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Stupeur et tremblements (2003)
For a European Japanophile like myself, this film was a must-see. A culture-shock comedy about a young Belgian woman going to work as an interpreter for a large Japanese corporation - what more could one want? And for the first half hour, the film delivered exactly as I had hoped. The caricature of the ultra-disciplinarian Japanese working environment was acute and funny, as were the situations the protagonist found herself in. I was enjoying myself big time, eager for the plot to develop further. Which it continuously failed to do. About half way through, it became painfully clear to me that this was not a comedy at all - it was an autobiographical account of the author's real-life experiences - and real-life experiences do not a good movie make.
The film is actually based on the semi-autobiographical (and prize-winning) novel by famed Belgian writer Amelie Nothomb, who was in fact born in Japan. You would think that she too would be a Japanophile, having lived and worked there, which makes the tone of the film even more surprising. Having created a perfect opportunity to give Western audiences a glimpse of Japanese culture, Nothomb seems determined to sabotage it by showing the Japanese in a solely negative light. Once the viewer's delusions of lesbianism have evaporated, the story arc can best be described as a slow plummet, and shockingly (as another reviewer has pointed out) there is not one scene that takes place outside the office building. Maybe this was deliberate, maybe it was due to budgetary constraints, I don't know. But it is an unforgivable mistake for a film of this nature, and makes the story that much more monotonous. Which is pretty monotonous, given that it focuses somewhat selfishly on the one main character, who doesn't even do anything particularly interesting.
I'm probably going easy on this film because it was in Japanese and I understood some snippets. Maybe when I have seen some more Japanese films I will be able to come back and give an unbiased review ;)
The best thing about this film was the title sequence
What did this film gain from being backwards? Nothing! The entire plot was known after 20 minutes. What did this film gain from Gaspar Noé's crazy spinning floating camera and nauseating effects? Nothing! Maybe if the film had been done forwards, we would be able to understand why the "Rectum" scene is filmed in Blair Witch style, and we would not want to walk out of the cinema.
The only thing this film has going for it is a variety of very strong scenes. The face-smashing scene, the rape scene, the party, the subway, and the bedroom scene were all riveting in very different ways. Unfortunately these great scenes were completely let down by the rest of the film, which is an ugly mess.
SPOILER: bring a sick bag, this film has an interactive ending that'll bring out the epileptic hiding inside you!
Chicago Cab (1997)
Worthy if a little limp
Though this film may be pretty light on story, it raises some thought-provoking situations and might even make the viewer reflect on their own life for a brief moment just like the main character does in the final scenes. The material is deftly handled and there is a gradually increasing sense of unease throughout the film that something terrible is going to happen sooner or later in the cab. Well, I don't want to spoil it; something does happen, just not exactly what we might have been expecting. An interesting twist to the tale. I must say Paul Dillon was very good. I spent the whole film weighing up his character and trying to decide whether he was a bit slow, extremely reserved, or terminally depressed. In the end not everything is revealed about his character; it's kind of left up to the viewer's interpretation. Nice. He was certainly unlike anyone I've ever known. It's just a pity that some of the episodes in the cab were a bit flat and didn't gel too well with each other. Maybe with a slightly more experienced team behind the scenes, and the same general premise and character arc, this could have been a bigger hit.
L'auberge espagnole (2002)
Struck a chord...
What can I say? This film really struck a chord with me - I loved it to bits. I've never been in the same situation as the main character, but somehow I identified with him completely. As his new life in Barcelona blossomed, I was filled with intense jealousy of what he had, and how brave he had been to go out and achieve it, yet also with a deep chagrin that I would probably never be able to do the same. Life moves pretty fast - the words of Ferris Bueller have never seemed so real. This is a film to inspire kids, yet it also has themes that older generations will connect with - notably the feeling of loss that we have all been through at some point in our lives. This film is certain to make you feel nostalgic about the happiest times of your youth. Far from being an emotional manipulator like many critically-acclaimed films these days, this film is sincere and from the heart, and what you get from it will probably depend largely on who you are. Personalised emotional content aside, the film is fast-paced, stylish and frequently humorous, generally likeable, sometimes sketchy and directionless, sometimes a little forced (i.e. just like real life). A work of genius. Oh, and if you've ever been to Barcelona, the memories will all come flooding back to you...
Very good. The acting was commendable, but I felt it was Tom Tykwer's direction that held the movie together. At times I was thinking "Yes, this scene is beautifully filmed, Kieslowski is indeed a genius" until I remembered that he was dead and Tykwer was directing. The script was excellent. There was a lot of subtlety in it - mixed emotions; characters hiding things from each other and from the audience; a sense of uncertainty throughout... there was some effective symbolism too, although the one part I didn't quite understand was the physical transformation of the two fugitives, which felt like it was supposed to mean something deeper but kind of passed me by. The ending was good - managing to be typically different from your average ending, while remaining completely clear and reinforcing the meaning of the film in its entirety. After the film has finished you can reflect on which of the characters went to heaven, and why, and whether they went there together, and even at what point in the film their journey began, or ended.
I shall conclude by saying that my favourite scene of the film was a 5-10 second still shot of a beautifully serene landscape.
The word which best describes this film is Lavish. The acting, choreography, camerawork, cinematography, art direction, costumes, make-up and music were all top-notch.
Unfortunately, the story sucked like a Dyson Twin Cyclone.
The first twenty minutes were enchanting; the remaining 160 minutes bored me to tears. During the last hour I was just praying for it to end as soon as possible. I have no idea why the film-makers felt the need to make this film 3 hours long, because they could have chopped half of it out and been left with a fun romantic musical.
This film suffered from the same flaws as Moulin Rouge, however in this case, if you were to tip all the reels of film out onto the floor, finding the good bits would be like finding a needle in a celluloid haystack.
Comédie de l'innocence (2000)
Not up to much
Recommended for fans of Isabelle Huppert only. Her performance is good as always, but nothing else in the film seems to fit very well. The premise is not at all bad, but the film loses its direction fast. The director only confuses things further by trying to make it seem like a chilling supernatural horror tale, when in reality it is not. Not too painful to sit through, but a waste of time and money nonetheless.
Monster's Ball (2001)
I don't need to praise the actors and director of this film - other people have already done that.
The one thing I do wish to add is that this film has the most original, refreshing and moving ending I have seen in a film of its kind. As endings go, this is second only to The Sixth Sense. Great film.
Le raid (2002)
This French screwball comedy is really quite dire.
The four main characters are the most annoying characters ever to appear in a film, and should all be shot (especially the one with the slitty eyes).
On the other hand, Helene de Fougerolles is really good-looking.
The humour of the film is horrifically bad, with the exception of the brief exchanges between the UN general and captain. Unfortunately this only lasts about 30 seconds, and Helene de Fougerolles takes up maybe 20-25 minutes of screen time in total, so for the remaining 70 minutes you will be regretting your miserable existence.
Probably aimed at a target audience of 14-year-old boys, it misses all possible human audiences by miles. Then again, worse films have been made...
À la folie... pas du tout (2002)
Quite interesting thriller about a woman (Audrey Tautou) who is obsessed with a married doctor (Samuel Le Bihan) and leads herself to believe that he is in love with her. Fairly typical Fatal Attraction type of idea, with a bit of Ran-esque multi-point-of-view-ism going on there too. It sounds ripped off, but it's actually quite well written, and the various crossings of paths of the characters give rise to an interesting story. It's also a nice-looking film - most of the actors and actresses are very good-looking and the locations are the kind of nice, clean, grassy, sunny, flowery places seen in most of Hollywood's romantic comedies. Sophie Guillemin's character is drastically under-used.
There are plenty of aspects to praise but if I had to say one bad thing about this film, it's that the ending sucks. 8/10
Kate & Leopold (2001)
After last year's relative flop of Someone Like You (aka Animal Attraction), Hugh Jackman finds himself with another chance to make himself a household name in a light, New-York-based romantic comedy. His part in this film is fairly good, however the film as a whole doesn't even measure up to his previous effort (which wasn't particularly memorable itself).
The concept of the film is unashamedly unoriginal - a blatant combination of the "fish out of water" comedy, with the typical "boy meets girl, they fall in love" romance which has been done so many times before. The first half of this combo succeeds; the second does not.
The best thing about this film is the dialogue. Hugh Jackman's character has travelled through time from 18th century England, and some of the things he has to say about modern day New York are very colourful, very funny and rather well delivered. However, only Jackman's dialogue is any good - most of Meg Ryan's lines are utterly vapid ("You need help, Stuart. You need help.") and her character seems generally unmotivated. It's almost as if the two parts were written by different people, one of whom had an iota of creative talent.
To add to this problem, there is not much chemistry between Ryan and Jackman. At least, if there is, James Mangold does a pretty poor job of showing it - switching between shots of the two leads with various random expressions on their faces. The relationship should be based on the actions, and dialogue, of the two characters; here, there is little or no interaction taking place, and we can only assume that the bond developing between them is 100% physical attraction. This is quite a serious problem - it seems as if the film-makers think you can just stick two attractive people on screen together, and that having them fall in love is the logical result. It's not. It's unrealistic. Especially since Ryan's character seems for the most part to be a depressed, career-driven woman who wants nothing to do with the male contingent of the population.
All that aside, there is still something for me to criticise; the basic premise, for starters, is obviously rather silly, but I'll forgive that; the intricacies of the plot which make up the story are very contrived - something needs smoothing out at the script stage; the main subplot seems irrelevant and unnecessary; the Moon River bit was a very unimaginative way to insert some romantic New-Yorkicism; the list goes on, leading to a film which in most places just doesn't feel right.
Thumbs up for Jackman's dialogue (and his performance in general - he comes off as a likeable fellow and good romantic lead) and a couple of other comedic moments (thanks to Breckin Meyer)... Thumbs down to pretty much the whole rest of it. It may seem a bit harsh, but it didn't do much for me. And I know Meg Ryan can do better than this.
Oh, and for all the goof-spotters out there: Puccini's La Boheme premiered in 1898... 100 years after Leopold's time. Oops.
The Musketeer (2001)
a guilty pleasure
OK, I know this film got just about the worst possible reviews from everyone, everywhere, but for me it was great fun to watch. It's one of those guilty pleasures, the wannabe blockbusters with a bad script, worse actors and cheese written all over it, which flop disastrously at the box office and get rented out about once a year from your local video store. However, if you correctly anticipate the film as one of this kind, and expect nothing more, then you'll be more than pleased with it. Yup, the script is pretty dire. The story is nothing if not formulaic, and the acting is wooden from the entire cast apart from Tim Roth, who does a decent baddie. There's a big climactic fight scene, the heroes win, d'Artagnan gets the girl and everyone goes home in time for tea. It's a recipe for a turkey, but surprisingly the trimmings taste very good indeed. For starters there's a lively, brash score à la Superman, great costumes all around, authentic-looking sets and very nice production design. Secondly the action is intense - the fight scenes are quite amazing, on a par with things like The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Some of the fights even have a comedic Jackie-Chan-type element to them which is very well done. It's a shame, because the film could have done a lot better than it did, and it seems like they ran into some problems while making it - it feels like it was intended to be a grandiose two or two and a half hour epic, but had to be brutally edited down to under two hours for some financial or contractual reason. There are lots of scenes which have noticeable chunks hacked out of them, leading to minor plot holes and a sense of discontinuity. Casting was also a problem area, with French, English and American actors sounding very French, English and American, and quite inappropriate alongside each other. Inexperienced crew, or money problems, or something else? I don't know, but D'Artagnan deserves better. It deserves to be a cult flop like Starship Troopers or Waterworld. At least that's what I think, so don't blame me if you're not included in this particular cult.
Mulholland Dr. (2001)
and now for something completely different...
I just went to see Mulholland Drive. I came out of the cinema, and I had no idea whatsoever what just happened in there! I'm not going to bother trying to analyse what happened in the film or reach some kind of logical explanation, because I'd almost certainly get stuck somewhere and make myself sound like a ponce.
One thing is for sure though - the film was utterly compelling from start to finish. I remember realising about halfway through how great it was, and then thinking that there were so many loose story strands hanging around and doors that had been opened, that it would never be able to all tie up in a nice neat conclusion. Mulholland Drive is a vast plate of spaghetti, and the fork David Lynch gives us is the optical illusion with four prongs at the top and three at the bottom.
There were a lot of amazing elements about the film - the acting was superb (I love that fake, sitcommish American smiliness that Lynch writes into so many of his scenes), the cinematography flawless as always, the images on screen intriguing, scary, beautiful and supernatural. As ever the music contributes hugely to creating atmosphere and scaring our pants off without anything even happening on screen.
If you can tolerate the lack of logic, coherence and reason in the plot, then this film will make you think a million and one thoughts and should soon establish itself as one of your favourites.
My expertly written comments on Serendipity
The plot of Serendipity is nothing if not predictable. The premise feels like it has been done a hundred times before, or at least cobbled together from a dozen similar films.
However, Serendipity has two great things: Kate Beckinsale, and Manhattan; and I can thereby forgive it all its potential flaws. Both of the above "objets de beauté" are shown in the perfect light - they sparkle on the screen, full of colour and life. I am currently in love with them both, and expect to be for some time.
There are some silly characters and daft acting, but there is enough chemistry between Cusack and Beckinsale in the first 15 minutes to make the premise work. The intricacies of the plot are equally silly, but mostly in a cute way. The director also knows how to break up a film in an artistic way with some really nice time-lapse establishing shots and upbeat musical interludes to keep our chestnuts roasting nicely.
The film as a whole is something to treasure - very simple, very light, but well-crafted and beautifully made with a real loving touch from the director. If you liked this, watch Forces of Nature with Sandra Bullock and Ben Affleck - a very similar film in many ways. And vice-versa of course.
Station Jim (2001)
This enchanting tale of a small railway station in the English countryside will appeal to adults and children alike. There is plenty of plot going on with an orphanage that must be saved (echoes of The Cider House Rules), a blossoming romance (featuring Laura Fraser - yum yum), and an impending visit to the station by HRH Queen Victoria. And it's all held together by a feisty little Jack Russell called Jim who always saves the day and will charm the pants off of anyone who watches it. Wonderful.
Le peuple migrateur (2001)
boring but beautiful
On the plus side, this film has absolutely stupendous photography which shows off the natural beauty of all corners of our planet, as well as some potentially interesting wildlife pictures. The amount of time and effort that has gone into making this film is off the scale of normal motion pictures.
However, with no storyline, sparse dialogue and repetitive structure its 90 minutes start to seem a lot more like 3 hours. Then again, I've seen plenty of normal dramatic films which were far less interesting than this.
Recommended for "arty people" who are willing to suffer in the name of artistic enlightenment. Or something.
Dumping Elaine (2001)
very confusing... but good
This short film is rather confusing - and intentionally so. A couple who frequently visit the same restaurant are always having conversations which lead a pair of nosy waitresses to think that they are breaking up. Or are they? Are they even together? Is he having an affair? Or is she? Who is about to be dumped? And just who is the elusive Elaine?!?
Don't worry, it all starts to make sense after the third or fourth viewing. And once you've got it (or think you have), the script suddenly goes from being random and meaningless, to clever and intricate. The icing on the cake is the beautiful soft-edged blurry look of the whole film. Classy.
Elisabeth Shue... well she can just come on round to my place any time she chooses
Do not watch this film for the plot, it sucks big time. In fact, almost all aspects of this film suck big time.
However, if you are of the male persuasion, everything will be forgiven and forgotten in an instant, all thanks to Elisabeth Shue. This beautiful and underrated actress delivers the most lust-filled and sexually-charged performance you are likely to find outside of a porn film. And all without removing a stitch of her (admittedly figure-hugging) clothing. Because of this performance, I can watch this film over and over again and be absolutely mesmerised every time.
Apart from this, though, there is very little in the film worth seeing. Woody Harrelson provides some decent support, but Chloe Sevigny is, well, skanky, and Gina Gershon's pointless part was reportedly written in after shooting to make the rapidly collapsing story work better. It is only Shue who keeps the film from being one of those dire, low-budget, badly-acted TV movies that ends up being shown every Tuesady at 4am on one of the movie channels.
No Man's Land (2001)
A war film for Europeans...
Finally, a war film that isn't all about Americans. No Man's Land takes a cynical look at the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1993; the war between the Serbs and the Croats.
Cynical... absurdist... tongue-in-cheek... the film avoids making a statement about the war and who is fighting who; instead we get two sworn enemy soldiers who don't even have the guts to kill one another, UN peacekeeping troops who can't find a common language amongst themselves let alone communicate with the Bosnians, and a gang of press reporters who outnumber the soldiers and know more about what is going on than anyone else involved.
Yes, it is a war film, but there are no airstrikes, no missiles, no platoons of infantry charging at each other in combat. A few shots are fired, and a handful of people die, but that's it. There are no heroes here, just total confusion and chaos.
Deceptive in nature but utterly charming and compelling underneath, the film thrives on Danis Tanovic's humour which promotes silliness but never comes close to overstepping the boundaries of credibility.
The film is riveting from first minute to last, which is testament to Tanovic's Cannes-prize-winning screenplay, and although the inevitable conclusion is left unspoken, the 90 minutes that preceded it seemed so wholesome and refreshing that I have to award it full marks: 10 out of 10.
Un chien andalou (1929)
Shocking? Shockingly bad...
Is this supposed to be a film? I think not. Then what is it? Art? If you expect to see a film, you will be disappointed - Un Chien Andalou just comes across as some kind of demented practical joke by its masterminds, Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali. As you watch its logicless madness, you can just imagine the pair of them sitting together, laughing their heads off at all the gullible people they have tricked into watching this puerile ejaculation that nobody sane could start to comprehend.
It is certainly true that the film contains some memorable images which have become legendary in the history of film... but the rest of it? What about the inane captions we are presented with: "Eight years later" ... "In the Spring" ... "Sixteen years earlier" ... none of these serve any purpose but to confuse the viewer who is trying to find reason or meaning in the film. Some people say that it is full of hidden meanings, but in my personal opinion, it is just one big farce by two artists who knew they would one day achieve great things.
You should certainly see it if you want to call yourself an educated film viewer; just don't expect it to be classic Bunuel genius like "Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie" for example. Thank God it is only 15 minutes long, unlike "L'age d'or" which runs at 60 minutes of insanity.
Moulin Rouge! (2001)
Brilliant but flawed
Moulin Rouge is an amazing film, you cannot deny it that. I cannot praise it highly enough. The musical numbers are a work of genius, and show excellence in every single aspect of film-making, and some aspects you didn't even know existed. It shows touches of brilliance in places where other films don't even have places. The acting is superb and because the acting is superb the casting is superb. The singing is wonderful too. The duets between Nicole and Ewan are delightful, and the no-holds-barred in-your-face song and dance routines are breathtaking. Musically, there is genius stamped all over this film - where else are you going to find Lady Marmalade blended perfectly with Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit; Madonna's Like A Virgin re-worked into a mini-operetta; or a love serenade that glides seamlessly from The Beatles to Whitney Houston without seeming out of place? And at the heart of it all, a tragic love story so simple and pure that it could have flowed from the pen of Shakespeare or been scrawled by the stylus of Homer.
And yet, this high-concept simplicity of the story proves to be the downfall of the film. With no other concepts on the menu other than Ewan's undying love for Nicole, and her predicament, the film is doomed from the onset - it has nowhere to go but towards its final destination, and nothing to do but repeat itself until it gets there. There are several key lines and song lyrics in the film which will stick in your head at the end; but were you astute enough to notice that the only reason they stuck is because you heard them six times each? It's as though the writers had a photocopying problem and ended up with a rogue page of dialogue repeatedly popping up elsewhere in the script. Either that or Baz Luhrmann is unaccustomed to the phrase "flogging a dead horse". That major plot simplicity gripe aside, the only other thing that irked me was the cinematography - a lot of the time images looked as though they had very little depth of field and poor reproduction of dark colours, almost as if they had been shot on a poor-quality DV camera. Maybe this was intentional and maybe not, but either way it did the film no favours. Having said which, all the colours and digitally-enhanced bits were vibrant, and you can forget any stunning landscape or sunset shots you may have seen in your life, because the close-ups of Nicole's face have redefined the meaning of beautiful cinematography - at least in my humble opinion :)
Anyway, as you can probably tell by my words, Moulin Rouge is a two-faced demon of a film - at its best, inspired, uplifting, and beautiful; and at its worst, repetitive, clichéd, and overly simplistic.
I'm sure it will be remembered forever for its daring originality in bringing a forgotten genre back to life, but whether it deserves a place in our memories as one of the all-time great films... is highly debatable to say the least.
La faute à Voltaire (2000)
bear with it and be rewarded
How come so few people have seen this film? It is good. Not brilliant, but definitely good, and if I had gone for an epic bathroom break about halfway through the film and returned in time for the end, I would have given it a 10. The theme of the film is the life of North African immigrants living in France, and its main protagonist is Jallel (Sami Bouajila), a young Tunisian man who has entered France as a stowaway and manages to blag his way to a temporary visa by telling customs he is a political refugee from Algeria. Jallel is a sympathetic and kind-hearted person, an all-round nice guy and a very good main character for the film. We follow him as he tries to find work and stay alive in a society which largely rejects him because he is an illegal immigrant with no papers. He manages to find friends and shelter amongst the immigrant community of Paris, and once he has a steady source of income, illegally selling fruit in the subway, he proceeds to embark on a rollercoaster ride of emotion with some of the women he meets in his little world. The first half of the film is upbeat and a joy to watch. Then there is a huge turning point about halfway through, after which the film becomes rather stale and boring. This is partly due to Elodie Bouchez's performance as a needy and stress-inducing young girl who is a few sandwiches short of a picnic. This is undoubtably an amazing, award-worthy performance, but this film really does not benefit from it. In an instant we are thrown from a relaxed, happy state, into a headachey pit of despair. This is when it's worthwhile taking the aforementioned bathroom break. However, things get much better in the last half-hour, when Bouchez's character becomes happier and more involved with those around her, and we get another joyful song and dance routine. The very end of the film is a bit sad, as we look back on Jallel's time in France and can't help feeling for him - he was such a nice guy, and deserved a better life, but the only mistakes he made were being kind, caring, and supportive of his friends. Despite the boring/painful spell in the third quarter, the film is very good and well worth watching. The French might be quite hard to keep up with if you are not fluent in the language, but that's what subtitles are for.
Playing by Heart (1998)
Better than Magnolia... and shorter
This film reminded me very much of Magnolia - it features several apparently separate storylines which all turn out to be linked in some way. It's fair to say that the interlinkages here are much less interesting and believable, and far more cheesy than those of Magnolia, but the film makes up for it by running to a trim 2 hours, and leaving us wanting more of each segment rather than wishing there were less. So, unless you're one of those ultra-patient people who can sit through all 170-something minutes of Magnolia without scratching your ass, then I'd have to say that Playing By Heart is the better film. The cast are all excellent, especially Angelina Jolie, and the film has an overall lighter note to it than its big brother (despite dealing with love affairs, death, terminal illness, one-eyed cats...) I was somewhat surprised to see that the writer/director Willard Carroll has a career based on kids' movies, notably the Brave Little Toaster canon... truly a man of multiple talents ;)
La double vie de Véronique (1991)
A very sophisticated commentary
A very beautiful, if somewhat confusing, film. A lot of the people commenting here have already said it, but I will repeat it anyway: Irene Jacob does a fantastic job in this film in terms of acting, and she's angelically beautiful too. Although there is very little dialogue, she conveys a huge amount to the audience - another example of Kieslowski's genius for visual narrative. Her performance, combined with the fantastic cinematography, shot composition and selection, and music, make this film a treasure to behold. Virtually every single frame of this film would look amazing if you blew it up and hung it on your wall in a picture frame, and I bet that if you sat blindfold in your living room while the film played, you would have a pretty amazing experience as well. The storyline of the film was admittedly fractured and vague a lot of the time, but sitting here a couple of hours after watching it, things are starting to click in my head. The Polish part was fine in terms of narrative, very engaging. Then we cross over to France, and we are shown a lot of tiny snippets of Veronique's life, which we immediately try to start piecing together to form a story. None of these snippets ever join together to form something concrete... this is Veronique's lostness and confusion as she searches for something to fill the void left by Veronika. At least that's what I think. There are still parts I don't understand, such as what exactly happened outside the cafe where she meets the puppeteer, and what happens at the end of the film when Veronique touches the bark of a tree and we see her father inside the house. Strange. Maybe I will understand more when I see the film again, which I certainly will - but probably best to wait at least 6 months. The only gripe I have with the film is that it seemed a bit drawn out and boring about 3/4 of the way through, when very little was happening... but I have to forgive Kieslowski this because a film this great doesn't come along very often.
Weaver top, Hewitt plop
This is a pretty funny movie as you may have gathered from all the other comments. As a comedy, the script is very good throughout with some sparkling scenes and one-liners. The big let-down though is the characterisation which is largely absent. There are only three characters who have any real substance to them: Sigourney Weaver's Max, Jennifer Love Hewitt's Page, and Gene Hackman's outrageous spluttering billionaire, William B Tensy. Unfortunately, Hackman only has about twenty minutes in the picture, and Jennifer Love Hewitt displays a woodenness which would make Pinocchio shed a tear of compassion. Despite performing all the physical actions the director has requested of her, and speaking her lines in that clear and perky manner of several young starlets, she manages to give bring no life to her character whatsoever. Sitting in the audience, you will wonder if she is playing her natural self, trying too hard to be funny, completely misinterpreting the role, or if that's just the best she can do in a comedic role. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure she will go on to become a popular "bankable star" and make millions... but if she is ever hoping to achieve any kind of recognition for her acting ability, I would seriously recommend that she take her trade elsewhere. At the opposite end of the spectrum is Sigourney Weaver, who delivers just the sort of fantastic comedic performance that critics might consider nominating for an award (although I suspect the film is just a bit too silly for this to happen). Not that this is any great surprise, since she has proved her aptitude for comedy time and again in Ghostbusters, Dave and Galaxy Quest. Here, she has a whale of a time waltzing around in numerous costumes, wigs and accents, playing the flirtatious and deceptive sides of her character to maximum effect. She is without a doubt the best thing in this movie and the glue that holds it together; although the script shares out the gags fairly evenly between its characters, most of them are just too boring (Jason Lee), stereotypical (Ray Liotta) or short-lived (Hackman) to have an impact. Which is a pity, since the concept stretches a long way and a huge hit could have been on the cards. Nevertheless, the film is entertaining enough and worth seeing (in my humble opinion) for Sigourney Weaver's triumphant performance, especially as a Russian! Meanwhile the cinematography is crisp, clear and colourful throughout, and the score by John Debney and Danny Elfman is energetic and very complementary to the movie. 7.5/10