Tom Sternberg

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The Two Faces Of January Review


Excellent

This sun-drenched thriller is much more than a pretty picture: it's also a slow-burning story about moral compromises that worms its way under the skin. Based on a Patricia Highsmith novel, there are clear parallels to The Talented Mr. Ripley as three characters circle around each other and all kinds of Hitchcockian subtext gurgles around them.

Set in 1962, the plot opens with Chester and Colette (Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst) on a romantic holiday in Athens, where they meet slightly too-helpful American tour guide Rydal (Oscar Isaac). He's already wooing one rich young tourist (Daisy Bevan) and soon locks eyes on Colette. But it's Chester he becomes entangled with, when a private eye (David Warshofsky) turns up trying to reclaim cash Chester stole from a client. So Rydal helps Chester and Colette flee to Crete and, while they wait for a plan to develop, Chester becomes convinced that Rydal and Colette are having an affair.

Writer-director Hossein Amini has already proven himself as a skilled writer of innuendo-filled dialogue (see Drive or The Wings of the Dove), and here he shows a remarkable eye for setting. It helps to have ace cinematographer Marcel Zyskind and composer Alberto Iglesias adding their considerable skills to the mix. The film looks utterly gorgeous, providing plenty of glaring sunlight and murky shadows in which Mortensen, Dunst and Isaac can bring their characters to vivid life. Every scene bursts with suggestiveness, as the inter-relationships between these three people shift unnervingly.

Continue reading: The Two Faces Of January Review

Sleuth (2007) Review


Weak
Postmodern, sadomasochist, Darth Vader furniture and artwork adorn the house and main setting of Kenneth Branagh's update of Sleuth like the aftermath of a smart bomb. Yet, author Andrew Wyke (Michael Caine) walks around it as if all its missing is the crocheted picture of "Home Sweet Home" over the fireplace. His wife's wardrobe and his self-immortalizing library of books are revealed like secret passages that hide mangled corpses and the man seems to drink expensive, straight vodka exclusively. By all means, Wyke could buy and sell a good portion of the English back country that he inhabits; the man takes an elevator to his bedroom for Chrissakes.

When an honest-to-goodness scallywag named Milo Tindle (Jude Law), an Italian hairdresser with designs on acting, comes to Wyke's estate announcing his plans to marry Wyke's estranged wife, the author seems pleased to have an opponent than enraged by the open deceit. And that in a nutshell is how this cat-and-mouse whirligig operates: two men more excited about the idea of a nemesis than their money or their beautiful mistress respectively.

Continue reading: Sleuth (2007) Review

The Talented Mr. Ripley Review


Excellent
Few enough people know that The Talented Mr. Ripley is based on Patricia Highsmith's 1955 novel of the same name. Fewer still know they already made one movie about Mr. Ripley, a little French number called Purple Noon (1960). (Even fewer have seen the Ripley study called The American Friend (1977).)

If you happen to be one of a handful who has seen Noon, The Talented Mr. Ripley is retreading old ground. It's actually different. In fact, it's very different. So much so that with the exception of a few brief scenes and the overall theme, these two films could be based on different source material. What's really astonishing is that both are excellent films.

Continue reading: The Talented Mr. Ripley Review

Under The Tuscan Sun Review


OK
I would have never thought Diane Lane's performance as an adulterous wife in Adrian Lyne's Unfaithful would have earned her an Oscar nomination, let alone become the role that vaulted her career. Before Unfaithful, Lane played predominately background roles; now, she is a sexy Hollywood leading lady. Under the Tuscan Sun is carried almost exclusively by Lane, and while the signs clearly indicate she has the gift for such an undertaking, she's never given a chance to explore that potential in this film.

Lane plays San Francisco book critic and writer Frances Mayes (a real person who looks nothing like Diane Lane), whose recent divorce has sent her life into a tailspin. Recognizing that a change in scenery may be just the thing Frances needs, her newly pregnant best friend Patti (Sandra Oh) gives her a 10-day vacation in Tuscany, Italy. While on her tour, Frances impulsively buys a dilapidated villa called Bramasole, with the hopes of eventually turning it into a place where her own life can flourish once again. With the help of a friendly local real estate agent Señor Martini (Vincent Riotta), Frances secures a Polish construction crew to assist in the renovation of her new home.

Continue reading: Under The Tuscan Sun Review

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Tom Sternberg Movies

The Two Faces of January Movie Review

The Two Faces of January Movie Review

This sun-drenched thriller is much more than a pretty picture: it's also a slow-burning story...

Sleuth (2007) Movie Review

Sleuth (2007) Movie Review

Postmodern, sadomasochist, Darth Vader furniture and artwork adorn the house and main setting of Kenneth...

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Under the Tuscan Sun Movie Review

Under the Tuscan Sun Movie Review

I would have never thought Diane Lane's performance as an adulterous wife in Adrian Lyne's...

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