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No Country For Incompetent Rural Law Enforcement
17 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Faithful or not to the novel which the film is based on, the one thing the Coen Bros. recent work lacks is a solid narrative. Sure, the movie is seen from 3 characters' POV, but the central focus is supposed to be on Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) an underused and uninvolved character, and extremely awkward to the indisputably gripping premise.

Yes, I understood the film. I got the "evil triumphing over good" symbolism, the Biblical undertones and social commentary on modern society ... how someone on the street - bloodied from shotgun wounds - would only get blank stares from pedestrians, and even a half-finished bottle of beer (for comfort) would come with a price.

Unfortunately this bleakness is the tip of the iceberg when you factor in cold-as-ice psychopath Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), who massacres almost everyone in his path while in pursuit of $2.4 million from a drug deal gone bad. Because the film is supposed to be "symbolic", little is known about Anton and his connection to the money other than a shady guy in a high rise (played by Stephen Root), but even his motives are never clear. In addition, Anton's modus operandi makes it hard to believe he would associate with anyone. The violent lone wolf prevails at the end, and after the naive man who salvaged the money (Josh Brolin) is killed at a motel, Anton fulfills a perverted deal he made by visiting the man's newly widowed wife (Kelly MacDonald) and informing her of impending doom.

There is no problem with villains who succeed at the end. It has been done before. Whilst not the best example, Aaron Stampler from the novel/movie "Primal Fear". There's a sense of disgust and dread, but at the same time awe at how someone so evil (and yet so smart and clever) could override justice. But so little is known about Anton Chigurh that he comes off as nearly what Bell calls him - a "ghost". He's cunning and skillful, but no indication whether he's a survivalist, ex-Navy SEAL, renegade intelligence operative, etc. Credibility is totally thrown out the door for the viewer.

As for the themes: It has been done before. The vicious cycle of greed was portrayed perfectly in "Fargo", even in movies not from the Cohen brothers; Times have been changing in the criminal world for a long time, longer than Bell admits. Bell disregards the outlaws of the Old West, he disregards serial killers and bank robbers active around his early years, and most of all the national formation of the mob ...

The movie's performances are first rate, as is the sound editing and misleading appearance as a "suspense thriller". While not a bad film, the abruptness, clichés and lack of cinematic cohesion prevent a positive review.
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Waiting... (I) (2005)
Don't leave any tips for this service
15 October 2007
Lions Gate Entertainment are something of an oddity. Formerly "Artisan Entertainment", the company is known for distributing 2 kinds of cinema: Films by well-known "Indy" directors, or B-grade Hollywood fodder that the larger studios turned down because of financial risk.

"Waiting" strangely doesn't fall in either category.

Supposedly based on a true experience, this misfire follows employee exploits at a casual dining establishment from the lunch to dinner hour. These characters don't like their jobs or the customers, and each one has their own way expressing it - either by contaminating a patron's food, insulting a patron, playing a bizarre exhibitionist game in the kitchen or using vulgarity in every sentence. Oh yeah, there are also two employees who dream about setting their manager on fire. Considering they don't do anything on the job but talk trash and steal whipped cream, I wouldn't be surprised if their boss felt the same way about them.

Humor has to be unpredictable to be funny. Even the "gross out"-kind has fair competition. Look at John Belushi in "Animal House". Pluto belched, spat mashed potatoes on people and urinated on someone's shoes, among other things. But the late SNL star had something future "Lampoon" actor/writers do not - comic timing. In fact, 'Waiting' is not so different from the recent NL movies. If there was a fair share of female nudity, "National Lampoon's Night At The Diner" would be a more apt title for this winner.

At one point in life I had worked at a restaurant, but never saw antics like those portrayed in the movie. Rude customers were laughed off after they left, and there were only 1-2 employees who didn't wash their hands before handling the food. But it was out of laziness, not vindication. Perhaps this "depiction" will ring true for some, but the movie is so repetitive, so juvenile and so predictable that even the most disgruntled food service worker will be bored to tears.

Avoid "Waiting" at all costs.
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The Pianist (2002)
Excellent documentation of Jewish musician's survival in Nazi-occupied Poland
5 November 2003
Spanning from Germany's coup of Poland, to the end of WWII, "The Pianist" follows late pianist Wlad Szpilman's (Adrien Brody) struggle to survive in the Warsaw ghetto with no help, other than sympathetic friends and those who knew him from the radio. In the film we see him get permanently separated from his family and even witness his brief brush with death as Germans flamed and bombed down buildings during the Uprising.

Indeed, not the most easy film to watch (very blunt violence, including slaughter of young children) and clocking nearly 3 hours, but superb direction and attention to period detail make it a very rewarding viewing. Adrien Brody won a well deserved Oscar, portraying a man whose love and skill for music was never strained despite extraordinary odds. A truly memorable film.
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Birthday Girl (2001)
5 November 2003
Bank teller (Chaplin) orders a seductive Russian mail order bride (Kidman) through the internet, and although she only speaks Russian, he decides he wants her to stay. Two men out of nowhere show up and the whole thing turns into one big con, with one man turning out to be her boyfriend (Cassel) and the other his business partner (Kassovitz).

Mean-spirited and sloppily executed film is neither a comedy, drama, or thriller; Why this guy would rob a bank (and his job) of thousands is a little bit stupid since there was obviously more logical (and ethical) means to deal with that situation. Of interest only to see Nicole Kidman play someone with another language, which I thought was done well.
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Julia Roberts ruins an otherwise above-average movie
19 October 2003
Based on the true story of an attorney and his assistant who blew the whistle and organized a large class action lawsuit against a Northern California-based power utility company for trashing water in a small Southern California town.

Albert Finney is excellent, as always, playing the lawyer. You can still notice a small English accent but those who have not seen his British movies will find it hard to tell. The supporting cast was also good; Marg Helgenberger, as one of the ailing residents, and Aaron Eckhart, who plays the biker who babysits Brockovich' kids.

But Julia Roberts turns the film into damaged goods. Although the title character is not the brightest jane on the block, it seems anything Roberts plays is this arrogant, immature, obnoxious, loud bimbo. Although what she did in the movie could be easily described as heroic, Robert's portrayal often got on the nerves, making the character hard to like.
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Rejected (2000)
One of the worst animated shorts I've seen.
15 June 2003
Not under the category so bad it's good, it's so bad it's bad. (Although many would like one to think of it as being the first.) This film came to prominence as being one of the 2000 Academy award nominees for short animated films, among other awards, but that's just because every film festival is juried and selective based on who knows whom.

The director takes a que from the rulebook of Blair Witch Project/South Park filmmaking: Make up a story involving film, show the film involving the story, and trick/confuse the audience into believing this may be true. Herzfeldt wants us to believe that a series of super short films he did were rejected from the `Family Learning Channel', and it turns into an annoyingly repetitive one-joke premise as to why they were. (This is when the South Park material comes in. Any adult who finds this funny has obviously been deprived of a 12-year education.)

Got nothing else to say. AVOID IT.
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Shanghai Noon (2000)
Once upon a time in the old west...
15 June 2003
Imperial guardsman (Jackie Chan) in China must get to 1880s America to rescue the princess from a greedy expatriate; he accidentally gets associated with an outlaw and is soon implicated as one himself.

Predictable, but balances comfortably between Kung Fu action and comedy (The Indian marriage, the obedient horse, and the hilariously sarcastic bounty hunter played by Xander Berkeley) Anachronisms out-of-the-way (this is only fluff) the only blemish of the movie is Owen Wilson. No comic timing or personality and too into himself.
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Frida (2002)
Unsugarcoated, mostly accurate biopic of the tortured woman artist.
15 June 2003
`Frida' documents the life of Frida Kahlo, from the age of 18 to the time of her death caused from a multitude of illnesses and injury she faced during her life.

Although Kahlo may be more attributable to her surreal paintings and dramatic marriage to more popular painter Diego Rivera, the movie focuses on the sex lives and deeply held socialist beliefs of the couple. In the film Rivera loses a sale to John Rockefeller (Edward Norton) with a depiction of Lenin in a mural. The couple even gave refuge to Leon Trotsky (Geoffrey Rush) after having been exiled from Russia/Europe. One would like to get a better insight on Kahlo's childhood, as well as her artwork more than anything else, but truly fine cinematography/set design and a festive score make up for that insufficiency.
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26 February 2003
In his second directorial feature, Larry Clark once again puts us on the hindsight of a group of substandard human beings, which, like his first movie (KIDS), refuses to accentuate plot insomuch as it does character.

Opening, a teen tries to steal money for drugs in a locked up vending machine room. When a vicious guard corners and beats him with a baton he commits his second offense for the night, murder. We see a duo flashback of the guard and another man harming him, which was most likely his dad/step dad or whoever raised him before the current `mother' and `father' figure - a con `couple' (James Woods/Melanie Griffiths).

Under this dismal scenario is another commonplace crime family movie, which is only improved by the tacked on happy ending and the strength of the characters. Vincent Kartheiser makes a very good impression as an incredibility pathetic young man. Natasha Gregson Wagner as his girlfriend will probably only be remembered INO as the daughter of the late Natalie Wood. James Woods never has a problem portraying anti-social lowlives and there were no deficits in that ability here. And Melanie Griffith was so-so (as usual) as Woods' junkie mistress.
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The Crow (1994)
Simplistic, yet dark, rewarding.
26 February 2003
Goth rocker (A half posthumous Brandon Lee) and his fiancé are murdered, one year later he comes back to life by the power of a crow to seek revenge on the gang of junkies, tweakers, and coke-snorters who were involved with the killing.

Since this was based on a comic book one could understand the nature of the performances and the character design (Michael Wincott resembled a comic book villain, a kind of `my devious plans will rule the world' bad guy, which was difficult to take seriously at times.) But the direction by Alex Proyas was first rate, depicting Detroit as a rainy, grungy, anarchial wasteland like the city in the comic book. Had he turned to working on the sequels they would have turned out much better.
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Unique story of loss, guilt, redemption, and Biblical fortitude
26 February 2003
Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) is a shock jock talk show host whose antics drive a crazed listener to kill 7 people in an upscale restaurant. Some time later, Lucas is depressed and without any hope in life until his own is saved by an eccentric homeless man named Perry (Robin Williams). Perry is convinced that he is on a mission to obtain the Holy Grail and that everyone around him is part of some fairy tale. What Lucas discovers is that one of the lives lost in that restaurant was Perry's wife, and Perry was present at the time. Lucas is then determined to make the wrong things right.

It doesn't quite decide what it wants to be, at times it is comical and other times it is deadly serious, but the result is certainly engaging, and judging by the Camera work/hyper paced performances you could see how this would come from the same guy who directed `Brazil.'
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Party Girl (1995)
Fingernails-on-chalkboard irritating.
23 February 2003
A waste of time. Posey plays a young slacker who doesn't want to do anything else but what the title implies. She recruits herself as a librarian but without the proper skills things don't work out as they should, so she gets back to her rave lifestyle. Sundance accepted this stinker simply because it was low budget and has actors familiar to the low-budget/Indy movie consortium. Independent does not mean good.
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Hard Target (1993)
First and finest Woo film in the states.
23 February 2003
Jean Claude Van Damme plays Chance, a vagrant in New Orleans who saves a woman from being mugged. She remembers his skills and seeks him again to find her estranged father. What we find out is that he was killed by a millionaire (Lance Henrikson) who takes gratification knocking off drifters/poor people in a `Dangerous Game' like set-up. Chance becomes the new objective, but it obviously won't be easy.

Van Damme acts more professionally here than his other movies, but it's Henrikson who chews the scenery as the smarmy bad guy who really gets what he deserves at the end (We all expect that in an action movie, but in Hard Target you really wait for it.) If John Woo sticks with what he did here and in his Hong Kong movies (as opposed to what he's been doing recently) he has the potential of being a more appreciated director.
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True Identity (1991)
Highly amusing.
23 February 2003
Lenny Henry (`Chef!') is a struggling outer borough actor in NYC who accidentally gets aquianted with a mob boss (Frank Langella) who is supposed to be dead. Convinced that his life is in peril, he has his make-up artist friend transform him from a black man to a white/Italian man and hilarious results ensue.

I picked this up at a used record store on video used for $1.99. Don't know what happened to the tape, but if you see it listed for even ten bucks it's definitely a keeper.
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It appears someone got his or her idea from someone else… again (spoilers)
20 June 2002
Warning: Spoilers
It was absolutely no surprise at the end that Willis was a ghost; when he slammed the window of his wife/ex-wife's jewelry store (and she saw no one there) you could put two and two together and understand what was going on (based on what happened at the begining.)

If `Ghost' had not been released, do you think M. Night Shamaylan (sp - who cares?) would have thought of the idea to make this movie? Now, I'll give credit, although the plot is extremely imitative, the performances were first rate. There was little music. The pace was slow, that added a lot of apprehension. It was easy to be drawn into the movie. It was entertaining. But that's it. Nothing special, nothing new. See `Stir of Echoes' – although not that original, infinitely scarier, less predictable, and better written.
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Artfully crafted animated feature; appropriate for everyone.
20 June 2002
Circa early 1950s/1960s during the cold war, young kid finds a giant metal robot in the woods, which, despite being made by the government as a weapon of mass destruction, has a gentle personality of its own.

The film has standard Hollywood components (evil scientist that wants to destroy the main character, Kleenex-getter moments, etc.) but the animation was wonderful, combining expertly drawn and contrasted 2D and 3D imagery. Enthusiasts of short and feature-length animated films should not miss it.
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Not a drama, not quite a comedy. At any rate, oddly appealing.
20 June 2002
One unsettling attribute of this movie is that it presents itself as if it were based on a true story. Judy Davis plays a Socialist who allegedly had an affair with Josef Stalin (F. Murray Abraham), and when she gives birth to a son with all the revolutionary's traits, there is some dispute about whether he is who everyone thinks he is. During the film he gets into all sorts of trouble with the law and eventually falls in love with a cop that frequently arrests him (Rachel Griffiths). Only at the end does the whim tone down to a serious drama. Whatever this movie has to say, it kept my attention all the way through.
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Exquisite 19th century adventure
20 June 2002
Juliette Binoche and Olivier Martinez are first rate as an Aristocrat and the horseman assigned to protect her during a deadly plague. The costumes and sets were extraordinary; it is interesting to point out that this went down in history as one of the most costly French film productions (with all the attention paid to period detail, you can see why.)
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You'll laugh, you'll cry…you'll be terrified. (OK, a little far)
20 June 2002
The two preceding `Evil Dead' movies were good but they lacked the lightweight humor, slapstick, and camp of the closing third.

Ash, brought back in time to the Middle Ages, lands in the middle of a war and is taken prisoner for being part of the opposite side. Unfortunately he still has to deal with those evil spirits that possess human bodies. But armed with a chainsaw, a car full of supplies and one trash-talking mouth, these satanic schmucks are nothing the blade can't handle, even when they make a doppelganger of him. Eventually you'll have no problem telling the difference between the good Ash and bad Ash. Goodie goodie two shoes…good goodie… one ugly motherf###er.

`Darkness' lacks the splatter, unpleasantness, and other fun stuff the earlier installments were so known for, but it succeeds by being much more accessible...and enjoyable.
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Amos & Andrew (1993)
Not as bad as it was made out to be.
20 June 2002
Clumsily written, the quasi-buddy comedy of mistaken identity stars Samuel L. Jackson as a racist writer on a posh Massachusetts island who is mistaken for being a burglar. After dodging a shower of police gunfire at his house everyone finds out that he is the person living there. Rather than face internal affairs, the cops let a car thief (Nicholas Cage) out of jail to go in the home with a shotgun and act as the `burglar'. (So the `break-in' looks fatal, for obvious reasons.)

Michael Lerner was hilarious as the hypocritical former lawyer of the Chicago 7. Giancarlo Esposito was realistic as the Louis Farrakhan-like fundamentalist. If the police weren't so unfunny (and other parts were written more cannily) it all would have been much better.
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One of the funniest movies I've ever seen.
20 June 2002
At first glance, you would think a plot involving a patient stalking his psychiatrist as more of a thriller than a comedy. But beneath this utterly scary scenario is a hilarious romp that stays harmless until the dark, somewhat irksome end.

Bob Wiley (Bill Murray) is an unemployed man who just dealt a painful divorce. After an appointment with a well-known psychotherapist (Richard Dreyfuss) Bob puts so much trust into the Dr. that he follows him to his New England retreat and drives his life absolutely crazy (though the family thinks he's a lot of fun.) The `this is a robbery' line in `Quick Change' was classic but `Bob' will remain as Murray's finest movie (and role.)
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Heartbreaking, affective coming of age tale.
20 June 2002
Le Grand Chemin (English, `The Grand Highway') tells a familiar story of a preteen sent to live with his relatives during the summer of his mother's labor; when he gets back he will deal with the drastic personal changes that occur in any kid's life (new school, adolescence, friends, etc.). In the meantime he discovers the ropes of ways according to various characters that live in his relative's rustic village. Well acted by Richard Bohringer and the entire cast of several unknowns.
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A very mixed assortment; sometimes rewarding, other times boring.
20 June 2002
1-10 list of each stage of life acted out by the Python assemblage. You have to be a very, very, very big fan of what they do to find this funny, the type of fan that will camp out for two weeks just to see their subjective movie. The best parts are `Birth' and `Death'. The liver-removing scene was hideous and the exploding obese restaurant patron should impede your appetite for a month. An abundance of female nudity (if that's redeeming to you) but be forewarned: only those who find humor in shock and bad taste will be completely enthralled.
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20 June 2002
I thought I was watching a rejected `MSTK3000' movie when I saw this. Whether the `special effects' were avant-garde in that period of time, the movie was VERY dark and hard to see, unless this was an edit, as the only version I remember seeing was on network television. One of the tackiest, most overrated Hollywood science fiction movies ever made.
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Stunning account of the most mind-boggling prison break.
20 June 2002
Eastwood plays Frank Morris, a prisoner who is sent to Alcatraz, the island where one had a better chance of winning the lottery than escaping. Morris is a petty thug, and his cohorts for the plan were not clean characters that you would want to `root' for, but the interest is based on what they did, considering the probability of such an accomplishment was insignificant. A must see for either CE fans or those interested about the event.
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