Movie reviews- Last attempt
Submitted by 1922 on Fri, 11/25/2005 - 04:42
Many times I have tried sth. like this, and I wasn't able to keep it up. So, if not this time, then never again.
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Newell, 2005)- I've never been a big fan of the Harry Potter-movies, but for some reason, I was curious to see how Mike Newell would put the fourth adventure to the big screen. At least, Newell has made the great Four Weddings and a Funeral. Oh well, he hasn't done a very good job here. In fact, I had to check out in the closing credits whether it wasn't George Lucas who had directed this, but soon enough I found out that the Lucas-syndrome had come over Newell as well: loads of (granted, excellent) visual effects, but a soulless story and pale characters. Moreover Again I found the movie's structure to be too episodic, so that after all the film's whole story doesn't fit too well together. Yet I don't want to exaggerate now, as Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has also got its positive aspects, such as Brendan Gleeson who is perfectly cast and some tense and well-directed moments. Except for several scenes, the film is fortunately no longer as childish as were the first two parts by Chris Columbus. I should also precise that, while watching this, I always had Peter Jackson's masterful Lord of the Rings-trilogy in the back of my mind, and that's just not fair, as neither J.K. Rowling nor Mike Newell can in any possible way live up to the high and much more complex standard of J.R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson. **Spoiler: Highlight to viewthe Lord Voldemort-scenes are not really convincing, as he reminds too much of a cheap Palpatine-clone. Ditto for Dumbledore who becomes more and more an Obi-Wan-copy.
- The Big Lebowski (Coen, 1998)- Since I recently (and finally!) got round to see Fargo, which, by the way, I enjoyed very much, I was looking forward to see more by these two very creative minds. Alas, The Big Lebowski does not seem to have been the right choice. From the formal and stylistic point of view, most things are fine: good acting (above all the hilarious John Goodman), the visually interesting dream sequences and the good cinematography and songs. But, apart from this, there is not that much to praise about the film. The main problem are the characters. What was so well done in Fargo, just seems ridiculous here. Too often the movie looks like a simple row of depictions of caricatured people, so that at the end the whole story remains unfocussed. The plot is ridiculous and disappointingly unoriginal (granted, the plot in Fargo was pretty simple too, but at least it was well-constructed). I still give it 3 stars, as the awful story fortunately doesn't ruin the entire two hours and also because some parts are very amusing. ***
- The Terminator (Cameron, 1984)- No other movie has got to fight against so many prejudices than this thrilling masterpiece that redefined the action cinema. The problem is just that people tend to ignore the fact that action movies can also be great films, and that Schwarzenegger has after all not only stared in bad flicks. Actually the victim itself is the best possible counter-example. This is perfect and in its dark and gritty atmosphere consequently done action with psychological and philosophical depth. The story is captivating and developped in all of its frightening prospects. The characters (above all Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor) are thoroughly credible. Moreover the very last sequence of the movie () is awesome, and contributes a lot to the movie's inner logic. Praise also for Brad Fiedel's genuine musical score that is brilliantly used in the action scenes as well as in the (few) calm moments (e.g.Spoiler: Highlight to viewat the gas station, that is). Hmm, I feel that my English is not good enough to salute this powerful film, as I feel that I lack the needed superlatives. So, let me conclude that this is a major success in independent filmmaking and in the action genre, followed by an equally great sequel (and a third part that is as least pretty entertaining). *****Spoiler: Highlight to viewthe sex scene
- Wings of Desire (Wenders, 1987)- Along with Rainer Werner Fassbinder ("Ali: Fear Eats Soul) and Werner Herzog ("Nosferatu") Wim Wenders is the most important filmmaker of the New German Film (Neuer Deutscher Film), which brought new life into the German movie world, almost fifty years after the great expressionists like Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau ("The Last Laugh") or Fritz Lang ("Metropolis"). "Der Himmel über Berlin/ The Wings of Desire" is generally referred to as Wenders' best work. Damiel (greatly portrayed by Bruno Ganz) and Cassiel (Otto Sander) are two angels in Berlin, who can only be seen by children and ex-angels. Two of these are the old writer Homer (Curt Bois) and American actor Peter Falk (himself) who is making a film in Berlin. One day Damiel falls in love with circus artist Marion (Solveig Dommartin) and from then on he wants to become a human being too. This short summary immediately leads to the film's first big problem. Even though the film never becomes a cheap, stereotypical love story (as it sounds at least in these lines), this part of the film is neglected over most of the 130 minutes run time. The idea itself that Damiel is an angel and that he can read people's thoughts is fully consumed in the first (brilliant) 30 minutes of the movie. But from this point on, Wenders should have started with a sharped and focussed story. Moreover, an evolution in Damiel's being can be felt, but the reader does not immediately associates these changes with Marion and his feelings for her. Another drawback is that some characters' parts are reduced to a minimum. Homer and (worse) Cassiel only have occasional appearances and will soon be forgotten. That is why the actors, no matter how much they try, remain pale and one-dimensional. Yet, there are still many positive points for this film. Let us begin with the original and (even though it is about angels) very human story, and also its equally innovative and interesting execution. The art direction is spectacular. But, although the main character is an angel, Wenders fortunately resists the temptation of using superficial special effects. Rather, he emphasizes the characters (well, at least, Damiel, Marion and Peter Falk) and their fates, which is much more interesting for the spectator. However, Wenders has made a film of great and powerful visual strength, and has wisely used a large range of cinematographic possibilities. Of course, the movie's colours remain the most important part here. At the beginning everything is monochrome, but it becomes gradually more colourful, which is not just a positive experience for Damiel, but also for the spectator. Less important, but not less interesting are the inserted documentary scenes, so that after all this movie is also a portrait of Berlin, at that time still a split city. A major part of the film's strength is due to the great acting performances. Above all, Bruno Ganz does a great job (and with his part in "Downfall" he has recently shown that he is probably the greatest contemporary German actor). But also Peter Falk is amazing in his self-ironic role. The deeper, more philosophical conversations that Damiel and Cassiel have about humanity and life in general are surprisingly well integrated, but could be even deeper. The ending is fantastic, and leaves a lasting effect on the spectator. The film's biggest problem is however that it is way too talkative. Some dialogues are not just too long, but are also too pathetic. Apparently the writers Wim Wenders and above all Peter Handke were not certain enough of the film's visual qualities and therefore decided to introduce these long and boring dialogues and monologues that spoil a lot. Handke is certainly a great writer (I mean, texts, books, poems, etc.), but he does not seem qualified as a screenwriter (he has surely neglected a film's visual power). Worst example for this is one of the movie's key scenes: This could have been a fantastic scene, but unfortunately it is destroyed by a lot of bla-bla, which was not necessary at all. Without any sound, the scene is excellent (so, just due to the visual elements). But the long sentences only confuse the spectator and that is why they let him totally cold and indifferent. Fatal for a key scene... ***Spoiler: Highlight to viewwhere Damiel finally talks to Marion.
- The Hulk (Lee, 2003)- What an awful start for 2006! In fact, I have never been a big fan of the Hulk, neither of the comics nor of the Lou Ferrigno- days. So why did I watch this? Well I was curious how a skilled director like Ang Lee (who has made the excellent 'The Ice Storm') would handle with the adaptation of a comic. Now I wish I'd never found out. The worst part is the protagonist himself. While Eric Bana gives a so-so-performance, the Hulk is incredibly cheap-animated. The movie cost well over 100 million dollars, and more than once you ask yourself: What have they done with all that money? Couldn't they afford a better Hulk? Actually the visual effects in general are laughable. Furthermore the Hulk's actions are often so exaggerated that it even becomes ridiculous. Fatal for a movie that takes itself more serious than it should. The most interesting part of this is the screenplay which is in its principles well-done, but in its execution frustrating as it just doesn't fit. Another negative point is the lack of a balance between the psychological moments and the action scenes. More bad than good is also Nick Nolte who shows through his awful "performance" that his time is definetly over and that he should better retire. Next time (but I hope there won't be a next time) they should better take Sam Raimi or Christopher Nolan as director than Ang Lee. *
- King Kong (Jackson, 2005)- In spite of the really bad trailer and the fact that this is the remake of one of my most-beloved classics, I went to watch it with high expectations. While writing this review, just some hours after sitting for over three hours in the theatre, I must say that I’m in awe of Peter Jackson, more than ever before. Now there is no doubt left to me that he is one of the best active directors, and that he is the man for the big stuff. King Kong is especially amazing on two different levels. Firstly the film is technically mesmerizing, and tops the high standards Jackson set himself with The Lord of the Rings- trilogy just two years ago. What looked so bad in the theatrical trailer, now reveals being a visually fascinating trip to the “heart of darkness” and back to New York City of the 30s. And there we are at the next point: the art direction is great, and contributes a lot to the movie’s prevailing flair. This said, I just have to add that Jackson has managed once more to withstand the temptation of using too many special effects (the Lucas-syndrome). The story and the characters always overweigh, even in the brilliantly edited action scenes. The second major point in its favour are the characters themselves. The actors are well-cast (above all Adrien Brody who is fine as Jack Driscoll, but also Naomi Watts who is a worthy successor to Fay Wray and Jack Black who I found for the first time bearable), and for the genre convincing enough. Jackson and his fellow-writers have fortunately left enough space for the characters, and so the sixty minutes before Kong appears are not redundant, but, in my opinion, absolutely necessary for their psychology and the credibility of the story (in fact, the film is much more realistic than the original). Actually all of the larger roles (Brody, Watts, Black, Bell, Serkis, Kretschmann, etc.) are deeper than you may expect. And even after the first hour, when the action really begins, the characters still continue to be three-dimensional. But also the relationship between the white woman and Kong is more convincing than in the original, which is mainly due to the fact that even the ape has got its own psychology. In many greatly directed and moving scenes, Jackson illustrates that the actual protagonist has got feelings, and is not just a monster. Another important point of discussion is certainly the film’s length. At approximately 190 minutes, you may think that it is overlong, but that is definitely not the case. The film is constantly thrilling and involving. Some critics accused Jackson of not having added anything to the original. Here again I disagree, because he has indeed contributed a lot of new aspects to the story (wherefrom would he otherwise have taken the additional hour?) Rather ambiguous is on the other hand the fact that the spectator exactly knows how the story is going to end (I guess, everyone knows the ending, even without having seen the original). This again can also be seen in a positive way, as it somehow gives the story more pep. So, after the highly recommended original and a first (rather weak, but not absolutely bad) remake by John Guillermin in 1976, Jackson comes up with his own version, which is more splendid and visually more beautiful than any other Kong-movie. It’s entertainment on a very high level, and it comes damn close to both, The Lord of the Rings and to the 1933- classic. Whether the original or the 2005 version is better, is up to you to decide. I like them both equally. Judge for yourself, but be sure to see this marvellous adventure film. (Note: I’m still not sure whether children under 12 should see this, as it features some really frightening scenes.) ****
- Star Wars (Lucas, 1977)- What else can there be said about this galactic masterpiece which has not already been said? Now in times where the saga is (hopefully) complete, "Star Wars" still stands out as one of the most important movies of the film history. Even though some dialogs may be silly (but memorable nevertheless) and in spite of several logical mistakes, George Lucas' Science-Fiction-film can easily be considered as one of the most entertaining works ever. The spectator is introduced in a universe full of fantastic concepts and locations and meets there some archetypal characters, such as the beautiful and innocent princess, the keen, naive hero, the dark, evil villain, the wise, old man, etc. The mixture of fairy tale and western elements is extremely fascinating and seems almost perfect. Lucas' direction is so skillful that even the above mentioned drawbacks eventually appear as positive characteristics of this space odyssey. No matter its meantime rather bad reputation, "Star Wars" is and will always remain one of the most magical cinematic experiences you can make. It is one of those movies you would like to talk about hours and hours, but which after all cannot be taken into words. *****
Many times I have tried sth. like this, and I wasn't able to keep it up. So, if not this time, then never again.
The aim of this is to summon up my thoughts on arbitrarily chosen movies in some 100 words.
Rating scale, out of 5 stars.