The Kite Runner, a review by Jon
The Kite Runner
4 out of 5
Khaled Hosseini's stunning debut novel is now an acclaimed motion picture. As young boys, Amir and Hassan were inseparable friends, until one fateful act tore them apart. Years later, Amir will embark on a dangerous quest to right the wrongs of the past - and redeem himself in ways he never expected - by displaying the ultimate in courage and devotion to his friend.
After half an hour or so, I thought I had The Kite Runner pegged and it was exactly what I suspected; a kind of, Stand By Me, Afghanistan remake. It’s a charming, wonderful story about two friends growing up in a politicised, but vibrant and colourful country. Then suddenly, it’s something darker and not because of where it is set, but because of how the relationship between the two boys develops, following a dreadful event that will make you squirm, despite the lack of graphic detail.
It’s a clever film that charms you within minutes, then pulls the rug from under your feet, doubles back and asks you to sympathise with a spoilt brat of a hero on his way to an awkward redemption. Like all good screenplays, it plays with a committed confidence and never feels forced. It is intelligent and steeped in culture with some intricacies that may go over your head, but inform the screenplay and respect the people anyway. It has just the right hint of sentimentality at the right times (“For you, a thousand times over!”), with a cold, stark reality at others that keep it grounded. The dialogue is great and I found myself laughing out loud, especially when the kids go to see a dubbed Magnificent Seven. It’s great that the same film can then give you a more delicate exchange, such as when Hassan asks Amir for a story...
All the work is in the characters. Young Amir (Zekiria Ebrahimi) is the spoilt brat and I admit I felt cheated when the story moved away from his friend, Hassan! Both actors are brilliant, but Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada plays Hassan as such a selfless and honourable boy, he is an absolute charmer. Thankfully, Khalid Abdalla as the older Amir anchors the film with an understated performance. His wife is played by the gorgeous Atossa Leoni and she does well with a role she could easily have coasted through, yet she holds the focus so easily. But of all them, the best character and actor combined is Homayoun Ershadi as Amir’s father, or “Baba”. He is superb in a changeable role that is never less than absolutely engaging. It’s him and the young Hassan that make this film very special.
Director Marc Forster perfectly judges the tone throughout, while realising a depiction of a country in turmoil. I loved his visual touches, like the exciting kite tournament that uses the kites for a thrilling birds eye view of Kabul. As with Finding Neverland, he crafts truly beautiful scenes that never sacrifice relevance for imagery.
While we are focused on a rather selfish story, the background to it might just help understand the awful situation in Afghanistan. I’m not disillusioned; the depiction of Russians and Taliban is a bit too convenient for this to be a pseudo-documentary, but that should be excused considering the point of view of the author and that this is setting out to be passionate rather than political (in fact, Amir acts like he is walking on eggshells in the final part, lest he disturb anything!). But the characters are so layered and charming, they can only be seen as a positive, human depiction of the Afghan people.
My only problem with it is not even the fault of the film, but the original book. The story feels too personal for the author, Khaled Hosseini. Beyond the obvious conceit that the central character is a writer, I can’t help think this story is biographical. That he was the boy who betrayed his friend and he suffered a lifetime of guilt, so much so that he wrote it as atonement; and that the final act is a fantasy redemption that didn’t really happen. He had stood by while his friend suffered, so it seems too poetic that he should return to the country many years later and manage to find the same bully, despite the overbearing Taliban. The twist feels like a daydream that would set in motion the right turn of events to allow him to face his nemesis and might have worked better with a similar trick Atonement pulled.
But the only reason I’ve thought about this so hard is that the film is such a perfect realisation of the plot. Marc Forster continues to prove that he is one of the best directors working today, extending an already eclectic array of work with a heartfelt ode to friendship. This film is a joy, which nevertheless packs a punch.
(From Jon's Alphabet Marathon 2010 on July 8th, 2010)
Jersey Boys, a review by Antares
Jersey Boys (2014) 30/100 - When Clint Eastwood's time on this earth has come to an end, I hope he has it stipulated in his will that every single copy of this piece of shit film is to be collected and incinerated. He should not want to ever be remembered for making one of the worst biopics in the history of cinema. It's too long, too boring and overly laden with every biography cliche there's ever been. The only redeeming quality is the great music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. But then, even that is marred by some horrendous recordings of those great songs. OK, it would be hard to duplicate Frankie Valli's incredible voice, but man, there were moments when John Lloyd Young, who plays Valli, hits some really stinker notes and it has you pondering why anyone would find his voice angelic or how he would find the success that he attained. Steer clear of this disaster!
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
(From Antares' Short Summations on May 1st, 2015)
Pete's Pilots, a review by addicted2dvd
Doogie Howser, M.D.
Neil Patrick Harris stars as Douglas "Doogie" Houwser, a whiz kid who breezed through high school in 9 weeks, graduated from Princeton at 10 and passed his medical board at 14. But as a 16-year-old doctor, Doogie must now find a way to balance the demands of professional medicine with the everyday pressures of being a teenager. In this debut season, Doogie experiences his first kiss, loses his first patient, fights the system at Eastman Medical Center, and discovers some unique lessons about life, death and growing up with help of his best friend Vinnie (Max Casella), his parents (Belinda Montgomery and James Sikking), his new girlfriend Wanda (Lisa Dean Ryan), his boss Dr. Canfield (Lawrence Pressman) and more. When you're a boy genius, life can be a mystery: This is Doogie Howser, M.D.
Doogie needs to pass one test to get his driver's license, and another when he treats a critically ill boy.
I was just coming out of my teens when this series originally aired. And I instantly found this sitcom not only funny but fascinating. I always thought this series had one of the best opening scenes for the pilot episode. It introduces the character of Doogie perfectly. To this day I get a kick out of the opening scene of this episode. This is one series I am thrilled I have every episode of. After watching this episode I could see myself doing a marathon of the entire series run!
(From Pete's Pilots on December 29th, 2009)