Reviews written by registered user
|37 reviews in total|
A kind of psychological mystery that tends toward the thriller genre
that is a also finely-tuned character study that features a brilliant
performance from its leading lady and--most tellingly of
all--approaches how we live now and the events of 9/11/01 with an
original perspective that makes that day frightening again in a whole
new manner (and that's a mere portion of what you'll get), SORRY,
HATERS is so shocking in so many surprising ways that I haven't stopped
thinking about it for several days. It succeeds as entertainment,
provocation and mind-expander, and seems to grow more powerful and
mysterious the more I consider it.
Robin Wright Penn, who has helped improve movie after movie from "The Princess Bride" through "Forest Gump," "White Oleander" and "Nine Lives," reaches a new plateau here: that of taking absolute ownership of a film. She manages this despite the very fine work of the rest of the cast, which includes Sandra Oh, Josh Hamilton, Elodie Bouchez and an especially rich and beautiful performance from leading man Abdel Kechiche (who is himself writer/director of the 2005 Cesar-winning French film "L'Esquive"). The writer/director of "Sorry Haters" is Jeff Stanzler, who made the interesting "Jumpin' at the Boneyard" back in 1992, and two short films since. That this 2005 piece didn't put Stanzler on the map of big-time movie makers will remain as mysterious to me as does his movie.
I will say no more about the film, except that you might, at its conclusion, want to turn to the Special Features and watch the round-table discussion between a group that includes Tim Robbins, Mary Louise Parker and Julian Schnabel, all of whom seem as blown away by the film as was I. Certainly, for all of us, Muslims in America and a sweet phrase like "I want to give you something my parents gave me" may now resonate in quite a different manner.
If you want to spend around 45 minutes with a photographer and his male
nude subjects, you could do a lot worse than LIMITES (you could rent or
buy the ludicrous "Private Diary," for instance). The best part of the
film is the beginning, as photographer Carlos Quiroz shoots his model
Daniel, and we see how they work together (Quiroz asks, Daniel
delivers), the gorgeous contours of the model's body and even the
beginning of a rather studly erection.
Nothing else in the film ever quite achieves this level of beauty, art and, if you will, mild pornography. Other models are indeed attractive, Quiroz occasionally spills some beans about how he works and thinks, and there is some interesting narration that addresses art, pornography and one's idea of these. As directed by Jose Torrealba, even at its short length, the movie seems a bit padded and repetitive, but for those inclined there is plenty engage the eye and a little to alert the mind.
EXILES is a Tony Gatlif fantasy, complete with lots of music and dance,
of what it might be like for a young French couple of Algerian roots,
to hitch their way from France back to Algeria (for most, these days,
it's the other way 'round). The two seem not to have much or any money,
but then they do, but then they don't. They occasionally work to pay
their way (with a rather laissez-faire attitude, I must say), screw
(not always with each other), and have beaucoup psychological problems.
For a couple who carries no baggage, there is way too much emotional
baggage here. That's usually the mark of a young filmmaker, but as Mr.
Gatlif is nearing 60, I guess we'll have to chalk it up to something
I call his film a fantasy because, try as I did to believe these characters and their situation, I couldn't. Or, if they ARE believable, then they are also sometimes simply too stupid to be endured: the couple sneaks aboard a ship without knowing where it's going; they haven't bothered to bone up on Algeria enough to know that certain of its borders have been closed for several years; worst of all, they have no clue that women in Muslim/Arab countries are expected to cover themselves (the year here is 2004, well past 9/11/01, and these are Frenchies, for Christ's sake: If they are not used to Algerians, who the hell IS?). On the plus side we have a lot of color, music and dance, nice cinematography (dig that succulent orange near the finale) and the gorgeous Romain Duris (most recently of "Russian Dolls" and "The Beat My Heart Skipped"). Mr. Duris, hirsute and slender, appears fully nude, front and back, in a rather lengthy shot at the film's beginning; this may be more than enough to induce some viewers to stick around. Did I mention that the film deals in fantasy?
Here's another rich and wonderful piece of movie-making from the
Powell/Pressburger team--as well as a lovely little time capsule of
WWII Britain: the land girls, small town England, and what real
patriotism is all about (unlike the sleazy variety much of America and
some of Britain are currently experiencing). Made in 1944, while the
war still raged, A CANTERBURY TALE is a discovery as good as anything
I've seen from this amazing film-making team. Beginning with a lovely
link to Chaucer's tales, it uses a marvelous quick cut between like
objects that may remind you of something Stanley Kubrick is now
heralded for doing (nearly a quarter-century later!), it then moves
ahead to tell the story of four people whose paths cross to a purpose.
Full of quiet surprise and a lead character (Colpeper) who is enormously problematic, the film makes you look, listen, think and feel intently. (For me, cinema can't provide much more.) As the movie seems to meander along, it is actually picking up an enormous head of steam which will--at the end--let loose a blast of patriotism, pride, beauty, sound, architecture and spirituality. Regarding the latter, I do not refer to the fact that the finale is set in a cathedral--as beautiful and symbolic as this one may be. This film rises above any stricture of creed because of the honest humanism of its creators.
This is a "war film," as it appears from the view of civilians who remain at home. Among other things, it shows that, while a civilian population in wartime must give up a great deal, the rewards can be commensurate. (Concerning Iraq, this is something Americans at home have not yet begun to learn or do.) This astonishing film stands, after more than sixty years, as one of those rewards.
Gross and ugly does not begin to describe the wretched FEED. If it took
itself at all seriously, or had decided to play it "camp," or simply
attempted to provide decent thrills and chills, we might forgive it its
nastiness and vomit-inducing swill. I rented it because it supposedly
starred Australian actor Jack Thompson, a long-time favorite of mine
who, it turns out, has almost no role in the movie. (His son Patrick
plays the co-lead, along with Alex O'Loughlin, who, as a blond, looks
an awfully lot like Owen Wilson, without the noticeable nose.)
The movie begins as though it might hold together, but slowly comes apart until, toward the end, director Brett Leonard ("Lawnmower Man," "Virtuosity") leaves logic adrift entirely and has his hero (and us) lamely rolling around in body parts and fluids. For sheer stupidity, nothing equals the moments (several of them) when hero and villain could easily kill or at least maim each other, but simply don't. So, of course, the movie can continue on its vile way for another half hour. The questions supposedly raised here about our consumer culture and over-eating are red herrings, plot-wise, and neither pertinent nor intelligent enough to qualify as "intellect."
Yes, unhealthily fat women (and the men who go for them) exist in life and online, but this film--which equals "Hostel" and "Wolf Creek" in sheer ugliness while possessing about one-tenth the movie-making smarts of both put together--has no reason to be.
ELECTRIC SHADOWS is such a little treasure that I want to plug it in to
every film lover I know. The comparison to Italy's "Cinema Paradiso" is
apt in the most important way because it's all about how movies enrich
the life of a child. In other ways, the film is so vastly different
from writer/director Giuseppi Tornatore's lovely work, which is
quintessentially Italian: big with emotions, architecture, color,
performance, length and budget. In this short and seemingly simple
Chinese film, lack is everywhere, from the missing father to the lives
these characters lead: where they live and work, what they have to eat
and how they get around (the bus in which sister escorts her baby
brother is a perfect case in point).
Yet thanks to a style that is warm, honest, rich and--especially--gentle, a story full of quite awful happenings is told in such a way that whatever director/co-writer Jiang Xiao offers us, including some pretty heavy coincidence, we gratefully accept because all of it works beautifully toward her goal of celebrating film, family and friendship. Her achievement is all the more surprising because the movie--her first, and filmed, it would appear, on an awfully small budget--starts out simply and charmingly then quietly builds until it reaches a conclusion that ties everything together without a whiff of heavy-handed melodrama or overkill. In the Special Features, the director explains her purpose, how she came to film-making, and her hope to do something worthy for the major anniversary of Chinese film. I can't imagine a better gift to the country, its growing film industry, or the widening world of international film lovers. Enjoy!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
TSOTSI's biggest problem--the movie's and the title character's--is a
baby. This tiny (from the looks of him) month-or-two-old infant must
serve as the film's raison d'etre, its heavy-duty symbol, the cause of
our hero's redemption and a whole bunch more. This is quite a load for
any month-old to undertake, particularly when it appears that no one
connected with the writing or direction of last year's Best Foreign
Film winner has a nodding acquaintance with what nearly-newborns might
be like. They need constant attention and cry a lot. This one cries a
little, and that's pretty much it--even after being left alone for
hours, during which he is covered by some very large ants. Well, the
filmmakers need this baby to make their point, damn it all, so that's
how it's going to be. Do you feel manipulated yet?
If you steel yourself and take the ride, you will encounter some fine performances, especially from the lead actor, Presley Chweneyagae. I must admit to being very moved by his ultimate action. For the first time in this unfortunately just-not-good-enough film, (spoiler ahead) the character gives up and gives in, and the "release" we feel is extraordinary. If only more rigor and less sentiment had preceded this fine, final moment. The movie was adapted from a novel by famed South African playwright and author Athol Fugard. Dare we imagine that the book was better? I do wonder what happens to this young man. Does he negotiate prison intact? Will the young mother with whom he earlier placed the baby come visit him in jail? What? Am I asking for a "Tsotsi Two"? Maybe. And it just might make the better film.
One of the great humanist documentaries, Marc Levin's PROTOCOLS OF ZION
explores anti-Semitism today in a manner that is fresh, exhilarating,
challenging, moving, funny and tragic. (The best thing about this film
is that you could substitute anti-Arab, anti-gay, anti-any minority as
its subject matter, and--handled in the way Levin does it--the film
would be equally effective.) It is certainly the best--the absolute
best--thing I have seen about 9/11, and it's up there with the best
about the Holocaust, the Israeli/Palestine conflict, Muslims, family,
Mel Gibson's The Passion of You-Know-Who and lots more.
Levin leaps around like a Mexican jumping bean on a game board yet manages to keep hitting his nails on their head. He listens to people, rarely intervening, and eventually, what everyone says and believes and explains comes together into a crazy quilt of hatred and love and ideas both nonsensical and understandable. One minute you will find yourself despising all these stupid, crazy, hopeless people. But eventually and probably you will recognize them--and yourself--as part of that inexpressively sad species so loved, every last one, by all the great humanists (Jesus, for instance). Loved too, I believe, by Mr. Levin. (This review, by the way, is coming from a dyed-in-the-wool atheist.) See this wonderful film ASAP and then watch Levin's thoughtful and intelligent Q&A on the Special Features section of the DVD.
A surprise that keeps on surprising, MAIL ORDER WIFE is quite the nasty little movie, skewering the American male as few other films have managed. Taking the form of a documentary that is actually a mockumentary, it then goes one more step to land in a kind of movie-making void that's as bizarre as it is bracing. You think it's one thing, then it morphs, then morphs again--beginning with the sweetest, most humble bride (a delicious Eugenia Yuan) and finally offering up Jose Canseco and a last-minute paean to--yup--sports. If you've read the netflix or blockbuster description of this film, you probably already know too much. So just pop the DVD into your machine, sit back and fall down the rabbit hole into a very modern-day, male-flogging "Love, American Style." Whew!
One of the many happy lessons taught by THE MATADOR: don't write off a
writer/director after a few less-than-gratifying films. Richard Shepard
has had a career of making some small, nicely-cast movies that almost
worked ("Oxygen") or didn't come close ("Mexico City") plus a lot of
TV. Now, with this almost shockingly good, bizarre buddy movie, he
(together with his ace cast) just about wipes the floor with most of
2005's film crop--indie or mainstream. The set-up is as improbable yet
believable as you could want, due to the great chemistry between Pierce
Brosnan and Gregg Kinnear. (We've long know the latter as a
chameleon-like actor, infinitely better than his initial pretty-boy
image indicated), but Brosnan--always acceptable and sometimes much
more--is a revelation.) Hope Davis completes the trio with her splendid
portrayal of "the perfect wife."
The most interesting thing about "The Matador" is that, yes, it's amoral and disturbing, but because it deals with friendship, death and the possibility of change and growth, it offers much more than your typical black comedy. It's dark, hugely funny, sometimes sad and consistently surprising. That's already better than most of what we see, but in terms of film-making technique and talent, the movie reaches ever farther. From first shot--no, first sound--to last shot (beautifully composed and partially seen in a side-view mirror), it's full of the kind of exactitude seldom encountered. The long scene at the bar as the two men start to bond is so rich in everything from need to paranoia that I should think most writers, directors and actors will sit transfixed (and maybe green with envy). Best of all, for those of us who too often think in black-and-white terms, this movie provides a healthy journey into the gray.
|Page 1 of 4:||   |