Reviews written by registered user
|8 reviews in total|
After once through this movie, maybe you can tell that Garrison Keillor
isn't the most experienced or polished screenwriter that ever danced
his way through Hollywood. Or maybe you can tell that he's seen enough
movies from that kind of screenwriter - movies that have followed
marketing axioms and been relentlessly focus-grouped until all the joy
and interest and actual craft have been sanitized out of them.
Hollywood is full of cookie-cutter productions and formula flicks these days. This movie is certainly not that.
Instead, A Prairie Home Companion is strong for its unevenness, for its willingness to indulge in the silliness of having an angel actually mingling among the rest of the characters, for its room full of characters who can be at once smarter and dumber than you'd expect, and for the chances it takes that it might lose the audience, but it certainly won't cast aside its integrity to keep them.
What makes the film so attractive, maybe more than anything else, are the characters. Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly as a singing cowboy duo are a hilarious injection of total idiocy and just enough smarts to really zing the uptight stage manager. They don't preach or pander, and they don't play a stereotype, and neither does anyone else. Garrison Keillor (as a character called Garrison Keillor) is so mellow that you almost think he just doesn't get it, but still so charming (especially that silky voice) that he's irresistible. And anyone that can't find something to laugh at in Kevin Kline's hopeless security guard antics isn't having enough fun in show business.
The music is a fine complement to the film as well, especially since each of the stage characters participates at least somewhat. No, I'm sure the recording industry won't be beating down any doors to sign anyone, but every single performance holds its own. And the fact that even these supposed live radio performers lack some polish actually enhances the songs too. On more than one occasion, a character in the midst of song allows emotion to affect their vocal mechanics and their performance.
That kind of thing would get you voted off American Idol. This movie is certainly not that either.
I've been a listener of the radio show since I was eight years old, and I firmly believe that whether you are or you're not, the experience of seeing the film is in no way diminished. It's just plain fun, prairie-style. Garrison Keillor-style. Call him smug if you want to, but I simply don't see this movie as preachy or allegorical in any way. I don't, for instance, see the Tommy Lee Jones character as representing some social evil, I see him simply as the requisite bad guy in a typical good-guys-vs.-bad-guys conflict. Sure, the role is contextualized so that it makes sense to a 2006 audience. But all these newspaper reviewers who keep insisting that he represents something more sinister are sifting the story just a little to finely for me. How touchy have we become as a society that every piece of entertainment has to be social commentary?
But if there was ever a film that was okay with not being liked by everyone, this would be it. You can almost hear Garrison saying, "bad reviews are just a part of life" in his singsong, tranquilizing baritone.
Either way, forgetting about the frustrations that go along with the negative reviews of this film is a snap once you're in the audience. This movie is warm, friendly, sentimental, and funny. The cast is ideal. And yes, the proportion and flow of the story (not to mention some of the weird winding roads the story travels) are a little off the beaten track.
It sure isn't perfect, not by a long shot. But it ain't exactly a perfect world now, is it? So what's so wrong with that?
There was a moment in an early scene of Die Hard when John McClane
(Bruce Willis) is having an argument with his wife Holly (Bonnie
Bedelia) in the executive washroom in Ellis's office. It's scripted so
that the two of them end up talking over each other about what
McClane's idea of their marriage is, and it's such an honest depiction
of estranged spouses that I find myself forgetting what movie I'm
watching when I get to that part.
Granted, not everyone has a terrorist takeover of their office building to teach them not to take each other for granted, but it works here.
That scene is one of the great things about Die Hard, not because it contributes anything to the action, but because it contributes everything to the characters. Most action films before and after this seem violence-driven, but this one manages to balance the humanity of its protagonist, and I can't even begin to measure how much of that balance comes from that one scene.
I think the other thing that most defines the spirit of this movie is McClane's shoes. It's such an obvious contrivance, set up right from the beginning, but it's worked into the entire story so artfully that I have completely forgiven it every time I've seen the film. Of all the bad luck, to be caught in the middle of a terrorist attack and then have to chase the bad guys around a 40-story building, all without shoes.
But, as McClane himself says, it's "better than being caught with your pants down." I know how much of the plot and the action hinges upon luck, timing, strong fingertips, and the Rube Goldberg machinery of the FBI-terrorist interplay, but I really don't care. I still get caught up in the nervous moments of this movie 18 years later. I still ache along with McClane as he pulls a three-inch piece of glass out of his foot in the emergency lighting in the bathroom. And I still root for him to get the bad guy, rescue his wife, save his marriage, and meet Al Powell even though I must have scene this movie 30 or 40 times already, and I know he's going to do it again the next time.
This is a great film, and easily the best written and best executed action movie I have ever seen. But more to the point, and more importantly, it's a fun movie to watch, no matter how many times you see it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was looking over my shoulder and racking my brain throughout this
movie trying to figure out how the game always managed to stay one step
ahead of Michael Douglas's character. Okay, so it asks you to accept
some pretty wild premises and some fairly insane leaps of logic. Okay,
so after you think about it, the suspense really has no sensible roots.
The bottom line is that this movie is fun to watch.
There's really no way to so comprehensively map a person's every possible reaction that you could keep constantly abreast of him/her. I'm also not sure how sane the idea of plunging a taxi cab into water is, whether there's a supposed diver on the scene or not. And shipping the guy to Mexico in a box? Come on. I mean, at some point, this guy is going to come up with something the game-writers can't foresee. So the game itself, I just don't believe could work.
But the movie does. The viewer is brought into the game at the same speed as Nick Van Orton (Douglas), so the mystery works on two levels. It raises a number of questions, and although it doesn't satisfactorily answer them all (or even most of them), it still sends chills up your spine. What would you do if they seized your bank accounts, stole your identity, chased you, drugged you, and shipped you a thousand miles away in a coffin-sized box? It's creepy to think about it, even with your brain constantly untangling the overbearing contrivance that put it on screen in the first place.
The truth is that I was totally skeptical of the game all the way through and even after I saw the movie, but I just don't care. I liked watching it. I was entertained. And isn't that what the movies are all about?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A book that makes you fall completely head-over-heels for its main
character because of his wit and self-deprecating charm should not
result in a movie that conjures the same character as an uneven,
somewhat arrogant pest. I can accept that the film won't be able to
transport the viewer the way the words on the page can, but the sad
part is that this movie never even comes close.
In the book, Sam Callahan is heartwarming. He's a kid you want to get to know. You want to reassure him that it's okay to be this awkward when you're 13, and that everyone's adolescence (or most people's, anyway) are miserable. You laugh when he cracks a joke or lets you in on one of his precocious personal witticisms. You're moved when he talks about the Kennedy assassination from an intelligent but still hopelessly naive point of view. He eases the shock of sexual experimentation and of Maury's teenage pregnancy and takes you right into the reality of dealing with the consequences - of kids and adults thrown into circumstances that would make anyone grow up.
But maybe it's too tall an order for film. Maybe the topics are too sensitive and the inner monologue is too hard to convey. Isn't it almost always the case that the movie adaptations of books fall on their faces to some extent? Sure.
The problem is that this movie is still terrible. It hits so far away from what made the book enjoyable that you have to be a little bit irritated at the filmmakers for even trying.
My advice if you're thinking about renting/buying this is to put your money away and read this book. (I got it from Netflix, and I seriously considered scratching the words "read the book" into the back of the DVD before I sent it back.) The book will give you a week of solid enjoyment, and that beats two hours of confusion and nausea pretty much any day.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's hard to believe that any major studio would put their money behind
a movie like this nowadays, just a short decade and a half after it was
made. But that's the reality of Hollywood in the early 21st century.
It's a lot different now than it was then.
What it looks like to the average observer is that John Patrick Shanley, fresh off the success of Moonstruck, decided to indulge himself a little bit here and write something a little campier, a lot stranger, and totally off the path of his Oscar-winning masterpiece. The story is like the intersection of a typical hero film, a typical romance, a typical local-boy-and-downtrodden-good-guy comes through in the end, and a cartoon.
But the most surprising thing about this movie is that it actually works.
What makes it work is Tom Hanks, just about the only actor with the sensitivity and the sense of humor to pull off the role. Nobody in the last 20 years infuses a quirky character with loveability the way Hanks does - Jim Carrey comes close in The Truman Show, but that's about all. Hanks carries this movie the way he carried Punchline and Big, both of which were also incredibly underrated comedies.
Watch the way he stands on the deck of the Tweedledee and hesitates before he throws his expensive hat into the ocean - a subtle gesture laden with shockingly deep layers of complexity and character. It's such a stupid detail maybe, but there's so much more to it than that.
The second most surprising thing about this movie is that Meg Ryan is actually good. Right before she plunged her entire acting career into the trite, cutie-pie, puppy dog schlock of her cookie-cutter mid-90s romantic comedies, she actually managed to project depth in this movie, not to mention range. She may come off as cartoonish, but she plays three characters differently enough that you actually think they're three different people, right before you laugh at how ridiculous the entire thing is.
What I remember most about this movie, though, are the scenes with Joe on the floating luggage raft, where he seems to divide his time equally between the totally silly and the utterly spiritual. Hanks manages to convey this beautifully, whether he's making up superfluous cowboy tunes on a ukulele or bowing to the moon in solemn reverence and thanking God for his life. Despite its numerous contrivances (the bottled water, the world-band radio, the floating luggage itself), it's powerful.
All of it is dressed up with some very vivid and inviting details and some top-notch dialog, which is the perfect ribbon for the gift that is this movie.
On its surface, any summary of this movie makes it sound ridiculous. But the beauty here is how it's actually done. It's contrived, but it never pretends to be anything other than contrived. Its message is simple and predictable, but its simplicity and predictability do nothing to sabotage its power. Right at the start, the music box and the "once upon a time" give away that it's a fairy tale, and why should there be anything wrong with that? What emerges at the end (or more likely, somewhere in the middle) is a movie with a heart. So don't feel ridiculous if you liked this movie, or even if you loved it. We all know how fairy tales end, and more to the point, how they're told. And this one is told exceptionally well. What's not to love?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I think what gets me most about this movie is that they never planned
the ending! They got all the way to the end of the film, they were in
Kansas/Missouri, and they had no ending in mind. Bogdanovich came up
with the final scene between Addie and Moze when his wife looked at the
long chalk road, and he realized Moze's $200 debt to Addie was a joke
that hadn't quite been paid off. Absolute brilliance - the kind of
thing entirely absent from film-making today.
It's hard to call this heartwarming or heartbreaking - it definitely strikes a chord, but I was never close to tears of happiness or sadness. Nevertheless, this was an absolutely gorgeously conceived piece, beautifully filmed, and superbly acted. The entire ensemble turns in one of the best cast performances I have ever watched. From the opening shot of Addie to the long road at the end, without the benefit of a single digital effect, this movie is a stunner.
Rarely these days do I find myself totally absorbed in the reality of a film. But even though I maintained a healthy awareness of some of the production aspects of this movie (i.e., the unbroken shot of the cars making u-turns at high speeds, Tatum nearly falling off the crates of whiskey, the elaborate construction of a period look in the in-town scenes), I genuinely dove into this. I recommend this to anyone who appreciates film, and to anyone who doesn't, this might make you.
This film got a best screenplay nomination? I admit -- and maybe this
is just because the sound quality on my television isn't the best in
the world -- that I spent most of this movie craned forward listening
as hard as I could trying to make out what the actors were saying. But
does that make a movie worthy of a best screenplay nomination?
Honestly, this was some of the least compelling dialog since the silent
And I apologize to any Eastwood devotees out there, but is anyone else getting tired of his plodding, paceless films besides me? He has to lugubriously draw your attention to the most mundane details just to make sure the audience doesn't miss anything. And the character through lines? "You're the hard case of the group," says the kidnapper to the young Jimmy, who we've just seen write his name in concrete, so now we'll know who's who when they're grown up. This is what passes for character development in this absolute joke of a film.
Can you imagine what Eastwood would have done with Memento? There probably would have been forty minutes of awkward expositional conversation about memory loss, then violins as he gave away the ending. Honestly, I wish my brain would shut out the two hours I wasted watching Mystic River. Bury our sins, wash them clean? How about we bury this movie instead.
Never having read the book, I cannot say whether the film was adapted well
from the original work. But with masterful performances by Demi Moore,
Michael Douglas, and Donald Sutherland, Disclosure is a forceful depiction
of the issues at the forefront of corporate America in the late 1980s and
early 1990s. Add in the drama of a middle-management coup and the suspense
of Douglas's character maneuvering to save his job, and the film is even
In the wake of Clarence Thomas, sexual harassment policy became the hottest human resource issue in corporate America. Any discussion of it would have been easy enough to explore, but the film turns the traditional roles of a male employer harassing a female subordinate on its ear, instead having Tom Sanders (Douglas) harassed by his sexually aggressive former girlfriend, Meredith Johnson (Moore), who has recently been hired to manage Sanders' division.
The film does an excellent job drawing attention to seemingly the seemingly innocent and mundane details of corporate life. The fact that Sanders pats his assistant on the behind and the cursory conversation among division heads that objectifies Meredith come back to haunt him during the mediation between the counterclaims of sexual harassment. In fact, the mediation seems to be going quite poorly for Tom Sanders, as Meredith's case that he is the sexual aggressor seems more plausible, especially when patting his assistant and the division heads conversation are brought up to establish his pattern of behavior. What ultimately redeems Tom Sanders is the discovery of a recording of the exchange between him and Meredith which reveals that he did, in fact, repeatedly say `no' to her advances. Meredith loses her composure at that point, sermonizing on her pride as a sexually aggressive woman. The upshot of the issue is summarized by Catherine Alvarez (Roma Maffia), Sanders attorney, who states, `a woman in power can be every bit as abusive as a man.'
The sexual harassment subplot is done little justice by the thorough demonization of the Meredith Johnson character, which instead feeds into the larger corporate sabotage plot at the heart of the movie. With the help of an anonymous friend, some sneaking around in the corporate database to uncover the relatively exposed plot against him, and some unbelievable hours, Sanders manages not only to redeem himself, but also to shunt blame for production line problems onto Meredith. She becomes the scapegoat for the plot against him, and he is vindicated in both her firing and the public proof of his competence.
Beyond the plot issues, the film does an excellent job characterizing the environment of a small, but able hardware production company in the early 1990s, before the Internet economy had grown from its nascence. Digicom, the fledgling company for which our protagonist works, is on the cusp of a merger that would net the company upwards of $100 million, and the tenuousness of the wealth about to pour in palpably increases the tension level throughout the company. Everyone in the company has a clear interest in quashing any controversy that could endanger the deal, which gives virtually everyone incentive to side against Sanders, since Meredith's claim is the more acceptable of the two. The result is the sense that as the ranks tighten under duress, so too does the willingness for open discourse and fairness in the corporate environment. It is far more important to keep the skeletons locked securely in the closet than to seek truth, and ultimately, fairness.
The company's blunder is in jeopardizing Sanders' stake in the merger. Threatened with a move to Austin and no piece of the wealth about to roll in, he has no recourse but to fight tooth-and-nail to restore his job security. Of course, the implications on his future employment at Digicom are dubious, but when his anonymous benefactor turns out to be appointed as Meredith's replacement, right is restored, and everyone can live happily ever after.
The acting performances turned in by Douglas and Moore are superb - Douglas masterfully conveys the mixture easy senselessness and self-importance of a moderately successful, white, male middle manager. He is appropriately embroiled in the particular problems of doing his job until his identity in that job is threatened by accusations of sexual harassment and incompetence. As the plots mount against him, his focus shifts to maintaining his reputation and his livelihood, and his ultimate redemption is complete except for the obvious questions about his future at the company.
Moore's Meredith Johnson is a woman with a too sinister corporate savvy, the archetype of the conniving female executive who uses every device at her disposal to achieve her ultimate goal of corporate domination. Her vitriol in the mediation scene is reminiscent of Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, and the writing of the character as totally amoral diminishes little from her portrayal.
These two in particular are slightly disingenuous at times in the more corporate scenes in the movie, as if they are unaccustomed to the numbness with which most corporate citizens accept and recite business jargon. Donald Sutherland, on the other hand, is astoundingly strong in his portrayal of a chief executive, and the overall digital corporation setting is very well done, and very well supported by the players.
It's clearly not the best film ever made, but it is a very decent choice for a suspense-drama rental on a slow Saturday night.