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Red Corner (1997)
Don't let the one star ratings that other people have given Red Corner fool you - Manos: The Hands of Fate this is not. Nonetheless, it's a very dull film, with pedestrian direction and pretty unconvincing acting. Richard Gere and Bai Ling have zero chemistry together, and having to watch Bai Ling try to emote is a bit painful. Gere is just his usually smug self, woefully out of place for the substance (what little there is) of a film like this. The plot is shallow and hackneyed as well.
The prime fault of this film, though, is just how overwhelmingly devoid of any aesthetic or artistic sensibility it actually is; it's like a movie of the week, from the melodramatic music to the cardboard characters. Chinese communism is a ripe target for thought-provoking films but this one totally misses the mark. Only the dullest among us would find this tripe 'under-rated' as one IMDb commenter put it. No accounting for taste, I suppose.
The Hole (2001)
"The Hole" is one of the most predictable thrillers to come around in awhile.
The plot - 4 teens get trapped in a bunker for weeks on end. Who locked them in? Take a guess. The chief suspect is SO obvious that you'll think to yourself "No way, it can't be her. Must be one of the supporting characters!" No, you were right the first time. SPOILER ALERT: Thora Birch is adequate, but she simply cannot convey crazy effectively.
The film suffers the most from its horrid directing. The most intense scenes are badly shot, edited, and paced. The feeling of claustrophobia that a talented director would need to convey to truly make this film work is woefully absent. The Hole is simply TOO BIG.
Knightley fills out her rather superficial role well enough. Laurence Fox and Desmond Harrington are the two real stars of the film, delivering fine performances. But it all fails in the end.
The soundtrack is reminiscent of a Movie of the Week, the cinematography is base and uninspired, and the dialog is dull. If you want a good "young girl hatches a plot" film, watch "Wild Things." This isn't it.
Mysterious Skin (2004)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt steals the film
I wasn't sure what to expect upon watching this. Some very graphic and disturbing scenes involving both children and young adults in some difficult situations created an atmosphere of honesty and intensity in the film that I had not at all seen coming. While the story and characterization feels, in places, like it could've been more fleshed out, Joseph Gordon-Levitt steals the film in such a manner that I kept watching regardless of how odd the twists of plot and atmosphere became. Even the ending, which left me feeling unimpressed, was forgivable because of this performance. Having seen 3rd Rock From the Sun and 10 Things I Hate About You, I never expected this calibre a performance. Absolutely amazing. Hopefully his talent will be recognized in future films, this is one young actor that is impossible to ignore.
Gibson recounts his life and the meaning of his work in contemplative fashion throughout this film and the insight gained is well worth whatever work one may need to do in order to seek this out.
Gibson sounds like he did too many drugs in his youth and his manner of speaking came as a surprise to me but he lets it all hang out here. His thoughts on his books and particularly his thoughts on how we are inseparable at this point from technology were pretty interesting. The way in which the film was shot was fascinating as well, as you see Gibson talking in the backseat of a car, often with a cigarette in his hand, while the world goes by. Interviews are spliced with quickly edited footage of modern day life and the effect, for the most part, works.
What didn't work for me was the fact that The Edge and Bono were in the film - what's that about? Couldn't they have gotten anyone better to read his work and comment? Fortunately they're not in for long and you get very valuable insights into Gibsons work from the likes of Jack Womack and Bruce Sterling, the latter in particular recounting how when Gibson first was getting people to read the manuscript of 'Neuromancer', no one got it except for him. The film also has Gibson discuss his coinage of 'cyberspace'.
If you're a huge William Gibson fan like me then this is a must and if not, what are you waiting for?