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Light-hearted, cheesy, colorful, and a lot of fun -- 24Seven may seem like any other teen show, but underneath it's got a lot of freshness and wit. Great cast -- not the best actors but fantastic chemistry. Much better than most "adult" full-hour dramas on TV.
Bless the Child (2000)
An ill-conceived mess
Where do I start? "Bless the Child" is a flop, a horrendous, horrible flop. The dialogue is awkward and unintentionally funny at the most inappropriate moments (Ricci: "They make thing happen to people. Baaad things." As opposed to what? They're satanists, for God's sake!).
The performances are surprisingly bad, as well, especially Basinger's emotionally distant Maggie, and Ricci's rather pointless turn as the requisite good-hearted yet troubled Goth chick. Smits is in full Bobby Simone mode, which is fine but altogether uninteresting, and Sewell gives us his best impression of the Big Bad Wolf. He really needs to get that wandering eye of his fixed.
What else... Oh, the pacing is mind-numbingly slow, the plot wafer-thin and predictable. The music is oppressive and gimmicky. The CGI is especially pointless, and is unimpressive at that. But ah, the religious and historical themes...
"Bless the Child" does a spectacular job of getting as many Judeo-Catholic cliches in a single movie as possible. Why, there are the kindly nuns in full habit, something which, while plausible, is rather unlikely nowadays. (Lumi Cavazos, what are DOING in this movie?) There's the eccentric old theologian who lives in an eccentric place. There's the really Catholic Hispanic nanny. There are evil minions who dress in all black - so chic! And then there are rosaries and doves and white lilys and crying statues of Mary and blah blah blah...
Plus, you can tell no one on set was actually Catholic as they quoted from the Bible (the St. James version with its archaic "thees" and "thous" that sound so much more *mysterious* even when no one can understand them) ad nauseum. Now, I'm a lax Catholic at best, but come on! I'm sure even real Satanists are unhappy about their portrayal.
This movie is ludicrous. Don't waste your money. The only pleasure I derived from it was the good long laugh I had with my friends as soon as the credits started. Anyone who knows *anything* about religion, history, or the real world will laugh at this already bad idea gone so horribly wrong.
Somewhere, God is having fun with irony...
Arabian Nights (2000)
Romantic spectacle at its best
Wow. Somehow I had gone through the winter without seeing a trailer for "Arabian Nights," which was why I was all the more astounded when I caught it on tv that Sunday night. This is pure myth-and-magic candy, people, but unlike most effects-laden tv-series, it gets better. A lot better.
Okay, so it gets a little anachronistic at parts, but what really blew me away was the frame tale that held it all together. Scheherazade was played to an intelligent, beguiling perfection by Avital, and Scott was simply spectacular as the half-mad Schariar. These two had great chemistry, and their interactions made for some electric, yet subtle, scenes. Their characters -- and characterizations -- were great, better and more complex than what you normally get in this genre of telemovie-making.
It's a beautiful escapist fantasy with lead characters to root for. Music was on point, direction was well-stylized (though gimmicky and will probably be dated in a little while), performances top-notch without the actos taking themselves too seriously. If you want some classy, sexy, mystical entertainment, give "Arabian Nights" a try. You won't regret it.
Interesting, beautiful, moving - Zhang Yimou rocks again
Zhang Yimou's attempt to squeeze yet another Chinese history lesson into one of his movies aside, I still came away unexpectedly moved by "Shanghai Triad." The story is fascinating, sometimes in a morbid way, sometimes in a childish one. I got the sense that I'm being witness to a myth in the making, one of those amazing stories out of history that have underlying messages about the human condition. Zhang's treatment of the aesthetic, both visual and aural (Ajiao's song makes for a wonderful musical theme), is moving as ever. And since it's by him, all the symbols, allusions, circular events, juxtaposition of characters - and all the rest of that - applies.
Gong Li as the bratty and doomed Bijou is wonderful to watch, and Wang Xiaoxiao is very effective as the audience's stand-in in the movie.
And the history lesson wasn't so bad either.
'Til There Was You (1997)
Cute, I suppose
Cute concept ("It took them twenty years..." yadda yadda), okay exposition, anticlimactic ending. Tripplehorn's performance, while not stirring, was right for her role. McDermott looks attractive and is attractively tortured, essentially playing the same character he's played from "Steel Magnolias" through to "The Practice." Jessica Parker is delightfully vampy and vapid, and shines in her own right. The apartment building ("La Fortuna") is lovely and romantic, which right there should tell you nothing like it actually exists in Los Angeles. It's not a bad movie, but it fall flat on overall freshness and originality.
Dying to Live (1999)
Inept, maudlin, badly-conceived attempt at profundity
I attend the school where the gym/dance/locker scenes this movie was filmed at. Granted, it doesn't make me an overnight expert on this movie, but as consumer with some sense of savvy, I have to say that this paltry little tv-movie fails across the board. The flat acting (and bad stripping), the inane and contrived plotline (avenging angels anyone?), the amateurish directing (including the clumsy use of slow motion during the clumsy and fatal let's-all-fall-into-the-pool scene--which was hilarious, though I do believe it was meant to be heart-wrenching or somesuch), and just the utter ridiculousness of the thing. Try again, Mr. Frakes. These teen angel movies (so original as they are, of course!) aren't reviving your post-Star Trek career.
Music from Another Room (1998)
Charming movie--sans Gretchen Mol
A unique movie, quirky and not without a few surprises, "Music" is also peppered with endearing performances by Blethyn, Law, Tilly, and company...with the exception of the flat performance given by Mol. Kinda put a kink in an otherwise very enjoyable movie.