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Magnolia (1999)
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson  ·  Rating: 10 of 10
10 of 10

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Magnolia DVD

Summary: Moving and intense

There was the account of the three hanged men. There was the scuba diver. There was the attempted suicide. And then there was the incidental intermingling of the fates of nine people, their relations to each other formerly either hidden or unwanted or unknown, their coming together culminating in the second plague. Exodus 8,2. And every single thing for itself a matter of chance. But in their coming together, in their combination? The profound oddity of chance, in all its ambiguity and suspected connection to fate. Fatum. Not incidental but guided?

Magnolia flowers can stand for chance, for mysterious occurrences, for the mystical and unexplainable. But the deepest mystery within worldly reach is the human mind, the human soul, human actions and motivations. It is not just fate, it is the fate of human beings brought together in this incredible game of chance, united in their pain and joy, misdemeanors and goodness, unison and loneliness. Such a story can be told in the bad way, the ordinary and expected way, but it can also be told in a truly stunning and surprising way. Beginning and end tied together, the long, very long, centerpiece is weaved together by music, transferral of scope and by acting. Usually usual events are given an underlying suspense which is just unbelievable. When round one is over, this grandest exposition, the characters have to change and be led to their new heights. In this there may be some streches, but only in a second viewing. The culmination and the unusual climax, however, reveal the previous lack of celerity as an equally grand anticlimax, the contrast thus created will be the more shocking, the more disturbing - but also the more comforting. Grace under pressure. And what could we possibly forgive?

The acting, as already indicated, is stunning, Tom Cruise outdoing himself, and so also Julianne Moore. Through its three hours, P.T. Anderson's joy- and painride proves to be the peak of the 1999 movie output, overshadowing even 'American Beauty' and 'Eyes Wide Shut', it may even be the film of the decade. Rarely do you get such an odd but perfectly balanced mixture, rarely can a film be so vast and inspiring.

April 30th, 2000

IMDb/Man on the Moon

Man on the Moon (1999)
Directed by Milos Forman  ·  Rating: 10 of 10
10 of 10

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Man on the Moon DVD

Summary: A sick joke

Jim Carrey was great on 'The Truman Show'. But I guess I have to correct that statement. Then, he was just good. But now, with 'Man on the Moon', he is simply outstandingly brilliant, and it is he who should have got that Oscar. What you come to see from him in this tale of madness and practical jokes is just unbelievable and totally unexpected. From beginning (the beginning!) to end, this movie is just plainly unbelievable.

What does it take to be funny - what is a joke - whom is a joke made for, the comedian or the audience, - when does something stop to be funny - how to be able to deliver a serious message when all the time before you had been kidding and fucking with people's minds? This is an amazing biopic, and though I have never actually seen anything from Andrew Kaufman, he has probably come alive with Jim Carrey's performance again. The story is as strange as can be expected from a real-life tale, unpredictable because it is not following certain customs of fiction. And so, a constant flow of surprises and shocks is able to captivate not only the audience of Kaufman's, but of the film as well. The humor shown by this movie is somewhat sick and mean, but also fundamentally human and surprisingly touching at the end. And Danny de Vito plays a carricature of himself as a producer, which is always nice to watch.

The comedian Kaufman manipulates his audience, plays with it like a conductor plays with an orchestra, only that the audience doesn't know what its role is supposed to be. Or perhaps a comparison to a rat lab is more appropriate. Andy succeeds in altering reality herself, questioning the fundamentals of communication and perception by his practical jokes, and he seems to be doing so for quite a sad reason. Once the man behind the monster tries to speak out, it is too late - who would believe him? You don't need 'The Matrix' anymore to question reality. All you need is a man on the moon.

May 25th, 2000

IMDb/The Mask of Zorro

The Mask of Zorro (1998)
Directed by Martin Campbell  ·  Rating: 8 of 10
8 of 10

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The Mask of Zorro DVD

Summary: Great adventure movie

The times of the great action-adventure normally lie in the past, all the epic westerns and historic and monumental movies having ceded their place to successors in the realms of action, science fiction and horror. Only with the 'Indiana Jones' series there seemed to have been a relatively recent version of the classic concept of truly heroic heroes and truly nasty villains, a concept surviving somehow still in the 007 series as well as in sf, but that's about it.

The more astonishing was the quasi-comeback of this old formula, and the more surprising was it with the revival of one of the longest-lasting movie series of all time, the Zorro series, which already had had its ups and downs, but which never really could aspire to greatness. 'The Mask of Zorro' defies the weaknessess of the series and succeeds in bringing the old concept, both that of the action-adventure blockbuster and Zorro himself, to new life. And what a shiny result - witty, funny, tragic, romantic and with a grand scope.

Anthony Hopkins, Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones succeed in providing the film with believable and amiable characters, updating the old with more modern concepts. The heroes may be shiny but have an edge and need to work on themselves, the heroine gets into the action and isn't just a beauty with the task of being a beauty. Martin Campbell has accomplished his task with grandezza, James Horner contributing a great and creative (!) and captivating soundtrack to the whole, brilliant ride that may be stereotypical and include some slapstick humor, but that's the game, the genre it has to fit in.

March 23rd, 2000

IMDb/The Matrix

The Matrix (1999)
Directed by Andy Wachowski & Larry Wachowski  ·  Rating: 10 of 10
10 of 10

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The Matrix DVD

Summary: Mind-blowing

What a ride. And I do not mean, just visually. Already the trailers presented a stunning journey into the depths of reality - but the end result is simply breathtaking. But do not try to take the story literally, that way the point of it, its relevance could be lost. This film is a look at reality from a very different, very disturbing perspective. It is somhow the epitome of all post-structuralist, Buddhist, transcendentalist, science fiction and whatever approach to the unexplained - the deconstruction of reality is done in a both consequent and disturbing way, as it also has been done by Star Trek thoughts about artificial reality, the holodeck. The matrix now is the ultimate holodeck - its players, human brains. The characters are entrapped into this matrix, confined by the limitations reality binds them by - until somebody starts to believe in freedom.

What is real, what is an illusion? You cannot tell - and it becomes irrelevant once you believe in it. When you buy it, it becomes real. But when there is the slightest doubt, you might have a chance to make a difference. Neo, the protagonist of this story, starts out with some doubts, too, and is about to discover the meta-reality behind what he has believed to be true. But while the story itself might be fascinating, intelligent robots controlling the earth, the metaphor itself presents us with an even more stunning sight at reality (see also: The Fabric of Reality Revisited) - but what happens once you've unmasked the illusion? Is the result of deconstruction then an absolute truth, or just a higher level of illusion?

Visually, this movie is something like a revolution. The directors somehow combined the best of two worlds, Hollywood and Hong Kong traditions - the fighting scenes being extraordinary and visually utmost appealing, and I'm not talking of Carrie-Anne Moss here who, as I consider it, is the only weak part in this movie. I didn't like her that much in F/X - The Series in which she played a bad actress. While I wouldn't be so harsh as to apply this judgement onto her directly, her acting stands in a stark contrast to that of Keanu Reeves and Lawrence Fishburne. But that wraps up all not-so pefect parts of this movie as I see it. I highly anticipated this film, and it even exceeded my expectations, unlike 'The Phantom Menace'. A dark, breathtaking voyage to the outer rims of reality.

July 31st / August 17th, 1999

IMDb/Meet Joe Black

Meet Joe Black (1998)
Directed by Martin Brest  ·  Rating: 10 of 10
10 of 10

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Meet Joe Black DVD

Summary: A lesson in decency

I want you to get swept away out there. I want you to levitate. I want you to sing with rapture and dance like a dervish. .. I know it's a cornball thing. But love is passion, obsession, someone you can't live without. I say, fall over heels. Find someone you can love like crazy and who will love you the same way back. How do you find him? Well, you forget your head, and you listen to your heart. .. 'Caus the truth is, .. there's no sense living your live without this. To make the journey and not fall deeply in love, well, you haven't lived a life at all. But you have to try, 'cause if you haven't tried, you haven't lived. ... Stay open. who knows? Lightning could strike.
[time index 8'13" / DVD: chapter 2]

The only flowers I want to see is the ones over my peaceful self resting in the dirt.
Can't do no right by people. Come to take you, you want to stay. Leave you stay, you want to go. Rahtid.
You're not in your right place, Mister. Me neither. No more. Take me and you come with me now.
But I not lonely here. Somebody want me here.
Hmm. It nice it happen to you. Like you come to the island and had a holiday. Sun didn't burn you red-red, just brown. You sleep, and no mosquito beat you. But the truth is, it bound to happen if you stay long enough. So take that nice picture you got in your head home with you, but don't be fooled. We lonely here mostly too. If we lucky, maybe we got some nice pictures to take with us.
You got enough nice pictures?
[time index 120'05" / DVD: chapter 11]

Drew, make no mistake. Should you choose to test my resolve in this matter, you will be looking at an outcome that will have a finality that is beyond your comprehension. And you will not be counting the days or the months or the years, but millenniums in a place with no doors. .. Death and taxes.
[time index 154'40" / DVD: chapter 15]

I'm in love with your daughter, and I'm taking her with me tonight. ..
How perfect for you to take whatever you want because it pleases you. That's not love.
Then what is it?
Some aimless infatuation which, for the moment, you feel like indulging. It's missing everything that matters.
Which is what?
Trust, responsibility, taking the weight for your choices and feelings and spending the rest of your life living up to them, and above all, not hurting the object of your love.
So that's what love is according to William Parrish?
Multiply it by infinity and take it to the depth of forever, and you will still have barely a glimpse of what I'm talking about.
[time index 137'57" / DVD: chapter 13]

A three hour movie - sounds exhausting; a three hour movie without any significant action sequences - sounds boring; a three hour movie without any obvious visual effects - sounds lame. Well, one couldn't possibly be more wrong! I nearly would have made the mistake of not watching this movie, this decision already having formed after a look into the German reviews of the movie. I do not know how, but anyway I had the feeling I had to watch this movie - and I was right.

This movie is a perfect combination of pictures, music, emotions and convincing acting. Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt seem to have inhaled their roles; they become the characters they ought to portray. Their quarrel is of Faustian dimensions, or even greater (for I consider Goethe's 'Faust' as being quite silly to a large extent). Death makes a very strong and spooky entrance, and in the end, there is peace. The fights are being fought in one's lifetime, what comes after that, is a different page in the book. But most significant is the fact that there indeed is something after it, which is also vividly being shown here: What sense would it make then for death to want to take somebody with her (or him, in the case of Joe Black) if not somewhere? Somewhere over the rainbow?

Not a single minute, not a single second I was bored by this movie; although I sensed some signs of fatigue within the rest of the audience during the last half hour or so; but I didn't take a single look at my watch during those hours - as I usually do. This movie has a clear conflict, extraordinary fine acting and an atmosphere that's breathtaking. Within the eyes of the three major characters/actors, the whole story is reflecting; a story including humor as well as tragedy, passion as well as relief. It is a very human story, also a love story, with a very catchy concept behind it. A beautiful picture which I am glad to have been able to collect.

January 27th / June 22nd, 1999

IMDb/Mercury Rising

Mercury Rising (1998)
Directed by Harold Becker  ·  Rating: 8 of 10
8 of 10

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Mercury Rising DVD

Summary: Underestimated

A Bruce Willis movie is often an action movie, and so is 'Mercury Rising'. But it is not just that simple. This is not 'Die Hard', this time there is another dimension to it. As much as there is terror and violence, as much there is quietness and sadness. The small boy, Simon, an autistic child, is the true center of the story. The Bruce Willis character, Art, guards him - which is not an easy task.

Simon is portrayed in a very sensitive way, and the young actor is doing an amazing job, so amazing that it can be chilling. Bruce Willis on the other hand is very much the same as always, and as always he loses some blood throughout the movie. But even he looks different, his character is much more desparate, it is not about terrorists, it is about saving a small boy, a small boy that by all standards is innocent - innocent and helpless.

The story has some irony within: An autistic child that is able to decipher a top-secret and high-tech military code just by looking at it, this is kind of a low-tech solution for a high-tech problem, which is always amazing (Like the solution of Star Trek TNG's 'The Best of Both Worlds'). The plot evolves into some kind of X-Filean conspiracy story with Alac Baldwin playing the villain.

But all that doesn't matter, Simon is the most important element of the film, his sadness and Art's desperation are brilliantly reflected in John Barry's soundtrack. The music combines some thematic elements and motifs from 'Thunderball' and 'Dances With Wolves' but evolves into a depressing and awesome tapestry of emotions, supporting and continuing the mood of the film.

July 12th, 1998

IMDb/Message in a Bottle

Message in a Bottle (1999)
Directed by Luis Mandoki  ·  Rating: 10 of 10
10 of 10

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Message in a Bottle DVD

Summary: Beautiful

Kevin Costner somehow needed some time to return to cinema with a truely good movie; with 'Message in a Bottle' he succeeded. The sensitive direction carries this quiet movie gently forward; Paul Newman and Kevin Costner fitting together perfectly as father and son. There's just one minor detail which doesn't fit in - why set the movie in North Carolina when you're filming in New England?

There's a strange intensity about this film, an atmosphere reminiscent of 'City of Angels', making visible the emotions, the joy and the pain, the loneliness and desperation - and the relief, and sadness. The sea is a great scenery and a great story carrier. And when you see him set sails, you know how it's going to end.

October 30th / November 9th, 1999

IMDb/The Mexican

The Mexican (2001)
Directed by Gore Verbinski  ·  Rating: 8 of 10
8 of 10

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The Mexican DVD

Summary: Fun

Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts and the magnificent James Gandolfini are having a lot of fun in Mexico, while not preventing some artistic and inventive moments from getting into this film. This is a perfect film for what it is, not the most brainy stuff, but what the heck, it's a lot of fun.

August 26th, 2002

IMDb/Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997)
Directed by Clint Eastwood  ·  Rating: 7 of 10
7 of 10

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Midnight... DVD

Summary: Too subtle

This movie might have its interesting aspects; especially regarding acting, atmosphere, the portrayal of Southern customs and society, also the topic as such and the ending. So much for the bright side. Despite these promising aspects, the movie is slow, much too slow, and the conflict evolves too late and somewhat a bit too subtle, altough subtlety isn't such a bad thing at all. It's just that large parts of the film seem to be pointless. While that might underline the mental emptiness of the society it portrays, the effect misses the audience because it is devoid of any indications of why to continue watching the film.

These problems might result from the movie being the adaptation of a novel. Movies that try to follow each and every line of thought contained in a novel usually have a problem - how to fit 300+ pages into approx. two hours? You have to restrict yourself to what's absolutely neccessary. If you do that, you'll for sure be harrassed by fans of the book. But for a filmmaker, the movie should have utmost priority. You cannot translate one medium into another - so don't even attempt it; you have to adapt the story to the different format. This movie seems to work like a novel - indulging in the luxury of a slow buildup, taking extensive time to explore the main characters, - there might be some charm in this, but it is not helping the movie.

Nevertheless, I liked this movie in spite of its problems, of which another one is its title, which carries a lot of promises but someow fails to realize them. But in its subtlety also lies its strength; the more unexpected comes the end. But that's not enough; and without Kevin Spacey and John Cusack, the movie would've been lost.

October 30th / November 9th, 1999

IMDb/A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)
Directed by Michael Hoffmann  ·  Rating: 8 of 10
8 of 10

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A Midsummer Night's Dream DVD

Summary: Shakespeare can be fun

A great cast, a good choice of music and impressive effects - what more do you need? The direction is beautiful and inventive somehow. The only problem is the story - but what am I to say? It's Shakespeare! So what...

The direction is remarkable in that it resembles a sort of extended stage - quite fitting fore a stage drama. I'm not about to criticize Shakespeare here, but the film's problems do not seem to arise from anything else but the plot. When you get over that, I mean, over the relatively one-dimensional characters and the lack of suspense, you can admire the love for detail, the acting and the sense for romance the film has. This movie succeeds not because it's Shakespeare but inspite of that.

October 30th / November 9th, 1999


Mission Impossible II (2000)
Directed by John Woo  ·  Rating: 7 of 10
7 of 10

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Summary: Great visuals, dull story

An action movie is like a ballet. Everything relies on the perfect interplay and interaction of all elements involved, especially these are direction, visual impression and photography, pace, music, effects, suspense and conflict. Less important than in other films are story, dialog and believability, although it would be quite nice for the latter not to be neglected in an action movie. But they are generally less important in such movies because the focus of the work lies strongly on the visuals and the general, action-filled atmosphere. Just as the story of a ballet is not necessarily important, its music and choreography are, just as in an opera music and performance are more important than the - often silly and simplistic - story, atmosphere, emotions, visual extravaganza and spectacle come first. In this, M:I-2 succeeds undoubtedly.

However. This movie especially has been compared to Bond films and found somehow similar. To this I don't agree. A Bond movie, though its story is not so prominent either, is very much a different experience. A Bond film is a spy film. It is about intrigue, about adversaries, about poignant dialog and a brilliant and sometimes subtle humor, about a general tendency to not to take itself too seriously. It is also about style and stylishness, about this stereotypical British gentlemanlike attitude. Bond films are not primarily action movies, they came into being long before the term "action movie" had even been invented. Thus they are different from what today is called an action movie, and both share some properties as well, but then a Bond film is rather a genre of its own. It belongs nowhere. It is a member of an exclusive and secluded club, a world of its own, a world defying all temporal and spatial restrictions. Its direction and visual style may not rise up to what John Woo demonstrated with M:I-2, but in all the other, previously listed aspects, it is vastly superior to the film at hand.

M:I-2 is lacking a lot of things which are hidden behind its overwhelming visual direction. It lacks a true adversary - the one presented is far from being a round character, his motives are weak and impersonal, he is no one you could care about - much different from Goldfinger, Largo, Sanchez or Elektra. Ethan Hunt then is just a pale copy of James Bond, and a copy he is for the original series didn't know an individual agent but only teams of agents. Him operating quasi on his own is rather Bondish. He has no character, no style either, he may have more true feelings for his sudden romantic interest than James Bond has in any of his adventures, but that remains to be seen in the light of a sequel surely to come. The story is not as bad as most critics say, but it isn't that great either. It is neither good nor bad, it is an indifferent piece of nothing, probably due not to the original story by Star Trek veterans Ron Moore and Brannon Braga, probably not to the screenplay either, but to the conflicts between Woo and Cruise. What remains, is a big threat which is too big and too unspecified to be scary, it is too abstract and unfit for the limited scope of an action movie - or maybe it's a Trek story after all and should have rather been dealt with on the philosophical basis it belongs to than on the action level.

Hans Zimmer has given us a great soundtrack, fitting for this movie, but compared to previous works of his, it is somehow pale too. It has not the pace and intensity of 'The Rock', nor the lengthy climactic 'Peacemaker' nor the great contrasts of 'Broken Arrow'. Especially in the light of his more recent and brilliant 'Gladiator' score, M:I-2 suffers from being strangely unbalanced, and somewhat too slow and too little conflict-ridden for an action movie. It fits into the movie, but for isolated listening, the CD seems to be somewhat erratic, totally unlike his other pieces.

The direction John Woo applied to this picture may be breathtaking at times, but I really had to check out 'Face/Off' for a contrast before writing this review. And somehow, 'Face/Off' has all the things this movie doesn't have. Above all, it has an adversary, it has a conflict and the effects are more moderate, still spectacular, but more down to earth. M:I-2 also lacks something like the introduction 'Face/Off' presents, the Cruise-self-performed stunts are nice, but they are too direct. Woo can do better. He has done better. But still, if it were just for his direction and the imagery involved, this movie would have been stellar, but all other aspects taken together, all combined, genius mixed with indifference, cliché and mediocrity, the result is a promising but also very flawed movie. It has been a pleasure to watch, but that's it. A mixed bag.

July 15th, 2000

IMDb/Mission to Mars

Mission to Mars (2000)
Directed by Brian De Palma  ·  Rating: 4 of 10
4 of 10

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Mission to Mars DVD

Summary: Stupid

Gary Sinise. Tim Robbins. Don Cheadle. Ennio Morricone. Brian De Palma. A movie about the first manned mission to Mars. Given these parameters, I doubt I could be accused of bad judgement for expecting some extraordinary movie. In this, I was proven right, just in a way not even slightly suspected, for 'Mission to Mars' is indeed an extraordinary movie: extraordinarily dull and stupid.

But let's start with the few positive aspects. The spaceships look real, so does a lot of the procedural stuff at NASA. De Palma gives us quite some inventive camera work, like in the moments where everything is spinnig around, as does he make use of interesting angles, like when he shows this tiny robot and contrasts it with the rover. The suspense created through the hull breach is incredible. Some of the music is nice. That's it. That's viritually all there is. It is only way down from there.

The music is largely derived from Morricone's other works, and most of the time it just doesn't fit. The acting is lame. The computer generated effects look bad. Babylon 5 looks more realistic than this piece of marvel. A certain scene reminded me strongly of 'Dune' and 'The Mummy'. The ending is not only nonsensical but the worst one could've possibly come up with. But all of that is still barey the tip of the iceberg. The messy part is the scientific accuracy. (For a close scientific analysis of the film, see the Bad Astronomy site to get an expert opinion.)

This film does have a plot, although a very boring and predictable one, badly copied from '2001' etc., only much worse (During a rescue mission, would the first task actually be installing the national flag instead of looking for survivors?). It does have inventive photography, although very little one. It does have nice music, just too few. It does not have any dialog worth mentioning, nor acting, nor visual effects. The end is blown to full pathos, but the consequences of that have not been realized. The superlative of pathos isn't anything sublime but simply pathetic.

May 17th, 2000

IMDb/Mixed Nuts

Mixed Nuts (1994)
Directed by Nora Ephron  ·  Rating: 10 of 10
10 of 10

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Mixed Nuts VHS

Summary: Sick fun

In all its rushing, raving madness, the events of this Christmas Eve bring together the desolate members of a desolate suicide hotline staff with friends and customers, all somehow nuts, mixed together and awaiting a conclusion. The sheer madness and exaggeration are so stark that the absurd becomes plausible, and most of all, fundamentally human.

With a cast of grandest proportions, headed by Steve Martin, the film can safely rely on its characters - which not only found the basis of it but are the very material it is built upon. A character piece, a comedy with a twist of insanity, somehow a more light-hearted version of 'Grand Canyon', but no less intense, no less revealing, no less relevant. On the contrary, through the more humorous approach, it is much easier to relate to it, to eventually derive some sense of hope from it.

This is the perfect Christmas movie, the perfect film for the depressed and lonely, for those who think there'd be no way out - for in its charming and outrageously funny way it confronts the viewer with situations much more hopeless, much stranger than our reality could be, without distorting them too far, showing there indeed is place for hope in the deepest pothole.

February 24th/27th, 2000

IMDb/Monster's Ball

Monster's Ball (2001)
Directed by Marc Foster  ·  Rating: 10 of 10
10 of 10

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Monster's Ball DVD

Summary: Slow and Gentle

Not much happens on the outside in 'Monster's Ball'. It's more a depiction of feelings of unease, uncertainty, guilt and pain illustrated by the plot. It's a slow and gentle piece with great performances by Halle Berry (she definitely deserved that Academy Award) and Billy Bob Thornton.

Especially striking is the lack of over-dramatization. There's a strange mixture between conflict and conflict-avoidance at work, the movie hovers between fulfilling the audience's wishes, and counteracting them. That makes it very odd and strange, and unusual for such a film. The motivations for the characters' actions are unspecified, but they are there, they lie in the emotional outline of their respective fates. Nothing's made too explicit, things happen beneath the surface, and sometimes, crime and punishment don't go together.

August 6th/26th, 2002

IMDb/The Mothman Prophecies

The Mothman Prophecies (2002)
Directed by Mark Pellington  ·  Rating: 10 of 10
10 of 10

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The Mothman Prophecies DVD

Summary: Disturbing

There's a compelling message coming with this film: Horror can actually be disturbing, it can be scary, it can be intelligent, it can be unexplainable and disruptive and unnerving and all those things most epigones aren't able to deliver. This one does. Richard Gere once again proves that he can be a great actor, tomandandy deliver a great and dark score, direction and photography excel and surprise with some freshness in an old genre. You get to feel the insanity, desperation and fear, it becomes vivid, tangible and real - it's horror at its most effective.

August 26th, 2002

IMDb/Moulin Rouge!

Moulin Rouge! (2001)
Directed by Baz Luhrmann  ·  Rating: 10 of 10
10 of 10

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Moulin Rouge! DVD

Summary: Marvelous

Musicals are strange creatures. They don't usually possess the elegance of operas while sharing their silly plot lines, their choreography is flippant mostly, and they often share some annoying commonalities and stereotypes. And still, there can be no question that musicals are haunting today's culture as much as they used to, they even get transplanted into the movies. But how could you possibly produce something like a straight musical nowadays? You can't, not if you'd like to ignore the history of musicals, the over-abundance of forms and stereotypes and musical styles and so on. So why not do a meta-musical. That's what 'Moulin Rouge' is, it's both a musical and a musical about musicals.

Does it work? It's a fine line to walk between quoting and ripping off something, between satire and ridiculousness, between interpretation and cliché. But it does work. It works through a perfectly insane combination of musical styles, through fantastic sets and effects, through a sublime blend of tragedy and humor. And when a brilliant interpretation of Sting's "Roxanne" forms the background of the obligatory climactic collage, it may actually make you shiver. A bold move, and a marvelous movie, and yes, a great musical too.

August 26th, 2002

IMDb/The Mummy

The Mummy (1999)
Directed by Stephen Sommers  ·  Rating: 8 of 10
8 of 10

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The Mummy DVD

Summary: Entertaining and ironic

Somehow I didn't really want to watch this movie, and I didn't go during the opening week but a bit later. When it came into cinemas, I had nothing else to do, really, so I went to see it eventually, awaiting a somehow silly monster flick. So in no way was I prepaired for what awaited me.

The film defied all negative expectations and surprised audiences nearly everywhere, at least so far as I've heard. Unlike 'The Matrix' or 'Episode I' or 'The Blair Witch Project', there was no hype whatsoever preceding it, so the surprise was even greater. This movie is fun, it is effects-loaden, has a terrific soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith and hilarious acting, being sort of a modern 'Indiana Jones' movie. Cinematic entertainment at its very best.

One technical remark: The DVD (Region 1, Widescreen Collector's Ed.) features the complete soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith in a brilliant Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Click on 'Languages', the music will then start after some seconds.

March 23rd, 2000

IMDb/The Mummy Returns

The Mummy Returns (2001)
Directed by Stephen Sommers  ·  Rating: 3 of 10
3 of 10

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The Mummy Returns DVD

Summary: Totally messed up movie desaster

Maybe there is a logical explanation to it. Maybe sequels do suck, and those who work are just positive exceptions from an otherwise merciless rule. Maybe. Maybe, however, movies are independent artistic entities which need to be judged on their own, for their very own artistic work, not in comparison with prequels or sequels or whatever.

In that, 'The Mummy Returns' is an utter failure. There may be some nice aspects, namely the music, some humor, some visuals, but all in all, there's too much which is just wrong with this. The movie seems to draw mainly on stereotypes and recycled plot elements, on action and comparatively poor effects. Why are the effects poor? Because their over-usage makes their artificiality only the more obvious. The formula behind is that of bigger, longer, faster - which rarely works, and which is even worse when it follows in the footsteps of a great film. Yet I didn't want to make any comparison here.

The story is too complex to be followed through entirely, without any reason is there a complexity which is rather appalling than intriguing. Furthermore, the long passages in Egyptian (or, as I presume, mock-Egyptian) remain largely untranslated - which constitutes a problem for two reasons. Such a thing is normally done when a film considers itself an art film, which - with all possible benevolence - cannot really apply in this case, thus it is rather unfitting. Secondly, this adds to the already great confusion about the actual story and motives of the protagonists. Why, for instance, doesn't Imhotep just take his girl and have a nice life? That's what he wanted, that's the only thing he ever wanted. He doesn't have to adhere to the thugs which resurrected him, he could just leave them and be happy. He doesn't, and we don't get to know why. That's bad storytelling - and an insult to the audience's intelligence.

That doesn't mean that there is no fun in this film, that it would be totally worthless. On the contrary. But that doesn't make it pretty good either. And now, finally, let me say, that in comparison with its predecessor, it is a piece of garbage. Sadly.

May 21st, 2001

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