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The Brothers Bloom
There comes a point when you've innovated something as far as it can possibly go, added all that you could conceivably add, discovered all that there was to discover, so that nothing can ever again be new. For the most part, the con-man genre is like this, and if you draw a line back through cinematic history, you can trace the evolution of the double-cross in the most basic of terms. It began with a lie – one character deceiving another in such a way that the audience was in on the scam. And for awhile, the lie was enough. We were content to know exactly where the ball was at any point during the shell game. Whether the target would figure out the con was thrill enough for us. But then we got smarter, wiser, more demanding, and filmmakers delivered the triple-cross, or simply added another element to the con, shuffling around the shells at such a rate and speed that while the audience was aware of the deception, the conclusion was always surprising.
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Hors de prix
With a lightness of touch that Hollywood would undoubtedly struggle to reproduce, Priceless (Hors de prix) is a frivolous French romantic comedy that aspires to be nothing more than a throwaway bit of fun.
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A few days ago I had a chance to get an advance screening of a new film documentary about MMORPG gamers called Second Skin.
When the film started I got a sense that it was going to be more about the business aspect of MMO games, how they’ve effected our lives and how they will change them in the future. However it quickly became a sort of MTV True Life episode where we just follow 3 different group of gamers through their lives.
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Breaking and Entering
Perhaps the kindest way to describe Anthony Minghella's Breaking and Entering is to say it's evident as being broken fairly early during the proceedings. There's no shortage of candidates for the fatal flaw: the artificial storyline; the presence of a ridiculously cliched character; the lack of chemistry between illicit lovers. Blaming one of these problems is probably unfair. The movie's failure is likely based on a fusion of all these, and perhaps a few others. Minghella has become known as a director of "chick flicks," primarily because of The English Patient and Cold Mountain. When viewed from a distance, Breaking and Entering would appear to fit into the same category, but there is a stark difference. In his previous efforts, Minghella created believable relationships between interesting characters. The same cannot be said of Breaking and Entering, where the situations are contrived and the key characters don't connect.
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Cool concept and stylish visuals aside, "Pathfinder" isn't strong enough to offer the type of prolonged escapism that one might expect from a movie that pits Vikings against Indians.
Stop me if you've already heard the story about the commercial director who had a huge hit with a horror remake and followed it by making a historic battle epic pitting two very different people in a visually stylish blood-splattering movie tied into a graphic novel. If you guessed that we're referring to Zack "300" Snyder than you'd be wrong. Instead, "Pathfinder" is the new movie from Marcus Nispel, who started a trend with his 2003 remake of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and came up with such a cool concept for its follow-up that it would only require three words to get most guys' immediate interest: "Vikings vs. Indians."
True, it's an exciting idea for an action movie, but as we quickly learn, it's not one that's able to sustain itself for an entire feature film, since there's only so much that can be done with the concept before things start getting dull. At first, it might not seem like a very fair battle as the movie's Indian stereotypes, who we see smoking peace pipes and dancing around the fire, are forced to face barbaric Norse Gods whose savage brutality seems unstoppable. The opening credits gives us a glimpse of some of their horrifying acts, followed by a sequence in which an Indian woman finds an abandoned boy amidst a Viking shipwreck. Her tribe takes the boy in and raises him as Ghost (Karl Urban), a white-skinned outsider trying to find his true calling, but never being fully accepted in the tribe. When another band of Vikings arrive and pillage his village, Ghost gets his chance to save other tribes from a similar fate, taking on the Vikings with the help of his beloved, played by Moon Bloodgood, while being forced to confront his own dual nature.
Notes on a Scandal
Notes on a Scandal is an attempt to make a Fatal Attraction type thriller for the art house crowd. With a cast that features two of today's best actresses - Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett - and a screenplay of uncommon literacy, the movie nearly achieves its aim. However, in order to propel circumstances to a conclusion, Notes on a Scandal relies upon a contrivance so ugly and obvious that it's impossible to ignore. This single glaring fault, which is even more evident considering how well constructed the rest of the movie is, damages the film's narrative flow and credibility.
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It's refreshing to see a movie in which there are no special effects, no camera tricks, and no incidental music to strum on a viewer's emotional strings. These are some (but certainly not all) of the tenets of Dogma 95, the much-ballyhooed "cinematic vow of chastity" taken by four Danish directors, one of whom, Søren Kragh-Jacobsen, is responsible for this film. In fact, Mifune is the third motion picture to receive the Dogma 95 seal of approval, following Tomas Vinterberg's The Celebration and Lars Von Trier's The Idiots (which has not been distributed in the United States). And, while I have an affinity for certain kinds of Hollywood overproduction, something like Mifune makes for a welcome contrast to the usual multiplex bombast.
Run Lola Run
Run Lola Run is one of those movies with the kind of advance buzz that it's impossible to ignore. A huge hit both at the 1998 Toronto Film Festival (where it made its North American debut) and at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, the feature has already won over a legion of film critics. Run Lola Run is a must-see for anyone who enjoys a fast-paced, innovative motion picture that refuses to be defined by norms of the genre. As far as I'm concerned, it's the most fun I have had at any movie thus far in 1999. Directed by Tom Tykwer, this German import is a kinetic meditation on fate and destiny. It tells the story of Lola (Franka Potente, an actress with true screen presence), a '90s girl with Raggedy Ann hair, a large tattoo, and a voice so penetrating that when she screams, she can shatter glass. She's also athletic, because, as one might expect from the title, Lola spends most of the movie running.
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Once in a Lifetime
All the romance and melodrama associated with the name of Danielle Steel is present in this adaptation of her novel ONCE IN A LIFETIME. Lindsay Wagner plays Daphne Fields, who lies in a hospital bed recalling the moments of her life that led her to such a state. While happily married, her husband and daughter are tragically killed in a house fire, leaving the pregnant Daphne alone.
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Faith of My Father
John McCain flies his jet from a carrier on a bombing mission over Hanoi, Vietnam. As a warning buzzer announces incoming missiles, McCain stays with the bomb drop, but is hit by a missile. He lands in the water and is pulled ashore by an angry mob, and taken prisoner. Asked to give information, he gives out the names of a sports team rather than of his squadron.
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Most of the movie is told as flashback: Puff (Rhys Ifans) testifies to Congress, Lila Jute (Patricia Arquette) tells her story to the police, while a dead Nathan Bronfman (Tim Robbins) addresses an unseen audience in the netherworld.
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Screenwriter Larry Golin made his directorial debut with this coming-of-age story set in New York. Four friends move in together in a ramshackle apartment in the Bronx as they try to figure out their next move while they finish up their senior year in high school.
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ARRANGED centers on the friendship between an Orthodox Jewish woman and a Muslim woman who meet as first-year teachers at a public school in Brooklyn. Over the course of the year they learn they share much in common - not least of which is that they are both going through the process of arranged marriages.
Connie, an aging Bohemian photographer, meets mousy Harper, headed for Harvard Law from a high-powered San Francisco family, and immediately sees her beauty. He also guesses she has talent and invites her to be his pupil and share his bed. Hes Alfred Stieglitz, shes Georgia OKeefe, and he calls her his Guinevere. When she realizes shes the latest Guinevere in a string of ingenues, she bolts, only to return, sick of her family. Shes blossoming, reading, learning, but hasnt yet taken her first photograph when he tells her theyre going to L.A., broke, him drinking too much, to sell some photographs. On the trip, she finally snaps the shutter so does her awe and dependence.
In Her Defense aka Total Defense
Lawyer Andrew Garfield has a love affair with Jane, a deaf woman. A day when Janes husband comes home early and catches them, Andrew shoots him. The police think Jane killed her husband and wants Andrew to defend her in court. Now he has to defend her, without drawing suspicion upon himself, and at the same time, this may be the big case he needs to improve his career.
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Almost in breadth and depth of a documentary, this movie depicts an auto race during the 70s on the worlds hardest endurance course Le Mans in France. The race goes over 24 hours on 14.5 kilometers of cordoned country road. Every few hours the two drivers per car alternate - but its still a challenge for concentration and material. In the focus is the duel between the German Stahler in Ferrari 512LM and the American Delaney in Gulf Team Porsche 917. Delaney is under extraordinary pressure, because the year before he caused a severe accident, in which his friend Lisas husband was killed.
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