Movie Reviews

Waist Deep

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What happens when you combine the director of the 2001 Mariah Carey disaster, Glitter, with a former underwear model? In the case of Waist Deep, you end up with a surprisingly decent B-movie — with a penchant for absurdity. While never reaching the sublime ridiculousness of, say, Wayne Kramer’s recent movie, Running Scared, the makers […]

The Seventh Seal

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The jury is still out (and probably always will be) as to whether The Seventh Seal or Wild Strawberries is Ingmar Bergman’s greatest film. For me, it depends largely on my mood of the moment — today, I’d lean toward The Seventh Seal. It is hard to deny that The Seventh Seal is the film […]

Something for Everyone

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The period from the late 1960s to early 1970s was one of filmmaking’s most adventurous eras. Films that were unthinkable a few years earlier were being made by filmmakers ready to test the new “permissiveness” of the ratings system. Unfortunately, a number of these films were made for short-lived production companies and have subsequently drifted […]

Click

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There’s something more than a little bit ironic that a movie preaching the gospel of the value of having nothing should rake in a projected $40 million on its opening weekend. Yes, the latest Adam Sandler assault on the art of film is one of those films — the kind where multi-millionaires explain to you […]

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

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One of the more perplexing mysteries of modern studio practices is just why Dreamworks Pictures abandoned The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, a 2005 release that played on a mere handful of screens to mixed (though often glowing) reviews. It boasted a box-office draw in both star Julianne Moore and its popular literary source that […]

The Lake House

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The Lake House is a good film that is nearly a very good film, even if it never quite flirts with greatness. Even granting that it’s a deeply flawed work on several levels, the thing that ultimately keeps it from being more than good is simply that director Alejandro Agresti and screenwriter David Auburn (Proof) […]

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

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I flipped five years ago over the original The Fast and the Furious, a movie about Los Angeles’ subculture of car racing and high-stakes hijacking. It was stupid but enjoyable because of terrific racing sequences and charismatic actors, especially a relatively unknown bald guy with big biceps named Vin Diesel. In 2003 came 2 Fast […]

Nacho Libre

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I don’t know that it’s fair to say that Jared Hess’ new film, Nacho Libre, proves that his film Napoleon Dynamite was a fluke. In the end, Nacho Libre is pretty much the same film all over again — right down to its nebbishy hero (Jack Black) and his even more nebbishy sidekick (Mexican actor […]

Grownups

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This alternately engaging and clunky comedy comes from local production outfit, Papercookie. Who or what is Papercookie? According to the press release, it’s “a film production collective of art/film school dropouts who left college to pursue do-it-yourself independent filmmaking.” Comprised of John Ferrer (writer-director of Grownups), Aubrey Curtis and Joe Chang, the group left the […]

Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties

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This movie is mediocrity incarnate. Watching it I felt brain cells leaping to their deaths like so many lemmings. I tried thinking of the experience in terms of training for the Big Fight — toughening up for the eventuality of Little Man opening on July 14 — but it didn’t work. There may be some […]

Water

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Water marks the third film in Indian filmmaker Deepa Mehta’s “Elements” trilogy, following Earth (1998) and Fire (1996). (It would seem that a tetralogy including “air” might be more inclusive elementally speaking, but that’s a separate issue.) I can’t speak to the quality of the first two, never having seen them, but it’s apparent that […]

The Secret of Roan Inish

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An unusual film to come from indie filmmaker John Sayles, The Secret of Roan Inish is completely out of keeping with the generally cynical tone of his other work. Sayles is the last person on Earth you’d expect to be making a “family film,” but that might be part of the reason this 1995 film […]

The Proposition

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With John Hillcoat’s The Proposition one is faced with a curious dilemma. The film is certainly well made. It’s weirdly compelling. There’s a great deal of evident artistry in both Hillcoat’s direction and Nick Cave’s screenplay. Plus, there are several noteworthy performances. But having said all that, the film is also unregenerately unpleasant — to […]

The Omen

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It’s been a good 16 years since I last saw Richard Donner’s 1976 film The Omen. I found it then as I found it on its original release — unpersuasive, shakily conceived, cheesy and mostly notable for the sight of two major stars, Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, slumming in a more than usually preposterous […]

Easy Street

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A case could be made that Chaplin’s 1917 film Easy Street is the greatest of all his early work. It is certainly his most ambitious — seeming less a short film than a feature done in shorthand. Often remembered today for the iconic image of Chaplin subduing the villain (Eric Campbell) by gassing him with […]

Cars

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Neon, NASCAR and America’s magnificent desert scenery provide the unique visual backdrops for Pixar’s latest animation feature, Cars. Although a tad long and perhaps too sophisticated for pre-kindergarten tots, older kids will enjoy the movie’s high-octane action, and adults will delight in the in-jokes, the numerous cameo voiceovers and the sentimental tribute to 1950s car […]

Apocalypse Now

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Considered in 1979 one of the great follies of all time — over budget, overlong, overstated — Francis Ford Coppola’s attempt to look at the Vietnam War in terms of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness has come full circle (in various forms) to emerge as possibly the most significant film ever made about war. That […]

A Prairie Home Companion

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The marriage of 81-year-old filmmaker Robert Altman and 63-year-old writer-performer Garrison Keillor has produced the first film of 2006 that I can honestly — without qualification of any kind — say I love. However, it’s not just a relative thing since I can count the films of 2006 that I’ve even liked very much on […]

The Break-Up

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Unrelenting in its sheer awfulness, the romantic comedy known as The Break-Up boasts neither romance, nor comedy. In its stead, this cinematic version of the famed Chinese water torture invites the viewer to spend most of its 107 minutes (trust me, it feels at least twice that long) trapped with two singularly unlikable characters fighting. […]

Picnic at Hanging Rock

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Peter Weir is not one of my favorite filmmakers. I was baffled by the acclaim his 1977 film, The Last Wave (my first exposure to his work), received and even more perplexed when I read Weir’s explanation of the film’s ending — that the final freeze frame of Richard Chamberlain symbolized the impending end of […]

8 1/2

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One of the undisputed classics of modern international film, 8 1/2 (its title literally meaning that it was Federico Fellini’s eight-and-one-halfth film — seven full features and a couple short segments of omnibus films precede it) is the movie where the greatest of all Italian filmmakers moved completely away from traditional realism toward a more […]