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The Secret Lives of Dentists (2002)
You may feel a slight pinch
Quietly, quirky film ...though perhaps not as magical as some of Rudolph's early work. Still, capturing quite effectively the challenge, the dilemma of Love in the midst of Life, of Family, of Better & most definitely of Worse. Leary is excellently grating as the acerbic alter ego, speaking both for the Audience and Narrator when he says "I'd want to know!" This perspective however sits in sharp
contrast to the narrative path and provides the dynamic tension which sustains the story. Engaging, entertaining, and ultimately, thought-provoking.
Blood Work (2002)
Boring, Banal & Bloodless
Hard to go wrong... combining an outstanding thriller writer (Connelly) with an outstanding set of actors (Eastwood & Daniels) with an outstanding director (Eastwood)....but, sadly, it all collapses. Daniels is a poor choice for the role......Clint is, ultimately, too old for the character.....the plot twists are telegraphed....the emotional connection with any of the characters is non-existent....the love interest is unbelievable & unarticulated. Not worth even a rental.
Soul Assassin (2001)
Killing the audience with total indifference
Accomplishing what I had thought impossible, this film moves from intriguing/thriller-worthy premise to absolute schlock within 5 minutes of the opening credits. No story. No characters. No acting. Dubious cinematography (I guess it's just a Blue, Blue World). All this matched by an ending which establishes a new standard for 'lousy'. Given that it was a free rental....I want my money back.
The Musketeer (2001)
M I C, K E Y, M -- O -- U -- S -- E !!!
One of the very worst films....totally appropriate for TigerLilly overdubbing. Horrid acting, trivial plot, ridiculous action. A strong candidate for Fast Forward honors! Unfortunately it is too easy to imagine a conversation in some LA bar between two Jeff Spicoli's: "Dude, what if we combined like, The Matrix...with, like, some totally awesome sword fighting...and made, like, a movie!"
Yes, it is.
Beautiful, poetic film....artfully combining & contrasting the seeming solidity and eternal nature of Mount St. Michael with the sweeping and ethereal conversations of a poet, a physicist, and a politician as they each (and together) explore the question of existence (oranges & cherries, oh my!)
Billy Elliot (2000)
Clever idea, excellent performance, but...
not what it could have been or should have been. Unfortunately predictable from beginning to end....a British SchoolBoy Flashdance (without the catchy tunes) constructing an unbelievable character (though the lead actor did an outstanding job with limited material) dealing with an unbelievable series of artificial situations.
Pay It Forward (2000)
A waste of top-notch talent & great idea
The movie, unfortunately, felt compelled to follow the novel's lead and succeeded only in wasting the abilities of Hunt & Spacey in what is essentially no more than a Made-For-TV series of artificial & blatantly manipulative plot twists & turns. It is sadly & entirely formulaic.
What Women Want (2000)
Trite, simplistic, formulaic, and only moderately clever. What rescues this film from total oblivion: the obvious fun that Gibson had with the role (particularly the Kelly-like dance sequence) and the performance of Hunt, which was typically nuanced far beyond the demands of the script. Ultimately the movie was schizophrenically confused about what it wanted to be when it grew-up: a comedy? a dramady? a biting social commentary? Ultimately it succeeded in d) none of the above.
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
O Oscar, Where Art Thou?
Tremendous film, surprising, much more than I had anticipated. Each actor's performance is perfectly pitched to blend seamlessly....achieving both the harmonies of the Foggy Bottom Boys and and vision of the Coen Brothers. A brilliant comedy.
Off key & flat
Outstanding comedic premise and a cast of outstanding players....too bad they did not have a better plot, better writing, better dialogue. The ending, to what could have been a nice, little, satisfactory 'B' movie dropped it into the definitively poor category. [though I would rewatch the karaoke, 'Fast Eddie' hustling scene and the initial duet between the Braugher/Giamatti characters]
Pearl Harbor (2001)
Lots of oyster, little pearl
Outstanding attack sequence..... the bomb descending, the planes diving, the ships exploding, the hand-held camera in the hospital ward, the screams of the wounded, the humanity, and the tragedy which was Pearl Harbor.
But ohhhhh, what terrible writing & acting (though Alec Baldwin is typically smooth & engaging).
What a shame that after investing so much though, attention and detail to 20 minutes of the movie, no one had any concern for the remaining 2 hours.
Pearl & the Greatest Generation... the world at war and everything all that means to who & what we are today....all this demands eloquence and unfortunately there is only rhetoric in this hi-budget cartoon of a movie.
Une liaison pornographique (1999)
An adult examination of Love, of Sex, and how these two worlds sometime coincide.
A careful & thought-provoking examination of how two lives intersect.... and how the nature of that intersection defines and then changes the level of personal engagement. The film is compelling in its continual exploration of how we know ourselves, how we know each other...the lens & filters (real & imagined) through which we know the world. Both performances were exemplary...and the conversations (which drove the bulk of the film) remarkable for their seeming realism. (even with subtitles!)
The Cell (2000)
Visually Surreal but ultimately empty.
High Concept: Jennifer Lopez travels to the mind of a serial killer....allowing the director to use the beautiful Jennifer in an endless variety of constumes, surrounded by the latest/greatest photo/special effects. Who needs a plot....who needs good writing.
Unfortunately & evidently no objections were raised and the Cell is the result. It could have been and should have been so much better....since, given the fantasy scenario ANYTHING would have been possible.
Vertical Limit (2000)
An extraordinarily 2-dimensional film...but one graced by nice photography, awesome mountains. Though it opens with a compellingly dramatic scene of significant tension, none of that is borne out elsewhere in the movie. The plot is tired, the dialogue predictable, the characters essentially unlikable, and a number of the literally cliff-hanging scenes totally unbelievable. Everything considered, though, not a bad way to spend a winter afternoon (matinee price): warm theater, box of popcorn, watching mountains on the big screen.
Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000)
Vroom, Vroom! Stalllllllll.
I like Cage; I like Duvall. I enjoy great car chases....but in combination, in this film, they add up to significantly less than the sum of the parts. No plot...no dialogue...no dynamic tension...and what you're left with is Jolie's puffy lips and one turbo-charged (and ultimately unbelievable) chase.
Scary Movie (2000)
Grotesquely horrible...demand your money back!
An unwatchable film....one of the very, very few that I've been unable to finish. If you select this thinking that it will be an "extreme" comedy....a "horror version" of Airplane, or Blazing Saddles, or Something about Mary...or even the mindless Porky's, you will be disgustingly disappointed. It would be a compliment to describe the jokes are puerile ; the humor is abysmally well below sophomoric. The film makes Adam Sandler look like Woody Allen.
A superb film (though one might argue with the ending resolution)... Crowe is outstanding and dominates both the story and the screen. Through tone, gesture, glance he is able to make of his character a veritable Force of Nature....absolute, intractable, implacable. When the film is at its best (and it is consistently at its best) you can feel the sand of the Coliseum under your feet! Truly a classic worth many repeated viewings.
L.A. Story (1991)
L.A.Story, written by Martin as cinematic ode to Tennant....is a surreal and engaging examination of the nature of Love (in L.A.). Reminiscent in many ways of Pennys from Heaven, it captures (sometimes exquisitely) the transcendence of the feelings, typically unexpressed, that his Weatherman holds for Sara...expressed in the film by lingering, glowing close-ups, the moonlit garden transformation, and Enya's haunting voice. [The film is a celebration of Love made more poignant by the real-life dissolution of the relationship between Martin & Tennant.]
Dangerous Attraction (2000)
Dangerous, only if you hurt yourself sleepwalking...
Poorly written, poorly plotted, poorly acted, poorly filmed. As a matter of fact, one of the few redeeming qualities was the quality of the body-double (though the transition from actress's face to the body-double was also poorly done). I felt like I was watching some sort of corporate training video: same overall quality...same overall message.
Kiss the Sky (1998)
Dram-edy of Middle-Aged Angst
A marginally new wrinkle on the "letting the days go down" theme: successful, men-at-mid-life...confronted by debt and loveless marriages seek to recapture the magical awareness/oneness with LIFE. The script & the cast's performances, however, elevate this particular approach above the norm.
Dark portrait of the inhumanity of War
The lush, dark green of the English countryside, it's brooks & obscuring fogs stands starkly in contrast to the unrelenting greyness of the mud, the mire and the bloody reduction of men. A loosely fictionalized portrait of Sassoon's hospital interlude and a dramatization of the question he raised in his Protest. Compelling on all levels.
The End of the Affair (1999)
English Patient Redux
So far superior to most of the rest....so far distant from the Porky's retreads, that despite its somewhat mawkish & formulaic plot, it is one of the better movies of the year (which is not necessarily saying a whole lot). Fiennes & Moore do excellent work.
End of Days (1999)
Commando meets Predator (with horns)
The core issues at play (God & Satan / Good & Evil) can be & should be tremendously compelling (as demonstrated through thousands of works of art/music/literature/film). End of Days, unfortunately, is nothing but a 2Dimensional Cartoon. Byrne's acting ability stands so obviously in sharp contrast to Arnold's corresponding lack of ability and is further underlined by a plot filled with nothing but stereotypes.
The single compelling scene occurs at the very beginning with the transformation of the Gabriel Byrne character and his subsequent interaction with his wife? girlfriend? It is both erotically charged & repellent -- modernizing the vampirish themes, the seductive power of evil.
A Classic Scottish Comedy (which isn't)
Mumford could easily be a distant village on some Scottish backroad...the dialogue, the characters, the quirky & quiet humor of the film (which is itself driven by the emerging love story) is as elegantly, simple & compelling as some of the best in this genre (which, coincidentally, seem to be typically Scottish).
Mystery, Alaska (1999)
Extraordinarily predictable...but Crowe is extraordinarily watchable!
Exactly what you think it is (though it didn't have to be)...but enjoyable nonetheless. It would be nice, but evidently inconceivable, that the triumphant underdog theme could actually be done with some depth and insight beyond that afforded by the typical Disney film.
Despite that, Russell Crowe's performance as the aging skater touched by marital problems ultimately makes the film marginally worthwhile.