There are moments when this three-strand drama almost ascends to the emotional resonance of writer-director Paul Haggis' Oscar-winning 2004 movie Crash. Perhaps even more ambitious, this film is exploring issues of creativity, attraction and grief, but Haggis puts so much effort into the literary trickery that he fails to create characters the audience can connect with. So the drama ends up being interesting but never moving.
The central plot-thread is in Paris, where blocked writer Michael (Liam Neeson) is holed up in a hotel after leaving his wife (Kim Basinger) and arranging to meet his whip-smart mistress Anna (Olivia Wilde). But their witty romance seems to get entangled with his struggle to write a new novel. Meanwhile in Rome, dodgy American businessman Scott (Adrien Brody) meets Monika (Moran Atias), a sexy Roma woman trying to rescue her kidnapped daughter from local gangsters. With his own haunting back-story involving a lost child, Scott offers to help. And in New York, fallen soap-star Julia (Mila Kunis) has hired a lawyer (Maria Bello) in an effort to get custody of her son from her wealthy-painter ex (James Franco). But her life has gone so far off the rails that it's unlikely any judge will see things her way.
There's a clear sense that these storylines are swirling around in Michael's head as he tries to write. Each character has parent-child issues, including the event that sent Michael's career into a downward spiral. But Haggis never quite defines all of this, leaving ideas and themes dangling everywhere without connecting them to authentic people or experiences. So it's very difficult to get involved in any of the story strands, even though the actors deliver open, raw performances. Kunis has the film's strongest role, a complex journey into the aching soul of a mother, and she plays it beautifully. And Bello finds some moments of consuming emotion in her smaller part. Everything else feels rather cliched, from Neeson and Wilde's cute-prickly romantic games to Brody's journey to the dark side of Italy.
Continue reading: Third Person Review
John (Crowe) is a university literature professor who is struggling to cope with the fact that his wife Lara (Banks) has been imprisoned for murder.
Convinced of her innocence, he launches three years of appeals, all of which fail. Now at the end of his tether, he begins to hatch an unthinkable plan to reunite her with him and their 6-year-old son (Simpkins). After consulting an expert (Neeson), the question remains whether a mild-mannered schoolteacher can stage a daring prison break. And two cops (Hinds and Beghe) are closing in on him.
Continue reading: The Next Three Days Review
Like Traffic, Syriana is a messy Gordian knot of plot, only with no Soderbergh to slice it neatly open. Instead of drug trafficking, the subject this time is the nexus where oil corporations, the U.S. government, Islamic extremism, and Middle East dictatorships come together in an unholy fusion of polity and greed. The characters are introduced at a leisurely pace, Gaghan laying it all out with perhaps a little too much care. Once things start to cohere, the film shunts into a political thriller about an unnamed Gulf State where the ailing king's two sons are jockeying for control; one is a lazy playboy beloved by U.S. interests and the other is an educated reformer who wants to modernize his country and stop kowtowing to the west.
Continue reading: Syriana Review
Adapted from both Guevara's The Motorcycle Diaries and Granado's Traveling with Che Guevara by Jose Rivera, Salles' episodic film follows the intrepid travelers as they leave family and friends behind in Buenos Aires and head for the rural countryside riding their beat-up metallic steed dubbed, ironically, "The Mighty One." Granado (Rodrigo De la Serna), a 29-year-old biochemist, and Guevara (Gael García Bernal), a 23-year-old student one semester away from getting his medical degree, had planned on being gone for four months, but their eventual odyssey would last twice as long, cover 8,000 miles, and forever change Guevara's way of looking at his homeland's social and economic inequity. As portrayed by Bernal and De la Serna, Che and Alberto are yin and yang, with Guevara's candid, charitable demeanor standing in sharp contrast to the more gregarious, hedonistic Alberto, and Salles' film makes great use of their complementary personalities during the duo's humorous antics to procure room, board, and booty from local businessmen and comely beauties. Salles' focus on the duo's push-and-pull chemistry gives the early stages of their trip a lighthearted joyousness, and Eric Gautier's expressive, ethereal cinematography of the Peruvian Andes and Chilean desert makes Che and Alberto's somewhat uneventful story - not a whole lot happens during the film's first two-thirds - sparsely lyrical.
Continue reading: The Motorcycle Diaries Review
Continue reading: Slums Of Beverly Hills Review
The film starts with entrenched Big Apple dweller Al Pacino affecting a Georgia accent -- interesting, but no more required by the plotline than if he had come from Florida or North Dakota. About all the southern background does for his character, Eli Wurman, is provide an exaggeration to his promotional pushiness at one time, and slow, slurry speech to befit his character's drug-induced degradation at other times.
Continue reading: People I Know Review
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