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IMDb/Saving Private Ryan

Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Directed by Steven Spielberg  ·  Rating: 6 of 10
6 of 10

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Saving Private Ryan DVD

Summary: Tedious, trying hard to be important

It might seem politically incorrect not to give highest praise to such a movie, but I do not really care about political correctness anyway. That's a stupid term; and it serves no purpose. I prefer honesty, but not without politeness. I prefer making your own position clear instead of hiding behind empty phrases which do not reflect the tiniest inch about your own. And it isn't that I wouldn't have liked this movie - it is rather not about liking something or not; it is about how this motion picture constructs itself as something important, something unavoidable. The same problem I had with 'Schindler's List', but then I liked that movie a lot better as it went much deeper into the core of what National Socialism meant. Already with his 'Indiana Jones' movies, Spielberg dealt with the Nazi topic, but then it was done in a rather different way. 'Schindler's List' was perfect the way it was (apart from some historical inconsistencies concerning the part his wife played), and it was very sensitive. So was 'Saving Private Ryan'. So right now I do give praise - what's my problem?

Whom is this movie written for? What is it supposed to tell? To say it bluntly: It is boring, and the music is so sensitive it is barely discernible. The characters themselves are far from interesting, but you keep watching because this is such an important movie. There is this great opening showing the landing of US troops in the Normandy, another great scene is when the Ryan mother is told her sons are dead, and yet another, when the identity tags of the dead are being counted. There is a message about the brutality and the cruelty of war, but how is this message delivered? In the most sensitive way - but whom does this appeal to? Will those who do not object to war and do not recognize its darkness sit through this movie? If this movie constructs itself as important, it has to make an impact - and I don't see how this one could. There is nothing in this movie which hasn't been told countless times before, and most of the time in a better way like in 'Forrest Gump', 'The 13th Warrior' or 'Braveheart'.

September 14th, 1999

IMDb/Scent of a Woman

Scent of a Woman (1992)
Directed by Martin Brest  ·  Rating: 10 of 10
10 of 10

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Scent of a Woman DVD

Summary: Enthralling

Some movies despise acting, others simply contain it - and few of them are entirely made of it. Martin Brest seems to prefer the latter model, as he has demonstrated with films like 'Beverly Hills Cop' and 'Meet Joe Black'. 'Scent of a Woman', however, is the starkest epitome of this - how could one possibly top Pacino's incredible performance?

The story as such is solid but not utterly original, neither is its solution. But that doesn't matter - what matters here is nothing but its execution - making this an unforgettable ride.

You may not like the Lt. Colonel, you may even despise him - and yet, this old, blind, pain-stricken cynical bad-ass is surely one of the most interesting characters in film history - due both to Pacino's performance, the dialog and Brest's direction, making this movie an enthralling and captivating experience.

December 5th, 2000


Scooby-Doo (2002)
Directed by Raja Gosnell  ·  Rating: 4 of 10
4 of 10

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Scooby-Doo DVD

Summary: Unpretentious

I saw this right after 'Windtalkers', and it probably tells a lot if I say that 'Scooby Doo' is the vastly superior film by decades. That doesn't make it a highly artful piece of emotionally aware cinema, but what the heck, it's fun, even witty, does a nice take on Buffy, and has Rowan Atkinson playing the baddie. The film doesn't pretend to be anything but entertainment, and that's what it is. The dog animation is great, the pace is alright, it suffices for a quick laugh and some nice moments, and it seems to stay true to the television show. Nothing too great, but not bad either.

August 6th/26th, 2002


Scream (1997)
Directed by Wes Craven  ·  Rating: 6 of 10
6 of 10

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Scream DVD

Summary: Overestimated, not scary

As with 'Se7en', expectation isn't necessarily helpful. But sometimes, this negative side either is disappointing or just plainly annoying. The latter it is with 'Scream': While it ain't as good as I expected, this still is a good movie. I have some problems with it, but I'll deal with them later. Firstly, this is a brilliant combination of humor and horror, leading into nice absurdities and real suspense. The acting is a reflection of how much fun the actors had - and it must have been a lot. This movie is able to laugh about itself; that's rare and can only be found in a small selection of other movies and shows (amongst them the Buffy and Angel breed, and Farscape). Sincerity is not the final answer - that's a very amiable approach.

But then, there are also some minor problems arising, mainly with the structure of the film. While it contains some really frightening scenes, the overall impression is that of a loose confection of such scenes bound together by some linking elements. This movie is created for effect, not for story, at least that's my impression. A pop version of horror, but that leads to a general lack of suspense throughout the movie, and makes the audience, at least me, less interested in it. The horror is thus being degraded a bit; somehow I was constantly asking myself: So what?

But then, the problem that the audience doesn't know whether to laugh or to be frightened, is also a strength: Sometimes the horror is so absurd, so unimaginable, that it seems nearly impossible that such things should happen. By this, 'Scream' in a way also criticizes a kind of mindless consumption of such fiction which could lead to indifference. The moral aspect though, while being uttered in another way than usual, is coming through: By the influence on the victims. This is, contrary to 'Se7en', an example of how to make a good film, a bit deliberate and calculated for effect, but still something special in a very positive sense.

December 31st, 1998

IMDb/Scream 2

Scream 2 (1997)
Directed by Wes Craven  ·  Rating: 10 of 10
10 of 10

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Scream 2 DVD

Summary: The post-modern slasher

While I thought of its predecessor of being a bit lame and not really frightening, the contrary would be true for this one, which is quite a good example of how to make the sequel surpass the original. This estimate of mine seems to be strange, at least compared against the bulk of user comments at the IMDb. But I don't care, this is my site, my opinion. Personally, I think 'Scream 2' counts among the best horror movies ever made, also among the best movies ever made. So let me give reasons for that.

Most of all, 'Scream 2' is self-reflexive, and it is very ironic. Further more, it is brilliantly made in how it sums up the previous part, playing literally on the word "sequel" itself. And it mades quite a point against the misconception that sequels would suck, naming some great sequels which exceeded their precursors by far (like 'The Godfather Part II', 'Star Trek II', or 'Alien3', while I think 'Aliens' actually was worse than its predecessor). Maybe (or rather, for sure) sequels are made for money. But I don't see a problem in that as long as the result is such a great movie as 'Scream 2'.

Some Hollywood actors seem to like appearing uncredited and unforseen in such pictures - like Bruce Willis in 'Four Rooms', Brad Dourif in 'Urban Legend'; and David Warner in this one. Another bonus in this movie was Sarah Michelle Gellar, of whom I've become quite fond of since seeing her on Buffy - The Vampire Slayer. --- 'Scream 2' is much more a horror film than 'Scream', and the cell phone scene is just great, so is the scene in which Sidney freaks out on stage while rehearsing her role as Cassandra. And as much as I realize that expectation can be a tricky thing, I'm really looking forward to 'Scream 3' this year.

May 21st, 1999

IMDb/Scream 3

Scream 3 (2000)
Directed by Wes Craven  ·  Rating: 4 of 10
4 of 10

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Scream 2 DVD

Summary: Rubbish

All good things must come to an end. Did I say "good"? Then I'm afraid I'm writing about the wrong movie. How did I anticipate this film, how astonished was I about the bad reviews it got, how much did I want this one to be good. But truth to be told, already after some minutes into the movie the sad realization sank in that this would not be a good film. So I bored myself through the rest of it, and while it got a little bit better towards its end, it was pale and simply dull in its entire run, self-clichéd and self-centered, but not self-reflexive, and not an ounce of excitement was in it, except, of course, Lance Henriksen, for the small part he had.

After the certainly mediocre but otherwise enjoyable 'Scream', 'Scream 2', however, having turned out to be a positive surprise, the hopefully-to-be-over-series went even below its initial weak and indulged mainly in a self-pleasing compilation of cameos and cheap kills, not thrills. Some interesting moments, some interesting though soap-operaic revelations, some déjà-vus, coerced into the frame of a dull plot: All of this is not the least poetic, not the least true to its predecessors, not the least suited to the (alleged? self-alleged?) talents involved. A lack of ideas combined with the availability of sufficient budget is a dangerous combination, but that seems to have been the case here. Well, the script was not by Kevin Williamson - which may serve as an explanation.

Maybe I'm spoiled with The X-Files, Twin Peaks or even Buffy, but when I watch something denoted as horror I expect it to be somehow scary and weird, and after 'Scream 2', I expect its sequel to be intelligent. Nada. What a waste...

June 23rd, 2000


Serendipity (2001)
Directed by Peter Chelsom  ·  Rating: 8 of 10
8 of 10

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Serendipity DVD

Summary: Another variation

The romantic comedy has become a certain cliché, it has become a very tiresome concept as such, and were it not for some more interesting variations on a theme too painfully familiar, there'd probably be no reason at all to watch yet another one after having seem a whole bunch of others. 'Serendipity' doesn't pretend to be something more than what it sets out to be, but it succeeds in adding some nice twists of fate, twists of the sort that make the most successful genre pieces what they are. And thankfully, Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack can bring some freshness to a path treaded over and over and over again, making this movie not only bearable but even delightful, it knows what it's doing, and it does it right.

September 26th/28th, 2002


Se7en (1995)
Directed by David Fincher  ·  Rating: 4 of 10
4 of 10

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Se7en DVD

Summary: Ugly, derivative, pointless

Sometimes, expectation is not that helpful at all: It is nice when it is even exceeded, but there is nothing worse than expectations being somewhat betrayed. Such is my experience with this movie: I really expected something big, something worth watching, even worth buying. I nearly had made a purchase, but gladly I chose to wait until it finally aired on tv. Man, I was glad I chose this option: For this movie was a major disappointment. I also thought of not writing a review because I tend to only write it when I have a sort of positive view of the film, but then I thought: What the heck - why not.

Where should I start? Perhaps I'm a bit spoiled by The X-Files, but anyway: This movie has no atmosphere, no suspense. They try to make it X-Filean, but dark and rainy sets are a way too simple approach. There is no character around either to be interesting: No Fox Mulder, no Frank Black. Nadie. Gwyneth Paltrow's acting is virtually non-existent, Morgan Freeman's coldness looks too artificial, even Brad Pitt seems not to enjoy this. The major effect the movie tries to make out of the killings, but the only effect achieved would be a feeling of disgust. There is nothing behind that - it is just a sequence of images designed to shock the audience, but it is much too designed to be that way: Too cold, too detailed, too much. This is not horror, this is pathology of the ugliest kind. Some darkness, some ugliness, well, let's put some obscure pseudo-religious mysticism in here, then it should work. But it doesn't. Too much deliberation, but less thought, went into this movie; too much quarrel, but less emotions. It would be quite a ride were it not for its coming a bit late: If you're used to The X-Files and Millennium, this is just an epigonal film which cannot stand against its competitors.

December 31st, 1998 / August 16th, 2002

IMDb/Shakespeare in Love

Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Directed by John Madden  ·  Rating: 9 of 10
9 of 10

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Shakespeare in Love DVD

Summary: Hollywood's Elizabethan self-reflection

'Shakespeare in Love' is amazing in how it tries, and succeeds, to portray the surroundings of Shakespeare at his time without the otherwise seemingly obligatory plain references to the ugly parts of life during that time. The plague is mentioned; but it is also shown that people also had something of a normal life during their times - and that they had wishes and hopes and needs similar to ours. This is a kind of light-hearted approach; something very necessary these days.

But the movie doesn't lack depth; it is an astonishingly brilliant combination of humorous and tragic elements; astonishingly well played by each and every single actor in it, most of all Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow. Forget the usual image of Shakespeare, that of the old man with the arrogant stare; this movie shows us a Will Shakespeare which is vivid and, most of all, a human being. Irony is a constant tool used within this movie; so is also a very modern topic - a woman in a men's world; a problem both Viola and the Queen share. But with all the humoresque elements around, the visuals and background stories still show that this world was also a world of disease and poverty, of marriages arranged because of money instead of love. The characteres are as vivid and honest as they are within one of Will Shakespeare's plays.

Still there are some minor remarks to it: It isn't really such a striking story; it is much more a very well-made movie consisting of very well arranged scenes. Also the story of Romeo and Juliet existed long before this play was written by Shakespeare (Peter Alexander, ed. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. London: Diamond 1994; 430), but he has made the characters "more human and lifelike in every way than those of his sources" (ibd.). Just as lifelike and human this movie portrays Shakespeare himself. This movie is sort of the making-of of Romeo and Juliet; and it's the best making-of I've ever seen, with a marvellous musical score accompanying it.

March 13th, 1998 / August 16th, 2002

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