Monday, December 13, 2004


Here's a nice break from the awards stuff:

Alfie (1966) - 6/10
Michael Caine stars as a suave womanizer in his breakthrough performance. The film has a light breezy feel, yet a dark undercurrent runs throughout. I can only imagine how shocking some of the material, including an abortion subplot, must have been even in the mid 60's. The women in the film are great. The pacing is slightly off marking the film's biggest hindrance.

Alfie (2004) - 7/10
After seeing Caine in the original, I can easily access that the producers had no other option than Jude Law. In all honesty, I think Mr. Law outdoes Mr. Caine. The film has lost a lot of the effect of the original, but makes it up by putting the weight of the film heavily on Mr. Law's shoulders. The women in the first film were much better, as most of the women in this are pretty one note. It has the same ending as the original, which I thought was good.

Christmas With the Kranks - 4/10
As much as audiences love Tim Allen & Christmas, I personally prefer Jamie Lee Curtis & Halloween. I have to give props to the girl for appearing in a bathing suit at her age. However, she looked a million times better in Freaky Friday. The odd thing about the message of this film is that the neighbors are psychotically obsessed with Christmas and you think the Kranks would be dying to get out of there. None of it is particularly funny, but I was never bored. And I was briefly excited by the appearance of Wisteria Lane's own Lynette Scavo.

The Clearing - 4/10
This could have been quite good. Three great actors like Robert Redford, Willem Dafoe and Helen Mirren do what they can with the material, which is never fully developed enough for us to care. It is almost a Lifetime TV movie met by a classy cast.

The Motorcycle Diaries - 8/10
The young Che Guevera embarks on a humane road trip with his best friend and uses that as inspiration to become a revolutionary later in his life. Gael Garcia Bernal and, in particular, Rodrigo De La Serna are both terrific in their portrayals as youth looking to change the world. The cinematography, greatly capturing the landscape of South America, is fabulous.

National Treasure - 4/10
Boring and not that much fun. People seem to love this, but I am above them. (tehehehe) I can go along with a far fetched plot as much as anyone, but there are some very large gaping holes here that are just too hard to ignore. Nicolas Cage is okay, and Diane Kruger is better here than in Troy, but she's still nothing to write home about. Gigli's retard Justin Bartha is the scene stealer, but I found him annoying. There's only one in intentionally funny part that is actually funny: a line about Kruger's character being pregnant.

Maria Full of Grace - 8/10
This is a very important film that deserves to be seen by a wider audience than what it received. Catalina Sandino Moreno is so natural and subtle that I hope we see more of her in the future. The story is a drama, but elements of it play out like a thriller, a very tense one. The scene in which she is interrogated is breathless. You'll be surprised by how much you're rooting for her to succeed.

Seed of Chucky - 3/10
Not scary. Not funny. Not fun. Somewhere in this non-campy camp film is a great idea: John Waters costars as a photographer and Jennifer Tilly plays Jennifer Tilly. Waters should make a film in which Tilly plays herself, but make it the typical Waters film. Have her be on the set of a new Chucky movie and just being herself. I feel sorry for the once promising actress so desperately scraping the bottom of the barrell and seemingly having a ball doing it.

Sideways - 8/10
I present to you the most overrated film of this decade, yet its not. Its a very good film, mind you. Its nowhere near the heights critics have placed it. I say this as a HUGE Alexander Payne fan. I consider this his worst film. (Election is probably his best, Citizen Ruth is my favorite.) However, when a film is as well written and acted as this, you can't say its not very good. The scenes in wine country are perfect. Virginia Madsen gets a knockout of a monologue and as everyone points out the metaphors flow like...well, you know. Paul Giamatti gives one of the best performances this year and I prefer his work here over American Splendor. Thomas Haden Church plays what is basically a grown up version of the Sean William Scott character Stiffler. Sandra Oh, Payne's own wife, is criminally underused. Like I said, about 80 minutes of its 125 minute running time are absolutely flawless. It loses lots of steam in the end and just goes.....insert wine metaphor here. I wish Mr. Payne would go back to his earlier, more subversive tone. I feel he does that best.

Spanglish - 6/10
James L. Brooks scores a slight misfire here. Not that I'd know having only seen one of his other 4 films. The film is kind of all over the place when it comes to what its about: parenting? language barries? family dynamics? Paz Vega is stunning and gives a near great performance, though I was left wondering why Brooks just didn't cast Penelope Cruz considering they look very similar. Then my friend Greg pointed out Paz has bigger tits. Tea Leoni is stuck playing second string to her, but I wish this was the role that would really finally solidify her as a respected actress. (I thought she was better in Hollywood Ending, The Family Man and Flirting With Disaster.) Almost all of the great one-liners were in either of the trailers, but there's still some good stuff left over. Despite running almost 130 minutes, it never felt long or boring as the scenes flow together nicely. I also appreciated a studio dramedy with a more open ending.

Stage Beauty - 4/10
Gender and sexuality mix oddly in this raunchy period piece. It may be the most lush of its type since Girl With a Pearl Earring (wow, a full 9 months ago, Darren) but I just couldn't get into the fun of things. Billy Crudup is pretty damn good but his performance is stuck in a film which has no appreciation for him. Claire Danes is incapable and miscast, a big surprise for the actress.

Super Size Me - 8/10
Morgan Spurlock (great name) goes on a diet of McDonald's for a whole month and gains about 25lbs, severely altering his health. Thankfully, that's only the premise of this documentary which nicely weaves together health facts, nutritional information and corporate policies to great a stirring film. We get to see him scarf down all of McD's food, sometimes leading to mode altering and, in one scene, vomitting. Fun stuff. And like Maria, quite important, too. Your fast food habits after viewing should change. Though me, being the great one that I am, have stuck with Subway for over half a year.


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