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61 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As always, Roger Ebert does not let his readers down with his new book, "Great Movies II." Like its predecessor, "Great Movies I", "II" looks back at films that were released before Ebert started writing film reviews for the "Chicago Sun-Times."

Ebert reviews many of my all time favorites in this book -- "The Searchers", "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", "Raiders of the Lost Ark", "Paris, Texas" and so many more.

Most of you probably only know Ebert through the television program, "Ebert & Roeper." If so, you're loosing a luxury of great film critique writing that Ebert provides through the Chicago newspaper and online at [...]

Ebert does not just review films - just about anybody can do that, instead, he analyzes them and shares with the reader something deeper found in the film than one may ever realize. The reader is left with a deeper appreciation not only of the movie reviewed but also of the art of filmmaking in general.

I hope that Ebert will continue to grace us with his film thinking in future volumes as well.
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39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
While Ebert's annual collection of reviews make for an enjoyable read, this second collection of "great" movies, like the first, is an essential for the movie fan.

One of the reasons I enjoy Ebert's film criticism is that he's open to finding something good in movies from all genres, never showing the bias that I see from too many critics. That range shows in his choices here, which run from classics like "The Grapes of Wrath" to brilliant works of anime like "Grave of the Fireflies." I've always thought of Ebert as the "common man" among movie critics, and this book furthers that reputation.

Each entry is given 3-4 pages of discussion, and a picture is also included from each film. More than just a review, these entries explain what makes each film "great" in Ebert's view. While I might not agree with every selection, it's difficult to argue with his reasoning for their inclusion. For all films, he looks beyond the obvious reasons for greatness, focusing on cinematography in individual scenes, music selection, and other items that are often overlooked by those of us who have only seen the film once.

I get the feeling Ebert has hundreds more of such films on his list, so I'll forward to the next collection. With excellent writing and strong arguments, I'd highly recommend this volume for any movie fan.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Roger Ebert isn't your typical movie reviewer; he takes the time to evaluate a film, highlight its good points and bad, and let you know what he really thinks of it (as opposed to some studio-paid shill who automatically praises whatever's sent down the pipeline). And Ebert collects some of his favorites in "The Great Books II", a continuation of the previous collection from 2002. To be sure, there are plenty of obvious "artistic classics", but it's the suprises that make this a worthy read.

Ebert's reviews are presented alphabetically, with no frills. It's his writing that he's known for (apart from his show with the late Gene Siskel and now Richard Roeper), and that's what carries even the more boring choices. Heavy on French New Wave and Japanese cinema, sometimes the book could get to be too much for people looking for a casual recommendation. But even if you get tired of hearing about Godard, Cocteau, and every single French or Italian director who ever lived, there's plenty else to keep you interested.

It's the surprises that make this book work for me; who would've thought that a critic with the esteem of Ebert would give time to movies like "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles"...and not only talk about it, but praise it? As Ebert admits in the introduction, these aren't necessarily the *greatest* movies, but they're great for what they represent, what they speak about, and what they mean to continuing generations of people who discover them for the first time. "Spinal Tap" gets equal play to "Rashomon", "Scarface" is praised *for* Al Pacino's performance (most other peer reviewers cited him as the reason it didn't work), and "Say Anything", "Moonstruck", "Raiders of the Lost Ark", and "Saturday Night Fever" get some well-deserved praise.

What Ebert is doing with these reviews is that film criticism doesn't have to be "All Truffaut, All The Time"; you bring to a review what you like about the film, and what makes it work for you. And that's true whether you're talking about Nigel Tufnel's guitar amps or Ingmar Bergman's camera angles and lighting choices. Ebert proves you don't have to be a snob to be a film critic. It's your perspective, anyway, that's all that should matter as long as you bring intelligence to it and can back up your position.

To be sure, Ebert's affection for foreign films gets to be a bit much, but the point is that he wants to expose readers not only to the obvious choices for any aspiring film-lover but to those films that he loves, and why. If he leads you to seek out some obscure flick that he praises for three pages-worth of the book, then he's done his job. And if you come away from it understanding why he chose to include the film in a book titled "The Great Films", then it's time well spent.

Roger Ebert does first-rate criticism not only on the films that everyone would expect, but also on the films that few would think merit "serious" criticism. That's what makes "The Great Movies II" such a delight. And that's what makes Roger Ebert the greatest at his craft.

So pick up "The Great Movies II", and hope that "The Great Books III" is just as good.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I've been watching Roger Ebert on TV for years and occasionally read his column. I always thought he had his critical head screwed on straight (when it came to American movies in particular -- he's not seduced by the Literary or someone's notion of High Culture) even when I disagreed about this or that movie. However, I never thought of him as anything other than capable, before I read his two books on The Great Movies. Ebert writes beautifully and, for me, re-awakens my experience of the movies he talks about. He clearly knows a lot about film vocabulary (far more than I do) and has read widely beyond his chosen field. These essays, one after another, have knocked me over. In the cases of movies I haven't seen, I now have GOT to see them.

I'm putting these next to my Bazins, Agee, and Kaels.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
Roger Ebert follows his book that compiles his bi-weekly column "The Great Movies" with a second volume.

Classics such as "The Grapes of Wrath" and "Five Easy Pieces" are examined here. Foreign films get their due, with films by Godard, Ozu, and Kurasawa that are discussed at legnth. So are obscure movies in need of rediscovery.

What may surprise some readers is the inclusion of some audience favorites as "A Christmas Story", "Planes, Trains and Automobles", "Say Anything" and "This is Spinal Tap". We watch different movies for different reasons, and Ebert is no exception. If someone like Ebert loves to watch "A Christmas Story" (one of my favorites) over and over, then why shouldn't he include it in his book? How many other critics would have thought to include these movies together with "Rashomon" and "The Searchers"? Not very many. Bravo to Ebert for doing so.

Ebert also looks at Gene Siskel's favorite movie "Saturday Night Fever". It as much a tribute to Gene's memory as it is a film review.

Movie fans will love both volumes of this series. They are essential reading for anyone who loves film.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Roger Ebert isn't the only one to be accused of snarkiness. Attack the man, but judge the work by itself, Publishers Weekly. What the anonymous reviewer fails to take into account is that Ebert included a Japanese director OTHER than Kurosawa in "The Great Movies II": "Tokyo Story", directed by Yasujiro Ozu. Also, the two Anime films included in this collection did not include the usual suspects ("Akira", "Spirited Away") but rather "My Neighbor Totoro" (child's tale that is not at all child-like) and "Grave of the Fireflies", a sad, thoughtful story about two orphans in Japan at the close of WWII. And for what it's worth, Ebert included another director NOT named Kurasowa in "The Great Movies" (2002) with Hirokazu Koreeda, who directed "After Life" (1998). Publishers Weekly may take umbrage with Ebert's reviewing style, his writing, maybe even his politics. But his movie selection is top-notch (and in my experience, the people who find fault with someone for only dwelling on Kurosawa usually have difficulty in naming another Japanese director OTHER than the aforementioned genius).
That being said, on to the book. What I love about the two books in the "Great Movies" series is that it can spark debate over what is a "good" movie as opposed to a "great" movie. My complaint is that "Saving Private Ryan" is not among the list in the two books (though Ebert had written one of the best reviews that I have ever read about that film). But that is open to debate (as opposed to factual errors that are rife in Publishers Weekly's Amazon review). An interesting read, and one that can spark some great discussions about what makes a movie such a "great" movie.
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on May 7, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Roger Ebert's "Great Movie" books offer a more in depth look at some terrific movies. Mr. Ebert's approach is not to try to rank the movies (i.e. a greatest list), but to examine movies that pass his test as a great movies. The criteria he uses (and freely admits borrowing) is that a great movie is any movie you couldn't bear to not see again.

As I write this review, he has extended this series to a third volume.

Each volume contains an approximately 3-4 page discussion of each movie. This allows more discussion/explanation than the 1 or 2 paragraphs you get in the 500 or 1000 "best" movie books.

Ultimately, the books depends on the selection of movies included. That depends to a great extent on the purview of the critic. Mr. Ebert has shown himself to be open to a wide range of films. His selections reflect that vision. They include, I suspect, a few "guilty pleasures" -- lesser known or less arty films that are appealling and/or very entertaining. Nonetheless, the vast majority of films included would be on anyone's "best" list. The movies included in "Great Movies II" cover the full gamut of American movies from silents to present day. They also include a wide selection of prominent foreign films.

I've found the essays on each film spot on for the many films that I've seen. They range from information about how the film was made, what it's about, facts/history about the actors/directors, to discussion about what the film means or what the director is trying to say. It's just the kind of thing that someone looking for a more in depth understanding of these movies will find useful.

The information can also be very useful to someone just getting into being a movie buff. It can help that person decide which of these movies to see next. It can also provide a nice introduction to each film.

As to the films included in the book, I was delighted with the overall selection. It includes everything from "guilty pleasures" like "A Christmas Story" and "Say Anything", popular blockbusters like "Jaws", "Patton", and "Raiders of the Lost Ark", to acknowledged classics like "The Bridge on the River Kwai", "Breathless" (foreign), "Rashomon" (foreign), "The Searchers", and "West Side Story".

I would also encourage anyone using this book as a guide to make the extra effort necessary to view foreign films and silent movies. I recently got a chance to view the classic silent romance "Sunrise" (listed in the book) and was blown away by its spellbinding story. Foreign gems like "Children of Paradise", "The Rules of the Game", and "Ugetsu" are not to be missed.
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Writing a critique of a critic's work seems somewhat redundant, but world-renowned film critic Roger Ebert's latest compendium of his favorite films is worth discussion. In fact, this volume is more interesting for his selections than his first, which contained essays on the more predictable classics, such as "Citizen Kane", "2001: A Space Odyssey", "La Dolce Vita" and "Metropolis". One can find any number of cinema books that praise those movies, but what I like about Ebert's approach with his second hundred films is that it is at once pompous and everyman in his perspective on how these films - most classics of some genre, some idiosyncratic - have impacted him. The usual suspects still persist here - "King Kong", "West Side Story", "Rules of the Game", etc. He constantly acknowledges this to be a personal list of favorites, an unnecessary admission given he includes some oddball choices, such as Cameron Crowe's "Say Anything" and John Hughes' "Planes, Trains and Automobiles". I like both movies, but putting them in the top 200 certainly attests to Ebert's subjectivity.

What offsets the inclusion of such outliers is his genuine enthusiasm for movies overall. He is truly the film projectionist nerd you remember from junior high, who can actually write ebullient, thoughtful analyses and convince you that you are indeed lacking for the experience of viewing his must-see film selections. I particularly like his essays on some of the more unusual choices, such as Bob Clark's "A Christmas Story", a minor family comedy save for the fact that it has such an empathetic view of its young protagonist that it is hard to resist regardless of how unctuous Jean Shepherd's voiceover gets. Or F.W. Murnau's "Sunrise", which really took silent pictures to a new emotional level just as they were made irrelevant by the introduction of sound. Or even John Ford's "The Searchers", which took the Western form into deeper psychological territory without sacrificing the genre's adventuresome appeal. Without apology, he also includes such arguable classics as "Goldfinger", "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "My Dinner With Andre". For movie lovers who lap up the details only an aficionado like Ebert can provide, this seems like a must-have.
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VINE VOICEon February 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I've been watching Roger Ebert on TV for years and occasionally read his column. I always thought he had his critical head screwed on straight (when it came to American movies in particular -- he's not seduced by the Literary or someone's notion of High Culture) even when I disagreed about this or that movie. However, I never thought of him as anything other than capable, before I read his two books on The Great Movies. Ebert writes beautifully and, for me, re-awakens my experience of the movies he talks about. He clearly knows a lot about film vocabulary (far more than I do) and has read widely beyond his chosen field. These essays, one after another, have knocked me over. In the cases of movies I haven't seen, I now have GOT to see them.

I'm putting these next to my Bazins, Agee, and Kaels.
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on January 28, 2007
Format: Paperback
While I may not always agree with Roger Ebert, I always find his opinion valid and his choices are always intriguing.. His second installment of the great movies is no exception.. Ebert is familiar with a broad range of cinema.. from the classics, to lesser-known foreign films, to neglected movies that deserve more attention.. Ebert's straightforward writing style is unpretentious and stands alongside some of the finer film essays of our time.. It is refreshing to know that such a popular critic has integrity and truly cares about the preservation of cinema..
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