Alan Latham

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I Could Never Be Your Woman Review


Good
Rosie (Michelle Pfeiffer), the lead character in Amy Heckerling's I Could Never Be Your Woman, is believably beleaguered in a manner not often seen in a Hollywood romantic comedy, where a typical dilemma has an attractive young woman torn between a hot jerk and an ideal husband. Rosie is a single mother in her 40s, working her ass off on a youth-culture sitcom and fighting against the prevailing notion that women in the entertainment industry must approach but never touch the age of 28. Of course, she's also clearly loaded, providing a privileged life for her tweenage daughter Izzie (Saoirse Ronan); it's still a movie, after all.

The circumstances of Heckerling's clearly autobiographical film (she worked on the TV version of Clueless for several years following that film's release, which she also directed) mirrors its character's mix of luxury and messiness: It's a feature film with a decent budget and several recognizable stars that got caught up in a distribution mess and wound up proceeding straight to DVD. The movie itself is a bit of a mess, too, with weird interludes where Tracey Ullman, playing Mother Nature(!), harangues Rosie about the unstoppable march of time. Heckerling is fond of this technique; as the screenwriter-director, she pauses the movie for diatribes of her own about the destructive nature of beauty standards, the absurdity of network executives and standards and practices monitors, and the insanity of reality TV -- topics that seem to have been festering for a good decade or so.

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Land of the Blind Review


Unbearable
Not to be bested by Quills and Geoffrey Rush, Land of the Blind had the bright idea to have a scene where Donald Sutherland writes in his own excrement. To do one better, you see the feces plunked down right there in Sutherland's hand. Was this where Sutherland saw his career going? Was he just winding up his pitch with Klute, Don't Look Now, and last year's stellar take on Pride & Prejudice? Was it all really just to get to the point where he could write jibber-jabber about freedom and anarchy in his own poop? Please, Donny, say it ain't so.Sutherland plays Thorne, an imprisoned playwright whose writings have been deemed too inflammatory. The world he lives in is run by a dictator (Tom Hollander) who casts Hollywood actors as news anchors and makes movies that resemble DV versions of Jerry Bruckheimer films. It isn't until a soldier, Joe (Ralph Fiennes), starts listening to Thorne's articulate ramblings that things start happening. Joe busts Thorne out of prison and allows him to exact revenge on the dictator and his wife (a useless Lara Flynn Boyle). The ink is still wet on the new constitution when Thorne becomes a dictator too, sending his friend Joe to the torture chambers for not agreeing with his new regime.Is this what we have stooped to for leftist political films? Robert Edwards' film for one reason or another really thinks it's saying something. It punctuates the cruelty of both the left and the ultra right with equal measures, but it never really shows examples of what is good in either ideology. It highlights the "everyman" as hero, but never sees Fiennes' character as anything besides an ideology that is up for bid. The fact that Edwards fits Joe with a family is absolutely absurd because we don't care about Joe as a character; he is simply there for us to see the effect that politics have on a normal person. It's hollow and criminally indecisive.If anything, you can say that Land of the Blind has excessive, somewhat stylish design production. The castle that the dictator lives in resembles the excessive architecture of some palace in Barcelona. However, this gentle stab at stylizing brings to mind that Edwards was trying to do what none have succeeded at: attempt to follow up Terry Gilliam's Brazil. Not even Gilliam himself, who has made successful, even great films like The Fisher King and Twelve Monkeys, has ever been able to bring his style and politics to such a fantastic torrent. It's possible to see where Edwards' heart might have been in the right place, but his film is too clever, too cold, and too completely self-aware to ever really embrace an everyman like Joe.Hey, Donny, Altman is still making movies, so is Roeg. You have options.

Circus Review


OK
Succeed in following the twists and turns of Circus and you'll deserve a medal. Quite literally, this film is one of the most perplexing caper pictures I've ever seen -- which likely explains its mysterious disappearance from theaters, practically before it ever arrived.

It is certainly not a film without some merit. With its surprisingly apt cast, including notables John Hannah (Four Weddings and a Funeral), Famke Janssen (Rounders), Peter Stormare (Fargo), and Eddie Izzard, it's hard not to like this bunch of clowns (no pun intended) as they stumble through a double-, triple-, even quadruple-cross plot ultimately involving a great deal of money that one lucky crook will end up with. But who?

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