Two boys attempt to define masculinity in response to their respective… MoreTwo boys attempt to define masculinity in response to their respective family dramas.
This Danish film is oddly both ambitious and contained. Its plot centers around only two families, one wracked by divorce, the other by death, but as the two male children of these families mature, we see that they're struggling with deep and difficult questions. What constitutes "being a man?" What examples do fathers and mothers provide their kids? Where is the line between being a disciplinarian and being a child's friend? What are parents' roles in preventing violence? These are ambitious ethical questions the plot brings up, but as a result of the film's reach philosophically, the plot starts to suffer when each of the film's conflicts resolve too conveniently.
Overall, this is a fine, ambitious, and interesting film until its pat conclusion.
An Italian officer occupies a Greek home during WWII and falls for the… MoreAn Italian officer occupies a Greek home during WWII and falls for the daughter of a local doctor.
This film adaptation of a decent novel includes only what is mediocre about the book and leaves out everything that is good. The most glaring issue occurs at the end, which I won't give away, but I will say that the best line of the book "You owe me a life" isn't included.
Nicolas Cage's performance is as bad as most of his other performances, but with an inconsistent accent, waffling motivations, and looking just plain stupid when he tries to be goofily charming, this might be Cage's worst. And Christian Bale, whose character is stripped of its most interesting aspects, seems lost, and when the plot makes him vanish, he goes quietly and unmemorably.
Overall, while I'm not sure if I can recommend the book, I know that I can't recommend the film.
A woman goes to Colombia to rescue her sister who has been kidnapped… MoreA woman goes to Colombia to rescue her sister who has been kidnapped by "bad guys."
Joan Wilder, Kathleen Turner's character, writes cliche adventure stories, then - shocking irony! - gets caught in a real-life adventure story with a fantasy-borne mercenary. Coincidences like this only occur in films like this, and the construction of the Wilder character is misogynistic, as she serves as a doe-eyed damsel in distress, never rising to anything about a screaming, high-pitched type, more annoying than remotely compelling.
But, you might say, Jim, it's a fantasy-comedy. Well, in that case, it's neither fantastical nor funny. Stuck in faux-realism, the crazy, over-wrought performances are more the matter of sitcom than film.
Overall, this film is stupid.
Three outlaws pursue a cache of gold hidden in a grave.
While… MoreThree outlaws pursue a cache of gold hidden in a grave.
While canonical, this film is oddly structured with its inciting incident pushed to an hour and fifteen minutes into its three-hour run time. What the film is saying about goodness (or ugliness or badness) is unclear as the "good" is just as bad as the "ugly," but I can imagine that it's attempting to show that morality is more contextual than absolute, creating, as it does, an environment in which everybody is immoral even the Union and Confederate troops, who seem to be passing through this film on their way to another.
Beautifully shot and operatic in scope, the filmmaking is remarkable even if the story-telling is perplexing.
Overall, this classic western isn't bad or good or ugly, just moderately interesting.
The U.S. and Canadian teams of quadriplegics compete in a rugby-like… MoreThe U.S. and Canadian teams of quadriplegics compete in a rugby-like game called murderball in the paraolympics.
The first impression of some of these people is not positive, but nonetheless interesting: they come off as testosterone-fueled assholes, but they're in wheelchairs, so all expectations of this being a feel-good Lifetime after-school special are shot to the moon the first time an paraolympian tells a story about threatening to kick the ass of a random bar patron. But as the film goes on, we get underneath the veneers of these players. There are a few vulnerabilities, but what they want more than your pity is your respect, your fear, and your recognition that their injuries do not threaten their masculinity.
The film tries to fashion a sports story out of its subject, but it doesn't work. There isn't a lot of suspense in the games' outcomes.
Overall, documentaries often open worlds that we never imagined existed, and what is true of those documentaries is doubly true of Murderball.
A group of Trappist monks must decide to flee or remain when a nearby… MoreA group of Trappist monks must decide to flee or remain when a nearby village is threatened by Muslim extremists.
As slow burns go, Of Gods and Men is one of the most compelling. Tightly scripted and slowly but tensely paced, as this story unfolds, the film's themes emerge subtly: the film portrays the austerity of faith and how faith leads to a sense of security and conviction. While I'm not personally committed to these theses, the film's portrayal is richly textured and compelling. By the end of the film, we get to know these monks about as well as we get to know anyone in an understated French film, and it's hard not to admire them.
Overall, this is profound and compelling story well-told.
Marlene Dietrich narrates this documentary about the rise of Hitler… MoreMarlene Dietrich narrates this documentary about the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich, comparing Hitler's ascension to a fable about a fox.
If Hotel Terminus explodes the Nazis and WWII into all its complexities, this film does the polar opposite, reducing political rises to sophomoric fairy tales. It's a metaphor that gets tired after ten minutes but stretches for interminable an hour and a half.
Overall, while Hotel Terminus may have been overkill in its rendering of WWII's complexities, this is overkill in simplicity, which is a far greater crime.
A French documentarian copiously researches the life and death and… MoreA French documentarian copiously researches the life and death and career of Klaus Barbie.
Most narratives about World War II and the Nazi regime are whittled down to rather simple documentaries of Nazi atrocities and good finally prevailing over evil. But Hotel Terminus, at an excruciatingly thorough four and a half hours, does not boil anything down. It's difficult to understand the documentarians' point, and I think the film would've been improved with a voice-over that allows us to understand how each piece of testimony fits in with the larger picture, but what I gather from the film is that the aftermath of WWII is more complicated that a mere triumph of good over evil. In fact, when it comes out that the CIA had dealings with Klaus Barbie, it seems that the film reveals that sorting out the good guys from the bad guys from the useful guys from the ugly guys is more complicated than one might expect. Not everyone wearing a swastika was evil, and not every evil person wore a swastika. I think that's the film's thesis, but I can't be sure.
Overall, after watching a five-hour documentary on Nazis, I don't know if I can handle The Sorrow and the Pity, which is coming up ...
A group of juvenile criminals is berated and verbally abused by a… MoreA group of juvenile criminals is berated and verbally abused by a group of hardened criminals.
At first, this documentary is just a bunch of people screaming at a group of petrified children, but by the middle of this film, there are enough levels in the convicts' threats to keep this film compelling. And the tales they tell would scare anyone straight, even though the film doesn't account for the various socio-economic realities that might drive one to crime.
Overall, there's a moment when one of the convicts is whispering, "I really want to hurt you," right into a kid's face, and that's a moment that I'll remember for a long time, and when a film has that type of effect, it's a powerful film.
This documentary chronicles the numerous broken treaties that have… MoreThis documentary chronicles the numerous broken treaties that have crushed Native American culture and destroyed their homeland.
First, I guess I have to say that I agree with this film's thesis: the U.S. government has fucked over the Native Americans and we as Americans are complicit in anti-Native injustices. That said, this film sucks. Its presentation of this thesis is bland, repetitive, and maudlin with a repeating song that might as well be a broken record over the broken rainbow.
Overall, agreeing with a film isn't all it takes to make a good film.