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It Won't Put You To Sleep - Another Gondry Hit!
22 September 2006
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Min is, in my opinion, one of the best films of the last few years, so when I found out this was his film, I became much more excited and made sure to catch the premiere. It didn't disappoint me - the film's melange of surrealism and realism, of sleep and 'reality', of life and waking life.

This film takes the eXistenZ examination of virtual reality and really real reality and moves it one step further, where dream becomes real, and where the lines between sleep and not- sleep become blurred. At times this led to a bit of confusion, trying to grasp exactly what was happening - and there were little leaps here and there where things were happening that seemed not to make sense based on what we had seen - but in general, not knowing whether Stephane was dreaming or not - or whether, indeed, the entire film was actually a dream - heightened the fantastic aspect of the film, and made the story more enticing.

Bernal put on an expectedly strong performance, and Gainsbourg gave us nothing to frown about - their chemistry and, at times, lack of chemistry made the bizarre non-relationship between them perhaps the most real aspect of the film - and some scenes, like the scene where she finds the note, and the scene where they're 'married' on Stephane TV, are truly magical. But what truly stole the show was the stop-motion animation - especially the toilet paper roll city - and the very clever 'machines' like the 1-second time travel machine, which were magical to watch and compounded the dream sequences in an NFB meets Keith Haring kind of way.

Bernal's character, however, was immature to the point of being mean - which weighed down whatever sympathy one might have had for him. At some points his selfishness, and his cruel insults, started to grate on me. It didn't hurt the story so much, but it made me roll my eyes more than the film's surrealism ever did.

All in all, even with the moments of confusion and the character flaws of Stephane, the film was magical in all the right places. Fans of Eternal Sunshine will definitely approve and applaud. 8.5/10.
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Fearless (2006)
Typical But Strong Jet Li Film
22 September 2006
Fans of Jet Li will not be disappointed, but don't expect a socio-political epic like we found in Hero. For Jet Li's martial arts swan song, we instead go back to his roots, and get a Shaolin Temple/Fong Sai-Yuk style martial arts film, complete with the same dazzling skill and boyish charm that Jet Li provides with every film he stars in.

The evening of the premiere in Mntreal started out with a nice moment as a Make-A-Wish kid got a personalized message from Jet Li himself, and it kind of set the tone for the story to follow - learning through hardship that certain paths are simply superior to others. That may sound oversimplified, or even saccharine, but that just reflects the extremity of the film's 'message'. On the flip-side, even with a bit of over-emoting, and over-dramatization, there are moments of such profundity that you have to take pause and smile. The scene, for example, between Huo and Tanaka taking tea, was my favourite in the film. Partially because it was nice to see an HK film feature a pleasant and sympathetic Japanese character - who was actually, in my opinion, the best (and best-acted) in the film - even outshining Jet Li (though nobody could touch Li's fighting style).

In the end, the irony of the message of achieving peace, unity and honour through fights that often lead to death, is only surpassed by how one starts believing in Huo's ability to pull it off. From the shock of his death-punch, to the murder of his family, to his recovery through Moon and Huo's swansong in the film which says as much about Jet Li as anything else, any weakness in the film is always outweighed by the film's ability to suck you in and keep you there throughout, always on the edge of your seat, waiting to see what Jet Li would do next.

Not an epic, and hardly his best ever, but still a top notch film, and while we could have hoped for Li to make the greatest film of his career for his last, this is certainly one he should be proud of. 7/10
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The Protector (2005)
Tony Jaaa needs some spit and polish
17 September 2006
While more humorous than Ong-Bak at times, Tony Jaa's impressive agility and athleticism grows less impressive this time out - and this is more than simply having seen it all before (and any fan of Jackie Chan - who makes a humorous cameo here - and Jet Li will have seen it all before) but also a lack of anything to back up the fancy stunts and raw fighting prowess.

The simple problem with Tony Jaa is that he has the shiny film martial arts stardom down pat, but he has absolutely no charisma. One thing that all of the action and martial arts superstars to come from China and Hong Kong have in common is that element of charisma - be it Jackie Chan's buddy-next-door act or Jet Li's handsome hero, Lau Ching Wan's 'my father the cop', Shieu Shek's rock star or Chow Yun-Fat's tragic hero - they all really make you cheer for them, and draw you into their character. This Thai warrior needs a major lesson in on-screen performance -all he does is show off his Mui Tai skills, which can carry a film only so far.

I'm all for Tony Jaa breaking into the realm of martial arts stardom, but only when (and if) he can step up and bring us an actual PERFORMANCE first... 6.5/10.
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Water (I) (2005)
The Water of Life; Echoes of Baran
15 November 2005
In 2001, well-regarded Iranian director Majid Majidi came out with Baran, a film about a young girl forced to pretend to be a boy in order to bring money to her immigrant Afghani family, living illegally in Iran and not permitted to work. Baran means 'rain' in Farsi, and the allegory of water was a very important one thematically within the film.

Baran was later thematically pilfered by a less successful film, Osama, which dealt with the harsh reality of an anti-feminist Taliban in Afghanistan, where a girl is caught pretending to be a boy by the Taliban regime, and the horrible consequences of her actions - only committed for the purpose of survival.

Water is similar to both of these films on several thematic levels. Deepa Mehta finishes he trilogy on a powerful note. She gives us the story of two women, each trying to discover a sense of self-worth and purpose while trapped in a seemingly endless life of forced confinement. she also gives us the story of a woman who is not only trying to keep her faith but understand it, and a man who is looking for change in a world of stagnation and traditionalism.

The feminist ideal is a prominent one, as is survival against the harshest of odds. Inhumanity on one level contrasted against the theme of renewal, both physically and spiritually - the essence of water, the ever-moving, indispersable, and essential aspect of life itself. But Water succeeds on the level of Baran - unlike Osama, which preaches incessantly, hitting you over the head with its point until your concussed with what the director has to say. Water, like Baran, is subtle, preferring to let the human side of the story tell you what you need to know, and showing us the necessity for change, for hope, for unbroken faith, without holding our hands through the process.

Mehta has given us a very successful film. What struck me most about this film was that the subject matter is one that the Western world would likely exclaim as being incomprehensible - that of widows being thought of as untouchable, and spiritual pollution (as though it was their will that their husbands die on them...) - and yet so much of the Western World exists in this film. This is not merely an Eastern film that we should look at and cluck our tongues, saying 'those crazy Indians!' These issues exist in our back yards - the ill treatment of foreigners, of neighbours, of our own peoples.

This film is very heavy, but there is a light side to it - the message of Ghandi, and the promise of renewal of spirit. That faith is not something to twist to your own beliefs, but something for your beliefs to be twisted to. We are constantly reminded of Ghandi's teachings - but we are never preached to. Instead, Ghandi could almost be an absent narrator - his voice is only heard for a brief instant near the end of the film - instead we hear his voice through the voice of Narayan, who is the avatar of Ghandi in the film, and the avatar of change.

Water teaches us that problems exist, and that many are rooted in our own traditions and beliefs - often misinterpreted or twisted by us to fit our agendas. The British can't be scapegoats for THIS set of issues (though they were responsible for plenty of others). Change is hard to come by, but the one thing that is eternal is Water. Sure, there are a few moments of unsubtle prodding in the film, but the fine acting and smart writing overcame any moments of forced drama. And the heart-wrenching twists within the story were surprising in their finality, and not Disneyesque tear-jerking moments. Our faith (and not necessarily religious faith) must be like water - for without either, we cannot hope to survive. 9.5/10.
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The new PIxar?
10 November 2005
MORE MORE MORE! Andrea True must have been thinking of Wallace & Gromit when she wrote that, because I was actually sad when the final credits rolled. A big fan of the W&G films, I had been anticipating this for a long, long time, and believe you me it did NOT let me down. A great tribute to b-horror film and to the classic film archetypes, a mixture of great voice acting and stellar claymation - the sets in this put the W&G shorts to SHAME - this film has a lot in it for all ages, and kids and adults alike will love this film, for different reasons perhaps, but love nonetheless.

This is one of the films of the year for me. If it doesn't win the Oscar for animated film I'll be tempted to send poison pen letters to every member of the Academy. It prompted me to finally dump my W&G cassettes and buy the DVD just to get the extras. It took them two years to make, and you can sense the hardship of every single day's worth of effort they put into it. Pixar be damned, I want more Wallace and Gromit!

My highest recommendations - and I hope I haven't hyped it up beyond your expectations, but it surpassed each and every one of mine. 9.5/10.
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Better than expected, but still needs work...
10 November 2005
The best non-Pixar Disney film in years. Sure it had a touch of drag, and it was most definitely a kids flick, but one thing that stood out was that it wasn't infested with fart jokes and potty humour, which is a step above most kids films these days.

The CGI was ho-hum, but one thing I liked was the expressiveness which was highlighted by some wonderful voice work by Joan Cusack and Steve Zahn. And Don Knotts was fabulous - we need to find more work for Don Knotts, he's so good! I also loved the Adam West cameo at the end.

The problem with the film was, as pointed out by a few, that the story was thin and they filled the empty spaces with fun moments, like the Spice Girls karaoke scene which cracked me up. More attention should have been made towards a linear plot - but hey, the film wasn't that long, and the fun scenes they used as mortar really did hold it together.

All in all, an amusing film, above average in terms of entertainment, but hardly a classic. I'd recommend it for a fun family outing, as the kids in the theater seemed to really get into it - and I had nearly as much fun hearing all of the kids laughing as I did watching the film. 6.5/10.
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Doom (2005)
Worst film of the year!!
10 November 2005
I thought Alone in the Dark was awful. Well, it was, but this just surpassed it in terms of ultra-horribility. I know that's not a word but it's all I can summon up to describe the experience that it Doom.

Watching Doom is like watching someone play the video game, but without being able to crack jokes or talk to the player about the game. It's filled with characters who are completely unrealistic as marines - and there are references to it being a game from the beginning of the film - from the Rock telling the to get ready to enter the game right down to each of them picking up their guns and gaining a 'handle'

The effects were somewhat impressive - I liked the sealing door that shut right onto the attacking monster. BUt that's all it was - a CGI-plated quagmire. The scene where it turns into 1st-person shooter POV was completely contrived - it made no sense and was just there for the sake of being there. As well, there was pretty much zero story - they were thrust into it from the very beginning with no back story or explanation as to what was going on and when they kinda sorta filled us in the details were few and ridiculously dim.

Finally, the ending drags on endlessly - just when you think the penultimate fight scene is over, it picks up again until it seemingly ends only to pick up again. And when it DOES end, if you're still awake, it's horridly anti-climactic.

My advice: STAY AWAY! Don't even bother renting. Just play the damn game and rent something worth watching. I'd give it a bomb if they'd let me but I'm stuck with the one star. 2/10 (with a 4/10 for effects, if you're still in the theater to see 'em...).
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The best horror film of the year - so far...!
12 April 2005
Forget, for a moment, that you ever saw the original. Forget the 'based on true events' tag-line - inevitably there to sell extra tickets. After all, a horror film based on true events is Hotel Rwanda, far scarier than this - though for different reasons.

Now that those little tidbits are out of your system, sit back and prepare for the best damn horror film of the year! The suspense is there, with the right blend of sharp cutting, solid pacing, slick cinematography and a musical accompaniment by someone who has obviously done his horror film homework (Clay Duncan's work on the Ring films' scores surely helped...). The editors did work on films like Face/Off, True Romance and MI:II, which certainly helped a novice director (Andrew Douglas), whose only other film was a Southern-Christian documentary entitled 'Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus'.

The film is not perfect - there are a few moments of tedium - namely when the characters - particularly Ryan Reynold's ever-darkening George - get repetitive, especially with the dialogue. And the end drags a little as the family desperately try to escape the horror - no, I won't spoil it, but think to yourself when watching the film: why not just break the bloody window? And why run further UP the roof, instead of just jumping off the edge of the lower eave?

Still, great editing and a fantastic atmospheric setting move this film easily through any minor difficulties, and as a longtime horror fan, I did find myself startled on occasion - though that may have been due to the two *shrieking* girls directly behind me (and here I thought the film was 13 and over...? They may have looked older, but they could have fooled me...their behaviour certainly didn't)

All in all, I give this one high marks for excitement, pacing, and eeriness. It mixes the right amount of horror with dramatic flavour and tension. Not the best horror film ever, but a helluva lot of fun! 7.5/10.
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A Jim Jarmusch masterpiece!
12 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is possibly the best Indie film of the 90s. Its certainly up there. There are so many things I'd like to say about this film - I could write a dissertation! So here's attempt, in point form:

-The cast: All I can say is WOW! Forest Whitaker blew me away - even more so than he usually does.

-Notice how the cartoons are a direct prediction or reflection of the scenes surrounding their viewing? And how the gangsters are all awed by them. An interesting connection to the cartoonish gangsters themselves - gangsters who are all old and have fallen into gross caricatures of what gangsters should be. It gets to the point where Vin praises Ghost Dog for sending them all off 'like real gangsters', implying that they're fake.

-Louis and Ghost Dog live by a similar code - except that Louis betrays his code in the end. Interesting how G.D. says, "me & him, we're from different ancient tribes and now we're both almost extinct." Almost prophetic as it leads to the High Noon style Western showdown, where G.D. sacrifices himself in order to remain honourable.

-The best friend, marvelously played by Issach de Bankole, is able to communicate back and forth with G.D., even though neither of them speak the same language. Yet they always know what the other is saying.

This is a classic samurai tale, and a classic fairy tale. A fascinating connection to Rashomon, featured in the film, which takes the same story, which changes drastically as its recounted by different witnesses. Yo have the sens in this film that those who are involved on the same plane are separated by different understandings of reality.

You really need patience to appreciate this film and its various divergences. Many of the slow moments are extremely pertinent to the parent themes of the film. Set in Unknown, USA - which may as well be feudal Japan - the film breaks boundaries of communication and social/moral code. "The end is important in all things". 10/10.
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Millions (2004)
Millions of Clichés
5 April 2005
This film was a first - a film with kids under 14 that didn't make me want to strangle them.

That aside, this film was full of quirks and neat ideas - including Damian's obsession with saints and their appearance as guardian angels and advice givers - his naming of them was always good for a laugh - and is brother Anthony's stock broker mind. Sure, they were a few years ahead of their apparent age, but a suspension of disbelief - at least as far as that went - wasn't unacceptable.

The inherent problem within this film was a bucketful of clichés that started early on and kept rolling forth as quickly as the high speed trains that we felt so prominently. The dialogue was so predictable at times that I mouthed the words before they sprang forth from the characters' mouths - and don't get me started on the scene between Damian and his mother, followed by Anthony seeing the 'saint' for the first time. When she tells Damian that her miracle 'is you', after I rolled my eyes and mumbled the predictable words myself, I almost choked to death - and it wasn't on tears.

The film dragged on for quite awhile, with too many little plot offshoots, and too many little twists and turns to the story to try and provide a little suspense. And what was with that final scene??

Nope, this film didn't cut it for me, and Boyle can do better. When my friend, Jeff, remarked after it was over that he was itching to see Shallow Grave again I agreed, but for different reasons. He enjoyed this film and wanted to enjoy that one again. I just wanted to be reminded of Boyle when he was sharp and made great movies. 4.5/10
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Beauty Shop (2005)
Booty Shop
30 March 2005
This was Booty Shop more than Beauty Shop, and a spin off with a strong cast and a lot of potential was buried in silliness. The Barbarshop films were successful because they were feel good, fun and had a sense of victory for the hardworking father.

This time, we have the exact same sentiments in reverse - mother instead of father, all women stylists except the one guy, all black except the one white girl - except instead of having a white guy who is trying to be a boy from the hood from the outset, we have a girl who forgoes her personality in favour of becoming a black wannabe. So the message from that perspective is that in order to fit in and be accepted one must conform to be just like everyone else. Good for a few laughs, but loses something in the translation.

The standouts here are Kevin Bacon who is outstanding and hilarious as Jorge the not- quite-Austrian salon owner, and Djimon Hounsou, who is charming and catches you with the kindest face in film.

The rest of the cast are average, each actor and actress playing themselves and bringing nothing special to the table.

On the whole, this film is just a shadow of the Barbershop films, basically trying to emulate them frame by frame, except for one important aspect: this film has no plot. No story. it's just a bunch of scenes strung together by the overall premise of a beauty shop owner trying to make it in this crazy world. No story and no Cedric the entertainer and a ton of excessively vulgar booty humour equals a poor (wo)man's Barbershop. I'd save your tenner and wait for the DVD - or better yet, rent the Barbershop films. They're the better bet, as the originals usually are when compared with the clones. 5/10.
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Seven Times Too Many?
28 March 2005
One word sums this film up: average. It's a very average film, with nothing special about it whatsoever. The inherent problem in this film: too many twists and turns. Every second scene has a new twist, and there are so many that the film loses its sense of purpose. Yates tries to be so clever with all of the plot twists and turns, but there are so many red herrings and cons within cons that it's just overwhelming - and falls beyond the zone of believability. This film is trying too hard to be a classic noir, and the director can't decide whether he wants to be John Huston or Guy Ritchie. The only problem is, his script is nowhere near as sharp as the Maltese Falcon, his visuals nowhere near as crisp and noir as Huston, and he doesn't have any of the humour of Ritchie.

And Pollack is no Bogart, Balaban no Bacall or Mary Astor. And the characterization is faulty - aside from Pollack's character (Harlan Jr.), the other characters simply don't stay true to form - they change throughout the film in ways that aren't just unexpected, but uncharacteristic. As well, Pollack simply isn't believable as the kind of character he's playing. His character is too genuine, too naive - and the way he ends the film (no, I won't spoil it) is a stretch. Yates is borrowing more than a little bit from Miller's Crossing, but Pollack is no Gaberiel Byrne - and he's also far from a Bogart or Fred MacMurray.

As well, the middle sags horribly. From the frenzied pace of the beginning to the frenetic pace of the end, we have this slow and dreary interlude with a 'romantic' aspect that perhaps wants to be a red herring, but just feels false, shallow and out of place.

As far as Canadian film goes, however - at least non-Quebecois Canadian film - this is a pretty solid one. Which doesn't say too much about Canadian film. We certainly have a lot to learn about film-making, but there are always moments where I feel that we're heading in the right direction. Not the best Canadian film I've seen, but nowhere near the worst, its flaws aren't serious enough to make you want to stop watching.

In the end, this film tries very hard and brings forth some interesting and quirky characters, but falls short of its potential.Yates has something interesting going here, and he shows bright promise, but he needs to tighten up his script and gain a better understanding of film - especially film noir - before he can near that potential. Yates will get better, but he needs to take a step back and examine himself and his work first. 6/10.
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Downfall (2004)
Possibly the most important film of the year...
28 March 2005
Hirschbiegel wanted to make sure that this film was directed by a German, and done right, so that the story was put forth cautiously and in the proper hands. It was heavily researched, and is based primarily on interviews with the sort of 'narration' character, a secretary to Hitler named Traudl Junge, who was 22 at the time, and was excused after the war, considered one of the 'young and innocent' - the youth who were caught up in the Nazi Machine without being considered 'at fault'. Excerpts of her interview make the perfect bookend to this film, as we enter and exit from the story with some powerful thoughts to process. It's also based somewhat on interviews with Albert Speer at Spandau, and shortly after he was released, and on a book by one of the world's foremost historians/researchers on the subject. It's aura is exhaustingly real, unbelievably intense. Even now, three days later, I'm still somewhat numb. This is definitely not Hollywood melodrama...

This film is extremely important, because it forces us to realize that Hitler - along with everyone else surrounding him - was one of our species. It does not pull punches, and certainly doesn't make him sympathetic, doesn't 'humanize' him, and highlights his delusions to make sure there's no mistake about his mindset. But it's a film that forces us to realize that it was a human being who did this - who committed some of the worst crimes humanity has ever witnessed, and that is an eye-opener that some people, I think, need to have. Because if we simply dismiss Hitler as an inhuman monster rather and a human one, then we are trivializing the deaths of tens of millions of people, each of whom died in order for us to learn what human beings are truly capable of. 9/10.
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Bull Durham - The Retirement Years!
27 March 2005
That's not a knock, by the way. Costner knows his limitations, and he knows his Oscar days were a flash in the pan, so he's taken a role here that he knows is reliable, and at the same time is just different enough that it will seem less like a 'safe' role ( pun intended) and more like a genius role.

And he pulls it off. Ignoring For the Love of the Game, which I shouldn't have even mentioned, this film is the true end to the 'trilogy' (or triple-play, as it may be), finally following up on Bull Durham and Field of Dreams. Costner pulls it off beautifully, and it doesn't hurt that Joan Allen is on top of her game, as well. Looking a bit too gaunt for my liking, Allen was still sharp as an angry axe, and her expressiveness...her control over the expressions on her face...simply masterful. The strained relationship between Allen and her daughters, and the moments where you just want to smack Allen just as her daughter exclaims (I nearly cheered during the 'door-kicking' scene), are surpassed by the understanding of the hamster running around inside her head and recognition of the need for every character in this film to overcome the limitations they've each set for themselves. Especially when you find out just how misplaced all of the anger and hostility is.

So what do we have here? Very sharp dialogue, a quirky story that rotates cleanly between gut-busting hilarity and tear-jerking sentimentality, and through it all you can't help but feel that this film is a winner! Sure, there are flawed moments, and the film could certainly have been trimmed here and there, but it doesn't drag and it's definitely a pleasure to watch. Allen and Costner shine so brightly in this one, that the rest of the cast - who are quite good - just don't matter much. They're 'window-dressing', as I've heard them called, but without the window dressing, potential customers will simply walk by. This is the Costner/Allen show, but their support is outstanding.

And the afore-mentioned flaws? One inherent problem within this film is the attempt to explain the film and its emotions - through the weak bookend narration, the ballet scene, Costner and Allen giggling like schoolgirls during their first 'sex' scene. These are contrasted by moments of extreme poignancy, wicked humour and sharp dialogue. Not as deep or meaningful as some other films, but much deeper than it's given credit for in this review.

This is probably the second-best film I've seen so far this year, behind only Hotel Rwanda. It was Costner's best role since Field of Dreams, and reminds me why Costner still gets roles and money to make films, even after the string of disasters and poor choices. I recommend it - take the chance, you won't regret it. 8/10.
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Be Cool (2005)
Definitely Cool
27 March 2005
I think I'm one of the very few outcasts in this world who actually liked this film! It's not Get Shorty - we all know it's not Get Shorty, but Sonnenfeld doesn't do sequels (unless they're Men in Black...) and Tarentino was off masturbating to Kill Bill 2, and so we get F. Gary Gray of 'The Italian Botch' to try and foul it up.

I admit there were flaws. Travolta was flat, Keitel was generic, Uma still looks like a heroin addict and doesn't hold a candle to Rene Russo's performance in Get Shorty, Gray pushed a lot of filler into the film and could have lopped a good 20 minutes, and it's obvious that Leonard didn't adapt the screenplay by his lonesome.

But The Rock was outstanding - a pleasant surprise that proves once again that he is an intelligent and strong actor who can break out of his mold and isn't afraid to poke fun at himself, and Andre Benjamin, Cedric the Entertainer and Vince Vaughan were all a pleasure to watch, each equally willing to have fun at their own expenses. The music videos were irritating on the whole, but the Aerosmith performance blew me away - and I don't even like that song (or the four clones of that song that were also released as singles) - but the performance was powerful, and Steven Tyler was great to watch throughout.

It's not as sharp as Leonard's other offerings, with little dramatic tension and perhaps too much of an accent on comedy, but if you go in without high expectations and realize that this isn't Get Shorty but a self-mocking sequel that understands inherently that it's only a shadow of the original, then you'll have a lot of fun and a lot of laughs. It's not the best film of the year, but it's certainly an entertaining one! 7/10.
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This Film is Not About Deep Throat
27 March 2005
Sure, there are the corny jokes, the innuendo, and of course, the deep throat scene (you knew that was...erm...coming...sigh), but this film is beyond that. It's about a phenomenon - a phenomenon that changed the way North America views sex, pornography, censorship, and feminism.

Deep Throat changed America. Stop laughing, shaking your head - it's true! After Deep Throat, the government tried to shut down 'lewd' and 'vulgar' behaviour, and tried to keep it from the screens - but it was too powerful. The streets were filled with people who proclaimed their rights to watch the 'filth' if they wanted to - and these people weren't just shady perverts, protest-hungry college students and free-loving hippies, they were the middle class, the bourgeois, the suburban, the housewives and businessmen, older ladies and middle-age soccer moms - they were suburban middle America, and they were hungry to take part in this wave of commercial sexuality. America had been repressed for forty years and they needed to LET IT OUT!

The downside is that the phenomenon won. And one thing led to another, and somewhere along the way it lost its edge and we lost the sensual, leaving us with the sexual alone. The explicit, the clinical, the self-stimulating - we have it all on the click of the satellite remote, the DVD player, the internet - but there's no love in it any more. Deep Throat was hokey. It was crap. But it celebrated sex in a FUN way. And the 70s porn industry loved the body, it loved being sexy, it loved sultriness and sexuality. All you have to do is look at the art-house softcore films of the era - Emmanuelle, Camillle 3000, etc - to see this. Feminists were split - some loved the sexual freedom, others hated the exploitation - but everyone agreed that it was all RELEVANT. In a way, Deep Throat opened doors that desperately needed to be opened, but in a way it ruined what could have been beautiful. We won the right, but lost the passion.

Meanwhile, how often are you gong to have Larry Flynt, Dick Cavitt, Camille Paglia, John Waters, Alan Dershowitz, Normal Mailer, Bill Maher, Erica Jong, Xaviera Hollander and GORE VIDAL (!!!), one after the other lauding the most successful film in history??

This film is fascinating because it looks beyond the porn. It gives the curious, and the porn-hungry, that Deep Throat scene and a little sex thrown in for good measure. But those looking for XXX-friendly masturbation material are in the wrong theater, and will be bored by the talking heads, as they argue the pros and cons of a cheaply made, hokey porn flick that wouldn't elicit more than a half-chuckle from today's film-going audience (or from today's multi-billion dollar porn industry).

We see those who applaud and those who oppose. We see how Andrea True became a one-hit wonder (More More More!!), we see how Harry Reems became the scapegoat/fall guy and was convicted and incarcerated for obscenity (it probably should have been for bad acting...), and we see how Linda Lovelace was used and abused by everyone from her husband to the porn industry to feminists, each with their own agenda. Will the real Linda Lovelace please stand up? (Question: did Gloria Steinem exploit Lovelace any less than the porn industry did...??)

Fact: The porn industry has degenerated into everything it was expected to

Fact: Those in the porn industry who aspire to higher standards are 99% likely to be doomed to fail miserably and get blacklisted in Hollywood

Fact: Inside Deep Throat is the first documentary to really look at the shift within the industry, and where it all went wrong.

Not for the overly prude, the overly perverted or the closed minded. For the few of you who are left, it's an easy 7.5/10.
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Constantine (2005)
A Hell of a Film!
27 March 2005
A fun-filled and exciting adaptation of the comic. If you're a purist, you'll hate it - but for those of us who can appreciate something without it having to be an exact replica down to the letter, it is a film worth exploring.

This is not the first film that seemed doomed when it was relocated from England to the States. High Fidelity is one of my all-time favourite novels. When I heard that they set it in Chicago, I nearly flipped - I mean, being in England is central to the book! I sensed that the relocation would completely ruin the novel. Then I saw the film. I should have known that any film Stephen Frears directs and John Cusack stars in would have a hard time being awful. High Fidelity is one of my absolute favourite films.

Constantine isn't directed by Frears, and Reeves is no Cusack, but when I heard it was relocated from England to LA and that Reeves was J.C., who had become a cop along the way, I kept an open mind. I knew from experience that change could be good. You have to remember that the average film-goer is not a comic fan, and few of them have read the comic. While purists will curse and moan about the changes, those making the film have to keep the film interesting to a mass audience while trying to retain as much of the essence of the comic as possible. They did a damn good job here. It's not the best film I've seen, but it was a fair adaptation, it was exciting to watch, and it had a tight script which was well-shot and well-adapted. Considering the director is a first-timer who had previously only shot videos, it's actually quite impressive. Only David Fincher and Spike Jonze have ever really made the crossover successfully (and with talent for film-making), so it's not often we see a film as well constructed as this by a video director.

Keanu Reeves is exciting to watch - especially in films where he really enjoys himself. You can tell that he really likes playing this character. Unfortunately. he is stuck with a voice that simply cannot change - like Sly Stallone and Vin Diesel, Keanu has the voice that will forever sound the same. In Dangerous Liaisons everyone complained that he sounded like Ted, here everyone complains he sounds like Neo. But once you get past the surface, you'll see a rich character portrayal, with an intensity and discomfort that Neo never really had. He can't shake his voice - which will always be that of Ted Theodore Logan - and now will always have pieces of Neo in it. But those who know the comic should be impressed with the way he carried himself - his poses, his body language, they really reflected the J.C. we know and love.

Rachel Weisz is as sultry as ever, and what an interesting performance by Tilda Swinton - who opens up all forms of questions with her androgynous characterization of Gabriel. The sexless angel - or multi-sexual angel - brings an interesting level of interpretation of heaven and divine intention to the film.

Djimon Hounsou and Pruitt Taylor Vince each performed fantastically, as is expected of actors of their calibre. If Keanu had intensity, they blew intensity off the map.

But not as far as Peter Stormare did, as a perfect Satan. Part playboy, part psychopath - his eyes had that same look they did in Fargo...something in them that says 'you don't want to look here, go away. NOW!'

And was that Gavin Rossdale I saw as Balthazar?? If he only sang as well as he acts, Bush might have been a half-decent band...

All in all, this is not the best film of the year, but it certainly beats most of the other films out there at the moment. With a plethora of second-rate horror films and really awful video game movies, it's nice to have a seat-of-your-pants horror/suspense/ adventure film to fall back on. Slow at times, when it's on, it's ON - and it's very impressive to look at. Not for the stubbornly purist, but for anyone looking for an entertaining, quality film, I recommend it, 7.5/10
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Promise for the future the present is a work in progress
27 March 2005
There's no denying Jaa's talent - one merely has to look at the foot chase through the streets of Bangkok, with Jaa leaping, nay FLYING, through the air over everything and everyone, through hoops, under cars, between-over-under-around obstacles everywhere, to see the grace and flow of his movements, and the raw potential that lies within his body, untapped.

But first he needs to work on the other side of film-making - you know, the acting? Jackie Chan has the clownish charm, Jet Li has the smile and the presence - the charisma, Chow Yun-Fat has the eyes - that disturbing glare and the sense that he is none-too- stable, Chieu Shek has the raw emotion and the on screen pain, and Lao Ching-Wan has the whole package put together. Tony Jaa needs to find the emotion, needs to let it out. Because although this film is essentially an action-packed showcase of his ability as a raw fighter, Wongkamlao steals the screen in almost every scene.

When Jaa finds his role, he will take his place among the greatest Asia martial arts/ action stars of today. But he has quite a ways to go before reaching that level. 6.5/10.
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The Devil in our Backyard
27 March 2005
I saw Shake Hands with the Devil not long ago, on Radio-Canada, and it was a very strong counter to Hotel Rwanda, which I had seen just days earlier. It amazes how countries that stand up and decry the Holocaust, that call Iraq and Afghanistan centers of evil that must be invaded and liberated, seem to sit quietly and allow genocide to occur repeatedly throughout Africa. Whatever the reason may be - no resources or interests, an attempt to pacify mutual allies, or simple apathy because it's 'not a Western problem', it fills me with anguish to see the results. And to see CNN and the media giving Iraq and the Asian tsunami 24/7 coverage while making Rwanda and Darfur a footnote on the back pages is nothing short of horrendous.

One scene in particular really stuck with me - it's the scene during the Rwandan inquest, where a Belgian senator starts to harangue Dallaire over the deaths of a couple of Belgian peacekeepers, who he claimed could have been saved. It absolutely astounded me to see this self-righteous and self-centered man thinking about the loss of two men while nearly a million were butchered. And to blame Dallaire, who was handicapped by the UN who refused to give him support or a boggles the mind. I didn't see the Belgian government pleading for the UN to intervene...

In Darfur it's the same situation - the UN doesn't want to intervene, so they swamp their investigation and reports in red tape, mainly because China has oil contracts with the Sudanese government and Russia has sold arms to them. It looks like the only lesson that the previous genocides of the last century has taught us, is that if there's going to be genocide, get on the side that is committing it and make sure that your interests are secured...

Bravo to Dallaire for having the courage and cojones to return to Rwanda and to give us his outstanding and this astonishing and important documentary. 9/10.
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The worst film I've seen in a LOOOOONG time
27 March 2005
I'm not even sure it's worth the commentary, but here goes:

This film had to take the time to explain a convoluted back story before the film started, just so it wouldn't have to bother with such trivial things as 'plot' and 'story' once it was up and running. It's fragmented and disjointed, with scenes that have little to do with each other, horribly transposed upon each other, with little transition. It's full of generic and 'mandatory' scenes that do little to further the plot. Like the Slater/Reid sex scene - its only purpose in the film was to show off Tara Reid in a bra, and frankly I can get that online in 30 seconds, I don't need to waste an hour forty-five for a thirty second, ridiculously out-of-place,on-screen roll in the hay. And there are a couple of moments of gore, which belong in Dawn of the Dead, not an Aliens-clone sci-fi action film.

Frankly, this film wouldn't even make a good video game - it doesn't hold a candle to the Playstation game it's based on. It's too hackneyed; a string of second-rate action sequences held together by grand canyon-sized plot holes and some of the worst dialogue I've ever encountered. Not to mention heavy over-emoting by the good IL' evil doctor villain character, and the bad-ass military character, the latter played by Stephen Dorff, who suddenly goes from irritating power-hungry jerk-off to heroic military buddy.

And I haven't even touched on the lack of character background, lack of chemistry, or the shallow attempts to use strobes and lots of machine gun fire to hide the lack of CGI effects. Guess the budget just wasn't high enough. Do yourself a favour, just rent Aliens instead.

1.5/10 - and only because, sadly enough, I've actually seen one or two films that are worse.
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...And miles to go before I weep
27 March 2005
Ice Cube has given us some great performances. Just look at Higher Learning and Boyz n' the Hood to see the quality of acting that Ice Cube can dole out when he's in a film that demands more form him. Even Barbershop- like it or hate it - has Ice Cube giving more than just a generic, perfunctory performance. And then there was this.

What we learn from Are We There Yet:

1) That it's okay for children to vandalize and destroy a $100K vehicle, inside and out, without fear of repercussions or consequence.

2) That young children can be obnoxious and rude, disrespect adults, cause violence and harm to men for daring to date their mother, and that this is all within the realm of normal behaviour for them. Heck, it's funny - aren't they darling?

3) That projectile vomit and urinating in people's faces are funny and should generate guffaws from everyone in the theater.

Sorry, but that's just not me. I enjoy real humour, and have long since past the point in my life where I fell into hysterical laughter over someone puking all over the windshield of a car. Even South Park had more than just toilet humour to provoke the laughs - going as far as to satirize themselves over the toilet humour they DID use.

While the film tried to redeem itself with the message of love and the 'value' of family at the end of the film (aside from Nia Long's nauseatingly saccharine dialogue in the final scene) I simply can't stomach the overall message this film sends forth - that it's okay that the children caused all of the damage and trouble they did, and that all of their inconsideration and intolerably rude behaviour is okay, because in the end they smiled adorably and gave Ice Cube a hug. Five minutes of Hollywood sweetness does not excuse the ninety-five minutes of my life that I sacrificed to watch the director try and prove to the world that sterilization is a good thing. I'm just glad I didn't pay to suffer through it.
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Elektra (2005)
Look, another Marvel movie! -yawn-
27 March 2005
Could have been MUCH worse. It could have been *Daredevil*! At least Ben Affleck stayed away from this one...

Garner was alright, but still unconvincing as Elektra to anyone who's read the comics. In fact, all of the characters in the film were fairly stock compared to the characters in the comics - and I'm not sure how Stone, Typhoid Mary and Tattoo came to work with Kirigi for the Hand, but hey, it's not the first time they've skewed comic book history for the sake of a Marvel movie. Only in the X-Men films, the results worked.

The first two-thirds of this film were actually quite watchable. Then it degenerated into a Hollywood action/romance. Dozens of Hand Ninjas swarming a mansion only to be dispatched in one fail swoop. Then, a battle between Elektra and Kirigi that is a frail, second-rate knockoff of a Hong Kong martial arts film - right down to the room full of swirling linens lifted straight out of Hero. Finally, a horribly saccharine Hollywood ending, complete with hideously cheesy dialogue and the tragic love-storybook ending. If you've seen on, you've seen 'em all.

Until that point, we had good action, solid performances by Goran Visnjic and Terence Stamp, cool villains, and a buildup to what could have been a great penultimate showdown only to disintegrate into a penultimate letdown.

My suggestion: give it a shot on DVD. Or download it. They deserve it, for destroying a potentially entertaining superhero film. Can't wait for Fantastic Four! -yawn-... 6/10.
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Hotel Rwanda (2004)
Welcome to the wonderful world of European colonization.
27 March 2005
Somalia, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Congo, Sudan, Algeria, Nigeria, Tunisia - and Rwanda...what do all of these African counties have in common? They're countries torn apart by civil war, where millions have been slaughtered and millions more have been maimed, raped, beaten, tortured, threatened, displaced, and, most importantly, ignored by the rest of the world. And the main reason for the nightmare that Africa has become? Europe colonized Africa and divided it along new territorial lines, splitting tribes and clans into pieces, and forcing rivals and foreigners into the same territories. The entire Rwandan genocide is namely due to the Belgians, who basically handpicked certain Rwandans and called them Hutus, and called the others Tutsis, all arbitrarily, then left the country and power to the Hutus, creating a power struggle between two 'tribes' who were really the SAME PEOPLE.

In the end you have Hutus and Tutsis at war, even though there is absolutely no difference between them save a name granted by their Belgian 'lords', and power unilaterally granted by uncaring and abandoning colonizers. I just watched the Shake Hands With The Devil documentary on Radio-Canada tonight, and one thing that astounded me was the footage, at the 10th anniversary conference on the Rwandan genocide, of a personal attack by the Belgian senatorial representative, on Dallaire, because of Belgian casualties within the UN peacekeeping corps. I think that this is the perfect example of where the Western priorities lie.

Everyone in North America and Western Europe needs to see Hotel Rwanda. Only through this kind of film can we actually learn about and feel the sort of terror that exists in a land where death can come to someone simply because they're unfortunate enough to be branded with a colonial name that divides them from the Powers That Be. 10/10.
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Interesting premise ruined by flat characters, stale plot
27 March 2005
First off, they should have made it 100% animated. Half of the film seems like a bunch of characters acting in front of a TV screen playing a cartoon. the blue screen is so obvious that it ruins the otherwise gorgeous backgrounds. It makes for a great comic/cartoon - why not just make the cartoon...?

Secondly, how about veering AWAY from Star Wars, Batman and The Rocketeer for a few minutes? There were flashes of originality here, but the creators of this film spend too much time ripping off - sorry, BORROWING - from other films and not enough time creating their own films. From expressions to character movement to design and effects, there was so much that was flagrantly lifted it goes beyond the realm of homage and into the realm of property theft.

And the lack of originality begins with the characters and the plot. The characters were cardboard - stereotypical characters that would have died outright in my imagination if not for Jude Law's energy and Gwyneth Paltrow's cutesy attitude.

But they're no Bogart and Bacall and the plot is no To Have and To Have Not. In fact, it doesn't really know what it wants to be.

In the end, there are some great moments, and I didn't feel like it was a complete waste of time - but my advice is to stay at home and wait for the rental! 5/10.
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A revolutionary film, but not a Revolutionary film
27 March 2005
I don't think that this film was about Che the revolutionary. It is instead about Ernesto, discovering the country and continent that he is a part of, and coming of age to discover that the privilege that his family is fortunate enough to be a part of was unfortunately not the life of the majority of those living in South America - especially not those indigenous to the continent.

In the end, it becomes a film about the revolution of the mind rather than the revolution of the people. We see the path that Che Guevara was set upon without seeing the destination - this gives us stronger understanding of the character of Ernesto without being bombarded with Che's ideologies. And yes, they are separate personalities - the raw and the evolved, if you will.

You can clearly see the path to the man who fought for liberation and the rights of the South American and Cuban peoples, but I'm glad they left politics out of the film - it's MUCH stronger for it, even if the film wasn't one hundred percent accurate.

As well, the parallels between this film and Hero astound me. I would never suggest that Hero had any influence on The Mtorcycle Diaries - even though it did come out a couple of years ago - but the fact that it DIDN'T have any influence makes those parallels that much more astounding. If you will:

1) Both films are about the goal of uniting a divided people and a divided land (the warring Chinese nations vs. South America divided along lines of ethnicity and class in addition to borders)

2) Both films are about the liberation of the people from the oppression that they suffer.

3) Both films focus on the LAND - from the awe-inspiring colours and landscapes of Hero to the all-weather and hardened South American land in The Motorcycle Diaries.

4) Both films are about politics without ever actually touching on politics.

5) In both films, the hero must go through quite a lot of hardships and discover a lot about PEOPLE that they were never able to, beforehand.

Like Hero, The Motorcycle Diaries will give me much to dwell upon, and it is strongly relevant to our time and our treatment of people, in a personal, social and communal way. Go see both films and compare - you will take home something from both of them, hopefully something that opens your mind and heart to the people around you.
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