Sunday, January 22, 2006

Junebug: Grade D



Amy Adams, Embeth Davidtz, Celia Weston

Sophisticated Chicago art dealer visits husband’s family in rural North Carolina. The movie doesn’t overtly make fun of the family, but just shows them living their boring, stupid lives. The characters are utterly unmotivated and empty headed, even though they live in an expensively furnished house despite no means of support. There is no story, no message, and no reason for this to be a movie at all. Good acting by AA, ED, and CW.
Reviewed 1/22//06.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Constant Gardner Grade A


The Constant Gardner (2005)

Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz

Dir=Fernando Mirrelles

Big pharma company is testing a TB drug in Africa, without informed consent, alongside AIDS testing. The TB drug is often fatal but that is covered up. British diplomat (RF) and his idealistic wife (RW) uncover the deception, but not before she is killed. Story structurally like Three Days of the Condor, but without the suspense, which is too bad. Emphasis is on the love story between RF and RW rather than on the dastardly plot. The love story is excellent however. A reversal for Le Carre in having the government be in cahoots with the evildoers rather than the spies. The photography alone makes it worth the watching. It looks a bit like a colorized b&w, where the white shirts are pale green instead of white, for example. But it’s not overdone, just on the edge of realism, and the palette is changed often. Somebody really went to a lot of trouble with the colors and the photography overall. Reviewed 1/21/06.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Red Eye: Grade D


Red Eye

Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphey. Dir=Wes Craven

Remember when airplanes had those clunky "Airphones" in the seatback in front of you, and you could (maybe) call your office for $1 a minute? I haven't seen one of those in years. But this movie depends on them. The bad guy forces the girl in the seat next to him to call the hotel she manages and move a politico to a certain room so the (really dumb) hit men can get him. Otherwise, the hit men will get her father instead. Pretty creative story! Rather than tell a flight attendant that she is being threatened by this creepy guy, she goes along with his scheme, then runs off the plane when it lands to warn the victims just in time. Convenient! An inconsistent and degrading female character. Good thing they were in an older airliner or they wouldn't have had any plot at all. Good creepy bad guy though (CM).
Reviewed 1/20/06.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Some A Grade Movies

I thought I'd start out this blog with a sample of some movies I have watched in each category. Grade A movies are excellent and I happily recommend them to anyone who enjoys film.


Broken Flowers

Bill Murray, Jeffrey Wright, Sharon stone, Jessica Lange Tilda Swinton. Dir = Jim Jarmusch

A rich ex-playboy gets an unsigned letter from an old flame that says he has a son. He looks up 4 girlfriends who could be it. No resolution. Murray looks like Lyndon Johnson in 1968 - way too old for this role, against these women. His "acting" is little more than the stone-face he has adopted lately. However, the women, sets, killer music, directing, and Jeffrey Wright make it outstanding overall.


Mail Order Wife

Andrew Gurland (co-writer, director, star with Huck Botko), Eugenia Yuan, Adrian Martinez, Deborah Teng. Independent film

A fictional documentary but not a mockumentary -- plays it straight. A doorman in Queens gets a mail order bride from Burma. Yuan is the focus, but all the characters are memorable originals, totally convincing. A well-written, compelling human story. Yuan's translator (Teng) is riveting, but alas, few DVDs these days give info on cast members - regrettable..


The 40-year-old Virgin

Steve Carell, Catherine Keener

A scatological hoot about male sexuality. The title states the childish plot problematic. Very sharp writing and outstanding acting. CK is fantastic. No guns, explosions, or violence. Just great script, lots o' funny dirty talk and a goofy, LOL ending.



Margaret Cho

A live stand-up comedy that had me laughing out loud. Her material is more politically pointed than in the past, less biological, less pure silliness. She is positioning herself as comic-activist, the next Lenny Bruce, and has the ability to succeed.



Connie Nielsen. Dir=Suzanne Bier. Danish, subtitled

Family man gets called to fight in Afghanistan, is captured, presumed dead, finds living hell. His brother looks after the wife and kids. He returns. Then what? Extremely well written, scripted and acted. Editing is odd. CN is an archetypal Scandinavian beauty.


Melinda and Melinda

Written and directed by Woody Allen. Will Ferrell, Radha Mitchell, Amanda Peet, others.

Melinda is lonely, stays with friends, finally falls in love. The story is told twice, in intercut scenes, supposedly once as a comedy, once as a tragedy, but WA could have skipped that setup and just told the stories, like Sliding Doors. Humorous but not jokey. Characters are the usual NYC upper class, so rich that they can be caricatures. But the performances are amazing, especially RM. WF is a revelation. Fabulous photog, interiors, costume, dialog, directing. Masterful movie craftsmanship.


The Day I Became a Woman

Dir= Marziyeh Meshkini. Iranian, in Farsi, subtitled.

Three short stories, loosely coupled. A girl turns 9 and gets her chador; a young woman joins a bicycle race without her husband's permission; an old woman floats away on a raft, surrounded by consumer goods. Stunning photography full of striking images. Sparse dialog, masterful directing. Dreamlike, yet still a biting (bitter?) social comment.


Me and You and Everyone We Know

Miranda July = actor, writer, director. Casting by Meg Norman.

Three short stories loosely coupled (seems the trend these days). Young boys do sexual chat on the internet, young girls flirt with sexuality, and an adult couple tries to find common ground. Realistic dialog, sets, costumes, script. No real plot. Slow. Human, compelling and original.



Ellen Barkin, Jennifer Jason Leigh, others. Writer&Dir = Todd Solondz

Young teenager wants a baby, gets pregnant, parents coerce abortion. She runs away to try again, and bounces from highway hitchhiker to foster home, Different actors play the girl during that period, which is confusing at first but finally says, 'this is everygirl's story'. Knockout casting, fine acting, writing, directing. Story is loose but a metaphorical palindrome.


Angels & Aliens: The Basement and the Kitchen

Writer, Director, Star = David Fickas. Mo Gaffney as the mother. Indie.

Paranoid youth lives in his mother's basement, won't go out, thinks aliens are trying to get him. He's nuts. Or is he? It's not aliens trying to get him! Original story, hilarious at times, convincing sets & situations, good photog & directing, strong acting. DF himself is the weakest player.


Merci, Docteur Rey!

Dianne Wiest. Dir, writer = Andrew Litvack. French and English with subtitles

An American opera diva sings Turandot in Paris; her closeted gay son sees a man murdered who later is identified as his father. Or maybe not. Really funny screwball humor!


Off the Map

Joan Allen, Sam Elliott, Valentina De Angelis. Dir=Campbell Scott

A poor family lives in New Mexico "off the grid" or map. Subsistence farming, no plumbing or electricity. But they are educated and live well even as the Dad falls into depression. 10 yr old girl (VDA) is a scene-stealer, but all acting is first class. Script, story line excellent (no plot). Sets are unbelievable but scenery is good. A slow pace but not a slow movie. Humanly engaging.



Dir=Abbas Kiarostami
(in Farsi, subtitled)

Ten is the number of scenes in this movie, all of them of a woman driving a car in Teheran. Dash cameras show her or her passenger, and that's it. Passengers include her 14 yr old son, sister, prostitute, etc. The dialog tells the story of life in Teheran today for a woman. It's totally about gender. The son is especially disturbing. We only hear, never see the hooker, making her a subconscious voice. Brilliant.


Colors Straight Up

Michele Ohayon, producer, director

A documentary with high risk LA youth studying theater and dance. Gripping personal stories, good original music, excellent editing. Like Stand and Deliver but heart achingly true. No info on the teachers.


Million Dollar Baby

Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman

Two movies in one. The first, HS becomes a winning boxer, reluctantly trained by Clint. The second is about euthanasia after she is injured. The first movie is better. MF is CE's Boswell, a weak role. His award was probably for Unforgiven. CE acts like CE. Swank is the standout. Well directed & photo'd boxing scenes.


The Merchant of Venice

Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Joseph Fiennes, Lynn Collins. Dir=Michael Radford

Pacino brings Shylock alive, especially in the famous "do we not bleed?" speech. Irons has presence but mumbles. Fiennes: outstanding. Collins good as a boy. Well-paced. Lines are not rushed. The language is only a very slight obstacle. Directing, editing, locations, costumes make it a compelling Shakespeare.


In My Country

Samuel L. Jackson, Juliette Binoche, Dir=John Boorman; Screenplay Anne Peacock.

2 Reporters cover the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa in the mid-90's. A fictionalization of the actual transcripts. Complex, moving and thought provoking. Acting like you've never seen from the 2 stars. Story line cliched, alas, almost kills it. Shot in South Africa.


Team America

Trey Parker, Matt Stone, writers, directors (The "South Park" team.)

Puppets, actually, marionettes on strings, give a parody of military/police action movies, chasing terrorists (brown puppets) around the world, blowing things up. Script is hilarious, and the puppets are funny. Much humor tends to the prurient and puerile, but the political commentary and Hollywood satires are excellent.


Bad Boy Bubby

Nicholas Hope. Writ, Dir = Rolf De Heer. Released in 1993, very limited US circulation. A cult hit and winner of film festivals.

A man has been locked in an ultra- squalid apartment with his mother for 35 years then gets out, joins a band, meets a girl. He is autistic maybe. Not a true sketch. Dark, horrifying, tragic, and hilarious at the same time. A comment on human development? Or it may mean nothing. Amazing performance by Hope. Totally original. You have never seen a picture like this. Best punk band in the world. Bad sound, experimental or not.


Dirty Filthy Love

Michael Sheen, Shirley Henderson.Dir=Adrian Shergold. Produced by the Sundance Channel

Man suffers from increasingly severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, with a touch of Tourette's. Loses wife, job. Joins a support group. A gripping, tragic, funny, realistic story by somebody who knows OCD . Meds are not given their proper due, but it is a human, not a psychiatric story.


The Woodsman

Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Mos Def; Dir=Nicole Kassell

KB, in his best-ever performance, is a convicted pedophile trying to start over after prison. He gets hatred and loathing when his past is discovered, but also some understanding. He is not "cured" and there are some creepy scenes, but there is a quasi-happy ending. He says "I am not a monster," but isn't he? The movie is honest, courageous, not voyeuristic or trite.


The Assassination of Richard Nixon

Sean Penn, Don Cheadle, Naomi Watts, Jack Thompson. Dir=Niels Mueller

Sean Penn is a furniture salesman who can't find a way to success. Wife divorces, he loses jobs, due to a mild mental or personality defect which develops into full delusion and violent action. The mental condition is a cheap artificial motivator, unlike Miller's Willy Loman or De Niro in Taxi. But Penn's acting is pure genius. It leaps off the screen. Cheadle is also outstanding here.


Hotel Rwanda

Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Nick Nolte. Dir = Terry George

DC, Hutu, runs a luxury hotel in Rwanda in 1994 when Tutsis attacked Hutus with machetes. NN is the inert UN. The violence is all the more disturbing because it is not shown, but implied in the human drama. Fabulous acting and directing. Story line meanders. A personal, not a political story, although the DVD comes with an envelope for Amnesty International.


What Alice Found

Judith Ivey, Emily Grace. Writer, director = A. Dean Bell

A young woman escapes a small New Hampshire town with a road trip to Florida. Car breaks down, she is rescued by a couple in a big RV. She learns about the dark side of life on the highway. A good story, very well-told. Tremendous acting. A poignant comment on how easy it is for a woman to become dead-ended in life.



A film by Neil Young, songwriter, singer, director of photography and cameraman.

The DVD package gives no clue what this thing is. It is a series of 8 Neil Young songs that tell stories about a family of characters. The stories are only related by the recurrence of the characters, though obvious postproduction tries to suggest a single narrative. Hand held super-8. It's incoherent; it means nothing. Like Horse With No Name on steroids. But it is an artistic achievement of the first order. It helps to be a fan of Young.


Robot Stories

Writer, Director = Greg Pak

Four short films, all involving robots in one way or another, but these are human, not robot stories. Example: an old man has a holographic girlfriend but won't agree to mental/digital immortality with her, because it would be "a happiness he hasn't earned." Very strong acting, great writing and directing. Haunting.



Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington

A bio of Ray Charles. JF nails Charles' look and moves so totally, it is eerie. Lip sync to original music is flawless. KW gives a strong and subtle performance. Story, script, directing, photog are humdrum. The music is all.



Jet Li. Dir = Zhang Yimou, "Presented by" Quentin Tarrantino. Chinese, subtitled.

An abstract impressionist martial arts movie like Crouching Tiger and Kill Bill 1, but this one is stunningly beautiful, more so than Kurosawa's "Ran" which is quoted, and it has an engaging, Roshomonic story. Will be a classic.


The Five Obstructions

Lars von Trier, Jorgen Leth. Danish, subtitled

The dogmatic von Trier gives 5 short film assignments to his mentor. Each film has different rules, such as no sets, or no edit over 12 frames, or "you must star in it." An exploration of film and of the men. Wonderful pictures, great insights, but you must be "into" film. Otherwise it will be boring.


The Saddest Music in the World

Isabella Rosellini, Dir=Guy Maddin. Canadian.

A music contest in depression era Winnipeg to find the saddest music, results in an international gong show. Mostly B&W, hand held, grainy super-8 or digital, with vaseline on the lens, makes it like old newsreel footage. Editing is inspired, and the story and script are a hilarious though subtle satire, mostly of American culture. Good music. Surreal sets. Weird characters. Outrageously creative, mind-boggling, Fellini-esque.


Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring

Director and writer=Kim Ki-Duk. Korean, with subtitles.

A Buddhist tale, gorgeously photographed. The title tells the story: the seasons of life. Spring comes around twice to make sure we get the idea of the eternal cycle. In spring, a young acolyte lives with a wise old man on a raft hermitage. In the summer, the boy is a young man. And so on. Stereotypical ideas, but so beautiful and thought-provoking, you can't resist.


Before Sunset

Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Dir=Richard Linklater

Sequel to Before Sunrise of a decade ago, in which a couple met briefly and passionately then lost touch with each other. Now they meet again in Paris. Talking heads for 90 minutes as they catch up. Are they still interested in each other? It smolders. Script is too clever but the acting, personalities and glorious romanticism win you over.


A Day Without A Mexican

Dir=Sergio Arau

One day all the Mexicans in California disappear without a trace. What are the consequences? Strange fog stops out of state communications. Creative, funny, with a serious point of view. Not well acted though. Good music.


Shrek 2

Dreamworks. Voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Jennifer Saunders

Incredible animation, very funny gags and enough story to pull it along. JS is a real standout as the fairy godmother. JC is disappointing except for one Fawlty Towers bit. AB has a sense of humor about himself. As good as S-1.


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Dir=Michael Gondry

A love story, time-shredded Memento-like, yet another cultural expression of anxiety about Alzheimers. But in this case the acting is superb, especially JC who plays a dramatic role without a rubber face. He agrees to have his memory of his girlfriend erased, but then decides to fight it. The POV then shifts to his memories with her, being erased even as they occur, so a thriller of how to get out of that memory in time and find another. Nonsense story, but fine acting by the whole cast saves it.


Coffee And Cigarettes

Dir = Jim Jarmusch. Tons of actors, including Cate Blanchett, Tom Waits, Steven Wright, Bill Murray, many others.

Eleven short scenes of two people meeting "for coffee" & smoking cigarettes. All in beautiful B&W. The people mostly do not want to be there, so the social tension is palpable. The dialogs are Mamet-esque artistic abstractions, not realist. The acting and directing are riveting. Sets interesting. A true masterpiece of film. Memorable.



Mario Van Peebles

Documentary about the making of 1970's Sweet Sweetback Badass' Story by Melvin Van Peebles, Mario's father, who made that breakthrough movie. Fascinating, important, real.


Cho Revolution

Margaret Cho

Cho's third standup comedy movie. A million funny bits. She is a great face actor. Lots of crude body jokes, but also important social commentary. "A" for its genre.


The Singing Detective

Robt. Downey Jr., Mel Gibson, Robin Wright Penn. Adrian Brody.

A writer with a disgusting skin disease imagines himself a hard boiled Chandleresque detective who often breaks into song and dance - 50's pop (original sound tracks). Oddly, RDJ is poor at lip-sync. MG cures his condition by reflecting on his mother (really). Great makeup forces awareness of lookism. Weird, but good.



Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci

CT is a hooker at the end of her rope who finds it makes more sense to kill the men than endure the degradation. Clings for love to CR, who is abrasive and unlikable as always. A "true story", but without plot. CT is astounding. She is that character. Best actress award is well deserved.


Mystic River

Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishbourne, Marcia Gay Harden. Dir: Clint Eastwood

3 boys grow up in tough Boston hood. One becomes a cop, another, ex-hoodlum (SP), learns his daughter is killed. The third, abducted as a child, didn't do it, or did he? Best performances I've ever seen by all the actors except LF. Just a magic ensemble, or is Clint getting that good? A complex story well-told.


In Praise of Love

Jean-Luc Goddard (Dir). French with subtitles

Goddard's swan song is a comment on his own career, on France (& being French) since WWII, on war and psychology. Beautiful, layered, smart, humorous, historical, honest. Reverent yet fresh. Film as art. A masterpiece.


The Triplets of Belleville

An animation by Sylvain Chomet. French, but there's no dialog so it doesn't matter.

Animated in the old Disney style: artists capture nuance in expression and gesture to make it "human" and affecting. A Tour-de France cyclist is kidnapped by the mafia, rescued by his mother and his dog. It's nonsense. Beautifully drawn and colored with perfect sound. Plenty of wry cultural humor too. Weird but engaging.


Kill Bill

Quentin Tarrantino's fourth movie. Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu

Wronged woman seeks murderous revenge for the names on her list. Based on Kurasowa's 7 Samurai and Leone's spaghetti variations. Creative use of anime, and a nod to Crouching Tiger. Acting by UT and LL is excellent. Fantastic photog, directing, sets, music. Lots of gushing blood, but it is surreal comedy, not violence. A classic.


Lost in Translation

Bill Murray, Scarlet Johannsen, Giovanni Ribisi. Writer, Dir, Prod = Sofia Coppola.

Lonesome old actor, young girl make friends in Tokyo. A strong affectionate relationship without sex. Fab writing, directing. Fine acting. Loose story, to the point of entropy. Satirical of Japanese society. Just barely a comedy. SJ is magnetic.



Nicole Kidman, Ben Gazarra, Stellan Skarsgaard, James Cahn. Dir = Lars von Trier

Woman on the run hides in a small town. She wins them over by cheerful service but they finally turn on her and put her in chains. Her father's men arrive, burn the town. Severe Brechtian minimalism. No sets to speak of. An allegory for some existential truth, but what? First class acting and directing. I really liked this movie.


Marci X

Lisa Kudrow, Damon Wayans; Richard Benjamin.

Rich white jewish blonde falls for black vulgar rapper. Parodies both cultures perfectly. Great jokes & music, good acting. Good production values. Lame sitcom story line. Laugh out loud funny.


A Good Night To Die

Michael Rapaport, Gary Stretch, James Russo. British Indie

Professional assassins become friends and rivals, like Bronson's "Mechanic" of 25 years ago. Dynamite script- clever, funny, thoughtful. MR is electrifying - you can't take your eyes off him. Why isn't he a huge star?



Graham Greene, Native cast and dir.

Shot on Pine Ridge, story of alcohol and crime, searching for values. Good humor and acting, especially GG. Doesn't have the emotional connection of Smoke Signals but a better story.


Down With Love

Rene Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, David Hyde-Pierce. Dir=Payton Reed, Costumes=Daniel Orlandi, Music=Mark Shaiman.

A tongue in cheek homage to romantic comedies of the 60's. RZ is ever impressive. EM does an amazing Bobby Darrin bit. The real stars are the costumes, the music, and the amazing throw away song during the credits.



Ron Fricke, Dir, Photog

A visual feast. Stunning photography from around the world, edited like the "-qaatsi" films. Sound track of human and natural rhythms. Not a travel pic, it has implicit editorial content: from aboriginal ritual to Auschwitz ovens, from Ryoanji to NYC traffic. But the reactionary message doesn’t spoil the visual beauty.


The Hours

Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Ed Harris

Virginia Woolf commits suicide, her spiritual double, JM, living in 1951 suburbia does not, nor does her fictional character, MS, living in 2002 NYC. Harris, opposite Streep, does. Good psychological drama, but confuses existential despair & clinical depression. JM should have won for acting, though NK is flawless.


Scotland, PA

Maura Tierney, Christopher Walken, James Lebros

Farcical comedy set in a '70's diner. Couple kills owner and takes the place over. Walken is the deadpan cop. A+ acting all around. MT is wonderful.


Rabbit-Proof Fence

Dir=Phillip Noyce. Everlyn Sampi, Kenneth Branaugh

3 young aboriginal girls escape a gov't school in 1930's Western Australia, walk 1200 miles home. Powerful sense of place and culture. Beautiful photog. The girls' faces are magnets. Good DVD extra on casting. Too bad they had to put KB on the cover to sell it.


The Fast Runner

Inuit cast

By and about Inuit people of Northern Canada. A human drama of Shakespearean proportions in the arctic. Mesmerizing, for photography, story and the feeling of being in the culture. I have sat inside an igloo. It was cold.

Dumb story but fine acting, character-driven script, good photog and art direction. Bad music.


13 Conversations about One Thing

Allen Arkin, Amy Irving, Mathew McConaughey. Dir= Jill Sprecher.

Strong cast centered around office and home life in NYC. Captures middle class squalor and confusion. What is the role of luck in finding happiness?


Sidewalks of New York

Edward Burns (also Dir), Stanley Tucci, Heather Graham.

Love, Sex & relationships in New York. Snappy script, phenomenal acting by all, no story.


Sudden Manhatten

Adrienne Shelly, writer, director, star

Loopy woman has visions of murder, visits a medium for a seance. Surreal. Quite funny, well acted nonsense. Great camera work, editing, script.


Moulin Rouge

Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor

A fabulous musical based on the story in La Boheme. New, not operatic music. Funny, ironic script, terrific sound. The photog is stunning. Each shot could be framed and hung in a gallery. I read that NK did her own singing, and it is remarkable. Way ahead of its time. It will be a classic.

Some B Grade Movies

I thought I'd start out this blog with a sample of some movies I have watched in each category. B-grade movies are really very good but with one or more serious flaws.


The Island

Scarlett Johansson, Ewan McGregor, Steve Buscemi.

Can you imagine the girl with a pearl earring slamming someone in the side of the head with a .45 automatic? Neither could I, but Scarlett is plausible as an action figure in this highly vehicular chase. Visual access to her body is controlled but she looks OK. She's much better as a dramatic actor. EM does a great job. They escape a clone farm used for organ harvesting. Thin story, totally derivative visuals (Matrix, Star Wars, the Fifth Element, even the 1984 Apple commercial). Schlock ending. "B" is generous.


Dot the i

Gael Garcia Bernal, Natalia Verbeke, James D'Arcy. Writer, Director = Matthew Parkhill

A riff on The Graduate. Young woman is set to marry rich man (JD) but is pursued by GGB. Secondary theme is GGB takes a videocam everywhere, which allows audience and other characters to know what has previously happened. Well made, attractive actors, engaging story, good music, but doesn't add up at the end - breaks the social contract.


Four Brothers

Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, Andre Benjamin, Garrett Hedlund. Dir = John Singleton

4 young men, 2 white, 2 black, have been adopted and raised by a single mother, who is murdered. They vow revenge, bullying gangs, cops and councilmen in Detroit to find the killer. Good acting, photography, music, sets. Story and script mostly tired cliche. A slow starter. Good gun battle. No mention of race is a relief.


Kings & Queens

Emmanuelle Devos, Katherine Deneuve; Mathieu Amalric; Dir = Arnaud Desplechin. French, subtitled

People live their lives in Paris. A woman's father is dying; her son doesn't like the stepdad, but the real dad is in a mental institution. Things like that. Some very funny lines & situations. The acting is so completely absorbing, it easily carries you across 2.5 hrs (!) of non-story.


Born Into Brothels

Zana Briski, Ross Kaufman, Dirs. English and Hindi (subtitled). Documentary.

ZB teaches photography to brothel children in Calcutta. As a human story it is a sentimental A+, But as a movie? The DVD version includes a 3 year follow-up and that makes the whole package rise to a B.


The Stratosphere Girl

Chloe Winkel. Writ, Dir=M.X. Oberg; Independent.

European girl works as a club hostess in Tokyo. It's a movie of a "manga," the Japanese comic books that spawned the anime style. It's realistic, not anime, but the costumes, wigs, story, sets, photog - everything - are all in the style of manga. The girl also draws in that style, so realism merges with drawing at times. Artistically stimulating, but pointless - has nothing to say.


Wal Mart: The high cost of low price

Robert Greenwald, prod, dir.

This documentary is a one-sided attack on Wal Mart. Balanced views vanished with Michael Moore. Studies show that WM is neither good nor evil - an economic wash in most towns. But the film shows convincingly that the company does not really believe in free markets when it comes to labor: it cheats. Greed trumps principle. So my mind is changed.


Schultze Gets the Blues

German, subtitled. Harald Warmbrunn; writ,dir = Michael Schorr

Retired miner in a German town plays polkas on his accordion. One day discovers Zydeco and begins a Homeric quest to Louisiana delta, showing the human psyche still developing even near the end of life. Not much story line. Perfect sets, casting, costumes. Enjoyable, long, fixed-frame shots.



Japanese, subtitled. Dir=Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Charisma is an ancient rare tree in a Japanese forest. Some believe it is secreting toxin, poisoning the forest around. Should you preserve the rare one at the expense of the many? Perhaps the tree is the emperor; preserve him at all costs? There is supporting imagery for that but the director denies all meaning. Maybe. Chaotic but beautifully photo'd.


The Man Who Copied

Brazilian, in Portuguese, subtitled. Writ & Dir=Jorge Furtado

Young man works at a copy shop in Brazil, counterfeits a few 50s in order to win over a girl. 1st half is a well-written voice-over, making the pictures superfluous. 2d half, the writing falls apart and plot goes south. Original, convincing acting throughout.



Billy Bob Thornton, Lisa Blount

Slow talking BBT returns to Arkansas hometown after prison, tries to reconnect with wife LB. No real plot, just a collection of scenes, but the sense of Southern torpor is palpable. Spare and sharp dialog. Good acting. Faulkneresque.



Don Cheadle (he's everywhere!; also produced), Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon, Brendan Fraser, Thandie Newton, others. Writer & Dir=Paul Haggis

Sets of ethnically different characters encounter each other randomly in LA. All are "racially" (ethnically) bigoted; most stereotypically. Trigger happy LAPD bullying blacks, young black men hijacking cars, Suburban whites terrified of blacks, Middle Easterners abused by ignorant redneck, etc. Not subtle. Vignettes rather than a real story. Some acting. Overall message: racism is bad. You heard it here first.


Funny Ha Ha

Kate Dollenmayer; Dir=Andrew Bujalski

A woman in her twenties hangs out with her friends, drinks, tries to get a job and a boyfriend. No real plot. Like Napoleon Dynamite for an older group, it is supposed to be a social mirror. The inarticulate dialog is realistic and charming at first but quickly becomes formulaic. Grainy hand-held photog. Reminiscent of Woody Allen's Three Sisters and even the Chekhov play. Worthy.


The Interpreter

Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn. Dir = Sidney Pollack

When the two best actors in America get together, expectations are high. They do competent work, especially Penn, but it is never electrifying. NK is a UN translator who overhears an assassination threat. SP is secret service, tries to thwart the plot, which is so complicated that characters are not bound by common sense . Pedestrian directing, photography.


Anatomy of Hell

French, Subtitled. Dir=Catherine Breillat

A woman with low self esteem pays a gay/bi guy to explore her body, to show him what "women are really like," e.g., with pubic hair, not shaved like porn stars, etc. Film attempts to demystify and even desexualize the female body, but the woman (and director) already accept the male valuation of it, undercutting the project. Lots of graphic sex and body parts, but it's a serious thesis, not porn. Not for prudes! Good idea, but not successful.


Prozac Nation

Christina Ricci, Jessica Lange

Terrific acting by Lange. Ricci is abrasive but gives a fine showing. Poor filmmaking spoils it all. Opening nude scene is without meaning: gratuitous boobs. Film does not show a descent into depression, only talks about it. Prozac is irrelevant. Talking heads only. A missed opportunity.


Sin City

Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Devon Aoki, Clive Owen, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Madsen. Dir = Robert Rodriquez, "Guest Director" Quentin Tarantino

Film adaptation, in the tradition of Dick Tracy, of a comic book by Frank Miller. Gorgeous visuals. Incoherent, repetitive story, hackneyed script, ho-hum acting except BDT. Some subtle digs at Reservoir Dogs and Harry Potter. Lots of bodily violence, gushers, etc - the QT effect. The visuals are comic book cliche but still an eye treat, better without sound.



Sara Foster, Jordana Brewster, Devon Aoki, Meagan Good, Jill Ritchie

Charlie's Angels meets Spy Kids. College girls hunt bad guys mostly with catty dialog - very funny, but all the silliness frames a serious, well-told romance between two girls. Aoki does a great character well.


The Jacket

Adrien Brody, Keira Knightly, Kris Kristofferson, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Memento meets Groundhog day, with a mix of Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Cuckoo's Nest. Totally derivative. But there is just enough love story and good acting to keep it going. Fine photography.


Quads! Freak Parade

John Callahan (Animation)

A semi-autobiographical "story" by Callahan, the famous quadriplegic cartoonist. The drawings and text are characteristically his non-PC humor. His 1-panel cartoons are usually bull's-eyes but this romp lacks discipline, becomes just silly. Still it's a very fast 100 min. of laughs.


Napoleon Dynamite

John Heder. Writ, Dir = Jared Hess

Hess must be 14 years old because he perfectly captures details of the age group. Jr. Hi kids will recognize themselves. Napoleon is a geeky kid who wins some friends and finally applause in a fantasy-parody. No sex, violence or swearing, just real human drama. An original. Weak story line.


A Love Song For Bobby Long

John Travolta and Scarlett Johansson's lips

A Faulkneresque tale set in N'Orleans where everything is excused because of the damp heat. JT has a 2 day grizzle for weeks. How does that work? Story just goes on and on. Good editing, photog, sets. JT acts.


Vera Drake

Imelda Staunton

Elderly housekeeper moonlights by doing abortions in 1950 English town. She was "just helping young girls" but goes to jail. A pro-life theme but the moral issue is not raised. Good acting and wallpaper. A dark movie.


Beyond the Sea

Kevin Spacey (wrote, directed, starred) Kate Bosworth,John Goodman, Bob Hoskins, Greta Sacchi, William Ulrich

Bobby Darin will never sing again. Once you accept that, Kevin Spacey does a good job imitating him. He squeaks past Mac the Knife, Splish Splash and others, and nails Beyond the Sea. His dancing is adequate but he doesn't know what to do with his hands. Ulrich, as the young Bobby, channels. Acting is flat all around, but inspired directing & music, wonderful costumes and sets. Weird casting.


Bad Education

Gael Garcia Bernal. Dir=Almodovar. Spanish, subtitled

Two 10-yr old boys were sexually abused by the priest in their Catholic school. Now young men, they seek revenge through blackmail. They are gay, one was a transvestite, replaced by a mistaken identity brother (?). The gay erotic theme is lost on me, and what's left is an old story with nothing much to add. Well acted, important topic, fine photog.


The Life Aquatic

Bill Murray, Kate Blanchett, Owen Wilson, Anjelica Huston

An apt parody of "Nature" adventure documentaries, specifically the Jacques Cousteau genre. Allusions to Star Trek, Nemo, and other films. The dry humor does not work well in such a goofy context. Highly creative, good acting, but no story or dramatic tension. OW does well being serious.


The Corporation

Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Naomi Klein, Milton Friedman, others.

A well-made, engaging, documentary about corporate business in America. If the corporation were a person, which it legally is, what kind of a person would it be? A psychological profile, based on evidence, reveals a psychopath. Left-leaning, not well balanced, but compelling, even gut-wrenching at times. 2-CD set with 5 additional hours of interviews!



Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Clive Owen. Dir=Mike Nichols

Two couples fall in and out of love in hetero combinations. Plot points are arbitrary and characters are 2-D, unmotivated. They repeatedly declare their deepest love or lack of same, but there is no dramatic reason to believe it. The acting is scene by scene, since there is no possibility of character development. Even so, the results are amazing. Kudos to Nichols for that, but on the downside, the movie is offensively misogynist.



Paul Giamatti, Virginia Madsen, Thomas Haden Church, Sandra Oh

4 adult characters hang out in CA wine country. Romance buds but news leaks that THC is to be married in a week, ruining everything. Laugh out loud wine snob jokes. Everyone acts their hearts out. But a writer's heavy hand leaves many scenes with no point. Chars are a collection of features, empty people. No plot, but funny and watchable.


Final Cut

Robin Williams, Mira Sorvino. Excellent photography: Dir of photog=Tak Fujimoto.

RW reprises 1-hour photo, but this time he edits "footage" from chips implanted at birth that record everything you ever see and hear. At death, he sanitizes your life story for the family. Entirely plot driven, and the plot is full of holes, but intriguing: the chip records your objectivity, not your subjectivity. Does that define a life?


Good Bye Lenin!

Dir=Wolfgang Becker. Daniel Bruhl, Katrine Sass. German, with subtitles.

An East German Woman goes into a coma for 8 mo. and misses the fall of the Berlin Wall. She revives and her family tries to protect her from the shock by pretending nothing has changed. A poignant, comedic comment on how totally disorienting that sudden change was for everybody in the East. Loses something in the cultural translation.


Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason

Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth. A Miramax film that looks like a Disney, with characteristic themes: goal of female life is marriage. Pity.

A very lightweight romantic comedy that makes the grade thru sheer charm of the actors. Why RZ had to be plump is unclear- it adds nothing. She has 1000 faces. Story line is inconsistent. Some photographic moments. Cartoon characters. Low B



Kirk Wilson. Writ, Dir=Onur Tukel. Dutch Indie, in English.

Basically, The Penis Dialogs. His penis was accidentally amputated as an infant. Now he awaits a donor for the transplant, meanwhile tries an artificial one. Every slapstick penis gag you can think of. Unlike the Vagina Monologues, the humor deflects serious commentary. Even the title shows that.


Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle

John Cho, Kal Penn

Guys smoke weed, get munchies, begin an odyssey to White Castle. They are college grads but the target audience is 12 yr old. "Dude" humor expresses anxiety about homoeroticism, body products, adult authority, and breasts, but not ethnicity, which is what makes it a likeable picture.


Code 46

Tim Robbins, Samantha Morton

Romance in the future. TR meets a girl on a business trip to China, falls in love, but DNA testing reveals that she is a 25% match to him, therefore they are forcibly separated. Makes you think: What is incest and why is it bad? Story is slow, pictures dark, acting depressed.



Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith (Will's wife). Dir=Michael Mann.

TC is a hit man in LA who forces cab driver JF to take him around to his "appointments." TC looks good, does not embarrass himself. Ends abruptly, like they ran out of film. Characters do not develop. Very good directing.


Shaun of the Dead

Simon Pegg; Dir=Edgar Wright; British

A parody of the zombie movie; Mild mannered store clerk ends up bashing zombies to oblivion with a cricket bat. Good acting, funny script. Watchable.


I, Robot

Will Smith, Bridgette Moynahan

Fab special effects and WS is cute. Brings up some thoughtful points for those who have never heard of Asimov. Quotes Forbidden Planet, 2001, and some others. Lots of close up mikes on slamming doors for no reason. Action for the sake of action. Boring.


The Bourne Supremacy

Matt Damon, Joan Allen, Julia Stiles, Brian Cox.

The Fugitive, with amnesia. MD is expressionless and JA is no Tommy Lee Jones. Story is engaging, tho it has no reason for beginning. Brian Cox is a standout, the only real actor. The "music" is all percussive.



Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, and of course, Jacques Derrida

Documentary of the important philosopher's life (died, 2004). He is genuinely provocative, and likable. His thoughts are alive and creative at every moment. His work is surveyed briefly and lightly. The man is evident. Not a balanced view, but good.



Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, Patrick Fugit, Eva Amurri.

Teenage life at a Jesus high school. Parody of evangelical zeal and brainwashing. A ham-acted sitcom, but funny, socially relevant, and very well acted, esp. by EA, in a star-making role, who plays a Jewish transfer student .


Man on Fire

Denzel Washington, Christopher Walken

Hackneyed tale of DW as burned out, alcoholic ex-CIA assassin (amazing how many of those there are!) coming out of retirement to bodyguard a child in Mexico City. He loses the kid, sobers up, and finally, at 1 hour, begins his KillBill revenge list. Meaningless photog and music. Good acting. Reminiscent of Silence of the Rain, a Brazilian novel.


The Weather Underground

Documentary of the radical revolutionary group of the 60's

Fascinating story with archival footage of the individuals, then and now. How ordinary hippies became terrorists. What's chilling is that even as adults, they still don't know what they were doing.



Joseph Fiennes, Dennis Hopper, Deborah Unger, Elizabeth Schuh

An ex con tells his story in flashback but he somehow merges with or relives the memory. Totally confusing. Reminiscent of Spider. JF gives an electric performance. Hopper does his menacing nutcase, large. Tough roles for the women, but they act their hearts out.


Kill Bill Vol 2

Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Darryl Hannah, Michael Madsen

A completely different movie from Vol 1. Swords are whooshed around unnecessarily, but there is no blood. Fight scenes are all in flashback. She does finally kill him, but there is no psychological drama, no operatic spectacle. MM does a great job. Looks like a movie started from the cutting room floor of Vol 1.


I Am Dina

Norweigan, in English. Maria Bonnevie. Gerard Depardieu. Subtitled.

Girl in a Norwegian seaside town causes an accident that kills her mother. She becomes feral from guilt and blame. Cello teacher brings her back in. Grows up quasi feral but a fierce cello player. It defies women's stereotypical roles, without flipping right over to hired killers. Character never develops, story zigs and zags arbitrarily. Excellent music, scenery, sense of place.


Big Fish

Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Dir=Tim Burton

Dying man tells surreal stories of life in flashbacks. He knows how he will die and so is fearless. Beautiful photography, surreal directing. Acting is cartoony, as in O Brother, but without the wit.


Somethings Gotta Give

Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Keanu Reeves, Amanda Peet

Diane Keaton has great teeth and can manufacture a smile as effective as Tom Cruise's. But would an existentialist feminist writer slap her thighs in uncontrollable mirth? A charming romance between older people, but 2-D, not real.


School of Rock

Jack Black, Joan Cusak, Really cute kids

Loser rocker teaches kids at a private school to be a rock band. Disneyesque story. Good music. JB is so far over the top he becomes obnoxious. Cusack steals every scene she's in. Not enough camera on the kids.


Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Antonio Banderas, Johnny Depp, Salma Hayek.

A spaghetti western in Mexico. Funny, with over the top surrealism, but half the time it takes itself seriously. Slightly off key. No sense of place. Enjoyable. Good extra on digital filming.



Nick Nolte, Darryl Hannah, James Woods

Men in black, govt agents, but also metaphorical grim reapers, evacuate a town to be flooded by a dam. Some won't leave and build an ark. Biblical imagery throughout. Visually stunning. Colors like O Brother. Weird.



Tilda Swinton, Jeremy Davies

3 women are self-replicating computer automatons of a mad scientist. They must drink sperm to survive. They migrate out of the computer into the world, catch a computer virus, learn to love. Social satire with feminist themes. My wife loved it. I am less enthusiastic.


Life + Debt


A documentary on economic effects of globalization of farming and some manufacturing, in Jamaica. Very one-sided but a compelling statement of that side. Changed my mind some.


The Others

Nicole Kidman with a great cast

NK is nuts, runs a huge manor home, has 3 servants who turn out to be ghosts. Ends up she and her kids are also ghosts but didn't know it. Huh? Really bad music helpfully indicates where the horror is. Great acting - NK.


The Man From Elysian Fields

Mick Jagger, Andy Garcia, Julianne Margules

Sir Mick is head pimp of an escort service joined by Garcia. Jagger is deliciously over the top.


Ice Age


Neanderthal ice age changes to warm. Well drawn, good voices, very funny. Not just for kids.

Some C Grade Movies

I thought I'd start out this blog with a sample of some movies I have watched in each category. C-grade movies are competent and reasonably amusing but uninspired, often disappointing, and not memorable.

Happy Here and Now

David Arquette, Liane Balaban, Ally Sheedy

Internet chatters in antediluvian New Orleans as a girl searches for her missing sister. Good face acting by Balaban, excellent acting by everyone actually, but total lack of narrative cohesion. Good music, forgettable photog and directing. Nice locations.

Callas Forever

Fanny Ardant, Jeremy Irons. Dir= Franco Zeffirelli. Costumes provided by Chanel.

A biopic of the great opera singer Maria Callas. If you're an opera fan like me, the gorgeous music alone will hold your interest. FA does a great job acting with a klunky script. JI has moments but mostly not. As with most biopics, the director confuses biography with filmmaking, to the detriment of the latter.

Happy Endings

Laura Dern, Lisa Kudrow, Maggie Gyllenhall, others. Writ, Dir = Don Roos

A collection of characters in California interact. Printed captions "explaining" their actions appear on many scenes, the self-consciously clever but spurious comments of an omniscient narrator (DR). The story is an episodic soap opera about who is or was sleeping with whom, who is or is not pregnant or gay, who had a child or an abortion, who is unfaithful to whom, was married to whom, etc., etc. The characters have as much motivation as chess pieces. Some sharp humor. LK is a standout in a dramatic role. LD tries her best.

We Don't Live Here Anymore

Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Peter Krause, Naomi Watts

Two academic couples are unfaithful with each other's spouses. This story has already been told. Cliche writing, sets, costumes, families. Does raise the question, what is jealousy about ? Is it sociobiological control of the eggs, or is it egocentric battle of wills? Fine talent (esp. LD) is wasted here.

Suspect Zero

Ben Kingsley, Carrie Ann Moss, Aaron Eckhart

Confused story of an ex-FBI psychic "remote viewer" (Kinglsey) who finds serial killers and kills them. Current FBI thinks he is the serial. Film is dishonest with the viewer about what's up. BK is worth watching for his Sexy Beast intensity. The story quickly loses its way and degenerates to nonsense.

Ocean's Twelve

George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Catherine Z. Jones, Andy Garcia, Julia Roberts, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac

Are we supposed to swoon from seeing so many famous faces on the screen at once? This sequel to a remake is so lame, by the time the story ended I couldn't remember what it was about. You could watch it with the sound off, (The music is way too loud). Some funny bits. A 'C' is generous here.

Silver City

Daryl Hannah, Richard Dreyfuss, Tim Roth, Kris Kristofferson. Written and directed by John Sayles.

Candidate Pilager (get it?) runs for governor of Colorado. He is an unsubtle caricature of GW Bush running in Texas. The story reveals cynical, ruthless, greedy machinations of the party. Republicans and Dems will both say, "So what's your point?" It's not funny or insightful. Dialog is formulaic, directing ho-hum. But outstanding performances by Roth, Hannah, and even KK. Where has Tim Roth been hiding?

What the Bleep Do We Know?

Marlee Matlin. Interviews with Stuart Hameroff, Amit Goswami, other well-known scientists whose ideas are not in the mainstream of modern physics.

An off the wall indie that spread by word of mouth. It is a docudrama like Nova trying to explain an important scientific topic on PBS. Animations, diagrams, interviews with scientists, and vaguely relevant acted vignettes. High production values, but repetitive and boring. First it emphasizes quantum indeterminism to imply an idealist metaphysics where we all make up our own reality. But the second half sells the reverse view, that we are puppets of our neurotransmitters. That fairly reflects the ambiguity in contemporary thinking.


Cole Hauser, Robin Tunney, Dennis Farina

A dimwitted Hollywood movie star who has no lawyers, advisors or publicity agents, does not appreciate a gang of tabloid photographers. They do a Princess Diana on him and his son is injured. He does the only sensible thing: kills them one by one. Good score, production values. Weak acting, cameras as loud as shotguns.

This Girl's Life

James Woods, Juliette Marquis, Michael Rapaport, Rosario Dawson

Adventures of a porn star who lives in a web-cammed house. There is a very slight story and a very slight message, but the heavy handed voyeurism swamps it all. Top notch acting all around, but a pointless waste of a good opportunity. Not even convincing porn.

The Day After Tomorrow

Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhal, Ian Holme

This is the first "disaster" movie I have seen, and the special effects were enjoyable. Sudden global climate change freezes NYC and makes hurricanes in LA. Lots of very loud, un- necessary music. Bad acting, dumb story, risible script.

The Terminal

Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stanley Tucci. Dir=Spielberg

A man (Hanks) from a vaguely Slavic country is trapped in JFK airport because his entry visa was cancelled while he was in the air. He lives in the airport, eats condiments, befriends the maintenance crew, finally gets to NYC. Acting is ok, but the story is so disconnected and the characters so unmotivated that the movie is lifeless. Music, photography, and sets are good. Spielberg is way overrated.

Mean Girls

Lindsey Lohan, Tina Fey screenplay by Tina Fey (head writer on SNL)

New girl in an all white, rich suburban high school has her boyfriend "stolen" by another girl, vows revenge. The standard HS comedy stereotypes, with SNL-branded irony, sarcasm, and non-sequitur jokes. Amusing but very lightweight. No acting to speak of.

The Clearing

Robert Redford, Helen Mirren, Willem Dafoe

RR is kidnapped by WD, HM pays the ransom. Logical loopholes in the mundane, uninteresting story, and mediocre directing, are overcome by fine acting from HM and WD. RR plays RR, still not convincing. HM however, is a modern master


Never Scared

Chris Rock

Standup, mostly racial jokes. Funny but not biting, as he used to be. He is detached from the work. A forced performance, though fully competent.

Reversible Errors

Wm. H. Macy, Tom Selleck, Monica Potter, Felicity Huffman.

A Scott Turow mystery, driven by implausible story gimmicks. Macy is the defense atty for a death row nutcase. Selleck's wooden homicide cop buries outstanding performances by everybody else. Awful script & directing. Smells like TV.

Snow Walker

Newcomers, I can't remember. Based on a story by Farley Mowat.

Survival in the arctic NW Territories, of a pilot and Inuit girl. Charming, some insight into Inuit culture and language, but predictable and stereotyped throughout. The Fast Runner is a better picture.

Young Adam

Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton, Emily Mortimer

River barge worker in Scotland (EM), mounts every woman that crosses his path, then leaves them, sometimes for dead. The women don't seem to mind. A deeply misogynist film. Good sense of time and place. Adequate acting.

House of Sand and Fog

Ben Kingsley, Jennifer Connally

Loser girl's house is mistakenly foreclosed, bought by Iranian immigrant Kingsley. She meets a cop who goes berserk, then, guns, alcohol, pills, chaos, death. It is ultimately about ethnocentricism, but that story is not well told. Fine acting by the principals.

Suicide Club

Japanese, subtitled. Dir = Sion Sono

Dozens of Tokyo school children jump - in front of trains, off buildings, out windows. Lots of splattered blood. Daring social commentary in raising the subject, but no analysis or point of view. Superficial detective story is an afterthought. A lost opportunity.

Anything Else

Woody Allen, Stockard Channing, Jason Biggs, Christina Ricci, Danny DeVito

Humorous but stale NYC relationship jokes. Woody has not really developed that genre. Nice to see Stockard act. Ricci - bad directing or bad acting?


Rene Zellweger, Katherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere

Boisterous musical during prohibition. Surreal storytelling is good. Fosse style dancing is cliche. Music and lyrics mediocre. One good dance by professionals, 2 good songs. Much fleshy spectacle. The cast tries hard but the result is often embarrassing. Best Picture of 02 (!!?) No Way.

Punch Drunk Love

Adam Sandler, Emily Watson

A romantic comedy that is neither. AS is a dimwit who bumbles around Gump-like. Characters don't make sense. Photography is very good.

Bruce Almighty

Jim Carrey, Jennifer Aniston, Morgan Freeman as God

JC gets to be God for a week . His manic shtick is an acquired taste but must be respected. JA is naturally convincing. MF a pleasure. Lots of toilet jokes for the kids, but also a sophisticated parody of local TV news.


Dir=Atom Egoyan

Armenians in Turkey try to understand the massacre. Movie within a movie format. Good acting, but disappointing directing. He wants to be Speilberg. Why? Basically a bad remake of Schindler's List.


Mel Gibson

Crop circles, aliens. Ludicrous sets. Good acting, but at no time was I "horrified." Still, hand-to-hand combat with aliens - how often do you see that?


George Clooney

A pale shadow of the original, which was visually gorgeous. Here, alternating blue and orange filters constitute art. No acting to speak of.