Reviews written by registered user
|8 reviews in total|
The back of the Netflix envelope I received "Short Cuts" in describes
it as a "mosaic masterpiece." And indeed it is. "Short Cuts" is a
plot-less film with an ensemble cast; many different stories woven into
one. The legendary underdog Robert Altman, who directed and co-wrote
here, based this off of Raymond Carver's short stories, but really
turned it into his own unique peek into the lives of these southern
Californians. We see a doctor, a painter, a motorcycle cop, a baker, a
news broadcaster, a lounge singer and her cellist daughter, a diner
waitress, a makeup artist, a pool cleaner, a phone sex operator, and
other interesting characters' stories, and how they interconnect in
different ways. One of the most remarkable aspects of "Short Cuts" is
how it's so much like real life with all its randomness and
interruptions, about as close as any movie can come. Altman includes
such early '90s pop-culture aspects as the cartoon "Captain Planet,"
and a child's love of this show. The blaring television in the
background serves as but one reoccurring theme, just a tool that helps
make this an authentic story of American life.
I was reminded of certain other films while watching this, such as Richard Linklater's plot-less low-budget cult hit "Slacker" from 1991, a movie about eccentric characters in Austin, TX and their criss-crossing lives, shifting from one little story to the next. I also see how highly influential this must have been towards P.T. Anderson's "Magnolia," another mosaic of everyday life in southern California.
It's rare that a film comes along like this, chock full of unexpectedness just like us, just like real people. I urge most anyone to see this movie, an essential flick from the early '90s.
This is Noah Baumbach's semi-autobiographical story of upper middle class Brooklyn parents divorcing in the 1980s, as seen more from the perspective of their two sons. Walt, the older son, idolizes his father and takes after his pretentious English Professor lingo. The younger son Frank sides more with the mother and stays dedicated to playing tennis, insisting to his father that he's a "philistine" while his father tries to convince him otherwise. Jeff Daniels, one of the most underrated actors out there now, is at the top of his game here as the father- his best role yet. Baumbach takes painful subject matter and applies a great sense of humor to it, showing how ridiculous everyone looks. A very heartfelt movie with a soundtrack I'm dying to buy.
While not nearly as good as the book, I commend Sean Penn's efforts as
it must have been very difficult to adapt this tale of Chris
McCandless's fatal Alaskan odyssey. Also worth mentioning is Eddie
Vedder's superb acoustically-driven score, his first ever.
As one might expect from a Penn movie, he casts many notable names, including William Hurt as the stereotypical cold father, Catherine Keener as a nomadic hippie, Vince Vaughn, and a surprisingly energetic Hal Holbrook. Emile Hirsch plays Chris decently enough, showing noticeable dedication (he must have really lost weight towards the end) but still does not stand out as much as the more veteran-like supporting cast.
Penn includes some nice subtle touches, such as actual black and white footage of apartheid and other social and political crises of Africa as Chris's sister names out his final courses and grades from Emory University. At times he goes overboard though, indulging in clichés like an overhead shot of Chris swimming naked on his back with his arms stretched out like Jesus on the cross. I found the most powerful scene to be but a close-up photograph of the real Chris McCandless as he sat scruffy-bearded and grinning outside of the vacant bus he made his home, an enlarged and color version of the same photograph from inside the book.
As I was finishing the book I thought this would make for a fascinating Werner Herzog documentary in the tradition of "Grizzly Man." McCandless falls into that same kind of iconoclastic realm as any one of Herzog's protagonists. Penn gives us the romanticized Hollywood version.
I didn't expect much considering all the bad reviews (not that those matter) but actually found this to be quite entertaining for the most part. It really plays with your mind, an original psychological thriller compared to most others out there today. Kevin Costner, in an interesting new turn for him, plays Mr. Brooks, a self-made multi-millionaire with a beautiful house and a loving wife and daughter. His business colleagues have nothing but respect for him. But he has a dark secret... he's addicted to killing people and has been for years. He fights his addiction by attending AA meetings at church and just calling himself "an addict." William Hurt plays "Marshall," his twisted inner-voice who eggs him on. I found Costner and especially Hurt to be quite a hoot in a very darkly comic sort of way, they actually make quite a duo. The ending could have been worked with better, but overall this was well-done and a must-see for any fans of Costner or Hurt, or any fans of thrillers that actually show a good sense of humor.
This movie makes me want to go to India. Wes Anderson gives some
beautiful yet untouristy scenes of the land, people, and culture.
Wes fans should like how this is more his standard style than his previous film, the too far-fetched "Life Aquatic." As in "The Royal Tenenbaums," he deals again with the dysfunctions and neuroses of family in a style reminiscent of J.D. Salinger, but with more humor. Here he tells the story of three brothers reuniting on a journey through India. The eldest calls it a "spiritual journey" but does it stay that way? You'll see.
As usual Wes employs great music, indulging (maybe too much) in his trademark slow-motion scenes to carefully-selected songs. I especially enjoyed his usage of the Kinks "This Time Tomorrow." Joe Dassin's "Les Champs Elysees" was another nice touch, a tune I remember from 6th grade French.
Personally I wanted more to be resolved in the end (which comes abruptly), but perhaps this was his intent.
It definitely had its redeeming qualities, but overall I was rather let down and found it to be somewhat over-hyped. I expected this to be the Coen Brothers masterpiece thus far, a new level for them, but it still seemed to be the same old same old. Now Javier Bardem (where did this guy come from??) plays an excellent villain, you can see it in his eyes alone. He's completely ruthless and without a conscience to the point that it's just funny. And that's vintage Coen Brothers right there- this kind of black humor. There's some great dialogue, and even some classic moments of stylized violence that give it real potential. Watch for one memorable scene involving a very explosive diversion this villain creates outside a small-town pharmacy. The film moves at a rather slow pace, and taking place in the southwest, the Coen Brothers, as they did in "O Brother Where Art Thou," seem to rely too much on southern stereotypes for humor's sake rather than a true knowledge and understanding of the south. Still worth seeing.
Maybe the best documentary I have seen in years... A must-see for anyone who loves rooting for the underdog. King of Kong tells the story of two men competing for the highest all-time score in the arcade classic Donkey Kong. Seth Gordon skillfully explores this whole American subculture of die-hard classic video gamers. The fact that this is all real (as opposed to a Christopher Guest style mockumentary) makes it all the more hilarious, but above all this is a true story of inspiration that should appeal to anyone regardless of whether they know anything about video games. In a country dominated by politically-fused documentary/movie propaganda, we need more films like this to remind us of how wonderfully weird we can be. Michael Moore eat your heart out.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I had been eagerly anticipating this movie for awhile, and was not let
down. A brilliantly unusual tale of survival, 'Rescue Dawn' is based on
the true story of Dieter Dengler, a fighter pilot in the Vietnam War
whose plane was shot down over the jungles of Laos. He became a P.O.W.
and eventually managed to escape. Herzog wisely strays away from
politics in this film, making for just a classic, idiosyncratic story.
The characters really stand out here... Christian Bale, in perhaps his most humane role yet, plays Dieter. Steve Zahn, who often has been typecast as the comic relief sidekick, shows his true potential and dedication as an actor in his supporting performance as Dieter's friend Duane. Jeremy Davies also plays an impressive role as the wacked-out P.O.W. "Eugene from Eugene."
As for other aspects... the mysterious, eerie, and introspective music blends in like butter with the vast and wondrous jungle landscape setting.
My one real gripe with 'Rescue Dawn' (preventing a flawless ten-star rating) was the disappointingly cliché ending. I could expect this from Spielberg or Ron Howard... but Herzog? Come on now...