Archive for May, 2007

Away From Her
Love, Drama, and Threat of Alzheimer’s

Sarah Polley’s deliberate story-telling is aided by Away From Her’s brilliant lead performances. Julie Christie, one of the most radiant women ever to shine on the silver screen, has lost none of her glow in her older years. As Fiona, the 66-year-old actress steals the light in all of her scenes as she subtly, gracefully plays a woman whose mind is deteriorating. It’s hard to watch, yet impossible to look away as Christie’s Fiona struggles to remember the simple things, such as the word “wine.” Still, as good as Christie is, it is the performance of Gordon Pinsent that is the heart and soul of this moving picture.

Georgia Rule
Three Pretty Faces, One Foul Mouth

Just about the time you think you’ve had enough of Rachel, the story levels out and you begin to see the reconciliation begin. I like the storyline of Georgia Rule as the relationships heal in a believable time frame. They aren’t all kissy-kissy by the end of the movie, but you can see that progress has been made and hope is there. The story is a mature one in this regard. Some good discussion comes out of the film: Are family problems caused by the parents? Or are they exacerbated by the children? Can we really heal if we hide the real issues under drugs, drink, or outlandish behavior? Is this film a mirror of Lohan’s life?

The Ex
Spoiler: Instant Razzie Contender

It pains me to write such a scathing review as I always try to look towards the positive in any film. Unfortunately, I can’t pull any punches here as The Ex is honestly one of the worst movies I have ever seen. It’s amazing that a movie with so many funny people in it—stars Zach Braff, Amanda Peet, and Jason Bateman, plus Charles Grodin, Mia Farrow, Donal Logue, Amy Poehler, Fred Armison, Paul Rudd, Romany Malco, and Amy Adams—can have not a single real laugh in the entire film.

Everything’s Gone Green
Oh-oh, Canada!

It takes an unusual talent to capture the nuance of an entire culture. Writer Douglas Coupland seems to be that talent. The humor in Everything’s Gone Green is quintessentially Canadian. I am not sure I could define that quality of humor, but I recognize it. The writing and story are quite engaging, and director Paul Fox appears to revel in the same sort of deadpan irony-laden humor that Coupland—if one can be said to revel in an understated way.

Civic Duty
To Believe or Not to Believe

I can’t be the only one on the planet who, somewhere around 2003, began to find fiction based on the September 11th tragedy more than tiresome. So when one pops up nearly six years later, once again exploiting the conundrum of profiling versus prejudice, I had my suspicions. Civic Duty manipulates more than the “justified suspicion” of so many Americans who are ruled by the illusion that we are entitled to security and privacy, freedom and safety. It exploits, one more time, the fears that somehow our “freedom,” our “rights,” and our “security” are more at risk than they have ever been before, and we are somehow able to control whether or not such American entitlements will endure.

The Valet
Driven by Comedy—Sex Along for the Ride

Call me pessimistic or prejudiced, but I expect French comedies to be on the vulgar side—particularly when the movie’s plot involves sexual infidelity and bed-sharing scenarios. The Valet surprised me in more ways than one. The emphasis is far more on farce than it is on sex—in fact, this would be considered a pretty chaste comedy even by American standards. So—surprise!—we get clean comedy, villains who get their just deserts, virtuous heroes who also get theirs, and just enough grace and mercy to allow for the possibility that decent people who make poor choices can change their ways. It all adds up to a mildly entertaining and inoffensive night at the movies.

Lucky You
Romance, Not Cards, Is A Flop

Lucky You is an interesting look at the culture of gambling in Las Vegas. Poker fans will probably appreciate the play at the tables, and the list of cameo appearances by poker celebrities is as long as my arm. The stakes at the tables are suitably dramatic. But in the final analysis, there is simply too much shoe-horned into this movie. It would be far more enjoyable if it were 20 or 30 minutes shorter. And face it—if you really want to watch poker, you can see it for free sitting at home in your favorite easy chair. There’s not much point in seeing it on the big screen when the romance fails to pay off.

A Talk With Rolle and Ruskin
Truth Without Compromise

On April 11th, I sat down to talk with Christopher “Kazi” Rolle and Matt Ruskin to talk about Ruskin’s new documentary, The Hip Hop Project, which documents Rolle’s efforts to better himself—and others. Says Rolle, “Basically, Hip Hop is a culture [that combines] expressions found all over the world, and is quite universal and influential. It is a form of expression that communicates feeling and story well. It gives youth the chance to express in dance and music what they are thinking and experiencing. There is no doubt that it is not the cause of our ills, but a mirror of them. Our culture is saturated with violence and sexuality, and Hip Hop expresses that reality.”

Spider-Man 3
Spidey Fans Cast a World-Wide Web

Despite excellent CGI, creatively-staged action sequences, and (I’m assuming) the usual effectively nerdy performances from Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire as MJ and Peter, Spider-Man 3 still reaches too far—four villains (including Spidey himself) are about two too many, and Topher Grace, among others, is wildly miscast. And I’m sorry, but Dunst and Maguire—while competent enough—are being wildly overpaid, regardless of the odd chemistry that they obviously produce. But as high-priced entertainment, Spider-Man 3 starts the summer off with a solid bang. Fans won’t be disappointed—and the series will likely win a whole new legion of followers.

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