Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lethal Weapon 4 Movie Review

First published on Uwire in Summer 1998.
Republished here with minor editorial adjustments, but nothing that affects content.

Just when you thought sequels couldn’t go any further, they did. The fourth installment in the Lethal Weapon series opens with a bang of an action sequence in which detectives Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Murtaugh (Danny Glover) gun down a man wearing an armored suit and carrying a flame-thrower.

The rest of the film follows with many more spectacular action sequences including a freeway car chase which outdoes nearly any car chase I’ve seen. Many of the sequences and the beautifully choreographed fight scenes are made possible by Jet Li, an Asian martial arts star making his American film debut. Li provides Riggs with the most difficult enemy of the series.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Buffalo '66 Movie Review

First published on Uwire in Summer 1998.
Republished here unaltered.

Young indie filmmaker Vincent Gallo may join the ranks of Billy Bob Thornton, Woody Allen and Robert Duvall for writing, directing and starring in one of the finest pleasures of the year. (Gallo upped the ante by writing the score for his film.)

Gallo’s film, Buffalo ‘66, begins with Billy (Gallo) being released from prison. After a very amusing struggle to find a place to urinate, he walks into a dance studio where he meets Layla (Christina Ricci). She overhears Billy on the phone to his mother, telling her he is standing in the lobby of an expensive hotel, just one of many lies he tells his parents in order to protect them from the truth. Needing someone to pose as his wife (another lie he told his mother) he kidnaps Layla and asks her to act like she really likes him at his parents’ house.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Kissing a Fool Movie Review

First published in The Connecticut College Voice on 6 March 1998.
Republished here with minor editorial adjustments that do not affect content.

The main problems with Doug Ellin’s romantic comedy Kissing a Fool are that it is incredibly predictable and not funny. The film opens with a wedding between a woman, Sam, played by Israeli actress Mili Avital and a man whom we can not see. Bonnie Hunt is Sam’s boss as well as the hostess of the wedding. She sits down with a couple of schlumpy wedding guests and begins to tell the predictable story of how the bride and groom got together.

David Schwimmer plays Max Abbitt, a popular Chicago sportscaster and notorious womanizer. He and Jay (Jason Lee) are childhood best friends. Jay has been in mourning and without sex for a year due to his ex-girlfriend, Natasha, having broken his heart. Sam is his book editor and he introduces her to Max.  The two hit it off immediately and are engaged within two weeks. Max gets nervous about the prospect of being with only one woman for the rest of his life and enlists Jay to ‘test’ Sam. He wants Jay to seduce her to find out if she would be loyal. When Sam’s boss pushes up their deadline, the two have to spend a lot more time together and Jay’s affection for Sam begins to surface.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cult Classic Movie Review: Evil Dead II

If you go into watching Evil Dead II with anything other than the desire to laugh, you’re likely to be disappointed. Director Sam Raimi and his collaborators, high school friends Scott Spiegel (who co-wrote the screenplay with Raimi) and Bruce Campbell, who stars in the film, set out specifically to make a horror comedy.

In a nutshell, the story goes something like this: Raimi and Campbell make a low-budget horror film called Evil Dead. It’s a standard group-of-friends-in-a-cabin-in-the-woods, supernatural evil, genre film. It’s by no means an inept film, but the seams are visible, the acting is poor and audiences respond with jeers and laughter. It achieves a bit of cult status. They decide to ‘remake’ the film, but as a comic send up of low-budget horror flicks, and call it a sequel.

Palmetto Movie Review:

First published in The Connecticut College Voice on 27 February 1998.
Republished here with minor editorial adjustments that do not affect content.

Take two Academy Award nominated actors (Woody Harrelson, Elisabeth Shue) and Volker Schlöndorff, the critically acclaimed director of The Tin Drum and a comedic film noir script and you get the workings of what might be the first really good movie of 1998. Right? Wrong! What we end up with instead is a contrived, poorly scripted, badly conceived attempt at film noir. Not that it is a result of the people involved, but given the talent coming together on this project, Palmetto should have been much better.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"Jules, You Give that Fuckin' Nimrod $1500, I'll Shoot Him on General Principle.": Pulp Fiction Analysis Part XXIV and Conclusion

Go to Part XXIII: "I had what alcoholics refer to as a 'moment of clarity.'

The Tarantino "Mexican Standoff"

Vincent gets up to go to the bathroom (remember he was visible over Honey-Bunny’s shoulder in the prologue) and a few seconds later the robbery starts. This time, Honey-Bunny’s line is “Any of you fuckin’ pricks move and I’ll execute every one of you motherfuckers.” It is slightly different from the “I’ll execute every motherfucking last one of you” she said the first time. This is another bit in the film often cited as a continuity error. Again, it doesn’t make sense that this is a mistake. Why would Tarantino have recorded the line of dialogue twice with different words each time? He also shoots the second half of the line from a different angle than in the prologue. This is another example of Tarantino having a little fun with his audience and suggesting that different perspectives and perceptions of the same event will produce different versions of the truth.

Honey Bunny is shot from a side angle as opposed to the front angle of the first scene in the film, suggesting the dialogue line change is related to differing perspectives.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Habitación en Roma [Room in Rome] Movie Review

This review was written in May 2010, but never published because I was awaiting a possible US release, which never happened.

As a director of the sensual, Julio Medem has never shied away from on screen sex and nudity. In his best and most well-known film, Sex and Lucía, Paz Vega was made into a star by stripping down and acting her way through several compromising positions. His latest offering, Habitación en Roma (Room in Rome), has the two principal characters naked or having sex or both through the majority of its 110 minutes.

These two characters are the spritely, petite and beautiful Spanish Alba (Elena Anaya) and the gorgeous leggy blonde Russian Natasha (Natasha Yarovenko). If that’s not reason enough for every heterosexual male to run for the nearest cinema showing this movie, then perhaps I’ve not explained it well.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Devil in a Blue Dress Movie Review

It’s interesting what more than a decade can do to your perspective and reaction to a film. I really liked Devil in a Blue Dress when I saw it in high school and then again years later on DVD. I was much less enamored with it this time around, although I still think this story of a burgeoning private detective living in the Watts neighborhood of post-war Los Angeles has a lot going for it to recommend.

Carl Franklin wrote and directed this adaptation of the novel by Walter Mosley, the first of a series of ten novels featuring the character Ezekiel Rawlins, brought to life here by Denzel Washington. Franklin’s previous outing as director had been the neo-noir One False Move, which was very well received by critics. Franklin demonstrated a streamlined approach to genre filmmaking, focusing strongly on the violence and tension built into the script. He takes a similar approach to Mosley’s book, but he’s not working with as strong a story.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

More Actors Deserving of Oscars

Last year I threw together a list of some contemporary screen actors who I feel are more than deserving of an Oscar, but have yet to win. They are all still reasonably young, although the Hollywood shelf life of actresses tends to be much shorter, so Laura Linney and Julianne Moore may come up short despite the 7 nominations between them.

Today I present a second list of screen actors still currently appearing in feature films who are also deserving of an Oscar one day. The nine actors I've listed below have 15 acting nominations between them, but not a single win (well, one has a win for screenplay).

In his 26 years making feature films, Johnny Depp has provided us with countless indelible characters including the Mad Hatter (Alice in Wonderland), Edward Scissorhands, Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean (receiving his first of 3 Oscar nominations for the first film in that series), Willy Wonka (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Donnie Brasco, Ichabod Crane (Sleepy Hollow), Raoul Duke (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), Ed Wood, Don Juan DeMarco, and Cry-Baby. He has worked with Tim Burton 7 times, as well as renowned directors such as Terry Gilliam, Mike Newell, Lasse Hallström, Roman Polanski, John Waters and Michael Mann. It's remarkable to me that it took until 2004 for his first nod from the Academy, but not at all surprising that he's since received two more nominations. His roles are often flashy, but still not the kind the Academy tends to reward. I'd expect to see him continue to garner nominations, but not at all surprised if they end up handing him an Honorary Oscar in about 25 years' time.

Friday, April 22, 2011

25 Years Ago This Month: April 1986

It turns out April 1986 was a rather uneventful month at the cinema in the United States. The two biggest box office money earners were basically flops. First was Ridley Scott's Legend starring a pre-Top Gun Tom Cruise.

The second was the low-budget creature feature Critters starring Dee Wallace and a teenage Scott Grimes.

If we ignore a forgotten film from 1974 and a nearly forgotten horror flick called The Hand, Oliver Stone's first important directorial feature was released this month. Salvador stars James Woods as a journalist who travels to El Salvador to document the 1980 civil war and becomes entangled with both the guerrillas and the right-wing military.

Friends, Get Ready

As I'm moving back to the United States in a few months, I would like my friends to get ready for social interaction with me. I will not support people who are glued to their electronic devices while spending personal time with me.

I've been away a long time and the nature of social interaction and gadgetry interaction has changed drastically in the interim. The first cell phone I owned was when I moved to Spain in 2006 and that was only out of sheer necessity because it was not possible for me to get a hard line at home.

I used to swear up and down that I'd never get a cell phone and of course I will get one when I'm back in New York, but I'm unlikely to get one that gives me round-the-clock access to the Internet. I want the cheapest phone, the cheapest plan. That's not only to save money, but because I don't want to give myself the temptation to be online while I'm out of the house. I'm addicted enough in the house and sometimes feel a bit twitchy when I'm away from a computer for too long. I don't need something in my life that can satisfy that itch 24 hours a day.

When I'm with you in a social situation, I want you to know you've got as much attention as I can give you. I expect the same in return.

Not Everyone Should Go to College

E.D. Kain at Forbes magazine basically sums up an argument I've been making in personal conversations for years.

Four year college is not necessarily for everyone and there's far too much emphasis in the United States on everyone (or at least more people every year) getting four year degrees. To put it crudely, society needs people who clean floors and flip burgers. And I don't mean that in an elitist sense, but as a simple statement of fact. And those people don't really need to go to college. Hell, they don't even really need a high school diploma.

Kain argues there should be more quality vocational training at the high school level. I agree.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Classic Movie Review: Long Day's Journey Into Night

After Sidney Lumet's recent passing, I present a fresh look at one of his early films.

It’s not an easy thing to adapt a stage play for the screen, especially most 20th century American drama that centers on family conflicts. Dramatists like Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill present intimate portraits of a handful of characters, usually bound by time and place. The drama is designed specifically to play out on a stage where there are far more limitations than in cinema.

Director Sidney Lumet, who recently passed away after a long and distinguished cinematic career, got his start in television presenting teleplays and his early cinematic efforts were often adapted stage plays. His Twelve Angry Men was a film adapted from a teleplay that was later adapted for the stage. Of course the film was almost perfectly tailored to be done on stage, although he made it cinematic.

His 1962 adaptation of O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night feels much more constrained by the conventions of theater and a bit hamstrung by what appears to be an attempt to take the drama off the ‘stage’ and into the camera.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The State of the Blog

Today marks one year since I started this blog and I thought I'd take some time to do some assessment and evaluation of where it stands now compared to what my original intentions were going into the project.

I'd had a plan to build a movie review website for several years and actually started working on something with the help of a friend at one point, but everything was put on indefinite hold when I decided to move to Spain in early 2006. Of course I only really thought I'd be away about 2 years, maybe 3 at the most. It's now more than 5 years, but plans are in place to relocate to the United States this summer.

(500) Days of Summer Movie Review

First published at American Madness on 23 November 2009.
Reposted here without changes.

(500) Days of Summer rests solidly on the strengths of its charismatic leads Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, who play Tom Hansen and Summer Finn, co-workers at a greeting card company who find, and then lose, romance. Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber and directed by Marc Webb (known primarily for music videos, but making his feature debut here), it is the perfect, and often honest, answer to the contrived and sappy romantic comedies we see produced far too often in Hollywood.

“This is not a love story,” we’re told at the outset by an omniscient narrator. Although a love story is most certainly what it is. The film begins with the recounting of the happy couple’s breakup. That line is designed to set us up for the fact that the couple will not get back together. Armed with the knowledge of what is ultimately to come on Day 280 (or something) of the titular 500, the story then jumps back to Day 1 and then soldiers on ahead depicting the burgeoning romance between Tom, the romantic who believes in love at first sight and soul mates, and Summer, who doesn’t believe in love (perhaps because she’s never experienced it) and refuses for several months to even admit she is his girlfriend.

"I Had What Alcoholics Refer to as a 'Moment of Clarity.'": Pulp Fiction Analysis Part XXIII

Go to Part XXII: "I'm Winston Wolf. I solve problems."

Establishing two-shot of Jules and Vincent at breakfast.

Cut to the Hawthorne Grill where Jules and Vincent sit eating breakfast. We join them mid-conversation as they talk about The Wolf and how cool he was. Then they proceed to the famous “pigs are filthy animals” conversation. The two are shot in the same frame together until they begin talking about the possible miracle they witnessed in the morning. Now they are shot singly in profile, emphasizing their disagreement. Vincent reiterates his position that what they saw was a freak occurrence and Jules can’t agree.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Antichrist Movie Review: I Have Seen the Antichrist and It is Woman

First published at American Madness on 4 October 2009.
Reposted here with the addition of a single sentence.

Lars von Trier has been known since his breakthrough film Breaking the Waves for putting not only his protagonists, but also his audience, through a series of torturous steps until reaching a climax surpassing all the pain that had come before it. Thus we are treated to the hanging death of the blind Selma in Dancer in the Dark and the gang rape of Grace in Dogville.

As such we don’t enter a von Trier film with the same expectations of being entertained as we would from most other films. His films are not designed with entertainment in mind, but as studies in the human condition with a particular focus on grief and torment as the principle emotions. In a certain respect, his films are highbrow torture porn.

Monday, April 18, 2011

"I'm Winston Wolf. I Solve Problems.": Pulp Fiction Analysis Part XXII

Go to Part XXI: "Oh man, I shot Marvin in the face."

Jimmie is upset at the possibility that his wife will come home soon from her graveyard shift at the hospital to find a dead body in the garage. So the clock is ticking on these guys to get their mess cleaned up fast. Jules talks to Marsellus who lets him know he’s sending The Wolf (Harvey Keitel). Jules already knows Wolf by reputation.

JULES: You sendin’ The Wolf?
MARSELLUS: Don’t you feel better, motherfucker?
JULES: Shit, negro. That’s all you had to say.

Then we see The Wolf on the phone. Again (like Marsellus early in the film), we have a character whose face we don’t see right away, thus adding to the mystery surrounding the character. The Wolf is in a tuxedo at some kind of cocktail party early in the morning. In the background you can hear a dealer talking about laying down bets. More than likely this was some kind of all night gambling party.

The Way Back Movie Review

“Based on the book” is a phrase sometimes applied loosely to films. “Inspired by” is a somewhat more accurate albeit much more imprecise expression of the basis for source material. Still more liberally invoked in cinema is “based on a true story.” In Peter Weir’s The Way Back we have a film that is very loosely based on the book The Long Walk, purportedly presenting a true story, the veracity of which has been called into doubt on several occasions.

None of that should really matter because when we watch a film we should be judging it on its own merits and not on whether it’s similar to the book or not, or if it’s a true story. But the problem is that presenting your film up front as being based in fact tends to color the audience’s judgment of the events depicted.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Whatever Works Movie Review: Not Classic Woody Allen, but with a Vintage Appeal

First published at American Madness on 6 November 2009.
I am reposting it here untouched.

Woody Allen has worked tirelessly in the last 30 some odd years turning out a new film every year like clockwork. His great period was from the late 70’s into the mid 80’s when he made such classics as Annie Hall, Manhattan, and Radio Days. Through the 90’s he managed to maintain a steady stream of well-written, sharply funny films achieving greatness once again with Deconstructing Harry in 1998. Since then he’s had a series of mostly forgettable films ranging from the atrocious Curse of the Jade Scorpion to the mediocre Melinda and Melinda.

Finally, after four European-set films and a long absence from the New York that he knows so well, he has returned to that familiar territory in Whatever Works, in which Larry David plays Boris Yelnikoff (What a name!). The character is the typical Allen alter-ego – a neurotic, self-obsessed, sarcastic, caustic middle-aged man who thinks he has a better grasp on philosophy and life than anyone else around him (or the women around him anyway).

Saturday, April 16, 2011

About Elly (Darbareye Elly) Movie Review

Update 4/9/15: At long last this film has found a release and distribution in the United States, thanks to the success of Farhadi's two most recent films, A Separation and The Past.

This review was written when I saw the film during its theatrical release in Spain in May 2010. I held off posting it in the event it was ever given a North American release. Although it played several small festivals around the US, it doesn't look like it will find distribution over there.

So I post this review here for the first time.

Don’t be fooled by the title, which I assume is intended as ironic. By the time the end credits roll on About Elly (Darbareye Elly), an intimate Iranian film from writer-director Asghar Farhadi, you are not likely to know a whole lot more about Elly than you did at the start. That’s not entirely true, actually. You’ll know more about her, but the information provided is hardly illuminating.

Friday, April 15, 2011

"Oh Man, I Shot Marvin in the Face.": Pulp Fiction Analysis Part XXI

Go to Part XX: "We should be fuckin' dead right now."

Driving along, Vincent and Jules disagree over the significance of all six bullets missing them. Jules sees it as a sign that God is sending him a message. As such, he has decided to quit working for Marsellus. Vincent sees it as nothing more than a freak occurrence. Turning around to ask Marvin what he thinks of it all, Vincent has the gun in his hand casually pointed in Marvin’s direction. This is another moment from the first time I saw this film that I will never forget. I remember noticing the gun was there and that something was going to happen. But I never could have guessed that Vincent’s gun would fire, blowing Marvin’s head to pieces all over the inside of the car. I still laugh hysterically every time and I’m certain that’s the reaction Tarantino wanted out of this scene.

The prominent positioning of the gun in the foreground foreshadows the tragic accident that is about to happen.

Jules calls his “partner,” Jimmie (Quentin Tarantino). Although it’s not entirely clear how Jules and Jimmie know each other, the “partner” reference seems to indicate that Jimmie used to work for Marsellus. He probably stopped when he married Bonnie.

Very Bad Things Movie Review: Very Bad Indeed

First published in The Connecticut College Voice on 25 November 1998.
I have made some minor editorial adjustments but nothing that affects the content of the review.

If there’s one thing I can promise after seeing Peter Berg’s Very Bad Things it’s that you will be disgusted, your head will be spinning, or both. In his directorial debut, Berg (who throws in a very subtle hint at his Copland character) has given us a new entry in what has been coined the New Geek Cinema, a new style of filmmaking largely attributed to the likes of Tarantino. The basic gist is that each film tries to outdo the other with outrageous situations, and perhaps also making light humor of it.

Jon Favreau is Kyle, a man who just wants to marry the girl of his dreams played by Cameron Diaz. But before the wedding, his four buddies decide to give him the bachelor party of a lifetime in Las Vegas. Drugs and alcohol abound, and then the stripper-prostitute arrives. As misfortune would have it, she gets killed accidentally during rough sex in the bathroom. Boyd (Christian Slater), the psychotic in the bunch, lays down two options. They can call the police and probably get in some serious trouble, or take the “105 pound problem” to the desert and bury her. Of course there’s more -- a security guard shows up at the hotel room, and Boyd murders him, leaving them two bodies to take care of.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

She's All That Movie Review: Throwaway High School Social Classes

First published in The Connecticut College Voice on 5 February 1999. I have made some minor editorial adjustments, but nothing that affects the content of the review.

He’s the coolest kid in school. He parks in a space marked “Reserved for Class President,” has his picture hanging on the wall in the school, says ‘Hi’ to everyone. Some stare in amazement as he goes by, “He spoke to me!”  His name is Zach . He’s played by Freddie Prinze, Jr., and he also dates the prettiest, most popular girl in school, who happens to be a shoo-in for Prom Queen.

So what’s this guy to do when his girlfriend dumps him for Brock Hudson (Matthew Lillard), a former cast member of “The Real World?” How about a bet? Zach bets his best friend that he can take any girl in the school and turn her into the Prom Queen in six weeks. The next thing they need is a hapless victim – Lainie (Rachael Leigh Cook) – the quiet, geeky artist. Thus is the situation in the new teen comedy She’s All That.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Life Movie Review: Hard Time in the Jim Crow South

First published in The Connecticut College Voice on 23 April 1999. I have made some minor editorial adjustments, although nothing that affects the content of the review.

Two black men, wrongfully accused of murder in Mississippi in the 1920’s, spend sixty-five years in prison. Sounds like the workings of a film about racial injustice? Perhaps the hardships of the prison farms in the deep south? Not quite. Instead what we have is a comedy-drama about a mismatched pair of New York City boys forming an unlikely friendship during a life prison sentence.

Life is directed by Ted Demme and stars Eddie Murphy as Ray and Martin Lawrence as Claude – the two men whose luck runs out about twenty-five minutes into the film. As it happens Ray and Claude find themselves driving to Mississippi to haul a truckload of booze back to the big city. In a late night celebration with their fresh wad of cash, Ray loses everything he has (including a Sterling silver pocket watch that was a gift from his father) to a cheating gambler (Clarence Williams III). As their luck would have it, the gambler’s dead body falls in their laps outside and as Ray is looking for his watch, he gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Payback Movie Review

First published in The Connecticut College Voice on 12 February 1999

I was immediately dubious of the tag line “Get ready to root for the bad guy” because Mel Gibson plays the supposed bad guy. You have to ask yourself in that situation, “Would the producers risk making Gibson a true-to-form villain?” The answer, of course, is no.

In Brian Helgeland’s directorial debut Payback, Gibson plays Porter, an anti-hero doing bad things according to the law, but doing them to men who are worse than he is. The film opens with a montage of Porter stealing someone’s wallet then running his credit card bills into the sky. He receives a check for $2.98 at a diner, puts down three dollars and takes two pennies from the tip at another table. There’s no question, he’s a regular baddie.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

RIP Sidney Lumet 1924 - 2011

I will, as usual, leave the aggrandizement to writers and publications with the time and money to do it proper justice.

I have long been an admirer of Lumet's films since before I even really had any idea or cared about who directed them. I saw Network, Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, and Twelve Angry Men when I was in college and devouring as many cinema classics as I could get my hands on. I've seen them all at least a second time since and they all hold up remarkably well on both a second viewing and considering the years that have passed since their openings. You can read my review of his feature film debut, Twelve Angry Men, here.

Analyze This Movie Review: De Niro as The Godfather of Comedy

This review was first published in the Connecticut College Voice in March 1999.

Listening to a mobster unload his emotional stress to a psychotherapist is not a particularly new concept. Currently, there is an HBO series called “The Sopranos” in which a mobster occasionally visits an analyst, and two years ago, we watched as John Cusack, portraying a hitman, found himself by talking to a psychiatrist in Grosse Pointe Blank. So, it should come as no surprise that director Harold Ramis’s newest comedy, Analyze This, concerns a panicked Robert De Niro seeking help from psychiatrist Billy Crystal.

De Niro plays Paul Vitti, a John Gotti-like New York Mafia boss who finds himself overcome with anxiety attacks and unexpected floods of tears. This is an unacceptable state to be in for a man of his profession. His friends and enemies are like animals – they sense weakness and move in for the kill. By a stroke of fate, Ben Sobol (Crystal) is chosen as the man to help him. Needless to say he is reluctant at first.

Friday, April 8, 2011

"We Should Be Fuckin' Dead Right Now." Pulp Fiction Analysis Part XX

Go to Part XIX: "Zed's dead, baby. Zed's dead."

We hear Jules’ voice yelling at Brett from early in the film. Tarantino has taken us back to where we left off. This time we’re looking at a fourth man in Brett’s apartment. He’s listening to what’s going on while holding a gun. In the middle of the Ezekiel speech we cut to Jules and we witness the murder of Brett. Then the fourth man barges out of the bathroom and opens fire on Jules and Vincent, not hitting them at all. Then, after a moment’s hesitation, they shoot the fourth man dead just as quickly as he appeared.

Notice, however, that before the fourth man opens fire on them, the bullet holes in the wall are visible. This is often cited as a continuity error. I’ve always maintained that this is very unlikely. Tarantino is a careful enough filmmaker not to make such a glaring error. Wouldn’t the art department put the holes in the wall only after they had finished shooting the sequence prior to the gunfire? This leads me to believe that there must be some reason behind the holes already being there. Perhaps it’s an indication that there was no miracle at all. The holes were there from the beginning and the fourth man didn’t actually have live ammunition in his gun. But remember I noted early in the film when we see this scene the first time, the holes are not there. What does that mean? Your guess is probably as good as mine. I would say that Tarantino is having a little fun with his audience and also suggesting something about differing perceptions of the same event. This may also explain why the first time we see this scene, Jules’ gun is emptied, but the second time around he still has bullets to shoot the fourth man. But I’m much more willing to write that off as a simple continuity error.

In this shot just before the fourth man comes out of the bathroom firing on Jules and Vincent, the bullet holes are already visible on the wall behind them.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Barney's Version Movie Review: Jewish Angst in Montreal

Paul Giamatti is an actor who throws himself into his roles, becoming completely absorbed by his characters. Without the looks and stature of a traditional leading man, he has built an impressive resume of characters including John Adams in the eponymous HBO mini-series and has been ruefully passed over for a Best Actor Oscar nomination twice. No, make that three times now.

In Barney’s Version he plays Barney Parnofsky, a television producer and faux intellectual from Montreal who recalls the past decades of his life after the release of an incriminating book by a retired detective that implicates him in a 20 year old missing persons case. It’s little surprise that Giamatti and the film missed out on the Oscar season (with the exception of a nod for makeup) because it was barely marketed, had no wide release until earlier this year and simply wasn’t put on the radar of enough Academy members. That’s a real shame because despite the film’s flaws, and they are many, it is more than deserving of both audience and critical attention.

The Score Movie Review: The Uniting of Three Legends of Their Time

This review was written in July 2001 and is presented here for the first time.

Who would have thought that one movie could assemble the three greatest method actors from three generations? Getting that perfect dream cast together to watch three men so skilled at their art working with, off and against each other? Director Frank Oz's new heist thriller The Score does just that with Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro and Edward Norton.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Pledge Movie Review

This review was written in January 2001 and is presented here for the first time.

The commercials for The Pledge, a new psychological thriller directed by Sean Penn based on the book by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, suggest that it's a standard detective story. One might expect the hero of the film to hunt a crazed killer, who continues to feed on prey until he leaves enough clues for said hero to catch him. But it's more about the lengths to which this detective (recently retired) will go to stop the killing.

Jack Nicholson plays Detective Jerry Black, who gets involved in one last case three hours before his retirement officially begins. The crime is a gruesome one, in which a seven-year-old girl has been raped and mutilated, then left in the snowy wilderness for a young boy to find. Jerry makes a solemn promise to the parents of the deceased that he will catch the killer. This is the titular vow that motivates his every action throughout the film.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Snatch Movie Review

This review was written in January 2001 and is presented here for the first time.

If you're familiar with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – the feature film debut of director Guy Ritchie then you'll understand why the plot of his new film Snatch is far too complicated to explain. Besides that, the plots of his two films are not really what's interesting about them. They function more as clotheslines for stringing together myriad characters whose paths cross in unlikely and often hilarious circumstances.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Saving Silverman Movie Review

This review was written in Feburary 2001 and is presented here for the first time.

Some boy-meets-girl movies that aren't good are at least charming, or cute, or have characters that you want to root for and see come to a happy ending. Not so with Saving Silverman, a new comedy from director Dennis Dugan.

In this useless movie, we're supposed to feel something for three life-long buddies: Wayne (Steve Zahn), J. D. (Jack Black) and Darren (Jason Biggs). They became best buds in the fifth grade and remained together for...well according to the movie it seems to be that a mutual love for Neil Diamond is the only thing that has kept these three imbeciles together. Wayne and J. D. are basically dogs with human qualities - they slobber, drool, yell, make ugly bodily noises and have no idea how to tastefully interact with the opposite sex (or the same sex for that matter). Darren is a little more cultured, a little smarter, but he hasn't made much of his life.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A.I. Artificial Intelligence Movie Review: The Meeting of Two Worlds

This review was written in July 2001 and is presented here for the first time.

The anticipation surrounding the release of A.I. Artificial Intelligence has been great because it is the melding of two minds: those of Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick – two of the most influential filmmakers of the last forty years.

Much of the interest is no doubt a result of these two men having such different approaches to filmmaking. Spielberg is the sentimentalist, always drawing the audience in to emotional (and sometimes schmaltzy) scenes, while Kubrick's films are known for their cold detachment and claustrophobia. So we watch with a keen eye as Kubrick's pet project of the last twenty years unfolds in the hands of Spielberg.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Hannibal Movie Review

This review was written in February 2001 and is presented here for the first time.

There is an unfortunate stigma that comes with sequels: the belief that it must be as good as or better than the earlier film in the series. Comparisons are always inevitable in such cases, but if a sequel can stand on its own, why is that not good enough? I've always maintained that the third installment in the Godfather series would be an excellent movie had it not been the third in a series of fantastic films. Hannibal, the sequel to 1991's critically acclaimed Silence of the Lambs, now faces the task of being measured against its predecessor.