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Hideo Nakata directed the Japanese-language horror Ringu and Ringu 2 before being courted to direct The Ring 2, the American remake sequel to his own franchise, and a film that wasn't very good, but one I would watch five times over before enduring his 2010 Cannes Film Festival entry Chatroom ever again. Billed as a thriller, this film is anything but. In fact, it's a tedious bore that does nothing but lay there like a dead fish. To say nothing happened in this film is nearly an understatement.
Hors de prix
With a lightness of touch that Hollywood would undoubtedly struggle to reproduce, Priceless (Hors de prix) is a frivolous French romantic comedy that aspires to be nothing more than a throwaway bit of fun.
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In drama there are two types of productions; the comedy, for happy endings and the tragedy for the sad endings. I suppose tragic would used to described the life of George Jung, which is racked with disappointment, lies, betrayal, deceit, money, and of course, lots of drugs. "Blow" is the cinematic version of an "Intimate Portrait" of George Jung (Johnny Depp), the man who claims to be responsible for importing 3/4 of the cocaine into the U.S. in the late 70's to early 80's.
One aspect that virtually assures a good motion picture is solid character development (sometimes referred to as a "character arc"). It doesn't matter if it's a mainstream movie or an offbeat indie - any narrative-based film benefits if the characters are not stuck in stasis (unless, of course, that's the point). The most extreme form of character development is the transformation - where an individual begins as one thing, and, by the end of the film, is someone completely different. This kind of dramatic character arc is the most difficult one to pull of successfully, and the easiest one to screw up. Usually, that occurs when characters are poorly-developed, situations are predictable, and relationships are presented half-baked. Such is the case with Lisa Cholodenko's Laurel Canyon, the disappointing follow-up to the director's debut feature, the overrated High Art. Like the earlier movie, Laurel Canyon comes across pretty much as a pretentious soap opera - a movie that wants the audience to believe it has more to say about life than the usual melodrama. Unlike High Art, however, Laurel Canyon is not exceptionally well-acted (with one notable exception) and the characters are far less interesting (again, with one exception.)
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James Cameron is widely viewed as being one of the most difficult and demanding directors, due in large part to the powerful streak of perfectionism that defines his filmmaking. Cameron's most difficult and contentious shoot to date has been The Abyss - a logistically nightmarish experience that frayed the nerves and tempers of cast and crew alike. Cameron completed The Abyss behind schedule and over budget, and the theatrical version is generally regarded as the weakest and most disappointing of the director's six major efforts (the other five: The Terminator, Aliens, T2, True Lies, Titanic). Had the 140-minute cut released into multiplexes on August 9, 1989 been the final word, The Abyss would be a mostly forgotten footnote on Cameron's resume. However, some three years after The Abyss made its debut, the director was provided with the wherewithal to produce an Extended Edition. Incorporating about a half-hour of deleted material, the Extended Edition repaired many (although not all) of the theatrical cut's glaring problems, resulting in a greatly enhanced viewing experience. Today, although both versions are available, I don't know anyone who would choose to watch the theatrical release over the expanded home video one.
Although the neutering of the climax played a part in the movie's initial lukewarm reception, that was not the only issue. Expectations were also a factor. Cameron's two previous features, The Terminator and Aliens, had been high octane thrillers with technologically advanced villains and rousing climaxes. Although there's plenty of action in The Abyss, coupled with a fair share of tension, the "bad guy" is nothing more frightening than a psychotic Navy SEAL (played by Michael Biehn). The aliens are largely decoupled with the action and, when they make an appearance at the end, it seems to be almost an afterthought, and their introduction recalls E.T. and Close Encounters. (This is fixed in the Extended Edition, but more about that later.) The film made about $54 million - a total that was ultimately profitable but disappointing (Star Trek V, released the same summer, made just a fraction less). Compared to Batman, The Abyss was the black hole its title implies.
The Abyss begins with the kind of opening scene guaranteed to capture an audience's attention. The nuclear sub USS Montana encounters unexpected trouble while patrolling near the Cayman Trough and becomes disabled. The military, facing rising tensions with the Soviet Union, are anxious to mount a search-and-rescue mission before the U.S.S.R. can go looking. The best and quickest option is to use Deepcore, a privately owned oil platform resting on the ocean floor near the abyssal trench, as the base for the operation. This is not well received by the captain of the platform, Bud Brigman (Ed Harris), but he is overruled by management. A team of Navy SEALS, commanded by Lt. Coffey (Michael Biehn), dive down to Deepcore, accompanied by Lindsey Brigman (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), the designer of the station and Bud's estranged wife.
Vampires. Few creatures of legend speak to human terror on a more fundamental level. Ever since the silent days of movies, when F.W. Murnau chilled audiences with Nosferatu, a creepy, atmospheric adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, film-goers have been entranced by vampires on the big screen. The worldwide blockbuster success of two recent pictures, Interview with a Vampire and Bram Stoker's Dracula, indicates that the lure of the undead has not worn off. With Blade, director Stephen Norrington is wedding two popular subjects: vampires and superheroes. His hope, and that of New Line Cinema, the production company financing the movie, is that Blade takes a huge bite out of the late-summer box office.
These days, Hollywood seems to be almost entirely bankrupt of new ideas. For bursts of inspiration or innovation, the movie-goer increasingly has to seek out independent motion pictures. What we are getting more and more from the big studios is a flood of sequels, films based on novels, films based on TV series, remakes, or a combination of the above. Sabrina joins this list as the latest classic whose script and cast have been updated for the '90s -- although in the case of this variation on the Cinderella tale, the story admittedly has a certain timeless quality.
Price above Rubies
A Price Above Rubies is writer/director Boaz Yakin's follow-up to his highly-regarded, tautly-paced 1994 picture, Fresh. Sadly, little of the energy and intelligence of the earlier film is evident in this, an overwrought melodrama populated by stereotypes and featuring an improbable storyline that relies upon a string of coincidences. Ostensibly, A Price Above Rubies details the struggle of one woman to throw off the shackles of a conservative society, but the manner in which Yakin approaches this theme is preachy, pedantic, and predictable.
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Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
After the mixed critical and popular reaction received by his pretentious Dogma, writer/director/actor Kevin Smith has returned to his lowbrow roots for the final chapter in his five-part "New Jersey Trilogy" - lewd, profane, bodily function-oriented comedy. Unfortunately, while the content is no less potentially offensive or crude than anything offered in Smith's debut, Clerks, the writing isn't as sharp and the jokes aren't as consistently hilarious. There are times when Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back offers from-the-belly guffaws, but, in comparison with Smith at his ribald best, too much of this movie seems like a pale imitation.
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Breakfast on Pluto
A glamorously made-up Patrick "Kitten" Braden (Cillian Murphy) pushing a baby in a pram and flirting insouciantly with construction workers, introduces her life story. Intricately plotted, the film is divided into over 30 brief chapters, each titled onscreen and written in the voice of main character, who is often shown writing autobiographically-inspired fiction within the film.
In the fictional Irish town of Tyrellin, near the border of Northern Ireland in the late 1940s, cartoon robins narrate via subtitles as Baby Patrick's mother abandons him on the doorstep of his father, Father Liam (Liam Neeson), who places him with an unloving foster mother. A young Patrick (Conor McEvoy) is shown donning a dress and lipstick, much to the chagrin of his foster family. Patrick is accepted by his close friends Charlie, Irwin and Lawrence, as well as by Lawrence's father, who tells Patrick that his biological mother looked like blonde American movie star Mitzi Gaynor and ran away to London.
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Grand Champion weaves the tale of a spunky young boy named Buddy and his prize-winning calf, Hokey, as they climb from the underdog position and up through the ranks of several Texas stock shows to ultimately win the coveted title of Grand Champion. People from all walks of life help Buddy and Hokey make their way across Texas by cheering them on to a toe-tapping surprise ending.
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The Wendell Baker Story
Owen, Luke, and Andrew Wilson combine their fraternal filmmaking talents to tell the character-driven tale of a small-time con man who gets a fortuitous shot at redemption while working in a run down retirement community. Wendell Baker (Luke Wilson) is a con man whose large heart betrays his criminal mind. Confident to a fault and consistently cool-headed, Baker is the kind of grifter who's always quick with a comeback and never lets the law get in the way of making a quick buck. When Wendell is busted for selling counterfeit Texas driver's licenses to undocumented Mexican migrant workers, he coasts through his prison sentence with the same unflappable attitude that made him the perfect swindler in the outside world. In order to pass the time behind bars without causing waves, mellow convict Wendell buries his nose in books about hotel management checked out from the prison library. Upon release the optimistic ex-con is distraught to discover his girlfriend Dorren (Eva Mendes) has taken up with a quick-tempered grocer (Will Ferrell) and his former partner Reyes (Jacob Vargas) has been forced into retirement by his law-abiding wife. Looking to put his hotel management know-how to good use and determined to win Doreen back, Wendell soon takes a job at the Shady Grove retirement hotel. Little does Wendell realize that scheming Shady Grove head nurse Neil King (Owen Wilson) has been dabbling in fraudulent Medicare payments and forced labor, and has no qualms about pinning his crimes on the carefree ex-convict. Now, if benevolent knave Wendell has any hope of turning the tables on his unscrupulous nemesis and proving that nice guys don't always finish last, he'll have to enlist the aid of fed-up Shady Grove residents Boyd (Seymour Cassel), Skip (Harry Dean Stanton), and Nasher (Kris Kristofferson), who are all more than willing to strike back at their casually cruel caretaker
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Four friends each receive phone calls to meet a fifth friend for lunch at MK Restaurant, a popular hot pot chain in Bangkok. The friends are:
The film opens at Xcalibur Bowling Centre, a disco-themed bowling alley in Surrey, British Columbia. Egerton (Dan Ellis), the janitor, has allowed two groups of teenagers to bowl against one another after hours. The "prep", Steve (Alistair Gamble), is still bitter after his best friend Jamie (Nathan Witte), the "jock", had sex with Lisa (Candice Lewald), a girl with whom Steve was smitten and even took to their senior prom. After Steve and his friends Joey (Wade Gibb), Patrick (Trevor Gemma) and A.J. (Nathan Dashwood) harass the "tranny", Sam (Jimmy Blais), they are chastised by Jamie. This leads to a brawl between Steve's team and Jamie's. Lisa breaks up the fight by dropping a bowling ball on Steve's foot just as Steve is about to kick Jamie again. Egerton, brandishing a shotgun, tells the teenagers to leave and they can continue their tournament the following night.
Book of Songs
High school dropout and aspiring musician, Mike, spends his days hanging out with his friends and confronting the members of the church next door. Most members have learned to keep their distance, but Sister Thomas is determined to open Mikes mind to GOD and religion. Connecting through a love for music she convinces Mike to pick up the Bible and start reading. He quickly learns that the Bible truly is a book of songs and slowly starts to believe in himself again. With the help of Sister Thomas, Mike stands up to his friends and begins to choose a more righteous path.
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Connie, an aging Bohemian photographer, meets mousy Harper, headed for Harvard Law from a high-powered San Francisco family, and immediately sees her beauty. He also guesses she has talent and invites her to be his pupil and share his bed. Hes Alfred Stieglitz, shes Georgia OKeefe, and he calls her his Guinevere. When she realizes shes the latest Guinevere in a string of ingenues, she bolts, only to return, sick of her family. Shes blossoming, reading, learning, but hasnt yet taken her first photograph when he tells her theyre going to L.A., broke, him drinking too much, to sell some photographs. On the trip, she finally snaps the shutter so does her awe and dependence.