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Movie and Video Reviews

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Last updated May 22, 2002


A – F G – P Q – Z
A.I.
All About My Mother
Along Came A Spider
American Beauty
Angela’s Ashes
Anna & The King
Being John Malkovich
Big Daddy
The Boiler Room
Bridget Jones’s Diary
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
The Cell
Dolphins
Entrapment
Final Fantasy
Galaxy Quest
Gladiator
The Green Mile
Harry Potter
The Hurricane
Magnolia
Man On The Moon
Mission Impossible 2
Mission To Mars
The Mustard Bath
Proof Of Life
Snow Falling On Cedars
Spiderman
Star Wars: Attack of the Clones
The Straight Story
The Tailor of Panama
The Talented Mr. Ripley
The Tao of Steve
The Thomas Crown Affair
Toy Story 2
X-Men


A.I. (Artificial Intelligence)

Edmund Wong 4/10-

A.I.: Artificial-Yes, Intelligence-No. That about sums up my disappointment with this film. I sat through this two and a half hour show hoping it would turn around, but it never really did for me. None of the characters are truly likeable. Despite Haley Joel Osments performance, his character is, for lack of a more fitting word, creepy. Once again the big cities of the future are portrayed as dark places lit only with huge neon advertising signs ( a la Bladerunner). Theres also some kind of Wizard of Oz thing that goes on when our heroes seek guidance from an Einsteinian hologram named Dr. Know, to whom you can pose any question. Of course nobody except the audience asks, Why isnt this movie getting any better? If you want to watch something that deals with artificial intelligence there are some episodes of Star Trek I can tell you about which do a much better job.



Snow Falling On Cedars

Rodney Porter 6/10 –

This is the perfect Sunday afternoon movie. Take that as a good thing or a bad thing, but this movie made me think a little, entertained me a little, and touched me a little. It tells the tale of inter-racial love growing up in small town America during the Second World War, set against the backdrop of a Japanese-American man charged with murder. What I liked most was the directors use of light to conjure up atmosphere and support the characters and unraveling plot. Other than this, there was nothing original or particularly memorable other than the fact the alarms went off in the movie complex providing an unexpected intermission.



The Straight Story

Kathleen Sandusky 9.5/10 –

The Straight Story is one of the three best films I’ve seen in the past year– and this was a really good year for movies. (The others in my top 3 are Sam Mendes’ American Beauty and Erick Zonca’s The Dreamlife of Angels.)

Starring the masterful Richard Farnsworth (remember The Grey Fox?), this tender, soul-illuminating film traces the true-life journey of Alvin Straight to see his dying brother, travelling from rural Iowa to Wisconsin on a John Deere mower. Doesn’t sound like the usual David Lynch, does it? I have loved Lynch’s delirious career but had nearly given up hope after seeing 1997’s Lost Highway and had to be talked into seeing The Straight Story. I’ve never been so glad to be a pushover.

Joanne Deer 9/10 –

it was the slowest yet most intense film I’ve seen in a damn long time, sine Thin Red Line probably. Anyhow it was damn lovely.



Anna & The King

Ray Deonandan 8/10 –

This is an old story that has been remade many times, most famously in the various musical incarnations of The King And I. It’s also the sort-of-true story of an English widow who finds herself tutoring the children of the king of Siam back in the Victorian days.

The good: The scenery is wondrous, and almost succeeds in capturing the aesthetic wonder that is imperial Thailand. The acting is quite good, too, with Jodie Foster and Chow Yun Fat in the lead roles. Fat is da man, though. He radiates off that screen, just bursting with star power.

The bad: The liberties taken with history are a bit too much to bear.

The ugly: Much like the historians, I find it difficult to believe Anna’s claim that she was involved in advising King Mongkut on formal policies. Eeech. But this is a cute little feel-good film. If it weren’t for the execution and war scenes, it might even be a nice family outing.



Toy Story 2

Ray Deonandan 9/10 –

I am perpetually astounded that animated features continue to provide better acting, action, cinematography and story lines than their live-action counterparts. Toy Story 2 was no exception. It’s got it all: heroes, romances, villains, reconciliations, suspense, multiple plot-lines…. and a message, though buried deep. Because of the latter, this sequel may actually be better than the original.



Galaxy Quest

Ray Deonandan 5/10 –

Chasing Amy did a much better, and less obvious, parody of the comic-book-reading science-fiction-watching geek crowd. The jokes in Galaxy Quest were obvious, and the plot twists could have been written by a high school student. There is only one joke in the entire movie: that actors are mistaken for the roles they play….and? The most enjoyable part(s) were Sigourney Weaver’s fake boobs.

I laughed at times, but only because I got in for free. If I had paid for this crap, I’d be really pissed.



Big Daddy

Ray Deonandan 2/10 –

What were they thinking?



Entrapment

Ed Wong 7/10 –

The Sean Connery / Catherine Zeta-Jones age gap is what most people will remember and talk about from this movie. Despite that and a couple of “how did they know about that” scenes , it is well paced with with a lot of high tech gadgetry. Worth the video rental price.



The Thomas Crown Affair

Ed Wong 6/10 –

Entrapment with a younger male role (Pierce Brosnan) and an older, yet extremely enticing, female role (Renee Russo). Nemeses fall for each other (no surprise there) in a very brief time, even for the movies. The moral: You can steal anything you want if you have more money than the value of the object you’re after.



Man On The Moon

Joanne Deer 7.5/10 –



Being John Malkovich

Joanne Deer 9/10 –



The Green Mile

Natalia Aguiar 4/10-

Too long, too hokey, too much trying to give you the warm fuzzies. Other people I know liked it, but I didn’t. You can’t help but like Tom Hanks, but so what?



The Talented Mr. Ripley

Natalia Aguiar 5/10-

Nice scenery. (All the girls I was with were oohing and aahing over Jude Law. No one oohs and aahs over Matt Damon, do they? I wonder if Winona Ryder does? anyhow..) But I wasn’t too impressed with Mr. Ripley’s talents. I thought there would be more display of the talents! The trailers are deceiving. I thought I was going to see a movie that would constantly have me gasping in surprise. Instead, I was left saying ‘ick! that’s gross’ during a couple of grotesque scenes.



The Hurricane

Natalia Aguiar 7/10-

Who doesn’t like Denzel Washington?! I can’t think of anything I haven’t liked his performance in. Although there seemed to be gaps & some missing information. I spent a lot of time wondering what happened to Rubin Carter’s sidekick until you finally get a tidbit of info at the end. Sometimes, as with all of these ‘based on true events’ movies, you wonder how much of the truth you are really getting. But I & the friend that I went with really enjoyed it anyway.



Magnolia

Natalia Aguiar 8/10-

There were a lot of things that I didn’t like about the movie that other people I talked to did like. (Certain plot points, certain characters, etc.) Overall, though, it’s so good because it’s interesting & different & even Tom Cruise isn’t as annoying as he always is… even though he’s playing the same type of “cocky’ character he always plays. It’s soooo long though, you really have to be in a certain mood. & Why is it called Magnolia?



All About My Mother

Natalia Aguiar 8.5/10-

This is my favourite movie from the ones I’ve seen recently. I liked the story. I liked the acting. I found it moving. I just really really liked it. I’m not a big Pedro Almodovar fan. I always thought his movies wouldn’t appeal to me, but now I plan to rent others I haven’t seen yet.



Angela’s Ashes

Rodney Porter 3/10-

Overhyped. If one more person asks me if this is what it was like for me growing up in Ireland anyway, this is crap. Why? It is overly dark, depressing and, frankly, boring. Even my mother left halfway through. Angelas Ashes sticks too close to the books original storyline and yet manages to lose the novels dry wit and rich humour. The only redeeming feature was Robert Carlyle who was the only good thing about the movie. Now, theres a sex symbol!



American Beauty

Rodney Porter 8/10-

I am loath to amid this but whoever decided that American Beauty was such a great movie has a point! It was superb. Not hard given the amount of crap that I have subjected my eyeballs to lately. Strong story line, excellent narrative and characters that were so real it made me realize that occasionally mega-buck movies can be good.



The Cell

Ray Deonandan 7.5/10-

Had a bet with a friend that the weakest part of this movie would be Jennifer Lopez’s acting. While I’m still certain that she’s better off as a singer and generic big-bootied babe, I did lose the bet. The Cell is a smart little thriller with dazzling visuals; thankfully, Lopez’s character –a social worker trying to become a kind of “neuronaut”– isn’t too forced or unbelievable. It’s Vince Vaughn’s deliveries which are hard to stomach.

The Cell has some mind-blowing visual moments, and some truly “holy shit” horrific scenes. Overall, the plot is weak, however, and the predictable evolution of the villain into a sympathetic creature made the last 15 minutes rather boring. But it’s definitely worth it for the glorious eye candy.



Mission To Mars

Ray Deonandan 4/10-

Sigh. It looked soooo good. One of the most visually pleasing movies I’ve ever seen. BUT… who wrote this crap? It starts out like an episode of ThirtySomething, then the middle part (probably the best part) is like Apollo 13. But the end, well, is stupider than Ernest Goes To Camp. How could Tim Robbins and Gary Sinise have added their names to something of such colossal lack of creativity, amazingly poor writing, and zero depth? Ack.



The Boiler Room

Rolf Witt 6/10-

While it is clear that this movie has its flaws, being too short and leaving out too much of the personal stories/romances of some of its protagonists, it is a valuable contribution to that corporate finance/espionage movie genre begun in the 1980s (Wall Street, Brokers, Working Girl, etc…) that seeks to define that crass decade and its reptilian finance industry in particular. With the famous New York City skyline and finance district as the backdrop and the wheeling-and-dealing of the brokerage industry as its focus, The Boiler Room could have been so much more: more action, more emotion, more sex, more love, more friendship, more class struggle…

The protagonist, young aspiring broker Giovanni Ribisi, is portrayed convincingly as a man intent to get ahead in sales by hook or by crook. His mates at the firm -a rather Hasidic bunch at that- with one black sr. broker (Rocco) by their side are shown at work and at play, both as a clique and at war with one another. The love interest, a young black secretary, who as the cliche goes, is dating her boss, provides drama during the few scenes she appears but is forgotten. And the proverbial father-son tension over scruples and career success falls flat due to a lack of plot development.

Over all, I would rate this movie 3 stars out of 5 and a good movie to rent on video during a holiday weekend



Gladiator

Rolf Kanjilal 9/10-

Gladiator is about the abrupt rise and abrupt fall of a Roman General named Maximus, who turns to gladiatorial combat to survive and avenge his family’s death. We see his legion’s battle against the Germanic tribes, where the soldiers under his command triumph with the help of superior technology of the day (catapults, slings, large arrows).The scene then switches to the seat of power, the city of Rome itself.

The movie pits the new Emperor Commodius against the senate and fallen Maximus, as aging Marcus Aurelius dies at the hands of Commodus. Our hero must emerge through swordplay and clandestine meetings with the more virtuous part of the empire – including slaves, to be the centre of a plot to rid Rome of Commodus and tyranny forever. The battle scenes in the arenas showing hand-to-hand combat are on full display with excellent choreography. The development of Commodus’ flawed persona is also excellently displayed as he struggles to insure tyranny and the hegemony of Rome over his far-flung empire on 1/4 of the earth.

Russell Crowe as the protagonist is interesting to watch, as he sternly and dutifully turns the politics of Rome inside out. Joaquin Phoenix looks believable and nasty as the Emperor Commodus. Ridley Scott, the director, has paced the movie well.Further, the movie is longer than regular running times, but still falls short of The Fall of the Roman Empire, the 60s’ version of Commodus’ reign, which has Christopher Plummer playing the demented Commodus and Stephen Baldwin the virtuous Roman General.

Ray Deonandan 9.5/10-

As close to a perfect “big” movie as possible, hindered only by its long running time. A mixture of historical fact and basic heroic fiction, this is undoubtedly Ridley Scott’s masterpiece (if you ignore Bladerunner and Alien and Thelma & Louise).

The acting is superb, the visuals simply mind-blowing, and suspense is wrought not from physical terrors –though there are those aplenty– but from simple dramatic ironies, the likes of which the Bard would have been proud.

Failings? Well, besides the length, I was disappointed by some basic Hollywoodisms: the inevitable love interest, the unstoppable hero and the incredibly evil bad guy. But believe me, these shortcomings are more than forgivable.



X-Men

Rolf Kanjilal 8/10-

X-MEN, a movie adaptation of the marvel comic book by Stan Lee et al, was worth watching to bring back the 1970s memories of marvel that I have, piled up row-on-row on the shelves of corner stores, newsstands, and book dealers.

The special effects are super, the movie introduces us to some of the newer generation of Hollywood actors, and the tensions between the two sets of mutant characters -one led by Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and the other led by Ian McKellen as Magneto- are interesting and engrossing. Director Bryan Singer’s crew has done a really great job with the sets and costumes, and the camerawork and choreography are worth the price of admission and a good second look.

I give the movie an 8 of 10, missing the mark with a plot that’s more for toddlers, pre-teens and teenaged geeks. But then again, that’s the way the X-MEN comic book was written.



The Mustard Bath

Ray Deonandan 6/10-

Well… this is an odd choice of reviews since I only caught the last 1.5 hours on TV. But I felt compelled to mention it here for a couple of reasons: it takes place and is filmed in my motherland of Guyana, and it’s a Canadian independent film.

More or less about a medical student who goes back to his Guyanese birthplace to exorcise some personal demons, the movie is noteworthy for its haunting score, wonderful mood, and a lovely tropical sensibility. For the most part, the major actors suck, and the storyline is typically NFB: pretentious self-indulgent drivel. Despite these huge failings, it’s a charming hypnotic distraction. Look for 80’s reggae-pop star Eddy Grant as a Catholic priest named “Rastah Faddah”. (See what I mean about the drivel?)



Mission Impossible 2

Ray Deonandan 5/10-

A better name of this movie would be A Multimillion Dollar Sacrifice to Tom Cruise’s Ego. Here’s one of my standard questions of Hollywood: if you can find a zillion dollars for a 5 second stunt scene, why can’t you find a few thousand for a decent scriptwriter?

This flick looks great, is very stylish. But I suspect it was originally a standard commando-style script that was re-titled to be a last-minute Mission Impossible movie. The indestructible hero who dodges bullets is the arena of Arnolds and Jean-Claudes and Sylvesters. Do we really need another muscle moron?



The Tao of Steve

Sejal Patel 6.5/10-

This was quite a memorable movie for me, since I drifted in and out of sleep…perhaps it was my date’s charm that did it, however, and not the movie itself. I’ve never had the pleasure of napping through a part of any movie before this one so it was quite an experience to be lulled to sleep with the laid back philosophy of guys on the make (or lack of, in the case of my charming male companion). Having said that, it was an award winner at the Sundance Film Festival.

At the beginning cut of the movie we encounter the incorrigible Dex humbled at his tenth year college reunion as an overweight kindergarden teacher. During his college days, Dex’s prowling charm alluded to many a great man who appreciates a woman’s true beauty, such as Casanova or Don Juan. A few young, chic women cast apalling stares of incredulity at Dex’s frumpiness during the reunion when they realise that they were among the scores of conquests during his sexually charged days of nubile youth.

As Dex is in the process of scoping out the latest of delectable catches –a dewy-eyed bartender– he stops cold in his tracks as he notices a slim, sweet, slender siren….Syd. Syd is the quintissential woman: blonde, wildly attractive, charming, intellectual, likes the gripping and rumbling feel of dominating a charged motor astride (she rides a motorcycle), has aesthetic experience designing stage sets for the Santa Fe Opera, and seemingly unavailable to Dex’s amorous advances. Dex continues to dally with a married woman while fantasizing about Syd. Dex is so taken by Syd’s splendour that he finds himself tormented by his guiding philosophy on the hunt for females, the Tao of Steve, and the reality that he is utterly captivated and enamoured with Syd. The Tao of Steve is a belief that Dax and his male brethren subscribe to with utmost faithfulness: how to grab the attentions of babes with the magnetically generated cool vibes of Steve (think McQueen) in spite of being common wallflowers. The movie progresses on the path of laid back enlightenment. It has its zen qualities and moments. Way existential. Zzzzz……..



Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Ray Deonandan 10/10-

As close to a perfect movie as I’m likely to see in my life. Believable characters –despite the film’s fantasy setting, breathtaking visuals, restrained mature acting and –God forbid!– a story to go along with it!

Do not miss it. However, it should be called Squatting Monkey, Lactating Beagle just ’cause monkeys and beagles are so much more interesting.



Proof Of Life

Ray Deonandan 6/10-

Okay, I don’t know what to do with this one. Russel Crowe is, as usual, imminently watchable. Meg Ryan is, as usual, not. Pamela Reed is cringingly annoying. The plot is simple (which is usually good), the setting is interesting, the premise (kidnap and ransom in Latin America) novel, but the pay-off is weak. Rent it.



Along Came A Spider

Ray Deonandan 3/10-

Ohhhh. Stop the pain! Why do they keep doing this to me? Why do they keep pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into special effects, big name stars and directors, yet never take the time to write a good f*cking script?!

There is little redeeming about this piece of crap. The actors are cool, that’s about it. The plot makes little sense. The expository storytelling is deeply deeply dumbening, and the much bally-hooed plot twist(s) are blatantly predictable and ridiculously improbable.

Piece of steaming crap.



Dolphins

Ray Deonandan 8/10-

This is an Omnimax film, so it won’t be readily available to most viewers. I saw it at the Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec, while I had a throbbing migraine. And yet I enjoyed it immensely… that tells you something.

This film was educational, fun to watch, well structured and had dazzling Nova-style special effects. The good: narration by Pearce Brosnan and its educational quality. The bad: soundtrack by Sting, some cheesy writing and the everpopular anthropomorphizing of aquatic mammals.

Highly recommended.



The Tailor of Panama

Ray Deonandan 8/10-

I’ve really missed this kind of storytelling. The setting is exotic. The actors are fantastic (especially Pearce Brosnan as an amoral spy). The plot is believable, simple and compelling. The outcome is not overwrought. and the message is poignant.

This is a surprisingly funny and charming film and I cannot recommend it enough to those of you with a craving for the good old stuff.



Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

Ray Deonandan 7/10-

Some of my friends don’t like this movie. The photo-realistic computer animation is too creepy, they say, and the characters too cardboard to be compelling. Having seen one too many anime features, I have a different take. This is what anime should have been: dark and mood-filled with really good actors doing the voices. Indeed, the actors (Donald Sutherland, Alec Baldwin, James Wood) make all the difference.

Sometimes the storytelling is too expository, sometimes it’s just right. And there was too much New Age nonsense for me. But, overall, I my attention was maintained throughout the movie. And, by the way, it’s a visual glory to behold.



Harry Potter

Ray Deonandan 9/10-

I didn’t know whether to call it The Sorceror’s Stone or The Philosopher’s Stone, so I did neither. I haven’t read any of the books, so I’m judging this film solely on its on-screen merits.

The Bad: Harry’s character was uninteresting. Essentially a cross between Charlie (from the Chocolate Factory) and Luke Skywalker, Harry begins the film oppressed but strong and fearless, progresses to the middle of the film less oppressed but still strong and fearless, and closes out the film unoppressed but magically strong and fearless. Ack. The story was also pretty basic, but still better than much of the garbage out there. Also, there were some pointless scenes meant only to sell merchandise, such as the sports scene.

The Good: The acting was very good all the way around, particulary so for Harry’s little friends who stole the show. The villain was a truly scary villain, and nothing overly cute or disrespectful to the genre was done, except maybe for bothering with the token ethnic kids. (Having the only black kid also be a sports commentator is almost too much).

The skinny: Listen up, the material is weaker than the world is ready to admit. This is no Tolkien-quality fantasy, but more of a Celestine Prophecy dreck. However, it’s fun and engaging. 9 out of 10 entirely for the spectacular visuals and mood.



Bridget Jones’s Diary

Linda Morra-

Recently, a male friend suggested that I would enjoy watching Bridget Joness Diary because of its purportedly feminist inclinations: as one example, he suggested how Bridget herself defied the notion that women need to be rake thin in order to be deemed attractive. In general, he thought I might enjoy the concerns addressed therein.

Last weekend, having been persuaded by such comments, I rented and watched the movie. Twice.

Initially, I understood why it had been recommended: the titular characterplayed magnificently by Rene Zellweger, an actress I usually enjoy on screenwas awkward and inarticulate, but charming, authentic, and fundamentally good-hearted. She was, as my friend had suggested, more voluptuous than the two other female supporting actresses (respectively, a lawyer and a publishing agent from New York), who are in relationships with the male protagonist and antagonist (respectively, a human rights lawyer and publisher in London). Bridgets ability to win the attentions of both male lead charactersand especially from these other very, very thin female actressesgave merit to my friends assessment: women do not need to look anorexic in order to attract male attention. Bridget is, moreover, a woman who declares at the outset of the film that she will take control of her life and will not settle for bad behaviour from menenough to make most feminists cry hoorah.

The movie also alludes to Jane Austens Pride and Prejudice. To clinch the parallels between the two, Colin Firth, who is cast as Mark DArcy in Bridget Joness Diary, also plays the role of Mr. DArcy in a film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. However similar the premise of Bridget Jones may have been to Austens novel, one thing became very clear: Bridget Jones is no Elizabeth Bennett, Austens witty and intelligent heroine who ought to serve as an analogue for Bridget herself.

As I realized this difference, I felt increasingly unsettled by the real premise of the movie: the woman who attracts the attentions of both male characters is intellectually flaccid, as is indicated when, as a public relations employee for a publishing company, she is obliged to introduce the companys most recent book release and when, as a television spokesperson, she must interview a couple involved in a legal quagmire. Suddenly, I was reminded less of Pride and Prejudices articulate and savvy Elizabeth than of A Cat on a Hot Tin Roofs gullible Marilyn Monroe. That both men are attracted to Jones may relate to her voluptuousness, but alsoand more likelyto her vulnerability: she is charming because she is non-threatening. This is a woman who seems to perpetuate (or is at least the re-invention of) the blond bimbo fantasy.

By the end of my second viewing of the movie, I was impatient: give us a heroine whose intelligence we can admire, whatever her other foibles may be (or perhaps I am the one who should stop indulging in such fantasies). Even Jane Austen knew better.



Spiderman

Ray Deonandan 7/10-

Well everyone seems to love this movie. It was fun, but no classic. Toby MacGuire was a believable Peter Parker. And the special effects were decent, even if you can overlook the “organic web-shooters.” Nothing was overtly bad about this movie, but I think it failed to capture the true spirit of Spidey. A Salon writer said that a true Spidey movie should have more scenes of a tormented Peter Parker lying in bed beneath a ceiling fan, and less of a red-and-blue superhero slinging across the skyline. I agree.



Star Wars: Attack of the Clones

Ray Deonandan 8/10-

Yes, The Phantom Menace was a disappointment, so anything marginally good for Episode 2 would be seen as great. Well, Attack of the Clones is more than marginally good, so by Star Wars standards, it’s really great.

The acting is passable. The dialogue during the love sessions is cliched. But the plot is sufficiently complex to keep one interested, and the pantheon of fascinating characters inspires the fanboy in each of us.

There were some genuine stand-up-and-cheer scenes, too. My favourite was of Anakin Skywalker speeding off to rescue his mother. It felt like the true first taste of Darth Vader’s wrath.

You’re going to see this movie anyway, so I’ll stop this review now.


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