28 October 2002

Oops, forgot two...

Almost forgot the two films I saw in-flight last month.

Big Fat Liar: 0.5 Stars. I can see Malcolm in the Middle's Frankie Muniz being shanghaied into this turkey, but Paul Giamatti? He knows better. Pretty much dreck from beginning to end. Special kudos to the casting staff for bringing in American Pie MILF-lover John Cho. I love that guy.

The Rookie: 3 Stars. Just a quality, feel-good sports flick. I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that this is the highest grossing film that Dennis Quaid's ever done. I find that pretty amazing, for as long as he's been around.
I'm a Hounsou fan. Are you?

One Hour Photo: 2.5 Stars. I'm not really sure what story this picture was supposed to tell. I guess it's supposed to be a character study of a mild-mannered, obsessive, lonely man, Robin Williams, who is driven over the edge by various circumstances. All it did was creep me out, though.

The Four Feathers: 3 Stars. I'm not sure if this film benefitted from my low expectations (principally concerning lead/heartthrob Heath Ledger), but I found it a pretty darned entertaining story of two men, a woman, and the war in the Sudan in 1840s Britain. I think the director was trying to do an epic in the mold of The English Patient; in that, he failed. However, the story is solid on its own merits. The acting is solid, and the cinematography was superb. Special kudos to Djimon Hounsou for being the most charismatic black man in film today, even if he only gets beefy sidekick roles and guest-shots on ER. This guy was born to be the next Terminator. Are we reading, James Cameron?

15 October 2002

Back on Track

This weekend was more like it...3 more to the database:

Punch-Drunk Love: 3.5 Stars. There's not many actors that could've pulled off the role Adam Sandler played in this film. Fortunately, the role was written explicitly for him, and his "quiet, repressed" character that he's managed to cultivate in most of his comedies clearly is the template for this one. This is by all accounts a weird film, and at times overstylized (the visuals from ILM were particularly unnecessary), but this tale of troubled souls finding happiness is one of the surprises of the year. Further, it's evidence that Paul Thomas Anderson is honing his craft, much like Wes Anderson (no relation), and much unlike M. Night Shyamalan. Bonus points to Emily Watson for managing to be, well, just absolutely wonderful.

Red Dragon: 2.5 Stars. With a four-star cast like the one assembled for this film, it's a crime that I can only give it 2.5 stars. I can only lay the blame here on the screenwriter and the director (Brett Ratner, of Rush Hour fame). Edward Norton, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Watson, Ralph Fiennes, and Anthony Heald (a personal favorite) were their usual talented selves. Philip Seymour Hoffman was a bit of a disappointment, considering how good he was in Punch Drunk Love, but he didn't have much to work with. Basically, the story wasn't very compelling, wasn't very suspenseful, and was overly formulaeic (especially the end). If the source material wasn't up to snuff, it should've been over-tweaked by the screenwriter. If it was, the director should've done more with it, as Jonathan Demme did in The Silence of the Lambs. It'll make a fortune, but that doesn't make it good.

Spirited Away: 2.5 Stars. There's something about Japanese animation that lends itself to bad stories. Most of the heralded pinnacles of Anime have plot holes you could drive a Hummer through. It seems that they think that impressive visuals will cover for the shockingly incoherent directions that the tale takes. Spirited Away is no exception. At times it is visually amazing. At times the story is compelling. At times it's incoherent. At times it makes you start checking your watch. Overall I thought it was okay....it wasn't a waste of 2 hours. But it could've been so much better.

09 October 2002

About Friggin' Time

Finally caught up on a few flicks after my Burning Man adventure, the high holidays, and various activities with the new girlfriend....

Secretary: 2.75 Stars. I caught this little S&M comedy Friday afternoon, and I was pleasantly surprised that the director actually got it to work. Maggie Gyllenhaal was great as the wallflower/masochist who embraces James Spader's twisted, emotionally-repressed sadism. Spader was a bit wooden, but that's partially attributable to the character he was playing. Once they had built up the relationship between them, I cringed at the thought of some sort of rosy romance blooming, and the script also rejected such a saccharine ending in favor of one which was, for lack of a better word, more realistic. There were lots of problems, but it was a solid effort in an underrepresented genre.

Sweet Home Alabama: 3 Stars. There were no surprises in this film. You knew from the opening credits (hell, from the trailer) how this movie would wrap up, and it didn't disappoint. The hallmark of quality filmmaking in the sappy romantic comedy arena, though, is making such a predictable journey seem fresh and fun. Reese Witherspoon continues her climb to Julia Roberts-level fame and paychecks with a winning performance as an Alabama country girl whose turned her back on her roots (and her lout of a husband) and become a successful fashion designer in New York. When she returns to get a divorce to marry her handsome socialite boyfriend (an all-growed up Patrick Dempsey), the lout (a scruffy Josh Lucas) has cleaned himself up a bit and is so charming you wonder how he could've been such a dick 7 years ago. Chaos, romance, and a decent southern soundtrack follows until the inevitable conclusion. Overall, a solid film. Special kudos to Ethan Embry for a consistently scene-stealing performance.

The Tuxedo: 1.5 Stars. Jackie Chan can make movies till the end of time, and I'll still go watch him, but that doesn't mean I'll see his movies twice. He's pretty much wasted in this effects-laden bomb of a film. I come to watch him kick ass, not to watch him being suspended on wires or sped up to blurring speed in his special tux. Jennifer Love Hewitt should stick to movies that highlight her charm and beauty, not make her look as ridiculous as physicist Elizabeth Shue in The Saint. All involved should be embarassed.

Eight Legged Freaks: 2 Stars. I was talking to my peeps just the other day, saying, "Whatever happened to Cool Runnings star Doug E. Doug?" Turns out he made a crappy spider flick with über-silly David Arquette and über-hottie Kari Wuhrer. While I certainly enjoy watching Arquette and Wuhrer (albeit for different reasons), this seeming homage to classic B-movie horror films falls flat from the start and never really gets up. Even future-hottie Scarlett Johannson couldn't add much to help this turkey along.