2004 log (2)

(1 Feb) thirteen (2003, Catherine Hardwicke) 59
[ Grown men shouldn’t be troubled by teenie girlies, but when they’re all bare-midriff, make-up, piercings and visible thong, what’s one to do? Is Evan Rachel Wood riveting because she’s such a gorgeous tease or because she’s got the goods as an actress? Is “thirteen” a great snapshot of today’s young Americans, oversexed, casually interracial shopaholics? Or is it MTVed bullshit that’s both a melodramatic cautionary tale and near-sexploitation? Who knows, but one way or another this flick definitely won’t leave you indifferent. ]

(2 Feb) Janis et John (2003, Samuel Benchetrit) 27
[ A down on his luck insurance agent (Sergi Lopez) tries to hustle half a million francs from his burnt-out hippie cousin (Christophe Lambert) with the help of an actor posing as John Lennon (François Cluzet) and his own suburban housewife (the late Marie Trintignant) as Janis Joplin. Cluzet and Trintignant do a decent job of impersonating these rock icons and the movie’s soundtrack is awesome, naturally, but this remains little more than a silly babyboomer fantasy with barely enough amusing bits to fill a 5 minute skit. ]

(3 Feb) Monster (2003, Patty Jenkins) [ review ] 78

(4 Feb) Secret World Live (1994, François Girard) 80
[ While not on the level of his work with Genesis in the 1970s, Peter Gabriel’s latest solo tours have been wonderfully theatrical and visually inventive, thanks to creative input from Quebec’s own director and playwright Robert Lepage. Highlights abount: the red phone booth of Come Talk to Me, the oddball views of Gabriel from his “camera-helmet” in Digging in the Dirt, the revolving giant screen of Secret World and the band-into-suitcase illusion, the great duet with then-backup singer Paula Cole on Don’t Give Up and, of course, In Your Eyes, which never fails to move me. ]

(5 Feb) Madame Brouette (2004, Moussa Sene Absa) 64
[ This Quebec-Senegal-France co-production tells the story of Mati, a strong and honest woman trying to earn a living and raise her daughter in a corrupt world full of no-good men. The screenplay lacks subtlety and cohesion, but the film is touching nonetheless. It’s full of vibrant colors, flawed but lively people and great music, with wolof singers acting as a Greek chorus and a dreamy score by former Harmonium leader Serge Fiori and Majoly. ]

(6 Feb) Last Tango in Paris (1973, Bernardo Bertolucci) zzz
[ Marlon Brando is a great actor, but not so much in French. Maria Schneider can speak French, but no so much act in any language. Both can pretend-fuck well enough, but I didn’t see any signs of what Pauline Kael called “the most powerfully erotic movie ever made”. All I got was endlessly dull and pretentious blabbering, with a few forgettable sex scenes thrown in. ]

(6 Feb) Punch-Drunk Love (2002, P.T. Anderson) [ review ] 94

(9 Feb) Touching the Void (2004, Kevin Macdonald) [ review ] 90

(10 Feb) Bride of Frankenstein (1935, James Whale) 86
[ One of the great classic monster movies, with atmospheric B&W cinematography, a rousing score, wonderfully over the top performances and of course Karloff, ever so badass, funny and even moving. The misunderstood monster now demands a “woman… friend…” from Dr. Frankenstein but, while you can create life out of corpses and lightning (sort of), love is a tougher nut to crack! ]

(10 Feb) Dracula (1931, Tod Browning) 83
[ Damn, Bela Lugosi truly has an outstanding presence and, with the gothic art direction and a great new score by Philip Glass, this makes for a truly spellbinding horror classic. ]

(11 Feb) Daytona (2004, amérika orkestra) [ review ] 77

(12 Feb) The Dreamers (2004, Bernardo Bertolucci) [ review ] 60

(13 Feb) 50 First Dates (2004, Peter Segal) [ review ] 65

(14 Feb) Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (2003, Sam Weisman) 11
[ I usually love Happy Madison flicks and David Spade was hilarious in “Joe Dirt”, but this is just worthless. It’s not even moronic fun, it actually tries to be all sentimental and stuff, with Spade playing a former child star who hires a family to help him relive the childhood he never had. Ugh. I mean, zero laughs, not a single one! ]

(16 Feb) Effroyables Jardins (2003, Jean Becker) 16
[ This must be the tenth film made in the last few years that is set in occupied France. This time we follow Jacques Villeret, André Dussolier, Thierry Lhermitte and Benoît Magimel as they’re thrown into a hole by the Germans after a train crossover station is blown up. It’s a tough experience, but their ordeal is softened by a Nazi guard’s clowning, “Patch Adams”-style. And like in that Robin Williams movie, feeble humor and mawkish sentimentality bury whatever good intentions the filmmakers had. ]

(18 Feb) Duel (1971, Steven Spielberg) 57
(18 Feb) The Sugarland Express (1974, Steven Spielberg) 21
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(18 Feb) Groundhog Day (1993, Harold Ramis) [ review ] 94

(19 Feb) Empire of the Sun (1987, Steven Spielberg) 51
(20 Feb) 1941 (1979, Steven Spielberg) 23
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(23 Feb) Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (2004, Guy Ferland) [ review ] 36

(24 Feb) Miaou! (2003, Vincent Bal) 40
[ A reporter in need of fresh scoops gets them through a mysterious young woman with the ability to talk with cats, who see and hear everything in town. The plot thickens when the journalist and his feline sources attempt to expose a respected industrialist as an animal abuser. “Miaou!” is an adaptation of the Annie M.G. Schmidt book “Minoes”, a big hit with children in the Netherlands. The gimmick of trying to make real cats’ mouths move along with dialogue is unconvincing, but in an amusingly goofy way. This is hardly a classic, but it’s a pleasant family movie. ]

(24 Feb) Always (1989, Steven Spielberg) 47
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(25 Feb) The Passion of the Christ (2004, Mel Gibson) [ review ] 90

(25 Feb) Amistad (1997, Steven Spielberg) 66
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(29 Feb) Scarlet Diva (2000, Asia Argento) 48
[ This is a semi-autobiographical flick (under)written and (surprisingly well) directed by the Goth sex kitten daughter of Italian filmmaker Dario Argento. Asia plays a self-loathing actress who does drugs and has lots of sex across Europe and… Well, that pretty much sums it up, there’s barely a story here and not much that is particularly memorable. Then again, as far as mood pieces and exercise in style go this is not uninteresting, and Asia is not too unpleasant to look at. ]

January / March

2004 log (1)

(5 Jan) Vendus (2004, Éric Tessier) 34
[ Less than 4 months after the release of his scarily effective “Sur le seuil”, Éric Tessier follows it up with an underwhelming crime comedy. Double-crosses, violence played for laughs and wacky twists abound in this sub-Coen movie about a prostitute trying to blackmail the loser husband of a rich real estate agent. Tessier’s direction is dynamic and Véronique Bannon is like sex on a stick, but DV blown up to 35mm still looks horrible and “Vendus” is too derivative to impress. ]

(5 Jan) Sunrise (1927, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau) 70
[ Murnau’s first American picture (after making “Nosferatu” and “The Last Laugh” in Germany) was the toast of the very first Academy Awards ceremony, winning Oscars for “Most Unique and Artistic Production”, Best Actress and a particularly deserved Best Cinematography. “Sunrise” may feel slow, dull and desperately corny to today’s audiences, but visually it remains as stunning as ever (the use of super-imposition alone is pure genius). Too bad the story and characters aren’t particularly interesting – the film could have used more of the coolest dog ever (watch him swim!) and of the city woman (who smokes cigarettes!!!) who threatens to come between the virtuous husband and wife. ]

(7 Jan) Mille mois (2003, Faouzi Bensaidi) 26
[ It’s Ramadan month in a small Morocco village coping with drought, unemployment and political unrest. Sounds like a lot of drama, but this is in fact one of those slow, contemplative pictures that linger for two hours without much happening. Some of the long static shots have an hypnotic quality and what we gather about these people’s lives and beliefs is mildly interesting, but something’s wrong when the theft of a chair is the most notable event in a film. ]

(7 Jan) Tommy Tricker and the Stamp Traveller (1988, Michael Rubbo) 43
[ Whaaaa? Did I actually love this movie when I was a kid? This is the dorkiest dorkfest, full of dorks collecting stamps and travelling on them (don’t ask), all the way to China and Australia! The highlight is that staple of ‘80s comedies, the chase through the mall. Here’s it’s Montreal’s Complexe Desjardins, there’s a teenage Rufus Wainwright performing the film’s theme song and it culminates with producer Roch Demers being thrown into a water fountain, ho ho. ]

(7 Jan) Freaky Friday (2003, Mark Waters) 61
[ Like with such other live-action Disney pics as “The Parent Trap” or “Lizzie McGuire”, I didn’t expect much from this, but once again I’m surprised by how dynamic, funny and even touching these girlie flicks can be. The body-switching story is one of the oldest in the book, but Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis are both a hoot when acting like the other and director Mark Waters keeps everything bright and giddy. Good times! ]

(8 Jan) Aime ton père (2001, Jacob Berger) 19
[ A French writer (Gérard Depardieu) is riding his motorcycle to Stockholm to pick up the Nobel Prize when his troubled son (Guillaume Depardieu) crosses his path with the intention to confront him, by any means necessary. What ensues is an emotional chase, a father-son road movie full of increasingly silly twists. The most ridiculous thing is how seriously the film takes itself, with the whole cast indulging in unconvincing hysterics. Not even the baggage brought by the Depardieus’ own rocky relationship off-screen manages to make us feel anything but incredulous amusement at what a spectacularly misguided venture this is. ]

(9 Jan) Lost in Translation (2003, Sofia Coppola) [ review ] 49

(9 Jan) Pousse mais pousse égal (1974, Denis Héroux) 23
[ 92 minutes of the most lowbrow, broad and unfunny physical comedy, yet I can’t stop watching! Aww, Gilles Latulippe, you. ]

(10 Jan) Expiration (2003, Gavin Heffernan) [ review ] 67

(12 Jan) Les oubliés de Herat (2003, Majid Majidi) 55
[ Shot in 2001 and 2002 as the country was bombed daily by the Americans, this documentary truly shows Afghanistan as a war zone. Focusing mostly on Maslakh camp near Herat, Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi gives a voice to refugees who feel forgotten by God and the world. These people have known war and misery for decades, but there’s still a strong sense of resilience to most of them. This makes our little worries feel even more petty. ]

(14 Jan) Le chien, le général et les oiseaux (2003, Francis Nielsen) 62
[ A lonely old Russian general who once set white doves on fire (take that, John Woo!) to defeat Napoleon’s army is haunted by the birds of St-Petersburg until he reluctantly befriends a stray dog. The film was written by Tonino Guerra, who collaborated with many greats like Antonioni and Fellini. Here his words are put into images by Francis Nielsen and the result is a crudely animated but charming and poetic movie. ]

(14 Jan) L’initiation (1969, Denis Héroux) 24
[ Chantal Renaud is now the girlfriend of former PM Bernard Landry and Danielle Ouimet is a fat has been, but thirty years ago they starred in this nudie flick, Quebec’s answer to “Emmanuelle”. The girls are pretty cute, but the movie is an endless series of pointless musical montages, boring softcore sex scenes and inane dialogue. ]

(14 Jan) Valérie (1968, Denis Héroux) 30
[ Before “L’initiation” there was “Valérie”, which first undressed la Québécoise on film. Dannielle Ouimet is a big-boobed Catholic schoolgirl who runs away with a biker and ends up working as a topless dancer and a call girl. Shot in B&W and propelled by a flower power score, there is a certain nostalgic charm to the movie, even though the writing and acting are subpar. ]

(15 Jan) All That Heaven Allows (1955, Douglas Sirk) 78
[ “Do you want your Douglas Sirk steak bloody as hell or burnt to a crisp?” Sirk’s 1950s melodramas are hardly subtle, but you gotta love the Technicolor cinematography and lavish score and the impossible romance between Jane Wyman’s rich widow and Rock Hudson’s gardener is surprisingly involving. ]

(15 Jan) Deux femmes en or (1972, Claude Fournier) 26
[ Two bored housewives get it on with a series of delivery men. Sounds like a porno? This is actually a broad sex farce starring a who’s who of 1970s Quebec stars, led by Monique Mercure’s bare ass and Louise Turcot’s perky milkers. ]

(16 Jan) Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! (2004, Robert Luketic) [ review ] 25

(17 Jan) Underworld (2003, Len Wiseman) zzz
[ After 20 minutes of desperately gloomy “atmosphere”, lame-o sub-Matrix mayhem and dull-ass exposition of pop mythology, a blonde vampire chick walks up to cold and charmless werewolf-hunting Kate Beckinsale and tells her: “It’s a waste of time, you know.” Whoa, babe, you won’t have to tell me twice! * eject DVD * ]

(18 Jan) Anything Else (2003, Woody Allen) 54
[ Even the lesser Woody Allen films have a tendency to make me feel good. Oh, Jason Biggs is desperately miscast as a neurotic intellectual comic writer (that’s Jason SCHWARTZMAN you wanted here!), Christina Ricci tries for that crazy/adorable Diane Keaton thing but only comes up with crazy/unbearable and Jimmy Fallon is criminally wasted (only 5 minutes of screen time and not a single joke!)… Yet Woody’s writing remains endlessly clever and irreverent and he’s absolutely hilarious as Biggs’ “raving, psychotic lunatic” mentor. ]

(19 Jan) Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde (2003, Charles Herman-Wurmfeld) 60
[ After reading my review of “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!”, in which I wrote that his earlier “Legally Blonde” was fun only because of Reese Witherspoon’s spunk, Robert Luketic told me: “I guess Legally Blonde 2 was a work of art without me.” Having yet to see that sequel, this inspired me to do so tonight. Verdict: art it may not be, but it’s a perfectly watchable trifle, which is more than I can say about “Tad”. “Red, White and Blonde” is a rehash of the first flick, sure, but I’m still in love with Reese, Bruiser the chihuahua, Jennifer Coolidge and all the pink junk around them. Good times! ]

(20 Jan) Clerks. (1994,Kevin Smith) 62
(20 Jan) Mallrats (1995, Kevin Smith) 54
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(20 Jan) crazy/beautiful (2001, John Stockwell) 68
[ Early on you can feel this isn’t just another teen movie. There’s this sense that this is about real people, real feelings… Kirsten Dunst is a rich girl who’s always getting into trouble, Jay Hernandez is working hard to escape a wrong-side-of-the-track background. When love blooms between the two, it isn’t Hollywood hogwash but a complicated, confusing, “crazy/beautiful” thing. Bruce Davidson plays Dunst’s father and, like John Mahoney in “Say Anything”, it’s not a cliché bad guy adult character, we can understand how he feels. Good writing, good direction and, as gorgeous as Kirsten looks in midriff-baring tops, it’s her heartbreaking performance that makes the strongest impression. ]

(21 Jan) His Girl Friday (1940, Howard Hawks) 81
[ Dense with rapid-fire dialogue and cigarette smoke, this screwball comedy is an epic battle of the wits between editor Cary Grant and his journalist (and ex-wife!) Rosalind Russell. The screenplay is spectacularly well written and the whole cast shines. ]

(21 Jan) Sweet and Lowdown (1999, Woody Allen) 63
[ Alternating talking head segments by jazz aficionados (including Woody Allen himself) with “re-enactments”, “Sweet and Lowdown” tells the story of Emmett Ray, the best guitarist in the world – after Django Reinhardt. A drunk, a cleptomaniac and a pimp who likes to shoot rats and to watch trains, this is a really fun character and Sean Penn is awesome in the role, as is Samamtha Morton as his mute and half-wit sweetheart. The storytelling is a bit jittery, with plotlines introduced then not quite followed up on (even Morton disappears for half an hour at some point), but this fake biopic remains one of Allen’s most enjoyable recent works. ]

(21 Jan) The Matrix Revolutions (2003, Andy & Larry Wachowski) [ review ] 81

(22 Jan) Les côtelettes (2003, Bertrand Blier) [ review ] 62

(22 Jan) Les Valseuses (1974, Bertrand Blier) 57
[ Gérard Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere are two lowlifes who walk, drive, bike and ride the train through France, committing petty crimes and harassing women (and each other!). Blier is adapting his novel, which I haven’t read, but it feels like we’re skipping every other page. There is barely a story here and the characters are one-note, but the cast (which also includes Miou-Miou, Jeanne Moreau and Isabelle Huppert) is amusing enough. It’s just that what was “groundbreaking and controversial” (dixit the back of the DVD) 30 years ago seems almost tame today. ]

(23 Jan) The Butterfly Effect (2004, Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber) [ review ] 55

(25 Jan) Sweet Home Alabama (2002, Andy Tennant) 8
[ Reese, babe, you know I love you, but what the hell is this? It’s like all your spunk and charm vanished while you were playing this Southern-tomboy-turned-hoity-toity-Yankee-bitch. This has got to be one of the most superficial, uninspired, deadly dull “romantic” “comedies” I’ve ever seen. Not a single moment slightly resembles human behavior! Jared Sapolin’s review goes into more detail, but he might be softballing the movie a little (!). ]

(27 Jan) Permanent Midnight (1998, David Veloz) 61
[ 5 years before boning “The Cooler”, Maria Bello was already getting eaten out by losers – here former heroin-addicted “Alf” writer (!) Jerry Stahl, played in a too rare dramatic turn by Ben Stiller. Where Stiller goes you know Owen Wilson and Janeane Garofalo can’t be far; even Andy Dick shows up for a 2 second camero. Junkie movies are a dime(-bag) a dozen, but this usually comedic cast (which also includes Fred Willard and Elizabeth Hurley) gives this one a different flavor. Worth a look. ]

(27 Jan) Monkey Business (1945, Howard Hawks) 44
[ Cary Grant plays an absent-minded chemist whose monkey-rejuvenating formula is inadvertently mixed into the lab’s water-cooler, turning him and his wife (Ginger Rogers) into crazy youths again. This is hardly one of Howard Hawks’ best, but I love Cary, I love Marilyn Monroe (playing a sexy secretary), and Lord knows I love monkeys! ]

(28 Jan) Truly Madly Deeply (1991, Anthony Minghella) 66
[ This BBC TV movie totally belongs to Juliet Stevenson, endlessly heartbreaking and adorable as a grieving woman whose life is put in even more turmoil when her dead husband (the great Alan Rickman) mysteriously returns. This is a simple little sentimental film, not unlike, say, “Ghost”, but Minghella and his cast infuse it with plenty of heart and wit. ]

(28 Jan) Spellbound (1945, Alfred Hitchcock) 70
[ Ingrid Bergman is a “frozen-puss” psychiatrist, an all-work-and-no-play woman of reason who finds herself overwhelmed with passion for new hospital director Gregory Peck, who happens to be in desperate need of a psychiatrist! This is one of Hitch’s most unusual films, part murder mystery, part romance, part psychological drama and part pure surrealism, courtesy of designs by Salvador Dali and an eerie theremin score. ]

(29 Jan) Jack Paradise, les nuits de Montréal (2004, Gilles Noël) 17
[ Roy Dupuis has got charisma to spare, but he can still not manage to involve us in the by-the-numbers story of Jack Paradise, a French Canadian pianist who enters the often Black and English Montreal underworld from the 1930s to the ‘60s. This is a particularly poorly written film, with idiotic dialogue, one-note characters and a plot that’s little more than a loose string of clichés. The jazz music is cool enough, but the filmmakers lack the budget or the resourcefulness to truly recreate the period setting – the nightclub scenes always feel half-empty and lifeless, much as the movie. ]

(30 Jan) Dans l’œil du chat (2004, Ruby Barichello) 13
[ After an exceptional year where Quebec filmmakers showed they could make pictures both smart and entertaining, here’s a throwback to the days of desperately pretentious films that appeal to nobody. Simon (Jean-Nicolas Verreault) lost his girlfriend Pauline (Julie Le Breton) to a trip around the world from which she never came back. Months later he is still obsessed with her, even though he’s now dating her friend Gégé (Isabel Richer), with whom he only connects through lame movie sex. The movie is about clearing up the mystery of Pauline’s disappearance somewhere abroad, but in pure student film fashion it all takes place in a single apartment through endless phone calls, e-mails and faxes. Verreault is brooding throughout, generally half-naked and drunk, as if he were (badly) channelling Martin Sheen in the opening of “Apocalypse Now”. Colorful characters (notably Pierre Lebeau as the landlord) pop in occasionally, otherwise it’s moping and more moping. Ominous shots of Pauline’s orphaned cat walking around the apartment make one hope that some “Cat People”-style nonsense will shake things up, but no luck. “Dans l’oeil du chat” is reasonably well crafted, but it strives for heavy meaningfulness with no concern of drawing the audience in. ]

(31 Jan) Rain Man (1988, Barry Levinson) 72
[ I’m not sure this qualifies as the “Best Picture” of any year, but I liked it quite a bit. Dustin Hoffman is great, of course, and Tom Cruise offers strong support in the less showy role. ]

2003 log (12)

(3 Dec) The Happiness of the Katakuris (2002, Takashi Miike) 70
[ The Katakuris are a family that put the ‘funk’ in dysfunctional. They run a desperately unsuccessful inn in the country where guests finally show up, only for each to turn up dead in the morning. This sounds like a creepy thriller, or maybe a black comedy, but this wacky genre-blender actually owes more to Rodgers and Hammerstein than to Hitchcock! The actors/singers are all hysterical and the visuals are trippy (there are even Claymation sequences), with Miike once again proving to be an uncannily skilful and versatile filmmaker. ]

(3 Dec) Can’t You Hear the Wind Howling? (1997, Peter Meyer) 54
[ A so-so documentary about the short but legendary life of Robert Johnson, who came to represent the essence of Mississippi Delta blues and to influence musicians like Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton. The film’s subject and music are fascinating but they’re not always well served by the blah re-enactments and Danny Glover’s hyperventilating narration. ]

(3 Dec) Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003, Peter Webber) 21
[ There’s no match for the exquisite dullness of bourgeois cinema, intensely preoccupied with period detail, solemn artists and thoughtful pale girls. Nothing of consequence has to happen, nothing of interest has to be said, it’s all about the appearance of meaning and the pretension of sophistication. Colin Firth is long-haired Dutch painter Vermeer, Scarlett Johansson wears a maid’s cap and mumbles an accent, and all around, boredom reigns supreme. ]

(4 Dec) Shichinin no samurai (1954, Akira Kurosawa) [ review ] 96

(5 Dec) Les Triplettes de Belleville (2003, Sylvain Chomet) [ review ] 73

(5 Dec) The Last Samurai (2003, Edward Zwick) [ review ] 37

(5,6,7,8… Dec) Tenacious D: The Complete Master Works (2003, the D) [ review ] 100

(9 Dec) Perfect (2002, Michael Ninn) 35
[ A private detective screwing and/or killing robot babes! Bullet-time cumshots! The Devil and Jesus DPing an angel! Porn actors still can’t act a lick and you can only watch so much sex before it becomes repetitive and boring, but you gotta admire Private Media’s ambition. ]

(9 Dec) Forgotten Silver (1995, Peter Jackson) 64
(10 Dec) Bad Taste (1987, Peter Jackson) 51
(10 Dec) Braindead (1992, Peter Jackson) 62
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(11 Dec) Annie Brocoli dans les fonds marins (2003, Claude Brie) [ review ] 45

(12 Dec) Stuck on You (2003, Peter & Bobby Farrelly) [ review ] 47

(12 Dec) Something’s Gotta Give (2003, Nancy Meyers) [ review ] 61

(15 Dec) Il Cuore Altrove (2003, Pupi Avati) 33
[ 35 year old virgin Nello falls desperately in love with blind femme fatale Angela but, when he hears about a miraculous way to restore her eyesight, he worries that he’ll lose her. This contrived premise promises romance and melodrama, but it doesn’t deliver despite lavish cinematography and music. It’s hard to be moved by Nello’s foolish infatuation, especially as it grows increasingly obvious that Angela is only using him. As for the ending, it might have been more affecting if it wasn’t such a blatant “City Lights” rip-off. ]

(17 Dec) The Return of the King (2003, Peter Jackson) [ review ] 95

(18 Dec) Big Fish (2003, Tim Burton) [ review ] 72

(19 Dec) In America (2003, Jim Sheridan) [ review ] 93

(20 Oct) La Strada (1954, Federico Fellini) 88
[ Part of Les Chefs-d’oeuvre ]

(21 Dec) Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl (1998, Katsuhito Ishii) zzz
[ It tries to be a hipster yakuza flick, but it’s actually plodding, uninspired and resolutely unhip. ]

(22 Dec) Pieces of April (2003, Peter Hedges) 36
[ This movie is so Sundance it’s not even funny – literally. You got your shaky DV camerawork, you got your dysfunctional yet oh so colorful family, and a lot of “independent” spirit that’s really only rugged coating for a conventional, melodramatic comedy. There are some good actors here, notably Patricia Clarkson and Oliver Platt, but Katie Holmes is a bit shaky as “troubled girl” April. The characters are unappealling (only Derek Luke is endearing enough), the screenplay is too affected and the film’s “acerbic wit” falls flat. ]

(22 Dec) Stevie (2003, Steve James) 80
[ You watch movie-movies and see hopelessly white trash people caught in circles of abuse and that’s sad enough. But when you see the same pathetic patterns repeating through the lives of real people in a documentary like this one, it’s even sadder. We should hate Stevie: he’s an ignorant, racist, angry, drunken child molester. Yet as we spend time with him and learn about his horrible childhood, we start feeling sympathy towards him. It’s very confusing emotionally, and one of the most interesting things is how Steve James puts his own mixed feelings about Stevie right into his film. ]

(23 Dec) Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992, Chris Columbus) 52
[ The first film was fun enough, but this is just an uninspired rehash, despite amusing bits by Tim Curry and Rob Schneider. ]

(24 Dec) Men In Black II (2002, Barry Sonnenfeld) zzz
[ Stumbled upon it on TV, lasted only 15 minutes. Crappy FX, unfunny humor, Will Smith mugging for the camera… Ugh. ]

(Xmas) Cold Mountain (2003, Anthony Minghella) [ review ] 90

(27 Dec) Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001, John Cameron Mitchell) [ review ] 91

(30 Dec) Paycheck (2003, John Woo) [ review ] 46

November / January

2003 log (11)

(2 Nov) Un Zoo la Nuit (1987, Jean-Claude Lauzon) 19
(3 Nov) À Corps Perdu (1988, Léa Pool) 22
[ Part of Nos Meilleurs Films Québécois ]

(3 Nov) The Matrix Revolutions (2003, Andy & Larry Wachowski) [ review ] 81

(4 Nov) Emporte Moi (1998, Léa Pool) 49
[ Part of Nos Meilleurs Films Québécois? ]

(5 Nov) The Fellowship of the Ring (2001, Peter Jackson) [ review ] 93

(5 Nov) The Two Towers (2002, Peter Jackson) [ review ] 94

(6 Nov) Maelstrom (2000, Denis Villeneuve) 6
[ In this film, Denis Villeneuve comes off like a pretentious film school poseur capable of nothing but pseudo-profound hogwash, masturbatory stylistic flourishes and oh-so-ironic pop music cues. Even Marie-Josée Croze, so luminous in “Les Invasions Barbares”, is an empty bore here. ]

(6 Nov) Rire et Châtiment (2003, Isabelle Doval) 32
[ Part of our Cinemania coverage ]

(7 Nov) Elf (2003, Jon Favreau) 38
(7 Nov) Elephant (2003, Gus Van Sant) 44 [ review ]

(7 Nov) In the cut (2003, Jane Campion)
[ Watched only 20 minutes of it – yeah, THAT 20 minutes. Seemed like by-the-numbers sexual thriller fodder, except with Meg freakin’ Ryan showing the goods. Heh. ]

(7 Nov) 18 ans après (2003, Coline Serreau) 40
(7 Nov) Pas si grave (2003, Bernard Rapp) 65
[ Part of our Cinemania coverage ]

(10 Nov) Ichi the Killer (2001, Takashi Miike) [ review ] 91

(11 Nov) Le piège d’Issoudun (2003, Micheline Lanctôt) 53
[ A morally ambiguous drama about the meeting of a desperate woman who drowned her two young children and a policeman trying to help her. The way the story unfolds is sometimes contrived, but Sylvie Drapeau and Frédérick de Grandpré offer solid performances and the film makes intriguing use of theatrical fantasy scenes inspired by a Grimm tale. It could have done without the ridiculously overblown opening titles, though. ]

(12 Nov) Love Actually (2003, Richard Curtis) [ review ] 55

(12 Nov) La Fleur du Mal (2003, Claude Chabrol) 62
(12 Nov) Ni pour, ni contre (bien au contraire) (2003, Cédric Klapisch) 28
(13 Nov) Le lait de la tendresse humaine (2001, Dominique Cabrera) 53
[ Part of our Cinemania coverage ]

(13 Nov) Millennium Actress (2003, Satoshi Kon) 77
[ Juggling fiction and reality, past and present, this simple story of a Japanese actress with a crush on an elusive rebel painter becomes a surreal epic of eternal love. This gorgeously animated feature fascinatingly incorporates the look and feel of a dozen genres, from period melodrama to samurai, war, geisha, fantasy, noir, sci-fi and even Godzilla movies! ]

(14 Nov) Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003, Peter Weir) [ review ] 68

(14 Nov) Laisse tes mains sur mes hanches (2003, Chantal Lauby) 65
(14 Nov) Ah! Si j’étais riche (2002, Michel Munz/Gérard Bitton) 29
[ Part of our Cinemania coverage ]

(15 Nov) Eight Crazy Nights (2002, Seth Kearsley) 21
[ I usually enjoy Adam Sandler’s movies, but this holiday-themed cartoon is uninspired, juvenile and mean-spirited. I guess the same could be said of every other Happy Madison productions, yet they generally possess a certain wit (really!) that’s absent here. Worst of all, this just ain’t funny. I didn’t even laugh once, only the songs sometimes made me smile faintly. ]

(17 Nov) Nez Rouge (2003, Érik Canuel) [ review ] 57

(18 Nov) À tout prendre (1963, Claude Jutra) 92
[ Part of Nos Meilleurs Films Québécois ]

(20 Nov) The Cooler (2003, Wayne Kramer) [ review ] 53

(24 Nov) Daddy and Them (2001, Billy Bob Thornton) 49
[ Miramax sat on this movie so long that since Billy Bob Thornton wrote, directed and starred in it, he broke up with then fiancé and co-star Laura Dern, married Angelina Jolie, then divorced her. Films delayed so long then dumped straight to video carry the stench of mediocrity, but you know what? “Daddy and Them” is not so bad. In fact, Billy Bob’s pretty damn funny as an alcoholic white trash ex-con whose wife (Dern) is always on his ass about screwing her sister (Kelly Preston), even though that was 20 years ago. The movie is choppy and uneasily swings between broad satire and pathos, but the dancing monkey alone made me laugh more than all of “Elf” or “Bruce Almighty”. ]

(24 Nov) À hauteur d’homme (2003, Jean-Claude Labrecque) [ review ] 88

(26 Nov) Shattered Glass (2003, Billy Ray) [ review ] 67

(26 Nov) Timeline (2003, Richard Donner) [ review ] 29

(28 Nov) Bad Santa (2003, Terry Zwigoff) [ review ] 62

(30 Nov) Groove Squad (2003, Pat Ventura) 23
[ Cheap-o Powerpuff Girls/Sailor Moon knockoff about bubbly cheerleaders who turn into super-heroes when they drink fruit smoothies. It’s as silly as it sounds but nowhere near as fun. ]

October / December

2003 log (10)

(1 Oct) Nô (1998, Robert Lepage) 80
[ 1970. In Japan, a French Canadian theater company is performing at the World Fair. Back home in Quebec, terrorists are fighting for national independence while the Canadian government overlooks civil rights and sends the army into Montreal streets. Lepage is clearly a formally brilliant artist, but his work can be cold and too clever for its own good. Here, though, his style serves a screenplay that’s as fun as it is clever, and the movie is propelled by an absolutely hilarious and poignant performance by Anne-Marie Cadieux. ]

(2 Oct) Shaolin Soccer (2001, Stephen Chow) 27
[ No one can beat the “Evil Team” of Hung (!), the bastard who 20 years ago arranged to cripple then star player “Golden Leg”, but when “Leg” coaches a bunch of washed out Shaolin brothers into using their kung fu skills on the soccer field, it’s a whole new game… Here’s an endlessly silly and corny and campy flick , but it’s not unenjoyable, I guess. Actually, it’s pretty damn stupid and it does little more than beat the same joke into the ground for 90 minutes, but it’s not unenjoyable. I guess. ]

(3 Oct) The School of Rock (2003, Richard Linklater) [ review ] 85

(4 Oct) Pulp Fiction (1994, Quentin Tarantino) [ review ] 100

(5 Oct) Bande à part (1964, Jean-Luc Godard) 77
[ Crediting yourself as “Jean-Luc CINÉMA Godard” is pretentious as hell, but damn it if Godard isn’t making pure and glorious Cinéma! The B&W cinematography, the loungey score, the coffee shop conversations, the wonderfully superfluous narration, the minute of silence, the out-of-the-blue dance sequence, the car rides, the Rimbaud quotes, the run through the Louvre, beautiful Anna Karina talking or singing into the camera… Everything feels both natural and ever so cinematic, like we’re watching movie characters acting like real people, or maybe real people acting like movie characters. There’s a story about a botched robbery in there, but the characters don’t seem to care about it, Godard clearly doesn’t care, and neither do we. This is a hanging-out movie, about nothing and going nowhere, and that’s the beauty of it. ]

(6 Oct) Bowling for Columbine (2002, Michael Moore) [ review ] 79

(7 Oct) Get Over It (2001, Tommy O’Haver) 16
[ What’s worse, a teen comedy that just goes through the motions, or one that’s constantly breaking into flashy flourishes? “Get Over It” makes a good case for the show-offy ones being the most obnoxious. I mean, there are plenty of badly written, badly acted teen flicks, but this one actually manages to suck all the charm out of both Shakespeare and Kirsten Dunst, smothering them under lousy songs, lame visual gimmicks, desperately unfunny gags and an epic battle for craptacular acting supremacy between Martin Short and Sisqo. ]

(8 Oct) Le Samouraï (1967, Jean-Pierre Melville) 44
[ John Woo calls it “the closest thing to a perfect movie that [he has] ever seen”, and Melville is said to be the “spiritual father” of Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs”. Huh. I don’t see it. Oh, there’s a certain atmospheric elegance and Alain Delon’s lone wolf hit-man looks good in his trenchcoat and fedora, but perfection? “Le Samouraï” might have come before, but Woo’s “The Killer” is a much more stunning riff on this noir tune. ]

(8 Oct) La Loi du Cochon (2001, Érik Canuel) 70
[ Here’s a ballsy, stylish French Canadian thriller most notable not for its flashy visuals and hard-boiled confrontations but for the strength of the writing. Characters that could easily feel cartoonish are actually believable and interesting, be it Isabel Richer’s down-on-her-luck pig farmer, her very pregnant sister, the bourgeois couple whose baby she’s carrying or the two thugs holding them all hostage. It’s not “Fargo”, but it’s in that vein – at least Sylvain Marcel and Jean-Nicolas Verreault are certainly doing their best Buscemi and Stormare. ]

(9 Oct) Mystic River (2003, Clint Eastwood) [ review ] 54

(9 Oct) Kill Bill (2003, Quentin Tarantino) [ review ] 93

(10 Oct) Intolerable Cruelty (2003, Joel Coen) [ review ] 61

(12 Oct) What to do in case of fire? (2002, Gergor Scnitzler) 65
[ When a bomb they set in the late ‘80s explodes 12 years later, the former members of a West Berlin anarchist group reunite to try and fix this mess, since most of them have long abandoned their youthful ideals of bringing imperialist pigs down. Part irreverent comedy and part heist flick, this is most of all an insightful character piece about friends growing apart and attempting to make up for lost time. It’s well crafted, well acted, well worth discovering. ]

(13 Oct) Bend it like Beckham (2002, Gurinder Chadha) zzz
[ Another Big Fat Ethnic sitcom bore, this time with Indians instead of Greeks and a bunch of MTVed soccer scenes and girl-power hogwash. I gave it 15 minutes, then it was thanks but no thanks. ]

(14 Oct) Bon voyage (2003, Jean-Paul Rappeneau) 78
[ Isabelle Adjani plays a popular actress with whom every man falls in love, including a young writer (Grégori Derangère), an English journalist (Peter Coyote) and a politician (Gérard Depardieu) who bends over for her like he does with the Germans who are occupying 1940 Paris. Part old-fashioned melodrama, part bittersweet comedy, this entertaining, superbly crafted wartime story is France’s entry for Best Foreign Film at the next Oscars. ]

(14 Oct) Mon Oncle d’Amérique (1980, Alain Resnais) 90
[ Part of Les Chefs d’oeuvre ]

(15 Oct) la petite lili (2003, Claude Miller) 67
(15 Oct) Amelia (2003, Édouard Lock) 44
(15 Oct) Zatoichi (2003, Takeshi Kitano) 29
[ Part of our FCMM coverage ]

(16 Oct) Kill Bill (2003, Quentin Tarantino) [ review ] 93

(16 Oct) Dogville (2003, Lars Von Trier) [ review ] 95

(18 Oct) The Street Fighter (1974, Shigehiro Ozawa) [ review ] 92

(19 Oct) Hero (2003, Zhang Yimou) [ review ] 93

(22 Oct) Il est plus facile pour un Chameau (2003, Valéria Bruni Tedeschi) 34
[ Federica is an Italian woman living in Paris off her parents’ considerable wealth and feeling guilty about it, especially with her beloved father on his dying bed. First-time director Valéria Bruni Tedeschi is charmingly ditzy as Federica, but her film is a self-indulgent semi-bummer. Every other scene revolves around bad singing, dancing lessons or various other forms of fluff, yet the underlying feeling is one of uninspired desperation. ]

(22 Oct) La Face cachée de la lune (2003, Robert Lepage) [ review ] 82

(23 Oct) Amarcord (1973, Federico Fellini) 79
[ Part of Les Chefs d’oeuvre ]

(23 Oct) Dancer in the Dark (2000, Lars Von Trier) [ review ] 92

(24 Oct) Scary Movie 3 (2003, David Zucker) [ review ] 56

(27 Oct) Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003, McG) [ review ] 59

(29 Oct) The Matrix Reloaded (2003, Andy & Larry Wachowski) [ review ] 58

(30 Oct) Le cabinet du Docteur Ferron (2003, Jean-Daniel Lafond) 60
[ Writing prescriptions with one hand and novels with the other, Dr. Jacques Ferron observed and expressed the pains of his patients, his relatives and of the “uncertain country” of Quebec, maybe in an attempt to understand his own desperation. Aptly blending re-enactments and talking-heads segments, this documentary is an interesting and touching exploration of the life and work of the late Ferron. ]

(30 Oct) Koyaanisqatsi (1982, Godfrey Reggio) 90
[ In the right corner, nature in all its glory, in the left, Man’s technology in all its frenzy. Things seem pretty clear-cut in this impressionistic documentary, but it actually manages to find beauty in urban landscapes as well as in the wide opens spaces. This might be “life out of balance”, but it makes for a riveting and affecting experience, propelled by stunning cinematography and a majestic score by Philip Glass. ]

(30 Oct) Nashville (1975, Robert Altman) 76
[ Part of Les Chefs-d’oeuvre ]

September / November

2003 log (9)

(2 Sep) Starman (1984, John Carpenter) 65
(4 Sep) Prince of Darkness (1987, John Carpenter) 36
(4 Sep) They Live (1988, John Carpenter) 84
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(5 Sep) Casablanca (1942, Michael Curtiz) [ review ] 100

(5 Sep) Even Dwarfs Started Small (1971, Werner Herzog) 57
[ Herzog’s nucking futs. How else to explain his making a movie about nothing but midgets messing around, midgets riding motorbikes and cars, midgets tearing down trees, midgets laughing hysterically, midgets chasing chickens and pigs, midgets looking at porno mags, midgets teasing blind midgets, midgets burning stuff, midgets smashing dinner plates, midgets talking a lot of nonsense in German and, of course, midgets crucifying a monkey. This is all pointless and insane and disturbing… But it does make for a memorable dwarfsterpiece. ]

(6 Sep) Moulin Rouge! (2001, Baz Luhrmann) [ review ] 98

(6 Sep) Casablanca (1942, Michael Curtiz) [ review ] 100

(7 Sep) 21 grams (2003, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu) [ review ] 53

(8 Sep) Mariées mais pas trop (2003, Catherine Corsini) [ review ] 40

(9 Sep) In the Mouth of Madness (1995, John Carpenter) 80
(10 Sep) Village of the Damned (1995, John Carpenter) 27
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(12 Sep) Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003, Robert Rodriguez) [ review ] 71

(12 Sep) Matchstick Men (2003, Ridley Scott) [ review ] 47

(12 Sep) Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992, John Carpenter) 13
(13 Sep) Escape From L.A. (1996, John Carpenter) 67
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(13 Sep) Ghost World (2003, Terry Zwigoff) [ review ] 91

(14 Sep) Vampires (1998, John Carpenter) 75
(15 Sep) Ghosts of Mars (2001, John Carpenter) 39
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(16 Sep) Four Rooms (1995, Anders, Rockwell, Rodriguez & Tarantino) [ review ] 34

(17 Sep) Reservoir Dogs (1992, Quentin Tarantino) [ review ] 93

(17 Sep) Pulp Fiction (1994, Quentin Tarantino) [ review ] 100

(18 Sep) Sur le Seuil (2003, Éric Tessier) [ review ] 66

(18 Sep) Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003, Jonathan Mostow) [ review ] 90

(18 Sep) Chouchou (2003, Merzak Allouache) 57
[ An offbeat fairy tale about a young transvestite (Gad Elmaleh) from Maghreb staying illegally in Paris who crashes in a church, gets a job working for a shrink (Catherine Frot) and finds Prince Charming (Alain Chabat). Elmaleh’s character is endearingly naïve and high-spirited and I liked the witty wordplay, absurd flourishes and drag queen numbers. This is like an updated “Cage aux Folles”, complete with gay-friendly priests. Messy but sweet. ]

(20 Sep) Comment ma mère accoucha de moi durant sa ménopause (2003, Sébastien Rose) 51
[ A treatise on the male identity in a post-feminist world, it revolves around a skirt-chasing man-child (Paul Ahmarani) trying to deal with his overbearing mother (Micheline Lanctôt), sister (Sylvie Moreau) and shrink/lover (Anne-Marie Cadieux). The shared sex lives between family members is a surprising, interesting twist, but the story feels increasingly disconnected, with overwritten dialogue and characters that are less like people than plot devices that the filmmaker uses to prove his point. Still, the film is quite amusing and sexy (Lucie Laurier in a thong? Yes, please!) and while Paul Ahmarani is not quite convincing as a supposedly irresistible seducer, he does make for an enjoyably offbeat lead. ]

(21 Sep) Vénus de Milo (2002, Diana Lewis) 9
[ You gotta love Simon Boisvert. He’s like Quebec’s Ed Wood, writing, producing and acting in his movies with as much enthusiasm as he lacks talent. Diana Lewis, who co-writes, co-stars and directs, completes him perfectly, rushing through scenes without stopping for details like missed lines, bumpy camera moves or bad lighting. This story of a rock band that goes from obscurity to stardom overnight is kinda like “Almost Famous”, except that it was shot in 10 days on a 35 000$ budget, with less than 15 extras for the concert scenes and songs that sound like leftovers from a Worst Of Foreigner album. ]

(23 Sep) Family Guy (2000, Seth MacFarlane) 76
[ It seems today that all you see is violence in movies and sex on T.V.
But where are those good ol’ fashion values on which we used to rely?
Lucky there’s a family guy! Lucky there’s a man who positively can do all those things to make us laugh and cry! He’s, A, Family, Guuuuuuuuuuuy! ]

(24 Sep) Lost in Translation (2003, Sofia Coppola) [ review ] 49

(24 Sep) Je n’aime que toi (2003, Claude Fournier) 62
[ Claude Fournier has spent a career making wildly popular but critically reviled sex comedies, from 1970’s “Deux femmes en or” to 1997’s “J’en suis”. His latest initially strikes you with its seriousness, opening with Maude (Noémie Godin-Vigneau), a young woman attempting suicide, then introducing George Guérin (Michel Forget), a middle-aged writer whose inspiration is running short. The two meet and something happens, they’re fascinated by each other and that gets Guérin writing again. Ok, Maude happens to be a prostitute unafraid to talk about blowjobs, butt sex and her pussy, but Fournier’s writing here is surprisingly good and while the characters’ coffee shop conversations can be crude, I never found it vulgar or excessive. Nelly Arcan’s “Putain” is obviously an inspiration, but Fournier adds an older man point-of-view, which brings creepy but interesting Freudian overtones to the central relationship. Forget is a bit too stiff, but newcomer Godin-Vigneau is very touching in a performance that reminds of Marie-Josée Croze’s in “Les Invasions Barbares”, with its balance of melancholy and playfulness. And then there’s the absolutely marvelous score by JoRane, who fills every frame with heart and soul through her cello and voice. The film is not without flaws (the third act is particularly uneven) but like his protagonist, Fournier reinvents himself, still obssessed with sexuality but in a more thoughtful way. ]

(25 Sep) Equilibrium (2002, Kurt Wimmer) 54
[ Christian “Batman” Bale is a top cop in a post-WW3 world where emotions and the things that trigger them (art, notably) have been outlawed in an attempt to maintain peace. Part “Minority Report”, part “1984”, part “The Matrix”, this sci-fi flick uneasily blends philosophical discourse and explosive mayhem. It’s as if after saying that “Those willing to give up a little freedom for a little security deserve neither”, Ben Franklin had taken out twin handguns and gone Chow Yun-Fat on his audience! The fights and shoot-outs are pretty awesome and Bale is surrounded by many great faces (Sean Bean, Taye Diggs, William Fichtner and especially Emily Watson), but the film strives too bluntly for significance in between massacres. The premise is contrived in the first place – badass cop from the future gets soft when a puppy licks his face? Well-meaning, but a little ridiculous, especially when the next scene has him gunning down ten dudes without blinking. ]

(25 Sep) Detroit 9000 (1972, Arthur Marks) 50
[ After masked thugs hold up a swanky fundraiser for a black candidate for governor, racial tensions heat up in Motown and it’s up to two mismatched cops (one black, one white) to break the case. Propelled by a funkalicious score and rough action scenes, this Tarantino-approved exploitation flick doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it delivers enough cheap thrills and righteous indignation towards political corruption to keep one engrossed. It’s no “In the Heat of the Night”, but it’s a solid effort. ]

(26 Sep) The Rundown (2003, Peter Berg) [ review ] 55

(29 Sep) Filles Uniques (2003, Pierre Jolivet) 51
[ After liberating her on parole, a judge (Sandrine Kiberlain) befriends a young shoplifter (Sylvie Testud). The two women become like the sisters they never had, going out, fooling around, talking about shoes and even breaking cases together. The film starts from a sitcomish premise and doesn’t really go anywhere with it, but it’s full of deadpan humor and the lovely lead actresses have a lot of chemistry. ]

(30 Sep) 100% Bio (2003, Claude Fortin) 44
(30 Sep) Nobody Someday (2002, Brian Hill) 29
[ Part of our FCMM 2003 ]

August / October

2003 log (8)

(1 Aug) American Wedding (2003, Jesse Dylan) [ review ] 57

(2 Aug) Vincent (1982, Tim Burton) 65
(2 Aug) Frankenweenie (1984, Tim Burton) 62
(3 Aug) Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985, Tim Burton) 27
(4 Aug) Beetlejuice (1988, Tim Burton) 76
(5 Aug) Batman (1989, Tim Burton) 24
(9 Aug) Batman Returns (1992, Tim Burton) 68
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(10 Aug) Edward Scissorhands (1990, Tim Burton) [ review ] 93

(11 Aug) Johnstown Flood (2003, Mark Bussler) [ review ] 61

(12 Aug) The Wild Dogs (2003, Thom Fitzerald) [ review ] 34

(13 Aug) Gigli (2003, Martin Brest) [ review ] 49

(13 Aug) Un Homme et son péché (2002, Charles Binamé) 11
[ This purely French Canadian story has been adapted for radio, TV and film before, and now it’s been reinvented for a new generation with staggering success, becoming the biggest box office hit in Quebec history. Now how do I say this gently… THIS IS CRAP! Shallow, sappy, heavy-handed, badly paced, manipulative, clumsily directed… The romance is uninvolving, the melodrama is contrived, the performances (by a who’s who of local actors) are uneven… Crap, I tell you. This makes “Les Dangereux” look like “Mon Oncle Antoine”. ]

(14 Aug) American Splendor (2003, Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini) [ review ] 63

(16 Aug) Mars Attacks! (1996, Tim Burton) [ review ] 65

(16 Aug) Ed Wood (1994, Tim Burton) [ review ] 94

(17 Aug) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, Tobe Hooper) 64
[ In his current EW column, Stephen King calls this “the all-time champeen (sic) when it comes to pure fright.” Um, no. But it IS funny as hell! Here’s a film that doesn’t even pretend to hold a plot. It’s just these dumb hippies and hysterical bimbos who run across a family of batshit insane rednecks who go at them with knives, hammers and a chainsaw, natch. Highlights include the revelation of how wacked out hitchhikers can be, a surreal dinner scene where everyone yells like the lunatics that they are and every single moment involving Franklin, the hippies’ hilariously whiney wheelchair-bound sidekick. “If I have any more fun today I don’t think I can take it!” ]

(18 Aug) Sleepy Hollow (1999, Tim Burton) [ review ] 58

(18 Aug) Planet of the Apes (2001, Tim Burton) [ review ] 65

(19 Aug) Glen or Glenda (1952, Edward D. Wood Jr.) 13
[ I love Burton’s “Ed Wood” but until tonight I hadn’t actually seen any film from the alleged “worst director of all time”. Having just survived his transsexploitation lesson in tolerance, I’m stunned. I knew it would be bad, but damn! Heavy-handed yet naïve narration, hammy dialogue and hammier acting, clumsy direction, botched editing, inappropriate use of stock footage (buffalos?), the inexplicable inclusion of Bela Lugosi as the puppet master, not to mention a cameo by the Devil himself! No wonder this is considered one of the worst films ever made, yet it’s too amusingly inept to simply dismiss. “Beware! Beware of the big green dragon that sits on your doorstep. He eats little boys… Puppy dog tails, and BIG FAT SNAILS… Beware… Take care… Beware!” ]

(20 Aug) La vie nouvelle (2003, Philippe Grandrieux) 16
[ This latest provocateur French film is like the rape scene in “Irréversible” stretched to feature length. Director Philippe Grandrieux isn’t concerned with bourgeois details like storytelling, dialogue or characters – that would just get in the way of all the misogyny, sexual violence, brutal haircuts and raging dogs. There is a certain oppressive flair to the often dimly lit or out of focus visuals, but in the end it’s mostly tiresome. ]

(20 Aug) Dark Star (1974, John Carpenter) 21
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(22 Aug) Assault on Precinct 13 (1976, John Carpenter) [ review ] 75

(24 Aug) I Capture the Castle (2003, Tim Fywell) 48
[ Set in 1930s England, this is the story of a girl who lives in a decrepit castle with her eccentric family. She pines for their American landlord, but her gold-digger sister has already enraptured him. Handsomely shot romantic melodrama moonlighting as cutesy family comedy, this inconsequential adaptation of the Dodie Smith novel is drenched in flowery narration and would-be poetic clichés, but it has a certain “consciously naïve” feel that’s not unpleasant. ]

(24 Aug) Green Card Fever (2003, Bala Rajasekharuni) 20
[ Murali is an Indian illegally working in New York, desperate for a green card and lost between second-generation Indians who’ve dismissed their culture, corrupted immigration lawyers and rude people who wonder where he parked his elephant. This is a well-meaning attempt to convey how immigrants with American Dreams struggle with the harsher American reality, but it’s undermined by clumsy direction, corny humor and cornier sentimentality. ]

(24 Aug) Fanfan la Tulipe (2003, Gérard Krawczyk) 45
[ This remake of the 1952 Christian-Jaque classic puts Vincent Perez in the boots of the dashing Fanfan, a notorious skirt-chaser who joins the Louis XV’s army after a beautiful gipsy (Penelope Cruz, acting in French) predicts him fortune and glory. This modern take on the swashbuckling epic is no “Adventures of Robin Hood”, but the irreverent tone and high-spirited action scenes are winning. ]

(25 Aug) C’est le bouquet! (2003, Jeanne Labrune) 42
[ After “Ça ira mieux demain”, Jeanne Labrune is back with another fantasy that juggles Kant, Lafontaine, an elusive flower bouquet, the search for an actor who doesn’t act, clueless stockbrokers and the women who love them. Invoking Buster Keaton, borrowing Philip Glass music then filling your film with the endless chatter you expect from French comedies might sound like a disaster, but here it results in a rather original, amusing if inconsistent movie. ]

(25 Aug) Karmina (1996, Gabriel Pelletier) 64
[ A lady vampire about to be married off by her parents flees Transylvania and ends up in Montreal, where she falls in love with a human keyboard player. This horror-laced “Coming to America” rip-off is messy, campy and cheapy, but its absurd humor and the cast’s over the top performances are sorta enjoyable. ]

(26 Aug) Halloween (1978, John Carpenter) [ review ] ???

(26 Aug) Man with a Movie Camera (1929, Dziga Vertov) [ review ] 95

(27 Aug) Man with a Movie Camera (1929, Dziga Vertov) [ review ] 95

(27 Aug) Escape from New York (1981, John Carpenter) 57
(27 Aug) The Fog (1980, John Carpenter) 62
(29 Aug) The Thing (1982, John Carpenter) 70
(29 Aug) Christine (1983, John Carpenter) 23
(29 Aug) Big Trouble in Little China (1986, John Carpenter) 66
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(30 Aug) All the Real Girls (2003, David Gordon Green) [ review ] 93

(30 Aug) The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003, Jim Fall) [ review ] 64

(31 Aug) El Mariachi (1992, Robert Rodriguez) 69
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(31 Aug) Desperado (1995, Robert Rodriguez) [ review ] 67

(31 Aug) The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003, Jim Fall) [ review ] 64

July / September

2003 log (7)

(1 Jul) Être et avoir (2002, Nicolas Philibert)
[ I have very little patience for documentaries that just stick a camera someplace and record life at its most banal. With this “film”, which expects us to care about watching a French grade school teacher and his little students, I barely lasted 15 minutes. Zzzzzzzz… ]

(2 Jul) Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003, Jonathan Mostow) [ review ] 90

(3 Jul) Gladiator (2000, Ridley Scott) [ review ] 85

(4 Jul) All the Real Girls (2003, David Gordon Green) [ review ] 93

(5 Jul) Say Anything (1989, Cameron Crowe) [ review ] 97

(6 Jul) Miller’s Crossing (1990, the Coen brothers) 43
[ Thick plot, thick dialogue, thick characters… There’s hardly any room left to breathe! Oh, the Coens mix in some deadpan humor, stylish shoot-outs and colorful supporting players (Polito, Turturro and Buscemi are great), but overall the film feels to me like a well designed toy that’s not actually all that fun. You want to enjoy it, but it’s like it won’t let you. ]

(7 Jul) Tokyo Drifter (1966, Seijun Suzuki) 61
[ I had a hard time following this “incomprehensible” (says the Criterion notes!) story of double-crossings and triple-crossings, but I dug the energy of the actors, the go-go dancing at the Manhole Music Tea Room, the trippy use of color and the titular reformed Yakuza’s melancholy theme song. ]

(7 Jul) The African Queen (1951, John Huston) 90
[ Movie star heaven, with Humphrey Bogart doing his gruff man’s man boat captain against Katherine Hepburn’s sophisticated English lady. Laughs, thrills and sensuality ensue as the two come across white water rapids, wild animals and German soldiers. “I never dreamed a mere physical experience could be so stimulating!” ]

(7 Jul) Barbarella (1968, Roger Vadim) 69
[ This campy sci-fi flick stars Jane Fonda as a supremely arousing “astral navigatrix” who encounters blue bunnies, killer dolls, a blind angel, orchid-eating slaves, leather-men, an evil nympho Queen and more wacky stuff in her quest to rescue the elusive Duran Duran. This is like “Star Wars” on acid- and Viagra! ]

(8 Jul) Mon Idole (2002, Guillaume Canet) 46
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(8 Jul) Blood Simple. (1984, the Coen brothers) 87
[ More “straightforward” than most of the Coen’s subsequent films, there’s still a sardonic streak to their debut. Then there’s the virtuoso cinematography by Barry Sonnenfeld, juicy dialogue and solid performances by Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, John Getz and M. Emmet Walsh. “Blood Simple.” is a shrewd, powerful noir thriller. Great use of The Four Tops’ It’s the same old song, too. ]

(9 Jul) Mortadelo y Filemon (2003, Javier Fessen) 51
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(9 Jul) Pirates of the Caribbean : The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003, Gore Verbinski) [ review ] 40

(10 Jul) Separações (2002, Domingos de Olivieira) 68
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(10 Jul) Switchblade Sisters (1975, Jack Hill) 85
[ Here’s a B-movie that’s outrageously over the top and campy, but the catfights and gunfights are genuinely exciting, the dialogue is snappy and all the crazy sexy cool chicks rock. As Quentin Tarantino (he rereleased the film through his Rolling Thunder company) points out in the commentary, Jack Hill is like the Howard Hawks of exploitation flicks and while “Switchblade Sisters” works as a terrific popcorn romp, this girl-gang take on “Othello” (seriously!) is also kind of moving as a tragedy. ]

(10 Jul) La Grande Séduction (2003, Jean-François Pouliot) 73
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(11 Jul) Popeye (1980, Robert Altman) 18
[ Unfunny slapstick, badly staged fights and stunts, Robin Williams mugging and mumbling, everyone else being even more obnoxious… Maybe they’re just being faithful to the cartoon, which was never that good anyway, or maybe the Film Snobs are right to say that Altman, Williams and producer Robert Evans were so coked-up that it’s no wonder that the movie is so unwatchable. I rented it only to hear Shelley Duval singing He Needs Me in its original context, but I’ll stick to “Punch-Drunk Love” etc. ]

(11 Jul) Rub and Tug (2002, Soo Lyu) 52
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(11 Jul) Cinemania (2003, Angela Christlieb and Stephen Kijak) 66
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(11 Jul) Swimming Pool (2003, François Ozon) [ review ] 79

(12 Jul) Des gars, des filles et un salaud (2003, Diana Lewis) [ review ] 33

(14 Jul) Modern Times (1936, Charlie Chaplin) 70
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(15 Jul) Bad Boys (1995, Michael Bay) 55
[ Right from the pre-titles opening minutes of his debut, Michael Bay established his style: golden skies, quick cuts, loud sound effects, fetishized violence… Tony Scott flirted with those before, but Bay’s taken it to the balls-to-the-wall extreme. For most critics, this makes him the Antichrist. Myself, I have a soft spot for this flashy noisy nonsense. Even the ever obnoxious Martin Lawrence can’t take away from the visceral impact of “Bad Boys”. Fast cars, hot women, shit blowing up, Will Smith running with his shirt open and his gun out… Sure, half an hour later you’ve already forgotten most of it but when it’s on, it’s ON! ]

(16 Jul) Steal it if you can (2002, Lim Kyung-su) 18
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(16 Jul) Tales from the Crapper (2003, Lloyd Kaufman) 54
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(17 Jul) Spellbound (2002, Jeffrey Blitz) [ review ] 47

(17 Jul) Manitou’s Shoe (2001, Michael Herbig) 21
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(17 Jul) The Kiss of Debt (2002, Derek Diorio) 32
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(17 Jul) I’ll be there (2003, Craig Ferguson) 26
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(18 Jul) Bad Boys II (2003, Michael Bay)[ review ] 75

(18 Jul) Stupidity (2003, Albert Nerenberg) 37
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(21 Jul) Spy Kids 3D: Game Over (2003, Robert Rodriguez) [ review ] 34

(21 Jul) May (2003, Lucky McKee) 87
[ Creepy, gory, fucked up? Oh yeah, but more than anything this is sad sad sad. From the first time you see her, your heart aches for little May. Sheltered by her cold mother, ostracised by other kids because she’s “weird”, friendless but for a porcelain doll… What’s saddest of all is that she’s still full of love and hope, especially after she meets Adam. Suddenly everything is sweet and funny and sexy… But you just know this can’t end well, yet you can’t look away. Between the confident visual style, greatish music cues and Angela Bettis’s amazing performance, and Anna Faris hot as hell as May’s lesbian coworker (“Do you like pussy… cats?”), it’s all the more disconcerting that this movie barely saw a release. Now that it’s out on DVD, hopefully it can become the cult film it should be, like “Carrie” or “Audition”. ]

(22 Jul) Terror Firmer (1999, Lloyd Kaufman) 52
[ Piss, shit, vomit, torn apart limbs, chopped heads, exploding bodies, forced abortion, dick and fart jokes, gay and blind jokes, naked boobies, a girl masturbating with a pickle, ugly naked men, “life-affirming rape scenes”… Disgusting and juvenile, or funny and subversive? How about all of the above, Troma-style! ]

(23 Jul) Barton Fink (1991, the Coen brothers) 86
[ While concocting the Byzantine plot of “Miller’s Crossing”, Joel and Ethan Coen hit a bad case of writer’s block, out of which came out “Barton Fink”. John Turturro stars in the title role of a New York playwright who dreams of “a new living theater OF and ABOUT and FOR the common man”, but ends up selling out to go work in Hollywood. Writer’s block engulfs him as his hotel room becomes his own personal hell, with John Goodman’s brutish salesman as the damned-next-door. Alternately a hilarious satire of the 1940s movie biz and a surreal character study, “Barton Fink” is one of the Coen’s most expertly crafted and engaging films. ]

(23 Jul) In the Heat of the Night (1967, Norman Jewison) 85
[ Forced to investigate a murder case with the Mississippi cops who initially brought him in as a suspect, a Philadelphia “Negro” homicide detective clashes with the town Sheriff as they try to find the killer. Propelled by lively direction, a soulful score by Quincy Jones and powerful performances from Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger, this Oscar winner for Best Picture is both a provocative drama about race relations and an entertaining mystery thriller, and maybe even the first blaxploitation flick. When you slap this Nigger, he slaps back! ]

(23 Jul) Fargo (1996, the Coen brothers) [ review ] 95

(24 Jul) Raising Victor Vargas (2003, Peter Sollett) [ review ] 91

(24 Jul) Bubba Ho-tep (2003, Don Coscarelli) [ review ] 67

(25 Jul) Seabiscuit (2003, Gary Ross) [ review ] 35

(25 Jul) Forrest Gump (1994, Robert Zemeckis) [ review ] 100

(26 Jul) Raising Arizona (1987, the Coen brothers) [ review ] 62

(27 Jul) The Hudsucker Proxy (1994, the Coen brothers) 87
[ Part of my new Directors Series ]

(28 Jul) Histoire d’O (1975, Just Jaeckin) 42
[ This softcore “classic” is nowhere near as effective as Jaeckin’s “Emmanuelle”, maybe because bondage leaves me indifferent, it doesn’t have exotic locations, and one can take only so much soft-focus and syrupy music before losing interest. Corinne Clery is easy on the eyes, though, and it’s fun to see Udo Kier looking so young. ]

(29 Jul) The Big Lebowski (1998, the Coen brothers) [ review ] 93

(29 Jul) O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000, the Coen brothers) [ review ] 39

(29 Jul) The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001, the Coen brothers) [ review ] 71

(30 Jul) Let Me Die a Woman (1978, Doris Wishman) [ review ] 46

(30 Jul) American Pie (1999, Chris & Paul Weitz) [ review ] 65

(31 Jul) American Pie 2 (2001, J.B. Rogers) [ review ] 65

June / August

2003 log (6)

(1 Jun) Carmen: A Hip Hopera (2001, Robert Townsend)
[ Reviewed for the Apollo Movie Guide ] 77

(2 Jun) Conan the Barbarian (1982, John Milius) 91
[ The film opens with the Nietzche quote “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”, and Crom damn it if the brutal tale which follows doesn’t make a strong case for it. Conan goes through all kinds of hell, watching Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) and his snake-cult slaughter everyone he loves, being enslaved, pitted in gladiator death matches, bred like an animal and eventually even crucified! Conan certainly comes out of all this suffering stronger – and mad as hell! This is a ruthless gore-soaked revenge story, but one that unfolds through high adventure, fantasy, romance and some deadpan humor. Add great imagery, a rousing score and a great physical performance from Arnold Schwarzenegger and you got one kick ass flick. ]

(3 Jun) Chaos (1999, Hideo Nakata) 80
[ An intricate, time-jumping kidnapping yarn – the less you know about it the better. This is a truly creepy, unpredictable and ingenious thriller that would have made Hitchcock proud. ]

(4 Jun) Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991, James Cameron) [ review ] 90

(5 Jun) Bringing Down the House (2003, Adam Shankman) 3
[ Uninspired writing, hack direction, elevator music score, unconvincing actors with zero chemistry, eye-rollingly unfunny humor with absolutely no sense of timing… It’s like the crappy ‘80s comedies that play on local TV at 2 in the morning, but what’s worse is how damn offensive it is. This is what the Boondocks refer to as an embarrassment to the race; they should revoke Queen Latifah’s African-American status. Note to the once brilliant Steve Martin: MOTHERFUCKER, do you need the money this bad? ]

(6 Jun) 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003, John Singleton) [ review ] 52

(6 Jun) Mambo Italiano (2003, Émile Gaudreault) [ review ] 35

(7 Jun) Puce Moment (1949, Kenneth Anger) 99
[ Whoa. Just the accompanying song is WAY ahead of its time, and so’s this 6 minute short as a whole. Glittering colors, womanly perfection, big dogs… I can totally understand baaaaab’s fixation on this mesmerising piece of psychedelia. It’s possibly* the best music video I’ve ever seen, made decades before there were music videos. ]
* Other contenders would include “Hurt” (Mark Romanek version), “Street Spirit (fade out)”, “33”

(8 Jun) Frida (2002, Julie Taymor) 70
[ The Oscar-winning score is wonderful, the visuals are spectacularly inventive (incorporating everything from Brothers Quay puppets to photomontage to King Kong to animated paintings) and Salma Hayek is such a hot cutie (or a cute hottie?) that she’s irresistible even as a temperamental cripple with a unibrow! This makes for a worthy tribute to Frida Kahlo’s artistic brilliance and strength of character, even though it’s a little superficial and rather unfocused: more attention is paid to Frida’s serial adulterer and fellow painter “Communist pig” of a husband (well portrayed by Alfred Molina) than to her. ]

(9 Jun) The Animatrix (2003, various Japanese animators) 80
[ The opening short, “The Final Flight of the Osiris”, features the most lifelike computer-generated imagery I’ve yet to see (the girl turned me on, and she’s just pixels!) and it’s is a nice reminder of how mind-blowing and kick ass cool the “Matrix” mythology and aesthetic can be, the underwhelming “Reloaded” notwithstanding. Most of the following anime stories also outdo the live action trilogy’s middle chapter, be it the thought-provoking allegory of “The Second Renaissance part I & II”, the intriguing “A Detective’s Story”, the lyrical “Beyond”, the action-packed “Program” or the urgently involving “A Kid’s Story” (I could have done without “World Record” and “Matriculated”). ]

(10 Jun) All the Real Girls (2003, David Gordon Green) [ review ] 93

(11 Jun) All the Real Girls (2003, David Gordon Green) [ review ] 93

(13 Jun) Blind Spot: Hitler’s Secretary (2003, André Heller & Othmar Schmiderer) [ review ] 45

(14 Jun) Narc (2002, Joe Carnahan) 80
[ This film impressed Tom Cruise so much that he helped getting it distributed and hired director Carnahan to direct the upcoming “Mission: Impossible 3”, and just from the fast-stylish-gritty opening chase, you can see why. This is the kind of smart, ballsy, character-driven filmmaking which was the norm in the ‘70s, but with a modern, SE7ENish vibe. A tale of junkies, drug dealers and flawed cops, “Narc” breathes urgency back into old clichés and boasts powerful performances by Ray Liotta, Jason Patric and Busta Rhymes. ]

(15 Jun) Victory (1981, John Huston) 40
[ I saw the DVD case and I was like, no way, this ain’t for real, this is one of those fake movies people remember Troy McClure from: “Leper in the Backfield”, “Locker Room Towel Fight: The Blinding of Larry Driscoll”… And here we have “Victory”, about a soccer match in occupied Paris between Nazi all-stars and Allied POWs, starring Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone, Pelé, Max Von Sydow and even French Canadian actress Carole Laure! The actual film is a routine sports flick crossed with World War II escape clichés, but it makes for an amusing curiosity. ]

(16 Jun) Hysterical Blindness (2002, Mira Nair) 85
[ Big frizzy hair, tacky clothes, Valley girl accents, cheesy power ballads… You gotta love the ‘80s. Then you’ve got total cuties Uma Thurman and Juliette Lewis being dumb, slutty and, yes, hysterical… But eventually they turn out to be more sad than ridiculous. Gena Rowlands and Ben Gazzara are touching as well, and Mira Nair keeps this HBO movie as visually interesting as it emotionally devastating. I never thought Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun could move me close to tears. ]

(17 Jun) La passion de Jeanne d’Arc (1928, Carl Th. Dreyer) 90
[ The story of Jeanne d’Arc’s trial and execution by fire, this outstanding silent film is shot almost only in close-ups, putting us directly face to face with all the vile clergymen haranguing the poor girl, and with Jeanne herself, portrayed with overwhelming heart and soul by Falconetti. ]

(18 Jun) Nicholas Nickleby (2002, Douglas McGrath) 50
[ The movie opens with bursts of flowery narration and music, fitting for this flimsy but not unenjoyable adaptation of the classic Dickens story of a young man learning to assert himself into the world. Charlie Hunnham is a blank in the lead, but colorful turns by Christopher Plummer, Jim Broadbent, Nathan Lane, Timothy Spall and others maintain our interest. ]

(18 Jun) Body Snatchers (1993, Abel Ferrara) 45
[ I haven’t seen the 1956 original or the 1978 remake, but this new update on the classic B-movie tale is pretty creepy, and the film’s a potent allegory for how the majority always tries to make individuals conform. The performances are uneven, but Gabrielle Anwar’s a cutie and R. Lee Ermey and Forrest Whitaker have neat scenery-chewing moments. ]

(18 Jun) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000, Ang Lee) [ review ] 92

(19 Jun) Destroy all Monsters! (1968, Ishiro Honda) 34
[ The year is 1999 (!), men make daily trips to the moon, monsters are kept on a nature preservation island, everything is swell… Until alien lady scientists in sparkling silver tights take control of “Monster Land” and use Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra and the other mutated creatures to take over the world! This is all pretty retarded, with badly dubbed dialogue delivered by wooden actors, but you gotta love all the charmingly fake Toho models that get pummelled by dudes in rubber suits. ]

(20 Jun) From Justin to Kelly (2003, Robert Iscove) [ review ] 65

(20 Jun) The Hulk (2003, Ang Lee) [ review ] 36

(21 Jun) Les Dangereux (2002, Louis Saia) 22
[ It opens with pop star Roxane Labelle (Véronique Cloutier) performing a schmaltzy ballad in front of her adoring fans… Actually, it opens with a Subway commercial, the first of many instances of product placement. Anyway, after the concert Roxane is kidnapped by “dangerous” thugs who demand a million dollar ransom from her manager and father (Marc Messier), to be delivered by his young accountant (Stéphane Rousseau). What follows is a disconcertingly misguided blend of “Amélie”-style storytelling, Guy Ritchiesque visual tricks and sudden bursts of violence and painfully unfunny comedy. Even then, this critically panned box office flop is actually not that bad. Oh, it is bad, really really really really really bad, but it’s also surprisingly well designed, photographed and edited; it’s hard to believe that it was directed by the same guy who made the amateurish-looking “Les Boys” movies. Too bad Saia is working from one of the worst screenplays ever written. ]

(22 Jun) La Planète Sauvage (1973, René Laloux) 83
[ A trippy animated feature in which humans (“Oms”) are like bugs, roughly played with or exterminated by the Traags, a race of huge blue-skinned humanoid creatures. This is pretty creepy, but it’s also a wonderfully imaginative slice of psychedelia full of oddball sights and sounds. ]

(25 Jun) Levity (2003, Ed Solomon) 46
[ Billy Bob Thornton plays a man who just got release after 22 years in prison but feels he doesn’t deserve to be free. “I know I’ll never be redeemed.” This leads to much heavy-handed but not uninteresting voice-over about “making amends” and “making it right with your neighbour [and] with God”, and to a series of contrived encounters with unconvincingly colorful characters. A mysterious preacher (Morgan Freeman) who offers free parking to club-hoppers if they listen to a 15 minute sermon Thornton do custodian work and baby-sit black juvenile delinquents. Meanwhile, Thornton takes a self-destructive party girl (the always irresistible Kirsten Dunst) under his wing and stalks then dates (???) the sister (Holly Hunter) of the liquor store clerk he killed in that botched robbery decades ago. None of this makes more sense, and the contemplative, half-assed David Gordon Green tone goes for doesn’t quite pan out despite glowing cinematography by Roger Deakins and trippy music. What we’re left with is an uneven flick with some good performances and, for my fellow Montrealers, the cheap thrill of seeing our metro, the 1000 de la Gauchetière, the Romance sex shop and all that goddamn snow on film. ]

(26 Jun) Punch-Drunk Love (2002, P.T. Anderson) [ review ] 94

(27 Jun) Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003, McG) [ review ] 59

(27 Jun) 28 days later… (2003, Danny Boyle) [ review ] 83

(28 Jun) The Real Cancun (2003, Rick de Oliveira) 18
[ If this is supposed to be a “reality” movie, then why does it look more carefully designed, lit and framed than most fiction? Even the “non-actors” don’t feel natural. The conversations do feel improvised, in a bad way, but everyone is like a stock character from a bad teensploitation flick. There’s the loud black guy, the surfer dude, the big-titted bimbo, the asshole jock, the manipulative bitch, the dork… And while I like partying as much as the next guy, watching other people party is boring as fuck. All that’s left is the girls-gone-wild stuff they sold the film with but come on, if you wanna see some boobies be a man and rent a real porno. ]

(29 Jun) Cradle 2 the Grave (2003, Andrew Bartkowiak) 27
[ Despite slick visuals and pounding hip hop on the soundtrack (including a great new Eminem track), this forgettable flick fails to raise one’s pulse. The story and action scenes are generic Joel Silver schlock and DMX is not a particularly compelling screen presence. Even Jet Li doesn’t make much of an impression here, and neither do Mark Dacascos and Kelly Hu. The only highlight is the fight where Li uses a midget to clobber his opponents! ]

May / July

2003 May

(1 May) Drumline (2002, Charles Stone III) 64
[ Who knew marching bands could be as serious as an army drill? This story of a gifted but rebellious young man (Nick Cannon) clashing with the strictness of the “coach” (Orlando Jones) is as old as it gets, but the previously little seen world of drum lines and the giddy sincerity of the cast make this a pleasant little flick. ]

(1 May) Saved by the Belles (2003, Ziad Touma) [ review ] 31

(1 May) Breaking the Waves (1996, Lars Von Trier) 91
[ “When you talk to God, it’s called praying. When he answers back, it’s called schizophrenia.” Or is it? It’s never quite clear whether Bess is insane or whether she does have a straight line with the Holy Father. What we know for sure is that the Scottish woman’s love for her oil rig worker of a husband is dangerously intense. As is the film as a whole, a harrowing psycho-sexual fable shot in Dogme minimalism, but with colorful chapter breaks of ‘70s rock and quasi-surreal imagery. And then there’s Emily Watson, giving one of the most powerful performances I’ve ever seen. As Von Trier puts it in the production notes, “Emily has a face that expresses an enormous range of emotion; a face you can never tire of watching.” Indeed, she has the brightest eyes and the loveliest smile, and it’s all the more devastating when the going gets tough for her character. “Breaking the Waves” is a heavy watching experience, but it’s a rewarding one. ]

(2 May) X2: X-Men United (2003, Bryan Singer) [ review ] 90

(2 May) Heavenly Creatures (1994, Peter Jackson) 65
[ The opening is terrific, setting up both ‘50s New Zealand and impending tragedy. We then move to the Christchurch Girls High School and watch as Juliet and Pauline develop an intense friendship rooted in their fertile imaginations. Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey (in their debut performances) are both wonderful, managing to make these ditzy, smug, “stark raving mad” young women sympathetic. The film was directed by LOTR maestro Peter Jackson, which explains the surprisingly epic direction and the awesome special effect of what is basically your usual teen angst drama… But with a lesbianish fairy tale vibe! These quirky flourishes don’t quite add up and, while the film often toys with brilliance, some stretches fall flat (everything about the parents notably). However, uneven as it may be, this is definitely a memorable film. ]

(4 May) X2: X-Men United (2003, Bryan Singer) [ review ] 90

(4 May) Starship Troopers (1997, Paul Verhoeven) [ review ] 93

(5 May) Cries and Whispers (1973, Ingmar Bergman) 34
[ Everything is either red, black or white, every other shot looking like a White Stripes album cover, but don’t expect to be rocked much. This is a sloooow, bleak art film about desperately bored Swedes who stare vacantly, exchange a few solemn words, flash the occasional skin and die, eventually. Formally brilliant, but criminally dull. ]

(6 May) The Color Purple (1985, Steven Spielberg) 59
[ Whoopi gets impregnated by her daddy, her babies are taken away from her, then she’s forced to marry a mean mofo of a farmer (Danny Glover) who not only cheats on her but brings his mistress home to live with them. But the two women actually become friends, and then there’s something about a long-lost sister in Africa, and there’s Oprah being sent to jail basically because she’s got a mind of her own (and a temper to go with it)… Like many book-to-film adaptations, “The Color Purple” suffers from a scattered narrative that tries to include too many characters and events. You can tell that Spielberg’s got his heart in it but he’s not quite right for the material. The movie uneasily juxtaposes brutality and cuteness, social commentary and corny humor, all of which is drowned in an omnipresent score by Quincy Jones. I still cried like a baby at the end, but overall the picture misses more often than it hits. ]

(7 May) The Long Walk Home (1990, Richard Pearce)
[ Reviewed for the Apollo Movie Guide ] 82

(8 May) La vie a du charme (1992, Jean-Philippe Duval) 45
[ English literature’s got Kerouac, us Frenchies have Réjean Ducharme (though Ti-Jean kerouac himself is of French Canadian origins). He makes us dream but instead of going on the road, Ducharme’s characters travel inward, with the words themselves becoming the destination. A poet more than a storyteller, the ever mysterious Ducharme (who never gave an interview or appeared in public) wrote such lyrical, offbeat masterpieces as “L’avalée des avalés”, “Le nez qui voque”, “L’océantume”, “L’hiver de force” and the screenplay of “Les Bons Débarras”, one of the 4-5 best Canadian films ever made. This documentary is interesting enough to the extent that it overflows with quotes from Ducharme’s novels and excerpts from his film work and the songs he penned for Robert Charlebois and Pauline Julien, but the sub-Godard free form structure doesn’t quite work and the testimonies aren’t much informative. One might as well go straight to the source on the page. ]

(9 May) A Mighty Wind (2003, Christopher Guest) [ review ] 74

(10 May) The Matrix (1999, Andy & Larry Wachowski) [ review ] 91

(11 May) The Powerpuff Girls Movie (2002, Craig McCracken) 60
[ Three badass little bug-eyed super-hero girls: red-haired Blossom (the smart one!), black-haired Buttercup (the tough one!) and blonde Bubbles (the cute one!). Together they take on evil monkey genius Mojo Jojo and save the day! Like the TV cartoon it springs from, this movie is full of eye-popping colors, angular drawings and techno music and, while it’s as vacuous as it gets and it feels stretched even at 73 minutes, it’s still an enjoyable bit of silly nonsense. ]

(13 May) Charlie’s Angels (2000, McG) [ review ] 89

(15 May) The Matrix Reloaded (2003, Andy & Larry Wachowski) [ review ] 58

(17 May) Down With Love (2003, Peyton Reed) [ review ] 85

(17 May) Scarface (1983, Brian De Palma) [ review ] 92

(19 May) Country, l’épopée des Cowboys Fringants (2003, Alain Star) 87
[ My first taste of Les Cowboys Fringants was their innocuous single Marcel Galarneau, and it hardly won me over. I thought the song (and the music video) was awfully tacky and I dismissed the Cowboys as a hopelessly uncool western band. A few months passed and I met a girl from Repentigny who convinced me to listen closer. I realised that their dorkiness was intentional and that, beside irresistible party songs, they could also write politically aware or poignant tunes. Two years later, I’m now a huge fan of the group and so is almost everybody my age. Les Cowboys Fringants is the best musical act in Quebec and, if it it’s not too early to say so, the voice of a generation. They’ve just released a 2-CD live album which comes with a DVD featuring all their videos, 9 songs filmed during their “De Gaétane à Mario Dubé” tour and an immensely enjoyable feature-length documentary. Hovering between a straightforward “Behind the Music”-style recollection of the band’s career and an irreverent spoof of the genre and its clichés, “Country” is sort of like a French Canadian “This is Spinal Tap”, except that the band it depicts is for real even though some of the “facts” might be exaggerated (or even made up). Clearly I’m biased, but I loved every second of the film. “Country, l’épopée des Cowboys Fringants” is simply priceless. You laugh, you’re inspired, you nod in recognition or you marvel at such absurdity, but you’re always fascinated. It’s one of the best rock movies I’ve ever seen. ]

(20 May) Couch (2003, Paul Thomas Anderson) 25
[ This black & white short has got to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. Adam Sandler’s overacting did make me chuckle but come on, fart jokes? Anderson can do better. ]

(21 May) Signs (2002, M. Night Shyamalan) [ review ] 94

(22 May) The Incredible Hulk Returns (1988, Nicholas Corea) 38
[ Gee, the bar is pretty damn high for Ang Lee! How can his upcoming Hulk flick measure up to this level of hokey dialogue, amateurish production values, awful acting, sappy music and to the breathtaking sight of Lou Ferrigno painted green making angry faces? Even the mighty Thor is on hand in full gay icon attire! ]

(22 May) Gouttes d’eau sur pierres brûlantes (2000, François Ozon) 40
[ Obviously adapted from a stage play, this film is dialogue, dialogue, dialogue… Plus sex, first between a 50 year old man and a teenage boy then with a young woman and a she-male. Maybe this sounds exciting, but the characters are dull and obnoxious and so’s the film. Even Ludivine Sagnier’s spectacular naked form and a gratuitous musical number can’t salvage it. ]

(22 May) Les Immortels (2003, Paul Thinel) 43
[ The story of struggling musicians who work in a steel mill, this is like “8 Mile” in Sorel, with a charismatic and engaging lead in Guillaume Lemay-Thivierge, catchy music, sexy women and a generally convincing depiction of working class life in a small town… But the film suffers from a disconnected narrative, with characters and ideas introduced then seemingly forgotten about and a really anticlimactic ending. “Les Immortels” remains enjoyable, but I wish it’d cut deeper instead of coasting on random bits of questionable humor (al dente condoms?) and contrived drama. ]

(23 May) Bruce Almighty (2003, Tom ShadyHACK) [ review ] 17

(23 May) Les Invasions Barbares (2003, Denys Arcand) [ review ] 88

(24 May) The Trial of the Incredible Hulk (1989, Bill Bixby) 42
[ Seriously, these TV movies aren’t so bad. They’re cheesy and cheapie but at least they respect the sentimentality and character-oriented storytelling of Marvel comic books. The Hulk is not just about a green monster smashing things, it’s about the anger bottled inside oneself, the beast threatening to bust out if one loses self-control. “David” Banner’s powers are actually a curse, a destructive force dooming him to wander the world, terrified, ashamed and alone. And in “Trial”, he also gets arrested and the Kingpin puts a price on his head. Only with the help of blind attorney Matt Murdock aka vigilante Daredevil will Banner be able to save his skin. The writing, acting and production values are much inferior to this year’s big screen “Daredevil” flick but the action scenes are pretty cool in their shoddy way and, really, the sight of a pissed off Lou Ferrigno in green bodypaint is breathtaking! ]

(24 May) The Italian Job (2003, F. Gary Gray) [ review ] 70

(25 May) Commando (1985, Mark L. Lester) [ review ] 100

(26 May) A Bug’s Life (1998, John Lasseter) 48
[ This is pure eye candy like all Pixar movies but, maybe because “Antz” covered the same grounds first (and better), this particular flick is not so involving. The humor is childish, the characters are forgettable… This is no “Toy Story”. ]

(26 May) The Terminator (1984, James Cameron) 90
[ I hadn’t seen the original in years and I’m surprised by how well it holds up despite some dated special effects and distracting ‘80s music and hairstyles. Schwarzenegger is at his iconic badass best as the killing machine and there’s tragic emotional resonance to the story of a man who travels back in time to save a woman he loves even though he’s only seen a picture of her. Cameron can craft thrilling action scenes like the best of them and this is a practically uninterrupted chase/shoot-out, stopping only to sketch out an intriguing post-apocalyptic possible future. Trivia note: I noticed for the first time that the blue-haired punk the Terminator kills in the first scene is played by Bill Paxton! ]

(26 May) Aguirre, The Wrath of God (1972, Werner Herzog) [ review ] 98

(27 May) Aguirre, The Wrath of God (1972, Werner Herzog) [ review ] 98

(27 May) L’aventure, c’est l’aventure (1972, Claude Lelouch) 36
[ Starting surprisingly with a musical overture (‘70s rock over shifting colors) then with a statement (“Enjoy life; it’s much later than you think”), the film itself is nothing extraordinary. A group of French crooks decide to use the post-Mai 68 turmoil to get rich, staging political kidnappings, plane highjackings and the such. Half-clever gags, shoddy stunts and a LOT of talk ensue. I have no idea why this is a cult comedy. ]

(29 May) Marion Bridge (2003, Wiebke von Carolsfeld) [ review ] 43

(30 May) Alice (1988, Jan Svankmajer) [ review ] 79

(30 May) Finding Nemo (2003, Andrew Stanton) [ review ] 86

April / June