> Volume 5 > Number 32

Volume 5, Number 32

This Week's Reviews:  Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines, Housekeeper, 11'09"01 -- September 11.

This Week's Omissions:  Freaky Friday, The Hard Word, S.W.A.T.


Cameron Diaz
Drew Barrymore
Lucy Lui
Bernie Mac
Crispin Glover
Justin Theroux
Robert Patrick
Demi Moore
Rodrigo Santoro
Shia LaBeouf

Release: 27 Jun. 03

Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle


Watching Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, one is convinced that the actresses are having loads of fun making this film, even if the pleasure doesn’t fully incorporate the audience. And that was what made the first Charlie’s Angels film work so well: whatever the idiocy on exhibit, the film had a corresponding self-aware entertainment that had a scope large enough to include the audience. We might not have been there for all the giddiness, but at least one felt like some of it was still there in the presentation.

Cameron Diaz, Lucy Lui, and Drew Barrymore are still having fun -- that is certain -- but none of it is in the least outside of their in-jokiness. They are laughing, but one never feels like it is meant to include anyone outside of the in crowd.

Bill Murray famously had a problem with this, left the film unhappy, and chose not to return for the second time around. Meanwhile, Barrymore has acknowledged that this was the common tone in the first film, which made it a haphazard production in need of great post-production work to create something perceptible. I don’t doubt that the feeling on the set was any different here compared to Murray’s protested time, but that the awareness of its final product clamped the whole experience down to what was so nonsensical about the first film. I got the impression that what worked for Charlie’s Angels was exactly what Barrymore thought little of, and, in trying to fix it, exaggerated exactly what was wrong about the first film.

I can’t sit here and write that what is found in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle is a great departure from the fly-by-night mentality of the first film, filled to the brim with idiotic wit, shallow irony, and aerobically-enhanced t-and-a action.  It has evolved its representation of such a cinematic experience into one short of girl power and closer to three-really-rich-girls power. I wasn’t asking for depth, just acceptable presentation of the same fluid stupidity that oddly worked in the first film. Is that really too much to ask?

Maybe it’s just a knee-jerk reaction to a summer that looks filled with these unworthy sequels, but to me Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle represents the downfall of stylized filmmaking as ameliorator for storytelling. No longer can Hollywood be expected to find the balance between the two because sequels have a core audience without having to convince them of worth before hand.

Perhaps some of this was represented in the first film, and I’m simply in denial of being hoodwinked by director McG, but I cannot get around the disappointment that I feel for a film lacking anything comparable to what worked in the first Charlie’s Angels. Of course, this is par for the course in sequel-heavy Hollywood, true for decades, but the crutch of CGI -- which this film has no problem using in attempts to hide disinterest in laws of gravity and laws of audience intelligence -- has made it more likely that quick clips of action scenes can remove witty banter, comparable dramatics from trailers and the expectations of filmgoers.

Or maybe I’m just a grumpy film critic who doesn’t want to believe that there is a larger audience for a film like Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle when Winged Migration, Whale Rider, and 28 Days Later... are all looking for patrons. This wouldn’t be the first time I expected too much of filmgoers, nor of filmmakers. I just wish that every once and a while I’d be wrong about either.

©2003, David Perry,, 8 August 2003

Jonathan Mostow

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Niack Stahl
Claire Danes
Kristanna Loken
David Andrews
Mark Famiglietti
Earl Boen

Release: 1 Jul. 03

Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machine


Now preparing for his own version of Total Recall involving California governor Grey Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger is instituting a short-term career break after the release of Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines. It fits that his final film for a few years (anywhere from 1 year for a failed campaign to 6+ years for a popular, twice elected governor) is playing the character that made him a star in the first place. He has become part of the American dream: a poor Austrian who came to this country with hopes and dreams, finding them and making it all the way to an executive position in a state 10 times the size of his home country. Sure, maybe he was a little different from Elia Kazan’s family in that he had some purportedly large muscles, but that doesn’t necessarily hurt him when he prepares those campaign commercials.

It is also fitting that Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines isn’t as bad as many might think. Perhaps it is testament to his abilities as a governor, that this unprepared politician might surprise us with his executorial abilities. Or maybe he’s just deserving of a return to form after a longtime slump that has given Conan O’Brian an easy task of ridiculing him (for every “appearance” of Arnold Schwarzenegger is a reference to Jingle All the Way). Either way, I’m thankful that, lacking the depth and visual prowess of the first two films, the third Terminator film isn’t the waste of time that most of this summer’s action films have proven to be.

Sure, everything seemed fine at the end of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, with a machine revolution evidently averted, but not necessarily when there’s some money to be made. John Connor (Stahl) hasn’t failed to note this, attempting to remain under the radar in the event that the machines again send one of their own to destroy him. As it turns out, the work of his mother (an absent Linda Hamilton) only postponed Armageddon, and the machines have sent a newer version, this time a female T-X (Loken) to kill him.

Playing with time travel as an unchangeable constant (slightly different from the first films, but certainly more in line with Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure), the film uses this scenario as the explanation for the next destructive wave (internet-based artificial intelligence coupled with mass technological militarization) and the reason John meets his future wife, whiney veterinarian Kate Brewster (Danes). I’ve always preferred this theory of the space-time continuum, even if it never develops taut thrillers (or, for that matter, comedies like the Back to the Future films).

One reason that Terminator 3 works so well -- and excuse me for my obsession -- is that it removes much of the CGI flashiness of the second film while remaining somewhat devoted to the methodology of it. There is certainly some computer generated action, but so much more is built on the brawn of its two cyborgs. Even at 55, Schwarzenegger can pull of this type of combat regardless of a slower gait and crow’s feet.

Filling in for James Cameron is Jonathan Mostow, the director behind the satisfactory submarine thriller U-571 and the undervalued backwoods nail-biter Breakdown. His aesthetic approach is one less philosophical, more explosive, which is to say, he’s more Hollywood than the usually thoughtful Cameron, who once commented that The Terminator was the first anti-war blockbuster action film. And this isn’t such a great problem when one is looking for some minor, acceptable diversion during the summer deluge of less-tolerable action films. I’ll take the dumb violence of this film over the pseudo-intellectual mess of The Matrix Reloaded any day. Hey, if that’s the mindset of California voters -- choosing from Darrell Issa, Tom McClintock, Cruz Bustmamante, Arianna Huffington, Grey Davis, and Schwarzenegger -- we might not have another chance to see Arnold in this role for a decade.

©2003, David Perry,, 8 August 2003

Claude Berri

Jean-Pierre Bacri
Émilie Dequenne
Brigitte Catillon
Jacques Frantz
Catherine Breillat

Release: 11 Jul. 03



Older men often imagine the greatness of a May-December relationship, cherishing it as if Tony Randall, Strom Thurmond, and Hugh Hefner are the luckiest men on the planet. There is a charm to this, that through the youth of a woman, this toppling foundation of a man might find some fortification. But is that always true? Couldn’t it be that through the intervening youthfulness, the very part that is cherished, the man feels older, less virile?

Although filmmakers like Woody Allen and Warren Beatty continue to adhere to the happier effect (both in their films and their lives), this is not the case with Claude Berri and his film The Housekeeper, which looks at the impact of a May-December relationship on the older man. In the mind of Berri, who is 69, the situation can be nice at first but is certainly destined to hurt the man.

His protagonist -- proxy, maybe -- is Jacques (Bacri), a sound engineer for classical recordings. His wife has recently left him, and now he mopes around their old Paris apartment unable to clean up after himself. As the credits appear, Berri tiptoes around the clutter: dirty clothing, unwashed dishes, and piled trash. He is in desperate need of someone to clean after him.

Jacques calls a girl whose ad appeared on a bulletin board inside a local café. She’s young and sexy, carries herself well. Her name is Laura (Dequenne) and she’s never worked as a housekeeper before but needs the money. She’s hired despite some apparent disagreement to her looks (two-toned hair) for Jacques.

The first impression is that Jacques is attracted to her, hence the hiring, but he makes it fairly clear that it’s merely a position he needs filled by relegating her work to hours when he’ll be gone (prudent for his work, detrimental to his libido if he were Warren Beatty). Slowly, though, Laura, who is the person attracted to her employer, not the other way around, talks herself into a relationship with Jacques, first by moving in (her boyfriend threw her out), then appearing in his bed.

Berri makes it clear that life isn’t much easier once Laura comes into his life. Yes, the house is much cleaner, and he now feels no great loss for his ex-wife (she appears at his doorstep in the person of French filmmaker Catherine Breillat), but he cannot meet the late night, fun-loving, loud music, trash television mindset of a person thirty years his junior. They can share the bed, but little else.

Bacri is amazing in this role, playing a withered fiftysomething without ever appearing too burdened, too cartoonish. He plays much of the part with his face, especially as the film moves closer to pure comedy in a final act set in Brittany, turning his tough exterior into something more lifelike and engaging.

Dequenne, meanwhile, delivers a performance greatly distanced from Rosetta, the overly dreary film that introduced her to world cinema audiences. She comes across rather breezy, captures the feeling of youth without turning into a teenybopper. The role of Laura is certainly not written as well as Jacques, but Dequenne fits into the role well enough to do more through her body than through her expository characterization.

The Housekeeper is charming, if forgettable. I still have a few decades before I can fully comprehend the ideas that Berri and Jacques are evidently going through, but, from the point-of-view of the May-generation, their grasp of the elements of age v. youth vis-à-vis love is edifying and pleasing.

©2003, David Perry,, 8 August 2003

Samira Makhmalbaf
Claude Lelouch
Youssef Chahine
Danis Tanovic
Idrissa Ouedraogo
Ken Loach
Alejandro González Iñárritu
Amos Gitai
Mira Nair
Sean Penn
Shohei Imamura

Maryam Karimi
Emmanuelle Labroit
Jérôme Horry
Nour El-Sherif
Dzana Pinjo
Lionel Zizréel Guire
Vladimir Vega
Keren Mor
Tanvi Azmi
Ernest Borgnine
Tomorowo Taguchi

Release: 18 Jul. 03

11'09"01 -- September 11


Soon after 11 September 2001, French producer Alain Brigand commissioned 11 internationally recognized filmmakers, all from different countries, to make a short film about their reaction to the events of that day. Each film was to be 11 minutes, 9 seconds, and 1 frame in length, with no restrictions on ideological, thematic, or media fronts. The final product is 11’09”01 -- September 11, a heartbreaking memorial to not only one day of horror, but to the horrors that so often occur around the world.

As one might expect, asking filmmakers to deal with their own feelings means that there is a level of “us too” statements throughout the complete film, constantly reminding the audience that horrible things happen everywhere. While this statement is facile and negating, especially for those who were hit close to home by the events of that day, the way some of the filmmakers deal with it is absolutely remarkable. 11’09”01 is built on these films, which help to counteract the occasional bad and mediocre entries. It is one of the year’s greatest achievements in cinema.

Admittedly, when the film goes bad, it gets really bad, which is understandable when one considers that this is 11 distinct, tangentially-related films from 11 completely different minds (in a weird way, it’s almost like the uneven nirvana found in Casino Royale). One particular low point is by Amos Gitaï of Israel, who gives an uninterrupted shot portraying a Tel Aviv street directly after a car bombing. The sequence is littered with characters who verge on farce (especially a television reporter), jumping between them without much substance to come from anyone he turns to. The worst film is by Youssef Chahine of Egypt who portrays himself lecturing the ghost of an American marine killed in Beirut on why America has made it imperative for terrorists to kill themselves and others in the name of a belief.

Chahine’s is one of only two clearly anti-American statements found. The other is in Ken Loach’s masterful portrayal of a Chilean exile in London writing to an American about his own 11 September atrocity, the overthrow and assassination of elected Socialist president Salvador Allende by the American government in 1973. Interestingly, this is not the first time a the comparison has been made in recent films -- Christopher Hutchins calls attention to this in The Trials of Henry Kissinger and Michael Moore includes it in his assemblage of U.S. incursions in Bowling for Columbine -- but it’s the best, showing more than just a swelling of liberal hatred towards U.S. policy, understanding that the best way to underline this event and its impact is to look directly at someone who was impacted by it. Loach includes various bits of documentary footage from the coup to show the devastation that the country felt because their socialism was unacceptable to a capitalist America, not unlike the terrorists finding a country of infidels in need of destruction.

The best of the films also relies on found footage, but this time with a much more visceral, gut-wrenching effect. Alejandro González Iñárritu of Mexico is the only film that looks directly at the attack on the World Trade Center without comparing it to anything else. For the majority of the 11 minutes, the screen remains black with occasions of images dropped in. At first they are too fast to recognize, but, as the soundtrack swells with loud thumps, distant crashes, and the voices of newscasters and people within the building and planes, it becomes clear that those occasional bits of light are the images of people jumping that were removed from the air soon after they first showed that day. What Iñárritu succeeds in creating is the feeling that overcame all those watching these events in horror that morning, whether it was in person or on television. The sounds are that of bodies landing and floors collapsing, the last sounds heard for many, and the images are those that stuck with us the most -- the terrifying glimpses of what really was happening on the top floors of the Twin Towers.

Although no one comes near the massive impact of Iñárritu’s film, some turn in very respectable work worthy of note, including Shohei Imamura of Japan looking at the impact of so-called holy wars on the survivors, Samira Makhmalbaf of Iran commenting on the way children cannot understand the massive scope of both American living and American disasters, and Danis Tanovic of Bosnia-Herzegovina finding semblance between the memorials to Bosnian Muslims as important even in the face of America’s tragedy.

The other four films include works from Sean Penn of America, Claude Lelouch of France, Idrissa Ouedraogo of Burkina-Fasso, and Mira Nair of India. Each one makes their own comparison (Penn and Lelouch on the loss of a loved one, Ouedraogo on hunger and AIDS, and Nair on knee-jerk prejudice towards Middle Easterners), with varying degrees of success.

As an omnibus film, each vignette has its own level of impact with some quickly forgotten, other forever etched in the mind. My adoration of the film is built on the strength of its best parts, far eclipsing any of the lesser elements. This is a film likely to make my top 10 list because of five short films that would make it on their own merits if they were comparable features. Iñárritu’s film, meanwhile, would be my choice for the best of the year.

©2003, David Perry,, 8 August 2003

Reviews by:
David Perry