Sunday, May 30, 2004

Babbling 'Bout Some Recent Release DVDs

“Take myself, subtract movies, and the result is zero” - Akira Kurosawa

A few reviews of recent release DVDs:

RIPLEY'S GAME (Dir. Liliana Cavana, 2002) 

Decent sturdy thriller but it could use a little more wit. Many lines are basic and stiff. Which is a surprise considering these are based on Patricia Highsmith's wickedly witty Tom Ripley novels. John Malkovich plays the same character that Matt Damon did in THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY (1999) but as somebody on the message board on IMDB stresses this is not a sequel. Dennis Hopper also tackled the character in Wim Wender's THE AMERICAN FRIEND (1977). A dry dull game Ripley plays this time around.

OSAMA (Dir. Siddiq Barmak, 2003)

Beautiful, but disturbing as Hell. The basic line that this is the first movie made in Afganistan since Taliban fell is news enough but to experience this movie is to witness as harrowing a depiction of oppression and indignity that's ever graced the silver screen. Marina Golbahari plays the title character, a 12 year old girl forced to pose as a boy in order to support her hungry mother and grandmother. The ruse doesn't last long and she is exiled to a worse fate. Watch at your own peril.

MONSTER (Dir. Patty Jenkins, 2003)

Charlize Theron won an Oscar for her portrayal of Aileen Carol Wuornos, a Floridian serial killing prostitute who had been executed in 2002. Argubly, she deserved to win because as Roger Ebert and many other critics gushed she completely inhabits the role and it's fascinating to watch. Unfortunately the movie that houses Wournos' story is uneven and routinely presented.

There are many effective moments like when teen lesbian Christina Ricci and Theron go roller skating and fall in love with each other to the tune of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" (yep, they're just that kind of '80s white trash) so ultimately I recommend it. For footage of the real Wuornos check out Nick Broomfield's (yes, the twit who made the silly docs BIGGIE AND TUPAC and KURT AND COURTNEY) AILEEN : LIFE AND DEATH OF A SERIAL KILLER. Watching that or MONSTER will make you want to take a shower after. 

ELEPHANT (Dir. Gus Vant Sant, 2003) 

A meditation on a Columbine style high school shooting that left me short. The look and feel is convincing, but ultimately this is a afterthought project with a muddled sense of purpose. Nice acting though from a cast of unknowns, Alex Frost and John Robinson particularly.

21 GRAMS (Dir. Alexandro Gonzalez Inarritu, 2003)

From the same team responsible for 2000's AMORES PERROS (2000). For a movie that got a few Oscar nominations, and a round of good critical notices this flick seems to have been thrown onto DVD with the same loving care as GIGLI - that is, with no Special Features to speak of. 

Not even a trailer except for other films (I hate that). The story here is 3 characters whose destinies of course intertwine and unsurprisingly is told out of sequence. How indie! You have to pay close attention to absorb the subtle details so that may lose a bunch of viewers right off. If that doesn't, the grainy washed out film stock might.

So anyway, this goes back and forth in time the narrative surrounding an automobile accident killing a man and his 2 daughters and the aftermath his widow (Naomi Watts) faces as a haggard pale professor (Sean Penn) is in need of a heart transplant.

Benecio Del Toro plays an ex-convict who's to blame for the accident. Any more I would tell you would give away this film's secrets. Basically this is Penn, Del Toro and Watts embroiled together in a tale of intrigue and blood! Almost poetic. But, as Christopher Guest said in A MIGHTY WIND, "Almost."

More later...

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