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talltale's reviews view profile

page  <<  21  22  23  24  25  26  27  28  29  30  >>      prev | next
"Love" Story  
12345678910
on February 27, 2006 - 6:12 AM PST
  of Separate Lies (2005)
2 out of 3 members found this review helpful
 


For me, the surprise of SEPARATE LIES lies in the manner in which writer/director Julian Fellowes (from Nigel Balchin's novel) first grounds the film in the usual smug and self-satisfied British upper-crust territory and then opens it up slowly into the realm of real complexity and deeper, richer feelings. Fellowes gets wonderful performances from his three leads Wilkinson, Watson and Everett, with some lovely, heartbreaking work from the fine John Neville and Linda Bassett.

I tend to fall for films in which "love" turns out not to be as simple as it is usually portrayed. Love can enlarge itself, working from something sexual into friendship. Or the reverse. It can also, as with one of the characters here, be expressed as strongly with no sexual element at all. "Separate Lies" is a short movie--not even 90 minutes--but from beginning to end, the film changes, as do its characters, and so may you. (At least, perhaps, your viewpoint.)
Wonderful Performances, Difficult Material  
12345678910
on February 26, 2006 - 7:26 AM PST
  of North Country (2005)
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful
 


Terrifically well-acted by every last performer, NORTH COUNTRY is old-fashioned in its sentiments, modern in its story-telling technique (past and present interestingly inter-cut) and marks an enormous improvement in direction by Niki Caro from her overrated "Whale Rider." The cast could not have been better chosen--from Theron in the lead to Richard Jenkins as her angry father (scenes between them toward the end of the film are terrifically moving), Frances McDormand (when is this woman not superb?), Sean Bean (giving a warm performance light years from his usual bad guy mode), Michelle Monaghan, Jillian Armenante, and--yes!--Woody Harrelson.

The screenplay by Michael Seitzman is well-crafted, building nicely until the finale--when, for me, it fell apart with a single false stoke, as a certain character suddenly switches sides. But, when 95% of a film has held you tight, it has to be recommended pretty highly despite a final flaw. Yes, the behavior of the miners toward the women may seem beyond belief to some; from my experience, it is, unfortunately, just everyday fun-and-games. This film didn't make much of a stir at the box-office, but I bet it'll do better on DVD.
Poofters on Parade (and badly, at that)  
12345678910
on February 25, 2006 - 4:51 PM PST
  of All the Queen's Men (2001)
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
 


In the first seconds of ALL THE QUEEN'S MEN, you'll see and hear an introductory narration that seems both unnecessary and (though it's obviously trying) unfunny. Things don't get much better for the next 100 minutes of this WWII, Yanks-and-Brits-behind-enemy-lines movie. Britain has a long, stellar and humorous history of drag performing, so why the producers and director came up with this particular cast--led by a way-out-of-his-element Matt Le Blanc--is the undiscussed elephant in this particular room.

Eddie Izzard manages the best of the lot, but even he is constrained by a script that is obvious and fails in humor, excitement and basic plot elements. The last half (if you get that far) does begin to improve but quickly sinks back again, as though all involved decided to play it safe, obvious and--let's just say it: stupid. There are a couple of surprises along the way--one not much, the other genuine--and the budget appears to have been big, so the look of the film is pretty snazzy. But looks aren't everything. Little wonder this one sank without a trace.
Get Mall-ed!  
12345678910
on February 25, 2006 - 3:39 PM PST
  of Lost Embrace (2004)
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
 


Such energy and such identification with his many characters does director Daniel Burman possess in LOST EMBRACE! It's a little dizzying at first, what with the hand-held camerawork and rapid-fire dialog--especially if you must follow the English subtitles, as we did. It's definitely worth the effort, however, because this sweet-natured, all-embracing and non-judgmental movie offers a look at the denizens of a low-end mini-mall in Buenos Aires that you're not going to find in any other cinema.

The laid-back charisma of star Daniel Hendler as Ariel is again on display, as it was in this director's "Waiting for the Messiah" (2000), in which Hendler also starred with Melina Petriella (whose "Estela" makes a short appearance in the new film, too). The character's last name may be different but it's the same guy inside and out, as far as I can tell. And a good guy he is--troubled by life, family and his crazy country--but good, just the same. Here he rediscovers a father he thought he'd lost on most levels.

Let's see more of "Ariel," who could easily become the Argentine Antoine Doinel. Imagine the fun and fascination of watching this character (and his country, if only it would!) grow up. This is probably heresy, but for my money Hendler is a lot more interesting, versatile and attractive than Jean-Claude Leaud. Check him out in the imaginatively off-kilter "The Bottom of the Sea" for further verification. Meanwhile, for folk who enjoy rubbing up against other cultures, "Lost Embrace" is unique and worthwhile.
Dream On. And on....  
12345678910
on February 24, 2006 - 3:18 PM PST
  of Mirrormask (2005)
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful
 


Crammed with invention and imagination, MIRRORMASK makes good use of animation & special effects that seem original and subtle by comparison with much of what comes out of Hollywood these days. Yet as directed by Dave McKean as a near-non-stop dream and written by Neil Gaiman (with McKean) in a jumble of clichés and overly-precious humor, the movie is desperately weak on story-telling skills.

I lasted out just over half of it before getting back to life and work, which, by contrast, seemed pleasurably down-to-earth, nicely specific and not without its own brand of fun. I usually enjoy fantasy, so this reaction indeed surprised me. This may be faint praise, but I guess I ought to be grateful for any movie that makes me better appreciate my own waking and dreaming life.
One Way of Upending Corrupt Power  
12345678910
on February 24, 2006 - 12:20 PM PST
  of Memory of a Killer (2003)
8 out of 8 members found this review helpful
 


An extremely classy thriller--from Belgium--THE MEMORY OF A KILLER also boasts an unusual story: an aging hit man finds himself suffering from the initial stages of Alzheimer's disease. Several plots converge here--two competing divisions of law enforcement tracking a child porn ring that has evolved into child killing, members of the ring fighting back, and blackmailing politicos caught between--all anchored by the hit man, wonderfully played by Jan Decleir ("Antonia's Line," "Character"). Each of the performances is fine (especially Koen De Bouw's as Vincke, the lead cop) and the story and screenplay are respectively compelling and literate.

The movie goes on too long, however and begins to wind down too far ahead of the finale. However, the theme of corrupt power (and how to fight same) is always worth watching and considering, and "Memory of a Killer" comes through quite well on that score. The editing here is particularly noteworthy: interspersed with subtle and wonderful little "chops" that take the viewer suddenly back or forth, in a manner that, I suspect, gives a filmic equivalent of certain Alzheimer effects. Worth a rent certainly--and far better than any of its American counterparts that I can recall.
Ice-Cold Comedy  
12345678910
on February 23, 2006 - 9:08 PM PST
  of Ice Harvest (2005)
9 out of 9 members found this review helpful
 


Little wonder THE ICE HARVEST (snazzy title!) flopped commercially. A Christmastime release--but unlike "Bad Santa," one that wasn't so obviously a comedy--this is a film for whose bizarre and unlikable characters mainstream audiences didn't have a clue. More surprisingly, many of our supposedly intelligent critics didn't either: They dissed--and dismissed--the movie out of hand.

Too bad, 'cause it's a damn good one: disquietingly funny and nasty in equal proportions. The cast, under director Harold Ramis's precise and understated direction (this is better-directed than his "Groundhog Day"), all seem to cotton to what's going on. The result is a black comedy about greed and stupidity in red state America that doesn't pull its punches, while allowing the best men (of a very bad lot) to win. You don't see something like this all that often, particularly from Hollywood, so it's definitely to be treasured.

Cusack, Thornton, Platt, Nielsen and Quaid are spot-on (Platt is as good as he's ever been), and I laughed myself silly while shivering and wincing rather often. I suspect that's the combination the filmmakers hoped to achieve. Focus Features (the distributor here) has given another worthwhile gift to those moviegoers who tend to take the less-trod path.
Older Woman/Younger Man/Younger Director: Good Combo  
12345678910
on February 23, 2006 - 3:46 PM PST
  of Prime (2005)
5 out of 5 members found this review helpful
 


What's with critics today? The dismissive reviews handed out to Ben Younger's PRIME will most likely deprive intelligent moviegoers from discovering an extremely rewarding film. Detailing with wit, humor and surprisingly rich sentiment the romance that blooms between an older woman and younger man, the movie offers love, sex and family in a graceful, original manner.

Though first-week grosses were slim, there was a very small decline in the second week's receipts, which probably means that word-of-mouth is quite good--among those few lucky enough to find the film. Yes, there is little in-your-face slapstick or screaming out loud comedy to be found here, which is clearly what mass audiences want. But critics ought to be smart enough to realize when a movie is trying something original and subtle. With wonderful performances from Meryl Streep (no surprise), Uma Thurman (as good as she's ever been) and newcomer Bryan Greenberg, there is so much right about this look at men and women (young and older) and today's urban Jewish family that carping becomes unworthy.

I suspect you will be on the edge of your seat wondering how this tender and admirable relationship will resolve. To the enormous credit of writer/director Younger and his classy cast, the resolution points to more meanings and possibilities for love that most American films begin to imagine. This one's as rich as any European film. If you missed it in the theatre, rent!
The Mystery of Character  
12345678910
on February 22, 2006 - 8:46 AM PST
  of Where the Truth Lies (2005)
4 out of 5 members found this review helpful
 


A fascinating flop (theatrically) that still commands interest and features some of the best acting its two leads have ever given, Atom Egoyan's WHERE THE TRUTH LIES combines mystery, memory and varied points of view to strange and slightly fuzzy effect. This is a beautiful film to gaze at (the sets, the time-frame, the faces and bodies on display) and much of the dialog is clever and on the mark. But Egoyan does not prove here to be the kind of stylist who can tap mystery or noir tropes; his movie is all brights lights, posh hotel rooms and lovely scenery. This is an interesting switch on the usual, but it may not be the best choice.

Yet Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth both have scenes of such quiet power and feeling that I think you'll be more than surprised. Alison Lohman ("White Oleander," "Matchstick Men") is up to snuff as the very "involved" reporter, and Rachel Blanchard is simply stunning--as gorgeous as she is provocative and surprising--in a key role. The mystery of human character is what counts here, and the writer/director manages to give that theme its due. I'd advise you not to miss this one, even though it's no knock-your-socks-off success.
Baby Dolls All  
12345678910
on February 21, 2006 - 11:09 AM PST
  of Bubble (2005)
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful
 


One of Stephen Soderbergh's better efforts (for my money, at least), BUBBLE holds attention from first frame to last. Combining fictional and documentary filmmaking techniques pretty seamlessly, Soderbergh and his screenwriter Coleman Hough offer a sad, strange and disquieting look at the American heartland's work, love and leisure situation. Interestingly, work comes out head and shoulders above the other two. The director and screenwriter have also pulled fine performances from their untrained cast.

While trained actors might have been able to bring richer moments to the proceedings, the five or so major roles are filled nicely by these amateurs, with standout work from Doebereiner, Wilkins and Ashley--all of whom I hope we'll be able to see again. With this one, I believe Soderbergh has finally combined his signature insistence on the oddball with a subject and characters that merit our time and interest. This odd little 70-minute film may very well stick with you.
Brothers in Space  
12345678910
on February 19, 2006 - 4:03 PM PST
  of Zathura (Special Edition) (2005)
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful
 


"Brotherhood" gets a good going-over in Jon Favreau's sweet, funny and action-ful ZATHURA, another book-to-board-game-to-fantasy film via author Chris van Allsburg and Hollywood. This one, however, is even better than "Jumanji." Favreau gets so much right about brothers and childhood--the nastiness as well as (of course: this IS Hollywood) the usual Happy Ending Sweetness. But this round of HES seems earned somehow, given all that the kids go through in the fast-paced course of events.

The movie is helped immensely by the nice performances from the younger set and especially from Tim Robbins as Dad, and Dax Shepard as an astronaut who pops in as part of the game. A flop at the theatrical box-office, "Zathura" will find a deserved home on DVD for families and movie junkies who appreciate something good--that, by the way, offers a wallop of a surprise toward the finale. Oh--and did I mention that it's fun. Lots of fun!
A Great Humanist Writer/Director  
12345678910
on February 19, 2006 - 3:48 PM PST
  of Nine Lives (2004)
6 out of 8 members found this review helpful
 


The master of the subtle vignette, writer/director Rodrigo Garcia follows up his amazing "Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her" with his new NINE LIVES. (In between times he's directed various segments of "Six Feet Under.") Featuring some of the best actresses and actors North America has to offer, the movie gives each the chance to shine, and each comes through like the mini sun s/he is. The pieces here occasionally connect, but only peripherally, and they don't add up in the same way that the more woven-together stories in the earlier film did. No matter: the result is equally wonderful.

Garcia enjoys stopping his scenes a moment or two short of expected--adding a layer of mystery and alerting the viewer that reaching the destination may not compare to making the journey. He also understands/appreciates women better than any director I know. Consequently, the actresses here--from Kathy Baker and Molly Parker to Lisa Gay Hamilton and Robin Wright Penn--do sterling work and have been given appropriately glowing notices from much of the press. What I didn't expect was the near-perfect screenplay: dialog as real as it comes and only maybe once (a little speech given by to her daughter by the Sissy Spacek character) sounding too "writer-ly."

Surprising, too, are the splendid performances from all the men: Jason Isaacs, Joe Mantegna, Aidan Quinn, an unrecognizable Ian McShane, and perhaps especially the great William Fichtner, who does yet another boffo job. From Soderbergh's "The Underneath" to "Virtuosity," "Reckless," "Go," and "The Chumscrubber," this guy keeps knocking 'em out of the park. He's our own Olivier, yet his special combination of versatility, energy and utter believability goes unremarked. Much as I hate the place, Los Angeles offers an array of talent that is something to marvel over. Mr. Garcia, one of today's great humanist filmmakers, seems bent on using as much of it as he can--which is all to the good fortune of us viewers.
Cards & Life  
12345678910
on February 18, 2006 - 1:28 PM PST
  of Uno (2004)
 


A nice step forward for writer/actor/director Aksel Hennie and his co-star Nicolai Cleve Broch (both from "Buddy"), UNO tells the story of a young man involved in some wayward activities and how he tries to extricate himself. (The title comes from the popular card game of the same name.) The characters--family, friends, boss, co-workers--are all rounded and interesting, the events believable and troubling, and the resolution painful (if perhaps a bit too masochistic for complete acceptability).

It is bracing to encounter a movie that accepts its "hero" on his own terms and yet deals with him in terms of the larger world, as well. Justice is an elusive thing here, and the look at Pakistan emigrants in Scandinavia is troubling, to say the least. Giving the main character a Downs Syndrome brother is handled surprisingly well, too, skirting sentimentality rather better than I've seen elsewhere. I'll look forward to more from Mr. Hennie, a triple threat who--so far--is making good in all three professions.
Endearing  
12345678910
on February 18, 2006 - 12:45 PM PST
  of Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful
 


If you're among those who find Wallace & Gromit (as in WALLACE AND GROMIT IN THE CURSE OF THE WERE- RABBIT) as utterly endearing as I do, there's little more to say than "Rent it." This full-length but short feature is simply more of the same. Somehow this Box/Park/Burton/Baker writer/director combo manages to charm and entertain via monsters, guns, car and plane chases--yet give all these cliches a cute kick in the butt (without, I suspect, bringing a scare to even the smallest child). Amazing. Delightful. And they got Ralph Fiennes to dub the villain!
A Must-See for Balfour Fans  
12345678910
on February 17, 2006 - 1:27 PM PST
  of Lie with Me (2005)
 


Today's answer to last decade's "Red Shoe Diaries," LIE WITH ME imagines that it has something on its mind besides titillation. It doesn't. Basically one copulation after another, with occasional dumb voice-overs about sex, love and life, there's even a bit of hard-core on view. Fans of Eric Balfour (Claire Fisher's first boyfriend on "Six Feet Under") will see more of this hunk than they probably will ever be treated to again, and that may be enough for a rent (it was for me). The real surprise here is that the movie is distributed by THINK FILMS, a company that, so far, has totaled up quite an impressive list of worthwhile titles. In addition to being pretentious junk, this one belies the distributor's name.
Broken  
12345678910
on February 16, 2006 - 1:51 PM PST
  of Silencio Roto (2001)
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful
 


Another fine slice of Spain in the Franco era, this time during and just after WWII, SILENCIO ROTO shows about as well as I've seen the grinding--and seemingly unending--toil and misery of a populace under the yoke of a fascist dictatorship. The movie is especially fine at pointing up how difficult it is for decent people to continue to behave decently under this kind of rule.

The cast is exemplary, and the direction by Montxo Armendariz is appropriate to the subject and tale at hand. Stories from Franco's Spain seem nearly inexhaustible; fortunately, most of them are worth telling and hearing, if only to warn others about what happens when we give vent to the worst of our own nature, while allowing crass and despicable people to rule us.
Sloppy Seconds  
12345678910
on February 16, 2006 - 1:30 PM PST
  of Saw II (2005)
0 out of 1 members found this review helpful
 


A crap sequel to a truly innovative--if nasty--addition to the horror/slasher genre, SAW 2 is worthless, other than offering a good cast that includes (and wastes) Donnie Wahlberg, Shawnee Smith and Franky G, among others. The ending provides a bit of surprise, but getting to it is just about unbearable. And unbearably stupid.
Punch-Pulling  
12345678910
on February 14, 2006 - 1:58 PM PST
  of Or [My Treasure] (2004)
 


OR: MY TREASURE is an ironic title if ever there was one. The film tells the story of a mom hung up on prostitution and the daughter who initially tries to save her and then.... But why spoil it? A film like this could have a huge impact (think "Requiem for a Dream") but in the hands of fourth-time filmmaker Keren Yedaya, there is very little depth here to probe.

The movie isn't all that long but what's there grows repetitive, and most of the questions you'll ask about these people all go unanswered. Performances are fine, as far as they go, but like all else here, nothing goes far enough. If you are going to deal with a shocking subject (and this one is), then deal with it: sleazily, ironically, sadly, compassionately--whichever way you choose--but full out. "Or" pulls its punches and ends up leaving a bad taste in your mouth.
A Fritz Lang Relic  
12345678910
on February 13, 2006 - 6:28 AM PST
  of House by the River (1950)
2 out of 3 members found this review helpful
 


Being a big Fritz Lang fan, I looked forward to finally viewing the little-seen HOUSE BY THE RIVER. Don't get your hopes up. With its silly, obvious mystery story that offers almost no surprise, and cast with a leading man (Louis Hayward) who gives a performance verging on then toppling into camp, the movie begins well enough (all the little sexual references are perfect for the corseted 50's) but soon grows tired and obvious.

Here's a chance to see Jane Wyatt a few years before she entered her "Father Knows Best" phase plus another good performance by the underrated Lee Bowman as Hayward's crippled brother. There's also a slow but interesting courtroom scene featuring a knockout speech by Dorothy Patrick that pulls the rug from under small minds in small towns. The movie is fun--though certainly not in the manner that anyone making it at the time would have wanted. That's the beauty (and the sadness) of unintentional camp.

The only extra on the DVD is a short reminisicencse from a French film critic about discovering the film and then talking to Lang about it. The director seemed only to remember or be interested in the first ten minutes of the film. Smart man, as those are most certainly the best.
"The Best" of Everything  
12345678910
on February 12, 2006 - 4:44 PM PST
  of The Best of Youth (Disc 1 of 2) (2003)
8 out of 9 members found this review helpful
 


OK: Maybe this Italian family epic spanning forty years IS soap opera of sorts. But THE BEST OF YOUTH--directed with unsurpassed beauty, humanity and occasional brilliance by Marco Tullio Giordana ("I Cento Passi")--is so far above any other epic soaps I can recall, including our own "Gone With the Wind" and "Doctor Zhivago" that it belongs on the Don't-Miss list of any purported movie lover.

Clocking in at just over six hours, it's lengthy, but I wouldn't have forgone a single minute. Made for Italian television, which (under the Berlusconi hand, I suspect) refused to air it, the footage was taken to Cannes, where it won a top prize, thus embarrassing Italian TV into finally showing it). Given a cursory release here in the U.S., it nonetheless ended up on a number of 10-Best Lists (A. O. Scott of The NY Times chose it as the best of the year). Now it's found perhaps its real home on DVD, where it can be viewed in one-, two- or three-hour segments. (When you come back to it, start at the beginning, then click forward segment by segment. This will quickly bring some of the richness of each past event to mind, thus readying you to proceed.)

Beginning in the 60s with the mundane task of family members having to transport a TV set, the film quickly captures your attention and never lets go, through growth, love, aging, death (timely and not), losing, winning, and new generations. Coincidences happen, but not beyond the frequency with which they occur in our lives. Italian history happens, too--political, economic, social--and it's mirrored within and without the characters. The history is different, but not all THAT different, from the history of other European countries or America, and this adds to the intelligence and enjoyment the movie brings.

No film I have seen in years has made me feel so deeply, strongly and consistently for its characters--all of whom are now indelibly fixed in my mind. While this is due, of course, to the length involved, it is even more because of the talent and love of country and humanity on display from everyone in front of, and behind, the camera. "Bravo" is just too puny a word to express my gratitude.
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