Author Topic: Antares' Short Summations  (Read 137288 times)

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #360 on: March 11, 2014, 11:00:29 PM »
The Scarlet Empress (1934) 2/5 - If we all watched films for the Art Direction, and only for that reason, then The Scarlet Empress would be talked of in the same breath as Citizen Kane. Unfortunately for the viewer, Josef von Sternberg's vision of czarist Russia in the 18th century is a schizophrenic mess. If you are going to tell the tale of Catherine the Great, then you should really focus on the political intrigues that took place during her forced marriage to the eccentric Tsar Peter III. Instead, von Sternberg spends the first hour just getting her from Prussia to Russia, and after she arrives, it appears as if she’s being held hostage in a gothic horror house. The story just never gels, with most of the cast either being somnambular in their performances or outright over the top. And as much as I love Marlene Dietrich, her performance can best be described as amateurish in the beginning and reminiscent of The Blue Angel in the end. Maybe it was the daily tongue lashings that she received from von Sternberg that brought about this very weak performance, but she has never looked so woefully pitiful in a portrayal. I’ve read a few reviews that state that this is one of von Sternberg’s best, but for the life of me, if this is his best, I don’t want to see his worst.

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #361 on: March 11, 2014, 11:05:53 PM »
Chariots of Fire (1981) 3.5/5 - I love British films and this one, while not riveting, kept my attention throughout. The performances are all top notch and while there is very little to the story, it is done with the right tempo to make it compelling. To me, the mark of a good biopic, is whether or not it sends me to my computer after I finish watching it, to research the people involved. And this film piqued my curiosity enough to do that. Finally, I remember that a big deal was made about the soundtrack back when this was released, but as with all synthetic scores, it now sounds horribly dated. Synthesizer scores were a great gimmick back in the day, but I have yet to hear one that has stood the test of time.

Offline GSyren

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #362 on: March 12, 2014, 12:24:11 AM »
Sounds like it is time for me to dig out Chariots of Fire from somewhere at the (virtual) bottom of my unwatched pile. It's one of those films that has been there so long I have almost forgotten about it.  :-[

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #363 on: March 12, 2014, 01:06:11 PM »
These are all old reviews that I had to re-submit so I could add them to the review generator for the front page. But I'm glad if it gets you to watch one.  :)

Offline GSyren

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #364 on: March 12, 2014, 04:35:10 PM »
Recycled reviews work too  ;)

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #365 on: March 27, 2014, 10:59:30 PM »
Roman Holiday (1953) 82/100 - I went into this film with somewhat low expectations, because I've never been a fan of Audrey Hepburn. But lo and behold, I may have found the one film that I like her in. And I have to think it lies in the fact that she's obviously a bit green, it being her first major film role, and she's not stuck yet in that saccharine, coquettish ingenue role that she milked for the next 10 - 15 years. There's a freshness to her performance that would soon be non-existent after making her next big hit, Sabrina. Gregory Peck and Eddie Albert sink their teeth into the comedic parts of the script with a gleeful playfulness, but I wonder how much funnier this film could have been if anyone else besides William Wyler had directed it. He does a serviceable job, but when I think of comedy based films, the name William Wyler hardly harbors a whiff of thought. The story itself, is pretty predictable, and the pacing could have been a bit tighter, but seeing Rome in all its post-war glory made up for these small shortcomings. And when the film was finished, I realized that I enjoyed it quite a bit. Dare I say, I may even consider purchasing it on DVD. That's something I thought I'd never see myself typing out, because of my feelings towards Hepburn and her career.

What the color coding means...

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #366 on: March 28, 2014, 12:58:22 AM »
Early Summer (1951) 57/100 - It pains me to say this, with the amount of time I spend watching Japanese cinema, but this one did not click for me. I bought this blind from Criterion a few years back, and have tried on four separate occasions to watch it in its entirety, failing to even make it to the halfway mark before giving up. This time I was determined to finish it and now I can see why it took me so many attempts in the past. Everything that was touching, beautiful and memorable in Late Spring, is completely absent from this film. At one point, I found myself wondering how the Japanese found time to fight World War II with everyone so anally fixated on who is and who's not married in each neighbor's family. I found myself distantly uncaring for almost all of the members of this family, with the exception of Noriko. I never even briefly felt that these people were real. And I think it comes from the way that Ozu shoots his films, with the back and forth editing of character conversations, which makes the actors look like actors performing. This technique, while visually interesting, just makes each scene seem somewhat vacant in character chemistry, timing and interest. I know a lot of people consider this one of Ozu's best films, but for me, it pales in comparison to Late Spring.

What the color coding means...

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #367 on: March 29, 2014, 04:37:11 AM »
Zatoichi’s Flashing Sword (1964) 69/100 - After about forty minutes into this film, I started to worry that this would be the first real turkey in the series. But when the fireworks start... literally, the fireworks... figuratively, begin! The story focuses on two rival yakuza gangs who are vying for control of a river passage service. But the twist in this film is that one gang is considered fair and honest, while the other is evil. Ichi is staying with the good gang because the daughter of the boss, rescued him earlier in the story, when he is wounded by a ronin who turns out to be the boss' prodigal son. When the fireworks festival begins, the rival gang crosses the river to slaughter the good gang and take the river concession. But Ichi, who has been evicted from the boss' house because he's considered a wanted man, returns too late to save the good gang. He ventures across the river to exact his revenge upon the rival clan. What ensues is the best action scene of the series so far. The rival boss is named Yasugoro, and he sets his men against Ichi. The swordplay sequence takes place in a long hallway, intermittently lit by candles. Each time a few men lunge at Ichi, he dispatches them with a quick stroke of his cane sword, while also slicing a couple of the candles in half. As the tops of the lit candles fall to the floor, darkness plunges into that section of the hallway, and Ichi has tipped the scales in his favor. The action repeats itself a few times, until Ichi comes to the end of the hall and boss Yasugoro quivering against the wall, basked in the last bit of light from the sole remaining candle on the wall. Ichi slices the final candle, but instead of letting it fall to the floor, he balances the lit top on the end of sword as he toys with Yasugoro. A well crafted and exciting scene which rivals anything I've ever watched in other chanbara films. If you can make it through the tepidness of the first forty minutes or so, it's worth a watch just for this final scene.

What the color coding means...

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is
« Last Edit: March 29, 2014, 05:19:48 AM by Antares »

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #368 on: March 29, 2014, 04:42:37 AM »
Zatoichi on the Road (1963) 78/100 - One could say a playful homage to Kurosawa's Yojimbo, while another could say a money grabbing rip-off. But one must definitely say that this is the most action packed film of the series so far. Zatoichi is definitely in bad ass mode for this outing.

What the color coding means...

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #369 on: March 29, 2014, 04:43:57 AM »
Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold (1964) 66/100 - The sixth installment in the Zatoichi series is an action packed mess of a film. It drags at times, and the plot is pretty threadbare, I mean, c'mon, with Ichi's superb hearing, how could he not hear the chest falling from the ridge, and also the ronin who eventually spirit it away? Director Kazuo Ikehiro is desperately trying to impress not only the executives at Daiei with abundant swordplay, but also the critics by showing off his skills at creative editing, lighting and cinematography. But this overabundant effort makes for a more stilted and uneven viewing experience. Hopefully, future directors in the series will follow the KISS method of storytelling and film making...Keep It Simple, Stupid!. Great opening title sequence though.

What the color coding means...

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #370 on: March 29, 2014, 05:12:15 AM »
Fight, Zatoichi, Fight (1964) 82/100 - OK, so picture yourself in the offices of Daiei Studios back in 1964 and you have had tremendous financial success with the seven Zatoichi films you've released in just two short years. How do you keep it fresh? Well... first you hand the director's reins to Kenji Misumi, who helmed the first film in the series and gave birth to the golden goose. He's probably one of the best directors on your lot, and can balance a good story arc with thrilling action. Next, you throw a twist at both Zatoichi and the viewers. You give him a companion for the film, but not just a simple tag along partner, you give him the responsibility of returning an infant to the father that's never seen him, all the while, avoiding repeated attempts by ronin bounty hunters who will stop at nothing, to remove Ichi's head from his body. Audiences may have had mixed feelings for this film, especially if they were getting used to the ramped up energy of the previous ventures, but for my money, this is the best film of the series so far. Misumi weaves humor, tragedy, pathos and humanity into a rich tapestry of emotional entertainment which gives this film a depth I hope is present in the other four Zatoichi films that Misumi would direct down the line. If I had to pick the one film for a newbie to start with in this successful franchise, it would most definitely be this one.

What the color coding means...

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #371 on: April 02, 2014, 04:13:23 AM »
Mahanagar (1963) 95/100 -

"Not to have seen the cinema of Satyajit Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon." - Akira Kurosawa

I guess until today, I've never seen the sun or the moon. This is my first film by Satyajit Ray, and while it's only my first, I have to wonder if my favorite director of all time was right. At around the ten minute mark, there's a scene where Arati, who's in bed with her husband, tells him while he's half sleeping, that she will try to find work to help with the family's financial situation. There's a sense of pride in her eyes, and a new found confidence in her demeanor, that you can't help but want to see her succeed. Then, just a few minutes later, Ray shifts the focus to the other end of the emotional spectrum, to a scene where the son tells the father that his daughter-in-law is getting a job. In the span of a brief few minutes, you see the son's embarrassment when he tells his father the news that Arati has found work, juxtaposing it with the guilt and shame that the father feels for being a burden to the family. What makes this scene so powerful is the subtle way that Ray shoots it. The son is off screen, giving his father the news, all the while admitting to his fault at not being able to provide for the whole family. While the son is talking, the camera stays focused on the father's face as Ray slowly and softly, moves into a close up of the father. As the tears start to trickle down the old man's face, you sense a realization that he and his wife are a burden, and have nothing left to offer this world. The pain is painted across his weathered features and he looks down deflated and defeated. In just a few short scenes, Ray runs the gamut from self-confidence, to guilt, to worthlessness. The film really hits its stride when events transpire that put Arati in the role of sole provider for the family. The anguish that the husband feels, coinciding with a simmering jealousy that's boiling just below his emotional surface. Can his pride survive against the progression of time and its changing social structure? In the end, Arati will make a decision which will show her integrity, but may lead to harder times for the family. A somewhat ambiguous ending, but the whole film is done with such craftsmanship that it's pretty close to a work of art. An amazing film that registers so many emotions, on so many levels. I highly recommend this film.

What the color coding means...

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is
« Last Edit: April 02, 2014, 06:30:48 AM by Antares »

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #372 on: April 03, 2014, 11:19:28 PM »
Adventures of Zatoichi (1964) 65/100 - When you crank out four films in a calendar year, you're bound to dial it in, in at least one of the offerings, and Adventures of Zatoichi is the guilty member. It follows the atypical Zatoichi storyline, but this time, with the exception of Shintarô Katsu, everyone just seems to be working for the paycheck. The story comes across as a lazy retread of the previous entries in the canon and the action scenes seem to be there just to follow the formula. Not much more to say about this one, it's definitely a weak link in the series.

What the color coding means...

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is
« Last Edit: April 06, 2014, 10:37:02 PM by Antares »

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #373 on: April 04, 2014, 04:16:38 AM »
The League of Gentlemen (1960) 72/100 - Thoroughly enjoyable crime caper from director Basil Dearden, mirroring another film from 1960, with a similar plot line, Ocean's Eleven. But where the Sinatra film is a breezy romp with booze, broads, ballads and a big heist, Dearden plays up the military methodology of the gang's planning and execution of the robbery. The humor is all very smart and dry, something you expect from a film made during this era in British film making. It all seems to be going so well until the ending, which left me a bit perplexed as to why someone during the production, couldn't see the gaping plot hole at the end.
(click to show/hide)
It's a small thing, but it ruins the ending of what was a delightful, dry caper film.

What the color coding means...

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #374 on: April 08, 2014, 06:25:42 PM »
Lone Wolf & Cub: Sword of Vengeance (1972) 73/100 - The first in the six film Lone Wolf & Cub film series is a mixed bag of entertainment. Directed by Kenji Misumi and produced by Shintarô Katsu (star of the Zatoichi film series), it stars Katsu's older brother Tomisaburô Wakayama as a disgraced royal retainer samurai named Ogami Itto, whose sole duty to the daimyo is as chief executioner. His wife and servants are brutally murdered by a rogue clan of samurai, who then place a temple monument bearing the daimyo's family crest in a temple that Itto has built adjacent to his home. The monument symbolizes Itto's desire that the daimyo will meet a tragic fate and Itto is ordered to commit seppuku, along with his toddler son, to atone for his crime of treason. But instead of honoring his daimyo's wishes, he sets out, with his son, to avenge his wife's death and destroy those who have dishonored him. It's a pretty good storyline for a film, but to keep the viewer interested, it all has to be told in rather a quick amount of time. And it is here where the film suffers a bit. It moves back and forth from present time to an exposition laden past, and with the plethora of characters associated with the story, it can be a tad confusing. Plus, being made at the time it was, a bit of pinku exploitation is also thrown into the mix, before it arrives at the blood spurting, action climax at the end of the film. Misumi directed the first three films in this series, and now that he's set the table with this first film, I feel confident that the banquet to follow, will be sumptuous.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is