|I'm Not There
Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger, Richard Gere, Julianne Moore, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Michelle Williams, Ben Wishaw, Bruce Greenwood, Marcus Carl Franklin
The surreal Bob Dylan tribute/biopic "I'm Not There" is a trip and a half, with multiple actors playing different elements of the American folk-rock icon's personality during different stages of his life. It's interesting to note that filmmaker Todd Haynes, who wrote the screenplay and directed, chose stars associated with the characters of Batman (Christian Bale), the Joker (Heath Ledger) and Queen Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett) to help portray Dylan in "I'm Not There."
No one ever said that the Bard of Hibbing wasn't a complex individual. The movie, with its non-linear approach to its subject, will certainly stimulate debate. There's a lot of great music, including stuff by Dylan himself (although he only appears very, very briefly in a morsel of archival footage at the end), as well as covers of some of his songs by the likes of Eddie Vedder ("All Along the Watchtower") and Stephen Malkmus ("Ballad of a Thin Man") with the high-end pick-up band the Million Dollar Bashers (featuring Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo and drummer Steve Shelley, Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, Television guitarist Tom Verlaine, bassist Tony Garnier, guitarist Smokey Hormel and keyboardist John Medeski). Plus, the soundtrack offers provocative selections from John Doe, Yo La Tengo, Richie Havens, Sonic Youth and Antony & the Johnsons, among others.
Self-indulgent? Yes. Audacious? You bet. And finely wrought, well acted, and beautifully shot. Worthwhile for music lovers and those interested in the socio-political tides of the late 20th century? Absolutely. Potentially infuriating to Dylan's most fervent fans? That's a given. Nonetheless, heartily recommended.
|Love In The Time Of Cholera
Javier Bardem, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Benjamin Bratt, John Leguizamo, Hector Elizondo, Liev Schreiber, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Fernanda Montenegro, Laura Harring
Adapting a literary work into a feature-length movie is, by nature, a dicey proposition. A well-loved novel of length and complexity, such as Colombian-born Nobel Prize-winner Gabriel García Márquez's "Love in the Time of Cholera," seems designed to defy such an audacious proposition. Yet, that best-seller the tale of a thwarted, obsessive love that spans a half-century was transformed into a lush, engaging affair for the big screen under unlikely circumstances. The film was made in Spanish-accented English by British mainstream director Mike Newell ("Four Weddings & a Funeral," "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"), and features a passel of familiar actors from various points on the globe including Spain's Javier Bardem, Benjamin Bratt, Hector Elizondo, John Leguizamo and Liev Schreiber from the U.S., Italy's Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Brazil's Fernanda Montenegro and Colombia's Catalina Sandino Moreno. Admittedly, it's a glorified soap opera, but what could have been a clumsy mish-mash is charming and amusing.
During the late 19th century in a bustling port city, poor but diligent clerk Florentino (a protean Bardem) yearns to marry the beautiful Fermina (the luminous Mezzogiorno). It's not to be, because Fermina's greedy father (Leguizamo) has arranged her marriage to well-to-do Dr. Urbino (Bratt). Thus begins a romantic triangle that persists for 50 years as Florentino, rising in status and wealth as a merchant, remains determined to win Fermina's heart.
Due to necessary plot compression, the script often skims the surface of the book. Luckily, screenwriter Ronald Harwood balances genuine emotion, ribald humor, melodrama, and a touch of magical realism; the actors embrace their work with gusto; and Newell knows when to move things along and when to pause and drink in the glories of the story and setting.
|Gone Baby Gone
Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, John Ashton, Amy Ryan, Amy Madigan, Titus Welliver
|Pulling himself out of the tabloid mire that threatened to swamp him during his relationship with Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck is on a roll. First, there was his tragic, nuanced performance as the late George "Superman" Reeves in "Hollywoodland," earning critics' accolades and award nominations. But that was just a precursor to Affleck's assured directorial debut "Gone Baby Gone" an engrossing intersection of mystery, drama, crime procedural, and character study that Affleck and co-screenwriter Aaron Stockard adapted from a novel by "Mystic River" author Dennis Lehane. Apparently, Affleck's Oscar for co-writing the script of "Good Will Hunting" was no fluke. In "Gone Baby Gone," 4-year-old Amanda is kidnapped from her single mother's apartment in a rough, working-class Boston-area neighborhood. Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck, Ben's kid brother) and Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan), a young couple living together and working together as private investigators, are hired by Amanda’s aunt (Amy Madigan) to find the little girl. Patrick and Angie quickly come into conflict with the cops on the case, as well as Amanda's mother (Amy Ryan), various suspects and leads, and, eventually, each other. The film is blessed by terrific work from the entire cast, including Ed Harris as police detective Remy Broussard and Morgan Freeman as his superior officer Jack Doyle, and loads of local color. Affleck, who hails from the area, seems right at home with the story's gritty milieu. The taut, no-nonsense style of his direction recalls the lean, close-to-the-bone approach of fellow actor-turned-director Clint Eastwood and that bodes well for Affleck's continued career behind the camera.
Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Alison Lohman, Gina Gershon, Callie Thorne, David Wain, Kevin Corrigan, Elvis Costello, Cinqué Lee
|Indictments of our celebrity-obsessed culture can be found in movies, on TV, in print, and in conversation at your local café. But "Delirious" an acerbic film comedy about a boorish Manhattan photographer, a homeless would-be actor, and a shallow but pretty female pop star is particularly scathing (with a tremor or two of tension and even a whiff of tragedy) in its treatment of the pressures, egomania and hysteria that accompany a career in the entertainment business and the accompanying ministrations of the media. Blessedly, "Delirious" also brings the funny with crafty performances from principal actors Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, and Alison Lohman; and a sharp script and spring-loaded direction from Tom DiCillo, best-known as cinematographer for filmmaker Jim Jarmusch's deadpan flicks "Coffee and Cigarettes" and "Stranger Than Paradise." Les (an inspired Buscemi) scrambles to snap lurid shots of the famous, yet is offended whenever anyone labels him one of the paparazzi. On the same day that he's stalking trendy, minimally-talented singer K'Harma (Lohman), Les bumps into overgrown street urchin Toby (Pitt). Sensing their common desperation and loneliness, Les makes Toby his assistant. But Toby's subsequent encounter with K'Harma ignites a mutual attraction that alienates Les, and then sends him into a tailspin. Gina Gershon as a vixenish casting director and Elvis Costello as himself add to the delirium. DiCillo previously skewered the independent filmmaking scene with the darkly comic "Living in Oblivion," which featured Buscemi as a hapless director. And Buscemi took on the tenuous relationship between VIPs and the press when he wrote, directed and starred in the taut two-person drama "Interview." Obviously, they know the territory well.
|2 Days In Paris
Julie Delpy, Adam Goldberg, Daniel Brühl, Marie Pillet, Albert Delpy, Alexia Landeau, Adan Jodorowsky, Alex Nahon
|Don't worry. "2 Days in Paris" isn't about some fool's blessedly brief affair with an idiotic heiress. Rather, it's a breezy and appealing movie that takes painfully honest, frequently funny stock of the crazily neurotic (but devoted) relationship between French photographer Marion and American interior-designer Jack as they wrap up a stressful European vacation with a brief stay at her parents' home in Paris before returning to New York City. The beautiful actress Julie Delpy does more than simply play leading lady Marion with easy charm and intelligence. In protean fashion, Delpy wrote, directed, and co-edited "2 Days in Paris," and composed the music for the film; it's an impressive feat made all the more remarkable by the high quality of the production, which also stars Adam Goldberg in an amusingly Woody Allen-esque performance as the high-strung Jack. Delpy devised "2 Days..." as a romantic comedy done in cinema verité style, and it has its dark moments. She's not afraid to let Marion and Jack really get on one another's nerves. After all, their love is being tested by his hypochondria and insecurities, her family's flippant attitude towards him, and her heedless flirtations with former paramours who seem to pop up wherever Marion and Jack go. There are echoes of filmmaker Richard Linklater's tender "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset," which featured Delpy and Ethan Hawke as two travelers whose brief encounter on a European train trip leads to romance. But "2 Days in Paris" shows us what might happen to even the happiest of couples after the initial blush and rush wear off.
|16 Years Of Alcohol
Kevin McKidd, Laura Fraser, Susan Lynch, Jim Carter, Ewen Bremner
Widescreen; closed caption; Spanish subtitles; audio commentary by writer/director Richard Jobson; behind-the-scenes featurette; storyboards; Alan Morrison's filmnotes.
|Richard Jobson, a former member of the Scottish punk-rock band The Skids, wrote and directed "16 Years of Alcohol," a tragic, engrossing drama about an angry young man who succumbs to alcoholism and violence in Edinburgh, Scotland. Frankie is a nice working-class kid undermined by family strife. When his parents' seemingly idyllic marriage proves illusory, Frankie looks elsewhere for comfort. By the time that he's out of his teens, he's in a gang of thuggish skinheads dedicated to boozing and destruction. Kevin McKidd ("Nicholas Nickleby," "Trainspotting") plays Frankie, whose loyalty to his indolent pals threatens his romantic relationship with a smart, artistic girl (Laura Fraser) that he meets at a local record store. The structure of the film is fluid, with time flashing forward and back. Its more violent moments are disturbingly graphic, although in the service of the story and Frankie's psychological profile. McKidd and the supporting cast, which includes Susan Lynch ("Enduring Love"), Jim Carter ("Shakespeare in Love"), and Ewen Bremner ("Black Hawk Down," "Trainspotting"), show the proper level of commitment to the material. Regardless of Frankie's sins and shortcomings, the film generates legitimate sympathy for his plight. And the technical aspects of "16 Years of Alcohol" are impressive, with evocative cinematrography and notable Edinburgh settings that vary from stark to lovely.
Florent Emilio Siri
Bruce Willis, Kevin Pollak, Jimmy Bennett, Michelle Horn, Ben Foster, Jonathan Tucker, Marshall Allman, Serena Scott Thomas, Rumer Willis
Widescreen; closed caption; English, French audio tracks; Spanish subtitles; audio commentary by director Florent Siri; deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary by director Florent Siri; "Taking 'Hostage' Behind the Scenes" featurette.
|Gliding through the sort of role he can do in his sleep, Bruce Willis plays Jeff Talley, a guilt-ridden former hostage negotiator for the Los Angeles Police Department. Talley, the conflicted hero of the improbable action-drama " Hostage," loses his resolve when a negotiation goes bad. He leaves his LAPD job, separates from his wife (Serena Scott Thomas) and daughter (Rumer Willis, the star's real-life offspring), relocates to an upscale suburb and becomes a sheriff. But the peacefulness of Talley's new job comes to an end when delinquents invade an area home and threaten the family that lives there: a father and his two kids. Adding degrees of difficulty to Talley's rescue mission, the father is a shady accountant working for an even shadier employer. Various deadly agendas intersect, and in due course, Talley and his estranged loved ones are all at risk. Playing the numbers-cruncher whose house is under siege, comic-turned-character-actor Kevin Pollak (" A Few Good Men" ) does a decent job of mixing parental concern with amoral greed and an instinct for self-preservation. Ben Foster (TV's " Six Feet Under" ) is amusingly menacing as the snarling, psycho leader of the home invaders. Since Willis is in his comfort zone as a flawed man facing a life-defining challenge, "Hostage" isn't a total loss. Rather, it's one more so-so entry in the star's filmography.
Sara Foster, Jordana Brewster, Meagan Good, Devon Aoki, Jill Ritchie, Holland Taylor, Michael Clarke Duncan, Geoff Stults, Jessica Cauffiel
Special edition widescreen; English, French audio tracks; English, French subtitles; audio commentary by writer/director Angela Robinson; audio commentary by actors Jordana Brewster, Sara Foster, Jill Ritchie and Meagan Good;deleted and extended scenes; making-of featurette; music video: The Weekend's "Into the Morning"; animatic sequence; still gallery; Angela Robinson's original "D.E.B.S." comics.
|"D.E.B.S" doesn't just try to evoke the female-empowering spirit and tongue-in-cheek humor of the "Charlie's Angels" movies. It also takes the espionage, gadgetry and youthful slant of the "Spy Kids" trilogy, sexes up its young secret agents by making them hormonally-charged teen babes, and amps up the grrl power with a Sapphic romance. The action-comedy introduces the D.E.B.S., schoolgirls working for a government-sponsored spy agency dedicated to national defense. (The group's acronym stands for discipline, energy, beauty and strength.) Four of the plaid-skirted D.E.B.S. (Sara Foster, Meagan Good, Devon Aoki, Jill Ritchie) are ordered to track down lesbian criminal mastermind Lucy Diamond (Jordana Brewster). Wily Lucy plans to turn the tables on her pursuers, particularly the most esteemed of the D.E.B.S.: star pupil Amy (Foster). It doesn't hurt Lucy's cause when Amy begins to have ambivalent feelings toward her blandly good-looking secret-agent boyfriend (Geoff Stults). This is based on a short film by "D.E.B.S." writer/director Angela Robinson. Unlike Robinson's relatively clever, low-budget, brief-and-to-the-point short, the feature benefits from a larger budget that allowed for fancy special effects and the addition of accomplished character actors such as Holland Taylor and Michael Clarke Duncan, who play the D.E.B.S.' bosses. But it's another case when bigger isn't better.