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Posted: Tue May 18, 2004 9:44 pm Reply with quote
Site Admin Joined: 12 May 2004 Posts: 4246 Location: Montreal
7th Heaven Syd
24 Hour Party People Marilyn
A Very Long Engagement Censored
All Or Nothing Syd
All Quiet on the Western Front Syd
American Splendor (2004) Syd
Assassination Of Richard Nixon (The) Censored
Aviator, The Rod
Aviator, The Marj
Bad Education Joevitus
Ballet Russes Syd
Baran Syd
Being Julia Censored
Big Fish Marj
Big Red One(The): The Reconstruction (1980/2004) Marilyn
Blind Swordsman; Zatoichi (The) Marantz
Bourne Supremacy, The Jeremy
Bridge to Terebithia Syd
Broken Flowers (2005) Censored
Cinderella Man Censored
Closer Marj
Coffee and Cigarettes Marilyn
Control Room Marilyn
Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The (2008) Lshap
Dance Fool Dance (1931) Syd
Day After Tomorrow (The) Lshap
Deadline Marilyn
Decline Of The Western (The) - An Essay Rod
De-Lovely Marj
Divorcee, The (1930) Syd
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920) Syd
Edukators, The Censored
Eight Below Daffy
Elephant Lshap
Evening (2007) Lshap
Exiles, The (1961) Marilyn
Exorcism of Emily Rose, The (2005) Lshap
Eyes Wide Shut Marilyn
Fahrenheit 9/11 Lshap
Fahrenheit 9/11 Chilly
Finding Neverland Lshap
Garden State Marj
Garden State Melody
Gaucho, The (1927) Syd
Gift, The (2000) Marilyn
Godzilla (1954) Marilyn
Good German, The (2006) Marj
Grey Gardens, 1975 Ehle
Grizzly Man Marilyn
Gun Crazy Marilyn
Hairspray (1988) Marilyn
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban McBain
Hero Marantz
I heart huckabees Melody
In My Country Censored
Julie & Julia (2009) Inlareviewer
Just Imagine (1930) Syd
Kal Ho Naa Ho Marc
Kill Bill Vol.2 Tirebiter
King and the Clown (The) Lady Wakasa
Ladies In Lavender Censored
Legend Of Zu (The) Syd
Lemony Snicket's a Series of Unfortunate Events Syd
Manchurian Candidate, The (2004) Marj
Ninth Day (The) Marilyn
Notebook (The) Lshap
Old Boy Marc
Open Water Marilyn
Pride & Prejudice (2005) Rod
Primer Marilyn
Pump Up The Volume Syd
Queen, The (2006) Lshap
Quiz Show Marj
Ray Lshap
Saddest Music In The World (The) Marantz
Saddest Music in the World (The) Syd
Samurai Rebellion (1971) Syd
Secret Ballot Syd
Shrek 2 Lissa
Sicko (2007) Lshap
Sideways Marantz
Solaris (1972) Censored
Somersault Rod
Son (The) Marc
Son of the Sheik Syd
Songs from the Second Floor [Sånger från andra våningen] (2000) Marilyn
Superman Returns (2006) Rod
Star Trek (2009) Lshap
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith Rod
Steal This Movie Censored
Surrender Dorothy (1998) Marilyn
Sweetgrass Syd
Team America: World Police Melody
Team America: World Police Chilly
Thin Red Line, The (1998) Lshap
Train de Vie (Train of Life) (1998) Lissa
Travellers and Musicians Marantz
Troy Nancy
TWENTY BUCKS (1993) Lissa
Two Family House Marilyn
Unfinished Life, An (2005) Lshap
Upside Of Anger, The Billyweeds
Vera Drake Rod
Village, The Marc
War Of The Worlds Marj
Water Lady Wakasa
Wedding Crashers Censored
We Don't Live Here Anymore Melody
Werkmeister Harmonies (2000) Gromit
Zelary Censored[/url]

Last edited by lshap on Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:56 pm; edited 50 times in total
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Posted: Sat May 22, 2004 11:19 am Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 4011 Location: not far away
This is a brief REVIEW of a NON-CURRENT movie.

Took the kids to see KILL BILL 2 last night. All four of us loved it. In Quentin Tarantino films, every character is Quentin Tarantino. Every shot is COOL, or tries to be-- that is, "cool" through the eyes of a really bright 17-year-old film geek, which is what QT will be 'til he dies. And if you've ever been a really bright 17-year-old film geek yourself, you like his films, IMHO. Sure he's an obnoxious smartass, but how many obnoxious smartasses get carte blanche to make anything they want? And how many carry it off with the panache of good old Quentin?

I guess every medium has its QT-- in music, Frank Zappa comes to mind-- or Andre 3000 of Outkast currently; in comics, Jim Steranko; in books, WS Burroughs, or Chuck Palahniuk right now. Give 'em the tools and set 'em loose. And God bless them, every one.
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Posted: Sat May 22, 2004 11:56 am Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 8210 Location: Skokie (not a bad movie, btw)
24 Hour Party People (2002) is an enjoyable skitter through the first wave of punk rock as seen through the eyes of Tony Wilson, a real-life record producer/nightclub owner/television presenter working in Manchester, England. This is a quasi biopic, a cross between This Is Spinal Tap and From a Whisper to a Scream (documentary on the evolution of Irish rock music), and Wilson, appealingly played by Steve Coogan, is constantly breaking the fourth wall to tell us that the film is peppered with real people from the era, many of whom question the veracity of what he is saying.

I would almost say this movie is a cliche of the rock music scene, but it just didn't feel like a cliche at all. Although its tongue is in its cheek quite often, I had a real sense of what it might be like to be Tony Wilson (not an entirely affectionate portrayal, by the way). There is a real feeling of the anarchy of punk music and the way it held sway over a generation of disaffected youth. No matter how cool Tony tries to be, he's really a scrubber who lucked into his Cambridge education and is trying to look "real" without having a clue about what that means.

This music isn't my favorite, so I can't say I enjoyed the musical interludes very much. But that's my problem, not the movie's. I was of age at the beginning of punk, so there is a small nostalgia factor for me. It seemed a little long, but I was always engaged with the film. I recommend it.
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Posted: Sat May 22, 2004 11:58 am Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 8210 Location: Skokie (not a bad movie, btw)
Hairspray (1988) is a fun movie that takes us back to 1963 Baltimore, a faux innocent locale torn apart by racial prejudice and segregation. Ricki Lake plays teenager Tracy Turnblad. Tracy is all things good--tolerant, popular, comfortable with her fat body, confident--and quickly becomes the star of an American Bandstand like show, wins the most handsome boy on the show from a pushy blonde rival, and leads the cause of integrating the show.

The film is an homage to 60s teen flicks and sends up a lot of the fads of the time, from dance-craze songs, to teased hairstyles, to mother-daughter outfits (my mother and I had one). The actors are having fun, and Divine is divine as Tracy's mother and as the racist owner of the Baltimore TV station that airs "The Corny Collins Show" on which Tracy dances.

The biggest contribution this movie makes to the genre it both sends up and is a part of is that it doesn't ignore the social conditions of the time and pretend that everything is rosy and, above all, lily white. I'd have to say I prefer Bye, Bye Birdie for a strong, more tuneful satire of the TV dance show, but this is a pleasant enough film.
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Posted: Sat May 22, 2004 4:56 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 8210 Location: Skokie (not a bad movie, btw)
Two Family House was something that sounded light and interesting as I was browsing the library shelves today. It won the Audience Award at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, so I figured I wouldn't be taking too much of a risk in renting it (it was free, after all). After I finished watching it, the glowing reviews of it by Ebert and I think some forumites came back to me. In between, I had the best filmic experience in weeks. This film is a gem in every way.

The film takes place on Staten Island. Buddy, an Italian-American WWII vet, returns home after the war to do what GIs did back then--get married and carve a piece of the American Dream for themselves. He wanted to audition for Arthur Godfrey after the soon-to-be TV host heard him sing to troops during the war and invited Buddy to try out when he came home. Buddy's fiancee, Estelle, considered the audition a pipe dream. By 1956, the year the film takes place, he has been married for nearly 11 years, works in a factory, and is still living at his in-law's house. His dream of making something of himself has not died, however. After several losing business ventures, he buys a two-flat (the two-family house of the title) and decides to convert the first floor into a tavern and live on the second floor.

First, he has to evict the tenants who are living on the second floor, an Irish couple. The husband is middle-aged, drunken, and abusive to his young, pregnant wife. The day his wife gives birth is also the day he walks out of her life forever, and prejudices of the Italian-American community start to crowd in on the young woman, Mary, and eventually, Buddy.

This film is tightly paced, with well-drawn characters of real complexity and truth. The bald-faced prejudices of the time are on full display. It's a bit shocking to modern sensibilities, but we also see that Buddy has his problems with his milieu as well that extend beyond his wife's play-it-safe lack of confidence in him and his friends' well-intentioned attempts to support his dreams without providing him with an example of courage he can truly lean on. Mary does that, and they become allies in attempting to make their own lives apart from the expectations of their social groups and the constricting 50s. It's instructive that rebellions could occur at a time when conformity was the norm, and that those rebellions would be in simple acts of the upwardly mobile working class as well as the more "usual suspect" of 50s rebellion.

I very highly recommend this touching, wonderfully written, acted, and directed indie film.
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Posted: Sat May 22, 2004 5:33 pm Reply with quote
I pulled this over from the old site. Why let it languish over there?

Saddest Music in the World

For those who are unfamiliar with the plot, it goes like this:

It's Depression time and Winnipeg is proclaimed as the saddest city in the world at this time. The local beer Baroness, Lady Port-Huntley (Isabella Rossellini) decides it would be a good promotion to sponsor a world-wide competition for the saddest song in the world with a prize of $25,000. As she states, "If you are sad and like beer, I'm your lady."Groups come to Winnipeg from all over the world representing their respective countries.

Maddin shot the film in Super 8 video and transferred it to film. It's grainy and at first I thought it could have been more sharply focussed, but it didn't bother me after a while. Of course Maddin intended it to be as grainy as it is and the cinematography does have an otherworldly magical character.

Lady P-H has an ex who is a Canadian/American promoter who ends up presenting the U.S. entree in the competition. The groups pair off against each other (like a battle of the bands), and the winners of these duels take a slide into a great vat of beer.

Lady P-H's ex, Chester (Mark McKinney) has an amnesiac girlfriend, Narcissa, the gorgeous Maria de Medeiros (Anais Nin in Henry and June ). He also has a brother who has been a mental case since his son died and his wife disappeared. He's a world famous cellist, Roderick (Ross McMillan) who goes around in a huge black dress with a black veil. He comes in from Bosnia to be in the competition.

Lady P-H has lost her legs in a car accident that was caused by Roderick's and Chester's father, who tries to compensate by making her two fabulous glass legs filled with beer.

This isn't your conventional, Hollywood formula movie. Some may even find it hard to believe. But for those who fancy the Marx Brothers and Jarmusch and Bunuel and the Mad Russian and Metropolis and Jean Luc Goddard/Truffaut/Fellini etc...this movie should be for you.

What a goofy wild ride it is. And in a strange way, a very touching movie. The performances are wonderful. Rossellini
is a credit to all the true actresses in the world. My admiration for her is enormous. What a trooper. Mark McKinney creates a character that is magnetic and lovable, with all his flaws. He's a pollyanna sleazeball.

The music and songs in the competition have to be seen to be believed.

The audience I saw it with (I live in Winnipeg) had a disproportionate amount of older people. I'm usually the oldest in the crowd at those matinees. I'm sure they knew Maddin's family. They all seemed to really like this movie. And I don't want to sound like an ageist elitist, but I can't imagine too many of today's younger audiences knowing what the hell to make of this film.

I have read two reviews (amateur) by people who had never seen a Maddin movie and they both declared that they loved the film and now have to go back and see his other stuff, so the warning I was going to give to those who haven't seen any of his films, doesn't seem to be necessary.

All film fans out there, go see this movie !
Posted: Sat May 22, 2004 11:34 pm Reply with quote
Site Admin Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 12772 Location: Norman, Oklahoma
Let's see how long a review we can post on this. One of my oldies.

The Legend of Zu

The Legend of Zu is a feast for the eyes which is pretty much incomprehensible as a story. Apparently it is based on Chinese legend which makes me wonder what the Chinese make of all this. I believe this legend may predate opium, but clearly not magic mushrooms. Let's see if I get this straight:

King Sky (Ekin Cheng) is the pupil of the beautiful Dawn, and they are the only members of the Kun Lun school. This is millenia ago, and they are pretty much demigods. There is an evil god named Insomnia (that has got to be a mistranslation, but the names here are, let us say, a bit unusual) who is killing off the various schools and capturing spirits to increase his power. He destroys Kun Lun mountain and kills Dawn's body but not her spirit, which is reincarnated two centuries later in the person of Enigma, a disciple of the powerful wizard White Eyebrows who you know is powerful because his eyebrows are several feet long (apparently this is symbolic of wisdom in Chinese mythology). Cecilia Cheung plays both Dawn and Enigma.

By this time Insomnia is after White Eyebrow's school. King Sky, who has a grudge against him teams up with Red who is White Eyebrow's chief student and Enigma's brother. King Sky is not aware at first that Enigma is Dawn's reincarnation.

Enigma is the guardian of the sword of Heaven, and another student, Hollow (Patrick Tam), is the guardian of the sword of Thunder. They attempt to merge (non-pornographically) to create a yin-yang weapon, but Hollow hesitates, and the merger fails, killing Hollow and nearly killing Enigma. In his shock at finding Enigma hurt, King Sky recognizes Enigma as Dawn. Meanwhile, White Eyebrows reincarnates Hollow as a man named Ying.

Insomnia has opened and entered up a source of power called the blood cave, which extends all the way to the roots of the Zu mountains. Red is assigned the task of guarding the mouth of the cave, but is distracted by a pretty red fairy named Amnesia, who possesses his helmet and forces him to do evil. (She is some sort of ally and rival to Insomnia.) Among the side effects is that Red literally turns that color and his helmet turns the size and shape of a sofa cushion. Enigma is captured, and her spirit is embedded in the helmet while her body is separated from it. King Sky and Ying send their spirits into the cave, a risky undertaking because if Insomnia consumes their bodies he can also capture their spirits. King Sky and Ying must fight Red and his demon fairy, and rescue Enigma, so that she and Ying can merge (non-pornographically) their powers to defeat Insomnia.

Spoilers: They do, with the help of King Sky, who has the power of the Moon Orb, but Enigma sacrifices herself to destroy Insomnia. However, King Sky can bring her back like Hollow was brought back, so there will be a happy reunion in a few years when Enigma/Dawn gets her memory back.

Zhang Ziyi is in the movie in a small part, and doesn't really get a chance to make much of an impression.

Got it, I think.

Well, anyway, nobody's going to watch it for the plot but for the special effects, most of which are CGI, and often are very beautiful. Among my favorites are the view of Kun Lun mountain at the beginning, Red's wings, which seem to be made of metal blades, the well of spirits, the cloudscapes, the Moon Orb, some of the flying scenes, Cecilia Cheung, and Zhang Ziyi. The Blood Cave is spectacular and hideous, with skulls embedded in the walls, while the various incarnations of Insomnia are mostly silly, although his real body is okay, sort of like the Dread Dormammu in the Dr. Strange comics, without the flame around the head. (Come to think of it, Dormammu looked pretty silly himself.)

There are nice fight scenes, with plenty of wire fu, lots of perfectly irrelevant special effects that are there to look cool, and armies who don't do much of anything. (Why have an army if you can destroy mountains?) There are eternal love stories, 2000-year-old wizards, flying beads (or poppy seeds, or coffee beans; I couldn't make up my mind) which unite to form a flying skull. This last special effect is one of the silly manifestations of Insomnia.

I guess this can be viewed as a symbolic value of good vs. evil, of how love is eternal (especially if you know your love is going to be reincarnated and will look like Cecilia Cheung), as a statement of faith in the face of adversity (or blood clouds and faces made of coffee beans) or of Chinese philosophy under the influence of mind-altering drugs. On the other hand, it could simply be what happens if you have all the special effects money can buy and no idea of how to write a story.

Directed and cowritten by Hark Tsui, who also cowrote and directed Time and Tide and the animated Chinese Ghost Story, and produced the live-action Chinese Ghost Story, which was likewise incomprehensible. Why am I not surprised?

Jimmy always ate apples and oranges during math class to obey the biblical commandment to be fruitful and multiply.
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Posted: Sat May 22, 2004 11:40 pm Reply with quote
Site Admin Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 12772 Location: Norman, Oklahoma
Another oldie.

Secret Ballot

A crate lands on a remote island off the coast of Iran. (I believe its in the Arabian Sea or the Gulf of Oman from the number of waves.) There is a strange structure which turns out to be a mattress with a sunshade above it. No sign of life. The viewer starts lengthening his attention span.

Finally a soldier finds the box and discovers that it contains a voting box and orders to wait for a government agent to come. He wakes up the man on the mattress and takes his place, shunting the guarding job to him. The two men are there to stop smuggling, so this second soldier is not too pleased to have to take time off from his job to help the agent.

Finally the government agent arrives, and, astonishingly, the agent is a woman. Impossible! The guard is shocked. But she finally convinces him. You see, in these remote areas, instead of having people travel to the voting booth, the government sends agents to take the voting box to them. Since the area is remote and may be dangerous, the agent needs a guard, especially since she is a woman, and, as we find out, that makes a big difference.

The film follows her and the guard around the island as they collect the votes of bewildered, confused, and reluctant voters. She has to be back at the beach at 5:00 to be collected or the votes will be void, but the day is mostly unhurried. Thats basically the whole movie; it turns into a travelogue. It comes close to being plotless, and for a while I thought it was. The plot is in the interstices.

This is an odd movie by western standards. We learn very little about the womans background, other than she is from the big city. We never even learn her name. She wears long, flowing robes and a black cloak, so that all we see is her face and hands. For all that she is a chatterbox, she really doesnt give much information about herself. We realize that she is an idealist, that she has a nave appreciation of the ability of people to improve themselves through the voting booth through their representatives, even if many of them dont even know for whom theyre voting. (Pat Buchanan got 6000 votes in this precinct.) She is a walking challenge to stereotypes. We learn that a woman is not permitted to collect votes, a woman is not permitted to drive, a woman cannot enter a certain part of a cemetery, that a woman cannot vote for herself, that a woman cannot talk to a man unless her man is present, etc., etc. Except, of course, when the stereotypes are broken. We learn that women are veiled even when they dont wear the veil. (Most of the women are not veiled in the movie.)

We also learn that at least one woman runs her own government in one part of the island. We also learn that, for an island that really doesnt seem that large and is desolate, that there are a bewildering number of subcultures existing together. I remember how isolation is one of the creative forces behind the creation of species, and that islands are the home to many unique and strange species.

We learn how idealism compromises when faced with reality, and how practicality is transformed when confronted with idealism.

Secret Ballot is not going to be to many peoples taste. If you like a straightforward story, close to the surface, this may bore you. A sort of love develops between the soldier and the woman, but again it is understated. There are lots of little mysteries, like what a red light is doing in a crossroads in the middle of a desert. (I just realized the symbolism of that scene as I was writing that sentencethe plot is indeed in the interstices.) A lot of these mysteries are probably not mysteries if youre Iranian. I spent a lot of the movie wondering what on earth the herd animals found to eat in this wilderness.

A word on an odd habit of the director. I mentioned that long first shot and how long it takes for something to happen. There are a number of scenes like that. For some reason, he likes to shoot some scenes from a long distance away, so that (at least on the DVD), the people are tiny and its difficult to see whats going on. I assume this effect is intentional and I hope he (or is it she) gets over it soon.

Jimmy always ate apples and oranges during math class to obey the biblical commandment to be fruitful and multiply.
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Posted: Sat May 22, 2004 11:47 pm Reply with quote
Site Admin Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 12772 Location: Norman, Oklahoma
And another, from a week later:


Baran is an Iranian film written and directed by Majid Majidi, best known for Children of Heaven (which Ive seen and love) and The Color of Paradise, which Ive not seen. This time hes dealing with the relationships between native Iranians and the Afghan refugees who fled to that country around the time of the Russian invasion and the civil war which resulted in the victory of the Taliban. The film is set about twenty years later, and over a million Afghan children have been born and/or grown up out of sight of their homeland. There is a touch of irony here that the film doesnt really deal with, that to these Afghans, the Ayatollahs Iran was an oasis of freedom.

Hosseini Abedini plays Latif, an Iranian who works at a construction site, cooking dispensing weak tea, and running into town to buy food and cigarettes. The contractors use some Iranians, legal minorities, and a lot of illegal Afghans, the last because they can work for lower wages. The situation is similar to migrant workers in sweatshops. As near as I can tell from the construction, the employers are getting the quality of work they are paying for. This building has one of the ugliest, least comforting interiors Ive ever seen. When inspectors come buy, the illegal workers must hide. When they ask Latif if there are any Afghan workers, he says yes, and singles out himself. This is a touch of irony which becomes apt as the movie progresses.

Spoilers begin:

One day, an Afghan named Najaf falls and injures his foot. Since he has a family to support and is unable to work, he sends his young son Rahmat to work in his place. Unfortunately, Rahmat is too weak to do the work. Out of pity for Najafs family, the foreman gives Rahmat Latifs job, meaning that Latif must start doing heavy work. In resentment, he starts playing practical jokes and trashes the kitchen, and basically acts like a young punk. However, Rahmat thrives in the new job, which makes Latif even angrier.

Then Latif accidentally discovers Rahmats secret. Rahmat is a girl (named Baran, naturally)! Suddenly Latifs entire attitude changes as his hormones come into play. (Its possible the director may have had Latif acting like an asshole because he was feeling an attraction to one he thought was a boy, but I think Latif was simply a spoiled jackass.) He tries to befriend her, helping and defending her. This is difficult, especially since to hide her identity, Baran is mute.

One day the inspectors decide to question Baran about Afghans working at the construction site. She runs, inspectors in pursuit, Latif in pursuit of inspectors. This episode results in all the Afghans being laid off. Latif decides to follow Baran into the Afghan shantytown, where he gets a view of the Afghan poverty and what they have to go through to survive. He decides to help by throwing money at Barans family, money that is not welcome coming from him. It is very helpful, however, to the refugees who wish to go home to visit their ailing relatives living in Afghanistan. Baran is not free; when her father leaves, she must go with him. The film ends with her donning the veil the Afghan women had to wear under the Taliban. On a more hopeful note, the film was released before 9/11. Maybe her family had to flee again after the allied invasion and she got to come back and was reunited with Latif. On the other hand

Latif now has no money and no identification card. (He sold it on the black market.) More important, he is also a bloody idiot. Although he is infatuated with Baran, it is not at all clear to me that she feels much in return, and his sacrifices generally backfire. The film does end with a smile on his face, because he sacrificed in a good cause, even if it didnt work out.

I had serious difficulty with this movie. The sections in the construction site tend to be slow and not very interesting. The sections in the Afghan community are much more interesting. Because there is so little connection between Ratif and Baranno physical contact and conversation all on Ratifs side, I found it hard to really feel regret for his frustrated passion. I found it hard to feel much affection for these characters. I was pleased, after watching Secret Ballot a few days earlier, to see a part of Iran where there is water, plant life and actual food. I also found it nice that, at least in the Afghan community, there was some actual color to life. Outside of the Afghan community, it seemed rather colorless or sterile.

All in all, somewhat of a disappointment after Children of Heaven. I did find it interesting to get this glimpse into another culture, but I went away wanting much more than a glimpse.

Jimmy always ate apples and oranges during math class to obey the biblical commandment to be fruitful and multiply.
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Posted: Mon May 24, 2004 6:48 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 2148 Location: my computer
Ogre-Appropriate Color for this one...

Caught the film on Saturday evening, and it began with a trailer I've seen (and my kids could quote chapter and verse!) on Nickelodeon as well as on But it doesn't take away from the majesty of the big screen.

Shrek 2 is the perfect example of sequels working as well as originals. Along with Toy Story 2, it shows us that if the characters are well fleshed out, and the actors are well matched to their characters (both old characters and newcomers), the writing will follow naturally.

The film focuses on physical appearances and prejudice, whereas its original focuses on preconceived notions BASED on those physical appearances. But the main theme here is acceptance.

Shrek and Fiona (and Donkey, of course) travel to her hometown of Far, Far Away, so that Fiona's parents and the entire kingdom can cast their eyes on her new husband. The carriage ride alone had me in stitches (and anyone who's taken car trips with kids will understand the hysterical laughter that scene invokes). When they arrive, the tension is palpable, when Ogres come face-to-face with humans. And then, it's "Meet The Parents" only better.

The film is a major take-off on Hollywood, with the absolute recreation of Rodeo Drive, the Movie Stars' homes, "Farbucks" on every corner, and the Hollywood sign, which - in this case (of course) reads, "Far Far Away" in the hills overlooking the town. Joan Rivers provides commentary as guests arrive at the ball, and the "Mah-velous, dah-ling" attitude is alive and well in Far, Far Away-wood.

The plastic atmosphere lends itself well to the theme of physical appearance and its importance. More about that in a minute.

The plot thickens when we discover who Prince Charming really is, and when power and nepotism begin to take hold as subplot. The action is non-stop, the humor is sharp and multi-level (adult and kid alike will enjoy the writing even if some jokes go over the heads of little ones, which is precisely the point of it), and there are twists and turns the likes of which I could hardly have imagined.

There are revelations about favorites (Pinocchio, for example...who'da thunkit??!), new connections made in our fairytale minds, and an underlying lesson that provides for good conversation on the way home.

As mentioned before, where the first movie deals with the prejudice (Ogre vs. human), the second deals with beauty - inner and outer, and what is good about this film is that it takes that first lesson, restates it but with very little overlap, continues the story, and creates a stand-alone film that is outstanding, both as a sequel and on its own merit.

The animation is breathtaking. There are times I forgot they weren't people (which happened to me, for the first time, in Toy Story 2, btw. The soundtrack is a must-buy, and I just know I'll end up going to see this film a second time before I own it.

Okay, before y'all jump on me, I KNOW they were Ogres, not people, it's that I forgot they were animated - so my forgetting they weren't people comment is now backed up. (I know some of you were thinking that, now admit it...)

More about why the movie appeals: It's all about the characters. Shrek has a worldly demeanor about him, born of having to defend his (race? species?) being an Ogre. But there is an innocence as well, shown when he first meets the parents, a vulnerability which endears him to the audience. And his interaction with Donkey is characteristic of a big-brother/little-brother relationship. It is poignant and funny and tender.

Another reason the movie is so successful is because the characters - while dynamic in their growth - have not changed. They are not different in their thinking or beliefs or demeanor, and though they have grown in that Shrek has learned to open his heart, and Fiona has learned to accept who she is. Donkey, however, is the same old loveable ADHD pet, and we wouldn't want it any other way.

BTW - if you ever wonder about the skeletons in YOUR in-laws' closet? They've got NOTHIN' on Fiona's dad...*mysterious grins*

Statistically, 6 out of 7 dwarfs aren't happy.
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Posted: Wed May 26, 2004 11:16 am Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 8210 Location: Skokie (not a bad movie, btw)
THE GIFT (2000)

As I started watching this thriller last night, it dawned on me that I had actually seen it before. The fact that it took a while for me to remember that fact boded well for a second viewing because it meant that story and characters were strong enough to pull me in.

Cate Blanchett plays a widow with three boys trying to live her life in a small Southern town in the United States. She receives some money from Social Security but makes the bulk of her money by giving psychic readings to her clients. One trailer-trash client played by Hilary Swank comes to her beaten and bruised by her husband, a redneck played by Keanu Reeves. Blanchett's character tells her to leave her husband before he puts her in the hospital. This sets in motion an enmity between Reeves and Blanchett that will have implications for the murder mystery they both become embroiled in as the film progresses.

This film, cowritten by Billy Bob Thornton and directed by Sam Raimi, is populated with so many stock Southern characters (the redneck, the beaten wife, the Southern belle slut, Big Daddy, the bumbling cop, the damaged manchild) and several lackadaisical performances that it should have fallen flat on its face. The reason it works is Cate Blanchett and Sam Raimi's wisdom in showing her in almost every frame of this film.

Blanchett is absolutely convincing and riveting in every moment. She's not showy about her psychic gift, she wants to do the right thing, she feels burdened by her knowledge (much of which she keeps to herself), and she understands human frailty and her own limitations in being able to make things right. The damaged manchild (Giovanni Ribisi) leans on her, demands her attention, and runs off to do bad deeds when she won't listen to him after a grueling examination on the witness stand does her in. She feels guilty, not put upon (which is what she actually is), for not being more available in that moment. This is so true to her character and says so much for how the town really sees her. People with gifts are different, sometimes ostracized, usually misunderstood, and always wondering what they are doing with that gift to make things better.

At the end of the film, Ribisi's character tells her she is the heart of the town and that she should keep doing what she does. That's absolutely true of Blanchett in this film. Without her, it's nothing.
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Posted: Sat May 29, 2004 6:14 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 10497 Location: Manhattan
Big Fish

Big Fish is a movie I admired more than loved, to quote a NY Times Film critic. I wanted to love it. Im a fan of Burtons and just as much a fan of his theatricalized renderings. The casting was impeccable, as was the acting. So why didnt it grab me?

Big Fish is ultimately about the relationship between a father and son. The son longs to break down the invisible wall the father has erected by substituting tall tales for a meaningful emotional connection. Or so he thinks? Burton gets this. But he unfortunately seems more invested in bringing to life the tall tales, to the detriment of the films real concerns. But make no mistake the tall tales are envisioned as only a Tim Burton can present them. However there were far too many points in the film, mostly during the tall tales, where I silently begged, OK. I get it, please move on!

The movie is a pot pourri of beautiful and sometimes frightening images. The style is all there. What is lacking too often is heart. By the time I felt connected to these people it was almost too late. And yet, I did. And when I did, the film came together beautifully. Finally the tall tales made sense and I found myself loving the movie. That this happened all in the last 45 minutes of the film, is its ultimate failure, and why, what should have been a great movie is only a passible feast.
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Posted: Mon May 31, 2004 12:27 am Reply with quote
Joined: 19 May 2004 Posts: 8424
is a wonderfully melodramtic Bollywood tearjerker with over-the-top musical numbers and a charming performance from charismatic Indian superstar Shah Rukhan. It was shot in Manhattan and clearly wants to be a Bollywood hit with American audiences. But, it is so sweet and sentimental that it doesn't stand a chance with jaded and cynical Americans. Imagine a cross between Saturday Night Fever, Love Story,
Breakfast At Tiffany's and an epic epsiode of Friends. I've screened this flick at my theater twice now and Taos audiences love it.
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Posted: Tue Jun 01, 2004 10:44 am Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 8210 Location: Skokie (not a bad movie, btw)
Coffee and Cigarettes (2003)
Dir. Jim Jarmusch

This episodic film shot over 17 years and visually--not thematically--linked by having characters sitting in bars and restaurants smoking and drinking coffee (or, in two cases, tea) reminded me of an evening of one-acts I saw at the Actors Studio. The atmosphere of actors showcase and scene-study classes pervaded that evening, and pervades this film as well. This is not to condemn either event. I thoroughly enjoyed both my evening at the Actors Studio and even more thoroughly enjoyed Coffee and Cigarettes. I just make this note to prevent viewers from feeling the need to conduct a rather tortured formalist film analysis of the sort Jonathan Rosenbaum felt compelled to perform in this weeks Reader.

The film grew out of a request by Saturday Night Live to have Jarmusch make a short film for the show. The first episode, introduced (as all the subsequent short films in CAC are) with a title card resembling those used on Frasier, features SNL regular Steven Wright and Jarmusch regular Roberto Benigni speedy on espresso and barely able to understand their own conversation. Its got art-house silly written all over it, a perfect self-parody by Jarmusch for a show like SNL.

Subsequent segments of the film feature logical pairings of musicians (Iggy Pop/Tom Waits; DZA/RZA of Wu-tang Clan), relatives (Cate Blanchett/Cousin Shelly (Blanchett, in a dual role; Alfred Molina/Steve Coogan [I know, I know, just watch the film]; Jack White and Meg White playing brother and sister; Joie Lee and Cinque Lee) and acting pairs (William Rice/Taylor Mead, Joe Rigano/Vinny Vella). The basic thematic link seems to focus on rivalries that eventually melt into camaraderie, but thats as far as I wish to go in trying to find a unified field theory of this film.

What it does best in make audiences laugh their asses off. Watching Bill Murray drink coffee directly from a coffee carafe is pure sight gag. The exchange between Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan is the most polished of the segments and perhaps the most hilarious. The Whites put on old-fashioned pilot goggles and watch a homemade Tesla coil crackle like a scene from Frankenstein. Tom Waits apologizes to Iggy (Call me Jim. Call me Iggy. Well, my friends call me Jim. Or Iggy.) for being late to meet him because he had to perform roadside surgery. Youre a doctor? Iggy asks incredulously. Oh yes. Music and medicine go together. Its priceless pretension.

The film is in gorgeous black and white, which emphasizes the checkerboard table tops of many of the cafes in which shooting took place and reminds one of The Seventh Seal, as though something of great import MUST be going on here. Youll see a painting of Lee Marvin in one segment, a cap embroidered with Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai on another. The film is a visual in-joke for most film fans, particularly those familiar with Jarmuschs previous work. It also works on its own. See it.
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Posted: Wed Jun 02, 2004 2:06 am Reply with quote
Joined: 19 May 2004 Posts: 8424

There is a rush of exciting energy flowing through the film industry of South Korea. In the past couple of years, I've seen outstanding South Korean films like A TALE OF TWO SISTER, SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE, OASIS, and now OLD BOY .
Describing OLD BOY is a challenge. It has the slightly noir futurism of David Fincher's SEVEN with some of the moldering decadence of Lynch's BLUE VELVET thinly veneered with a techno sheen. But, ultimately OLD BOY is truly original

The story: a man, Old Boy, is imprisoned for 15 years in a cell that looks like a threadbare hotel room. He has no idea how he got there or why he's there. His only contact with the outside world is via a television set. When he is suddenly released, his mission is to discover the reason for his imprisonment. On the surface it appears that he has murdered his wife. But, perhaps not. Perhaps he was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit by a judge and jury seeking revenge for a diffrent crime that took place long ago. He must find out. And he is determined to exact revenge for 15 years of lost freedom.

Director Chan wook-Park has an incredible visual sense, shifting from the cool metallics of Kubrick to the uterine glow of Bertolucci and the already mentioned Lynch. The clash of the modern and decaying creates a beautiful contrast between what was and what is. The realms that Old Boy bounces between.

OLD BOY is violent, tender, transgressive, and very human. The lead performance by Min sik-Choi is staggering. The physical demands of the role include being skillfull in martial arts, eating a live octopus and convincingly appear to severe his own tongue. But, it his tragic humanity that sucks you into caring for his character.

OLD BOY is an amazing film about regret, guilt, revenge and the redemptive powers of love. Throw in some incest and and cruel violence and you have the kind of movie that only seems to come out of Asia.
This is cinema that is unafraid of digging deep into the darkside.

There are scenes in OLD BOY that are destined to be considered classics.
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