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So Bad It's...Still Very Bad
This gets 2 stars instead of 1 because the production values were surprisingly good for such an otherwise poorly made movie. Terrible dialogue and plotting, and a story that...well, you just wonder why anyone put the amount of money into this movie it obviously took to produce it.
Several named actors (Dan Hedeya, Ron Pearlman, Edward Herman) try manfully in their scenes to make the wordy dialogue work, as does a then little known Naomi Watts. I'd say I feel sorry for Ms. Watts, having to take roles like this while her best friend (Nicole Kidman) is doing Moulin Rouge! and other top films, but fortunately Naomi more than landed on her feet a year later with Mulholland Dr., which made her a star. We all have to pay our dues, I guess - this was part of Watts', and even Kidman had BMX Bandits in her past...
Two Moon Junction (1988)
4 Stars is too low for this surprisingly strong film. Yes, it's a Zalman King movie, but it was among his first and unlike probably everything else he did since, was a very good movie. It has a good, tight story and some very strong performances from its leads, especially Richard Tyson (who really should have become a big star but just never quite did for some reason).
I still believe that it is among the sexiest movies ever made, and that is not possible if you do not care about the characters or are drawn into their passion. Most movies of this type fail to engage the viewer in the story and so the passion and sexuality suffer, but that is not the case here. One doesn't need to watch this movie as an excuse for some cheap titillation, it also delivers as an enjoyable film as well.
Worse than my five days suffering a kidney stone.
Understand that I am a fan of avant-garde cinema. I have seen quite a lot of it - some very good, some very bad - but no film I have ever seen (avant-garde or otherwise) has ever been more excruciating to me than "Wavelength." Like the title of my post says, I know what excruciating means intimately and I do believe I'd rather suffer another five days with a kidney stone like I did a few years ago, than be forced to sit through this film for a third time (in film school I was forced to watch it twice for different teachers).
Stick to Maya Deren or Stan Brakhage or Bunuel or anybody to satisfy your avant-garde tastes. Experimenting with "Wavelength" might not be worth the pain.
Slings and Arrows (2003)
I've seen the whole first season and just watched the 1st episode of the 2nd. It's a shame Rachel McAdams won't be in the rest of this season (I don't think) but it was very good of her to come back and finish off her character arc even though her career has been blossoming so much. It's on par with any of the best HBO shows (and Showtime, now that they've hit their stride with the excellent shows "Weeds" and "Sleeper Cell"). As someone who's worked in film and who has been around a lot of actors, it really hits that world just right. I watched the 1st season a second time through with a friend who spent years in theater and he loved it at least as much as I did. But I don't think you have to have been in that world to appreciate it. For those who aren't in theater or film I think it's a good window into certain truths about the madness of that world. It's also just plain very funny and very, very well made.
Inside Man (2006)
Excellent movie, among Lee's best in many ways.
It was promoted as a straight-forward, slick-as-can-be bank heist movie in the trailers (and it is that) but it also ranges over themes that are much more serious and very unexpected. Even though I knew there was "more to this one" from vague comments I'd heard in the press, opening paragraphs of reviews I avoided reading, etc., I still didn't expect where it was going at all. The script is tighter than a drum and motivations of all major characters are both deep and well drawn and thus always believable. As an excercise in scripting, it's really one of the more remarkable pieces I've watched or read in a long time. Lee is easily up to the task and manages to make the movie both the slick, clever and exciting heist thriller you were hoping for as well as a movie with real depth and heart far beyond what would normally be expected from the genre. The movie doesn't look very much like a typical Spike Lee movie, though there are the occasional graces that remind you of who is calling the shots. Every actor in the film hits the perfect note for their roles, even the minor players who have few lines and brief scenes. One of my favorite small roles is a construction worker who briefly helps the cops with some information they need that could be key to helping deal with the robbers (this isn't a spoiler). Just how the guy swaggers over to the cops' mobile command vehicle was so perfectly pitched, so true to life as that of a proud New York working-man, I knew instantly who this guy was because I'd met him a hundred times on the streets here. It's that kind of attention to detail that helps make this story really live on the screen. It's an incredibly impressive movie.
Men of War (1994)
Surprisingly well made
Like many, I'm sure, I expected this to be cheesy junk when it came on cable late one night many years ago. I was probably reading or simply bored so I didn't bother to turn it off. After about a half an hour I realized I was watching a movie that was not only surprisingly well written (I didn't realize then that it was scripted by John Sayles) but was also very well directed and edited. The movie holds up all the way through, with some interesting twists along the way. I'm a film buff, I don't usually go in for dumb action movies, but this one really caught my eye (and that was before I even knew who wrote the thing). Probably the only Dolph Lundgren movie I can say with pride that I enjoyed.
Ocean's Twelve (2004)
Soderbergh Has the Best Eye in Hollywood
I loved this movie, I thought it was far superior to the first in most ways. Where the first was just a fun heist movie with some fun characters and situations, this movie is one of the most technically perfect, well directed, beautifully shot movies I have seen in many years. I came out of the theater with a friend who is a cinematographer and we were both gob-smacked by what we had just seen. Even the obligatory airplane landing establishing/transition shot to connect the action in the U.S. to Europe isn't spared from Soderberg's innovative hands. The camera is directly under the path of the plane and as it passes overhead, we tilt over, and over and over and follow the plane until the camera POV is upside down as the plane comes in for it's landing. The concept isn't all that exciting, but the vibrance and energy little moments like that adds a great deal to the experience. The entire film seems to have been shot hand-held - not steady-cam, which can look too smooth for my tastes, but with an old-fashioned, over the shoulder camera rig. The camera doesn't do that "modern" (but actually outdated) shaky style that tries (and usually fails) to mimic a documentary feel. The camera is held as steady and is possible by the operators, but the natural, almost imperceptible slight movements the camera makes made the proceedings seem more immediate, a tad more frenetic and overall, more dynamic to watch. The photography is always beautiful and the choice of music throughout is dead-on. Again, all the performances are top notch, my only real complaint is that several of the characters seemed to have very little to do this time around. (Bernie Mac, most notably, who spends about 1/2 the movie in a prison cell - I want more Bernie!) But those are minor quibbles for what is over all a vastly superior movie to the first - this one is actually a work of art.