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Great pilot! A shame it was never picked up!
Like so many Linklater projects, $5.15/Hr. thrives off of character development. The characters in this show just so happen to be minimum wage workers, just trying to get by with too few shifts and payday loans. That's the basic premise of the show--following around eight or so employees working the "third shift" at a restaurant chain called "Grammaw's Kitchen" that looks like a low-grade "Denny's." But more than the everyday occurrences for these characters, the show opens up the context, integrating the crazy logic of corporate mandates and consumer debt into the text.
I would have loved to have seen where this show would have gone had it been given the opportunity to go there. The actors (particularly America Ferrera of "Ugly Betty") portray three dimensional characters in complex situations; but is it a surprise that HBO (funded by the subscriptions of wealthy viewers) was unwilling to take this on? Not in the least. It's so sad how the perspectives of those doing the most menial of jobs get filed away in some studio back lot.
Film Shows Argento's Potential
"The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things" has some of the most controversial content of any film I have seen in some time. The film follows the trials and tribulations of Jeremiah, a young boy who is taken out of a loving foster home to live with his transient, sometime prostitute mother, Sarah (played by writer/director Asia Argento). Along the way, physical and sexual abuse occurs at the hands of Sarah's many lovers/husbands, Sarah herself, and Sarah's religious family, who take the boy in after child services finds him. The fact that the book on which the film was based was revealed to be fiction, not "based on a true story," as many readers had believed, further contributes to the controversy--the film, it should be noted, makes no such claim.
But regardless of whether or not you believe that the film is exploitive, dishonest, or based on false theories or premises, you have to respect director Asia Argento's aesthetic achievements. I was very impressed by how Argento used camera movement and framing to convey the traumatic experiences of title character, Jeremiah. The acting, for the most part, was also well done, though I felt some of the cameos (particularly Marilyn Manson's) were underwhelming. I was also less than impressed with Argento's script--the second half of the film fell flat for me, particularly some of the dialog.
I hope we see better work from Argento in the near future--she is an excellent actress with unparalleled charisma and presence on the screen, and she has the technical chops to become a very influential director. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next, even though I didn't totally buy into "The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things."
Citizen Ruth (1996)
Relevant, Fair and Fascinating
As a huge fan of Alexander Payne's later films, I decided that it was about time I saw "Citizen Ruth." Though easily the weakest of Payne's films, I found the social commentary in "Citizen Ruth" more nuanced and provocative than his more popular works.
The film centers around Ruth, a down-and-out woman arrested for huffing toxic chemicals. It is discovered during her arrest that she is pregnant, and since she is a repeat offender with several neglected children, the judge in her case encourages her behind closed doors to have an abortion "for everyone's sake." The judge's comments, as well as his charging her with endangering the life of her fetus, set into motion a battle between pro-life and pro-choice organizations. A well-meaning Christian family takes her in initially, exposing her to pro-life propaganda films and taking her to protests outside a clinic. After a pro-choice group wins Ruth over and takes her in, the pro-life group ups the ante, trying to entice Ruth to have her baby by offering her $15,000. A member of the pro-choice group matches the sum, but soon after, Ruth has a miscarriage, making the whole spectacle (which is blown up by the media and each warring interest group) completely undercut. Neither group is aware of the miscarriage when Ruth goes to the abortion clinic, takes the $15,000 offered to her, and escapes from the scene, leaving protesters from each side warring behind her.
There are many elements of the film that could be improved. I thought the dialog was clumsy at times, which led to some mediocre acting. Laura Dern is fantastic, though, as the title character, making the character believable.
What impresses me most about the film, though, is it's message about abortion politics. Essentially, Payne's commentary suggests that interest groups on both sides don't really identify with the people they claim to by fighting for; Ruth's interests as a person and her "choice" are undercut by rhetoric and high-minded principles that don't take her situation into account. Payne cleverly implicates BOTH the pro-life and pro-choice factions in this scheme of robbing Ruth from exerting her will. In the end, Ruth takes control of her own destiny, yielding to neither side.
The message of "Citizen Ruth" is more relevant now than ever as pro-choicers face the challenge of a majority conservative supreme court. How will they appeal to the Ruths out there? And for pro-lifers, how would they deal with the consequences of an overturning of Roe v. Wade? Payne's film pointedly asks these questions, and only time will tell how each side will answer.
Me Without You (2001)
Great Subject-Matter, Muddled Execution
"Me Without You" is one of those films that's difficult to watch not because it's a terrible movie, but because it has the potential for greatness in its content and ideas but the execution is mediocre. Reading the plot description, I was hoping for the film to dive deep into the chaos that can be female friendships, but instead, I found a film too caught up in romantic subplots to really achieve this goal that it clearly aspires to.
The film concerns Marina and Holly, two girls who grow up as neighbors and best friends. The film's episodic structure is separated into five different periods of the women's lives: childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, adult independence, and finally, motherhood. In the early periods, the two girls are inextricably bound, but their relationship suffers as a result of the insecurities of both characters leading to a power struggle between the friends.
Marina, the more outspoken and wild of the two, makes a strong first impression, but soon, it becomes clear that her dramatic exterior masks a weak identity. In contrast, Holly is the more subtle and passive friend, but at her core, she is principled, passionate and ambitious in a way that Marina obviously admires but cannot replicate (though she certainly tries).
These personality conflicts play out mostly through their relationships with men: Marina, for example, works to keep Holly from pursuing a relationship with her brother Nat, whom Holly has long adored. Also given much screen time is the sexual relationship that both girls simultaneously pursue with one of their professors. The triangulation causes drama with the ladies, further reinforcing their differences.
My favorite thing about the film is that it chooses to explore these complex issues. So few Hollywood films really delve deeply into complex, female relationships. This film examines the problematic tension between the friends, rather than sugarcoating their bond like the typical chick-flick.
What I disliked about the film was the execution and resolution. Rather than really focusing on the girls, their relationships with men are brought to the forefront. I would have liked to have seen other manifestations of these issues, rather than making men the catalysts for all the trouble. Furthermore, the resolution of the film is a bit weak. The women sever their ties, but little is told of how their break affects them. A whole movie could be written about the fallout of the break, and yet, the filmmakers leave it almost entirely up to the imagination.
Thanks to great performances, good subject-matter, and interesting cinematography, the film isn't a complete wash. I'd recommend it to any woman (which mean practically every woman) who has suffered the heart-ache of a dysfunctional friendship.
Potentially interesting themes lose out to a flood of characters and subplot
I went into "Spanglish" with extremely low expectations. I'd seen the awful reviews for the film and planned to skip it, but peer pressure and lack of anything better to do on a Tuesday night won over and I did, in fact, see the film.
Surprisingly, there are some interesting themes going on in Spanglish--the relationship between mothers and daughters, culture clash, work ethic, etc... all are present and had the potential to be developed into interesting motifs.
Unfortunately, the film tried too hard to juggle between these ideas. The film feels crowded--too many characters, too many plot lines, too much talking. As a result, the pacing seems rushed and slow at the same time, lose ends are never tied up satisfactorily. The screenwriter, James L. Brooks, crammed in too many sub-plots and the result is a jumbled mess of flat characters, lame dialog, and little sense of closure.
So I say this to Mr. Brooks: re-edit this film. Take out the superfluous characters and dialog and hone in on what you truly want the viewer to take from the film. At this point, you lead us down so many rabbit holes, we can't begin to figure out what you were trying to say--funny, the title is making more and more sense to me now!
I've seen so many movies just like Intermission--a not so linear plot with dozens of memorable characters, connected through wild coincedence. I've seen the style before: jolty handhelds and low grade film. Intermission, in many ways, is the prototypical postmodern film. Yet, I really don't care.
From beginning to end, I enjoyed this film. I was intrigued by the characters and their various dilemmas with love, sex, and power. Dramatized by some of the best actors in the Isles, the characters never bored me, nor did they feel too showy. A nice balance was struck, and an interesting plot was forged out of the chaos.
Basically, the film centers around a cluster of Dubliners: a tough as nails police officer, a brutal criminal, a disenchanted grocery store worker, his ex-girlfriend and her married, middle-aged rebound guy, a bus driver, and many others. Drawn from their trials and tribulations are existential kernels of knowledge: say what you want, live your life to the fullest of its possibilities, don't let the past dominate you, don't let authority dominate you, etc... It's a wonderful film in terms of character and theme, and the dialog was superb.
The only reason it loses any points at all is because the structure has been done many times before. Still, it works for the plot. I recommend it to anyone who hopes for a relaxing night out!
Rating: 9 out of 10
28 Days Later... (2002)
Horror and sci-fi films so often seem pre-programmed: you have the heroine, whose friends slowly but surely die off one by one as a result of some mysterious killer or entity. She has to discover who or what it is, and after she does, she manages to destroy it. Is anyone else sick of this formula?
Thank God for "28 Days Later...," a fantastic film that not only delivers a scare or two, but is thoughtful, well-acted, perfectly writtern, and unpredictabl, breaking the standard formula without losing its impact.
(Spoilers here) The film begins with a dramatic bang as several animal rights activists attempt to release caged chimpanzees. What they are told by a panacked biologist is that the animals are infected with a very contagious virus called rage. One bite from an animal and you will become infected in 10-20 seconds, metamorphisizeing into a blood-hungry zombie. Needless to say, the activists do not listen and set the animals and the virus loose. After this stage-setting scene, we are taken 28 days later into the future. London is a wasteland to which a young man, Jim, awakes. He was in a coma during the devistation and merely witnesses the bleak aftermath. Fortunately, he meets several other survivors, and after many trials and tribulations, including run-ins with "the infected," Jim and company make it to a militarized zone. But the film doesn't end there. In the end, un-infected, fellow humans are nearly as dangerous to Jim and his friends' well-being. This is the twist I like, since it seems most realistic given the circumstances. But I'll let you savor these secrets when you see the film.
Still, you can't fully appreciate the film from a brief synopsis, because the plot isolated seems rather trite. But the way the writer and director treat the material makes "28 Days Later..." a bit of an anomaly. First, the dialogue is very lean, illiminating the useless lines that you would typically expect in a film of this subject matter. Next, the cinematography is outstanding. Rather than completely grossing us out with painful zoom-ins and still shots, the director chooses a rapid fire means of photographing the infected. Instead of seeing their every detail, we see their fast, jolting movements, which are excentuated by flashes of light. It's that old Hitchcock philosophy of less is more, and it works well for O'Boyle. Finally, there are clear themes in this film which set it apart from it's lesser peers. Themes of survival, companionship, loyalty, and hope, that manifest themselves well in the film.
In the end, you come away from "28 Days Later..." with a clear sense of the film's purpose and meaning and the realization that you've just been through a wild ride. It is a unique film experience that many will appreciate--not just horror buffs and O'Boyle fans.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
The Rock Musical Resusitated
"Hedwig and the Angry Inch" is not for the weak of heart. It is a sentimental story that combines glam-rock antics, beautiful art direction, and a kick ass performances to create the wildest musical to hit the screen in years. But watch out--this thing may be too hot for some to touch.
For one, it deals with uncomfortable, counter-cultural matters, mainly transexuality, and shamelessly so. The title character's flamboyance will also erk many straight-laced (no pun intended) viewers not used to this sort of thing. Maybe this is why Hedwig got snubbed by the Academy, despite containing one of the best performances (John Mitchell Cameron as Hedwig), some of the best original songs ("Tear Me Down," "Wicked Little Town") and vibrant art direction.
Still unorthodoxy should is never a good reason to skip a flick, especially one so entertaining as this. It takes a character that may be difficult to identify with on the surface, and makes its plight completely understandable. And what is Hedwig in search of? All the standard needs: love, a sense of self, stardom, and a voice. But Hedwig's story is anything but standard.
It is this combination of the typical with the uniquq that makes this movie rock. Catch it if you can.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Naomi Watts Brings Life to a Pathetic STV
This film is religated to a special genre, what I like to call STV (an abbreviation of Straight-to-Video release). An attempt at a cheap thrill, these films are usually more laughable than scary. But the Children of the Corn franchise is probably the most interesting of this genre.
I remember renting this particular installment of Children of the Corn at the fresh young age of 14 for a slumber party with some friends. We had all seen COTC 1, 2, 3, so what the heck, why not check out 4? There was nothing particularly different about the plot: again, the children of a midwestern town all mysteriously turn evil, killing their parents in interesting, grotesque ways. There were the same laughable moments in which writers contrive clever new ways for a child to kill an adult and the same lame horror film dialogue. It was all the same. Except one thing.
The performance of the lead heroine was stunning! Not your typical STV calibar performance, but instead, WOW--complex, understated, and intense, I was very impressed with the no-name lead actress.
Fast forward to seven years later, in which I am reading an interview with my favorite new actress, Naomi Watts and she mentions, "I was in Children of the Corn IV" and ohmygosh, the planets have aligned, it all makes sense! This stellar actress was giving stellar performances long before she was cast into stellar movies.
So the short of it, if you are at all a fan of Naomi Watts, this is not a bad one to get a glimpse of her pre-Mulholland Dr. work. Yeah, it's campy and lame and gratuitously violent, but with Naomi, it's not so bad.
Rating: 4 out of 10 (on the whole), Naomi's Performance: 7 out of 10
Capturing the Friedmans (2003)
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MULTIPLE SPOILERS
"Finding the Friedmans" is one of the most startling, intense cinematic experiences I have ever been apart of. More horrific than "28 Days" and more suspenseful than "Terminator 3," this film does not create its terror, but merely extracts it from reality. And that is the most frightening thing about it.
Or maybe what is most disturbing about the film is that its subject, the Friedman Family, seems so typical on the surface. Father Arnold Friedman is an award winning high school teacher, and a talented pianist with a zany sense of humor. Sons David, Seth, and Jesse, all share his sense of humor and are, by most accounts, typical, upstanding citizens.
And yet, Arnold Friedman is not your typical father. After being caught sending and receiving child pornography through the mail, police accuse him of hundreds of counts of child molestation, supposedly commited during computer classes he taught in his basement. What's worse, the youngest son, Jesse, is charged as an acomplice at the tender age of eighteen.
But this film does not present the Friedmans as guilty of these crimes, nor does it claim their innocence. Rather, viewers are given all of the evidence through various interviews, stock footage, and the Friedman's home video recordings, to piece together the puzzle themselves. And what is the viewer left with? Doubt on all sides. Doubt that these men could have committed all of the crimes they are charged with, and yet doubt that molestation didn't take place at all. Mostly, we doubt that any one person is telling the whole truth, but rather that each perspective is tainted by the individuals own subjectivity. And this is the amazing thing about "Capturing the Friedmans," the discovery that "truth" really is a fantasy, that every individual has their own.
Now, I must also admit that "Friedmans" tickles the voyeuristic side of me, mostly because of the footage provided by oldest brother, David Friedman. Friedman recorded family arguments, his brother's and father's last night at home before going to jail, and even a few glimpses from inside the courthouse. You see a family, falling apart and disfunction so strange, you cannot even laugh.
In the end, your shaken by it all. The screen goes black, the lights go up, and you look at the strangers in the theatre, as if asking for an answer. The creepy thing? No one has the answer.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Beautiful, but disappointing
In many ways, "Safe" could be considered a prequel to Todd Haynes' latest film, "Far From Heaven." Both movies star the amazing Julianne Moore, bringing out her radiance as an actress. Each film also takes a critical look at different suburban social scenes: for "Safe", it's the San Fernando Valley in 1987, while in "Far From Heaven" it is fifties Connecticut. Both films capture each period perfectly with gorgeous cinematography and other strategic artistic choices, but unfortunately, "Safe" falls short of the amazing "Far From Heaven" in so many other ways, that it disappoints viewers who have seen the newer film first.
Yes, Moore is exquisite as a wealthy, suburban housewife struggling with an unknown ailment. As always, she is subtle, hinting at emotions lying beneath her cold surface. What else is remarkable is her ability to replicate panic without it seeming cheesy or overdone. She gives a flawless performance.
(Spoilers) Unfortunately, Haynes' script is what really leaves something to be desired. It's just a little too mundane to be interesting, even with Moore's repeated flareups. Too much time is spent building up Moore's illness without giving us a propper climatic moment. In other words, the viewer's patience in the beginning is never rewarded. The very end of the film will suffice for some viewers, but though I was touched by the ending, I still turned off the film wanting more.
We do see in "Safe" a directorial vision that will later be reshaped into such wonderful films as "The Velvet Goldmine" and "Far From Heaven." The film has wonderful energy, It just simply never catches its breath.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Wise Up to the Beauty of Magnolia
Five minutes into this film, I was intrigued. A half an hour later, I was obsessed. By the time Magnolia had finished, I was a part of it. Not many movies can draw a viewer in the way Magnolia does. How does director Paul Thomas Anderson do it?:
With rapid fire editing and frantic camera work. With stellar performances from today's best actors--Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Tom Cruise, and Melora Waters just to name a few. With a soundtrack crafted brilliantly by singer/songwriter Aimee Mann. With a plotline so intense and dialogue so revealing you feel as if you know each character intimately. With fearless plot twists that will drop your jaw. I guess what makes Magnolia so remarkable is that it is unapologetically unique in every way imaginable, yet it draws on the age old dramatic and cinematic tricks that will make it timeless.
The only criticism that I can think of is that the ending (which I will not reveal) could have been a bit less jarring. There also could have been a better resolution of the plot. But maybe (well, most likely) this is exactly what PT Anderson wants: an unresolved, bizarre conclusion.
See it! You'll either passionately love it or hate it. Either way, you will be impassioned.
Rating: 9 out of 10.
The Hours (2002)
Lost In Adaptation
Adapting a novel into a screenplay is a delicate task. In many ways, the mediums of film and writing transfer perfectly--certain writing styles perfectly capture the visual and auditory sensations replicated in film. Still, film lacks certain components often contained in the best writing. Writers can describe at length the thoughts and abstract ideas of a character without any imagery to accompany these internal monolgues. Writers also can make their stories lengthy, delving deeply into the internal struggles of a multitude of characters and uniting these struggles thematically. Case in point: the novel The Hours, adapted into an award-winning film just last year.
The cast is perfect: Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, and Nicole Kidman play the three focal characters in the film, all with delicate precision, and why not? These three actors are probably the best in the business. Furthermore, the supporting cast, which includes Toni Collette, John C. Reilly, Allison Janney, and Ed Harris, is also outstanding. The directing by Stephen Daldry (formerly of Billy Elliott) is gorgeously stylized to accentuate details normally neglected in film, but elaborated upon in writing. Add to the mix Phillip Glass' lovely score, and you have the perfect circumstances for an incredible film, right?
Unfortunately, there's one element that missed the mark--the screenplay. One does not have to read the novel to realize that something is missing. Characters' motivations are unclear, and there are so many characters that we often lose track of what is happening to which character. It doesn't help, either, that there is so much cutting from one story to another, that each story loses it's momentum before it even has any. It seems that voice-over narration may have repaired this, and maybe a longer film. A comparable structure can be found in Paul Thomas Anderson's eccentric second film, Magnolia, in which the lives of eight or nine characters are interconnected through random associations. This film is 191 minutes. If The Hours had the guts to go this long, maybe it would have done the novel justice.
This is not to say that the film is a waste of time. It contains some of the best dramatic performances of the year, as well as some beautiful cinematography. It will also leave you pondering over character motivations and other issues presented; however, be prepared for incomplete satisfaction if you plan on seeing it.
Rating: 7 out of 10
About Schmidt (2002)
Rewarding for the Discerning Viewer
Films which explore the everyday realities of the common person are often the most poignant cinematic experiences. Movies like American Beauty, for example, take average people and examine both the positive and negative aspects of their lives to reveal the humorous undertones of the mundane. About Schmidt does this very thing, perfectly extrapolating humor out of the struggles of one typical man.
We follow Warren Shmidt as he deals with several important life transitions (SPOILERS FOLLOW HERE) including retirement, loss of a spouse, and the marriage of his only daughter. It all sounds incredibly depressing, yet writer Alexander Payne (who wrote another wonderful dark comedy, Election) keeps discerning viewers chuckling (if not laughing hysterically) from start to finish. Second only to the film Adaptation, it is the best comedic screenplay of 2002.
The title character, Warren Schmidt, is played perfectly by the brilliant Jack Nicholson. If you are expecting to see the typical Nicholson character--wild-eyed, sharp-witted, handsomely dressed, and hysterically dramatic--you will be disappointed. This character is a departure for Nicholson in that he is mostly reserved (at least outwardly), often transparent in his manipulations, and unglamorous in every sense of the word. Still, despite Schmidt's many flaws, you find yourself liking him. He is the common man: cheap, dishonest, insensitive, ignorant...in other words, hilariously human.
Unfortunately, the fact that it explores everyday life--one of its most interesting features--is what diminishes its appeal. Many viewers used to flashy, over the top antics, will miss the subtleties of this film, turning it off long before the finish. DON'T! With a little patience and attention to detail, this film is easily one of the best of the year.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Road to Perdition (2002)
Beautiful to watch, frustrating to hear
Sam Mendes was hailed as the hottest new director after his debut film, American Beauty, wooed viewers and critics alike with its critical examination of post-modern life. It is only natural, then, that his second film, Road to Perdition, be examined more closely than the typical film.
Road to Perdition, though not nearly the triumph that American Beauty was, still reveals Mendes' talent as a director: the cinematography, music, and set design of the film all create an ambiance which perfectly parallels the film's dilemma about a boy whose father works for the local mob boss. The boy reminisces about his father, played by Tom Hanks, asking the question 'was he a decent man or a horrible man?' The answer lies somewhere in the middle, and we see this in Mendes' direction. There is both a nostalgic beauty AND darkness to the mood, created by lighting, setting and sound. These elements are not lacking.
What is lacking in the film is a thought-provoking and entertaining screenplay. The dialogue in the film is sparse and does not lend itself to many memorable moments. As a result, characters are underdeveloped and leaving the audience unfulfilled. Even Tom Hanks, one of our finest actors, struggled to breathe life into his cardboard character. Only the kids in this film have interesting dialogue to work with.
The combination of inspired directing and uninspired screenwriting produces a film beautiful to watch and dialogue frustrating to hear. When their's so much potential in a film, it's almost worse than if the film were no good at all. Yet, I would suggest it to great appreciators of film as an art. At the very least, you will get your money's worth taking in the sights.
Rating: 7 out of 10
A Mexican Delight!
It is said that Salma Hayek had dreamed of creating a film about the life of famed Mexican painter Frida Kahlo years prior to its inception. Hayek learned about the eccentric artist as a teenager, immediately intrigued by her painting only to discover an artist just as fascinating behind the art itself. Watching Frida, one discovers why Kahlo captured Hayek's attention so easily.
(SPOILERS FOLLOW HERE) Frida Kahlo lived a life of pain and pleasure, creation and destruction, joy and sadness. Temporarily paralyzed due to a buswreck at the age of seventeen, Kahlo was wounded for life, though she did regain her ability to walk. In spite of her injuries, she remained passionately active, painting while bedridden what would be some of her most famous works. Because of her art, she meets Diego Rivera, the most famous Mexican artist of the twentieth century, if not of all time. They marry and their relationship, though tumultuous and often unhealthy, is the life-blood of Frida's work. When Frida discovers Diego's infidelities with her sister, for example, Frida dramatically chops off her hair: the resulting painting is Frida, sitting in the middle of a room, hair scattered about the floor.
What lifts the film Frida above a typical TVesque biopic is, first and foremost, its honesty. We see not only the triumphs in Frida's life, but also the tribulations and character flaws. It also does an excellent job of balancing the life of the artist with the art itself: we are not overloaded with the technicalities of her painting, nor do we feel the work has been overshadowed by the lifestory. The fact of the matter is that Frida's life is contained in her work, making it easy to subtly incorporate the paintings into the film. With the art in mind, the director elegantly brings Frida's exotic style into the film's artistic elements, using vibrant sets, costumes, music (!), and cinematography. For those who love Mexico, it is especially a treat to watch.
The film's performances are equally as inspired as the story: Salma Hayek is obviously passionate, yet is careful not to overact. Alfred Molina is also subtle in his role as Diego Rivera. Both realize the delicate nature of their tasks, acting out the lives of beloved artists. They easily exceed all expectations.
Possibly the only element that could have been slightly improved is the screenplay. There are several moments where the dialogue could have been changed for the better. Still, for the most part, the film is excellent: a must-see for art-buffs and beginners alike!
Rating: 8 out of 10
Just Married (2003)
Worst Movie I've Seen This Year
"Just Married" sounds pleasant enough...definitely not an Oscar caliber film, but something silly enough to allow you to mindlessly slip away from reality. Unfortunately, I found myself so frustrated with the pathetic script, mediocre acting, and lame slap-stick humor I couldn't even begin to let myself enjoy it.
First thing's first, the script. There's hardly a single line in the film that will get you chuckling, much less laughing heartily. As a result, the director relies on non-verbal means to keep the audience distracted, usually in the form of slap-stick humor. The opening scene, in fact, is Kutcher's and Murphy's characters trying to one-up eachother in an angry prank match that ends with Murphy drenched in hot coffee and Kutcher with a wod of gum in his hair. Really, it's much stupider than it sounds (and it sounds pretty stupid, wouldn't you agree?).
With the script failing, and the slap-stick unable to make up for it, we now look to the fresh young faces of Brittany Murphy and Ashton Kutcher to save us from a boring hour and a half. And no doubt, these actors give it their all, investing themselves in every scene, yet their talents are too few to save this crumbling piece of cinema, leaving you with a sinking feeling within the first half-hour.
So, why rent this film? Really, there isn't a good reason. Many directors have played with the same scenario more successfully: "The Out-of-Towners", for example, is the same concept of a couple taking the trip from hell and surviving. Even Chevy Chase's Vacation movies beat this pathetic effort. The only reason to watch "Just Married" is to savor the sight of its young stars, but a cheaper solution is available: reruns of That 70s Show and renting "Clueless" will do this trick.
Summary: Skip it! 3 out 10.
Even Better Than The Original
Well-written, superbly acted, beautifully photographed, Christopher Nolan's Insomnia is definitely the best release of 2002 so far! And for those of you who are afraid to watch because you've seen the original, I promise you will not be disappointed.
The screenwriter made appropriate changes to the script that really improved the film. The dialogue could have been simplistic, but instead was natural and sophisticated. Most invited were the addition of several unpredictable plot twists as well as an improved ending.
Pacino, Williams, and Swank all deliver incredible performances. Pacino especially, who portrays the conflicted detective so perfectly. The cinematography only enhances the emotion of the performance by allowing you inside his head, which compliments the nature of the film.
Not only a crime mystery, but a psychologically-charged drama, this film is a must see.
Der Krieger und die Kaiserin (2000)
Though Gorgeous, "Princess" Requires Stream-Lining
How unfortunate that such a beautiful movie has to be so incredibly slow! There were so many amazing shots in this film, as well as vivid use of color throughout. Many frames would serve as amazing pieces of photography.
Yet, the entire film dragged; sub-plots were distracting, background information became foreground, and secondary characters evolved into main characters. All this cluttered about the plot-line, making the story improbable and uninteresting, and the sparse dialogue did not help either. The writer/director, Tom Tykwer, obviously has a knack for the visual. The most energetic moments of the film engage the viewer. But when characters are forced to relate on a verbal level, the scenes are excrutiatingly drawn out. It's not so much that the dialogue is poor--in many moments, it touches you, especially Sissi's narration during the pivotal scene--but that the timing of the dialogue is too slow.
My suggestion to Tykwer: stream-line this film!