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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Whiteness, October 4, 2008
Fernando Meirelles' "Blindness" begins with what I would call an urban nightmare: a young Asian man is in the middle of a horrid traffic jam in some unknown city and suddenly...he cannot see. He is blind for no specific reason one that neither he nor we can fathom. It is a nightmare, really: to be trapped behind the wheel of your car, other cars honking, people yelling obscenities and you in the middle of this without your strongest sense of sight.
A Good Samaritan steps up to drive the man (no one has a name in this film, btw) home, does so and proceeds to steal the car. Pretty much a normal scenario from Meirelles who always aims a microscope on all societies looking for what makes us tick as a people and as a government, what makes us act in the manner that we do and proceeds to judiciously eviscerate us, getting to our core as a society in the process: see his devastating "City of God" or the terrific "The Constant Gardener."
The biggest problem I think with "Blindness" is that, though it is at times thoughtful and heartfelt, it is simply too didactic to have any real kind of effect on us for two hours.
The Asian man is first then others, including a good ophthalmologist (played by Mark Ruffalo) go blind though his wife, a miraculous Julianne Moore doesn't.
Soon a "Big Brother" government (talking head on a huge screen reports the spread of the blindness) puts all of the blind into what looks like a deserted warehouse in which the various wards bond together and against the other wards.
"Blindness" recalls a number of films, "Lord of the Flies," "1984" for two as the denizens of the wards go about their business of scrounging for food, setting up hierarchies and merely trying to exist with a grain of respect: a measly respect that is soon degraded by greed and moral turpitude. Without the niceties of our home, of food, of work, these characters turn into something akin to one step above an animal.
In regards to the Julianne Moore character: it is never made clear why she does not become blind other than, we can fathom, as a plot device. She also only shares this with her husband and a few others. Perplexing.
Though Meirelles' direction here is a little detached there are some beautiful scenes that make us gasp at their tenderness and beauty: Julianne and a former prostitute acknowledging their common ground and Danny Glover's scene and a woman with whom he has become close. But there aren't enough of these scenes.
Much is made of the contrast between the "blackness" of normal blindness and the "whiteness" of the blindness of the characters of this movie but what does it mean? Is white blindness purer, closer to God? We never know.
"Blindness" is certainly beautiful to behold but the themes have been done many times before and though Meirelles is an important and talented director, this film is certainly a marginal though not a major success.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 15, 2011 1:49 PM PST


No Title Available

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars catalan, September 6, 2008
People have been waiting for years for Woody Allen to make another "Annie Hall" but it is not going to happen. Allen has moved on and sometimes up from that classic: the benchmark of the 30+ years of his making films.
Without putting too much effort into it, I can think of a number of very fine films that Allen has made since "AH": "Another Woman," "Hannah and her Sisters," "Manhattan Murder Mystery," "Manhattan," "Broadway Danny Rose" and on and on. But he has also made some clunkers like "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion" and "Small Time Crooks." All in all a great career: one made up of hits and misses, par for the course with someone who has been making films for a long time.
Now comes his newest: "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" made in Barcelona and redolent of that beautiful city: hot dusty, passionate, sultry, crazy, always bursting forth with life and love...a city in which all is possible, everyone is open to experience everything...or should be.
Into this milieu comes two American women: Vicky (Rebecca Hall: pretty yet bland) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson: beautiful and luscious) both looking for something: but what?
Vicky is the more realistic of the friends. Working on a Master's on Catalan identity which she is pursuing despite knowing almost any Spanish!
Cristina (Johansson), on the other hand, is into suffering, passion and risk. She recently finished a 12-minute film on why love is hard to define and has just broken up with the latest of a string of boyfriends.
It's Cristina, a bodacious blonde who naturally catches the eye of painter Juan Antonio (a womanizer: charming and sexy Javier Bardem) at an art opening. He's just been through a difficult divorce from Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz in a chew the scenery with relish performance), a wife who stuck a knife in him, but that doesn't stop this unabashed seducer from chatting them both up and inviting them to spend a ménage-à-trois weekend with him. "Life is short and full of pain," he candidly explains, "and this is a chance for something special."
Juan Antonio, who eventually romances both, teaches them about Love and Life and leaves them both with a richer knowledge of themselves and a working knowledge of the world in general. Juan Antonio is the Voltaire of Lotharios.
The Spanish duo of Bardem and Cruz bulldoze their way through this movie with their wit, charm and unwitting knowledge of what works in film acting often over-powering the relative blandness of Hall and Johansson.
"Vicky Cristina Barcelona" is not the best film that Woody Allen has ever made but neither is it near the worst and as such it is a pleasure: rich with the patented Allen world vision and irony that makes us smile with recognition of something both familiar yet unusual and remarkable.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 9, 2009 12:23 PM PDT


Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
DVD ~ Javier Bardem
Price: $4.59
186 used & new from $0.01

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sweet Passionate Catalan, September 6, 2008
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Vicky Cristina Barcelona (DVD)
People have been waiting for years for Woody Allen to make another "Annie Hall" but it is not going to happen. Allen has moved on and sometimes up from that classic: the benchmark of the 30+ years of his making films.
Without putting too much effort into it, I can think of a number of very fine films that Allen has made since "AH": "Another Woman," "Hannah and her Sisters," "Manhattan Murder Mystery," "Manhattan," "Broadway Danny Rose" and on and on. But he has also made some clunkers like "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion" and "Small Time Crooks." All in all a great career: one made up of hits and misses, par for the course with someone who has been making films for a long time.
Now comes his newest: "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" made in Barcelona and redolent of that beautiful city: hot dusty, passionate, sultry, crazy, always bursting forth with life and love...a city in which all is possible, everyone is open to experience everything...or should be.
Into this milieu comes two American women: Vicky (Rebecca Hall: pretty yet bland) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson: beautiful and luscious) both looking for something: but what?
Vicky is the more realistic of the friends. Working on a Master's on Catalan identity which she is pursuing despite knowing almost any Spanish!
Cristina (Johansson), on the other hand, is into suffering, passion and risk. She recently finished a 12-minute film on why love is hard to define and has just broken up with the latest of a string of boyfriends.
It's Cristina, a bodacious blonde who naturally catches the eye of painter Juan Antonio (a womanizer: charming and sexy Javier Bardem) at an art opening. He's just been through a difficult divorce from Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz in a chew the scenery with relish performance), a wife who stuck a knife in him, but that doesn't stop this unabashed seducer from chatting them both up and inviting them to spend a ménage-à-trois weekend with him. "Life is short and full of pain," he candidly explains, "and this is a chance for something special."
Juan Antonio, who eventually romances both, teaches them about Love and Life and leaves them both with a richer knowledge of themselves and a working knowledge of the world in general. Juan Antonio is the Voltaire of Lotharios.
The Spanish duo of Bardem and Cruz bulldoze their way through this movie with their wit, charm and unwitting knowledge of what works in film acting often over-powering the relative blandness of Hall and Johansson.
"Vicky Cristina Barcelona" is not the best film that Woody Allen has ever made but neither is it near the worst and as such it is a pleasure: rich with the patented Allen world vision and irony that makes us smile with recognition of something both familiar yet unusual and remarkable.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 1, 2010 9:02 PM PST


Tell No One (Ne le dis à personne) [Region 2]
Tell No One (Ne le dis à personne) [Region 2]
DVD ~ François Cluzet
7 used & new from $18.95

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars To Die for Love, August 27, 2008
Alexandre Beck (heretofore a perpetual second banana in comedies but here definitely the distraught, crazed, put-upon, conflicted hero, François Cluzet) seems to have it all: a great and loving family, a beautiful and loving wife, Margot (played by Marie Croze) and even a big faithful dog to fill out his life.
Director Guilluame Canet (the erratic but full of life, "Les Jeux Enfants" and the chilly yet warm even sentimental, "Joyeux Noel") begins this film with an outdoor family dinner: everyone enjoying the food, the wine, the children, dogs romping around, everyone having a great time yet the music playing on the soundtrack is Otis Redding's "For Your Precious Love" a doleful plea for love and acceptance which cuts away at the sunny, family-positive scene that it underscores; thus setting up psychological friction between the scene we are watching and the music which is underscoring it. Things are not as they seem. Something is amiss.
Based on a novel by American Thriller writer, Harlan Cohen much of the film plays like a classic American Thriller ("D.O.A" and "Chinatown") but filtered through the intelligence of screenwriters Canet and Philippe Lefebvre). In fact the tone of "Tell No One" feels very much like a Roman Polanski film: as in the aforementioned "Chinatown" or "Knife in the Water": all complex stories which involve big mysteries and bigger love stories as well.
In a scene involving murder and mayhem, Margot is killed. For a short period of time the Police suspect Alexandre but this is soon dispelled and life goes on for Alex, who eventually becomes a Pediatrician but never marries: he pines and mourns for Margot even 8 years after the fact. Then one day he gets an e-mail showing a very much alive Margot...or so it seems.
Perhaps there are a few too many plot upheavals here but Canet and Lefebvre keep the business of the film moving along coherently. On hand are a number of French actors who contribute, in small roles, to the truthfulness and humanity of this film: Nathalie Baye, Jean Rochefort and Kristin Scott Thomas (who speaks beautiful idiomatic Parisian French).
Harlen Cohen has said that he is a fan of "stories that move you, that grab hold of your heart and do not let it go." There is no doubt that with Canet as his partner he has gotten his wish with "Tell No One."
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 26, 2008 7:02 AM PST


No Title Available

13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A woman's place, August 23, 2008
Isabel Coixet should have known better especially after her ironic, knowing, intelligent "Paris, Je Tame" of last year but her latest "Elegy" is nothing that "Paris" is. In fact "Elegy" is a turgid, slow, many times silly remake of the Richard Gere/Winona Ryder weeper from 2000, "Autumn in New York" (starring Richard Gere and Winona Ryder) in which an older man falls in love with a younger woman with dire consequences. And to make matters worse, Gere/Ryder do a much better job of making their characters real and thoughtful than do Ben Kingsley/Penelope Cruz in "Elegy."
Throughout "Elegy" I had the urge to bolt the theater because what was on the screen was so overwrought and self important (in fact something that can often be said of the source material writer, Philip Roth) that it set my teeth to grinding in consternation on viewing the melodramatics on the screen.
Ben Kingsley, often so good and beyond reproach in such films as "Sexy Beast" plays David Kapesh (a Roth alter-ego), a university professor and lover of all women under 25 but one who never makes a move on his prey until "after the grades are posted." In this case it is beautiful Cubana, Consuela (Cruz) who falls hard for Kapesh who, of course fails to commit. Kapesh will soil his hands with the sordid act of lovemaking but not with the tender act of loving.
Kingsley fails to ignite his characters inner core, though that inner core for all intents and purposes is filled with self interest and self hatred. Kingsley plays the surface of this role and as a consequence has little impact on us or on this film. Even more infuriatng about the David Kapesh character is his supposed moral superiority: he hautingly informs his estranged 30-ish son that he left his mother and cut off his children because "it was the best thing to do for all concerned."
Though Penelope Cruz fares better here, her role is a cipher: she's young, she's beautiful, she's a Latina so therefore her Consuela is written as a compliant sex plush toy: always willing, ever wanting, never attaining the acceptance of even a 50 year old English Professor. This is a major miss-fire of this film and of director Coixet, a woman and someone who should have known better. Consuela has set back woman's rights back 50 years.
"Elegy" is almost without redeeming qualities though the physical production is quite beautiful. But is this enough to recommend this film: a film that glorifies mendacity and the moral and social rights of the intelligent and well-bred (whatever that means in the year 2008) intelligentsia to run rampant over the up and coming? I think not.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 9, 2008 9:09 PM PST


No Title Available

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3 1/2 Stars: Hiding in Plain Sight, July 26, 2008
This latest version of Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited" is a middling success: neither a triumph nor a failure. More importantly it does not diminish the grandeur and mighty ghost of the 1980's Masterpiece Theater production with Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder and Anthony Andrews as Sebastian though Matthew Goode (as Ryder) and Ben Whishaw (as Sebastian) do their best, through good and cogent performances, to top their predecessors. And while Irons and Andrews operated in a production that ran many hours and therefore had the luxury of time to define their characters, Goode and Whishaw have only 2+ hours to focus and grab our attention.
Director Julian Jarrold and writers Andrew Davies and Jeremy Brock do a more than competent job of reshaping the sprawling Waugh novel: though at times it seems that we are watching a cavalcade of characters and locals as the protagonists flit from London to Venice to Morocco at breakneck speed.
"Brideshead Revisited" takes place during that boozy, volatile and romantic period between the WWI and WWII and concerns a young Englishman of modest means and social standing, Charles Ryder. After he falls in with (by way of Sebastian becoming enthralled with Ryder at Oxford) Sebastian and Julia Flyte (Ben Whishaw and Hayley Atwell), brother and sister from an aristocratic family who live on a palatial estate called Brideshead, Charles is swept into a world that he both covets and spurns. As opposed to Irons, Goode plays Ryder as a wide-eyed stranger-in-a-strange-land: emotionally open to both the sumptuousness of Brideshead and its inhabitants. Though by the end of the film, Goode's Ryder is a successful Artist he is only slightly changed, slightly jaded from the Ryder who opens the film with a look of wonder and amazement. Goode's emotional and psychological journey spans a short walk to the park while Irons' spans the space between London and Morocco.
Much is made of the Flyte's Catholicism (it is at this point that the brilliant Lady Marchmain of Emma Thompson makes her entrance into the film) and of Ryder's Atheism and unfortunately Jarrold decides to develop this theme of the duality of religion (a religion that both nourishes your soul and life while at the same time a religion that also inflicts inhuman restrictions: or so says Waugh) into the last ¼ of the film which turns the film into a diatribe against religion instead of a concurrent theme throughout the film. The last scenes of the film therefore feel as if they were spliced on from another film.
There is no doubt that "Brideshead Revisited" is beautiful to behold and the performances are first-rate especially Ben Whishaw as the alcoholic, doomed Sebastian. But in the final analysis, it fails to deliver the goods: the raw though reserved, the gloomy though blindingly white aura of Waugh's novel.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 10, 2008 11:51 PM PDT


Ne le Dis a Personne
Ne le Dis a Personne
DVD ~ François Cluzet
Offered by Selection 1985
Price: $5.00
2 used & new from $5.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars To Die for Love, July 12, 2008
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Ne le Dis a Personne (DVD)
Alexandre Beck (heretofore a perpetual second banana in comedies but here definitely the distraught, crazed, put-upon, conflicted hero, François Cluzet) seems to have it all: a great and loving family, a beautiful and loving wife, Margot (played by Marie Croze) and even a big faithful dog to fill out his life.
Director Guilluame Canet (the erratic but full of life, "Les Jeux Enfants" and the chilly yet warm even sentimental, "Joyeux Noel") begins this film with an outdoor family dinner: everyone enjoying the food, the wine, the children, dogs romping around, everyone having a great time yet the music playing on the soundtrack is Otis Redding's "For Your Precious Love" a doleful plea for love and acceptance which cuts away at the sunny, family-positive scene that it underscores; thus setting up psychological friction between the scene we are watching and the music which is underscoring it. Things are not as they seem. Something is amiss.
Based on a novel by American Thriller writer, Harlan Cohen much of the film plays like a classic American Thriller ("D.O.A" and "Chinatown") but filtered through the intelligence of screenwriters Canet and Philippe Lefebvre). In fact the tone of "Tell No One" feels very much like a Roman Polanski film: as in the aforementioned "Chinatown" or "Knife in the Water": all complex stories which involve big mysteries and bigger love stories as well.
In a scene involving murder and mayhem, Margot is killed. For a short period of time the Police suspect Alexandre but this is soon dispelled and life goes on for Alex, who eventually becomes a Pediatrician but never marries: he pines and mourns for Margot even 8 years after the fact. Then one day he gets an e-mail showing a very much alive Margot...or so it seems.
Perhaps there are a few too many plot upheavals here but Canet and Lefebvre keep the business of the film moving along coherently. On hand are a number of French actors who contribute, in small roles, to the truthfulness and humanity of this film: Nathalie Baye, Jean Rochefort and Kristin Scott Thomas (who speaks beautiful idiomatic Parisian French).
Harlen Cohen has said that he is a fan of "stories that move you, that grab hold of your heart and do not let it go." There is no doubt that with Canet as his partner he has gotten his wish with "Tell No One."
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 26, 2008 8:58 PM PDT


No Title Available

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Killing 4 Fun and Profit, June 28, 2008
"Wanted" has got style to burn and almost, just almost tips the scale of style over substance but Timur Bekmambetov ("Night Watch" and "Day Watch") directing this his first American film, manages to hold firm on the side of substance though he tends to manipulate his characters like live action dolls.
"Wanted" recalls several films: "Batman" in particular with its training session scenes: scenes of over the top gruesome violence which involve super geek, lithium popping Wesley Gibson (the very effective James McAvoy) whose father was a hired assassin for a super secret society called THE FRATERNTY, now headed by Sloan (Morgan Freeman). To make the last statement even more ludicrous is that this fraternity started in the middle ages as a group of loomers who received messages, via the cloth they loom, to assassinate.
Though this all sounds like too much for any one film to bare, "Wanted" is so full of life and yes artful C.I.G. effects that we soon dismiss any reservations and get down to the core of the film: a story about a Son (McAvoy) who goes on a journey, both physical and cosmic, to find his father. On the down side, Bekmambetov muddles and stains the mise en scene with so much "stuff" that we really have to dig very deep emotionally in order to see this film for what it really is below the razzle-dazzle.
With all that being said, Bekmambetov doesn't give any of us time to think much about the ludicrousness of the story as he directs in a style that moves the action along in breakneck pace: sort of like a cross between a "Bourne" movie and a 3 Stooges film. And believe it or not, that is a compliment. It's at this point that you either buy into "Wanted" and sit back and let it flow over and into you or you go out and refill your popcorn and soft drink containers and think about what you need to do to complete your honey-do list.
Angelina Jolie, in her best sultry murderess style manages to make a big impact here: her Fox is beautiful, ironic and played with her tongue firmly planted in her cheek. Jolie is just this side of being a movie icon. Her mere presence gives this film weight and substance.
"Wanted" is certainly not a great film but it is definitely a wild ride and it is fun to see James McAvoy continuing his recent string of first rate performances. Though Mekmamtov should have dug deeper into what makes his characters tick, i.e. what makes them do the things they do, I genuinely look forward to his next film: the guy is talented and his film bristles with energy and forward momentum.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 26, 2008 8:55 PM PDT


Nested
Nested
Price: $10.99
30 used & new from $9.21

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Pregnant with the knowledge and the flame of your true love", June 1, 2008
This review is from: Nested (Audio CD)
"Nested" was released 2 years after the volcanic
"Smile" and yet, though I am very familiar with "Smile," I was not very familiar with "Nested" except for having heard my mother play the vinyl recording over and over a number of years ago.
I am one of those who, because my Moms was such a fan, heard Laura beginning at a very early age.
But "Nested" is a revelation: equal to "Smile" and sometimes even surpassing it. "Nested" begins quietly with "Mr. Blue": "I've been studying the radar in the Sky...listen like the animals do...yes I am ready for you...I've been a Gypsy fire, warm desire...this is the song of communications..."
And then "My Innocence": "...my innocence comes from my warm earth mother..." This song features terrific guitar work from John Troppea a carry over band member from "Smile."
The best song on the CD follows, "Crazy Love." Listen to it and marvel at the emotional commitment with which Laura imbues this song: "...my name is in your blood and what your true love's done to me...walk soft, talk soft like an animal on silent feet on a block of snow...I was looking for a true love to right the way...pregnant with the knowledge and the flame of your true love..." Who writes much less sings like this anymore?
Say what you will about Nyro's voice and mannerisms but the one thing that can never be taken away from her is her total, unparalleled emotionality. There is/never was any doubt that she means and feels every single word she sings. She is her music and her music is her.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 11, 2008 1:49 PM PDT


No Title Available

24 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Friends, June 1, 2008
Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte: they're all back, now in their 40's and approaching 50 but still fighting the good fight (at least all but Charlotte is)...looking for Love into which they fall in and out of on a regular basis.
Many of the things we loved about the HBO series are back: Mr. Big (who knew his name was John?), the 2 Gay sidekicks Anthony and Stanford, the ridiculously outlandish clothes and shoes and more importantly the enduring and refreshing love that exists between these 4 women. What is not here, as it was not there in the TV series is snarky, condescending comments about or between our Sex and the City women. These women are truly friends: caring, sympathetic and empathetic about each other. If nothing else this is what sets this film apart from any film featuring a cast of women...think "8 Women" or "The Women" and you'll understand. Men may come and go but our quartet is present both physically and emotionally for each other. They love each other in the way the best platonic friends love each other: selfishly and selflessly.
The story revolves around our heroine's boyfriends, husbands, babies and of course, Mr. Big. At the beginning of the film, Carrie and John (it's weird to call him that) are set to marry in a lavish wedding set in New York's Public Library Rotunda: Carrie is wearing her Vivienne Westwood gown and John is sporting a resplendent John Varvatos tux. Then all hell breaks loose.
"Sex and the City" is a lot of fun and it is great to see our heroines together once again inter-reacting. But there is a deep sadness at the core here. We've watched these women for years yet emotionally they are still striving to find their true place in the universe. We crave for them to find happiness because we love them and hold them close to our hearts. And by-the-way, of what other characters in films can we say this? But director and writer,
Michael Patrick King resists making the easy fix. He doesn't try to tie up their stories with a big red satin bow: he knows these women and owes them and us a plausible, respectful and humane continuation of their lives. King respects their past and uses it to mold their futures. And for this we thank him and for creating these terrific 4 women.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 27, 2008 9:37 AM PDT


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