Reviews written by registered user
|282 reviews in total|
GOZU (3 outta 5 stars) This is a typically extreme and bizarre visual feast from the mind of director Takashi Miike... marred only by the lack of any forward momentum of the storyline. One weird scene follows another until... they just ran out of ideas for weird scenes, I guess. Basically, the movie deals with a Yakuza gangster who is ordered to kill a colleague while on a road trip. The colleague dies by accident and, when the gangster stops in a small village to phone in his report, the corpse disappears from the front seat of the car. The movie is certainly not boring and a lot of fun to watch but if you are familiar with other Miike films you may find that this movie is nothing but a hodge-podge of elements from his more memorable movies. If you are a Miike novice and you enjoy this movie at all you will definitely be thrilled by his other works ("Audition", "Izo", "Ichi the Killer") but I don't really think this would be the best intro to his stylish oeuvre.
WHAT'S UP, DOC? (3+ outta 5 stars) A very funny homage to the classic screwball comedies of the '30s. This is a *true* homage... that is to say it's not merely a ripoff of a specific film but a distillation of the essential elements of the entire genre. Usually these attempts to copy a long-ago style are unbearably awful but director Peter Bogdanovich understands what made those movies work in the old days as well as what works for modern audiences (at least he did in 1972). Ryan O'Neal takes a lot of flack for being somewhat of a wooden actor... but when called upon to play a certain type of role he was extremely good. This is one of those times. He has to play the straight man while everyone else gets to overact wildly. To do this and not get totally lost amidst the lunacy is extremely hard to do. Also, to make fun of his famous role in "Love Story" in the final moments of this movie shows that he was a lot more grounded and self-aware than most '70s stars. Barbara Streisand plays her goofiest and probably her most likable character... basically a female Bugs Bunny... deflating the pompous and encouraging everyone to loosen up and have a good time. Lots of great slapstick gags, especially the chase finale. (My favorite moment is the guy who gets chased down a hilly street by a pair of rolling trash cans. My least favorite moment is when Madeline Khan is erroneously send to a seedy part of town and comes across a vicious beating... the tension seems a little too *real* for a lark of a movie such as this.)
SIDEWAYS (4 outta 5 stars) Excellent character study, comedy/drama about two lifelong friends who go off on a weeklong wine-tasting trip/bachelor party. Jack (Thomas Haden Church) is the groom-to-be and he desperately wants to have one last affair before he settles down to marriage. His best friend Miles just wants to hang with his friend and drink some wine and forget about his own disastrous romantic life. Jack and Miles meet a couple of female wine aficionados and the four of them seem to hit it off. They proceed to spend a great deal of time together... keeping the girls in the dark about Jack's impending marriage. Miles begins to develop some real feelings for his date (Virginia Madsen), feelings he hasn't had since his divorce... but how are his lies going to affect his chances for a meaningful relationship? All four lead actors are outstanding. the dialogue is very original and very funny at times. There is also a pervading aura of melancholy... as amusing as it all sounds on paper, Jack and Miles are very sad individuals and they have a lot of growing up to do before the movie reaches its conclusion.
IN THE CUT (1+ outta stars) Pretentious twaddle about a teacher (Meg Ryan) with a few odd sexual kinks who witnesses a man and woman having sex in the basement of a seedy neighborhood bar. She is questioned by a police detective (Mark Ruffalo) after the woman turns up dead in the alley behind her building. Ryan is strangely attracted to this cop... even after she realizes that the tattoo on his forearm is exactly the same as the one on the arm of the man she saw having sex with the dead girl. It's all supposed to be "edgy" and "raw" and "erotic" but it all just starts to seem silly after awhile. The plot is a terribly contrived compilation of practically every thriller cliché since the genre was invented. But, because it was written by a "literary" author (Susanna Moody wrote the novel on which the film is based) it is all supposed to be "deep" and "meaningful", I guess. Meg Ryan does a good job with a role about as far removed from her usual perky persona as it was possible to go. Mark Ruffalo seems to have patterned his role after Vincent D'Onofrio from Law and Order: Criminal Intent but doesn't have the same intensity... he's just obnoxious and it's anybody's guess why Ryan's character becomes infatuated with him. Jennifer Jason Leigh is totally wasted in the role of the best friend whose ultimate fate is ridiculously obvious from the get-go.
CODE 46 (2+ outta 5 stars) Nicely-done "star-crossed lovers" tale that takes place in a near-future where the widespread use of cloning has complicated matters of sex and marriage. To insure that two persons with the same genetic make-up don't procreate both potential mates need to be tested and if they are too close a match they are forbidden to have a sexual relationship. Also, this overpopulated world is heavily regulated as to who may travel where. ID cards known as "patels" allow people to travel from one city zone to another for a limited amount of time. People who live in between the zones have little or no hope of receiving one of these cards. Therefor there is a huge demand for fake "patels" on the black market. Tim Robbins plays a government agent whose job it is to track down the people producing fake "patels" using with the aid of a "virus" that virtually allows him to read minds. He discovers a quirky young girl (Samantha Morton) who has been handing out fake cards but decides not to turn her in. He has an affair with her instead and finds himself falling in love. The depiction of this future world is extremely well thought out (I especially like how the language has evolved into a multicultural mixture of English, Spanish, French, etc.) The storyline is intriguing but the movie does proceed at a very leisurely pace which may put some viewers off. Also, by the end, some details of the plot don't seem to be fully explained and the entire finale is a bit of a let-down. Still, the movie is worth a look for its ideas and the great work by the two leads.
A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT (3+ outta 5 stars) A more melancholy (dare I say, mature?) movie than earlier efforts from director Jean-Pierre Jeunet ("Amelie", "Delicatessen"). The storyline isn't quite as fanciful this time around, giving a harsher, more harrowing (but also romantic) account of the world. This visually stunning movie has a lot of memorable scenes. Unfortunately, I didn't find that the quiet climax fully satisfied me after the bombast and unabashed romanticism of the previous two hours. Jeunet is a stylist who never holds back his imagination and suddenly he is being... subtle? I still enjoyed the movie tremendously... even though the storyline can get a little murky at times, with all those French names and the dizzying chain of events to keep track of. A pair of young lovers are split up when the young Manech (Gaspard Ulliel)is sent off to fight during World War I. Through a misunderstanding he is ordered executed but there is some doubt as to whether he actually died or not. Mathilde (Audrey Tatou), his fiancée back home, knows that he is still alive and she does everything in her power to discover his true fate over the next three years.
BRIDGET JONES: THE EDGE OF REASON (1 outta 5 stars) You'd think that it would have occurred to the filmmakers at *some* point during production: hey, there's no story! All this movie is is a sad rehashing of practically every single scene from the first movie. Whatever was funny the first time, they tried to re-do... with disastrous results. Watching this movie is sort of like watching a dull co-worker trying to act out something funny that you'd both seen on TV the night before. You really feel bad for him because you know the material *used to be* funny. That's kind of how you feel about the actors in this movie. After about an hour of this un-amusing drivel I started to think, "Uh, isn't it about time that something HAPPENS?" Bridget's voice-over babbles on non-stop, telling us that she's happy... that she's not happy... that she's happy... that she's not happy... the same thing over and over. She thinks her boyfriend's cheating... then she finds out he's not and she feels silly. Then, she thinks that her boyfriend is cheating AGAIN... and she finds out that he's not and feels silly AGAIN. They break up (probably because the poor, dull boob hasn't cracked a smile ONCE since the movie started... kind of like the audience at this point) just so that Bridget can *almost* have an affair with her lecherous ex (Hugh Grant, of course). Then, in the only interesting sequence in the movie, Bridget is arrested in a foreign airport for drug smuggling and tossed into prison a la "Midnight Express". If only the whole movie had been about Bridget in prison... then it might have been worth making! There is one good scene with Bridget whining about how her boyfriend treats her bad... and all the other women prisoners start in with their stories of actual abuse... which makes Bridget feel silly yet again (but who's keeping score?) Grant and Colin Firth re-stage the climactic sissy-fight from the first movie... for no good reason. It's poorly done but probably the funniest moment in the film. Faint praise, indeed.
THE GRUDGE (2 outta 5 stars) Okay, maybe if I hadn't seen "The Ring", "The Eye", "A Tale of Two Sisters" or a zillion other similar Asian horror flicks I might have liked this one a little more. There are a few scary moments... but, for the most part, this movie is not gripping or compelling at all. We barely get a chance to care about the characters. Heck, Bill Pullman throws himself off a balcony in the first two minutes. A pity that Sarah Michelle Geller has to stick around for the full 90 minutes to show off her non-acting talent. Hey, I loved her as Buffy but some actors only have one good role in them. I fear that Ms. Gellar's talents have about run their course. None of the other actors are able to garner any audience empathy either. We know is that something bad is going to happen... over and over and over... but we don't really care about the people that it's happening to. I'm sure the original Japanese movie was much better than this. I should have known better than to try watching the inferior American remake first... even if it did have the same director. How is it that the WORST remakes are made by the original foreign directors themselves? (See also "The Vanishing"... the Dutch film, not the American.)
SUSPECT ZERO (2 outta 5 stars) Intriguing movie about a serial killer (Ben Kingsley) who is stalking OTHER serial killers starts out well... but soon gets way too confusing and hard-to-swallow as it goes on. At a certain point you'll start thinking that this movie was based on a rejected X-Files script. On the killer's trail are a pair of FBI agents with some romantic tension between them. (Doesn't the FBI have policies against people in a relationship working together? Heck, they must be the only place of business that *doesn't* these days.) One of them (Aaron Eckhart) develops a mental link to the killer they are hunting but, of course, no one believes that the agent's "visions" can possibly be worth investigating. The only thing that keeps this movie at all interesting is Ben Kingsley's attempt at doing a Hannibal Lector kind of role. I admire Kingsley for taking on a role so far from his usual "serious" parts and for giving it his all... but what in the world made him choose this script? His performance really belongs in a much better movie than this.
BUBBA HO-TEP (4 outta 5 stars) A very funny movie with a truly ridiculous premise that also winds up being quite touching at times. Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) is alive and living out his final days in a nursing home (where everyone thinks he is just another impersonator). He and another resident (Ossie Davis), who believes himself to be John F Kennedy, cross paths with an Egyptian mummy who is stealing the souls of the elderly to prolong its own life. Buried beneath the humor is some very real and sad observations on the lives of the elderly and the slow death of hope that can come with aging. Bruce Campbell (known mostly for his role in the "Evil Dead" movies) does a fantastic job as Elvis and Ossie Davis brings a dignified solemnity to some extremely outrageous dialogue. The movie was done on a very small budget... there wasn't a lot of money put into action sequences and special effects. Luckily, it has a great script and wonderful performances to make up for it. Director Don Coscarelli is best known for his "Phantasm" movies. For added fun, check out the DVD for Bruce Campbell's commentary track as the REAL Elvis watching this movie about mummy-fighting Elvis.
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