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The War Within (2005)
I liked it.
True, as the New York Times said, there wasn't much subtext, and some opportunities were missed- but I fell into this film and ended up liking it a lot. The actor who plays HASSAN was truly wonderful, with very little dialogue. I felt his pain, and was interested in his journey.
And the shots of him walking around New York, wired for action, were truly harrowing. The ending was beautifully done- clearly on a budget, but much more effective- and the family was terrific, in particular the father and the little boy.
All the acting was fine, as was the music and the photography. My only beef was with the script, which did feel a bit thin at times, but the STORY itself was compelling indeed.
They blew it.
Reasons why proof doesn't work;
1. Gwenneth Paltrow, who is no longer 27, is simply not believable as a math genius nor as Anthony Hopkins daughter.
2. Jake Gylenhaal, a terrific actor, is simply not believable as a math genius.
3. Hope Davis spent too much time on her hair, and is not believable as Anthony Hopkins daughter.
4. Anthony Hopkins is wasted. Every scene he's in comes to life, and apparently the play was more father/daughter, but it seems the people making the movie wanted to 'beef up the romance'.
5. Romance involving depressive mopey beauties spouting math equations rarely work.
6. The movie was boring.
I adored this movie, especially the women in it. Amy Adams has the showier role, and is wonderful, but Celia Weston and Embeth Davidsz (sp?) are both terrific as well. This director is truly gifted, I was taken on the ride and never felt like he was looking down on these people.
And the man who played the artist is stunning, I was convinced he was a real local crazy artist.
The music, the camera-work, it all comes together in a wonderfully moving way.
I was less satisfied with the men, the two lead guys are kind of posey and not very compelling, but the man playing the father- Scott Wilson- deserves some kind of an award for his mastery of underplaying, he was just lovely.
I'd recommend this, the performances and the direction are all worthy. Run to your theater though, it didn't stay long on our screens!
Winter Passing (2005)
Enjoyable, if a little slight
This would have made a great short film, and I don't mean that as an insult.
The idea of the plot is an interesting one, but didn't seem to hold my attention for the whole film, although the festival audience didn't seem to mind that much.
Adam Rapp is off to a good start as a director, it seems he hasn't done much, but I look forward to his next film. His work with the actors was marvelous, and the camera placement wonderful too. It's just that the story seemed a little, well, difficult to swallow. There's no missing the Salinger connection, and it seems as if every cliché about his life is crammed in here.
And as much as I love Will Farrell, his genius for comedy was somewhat of a distraction- it's just hard to believe him in this role. A solid actor without a public persona would have helped me stay in the story.
But overall, an enjoyable ride.
Along Came Polly (2004)
Kind of boring.
I saw this for free, thankfully, and wish it was better than it was, but it's really the same old stuff that movie studios seem to foist on us in the last ten years.
Ben Stiller and Jennifer Anniston play a couple who are opposites- and yet they are attracted to each other.
If that plot line doesn't take you by surprise and thrill you, the movie won't either.
Lots of sight gags and fart jokes. Halfway through the movie I began to realize that Ben Stiller really isn't that funny, but he tries VERY hard. And Jennifer Anniston really isn't that pretty, but her HAIR looks great. And Hank Azaria and Phillip Seymore Hoffman must have got paid a great deal of money to be in this kind of average ho-hum movie, I've come to expect more from them.
What was interesting was that I saw this after I saw American Splendor, which is a truly funny and original movie- and I compared the two in my head, and found myself wishing that the movie executives would be forced to sit through those two movies back to back- perhaps that would knock some sense into them and
they'd start making better movies with unknowns rather than this formulaic stuff that plays best on airplanes.
Down with Love (2003)
Fluffy and light, but not great.
I wanted to enjoy this film, I really did. And I actually was into it for the first fifteen minutes or so, but the actors, usually fine in other films, were so obviously 'winking' at us about how clever they were, that I just didn't care about them.
There's no point in going into the plot, but basically Renee Zelleweger (Jerry Maguire) writes a book coming out against love, and Ewan MacGregor (Star
Wars, Trainspotting) sets out to seduce her. Of course they both have the witty sarcastic friends, a la Eve Arden and Tony Randall. And Tony Randall himself
appears, all too briefly, in a nifty cameo.
But overall this felt like a hollow exercise in camp for no real reason. Not that I need a message every time I go to the movies, but this felt empty, like it had no center to it. I wanted to care for them, I really did, but I found myself tuning out and remembering how much better- and cheesier- the original Rock Hudson/ Doris Day movies were.
I'd give this a 5 out of 10.
Anger Management (2003)
Not as bad as they say.
I too saw this on opening day because my family are big Adam Sandler fans,
and while I'll admit I liked Punch Drunk Love, I haven't really been a fan since he was on Saturday Night live.
Anyway, the plot is fairly well presented in the previews, I won't waste your time with that, but Nicholson (of Five Easy Pieces and Chinatown no less) slums it here in a very interesting way. I expected him to kick the butts of everyone in the movie with his massive talent, but here he proves something very interesting, that a great actor without a great script flounders and isn't that great. Sandler (Little Nicky) is refining his persona, but I think he's also limiting it by working with the same actors in every film. The cameos become like a Love Boat
episode, you spend half your time saying "Isn't that Woody Harrelson?" "Hey,
there's Turturro, he played the butler in Adams last film" and that's fun for a while, but wears thin and you're left with the plot.
Such as it is.
There's nothing new here, really, and nothing that funny either. It's okay, I guess, if you like the stars. I just found myself wishing they had a better story to tell.
The papers ripped this movie to shreds, but it's not that bad if you're killing time on a weekend, I can't imagine watching it again but I'd still give it a 5 out of a 10.
Laurel Canyon (2002)
I wanted to love this.
But I just didn't. Perhaps I'd read one too many okay reviews, but I had such high hopes for this after High Art, that I found it a little, well, disappointing.
Fascinating, but disappointing.
I'm the biggest Fraces McDormand fan out there, she's ALWAYS great in
everything she does, and she pretty much held my attention here as well. If the story had been more hers, it would've really set sail, but there's a plot about her son (Christian Bale, American Pyscho and Little Women) and his fiance (Kate
Beckinsdale, Pearl Harbor) that just doesn't work. Perhaps it's all the odd
accents- Bale is a brit doing a 'new yawk' accent, Beckinsdale is a brit doing a 'standard American', Natasha McElhone (Truman Show) is a brit doing an
indecipherable middle eastern accent, and Allesandra Nivola (Face Off) is an
American doing a British accent. Phew.
If you sense something a little 'odd' during this movie, it's that every sentence feels inauthentic, because there are certain words that all the actors doing
accents simply can't pronounce that well. It seems picky, but it has the
cumulative effect of feeling like you're watching a school play, and it takes you out of the story.
The story, by the way, has a great premise in it. The straight up tight son coming to stay with his promiscuous liberal mother- who seduces his fiance. Very
Greek. I just wish it had delved a little deeper, and that Bale and Beckinsdale were either more fully developed characters, or in the film less.
But I have to say, it was worth seeing for Frances McDormand alone. She really lights up a screen whenever she's given a chance.
I'd give this a 6 out of 10.
Trading Spaces (2000)
An amazing show.
This is one of my family's 'guilty pleasures'. Featuring no known stars, you basically get to watch other people re-design rooms, and although it sounds
banal, trust me, it's AMAZING. I've watched this from the very beginning, through several different 'hosts', and it never fails to amuse.
I can't really comment on the acting or anything else, as it's a documentary of sorts, but I will say that some of the families put on some very brave faces for the camera. The rooms do NOT always come out great, in fact I'd have to say that a lot of them stretch the boundaries of good taste, but that happens to be what I love in a reality television show!
I'd give this a 7 out of 10, and look forward to the distant future when they show 'nostalgic' shows of how we lived at the begining of the century!
Six Feet Under (2001)
Not so sure this season.
As an avid HBO subscriber, I must say I've always been a very big supporter of Six Feet Under, but I feel like they are trying my patience this season. The show has sunk downhill IMHO, with gimmicky characters and very slow and
The acting remains top-notch though, with Frances Conroy standing out in
particular. She is such a fine actress, I believe every single thing she does. Less so with Lili Taylors character, whom I find to be more of a cartoon than a living breathing being.
The quality of the show itself is just as good as it's always been, it's beautifully filmed and the music is haunting and the actors all game, but I feel like it's hit that infamous 'third season slump' that wounds so many shows. I'm sticking with it, but hoping that they will win me back, or I'll have to move on.
First few seasons get a 9 out of 10, this one- only a 7. Which is still pretty good, but I think they can (they have before) done better.
Out of Order (2003)
Wonderful and dark, I loved it.
I saw this tonight at the Minn/St Paul Film Fest, it's dark sexy weird and kind of funny too. The story is basically of a husband and wife screen writing team trying to keep their heads and love about them in modern day corrupt Hollywood.
The couple is played by Eric Stolz (Pulp Fiction, Mask) and Felicity Huffman (Sports Night, Frasier) both better here than I've ever seen them, and they've both been in a lot of good stuff before. They have a difficult marriage, and both have affairs; she with William H. Macy (Fargo, Pleasantville) and he with Kim Dickens (Things Behind the Sun) and possibly Justine Bateman (who has one of the funniest lines in the film, too 'blue' to reprint here, but hearing it come out of 'Mallory' from 'Family Ties' mouth was a big surprise and got a huge laugh!) It's an odd story, but I ended up caring for them, because even though they are both screw ups, they TRY to be good parents and good people, and I guess that's what moved me, they aren't the cookie cutter romantics that work out all their problems, in fact they actually compound their problems by the end. There are a lot of dubious elements involved; it's very frank and sexual and not in a coy way, and they experiment with illegal substances too, but it's surprisingly straightforward about it, in a way that took me by surprise. There's an element of whimsy too, he sees his life 'as a movie' so a movie crew follows him around, which confused me at first but then I warmed up to it. It's very well done, much deeper than most 'story of a marriage' stories, things between the husband and wife are not easy but they struck me as being true. The acting is all great, as is the camera work. Sometimes the music bordered on cheesy, but overall I'd say this was a terrific little movie. I'd give it a 8 out of 10.
Judging Amy (1999)
Strong family drama
I'll admit I used to really love this show, but that love has waned a bit, as it seems to with all series at some point. What I love; the strong women, decisive and tough and interesting. What I don't love; the fact that the same women are dependent on the men in a way that strikes me as very 1955- it's an odd mix, they have careers and yet can't wait for whatever man is in their world to speak and they hang on their every word! The performances are what make this show special though- Amy Brennaman is a terrific actress who I've always liked, and does the strongest work of her career in this show. And Tyne Daly is simply a force to be reckoned with, in a good way- she sets the bar really high, and everyone and anyone that appears in a scene with her must really fight to survive, which is great to watch. Overall this is a high quality show, well shot and thought out. The music suffers from being too 'television'- why does that always happen? and the plots have got a little contrived lately, but I still watch it. I'd give it a 7 out of 10.
The Pianist (2002)
This was (imho) simply the best film of the year. If Chicago wins, it's because our world is a mess and we need something light and fluffy, but The Pianist is by all counts the work of a master. The acting is brilliant, not just by Adrian Brody but in the smaller roles as well- Frank Finlay as the father was just great. Everyone was great, as was the music and cinematography, it all came together in a harrowing and stunning film that actually means something. I highly recommend this film to anyone who appreciates being moved by the 'cinema'. Just great.
The Sopranos (1999)
There's a reason this is touted as the best television has to offer, and that's because it IS the best television has to offer. Quite simply, it's stunning. The best acting, scripts, music (or lack thereof) and camerawork too. There's nothing really to be said other than watch it from episode one and you won't be sorry.