Reviews written by registered user
|16 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I never thought it possible, but "Bridesmaids" proves you can create a worse, more cringe-inducing film than the "House Bunny" (it may even compete with the Jackass franchise, and oddly, on a major portion of its own turf). I left before it was over, and only stayed long enough to see if some nearby, later scene could possibly be any worse than those I had endured already (a thought that was most vivid as we concluded the scene at the dress shop and I tried to imagine something worse than the fat bridesmaid's performance at the sink). Mission accomplished in the very next scene (as the bride made it to the curb). I had the distinct impression, observing my fellow theater goers in stitches, that I was participating in some deleted scenes from "Idiocracy". No such luck, as this actually happened.
With a first rate cast, cinematographer, score composer and his own fine direction, Mendes' latest project is tantalizing because it does such a good job rendering the blind intensity that accompanies so many failed couples as they discover and try to grapple with their failure. However, the implicit explanation for the failure of this couple (and the corresponding kind of moral failure portrayed for each of the individual lives in this marriage) has no plausibility, and thus the film's accuracy in portraying the mutual misunderstanding and emotional confusion of Frank and April Wheeler as they face up to the realities of their lives is largely wasted. It is not that one cannot imagine people who, feeling trapped in comfortable but uninteresting lives, get desperate about their situation. While the self-congratulatory ring of artists depicting such bad lives (artists we know wouldn't be caught dead living like this artists like Terry Zwigoff come to mind) is a bit much, it is the utter implausibility of *these* two people, neither of whom has more than a *vague desire to be special*, getting this histrionically desperate at the prospect of living a life no more special than that of anyone else that ground my suspension of disbelief into dust. April, the most desperate of the two, has made a run at acting early in their marriage and proved no good at it. But she still wants to believe there's something special over the rainbow, and so badly, we are supposed to believe, that she is willing to uproot her own life and those of her entire family to take her husband to Paris, where his own utterly vague, intermittent, and apparently alcohol-related desire to live in a 'way that seems to matter' can be tested at long last. Neither of them can articulate what it is they hope to gain or even *experience* if this longed-for world comes to pass. And in that respect, these are just like the vague dreams of a 12 year old. Whatever else, they are not the natural result of a deadening but comfortable life in late 1950s east coast suburbia for people who have a little more 'lift' in their boots than their fellow man and woman. I have not read the corresponding novel, and hope it doesn't try to make the case for this absurd proposition, but clearly Mendes is prepared not only to believe this kind of nonsense, but to make very expensive art promoting it. It's a nice Oscar vehicle for his wife, and there are some good scenes, particularly those with Kathy Bates and her electro-shocked son (who in this piece plays a cross between soothsayer and Greek chorus). For a far better movie that deals with the same subjects, try Fellini's "Juliet of the Spirits". I'm not sure Juliet is real, either, but in that movie you *believe* she is (and care what happens to her).
I was a fan of Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins" because it bore re-watching and pulled the viewer through the salt-and-pepper psychologizing almost without effort (much the same way Michael Clayton hypnotizes the viewer). But this follow-up is at least 30 minutes, and several reversals-of-fortune too long and too many. Its strength lies in the two performances, from Bale and Ledger, not, contrary to widespread popular opinion, the special effects (the action in the Bourne Ultimatum was far more visually interesting/captivating with far fewer gadgets and complicated digital backdrops). But a measure of the movie's shambling structure in the last third is the fact that Ledger's continuing inventiveness wears thin after 90 minutes, so much so that I found myself thinking more about what he would do next than what was supposed to be happening in the story that no longer engrossed me. My guess is Nolan got one too many ideas and couldn't resist putting every last one of them on screen. Not a good formula for a suspense thriller, which needs a tight focus to perform as the work of the greats in this genre (Hitchcock, Ridley Scott) generally do. Too bad, since what Nolan is trying for is just more interesting than what the other directors in this franchise have been doing. Maybe next time?
Haneke is making an obvious attempt to force violence-loving audiences he has *imagined exist* into facing up to the motives he ascribes to them. Art for didactic purposes is always bad, more so when there is some kind of complicated postmodern aesthetic theory required to even understand the point. Art that serves merely theoretical purposes is usually a failure, and one that is also lecturing, self-important and cruel to all interested parties, is triply bad no matter how well made. The only thing that separates this movie from the audience-abusing fare from Chan Wook Park ("Oldboy", for example) is that Haneke actually has wit. But he wastes it here, along with those 111 minutes you'll never get back.
This movie is a unique treatment of a unique story told in a unique way. It is brutal and honest in that treatment, and only someone who has no imagination could complain about it for being confusing, or for failing to accommodate various conventions of characterization, film acting, narrative, etc. Demme did a imaginative job rendering a book almost impossible to take, let alone reproduce in another medium. If you are a lazy, self-indulgent viewer who expects storytelling to fit *your* expectations and style, stay away from this film. If you have an ounce of imagination, if you care to learn something you weren't expecting to learn, to be moved in a way unfamiliar to you, dig in, but expect to work. The results will amaze, I promise.
A movie without ideas or theme that is long on cinematic style (but then, so are MTV videos and most successful commercials) and short on recognizable human interest (unless you are a first-world adolescent, in which case you will idolize its sadomasochistic cool and eye candy, not to mention the fact that its emotional center appears to be high school). Let's not even talk about artistic merit. Quentin Tarantino (maker of one, perhaps two great movies and a couple of good entertainments) is the most obvious salesman for the view that pulp junk, polished up and translated by cinematic trickery and fascinated with its own pop cultural hipness, is valuable (and Tarantino was on the committee at Cannes that gave this film the Grand Jury Prize). Park steals here from some of the greats (film noir specialists like Hitchcock, absurdists like Bunuel, masters of cinema cool like Kubrick), but lacks any feeling for what made *their* movies worth seeing. Put simply, it lacks wit (unless by wit you only mean slapstick), and its ideas are like bad homilies no one understands. I keep encountering this in the newer Japanese and Korean and Hong Kong cinema that seems influenced by Tarantino: comic book themes and characters pass through high-polish celluloid/digital trickery and a ironic pop filter (all borrowed). I hear Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, which I have but still haven't been able to force myself to sit through, is much the same. Avoid.
Peter Sollett's new movie feels like a documentary with imagination, a sort of cross between The Basketball Diaries and Hoop Dreams (without the basketball theme) that succeeds by knowing when to stand still and keep its hands to itself. Some commentators here at IMDB have minimized and criticized this movie, claiming that others have done the same thing better. Well, others have not done anything like this unless by others you mean the Maysles Brothers, and in any case you cannot improve on perfection. Like the Maysles, Sollett lets simple gestures and small moments tell us a story, one that explores how decent city kids maneuver toward friendship and their first experiments with romantic love in the hardtack neighborhoods of New York's Lower East Side. Ignore the IMDB ratings (proof, if more were required, that the 'average response' of self-selecting viewer voters bears no meaningful relationship to the quality of any movie) and go see this movie soon.
Ok, I get it. But get this: making this movie is an act of sadism directed at an audience no more deserving of its suffering than the victims in the film itself. Mr. Haneke is lucky I never saw this before I bothered to see the rest of his 'ouevre'. He's one filmmaker who is now in my viewing Siberia....out of reach, out of touch, out of mind.
Go (dir. Doug Liman)
Quite terrible, although its premise is interesting (to follow three or four different people as one common experience and its consequences is viewed through the prism of their separate lives) and could work. But the director cares far less about the unusual structure than he does for emulating a mixture of several shopworn movie types, in particular those about young people growing up in El Ay, and those about crime and punishment in that westernmost American city. The movie fails because it is filled with people who only exist in movies about Los Angeles, and only Los Angelinos as they appear in movies (and the glueheads who emulate them) seem able to care remotely about them even as fictions. As fictions, they render perfectly the common illusion afflicting so many young people living in urban settings: the belief that one can acquire a life by adopting a posture. Here youthful posturing serves no purpose but the promotion of an absurd plotline, which serves no purpose except to permit several otherwise impossible scenes to be shot and canned (usually involving fast cars, guns, hot women and drugs), later to be synchromeshed with rock music like so many pop cultural stray cats howling at the cinematic moon. Is there anything here that was not already done better severally in To Live and Die in L.A or Pulp Fiction or Panic or Heathers or .......?
Terry Zwigoff (dir....formerly did "Crumb," along with "Louie
Steve Buscemi and Thora Birch
For many, this movie will be a knowing expression of how things look for people whose uncommon honesty exiles them in the empty world lurking on the margins of American Beauty (in the endless retail strip mall that is America's back lot). For me, it is a cinematic comic strip based on the all-too-common and shallow conviction of so many in the art world that human beings divide neatly between the majority, who are ordinary and dishonest, and a few unavoidably authentic (and therefore tortured) people forced to share a planet with them. This smug view of ordinary life is everywhere in the early part of "Ghost World", the story of a high school girl (Enid, played by Thora Birch) unsatisfied by every available option for adult life, but unable to invent an alternative that suits her. But what hits the wrong note here is not the usual disaffected outsider teenager's alienated critique of adults (and herself). It is the director's preposterous choice to occupy the first third of the movie with Enid reacting predictably toward a nearly endless string of people so plain, morally naive and dumb, only Zwigoff and certain members of the art and academic worlds could possibly believe these are actual people in anyone's universe, teenage, strip-malled, or otherwise. I suppose it should come as no surprise that the script is based on a comic book, and certainly the characters that surround Enid (besides her fellow disaffected friends, high school buddy Rebecca, and the aging record collector Seymour [Steve Buscemi] with whom she ventures into her first very adult relationship during the course of the plot) are rarely more than cardboard cutouts. I found myself rooting for all the poor people who came under the churlish gaze of the camera in these scenes (the girl in the wheelchair mouthing lines so stupid even Hallmark wouldn't pass them, or the art teacher who seems to think art = group hugs directed by social realists). Enid's ongoing commentary on their failure to adequately succeed at her game of cultural iconographic one-upmanship seems like a stream-of-consciousness lift from what passes for cultural criticism in the movies these days. Fortunately, just as one is beginning to devise elaborate means for humiliating this girl, Thora Birch changes your mind. She is honest, which makes it impossible to quite believe it when she squeezes the required snide remarks from her mouth in the early going. Once the director narrows the focus of the lens, and we no longer have to see the idiots who chiefly people the world, we can then admit that many ordinary acts, thoughts and feelings are of great value (so long as authentic, uncompromising people are doing, thinking, or feeling them). And in expressing these, Ms. Birch is unusually believable.
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