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Short Cuts Review


Very Good
While one could argue that Robert Altman's 1993 film Short Cuts was simply an updating of his 1975 classic Nashville, with a much higher quotient of star power and slightly more prurient subject matter - an attempt to keep the once iconic filmmaker from straying into the shadowy irrelevance like so many of his '70s peers - and while that argument could very well be true, that doesn't deprive Short Cuts of any of its power, or disprove the fact that it's ultimately a better film.

Spinning together a series of short stories from the master of the form, Raymond Carver, Altman takes some 20-odd Los Angelenos and twists their lives together seemingly just for the fun of how their individual little lives play out and connect up, like a puppetmaster who can't stop adding new puppets to his repertoire. To flesh out his tapestry of early '90s Southern California life, Altman has a fine batch of actors and actresses, including everyone from the best of their generation (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Robert Downey Jr) to the solidly respectable but not terribly exciting choices (Julianne Moore, Matthew Modine, Madeleine Stowe) to oddly effective musician stunt casting (Lyle Lovett, Tom Waits, Huey Lewis) to one lordly presence (Jack Lemmon).

Continue reading: Short Cuts Review

Blood Simple Review


Extraordinary
The year is 1984. Reagan is looking forward to four more years as president. Orwell's book by the same name is at the top of the popularity bell curve. The Olympic games are held in Los Angeles and two unknown guys named Joel and Ethan Coen decide to team up and write a movie script. Their first step into the world of "Hollywood" is a little film called Blood Simple featuring the debut of then-unknown actress Frances McDormand. The title of the film comes from a slang term invented by Dashiell Hammett to suggest a murderer's state of fear and confusion, which suggests that the "perfect" murder is impossible. This movie shows one such example of that blood simple state.

At the time it was released, Blood Simple wowed critics and audiences, winning praise at film festivals all over the world with its unique look at telling an interesting and creepy story on a shoestring budget. Now 16 years later, the Coen brothers have decided to clean up their debut film and re-release it to the masses, making it even better.

Continue reading: Blood Simple Review

Fargo Review


Essential
The Coen brothers are back and in a big way. Bigger, as a matter of fact, than ever before, because with Fargo, the Coens have produced a masterpiece of a film that outclasses anything they've done yet--from Raising Arizona to Barton Fink to even Blood Simple, the movie that put them on the map. Fargo is perhaps the best movie to come down the pike since Pulp Fiction--so good that it earns my seldom-awarded five-star rating.

Fargo is one of those rare pictures about which I have nothing negative to say. Based on an allegedly true story (since debunked as fiction) that took place in North Dakota/Minnesota in 1987, Fargo is the instantly enthralling tale of the financially-troubled Jerry Lundergaard (William H. Macy), a plan to kidnap his wife (Kristin Rudrud), her wealthy father (Harve Presnell), the halfway-competent criminals who screw everything up (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare), and the pregnant cop who's on the case (Frances McDormand).

Continue reading: Fargo Review

Hidden Agenda Review


Good
"You can't bring home the bacon until you kill the pig!" Brian Cox's firey performance is about the only thing worth noting in this -- yet another IRA vs. England drama, perhaps the most overdone genre of film out there. Taking place mostly in various back rooms and parlors, an investigation into the murder of an American civil rights attorney visiting Belfast exposes corruption in the government (shocker!), yadda yadda yadda. How high does the conspiracy go? Who cares? I just want some bacon.

Continue reading: Hidden Agenda Review

Lone Star Review


Good
Lone Star can be simply described as an incredible mess.

John Sayles, darling of the indie film movement, has created this picture, an epic study of racial tension in mythical Frontera, Texas, a border town in the Rio Grande Valley. (The film was actually shot in Eagle Pass, quite a ways upriver from the Valley.) Set against the backdrop of a son investigating his father's involvement in the murder of a sheriff some 40 years earlier, Sayles wanders, Short Cuts-like, through the lives of 15 or so major characters.

Continue reading: Lone Star Review

Raising Arizona Review


Extraordinary
It's said that two-thirds of Americans don't even bother to get a passport. While foreigners and Ivy Leaguers snicker over this as evidence of Americans' incuriosity about the world, I've always suspected that something else is at work. Even in an age when the whole country listens to the same radio stations, what makes America special is the spectacular and enduring diversity within its borders.

The Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan, get this. Like celluloid Micheners, their impressive body of work reaches deep into American settings, from post-war Hollywood to '50s New York, from late '80s Minnesota to early '90s Santa Monica. But it really hit its stride in Arizona.

Continue reading: Raising Arizona Review

Laurel Canyon Review


Very Good
What a shock: There's licentious sex going on up here in the Hollywood Hills. I say "up here" because Laurel Canyon, Sunset Blvd., etc. is my 'hood. So, to those who might take the events of this movie as a generalized portrayal of the area, let me assure you that it's strictly on a lot by lot basis. These hills are crawling with people from the movie and music industries, some of whom might actually resemble the characters of Laurel Canyon. Double shock.

This intimate drama (by director Lisa Cholodenko) deals with the effect a liberal living standard might have on a young, impressionable, Harvard graduate with a conservative nature and great looks. She's Alex (Kate Beckinsale), the fiancé of Sam Bentley (Christian Bale), who needs to come to Los Angeles to complete his residency at the renowned Hausman Neuropsychiatric Institute. The move to a quiet hillside home will enable Alex to complete her dissertation on Drosophila Genomics, the world of chromosomes and centimorgans applied to the reproductive aspects of the fruit fly. No dummy, this lady.

Continue reading: Laurel Canyon Review

North Country Review


Excellent
Director Niki Caro is a female protagonist's best friend. In Whale Rider, Caro received widespread acclaim for her story about a determined young girl's struggle to break down traditional male stereotypes and take the throne of her land. Caro's follow-up is North Country, where she teams up with one of today's strongest female leads to tell the story that precipitated the groundbreaking laws protecting women against sexual harassment in the workplace.

Inspired by true events during the late 1980s at a Northern Minnesota iron mine, Country focuses on Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron), a recently separated young mother who has returned to her hometown to reassemble her life. But Josey's return does not sit well with the locals. They call her a slut, a whore, and whisper wisecracks about her two children born out of wedlock. Even Josey's father Hank (Richard Jenkins) resents her return, saying she has brought nothing but shame to the family.

Continue reading: North Country Review

Scottsboro: An American Tragedy Review


Excellent
This PBS production dramatizes the horrifying events in northern Alabama that led to the trial, retrial, reretrial, and rereretrial of nine black men accused of raping two white women. Now a famed case among law students, the climate of Scottsboro during the Great Depression is brought to vivid life by Anker and Goodman's storytelling, plus McDormand and Tucci's great narration. Interviews with those still living (not many) and archive footage and photographs fill the scenes. But the story sells itself -- Scottsboro truly was An American Tragedy of injustice, and the history lessons provided here are far more somber than any you'll read in the history books. Nominated for Best Documentary at the 2001 Oscars.

Primal Fear Review


Bad
It's been a long time since a really bad movie has come down the pike, but it had to happen eventually. This time up, it's Primal Fear, yet another badly-titled Richard Gere-as-a-lawyer flick that will keep you groaning in your seat when you aren't busy laughing at the unintentional humor.

If you had the misfortune of seeing Gere in 1992's Final Analysis, you'll be familiar with the setup. Gere plays Martin Vail, a self-described bigshot defense attorney in Chicago. Laura Linney is Janet Venable, a crass and unlikable public prosecutor, who spends most of the film developing her primary character trait: being a bitch. Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton) is who the lawyers fighting over (when they aren't rehashing their 6 month-long affair), because it turns out that Aaron butchered the local Archbishop. Maybe.

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Something's Gotta Give Review


Very Good
Writer/director Nancy Meyers has penned a little ditty about Jack and Diane in Something's Gotta Give. Sure, they go by different names and actually attempt to construct characters separated from their recognizable personas. Borrowing a page from his own playbook, Jack plays a chauvinistic womanizer with a penchant for 20-year-old women. Diane's a successful playwright. But they're still Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. They're the two-headed spectacle standing at center stage here, and our attention belongs on them.

The setup goes a little something like this. Jack's dating Marin (Amanda Peet), the feisty daughter of buttoned-up Diane. During a weekend trip to the Hamptons, Jack's libido loses out to his ticker, and he suffers a cardiac arrest. The local doctor (Keanu Reeves) prescribes plenty of bed rest for Jack, then makes a pitch for the lovely Diane, to her blushing delight.

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The Man Who Wasn't There Review


OK
I was warned in advance about The Man Who Wasn't There, having been told it was "definitely a Coen brothers movie." Indeed, there's no better description for this film aside from that vague insult.

Shot in black and white as an homage to film noir, The Man Who Wasn't There (no relation to the Steve Guttenberg movie of the same name) tells the tale of Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton, sporting a veritable work of art on his head as a toupee), a mild mannered, chain-smoking barber in sleepy 1940s Santa Rosa, California. As Ed's life consists of cutting the same heads of hair day in and day out, he can be forgiven for a little dissatisfaction with his life.

Continue reading: The Man Who Wasn't There Review

Almost Famous Review


Excellent
When you enter into the world of entertainment journalism, you think it's the coolest thing in the world. Suddenly, doors are opened for you. You can get into movies free, or get books free, or get music free. You can meet directors or movie stars, see rock gods face to face, and get to ask Kurt Vonnegut that question that has burned in your gut for years. For some odd reason, people call you names. They call you evil and the enemy, but you really don't care. You just are thrilled to be there, be part of this intangible "it" known as celebrity.

And then it happens.

Continue reading: Almost Famous Review

Wonder Boys Review


Excellent
I have no idea what "wonder boys" are. I assume it's one of many questions that are answered in the novel but which go ignored in this film adaptation.

As it turns out, it doesn't really matter who the Wonder Boys are. The film has enough substance and, especially, ribald and dark, dark humor to carry it despite a few minor flaws like this.

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Searching For Debra Winger Review


Good
It's either sad or interesting or -- something -- when the only man in a movie is Roger Ebert. Rosanna Arquette, tired of hearing that old aphorism that there are no good parts for women in Hollywood, takes up a video camera and records interviews with some three dozen actresses at various ages. (The title invokes Debra Winger's recent retirement and reclusiveness -- though since this film she returned to the cinema.)

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Madeline Review


Weak
Fairly misguided and droll retelling of the original Madeline children's story. Not a lot in the way of positive role models or values... just some nutty, go-nowhere hijinks, much like Disney's live-action fare.

Palookaville Review


Very Good
Very cute and quirky, this indie comedy has three friends haplessly trying to make a go at it as crooks. Funny (yet done better in Small Time Crooks), these guys are so clueless they actually rent old heist movies to get tips on robbing an armored car. Naturally, the whole town seems to pop in on them to watch alongside. Very pleasant but it's a road we've been down a time or two before (and since). But let me point one thing out: Whatever they did to make Frances McDormand look so damn hot, well, it worked.

City By The Sea Review


Excellent
Relationships between fathers and sons must be the "in" topic for Hollywood. Road to Perdition was a moving story about the sacrifices made by generations of mob fathers to provide for their boys. Similar relationships are presented in City by the Sea; however, this film explores the opposite phenomenon. In City by the Sea, the lack of sacrifice by two generations of fathers has lasting repercussions on their children.

City by the Sea is inspired by the true events surrounding the life of New York City Homicide Detective Vincent LaMarca. A veteran of the police force, LaMarca (Robert De Niro) returns to the boardwalks of Long Beach, Long Island (a.k.a. City by the Sea), where he grew up, to investigate a homicide that his son Joey (James Franco) is under suspicion of committing. Vincent and Joey have been estranged since Vincent divorced his wife (Patti LuPone) 14 years ago. As a result, Joey has fallen into the pitfalls of drugs and vagrancy. When a drug deal goes bad, and Joey kills the dealer in the ensuing struggle, he becomes the target of many overzealous police officers who want to charge him with the crime. Joey is also the target for another drug dealer (William Forsythe) who wants the drug money he thinks Joey stole.

Continue reading: City By The Sea Review

Blood Simple Review


Good

REVIEW COMING SOON

Almost Famous Review


Good

Writer-director Cameron Crowe's fond fictionalization of his first assignmentfor Rolling Stone -- as a 15-year-old cub reporter in 1973 -- "Almost Famous" is a vividly realized labor of love and an absolute pleasure to watch.

Having gestated in Crowe's fertile mind since before "SayAnything," his 1989 directorial debut, it's a born crowd-pleaser honedinto an entertaining cinematic paragon of rock 'n' roll that boasts sharpperformances from a sublime cast, speaking page after page of Crowe's uniquebrand of intrinsically quotable, yet seemingly true-to-life dialogue.

A winning young actor named PatrickFugit -- who prior to being cast had only twoepisodes of "Touched By An Angel" on his resume -- carries themovie as William Miller, the director's mop-topped alter-ego. Like Crowehimself, William gets his start as a rock journalist by being taken underthe wing of Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a jaded but passionatemusic reporter for the fanzine Creem.

Continue reading: Almost Famous Review

Wonder Boys Review


Good

If "Wonder Boys" is to be a hit at all -- and it deserves to be -- it's going to have to be a word of mouth hit, because the marketing for this movie stinks.

The poster is a homely, dueling-airbrushes disaster. The commercials and trailers don't capture a fraction the movie's antic character. As near as I can figure, the insipid title has nothing to do with the story -- about a benevolent, crusty college professor whose life is turned amusingly upside-down in a single weekend.

I suspect that, except for those who have read the Michael Chabon novel or have a particular penchant for one of the perfectly-cast players, most folks won't be feeling much of a jones to see it.

Continue reading: Wonder Boys Review

The Man Who Wasn't There Review


Good

In their deeply ironic yet habitually impish, beautifully black-and-white 1950s drama "The Man Who Wasn't There," writing-directing brothers Joel and Ethan Coen have revived the dry, laconic spirit of prototypical film noir and applied it to the life of an everyday barber.

True, he's an everyday barber mixed up in the blackmail and murder of his cheating wife's boss and lover. But he's such an obscure, detached shadow of a man that the whole mess feels almost workaday mundane. You see, it's not his wife's affair that motivates the man. "It's a free country," he says in the movie's soporific, quietly sonorous running voice-over. It's the fact that he figures blackmail is a good way to get $10,000 out of the boyfriend so he can invest in some new-fangled invention called dry cleaning.

The barber, named Ed Crane, is played with brilliant reserve by Billy Bob Thornton, who has the most subtly expressive, heavily crevassed film noir face to smoke a dangling cigarette since Humphrey Bogart. He hardly registers a distinguishable emotion in 116 minutes, yet his passive soul fills the screen as Ed's plans go badly awry.

Continue reading: The Man Who Wasn't There Review

City By The Sea Review


Good

The operative word in the phrase "based on a true story" is usually the first one. Real lives are always souped up for cinematic consumption, often to a astonishing degree, like the way former Long Beach, New York, cop Vincent LaMarca's has been for the film "City By the Sea."

LaMarca's true story is that his father was executed for the kidnapping, ransom and murder of a baby in the 1950s, yet he grew up to join the police force under the wing of one of his father's arresting officers. Then after he retired to Florida, his own estranged son was arrested and convicted of a ruthless murder.

But in this movie -- inspired by an article about the LaMarcas in Esquire magazine -- Vincent (played by Robert De Niro) is a Manhattan homicide detective whose most recent investigation leads him to his own drug-addled son Joey (James Franco), who accidentally killed a drug dealer in a brawl. A girlfriend (Frances McDormand) and a grandchild have been added to beef up the plot, and so has the murder of another cop by the drug dealer's boss, out to avenge himself on Joey.

Continue reading: City By The Sea Review

Laurel Canyon Review


OK

There's a lot of curious cross-national casting going on in Lisa Cholodenko's "Laurel Canyon," a dysfunctional family dramedy about a lifestyle collision between a pot-smoking, fast-living record producer and her solemn, starchy Cambridge-grad son.

Jane, the party-hardy, pushing-50 mom, is played with flaky roach-clip laissez-faire by the droll Frances McDormand -- who is the only person in the cast using her own accent.

Brit Christian Bale ("American Psycho," "Reign of Fire") puts on an American brogue to play Sam, the son endlessly irritated by his mom's lax attitude toward life, who nonetheless returns to her swimming-pool and music-studio hideaway in the Los Angeles hills, along with his fiancée, when he accepts his first residency at an area psychiatric hospital.

Continue reading: Laurel Canyon Review

Frances Mcdormand

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Frances McDormand

Date of birth

23rd June, 1957

Occupation

Actor

Sex

Female

Height

1.65


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Promised Land Movie Review

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