Monday, 31 July 2006

DVD: Outfoxed

Tag: He who controls the media wins the elections
This is supposed to be the true story of Rupert Murdoch, the ex-Australian media tycoon who in the name of the dollar became an American and now rules media all over the world. The start is promising, telling us how Rupert started his empire from small time Australia, moved on to the USA, and somewhere along the way got corrupted enough to put all values aside in his bid to expand his empire of control over peoples' minds.
The problem is that quickly enough the film focuses its lens on the American Fox news station, forgetting there is a world out there. In particular, it focuses on how Fox helped Big W become the president in the first place and how he got himself reelected. And the biggest problem is the way in which the documentary tries to prove its point: first it makes a statement, such as "Fox expresses its own opinion as the public opinion"; and then it shows several snippets where this statement applies in order to prove its point.
And that's exactly where I have a problem: Although my own personal opinion on the worthiness of Mr Murdoch and the quality of his newspapers has long been settled (and just in case you're curious: worthless crap that lowers your IQ if you read it for more than two minutes; that is, if you can read it, because most of the time the sentences don't make any sense), I cannot allow myself to be convinced just by the virtue of a few examples. Who knows, maybe in the bits they don't show me Fox turns out to be a knight in shining armor, protecting the poor and fighting the elites to expose the true truth? Before watching the film I expected something like a Michael Moore level of depth; I was greatly disappointed.
Obviously, this film is aimed at the American viewer. Well, what can I do, I am not an American, and I will never be one.
Best scene: Snippets where Fox tries to impose upon John Kerry a French image. Apparently, in modern day USA, French is bad.
Picture quality: Hey, we moved to widescreen. 4:3 is so 20th century.
Sound quality: Expect your surround system to throw a big yawn.
Overall: A disappointing 2 stars.

DVD: Memoirs of a Geisha

Tag: Japanese Cinderella

There's not much I can say about the film, and that's not a compliment. I haven't read the book so I cannot argue on how good the film version is compared to the original; but I can say that the film's biggest problem is that the story is as original as ordering beer in a pub.
We've seen it hundreds of times before by the time we were four: a child torn away from the family, mocked by her evil sisters, catches the sight of a beautiful prince by chance. By sheer luck or something similar she becomes the one everybody looks up to (in this particular case, it means she's a geisha), and after a few problems here and there they all live happily ever after.
There are a few deviations from the formula; the eventual salvation is not as sweet as in the Disney version. But you get the point quickly enough, which means that what you really notice is the only aspect where the film truly delivers: the looks.
The film looks like a moving picture; it's just stunning photography. Every scene is a work of art, and you just sit there and say "wow"! Production values don't stop there: the John Williams score is excellent and original, mixing oriental themes into his more familiar repertoire. What caught me more than usual is the crisp sound of the recording, and I wasn't surprised to read in the credit that the score was recorded and mixed by Shawn Murphy: whatever this guy records is gold.
But can a film stand on looks and score alone? No. And to emphasize how badly things are, you only need to listen to the actors' voices: for some reason or another, they all speak English. That not exactly authentic, but by now you learn not to expect much from a Hollywoodian piece of work. But things are worse: to make the film sound "authentic", all the actors speak in this crap oriental accent that is usually reserved for racist jokes. And the worst thing about it all is that in the DVD's supplementals they tell you about the mentoring the actors had to go through in order to develop that "unique" accent. To think they went all this way when all they needed to do was to let the actors speak Japanese.
Best scene: The hero geisha gives a dancing performance. Choreographed performances cannot look any better.
Picture quality: There is some noise here and there, but the colors are just magnificent and take over the show to become the main event.
Sound quality: The sound effects are nothing spectacular and you don't feel immersed in the film. Things change, however, when the music score takes the front stage with its clear and present presentation.
Overall: 2.5 stars, mainly for the looks and the score.

Sunday, 30 July 2006

Film: Click

Tag: Family First
By now you know that you cannot expect much out of an Adam Sandler flick. There is the Punch Drunk Love exception, but you know what I'm talking about: once you know a certain film is an Adam Sandler film, you immediately know what it is going to be like. And this one is not an exception.
In this particular episode, Sandler is a married man who is married to work. Due to some weak excuse of him, an architect, not getting along with remote controls, he seeks out a universal remote control; what he gets instead is a remote control that controls his life by working like a DVD menu (quite a limited vision, isn't it?).
He uses the remote to get a bit of a breather navigating between his wife (Kate Beckinsale, who for some reason I find quite cute), his parents (his father is played by the guy who did Fonzy, who seems like a repeating fixture in Sandler films), and his nasty boss - David Hasselhoff, who - if you ask me - is the real star of the show.
In typical Hollywood fashion, what starts as a source for many a joke - below the belt type jokes, but they work well - ends up as something bad, teaching Sandler that there are no free lunches in this world and that family is more important than work. The problem, though, is that this moral - which, as morals go, is a pretty decent one - is spoon fed to you in quite a patronizing way, paving the way for yet another shallow Sandler film.
Best Scene: David Hasselhoff gives his employees a Baywatch like presentation on sexual harassment at work.
Overall: 2.5 stars


When I first started writing stuff of my own for external publishing (via emails), the first stuff I got to write about was movie reviews and laserdisc reviews.
Laserdisc are now long gone, but my passion for reviewing is here to stay. Over the last year I've started my own personal blog (, which happened to include reviews from time to time; by now I think I can say that blog has been firmly established as a favorite part of my routine.
In here, however, the aim is to create a catalog of the films I've been watching in a more of a systematic way. I don't intend to limit the reviews to films alone; books and other stuff shall be reviewed, too. It's just that I watch much more than I read.
I am no master reviewer and I don't expect to be able to come up with enlightenment on every film that I review, but I will admit that I wouldn't mind at all if in the future I will be employed as one of Widescreen Review's professional reviewers or if in a few years time a new program airs: Siskel & Ebert & Reuveni (which films would get the three thumbs up?).
For now I will settle with just enjoying the process of reviewing and the insight one gains when one has to form up a written review; it is certainly different to just thinking about a film for a few seconds.
As a loyal Widescreen Review reader, I will include some information regarding picture and sound quality; that is where my roots as a reviewer lie. And for that extra bit of an edge, that thing that would make my reviews unique, I think I will start with an item called "best scene" in which I provide a short account of the most memorable scene in the film, or that scene for which you'd remember the film 10 years after.

I hope you'll enjoy reading this blog as much as I enjoy writing it.