Volume 1, Number 6
This Week's Reviews: Cookie's Fortune, Twin Dragons, Tango, A Walk on the Moon.
(Dir: Robert Altman, Starring Glenn Close, Charles S. Dutton, Liv Tyler, Julianne Moore, Chris O'Donnel, Ned Beatty, Courtney B. Vance, Donald Moffat, Lyle Lovett, and Patricia Neal)
BY: DAVID PERRY
I guess I could be called one of the ultimate Robert Altman nay-sayers. When he does good stuff (The Player, M*A*S*H, Short Cuts) I praise him, but when he falters (Popeye, Ready to Wear, the Gun TV series) in the least bit I tend to lose almost all respect for him. Last year after seeing The Gingerbread Man, I called him "the most literal and uninteresting director to ever make a great film since Francis Ford Coppola." And I even gave The Gingerbread Man a marginal recommendation. Then this year I saw McCabe and Mrs. Miller for the first time and he is suddenly the film genius that brought the world The Player again. If I could make up my mind on this guy, my life might be a little easier. The nice thing is that with Cookie's Fortune, I may very well have come to a decision on the worth of Robert Altman.
Cookie's Fortune is a fun, often hilarious film that has one of the best casts since L.A. Confidential. The film centers on what happens to a small Mississippi town when one of its residents, Cookie (Neal), commits suicide. The death would not come to be such a shock to the township if it was not for the conniving niece of hers that tries to make it look like a robbery and murder. The niece is played by Close, in her most deliciously evil performance yet. With a murder on his hands the chief of police (Beatty) must arrest Cookie's best friend (Dutton) for the murder. The rest of the cast include Moore as the slow sister to Close, Tyler as Moore's daughter that has tried to free herself from the family, and O'Donnel as the young police officer infatuated with Tyler.
The entire cast is terrific, even O'Donnel. It is such a
treat to see Neal of Hud fame back at work (reminds me of the appearance of Teresa Wright
in The Rainmaker). Probably the best character in the film is Ned Beatty's police
chief. His comical anger over "a-we" is the funniest bit of the entire film.
Altman's direction (from Anne Rapp's script) is better than anything he has done since Short
Cuts in 1993. In my opinion, Cookie's Fortune would probably stand as one of
Altman's seven or eight best films. A true treat from beginning to end.
(Dir: Ringo Lam & Hark Tsui, Starring Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Teddy Robin Kwan, Anthiny Chan, Philip Chan, Sylvia Chang, Alfred Cheung, and Chu Yuan)
BY: DAVID PERRY
What exactly is there to say about a Jackie Chan film? There is usually very little plot amongst the action, so how exactly do you make a synopsis? Well I'll give it a go ahead anyway.
Like most Jackie Chan films, Twin Dragons is
simply an old Hong Kong film of his (in this case 1992's Shuang Long Hui) with a
new dubbing. As usual the dubbing is fairly poor and I think that kind of adds to the
fancifulness of the film. I'm far from a big Chan fan but I must admit that I do find his
films to be fun to watch and have yet to give any of his films a thumb down since Rumble
in the Bronx (still my favorite of his films) with the exception of Rush Hour.
I found this farce about two identical twins separated at birth (both played by Chan) to
be fun but lacking in many ways. The action sequences seemed toned down with little
adrenaline present. The comic relief has its moments, but not really enough. The film even
lacks the normal ending outtakes reel. Despite all those set backs, Twin Dragons
is still one of the better films I've seen this year (its Spring, what do you expect)
thanks to the versatility that the directors and star seem to be putting forth in the
film. The special effects are really poorly done, but that only adds to the campiness of
the film. I can't say its great but it is better than the barely recommended Supercop.
(Dir: Carlos Saura, Starring Miguel Ángel Sola, Cecilia Narova, Mia Maestro, Juan Carlos Copes, Carlos Rivarola, Sandra Ballesteros, and Oscar Cardozo Ocampo)
BY: DAVID PERRY
While I hold the category as one of the most important at the Academy Awards, I always think that the Best Foreign Language Film category is a bit below par every year. This past year, four out of five of the Best Picture, Director, Actor, Adapted Screenplay, and Original Screenplay nominees were from films that garnered a ***1/2 or **** rating, but the foreign race has never done this. This year it was given to the film that did deserve it, Life is Beautiful, but they nominated films like Tango and Central Station over the likes of The Celebration and The Dreamlife of Angels (have not seen the latter but have heard great things). Last year the award was given to the almost unbearable Character, while they did not even nominate the great Ma Vie En Rose (My Life in Pink) and Ponette. The category is easy to ridicule but at least it is better than the "if it's Holocaust let's give it an award" Documentary Feature category (Hoop Dreams, anyone!). Of note: the three best foreign language films of all time in my opinion never won the award: Au Revoir Les Enfants was nominated but lost to Babette's Feast, while The Seventh Seal and Jules and Jim were never even nominated.
Central Station was nothing to write home about
but at least it was led through by a nice and tidy script and a wonderful performance by
Fernanda Montenegro. This film has very little to offer besides a nice view. The film
lacks any coherent script as it somewhat tries to tell the story of Carmen set to the
filming of a movie featuring many (and do I mean many) tango dances. The tango dances are
great to watch until you see the tenth tango within an hour. I loved the films use of
lighting as well as the colorful characters. I just think it is too bad that those assets
could not have been used on a much better film.
|A Walk on the Moon
(Dir: Tony Goldwyn, Starring Diane Lane, Viggo Mortenson, Liev Schreiber, Anna Paquin, Tovah Feldshuh, Bobby Boriello, and Victoria Barkoff)
BY: DAVID PERRY
If you thought Tony Goldwyn couldn't act, wait till you see him direct. A Walk on the Moon is a sure-fire Spring movie if I've ever seen one. The story seems like its been done fifteen different times in the last year, just different parts of it. I've had about enough of the remember the good old days movies set in the late sixties-early seventies. In fact I've had enough of movies just dumb enough to try to make Woodstock interesting to watch again.
It was the summer of love (bet you haven't heard that one before), 1969 in a small town of Woodstock. The hippies all get together and enjoy themselves, a little too tempting for the heroine of this feature. Diane Lane plays a Jewish mother who, with family in tow, heads to their annual summer trip to a resort in the Catskills. The husband (played effectively by Liev Schreiber) must commute to and from work every weekend, leaving his poor wife to set around talking to her friends and mother-in-law. This mother-in-law (Feldshuh) could be the most annoying maternal character in film history. She might have seemed even worse if it was not for the highly annoying Lane character. While in this resort (how they can afford it, we're never told), the daughter (Paquin) has her first relationship with a boy and Lane gives up all and has an affair with the traveling blouse salesman (Mortenson). The film lingers on for what seemed like the duration of the first cut of Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line.
The direction seems like it has no real place to go. At
times it seems like Goldwyn's calling may very well be in the porn directing business (the
waterfall scene was a little out of place, for heaven's sakes). The only saving graces to
the entire film are two actors: Paquin and Schreiber. Paquin seems to be headed to quite
an interesting career as she proves that she was much more than just a fluke in The
Piano (also see the highly underrated Hurlyburly). I've liked Schreiber
since seeing him in The Daytrippers, then his performance in Scream 2 (eight
times) further placed him on my list of actors to keep a close eye on. Now if the fun of Twin
Dragons had the two actors from A Walk on the Moon playing the characters
from Tango, we might just have an enjoyable film.