A Czech man takes over a Jewish-run business at the behest of the… MoreA Czech man takes over a Jewish-run business at the behest of the town's Nazi occupiers.
Filled with tense, ethical quandaries, this film is absolutely remarkable. As Tono takes over an elderly woman's shop and learns the Jewish community that supports her, his prejudices wane, but there is still a gulf between belief and action - a gulf that I suspect infected many in the wake of Nazi atrocities. His weak-willed inability to stand up for others and his pride-busting benefits from his job present him with serious ethical questions that he ultimately fails to resolve.
The performances by Josef Kroner and Ida Kaminska are as compelling as actors can be, and the direction by Jan Kadar and Elmar Klos is blithe and compelling.
Overall, this is one of the finest films I've ever seen about WWII.
A battalion of British POWs are forced to build a bridge while an… MoreA battalion of British POWs are forced to build a bridge while an American soldier is charged with blowing it up.
Exquisitely plotted, this film is remarkably compelling from beginning to end. At almost three hours, the film's run time is typical of David Lean, who doesn't care how long a film is; he cares how long it's good. The performance by Alec Guinness is the strongest, as he's able to convey his character's journey subtly, and William Holden is as charmingly surly as William Holden has always been.
The film's themes of ambition and the need for purpose come through, and the cinematography is beautiful.
Overall, this film is a classic for good reason.
A virginal girl is brutally raped and murdered, and her killers… MoreA virginal girl is brutally raped and murdered, and her killers unwittingly take refuge in her parents' home.
Simply stated, this is Bergman at his best. While there is a touch of the misogyny that Bergman featured in The Seventh Seal, as Birgitta and her sister turn into metonyms for light and dark female sexuality rather than fully fleshed out characters, the film nevertheless explore tough questions about the existence of God and humans' duties in response to cruelty and despair. Is revenge ethically, morally, or religiously justifiable? If God exists, why do bad things happen to good people? Should we or can we celebrate a deity in a world this fucked up? Filmmakers like Bergman aren't didactic enough to tell us the answers to these questions; instead, we get round characters who struggle with ethical dilemmas in intelligent and compelling ways.
Overall, Ingmar Bergman is rightly celebrated as one of the world's best for good reason.
Hiccup and Toothless battle a dragon-trainer bent on destroying their… MoreHiccup and Toothless battle a dragon-trainer bent on destroying their village.
The bookending voice-overs are textbook examples of how not to do voice-overs, but the interceding story, while predictable and essentially cliche, is delightful. Most of the action is fun, and the story packs a surprise that defies kids film conventions. There's even a touching moment when the Gerard Butler character first meets the Cate Blanchett character that warmed the cold, cynical cockles of my heart.
Overall, this film surprised me and is stronger than I ever thought it would be.
A teenager with cancer meets a boy at a support group, and together… MoreA teenager with cancer meets a boy at a support group, and together they pursue a meeting with a reclusive writer.
The book by John Green is two thirds remarkable and one third maudlin, and the film follows suit. The strong aspects of the book are its ability to convey the tragic, tear-jerking nature of these characters without descending into sap (until the last third). Additionally, these characters don't want their audience or their fellow characters to pity them, and they're forced to struggle with the grand questions of life and fate, which they do intelligently and with eyes wide open. It's difficult not to like Hazel and Gus, and it's more difficult to not root for them despite their inevitable fate.
Laura Dern, as Hazel's mother, is actually the best actor in the film, which is surprising considering how flashy the parts are for Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. Dern perfectly captures the always-on-edge, always-concerned motherly instinct that clashes with her daughter's need for a little levity.
I has some difficulty buying Elgort as Gus -- he seemed too hunky, not as thoughtful as Gus comes off in the book -- during the first few minutes, but he grew on me.
Overall, the film goes for the cheap tears at the end, but the most of the film is compelling and interesting.
A man moves to a new town and struggles with his upper class… MoreA man moves to a new town and struggles with his upper class relatives' reliance on technology.
The subject of this film's satire is obvious from the beginning. Clearly, Jacques Tati is saying that technology is over-determining our lives and our relationships. However, the action of the story is mostly ridiculous. Bumbling and foolish, Tati's character stumbles through exaggerated sets, and the film feels like a long slapstick routine with a point. I don't find the film funny, but I could appreciate its point.
Overall, slapstick with a point is better than slapstick without a point, but it's still not enough for me.
The son of a farmer desperately seeks his father's approval.
In this… MoreThe son of a farmer desperately seeks his father's approval.
In this film James Dean looks like he could either violently explode or be disintegrated into a million pieces by a light breeze. His performance is a showcase in vulnerability, which, in a way, is was acting is about - the vulnerability and availability of an actor's emotional truth and interpretation of the character. The story is fine, but by the end of the film, all I can remember is Dean, whose performance is a master class in what acting should be.
Overall, see this film for James Dean.
Vincent Van Gogh struggles with mental illness on his path to becoming… MoreVincent Van Gogh struggles with mental illness on his path to becoming a renowned artist.
Kirk Douglas could be a perfect Vincent Van Gogh, able to reach the emotional depths of the character and charismatic enough to be a believable tortured artist, but this film is poorly structured and statically directed. The film's structure doesn't give us a central conflict: what stands in Van Gogh's way? What is the nature of his mental illness, if that's what it is? What makes him a good artist but a malcontented person? Additionally, Vincente Minnelli's camera never moves. He sets the camera on a tripod in a studio with an obviously painted background behind the action. It's filmmaking stuck in the early days of Hollywood, and it doesn't give us the chance to see all that Douglas's performance could offer.
Overall, there is a lot of potential in this film, but it's sadly unfulfilled.
Two octogenarian former comedians reunite for one last show after a… MoreTwo octogenarian former comedians reunite for one last show after a contentious separation.
Neil Simon, famed for his dialogue and witticisms, may have written some funny scenes and plays, but as a whole, this isn't one of them. Yes, the monologue of Walter Matthau's character listing funny words is classic, but most of the film is filled with tired jokes that Matthau and George Burns, kyphotic to a fault, stumble through. The plot is basically predictable, and the filmmaking is not dynamic.
Overall, some of the film is funny, but it doesn't hold together beyond being a collection of sketches.
A writer/director who is auditioning actresses for the lead in his… MoreA writer/director who is auditioning actresses for the lead in his play about an S&M relationship meets an actress who epitomizes the same dynamic.
This film is off the hook. There are times when the film had me completely seduced and captivated, but then it would take a left turn, and I had to decide whether to follow it or not. This pattern repeated throughout the film's action until the climactic moment when it got too extreme and ridiculous. I think we need to know the answers to some of Thomas's questions: how does Vanda know the script? What is her relationship with his wife? What are her real motives for being there? Her answers to these questions are dubious, and we're not sure she's trustworthy, but I needed more.
The performances by Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric are excellent, and it takes excellent performances to make a two-hander work.
Overall, there's a lot to like about this film, and it takes courage to like it.