Author Topic: Antares' Short Summations  (Read 120475 times)

Offline Antares

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #165 on: February 29, 2012, 04:11:42 AM »
The Help (2011) 3.5/5 - Great acting, but the screenplay was more or less a whitewashed Civil Rights Era fantasy. There were many moments that rang so hollow, you would have to wonder if people actually believe that this is what it was like in Mississippi back in the early to mid-sixties. Here's a news flash...it wasn't. The bit with the pie was a cute comical moment of revenge, but does anyone who watches this believe that they would have ever found that maid alive again? Also, towards the end when the all black congregation stands up and applauds the main character, I cringed. Believe me, after participating in writing a book like that, they would have shunned her like the Amish do their outcasts. And finally, this has to have one of the more manipulative soundtracks I have ever heard. As I said earlier, this is a feel good fantasy, and to that end, you really can't take it seriously. But I will say this, I haven't seen Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, but I can't see her being better than Viola Davis was in this film. Viola was robbed...surprise, another Oscar blunder.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2013, 06:54:42 PM by Antares »

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #166 on: March 08, 2012, 12:02:43 AM »
The Lost Boys (1978) 2.5/5 - A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon the film Finding Neverland on HDNet. It told a rather fanciful and creative tale of the author J.M.Barrie, and his relationship with five brothers growing up in England around the turn of the 20th century. The boys would be the basis for the creation of Barrie's most famous work, Peter Pan. When I wrote that review, I mentioned that I had never read the book, nor seen the famous Disney film. But due to its rather creative way of the spinning its story, had completely absorbed me. After I watch something that is based upon an historical character, I always find myself scouring the web, to get more in depth knowledge of said character. When I perused many articles about Barrie and his relationship with the Llewellyn Davies brothers, I kept reading about a BBC mini-series which chronicled the same story as Finding Neverland. That film had a more dubious reputation when it came to the historical accuracy of its story, but had been such a delight to watch, that I forgave it for its shortcomings in the truth department. The Lost Boys is definitely at the other end of the spectrum in this regard, and unfortunately, suffers for it. Being a person who relishes anything historical, I was hoping for just a little bit of the magic from the Depp film, sprinkled over the top of a good non-fiction story. Sadly, this mini-series had too many distractions and flat acting from the cast. For some reason, they had Ian Holm, who plays Barrie, constantly coughing throughout the story, and after a while, became quite annoying to listen to. I thought that maybe they were going to use this as a lead in to a death from smoking the pipe which appeared as a non stop chimney in his mouth throughout the series, but after a little bit of research after finishing the story, turned out not to be the case. So I can't understand why the director chose to have him do it. The rest of the cast blandly portray their characters, with the lone exception being Tim Pigott-Smith, who plays the actual father of the five boys. His performance captures all the emotions necessary to convey the feelings of a man who is slowly usurped as not only the father figure for his children, but as the sole means of support for his family as illness takes his life. In the beginning, he’s uncomfortable with the way Barrie has ingratiated himself into his household. But by the time of his illness, comes to see the intrusion as divine benevolence. But the series is not about Arthur Llewellyn Davies, and sadly, once his character is gone, the rest of the story just disintegrates. It's not often that I recommend a fantasy version of a story over an historical one, but in this case it's unquestionable as to which is the better way of spending the time.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2012, 12:08:39 AM by Antares »

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #167 on: March 08, 2012, 05:36:24 AM »
Rushmore (1998) 3/5 - In writing this review I'm a little hesitant to put down my exact feelings for the film, because I think it really needs a second viewing to finalize whether or not I like it. The first time I watched The Royal Tenenbaums, I didn't care for it, but after a second viewing, I appreciated it far more. Right now, I'm a little indifferent as to whether or not this is as good as that film is, or if it's a flawed precursor to a better film to come. I have read that Anderson was a big fan of Hal Ashby's Harold and Maude and I can now see that for myself. But whereas the characters in that film are also quirky, they were at least a bit more plausible and much more likeable than those present in Rushmore. I just couldn't connect with anyone in this film, they all just came across as distant and fabricated. Maybe a second viewing will change my mind.

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #168 on: March 09, 2012, 06:07:32 AM »
Tokyo Drifter (1966) 3.5/5 - This is my second attempt at a Seijun Suzuki film and this was definitely a more enjoyable experience than Youth of the Beast. That film, at times, came across as a live action anime, with cartoon characters and comical action pieces. Tokyo Drifter lies at the other end of the spectrum for yakuza flics, and is a completely different beast (pun intended). Very style conscious, yet containing a plot as thin as a nori wrap, I was reminded many times of Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samourai through atmospheric shots used by Suzuki. If I can find one fault with the film, it probably lies with the over indulgent use of the theme song. But aside from that, it's a very quick little yakuza film that won't try your patience and has some really outstanding looking scenes. Foremost the ending, which definitely had to be influenced by The Avengers TV series that was popular at that time. After Youth of the Beast, I was a little leery about watching another Suzuki film, but this has made me change my mind. Next stop will probably be Branded to Kill.

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #169 on: March 13, 2012, 08:50:29 PM »
Sanshiro Sugata (1943) 3/5 - Interesting for those who want to see what Kurosawa's first film making experience would show, and in that aspect, it's revealing. He already shows a mastery of framing and the use of scene wipes is on hand. Unfortunately with 18 minutes of footage lost due to war time censorship, we' ll never know what a good story this could have been. Of course it was nice to see my favorite actor, Takashi Shimura in a somewhat prominent role, but the rest of the cast is rather lackluster. You can see the seeds of greatness in many shots of the film, namely the finally fight sequence in the open field. Which must have been influential to Masaki Kobayashi, who used similar settings in both Harakiri and Samurai Rebellion. Definitely a film for Kurosawa disciples only, and from that standpoint, an interesting, historical curiosity.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2012, 12:35:15 AM by Antares »

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #170 on: March 16, 2012, 05:59:27 PM »
Vanishing of the Bees (2009) 4/5 - A first rate documentary dealing with an issue that could have cataclysmic ramifications for our species. Back in the mid-nineties in France, hundreds of commercial apiarists started to notice that whole colonies of bees suddenly disappeared overnight. Fast forward ten years and now the epidemic has become apparent around the world. So what does it mean, well, in a nutshell, if something is killing off vast quantities of honeybees, then vast amounts of vegetables and fruits aren't going to be pollenized, and in the long run will create massive food shortages around the globe. At first, scientists are completely baffled as to what is causing what has become known globally as Colony Collapse Disorder. In the beginning it was felt that mites or disease was causing the epidemic, but this turned out to be false. All the while, beekeepers were losing over 30% of their bee populations each year. After a global summit was held in Paris a few years ago, it was deemed that the use of systemic pesticides was the culprit behind the epidemic. Systemic pesticides are not sprayed upon the plant, they are coated on the seed and grow into the plant's botanical structure. Therefore, it doesn't rinse off and becomes part of the plant's genetic makeup. Honeybees who gather the pollen from these plants, become disoriented and if they find their way back to the colony, inadvertently infest the rest of the colony when doing their "waggle dance", the method bees use to tell other bees in the colony as to the whereabouts of a potential food source.

The Europeans are making headway against this problem by banning the use of these systemic pesticides, but here in our country, commercial apiarists are butting heads against the agricultural industry and their deep lobbying pockets. If systemic pesticides are banned, it makes their monoculture super farms less profitable. If you care for your children or grand children's future, you may want to check this documentary out. At the rate that this epidemic is reducing the pollinating bee business, in less than a decade we could be paying over $10 for an apple or $25 for a small can of smokehouse almonds. We can't live without bees. That my friends is a FACT.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2012, 06:01:22 PM by Antares »

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #171 on: March 16, 2012, 11:30:15 PM »
The Whole Town's Talking (1935) 3.5/5 - I caught this on TCM last night after about 25 years since I first watched it. It was fun to see Edward G. Robinson spoofing his tough guy, gangster persona. But the real surprise here is that it was directed by John Ford, a director you don't think of off hand when it comes to comedy. Ford does a great job at keeping the pace moving along and never once does it lag or falter in its delivery of laughs. Jean Arthur plays the wise cracking love interest Miss Clark so well, it probably got her the part of Babe Bennett in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town the following year. The story centers itself on a mousy accountant named Arthur Ferguson Jones (Edward G. Robinson) who's a dead ringer for one of the country's most feared outlaws, Killer Mannion. Mannion has just escaped from state prison and is heading for the big city to rub out a stoolie who was responsible for sending him up the river. The cops are frantically searching for him and mistakenly arrest Jones and Miss Clark, who they think is the gunman's moll. This leads to my favorite scene in the film as Jones tries to explain the mix up and Miss Clark is in a separate room being interrogated by over zealous boob detectives. They grill her as to recent heists all around the country and in deadpan seriousness, replies that it was Mannion. My description doesn't do justice as to how well and how funny this scene plays out, as Jean Arthur's delivery of that one word answer is absolutely priceless, especially when almost every crime of the previous five years is mentioned. If you ever get a chance to see this film, make time for it. I'm not as big a fan as most people are for John Ford films, but this one is definitely a forgotten gem.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2013, 06:55:40 PM by Antares »

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #172 on: March 22, 2012, 11:12:51 PM »
Moneyball (2011) 2.5/5 - I'm usually pretty forgiving when it comes to films about my all time favorite sport, baseball. Hell, I even have a soft spot for such tremendously bad baseball films such as The Babe Ruth Story, because I'm a sucker for the romanticism of the game itself. But when it comes to Moneyball, I have to draw the line. Now most could say that a baseball film which deals with the statistical aspect of the game, shouldn't warrant a big screen endeavor. But due to the enormous impact on the game caused by Billy Beane's use of Sabrmatics, I found it a plausible idea for a screenplay, but only for a 30 for 30 episode on ESPN. Others could also say that the thought of such a film would be boring as hell, but when the story is dealing with Beane's attempt at using the 'science' of statistics, the film fires on all cylinders. So what is the explanation for throwing in snippets of Beane's family life? It completely altered the mood and pacing of the film, and made for a very uneven viewing experience. And on top of this, you have one of the most anti-climactic endings in a sports film ever. I can't understand how this banal film could have been nominated as Best Picture.

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #173 on: March 24, 2012, 05:36:44 AM »
Broken Lance (1954) 3.5/5 - This was a pleasant little surprise of a western. You don't think of Spencer Tracy when you talk about sagebrush cinema, but he does a good job playing a cattle baron who is double crossed by three of his four sons, whom he signs away the deed to his ranch to, to avoid a lawsuit from a mining company. In some ways the story kind of has a King Lear motif going for it, but as opposed to the brothers turning on each other, the fourth brother comes back from prison seeking revenge on them. I was also surprised at how good Robert Wagner was as the vengeful half breed brother. It's easy to forget that he started out as a matinee idol back in the early fifties, especially when you consider all those banal TV shows he did in the 70's and 80's. If you ever get a chance to watch this film, keep an eye out towards the end for what has to be the luckiest stunt man in the history of film. In the last ten minutes of the film, two of the brothers are fighting on an outcropping of rocks. One of the brothers is shot and falls from a boulder about 40 feet above a river. The stunt man who does this fall, just misses a huge boulder in the river by about a foot and a half. I had to rewind it a couple of times, because I couldn't believe how lucky this guy was. I sure hope he got paid well for that jump.

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #174 on: March 27, 2012, 01:40:05 AM »
A Chairy Tale (1957) 3.5/5 - One part of my film watching regimen that I sorely am lacking in is live action short films. Maybe it's the fact that so many are not available on DVD, or the fact the only outlet for these creative snippets of celluloid are to be found on TCM. This is an interesting conceptual film about a chair that refuses to allow a man to sit upon it, until the man meets the chair on its own terms. The man is played by Claude Jutra, who comes across as part Charlie Chaplin, part Roberto Benigni and is certainly up to the task of performing the quite physical pantomime with the chair. The music is provided by the then unknown Ravi Shankar, and fits the films frenetic pace quite well. This was nominated for an Oscar for Best Live Action Short film, but could have also been nominated for Best Editing. Some of the transitions in this are quite remarkable to look at, and make the subject very entertaining. If I have one complaint with this film is its length, something you would think wouldn't be much of a problem with a short film. But the director probably could have shorn away about 2 - 3 minutes and the film would have not suffered for it. Even so, at ten minutes, you should give this a look see, it's available on YouTube.

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #175 on: March 28, 2012, 09:10:04 PM »
True Grit (2010) 3.5/5 - Boy, for the first hour and a half or so, I was really loving this adaptation. I have seen the 1969 version many times over the last three decades, and the fresh look given to this story by the Coen brothers made me start to think of an instant classic. But at around the 95 minute mark, it's as if either one or both of the brothers said, "You know I'm bored, let's wrap this thing up."
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It's a shame, because this could have been considered a classic had the Coens not screwed up and shifted this film into overdrive at that moment. Every bit of realism that they had meticulously incorporated into the screenplay, is ripped to shreds in those scant few minutes, and the film suffers for it. I also don't believe we needed to have the adult Mattie section at the end. If you're going to shear away the beginning of the book, where we see Mattie, her father and Chaney back on her ranch, then you could easily tear away this uninteresting and useless part of the film.

All in all, it's only an average western, but I look forward to seeing Stanfield in other projects, she was quite good.

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #176 on: March 28, 2012, 11:59:30 PM »
Average? Nonsense! I absolutely adored this film and I do think you were far too harsh...

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This was a fine, lyrical film with a maturely feminist slant. I think the Coen's adaptation unlocks the heart of the story in a brilliant way and it could be their best film, because it demonstrates such a delicate, confident touch. It was never about realism and if it were, there would be a dozen other problems aside from logistics of hill climbing in vital seconds.

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #177 on: March 29, 2012, 03:32:44 AM »
Average? Nonsense! I absolutely adored this film and I do think you were far too harsh...

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This was a fine, lyrical film with a maturely feminist slant. I think the Coen's adaptation unlocks the heart of the story in a brilliant way and it could be their best film, because it demonstrates such a delicate, confident touch. It was never about realism and if it were, there would be a dozen other problems aside from logistics of hill climbing in vital seconds.

It made me appreciate the John Wayne version more, I'll give it that. Like I stated, I was really enjoying it, until the after the shootout. But that quick shift into overdrive was so wrong. And my concerns over the implausibilities have been noted by others at filmspotters, so I don't feel like I was grasping at something imaginary on my part.

Let me ask you this...Do you think it was as good as TAoJJbtCRF? It tried to use the same atmosphere and aesthetics as that film did, but to me, kind of paled in comparison.

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #178 on: March 29, 2012, 08:36:38 AM »
Average? Nonsense! I absolutely adored this film and I do think you were far too harsh...

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This was a fine, lyrical film with a maturely feminist slant. I think the Coen's adaptation unlocks the heart of the story in a brilliant way and it could be their best film, because it demonstrates such a delicate, confident touch. It was never about realism and if it were, there would be a dozen other problems aside from logistics of hill climbing in vital seconds.

It made me appreciate the John Wayne version more, I'll give it that. Like I stated, I was really enjoying it, until the after the shootout. But that quick shift into overdrive was so wrong. And my concerns over the implausibilities have been noted by others at filmspotters, so I don't feel like I was grasping at something imaginary on my part.

Let me ask you this...Do you think it was as good as TAoJJbtCRF? It tried to use the same atmosphere and aesthetics as that film did, but to me, kind of paled in comparison.

I still like the John Wayne version, but to me, this revealed that films many weak spots. And, honestly, TAoJJbtCRF never crossed my mind. They are actually very different. It's interesting you should use the phrase "tried to use", as if the Coen's were somewhat aware of trying to ape the earlier film, but they are singularly independent and follow/develop their own style, sometimes with a bloody-minded attitude actually. TAoJJbtCRF is truly unique and special, whereas True Grit is more a perfect realisation of what we expect from the genre.

Have you seen any other Coen's work? Watch Fargo, Miller's Crossing and No Country for Old Men, then True Grit again and you'll see they echo and develop their own work with a confidence that doesn't follow any kind of need to match up to anyone else.

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #179 on: March 30, 2012, 05:13:36 AM »
The Cranes are Flying (1957) 4.5/5 - Who would have thought such an emotionally deep film could be made in Cold War Communist Russia in 1957. I was completely blown away not only by the amazing cinematography in this film, but by the intensely emotional performance of Tatyana Samojlova. She runs the gamut from wide eyed youthful exuberance to anguish, despair and sorrow over the course of this film, and she's a complete revelation. The story itself, does dip into overt melodrama a few times, but it never overwhelms the viewer to the point of becoming a borscht soap opera. It also has the trappings of Soviet propaganda throughout, but once again, never really overdoes it. Getting back to the wonderful cinematography of Sergei Urusevsky, I found myself many times during this film, repeating scenes, trying to figure out how he was able to get the shot so perfectly. All the reviews I have read tend to talk about the bus and tank scene with Veronica or the stairwell scene when Veronica returns home after the bombing. Both are truly amazing scenes of ingenious design, but for me, the best moment in this film, is when Boris has been shot and he looks up at the trees and they start to spin, and superimposed upon those trees is an earlier scene when he climbs the spiral staircase to catch Veronica before she enters her apartment. The sight of the trees and Boris on the stairs, revolving in perfect unison was just too beautiful to behold. It's been a long time since I've watched a film that was this good and completely had me enthralled. I'm shamed to say that I purchased this on DVD five years ago, and it sat on my unwatched pile. I'm now glad I decided to partake in this Retro marathon, because I'm exorcising a few of my DVD demons.