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|272 reviews in total|
What happens when a young director (Matthew Vaughan of "Layer Cake") films the adaptation of the work of a successful writer (Neil Gaiman), tosses in a narration by a "Lord of the Rings" alum (Ian McKellen), spins one tale of a dying king (Peter O'Toole), another of a literal fallen star (Claire Danes), a young hopeless romantic (Charlie Cox), a love triangle, a transvestite on a flying boat (Robert DeNiro), and a Shakespearean trio of witches (headed up by Michelle Pfieffer)? We get "Stardust", a disappointing, tiring piece of cinema that wants to be "The Princess Bride" for the modern era, but seems much too busy tossing in a dozen more plot points than the standard two hour film. It makes for a very taxing viewing and none of the innumerable sequences ever make it worth the effort.
Writer-director Kevin Smith made a name for himself in the independent
film world with his adult (NC-17 level) dialogue-heavy movie "Clerks"
in 1994. His follow-up walked within those same general footprints,
albeit with more funding, and became the mess that only fans could
stomach. His third movie, "Chasing Amy", was a surprisingly mature
departure, as he merged the profanity-laced humor of his first two
efforts with an unexpected emotional storyline.
"Chasing Amy" tells the story of a comic book writer, his best friend (the "tracer"), and the lesbian who threatens to come between them. In a matter of speaking it's a high concept romantic comedy with a lesbian tossed in for good measure. It's a hetero-male fantasy that plays out a scenario of a straight male getting a lesbian to fall for him. The improbability of the situation is broached again and again to comedic and emotional satisfaction. In a way, the film is more about relationships in general and the manners in which those in them try to change or "fix" the other. It's a great film written by an intelligent guy who thankfully doesn't only cow tow to the base needs of his core audience.
The curiously titled independent film "Ten Inch Hero" by director David
MacKay and screenwriter Betsy Morris follows a young woman (Elisabeth
Harnois) into a quirky sandwich shop upon relocating to small-town
California. The shop caters to and employs the abnormal, as is
specified early on. The ensemble film that ensues involves the young
artist Harnois portrays, an attractive nymphomaniac, a tattooed bad boy
cook, the quiet "homely" girl, and the hippy boss with a fascination
with a weird Wiccan woman.
The cast of characters feels a lot like the roster from John Hughes' "Breakfast Club" (brain, beauty, basket case, etc.) and the setting recalls the likes of James Mangold's "Heavy". The movie is not quite as derivative as this might presume, but where it fails is not in it's resemblance to other films. The main problem that hexes the piece is the inconsistence of tone as it crosscuts between the multiple story lines that open it up beyond the sandwich shop. There are comedic moments sporadically placed within out-of-place overly dramatic plot points. Although this is a competently made, if too-tidy, film it feels like its either not completely true to its romantic comedy vision or it's dramatic one.
By the time of the release of "The Simpsons Movie" in 2007, the
television show that bears its name had been on for nearly twenty
seasons and had practically become its own institution. "The Simpsons"
has become the gauge by which animated programs have become judged time
and time again. To a point the show has also changed the complexity and
number of situations available to the sit-com format, to say little of
what it has shown to be the limitless nature of branding and mass
marketing. It would nice to think that a big screen version of the show
would again cause waves within the industry.
Instead "The Simpsons Movie" is merely a bigger (widescreen, et al), longer version of the show. Compared to the bulk of the output of the show during the mid-2000's the movie has far more to offer than the show, including superior animation. The main storyline presents a post-"Inconvenient Truth" environmental story whereby the town of Springfield is at the brink of being an environmental disaster. Of course, the obese, bumbler, Homer, tips them over the edge, causing the Environmental Protection Agency to enclose the town with a huge dome, which creates havoc and mob rule. It's a good, topical plot line for the frequently liberal-minded show and one that does sustain the running time, but unfortunately it doesn't seem to have the repeat value of many of the shows best episodes.
From the film-making team of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (of "American Splendor" fame) comes a chick flick concept with a surprising twist. In the film Scarlett Johansonn stars as a disenchanted college graduate, who stumbles into a most unlikely situation. Due to coincidence and little more than Hugh Grant-like vocal stammering, she finds herself becoming a full-time nanny to the rich and miserable Laura Linney. From first glance the filmmakers seemed like a peculiar match for such pedestrian material, given their documentary background, but since it's structured around the guise of an anthropological study, it doesn't shy away from spot-on social commentary, the lead performances are strong, and the dialogue has some bite, "The Nanny Diaries" becomes a decent comedy from the "Devil Wears Prada" school.
"Dying for Dollars" is one of those ultra-low budget movies that are exceedingly flawed, but represent a bigger picture of the independent film sector of the industry, thus encouraging a vote of confidence in the 'good effort' department. This is not a very good movie, but it's so sporadically interesting and occasionally weird that the budgetary restraints noticeably did not keep the filmmakers from making something marginally watchable. Basically the story follows a family full of gamblers as they lose big and hope grandma dies soon so they can cash in. Or something like that, but there is some less focused plot line about the special needs adult cousin that insults the intelligence of all involved. Is this a dark comedy? It's not quite clear, because the tone is all over the map, and the over the top nature of the piece may or may not relate to the amateurish performances. The main filmmaker who handled the writing, directing, and camera duties has a surprisingly full resume here on IMDb, given the mostly freshman textbook shot list they must have working from and the aforementioned out of control acting. This is one of those festival circuit flicks that will never get much of an audience, and kind of doesn't deserve one, but it is a reminder that there are plenty of alternatives to the Cineplex good, bad, and the uncertain space in between that "Dying for Dollars" occupies.
"Confessions of an Italian American" is a short documentary by the filmmakers behind 2006's great little festival flick "Tale of Two Megans", which was a tight, inspired piece of film. Their new piece lacks either of those qualities. It's basically a home movie presented through the eyes of film school graduates. It opens with a jarring, almost irksome on-screen introduction by the director of the show, who then gives us sixteen minutes about his feisty, camera shy Italian American father. It's a competently assembled and presented film that feels quite hollow. Perhaps it represents a mere sketch of an idea for a longer movie, but as it stands the subject matter is far too close to the filmmakers hearts to have any real meat or much to say.
In 2007 Don Cheadle was sorely under-used in the Adam Sandler vehicle "Reign Over Me" and given a role meaty enough for him in "Talk to Me". Unfortunately the former is likely to be the one most people will get around to seeing. It's a shame, because even though the fact-based drama of "Talk to Me" rearranges history to send its message, it has a lot to say about persevering over adversity and speaking one's mind. Cheadle stars here as Petey Green, an ex-con who sweet talks his way into an on-air gig at an R&B station in 1966's Washington D.C. Seemingly the originator of speaking the truth of the streets to the masses, his story is one seeped in alcohol and pushing buttons to get his way. The socio-political undercurrents of the film that tell its story between 1966 and 1984 are the most interesting and emotionally satisfying. There's a certain retrospective nature to the film that often feels like it's never really set in period, but more a civics lesson about an era, which is not necessarily a bad thing and doesn't really detract from the well-meaning story being told.
It is a term that has a variety of meanings and its interpretation is subjective at best, whether in the possible context of the court of law or the virginal nature of a young woman.
Lucile Hadzihalilovic's feature film debut "Innocence" is based on the 1888 symbolist novella "Mine-Haha: The Corporal Education Of Young Girls" by Frank Wedekind, which she seems more than happy to leave open to interpretation like the title she's chosen.
The film has a fascinating lineage. Hadzihalilovic is married to Gaspar Noé whose uncomfortable and abrasive film "Irreversible" was shot by cinematographer Benoît Debie, whose on-board here. The objective perspective remains here, even to the point of a heavy use of unpopulated static shots representing places and images that strangely evoke tension within the context of montage.
This is a film lover's film all the way. The visual palette offers the feel of the best short films, the quiet sensibilities of pictures before dialogue storytelling is a reminder of the silent cinema, and the symbolic nature serves up what's best about the mainstream maligned "arthouse". It would almost do a disservice to the film to share much about plot or character, especially since much of the truth in that is up to the viewer. What can be said is that it takes place at what seems to be an all-girl's school, complete with the consistent dread and uncertainty of Peter Weir's masterpiece "Picnic at Hanging Rock".
The filmmakers are very assured in their craft, even to the point of the highly watchable five minute title sequence being little more than a murky visual and a limited sound design. If you pardon the semantics, "Innocence" might not be a very good movie, but its one hell of a film.
Adventurous Korean director Ki-Duk Kim has gotten a bad rap for his
so-called idiosyncratic film-making, which he delivers with an
impeccable visual sense, a twisted sense of humor, and provocative
allegory to spare. His fast paced productions and edgy material create
films that are rather unique works of filmic art that are clearly not
to most people's taste. It seems that many of his harshest critics are
surveying the trees and not the forest in his work, which misses the
His 2006 film "Time" is another journey into the human psyche. This time with the story of a young couple whose overall unstable relationship replete with jealousy issues and frequent quarreling drive the woman to resort to drastic measures. She abruptly disappears from the man's life and has plastic surgery to change her entire appearance. As the days and months go by the young man loses hope that his beloved will return to him.
This dark romantic, pseudo-science fiction, tale is at times captivating and unsettling and certain to be a satisfying date movie for intellectuals. It has plenty to say about the urge to change the one you love, the obsessive nature of passion, and the culture of youth and beauty. This is one great, great film!
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