Volume 1, Number 41
(Dir: Steven Soderbergh, Starring Terence Stamp, Peter Fonda, Luis Guzmán, Barry Newman, Leslie Ann Warren, Joe Dallesandro, Nicky Katt, Amelia Heinle, and Melissa George)
BY: DAVID PERRY
If there is one word that I try to stray away from, it is "cool." But sometimes it is the only way to properly say what I mean. It initially simply meant great, but now it has changed to a pseudo-great, so great, edgy, and original, that it blows you away. And if there is any director that can be called the director of "cool" films, it would be Steven Soderbergh. His films are continually evoking the word. Look at last year's Out of Sight, one of the year's best films. In that film, Soderbergh takes on the storyline in such a Tarantino-esque way that the heist and its planning leaves the viewer blown away. I think that when the film ended I was in a state of shock. I am a noted fan of Tarantino (it comes with being one of the few that caught him and praised him with Reservoir Dogs) and I was forced to admit that Out of Sight was beyond Tarantino's recent Jackie Brown. Out of Sight was, well, just plain cool. If I could make a list of the top twenty scenes from the last ten years of film, I can almost promise you that the final scene of Out of Sight would make the list (that Mona Lisa look, as Soderbergh called it, is still great to look at). Now there is Soderbergh's new film, The Limey. Though not as great a film as Out of Sight, it has a superior "cool" scene. The scene in which a down-trodden Terrence Stamp is beaten and then proceeds to dust himself off and confronts his assailants is about as remarkable as a scene can get.
To get off the subject of just how incredibly cool the film is, I think that I should run through the actual plot to the film. Wilson (Stamp) is a recently released career criminal who gets out, only to find that his daughter (George) is dead. His search for whomever was behind his daughter's drive off of Mulholland leads him to Ed (Guzmán), a friend of his daughter who thought that Wilson would be interested in knowing that his daughter was dead. With some information he is able to get from Ed and Elaine (Warren), another one of her friends, Wilson heads to Valentine (Fonda), a highly prestigious record producer. But Wilson does not simply take to meeting and talking to Valentine, he instead begins attempting to kill Valentine and those around him. This scares Valentine, who knows exactly why Wilson is after him.
I must say that Stamp gives one of the best performances
of the year. The pain in his eyes reminded so much of Ian Holm in The Sweet Hereafter
(winner, Best Actor, 1997 Golden Brando Awards). I'm pretty sure that his performance will
be garnering a nomination for my personal Oscar nominees (though I seriously doubt his
chances of getting a real nomination). Fonda and Newman (as Fonda's bodyguard) give
stellar supporting performances, even beside the otherwise overshadowing Stamp. Beyond the
actors, the film is aided by a magnificent cinematic threesome:
director-editor-cinematographer. In this case Soderbergh, editor Sarah Flack, and
cinematographer Edward Lachman go beyond the normal calling of their fields. Even with all
these assets, the film is far from perfect. It seemed like it lagged a little. I think
that the main problem was in the script by Lem Dobbs (Dark City), who could have
done with another draft of the screenplay. Otherwise the film works. Definitely not
Soderbergh at his best, but still a very valuable film experience.
|The Green Mile
(Dir: Frank Darabont, Starring Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse, Doug Hutchison, Barry Pepper, Jeffrey DeMunn, Michael Jeter, Sam Rockwell, Graham Greene, Bonnie Hunt, James Cromwell, Patricia Clarkson, Harry Dean Stanton, and Dabbs Greer)
BY: DAVID PERRY
After almost a year of hearing about this film nonstop, I must say that I'm somewhat glad that it is over with. I'm sure that I probably will be hearing about it some more come Oscar time, but for now I think I can take a breather and relax over the passing of the year's last "big" film.
The Green Mile is the latest adaptation of a Stephen King novel, this time by Frank Darabont, the man behind The Shawshank Redemption. I think that there is something that should be known: I really cannot stand Stephen King. I have actually read a few of his works and they were some of the poorest pieces of modern literature I have ever read. That is not to say that I have actually disliked some of the films adapted from his novels and novellas. I loved The Shining (the Kubrick version, not the TV miniseries), Dead Zone, and Misery, and I enjoyed Stand by Me, Apt Pupil, and The Shawshank Redemption. Then of course there are some miserable points in his adaptations like Christine, The Langoliers, and The Mangler, so I like to blame those on the inability to adapt from those pieces since they were some of King's worst mistakes. But one of those that I liked was The Shawshank Redemption. I never really thought that the film was the unbelievable cinematic experience that some thought it to be (I happen to find the last shot of the film to be so pushed and corny that it nearly ruins the memories of the film) but I did think that it worked. So I was not really expecting The Green Mile to be much of a disappointment (that is until I saw that incredibly bad trailer and one-sheet). Needless to say, I was actually still a little disappointed.
The film is about the companionship that grows between a deathrow guard and one of his inmates. Paul Edgecomb (Hanks) is the head guard on "the green mile" where he and his closer co-workers treat the prisoners well, seeing that they have very little time left. When we meet Paul and his mile, there are two present prisoners: Eduard Delacroix (Jeter), a schizophrenic that is the main target of suffering from new guard Percy (Hutchison), and Arlen Bitterbuck (Greene), a character that they admittedly spend no time on (which is fine with me in all actuality considering the films excessive three hour running time). Early in the film the prison takes in a new tenant, John Coffey, a large black man convicted of murdering two little girls. There is a certain touch to John that works for Paul and the two find a certain comradery, a comradery that will serve Paul well after he learns John's great secret.
The film does not really feel like it is three hours
long, but it does seem to be overlong. I think that had Darabont trimmed the edges some,
the film might have come out of the slouch. Darabont gives a really good try at direction
in the second half, though his work in the first half is rather literal. I thought that
all the actors (with the exception of the horrid Hunt) do terrific turns, with Morse,
Cromwell, and Duncan surpassing all the others. The ending seems a little pushed, but
otherwise I was happy enough to give it a nice recommendation, even if I expected more.
(Dir: Chris Columbus, Starring Robin Williams, Embeth Davidtz, Oliver Platt, Sam Neill, Wendy Crewson, Hallie Kate Eisenberg, and Lindze Letherman)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Last year I spent a pretty good amount of time talking about my hatred towards two films that I found to be corny, crowd-pleasing, tear-jerkers. The two were Stepmom and Patch Adams, two of last years worst films. I had never really truly liked a Chris Columbus film (though I did give marginal recommendations to Mrs. Doubtfire, Adventures in Baby Sitting, and, believe it or not, Nine Months), so I was not too surprised disliking Stepmom, but I thought that Patch Adams had potential. It's not that I thought that the trailers made the film look fantastic, it is just that Robin Williams was on a bit of a roll. I had liked him, as well as the films themselves, in his precious three efforts (Deconstructing Harry, Good Will Hunting, and What Dreams May Come), though I had hated everyone of his other starring roles (therefore not including Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet) after The Birdcage. Of course, as history has written, I hated Patch Adams, as well as practically the entire community of film critics, while the audiences loved it. And that happened to be the exact same thing that happened to Stepmom.
Now Bicentennial Man has come to serve as the first reteaming of the two since Mrs. Doubtfire, and it has actually gone well beyond what I expected from the two men's efforts a year ago. Do not misunderstand, I do not think that Bicentennial Man is a great film, just a likable one. It had flaws running across the board, but there is more care in Columbus' direction than I have ever seen from his lens. But I must admit, Williams is just as bad in this as he was in Patch Adams.
The film is set in the near future, where a normal upper-middle class family has purchased a robot to do the chores of the household and take care of their two children. But this is not a simple robot, Andrew has a heart and soul, compassion and caring. There is no automatic response system in him beyond his simple replies, everything that goes in stays in for him to learn from. This fact causes the father (Neill) to take note of Andrew and begins giving him special leave from housework so that he can help him on the job. At that time each of the two children are taking to Alexander in opposite ways. Miss (Letherman) hates Andrew, while Little Miss (Eisenberg) adores him. Needless to say, Andrew grows up with Little Miss, though he does not change at all. Through the next two hundred years, Andrew must learn to deal with society and the descendants of Little Miss (Davidtz, when older).
I liked the film in a way that is hard to explain. I did
think it was trying way too hard for the tears, but I still thought that it was a valid
attempt. Still I truly hated the beginning of the film. That is where most of the comedy
goes, all of which falls flat if you ask me. In fact there really isn't any comedy in the
film that works. The only part that seems to work well is the drama, though a whole lot of
it gets high handed. Truth be told, I think that the main reason I am coming to the side
of Columbus on this film is that he uses a certain cinematic device at the close of the
film that I have a certain affinity to. I cannot explain it, but it is something that I
have a tendency of adoring. With that I think that Bicentennial Man might grow on
me. I'm going to give it a marginal thumb down right now, but I would not be terribly
surprised if, over the course of a few more viewings, that the film grows into a
recommendation (though there is always the chance of it going down in my mind). A valid
try, but still a flawed try.
|Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo
(Dir: Mike Mitchell, Starring Rob Schneider, Eddie Griffen, Arija Bareikis, William Forsythe, Oded Fehr, Gail O'Grady, Richard Riehle, Jacqueline Obradors, Dina Platias, Amy Poehler, and Chi Chi La Rue)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo is one of those comedies that goes for laughs by being as stupid as possible. I think this same approach was done in Billy Madison, Bulletproof, and Happy Gilmore, films starring Adam Sandler. Then it is no surprise that the producer of Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo is none other than Adam Sandler. And if Sandler, star/cowriter Schneider, and director Mitchell were trying to make the film as dumb as possible, they succeeded well beyond need.
The film follows Deuce Bigalow (Schneider), a mild mannered fish tank cleaner who finds himself in a bit of a bind. When he is actually entrusted to take care of the home of a rather rich gigolo (Fehr), Deuce goes wild in the home and runs up damage beyond anything that he could make back in his small job by the time the gigolo returns in two weeks. With all the things he needs surrounding him, Deuce decides that the best way for him to make this deadline is to take the gigolo's customers while he is away. Since there is little interest in such a scrawny man, a pimp named T.J. (Griffen) gets Deuce dates with all kinds of weird women including one with narcolepsy and one with Tourette's syndrome. In the process, Deuce crosses paths with a police officer (Forsythe) on the trail of known gigolos, as well as a unknowing customer (Bareikis) that he falls in love with.
The film is far from anything special, but I must admit that I had a few laughs. There is a small spoof of The Matrix that I admittedly thought was funny. There were some things that I thought had hilarity but they were few and far between. It actually shames me that there were portions that I laughed at, but I will admit it.
Schneider is nothing special, I found no comical ability
in him besides making faces. I know that he will probably have a career for the next ten
years, but it is highly doubtful that he will age as well as, say, Peter Sellers has. I
feel like that happens to be the same fate of this film.