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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 06:42 am:   

So now he's a critic. The Pope, having viewed Mel Gibson's THE PASSION, is quoted as having said, "It is as it was."

Uh-huh. Wow. Thar's what I call deep. Ranks right up there with his "Love is good, war is bad" quote from the early Ninties. Kind of Lennonesque. Also redolent of Popeye's "I yam what I yam." I need to study on it more. Was he referring to the movie's existential state, to the verisimiltude of its historical perspective....what?

Rotten movie news. Jonathan Demme is remaking THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE. That's what we need. Another remake of a classic from the 60s and 70s. To compound the felony, Denzel Washington will play the Franl SInatra role and Meryl Streep will play the evil manipulative mom portrayed in the original by Angela Lansbury. Washington, when asked if he had seen the original, replied, No. I don't know what good that would do me. The setting of the movie has been changed from post-Korea to post-Gulf War. That;s right--- the evil Iraqis were kidnapping our troops and brainwashing them, turining them into implacable assassins. What are they going to call the thing? The BAGHDADI CANDIDATE?

Somebody stop these fucking people!



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John Klima
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 07:02 am:   

I'll never understand this insane desire to re-make films. What's next? The Wizard of OZ? Citizen Kane? Psycho...oops. Why not come up with an original idea...oops. There I go again, giving Hollywood execs some credit.

JK
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jeff ford
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 07:02 am:   

Lucius: Right after school let out yesterday, I took my two sons and a girl friend of the older one to see The Return of the King. It cost me 21 bucks for the 4 of us. I have to say, Jackson gives good weight for your movie going dollar. I read The Hobbit and the trilogy to my younger son about two years ago, so the books were pretty fresh in my mind. I really think these movies are a way better experience. This last one was so chocked full of amazing stuff, I couldn't really take it all in on one viewing. There were some problems with it also, though. It's unnecessarily long, the ending goes on forever. At times, it's also a little unnecessarily cornball. But overall, I greatly enjoyed the vision and scope of the entire enterprise. There was real movie making magic here, and I don't find it too often these days. Did you see it?
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 07:41 am:   

JK,

you pretty much said it all. There is no fund of imagination left in Hollywood, and if any shows up, it will be neutered on sight. Thre remake of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE particularly cheeses me off, because it's one of my favorite movies. It happened to be on cable last night and as I watched, I shuddered to think of the excess that will soon be lavished upon it, of Denzel's ineptitude in relation to what was one of Sinatra's better performances, of how they'll supplant Vivian Leigh's flirty ecentricity with, no doubt, ditsiness or just some sort of bootylicious trip.

Argh!!!!
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John Klima
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 07:42 am:   

Here's an interesting article from this last summer (thanks to Cory Doctorow for finding it for me!):

http://www.latimes.com/technology/la-et-dropoff17aug17001423,0,183913.story?coll =la-headlines-technology

The most telling part of the article is the quote from Rick Sands, chief operating officer at Miramax: "You could buy your gross for the weekend and overcome bad word of mouth, because it took time to filter out into the general audience," he said. "Those days are over. Today, there is no fooling the public."

Makes me sick. Not that I should expect anyone in Hollywood to be anything more than a money-grubber.

JK
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 07:51 am:   

Hi, Jeff...I haven't seen the final installment. I'm gonna wait until the crowds thin out. I hate seeing movies with a crowd. I'm sure it's good, though i know the multiple endings are going to lay waste to me, and that there'll probably be a superfluity of Celtic laments (actually, for my tastes, one Celtic lament is a superfluity. Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to it. I'll b reveiwing it next week or thereabouts. Not having seen it, however, I agree overall with your movie magic comment. I had some problems with the second film, most relating to the stuff Jackson added in, which I thought was unneccessarily complicating -- but as I said in my review of the first installment, I don't think anyone could have done a better job of transforming the book into a film. And I doubt they'll be remaking this one. :-)

As to whether the film is better than the book, I guess I don't agree with that -- I understand the flaws of the books, I think, but I always prefer the way books engage my imagination to the way movies do.

So I have a quetion for you -- did the absence of Christopher Lee bother you?
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 08:00 am:   

JK -- There's no fooling the public? That's all they fucking do anymore. Jesus. The fact that they CAN fool the public is the main damn reason why movies today are like they are.

Thanks for posting the article. I don't know Rick Sands, but I have met many of his pod brothers....
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jeff ford
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 08:05 am:   

I know what you are talking about with Lee. Actually, it did bother me because his evil wizard character has two distinct and important scenes in the last book. I did notice that they were missing. And they could have dropped some of the ending tearful goodbyes and added Lee, who it is always a pleasure to see. You are also right about the celtic ballads. Dude, almost everybody's got a song in this one. This is one of the rare times when I liked the movie more than the books. I am in general agreement though that I enjoy the experience of reading more than movie watching. I can't think of another instance where I liked the movie better than a book I really liked. Another set of books I read to my son, The Golden Compass trilogy, I doubt could be made better than the books. Tolkien kind of bored the crap out of me at times, but there was enough on the back burner usually to keep me going until the next interesting part. I look forward to your review. By the way, another remake that is coming out is Jackson's own King Kong, talk about mistakes and what were they thinking?
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 08:12 am:   

Yeah, I'm with you on Tolkien boring me sometimes -- Tom Bombadil and endless lays and etc. And double yeah, I keep waiting for one of these guys who make a zillion bucks to use their power to make a smaller good movie, something with non-blockbuster values---I rather hoped Jackson would be the guy. But the film geek in him won out--apparently KONG was his favorite movie. He says it's gonna have lots of dinosaurs. Whee. After that, I guess, he's going to do THE HOBBIT. Ah, well.
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jeff ford
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 08:41 am:   

I liked a couple of Jackson's earlier movies. The one about the two girls who murder the one girl's mother -- Strange Creatures or something like that. I really liked that one. I also liked parts of The Frighteners quite a bit. I agree, I'd have liked to seen him go back to those personal movies. But... dat's showbiz for ya.
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 09:16 am:   

Heavenly Creatires. The first Kate Winslet sighting. That was terrific. The Michael J Fox factor kinda sank the Frighteners for me. Did you know that Jackson made another Hollywood movies that is still on the shelf, deemed not good enough for release? Wonder if they'll shove it out there now.
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Robert Devereux
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 09:18 am:   

Jeff - it was Heavenly Creatures. I've watched all of Jackson's films so far, but Meet the Feebles is the only one I am not willing to watch again.

I too hoped he would do something "small" after LotR, but I'll still watch Kong. He's one of the few directors I'd be willing to take that chance on. After all, I consider myself a fan of the book LotR, and I find myself enjoying Jackson's version more than the book (no Bombadill, a lot less of the poetry, motivation for the characters, a sense of urgency). If he can make me enjoy the films more than the book, I think he can at least make a decent King Kong.

I'm not completely against remakes (John Carpenter's The Thing was better than the original), but just highly sceptical. Especially of an attempt to redo the Manchurian Candidate.
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 09:24 am:   

Robert, I'm not completely against remakes either and THE THING is a great example of why... but remakes of movies that were already good movies and that involve updatings, like the remakes of POINT BLANK (PAYBACK) and GET CARTER, the odds are long that CANDIDATE will be worth a shit.

I'm sure Jackson's KONG wil be okay, and it's good he's keeping it a period piece. I was just hoping, you know
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 10:43 am:   

NEWSFLASH -- Michael Jackson has joined the Nation of Islam. I'm not sure what to do with this little fact. Guess it falls under the heading of When The Going Gets Weird, The Weird Turn Pro...
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Minz
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 11:15 am:   

Here's to hoping the Manchurian remake never sees the light of day . . . So many ways a project can get shelved, so let's just keep our fingers crossed.
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 11:57 am:   

'Fraid this is on! In production, already. Slated for next year. Shudder....
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ellen
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 12:14 pm:   

Jackson's short film Forgotten Silver is a good one too. Not readily accessible to the public because of its length. Not long enough to qualify for feature length. I've seen it twice and it's quite interesting.
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 12:20 pm:   

Yeah, the mockumentary....that's pretty cool. I think it was originally made for Kiwi TV...
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paulw
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 02:24 pm:   

Jackson did right by dropping Bombadil. For that alone, we owe him boundless thanks.

But he did wrong, I think, but cutting Lee's scenes out of ROTK. I really felt their absence while watching the movie, and agree completely with Jeff that one of the multiple endings could have been cut to allow Saruman his final appearance. But I'm sure it will be in the DVD.
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 03:23 pm:   

Agrree. I already miss Lee and I haven't seen the movie...Lose one of the Celtic moments and I'm fine...
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paulw
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 03:34 pm:   

One of the trailers at ROTK today was for a movie called Captain Something and the World of Tomorrow . . . or something similar. Anyway, it had this amazingly cool looking 1950ish black and white retrofuture robot invader thing going on -- do you know anything about this movie, Lucius?
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 04:07 pm:   

Don't know any more than you've said, Paul. I've heard of it and that's about it. Basically when I hear about a movie that looks cool, however, i tend to be restrained in my enthusiasm, because more often than not, I find that's all that's cool about them. Here's hoping...
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Mastadge
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 04:12 pm:   

You're lucky. Our trailers were for suckfests starring Vin Diesel and The Rock and so forth.
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paulw
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 05:12 pm:   

In addition to Captain Whoever, we also had the trailer for Spidey, which also looked amazing. Doc Ock lives!

Also saw the trailer for Hellboy, which looked like the kind of movie I'll go see but hate myself for in the morning.

Some day soon there will be no movies that are not based on comic books or fantasy/sf novels or other movies.
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jeff ford
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 05:15 pm:   

Paul: I saw that Doc Oc also, and that looks like its worth the price of admission. One way or the other there is no way I will not be seeing it now that my kids have checked the trailer.

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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 05:16 pm:   

That day be upon us. Hellboy's not for me. Nor Spidey. I didn't much care for the first one.

Don't forget remakes....
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paulw
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 05:19 pm:   

It's Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

The trailer isn't up yet at the website, which is kind of lame if they're showing it in the theater . . .

A stellar cast! Not!!

Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jude Law.
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 04:08 am:   

I just caught a screener for Cold Mountain (about which more later) and I've had enough of Jude Law to last....and last...and last
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 04:17 am:   

PS -- according to IMBD, the director, a first timer, wrote a program that allowed him to shoot the entire movie in front of blue screen, so the whole thing is CGI...Not a good sign. Another bad sign, the cast also includes Giovanni Rbisi, of whom I also had more than enough in CM.
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Minz
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 06:12 am:   

I loved the Spidey trailer, I've high hopes for this one. (I've been a Spidey fanboy since childhood.)
And the Hellboy trailer played well, but the suspicion is we've seen the best.
For Sky Captain, I loved the initial look, but when they got to the meat of it, our audience was moaning. It looks to be of the quality of that cheesy b&w serial they inserted on the holodeck in one of the Star Trek shows.
And that Vin Diesel trailer--those disingenuous bastards opened with Dame Judi Dench and threw out some cool sf riffs (ok, they were hoary chestnuts if it were written sf, but still) before cutting to Diesel, thereby trashing all hope (and causing great despair for how far Dench has fallen).
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 08:21 am:   

Minz, is the Vin Diesel the trailer for Pitch Black 2?
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Minz
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 08:58 am:   

Yep. The Chronicles of Riddick, I believe was the title.
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paulw
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 09:35 am:   

Oh yeah, I saw that trailer too. Ugh.

Looking forward to your take on CM, Lucius.
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 09:56 am:   

Hmm, I was kinda looking forward to PB2. That guy, the director, Twohy, seems like the inheritor of John Carpenter's mantle. Maybe this is the rare occasion when the trailer sucks and the movie's okay. Or maybe Towhy got a budget and didn't know what to do....
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 10:24 am:   

ROTTEN MOVIE ALERT!!!!!

Note to Anthony Minghella:

If you're gonna make a movie about the Civil War, here's a clue -- put a couple of southern actors in it, don't stuff the cast with players who either are like you, Brits, or are citizens of some ex-British holding. Ray Winstone, Charles Hunnan, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Cillian Murphy, et al.... The accents are fucking atrocious. Of course the worst accent of all is Rene Zellwegers. And the voiceovers in those atrocious accents made me want to kill...

Here's another clue, shoot the movie in the south. Northern Rumania only marginally resembles the Smokies....

Here's yet another clue -- you might want to recuse yourself from making further Civil War movies and choose a fucking war you know something about. It's not enough to film a faithful recreation of the Battle of Petersburg. You need to have some understanding of the people who fought it.

Is there one southern film cliche that is not in Cold Mountain? I don't think so. We even have a Deliverance type character (Giovanni Rbisi). God. Don't get me wrong. There are moments in Cold Mountain, but they are lost in the midst of what is essentially a reprise of Minghella's last schmaltzathon, The English Patient. He;s turned the Civil War into backdrop for another fucking romance novel. Nicole Kidman's acting is high school level, She;s playing dress up. It's another case of get-the-pretty-lady-dirty-and-she-deserves-an-oscar nod. She's this generation's Grace Kelly. Naomi Watts in 21 Grams blows her away.

Worse than THE ENGLISH PATIENT...hard to believe, but true.
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Minz
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 10:53 am:   

Glad to hear a voice of reason concerning CM--none of my acquaintances seemed as put off by the trailers as I was. On the other hand, Last Samurai has me intrigued. Anyone seen it?

As for PB2--the trailer started really cool . . . I just lost it when it cut to Vin. Which probably isn't fair, since I've never seen the original PB.
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 11:04 am:   

Re The Last Samurai -- I'm not smart enough to avoid Anthony Minghella, but Tom Cruise in what essentially appears to be SHOGUN 2 -- that I'm smart enough to avoid.

The original PB is formulaic, but fun...and Diesel was pretty cool in it. Twohy's made some okay scifi. THE ARRIVAl, despite the presence of Charlie Sheen, was kinda good, and BELOW was a cool haunted sub story, I'll probably see PB2 just because it's Twohy, but sequels, y'know.....
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jeff ford
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 11:33 am:   

Lucius: Get this, it's not called Pitch Black 2, it's The Chronicles of Riddick! Whew. Another one my kids want to see. They love Vin, but they also get the irony of his head trauma performance and like it even more for that. My oldest son does a great Vin voice, and every now and then, I'll hear in response to the fact that some relative is coming or we have to go to the mall, "To tell you the truth, it scares the shit out of me" (Fast and the Furious).

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Minz
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 11:38 am:   

But I've been hearing good things about LS, particularly about Watanabe as the Samurai leader, and the cinematography. And I liked Zwick's Traffic (though the Brit miniseries is better . . . and what I have in my collection). I'm very conflicted. When I saw the trailer, I started laughing, but visually, it ended up catching my attention. I'm actually thinking about it these days. Just wish someone with real taste would weigh in. (I've popcorn tastes, but not quite to the level of many folks. And it doesn't look like a good role for Cruise--little does, but there have been a few. I liked both of his first two films, and tolerated a few since then.)
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JV
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 11:53 am:   

Ann and I rolled our eyes at the trailer for Cold Mountain. Of course, I remember when we came out of The English Patient wondering why all these people around us seemed genuinely moved by it. One of our friends went to see it about 10 times. Barf. All we could think was--stupidity caused somebody's death. Wow--how moving. I really, really hated the English Patient.

JeffV
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 01:39 pm:   

Jeff V, the English Patient the book was okay, but the movie turned what was essentially a delirium into a Harlequin romance. If you're a southerner, you're gonna hate CM worse than most because of the cliches, the accents -- I thought the book was kind of a joke itself. It was well researched, but full of bullshit agendas....
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 01:46 pm:   

Jeff F, well, I want to see CHRONICLES too. I have a thing for Twohy, I think he's the B movie guy who's taking over for Carpenter, and I'll cut him some slack--but the big budget scares me. Whenever Carpenter got a budget, he seemed lost. Frankly, it sounds better to me than SKY CAPTAIN. But then I'm coming to detest Jude Law. DOGVVILLE, the new Von Trier move, will likely rehab Kidman for me, because he always gets freat performances out of his actresses...usually by terrorizing them, unfortunately. But apart from that, I don't care if I see her ever again.

I envy your kid -- I'd like to be able to do a good Vin Diesel imitation.

Jesus, your kid must have some lungs and a helluva diaphragm....
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 01:50 pm:   

Minz,

won;t go to see LS. Nobody's gonna make me. I don't mind Cruise in light comedy like Risky Business, Jerry McGuire, but anything else and I;m outa there.

Did you know that very soon we'll be seeing Traffic the miniseries, an American version? Can't wait for that. I didn't much care for the movie. Del Toro's always interesting, but Soderbergh...Sheesh! All those filters he shot with...to me that's always a sign the director hasn't a clue...
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Robert Devereux
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 02:11 pm:   

I was also interested in Riddick. Twohy seems to be able to make good B-movies, something most in Hollywood can't do. Sky Captain doesn't interest me (the style looks interesting, but from the trailer, the film doesn't).

Last Samurai - nice costumes and design. There were some very good parts of it - focusing on Cruise adapting to life in a Japanese village and his growing respect for the samurai. But there were really terrible parts - focusing on how the white guy does things better than people of other races: one winter and Cruise becomes an expert with the katana; that he plans strategy for the samurai (do we really think the samurai needed a white man to teach tactics?). The end was terrible.
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 02:16 pm:   

Robert, sounds pretty much as expected. Yup, any ol' white guy knows his way around a saber can purely whup a bunch of them Asiatics once he spends a few months getting used to stuff. Hell, yeah.

Thanks. What little temptation it posed has been evaporated....
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ben peek
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 03:03 pm:   

i like twohy too. BELOW came and went without so much as a hello, really, but it was a pretty neat little ghost submarine film. i also liked PITCH BLACK, and i liked deisel in it too, so RIDDICK is worth checking, i think. though i do hear that it's the second in a trilogy now...

i found twohy's first film, called TIMESCAPE, the other day. it was a made for tv film with no budget and jeff daniels. simply put: it's pretty awful, and best left unwatched.
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, December 19, 2003 - 04:30 pm:   

Ben, I've heard of TIMESCAPE, but never ran into anyone who'd seen it. So thanks for the review.

Question for anyone about the RIDDICK trailer...does it take place on the same planet as PB?

Me, I'm gonna miss Radha Mitchell... :-)
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ben peek
Posted on Saturday, December 20, 2003 - 03:09 am:   

always happy to be of service, lucius. TIMESCAPE is actually based of a c. l. moore story 'vintage season' which i've never read, but if the film is anything to go on, about people from a perfect future who travel through time to watch natural disasters. pretty uninspiring stuff all round.
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paulw
Posted on Saturday, December 20, 2003 - 05:36 am:   

I am at a loss to think of a single movie that convincingly portrays the Civil War. The one that feels closest to me in certain scenes, on an emotional level, despite the fact that it is an historical travesty and makes no attempt at accuracy, is the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

What do other people think? Glory? Huston's Red Badge of Courage? What movies get the Civil War "right," or at least do not fall back on cliches in depicting it?
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, December 20, 2003 - 05:51 am:   

Actually, Ben, now you describe TIMESCAPE, I think I saw part of the film on TV some years back and had no idea it was Twohy. You're right. Uninspiring is the perfect adjective for it.
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, December 20, 2003 - 06:12 am:   

Paul, THTBaTHU gets my vote as having a very authentic civil war feel. I saw The Red Badge of Courage so long ago, I really can't recall it that well. But generally speaking, the best films about the war seem to be those that deal with it obliquely, as do several of Eastwood's movies. The Battle of Petersburg that opens COLD MOUNTAIN is handled very well -- structurally, it fits into the film like the opening of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Whereas Ryan then devolved into a bloated episode of COMBAT, CM devolves into a cross between Pilgrim's Progress and a romance novel. The episodic nature of Inman's walk home is designed to point up what a truly moral man he is...a point that goes glimmering when at the end the entire process of the film appears contrived solely to enable a spot of power-fucking between him and Ada (Kidman)....
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paulw
Posted on Saturday, December 20, 2003 - 07:07 am:   

Hey, nothing wrong with a little power fucking!

But I agree completely with your point about dealing with the CW obliquely. It seems very odd, though, that this central chapter of the nation's history has such a slap-dash record on film. Of course, the same is true of the Revolutionary War. I guess it's only the two world wars, and Vietnam, that have their share of great movies.
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, December 20, 2003 - 07:14 am:   

I'm not even so sure about Vietnam. There are a couple of quality flawed movies about Vietnam, but to my mind, none of them really does it. Again, I feel the Vietnam era films that delt obliquely with the war were generally more evocative of the real era.

I was thinking about epics and war movies prefratory to seeing LOTR3 and the one that really does it for me is Kobyashi's THE HUMAN CONDITION, which is, like LOTR, a 10 plus hour trilogy and a much better movie in terms of actually depicting a war, in showing what a war means and does. As far as combat movies, it's hard to top THE THIN RED LINE.
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ellen
Posted on Saturday, December 20, 2003 - 09:27 am:   

Ben:
You might try reading the story--it's a classic. And when it was written 1946 it was quite fresh.
Ellen

<<TIMESCAPE is actually based of a c. l. moore story 'vintage season' which i've never read, but if the film is anything to go on, about people from a perfect future who travel through time to watch natural disasters. pretty uninspiring stuff all round.
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ellen
Posted on Saturday, December 20, 2003 - 09:31 am:   

Has anyone here read COLD MOUNTAIN? I haven't so I don't know but I gather from what I've heard about the novel is that it is a love story mainly, told against the background of the Civil War. So 'm curious to know how close the movie is to the book.

Btw, I saw The English Patient with Alice Turner, who had read the novel and she thought it captured a novel that she said would be extremely difficult to film very well. Since I haven't read the novel, I have no idea. But I did very much like the film.
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, December 20, 2003 - 09:43 am:   

Yeah, I read COLD MOUNTAIN. Cormac McCarthy Lite. The difference between the movie and the novel is that--just as with the English Patient--the romance element is amped up to the disinclusion of much else and a dismaying softening of focus. Of course in my view the film made of THE ENGLISH PATIENT was massive garbage. Ray Fiennes IS this era's wet-eyed Omar Sharif.
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paulw
Posted on Saturday, December 20, 2003 - 09:48 am:   

I'll look for the Human Condition.

I thought Thin Red Line superb, immeasurably superior to Private Ryan.

Two of my favorite war movies are by Kurosawa, Kagemusha and Ran.

The Last Samurai is pretty much Kagemusha lite.
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Brendan
Posted on Saturday, December 20, 2003 - 10:08 am:   

Well, who the hell needs Kagemusha lite when there is the real thing. I have generally found white-boy-plays-samurai films to be pretty stupid. Is Seven Samurai a war film? I think that is my favourite of the genre - with Yojimbo being a close second. . . . I remember when I was a kid there would always be cool samurai films playing at the art movie theatres. . . . Then video came along and the art movie theatres went away and most of those films never made it to video.
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Deborah
Posted on Saturday, December 20, 2003 - 10:19 am:   

Most of Kurosawa has certainly made it to video and now DVD -- boxed sets, even.

I been thinking about this Civil War movie thing and though it's been a while since I saw it last, it seems like I remember The Outlaw Josie Wales as being pretty good on the Human Face of War thing (even though it had some silliness in it). Josie's incredible ability to spit with precision made a nice metaphor for what the South was good at since even very precise spitting is still just spitting.

But that got me thinking about Civil War Re-enactors and it got me thinking that what we need in a Civil War film is one that evokes the sense of defeat that permeates every aspect of Southern Culture...I mean, think about it, thousands of people have as their HOBBY (yes, hobby, the thing which is supposed to bring you joy) re-enacting the defeat of their army, the seizure of their land and property, and the dismantling of their social structure (whatever you may think about said structure).

I wonder if I had a point here.

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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, December 20, 2003 - 10:32 am:   

Deborah -- Josie Wales was one of the Eastwood movies I was referencing. And yeah, I think The Good Bad and Ugly captures that defeated sense better than any other film.
A post-Civil War film, focusing on reprisals against the Home Guard and so on, would be very cool. Actually, the Home Guard part of COLD MOUNTAIN is something I was happy tosee -- it's not been something played up in the history books. Ray Winstone, the great British actor, gives one of the film's few good performances as a leader of the Home Guard in the region of Cold Mountain.

In a way, one point you might have been considering, the most interesting and telling part of a war is it's end, how the end plays out.
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, December 20, 2003 - 10:37 am:   

Paul,

THE HUMAN CONDITION is a trip. Kobyashi, if you didn't know, was Kurosawa's mentor. If you look at Kurosawa's film's, you find that before he began working with Kobyashi, his camera was nowhere near as elegant and eloquent as it became afterward. Kobyashi's eye for a frame is unparalled. You can take any frame of his movies and it is suitable for framing. He's directly responsible for the development of Kurosawa's visual style.
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Deborah
Posted on Saturday, December 20, 2003 - 10:41 am:   

Yeah, that was it. :-)

Maybe the trouble with Civil War films is that Hollywood wants war films where Good Triumphs and the violins swell and the CW doesn't give you that if you get historically accurate. I mean we have the Kid Version ("fought to free the slaves") and the scholarly version ("collision of economic systems and views about Federalism") but when it comes down to it, it was a war of farmers killing other farmers. I remember walking through the battlefields at Gettysburg and Antietam about 15 years ago. There are markers every few yards with the names, or at least counts, of the dead. It was a fucking farmer's field full of dead bodies. That's what the CW was.

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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, December 20, 2003 - 10:59 am:   

Yup.

The political ramifications of the war are varely touched upon in the movie. The whole slavery thing is pretty much handled by an exchange of looks between a black and a white soldier. Fedralism is not mentioned. The farmers vs farmers thing is, actually, more in the picture than is usually seen, but it all gets subsumed into the romance....
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Brendan
Posted on Saturday, December 20, 2003 - 11:39 am:   

Deborah - I was not talking about Kurosawa. Naturally, he being the most famous Japanese director, his films are all easily available. I was referring to the huge amount of samurai movies that came out in the 60's and 70's which have gone off the radar - those wonderful films where bright neon blood would spurt 10 feet in the air and white bosomed princesses would slit their lovers' bellies open during sex. Some of them, it is true, can be found (usually in region 3 DVD), but the vast majority not. . . .
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paulw
Posted on Saturday, December 20, 2003 - 12:00 pm:   

Deborah,

I swear I read somewhere that Confederates in the Attic was being made into a movie . . . but I can't find any references online. Maybe I just dreamed it.
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Deborah
Posted on Saturday, December 20, 2003 - 12:41 pm:   

Paul, I blush to confess I haven't read the book, but I think I will some time soon -- I remember hearing about it and then not gettin' round to it. Sounds like it would be a fascinating movie except for the British actors. :-)

Brendan, right, I misunderstood what you were saying.


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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 05:39 am:   

Paul, Anybody Else who's seen LotR3...whta's the consensus out there? Everytbody thinks it great...or what? I'm going tonight or tomorrow, and I'm kinda interested in knowing what people thought it's strengths/weaknesses were....just for my own devices....
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jeff ford
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 06:57 am:   

Last night I just saw Aranofsky's Requiem For a Dream, a movie my students have been talking about for a couple of years now. Yikes Amighty!! Ellen Burstyn scared the shit out of me. A powerful film.
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 07:06 am:   

Yeah, Jeff. Pretty great. I guess Dreamworks ( think it's Dreamorks) had Aronofsky hooked up to a Batman movie, but the latest word is that he's going to be making FLICKER... which, if you haven't read it, is one of the coolest thrillers ever, a book dealing with a mysterious Hollywood director Max Castle and that turns upon the "fact" that the movies were invented during the Middle Ages. By Theodore Rozak. Great read.
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jeff ford
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 07:19 am:   

Lucius: I saw Pi when it was first out and was very impressed by it. So I should have been prepared for Requiem, but I wasn't. Both are very fine films and both very different.
You have told me about that novel before. I want to get a copy of it. I'm going to do that. Get one off the old books site. I want to read it before I see his movie of it. Thanks for the tip.
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 07:27 am:   

FLICKER's one of those books, you can't figure how they'll ever make it into a movie, but i anybody can, I have faith in Aronofsky...I especially have faiththat he'll do justice to the creepy visuals of the book.
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Matthew
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 07:36 am:   

I saw Return of the King yesterday, for the most part it was real good. The ending seemed to drag on for too long. In the book it took several chapters to end, but you could put the book down whenever you wanted, which you can't at the movie.
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Minz
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 07:58 am:   

RotK really hits the high notes well. The kind of thing that literally makes you want to cheer, and brings that lump to the back of your throat. But it also has its lowpoints: without getting into specifics, the opening didn't work all that well for me, though I suspect it's going to play out better in the extended edition. (Once you've seen it, I'll be happy to go into details.) Also, it has a few moments where the special effects don't work. Again, I don't want to get into the specifics, but the images seemed so cheesy to me they're indelibly imprinted into my brain.

Don't get me wrong, this is nitpicking. I loved the film, and overall, it's a stunning and rousing conclusion to the trilogy. But it has some of my least favorite moments in the trilogy. (Jackson really does some great Hollywood stuff here--you'll probably hate it!)
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 08:17 am:   

Thanks, Minz and Matthew. I don't think I'll hate it -- If it's great Hoilywood stuff, cool. It's the lame Hollywood stuff I hate. I guess my focus today is thinking about it as a war film... I know Tolkein began thinking of the book after he was wounded in WW1, while he was back in England, doing service as a sentry...a coastal watcher, I think... So it's his reduction of the horror or war that interests me. His moral reassessment of it.
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Minz
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 08:36 am:   

Have you seen the extended ed of The Two Towers? Not only is it a major improvement of a film that I thoroughly enjoyed in the theaters (certain subplots are fleshed out and added), the best moment of in terms of moral assessment comes in this longer version. Faramir has some wonderful lines as he looks upon an Easterner he's killed with his bow. Great stuff. (The whole Faramir/Boromir relationship is wonderfully rounded out thanks to the ext ed of TTT)
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 08:57 am:   

Nope. Haven't seen it. I surely will. In my view, the only way to watch this thing is to get all the extended versions and slice off a day to spend doing it. TTT was less pleasing to me than TFoR, but it was still serviceable. I didn't care for all the dwarf humor -- it seemed off-tone -- and some of the stuff Jackson added in seemed unnecessary. But I assume the ex. version helps all of that.
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Mastadge
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 09:47 am:   

One thing I didn't like about Return of the King was that I think Denethor and Faramir's relationship would have made little sense to me had I not seen their scenes in TTT extended version.
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 10:01 am:   

Yeah, Mastadge, that's why I said I think the way to see this is as a whole piece. I understand why movies are released this way, but it's such an odd thing...like saying to a reader, here's nine tenths of this cool book -- if you like it, we'll sell you the whole thing. Great marketing but truly lousy aesthetics. It also points out that audiences have been conditioned to accept logical gaps and just watch for the big stuff....
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Deborah
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 10:36 am:   

Gee, I thought it was because movie people didn't want audiences to suffer from numb butts from sitting the in the theatre for so long. I thought it was essentially an act of kindness.

:-)

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Evan McClanahan
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 11:28 am:   

I liked RotK, but I thought that there were some weakish moments, and the setpieces were pretty poor, if cool looking. I mean, Minas Tirith looked really damn cool, but it was apparently made out of talc, and designed by someone who'd only heard of sieges from bad hollywood movies. There were no villages or fields anywhere around it. Despite the fact that I'm trying to grow beyond my armamentophile roots, it still irks me when people make war movies that have no basis in reality, even though we've (as a species) spent about the last 8k years doing it. I mean, do some research. What could have been a moving scene became for me a vast swirl of CGI fluff. Some impressive filmmaking, though, considering that about 99% of the elements didn't exist. Other than that, I thought that Sam and Frodo did a good jobs with their part of the film, if occasionally being a little overwrought. A friend I saw it with commented that if there's a drinking game made for it, you'll surely have to drink every time someone cries. You wouldn't need much after that.

As per Last Samurai, Ugh. Everyone else has it right about the whole white superman thing, but add to that a deep ignorance of what was actually going on in Japan during that historical period and the motivations of the people involved *and* (I hate to harp on and on about this) a total lack of insight into military strategies, and you have something that's pretty damned bad. Contemporary snipers would be envious of the hit ratios that the muzzle loaders are getting and the gatling guns at the end take a page from the sentry guns in the extended edition of Aliens. Sigh.

Lucius, I'm surpised to hear that you liked the Thin Red Line. Any particular reason why?
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Mastadge
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 11:52 am:   

"There were no villages or fields anywhere around it."

The Pelennor Fields?
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 11:55 am:   

Deborah...yeah, there's that. too, I suppose.... :-)
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 12:05 pm:   

Thanks, Evan.

Why did I like THIN RED LINE? Can't think of many reasons not to like it. Thought the use of voiceover was fucking brilliant, the mingling of dead and live voices. Some of the combat sequences, Malick's showing of the variety of reactions to fear, the extremes of thought, the powerful seepages of memory into the midst of chaos...all that seemed to reflect a reality I know. I liked the intercutting of the various characters throughout the battle. I have no idea if the battle wa accurately portrayed as to its overall design, but it felt emotionally accurate. Technically, I thought the cinematography and sound and editing were fantastic. That's for starters, anyway.
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Mahesh Raj Mohan
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 03:23 pm:   

Hello. The THIN RED LINE was a beautiful film. I especially liked Caviezal and Chaplin's characters. And I agree that the voice-over narration (something that is hard to do right in film) was extremely well done. It especially added to the mysticism of Caviezal's character, I thought.
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Michael Cisco
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 03:24 pm:   

The problem with war movies, or one of them, is that they cost so much to make it's hard to get one together without stripping it of any particular point of view. Apocalyse Now would be an exception, I think. And the battles in Ran and Throne of Blood - well, I can't say they look convincing, not having had the occasion to observe the real thing, but they are expressive. The budget angle may be a reason why we have to turn to the indirect stuff, like An Incident at Owl Creek Bridge, for feeling.
I've always thought Good/Bad/Ugly (which is being remade with Jude Law, Ray Fiennes, and Judi Dench as Tuco, under the title GBU2.0K) was really a Viet Nam film, at least insofar as the Civil War episode was concerned. All the military types are trapped in this meaningless confrontation over a bridge, and it's up to the grimy free spirits to do what has to be done - blow this worthless bridge up and let everybody go home already. So I'd put it alongside CATCH-22 sooner than I'd put it alongside say er "Glory" (I can't even type the name with a straight face).
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Michael Cisco
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 03:26 pm:   

By the way - please allow me to send you all holiday greetings from Vichy Kahlifornia.
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 03:48 pm:   

Hello, Mahesh...I also liked the Captain played by Elias Kotea -- nicely drawn character. The voiceover was just unbelievably smart and well crafted. The dead Japanese voices mixing with their slayers....it was amazing.
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 03:57 pm:   

Michael, I think the bridge incident in the Good Bad Ugly is no more typical of Vietnam than of any other war. In most wars with which I'm at all conversant, there have been plenty of similar incidents, men fighting over meaningless ground. But there were portions of the prison camp sequence, the Union troop covered in gray dust, etc. etc., that had some good CW feeling, to my mind. The Thin Red Line had a definite WW2 character for me and absolutely captured the feeling of combat.

Seasons Greetings yerself.
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jeff ford
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 04:48 pm:   

Here's some of my favorite (you know what I mean) war movies:

Pork Chop Hill
Paths of Glory
Alexander Nevsky (is this the name -- the one where they have that balls out fight on the frozen river)
Zulu
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John Picacio
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 04:56 pm:   

Count me in as one more admirer of THE THIN RED LINE.....I've had many a knock-down, drag-out battle with friends who swore up and down that SAVING PRIVATE RYAN was the superior war film (I think they were released around the same time).

SAVING PRIVATE RYAN seemed like a cartoon to me. So trite it made me wince. I thought THE THIN RED LINE was almost like poetry on film. Beautiful filmmaking.
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 05:25 pm:   

John...Tom Hanks ain't no thang. It was like a big battle sequence and then a two hour TV show. TRL just rocks. The DVD is cool, too. A whole thing extra island music... :-)
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 05:38 pm:   

Jeff,

Alexander Nevsky is the one.
I like Timothy Carey's performance in POG.
Zulu was a lot of fun. Have blurred memories of PORk CHOP HILL.

For my part, the greatest of all war movies is Kobyashi's THE HUMAN CONDITION. Like LotR, it's three movies, over ten hours total, but boy is it different. Just harrowing...and, ultimately, purely tragic, not operatic in its scope and emotion like LotR, but a small story that implies the large. It's an incredible trip.

Kobyashi's an interesting figure. He also made what I consider the best of all the samurai flicks, HARA KIRI. The trouble is, those two movies, HARA KIRI, which debunked the whole samurai myth, and THC, which excoriated his country for its actions in Manchuria, made him highly unpopular in Japan. The Japanese did not allow his films to be exported until the 70s and so he never achieved the greatness on the world stage that she should have and was surpassed in fame by his pupil Kurosawa who, though great, is no greater a filmmaker than Kobyashi. Anyway, i highly recommend those two movies. They're brilliant, beautifully shot, and unforgettable.
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ben peek
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 06:00 pm:   

SAVING PRIVATE RYAN reminded me of PREDATOR, in the way that characters were taken out one by one, and to a lesser degree ALIENS, for much the same reason. not a particularly good thing for a war film.
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ellen
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 07:55 pm:   

Hey Jeff, did you get my email message from the 19th? You haven't responded.
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Matthew
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 08:11 pm:   

The bridge seen in Good/Bad/Ugly reminded me of one of Ambrose Burnside greatest blunders. He was unable to take a certain bridge being held by a small band of Confederates, so he assigns his top man to do it. The guy splits up his forces and has one attack straight across the bridge, the rest use a bridge mile or so away and come up behind the Confederates. Thing is, they could of simply used the other bridge and bypass the who force.
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 09:15 pm:   

Don't know the incident, but to bypass the bridge..that would have left an enemy force at their rear and that might not have been something they wanted. So maybe it wasn't that big a blunder.
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jeff ford
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 09:28 pm:   

OK, so I looked up Theodore Roszak's book Flicker on the used book sites. Man, the prices start at 50 bucks for a mass market edition and go up to close to 300 bucks. Anybody got a copy they would consider lending me? I'll pay for shipping and will return it unharmed.

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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 10:09 pm:   

Jeff,

My books are all in boxes -- when I get a moment, I'll dig around and see if my copy's here. It might be in storage up in Seattle. If it's here, I'll send it along after Xmas. The prices on the book have jumped since the news about the potential film came out. A few years ago I bought my copy--a mass market--for a buck something. If I can't find my copy, I know a couple of people who have it and I'll ask them....

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jeff ford
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 10:42 pm:   

Lucius: Thanks. In the meantime, I'll keep looking around here and let you know if i can find anyone local with a copy. Now I have to read this book.

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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 10:57 pm:   

Jeff, just talked to Jason W. He has an extra copy he'll send you...Be quicker than me digging through my boxes....
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Brendan
Posted on Monday, December 22, 2003 - 03:36 am:   

I second Paths of Glory and Alexander Nevsky. Another excellent one is The Train.
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Michael Cisco
Posted on Monday, December 22, 2003 - 04:15 am:   

I meant that the bridge episode was countercultural, in that the two hairy weirdoes are able to resolve the situation because they have their priorities in good order. It's not so much a matter of the futility of the fight, but the fact that a way out (good bad or otherwise) is presented.
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paulw
Posted on Monday, December 22, 2003 - 05:49 am:   

And they resolve the situation by blowing everything up.
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, December 22, 2003 - 06:22 am:   

Yeah, Michael...I was just saying the bridge part wasn't my reason for deeming GBU a decent take on the Civil War. You could make a case that GBU falls into the THREE KINGS/KELLY'S HEROES kind of movie, treasure hunters in the midst of war. Hey, bottom line, as an historical document, it beats the shit out of COLD MOUNTAIN.

Vichy?

You're not setting up a secondary govt. there, are ya? :-)
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Mastadge
Posted on Monday, December 22, 2003 - 09:29 am:   

Since this thread is about Movie Stuff, I'm going to see if I can derail the war movie conversation for a second. . .

As a Tim Burton fan (although that was shaky for a bit after Planet of the Apes came out. . .), I'm quite looking forward to Big Fish. Has anyone seen it? Any thoughts on it? Is it a return to form for Burton?
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, December 22, 2003 - 09:40 am:   

Mastadge...haven't seen it, but have a friend whose judgment I tend to rely on and he has seen it. His opinion -- it's visually striking, as to be expected, and Albert Finney is terrific; but it's the most manipulative (in the Spielbergian sense) of all Burton's films, going for cheap emotion whenever the opportunity arises. Kind of low-cal Bradburyesque magic realism floating on an ocean of sentiment.
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Michael Cisco
Posted on Monday, December 22, 2003 - 08:23 pm:   

Thinking along resistance lines - some of us born Californ's sitting around with our berets and baguettes drinking vin ordinaire.
I'd heard people saying things about Big Fish along the lines of "Burton's back" - then here's this trailer with schmaltz running off of it like the dumpster behind a deli. I could feel Burton's soapy hand working its way up my ass ...
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Trent
Posted on Monday, December 22, 2003 - 08:32 pm:   

Re: sequels, there's a line in RABBIT IS RICH where Rabbit says about Jaws 2: [something like] It makes you wonder if they're running out of ideas.

Incidentally, RABBIT IS RICH is the third in a series.

As for remakes, Hollywood hasn't had too great a success at it, but Shakespeare did a damn fine job--usually.
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, December 22, 2003 - 11:19 pm:   

Michael,

re: Big Fish. I'm trusting my friend. I agree, the preview looked El Rotten-O. No thanks.

Happy California

PS -- got San Venficio in the mail. Thanks. You didn't say you posed for the cover. :-)
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paulw
Posted on Tuesday, December 23, 2003 - 04:33 am:   

The review I saw of Big Fish in The Times, I think it was, compared it to Forrest Gump -- that was enough for me to stay away.
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Mike
Posted on Tuesday, December 23, 2003 - 05:46 am:   

Saw the previews to Big Fish yesterday. I can say with total certainty that the Southern accents are all bogus, whatever else the film may have going for (or against) it.
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Lucius
Posted on Tuesday, December 23, 2003 - 06:57 am:   

Big shock on the southern accents, huh, Mike? Doesn't that just piss you off/ Thank God for Bill Bon Thornton. Wait'll you see COLD MOUNTAIN...better yet, give it a pass.
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Lucius
Posted on Tuesday, December 23, 2003 - 07:02 am:   

Gump, huh. Damn! That's worse than I thought. Yeah, I;m definitely giving it a miss... Yuck.

I saw the elf movie last night.. Loved the battles, but the rest... I'm not too sure.
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Mastadge
Posted on Thursday, December 25, 2003 - 02:50 pm:   

How's Peter Pan, anyone? I don't know what to think of it from the trailers, but I do like that Isaacs fellow who plays Hook. Is the movie any good?
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Mahesh
Posted on Thursday, December 25, 2003 - 10:40 pm:   

I, too, want to know if 'Peter Pan' is any good.

I did a dumb thing today. I went and saw 'Cold Mountain'. I, too, was drawn by Minghella, but that's because I liked 'The English Patient.' The accents were indeed laughable, the story was predictable at every turn, and I came out unmoved. The memorable, affecting moments came during the middle of the film, during the procession of southern stereotypes. Anyway, I only have myself to blame for being duped by a Hollywood production. I should've known what I was in for...

Anyway (backtracking), Lucius, I agree that Elias Koteas was also great in 'Thin Red Line', and I add my voice to those who enjoyed 'Paths of Glory' and 'The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly'.

Happy Holidays to you all!
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JV
Posted on Friday, December 26, 2003 - 08:38 am:   

I liked "Thin Red Line" a lot, but I do like "Full Metal Jacket" as much, for totally different reasons.

I agree with Lucius on the book Cold Mountain--it's basically Cormac McCarthy light. The problem with the book is that the author's style never changes throughout the whole book, no matter what's happening. It's kind of dead tonally, I think.

I very much enjoyed part of the subplot between that great French actress whose name I can't remember now and the Sikh in The English Patient (the movie), but the rest of it was artificial to me--an artificial tragedy. And thus, in fact, not a tragedy at all. Just a senseless event. I'm told the book is better.

Big Fish looks like it might be a bit Princess Bride-y, though, so I'm holding out hope.

I've seen Lord of the Rings and, frankly, I think it is fucking great. I don't think Jackson has made the kind of movie where you need to be worrying about whether there are villages around these here parts for sustainable agriculture or not. And I think the special effects are great. But even better, I do think there is an emotional impact in watching the movie that might have been a bit lacking in Two Towers, in part because it's the bridge movie. People say it ended too slowly, but I think it ended at a reasonable pace. Yes, a lot of goodbyes, but not too many.

I have two major beefs, however. One--that the movies in general would have been much better had they stuck with the books' plot with regard to Saruman--both in not knowing right away that he's hooked up with Sauron, and his role in the burning of the Shire at the end. I think it was a mistake to do away with that, anti-climax or no anti-climax.

Two--the vile, despicable, AWFUL dwarf jokes in Two Towers and to some extent in Return of the King. These are really unforgivable. It's not just that they're offensive, but that too many of them are in a kind of real world idiom at odds with the language used in other parts of the movie. Thus, doubly jarring.

They do an excellent job in this final film of showing Frodo and Samwise at the very ends of their tethers on their hopeless quest, too. Very well done. Jackson is good in this area precisely because he knows the tropes of horror movies and can deploy them well in what at times becomes a very grim and horrific movie--as well it should.

I remember when reading the books that they left me with a sense of horror and grimness, especially with regard to Frodo's quest. Now, I don't know if the writing would hold up if I read the books again, but I do think it's a bit absurd to accuse Tolkien of escapism when it comes to Frodo's quest.

I think in that Tolkien's prose can be a bit twee sometimes, the movies reinforce the majesty of some of the events and places and scenes in the book--a majesty and power that is sometimes muted by the prose.

JeffV
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, January 03, 2004 - 08:17 pm:   

Jeff,

I'm writing my review now and I guess I liked LOTR a bit less than you. I kind of hated the whole Frodo=Sam thing. I got to seeing it all in terms of the British class system, which I think it and other elements of the book do represent, and that screwed it up for me.

Agree about the dwarf stuff -- it was simply ridiculous.

Big Fish is Burton's Forrest Gump,

Loved the first half of FMJ, not so keen on the Vietnam stuff.
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JV
Posted on Monday, January 05, 2004 - 08:25 am:   

Lucius:

Would you have thought that without reading about some Brits objections to it? (at least, that's the only context in which I've heard that particular argument.) I'm tired of hearing about the British class thing, frankly, in relation to the movies in particular. The original context of the books may certainly reflect that, but you can bet most US audiences weren't thinking about that when they watched the movies. I'm not saying it's not a valid concern, but it's rather a distant complaint at this point, at least for me. I enjoyed the movie. I hated the dwarf jokes. I could live with Sam and Frodo's relationship.

JeffV
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JV
Posted on Monday, January 05, 2004 - 08:53 am:   

Lucius:

Have you seen The Station Agent? I really enjoyed that movie. Bad Santa, on the other hand, I thought was terrible.

JeffV
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, January 05, 2004 - 09:24 am:   

Jeff, yeah, Bad Santa diminishes with time. I liked the Station Agent. Liked 21 Grams a lot. As for Ring, well, I could live with the Frodo-Sam realtionship, but it came to really annoy me. I haven't read any Brits objections to the film -- the fact that I was recently in England may have played into my POV, but I've always thought the book was hag-ridden with the class thing. It wasn't a dealbreaker for me, it just became incredibly annoying -- it worked okay in the book, but in the movie it didn't work at all. As for what the audience was thinking, well, that doesn't much affect what I write about a film, and you're right, I'm sure very few people were thinking about the Brit class system, but...when Sam was going through his, Oh, Mister Frodo plaintive crap, people in the theater were laughing--they may not have known about the class system, but the relationship obviously seemed pathetic and ludicrous to them. What I say about it in the review is as follows:

The so-last-century British perception of and fixation upon class, most obviously evidenced by the bond between Frodo and Sam, is framed in an especially hideous manner when Frodo the hobbit aristocrat tells his doting gentleman's gentleman that he could not possibly carry the Ring of Power, that it would destroy him, a patent insult to which Sam, obeying the doughty regulations of his kind, responds by saying that he may not be able to carry the Ring, but he can by God carry the young master, whereupon he picks up the enervated Frodo and goes serfing up the slopes of Mount Doom. This relationship came to seem so cloyingly godawful, I half-expected a scene in which Sam, on his knees, tongue lolling. receives a snausage from Frodo's hand.

It bothered me more and more as the trilogy went on and at the end I was just tuning the two characters out, they were so irritating.

What can I say. That's what I saw and I din't need any help in seeing it. It sticks out of the narrative, in my view.

Lucius
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jeff ford
Posted on Monday, January 05, 2004 - 09:39 am:   

The other night we did a family outing to see The Last Samurai. This film looks beautiful, whoever the cinematographer was must be really good. The story was interesting enough. But man, it had Cruise, and I just can't get past him. He seems to be trying very hard, but his characters always strike me as merely on the surface. I never feel like they have any depth. And they squeezed it dry for its cornball pathos on more than one occassion. Some awesome battle scenes, though, which is why my kids wanted to go in the first place. Lynn got to see Cruise, the kids got to see sword weilding and chop em up, and I got to sit in the dark and snooze. Something for everybody.
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paulw
Posted on Monday, January 05, 2004 - 10:53 am:   

I don't see how you *can't* think class relationships with Sam/Frodo when Sam refers to him continually as Mr. Frodo, an honorific that Frodo does not feel compelled to accord Sam in return. In my mind, that's the big weakness of the original trilogy, artistically as well as morally, and even worse, it left its stamp on all the heroic fantasy that came after. Back in college, I wrote a novel in which the timeless battle between the Dark Lord and his minions and the Brave Aristocrats of Light and their minions is broken up by the two groups of minions uniting and overthrowing their respective masters.
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Brendan
Posted on Monday, January 05, 2004 - 10:56 am:   

Well, I dont know what Cruise is like in real life, but his acting certainly does seem shallow. I think it can work well when the character is sort of meant to be shallow, but if not....
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, January 05, 2004 - 11:14 am:   

Jeff, glad you got some sleep. I get the hives watching Cruise. He's a frat boy who should be limited to Cameroin Crowe movies. He has aboslutely no gravitas, and not much in the way of technique.

Paul...that novel, you might could sell it in this market atmosphere... :-)

Brendan...yup!
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Robert Devereux
Posted on Monday, January 05, 2004 - 11:51 am:   

For the class relations, I found it interesting that the real hero of the books, at least to me, was Sam. Once in Mordor, Frodo almost became an inanimate object that Sam had to rescue and carry. Sam really drives the story starting in Cirith Ungol. So while Sam is from the servant class, the quest is only completed through his efforts, the aristocrat is almost a non-entity by then.

What bothered me about this was that so many people still associate Frodo with completing the quest. So even though Sam does most of the work, Frodo gets the credit. I suppose that is the nature of the class structure.
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, January 05, 2004 - 11:59 am:   

" So even though Sam does most of the work, Frodo gets the credit. I suppose that is the nature of the class structure."

Exactly.

I was rooting for Peter Jackson to have a fit and make Sam kick Frodo's ass somewhere along the way
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paulw
Posted on Monday, January 05, 2004 - 01:48 pm:   

On the other hand, I suppose it's worth noting that Frodo and Bilbo head out "west," while Sam becomes the elected mayor of Hobbiton . . .

On the other other hand, Aragorn is still king, and it doesn't look like there's much hope of democracy anywhere outside the Ent society.
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Robert Deverex
Posted on Sunday, January 11, 2004 - 06:16 pm:   

I saw Peter Pan recently. It was surprisingly good. I was happy that Tinkerbell was played in the manner of old belief in fairies - not the nice and happy Victorian and current way, but capable of friendliness and maliciousness. The performances were pretty good, and it looked nice. It didn't shy away from unpleasant things. It's certainly better than other film adaptations I've seen.
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, January 11, 2004 - 06:52 pm:   

Hmm. That's a movie that hasn't been on my list, but maybe I'll check it out.
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LeslieWhat
Posted on Sunday, January 11, 2004 - 09:41 pm:   

I kinda liked Big Fish and think Albert Finney plays one of the best old bloated dying guys in film. I do wish some attention had been paid to Jessica Lange's character. After so many films, one gets tired of the generic doting, supportive wife who doesn't have much to do except love a man who is uglier than she is. Even Helena Bonham Carter's character got to have a job and own cats.

Maybe I liked Big Fish because I realize that I've come to the phase in life where I should start framing up photos of the children to hang by the staircase. Maybe I'm a sucker for stories about the importance of stories. Maybe I'm just glad it wasn't a slasher movie. On a scale of 1-10, with Mouse Hunt being a 1 and The Station Agent being an 8, I'd give Big Fish a 7.5.


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Lucius
Posted on Monday, January 12, 2004 - 07:03 am:   

To each her own, Leslie. Much as Iike I Finney and Crudup, the sentiment of Big Fish was far too manipulative for my tastes.

Did like Station Agent. I think Bobby Cannavale (sp?) is gonna ride that part (the coffee guy) into a huge career.
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John Klima
Posted on Monday, January 12, 2004 - 07:51 am:   

Lucius:

Have you seen "With a Friend Like Harry..."? It sounds interesting, but I'm not sure if I should try to track it down.

JK
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, January 12, 2004 - 01:53 pm:   

JK, the French thing...? Yeah, it's nothing that's gonna blow the seals off your gaskets, but it's a good little pyscho thriller. Not, in my view, a classic, but entertainng...

Lucius
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John Klima
Posted on Monday, January 12, 2004 - 06:01 pm:   

All right, I may skip it then. Of course, it could end up on IFC or Sundance, then I could check it out.

JK
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, January 12, 2004 - 06:14 pm:   

Yeah, it's been on IFC, I know. It beats Hollywood thrillers, for sure. Seen some weird movies out of France this past year. IRREVERSIBLE, for instance. Kind of a MEMENTO-like thing, whose centerpiece is probably the most brutal rape I've ever seen on film. It's very well made, but very hard to watch in certain parts. Verging on an exploitation film. Some of the better thrillers I;ve seen have been Korean -- most of them very dark, but extremely well made....
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Adam-Troy
Posted on Monday, January 12, 2004 - 08:34 pm:   

Lucius: y'ever see TWIN FALLS IDAHO? ATC.
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, January 12, 2004 - 08:39 pm:   

I own it, but haven't watched it yet. I have about 70, 80 unwatched videos/DVDs that I'm starting to work through. Is it good?
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Adam-Troy
Posted on Tuesday, January 13, 2004 - 05:37 am:   

It's different, which of course gives it a leg up.

This is, for reference, the one about the call girl who, against her own squeamish nature, finds herself falling in love with "Mr. Right," by which I mean the right member of a pair of conjoined twins.

I find it a perversely erotic love story, and I love the performance given by the lead actress. (The writing/directing/acting Polish brothers, who are not quite as good, can be accepted within the terms of the film.) Unlike most Hollywood-type love stories, it actually moved me.

There's a dream sequence near the end. Unlike most dream sequences in movies, it is neither nonsensical nor crushingly literal; it duplicates dream logic, in that its meaning to the character having it SHOULD BE obvious to anybody following the storyline's implications. (I mean: really. Obvious. Not banal, but clear to anybody who can exercise his brain.) Reading the many reviews that saw print at the time, it seems that an awful lot of critics were TOTALLY BAFFLED by this sequence, did not realize it was a dream, and had no idea what the Polish brothers were getting at.

Their inability to make the leap of comprehension is a good arbiter of what's wrong with much film criticism today.

Anyway, I admire the film quite a bit and have shown it to several friends. Some wept, like I did, and the ones who like nice acceptable subject matter complained that it was "slow" and "depressing", usually a good indicator that a film is worth checking out.

I'm curious about your own reaction, when you get around to it.
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Lucius
Posted on Tuesday, January 13, 2004 - 06:00 am:   

I'll be checking it out sometime soon. Thanks...
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Dave G.
Posted on Tuesday, January 13, 2004 - 12:21 pm:   

I have been anxious to see TFI, but haven't been able to find the DVD. My ardor was somewhat diminished by the release of Northfork, which I found agonizingly slow, unforgivably silly and more than a bit pretentious. I expected much better from a cast that included Nick Nolte, Daryl Hannah and James Woods.

Speaking of weird French movies, one movie that I have been dying to get my hands on is Trouble Every Day, the Claire Denis cannibals-in-love movie. I didn't buy the Tindersticks s/t when I saw it in Seattle and haven't been able to locate a copy since. Anyone seen it?
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LeslieWhat
Posted on Tuesday, January 13, 2004 - 08:10 pm:   

I'm cynical for a living, but I suppose every now and then I can let something sentimental sneak through and still keep my writing jobs.

The best thing I can say about Big Fish is that it made me want to read the novel.

BTW, Forest Gump, the novel by Winston Groom, was good. It made me want to see the movie, which turned out to be a mistake.
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Adam-Troy
Posted on Tuesday, January 13, 2004 - 09:27 pm:   

TWIN FORKS IDAHO shows a trend toward slow pretention, but I feel it controlled that tendency. It's not a great movie in any sense but I feel it worked.
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, January 14, 2004 - 10:41 am:   

Kind of Maybe Cool Possibility: Thomas Twker, who directed RUN LOLA RUN, looks like the guy who'll direct the film of Daniel Suskind's novel, Perfume, which won the WFA some years back.
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Luke Brown
Posted on Wednesday, January 14, 2004 - 03:07 pm:   

Sorry to be annal but I think it's Patrick Suskind. Great book, and I think Tykwer is a good film maker who is yet to make his best film.

Lucius - not sure whether you've mentioned your thoughts on this one yet, but what did you think (or have you seen) Mystic River? For me, this is an example of Hollywood done right...

Best,
Luke
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, January 14, 2004 - 03:20 pm:   

Sorry. Patrick. The book and Twyker seem an intriguing combo.

I was very disappointed in Mystic River. I hadn't read the book, yet I was clear on what was going to happen from very early on. The direction, I felt, was clunky, suspenseless. Several of the characters--Bacon, Fishburne, Hardin--seemed unneccesary, contributing nothing to the evolution of the piece other than to serve as foils. The accents were rather bad. In opposition to his wonderful job in 21 Grams, Sean Penn was so over the top, it hurt. Robbins, in my view, can't act. What was the deal with Laura Linney turning into Lady MacBeth in the last five minutes, after being a virtual non-entity for the rest of the film? I could go on....but you get the picture. I really disliked it a lot. Frankly, it bored the hell out of me.

Sorry, again. I've like some of Eastwood's direction, but this one just didn't get it for me.
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Luke
Posted on Wednesday, January 14, 2004 - 03:45 pm:   

Lucius - no need to apologise, all fair points. I enjoy your Electric Story reviews so I was interested to see what you thought. Haven't seen 21 Grams. Will have to check it out. I enjoyed Amores Perros, except I thought it was far too long.
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ben peek
Posted on Wednesday, January 14, 2004 - 04:00 pm:   

in mystic river, i was really irritated by lfishburne's character's name: whitey powers. every time someone said it, i kept waiting for a joke, or for someone to make some obvious point with it. drove me nuts.

so did linney at the end of the film.
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, January 14, 2004 - 04:16 pm:   

Ben, somebody told me the Linney character did the same in the book, to which I said, then the book must suck. Weird.

Luke, 21 Grams isn't the greatest movie. It's a melodrama that's a masterpiece of disjuntive narration, but has way too much coindicence for my tastes. That said, however, the three lead performances are fucking great...in particular, Naomi Watts. I'm sure the Oscar going to Charlize Therion for her pne-note I-put-on-a-lot-of-make-upperfromance as Aileen Wuornos, but Naomi Watts blows her out of the water....her and pretty much everyone else in the Best Actress race.
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Adam-Troy
Posted on Thursday, January 15, 2004 - 05:34 am:   

The sudden prominence of Linney's character worked for me; here was a lady who had not done or said anything surprising, a wife who was pretty much taken for granted, and probably never once stuck her head out -- and who then displayed an inner ruthlessness that CLEARLY stunned her husband.

He was surprised, too.

Probably never really knew her at all.

That's the way I took it, anyway.
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, January 15, 2004 - 06:03 am:   

Even if Linney's sudden display of manipulative strength had done it for me, which it did not, because women in Southey are not at all subtle -- if they're ballbreakers, they're ballbreakers -- nothing else in the movie did it for me, so the point is moot as far as I'm concerned.
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Night Shade Books
Posted on Wednesday, April 14, 2004 - 12:42 am:   

Finally saw Kill Bill vol. 1 today. Gotta say, I expected something better than this empty piece of shit. Wow. Shallow, pointless and poorly acted. Nifty swordfights, but if that's all I wanted to see, I could have watch a real Shaw Bros flick and saved myself the pain of watching Uma try to be a badass.
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richard
Posted on Wednesday, April 14, 2004 - 06:45 am:   

Guess there was always the danger that this is where Tarantino would end up - for a while there with Jackie Brown, it looked as if he was growing as a writer/director, but here we are, back to ripped off (sorry homage) sequences from Asian action movies and zero emotional engagement.

There was an article in the New York Review of Books that warned watching Kill Bill was like having a long and tedious conversation with a Kung Fu movie nerd - and that about summed it up for me too. Just that when you look back at Reservoir Dogs and see the potential for the future, it's a shame to see it pissed away like this (not to mention the total waste of Uma Thurman, who I think's a fine actress)
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, April 14, 2004 - 07:56 am:   

I was warned away from Bill. I'm a big Michael Madsen fan and so I was tempted, but passed after the warnings. Agreed, there are a hundred better ways to get a good sword fight into your life.

And Richard, I agree about Jackie Brown -- I really liked that movie. Looks like it was a blip. Way I hear, Tarentino is very manipulable, very much influenced by what people tell him, and that he receieved a lot of industry remonstrance for JB (too slow, not a big earner) and so changed his direction....
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Dave G.
Posted on Wednesday, April 14, 2004 - 11:39 am:   

Come on, guys! Style is the new substance (cf. Moulin Rouge)!
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, April 14, 2004 - 12:07 pm:   

SFW. In any case, if you want style in a sword fighting flick,you'll do better checking out King Hu and not fucking Q.

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