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Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Very good, thought-provoking film
There were a few small decisions I would have made differently than Ben Affleck, but the film is extremely well-done, and I was very impressed.
This adaptation of a Dennis Lehane novel is almost as good as Mystic River, an excellent film, properly recognized at Oscar time.
Casey Affleck looks quite young, but the point of his age is brought up in the script, so at least it was addressed. Not having read the novel, I don't know if this followed Lehane's work.
The plot is complex, dealing with law and order and differing approaches to same. It seems to come to an early conclusion, only to go on to further complexities. A friend with whom I saw and discussed the film differed from me in her opinion on whether the proper decision was made in the end.
Gone, Baby, Gone is highly recommended for its performances, particularly that of Amy Madigan, and for its overall quality. I sincerely hope the Academy recognizes the outstanding work of Ms Madigan.
Blockbuster sent me the wrong version
The one I requested was the BBC production starring Anthony Hopkins in the title role and Bob Hoskins as Iago. Instead this was delivered. At least this Othello is played by a man of color and I appreciate his work. The sound was terrible, at least on the disk I was sent, so the overall effect was considerably diminished. I would prefer to not make uncomplimentary remarks regarding the rest of the cast, but Ron Moody did better work in the film Oliver. To anyone who wants to see a superior production I would suggest the Hopkins/Hoskins version. Anthony Hopkins is certainly not the first white man to play the jealous Moor, but he is the best one I have seen by far.
The Da Vinci Code (2006)
This is a very good film. Why all the fuss?
Ron Howard did a very good job. Seems it would have been hard not to, given the source material. Since it wasn't that long since I read the book, there really wasn't much in the way of suspense for me, but I did appreciate the way the film was put together, particularly the method Howard used for illustrating scenes of the past. The actors all do well. It was interesting to see Jean Reno's statement that the author had him in mind for the role of the French policeman, because when I was reading the book, Reno seemed the obvious choice. Now to the religious nonsense. The book is a work of fiction, the film is a work of fiction. If the idea that Jesus had a family bothers you -- try not to think about it. Don't read the book. Don't see the film. If you still feel bad, lie down quietly with a cool cloth over your eyes. For people free of that hang-up, though, I recommend The DaVinci Code as a good film well worth watching.
Connie and Carla (2004)
Entertaining and charming
Ok, we've seen it before, in such films as Some Like it Hot, Victor/Victoria, Tootsie... well, the list goes on. There are also striking similarities to The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, both of which are well worth watching. But don't let that stand in the way of your enjoyment of Connie and Carla. The two leads are certainly capable of carrying the film and are easily more convincing than Julie Andrews was (not that I don't admire your work, Ms Andrews!) in the same situation. Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette have a lot of talent between them. Personally I favor Toni Collette, particularly as Muriel's Wedding is one of my favorite films of the last twenty or so years. Connie and Carla is a light comedy with some enjoyable musical numbers. It's not high art but it is fun to watch and has something to say along the way. By the way, of the similar titles listed in the first sentence, I think Tootsie did the best job of presenting a really convincing gender switch. Tootsie is often under-rated and truly a modern-day classic.
(written February 2004) If Charlize Theron does not get the Oscar for Best Actress, it will be the biggest crime in the history of the Academy. Theron is simply incredible playing Aileen Wuornos, a real-life serial killer. The direction is cut-to-the-bone simple, but powerfully affecting and the story is all the sadder because it is true. This is a film that will not soon be forgotten.
The Station Agent (2003)
Best film of 2003
This is an amazing film -- it has humor, intelligence and emotion. With a minimum of dialog, it conveys a great deal of wisdom regarding the human condition.
Peter Dinklage excels as a train enthusiast who thinks a move to the small train depot he inherits may afford him the peace and quiet he craves. As a result of his dwarfism, he has been on the receiving end of too much cruelty, sometimes thoughtless but all too often intentional, so all he wants is to be left alone. Once ensconced in the depot, however, he meets a few people (most notably an artist played by Patricia Clarkson) who bring to his life all the complications involved in relationships. And that's what this film is all about: we are all fallible individuals, but ultimately we need each other.
High marks to Thomas McCarthy for directing and writing this treasure. The only thing I don't understand is why it was assigned an "R" rating.
Nicholas Nickleby (2002)
Lovely film, well worth watching
As a great fan of Dickens, I am very pleased with this version of Nicholas Nickleby. It was beautifully done, from the excellent acting (with the exception of the lead) to the skillful condensation of the book's lengthy plot.
Particularly worth mentioning were several superb actors in smallish but essential parts. Timothy Spall (a great favorite of mine), Jim Broadbent and Kevin McKidd, who performed together previously in the under-noticed Topsy-Turvy (1999) were very good here as well. Juliet Stevenson, who carried Truly Madly Deeply (1991) so marvelously was delightfully despicable as the odious Mrs. Squeers. Best of an outstanding ensemble cast was Jamie Bell who gave a deeply affecting performance as Smike, although the character was written a tad less feeble-minded than usual.
The spirit and tone of the novel were faithfully captured here and I believe Mr. Dickens himself would have been pleased with this production.
Far from Heaven (2002)
Interesting but hardly best picture of the year
If it wasn't for the awards this film has been nominated for and received, I would not have gone to see it. Frankly I could have waited and seen it on cable. It is very interesting and succeeds admirably as a period piece (more on this later) but aside from the excellent acting by the adult cast, it did not leave that much of an impression. Yes, people had difficult situations to deal with and mistakes were made, but it didn't take Todd Haynes to tell me that discrimination against persons of color is wrong and that gay people are who they are and do not benefit from shaming and/or `curing.' Perhaps this was aimed at viewers who need to hear the message again. The problem is that those who most need to hear it are not likely to be in the audience.
As mentioned previously, the acting is top notch, at least by the adults. Lindsay Andretta is pretty good as the daughter, but I think the part of the son could have been done a little better. Also, there is an anomaly in imdb's listing, unless the part was played by someone like Joe C. The actor seems to be a boy of no more than 12, but imdb lists him as having played a sound engineer in the 1988 film Madame Sousatzka, two years before he was born, by my estimation.
My initial reaction to Far from Heaven was a burning desire to know how accurately the film depicted the late 50s. There were some senior citizens in front of me in the theater and I made so bold as to ask their opinion. Their consensus was that it was quite accurate, with the exception of the long, full skirts that Julianne Moore wears throughout the film. One woman volunteered the information that she had respected the few people she knew at that time who were brave enough to sustain an inter-racial relationship in the face of such adversity. The only people she knew in that category were high in academic (read liberal) circles. My mother has not seen the film, but confirmed the tendencies toward propriety, formality and slower patterns of speech, as seen in the film.
Overall, Far from Heaven is a good film, deserving of some attention, but so far, my choice of best picture of 2002 is White Oleander. Best actress (or at least a nominee) should come from that picture as well.
Maid in Manhattan (2002)
Exactly what I expected, with the bonus of Bob Hoskins
The surprising thing is that Wayne Wang directed this; the unsurprising thing is that it's from a John Hughes story. Also unsurprising is pretty much everything in the movie, with the sole exception of Bob Hoskins. It was impossible to miss the fact that J'Lo and Ralph Fiennes were the leads in this Cinderella-type romantic comedy, but none of the previews I saw indicated the involvement of Hoskins, an excellent actor, too often overlooked.
Lopez and Fiennes are attractive and competent and both are able to carry this off well enough. The supporting cast is spotty, though. Hoskins shines the brightest -- I'd really like to see him lead some more films. His Iago in the BBC production of Othello, co-starring with Anthony Hopkins was phenomenal. Stanley Tucci is very good but the rest of the cast varies from good to weak.
Maid in Manhattan is enjoyable enough as long as you don't expect anything more than a by-the-book fairy tale romance without a shred of originality.
3000 Miles to Graceland (2001)
It's bad, but the cast is good
There have been a few caper films that were good, but not many. This one is not good at all. Not one of the characters remotely resembles a decent human being and I didn't care about any of them. The film is not pleasant to watch and the only redeeming factor was the cast, which is pretty good.
Not recommended. I gave it a rating of 2. It would have been 1, except for Kurt Russell.