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Kill Me Later (2001)
LOST POTENTIAL BUT
The guy who described this as having an undeveloped script was right on the money. The sometimes comic yarn about an embezzlement gone awry with a suicidal mistress accidentally drawn into the plot has got a lot of potential and some very watchable performers but the screen writer apparently was in too much of a hurry and the director didn't have any idea where the story was supposed to go in the first place. It is not a bad watch just to see some young performers who evidently took their work more seriously than the producers and directors and hopefully we may see them again.
WITTY AND MORE
Brilliantly funny satire about inept gangsters at different levels contriving schemes to rip off one another without knowing exactly what they are doing and to whom.
Reminiscent of the great 50s and early 60s British comedies that feature Alistair Sims and Peter Sellers in their early days.
Problem is that since the Beatles disappeared and Americans have become infatuated with "Ebonics" and "Spanglish" much of dialetic humor or British slang needs to be replayed on the video for most of us to really appreciate it.
If you liked "Snatch" and are quick and sober when you watch this you will laugh your 'tush' off. Many would appreciate 'subtitles' though.
Gaudi Afternoon (2001)
A REAL GEM OF A MOVIE
Wonderfully, funny satire of gender bending with only a few slow parts when the screenwriter forgets we don't really need any serious moralizing in this kind of film.
Our plot has Judy Davis, as Cassandra, a sort of almost middle aged, expatriot writer living in Spain trying to finish her novel. She is hired by Frankie, a very sexy deserted wife, to track down her missing daughter because of her bilingual skills.
Things aren't exactly what they seem and we find that Frankie is actually the transsexual father of the missing child who is now living with her natural mother Ben, a lesbian, who is engaged in a 'menage a trois' with her bisexual lover Hamilton and 'their lover' April, wonderfully played by Juliette Lewis.
The confusion makes for some very funny lines that are so well played that the situation seems almost natural. The screenwriter goes somewhat adrift later on with some totally unnecessary reflections by Cassandra, who apparently has sexual identity problems of her own, but the film as a whole is just wonderfully refreshing when compared to most of today's "statement" films. Good soundtrack too.
The Business of Strangers (2001)
WORTH WATCHING BUT,
the many and various comments about this film indicate that it mostly found an audience of Stockard Channing fans and 'understanding feminists'. Channing is excellent as the successful business woman who has made it to the top in a man's world but finds a 'little something' missing from that success. Kind of a worn out premise but well done nevertheless. A little more inscrutable is the Chiles character whose motives we will never know. Her deceitful bitterness is undiscoverable because of the her character's mystery. Was she really raped by our good looking but unpersonable simp or was that something she imagined from her 'nonfiction' writing? The movie went wrong by simply not developing who she was and just hints at an unexplained complexity. Worth watching for the performances but not worth thinking too much about because the screenwriter never really tries to go above mere generalizations.
Big Bad Love (2001)
Marks the return of Debra Winger to our video stores if not the big screen. For those who wondered, she is still a wonderful actress and is surrounded by a fine cast here. But this is basically the pretty boring story of an unpublished writer whose skills fail to equal his vocabulary which reeks of the platitudes and 'truisms' he decries.
Arliss Howard plays the writer, Barlow, and his drinking bouts with his Vietnam War buddy, Monroe, Paul LeMat, are well handled and sufficiently depressing to attract 'artsie' viewers. The subsequent tragic events in the actual plot are universal enough to hold our attention while we hope that something major will be said. But alas, nothing is and we are left with nothing but a empty story with good acting.
It is a shame that these notably good artists haven't found anything better to do. Special kudos though to Angie Dickinson who plays a role that no one had ever envisioned for her and does quite nicely.
Life or Something Like It (2002)
I believe Edward Burns to be one of the truely brilliant people in current film and I'm not blind so I realize that Anjolina Jolie is always watchable and usually a fine actress too. But this is just mildly entertaining fluff.
Jolie, playing a local TV heroine in Seattle, interviews a homeless, streetcorner "seeer" who may be a con artist or may be a genuine psychic. In addition to predicting football outcomes and earthquakes our homeless guy predicts Jolie's imminent death. When his other predictions come true she becomes unraveled and changes are made in her lifestyle including the end of her engagement to a local baseball star, the resurrection of her old romance with Burns and a new awareness that her father didn't really favor her older sister. All because she has decided to live her life as though each day may be her last? We've seen it all before as well as the predictable, cutesy, happy ending but the players do make it watchable. This is a good bet for those of you who have HBO or Showtime or even regular cable because commercial interruption won't spoil much here. On the whole you'd be better off wagering your money at the track than spending it to rent this or watch it in a theater though.
The Thing (1982)
JOHN CARPENTERS'S FINEST
Far and way the best "Thing" that John Carpenter has ever produced. This bears no resemblance to the late 40s classic which featured James Arness as a dangerous, alien vegetable in the Arctic. Rather it is a modern version of the the original 1930's novella and follows its story line extremely well but for the likewise modern, but more cynical ending.
A combo of science fiction and horror that is very frightening and could be thought of as plausible if you have an imagination and enjoy this genre.
The cast led by Kurt Russell does a marvelous job and the screenplay is excellent altho some might be offended by some excessive profanity in the original release.
It is a great watch and a must for fans of genre.
GREAT START BUT FALLS QUICKLY
Wonderful start for this drama about a hardened homicide detective, with an Internal Affairs investigation hanging over him, and his partner being loaned to an small town Alaska police force to help solve the mysterious murder of a young woman. However, the film starts to go downhill shortly after we learn the detective's secret and he subsequently kills his partner, who is going to testify against him. The killing may or may not be accidental and we are now thrust into the detective's guilt trip over the circumstances and his implausible 'strange bedfellow' agreement with the young woman's killer. No real mystery here and the good acting is overshadowed by too many holes in the plot but still entertaining and a good watch if you don't have high hopes.
Gosford Park (2001)
BRILLIANT CHARACTERIZATIONS OR PRETENTIOUS RUBBISH
This is one of those films that you may find yourself watching several times if for no other reason than just to see what you've missed and why the critics loved it. Robert Altman is a brilliant director and a master of camera movement but the truth is that his films miss more often than hit. I'm afraid this is one of the former. There are too many potentially interesting characters and their depiction becomes necessarily stereotypal and the story seems interminably long. Good performances don't help Altman's generalization that the wealthy and sophisticated can be just as dull and petty as the lower classes since we all know or should know that and films of this magnitude and budget should at least try to be entertaining. The wit and cynicism that characterizes Altman's work when he strings together connecting vignettes, such as he did in "Shortcuts", is missing here. It is nice to watch good performers at work but this film should be used for instructional purposes in a film school rather served up to the ticket paying general public. The murder mystery turns out to be too simple for the amount of time one tries to analyze the suspects
No Looking Back (1998)
TYPICAL EDWARD BURNS FARE
which means to me that it was a well thought out realistically acted damn good story and well worth watching.
You've read the plot outline so I won't rehash that. Burns is quite good as always and the rest of the cast is too. Just a good story about a young woman with dreams she never tried to realize coming to a point in her life when she has to decide whether to try to follow those dreams or just go on with her comfortable life in the small town of her birth. Burns arrives as her former boyfriend, a dreamer who did leave to chase his dreams and found he couldn't catch them. Our heroine sees what could have been, what would be and chooses what could be. Nice ending.