I’m not quite sure what to say about Mars Attacks!, which is obviously the work of a deranged genius. When Tim Burton’s twisted alien invasion comedy really works, it’s breathtaking and hilarious in equal measure. And when it doesn’t work, it’s just dull. I’m not even sure it works more often than it doesn’t, but where it counts — that is, when this gleefully evil invading force from the red planet gets down to the business of blasting us to kingdom come — Mars Attacks! is brilliant.
The shot I remember best from A Single Girl is of Virginie Ledoyen’s face in profile, nearly filling the screen as she changes her clothes. The camera watches from across the room as Ledoyen pulls off her shirt, but then cuts respectfully to the close shot, granting her modesty but never looking away. The movie has a confidence in this lovely face, a conviction that sometimes, it’s enough for us to simply watch. Continue reading →
Breaking the Waves, a powerful fable from Danish director Lars von Trier (Zentropa, The Kingdom) is as daunting as it is satisfying. The satisfaction comes from von Trier’s audacious and ever-deepening sense for filmmaking — Breaking the Waves is his most ambitious and skillfully drawn narrative so far, and it offers the pleasure of undertaking an uncertain journey, unsure of where it might all end. That’s also what’s daunting. Breaking the Waves is epic in scope, careering wildly from warm and fleshy love story to grim tragedy to something else entirely over the course of its 158 minutes. It’s a film that demands your rapt attention bit by bit, plumbing ever-deeper corners of the soul and plunging at one point into the abyss. Finally, once it’s over, it will return day by day to haunt its audiences. This is seriously nervy filmmaking.
In the very first shot of Trainspotting, a good-looking Scot with close-cropped hair and his gawkier sidekick are running like hell through the streets of Edinburgh, a pair of security guards in close pursuit and Iggy Pop’s percussive “Lust For Life” pumping on the soundtrack. The imagery and sound are absolutely perfect, characterizing the film’s headlong, nihilistic style in its very first moments of action. In voiceover, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) is taking a sidelong gander at his options for clean living. “Choose life,” he drawls almost playfully in a thick Scottish brogue. “Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin openers.” Continue reading →
Joe “Woman Trouble” Eszterhas reteams with ace stylist Paul Verhoeven, who should know better, to create this bumbling epic of a skin flick. The bulk of the movie is pretty dopey, albeit kind of entertaining. But the World According to Eszterhas, as revealed in an unbearably hostile, stridently righteous final reel, is so smelly and distasteful that Showgirls is, finally, truly and thoroughly repellent.
At precisely the halfway point of Heat, Michael Mann’s 171-minute epic of a crime drama, cop Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) tucks in behind criminal mastermind Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) on the highway, pulls him over with flashing lights, and asks him if he wants to go get a cup of coffee.