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The Flick Chick
Films with titles beginning with "K" and "L"
Some films age gracefully. Some less so. If you share the Chick's opinions about other films she has reviewed, look over this list on your way to the video store. And of course, if you disagree with her picks fairly often . . . avoid what she recommends and hunt up the stuff she hates.
See there's something here for everyone!
King of Masks - *****
In Chinese, with English subtitles
Hooray! The splendid King of Masks is available on video! It did not have much play in U.S. theaters when it was here, but I thought it as fine a film as Farewell My Concubine, and more approachable to most audiences. Although it's quite different in subject, the storyline also involves characters who work in Chinese opera, and it includes another winning performance by a child. I recently saw it again on video and was as moved and impressed this second time as I had been the first. And that's saying a lot!
This was an elegant, beautifully mounted film, with strong and moving performances by Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter. And must mention Guy Pierce (a fave of the Chick's) as Edward, in the thrall of the rather nasty Mrs. Wallace Warfield Simpson. There was a stronger reason for her not to be queen than the fact that she had been divorced: She was an irresponsible, greedy woman. (And certainly no lady!)
Although I can see why loyal Brits might feel that it was too . . . hmm . . . perhaps too intimate, too emotional, or maybe too graphic (language! and because Stiff Upper Lip is very British, y'know), to an American who is accustomed to watching American performances, it was simply very touching.
A film much to be enjoyed. A film to see. (Jan, 2011)
Kevin Spacey. Jeff Bridges: remember Starman?
The above was my original review, and it really should have been enough inducement for anyone, but noooo.
More seriously, K-PAX has gathered some unflattering reviews here and there, and I want to answer them. First off, I have no rebuttal for those who say flatly that they just don't like Sci-Fi; they're entitled to their opinion. However, this film can be read in a variety of ways as SF, of which it is a lovely specimen, as an interesting psychological study of an especially tragic patient, and also as a hybred of the two, which is how I interpret it. It's also an allegory about pride, and about how one must go inside a problem to solve it, and perhaps that some problems can be managed only by stepping away from them. To those who say that Kevin Spacey's portrayal was unemotional, I can only say I'd call it calm, confident, splendid. To those who complain that Jeff Bridges has put on weight, I say, "And what does that have to do with anything? His performance was first-rate!"
In short, see it! (11/4)
Okay, let's talk history. Let's talk remakes. Let's talk about heroes.
Tom Hanks is one of my film heroes. He always, always turns in a sound performance often a brilliant one. He breaks new ground, does not need to look pretty, takes chances, creates new characters out of whole cloth. He can be funny, poignant, adorable, invisible, dazzlingly charming, opaque . . . almost anything. Almost anything, that is, except Alec Guiness.
Yeah, there's the rub. Tom Hanks is wonderful, but alas for him, AG is untoppable. Anyone who has never seen the old Ladykillers can be prepared to like (maybe love) the new one. It is really cute and has some good gags. Anyone who saw the old one maybe better stay home. Sorry.
Also, some of the ethnic humor was a little heavy-handed for my taste. I was never into that. I guess it's like pickles or chili: if you like it you like it; if you don't, you don't.(5/04)
Last Chance Harvey *****
Well FINALLY! Dustin Hoffman, after a long series of stinkers, has turned in a charming performance as an aging semi-loser digging around in the ashes of his failed life, looking for a last chance at the Good Stuff. And who could ask for better Stuff than the beautiful and mature Emma Thompson (who has never to my knowledge produced any bad films at all).
One interesting aspect of this film is a matter of scale. Hoffman, as we DH-lovers are all aware, is not a large man. Thompson, as we suddenly notice, is, although slender, built to a somewhat larger scale. A lesser woman might . . . hesitate. A lesser man might quail. But this very lovely team takes it right in stride, and in the last scene, she calmly takes off her high-heelers and unashamedly walks along the river with her man in stocking feet. Hey we all know it's how tall you are from the ears up that really matters. Bravo! Absolutely!
And wasn't that Emma's mama Phyllida playing her mama in this flick? Missed the name in the credits, but . . . sure looked like it. (1/2009)
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Nothing puts Sean Connery in the shade nothing! Not playing the voice of a world-weary but self-sacrificing dragon; not playing a secondary role (consider his Incorruptable Untouchable sidekick for Kevin Costner, consider his role as Harrison Ford's dad in Indie Jones III, consider (choke) Highlander); not playing a bad-guy maniac (consider (gasp) The Avengers); not playing James Bond as male-chauvinist-pig to a host of panting baby-boomers; not playing a western sheriff in a low-budget high-quality SF flick (think Outland). Not even his current romp, playing opposite such literary nonentities as Captain Nemo, the Invisible Man, the Bride of Dracula, Dorian Gray, and Dr. Jekyll & Mr Hyde! Nothing can quell the Sean Connery-ness of this absolute Star of Stars.
It's a blast, and if you like this sort of thing at all, you'll adore it.
And what's more, this time he gets to wear Indie's hat, too! (7/03)
Life as a House
First I must say that I really admire Kevin Klein as an actor. He was wonderful in Dave, hilarious in Soapdish, incomparable in Wanda. He's also extremely handsome. So it couldn't have been Kevin Klein. And Kristen Scott Thomas, Hayden Christensen, Mary Steenburgen et al were fine, just fine. And there were lots of star-quality actors scattered through the bit parts although to tell the truth, there were so many that it was a little distracting. And the film looked good. And it had a guaranteed-to-draw-tears plot, full of love and lovemaking, and broken promises mended, and noble behavior, and a touching collapse or two. I had genuine tears in my eyes several times.
So why didn't it quite ... convince me? Why did I repeatedly find myself recoiling, as if the coloratura soprano had hit a sour note?
Because it didn't ring true, that's why. I really wanted to like this film, but not just once, not just twice, but many times the responses were off-key, and in spite of myself I kept thinking, "But he wouldn't do that!" and "She would never have said that not that, not then!" Maybe those answers and responses play okay in Southern California, but they don't go over in Dubuque. And not here.
Of course, it could just be me. Other critics liked it.
But then again they live in New York and Southern California, don't they? 11/12/01
Life or Something Like It - ****
You know, happiness is one of our greatest gifts. Film after grim film in the past few months has sent us the message that you can't win, that death is the best answer, and that you can't trust nobody, nohow. Well my buds, don't you believe it. This sweet little flick is, admittedly a bit of fluff, but it speaks the life-affirming words that you can win after all, and that the game really is worth the candle. Angelina Jolie is improbably beautiful (and convincing), Ed Green is craggily attractive, and when "prophet" Tony Shalhoub opens his arms to Heaven . . . strange happenings follow. There's also a splendid cameo of Stockard Channing sending up Barbara Walters.
Happiness is one of the greatest gifts. Go see this film and be happy afterwards. 5/8/02
Little Miss Sunshine
Completely predictable. Full of surprises. Clever. Extremely cute (the description of Marcel Proust is worth the price of admission, all by itself.) Great actors and charming acting. And a wholly predictable and massively original climax.
Of course! (11/06)
Lord of the Rings
Okay, before we get started, we might as well get this straight: what you're dealing with is, at least, a semi-pro LOTR crazed-enthusiast. Read it four, maybe five, six times. So no "here's the-story" intro stuff. Just now, we're addressing only like-minded crazed persons, fellow travelers, and open minded sympathizers. Ready? Okay:
A: It's good.
B: It's beautiful.
C: Elijah Wood has created a Frodo who is even better than the one my imagination had painted; I salute him. Ian McKellen's Gandalf is excellent, although for me the battle between him and Saruman (Yes, that really is Christopher Lee, would you believe it!) had a little too much throwing of each other against walls, but it was appropriately wizardly. And when Gandalf plunged into the gulf with the Balrog, we wept for him right along with Frodo and Legolas.
Sean Astin is a sturdy and lovable Sam, and has been graduated from servant/companion status to full companion. I was ever so slightly disappointed that Strider/Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) never actually got cleaned up to look "like a young elf-prince" while he was at Elrond's Last Homely House. After all, he was a ranger by trade, and a good one, but he knew who else he was. However, toward the end of the film, he did look intense and noble, and we'll continue to love the character. And as he is revealed ever more deeply in the books, maybe they will develop him as we go along,. (Two more to go! Yay!)
A fascinating aspect was the camera magic. Plenty of wonderful
things were going on all the time, but it was all so smooth that I
was never thinking, "Gosh what great effects!" Matter of fact, having
been very careful not to research the film in advance (and not
having seen "The Bad Son" ) I thought maybe Frodo really was a seriously-elevation-challenged person. Turns out his height is in the
normal range & it was tech-wizardry that turned him Hobbit-size.
I had to ask one of my film-partners that night in order to get
the skinny on that item.
Although the film is deeply faithful to the books (not word-for-word,
and there are many omissions, but the true spirit is there) an
interesting addition is that the Ring itself is treated as a central
character, rather than as a mere talisman. And it is given the same
kind of camera-play that a human character would receive. That it
lived independant of its bearer was hinted at in the books, but here
in the film that characteristic has been intensified very,
It's tempting to go through every scene but time and space press
us all. I do, however, want to take special note of the lovely visual
change that takes place in our/Frodo's perception when he puts on the
Ring. He appears in another world, an eerie other
dimension, unable to touch the "normal" world at all. For me,
that other-worldly sense is mirrored during the scene in which Sam
is drowning. You can see him yielding to that green viscous reality,
ceasing to struggle, giving himself up to it, and only then does an unearthly hand reach into the depths with it, a thrilling ghostly memory of the Lady of the Lake whose hand lifts Excaliber from the depths . . . You did read the books? Yes? This is not gibberish to you? Am I alone here?
No. A Florida correspondent e-mailed this: ". . . a great movie.
I had nightmares last night about Orcs and being tossed into the great
fire. Whoa. I hardly ever have nightmares.
"I'm reading the Fellowship [for the first time]. It's very good! I
just hope though that these things live up to the movie. *sigh* that
was quite possibly the best movie I've ever seen . . . my knees were shaking for half of it. I have never been so excited or moved before at a movie. And hey, being "moved" is what they're all about isn't it? It makes all the other movies I've seen before be pale in comparison."
Pretty much says it.(12/24/01)
LOTR - The Two Towers
Yes! LOTR-2 is here at last. And through this darkest of the three films, the characters and the story continue to grip the viewer. Purists may fret over favorite scenes cut and some slight changes in sequence. (Sam's long speech should, by rights, have appeared in episode 3.) But Strider/Aragorn is coming into his own; Gimli's character emerges; Legolas continues to be dazzlingly etherial; Wormtongue is delightfully slimy; the Ents are . . . just wonderfully entish; and Gollum's struggle between his better and worse natures is made touchingly clear. The battle scenes move us strangely, because we have the persistent feeling that we are seeing a battle between real evil and genuine good. Well, by now there's no need to urge you to see it. Doubtless, you have seen it. So let us celebrate it together. Frodo lives! 1/9/03
Well of course, if you have read all the books repeatedly, as the Chick has done, you may have a correction or two in mind. (Personally, the Chick wishes we had seen Aragorn heal Merry in the House of Healing, and Faramir gently wooing Eowyn.) And of course, if you don't like this kind of film, you may not adore every aspect of this one. And of course . . . it is dark. No denying that if you trek into Mordor and get stung by a giant spider, and starve, and fight in terrible battles, and see your buddies get killed in terrible ways, and watch the elves sail off to the Fair Isles (sniff), and get trampled by mammoths, (whimper) and Struggle with Evil . . . you're going to spend a certain amount of time in the Dark. On the other hand, when you see Legolas bring down one of those mammoths single-handed
(Oh, I DO love that scene), and Sam and Frodo make it to the pit of fire, and the Sword that was Broken is re-forged, and Aragorn challenges the minions of darkness at the terrible gate of Minas Morgol, and the good guys win, and the King of Middle Earth is crowned . . . you're going to feel a whole lot better.
And maybe you'll want to see all three all over again. Why not? (12/03)
Lost in Translation - *****
Happiness. That's an item that's always in short supply, it seems. Oh, once in a very long while you hit a motherlode, but mostly you have to eke it out on very small change. Everybody wants it; everybody needs it; everybody's entitled to pursue it (so they say); some of us never seem to catch it. And would you even know it if it bit you on the ankle? The Flick Chick Reviews New Films
What? Oh, I thought you wanted to know what Lost in Translation was about. You did? Then pay attention, I'm telling you. A man and a woman meet, solitary and bereft of happiness, strangers in a grand hotel and in a strange land. Sounds kitsch, huh? You think you can take the storyline from there, huh? So, you say, they hop into the sack together and live unhappily ever after. Well, okay, you're partly right on that one, but not the way you think.
Because, for starters, the man is played by Bill Murray. He was always The SNL Man, so far as I was concerned. Chevvy Chase was the nutberger, Belushi had the flash, Aykroyd the solemn weight and madness, but somehow Murray was the one who always felt like the winner. And slowly, through the years, he keeps proving it. This is his best serious performance to date and there have been very few bad ones, once you think about it. Only The Razor's Edge (and that was a long time ago) has fallen short of perfect pitch. But perfect pitch is exactly what he shows us in Lost in Translation, in addition to great maturity and a deep, deep well of tenderness.
So what happens in this movie? Nothing much, really. Everything, really. I guess you could say this film is simply about happiness. And how much it takes to make even a little of it. And how little it takes . . . if you start with the right guy.
Oh yes, directed by Sophia Coppola. Talented people in that family. (10/03)
More Film Reviews. Click the appropriate letter for films whose titles begin with . . .
A few choice foreign films (subtitles)
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