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Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire are rightly Hollywood legends. Two
great talents who both routinely turned in excellent and, especially in
Hepburn's case, charming performances. But their talent and charm
aren't enough to salvage Funny Face. It's a musical in which the songs
are not memorable. It's a love story which never for a moment sparks to
life. Attempts at humor fall flat. The plot as a whole is rather
uninteresting. Hepburn and Astaire are good enough to save the film
from being completely dreadful. But even those two great stars can't
make the film enjoyable.
Astaire plays fashion photographer Dick Avery, Hepburn his reluctant model Jo. Jo is a shy, bookish, almost drab Greenwich Village bookstore clerk. She's an intellectual, philosophical girl who certainly has no interest in the vapid world of fashion modeling. But Dick thinks she has "the look", whatever that means, and Jo finds herself whisked away to Paris to be the face of a big fashion campaign. For Jo the trip is a means to an end, in Paris she hopes to meet up with the weirdo beatnik philosopher she idolizes. Anyhow off to Paris we go. There's some singing and dancing but not much in the way of plot. Inevitably Dick and Jo fall in love despite Dick looking old enough to be Jo's grandfather. The aforementioned weirdo philosopher enters the fray, still not much plot, and eventually the film crawls limply across the finish line. The film has a couple decent moments. Hepburn's famously strange dance is entertaining. Bonjour, Paris is a lively musical number which takes great advantage of its beautiful setting. But the other songs are pretty much all duds, with a couple being truly terrible. Of course Astaire has his requisite big solo dance number which is as technically excellent as you'd imagine but it doesn't really grab you. The two big stars give a game effort but the chemistry between them is sorely lacking. Astaire is a great song and dance man and in this film Hepburn gets to show off some vocal chops and smooth moves as well. But when they're not singing and dancing, when they're just talking and trying to make us believe they're falling in love Astaire and Hepburn don't convince. It's a romance with no spark at all. Audrey Hepburn is easy to love, her charm is always enough to provide the viewer a few smiles. But this film has little else going for it.
The Others is a ghost story but in this haunted house the scares are
quite subtle. This is a movie which, to its great benefit, is more
about the story than shocking, scary moments. To be sure there are some
good frights sprinkled throughout. But nothing over-the-top. This movie
is more interested in making you think than in frightening you. What
exactly is going on in this house? It's a mystery the audience will be
trying to solve right along with the characters. Nicole Kidman plays
Grace Stewart, mother of two young children. The three of them live
alone in an isolated house on the island of Jersey in the days
immediately following the end of World War II. Grace's husband is
presumed dead in the war. The family's servants just up and left in the
middle of the night. Three new servants arrive at the house. And here
things begin to get very interesting.
From the moment we meet them there is something slightly off about these new servants. An aging nanny, an elderly gardener and a mute young woman...they're quite the odd trio. But they know the house, having worked there before and Grace welcomes them in. But first Grace must explain the rules for the house, rules designed to keep all sunlight out as the children are so sensitive to the light it would kill them. This makes for a dark atmosphere which adds so much to the film, especially once things start to go bump in the night. Grace's daughter Anne sees the ghosts but Grace herself refuses to believe it. The servants, especially the nanny Mrs. Mills, seem to know more than they are letting on. It's pretty clear these servants hold the movie's secrets. What are those secrets? The fun for us is in finding out. Grace needs to find the answers too but it seems unlikely she'll find much fun in it.
Kidman is excellent in playing the loving, protective mother who is thoroughly harried by the unseen intruders in her home. Fionnula Flanagan is also terrific playing the mysterious Mrs. Mills who is somehow creepy even when she's not trying to be. Or maybe she is trying. Also notable are the performances of the young actors playing the children. James Bentley is quite good in playing the boy, Nicholas, but it is Alakina Mann, playing Anne, who is the true revelation. Mann turns in one of the best child acting performances you'll ever see, mature far beyond her years in playing a girl who sees ghosts and is not even freaked out by them, taking it all in her stride. Kudos to director Alejandro Amenábar for coaxing such fine performances from his cast and for creating such a creepy atmosphere. The movie's story is a smart one, building slowly but surely toward its big climax. There are enough hints sprinkled throughout that may let you figure things out before the characters do. So maybe when the ending comes it doesn't pack quite as much of a wallop as it would if you were totally stunned by it. But it is still all in all a very satisfying movie-watching experience. A good story with enough subtle little scares thrown in to keep happy those who are looking for chills and thrills.
Boring and pretentious is not a good combination for a film.
Unfortunately that is the combination we get with Sex Is Comedy. It is
a film in which nothing ever happens. Seriously, nothing. A bunch of
talk (about nothing), then more talk (still about nothing) as the film
slogs along, boring you to tears. The whole time director Catherine
Breillat, who is essentially making a movie about herself making
another movie, beats you over the head with how powerful the subject
matter is. Except it is not powerful at all. It's a movie about a
director struggling to film a sex scene. This is not nearly as grave a
matter as Breillat would have you believe. It's a "look at me" effort
from the director, trying to impress upon you just how important she
is. She's not as important as she thinks. And she has ended up making a
rather terrible movie. Movies which take a look at the making of movies
are usually pretty interesting, especially for serious film fanatics.
This film has a few telling behind the scenes moments but overall it
does not work. There is just not enough interesting stuff going on here
to hold your attention.
The movie is barely over 90 minutes long but it seems interminable, dragging painfully all the way through. It is a film which never sparks to life. The central character, the director, is passionate about making her film but we never truly feel that passion. In playing the role Anne Parillaud, who is essentially playing Breillat herself, leaves you cold. Meanwhile Grégoire Colin, playing the film within the film's stubborn actor, is quite terrible. Only Roxane Mesquida, playing the actress, comes away with any credit at all but honestly she has very little to do. The whole film is Parillaud and Colin, the director and actor, talking and talking and talking and never actually accomplishing anything. These two are constantly bickering back and forth about the big sex scene which is treated as if it is the most important endeavor in human history. When your boring film is building up to nothing more than the filming of a sex scene you're in trouble. There's no chance the ending will redeem all the drivel which preceded it. Sex Is Comedy is a very limp effort from a director who is not nearly as big a deal as she thinks she is.
It's the year 2022 and the world has completely gone to hell.
Overpopulation has strangled the planet, nature as we know it has
ceased to exist. There are 40 million people living in New York City
alone and that is where our story is set. To call it a grim setting
would be underselling it by quite some distance. Homeless people are
crammed into every available space, living in the streets, in abandoned
cars, in apartment building stairwells. Food is scarce. Fruits,
vegetables? Forget it. And nobody's seen beef for years. Well, maybe a
few people have. There are a lucky few who live in wealth and relative
splendor. One of the seemingly lucky ones is William R. Simonson, a
director of the Soylent Corporation. Soylent manufactures the wafers
which are the food rations the general population survives on. These
wafers come in various, different-colored varieties. By far the most
popular is the tasty and nutritious Soylent Green. People riot in the
streets to get some of this stuff. All seems well for the Soylent
Corporation. They've got a product the world literally can't live
without. But there is something about Soylent's operation which is
tormenting Simonson. He knows a secret and his powerful friends are
willing to kill to protect that secret. Simonson is assassinated. It's
made to look like a robbery but police detective Thorn knows better.
Thorn starts digging, trying to get to the bottom of the mystery. What
he finds will shock him and shake him to his core.
Charlton Heston plays Thorn and turns in a very solid, restrained performance. Maybe Heston goes a little over-the-top at the end but with what his character has discovered it's hard to blame him. While Heston is the film's star the real treat is Edward G. Robinson. He plays Sol Roth, an old scholar who assists Thorn in the investigation. There aren't many scholars around in this dystopian world. Sol is old enough to remember the way the world used to be, the beauty and majesty of it all. Robinson does a terrific job bringing out Sol's sadness at what the world has become. This would prove to be Robinson's final film which makes things all the more poignant. The best scene, by far, in the film comes near the end. It is a terrific scene for the character of Sol Roth and a truly magnificent send-off for the great Edward G. Robinson. It is the one truly great moment in a film which otherwise falls a little shy of greatness. It is a good film with an intriguing premise, a compelling mystery. The film provides a fascinating, and horrifying, look at mankind's possible future. There is the sense though that the film struggles at times for momentum. And the twist which so thoroughly shocks Thorn may not be as shocking for the audience, you can see it coming. But all in all it is a film well worth seeing. The story may have its flaws but it works well enough. Heston is good and Robinson is terrific, it's worth seeing the film for his performance alone. The teeming masses in this film would do anything to get their hands on some tasty Soylent Green. Movie audiences will find Soylent Green to be pretty tasty too.
You wouldn't think a sports agent would be a good choice to be the
central character in any kind of romantic film. It is a profession with
a reputation for sleaze and slime. But Jerry Maguire is not your
typical sports agent. Well, he is at the start of the film. But then he
has an ethical epiphany. Unfortunately this epiphany gets him fired
from his high-powered agency. Jerry is left with just one client, Rod
Tidwell. Rod, a wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, is brash,
bold, bombastic and exceedingly self-confident. And with regard to
Jerry he is interested in only one thing: "Show me the money!" When
Jerry is cast out on his own with his one client he also has only one
employee for his new start-up agency. That is Dorothy Boyd, a single
mother who apparently was the only person at Jerry's old agency who
shared his ideals. Or who was willing to admit she shared them anyway.
She leaves her secure job to take a chance on Jerry and it becomes
clear pretty quickly that she may have made a big mistake. But as Jerry
flounders professionally he and Dorothy grow closer. They come to count
on one another. They fall in love. At least they think they do. Their
relationship is a challenge, a love story which it turns out may not
include much love at all. Did they come together for love or for
convenience? They know true love when they see it, as they do in the
rock-solid relationship between Rod Tidwell and his wife. Seeing what
Rod and his wife have only makes it more painfully obvious to Jerry and
Dorothy what they are lacking.
So this is a rather challenging romantic film. The main characters don't fall instantly in love and settle into a life of constant bliss. If this relationship is to succeed they are going to have to really work at it. It is an interesting journey Jerry and Dorothy take and director Cameron Crowe was fortunate to have two excellent performers filling those key roles. Tom Cruise and Renée Zellweger were at the top of their games here, playing off one another beautifully and creating two truly outstanding characters. The actors are certainly helped by Crowe's terrific dialogue, this is a script with so many memorable lines, both funny and poignant. Of course Cruise and Zellweger don't get all the best lines for themselves. Cuba Gooding Jr. shines, injecting so much life into the movie playing the outrageous Rod Tidwell. Bonnie Hunt provides some laughs as Dorothy's wary sister. Kelly Preston is a stunner, both in looks and in what she says as she plays another woman in Jerry's life. And there is also room for a wonderfully precocious child, Jonathan Lipnicki being incredibly endearing in that part. There's also Jay Mohr, Jerry O'Connell, Regina King, Beau Bridges...it is a really long list of quality performers and Crowe gives them all their moments to shine. There is a sense the movie struggles at times with the balance between comedy and drama. Is it a comedy that's trying to be dramatic or a drama that's trying to be funny? And how do you squeeze a romance into that mix? Oh, and it's sort of a sports movie too. Crowe really does have a lot going on here, maybe a little too much. But by and large it works. The movie manages to both entertain and charm you. And it is great to see the characters grow. Maybe even Rod Tidwell can come to learn that it is not all about the money.
The Alphabet Killer is based very, very loosely on a real story. But
screenwriter Tom Malloy pretty much made this story entirely his own.
The basic facts of the case are that there once was a killer whose
victims were young girls whose first and last names started with the
same letter. And that killer dumped the bodies in towns with names
beginning with that same letter. For example this film's first victim
is Carla Castillo, found in Churchville. Where does this movie want to
go from there? Well, it turns out not to really be about the killer but
about the young detective investigating the crime, Megan Paige. Eliza
Dushku plays the role and the movie was always going to sink or swim on
her performance. Dushku just about manages to keep the film afloat.
The film veers toward the supernatural and/or psychological as Megan Paige begins to be haunted by visions. Is she really seeing things or just losing her mind? She ends up having a nervous breakdown and losing her position as a detective, demoted to a desk job. But when the bodies of more young girls turn up, following the alphabet pattern Megan had obsessed on, she's back on the case. Her new partner, played by screenwriter Malloy himself, is understandably wary. Eventually the two bond and make some progress in the case. But the killer remains elusive and Megan will not let the case go. Her frustrations manifest themselves in more of these visions or hallucinations or whatever they are. Megan is losing it again and it's a race against time to solve the case before she goes completely crazy. And of course before the killer strikes again.
All in all it is pretty familiar serial killer stuff like we've seen in so many other films. The focus on an investigator who happens to be losing her mind is a bit of a different angle. But ultimately things play out pretty much as you would expect from the genre. Dushku performs a challenging role reasonably well. The supporting cast, including some familiar faces such as Cary Elwes and Timothy Hutton, is fine as well. But the film never threatens to make the leap from being decent to being really good. The story starts with promise but once it settles into its rhythm there is the sense that initial promise is not being paid off. The story kind of lags, things are a little mundane. They try to spice things up a bit by throwing in those haunting, sometimes scary visions of Megan's. But that gets a little repetitive and loses its impact. You know the film is going to go for a big reveal at the end but when it does the effort falls somewhat flat. The ending is actually rather predictable, not nearly as thrilling as it needs to be for the film to really excite you. Ultimately The Alphabet Killer is a decent little movie but that is about the best that can be said. Not a terrible way to spend 100 minutes but far from spectacular.
Make a full-length feature cartoon? It couldn't be done. And why should
it be anyway, nobody is going to want to watch a 90-minute cartoon.
After proving those commonly held thoughts to be oh so wrong with the
triumph of Snow White what would Walt Disney do for an encore?
Pinocchio came next and showed Disney was not going to rest on his
laurels. For as magnificent an achievement as Snow White was the
animation on display in that film could be said to be a little crude
compared to what was to come. Pinocchio advanced the art form. Visually
there is nothing to quibble with here, everything looks fantastic. And
what great action too, imagination is not limited to what the animators
might be able to achieve. It seems they could achieve whatever they
wanted. There are some big, bold sequences in this film that show the
great jump the Disney team had made in just three years since Snow
White. Disney had succeeded in making the impossible possible.
Everyone is familiar by now with the famous story of Pinocchio, that of the wooden puppet magically brought to life. But while he can walk and talk and sing and dance he is still made of wood and wishes to be a real boy. His quest to become real will take him to some very interesting places. Some very bizarre places too. If you're going to accept the basic premise of a wooden puppet brought to life I guess you can accept pretty much anything. But there is the sense that maybe the story ultimately gets a little too weird for the film's good. The second half of the film is not as much fun as the first. It even gets a little scary, poor Pinocchio in almost constant peril. Luckily our puppet hero has some helpers. There's Jiminy Cricket who serves as his conscience, trying to help the incredibly naive Pinocchio know right from wrong. Whenever Pinocchio's really stuck you can count on the Blue Fairy to show up and help out. And of course there is kindly, old Geppetto, Pinocchio's maker, his "father" so to speak who has his own strange misadventure.
The story lags somewhat in the middle and does take those truly bizarre turns toward the end. But as a whole the story is satisfying, sure to leave a smile on your face. It's so easy to love Pinocchio, the character, that you are willing to overlook any minor quibbles with Pinocchio, the film. And the main character is not the only thing to love. Jiminy is a lot of fun, Geppetto is one of the most kindhearted characters you'll see in any film. And as much as you like the good guys the film gives you some stellar bad guys to hiss at too. The score is terrific. There is the iconic When You Wish upon a Star to open the film and some other good songs sprinkled in along the way. The film provides laughs, charm, suspense, drama, pretty much everything you could ask for. And it looks absolutely magnificent, taking animation to new heights. Pinocchio is one of those films which is not just appreciated but beloved. One of Disney's crown jewels, a film which will live forever.
The first Alien film is considered a classic but I didn't particularly
like it. This sequel is also considered a classic and I like this one
even less than the first. At least the first one had a little tension.
This one is just a shoot-em-up action thriller. See Aliens, shoot
Aliens. Repeat as necessary. This makes for a thriller which is not
particularly thrilling. Things get rather repetitive and monotonous.
The film can't surprise us, we already know what the Alien is, what
it's capable of. This time there are just more of them.
The film picks up with our heroine Ellen Ripley awaking from a 57-year nap. While she was dozing a human colony has been established on the planet where she encountered the Alien all those years ago. In an amazingly convenient plot contrivance contact with that colony is lost soon after Ripley wakes up. Gee, what could have happened? A reluctant Ripley is sent back out into space with a team of Colonial Marines to investigate. These Marines are, by and large, idiots. They get to the colony. Surprise, nobody's there! Oh wait, they do find one survivor, a little girl who spends the rest of the movie screeching "Ripley!" at the top of her lungs in exceedingly annoying fashion. Speaking of annoying the most idiotic of the idiotic Marines is Pvt. Hudson, played in excruciatingly terrible fashion by Bill Paxton. With this character we're talking Jar Jar Binks levels of annoying. Just shut up. Please. Every time this guy opens his mouth you dearly wish an Alien would turn up and devour him.
In the first film Ripley was not the only character you cared about. There the rest of the crew, with one notable exception, were sympathetic figures as well. No such luck here. There's one guy, Corporal Hicks, who comes off reasonably well. The rest are a collection of morons, jerks and slimeballs. With an incredibly annoying child thrown in to boot. Sigourney Weaver does the best she can, turning in a solid performance as Ripley. But she gets precious little help. Michael Biehn is pretty good as Hicks and Lance Henriksen has some good moments as an android but everyone else is quite terrible. Paxton goes way beyond terrible, he is truly wretched. The story, such as it is, doesn't thrill you. The movie takes its sweet time getting to the Alien planet and once we get there it's just a shooting gallery. Aliens attack, they get shot. More Aliens attack, they get shot. More Aliens attack, they get shot. Eventually we come to the big finish. Here the movie does have some surprises for you if you haven't already lost interest. But ultimately this ending, like everything which precedes it, falls flat. The climactic battle is visually impressive but really quite silly. Honestly you can say that about the film as a whole. It looks good but the story is a dud. Genuine frightful moments are very few and far between. Suspense is sorely lacking. Characters say and do some of the stupidest things. And an Alien apparently knows how to work an elevator. Going up? No, this movie is going down, crash-landing with a thud.
The Damned United tells the more or less true story of Brian Clough's
catastrophic 44 days as manager of Leeds United. As with many movies
based on a true story some facts are changed, embellishments are made.
But the heart of the real-life story remains. And what a story it is.
Those unfamiliar with the story may wonder why a movie was made about a
man who failed. That is certainly not the typical sports movie
narrative. But the story of Brian Clough is so much more than those 44
days. And this movie tells that story very well. We see his triumphs,
we see his misery. We see him at the pinnacle and at the lowest depths.
Through sheer force of personality Brian Clough made himself a success.
And then that same forceful personality would be his undoing.
Michael Sheen plays Clough and turns in a truly outstanding performance. Clough's personality and brilliance shine through in Sheen's performance. The haughty pride, bitterness and resentment which were a part of Clough are also laid bare. Clough was certainly a flawed character but an undeniably fascinating one. Sheen brings him to life perfectly. There are some key supporting players who help. Timothy Spall plays Clough's right-hand man Peter Taylor. Jim Broadbent plays a club chairman. And Colm Meaney plays the villain of the piece, Don Revie, the Leeds manager whom Clough is obsessed with bettering. In truth of course Revie is a villain only in Clough's mind. Revie's teams won but in Clough's mind they did not win the right way. Clough was out on a crusade to win soccer matches properly, without resorting to the dirty tactics of Leeds. All well and good until you go to Leeds yourself and tell your new players they're a bunch of cheaters.
Rather then tell a straightforward tale, following Clough from his successes at Derby to his disaster at Leeds the film jumps back and forth in time, between the two story lines. We see Clough floundering at Leeds, jump back to his glory at Derby, then go forward to Leeds again. The film maintains this setup throughout, bringing the two stories together wonderfully. Even with all the back and forth the story still flows very well. And doing it this way ties everything together much better. Rather than seeing a simple rise and fall we are taken on quite a roller coaster ride, the highest of highs followed by the lowest of lows and back again. Seeing Clough's struggles at Leeds gives a different perspective when we then see him at his best at Derby. All the way through Sheen is spot-on in every moment. He owns the character. The likes of Spall, Broadbent and Meaney make their contribution but make no mistake this is Sheen's film through and through. There are some little quibbles to be made with the film. You do wish they could have stuck a little closer to the truth at times, some of the events here are twisted around rather unnecessarily. The facts of the story should have been good enough, the movie is let down somewhat by some of its fiction. The soccer action we see is not always convincing but it works well enough. And we really only see limited bits of action anyway. This is not a film about the players, not about the sport, but about Brian Clough. We see Clough succeed beyond anyone's wildest expectations at little Derby and we see him cut down to size at big, bad Leeds. It is a film which provides a compelling look at a truly fascinating man. Brian Clough is such a great character, the flawed hero you can't tear your eyes away from. The Damned United is a movie which does that hero justice.
Next is a movie with a very interesting concept. But that concept
requires a very smart script to make it work. And unfortunately the
script here proved nowhere smart enough to enable the movie to really
succeed. The movie backs itself into corners it has no way out of and
then just blatantly cheats to get out of them. The first half of the
movie shows good promise as the story sets itself up. But that setup is
never properly paid off. The drama doesn't build, instead it fizzles
out. Things start to get rather dull. Then things get really convoluted
and the writers can't untangle the mess they've made. It all leads up
to an ending which falls completely flat and kind of insults the viewer
to boot. If you run the movie back through your mind you realize it
doesn't add up, doesn't make sense.
The story follows small-time Las Vegas magician Cris Johnson who has the unique ability to be able to see two minutes into his own future. He tells nobody about his powers but FBI agent Callie Ferris somehow figures it out and recruits him to help prevent terrorists setting off a nuclear bomb. Well, she tries to recruit him anyway. Cris, with his unique vision, sees her coming and is gone before Callie can find him. Meanwhile there's this other woman whom Cris keeps having visions of. In the visions she's walking into a diner so Cris goes to the diner every day waiting for her. She never shows up. Until conveniently she does show up on the very day that the FBI is looking for Cris. He and the woman, Liz, take off for Flagstaff, Arizona. The FBI chases after them. So, for no apparent reason, do the terrorists. They have the bomb. Couldn't they, you know, just set it off instead of chasing after some weird magician they really don't know anything about and a random woman he happens to be traveling with? Anyhow, Cris and Liz end up stuck in a hotel, the FBI and the terrorists hot on their tails. And here the movie starts to veer off track.
Nicolas Cage turns in a reasonably decent performance as the reluctant would-be hero Cris. But the material ultimately fails him. The movie needed to be really intelligent to work and it is not. Cris knows he can't really avert this nuclear catastrophe. He knows the limits of his power, only being able to see two minutes into his own future, but the FBI does not. Conveniently he can see further than two minutes into the future when this random woman Liz is involved. Would be interesting if the movie ever explains that but it never does. It's just something that has to be true for the movie to work. But it still doesn't end up working. There are too many things here which just don't make sense. The movie establishes its rules and then breaks them whenever the writers can't figure out a way forward. Cage does the best he can. Jessica Biel is pretty good too as the mysterious Liz. But the story lets them down as do some of their fellow performers. Julianne Moore seems very bored as she plays FBI agent Ferris. It's pretty clear the way she mails her performance in that Moore resents being in what she believes to be a bad movie. There's nothing at all memorable about the terrorists, they're a largely faceless, nameless, worthless bunch. Cris has some personality and intrigue to him, Liz is a decent character but everyone else disappoints. And ultimately the movie itself disappoints too. An intriguing start but in the end Next is quite a letdown.
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