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|128 reviews in total|
If we deserve a 'feel-good' movie for the holidays, then this one is a needs some trimming before we can say it's ready. First, the matter of suspending your disbelief. A British Prime Minister who goes as he pleases, a boy who just lost his mother but is grieving because he is in love, same boy running around Heathrow Airport like there is no such thing as security, and an ambiguous love triangle between an African man, his white best friend, and his newly wedded white bride. Then there is that remark by the Prime Minister that he would eliminate the ex-boyfriend of his love interest (a la Tony Blair and his WMD top scientist?). Finally too much of a good thing is not necessarily good. Exploiting the old Pop star, Billy, for all its worth; the Colin character who goes to Wisconsin to find love; and the couple who find love doing simulated sex. Amidst all this, the sleeper was Claudia Schiffen showing up as someone called Carol. I think most everyone missed that one.
Spike Lee's "The 25th Hour" is respectful, melancholic, sardonic, whimsical, but above all else, unequivocal. In a movie that uses the backdrop of the Twin Tower tragedy to illustrate the tenacity of the human spirit to go on, Spike Lee doesn't hold back on crime and punishment. Unlike the rather ambiguous ending of "Do the Right Thing", in this film, we have the replay of the temptation scene in "The Last Temptation of Christ" to powerfully connect all the dots in the lives of five very tormented people. Regrets are many from the father (Brian Cox) who drank too much to support his kid to the drug dealer, Monty (exceptionally played by Edward Norton) who couldn't leave the table while he was ahead, to his girlfriend Naturelle (Corina Dawson) who benefited from all the riches without trying to stop the live of crime to the best friend, Frankie (Barry Pepper), who knew early on that things would end up badly. Philip Seymour Hoffman as Jacob, gives a sterling performance as a school teacher secretly lusting his 'lolita' student (Anna Paquin). Spike Lee doesn't hold anything back from the opinionated viewpoints of foreigners in New York City to the super-stud values of a single white male. But everything revolves around Monty and the future that awaits him in prison the very next day. The film powerfully teaches us that once the deed is done, consequences have to be paid, be it a city that has to rebuild or a man who has to go on with his honor.
"The Hours" is about time - time we have left to make our lives enjoyable
to spend it in misery. It features the lives of three women, which might
explain why half the film-goers (the males) might not want to see it and
it was left out of Ebert and Roeper's Top 10 films. If that perception is
true, that would be a shame. "The Hours" is a wonderfully crafted film
about universal themes of life and death, suppression and freedom, and
unresolved love. That it is told from the viewpoint of three women should
not diminish any of its appeal. Virginia Woolf must combat her life long
mental affliction even as husband Leonard tries to manage her condition.
Using the novel, 'Mrs Dalloway', the film conveys the heartache of
isolation and forlorn lives in two other women who are directly connected
the book. In 1951, we meet Laura and Dan who, with their young son, would
seem an ideal family. But Laura yearns for freedom, much as Mrs.
and she must choose between giving up her family or dying. Move to 2001,
and there is yet another Mrs. Dalloway in Claire and her dogged
responsibility toward her former lover, Richard, now dying of AIDS. The
themes of liberation, lesbianism, and dying enthrall all three women, and
one does die in order that those around her might value even more the
living. You cannot find three better actresses to portray these very
complex individuals, in Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, and Nicole Kidman,
or all should be nominated for Oscars. An equally fine supporting cast of
Ed Harris, John Reilly, Stephen Dillane, Claire Danes, and Allison Janey
make "The Hours" one of the most interesting and intelligent melodramas to
come along in a while.
"Catch Me if You Can" is an acceptable, feel-good movie involving characters
we want to succeed, Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abragnale Jr, and Tom Hanks
as FBI agent, Carl Handratty. Guns are drawn but never fired and a
disillusioned son never gets to express his outrage at his opportunistic
mother. Steven Spielberg injects the 1960s look of a Robert Wagner 'It
Takes a Thief' TV series or a Peter Sellers 'Pink Panther', even bringing
back Kitty Carlisle for the 'To Tell The Truth' show. But he doesn't give
us the inventive nor provocative spirit of his trademark films. De Caprio
excels in his very believable conversion, from a bystander witnessing his
father dangling lockets or overly praising strange women to do his biding or
his mother's philandering, to an active participant in fraud. Tom Hanks has
to suffer the role of the fall guy, failing at least four times to catch his
man. The interesting women in De Caprio's life, especially the hotel hooker
(Jennifer Garner) who fails to appreciate a con and the sheepish young nurse
(Amy Adams) whose genuineness is as clear as the braces on her teeth make
for interesting distractions but their roles are too transitory.
This is an OK film but, by Spielberg standards, below what was expected.
One scene in "About Schmidt" epitomizes this wonderfully sly satire of Americana. Warren, the recent widower and frustrated soon to be father-of-the-bride, sits and observes the groom's family chomping at food as if they were grazing at the trough. His predicament is that his daughter (Hope Davis) is eating just like them. Jack Nicholson, as Warren, is in practically every scene and his dramatic and comedic talent have never been better showcased (the tearful widower in a wonderful monologue atop his travel van, the struggling water bed sleeper who soon shows the effects of too much Percodan, and the seemingly vindictive father who turns 180 degrees in his wedding speech) . He doesn't work with glamorous women like in "The Witches of Eastwick" and he has a future son-in-law (Dermot Mulroney) that he graciously calls a nincompoop. No, there is his very old looking wife of 42 years, Helen, who makes him use the toilet seat to urine and a domineering soon to be mother-in-law, Roberta (Kathy Bates), who doesn't mind talking about her breast feeding, her orgasms, nor does she mind indulging in a nice hot tub session with Warren. The film deliberately keeps the straight-laced, broad shouldered Warren as a one dimensional, penny-pincher (the pine box was too cheap for his wife but not the upgrade) who is unable to deal with his retirement, his estranged daughter's wedding, nor self-doubts about what he has really accomplished. Much like the Coen brothers' film, "Fargo", this film makes us look at ourselves from the microscopic detail of sagging skin to the macroscopic view of a man's small place in his universe. It goes further by showing the terrible irony of a lonely, frustrated man whose only joy in life is confiding in a six year old boy he has never seen, in a faraway country where for the cost of $22 a month, he can finally say he has redemption.
After the first half hour of "Equilibrium", you sense that there is nothing much to more to see - an acrobatic 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' type of combat in which the hero (Christian Bale) rushes into a dark room full of flying bullets and escapes unscathed, the ominous father figure that has given society freedom from war, and the compelling guise of people who no longer can feel. Throw in a small role for the damsel in distress (Emily Watson), an unconvincing antagonist (Taye Diggs), and a few reminders of the Western civilization and what is the sum of this film is hardly worth any of its parts. The irony of a film about people who are unable to feel is that it makes you hardly feel for any of it.
`Far From Heaven' has been compared to the Jane Wyman tear jerker, `All That Heaven Allows' but a closer comparison would be `Pleasantville'. The operating word here is 'convention'. `Pleasantville' saw through it, rejected it, and was highly praised. `Far From Heaven' resists the revisionist plan and, consequently, will not be as popular a movie. This is a time capsule of the way America acted in the post-cold war 1950s, a time when integration was new and threatening and homosexuality was a disease to fight and be cured of. The conventional family unit consisted of a hard-working successful businessman-father (Dennis Quaid), his socially known and glamorous homemaking-wife (Julianne Moore), her steadfast neighbor and best friend (Patricia Clarkson) and two dutifully children, one male and one female, of liked age to perfectly balance the situation. There was the typical American town, Hartford, where, again by convention, the whites and the blacks knew their place and where integration was an abstract thought. Finally, there was homosexuality, which by convention, was more a rare disease among artists than it was commonly seen in everyday life. Todd Haynes projects this movie as it would have been made in the 1950s, from the tidy, pretentious dialogue down to the gasps of indignation at a black man talking much less riding in a car with a white woman, to the fake scenes of the automobile rear view mirror. Yet it is the issue of homosexuality and a black man having anything to do with a white woman that Haynes would have us ponder over. It certainly would not have passed the movie censors then but, today, would seem to be an unnecessary reminder of how times have changed. It seems that Haynes can't have it both ways.
This is a unique morality story taken from the point of view of several different characters, making it both entertaining and intriguing. Luther Fox (Mick Jagger) entices a desperate unemployed writer, Byron (Andy Garcia) to be part of his gigolos. The entreprenauer clearly sees danger as well as opportunity in his new find. Byron doesn't want to cheat on his devoted wife Dena (Julianna Marguiles) but finds he has little choice in order to maintain the lie about his successful novel. Andrea (Vanessa Williams) finds Byron the perfect medicine for her dying husband Alcott (James Coburn) who must finish one last good book. And then there is Luther again with a genuine desire to live and love like a normal man like Byron, who he has now corrupted. All the characters are believable with an especially jolting performance from Angelica Huston. While not one of the best films of the year by Roger Ebert in the film billing, it is still a strong film about choices we make and those which can and cannot be reversed.
Jack meets Jill in a perverse love story, "The Secretary" where the true meaning of love is in pain and submission. This movie pushes the limits of sensibility like "The Last Tango in Paris", especially in two scenes involving a bend-over submissive relishing the abuse. However at two hours, the sefl-centered, enticing monologue wears thin. If we could understand the troubling tendencies of one E. Edward Gray (James Spader) or the self-mutilating behavior of one Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal), we could appreciate the film more. There are sparks of inventiveness. Where else does one see a 'secretary wanted' sign lit like a motel vacancy? Or the red pen circled mistakes that surely warrant a spanking. Or the smartly dressed neophyte coming to a job interview like little Red (Blue) Riding Hood about to meet the wolf. What "The Secretary" lacks in substance, it surely makes up in style.
The film title suggest it is about sexual relations. But "13 Conversations about one thing" hits a home run about an even more fundamental concern - what makes us happy. Through a very involved cast of four main characters smartly intersecting each others' paths, from an early bar scene that it returns to at the end, this film remains a genuine search for that elusive something in our lives. The film is also a mosaic about the human condition, from cynical (the math professor, John Turturo, asking his troubling student why he wants to become a doctor in order to prolong our miserable lives) and egotistical (the prosecutor, Matthew McConaughey, proclaims that luck is merely a poor man's excuse for hard work and faith is the antithesis of proof) and cruel (the young woman, Clea Duvall, with so much hope crippled by an accident that left her saying she had been changed only to the extent that now she was like everyone else) to the transcendental (the double curse by the cynical insurance man, Alan Arkin) and whimsical at the end (the surprise glance between two desperate characters, Arkin and Amy Irving, leaving the subway). Of the four characters, Clea Duvall gets our sympathies and admiration. In her segment, 'Ignorance is Bliss', she symbolizes a certain freshness the world hasn't had a chance to turn stale. Her salvation by the ever smiling Drummond is a profound reversal of the otherwise pointless characters in this film. "13 Conversations" doesn't try to tell us what is happiness as much as it directs us toward trying to find it.
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