This is a
remarkably silly and improbable film, but we enjoyed it nevertheless.
On the order of Indiana Jones, it was filled with hairbreadth escapes
and astonishing escapades, although in some cases the writers evidently
couldn't figure out how to get one of the characters out of the trouble
he was in . . . so they just cut to some other character who was
getting himself or herself into a different jam when
fortuitously the character we had last seen in trouble would
miraculously appear to undertake a rescue. (Wish I could get out of
There was a time long ago when all the bad guys were Germans. Later,
they were mostly Russians. Then they became drug dealers and
garden-variety terrorists. In
the perps are crazed
African dictators and the cold-hearted heads of multinational
corporations. (There is a virtuous African tribal leader, thrown in for
Even so, and despite the fantasy elements, the flick was fun to watch
and relatively harmless. Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz are both
agreeable to look at, so . . . go, enjoy yourselves. We did.
It is always a delight to see a great
professional at work, and Brando is one of the topmost, foremost,
utmost professionals of our time even in his present state of
(Webster II: (n) - excessive fatness )
. And it's a
pleasure to see Robert De Niro looking fit and competent and
vicariously doing stunts that would make a much younger man blanche.
And Edward Norton is a pleasing young person, as is Angela Bassett
doing a star turn as De Niro's luscious chick. And it was an enjoyably
maze-like tale, and it featured plenty of dazzling gadgets and
incomprehensible computer forays. There was even the now-required
hysterical nut-cybermaven to supply a crucial bit of data.
Yes, masses of good stuff, including the
obligatory sting and countersting at the end. So sure, pal, see it.
Absolutely great stars, swell puzzle, gadgets, computer wizardly, the
necessary stings who could ask for more?
Well . . . I could. Despite all those
lovely bells and all those shrill whistles, despite the exquisitely
artistic photography, despite the intense enjoyment of watching Brando
improve on Truman Capote and De Niro dally over a Harry
Palmer-in-the-kitchen imitation . . . the ending had a certain
up-in-the-air quality to it. It did not quite satisfy.
Not wanting to tip over the whole pot of
beans, here, but when you have seen it, ask yourself this: Would the
ending have been quite the same had it been pitched to the Baby Boomers
some 20 years ago? I don't refer to unformed taste, you understand, I
mean when they themselves were not yet De Niro's age? Sad, friends,
sad, but I think the years have taken their toll.
Added Chicknote: You'll notice that I
haven't even bothered to rail about rooting for the bad guy in this
one. When will those HollyWoodenbrains give us some classy
guys to empathize with, hmmm?
I admit to
loving movies. No more than that I love
the movies. Not just to films, but to popcorn-greasy sticky floors, and
climbing over people in the dark, and watching the teasers and nudging
the person you're with and saying "Oh, I just have to SEE that!" and
also, "Oh I just NEED to miss that one!" And does your theater have the
here-we-go-on-the-roller-coaster intro? And did you know that if you
stare fixedly at those blue tracks as they whizzzz past you, you can
a sensation of vertigo on the second and
third-from-the-last turns? At least I can. All of which is to say I am
simply nuts about going to the movies!
During the promos and the settling down
silence, you begin hoping, really hoping, that this
hour-and-a-half-plus will radically alter your mental weather and send
you home filled and satisfied... so tonight I saw
But alas! What an improbable premise! What a stale concept. And ugh!
they meet cute. Aren't you really tired of cute meetings by now? And
(yawn) this is too, too much like every romantic comedy you've ever
seen, and but wait! What's this? The dialogue is absolutely
delightful. And John Cusack delivers it with perfect conviction. And he
(and also by the way his never-to-be-forgotten best friend) are both
utterly charming, and marvel of marvels, the stars and the dialogue
doctors among them have spun the thin straw of this story into a
confection of pure 24-karet gold!
It was all I hoped. It made me happy. Made me remember how much I love
going to the movies!
It has been suggested to
the Chick that she is "going soft" on chick-flicks! Worse, that she has
always had a partiality for male actors over female ones! Now be the
latter as it may, let us set the former matter straight at once: after
consulting more than one gentleman viewer of this film, the consensus
is that it is perfectly enjoyable for guys as well. I share with you
the opinion of my neighbor, John. "I really liked it. It was a good
There, you scoffers! Be
SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET
Okay, you're right. The one is several
years old, but although this review is based on the video, it was a
first viewing. If you've not seen the film before take heed and
go for it, because it's far more than an opportunity to see Brad Pitt
look stunning. It's an extremely interesting and well-structured story,
and although some reviewers have pronounced it slow, but that's not the
case. As with
Meet Joe Black
, it simply moves at its own pace,
in this case, one that is appropriate to the great, desolate mountains
The development of the
central character was very much like that of a novel. It's unusual to
see such an ambitious change carried through so effectively in film,
and Pitt made a very good job of it. The relationships among the
characters were fascinating: the restrained courtship of the two
lovers, the conflict between the two men, and the growing friendship
and affection between the child-lama and Pitt's character. But the film
did not rest at this point, and it was exciting to see it climax
not with the tragic Chinese invasion, but how Pitt himself was eclipsed
by the Lama's superior moral strength and higher calling. Impressive!
This is not an
afterthought, I just didn't see it until it was on tape. Enjoyed it
very much. Charming characters and a charming concept. Have to say I
better still, but that may have been because of
the dif between a tape in the living room, and a full-screen film in a
theater. Anyway, it was a first-rate film, and good fun for grown-ups,
too! If you haven't seen it, rent and watch it with or without the
A sequel, but great anyway!
If you see this film, I
expect you will have seen Shreck-1 first. And liked it a lot. Good! Be
prepared to like this one a lot, too. Your faves are still there: The
Ogre himself, Donkey, Princess, Gingerbread Boy, Dragon, et al. There
are also guest appearances by Fairy Godmother, Prince Charming, and a
swashbuckling Pussinboots. Our hero and heroine
, quarrel, break one another's hearts, get Instant
Makeovers, drink magic potions, play
Beat the Clock
, and engage
in numerous feats of derring do while we fall off our chairs with
laughter. (Wait Laughing at broken hearts? Never! We do, indeed,
feel real sympathy for the tribulations of our friends. Part of the
film's charm is that, while the format is that of a cartoon, the
characterization is warm and realistic.)
Do see it. It deserves many
SIDEWAYS (Totally irrelevant title, BTW)
SIDEWAYS was painful to watch. Our protagonist is a recently divorced
wine snob, taking his sometime-TV-star airhead buddy on a last fling
before marriage. Unfeelingly, they connect with two pretty girls, each
parties in his own way, each trashes the budding relationship, each
breaks a heart, and each finally patches up his life, according to his
own tastes and needs.
yet, once ended, it is a satisfying film. And, to her shame, the Chick
finds herself in some sympathy with these sullen, sensitive (and
insensitive), self-centered, shallow, and rather silly guys. Which may
go to show that she, herself, is somewhat shallow and silly as well.
What can I say; we're all fallible.
Saw this at the picture
show last night. Have you yet? It's got enough jump-factor to make you
clutch hands and you also get to feel good at the end.
Mel Gibson is not as beautiful as in
days of yore, and is still learning to act, but his repertoire of
anxous/fierce/ nervous looks (he has only the three) worked pretty well
here. Time was, of course, when his male gorgeousness was all that was
required, but lately there has been time to notice that his in-love
look is the same as his fierce look, and that while he is waiting for
whatever-girl-is-in-the-current-film to love him back, he alternates
his anxious and nervous looks to indicate his eagerness for her to get
on with her affirmative decision. And of course the fierce look and the
anxious look work in pretty much any action scene. This rather good
thriller, however, gave him the opportunity to use all three looks at
various times, and they fit nicely into the story line.
There's lots of good stuff here:
satisfying monsters, touching moments, some heartbreak, a good deal of
suspense, and a smattering of uplift.
Joaquin Phoenix was absolutely splendid!
Now there's a young man who can act! The young kids were excellent. The
cop and the aliens and the dogs were also excellent, and you'll come
out exhausted when it's all over. Worth seeing even if you don't
especially like scary movies . . . although it's helpful to like
I know it won all the awards, and
that all those horrors actually take place on a daily basis, but it was
too much for us. We left before it was over. Happy ending? Don't know.
But how could there be a happy ending to so much pain, loss, and
desolation! You have been warned.
SMALL TIME CROOKS
fair-to-good Woody Allen. But not vintage. He plays his usual
nerdy-person/crook. Tracy Uhlmann is his vulgarian wife. I really
admire her work and want her to get great roles, but this was an
unappealing part. Hugh Grant, of course, did what he does well
acts English & looks great. But (Whoa! Am I ever the
amateur.) I never knew the dopey broad was Elaine May until I read
somebody else's reviews. What a performance! What a performer!
Overall, though, I miss the casual
elegance of Mr. Allen's prime, as in
for example, and
Play it Again, Sam. (10/00)
featuring live actors, this is mere comic book violence the
stuff your mother would not have let you read, had she known. Although
visually arresting, we saw nothing here to touch the mind or the heart.
The gravelly voiceover is only ersatz Phillip Marlowe but
without the insight or the pathos of the original. (The VO for Bruce
Willis regularly refers to him as "Old Man." Hard to envision
action-hero Willis in that role.) And even the violence and gore were
so over-the-wall that they hardly shocked . . . merely repelled. Makes
one wonder who in the world is paying the bigbucks to make this movie a
hit. Makes one uneasy to speculate about it.
SMILLA'S SENSE OF SNOW
1997 film is an oldie, but we were shopping for a nice thriller . . .
and this is a good example. The film, set in Denmark, is handsome to
see, Julia Ormand, as the title character, is also very good to look
at, and Gabriel Byrne is the same. The Chick is handicapped by having
read the book which differs sharply from the film in many
aspects but this has an adequate plot, there's plenty of
excitement, and the somewhat happier ending of the film made the Chick
Want a nice evening? Nothing you
care for in the theaters? Or just don't want to dress and go out? Try
Oh, this is a darling film!
It's funny. It's witty. It's touching. It won a lot of awards. It's
charming. Okay -- you HATE charming. If I take that back, will you see
Well written dialog. Strong
plot. The characters are unforgettable. Two Indian (Native-American
Indian) teens get on a bus and a couple of farmers hustle them to the
rear seats. One mutters, "John Wayne." (I love this part) The other
says "John Wayne had steel teeth." Reply: "They were iron."
set up a chant:
Teeth, John Wayne's Teeth
they false? Are they real?
they iron? Are they Steel?
John Wayne's Teeth, John Wayne's
Well, maybe you have to
experience it to get it. But you
have to experience it. It's
better than you can guess. If you let this one go by . . . No. Don't.
SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE
Okay, here's the skinny:
Diane Keaton was fine, Keano is cute as ever (though his part was a
Nothing), Frances McDormand is always super, and (ready for this) Jack
Nicholson gave the first unconvincing performance of this
This is a classic
trash-the-guy story, a genre which, as you know, leaves the Chick
massively cold. Tell me, what is the attraction of this new-style
in the twenties, say, the fad was: "Wicked-Older-Woman breaks young
hero's heart and his innocent love reforms her." Think of
And naturally the reverse English on that one
In the forties, the style
was "Ruthless, mannish career woman competes with Mr. Niceguy hero and
his manly love eventually softens her so we see that all she really
wants in life is to wash his socks." (Think Rosalind Russell. Think
Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.)
In the fifties film lovers
were watching "Too-pure-to-be-true poor-girl is
older worldly-wise Mr. Richguy so he falls in love and proposes." That
one spanned everything from
to Doris Day to Audrey Hepburn
and from Bogart to Cary Grant to Peter O'Toole!
Then in the sixties it was
every person for him/herself.
Greed came in during the
eighties and nineties, boys loved Money first, last and always, and
boy-girl films were pushed to the sidelines.
the Millennium Hoopla! we touched bottom:
Trash-the-Guy flicks. Is this what they call progress? What gives here,
socially, I ask you! Because this Chick feels . . . well, gee! She
guys. What? You'd noticed?
When the picking are slim at the
local flickers, seek out this oldie (1991) but hilarious goodie. Sally
Field, with a comedic tour de force, and Kevin Kline who was nominated
for an Oscar for his performance are stars in a soap opera . . . which
is the McGuffin of this soap opera storyline. (BTW Kline should stick
to comety. He's really good at that.)
The starry cast includes a very
young Robert Downey, Jr., a then-fhin and shapely Whoopie Goldberg,
plus Teri Hatcher and a bit part by Carrie Fischer. The storyline is
too ridiculous to recount, but you'll find youself laughing at
almost every scene. It's a great way to transform a dull, rainy night
I loved it.
Yes, I know it got soupy reviews, but even so . . .
thought you'd see me write that about an Adam Sandler film, did you?
Yes, maybe it was moralistic. I liked that there are already
plenty of films, like
that deal in cruel behavior and
the story-line was thin. I didn't think that either; I thought the
incidents were like pearls strung on invisible fishing line the
sort of thing that passes for a really nice necklace nowadays.
the characters were too good to be true. But I don't think so. There
are plenty of people like that in the world, people who make hard,
responsible choices, people who live up to their beliefs without
preaching or making a fuss about it . . . even though they may not be
especially popular with film producers. They are simply the kind of
people you want in your life. Let's celebrate the good guys for a
Honestly, I believe we live in a world that is better than we know,
populated by people who are better, and wiser, and more responsible
than we can guess. They may not all look like Tea Leone, but they're
there. And their lives and their griefs and their choices made for fine
films, too. Not one of the greatest films of all time. Not nearly. But
go see Spanglish; Think about it. Maybe you'll agree with me.
Of course we knew what was coming.
Spider-Man's my nerd-hero swooping through the city canyons,
leaping the rooftops, delighting in his new-found roller coaster power.
Although lacking quite the spidey expertise of some of my informants, I
myself am charmed by the superstrong superman who speaks softly, who
ducks instead of leading with a bone-crushing punch, and whose sense of
social responsibility rises from thought and experience, instead of
being "written in" by the author before the fact. He doesn't pretend to
be mild mannered, he
mild mannered. Here at last is a
thinking person's comic book protagonist.
For those who attend such films solely to
savor the computer pyrotechnics, there are both pros and cons. If some
of the animé does not quite meet your expectations, there may be a
reason. Although not a Hollywood Insider, I'd heard that this flick was
due for release last December, and that by last summer's end,
bucks had already been laid out in promos (some of
which I had seen). The most dazzling of the teasers was of Spidey and
the Goblin playing tag around oops! The Twin Towers. But
after 9/11 it was back to the drawing board for the hottest action
scenes. Let's be realistic; this kind of film is staggeringly costly to
create, and we want these guys to be able to pay their bills, and come
back to make more films. I think what we have here is a darn good save.
Sure, this is stock comic book fare
we're talking about. But it was fun. And some of the characters are
pulp-paper stereotypes (most of the villians and the entire newsroom,
for example), nevertheless Toby McGuire is a fine actor who can do no
wrong in my book. He gives a wonderully warm and appealing performance,
and Cliff Robertson (yes, that's who it was!) in cameo, is a nuanced
and in-depth uncle. Of course if the only cinema you enjoy is the
, stay home. But if you ever get bored with that, come to
the picture show with the rest of us and enjoy yourself.
movie. But more than a cartoon movie. As silly as much of the action is
(Large-bodied scientist dons a metal waist-cinch with attached steel
tentacles, & produces a fusion reactor which causes the tentacles to
turn evil and take over his mind, causing him to want to carry off
pretty girls and dominate the world by blowing it up), there is
something appealing about a cartoon-based movie that also affirms
social responsibility, honesty, generous-hearted true love,
intellectual achievements, and the angst of self-doubt. Also I must
admit to a confirmed affection for Tobey Maguire's ordinary-kid charm.
Also, Spidey's innocent
joie de vivre
inspired by his own
ability to swing from building to building just knocks me down! Really
The goal: clickthrough on every link! And
that's what SPY GAME provides: Redford and Pitt, excellent stars each
doing an excellent job; plenty of suspense; and all the clever little
gears and wheels turning with faultless ease. There are few things more
irritating than stories of complex intrigue that end with some
deus ex machina
few things more satisfying that the clear-in-retrospect climax of the
well-made plot! Here, every little detail falls into place before the
final credits roll. First-rate film!
This is a
lovely flick, and Jeff Bridges' performance stays with you. Admittedly,
this is simply E-T for grownups; he's the Alien whom you
exist. The one you want to see again -- I mean really, in real life. He
is such an innocent, such a good guy, such a victim, yet not spooky at
all. He's just trying to get back home, doing the best he can . . . and
that's really very, very good.
admit, the Chick is a pitiful sucker for good-men-from-space stories:
The Man Who Fell To Earth,
The Day The Earth Stood
, that StarTrek movie where the aliens landed at the end, and
they were Vulcans! Loved them all.
well, that was a standout.
This may be
one of the most splendid sights you'll ever enjoy on film it's
like all the most wonderful
-covers rolled into a
single visual set. Breathtaking cities literally rise through the
clouds. The high-speed air traffic that whips through the urban canyons
is reminscent of the chase scene in
, but it takes
place after dark, with our jedi heroes leaping from aircar to aircar.
Aliens as long-legged and graceful as vicuñas stalk through the
manicured halls of their city-in-the-sea. And the music, not intrusive,
is excellent; the adventure scenes are full of sternum-vibrating
subsonics that you'll miss if you wait for the video version.
But alas, nobody took a single coffee
break to work out a viable story-line, and the stunning-looking actors
generally go through their aerobic exercises without directoral help.
Ewan McGregor gives a sound performance despite inadequate dialogue and
vanishing motivation, but Natalie Portman (although a constant credit
to her hairdresser) never gets beyond melting sweetness, and Hayden
Christensen's range is limited to bland good looks, occasionally
tempered by waves of adolescent petulance.
While carping, let me add that the clones don't actually
attack. They counterattack. And the jedis casually expend the lives of
gazillions of clones who march off to die fighting gazillions of
robots. Robots don't bleed and die; clones, presumably do. Yoda should
however, the new
is a blast. Go for it!
STAR WARS/REVENGE OF THE SITH
wanted to see it, you've probably already seen it, so we're only
comparing notes: that's understood.
course, the film is exquisite to look at. Great, congested cities,
immense vistas, green and blue planets hanging in the void even
the Wicked Lands are beautiful. And it brims with invention. There are
BEMs so marvelous they boggle the mind. Musical subsonics that vibrate
the sternum. All the familiar high-tech stuff and some new stuff to
story-wise, it's one big morality play. Jedi beliefs are a lot like
Buddhism, and Yoda and the Jedi knights preach self-control and
selflessness, saying they have to separate themselves from human
affection. And Anakin goes over to the Dark Side because he follows his
feelings. But gee if that's the case, you gotta feel sorry for
the poor guy, because in his film universe, feelings are all he has to
The Force itself is all about feelings. And prophetic dreams. And
unnamed powers (moral powers?). Time and again characters are urged to
the Force, to
whether something is right or
wrong. But nobody ever asks: "Am I making a sensible decision, here?"
We get love, grief, anxiety, determination, anger, fear, excitement,
reckless courage, physical strength and agility . . . but nobody uses
his or her head for anything except decoration! Mr Spock, where are you
when we need you!
so our hero's emotions betray him. He falls from grace, embraces evil,
and meets a terrible punishment (several punishments, actually), while
we, the audience, are left to meditate on the wages of sin.
what kind of ending is THAT! We already knew he would go bad, because
this entire film was backstory, which pulled its teeth from the
beginning. And when the final credits rolled, the whole thing left a
sour taste in my mouth. It was so pat never mind, folks, the
kids will pay the bills!
But there you are:
predestination was at work. No other ending was possible.
yet . . why not? I have a friend who imagined a different ending. And
here it is:
Suppose, just suppose, that at the last minute, Anakin had stopped,
looked down the road he was traveling, and said, "No." Suppose he'd
balked at the destiny that Lucas had already produced for him. What if
he'd laughed at the Evil Emperor, rejoined the Good Guys and NOT left
the mop-up to the twins. What if he'd used his heart
to change the future. Why not? You and I do it every day.
we do. Every step we make, every decision, every action we take (or
refuse to take) creates the future we're going to live in. And so,
because we understand that, you and I stop and think. You and I resist
temptation. We consider the result the impact of our actions. We
consciously choose our course and try to create a better life and a
better world as we go along. So why couldn't Anakin Skywalker have done
that and changed his own future in that galaxy so far, far away?
Wouldn't that have been great? For him to prove that it really is
possible to change the
It's not that hard. You and I manage to do it. All day. Every day.
me sad. Such a nice film. Such a sorry ending.
OLDIE BUT GOODIE department
This is an entirely charming
Australian film that won the Golden Globe award for Best Picture in
1993. Never mind if you don't like ballroom dancing. Never mind if you
don't ever agree with the Golden Globes. You'll like this one. I swear!
THE SUM OF ALL FEARS
impending nuclear holocaust is not the sum of
fears, but if
it's not, that's a pretty good substitute. Ben Afflek makes a very
effective young Jack Ryan smart, a little brash, and massively
well-informed. Morgan Freeman is his omniscient boss. (My guess: the
writers have been watching
and have learned that
brain-power is the foremost razzle-dazzle of all.) I expect you already
know that the bad guys blow up Baltimore and that our hero saves the
world, but the charm is in the details, the throwaway business, and the
dialogue. (You also speak Chechen? Sure don't you?) (Mr.
President, don't over-react. Over-react they not only blew up
Baltimore, they tried to blow up
If you like this sort of thing, you'll
like this a lot.
One helpful note: my
escort, who happens to be 16, commented, "You know, they do those kind
of things in High School...people get together and make something up
about another group and tell everybody it's true. And they cause a lot
of trouble." Yeah. And some of those people never learn.
Take a pack of greedy developers, add a
town full of seedy landowners, mix in a family drama and spice up with
a romance and an attempted suicide, stir into some singularly flat and
sunny Florida landscape and . . . there you have it!
By and large, this is well acted, but
these are fairly stock ingredients, and the message (that we all lead
lives of quiet desperation) is not new by a long shot. It's not bad,
but it's not Altman, either.
The Flick Chick Reviews New
More Film Reviews. Click the appropriate letter
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A few choice foreign films (subtitles)