Reviews written by registered user

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61 reviews in total 
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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
What is going on here?, 2 May 2000

Is this a film - or an experience? Actually, what is it, and which planet did it come from? Subverting this (and several other art forms), Jonze's 'thing' - I can't call it a film - is so far out of left field, it's on a different pitch altogether. My girlfriend laughed like a drain, but I just sat open-jawed all the way through. What are we supposed to make of it? Does it matter? Jonze himself, when pressed on the film's meaning, shrugs and says "I dunno". Perhaps that's a good thing. BJM needs to stand on its own, without even the influence of its creator. Creator? Was this 'thing' created? Or did it just appear from some other dimension, warped into our own by some peculiar combination of cosmic elements? This sounds like a negative review, but I loved it. It's just hard to describe an experience which is unlike any other you've ever had. Leave your expectations at the door before seeing this one, because they'll only hinder you. If this is what 21st century cinema is going to be like, I want in. 10 out of 10, and full marks to the team behind it.

Malkovich... Malkovich...

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Beautiful and compelling, 7 February 2000

I know this is comment no. 940, but what the hell.

American Beauty is in some ways the antithesis of the equally brilliant Fight Club. Both concern men with their best years behind them, stuck in meaningless, middle-class jobs, who embrace extreme behaviour in an attempt to recapture meaning in their lives, with fatal consequences. Fight Club is the more dangerous, more radical and ultimately more nihilistic side of the coin. American Beauty is on safer territory, but its ultimate vision of the beauty of life is more affirmative and uplifting. Both films are masterpieces in their individual ways, but it says something about Hollywood that American Beauty will probably win the Oscar, whereas Fight Club probably won't even be nominated.

On top of this, one can only marvel at the performances, at Thomas Newman's wonderful and memorable score, at Conrad Hall's glowing photography, at the poised and profound script, and at Mendes's loving direction, his debt to theatre immediately obvious. The plastic bag sequence had me in tears. If a film leaves me feeling, as Ricky puts it, that God has looked straight at you, then I give it a 10, whatever its flaws. Like Good Will Hunting, this film transcends cinema and touches your life, without ever stirring your cynicism. For that reason alone, American Beauty is a triumph.

Not quite as bad as it looks ... honestly, 7 February 2000

You know this is going to be a terrible movie, in terms of script and acting, and so it is. The plot is full of contrivances and inconsistencies - and why do the characters keep going down to the basement, when they'd be much safer up in the lobby? Rush may be made up to look like Vincent Price (nice touch), but he struggles terribly with the accent, and the other performances are all at sea (except possibly Janssen, who camps up her part with some relish - probably the only way she could get through it).

Despite this, it's not all bad news. The suspense sequences may not be exactly scary, and the ultimate monster is hardly worth the money they spent on the CGI, but there are some surprisingly effective moments of Grand Guignol. The stand-out is Rush's psychotic dream sequence, which is heavily deranged in a way which seems to cross David Lynch with Redemption videos. There is also a reasonably effective pre-credits sequence (and the credits themselves are nicely handled).

In other words, wait for the video, but do give it a chance, because there is some imagination at work here. Better resources might make Malone a truly original and interesting director in the future (provided he promises never to use Marilyn Manson on the soundtrack again...).

Wonderland (1999)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Beautiful and intelligent, 26 January 2000

Easily the best British film for several months. Winterbottom sees the London which all who live here know and love through a barely-distanced eye. We move with the characters, we live alongside them, the film brings them an immediacy and relevance which mainstream cinema rarely tackles. The plot (what little there is) contains more drama - not to mention coincidences - than real life, but this is compensated for by the film's texture, moving from warm to cold and back again, depending on the scene and its location. Nyman's score veers between irritating and deeply moving, approaching its best in the fireworks sequence. The Dogme-style technique is less annoying than in its Danish counterparts (Winterbottom doesn't seem to have so much trouble staying in focus). Odd to think this script was written by a Frenchwoman. Hey ho.

Dogma (1999)
Peculiar, 20 January 2000


I've never seen a film that was so brilliant and so dreadful at the same time. Smith occasionally produces moments of utter brilliance, eg

Rickman's deeply moving account of how he had to persuade the boy Jesus to take on his saviourhood;

the subversion of the church's desire to become 'hip';

the entire sequence with the mute God;

the review of accepted Biblical content;

the (under-explored) tension between Catholicism and abortion.

In fact, it's when Smith becomes theological that the film succeeds, even if his standpoint is questionable. Unfortunately, the film as a film is a mess - too many characters, glib dialogue which throws away the jokes, clumsy editing, and a plot which seems to have been stitched together in a hurry. This looks like a half-finished screenplay, an early draft in need of trimming.

Thank goodness, then, for the talent on offer: Linda Fiorentino's performance is robust and occasionally profound, and she carries the entire movie. Matt and Ben aren't given enough to do, and the film squanders their obvious talent. Rickman doesn't surprise, since he is usually splendid. Other characters can annoy more than produce enjoyment (Hayek, Rock, and particularly Mewes - this is my first Kevin Smith film, and I was sick of Mewes by the end, so God knows how all the people who've seen Amy and Clerks must think of him).

I enjoyed the film very much, despite these flaws, but wish Smith had taken his time and put the script through some more re-drafts, because we might have had a masterpiece. Still, 7 out of 10, because I had fun.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
My favourite horror film, and here's why, 20 December 1999

The Bride now belongs among the immortals in horror history, and deservedly so. In place of the starkness of its equally good original, we have a camped-up style which would be excessive and indulgent in another context, but works a treat here. Art direction and cinematography are glowing and spectacular (especially the trick photography with the miniature people at the beginning), and Waxman's score is justly famous, but it is in the performances that the greatest treasures lie.

Ernest Thesiger should be canonised, if only for his appearances here and in The Old Dark House. His eccentric portrayal barely conceals how much he's enjoying himself. Karloff builds on the sensitivity he brought across in the first film, and Lanchester's brief appearances are vivid and memorable. A shame we have to tolerate the woodenness of Clive and Hobson, and suffer Hurlbut's rather worthy script - but these are factors of their time, and easily forgiveable.

Where the film scores most highly is in its self-parody, its occasional radicalism, and its off-beat humour ("Praetorius? There's no such name!"). Early Monty Python, one might say, yet somehow superior and more timeless. This is the zenith of comic horror - and, if it's never actually frightening, who cares?

The Muse (1999)
Not bad, though not a classic, 13 December 1999

Brooks's rip-off of Hollywood is surprisingly gentle, and there's too much space between the jokes. Promising plotlines (alcoholism, the muse's vengeance, the gifts) are left undeveloped, and there seems to be little conflict in the main storyline.

That said, the playing is bright (MacDowell is particularly good, possibly her best performance), and there are several excellent one-liners. Best bits include the conversation at Spago (over-milked, but funny) and the Scorsese jokes, which alone make the film worth seeing.

Fight Club (1999)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Scorching, 14 November 1999

As with so many other big films, there are too many comments for mine not to be lost in the mass, so I'll try to be brief.

The film contains many platitudes about self-realisation, all of which we've heard before, but it sites them in a context so raw and vivid that they emerge fresh, and thereby communicate themselves to the viewer so directly that they become more powerful, more compulsive. If the film finally runs out of steam - because once you're on the destructive rollercoaster, you can't stop until it crashes - its early sequences provide a hard-hitting (no pun intended) and yet stylish approach to the vacuity of modern life (I particularly like the deconstruction of Ikea, as the proud owner of an Ikea futon).

I wrote a novel last year in which the main character, frustrated with the emptiness of his life, is drawn by a somewhat insane other character into more and more extreme behaviour. Having seen Fight Club, I can safely tear up my manuscript, because Fincher and Uhls have conveyed the same message much more powerfully than I was able to.

Fincher's direction may suffer from occasional gimmickry, but even the most apparently gratuitous moments are not without purpose. And Uhls's script is beautifully constructed. This is one of those rare films in which the voice-over technique really works.

Ultimately, this movie is about subversion - not just against social norms, not just against the bourgeois mindset, but even against cinema itself (as shown by the overt subliminal imagery). It's so good to come across something so genuinely radical, with the cinema now over a hundred years old. Good, too, that it came out of a major studio. And good, let's not forget, that this film is extremely funny.

Come on, hit me, you know you want to...

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Not bad, off-beat, 6 November 1999

An unconventional historical drama, with some fine battle scenes. Tobey Maguire gives an excellent performance, and gets some pretty good back-up. The script is literate and pretty original, and the film is kept mercifully free of heroes. That said, it does drag a bit, and the last reel is too much like a TV mini-series. Still, Frederick Elmes's camerawork keeps one interested in the dull bits (and every now and again you see a shot which reminds you he worked for David Lynch). Worth seeing.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Overrated, but it needed to be made, 6 November 1999

All right, very very briefly:

It's overrated (it's not really scary at all, except for the last five minutes, when it really comes alive). But it needed to be made, because it's broken the mould of horror film-making. It shows some intelligence, and the film-makers have reaped the reward of their courage. As an experiment, it's first class. But if you want to be scared, go see Sixth Sense or rent The Exorcist or The Shining...or better still, come to London and go and see the play 'The Woman in Black'. Now that really IS frightening.

Mind you, I saw BWP in Sweden, with irritating Swedish subtitles, and a restless audience. And my girlfriend hated it. Not ideal circumstances. Shame, really. Walk in the woods, anyone?

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