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JxSxPx

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I'm Jason. I'm a film, literary and pop culture enthusiast. Got a soft spot and deep love for animation, comics and nerdy things that go in tandem with them.

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Recent reviews

All reviews - Movies (529) - TV Shows (54) - Books (3) - Music (118)

Snow White: A Tale of Terror

Posted : 2 weeks, 5 days ago on 5 October 2014 05:40 (A review of Snow White: A Tale of Terror)

Despite the subtitle being A Tale of Terror, this version of Snow White is no more authentic to the Grimm’s fairy tale than the Disney version. Substituting musical escapades and cutesy sidekicks for muddled psychology and vague terror, Snow White: A Tale of Terror is a showcase for Sigourney Weaver’s great talents and nothing more.

The film begins with the birth of Snow White, here named Lilli Hoffman (Monica Keena), and the death of her mother. Normal enough, but A Tale of Terror has her mother dying in a carriage accident and her father (Sam Neill) cutting her out of the womb. It’s a needlessly shocking and violent opening, and like so much of the rest of the film a more interesting as an idea than in execution. We flash forward several years and find Lilli’s father has remarried the glamorous Lady Claudia (Sigourney Weaver). After nine years of marriage, Claudia becomes pregnant, Lilli a bratty teen, and their relationship fragments into darkness and jealousy after Claudia gives birth to a stillborn son.

The rest of the film follows the basics of the fairy tale. There’s a flight into the woods, the mistaken belief of her death, getting refuge from seven outcasts, the poisoned apple and glass coffin. However, none of the diversions are of much interest or explored in great detail. This version rejects the idea of the seven lonely men being dwarves, instead casting them as damaged men returned home from the Crusades. Except the main one is Gil Bellows at the height of his attractiveness with a poorly done scar to try and distract from his attractiveness, which it doesn’t. This idea of them being wounded soldiers from the Crusades also doesn’t gain much traction, nor does the vague mentions of class warfare and Christianity versus paganism. Although it is a campy delight to watch Weaver hang Neill upside down on a cross.

At the very least, A Tale of Terror has Weaver in the lead role. And aside from the handsome sets, strong makeup, and lovely costumes, she’s the only reason to watch this mess. She’s operating and performing at a higher level than everyone else, relishing in the campy theatrics. While Neill is wasted in his role, Kennar and Bellows are eye-catching but bland, Weaver manages to create an entirely realized character. Watching her take a piece of broken glass and threaten to kill Kennar is like watching All About Eve envisioned as a penny dreadful horror story. It’s in this isolated moments that the film becomes interesting, and when the camera decides to just sit back and lovingly watch Weaver act like a psychotic diva then it’s really cooking. Much like it’s titular heroine, Snow White: A Tale of Terror is pretty to gaze upon and nothing else.

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Masterpiece Theater: Great Expectations

Posted : 2 weeks, 5 days ago on 5 October 2014 05:39 (A review of Great Expectations)

It seems unfair to compare films based on a book to a mini-series based on the same book, or vice versa. Inevitably, there is always one version that is the most beloved and deemed the definitive filmed version of the novel. Any version of Great Expectations is doomed to try to bloom in the shadow of David Lean’s 1946 classic.

This version, which aired in the US on Masterpiece Theater, from 2011 is one that deserves more respect and a fair shake. Sure it suffers from similar problems as other adaptations of Dickens’ novel – bland leads for Pip and Estella being the main cause of concern – but it does take some interesting chances in parts.

On a technical level, this version of Great Expectations lays waste to many competitors. The production and costume design from the tiniest details to the exquisite close-ups are well thought out. Much attention has been paid to make it look real. These are dirty and dusty interiors, rooms and houses that have been lived in for generations that contain secrets. And the costumes are just gorgeous to behold. Miss Havisham’s wedding dress and crony make-up have never been so subtlety progressed before. Normally she arrives as a Grand Guignol madam, and here she is a strangely sympathetic broken woman using a young child to right her personal wrongs and launch a proxy vendetta.

And for covering so much expansive ground in so brief a time, three episodes that clock in at an hour each, the plot moves along relatively smoothly. The various characters and story strands merge and tear only to be mended as best they can. I wanted to spend a longer amount of time in this world, despite as well-known as it has become, because of the impressive technical aspects and the attention paid to the letter of the text. While I have never been a great fan of Dickens’ wandering prosaic style, I do appreciate that this series tried valiantly to keep as much of the immense scope intact as possible.

Yet it’s such a shame that we’re stuck with the pretty but bland Douglas Booth as Pip. I never believed in him as the naïve love struck son of a blacksmith. He’s far too delicately beautiful, with large brown eyes and soft pillowy lips that make him look a better fit for a model than a tortured young lover who must pick the pieces of his shattered dreams back up and move on. And Vanessa Kirby didn’t make much of an impression on me as Estella, a crucial bit of casting. I never felt the tortured, complicated fiery emotions within her, but she’s never bad, just decent enough. However, other casting choices are top notch. Ray Winstone as Magwitch is terrifically rugged and brusque. Harry Lloyd is an endearing and entertaining Herbert Pocket, and I wonder what would happen is Booth and Lloyd had switched parts? But I was most impressed with Gillian Anderson’s Havisham, a controversial choice on my part. Much of the critical response is split on whether or not she was a great fit for the part, arguing that she was too old or too sedate. But I found her to age appropriate for the role given that Havisham is described as being closer to middle-age than an elderly woman. And I found her sedate, disturbingly calm way to talking to be an effective mask for the bitter hurt and madness lurking underneath, things which she slowly lets slip out over time.

While I don’t think that David Lean’s film version has any reason to worry about this one taking its top spot, this version of Great Expectations is still damn fine in its own way. A solidly constructed period piece that closely adapts a classic novel with high production values and a (mostly) solid cast, what’s not to like?

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Buffalo Girls

Posted : 2 weeks, 6 days ago on 3 October 2014 09:28 (A review of Buffalo Girls)

With prestige borrowed over from the combination of novelist Larry McMurtry, producer Suzanne de Passe, and star Anjelica Huston, Buffalo Girls perhaps had too much baggage to ever truly be great. But it could have turned out better than this middling effort.

Buffalo Girls tells the sprawling story of Calamity Jane, a highly fictionalized account that seems more concerned with crafting whimsy and sentimentality than being authentic to these people. It also tries to slam together as many figures from the closing era as possible without bothering to develop any of them much. You get quick appearances from Wild Bill Hickok (Sam Elliott), Buffalo Bill (Peter Coyote), Sitting Bull (Russell Means), Annie Oakley (Reba McEntire), General Custer (John Diehl) played by a series of variously distracting guest stars.

But the main thrust of the story involves Jane writing down her life story for the daughter she had with Hickok and gave up. Speaking to us through narration as though we were the daughter, Buffalo Girls spends most of its time developing the friendship between Jane and saloon owner Dora DuFran (Melanie Griffith). If you arched your eyebrow and wondered if there was any kind of Sapphic undertones to their relationship, you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. But like so much involved in this mini-series, that particular element goes woefully under-explored. Jane’s gender performance also goes under-explored – we rarely see her done-up in feminine styles of the time, preferring to express herself in as masculine a way as possible.

Also damning Buffalo Girls to being merely serviceable is that the entire thing feels inauthentic to these characters. The world feels too pristine, the characters feel like outlandish figures instead of fully-realized people, dialog can be awkward at times, and a strong streak of sentimentality permeates throughout. I wouldn’t doubt that Calamity Jane would have really had moments of wistful longing for the old days and friends who died, and a touch of sentimentality when earned has never bothered me. Buffalo Girls though gets swept away by the sentimentality and artifice, losing the characters along the way.

Yet throughout there is Anjelica Huston trying valiantly to make magic happen, and she nearly succeeds on sheer effort alone. She gives her Calamity Jane a grit and fiery edge, crafting a woman who presents herself in as masculine a way as possible in order to even be seen as their equal. Melanie Griffith’s saloon owner is a hit-and-miss affair, like practically all of Griffith’s work. Sometimes she’s effective and other times too distractingly surgically made-over to make her character look authentic and winsome in her emotions. Jack Palance, Tracey Walter, Liev Schreiber, and the various parade of guest stars are under-utilized. While the various one-or-two scene cameos from Annie Oakley and General Custer are attempts at a wider canvas, they’re more distracting than anything. Never bothering to craft real people when blown-up cartoon versions of the characters will do, at least they cast them successfully to type while their scenes sometimes swing too wide instead of hitting it home.

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Extant

Posted : 4 weeks, 1 day ago on 24 September 2014 08:50 (A review of Extant)

Extant borrows liberally from various sources -- Artificial Intelligence, Rosemary’s Baby to name just two – and tosses them together into a puree. The show is entertaining, solidly crafting, but does suffer from a sense of bloat during the middle run of episodes. At only thirteen, I would think that they would have been able to maintain the suspense and moral inquiries much easier with a smaller set of episodes.

There’s actually a lot of juggling that any episode of Extant is trying to keep in the air at any given moment. In-between the main premise of Molly (Halle Berry) returning to Earth from a 13-month solo space mission pregnant, there’s also her husband’s career in android and robotic machinery results in the creation of the world’s most advanced android child, government conspiracies and corruption, and a late in the game terrorist. That last addition wasn’t particularly well thought out or executed, appearing for only a handful of episodes before being wrapped up unsatisfactorily.

For much of the first half of the show, Molly is an unreliable narrator. Much of what she does and sees doesn’t make any logical sense, and no one else can see what she does. But her paranoia and hallucinations are eventually proven to be accurate reactions to the phenomena around her. Berry is clearly game for everything the show can throw at her, and it’s nice, refreshing even, to see her actively engaged with material. She’s never been a consistent actress, but when she’s on-point she can be quite effective, and she’s very effective in Extant.

The other major players are Goran Visnjic as Molly’s husband and Pierce Gagnon as the robotic son. Visnjic is very pretty to look at, but limited as an actor. And many of his scenes detailing how Ethan’s programming is capable of making him like a “real boy” feel borrowed over from better franchises, and any worries about an android uprising are a foreign concept to him. Apparently he’s never read or watched any sci-fi in the last 50 years. Visnjic cannot overcome the weaknesses of his character and make something better from the material. Gagnon, on the other hand, should join the creepy kid annuls based on his ability to keep his face emotionless while providing ominous inflections in his voice. It’s a pity that the darkness surrounding his character is never fully explored or allowed to shine, and he winds up feeling more like a plot device in the end than a realized portrait of artificial intelligence gaining humanity.

Yet Extant does manage to ready itself for a satisfying conclusion to the major story-lines, even if certain characters that seemed to be bigger deals are revealed to have faintly ridiculous backgrounds and disappear entirely from the series (Hiroyuki Sanada’s Yasumoto being the primary focus of this). The show wraps up the major plot points, while leaving the faintest possibility for a second season. I feel like Extant is the kind of story that cannot sustain itself over several years, and having a fairly artistically successful 13 episode run is what’s best for all involved.

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Green Lantern: The Animated Series

Posted : 4 weeks, 1 day ago on 24 September 2014 08:50 (A review of Green Lantern: The Animated Series)

When it comes to the big screen, superhero properties are display incredible longevity across various franchises, their television counterparts can’t seem to make it past one or two seasons though. This is a real goddamn shame because Green Lantern: The Animated Series is a great little show. A one season wonder from the brilliant mind of Bruce Timm, the man behind great shows like Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League, Green Lantern alternately explored every facet of the comic book history and mythos while laying the groundwork for a deeper dive into this material as well.

The series begins not with an origin story, mercifully, but with Hal Jordan already an established hero and cosmic presence as part of the Green Lantern Corps. With the emerging presence of the threatening Red Lanterns, Hal is called away from Earth and sent out on a mission to help bring the Red Lanterns down before they reach Oa, home world of the GL Corps. But an even bigger threat emerges in the form of the Anti-Monitor and a rogue piece of artificial intelligence that goes berserk.

Each episode, which balances the neat trick of continuing a larger narrative arch and a nice introduction to the series, takes our heroes to a different planet where they must fight off the Red Lantern forces, recruit new members for the Green Lantern Corps, meet newly emerging Lantern Corps (Blue, Yellow, and Orange), or finding a way to destroy the Anti-Monitor. The odd episode works as a complete stand alone, like the one where Hal finds himself in an alternate universe with a “Steam Lantern” that’s a wonder of charming and smart character and production designs.

The scope of the show is big as it explores various parts of the cosmos, creating new worlds populated with their own races, flora and fauna. The Star Sapphires, a group of females with lantern-like powers operating like deadly sirens from Greek myth, make several welcome appearances, as does Larfleeze, the sole Orange Lantern who are associated with greed, and a small group of Thanagarians, fans of Justice League will remember them as the race that Hawkgirl belonged to. These appearances serve as expansions of the universe, small seeds being dropped for eventual stories to blossom in later seasons. Alas, that wasn’t to be, but it’s wonderful to see the creators playing such a long game with their choices.

While the Green Lantern film may have been a diet version of the material, commodified to the essentials for popular consumption, the animated series gives us some of the weirder aspects of the comics. Cameos from Lantern Corps such as the alien squirrel and living planet are included, but the strangest trip may the central emotional core of the show. That core is the love story between a reformed Red Lantern named Razer and the ship’s AI, dubbed Aya, which takes on humanoid form. The entire series tracks a progression in their characters, highs and lows, and their romance eventually becomes the central story in the climatic episodes of the series.

It must be said though, that Green Lantern is a gorgeous show to look at. The character designs are clever and smooth, a transformation of Bruce Timm’s Silver Age drawing style into three-dimensional life. It looks better than I ever would have thought, and the animators get a tremendous amount of depth and range of emotions from the character using very little. Occasionally fluidity of movement or anatomy can go a little strange, but that can be forgiven. They had to produce 26 episodes at roughly 23 minutes each, which is a ton of work to complete. The landscapes are gorgeous and the action scenes are thrilling. The action scenes are also logically edited. There are no fizzy quick cuts and murky camera angles which make it hard to discern what is going on. Every scene is a work of clarity where each character is clearly located to a building or another character. Sometimes everything does have a smooth, flat texture so that rocks and flora look less like stylized versions of these things than plastic versions, but I never found it too outwardly distracting.

It makes me sad that Green Lantern didn’t last longer. I wanted more from this show. I loved what Timm and company had managed to create and pack in with these 26 episodes, but what else were they planning on doing? Hints and clues are peppered throughout, but I’d love to see what the major plans were for season two. Timm took Superman into more Jack Kirby-esque territory as the show went on, eventually ended up with a third season that featured Superman and Darkseid and all of Apokolis throwing down. It was thrilling stuff, and Green Lantern could have gone anywhere. Shame we’ll never see it.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation

Posted : 4 weeks, 1 day ago on 24 September 2014 08:50 (A review of Star Trek: The Next Generation)

After a rocky first two seasons, Star Trek: The Next Generation eventually emerges as a smartly acted ensemble piece. It’s a giant science-fiction space opera which is happier to let characters talk and explore their moral quagmires than it is to have them shooting lasers at each other. I welcome this change of pace, and by the end had grown very attached to this motley crew.

The first season is an unsettled affair with many of the actors unclear on their characters and trying to find them. The various plot strands feel messier than they would in later seasons, but this does mark the first appearance of Q’s many guest roles as an antagonist and helper of the Enterprise crew. The death of Tasha Yar, a character I never warmed up to or cared much about (mostly thank to Denise Crosby’s poor performance), sets up what would become a major conflict later on in the series.

And the second season doesn’t offer much better. Gates McFadden left for the second season only to return in the third. During this interim she was replaced by Diana Muldaur, a perfectly fine actress who never seemed to find her groove with the rest of the cast. Both seasons had a bad habit of wrapping up an episode with boy genius Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) coming up with some crazy scientific solution to the conflict. Mercifully this became less prominent as the series went before jettisoning the character off to the academy towards the end of the run.

But by the time the series had entered its third season everything was beginning to come together properly. The ratio of good, some even great, episodes to mediocre or bad ones tips largely on the positive side by this time, and the cast finally found their specific voices. Patrick Stewart’s academic and pacifistic Picard is a complicated man, and a two-part episode where he is kidnapped and tortured for information is a highlight. It’s the kind of work and material that would win an actor an Emmy in a straight drama, but this being a space opera, he went woefully ignored. Jonathan Frakes as the randy, roguish Riker plays like an infinitely more mature and complex variation on Captain Kirk. But no two actors shined brighter throughout the series than Michael Dorn as Worf and Brent Spiner as Data.

Data’s a fascinating character, occupying the Spock-like role as a more human-than-human other in the series. And his season two episode “Measure of a Man” is a highlight. It presents every issue and reaction to the android that the series had brought up to that point, and a few interesting debates and moments which the series would then go on to explore in greater detail. And Dorn’s Worf transitions from more ferocious warrior to softer father figure and lover by the end, forming a strange familial unit with his son and Deanna Troi.

Deanna Troi, however, was always a problematic aspect of the show for me. She’s an interesting enough character, but the show constantly made her the object of sexual harassment, mind-control, and the repeated victim of kidnapping. This problematic aspect stood out very brightly whenever an episode would feature her in a leading role. Not all of her episode dripped with such casual misogyny, but more than enough of them did to wonder why the writer kept forcing Marina Sirtis to act this stuff out.

But by the seventh, and final, season everything on the Enterprise was running smoothly. The chemistry between the characters was what kept the series engaging and fresh. Various guest stars kept things interesting, and some like Whoopi Goldberg and Jennifer Jones were incredibly successful characters adding interesting dynamics in their episodes. But The Next Generation is beloved for that core group, and the creators knew this. They managed to craft the perfect finale which looked to the past, a possible future, and the present at the same time.

It’s another dynamite showcase for Stewart’s great talents as an actor. I swear, he can take any material thrown at him and give it a gravitas and meaning well beyond the worth of the words. But The Next Generation frequently gave him chances to give intelligent, hopeful monologues about numerous topics disguised as a fun action/adventure science-fiction series. And everything that was great about the series is located in the two hour finale. It’s a large time investment, at 45 minutes each and 176 episodes to get through I think that may qualify as an understatement, but if you can manage to ride out the flabby first two seasons then you’ll be in the perfect spot to enjoy what may just be one of the finest shows of its kind, ever.

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Lust, Caution

Posted : 1 month ago on 23 September 2014 08:57 (A review of Lust, Caution)

Call me crazy, but I didn’t find the sex scenes in Lust, Caution all that graphic. I take it as a case of the MPAA blushing at the first sighting of pubic hair, clutching their pearls, and clucking their tongues. What struck me about these scenes wasn’t what one could or couldn’t see, but the emotional context and complicated feelings going on underneath. Lust, Caution knows, like Last Tango in Paris, that a sex scene is only truly successful if it somehow connects to an emotion in the story.

Lust, Caution tells the story of a young college student who joins in with a group of political radicals who band together to plan an assassination, and how the closer she gets to the target, the more complicated her emotional stakes become. The film spends far more time with scheming and subtle maneuvering than it does with pelvic gymnastics, and it’s all the better for it.

The film is alive with detailed and ornate costumes, production design, and warmly textured cinematography. Director Ang Lee manages to make a game of mahjong feel loaded with political subtext, as if the slightest twist of the tiles could doom a character. All of this populates the world with believability, and then there’s the tragic doomed heroine at the center, Mak Tai Tai (Tang Wei).

Her story is a two-pronged one of tragedy and doomed love affairs. She begins to work with the revolutionaries for the love of one man, who happily uses her as a prostitute to gather intelligence with the enemy, and she spends so much time with the enemy that she begins to view him with something close to love and fondness. Lust, Caution explores the consequences of sleeping with the enemy, both literally and figuratively.

As the central figure, Tang Wei is absolute dynamite. Her character’s transition from naïve innocent to convoluted seductress to doomed lover is a seamless transition. The scenes of emotional confusion in which she must act without words the complicated feelings of revulsion and pleasure for the sexual acts is a master class in subtlety. Wei makes Mak Tai Tai’s final acts feel like the logical conclusion of a woman thrust into her position. I apologize for the pun, but the film’s intense sex scenes only become clearer as the central relationship spirals out to its inevitable end. Here is a doomed romantic film put together with the artistry afforded a more blissful and romantic one.

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Downfall

Posted : 1 month ago on 23 September 2014 08:57 (A review of Downfall)

Downfall positions Hitler’s final days inside the bunker as alternately a labyrinth and a series of death traps slowly going off. Surrounding by his madness and the closest members of his Nazi party, the film focuses in on the grim specter of death that haunted Germany at the time coming back to its root. Numerous young characters can easily be seen as a generation preparing to comprehend tremendous guilt, and as innocents swept up in hysteria beyond their understanding.

By looking at only the last ten days of his reign of power, Downfall manages to remind us that evil does not exist or grow in a vacuum. Presenting Adolf Hitler as a man may sound like a squeamish prospect, how could one of the greatest monsters in all of history be presented as human? Because he was a human, in all of the mass contradictions present in that. He cracks a joke to calm his newly appointed secretary, he’s playful with a youth, and yet he rages hysterically about his impending defeat and where his rule went wrong. Yet his defeat wasn’t his fault, it was the people of Germany’s, they had turned traitor against their beloved Fuhrer in his eyes.

Is presenting Hitler as a mad man, but still as a man, an appropriate thing to do? I believe so, if only to remind us that this kind of thinking is not some mythological creation, it is born from a reality. And what Downfall excels at is exploring the various characters differing levels of mind-control. To view the film is to watch people swept up in the hysterics and mania of dangerous political ideology, and to witness how far down that hole some of them had fallen.

Perhaps none of them had fallen as hard as Joseph Goebbels and his wife, who with robotic indifference and steely reserve force their six children to swallow suicide pills before killing themselves. It’s a disturbing scene for several reasons, one of which is fever of which they believed in their cause, and fear of reprisal from the enemy that they would slaughter their own children with such quick and calculating efficiency. Goebbels, like Hitler, is seen as a twisted man, one still believing that their cause is not entirely lost until after Hitler’s committed suicide and the Allies are tramping down the dirt over their heads.

Downfall follows the ins and outs of life in the bunker, and it is scattershot as such. Some characters get sufficient development, while others are briefly glimpsed throughout, and they can be hard to keep track off. A roll-call of what happened to the various survivors of life in the bunker closes out their stories, but it’s hard to remember how big or important a role they had played previously. This does hamper the film a bit, but does not weaken it.

These people were under the spell of a mad man, who seethed with rage-filled fits, laid blame upon everyone else, and continued to fight the war despite no longer having an army or the resources to do so. Hitler was smart enough to align himself with great propagandists and military minds, but his racism, xenophobia, nationalism, and grand-standing are not original within him. Downfall presents a glimpse into the final days of Hitler’s life and the Third Reich, but it could just as easily be a mirror holding up and reflecting back the worst impulses within our society. After all, it’s not like any of those traits have vanished in the years since.

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Agora

Posted : 1 month ago on 22 September 2014 07:12 (A review of Agora)

Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention, but I’m not quite sure how Agora adds up together. Mostly an examination of religious demagoguery gone insane, but contains a female character who was a mathematician, scientist, astronomer, philosopher, and teacher trying to figure out the earth’s rotation. And much of Agora is just watching as the crazy, murderous Christians begin killing the intellectuals and pagans for daring to not convert.

It all adds up to a lot of pretty images and not much else. On a technical level, the film is utter perfection, but it gives its three main actors nothing to do besides act out as caricatures or, mostly in Rachel Weisz’s case, stare soulfully into the distance. Her character spends much of the film wrapped up in her various academic studies and theories, mumbling that they are “definitive proof” of something (she’s not quite sure of what herself), and being indifferent to the obvious love triangle she’s trapped in.

The costumes, cinematography, production design, makeup/hair are all top notch, but that does not a movie make. It’s hard to know exactly what they were trying to sell us on in this film. Were they trying to tell us how the rise of Christianity and religious zealotry killed away a more philosophical, reasoned way of thinking? Or is that just the background noise for the story of Hypatia, a historical figure who deserves a better treatment than this? Basically, it boils down to this fairly simple-minded philosophy: “There are more things that unite us than divide us.” It’s a pity that this film couldn’t find a united, coherent whole to present to us then.

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The Pianist

Posted : 1 month ago on 22 September 2014 07:12 (A review of The Pianist)

The Holocaust is an exhaustively done subject matter in popular culture, one that by this point feels like there’s nothing left to discover or witness about the atrocities. The Pianist is interesting because it doesn’t present itself as a grand sweeping statement on the time period, but rather presents us with one man’s personal journey through the hell and quest for survival. It is admirably restrained, and deeply felt. It quietly hums with a personal pain and knowledge of first-hand experience.

Roman Polanski lived through the Holocaust, admitting that only his own death will purge the memories and pain of his mother going to the gas chamber. What he brings to The Pianist is a tremendous sense of detail and guttural emotion. The story is about Wladyslaw Szpillman, but parts of it could easily be Polanski’s own autobiography. That amount of empathy makes The Pianist truly special.

Through good luck and survivalist instincts, we watch Szpillman survive the Warsaw ghetto, escapes going to a concentration camp, smuggles in weapons for the failed uprising, and hiding out as Warsaw falls. Not only that, but Szpillman watches his entire family gets torn apart, only dodging the camps because of a friend on the Jewish Ghetto Police, and managing to survive the Uprising through the discovery of a kindly German officer. Szpillman’s story is the kind that not even a great novelist could invent.

The only problem I had with the film, and even then it wasn’t a huge one, was Adrian Brody’s lead performance. Gravitas and seriousness aren’t his strongest assets as an actor, he’s more alive when tasked with playing mischief like his cameo as Salvador Dali in Midnight in Paris. While he is disturbingly gaunt, depressive, and stoic, most of his big acting moments are undercut. The scene where he is discovered by Thomas Kretschmann’s good German and plays the piano for him puts the focus on Krestchmann instead of Brody. Here was a chance to see the various emotional undercurrents going on in Szpillman’s mind as he plays his beloved instrument for the first time in ages, but instead the focus is put on someone else. This does not mean that Brody’s work isn’t moving, on the contrary, it is frequently deeply felt and moving, rather that The Pianist makes his character a walking/talking symbol more often than not.

The Pianist does a great job showing us the changing morality, in which the narrative of Szpillman transformed from praying that the interference of outside forces will save the day to his personal choices to save himself at all costs. This impassive quality displays the randomness and chance involved in so many of the stories of survivors. Perhaps Polanski is even holding up his cinematic gifts as a mirror, refracting his lingering guilt over living while his mother died. Either way, The Pianist is a deeply felt and moving work.

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Snow White: A Tale of Terror

“Despite the subtitle being A Tale of Terror, this version of Snow White is no more authentic to the Grimm’s fairy tale than the Disney version. Substituting musical escapades and cutesy sidekicks for muddled psychology and vague terror, Snow White: A Tale of Terror is a showcase for Sigourney Weav” read more

2 weeks, 5 days ago
JxSxPx posted a review of Great Expectations

Masterpiece Theater: Great Expectations

“It seems unfair to compare films based on a book to a mini-series based on the same book, or vice versa. Inevitably, there is always one version that is the most beloved and deemed the definitive filmed version of the novel. Any version of Great Expectations is doomed to try to bloom in the shadow o” read more

2 weeks, 5 days ago
JxSxPx posted a review of Buffalo Girls

Buffalo Girls

“With prestige borrowed over from the combination of novelist Larry McMurtry, producer Suzanne de Passe, and star Anjelica Huston, Buffalo Girls perhaps had too much baggage to ever truly be great. But it could have turned out better than this middling effort.

Buffalo Girls tells the spraw” read more

2 weeks, 6 days ago
Americano
 Americano 6/10
3 weeks, 3 days ago
Free Zone
 Free Zone 5/10
3 weeks, 3 days ago
Heavy Metal
 Heavy Metal 5/10
3 weeks, 6 days ago
Bachelorette
 Bachelorette 6/10
4 weeks ago
JxSxPx posted a review of Extant

Extant

“Extant borrows liberally from various sources -- Artificial Intelligence, Rosemary’s Baby to name just two – and tosses them together into a puree. The show is entertaining, solidly crafting, but does suffer from a sense of bloat during the middle run of episodes. At only thirteen, I would think” read more

4 weeks, 1 day ago

Green Lantern: The Animated Series

“When it comes to the big screen, superhero properties are display incredible longevity across various franchises, their television counterparts can’t seem to make it past one or two seasons though. This is a real goddamn shame because Green Lantern: The Animated Series is a great little show. A on” read more

4 weeks, 1 day ago

Star Trek: The Next Generation

“After a rocky first two seasons, Star Trek: The Next Generation eventually emerges as a smartly acted ensemble piece. It’s a giant science-fiction space opera which is happier to let characters talk and explore their moral quagmires than it is to have them shooting lasers at each other. I welcome ” read more

4 weeks, 1 day ago
JxSxPx posted a review of Lust, Caution

Lust, Caution

“Call me crazy, but I didn’t find the sex scenes in Lust, Caution all that graphic. I take it as a case of the MPAA blushing at the first sighting of pubic hair, clutching their pearls, and clucking their tongues. What struck me about these scenes wasn’t what one could or couldn’t see, but the ” read more

1 month ago
JxSxPx posted a review of Downfall

Downfall

“Downfall positions Hitler’s final days inside the bunker as alternately a labyrinth and a series of death traps slowly going off. Surrounding by his madness and the closest members of his Nazi party, the film focuses in on the grim specter of death that haunted Germany at the time coming back to i” read more

1 month ago
Extant
 Extant 7/10
1 month ago
JxSxPx added 2 items to their collection
Prime Suspect: The Scent of Darkness

have watched

9/10

Prime Suspect: Inner Circles

8/10


1 month ago
JxSxPx posted a review of Agora

Agora

“Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention, but I’m not quite sure how Agora adds up together. Mostly an examination of religious demagoguery gone insane, but contains a female character who was a mathematician, scientist, astronomer, philosopher, and teacher trying to figure out the earth’s” read more

1 month ago
JxSxPx posted a review of The Pianist

The Pianist

“The Holocaust is an exhaustively done subject matter in popular culture, one that by this point feels like there’s nothing left to discover or witness about the atrocities. The Pianist is interesting because it doesn’t present itself as a grand sweeping statement on the time period, but rather p” read more

1 month ago
JxSxPx posted a review of The Mill and the Cross

The Mill & the Cross

“The story isn’t the point, nor is the dialog. The Mill & the Cross is a visual poem, a deep dive into one particular painting and making it come to fully realized life. Words don’t entirely matter in the face of such stunning imagery, and the film works best when you consider it as a fever-dream” read more

1 month ago
JxSxPx posted a review of Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy

“I admit that I have been sometimes hard on Marvel for creating films by committee and being aggressive about a house style that inhibits the amount of creativity that it allows creators. I still maintain this can, and is, a problem, how hard is it to create something that stands on its own when it m” read more

1 month ago
1 month ago

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Comments

Posted: 12 months ago at Oct 26 17:23
Posted: 1 year, 6 months ago at Apr 8 14:36
hi friend check out my new list .
hope you like it and thanks for your
time
http://www.listal.com/list/love-these-posters
Posted: 1 year, 6 months ago at Mar 30 14:02
This might just sound schize, but thanks for re-writing my "Pocahontas" review-- saves me the trouble of figuring it all out *again* myself, a-hahahaha....
Posted: 1 year, 7 months ago at Mar 18 22:57
Thanks for participating in my lists.
Sorry, but you can't do another top, really sorry.
But thanks.
Posted: 1 year, 7 months ago at Mar 10 18:22
Thanks for taking part in my musicals list!

I also know how you feel, I found it hard to limit my choices down to 10.
Posted: 1 year, 9 months ago at Jan 19 23:47
hey friend check out my new list. hope you like it
http://www.listal.com/list/reflecting-beuty
Posted: 1 year, 10 months ago at Dec 21 16:14
Hello there! I enjoyed your review of Dracula and took myself the freedom to link it to my Universal Horror Films - Best to Worst list. Hope you're fine with that!
Posted: 2 years, 3 months ago at Jul 21 2:52
Thank u 4 your comment on the muses list. Suggestion added.
Posted: 2 years, 9 months ago at Jan 27 21:05
I'm working on a new project. Maybe you can check it out and help me. From which State are you from? and in which State are you living right now?

http://www.listal.com/list/around-usa-listals-members

(I may have asked you this already earlier, in this case, apology for the inconvenience!)
Posted: 3 years, 3 months ago at Jul 16 13:06
I'm working on a new project. Maybe you can check it out and help me. From which State are you from? and in which State are you living right now?

http://www.listal.com/list/around-usa-listals-members
Posted: 3 years, 11 months ago at Nov 18 1:19
O.O Thanks!!
Posted: 5 years, 9 months ago at Jan 12 20:17
cool reviews =]
Posted: 5 years, 11 months ago at Nov 15 17:51
Posted: 6 years, 2 months ago at Aug 12 18:48
Hey man, I see you're pretty new, I'm loving the reviews though! Great job.