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Track the Films You Watch (2013)


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#41 of 74 OFFLINE   John Stell

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Posted February 07 2013 - 07:32 AM

Schindler's List (1993) Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image


Released: December 15, 1993


To put it bluntly, Schindler's List is Steven Spielberg's masterpiece.  It's an emotionally devastating film that tells the true story of a German industrialist who saved over a thousand Jewish people during WW II.  Regardless of the liberties taken with the details, the overall narrative is true and demonstrates with incredible power how one person can make a difference.  Filmed in black and white, Schindler's List feels at times like a documentary of the brutal horrors of the Nazi party, where violence is sudden and sometimes seemingly random.  It would be overly simplistic to label it a "good versus evil" story because it is so much more.  In fact it might better be described as a "good versus indifference" lesson.


When we first meet Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) in 1938 Poland, he is a near-broke businessman who, seeing the impending war as an opportunity for profit, schmoozes with several German officers while acting like their best friend.  Later he makes contact with Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley), the former bookkeeper of a defunct pots and pans factory.  He uses Stern to convince some wealthy Jewish men to invest in and provide funds for the purchase of the factory.  Lastly Schindler secures exotic goods on the black market which he in turn gives as gifts to the German officers to encourage their patronage.  Soon Schindler is a wealthy man with a successful business and powerful friends.  But when German officer Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) arrives in Poland to begin a systematic extermination of the remaining Jews, Oskar's personal disgust at what he is witnessing forces him into action whereby he hopes to save some of the potential victims by employing them in his factory.


There was little doubt how the 1994 Oscar ceremony was going to go.  As expected Schindler's List took home the top prize and Spielberg won his first Oscar for directing.  Upon seeing the film in theater It was first time this viewer witnessed an audience remain totally silent as they made their way from the theater as the credits rolled.  The same thing happened at a second theatrical viewing.  For many people Schindler's List made the horrors of the Holocaust more palpable than any film before it.  And yet, this was a story of hope - that actions can make a difference.  Schindler gives up his wealth and sacrifices his safety for what at first may seem like an impossible result.  But then the war ends, and Schindler's risks have paid off.  His sudden realization of what he's accomplished leads to one of the most emotional moments this viewer has ever experienced while watching a film.  The moment he drops that ring...


Spielberg abandons his previous stylistic touches to give Schindler's List a completely different feel than his previous films.  There are no camera flourishes, no wide-eyed characters beholding something, no obvious inside jokes, etc.  There is some mild humor during the early part of the film, such as when a German officer leans over to be photographer with Schindler, intentionally obscuring the woman he's with. But when the first worker is causally executed on the streets (he has only one arm and cannot effectively shovel snow), there is no turning back from Spielberg's unblinking look at the Nazi's brutality.  The are moments of sudden violence and humiliation.  The film shows just how systematic the Nazi approach was to exterminating all those of the Jewish faith.


The character Schindler was never a true member of the Nazi party and is thus disturbed and burdened by what he sees.  But he could still have just taken his money and left at any time he wanted. But eventually Schindler can longer remain indifferent.  And that may be the true point of Schindler's List: we may be unable to stop evil but there are things we can do to combat it.  Realizing he has saved over one thousand people Schindler's only thought during the final moments is that he could have saved even more.  While Schindler's List is primarily a director's film Liam Neeson is towering and riveting as Oskar Schindler.  He is convincing at every moment of Schindler's transformation and was rewarded with a Best Actor Oscar nomination.  Neeson has never been better.


The rest of the cast is strong too.  Ben Kingsley is excellent as the man running Schindler's business who must maintain a poker face throughout his ordeal.  Ralph Fiennes is the picture of villainy as Amon Goeth who is not just following orders but taking delight in murder.  But it's the cast that make up the prisoners, with their haggard appearances and frightened eyes that gives Schindler's List its authenticity.  We fear for them, weep with them, and hope for their survival.  They must conjure such unimaginable strength and courage to survive from day to day.  Spielberg shows us some of these real life survivors during the coda, where the survivors, along with their on-screen counterparts, put stones on Oskar Schindler's grave.  It is an uplifting scene, ending the film on a note of hope.


Steven Spielberg has made some great movies since Schindler's List, such as Saving Private Ryan and last year's Lincoln.  But it's hard to imagine him topping this.  When the American Film Institute, in 1998 and again in 2007, compiled its list of the 100 greatest movies, Schindler's List placed in the top ten each time.  Recent history thus shows recognition of Schindler's List's excellence.  More importantly though the film serves as a reminder of what horrors man is capable of, and what good his is capable of too.


"...you would not understand...You do not...have...daughters."

#42 of 74 OFFLINE   John Stell

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Posted February 08 2013 - 11:28 AM

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) Posted ImagePosted Image1/2


Released: May 23, 1997


I remember actually being depressed after my theatrical viewing of The Lost World: Jurassic Park.  It's not that the film was bad.  It just wasn't anything special.  Perhaps expectations were too high after director Steven Spielberg's double whammy from 1993.  But subsequent viewings still support the initial assessment.  There's just nothing particularly new here - just more of the same, with a healthy share of dumb characters and far-reaching contrivances.


We learn from John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), the creator of Jurassic Park, that there exists an island - Site B - where more dinosaurs are roaming free.  Ousted from his company he fears what might become of the prehistoric creatures since they have now been discovered.  So he recruits a team to document the dinosaurs in their new habitat in the hopes he can win over public opinion.  Hammond Hopes Dr, Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), survivor from the first Jurassic Park, will join the team, especially since one of the members - who is already on the island - is Malcolm's girlfriend Dr. Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore).  Malcolm will go - but in his eyes this is a now a rescue mission.  Things get even more complicated when a group of hunters show up, and Malcolm finds his daughter has stowed away on the expedition's communications RV.


All the set up is in place for some top-notch dinosaur attacks - and on this point The Lost World: Jurassic Park delivers.  There's no denying the excitement in scenes such as the attack on the RV by two Tyrannosaurus Rexes, the melee with Velociraptors at an island station, and the entire sequence which sees a Tyrannosaurus Rex let loose in San Diego.  These are all technically excellent and well done.  But we know Spielberg is capable of handling such moments.


But the characters fall absolutely flat here.  Worse they make major dumb moves, such as bringing an injured baby T-Rex aboard the RV, or letting captured dinosaurs loose without even considering what could happen.  The introduction of Malcolm's girlfriend happening to be a paleontologist, and then having the daughter sneak aboard the RV, are so contrived that the entire set up feels phony.  Little can be felt for the hunters, although Pete Postlethwaite as the leader commands a certain respect.  But overall the characters and relationships are so flimsy that movie comes across as just an excuse to show more dinosaurs - and make more money.


While Steven Spielberg did make sequels to Raiders of the Lost Ark, the succeeding stories were unique enough so the each installment felt fresh.  Here though such freshness is missing.  And when the dinosaurs aren't on the screen we're left with a bunch of two dimensional would-be dino-meals.  Were this directed by anyone else, or least been the first in the series, The Lost World: Jurassic Park may have been something special.  Instead it feels like a strictly commercial project, a trait not shared by any previous Spielberg film.


"...you would not understand...You do not...have...daughters."

#43 of 74 OFFLINE   John Stell

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Posted February 09 2013 - 05:23 AM

Amistad (1997) Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image1/2


Released: December 10, 1997


While it may not be in the same class as Schindler's List, Amistad is a very good film about a powerful story.  In 1839 a group of kidnapped Africans are aboard the "La Amistad" on their way to Spain to be slaves.  They stage a revolt against their captors killing all but two.  But they are captured and brought to trial in the U.S. for the murders.  A jurisdictional battle ensues as to who "owns" the prisoners, while abolitionists hire an attorney (Matthew McConaughey) who believes he can easily win the case based on property rights law.  However the potential danger of civil war erupting if the men are freed makes the case anything but easy.


Amistad opens with one of director Steven Spielberg's most powerful scenes yet.  We get an extreme close of a man named Cnique (Djimon Hounsou), covered with sweat, using all his strength to pull out the spike that keeps him in chains.  His fingers are bloodied.  It is night and a thunderstorm is raging. He eventually succeeds in freeing himself, and then the other forty-some men, who then grab swords and attack.  It climaxes with Cinque driving a sword through the heart of the captain, the blade penetrating the deck on which the captain is laying.  In a low-angle shot we see Cinque removing the sword and towering over his kidnapper.  It is a potent sequence which demonstrates Cinque's determination to return to his home and family.  The rest of the film will dwell primarily on the legal maneuverings of Cinque's lawyer and the two's growing understanding of one another.  But there will be another scene, shown in flashback, whereby Cinque recounts the whippings, murder, and other crimes against the kidnapped people.  Horrific isn't a strong enough word to describe the treatment.


The cast is very strong,  In addition to McConaughey and Hounsou we have Anthony Hopkins as John Quincy Adams, Morgan Freeman as abolitionist Theodore Joadson, Nigel Hawthorne as President Martin Van Buren, David Paymer as Secretary John Forsyth, and Pete Postlethwaite as prosecutor Holabird.  Hopkins has the best supporting role, delivering an impassioned speech to the Supreme Court at the film's climax.  But Hounsou really stands out here as the proud man who is nevertheless helpless as the legal machinery conspires against him.  It makes the film's resolution all the more satisfying.


Spielberg's 2012 film Lincoln serves as a fine companion piece to Amistad.  Again he is dealing with using the court system to free slaves, but this time across all of the United States.  There are moments in Amistad where it is made clear to then-president Van Buren what the South might do if the men are set free.  Thus the future Civil War is established.  The story told in Lincoln completes what was started with the Supreme Court's decision in Amistad.  Amistad is a worthy addition to the filmography of Steven Spielberg.


"...you would not understand...You do not...have...daughters."

#44 of 74 ONLINE   JohnS

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Posted February 11 2013 - 11:54 AM

I watched two first time movies. Chronicle (2012) enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Liked the different approach to the how superhero/super power angle. Even the end gave me more excitement than the final episode off season 1 of Heroes. Very curious to see how they are going to do the sequel. How to Steal a Million (1966) Really enjoyed the movie. Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole were both great together. I just wish that the bluray Fox vote was doing better. I'd like to see this again on Blu-ray.

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#45 of 74 OFFLINE   John Stell

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Posted February 13 2013 - 11:25 AM

Saving Private Ryan (1998) Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image


Released: July 24, 1998


One of director Steven Spielberg's very best movies is an unflinching look at the horrors of war.  Bookended by two 25-minute battle sequences, the plot proper has a group of soldiers searching for the last surviving son of a woman who's already lost three of her boys to the war.  This doesn't sit well with some of the men leading to various moments of tension.


Tom Hanks heads the exceptional cast as Captain John Miller, the man leading the rescue mission.  He gets strong support from Ed Burns, Tom Sizemore, Giovanni Ribisi, and especially Adam Goldberg, who has one THE most harrowing death scenes ever put to film.  But it's the director's mastery of the medium that captures war like no other film before it.  The sudden outbursts of violence, the point-of-view shots, the documentary feel, and all-too-real make-up effects make you feel at times you're right there with the troops.  Spielberg received his second Directing Oscar for Saving Private Ryan and the film made the AFI's list of 100 Greatest Movies of all time when AFI revised its initial 1998 list in 2007.


A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image


Released: June 29, 2001


Before his untimely passing film legend Stanley Kubrick was finally making headway on a project he had been working on since 1984.  Steven Spielberg, who had been privy to what Kubrick was developing, was going to collaborate with Kubrick in some way on the final outcome.  When Kubrick died Spielberg wanted to bring the film to the screen because he loved the story and its ideas so much.  The film received mixed reviews and did tepid box office.  Expectations may have been too high given who was involved.  However, A.I. Artificial Intelligence holds up well, even if it isn't the classic for which many hoped.


Haley Joel Osment plays David, a robot boy who is so real that he loves and desires the love of his "mother".  David is secretly given to a couple whose own son is not expected to recover from a major accident.  But when the son does recover David is cast out to fend for himself, and then seeks the Blue Fairy he heard about in the story Pinocchio, in the hopes she can make him a real boy.


Based on Brian Aldiss' short story "Supertoys Last All Summer Long" Spielberg receives official screenplay credit for the first time since Poltergeist (1982).  The story is fascinating, examining what responsibility humans have toward artificially created intelligence, as well as creating a lively future world.  (Jude Law, for example, plays a robot gigolo who's better than the real thing.)  The film keeps going further and further into the future and suggests what we create may outlast us.  Thus what do we want what we leave behind to say about us?  The film is beautiful and hopeful, even if a little sad at times.  It may not be the director's best science fiction/fantasy film, but A.I. Artificial Intelligence is an enjoyable and respectable effort.


"...you would not understand...You do not...have...daughters."

#46 of 74 OFFLINE   Ken Volok

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Posted February 14 2013 - 05:33 PM

At times 1929's "The Broadway Melody" literally dies before your eyes on the screen and you think" jeez, this won Best Picture of 1929?" Then suddenly it comes alive, most often in the offstage musical moments as opposed to the show within the show's "onstage" numbers which are shot as if you're in the backrow, and edited with a cleaver. Another saving element is the Pre-Code freedom that manifests itself in characters and jokes, many of which will still make you at least smile. It'd be a good double feature with Paul Fejos' "Broadway" or "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" Feb 2013 1. Night Nurse (1931) **.5 2/2 2. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) **** 2/5 3. Imitation of Life (1934) **.5 2/9 4. Imitation of Life (1959) ***.5 2/9 5. Fort Apache (1948) ***.5 2/10 6. Animal Crackers (1930) **** 2/10 7. Star Wars (1977) ***** 2/12 8. The Broadway Melody (1929) *** 2/14 9. Tweetie Pie (1947) Looney tune **** 2/15 10. Rio Grande (1950) **** 2/15 11. Emma (1996) ***.5 2/16 12. Creature Comforts (1989) short ***** 2/17 13. Sense and Sensibility (1995) **** 2/17 14. High Anxiety (1977) **** 2/18 15. Days of Heaven (1978) ***** 2/19 Recaps January 2013 1. Django Unchained (2012) *** 2. Three Women (1977) **** 3. Paging Miss Glory (1936) Feature 1/2 star, curio 4. Paging Miss Glory (1936) cartoon **** 5. Cop Land (1997) **** 1/9/13 6. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) *** 1/ 11/13 7. Margaret (2011) **2/3 1/11/13 8. East of Eden (1955) ***1/2 1/11/13 10. You Can't Take It with You (1938) ***** 1/12/13 11. The Sound of Music (1965) **** 1/13/13 12. The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies (1963) ** 1/13/13 13. Country Cousin (1936) cartoon **1/2 1/15/13 14. Swing Time (1936) *** 1/15/13 15. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (ext.) (2001) ** 1/2 1/16/13 16. LotR: The Two Towers (ext) (2002) *** 1/16/13 17. LotR: The Return of the King (ext) (2003) *** 1/17/13 18. Monkey Business (1952) *** 1/2 1/18/13 19. The Apartment (1960) ***** 1/21/13 20. Funny Girl (1968) ** 1/2 1/22/13 21. For Scent-imental Reasons (1949) Looney Tune ** 1/22 22. The Thin Red Line (1998) ***** 1/23 23. Three Orphan Kittens (1935) Silly Symphony *** 1/26 24. The Ugly Duckling (1939) Silly Symphony **** 1/26 25. Marie Antoinette (2006) ***** 1/26

#47 of 74 OFFLINE   John Stell

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Posted February 15 2013 - 10:43 AM

Minority Report (2002) Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image1/2


Released: June 21, 2002


Surprising, clever, and inventive, Minority Report is a grand futuristic thriller from director Steven Spielberg.  Tom Cruise stars as the head of the Pre-Crime unit: a division of the police force that is able to arrest people before they commit murder thanks to three psychics (called Pre-Cogs) who have the gift of foresight.  But when Cruise himself is seen as a future killer, he must elude capture from his former co-workers to find out who has set him up.


Even though the red herrings and villain may be obvious to seasoned mystery viewers, Minority Report holds one's interest because of the "how" and "why".  This is a very good story punctuated by fascinating looks at future technologies: the spyders which move from room to room scanning eyes, which are now registered with the government; the prison which uses "halos" to keep the convicts docile; vehicles which run on electric tracks instead of consuming fossil fuels; and the weapons of the police including sick sticks and sonic guns.  But the effects enhance the story, not detract from it.


The familiar Spielberg theme of broken families is at the core of Minority Report: Cruise's character's son was stolen which led to the parents' estrangement.  But this tragic back story is not mere manipulation as this event figures prominently in the plot.  Cruise is in fine form here, and he's a character to cheer for.  The final scene is quite touching.


Roger Ebert named Minority Report the best film of 2002.  It's a great film which holds up well today thanks to the intelligence and imagination that went into its making.



Catch Me If You Can (2002) Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image


Released: December 25, 2002


Based on the true story of con artist Frank Abagnale, Jr., here played wonderfully by Leonardo DiCaprio, Catch Me If You Can is an entertaining chase-comedy filmed with flair by director Steven Spielberg.  Tom Hanks plays FBI bank fraud investigator Carl Hanratty, who's determined to catch Abagnale.  But what makes the story so extraordinary is that Abagnale committed the crimes between the ages of 16 and 19.


Abagnale turns to his life of crime when his parents announce their divorce, which will force the son to pick which parent to live with.  Instead he runs away, and through a series of incredible but believable events impersonates an airline pilot and a doctor, as well creating phony checks which allows him to live well, even if he has to change locations occasionally. There is much humor here, as well as a perfect recreation of the 1960s.  But there is in Abagnale a need for a father figure, and a bond forms between the pursuer and the pursued.  Christopher Walken earned an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Frank Sr., something of conman himself who nevertheless adores his son, even if Dad is a bad influence.


While Catch Me If You Can is enjoyable, it does not have the gravitas of Spielberg's better and more memorable films.  But a film this much fun is an easy candidate for repeat viewings.  Catch this film if you can.


"...you would not understand...You do not...have...daughters."

#48 of 74 OFFLINE   Ken Volok

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Posted February 15 2013 - 06:09 PM

Hurry up and get to Munich.

#49 of 74 OFFLINE   John Stell

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Posted February 16 2013 - 03:27 AM

The Terminal (2004) Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image


Released: June 18, 2004


When civil war erupts in Viktor Navorski's (Tom Hanks) country and all travel visas are cancelled, Viktor finds himself stranded at JFK International Airport with no where to go.  He spends the next several months trying to survive, but also making friends and perhaps finding love.  The Terminal is not a plot-driven film but rather a character study of Hanks's character who suddenly finds himself completely alone despite being surrounded by so many people.  He speaks very little English, has no friends or money, and is initially seen as a nuisance by the authorities.  It is quite enjoyable seeing Hanks embrace a comedy role again after recent dramatic roles in Road to Perdition, Cast Away, and The Green Mile as he started his career is films such Bachelor Party and Splash.  His Viktor is sympathetic and likable, and we really feel for him but also marvel at his resolve and creativity.  He finds a way to earn money (a quarter at a time), gets hired for construction work, helps an airport cook woo the woman he loves, and even meets a confused flight attendant (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who might actually care about him.  Thus the film is a series of incidents and interactions, which could simply end at any moment once the war is over.  But the acting is first rate and relationships touching.  It's an enjoyable journey to what is a predetermined destination.


Even though technically The Terminal has one location, the film never feels claustrophobic.  The fluid camera work, populated sets, and individualized incidents (e.g. Viktor has to serve as an interpreter for a Russian bringing in pharmaceuticals) give the impression of a small city versus an enclosed building.  It's an impressive feat for a director known for making globetrotting adventures and creating fantasy worlds.  The film never feels stage-bound, which can sometimes happen when few sets are employed.


The Terminal, like Catch Me if You Can and Always, is a very entertaining film that showcases Spielberg's talent with light comedy.  It's an appealing excursion with an even more appealing character, well-realized by Tom Hanks.


"...you would not understand...You do not...have...daughters."

#50 of 74 OFFLINE   John Stell

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Posted February 18 2013 - 03:20 AM

War of the Worlds (2005) Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image


Released: June 29, 2005


The year 2005 is the third in what one might call the Steven Spielberg double whammy years, years in which he delivered a summer blockbuster followed by a more serious (Oscar-bait) film:  Jurassic Park and Schindler's List in 1993, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Amistad in 1997, and War of the Worlds and Munich in 2005.  In terms of success 2005 falls in the middle.  War of the Worlds is a fine entertainment, filled with astonishing effects work and memorable images.  It's human story of a dysfunctional family coming together in a time of crisis is a familiar Spielberg conceit.  War of the Worlds is a popcorn movie that keeps you glued to the screen for its nearly two-hour running time but doesn't necessarily stay with you after you've left the theater.


Tom Cruise plays Ray Ferrier, a divorced father of two whose ex-wife leaves their kids with him while she visits her parents in Boston.  But not long after the seemingly disinterested Ray has to play father, lightening storms activate tripod machines long buried beneath the earth's surface.  Soon all of humanity is under attack by these invaders, and Ray must protect his kids as well as himself in the ensuing fight for survival.


War of the Worlds doesn't waste much time getting to the thrills.  The set up is over and done with very quickly:  we learn Ray won't win dad of the year, his teenage son "hates" him, and his daughter is guarded in her feelings for him.  Before long though Ray has to grab up his kids and start looking for a safe haven.  (Even the character name Ferrier seems an obvious play on Ferryman.)  Along the way we have the obligatory "you were never there for me/you care only about yourself" scene between son and father.  No doubt the overly familiar dynamic here is to create an identifiable emotional anchor with the story, because once the invasion begins there is virtually no let up.


But what an invasion it is.  War of the Worlds is filled with memorable and frightening images, such as speeding locomotive that is ablaze; a river filled with corpses; the toppling of a ferryboat; the countryside awash in the blood of victims; the destroyed airplane remnants which litter a suburban community; etc.  There's also a very chilling sequence where Ray must decide how to deal with a survivalist (Tim Robbins) whom Ray thinks is a threat to his family's safety.  The ensuing act of brutality occurs off-screen but its effect lingers.  Because Cruise is convincing in the lead War of the Worlds works well holding our attention, and the balance of character and effects work is nicely handled, something we expect from director Spielberg.


The truth is though is that the film's power is only temporary, perhaps because the final moments focus on mom reuniting with her family instead of the world surviving the invasion.  The means of the aliens demise is consistent with H.G. Wells' novel on which the film is based.  So the rather suddenness of the ending never bothered this viewer the way it seemed to annoy others. So while it's on-screen War of the Worlds never lets you go.  But it doesn't resonate the way Spielberg's best works - like his next film - do.


"...you would not understand...You do not...have...daughters."

#51 of 74 OFFLINE   John Stell

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Posted February 19 2013 - 10:56 AM

Munich (2005) Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image


Released: December 23, 2005


On September 5, 1972 eight members of the terrorist organization Black September broke into the Israeli section of the Munich Olympic Village and kidnapped several Jewish Olympic participants. In the ensuing standoff all the hostages were murdered.  In response, Israel's Prime Minster ordered the assassination of eleven men believed to be involved in the Munich plot.  A group of five men were chosen in an "off the books" operation that Israel denies today.  This is the set up for director Steven Spielberg's riveting and thought-provoking thriller Munich, which chronicles the systematic elimination of the targets.  Along the way the hit team finds itself targeted and some question the morality of their own actions.


Spielberg approaches the material as a suspense picture as opposed to employing the documentary-like technique he used for Schindler's List.  We see how the team plots our each murder, negotiates with informants (a non-political French underground), and deals with unexpected complications (such as a child returning to a murder site or a detonating device not working).  It is not long however before they themselves become potential victims of retaliation from unknown forces (the US? the PLO?).  Once the group's leader Avner, played with intensity and vulnerability by Eric Bana, realizes those killed are simply replaced, he questions the righteousness of the assignment.  By the end of the film Avner has no home in Israel and learns he will be looking over his should for the rest of his life.  But what did he really accomplish for his extreme sacrifice?  Munich, to its credit, does not try to answer the questions it poses.  The film does not condemn anyone or pass judgement.  It instead asks us to examine our responses to terrorism, whether it be the 1972 massacre or the events of 9/11.  Since solutions involving violence only bring more violence, what are our options?  Munich doesn't pretend to have the solutions.


The cast is uniformly excellent.  In addition to Bana, Daniel Craig, Ciaran Hinds, Mathieu Kassovitz, and Hanns Zischler all impress with their characterizations and succeed in making each member of the team unique.  Geoffrey Rush is also terrific in his role as the Israel contact for the men.  But, like Schindler's ListMunich is a director's film, with Spielberg expertly balancing the suspense sequences with the human story.  There is a Hitchcockian sequence whereby a girl returns to her father's office just before a bomb is to be detonated.  There is a desperate scrambling to call off the attack.  Such a moment indicates that these men are basically decent guys who do not want innocent bystanders harmed.  But later in the film the team will hunt down and kill an assassin who has murdered one of their own, and the resulting sequence is quite disturbing.  Avner sums it up best over a meal when he talks about how easy killing can become once you start.  These are complicated characters and we are alternately sympathetic to their cause and horrified by their actions.


Munich earned Steven Spielberg his fifth Oscar nomination for directing.  The film is his most challenging yet because it's examination of right versus wrong yields no concrete answers.  We understand the desire for revenge, but we also can see how these actions only add fuel to the fire.  Given the state of the world Munich is as timely as ever.


"...you would not understand...You do not...have...daughters."

#52 of 74 OFFLINE   Ken Volok

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Posted February 19 2013 - 11:27 AM

I would put this in my top seven Spielbergs.

#53 of 74 OFFLINE   Ken Volok

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Posted February 19 2013 - 08:17 PM

Feb 2013 1. Night Nurse (1931) **.5 2/2 2. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) **** 2/5 3. Imitation of Life (1934) **.5 2/9 4. Imitation of Life (1959) ***.5 2/9 5. Fort Apache (1948) ***.5 2/10 6. Animal Crackers (1930) **** 2/10 7. Star Wars (1977) ***** 2/12 8. The Broadway Melody (1929) *** 2/14 At times 1929's "The Broadway Melody" literally dies before your eyes on the screen and you think" jeez, this won Best Picture of 1929?" Then suddenly it comes alive, most often in the offstage musical moments as opposed to the show within the show's "onstage" numbers which are shot as if you're in the backrow, and edited with a cleaver. Another saving element is the Pre-Code freedom that manifests itself in characters and jokes, many of which will still make you at least smile. It'd be a good double feature with Paul Fejos' "Broadway" or "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" 9. Tweetie Pie (1947) Looney tune **** 2/15 10. Rio Grande (1950) **** 2/15 11. Emma (1996) ***.5 2/16 12. Creature Comforts (1989) short ***** 2/17 13. Sense and Sensibility (1995) **** 2/17 14. High Anxiety (1977) *** 2/18 15. Days of Heaven (1978) ***** 2/19 16. Rebecca (1940) **** 2/19 The leaden literary hand of Selznick almost drowns Hitchcock's "Rebecca" several times, but somehow the Master pulls it off. Is the twenty minute revelation scene meant as second act unto itself? No doubt Hitchcock's in camera editing saves the scene from being even longer. 17. The Three Little Pigs (1933) Silly Symphony ***** 2/20 18. White Dog (1982) *** 2/20 19. Airport (1970) ***** 2/21 20. The Poseidon Adventure (1972) ***** 2/23 21. LA Confidential (1997) **** 2/23 22. Alice in Wonderland (1933) *** 2/26 Completely weird and wonderfully vintage Paramount. Recaps January 2013 1. Django Unchained (2012) *** 2. Three Women (1977) **** 3. Paging Miss Glory (1936) Feature 1/2 star, curio 4. Paging Miss Glory (1936) cartoon **** 5. Cop Land (1997) **** 1/9/13 6. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) *** 1/ 11/13 7. Margaret (2011) **2/3 1/11/13 8. East of Eden (1955) ***1/2 1/11/13 10. You Can't Take It with You (1938) ***** 1/12/13 11. The Sound of Music (1965) **** 1/13/13 12. The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies (1963) ** 1/13/13 13. Country Cousin (1936) cartoon **1/2 1/15/13 14. Swing Time (1936) *** 1/15/13 15. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (ext.) (2001) ** 1/2 1/16/13 16. LotR: The Two Towers (ext) (2002) *** 1/16/13 17. LotR: The Return of the King (ext) (2003) *** 1/17/13 18. Monkey Business (1952) ***.5 1/18/13 19. The Apartment (1960) ***** 1/21/13 20. Funny Girl (1968) ** 1/2 1/22/13 21. For Scent-imental Reasons (1949) Looney Tune ** 1/22 22. The Thin Red Line (1998) ***** 1/23 23. Three Orphan Kittens (1935) Silly Symphony *** 1/26 24. The Ugly Duckling (1939) Silly Symphony **** 1/26 25. Marie Antoinette (2006) ***** 1/26

#54 of 74 OFFLINE   Walter C

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Posted February 20 2013 - 12:56 AM

Feb 14
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Feb 15
Pinocchio (1940)

Feb 16
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Fantasia (1940)

Feb 17
Dumbo (1941)
Toy Story (1995)
Puss In Boots (2011)

Feb 18
Bambi (1942)
A Bug's Life (1998)

Feb 19
Saludos Amigos (1942)
Three Caballeros (1944)
Toy Story 2 (1999)

Feb 20
Monsters, Inc, (2001)
The Little Mermaid (1989)
Make Mine Music (1946)

Feb 21
Cinderella (1950)
The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
The Lion King (1994)

Feb 22
The Rescuers (1977)
Finding Nemo (2003)

Feb 23
Fun and Fancy Free (1947)
The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
The Incredibles (2004)

Feb 24
Alice In Wonderland (1951)
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Cars (2006)

Feb 25
Ratatouille (2007)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Feb 26
Peter Pan (1953)
Pocahontas (1995)
The Emperor's New Groove (2000)
WALL-E (2008)

Feb 27
Sleeping Beauty (1959)
101 Dalmatians (1961)
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)

Feb 28
Melody Time (1948)
DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp (1990)
Aladdin (1992)

Mar 1
Up (2009)
Hercules (1997)

Mar 2
Lady and the Tramp (1955)
Mulan (1998)
Toy Story 3 (2010)

Mar 3
The Jungle Book (1967)
Tarzan (1999)
Cars 2 (2011)

Mar 4
Brave (2012)
Winnie the Pooh (2011)

Mar 5
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
Futurama: Bender's Big Score (2007)

Mar 6
The Sword in the Stone (1963)
Fantasia 2000 (1999)
Tangled (2010)

Mar 7
Dinosaur (2000)
The Princess and the Frog (2009)

 

Mar 8

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2006)

 

Mar 9

Lilo & Stitch (2002)

 

 

Mar 31

Robin Hood (1973)

The Prince of Egypt (1998)

 

Apr 1

The Aristocats (1970)

 

Apr 2

Kung Fu Panda (2008)

The Black Cauldron (1985)

 

Apr 3

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (2012)

The Fox and the Hound (1981)

 

Apr 4

Chicken Little (2005)

 

 

Apr 9
How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

Mickey, Donald, Goofy - The Three Musketeers (2004)

 

Apr 10

Secrets of Kells (2009)

 

 

Apr 18

Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

 

Apr 19

A Cat in Paris (2010)
 

 

Apr 21

Oliver & Company (1988)

Bolt (2008)

 

Apr 22

Treasure Planet (2002)

 

Apr 23

Brother Bear (2003)

 

 

Apr 25

Home on the Range (2004)

 

Apr 26

Meet the Robinsons (2007)

 

Apr 27

Stitch the Movie (2003)

 

Apr 28

Anastasia (1997)

 

 

Apr 30

Atlantis: Milo's Return (2003)

 

May 1

Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

 

 

May 12

Return of Jafar (1994)

 

 

Jun 16

Rise of the Guardians (2012)

 

 

Jun 21

Back to the Future (1985)

 

Jun 22

Back to the Future, Part II (1989)

Back to the Future, Part III (1990)

 

Jun 23

The Karate Kid (1984)

The Karate Kid, Part II (1986)

 

 

Jul 31

Monsters University (2013)

 

 

Sep 20

Mary Poppins (1964)

 

 

Nov 30

Iron Man 3 (2013)

 

Dec 1
Despicable Me (2010)

 

Dec 2

The Hunger Games (2012)
 

 

Dec 7
The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012)

 

 

Dec 14

Futurama: The Beast With a Billion Backs (2008)

 

Dec 15

Wayne's World (1992)

 

Dec 16

Planes (2013)

 

Dec 17

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

 

Dec 18

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

 

Dec 19

Despicable Me 2 (2013)

 

Dec 20

Frozen (2013)
 

# of films - 100


Edited by Walter C, December 21 2013 - 07:21 AM.

TV Episodes Watched - 2009 (1419 ep) / 2010 (1367 ep) / 2011 (1509 ep) / 2012 (1440 ep) / 2013 (1191 ep) / 2014 - October
Feature Films Watched - 2012 (97 seen) / 2013 (100 seen)
Shorts Watched - 2012 (222 seen) / 2013 (87 seen)

Books Read - 2013 (12 read)


#55 of 74 OFFLINE   John Stell

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Posted February 20 2013 - 11:29 AM

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) Posted ImagePosted Image1/2


Released: May 22, 2008


There are several things amiss in the most recent Indiana Jones adventure: the gopher reaction shots; the obvious presence of CGI; the sitcom nature of Indy and Marion's relationship which plays like parody; a sense of deja vu; a forgettable lead villain; and on and on.  Much like The Lost World: Jurassic ParkIndiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull feels like a cash-in sequel.  It's fine for what it is but we expect more from director Steven Spielberg.


Taking its influences from 1950s cold war dramas, sci-fi thrillers, jungle adventures, and lost-city films, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull finds our favorite archaeologist (Harrison Ford) dealing with Russians while pursuing a fabled crystal skull.  Along the way he meets a greaser named Mutt (Shia LaBeouf) and reunites with former fiance Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) and colleague Professor Oxley (John Hurt).  Perils include jungle chases, a motorbike melee, white water rapids, a double-crossing friend, quicksand, and Russian psychic investigator Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett).  Since Indy supposedly received immortality by drinking the water from the Holy Grail in Last Crusade, he of course survives.


Much of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull feels by the numbers, only occasionally offering the kind of wonder and excitement found in the earlier adventures.  The motorcycle/car chase has a neat moment or two and the other action set pieces are not boring.  But the majority of the story feels derivative.  The jungle truck chase is too reminiscent of the truck chase from the first film.  Instead of snakes, bugs, or rats we get man-eating ants.  The various Russian soldiers could just have easily been the Nazis.  There's another journey through a dangerous cave.  The film's screenplay feels more like a checklist.


The most impressive aspect of the Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is what makes it watchable: Harrison Ford.  Other than some grey hair and a raspy voice, Ford's Indy hasn't changed much from his previous tales.  Ford effortlessly suits up with hat and whip and plays Indy well.  It never feels like he's walking through the part, in spite of the lackluster script.  He gets some laughs, holds his own in the fights and derring-do, and basically carries the film.


Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the least of the Indiana Jones films, lacking inventiveness and freshness.  It's an enjoyable enough time killer but is a lesser effort from Spielberg.


"...you would not understand...You do not...have...daughters."

#56 of 74 OFFLINE   Ken Volok

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Posted February 20 2013 - 03:56 PM

Hated Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, it's an insult to the audience.

#57 of 74 OFFLINE   John Stell

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Posted February 21 2013 - 02:38 AM

The Adventures of Tintin (2011) Posted ImagePosted Image1/2


Released: December 21, 2011


Based on the internationally popular Tintin comics by French author/artist Herge, The Adventures of Tintin marks director Steven Spielberg's first forays into animation, 3D, and motion-capture technology.  The film is beautifully animated with good voice work and impressive visuals.  The pace is at breakneck speed.  But after a while the story just runs out of steam, perhaps because it feels like all steam.  The soul is missing.  The Adventures of Tintin keeps the eyes awake but lets the heart go to sleep.


Teenage reporter Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell) buys a seemingly innocuous model ship from a street vendor.  But immediately after the purchase he is approached by two separate men who want to own it themselves.  Tintin's curiosity is peaked, especially after the ship is stolen from his flat.  His research leads him to a drunken Captain (Andy Serkis), a family secret, an ancient rivalry, and the search for hidden treasure.


The Adventures of Tintin hits the ground running and never stops.  There are foot chases, car chases, boat chases, plane chases, and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink chases.  The film spends no time trying to establish character, which was a deliberate decision by the filmmakers to keep Tintin enigmatic and mysterious, just as in the comics.  And it was a mistake.  What may work for the print medium doesn't always work in a cinematic translation.  Tintin is curious and clever, asks questions, helps the Captain, etc.  But we never feel for him.  He's never out of breath.  There's never a "Whew, we made it!" response after surviving yet another peril.  He seems so matter-of-fact about the whole thing, probably because he has so many past accomplishments, which are documented on his flat's walls via newspaper headlines.  Bell isn't able to bring any shadings through his voice work.  Tintin feels like the protagonist in a video game.  The memory quickly fades when the game is over.


There are moments of wonder and humor, and Snowy the dog, Tintin's faithful and helpful sidekick. is adorable. (This is movie geared for kids.)  The chase through a village is breathtaking, with constant movement and peril.  The final battle with cranes is hair-raising.  There is a pair of inept cops who provide some chuckles and a nice nod to comedy teams of old.  But the truth is, at the end, this viewer just didn't care.  The ending sets up another possible Tintin adventure.  I'm in no hurry to see it.


The film was not the big hit everyone no doubt hoped for but a second Tintin screen adventure is in the works with Peter Jackson (one of the producers) directing.  Given Jackson's ability to meld technology and heart perhaps he will have better luck.  But this first installment is just busy work that doesn't stir the imagination the way the comics no doubt did.


"...you would not understand...You do not...have...daughters."

#58 of 74 OFFLINE   Ken Volok

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Posted February 21 2013 - 12:49 PM

I like your honest, no deity appraisals.

#59 of 74 OFFLINE   John Stell

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Posted February 22 2013 - 02:49 AM

Originally Posted by Ken Volok 

I like your honest, no deity appraisals.


Thank you very much Ken.  That was very kind of you to say.


"...you would not understand...You do not...have...daughters."

#60 of 74 OFFLINE   John Stell

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Posted February 22 2013 - 04:03 AM

War Horse (2011) Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image


Released: December 25, 2011


In 1914 Dartmoor teenager Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) successfully trains (and bonds with) a recently-purchased thoroughbred horse, whom he names Joey, to plow his family's farm and save them from eviction.  But when a storm wipes out the resultant crops, Albert's dad (Peter Mullan) sells the horse to the British to be used in the war effort.  War Horse follows Joey's journey through the ensuing four years, where he changes hands regularly but ultimately may be reunited with Albert.


Based on a 1982 novel and its subsequent stage adaptation, War Horse shows how one horse can actually bring out humanity in times of great strife and terror.  Everyone who meets Joey - the British soldier that buys him, the German private who looks after him, the French girl who finds Joey in her windmill - forms some relationship with him which, in turn, helps them find some happiness during the first world war.  Many characters repeat the line "Look at you," in hushed awe when they witness Joey's strength, beauty, and/or stamina.  The "climax" of Joey's power takes place after he is tangled in bared wire and falls right between the British and German armies.  One soldier from each side helps free Joey and save him.  The enemies actually exchange some pleasantries, and we realize were it not for the war these two men could actually be friends.  Joey's ownership is then determined by a coin toss.  The scene is mildly corny but it works at showing how people have a need to find beauty even when surrounded by ugliness.


As usual with a Steven Spielberg film the technical aspects are flawless.  The battle sequences are just as frightening as those found in Saving Private Ryan although they are nowhere near as lengthy.  Janusz Kaminski's Oscar-nominated cinematography is extraordinary, from the beautiful opening shots of the country to the gritty terrain of the battlefield.  John Williams' score also received a nomination and it features some of his loveliest cues.  The period detail - costumes, art direction - capture the time and place.  We have been transported to 1914 - 1918.


Interestingly War Horse has some thematic elements in common with The Adventures of Tintin, released just days earlier.  In a key scene from the latter film Captain Haddock tells Tintin that he should never give up, that a determination to see things through is a great strength.  In War Horse there is a scene where a grandfather tells his granddaughter about the bravery of carrier pigeons that were used to send messages during wartime.  The fact that these pigeons survived by simply doing what they needed to do made them brave.  Both films then address the importance of determination in times of strife and that the will to survive is, in some ways, heroic.


I must confess the first time I saw War Horse I felt a bit indignant that I was being asked to be concerned about a horse while thousands of men were dying in a war.  But I think I missed the point of what the story was about.  This viewing yielded a different reaction: War Horse isn't a war film, strictly speaking, but a story of finding a means to hold on to one's humanity in times of inhumanity.  That the source is non-human is the film's conceit.  


War Horse is purposely sentimental and skillfully designed as a tearjerker.  Because there are so many characters it does not work as well as some of Spielberg's previous hankie pictures.  But War Horse is a perfectly respectable effort from director Steven Spielberg.


"...you would not understand...You do not...have...daughters."




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