Reviews written by registered user

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14 reviews in total 
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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Packed with stylish criminals and plucky banter, 28 October 2004

Coming off "The American Astronaut," the time-travel space odyssey that first introduced festival audiences to his raw talent, Cory McAbee puts another

feather in his cap as an indie actor. But this time, it's not the swaggering side of his persona so often seen on stage or as rocketeer Samuel Curtis. Instead, he crafts a somewhat dimmer, shell-shocked anti-hero of the title character in this thread-bare, albeit ruminating, genre film. McAbee walks a tightrope between

sheepishly impotent and hopelessly lost-as a journeyman safe cracker who can't muster the courage to steal big until a bruised pride fuels his fires-and

convincingly delivers both comedy and genuine suspense mainly by sheer

characterization. McAbee truly holds the screen-he makes a simple revenge

tale plausible by seducing you into rooting for him. At the same time, a host of serio-comic supporting players are able enough to make you pray for their hasty demise. This sort of thing has been done before (literally thousands of times in such crime movies) but few films can boast a lead that compels viewers as well as McAbee. Otherwise, there's a handful of little things that generate lots of laughs, tension, and second-guessing, but the main attraction is the key

performance from the lead actor.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Marvelous caper that deserves repeated viewings., 8 October 2004

This may be the most impressive film I saw at Telluride. While most of the other festival-goers were busy rifling through their programs looking for the latest celebrity appearance, this little movie snuck up on everyone else. Due to its adherence to genre, it's likely to be under-appreciated by the casual viewer, but there is a distinct knowingness that elevates this film beyond the typical festival fare.

Right from the beginning, with the lengthy single shot that pulls back and brings us into the story, it's clear that atmosphere and tone will play a big part of the telling. Charlie sits holding a hand of cards among a grubby circle of poker players -IN AN EMPTY PUBLIC RESTROOM! The movie is filled with these surprises. It takes a few moments to realize these nuances because this film isn't hitting you over the head with every detail, or slowing down for sweeping panoramas. In fact, it's a bit claustrophobic really. I was also pleasantly surprised that the technical parts of the film were so aptly constructed. There's hardly a cut-away to a close-up in the entire film, none of those awkward moments at the ends of a scene, just straightforward cuts to the next dramatic point and this keeps the tempo brisk and assured.

It's not strictly a thriller, a film noir, a comedy, or a heist film per se. The title character is a safe cracker who doesn't have his heart into the job -or seems to struggle with the moral issues in his line of work- and prefers to keep a hands off approach to stealing. He's scolded for this by his mentor, an elderly blind man who used to crack safes and now has turned over the business to Charlie.

Frankly, it seems that everyone knows what Charlie does and that he isn't very good at it. So by this standard, the lead isn't really a typical hero and the movie isn't really a grist-of-the-mill crime caper. But it is a riveting good time.

What was really an amazing achievement is that the events and characters really suck you into the story until you forget you're watching a bunch of new faces. I hadn't seen any of these actors before, and it never occurred to me that they were all making their debut. You just couldn't tell, they were so confident and believable.

Being an avid film buff, and wanting to see this film again right away, I was disappointed that I was at a festival and would have to wait to catch it in the theaters or on video. By no means is it the kind of film that can be completely soaked in by a single viewing, and in my opinion, this is one of the tests of a great film. There's just so much going on in the way the camera angles restrict the viewing of certain characters, and the repetition of key phrases, that makes we wish I could pause and rewind to see everything again. It amazed me that the tempo and the image clarity was so professional and that the final line is one of the most graceful notes I have ever seen a movie go out on. 5 stars out of 5.

0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Plot sucks you in nicely..., 6 October 2004

Despite its overtones from "The Glass Key," this movie does a tremendous job of hooking you into the premise very quickly.

There's an immediate conflict for the protagonist here, and like Blood Simple, the Coen's earlier films seemed to give more care to the plot as it winds up tightly. Of course, the role of Johnny Caspar is delicious and Polito knocks it out of the part in ways few actors could, and coupled with the savvy of Finney's mob boss, you quickly and clearly gain the gist of the dilemma that Tom faces, and immediately snuggle in for the rest of the movie. Too bad the Brothers abandoned their faith in plot and headed towards a wild disregard for any coherence after "Fargo." I miss the sense of fate that plays a part in their best movies, stories that seem like they are headed towards a serious and inevitable conclusion. The clumsy ones all feel like they lost their willingness to see the narrative through to its natural end.

4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Ben Johnson's finest work, often overlooked., 6 October 2004

Ben Johnson is mesmerizing in this picture; his natural ease with

screen acting was well-honed by this time and he has a

confidence, a greasy smoothness, in the part of Bob Amory that he

hadn't displayed up to this point. Perhaps it was because he was

working with two stellar actors from the method school that

spurred him to give them a run for their money. Or perhaps he was

more relaxed due to his extensive experience working in westerns

(or because he was one of the only authentic cowboys on the set).

Nevertheless, his contribution is equal to the leads, and far above

everyone else. And that's so small feat. Before Kubrick had left the

production, he obviously installed several of his favorite players:

Slim Pickens, Tim Carey, Elisha Cook Jr in supporting roles. Each

same part makes a significant contribution to the complexity and

charm of the story. But Johnson rises above them all. His snake- rattling Amory is just as pathetic as he is creepy. The scene in

which he chickens out of a gun duel with Brando is electrifying,

mostly due to the ambiguity in Johnson's close-ups. Watching it,

you're not quite sure if the character is too stupid to back down or

just plain chilled to the bone with fear.

I love movies about loners!, 4 October 2004

Here's the holy grail! A movie about a loner, where the whole story ISN'T about drawing the character out of his shell. Instead, Newman gets to withdraw and simmer, and the supporting players come to represent the tug of war between different aspects of his personality. I can appreciate movies that never seeks to explain their main characters; they let the audience soak in the meaning from the details surrounding him. Left with nothing but inferences (and the exotic behaviors of everyone else), we have to insert ourselves into the part to sort out Luke's feelings.

The end of the song gives us a glimpse, but even that moment is fleeting and shrouded, so the title character remains a mystery to us forever.

Taking Off (1971)
3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Rarely seen comic wonder, 1 October 2004

It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with either

Forman or Henry that this film is both insightful and understatedly

hilarious. There was a time in the early 1970s when the influx of

foreign directors on the Hollywood movie-making frontier (among

them Forman, Bertolucci, and Polanski, as well as cinematographers like Zsigmond and Kovacs) were just as sharp

and scathing of the American cultural revolution as our own young

filmmakers. If not more so. This film is flat-out funny; the humor is

derived from the droll use of pop references and supposedly

taboo behaviors. Because hey are put across so straight-faced,

they reflect back to us an image too ridiculous to consider

seriously. I saw this film in an open-air theatre at a fest and though

it was difficult to hear, the combined laughter of the audience

brought the experience to hysterics. Hope this film makes it to


8 out of 60 people found the following review useful:
Another rape-fantasy for this sick director, 1 October 2004

Troubled Todd is let loose again and come up with another indulgent film where he feels free to expose his sick mind and deranged fantasies on audiences eager to grasp some sense from glints of humorous and whip-smart writing. I saw this movie at the Telluride film festival and, having seen Dollhouse and Happiness, I was willing to give Solondz a break (after the disaster of Storytelling) and hope he had found a new strain to refocus his energies. But he seems more determined to create a body of work destined to brand himself as controversial than to truly seek out some personal reflections and weave them through his narratives.

Never has their been a gifted screenwriter whose obvious talents are consistently wasted; he has yet to create anything on screen but a moment that aims to provokes nervous laughter. That's woefully short of the drama or revelation he's capable of; too bad he hasn't come to terms with that after four films.

Bowfinger (1999)
54 out of 66 people found the following review useful:
Martin and Murphy should team again!, 30 September 2004

The remarkable thing about this film is that hardly ever has Steve Martin ever been so genuinely sympathetic without seeming clumsy about it. Believe me, this movie could have been over in the first few minutes if the writing hadn't started out so deliciously cynical. Immediately, I was hooked by the story of this downtrodden dreamer who endeavors to commit his life's savings to a hopeless cause. Forget about the weak (tacked-on) ending and the craziness for comedy's sake. This is a light character study worthy of a filmlover's earnest attention. Kudos to Murphy for the dual role-one a loving tribute to his inner child and the other a biting satire of his public image.

26 out of 29 people found the following review useful:
Elegy to the west., 30 September 2004

Here's a case of Palance putting in a great supporting role like he has done so often, a truly selfless actor with a great humility.

Seldom does an actor allow himself to look as pathetic as Palance does in his performances. This is a great film, primarily due to the metaphor near the end where Marvin tries to tame a horse, frustratingly attempting to control the nature of all things around him. The austere writing and stilted acting lend to the overall tone, creating an elegiac western greatly under-appreciated in its time. One of those small, offbeat movies awash in a decade of so many sparkling little films, each challenging the strictures of Hollywood. I loved it.

3 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Humongous waste of a great opportunity, 30 September 2004

This film was hard to get a hold of, and when I eventually saw it the disappointment was overwhelming. I mean, this is one of the great stories of the twentieth century: an unknown man takes advantage of the unsuspecting airline industry and GETS AWAY with millions in ransom without hurting anyone or bungling the attempt. With all of this built-in interest, how could anyone make such a lackluster, talk-laden flick of this true-life event. While Williams is always interesting, the screenwriters assumed that the D.B. Cooper persona was stereotypically heroic like a movie star, s what we get is a type-without any engaging details or insights into the mind of a person daring enough and clever enough to have pulled it off. Harrold practically steals the movie with her spunk and pure beauty, but the real letdown was in the handling of the plot and the lame direction. Shame on this film for even existing.

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