Search this Topic:
Nov 1 05 3:55 PM
Nov 6 05 10:23 PM
Nov 12 05 4:26 AM
Quote:Derailed (The Weinstein Company/Miramax)
Starring: Clive Owen, Jennifer Aniston, Vincent Cassel, Melissa George, RZA, Addison Timlin, Giancarlo Esposito, Xzibit.
Director: Mikael Håfström
Sound: Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS
Color; 107 minutes; widescreen; Rated R for strong disturbing violence, language and some sexuality.
Rating: Three and a half stars
The first movie released by Harvey and Bob Weinsteins first company since leaving Miramax, the company they founded (and named after their parents), is, perhaps ironically, a co-release with Miramax itself. Based on the cleverly-plotted novel by James Siegel and *****ed by Stuart Beattie, its a thriller centered on sex and threats. The first American film by director Mikael Håfström, its perhaps too predictable for seasoned thriller fans, but others are likely to be caught up in the story.
Clive Owen is Charles Schine, a Chicago advertising executive with attractive wife Deanna (Melissa George) and teenage daughter Amy (Addison Timlin). The daughter is diabetic and needs a kidney transplant; Charles and Deanna, who also works, have been saving every spare dime for seven years in hopes of paying for the life-saving transplant.
They live in the suburbs, and Charles commutes to work. He misses his regular train one day, then finds he doesnt have enough money for the ticket. A sardonic but good-looking woman, Lucinda Harris, (Jennifer Aniston) offers to give him the money necessary, and they fall into conversation; its only slightly sexy, but Charles, already somewhat tense, is intrigued.
When he arrives at his office, hes surprised and angry to learn that his largest account has been taken away from him. He has an unusual relationship with office mail carrier Winston (rapper RZA)Charles once caught Winston about to steal some computers, but didnt turn him in. Winston is grateful, and likes to ask Charles about baseball history and statistics. Winstons a hockey fan, not baseball, but is having a kind of contest with a relative.
Determined both to pay her back and to see her again, Charles begins seeing Lucinda for the occasional lunch. He remains very dutiful toward Amy, who sometimes lapses into frightening diabetic episodes, but more and more his mind is on Lucinda.
Finally, they decidewithout wordsto have an affair. Lucinda vetoes some hotels as frequented by fellow workers, and they settle on a somewhat seedy dive. Theyre in bed on the verge of having sex when a masked man with a gun bursts into their room. He clouts Charles, takes their money and rapes Lucindarepeatedly.
Afterward, Lucinda is terrified of going to the police; her relationship with her husband isnt any too good, but she doesnt want to lose custody of her daughter. Despite being battered, Charles reluctantly agrees.
And then gets a call from the intruder, Philippe Laroche (Vincent Cassel). He demands $20,000 or hell go to Deanna, revealing Charles indiscretion. Frightened, Charles pays up; Lucinda tells him she did, too, and that theyd better not see each other any more.
Laroche calls later, now demanding $100,000. Thats just about the amount Charles and Deanna have saved for Amys operation, so Charles refusesand finds Laroche in his own home, chatting happily with Deanna. When she leaves the room, Laroche threatens to kill Deanna and Amy unless Charles pays up. Things get worse.
The novel had a terrific setup for a thriller tale; its not surprising the book was sold to the movies while still in galleys. The film is quite faithful to the book, though it has compressed the plot. The effect of this, however, turns out to make the story rather more predictable than it was in print. And a predictable thriller is usually a weakened thriller. So it is here. If youre ahead of the game, its easy to grow impatient at the twists and turns. But basically, it remains a sound, suspenseful movie, nothing great, mind you, but solid and respectable.
Sort of like Clive Owen as Charles: solid and respectable. Its a little unusual seeing Owen as the classic film noir/Hitchcock-style chump; his screen presence is usually tougher, more robustly masculine. But this casting serves the ends of the plot: you dont expect Owen to fall into this kind of trap.
Nor do you expect to see adorable Jennifer Aniston from Friends in the role of a philandering wife and rape victim. Theres a line about her character near the end that feels shoehorned into the story to take the edge off her character, make her somewhat more palatable. Even if it originated in the novel, it feels forced. But Aniston is very convincing on screen; shes not likely to become a major movie star, but shes good enough that shell have little trouble getting more work.
French Vincent Cassel is terrific as the cold-blooded, sardonic Laroche; he makes the heavy occasionally funny, very hard and tough, and extremely intelligent. Hes just not as smart as he thinks he is.
RZA is very good as Winston, and fellow hip-hopper Xzibit has a good turn as Laroches henchman. When Giancarlo Esposito turns up as a police detective, his smooth professionalism is so welcome that its easy to wonder why this fine actor doesnt work more.
Even though the plot is cleverly worked out, it includes elements that make it increasingly hard to accept. Charles money worries increase even without the threats from Laroche, so why doesnt he simply spill the beans to Deanna, removing the hold Laroche has over him? Why dont we learn just a bit more about Lucinda?
Director Mikael Håfström has clearly studied the work of Hitchcock and other classic tellers of suspense tales; there are occasional whiffs of homage here and there. He lets the pace slip occasionally, but thats not surprising when you realize how many plot twists he has to keep juggling.
Derailed isnt a classic, and possibly could never have been; in adapting the novel, a few of the elements that made it a particularly good read have necessarily had to be left behind. But Beatties dialogue is generally good, and Håfström handles the crucial violent scenes very well.
Nov 12 05 9:38 AM
Nov 12 05 4:50 PM
Quote:One question: What SNL cast members were in Animal House besides Belushi? Wasn't he was the only one?
Nov 14 05 8:09 PM
Nov 16 05 12:21 AM
Nov 19 05 2:16 PM
Walk the Line (20th Century Fox)
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin, Robert Patrick, Dallas Roberts, Tyler Hilton, Waylon Payne, Shooter Jennings.
Director: James Mangold
Sound: Dolby Digital/DTS
Color; 136 minutes; Panavision; Rated PG-13 for some language, thematic material and depiction of drug dependency.
Rating: Four stars
Walk the Line, the biography of the late Johnny Cash, makes an excellent match with Ray, last years outstanding biography of Ray Charles. The men had similar childhoods, growing up near the poverty level in the south, losing a brother to a tragic accident, getting started in the music business about the same time, going through drug problems and finally getting things together again, reaching triumphant heights.
The similarity of the stories is hardly a coincidence, nor do the films represent the first time the stories of entertainers have followed these trajectories. Many of our major singing stars went through this kind of thing, including Helen Morgan and Billie Holiday. Its because of their fame and because they overcame (or didnt) similar problems that their stories are turned into movies. Often, as here, into very good movies.
It opens with Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) about to appear on stage at Folsom prison; hes alonethe band is vampingbrooding over a table saw and a glass of water. The story flashes back to his childhood; he loves to listen to 10-year-old June Carter, of the famous Carter Family, performing on the radio. His older brother Jack is engrossed in the Bible, already preparing for his planned career as a preacher. But Jack dies in a horrible accident (involving a table saw), and Johnnys father, Ray (Robert Patrick), never very fond of J.R., thinks the wrong son died.
In the Air Force in Germany, Johnny is impressed by the movie Inside Folsom Prison, and painstakingly writes Folsom Prison Blues. He also keeps in touch with his girlfriend Vivian (Ginnifer Goodwin) back in Tennessee. Out of the service, he worksunsuccessfullyas a door-to-door salesman (the movie doesnt point out the coincidence of Cash later starring in a movie called Door-to-Door Maniac), but hes drawn to the back door of Sun Records, where hes very impressed by the young Elvis Presley (Tyler Hilton). He and two friends who play guitar and bass try out for Sam Phillips (Dallas Roberts), head of Sun, but hes uninterested in their earnest but familiar gospel song. He asks Johnny if he has anything else, and Cash shyly tries out Folsom Prison Bluesand gets a contract.
His wife is pleased, though she thinks he could find better ways of earning money. He starts touring, often appearing with Elvis and with Jerry Lee Lewis (Waylon Malloy Payne). He finally meets June Carter (Reese Witherspoon) in person; hes hesitant and shy, as theyre both married. The tours continuing, increasing tensions with his wife as their family grows. Hes drawn more and more to June, especially after she divorces her husband, but shes all too aware of his status as a married man.
The drugs kick in about here, and so does the boozing and womanizing. Tours like this are very grueling, and the temptations are many; Johnny is building a fan following, mostly of young women, it seems, who are all too eager to turn up in his dressing room. Vivians anger grows.
Gradually, Johnny and June are drawn to one another, as Johnny seems on the verge of becoming a rock star. Which is one of the films missteps: yes, Cash almost did become a rock starbut the movie doesnt show why he didnt, and why he turned increasingly to country-western music, where he would find his true home and major fame. Its the difference between his first hit, Cry, Cry, Cry and more country-focused songs like Folsom Prison Blues and I Walk the Line (written trying to explain his own feelings about June).
The film does suggest why Johnny adopted his man in black image, but doesnt explain why he seemed more of an outlaw to his fans than did Elvis, Jerry Lee or his other contemporaries. There was something different about Johnny Cash, but the movie has other things on its mind than parsing out the question of his uniqueness. This is not a bad thing; the movie is engrossing throughout (though a little long), and tells its somewhat familiar story very well.
But the movie stands or falls with the performances of Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoonand it stands tall and proud. Both of them are excellent, and both do all their own singing. Phoenixs voice seemed to me to be about half an octave higher than Cashs deep brown voice, a little less ragged than Cash at his bestbut his phrasing is on the mark.
Witherspoon is even better. From the moment she appears backstage in Texarkana, Witherspoon owns the screen. Her performance is dynamic, soulful, precise, detailed and highly ingratiating. June is a veteran performer and has a different attitude toward show business and what you do on stage than Johnny does. She tries to help him in this regard, and gradually begins developing an affection for him shes initially not comfortable with. When he collapses on stage, she breaks off contact with himbut we can see that she still likes him, maybe loves him.
Cash did spend a littlevery littletime in jail, which publicity for him made a lot of for a while, though Cash never did. He makes a joke how hes not really all THAT qualified to sing to an audience of prisoners.
The movie is largely a love storyand were lucky that it ended so well. They were married for 35 years, and died just a few months apart. We dont need to be shown how Cash handled fame after they finally joined together; we can see it all in his face in the last shot, as he looks at June.
One of the frustrations for music fans in these biopics is that only rarely do songs get performed all the way through. It was true of Ray, and its true here, too. Jackson, one of Cash & Carters biggest hits, is cut in two, the last part heard first, the first part heard later (in a scene that looks like sheer Hollywood contrivance, but is actually what happened). Cash was partly about his songs, so we should have heard a few more of them, or at least all of one or two. But there are snippets of Rock n Roll Ruby, Its All Right, Mama, and Dylans It Aint Me, Babe, done with June.
James Mangolds direction is sincere, and the ***** he co-wrote with Gil Dennis is solidly, though not imaginatively, structured with good dialogue. They worked from two autobiographies by Cash, so presumably ithe movie is reasonably accurate. The depictions of Elvis and Jerry Lee ring especially true, with Elvis being the good boy with outlaw streaks, and Jerry Lee the bad boy with nice-guy touches. The periodthe early 50s to the mid-60sis well evoked with a lot of great old cars on display.
There are some shortcomings; none of Cashs backup group, which remains pretty much the same, are identified. The credits tell us Roy Orbison is depicted, but hes not identified either. Reese Witherspoons makeup in the post-Las Vegas scenes looks peculiarly amateurish. It seems unlikely that in real life, Johnny would have compared himself so often to his brother Jack, or that his father would be quite so unyielding in his scorn for his successful son.
This is one of those movies that Hollywood makes intending to get award nominations. And they usually do; this will not be an exception. I expect both Phoenix and (especially) Witherspoon will receive nominations from many quarters, but Robert Patrick might, too.
Walk the Line is a very satisfying movie, one of the best so far this year. It tells a story that, while familiar, is worth telling, and is graced with performances that honor the people being depicted.
Nov 19 05 7:45 PM
Nov 19 05 8:28 PM
Nov 19 05 9:57 PM
Nov 20 05 12:41 AM
Quote:Bill, not to put you on the spot but Best Actor and Best Actress for certain?
Nov 20 05 2:00 AM
Nov 20 05 4:13 PM
Quote:Cash's son praised the heck out of the film yet his sister was HIGHLY upset over the way they showed her mother.
Nov 20 05 6:44 PM
Nov 20 05 8:35 PM
Quote:Witherspoon was terrific, although I'd put her in the Supporting Actress race instead of the lead since she really took a backseat throughout the entire film.
Nov 20 05 9:06 PM
Dec 13 05 3:55 PM
Feb 1 06 3:17 PM
© 2017 Yuku. All rights reserved.