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Classic stuff! Highly recommended!!

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 21 April 2008 11:28 (A review of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre)

"Conscience. What a thing. If you believe you got a conscience it'll pester you to death. But if you don't believe you got one, what could it do t'ya? Makes me sick, all this talking and fussing about nonsense."

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a riveting classic adventure tale that made a huge impression on global cinema. Even though it's over 60 years old the film holds a major influence on the way adventure films have been made to this day.

Many will wonder what makes the film so special. For me it was a great way to spend two hours because it was highly entertaining, fascinating and has a high sense of excitement. Then underneath the surface we have a great underlying message about human nature and the lust for greed.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a tale set in 1920s Mexico. Two poor men named Dobbs (Bogart) and Curtin (Holt) are desperate for a pay check and will do anything to strike wealth. Lucky for them they run into an old codger named Howard (played by director John Huston's dad Walter) who endlessly drones on about mining for gold and knowing the spot where one can find gold worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

And so the three men set out into the mountains for a spot of gold prospering after pooling together their funds to purchase all necessary equipment. During their adventure they encounter bandits and Indians but none of these threaten them as much as something they never anticipated - human nature and greed.

This classic tale is one high adventure film that you won't want to miss. It delivers a sense of true adventure; making the experience exhilarating and a whole heap of fun. But what really makes this one unlike all other adventure films is its subconscious message about how easily mankind can be corrupted and manipulated by the thought of money.

Some of the scenes throughout the movie during which characters quarrel over the gold is spellbinding. Because of the fantastic characters we can easily find ourselves engaged in what's going on for the film's two hour period.

And what was imperative for this to work? It's simple - the extraordinary performances from everyone in the cast. Humphrey Bogart was already an established star and was raking in lots of money. Especially after The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca this man was extremely distinguished amongst the thousands of other actors working at the time. Bogey's portrayal was captivating and brilliant. He got his role perfected in no time. He seemed like a gruff, poor beggar at the beginning of the movie. And by the end we get the sense of what occurred after he got his hands on such a large amount of gold. His lust for wealth got the better of him, and Bogart gets his character across in a stunning way.

Walter Huston, father to director John Huston, finally received an Oscar as the aging gold prospector. Clearly there are little flaws to find in his character. Tim Holt was only known for trashy B-Grade flicks up until he got his big break here. He is always so focused, and so dissimilar to the other two protagonists. With this in mind, each of the three title characters are so divergent.

John Huston both wrote and directed the film himself. He was without question the perfect man for the job. He excelled himself, and I liked this film better than The Maltese Falcon which is also among the screen greats.

Above all this, the cinematography is what sold the film for me. Each location was brilliant and looked completely gorgeous on the big screen. The use of such dense bush and the sense of isolation totally blew me away.

But wait - there's more. Just when you think things couldn't get any better, I also found the invigorating score by Max Steiner to be the perfect way to top it all off. I don't think there are any flaws to be pointed out in this classic production. Quotable lines, great messages about humanity and just all round inspiring filmmaking.

The Treasure of Sierra Madre is a phenomenal achievement and will forever be a movie that stands the test of time. It's groundbreaking, exciting and adventurous. Quite simply if you've never seen this classic cinematic gem then you have no idea what you're missing out on.

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Why can't I give it 0/10?!

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 21 April 2008 11:27 (A review of Adam & Evil)

The filmmakers must have been on some kind of drug to think producing this pile of rubbish was a bright idea. When I heard the title it sounded like a take on the Adam & Eve story which captured my interest. Then when I read the synopsis I was proved wrong, but still found this an interesting premise for a movie. Upon viewing it...I detract everything I previously thought about it.

The film was dull, clichéd, horrible and almost painful to watch. Not much of a plot, really, just a group of teenagers go to a camp-ground, they're warned about murders that occurred there a few months ago (Surprised?), they start partying and then a murderer starts killing all the teens.

Now, back up, anyone think this sounds like Friday The 13th 200: Jason Gets A Makeover or something? God, the cinematography was hopeless and the acting was pathetic.

Each actor sounded contrived and appalling; breathing absolutely nothing into an already lifeless script. Needless to say the script was one of the worst piles of rubbish to get the green light in a very long time.

I appreciate the fact that it's probably meant to be B-grade and shoddy...but this is just plain inexcusable not to mention highly demoralising. Lots of unnecessary violence, profanity and filthy dialogue are all that make up the script. And none of the lines sounded natural at all, especially when the actors spewed all their lines out on camera in such an artificial way.

It must take a director really devoid of any talent to get involved with this crap. I can't waste anymore of my time warning you, but if you must watch this film I suggest you watch it with a heap of mates while accompanied by nibblies, pizza and fizzy drinks as you will enjoy ripping it off. Adam & Evil is nothing more than a film to watch plainly for the prospect of having a good laugh at how dreadful it is.

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Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 21 April 2008 11:25 (A review of Aeon Flux)

"I had a family once, I had a life. Now all I have is a mission."

Aeon Flux is really quite dreadful; nothing more than a no-brainer sci-fi live-action flick based on the animated TV series.

First of all, the style and atmosphere are terribly artificial. There's far too much CGI and digitally expanded sets that detract highly from the overall film value. As a result of this heavy reliance on CGI we can't get engaged in the film at all. The characters are all horribly conceived but executed worse. The actors are all terribly wooden not to mention lifeless and unexciting. And for the final nail in the coffin, the film is so awfully predictable beyond belief!

Aeon Flux is a sci-fi film set 400 years into the future subsequent to 99% of the world's population being wiped out by a virus. The only survivors live in a society with a corrupt government. A group of rebels called 'The Monicans' attempt to overthrow the government and put an end to this corruption of the highest level that has gone on too long. Then when one of their soldiers named Aeon Flux (Theron) is sent to assassinate the chairmen named Trevor Goodchild (Csokas) she discovers a whole new mystery.

The only thing that holds this rubbish together would be the action scenes that are tame but mildly entertaining. There are guns aplenty as well as many characters that do nothing more than showcase their acrobatic skills in front of the camera.

Charlize Theron is an actress I usually admire, but unfortunately here she's emotionless, dull, lifeless and just plain terrible. It would take a long time to mention all the members of the cast I was disappointed with, but I think it goes without saying that even the extras couldn't bring anything good to the table. The direction was very empty, and the atmosphere filled with CGI only made it increasingly hollow. The music didn't add anything more to the movie.

Aeon Flux had the potential to be the decade's The Fifth Element but unfortunately it screwed up every opportunity it had. There is no wonder that it took me so long to finally finish watching this film. It's even more two dimensional than the cartoon! And hence, I kept getting increasingly embarrassed to watch the movie and it continued watching it another day. Boy, I wish I never decided to give this film a shot. My advice, and I suggest you take it: Avoid!

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Classic in every sense of the word.

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 21 April 2008 11:22 (A review of The African Queen)

"Well I ain't sorry for you no more, ya crazy, psalm-singing, skinny old maid!"

By this time in his career, John Huston was already established as a capable filmmaker who had previously helmed such classics as The Maltese Falcon and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. And of course, Huston could only call one man to fill the title role: Humphrey Bogart. The African Queen is deservedly an incredible classic that rightfully sits amongst the greatest films of all time. Films like these can still be thoroughly enjoyed even during the time of modern cinema.

Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn make a magnificent screen couple in this dazzling, exciting adventure film set during World War I. Bogart is Charlie Allnut; an aging alcoholic who lives in the forests of Africa and owns a boat called The African Queen. As Charlie arrives at a small African village he discovers that the Germans had attacked recently; capturing many of the Africans that resided there. Charlie agrees to take a woman missionary named Rose (Hepburn) under his wing to ensure her survival for the duration of the war. Although the two have their bitter differences, they travel in The African Queen downstream with hope of sinking a German ship that would assist the allies in winning the war. Predictably, the two fall in love during their unique river adventure.

The African Queen was widely acclaimed by both critics and audiences upon release, and is still a much loved classic to this very day. It's a shame that many moviegoers overlook this movie due to its age because quite frankly this film is superior to a lot of rubbish produced by Hollywood in this day and age. Humphrey Bogart delivers another critically acclaimed performance as the aging sea captain. This is most certainly a change on his usual character; instead of being charismatic and charming, Bogart is an alcoholic with a short temper and doesn't care much for his surroundings. Katherine Hepburn was a remarkable companion for Bogey in this one. Because she is so sophisticated and a real lady, it was quite hilarious at times because Bogey's character is the complete opposite.

John Huston's directing is superb as always. He is able to utilise such gorgeous locations to make the viewer really feel in the centre of the dense jungle. The atmosphere is very genuine and very colourful. On top of all this, some great visuals are accompanied by a pleasant score. The script was exceptionally written and contains some very naturalistic dialogue.

The African Queen scores as a highly enjoyable adventure film that was filmed beautifully on location in Africa. Highly recommended!

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Unforgettable classic.

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 21 April 2008 11:21 (A review of Stand by Me)

"I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?"

Stand by Me is a timeless screen gem based on a Stephen King novella called 'The Body'. The film marks one of the best Stephen King translations to the big screen; this poignant, touching classic is quite simply a masterpiece.

Stand by Me is a film that follows three young boys about to enter their teen years; Gordie (Wheaton), Chris (Phoenix), Teddy (Feldman) and Vern (O'Connell). The plot is quite simple; Vern is underneath his house digging furiously for his pennies when he overhears a conversation regarding the final resting place of a missing boy who is presumed dead. The boy was hit by a train but has not been found by authorities. The four young boys decide that they want to be heroes and head off on a journey to find the corpse. They figure that if they report the location of the body to the authorities they'll get their 15 minutes of fame in the local newspapers. With this goal in mind they set out on a journey to the location of the body. This journey is filled with bonding and arguing that you'd come to expect from 12-year-old boys.

Not only is this a tender narrative but also a coming-of-age tale of young boys ascending into manhood. The film's story is told in flashback to narration by Richard Dreyfuss. The opening introduces us to Dreyfuss' character, which is followed by the aforementioned flashbacks that accurately display pre-pubescent males of the 1950s.

Dreyfuss' character amusingly uses a complex vocabulary while the title characters on screen speak so immaturely; cheaply throwing insults at each other and each other's mothers.

The problem with most child actors is that they usually fail to engage the audiences during complex situations. Stand by Me contains performances prominently by a group of boys between the ages of 11 and 12. Understandably, I was reluctant about this idea at first. Maybe it was Reiner's skilled directing, or maybe it was the acting talent of the four principal children; either way I found the acting to be stellar. I was astounded at the brilliant results achieved by the young actors. There's also a very recognisable Kiefer Sutherland who pops up as a typical teenager bully. Because I had seen so much of Sutherland's recent work I was shocked at how youthful he looks.

Thankfully the whole cast were given a remarkable script to feast on. The dialogue is realistic, as are the members of the cast. Some scenes called for sublime acting, especially when the boys were meant to be in tears. The young cast pull it off with wonderful results.

Stand by Me can't be missed because of how moving, touching and emotive the whole experience is. Stand by Me is a simple story but contains a powerful message about the ascension in adulthood. Memorable, riveting and brilliant. I can't believe it took me so long to finally watch this one. Funniest moment: the gross (but amusing) story about a young fat boy getting revenge on his enemies by initiating a barf-fest in a tent during a pie-eating contest.

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A masterpiece of action cinema

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 21 April 2008 09:09 (A review of Rambo)

"You know what you are. What you're made of. War is in your blood. Don't fight it. You didn't kill for your country. You killed for yourself. God's never gonna make that go away. When you're pushed, killing's as easy as breathing."

John Rambo has always gotten a bad rap, as he's perpetually misconstrued by both the supporting characters in his films as well as the cynical movie-goers of the outside world who dismiss him as a joke. This is, of course, because the iconic action hero is best remembered as a cartoonish, buff instrument of American vengeance from 1985's Rambo: First Blood Part II and 1988's Rambo III. Due to this, people have forgotten that the first outing of John Rambo, 1982's First Blood, was an action-drama dealing with America's post-Vietnam disillusionment and one man's failed fight to reincorporate himself into society. For 2008's Rambo (a.k.a. Rambo IV), Sylvester Stallone (who co-wrote and directed in addition to starring) returned the character to his roots; emulating the tone and emotion of First Blood in order to craft a gritty, poignant war picture that doesn't skimp on the action. What's truly daring about Rambo - and what a lot of critics have missed - was Stallone's decision to resurrect the ironic warrior to lament his soul rather than celebrate his strength.

The story, expectedly, is simple and direct. Twenty years have passed since John Rambo (Stallone) saved Colonel Trautman from Russian forces in Afghanistan, and he now lives the life of a recluse in Thailand desperate to evade his personal demons. As the film opens, a group of Christian missionaries approach Rambo seeking passage into the heart of Burma, as they wish to bring medical supplies and prayer books to the war-town country. Rambo reluctantly accepts the offer, but is wary of the dangerous terrain. Days after, Rambo learns that the missionaries were captured by the Burmese military. Choosing to assume his psychologically tattered soldier mentality and launch into battle once again, Rambo joins a group of mercenaries as they head into Burma on a rescue mission.

Stallone chose to preface Rambo with authentic documentary footage depicting the actual situation in Burma, which has endured what is described as the longest-running civil war in history. This horrific footage effectively places the story in a real-world context - it's made clear that the atrocities taking place in Burma are real, rather than part of the screenwriter's imagination. In this sense, Stallone and co-writer Art Monterastelli utilised Burma as a framework within which they constructed a typical action movie. Yet, within the simplistic framework there are layers of complexity that may be easily missed. For instance, the Burmese soldiers appear to be the epitome of one-dimensional evil since they slaughter villagers and enjoy gang-raping women. However, the documentary footage prefacing the film reveals that thousands of these soldiers are kidnapped boys who are forced into the army and dehumanised into soulless killing machines.

Ultra high body counts have become a staple of the series, and Rambo does not disappoint in this sense. The levels of gore push the R-rating to the very brink, yet the unremitting violence is not as joyously self-indulgent as previous Rambo adventures. See, there's more to Rambo than just carnage. The film builds with a palpable intensity, and the first half depicts Rambo reluctantly working his way back to his former self to confront the life he tried to leave behind. Through depicting the Burma atrocities in explicit detail, the film additionally offers a social commentary and manages to shed light on the realities of life in the country (the film has done more for Burma awareness than the UN). Thus, this entry to the series is more about authenticity and gritty realism, mirroring the tone of First Blood. Rambo is not perfect, of course - it's largely generic (at times painfully so), the dialogue is risible on occasion, and the tonal shifts can be problematic - but the positives outweigh the negatives.

Yet, all of this is probably looking too deeply into what is a taut, expertly crafted shoot-'em-up of pure awesomeness. You attend Rambo movies to watch the titular badass laying waste to hundreds of bad guys, and this fourth instalment offers exactly that. In prior Rambo sequels, Rambo was dropped in some hellhole to rescue a bunch of people before he breaks them out, kills the bad guys and escapes. Rambo '08 stays true to the formula, except - as previously stated - there's a lot more grit. Stallone is never shirtless at any point, and the cheesy music was replaced with Brian Tyler's harrowing, exceptional score. Rambo even works as a member of a team, as opposed to taking down hundreds of soldiers single-handedly. Up until Rambo, Sly had never directed an action film, but his excellent handling of the material here belies his inexperience. Sly may have utilised a shaky-cam approach, yet the style benefits the picture and is at no point distracting. And my word, the picture delivers in terms of action - the final battle is a celluloid tribute to the blood-soaked mayhem of the '80s. For all the criticisms Rambo endured, the violence is deserved: it characterises the villains, and provides the audience with a sweet sense of vengeance.

Sylvester Stallone is cold as ice in his performance as Rambo, and he brought to the role a sense of menace that has been lacking in previous entries. John Rambo is truly scary here; he's a powder keg waiting to explode, and he certainly does explode once the action shifts to the camp where the missionaries are held captive. It's not an Oscar-worthy performance, but it is more nuanced than most will admit. Julie Benz is also effective as a Christian missionary named Sarah. While Rambo jumps through hoops for Sarah, she is not a love interest. Sarah is Rambo's prime motivation for battling the Burmese army, but it's because she profoundly touched his soul. In the supporting cast there's also Matthew Marsden and Graham McTavish, both of whom are standouts as mercenaries. There are others in the cast, but suffice it to say every actor hit their mark.

Infused with a poignant social commentary to provide sufficient context for the action, Rambo exists to call attention to the atrocities in Burma in addition to providing a fitting end for John J. Rambo. In First Blood, Rambo's breakdown in the film's final minutes left us with the sense that he wanted to discover who he is and put the past behind him. This theme was never brought full circle in the following two sequels, but Rambo '08 does exactly that: providing the ending that fans have yearned for since the commencement of the franchise. One could argue I've read too much into Rambo, but I believe critics are not reading enough. It would be a shame for a viewer's preconceptions to overwhelm Stallone's achievements, which goes for both the cynical critics looking to be critical as well as the action fans seeking a fix. There is a beating heart at the core of Rambo, whether you wish to notice it or not.

Interesting to note, Sylvester Stallone's director's cut of Rambo is the superior edit. It fleshes out the characters more effectively, and the film as a whole feels more cohesive and complete. For my full analysis of the extended cut, see [Link removed - login to see]">[Link removed - login to see]


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Epitome of Burton's filmmaking!

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 21 April 2008 09:06 (A review of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)

"There was a barber and his wife...and she was beautiful..."

Tim Burton is unquestionably one of my favourite directors, if not my absolute favourite director. It's a fact that no matter what the film or the subject matter, I will view a film helmed by Tim Burton (at the time of writing this review, I have seen all of Burton's work and own all his films). The partnership of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp will forever be a movie occasion to treasure, be it Ed Wood or Edward Scissorhands among an enormous number of others. It was the end of 2006 when Dreamworks fast-tracked Burton's latest collaboration with Johnny Depp...and I initially discovered Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The plan was to transform the lucrative Broadway musical into the world of live action cinema. The best part is that Burton promised a full-on musical to maintain a sense of fidelity to Steven Sondheim's brilliant Broadway production. Before the announcement of Burton's cinematic version of the musical, I hadn't possessed any prior knowledge of the source material. I had no idea what the film was about until my interest suddenly flared and research followed.

If you're familiar with the Broadway musical, you'll be aware of the dark humour and gothic style that is such a prominent feature. Sweeney Todd is a story intended for Tim Burton. The director possesses a distinctive superiority when it comes to the macabre and gothic tones. With the completion of creepy period films such as the wondrous Sleepy Hollow, director Burton demonstrated a special ability to deliver dark humour and elegant visuals. Burton is a director who can bring flawed and unusual characters to life. He is the master of darkness and has adapted a penchant for tossing a little blood around his sets in an exaggerated, albeit entertaining manner. Since the beginning of his career, stunning gothic visuals and extravagant production design has been his forte. Sweeney Todd is a film regarding a central character who is a sorrowful, vengeful and formerly caring individual. This character finds redemption for crimes against him and his family by slashing the throats of the innocents of London while hoping to one day slash the throat of the man who stole his wife and daughter from him. What better plot and central character could possibly be better suited for Tim Burton to bring to life?

2007 was a year that beared the release of several great films, but the year also saw its fair share of bad films (in my opinion, there were more bad films than good films throughout the year). Tim Burton's cinematic vision of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a masterpiece of epic proportions, and ultimately ended up being the best film of 2007 without question or debate. After mentioning so much about Burton's brilliant work, I must admit I was a little worried because Burton's last movie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was disappointing to say the least. With this film, however, Burton patches up the scars. Like I previously mentioned, I didn't know much about the source material before walking into the cinema and had no idea that this film was going to be so good. Within the first few seconds of the titles commencing, I was completely enthralled in Burton's universe.

The film is so poetic, stylish, beautiful and so incredibly emotional at times as well. Every shot has been conceived beautifully, and every line delivered remarkably. This is a musical of course, so naturally the songs being interesting is a vitality. All the songs are utterly stunning and are crafted beautifully. Combine the witty lyrics of Steven Sondheim with the musical stylings of a successful Hollywood composer...suddenly things are looking interesting. The songs are both memorable and remarkable. I purchased the soundtrack CD immediately and now it's my default channel.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is the story of a man named Benjamin Barker (Depp) who once had everything; a wife, a child and a successful career as a barber. For Barker, life could not be better. But a false conviction of a crime he did not commit destroys his happiness and his life, causing him to suffer through a massive, heart-breaking emotional trauma. Upon Barker's London homecoming by boat 15 years later to right the wrongs against him, he comes home to nothing. His family has been ripped apart. He forms an unlikely partnership with Mrs. Lovett (Carter), a creepy old woman who owns a pie shop. Benjamin Barker, who now goes by the name of Sweeney Todd, wants revenge on crooked Judge Turpin (Rickman) who convicted him out of sheer jealously. Sweeney re-opens a barber shop on Fleet Street, with the intention of getting sweet revenge on Turpin if he comes in for a shave. Sweeney uses his sharp silver blades to slash the throats of the innocent London public that come in for a shave, before destroying the evidence of his crimes by allowing the troubled Mrs. Lovett to cook the human corpses into her pies.

From start to finish, I was completely hooked. I literally couldn't tear my eyes away from the screen. Its combination of a superb cast, excellent music, exquisite production design and gorgeous cinematography creates a flawless movie. I remember goose-bumps literally covering my body as soon as the music commenced at the start of the opening credits...the outstanding organ music that successfully creates the desired atmosphere and tone for what is about to come.

Burton's unique colour scheme depicts the grimy streets of London with extremely drained colour that predominantly makes use of grey a black among other dark colours. The sky is always dark, with never a ray of bright sunshine poking through. This is the depressing, gothic mood that the director aimed to achieve. During the flashbacks that depict the events of the past, the colour scheme has been changed to show an array of bright colours as the sun lights the cheery streets. This symbolises Barker's emotions, so to speak. When Barker is happy with his life the colours are bright and joyous. Then when he returns to London and the life he once lived has been destroyed...his depression is reflected in the gloomy visuals.

Johnny Depp, playing the demon barber, is absolutely remarkable. Before this film Depp had never displayed his singing abilities on film. Before he was an actor he played guitar in a band with never an attempt to handle any vocals. If it weren't for his close friend Tim Burton asking him to consider a singing role, he would have gone through his whole career without singing a note. Thankfully, Depp's former career in the music industry allowed him to sing a brilliant tune. Before the film's release, Depp singing was a big question mark. As the film was not marketed as a musical from the previews, we were therefore never given the opportunity to witness the actor handling a song. When I first viewed the film in the cinema (on opening day) I sat in complete awe at the beauty of Johnny Depp's breathtaking singing. The actor was recognised with a Golden Globe win and an Oscar nomination for Best Actor (I still believe he wholly deserved to win). Helena Bonham Carter was the only member of the cast I was reluctant about, but my fears were soon alleviated by her stunning acting skills. She is able to carry on a brilliant duet with co-star Depp. Her singing is amazing. Alan Rickman is brilliant here, as are the rest of the supporting cast. This includes Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen (whose singing is quite incredible), Jamie Campbell Bower, Laura Michelle Kelly, Jayne Wisener and Ed Sanders. Every member of the cast can sing to perfection.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a brilliant mix of dark humour, horror, romance, drama and tragedy. The ending is very sad, but very poetic at the same time. As the credits start to roll (with every screening I watch) I am a complete mess. Usually tears are escaping my eyes...I'm left speechless and stunned. The film is very violent, and when the exaggerated bloodshed begins it is very relentless and there is no stopping it. With Burton's direction the violence is very stylish and extraordinarily beautiful. Of course Burton's direction is the icing on the cake here. The man is a visionary and a wizard of filmmaking. His films are simply close to unbeatable. I am not a fan of the musical genre (interestingly enough, neither is Burton); however a musical of this superiority is a rare event. With each new screening I am always captivated.

Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a modern masterpiece. It's an acquired taste and will not be liked by all of course, so you're welcome to disagree. Every aspect of the filmmaking is absolutely stunning. Without argument or question, this is the best movie of 2007. Since first watching this film, I cannot prevent myself from indulging in repeated screenings. To date, this is Burton's finest hour. Winner of 2 Golden Globes including Best Picture (Comedy or Musical) and Best Actor (for Johnny Depp).

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Classic Charlie Chaplin. Very funny!!!

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 21 April 2008 08:50 (A review of Modern Times)

Modern Times is classic Charlie Chaplin slapstick comedy, and a timeless experience. The film marks one of Chaplin's most potent movies that still has bucket loads of relevance to typical contemporary audiences.

In one of his final silent movies (more or less), Chaplin plays a worker at a local factory who struggles to live in an industrial society. In a nutshell, the film essentially examines the dehumanisation process of modern industries. In a time when people's lives hinge on getting a steady job and an income, Chaplin's character is still endlessly searching for work with the help of a young homeless woman who is on the run.

The whole movie is a collection of hilarious gags strung together with not much of a plot, which is the film's biggest downfall, but its entertainment value is what matters most during a silent movie. Like most of Chaplin's silent movies, the film is frequently hilarious.

As the title character, Chaplin is able to insert a plethora of side-splitting sight gags that never lose steam. I will admit that the opening gags were better quality than the succeeding gags, but I was still laughing from start to finish.

And Chaplin doesn't utter a word until the very end with his very amusing (and immensely random) dance number while he sings pure gibberish. For the most part, the film is silent. But there are minor instances when dialogue is used, but it is only used for voices coming from mechanical devices. This is another symbol of the film's theme of modern technology and its importance to the typical society at the time.

Modern Times is a highly hilarious slapstick comedy, but this is only what it seems on the surface. Below the surface; a sleuth of groundbreaking, amazing themes and motifs that seem to become more relevant as humanity becomes ever more reliable on technology. And the film also parallels the American dream in the way that Chaplin and his love interest (played by Paulette Goddard) fantasise about living in a beautiful home with the husband raking in cash while the wife stays at home all day to cook and clean.

I found the 1930s slapstick gags somewhat predictable at times, but I was always laughing incredibly hard. However, not all audiences will find Chaplin's antics as funny as some others do. In my opinion the comedy is classic and exquisite, and some of the slapstick stunts in the movie are highly intriguing (who could forget that classic image of Chaplin roller-blading blindfolded in a department store) not to mention just plainly uproarious.

The music used throughout the movie is extraordinary (essential to any silent movie is pertinent music to accompany the almost complete silence on screen). For a scene that includes some of Chaplin's hilarious dancing or otherwise, I found the music to suit the mood extremely well.

While viewing the movie I was completely amazed about the outstanding restoration job. I could not imagine the film being as entertaining if the transfer wasn't on par. Of course it's no-where near the quality of a film made recently, but for a film over 70 years old it's mind-blowing.

Modern Times is a comedy that has been regarded as one of the funniest movies of all time. Although not entirely accurate, the film has symbolic meaning under the surface as the filmmakers point out the ills of society. Running at a brisk 83 minutes, the film delivers its message quickly and doesn't overstay its welcome. For the reason of such contemporary significance, the film is groundbreaking and is a fabulous tale to watch even after the time of silent pictures has long passed.

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Great fantasy flick!

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 21 April 2008 08:48 (A review of The Spiderwick Chronicles)

"Vengeance or death!... Hopefully vengeance."

In tradition with usual children's fantasy features like Bridge to Terabithia or The Golden Compass, I found The Spiderwick Chronicles to be a whole lot better than I originally thought it would be.

Usually with this genre there's a bunch of stupendous plot points and a clichéd story, but this film was somewhat different. I will admit that the sub-plot concerning the divorce of parents was extremely clichéd, but it will never be a drawback on an otherwise highly entertaining fantasy film.

Based on the series of books of the same name, The Spiderwick Chronicles is the story of a family who move to the run-down old Spiderwick Estate. The family consists of twin brothers (Jared and Simon; both played by Highmore), their sister Mallory (Bolger) and their mother Helen (Parker). Jared finds within the house a book written by his late great uncle (Strathairn). The book is a field guide full of detailed information about creatures like goblins, ogres and fairies that inhabit the forest outside the estate. But reading this book awakens said creatures including a horde of goblins lead by the vicious Mulgarath (Nolte). They aim to recover the book, but by doing so it will doom mankind.

It's impressive to comprehend the fact that Freddie Highmore plays two characters in the one movie. But face it - Highmore is mildly cute but his acting skills need work. He's wooden for most of the time and his lines sound so contrived. Some may excuse this because he's merely a child actor, but this was the main obstacle in the film being anything more than a good fantasy for the kids.

The CGI is impressive, but quite underwhelming. Most fantasy films don't appear to care much for steering away from CGI, and it hurts the film quite severely. Most of the creatures look so cartoonish and horribly artificial. I don't think there were any scenes that I actually found the creatures to look real. Again, we can overlook this because it's aimed at the little ones. But honestly, some filmmaking that mirrors Jim Henson's work could have done some good. (that is, puppets and marionettes) I guess today's younger audiences do not warm up to the old school effects common in 80's fantasy films.

The script was pretty good. Some of the dialogue needed work, the ended seemed unbelievably rushed and there were a number of plot holes...but in all honesty the film is at least entertaining. It moves at a brisk pace and contains loads of creative ideas.

Overall, Hollywood's recent obsession with these fantasy movies (adapted from books) has produced some turkeys and some successes. In my opinion, The Spiderwick Chronicles is one of the better fantasy movies to hit our screens for a while. It's not brilliant by any stretch of the imagination, but it's guaranteed to keep its target audience entertained. Just be aware of a number of frightening scenes that will make the kids grab the hand of an adult in fear. But rest assured, it is a good family movie if the kids are in the age range of about 4-10. Females of any age should enjoy it, but adolescent males will probably detest it.

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Effective Aussie croc movie. Recommended

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 21 April 2008 08:46 (A review of Black Water)

"Three Cheeky monkeys, sitting in a tree,. Teasing Mr Crocodile. "You can't catch me". Along comes Mr Crocodile, quiet as can be and SNAP..."

Before starting this review I will be completely honest; the standard for crocodile movies keeps lowering with each passing year.

Black Water was a film I'd heard a few things about; mainly concerning the fact of using real crocodiles as opposed to taking the usual CGI route. From the sounds of things, I thought that it would take years for the eventual release and the product wouldn't be too great.

2007 was the year for crocodile movies. The year first welcomed Primeval; a Hollywood crocodile movie that was terrible in every way.

But the director of Wolf Creek, Greg McLean, had been given the green light to make a crocodile movie with a number of big name producers behind him. Rogue became the only decent crocodile movie that had ever been released. And for the creators of Black Water the odds must have looked hideous when they heard what they were up against.

But truth be told, Black Water is an effective, terrifying horror film that can easily add itself to the list of decent crocodile movies. This film is the crocodile version of Open Water; playing on our fears and emotions while in a perilous situation.

As the film opens we are introduced to three characters; Grace (Glenn), Lee (Dermody) and Adam (Rodoreda). They are taking a vacation together in Northern Australia. But when they head out for a fishing trip their lives are changed forever. The film is then a tale of survival while the characters find themselves stranded in the isolated mangroves and swamps while a hungry crocodile lurks beneath the gloomy waters.

Black Water is more of a psychological thriller that takes the route of "less is more". This isn't some sleazy horror fest where the crocodile is visible whenever there's a suspense scene. Instead the filmmakers chose to utilise shots of the croc scarcely; instead showing us ripples in the water that might suggest the croc is about to strike.

The film is filled with tension and some pretty suspenseful horror scenes. It's not bucket loads of blood and all out action - the filmmakers instead rely on the fear of not knowing where the crocodile is. There's still strong violence during the attacks; but the focus wasn't primarily on the gore.

I will admit that the acting was sometimes below average. The actors were not big names, but small time folks who haven't had much experience. Some of the scenes of drama had some terrible acting for sure. But into the second half I could definitely feel some talent shining through; the characters genuinely seem petrified of the situation. And the use of real crocodiles is a fantastic move. The croc never looks fake, and hence we can never laugh at one of the attacks.

The camera work was beautiful. There are many stylish cinematical techniques during the horror scenes. However some obscure shots of the water make it obvious that the croc is about to strike. In some circumstances it comes as no shock when the hungry reptile reveals himself from the depths.

The script was mediocre. Because of the genre we're going to get some stupidity; it's to be expected. The dialogue is sometimes laughably cheesy as well. The character development is kept to a minimum; instead developing the protagonists as a whole so it's even more devastating when someone is attacked or killed.

For a small time low-budget Aussie crocodile feature, Black Water completes its objective. The film is intense and skillfully crafted; and ended up being a lot better than I thought it would be. It's interesting that the Americans have forever tried to make an effective croc film but kept failing terribly. The Aussies try twice in the one year and strike gold. Worth seeing for aficionados of the genre.

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