Archive for December, 2003

2003

December 18, 2003

AMC Saratoga

USA

English

117 minutes



Nicholson, Keaton, McDormand, Peete, Reeves.

I was completely put off by the trailer to this film. The one where Jack mistakenly walks into Diane’s bedroom and sees her naked and then all but pokes his eyes out to get the image out of his head. Every single audience I saw it with could not stop laughing. Like seeing beautiful Diane Keaton naked was the worst thing that could possibly happen to Nicholson or anyone else for that matter. I was so angry at that trailer that I didn’t expect to like this film. If the same mean spiritedness was found throughout, it would have been a movie about Nicholson vomiting everytime he got close to a woman his own age.

There is an early scene where Nicholson is confronted by his girlfriends mother and aunt. The girlfriend is Amanda Peete, the aunt is Frances McDormand, and mom is Diane Keaton. Not that you asked, but I’m 37 and my order of boffability of these three is Keaton, McDormand, Peete. The fact that we’re led to believe that Keaton has closed up shop and doesn’t expect to ever be in love again is a bit hard to take. She’s goofy and smart and sexy, not to mention rich. Keanu Reeve’s doctor is the only guy with any sense as he falls for her immediately.

Once Jack realizes that she’s not the Yetti he first thought she was, the two actors fall into a completely believable and sweet rhythm. These are truly two of the best actors we’ve ever had and to see them together, awkwardly feeling around a new relationship is really a sight to see. Nicholson just continues to amaze me. Keaton seems to be playing herself more than Jack, although a highly neurotic version to be sure. Nicholson obviously sleeps with a lot of young women in real life, but besides that similarity, I felt like I was watching a complete character creation. I just can’t get over how much I believed that the two of them were feeling something for each other.

Don’t watch the trailer, go to the movie.

***^ Ebert

**^ Berardinelli

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2003

December 18, 2003

AMC Saratoga

USA

English

110 minutes

An Adventure As Big As Life Itself — BIG FISH.

Tim Burton. Ewan McGregor. Albert Finney. Billy Crudup. Jessica Lange. Alison Lohman. Helena Bonham Carter. Robert Guillaume. Steve Buscemi. Danny Devito. A giant. Siamese twins.

Finney’s character is dying and everyone gathers around to hear him spin tales of his life that those around him have heard for years and years. The film is a collection of fables all centered around Finney’s character of a guy who could never be tied down and had to keep moving. Enjoyable from start to finish. Each story built on the story before. Scary witches and hard-to-catch fish, and perfect small towns. Howard Stern fans will recognize Big Foot as the Giant.

The cast is fantastic. At this point, Burton can get anyone to do anything. Lohman looks exactly like a young Lange which helps out a bunch.

This will probably hit many males harder than females. Finney’s son (Crudup) is trying to learn about him before he dies and feels that his whole life has been filled by stories, rather than the truth. This reconnection hit members of my audience pretty hard.

There is a Forrest Gump feel in that Finney’s character did remarkable things with relative ease. McGregor is game for anything, Burton has scary creativity. It’s a good combo.

It just felt magical. I wouldn’t put it atop EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, but it is a close second.

*** Berardinelli

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2003

December 16, 2003

Century 23

USA

English / Japanese / French

111 minutes

Here Comes The Bride — KILL BILL.

Remember in PULP FICTION when we all wanted to know what was in the briefcase? If you took a whole film and kept the reasons for things happening as secret as the contents of that case, you’d end up with this movie. At the beginning, Uma Thurman is pregnant and about to get married when she is shot, with the rest of her wedding party, and left for dead. We don’t know who did it, or why, or what the relationship is. But rather than it being a puzzle that we want to solve, like MEMENTO or USUAL SUSPECTS or FIGHT CLUB, we are just pulled along for the ride with no emotional stake in what happens.

There are some Tarentino flourishes that I enjoy, like the use of old film footage, the anime sequence is spectacular, the black and white, and especially the music. I like many of the film-encyclopedia in-jokes.

On the other hand, I’m a bit tired of the witty dialogue that is oh so clever. When Uma and Vivica face off, their dialogue is so forced as to be hard to watch.

It’s like cotton candy. It completely disappears. There’s no there there in this film.

I can’t say I was bored. Uma is hard to not want to watch. And the fight she has with the knee-socked, school-girl outfitted Japanese girl swinging a chain was pretty cool. I’ll probably see Vol II, I just won’t be in a hurry.

**** Ebert

**^ Berardinelli

101 on IMDB list (a travesty)

5.7 Critical Consensus

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2003

December 16, 2003

Century 23

UK

English

108 minutes

They Dropped Everything For A Good Cause — CALENDAR GIRLS.

Enjoyable in that specific UK category that Waking Ned Devine filled a few years back. Small-town women who are members of a women’s group decide to raise money by posing nude (though completely covered by themed items) for a calendar. This story is true and if you know anything about what happened, the film will be less enjoyable. There are a lot of jokes that the audience sees a mile away, but dawn on the characters much too late. “I sure hope we can sell these 500 calendars”, “no one showed up for our press conference”, “can you please just take me to my hotel room”. All of these scenes end with our characters being surprised at their success.

On the plus side, you get to see 55-year-old women struggle with their sexuality and shame and brazenness.

A bit too Behind The Music, when success goes to the head of one character and she leaves her values behind. Crowd pleasing for sure.

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2002

December 14, 2003

Camera One

Ireland / UK

English

107 minutes

Samantha Morton is one of my favorites. And this was before she put on a tail and cavorted with Larry Mullen, Jr. Every December I look forward to the slew of quality films that are going to make up for the terrible ones that we all have to sit through during the rest of the year. I had heard such great things about this one that I completely avoided all review and discussion about it. I just knew that when it opened, I’d be there. Usually, I limit my review reading to the first paragraph where I can get a feeling of the reviewer’s opinion without any plot being disclosed. I was extra careful with this one. I closed my eyes during the trailer. I didn’t let other people tell me anything about it. This was my movie of the Fall.

Unfortunately, it fell far short. Everyone is great in it. Samantha Morton can act more with her big eyes than most women can with their whole body and voice. Her husband is played by a guy named Paddy Considine, who I have never seen before. He is fantastic as well. The kids are played by real life sisters, the Bolgers. Djimon Hounsou has finally left behind his supporting roles and now seems destined for stardom. A family moves from Ireland (I think) to New York to forget the tragedy of the death of their son. They move into one of those huge old buildings near Times Square that has what appear to be 30 foot ceilings. Where there are scary people, but you rarely feel like your life’s in danger, more like you’re on an adventure. The building is inhabited by people with hearts of gold. It’s like a playground for the two girls. Perhaps this is how Jim Sheridan remembers his own upbringing, but they made being seriously poor and unable to pay bills seem like summer camp.

Everyone acts splendidly, especially the older daughter who is way better than she should be at her age. There is death and life and friendship. Scary yelling psychotic people turn out to be just angry at the world, but are no match for two cute as a button girls.

Basically, it didn’t get to me. I wanted, needed it to get to me and it didn’t. I gave it every opportunity.

~Independent Spirit Award Nominations for Picture, Director, Cinematography, Samantha Morton, Sarah Bolger, Djimon Hounsou.

**** Ebert

*** Berardinelli

7.8 Critical Consensus

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THE A’S, THE RAIDERS, THE 70S

2003

December 13, 2003

HBO

English

55 minutes

Until 1976 I lived close enough to the Oakland Coliseum to hear the fireworks when the A’s won yet another playoff game. I’m biased in great favor of this documentary which highlights my two favorite teams. I think it captures the inferiority complex that Oakland has as it is across the Bay from the beautiful city in North America.

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2003

December 10, 2003

Camera 7

USA

English

93 minutes

He Doesn’t Care If You’re Naughty Or Nice — BAD SANTA.

Crass, offensive, and a weird mixture of unpleasant and funny. I can’t really get my head around it. I tried to relay a joke from it to a person that didn’t watch it, and as it came out of my mouth I wish I could have had it back. Without the context of the world’s most pathetic Santa, none of the off-color and, in other hands, offensive material would work as humor. But somehow it is funny. Billy Bob Thornton is a drunk, and not like a Hollywood drunk, but an actual barfing, pissing-on-himself drunk. His sidekick is a little person, who takes whatever ridicule he feels and turns it around on unsuspecting people. Bernie Mac is a disgraceful security guy. John Ritter is a pathetic pushover. Gillmore Girl Lauren Graham has a sexual Santa issue that she can’t seem to get out of her system, she isn’t an angel but just as messed up as everyone else. And “The Kid” is just a mess.

Every possible mention of body function and every possible act of sex is represented. The film never lets up which is probably where the genius lies. At no point is there redemption. There is no great life lesson.

Reading the above, I’m wondering if I would even go. But it was funny and didn’t have a politically correct bone in its body, unlike THE MISSING, which wears it’s 2003 revisionism on its sleeve.

Definitely not for everyone.

***^ Ebert

*** Berardinelli

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2003

December 6, 2003

Camera 7

USA

English

95 minutes

This Holiday, Discover Your Inner Elf — ELF.

Extremely enjoyable, light comedy. I have seen Will Ferrell on talk shows and frankly he’s not very funny. I hope he doesn’t start taking his “craft” too seriously. This movie is funny and unchallenging. It is loaded with good lines and just someone saying “I like to whisper too” makes me laugh. It should be rated G.

*** Ebert

**^ Berardinelli

6.8 Critical Consensus

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2003

December 3, 2003

Camera 7

USA

English

130 minutes

How Far Would You Go, How Much Would You Sacrifice To Get Back What You Have Lost? — The Missing.

Pretty good modern slant on the western genre. Any film with Kate Blanchett and Tommy Lee Jones can’t suck, can it? Also has the best 16-year-old actress on the planet, Evan Rachel Wood. There is mysticism and a battle of religions. The scenery is spectacular and the shots are good and often eerie. However, it also has the official flash flood near-disaster, early scenes show a character doing something that we know they’ll be asked to do later. Worst of all, rescuers are foiled more than once by idiotic captives. Plus it has the Ron Howard music-tells-us-what-to-think problem that they all do. Does not feel like more than two hours.

** Ebert

*** Berardinelli

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1994

December 3, 2003

TMC

USA

English / Gaelic

103 minutes

Between Land And Sea There Is A Place Where Myths Are Real — The Secret Of Roan Inish.

In Ireland, a young girl persuades her family to move to a seal-haunted island off the Donegal coast, where their ancestors once lived.

Charming and quiet. Different fables are meshed together and told to our audience surrogate who in this case is a young girl who is apparently never frightened. Good Irish music and it seems to understand a human’s connection with the sea. Some people need to be surrounded by water, others don’t.

***^ Ebert

***^ Berardinelli

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1999

January 4, 2000

September 29, 2000

December 2, 2003

DVD

USA

English

188 minutes

Things Fall Down. People Look Up. And When It Rains, It Pours — Magnolia.

In Los Angeles, the lives of various dysfunctional people coincidentally intertwine and interact.

This might be one of my top ten. How Anderson can keep all these stories and characters compelling is beyond me. It is more than three hours long, but not a minute of that is too much.

IMDB #164

** Halliwells

**** Ebert

***^ Berardinelli

7.1 Critical Consensus

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1979

June 15, 1997

November 29, 2002

November 28, 2003

Videotape

USA

English

95 minutes

A Real Story Of Teenage Rebellion — Over The Edge.

In a new Colorado development, bored, affluent teenagers go on the rampage.

My brothers and I enjoy this film every day after Thanksgiving. It was our coming of age film. It had swearing and loud music and cute redheads. It’s still good, but probably mostly due to its nostalgia for our younger selves. I still believe that the party scene, while the kid’s parents are out of town, is the most honestly done one ever. Even at a young age, with hardly any acting skill, it was clear that Matt Dillon was going to be a star. Where have all the other actors gone?

* Halliwells

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2002

November 24, 2003

HBO

USA

English

91 minutes

The Story Of A Man Who Seduced Hollywood — The Kid Stays In The Picture.

***^ Ebert

7.2Critical Consensus

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2000

November 24, 2003

HBO

USA

English / Afrikaans

94 minutes

~~Best Documentary of 2000 — Oscar Nomination, Director’s Guild Nomination, Independent Spirit Award Nomination, Sundance Film Festival Winner.

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2000

November 23, 2003

IFC

USA

English

The Only Way To Find Out What You Love Is To Risk Everything You Have — Two Family House.

***^ Ebert

*** Berardinelli

8.6 Critical Consensus

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2003

November 23, 2003

PBS

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The Far Side Of The World

2003

November 23, 2003

Century 21

USA

English

138 minutes

**** Ebert

*** Berardinelli

8.3 Critical Consensus

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2002

November 22, 2003

Trio

USA / Germany

English

83 minutes

*** Ebert

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2002

November 22, 2003

Sundance

USA

English

104 minutes

The Naked Difference Between Men And Women — Roger Dodger.

*** Ebert

*** Berardinelli

7.9 Critical Consensus

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2001

November 22, 2003

PBS P.O.V.

New Zealand

English

69 minutes

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Written by Michael W. Cummins