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The Lake House (2006)
"Somewhere in Time" for the 21st Century
I saw this movie on opening night, June 16, 2006 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
My favourite movie of all time was "Somewhere in Time" (1980) which starred Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. I have often wished that someone would remake, not that movie - because it is perfect as is, but more the sensibility and many of the themes of that movie.
There are many parallels here. It is partly set in Chicago. It is about time travel of a sort that relates to time blocking you from the one you love. Christopher Plummer, who played Jane Seymour's manager in "Somewhere in Time" here plays a variation on that crotchety character in the role of Keanu Reeves' father - nicely bookending his career. Also, the similarity in the last names of the lead - Christopher Reeve; Keanu Reeves.
There are so many things I loved about this movie. The soundtrack was pitch perfect, including everything from Nick Drake to Carole King. The wardrobe was beautifully chosen, conveying warmth and romance. The script was measured and never overblown. The performances were genuine and real, even though the subject matter could be taken as fanciful by the unromantic at heart. The direction and cinematography were breathtaking. I would have given it a 10 but for the fact that in some spots the looping for dates was a bit off.
There are many twists and turns, and you never know until the last moment how it will actually end. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time and sobbing by the end of it. This is the movie I have been waiting for Keanu Reeves to make for the longest time - I always knew he had this performance in him, but was disappointed by the artificiality of films like Sweet November. And Sandra Bullock has never been better. This is a new addition to my all time top five movies.
You will never look at slow dancing the same way again. I promise.
The Wait Was Worth It
I have anxiously awaited this film since it was originally supposed to be released last year.
I am very disappointed in how the studio has abandoned this film - very little promo, unintelligible trailers. It seems that they didn't know how to promote it at all. And don't even get me started on the critics. Shame on them.
Stay is a genius existential fantasy with a star-making turn by a tormented Ryan Gosling. As usual, Ewan McGregor is solid, brilliant and you can't take your eyes off him. He continues to show his excellent taste in choosing films, indie or otherwise.
But the real stars are, without question, director Marc Forster and writer David Benioff. Stay is a moveable feast, a filmic surrealist/impressionist painting of staggering beauty and quality. You have never seen New York like you see it in this film.
The script keeps you guessing right to the final scene. If you do not pay complete attention from beginning to end, you will miss the genius of the piece. It makes The Sixth Sense look like, um, child's play.
I was there
I am very proud of how this movie turned out. I was one of the three thousand extras used in the climactic U.S. vs U.S.S.R. scenes and let me tell you it was a gruelling shoot.
It was during the heat wave last June, so it was 35 degrees Celsius outside and really difficult to breathe. It was marginally cooler inside but not by much. It was amazing to watch how they managed to pull off the unique feat of finally getting hockey on film properly. The camera guys, the grips and the assistant director (Pete Whyte, amazing) were all on skates. The extras were screaming almost non-stop for 12 to 15 hours at a time. I had no voice left at the end of it.
But the coolest thing was this. After screaming "U.S.A." over and over for several hours, we had a moment of quiet while they were setting up a shot. Suddenly, slowly, a roar started to build, in wave after wave. We were looking around, trying to figure out what was going on, because the cameras weren't rolling. Finally, up in the rafters, we noticed that someone had hung a Canadian flag for everyone to see. The roar became deafening. Production assistants were falling over themselves trying to get up to the rafters to get it down because they were worried it would ruin the shot. Pete Whyte, in obvious awe, came over the P.A. system in a low voice and said, "That, was coool..."
He seemed to realize that we were running out of energy and as brilliant directors do, he came up with a way to get us up and running again. He had someone tug the flag down and toss it onto the ice. Then he did two things. He had a poster made that he set face down on top of the Russian net. When the cameras were rolling and he wanted us to react to the final U.S. goal and go berserk, he skated behind the Russian goal and flipped the sign up. It said, "Canada Kicks Ass." He then picked up the Canadian flag and skated up and down the ice, holding onto two corners of it and let it fly over his head.
It was a beautiful thing. So, say what you want about the country politics involved in the script of the film, but in fact it is Canadian pride that shines in every frame.
The Last Samurai (2003)
Tom Cruise still can't act
It's true what they say about the cinematography of this film, it's sweeping and brilliant. But it's almost a scene for scene remake of Dances with Wolves (See Entertainment Weekly, Dances with Sushi, Rolling Stone, Dances with Samurai...you get the picture).
It's not a very original script, Tom Cruise still is only a movie star, not an actor. His phrasing repeatedly jumps into the 21st century, it's annoying. For more believability see Jude Law, Cold Mountain - the role Tom dumped at the last minute due to not being paid enough, doing this movie instead. Interestingly enough, both Tom and Jude have been nominated for Golden Globes for best actor.
The only things that stand out in this movie are Ken Watanabe and Shin, who plays his son is a complete revelation. The Japanese actors in this film wipe the floor with the American ones.
Jake 2.0 (2003)
If you like Buffy...
I love this show - I hope it has enough ratings to stick. Christopher Gorham is a great and natural actor - he makes the show. If you like Buffy, you'll find a few of the same people work on this show. Christophe Beck does the music (he won Emmys for scoring Buffy), Anya Coloff is in casting, David Greenwalt (Co-producer of Angel) is the executive producer. It's shot in Vancouver, just across the water from me, not in Washington DC where it's set, but the stock footage is more seamless than most other shows that do the same thing.
Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
a joy to behold
Finally, a film that encompasses all that is good about British film. A solid, brilliant cast takes you on a journey that is at once joyful, romantic, sad, frustrating and fulfilling. Jonathan Rhys Meyers turns in an understated but note perfect performance as the Irish soccer coach. But the revelation is the performances of the two lead actress, especially the girl who plays Jess, the Indian girl torn between allegiances to her traditional parents and to the game which underscores her modern identity. You will leave feeling like you have been on an emotional roller coaster, but you will never forget the pure joy of this film.
The Pianist (2002)
In itself, a composition rivalling the masters
A small warning. This is a very dark film, but at its heart it is a story of survival and hope.
Adrien Brody is astonishing in his low key portrayal of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a brilliant Jewish pianist who is dragged into the Warsaw ghetto and beyond by the Nazis. Brody, who carries the film alone for a good part of the time, shows that just when you believe that someone's humanity could not survive, you can be proven wrong by one man's strength of character.
There is a scene close to the end of the film that is beyond beauty, that shows Szpilman's spirit's survival in the face of sheer horror. It is this scene, when Szpilman finally is able to play piano again in the most ironic of situations, that I believe won Polanski and Brody their Oscars respectively.
Quite honestly a film you will not forget.
The Crow (1994)
A touching elegy for a life cut short
I was unprepared for this movie when I first saw it in 1994. The film had become more than just a film, but a touching elegy for the gifted Brandon Lee.
The producers were put into a bind when during filming, Lee was accidentally killed when a cast member shot at him and the gun malfunctioned sending debris into a major artery of his body. The producers had to quickly decide if the film would be finished at all.
I'm glad they finished it because it is a moving piece of work. You can hardly see the seams where body doubles and early versions of CGI were used to fill in the blanks.
It is the story of Eric Draven, the rock musician who returns from the grave to avenge the brutal murder of his fiancee, Shelly. It is a stylistic wonder. And Lee shows so much promise in his line delivery and balletic grace. It is dark, and given Lee's demise, it is chilling and ironic.