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IMDb/Random Hearts

Random Hearts (1999)
Directed by Sydney Pollack  ·  Rating: 10 of 10
10 of 10

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Random Hearts DVD

Summary: Depressing and touching

Comments and Reviews on this movie weren't exactly ravingly enthusiastic, so to say; which is as much understandable as it is totally unjustified. It might not be a very suspense-filled movie. It mightn't be a very bright story. It mightn't be the right medicine for curing your loneliness. But it's a very intense film, a great film - in every aspect I could think of. This wasn't supposed to be a bright story, neither was it supposed to be something comparable to 'Six Days Seven Nights'. This is different, this is a bit more difficult also.

'Random Hearts' has an atmosphere so tight that you won't get away that easily. The beautiful music of Dave Grusin does a great deal to support that, but also the pictures and the storytelling. The speed this movie has is deadly; it isn't as slow as 'The Straight Story', but it comes close to it. We see both couples, we see one husband and one wife get on that plane. We see that plane crash. No action sequence, just shattered pieces. And the survivors don't know yet. Now comes the slow realization of what has happened, but that's not enough - another dilemma is being exposed through that crash, something which brings the two survivors together - in an impossible scenario. "In a perfect world, they'd never have met" - the tagline of the film describing their situation perfectly. But this is no easy romance. It is a tough film to watch.

Throughout the film I couldn't but notice how great an actor Harrison Ford really is - and he amazes me every time anew. Without him, the film would have been worth much less. But Kristin Scott Thomas comes quite near to him. The chemistry is right, absolutely right in its twisted uncertainty. Pollack directs this film effortlessly and delivers a great performance too - but again, be warned. This is no romantic comedy. If you keep that in mind, you can lean back and enjoy one of the highlights of the 1999 movie season.

December 30th, 1999

IMDb/The Rapture

The Rapture (1991)
Directed by Michael Tolkin  ·  Rating: 7 of 10
7 of 10

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The Rapture VHS

Summary: Unnerving

Rapture (rap'chur) 1. ecstatic joy or delight. 2. a state of extreme sexual ecstasy. 3. the feeling of being transported to another sphere of existence. 4. the experience of being spirited away to Heaven just before the Apocalypse

Some movies work via a constant understatement, low-budget partly making that possible, providing them with the constant possibility of being underestimated, of being ordinary little films not worth any great attention. So it is with 'The Rapture', which gets to be a very different picture than could have been imagined.

Mimi Rogers plays with elegance and just that understatement; the latter being even more the characteristics of David Duchovny, thus the movie looks even stranger, fooling the audience, even when it appears to move into the comedic. But once the main conflict arises, no further presuppositions can hold. With utmost simplicity the movie succeeds in surprising the viewer while boldly going into territories rarely charted by movies, and even more rarely in such a casual way.

Its brilliance especially lies in the opening scene; visually and atmospherically creating the claustrophibia which can explain Sharon's later behavior. The utmost simplicity of the film, however, might create the false impression of being cheap in other than monetayr aspects also, also the topic towards which it evolves may seem difficult, even ridiculous in its extent and conviction. But at the end, its direct and open approach are holding its victims tight and make room for more serious questions and questioning.

We try to see belief as something hopefully not disturbing our daily routine. Belief and religion are an addition to our daily routine, an option, a program to attend on sundays. But what if lightning should strike, what if what is perceived, light-heartedly, as dogma or stories or fiction or tale of morality should manifest itself as hard fact at the end of days? In its simplicity and straightforward approach, 'The Rapture' asks questions and gives its answers which are unnerving at best, for those with an open mind questioning some fixed positions and habits. Otherwise, it could also be seen as bordering the ridiculous far too closely.

January 27th / February 15th, 2000 / August 16th, 2002

IMDb/Reindeer Games

Reindeer Games (2000)
Directed by John Frankenheimer  ·  Rating: 6 of 10
6 of 10

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Reindeer Games DVD

Summary: Average thriller with a twist

Actually, I remember this film to not have been as bad as most reviews would suggest. The direction was good and experienced, the story not too bad, and the acting team of Ben Affleck and Gary Sinise had the right chemistry. Yet somehow I needed to read up on the film to remind myself what it was about, so it may not have been that extraordinary after all. It's just some average suspense thriller with lots of turns and twists, nothing especially intellectual, or of any great emotional depth. An ok film if you've got nothing else to do.

August 26th, 2002

IMDb/Road to Perdition

Road to Perdition (2002)
Directed by Sam Mendes  ·  Rating: 6 of 10
6 of 10

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Road to Perdition DVD

Summary: Trying Hard

There's a lot of effort visible in 'Road to Perdition'. The photography is superb, the music fitting, the acting works very well, the attention to detail is utterly pleasing. There's something missing though. Each gangster film invokes comparison with its colleagues. Each mafia story has to stand the test of Coppola's 'Godfather' series, Chase's The Sopranos and the Coens' 'Miller's Crossing'. Each story has been told, and even the artistic standpoint can not be singular any more.

'Road to Perdition' tries very hard to live up to those standards, and sadly, it shows. The originals loom in the shadows as invisible haunting entities, making every step taken by the film a very hard and tedious one. Somehow, each shot seems to demand attention for its artfulness, each moment claims some momentous moral gravity and sincerity, which easily leads to a very tiresome watching experience. The conflict is shallow as Hanks' character is shown far too one-sidedly, he's a mob killer after all, yet he's portrayed more as a loving father than a criminal being, increasing nothing but the kitsch factor, especially towards the end. There is nothing like the moral ambiguity, the big ethical questions or the haunting past which are raised in the previously mentioned icons. What remains is a great photographic, cinematographic and musical effort undermind by a lack of substance, making this a hard film to sit through without getting bored.

September 17th, 2002

IMDb/Road Trip

Road Trip (2000)
Directed by Todd Philips  ·  Rating: 9 of 10
9 of 10

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Road Trip DVD

Summary: Sick

A somewhat classical mix-up story told with the means of an incredible cast and some incredibly strange characters, 'Road Trip' may sound like your average teen comedy, but it's not. It's rather a very radically askew permutation of that topic - anything goes, however wild, however perverse even.

Insanity is relative - and every aberration can still be outdone, anything nasty can still find something nastier; and in this movie, it will, you can count on that. The result is an insanely funny piece of work, taking comedy to new heights of unimaginable disgust and respectlessness.

December 8th, 2000

IMDb/Romeo + Juliet

William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Directed by Baz Luhrmann  ·  Rating: 2 of 10
2 of 10

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Romeo + Juliet DVD

Summary: Lame and preposterous

Some movies are supposed to tell a story. This one's not. The story is known: It's Shakespeare's most famous play, and the tale is eternal. Nothing new here in terms of storytelling, so the only option to make this into a movie and thrill the audience is to make it something different than what was before, to make it extraordinary in everything else but the story; making it extraordinary in a way that doesn't seem too obvious neither too forced, in a gentle and touching way. Such a movie would seriously have to make a difference. There has to be a reason to make it, and it has to say something new, not just for the sake of saying it; its existence should be derived from its own originality. This isn't theater, where it's normal for a play to be performed over and over again - this is celluloid, reproducible, permanent, staying. A remake needs a reason to exist.

Some nice pictures, however, are not enough reason for a movie to be made. Some nice acting - exclusively - by Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes and Dash Mihok is not enough reason either, neither are an interesting setting and the visual premise. With all the hype around it, all the attention attracted, all the marketing still working after more than four years, you better show some substance. But there is none. This is an empty piece of trash, with some occasional gems found in the bin, but mostly, just pulp, lame and boring, nothing new here but a preposterous and arrogant piece of work declaring to be original but failing to make good for any of its promises.

How do you incorporate some beautiful and sublime sets like the crypt? By not showing anything, basically? How do you apply a vast selection of music to the score? By cutting it together so wildly that most of it will be so abbreviated that it can be safely said to have been cut to death? How do you employ a great cast? By giving most actors simply too little screen time and wasting them on the screen, mostly Vondie Curtis-Hall and Brian Dennehy? How do you transfer a brilliant play by Shakespeare unto the screen? By cutting it so ferociously that the text is distorted beyond oblivion? How to combine old text with new settings? By making the actors look silly speaking such a fragmented selection of text from an entirely different stylistic surrounding?

If this is supposed to be a pop version of Shakespeare, it fails. Even pop has more substance and depth than this adaptation, and pop style is much more diverse than what might be expected. This looks like a random selection of video clips, like two hours of MTV, but with all the average material by far compromising the few good shots. The entire movie feels like an impossible tour-de-force, the direction rushes from scene to scene, rarely giving a single scene room to develop. Some memorable moments, like the aquarium scene, Romeo's escape from Mantua, the deathbed scene at the end; all these are lost in the haze of cutting. Two hours are simply not enough, this is a rough cut, an outline, it feels like a storyboard or an extended trailer, giving us a glimpse of things possibly to come - and then giving us nothing. All the supposedly original elements, the news broadcast framing the movie, the modern look, all of that cannot hide the fact that something has gone wrong here.

Maybe this is a film not to be missed. Maybe. But don't expect it to be good - it ain't. This is crap, sadly, for it contains definite potential to be more - but judged by itself, by what it is, not what it could or should have been, this is as bad as it possibly could have been. Only the acting and the story and some brief moments of inspiration make it watchable, otherwise, it would be an overall pain to watch this.

December 27th 2000

IMDb/Romeo Must Die

Romeo Must Die (2000)
Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak  ·  Rating: 8 of 10
8 of 10

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Romeo Must Die DVD

Summary: Hip and powerful

Hong Kong meets American Pop & Rap Culture, that's a nice approach. And it works. But even more so, it is able to thrill and to surprise. It starts rather darkly and somewhat conventionally even, but as soon as Jet Lee enters the stage, there are no doubts any more.

Lee has a screen presence combining both a sense for action and comedy, both wrapped in polite decency with an ever-ready, yet ambiguous and determinate smile. The story is founded somewhat loosely on Shakespeare, but develops into something quite of its own, not less Shakepearean in its conflicts and twists.

But the topping for this mixture are the sometimes quite inventive direction and the rare but therefore even more valuable strange shots of the inside of a human body, and while at times they don't seem to fit in, they do make perfect sense after all. Ingenuity is even more valued when it appears at strange places. And furthermore, sometimes, a human face can be at least as thrilling as complex vfx shots.

August 31st 2000

IMDb/The Royal Tennenbaums

The Royal Tennenbaums (2001)
Directed by Wes Anderson  ·  Rating: 6 of 10
6 of 10

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The Royal Tennenbaums DVD

Summary: Honest fun

Quirkiness is good. It can be exhilarating and refreshing and original, but it shouldn't be done for its own sake. That, sadly, seems to be the case with the film in question. What's the point, really. The family is not quite intact, everybody has their own specific mental problem. The acting is good, the characters interesting, yet somehow, it doesn't quite seem to be kicking in. It's like walking through a book depicting borderline cases, but there's no gripping tale, no real reason for being excited over it. It's nice. Funny, sometimes. But mostly, what's the point.

August 26th, 2002

IMDb/Runaway Bride

Runaway Bride (1999)
Directed by Garry Marshall  ·  Rating: 6 of 10
6 of 10

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Runaway Bride DVD

Summary: Honest fun

Well, predictable this film is. And Julia Roberts and Richard Gere make up quite a known couple. So much for the obvious, but that's merely the beginnig. The direction, however, leads to unexpected heights - it's the little details which shape this movie into something special, the little weird and even crazy scenes and images in the background; something I believe to have started either appearing or making waves with David Lynch's Twin Peaks. Scenes like various women appearing throughout the movie, hitting the journalist with whatever they have, sticks or newspapers. The portrayals of rural community life. The local band. The weirdness of the idea of a runaway bride.

All odds against, this movie is thoroughly enjoyable, through and through, especially in when it shows the tragedy behind each person, when little breaches appear in the overall façade of happiness. A romance with a touch of realism; the more imperfect the conditions, the more flawed the history, the more perfect, the more pleasing the outcome. And it is nice to have Hector Elizondo, too, complete this cast in reference to 'Pretty Woman'.

October 30th / November 9th, 1999

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