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Dark Blue World (2001)
Filmmaker(s): Jan Svěrák

Lt. Franta Slama is a top pilot in the Czech Air Force who is assigned to train a promising young flier, Karel Vojtisek, and they soon become friends. When Nazi Germany invades Czechoslovakia in 1939, they both reject the authority of their new leaders and escape to England where they join other Czech exiles in the RAF. While flying a mission over England, Karel crash lands and happens upon the farmhouse of Susan, a young woman whose husband is in the Navy. Karel soon falls head over heels for Susan but, while they enjoy a brief fling, in time Susan decides she prefers the company of the older and more worldly Franta. As Franta and Karel struggle to maintain their friendship despite their romantic rivalry.

Not Czech A nation cannot be a nation unless it has an identity. These days that identity is at least found in and often generated by movies, especially war movies. Also, if a nation has a mature identity, you will see it in the nature of the...


Published January 23, 2024
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Dark Command (1940)
A drama of undying love.
Filmmaker(s): Raoul Walsh

When transplanted Texan Bob Seton arrives in Lawrence, Kansas he finds much to like about the place, especially Mary McCloud, daughter of the local banker. Politics is in the air however. It's just prior to the civil war and there is already a sharp division in the Territory as to whether it will remain slave-free. When he gets the opportunity to run for marshal, Seton finds himself running against the respected local schoolteacher, William Cantrell. Not is what it seems however. While acting as the upstanding citizen in public, Cantrell is dangerously ambitious and is prepared to do anything to make his mark, and his fortune, on the Territory. When he loses the race for marshal, he forms a group of raiders who run guns into the territory and rob and terrorize settlers throughout the territory. Eventually donning Confederate uniforms, it is left to Seton and the good citizens of Lawrence to face Cantrell and his raiders in one final clash.

Before the Pattern John Wayne ruined the western for me. The whole idea of the western until Leone was in constant repetition, walking the same route every time so that subtleties could be emphasised. Since everything else was given, we could focus on the smallest things. Real...


Published January 23, 2024
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Batman (1989)
Justice is always darkest before the dawn.
Filmmaker(s): Tim Burton

Batman must face his most ruthless nemesis when a deformed madman calling himself "The Joker" seizes control of Gotham's criminal underworld.

This Town Needs an Enema As with Gilliam, Tim Burton isn't a real filmmaker, rather a production designer with a quirky taste. He creates a feel and shoves in the usual elements of characters and story and such. But the idea is that the ‘feel' of...


Published January 21, 2024
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Superman Returns (2006)
You’ll Believe A Man Can Fly Again!
Filmmaker(s): Bryan Singer

Superman returns to discover his 5-year absence has allowed Lex Luthor to walk free, and that those he was closest to felt abandoned and have moved on. Luthor plots his ultimate revenge that could see millions killed and change the face of the planet forever, as well as ridding himself of the Man of Steel.

Weakened Gosh. Whether one likes this movie will be a matter of religion, I suppose. And within that choice will be the question of how cheaply your religious notions can be bought. For me, a summer movie needs to first provide sweep, spectacle, thrill. It needs...


Published January 21, 2024
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Blondie Johnson (1933)
LOVE made her beautiful... WANT made her daring... MEN made her ruthless!
Filmmaker(s): Ray Enright

A Depression-downtrodden waif uses her brains instead of her body to rise from tyro con artist to crime boss.

Suckers While most of the movies in this period tried to find some new way of telling the detective story, many worked on the gangster side as well. Today, we don’t quite appreciate the cleverness in the variety. I think in part because the things that...


Published January 20, 2024
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The In-Laws (2003)
He's not losing his daughter. He's gaining a madman.
Filmmaker(s): Andrew Fleming

Right before his daughter's wedding, a mild-mannered foot doctor discovers that his new in-laws are international smugglers.

Hidden Agent Albert Brooks breaks my heart. Every time I encounter him I see near greatness. All he has to do is decide. But there must be some price he is unwilling to pay, because every outing (acting, directing, writing) there is a palpable holding back, an...


Published January 20, 2024
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Blade Trinity (2004)
The final hunt begins.
Filmmaker(s): David S. Goyer

For years, Blade has fought against the vampires in the cover of the night. But now, after falling into the crosshairs of the FBI, he is forced out into the daylight, where he is driven to join forces with a clan of human vampire hunters he never knew existed—The Nightstalkers. Together with Abigail and Hannibal, two deftly trained Nightstalkers, Blade follows a trail of blood to the ancient creature that is also hunting him—the original vampire, Dracula.

Misplaced Zombies These kinds of movies are very easy to evaluate. They need to be merely competent in terms of action, motion and noise. Where they need to excel is in the engineering of a unique style and the concurrent weaving of the mystical or occult...


Published January 19, 2024
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JCVD (2008)
The Biggest Fight of His Life!
Filmmaker(s): Mabrouk El Mechri

Between his tax problems and his legal battle with his wife for the custody of his daughter, these are hard times for the action movie star who finds that even Steven Seagal has pinched a role from him! This fictionalized version of Jean-Claude Van Damme returns to the country of his birth to seek the peace and tranquility he can no longer enjoy in the United States, but inadvertently gets involved in a bank robbery with hostages.

Hostages Divided Some friends recommended this because of the enfolded reality and story. Jean Claude, an actor in the film, plays himself as an actor between films who gets entangled in a “Dog Day Afternoon” movie-like robbery. If there was charm in this construction, it would have...


Published January 19, 2024
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Into the West (2005)
Filmmaker(s): Omar Naim

The lives of two families, one white American, one native American, become mingled through the momentous events of American expansion, between 1825 and 1890.

Not Reinvented I’m constantly amazed. No matter how repetitive and unimaginative mainstream movies get, TeeVee always is worse, much worse. The western has been reinvented and “made honest” so many times there’s no way one can find its centre any more. So you have two choices, either...


Published January 19, 2024
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Iron Man (2008)
Heroes aren't born. They're built.
Filmmaker(s): Jon Favreau

After being held captive in an Afghan cave, billionaire engineer Tony Stark creates a unique weaponized suit of armor to fight evil.

Too Contained I did not expect much from this. Marvel just seems to make what seems to me ordinary, boring movies. I was hopeful this time because the three main actors have done some rather elaborate work so far as reflected acting. Downey is something of...


Published January 19, 2024
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