Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Life, Death, Murder, Collectors, Kids, Dogs, Romance, the Handicapped and a Little Science

Everything is Illuminated

The directorial debut of Liev Schrieber, and it turns out he's a far better director than an actor, and he was/is a pretty good actor. Illuminated is the story of a man looking for the woman who saved his grandfather's life by helping him escape the Ukraine at the start of WW2. On the way he befriends a Ukranian man and his grandfather...and their dog Sammy Davis Jr Jr. Based on the novel of the same name, it's one of the most interesting looks at the Holocaust I think I've ever seen. The flashbacks can be confusing, at least until the end of the film. Elijah Wood gives an unusual, but excellent performance. However the real star of the film is Eugene Hutz, Wood's guide through the Ukraine on his search, and essentially our guide into the weirdness that is Wood's character Johnathan. His blunt nature provides both laughs answers, and the honesty Hutz plays him with is just moving. I really can't recommend this movie enough.


Seeing Kevin James and Ray Romano as the film's stars was enough to pique my interest, reading the premise was enough to get me to bite. Two door-to-door meat salesmen get entangled in the world of organized crime. Wacky and not exactly original, but certainly intriguing enough to warrant checking out. I was pleaseantly surprised at the supporting cast (Juliet Lewis, Burt Reynolds and the always great Michael Rappaport), and even moreso at James' and Romano's ability to shed theor TV personas. That the two are close friends in real life certainly plays a part in their on-screen charisma. The script is very Tarantino-esque, stylized violence, snappy dialogue. It has that neo-noir feel, entertaining but been-there-done-that. Worth probably a rent at least.

High Tension

This movie sucks. It had me on the edge of my seat, eyes glued to the screen and then they go and drop in an inexplicable "twist" to the story. I shrugged my shoulders and cursed M. Night Shamalamamamama-whatever for re-popularizing the damn twist ending. If you insist on watching it turn it off about an hour into it and just assume everything comes out okay, otherwise, don't say I didn't warn you.

In America

I repeatedly put off seeing this flick. I originally thought it might be some America-bashing story, though I'm not sure why I thought that. Then I read a few reviews and thought it might be some overly patriotic drivel. Apparently I walk a fine line when it comes to films about the U.S. Don't ask me why, I haven't a clue. But, man was I ever wrong. In America is the type of story you'd expect to hear someone's great grandfather tell, something that touches your heart and makes you remember exactly what the hell it means to live in this country. Patriotic, yes, but it never crosses that line into pushing an agenda. It's a story, not one of politics or religion, but of love, loss and having the freedom to succeed or fail on your own merits. The performances warranted the two nominations they recieved (Actress and Supporting Actor), and probably deserved another for Best Actor, if not wins in all three categories.


Another Tarantino-ish (maybe more Guy Ritchie-ish in this case) story that centers around a group of people in Dublin. It's got a stellar cast and some great writing, but it comes too close to Lock, Stock for me to really get behind it. Colm Meany is just absolutely fantastic though and it will be interesting to see if director John Crowly can make his next film more his own and less like and Irish Pulp Fiction.

The Life and Death pf Peter Sellers

This was an incredibly hard film to watch. On one hand Geoffry Rush is as believable as Sellers as one could ever hope to be, and Stanley Tucci actually makes me want to like Stanley Kubrick, Charlize Theron is a knockout and John Lithgow is brilliant as Blake Edwards. But, it takes away severely from my enjoyment of Sellers' films. It's easy to understand and even sympathize with what he goes through, but there are times where he comes out looking like such an asshole that you really want to hate him.It was definitely worth watching the once, but I'll never be able to watch a Sellers film the same way again.

Little Manhattan

It's not often I can get behind a sweet" film, usually they make my teeth hurt. But, Manhattan is so well written, and the angst of young Gabe seem so real that you just get so wound up in the story. It's such an accurate portrayal of not only first-love but of the innocence of childhood, it sends you reflecting on your own life, remembering those very same moments from your life. Josh Hutcherson and Charlie Ray are fantastic as the two children in love and Mark Levin is almost flawless in his first directing gig (I noticed a very "Wonder Years" vibe in the film early on, and see that Levin was a producer on that show, not sure if that speaks good of me or bad of Levin, well, not know what I mean). It's a romantic comedy almost unlike any ever made, and while the cuteness often threatens to suffocate the performances, it thankfully never does.

Must Love Dogs

Despite my unabashed love for all things both Diane Lane and John Cusack, I really didn't like this film. Parts of it are okay, and with a little more screen time Cusack could have rocketed the movie past it's very thin premise. There were a few chuckles, and I really can't hate anything with the always beautiful Lane, but this is probably best avoided by anyone who wants some meaning behind their romance. Watch Little Manhattan instead.

The Ringer

The third in the Farrely "sweet" trilogy (what's with all the sweets?), oddly enough not directed by them. I'm not sure why they chose to not direct, but it actually pays off I think. There are far fewer silly gags here than in all their other films, focusing more on the heart of the story, that the mentally handicapped are oftentimes better (and in some cases no worse) than anyone else. Knoxville wisely sees that the film's true stars are those he's somewhat mocking and steps back, allowing them to take over the film and in turn mock him. It's certainly not the most PC film you're ever gonna see, and it shouldn't be, in most cases it's very blunt. It's probably the most honest and entertaining flik the Farrelly's have ever been involved in.

Stuck on You

Ah, and another Farrelly film. Only, I seem to be moving backwards. This was their second "sweet" film, about conjoined twins. It's full of visual gags and little jokes. I laughed for sure, and it really has a heart to it, same as The Ringer, but mostly it's just a film full of jokes, some morality thrown in for good measure. Not bad at all, just not gonna shatter any perceptions. That they would go a step further in The Ringer and actually cast those with the handicaps they were addressing showed a step in the right direction. Here Kinnear and Damon can never make you forget who they are, actors playing the part and making you laugh. Top notch effects though.

What the Bleep Do We Know!?

Man, this one blew my mind. Anyone interested in examining not only the origins of life, but the purpose of humanity and the effect our minds can have not only on our bodies but of everything we see. This must be what it feels like to drop acid.


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