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This movie is badly written, badly acted (with the exception of Philip Michael Thomas) and badly directed, and is the kind of garbage you'd ordinarily stop watching after about twenty minutes, if not sooner ... and yet it's oddly compelling. Perhaps this is in part because it seems unable to make up its mind what sort of movie it's going to be. It starts as a comedy, and is actually pretty funny; there are further comic elements dropped in willy nilly later. Then it becomes an anti-racist/bigotry statement, and again this isn't badly done. Then it dithers with the notion of being a soft-porn movie but rejects it in favour of being (a) a sort of Public Services drama-documentary, a Dreadful Warning about syphilis, and (b) a thriller. This constant change of focus means you're forever guessing, so that your interest is kept -- however reluctantly -- alive.
Thomas is a doctor who's been incarcerated for performing an abortion that went wrong. A distinguished old doctor, now working in a remote community, hires him straight out of the pen, but by the time Thomas gets there the old doctor has dropped dead of a heart attack, leaving behind him cryptic references to a dreadful plague that's affecting the community. That community, led by a corrupt, bully-boy sheriff, is racially bigoted; Thomas is of course black, and is subjected to racist slurs and threatened beatings -- lucky for him that he's befriended local boy dreamboat hero Harlan Cary Poe while hitchhiking to the place. There's a mystery to be solved, and sure enough Thomas reveals the rot at the core of this community.
All rather a matter of: Been there, done that, got the teeshirt -- although in this movie, if young and female, it's more a case of took off the teeshirt.
By any objective standard this movie is dire. But you might find that, paradoxically, it's one you're loath to lose from your collection.
An astonishing piece of work
One of those rare fantasy movies that has the courage to be conceptually uncompromising with its audience, this plays with several layers of reality so that often one is uncertain if the particular scene currently on-screen can be taken at face value or not ... yet by the movie's end all makes perfectly coherent sense according to the movie's own internal logic.
Brosnan and Down are not the actors you'd expect to find playing this sort of material, but Down turns in a perfectly creditable performance -- as does Brosnan whenever (which is, fortunately, most of the time) he doesn't have to speak: his French accent is lamentable. Prime acting honours, though, must go to Anna Maria Monticelli; her portrayal of a French academic's French wife in an unknown city is pitch-perfect.
If you enjoy the best of written contemporary fantasy and are dissatisfied by how rarely screened fantasy matches it, usually as a result of Hollywood defaults, then you'll whoop with joy on discovering Nomads.
A fine supernatural movie
Maybe there should be a law against the I-Hate-Kevin-Costner Club writing reviews of his movies, because I find their comments invariably critically illiterate and completely unhelpful. They may be superb movie critics every other time, but when it comes to a Costner movie the mere presence of their bete noire makes the red haze close in, blinding them to the movie itself.
What Dragonfly is is a supernatural romance, pure and simple. (There are no sci-fi, or sf, elements in it.) The story itself is pure and simple as well; if you break it down to its elements it has the plot of a short story, not a novel. But it's a very good short story, well worth telling.
And it's in the telling that this movie really excels. The supernatural elements are kept surprisingly low-key; the chills come from subtlety, not melodrama. The pacing is beautifully slow and measured, allowing the viewer to become completely absorbed in the tale and its atmosphere. The camerawork is fittingly superb; there are some astonishingly beautiful frames here. A couple of superb supporting performances stand out: Kathy Bates as the tough but obliging and good-hearted neighbour and Jacob Vargas as an Ecuadorean pilot, who seems at the outset to be just a two-dimensional stereotype but, in a small amount of screen time, manages to give his character surprising depth. Jacob Smith, too, deserves mention for his very small role. Costner himself plays his part extremely well and convincingly; maybe those who criticize him for seeming flatness in the first two-thirds of the movie have never observed the way some people react to grief.
If you enjoyed Field of Dreams you should enjoy this. If you thought Field of Dreams was just a dumb sports movie then, well, there's not much hope for you: you won't enjoy Dragonfly either.
John Q (2002)
Overall, a fine movie
One can't help feeling that a lot of the negative reviews of this movie have been sponsored by the HMOs or others with a vested interest in the current healthcare system. One can pick small holes in the movie -- for example, Liotta's play-it-for-the-cameras police chief is hamfistedly stereotyped -- but overall this is a story that had to be told and is told well. The performances by Washington, Elise, Woods and Duvall are astonishing -- full of subtleties (that may be _too_ subtle for some viewers to catch) yet, in the case of Washington and one's tempted to say particularly in the case of Elise, also full of power. If you honestly think the healthcare system in this country is perfect you'll hate this movie, because it'll rattle your convictions. Anyone else will be given much food for thought.
The Sight (2000)
The best-made tv movie I think I've seen
Although the plot of this supernatural fantasy is slightly shaky in places and a hokey, tv-movie-style envoi, the storytelling/direction is generally superb, and the set designs and cinematography make this perhaps the best tv movie I have ever seen. The tale itself is intelligent, and the references to Alice in Wonderland are particularly appealing -- as is the fact that it's left to the viewer to pick up on them, rather than, as is usually the way in movies and especially tv movies, having them hammered home. The directing of the actors is also subtly thought through: those who are alive are naturalistic; the ghosts have a strange and indefinable artificiality that only _just_ betrays the fact that they are not normal living human beings; while the two characters with "The Sight" are played somewhere in between. The child actors are especially fine, and the effects -- most of which are relatively simple -- are very neatly done.
No doubt there will be comparisons made between this movie and The Sixth Sense by all those who will metronomically compare every filmed ghost story to that movie for the next decade or more and claim it to be a Sixth Sense ripoff -- I just ache for one of them ignorantly to accuse, say, The Ghost and Mrs Muir of this. But forget The Sixth Sense; the only real resemblance is that both it and The Sight are excellent ghost stories. In addition The Sight has a rather greater complexity due to the admixture of other fantasy elements. This is a thoroughly engrossing piece of work put together with an intelligence that is alas all too rare in tv movies.