Films Review July


When it comes to dysfunctional families, the Tenenbaum’s wrote the book. To emphasize that point, their story is told as a fable, chapter by chapter. page by page. It’s an unique framing device, but then “The Royal Tenenbaums” is a unique movie. Told with equal doses of bittersweet humor and pathos, the latest film from co-writer/director Wes Anderson is a delight from cover to cover. With his previous two films, Anderson showed an uncanny ability to turn quirky, off-beat characters into sympathetic anti-heroes. Anderson’s first film, “Bottle Rocket,” was an assured debut, but “Rushmore” cemented Anderson as someone who can not only tell a story, but do it with style and flair. His reputation as an actor’s director makes it easy for Anderson to attract the best talent possible. Please click on title for complete review. (Touchstone)


Absolutely adorable French comedy-fantasy features a sweet and winning performance from Audrey Tautou as Amelie, a meek and mild waitress who works at a Parisian café when she’s not trying to fix people’s lives. One of the best films of 2001, “Amelie” should have won the Best Foreign Film Oscar, but lost out to “No Man’s Land.” Both films are excellent, but “Amelie” is magical, filled with surreal cinematography, incisive and funny dialogue, and great characters who come to life under the free-spirited direction of Jean-Pierre Jeunet. What a delight to watch as Amelie tries to make everyone else in her life happy except herself. The small things she does for her neighbors, friends, co-workers and even her stay-at-home father are from the heart, turning the film from a simple gimmick into a fairytale about hope and love. I loved “Amelie” so much I watched it twice in one night. Outstanding. (Miramax)


Cate Blanchett continues her winning streak in this handsome, engaging but at times stodgy and irrelevant espionage drama. Blanchett plays Charlotte Gray, a young Scottish woman who agrees to become a courier in order to find her lost lover, a pilot shot down by the enemy. As much a man as any soldier, Gray parachutes into France, where she immediately teams up with the resistance. Billy Crudup, one of my favorite people since “Almost Famous,” stars as Julien, the leader of the freedom fighters who slowly wins Gray’s heart. Director Gillian Armstrong, well known for her female driven films, does an admirable job of making all of this work, but there are moments when the lead character seems to get lost. Blanchett is strong when he’s on the screen, but the film feels weak when she’s not. (Warner)


Powerful, gritty tale of American prisoners of war in a German camp who rise to the occasion in order to survive and eventually beat their captors. Directed by Gregory Hoblit, “Hart’s War” features excellent performances, high octane war scenes and a cat and mouse game that keeps the story from dragging. Colin Farrell is once again in top form as Lt. Tommy Hart, a courier on assignment in Belgium when he is captured by the Nazis and sent to a prisoner of war camp in the middle of nowhere. Hart’s superior in the camp, Colonel McNamara (Bruce Willis, extremely bold and heroic), keeps the Lieutenant at a distance from the other officers, supposedly as punishment for lying about his interrogation. When two black airborne pilots are captured and sent to the camp, racial division breaks out and ends in the death of one of the pilots. Another murder ends with the other pilot being charged, leading to a tribunal pitting the POWs against the Nazis and their enigmatic commander (Marcel Iures, uncomfortably disarming). Willis hasn’t been this good in years, and Farrell manages to go head to head without getting knocked unconscious. The script does veer into forbidden territory (war time cliches), but redeems itself with a noble finale and generous character development. (MGM)


Alan (David Arnott) is one of the invisible race, the kind of guy people don’t even notice. Alan is so neurotic that even if he were “The Last Man” left alive on Earth, he still wouldn’t get the girl. That was, if there were a girl, or if Alan were indeed the last man on Earth. Right on both counts. When Alan learns that he’s the last man on Earth, he thinks his luck has changed, especially when he encounters Sarah (Jeri Ryan), supposedly the last woman on Earth. Even though Sarah isn’t attracted to Alan, she stays with him out of necessity. Alan believes that in time, Sarah will fall in love with him. Enter Raphael (Dan Montgomery), a hunky farm boy who gives poor Alan a run for his money. Despite the film’s obvious meager budget, writer-director Harry Ralston manages to squeeze enough irony and laughs out of the premise to make this an underdog film. Ryan is especially alluring, while Arnott has the Woody Allen neurosis down pat. (Lion’s Gate)


Independent filmmaker Hal Hartley stays true to his roots with this off-beat love story about myth and the media. Sarah Polley is outstanding as Beatrice, a New York journalist looking for answers in the death of her fiancee. Her quest leads her to Iceland, where she meets an ancient beast (Robert John Burke) she blames for the death. Like “Beauty and the Beast,” Beatrice quickly learns that looks can be deceiving, and through patience and understanding, she begins to understand what she has found. Her attempts to help the monster lead to disaster, especially when she brings him back to civilization. Told as a modern fable, Hartley’s film explores and exposes the pitfalls of media manipulation and how it can turn someone’s simple life inside out. Burke brings great dignity to the monster, while co-stars Julie Christie and Helen Mirren lend weight to a lightweight premise. (MGM)


The Nicholas Sparks best-seller comes to the big screen with pop singer Mandy Moore as Jamie Sullivan, the smart, serious but puritanical daughter of a conservative preacher. Of course Jamie is attracted to Landon Carter (Shane West), the troubled teen who may be popular but shows little initiative when it comes to school. Like “Romeo and Juliet,” the opposites come together despite their differences, only for their families and friends to try and tear them apart. Director Adam Shankman (“The Wedding Planner”) manages to overcome the treacly hurdles of the book by presenting the characters as real characters. Moore is enlightening as the proper Jamie, who knows bad when she sees it, while West makes a sympathetic partner. Not for everyone, the films religious tone might turn some viewers off, but those looking for something nice that won’t insult their intelligence will find “A Walk to Remember” memorable. (Warner)


Writer David Goyer rewards “Blade” and “Blade II” star Wesley Snipes with this compelling, honest and at time truthfully brutal tale of a mentally challenged black teenager named Zig Zag (Sam Jones III) who suffers abuse from his crack-addicted father (Snipes). Told with heart and just the right amount of pathos, “Zig Zag” puts Goyer behind the camera as a first time director, and the end result is a film that avoids melodrama while putting emphasis on character development. Indeed, the cast of the film stands out, especially young Jones III, who turns a sympathetic kid into a real winner, while Snipes has never been better, showing us a man who is not only out of control, but out of his mind. John Leguizamo co-stars as a warehouse worker who helps Zig Zag find his way. (Columbia-TriStar)

Comments are closed.