As Polish-mob hit-man Frank Falenczyk (pronounced Fail-an-chik), Kingsley has the most fun he's had onscreen since he muttered a red-streak as the frenzied madman Don Logan in Jonathan Glazer's superb Sexy Beast. This time, his gangster-take has a more reserved and subdued nature, playing more for deadpan hilarity than ballistic scares. That deadpan ability serves Frank best when he's banished from his New York home to San Francisco for botching a job after too many drinks. His boss (Philip Baker Hall) has had enough of his alcoholism, and his best friend (Marcus Thomas) can't help him any more. So, it's off to the Bay for him.
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The idea here is that our central characters (including all of the above, plus one guy who breaks his own hand so he can relive his Best Christmas Ever as he did as a kid in the E.R.) have problems. You know, New Yorker problems: Walker is a jealous cop (and Cruz is his flirtatious girlfriend), and Sarandon's geriatric mother is an a sort of dazed funk -- just staring at the walls, refusing to eat. Sarandon is the centerpiece of the film: She's a mopey creature who's faced endless disaster in her life (a stillborn baby, even), but she's trying to keep up appearances.
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I've always been a fan of dark comedies, as anyone reading my reviews for a long time will know, and I've always found that, if a dark comedy doesn't try to have any point beyond humor, it's much more enjoyable. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", in catering to the acne center of the nation (both figuratively and literally), ends up putting all of this stupid crap of love and relationships and "well-built" characters which are actually cardboard cutouts. It would be much stronger without all this teen angst crap.
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In fact, that's what wife Nina (Keaton) spends most of the movie saying. And that's what you'll be saying, too, as George whines about having to buy a tuxedo, mopes about the disruption to the house, disapproves of the perfect young man (George Newbern) who has deflowered his daughter, and gets all frantic about meeting his future in-laws (who are even richer than he is). What's really happening, of course, is that George simply doesn't want his daughter to grow up, and his way of raging against life's forward progression is to get cranky about the upcoming wedding day. How do we know? Because George tells us in his self-pitying narration. This is the kind of movie that has plenty of both show and tell.
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The movie revolves around baby-voiced Griffith posing as a domestic (from Düsseldorf, no less) for a high-ranking Nazi (Liam Neeson), tending to his kids while picking up information on the sly. That's not a bad idea, but it becomes a terrible idea since Griffith makes no attempt at a German accent. You keep wondering how the Nazis were able to make a sandwich. They maintained a military juggernaut? Thank God they were so oblivious.
Continue reading: Shining Through Review