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mweston

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124 reviews in total 
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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
2 stars (out of 4), 11 January 2003
5/10

So far as I could tell, this film is a somewhat bizarre mood piece about three women who are apparently all lesbian sex workers in Hong Kong. One literally *lives* in a movie theater with many others, unless those scenes are supposed to be dreams. Another one seems to have a little more money and is looking at apartments to rent in marginal buildings, with a realtor who is pretty funny. And the third woman is reasonably wealthy.

Not much happens, and appropriately, given this sense of stasis, the camera hardly if ever moves. The only camera movement I recall is during some television clips that we see, which are mostly of giraffes. And speaking of television, this film looks like it was shot on video.

I'm just not sure what the point is.

Seen on 11/7/2002 at the 2002 Hawaii International Film Festival, where an earlier showing was the U.S. premiere.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
4 stars (out of 4), 11 January 2003
9/10

Phil (Timothy Spall) drives a taxi. When he can get motivated enough, anyway. He seems very disconnected from his life, and you can also get a subtle sense of sadness (the sense is subtle, not the sadness) and maybe a hint of desperation. We spend time watching him as he drives various people around, unshaven, harshly lit, and with an expression that never seems to change.

His wife, presumably common-law since they never formally married, is Penny (Lesley Manville). She works as a grocery clerk in the local supermarket. She's the one person in the family who isn't seriously overweight. She isn't quite as dead to the world as Phil is, but you wouldn't exactly call her happy either.

Their children are Rachel, who works mopping floors and the like in a old folk's home, and Rory, who only leaves the couch and television when it's time to eat, yelling angrily and defensively when anyone suggests that he do anything different.

Maureen (Ruth Sheen) is someone who works with Penny at the supermarket and also lives in the same building in London. She is a single mother who also does ironing to make money. She is by far the best adjusted significant character in the film, actually making jokes on numerous occasions. Her daughter is Donna, who has an angry boyfriend that Maureen doesn't like much.

The final family consists of Carol, who is constantly drunk, and Ron, who also drives a cab. Their teenaged daughter Samantha plays the tramp, using her sex appeal to get attention from the local boys.

The film looks grim, and the soundtrack is dominated by depressing strings. But it manages to transcend that and offer a little hope, without seeming manufactured or manipulative. And the performances, especially by Spall, Manville, and Sheen, would all be Oscar contenders if anyone actually had a chance to see this film. It's a crime that it only played in theaters here for a week.

If you saw Mike Leigh's earlier film "Secrets & Lies" and appreciated it, this film is one you should seek out.

Seen on 11/14/2002.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
2.5 stars (out of 4), 11 January 2003
6/10

The film starts out by making it clear that the country (Korea) is in the middle of a record-setting heat wave, and then sets up the various characters. The common thread is that the men are all lazy and/or abusive, while the women are abused sexually, physically, and emotionally, and in general are treated as second class citizens.

A group of women have an informal women's club (although the "president" of the club takes her job very seriously), and are eating watermelon outside when a man drags his wife out into the street. The couple are fighting, although it's the wife who is getting beaten up. The women's club members go after the husband, and other men join the rapidly growing fight. And in the aftermath of this fight most of the women end up on the roof of a building to escape the police.

I won't reveal much more, except that there is also a pair of bumbling thieves trying to rob an apartment in the same building, and they are trapped once the police surround the area. They might remind you of the robbers in "Home Alone," and they are definitely in the film for comic relief.

But really the whole film is far more of a comedy that one might expect since domestic abuse is the main topic. In fact, it's more like a comedy with occasional "drama relief." The acting is in keeping with this, seeming cartoon-like.

This didn't work for me. I rarely was able to laugh at the comedy, and the drama wasn't quite good enough or prevalent enough to keep me interested. The best thing I can say is that the production values were good, with crane shots and the like.

I guess I can *also* say that the rest of the audience all seemed to appreciate the comedy far better than I, and in fact I have rated the film maybe half a star higher than I would have based purely on my own reaction. Furthermore, this film won the top prize (the Golden Maile) at the 1996 Hawaii International Film Festival.

Seen on 11/1/2002 at the 2002 Hawaii International Film Festival, where this was part of the Golden Maile Korean Retrospective.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
3 stars (out of 4), 11 January 2003
7/10

This animated film opens with a convenience store robbery, which is stopped, although not without incident, by Spike Spiegel and Jet Black. The initial assumption, at least by viewers like me who are unfamiliar with Cowboy Bebop, is that Spike and Jet are cops, but it quickly becomes clear that they are bounty hunters. The attitude is completely different.

Soon we are introduced to the rest of the Bebop crew. Faye Valentine is a woman who more or less holds her own with the guys, but is drawn with unrealistically large breasts. A young girl with the confusing name of Ed (short for Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV) is the computer expert of the group, but seems pretty clueless in all other areas. And Ein (short for Einstein, I think) is a dog who seems to have human-level intelligence, although this wasn't explained.

The main plot begins when Faye is going after someone who is in a hijacked chemical truck. As she closes in on him with her seriously futuristic flying vehicle (this is *not* set in the present), the truck explodes and all the people nearby die. But Faye sees someone, who does *not* look like the person she was chasing, leave the truck and walk away unhurt.

My favorite part was the opening, and the film seemed to drag a bit in the middle. The funny bits seemed to work better than the action, and the drama didn't work at all for me. This Japanese anime film is based on a television series of the same name, and it seems to me that perhaps this film was stretched out a bit longer than it should have been. But the fun parts were good enough to make me glad I saw it, and the music was good too.

Seen on 11/8/2002 at the 2002 Hawaii International Film Festival, where this showing was sold out to a very enthusiastic audience, who mostly seemed to already know all about Cowboy Bebop.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
3 stars (out of 4), 11 January 2003
7/10

This film is an amazing technical achievement. It is a single 96 minute long take, with no edits (actually, I have read that the final shot outside was really taken elsewhere and had to be digitally altered and attached). Of course using film would be impossible for such a long continuous take, because the film reel would be enormous, so it was shot on high definition video. But even so, the amazing thing is to imagine the athletic achievement of the cameraman (Tilman Büttner) moving the camera over so long a period of time without a break, and without any obvious mistakes.

Another impressive thing about this film is the location. It is shot at the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg. They only had the museum for filming for one day, and they really only had one chance to get it right. Apparently they rehearsed for eight months, although I don't know how you could reproduce the floor plan (and "stair plan") of the museum. The museum itself is rich with art, which unfortunately I am not qualified to comment on.

And finely, the cast is amazing in its immense scope. I have read that there were about two *thousand* people, and what amazed me even more is that there are a few children included. Can you imagine some child deciding to throw a tantrum and destroying everything? Granted, on a couple of times I saw a child look at the camera, acknowledging its presence in a way that I never saw any of the adults do, but it was pretty minor.

The story is pretty thin. The cameraman has a disembodied voice, giving the audience a reference point. In the first minute or two he meets a 19th century French "stranger" (Sergei Dreiden), who remarks with astonishment that he is speaking Russian. The two of them explore the museum, which is filled with costumed people (including Catherine the Great) from a variety of time periods, with the stranger as the main guide. If you don't know Russian history, as is the case for me, this is mostly an exercise in style. My guess is that even if you do, it's still more style than substance.

For me, that style made this film well worth seeing. I found myself saying "wow" on a few occasions, although admittedly those were skewed towards the start of the film. So if you're interested in Russian history or in innovative camera techniques, this is a film to seek out.

Seen on 11/7/2002 at the 2002 Hawaii International Film Festival.

2.5 stars (out of 4), 11 January 2003
6/10

This sort-of documentary started as a short film that director Linda Ohama wanted to make about her grandmother (Asayo Murakami) for her 100th birthday. The title comes from the Japanese word for grandmother (obaachan), and from the fact that Ohama's grandmother had a large garden that she cherished for many years.

The documentary portion of the film was interesting and relatively well done. Ohama interviews her grandmother and others, and travels to where her grandmother lived in Japan and later in Canada. She combines this with photos and archival footage, and manages to unravel some deeply hidden mysteries. The film chronology follows the order than Ohama learns each fact, which works to maintain the mystery, but is perhaps less coherent than a truly chronological telling. The quality of the archival footage is generally poor, while the modern day footage is better but still looks like video, despite the fact that the program indicates 35mm film.

The real problem, however, was that this film departs from the normal documentary approach and uses actors to reenact events from when the grandmother was younger. These actors are not very good or at least do not demonstrate their talents, so the film feels amateur during these scenes. The actress who plays the younger Obaachan is actually another granddaughter (Natsuko Ohama), but is theoretically also an actress. I'm afraid I wasn't convinced.

The director and her daughter (a great-granddaughter) were at the screening at the 2002 Hawaii International Film Festival on 11/3/2002 to answer questions. They were on their way to Japan to show it there for 30 days. Obaachan wanted to come on the trip, but the doctors recommended against it. She's about 104.

When Linda Ohama started the film, her grandmother had recently gone into a nursing home. Ohama discovered that her grandmother stretched out the filmmaking process by refusing to talk too much on any one day, because she liked the attention. At one point we see her leading a cheer of "Banzai!" from a wheelchair. This is the kind of spirit that makes the film watchable.

Note that while the film is primarily in English, there is some subtitled Japanese.

3.5 stars (out of 4), 11 January 2003
8/10

A Jewish family leaves Germany during the buildup before World War II, and goes to Kenya to manage a farm. The father, Walter Redlich, was a lawyer in Germany, so this is far from anything he is comfortable doing or anywhere he is comfortable being, but he rightly feels that deadly changes are inevitably coming to his home country, and so he has little choice.

His wife Jettel is also quite uncomfortable, having insisted on bringing the good china to the middle of nowhere. Only the daughter Regina finds things to like about their new home, including the native cook Owuor, who she becomes friends with. There is also a great deal of beauty, and the cinematography takes advantage of this wonderfully.

There are several complications during their time in Africa. It seems to me that some of these complications could have been left out without harming the film, but leaving them in is only bad in that they contribute to the film's length.

This film was put on the program at the 2002 Hawaii International Film Festival at Roger Ebert's request. He was at the beginning of the sold-out screening on 11/3/2002 to introduce the film and to encourage people to seek out the director's (Caroline Link) earlier film, "Beyond Silence," which was nominated for a best foreign language film Oscar. He also said that *this* film only lost first place at a film festival by one vote because one judge thought it was too well made. Indeed.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
3.5 stars (out of 4), 11 January 2003
8/10

Danny (Noah Taylor) wants to be a writer. He has not been successful, however, so he is constantly moving to new apartments and houses all over Australia whenever the landlord insists on actually being paid, taking his Underwood typewriter with him. He uses a roll of teletype paper instead of individual sheets because he heard that Keroauc felt that pages are limiting. And he generally starts each piece based on a couple of lines on a poster he keeps on his wall (something like "Black is the ultimate").

Somehow the people Danny shares these residences seem to all stick together, which is convenient since that means we also get to know them. Sam is a girl, but is generally just another one of the "mates." Anya is a vegetarian and is a little dark and scary. Flip is known to lie in the backyard at night with a reflector catching moonbeams. And everyone seems at least a little mental.

Early in the film we see a toad being hit with a golf club, and we hear it hitting the side of the house. For the rest of the time at that house, we occasionally hear the thud of another toad. This explains the "professional cane toad whacker" credit at the end of the film. Note: You never actually see the club hit the toad. The toad simply disappears when the club swings through. So it's mentally but not visually gross.

The film is more style than substance. I was reminded a bit of the feel but not the subject matter of "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels." The dialog is very fun, although it is a bit too clever to be realistic. There are frequent movie and "Star Trek" references. There is drama mixed in to the comedy, but unlike in "A Hot Roof" (seen earlier the same day), it works quite well here. And the soundtrack is also quite good (the main song is "California Dreaming").

I came out grinning. I think I liked this film more than most, but if you like offbeat comedies, this is definitely one to look up, assuming it ever gets distribution.

Seen on 11/1/2002 at the 2002 Hawaii International Film Festival. Note also that this film is or is about to be the film of the month at Film Movement (see their web site), so there may be an opportunity to see it through them.

4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
3 stars (out of 4), 11 January 2003
7/10

This documentary/performance short concerns a man (Roger Fan) in a committed relationship, who worries that his penis is too small. He takes a casting of it early in the film, and takes the plaster model on a tour. He asks apparently random people on the street about its size, compares it to the models available in a sex shop, and asks various professionals about options for enlargement. One section of interview questions with him and his girlfriend, intercut, was particularly good. Warning: There is some footage (as it were) of surgery near the end that I found impossible to watch.

The star was at the screening on 11/6/2002 at the 2002 Hawaii International Film Festival, and said that it was shot in about a week.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
3.5 stars (out of 4), 11 January 2003
8/10

This documentary... but is this really a documentary? I would argue that it is, sort of, although the filmmaker, Michael Moore (who wrote, directed, and helped produce), is the main on-camera character, and this is his opinion. There is also an extended cartoon sequence which I assume was made specifically for this film, which seems counter-documentary. So it's easy to argue that the film is more of a performance piece than it is a true documentary.

You might think that the question would be one of gun control, but it's really not. Moore turns out to be an actual lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, and the film shows that gun ownership is high in some other countries (most notably Canada), but the rate of using guns to kill one another is much higher here in the United States. So the basic question is: why?

Moore covers a lot of ground in trying to answer that question, including, of course, Columbine High School (the film's title comes from the fact the the killers at Columbine went to a bowling class the morning of the shooting, by the way). I won't give away any conclusions that may or may not be reached, but he does talk with Charlton Heston (head of the NRA), Dick Clark, and, in a surprisingly down-to-Earth segment, Marilyn Manson. There is also a very funny stand-up comedy segment by Chris Rock, and a moving segment when Moore takes some survivors of the Columbine shooting to K-Mart, which is the store that sold the ammunition to the killers.

This film manages to be entertaining, disturbing, educational, and thought provoking. The only thing that kept it from reaching my top rating is Moore's tendency to try to milk a situation for everything possible. He sometimes asks questions that are the equivalent of "Have you stopped beating your wife?" And when people leave an interview early, Moore often keeps standing there, trying to look helpless and asking a final question to the air. This feels like pandering to the film's audience far more than it feels like true fact finding.

This film was the first documentary in many years to be accepted into the competition for the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival. It did not win that, but it was given a special 55th Anniversary Prize, unanimously. It has also won audience awards at many other film festivals.

Seen on 11/9/2002 at the 2002 Hawaii International Film Festival, although it was already playing in normal theaters at the time. I definitely recommend this film.


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