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All reviews - Movies (109)

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 30 November 2011 06:03 (A review of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954))

A backwoodsman named Adam Pontipee and his new bride Milly agreed to marry despite only knowing each other for only a few hours. On returning to his cabin in the mountains, Milly is surprised to learn that Adam is one of seven brothers living under the same roof.

The brothers have been named alphabetically from the Old Testament and in chronological order are: Adam, Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frank (short for Frankincense, the Old Testament having no names beginning with F), and Gideon. All of the brothers have red hair and are well over six feet tall, except Gideon, who is younger and shorter than his brothers.

Milly teaches Adam's rowdy, ill-behaved younger brothers manners and social mores. She also shows them how to dance. At first, the brothers have a hard time changing from their "mountain man" ways, but eventually each comes to see that the only way he will get a girl of his own is to do things Milly's way.

They are able to test their new manners at a barn-raising, where they meet six girls they like — Dorcas, Ruth, Martha, Liza, Sarah and Alice — and, fortunately, the girls take a fancy to the brothers as well. However, the girls already have suitors from the town, who jealously taunt the brothers into fighting during the barn-raising. At first the brothers try to resist and remember Milly's teaching, but Adam refuses to let himself be pushed around by the rival suitors, who he sees as cowards taking advantage of his younger brothers. The rival suitors finally go too far when they attack Adam, which provokes his younger brothers into fighting back and a fierce brawl ensues wherein the brothers dominate their physically weaker rivals. Although the brothers do not start the fight, they are banished from the town after destroying the barn in the process.

Winter arrives, with the six younger brothers pining for their girls. Adam reads his brothers the story of "Sobbin' Women" (taken from Plutarch's story of the Sabine Women) and tells them that they should stop moping around and take whatever action is necessary to get their women back.

Aided by Adam, the brothers kidnap the girls, then cause an avalanche so that they cannot be followed by the townspeople. They have, however, forgotten to kidnap a preacher. Milly is furious at Adam, as are the girls at having been kidnapped. Milly consigns the brothers to the barn "with the rest of the animals" while the girls live in the house. Adam, surprised and offended by Milly's reaction, leaves for the trapping cabin further up the mountain to live out the winter by himself.

Months pass, and the girls vent their frustration and resentment by playing pranks on the brothers, such as hitting them with snowballs that have rocks in them. By spring the girls have forgiven and fallen in love with the brothers, who are now allowed to court them. Milly gives birth to a daughter, Hannah. Gideon rides to the cabin to inform Adam about his daughter's arrival and asks him to come home. Adam refuses to do so, saying that he would return home only when the snow had melted enough and the pass was open once more to traffic.

Having time to think about his baby daughter, Adam returns home in the spring just as the pass is opening and reconciles with Milly. As a newly responsible father, he has become aware of how worried the townspeople would be about what has happened to the girls. Realizing he was wrong to tell his brothers to kidnap the girls, Adam tells his brothers that they need to take the girls back to their homes in the town, but his brothers do not want to do so.

The girls do not want to return to their homes, either — they all want to stay at the farm with their new suitors and thus go and hide so that they will not be taken back home. When Milly discovers that the girls are not in the house, Adam tells his brothers to go after the girls and bring them back.

The townspeople arrive, with the intention of taking vengeance against the brothers for the kidnappings. Upon finding the brothers trying to force the girls to return, the fathers get the wrong impression, believing their daughters are being assaulted, and charge to their rescue. Alice's father, who is a preacher, hears baby Hannah cry in the distance, and worries that the baby might belong to one of the girls. The fighting is finally sorted out, with the fathers rounding up the brothers and announcing that they intend to hang them.

Alice's father asks the girls whose baby he heard. They all decide, simultaneously, to claim the baby as their own. This misinformation gives the girls and the brothers their fondest wish—the townspeople insist that all six couples marry immediately in a shotgun wedding.

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the king and i

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 30 November 2011 05:59 (A review of The King and I)

Mrs. Anna Leonowens (Deborah Kerr), a widow from Wales, arrives in Bangkok with her young son, Louis, to teach English to the children of the royal household of King Mongkut (Yul Brynner). She is escorted to the palace by the King's sinister right-hand man, the Kralahome, of whom she is very apprehensive - she and her son must disguise their fear ("Whistle A Happy Tune"). She is greeted, but told she will stay in the palace, although the king promised her she would have a house. She demands to see the King and does see him. The King is pleased with her, and takes her to meet his wives and his fifteen children that live in the palace (he has sixty-seven more). She is charmed by the children, and agrees to stay and teach them. Here she meets a new, young wife - a Burmese girl named Tuptim, who arrived shortly before Anna did. She is unhappy living at the castle, because she is in love with Lun Tha, the man who had brought her to Siam from Burma.

The King's wives come to help Anna settle in to her new home, and discover a photo of her husband. Anna reminisces about her days with Tom, and gives her blessing to other young lovers, who are like they used to be, ("Hello Young Lovers").

The King is troubled - he craves truth, but how can he learn the truth when different cultures say different things? ("Is A Puzzlement")

As Anna teaches her lesson to the children, she explains that getting to know people is her favorite thing to "teach" ("Getting to Know You"). The lesson goes on and the children start to not believe in the things she is teaching them, such as snow and Siam's small size. The King intervenes and scolds his children for not believing her.

Late one night, the King summons Anna to talk to her about the Bible, and how Moses says the world was created in six days. The King of Siam thinks Moses is a fool - he thinks that the world took many centuries to create. They have a small argument about the Bible in which Anna stands above the King. Due to the Siamese custom that no one's head should be higher than the King's, Anna is forced to sit on the floor as the King has her write a letter to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, telling him he will send male elephants to America to help with the Civil War. Anna tries to tell him that the elephants will not last long if only male elephants are sent, but the King loses interest and tells her to finish the letter herself. Before this, Anna has to have her head lower than the king's, which she first refuses, until the king loses his temper, forcing her to kneel and lie on the floor. Anna goes outside, where she meets Lun Tha and learns that he and Tuptim have been meeting in secret. He asks Anna to fetch Tuptim. Anna refuses at first, afraid of the consequences if the lovers are caught, but, remembering her own happy days with her husband, Tom, she relents. The lovers meet ("We Kiss In A Shadow"), and Lun Tha promises that when he comes again, he and Tuptim will escape from Siam.

Later, the King is told that England thinks him a barbaric leader, so he and Anna plan an English style feast for many European officials. Anna helps to make some of the ladies' European dresses, and also orders food and teaches the orchestra European music. She is appalled to find that she only has one week to do this in, but the King reminds her that according to Moses, the whole world was created in one week.

Anna dresses the ladies up in English clothes, but forgets to give them undergarments. She is horrified on discovering her mistake, and entreats the ladies to keep their backs to the wall when presented to the Ambassador. But at the sight of the Ambassador's spyglass, the ladies flee in panic, exclaiming that he has the head of a goat. The Ambassador arrives, along with his aide Sir Edward Ramsey, with whom Anna was in love before she met Tom - in fact, Edward did once ask for her hand in marriage. He waylays Anna as she goes to help the King with the seating, and they reminisce and dance together, which the King walks in on and is highly jealous. The King offers his arm to her and leads her to dinner, where the guest are entertained by the King's intellectual observations, and Tuptim's theatrical version of Uncle Tom's Cabin, which she narrates. When the play is over, however, she escapes with her lover. Anna and the King talk after the feast, and he gives her one of his rings as a present. Anna is quite taken by this gesture. It is here that the movie seems to show that they have fallen in love with each other, even though the King rejects the idea. The king recites a poem, known as the "Song of the King" where he states that women are "blossoms" and that men are "like Honeybees", and declares that "honey bees must be free" to "Fly from Blossom to Blossom", however, "blossoms must not ever fly from bee,to bee to bee". Anna laughs at the poem, however. She then teaches him how to dance the polka ("Shall We Dance"). However, they are interrupted by the Kralahome, who explains that Tuptim has been found and the King is told of her lover. He decides to whip her, but Anna calls him a barbarian, and says that he has no heart. He is unable to beat Tuptim and runs off in humiliation, and Anna gives back the ring and decides to leave Siam. Tuptim is led off in tears after an official announces that the corpse of Lun Tha has been discovered in the river. She is not seen again in the film.

Anna, thinking that she can no longer be of any use, is just about to leave Siam when she is told that the King is dying. His health has steadily declined ever since Anna called him a barbarian, and he has refused any help. She goes to his bedside and he gives her back the ring, pleading with her to wear it and saying that she has always spoken the truth to him. She decides to stay in order to help his young son, the Crown Prince Chulalongkorn, rule the people. As the prince is making his first statements as King, declaring the end of slavery in Siam, and stating that the King's subjects will no longer bow down to him but rather stand at attention, the King dies, only Anna and the Kralahome noticing. The film ends with Anna laying her head on his hand.

The film makes Tuptim's ultimate fate more ambiguous. In the stage version, when she hears of Lun Tha's death, she exclaims "Then I shall join him soon", implying that the King's soldiers will execute her (which is what happens to her in the film Anna and the King of Siam and the 1999 Anna and the King). In the 1956 film version of The King and I, Tuptim, when hearing of Lun Tha's fate, exclaims "Dead! Oh, no!", and begins weeping uncontrollably as the soldiers drag her off. She is not seen in the film again.

Otherwise, the film makes almost no changes from the stage version, other than the deletion of several songs and the addition of a choral finale.

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West Side Story

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 30 November 2011 05:58 (A review of West Side Story)

Although the plot summary here is divided into two acts, and the film was originally intended to have two acts, it was finally decided that it would work better without an intermission, in order to increase the tension in the plot.
[edit] Act I

The film opens in the streets of Manhattan in the late summer of 1957. There is a mounting tension set to music ("Prologue") between a white American gang, the Jets, led by Riff Lorton (Russ Tamblyn), and a rival gang of Puerto Rican immigrants, the Sharks, led by Bernardo Nunez (George Chakiris). The Jets harass the Sharks and vice versa, culminating in a free-for-all on the playground. They dance and eventually the Sharks grab one of the Jets, the youngest, named Baby John (Eliot Feld), and begin to "bloody" him. Soon, Lieutenant Schrank (Simon Oakland) and Officer Krupke (William Bramley[1]) arrive and break up the melee. Schrank orders the Sharks off the playground and the Jets "to make nice with them Puerto Ricans" or there'll be a price to pay. Once Schrank and Krupke are gone, the Jets discuss challenging the Sharks to an all out rumble that will decide who gets control of the streets. They decide to deliver the challenge to the Sharks at a dance later that night, because it is neutral territory.

Riff decides that his best friend Tony Wycek (Richard Beymer), a co-founder of the Jets who has left the gang to work at a local candy/drug store, would be the best member to present the challenge to the Sharks because he has always come through for the Jets ("Jet Song"). Riff visits Tony at the store and asks him to come to the dance, but Tony is not interested. He tells Riff that he senses something very important is about to happen to him. After a little cajoling from Riff, Tony changes his mind and agrees to meet him and the Jets at the dance, in case it is there that he will discover that "something" ("Something's Coming").

Bernardo arrives to take his sister Maria (Natalie Wood) and his girlfriend Anita (Rita Moreno) to the dance. At the dance, which is held at the gym, the Jets, Sharks, and girls are greatly enjoying themselves ("Dance at the Gym"). The host of the dance, social worker Glad Hand (John Astin), tries to get the members of the rival gangs to dance together. Even so, the rival gang members and their girlfriends remain apart. During a mambo, Tony and Maria see each other, become infatuated, going into a trance-like state, and begin to dance, oblivious to the rivalry between their ethnic groups. They eventually kiss, but Bernardo angrily interrupts them. He orders Maria home and tells Tony to stay away from his sister. It's at this point that Riff proposes a "war council" with Bernardo, who agrees to meet at Doc's drug store after the dance. Tony leaves in a happy daze, singing of his newfound love ("Maria").

Maria is sent home, and Anita argues with Bernardo that they are in America, not Puerto Rico. At the Sharks' apartment building, Anita and other girls from Puerto Rico engage in a spirited argument with Bernardo in defense of Maria's right to dance with whomever she pleases. They debate the advantages and disadvantages of their country ("America"). Eventually the women and the men disperse as Bernardo and his gang go to the war council.

Tony discreetly visits Maria outside the fire escape at her home and they confirm their love ("Tonight"). They arrange to meet the next day at the bridal shop where Maria works. Meanwhile, the Jets gather outside of Doc's store to wait for the Sharks. They are visited by Officer Krupke, who warns them not to cause trouble on his beat. After he leaves, they lampoon him and the various theories of how to deal with juvenile delinquency ("Gee, Officer Krupke"). Doc (Ned Glass) is about to close the store, but the Jets convince him to stay open. The Sharks finally arrive and the war council begins. In the middle of this, Tony arrives and calls them chickens for having to fight with weapons. He demands that they have a fair one-on-one fist fight instead of an all-out rumble. The gang leaders agree, with Bernardo representing the Sharks and Ice (Tucker Smith) representing the Jets (much to Bernardo's disappointment, as he was hoping to face Tony). They are soon alerted of Lieutenant Schrank's arrival, so the gangs quickly intermix together and feign happiness and fun. Schrank pretends that it is a good thing that they are getting along and he might even get a promotion, but he knows what they are up to. Schrank orders the Puerto Ricans out (while they whistle "My Country, 'Tis of Thee"), then asks the Jets where the rumble is taking place, angering several members (especially Action) while doing so. Soon, the Jets disperse and Schrank leaves as well, leaving Tony and Doc alone in the store to clean up. Tony, who is in a good mood, surprises Doc and tells him about his love for Maria. The day comes to an end as a distressed Doc closes the store and Tony leaves.
[edit] Act II

The next day at Madam Lucia's bridal shop, Maria sings to her co-workers about how happy and excited she is ("I Feel Pretty"). After everyone except Maria and Anita leaves, Anita tells Maria about the impending rumble accidentally. Anita tells Maria to go home, but Maria insists that she wants to close the store by herself because she has work to do. Suddenly, Tony arrives to see Maria, leaving Anita in shock. Tony tells Anita of his and Maria's love, and Anita mocks Maria. Although Anita is initially shocked to see that Maria and Tony are having a romance, she shows some tolerance but worries about the consequences if Bernardo were to find out. Anita, who is also Maria's roommate, leaves to prepare for a planned date with Bernardo after the rumble. Maria pleads with Tony to prevent the rumble altogether, even if it is only a fist fight, and Tony promises to do so. Then Tony and Maria, using clothes in the bridal shop, fantasize about their wedding ("One Hand, One Heart"). They use the headless mannequins as their parents, best man (Riff) and Maid of Honor (Anita). They exchange wedding vows and kiss.

A musical montage ("Quintet") intertwines the feelings of the Jets and Sharks in anticipation of the rumble, Tony and Maria's anticipation of meeting each other, and Anita preparing for her date with Bernardo. The Jets and Sharks arrive at their agreed location for the rumble, a fenced dead-end under a stretch of New York highway. As the "fair fight" begins between Bernardo and Ice, Tony arrives and tries to stop it, but is met with ridicule and mockery from Bernardo and the Sharks. Unable to stand by and watch his best friend be humiliated, Riff angrily lashes out and punches Bernardo ("The Rumble"). Drawing their knives, Riff and Bernardo fight each other. Once Riff gets the upper hand, Tony stops him. However, Riff breaks away and runs back into the fight, only to be stabbed by Bernardo. Riff collapses while handing the knife to Tony and Bernardo looks shocked at what he has done. Enraged, Tony kills Bernardo with Riff's knife, resulting in a full-fledged melee. Suddenly, police sirens blare out and the gang members flee, leaving behind the bodies of Riff and Bernardo.

Blissfully unaware of what has happened, Maria is waiting for Tony on the roof of her apartment building. One of the Sharks, Chino (Jose DeVega), whom Maria has been promised to, arrives and angrily tells her that Tony killed her brother. Tony arrives, and initially Maria lashes out at him in anger, but Tony explains what happened and asks for her forgiveness before he plans to turn himself in to the police. Maria decides that she still loves Tony and begs him to stay with her. They reaffirm their love ("Somewhere"), kiss, and make love for the first time (offscreen).

Meanwhile, the Jets (with Ice now in command and joined by the Jet girls) have reassembled outside a garage. Action demands revenge for Riff's death, but Baby John opposes it. Action yells at Baby John for being scared, then tensions flare amongst several Jets. Ice pulls them all into the garage and tells them they will have their revenge on the Sharks, but must do it carefully ("Cool"). Anybodys (Susan Oakes), a tomboy who is desperate to join the Jets, arrives after infiltrating the Sharks' turf and warns them that Chino is now after Tony with a gun. Ice sends the Jets to various locations to find Tony and warn him. Anybodys' persistence finally pays off as Ice asks her to search in and out of the shadows and commends her for her deed.

In Maria's bedroom, she and Tony have just finished making love. The couple hear Anita arriving home, and Maria and Tony make quick, whispered arrangements to meet at Doc's drug store and run away together to marry. Anita hears through the door and knows that something is going on. Tony escapes through the bedroom window and flees, but Anita sees him running away. Anita chides Maria for the relationship ("A Boy Like That"). Anita says that a man who kills is bad, but she soon softens as Maria sings back. Maria's heartfelt love ("I Have a Love") wins over Anita, and despite her grief over Bernardo's death, Anita agrees to cooperate with a plan to help Maria and Tony run away and marry, because she is her friend. Anita quickly tells Maria that Chino is searching for Tony with a gun.

Lieutenant Schrank arrives and questions Maria about the events leading up to the rumble, but Maria is protective of Tony and lies to cover for him. To deceive the policeman, Maria sends Anita to Doc's drugstore on the pretense that she is fetching medicine for her headache. She asks Anita to say she has been detained, explaining she would have gone herself otherwise. Anita's real purpose is to tell Tony (who is found by Anybodys outside Maria's apartment and takes refuge in the cellar of Doc's drugstore) that Maria is detained from meeting him. But when Anita enters the drugstore and asks for Tony, the Jets mock, harass, and mock rape her until Doc stops them. Infuriated by the attack, Anita gives the Jets a different message for Tony: Maria is dead, shot by Chino for loving Tony. Doc reproaches the Jets, then delivers the message to Tony. In shock and despair, Tony runs to find Chino, shouting "Come and get me, too!", and not knowing that Chino is actually secretly waiting for him.

Now on the playground next to Doc's store, Tony suddenly sees Maria and they begin to run toward each other with joy. Suddenly, Chino appears and shoots Tony. As the Jets and Sharks arrive, Maria and a fatally wounded Tony reaffirm their love ("Somewhere"), but Tony dies in her arms. Maria takes the gun from Chino and blames the rival gang members for the deaths of Tony, Bernardo, and Riff with their hate, threatening to kill as many of them as she can, while still leaving one bullet for herself. However, she can't do it and drops the gun before sinking to the ground, crying. Three of the Jets start lifting his body and two Sharks join them to help carry him off. Maria and several Jets and Sharks walk behind them in a funeral procession and Chino is arrested for killing Tony.

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Jamaica Inn

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 30 November 2011 05:56 (A review of Jamaica Inn (1939))

Charles Laughton was a co-producer as well, and he interfered greatly with Hitchcock's direction.

Laughton was originally cast as the uncle, but he cast himself in the role of villain, which was originally to be a hypocritical preacher, but was rewritten as a squire because unsympathetic portrayals of the clergy were forbidden by the Production Code in Hollywood.[3]

Laughton then demanded that Hitchcock give his character, Squire Pengallon, greater screen time. This forced Hitchcock to reveal that Pengallon was a villain in league with the smugglers earlier in the film than Hitchcock had initially planned.[2]

Laughton's acting was a problem point as well for Hitchcock. Laughton portrayed the Squire as having a mincing walk, to the beat of a German waltz which he played in his head,[4] while Hitchcock thought it was out of character.

Some good did come out of Laughton's meddling, though. He demanded that Maureen O'Hara be given the lead after watching her screen test (her acting in the screen test was sub par, but Laughton could not forget her eyes). After filming finished, Charles Laughton brought her to Hollywood to play Esmeralda opposite his Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, where she became an international star. In March 1939, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood to begin his contract with David O. Selznick, so Jamaica Inn was his last British picture, as well as one of his most successful.[4]

Daphne du Maurier was not pleased with the finished production and for a while she considered withholding the film rights to Rebecca.

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the bourne ultimatum

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 30 November 2011 05:53 (A review of The Bourne Ultimatum)

Former CIA covert operative Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) eludes Moscow police and goes into hiding after being shot by Russian FSB agent Kirill (in The Bourne Supremacy). Six weeks later, The Guardian Security Correspondent Simon Ross (Paddy Considine) meets with a source to discuss Bourne and Operation Treadstone. The CIA begin tracking Ross when he mentions "Operation Blackbriar" on a mobile phone call to his editor. Bourne travels to Paris to inform Marie's brother, Martin (Daniel Brühl), of her death and assures him he's hunting her killers. In London, Bourne meets with Ross at Waterloo Station after learning of Ross' investigation of Treadstone. When Bourne realizes that the CIA is tracking Ross, he helps him evade capture, but Ross deviates from Bourne's instructions and is killed by Blackbriar "asset" (assassin) Paz (Édgar Ramírez) on orders from Blackbriar's director Noah Vosen (David Strathairn).

CIA Director Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn) sends Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), who unsuccessfully hunted Bourne six weeks earlier, to help Vosen after he spots Bourne in a CCTV camera feed. After searching Ross' notes, they deduce that his source was Neal Daniels (Colin Stinton), CIA Station Chief in Madrid, who was formerly involved in Treadstone and is actively involved in Blackbriar. Bourne, having taken Ross' bag after he was killed, follows the notes in his notebook to Daniels' Madrid office but finds it empty. Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), a former Treadstone support technician, arrives shortly after Bourne incapacitates the CIA field team sent by Vosen and Landy to capture him. She decides to help Bourne escape another incoming CIA squad and tells him Daniels fled to Tangier. It's implied that Parsons and Bourne had a deep, possibly romantic relationship before he lost his memory.

Upon arriving in Tangier, Parsons hacks into the CIA database to locate Daniels but fails, finding that Blackbriar asset Desh Bouksani (Joey Ansah) has been tasked with killing him. Vosen learns of Parsons' log-in attempt and orders Desh to kill her as well as Bourne, a decision Landy disagrees with. Afterwards, Vosen calls Kramer and confirms their intentions to use Landy as the scapegoat if things go wrong. Bourne tails Desh to Daniels but fails to prevent Daniels' death by a roadside bomb. He does, however, protect Parsons by strangling Desh after an intense hand-to-hand fight and later sends her into hiding. Upon examining the contents of Daniels' charred briefcase, Bourne finds the address of the deep cover CIA bureau in New York City where Vosen directs Blackbriar.

Bourne travels to New York; Landy receives a phone call (in a repetition of the final scene of The Bourne Supremacy) which is revealed to be tapped by Vosen. Landy thanks Bourne for the tape he sent her which revealed the corrupt dealings of former Treadstone director Ward Abbott, and also provides him that his real name is David Webb and his birth date is "4/15/71". While speaking with Landy, Bourne notices Vosen storing highly classified materials in a safe in his office. Bourne tells Landy to "get some rest" because she "looks tired", which she and Vosen both understand to mean that he's currently surveilling her. Vosen then intercepts a text message sent to Landy from Bourne advising a location for a meet and leaves his office with a team to follow her. Bourne breaks into Vosen's office and steals classified Blackbriar documents and Vosen sends Paz after him, resulting in a car chase which ends with Paz forcing Bourne's stolen police car into a concrete divider. Bourne gets out and holds Paz at gunpoint before sparing his life and continuing on to 415 East 71st Street (reference to the "4/15/71" from Landy), memories of which were triggered by the false birthday he was given by Landy. Vosen also figures out Landy's code and warns Dr. Albert Hirsch (Albert Finney), who ran Treadstone's behavior modification program, that Bourne is en route.

Landy meets Bourne outside the building and admits to her change of heart; that she's helping him because she hadn't signed up for programs like Treadstone and Blackbriar. Bourne gives her the Blackbriar files before going inside and Landy faxes them to a secondary witness with Vosen arriving just as the last page is successfully sent. Bourne meets with Hirsch in an upper level room and, with Hirsch's help, finally recollects that he was not forced into the program, but in fact volunteered. He proclaims to no longer be "Jason Bourne" and flees from Vosen's pursuing team to the roof. There, Paz confronts Bourne with why he didn't kill him when he had the chance. Bourne questions Paz as to his motives and repeats the dying words of "The Professor", a Treadstone assassin he killed years earlier (in The Bourne Identity): "Look at us... Look at what they make you give." Paz lowers his gun as Bourne runs to jump off the roof, but Vosen appears and shoots at Bourne as he leaps into the East River below.

Some time later, Landy is shown testifying before the Senate regarding Blackbriar. Parsons watches a television news broadcast about the exposure of Operation Blackbriar, the arrests of Hirsch and Vosen, a criminal investigation against Kramer for authorizing the operation, and that David Webb, a.k.a. Jason Bourne, was reportedly shot and fell into the East River. Upon hearing that his body has not been found after a three-day search, Parsons smiles; Bourne is shown swimming away underwater after his fall.

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Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 29 November 2011 11:29 (A review of Pickpocket (1959))

A stylised and engrossing glance at the maturation of a pickpocket, Robert Bresson leaves much unsaid as he concentrates on the feel of Pickpocket. At the Paris races, a young man, Michel (Martin LaSalle), stands gazing at the assembled punters. A middle-aged lady catches his eye, as she stashes a bundle of notes within her hand-bag. The race commences and Michel glides behind her, slowly and meticulously inching his left hand towards the clasp of her bag. With infinite patience he liberates the cash (we can feel the sweat trickling down his spine), turning away just as the race ends and discovery seems imminent. We wait for a cry of treachery but it never comes; Michel almost bounds out of the gates, excited by his first success. A few steps later the police arrest him.

When the cops release Michel, through lack of evidence, he departs somewhat discouraged. Seeking out his old friend Jacques (Pierre Leymarie) he professes his desire to obtain a normal job, to the partial disbelief of his companion. This caution is well founded for, while he is on the metro, Michel finds his desire reawakened when he observes a master pickpocket at work. So smooth is this stranger's technique that Michel resolves to perfect it himself, more as a reason to leave his claustrophobic apartment then anything else though. A few weeks later Michel can pull off this incredibly audacious maneuver, where you stand face-to-face with your victim and pluck the wallet free right under his nose. All goes well until one day a target follows Michel and demands his wallet back -- an unusual event but there happens to be a reason why this stranger has no wish to involve the police.

Michel has found a professional (Kassagi), who is happy to teach him everything he knows about the art of the pickpocket. Keen to learn, practice and train his supple digits, Michel is soon an integral part of a smoothly functioning team. Meanwhile his mother (Dolly Scal) has fallen ill, being cared for by neighbour Jeanne (Marika Green) because he's too scared to visit. Internally he's ashamed of his weakness and the possibility of discovery, especially by his mother, so avoidance seems the best option. As if this wasn't enough, Michel is playing games with the police Inspector (Jean Pelegri). They've only got suspicion to work on so Michel taunts them, almost as if he wants to be caught. Justice eventually arrives, although Michel escapes this time and the story takes another sharp turn.

The essence of Pickpocket deals with the way in which one man slips into a life of crime, simply because he's good at it. However, his motivations and thoughts are never examined in an explicit manner. Everything Michel does is shrouded in mystery, perhaps because he himself doesn't understand why he does what he does. The only real certainty is the immense rush which follows success, almost making the inevitable arrest worth it. In line with Bresson's desire to explain this story in light and sound, the dialogue it extremely sparse and abrupt while the illumination is strikingly harsh and quite stunning. Immense amounts of detail are left untouched (characters are given no background, many scenes make do with a bare handful of words) yet this works, in tune with the dislocation of Michel from the world around him. Pickpocket is a strange film to view, compelling in its unflinching assessment of obsession and personal torment yet restrained and chilly in its execution.

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a man escaped

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 29 November 2011 11:27 (A review of A Man Escaped (1956))

A Man Escaped succeeds simply as the most tingly, tension-filled prison escape caper you'll ever see, but given that the prison in question is Nazi sadist Klaus Barbie's holding pen for condemned French resistance fighters, the story, which is based on true events, becomes a good vs. evil parable for the ages.

Lieutenant Fontaine (François Leterrier) is no coward. As the story begins, he's attempting to hurl himself from the car carrying him into the prison, which is located in Lyon, France. But rather than simply shoot him when he succeeds in briefly getting away, his Nazi captors pistol-whip him and deliver him to the prison alive, where they hope to pump him for information.

Life inside quickly becomes a routine of emptying slop buckets, waiting for hearings in front of Barbie, and listening to the frequent executions that take place in the prison courtyard. But Fontaine isn't discouraged. Sharp as a tack, he begins to plan an escape immediately. Learning all he can by tapping on the walls to communicate with his neighbors, he takes stock of the layout and rhythms of the prison and the guards' movements to come up with ideas. He soon discovers that he can disassemble his cell's wooden door, and before long he's taking secret nighttime strolls around the jail to learn more. At the same time, he's fashioning yards of handmade rope, and he even manages to make a few grappling hooks.

Since conversation with other prisoners is forbidden, communication takes place only by tapping and with notes slipped into pockets (until the pencil patrol comes around and confiscates all writing implements). Fontaine meets several interesting characters, each displaying his own level of either bravery or resignation. Most notable is a priest, who often passes Fontaine Bible passages to study.

What makes A Man Escaped even more compelling is the fact that much of it takes place in silence. Fontaine provides a laconic matter-of-fact narration about the progress of his escape plans, but most of the action is simply punctuated by a soundtrack of Mozart music, which lends the proceedings an impressive gravitas.

The tension really comes to a boil when Fontaine is suddenly given a cellmate, a 15-year-old French boy who may or may not be an informant. What now? Fontaine knows he can't escape unless he fills the boy in on his plans, but if he does, is he doomed? Suffice it to say the final 20 minutes of the movie are an exquisitely crafted study of suspense.

It's always fun to watch someone go to superhuman lengths to right a wrong. Fontaine is as smart as MacGyver, as brave as John Wayne, and as acrobatic as Spider-Man. He's a mild-mannered hero for all time.

Aka Un condamné à mort s'est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut,, A Man Escaped or: The Wind Bloweth Where It Listeth.

But first he was imprisoned.

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le trou

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 29 November 2011 11:25 (A review of The Hole)

Prison escape movies are usually the kind of caper films that enliven the tension of criminals plotting and digging, with melodramatic character studies and bitter social comment. Le Trou begins with an ordinary-looking Frenchman staring at us from the yard of an auto shop, telling us that the story we are about to see is true, and that he was part of it. His name is Jean Keraudy, and Jacques Becker casts him as a participant in a real story based on his own life, as the 'mastermind' of the escape. The bit of grey sky in this first, documentary scene, is the last we'll see for a long time.

Le Trou is concentrated on the chemistry and tensions between the five men in the crowded cell, who must live together while figuring out if the new man among them can be trusted to join in on the escape. The original four are serving long sentences, and when they find out that the handsome newcomer also is up for a twenty-year term, they decide to bring him in on the deal. The new man, Marc Michel (Roland Cassard in Demy's Lola and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) is initially confused but joins in on the plan, which requires digging bit by bit through the concrete floor of their cell.

Le Trou has so much outright work in it, it's exhausting. The sound effects are perfectly pitched to make the use of a pick on concrete believeable. Once the diggers are into the sub-basement, they have to navigate a maze-like course and then dig an even tougher tunnel through creepy, cold underground passageways. While they work, it's like they're digging out of Hell itself. The effort required to deceive the guards is as trying as the digging, and everything must be built and carried out by five men in a room barely larger than a closet.

Forget about prison clichés. The guards and even the warden are nice guys, and the confines of the cell lead the men to become introverted rather than aggressive. The claustrophobia of the cell has become as unbearable for us as it is for the inmates, when we finally begin to penetrate the prison walls. With every new barrier that comes down, our world gets a little bit bigger, until ...

With such forced intimacy, the dialogue in Le Trou comes in short, quiet bursts, and the acting soon breaks down into subtle looks on the men's faces. One man acting out of sorts can easily upset the other four, as there's a built-in incentive for someone to inform. There's no overriding social statement here, just the urge toward freedom by inmates who want to stop being caged animals, and walk freely again. Le Trou obviously wasn't shown in any kind of prison anywhere, but I think it would have gotten a standing ovation if it were.

The cast is uniformly excellent, and claimed in the production notes to have been drawn from unprofessionals. Catherine Spaak and another actress show up in abbreviated but important parts, but Savant doesn't want to give out any more of the plot. Le Trou is the kind of movie that you'll want to see uninterrupted.

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Cast Away

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 29 November 2011 11:23 (A review of Cast Away)

United States, 2000
U.S. Release Date: 12/22/00 (wide)
Running Length: 2:24
MPAA Classification: PG-13 (Harrowing material, mild profanity)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Seen at: Ritz Five, Philadelphia

Cast: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Producers: Robert Zemeckis, Steve Starkey, Tom Hanks, Jack Rapke
Screenplay: William Broyles Jr.
Cinematography: Don Burgess
Music: Alan Silvestri
U.S. Distributor: 20th Century Fox

I'm sure there will be wags who will glibly compare Cast Away to the likes of "Gilligan's Island" and "Survivor", but, in tone, approach, and overall accomplishment, this atypical Robinson Crusoe tale bears a strong resemblance to one of director Robert Zemeckis' earlier efforts, Contact. No, Cast Away isn't about space or messages from another planet, but, at its core, neither was Contact. Both films ask the same crucial existential question, one that Shakespeare pondered for years: taking all things into account, what does it mean to be human? How do we cope with loss, hopelessness, and isolation, and still find the courage to face the next day? The love and dream of a dead father sustained Jodie Foster's character in Contact. For Tom Hanks' Chuck Noland in Cast Away, it is the promise offered by the smile of his equally absent - and equally beloved - wife-to-be.

The last time Zemeckis and Hanks teamed up, a legend was born - the idiot savant Forrest Gump. A brilliantly conceived trip through the latter half of the 20th century, Forrest Gump was part folksy feel-good drama and part well-concealed satire. The 1994 blockbuster offers much more than its detractors, and even some of its supports, acknowledge. Those expecting Zemeckis and Hanks to re-examine the same territory in Cast Away will be surprised - aside from the films' Oscar potential, there's little synergy. Cast Away will not be the crowd-pleaser that Forrest Gump was, but it's a deeper, more rewarding experience. And, just when you think it's over, it defies expectations and metamorphoses into something different and more compelling.

The year is 1995. Chuck Noland is an overworked Federal Express exec who zips from country to country troubleshooting problems and streamlining operations. His mantra is to do anything necessary to get a package to its destination on time. In his younger days, he was known for having stolen a kid's bicycle to make a delivery after his truck broke down. Fresh from a trip to Russia, Chuck is enjoying Christmas dinner with his girlfriend, Kelly (Helen Hunt), and his family, when a call comes in: he's needed in Malaysia. A short time later, he's airborne, flying through stormy skies over the South Pacific. Suddenly, the plane is off course, there's an explosion, and Chuck finds himself underwater in the belly of a crashed plane. An inflatable life raft carries him to the surface and bears him to a deserted tropical island, where he learns that survival without the trappings of civilization is far more difficult than it's made out to be in books, on television, and in the movies. There may not be any humans on the island, but something is making noise in the jungle at night. And how is he to obtain food and fresh water? Without proper tools, simple tasks like opening a coconut or making a fire become herculean efforts.

Cast Away is divided into three clearly-defined acts: the setup, the main story, and the aftermath. Although the movie's centerpiece is the 75-minute portion detailing Chuck's experiences while marooned, it's the third act, which offers no easy solutions for difficult situations, that elevates the film from the level of a stirring, innovative adventure to an fully satisfying drama. This is the film Red Planet could have been if it had possessed the guts to challenge viewers rather than saddle them with a worn-out, regurgitated plot.

The plane crash which occurs during the first half-hour is handled differently from almost any aerial disaster I have seen in a motion picture. Zemeckis employs digital effects, but not to show the crash (he uses them primarily afterwards, to generate Perfect Storm-style waves). We see events unfold from inside the plane, amidst the wind and darkness, and it results in an eerie and genuinely unsettling situation. Then, once Chuck is in the water, the sense of danger is palpable - especially during one unforgettable moment when the plane's spinning propeller is bearing down upon his small life raft.

The scenes on the island are presented with uncommon intelligence (unlike similar events chronicled in the lame Six Days, Seven Nights, which used similar circumstances). We follow Chuck on his step-by-step journey of survival, where even the smallest things, like getting a drink of coconut milk or using MacGyver-like ingenuity to devise a tool, become significant accomplishments. Zemeckis' approach to this segment of the film is flawless. He never cuts away from Chuck - there are no "back in Memphis" scenes that would have broken the mood, nor is there any incidental music. For more than an hour, the only sounds heard are the island's natural noises (and a little dialogue as Chuck starts talking to a volley ball that becomes his lone "companion"). Also, the script doesn't cook up any hard-to-swallow, melodramatic situations or artificial conflicts. In fact, those expecting a routine adventure film may be disappointed. Cast Away is always interesting, but not necessarily in a traditional manner.

By the time the 30-minute epilogue arrives, we are already deeply attached to Chuck's character - a fact that makes the final dilemma harder to cope with. Once again, Zemeckis and screenwriter William Broyles Jr avoid the melodramatic, manipulative clichés that could have reduced Cast Away to a lesser film. They remain true to the characters and situations until the end, which involves literal and figurative crossroads. There is a catharsis of sorts, but it will not be definitive enough to satisfy all viewers.

For the level of his work in Cast Away, it wouldn't surprise me if Hanks earned another Oscar nomination. The movie's success rests with him, since he is on screen by himself for more than half of the running time. It's one thing for an actor to triumph by playing off others; it's another thing altogether for him to excel with no one else around and virtually no dialogue to speak. In addition, the physical changes that Hanks had to go through to play the part are dramatic - he was forced to gain and lose weight quickly and in extraordinary amounts (so much so that a "weight loss trainer" is credited at the end). An actor willing to go through the rigors Hanks endured is certainly worthy of some kind of notice, especially when he turns in a top-notch performance.

The only other significant player is Helen Hunt, who has become ubiquitous in motion pictures now that "Mad About You" is behind her. This is her fourth film in four months (the other three: Dr. T and the Women, Pay It Forward, and What Women Want). This time, she's more of a supporting player, but, despite limited screen time, she manages to develop Kelly into a flesh-and-blood individual, which is crucial to the movie's emotional underpinning. Of all Hunt's recent outings, this is easily her strongest work.

For as long as he works in Hollywood, Robert Zemeckis will be associated with Forrest Gump. As good a film as that was, it does not represent his finest work. In many ways, both Contact and Cast Away are stronger and more compelling features. During a year that has not been known for strong theater-going experiences, Cast Away stands near the top of the heap. It has all the hallmarks of a great motion picture: well-developed characters, solid drama, non-traditional adventure, and an intelligent script. At nearly two and one-half hours, it's the perfect length - not too long and not too short. Whether or not Cast Away earns any Oscar nominations, it's among my picks as one of the best films of the year.

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mouse hunt

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 29 November 2011 11:22 (A review of Mousehunt)

United States, 1997
U.S. Release Date: 12/19/97 (wide)
Running Length: 1:35
MPAA Classification: PG (Cartoon violence, mild profanity)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Cast: Nathan Lane, Lee Evans, Christopher Walken, Vicki Lewis, Eric Christmas, Maury Chaykin
Director: Gore Verbinski
Producers: Alan Riche, Tony Ludwig, Bruce Cohen
Screenplay: Adam Rifkin
Cinematography: Phedon Papamichael
Music: Alan Silvestri
U.S. Distributor: Dreamworks SKG

You have to admire Dreamworks' guts for using a mouse in a direct challenge to Disney's family feature dominance (in fact, not only do they use it, but they make jokes about using it). Unfortunately, that's one of the few admirable things about MouseHunt, a clever but surprisingly stale exercise in tedium that's supposed to pass for a slapstick-laden live cartoon. It's easy to see how the film makers thought they had a winning comedy on their hands, but the fatal flaw is in the design and execution, not the premise.

MouseHunt is Home Alone with a rodent in the place of Macaulay Culkin (which, regardless of how you feel about the child actor, is not an improvement). The Smuntz brothers, Ernie (Nathan Lane) and Lars (Lee Evans), inherit two things from their recently- departed father: a rundown string making business and an even more rundown mansion. Much to their surprise, it turns out that both are worth a lot of money. But, although Lars refuses to sell the business (he made a deathbed promise to his father to keep it in the family), both brothers agree to fix up the house, then auction it off. There's one little problem, however: the mansion is infested by a mouse, and it's an extremely smart, devious, and dangerous little animal. When Ernie and Lars can't get rid of the unwanted pest, and a feline named Catzilla is equally unsuccessful, they call in an exterminator (Christopher Walken). He too turns out to be no match for the "Hitler with a tail."

On an intellectual level, I can appreciate the potential amusement value of a story in which a mouse outwits and beats up a group of inept human beings. The problem is, with all of its physical comedy, this movie is going for a more visceral appeal. To that end, it makes a serious mistake. MouseHunt alienates the audience from all of the on-screen characters, and the distance is so great that it's difficult to care about any of the participants, regardless of whether they're four- legged or two-legged. This lack of involvement caused me to lose interest. It's also never clear whether the film makers' sympathies lie with the cute rodent or the Smuntzes. Who, if anyone, are we supposed to be rooting for?

The film's ambivalent approach saps the life out of any humor. Some of the comic bits are inventive, but they're not funny. The film isn't as lifeless as Mr. Magoo, but I still didn't react more positively than with an occasional smile. Seeing people fall through floors and get snapped by mouse traps is only entertaining if it's properly set up. That's why we laugh when Wile E. Coyote endures physical abuse, but not when the same things happen to Nathan Lane.

Live action cartoons are hit-and-miss affairs (witness the differing quality of the aforementioned Home Alone and Mr. Magoo), and this one is more of a "miss" than a "hit". MouseHunt is a slapsticky 95 minutes filled with dull, obligatory comedy that may amuse children but is unlikely to enthrall adults. The special effects used to create the mouse are effective, with the antics of 60 real-life rodents and one animatronic creature seamlessly edited together by first-time feature director Gore Verbinski, who previously made the Budweiser frog commercials. However, in today's marketplace, that's not much of an achievement. Even Christopher Walken, playing a spoof of his usual creepy self, fails to generate much genuine humor. His performance, like the rest of the picture, seems recycled.

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