Reviews written by registered user
jchong

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11 reviews in total 
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Hamlet (2000)
41 out of 54 people found the following review useful:
A potent translation, 15 May 2000
10/10

With his stunning new vision of the most revered of Shakespeare's plays, director Michael Almereyda has effectively transposed many of the enduring themes of that classic work to our contemporary hi-tech era. Even if you are not very familiar with Shakespeare's plays or have always been confounded by his verse, one can still appreciate this film for the tremendously inventive ways by which Almereyda has interpreted the core scenes of Hamlet in the context of corporate America. His visually striking translation of scenes like Ophelia's drowning and Hamlet's famous `to be or not to be' soliloquy are a delight and true brain candy. The cast is all around superb, with the classically delivered lines from actors Liev Schreiber (Laertes) and Sam Shepard (Ghost) nicely counterbalancing the very contemporary style of delivery from Ethan Hawk (Hamlet), Bill Murray (Polonius), and Julia Stiles (Ophelia).

There will no doubt be much comparison between this film and Baz Luhrmann's flashy modern remake of Romeo and Juliet. However, whereas Luhrmann's film ultimately fails in going beyond the boundaries of its visually striking presentation, Almereyda's Hamlet proves to be far more than a mere spectacle for the senses. In fact, this is the serious flaw that plagues most of the films coming from young, talented independent filmmakers these days: all style, no substance. Well, this Hamlet has both. By setting the film deep in the heart of a very real and very modern steel and concrete American jungle like New York City, which is infused with the relics of the mass media and cold capitalistic consumerism, Almereyda powerfully enhances for the audience the sense of the desolation of his characters that results from urban isolation. This is a theme that Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai has so masterfully examined with his films Fallen Angels and Chungking Express. In Hamlet, we get a powerful dose of both Kar-Wai's visual flair and the sensitive, crumbling heart that it sheathes.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Vivid and Poignant, 10 April 2000
10/10

This is a beautifully crafted documentary film consisting of interviews conducted with 12 young children from very distinct, but equally fascinating backgrounds. I had the pleasure of stumbling upon this film on the Sundance Channel one night. After just a few minutes of viewing, I found myself in utter amazement over the intelligence and eloquence that each of these children displayed. They share with us their dreams, their fears, their relationships with the people around them, and vivid tidbits of their daily existences, and they do so with such clarity of feeling and preciseness of thought that one cannot walk away from this film without a profound sense of the valuable lessons to be learned from our children. A poetic and intensely moving triumph.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Fine performances mark a fine film., 22 December 1999
10/10

Well, I just saw "Girl, Interrupted" with a friend of mine in west Los Angeles in a theater full of college to middle-aged women. Honestly, folks, this is Winona Ryder's best performance to date, although it might not be immediately obvious because of the tremendous subtlety in her acting. Sure, Angelina Jolie is electrifying, but in obvious ways since her role was clearly the flashier of the two. Despite rumors that they didn't get along too well during the shoot, Ryder and Jolie work very well together onscreen, and the supporting cast is stellar, particularly Clea DuVall (Georgina) and Brittany Murphy (Daisy). There are a few scenes in this movie that present some of Ryder's very best acting of all of her films.

Director James Mangold (Heavy, Cop Land) did a fine job avoiding cheap sentimentality, and I was impressed with his fluid adaptation of a very disjointed and unconventional narrative work. My one complaint is that the film wasn't as gritty or as emotionally resonant as I would have liked, so I walked out of the theater feeling more impressed with the performances than impacted by the story. Still, for any Winona Ryder fan, this movie--with its 2 hours full of close-ups of Ryder's hauntingly beautiful face--is an absolute dream. Multiple layers of muted anguish are registered in Ryder's expressive eyes, and her most powerful acting in this film comes out through her subtle facial expressions rather than any spoken words. "Girl, Interrupted" is not a disappointment by any means. If anything, it has strengthened my respect for Winona Ryder as an actor.

Election (1999)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Superb Satire, 26 April 1999
10/10

Alexander Payne's latest is the most thoroughly entertaining and brutally clever black comedy since Todd Solondz's "Happiness" and Neil LaBute's "In the Company of Men." The performances in this film are flawless all across the board; and this, matched with Payne's brilliantly subtle and layered screenplay--brimming with scathing social and political satire--makes for an enthralling cinematic experience.

"Election" is certainly not for the faint of heart, but it is a MUST for all those who can appreciate fiery wit, exacting intelligence, and brutal honesty in film.

A Necessary Evil, 15 April 1999
10/10

"The Ice Storm" is a film that is so layered with symbolic meaning that it demands multiple viewings. Otherwise, it would be much too easy to brush off the film as a cold, depressing, and pointlessly bleak portrait of the lives it depicts.

On one level, Ang Lee's film is about two upper-middle class New England families--the Hoods and the Carvers--and how they are forever impacted by the sexual revolution of the 1970s. On another level, this film concerns the healthy balance that Nature provides and how subverting this balance can lead to destructive, and even tragic, consequences.

In both the Hood family and the Carver family, the parents essentially behave like children, while the children, who have no reliable (or respectable) authority figures to supervise them, stumble precariously into the arena of adult sexual awakening. Ben Hood (Kevin Kline) and Janey Carver (Sigourney Weaver) engage in an extramarital affair with one another because their spouses do not sexually satisfy them; Ben's wife Elena (Joan Allen) is frigid and Janey's husband Jim (Jamey Sheridan) is impotent. Essentially, Ben and Janey are so engulfed in their own selfish wants that they are oblivious to the potentially destructive consequences of their actions on their families.

But their spouses are certainly not without foibles of their own. Elena Hood suffers from a mid-life crisis of sorts that leaves her longing to be free of adult responsibilities. In one scene, Elena watches wistfully as her daughter Wendy (Christina Ricci) rides past her on her bicycle, and a bit later we see Elena herself ride a bicycle into town and get caught shoplifting, which, incidentally, is a petty crime that her daughter is also involved in. And then there is Jim Carver--the clueless, mad scientist type who is so obsessed with his work that he has never learned to communicate with his own children. When he asks his sons Mikey (Elijah Wood) and Sandy (Adam Hann-Byrd) how school is going, the boys are so puzzled by what should be a mundane inquiry that they cannot give a coherent response.

Indeed, failure of communication is a theme that is prevalent throughout "The Ice Storm." Just as Jim cannot talk directly to his children, so Ben fails to do so with his own. There is a notable scene in a car between Ben and his son Paul (Tobey Maguire) in which Ben awkwardly attempts to broach the subject of masturbation. It is obvious to everyone but Ben that Paul is at a stage of adolescence where he would be fully aware of such issues. The puzzled look on Paul's face confirms his own astonishment at his father's cluelessness. Similarly, when Janey Sheridan scolds Wendy Hood for sexually coming on to her younger son Sandy, she does so not through a forceful reprimand but by spouting out obscure, irrelevant facts about Eastern cultural traditions.

What becomes painfully clear as "The Ice Storm" progresses is that the lives of these two families are slowly but surely spiraling out of control, and someone is ultimately going to have to pay for these sins. The time of reckoning finally arrives on the night that both the Hood and the Carver adults converge on a key party while a fierce ice storm strikes the area. The key party--in which the husbands toss their keys in a jar and the wives sleep with the men whose keys they randomly fish out--marks the lowest possible point of moral abandonment by the Hoods and the Carvers. Director Ang Lee effectively intercuts these crucial scenes to reveal that as the party progresses inside, so the ice storm rages outside--as if to vent Nature's fury at the chaos that man consistently chooses to embrace over the natural order.

When the storm finally clears, and the effect of the alcohol wears off, what rises with the morning mist is a tragic revelation that wrenches all characters from their careless moral and spiritual slumbers. This is a devastating finale, and what is even more heartbreaking is the silent understanding that, for these two families, tragedy was clearly a necessary evil.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
French naturalism at its finest, 7 April 1999

I was utterly moved by the raw, unflinching portrayal of directionless youth that writer/director Zonca was able to capture in "The Dreamlife of Angels." Bouchez and Regnier both deliver subtle, emotionally shattering performances, and the accolades they have received for this film are without a doubt well deserved. This is truly a heartbreaking slice of life with none of the false flourishes of a Hollywood production. Watch it if you dare.

6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
A raw slice of life, 7 April 1999
10/10

"La Fille seule" is an absolute gem of a film that is particularly fascinating because its structural simplicity belies a complex, multi-layered character study. And the subject of writer/director Jacquot's scrutiny is a headstrong, independent young woman who, while acknowledging her vulnerability in the face of several personal crises, refuses to sit idly by and play the victim. The camera utterly adores actress Virginie Ledoyen (who portrays Valerie with raw vibrance), which is perhaps why there is never a dull moment in a film that was shot in real time so that viewers could get a glimpse of even the most trivial of daily tasks that Valerie undertakes. What is also interesting is Jacquot's low-keyed exploration of sexual harassment in the workplace and of how brief, chance encounters with strangers can have long-term effects on our personal attitudes and perceptions.

Oleanna (1994)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
I beg to differ, 6 April 1999
10/10

I just saw Oleanna for the first time, and I must say that no film has aroused so much anger and other conflicting emotions in me. I attribute this to David Mamet's brilliant, thought-provoking dialogue. As William H. Macy's character states in the film, it seems that the purpose of the language is to provoke an emotional response. Mamet understands that he needs to slap us awake before he pounds us with his weighty notions of modern feminist politics, political correctness, and the elitist institution of higher education. He is one of the few writers who understands that in today's jaded society, one must first offend in order to promote constructive discussion on any matter of great import. I beg to differ with previous posters who have criticized Mamet's language as being "unrealistic" and "cold." Obviously, people who have said such things are not accustomed to Mametspeak: a distinctive form of verbal exchange in which the emotion and the art are intentionally removed from the acting so that the language--the spoken words--are emphasized. This is a brilliant stroke that only one of Mamet's genius can pull off successfully. Be not mistaken. Mamet is no fool. I think people forget that he won the Pulitzer Prize for Glengarry Glen Ross. He is a master of probing, intelligent dialogue. Like a previous poster has said, if you don't understand "Oleanna," then simply admit to it and keep your thoughtless criticisms to yourself. Otherwise, view the film a few more times and I think you'll come to appreciate what Mamet is trying to accomplish. And for those of you who say that the film is poor but the play is excellent, this is perplexing since both were written and directed by the same man. Subtle, irrelevant differences in acting and staging aside, the words and the impact of the words are unaltered.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Splendor in the Wood, 23 March 1999
9/10

Simply put, Natalie Wood provides one of the most poignant depictions of tortured adolescence ever put to film. Wood is utterly mesmerizing as Deanie, a beautiful but insecure young girl who carefully constructs her entire existence around the love of her life--a brooding young high school hero named Bud--only to have her mental and emotional worlds simultaneously come crashing down when Bud suddenly pulls himself out of her life.

Looking back, it was apt that Wood first came to stardom playing opposite James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, for her performance in this film equals Dean's in terms of sheer emotional ferocity and raw vulnerability. While Splendor in the Grass is by no means one of director Elia Kazan's masterpieces, it is very much worth watching if only as a showcase for the heartbreaking Natalie Wood.

Lolita (1997)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Heartbreaking, 18 March 1999
10/10

As I believe that just about everything that can possibly be said in praise of Adrian Lyne's adaptation has been eloquently done so by the previous posters, I will keep this short. Lyne's LOLITA is quite simply one of the most heartrending films I have ever seen. I was so affected by Jeremy Iron's incredible performance as Humbert Humbert that I am still now shaking from its aftermath. That final scene in which Humbert stands on the hilltop, his face speckled with the blood of the man he felt had destroyed his happiness and in which he fully regrets his past actions that have lead to the destruction of a young girl's innocence, will stay with me forever. Kudos to you, Mr. Lyne for your integrity in standing firmly beside a film that you obviously believed in very strongly. The end result is a staggering achievement.


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