair, and the desperate sacrifices that one is willing to make, and do make, for the people that they love.

There is the theme of the Nazi occupation, and what each person will do in order to survive such circumstances, and what one is willing to endure under those same circumstances. Not to mention that breaking point which comes to all people when they are no longer willing to endure these circumstances and begin to rebel against them.

But even more so than these more obvious themes, there is the fascinating them that underlies the film, and that is the theme of Rick's "Café Americain" as a microcosm the world, itself - and the world at war.

Conceived as early as 1938 - when the Nazi attrocities against humanity had already begun - when the war itself was only an distant echo - the story of Casablanca seethes with an underlying theme of America's reluctance to get involved in the issues of Europe, of their own self-interest and self-indulgence - and what it finally takes to bring them into the war.

Rick is America - he is only worried about one thing - himself. But that all changes when he realizes that no man can sit idle, while the rest of the world burns down around him. Ilsa is Europe - his love interest, certainly, but she is also his one link to the entire world - the only thing he cares about. Laslo is democracy - idealism - those values of society which we hold to a higher purpose. He must be freed from the chains of fascism, his voice must be heard the world over. Renault is France - forever the romantic, brave when he needs to be - bending but not breaking under Nazi rule.

All of these aspects come into play within the world-wide environment of Rick's Café - and the story unfolds that the world comes together to thwart the Nazis and to free our ideals and our ability to express them - even if it means giving up those things that we love and hold dear.

There are of course, other underlying themes that run through this picture, but that is simply what makes it so great - so fascinating. Each time you watch the film, you can follow another sub-theme run through the film to its fruition.

It is truly the greatest film of all time - it never tires - and it shall forever stand the test of time.

Inglourious Basterds
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

"... had any other director issued this film, people would have flung poo at it, like chimpanzees in a zoo."

Now, I realize that it is likely I am not going to be very popular for this review, however, there are a few things that I think need to be said about this film and its director, Quentin Tarantino.

Let me just say that I have never been a fan of Quentin Tarantino's films. I think they are all crap. Well, almost all crap. Now, don't get me wrong, Reservoir Dogs was a very good film, and the laurels that have been heaped upon Mr. Tarantino in lieu of that particular film are well earned. It was new. It was urgent. It was real. As film-making goes, it was unique for its time. But it has been over 20 years, and the director has not moved forward one iota from this same now-tired formula of film-making.

I think it is now time that people got off the Tarantino bandwagon, and really started to make some honest assessments of his body of work. It is also, likewise, time for Mr. Tarantino, himself, to stop milking his art-film Reservoir Dogs milieu, and to actually take the time and make the effort to direct a film worth watching. Every Tarantino movie is made in the same forumla - and all of them appear to have been made from the seat of his pants. They are hackneyed, tired and loathsome while attempting to appear artsy.

Now, I realize that Mr. Tarantino is a "pet director" for all those people who like to think they are deep and meaningful. Particularly those people who are neither deep, nor meaningful, but like to pretend they are deep and meaningful for the sake of keeping up appearances. The point is that Tarantino's films are neither deep nor meaningful. So, it is okay to come out of the closet on this one, people, and admit it. Admitting his films are crap is the first step.

Mr. Tarantino's films are not clever. Not one bit. They are not entertaining. Not at all. They have not featured anything"original" in concept or production, since Reservoir Dogs. They consist of painful to watch, overly-long scenes of meaningless conversation about nothing, blended together without any indication of an actual story or plot which, more often than not, go absolutely nowhere - except a bloody mess. Every scene starts with people talking about nothing, and ends with buckets of blood being poured all over the place. This is apparently "arsty". Well - okay it is artsy, in exactly the same way a 30-someting year old fingerpaints oil on canvas with the same talent as a kindergartener. It's not art folks - it's crap.

Inglourious Basterds is a terrible film. Beyond the reality that it distorts historical record to the point of absurdity. Beyond the fact that it features some of the most stilted acting in a decade. Beyond the point that it features some of the worst accents every recorded on film. This movie's only redeemable feature is that it is, plain and simple, a Tarantino flick. If not for any other reason, had any other director issued this film, people would have flung poo at it like chimpanzees in a zoo.

The long, painful, opening scene with Colonel Landa interrogating the French dairy farmer serves little purpose except perhaps to demonstrate just how much an audience of a Tarantino film will endure before they walk out of the cinema. Then again, it is a Tarantino movie and to declare that the film is pure crap is tantamount to social suicide in some circles. This scene, combined with the scene wherein we await the arrival of Donny Donowitz to come forward to bash in the brains of the German Sergeant are, clearly, documented proof that there is, indeed a reason DVD players have fast forward buttons. I could not imagine sitting in a theatre watching this piece of crap unfold. Somewhere along the line, I would have shouted "Get on with it!"

To be sure, I will give Tarantino credit - for once he has actually manages to tell a story in a linear fashion - albeit with large, incomprehensible, leaps in the dialogue. All the same, this film makes very little sense whatsoever. Why would Hitler and the main body of his Nazi brain trust be in a theatre, in Paris, when the Allies have already made a beach head at Normandy? Why would security at such a venue be so ridiculously lax?

That said, Christoph Waltz's performance is, for the most part, the only truly redeeming feature of the entire film. Had Tarantino decided to make a film about Colonel Landa and his exploits, it may have been worth watching. That said, knowing Tarantino, he would have re-tracked the story, taken scenes from the ending and moved them to the beginning, taken scenes from the middle and moved them to the end, intercut all of that with images of gangsters shooting each other, and then poured blood all over it - in other words, it would have still been crap.

See this movie at your own peril - but I strongly urge you to only watch it with your finger poised over the fast forward button. A few well placed blows to the head will most likely make it seem much more entertaining as well.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Without a doubt, this is the funniest film ever made.

Very few films -- in fact, none -- other than Monty Python and the Holy Grail, can boast the ability to generate genuine belly-rolling laughter from the very on-set of the opening credits. This is a film that demands you watch it more than once, mainly because you will be laughing too hard at one scene to fully appreciate the next. No matter how many times I watch this film, I wind up laughing at it. Sheer brilliance.

It is the tale of Arthur, King of the Britons (Graham Chapman), his servant Patsy (Terry Gilliam), and his Knights (keh-niggets) of the Round Table (Terry Jones, John Cleese, Michael Palin and Eric Idle). Arthur and his Knights embark upon a quest commended upon them by God (W.G. Grace).

Along the way they encounter Black Knights, castle guards who ponder the wing velocity of sparrows, a medieval mob that undertakes the scientific discourse about the composition of witches, a discussion about the validation of medieval constitutional process, taunting Frenchmen with outrageous accents, a three headed giant with argumentative heads, the perils of Castle Anthrax, Knights who say "Ni", a wedding party which is brutally dispersed,an enchanter named Tim, a killer-rabbit which they eliminate with the Holy Hand-grenade of Antioch and the Bridge of Death.

The fact that this film was made for a ridiculously low budget decries its low production value - but the Pythons make the most of it, including a rather hilarious and clever use of coconut shells, which leads to a rather impractical discussion about sparrows ...

The brilliance in how the Pythons work is, as always, the fact that they can take any combination of circumstances and cross-reference them with other, and is often the case in this movie, anachronistic aspects and produce an effect which is so entirely rib-tickling that it leaves you giggling about it for days on end. "Help, help! I am being repressed! Come and see the violence inherit in the system!"

This is a film that never shows its age - the jokes never grow tired - and the DVD features are themselves likewise thoroughly enjoyable. Hell, even the DVD cover itself is a joy to read!

It truly stands the test of time as the all-time greatest comedy production every made. A timeless production that will never grow old. No home theatre set is complete without a copy of this classic film.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

First of all, I will acknowledge that I am a fan of Harry Potter. I am not a "foaming at the mouth, dressed in Hogwarts attire" type fan, but a fan nonetheless, and I consider myself very well informed about the canon that is about all things "Potterish".

As such, clearly, my opinion of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is going to be somewhat biased - and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I laughed, I cried, I will buy the DVD when it comes out (as long as it contains both Parts 1 and 2).

I found the story production in the film very faithful to the original text which was nice, for a change.

Personally, I was a little disappointed in what was still left out of the film: the Dursley's terse departure and Dudley's reconciliation with Harry; Kreacher's story about Voldemort's abuse of Kreacher to hide the locket; and Regulus's reclamation of the locket and Kreacher hiding it in the house - such events make these tertiary figures more sympathetic to the reader and would have, likewise, made them more so sympathetic to a viewing audience.

I am not sure why they made Hedwig the patsy for "giving Harry away" in the film during the initial chase of the seven Potters, as opposed to the cause being Harry's own use of his "signature spell" - except perhaps that it made Hedwig's death seem more of a heroic gesture.

I also liked how they dropped Bill Weasley into the film, as though from outer space, complete with the werewolf claw scratch across his face - it was a nice touch - particularly since he has never even been mentioned before in any of the films. It's rather humourous to see him have to introduce himself to Harry in the film when, in the books, he is already well-known to the young Mr. Potter.

That said, it was great to see the inclusion of Kreacher and Dobby - particularly Dobby - despite the running commentary from those particular people in the audience behind me, debating the pros and cons of the inclusion of CGI into live film, the obvious shortcomings of CGI, and the reason why they don't have girlfriends.

For those of you unaquainted with the story, Harry, Ron and Hermoine are "on the lam" in this picture - avoiding the pursuit of Voldemort's Death Eaters, while they search for the hidden remnants of Voldemort's shattered soul (horcruxes), they also learn about the existence of certain magical items (hallows) which may give them an advantage in likewise defeating Voldemort. As the story progresses, they seek to locate and destroy the horcruxes, while learning more about the existence and possible use of the hallows.

The film moves along at a very good pace - intermixing moments of rushing excitement with moments of stillness and solitude - for a film running at 150 minutes, it does not seem like a 2 1/2 hour film. Frankly, the film certainly needed to be divided into two parts - to reduce this production down to one three hour film would have butchered the story. As it stands, we only get a few cursory moments with certain scenes, such as Bill and Fleur's wedding which, while not necessarily pivotal to the story, it would have been nice to dwell and enjoy them a while longer.

The performances from the three main character leads: Radcliffe, Watson and Grint, are the best yet. Grint, in particular, is most demonstrative in portraying Ron's brooding nature while under the influence of the locket. Together, the three of them demonstrate a vulnerability not experienced before within these films. Of course, with Dumbledore's all-powerful presence to back them up, in the past, there was no need for these characters to be so frightened and insecure. Now, with Dumbledore gone, they are alone and scared - and the threesome is up to the task of demonstrating this trait without fail.

The surrounding cast is equally excellent. There is not a single ham in the bunch. Perhaps the best performance amongst the lot is Jason Isaac's portrayal of Lucius Malfoy. It is fascinating in this film to see just how far some of the "mighty" have fallen, and the woes that have begotten the Malfoy family are without exception. While watching poor Lucius twitch and jump, one is reminded of the phrase "be careful what you ask for, you may be disappointed when you get it".

Still, there is something to be said about the camera work in this film. While I like the hand-held camera work for action sequences -- and the chase sequences within the Ministry of Magic, and later in the woods are outstanding - I have a difficult time understanding why anyone would use a hand-held camera for sequences that do not need to simulate motion. There are moments within the film when it appears the cameraman was standing on rollerskates while walking across a floor strewn with marbles. Do we need THAT much motion from a camera? Really?

All in all, Deathly Hallows Part 1 is definitely a film made entirely for the fan-base - and there are very few Potter fans who will leave the theatre disappointed with this film.

I cannot wait for Part 2 in July 2011 ...