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Point of No Return (1993)
A carbon copy in English
This movie is pretty much a shot-for-shot remake of the French film "La Femme Nikita" by Luc Besson. I'll say right off the bat that I strongly suggest watching that one instead, since they are virtually indistinguishable but this one is just a clone, a (not so cheap) imitation.
As with many foreign films that are remade for American audiences (like "Let the Right One In," "Funny Games," or "Infernal Affairs"), I'm often left feeling hollow after viewing both versions. The original was, well, original, which is why it gained international acclaim at the time, opening doors to Luc Besson for productions like "Leon" and "The Fifth Element." With this Americanized repeat, there's nothing added, no extra twist, no real reason to remake a perfectly good first film, other than the fact that Americans don't like to read subtitles. It's no wonder Luc Besson refused the offer to direct; seems pretty boring for an artist to make the exact same movie again within five years of the first.
Don't get me wrong, it's a perfectly watchable film, but I'm not liable to give it any credit beyond that since the whole thing was lifted from a movie made only a few years before this. Bridget Fonda is solid, and makes the transition from despicable junkie to government assassin pretty believable. Gabriel Byrne, of course, does well in his role, but I think this character has a very limited range compared to that of which he is capable. Dermot Mulroney is easy on the eyes but his character is not particularly memorable.
Good action, a little romance, and Bridget Fonda kicking ass. Plus a small role for Harvey Keitel at his peak, fresh off of "Reservoir Dogs" and "Bad Lieutenant." The shootouts are pretty par for the 90's, with squibs exploding everywhere and the usual shots of the protagonist diving through the air in slow motion. At the time, the role-reversal of having a female spy/assassin as the lead was pretty unique, but nowadays, of course, that is not so uncommon at all.
Summary: totally watchable, but totally unnecessary.
Trigger Warning for "Socialism" (apparently?)
I'm amazed by the number of reviewers who were surprised to find "socialist" or "left-leaning" commentators being interviewed for this documentary--especially those reviewers who mention the original documentary favorably. Since the thesis of the documentary is (essentially) that corporations are dangerous, I'm not sure who else they expected to be interviewed. The film features some of the same interviewees from the first film: Robert Reich, Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, Vandana Shiva, and so on. It does also feature a couple corporate representatives, but not the number that were featured in the longer and more in-depth first documentary.
As the film indicates with clips from Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman, since the 1970's, a market-based neoliberal philosophy has come to dominate political dialogue to the point that de-regulation is a central mantra of conservatives the world over (not to mention most centrist liberals). I would challenge these reviewers who demand a more "fair and balanced" presentation to scour the internet for a mainstream right-wing politician, thinker or activist that is strongly against corporate consolidation of power. You won't find one. It would be difficult, but not impossible, do do so within the mainstream centrists (Democrats in the US, or liberal parties in other countries), as well.
On the other hand, if the demand is to present these interviews alongside those who speak on behalf of the corporation, we certainly don't need further examples of that: our lives are inundated with constant pro-corporate messages, whether explicitly in advertising, or implicitly in the various privatized systems we have to navigate on an everyday basis--you are reading this review on a website that has been owned by Amazon since 1998. The pro-corporate perspective is also represented in the first film, which is more broadly about the history of corporations and their general methods of operation; this "sequel" feels more like an addendum or appendix than something to be viewed in a vacuum. In other words, if you haven't seen the first film, you should watch that first, as it is certainly still relevant and revealing.
Chris Hedges is correct that it is hard to view the complex of issues presented currently without feeling a deep sense of despair. I think that is why the second half of the film, which I see here derided by others, is both important, and ironically the subject of such angst. We are at an impasse and many of us feel powerless to counteract global forces that seem to be spiraling toward inevitable destruction. To present this documentary without some iota of hope would not only be depressing, it would be irresponsible. In the internet age, where raising someone's ire is the surest way to generate traffic, and therefore revenue, we should take at least some time to focus on the causes that bring us together, not just the ones that piss us all off.
The Phoenix Incident (2015)
Don't Waste Your Time
I came upon this movie from some stupid "top ten" list. At this point it boggles my mind how this poorly-conceived and -orchestrated red herring would be on a "top ten" list for anything. It's an uninspired "found footage" film from a time when "found footage" was about five years' out of vogue, but it can't even stay true to that style choice as the viewer is constantly presented with novel camera angles which defy explanation or stretch the bounds of belief. For instance, the camcorder strapped to a helmet as a 1997 stand-in for a go-pro, or the helicopter cam on a helicopter which blows up (for entirely unclear reasons)--not the only instance in this film where ostensibly destroyed or unavailable (e.g. classified) footage is simply spliced in with no explanation given. Unbelievable on many levels. Not to mention that the end result is entirely unimpressive and indecipherable anyways, leading one to believe that they actually did film this entire thing with a cheap 90's camcorder strapped to a helmet perched atop a drunken chimpanzee.
This film manages to hit all the familiar cliches while simultaneously eschewing any semblance of a meaningful/logical plot. The dialogue is repetitive and unconvincing, the characters are one-dimensional at best, and their portrayal substitutes screaming for actual emoting. This is one of those films that suffers from a pronounced overabundance of characters yelling "go, go, go"-type lines during action sequences. Which I suppose is to fill in for the fact that you won't be able to tell who is where or what is happening for like 90% of these sequences thanks to the shaky and blurry camera work--those prone to seasickness should not board this cinematic titanic.
All-around, one of the worst films I've seen in awhile. I would recommend it to folks looking for a film slightly better than a Tommy Wiseau production--but only ever so slightly. This film is a perfect candidate for MST3K-style riffing.
I've seen some reviews bashing this movie for not being a horror flick. If you expect jump scares, spooky atmosphere, ghouls or goblins, you will most certainly be disappointed. This movie is not genre-driven like most Hollywood big-budget flicks. It is not "The Conjuring" or "Paranormal Activity."
You might also think, since its stated premise is "the end of the world," that there would be the standard apocalypse tropes coming into play. No, there are no zombies or massive catastrophes.
To be fair, the trailer does not do the movie justice. Honestly, I think it would be difficult to create a trailer that encapsulates the themes and allegories embedded in the plot of this movie.
It is definitely a drama piece. "Starfish" is a film about loss and isolation, about living with the consequences of your choices. The movie is almost solely carried by Virginia Gardner (who aptly represents her role). There are not a ton of tracking shots, nor shaky-cam nonsense, nor is there an abundance of overacting. It is an understated film, shot in mostly neutral colors set against the backdrop of plain old snow.
The soundtrack is amazing (if you happen to like indie music, as I do), and is very well-integrated into the story, rather than simply serving as a backdrop for it. What little CGI exists is certainly realistic, especially considering the budget for this production.
There is no race against time, fight for survival, or desperate bid to save the day. This movie is not a blockbuster. But it is very good at what it is attempting to do. The underlying message is well-conveyed, through clear symbolism and the obvious metaphor of the overarching plot (once you figure out what the movie is actually about). It is beautifully shot and accomplishes its objective concisely and completely.
Frankly, I'm disappointed that it has such a low ranking here on IMDb, but I guess that's more a reflection on its general lack of thrills or frills. This is cinema as art, not as a product. I appreciated it greatly, and hopefully my review will help you decide if it's right for you, too.