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45 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the few popular critics who goes beyond the mere script.
Look at any number of journalistic movie reviews, and more often than not the reviewer's discussion concerns the script, or "story," rather than the movie experience, or "discourse." If you as the reader have the feeling that the reviewer could just as well be describing a novel or play, more than likely he's not equipped to do the admittedly challenging job of...
Published on July 1, 2010 by Samuel Chell

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31 of 83 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars THREE STARS FOR FOUR STARS
Roger Ebert is the champion of the underdog-ie. films no one sees or would want to see except for him and since at least 70% of the movies reviewed in this book falls into this category it would take six reviews by me to list them but how about "Gates of Heaven" a documentary about a pet cemetary which Mr Ebert feels is about the dogged elusiveness of the American...
Published on June 21, 2008 by Robert F. Powers


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45 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the few popular critics who goes beyond the mere script., July 1, 2010
Look at any number of journalistic movie reviews, and more often than not the reviewer's discussion concerns the script, or "story," rather than the movie experience, or "discourse." If you as the reader have the feeling that the reviewer could just as well be describing a novel or play, more than likely he's not equipped to do the admittedly challenging job of evaluating cinema, perhaps the most complex, most realistic, and potentially the most powerful medium for "representing" reality, or a complex "living" world.

The majority of movies are "dumbed down" to reach the widest possible audience, thus guaranteeing its sponsors a profitable return on what is usually an investment running into many millions of dollars (even as far back as 1960, a film like "Cleopatra" cost its makers over 40 million). Each picture is a "formulaic" commodity produced by a mini-corporation (as we've become acutely conscious ever since the interminable lists of credits following movies lke "Star Wars")--an expensive operation, or company, that is compelled to follow predictable, codified patterns if only to satisfy shareholders' expectations (and insistence on a profit). First, there was Syd Field's ubiquitous manual with its gospel-like litany of rules governing any screen-play, from the number of climaxes to their precise positioning; next came the computer programs for writing screenplays, most using a "fill-in-the-blank approach following the same reductive pattern of the "hero's journey," as extrapolated from Joseph Campbell's "Man of a Thousand Faces." Thousands of screenplay hopefuls have been taught the same way--the scenes to begin with, the importance and placement of the indispensable 'plot points," the kind of closure guaranteed to send the audience out into of the theater more blinded by reality than ever but no less desirous of seeking another temporary escape. That's the business of the dream factory, and it would appear the reviewer's role has been reduced to little more than helping the reader decide if two dreams--the one that's been fabricated and the one that's awaiting illustration in the consumer's psyche--match up.

Ebert knows the tradition and forms of cinema, and he's fully aware of its great potential. He also appreciates the challenge, within such huge commercial enterprises, of ever achieving a result resembling genuine spontaneity, serendipity, life. Not that movies should be servile "imitations of life" (aka "reality TV"), but at their best they can be informed, insightful, life-affirming. Optimally, film is both "truth 24 frames per second" (Godard) and "a ribbon of dreams" (Orson Welles)--Hemingway's "lie that tells the truth," albeit on a grand, public scale. Ebert is able to show how films like "Citizen Kane" combine sophisticated technique and technology with individual imagination and creativity to produce images filling a space that is best seen as a "screen-mirror." It tantalizes with images offing vicarious experiences; it provokes with images of startling self-recognition. It is at once the most individualized and the most archetypal of expressions, and we are served best by those rare films that affect us equally and simultaneously on both levels.

What impresses me about Ebert is his ability to fully "get" the unique importance of "mavericks" like Robert Altman, and the sheer joy that any serious student of the cinema (and of life) must derive from viewing films as spontaneous and even extemporaneous yet imaginative and inspired as "Nashville" and "Prairie Home Companion." The images of these films remain indelibly imprinted on the viewer's "mindscreen" for many years, even decades, after they've left the celluloid screen. And therein lies the true brilliance and importance of film--not in cookie-cutter scripts, more formulas calculated to extract dollars from the masses, more and more special effects--but in playful and resourceful, informed and imaginative representations that simply refuse to be corrupted by the technology and business behind their making.

Ebert at heart is a maverick and a teacher. Don't let that thumbs up / thumbs down business fool you. He's capable of sniffing out virtually every phony frame in a film and directing your attention to what is most illuminating, most human, most worth your precious time.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Showcase for Ebert's Genius, August 26, 2010
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Roger Ebert is clearly the dean of U.S. film critics (Pulitzer Prize, Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.) He brings an amazing base of knowledge to his reviews as well as a child-like sense of wonder when he experiences cinematic innovations. The book of his Four Star Reviews brings together his discerning comments on the best-of-the-best movies over a 40-year period. This is a must-read for any serious student of film.
It was my good fortune to study with Roger Ebert at the U. Va. Film Festival.
He's a passionate film lover and a great teacher. (Check out his full-length commentary on "Casablanca.")
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars UNFAILINGLY INTERESTING, February 28, 2013
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My one complaint about this meaty collection of four-star reviews is a greedy one. I wish there were more. I wish he had started publishing reviews earlier so that some of the great movies I remember from my young adulthood (which, by age, starts six years before his). He frequently cites these movies in this volume but oh, what I would give to read written reviews by him of slightly earlier movies like Seven Samurai, Dr. Strangelove, Smiles of a Summer Night, A Hard Day's Night, or uneven-but-not-stinker films of that period like Mondo Cane or The Tenth Victim.

But forty years of reviews? Hey! That's not bad!

Obviously, what I'm trying to say is that I enjoyed this collection immensely. I find nothing really wrong with it at all. I don't always agree with Ebert's take on a film but over all, I find him a reliable guide. More important, he is intelligent and passionate and always has something interesting to say.

Some people will use this book as a reference book. I probably will at times. (Just like I do with the various editions of The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, which I find invariably fascinating.)

Others, including me, will read these reviews primarily for interest and pleasure. They'll find a lot of both in it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars RIP, April 11, 2013
one of the greatest Movie minds and creative people ever. Roger Ebert was the truth and this book highlights the passion, depth and understanding of how he could break down a movie and the scenes and the locations. he made you stop, look, listen and feel the enviroment and where he was coming from with his takes. this is a great book and well put together and he will be missed.
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34 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars it's not about agreeing with ROGER, August 29, 2008
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as it says on the jacket to one of ROGER's annual film reference guides , it's like having a conversation with a good friend . when i was younger , i saw eye to eye with MR. EBERT the lion's share of the time . as i grew older , a greater dispairity of opinion between myself and ROG began to occur . i noticed he had a strong disposition in favor of film with a very liberal agenda . that's hardly the point though . not only would it be profoundly boring if we always agreed , i'd lose . i'd lose one of the very best sources of film appreciation to which i could avail myself . oh , many is the time i wondered who slipped him an envelope to grant a good review to a film i though haughty or pretentious or heavy handed or crumby or stupid . but at the end of the week or month or however long i would go without reading ROGER , i knew i was not utilizing my favorite film critic . hell , we seldom agree on horror or comedy movies . who cares . he's still the man . he's put himself out there for public consumption for 40 years now . when he's on (and it's often) he's simply a great author . and he writes to meet deadlines . amazing body of work really . enthralling as a matter of fact . ***** . oh , and he's not watchin' the DVD like we are .
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good reminder of what a good critic is, June 12, 2014
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This review is from: Roger Ebert's Four-Star Reviews 1967-2007 (Kindle Edition)
Without spoiling the plot, Ebert makes us feel as if we were talking to him and his long time friend Gene Siskel. Essential for people who love movies.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great special edition of Roger Elbert’s move yearbook, February 4, 2014
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I like Roger Ebert’s film reviews a lot. I like his entire film critic working. This movie yearbook is one of my favorites.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A man who loved the movies, November 21, 2013
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Roger Ebert was...well, what was he? What can one say that adequately describes the place Roger Ebert held in the hearts and minds of film lovers and writers around the world? He was a titan, a legend, the grandfather of modern American film criticism.

Most importantly, he was a man who loved the movies. He was always curious, always open to new experiences. He sometimes gave extremely positive reviews to movies I rolled my eyes at, but reading his review, it always made sense. It was about experiencing something new, seeing something on the screen he hadn't seen before, or which made him feel something he hadn't felt before. That's what movies are supposed to do, and this volume, collecting all of Ebert's four-star reviews from his first 40 years of professional criticism, celebrates the films which did so.

Ebert was open to changing his mind. His two-and-a-half star review of Sergio Leone's masterful Once Upon a Time is baffling, which he later admitted; you'll find a four-star review of The Graduate here (which I happen to agree with), though Ebert wrote years later that he had become less enamored of the film. But if you're looking for his initial thoughts, the feelings which bubbled up to the surface as soon as he had seen a movie he fell in love with, you can't go wrong with this book. Sure, all these reviews are on the website--which has become something of a shrine to Ebert, and a hub for new and exciting film writers from all over the globe--but there's nothing like sitting down with this massive tome, flipping from page to page, seeing all of the movies Ebert loved.

I hope there's an updated edition with the four-star reviews from the final six years of his life.
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5.0 out of 5 stars he's better than P. Kael (who?), September 24, 2013
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W. W. Lewis (tampa, fl., USA) - See all my reviews
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I went to film school at U.S.C. to be a film critic, thought it would be an easy job. wrong. but I love films and movies ( not the same thing) and value good criticism. if you feel the same get this book. mr. ebert is direct and common sensicle (not a word?) not high falutin'. plus you become acquainted and reacquainted with lots of movies. the current trend of zombievampire special effects driven repeats is dulldulldull, so check this out and find the real good stuff you might have missed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Best of the Best in Movies!, September 21, 2013
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This review is from: Roger Ebert's Four-Star Reviews 1967-2007 (Kindle Edition)
This book has many movie reviews that you may have overlooked in years past. It's a bit of an education in cinema to read these reviews and then watch the movie to see what you think. I plan on doing that very thing with this book. I will miss Roger Ebert's reviews in the years to come. I certainly hope and pray that heaven will have grand movie theatres!
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