film reviews (early spring 2005)

Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior (2003) directed by Prachya Pinkaew (US directorial debuit); starring Tony Jaa and Petchtai Wongkamlao: Snaprating=Cheaper, PROBLEM-theme (MILIEU secondary theme). Martial arts fans looking for a new face performing non-CGI, non-wired, ass kicking's--in the tradition of Fists of Fury--will be legitimately enthralled by the loosely choreographed roughness and may forgive poor lighting and sophomoric editing.

Robots (2005) directed by Chris Wedge (Ice Age, 2002); voices of Ewan McGregor and Robin Williams: Adult Snaprating=WFC, Gradeschool Snaprating=Cheaper, MILIEU-theme. Very young animation fans will laugh at the fart and butt jokes and enjoy the many first-person roller coaster scenes (done better in Polar Express) but may not catch every rapid-fire gag jammed into this worn-out, retreaded, hick-makes-good-in-the-city script.

The Upside of Anger (2005) directed by Mike Binder (Blankman, 1994); starring Joan Allen and Kevin Costner: Snaprating=WFC, RE-ORDER theme. Fans of the subdued, intense, character, which is consistantly portrayed by Allen (The Contender) will be pleased to watch her banter with Kostner's familiar ex-baseball character in this plodding melange rife with directorial filmic errors.

Millions (2004) directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 1996); starring Alexander Nathan Etel and James Nesbitt: Snaprating=Keeper, PROBLEM-theme (CHARACTER secondary theme). Etel's adorable quirky-sweetness causes this 'Sleepless In Seattle meets Pay It Forward' to shine above the mass of other British 'found loot' films.

Tarnation (2003) directed by Jonathan Caouette (directorial debut); starring Jonathan Caouette and Renee Leblanc: Snaprating=Cheaper, CHARACTER-theme. Fans of What the #$*! Do We Know!? will adore the exceptional editing and soundtrack of this stunning, unique, autobiographical-documentary, which--like an angst-driven, 90-minute expressionist video--plays the emotionally-charged card quite well.

Frank Miller's Sin City (2005) directed by Robert Rodriguez (Once Upon a Time in Mexico, 2003); starring Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Brittany Murphy and many others: Snaprating=Keeper, RE-ORDER-theme (MILIEU secondary theme). Graphic novel afficionados and fans of Pulp Fiction will worship this tight yet over-the-top stagesque rendering and character melange, which moves the 'unique bar' high, so very high.

Downfall (Der Untergang) (2004) directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (The Experiment, 2001); starring Bruno Ganz and Alexandra Maria Lara: Snaprating=WFD, CHARACTER-theme. Historical film fans will overlook the length and claustrophobic settings of this war movie and applaud Hitler's secretary's perspective of his last few days.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) directed by Brad Silberling (Moonlight Mile, 2002); starring Jim Carrey and Meryl Streep: Snaprating=WFD, PROBLEM-theme (MILIEU secondary theme). Jim Carrey fans will enjoy his familiar antics and overlook the weak script in this cute yet unfunny attempt to do what The Princess Bride (a Keeper) accomplished in pre-CGI days.

Schultze Gets the Blues (2003) directed by Michael Schorr (directorial debut); starring Horst Krause and Karl Fred Müller: Snaprating=WFD, CHARACTER-theme. Fans of slice-of-life films depicting odd characters turning over a new leaf, like The Station Agent, may enjoy this 'still-waters-run-deep' film.

The Woodsman (2004) directed by Nicole Kassell (directorial debut); starring Keven Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick: Snaprating=WFC, CHARACTER-theme. Poorly directed, with a simplistic story-line sparse on between-the-lines message, this snapshot would have gone direct to dvd without big name actors (and should have gone direct to cable).

The Chronicles of Riddick (Directors Cut) (2004) directed by David Twohy (Pitch Black, 2000); starring Vin Diesel and Alexa Davalos: Snaprating=WFD, RE-ORDER-theme (secondary MILIEU theme). Riddick fans, and fans of the Blade trilogy, will overlook the grainy CGI, humorous costumes, and campy script to enjoy a familiar suspense in new settings.

Vera Drake (2004) directed by Mike Leigh (Secrets & Lies, 1996); starring Imelda Staunton and Richard Graham: Snaprating=WFC, CHARACTER-theme. If fans of PP-BOATS (Period Piece's, Based On A True Story) can overlook Leigh's signature 'garbled dialogue' further confabulated with incessant bleary-eyed whining, they may be intrigued by this moral-legal debate with lack-of-criminal-intent as it's focal point.

Japón (2002) directed by Carlos Reygadas (directorial debut); starring Alejandro Ferretis and Magdalena Flores: Snaprating=WFT, MILIEU-theme (weak secondary CHARACTER theme). Fans of sad characters plodding through a beautiful landscape pock-marked by pain, may be duped (by the misguided belief: "art is difficult to understand") into thinking that the grainy quality, sloppy direction, and weak story are intentional. Bullshit. The fools at Cannes who awarded it are naive for not recognizing it as such.

Ray (2004) directed by Taylor Hackford (An Officer and a Gentleman, 1982); starring Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington: Snaprating=WFD, CHARACTER-theme. Not to down-play Foxx's superb ability, but bio-pic fans will discover this to be just another attempt to make up for plot-shortage by allowing a character's weaknesses and mistakes to dominate and overshadow the life story.

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