Reviews written by registered user
|25 reviews in total|
On the surface, a mathematical thriller with religious overtones.or is it a religious thriller with mathematical overtones? Or is it an analysis of the nature of sanity, a consideration of how we fit in and find a place in the world where we live? See it and decide for yourself. The black-and-white cinematography is somehow simultaneously both subtle and lurid. "Pi" defies description; it is imaginative, engrossing, and shocking, easily the most daring and outrageous film I've seen this year. Writer-director Darren Aronofsky deservedly won the Directing Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
This movie could have been subtitled, "Or, Wednesday Grows Up and Gets Serious." Sadly, Christina Ricci's gleeful, viciously amoral jezebel didn't earn her an Oscar nomination, and I will feel personally cheated, as I did when Meg Ryan wasn't nominated for "When a Man Loves a Woman" and when Kathy Bates was overlooked for "Dolores Claiborne." Ricci's Deedee Truitt warns you right up front that you won't like her, that she doesn't grow a heart of gold by the end of the movie, and she ain't kiddin', Jack. This movie gleefully overturns every social taboo, skewers every sacred cow, and is vastly entertaining in the process. Lisa Kudrow is a delight as the uncharacteristically centered (or is she?) sister of Ricci's brother's deceased boyfriend--did you get all that? "The Opposite of Sex" is a slice of life for the sociopathic set.
I'm glad I didn't know going in that this was one of those written-directed-and-produced-by monsters. I still would have bought my ticket, but with an unhealthy skepticism--an inner voice would have been whispering, "Vanity project.vanity project.vanity project!" After all, there is something to be said for having an open mind. Writer/director/producer Gary Ross (screenwriter of "Big" and "Dave") has dreamed up an oddball alternate reality in which everyone lives in a 1950s television sitcom not unlike "Leave It to Beaver." Culture clash ensues when two 1990s teen-agers (Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon) find themselves somehow part of the perfect black-and-white TV family. Their new "parents" (William H. Macy and Joan Allen) are blithely unaware that anything untoward has happened. The developing melodrama is delightful and full of gentle humor. The four principals are fine--Joan Allen, in particular, delivers a devastating performance as a mother realizing her own ignorance and learning about the fullness of life from her children. The supporting cast (which includes Don Knotts, Jeff Daniels, and J. T. Walsh in one of his final roles) is wonderful. The integration of color with black-and-white cinematography is stunning, at times direct, at others subtle. The underlying messages are not hidden, but are there in plain view for anyone to find.
For sheer spectacle, it's tough to beat the Bible. With "The Prince of Egypt," DreamWorks makes good on its promise to deliver a state-of-the-art animated film that will compete favorably with the best Disney has to offer. As with "Antz," released earlier this year, DreamWorks has successfully resisted the temptation to populate this film with characters that can be turned into further revenue through toy sales. (I do wonder, though, if three soundtrack albums--the film's soundtrack, an "inspirational" album, and a "country" album--were really necessary.) The animation team has accomplished something truly spectacular; watching "The Prince of Egypt" is like seeing life breathed into a rich, luxurious tapestry. The Biblical story told in the books of Genesis and Exodus is followed very faithfully, with only minor changes made for dramatic reasons. The action sequences are truly exciting, overall pacing is excellent, and the miracles wrought by God are depicted with awed and respectful wonder. One truly astonishing, harrowing sequence recounts the slaughter of firstborn Hebrew children by bringing hieroglyphic drawings to life on the walls of an Egyptian temple. The voice work is especially good--Val Kilmer is fine as Moses, and Pharoah, voiced by Ralph Fiennes, positively seethes with arrogance and hubris. The storytellers wisely chose to end their tale at the climactic crossing of the Red Sea; even the delivery of the Ten Commandments is portrayed only in an epilogue vignette. (After all, the Israelites wander in the wilderness for forty years after that, and Moses ultimately is not allowed to enter the Promised Land--perhaps not the uplifting ending the filmmakers had in mind.) Some of the subject matter is dark and disturbing, and there is no shying away from the harsh realities of the original texts. By all means, see it with the children in your life--and be prepared to discuss it with them afterward.
Spielberg was shunned by the Oscar nominations last year in large part due to the controversy over who deserved the writing credit for "Amistad." (Then of course there's the whole white-director-black-story issue, for which he's been paying ever since "The Color Purple".but don't get me started on that.) It may have been the best possible move for him to work with Tom "He Can Do No Wrong" Hanks this time out. This is definitely a five-hankie picture: I wept continuously for the first twenty minutes and was on the brink of tears for almost the entire remainder of its three-hours-plus running time. Spielberg has an uncanny ability to confront us on film with things that require our social and individual attention--consider "The Color Purple," "Empire of the Sun," "Schindler's List," "Amistad," and now "Saving Private Ryan." That these films were made by the same man who directed "Jaws," "E.T.," and the Indiana Jones movies is astonishing. No other filmmaker working today produces this variety of films, from those intended to prod and provoke thoughtful adults to those that speak so clearly to our children and to the child in each of us. "Saving Private Ryan" is a devastating depiction of and meditation on the costs of war, a heart-breaking but ultimately affirming examination of individual human worth. Tom Hanks is Everyman, with whom we can all identify, and Matt Damon is the titular Private Ryan, a beaming, scrub-faced, bright-eyed beautiful boy whom we all want to save. What is one man's life worth? What are the consequences of inhumanity? What is the value of integrity? This film shows us that society cannot answer these questions; the answers lie inside, and must come from within.
This movie suffers from what I've come to think of as "Broadcast News Syndrome." You know the symptoms: a movie comes to a satisfying conclusion, one you could gladly accept and feel good about, but then it goes crashing into an annoying and unnecessary epilogue. Like "Broadcast News," however, if you cut away the final five minutes or so before the end credits run, what remains is a worthy film. In spite of this glaring problem, "Snake Eyes" is a whip-smart thriller that teases, reveals, suggests, hides, and tears at breakneck pace through a convoluted cover-up that would do the greatest conspiracy theorist proud. Director Brian DePalma is an inconsistent master whose films are always a crapshoot; for every "The Untouchables" (undeniable triumph), there's also a "Mission: Impossible" (slick, empty success), a "Bonfire of the Vanities" (dismal clunker) and a "Raising Cain" (guilty pleasure). This film falls into the triumph category, although perhaps a qualified one. Ably aided and abetted by dizzying, sinuous cinematography and Nicolas Cage's wild-eyed, no-holds-barred performance, it all comes together in an unsettling, exhilarating concoction that works.
Terrence Malick is one of Hollywood's true iconoclasts. After directing two of the most visually stunning and influential films of the 1970s ("Badlands"  and "Days of Heaven" ), he disappeared from the scene for twenty years, writing and directing nothing until this film. Like his earlier films, "The Thin Red Line" is a beautiful and lyrical work; it is also a scathing condemnation of the effects and consequences of war. Every actor in Hollywood was hot to land a part, and the cast is full of recognizable names. With but few exceptions, this is not a problem for the film. Never have I seen such a cast of big-name actors so thoroughly subjugated to a director's will. Standouts are Ben Chaplin as a young military officer, conflicted by the things he is forced to do and can view only as atrocities, and Nick Nolte as an aging general turned monstrous by his blind, overwhelming pride and ambition. (John Travolta and George Clooney, however, make such brief appearances that they are actually distracting due to their high recognition factor.) Malick is not afraid to indulge in overt philosophizing; contemplating the nightmare of conflict, one character wonders in voice-over, "This great evil: where does it come from? How does it sneak into the world? From what seed or root does it grow?" Caught up in circumstances beyond their control or understanding, these men find themselves demonstrating both cruelty and compassion, brutality and benevolence, and wondering at the meaning of it all. We can do nothing but wonder, too.
A satisfying installment in the ongoing saga of Mulder, Scully, and their attempts to thwart an invasion of the earth by ill-tempered aliens, aided and abetted by representatives of our own government (or are they?) who have sold out humankind for their own obscure motives. The movie's story falls squarely between the series' fifth and sixth seasons, which is, coincidentally enough, precisely when the film was released. It plays like a bigger, badder version of a regular Sunday-night episode, one with a bigger, badder budget. Part of the reason for the series' popularity lies in its rich cinematic feel and atmosphere, and this is brought with great success to the big screen. Another part lies with the series' real accomplishment: the striking of an amazing balance between dramatic closure and actual plot resolution. The ability to leave the audience feeling satisfied while still leaving many unanswered questions, and often posing new ones, is creator Chris Carter's great miracle, one which he has accomplished only with lesser success in his second series, "Millennium." Don't expect this movie to stand alone, independent from the series--like, for the most part, the "Star Trek" movies do--or to get around to answering all the questions it asks. If you follow the series, you already know that the sixth season opener picks up the movie's story-line and runs forward with it, screaming like a banshee.
A slam-bang actioner that pulls no punches, takes no prisoners, and never slows down for a minute--except for an excruciating scene in which Robert DeNiro directs the removal of a bullet from his own abdomen. Director John Frankenheimer hasn't been in form this good since "The French Connection"; this is the best heist movie in years. The fine ensemble cast generates an on-screen tension that cracks and sparks until the inevitable betrayal and, amazingly, doesn't fall apart afterward. If for no other reason, "Ronin" is worth seeing for its stunning location cinematography. All its high-speed car chases were filmed on location in France, with the actual cast.especially noteworthy in this day of stunt doubles and digital effects. DeNiro's performance is one of understated excellence, and Natasha McElhone (also seen on the big screen this year in "The Truman Show") blazes white-hot as a terrorist whose motives and loyalties are kept as secret as the contents of the locked suitcase so desperately sought by all.
This is not your mother's costume drama. From the very beginning, when the opening titles run over a psychedelic montage of religious iconography, you know that something different is happening here.and it isn't Masterpiece Theater. Dark and brutal, lurid and violent, this film unfolds like bloody flower. Religious intrigue, political machinations, sexual scheming--it's like an Umberto Eco novel. Cate Blanchett is an astonishing actress, a truly startling screen presence. She inhabits the body, mind and soul of the Virgin Queen with an ethereal grace underlain by steely resolve. Her portrayal of Elizabeth's inevitable transformation from a clear-eyed, idealistic girl with love in her heart to a coldly practical monarch who will be married always and only to England is heart-breaking--all the more so as the practicality is born only out of absolute necessity. Joseph Fiennes is dark and brooding, smolderingly sexual as the poor, sincere, doomed Lord Robert, who does all the wrong things for the right reason: his love for a girl who has become a woman. But that love is returned to him by a woman who has become a queen, and, as Robert himself says, "That love could corrupt the soul of any man." In the end, Robert's corrupted soul undoes them all.
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