Archive for July, 2002

2001

July 30, 2002

DVD

USA

English

Jon Favreau. Vince Vaughn. Puff Daddy. Famke Janssen. Peter Falk. Jonathan Silverman. Three castmembers from THE SOPRANOS.

Made. Two dimwitted men go on a mission to New York City for a mob boss.

I wanted it to be better. The story really plays a backseat to the interaction between Jon and Vince. They really have the timing down. Jon as the serious, quiet, angry guy, and Vince as the cocky, nervous, talky idiot. I laughed a lot when they were talking. Vince’s character wasn’t sure exactly what was complimentary on their first class flight, for example. The DVD extras point out that the title was Jon’s quote “Let’s just get this movie Made”. He and Vince were tired of waiting around for a film to start so Jon wrote it and they both got involved and for five million they made this. Falk is funny and tough. Puffy is surprisingly good and pretty funny himself. Big Pussy is quiet and drives the limo around. Silverman may not even have a line. I like him and I’m not sure what he was doing here. There isn’t much to this, but it’s fun to hang out with these characters. Vaughn has sort of cornered the market on his particular kind of humor. He’s like a hyperactive kid who talks before thinking and then gets his feelings hurt if someone is rude to him.

Bonus points for having two of my favorite hotties. Spin City’s Jennifer Esposito plays a Jersey club girl. And porn star Jenteal, who I am proud to say I recognized even though she used a fake name in the credits, plays a stripper (shockingly!). And any film that has a cameo by Saved By The Bell’s Screech, and then disses him, can’t be all bad.

7.0 Critical Consensus

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2001

July 28, 2002

DVD

Australia/Germany

English

Lantana–Love Is The Greatest Mystery

Anthony LaPaglia. Geoffrey Rush. Barbara Hershey. A cast of terrifice Australian actors.

LaPaglia is a detective enjoying a nooner with a woman who is not his wife. We learn they know each other from a dance class that LaPaglia’s wife has dragged him to. Hershey plays a famous psychiatrist married to Rush. Among her patients is LaPaglia’s wife. These are all characters in their 40s who are in relationships that aren’t fulfilling them as much as they want them to. There is a gay man, having an affair with a married man. There is a wife who thinks her husband my be bisexual. A woman who is pretty sure her husband is steppng out. An attractive wife who needs to feel wanted, even if its by the 20-something guy she meets in a club. There is also a young couple, with three kids, who are so newly in love, that they can’t seem to understand the problems these older couples are having.

There is also a missing woman that ends up affecting all the other characters. The mystery of her whereabouts is just the icing on the cake in this film. The story could have been about anything and the relationships in this movie still would have been compelling.

This is an adult film. Humans aren’t perfect. They react to relationship problems in different ways and some of these ways are destructive to their partners and what they’ve built as a couple. Every actor is fantastic and although many motivations are left unsaid, we can ‘feel’ why they do what they do. It’s nice to see 40-somethings who need to be needed in one way or another. I really liked the vibe and the pace of this film.

8.6 Critical Consensus

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2001

July 28, 2002

DVD

Czech Republic/USA

English

From Hell–Only The Legend Will Survive

Johnny Depp. MichaelVox Top Five Heather Graham. Ian Holm. Robbie Coltrane.

Actually better than I expected. Depp is great, as usual. Graham is hot as usual, and does a relatively admiral job with the accent. The art direction is fantastic, the streets look scary even before Jack the Ripper shows up. I haven’t read the comic book that this is based on, but several of the shots seemed very comic-like. Creepy and full of suspense.

6.1 Critical Consensus

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2001

July 27, 2002

DVD

USA

English

Tilda Swinton. Goran Visnjic.

The Deep End. A good friend of mine saw this in the theater when it first came out and hated it. She thought that it was one implausibility after another. Because I had this impression before watching it, it turned out to be much better than I thought it would be. Plot-wise, there is a single mistake made early by Swinton’s character and she spends the rest of the film trying to make up for it. This is the story of a mother who will do anything, regardless of how illogical or unneccesary, to protect her children. The photography is fantastic, not that Lake Tahoe needs any help in that department. The Deep End has many meanings in this film: a gay bar, the lake itself, the mother finding herself unable to get out of a problem she helped create. Swinton has proved herself to be a fantastic actress (ORLANDO, and the fantastic THE WAR ZONE) and she doesn’t disappoint here either. Not the greatest, but not the train wreck I heard it was.

* Best Actress of 2001 for Tilda Swinton–Boston Film Critics Winner; Chicago Film Critics Nomination; Independent Spirit Awards Nomination; Online Film Critics Society Nomination

* Best Cinematography of 2001 for Giles Nuttgens–Independent Spirit Awards Nomination; Sundance Film Festival Winner

* Best Picture of 2001–Sundance Film Festival Nomination

8.3 Critical Consensus

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2002

July 27, 2002

Century 21

USA

English

The Road To Perdition–Every Father Is A Hero To His Son

Tom Hanks. Paul Newman. Jude Law. Jennifer Jason Leigh. Stanley Tucci. Dylan Baker. Shot by Connie Hall. Directed by Sam Mendes.

12-year-old son discovers that his father is a hitman.

The cast and crew is among the most decorated in film history. It would probably be harder for this film to turn out poorly, than to turn out fabulous. The pacing is slow, the mood dreary and cold. It was filmed in small towns around Lake Michigan, where I spent much of my formative years. The photography is perfect. Every craftsperson is at the top of their game, except the music, which I swear was note-for-note the same score as SIX FEET UNDER. This actually took me out of the film from time to time. However, with the exception of the music, this was the result of brilliant filmmakers put together in the service of a pretty good story.

While I was sitting in the theater, I was mesmerized. The performances were fantastic. Tom Hanks should be the most hated man in Hollywood. He makes everything seem so effortless. But I am more convinced than ever that he deserves every accolade, every penny, and every drop of power that he now enjoys in Hollywood. He is an actual actor. He isn’t a movie star. His face shows us what’s going on inside him, even though his role here is quieter than usual. Paul Newman brings the sheer force of his Hollywood history to his role. He is full of integrity because we ‘know’ him through his countless other roles. In this role he has some unearned integrity that oozes from him, even though his profession is not one we should aspire to. Jude Law plays another hitman, who, by enjoying his profession gleefully, is more of a monster than Hanks, even though they basically do the exact same thing. So while I sat there watching, I was happy as can be.

I’ve had four days to think about this film. And the more I think, the less I like it. It’s not with the acting or the direction and it sure as hell isn’t the way it was shot. It’s the story and the lack of character development. This is one film where the negative comments you read from people seem to have much more truth behind them than the positive one you felt while watching. I feel sort of betrayed.

There is Catholic imagery that only shows up to prove that Hanks’ character is good. Leigh is among our greatest actresses but she has such little character development as to be a ghost. We should welcome her because when she isn’t onscreen, there are no females to take her place. This movie was shot in that one rare area of the Midwest where women don’t exist, I suppose. The character that Law plays only magnifies the problem with the central part of the film. That Hanks is loyal and doing his job because Newman helped him when he was younger. Hanks is a family man who prays and keeps his business separate from his home life. He doesn’t relish the violence he has to inflict in the name of Newman. Law, on the other hand, is happy, joyful; he poses his victims for photographs. He has no family and we don’t see him in church, therefore he is somehow a worse hitman. Both Law and Hanks work for the same man. They both kill people for a living. Law is creepy and has bad teeth and lives alone. Hanks dresses like a businessman, is well groomed and loves his family. This alone somehow makes Hanks a better man. The victims of Hanks are unknown to us, while the victims of Law are beloved by us.

My basic problem is that Hanks does not earn the love that we as the audience give him. It doesn’t matter that he had a bad childhood, he is a killer, but we think he’s cool. When Law kills someone, we see blood and hear screams. When Hanks does, it’s clean, often off-camera, and the music takes over.

This film isn’t without its charms. A scene where Newman and Hanks talk about the son’s discovery is quiet and says more without dialogue than more typically wordy films would. “He saw everything,” says Hanks. Newman answers, “It’s tough to see that for the first time, but then you turned out.” Is Hanks pissed that Newman forced him into the family business? Does Hanks think he’s messed up and didn’t ‘turn out’? Was Newman apologizing for Hanks having seen the same thing his son did all those years ago? We are forced to make up our own conclusions, which makes the film good. There is a shot outside in the rain in Chicago when Newman is surrounded by his men and Hanks is in the shadows that I may never forget. The time period is faithfully rendered, with the exception of choppy CGI work when we see old-town Chicago.

A better story having characters who don’t appear to have a checklist of character traits, but simply are characters would have made the film less obvious and more thought provoking. We are told what to think by scenes in a family’s kitchen and at church. Bad guys smoke and aren’t attractive. Good guys are quiet and have families.

The praise for this film is way overboard. It will surely be nominated for multiple Oscars. I’d give a nomination to Conrad Hall for the photography and Hanks for inhabiting his role.

7.8 Critical Consensus

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2001

July 26, 2002

DVD

France/USA

English/Spanish

Mulholland Drive–A Love Story In The City Of Dreams

Naomi Watts. Laura Harring. Directed by David Lynch.

This was one of my top five films of 2001 and upon second viewing, I still believe this. In fact, watching this on DVD was better than in the theater. Mostly because of the intricate sound design that Lynch came up with. It is much scarier watching this on your TV alone at home than it was in a theater full of people.

I loved that entire philosophies of this film sprung up on the internet when it first came out. What does the box mean? What is the timeline? I read every word and agreed with many of the theories. They still hold up after watching again. The sex scenes are still hot, the ending still creepy, and the performance of Watts looks even better. I’d like to know where in Australia Watts has been hiding because she was unbelievable.

As this is a Lynch film, there are red herrings galore. What was the meeting in the board room all about? What’s the deal with the cowboy? Why do we care about the director’s wife and Billy Ray Cyrus? But this all makes the film more fun.

* Best Actress of 2001 for Naomi Watts–Boston Film Critics Nomination; Chicago Film Critics Winner; Online Film Critics Society Winner

* Best Director of 2001 for David Lynch–Academy Award Nomination; Boston Film Critics Winner; Cannes Film Festival Winner; Chicago Film Critics Winner; Los Angeles Film Critics Winner; Online Film Critics Society Winner; Toronto Film Festival Winner

* Best Picture of 2001–Boston Film Critics Winner; Broadcast Critics Association Nomination; Chicago Film Critics Winner; Cesar Award Winner; New York Film Critics Winner; Online Film Critics Society Winner

* Best Cinematography of 2001 for Peter Deming–Chicago Film Critics Nomination; Independent Spirit Award Winner; Online Film Critics Society Nomination

* Best Screenplay of 2001 for David Lynch–Online Film Critics Society Nomination

7.3 Critical Consensus

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2001

July 20, 2002

DVD

USA

English/Russian/Spanish

Denzel Washington. Ethan Hawke.

Training Day. Denzel deserved his Oscar win. I’m just as surprised as you are. I had heard that this was a routine police film about an out-of-control cop and a newby. Which it was. But somehow Denzel is such an acting stud that anything that comes out of his mouth has this sort of power that mere mortals can’t possibly match. Hawke is not my favorite guy, but he leaves behind ‘author-smart-guy Hawke’ to play a new guy, eager to make a good impression and provide for his family. The fact that he isn’t acted off the screen is a testament to his skill. Denzel is powerful as a guy in charge of a group of narco cops in L.A. He bends and breaks the rules with impunity. He stares at his young charge and seems to be making up dialogue on the spot. I believed that he was from the streets of L.A. He swaggered like the homies he was arresting. He went from being a serious role model cop, to funny jokester in a single breath.

The film crumbles under a single coincidence that couldn’t possibly happen, which is the only thing keeping this from being something special. We know how its going to end and it ends exactly that way.

Watch this for the performances. Not just of Denzel and Ethan, but of Macy Gray and Dr Dre and Snoop Dog. Great acting, not-so-great story.

Denzel Washington won the Best Actor of 2001 from the Academy Awards, Boston Society of Film Critics, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and was nominated for a SAG Award.

Ethan Hawke was nominated for Best Supporting Actor of 2001 by the Academy Awards and SAG.

6.2 A Critical Consensus

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PAR-DELA LES NUAGES
(BEYOND THE CLOUDS)

1995

July 20, 2002

Sundance Channel

Italy/France/Germany

English/French/Italian

A film director imagines or remembers four stories involving partings between a man and a woman.

John Malkovich. Irene Jacob (RED). Sophie Marceau (BRAVEHEART). Vincent Perez. Jean Reno (THE PROFESSIONAL). Peter Weller (is ROBOCOP). Marcello Mastroianni. Jeanne Moreau.

Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni and Wim Wenders.

Beautiful and dreamy series of stories about love, both passionate and unrequited. Malkovich plays a filmmaker who observes the pairings going on around him and he gets to partake in one himself. The little scenes in between the stories were directed by Wenders and they have that beautiful, bird’s-eye-view, crane manipulation-type shot that he’s become famous for. Malkovich does the voiceover in English, but switches to French for his scene. Peter Weller who is best known for being Robocop, does his entire character in French. This is a truly international production using international actors speaking three different languages. This film also stars two of the world’s most beautiful women and one unknown to me, but who instantly rocketed to the top of the list. Irene Jacob plays a straight-laced woman who is followed by a hunky man to a church while they talk about love and satisfaction. Sophie Marceau is almost hard to look at, she’s so beautiful, and Malkovich finds that simply going into a clothing boutique will eventually get him in the sack with her. And as this is a European film, we see _all_ of Marceau in her love scene. There are arguments and infidelity and teasing and beautiful bodies and mistresses and passionate sex and tearful goodbyes. The music is great, the locations beautiful, though usually cloudy, and the photography stunning.

The first vignette starred an Italian woman named Ines Sastre, who is absolutely stunning. She’s like a more beautiful, thinner Cindy Crawford, with stronger eyebrows and Italian flair. Holy cow.

This is a good one to watch when you’re already sort of tired. It’s dreamy.

** Halliwell’s

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1994

July 17, 2002

Videotape

USA

English

Four friends, newly graduated, try to survive in the real world in Houston; one makes a video documentary of their lives and becomes emotionally involved with another, an articulate rock musician, and with an ambitious TV executive.

At one time, this was the coolest movie ever about 20-something alienation. Now I just want the characters to grow up. Ethan Hawke as one of the snobbiest underachievers in movie history. Winona as a woman who just wants to hold on to her ‘art’, which seems to consist mainly of home movies. She certainly is adorable. Janeane Garofalo as the wacky slut. It is hard to believe that she’s such a hottie now. It can’t just be the terrible haircut she has, can it? And Steve Zahn is forgotten as a guy who’s entire character is based on him being gay, although he only has five lines or so.

Good music and Ben Stiller still funny.

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Written by Michael W. Cummins