August 16, 2004

At the Movies

Brief reviews of a few films I’ve seen lately:

“Garden State”: This marvelous film is clearly destined for the Single Guy DVD Collection Pantheon. Funny and poignant, with plenty of New Jersey references and Jewish references to satisfy anyone inclined towards such things, “Garden State” also features Natalie Portman’s best performance as an adult- after seeing her consorting with Anakin and Jar Jar for the last few years, it’s easy to forget that Natalie was quite an actress, back when she was 15.

At any rate, “Garden State” is one of the best movies of the year, and I should have a full review posted here tomorrow.

“The Human Stain”: This weekend’s Netflix movie; I liked it a lot more than most people did. Yes, it was sort of all over the place, and it had a horrid performance by Nicole Kidman that reminded me of her similarly awful turn in “Eyes Wide Shut.” But the film was surprisingly poignant, especially in its second half, and I loved the weaving of the flashbacks with the present-day story.

“The Manchurian Candidate”: Jonathan Demme’s remake of the 1962 classic pretty much fails on every level- the production design sucks, there are unintentional laughs all over the place and at the worst moments, Denzel Washington’s performance owes less to Frank Sinatra’s in the original than to Mel Gibson’s in “Conspiracy Theory,” and worst of all, the point is hammered home repeatedly that, like every other movie this year, it’s Really About Bush. I wholeheartedly agree with Alan Wirzbicki’s contention, in TNR, that the film is “a Naderite yelp.”

And I say this as one of the few who actually liked Demme's "Charade" remake, "The Truth About Charlie." That said, I LOVED Meryl Streep in the Angela Lansbury role, played as a combination of Hillary Clinton, Karen Hughes, and Mephistopheles.

“Collateral”: Michael Mann’s latest thriller has a great, great first act (as shown in its trailer), but then just becomes more goofy and outlandish as it goes on- until the last half hour, which is so implausible that it makes “24” look like a paragon of cinematic realism.

You know how Jack Bauer has the magical ability to get in a car accident in one episode, a plane crash in the next, and got shot in the third, and walk away from all three as though nothing had happened? Apparently all the characters in “Collateral” have that power as well, and one of them can even spend ten minutes in a nightclub shooting people like Rambo, and then slip away without anyone noticing. “Collateral” is every bit as overrated as Mann's previous film, “Ali,” was underrated.

Posted by Stephen Silver at August 16, 2004 06:33 PM
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