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Movie review

  • 2005-11-30
Just Like Heaven
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Ninth Company

Just Like Heaven
Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo make a cute couple, I just wish they had appeared together in a different movie. "Love conquers all" is no doubt a heartwarming message, but when served with this much cheese, it's not so easy to swallow. "Just Like Heaven's" ghost-premise is a lot less absurd than the awful dialogue and wearisome jokes. When trying to be funny, the movie is unbearable. When it sticks to ridiculously sappy melodrama it's almost bearable, but still stupid. The filmmakers just can't seem to find a balance between comedy and drama: the actors keep a straight face when telling jokes and look chirpy when things are serious. One thing's for sure: this movie's no heaven. In fact, it has more of a purgatory feel. What did we do to deserve this?
( Julie Vinten )

Elizabeth (Reese Witherspoon) is an uptight, work-obsessed doctor who goes into a coma after a car crash. David (Mark Ruffalo) is a bereaved landscape architect who moves into her old apartment so that he can mope around on the sofa drinking and feeling sorry for himself. But then Elizabeth shows up one night demanding to know what he's doing in her home. Or at least her spirit does, for she is still in a coma. David hires a spiritual specialist who concludes that she has "unfinished business," and so Lizzy and Dave set about trying to figure out what it might be before the hospital pulls the plug on her life support machine. "Just Like Heaven" is a fascinatingly bad film which proves that romance isn't dead but merely comatose.
( Tim Ochser )

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The fourth Harry Potter feature is better than the third installment. Most importantly, the narrative isn't as messy, the overall pace is better and the central characters are more thoroughly illustrated. The feature has intensity and maintains a fine balance between content that is both dark and scary, light and humorous. Naturally, there is no shortage of astonishing magical elements and extravagant set pieces in the feature. The final Potter/Voldemort clash is somewhat disappointing, however, since we expect an epic battle and get little more than a whole lot of talk and two flashy light-beams. Also, the youngsters, although a couple years older, still aren't any good at acting, but the grown-ups do a superb job. Ultimately, this is a well-crafted movie that entertains and occasionally sparkles.
1/2 ( Julie Vinten )

The fourth in the Harry Potter series has widely been praised by many critics for being dark and gritty. As far as I'm concerned it's about as "dark" as a McDonald's restaurant on a sunny day. Harry is now 14-years-old and has entered as an underage contestant into a prestigious wizardry competition. In between bouts of fighting dragons and murderous mermaids, he has to fight his enchanted hormones as well. Yes, Harry has… sexual feelings. How dark. How gritty. Frankly, I am amazed that anyone except children can like these films. They are just one spectacular set piece after another with nothing remotely compelling about them. I find the whole book/straight-to-film franchise decidedly cynical in fact. They should name one of the installments "Harry Potter and the Bottomless Cauldron of Cash."
( Tim Ochser )

Ninth Company
"Ninth Company" is nice-looking, well made technically and contains fairly good acting from an energetic cast. For Russian standards, the action is also rather impressive. Director Fyodor Bondarchuk (son of famous Russian director Sergey Bondarchuk) undeniably had a clear vision of the movie he wanted to make. But the feature is just too long, and the story simply can't fill its 130 minutes. In both attitude and spirit "Ninth Company" is a Russian feature, but in any other way it's difficult to distinguish from Hollywood war-movies. Combine "Saving Private Ryan," "Platoon" and "Full Metal Jacket" and you have "Ninth Company" 's just, regrettably, without the ingenuity. The feature lacks characters, scenes and action to add anything to the genre. It's at once a professionally made movie and a successful rip-off.
1/2 ( Julie Vinten )

"Ninth Company " is a bold and at times brilliant film that dares to tackle the still-relatively untouched theme of the Afghanistan war. Set in 1988, it focuses on a group of young conscripts who enlist in the army for very different reasons. Lyutayev (Artur Smolyaninov) is the nasty piece of work at the center of the group whose dubious reasons for enlisting reflect the extreme moral ambiguity of the Soviet "cause" in Afghanistan. The film shows the group's training in Uzbekistan, which is shockingly brutal in places, before moving on to the war itself. Bondarchuk has made a powerful and accomplished film that is refreshingly intelligent compared to some recent war films to have come out of Russia. It's also rather timely, for obvious reasons. Well-worth seeing.
1/2 ( Tim Ochser )
 

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