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Space Cowboys (2000)
Waste of "Space".
What the-?! "Unforgiven" was great. "A Perfect World" was good. This is garbage. Is Eastwood dying of some disease that degenerates his artistic competency? What I find so baffling is that this movie looks like it was made by a horde of people who had no idea what they were doing. The sound is awful, the jokes are awful, the editing is far too slack in the one-on-one scenes, the photography is boring and amateurish, and don't get me started on James Cromwell's ridiculous southern accent.
This is a movie by a man who has made a great film, so excuse me for expecting a little something in terms of aesthetic quality, regardless of the movie's ridiculous premise. That is a common thread in this movie: a movie made by people who used to be great, and are wasting their time in this trash. Donald Sutherland, for example, starred in numerous brilliant and original films like "MASH" and "Don't Look Now", but here he phones in his performance along with the rest of the cast like one big conference call. The only good thing about this movie is that Tommy Lee Jones is back playing a drunken good old boy instead of his usual federal agent character. He and Morgan Freeman could form a club of talented actors typecast in boring, one note roles that were only good the first time around.
In the Bedroom (2001)
This film was completely amazing. One of the complaints that this film seems to be receiving is that it is a fairly standard story, but these people seem to be missing the point. This film captures so many amazing subtleties of everyday life that it was overwhelming to me. There is a scene in which a priest and a woman have a conversation with no obvious connection to the film at all, and it is totally brilliant. This film is about details. The plot is, of course, nothing new, but it is told in such an extraordinary way. I loved everything about this film. I loved Tom Wilkinson's heartbreaking performance. I loved Sissy Spacek's seemingly stereotypical, but completely authentic performance. I love the fact that the characters tell bad jokes, because people aren't so witty in reality. I love the fact that no one in the film is too good looking, or particularly stylish. I love the fact that nearly all of the film's violence is implied, so that when we see its affects it is utterly devastating, the way it should and would be. Most of all, I love the direction by Todd Field, which reminded me of Robert Altman's films. This film is compassionate, heart breaking, and above all, real.
Good movies are good.
Finally, a movie based on material with a huge cult following that doesn't resort to stupid in-jokes. This is one of the first movies in a long time that just tells its story without trying to be hip, or be hugely ironic. Peter Jackson has pulled it off. I was not disappointed, even though I expected to be.
The acting was better than I expected it to be, too. The movie allowed for much more depth in the performances than most adventure movies ever do. Sean Bean's performance is so brilliant, it's a pity he probably won't get any awards for it. It's easy to understand why Peter Jackson wanted Bean for this part. Ian Holm is also great as a Bilbo we have never seen before. He is, at times, a much darker, scarier character than we are used to. Ian McKellen's Gandalf is, of course, great, and Viggo Mortenson does a fine job as Aragorn.
The camera work is stunning, as well. Jackson's horror roots are evident here. The camera rarely stands still, but it is never too much. It is always fluid, and exciting when it needs to be. The battle sequences use some incredible crane shots that make you wonder where the crane could possibly be positioned.
Suffice to say, December 2002 seems like a long way to go.
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
Jeezum Crawdaddy, there's some blood in this movie.
I saw this film as a midnight movie. It was shown entirely uncut, and all I can say is that the censored version must be about ten minutes long.
However, it was an interesting film. I did not expect a brain or a heart with a title like "Cannibal Holocaust". The plot is kind of a mix between "The Blair Witch Project" and "The Emerald Forest". It works very well as an allegory on how "civilized man" rapes the land and destroys all of its resources. The film also deals with the "Who is more civilized?" concept. This is done a bit heavy-handedly, but I think that the director was probably more comfortable dealing with so-called lowbrow audiences, so this is forgettable. He doesn't exactly have a flair for subtlety as it is, anyway. The performances were surprisingly good. There are numerous scenes in which the actors are extremely natural. When they don't have dialogue to deliver, they actors can be quite extraordinary. There are a quite a few real animal killings in this film that are quite disturbing. Granted, this is how my food gets to my table, but it can be a bit extreme, if unnecessary. The rest of the violence is actually quite impressive, especially considering when it was made, and the budget constraints I'm sure a film like this had. The gore is still disturbing, of course. In the end the viewer is left to make their own judgement on what they have seen. The filmmaker makes no attempt to soften the blow.
Jesus' Son (1999)
Not just for smack fiends anymore.
Beautiful, humane film filled with menagerie of "off-the-wall" (sorry) supporting characters. This film succeeds where all other "drug films" fail. It doesn't cram a message down your throat. It's not concerned with retreading the territory of "Trainspotting" or its clones. It has similar scenes, but the tone is completely different. Billy Crudup also delivers his real star-making performance (this came out before "Almost Famous") as a young man whose name begins with an 'F' and ends with an 'uckhead'. His rambling narrative makes this film seem more like a friendly anecdote than a wittier-than-thou voice-over which always seems to do more to flatten out a film than to expand it. This film uses drugs as a vehicle to show how all of us need some sort of redemption, but we have to get it on our own terms.