Reviews written by registered user
|26 reviews in total|
For me, this film was an exquisite fairy tale. For my boyfriend, a martial
artist and lover of all things Asian -- including Taoism and Buddhism,
sensibilities of which are evident throughout the movie -- it was an
exquisite betrayal. We both had our breath taken away by the costumes, the
locations, the props, the sets, the choreography, the cinematography, the
music, and the acting (especially by Michelle Yeoh, who broke both our
hearts repeatedly). I felt the story made perfect sense and fulfilled the
prophecy of its own stated philosophy in a logical and meaningful fashion.
The fact that I could predict each element of the plot as it was
dramatically foreshadowed only in this case enhanced my enjoyment, because
this is apt within reason for the genre of legendary or pseudo-legendary
fantasy. However, my boyfriend felt personally betrayed by some of the
"wrong" choices made by a certain character.
To me, his anger speaks to the power of the film. He loved the world created for this film and some of the characters in it so much that it physically assaulted him when another character caused them injury. While I was totally speechless and utterly choked up at the end of the film, it was because I was swimming in a sense of beauty beyond words -- and totally beyond what I expected from a fluffy little kung fu film.
At certain points in the film, after some of the fight scenes, various members of the audience (which was a predominantly affluent, middle-aged audience in a subdued suburb north of Boston) broke out into cheers and applause.
At the end of the film, everyone in the audience (except my boyfriend) went "Oooooooooooooh."
Love it or hate it, it is simple, tender and rich. Go see it on the big screen.
Years ago, in California, I walked into a gas station convenience store to
buy some consumable or other. The man who took my money was a Mexican
emigre, and he saw that I was carrying a copy of the book Like Water for
Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. He asked how I liked it, and I told him I was
loving it. He told me not to miss the movie.
"Oh," I answered, "but I always worry that the movie will never be as good as the book."
"It doesn't matter," he told me. "This is a very great film. And it is the first real Mexican film I have ever seen shown in this country. You know, to everybody, not just the Mexican community."
I smiled and told him I would check it out, but honestly, I had no idea what he was talking about. After all, I knew who Dolores Del Rio and Cantinflas were, and the movies with them that I had seen were shown in L.A., to everybody.
But now, at last, I have seen this movie, and now, at last, I know what this guy was talking about. Like, wow! This really is a real Mexican film! Art! Cinema! More than just a bit of popular fluff!
Tender, compassionate and very witty, like the book on which it is based, this movie celebrates Mexican culture -- not just on the food, the preparation of which forms the premise of the story, but as kind of a rollicking take on the history of the young country at the turn of the century. It celebrates the music, the style of life on a ranch, the strength of the extended family, the beauty of the land, and the ethnic mixing pot that is every Mexican.
There is so much reckless joy and passionate love in this film, even when it portrays pain. It openly depicts female eroticism. (Plus, for a big change from US cinema, we get to see beautiful men and women of many shapes, sizes and colors all on the same screen.) The acting is flawless, and the star, Lumi Cavazos, is absolutely charming, full of life and credibility.
The only flaws I found in this film were minor and had to do with timing. For example, the final ascent to the climax seems to have been shortchanged a little bit. I would have liked to reach through this scene a little more slowly.
To judge Mexican cinema by the type of films I had seen before this one would be like judging U.S. cinema on the basis of Jerry Lewis or some cheesy melodramas from the '40s and '50s, but not taking into account any of our real film art. I'd love to know what else I've missed. Can't wait to find out.
Okay, I admit it. I loved this movie. I loved it even more than the
classic play on which it is based.
Remaking, and especially modernizing, a classic is a delicate business. It's terribly easy, when bringing old truths into modern idiom, to fall so far into the pool of popular culture as to lose depth, or to work so hard at making an old story accessible to a young audience that the result is pure tedium for all ages.
In 1999, She's All That, a very loose and unacknowledged update of Pygmalion, gave us a perfect example of this kind of failure. Thankfully, however, the same year brought us this movie, 10 Things I Hate About You, an update/remake of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew - and a great example of how to do it right.
Doing it right, you see, is not about putting the thing into modern dress and language or adding gimmicks you think will appeal to people who might otherwise expect themselves to be bored. Doing it right is about deconstructing something old until you get right down to the barest timeless truth of the thing, the reason why the author wrote the original, the reason why you are drawn to retelling the story in the first place, and then - and only then - reconstructing the story around that truth in the spirit of the original author, but dressing it according to your own zeitgeist.
Ever since my parents took me to see The Taming of the Shrew when I was eight years old, I've had kind of a love/hate thing going on with it. I've loved the humor, the cleverness, and the fact that everybody who deserves happiness and love gets it in the end. The parts I've hated are, first, the part where Kate is privately humiliated, and then the part where she has to appear subservient to her husband, even though she does it for love. Without spoiling it for you, I can tell you this is not quite what happens in 10 Things I Hate About You.
Strip away all the business and temporal context of Shakespeare's Shrew and this is the message you are left with: Love, trust, and respect must be earned. They are not simply consequences of being young and cute. Having a good relationship, loving well and being well loved, require trust and respect. These are earned in a relationship when two people are kind, generous, and honest with each other, and bound up in all that, a little humble and a little nakedly needful and desirous of each other.
And guess what? When you strip away all the business and temporal context, this is also the message of 10 Things I Hate About You! Of course, it's been put into modern context, young language and dress. And I love the fact that this version has also been thoroughly adapted to the modern consciousness that a young woman can learn this stuff herself, just by being smart and true to herself, and without being forced there by a bunch of men. I also love the way that the boys in this version of the story have to go through the same painful process and learn the same lessons. But all the best elements of the original - the timeless truth, the humor, the cleverness, and the just deserts - remain intact.
The really cool thing about this version, though, is something I don't remember from the original. In 10 Things, we really get to watch all the main characters grow up. We get to watch them make choices, right and wrong, hurt each other, heal each other, and learn. We get to watch them all become more human.
And that's the kind of transformation that makes a classic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are some really good things about this movie. Pure originality is not
one of them. Good taste is not quite one of them either.
The good part: The acting. Excellent. Jeffrey Tambor puts in the best performance I've ever seen from him, very natural and real. Brad Pitt's portrayal of death is simply charming. Anthony Hopkins is at the top of his form. Claire Forlani and Marcia Gay Hardin make it obvious why their characters should be loved. Jake Weber is perfectly believable.
The bad parts: the music, the recycled story (yet another in a long string of previously used material to be coughed out of Hollywood in the last five to ten years), a certain problem of taste.
The music is by Thomas Newman, the same composer who so brilliantly scored Oscar and Lucinda. You can only tell it's him because of one particular theme which seems to have been lifted whole from the score of Oscar and Lucinda. (It's so obviously similar that until I confirmed that the same composer had written both I was outraged at what I thought was an outright theft.) The rest of the score is mostly either a medley of material by popular composers or the usual boring Dolby-ized swells thrown in way too often, even to the point of destroying delicate dialog.
What is it with these Hollywood directors? What is this fashion for hiring brilliant actors and then stomping on their lines with insultingly suggestive music? Do I really need a swell of strings to tell me that dialog is poignant? that an exchange is respectful? that "these characters are Men, dammit"? Don't directors realize that Oscar winners and a decent script can usually do this -- and more -- all by themselves?
The story is hardly original. The old parts are based on a play entitled "Death Takes A Holiday." (This play was first made into a film with the same name in 1934, then into a TV movie in 1971. Why oh why did we need another remake?) The new parts appear to be cobbled together from or just mimicry of a lot of '80s and '90s movies about corporate greed and glamourous rich people. If it weren't for the acting and the beautiful sets and costumes, no one would give a second thought to any of these characters.
Which brings me to taste. Luxurious stuff everywhere on a set does not equate to good taste. Now, this will sound mean, but I don't intend meanness. Also, if the plot of this movie is not already clear as crystal to you thanks to two years of media saturation with a series of tediously explicit previews (another bad recent Hollywood trend), or from the tagline, or from the video cover itself, this might be a little bit of a spoiler, so beware. But here goes.
I love Claire Forlani's acting. Nevertheless, I think she's too thin. Most people are 10-20 pounds lighter than they appear on film. In this film, Ms. Forlani looks like she weighs about 100 lb.
Now, I think most of the women on my screen are too thin these days. However, there is something particularly disturbing about a woman so thin that you can see the articulation of her shoulder joints embracing as a lover the handsome and virile embodiment of death. Enough said.
This movie had a budget of $90m (which should have been enough to at least buy an original story idea). If the figures posted here on IMDb are accurate, it has yet to recoup more than approximately half. I hope Hollywood starts to get some messages from this kind of math. Maybe I'm not the only one watching movies who is sick of remakes, of terrifyingly thin women, and of stale and even insulting musical direction.
First of all, I have to say that the first time I saw Braveheart, I loved
it, unequivocally. Too old to remember what I once knew of Scottish
history, and therefore entirely unaware of any historical inaccuracies which
I've since heard others put forth, I saw only a long, lush, romantic,
dramatic, cinematic war poem, the sort of thing that would have become
required reading in English literature courses had it been created by a
troubador a few centuries earlier. It didn't even bother me that Mel
Gibson, despite his usual exceptionally strong acting, was far too old for
the hero's role. I was enchanted and deeply moved.
Let me also state my opinion that, no matter what, Braveheart is still a really good movie. The sheer choreography of the battle scenes is superb and not to be missed. Patrick McGoohan's performance is the best I've seen him do yet. Most of the little glimpses we get of Sophie Marceau are lovely and memorable. The only real criticisms I can make of this film rest on the length and on certain cliches which could have been avoided; there were a number of scenes that could have been trimmed to strengthen Braveheart's impact immensely, and the script was not always as strong as the point. But these are small criticisms. Watching Braveheart is like immersing yourself greedily in a thick historical novel.
However, when I first saw Braveheart, I had never seen anything like it on film. So over the course of the next few years, hungry for more rich widescreen epics spread over two cassettes, I watched and rewatched a lot of other films, as much David Lean and Akira Kurosawa as I could find. The first movie I saw after Braveheart was Lawrence of Arabia, which I'd seen and loved before; then, at my boyfriend's instigation, I moved into Kurosawa with a vengeance, starting with Ran. If my goal had been to keep loving Braveheart, this was probably my first mistake.
Then my boyfriend, at my urging, bought the video of Braveheart, letterboxed and everything as all originally widescreen films should be. A big Kurosawa fan, and someone who cannot seem to get enough of beautifully presented violent tragedy, I assumed my boyfriend would love Braveheart as much as I had. This was my second mistake. For had he not purchased this videotape, my third and most critical error of judgment would never have occurred.
My third mistake took place a couple of weeks ago. We held a little film party at our house, ostensibly to watch Monty Python movies with a bunch of our friends, ages ranging from early 20s to late 30s. We first watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a brilliant and hilarious movie we all love dearly. Then the people who don't like violent tragedies, even when beautifully presented, had to go home. So the question arose, what should we watch next?
For some reason, neither Monty Python's The Meaning of Life nor Life of Bryan, which we had rented just for the occasion, appealed to the remaining guests. For some perverse reason which I can only attribute to too many margaritas, we all agreed to watch Braveheart.
Like The Holy Grail, Braveheart attempts to portray life in medieval Britain as it might really have been, filth and all. So the first time we snickered when we saw a dirty face, we suspected we were in trouble. As soon as the first English soldier in a bullet-shaped helmet appeared to receive a thorough taunting, those of use who had seen Braveheart before knew at once that our love affair with the film was over. It didn't take long for our small audience to begin screaming things at the screen such as, "Come back and fight, you coward!" or "Not dead; in fact, I'm feeling a little better," or "You don't frighten us, English pig dogs!" or, worst of all, "Naughty, naughty Zoot!"
I don't want to spoil Braveheart for others. The purpose of this review is simply to put forth a warning. And so I will not walk you through all the parallels we encountered, much to the detriment of Braveheart, from costume to character to event. It would be unkind. Nor will I go into a detailed analysis of the flaws of Braveheart versus the virtues of, say, Kagemusha.
I would offer two warnings, though. The first warning is that, if you love Braveheart and have not watched a lot of Kurosawa, go carefully into that rich domain. Know that once you have seen Ran, with all its beautifully composed scenes, unique and perfect music, and careful, truly poetic editing, never again will you be able to look at Braveheart with the same respect.
The second warning is much more obscure, probably a mistake others are not likely to make, but still... If you love Braveheart, or if you want to love Braveheart, never ever screen it directly after screening Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Oh, sure; should you disregard this warning, you will certainly have fun. Rolling around on the floor and laughing until you hurt is generally enjoyable. However, you will never again be able to view Braveheart with any type of dignity.
When this movie was first released, I was five years old. I went to see it
with my father, a staunch Republican, and my brother, age 11. We all loved
this movie. Everyone on the street where I lived, in a conservative,
affluent suburb of Los Angeles, loved this movie, especially we children,
who thereafter often could be found playing "Viet Nam" in the streets.
Last month, this movie was shown on one of the movie channels my boyfriend and I receive through our satellite dish. My boyfriend is five years younger than I. We both expected to enjoy watching what I remembered as a classic war movie from an era he's just barely too young to recall.
We were able to tolerate only the first fifteen minutes of the film. Unfortunately, it quickly became clear that a big part of this film was about propaganda, more than a nuance, more like a sledgehammer which had entirely eluded me at five years of age. Knowing now what we certainly had no clue about in 1968, my boyfriend and I were well repulsed and had to switch channels to keep our dinners in our tummies.
So, without being able to watch the whole thing now, as a somewhat educated adult, I can't really assess the quality of more than the first fifteen minutes of The Green Berets, except to remember wistfully the impact that the film's action scenes -- but certainly not the dialog or the premise -- had on my childhood street games. (I thought I might grow up to be a Green Beret. The number of actual career paths available to women in the 1960s was another thing I didn't have a clue about at age five. And then there was that whole concept of how, in real life, you don't usually get to get up and play some more after you've been shot. And then there was that whole thing about how getting shot often really hurts quite a bit.)
However, I would recommend that, if anyone out there now believes that *all* Americans opposed the Viet Nam conflict while it was happening, those poor deluded souls should take in as much of The Green Berets as they can stand, as it might provide a valuable glimpse through a now deliberately occluded window on our culture at that time. This was a big, probably expensive, mainstream production, starring and directed by John Wayne. And this was what a lot of the people who didn't attend Woodstock looked like, talked like, and believed -- or wanted to look like, talk like, and believe.
This is a really fun movie. Jerry Bruckheimer could learn a thing or five
from Stanley Tong. I can only give it 8 out of 10 because it's not exactly
deep, y'know? It is light as a feather, but it's also fun, fun, fun -- far
more interesting and surprising than any "action" film I've seen out of
Hollywood in a long, long time, all of which have seemed to me to be
recycling the same script, plot, characters, and score to desperation.
(Beats me how people could shell out eight bucks a pop to see Enemy of the
State aka Mercury Rising aka Absolute Power...when they could rent Supercop
for two bucks and actually see something unexpected.)
Of course, this film stars Jackie Chan being his usual goofy self, deftly making his extraordinary skills as a martial artist, stuntman, and physical comedian look as natural as breathing, but the other amazing talent in this piece is exhibited by the fantastic stuntwoman Michelle Yeoh (aka Michelle Khan), the same woman who for the first time blew away many Western moviegoers in Tomorrow Never Dies.
I think this woman is made entirely of rubber and springs. Most of her stunts in this movie are actually scarier and more daring than most of Chan's, and some of the most brutal took more than one take. And she did a lot of them in a dress!
Fortunately, she is also in the sequel to this, Supercop II. It's seven years old, and I can hardly wait to rent it. (When was the last time you were in a hurry to see an action flick almost ten years old?) Too bad I can't say the same for Rush Hour, which I had to click off after less than 10 minutes because Chan's co-lead character was such an obnoxious idiot.
I really hope Hollywood learns from Chan and his Hong Kong associates, and not the other way around. Indicators are not positive. Keep your fingers crossed. Meanwhile, watch Supercop and enjoy something fresh.
There are now but four televisions shows I watch with any regularity. Daria
is one of them. Daria is also the only thing on MTV that I can ever stand
to watch anymore. MTV used to be the home of some really intriguing
animation. This is all that's left, as far as I can tell.
Once upon a time, Ally McBeal, which I loathe for its shallowness and cruelty, was marketed to us, the American public, as the show that would finally reveal "what women are really thinking." This marketing was a lie. The only show I've seen on TV that even comes close to fulfilling this promise is Daria.
Scathing and true, this show never fails to make me, or my boyfriend, or anyone in my circle of friends (ages 20+ to 50+) laugh hysterically. I dunno; maybe we're just all a bunch of overgrown outcast brains who can't help but feel kinship for the popularity exiles of Lawndale High. Maybe it's because we were once suburban youth. Or maybe it's because, with all their various base and frivolous traits, there isn't a single character in this program who is not, at some point, sympathetic, and there isn't a single character who doesn't represent more than just a high school student.
The only bad thing I have to say about this program is that MTV seems to have misplaced it. When oh when will we be graced with new episodes? We wait with 'bated breath...
It is rare that I am moved to joy by a network TV show, but Sports Night has
I'm a total geek. I don't do sports. Why should I like this show? Because it's smart. Really smart. They use big words. They talk fast. This show has wit, irony, outright human silliness, and even some slapstick, as well as drama, intrigue, and politics. Most of the time, there is no perceptible laugh track to insult me, although I think the producers tried it on somewhat subtly for a couple of episodes. Also, this show isn't really about sports, it's about life, all the tenderness and humiliation and care that everybody puts in and takes out every day.
Although it waxes a bit self-conscious and preachy at times, and even though there's a whole lot more romance happening in this office than I ever saw anywhere I ever worked, it's a new show and it holds a lot of promise. I really hope it survives to flourish, prosper, and deepen, and that the producers continue to leave the laugh track out.
The first time I saw Ghostbusters was a comic revelation. With wit,
sophistication, and absolute knowledge of the culture, Bill Murray, Dan
Aykroyd and Harold Ramis delivered laughs on every imaginable level,
beautifully framed by expert performances by Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts,
and Rick Moranis.
While there is no time like the first time, it's good to come back to this film from time to time. Murray and Weaver are true artists, continually pushing the boundaries of their talents, and these are characters you don't want to miss if you are a fan of either. Also, I miss Dan Aykroyd being this funny. If all you've ever seen of his work is Blues Brothers 2000 or Soul Man on TV, you need to watch Ghostbusters to understand why people of my generation (baby boom) still love and respect him.
The art direction and production design in this movie are also notable. The sets, costumes, and special effects are wild and strangely honest at the same time, subtle or obvious exactly where they should be. No matter how crazy things get, credibility is always suspended, just like in a good magic show.
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