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IMDb/Lake Placid

Lake Placid (1999)
Directed by Steve Miner  ·  Rating: 10 of 10
10 of 10

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Summary: A horror comedy

David E. Kelly writing a horror comedy - that's more than promising, and it isn't promising too much. The mere idea of such a mixture is strange and refreshing, and the execution of this idea has led to one of the best, although severely underrated movie experience of its year. Perhaps it was the expectation of a serious horror movie which spoilt the experience for some, but what do you expect when David E. Kelly does the screenplay?

The crocodile, though a combination of modelling and CGI, makes an utmost realistic impression, and it isn't less frightening than any other creature from any other horror movie. The core of the movie, however, are the cast and the hilarious dialog, which is amongst the funniest I have heard in a long time. The score by John Ottman complements the movie perfectly, and in its short length, it exceeds to greatest heights in scares and laughs and absurdity, being even better than expected.

PJK
March 15th, 2000







IMDb/The Legend of Bagger Vance

The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
Directed by Robert Redford  ·  Rating: 10 of 10
10 of 10

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The Legend of Bagger Vance DVD
 

Summary: Golf and Gita

A film about the sport of golf sounds like being anything but exciting. But then, it isn't really about golf, anyway, and, also, golf does seem able to hold some excitement. Yet this film is not about golf, the game of golf being just the pretense, the frame, the example around which this tale of finding one's way is built. Neither is this a sports movie, nor is it the old story of an old champion returning to his game, like 'The Natural'; this film is different. A Battle has to be fought, yet it's not a war, but the game of golf - and more than that, it is the battle over one's soul.

Junuh, or should I say, Arjuna, is taught by his caddy, Bagger Vance, who takes the place of Krishna in this modern-day retelling of the Bhagavad-Gita, the song of God - whose goal is to teach Yoga, transcendence and awareness of God, whose impersonation is Krishna. This is the essence of the film, and without knowing that, it may seem strange at some times, and its story incomplete - but taken this obvious frame of reference into account, everything falls into its place very naturally.

Matt Damon (Junuh) excels, yet again, and Will Smith (Vance) gives a very pleasing and relaxing performance, like we haven't seen it before from him. The kid is great, a hell of an actor. And what delight to see Lane Smith, Charlize Theron and Bruce McGill in this movie, all adding to a great cast, yet one complaint remains: Harve Presnell should have had a bit more screen time.

The photography is absolutely breathtaking, and the love for detail, for history, it really shows and makes this a very special and nicely looking piece, and a great deal of its appeal may be due to its absolute benevolence, and to its being an incarnation of Southern charme and Southern comfort. It treats its characters and locations with the all-encompassing love and understanding which can usually just be found in the work of the Coen Brothers or David Lynch.

Robert Redford has given us a marvellous and beautiful film, which can easily be ranked as the best of its year. It's a very pleasing experience, something special indeed, multi-layered and yet simple in its truths and answers, portraying a game which, indeed, can never be won, only played.

PJK
February 11th/12th, 2001







IMDb/The Limey

The Limey (1999)
Directed by Steven Soderbergh  ·  Rating: 10 of 10
10 of 10

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Summary: Powerful

If there's a Soderbergh picture to recommend, it has to be this one, and maybe also 'Out of Sight'. Yet in 'The Limey', Soderbergh may actually sustain the point that he can be a true artist. Terence Stamp is magnificent in his role, silent and powerful and deadly. The style is inventive, edgy and somehow ruthless, making this something of a hidden piece of greatness. It's not Soderbergh's usually over-hyped Hollywood-adoring extravaganza of big names, big stories and big blahs, there's really something of a substance and some true artistry in it. More of this please, and less having fun with the big actors and overly common storylines.

PJK
August 26th, 2002







IMDb/Little Man Tate

Little Man Tate (1991)
Directed by Jodie Foster  ·  Rating: 6 of 10
6 of 10

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Little Man Tate VHS
 

Summary: Sensitive yet boring

Jodie Foster's directing debut turns out to be very sensitive, very subtle in this story about a child with an extraordinary intellect and abilities. The main theme centers around this little boy Fred Tate (Adam Hann-Byrd) who actually isn't the "little man" he's supposed to be; with his mother Dede (Jodie Foster) and mentor Jane Grierson (Dianne Wiest) fighting against each other about what is best for the boy.

On one hand this is a piece about childhood. We see a little boy and witness him doing things not even the average adult would be able to do. We see him also caring about others, but having no idea about himself. We see him isolated because of his abilities, and we see him on the verge of desperation. He seems to belong nowhere - his mother caring about him and loving him but being unable to fulfill his intellectual needs; his mentor doing the latter but lacking the other.

On the other hand this is also a piece about what intelligence means. Daniel Goleman has coined a very striking term: emotional intelligence (Emotional Intelligence. NY: Bantam 1995) - a term standing both in opposition and addition to the traditional concept of intelligence. Here it is made even clearer by splitting both terms apart and manifesting each of them into two different persons - Dede gets the emotional, Jane the intellectual part of it. Both forces now fight for a little kid, and the outcome of this fight could turn out catastrophic.

The action happens underneath, beyond the obvious level; which gives this movie somehow an intellectual touch, but it doesn't really have a pace. The story flows so subtly that one isn't even sure there is one. The movie tries to make some statements about a very serious topic and applies to it the seriousness of the kid, of Fred Tate. But that almost makes it look stiff, impersonal. Subtlety to the extreme - in the result a bit boring. Maybe that's because I'm a guy and occasionally want to see some action; but don't count on that - I loved Meet Joe Black, which cannot really be said to be an action film. The cinematic aspect of it doesn't reveal any special elements either. The directing is very conventional, the movie turns out as just realizing a story, and doing that as a movie. Don't expect too many extraordinary camera angles, this looks like made-for-tv. Also, Mark Isham's music does everything to support the sublety of it; it's so subtle I didn't really notice it.

Enough criticizing. Apart from those previously mentioned weaknesses, the movie is still telling an interesting story; and the acting is great. Jodie Foster seems to have fun in her very emotional role, and the kid is just brilliant. There is also some humor in the story, mostly situation comedy. The movie makes some interesting statements about education and about childhood; leaving a rather positive impression.

PJK
April 20th, 1999







IMDb/Lola rennt

Lola rennt (1998)
English title: Run Lola Run  ·  Directed by Tom Tykwer  ·  Rating: 8 of 10
8 of 10

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Lola rennt DVD
 

Summary: Outstanding

German cinema was once great in its beginnings, West German cinema had its highlights after the war and in the fifties and sixties, but then it started to decline, in the eighties and nieties it was a catastrophy, German television - with a few exceptions - even worse. This is still the case, it is no wonder American and even British productions can easily enter the German market, they face virtually no competition. Major directors like Roland Emmerich and Wolfgang Petersen have gone to Hollywood, and Wim Wenders has gone transnational. If it weren't for some vary rare incidents, German movies would be a dead industry. Some of these rarities are Loriot's movies, and another, perhaps the major exception from this rule is Tom Tykwer's 'Lola rennt'.

Given these premises, I really started out as a skeptic with this film. But I was disproven very fast - right in the beginning even. The titles sequence is promising, and the rest of the movie is just unbelievable; unbelievable not only as a German production but as a film in general. The pace, the immediacy, the perfect musical background, the acting, the story twists, the outlooks into the future, the cartoon sequences, the philosophical and even religious aspect; there aren't many movies coming even short to this one. Dialog is not the main strength of the film, German not really being a very poetic nor a musical language - Samuel L. Jackson is still unchallenged. But that's not relevant here, that's a personal language preference of mine for which the movie cannot be blamed.

The story is reminiscent of 'Groundhog Day', TNG's 5.18 'Cause and Effect' and the X-Files episode 6x14 'Monday'; but this solution to the problem can surely be said to be the most original one. It is a joyride of a daring 76 minutes, and even the end credits are inventive somehow. From beginning to end, a great cinematic experience.

PJK
March 10th, 2000







IMDb/LOTR 1

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Directed by Peter Jackson  ·  Rating: 5 of 10
5 of 10

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LOTR 1 DVD
 

Summary: A Very Mixed Bag

Maybe I'm not subjective enough to write this review. Maybe my opinion is not well-weighed because I've always refused to read the Tolkien books. Maybe it is even more so outrageous as I haven't hurried to the book store yet to get my copy of the LOTR trilogy and start reading. Maybe I'm not sufficiently into the franchise to be paying the assumedly due respect. Ayhow.

I understand it is not quite justified to criticize the story as it is featured in the film, as the film mainly tries to follow the novels. Still, some remarks seem necessary to me. When Lord of the Rings was written, it was a different time. Horror and Fantasy were still being sincere about themselves. It was not the time of excessive self-reflexivity and over-representation of the genre as such. That time is passed now. Today's fiction of any kind has to face the history of its respective genre(s), everything has been told already, and not only told, it has been retold over and over and over again. You cannot anymore, at least not utterly convincingly, tell any kind of story the plain way without evoking some sense of déjà-vu. That may be the most striking aspect of what is usually left undefined but labeled as being post-modern: Everything happens post something, art itself cannot be without critcism, both are interlinked, the post-modern pastiche is a self-reflexive, self-analyzing, self-conscious, self-depreciating, self-detached, self-denying critter which can only rise to narrative kathartic greatness through walking the thin line between parody and pathos.

The movie, however, tries to be serious about everything it does, about every aspect of the story. That works in part. But a higher degree of self-awareness would be great, especially as the story is rather tedious, rather known even. We've seen monsters already, we've seen gigantomaniacal displays of good versus evil. For a movie to rise up to that, it either has to be more self-conscious or it has to outdo the others: But in both respects, the movie fails. Being conceived as a true recounting of the Tolkien saga, it cannot be self-conscious; yet it also doesn't really outdo the upper league of filmmaking. There's nothing groundbreaking about it, nothing we haven't already seen. This is not to say that the effects would be bad, they are more or less OK, to a certain degree, however, even shockingly bad (e.g. the morphing scene of Galadriel, which is utterly bad and ridiculous; so are some landscape shots). New territory is not charted with this film, there's nothing revolutionary about it, it doesn't open new doors for filmmaking. Extending the role of the female elf doesn't suffice to "update" the film to today's standards.

Another problem, and a much graver one, is the storytelling as such. We get to know a good deal about Bilbo and Gandalf, yet Frodo remains pale and inaccessible to those not partaking in the book franchise. Matters get worse, even catastrophic, once the Fellowship meet in Rivendale: The new cast members aren't properly introduced, their motives remain unclear to a high degree. This destroys the entire testing-the-loyalty game at the end of the film: Those characters have no substance, so why should one care for them? Thus the entire story, starting with Rivendale, becomes boring, dull and irrelevant; there's no sense of adventure, only the notion that we have to go someplace for some higher reason, but at the end, that's just pathetic and not gripping at all.

What it comes down to is that this is some sort of fantasy road movie. A bad one even, though it starts very promising. Up until Rivendale, the film builds up an incredible momentum. The power of the Ring is introduced, Gollum, Sauron, Gandalf, all that works very well. It decays with Gandalf's captivity, with Rivendale, the badly narrated return of Gandalf; and it moves into absolute ridiculousness when the world of the Dwarves is entered. Suddenly, it's monsters everywhere, yet there is no horror, no shock, no emotion. The end of Gandalf the Grey is a ridiculous one as well, the following scenes of emotional outburst strangely disjoint with the rest of the film. Where there should be introspection and meditation about the subject and theme of the film, there is only a drive towards action and cheap effects - flattening the potential of the story, removing the conflict, dumbing it down to an almost Star Wars - like childishness.

The film tries to be epic, but it isn't. Elijah Wood is the most unbelievable cast member, yet he is the lead. That's not due to the actor himself, I believe, not if you've seen him shine in Ang Lee's The Ice Storm. The only actors who make their characters come true are Ian Holm as Bilbo and Ian McKellen as Gandalf. The rest is better forgotten.

The visual aspect is constructed to be captivating, but eventually it becomes tedious and cannot hold up to its agenda. The scenery shots of New Zealand are nice for a picture album, but they function as an ersatz satisfaction, there is no depth. There is something frighteningly pompose and Mussolinian to them, yet the result is a feeling of shallowness once you've realized that those images are not used to complement the story but almost to replace it. Repetition here is a signal of danger, pointing towards a lack of imagination.

The music by Howard Shore may be the only thing truly outstanding in this film, especially if you compare it with his other scores. This appears like completely new territory for him who is rather at home in the realm of quieter and more subtler sounds; yet he shines and delivers. Sadly, his music cannot save a less than average movie; like John Williams' magnificent Star Wars scores, the music is attached to a defunct product. Most annoyingly, there is this awful Enya piece running alongside the end credits; Enya being the worst you could possibly use under any circumstances.

So what remains in the end? Tolkien addicts will praise this one as the best film ever, and they seem to be in the overwhelming majority as it is difficult to read anything critical of this film at all. The Academy Award nominations for this piece are, frankly said, outrageous, with the exception of best original score for Howard Shore. Of course, there's a lot ambition at work in this film, yet it doesn't pay off, there's no substance, just smoke and mirrors and lots of yawns.

PJK
March 9th, 2002







IMDb/LOTR 1

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Directed by Peter Jackson  ·  Rating: 5 of 10
5 of 10

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LOTR 1 DVD
 

Summary: A Very Mixed Bag

PJK
March 9th, 2002







IMDb/Lost Highway

Lost Highway (1997)
Directed by David Lynch  ·  Rating: 10 of 10
10 of 10

  Subseq. Pages - TP/David Lynch 
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Lost Highway VHS
 

Summary: Madness

A David Lynch film is, well, it's a David Lynch film. Apart from that, what can I say? What can I say to clarify the confusion caused by this movie? I've read a lot of attempts at interpreting it, some saying that Fred (Bill Pullman) would transform into Pete (Balthazar Getty) just in his mind, that he would enter a dream world. Sure it is a dream world. But it ain't as simple as that - it is much more complicated. No, it isn't just a dream, it is reality - but it is a dream-like reality. At least that's what I would make of it.

The story itself might be weird, but weird most of all are some characters, is the general feeling of this film, the general atmosphere. The Mystery Man seems to originate directly from the Black Lodge, and some effects are well-known from Twin Peaks, like strange appearances of an electrical blue light, a red curtain, dark corners in the house, the transformation from one man into another (Leland/BOB - Pete/Fred); two identical-looking women, one with black, one with blonde hair (like Maddy Fergusson/Laura Palmer). Robert Loggia gets to play the evil part which he had yearned for already in 'Blue Velvet', and there are a lot of very strange guys in this movie, like Pete's parents also.

I won't try to explain this movie here, I rather want to encourage you to just try experiencing it. I don't think I've understood it completely yet, there still is this opening scene - "Dick Laurent is dead", which is repeated at the end of the movie. This remains a mystery to me, while the movie as such pretty much looks like resembling lots of ideas and elements from Twin Peaks and 'Blue Velvet'. But this isn't just a recycled version of earlier works - it is a brilliant synthesis of image and sound.

PJK
August 25th, 1999





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