Archive for December, 2004

2000

December 10, 2004

IFC

UK / France / Germany / USA

English / French

140 Minutes

In the early years of the twentieth century, an American woman without much money tries unsuccessfully to find a wealthy man she can marry.

8.5 Critical Consensus

** Halliwells

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2003

December 9, 2004

HBO

USA

English / Persian

126 Minutes

Some Dreams Can’t Be Shared — HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG.

Mistakenly evicted from her house, a woman tries to reobtain it from the new owner.

Jennifer Connelly. Ben Kingsley. Ron Eldard.

Absolutely devastating. Take a look at the one-sentence summary above. That’s what the DirecTV screen said. And it’s true. But it doesn’t give any indication how someone could make a movie that is about an argument over a house so compelling. I was transfixed.

It is basically about two people who desire the same house, which both of them are legally entitled to. But there is much much more. There is an Iranian family adjusting to life in the USA after being powerful in their native land. It is about a crumbling woman barely keeping her head above water. It’s about appearances. It’s about a man who needed a spark to set his life in the motion he believes it should go. It’s about misunderstanding between two cultures. It’s about a final last chance.

Ben Kingsley is superb. Again. The guy is a stud. You can’t look away. We see him surrounded by expensive furnishing and we see him paving a road and we see him working in a gas station. He somehow tells us how intelligent he is simply through his eyes. We don’t need him to speak.

And Jennifer Connelly. Bow down to the goddess. She is on the permanent MichaelVox Top Five (Winona, Ashley, Heather Graham, Janeane). But she is more than just gorgeous with her eyebrows and dark hair and green eyes. In this film she is doing a bit of a Halle Berry MONSTER’S BALL thing. She plays a white trash housecleaner who is an ex-drunk. Her life is a mess. It’s always a tricky thing to have someone hot play someone downtrodden. Witness Halle’s expensive underwear even though she is a diner waitress. But somehow, Connelly pulls it off. She feels like she doesn’t deserve any happiness that comes her way. Her character causes everything that happens in this film, but she is without fault. She has longing and anger and most of all regret. Wow.

Movies are filled with hot actresses playing broken angels who need comfort. Connelly’s “slumming” actually somehow makes her even more beautiful. When she played the addict-whore in REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, she was beyond the help of anyone else. In this role, she’s right on the edge. The casting is perfect on so many levels. She’s a mess and would make any man’s life hell, but who’s gonna say no to the opportunity to try to save her? Not me.

Ron Eldard has the role that is most conventional. His cop is the only weak point. Not in acting, but in action. I would have been happy watching all the characters just exist, but we need someone to do something questionable to move the story to a conclusion. Eldard does that. If you look past some of the things he does which seem ill-advised, the film is even better.

It is shot beautifully. We see the ocean, but rarely any sunshine. We see happier times, a loving family, and I swear the screen captures Connelly’s dark soul somehow.

Fantastic.

7.0 Critical Consensus

**** Ebert

***^ Berardinelli

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2002

December 7, 2004

HBO

USA

English / Swahili

81 minutes

Your Life Is On The Line — PHONE BOOTH.

A publicity agent is trapped in a telephone booth by a sniper who threatens to kill him if he hangs up.

5.0 Critical Consensus

* Halliwells

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2003

November 28, 2004

November 10, 2003

HBO

UK / USA

English / Portuguese

135 minutes

5.8 Critical Consensus

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2003

November 27, 2004

HBO

USA

English

86 minutes

Don’t Be Hatin’ — MALIBU’S MOST WANTED.

I have no excuse for watching this, save for the fact that it was at someone else’s house and there was a group of us. Talking during this film did not detract from it’s plot, pacing, or acting.

4.4 Critical Consensus

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2002

November 27, 2004

September 12, 2002

DVD

USA

English / Portuguese

106 Minutes

It’s Not Like They Didn’t Warn Us — SIGNS.

A lapsed priest regains his faith after an invasion by little green men.

6.5 Critical Consensus

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Written by Michael W. Cummins