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The Hours (2002)
8/10
Acting and Direction are Great; Score and Screenplay Weak
2 January 2003
Despite an intrusive score and a screenplay that stalls a bit under the weight of its own ambition, "The Hours" develops into quite a fine film, thanks to the deft direction of Stephen Daldry and uncommonly strong performances from a talented ensemble cast.

Yes, Meryl Streep is good. Ed Harris, too. My favorites from "The Hours", though, are Toni Collette, Julianne Moore, Stephen Dillane, and, especially, Nicole Kidman.

Moore's part of the film is written too vaguely, so it's up to the actor to make her housewife's sense of suffocation corporeal. I think she is outstanding.

Stephen Dillane, portraying Leonard Woolf, is perhaps overshadowed by the film's stars. His performance is exceptionally strong, I thought, and his scene with Nicole Kidman, as Virginia Woolf, at the train station is, in my opinion, one of the film's very, very best.

The movie works best when Daldry gets up close: lets the actors bring the script and story to life with their marvelous talents. The score is distracting, but probably jammed in by the producers to give the film that an Oscar "feel". I would have preferred the producers follow Daldry's instincts. Looking at how masterfully he filmed the scenes between Streep and Harris, in which thier complicated rapport was practically palpable, it's hard to believe this is only Mr. Daldry's second feature.
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9/10
EXCELLENT All Around
1 January 2003
I could not disagree more with what a previous individual wrote..."Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" fires on EVERY cylinder. Clooney's stylized direction has obviously taken some cue from Steven Soderberg, but the film does not suffer from the mentorship. In fact, the care Clooney takes in framing pivotal shots, including the opening sequence, is evidence of his affinity to creative and evocative filmmaking.

Sam Rockwell is excellent as Chuck Barris. Drew Barrymoore is also very, very good. She does have some excellent material, including her scene with Rockwell as a naked Barris in the kitchen (screenwriter Charlie Kauffman at his absolute wackiest). She handles the heavier material, when she confronts his philandering and when she appeals to Chuck to return to CA with her, equally well. If I were a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, I'd nominate both for Oscars. Solid stuff from both actors, working with a fairly difficult script, I might add.

That's not said to mean the screenplay is bad. I actually liked "Confessions" more than I liked "Adaptation," Kauffman's other, more ballyhooed writing effort of 2002. There is humor, there is intrigue, there is compelling human drama, and none of it seems forced or out of place.

I could say much, much more, but I really just wanted to add my overall opinion that "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" is a very good film, one that is likely to engross you as in entertains.
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Adaptation. (2002)
8/10
actors & director create startling and original film
4 December 2002
"Adaptation" is an off-the-wall film with a startling second half. Overall, the film is darkly comic, but viewers get an unexpected dose of movie action and violence before everything is said and done.

It's fair to say that there is a fair amount of violence in the film, and even when you know it's coming, you're still caught off guard. Spike Jonze is merciless in this regard. Some of the scenes are incredibly graphic, in fact.

There is a certain adolescent male tone to the film (the violence + sexual fantasy + masturbation). This is partially due to characterization and partially due to the director's own aesthetic and perspective. It's not a bad thing, necessarily, either. It just feels as if an unassuming (white male) kid who grew up thinking a lot about girls and watching movies where stuff blowed up made this film... See it and you'll know what I'm saying.

The script is crazy. Absolutely zany. Akin to "Being John Malkovich" really. Fortunately, this well gives opportunity for Nic Cage, Meryl Streep, and Chris Cooper to really be free with their art.

Cage has a difficult role, portraying two very different identical twin brothers. Cage is at the emotional core of the film. If his performance doesn't resonate, the film doesn't work. I thought Cage was excellent. And that the script really gives him some wonderful, challenging material to work with. His first scene with Tilda Swinton (looking gorgeous!) is excellent.

Meryl Streep...well, what can be said. She's fantastic. She exudes a tiredness and connectedness and hopelessness and sadness, evolving the character brilliantly over the course of the film.

Similarly, Chris Cooper brings a humanity to the role of the Orchad Thief, really grounding the narrative and making it all believable. Again, he's given a brilliant opening scene and he works wonders with it. Throughout, he is believably arrogant, lonely, vulnerable, and just plain real. Cooper's performance is as rich as any other I've seen this year; truly, truly sublime.

"Adaptation" is certainly not for everyone. If you're looking for something starkly different and simmering with originality, give this film a try, though. Amidst some cloying self-referential clap-trap, there are actually some really freshing film moments.
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Roger Dodger (2002)
9/10
acting & script are excellent
17 October 2002
Campbell Scott is nothing less than sublime in "Roger Dodger." Scott anchors the film, giving it drama, conflict, comedy, and passion.

The script is fresh, and is both howlingly absurd and brilliantly audacious. It's a talky movie with snappy, shrewd observations on gender, sexual politics, consumer culture, and relationships. There's not a lot of "action" really, but fear not: the actors do a great job of bringing fire to each and every scene.
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7/10
appreciation for fresh, off-beat comedy
27 February 2002
Super Troopers is an off-beat comedy about slacker/bad-ass cops in Vermont who like the sex and the drugs. That's pretty much all you need to know. Some of the humor is waaaaay out there, but not really offensive (and, yes, still very funny). There's one particular joke about bikers (not really about bikers, but I don't want to ruin the scene) that is especially funny, and it's a really clean joke, too!

The film is a bit long; the scene in which the guys go on a drinking binge and rip up a rival officer's lawn isn't really necessary. Too, it seems as if some of the scenes were improvised and sometimes they don't completely come together: scenes drag or lose their comic punch on a few occassion when Serious Actor (notice the capital S and A) Brian Cox enters.

I really enjoyed the actors, though, and thier fresh approach to fairly standard material. Kevin Heffernan is a riot as a patrolman on probation, and Paul Soter stands out in his role as an officer in romantic pursuit of another cop (Marisa Coughlan, who is also good) on a rival squad.

I read another review here that intimated some sexism, and I have to say that I disagree. Don't want to give away too much of the plot, though...

I was worried this would be a stoopid, Farrelly Brother-like comedy, and it wasn't. I kinda liked it!
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O (2001)
8/10
critical and provocative work
22 August 2001
"O" is exactly the kind of movie teens will love but critics, parents, and most other adults will hate. The film pulls no punches in its treatment of race or portrayal of sex and sexuality and refrains from taking any sort of position or stance on the jealousy, rage, and violence that frame and move the story. Before the film was even over, I found myself wishing, praying even, that parents would see this film--this way, they could actually talk to their kids, and even their kid's friends, about the complex and compelling issues "O" touches.

The film is extremely intense: many characters are filled with deep anger, or other emotions, such as distrust, fear, and envy, which are potrayed in extremes by the director and actors. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but rather a very important thing to know about the film.

The cast is very strong and contains quite a few faces teen audiences will not only know but be able to relate to: Mekhi Pfieffer as the lead, "Odin," or "O," Julia Stiles as "Desi," his paramour; and Josh Hartnett as "Hugo," the malevolent mastermind behind whose jealousy drives the tragedy. If anything, the actors are too good: Hartnett's evocative performance is sure to set off debate on whether and how "O" might contribute to acts of teen violence, similar to Columbine. I think the potential value in the work is that it allows audiences to see, and potentially discuss, the relationships between gender, violence, and perceptions of "power" and how these elements relate to, influence, and are influenced by high school violence.

It would be a shame to dismiss "O" as being too violent, or as too dangerous because it may lead to copy-cat crimes--if screened and effectively discussed, "O" can potentially be a great tool in understanding our students' real experiences. It would be a shame to dismiss "O" as being a fluffy teen pic, because it's certainly not that either. It would be a shame to dismiss "O" as being just a bad adaption of a Shakespeare classic--Tim Blake Nelson and an excellent ensemble of young actors bring timeless material alive in a fresh, bold way.

Mekhi Pfieffer anchors the cast with a truly phenomenal performance. His star should shine brightly as a result of his passionate, compelling work here. Hartnett, as stated before, is also outstanding. Both men should be extremely proud of their work in this film.
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The Château (2001)
8/10
wry and comic film touches several genres
16 August 2001
Paul Ruud is hysterical in "The Chateau," a largely improvised indie feature filmed in France. The film is very comic--almost sit-com-ish-- but also borrows liberally from the romance and drama genres, too. It's a fun movie that's perhaps most perfect for a date or a "night in" cuddling on the couch; also a very good film to watch with friends who are sick of your standard studio fare...
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Amy's Orgasm (2001)
8/10
interesting perspectives on sex and relationships
16 August 2001
"Amy's Orgasm" certainly isn't the first film to consider sex and relationships from a woman's, or from women's, perspective(s), but it does feel unique in giving frequently visited material a fresh, sassy, and daring treatment not frequently seen.

Julie Davis has crafted a script that, for the most part, is crisp and pops with great dialogue. The narrative/plot is strained in some parts, but I'm a sappy romantic and fell for the film overall nonetheless.

Nick Chinlund is the male lead, starring here as a sleaze-baggy radio shock jock who also happens to be quite sexy. I recognized Chinlund from a great spot he did on The X-Files; it was nice to see him in an entirely different role and working the script and his scenes with Davis, the co-star *and* writer/director, very, very well.

Caroline Aaron is terrific in her supporting role, too. She gives the kind of scene-stealing performance that should attract attention from critics.

Overall, "Amy's Orgasm" is a well-acted romantic comedy that takes some pretty interesting risks. As a writer and director, Davis still manages to say something about sex and relationships and is able to do so in a manner slightly different than what we're used to seeing from most other films.
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9/10
an enjoyably quirky romantic sci-fi/comedy-mystery
16 August 2001
"Happy Accidents" is an extremely well written film by Brad Anderson that drags just a bit but is brought to life by an amazingly strong performance from Marisa Tomei. Vincent D'Onofrio co-stars and also delivers a strong performance in a difficult, challenging role. Another stand-out in the cast is Holland Taylor, who looks fabulous, works well with both leads, and provides critical support to the film's surprising and engaging plot.

As the director and writer, Anderson lets the story unfold very nicely, building suspense nicely. Writing too much about the narrative elements of the film would ruin the experience, so I won't say too much here other than this: I was totally sucked in and on the emotional "edge of my seat" for the film's climax. Everything comes together quite nicely for a satisfying finale.

It's a shame this film hasn't received wide distribution. It's almost like a kinder, gentler, funnier cousin of "Memento." I liked "Happy Accidents" very much.
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