Reviews written by registered user
mweston

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124 reviews in total 
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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
3.5 stars (out of 4), 20 February 2003
8/10

This is a wonderful parody of Hong Kong action films, and also of "Star Wars," "Titanic," Quentin Tarantino, and probably many other things I've forgotten.

The film starts with two kids in an airplane piloted by the father of one of them, somewhere over the south Pacific. Marvin is not the pilot's son and is clearly Trouble--he refuses to stop kicking the back of the seat in front of him. Sione is the son of the pilot, and grows up to become the title character under the training of Master Magasaki. He doesn't *seem* much like a Ninja, though. He's more like a big, bumbling kid.

The look is intentionally that of a low budget Asian action movie, which is probably at least partially motivated by the fact that *this* film has a low budget. None of the acting is very good, many of the characters are dubbed (badly, for effect), and it looks like it was shot on video. In one particularly funny scene, you see a microphone stick down into the shot, and you think that it is a mistake. The second time, you decide it's probably intentional, at which point you see one of the characters on screen reach up, grab the microphone boom, and begin to use it as a weapon.

But wait! There's more! It's also a musical! And a floor wax! No, not really a floor wax, but it is a musical, complete with an Elvis, and with go-go dancers who suddenly appear for a musical number and just as suddenly disappear.

This is a film of continuous little jokes, like a Ninja having to move his mask each time he wants to take a drink. Think of it like "Airplane!" for the 21st century.

Seen on 11/8/2002 at the 2002 Hawaii International Film Festival, where an earlier showing was the U.S. premiere. Assuming it gets home video or theatrical distribution, you should definitely seek it out.

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

As the title indicates, this film is made up of three stories. The first is about Delia (Kyra Sedgwick), who has two children and is married to a man who we quickly find out abuses her. The film's male narrator fills us in on Delia's history as we see dream-like flashbacks to her in high school, where she was known for her ass and for being a slut. Back in the present day we see her bloodied from her husband's attack and needing to decide what to do.

The second story is about Greta (Parker Posey). She is a cookbook editor in New York City, and is married to a man who she is sure will never leave her. Her father (Ron Leibman) is a powerful lawyer who figuratively towers over both she and her husband.

The third story is about Paula (Fairuza Balk), who is pregnant and running away from a not very pleasant life when she picks up a hitchhiker.

There are similarities between the stories, most obviously that all are about women, and slightly less obviously that all have significant personal decisions to make in their lives. The stories also intersect, as all such films seem to be required to do, but this device doesn't really add much to the film. There are also differences between the women. Delia has two children, Paula is pregnant, while Greta is intentionally (presumably) childless, and is also much better off than the other two.

The looks of the three stories are very different. Greta's story, in the middle, is filmed very calmly and intellectually, and looks relatively conventional. Paula's story is filmed with enough nervous camera movement (SpastiCam™) to make people normally immune to motion sickness at the movies start to feel a bit queasy. Delia's story is also gritty, but with a more down-to-Earth feeling. Note that all three were filmed on digital video and transferred to film for exhibition. The middle story reminds you that digital video doesn't *have* to look bad, so the look of the other two stories is clearly intentional.

The film was written and directed by Rebecca Miller, daughter of the playwright Arthur Miller and wife of Daniel Day-Lewis. On the whole it has some very good performances and is worth seeing, but it isn't a pleasant experience, and the short length of each segment prevents it from getting into as much depth as I might like.

I saw this at Talk Cinema in Palo Alto, CA on 11/23/2002. Here are a few more tidbits I picked up there (although some observations above probably also originated from other people at the screening):

* The acting, while seeming like it might have been at least partially improvised, was entirely scripted.

* Each of the three segments was filmed in about 5 or 6 days.

* The narrator is a man "for contrast."

* Greta's story might be autobiographical.

Intact (2001)
14 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
3.5 stars (out of 4), 11 January 2003
8/10

This film puts you in the middle of a world where luck isn't all luck. In this world some people really *do* have more luck than others, and it can be transferred from one person to another by touch. But this isn't a film that spells things out-you're immersed and have to figure it out on your own.

Very early in the film we see Federico win several rounds of roulette in a row, betting on single numbers. He goes to see the owner of the casino, Sam (Max von Sydow), who hugs Federico (taking his luck) and then throws him out of the casino. Federico wants revenge, so he begins to look for a very lucky person to help him. He finds Tomás, the sole survivor of a plane crash.

To say more about the plot would give away too much, so I won't. The film is visually beautiful and unique, and there are a few scenes that will likely stick with you for weeks (I can say this with certainty since as I write this it's been over two weeks since I watched the film). I'm not normally someone who seeks out thrillers, but I'm very glad I saw this one.

Seen on 11/9/2002 at the 2002 Hawaii International Film Festival.

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.

4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
3 stars (out of 4), 11 January 2003
7/10

Dok-bul is a gangster who runs dog fights. He abuses his girlfriend, Su-ji, and so she decides to steal a bag full of money from him. She gets the help of Kyeong-seon (Hye-yeong Lee), a taxi driver who used to be a safe cracker and has been trying to go straight. The other significant character is Kim Geum-bok, who is generally referred to as "KGB."

While the plot has been compared to "Bound," with the two women leads ganging up on the boyfriend, this film is far less coherent than that film. Basically, everyone is after the money, and the film revolves around a number of very well done Hong Kong-style fight scenes, complete with slow motion with water and/or dirt in the air, wire work, and some swirling camera moves. If you can forgive the simplistic story, these scenes plus the performance of Hye-yeong Lee make the film worth seeing.

Seen on 11/6/2002 at the 2002 Hawaii International Film Festival.

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.

Princess D (2002)
3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
2 stars (out of 4), 11 January 2003
5/10

The film opens with a cool CGI cartoon of a fly, and then we see the fly in the real world. We meet Joker, a video game designer. In a bar he meets Ling, a bartender with an attitude, and she saves him in a impressive Hong Kong-style fight scene in the alley. My expectations were high.

Joker uses Ling as his inspiration for a video game character, but then the film ground to a halt for me. It became a love story, which would have been fine, except it seemed to move *very* slowly, with many details that seemed completely irrelevant. Granted, I was sleepy, but I started the film very interested and it lost me.

Seen on 11/5/2002 at the 2002 Hawaii International Film Festival.

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

Gavin is dying, presumably from AIDS. He wants to die at home and asks for help from his friends and family. The friends include Charlie and Anna, the latter of whom is also Gavin's business partner. Family includes Gavin's mother and brother, the latter of whom arrives with his wife and child.

Unfortunately, Gavin's departure is not as smooth as was planned, which serves as a catalyst for everyone else's problems to come out. Besides the obvious grief, we see addictive behavior from several people. We also see people try to use sex to deal with their pain. This is fairly balanced between heterosexuality and homosexuality, although until I thought about it afterwards, the film seemed heavily skewed towards the latter. My personal discomfort had affected my perception.

The acting is definitely a strong point in this film. Almost all of the performances are very good, and some are amazing, including one scene with Gavin's brother later in the film. There are is some excellent cinematography outdoors, especially of the ocean (presumably taken near Sydney, Australia, where the film takes place).

Seen on 11/2/2002 at the 2002 Hawaii International Film Festival.

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

Dean is visiting his uncle Edward (Charles 'Bud' Tingwell from "Innocence"), who has lived in the same house all his life. In fact, Edward's grandfather disappeared at the house years ago and was never seen again.

Dean is strangely drawn to the cellar where he finds a trunk. Locked inside is a book which seems to have all of history recorded in it. Scarier still, as things happen, they appear magically in the book, as if someone is writing it as the events unfold. It might sound like I have given too much away, but there are many more surprises after that.

I'm not a normally a fan of thrillers, so I was scared at times but many people probably would not be. The acting was only adequate, but I thought the story was extremely good and surprising. In fact, the writer (Robert Sutherland, who also directed) won the "Awgie" from the Australian Writer's Guild for best feature film screenplay.

Seen on 11/5/2002 at the 2002 Hawaii International Film Festival, where an earlier showing was the U.S. premiere. The executive producer (Robert A. Jones) was there to answer a few questions: The cost was about $2.5 million, the music is all original, it was filmed in Melbourne, and it does *not* have distribution yet. He also said that he found out that an executive producer's primary job is to write checks.

I think this film would be reasonably successful in general release. It's interesting, looks like it cost a lot more to make than it actually did, and I simply enjoyed it.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
4 stars (out of 4), 11 January 2003
9/10

Chihiro is a little girl. She and her parents are driving to their new house in the suburbs to meet the movers, but they take a wrong turn and end up at the entrance to what looks like it might be an abandoned amusement park. She doesn't want to go in, but her parents insist. Things don't go smoothly, and soon Chihiro is on her own, exploring what looks like an enormous bathhouse.

But this is no ordinary bathhouse. Soon Chihiro discovers that it is populated by many spirits, mostly in the form of creatures the likes of which she (and the audience) has never seen before. I'd love to tell you about some of them, but I don't want to spoil the wonderful surprises. Okay, I will mention the soot creatures, who look like little black Koosh balls with eyes and whose job it is to carry coal for the boiler.

I went into this film on 11/22/2002 with very high expectations, since it has gotten universally good reviews. Usually high expectations are a bad thing, and in fact during the very early parts of the film I wasn't convinced. The green line running down the middle of the screen for maybe 10 minutes didn't help either. But once the story entered the spirit world, the film became simply *magical*. I was just watching to see what wonderful thing Hayao Miyazaki (the writer/director of this film and also "My Neighbor Totoro" and "Princess Mononoke") would come up with next.

The animation is sometimes startlingly realistic and other times not at all, and the combination works wonderfully. About the only negative thing I can think to say is that the film seemed like it might have been a touch long, although I couldn't even begin to suggest anything to cut. I understand that this film is being distributed in subtitled form in addition to the dubbed version I saw, although for non-Japanese speakers the dubbed version is probably a better choice for the first viewing. Hopefully the eventual DVD will offer both options.

The United States doesn't consider animated films to be appropriate for anyone but children, but that's just wrong. This film passed "Titanic" to be Japan's number one grossing film *of all time*. It absolutely deserves consideration for the Best Picture Oscar, and if it does not get at least a nomination for best animated film, something is very wrong.

See this film!


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