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The Wire (2002–2008)
Outstanding - the benchmark for modern TV
6 March 2007
The best thing ever made for television, and really more complex and entertaining than all but a handful of movies as well. It's hard to know where to begin to praise this series - there really hasn't been anything like it before. Imagine if your all-time favorite movie, with the most compelling characters and interesting story, could go on for another 48 hours and only get better and you start to get the idea. When it starts you think it's going to a standard tale of noble cops versus sinister bad guys, but that's only the surface and you are about to see so much more.

A "wire" is police shorthand for a wiretap – a way to observe and record people without their knowledge. Soon you realize this is also a metaphor for the show itself – you as the viewer are getting a chance to be a hidden observer into the workings of a modern American city at all its levels, from the streets to the corridors of power. It's really like a televised novel - a realistic, complex exploration of the characters and the world they inhabit. As episodes build the hidden web of interdependence between the people and institutions from the lowest to the highest levels in the city of Baltimore is vividly brought to life. And as in life, the quick conclusion you make after seeing the surface of a person or institution is often revealed to be a completely different truth when you start peeling back the layers.

The people who write the Wire seem to be determined to pull no punches. Realistic violence, sex, and language are a main theme of this show and will no doubt turn off some potential viewers. But the beauty of The Wire is that all of these things are put in context due to the length (five seasons) of the series, and they are never gratuitous. Actions both large and small are shown to have consequences - sometimes far down the line, sometimes far beyond what was intended.

For me one of the most outstanding aspects of this series has to do with race. The Wire manages to make race both the focal point and just a starting point for the story at the same time. Although racial realities are never avoided and hang as an omnipresent backdrop just as they do in real life, as the series progresses the hugely diverse cast proceeds to lay glorious waste to many of the stale, narrow stereotypes Hollywood has been selling us for all these years. For this alone The Wire is far ahead of its time.

Nothing this epic or comprehensive could have been so amazingly well done with out superb efforts from everyone involved, and they are more than up to the task. Every member of the cast seems destined to play their role - McNulty, Bunk, Lester, Greggs, Omar, Prez, Bunny, Stringer, Avon, Bubbles, Bodie - there are too many great performances to pick a favorite. Superb writing, terrific direction, real sets, everything top notch. Despite being little-seen by mainstream TV audiences and being nearly ignored by the Emmys, this series will one day get the credit it deserves as a towering achievement and a true ground breaker.
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The Aura (2005)
Slow paced but excellent - a near classic crime/drama
23 August 2006
El Aura has a slow, almost hypnotic pace that Americans might have some trouble getting used to. But this Argentinean tale of a epileptic taxidermist who dreams of the perfect crime seems to me the closest anyone has ever come to successfully filming a American-style pulp crime novel from the 40's or 50's - it could have easily been written by Jim Thompson.

Ricardo Darin gives a fantastic performance as a emotionally repressed and marginalized man who fantasizes about stealing. He fancies himself smarter than everyone, but is so insecure he never takes any action. When he is presented with an opportunity to realize his dreams, he quickly finds he has overestimated his intellect and his bravado. But he has just enough luck and guile to keep himself afloat as the situation spins slowly out of control.

The direction and cinematography masterfully establish a mood of slightly uncomfortable inevitability. El Aura is lifelike in the sense that there are long periods of slow movement broken by sudden bursts of messy action and violence that don't have time to be reflected on or resolved in a nice tidy way before something else happens and attentions are directed elsewhere. A really interesting film, worth watching if you can find it – doesn't appear it's going to be released in the States.
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I Witness (2003)
What happened to this movie? It's really good...
18 July 2006
Spotted this DVD on eBay and bought it on the cheap from someone in the UK. Watched it last night and all I can say is what a great surprise! This is a really well done political thriller in the tradition of Traffic. Daniels, Spader, de Rossi, and especially Clifton Collins do some terrific acting. The direction is tight, the story is interesting, the political angle is provocative, the Mexican sets are authentic. All in all a very good film for what was obviously a smallish budget.

Why this movie isn't on video in the US (was it ever shown in a theater?) is beyond me. Especially considering all the crap that IS on video. Does anyone know what happened to this movie?
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Solid entertainment
29 October 2005
"Tycoon" may not succeed as a political film or piece of social criticism, but I don't think it was meant be those things. "Tycoon" was obviously meant to be first and foremost an interesting, entertaining crime drama, and on this count I think it succeeds marvelously. It has timeless themes: loyalty, betrayal, greed, envy, power, love, lust. To me the fact that it is based on the 1990's Russian oligarchs is almost secondary. It's more like a good war movie - the time and place is really just a setting, a backdrop used to tell a good story.

The script is beautifully structured, the actors all give terrific performances, the direction is understated and confident. Unexpected things happen, scenes jump back and forth through time, and the pacing is excellent. Even though it's got the "a gangster's life" story arc (similar to The Godfather, Casino and the hugely overrated Scarface) in which the risks are taken, trusts made and broken, beautiful women seduced, liquor poured, bullets sprayed, etc., from scene to scene you aren't quite sure exactly who will do what. It holds your interest from beginning to end.

No doubt there is a great documentary to be made about the rise and fall of the actual oligarchs or "New Russians", one which could tie together with great detail the entire true story. But "Tycoon" isn't that film, and I think it's arguable that it's better because if it.
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The Nest (2002)
Gorgeous but somewhat unsatisfying
10 April 2005
The Nest has a lot of things going for it. An interesting premise, pretty good acting, intense action, and some really above average cinematography and direction. However I found that I just couldn't get as engaged as I really wanted to in this movie. I think part of the problem was the dialogue, which tended to be a bit comic-bookish. Also the characters, while not totally one-dimensional, don't really add up to anyone you like enough to seriously root for. And I think in a siege movie that's an important element - you have to want the people who are holding out to make it. I wasn't invested enough in any of the characters to care whether they came through the other side. But watching this film isn't a total waste of time either - some of the scenes are really amazingly well done, almost poetic. A mixed bag, but tons of eye candy for true action fans.
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But you may be dead before this movie is over
2 January 2005
I can only guess what Mike Hodges and company were trying to do with this film. Create a moody modern film noir? An atmospheric look into the dead soul of a gangster? A slow boiling revenge story? Whatever, they failed totally. The film suffers from poor direction, abysmal lighting, uneven acting and some of the longest, most drawn-out filmed sequences of mundane human activity I have ever seen. Add to this a plot that leaves most of it's questions unanswered and you are left wondering if this could possibly be the same people who made Croupier. I could go into more detail, but best to just say avoid this one even if you enjoy Hodges and Clive Owen's previous work. Very disappointing.
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Loopy Fun
16 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
One long put-on. Anybody seeing this film thinking they are in for some kind of consciousness raising is in trouble. But if you want to see some Hollywood vets hamming it up and making fun of themselves (and the all too often self-serious documentary genre) you are in for a treat.

The iconic Herzog is fabulously game, playing himself as the embattled "director" of a documentary about the legend of Loch Ness. Zak Penn plays the "producer" with devilish glee, sending up many of the arrogant sycophants he's no doubt worked with. As Herzog tries to make a serious film examining myth and reality, Penn hilariously decides that the "dramatic tension" would be enhanced by, among other things, making the sonar operator a bikini-clad sex bomb and filming a delightfully bad remote controlled fake "Nessie".

Herzog discovers he's been tricked and threatens to quit, but ultimately decides to continue out of a misplaced sense of professional duty (or is it that he's starting to believe in the monster?). Then things get really weird, until the whole film happily disintegrates into a Blair Witch-style horror spoof. Everybody else in the "crew" gets in on the fun, and the laughs abound. It's great to see films folks satirize themselves (nobody does it better) and you'll have an enjoyable time going along with them.
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Solid cable movie
22 April 2004
I watched this on cable the other night and was very pleasantly surprised. It's well done, with solid acting from old pros Madsen and Van Peebles and very tight directing. The documentary style works well, and unlike most cops vs. robbers movies it shows the motivation and thoughts of the bad guys without glorifying them. It's obviously a bit of a PR piece for the LAPD, but it also makes some really good points about the availability of assault weapons and the failings of the justice and political system in keeping crooks from getting them. The locations used in the movie were the actual locations where the shootout took place, and this added immeasurably to the realism of the story. This film is a real cut above most cable fare and is really worth watching.
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Spartan (2004)
Mamet raises the stakes
15 March 2004
David Mamet serves up something a little different from his previous efforts. He leaves behind the world of con men (but not necessarily cons) and takes a stab at a political thriller/action movie. In my opinion no director working today delivers as consistently within his modest budgets as Mamet. This is of course due to the fact that this guy just flat-out knows how to write. You can nearly always count on good dialogue and detailed plotting in a David Mamet film.

Val Kilmer stars as a Delta-Force type soldier who is suddenly summoned by the highest powers of the US Government to find out what happened to young girl who has been kidnapped. Turns out the girl is someone very important, and things, as usual, are not what they seem. When the true nature of the situation is revealed, Kilmer and his young protégé, played by Derek Luke, begin a breathless, take-no-prisoners pursuit to find the girl before the situation gets out of hand. The movie has lots of unexpected stops and starts and surprises, and by the final scenes you begin to question all that has come before and wonder what the hell is going to happen next. In this age of mindlessly predictable blockbusters, you have to love that.

That's not to say that Spartan is perfect, or even close to Mamet's best effort. The more ambitious scale of this film compared to previous ones force a bit of awkward dialogue and some plot points that stretch credulity, but overall this film packs an undeniable punch. Much credit goes to Val Kilmer, who plays his role of icy, super efficient government operative with just the right tone. Kilmer's great talent has always been obvious, but all too often he picks projects that barely stand up around his performances. Not this time. Other actors are not quite as effective, including the usually spot-on William H. Macy, who just doesn't seem to carry the weight of his charachter.

Fans of Mamet will notice a continuation of some themes he has been kicking around for a few years. Government corruption, patriotism and personal honor are among them. In that sense this is at once a very old fashioned story and a very modern, timely movie. Despite some small flaws, I enjoyed it immensely.
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A qualified success
6 January 2004
The Dancer Upstairs is an extremely well done film. John Malkovich shows he is a talented director, ably moving along the story while never neglecting subtlety or nuance. The film is a very thinly veiled and lightly fictionalized account of the pursuit and capture of the leader of Peru's Shining Path terrorist movement. Javier Bardem gives yet another powerful performance as a Peruvian policeman given the mighty task of finding the terrorist leader.

This is a very mature and thoughtful film, and has a great deal of resonance in these times of global terrorism. Bardem's character has to constantly balance his desire to catch the terrorist who he clearly dislikes against the clumsy directives of a corrupt government who he also clearly dislikes. This is one of the central themes of the film, and it is presented in a very balanced and sophisticated way. Bardem's character also falls in love with a ballet teacher and dancer, who I think was meant to represent to him (and to the viewer) a kind of humble ethical purity that makes sustained struggle against corruption both personal and political worth maintaining.

The movie is paced well and the cinematography is excellent. Special attention was also obviously given to the music, and it fits very well into the feel of the story.

Given the overall excellence of the movie, I really had only one complaint. Malkovich uses Spanish speaking actors in all of the major roles, but the actors speak and most of the dialogue is in English. However given that these actors speak English as a second language they are often very hard to understand. My solution to this dilemma was to turn on the English subtitles on the DVD. This made a huge difference in my enjoyment and understanding of the film and I would suggest doing it if you are able. If you're not, you may miss out on some important dialogue and have a lesser appreciation of this fine first effort.
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An outstanding, solid movie with some terrific acting
16 November 2003
The first thing I thought walking out of the film "Shattered Glass" was to imagine what an ironic mess of a movie it could have been if had been made by Hollywood standards. The true-life tale of young hotshot political reporter/con-artist Stephen Glass is just fantastic enough to be adapted by Tinseltown and turned into some overdramatized, horrible, moralizing piece of dreck.

Thankfully that isn't what happened. Glass's tale has been adapted for the screen by people who understood that Glass's personal story (unlike his professional stories) could be compelling without embellishment. The result is a terrific, absorbing film and something of an acting showcase. Hayden Christiansen of Star Wars fame portrays Glass and is excellent. He perfectly captures the clear-eyed innocence and megawatt charm of the born liar, and convincingly shows a sense of desperation as his series of totally fabricated magazine stories comes slowly undone. A dream list of supporting actors that includes Hank Azaria, Steve Zahn, Rosario Dawson and Chloë Sevigny make nearly every scene interesting.

However the best performance of the film comes from Peter Sarsgaard as magazine editor Chuck Lane. It's Lane who first began to see through Glass's blizzard of BS and began to challenge him despite initial hostility from the rest of the staff and an increasing knowledge of the professional damage Glass's lying was going to cause to the New Republic magazine and everyone connected with it. Sarsgaard's portrayal of Lane as a man of quiet intellect and strong conscience is subtle and terrific.

With all this good acting, no frills were really needed from writer/director Billy Ray and he shows admirable restraint - no dizzy camera movements, no swelling score, just solid moviemaking. Somewhat surprising to me is that one of the producers of this film is none other than Tom Cruise, who seems to produce more interesting movies (Narc, Without Limits, The Others) than he makes. But at any rate he deserves just as much credit as everyone else involved in this smart, entertaining film.
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Kill it now and bring on something better
18 October 2003
Quentin Tarantino, like Robert Rodriguez and Kevin Smith, was an outsider indie filmmaker who burst into Hollywood like some breath of fresh air in the early 90's. I'll never forget the thrill seeing Reservoir Dogs, El Mariachi or Clerks for the first time - you almost ached for these guys to make more movies.

All the more painful, then, to see what each has become. The latest example is Kill Bill Vol 1. This mess of a film has buckets of blood, seventies camp galore, and intricately choreographed hong-kong style fight scenes. What it doesn't have is any soul or smarts. Hipster Hollywood has absorbed Tarantino whole, and he's become yet another slave to irony, style and camp. Gone is his incredible dialogue and amazing timing, replaced by severed limbs, bad animation, and long, dumb speeches.

I understand this was supposed to be some kind of cartoonish homage to a bygone era of cheesy filmmaking, but it just totally lacked originality. I didn't enjoy a single minute of Kill Bill, though I'm sure it's going to make lots of money. Meanwhile I'll be watching for the next Tarantino.
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The Rundown (2003)
An insult to action movies
17 October 2003
Amazingly, the best thing about this film is the Rock, who it seems can actually act. My advice to Duane-baby is to get a new agent pronto. Cause if he keeps making turgid, lame, unfunny action movies like this his acting career will be over faster than you can say WWF. Director Peter Berg has managed to fashion an astoundingly bad film from a pretty good idea. Even just an once of inspiration coupled with the Rock's charisma could have saved this movie, but it just rolls out one dumb cliché, bad joke and stupid bit of dialogue after another. Stifler and Rosario Dawson's talents are wasted, I think Christopher Walken needs to be taken aside and told "hey -you're a great actor, you really don't need to do this anymore". When Arnold passes by the Rock and whispers "good luck" in an uncredited cameo, I think it was maybe not because he's passing the action hero torch but because he'd seen the dailies.
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The Hard Word (2002)
Entertainingly different, Guy Pearce shines
17 October 2003
One of those films I found myself liking a lot, but it's difficult to say exactly why. The Hard Word has a little bit of everything going at once - heist film, love story, comedy, and drama. It could be (and was) marketed as a thriller about lowlife criminals, double crosses and crime not paying - in other words an obvious Australian-style Tarantino rip-off like the boring and derivative "Two Hands". However it seems to take its cues more from the kind of slower paced, character-based crime movies that were popular from the 70's.

Often movies like this one choose style over substance, and skitter along on simplistic scripts and dumb dialogue. Not the case here at all-The Hard Word has enough going in both departments to keep you more than interested and entertained, a credit to writer/director Scott Roberts. The music in this film is also worth mentioning - it's very good and matches the style of the film perfectly.

What makes the movie special is an amazing, low-key performance from Guy Pearce, whose talent becomes more evident every time he graces the screen. Playing one of three incorrigible but non-violent bank robbing brothers, he manages to make his character watchable, interesting and original. Co-star Rachel Griffiths plays his sneaky, trashy, two-timing wife; her performance is not quite up to Pearce's, but doesn't do anything to weigh the film down, and most of the other actors are top-notch.

I don't think this film did much business in the US (yet another indie that probably played on about three screens and no one heard about), but I predict it will find an audience on video and could even become a bona fide cult classic.
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Pure Fun!
15 July 2003
Johnny Depp. I've always loved him, but I love him even more now. He takes this movie in the palm of his eccentric hand and makes it sing. But also give credit to Gore Verbinski & Co. for making a slick, well-crafted and highly entertaining film. The effects were great, and Geoffrey Rush comes in a close second to Depp in inspired performance.

Sure, you can nitpick and say the fight scenes and some of the other actors were a little flat, but that would be entirely missing the point. By the time the credits rolled I couldn't remember having this much fun at the movies in a very long time.
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Lame, blurry and pointless
7 July 2003
Being a fan of both Boyle and Garland, I thought this was going to be a really intense, inventive and fast-paced movie. I was disappointed to discover it's mostly a collection of blurry, 70's style filmmaking revolving around some dull acting and a script that starts out good and ends up absolutely dying, no pun intended. Unfortunately Boyle should have realized that if you're going to make a character driven (?) zombie movie you need some compelling characters. It's the rare film that actually could have really benefited from some star power - had Boyle alum Ewan McGregor been cast as the lead it would have been infinitely more interesting. Sure, the zombies were scary and there were a couple of good moments, but by the time the film ended I was so uninvested in the story I couldn't have cared less.
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Gorgeous mystery is a solid debut for Dillon
19 June 2003
City of Ghosts is a exotic mystery that positively oozes atmosphere. The Cambodian setting really amounts to another character in the film, and it's obvious that Matt Dillon has a real love of the country and the people. Dillon's direction and Jim Denault's cinematography do a marvelous job capturing the quirky and sometimes mystical nuances of this part of the world. Little details are woven into the scenes that really reminded me of what it's like to travel there.

Dillon did nearly everything right in tackling his first directing project. He picked an underused and exotic locale, a good production crew, and surrounded himself with top-notch, veteran acting talent. Depardieu, Caan, and especially Skarsgard do a terrific work bringing to life their shady characters. Newcomer Kem Sereyvuth does a nice job playing Dillon's taxi driver/savior Sok. Dillon's character Jimmy, ironically, is probably the least interesting of the bunch. But Dillon as always gets through on his amazing good looks, and has enough acting chops to not embarrass himself. The same can be said for Natascha McElhone who is so gorgeous it doesn't really matter what she's saying anyway.

The film moves at a somewhat slow pace, giving the story and characters lots of time to develop. Occasionally this can be an issue - sometimes time was spent on sequences that didn't contribute much to the final story. For example the opening New York scenes could have been trimmed down quite a bit and nothing would have been lost. But this film is clearly about establishing mood, and on the whole that's exactly what it accomplishes. The mysterious music and long, lingering shots of Asian street and country life are may seem indulgent to some but I thought they worked really well.

The only part of this film that I could take any real issue with was the script. Written in the film noir who-can-you-trust style, I think it would have been better if it had been simplified a bit. Credit Dillon with making the complexities mostly work, but a few less red herrings and a more dramatic final twist would have really elevated the film. However, I enjoyed City Of Ghosts quite a bit, Dillon has distinguished himself and clearly has some interesting directorial work ahead of him if he keeps at it.
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It's way more than just a "teen" film....
17 June 2003
At first glance this seems to be a Asian-American version of the classic teen film premise of "good kids gone bad". Although the ethnicity of the characters does play a part in it, the real thrust and emotional direction of this film is something deeper, and puts it head and shoulders above most "teen" films. It nicely parallels the usual high school issues (crushes, insecurities, rivalries) with the unique and very serious situations of the story (and it thankfully makes the main female character every bit as complicated and interesting as the males).

Some really good acting and a terrific script helps carry the core message of Better Luck Tomorrow. And that message is that although these kids are incredibly smart and in many ways lead adult lives, they're still just kids and aren't emotionally prepared for the kind of situations they find themselves in. The movie does a great job of showing the slow escalation in both pressure and stakes when the boys move from petty teenage scams to real hardcore crime. By the end of the movie you feel like you've accompanied these boys on a very long journey, and not one of them is the same when it's over.

It's also a somewhat disturbing window into the lives of modern high-achieving high schoolers. The filmmakers make what I'm sure was an intentional, searing indictment of the parents of such kids - not one parent is seen or even really talked about in the entire movie. To me the message was obvious - that the parents are so immersed in their own lives that they are content to basically put their children on autopilot as long as, as one character memorably puts it, "the grades are there". I wouldn't be surprised if some people (especially baby boomers) find this way too real to make them comfortable.

The film is paced well and is full of interesting little scenes and bits of dialogue, and they aren't solely for amusement. I realized that many of them were there to obliquely foreshadow what would happen later. This is called great screenwriting. Couple that with very capable direction and this is one impressive film. I think that there's a very promising future ahead for all of the obviously talented people involved in Better Luck Tomorrow. Hats Off!
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90 dull minutes, 20 OK minutes, 18 good minutes.
21 May 2003
Considering all of the possible directions the Matrix storyline could have gone in, it's really too bad they picked this one. The first 90 minutes are dull as dirt, including a couple of uninspired fight scenes and endless sequences of pretentious pontificating. The filmmakers seemed to have lost sight of the fact that the most interesting and fun parts of the first movie take place inside the Matrix with fake people, not in the "real world" with the real ones. I actually got bored as hell, something I never would have dreamed would be my reaction to this long-awaited sequel.

The action picks up a little in the 20 minute car chase, although it's not as dramatic or visually exciting as I had heard. It suffered from the same problem almost all the action sequences in Reloaded did - they were too slow-motion, too impressed with themselves, too video game like. You just never really get into it.

The final 18 or so minutes of the film are really the only ones worth watching. The plot finally gets moving and I got interested, the action finally got a little tense, and most importantly you start to feel a little humanity and warmth in the characters. This is something almost entirely missing from the rest of the film, where they glide along reciting robot-like dialogue that painfully reminded me of the most recent Star Wars film. I hope Revolutions is better, but after this the signs are ominous.
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Possession (2002)
Interesting story spoiled by bad acting and dialogue
17 February 2003
The real question is this: If a director infamous for making bad films finally makes one that's sorta OK, does he deserve rich praise? My answer is no. Possession was meant to be two movies, which it is. Unfortunately director Neil LaBute managed to only make only one of those movies worth watching. Set in the present with flashbacks to the 19th century, the film is about two literary experts with a love of Victorian poetry who discover a shocking secret about a revered 19th century poet. The "period" portion of the film is excellent, mainly due to some uncharacteristically good directing by LaBute and excellent acting by Jennifer Ehle and the always great Jeremy Northham (if there was any justice this guy would be a major star).

Sadly the modern day characters are not played by actors of such caliber. Gwyneth Paltrow I suppose should be given credit for being occasionally OK, but Neil LaBute cohort Aaron Eckhart was a positively disastrous choice to play the lead. He clearly had no insight into a character who is supposed to be this sophisticated, and instead played him as a stereotypically cartoonish American male slob who inexplicably loves English poetry (and is a scholar to boot!) Add in some truly bad writing, dialogue and a screenplay that suffers from logic gaps and you've got a frustrating movie that might have been good but ultimately isn't. You'll be laughing at all the wrong parts.
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The Bank (2001)
Overwrought and lacking subtlety
13 February 2003
Maybe this is what goes over Down Under (sorry, couldn't resist), but I found this film to be lacking much sophistication. And it certainly withers next to the last Australian import I saw, the nuanced and terrific "Lantana". "The Bank" is about on par with what you might see on American cable, maybe slightly better acted. It's meant to be a tense thriller about corporate greed vs. the good of society, but the script tackled these themes in such a heavy handed simplistic way I couldn't get interested. No accident, I'm sure, that the "good" guy representing the common man was Aussie, and the "bad" guy who personified unethical corporate excess was an American (played by an Australian, the usually good and occasionally very good Anthony LaPaglia).

Sometimes when a film has a dull script, it can be rescued by inspired direction, acting or dialogue. Unfortunately "The Bank" doesn't have any of these, so it ends up being a mediocre movie. It wasn't awful, there are a couple of good lines and a decent twist, but not enough for me to recommend it. If you're hankering for a movie about a math genius, rent Darren Aranofsky's "Pi" instead. It's much better.
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Narc (2002)
Extra touches make this a good cop thriller
17 January 2003
Narc is a superb example of how an average script with a minimal budget can be elevated to a great movie through the craftsmanship of the people who make it. The story is simple (and tight) but isn't anything you haven't seen before. It begins with an Detroit undercover narc's murder. The investigation of this murder comes to a dead end, so out of desperation a burned out ex-narc who left the force under tragic circumstances (Jason Patric) is offered reinstatement and a promotion if he can solve the crime. He is teamed with a hell-bent detective (Ray Liotta), who also happened to be the murdered cop's best friend. Of course Patric's character gets more than he bargained for when he starts to uncover things that many people would like swept under the carpet. I won't spoil the ending, but suffice it to say there are a couple of surprises.

Jason Patric plays the lead role with nuance and subtle emotion, and despite second billing behind Ray Liotta, the movie is all his. Liotta is also good as Patric's hell-bent partner, but his character is more of what you would expect in this kind of movie. Then again, maybe Liotta plays "intense" so well we forget just how good he is.

For me, what set Narc apart was the careful attention given to detail. The wardrobe, locations, and dialog are gritty and totally realistic. The director does a great job of making the movie look real and the story flow well, and that couldn't have been easy because was obviously a low-budget film. One warning: Narc has a lot of graphic violence, and is not for the faint hearted. But if that doesn't deter you I would highly recommend this movie.
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Undisputed (2002)
5 January 2003
I just can't think of a single reason to recommend this movie. Bad direction, dumb story, bad acting, it even has lousy editing and music. Just a complete waste of time. Even boxing fans should avoid this turkey. Hard to believe it came from the hand of Walter Hill.
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The best show on TV
20 December 2002
Hands down. The episode "Had" is easily one of the finest hour's worth of television I have ever seen. What a nice change to see a show that has intelligent characters, complex stories and inspired direction. It's smart and moves fast and you have to pay attention as you watch, a sure sign it probably won't last - in fact by all appearances it's already done. Oh well, there's always insipid reruns of "Friends".
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Heaven (I) (2002)
In a word, dull.
20 December 2002
I'm at a loss to understand the praise this film seems to be getting. I thought it was basically a retelling of The Princess And The Warrior, but not even as interesting as that boring film. Going in I had great expectations - Cate Blanchett is a favorite of mine, and I'm still impressed by Tom Tykwer's Run Lola Run. Unfortunately Tykwer seems to have lost the energetic storytelling flair he showed in that film. Instead he appears to be searching for a slower, more soulful kind of cinema. But it's just not working. Meant to be dreamlike, Heaven ends up being more trance inducing. I just couldn't get interested in the story, characters or direction. Hopefully all involved will move on to do more interesting projects.
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