Dan Halsted

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The Virgin Suicides Review


Very Good
The Virgin Suicides is a dark comedy that embodies some twisted views on suburban family life and the true lack innocence of adolescence. First-time writer and director Sofia Coppola, daughter of Godfather creator Francis Ford Coppola, proves to us that she's not really an actress (see The Godfather Part III), but that she does have the family knack for provocative movie directing. The movie is based upon Jeffrey Eugenides' novel, The Virgin Suicides, a detective story about five sisters who mysteriously commit suicide and the investigation by four neighborhood boys who had fallen in love with them. Coppola, however, transforms the movie into her own allegory of five adolescent girls who suffer from ruthlessly suppressed lives, their desperate plea for self-expression, and the tragedy that besets their wretched existence.

Set in the mid-seventies, the plot follows the Lisbon family, with James Woods, a physics teacher at the local high school, as the scatter brained father, and Kathleen Turner as the uncommonly strict mother. Their five daughters are beautiful, naturally blonde, and the desire of every boy in the neighborhood. When the youngest, Cecilia, mysteriously attempts suicide, psychiatrist Danny DeVito recommends that she be allowed to interact more socially, especially with boys. So the Lisbon girls are introduced to the boys of the neighborhood, who have already been watching the girls from afar through half-opened window shades, binoculars, and telescopes. At a party in Cecilia's honor, the boys witness a tragedy that shocks them out of their wits. As a result, the Lisbons fall into a deep suppression shutting out the rest of the world by retreating into their own inner sanctum. It appears they will never recover until Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett), the high school heartthrob, pursues the unattainable Lux (Kirsten Dunst). He attempts to ask her to the prom, but the only way her mother will allow him to take Lux is if all the girls go together. For the first time, the girls will venture out of the home to interact socially in an environment other than school.

Continue reading: The Virgin Suicides Review

U Turn Review


Excellent
I can't imagine U Turn in any director's hands except Oliver Stone's. Breaking free from his political obsessions, Stone explores new territory, giving the material a stark edge, innovation, and a thick, memorable atmosphere. In one film he investigates adultery, incest, bad luck, Indian philosophy, gambling, paranoia, murder, deception, fraud, money, and the Russian Mafia. This is an original tale with a full plate, but surprisingly U Turn never feels crowded, contrived, or recycled. It's a feast for the senses, as long as you have a strong stomach.

Similar to Natural Born Killers in style, the film includes black & white inserts, frequent use of hand-held cameras, overexposed shots, vivid close-ups, zip-switches from smooth to grainy, unique camera angles, time-lapse sequences, and hallucinogenic effects. Stone rounded up some of his Nixon crew to establish the technical aspects of the film, including director of photography Robert Richardson, production designer Victor Kempster, and editors Hank Corwin and Thomas Nordberg. The crew shot U Turn in just 42 days, entirely on location in the actual town of Superior, Arizona, fully utilizing the vast landscape. According to the film's production information, the filmmakers revamped four blocks of Superior's main street, even creating new restaurants out of unused storefronts.

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Witchblade Review


Bad
In the grand tradition of fabulous movies like The Relic and Wishmaster comes another movie about museum-ware gone wrong. Yancy Butler stars as a cop who encounters the Witchblade during a museum shootout, finding the strange bracelet/gauntlet/sword permanently welded to her forearm. The rest of the movie is a dichotomy: a bad comic book sci-fi/fantasy about the Witchblade's mysterious powers mixed in with an atrocious cop thriller involving a dead friend, a dead father, and a dead partner! Can this girl's luck get any worse? Throw in some low-grade Matrix-wannabe special effects and I likely need only say "Based on the comic book..." to make you run away from this movie, screaming.

S.W.A.T. Review


Terrible
Is it that Samuel L. Jackson's character is nicknamed "Hondo"? Could it be the sequence where Colin Farrell goes running on the beach, appears to flirt with a dog and later explosively vomits, all of it set to the Rolling Stones' "Shattered"? Or maybe it's the time that the cast of S.W.A.T. all bust out with a rendition of the theme song from the TV show that the movie itself was based on. (Imagine Tom Cruise humming the Mission: Impossible theme while breaking into Langley.) You can pick from a variety of primary causes, but the end result is the same: S.W.A.T. is such an abominable waste of time and resources that I barely know where to begin.

There's plenty of blame to go around, but it should probably start with the script by David Ayer and David McKenna, which starts with your basic bank hostage scenario that can only be solved by (cue music) the S.W.A.T. team. Hotdoggers Jim Street (Colin Farrell) and Brian Gamble (Jeremy Renner) move into the bank, disobeying orders, and Gamble ends up shooting (nonfatally) one of the hostages. Street gets demoted out of S.W.A.T., while Gamble quits the department entirely, holding a serious grudge.

Continue reading: S.W.A.T. Review

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Dan Halsted Movies

The Virgin Suicides Movie Review

The Virgin Suicides Movie Review

The Virgin Suicides is a dark comedy that embodies some twisted views on suburban family...

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S.W.A.T. Movie Review

S.W.A.T. Movie Review

Is it that Samuel L. Jackson's character is nicknamed "Hondo"? Could it be the sequence...

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