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

2003 April


(1 Apr) Party Girl (1995, Daisy von Scherler Mayer) 12
[ Cheap-looking, dull, witless flick about an obnoxious bimbo (Parker Posey) who gets a job as a librarian and romances a Falafel street vendor. Hilarity DOESN’T ensue. ]

(2 Apr) Stardom (2000, Denys Arcand) 37
[ This satire of our media-addicted society and of the cult of youth and beauty is notable for its clever use of various film and TV styles to tell the story of a hockey player turned model turned trophy wife (played by the astonishingly gorgeous Jessica Paré) but, quite ironically, it’s generally as superficial and inconsequential as its subject. ]

(4 Apr) Falling Down (1993, Joel Schumacher) 44
[ D-Fens (Michael Douglas in one of his strongest performances) has had enough. Enough of traffic jams, overpriced grocery products, street gangs, visiting rights (or lack thereof), beggars, fast food restaurants that won’t serve you breakfast after 11, neo-Nazis, rich old men playing golf all day… And so he stalks through Los Angeles, primed to go off at anyone crossing him. “Falling Down” is an oddball flick, uneasily juggling black humor and blacker social commentary. Interesting ideas are approached but they give way to cheap thrills and by-the-numbers hogwash about a cop (Robert Duvall) one day away from retirement tracking the vigilante. Schumacher doesn’t have the deft touch of a Scorsese (whose “Taxi Driver” this vaguely resembles) and the screenplay lacks depth and subtlety. It’s loud, but it’s not saying all that much. ]

(7 Apr) Roger Dodger (2002, Dylan Kidd) [ review ] 93

(8 Apr) Phone Booth (2003, Joel Schumacher) [ review ] 72

(10 Apr) Leaving Metropolis (2003, Brad Fraser) [ review ] 31

(10 Apr) Emmanuelle l’antivierge (1975, Francis Giacobetti) 52
[ “Emmanuelle the Anti-Virgin”! Priceless. Otherwise this sequel to the “classic” French softcore flick is more of the same: images pretty in a cheesy postcard way, dialogue that amusingly balances naiveté and pretentiousness and of course Sylvia Kristel, still an irresistible creature. ]

(11 Apr) Anger Management (2003, Peter Segal) [ review ] 65

(11 Apr) Le Déclin de l’Empire Américain (1986, Denys Arcand) 43
[ The film opens with a university teacher telling his students that History is all about numbers, i.e. South Africans can overcome yet African-Americans never will. “History is not a moral science.” Interesting. Then we have the Head of the History Department talking to a reporter about how “the expectation of receiving instant gratification in daily life constitutes the normative parameter of existence.” Bleh, not so interesting anymore. This is a pretentious filmmaker setting loose pretentious characters to make pretentious audiences nod in recognition, “Aren’t we sophisticated and erudite?” But the filmmaker/characters don’t want to seem pretentious, of course, so they start talking about and having sex. And there’s your “Déclin”, a wildly overrated film alternating a few actual insights with a lot of tedious intellectual grandstanding and genitals-gazing. ]

(12 Apr) The Truman Show (1998, Peter Weir) [ review ] 95

(12 Apr) Thir13en Ghosts (2001, Steve Beck) 30
[ You take “The Frighteners” (already an overblown B-movie) and you remove all the wit and style Peter Jackson brought to it, then you replace the always charming Michael J. Fox by the ever obnoxious Matthew Lillard and you make sure that the resulting flick is as idiotic, vile and pointless as possible and ta-daa! “13 Ghosts”. The art direction and the make-up effects are pretty good, but don’t expect any scares or thrills. ]

(15 Apr) Les Invasions Barbares (2003, Denys Arcand) [ review ] 88

(17 Apr) Bulletproof Monk (2003, Paul Hunter) [ review ] 33

(17 Apr) Under Hellgate Bridge (2001, Michael Sergio) 29
[ Gangster movies have run their course, it seems. The tough talk in Italian accents, the double-crossings, the drugs, the miserable wives, the religious echoes, the vendettas… An inspired filmmaker can still jazz these clichés into something interesting, but Michael Sergio is not that filmmaker. ]

(18 Apr) Hey Arnold! The Movie (2002, Tuck Tucker)
[Reviewed for the Apollo Movie Guide ] 52

(19 Apr) Schindler’s List (1993, Steven Spielberg) [ review ] 95

(22 Apr) Amores Perros (2001, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu) 91
[ It opens with a stunningly shot car chase that culminates in a brutal accident. The narrative then shifts around back and forth in time following the various people involved in the car crash. There’s Octavio, a young man who puts his Rotweiler into dog fights to raise money to get away with the abused wife of his no-good brother; Valeria, a supermodel crippled in the accident who takes out her frustrations on her lover; and El Chivo, a shaggy hitman who hasn’t talked to his daughter for twenty years. The title translates as “love’s a bitch” and it sure is, for these characters at least. The film is often violent and emotionally ambiguous, amoral even, but that’s because it’s an honest (and intense like a mofo!) look at how cruel life can be. The cast is great (especially the rivetingly charismatic Gael Garcia Bernal) and the cinematography, score and editing are all top notch. This is a tremendous debut for Inarritu. ]

(22 Apr) Breakdown (1997, Jonathan Mostow) 86
[ Kurt Russell’s looking for his wife. There’s the desert, the highway, the redneck assholes, and that’s it. This is the simplest of stories, but Mostow takes this and wrings unbearable suspense out of it. This is one damn effective thriller, and an awesome calling card for the filmmaker, who’s next challenge is to close the “Terminator” trilogy. If “Rise of the Machines” is as well crafted and action-packed as this, James Cameron won’t be missed! ]

(23 Apr) Bowling for Columbine (2002, Michael Moore) [ review ] 79

(24 Apr) George Washington (2000, David Gordon Green) 92
[ A smalltown wasteland, crushed by the Deep South heat. An interracial group of kids (their common poverty seems to make skin color irrelevant), not too bright but with their hearts in the right place. No clear plot, but much contemplation, much lyricism and an unlikely super-hero. Add great Cinemascope cinematography, a haunting score and casually philosophical narration, and you can’t help but think of Terrence Malick’s oeuvre, but a series of quirky flourishes and the sometimes clumsy but always natural actors make Gordon’s heartbreakingly beautiful first film into its own beast. ]

(24 Apr) Pillow Talk (1959, Michael Gordon) 75
[ This film uses a dated premise (party lines?), cheesy visuals and a cartoonish score, but these aren’t necessarily bad things. I actually liked the campiness of it all, with the colorful clothes and sets, the use of split-screen and the gratuitous musical numbers. And while I’m not sure it was Oscar-worthy, the playful sex banter between Rock Hudson and Doris Day is certainly amusing. ]

(25 Apr) Identity (2003, James Mangold) [ review ] 48

(25 Apr) Gerry (2003, Gus Van Sant) [ review ] 60

(27 Apr) X-Men (2000, Bryan Singer) [ review ] 90

(29 Apr) Nid de Guêpes (2002, Florent-Emilio Siri) 29
[ On the 14th of July (the French national holiday), a SWAT unit transporting a vivious Albanian Mafioso is attacked by thugs trying to break their leader free and they are forced to hide in a nearby warehouse. The place is being robbed by a group of unlucky French dudes, but when it becomes clear that the Albanian mobsters surrounding the building are ready to kill them all, cops and robbers must band together to fight for their lives. In other words, this is a blatant rip-off of “Assault on Precinct 13”, but with uninteresting stock characters and desperately generic action scenes. A noisy bore. ]

(29 Apr) Filles Perdues Cheveux Gras (2002, Claude Duty) 76
[ A cheapie but lively contemporary musical about three depressed young women looking for themselves. The electro-pop songs are beyond campy (but catchy as hell) and the blend of melodrama and silliness doesn’t always work, but the actresses are amusing, especially the adorable Marina Foïs as an alcoholic hairdresser mourning her cat. This is clearly not for all tastes but I loved the stupid thing. ]

(30 Apr) Tuck Everlasting (2002, Jay Russell) 33
[ A cute but rather dull fairy tale about a literally and figuratively corseted 15 year old (the infinitely beautiful Alexis Bledel) who falls in love with a 104 year old man (who looks like 20 year old Jonathan Jackson) whose family has discovered the secret to eternal life. The film has that Disney glow, supporting parts by William Hurt, Sissy Spacek and Ben Kingsley (as the Man in the Yellow Suit!), and it presents a nice message (“You don’t have to live forever, you just have to live”), but I still had trouble staying awake. Your mileage may vary. ]

March / May

2003 March

(1 Mar) National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978, John Landis) 24
[ That’s a smash hit, wildly influential cult comedy? Huh. Oh, the pieces are there, with Harold Ramis co-writing, Ivan Reitman producing and John Landis directing, and there’s no denying that John Belushi is a force of nature, but like “Caddyshack”, I just didn’t find “Animal House” all that funny. It’s enjoyable enough as a goofy parade of boozing, gratuitous nudity, futile and stupid gestures and great ‘60s rock & roll but the cast, mostly constituted of non-professionals, is interchangeable and the humor seems tame by today’s standards. Maybe it’s a you-had-to-be-there thing, the way that people might not get what’s the big deal with “American Pie” in 25 years. One more thing: am I just Spike Leeing or are the racial attitudes in “Animal House” damn questionable? There’s the scene where they mistakenly walk into an all-Black nightclub and end up running out in terror (“The Negroes took our dates”) and what’s with a movie that finishes with the frat boys running their “deathmobile” into a float marked “Togetherness” and tearing apart the big black hand from the big white hand it was shaking? ]

(2 Mar) Tigerland (2000, Joel Schumacher) 84
[ Colin Farrell plays Bozz, an angry army draftee who’s full of charisma, arrogance, passion and profound disrespect towards authority. He’s the exhilarating protagonist of this unexpectedly compelling Viet Nam movie. We’ve seen so many war movies in recent years that I’m finding them tiresome, but Joel Schumacher (of all people) brings surprising intimacy and edginess to this film. It’s actually less a war movie than a rather homoerotic yarn about rugged young men training to go kill or get killed in a pointless conflict overseas who are growing ever more tense until they have to jump on each other and fight or hug and cry (and maybe make out). “Tigerland” is like “Full Metal Jacket” but without the underwhelming second half. Who knew the man behind “Batman and Robin” had such a raw, powerful film in him? ]

(4 Mar) Fun in Acapulco (1963, Richard Thorpe)
[ Reviewed for the Apollo Movie Guide ] 70

(5 Mar) Mary Poppins (1964, Robert Stevenson) 93
[ Entirely shot on the Disney studios backlot with elaborate sets and matte paintings, overflowing with magic and song, “Mary Poppins” is as artificial as it is irresistible, as corny as it is charming. The blend of live action and various forms of animation is dazzling, the musical numbers are catchy and the cast is wonderful. Julie Andrews makes for one foxy English nanny and Dick Van Dyke steals many a scene as a cheerful chimney sweep. “Mary Poppins” might just be the most “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” family movie I’ve ever seen! ]

(6 Mar) Julie Walking Home (2003, Agnieska Holland) [ review ] 69

(6 Mar) Buying the Cow (2002, Walt Becker)
[ Reviewed for the Apollo Movie Guide ] 25

(7 Mar) The General (1926, Buster Keaton) 64
[ Keaton stars as a train engineer who’s rejected from enlisting in the Civil War and is seen by his peers as a “disgrace to the South”. His girlfriend even tells him that she doesn’t want him to speak to her again until he is in uniform! I have always been uneasy with this kind of rah-rah patriotism and as the current President of the USA encourages “either you’re with us or you’re against us” sentiments, it’s even harder to swallow even in a light-spirited film like “The General”. In any case, other than from a historic viewpoint I don’t see how this should rate as one of the best films of all time (according to a Sight & Sound poll). It’s little more than a couple of long chase sequences (between a locomotive driven by Keaton and one filled with soldiers from the North) filled with slapstick. Keaton’s stunts and pratfalls are impressive and amusing enough but then so’s the average Jackie Chan movie! ]

(10 Mar) Anchors Aweigh (1945, George Sidney) 89
[ Aaah, the glory of MGM musicals! This was high spectacle, unconcerned with stooping down for attention-deficit-disordered audiences and tying things back into reality (like last year’s overrated “Chicago”). This is fantasy, really, a pure balls-to-the-walls song-and-dance extravaganza where people sing just because they feel like it, thank you very much. This 1945 classic features THE dancer in Gene Kelly and THE singer in Frank Sinatra, but Kelly can sing himself and Sinatra can dance, too! The two play marines on leave for three days in Hollywood who end up having to babysit an orphan boy- and his pretty aunt Susie! Highlights include Kelly and Sinatra’s tapdance duet, impressive performances by pianist-conductor José Iturbi (playing himself) and the scene in which Kelly teaches Jerry (the mouse from the Hanna-Barbera cartoons) how to dance! ]

(12 Mar) Best in Show (2000, Christopher Guest) 90
[ This mockumentary about show dogs and the people who love them is a hilarious satire but also a keen character study. The script by Guest and Eugene Levy is full of wit but it’s the cast’s endearing performances that make “Best in Show” such a treat. Not to mention all the cute doggies, cuuuute dooogiiiies!]

(13 Mar) eye see you (2002, Jim Gillespie)
[Reviewed for the Apollo Movie Guide ] 33

(13 Mar) My neighbour Totoro (1988, Hayao Miyazaki) 95
[ In typical Miyazaki fashion, this film is beautifully animated, the characters are endearing and the story is magical and fun and touching, too. But what really makes this one special is the Totoros, fuzzy creatures with superpowers that only children can see. These guys are kick ass superfly cool! ]

(14 Mar) Willard (2003, Glen Morgan) [ review ] 35

(15 Mar) Bringing Up Baby (1938, Howard Hawks)) 44
[ I’m generally quite fond of old American movies, but I had much trouble sitting through this “classic” screwball comedy.. The humor seemed rather contrived to me and Katherine Hepburn’s manipulative loudmouth and Cary Grant’s stuffy nerd of a zoologist quickly grow obnoxious. I didn’t root for them to hook up, I just wanted them to shut up! The leopard’s pretty cool, though. ]

(16 Mar) Singin’ in the Rain (1952, Stanley Donen) [ review ] 100

(17 Mar) Waiting for Guffman (1996, Christopher Guest) 91
[ Guest (who also co-wrote the script with Eugene Levy) stars as a faaabulous Off-Off-Off-Off-Broadway playwright and director relocated in the Midwest who’s mounting a musical play celebrating the 150th anniversary of Blaine, Missouri, “The Stool Capital of the World!”, using a cast of locals which includes a dentist (Levy), a Dairy Queen clerk (Parker Posey) and the couple who runs the travel agency (Fred Willard and Catherine O’Hara). Basically, this mockumentary is to community theater what “This is Spinal Tap” is to hair metal and “Best in Show” to dog shows: a hilarious send-off but also an affectionate social snapshot. ]

(19 Mar) Le rayon vert (1986, Eric Rohmer) 20
[ The ’80s weren’t kind to pop culture, even when it comes to Rohmer’s classy, contemplative art films. Like in all his work, nothing happens for 98 minutes, we just watch as self-centered French people talk on and on and on, and then they eat, and then they whine some more, they eat, they go to the beach, they talk, they eat… What makes this title morbidly boring is how uninteresting and obnoxious the actors/characters and the (badly) improvised dialogue are. My pal Olivier calls it the dullest movie ever made, but I found it strangely compelling and unintentionally amusing in its relentless uneventfulness. ]

(19 Mar) The Hot Chick (2002, Tom Brady) 65
[ “A Happy Madison production.” These words fill most critics with nameless dread, but as a fan of ‘90s Saturday Night Live I’m actually giddy to see every juvenile comedy starring the likes of Adam Sandler and yes, Rob Schneider. I mean, Schneider switching bodies with a gorgeous but bitchy high school cheerleader? Priceless. “The Hot Chick” might be dumb as a pile of bricks, but it’s funny and kinda sweet, too. ]

(19-20 Mar) The Osbournes – The First Season (2002, MTV) 81
[ They fight, they yell, they curse but more than anything, they love each other. The appeal of the show (now available on DVD) is in how it manages to make us feel empathy for the Prince of Darkness! Ozzy turns out to be quite the regular schmoe, struggling to raise teenagers (amusingly oddball Jack and the absolutely lovable punkette Kelly) picking up dog dookie and watching TV, all the while hilariously moaning and mumbling. Then there’s his wife Sharon, whom he clearly couldn’t live without: she’s discipline, affection and craziness all wrapped into one irresistible package. Beware: watching this unique yet typical family through their ups and downs can be addictive! ]

(20 Mar) This is Spinal Tap (1984, Rob Reiner) 78
[ The mother of all mockumentaries, it follows England’s loudest band on an increasingly pathetic North American tour. What’s funniest about the film is that however ridiculous these hairy metal-heads can be, they’re not all that stupider than other rock bands before and since. “It’s such a thin line between clever and stupid.” I personally prefer the mockumentaries directed by Christopher Guest (who co-wrote and starred in “Tap”, along with Harry Shearer and Michael McKean), but this is still a really fun film to watch. ]

(21 Mar) Dreamcatcher (2003, Lawrence Kasdan) [ review ] 54

(22 Mar) Swing Time (1936, George Stevens) 66
[ Generally regarded as the best of the Ginger Rogers-Fred Astaire musicals, this song and dance romance tells the simple story of a gambler who falls in love with a pretty dance instructor (as if Astaire needed tapping lessons!). The humor is corny (cuffs on pants? Hi-larious.) and the attitudes are outdated (who ever thought that white actors in blackface was a good idea?) but still, how could one resist the sight of Rogers and Astaire waltzing so gracefully? ]

(22 Mar) Emmanuelle (1974, Just Jaeckin) 72
[ “Mélodie d’amour chante le coeur d’Emmanuelle…” Cheesy music, loose direction, laughably pretentious dialogue, soft-focus cinematography, exotic locations around Thailand, sleazy French (I mean, “Freedom”) playboys and gorgeous women who swing both ways: does that add up to an amusingly “classy” erotic classic? Almost. What seals the deal is the presence of Sylvia Kristel, who conveys an intoxicating blend of naiveté and sensuality, innocence and lust. “Mélodie d’amour chante le corps d’Emmanuelle…” ]

(22 Mar) Seconds (1966, John Frankenheimer) 94
[ Propelled by quasi-expressionist black & white cinematography and a gloomy score, this surreal film noir about faking your own death and getting a second chance to live the life you dreamed of is as visionary and thought-provoking as Frankenheimer’s earlier “The Manchurian Candidate”. John Randolph and Rock Hudson are both amazing as the ‘before’ and ‘after’ faces of the protagonist whose midlife crisis takes into “Twilight Zone” territory. “Stomp those grapes!” ]

(23 Mar) Chopper (2000, Andrew Dominik) 39
[ The Australian accents are almost incomprehensible, the “bleached” cinematography is an eyesore, and while real-life criminal Mark “Chopper” Read’s story is one of ultraviolence and amorality, the movie’s supposed to be funny, right? Long story short, I didn’t “get” this film. It’s ugly, mean and pointless. Star Eric Bana does have a nice intensity, though. Hopefully it’ll be put to better use in “The Hulk”. ]

(24 Mar) Spy Kids 2 – The Island of Lost Dreams (2002, Robert Rodriguez) 63
[ A few minutes into this second film of the all-ages franchise I thought, whoa, this looks damn cool for a kiddie flick! Well of course it does, it’s directed by Rodriguez, he who can craft wonders with little money and almost all by himself! This is fascinatingly illustrated in “Robert Rodriguez Ten Minute Film School: Big Movies Made Cheap”, one of the best DVD special features I’ve ever seen. This behind-the-scenes featurette is as dynamic as the movie itself, establishing furthermore what a virtuoso Rodriguez is. Think about it, his film is as impressive and action-packed as George Lucas’ “Attack of the Clones” yet it cost five times less! “Spy Kids 2” is all over the place and the plot makes absolutely no sense, multiplying characters, extravagant locations and goofy creatures into one big colorful mess, but it’s all in harmless fun and in the midst of all the craziness, Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara manage to hold the film together as the adorably badass Carmen and Juni. ]

(26 Mar) Hero (2003, Zhang Yimou) [ review ] 93

(27 Mar) Hero (2003, Zhang Yimou) [ review ] 93

(29 Mar) What a Girl Wants (2003, Dennie Gordon) [ review ] 45

February / April

2003 February

(3 Feb) Lovely and Amazing (2002, Nicole Holofrener) 74
[ Why is that the most insecure women attach themselves to the most inconsiderate jerks? You want to feel for these characters, but at the same time it’s frustrating how they can’t get over their neuroses or at least try to do something about it. Thankfully, the actresses are engaging enough. There’s Catherine Keener doing her usual fuck-off thing, Emily Mortimer offering a brave/vulnerable performance as a self-deprecating actress and Brenda Blethyn breathing decency as the other two’s hapless mother. Writer-director Nicole Holofrener lays it on thick and her film can be obnoxious at times, but it’s got a sweet core. ]

(4 Feb) The Recruit (2003, Roger Donaldson) [ review ] 57

(4 Feb) Minority Report (2002, Steven Spielberg) [ review ] 93

(5 Feb) Chasing Amy (1997, Kevin Smith) [ review ] 87

(6 Feb) The Favourite Game (2003, Bernar Hébert) [ review ] 80

(6 Feb) The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Movie (1979, Chuck Jones) 88
[ Compilation films are often a cheap marketing ploy, but you must appreciate the opportunity to watch all your favorite Looney Tunes cartoons back to back. Is there anything as hilarious in its cruel fatalism as Wile E. Coyote’s vain attempts at capturing the Road Runner? Or what about “Duck Amuck” in which animator and character collide in a manner as wonderfully meta as anything Charlie Kaufman has ever written? Didn’t “What’s Opera, Doc?” introduce generations of kids to classical music? Has there ever been a more accurate depiction of the exquisite agony of unrequited love than Pepe Le Pew’s? And most importantly, is there anything sexier than Bugs Bunny in drag? ]

(7 Feb) Beauty and the Beast (1991, Gary Trousdale) 91
[ A moving story, gorgeous animation, catchy musical numbers, barely a hint of condescending kiddie stuff… This just might be Disney’s best film. ]

(7 Feb) The Philadelphia Story (1940, George Cukor) 93
[ Katharine Hepburn as a spoiled socialite about to get remarried, Cary Grant as her bitter ex-husband and James Stewart as a snobbish tabloid reporter: quite the cast, isn’t it? This old-fashioned yet incisive romantic comedy is a bit stiff, looking every bit like the filmed play it basically is, but the flawless performances and the wise and witty dialogue more than make up for it. And this that rare movie romance where you actually don’t know who will win the woman’s heart until the very last minute. ]

(7 Feb) Rear Window (1954, Alfred Hitchcock) 95
[ Another great James Stewart film but in quite a different register. Stewart plays a wheelchair-bound magazine photographer who fights boredom by looking out the window into the apartments of his neighbours: the newlyweds, the sexy ballet dancer, the lonely single woman, the pianist… the murderer? This makes for one of the most voyeuristic and suspenseful films Alfred Hitchcock ever directed. “Rear Window” is packed with virtuoso visual storytelling, managing to remain absolutely engrossing even though we never leave Stewart’s tiny little apartment. It doesn’t hurt that his girlfriend is played by the most beautiful woman in the world, Grace Kelly, who never looked better than in this movie. That first close-up of her when she bends to kiss Stewart would make anyone’s heart melt. ]

(11 Feb) To Catch a Thief (1955, Alfred Hitchcock) 90
[ Cat burglar John Robie has been clean for fifteen years but a new wave of jewel robberires has started and, to prove his innocence, Robie must catch the copycat thief himself. Cary Grant came out of semi-retirement to star in this Hitchcock caper, and who could have resisted such an offer? A location shoot around the beautiful beaches of the French Riviera, endlessly clever and amusing dialogue, cool cars and the prettiest woman in the world as his romantic opposite, Grace Kelly. That ain’t work, that’s the best vacation you could wish for, and so is watching this wildly inconsequential but utterly entertaining film. ]

(11 Feb) Spider-Man (2002, Sam Raimi) [ review ] 85

(12 Feb) The Street Fighter (1974, Shigehiro Ozawa) 92
(13 Feb) Return of the Street Fighter (1974, Shigehiro Ozawa) 48
(13 Feb) The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge (1974, Teruo Ishii)
[ My thoughts on the Street Fighter trilogy can be found h e r e ]

(13 Feb) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937, David Hand) 86
[ I remembered how beautiful and colorful the animation is (gotta love all the cute animals) and how goofy them dwarfs are, but I’d forgotten how evil that Stepmother Queen is: “Kill Snow White and bring back her heart in this box”? Damn! And is it just me or Snow White sounds like she’s a “very special” princess? In any case, this remains a truly charming picture. ]

(13 Feb) Daredevil (2003, Mark Steven Johnson) [ review ] 68

(14 Feb) The Heroic Trio (1993, Johnnie To) 39
[ Maggie Cheung is an amoral superwoman-for-hire, Anita Mui is a cop’s wife who moonlights as vigilante Shadowfax and Michelle Khan is a kung fu expert with an invisible cloak who kidnaps infants for an evil wizard. There’s some kind of absurd plot linking the three together and by the end they do form a “heroic trio”, but for the most part what we get is a lot of idiotic nonsense devised only so everyone will get to fight everyone else. The cheesy dialogue, campy acting and the uneasy mix of goofiness and ultraviolence add up to something pretty crappy, but it’s amusing crap. ]

(14 Feb) Notorious (1946, Alfred Hitchcock) 96
[ Hey, I didn’t know John Woo’s “M:I-2” was a remake! Seriously, doesn’t its plot bear striking resemblance to this Hitchcock classic? An American government agent recruits a woman with a shady past, he falls in love with her in the process and is torn apart when he must assign her to seduce and spy on one of the bad guys. Switch terrorists based in Australia for Nazis in 1946 Rio and they’re the same film… Except that “Notorious” favours complex and provocative drama instead of over the top action scenes and it presents a much more affecting couple with the great Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. Espionage thrillers have hardly ever felt this intimate and devastating. ]

(14 Feb) Possession (1981, Andrzej Zulawski) 94
[ So Andrzej Zulawski wrote and directed a film about his marriage’s break-up in 1981… It’s a tale of love and betrayal, desire and jealousy, obsession and madness… Sam Neill is the husband going nuts over the departure of his wife, played by Isabelle Adjani, who’s taken not one but two lovers: a slimy guru-type man and, mmm, how do you say… Oh, yeah, a freaking octopus/lizard creature! Andrzej, dude, what kind of break-up was that?!? “Possession” is a relentlessly over the top, unflinching look at utter madness. The nervy camerawork, the inescapable brightness of daylight and the bizarre lounge-from-hell score all work at creating a riveting surreal atmosphere unsettled increasingly often by outbursts of ultraviolence. Isabelle Adjani will creep the hell out of you with her disturbing and hysterical performance. This has got to be the most fucked up film I’ve ever seen; it makes David Lynch’s movies look like fairy tales. ]

(15 Feb) High Society (1956, Charles Walters) 82
[ This musical remake of “The Philadelphia Story” is not quite as insightful and involving as the original, mostly because Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra don’t have half the screen presence that Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart had. Grace Kelly doesn’t quite match Katharine Hepburn’s performance either, but the gorgeous actress is endearing and funny nonetheless. And how can you not get a kick out of a movie featuring the always enthusiastic Louis Armstrong and his band jazzing things up? All of the Cole Porter songs are a treat, really, especially the irreverent Crosby-Sinatra duet “Well, Did You Evah”. ]

(16 Feb) Perfect Blue (1997, Satoshi Kon) 77
[ Japanimation more concerned with psychological drama then post-apocalyptic mayhem and rapist creatures? That’s already interesting. “Perfect Blue” tells the story of a pop star struggling to make it as an actress who is stalked by a mysterious webmaster… But it’s more twisted than that. Think of a cross between “Mulholland Dr.” and “Psycho”, for better or worse. I particularly liked the insights into the exploitative nature of an actress’ occupation, which reminded me a little of parts of “Lovely and Amazing” (the main character is even drawn like Emily Mortimer!). What doesn’t work so well is when the film trades gritty realism for surrealism and extreme gore. Still, overall this is a picture that looks great but is also supported by an involving enough script that could have worked as live action. ]

(17 Feb) Satchmo (1989, Gary Giddins) 84
[ Engrossing documentary about the unique Louis Armstrong packed with film clips showcasing the trumpet virtuoso’s musical genius and charisma. The filmmakers and the interviewees (Tony Bennett notably) argue that Armstrong was one of the driving forces of 20th century pop culture and a pioneer of jazz. It’d be hard to disagree after these toe-tapping, uplifting 90 minutes. ]

(17 Feb) La Jetée (1962, Chris Marker) 93
[ This is the short film which inspired Terry Gilliam’s brilliant “Twelve Monkeys”. The same brilliance can be felt here, as we can see the basic ideas that were developed in Gilliam’s film. “La Jetée” is actually a photo-roman, i.e. a novella put in images. The narration tells the story of a time-traveller from post-apocalyptic Paris who gets to relive a childhood moment which stuck in his head his whole life, all of which is shown through a series of still black & white photographs. The film is drenched with melancholy and lyricism and is a must-see complement to “Twelve Monkeys” (or is it the other way around?). ]

(18 Feb) Some Like it Hot (1959, Billy Wilder) 94
[ This is the best comedy of all time according to the American Film Institute. That might be pushing it a bit (I’m partial to “Dr. Strangelove” or “The Producers” myself), but there’s no denying that this is an incredibly witty and enjoyable flick. It starts off like a gritty gangster film in prohibition era Chicago with car chases and shoot-outs and a raid on an illegal booze joint, but the tone lightens up considerably when the story shifts to Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon as musicians who escape all the surrounding mayhem by taking a gig in Florida… in an all-girl band! The back-and-forth between the two actors in drag is very amusing and supporting actress Marilyn Monroe? Zowie! Now that’s a woman! But she’s also got great comic timing, overflowing charm and a great singing voice to boot. ]

(19 Feb) Exit pour Nomades (1992, Pierre Bastien) 49
[ Lucien Francoeur is one of the most fascinating/ridiculous public figures in Québec. From his bad spoken word over slightly better rock music to his current gigs as a morning man on Cool FM and as a French Literature Teacher, Francoeur is all about contradictions. Poetic or vulgar, a Rimbaud wannabe working as a spokesperson for Burger King, a would-be Jim Morrison that’s fat, balding and can’t sing, a Beat biker who thinks he’s Billy the Kid who lives in the suburbs… This 1992 documentary is as laughably pretentious as Francoeur himself, but in an endearingly naïve way. ]

(20 Feb) Rashomon (1950, Akira Kurosawa) 93
[ A priest, a farmer and a vagrant meet in rain-drenched ruins and discuss the day’s court hearing regarding the murder of a samurai. We hear and see what happened according to the accused, the widow and even the victim himself speaking through a medium. It is clear that the bandit raped the woman and that this lead to the death of her husband, but no one can agree on the details… Akira Kurosawa’s film is rather slow, with sparse dialogue and intentionally non-spectacular scuffles, but where it becomes riveting (aside from the superb b&w cinematography and Toshiro Mifune’s gleeful overacting) is in the way the story is structured. By having each protagonist’s testimony contradicting the others, “Rashomon” sets up an ambiguous morality tale in which one’s truth is another’s lie. The sexual politics are questionable (“Women are weak by nature”) but probably reflective of Japan at the time, and the conclusion is underwhelming (“Thanks to you I can keep my faith in men.” “Don’t mention it.”) but this remains a masterful picture that’s still influential to this day. ]

(20 Feb) Glengarry Glenn Ross (1992, James Foley) 91
[ This adaptation of David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play still feels staged, but who cares that it’s not particularly cinematic when you’ve got such sharp dialogue acted out by three generations of the best American actors? Jack Lemmon is a real estate salesman who lost it and is so desperate that ethics and dignity hardly matter anymore to him, Alan Arkin as a slightly less hopeless loser, slow-burn Ed Harris and explosive Al Pacino as loud mouths with their own insecurities, Kevin Spacey as their relaxed asshole manager and Alec Baldwin tearing them all down as a big shot from the downtown office who comes in to give them a pep talk. This is pure, brash, foul-mouthed, adrenaline-fueled Mamet, and everyone in this great cast sinks their teeth into it with relish. ]

(21 Feb) Old School (2003, Todd Phillips) [ review ] 73

(22 Feb) Casablanca (1942, Michael Curtiz) [ review ] 100

(22 Feb) A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese through American Movies (1995, Martin Scorsese)
[ In this fascinating exposé, Martin Scorsese takes us through his lifelong infatuation with cinema, recounting the history of the art form and discussing various aspects of it through the point of view of the director, naturally. How D.W. Griffith brought film its grammar, the eternal conflict between Art and Commerce, the evolution of genres like the Western, the Gangster film and the Musical, the impact caused by the introduction of sound, Technicolor and Widescreen, the way some filmmakers “smuggled” different ideas past the censors during the Production Code and how others were downright iconoclasts, breaking conventions and “ultimately expanding the art form”. Scorsese is always insightful and engaging and this epic documentary, packed with countless clips from films of all kinds and interviews with some of the filmmakers and players, is infused with his passion for the subject and inspires one to plunge further into it himself. ]

(24 Feb) The Great Dictator (1940, Charlie Chaplin) 88
[ Before the United States entered World War II, one of its leading filmmakers took a stand: Charles Chaplin. I personally don’t find his Tramp schtick all that funny, but the way he ridicules Hitler (“Hynkel”) is really ballsy, the better-laugh-than-cry depiction of the Holocaust is heartbreaking and Chaplin’s final plea for peace and tolerance is an inspiration, even sixty-some years later as war and hate are unfortunately still a reality. ]

(25 Feb) Mon Oncle Antoine (1971, Claude Jutra) 92
[ This was Quebec not so long ago, a nation of good-hearted but colonised Frenchies being exploited in mines or in the woods by English bosses and kept in the dark by the Church and Prime Minister Duplessis… But Claude Jutra’s film about an undertaker and his young nephew is not all bummer. There’s the joy of being a kid off school for the holidays, the warmth of family, the noisiness of the magasin général, the beauty of the Canadian winter (especially as shot by Michel Brault), the excitement of discovering girls… “Mon Oncle Antoine” is a much understated but endearing coming-of-age story most notable for its attention to detail, both in period recreation and the way people behave, and at times it works as pure poetry. ]

(26 Feb) Visitor Q (2001, Takashi Miike) 91
[ What do you call a movie where the 10 minute incest opening is the tamest scene? Another day at work for Takashi Miike. In “Visitor Q”, the twisted Japanese director takes a shot at reality TV, except that the family depicted here is so dysfunctional that it makes The Osbournes look like the Brady Bunch! Shot on video with minimal flourishes, this is little more than an 80 minute succession of taboos being giddily ignored. Sex, drugs and violence abound, and then you’ve got a dude who likes to hit people behind the head with a rock, extreme lactating and the perils of raping a corpse. What’s most shocking is how absurdly entertaining all this amorality actually is! If you like your comedies pitch black, you can’t go wrong with this one. ]

(27 Feb) Intacto (2003, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo) [ review ] 35