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Mrs. Harris (2005)
I think it was good....
To a viewer unfamiliar with the past works of Annette Bening and (Sir) Ben Kingsley, one might think they were terrible actors based solely on Mrs. Harris.
The performances by Bening and Kingsley seemed over emphasized and over acted. Knowing their abilities, I can only assume that their performance style was intentional and is integral to the story. With that in mind, I have a very different appreciation for Mrs. Harris than I would have as a 'first-time' viewer of Bening and Kingsley.
The film took on an almost bad 'made-for-TV' docu-drama feel - again, I hope and expect this was an intentional move by newcomer screenwriter/director Phyllis Nagy.
This isn't another Being Julia, American Beauty, or Sexy Beast, but if you're a Bening and/or Kingsley fan, check it out. I suspect you'll draw the same conclusions that I did regarding the performance style and it's meaning.
San wa (2005)
A mediocre premise poorly executed
I guess the biggest question left after seeing this film was 'what was it trying to be'? Was it trying to be Indiana Jones? Was it trying to be The Matrix? Was it trying to be Crouching Tiger? Was it trying to be Ben Hur? Was it trying to be Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure? Unfortunately, I don't think the producers and Stanley Tong asked that question, let alone answered it, before they started shooting The Myth.
The overall plot concept had some promise - I've seen far worse stories that translated into enjoyable film viewing experiences. Unfortunately for The Myth, some of the best plot aspects were underutilized (Indian temple, anyone?).
For me, the highlight of the film was five minutes of comic relief during a fight scene in a rat glue paper factory - yes, "rat glue paper".... The rest more-or-less wrote itself, but it was amusing.
The visual effects ranged from excellent (the final levitating mausoleum), to what looked like a high-school visual arts project gone wrong - very inconsistent production values with respect to the visual effects.
Die weisse Massai (2005)
Visually stunning epic drama.
Based on the novel by Corrine Hofmann, this is the incredible true story of a woman from Switzerland who pursues and eventually marries a Masai warrior in Kenya.
The story itself is riveting, made more impressive and captivating as it is based in fact.
The film contains three languages - German, English, and Maa. But even with this mix of language, the subtitles (which were unfortunately quite poorly done) weren't even a real necessity as so much of the story is so clearly communicated without the need for language.
German director Hermine Huntgeburth expertly captured the beauty and culture of this part of the world.
This by far wasn't the 'biggest' gala presentation at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, but it left the fortunate audience captivated by the story and the visual beauty.
Definitely worth checking out.
Where the Truth Lies (2005)
Sex, Drugs, (not so much Rock & Roll) and a Mystery....
Another great work by Atom Egoyan, based on the novel by Rupert Holmes.
Knowing a little about the plot before seeing the film my big question/concern was "Kevin Bacon"? Going in I just didn't see Bacon in such a roll. But it didn't take long before Egoyan's primary cast selection (including Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth, and Alison Lohman) was clearly calculated and well thought.
Some might call this Egoyan's 'most mainstream' work to date, but it retains many of the qualities we've come to expect from him. The screenplay was precisely developed to provide a great pace to the story, and to provide little 'bits and pieces' of key information just when you need them. It doesn't give the truth away too early, yet when the secret is finally revealed it's accompanied by a sense of "I should have seen that coming".
This film does deal with some 'touchy' cinematic subjects including sex and drug use. What should be truly disturbing is the murder in question, but 'simple' murder is accepted in film without a second thought.
The screening I saw was the 'uncut' version of the film. There has apparently been some controversy surrounding some of the films content, so I don't know whether this is the version the movie-going public will eventually see in mass-market theatres. It contained some pretty graphic sex, but it wasn't gratuitous - it served a purpose in the development of the characters and story. These scenes, while clearly not suitable for a younger audience, belong in this film.
An excellent film, as most have come to expect from Egoyan.
Madden + Paltrow = Something Good. Proof? Proof.
This film is about death, love, and mental incapacity. There are bound to be endless clichés, comparisons, and parallels drawn with Ron Howard's "A Beautiful Mind", so I won't go there.
In the end, this film is all about Gwyneth Paltrow.
She is on screen at least 80% of this film. Her character dances between mourning, anger, remorse, confusion, fear, vulnerability, sadness, and just a little bit of love. There are very dramatic changes in emotion from moment to moment, and Paltrow pulls it off brilliantly.
Sir Anthony Hopkins role, while relatively small, is crucial to the film. His performance was good, but not great. But it didn't really matter, as Proof is all about Paltrow. Hope Davis and Jake Gyllenhaal also gave solid performances, but their as with Hopkin's role were really nothing more than support Paltrow.
The biggest disappointment for me was the almost total lack of any 'real' mathematics. For a film that revolves around brilliant mathematical proofs, there's an almost painful scarcity of and real math in the film. There are shots of seemingly random equations scrawled across paper or a blackboard, and the odd conversation making reference to some known mathematical law or theorem, but I would have liked more.
IF you want a happy film, go see something else. If you want a mindless film, go see something else. If you want a typical love story, go see something else. If you want an intelligent well written and presented story of substance involving a a character experiencing a roller-coaster of emotions, Proof may be for you.
Was I supposed to 'get it'???
Well, I think I would have enjoyed this film more if I 'got it'.
I don't often leave theatres with a total sense of WHA???? And, based on some of the comments and conversations after the Gala screening at the TIFF this evening, I wasn't alone.
The story (what I got, anyway) was pretty good and had a great deal of potential. Great concept, and visually well executed. As would be expected from a Guy Ritchie film, it was gritty, dark, aggressive, and loud, with a (big) dash of violence for good measure.
Ray Liotta was pretty good, although his performance could have been a little more polished. Jason Statham, on the other hand, was excellent. He had a very challenging role, and pulled it off with style.
Thrown right into the middle of the film was a collection of anime-style animated clips. While they were somewhat visually cool, I didn't see the relevance. Was I supposed to 'get it'? The mind trips were pretty intense for both Statham and Liotta's characters, but again, I think I missed something. Was I supposed to 'get it'? If you like testosterone-filled films, you'll probably probably enjoy Revolver whether you 'get it' or not. When you watch it, keep this in the back of your mind - maybe it'll help - WHO IS MR. GOLD?
I really wish I 'got it'......
Felt like a Cameron Crowe move... Oh wait, it was...
Very typical Cameron Crowe. Felt a bit like Jerry McGuire, and a lot like Almost Famous.
At 2-hours and 15-minutes, it was a relatively long film, especially for the type of film that it is. It could have had about 30-minutes or so cut out, and I think it could have made for a more powerful and capturing experience overall.
Susan Sarandon, though playing a relatively small role, gave an outstanding performance, as did Judy Greer. For me, the biggest pleasant surprise was the performance given by Kirsten Dunst - mature, intelligent, sexy, and, well, quite good. The big disappointment was Orlando Bloom - there were moments he may as well have been reading directly from the script for the first time.
In typical Cameron Crowe fashion, this is a movie about finding one's self and the journey therein. It has it's funny moments, serious moments, silly moments, emotional moments, sexy moments, and, well, a lot of 'moments'. It doesn't take a lot of thought or analysis to 'get' this movie. Its story and message are quite simple, and quite simply told. Oh, and Cameron Crow has again managed to put together a pretty cool sound track.
If you're looking for a deep analytical film, look elsewhere. If you want to explore discovering one's self with a few laughs and maybe a few tears along the way, Elizabethtown won't disappoint.
An intricate web of plot lines come together almost poetically
Danis Tanovic continues his Oscar worthy ways with L'Enfer.
A complete departure from the film that "No Man's Land" is, L'Enfer is visually beautiful with intricate interwoven plot lines.
The film starts out seemingly slow, a jumble of scenes with no obvious relevance or message starting with the opening title sequence. Yet as the film unfolds, early scenes come increasingly into focus, with ever intensifying clarity of understanding and pertinence.
The primary cast including Emmanuelle Beart, Karin Viard, and Marie Gillain, are brilliant, all showing top performances.
Will Tanovic receive another Oscar nod for L'Enfer? Probably not, but this film is certainly deserving of attention.
Batman Begins (2005)
Best Batman yet.
By far the best of the Batman movies.
Very strong script, and a superb cast. Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman all gave top performances in their leading roles. Unfortunately, Katie Holmes was the weak link of this cast, with a comparatively blah and unimpressive performance next to her co-stars.
The story did a great job of establishing the foundation for how Batman came to be. It was original, intelligent, and well laid out.
If you have a chance to see the IMAX version, do it. Some of the cinematography is breathtaking, and the special effects and action sequences on the BIG BIG screen are incredible.
Batman begins is a great direction for the future of Batman films. I look forward to seeing what Christopher Nolan brings to the big screen in the future.
In the Cut (2003)
Very weak characters and script.
Very disappointing film.
The characters were all very weak. The script was boring, uninspired, and full of holes.
Considering all the estrogen involved in the production of this film (female author, screenwriter, producer(s), director, etc.), all of the female characters in the film were extremely weak and sexually frustrated, and these traits in no way helped support what little story there was.
Meg Ryan's numerous sexually graphic scenes also did very little to support the story - it came across as sex and nudity for the sole sake of sex and nudity.
This 'thriller' was not only predictable, but painful in its obvious attempts to misdirect the viewer from the truth.
This was the 'dud' film of the gala screenings at this year's Toronto Film Festival - very disappointing.