You want this movie to be a piece about the loneliness of growing old? Sure, it can be that. You want it to be about redeeming yourself for a bad life before you die? It can be that too. It can even be a psychological mystery about spies, the black market for human organs, and illegitimate children. It's barely any of these things, but if you try real hard you can convince yourself that Denis has a point somewhere in this.
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The elderly patriarch (Mohamed Majd) of a family of Muslim Moroccans who have resided in France for years has gotten it into his head that this is the perfect year for him to finally make his pilgrimage to the Hajj in Mecca. Because he's a subscriber to the theory that the journey is the reward, he decides that he must go by land, but since he knows it will be a tough trip, he demands that his 18-year-old son Réda (Nicolas Cazalé) drive him.
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On_Line isn't even really a movie in the traditional sense. It feels more like a Web site. The cinematic frame, if you can call it that, is filled up with "pop up windows" as characters talk with one another over webcam. It's a distracting back and forth electronic collage, as bright young slacker John (Josh Hamilton, The House of Yes), suicidal waif Moira (Isabel Gillies), foxy sex goddess Jordan (Vanessa Ferlito), gay best friend Al (John Fleck), and other techno-geek characters communicate over the desktop.
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Fifteen years later (as the film is reissued on an indulgent Special Edition DVD set, complete with commentary track from three of the less-busy stars), everything in Young Guns feels wrong. The cheap sawdust sets, the dust-free costumes (except for tobacco chompin' Dermot Mulroney, who is "Pigpen" to the rest of the Peanuts Gang cast), the barely awake performances by Yoda-like mentor Terence Stamp and bad guy Jack Palance, and the flat-out arrogance of some of the cast members. At the time, they may have been the masters of the universe -- emblematic success stories of the Reagan era. Now, Emilio Estevez's Billy the Kid is a cute nihilist, a maniac winking at the camera to let us know deep down, he's really svelte Emilio.
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Let's pause for a moment and reflect on Charlton Heston's wonderful '70s science fiction career. He had a penchant for wincing his way through angry line deliveries like, "Gehhhht yer STINKING PAWS off me, you DAMN DIRTY APE!" using every wrinkle in his brow, his shark-like teeth gleaming in the sun. Sweat would glisten on his prominent brow and chiseled cheeks. When he dies, we shall say there was an actor.
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The non-narrative storytelling references back to E.S., tending to his ailing father (Nayef Fahoum Daher) and meeting a beautiful Palestinian freedom fighter (Manal Khader) for unspoken hand-holding, seen discreetly on the Jerusalem border under the watchful eye of soldiers. If E.S. is the observer (he's too inactive to truly function as a conscience), he's also maybe the dreamer. His fantasies serve as comical outbursts, seamlessly interwoven into his mundane life. The freedom fighter transforms at one point into a cloaked ninja, beating the hell out of Israeli soldiers to a kitschy pop jingle. One of E.S.'s apricots also functions as a hand grenade, blowing up an enemy tank. A colorful balloon emblazoned with the picture of Yasser Arafat flies over an Israeli checkpoint unhindered. Any dream will do.
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There's already an Oscars buzz surrounding this movie.