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Fast Food (1999)
Well I liked it
This is one of those films that you later read about as having been financed using the director's credit cards. The budget had to have been close to non-existent and the production values are crap, but it's an engaging story and it's well acted. It is also an amusing look, in that "before they were stars" kind of way at some early work from Douglas Henshall and Gerard Butler. I enjoyed Butler's performance as Jacko, in particular, because it foreshadowed another of his characters, Jackie,Jr. in another little seen independent film, "Shooters" (2002)
The film also made good use of Blur's "Song 2", which was, at the time, relatively new and hadn't yet been overplayed and overused. In fact, the soundtrack as a whole was good. Too bad it's not available.
I don't quite understand the bad rap this film has gotten. Perhaps some aren't able to see beyond the cheap, grainy film quality or the uneven lighting. Someone, somewhere, once upon a time, thought enough of it to bring it to Cannes in 1998, which all things considered, says a lot, especially for a first effort from an unknown director (Stewart Sugg).
The Soloist (2009)
The Soloist is a beautifully crafted film.
Robert Downey, Jr. is, as always, wonderful as LA Times columnist Steve Lopez. There is something about his own well worn face and expressive eyes that imbues his portrayal with a truth that another actor would not have been able to bring. The script does not gloss over Lopez's flaws and turn him into a refugee from a TV Movie of the Week, and all of those flaws are visible thanks to RDJ's performance.
Jamie Foxx, in my humble opinion, proves that "Ray" was not a fluke of casting. Even more than his nearly note-perfect portrayal of Ray Charles, his Nathaniel Ayers, Jr. says this man is a truly multi-faceted actor. (Frankly I hope more people see The Soloist and reach that conclusion. It might help his next scheduled release "Law Abiding Citizen.")
I think in the hands of director without the deft touch of Joe Wright, this could have been heavy handed, treacly, feel-good pap. Despite the fact that this is a true story, the audience is allowed to go on Lopez's journey with him. Nobody's holding up flashcards and telling the viewer what to feel next.
Here's what I want to know: What the h*ll happened to this film's marketing campaign? (or should I say the lack thereof). It was pushed back twice and finally released in April of this year w/almost no press and was quickly forgotten. That usually means it's crap. In fact, it sends the message that it's crap. I've heard rumblings that the scheduled release last fall (which would have put it in awards contention)was nixed because of the country's economic downturn, and who wants to see a movie about homeless people? Are we really that fragile? This movie deserves to be in awards contention,probably at least as much, if not more than some that were.
The argument could be made that with the expansion of the Best Picture category to ten slots that it has a better chance this year. The April release date, however, is probably still a handicap. And it would be a damn shame if this were overlooked. Foxx, Downey,Jr. and Wright all deserve consideration.
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
One of the best films of the year, certainly one of the best of the 'new breed' of westerns to come out in the past ten.
Gritty and realistic but without the gratuitous gore thought necessary in updates of this genre.
Russell Crowe and Christian Bale (why is he constantly overlooked by the Academy?)are at the top of their game. The supporting cast is outstanding with nary a false move made by anyone. Very happy to see the entire ensemble nominated by SAG. Ben Foster has true chameleon like qualities and makes for an excellent villain.
I have not seen the original but I have to say the ending was unexpected.
Shadow Company (2006)
There's a reason this doc is called "Shadow Company". These people literally operate in the shadows. Little is known by the general populace about the "private security companies" that augment our American military presence in places like Iraq. Before I saw this doc I knew virtually nothing and I consider myself to be a reasonably well informed person. I make a point of keeping up with current events. But it came as complete surprise to me that there are dozens of these private companies, their employees hired to provide security for foreign dignitaries and business executives who operate in war zones. They live the lives of soldiers and put their lives on the line as soldiers do and yet, when one of them dies, who mourns? Who even knows except their own circle of loved ones. This film will open your eyes.
Jewel of the Sahara (2001)
If you have the chance to see this little "gem", by all means, jump at it! This is some of the funniest fifteen little minutes of film I've ever seen. It's a bad camel joke put on celluloid and it is hilarious! I was laughing out loud from the opening scene to the last. (Don't worry, no camels were harmed in the making of this film. LOL) And it's a must for Gerry Butler fans. This is one of the few comedies on his resume and he's terrific, literally throwing himself into the proceedings with abandon! Don't miss the end credits either. I'm dying to know just what a "Gerry Butler Wrangler" gets paid to do! Hopefully we'll get to see more from director Ariel Vromen as well.
Dear Frankie (2004)
Just about pairfect
One of the sweetest, most delicately told love stories I've ever seen. About the love between a mother and son, the love a son has for his father and the tentative possibility of a new love between two people brought together by dear Frankie. Sensitively written, beautifully directed and acted with honesty and genuine warmth. There are many moments of quiet perfection in this film. I have no interest in rehashing the plot here. You can find that anywhere. All I can do is urge you to see this film. Films of this caliber are few and far between. It's a far cry from the usual mindless, soulless cookie-cutter junk that "Hollywood" keeps churns out by the dozen. It's a small little film that deserves to be seen and once seen will not be forgotten.
Dracula 2000 (2000)
I'm a huge fan of vampire lore and and even bigger fan of Gerard Butler. Both of which are reasons I saw the film and reasons why it was so disappointing. This movie is a mess. Gerry makes a compelling (and of course, sexy) Dracula but, if you watch the extended and deleted scenes on the DVD you'll see that the heart & soul of the film was cut out. If those scenes had been left intact, the whole thing would have made SENSE and have been a lot more interesting to watch. Since the director was also the editor, I have to ask "What were you thinking?!?" Perhaps if they'd spent less time on the acrobatics and silly fight sequences with Omar Epps and Danny Masterson, they wouldn't have felt it necessary to cut these scenes in order to keep the length short enough for the average teenager's attention span. If you're looking for a better update of the classic tale, look no further than the 1979 version with Frank Langella.
The Game of Their Lives (2005)
Sweet story of a little known American moment
This is a likable depiction of a little known event in American sports history; the defeat of soccer superpower England at the hands of an unknown, underfunded U.S. team (most of whom are sons of Italian immigrants) during the World Cup in Brazil in 1950. The film defines the characters, showing their Italian roots as well as their pride at being Americans without crossing the line into stereo-type. Their are a couple of moments that appear as if they're heading in that direction but, then the film deftly veers around it. The scenes on the pitch are exciting and compelling, particularly the ultimate match with the English. Even though the outcome is a matter of record, I was still captivated. Part of the reason for this might be all those shots of walking pheromone Gerard Butler as goalie Frank Borghi. (Disclaimer:Mr. Butler was the real reason I picked up this little film.) *Spoiler*I'm glad they included the real players that were still alive at the time of filming in the final scene. I'll watch this again. I rented it last night, bought it this morning.
Inside Man (2006)
Almost perfect caper film
Well written, well acted (not to mention well cast) film about the perfect bank robbery. The dialog crackles and Denzel Washington's characteristic intelligence and intensity is evenly matched to that of both Clive Owen and Jodie Foster. Once you've seen it, you'll want to see it again to find out why you never saw the end coming! I was hooked from the opening scenes and for most of the film I believed the title had a different meaning than it turned out to have. This is Spike Lee's most mainstream film and is also one of his best. Highly recommended. For those who enjoyed this film but are unfamiliar with Clive Owen's work, I also recommend "Croupier."
Hart's War (2002)
what's with the trailer?
I just saw this movie and although I went in under duress, I came away having been thoroughly entertained. This movie was nothing like I expected it to be. What studio ad exec came up with that trailer? It has almost nothing to do with the movie I saw. Bruce Willis is the star in name only. (As his is the only "household name" in the cast.) He actually has a supporting role. The star, playing the Hart in the title, is Collin Farrell. An actor apparently thought of so highly despite his having appeared in approx. 3 American films, that he merits 'above the title' billing. I hadn't seen Farrell before, although I have been trying to rent the dvd of "Tigerland" for months. (My local store only seems to have 1 copy and it's always out.) He is very good here. I finally get the "buzz" surrounding him. This film was chock full of good performances, not the least of which was the German camp commander, Maj. Visser. This film is less a war movie than a courtroom drama set in a POW camp. And while court room dramas tend to be pedantic, they also, when done right, can keep you on the edge of your seat. It was directed by Gregory Hoblitt who managed to do just that with "Primal Fear". This movie will lose nothing in the translation if you wait for video or dvd but it will make a dandy Saturday nite rental.