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Rating History

The Return
The Return (2003)
9 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

[size=5][b]The Return [/b]
[size=2]Directed by: Andri Zvyagintsev


I heard a minister talk once on the importance of fatherhood. How important he felt it was for men to be fathers in a day where fatherhood is out of style in many ways. I found it particularly interesting when he said:

"Your father has dominated your life. I guarentee it. 'But,' some of you say, 'my father didn't have any impact on me. He was never around.' But no, these fathers have dominated those lives most of all. They have been dominated by their absense. It doesn't mean that you can't grow up with a wonderful single mother, or that you can't grow up to be a good person, but one way or another, your father has had a profound impact on your life."

Regardless of if you agree with this particular minister's opinion on what fatherhood is or isn't, I think that most would agree that in the modern day, fatherhood is an institution that has greatly changed, probably not for the better, and that it has some impact on our world society. This film is a meditation on this fact.

It's about two boys who's father has been gone for 12 years. He shows up again unannounced, and instantly, changes the boy's lives. One boy is overjoyed to see him. The other is deepy suspicious and resentful.

The father doesn't help things much. He is a poster child for the overly harsh father. I wouldn't call him abusive, but he's certainly a father who demands respect and disipline beyond all else. His feelings toward his children are unclear. Anyhow, they end up going on a 'fishing trip', one that immediately seems to have ulterior motives.

Stylistically, this is a classic example of what happens when somebody learns from a great director, but has enough of their own style and ideas to just continue the evolution of the style from his to theirs without just being a copycat.

I'm sure the comparisons to Tarkovsky are running rampent on this one (indeed, the back of the DVD box has a reviewer comparing this film to works by just that man), and they are warrented, but incomplete. The stark, bleached look to the landscape is straight out of Tarkovsky's films, as is the love of water, abandoned structures, and the general tone of the film.

The film is also slow, but it looks like it is on speed compared to Tarkovsky, and I think that helps given the topic of the film. Tarkovsky's issues are, when it comes down to it, about God, about spiritual issues and meditation. This film is about family. Family is different from God. Unlike God, it's easy to grasp and it's impact much easier felt. It is also much more dynamic and fast paced, emotions swing more rapidly and things change faster. Not fast, but faster, and the somewhat faster pace seems appropriate.

Anyhow, this is a wonderful, beautiful, well executed film. It is also closer to an 10/10 then it is a 9/10, might be after second viewing. The drama is so thick in this film, that I wouldn't cook anything while watching it, you won't hear the timer going off. And you will leave this film with feelings and ideas that will stick in your head for days. One of the best films of the year.

[b][size=5]The Philidelphia Experiment
[/size][/b][size=5][size=2]Directed by: Stuart Raffill


I didn't really dislike this film, but it's so throwaway I couldn't really give it any higher. It's basically shlocky 80's sci-fi, but the story isn't horrible, and who doesn't like Nancy Allen? Fun throwaway film.

[b][size=5]Collateral (3rd Viewing)[/size][/b][size=5][size=2]
Directed by: Michael Mann


This film has gotten better every time I've seen it. Initially, I really enjoyed it, but parts of it were a departure from what I was use to with Mann, namely the humor, and then I felt it was a bit contrived at times.

Upon second viewing, I felt the problems a little less, and enjoyed the good parts (would take too long to list), and it really weighed on my mind.

Now, upon third viewing, I realize that the humor was actually just about perfect and the complaint about contrivances is irrelevant. The script is about that extra-normal, about the extrordinary, not about the ordinary or the likely. It is about that moment in time where the unlikely happens, and how it changes people, or snaps them awake. Nothing that happens in the film is impossible, and the script is about the improbable, thus it allows real humanity to come out without sacrificing the rush of the fantastic.

The script is literally perfect, in my opinion. It has some of the best dialog I've ever read. It has some of the deepest characterizations, especially in an action film, of not only the year, but the past several. Mann's pacing is equally perfect, you could trust it to run your pacemaker. I think as time goes on, Foxx and Cruise's performances will be considered some of the performances that become part of our culture, like DeNiro in Taxi Driver or Brando in The Godfather. Finally, his use of unique, beautiful cinematography and being able to perfectly set them up with the appropriate music, and very different music depending on the scene, is nothing short of genius. Nobody can do it like he does, and it's amazing.

This is a Mann masterpiece. Only 'Heat' is it's better IMHO, it even slightly out does 'Last of the Mohicans' by a tad I'd say. It is right now in my top 3 for the year.


Loves of a Blonde (Lásky jedné plavovlásky)
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

[size=5][b]Inherit The Wind[/b][/size]
Directed by: Stanley Kramer

I know this is suppose to be a respected classic, but I really, really did not like this film.

Stanley Kramer is the king of heavy-handed social commentary, he made his entire career out of it basically. Anybody who thinks "Crash" is heavy handed need to see some of Kramer's films.

That said, I had enjoyed, to a certain degree, some of his other films. The Defiant Ones is silmilarly heavy handed, but it's more down-to-earth, and has some really great cinematography. Similarly, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner was equally heavy-handed and preachy, but it at least had some killer dialog and some insight into a family's relationships. Judgement at Nuremburg is his best film, and avoids most of the heavy handedness, although not completely.

This film has all of the heavy-handed preachiness, but none of the great cinematography, and none of the insight. It suffers somewhat from what all films that "are" about real events, but "aren't" about real events, (such as Elephant) in that the film terribly misrepresents what actually happened at the Scopes Monkey Trial in ways that's easy to be offputting for someone who actually understands what's going on. Like Van Sant in Elephant, he feels no remorse in shamelessly manipulating the facts of the story he's "not really" covering but is, regardless of how politically sensitive, (In reality, for example, Scopes set the entire thing up, and was not some poor oppressed teacher, but someone who taught specifically to challenge the law, and had everything set up before hand), but honestly? Oh well, I can live with that. I'm sympathetic to his cause anyway, so it's relatively easy to overlook.

What I cannot overlook, however, is the shallow, stereotypical characters that represent charactures of virtually everyone involved. Fredric March is nothing but a bafoon in the character who "isn't" William Jennings Bryon, and Spencer Tracy is nothing more then the most arrogant, condencending and judgemental character you could possibly imagine as the character who "isn't" Clarance Darrow.

The courtroom drama is similarly rediculous. The situation isn't set up or explained properly. They leave out a ton of important things involved in the real life case, and the case makes no sense as a result. The Darrow character looks incompetent according to the senario as set up, although he's portrayed as the hero, and Bryon isn't much better.

There is a certain engaging quality to this film, based mostly on the actors, but I couldn't help but not only be disappointed by this film, but being angry.



Directed by: Andy Tennant

This film has a hoast of very funny moments. It's got two problems:

1. You see too many of the best ones in the previews.

2. The characters in this film are so paper thin, that you forget the movie two seconds after it's over.

I can't be too hard on this film, I did laugh all the way through it, but ultimately, it's like a piece of cotton candy. Feels good to eat, but doesn't fill you up at all.



Loves of a Blonde[/b][/size]
Directed by: Milos Forman

First, the good news: This film has a ton of great moments, and really shows promise as a first film. I especially liked the 'seduction' scene, which was first sexy, then funny, then sexy, then funny again, without ever missing a beat, and the 'sleep in parents bedroom' scene, which was drop-dead hilarious.

The bad news: It FEELS a lot like a first film. It's a bunch of loosely collected good ideas that really have little cohesion and not a lot of character depth.

This is the definition of a first film, in the best AND worst sense of the word. Take that for what it's worth.


Directed by: Brian Dannelly


This is one of those 'almost' films. It's certainly got a lot of hilarious moments, but it doesn't quite reach it's objectives.

A satire of this type is sensitive, especially because of the nature of these types of satires. Regardless of how much you exaggerate, or how unfair you are, you can just say "Well, it's satire, it's not suppose to be real." This film can fairly be criticized at using this logic too much and too unfairly. While I've never been part of the crowd he's speaking of, I understand it, and I know enough about it to make a fair judgement. I can't really criticize his perspective, it's not bu!!s#!t. Half of what he says is right on, the other half has at least some truth. Yet it does come off as an overly condencending film, and it brushes far too many real issues under the table in the name of a cheap political statment or joke in a way that says to me he either A. Doesn't totally understand what he's commenting on, or B. Is satisfied with a cheap joke as opposed to a deeper insight that might have been made, or C. Isn't willing to ask the next locical question

That said, it works fairly well. The scene where the 'bad' girl starts speaking in toungs and ripping her clothes off is one of the funniest scenes I've seen recently, and a lot of other scenes got a good laugh out of me. The ending was hilarious and not overly stereotypical (Although heavy-handed).

What you think of this film will largely be decided by how much license you are willing to give satire. Like I said, it's not a totally unfair perspective, but it does take a lot of cheap shots. It is funny and well acted, however, and certainly brings up an important topic that's not really addressed.

Oh, and I think Jena Malone is mass cute.


Legal Eagles[/b][/size]
Directed by: Ivan Reitman


This mystery/comedy/courtroom drama by Irvan Reitman of Ghostbusters and Kindergardent Cop fame, is a fun film. No way around that. It's got enough funny moments and enough suspence to keep it worth watching, and Redford, Winger and Hannah are all charming enough to make it work. Not more, not less.


Batman Returns
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

I bought the 4pack Blu Ray that had all of the 4 early Batman movies (not counting the TV movie). So this is the second rewatch from that batch. I hadn't seen these in years, but I remember not really liking the original much, but really liking Batman Returns.

Well, my memory was right. This is a MUCH better movie than the first Batman.

This is much more of a unique, uncompromising vision of a film. The first one was obviously a Burton movie done commercially, with a bunch of studio hacks who didn't think story mattered and didn't want to take too many risks. This was different. This was a BURTON interpretation of Batman, not a Batman movie done by Burton.

So, of course, the movie is impossibly weird. It's very different from the "real world" Batman of the Nolan films and much more a pure fantasy. But that's the beauty of it. It has an odd combination of Blade Runner and a saturday morning cartoon feel to the atmosphere. It has a dripping teeth Penguin character that fits in to the whole person/animal thing that they play with the whole movie, it has penguins launching rockets, duck transportation, aquatic birds doing a funeral precession, human eating cats, etc. But unlike the original Batman, the atmosphere draws you in, as weird as it is, and you feel like you've entered this other world.

While the plot is still relatively weak, unlike the Nolan Batman movies later, it's still stronger than the original Batman. More important, the characters are exceptionally strong. You really feel the psychological struggles of Bruce/Batman, Selina/Catwoman and Oswald/Penguin, at least in an odd Burton way. You want them to solve their psychological hang ups. The fact that you know they want just makes it feel all the more tragic.

At least for me, I found the doomed love story between Bruce and Selina to be very moving. It just got to me in this odd fantasy world way. I'll be the first to admit that I think when I first saw this around age 11, seeing Michelle Pfeiffer dressed in leather gave me feelings I didn't really understand at the time. So maybe that influenced it. But I really think it had a Romeo and Juliet "doomed love story" feel to it. You know they can never work, but the impossibility of the circumstances and their own hangups make you WANT these twisted, lonely souls to find a way to overcome it. I remember desperately wanting the final scene, seeing Catwoman still alive, to be carried on in the next movie. I remember being crushed that it wasn't.

Of course, there are things I didn't like. They go a bit too far with Penguin, his raw fish eating/nose biting/black teeth was too over the top and not that fun to watch at times. And I think they could have cut back a little on some of the more overt cartoonish elements. But overall, this movie is the only one of the pre-Nolan Batman films that I really think is worthwhile. It's a true visionary work of an auteur near the peak of his powers and with the success of the first movie cutting him loose from the studio. However flawed it may be, it's a compelling vision. One of Burton's best and a truly unique movie.

Journey to Italy (Viaggio in Italia) (Strangers) (The Lonely Woman)
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

[/size][/b][size=5][size=2]Directed by: Jean-luc Godard


Yah, wow, this was a really interesting film. I need to give it another viewing, I think it is likely to go up or down a tiny bit on second viewing.

As it is, I found the images, acting, and atmosphere of this Orwellian sci-fi piece to be overwelming. The best I had seen in a pre-70's film (with the possible exception of 'The Trial' depending on what genre you consider that). I couldn't get enough of it. I loved the computer voice too, so creepy.

Anyhow, the plot was a bit confusing, I am 99% sure I knew what was up when it was all over, but I still felt as if I missed a few things. Perhaps it's suppose to be a little disorienting, and perhaps I just missed a few things.

Either way, this is a really good film. I liked it much better then Weekend, (the only other Godard I've seen thus far) and it may well become a favorite alongside such other sci-fi classics as 2001 and Solaris. The film really reminded me a bit of what would happen if you mixed Solaris and Blade Runner, or, I guess more accurately, where some elements of Solaris and Blade Runner came from.

[b]The Lowdown[/b]: A facinating, atmospheric, and creepy Orwellian sci-fi piece.

[b]Grade[/b]: A-

[size=2]Directed by: Billy Wilder

This is a charming romance that is easy to digest. It is also wildly implausable on several levels, but because of Wilder's charismatic directing style, and Audry Hepburn's incurable warmth and likability, only the most hardend cynic will care.

It's about a chauffer's daughter that comes back from a few years in France only to get involved in a love triangle with two brothers that are, shall we say, above her in society.

It actually does a pretty good job of capturing the awkwardness of a young girl, and her emergance to womanhood, all while being funny at the same time. William Holden and Humphry Bogart have both been much better, and they've had rolls that were better suited to them. That said, they both to their job admirably.

But Audry Hepburn is the star of the show. She's not quite as good here as she was in Roman Holiday, but close. She's impossible to resist. To say that she is playing herself, be it true or not (half true, IMHO), is beside the point. She captures the charm, warmth, pitty, joy, whimsy, blah blah blah. It's so perfect it hurts. Audry Tautau, as fine of a young actress as she is, needs to donate part of her salary to Heburns estate, because she is her own personal roadmap.

Wilder is one of the most consistent directors ever to live in my opinion, at least from what I've seen. Of the nine films of his I've seen, I'd give eight of them a B+ or above. Irma La Duce, the remaining one, was still fun enough to watch.

[b]The Lowdown[/b]: Hepburn's amazing performance and Wilder's directoral skill make this an extremely fun and enjoyable film in spite of the fact that the plot is 100% fantasy.

[b]Grade[/b]: B+

[b][size=5]The Passion of the Christ (3rd Viewing)
[/size][/b][size=5][size=2]Directed by: Mel Gibson
If you hate this film, I don't think I can talk you out of it. All I can say is that I think this is one of the most uncompromising artistic visions in years, and that it is powerful beyond words to describe. I actually only wanted to see a specific scene when I popped it in the DVD player, but once it started I couldn't take my eyes off it, and I stayed up several hours more thinking after that.

I wish the film had made $3 million instead of $300 million. I think it would be a lot easier to evaluate it as a genuine work of art instead of the cultural football it became.

[b]The Lowdown[/b]: An incredibly powerful and moving film, hurculean artistic vision sees this difficult project through.

[b]Grade[/b]: A

[b][size=5]Voyage In Italy
[/size][/b][size=5][size=2]Directed by: Roberto Rossellini
I blind bought this on VHS for 2 bucks after seeing Martin Scorsese's excellent documentary 'My Voyage to Italy' in which he discusses this film extensively.

And it is a good film. No doubt. It has some very beautiful footage of some really facinating and beautiful places, and has a compelling romance (or, lack therof perhaps) story as well.

My problem with this film is that the two elements never really seemed to fuse well. The director has mentioned something about the outside world affecting a inside relationship, but I never quite got just how they fit together. Films that succeeded this, such as La Dolce Vita (along with other Fellini films) and L'AAventura, manage to make their places part of the narrative, which I didn't feel this did nearly as well.

It is clear that this film was influential, and it is a good film. That said, it seemed to me to be an idea that evolved into something better as time went on.

[b]The Lowdown[/b]: A pioneering film that was eventually improved on, but this remains the original.

[b]Grade[/b]: B


The Legend of Bloody Jack
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

OK, so I watched one of those bad B horror movies, not from the 70's or 80's on netflix...and I actually liked it. I wasn't that surprised when I found out just how harshly it had gotten reviewed, but still, anyhow, here's my case for The Legend of Bloody Jack

This movie is probably proof of a statement a good friend of mine once said. He once said that "Everyone has those genres where, if the product is even a fair representation of the genre, they will like it." He was talking about music, actually, and how my friend Paul liked anything that was an even remotely fair representation of pop punk. But it works with movies too.

And for me, 70's/80's era slasher films is that genre. I like legitimately good ones, like the original Halloween and Black Christmas most. But I like bad ones too. If you are an even remotely decent representation of that genre, I'm going to like you. I LOOOOOOOVVVVVVEEEE most of the Friday the 13th movies, for example, love them. I like all of the random ass ripoffs. I love Killer Party, I love Hell Night, I love Prom Night, I love Prom Night II, I love all the Halloween sequels, even 5, I love every______ Massacre movie, I love He Knows You're Alone, etc. I know they are horrible, I don't care. I love them anyway. I watch every one I get a chance to.

Problem is, there aren't more new 70's/80's slashers coming out. At least not original ones. And they really didn't do many during the 90's. They all changed to "hip" films like Scream and all the countless ripoffs. But there has been a big push to do similar style movies in the past dozen or so years, mostly in direct-to-video films, and most of them are so godawful even I don't like them (Lover's Lane is a good example...I remember it because I blind bought it and could barely finish it. I don't even remember it. I just remember having high hopes and thinking is sucked hardcore).

I figured this one would be just like the other bad 00's era neo-slashers...and it was...but it wasn't. To be honest, I really enjoyed it.

First, the bad: Yes, the production values are horrible, roughly like 70's era grindhouse but without the charm (digital just doesn't seem gritty/cool the way grindhouse film did). The acting is pretty bad, even for a cheap horror flick. The characters do ridiculous things, the whole thing is basically a ripoff better movies etc.

And yet...

Well, like I said, if you're even coming close to doing a fair representation of the genre, I'm going to like it.

The thing is, yes, it's a ripoff, but it's ripping off movies I like. It's basically halfway between Friday the 13th and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. So if you even halfway rip off those movies, you've got my attention. It's sort of like F13th in the sense that it's a bunch of young folks in the woods out to have a good time (and end up getting slaughtered) and TCSM in the sense that most of it happens during the day in somewhat open feeling areas. Well, not actually during the day, it happens in north Alaska during the summer, where it's always sunny, but the effect is the same. And the killer is halfway between leatherhead from TCSM and baghead Jason from F13th Part 2. So on that level, it was going in a direction I liked.

Next, I thought the gore was pretty good. Not realistic, mind you, but they did a lot with a little. The killer really liked dismembering people, and they put a lot of effort into making chopped up folks. In context, I found it delightfully...fiendish or something. They were having fun making this and it showed.

Also, the nudity was off the charts, which is always important in bad slashers (in legitimately good slashers, like Halloween, it's just icing). Every girl takes her shirt off for an extended period of time, some more than once, including this amazingly exploitative scene where a girl who just had her boyfriend murdered asks some other guy to stay in the bathroom while she showers because she doesn't want to be alone. It was so awkward and strange I found it both fun and hilarious. I also liked how they didn't pick dumb models with fake boobs. All the girls looked real, I like that.

I was also a fan of how they did the "Alaska summer" thing. It was actually very interesting watching people running around the woods during the day. There had been so many films like this that even such a little tweak made it fun for me.

Finally, and this might be counter-intuitive, I liked the illogical decisions the characters made. Characters ALWAYS do dumb stuff, but it was done in this film in such a way that, like in all good "bad" slashers, you get to guess which dumb thing they'll do next, which is part of the fun. Oh, and I like how the movie doesn't really go for the irony . It has a little self-referencing, mostly at the very end, but it takes the genre seriously. It's not a serious genre, of course, at least not "bad" slasher, but that makes being self-referential unnecessary and just gets boring.

Oh, and one other thing: I found the score oddly menacing. It was hardly John Carpenter's Halloween score, or even F13th's score, but I found it worked.

Anyhow, this isn't good movie in any objective sense, don't get me wrong, it's not even as good as, say, Friday the 13th Part 3. But it's a fair representation of the kind of "bad" slasher Friday the 13th Part 3 is, with a double scoop of nudity and gore. That was enough for me. So if that sounds like your cup of tea, go for it.

7/10 for me. But that's just me.