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The Ice Storm

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You know how when you are outside of a relationship or a situation, and someone asks you advice(example: a friend’s romantic troubles) on that situation, you can see the whole situation with unusual clarity? Or is that just me? Director Ang Lee (Sense and Sensibility) has that power with sociological situations. With S&S, it was pure British elite honkiness; with The Ice Storm, it’s early 1970’s New England cultural ripples, Americana like junior high bands blatting Oscar winning theme songs and levered ice trays. And he paints with genuine emotion like Jim Cameron paints with money. I mean, special effects.

I have read quite a few articles which holler about how this movie captures a snapshot of the coming of age of America, the sexual revolution, the disillusionment of everyone with Vietnam and not trusting the presidency, etc., but I really didn’t get as powerful a sense of that sitting in the theatre. In the dark I watched the pain of being a smart adolescent, the pain of unhappy people, of unaccepted children and the fear of trying to be cooler than you are. I was only three when the movie was set, and maybe lacking that direct experience prompted my response.

It is NOT a feel good movie, but it is a good movie. The only reason I don’t say Full Price Feature (and as I write this, I am reconsidering my rating) is because it didn’t HIT me, you know? It didn’t strike the chord in me that it might in my parents’ generation, so I hold back with the praise.

Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver are neighbors and lovers – her husband (Jamey Sheridan) is a forgettable guy, but we the audience know he will be a zillionaire and just hope he divorces her before that time. Joan Allen, as always cast as the cold wife, complements Kevin Kline in a way I never thought she could. Kline and Allen are the parents of Christina Ricci Tobey Maguire. Elijah Wood and Adam Hann-Byrd (Jumanji) are Weaver and Sheridan’s children. The kids are all great – smart and yet totally unsure what to do with the smarts they have – sexually aware but ignorant. Very cool performances, all of them. And they look like they could be related, too. Bonus.

The eponymous storm is really amazing – a very cool (sorry so technical!) moody setup and gorgeous shots by Frederick Elmes – you really feel the cold and the unwillingness to move, the weight of the ice on the branches layering on and on until they snap.

The screenplay is by James Schamus based on Rick Moody’s novel, and Schamus uses bits from the novel (which I have not read but I will) that drop off suddenly, like an interesting parallel between, of all things, The Fantastic Four, and families. The film draws me to the book to know more. Much happens in the 2 hr and some minutes film, but it’s still a thin slice of life, like a time capsule, but it’s very interesting, and hints of more. No doubt about it, it’s a total downer, but a thought provoking one, with plenty of humor and all that good stuff. Pay full price for the novel (I can only assume) and catch the matinee with plenty to munch on. But don’t wait for video – the dark and cold, blue ice storm shots would be lost in TV ratio even on DVD.

MPAA Rating R-sexuality, drug use, language.
Release date 11/25/97
Time in minutes 113
Director Fox Searchlight
Studio Ang Lee

Comments Off on Anastasia


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I know, I should have known I would hate a Don Bluth movie, but it looked so promising. After some industry input from my animator friends, I can express my feelings more accurately, but please know that all the emotions were already there.

This movie is boring, horribly animated, and the villain could have been cut from the movie and nothing would change, plot wise. Meg Ryan should never ever be allowed to do voice over work again. The songs were short, weird and unhummable, expect the December song from the music box. The mix of computer animation and hand drawn was jarring. One would think that animation technology outside Orlando would be relatively even planed but the faces looked like they were underwater, the movements were clearly based on live action reference models (who I thought acted very well, actually – more natural movements than the similarly modeled Snow White), and did I mention how much I hated the way they overused computer pieces – in Aladdin, I had to look to see computer versus hand drawn, they fused so naturally – here the jerky hands hold the smoothly, eerily floating objects that didn’t need to be CGI in the first place!

Hank Azaria’s Bartok, John Cusack’s Dimitri (I could guest host the Rosie O’Donnell show and just gush about both those guys!), Kelsey Grammer’s Vladimir, Angela Lansbury’s Dowager Duchess, and Christopher Lloyd’s Random Rasputin were well voiced, acted to the limits of the script, and those who sang, did well. The singing voice for Anya (I apologize, miss, for not getting your name – Bluth only features the talking voices in the picture gallery) was quite lovely.

I couldn’t help but wish the movie had been live action all the way through. I did very much enjoy the fact that while they are in Paris, all the backgrounds are done in Impressionist style.

PS The Romanovs were all shot to death in a field, not escaping, waving from a train. Don’t tell the kiddies!

Now my soapbox. I am all too cognizant of the state of live action musicals and animated movies as an art form and as a lucrative film investment. Animators are dying for work and all they have is claptrap like this and Quest for Camelot if they are lucky. Too many suits out there think all the world wants is an inane plot to justify the drawing of it, and that is enough. Kids have never been that stupid and they will never be. Disney is getting the short end with movies like Hercules and the Hunchback of Notre Dame – they modify the original story, I concede, but taken as individual pieces, both movies are very strong for adults and children. Most studios out there don’t realize the cash cow for animation that is good. Has anyone noticed the ratings the Simpsons, King of the Hill, Nickelodeon cartoons, and South Park get? MAKE GOOD CARTOONS.

As for movie musicals, executives are constantly shocked when they change or take out the songs, alter the story, and pack it with dubbed over faces and why we think movie musicals don’t work. People, they can work if the filmmaker understands the difference between stage and screen and the executives leave the masterwork alone. Despite the regrettable cuts made for the movie, rent The Wiz and see what I am talking about.
OK. GO see Anastasia to support to creation of animated movies, but better yet, write your local congressperson and demand that Hollywood (especially Don Bluth) be forbidden to screw the medium up any more.
For all you Bartok fans out there, “Hey Fred, I need a tequila!”

MPAA Rating G
Release date 11/14/97
Time in minutes 94
Director Gary Goldman, Don Bluth
Studio 20th Century Fox

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Washington Square

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Lately, it seems that automatic audience response to hoop skirts and bonnets and carriages and high buttoned vests is to think of stuffiness and propriety and litling English accents. Washington Square defies those preconceptions by being set in America, having the odd-voiced Jennifer Jason Leigh as our leading lady, and throwing in dashes of wacky teen romantic comedy here and there.

Washington Square is not afraid to show you the things we know went on back then, like kissing and baudy houses and abject humiliation, and it does so with surprising humor. Certainly there are lace gloves and teatime recitals and formal introductions, but as with all romance set before WWI but after the Industrial Revolution, the best part is the restraint and the chasteness – it makes the winning all the better and the losing all the more bitter.

Jennifer is a hopeless, meek, downtrodden but rich maiden, the only surviving family member of widower Albert Finney. He protects her in a very bitter and unloving way, and the dynamic between the daughter and father is well-wrought. The always delightful Maggie
Smith is one sister of Finney, and lives in the house as her nanny/guardian. She is full of mischief and is probably the only reason Jennifer’s character can even leave the house after the demoralizing treatment she receives from her father. Judith Ivey is another sister, married with 8 kids, whose wisdom is consulted. It’s a small part but she does a great deal with it.

Enter Ben Chaplin (Truth About Cats and Dogs) as Morris and he hasn’t quite shed his English accent but he is sooo charming. Ladies out there, if you have not already met one like this, go see this movie. I fell for him all the way – my friend is shaking his head saying, no, no, he’s a rat. I’ll let you decide.

OK, I confess, I devour Jane Austen and Wilkie Collins and Caleb Carr. So? Can’t a gal like Empire waistlines and blushing maidens and still cheer when the Alien Queen gets blasted out of the airlock with only a Reebok as a souvenir? So, seeing as I am biased toward these period pieces, I brought along a friend who I figured would not be. He said he liked it, that it was pretty interesting.

OK! I thought Ben Chaplin was perfect as Jason Leigh’s suitor. I don’t want to tell you more, but guys, go see this movie (the first half) to find out how to treat a lady. My friend wanted to borrow my notebook and make notes for himself.

The mise-en-scene is yummy but nothing to write a review about, Jennifer is nowhere near as abrasive as she can be, and the story is very interesting. It hasn’t stuck with me, however, so this is why I give it an enthusiastic Matinee Price Rating. It’s worth seeing and it could be an excellent date movie – for purposes of dissecting your date choice.

MPAA Rating PG
Release date 11/11/1997
Time in minutes 115
Director Agnieszka Holland
Studio Hollywood Pictures

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Devil's Advocate

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After a friend came back from seeing the Devil’s Advocate creaming over its “epic struggle between good and evil,” (and after a canned food drive allowed me to get in for the price of 3 cans of soup), I decided to act against my disdain for Keanu Reeves and Master Thespian of ACTing Al Pacino and go see it. I was ready to like it. I even noticed funny things in my notebook: Penta Plaza is the building the firm is in, stuff like that.

Three hours of my life, one hour of life per canned good I donated to suffer through this movie, were wasted. I could have sat in the parking lot eating room temperature cheese ravioli and had a better time. To loosely paraphrase The Onion, knowing the name of director Taylor Hackford is only notable for purposes of avoiding his future work. My notes went from finding favor with pretty minor visual gags to: “Kinda boring.” (This was early on, before it was relentlessly boring) “Not enough mythical.” “Goony cult shit after hospital & Keanu Reeves is the Omega Man.” “Yawner denouement.” YES I actually wrote that.

OK, the premise is that Reeves is a slick southern lawyer married to the extremely talented Charlize Theron who gets mixed up with slick city lawyer Pacino who naturally turns out to be Satan. Gasp! Lawyers and the devil! What a compelling combination! How novel! And where is the good guy side to epically battle Satan (who, borrowing riffs from the Word of God in a laughably long and stupid 3rd reel monologue, seems more interested in petty criminals roaming the streets than toppling or even ruffling the kingdom of Heaven)?

The first 10 minutes starts out looking like an interesting film, filled with moral consequences and stuff – and with a hell of a performance by Heather Matarazzo (Welcome to the Dollhouse). Then it just gets stupid. Ooh, watch Pacino leer as he dips a finger into a thing of holy water and it bubbles! Oh man, you mean, like lawyers are courted by the devil? DUDE! Name your lawyers-are-evil joke and it’s in there. Theron, the housebound and isolated wife to Reeves, never takes it to the whiny level the director obviously wanted her to do, and instead is really great, with genuine fear and a descent into madness that would render this movie watchable if it weren’t for the fact that we know she is tormented because she took this job. Go, Charlize!

A couple of creepy visuals and hugely telegraphed plot points – oh, to hell with it, if you see it after reading this, you’d still figure it out – Pacino is Reeves’ father oooh! He wants lawyerboy to make it with that hot lawyerchick that the camera lingered on so unnecessarily. aah! If they make a baybay (as Keanu says) then it will be the real Antichrist and Satan can get it going real good! Judith Ivey is the Bible thumping mom of Keanu Antichrist and she really is very good too. Even his royal Dudeness is not as annoying as he usually is – my theory is that the Dixie accent he adopts for his Gainesville showy lawyer routine masks his acting hitches. Pacino is his usual self – convinced that that shouting and cackling is coming off as something new and/or interesting.

Oh man, who thought of this: the cool architectural frieze comes to life.* There’s like, fire and stuff! Man! I never envisioned the devil as leering and grandstanding with FIRE! Literally, at the end, I was laughing so hard I missed “crucial” dialogue. Diatribe. It’s like an SNL lowest-common-denominator lawyer skit without even attempts at humor lasting a full hour too long. My favorite note I took was “Missed a part laughing from suicidal mime in my boredom – Sinatra?” If you want to know what that means, get in contact with me. Bonus points for all the ladies cast, for the set decorators, and for the creepy dressing room scene. Oh and for casting everyone in the world so we can play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Jeffrey Jones, Craig T. Nelson, Delroy Lindo, it’s nuts. But I have not been so disappointed since Anaconda – and I thought I knew what to expect this time. Avoid the Devil’s Advocate at all costs.

* Note: To add insult to insult, the video release of this movie elminated the shots featuring the only cool or memorable part of this movie because of some crackpot installation artist screaming “copyright infringement!” and threatening to sue. So, chew on that.

MPAA Rating R – language, nudity, violence
Release date 11/10/97
Time in minutes 138
Director Taylor Hackford
Studio Warner Brothers

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Starship Troopers

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Take guns, spaceships, co-ed military showers, arachnid bugs, spiffy uniforms, futuristic football, and lush-lipped women, mix in a bag with batter and bread crumbs, deep fry to a golden, crispy, juicy goodness, and garnish with big fat Robocop squibs and popped brain cases and the occasional naked boobie and you have got yourself the poorly named Starship Troopers. The Austin-American Statesman dubbed it “intravenous testosterone” and the ultimate revenge for those women who forced their men to see The English Patient. I hated the English Patient but I thought this movie was kinda fun.

I saw it with another normal tough girl like myself, 5 guys, and a girlie girl. She would have left after 30 minutes if we would have let her. Who ever thought Robert Heinlein and Paul Verhoeven would be associated with the same project? The story is kind of interesting in a “I know there is more to it but this will do” kind of way. I would be interested to know more about some of the story but I would be embarrassed to read the book now.

The short version is friends join the military (this is a condensed version – there are more castes than just military and civilian here) and thereby separate and meet up with other old friends and all become the best at what they do.

Denise Richards and Dina Meyer are the eye candy (Denise’s character is totally unlikable despite her vertical nose, Fiona Apple lips, and bright, vaguely brainwashed looking eyes – Dina is cool and macho and I think much prettier) for you who look at ladies. For we who look at men, we have Casper Van Dien and theoretically Melrose Place’s Patrick Muldoon but really, all you need is Casper tied to the whipping post.

Neil Patrick Harris is in here too, as a psychic officer type with the weight of the world in his preadolescent-looking eye bags, and dressed as Doogie Houser, SS! The computer stuff looks great, the bugs are all identical but with great scary foley noise, the space fleet sure parks their spaceships too close together, and Patrick Muldoon is flat and awful as usual. Given Muldoon is supposed to be good looking, the future it seems is full of only two castes – those who follow Dina Meyer and Casper Van Dien into genetic paradise or Jake Busey. It’s shoot em up bloody fun and it’s Robocopesque with its depiction of the media of the future – very cool little commercials promoting Federal Service (mobile infantry) by showing 8 yr olds playing with pulse rifles in the schoolyard. Director Paul Verhoeven has found his niche with subject matter like friends and aliens and kick ass future weaponry. It’s no genius film but the audience was having a great time and cheering and AWWWWing and it’s a hoot. It’s fun and empty but so much less vacuous than Men In Black.

MPAA Rating R -Sci-Fi violence /gore, language and nudity.
Release date 11/10/1997
Time in minutes 129
Director Paul Verhoeven
Studio Sony Pictures

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Boogie Nights

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How do I say this? Boogie Nights is a really great movie and you should see it and pay full price.

It’s a paean to the rise of one porn star, Dirk Diggler, played remarkably deeply by Mark Wahlberg, aka Marky Mark, through the porn heyday of the 70’s and into the crash of the 80’s and the video market. He is tutelaged by Burt Reynolds as Jack Horner, and with Horner’s stock actors, they try to make serious films with lots of sex in them. The family of Horner’s little porn clan is genuine and warm, despite or because of the exhibitionistic intimacy they live every day. It’s decadent and fun but it’s also cold and lonely and depressing. Later in the nicely soundtracked chronology, as the former actors try to rebuild their lives as normal people, you are completely on their side, even if you would disapprove of them as a rule. It’s really interesting as well. If you divide Boogie Nights up into four elements of film (I would never be so vain as to say THE four elements), maybe you can get a better picture of what I mean.

So, there is the techincal aspect of the filmmaking, the acting performances, the subject matter, and the storyline. The technical aspect is really amazing – lots of different looking camera work and tracking shots out the yaz and beautiful sets (you know, for the period). At times the camera is making it all so real for us, it feels like a documentary – and the resulting feeling of immediacy renders it viscerally real. It’s very exciting and enervating, the shots and the sounds and the places. What would eventually be shown in a seedy theatre in grainy 16mm we see the in-person performance as really very intimate and even loving.

It’s hard to explain but you cannot hate these people for what they do for a living. In a way, it’s all they could have done. Julianne Moore, Marky Mark, er, Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, and the other folks who suffer the anonymity caused by my forgetting my notebook again give us GREAT friggin performances. They are in the nakedest of naked professions, and the actors on screen (save amusing cameos by real porn stars Johnny Dough and Nina Hartley – and yes, I had to be told that!) are not porn actors but they are believeable. Oh I am rambling! I want to write a long essay on this because it’s a complicated film experience but it’s really great! The acting is great, the review (this one) is poorly written. It’s totally believeable – and the AWESOME camera stuff just makes it more real.

Subject matter. This is not a movie I would take grandma to. I could not watch it with my dad. It’s not a date movie.It’s about the pornographic industry and Dirk in particular, but it is not in and of itself a porno movie. Considering the subject matter, I saw less nudity than I expected. Take the skin factor of say Showgirls and make it a really really good, interesting movie. And an hour longer. William H. Macy does not show his fuzzy little behind in this movie and I saw it on ER! But there is full frontal everything and a (no adjective available) cameo by an impressive prosthetic. Ladies, bring your smelling salts.

The porn industry has always been on the cutting edge of technology – moving pictures, color film (I think), video, and now DVD, and they are always at the vanguard of it. Next time you rent Little Mermaid for the umpteenth time you just thank John Holmes for his contribution.

Storyline – ah yes. The movie is a whopping 2 hrs and 50 minutes – do NOT succumb to the large Dr Pepper temptation! It whisks by, hypnotically presenting the amazing other life we never hear about, and propelling Marky Mark (sorry!) through his journey. Horrible irony, scary moments, amazing turns of fate, insane insane parties (which I was assured really happened like that), and dead-on spoofs on the cheesy wanna-be action movies that slowly became Skinemax after midnight.

So I can’t get to the point. The point is, it’s unique and interesting and totally well-crafted and shocking (but not in the way you would think!) and full of all the emotional travels you would want to take. Sure, there’s nudity! It truly does serve the story! Wanton drug use, off camera sexcapades, it’s got it all. And it’s really great, did I mention that?

Full Price for sure.
MPAA Rating R -strong sex scenes,drug use, language& violence.
Release date 11/5/97
Time in minutes 152
Director Paul Thomas Anderson
Studio New Line Cinema

Comments Off on Gattaca


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I had extremely high expectations coming into this flick and my report is: This is a cool movie! How professional a comment, I know, but really, it is the most accurate I can be without writing a doctoral thesis on how clever this movie is. So here goes:

In the not-too-distant future, Ethan Hawke is a genetically “natural” (read: inferior goober) person who poses as a genetically elite (read: good looking) person (Jerome Morrow) in order to work at Gattaca and thereby go into space. Along the way he meets Uma Thurman who, after running a DNA screen on him, finds him irresistible.

He also lives with the man he is impersonating, played by Jude Law. A murder occurs, and the story progresses. Lovely people drift past the camera with the serene boredom of the perfect.

The coolest thing about Gattaca is the fact that the coolest elements of the film are not battered into your skull, Men In Black style, but rather left to see if you get it. Thank god for a semi-sci-fi thriller where you get to use your brain!!!

The plot winds in a lovely double helix just like the FABULOUS staircase in the real and false Jerome’s house – except for the mutation of some stupid macho theatrics in the 3rd reel (wow, see, the plot is slightly flawed just like Hawke’s real character!).

GATTACA is in itself a joke, kind of – the letters G,A,T, and C are like a quaternary code for genetics (as compared to binary 110010110) – they stand for the 4 nucleotides that are the building blocks of like, guanine, thymine, adenine, and cytosine. Excuse my spelling, docs, I didn’t have a Gray’s Anatomy handy (thanks Catherine for the words!).

Anyway, except for these letters being bold face in the credits, there is no mention of this clever joke.Also, in the building of the company Gattaca, there is the constant hum of announcements in Esperanto! The most sterile and artificial of languages and it mutters in the background the entire time. Brilliant! (thanks Alan for identifying it for me!)

The story is as elegantly shot as it is written. For $22 million dollars, the production designer Jan Roelfs (who must shop at Ikea) made the world look chilly, sterile, and expensive. But I mean this in a good way. The design is as clean as the setting. The production team of writer/director Andrew Niccol & cinematographer Slawomir Idziak (not enough credit goes to the locations people!) have succeeded in creating a movie about a controversial and philosophically challenging subject without being heavy handed.

They have also created a surprisingly detailed presentation of a culture totally used to the invasiveness of pervasive genetic screening – everywhere there is testing. Instead of a badge, Gattace employees get a fingerprick and a quick blood sample screening to get into work. Even dating is screened by the genes, regardless of intent to reproduce. With the bat of an eyelash, everyone’s complete potential and shortcomings is available printed out – with so much intimate information available to anyone with a mini-vac, they respond by becoming interpersonally colder and more distant.

It does seem that they successfully eradicated communicable diseases – in an AIDS-wary culture, the amount of automated fingerpricking is kind of scary. But once a candiate is deemed perfect enough one can fall into bed with no worries.The exposition is in a lovely “in those days” kind of remembrance – and “those days” are still in our future. It’s not handled in a Gene Roddenberryesque narrow minded way but in a well thought out sociological treatment.

The generation gap between the adults whose parents had no benefit of genetic tinkering and the kids generation (that of our hero) who are more sharply defined by their level of tinkering is prominent. Hawke’s character finds connections with older folks who are less perfect than the the engineered and lovely youth swarming about them.

Bonus points for casting Hawke, who can be awfully pretty in one shot and butt ugly in the next – like he’s phasing in and out of his genetic disguise. Uma Thurman (real life offscreen squeeze of Hawke) is also one who looks perfectly lovely and then bizarrely weird. I like her but every film, her voice is inflectionless and pitched just so it is like…like i don’t know. But it’s OK here. Then there is Alan Arkin, a wizened detective, kowtowing to a younger detectve who is his genetic superior when we would expect him to be the boss.

Oscar winner Ernest Borgnine as a janitor. Perfect looking strangers in cleanlined suits and smooth hair. Awesome locations. Making us figure out why he pops out his contacts instead of telling us. Very refreshing!

I’m sorry that this is an original screenplay rather than based on a novel because I would like very much to know more about the world created in this film. It’s relentlessly interesting (what a phrase!) and only barely flawed by that goofy macho bit towards the end.Hollywood by and large has forgotten how to make a movie that is good all the way through (LA Confidential excepted) it seems but this one is 95% pure. I recommend it highly and hope to God there is no sequel to ruin it.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 10/28/1997
Time in minutes 106
Director Andrew Niccol
Studio Columbia Tristar

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Fairy Tale – A True Story

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Fairy Tale, in short, is well made and charming – but it is not a movie for everyone. It’s not busy enough or filled with enough fairies for children, but it does have a lot of interesting commentary (and non verbal commentary) about the value of faith in people’s lives.

The true story is: in 1917, two cousins (Florence Hoath and Elizabeth Earl, bith excellent) take photographs of the fairies they believe with all their hearts that live in the beck behind their house. It’s like a creek. The children are 8 and 12 and take a remarkably adult approach to the fairies – we the audience have no doubts as to their belief and their respect for the fairies. Adults, shockingly enough, do not believe in fairies, but like the angel fever of today, deep down, they want to. So the photos are examined by professionals and nothing is found to be tricky and the great debate begins – are the photos of fairies real or

My main problem with the film was that I had not a moment’s doubt of the fairies’ existence because I saw them all the time (true story label or no, it was presented from the girls’ point of view and therefore the fairies are definitely real) – but the debate centered on whether the *photographs* were real. In these modern times, the proof is in the picture.

It was lovely and it was touching to see how the belief in the fairies helped people – and it was interesting to see how 80 years ago the power of the press to exploit beauty, purity and goodness was just as strong as it is now. Peter O’Toole plays Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a man who writes fantasy but lives pragmatics, and Harvey Keitel plays Harry Houdini, a man who lives fantasy by employing secret pragmatics. They are, as many reviewers have already noted, surprisingly understated in not stealing the movie from the children, and they are lovely endpieces to the debate. The best part is, being the effusive actors that they are, they manage to get across their character’s celebrity without tainting it with their own. I
personally have little patience for Pumpkinhead, er, I mean Harvey Keitel, but I appreciated him very much in this film.

Houdini’s job is reliant on the faith of his audience; Doyle’s job is create fiction with a basis in hard scientific reality (for the time). It’s an interesting debate that is carried on in slow, picturesque European casualness, with lovely dragonfly winged fairies and a lot of really deeply felt emotions. I found it sweet and lovely and I enjoyed the vulnerability of the men especially.

The period details are delicious – lots of cool photolab information and props (the kind of stuff I really dig but I know you guys don’t actually care). The dolls house for the fairies is positively dreamy. The production of Peter Pan (do I have to point out the symbolism?) with the classic theatrical technology was a delight as well.

It’s Arthur Rackham vs the Adult/Capitalist/Industrial Revolution – the obsession with exploiting the extraordinary and making it ordinary. The worst part is remembering that these women recently came forward with the truth about the pictures. Notice I do not reveal it here. Director Charles Sturrige does not grant us an epilogue card at the end to tell us the result, which I appreciated. The cinematographer does a great Fairy-Cam too.

Full Price for the production team’s work. Matinee Price with a snack for the movie as a whole – it does not pick a sie, so it meanders like a Yorkshire beck; a nice bit of a trot but not richly fulfilling. It will quickly be forgotten which is a shame since it is a very interesting story and the theme is especially timely. If you are writing a paper inspired by the paparazzi-riddled lives of celebrities and the loss of privacy and sacredness in the world, then buy the laserdisc when it comes out.

MPAA Rating PG
Release date 10/24/97
Time in minutes 99
Director Charles Sturrige
Studio Paramount Pictures

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Breaking Up

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Russell Crowe and Salma Hayek are the only people (save two one liners) who speak in this movie. They play a couple who (they tell us) had a great relationship at the start and now it’s all going to hell. Then we get to watch
them exist together in time for 2 unbearable hours. The screenwriter was Michael Christofer writing based on his own play of the same name, and maybe a movie screenwriter could have saved this movie. If anyone is tolerant of stagey screen adaptations of plays, I am, OK, but this script is all about two people and it’s all done by two people, with non-speaking extras filling the screen.

The movie starts with a sort of split-screen interview style with Russell and Salma. It’s too long. WAY too long. AND they are not even actually in a split screen – they are set up on a set that is made to look split screen and they
don’t even use it. The whole movie is painted in shades of red and blue and some yellow and green – it’s like Dick Tracy when he was just out of college and depressed because his relationship isn’t working out. Unlike Dick Tracy (which, for the record, I hated, but respected the thoroughness of the production design if not the aesthetics), Breaking Up doesn’t attempt to use this visual aid to their conflicts – instead, their apartments are identical so we can’t tell what is going on.

The couple have great sex, then a HUGE need to be apart. They fight, split up, spend time apart, and end up crawling pathetically back to each other, whining about how great it was, they should see each other, they miss each other. (What’s to miss?) Then they have dinner and argue, make up by having sex, and one or the other sneaks home or starts an argument to have an excuse to leave. They pine constantly for the great emotional relationship they once had but we never get to witness any of it to feel as robbed of it as they do.

If we could ever have had a sense that they had a decent relationship, we would care. If they broke up, had the same problems with other people, then went back to each other, we would care (albeit less). If they even remotely had any kind of decent relationship sustained for longer than an orgasm, we could care. BUT THERE IS NO REASON GIVEN US TO CARE.

To Crowe’s and Hayek’s credit, they were very natural and real with each other on screen and they spouted off the good parts of dialogue well. Really, it’s a very good depiction of a horrid relationship with only fading chemistry. Crowe was at the screening of the movie and I wished someone would have asked him “How could you do this movie after doing LA Confidential?” He did say something enigmatic to the tune of “This is not like all those epic romantic love stories that have been made throughout the years.” My friends and I got a sense that he was not all that pleased.

The director, having been given a shooting script that was no doubt nothing more than the stage play with CUT TO and FADE TO added in, tried to wake us up with interesting little camera tricks like video montages and weird dream sequences and a nifty little black and white bit where we pan back and forth from table to table in a cafe and see each of them on dates and it’s shot live so they are literally running (out of sight) to be in the next “scene” within the same shot – once the camera had to wait for Russell to get to his table. Cute ideas but films should open up the 1 or 2 rooms setting of a play and this movie did not. Basically it was pretty annoying. The best parts were some man on the street interviews done by the wacky couple as to whether or not they should get married (NO GOD IN HEAVEN NO!) but that, sadly, was only a few minutes.

An audience member quote: “That movie was so annoying I almost didn’t want to see Salma Hayek naked.” I think anyone who saw Desperado would agree that would have to be awfully annoying to miss her naked.

Really, unless you are trying to break up a couple just like these people, do not go. If you go, take that terrible couple with you (make them pay too just for making you live through the hell of watching them together) and then gush about what a terrible relationship the movie couple had. Otherwise, avoid. I”m so sorry, Russell and Salma, it’s a big zero.

MPAA Rating R – language & sexuality
Release date 10/17/97
Time in minutes 96
Director Robert Greenwald
Studio Warner Brothers

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The Peacemaker

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The best things about this movie are not the things the marketing department wants to to see it for. Bat alumni George Clooney and Nicole Kidman toodle around the world chasing a stolen nuclear warhead (with an amazing wealth of intimate personal knowledge of all the persons involved), managing to access America Online from Sarajevo AND Vienna – I can’t even log on in Texas!

The best things of which I speak are some interesting camera tricks (despite some cheesy CGI effects that aren’t even necessary)by the cinematographer and some heart pumping music by Hans Zimmer. Director Mimi Leder, and this sounds sexist to say, applies her feminine touch to the movie in a way I would defend as thematic – her camera lingers on the beauty of our world so we worry more about losing it.

She also spends some time exposing a little remorse, an aspect I appreciated after so many summers lately of KILL KILL KILL and no kind of mental repercussions or anything. Very novel, that, but not the type of thing that drives the pacing of the movie.

Enough characters abound so you do have to pay attention, and lots of languages and subtitles thrown in for good measure.

I was dubious of the locations at first, with Nicole Kidman parking her Calvin Klein (he got a credit) clad heinie in a Turkish airplane hangar with the electric fans going full tilt. But they are all in the former Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Russia, and of course, NYC.

Nicole and George’s characters are nicely painted, with lots of tics and idiosyncracies – but really, would a woman who reports directly to the president wear miniskirts like Amanda on Melrose Place and CHEW GUM in the war room? And Clooney almost looks as if he is having a petit mal as he tries to cuteness implode.

A major character, a piano teacher named Dusan, is played beautifully by Marcel Iures – he has an interesting face and Mimi Leder lets her camera soak him up.

Plotwise, it’s a great deal of same old, same old when it comes to terrorists and nukes. I would sum it up by saying it’s a stylish rendition of a mediocre movie.

As with Kiss the Girls, the best scene is the inciting incident of the nukes being stolen, rather than the climactic victory of the good guys (oops – did I give it away?) Maybe this is the new approach to making films; wow ’em within the first 15 minutes then coast til the credits. Attention spans are waning, budgets are waxing…it’s just a matter of time until Contact 2 consists of that awesome opening shot and then Jodie Foster sitting on a car and then the credits (don’t forget the soundtrack – on sale in the lobby!)…

You get almost everything you could want (I don’t mean to disappoint naked celebrity fans – but no naked George or Nicole) in the movie, but how many times has this type of story been done, and how many more might it still?

A few things aren’t clear – why does the US rush in to save the Russian provinces – I mean, why can’t they do all this footwork? The bad guys might as well have a parade with banners saying Local Bad Guys Union #457.

It’s not a terrible film, it’s just a little silly, but it looks fabulous. You make the call.

MPAA Rating R for strong violence and some language.
Release date 10/15/97
Time in minutes 123
Director Mimi Leder
Studio Dreamworks