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The Man Who Cried (2000)
Good performances just don't add up to a good movie
You'll be "The Man (or Woman) Who Cried" too if you rent this movie--what a disappointment! And yet the performances by the all-star cast are uniformly good. Johnny Depp shows the substantial range of his powers in a role in which he says nothing for like the first half-hour he's on camera, and he's got maybe five lines in the whole movie. Instead, he communicates everything--and it's a lot--with just a look, a touch, a smile. Cate Blanchett is equally good as the gold-digging Russian dancer hoping to sleep her way out of poverty. John Turturro shows he's capable of pulling off something more than unlikable geek roles as the suave but ultimately evil Italian opera singer. Christina Ricci is the only actor who looks out of place in the movie's 1940 Paris milieu, but again she delivers the smoldering performance that's expected of her here.
So what's wrong with this picture? First, the movie takes way too long to set up its premise: Ricci is a Russian Jew working in Paris to raise money so she can track down her father, who emigrated to America years earlier. Next, there's just not a lot of story here--and what there is doesn't make much sense. Why, for example, do the main characters continue to hang around Paris when everybody else in the city seems to have fled and the Germans have taken over? Then there are loose ends: What happens to the Blanchett character, who is swimming in the pool aboard an ocean liner when the ship is apparently attacked by German dive bombers? Then, when the Ricci character finally traces what happened to her father in America, the answer is too preposterous to give the film's ending any plausible meaning.
"The Man Who Cried" looks like a movie that can deliver the goods--great scenery, captivating music, a top-notch cast--but the whole just never quite adds up to the sum of its parts.
They Call Me Mister Tibbs! (1970)
Look for the three-handed murderer!
This sequel to "In the Heat of the Night" will suffer in inevitable comparisons to its infinitely better predecessor. Instead of looking like a theatrical movie edited for television, "Mister Tibbs" looks suspiciously like a TV movie edited for theatrical release, with grainy photography, cheesy opening titles, and sets that look like they're made of plywood. The murder sequence has a glaring continuity error: the camera shows two hands choking the girl, then a shot of a hand reaching for a statuette, then a shot of the girl being choked with two hands again, and finally the statuette coming down for the fatal blow. Solving the case should be easy: find the only guy with three hands! But the shoddy production values can't completely obscure this film's considerable merits: namely, Sidney Poitier's performance as the cool detective determined to follow the evidence wherever it may lead, even if it implicates a friend. Martin Landau is also convincing as the do-gooder preacher-activist suspected of brutally murdering his prostitute girlfriend. In addition to being haunted by the case, Tibbs is conflicted about his home life, but the issues of race and Tibbs' barely concealed sense of social outrage are absent here. So is the complex murder mystery that made "In the Heat of the Night" so compelling.