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A) Abyss: Long before Titanic, director James Cameron made this sweaty, claustrophobic
Cold War thriller about oil riggers and navy experts trying to rescue a nuclear submarine
stranded many miles beneath water. The banter and self deprecating bravery of foreman
Bud and his men rekindle memories of similarly laconic heroes an movies directed by
Howard Hawks Production design and special effects are hugely impressive. Its only the
dialogue and characterisation that creak (= poor script). For all the craftsmanship
which goes into the film-making, the story itself is strictly B-movie material.
B)The Thin Red Line: The video release of this version of the James Jones novel about the
battle for Guadalcanal directed by Andrew Marton makes a fascinating counterpart to
Terrence Malick's new film (= comparatively straightforward manner). Whereas Malicks
approach is mystical and poetic, Marton made a much more conventional war movie,
albeit one that as often truer to the book. He concentrated on a single soldier, and on his
relationship with his abrasive sergeant. Malick's film is infinitely richer and more complex,
but Marton's version has its moments. The flashback sequence, in which the soldier
dreams of the wife he longs for, is handled with a harshness which arguably works better
than Malicks soft-focus imagery of the woman on the swing (= old treatment for a cinema
C) On Guard: Loosely based on Paul Feval's 1875 novel, thus corny but highly watchable
swashbuckler is a cut above most musketeer adventures (rather better than many films
of its type). It has a consummate villain in Fabirce Luchinis clammy politician,
orchestrating death and destruction behind the scenes. Vincent Perez makes an
exuberant (if rather short-lived) hero, and while Daniel Auteirl is perhaps too moody a
presence for a romp like this (=an actor not really suited to his role), he too has his
moments as an acrobat-turned-swordsman. The film makes peddle costume-drama
clichs with so much wit and sparkle it never seems to matter (= lack of originality is
not important).
D) Character: A handsome but dour tale, set in turn-of-the-century Rotterdam. The
excessively detailed production and costume design leave the film looking like a
museum piece (=too much attention to appearances). Taking his cue from the
surroundings, Jan Decleir is endlessly morose as the brutal bailiff Dreverhaven, who
behaves ruthlessly when evicting tenants (=central character whose personality
reflects the setting). His antagonistic relationship with his son is at the core of the
story, but the filmmakers seem too busy laying on the period detail to do Justice to the
dark and vicious parable.
E) The Good the Bad and the Ugly: This digitally re-mastered video re-release shows
off director Leone's craftsmanship to its best advantage. The sound editing, in
particular, stands out every footstep, creaking floorboard or barking dog registers
loud and clear(=director's technical skills such as soundtrack, music, sounds, etc). The
storytelling is relentlessly cruel (=too slowly at the beginning) and whenever there's a
lull, it only takes a burst of Morricone's magnificent music to quicken the pulse. On a
moral level, there isn't much to distinguish between the good (Clint Eastwood), the bad (Lee
van Cleef) and the ugly (Eli Wallach), all of whom seem equally unscrupulous (=characters
who care little about the harm they may be doing others) as they maraud across the post
Civil War West.
F) The Longest Day: Forty-eight international stars' trumpets the publicity for this three
hour Darryl Zanuck war epic With four directors and 23,000 extras (=extravagant
production) as well, this is one pudding which is definitely over-egged. The early
sequences, in which the battle-hardened veterans wait for confirmation of when the
invasion will happen, drag as much for the audience as for the soldiers. On a logistical
level (if not an aesthetic one), this is an impressive enough feat but it cries out for the
big screen(= great achievement in terms of planning). Panned and scanned on video, it
is inevitably a diminished experience.