Reviews written by
Beaucoul

10 reviews in total 
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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Solid action thriller, clearly superior to `The Fugitive', 6 March 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

(Caution, mild spoilers ahead.)

I have never understood the high esteem bestowed on "The Fugitive." The film seems like a total bore to me, with its flat action sequences and still flatter acting by its lead, Harrison Ford. I have a hard time understanding Harrison's appeal as well. His expressions typically run the gamut from grimace to grim, and in "The Fugitive" he failed to stir a rooting interest in me--a crucial failure in a movie of this kind. To understand the difference, I think it would be prudent to revisit the original TV drama starring David Janssen. Janssen, a workmanlike, competent actor, evoked tremendous sympathy simply on the basis of his facial characteristics alone. Although the program followed a formulaic dramatic arc from episode to episode, viewers were able to closely identify with this wrongly accused Everyman who was forced to live on the fringes of society, always afraid, always on the run. For me, there is no such sense of identification with the Dr. Kimball of the movie remake.

Apparently, U.S. Marshalls was intended as a sequel to `The Fugitive,' with Tommy Lee Jones reprising his role as Deputy Marshall Gerard. In my opinion, his character is better fleshed out here than it was previously. His humanity is much more apparent, and in this movie his sense of humor comes through with greater ease. Wesley Snipes plays the fugitive role this time, and once again, his character is falsely accused of a crime he did not commit. He goes on the lam, after the plane on which he is being transported crash lands and comes to rest, belly up, in a swamp. Snipes character is not as clearly innocent as Dr. Kimball was, adding a frisson to this movie that the first film lacked. In fact, the narrative of this movie is quite complex, including double and triple crosses, political chicanery in high places, and enough plausible plot twists to maintain interest throughout.

The action sequences are improved here as well. It's apparent the producers wanted to take the stunt work so amply featured in `The Fugitive' and go it one better. So, where we had a spectacular train crash in the former, we have a spectacular plane crash in the latter. The major difference? The action sequences simply work better in the latter film. The plane crash for example, is an extremely exciting, well-executed, and entirely believable action sequence. What sets it apart from the train sequence in `The Fugitive' is that it is clearly a far more complex sequence to execute. After the sequence begins, you get the feeling it will go on forever, but you're mesmerized, glued to the action as if you were witnessing.well, witnessing a plane crash. Even the much-vaunted sequence within The Fugitive, where Dr, Kimball jumps from the dam spillway, is eclipsed here by Wesley Snipes rappelling from a rooftop onto the top of a moving train.

And the producers also outdid themselves with their choice of an excellent cast to play the secondary characters. Robert Downey, Jr. holds his own as a Federal Agent, seconded to Deputy Gerard's team, and made to feel entirely unwelcome by his temporary boss. The movie also makes interesting use of the two women who play the friends and lovers of the two principals. Kate Nelligan, looking almost as incredibly beautiful as she did when she was a young woman, plays Deputy Gerard's boss, who also happens to be in love with him. This plot point is played down, but the emotions are true, believable, and well integrated into the action. And in a surprise bit of casting, Irene Jacob, one of France's most beautiful and capable actresses, plays the love interest of Wesley Snipes.

I don't usually wax so enthusiastically about examples of the action/thriller genre, but this is a successful realization of the type, and it seems to me it's gotten the short end of the stick in its unfavorable comparisons to `The Fugitive.' I know I would have never purposely watched this movie because I recalled the critical drubbing it got when it was first released. But the U.S. Marshalls DVD was bundled with the `Three Kings' DVD (a favorite film of mine), so I decided to give it at least 15 minutes of my time. In fact, I stayed for the whole thing and thoroughly enjoyed the show.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Solid action thriller, clearly superior to The Fugitive, 4 March 2004

I have never understood the high esteem bestowed on "The Fugitive." The film seemed like a total bore to me, with its flat action sequences, and its even flatter acting by its lead, Harrison Ford. I have a hard time understanding Harrison's appeal as well. His expressions typically run the gamut from grimace to grim, and in "The Fugitive" he failed to stir a rooting interest in me--a crucial failure in a movie of this kind. To understand the difference, I think it would be wise to revisit the original TV drama starring David Janssen. Janssen, a workmanlike, competent actor, evoked tremendous sympathy in the lead role, simply on the basis of his doleful facial characteristics alone. Although the program followed a formulaic dramatic arc from episode to episode, viewers were able to closely identify with this wrongly accused Everyman, who was forced to live on the fringes of society, always afraid, always on the run. For me, there is no such sense of identification with the Dr. Kimball of the movie remake.

Apparently, U.S. Marshalls was intended as a sequel to `The Fugitive,' with Tommy Lee Jones reprising his role as Deputy Marshall Gerard. In my opinion, his character is better fleshed out here than it was previously. His humanity is much more apparent, and in this movie his sense of humor comes through with greater ease. Wesley Snipes plays the fugitive role this time, and as in the first movie, he plays a character who is falsely accused of a crime he did not commit. He goes on the lam, after the plane on which he is being transported crash lands and comes to rest, belly up, in a swamp. Snipes character is not as clearly as innocent as Dr. Kimball was, adding a frisson to this movie that the first film lacked. In fact, the narrative of this movie is quite complex, including double and triple crosses, political chicanery in high places, and enough plausible plot twists to maintain interest throughout.

The action sequences are better here as well. It's apparent the producers wanted to take the stunt work so amply featured in `The Fugitive' and go it one better here. So, where we had a spectacular train crash in the former, we have a spectacular plane crash in the latter. The major difference? The action sequences simply work better in the latter film. The plane crash for example, is an extremely exciting, well-executed, and entirely believable action sequence. What sets it apart from the train sequence in `The Fugitive' is that it is clearly a far more complex sequence to execute. After the sequence begins, you get the feeling it will go on forever, but you're mesmerized, glued to the action as if you were witnessing...well, witnessing a plane crash. Even the much-vaunted sequence within "The Fugitive," where Dr, Kimball jumps from the dam spillway, is eclipsed here by Wesley Snipes rappelling from a rooftop onto the top of a moving train.

And the producers also outdid themselves with their choice of an excellent cast to play the secondary characters. Robert Downey, Jr. holds his own as a Federal Agent, seconded to Deputy Gerard's team, and made to feel entirely unwelcome by his temporary boss. The movie also makes interesting use of the two women who play the friends and lovers of the two principals. Kate Nelligan, looking almost as incredibly beautiful as she did when she was a young woman, plays Deputy Gerard's boss, who also happens to be in love with him. This plot point is played down, but the emotions are true, believable, and well integrated into the action. And in a surprise bit of casting, Irene Jacob, one of France's most beautiful and capable actresses, plays the love interest of Wesley Snipes.

I don't usually wax so enthusiastically about examples of the action/thriller genre, but this is a successful realization of the type, and it seems to me it's gotten the short end of the stick in its unfavorable comparisons to `The Fugitive.' I know I would have never purposely watched this movie because I recalled the critical drubbing it had received when it was first released. But I recently purchased the `Three Kings' DVD (a favorite film of mine), and the U.S. Marshalls DVD was bundled along with it. I decided to give U.S. Marshalls at least 15 minutes of my time. In fact, I stayed for the whole thing, and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Mel Gibson: From Mad Max to Gogoltha, 28 February 2004

It's a funny thing about actors. Historically, they were often perceived as scoundrels, drunkards, and con artists. They were considered on the same par as carnival grifters and hucksters. They typically existed on the fringes of society. And for good reason, I always thought. Yes, there is much skill to the acting craft. But it is after all, an interpretive craft, and in many cases, merely a decorative craft. In any case, there is no question that acting is a way of life that often appeals to the narcissistic among us--those benighted, insecure individuals who must constantly seek approval from external sources.

Today, as a sign of just how topsy-turvy things have become, we have actors espousing their political beliefs, and attaining a forum that much better informed political analysts could never hope to achieve. We have actors holding the highest governmental positions in the land. And we have actors who espouse their personal beliefs about mythic-religious matters, as if they possess a deep understanding of religious history and theological inquiry. Actors! How absurd this all seems to me.

Which brings me to Mel Gibson and `The Passion.' It has occurred to me, although I've seen no ostensible evidence, that many critics may have found Mel Gibson's film objectionable because of the curious timing of its release. At this stage in the world's history where it has never seemed more apparent that deeply held religious convictions could easily bring about the annihilation of the human race, Mr. Gibson, the actor turned theologian, has decided to revive yet another oppressive religious culture that was heretofore rendered appropriately moribund. I think there is a subtext to the criticism this film is receiving that is essentially a reaction to just how out of touch with present day reality the making of such a film seems. And I say that knowing full well that the initial box office receipts have been impressive. Hollywood has had a long history of providing retrograde entertainment to the undiscerning masses. And make no mistake, this film is retrograde entertainment shrouded beneath a veneer of religio-historical accuracy.

Please understand that I do not mean to dismiss all of the core beliefs and enduring myths that have provided guidance to so many people for so many centuries. But we are presently in a global crisis where it will soon become absolutely necessary for us to gain broader acceptance of the core beliefs and enduring myths that are outside our immediate frame of reference. In my opinion, The Passion, Mr. Gibson's ultimate vanity project, exemplifies yet another counter-productive retreat from the enlightened awareness that will be essential if we are to successfully overcome the world's current clash of civilizations.

Sommersby (1993)
2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
This film's a keeper, 21 February 2004

I have seen this film several times and have always enjoyed it immensely. It's one of those films that plays like a novel. The story is intriguing and suspenseful, like one of those page-turners you can't put down. It's also an excellent character study, about real people with real emotional conflicts. The two principal players, Jodie Foster and Richard Gere, are excellent in their roles, providing nuanced and subtle performances, and generating some intense chemistry between them.

What sets this film apart though is the directing. If I were teaching a film class in direction, I would use this film as a highly-skilled example of the craft. Jon Amiel was able to draw excellent performances, not just from his two leads, but from the supporting cast as well. The film moves from one scene to the next with a seamless ease that helps draw you in to its complex story. Unease and menace are skillfully used in counterpoint to the burgeoning relationship of the two leads. And the story is resolved well, providing a path to redemption for a fallen man, and creating a mythic hero in the process.

Without revealing any more I will just say that for me, this movie is a treasure. I hope I've piqued your curiosity enough to induce you to discover its hidden assets.

One redeeming quality, 8 December 2003

`If you see a pair of botoxed lips in the first act, you can be sure they will be kissed in the third.' --Anton Chekov

Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz have clearly accepted the mantle of Hollywood liberalism handed down from such esteemed hacks as Stanley Kramer and Sidney Lumet. Batting such softballs as `Glory,' `Courage Under Fire,' and now `The Last Samurai,' into the bleachers where the proles wait patiently, one has to wonder why they've chosen to mount such forgettable tripe, when they had shown such promise with their quirky TV series' `thirtysomething' and `My So Called Life.'

Capitalizing on zeitgeist guilt, this time the institutionalized genocide of the American Indian, this Hollywood production team knows how to manipulate its all-too-willing audience for maximum effect. Tom Cruise, astonishingly miscast, is a former soldier of the American Indian wars. A member of the walking wounded, he is haunted by flashbacks of savage brutality perpetrated by the American Calvary. Inexplicably, he is sent to Japan by his former commanding officer to train the first Japanese National army in the ways of modern warfare. The film settles into a predictable ebb and flow of flashbacks meant to elicit guilt, and redemptive moments that provide vindication.

The filmmakers did show one mercy, for which I am particularly grateful. All through the film I was praying that Tom Cruise would not have a romantic scene with the beautiful Taka, the Japanese woman whose husband Tom kills in battle. Thankfully, the movie closes with Tom and Taka staring wistfully at one another from across a field, before they've had a chance to reunite. If it had been otherwise, I might have been really unkind with this review.

Holy Man (1998)
34 out of 38 people found the following review useful:
Sweet and gentle comedy, 28 November 2003

I can understand why this movie received such a low rating from the overall IMDB audience. There is probably a large segment of voters who expect certain things from an Eddie Murphy movie who were disappointed. Murphy is best known for action comedies in the vein of 48 Hrs. and Beverly Hills Cop. He also did some fine work in Trading Places, a straight up, but darkly cynical comedy.

Holy Man is a gentle, feel-good comedy. It provides some laugh-out-loud moments, but for the most part, weaves a compassionate story in an appropriately low-key style. Its message is clear and timely: Stop and smell the roses, people. You are losing sight of what's important.

Eddie Murphy is letter perfect as "G," the "holy man" who encounters Jeff Goldblum while Jeff is changing the tire on his Jaguar. With Goldblum is Kelly Preston, his colleague at the Good Buy Home Shopping Network. `G' appears mysteriously in flowing white robes, and talks of being on a spiritual pilgrimage. Goldblum, ever cynical, dismisses `G' as a wacko, and tries his best to get rid of him. Preston, on the other hand, sees something different in `G.' She is more open to his charisma, his humor, and his apparent lack of guile.

The three end up working together. `G' is given his own TV show where his blend of honesty, spirituality, and humor helps the station move a lot of products, and turns `G' into an overnight media sensation. I won't give away much more than that.

Not to be overlooked, Robert Loggia turns in a chilling performance as the venomous TV station owner--it's as if he was channeling Barry Diller all the way. His crass, mercenary tactics trigger a crisis of conscience that brings the movie to its resolution.

Holy Man tells a simple tale that echoes an ancient proverb: When the pupil is ready, the teacher arises. I have watched Holy Man about three or four times. There are nuances here that I have discovered only after repeated viewings. The film's acting, music, location, and subtle direction all hang together well, providing a much-needed palliative to Hollywood's desperate output of increasingly frenetic and assaulting films

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Punch Drunk Filmmaking, 3 September 2003

Yet another addition to the legions of contemporaneous, self-indulgent filmmaking, Punch Drunk Love was apparently brought to the screen by the well-known production team of Artless and Witless. One could almost anticipate this turkey after seeing the director's last effort, Magnolia. But where Magnolia's indulgences were at least balanced by a finely wrought script and superlative acting, Punch Drunk Love offers little to redeem its aesthetic chicanery. Plotless and plodding, the movie falters from one scene to the next. Worst of all, it makes little sense, and the director's puzzling efforts to further obscure its meaning cannot hide this fact. The central relationship of the movie, played by Adam Sandler and Emily Watson, is totally incredible and passes beyond mere suspension of disbelief into galling fraudulence. Sandler proves once again that he is a one-trick pony whose crowning and only achievement may be his previous role in the somewhat mediocre The Wedding Singer. Emily Watson's character motivations are so inexplicable, one might be tempted to think that she lost her way to the set and ended up in the wrong movie. Luis Guzman, an otherwise capable and confident actor, should file a defamation suit against PT Anderson for making him stand around looking stupid and uttering the most inane dialogue imaginable, while photographing him in a most unflattering manner. Worst transgression of all is the so-called Sound Design of the movie, which never recedes into the background as it should, but dominates every scene in the most obtrusive and annoying manner.

I don't know about you, but I find this type of self-indulgent moviemaking to be one of the worst things to happen to movies in the past ten years. It reveals a carelessness that implies a condescending and dishonest attitude toward the filmmaker's audience. I have grown weary of dialogue that is so ineptly written and so patently untruthful, it is literally painful to watch the actors struggle with their lines. Most of all, I am tired of highly anticipated movies reaching the screen, only to be revealed as the plainly insipid and uninspired creations that they are.

There must be a reason why movies like this get green-lighted by otherwise shrewd producers who usually know when to pull the plug on such blatantly talentless efforts. Perhaps they fail to realize that their primary role as producers is to ensure that film viewers are rewarded for their keen interest by releasing films that exhibit some sense of artistic integrity and lasting value. The viewing public deserves a lot more credit than producers tend to grant them. Nowhere is this demonstrated more clearly than with this execrable film.

3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Independent Misfire, 23 August 2003

Indies get away with a lot. The money isn't there, so viewers are inclined to overlook certain lapses and shortcomings that would be unforgivable in a major. But this "affirmative watching program" does have its drawbacks. One can never be certain if an independent filmmaker isn't trading on this aesthetic leg-up.

I'm just paranoid enough to believe that may be the case with "All the Real Girls." No doubt, the film uses its North Carolina locations well. From mountaintop trysts at sunset, to the noisy confinement of the local textile mills, this is a film that oozes earnestness from every pore, with cast and crew throwing out all stops to achieve authenticity of place and time.

But to what end? The film's story is overwhelmingly banal. A young man, the town's lothario, hooks up with his best friend's sister. How real is his love? No one in town seems very confident, especially the young lady's older brother. But the lovers plow on regardless, in that reckless manner so typical of the young and the earnest.

The secondary characterizations range from familiar to clichéd. For example, the mother of the young man, victimized by life's circumstances, is reduced to making a living dressing up like a clown and performing for hospitalized children. One must wonder what it was that could have induced Patricia Clarkson to play such a musty role, no less agree to carry out a climactic scene, in full clown makeup no less, in which she bemoans her fate and exclaims, oh so earnestly, that she `used to be beautiful.'

Is there something else going on here that I'm just not getting? Some mesh of ideas whose pattern I am unable to discern? Some connection perhaps, between the locale, the textile mills, and the remarkable earnestness of its inhabitants? Who knows? Who cares? What I am relatively certain of is that this movie represents a kind of independent filmmaking that tends to give independent films a bad name. Quite simply, just beneath the veneer of its independent-movie earnestness lays a paucity of ideas, and an absolute dearth of imagination that cannot be overlooked.

31 out of 40 people found the following review useful:
When Good Directors Go Bad, 9 April 2003

Case in point: Johnathan Demme

I watched "The Truth About Charlie," last night. This is a remake of "Charade," a perennial favorite among lovers of Hitchcock-style thrillers. Made in 1963, Charade is something of an artifact, as it seems to have been made on the cusp of two eras: Old Hollywood vs. New Hollywood. It stars Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, both in the later stages of their film careers. Yet its tone and humor predate a more modern and sophisticated sensibility. One that would become increasingly cynical over time.

In fact, I actually rented "The Truth About Charlie" DVD to re-watch "Charade," which I hadn't seen in many years. Apparently, some marketing wag came up with the bright idea to distribute "The Truth About Charlie" DVD with the complete version of "Charade" on the flip-side of the DVD. It worked for me. It would have never occurred to me to rent the DVD if it didn't afford me the opportunity to watch "Charade" again.

Unfortunately, I also decided to watch the remake. Which brings me to the crux of the matter. While I was watching this disjointed, disfigured, and disgusting resemblance to a movie, it occured to me that this thing had been directed by Johnathan Demme. The same Johnathan Demme who directed "Something Wild," "Married to the Mob," and "Silence of the Lambs." How was it possible that this formerly superb craftsman of edgy, intense, character-driven films could cobble together something so ungainly, unraveled, and unprofessional? The movie literally looked as if it had been shot by a rank amateur who knew nothing about the film production process. The film didn't make any sense. In simple terms, it was execrable.

Tadpole (2000)
Execrable, 22 March 2003

If there were a minus side to the rating scale, I would have to give this one a -4 stars. If there were minus ratings, they could be applied to a Director's future efforts as a means of discouragement. Certainly, that would be the case here.

As a former barfly who once helped put a bartender through law school, I can attest to the fact that no one ever pointed to a woman seated at a bar and exclaimed, "Bartender, the lady is dry!" This would have either evoked derisive laughter from everyone at the bar, or gotten the speaker a slap across the chops from the lady in question. Instead, this scene is meant to indicate to the audience that the movie's protagonist is a cool adolescent boy who is mature beyond his years. It was at this point, about 15 or 20 minutes into the movie, that I could not take anymore.

I have seen other films shot in Digital Video, and it is clear from the quality of shooting here that the Director and Cameraman knew nothing about how to shoot in this medium. The worst consequence of the awful camera work was the unflattering photography of Bebe Neuwirth, one of the true babes of pop entertainment. Here, she is made to look like a painted harridan, truly one of the lesser achievements of modern cinema.

A pox on the makers of this film.