Now, this is not one of my favorite films ever, but, for a Quentin Tarantino film, it’s very strong…mostly because of its performance by Christoph Waltz as Nazi officer Colonel Landa. It’s a long film, and like Tarantino’s other works, it’s very stylized and very violent. But, it features performances that make it worth seeing and Waltz’s performance, in particular, propels this film from standard-violent-war-movie to an excellent work of cinema. Waltz steals every moment he is on screen…unlike most Nazi characters portrayed in movies (I’m especially thinking of Ralph Fiennes’ cold-blooded killing machine in Schindler’s List), Waltz plays Landa with a sincerity and seeming likeability. We think “what is he after,” since we never know what to expect with this quietly deranged character; his light demeanor constantly keeps us off guard. And Tarantino really does capitalize off of this stellar performance. Landa’s scenes are visually elegant and the cast in scenes with Waltz seem to be pulling out all of the stops to give their best performance to match Landa’s maniacal, yet pleasant chill. As for the movie on a whole, it is a new twist on the WWII years in Europe…told with a strong film and filmmaking element. For movie buffs (like myself), I did enjoy the dialogue between the characters about the movie industry and 1930s directors and actors, etc. And, whether you like that “Hollywood” angle or not, it is something that really has not been touched on in a major way before. The style is unique, as usual for Tarantino, and his brash, bold techniques add to the power and intensity of the film. If you can tolerate the violence, check this one out! It’s a far cry from Pulp Fiction, but it’s a strong film on its own…highlighted by exceptional performances.

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This film is not one I can watch over and over again like most of my other favorites. Why? Well, just see it and you might get some sense of that. It’s a hard movie to watch…violent, extreme, and scary in its realistic bloodiness. It is not the type of film that I think of putting in the DVD player on a cold night when I want to make myself feel better. This, of course, does not lessen its impact on me. The first time I saw this film, I was shocked and dazed…between the violence I had just witnessed and the remarkable film I just had seen, I didn’t know how to feel. Director extraordinaire Martin Scorsese does this a lot with his films…he wants the audience to go to such emotional extremes that when the film is over, all we feel is drained. Taxi Driver is really a film about a lost and wandering man who just wants to find where he belongs. This is a VERY basic premise on what is a complicated, stylized story with Robert De Niro playing one of the century’s most complex characters, Travis Bickle, best known for the line, “You talkin’ to me?” Bickle’s confusion and desire to change the world into his own bizarre vision is what drives the film. The second film from the working relationship of Scorsese/De Niro (the first being Mean Streets), Taxi Driver is a masterpiece of filmmaking and also an intense psychological study about the downfall of a man.

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People had been telling me to stay clear of this one but to my complete surprise (and to the surprise of those who warned me to stay away), I liked this one. I mean, it’s not something I think I would buy for my personal collection but I would definitely watch it again, mostly because so much happens in each frame I’m sure I missed a lot of action. Yes, it is violent, but like the Kill Bill movies, the violence seems “unreal.” The type of violence I just cannot stomach is “real” violence like Saving Private Ryan and Braveheart. I mean, those violent incidents happened (something quite similar if not what is actually on the screen). The violence in Sin City is unbelievable and so far-fetched though it’s still not “rehearsed” like one of my least favorite films of all time, A Clockwork Orange. In that Kubrick film, the violence is choreographed to music…almost like a ballet. I don’t mean that kind of “unreality” when talking about Sin City. It’s more like “comic” violence…which is not just a coincidence since this film is based on a series of graphic novels by Frank Miller (who also co-directed the film). OK—moving on from the violence…the structure of the film is unique. Three story lines all get their own screen time, only to merge in the end. The first story shows an aging, ill cop who needs to save one last victim from the clutches of a ruthless, evil criminal. The next story revolves Marv, a harsh, mean thug with a heavy heart of a hooker who died in his arms. (No, I’m not joking.) The final story deals with a good guy who’s trying to save the woman he loves from the bad guys, all while saving the world at the same time. Shot in black and white, this film is like a modern day film noir movie on speed. It’s faster and sharper than any classic noir but keeps that same “femme fatale” feeling of the films of the 1950s. Visually, this is a creative and stunning film…something you might not ever see again. Story-wise, it’s also sharp and innovative.

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Not for the faint of heart, but this one is just fun! It’s OVERLY violent, but I think that was what they were intending here. The filmmaker seems to be having fun with the violence…intentionally making it so over the top it becomes campy. And Clive Owen here is almost charming in his sorta-bad-guy/ hero role. The plot is pretty inconsequential…as it usually is in movies like this. Clive Owen sees a pregnant woman being chased and he jumps in to save her…but he ends up only saving her baby. The other part of the plot (WHY the woman is being chased) is completely ludicrous but again, that doesn’t seem to affect the film. It is not a movie for everyone but if you liked Sin City or Lucky Number Sleven or if you like intense action movies, check this one out. I’m sure you will not be disappointed.

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The structure of Out of Sight is anything but conventional. There are more flashbacks here than in any movie I can think of. But, somehow, it works. It is not overly confusing. It is not disturbing to the plot. And the way director Steven Soderbergh compiles the shifts in time, it all makes perfect sense. The plot deals with a prison escapee Jack Foley (played by George Clooney) who meets a US Marshal (Jennifer Lopez) while escaping and after a clean getaway, cannot stop thinking about her…and vice versa. Jack continuously puts himself in situations where Karen, the Marshal, could take him in. But, Jack just cannot help himself. And neither can she. He calls her at home. She fantasizes about him. If they do get together, Karen knows that at the end of the day, he’s a wanted man and she’s a member of the US government. Just as Jack knows that if he takes the risk of seeing Karen, it could backfire and she could arrest him. Or it might not…. Regardless, these continual dilemmas make a very satisfying film…with equal elements of comedy, crime and the all-important romance.

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For those of us who have fallen in love with Danny Ocean and his crew through the first installment, 2001′s Ocean’s Eleven and with the harder-to-love second in the series, Ocean’s Twelve (2004), this film is a must! Where Ocean’s Eleven was glitzy and stylish and Ocean’s Twelve was more convoluted and mysterious, this one is a mesh of the two. Admittedly, even the cast and crew says that Twelve did not live up to the high entertainment standards set by Eleven. I’m not sure if I totally believe that, but I can say that Eleven and Twelve do seem like completely separate movies…both with different agendas. Thirteen was their way of rectifying the public dismay with Twelve so when it came to glitz and glamour and entertainment, they held absolutely nothing back. The plot (does plot really matter in these films?) revolves around Vegas developer Willie Bank (played with lots of zip by Al Pacino) who fleeces Reuben (Elliot Gould as one of the “eleven”) out of his share in Bank’s new casino. Enter the rest of the “eleven” to right Reuben’s wrong and get even with Bank. The plot, though, is overshadowed by good looking people, good looking sets, and snappy, witty dialogue that Eleven did with perfection. Apparently, this will be the last in the series, but who knows since, at the end of this one, there seemed to be the perfect entree for a number 14.

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Where the first one was slick, this one is stylized. Where the first one was clever, this one is intellectual. Where the first one is glitz, this one is glamour. Basically, Ocean’s Twelve is for adults…not only for action movie-crazed adults but for adults who need more plot, structure, and development. The look of this film is almost a night and day difference from the first, mostly because there is no “Vegas” in the second film. (I use Vegas here as a noun because in the first film, Las Vegas became an entity onto itself by contributing highly to the slickness and glitziness of the first film.) Amsterdam, Rome, Naples…where the second film is set…lend to more of an old world sophistication that Vegas can’t touch. Vegas is a playground and looks the part. Europe is cultural and classic and looks that part. Director Steven Soderbergh does many of his same tricks with the camera here to try and pump up the pace and plot. But, again, taking Vegas out of the equation brings the movie out of the realm of the fantastic and into the world of the real. Concerning the plot in this second film…well even that seems to lack some of the “Vegas” feel to it. The first one seemed faster and filled with more vigor. Tricks happened right until the every end and the audience enjoyed the ride. The characters looked good and moved quick to keep up with the Vegas scene. In Europe, there seems to be a more laid-back feel to the characters. The film starts off with Andy Garcia’s Terry Benedict character (who was the victim – if you can call him that – in the first film) giving each of Ocean’s men two weeks to return his money. Two weeks!!! They should all be running around frantic. But, they are not. They act like they have all the time in the world. Does the European setting have that much to do with the pace? Maybe or maybe Soderbergh just wanted to make a film that was more intellectual than eye candy. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE eye candy. But, I also like a good movie. Both of these are good films in their own unique ways, but keep in mind that one is more the kid in you and one is for your adult side trying to break through.

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OK—I know. It’s not the BEST movie ever made. But, it’s just plain fun to watch…in more ways than one. It’s a highly entertaining action caper. You will not be bored at all during this one, trust me. Also, the entire cast is just a pleasure to look at (you can trust me on that one, too). Basically, it’s just two hours of good times and enjoyment. The plot revolves around ringleader George Clooney’s decision to rob three casinos owned by power-monger Andy Garcia. Clooney takes Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner, Elliott Gould and six others along for the ride, including ex-wife Julia Roberts. Based on the 1960 Frank Sinatra/Rat Pack film of the same title, this 2001 movie takes little from the original other than the basic premise (casino theft), the number of players, and the name of the man in charge (Danny Ocean). By adding style, class, glitz, high-tech gizmos, and a lot of good looking people, this Ocean’s Eleven will certainly satisfy your craving for entertainment.

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