Joseph Tafra's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

The Station Agent
½

In theory, this film could be an overly sappy 'feel-good' movie - you know, the kind that makes you 'feel-bad'. But it is executed with real sensitivity and humour, and the performances are very, very good. I was totally charmed.

Trollhunter
Trollhunter(2011)

Not a bad film - fun premise, good use of mockumentary style, quite funny in parts, quite scary in parts. But ultimately it feels as if it is stretched a little thin premise- and plot-wise. Worth a watch, but not something I'll be re-visiting ....except maybe just the scenes where the troll hunter dresses as Ned Kelly....

From Dusk Till Dawn

This starts out as a great, tense, ultra-violent hostage film, then - without warning - morphs into a fairly boring, self-consciously B-grade vampire splat-fest. All the tension built in the opening scenes goes out the window in favour of un-scary vampire being shot to pieces by cardboard cut-out characters. Don't get me wrong, it's pretty good fun in its way, but disappointing after such a great start.
Also, could've done with another 30-1000 minutes of Salma Hayek dancing!

La prise de pouvoir par Louis XIV (The Taking of Power by Louis XIV)(The Rise of Louis XIV)
½

Hypnotic, lush, but ultimately un-engaging, portrait of Louis XIV. The film is technically quite amazing in many ways, the costumes are perfect, the details of court rituals are masterfully re-created, but it all feels very academic and forgettable. One of the biggest problems is the lead actor, who gives the flattest, most boring, performance I've seen in ages - other characters keep referring to Louis being a man of pleasures, a womanizer who loves the hunt and gambling, but it is hard to reconcile these descriptions with the dull bureaucrat that we actually get.
Something of a chore to finish, and left almost no impression.

A Christmas Story
½

Fantastic Christmas comedy, really evokes what Christmas is like for a little kid, and is filled with strangeness and hilarity. I liked having the little boy's life narrated by himself when he is gruff and older, as it highlights both the ways the kid is like a grumpy old man, and the way his older self is still a little kid. Loved the family dynamic, the sensual leg lamp, even the racist ending was funny (reminded of Kin Jong Il) - just about perfect for this kind of film.

I want that gun!

Old Joy
Old Joy(2006)
½

Great film, really funny and touching, and these characters are people I felt really connected to, they seem much more like real people than most folk populating the screen. Top that all off with Beautiful cinematography, and I have an instant favourite!

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
½

Not a bad film at all, there were some very cheesy moments and the requisite plot holes, but I find this kind of topic fascinating and I felt the film was paced well and quite engaging. The scenes of revolution in Caesar's enclosure and the showdown on the bridge were particularly awesome.

The Conversation

This is a fantastic film, Gene Hackman gives a perfect performance and the climactic scenes are breathtaking, both in the skill of their execution, and in the more literal sense of making you feel like you can't breathe!

Insidious
Insidious(2011)
½

Has its moments of genuine terror, and some amusing banter as well, but let down by its over the top third act, some crummy acting (Rose Byrne ftl), and a good dose of laziness.

Captain America: The First Avenger

I was hoping for so much more from this film, and while it had some nice visuals and a few really cool scenes it was pretty unsatisfying overall. There were a lot of badly written scenes and one-liners, and some of the not-so-subtle political statements ("In the future there are no flags" - baddie, "NOT IN MY FUTURE" - goodie). The ending was also very annoying, it felt tacked on and completely devoid of any emotional pay-off. At all.
I did really enjoy Agent Smith's (aka Hugo Weaving) version of The Red Skull, especially the fact that he sounded EXACTLY LIKE WERNER HERZOG! and most of the action sequences were quite satisfying. Though even these were marred somewhat by poor CGI work, that tended to make Captain America's adversaries seem like they were made of papier mache, rather than making him seem incredibly strong. Despite how bad this all sounds, I have to compare it to other superhero movies and, as such, it comes off as one of the better ones, though at the low end of that spectrum.

Senna
Senna(2011)

For me, this is one of those perfect documentaries that finds real life characters and situations that are completely worthy of the best hollywood storytelling. Ayrton Senna comes across as a truly heroic figure - the image of him lifting his cup with badly injured shoulders in a powerful salute to his Brazilian fans is so iconic it seems unreal - and there are a cast of greater and lesser villains, aiders and abetters, and even a persistent dimension of divinity, due to Senna's intense religiosity. The fact that F1 racing is such a heavily filmed event - with cameras in the cars, at the meetings, and basically just everywhere - also means that you get a real feeling of intimacy and acquaintance with the goings on.
Inspiring, infuriating, and heartbreaking in equal doses.

Bigger Than Life

Fantastic pitch-black slice of warped Americana. James Mason is pitch-perfect as sweeter than sweet family man crumbling into a maniacal Old Testament wielding tyrant under the influence of an experimental medication.
I would have preferred a less neatly rounded out ending, there were so many troubling themes here and then ending felt like s light betrayal of them, but still, a very enjoyable film.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2

Held me genuinely enthralled, consummately shot, very well acted, and despite its 130min running time, tightly constructed. Had me on the edge of my seat a few times and just generally did all the things this kind of film should. Great to see this rather uneven franchise end on such a high note.

The Night of the Hunter

Everytime someone sees Mitchum's performance in this, the angels weep. But it's a good thing!

X-Men: First Class

This movie is a little uneven in parts (and January Jones' character could have been cut completely with no loss at all, she's awful in this) but it's darn good fun in my opinion. All the revisionist history stuff worked for me, the performances generally were good, and the action sequences were really cool. I didn't like some of the cheesy montage/mutant-bonding scenes, and occasionally the effects were surprisingly poor but, if you can get yourself in Hollywood mode, this is a whole lot of fun. The 2.5 star bits and the 5 star bits balance out to a 3.5 star rating for me :-)

The Shining
The Shining(1980)

I'm sleepy so won't go into much detail on this, but re-watching it I noticed three things in particular - some of the acting still really bugs me, especially ragdollfishlady, but not enough to ruin the film or anything; the soundtrack is amazing, for example when Jack starts to get lost in the maze and freeze, the soundtrack actually manages to evoke icicles forming, gave me chills!; and the use of steadycam is fascinating and real creepy. I didn't notice this when I first saw it years ago, but for most of the movie almost every shot the camera is following characters from the front, or chasing them, or zooming in on them menacingly, or zooming out - for example - from Jack's typewriter as if it had been perusing his [lack of] work - to me, this creates an identification with the hotel itself, which is genuinely unsettling.
Despite some of it's flaws the film is really terrifying and vastly imaginative and, of course, visually stunning as is always the case with Kubrick.
Now, for a sitcom so I can sleep ~

Come and See (Idi i smotri)

I don't want to give this film a perfect rating, because I kind of feel like it attacked me! But I'm compelled to, it sets out to unflinchingly paint a picture of war as nightmarish, inescapable, hopeless, cyclical, inhuman, all-too-human, and even as another planet, and it succeeds horrendously well.
The film is essentially an unrelenting horror movie, it is different to other war films in that no one comes off as noble (the ending could be read as pro-Soviet propaganda, but I think the clues point to a far more cynical - though also more humanist - viewpoint), and it's depiction of the joy of evil is something I've never seen expressed so boldly before, absolutely chilling.
I predict nightmares tonight.

Walkabout
Walkabout(1971)

Very beautiful film. Not all of it was too my taste, particularly some of the editing choices, but one to be experienced. I see a definite foreshadowing of elements of Malick's style here. Also, Gulipilil is amazing in this ~

Wake in Fright
½

This is the grimiest, most visceral exploration of alcohol-fuelled masculine barbarism I've ever seen - you can practically smell it! There are also interesting themes touched on throughout, the meaning of civilisation, morality, nihilism, hypocrisy, sexual politics - but never in a heavy handed way. The character of Doc is oddly magnetic and fascinating. Demands to be seen ~

The Four Times (Le Quattro Volte)

Le Quattro Volte abolutely floored me, I won't give much away as, despite its serene pacing, it is full of little mysteries and layers of meaning that are best approached fresh. Instead I simply suggest that you find a moment when you are feeling curious, open-minded, and alert, turn it up loud and press play.

Midnight in Paris
½

This movie has its problems - some klunky dialogue and, at times, a too didactic style - but they are overwhelmed and made more than tolerable by the sheer joy and humour of the rest of the film. The cast are all great, including Owen Wilson, who I personally think makes the 'Woody' character much funnier than when actually played by Allen. And Marion Cotillard is a vision.
This film is a rare delight.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
½

An interesting mood piece - some of the scenes are pure cinematic magic, some err too far on the side of tedium for my taste, it's not a matter of the long takes, as the best and worst scenes in the film have those, just some worked for me and some didn't. A lot to digest here mind you, so definitely one for a re-watch. And with more coffee! Drifted off once or twice, but into a good place :-)

The Last Wave
½

A fascinating, though flawed, film blending Aboriginal mythology (mostly made up methinks), court-room drama, psychological thriller, and surrealistic adventure story. Some of the actin is a little on the hammy side, and there are moments of very "written" feeling dialogue, particularly when the film tries to deal with the issue of white colonisation in Australia. But the dreamlike sequences with water, and just the overall evocation of a mysterious, hidden world behind the everyday life of Sydney were really something. I did really like this, but sadly not wholeheartedly.

The Godfather, Part II

Finally rewatched The Godfather Part 2, it's very good and has its own charm that is quite different to the first film, overall didn't leave me with quite the feeling of having witnessed near-perfection, though some of the scenes, especially the De Niro stuff, are just amazing.

The Snowtown Murders
½

This film is a masterpiece, a chilling exercise in suspense, gritty social realism, and a kind of gothic lyricism. The cinematography is suberb, and the performances fantastic - the evil magnetism of John Bunting seems to reach out of the screen and try to drag you in. Watch it.

The Eye of the Storm

A lot to like in this film, but ultimately a little clumsy and quite unfocused. Great performances though!

Sunday Too Far Away
½

I really liked this movie, it was very nostalgic for me having grown up in a small Australian town, the performances were generally good (Jack Thompson is particularly endearing), and it was just a great evocation of the issues and concerns of a certain breed of male. I'm only giving it 7/10 because the ending fell apart a little bit, introducing several new unnecessary threads and ending with a one of those annoying "title-cards-to-resolve-everything" sequences, but definitely a recommendation

Don's Party
Don's Party(1982)

Really good fun, great sexual politics, and very shrewd character and societal skewerings.

Night Moves
Night Moves(1975)

Great neo-noir! I absolutely loved the moody, gritty poetry of the first 7/8ths, a little less keen on it once it became more of a straightforward thriller and raced a little too quick to it's conclusion. But even then, it was still damned entertaining, and a great closing shot.

25th Hour
25th Hour(2003)
½

Schmeh (yes, I made that up) - expected a lot more from this film, not totally unenjoyable, but not great by any stretch. Also, contains the most pointless, ridiculous montage, possibly in all cinematic history. If you've seen the movie, I think you know which scene I mean.

Caché
Caché(2005)

Wow, very original and tense slow-burn thriller. Great performances and real food for thought in the ambiguous, unresolved story and the subtle - but obviously intentional - political undertones. A disappointing ending for those (like me :-) hoping for more of a Hitchcock-esque thang, but this was obviously intentional, and I can admire it even if I didn't totally enjoy it.

A Serious Man

Not a film that I would write off by any means, some really funny scenes, a strangely likable-but-frustrating protagonist, some serious (very serious!) undertones to the humour.... but, it just felt a bit flat by the end. There were plot lines that just withered away, philosophical/thematic threads that felt half-baked, and the overarching plot really went nowhere. Maybe some of that was intentional, but it didn't work for me. Mind you, I'm definitely gonna schedule it for a re-watch to see if there's something subtle I'm missing - I have enough faith in the Coens to at least search.

My Dinner with André

I expected to like this film, but I did not realise how much it would affect me. Shed a few tears as the credits rolled, absolutely riveting. If you're one of those who find it boring, I dunno what to tell you. I think finding this film boring would be like declaring disinterest in the universe, the history of mankind, and your own life. But that's just me; I think that last sentence will give you sense of how great I thought this film was!

Paths of Glory

Ah, so great to see what a genius can do with 88 minutes - a wonderful, if bleak, anti-war film, told with a brutal but not hopeless humanism. Kirk Douglas is great as always, and the sense of moral outrage he conveys makes you wanna reach into the screen and start pummeling!
The final scene left me a little cold, and felt morally ambiguous - in the sense of confused, not the nice sophisticated sense, but overall it is great.
Would make a fine double feature with The Thin Red Line!

Beginners
Beginners(2011)

Very charming film, occasionally too whimsical for its own good and Ewan Mcgregor's accent is not too great, but the backbone of the film is very solid. It's funny, and genuinely moving, a definite recommendation

Children of Men

A really outstanding thriller, with some of the most visceral battle sequences I've seen in a long time. Great story, and outstanding performances - Clive Owen had several moments that gave me goosebumps. Some of the kitschier elements were a bit much, but when they worked they lent the film some much-needed levity, 'cause it's somewhat of a bleak proposition!

Make Way for Tomorrow
½

An absolute gem, great script and good performances all around. The elderly couple at the centre of the film, however, area pure delight, their sensitive, humane, and funny performances are done an injustice by any other word than perfection

The Bourne Supremacy
½

It's okay. I wish director's would get over the idea that making the camera shake around all the time, and cutting WAY TOO MUCH makes everything awesome. The first one was wicked!

Werckmeister Harmonies
½

One of my favourite films! Might I point out that this should have a "100% fresh" rating! The only rotten review is, in fact, glowing in relation to the film itself:

"In Bela Tarr's surreal epic Werckmeister Harmonies, a nameless European town is the center of a cosmic struggle. Tarr's precise yet effortless command of the long take is so transcendent as to suggest the presence of God. Every stoppage point within each shot becomes a heavenly composite of the film's collective whole." and so on -

The negative stuff is only in relation to the poor quality of the DVD transfer:

"Facets Video has allowed their staff of pigeons to crap on Bela Tarr's film monument. Still, Region 1 audiences will have to make do until a Criterion-like dove comes to their rescue."

Not that 97% isn't respectable, but I'd love to see this rectified, it's a masterpiece after all :-)