Posts Tagged ‘2003’

Love Actually

Movie Review #669

love_actually_ver3

Universal Pictures & StudioCanal present…

…in association with DNA Films…

Studio: Working Title
Distributor: Universal
Country: UK – USA – France
Spoken Languages: English – Portuguese – French

Directed by Richard Curtis. Produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, and Duncan Kenworthy. Written by Richard Curtis.

Rated R by the MPAA – sexual content, nudity, profanity.  Reviewed version runs 2 hours, 15 minutes.  Alternate version runs 2 hours, 9 minutes. Premiered at Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2003; in the USA on November 6, 2003; and in Israel on November 14, 2003. Limited release in the USA on November 7, 2003. Wide release in the USA on November 14, 2003; in the UK on November 21, 2013; and in France on December 3, 2003.

Starring Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy, Martine McCutcheon, and Rowan Atkinson.  Also starring Gregor Fisher, Sienna Guillory, Kris Marshall, Heike Makatsch, Martin Freeman, Joanna Page, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Lincoln, Nina Sosanya, Abdul Salis, Thomas Sangster, Rodrigo Santoro, Lucia Moniz, Billy Bob Thornton, Olivia Olson, Claudia Schiffer, Helder Costa, Carla Vasconcelos, and Stewart Howson.  Also featuring Richard Curtis in an uncredited cameo appearance.

Cinemaniac Reviews two and a half stars

“Love actually is all around.”
–The Prime Minister (Hugh Grant)

And what an accurate line that is. “Love Actually” is worth applause because it’s so well done. It’s also worth a garden full of throwable, rotten tomatoes for the agony it causes. I have to assume this is sort of what it was going for. Not that it ends on any shade of melancholy, but it seems to say that love is both great and the source of agony. It works: love actually is great, love actually is agonizing, love actually is all around; and as far as the movie is concerned, “Love Actually” is great, “Love Actually” is agonizing, “Love Actually” is all around.

So why not a “good, bad, ugly” breakdown, or “ugly, bad, good”:

It’s not exactly what the narrator means when ends the introductory monologue with that snippet. What he means is that love, actually, can be found wherever you look. Even around the Most Stressful Time of the Year–the four weeks leading up to Christmas and, for one reason or another, the month after. By the time we reach Christmas Day and the finale “one month later,” the film’s begun to run out of steam very quickly, but I digress. Writer-director Richard Curtis acknowledges that there’s some real Ebenezer Scrooges in this world and that they, too, can be found here, there, and everywhere. But for the sake of storytelling, he singles them out of this sweet, frothy romcom.

There’s the ugly.

I don’t hate the film’s optimism, nor do I hate it because of its optimism. I don’t hate the film at all, and it’s not about liking or hating so much as the way optimism is given here is bad. You have to believe in the where the story evokes a “Hmm…” or an “Is that so.” What we have here are ten stories of cheerful, relaxed people of all different kinds in the United Kingdom who end up falling in love. I don’t know about you guys, but to me, that’s like saying, “If you pick ten random people in the UK, all ten are optimists who have love in their life.” And it really doesn’t matter if you’re a recovering drug addict (Bill Nighy) or the Prime Minister (Hugh Grant). You still fit the description.

There’s the bad.

But where “Love Actually” fails miserably in crafting its story, it succeeds universally in telling it. There’s no avoiding predictability at all here, but particularly with a plot separated into parallel stories, we have better concerns than trying to guess that he’ll fall in love with her, and she with him. The cast has us the whole time, making it even easier to roll along with the plot(s). Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Laura Linney, Alan Rickman, and Keira Knightley are just a portion of this recognizable British ensemble. Not once does the film lose its charisma, and to be clear, that’s what’s propelling it. The film has been labelled a comedy, but it’s more of a (very) lighthearted drama. So it’s okay that the amusement is scattershot, and even better that it’s so sweet, it’s almost touching. I’ll lend a special mention to my favorite scene: where a man professes his love at the front door, on Christmas Eve–using cue cards.

There’s the good.

I normally wouldn’t place a film directly into the romance genre. Generally, I’ll find that a film’s either a romantic drama or a romantic comedy. Maybe even a comedy-drama with romance as a side feature. “Love Actually” is both drama and comedy, but those seem to sink underneath the surface of the main genre: romance. It’s about love, actually, and nothing else. This is a movie that explores love in all its facets. Of course, it can be highly unrealistic, but I also feel like it’s a movie to be watched by the most stressed of people, and to make them appreciate the love in their lives. It’s a Christmas movie, but in that area, it really would work at any time.

Tomorrow’s Review

White Christmas

Bad Santa

Movie Review #662

This review is dedicated to David, a lifelong friend of mine (and Cinemaniac Reviews’s lifelong supporter).  He’s sixteen today, and I wish him a very happy birthday.

bad_santa

Columbia Pictures & Dimensino Films present…

…a Triptych Pictures Production…

…in association with Blixa Zweite Film Produktion GmbH & Co. KG

Distributor: Dimension Films
Country: USA – Germany
Spoken Languages: English

Directed by Terry Zwigoff. Produced by Sarah Aubrey, John Cameron, and Bob Weinstein. Written by Glenn Ficarra & John Requa.

Rated R by the MPAA – frequent profanity, strong sexual content, infrequent violence. Runs 1 hour 31 minutes (director’s cut runs 1 hour, 28 minutes; unrated version runs 1 hour, 38 minutes). Wide release in the USA on November 26, 2003; and in Germany on November 18, 2004.

Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Brett Kelly, Lauren Graham, Lauren Tom, Bernie Mac, and John Ritter.

Cinemaniac Reviews three stars

“Bad Santa” is exactly what it sounds like. Our main character, Willie (Billy Bob Thornton), has an interesting if miserable story to tell. He’s fought in Vietnam, been in countless near-death situations, and despite it all, he considers his last seven Christmastimes the worst of his life. He hates children, and in order to rob the mall at night, he’s had to work as a Santa, while restraining himself from drinking, swearing, and engaging in all his other antics as long as he’s around the kids. And he’s decided to crash at a less intelligent kid’s house until he can find a place to live, where his biggest problem is tolerating the high-maintenance kid.

And to think that The Simpsons kicked off with Homer as a mall Santa. What Glenn Ficarra and John Requa bring to the smile is commendable. The movie is original, marvelously written, and well performed (kudos to Bernie Mac in a Samuel L. Jackson-esque role); ergo, its load of laughter is so great, it’s side-splitting. “Bad Santa” features a character whom we love as much as hate. He’s hilarious, and most of it’s because he’s vile. This man makes the Grinch look like the leading advocate for a tsunami relief fundraiser.

There’s a downside. The movie promises it’ll give its character a heart in a matter of ninety minutes, and we do indeed reach that bittersweet conclusion, but it’s not without witnessing every last trouble this mall Santa goes through to get himself a heart. I usually consider giving certain movies annual holiday viewings, on the grounds that I enjoy them on the first run, and despite enjoying every laugh offered in “Bad Santa”, I’m not sure it was safe on my part to watch this five days before Christmas. By the time the movie was over, I felt rather sad for the main character. Because, as we all know, he exists somewhere in this world. We just don’t need a great comedy to become a gloomy public service announcement in order to tell us that.

Coming Reviews

American Hustle
Exorcist: The Beginning
Iron Man Three
Our Idiot Brother
Persepolis
Radio Days

Oldboy

Review No. 606

Pleased to meet you, hope you guess his name!

oldboy_xlg

A

TRANSLATIONS:
English — “Oldboy”
Hangul Korean — “올드보이”
Revised Romanization of Korean — “Oldeuboi”
McCune—Reischauer Korean — “Oldŭboi”

CREW:
Director — Park Chan-Wook
Producer — Im Seung-yong, Kim Dong-joo
Screenplay — Mr. Chan-wook, Hwang Jo-yoon & Im Joon-hyeong
Based on — Old Boy by Garon Tsuchiya & Nobuaki Minegishi

CAST:
Choi Min-sik — Oh Dae-su
Yoo Ji-tae — Lee Woo-jin
Kang Hye-jung — Mi-do

OTHER:
Distributor — Show East (South Korea); Palisades Tartan (USA)
Release Date — November 21, 2003 (South Korea); May 15, 2004 (Cannes Film Festival); March 25, 2005 (USA)
Language — Korean
Country — South Korea
Running Time — 2 hours
MPAA —
46px-RATED_R.svg — STRONG VIOLENCE INCLUDING SCENES OF TORTURE, SEXUALITY AND PERVASIVE LANGUAGE.

OLDBOY WAS WATCHED ON SEPTEMBER 5, 2013.

Park Chan-Wook looks at a human heart as a large room.  There’s some drywall trying to hide something, and he’s one of a few elites capable of stripping it down to get to whatever’s behind that drywall.  It could be emptiness, but that certainly isn’t the case with Oldboy.  There’s a story to tell here; the opening is funny, the body is thrilling, and the concluding act is emotional.  It’s everything and nothing like The Shawshank Redemption, with a character everything and nothing like Guy Pearce’s in Memento.  (Though as far as the nonlinear structure and the revenge story, it’s more of Memento.)

Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) is suffering his own Socrates parallel; or so he seems to think.  Dae-su is a man who ponders two philosophies.  One is seemingly his own:

“Be it a rock or a grain of sand, in water they sink as the same.”

The other, the first two lines of “Solitude” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox:

“Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.”

Dae-su ponders these adages while he’s in prison and after he is released.  He doesn’t know why he was imprisoned in the first place, but every day brings more hatred to him, as he finds good company in his television.  He remains in prison for fifteen years, and when he gets out, he’s ready to exact revenge on those who put him in prison.  He’ll torture them for answers–or he’ll proceed to kill them.  He is far more violent than he remembers ever being before his time in prison, and he blames those who imprisoned him.  So is he criminally insane, or was he always a monster?  Only his answers can say.

Getting his answers is where Dae-su transforms this movie into one of the bloodiest experiences ever made.  This is the story of a cold-blooded killer, one who rips fifteen teeth out of one man’s mouth using the claw of a hammer, and claims it’s to represent his fifteen years in prison; I won’t dare mention his ultimate self-inflicting act, but it’s even more difficult to watch.  You’d think a torture scene matched with Vivaldi’s “Winter” would be beautiful, as using Beethoven’s 9th Symphony achieved these satirical effects in 1971.  I’m not exactly averse to torture scenes when they’re done well, but I’m almost led to believe that such scenes were to torture the audience.

But “almost,” of course, means we’ve crossed a fine line between two polar opposites.  The movie is highly entertaining in just about every other moment it offers.  Even in dialogue scenes, we have to agree with this man.  Obviously he’s insane.  That’s not up for question; just how long he has been insane, and whose fault it really is.  But even in his most brutal actions, we have such sympathy for him.

Speaking of sympathy: Oldboy is the midway point in Park Chan-Wook’s Vengeance trilogy, surrounded by Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.  Assuming there’s a focus on sympathy in the first and third films, Vengeance is a misnomer; it’s the should-be Sympathy trilogy, and I wouldn’t doubt if Oldboy were the defining piece of all three.  We truly sympathize for this character, despite that he’s as terrible as el diablo himself.  Please allow him to introduce himself…

Tomorrow

Goldfinger

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The Matrix Revolutions

Review No. 599

Say I hated “Revolutions”, / two films after / the Wachowskis changed the world…

matrix_revolutions_ver2

D-MINUS

CREW:
Directors — the Wachowski brothers
Producer — Joel Silver
Screenplay — the Wachowski brothers
Based on — characters by the Wachowski brothers

CAST:
Keanu Reeves — Neo
Laurence Fishburne — Morpheus
Carrie-Anne Moss — Trinity
Hugo Weaving — Smith
Jada Pinkett Smith — Niobe
Harry J. Lennix — Commander Lock
Harold Perrineau — Link

OTHER:
Distributor — Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date — November 5, 2003
Language — English & French
Country — USA & Australia
Running Time — 2 hours, 9 minutes
MPAA —
46px-RATED_R.svg — SCI-FI VIOLENCE AND BRIEF SEXUAL CONTENT.

THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS WAS WATCHED ON AUGUST 31, 2013.

Applaud the Wachowskis.  Go ahead, put your hands together.  I’m going to honor them.  No, not like I honor them for their work on The Matrix.  In fact, it’s the exact opposite.  They’ve made a trilogy farther from cohesive than anybody else has gone.  But I’ll get to that later, so just hold your horses:

The brothers knew their genesis was an “it girl” when the box office said so, but they hadn’t respected their own ideas to keep it as one film.  Nobody enjoyed the sequel that came four years later quite as much (as for myself, there was little to no enjoyment), and that was the movie gods’ curse: you don’t follow up an “it girl.”  Oh wait.  I should’ve specified.  By sequel that came four years later, I meant The Matrix Reloaded.  I may have to reevaluate that one to see how boring it actually was, because The Matrix Revolutions is a total disaster.

Assuming this movie took five months for all three stages of production, it began moments after Reloaded hit theaters and editors were rushing to finish up before the October premiere.  I could rattle off a whole list of classics made in five months, but those are inspired, unlike what we have here.  As if Reloaded wasn’t already a reawakening for the story, Revolutions is completely irrelevant.  There’s characters, but you have to wonder where the “To be continued…” line went.  It did appear at the end of the previous entry.  But by bearing the title itself, Revolutions is a distasteful insult to The Matrix.  If there’s anything it borrows from anything else as inspiration, it isn’t the two films it follows.  It’s Blade Runner, and that’s for those who can get to the conclusion.  Rutger Hauer’s immortal “tears in rain” soliloquy is ripped to shreds of familiarity.  There’s even pouring rain!  The only difference?  “Time to die” is not said or hinted at, because we’re looking at something that was made without life, anyhow.

Where Reloaded was boring, it’s easy to say that the first half of  Revolutions features enough pick-and-cheese to make entertainment out of watching it fall apart.  Let’s not forget that all the while there’s insult, insult, insult–all directed at the classic that made this debacle possible.  It’s aggravating to see the directors tear their own masterpiece apart, but we’ve already seen them do it, albeit to a slighter extent.  Let’s not forget, there’s a second half.  Maybe five minutes out of the whole movie had thankful special effects.  I don’t know if that’s the worst of it, or if this is: the entire climax is special effects and nothing more.  It takes over an hour, but what can you expect when the movie starts off by CliffsNoting a whole movie into ten minutes?  It’s neat for a few moments, then it’s just like watching the default screensaver on a Windows Vista computer.  It doesn’t freeze up, but this creation is so far from user-friendly that you kinda wonder if freezing up would maintain the attention span.

Choreography is good here, but I don’t know why I even mention that.  I don’t think I’ve ever watched a movie and wanted to shout: “That’s not him, that’s the stunt double!”  But you can tell with Keanu.  If there’s anything actually good about the movie, it’s the leather.  No wait, that’s just the leather.  Even the rest of the costume design was hideous.  Laurence Fishburne shouldn’t be wearing a Ray Charles outfit under leather, because that wear doesn’t match!  Sorry if I sound like my mother, but if leather suits is everything we have left (yep, the sunglasses aren’t really quality in the movie), then you can’t go around blaspheming leather suits.

Regardless, Revolutions is not a movie that deserves to be watched again, or put in a circular motion (revolution).  I’ll watch The Matrix because it’s a classic.  I’ll watch The Matrix Reloaded once more to reevaluate, and maybe double feature it with The Matrix if I end up liking it.  That second work really good in comparison to The Matrix Revolutions, which was mistakenly titled, believe it or not.  It was meant to be Revolver, I believe–unless the Wachowskis wished to refrain from insulting the Beatles.  (Thank you.)  Though maybe you’d need a Terminator robot, not a revolver, to get rid of the utter awfulness here.

Tomorrow

Brokeback Mountain

&

Friday the 13th: Part V

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The Matrix Reloaded

Review No. 586

“Reloaded”. Bastardized. Misfired.

matrix_reloaded_ver13

D-PLUS

CREW:
Directors — the Wachowski brothers
Producer — Joel Silver
Screenplay — the Wachowski brothers

CAST:
Keanu Reeves — Neo
Laurence Fishburne — Morpheus
Carrie-Anne Moss — Trinity
Hugo Weaving — Smith
Harold Perrineau — Link
Randall Duk Kim — The Keymaker
Jada Pinkett Smith — Niobe

OTHER:
Distributor — Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date — May 15, 2003
Language — English & French
Country — USA & Australia
Running Time — 2 hours, 18 minutes
MPAA Rating — R
MPAA Description — sci-fi violence and some sexuality

THE MATRIX RELOADED WAS WATCHED ON AUGUST 20, 2013.

Go back seven more decades.  I know this one’s ten years old, but if it’s at all worth celebrating, it’s because the octogenarian King Kong has now been disproved.  It was beast killed the beauty.  Maybe if Robert Armstrong had some sort of crystal ball, he could have foreseen Y2k, the ultimate way to ruin The Matrix.  The computers may not have shut down, but some human computers certainly did.  Riddle me this: if I was supposed to wait four years after The Matrix before watching The Matrix Reloaded (à la those who viewed both in theaters), and then view The Matrix Revolutions (part three) six months later (à la those who finished off the trilogy in theaters), then what was the point of making The Matrix such an entertaining movie?  That’s what I wonder after The Matrix Reloaded.  The Wachowskis obviously hadn’t planned on a trilogy, because they didn’t exactly plan on making a classic sci-fi movie.  It’s a “trilogy crime,” like the one committed thirteen years earlier, when we endured The Godfather Part III (intended as an epilogue, but very close to a third of the trilogy’s length).

Rationally speaking, it’s not a trilogy.  The Matrix featured Neo going out of his hacker life and pursuing a nightmare that was disguised as a dream.  He was programmed the basically save the world, but he was also being used.  Yet The Matrix Reloaded tries to completely follow up and reinvent the genesis, even ending on a title card (not to mention a sudden and unusual shot) that confirms The Matrix Revolutions entirely.  I’m not saying that he who reinvents and follows up is he himself a heretic.  James Cameron did it by convincing us that T-800 was alive–not to mention, that he was a hero not a villain in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.  But he did it right.  He didn’t create a love life between his two previous heroes.  I certainly don’t remember Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne-Moss in anything more than a business partnership in The Matrix.  It may have happened, but I highly doubt it would be so fleeting to evade my memory, which is photographic for memorable movies like that which became the first in the trilogy.

May the Force be–”yeah, buddy, let’s throw away that one next!” NO.

Even more money was made by this sequel.  How can I call it a sequel?  It has The Matrix in the title.  Let’s go to extremes: Troll has “troll” in the title, and so does Troll 2, but while Troll is an American movie about trolls, Troll 2 is an Italian movie about goblins.  Look at it this way…they’re still human, I think.  These characters aren’t the same as they were the first time around!  By name, and by actor, sure, but not by personality.  (I don’t even think the stunt guys were the same.  Keanu’s double seemed pretty hopeless.)  This is more like Star Trek, except you can only pray that it ends after forty-five minutes, and I think Laurence Fishburne was in a more Star Wars mentality.  He dresses like Luke Skywalker, and it’s a well-chosen costume since we’re supposed to sympathize him.  Yet we sympathized with Keanu Reeves for over the two hours that preceded this.  For those who missed my prior mention, this isn’t of much apparent relation to The Matrix, and perhaps it’s not by the same directors.  Maybe it’s an extreme comparison, but just as Charles Manson was the same person before he heard The White Album, the Wachowskis were of a completely different mentality before they saw a movie of theirs make money.  Somewhere between 1999 (The Matrix in March) and 2003 (Reloaded in May, followed by Revolutions in November), there must’ve been the Great Epiphany: This is over $463.5 million.  And to think that we’d lose money from this movie!  How about we do it again.  Just once more  No, no, no…twice more!  Up the budget a bit, $65 million sounds like “B-movie” with this many fans, let’s go at least $125 million.  And we’ll release them six months apart.  Keepin’ the audience on a ledge for six months, that’s right!

Exactly how you turn two geniuses into two skilled robbers, ladies and gentlemen.  I certainly wasn’t left hanging.  I’ve seen worse movies, which makes me appreciate some of what made The Matrix Reloaded watchable, even enjoyable once or twice.  For those who know of the icon that is Tom Cruise in Risky Business, or Jimmy Dean in Rebel without a Cause, take the Ray-Ban Wayfarer shades (though I doubt the exact brand was used here) and the leather jacket.  Keanu Reeves wears it well, and it seems to be the master of his acting.  Carrie Anne-Moss is always at the top of her game, especially during action sequences.  In fact, every cast member, save for the anemically performed Laurence Fishburne, delivers well enough.  But they’re just animated puppets under a puppet master who doesn’t care.  Or, as Alfred Hitchcock may or may not have agreed to, they’re cattle being deported accidentally to a slaughterhouse instead of another stable.

No film has made me wonder if a remote control would actually assist with the experience.  I’d like to think there’s a purpose for these talky scenes, but y’know, there’s so much dialogue.  When it cuts into the action that was so much fun in ’99, the least you can ask for is a more interesting attempt.  And a more interested attempt from the Wachowskis.  It’s a game of please the audience.  I’m very pleased by the special effects.  They’re mind-blowing, but then again, the story is mind-numbing so I guess that evens it out.  Best of all is the title.  How true that the classic in a paper shredder is a hokey script known as The Matrix Reloaded, because The Matrix was indeed “reloaded.”  Why there was such desire to misfire, I’m not exactly sure.

POSTSCRIPT: Who noticed that this review is an acrostic?  If I actually did honor what the movie was trying to say with its annoyingly sharp cinematography, I would have unplugged my computer so that…well, just look at the first letter of each paragraph.  A little way of cheering myself up after watching a classic get torn by its own directors.

Tomorrow

The Terror

&

On the Waterfront

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Kill Bill

Review No. 524

I am woman, watch me “Kill Bill”.

NOTE: THIS IS A DOUBLE-REVIEW (MY VERY FIRST), REGARDING BOTH VOLUMES OF QUENTIN TARANTINO’S “KILL BILL”.

Kill Bill 1 and 2
A-MINUS

WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY QUENTIN TARANTINO. PRODUCED BY LAWRENCE BENDER. STARRING UMA THURMAN (BEATRIX “THE BRIDE” KIDDO AKA BLACK MAMBA), DAVID CARRADINE (BILL AKA SNAKE CHARMER), LUCY LIU (O-REN ISHII AKA COTTONMOUTH), VIVICA A. FOX (VERNITA GREEN AKA COPPERHEAD), MICHAEL MADSEN (BUDD AKA SIDEWINDER), DARYL HANNAH (ELLE DRIVER AKA CALIFORNIA MOUNTAIN STATE), GORDON LIU (V1 – JOHNNY MO; V2 – PAI MEI). BOTH VOLUMES DISTRIBUTED BY MIRAMAX FILMS: VOL. 1 DISTRIBUTED ON OCTOBER 10, 2003; VOL. 2 DISTRIBUTED ON APRIL 16, 2004. VOL. 1 PRODUCED IN ENGLISH, JAPANESE, AND FRENCH BY THE UNTED STATES. VOL. 2 PRODUCED IN ENGLISH, CANTONESE, MANDARIN, AND SPANISH BY THE UNITED STATES. RUNS 4 HOURS, 7 MNUTES. VOL. 1 RUNS 1 HOUR, 51 MINUTES. VOL. 2 RUNS 2 HOURS, 16 MINUTES. NOT FOR CHILDREN, DUE TO GORE, GRAPHIC VIOLENCE, PROFANITY, SEXUAL ABUSE, DRUG CONTENT, AND SEXUAL SITUATIONS.

KILL BILL WAS WATCHED ON JULY 13, 2013.

“Bang bang, he shot me down
Bang bang, I hit the ground
Bang bang, that awful sound
Bang bang, my baby shot me down.”
–”Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” by Nancy Sinatra

This review discounted, I have reviewed four of Quentin Tarantino’s films. If you’re the guy who sits back and wonders why you haven’t seen a single one of those titles, I’d recommend starting the oeuvre soon with Kill Bill. The movie was released in two separate “volumes,” and it all clocks in at over four hours. Just try and fathom that a movie so long, with a plot so thin, could be so fiercely engaging.

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Just as fierce and fearless as her Mia Wallace role, a decade earlier.

I guess it’s rather generous to say the plot is “thin.” The first five seconds says it all–an intertitle bearing the phrase, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” The plot concerns a woman known as “The Bride” (Uma Thurman) and her attempts to hunt down Bill (David Carradine), her former boss who left her for dead, with the assistance of his equally sadistic colleagues. She has an advantage, as she has merely sprung out of a coma in reaction to a mosquito bite, but it’s not an advantage she can keep all too easily.

It’s as simple as plots get, but the movie puts a style-over-substance forbearance to great use. Forget Uma Thurman’s outstanding performance, and forget the dialogue, though, of course, there’s a good amount of it in Tarantino’s screenplay. Here’s a movie that treats ADHD filmmaking (minus the “AD”) as a religion, randomly, albeit awesomely, driving back and forth between each and every style put to celluloid. Italian horror, Japanese anime, spaghetti western, Mexican game show esque camera zooms, low-budget MTV attire. You name it, it’s homaged here; it’s the sort of audacious filmmaking that must be seen to be believed. And then you have the special touch of Tarantino–or one of the special touches–where you’re dying to go back again.

Postscript: Every Tarantino film grabs you back for a second serving (or convinces you that you will go for seconds at one point or another), but I actually need to return to Kill Bill.  I was so excited to get back into the movie world after back surgery, that I made the mistake of watching both volumes just a day or two after the operation.  Damn painkillers made me forget almost everything about the movie, except for little details, such as that it flew by and that I loved it.  (Just a side note that isn’t of importance, but I thought I’d put it out there anyway.)

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Something’s Gotta Give

Review No. 502

Some version of the truth: It left me smiling.  There’s more.

somethings_gotta_give

B-PLUS

WRITTEN, PRODUCED & DIRECTED BY NANCY MEYERS. STARRING JACK NICHOLSON (HARRY SANBORN), DIANE KEATON (ERICA BARRY), KEANU REEVES (JULIAN MERCER), FRANCES McDORMAND (ZOE), AMANDA PEET (MARIN KLEIN), AND JON FAVREAU (LEO). ALSO STARRING PAUL MICHAEL GLASER, RACHEL TICOTIN, AND KaDEE STRICKLAND. DISTRIBUTED BY COLUMBIA PICTURES ON DECEMBER 12, 2003. PRODUCED IN ENGLISH BY THE UNITED STATES. RUNS 2 HOURS, 8 MINUTES. INTENDED FOR MATURE AUDIENCES, DUE TO BRIEF NUDITY AND SEXUAL SITUATIONS.

SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE WAS WATCHED ON JUNE 13, 2013.

“I have never lied to you, I have always told you some version of the truth.” –Harry (Jack Nicholson)

Something’s Gotta Give is just like a Hallmark holiday. Although it is, essentially, just another one of its kind, there’s an “extra something” here that makes it feel more special than it is. You also love it or hate it, and you’ll know whether you love it or hate it before you start watching. Better yet, that’s the end of the movie’s predictability.

Our story is typical but handled marvelously. Harry Sanborn (Jack Nicholson) is a sixty-three-year-old business mogul, and for forty years, he’s always gone from woman to woman, each one under the age of thirty. In two words, he’s Hugh Hefner. One summer, he’s staying for the weekend at his current girlfriend’s (Amanda Peet*) place…and meets her mother, the recently divorced fifty-six-year-old Erica (Diane Keaton). He begins to realize that of all the women he’s met, she’s a little different, and he tells her on more than one occasion. Meanwhile, she’s writing a comedic play about her life as it happens; he’s a main feature.

jack-nicholson-diane-keaton-columbias-somethings-gotta-give-498082

What if I told you they hated each other in “Reds”?

Nancy Meyers has, ultimately, done something that hasn’t been done since When Harry Met Sally. She’s taken the romance genre to a great height, while keeping the general formula. Yes, as in her screenplay is strong by means of witty dialogue, and a need for reality that’s there, but not overt. Not much else to it. What brings the movie to such heights is that her casting choices are pitch-perfect; under her direction, the players soar. Of course Jack Nicholson is great here. His characteristic shark smile and youthful charm fit his role like no other actor. But even he isn’t the best player here (no pun intended). Diane Keaton’s delivery, if there’s any way to describe it, is impeccable.

Although Something’s Gotta Give is far from perfect, it’s perfectly entertaining and perfectly charming. What more can I say? By the 21st century’s standards, it’s the perfect romcom, or close to it.

* Amanda Peet happened to be 32 in real life when she was in Something’s Gotta Give. I just hope Jack didn’t discover her age too early!

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Day Seven of the Two-Week Torturefest

When this was ooonnnn / I couldn’t breathe for a looong tiime / I’m suffocatiiin’ yeah yeah / Kelly Clarkson / Is this really / What you waaant….

NOTE: This review regards the extended edition, which includes nine more minutes of two songs that are just as horrific as everything that surrounds them both.

IF

Directed by: Robert Iscove
Written by: Kim Fuller
Justin: Justin Guarini
Kelly: Kelly Clarkson
Also Starring: Anika Noni Rose, Brian Dietzen, Christopher Bryan, Greg Siff, Jason Yribar, Jessica Sutta, Justin Gorence, Kaitlin Riley, Katherine Bailess, Marc Macaulay, Theresa San-Nicholas

Distributed by 20th Century Fox on June 20, 2003. Produced in English by the United States. Runs 81 mins. Rated PG by the MPAA–mature themes, sexual situations, mild language. Reviewed cut released with no MPAA rating at 90 mins.

From Justin to Kelly: A Tale of Two American Idols was watched on February 23, 2013.

“My winning is getting to perform. That’s my victory.”
–Kelly Clarkson

After reading the quote above, I couldn’t help but laugh. Kelly Clarkson put on quite a show here, went over the top, the whole nine yards. But she was far from victorious. From Justin to Kelly truly nuked at the box office. In its opening weekend–a summer release–it was screened at more than two-thousand theaters in the U.S. and Canada combined, failed to gross a sparse three million dollars. It holds the record for the shortest theatrical run, with a home video release only six weeks after it hit theaters. The flick made less than five million bucks at the box office over a small budget of TWELVE million.

During award season, it accepted the Governor’s Award for Distinguished Underachievement in Choreography; the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Musical of Our First 25 Years; and Razzie nominations for Worst Actor, Actress, Picture, Director, Screenplay, Remake or Sequel (a joke, of course, on its unoriginality), and Worst Screen Couple.

I know. I watched an awful movie, but I could’ve gone worse (not to brag, but I did). There’s a few ironies, in all its dreadfulness, that went past the makers but sort of enthused me. Here’s one: Within the first few minutes of From Justin to Kelly, we learn that one of the characters is lactose intolerant. I had the urge to pause and skim back to see if he was having an allergic reaction to being in such a cheesy flick.

From Justin to Kelly is a highly misleading title. The subtitle is even worse: “A Tale of Two American Idols”. This is a trashed sleepover movie for the preteen age group, and it’s horribly outdated. Maybe if I were watching season one of American Idol, I would’ve known who Justin Guarini is, but the name by now is dead to pop culture. Kelly Clarkson, on the other hand, won, so of course I know who she is.

Let me just say, though, that whoever assists her with her music regularly could have made this flick a bit more acceptable. The trashy exchanges between the couple are far from romantic. The film features “singers” who need coaching simply so they don’t start shrieking in the Dorian mode. The lesser half of the music is mixed ever so cacophonously. The script offers maybe six or seven intended jokes total (granted, I expected none), and they’re all suppressed with eye rolling. Must I go on?

All right, I digress. This is the ideal gossip-fest movie. It’s not at all a documentary, because documentaries, ya know, they’re, like, borrang. This is the Dirty Dancing with formula treated as manna from heaven–no offense to Patrick Swayze or Jennifer Grey. Oh yeah, and smears of Grease. For the record, J. Travolta and O. Newton-John, if either of you wishes to be cremated upon your passing, please take every overrated, falsettophilic print of Grease with you.

There’s a clique of cool guys and a clique of valley girls. They’re all over the guys, unless of course they do something stupid, in which case there’s a five-second “eewww” before returning to the “Ohhh they’re so hooot” routine. Then one of the guys–Justin–approaches one of the girls–Kelly. This is promised in the title, but oh my god, she gets rejected! How unexpected! Do you think she’s going to approach him later? Since Kelly Clarkson was born in Texas (how the hell do I know this?), I’d like to propose a neologism inspired by the film: Texploitation. Unless you’d actually care to know how generic a relationship Justin and Kelly enjoyed, please save yourself some time and money.

Postscript: I went through this entire film assuming it was just a bad attempt to display the relationship between Justin Guarini and Kelly Clarkson. I was wrong, but I had to look at Wikipedia to discover so. First of all, the “real” Justin and Kelly never actually dated, unless of course I’m not looking hard enough (I did a “control+F” on both stars’ articles). Second of all, their characters in the film were actually named Justin Bell and Kelly Taylor, according to Wikipedia, but I’m guessing that was an edit with no real credibility, because I didn’t hear their surnames at all.

D PLUS

A new edition of “Monday Movies of the Mind”

This review was brought to you by…
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Review No. 420

pirates_of_the_caribbean_ver3

The Bottom Line:
Yo, ho, ho, ho, it’s quite a fun movie.

Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Screenplay by: Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio
Story by: Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio & Stuart Beattie and Jay Wolpert
Based on: Walt Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean
Captain Jack Sparrow: Johnny Depp
Captain Barbossa: Geoffrey Rush
Will Turner: Orlando Bloom
Elizabeth Swann: Keira Knightley
Commodore Norrington: Jack Davenport
Governor Weatherby Swann: Jonathan Pryce
Also Starring: Angus Barnett, Christopher S. Capp, Damian O’Hare, David Bailie, Giles New, Greg Ellis, Kevin McNally, Lee Arenberg, Mackenzie Crook, Martin Klebba, Zoe Saldana

Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures on July 9, 2003. Produced in English by the United States. Runs 144 mins. Rated PG-13 by the MPAA for action/adventure violence.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
was watched on February 16, 2013.

“Do us a favor… I know it’s difficult for you… but please, stay here, and try not to do anything… stupid.” –Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp)

Pirates of the
Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
is a fun little adventure. Now, mind you, don’t expect anything truly mind blowing here. This is based on a theme park ride–not a book or a stage play but a ride at Disneyland, and a log flume, no less. But you can manage to expect the somewhat unexpected. There is more dramatic depth to it than that, and even more than in most “pirate movies.” We all know that only according to myth did
pirates actually hunt for their treasure and talk in a gruff dialect and whatnot.
Pirates gleefully and harmlessly toys with the folk legend.

We begin sometime during the American Revolution. It’s not clear what year, but considering most other movies would assume we know what period the legend surrounded, it doesn’t much matter.

The Black Pearl is the subject at hand. This is a ghost ship that, although highly improbable, has a massively debated existence. Legend has it that a small, golden medallion has the power over whether or not those belonging to the ship are immortal. At the age of twelve, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) gets her hands on this
mysterious artifact, by pure mistake. Almost instantly, she declares that she wishes to become a pirate. And later in her life, she does. But little does she know what life will hand her: just
about everything from the handsome blacksmith Will Turner (Orlando
Bloom), to the quirky and bumbling Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny
Depp).

Pirates is a large-scale technical achievement, with only as much substance as necessary. What stands out most is the music, easily a one-hit wonder for its composer, Klaus Badelt. His original work on other films (Mission: Impossible 2, Catwoman) is nearly impossible to recall. The music in
Pirates–particularly when it dissolves into Dariusz Wolski’s soaring camerawork–is nearly impossible to forget. This is all in the name of adventure and fun, as is everything about the film.

One area, however, I can’t help but feel was indulging in a bit much fun. The screenplay, scripted by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, feels extensive at times.
Pirates could have worked as an entirely fluent production at just around two hours. Just an extra twenty minutes seems to kill the climactic moments.

Despite its occasional flaws, I had quite a blast watching Pirates of the Caribbean. The escapade addresses 80% of “pirate” clichés in an almost straightforward–yet, at the same time, goofy–manner. Trying to keep count of search terms akin “Davey Jones’s locker” and “they’re gaining on us” is like trying to stay awake while your face is pressed against a skillet, but in all likelihood, this was intended. What defines
Pirates entirely is Johnny Depp’s performance. He’s creepy, strange, amusing, and he
notably enhances the mood, a blend between quirky and macabre. Jack
Sparrow–I’m sorry, Captain Jack Sparrow was the well executed role of a lifetime for Depp; that this earned him his first Academy Award nomination is anything but surprising.

The film itself isn’t anything of an award-winning swashbuckler. But if it doesn’t end leaving you with a cheesy grin on your face, it’s likely your definition of “fun” is very limited.

B

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Lost in Translation

image

Bottom Line: Wonderful slice of life from a great filmmaking family.

“Is that everything? It seemed like he said quite a bit more than that.” –Bill Murray as Bob Harris

Directed by: Sofia Coppola
Starring: Akiko Takeshita, Anna Faris, Bill Murray, Catherine Lambert, Giovanni Ribisi, Scarlett Johansson

Quiet, somber drama about a movie star, 55-year-old Bob Harris (Bill Murray). Bob is taking a trip to Tokyo, Japan to shoot a whiskey commercial. In a parallel story, we are introduced to Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), a 25-year-old woman, recently married, but her husband (Giovanni Ribisi) is neglecting her, constantly meeting with another sprightly blonde woman (Anna Faris) for dinner. The scarce likelihood of Bob, a bored, introverted man, meeting anyone who so much as speaks English, culminates in him meeting Charlotte, who is similar to him in several different ways, and forming an unlikely bond.

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