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Monster's Ball (2001)
I don't get it. This is essentially a Lifetime movie with Halle's breasts thrown in. Everyone in it is good, but hardly Oscar-worthy. I got tired of somebody having to die every 20 minutes and all the morose faces. The opening offers such great potential, but the movie itself stops short before realizing it.
Jacob's Ladder (1990)
Give it another try
I saw this film when it first came out and went away more than a bit confused. After 10 years passed and numerous, more popular films, have aped the ending and style and after a decade of realizing Tim Robbins is the greatest working actor today, I decided to give it another try. Not only did it make a lot more sense, I came to really appreciate the incredibly powerful performances, beautiful dialogue and excellent direction. Wish a couple of the deleted scenes had been included in the film, but it's still a thoughtful and intelligent film that packs an emotional wallop. Oh yeah and TIM ROBBINS ROCKS!
The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
The Coens continue to defy expectations
What is the new Coen Brothers movie? A black comedy? An homage to film noir? A showcase for some really bad hairpieces? Essentially, what you get is a beautifully shot and constructed film, more in the vein of BARTON FINK and BLOOD SIMPLE than the last couple Coen flicks. There are several moments of pure, orgasmic moviegoing pleasure--the fight between Billy Bob Thornton and James Gandolfini ranks as one of the Coens' best scenes ever. However, the movie hits that point about halfway through where it veers off into foreign territory and never quite comes back. As soon as Katherine Borowitz shows up, babbling about space aliens, the tight little thriller verges into obtuseness. Still, even an average Coen Brothers film beats any other movie out there.
Joy Ride (2001)
Steve Zahn is THE MAN!!!!
This movie is about the equivalent of those other trucker versus man movies like DUEL and BREAKDOWN but it's got something neither of those had--Steve Zahn. He is simply the coolest. As usual, he's the screwed-up but loveable wiseass who causes trouble for the more clear-minded individuals. This movie is surprisingly funny, largely because of Zahn's physical antics and hysterical expressions. Plus, I love how he manages to talk Paul Walker into doing ANYTHING simply by punching his arm and saying: "DOOOO IT!" I'd say more but I have a sudden urge to rent HAPPY TEXAS and SAFE MEN again.
Cradle Will Rock (1999)
A beautiful movie that can make the simplest scenes incredibly powerful. No, it's not subtle filmmaking. Instead, it's passionate and exciting and touching. I'll remember so many moments from this movie--John Turturro standing up in the audience, Emily Watson standing up for herself, the destruction of the masterpiece mural, Bill Murray's onstage breakdown. A wonderfully crafted movie that actually captures what it means to celebrate art.
Derek Zoolander: Male Model (1996)
Pure Stiller, Pure Brilliance
The ZOOLANDER movie is pretty damn good, but you shouldn't miss this great short, which was largely improvised and originally aired on the VH-1 Fashion Awards. Stiller's gift is that he can make fun of something--in this case, male models--while also exhibiting a true affection and knowledge of the subject. Poor dumb Derek genuinely means well--he even wants to open up a model school to teach kids his patented "looks". Hopefully this and the other short will be available on the ZOOLANDER DVD at some point because everyone needs to see it!
The Vagina Monologues (2002)
No One is Indifferent to It
I have a strong suspicion the comments below were written by a man. This show definately isn't for everyone, but to call it revolting only makes Ms. Ensler's point--that there is such a ridiculous stigma and mystery attached to a woman's sexuality. Men talk freely and frequently about their equipment, I find it amusing that the idea of a woman discussing hers is considered so tasteless.
It didn't leave me wanting to start a revolution--I didn't feel like marching in a parade after seeing this, I didn't want to shout VAGINA from the rooftops...instead, I enjoyed some often hysterical, sometimes tragic and overall witty dialogue.
And it is funny, there's no way around that. The list of different moans is worth the price of admission alone. It's educational as well--did you know the clitoris is the only organ that serves no purpose other than to give please and contains twice as many nerve endings as the penis? As Ms. Ensler says, "Why want a handgun when you can have a semiautomatic?"
"I can't remember to forget you"
To quote the great Keanu Reeves: "Whoa". Give yourself over to this hypnotic, challenging movie and you'll have a great ride. Try too hard to figure it out or second guess it, you'll ruin the fun of watching a truly original work unfold. It's so great to see Guy Pearce in another good role since LA CONFIDENTIAL. Joe Pantaliono is reliable as always. And even though the story is told backwards, it still manages to surprise you. A clever film that doesn't sacrifice the humanity at the heart of the film for cheap shocks, this movie is more than a mere gimmick. Pearce will truly make you care about this character, rooting for what essentially boils down to a revenge fantasy. You could poke holes in it all night long, but why bother? Just lean back and enjoy one of the best mindf***s captured on film.
Tempting Fate (1998)
A precursor to SERIES 7!
When I heard the plot outline of the new SERIES 7: THE CONTENDERS movie, I remembered this little t.v. movie. There's a similar game show in the film, but it's more a story about not being able to go back and rewrite your life. A very unique tale for an unhyped television movie, but well-done and quite entertaining. Had some nice surprises and solid performances by everyone involved.
Series 7: The Contenders (2001)
Not what I expected--and that's a good thing!
When I heard the premise of this film, I was afraid the movie would be a one-joke film. When I saw the preview, it looked like it was going to rely on shock value to keep the audience interested. But I went to see it anyway, and was pleasantly surprised. The shocks are pretty much up-front: one contestant has a baby, one IS a baby (only 18), one is pregnant with her first baby...etc. But the script doesn't rely on cheap thrills and doesn't start to take itself too seriously. The result is a surprisingly funny and fascinating film. Brooke Smith, who I haven't seen since she was trapped in a well in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, is perfect. Her Dawn is tough, unapologetic and real. I wish there had been more about the game itself--who is behind it, why this is Dawn's last round--but it's a high compliment to say this film left me wanting more.