Currently Browsing: January 7, 2008

Film Review: SHALL WE DANCE? (2004)

Delightful surprise: Screenwriter Audrey Wells took a Japanese charmer & transformed it into an American paean to married love. Gere’s a successful attorney living a “perfect life” with wife Sarandon, but a chance encounter with Lopez leads him to reach out for more. Terrific ensemble cast pulls it all together. More on SHALL WE DANCE? […]

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Film Review: SEX IS COMEDY (SE NES INTIMES)

Breillant is known for her intense & provocative psychological dramas in which the sex act is depicted as a power game between warring parties. In this playfully self-referential exercise, Parillaud plays a director manipulating both cast & crew to capture one such moment. Fascinating but also creepy – & appropriately so.  More on SEX IS […]

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Film Review: SENSE & SENSIBILITY

Charming adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel about 2 sisters adapting to strained circumstances after their father dies. Emma Thompson received an Oscar for her screenplay & also plays the lead. Kate Winslett received her first nomination as the younger sister. Ang Lee’s sensitive direction was completely overlooked by the Academy. More on SENSE & SENSIBILITY. […]

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Film Review: SECRETARY

Lee’s family hides its demons behind a perfect surface. Then she (Gyllenhaal) meets a man (Spader) who not only sees but comments on her every flaw. Exposure exhilarates her. Meanwhile, of course, he’s got problems of his own. Beautifully stylized, highly erotic, psychologically acute “romantic comedy.” NOTE: Adults only! More on SECRETARY.

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Film Review: THE SECRET LIFE OF WORDS

Another triumphant performance by Polley as a withdrawn woman slow to reveal the trauma buried away in her past. Writer/director Coixet develops characters who are deeply engaging: we want to know their secrets & we’re shocked & sad when the answers eventually pour forth. Patience well rewarded! More on THE SECRET LIFE OF WORDS.

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Film Review: SAVING FACE

“Ma” (Chen) is a Chinese-speaking widow locked in her Flushing enclave. “Wil” (Krusiec), her American-born daughter, is a doctor (great!) & a lesbian (oops!). Then Ma gets pregnant, her patriarchal father expels her, & she moves into Wil’s Manhattan apartment. Charming film: feminist/humanist messages artfully placed with warmth & humor. More on SAVING FACE.

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Film Review: SATIN ROUGE

Lalia’s in her early ‘40s. She feels young & full of life, but bewildered by the narrow role her culture assigns to widows. This is a small, beautifully-assembled story of middle-class life in Tunisia. Every moment feels right & true. Wonderful musical soundtrack. Kudos to Amari & star Abbass. More on SATIN ROUGE.

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Film Review: THE SAFETY OF OBJECTS

A horrific traffic accident reverberates thru the lives of neighbors in a comfortable suburb. Close is enormously moving as the mother of one of the victims, slowly unraveling & then pulling herself together at the end with heart-breaking dignity. All the other actors, adults & kids alike, are also superb.  More on THE SAFETY OF […]

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Film Review: RUNNING ON EMPTY

Sidney Lumet made many fine films @ the edge where the personal & the political meet. This is the best. Two 60’s radicals cobble a successful life together underground, until their teenage son comes of age. Christine Lahti & Judd Hirsch are the parents. Oscar-nominated River Phoenix plays the son. More on RUNNING ON EMPTY.

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Film Review: ROSENSTRASSE

Holocaust drama directed by left-wing German feminist focuses on ordinary people caught in the maelstrom of history. Contemporary framing story about a Manhattan Jewish family works to emphasize shades of gray in a story typically told in b&w. Bottomline: German people did know what was happening. Some protested. Most didn’t.***** For more, see the “Columns” […]

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Film Review: ROSA LUXEMBURG

Sukowa received numerous awards for her moving incarnation of this fabled left-wing heroine. While von Trotta’s biopic does a brilliant job of psychological exploration (showing how RL managed to thrive during years of imprisonment), she’s less successful at explicating the complex politics of the early 20th century. More on ROSA LUXEMBURG.

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Film Review: RIDING IN CARS WITH BOYS

Bev (Barrymore) is a bright high school misfit who gets a little careless & winds up pregnant. It’s 1965 & she’s from a Catholic working class family, so she bows to convention & marries the guy. A solid film about family life — rebellions, betrayals, & reconciliations. Excellent performances all around. More on RIDING IN […]

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Film Review: RETURN TO ME

This romantic comedy has a soft sweet core, so Director Hunt wisely surrounds her couple (Driver & Duchovny) with lots of lively banter from a large cast of accomplished character actors, including her own sparring with “husband” Jim Belushi. Driver is always good, & Duchovny provides real chemistry here. More on RETURN TO ME.

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Film Review: THE REMAINS OF THE DAY

England at the end of the Empire. Stevens (Hopkins) is a butler; he treats “service” in the household of Lord Darlington as a calling, running the staff with the precision of a military officer. When WWII ends, everything changes, and Stevens has nowhere to turn. Elegant drama – nuanced & implicit. More on THE REMAINS […]

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Film Review: RED ROAD

“Big Brother is Watching You” when a government employee (Kate Dickie) begins stalking a man (Tony Curran) she’s recognized on one of her surveillance cameras. Tension is almost unbearable as she puts herself at ever-greater risk, including a sexual encounter that’s as disturbing as it is integral to the story. Excellent psychological drama. Read FF2 […]

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Film Review: REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES

Well-intentioned coming-of-age dramedy about an LA Latina who has Ivy League potential… if only she can persuade her family to see the “big picture.” The look & feel have more truth than the speeches. Cardoso & Ferrera) try hard, but RWHC, while likeable, is too “politically correct” for its own good. More on REAL WOMEN.

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Film Review: THE PROMISE

SPLIT DECISION: Jan was absolutely overcome by the end of this passionate epic about young lovers separated by the Berlin Wall in 1961. Alas, the more she sobbed, the more Rich laughed. For Jan, this film’s an expert dramatization of the thesis “the personal is political.” To Rich, it’s melodrama. More on THE PROMISE.

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THE PRIZE WINNER OF DEFIANCE, OHIO

Based on Terry (“Tuff”) Ryan’s best-selling 2001 memoir The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less, Prize Winner is an Eisenhower-era haunted house movie in which the monsters are bankers, milkmen, priests, and policemen, while the damsel-in-distress is a tenacious Catholic housewife. Evelyn Lehman was a budding young journalist when […]

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Film Review: PRIDE & PREJUDICE (2005)

Galloping thru plotlines with no time for complications or context, screenwriter Deborah Moggach turns Jane Austen’s masterpiece into conventional romantic comedy with coltish Knightley as Lizzy & MacFadyen as her love-struck Darcy. Bingleys, Collinses, & Gardiners barely register; sisters meld into one. Nevertheless, when speaking Austen’s words, Lizzy is indestructible. More on PRIDE & PREJUDICE […]

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Film Review: THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY

Director Jane Campion’s take on Henry James. Nicole Kidman does a fine job in the difficult role of Isabel Archer & Barbara Hershey received a Supporting Actress nomination as her foil. But John Malkovich is a bit too creepy, making it hard to believe that Isabel would ever marry him. More on THE PORTRAIT OF […]

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Film Review: POLLOCK

Don’t be put off by the slow-moving pace of this biopic: Harris & Harden bring intensity & clarity to their performances as painter Jackson Pollock & his artist/wife Lee Krasner, tactfully illuminating their relationship. Arch performances by Tambor (influential critic Clem Greenberg) & Madigan (patroness Peggy Gugenheim). Stays with you! More on POLLOCK.

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Film Review: POINT BREAK

Likeable cast sells high octane adventure. Swayze plays the heavy – an enigmatic, new age surfer god. Reeves is an injured football hero, turned FBI undercover rookie. Busey is his mentor & Petty is his surfing coach. Premium ride straight through to the credits. More on POINT BREAK.

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Film Review: PICKLES (CHAMUTZIN)

Originally aired in the US on the PBS series “Wide Angle,” doc follows 8 Arab widows living in a town in northern Israel who obtain micro-loan to start a pickle factory. With no formal training & almost no community support, the women struggle as entrepreneurs, as mothers & as friends. More on PICKLES.

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Film Review: PETULIA

An early shot of Janis Joplin performing at a fundraiser establishes the precise historical moment this drama is set – the point at which the wall between “public” and “private” was breached, & “nice people” were suddenly faced with new personal choices at once exhilarating & terrifying. Provocative time capsule treasure! More on PETULIA.

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Film Review: PERSONAL VELOCITY

Miller (daughter of famous playwright Arthur Miller) has written & directed this adaptation of three of her own short stories. While each “chapter” is interesting, the effect is uneven. Miller’s best in the story about the woman from circumstances most like her own (Posey). Shot on digital video — raw & gritty. More on PERSONAL […]

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Film Review: THE PEREZ FAMILY

SPLIT DECISION: Jan loves this dramedy set in Miami’s Cuban immigrant community, whereas Rich feels jerked around by shifts in tone. Wealthy landowner (Molina) is finally released after ~ 20 years in a Cuban prison. Bureaucratic mix-up keeps him “married” to Tomei, instead of reunited with beloved wife (Huston) & daughter. More on THE PEREZ […]

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Film Review: OR (MON TRESOR)

Heart-breaking film stars an Israeli teenager (Ivgy) in a symbiotic relationship with her mother, a depressed prostitute. Or (Hebrew for “Treasure”) is desperate to help her mother (Elkabetz) escape from “the oldest profession,” but Ruthie’s trajectory is too strong, & eventually overwhelms Or’s best intentions. Stunning debut by director Yedaya.  More on OR.

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Film Review: ONLY HUMAN

Nice Jewish girl (Aguilera) falls in love with nice Palestinian boy (Toledo), & hillarious consequences ensue when she brings him home to meet her family. Because it”s set in Madrid, film can play out itself out as a screwball comedy without risk of bloodshed. Ugly words pop like exploding balloons & their venom dissipates. More […]

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Film Review: ON THE OUTS

2004 Indie Spirit Award candidate follows 3 NJ girls who meet in a juvenile detention center. Once they”re released, they each try to stay straight, but the streets are mean & prospects grim. Excellent performances; heart-breaking intensity. More on ON THE OUTS.

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Film Review: OFF THE MAP

First-person narrative in the style of Terrence Malick. A girl on the edge of adulthood tells a story she only half understands, with expert cinematography & a spare, eloquent score filling in the emotional gaps. Allen & Elliot are her parents. True-Frost plays the stranger who completes their offbeat family. More on OFF THE MAP.

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