Reviews written by registered user
|8 reviews in total|
This film could have been something very interesting, but comes off
worse than a daytime soap opera.
It has a noir style, set in the the California Redwoods, but none of the characters are sympathetic, and Ned Beatty's over-acting drives the nail in the coffin of unsufferability. It has your typical noir plot, but somehow you end up laughing at the characters hoping they'll die soon. The poetic thread and imagery hints that there could have been something really unusual in the concept, but the execution makes it dreadful.
Doubtful if you'll even have a chance to see this on late night cable...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this film at the Arclight in Hollywood, a theater that, for
better or worse, can often make films deserving direct-to-video
releases seem like potential Oscar nominees. This film was introduced
there as one that would undoubtedly get an Oscar nomination. I was
dazzled, I was confused, I was frustrated. But I was never bored, and
found myself surprised when it was over.
In many respects it is a fantastic film; visually stunning, beautifully shot and decorated, always fascinating to watch. Some of the props and costumes were on display in the lobby of the theater, and that helped pique my interest because they were ornate and exquisitely crafted. (I had arrived to see another film that I couldn't get into.) Some others have complained here of the heavy-handed score, but I found it rather interesting. I thought it brought out the sub-text of many scenes quite well, and carried some battle scenes that would have, excuse the pun, sunk left to their own devices.
But I left with many questions unanswered. I'm not sure if the stories were mangled in the editing room, or whether they never were in the story in the first place. Undoubtedly there was a lot of historical information to consider including. There are three major thematic plots concerning, in increasing order of importance, Elizabeth's love (dis-)interest, assassination attempts, and religious war with Spain. They seemed to be given inverse importance as the story unraveled.
Elizabeth's love interest in Raleigh occupied the most screen time, and I thought they were great together. But her toying with the younger Elizabeth (Cornish's) interactions with Raleigh seemed to indicate either denial of her own attractions or confused directorial intentions, and I wasn't sure which was the case. The film does well at personally investigating Elizabeth, the woman, and less well at portraying historical Elizabeth, the Queen and administrator of an empire.
The back-story of the assassination attempts isn't clearly spelled out; the historical context of the antagonists is skimmed over; when we get to the final battle scene, we barely have any idea who the foe is, we just know they have an overwhelming number of troops and ships and spend a lot of time torturing people in dungeons apparently filled with drying laundry. Mary's plots and notes seem inconsequential, and we barely have any idea just what she *was* plotting to do or how she intended to do it. We don't discover what the notes said, or see the interceptions of them occur, and they have none of the Shakespearean impact of Rosencrantz's and Guilderstern's efforts. Indeed, perhaps the writers should have taken a few cues from the artists of the era they were writing about. We barely get to know the enemy, hence we never really consider their capabilities and have trouble seriously considering them as a threat.
When the battle is over, we have no idea why the Queen was leading troops across land like a Joan of Arc when the entire battle was at sea. We never see hand-to-hand combat on land. There is no explanation of how five "fire ships" succeeded in defeating an enormous fleet. Everything up until the battle scene leads you to expect epic combat on the order of Braveheart or the writer's Gladiator, and instead, after a single confrontation, England triumphs and Spain is left whimpering with their tail between their legs. "Oh, I guess it wasn't God's will for us to win." What happened to all their ships? How did England win by burning a handful of boats and making them break formation? We didn't get the epic-style gratification of seeing the enemy suffer and fail. Hence I was left feeling like I was watching a British propaganda film.
Blanchett, Owen, Rush, and Cornish are all fascinating to watch perform, and they could probably make a car commercial seem like high drama. At times I wasn't quite sure Blanchett wasn't just recreating Judi Dench's Elizabeth, but her vulnerability gave the character much more dimension. I wished the camera could linger longer on Cornish, as it did on Blanchett or Owen, so we could have some time to consider and SEE her role as things unfolded. The dialogue of Walsingham/Rush's family did little in exposition to explain his situation or it's impact on those around him, yet we come to understand that quite a lot was known and going on - after the fact. The film should have shown us these cases, not told it afterwards. So much was lost dramatically by this directorial choice. As others have said, some of the dialogue is trite. Somehow the actors and score managed to lay their coats over this annoying puddle.
Of course it is easy to pick apart the works of others, and I found this to be a highly engaging and entertaining film. I think when you see something well-crafted, you hope it will succeed in every dimension, and I found myself with too many unanswered questions afterwards. I left wondering what *really* happened historically, and a half-hearted internet search revealed that Elizabeth gave a famous speech on the battlefield that didn't seem like what I'd just seen on the screen, although I may be mistaken.
The film is definitely worth a gander; visual eye candy that will certainly beat a stroll through the Elizabethan era costume vaults of the Metropolitan Museum. It's like a Greenaway film or Orlando, with a bit of plot to keep you awake and some superb actors to boot. It just won't let you have the taste of blood in your teeth that you expect from a war film, and perhaps the use of that context was it's greatest failing.
The reason you won't be able to sit still during this is that you'll be
jumping up to turn it off. This is the sort of flashy glitz
choreography that gives show dancing a bad name. The dancers may be
capable, but the material they're presenting is completely appalling.
The original music, where it exists, is really unsettlingly bad, and
there are so many talented arrangers out there that there's no excuse
for it. I think the reason the video director had to move the camera so
much was to try to distract your attention from the stage. Fortunately,
there are some old standard tunes that you might be able to sit through
if you're unable to make it to the "off" or "eject" buttons.
It's a dance revue, and like all revues, there's no thread or continuity throughout it. That's frequently a problem, even with the best show choreographers like Fosse (Dancin', Fosse) or Robbins (Broadway). But their revues had the advantage of re-presenting works that had a story line to begin with. Because this a revue, there's no reason to care about any of the dancers, and we never really get to see any of them shine because everybody on the stage is going full-out all the time; there's no pacing or focus among the dancing.
I sat through 5 numbers, trying to give it another chance, and then finally had to turn it off.
I had very low expectations when I rented this, but I was pleasantly
surprised and amused. So many of the characters in it were heightened
versions of people I've known, hence I do wonder if it portrays an
older generation of "stoner." It also portrays regional scenes from NYC
and the NW that may not appeal to people elsewhere; others probably
won't see the humor in the film. Although it's a comedy, it doesn't
present side-splitting jokes with setups; the comedy is in the life the
people are leading and the turmoil that follows in their wake.
The plot is haphazard if not absurd, which almost demands the ridiculous ending and opening scenes and provided me with a relief from typical formulaic stories. The plot doesn't drive the story, and you sort of just wander into each scene following the impulsive whims of the character featured in it.
I thought that the vacillating chemistry between Witt and Wilson really worked for the film; their lack of direction in life is totally reflected in their attraction, jealousy, and ambivalence towards each other, and their subsequent attempts to use each other to fill that void.
Alicia Witt's character is much richer than, say, "Two Weeks Notice," and almost as bizarre as her role in Twin Peaks. She's totally unpredictable and never does what you'd expect someone in her position to do. Cases in point: the scenes when they leave the NY party, and the scenes where we first meet her and then, unbelievably find her flirting with Wilson. Amy Locane, on the other hand, doesn't have a role that gives her much depth to work with.
Brittany Murphy and Luke Wilson have an oppositional chemistry that really let their talents play off each other. Hard to believe Jack Black is the same guy who later starred in King Kong! His is a small part in the film, but unforgettable, and the interlude with him really captures the spirit of the NW wilderness hippies I've met.
I can't put my finger on why I was so taken with this film. The framing device used to tell the story is quite appropriately like Princess Bride's, considering the condition of Gena Rowland's character. I haven't come across a film that uses Alzheimer's so effectively to further its plot and mimic the character of the couple's relationship. It seemed obvious to me who the old couple was from the start, but the final scenes still swept me away. In fact, many scenes were contrived or hokey but given the context they didn't bother me. There were some holes in the plot regarding the young couple's time apart, but the performances of everyone in the film are so fantastic that they can be overlooked. Garner and Rowlands have exceptional chemistry in their scenes, and it was nice to see such a rich opportunity for mature actors to exhibit their talent.
This was atrocious. Apparently the director realized what a failure it
was and tried the same concept more successfully with "Emmanuelle 2000:
Emmanuelle's Intimate Encounters," which actually had comparably more
erotic and humorous moments. (Not that it is worth searching out
either.) I seriously wonder how he got another chance after this film.
Throughout this film, I was continually cringing and wondering why I was subjecting myself to the hokey soundtrack, actresses in workout suits pretending they can fake orgasms, and the wasted talents of much more interesting soft-core (Jennifer Burton) and hard-core (Stephanie Swift) porn stars relegated to incidental roles. The comedic attempts fell flat for me, and the the Wall Street Journal has more erotic ads in it.
"Click" to turn the DVD player off...
This film isn't pleasant, and it isn't terribly unique, but I found it to
be a good film nonetheless.
The characters did affect Latin-tinged English accents, which somehow seemed sensible to me; the written material was always in Spanish, yet the characters had to speak English for us to understand it.
The core of the story: a woman political writer disappears, and her playwright husband finds he has a psychic gift that tells the story of other missing children and adults. During the late 70's and early 80's 30,000 Argentinian citizens disappeared without explanation, and this is a fictionalization of their disappearance that was 14 years in the making.
His journey ends up being more like Hamlet than anything else, and borrows from "Missing," "Death and the Maiden," "The Gift," and "Waking the Dead." But it resists becoming a revenge fantasy, which is what makes it unlike these others and most mainstream American films. Yet every justification for it becoming one is presented, sometimes quite graphically, so in the end the viewer is justifiably shocked and enraged how the situation was handled in Argentina.
One of the man's dreams is recurrent, and unlike the rest, it doesn't come true. This makes the story more palatable, but it doesn't make sense in the context of the story.
Some of the cinematography is beautiful and the dream-time imagery is quite poetic. The editing is fine, and both the audible stories and visual stories frequently interact to tell a combined story that's more effective than either one alone. I found George Fenton's score to be the most interesting of his efforts that I've seen, perhaps closer in spirit to Mark Isham's work than anyone else's. Curiously, the final song under the titles is Brazilian, sung quite well by Banderas. My Argentine friends played it constantly during the late 70's and early 80's, the period that the film is set within.
Pretty ironic that a supposedly pro-union Kentucky story was filmed
in Canada, isn't it? Meanwhile LA filming crews go jobless.
The original documentary is a better, more compelling film - because it's "real" and you're in the trenches with the camera, however I still found Holly Hunter's performance to be remarkable. This suffers from the usual TV drama problems; from the very first scene they're begging for the viewer's pity, and we learn that Hunter's character is a strong woman, but we never learn how the fight is really won. The power struggles with her husband are hinted at, but never fleshed out and developed or resolved. If you're a fan of Hunter's you might enjoy her performance, but otherwise skip it. Put the effort into finding the original documentary, "Harlan County, USA." Or else watch the news.