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The Way Review


Excellent
This thoughtful, openly emotive film resists cynicism due to its quiet honesty.

As a story of self-discovery, it may seem a little simplistic, but the themes it grapples with along the way are genuinely challenging.

Tom (Sheen) is a California ophthalmologist whose only son Daniel (Estevez) dropped out of society in his late 30s to travel the world. Then Tom gets a call: Daniel has died on the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St James) in northern Spain. In France to collect the body, Tom suddenly decides to take the two-month pilgrimage himself, partly to understand his son better. Along the way he collects three companions who just won't leave him alone: a jaded Canadian (Unger), a too-cheerful Dutchman (van Wageningen) and a jagged Irishman (Nesbitt).

Continue reading: The Way Review

Sunshine (2000) Review


Excellent
Now that the 20th century is finally over, I guess it's time to start re-interpreting it. Hopefully, summarizers of the century will follow the example of Hungarian director Istvan Svabo and honestly face the truth, no matter how painful. (Unfortunately, many intellectuals don't always seem interested in the truth --- especially about subjects like communism, which many continue to embrace.)

In Sunshine, Svabo looks back through the last 100 years of his country's history for meaning, and finds some --- enough to fill a three-hour, soapy epic about the century's chaos. The film mostly works, and is a worthy addition to Svabo's art.

Continue reading: Sunshine (2000) Review

Leo Review


Weak
With Shakespeare in Love now six years behind us, Joseph Fiennes may never star in a tolerable movie again.

The blandly-titled Leo is the story of the titular boy (Davis Sweat), the illegitimate son of a sudden widow (Elisabeth Shue), who corresponds with a felon (Fiennes) via mail. Felon gets out, and these two men slowly converge upon one another, though something odd about the movie compels us to wonder if there isn't a deeper connection. Some big names parade through the film, almost at random, including a mopey Sam Shepard and a ridiculously over-the-top Dennis Hopper, who strikes the film's most curious note when he cracks an egg and smears it on Deborah Unger's thighs.

Continue reading: Leo Review

Signs & Wonders Review


Very Good
Jonathan Nossiter made his fictional writing and directing debut in 1997 with the critically acclaimed Sunday, a story of two lonely strangers who find comfort in each other for a single day.

With Sunday, the camera watches the characters with a sympathetic eye to the influence of their environment. The characters seem shot without the effects of makeup, and the camera gets so close up that one can almost imagine having a conversation with them instead of merely watching a screen. Lies are acceptable because the person receiving them doesn't mind. The two protagonists are happier for having shared that day and this evokes an infectious warmth.

Continue reading: Signs & Wonders Review

Sunshine Review


Excellent
Now that the 20th century is finally over, I guess it's time to start re-interpreting it. Hopefully, summarizers of the century will follow the example of Hungarian director Istvan Svabo and honestly face the truth, no matter how painful. (Unfortunately, many intellectuals don't always seem interested in the truth --- especially about subjects like communism, which many continue to embrace.)

In Sunshine, Svabo looks back through the last 100 years of his country's history for meaning, and finds some --- enough to fill a three-hour, soapy epic about the century's chaos. The film mostly works, and is a worthy addition to Svabo's art.

Continue reading: Sunshine Review

The Salton Sea Review


Excellent
The imagery of The Salton Sea surpasses standard noir. It's a tale of a desolate man lost in an abyss of emotional turmoil, desperately seeking redemption and revenge against unknown assailants. The film's opening shot of Val Kilmer, sitting on a barren floor surrounded by flames as he pours Miles Davis through his trumpet, delivers both the physical heat of the flames and the fiery, emotional pain of loss locked within his eyes. It's a haunting and eerily tragic moment of humanity displayed at its weakest point of existence.

The story of The Salton Sea is constructed as an updated version of a 1940s noir film. Expertly written by Tony Gayton, the film opens up with a brief history of speed, a crash course complete with 1950s housewives and Japanese kamikaze pilots. Then, the camera quickly navigates through a crazed house party and lands next to a heavily tattooed Kilmer, sitting amongst speed freaks on a four-day binge. Or maybe it's been three days. With a strong voiceover delivered by Kilmer, we learn about the double life he leads. One life is an addict and police informant known as Danny Parker, complete with numerous tats, leather pants, and skull rings on every finger. And another one, locked in his closet, is a trumpeter named Tom Van Allen, whose wife ended up dead years ago at the hands of masked men during a rest stop robbery while vacationing at the Salton Sea.

Continue reading: The Salton Sea Review

Crash (1997) Review


Very Good
Kinky sex? Intentional car wrecks? Extreme underground perversion? A year and a half of fuss and controversy for this? You betcha!

Crash is one of the more disturbing movies I've seen in my lifetime, and although I enjoyed it on an aesthetic level, I find it difficult to recommend to the masses, and I think you'll see why in a minute.

Continue reading: Crash (1997) Review

Ten Tiny Love Stories Review


Very Good
A curious movie experiment, you see films like Ten Tiny Love Stories from time to time, with varying degrees of success. At its core, this is a fictional, ensemble version of The Vagina Monologues, with -- as the title suggests -- ten women speaking five-minute to 15-minute monologues directly to the camera. However, very few involve love of any kind. Instead they're almost all about sex.

The stories are all over the map. Alicia Witt tells a short piece about her first time. Kimberly Williams tells a long piece about a tryst with a Greek waiter. Most of the stories involve being spurned by the man -- whether it's a one-night stand or a long-time relationship. While they're all fictional (and I'm assuming Rodrigo García is a man), they come off as extremely real, with a good half of the actresses appearing on the verge of tears during their monologues.

Continue reading: Ten Tiny Love Stories Review

The Game Review


Excellent
Any more of that brooding atmosphere and I might have to strangle myself. I don't know how Michael Douglas does it, much less manage to keep himself alive and kicking through two hours of torment, all of which may or may not be a fantasy "game" his brother (Sean Penn) has enrolled him in. Douglas plays an uber-rich tycoon who has everything he could want and is bored to tears with all of it. When kid brother promises the game will fill in what's lacking in his life, Mikie finds himself drawn to it, and a labyrinthine all-too-realistic game of murder, deceit, and betrayal begins. Set in my newly adopted home of San Francisco, I find this city full enough of intrigue even without machine gun-toting assassins and attack dogs chasing me around back alleys. And I can't imagine what I'd do if a cabbie drove us into San Francisco Bay... but I suppose that's why you have to watch the movie.

Continue reading: The Game Review

Highlander: The Final Dimension Review


Weak
The trouble with these immortals is that, ya know, they never die.

The third in a line of increasingly perplexing Highlander movies, Highlander: The Final Dimension (which, incidentally, appears to be the third dimension) steals wholesale the plot from the original, just throwing in some fresh faces. It's all here: Connor McLeod (Lambert, of course) on the run from the cops in New York, the girl investigator (Deborah Unger, in a role she's gotta regret), the sadistic bad guy with one name (Mario Van Peebles), the dutiful instructor (Mako), lots of swordplay, flashbacks... everything! If it wasn't set eight years later, no one would never know the difference (and of course, never mind the ultra-cheesy, low-budget special effects!).

Continue reading: Highlander: The Final Dimension Review

The Hurricane Review


Very Good
If anyone even dares to hum the lyrics of the Bob Dylan song, I'm going to have to kill them. All right. So this is an empty threat. I have zero way of knowing whether or not you are humming the Bob Dylan song just to spite me, but please don't do it anyway. After seeing The Hurricane, I have Bob Dylan stuck in my head.

In fact, Bob Dylan and Denzel Washington are about the only things stuck in my head after that movie... that and enormous sense of racial injustice and a newfound respect for the residents of Toronto.

Continue reading: The Hurricane Review

Stander Review


OK
Johannesburg. The late '70s. Nelson Mandela is still in jail. Cries of "Amandla!" ("Freedom!") still ring from protesters. White police still put down these riots with brutality. Andre Stander (Thomas Jane) is an appalled police captain, complicit in these acts. Stander tells the true story of what happens when he can take no more, with surprisingly tepid results.

The film opens with a brief window on Stander's life. He's just re-married his ex, Bekkie (Deborah Kara Unger). His star is on the rise in the department. All is well. Until he finds himself shooting an unarmed black youth during a particularly bloody demonstration. He can't shake the feeling that the "wrong people" are dying. He resigns from Riot Patrol, only to find that when everyone else is out on that task, "a white man can get away with anything." So he does. As if on a whim, he robs a bank.

Continue reading: Stander Review

Hollywood North Review


Good
Here's an idea for a Canadian movie: Canadians make a movie!

Any cinephile knows that Canada's government will gladly fund the production of just about anything a Canadian wants to produce, no matter how bad the script. All it takes is a Canadian cast, crew, and shooting in the country.

Continue reading: Hollywood North Review

The Salton Sea Review


OK

A handsomely stylish, semi-punk, drug-culture updating of the wronged-man's-revenge film noir plot, "The Salton Sea" has one of the most enticingly, quintessentially film noir opening scenes I've ever seen.

Picture this: Val Kilmer, dressed as a hep cat who just finished a gig at a downtown jazz club, sits on the floor of his burning apartment. Leaning on a wall, silhouetted against the orange flames, he's playing his trumpet and bleeding -- possibly to death -- from a gunshot wound. A bag full of money lies beside him with wads of bills spilling out onto the floor beside him.

"My name is Tom Van Allen. Or Danny Parker. I honestly don't know any more," he breathes in a honeyed, genre-perfect voice-over. "You can decide -- yeah, maybe you can help me, friend. You can help me decide who I am. Avenging Angel? Judas Iscariot? Loving husband? Trumpet player? Speed freak?"

Continue reading: The Salton Sea Review

Thirteen Review


Very Good

A frank and unnerving depiction of the peer-pressure slippery slope scaled by kids hungry for cool cache in the callous caste system of teenage social politics, "Thirteen" is a movie that rings startlingly true, thanks in no small part to co-writer Nikki Reed -- currently 15 years of age -- whose own experiences in a Los Angeles junior high served as fodder for the plot.

Told largely from the amorphous perspective of 7th grader Tracy (the compellingly natural, pubescently lovely Evan Rachel Wood), the film is a grippingly reckless joyride through impetuous shoplifting, impulsive piercings, improvised inebriation and rushed sexuality by a promising, once-ingenuous young girl who has yet to form a real sense of self.

Dying to buddy up to Evie, her school's early-blooming queen bad-girl who is lusted after by all the boys (and played by the prematurely sultry Reed herself), Tracy progressively throws caution, schoolwork, self-respect, loyalty, a close bond with her mother (Holly Hunter) and all her misgivings to the wind. A blank slate eager to be drawn upon, she falls deeply under the influence of this girl whose lifestyle of borderline depravity is itself a precarious experiment in ego-fulfillment and a byproduct of an unhinged upbringing.

Continue reading: Thirteen Review

Sunshine Review


OK

"Sunshine" is a complex, cross-generational saga about the social, romantic and soul-searching struggles of a proud Jewish family in early 20th Century Hungary. It's a three-hour epic that spans several decades, and while that's a long time to sit still for what is essentially dramatized genealogy, the movie's only unequivocal fault is that it is -- believe it or not -- far too short.

A labor of love from director Istvan Szabo ("Mephisto") -- who co-wrote the film with playwright Israel Horovitz and based it, in part, on episodes in his family history -- this is an intense and personal film with beauty and scope to spare. But with nearly a century of territory to cover and more than a dozen primary characters to enfold, even at 180 minutes, it feels rushed -- like the cinematic equivalent of Cliffs Notes for a great novel.

To give the audience something constant to hang on to throughout the picture, Szabo cast Ralph Fiennes to play three generations of men in the Sonnenschein family, a clan whose fortune comes from an heirloom recipe for tasty, healing herbal tonic known as A Taste of Sunshine -- turned into a popular drink in the late 19th Century by the Sonnenschein patriarch.

Continue reading: Sunshine Review

The Hurricane Review


Good

It doesn't matter who else is nominated for 1999's Best Actor Oscar, the race will come down to Kevin Spacey's mid-life crisis and suburban ennui in "American Beauty" and the intensely defiant, deeply immersed performance Denzel Washington gives as a wrongly-imprisoned former boxer in "The Hurricane."

Washington burns with the festering, subterranean anger of miscarried justice in a role perfectly suited to his brand of charismatic integrity -- with a dollop of sullied toughness thrown into the mix.

He gives predictably profound, barnstorming monologues, he plays out an edge-of-sanity, internal dialogue with himself while "in the hole" for insubordination, he vehemently declares his innocence again and again -- but every word of it feels like god's truth, because Denzel Washington is that good.

Continue reading: The Hurricane Review

Payback Review


Good

As much fun as Mel Gibson can be when he gleefully sinks his teeth intogoofball roles like Martin Riggs and Brett Maverick, I've always likedhim best when he plays darker anti-heroes, and Porter, the double-crossedcon out for revenge in "Payback," is about as unheroic as a guycan get and still be an action movie protagonist.

This dude isn't without his integrity, but he definitelydoesn't give a damn about anybody. He'll clock a homeless guy for his $3in cash without feeling a twinge and he'll rip the nose ring out of somestupid punk drug dealer just as soon as look at him.

Continue reading: Payback Review

White Noise Review


Weak

"White Noise" is yet another horror film that takes a potentially interesting idea and crams it into an old, formula structure with absolutely nothing in the way of surprise, fright or entertainment.

Michael Keaton stars as Jonathan Rivers, a successful architect who loses his second wife, the gorgeous and successful author Anna Rivers (Chandra West, "The Salton Sea"), to a terrible accident.

Months later, a mysterious man (Ian McNeice) approaches John, claiming to be an expert in EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon), telling him that he has been receiving signals from Anna, via television and radio static. John becomes obsessed with listening to the static, searching for messages form Anna. But soon he finds himself in the middle of an entirely new mystery.

Continue reading: White Noise Review

Deborah Kara Unger

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Deborah Kara Unger Movies

Silent Hill: Revelation 3D Trailer

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Heather Mason is now a teenager and has grown up running away from dark forces...

Fury [aka The Samaritan] Movie Review

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Set in Toronto, this noir thriller gets under the skin due to layered performances from...

The Way Movie Review

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This thoughtful, openly emotive film resists cynicism due to its quiet honesty. As a story...

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I have not played the video game upon which this film is based, and I...

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Sunshine Movie Review

Sunshine Movie Review

Now that the 20th century is finally over, I guess it's time to start re-interpreting...

The Salton Sea Movie Review

The Salton Sea Movie Review

The imagery of The Salton Sea surpasses standard noir. It's a tale of a...

Crash (1997) Movie Review

Crash (1997) Movie Review

Kinky sex? Intentional car wrecks? Extreme underground perversion? A year and a...

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White Noise is predicated on an intriguing process called Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP) where the...

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