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Francois Tremblay (Montreal, QC Canada)
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Solaris: The Criterion Collection (Widescreen)
Solaris: The Criterion Collection (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Natalya Bondarchuk
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 39.94
19 used & new from CDN$ 9.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard science-fiction doesn't get much better than this, April 27 2003
I had all the reasons to dread this movie. After all, *everyone* has already praised it, it is a movie of my favourite sub-genre (not just science-fiction, but "hard" science-fiction, of which 2001:ASO is the acknowledged flagship), it is routinely called "the Russian answer to 2001", it is made by a director who is acknowledged widely as a master (Andrei Tarkovski), and so I was afraid of getting dissapointed. It couldn't be as good as I imagined, right ?
Wrong. Very wrong. Solyaris *is* a masterpiece, although the resemblance to 2001:ASO fades away after a deeper appraisal. It definitively stands alone. I am not sure which one I like most (Solyaris currently rests third on my top 20 while 2001:ASO is fourth), but this should not influence one's appreciation of Solyaris.
Solyaris is about many things : the limits of science and unrelentlessness, our tendancy to reduce everything in our own terms and being unable to open ourselves to the different, free will, guilt, and perhaps personal identity, and love, too. With such wonderful setting and material (notably in the form of the book "Solaris", by Stanislaw Lem), we would ask for nothing less. But when Tarkovsky does it, well, it's even better. But it's a movie made in his style : and if you don't have the attention span to watch a movie that lasts three hours, too bad. But you're missing out.
How, then, to describe the plot ? Because I have to try. The human race is now united and exploring space, but it falls upon an epinous problem : Solaris, a planet whose mysteries remain intact after dozens of years of study. Not only is it composed only of one all-encompassing Ocean, but this Ocean may be sentient. At any rate, the three remaining occupants of the Solaris station are going insane, and cold-hearted psychologist Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) is dispatched on a mission upon which the fate of the station, the study of Solaris, and perhaps even Solaris itself, depend. But as Kelvin uncovers the true nature of the madness that strikes the stranded scientists, his mission takes second place to his own psychological turmoil.
I'm afraid that's as far as I will tell you, but that's already a half-hour. Solyaris is a three-hour visual fest. It has minimal special effects (with the notable exception of Solaris itself), and minimal music, in keeping with Tarkosky's style. They are not missed, of course. The acting is competent, when needed (as in 2001:ASO, there isn't a lot of it, but there is a lot more dialogue). The script, direction and visuals are sublime.
This movie has been praised as Christian, and Tarkovsky himself was a Christian mystic, although he was more of a mystic than a Christian. I have seen it twice already and I can testify there is not one trace of religion in Solyaris (not that his Communist masters would have allowed such anyway). There is a resurrection, however, but to associate it with Jesus would be hackeyned at best.
There is also not a lot of technology. In fact, we only see the station for a few seconds, and we don't even see Kelvin's capsule (except in the deleted scene). This is on purpose. Tarkovsky is not a science-fiction director, and only liked the story for its psychological aspects, not its technological aspects (indeed, according to biographies, viewing 2001:ASO cemented his idea of going away from a special effects fest and into the kind of movies he liked to make). He was forced by Lem to make a movie that stayed closer to the original story, and thus we got the best of both worlds.
If you like science-fiction, especially hard science-fiction, you would be the king not to see this movie.

The Ice Storm (Widescreen)
The Ice Storm (Widescreen)
Offered by Warehouse105
Price: CDN$ 15.60
24 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars All atmosphere and no content, April 18 2003
This review is from: The Ice Storm (Widescreen) (DVD)
The Ice Storm is one of Alison's favourite movies. It is, I've been told, a masterpiece. This, however, seems to come more from the seventies atmosphere that the movie immerges itself in than any merit of the story.
Tobie McGuire is as far as we get as a binding force : I say this because he opens and closes the movie, much like good High Dramas do. In fact, it has all the trappings of a High Drama : voice-overs that purport to enlighten, characters who mingle in dramatic ways, children with unusual views on life, and so on. What it has to say - family is the only stable thing in our lives, while proceeding to completely destroy this addle-brained premise, and that existentialism consists of doing whatever one wants, whenever good or evil - is insane, and so is the happenings. All the adults are immature, cheating ..., and all the children are typical rebellious, drug-addled brats.
The story ? There is no story, only stereotypes which evolve in a context of growing doom, and then an ice storm (which provides us with the best thing in the movie - the visuals of ice and icicles), and then... a cheap resolution.
The credits were in alphabetical order, and we can understand that. No one was necessary at all.

Hannibal (Widescreen) [2 disc Special Edition] (Bilingual)
Hannibal (Widescreen) [2 disc Special Edition] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Anthony Hopkins
Offered by stephensstuff
Price: CDN$ 23.95
34 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars A huge missed opportunity, April 18 2003
Hannibal is the sequel to Silence of the Lambs. Most sequels are inane rehashings of previous elements that made a success - Hannibal is very different but still inane, perhaps much more inane because it did *not* rehash what made SotL a success.
The sophisticated serial killer Hannibal Lector is free, trying to get a job as curator of an important library in Florence. We follow the bumblings of Pazzi, a policeman who is lured by a rich former victim of Hannibal to capture him, with the predictable grizzly results. Hannibal comes back to the States, stalks Agent Starling (who is suspended after a drug bust gone wrong, in a number of scenes that transpire stupidity), plays mind games with her, and finally confronts her in her own home, eating the brain of her rival Paul Krendler in a memorable scene.
The first half of Hannibal is great, apart from Pazzi's stupidity. Let's face it, even for three million dollars, would you repeatedly talk to a guy who's on the FBI's Most Wanted list and knows you are a policeman looking for him, alone ?
The second half of Hannibal is completely off-kilter. We don't care about the relationship between Hannibal and Starling except insofar as they give us insights in their psychology. Anything else is pedestrian and alien to the whole idea of Hannibal Lector. This movie thinks that Starling's ineffectual attempts to kill Hannibal at the end are interesting. They are not. This was a major missed opportunity. Also, the whole story of Mason Verger, a man who disfigured himself under the influence of drugs provided by Hannibal, is not interesting, nor is it necessary to the plot.
The horror scenes are terrific ...There is a masterpiece in there, I know this for certain, and I know it could be made - but here it is buried under incompetent policemen, disfigured power-pushers, snowglobes, and unfulfilled promises.

Red Dragon (Widescreen Collector's Edition)
Red Dragon (Widescreen Collector's Edition)
DVD ~ Anthony Hopkins
Price: CDN$ 10.98
41 used & new from CDN$ 1.63

4.0 out of 5 stars Prequel definitively better than the sequel, April 18 2003
If sequels are traditionally worst than the original, prequels are less obvious. While Star Wars seems to show that they can be as terrible, a comparaison between Hannibal and Red Dragon is definitively a point in favour of prequels.
In Red Dragon, Hannibal says "a rational society would have killed me, or put me to some use". This is not only an interesting sentiment, but also a reflection of his character in movies - either stop using his character, or put him to some use. The movie Hannibal didn't get that. Red Dragon does, and that's one of the things it gets right.
Another thing it gets right is serial killers - or in this case, one serial killer, Red Dragon, who has killed two families and will kill more unless Agent Graham, the man who got Hannibal in prison (as told during the delicious opening scenes), gets on the case. Having established a patient-doctor relationship with Hannibal, who is a top-rate psychologist, Graham appeals to him again to help him solve this case. But Hannibal has an agenda of his own as well.
Red Dragon is trying a bit too hard to psych people. It has a number of false alerts (as well as an ending which serves absolutely no purpose) and a trivial character (the reporter, who serves as little more than foil). It could have been more, but as a portrayal of serial killers, Hannibal Lector, and interesting mysteries, it's right on the dot.

The Seventh Seal: The Criterion Collection
The Seventh Seal: The Criterion Collection
DVD ~ Max von Sydow
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 54.48
17 used & new from CDN$ 19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An incontestable existentialist masterpiece, April 18 2003
The Seventh Seal is the kind of movie that Ayn Rand would have liked, because it is extremely efficient, like an inexorable clockwork. There is nothing superfluous in it : and at 95 minutes, Bergman could have added a half-hour and it would still look efficient. Every shot, every move, every word counts. Some shots are Biblical-like in setting, some others are nightmarish, but all are masterful.
What is The Seventh Seal about ? It is about a Swedish knight called Antonius Block, and his squire, returning to their country from the Crusades only to find it in the throes of the Black Plague. At the beginning of the movie, Death comes to claim Block's life, but the latter defies the grim reaper to a game of chess. While they play, Block and his squire encouter the grim consequences of the Black Plague, and confront the absence of God.
The Seventh Seal is definitively existentialist, much like Bergman was at that period of his life. Block is tarauded by doubt : he cannot accept Christianity without evidence, but on the other hand he cannot accept death without God. His squire, Jöns, has no such scruples, and he asks him as they witness the fiery execution of a girl by priests : "Who will take care of that child. God, the devil, the nothingness? The nothingness, perhaps?".
Jöns is a rough, perhaps callous man, and he finds his answers, like many other characters, in the enjoyment of the here and now. He is also an entertaining commentator on human nature, and seems more like the voice of Reason, where Block is the voice of Doubt.
What about Death ? Death is about as close we have to an atheistic counterpart to God - a terrifying, primal fear materialized into sentient agency. Unlike the Christian Big Brother, however, Death does not hold any grudge against us - as he says, he is "unknowing", and deaf to our complaints for the simple reason that he has a job to do. In The Seventh Seal, he is sinister, but not malicious.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Full Screen)
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Full Screen)
DVD ~ Gene Wilder
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 15.62
14 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A Greek Tragedy for children, April 2 2003
Is there anything more indulgent and sensual than eating chocolate ? Anything that can be featured in a movie for children, that is ? Willy Wonka is the owner of a mysterious chocolate factory, and he is ready to reveals its secrets - but what child could resist their lure before getting handed a gruesome fate ?
The structure of WWatCF is reminiscent of Lord of the Rings - as we see child after child falling into temptation. Its premise is at least less blatant than Harry Potter's. The moral of the movie is "be moderate and honest".
Gene Wilder brings his tremendous energy and ambiguity to perfection in this movie. He is suitably frantic and dark as the eccentric Willy Wonka. The Oompa-Loompas are the stone-faced Muses, as if from a Greek tragedy, breaking in omnious songs, whirling around and giving out morals for the patient children.
While the sense of wonder in this movie is not as high as it could be, due to the limits of special effects of the time, this is as good as children's movies get.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Full Screen)
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Full Screen)
DVD ~ Gene Wilder
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 15.62
14 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A Greek Tragedy for children, April 2 2003
Is there anything more indulgent and sensual than eating chocolate ? Anything that can be featured in a movie for children, that is ? Willy Wonka is the owner of a mysterious chocolate factory, and he is ready to reveals its secrets - but what child could resist their lure before getting handed a gruesome fate ?
The structure of WWatCF is reminiscent of Lord of the Rings - as we see child after child falling into temptation. Its premise is at least less blatant than Harry Potter's. The moral of the movie is "be moderate and honest".
Gene Wilder brings his tremendous energy and ambiguity to perfection in this movie. He is suitably frantic and dark as the eccentric Willy Wonka. The Oompa-Loompas are the stone-faced Muses, as if from a Greek tragedy, breaking in omnious songs, whirling around and giving out morals for the patient children.
While the sense of wonder in this movie is not as high as it could be, due to the limits of special effects of the time, this is as good as children's movies get.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
DVD ~ Catherine Deneuve
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 128.46
6 used & new from CDN$ 59.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The romance movie to end all romance movies, March 31 2003
This review is from: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (DVD)
It seems as if this movie was meant to inoculate the viewer against all the romance movie clichés. It also has another particularity, in that the entire dialogue is sung, with music - essentially making it one long low-profile musical. This can add very much emotion to a story if well done, and in this case it is. The French actors (including a young Catherine Deneuve) do not look ackward.
The story is about two young people who fall in love, but separated by the draft. They come to marry other people, for more practical reasons, and never look back. It is, in essence, a triumph of practicality against romanticism. Also, a big plus for me, kissing is kept at a minimum. If, like me, you hate modern sappy romance movies and their devices and clichés, run, run, run buy The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

Conspiracy (Widescreen)
Conspiracy (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Kenneth Branagh
Price: CDN$ 9.95
16 used & new from CDN$ 4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Stands up to its subject matter, March 31 2003
This review is from: Conspiracy (Widescreen) (DVD)
An account of the Wannsee Conference, chaired by Reinhard Heydrich (Head of the Reich Security) on January 1942. This Conference was to be decisive in establishing the "Final Solution" - cause of the Holocaust. One copy of the proceedings was found by American investigators after WW2 and was made into two movies, "The Wannsee Conference" (a West German movie), and the American remake "Conspiracy".
Any movie where we watch people talking for 90 minutes stands or falls on acting quality. Kenneth Branagh, as Heydrich, is excellent - the texture of his role is slick and darkly pleasant. The other actors are efficient. The made-for-TV nature of the movie does become apparent in its low-budget production, but this kind of movie does not necessarily need a lot of fluff.
Watching nazi officers and officials discussing whenever half-Jews should be made infertile or killed is not an inherently desirable experience. But there are many things in life that are undesirable, but must be confronted.

Auto Focus (Widescreen Special Edition) (Bilingual)
Auto Focus (Widescreen Special Edition) (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Greg Kinnear
Offered by marvelio-ca
Price: CDN$ 7.98
30 used & new from CDN$ 0.77

2.0 out of 5 stars Pedestrian story, March 31 2003
This is a biography of Bob Crane's career, the apparently famous star of the American series "Hogan's Heroes", who was also a womanizer.
The first problem is that the story wasn't that interesting at all. So Crane was into pornography. He played the drums in strip clubs. He had lots of sex. Big whoop. He obviously doesn't think he has a problem, so we're wondering, what's the problem here ? Are we just following this guy's life ? He's interesting, but not that interesting.
The re-enactions of the sixties and Hogan's Heroes are interesting too, but ultimately lead nowhere.
The other problem is that the camerawork is wobbly and even out of control at some points, for no stylistic reason whatsoever. It's too distracting to pass under the radar.
In short, good actors caught in a pedestrian story which is badly shot.
Some other movie critics have told me that I was missing the point of this movie. When I pressed them on it, they couldn't tell me what was so profound about this movie. The praises for this movie seem like artistic conceit, nothing more.

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