The Official Review Thread of 2005

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Postby Sabin » Sun Aug 14, 2005 8:13 pm

F uck this board! AARGH! I wrote my first long post in months and it deleted it. Admittedly, I had to talk to my girlfriend for thirty minutes in the midsts of posting about leaving her $50 plastic Christmas tree behind in a move and how the tree is not our relationship and that I do make time for her, but it was a solid post. A revealing post. One that granted a little insight into my life as both cinephile and filmmaker. I've just finished my first short film in years and spoke of the respect I have for anybody who can get a film made coupled with the frustration I feel when I cannot love a film that should by all accounts be immediately embraced (like Happy Endings, which I just saw); or, how should I reconsile my feelings that a film be as wonderful as Junebug, more so than maybe any film I've seen this year, yet I would trade the final third for something the gifted director Phil Morrison and his cast pull out from nowhere; and how arbitrary these star ratings feel to me these days.

But that's over now. Now I see their importance.
Happy Endings: **1/2
Junebug: ****
Maggie Gyllenhaal: **** (the greatest contemporary siren in films)
The non-Amy Adams cast of Junebug: ***1/2 (seriously, they need some recognition, 'cause they're terrific)
Amy Adams: **** (but she's just perfect)
Sidebar notes: *1/2 (not so much that they're unecessary, but the minor chuckle they elicit is indicative of ultimately a flimsy script)
The trailer for "Rent": *
That bitch who wouldn't let me bring in a little side dish of mashed potatoes into Junebug from Boston Market: ** (I mean, I know it's her job, but because of her I missed the first couple of trailers and who knows? One of them could've been for "Rent" and lord knows, I can't see that enough!)
Mashed potatoes: ***1/2 (I was pretty late coming to these in life, but I really, really like mashed potatoes)
My girlfriend's plastic Christmas tree: *** (I'm Jewish and she knows this, so she decorated it with Hannukah #### and then for my birthday, she left me presents under the tree, $3 stuff from Target, but lots of them. However, maybe our relationship is the tree. I mean, I'm too busy working on sets these days to really give her the time that she needs, let alone her tree - and not to mention this message board - so maybe I've left our relationship by the dorm hallway garbage bin of life just waiting for the mildly retarded janitor to pick it up for me because I don't want to lug it 24 floors down on my own. Oh well, a conversation for another time.)
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby The Original BJ » Sat Aug 13, 2005 2:08 am

I don't think Miranda July should have cast herself in the lead role. I thought she was the weak link of the cast, and grated a tad on my nerves.

That said, she has such a unique voice as both writer and director I, too, was smitten with the sheer originality of Me and You and Everyone We Know. As has been said, it does get too quirky for its own good (macaroni?), but for the type of indie ensemble comedy we see quite often, it somehow feels like nothing else I've seen.

I think critics deseperate to like anything in this sorry year have overpraised the film, but it's still a total charmer and if I wouldn't enthusiastically recommend it to everyone I still enjoyed myself very much. It's a high three stars. (That poop scene inexplicably had me in stitches, though.)

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Postby kaytodd » Sat Aug 13, 2005 12:38 am

I give "Me And You..." a B-. At times, it did cross over into all out preciousness. Miranda's over the top quirkiness, the younger son's cyberspace adventures, etc. But this is a remarkable achivement for a first time feature director/writer. Scenes that should have made me squirm did not and I have to give credit to Miranda for the way she handled her actors. They all gave very good performances.

I think Miranda July was wonderful. She was a real revelation to me. I am smitten with her big time (though I'll bet a lot of people on this board found her performance cloying and annoying) and am looking forward to seeing her again. I hope she continues to write and direct, especially direct. But I would also like to see her work as an actress with top notch directors on their projects, especially directors who do good work in comedy or dramedy.
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Postby Kova » Tue Aug 09, 2005 9:03 pm

Me and You and Everyone We Know: ***

Sporadically enchanting, the film never lost my interest, despite some half-baked whimsy and characterization problems (what exactly is the shoe salesman's deal, anyway?). Performances are strong, and July has a knack for off-center dialogue that stays just this side of all-out preciousness. The film as a whole can't live up to its first 5 minutes, but I'd recommend it nonetheless.

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Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Aug 06, 2005 7:31 am

Saw two movies today. Both quite good but with major flaws on them that keeps them from being even better. Read on:

CRASH
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadlie, Matt Dillion, Jennifer Esposito, William Fichtner, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Thandie Newton, Ryan Philippe, Larenz Tate, Michael Peña, Keith David, Loretta Devine, Shaun Toub, Bahar Soomekh, Nona Gaye, Ashlyn Sanchez, Tony Danza.
Dir: Paul Haggis

Well-crafted, well-acted ensemble drama about racial tension in L.A. Tense, thought-provoking but more often than not, gets a bit too heavy handed, making you feel as if the message is being shoved down your throats. The great cast make it all worth it though with Toub and Newton as the stand-outs.

Oscar Prospects: Original Screenplay is possible. Though Newton deserves mention too.

Grade: B+

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
Cast: Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, David Kelly, Helena Bonham Carter, Noah Taylor, James Fox, Missi Pyle, Deep Roy, Christopher Lee, Annasophia Robb, Julia Winter, Jordan Fry, Phillip Wiegratz, Adam Godley, Franziska Troegner.
Dir: Tim Burton

3/4th's of this film is the perfect adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic that surpasses the 1971 musical version. Burton's visuals are spot on. The visuals are amazing. Danny Elfman's score is first rate. Highmore is a better Charlie than Peter Ostrum. Unfortunately, the 25% which consists of revealing Willy Wonka's background and give him some "daddy" issues slows the film down and makes Wonka, who's supposed to be a mysterious figure, less mysterious. So close to being a truly great film.

Oscar Prospects: A lock for Art Direction. Danny Elfman deserves an Original Score nod as well.

Grade: B+

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Postby Mister Tee » Sun Jul 24, 2005 12:55 pm

Sonic, you couldn't be more completely right about Wedding Crashers. The homo-erotic element is so clear it barely merits the label subtext -- it's impossible to believe the filmmakers were unaware of it.

As for the movie itself...it certainly doesn't hold up to a moment's scrutiny. There are characters (the foul-mouthed grandma, Jane Seymour, the gay artist son) whose development can't have occupied more than a 3-minute story conference...there's a born-to-be-dumped fiancee so broadly drawn (Ralph Bellamy as prick) that the actor's career will get as much a boost as Billy Zane's did from Titanic...and, as has been widely discussed, the third act goes splat for an endless-seeming 20 minutes.

And yet, the movie survives, because, like classic summer movies of the past (and so few of late), it has a happy spirit -- a spirit mostly provided by the actors. The younger sister (Isla Fisher? Don't have the credits handy) is a pip; her line reading on "I'll find you" is the best funny-scary rendition in years. Rachel McAdams has a way of suggesting intelligence along with beauty that may not be major acting talent, but certainly will get her work as long as her looks hold out (though her obvious good sense made it hard to believe she'd write such a clearly insulting wedding toast). Wilson uses his befuddled gifts to their best advantage in some time. And Vaughn is simply the movie's motor. He barrels through his lines with a psychotic conviction that recalls Michael Keaton at his early best. Literally from the first marital-negotiation scene, his articulate insanity brings laugh after laugh -- which is more than I've found in any other movie this year.

I don't want to oversell this thing: it's mediocre Hollywood product, and hardly what I ideally look for in a trip to the movies. But in the context of what's become of summer movies -- the dull roteness of formula, not even pretending to explore new territory -- this effort at least provides some simple pleasures.

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Postby Sonic Youth » Sun Jul 24, 2005 1:13 am

Yeah, I liked Crash too. I think I appreciated it more as a gesture than as a movie. It's actually a very odd sort of movie to be so successful, or maybe it's just an odd time of year for such a movie to be embraced by the public. It's certainly an audacious undertaking. The material is EXTREMELY uneven - I resented parts of it - yet the overall tone and feel is just the opposite: extremely even. Meaning, writer-director Paul Haggis has faith in his convictions - hell, I'll even call it his vision - despite the lack of consistency in the quality of his screenplay. Haggis seems to be something of a sponge. He appears to have thoroughly absorbed his influences, from John Sayles (especially City of Hope), to P.T. Anderson's Magnolia, to Schumaker's Falling Down, to Tom Wolfe's and Neil LaBute's and David Mamet's brutalisms tripping off everyone's tongues. Much of the surface characteristics of the aforementioned authors and directors feel processed and second-hand. However, sophomoric irony and offhand nastiness doesn't pervade Crash as it does most of the other works. It is earnest, entirely free of irony and such like. Frankly, I found that to be a relief. Crash feels like an authentic post-9/11 film, born of dispair stemming from observing so much chaos, and what Haggis. But it really IS heavy-handed, particularly that score.
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Postby Kova » Sat Jul 23, 2005 7:01 pm

CRASH: ***
So well-intentioned, yet so self-important. The acting is strong, and I did not mind the much-debated coincidences, but since when did pulling out a gun become the solution of choice among otherwise intelligent and functional people? Despite its heavy-handedness, it's not afraid to address issues that usually remain unexplored in Hollywood (internalized racism, affirmative action, etc.). I may actually teach the film in my class this fall.

MY SUMMER OF LOVE: **1/2
On the verge of three stars-- I found the fate of Paddy Considine's character a little too pat and unsatisfying, while one of the twists at the end is hardly surprising. There are definitely shades of Heavenly Creatures here, right down to the bike rides, nature frolicking, and fireside pacts. Pawlikowski does wonders with Mona, skillfully depicting how easily we can allow ourselves to be deceived by others. Press is quite a find; I just wish her character had been the single focal point, rather than having to share significant screentime with the less developed Tamsin.

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Postby The Original BJ » Sat Jul 23, 2005 1:50 pm

As if his dreadful films weren't enough, Michael Bay has always struck me as an arrogant and incredibly cocky human being. I once saw him at a live directors' panel (placed alongside a group of real filmmakers), and couldn't stand his self-aggrandizing statements toward his critics. His recent foul-mouthed attack published in EW (directed at those who didn't like Bad Boys II) has sealed the deal for me. Before I thought he just didn't understand his dubious contributions to humanity, but now, er . . .

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Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jul 23, 2005 1:37 pm

Damien wrote:
anonymous wrote:That's it. It's official. I've officially given up on Michael Bay on being any more than a talentless hack.

What took you so long?

Well, I gave him a chance with The Island - I mean, it's got a great cast, an intriguing premise and it's his first film without Bruckheimer. He has every oppurtunity to make a really good film. In the course of the film, I can see where he could've MADE the choice to do something of substance.

But just as when things were starting to get interesting, just when things are just starting to indicate that things are going to get deeper and delve into something worth while ....BOOM....a pointless car chase scene. It seems to me Michael Bay is scared of losing the 14 year old ADHD sufferers who are his primary audience and the he deliberately cut out any chance of making a movie of substance.

Anyway, he has his comeuppance. Friday estimate's suggest this movie could finish FOURTH.

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Postby Damien » Sat Jul 23, 2005 9:56 am

anonymous wrote:That's it. It's official. I've officially given up on Michael Bay on being any more than a talentless hack.

What took you so long?
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Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jul 23, 2005 5:46 am

THE ISLAND
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Djimon Hounsou, Sean Bean, Michael Clarke Duncan, Steve Buscemi, Ethan Phillips, Brian Stepanek.
Dir: Michael Bay

That's it. It's official. I've officially given up on Michael Bay on being any more than a talentless hack. This film had everything going for it: an excellent cast, an intriguing premise, the absence of Jerry Bruckheimer. It could have just as easily have been a thought-provoking, smart futuristic sci-fi flick/morality tale that explores the moral and philosophical implications of genetic cloning. Instead, it comes off as little more than an excuse for Bay to blow up and wreck stuff. Nothing more.

Oscar Prospects: Sound, Sound Editing.

Grade: D+

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Postby Damien » Thu Jul 21, 2005 2:13 am

Two films memorable for their compassion and sagaciousness:

Happy Endings Directed by Don Roos. *** ½
A film that combines ingenuity with kindness, one admires Roos for the ingenuity of his La Ronde-esque narrative in which several of different lives are seamlessly encircled and connected, and then one loves him for treating these moderately-fuc keded up lives with such tenderness and concern. Roos is more like a very fine novelist than a typical filmmaker, and the very real, very nuanced, very identifiable characters he creates here are far and beyond what you see in most American movies these days. He also comes up with some truly wonderful dialogue, and he is witty and knowing about both how people act and how they speak. He’s also very smart about the fears that hold back personal development and self-acceptance, which is beautifully accentuated by a mise-en-scene that is dominated by glass walls (isolationism) and mirrors (the reflection showing the true self that the characters in the film haven’t been able to acknowledge). The movie is far from perfect – Jesse Bradford’s character is a writer’s conceit not a character and much of Lisa Kudrow’s interaction with him doesn’t ring true. But in terms of presenting recognizably human characters with wit and understanding, the achievement of Happy Endings is impeccable.

The worst thing about the film is having to listen to two horrible Billy Joel songs. Though I will say that the consolation is that if you have to listen to such dross hearing them sung by Maggie Gyllenhaal mskes them as palatable as they're ever going to get. One of Roos’s great attributes is his knowledge of how people act in unexpected situations, and he finds great nuances in reactions. The film is wonderfully acted, and who ever knew Tom Arnold could be so affecting – his is a beautiful performance (but then again, just about everyone else is pitch perfect, with the emphasis on the second word for Maggie Gyllenhaal.)

Sabin you're gonna fall for her even more than ever before.

Caterina In The Big City Directed by Paolo Virzì. *** ½
A lovely film. At times, it foreshadows Bad Girls, but there’s so much more to it than that. The cruelties and insecurities and awkwardness of adolescence are achingly portrayed (and so are the happy moments, such as new friends and acceptance, romance, etc.). But the film is about more than the title character, it’s really about the struggle to find one’s place in the world – and it’s a journey that every character in the film is going through – and it’s to Virzi’s great credit that he makes all of their efforts worthy of sympathy and respect, even when their actions and/or personalities aren’t. It’s a movie of great kindness, even while acknowledging shortcomings and irritations. At times there is a certain familiarity to scenes/situations and once in a while, it’s too broad (Caterina’s mother is a case in point), but overall, it’s filled with behavioral beauties and compassion, and gives a vivid picture of contemporary Italian society. Quite wonderful – and even a cameo appearance by Roberto Benigni doesn’t hurt.
"Y'know, that's one of the things I like about Mitt Romney. He's been consistent since he changed his mind." -- Christine O'Donnell

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Postby Sonic Youth » Tue Jul 19, 2005 12:07 am

Sure, sure. Everyone is saying that The Wedding Crashers is a hilarious comedy (or not, as the case may be). But has no one mentioned that it's also the most romantic, poignant love story of the year? The pairing of Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn is ingenious, as they portray two closeted metro-sexuals who pose as wedding crashers in order to score with the ladies. But clearly this sexual con game is in itself a ruse: merely an excuse for the two man-friends to spend quality time with each other. At six-foot-five, Vince Vaughn is the haughty, domineering, yet emotionally vulnerable bear-man, with primitive manners and a fussy, Felix Unger-ish attentiveness for social detail. At four-foot-one, Owen Wilson is the demure one, with his California surfer blonde hair and relaxed demeanor to counter-point Vaughn's blue-collar agressiveness. When the two gaze into each other's eyes and murmer "I love you, man", "I missed you", and "Things haven't been the same without you", the audience of high school rugby players and volunteer firemen swoon as their heroes shift sexual ideologies from insatiable hetero to proud male bonder and embracer. The testosterone-drenched audience will be too busy staring at the boobage to notice the subliminal yearnings for male companionship deep within them. But that's okay. From now on, the heterosexuality they vaunt will contain a tinge of something more ambiguous. This gay love story is the best joke Hollywood has foisted upon America's young males since a Broadway song-and-dance man was hired to play Wolverine.
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Postby criddic3 » Sun Jul 17, 2005 11:33 pm

MR. AND MRS. SMITH

Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Vince Vaughn

I liked this movie a lot. It has plenty of action and plenty of laughs. While it might not end up on anybody's list of all-time favorites, it's definitely worth spending two hours watching the chemistry of Jolie and Pitt. This is what summer movies are supposed to be like. Not dumb, but filled with fun quips and exciting action. It sure beats something like XXX: State of the Union, which I recently viewed on DVD.
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