Masks - *****
In Chinese, with English subtitles
Hooray! The splendid
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!
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
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.
much to be enjoyed. A film to see.
Kevin Spacey. Jeff
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
In short, see it!
Okay, let's talk history.
Let's talk remakes. Let's talk about heroes.
Tom Hanks is one of my
film heroes. He 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
Yeah, there's the rub.
Tom Hanks is wonderful, but alas for him, AG is untoppable. Anyone who
has never seen the
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.
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.
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).
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!
wasn't that Emma's mama Phyllida playing her mama in this flick? Missed
the name in the credits, but . . . sure looked like it.
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
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)
); not playing a bad-guy maniac (consider (gasp)
); 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
). 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! (
Life as a
First I must say that I
really admire Kevin Klein as an actor. He was wonderful in
extremely handsome. So it couldn't have been Kevin Klein. And Kristen
Scott Thomas, Hayden Christensen, Mary Steenburgen
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
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
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
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.
it could just be me. Other critics liked it.
But then again they live in New York and
Southern California, don't they?
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
Happiness is one of the
greatest gifts. Go see this film and be happy afterwards.
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
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
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!)
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
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
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, very interesting.
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.
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
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
seen it. So let us celebrate it
together. Frodo lives!
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
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.
maybe you'll want to see all three all over again. Why not?
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?
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.
for starters, the man is played by Bill Murray. He was always
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
that was a long time ago) has fallen short of perfect pitch. But
perfect pitch is exactly what he shows us in
, in addition to great maturity and a deep, deep well of
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.
The Flick Chick Reviews New
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A few choice foreign films (subtitles)