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Were the World Mine (2008)
If Only There Were More
Damn, I wanted to love this movie and I did. Well, parts of it. It's based on a short film called "Fairies" by Tom Gustafson, and starring some of the same actors. I think some positive feedback for that 24 minute movie, encouraged Gustafson & Co. to go back and expand it to a full-length production. Too bad. It WANTS so badly to be a musical, but there aren't nearly enough songs to make it one. The Midsummer Night's Dream mash-up is quite wonderful, but the plot veers off into the ridiculous when it should have stayed in the charming and touching world in which it begins. I love Tanner Cohen's voice; he's the absolute star of this movie, but he's sinfully underutilized. The choreography is so bad I really shouldn't call it that. It's unlikely to happen, but I hope director/writer Tom Gustafson rewrites this one more time for live theatre. This belongs on the musical stage.
Mysterious Skin (2004)
Disturbing Subject=Brilliant Film
I just watched Mysterious Skin for the second time, the first being shortly after its release five years ago. I'd forgotten just how good this movie is; there's not a false note in it, and the acting, directing and script are superb. In my opinion, this is Gregg Araki's masterpiece, one that he'll be hard pressed to surpass. It's funny, but I almost passed on the film the first time because I only knew Joseph Gordon-Levitt from his role on "Third Rock From the Sun" and dismissed him as another washed-up child actor trying to make a come back. Stupid, stupid me! I've been following his career ever since BECAUSE of this movie and his role in it. Brady Corbet's performance is quietly stunning, a trembling counter-point to Levitt's super-swagger. Difficult to watch? You bet. Worth watching? Absolutely!
Smells Like A Great Movie
This movie is both something different and something special. That "something different" is the treatment of the serial killer; from the opening 15 minutes, where the society that produced him is so vividly depicted that I could barely watch, to his "apotheosis" at the end that defies the routine Hollywood treatment. The "something special" is Ben Wishaw's stunning performance. Often non-verbal, his appearance changing from handsome to grotesque and back again in the space of seconds, he dominates the character, the screen and, in the end, the audience. Has a psychopath ever been more ably portrayed by any actor? The movie is as beautiful as the subject is gruesome. The direction is as flawless as the story is horrifying. The visual interpretation of the sense of smell is, at times, as heady as the lavender in the fields.
Ever Since the World Ended (2001)
You may wish the world ended sooner.
This is an interesting experiment, but just an experiment,and in no way ready for prime time. What bothered me most(and there were a lot of things that bothered me) was the absolute failure of imagination. Here, Calum Grant, the writer of this "the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it" scenario, can't let go of the world that has just ended; the survivors (as he imagines them) carry on as if they are in some self-actualization collective. It is SO "west coast" that it becomes a laughable re-affirmation (and this crowd "re-affirms" every five seconds) of every San Francisco stereotype I've ever seen. They don't have to show the Golden Gate bridge, one knows after the first ten minutes of dialogue where this is set. I give credit, as I always do, to the people who had the determination (if not the talent)to get this project off the ground and finished. However, if these yappy, later-day hippies are all that's left of civilization I'd be tempted to shoot myself...no, wait...I'd shoot them first.
Snakes on a Plane (2006)
Far Too Much of a Very Bad Thing
There can be no "spoilers" for something like this: we know the ending before the opening credits, it's that trite. This movie is so bad in every way, so tediously predictable, so cheaply produced, that it beggars description. There are laughs to be had, few and unintentional, but there aren't enough to raise this to the level of camp. I see from the box office receipts that "Snakes on a Plane" has made millions of dollars and, to my everlasting shame, I've contributed a few of those dollars. To all involved with this movie, please don't take its enormous, undeserved, inexplicable success as encouragement to produce any more of its ilk. Instead, take the loot and run. Run far. Very far. Buy a gas station or a hamburger franchise but DON'T make another movie!
Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Miscast, Misguided, Mistaken!
This is by far one of the worst adaptations of any Jane Austen novel I've ever seen...and I've seen them all. Wait! The 1986 production of Northanger Abbey was worse and maybe the 1999 version of Mansfield Park. OK, so this is the third worst film adaptation of a Jane Austen novel I've ever seen. Miscast, misguided, and mistaken this is a film for people who have never and will never read the book, or have never and will never see the brilliant 1995 version staring Colin Firth. Don't go near it if you've done either, it will leave you gnashing your teeth over Keira Knightley's grinning idiot of a performance and Matthew Macfadyen's befuddled portrayal of Darcy.ARRGH!
Alexander Conquers Stone
It's impossible, at this late date, to review Alexander without first "reviewing the reviews". The storm of controversy, arising mostly from the United States with a supporting chorus from Greece itself , swirled around the sexuality of Alexander rather than the Oliver Stone movie. The reviews from the gay press condemned Stone for being too coy with Alexander's love life and the religious-right condemned him for being too explicit. Both are wrong. I declined to view the film in a theatre for the simple reason that I think we've forgotten how to make an historical epic and, in Oliver Stone's case, how to direct one. I don't think he knew what audience he was playing to: the largely a-historical audience to whom the film might as well have been about aliens, or to people familiar with both Alexander the Great AND Alexander the Myth. To the former, he provides mind-numbing detail and names, for which they have no use. To the latter, he reduces Alexander to a swaggering paper-cut out, dehumanizing him with pretentious dialogue that wouldn't have been out of place on a Victorian stage. He blinds both audiences with hopeless, amateurish editing and a musical score that would embarrass the cheesiest toga epic of the 1960's. Poor Colin Farrell, a fine actor, is left holding the reins of this runaway horse. I watched the "Director's Cut" version and it seemed to me that Oliver Stone, like the ancient world he tries to depict, was simply overwhelmed by Alexander the Great.
Ocean's Twelve (2004)
Let the Punishment Fit the Crime!
Watching this movie brings several words to mind: "sophomoric", "ridiculous", "improbable", "self-indulgent" and finally (and fatally), "boring". Badly directed, badly photographed and badly acted, the film is a confusing mess with plot lines (if one can call them that) veering in all directions. Someone may have used a five-year old's finger painting as a template. As punishment for this childish crime of a movie, this cast of "stars" should be spanked soundly and sent to their respective beds without dinner. . All in all, it seems like George needed an excuse to get together with his little buddies for a paid summer vacation and we're the suckers paying for it. Bad George! Bad!
Vanity Fair (2004)
If you've read the book, DON"T watch the movie! The director (Mira Nair) hasn't a clue on what she's dealing with, hasn't an idea of who Becky Sharp is supposed to be and doesn't understand the novel on which this mess is based. Reese Witherspoon is one of those resolutely modern-looking actors who looks out of place in a period piece but she can always fault her director for not for not giving her a clear idea of what she's supposed to be doing. The supporting cast is wonderful and wasted on this effort. The ending is a chickening-out of historic proportions: why film this in the first place if you didn't like the book? All Nair has done is ruin the chances of it being filmed again and, one hopes, better, for another twenty years.
A Bitter-Sweet Surprise
I rented "Sugar" with some trepidation; all I needed was another low budget "seedy-side-oflife-coming -of age-damn-he's-dead" story. I was surprised, no, I was elated to find otherwise. What makes this different from so many of this genre? Great acting, great writing, great directing. Wow, just like a real movie! This old story (young kid meets up with hustler and begins to sink to the bottom) has been told again and again and will be re-told again and again. There's something about archetypes here, some sort of shared mythology that just begs to be re-visited and re-explored. This movie is worth the visit. Brendan Fehr gives a masterful performance as the hustler and the late Andre Noble as the young explorer is wonderful. Some of the scenes are riveting, some endearing and one is unforgettable. I won't give more away, just rent this film and watch and learn