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I saw this movie at the Palm Springs INternational Film Festival and it totally blew me away. This is one filmmaker who definitely knows what he's doing. I met him after the screening and he was really nice, very sexy and seemed to know his stuff, unlike a lot of other Hollywood posers who just make these stupid one-joke surprise ending shorts. It's a great film that really gets at the nature of being alive, of being PRESENT, and trusting your instincts. David Aronson is a director who's really good at just doing his thing. I really hope he continues to make films as he is someone with a talent for lighting faces to make them look really bright. The lead actress also speaks English exceptionally well which I attribute to the director's expertise. Of all the May-December romances I've had the privilege of seeing lately, this one's the most touching and acute.
Margaret Cho: Assassin (2005)
Yes, she's funny, and no, she's not interested in the majority
The thing that makes me laugh about straight, white men and their reactions to comedians like Margaret Cho is that they're so used to being the major demographic for every movie, television show, advertisement etc. that when something isn't aimed at them they feel COMPLETELY lost. "Oh my God, why is she talking about gays all the time?" "Why is she talking about her period?" "Why is she talking about Asians?" Since when did a comedian vary their topics that much? Just because it's not about you doesn't mean it's not funny, it's just that for ONCE you're not the one translating what you're hearing to make it apply to your life the way ethnic people, gays and lesbians or women in general often have to do. So if you don't think Margaret's funny because her sense of humour doesn't appeal to you, that's cool, but if you don't think she's funny because she's not talking about you, TOOOOOOOOOOO BAD! You're going to have to share the world with others after all.
Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
*** 1/2 Great recreation of an era
Gorgeous film by E. Elias Merhige that fictionalizes the accounts surrounding the filming of F.W. Murnau's German Expressionist classic Nosferatu. The real production of Nosferatu is still so fraught with myth and mystery that it lends itself perfectly to a film of this sort, and the director has all kinds of fun fleshing it out, particularly in his casting: as Max Schreck, the fastidious actor who may or may not have been a real vampire, Willem Dafoe gives one of the most impressive performances of his career, reaching out from under all that makeup and delivering a character who is both terrifying and hilarious at the same time. John Malkovich as Murnau is better than I've ever seen him, so adaptive to his surroundings that for the first time I forgot that I was actually watching John Malkovich the actor at work. The film's script doesn't live up to its visual perfection, leaving you with a film that's really great while it's on but lacking a sense of completion when it's over. Also notable are Catherine McCormack as a vamp (a real turn of events for her!) and Cary Elwes going blonde again (I guess he finally remembered we once thought he was a hunk to be reckoned with).
Saving Grace (2000)
** 1/2 Funny but not impressive
One-joke comedy that benefits from the brilliant performance by its beautiful star Brenda Blethyn. Blethyn plays the widow of a seemingly rich man who after death leaves her without a penny in the bank and nothing to protect her from losing her beautiful country home. The solution is easy, of course: grow weed in your greenhouse. This she does with her reefer-smoking gardener (Craig Ferguson, who also co-wrote), but the trouble starts when she has to try and sell it all. Extremely funny all the way through, but the film's last third is so flaccid it seems to undermine everything it's been working for up until that point.
Shanghai Noon (2000)
*** Exact remake of Rush Hour
Exact remake of Jackie Chan's hit crossover film Rush Hour, except this time the setting is the Old West and the American partner is cowboy Owen Wilson (who has pretty much the best hairstylist of the year after Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible 2). A Chinese princess (Lucy Liu) has been kidnapped upon her arrival to a newly settling western America and needs to be rescued; Chan is the court jester who is sent to find her. Lots of fun stuff, nothing too impressive.
**** Even better than the original!
Samuel L. Jackson rules this film update of Ernest Tidyman's cool-as-sin cop, first filmed in 1971 with Richard Roundtree. John Singleton brings Shaft to the nineties without losing the slick seventies look that made the original so much a piece of nostalgia, even including themes and the main song from Isaac Hayes' original Academy Award-winning score. The plot involves a snooty heir (Christian Bale) who thinks he can get away with murder, not realizing that Shaft is on the scene and ready to take him down! Toni Collette, Vanessa Williams and Jeffrey Wright all lend able support, but it is Jackson who takes the cake here. Incidentally, Singleton originally wanted Wesley Snipes for the role, but producer Scott Rudin stated that he wouldn't make the film unless Jackson played it (Snipes later said he wouldn't have taken it even if they begged him, and made The Art of War instead). Roundtree makes a cameo appearance and is a very welcome sight. Great action flick.
*** 1/2 Good but not better than Quills
Daniel Auteuil makes an excellent Marquis de Sade (even better than Geoffrey Rush in Quills) in this intelligent film by one of France's very best directors, Benoit Jacquot (The School of Flesh, Pas De Scandale). Unlike the aforementioned Philip Kaufman picture, which examined the issue of censorship by using Sade and his work as a backdrop, this film intends to explore the sides of the infamous pornographer as philanthropist. While being held prisoner in a grand chateau with many other nobles following the French revolution, Sade befriends a curious young woman and teaches her a thing or two about growing up. The relationship they develop is genuine and in the end very moving, mostly because while instructing her to loosen up she teaches him how he can reclaim his emotional self and learn to once again love the society that he has dismissed as conventional and narrow. Not Jacquot's best, but a worthy piece of work.
Scary Movie (2000)
** 1/2 Funny but eventually overdone
Very funny but eventually tiring satire of the teenage horror film genre; the Wayans brothers have produced their most financially successful comedy yet with this film that parodies the Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer films, among others, with biting sarcasm. Some of the jokes really work, some of them really don't, but it is thanks to a very funny performance by Anna Faris (standing in for the Jennifer Love Hewitts and Neve Campbells of the world) that makes it worth watching. Features a funny cameo by Dawson's Creek star James Van Der Beek.
Paragraph 175 (2000)
*** 1/2 Powerful stuff
Touching documentary by the creators of Common Threads: Stories From The Quilt and The Celluloid Closet that interviews survivors of the Holocaust who had been interred in concentration camps for being homosexual. Directors Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein cleverly use real footage and very powerful interviews, all linked by Rupert Everett's narration to tell a very powerful story and make a very difficult, if not always unforgettable, film. It's not as zesty as The Celluloid Closet was, due to its subject matter naturally, nor is it as compelling as their Oscar-winning effort of 1984 The Times of Harvey Milk, mostly due to a somewhat wobbly narrative, but it's definitely a worthy piece of work, especially since the men who do tell their stories onscreen are at turns brave, wry and heartbreakingly vulnerable.
My Dog Skip (2000)
Cute little World War II film about a young boy (Frankie Muniz) and his devoted relationship to his adorable dog. Diane Lane proves to be growing more luminous as the year's pass, and here she's every bit the movie star as the young man's mother, with Kevin Bacon quite touching as his wounded veteran father. The film isn't anything too memorable but it's worthwhile family viewing all the same.