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The Firecracker
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« Reply #30 on: January 17, 2007, 02:29:38 PM »

Dick Tracy

Very much enjoyed this. Took the comic book style to the limit with its excellent uses of three main colors, red, green and yellow. Warren Beatty was great as Dick and the assembled cast, including Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Dick Van Dyke and Jimmy Caan were brilliant buried under alot of latex. Also a brilliant neo-noir story.

4 out of 5


You had never seen it before LA?

I agree, great fun! Don't let the naysayers convince you otherwise.

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« Reply #31 on: January 17, 2007, 03:43:37 PM »

No I hadn't but it was a film I had wanted to see in ages and when I saw it in the Virgin Megastore sale in Times Square I grabbed it.

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« Reply #32 on: January 17, 2007, 05:09:59 PM »

I concur, DT is a lot of fun. All those idiots who didn't enjoy it, there is no help for them....

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« Reply #33 on: January 18, 2007, 10:05:22 AM »

World Trade Center

 A powerful film, certainly one I would not like to re-visit often. Whilst I still think United 93 is a better film this was an incredibly emotive film. The sequences of John and the other PA PD driving towards Church St and looking up at the tower is definatly gut wrenching. Through out the movie, the John and Will in the hole sections captured for me how horrific that situation was. The most poignant sections for me were the establising shots of New York waking up on the Tuesday morning then the same shots at the end of the movie but with a large plume of smoke bellowing out of the foreground of background. Acting was a high quality except one, Maggie Gyllenhaul who I usually think is a rather proficent actress here failed to carry to me a believable respresentation of someone in grief. Trying to touch many emotions at once, all she can land on it anger and she manages to isolate the character from the rest of the film as she does seem at quite a few bits genuinely uncaring which from the interviews I watched seemed untrue in the real life story. In fact at times I felt the story going off to the wives, whilst an interesting side note, detraced from the main story and you felt like you wanted to get back to the hole and ground zero and see the resuce effort happen.

Overall it's a difficult thing to recomend this film, with the events discussed still very present in our minds and where as United 93 may have been a better made film, the incredible story of John and Will is definatly one that should be told.

LA's Score 3 out of 5

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« Reply #34 on: January 18, 2007, 06:04:41 PM »

Kramer vs. Kramer - 3/5
This is just your average cliché, predictable "father wants custody of son movie". It's certainly flawed, but gets the 3/5 rating for Hoffman (one of my favorite actors) and Streep (one of my favorite actresses). The kid wasn't bad either for a kid, but I've seen better. This is really only worth a viewing for a Hoffman fan. Check it out if it's on TV sometime or if you have nothing better to get from Netflix.

Rrpower's Rating Scale
5 - A classic, or will someday be considered a classic. Simply amazing.
4 - Very, very good - atleast one viewing is necessary.
3 - It's good, but passable.
2 - Don't waste your time on this - a bad movie.
1 - Avoid this at all costs necessary, even if it means suicide.

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« Reply #35 on: January 19, 2007, 07:40:52 PM »

The 400 Blows - 4/5
Amazing direction, a nice story, and a very good child performance from Jean-Pierre Léaud. The film is shy of a 5/5 score for two reasons. For one, there is a lack of emotional value that I like to have in films. Two, there was not exactly an ending, really. Still, it's a must-see and a must-purchase as well (a fairly cheap Criterion at $20). If you havn't seen it, get to it immediately.

Rrpower's Rating Scale
5 - A classic, or will someday be considered a classic. Simply amazing.
4 - Very, very good - atleast one viewing is necessary.
3 - It's good, but passable.
2 - Don't waste your time on this - a bad movie.
1 - Avoid this at all costs necessary, even if it means suicide.

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« Reply #36 on: January 19, 2007, 08:08:17 PM »

The Searchers 5/5

A defienent classic! John Ford's masterpiece. The direction was fantastic, and the cinematography is some of the best I've ever seen. John Wayne was magnificent. Any western fan should be made to see it! It's a must!

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« Reply #37 on: January 20, 2007, 02:12:38 PM »

My sister wanted to borrow a film. I was tired and wanted something easy to watch, like a fairy tale. She borrowed The Knight's Tale, not expecting anything evil...

2/5, if not less.

Sorry for wasting your time with this, but I need to get rid of all that.

It began like a promising, almost Monty-Python-like comedy, and turned to totally predictable love story. Unfortunately the love story took most of it and I didn't see much humour after that. This is a film that doesn't know what it wants to be. Some good ideas - actually, too many of them. Comedy? Love story? Historical adventure with tournaments? Parody on football fans?
Exciting close-ups on the tournaments were interesting at first (especially close-ups of horses - if it was their idea, then it was probably the best thing in the film for me), but when they repeated for fifth or which time, it was already annoying and boring. They should have saved them for the very last face-off.
I like costumes in films, but the costumes the heroine was wearing were too much for me. Modern looking hats and haistyles, a stylisation, OK, but at least the designer could realise who usually wore yellow in medieval times! It gave the heroine a meaning that was most possibly totally unintentioned by the filmmakers.
(Plus I knew the soundtrack thanks to our friend and was expecting to hear Ramble On in it, but I haven't.)
I give it some points because of the ideas.
And no, I cannot do what some people on CSFD do, I cannot give it additional points because of the Czech actors in it (nobody of the heroes anyway.)

SPOILERS (though predictable in a way)
Yes, predictable. The very moment you see the hero pretending to be someone he's not, you know it will come to the light in the end. And the very moment prince Edward appeared, I knew he would make the hero a knight in the end.
The end finished it. At first the hero is almost dying and needs to have his pike tied to his arm to be able to hold it, then he jumps down from his horse, hugs his friends fiercely, and then even jumps over the fence to hug and kiss his love. Blah.

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« Reply #38 on: January 20, 2007, 10:04:23 PM »

Oldboy 5-5

Crank  Cheesy Cheesy Cheesy Cheesy out of  Cheesy Cheesy Cheesy Cheesy Cheesy

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« Reply #39 on: January 22, 2007, 09:27:41 AM »

American Madness

I'm currently going through a Frank Capra 'thing' at the moment thanks to the newly released 'The Premiere Frank Capra Collection' DVD boxset put out by Sony on R1. This wonderful film really infuses you with a warm feeling and gives you faith in your fellow man. Set (and made) during the height of the depression and based on the true story of the founder of The Bank of Italy (more widely recognised today as the Bank Of America) with great performances from Walter Huston and Pat O'Brian and brillaint fast paced direction from Capra creates a light but heavily entertaining film about trust in fellow man against adversity.

LA'S Score 4 out of 5

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« Reply #40 on: January 22, 2007, 04:31:16 PM »

Red River: 4 out of 5.

The Professionals: 3.5 out of 5

Ride the High Country: 3.5 out of 5

Letters from Iwo Jima: 4.5 out of 5


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« Reply #41 on: January 22, 2007, 04:53:21 PM »

The Searchers 5/5

A defienent classic! John Ford's masterpiece. The direction was fantastic, and the cinematography is some of the best I've ever seen. John Wayne was magnificent. Any western fan should be made to see it! It's a must!
Wow, you got it completely wrong. My rejoinder follows:

The Searchers is a terrible film. Yes, the cinematography is wonderful. Monument Valley and Vistavision were made for each other, and the DP (Hoch) had the experience (he’d photographed Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon) to put the two together. And Ford, for his part, stages some very impressive set pieces (the massacre, the run to the river, the reunion scene).

No, the film is not bad for any technical fault. Its badness, rather, is foundational: at the level of plot and character. The screenwriter must bear some of the blame, but the man with the director’s title is most responsible for what is essentially an exercise in bad faith. That bad faith is everywhere in evidence, first frame to last.

The film begins, for example, with a patent fraud: a title announces a Texas setting but we are immediately shown Monument Valley, which looks nothing like Texas. Of course, filmmakers do this sort of thing all the time, substituting location for setting, but here the discrepancy is egregious and calls attention to itself. Even more troubling is what the location does to the logic of the story. The Edwardses and Jorgensens are farmers; why then, are they homesteading a desolate wasteland? There’s a reason Monument Valley was never developed, why it sat pristine until it could be filmed by Ford and others in the mid 20th Century: it is incapable of sustaining life. To suggest that farming families would actually try to settle there shows more than contempt for the audience’s credulity; it shows contempt for the film’s characters themselves. They must either be idiots . . . or puppets.

And so, we are left not with what John Ford may have intended us to view but what we actually see before us: a family that exists only to fulfill its plot function, a family that lives only to be massacred. This being obvious, my sympathies are restrained. I don’t really feel bad when the Edwards family is murdered because that’s what they’re there for. (Shame that the Jorgensens aren’t also massacred, as they are the most annoying family this side of a TV sitcom.)

Regardless, we expect, at the very least, that the characters within the drama respond appropriately. Ford does a very good job of intimating an emotional bond between Ethan and his brother’s wife. After she is killed, Ethan should be in full-on vengeance mode. He shouldn’t exactly be sanguine about the death of the others, either.  Yet the vengeance angle just seems to evaporate in the hunt for Debbie. Okay, finding Debbie may be Martin’s focus, but that shouldn’t be Ethan’s primary concern, especially after he comes to believe she’s irredeemable. Why isn’t he desperate to score some payback? A hint or two in this regard would have gone a long way toward limning Ethan’s character.

For all the talk by critics of Wayne’s performance in The Searchers (which is indeed good), we don’t really get much from Ethan Edwards. Is there any more to the guy than doggedness and prejudice? We’d like to think so, but we’re shy on data. Not surprising, really, considering that Ford shortchanges just about every character in the piece (the exceptions being the Ward Bond character, Mose Harper, and the Mexican go-between). Martin, as played by Jeffrey Hunter, is less a person than a mass of reactive tissue, and Vera Miles, who is never very good, plays the single-minded Laurie exactly as written.
Even Debbie is little more than the film’s MacGuffin. Young Debbie starts the film strong, but thereafter she is more talked about than seen, and when we finally do catch up with her at the end, she is essentially a totem for Ethan to carry away.

Look, Martin’s Indian bride, is an atrocious character. She could have been effective if she were an attractive Indian princess (a la Barbara Carerra in the TV mini-series Centenial). Why not provide a worthy rival for Martin’s affections, someone who could have given Vera Miles a run for her money? But Look was invented only for comedy relief, and what comedy relief. Ford asks us to laugh at an ugly fat woman because she’s ugly and fat. Oh, that witty Mr. Ford. And once her usefulness has ended, she’s killed, off
screen. Martin finds her corpse, wonders about her visit to the Indian camp, and then never thinks about her again. She was, after all, only a plot device, one of many in this terrible film, easily forgotten.

Scar certainly gets short shrift. Early on he is established as the nemesis: time and again he is shown to be formidable, ruthless, elusive. There is even a moment, when Ethan meets him in his camp, that a glimmer of humanity shines through via a sarcastic comment (“You speak good Comanche. Someone teach you?”) But there is no follow-up: Scar defaults to plot-device cog. And even here he’s a disappointment. The film is structured to create the expectation of a showdown between Scar and Ethan. But what happens? Scar is dispatched by Martin, almost casually, and the Duke isn’t even around to witness it. So Scar, never a fully imagined character, ends up deflating before our very eyes.


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« Reply #42 on: January 22, 2007, 04:54:18 PM »

Good scenes, when they occur, rather than redeem the picture, serve to point up, by way of contrast, all that is wrong with the film. An example is the wonderful reunion scene, which begins with an amazing take. After the visit to Scar’s camp, Ethan and Martin are discussing their options, framing a distant sand dune between them. Suddenly a figure crests the dune, begins descending, moving from background to foreground, toward the two men. The men don’t notice this at first, continue talking as the figure—an Indian: an Indian woman: Debbie?—draws closer. The audience wonders, Why is she coming? What will Ethan and Martin do when they see her. Some exquisite suspense is created in this single shot. Then Martin sees Debbie and rushes over. Will she remember him? Can she still speak English? Is she capable of civilized discourse? The answer to all three is yes, but Ford heightens the drama by making us wait for the discovery. Then we get Debbie’s wonderfully economical account of her last ten years: “I remember. From always. At first I prayed to you: Come and get me, take me home. You didn’t come. . . . These are my people. Go.”

This brief speech (Natalie Wood’s only lines in the film) raises an interesting problem: what if Debbie doesn’t want to be rescued? This plot complication is the fulcrum on which Act 3 should turn. Instead, dramatic tension is allowed to dissipate during the long digression about Laurie’s wedding (which includes yet another of Ford’s tiresome donnybrooks). By the time Martin goes to Scar’s camp to rescue Debbie she’s perfectly happy to cooperate. What, then, was all that palaver about her staying with her people? Had to be dropped for time, I guess, the film was running long. We need to hurry to the scene where Ethan guns down Debbie.

This, of course, is the film’s greatest cheat. We know it can never happen—the Duke shooting little Natalie Woodski? In a 1956 film?—so when the film pretends it is a possibility, it is playing us false. And the film is guilty of an even more egregious bait-and-switch tactic concerning the nature of Ethan’s “racism.”

Of course, “racism” is a bad thing, as everyone knows, but in the world of the film this “racism” is something of a moving target. The Comanche are never presented positively, and we see early on that falling into their hands is a bad thing (if one objects to being killed and scalped, that is). This is not the only negative consequence associated with the Indians, however.

The scene with the three rescued captives, artfully constructed and highly dramatic, is a case in point. We see what Ethan sees and what he sees are white girls who have become mentally unhinged as a result of their Indian captivity. Note that at no time does the picture suggest that Comanche culture is equal to that of the white man’s. Rather, Comanche culture has a debilitating effect on its white female captives. This is not a subjective view, not something that Ethan alone or even the white society as a whole believes contrary to fact. The truth of the matter is established objectively in this frightening scene of mental aberration. It is almost as if the Indians were plague carrying vampires, infecting the whites who live among them with a terrible malady (one thinks of Anthony Zerbe and his tribe in The Omega Man). A vexing question then presents itself. If Ethan and Martin find Debbie and she’s damaged goods, should they put her out of her misery or try against the odds to reclaim her soul? Dr. Ethan apparently wants to operate with extreme prejudice, but Doc Martin thinks the patient can be saved. Hey, these opposing approaches could generate some very juicy conflict. Yet when we meet Debbie in the reunion scene she turns out to be perfectly fine. Somehow she failed to contract grinning-idiots disease, so there’s no reason why she can’t be restored to white society. Had the plot not intervened to delay the final resolution, the film could have ended there.

But on we go. Because the threat of Indian-induced mental illness doesn’t pan out, the film later has this speech from Vera Miles: “Fetch what home? The leavings of Comanche bucks, sold to the highest bidder, with savage brats of her own? Do you know what Ethan will do if he has a chance? He’ll put a bullet in her brain. I tell you, Martha would want him to.” Uh, yeah, thanks Laurie, better hurry upstairs now, I think Norman Bates is waiting for his milk and sandwiches.

But notice how the terms of the problem have changed: a health issue no longer, now the specter of miscegenation has been raised. But this turns out to be illusory also. Debbie may be one of Scar’s wives, but she is an amazingly chaste one and apparently child-free. So by the end of the film, Debbie, in her right mind and without any dependants, is guilty only of wearing too much makeup and looking cute in an Indian costume. Hmmm, should Ethan gun a girl down just for a lifestyle choice? John Ford, stalwart of our contemporary mores, answers with a resounding “Hell no!” Ford could have taken a swing at the mental health issue, could have met the challenge posed by a white woman with Indian children in white society, two problems documented in the historical record. Instead he let those pass and waited to connect with the softest pitch the screenwriter could deliver.

Without a satisfying armature to comfort me, hundreds of niggling details rise to annoy me. I’ll just mention a couple. On two separate occasions the “community” sings a hymn, and both times it’s “Shall We Gather at the River?” A little bit of research to find out what 19th century American Protestants actually sang would have helped. It’s conceivable that such a hymn could have been used at a funeral, but at a wedding? I guess these hicks only know one hymn.

Then there’s the matter of anachronistic language. One of the Duke’s most dramatic readings, concerning rape and murder, is marred by the following dialogue:  “What do you want me to do? Draw you a picture? Spell it out?” Contrast these howlers with a line taken from, say, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, made eight years earlier: “Mr. Cohill, it is a bitter thing indeed to learn an officer who’s had nine years’ experience . . . should have so little grasp of leadership as to allow himself to be chivvied into a go at fisticuffs while taps still sounds over a brave man’s grave.”One can argue that this language is also anachronistic. It is, nonetheless, appropriate for its subject. In SWAYR, soldiers talk like soldiers, albeit soldiers from 1948 (She Wore a Yellow Ribbon has more in common with war films than Westerns anyway). This is a far cry from what happens in The Searchers, however: pioneer family members sound like they’ve spent their lives growing up in the ‘burbs. (“Laurie…maybe it’s about time you and me started going steady, huh?”) The problem isn’t lack of fidelity, it is blatant lack of fidelity.

Yes the film has great cinematography, great set-pieces, a riveting performance from the Duke. But craftsmanship is not the issue. Even some black velvet paintings and pink flamingos are executed with great craft; technical excellence, however, does not raise such things to the level of art. Kitsch remains kitsch, no matter how well it’s made, and the Searchers is Western kitsch.

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« Reply #43 on: January 22, 2007, 05:39:09 PM »

Jings Dave, you seem to be critisizing this film for mainly being a John Ford film, rather than some seperate entity. He always used the same music including “Shall We Gather at the River?”  as well as the "The Searchers" (dunno what it's actually called) theme in picture after picture for decades (long before he even made THE SEARCHERS), even in orchestrations for his silent movies. This seems to have been more due to a Western convention than any attempt at being historically accurate. I doubt anyone has ever tried to make this case for Ford seriously. His West is clearly a construct of the imagination, and does anybody really care while watching THE SEARCHERS that the Jorgensen ranch obviously can not sustain life, despite the fake pool?

This is as bizarre as saying you think A FISTFULL OF DOLLARS is a bad film because the town is obviously incapable of supporting a sustainable economy. Especially as Ford, more than anyone, more than historical veracity (which seems to be your main beef with THE SEARCHERS here) was Leone's greatest influence. THE SEARCHERS is about something else entierly, embodied by the characters who seem to have some univesiality. That Ford's stock company almost to a man and woman play the same role they do in film after film (Wayne excepted) leads me to believe that you basically don't like any of Ford's movies at all? It seems to me that at it's most base level the film is a re-telling of the Illiad (it even shares the same time span, without dragging out books and videos to double check)). As such it even shares that epic's ambiguous ending (when the door closes, there is no feeling of "closure" or easy happiness for anyone, hence much of the story's power). That THE SEARCHERS so expertly adapted this ancient tale and made it so American is surely remarkable. That Ford's film itself spawned a whole SEARCHERS inspired "movie brats" cycle is even more so, with TAXI DRIVER, HARDCORE, APOCALYPSE NOW and THE DEER HUNTER.

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« Reply #44 on: January 22, 2007, 05:54:00 PM »

In fact, I like Ford's earlier pictures, particularly My Darling Clementine, but also Prisoner of Shark Island and Young Mr. Lincoln (not strictly Westerns, granted). True, I'm not a huge fan of his Westerns, but he could still crank out a pretty good one by the time of She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. In the 50s, though, I think Ford became intellectually lazy. He wanted to take on big themes like "racism" but wasn't willing to do the hard thinking required to bring such an ambition off. Better if he had simply done action pictures without larger themes. That is what he was capable of.

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