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Superman II (1980)
The difference between this film and Superman: The Movie is astonishing. This film goes wrong on so many levels it's amazing that anybody associated with it is still working.
Superman 2 finds a far more introspective Superman. He questions whether he really wants the burden of being Superman, or whether he wants a domestic life where he can fall in love, have a family, and live for himself and his immediate significant other. This isn't a new theme (most of Superman is a Christ allegory anyhow), but has the potential to be tackled well here. Problem is, it isn't.
*SPOILERS* Superman is forced to choose between whether or not he wants his powers. He is told this by the spirit of his dead mother, who informs him that once he makes the choice, he cannot go back. He makes the choice, decides he doesn't like it, and goes back to being a superhero. It's stupid, and ruins the emotional resonance of his choice. *END SPOILERS*
The film had two directors, and the aforementioned thematic problem is not the only symptom of that change. The story appears to have been constructed by someone that knew what they were doing, but that then made the mistake of handing it off to a brain-damaged monkey to write the script.
The dialog is atrocious. In fact, you could mold a college class on how NOT to write dialog based on this film alone. When Superman saves a woman and her baby from a falling steeple (don't ask), the woman calmly turns to Superman, waves and says "thaaank youuuu." The villains have an annoying tendency to explain everything that is going on on screen, sort of like sports announcers. The primary motivation for General Zod is to get the earth to submit to him. We know this because he yells "KNEEL BEFORE ME!" approximately three dozen times throughout the movie. Though it would make for a great drinking game, it does not qualify as great writing.
The movie might be interesting otherwise if it weren't for the lousy acting, choppy pacing, stupid plotting, and cheap special effects. Now, you might be saying "How can you make fun of special effects from 1980 - 25 years ago," to which I reply "watch the movie." Non (the dumb villain) has the ability to shoot beams from his eyes. Okay, Superman has that, too. But Non's laser beams are better because they originate from the same place on the screen while Non bobs his head.
The film can be looked at as campy. It is clearly horrible, but there is not a hint of irony from anyone on the screen. They all play it straight. And in fact, it is so bad, that it almost overshadows the great performances by Gene Hackman and Christopher Reeve. Hackman, in a nearly throw-away performance by Lex Luthor, is so good in every frame that it's a shame that they weren't able to make the movie about him. Reeve plays the character of Superman quite well, though he's not the scene stealer that Hackman is. Margot Kidder is basically reduced to watching Superman, but she does good work with what she's given.
It's a shame that it had to be camp. It's fun for what it is, but because of what it could have been it's tragic to watch. If you're a fan of Superman and haven't seen any of the films, watch the first one and skip 2 - 4. They're not worth your time.
Good, but flawed
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire may be the most truncated 2hr, 45 minute movie ever made. To say that the pace is brisk may well be an understatement. It moves with the ferocity of a tornado, catching you up in its excitement then tossing you to the ground wishing you had better warning. This is purely a movie for fans that have read the book - while others will probably enjoy it, they will probably get lost because of a lack of proper explanations of everything.
That's not to say that it's a bad movie, either. While I was watching the movie I was enjoying every minute of it. I was caught up in the joy of the Harry Potter experience, yet keenly aware that this could have been more with just a few minor changes.
You've probably already read plot details and dissertations on the fidelity of the movie to the experiences of a hormonally-charged adolescent. I'll skip that. As far as a summary of my opinions on parts of the movie: The acting was fair-to-good, cinematography was great, but the writing was bad. There were many top-notch performances in limited screen time from Maggie Smith (Prof. McGonagall), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort), Miranda Richardson (Rita Skeeter), and Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid). Harry, Hermione, and Ron hold their own, but are not given great dialog to work with, and I think they tend to overact a touch - nothing to pull anyone out of the movie, but I've seen better from all of them. The source material was quite good (best of the series, IMHO), but the adaptation was lacking at several points. The dialog was average and served little more than to move the story along, which was disappointing, considering that the look of the movie was so great. It's mostly seeped in neutral tones to lend an ominous feel to the film, and thankfully, the special effects are finally used as a supplementary device, rather than the showpiece; you feel like the creators are exploring the world rather than building it, and it helps to more thoroughly envelop the viewer in the story.
This movie needed about a half-hour more of padding. Those that have not read the book will have to work very hard to pick up every little clue and detail about what's going on in order to put together this labyrinthine plot. The Tri-Wizards tournament, a legendary sporting event with mystical significance was explained by a short speech by Dumbledore, a speech that was jam-packed with expository information that, unless the viewer was ready to absorb, could easily be missed and not digested.
Everything in this movie just sort of happens without regard for previous events or future events - this is called a pacing problem. The Tri-Wizards tournament features three events, but all three events are scenes with almost no build, nothing to give them the weight they could have had. There's no sense of the Tri-Wizards tournament having any impact on the participants' lives, which is ironic seeing that the Goblet of Fire is first and foremost about the events surrounding that tournament. Each trial comes suddenly, gets fifteen minutes of screen time, then disappears. The characters go about their business for another while and then all of the sudden the next trial happens, with little warning. I was so stunned by the appearance of the third trial that as the band played and the participants entered the stadium, I doubted whether or not the scene to come was about the tournament. Like I said, there was no build to lend gravitas to the final scene, almost like going on a roller coaster where you're immediately dropped 100 feet and then coast the rest of the way. The climax comes too quickly, which is stunning considering the running time.
The other issue that I had, a more minor one, is that everything in this film happens with minimal regard for the outside world. This is a shame because one of the charms of the book was about how much it fleshed out the Wizarding universe that Harry lived in. I know the movie should be treated on its own terms, but some of these events, detailed in the book, are left hanging. How did this guy escape from Azkaban? What happened to the reporter? Who exactly are these other kids that show up at Hogwarts? Why is the guy that played Krum such a bad actor? In the end, I give the movie a 7, because, as I say, I throughly enjoyed watching it and will probably see it again. This is due more to the source material than it is to the adaptation, though; unlike Prisoner of Azkaban, this movie doesn't really stand on its own, but is more of a visual representation of certain scenes from the book. It's extremely entertaining, but maddening because of how great it COULD have been.
Malibu's Most Wanted (2003)
First off... this movie is NOT real, NOT true to life. This is NOT what it is like for a white rapper, it is NOT hard-core or an insight into an undiscovered culture. What it IS, however, is ridiculous. The actors look like they are doing their best to act and failing on a Biblical level. Every time Jamie Kennedy offered up a "For-rizzle," my friend had a stroke and/or heart attack. The direction was shoddy and the script (specifically the dialog) was terrible.
That's not to mention how downright racist this movie is. Yes, society is racist, but this movie is not attacking or pointing it out, it is simply laughing along with people at goofy white folks (perhaps saying "laughing" is giving the movie too much credit). Plus, it implies that black people are all gangsters. Send that message to your kids.
The movie had potential. It could have been an examination of the racial issues pervasive in our society. However, Kennedy and his crew made every effort to mainstream it, deciding instead to insult our collective intelligence and dumbing it down so that we wouldn't have to think about the problems we face.
I could accept a mainstream movie - if it was funny. This movie was not. When people are cringing instead of laughing, you know that you don't have a great film.
Citizen Kane (1941)
There is no greatest movie
Much of the dismissal of the quality of Citizen Kane comes about because of several factors:
1) There is a disconnect between what critics expect of a movie and what general audiences expect of a movie. To say that CK is entertaining is simply an opinion - no more, no less. Our opinions on films can be researched and refined or raw and personal. To claim that one is better than the other is arrogance, but we do it because of some sort of instinctual belief that "everybody should think the way I do." This is not the case, however, and there is going to be backlash when Kane isn't the movie that people expect. It is not entertaining in the traditional sense. It's hard to get attached to the characters unless you really want to, and the story (the life of a media titan) isn't something that naturally appeals to everyone. It's a movie you have to work at liking.
2) CK is astoundingly technically accomplished and years ahead of its time. When you compare it to the standard movies of the day, you can see how much film instinct Welles had and how revolutionary the film was. However, most people today don't have an expert grasp of the intricacies of making movies, and most don't care about things like lighting, blocking, and camera placement. Most people go for story and characters and see movies as passive entertainment. They don't want to focus on extraneous things like short/long shots. And they shouldn't be chided for wanting a movie to be simple to understand - most people watch movies as entertainment, not as a hobby, and breadth of film knowledge shouldn't be a requrement for doing so.
3) CK is defended extraordinarily heavy by often-arrogant film-buffs who imply that the only people that should judge a movie's quality are the people that study the movies. This is a dangerous and stupid position. IMDB is set up so that EVERYONE gets an opportunity to share their opinions. I'm not a big fan of Godfather (boooring) but I understand that my opinion is only one of millions and therefore not all that important. Film geeks want their opinion to matter more, but the truth is that it really doesn't. This bothers them, because they've spent so much time loving movies only to watch their vote get cancelled out by a 12-year-old that rates the Princess Diaries as a 10. Guess what? That movie was made for 12-year-olds, and CK was made for people who like to watch movies that are mental exercises.
4) The dangerous title of "Greatest Movie Ever Made." Movie-watching is too personal to ever apply that title to anything. Yes, we can all agree that certain movies are better than others, and the majority can be expected to make an opinion on how people in general view a certain movie. But to call a movie "The Greatest Movie Ever Made" is implying that everyone should feel that way. Everyone will not feel that way.
So a good many people hate Citizen Kane. That's their right. Film-going shouldn't require an initiation and entrance exam. IMDb is the sum of popular opinions, and CK-lovers just aren't going to get everyone to love such an dense, complex film. Some people don't look for that in movies, and they are no more wrong than you are for wanting it.
Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985)
A man that never grew up brings out the kid inside us all.
Reading over the many enthusiastic comments on this board, I was surprised to see only a handful of the posters make mention of the true genius of this film. Many seem to consider it a guilty pleasure, or "stupid humor". But it's much more than that, and the key to understanding and enjoying Pee Wee's Big Adventure is to realize that his world is simply the adult world seen through the eyes of a child.
The most wonderful thing in the world when you are a kid is your bike. It is the first thing that a young boy really treasures, as it represents freedom and the possibility of adventure. A child learns to love his bike (or at least kids used to before video games - I think that's why the bicycle in the movie has such a retro feel), and truly believes that it is the best bike in the whole world.
But Pee Wee's bike is no ordinary bike, of course, because he is an adult and adults (according to kids) should have much cooler bikes. And so Pee Wee, who never really joined the adult world, has the most decked-out bike in the world. And we, as an audience of children, connected with Pee Wee, because that was the kind of bike that we would have when we were grown up.
And yet the bike is not the only part of this film that reflects how children think adults should live. Pee Wee has a house full of cool toys - a fireman's pole to get from his room to the rest of his house (didn't we all want that?), a kitchen with a massive machine that actually cooks your breakfast for you (designed the way we would have designed it when we were kids), and a secret storage compartment on the side of his home that housed his wonderful bike. Pee Wee didn't work, he didn't spend money, and if he only wanted to eat two bites of his Bacon & Eggs & Pancakes & Mr. T cereal breakfast... he could. Because he had no parents and was therefore free of those stupid rules that your parents always seemed to place upon you.
Even Pee Wee's friends are reflections of our childhood pals. He is sorta-friends with snot-nosed Frances, even though the two do not like each other - and who amongst you never had a friend like that? Frances seems rich, even though his father dresses like he is actually a painter - but didn't it always seem like your friends had more money than you and could get whatever they wanted, regardless of reality? Pee Wee's best friend, Dotty, is clearly interested in him, but Pee Wee looks at her as if she has cooties - as all girls do until you enter puberty.
And this is just the beginning of the film. The loss of Pee Wee's bike sets off a sequence of events in which we get to see the world through the eyes of this child, with the innocence and insanity that the illogical mind of a child provides. Pee Wee tries to hitchhike (that thumb!), and gets a ride with a convict that wasn't really that bad. He tries to drive and runs off the road and over a cliff. In one of the most famous comedy scenes of all time, he meets what we learn is the ghost of Large Marge. He rides in a rodeo (and does really well). He runs into a gang of bikers, but they're really not that bad. He visits the set of Warner Brothers, gets to be in a movie, and finds his beloved bike, the greatest bike in the world. And he made friends with everyone along the way, except the 8-foot tall bully.
In its own way, his bike becomes Pee Wee's gateway to adventure, the way that we all hoped our own bikes would. No other movie has more accurately dipped into the minds of our own childhood the way Pee Wee's Big Adventure has, and for that reason it stands as a true classic.
The Stupids (1996)
I enjoyed watching this movie. Should I apologize for that? No, I don't believe I should. I find Tom Arnold funny. I like watching dumb people do stupid things; it makes me feel better about myself. I actually burst out laughing during several parts of this movie. The car-bomb was the best.
However, I realize that not everyone will like this movie. Most people, in fact, will hate it. So let me sum up what is wrong with this movie.
First off, there is the terrible acting. God-awful. Oh-the-pain, where-did-they-find-that-kid acting. Tom Arnold is not a particularly good actor - he did well in True Lies because Cameron is a good director that understands timing - but Tom Arnold doesn't have much facial expression variety, and he spends most of the movie wearing that same stupid grin plastered on the cover of the video. The kids weren't much better, but I fault the director for that one (I'll get to the direction in a minute).
Secondly, the "clever" script. Now, the first time I watched this, I thought it was clever, too. But after re-watching, I realized that if your characters are incredibly stupid, you can throw motivation out the window. I can imagine the writers - "how can we justify them putting the garbage out every week even though it gets stolen" "Oh, that's easy, they're STUPID!" This movie is full of that. Unbelievably bad choices only made because the characters have no integrity. A movie like this writes itself, because you are freed from the bonds of actual cleverness; characters that do anything allow you to do whatever you want and not have to worry about whether it makes sense. Trust me, if you watch this, you'll see what I mean. The Stupids never do anything that makes sense, which is why it's funny. But an intelligent script, it is not.
Lastly, there is the slipshod direction. This movie is very theatrical. Deep theater roots. Its comedy is awkward, obvious, and drawn out, just like theater comedy. There is no subtlety whatsoever. If you want the movie to be funny, it will be funny. But if you are suspicious, it is certainly not going to win your heart.
And that, in the end, is the problem with the movie; if you don't want to like it, you won't, because it is too easy to dislike. Only see it if you are truly interested and believe that it can be good, because its charm and uniqueness are its good qualities. This is not a movie that disappoints - it is a movie that sits right where you expect it to lie on the quality scale. If you believe it can be good, it will reward you. But if you see it and don't like it, it really is because you didn't want to enjoy it, for whatever reason.
Where's the magic?
I walked out of this film unfulfilled. At the time I could not understand why. I understood the plot and marveled along with everyone else at the animation. However, I left the theater feeling disappointed. It didn't hit me the way most good films had, and it took me a couple of days to realize exactly what went wrong; there was no magic. Now, when I say that, I don't mean fireball and lightning bolt kinds of magic. After all, in a video game series that has so little continuity from one title to the next, how can one expect this movie to follow anything from those games? When I say magic I mean chemistry and warmth between the characters. It was absent. I felt nothing. To me it was a very distant and unmoving film. And that's tragic, because it does represent a landmark in filmmaking. To dismiss computer animation as inferior to live action is to not give the spirit of technological advancement its due. I have no doubt in my mind that someday we will not be able to tell the difference between computer-generated people and real people without serious evaluation. (The Coen Brothers will surely claim that a live action film they made is computer generated before their careers come to an end.) But in order to reach those places, we will have to endure the test runs. Final Fantasy is not unwatchable. I didn't squirm in my chair counting the minutes until it was done. However, this film, in the end, will be remembered only for its place in history, not for the actual quality of the story or any interest in its characters.
It cannot be a good thing when a spoof film is scarier than the film it is intending to lampoon. I watched this movie, sadly, and I think I may go to hell for it. Let's put it this way; it is the worst movie being shown on Comedy Central. That is saying a LOT. Without actually watching the movie, it may impossible to fully comprehend how bad this film is. I would normally give examples of a film's lack of quality, for posterity's sake, but my brain is doing my best to try and forget the drivel it just witnessed. So I guess I'll have to fall back on an analogy. I enjoyed Mafia! and Wrongfully Accused. Those films put this one to shame. If that doesn't give you an idea of how dreadfully unfunny Repossessed is, either you haven't seen Mafia! and Wrongfully Accused, or you are retarded. Either way, stay away from this film. To sum up... bad film. Don't watch.
Nanook of the North (1922)
historically significant, yet flawed
As a documentary turning point, Nanook of the North is undoubtedly one of if not the most significant work of the twentieth century. The story of Nanook and his family became the center of attention of the national media and virtually altered the perceptions the world had of film for documentary purposes. Flaherty may be to the documentary world what J.R.R. Tolkien is to the fantasy world. He is the giant of the genre. For its time, Nanook of the North was a masterpiece. Simple and profound, the story of Nanook was unique, and henceforth the foundation upon which the great documentarians of the 20th century created their works. However, through hindsight, the film falters. Most noticeable is the fact that Flaherty composed each of these sequences ahead of time and purposefully altered Nanook's life in order to make it seem harsher. In what is one of the most famous scenes, Nanook laughs at a phonograph and bites into a record as if he does not understand it. However, it was discovered later that not only had Nanook seen phonographs before, but he was a regular visitor to the trading post, owned a snowmobile and a rifle, and had probably seen a record player before. This fact puts into question the strength of this work as a documentary. Flaherty defended himself, claiming that some things need to be altered in order for the message to be seen. However, this is what we in the film world call "fiction". Plenty of fiction is based upon fact, but when you call something a documentary, it is held up to a different standard, one that Flaherty's work, although, good, fails to achieve.
First of all, for those of you that for some reason deny this as a horror movie, you are fools. It is a drama, yes. However, a movie doesn't have to have beginning-to-end violence to be considered a horror movie.
Secondly, there is a lot of complaining about this movie being boring. Those are probably the same people that liked Armageddon, and there is no way that those people can possibly be pleased.
If you haven't seen this movie, go out and rent it right now. It is that good. It don't believe I have ever cared so much about the characters and story. (Spoiler ahead) When Carrie receives the award at the dance and is standing under the bucket of lamb's blood, I noticed that my heart was actually beating faster. I am sometimes disappointed with my distance from movies - I didn't think Blair Witch Project was scary - but I my heart was actually pounding, a personal first.
I thought the most powerful and telling scene is when Carrie gets locked in the closet for the first time, after telling her mother about her first period. When she was on her knees crying because she didn't understand her period and her cold, heartless mother stood over her denouncing her, I thought that was as great an instance of acting and character development as any other in movie history.
Stephen King should be credited for his wonderful story. I personally think that King is overrated as a writer, (The superior quality of a few of his works are nullified by the large body of crap that he pens) but he wins with this one, and Brian De Palma, well, what can you say? His visual style (reminiscent of Hitchock, yes, but is Hitchcock the only one that can ever use certain filming techniques?) is elegant and suspenseful, and I am sure that very few, if any, others could have made a movie this good. (Kubrick comes to mind.)
In short, do what you can to own this movie.