This is a family film in the truest sense of the word, directed by Robert Rodriguez, produced by his wife and conceived/co-written by his eight-year-old son Racer Max. I liked this movie—even though I think anyone over the age of 12 will find the 3-D glasses more annoying than cool—and think that kids aged 10 – 14 will too. It is based on dreams and has a surreal feel, as if Salvador Dali’s kid imagined the visuals, but also has a pretty good adventure story and a moral of sorts. I’m not sure that kids will get the existential jokes—like the Train of Thought etc—but certainly the parents will. The gimmick is the 3-D which Rodriguez doesn’t use as liberally as he did in Spy Kids 3-D. It is mostly giant fingers which seem to come off the screen to point at you, and weird liquids that appear to fly through the air. I could have used less 3-D and David Arquette and more of George Lopez’s fun portrayal of Mr. Electricity.
If you liked the first Spy Kids movie, I think you’ll enjoy The Adventures of Shark Boy & Lava Girl in 3-D.
If your idea of a great date is to chain smoke and drink shots of Jack Daniels then you may enjoy the kind of romance that is presented in A Lot Like Love, an entertainment that is a lot like a romantic comedy, but without real romance or much comedy. Aston Kutcher and Amanda Peet, two fetching looking young people, meet and become very familiar with one another on an airplane. That first meeting sets the pattern of the two getting together for brief flings every now and again for seven years, but every time something, or someone happens to keeps them apart. The only people more traumatized by their relationship woes than themselves is the audience that has to sit through 107 minutes of this. To see this kind of story done right, do yourself a favor and rent the double feature of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.
John Forbes Nash Jr. was a mathematics prodigy won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1994. He was also a troubled bisexual who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. The true story of his life is hard hitting stuff, too bad barely any of the nitty gritty made it to the screen in Ron Howard’s puffy bio pic. A Beautiful Mind cleans ups Nash’s story, softening the edges and failing to provide any insight into the inner workings of this complex man. By the time we get to the third act things have degenerated into true Ron Howard hooey. The saving grace of this movie are the performances of Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly. They share real chemistry, and make for convincing viewing. It is hard to believe that this is the same actor who last year was brandishing a sword and fighting tigers in Gladiator. As for Connelly, well, she’s not only uncommonly beautiful, but is also capable of delivering an intelligent polished performance.
Auto Focus is basically like a nicely acted, snappily directed episode of E! True Hollywood Story. The account of sitcom star Bob Crane’s rise to fame, first as a DJ, then as the lead in television’s Hogan’s Heroes and fall into the pit of sex addiction and (every actor’s nightmare) dinner theatre has all the elements of great tabloid trash. Top that off with a brutal murder – that may or may not have been a direct result of his years of skirt chasing – and you’re mining pop culture gold. Auto Focus, however, takes itself a little too seriously to be great trashy fun. The movie could have been a wild romp, but director Paul Schrader chose to unfurl the film in a clinical way, which avoids the pitfalls of exploitation, but also sucks some of the fun out of the story. Greg Kinnear plays against his usual good guy type and delivers a vivid portrait of Crane as a superficially smirky shallow man only interested in his hedonistic sex life. Willem Dafoe has the art of playing the villain down to a science and hands in a creepy performance as John Carpenter, the seedy audio/visual salesman who introduced Crane to the world of orgies, swinger’s bars and the naughty possibilities of video tape.
If you were a fan of the first two Austin Powers movies you’re going to love Goldmember. It’s a continuation of the over-the-top silliness that made the first two so popular. Many of the same elements are in place from picture to picture – the forced perspective sight gags, the rapid fire banter between Dr. Evil and his son Scott, elaborate dance numbers – but somehow instead of feeling like we’ve seen it before it seems fresh. For the most part it is Mike Myers (in four, count ‘em, four roles this time) and his unerring sense of “the silly” that makes this material so watchable. Myers can push the envelope further than almost any other comic, and still come off as cute. Myers has elevated bathroom humour to high art. He’s Benny Hill, not Tom Green. Destiny’s Child lead singer Beyonce Knowles is Foxxy Cleopatra, Austin’s love interest in Goldmember. This is her feature film debut, and she handles herself nicely. She doesn’t have a great deal to do, but she has a lot of charisma and looks great on screen. The full Austin Powers’ repertory company is back, Michael York, Robert Wagner, Verne “Mini-Me” Troyer and Seth Green, with some new faces added. I won’t spoil the movie by giving away the cameos, but I will advise you to be on time and not miss the first 15 minutes of the movie.
Originally planned as a two-hour movie for Canadian television, Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner has found worldwide success, scooping up awards in Cannes and finding theatrical distribution at home, in the Netherlands, Germany and the United States. Based on an Inuit legend passed down orally through the years, this 173-minute epic is a stunning achievement for director Zacharius Kunuk. He perfectly captures the rhythms of the North, letting the story unfold slowly against a backdrop of ice and snow. Compelling both as a story and anthropologic study.
This is Atom Egoyan’s most accomplished and daring work so far. The story of the 1915 Armenian holocaust is something that Mr. Egoyan feels passionately about, and that very fervour breaks through the iciness that has defined his other work. It is a complex, difficult movie that relies too heavily on exposition from the main characters to tell the story. Egoyan has turned the classic “show me, don’t tell me” rule of filmmaking on its head, making a wordy movie with too many tangential plots. It’s a confusing, but compelling work that works more often than it doesn’t, but threatens to collapse under the weight of its own earnestness.
Mohammed Ali is one of the most charismatic characters of the late 20th Century, and turning his life story into a movie must have been a daunting task. Ali was (and remains) a complicated man. He was the people’s champion, who thought that African-American women who dated white men should be killed. He was an American hero who refused to fight in Vietnam. He was a devout Muslim who cheated on his wives at every opportunity. In short a fascinating, thorny force of nature who declared himself to be “The Greatest.” Director Michael Mann eschews regular storytelling tricks, opting for an impressionistic take on the material. Images fly past the viewer, moving the story along, but more importantly imprinting a sense of time and place that is palatable. Will Smith is up to the job of playing the champ in the charisma department, although lacks the stature to be completely believable as a heavy-weight boxer. All in all Ali is a fitting and largely unsentimental tribute to a man who lived his life in the public arena.
Two stars who had huge hits in the 90s have set about to rehabilitate their somewhat treacly public personas. Robin Williams is leaving Mrs. Doubtfire behind to concentrate on more challenging dramatic roles in films like Insomnia and One Hour Photo. The other actor is Hugh Grant who created a stereotype for himself in 1994 as Charles the bumbling, clever English guy in Four Weddings and a Funeral. It’s an image he’s tried hard to shake, and he just might have done it with About A Boy. Oh, he’s still clever, and he’s still English, but now he is a trust-fund baby, who treats women miserably and hasn’t worked a day in his life. As Will, Grant brings to life one of the screen’s most unabashedly self absorbed characters. His redemption – you know he can’t stay bad forever – has the perfume of cliché to it, but Grant is so good, and the script so witty the viewer can accept the inevitable Hollywood ending. Special mention goes to Nicholas Hoult who plays the twelve-year old that finally teaches Grant that life has some meaning, and to Toni Collette who suicidal hippie mother routine is poignant without being syrupy.