Panic Room
Patriot, the
Pay It Forward
Pearl Harbor
Perfect Storm, the
Phone Booth
Pianist, the
Piglet's Big Movie
Pitch Black
Planet of the Apes
Play It to the Bone
Pledge, the
Princess and the Warrior
Princess Diaries, the
Princess Mononoke
Proof of Life
Punch-Drunk Love
Queen of the Damned
Quiet American, the

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Archived Video Reviews (P-Q)

Jodie Foster, Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam, Jared Leto, Kristen Stewart, Ann Magnuson, Patrick Bauchau, Ian Buchanan
Directed by:
David Fincher
Suspense, 108 min (14A) (Columbia Tristar, 2002)

After the sweaty punch of Fight Club (1999) and Seven (1995), it's a bit of a letdown to see director David Fincher backpedaling towards the more standard thriller blueprints of Panic Room. Seen separated from Fincher's previous work, Panic Room is far from a disappointment - its palatable suspense is driven by kinetic visuals and solid performances - but one can't help having high expectations that the film doesn't quite match. Jodie Foster, maternal and focused, plays Meg Altman, a newly divorced mother who moves with her 11-year-old daughter, Sarah (Kristen Stewart), into an expensive New York City brownstone that comes equipped with a tiny and allegedly impregnable chamber in which one can retreat in the case of a break-in. During their first night in the home, a trio of burglars enters the building and Meg and Sarah race to the panic room. Problem is, the intruders want something located within and the woman aren't exactly willing to leave. As this anxious yarn unravels, Fincher's camera work shoots dizzyingly between rooms and floors, capitalizing on our own primal fears of home invasion for some real jolts. (top) (back)

Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Joely Richardson, Jason Isaacs, Tcheky Karyo, Tom Wilkinson, Chris Cooper, Donal Logue
Directed by:
Roland Emmerich
Drama, 165 min
(14A) (Columbia Tristar, 2000)

Godzilla and Independence Day director Roland Emmerich turns the American Revolutionary War into an epic revenge piece with this big and bloody drama. Braveheart himself, Mel Gibson, plays yet another heroic freedom fighter, this time stepping into the boots of Benjamin Martin, a South Carolina widower who wants nothing to do with the war until the safety of his seven children is threatened. Didn't the English know that it is never a good thing to make Mel Gibson mad? Despite the familiarity of his character, Gibson's performance is what holds this often-obvious film together. No matter what cliché the film throws at him, Gibson always works with conviction and there is genuine emotion in the scenes between Martin and the son (Heath Ledger) who joined the war against his wishes. An action thriller posing as a historical drama, The Patriot is too manipulative to earn its 160 minutes, but it's involving entertainment nonetheless. (top) (back)

Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, Haley Joel Osment, Jay Mohr, Jim Caviezel, Angie Dickinson, Jon Bon Jovi
Directed by:
Mimi Leder
Drama, 123 min
(PG) (Warner Bros., 2000)

Sometimes bad movies happen to good actors and that is certainly the lesson to be learned from this inspirational drama (starring two Oscar winners and a nominee) that isn't so much a tearjerker as it is the cinematic equivalent of having someone blow onions into your eyes. The Sixth Sense's Haley Joel Osment plays Trevor, a grade-seven student whose scarred teacher (a surprisingly bland Kevin Spacey) inspires him to try and change the world with a simple plan. Trevor's idea is to help three people in need. In exchange, they all help three other people, who help three others, and so on, until the entire human population is holding hands singing "Kumbaya." Needless to say, the entire premise of Pay It Forward is rather hokey and director Mimi Leder does everyone involved a great disservice by highlighting themes and characters with the most blunt tools available (As Trevor's trailer-trash mom, miscast Helen Hunt comes across the worst). Oh, and avoid the overinflated ending - it's one of the worst in recent memory. (top) (back)

Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding Jr., Alec Baldwin, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Dan Aykroyd, James King
Directed by:
Michael Bay
Drama, 183 min
(14A) (Touchstone, 2001)

When it comes to this bloated cinematic interpretation of the surprise 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor that drew the United States into World War II, it is easy to pick which of its three hours is most worth your time. That would be the second one, in which director Michael Bay (Armageddon) pulls off the dazzling feat of not only staging all of the diving warplanes and exploding warships with a you-are-there intensity, but also the terror and suffering that greeted everyone who was involved. As it turns out, though, because the battle scenes are rendered with such exactitude, it is very difficult to get involved in the film's central story, a wannabe Titanic-epic love story about as convincing and interesting as a daily soap opera. Pearl Harbor's first hour takes its dear sweet time introducing us to the romantic triangle - flybirds and best friends Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett, nurse Kate Beckinsale - but the actors are given very little to work with (Affleck is particularly glib) and it is basically just a waiting game until the Japanese attack. After the bombings, the film reverts back to the love story but, considering the widespread human pain that was just witnessed, it is very difficult to care about the love between self-absorbed characters such as these. (top)

George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Diane Lane, John C. Reilly, William Fichtner, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Allen Payne
Directed by:
Wolfgang Peterson
Drama, 130 min (PG) (Warner Bros., 2000)

Sure, its cast includes Three Kings costars George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg and, yes, it is based on a real-life story captured in an acclaimed novel by Sebastian Junger, but The Perfect Storm is really about only one thing - giant, water-soaked special effects. Recounting the story of a New England fishing boat that got trapped in the worst storm of this century, The Perfect Storm looks marvelous whenever it's capturing Mother Nature at her most threatening. The digital waves look frighteningly realistic and some moments, such as when the boat is overcome by a massive, nearly vertical wave, reach a level of stunning visual beauty. It's unfortunate, however, that much of Junger's novel has been reinterpreted as an inspirational action adventure. Director Wolfgang Peterson does his best to make the ocean seem alive, but the gooey musical score by James Horner clogs up many of the moments of sheer terror, resulting in drama that isn't nearly as see-worthy as the effects. (top) (back)

Colin Farrell, Forest Whitaker, Kiefer Sutherland, Radha Mitchell, Katie Holmes, Keith Nobbs, Tia Texada, Richard T. Jones
Directed by: Joel Schumacher
Suspense, 81 min (14A) (Fox, 2003)

Hollywood has been trying to make a star out of Colin Farrell ever since his exciting and gripping performance in Tigerland (2000) but as fun as he was in Daredevil, as confident as he was in The Recruit and as polished as he was in Minority Report (2002), Phone Booth may be the best example to date of his potential. After all, there's not much more to Phone Booth than Farrell - he's in virtually every scene and spends most of the movie on the phone - and the actor keeps you watching throughout, even as the film devolves into a strained morality tale. Directed, like Tigerland, by Joel Schumacher, Phone Booth casts Farrell as Stu Shepard, a fast-talking, power-hungry, media-manipulating publicist with a loving wife (Radha Mitchell) who, after calling a would-be fling (Katie Holmes) makes the mistake of answering a ringing pay phone. On the other end is a mysterious sniper (Kiefer Sutherland) who gives Stu a choice: stay on the phone or hang up and die. It's a contrived concept that has ambitions beyond its restrictive locations and characters and the screenplay takes an unfortunate turn into preachy moralizing. But throughout, Farrell oozes star appeal as Stu's façade slowly disappears, not once losing the audience's attention. (top) (back)

Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay, Maureen Lipman, Ed Stoppard, Emilia Fox, Jessica Kate Meyer
Directed by: Roman Polanski
Drama, 148 min (14A) (Universal, 2002)

As marked by sorrow, horror and power as they are, most films set during WWII and the Holocaust present distinct characters in exceptional situations. The artistry of Roman Polanski's The Pianist (an Oscar-nominee for Best Picture and winner for Best Director, Actor and Screenplay) is that it presents the story of an ordinary man - Polish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman - who, like many of the time, survived less on bravery and heroics than on coincidence, luck and the sympathy of others. Compassionately drawn from Szpilman's 1946 autobiography, The Pianist is an honest and personal look at the Holocaust that no doubt draws from Polanski's own experiences during that time (the filmmaker was a survivor of the Krakow ghetto) in depicting incredible odds and an incredibly brutal moment in history, chronicling Szpilman's story as he makes the transition from an educated man of culture to a scared bird hiding in bombed out ruins and surviving only on a few beans a day. As Szpilman, the justifiably celebrated Adrien Brody (best known before this as the Mohawked troublemaker in Summer of Sam) is deeply intense and smartly controlled, depicting the devastation of Szpilman's situation without ever milking it for pathos or pity. (top) (back)

John Fiedler, Jim Cummings, Ken Samson, Peter Cullen, Andre Stojka, Tom Wheatley
Directed by: Francis Glebas
Animated, 75 min (G) (Disney, 2003)

It's interesting that Disney decided to call this Winnie the Pooh story Piglet's Big Movie. Though hardly a bust, Piglet's Big Movie is a decidedly minor affair, hurt by the episodic structure and minor animation of an effort like Cinderella II (2001) but just charming enough to sustain the attention of youngsters. The story here is entirely bare bones: little piggy Piglet is feeling too small to make a big difference in the lives of his Hundred Acre Woods buddies and his friends Winnie, Tigger, Roo, Eeyore and Rabbit flip through Piglet's Book of Memories to illustrate just how much of a difference he makes. That said, the film's narrative and message - that even the smallest of us contribute to the big picture - is inspiring for young children and there are ear-pleasing songs courtesy of Carly Simon. For those who were off-put by 2000's underwhelming The Tigger Movie, it is also nice to report that Piglet's Big Movie is more faithful to A.A. Milne's stories, even if some of the stuffed characters seem to have lost whatever minor edge they once had, particularly an all-too-easily relaxed Rabbit and the falsely grumpy Eeyore. Let's hope the next adventure - The Kanga and Roo Movie? - returns even closer to the series' roots. (top) (back)

Starring: Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Keith David, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, John Moore, Claudia Black, Simon Burke
Directed by: David Twohy
Suspense, 109 min
(14A) (Universal, 2000)

A tired, shopworn storyline – yet another tale about a motley spaceship crew stranded on a planet deserted by all but the deadly aliens that want to kill them – gets a moderately entertaining boost in this sci-fi thriller. The accolades for this must go to David Twohy (The Arrival), who directs with almost enough imagination to make you forget you are watching the umpteenth variation on Alien, and, especially, lead actor Vin Diesel (Saving Private Ryan). As a unapologetic criminal who can see in the dark and scares his deserted shipmates as much as he helps them, Diesel actually uses the lackluster screenplay to his advantage, presenting the type of overly buff, no-holds-barred action star that hasn't been seen since the early days of Schwarzenegger and Stallone. Watching Pitch Black, try to ignore the overly familiar story and feeble characters – even High Art's Radha Mitchell can't breathe much life into her Ripley-esque ship captain – to appreciate Diesel's strong anti-hero persona. (top) (back)

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Estella Warren, Michael Clarke Duncan, Kris Kristofferson, Paul Giamatti
Directed by:
Tim Burton
Action, 124 min (PG) (20th Century Fox, 2001)

When it comes to films by director Tim Burton (Sleepy Hollow, Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice), viewers have come to expect a certain degree of imagination. All of Burton's creative juices seem to have run flat with Planet of the Apes, however, since this dull "reimagining" of the 1968 sci-fi classic (about a soldier that lands on a planet in which humans are ape slaves) shows few signs of evolution from the previous film. One aspect of the new Planet than outshines the original is the make-up by Oscar-winning artist Rick Baker (The Grinch), which allows for expressive and full-bodied performances by the likes of Tim Roth as an evil ape military leader, Paul Giamatti (Duets) as an orangutan slave-trader and Helena Bonham Carter as a human rights activist (pity her hair makes her look like Paula Abdul). It's a good thing the apes are so well realized because the humans here certainly aren't, particularly hero Mark Wahlberg, who comes across like plastic G.I. Joe doll, and Driven's Estella Warren as his half-baked love interest. As in the original, there's a surprise ending here but, like much of the rest of the film, it's too humourless, bland and under-imagined to allow for smiles of pleasure instead of rolling eyes of disbelief. (top) (back)

Woody Harrelson, Antonio Banderas, Lolita Davidovich, Lucy Lui, Tom Sizemore, Robert Wagner
Directed by: Ron Shelton
Comedy, 124 min (14A) (Touchstone, 2000)

Writer-director Ron Shelton has scored with such sports-themed movies as Bull Durham, Tip Cup and White Men Can’t Jump, but he stumbles into the ring with Play It to the Bone, a rambling and cliched look at professional boxing. Following two slightly past-their-prime boxers and best friends (Woody Harrelson and Antonio Banderas) who are offered one last chance for glory by boxing each other in a preliminary bout in Las Vegas, much of the movie consists of the twosome’s drive from Los Angeles to Sin City, with each recalling their past disappointments, flirting with the redhead that lent them her car (Lolita Davidovich) and trading all the usual barbs. Banderas and Harrelson are both very likeable performers, but that actually winds up weakening the film because we never wind up rooting for one character over the next. As a result, one has no emotional stake in the gratingly predictable final bout. (top) (back)

Jack Nicholson, Robin Wright Penn, Benicio Del Toro, Michael O'Keefe, Aaron Eckhart, Sam Shepard, Tom Noonan
Directed by: Sean Penn
Drama, 124 min (14A) (Warner Bros., 2000)

Considering how the last collaboration between Jack Nicholson and Sean Penn was the depressing dead child drama The Crossing Guard, one would never expect the Nicholson-starring, Penn-directed The Pledge to be just another run-of-the-mill thriller. Indeed The Pledge, based on a novel by Friedrich Duerrenmatt, is a haunting and moody psychological crime drama, wrought with a somber vision and a deeply ravished performance by Nicholson (his best in years). The actor plays Jerry Black, a veteran Nevada detective who, on his last day before retirement, makes a promise to a grieving mother that he will find the man who raped and murdered her little girl. A man is accused, but Jerry doesn't believe in his guilt and continues to follow leads long after the police have closed the case. As Jerry grows increasingly obsessed with solving the crime, Penn occasionally lets pretension get the better of him, but Nicholson and the brilliant supporting cast expertly come together for an engrossing, open-ended character study. (top) (back)

Starring: Ed Harris, Marcia Gay Harden, Amy Madigan, Jeffrey Tambor, Jennifer Connelly, Bud Cort, John Heard, Val Kilmer, Tom Bower
Directed by: Ed Harris
Drama, 122 min
(14A) (Sony Pictures Classics, 2000)

One of the most thrilling aspects of an actor directing himself is that it often means the film will capitalize on all of the strengths of the performer. There are, of course, some exceptions (Kevin Costner's The Postman comes to mind), but this stirring biopic, directed by and starring Ed Harris, is certainly not one of them. Chronicling the life of Jackson Pollock (1912-56), who reigned as America's biggest art star in the late '40s before succumbing to alcohol abuse, Harris has found a role that perfectly matches his haunted intensity, and he gives a magnificent performance whether working the canvas or dealing with his demons. As Pollock's wife and fellow painter Lee Krasner, Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden is similarly wonderful, turning a potentially thankless role into a true character. Because of these fine actors, it's a shame the film eventually comes up short dramatically. One doesn't expect a thorough explanation of the darkness in Pollock's soul, but a more cohesive narrative would have been greatly appreciated. (top) (back)

Gwyneth Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart, Jeremy Northam, Jennifer Ehle, Tom Hollander, Lena Headey, Toby Stephens
Directed by: Neil Labute
Drama, 103 min (PG) (Focus, 2002)

After having explored the darker side of relationships with Your Friends & Neighbors, In the Company of Men and Nurse Betty, director Neil Labute decided to examine the literary side with Possession, a slightly dusty and overly refined adaptation of a 1990 novel by A.S. Byatt about two parallel tales. The first story, set in the present, follows two relationship-phobic academics (Gwyneth Paltrow and Labute regular Aaron Eckhart) as they hesitatingly draw closer to each other while investigating mounting evidence suggesting a doomed romance between two Victorian poets. The second tale, tracking the relationship between the 19th-century lovers (Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle) is the more enrapturing of the two, not only because of Northam and Ehle's passionate work but also due to the fact that Eckhart seems like he would be far more comfortable in a frat house than spouting poems of love or spending his time in a museum (Paltrow, on the other hand, gets to once again show off her flawless English accent). Though it often feels too diagrammed for its own good and the rival, "evil" scholars are a bit much, credit must go to Labute for wanting to spread his wings beyond the venom of Neighbors and Strangers. He gets a passing grade. (top) (back)

Starring: Franka Potente, Benno Furmann, Jurgen Tarrach, Lars Rudolph, Ludger Pistor, Staffen Schult, Rolf Dannemann
Directed by: Tom Tykwer
Drama, 133 min
(14A) (Columbia Tristar, 2001)

German director Tom Tykwer made his mark two years ago with the adrenaline head rush of Run Lola Run, but anyone expecting The Princess and the Warrior to be another zippy exercise in narrative splices is certain to be left disappointed by this follow-up. Ponderous, overlong and slow-moving to the point that the characters seem to be walking through molasses, The Princess and the Warrior continues along the same lines of fate and coincidence as Run Lola Run, this time bringing the themes to a wounded love story set just to the side of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Franka Potente - the magenta-haired Lola and Tykwer's girlfriend - plays Sissi, the sympathetic nurse at a psychiatric hospital whose life becomes entwined with that of a distanced small-time crook (Benno Furmann) when he saves her life after she is hit by a truck. As in Run Lola Run, Potente is a compelling actress who makes the story worth following, but Tykwer's big ideas ultimately overwhelm the enterprise, with the narrative taking the backseat to thudding philosophizing about chance and destiny and Fuhrmann seemingly so overwhelmed by Tykwer's message that his character is rarely more than a blank dud. (top) (back)

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Julie Andrews, Hector Elizondo, Heather Matarazzo, Caroline Goodall, Mandy Moore, Robert Schwartzman
Directed by:
Gary Marshall
Comedy, 115 min (PG) (Walt Disney, 2001)

After already re-teaming with Pretty Woman stars Julia Roberts and Richard Gere for 1999's Runaway Bride, director Gary Marshall now returns to Woman's basic Pygmalion structure - a woman transformed in looks, attitude and confidence - with this charmer of a family film. Newcomer Anne Hathaway - here a non-stop delight - plays Mia, a gawky but likeable teenager living in San Francisco with her hippie-artist mom (Caroline Goodall) who is in for quite the surprise when she meets her long-lost grandmother. It turns out that Mia's dad was the prince of Genovia, a small European monarchy, and Grandma (Julie Andrews) is ready to unlock the princess hidden beneath Mia's frizzy hair. Without the right script or performances, The Princess Diaries could have easy overdosed on sentimentality and, at 115 minutes, the film's running time could have used some trimming of its own, but Marsall's direction is pleasant, the strained slapstick (usually the director's downfall) is kept to a minimum and the sparkling cast helps make up for the slow spots. Andrews capitalizes on her Mary Poppins/My Fair Lady past for great comic effect and there is also solid work from Heather Matarazzo and singer Mandy Moore as Mia's classmates. (top) (back)

Billy Crudup, Minnie Driver, Claire Danes, Billy Bob Thornton, Jada Pinkett Smith, Gillian Anderson
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Animated, 133 min (14A) (Miramax, 1999)

If all animated pictures had the weighty themes of Princess Mononoke, the world would be a mighty serious place. If, however, all animated pictures relished visual artistry as much as Princess Mononoke, there would be no need to complain. Directed by Hayao Miyazaki (Kiki's Delivery Service), Mononoke tells the story of cursed young warrior (voiced by Billy Crudup) who must save the spirits of the forest with the assistance of a feral princess (Claire Danes), a comic monk (Billy Bob Thornton) and a calculating dame (Minnie Driver). Watching Princess Mononoke, it is best to tune out the flat and, in one glaring case (that's you Billy Bob), miscast voice actors, instead reveling in the picture's visual beauty and Miyazaki's strong sense of story, time and place. Like many Japanese animated films, Princess Mononoke is certainly not for the kids (let them watch Kiki's Delivery Service instead), but it will fulfill the sense of wonder of many. (top) (back)

Starring: Russell Crowe, Meg Ryan, David Morse, David Caruso, Pamela Reed, Anthony Heald
Directed by:
Taylor Hackford
Drama, 135 min (14A) (Warner Bros., 2000)

In the case of this wannabe romantic thriller, director Taylor Hackford has every reason to blame Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan for his film's shortcomings. After all, there is a good story here about modern-day terrorists, but it all got overshadowed - and edited to the point of weightlessness - following the tabloid-ready romance between Crowe and the then-married Ryan. Taking its cues from Casablanca, Proof of Life tells the story of a love triangle between an American living in Latin America (Ryan), her kidnapped husband (David Morse), and the professional kidnapping and ransom negotiator (Crowe) hired to bring him back. Thanks to sturdy performances from Morse, Crowe and David Caruso (as Crowe's partner), Proof of Life crackles whenever it focuses on the ins and outs of Crowe's field. Unfortunately, that's only half of the movie, with the other section consumed by Ryan's flitty performance and her chemistry-less, edited-to-the-point-that-it-should-have-been-completely-removed romance with Crowe. (top) (back)

Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Luiz Guzman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Mary Lynn Rajskub
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Comedy, 95 min (14A) (Columbia, 2002)

Throughout his career, Adam Sandler has pretty much stuck with playing infantile nitwits with tendencies for explosive violence (Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy…) or whiny simpering (The Waterboy, Billy Madison…). Punch-Drunk Love offers Sandler the opportunity to combine these traits once more, but it is safe to say that you have never seen the comedian quite like this. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (1997's Boogie Nights), Punch-Drunk Love not only stands as a jubilant and offbeat romantic comedy in its own right, but it also offers a peek behind the image deep into the Sandler persona, providing the actor with the first fully rounded character of his career. Sandler responds beautifully, offering a nuanced and hilarious performance as novelty bathroom plunger salesman fraught with insecurity and loneliness who finds a possible soul mate in Emily Watson. Anderson, roundly criticized for the bombast and self-indulgence of the 188-minute Magnolia (1999), keeps everything to a spare minimum here and his light narrative - combining phone sex, a harpsichord and an airline plot involving piles of pudding - is a loopy pleasure, all of it captured with a warm visual glow and delightfully bizarre sensibility. (top) (back)

Stuart Townsend, Aaliyah, Marguerite Moreau, Vincent Perez, Lena Olin, Claudia Black, Bruce Spence
Directed by:
Michael Rymer
Horror, 100 min
(14A) (Warner Bros., 2002)

Back when author Anne Rice criticized the casting of Tom Cruise in the 1994 adaptation of her Interview With the Vampire, it is highly doubtful that she realized things could - and would - get much worse. Fact is, Cruise was engaging as the 18th century vampire Lestat, but for this follow-up - adapted from Rice's The Vampire Chronicles - he has been replaced by About Adam's charmless Stuart Townsend and, since he vamps about as though this is satire, it bites. Scare-less, cheap looking and useless even as camp, Queen of the Damned follows Lestat as he grows tired of sleeping away his years and decides to emerge from his coffin as a goth rock star. Really, there's not much else to the story, though R&B singer/Romeo Must Die actress Aaliyah eventually shows up (about 50 minutes in) as Queen Akasha, the world's first vampire and one-time ruler of ancient Egypt who gets awakened by Lestat's music (considering how monotonous and dreary the tunes are, though, you'd think they would put her to sleep). Sadly, Aaliyah died in a plane crash while on a music video shoot before the release of Queen. Out of respect for the performer, it would have been better had this waste never seen the light of day as her fully unworthy swan song.
(top) (back)

Michael Caine, Brendan Fraser, Rade Serbedziga, Do Thi Hai Yen, Quang Hai, Ferdinand Hoang, Tzi Ma, Mathias Mlekuz
Directed by: Phillip Noyce
Drama, 101 min (14A) (Miramax, 2002)

All too often, Brendan Fraser gets an unfair bad rap. True, he is linked with more than his share of cinematic stinkers (Dudley Do-Right, Monkeybone…) but when given the right material, he is able to rise to the challenge of a superior story and costars. Fraser held his own opposite Ian McKellan in 1998's Gods and Monsters and he does the same with Michael Caine in The Quiet American, a complex and intelligent political drama. Set in 1952 Vietnam, The Quiet American is a skilled interpretation of Graham Greene's novel about the love triangle between a British journalist (Caine), his Vietnamese girlfriend (Do Thi Hai Yen) and an American doctor (Fraser), all of it surrounded by the conflict between the communists and French colonists just as the United States has begun to stick their noses into the political jungle. Directed by Phillip Noyce, who also recently overlooked the compelling Rabbit-Proof Fence after years of tired action films (The Bone Collector, The Saint…), the film offers a fascinating look into politics and character. As a man seduced by this particular place at this particular time, Caine deserved every bit of his Oscar nomination for his weary, sad, enraged and enveloping performance, one of the best of his long career. (top) (back)

Geoffrey Rush, Joaquin Phoenix, Michael Caine, Michael Jenn, Amelia Warner, Billie Whitelaw, Patrick Malahide, Stephen Moyer
Directed by:
Philip Kaufman
Drama, 124 min (18A) (Fox Searchlight, 2000)

It's not often you see a film that, in it's own weird way, actually goes too far while at the same time not going far enough. That, however, is the case with Quills, a passionate and provocative drama about the final months of the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814), the French aristocrat-turned-imprisoned pornographer whose name has become synonymous with sexual violence. Directed by Philip Kaufman from a 1995 play by Doug Wright, Quills doesn't shy away from pain, violence or painful and violent sex but, at the same time, it doesn't really descend into the darkness of de Sade's mind, instead presenting him as a mischievous artist whose dangerousness is only on the playful side. Despite this shortcoming, however, Geoffrey Rush gives a fascinating performance as de Sade, pumping the role with fiery bad-boy vibrancy, and the other performers - including Joaquin Phoenix as a conflicted priest, Michael Caine as a hypocritical shrink and Kate Winslet as a virginal laundress - are all in fine literary form. (top) (back)
All reviews by Mike Boon.  

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