Not convinced? Watch Welcome to the Dollhouse and relive Hell.
Dawn Wiener is the protagonist, an awkward 7th grader who is put-upon by everyone from her family to schoolmates. She suffers a multitude of insults, all too small to register with adults who could help, but which inflict a thousand darts to her soul. The movie made me cringe, unearthing long suppressed memories of adolescent cruelties and torment at the hands of bullies. Is this entertainment? Absolutely, Todd Solondz did an admirable job in his freshman movie.
Yes, but not nearly enough of the time. What is essentially sketch comedy is forced into a (dumb) linear plot and stretched out far too long. Jay and Silent Bob could thrive within the confines of a 30-minute TV program, albeit it would have to be on cable. But trying to tell a movie-length story? Nope. There are some very funny bits, but plenty more time is spent on trying to establish a narrative arc that just isn't there. It didn't work.
Sandler playing Sandler was not very funny when it was fresh, but now it's getting tiresome. I can see why Sandler needed Nicholson, but I don't understand why Nicholson accepted.
Sandler playing Sandler was not very funny when it was fresh, him newly minted from his hysterical stint on SNL. But now it's getting tiresome. I can see why Sandler needed Nicholson, but I don't understand why Nicholson accepted.
Can Charlie Kaufman, the screenwriter, and George Clooney, the director pull it off? Mostly. It is competently acted by Sam Rockwell as Barris, Julia Roberts as a fellow spy, Drew Barrymore as his love interest, and director George Clooney as his CIA recruiter and handler. The bizarre landscape, a marriage of television and espionage, is presented without a smirk or wink. If Barris is telling the truth, this is what it must have been like. It's an interesting idea, and Clooney and Kaufman have taken it and crafted an enjoyable film.
Made on the cusp between silent and sound films, The Mysterious Island is caught somewhere in between; it is part talkie and part silent. Oddly there doesn't seem to be a dramatic or thematic rationale for deciding which scenes have sound and which don't. And why didn't the producers choose one format over the other for the entire movie? But they didn't, and this alone makes the film a novelty. Another reason to watch The Mysterious Island is the 1929-era special effects. They're a hoot. But even when these factors are taken in to account there is not much reason to invest the time in this movie.
Now known as Dead-Legs he becomes the most feared and degenerate backcountry ivory trader west of Zanzibar. He raises his daughter, who he presumes is not his own, to be a drug-addicted prostitute. With his wife's child debased, he waits like a spider in his web for the man who cuckolded and then paralyzed him. Dark stuff, this.
It's a morbid although entertaining little tale, and Lon Chaney gives his usual top-notch performance, transitioning from the big-hearted Phroso to the crippled (in both body and sole) Dead-Legs. The movie is worth watching just for his performance. Tod Browning is in his element and delivers up a dark, creepy tale. So what that the plot twists are telegraphed from a mile away, and the portrayal of Africans is negatively stereotyped. If these shortcomings can be overlooked, this is a good example of the Browning-Chaney collaborations. Not bad for a silent film, which has a recorded soundtrack, coming as it did on the cusp of the transition to sound.
The acting is mostly journeyman (although there are a few standouts like Stockard Channing as the American Mom), but is adequate for the material. Okay so it's also over plotted, overpopulated, and over done. I still enjoyed it, and would recommend it, although not heartily.
Tim Allen plays Scott Calvin, a workaholic divorced parent who cannot connect with his young son. And he desperately wants to, both for his son and to offset the influence of Mom's new boyfriend. But Scott can't do anything right. Then on Christmas Eve Scott accidentally kills Santa Clause. Funny, huh? The clause in the title is not a misspelling, but refers to the legal clause that requires anyone who offs Santa to take his place. This is cleverly done, although it is a bit maudlin. Well guess what happens? Scott learns the (non-religious) meaning of Christmas, bonds with his son, discovers himself make that a lot maudlin.
In 1994 Tim Allen was riding high with his hit TV show, Home Improvement, and in The Santa Clause he plays Tim Allen playing Tim Allen playing Santa Clause. No stretch here. And the rest of the cast is just there as a foil for Tim. And the plot, however clever, just wasn't very entertaining to this reviewer. Actually, this minority commentator didn't like The Santa Clause very much at all, and certainly can't recommend it to anyone.
Well, the answer is, they couldn't. The second installment, The Matrix Reloaded, doesn't hold a candle to the original. But all of the principals from the first are present; what went wrong?
Well it's the Star Wars Syndrome. But at least George Lucas gave us three great movies before stumbling, the Wachowski's mustered only one. But the mistakes committed by Lucas and the Wachowskis are very similar; infusions of moralizing, diminuation and sanitizing of the drama and tragedy, dumbing down the characters, etc, etc.
The Matrix Reloaded is not a bad movie, just a disappointing one.
Two of the greatest directors in the history of film were associated with the project, and apparently cared deeply about it. They are, of course, Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg. It was Spielberg that finally directed A.I. and perhaps it was his desire to adhere to Kubrick's vision (or his perception of it) that threw the film off balance. That, or perhaps Spielberg is getting sappy. Nonetheless, the movie tries to cover too much philosophical ground, and instead of telling a good story, we're stuck with an odd polemic on the nature of love, life, and lots of other deep subjects. There was a great, dark, story to tell and a fine cast assembled to assist in the telling. But Spielberg decided to get preachy, ditched the inherit drama (and horror) of the story, and subjected the paying public to a sermon. I don't find that so entertaining, and apparently neither did many others.
His grown daughter is getting married in Colorado (to a man Warren believes beneath her), so Warren embarks on a road trip to see her and meet her family. A family headed by Roberta, played by Kathy Bates, who embraces life. Will she be Warren's salvation?
Warren Schmidt is a very difficult character, but Jack Nicholson nails it with a very understated and gutsy performance. He is supported by a great and believable supporting cast, and the on-site Midwestern winter locales add truthfulness to the tale. And then there's Jack in one of his best roles. About Schmidt is highly recommended.
The problem is that the plotlines aren't that interesting or original. Dr. T's wife develops a rare mental disorder that affects only the wealthy, and must be institutionalized. The new female golf pro comes on to Dr. T, as does his nurse. His soon-to-be-married daughter is slowly realizing that she may be a lesbian. And so on.
For Altman fans, Dr. T and the Women is not a bad rental. The director has done better, but it's still Altman. Others, less interested, might want to give this a pass.
It's intuitively obvious that the relationship between the mother and her son has to be a product of a very dysfunctional family, and the subject family is a case of middle-class dysfunction en extremis. So much so, the characters are rendered unbelievable. The director and screenwriter push way too hard to make the movie edgy', and end up with a mess.
Oddly and sadly, it's nothing of the sort. Ready to Wear loses its way early, and drifts aimlessly along for its lengthy 133 minute runtime. The characters lack the depth of his other films; they're poorly defined and you never really feel you get to know them. The dialogue is shallow and lacks bite. Even the little things tend to annoy; why use sidewalk dog poop as a unifying symbol? What's the point to that?
All in all I found Ready to Wear disappointing and probably my least favorite of Altman's films.
Big money maker or not, I found the movie unfunny and boring. The premise that God would select a failed TV newsman to replace Him while He took a vacation is just too absurd. Someone like the Marx Brothers could have had a field day with this premise, but you sure wouldn't have found them developing a maudlin, sappy conclusion like the one that Bruce Almighty serves up. After an hour and a half of mostly unfunny Jim Carrey pratfalls, the movie presents its "come to Jesus" revelatory moment and Bruce is saved (in the religious sense). After all the damage he'd done playing God, you'd have thought him more deserving of a one way ticket to Hell.
That's okay. Moviemakers can make political pictures, take sides, and argue positions. I don't mind as long as they do it in the context of an honest and entertaining movie. The problem is that The Contender is neither honest nor entertaining; it's insulting.
During the first third of the movie it appears that it's point will be a condemnation of the personal attacks that mar and degrade our political system. But during the middle third the story line takes a sharp turn. Its focus narrows from the original good vs evil themes, and becomes distinctly partisan. By the final third, the message is reduced to a diatribe against all things conservative and Republican. During the movie's final scenes there are two breathless liberal soliloquies where heroic music builds to crescendo as the speakers stake noble positions. It's almost religious. Released just three weeks before the 2000 American elections I can see why Mr. Oldman wanted to disassociate himself from the movie. Personally I feel as I should have been paid to watch it, not vice versa.
The casting is nothing short of perfect. Keisha Castle-Hughes plays Pai, and has an acting range rarely seen in children. In one scene she's acting the role of average kid, in another incredible nobility as she stands up for her convictions, and in another deep, tortured grief. I fervently hope she gets an Oscar nomination. Rawiri Paratene and Vicky Haughton as Koro and his wife also give excellent performances. Niki Caro's screenplay and direction infuse the story with the reality of small-town life, but also with the deep mysteries of the Maori people. In my opinion this is one of the best movies of 2003.
But it's not Buddy's vision. So Buddy perseveres, undercut at every turn by Estelle. He finally manages to buy a two-family house to turn into his dream; a bar on the first floor, his home on the second. The current occupants are a foul-mouthed white trash Irish immigrant family, the very young wife in a very pregnant way. When she gives birth to a child whose father is obviously black, the older husband abandons her. And from this point Buddy's life journey takes a remarkable turn.
Two Family House is a prototypical Indie film in all its positive aspects. It does very well with little budget, maximizing the contributions of cast and crew. The uplifting story is told without pandering or exploitation. The movie's not great, but it is effective, and most importantly, very enjoyable.
Soon, due to luck and his good looks, Martin is a world-class male model earning tons of money. He's also successful at courting the older Alice, which causes conflicts with Benjamin. Not romantic conflict, Benjamin is gay, but professional. Martin is the family bastard, his father's child by his mistress. Benjamin and the other siblings are children by the legal mother. Martin is the outcaste, but now he's a great success, more so than any of the siblings, especially Benjamin.
But Martin is harboring a great secret, the reason that caused him to flee, and it's tearing him apart. The family refuses help; they don't air their dirty laundry in public, and they don't like Martin. Martin begins to go mad. Alice, now in deeply love with Martin, begins a quest to unlock Martin's hidden demons and exorcize them.
Enough said about the plot, I've spoiled about half the movie. Is this movie any good? It's not bad. The film is French, so, except for Juliette Binoche as Alice, none of the actors are recognizable to this American; but they are all very good. The direction by André Téchiné is also quite good. The story? It's an odd little downer of a story that I suspect doesn't resonate well with the middle classes. But anything with Juliette Binoche in it is worth a rental.
Jennifer Anniston plays Justine and proves that she possesses greater acting depth than we've seen in Friends. John C. Reilly as her husband and Tim Blake Nelson as his best friend really nail their characters. The weak link acting-wise is Jake Gyllenhaal as the troubled love interest whose performance seems one-dimensional. As his is a key character, this drags on the movie, but the others keep it afloat.
The Good Girl is a pretty-good movie. It was not good enough to garner award scrutiny, but is worth the price of a rental. It'll be interesting to see if Ms. Anniston continues to take non-comedic roles in movies such as this. I hope so.
The only difficulty I had with the film is that I'm not familiar with the actors; especially those playing the three daughters. Obviously they're all Chinese and speak Mandarin. The film is heavy into conversation so the viewer reads lots of sub-titles. I frequently lost the point of a conversation because I didn't realize who was talking; I was too busy reading.
It's a small complaint. On the plus side the movie delivers an ending. Often these 'slice of life' movies just end, there are no real plot elements to resolve and life goes on. Not here, Mr. Lee delivers an ending that will have you smiling after the Home Theater is darkened.
Lars von Trier is a very patient storyteller, as well as being an eccentric movie maker. In Breaking the Waves, he slowly, very slowly unfolds his drama. The problem is; you have to pay careful attention, and this can be difficult. Von Trier's style, with its hand-held camera, lack of artificial lighting, grainy photography, and lingering close-ups can try the patience. The movie is also long, clocking in at about 2½ hours. But if you see it through, the final half hour will blow your mind, and you will have seen one of the best (and most emotionally powerful) movies of 1996, maybe even the whole decade.