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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Cert 15

Peter Bradshaw
Friday April 30, 2004
The Guardian

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Ol' rubber face isn't back

"Sand is overrated," murmurs Joel, the hero of this comedy, who's goofed off work for the day to mope around the beach. "It's just ... tiny little rocks." That slacker epiphany could only have come from the pen of Charlie Kaufman, creator of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, and one of the very few screenwriters in Hollywood - perhaps the only screenwriter - whose authorial identity supersedes the director's. In this case, it is Michel Gondry, who also directed Kaufman's ape comedy, Human Nature.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is suffused with Kaufman's unique charm, his existential drollery, his humane affection for the lonely and vulnerable. It's a very Kaufmanesque narrative experiment, technically ingenious and sophisticated. It also looks like some lost comedy idea by Philip K Dick; you could call this film We Can Forget It for You Retail. But it is also overcooked and frenetic, with some visual tricks and gimmicks repeated often enough to induce a diminishing return of novelty and effect.

As in Adaptation, Kaufman has a depressed creative guy experiencing a nagging anxiety about the meaning of life. Like Nicolas Cage in that film, he begins with a panicky, whispery voice-over about what the point of it all is, worrying away at his own discontents, which float meaninglessly out into the colossal placidity of the universe. He is Joel, played by Jim Carrey: a semi- employed cartoonist and graphic artist. One day he bumps into a beautiful young woman with dyed hair. Clementine (Kate Winslet) is a beguiling force of nature and poor introverted Joel falls hopelessly in love with her. But then we cut to another, calamitous stage in their relationship. After their affair has gone sour, Joel finds Clementine is blanking him when they meet; it's as if they've never known each other.

Then he finds out the awful truth. Clementine has had him erased from her memory by an experimental hi-tech firm wittily called Lacuna, which, despite the sensational service it offers, operates out of a bizarrely down-at-heel office almost as tatty as the one which had the portal into Malkovich's brain. Here chief scientist Dr Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) with his geeky assistants played by Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood and Kirsten Dunst, have painful memories lasered out of their unhappy clients' grey matter, and in a rage Joel demands that they perform the same service on him to forget Clementine. But he finds that he is strangely reluctant to relinquish his memories of the woman he loved, no matter how unbearably painful they are.

It's a theme which Kaufman extends and syncopates with oodles of clever material. "Will this procedure cause brain damage?" asks Joel as the helmet is lowered on to his skull. "Technically," says Wilkinson gravely, "this procedure is brain damage." Literary allusions rattle amiably around. The title is taken from Pope, and Dr Mierzwiak's staff are enamoured of Nietzsche's paradoxes about how the strong man forgets what he cannot master: "Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders." Mierzwiak's secretary is called Mary Svevo, a surname which recalls Zeno's Conscience by her namesake Italo, about a psychoanalyst who frustrates his patient's need to abandon the past.

Moving on, getting closure, that is what the end of relationships is supposed to be all about. Not dwelling or brooding or obsessing about why someone fell out of love with you. In the absence of marriage for life, serial monogamy is what people expect, and so they must cultivate the art of forgetting if these transitions are to be managed. But oblivion offers peace at the cost of self-destruction, and Joel passionately feels that his unhappiness over Clem is part of his identity. Oddly, one literary allusion that Kaufman doesn't turn up is Proust, whose narrator is told by Swann that should he move to a paradisiacal Pacific island, he would forget all about Paris. That may be so, but it is frightening to imagine a future in which our current happinesses and unhappinesses will no longer exist.

Gondry keeps a tight rein on Carrey, who gives one of his most digestible performances in ages. But the director always insists on an excess of surreality by pedantically realising visually every strange detail of Joel's memory-angst. If he's thinking about a bookstore while pacing about an apartment, we see the bookstore in the apartment. If he's thinking about them on the beach while lying in bed, then we see them lying on a bed on the beach. All very wacky and Dick Lester-ish, like a grad-school Beatles movie, and for about five or ten minutes it's funny and exhilarating. But it's over-extended, and tends to undermine the rigorous realism which made the idea funny.

The resolution Kaufman offers reveals that, apart from everything else, there has been some playful jiggery-pokery in the time scheme and he follows this up with a further plot twist which, having appeared to restore Joel and Clementine's happiness, puts it in peril once again. It's something which shows that for all his Lewis Carroll waywardness, there is something toughly real about this writer's world-view. I wish that some more tactful and less wired direction had been brought to his eccentric and delicate love story.



Starring Actor/Actress Brad Pitt
Where Did You See It? Cinema
Value for money
Overall rating 9/10

Good Points:
Great action sequences. No re-tread feeling about any of the battle scenes. Brilliant performances from Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Brian Cox and Sean Bean. And also an incredible performance from the old master Peter 'O' Toole. Every shot fresh with stunning scenery. Great soundtrack, awesome score. 1st class entertainment.

Bad Points:
Not the best performance from Orlando Bloom. Some historical inaccuracies (Paris and Helen did not escape), though the film is only based on the Iliad and should be considered on its own merits.

General Comments:
Troy has a great opening sequence narrated by Sean Bean, who plays Greek warrior Odysseus. Stunning visuals keep the viewer hooked while also showing originality in many of the scenes.
As for the feel of the film, Petersen has done a remarkable job in visualising Homer's world. From the detailed costumes and weapons to the impressive reconstruction of Troy itself, everything has a remarkably authentic and textured feel. With CGI used in tandem and realistically with good old-fashioned stunt-work, the battle scenes easily rival anything Peter Jackson's 'The Lord Of The Rings' trilogy managed to conjure up.

Evoking a similar feeling to the opening of Saving Private Ryan, Petersen manages particularly to capture the terror of fighting on the beaches when arrows, spears and swords are flying at you in all directions. Added to this, the film has what Lord Of The Rings lacked - a series of jaw-dropping one-on-one duels performed by the actors, rather than stuntmen and scenes -a- plenty of great screen acting and character development.

Despite being a lengthy, yet appropriate 163 minutes, Petersen paces the film expertly. With the film dominated neither by action nor dramatic scenes, he ensures there's time to become involved with all the major characters, and he shows no bias towards either warring side. (Though Brian Cox's character, Agamemnon was perhaps wrongly portrayed as a bit of a war-mongerer).

This brings us to the film's high point - the cast. There's not a bad apple in the barrel here, although Orlando Bloom turns in the film’s weakest performance. If you can get over blond-haired, blue-eyed Pitt playing a Greek, you'll be fine. (In the Iliad, Achilles is described as having yellow hair) He is, after all, portraying a legend-in-his-own-time, and who better to fit that role? In perfect physical condition, Pitt conquers the combat scenes with ease. That he masters the dialogue with similar skill comes as more of a surprise.

With the likes of O'Toole, Cox and Gleeson adding nobility and stature to proceedings, other standouts include Bana, who gets better with every film. Only Kruger, as Helen, appears to be overawed by the importance of her role - though given that she's playing the woman whose face launched a thousand ships, perhaps that's understandable.

With Benioff's script toying with the relationship of man to war ("We men are wretched things," notes Achilles), the contemporary resonance is not lost on the audience. This is a film of unprecedented scale and deservedly presides at the top of the movie spectrum alongside classics such as Gladiator. While Petersen's Troy may not last as long as 'The Iliad' in the memory, the chances are it will be remembered for some time to come.

In a time when 'epic' has become a lazy prefix to any large-scale film, Petersen's effort truly deserves the label; not only for its startling battle scenes but also for a series of powerful performances by three generations of world class actors.



Kill Bill Vol. 2

Starring Actor/Actress Uma Thurman
Where Did You See It? Cinema
Value for money
Overall rating 7/10

Film Reviews - Films At The Cinema - Van Helsing (12A)

Review by 80smetal4ever

On 9th May 2004


Starring Actor/Actress Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale
Where Did You See It? Cinema
Value for money
Overall rating 8/10

Good Points:
Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale have great chemistry in this film. There are good villains, such as: Count Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman, and Mr. Hyde.

Bad Points:
Sometimes, it gets a bit "cheesy" with the jokes or one liners.

General Comments:
Well, Van Helsing sure had a lot of hype, that is for sure. The stars in this film are Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale. Hugh is best known as the "Wolverine" character in the films X Men and X Men 2. Kate is best known for her character in "Pearl Harbor", and the leather form fitting body suit that she wore in "Underworld". Speaking of leather, the trailers are out now for "Catwoman" starring Halley Barry - WOW, she looks good in that catsuit!

There must be something about Kate and her outfits. I already mentioned her leather body suit in "Underworld", and in this film she has a great "gypsy" ensemble. She is the hottest gypsy queen I've seen since Kari Wuhrer played a gypsy in some Steven King movie.

Van Helsing is an assassin. He is not for hire, however. He works for the Catholic Church. The Vatican is where he was trained, and from where he gets his assignments. He continues to work for them, because he has no memory of who he really is. They promise to restore his memory if he will continue to kill for them.

The movie starts out as Van Helsing is battling "Mr. Hyde" in London. That was a pretty good battle. VH has all kinds of weapons: guns, small circular saws, knives, spikes, etc.

His next assignment is to help Kate and her brother stay alive. Their family has a lifelong feud against Count Dracula. The two of them are the only ones left. Their ancestor made a vow that none of their family would enter the gates of heaven, until Dracula was dead. Well, they have about 10 dead family members, and Dracula is still alive and well.

This movie does a nice job of mixing in a lot of horror movie legends. We also meet Frankenstein, and the Wolfman, as the movie progresses.

Kate and VH have very good chemistry together. Her accent is awesome. They begin their quest of killing Dracula by first defending themselves against his 3 brides. These female vampires are hotties. Not the most attractive female vampires, as that award goes to the girls in the movie "Dracula 2000". Somehow, VH ends up killing one of the brides - and that gives everyone hope.

VH has a sidekick from the vatican. He is an inventor of weapons, and a friar. He doesn't have the vows to keep that a true "monk" does, so he is able to do things that you wouldn't expect from a man of the cloth. He provides comic relief in the movie.

When Dracula and his brides have kids, they are born "dead". He needs to find a way to bring them to "life". The character that plays Dracula does an ok job, but I kept comparing him to Gary Oldman's Dracula - and he was nowhere near as good. Dracula is going to use Dr. Frankenstein's lab to try and use electricity to bring his offspring to life. He kills the Dr., before he realized that he needed him to run the equipment. Igor and Dracula's assistants try to make it work, but they aren't that good at it. Dracula's assistants are "little people", about 5 foot tall. They look like a combination of "Oompa Loompa's", and the members of the band "Slipknot".

The final battle is between Dracula and VH. Turns out that the only thing that can kill Dracula is a werewolf. Good thing that VH was bitten by one earlier in the movie, and he morphs into one. The end scene has a huge battle between VH and Dracula. The key is: will the friar and Kate be able to find the antidote that Dracula keeps for turning werewolves back into people, before VH turns into a werewolf for good?

In the end, we find out who Van Helsing really is, and it is very interesting. I was impressed. This movie follows the "Top Gun" theory, in which one of the good characters dies to give the entire movie more credibility. This movie is a winner. I give it an 8.25/10.


Good Points:
Uma is great, once again, as an attractive killer with revenge on her mind.

Bad Points:
Poor acting by David Carradine, and a much weaker script that Kill Bill, Volume I.

General Comments:
I loved Kill Bill, Volume 1. I thought that it was the comeback movie for Tarantino. He had been hurting for a stretch of movies in my opinion. The first Kill Bill had tons of action. I think someone died every 2 minutes on average. If Kill Bill 1 is an action movie, than Kill Bill 2 can be filed under "drama" in my opinion.

The beginning started out slow. So slow, in fact, that I fell asleep. I was out for about 5 minutes, and evidently I began to snore. A guy in the row in front of me yelled, "Hey, wake up"!! Realize, there were only about 5 people in the entire theater. Uma Thurman is back as some sort of uber killer. She is a top notch assassin that is out for revenge.

The wedding scene from the first movie is explained in detail in this film. Evidently, Bill was in love with Uma, or "Beatrix" as her name is in the movie. He figured, if he couldn't have her, nobody could - so he killed her. Or so he thought.

The beginning of the movie follows Uma's training under an asian martial arts master. This took place long ago, before she tried to quit Bill's team. He was a funny character. He hates white people, and he hates women, so you can imagine the scenes of training Uma. It was like watching an old "Rocky" film, there for a while. This asian master has white hair, like Colonel Sanders - including goatee. He loves playing with it, it was strange.

Uma has three people left on her "to kill" list. They are: Michael Madsen, Darryl Hannah, and Bill(David Carradine). Madsen's character has gone way down hill since his assassin days. He is now a bouncer at a strip club, and an alcoholic, who lives in a trailer. He is Bill's brother, which we didn't know in the first film.

Uma's fight scene with Darryl Hannah is probably the best in the entire film. There were not enough fight scenes in this movie, in my opinion. Uma and Darryl fight it out with the best samurai swords known to man. A lot of swordplay, and just plain beating each other up. The end of this battle is outstanding!

The final scene is Uma confronting Bill. Tarantino brought John Travolta's career back to life with "Pulp Fiction". David Carradine is not a good actor, in my opinion. He wasn't good in "Kung Fu", he wasn't good in "Death Race 2000", and you can't convince me that he has been any good in either of the "Kill Bill" films. I get the feeling that he isn't even acting, he's just being himself.

Uma is torn, because Bill has been raising their 4 year old daughter, while she has been away. Most of those 4 years, Uma was in a coma - brought on by Bill shooting her. Uma and Bill do end up having a final showdown.

Quentin Tarantino does some nice things with this film. He moves from color to black and white effectively. The music is very good. However, you can put all the lipstick on a pig that you want, it will still be a pig. Compared to the first Kill Bill, this movie is slow, not as original, and nowhere near as good. I give it a 7/10.



Van Helsing

Philip French
Sunday May 9, 2004
The Observer

With the coming of sound each of the major Hollywood studios sought to corner certain kinds of entertainment. MGM, for instance, became famous for musical and polished society dramas. Warner Brothers specialised in crime and social-conscience pictures. Paramount went in for comedy. Universal's big thing was horror and in 1931 Bela Lugosi gave iconic form to Bram Stoker's Transylvanian count in Tod Browning's Dracula and Boris Karloff did the same for Mary Shelley's monster in James Whale's Frankenstein. To this pantheon of Gothic anti-heroes the studio added the Mummy and the Wolf Man.

In the 1940s RKO challenged Universal's supremacy with Val Lewton's series of subtle low-budget films of the supernatural, and in the 1950s Britain's Hammer Films became the semi-official home of horror for a decade or more. But it was Universal that created the moulds, the templates, the archetypes and it is to these that Stephen Sommers has returned, first with The Mummy and The Mummy Returns a couple of years back, and now with Van Helsing he brings together Frankenstein, his Monster, Dracula and the Wolf Man.

The movie begins excitingly and affectionately by turning the spinning globe of Universal's logo into a blazing torch brandished by an angry peasant. He's marching with a mob in a black-and-white recreation of the final sequence of Frankenstein where the overreaching scientist is about to die and his creature will be buried beneath a windmill. The difference, however, is that here Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) has taken over Frankenstein's castle and seeks the power to create life for his own ends. The film then moves on a year to Paris in 1887. Against a cityscape dominated by a half-built Eiffel Tower, the vampire-slayer and scourge of evil Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) is battling on the top of Notre Dame with Dr Jekyll in his Hyde mode. In a nice touch, Hyde smashes through the cathedral's rose window. This man is not quite Bram Stoker's middle-aged professor from Amsterdam whose notepaper is headed 'Abraham Van Helsing, MD, DPh, DLitt, etc, etc.' He's Gabriel Van Helsing, a strapping young man dressed like Indiana Jones, who works for a secret Catholic organisation that conducts an eternal war from its HQ in the Vatican cellars against Satan in all his earthly forms.

All this is rather good. The movie begins to get a little shaky, however, when a pawkily humorous young monk is assigned to accompany Van Helsing on a vital vampire-destroying mission to Transylvania. In addition to being a pale version of Polanski's role in The Fearless Vampire Killers, this chap is also a version of 'Q' from the Bond movies and he equips Van Helsing with a variety of state-of-the-art and stake-of-the-heart gear from his laboratory, including a semi-automatic crossbow.

From then on special effects take over as Van Helsing is joined in his fight against Dracula and his flying harpies by the aristocratic Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale). Her family has been challenging the count for four centuries and her brother has become a werewolf.

There are exciting moments - especially a carriage chase while Van Helsing and Anna are attempting to transport Frankenstein's sweet-natured monster back to Rome for his safety. But the yawning gaps in the landscape down which characters plunge are accompanied by yawning gaps when the audience (though not the restless film) pauses in an attempt to make sense of what is going on. The movie has no soul, no magic, no feeling for character, nothing for us to care about. At the end, when the director makes a stab at elegiac pathos, we realise how far short of the often deeply moving 1930s Universal classics his film falls.


Laws of Attraction

review by Camerin Courtney | posted 04/30/04


• Talk About It/Family Corner
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From the opening line of Laws of Attraction, you feel for leading lady Audrey Woods (Julianne Moore). As this top NYC divorce attorney researches a case, her mother gives her the stale, condescending advice, "If you made more of an effort, you actually might get a man." And moments later, just before going into the courtroom to argue said case, we see Audrey hiding in a ladies room stall snarfing a Sno Ball snack cake and giving herself a pep talk. What woman hasn't retreated to a public bathroom for a moment of self-solace before a stressful encounter? We appear to have the all the makings of a delightful chick flick here—a dysfunctional mother, a neurotic leading lady, a seemingly well-ordered life ever so in need of a little romance.

Pierce Brosnan as Daniel

When Audrey steps into the courtroom, her soon-to-be-arch-nemesis Daniel Rafferty (Pierce Brosnan) is asleep in the opposing counsel's chair. She sticks a pencil in his ear to wake him up (must be a litigator thing). While time-honored wisdom says the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, for dashingly disheveled Daniel, apparently it's through his ear canal instead, because from that moment on, he relentlessly pursues his red-headed rival. The rest of the plot basically revolves around their cat-and-mouse antics, both romantically and professionally.

Though Brosnan and Moore spar winningly as she rebuffs his constant advances, I still don't buy the attraction. Why does Daniel like Audrey? While it could be argued as opposites attract—she's an uptight, play-by-the rules romance atheist, and he's an unmade bed of a man with unconventional courtroom antics and a closet belief in the power of love—Daniel barely has a chance to see Audrey's yin to his yang before he's mooning over her. Though there's eventually nice chemistry between these two accomplished actors, there isn't enough scripting early on to establish a believable basis for their romance. This is one of the main disappointments about this flick, and, admittedly, a common missing ingredient in modern romantic comedies.

Julianne Moore as Audrey

Also disappointing is that after about ten minutes all initial sympathy for Audrey is gone, as her relatable quirkiness disintegrates into a one-dimensional caricature, who's so uptight she not only has color-coded pens, she lines them up at a perfect angle on the courtroom table before the trial commences. She also often wears her hair in a bun and watches the Weather Channel for "fun." At this point, the opening-line advice from her mom (Frances Fisher)—a multi-divorcee who's had so much cosmetic work done she's like a walking piece of Tupperware—seems pretty solid.

Audrey's initial declaration to her mom and to Daniel that she doesn't believe in dating and romance makes it all the more embarrassing when the two attorneys drink too much and wind up in bed together the next night, during what she perceives as a business meeting and he insists is a date. The morning after, Audrey's mortified and Daniel's pleased as punch. He even scribbles a few case notes on her panties to refer to during their courtroom brawl that day, giving a whole new meaning to the term "legal briefs."

Showdown in the courtroom

Things get really heated—and interesting—when the two represent opposing sides in the nasty divorce of English rock star Thorne Jamison (Michael Sheen) and his fashion designer wife, Serena (Parker Posey). While visiting the Irish castle the Jamisons both want possession of in the settlement, Audrey and Daniel once again drink too much at a small-town festival. You'd think two such intelligent professionals would have learned the first time, but once again their drunken state leads to drastic action: They get married—then hop into bed together. Audrey fears their nuptials will threaten their professional credibility, so the arch-rivals-turned-spouses agree to play house when they return to the U.S. At least until the conclusion of the Jamison case.

What ensues is a nod to Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in Adam's Rib, as they begin to flirt covertly in the courtroom, passing notes about what's for dinner and sharing smiles over their respective clients' childish antics. It's nice to watch Audrey finally unclench and to see Daniel in an ironed shirt at last. What also unfolds is a refreshing pro-marriage argument, as Daniel waxes eloquent about why you shouldn't give up on a marriage "at the first hiccup" and wonders aloud where the passion displayed during nasty divorce proceedings is when couples first experience problems in their relationship.

Unfortunately, by the time we get to this great message, we've seen so much irresponsible drinking and casual sex it almost seems funny for Daniel to tread any moral high ground. And it's tough to get over the fact he's arguing for a marriage that was inspired by too much beer. We've also seen so many one-dimensional characters by this point—Audrey's a type-A-plus, the Jamisons are clearly inspired by Courtney Love's childish antics, the judge is channeling Judge Judy, Audrey's mom is the stereotypical Botox-powered socialite divorcee—it's difficult to take anyone on the screen seriously. It's too bad, too, because there was potential here—the actors are winning, their chemistry compelling, the main plot twist intriguing, and the Irish countryside breathtaking. All of these elements deserve more than what they're given here. In the end, lazy scriptwriting leads to a lukewarm verdict.


Secret Window Review

March 25, 2004 06:06 PM
by Michael Handorf [email]

Grade: B+
Cast: Johnny Depp. John Turturro.
Genre: Drama / Thriller

Synopsis: A successful mystery writer is accused of plagiarism by another writer, one for whom the sword may be mightier than the pen.

Review: Very good. Depp is on a streak, and there’s no reason to bet against him right now. On paper, this film didn’t look quite as good as Spartan, but there’s no comparison between the two. This cast is solid.

Depp portrays Mort Rainey, a writer separated from his wife (Maria Bello), who has taken up with a new beau, Ted (Timothy Hutton).

Mort has retreated to his cabin by the lake to sort out the implications of his wife’s infidelity and to finish his latest novel.

We’re not eight or ten minutes into the movie when a southern writer, John Shooter (Turturro) shows up.

He isn’t too thrilled about Rainey having stolen one of his stories and passed it off as his own. Push comes to shove, and it’s clear that Shooter isn’t going to walk away from this situation. After all, he drove all the way up from Mississippi to sort this out.

Rainey struggles with the accusation because he isn’t certain that he didn’t steal the story. After all, the copy that Shooter presents is remarkably close to Rainey’s, with only slight grammatical differences.

The ending, however, is different. Shooter doesn’t like Rainey’s ending, and he wants it fixed.

The fact that this is an adaptation of a Stephen King novella isn’t surprising, but some of the correlations between life and art are creepily intertwined.

For example, we have a writer who shows up demanding that his stolen story be fixed, much like King insisted for years that Stanley Kubrick had destroyed The Shining in his film adaptation. I

n fact, when Kubrick finally agreed to allow King to remake The Shining, part of the agreement between the two was that King would stop publicly criticizing Kubrick’s version.

As the movie progresses, it’s clear that nothing good can come of Shooter’s presence. The end is intriguing, but you’ll probably see pieces of it coming a few minutes before it gets there.

Definitely worth a look. I think this is the best movie out there right now. I’ll probably go see it again this weekend.