I had a similar feeling while watching Francis Ford Coppola's newest movie, Youth Without Youth. Since he started making films in the late '60s, Coppola has given moviegoers more intense pleasures than perhaps any other American director. Films such as The Conversation, The Godfather, The Godfather II, and Apocalypse Now all stand as epic achievements of modern cinema. His more recent films -- like Jack and The Rainmaker -- are in no way recognizable as the work of a genius, but his past greatness inclines me to cut him some slack when he's struggling to say something. And Coppola is definitely struggling to say something in Youth Without Youth. It's a shame, then, that what he manages to get out is so incoherent and banal, so much like a clueless friend's stupid dream.
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Burdened with the most optimistic title since Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, Goal! The Dream Begins is indeed the first part of a trilogy that will eventually take a soccer-mad kid from Los Angeles to the World Cup. But first, he's gotta get out of the barrio; good thing there's a cliché-ridden story arc to get him there.
This chapter brings young Santiago Munez (Mexican telenovela hunk Kuno Becker) to grubby Tyneside, U.K., a destination most sun-addicted Angelinos would only consider a Dream if they were going to play Premiership soccer. Fortunately, after a scout from Newcastle United observes his ball skills, this is exactly Santiago's fate. Soon he's saying adios to his undocumented immigrant family, including Dad, who'd rather his son pursue the American dream of mowing other people's grass. Somehow Santiago gets a passport, and off he goes.
Continue reading: Goal! The Dream Begins Review
Watching The Cave I had that same feeling. The movie is like a multi-million dollar recreation of my boyhood fantasies on the Dolphin. And despite the many lapses in logic, the ridiculous plot twists, and the sketchy characterizations, I found myself giddy while watching The Cave.
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The story resembles one of those studio pictures of the 1940s and 1950s made famous by the likes of William Holden and Gary Cooper. Willis plays Col. William McNamara, the highest-ranking officer in German prisoner camp Stalag IV during the tail end of the WWII. McNamara retains the dignity of his fellow American soldiers held captive and silently plans to strike back against the enemy under the suspicious eyes of German Col. Werner Visser (Marcel Iures). When a murder occurs in the camp, McNamara sets in motion a plan of attack against his German counterparts by orchestrating a court martial headed by Lt. Tommy Hart (Colin Farrell), an Army desk jockey with a senator for a father who was recently captured in Belgium. As the tensions mount and sides are taken, both friend and foe uncover duplicities within their own ranks, values of lives are weighed against the duties of soldiers, and the question of honor versus freedom plays out to the final whopper of an ending.
Continue reading: Hart's War Review
Costa-Gavras's flimsy script presents a pair of opposites who must try and bring news of the Holocaust to the Pope, in order that he may publicly denounce it and rally Catholics, in Germany and around the world, against Hitler. Ulrich Tukur plays Kurt Gerstein, an SS officer in charge of delousing troops and decontaminating water. When he is assigned a new duty of overseeing the use of Zyklon B gas in concentration camps, the deeply Christian Gerstein - who until then had hidden behind the belief that he was only serving his country - is horrified and desperately tries to find somebody to hear his story. German after German turns a deaf ear to him, until he finds Riccardo Fontana (Mathieu Kassovitz), an idealistic Jesuit working in the Vatican's Berlin office. Confronted with the reality of genocide, Fontana makes for the Vatican, where he hopes to use his father's connections to win an audience with Pope Pius XII (Marcel Iures).
Continue reading: Amen. Review
Relentlessly heavy-handed but quite compelling nonetheless, "Amen" is a loosely fact-based drama about a German SS officer's clandestine attempts to stem the Holocaust, and about the complaisance he encountered when trying to alert the world -- and more specifically the Vatican.
Adapted in part from the eyewitness accounts written by Nazi lieutenant and chemist Kurt Gerstein (played by Ulrich Tukur) while in a French prison after World War II, the film asks the question, What's a newly-advanced Nazi with a conscience to do when exposed to the horror of Jews being gassed by the thousands with chemicals he's been ordered to provide?
In "Amen," the answer is that he confides in a fictionalized, idealistic young priest (Mathieu Kassovitz) with direct connections to Pope Pius XII, so cowriter-director Costa-Gavras can get the pontiff on record saying nothing more than "My heart prays for the victims," while his cardinals deflect follow-up questions.
Continue reading: Amen. Review
One might think that after 60 years of World War II pictures, big budget Hollywood's supply of fresh ideas for such ventures would be fully exhausted. But the court-martial-within-a-POW-escape drama "Hart's War" breathes surprising new life into the familiar by amalgamating genres and adding true human complexity to its not-so-stock characters.
Adapted from a novel by John Katzenbach, the film's recipe combines the prisoners' internal mistrust from "Stalag 17" with the wrongly-accused military trial from "A Few Good Men," leavened with a racial element and accentuated by a tunneling-to-freedom subplot from "The Great Escape" for good measure. Director Gregory Hoblit ("Frequency," "Primal Fear") proves himself a good cook, seamlessly blending these ingredients into a fresh and appetizing dramatic stew.
Talented but over-hyped Colin Farrell ("Tigerland," "American Outlaws") stars as Lt. Thomas Hart, a senator's son with no combat experience and a safe desk job in intelligence near the German lines in 1944. Captured in a roadblock ambush while escorting a commander back to the front, he's interrogated by the SS in a series of scenes that let the our imaginations get the worst of us.
Continue reading: Hart's War Review
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