Between all this cooking I have been tending my orchid as well and believe it or not, it’s actually growing a third stalk that will be laddened with flowers.
And onto some films I’ve caught of late:
Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire
Precious is a film that demands watching and it suffers from the same challenge to review Brokeback Mountain wrought in that – to be politically correct – one is forced to be positive about the movie noting the subject matter. You can’t very well bash a black overweight teenager with two children compliments of her father and a mother who is violently punishing her as a way to deal with her own guilt. And poor Precious is struggling with literacy to boot. All we need added is a drug-addled sibling and a gay cousin and we’d have a real wing-dinger of a movie. Talk about opera! That all said, this film could have been a Sunday night at the movies train-wreck and it does suffer from its own hubris, but on the whole, it gives us two characters well drawn despite their brutal circumstances, filmed – thanks to Lee Daniels – in an MTV style that helps balance the brooding woe. Gabourey Sidbe is competent in her role as the center of this opera but the movie is Mo’Nique’s as the mother who’s wandered so far down a path darkly that when she finally sees the light, it is too late. While hardly inspirational, Precious is a good film that missed great film thanks squarely to Sapphire’s own material. My rating 8 out of 10.
This is a classic crime story filmed classically by director Brian De Palma. The Untouchables recounts the adventures of Treasury Department agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) and his near obsession in bringing Chicago gang leader Al Capone (Robert De Niro) to justice. Ness pulls together a ragtag team including Jimmy Malone (Sean Connery), George Stone (Andy Garcia) and accountant Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith) to the deed done. Along the way he battles with Capone’s henchman Frank Nitti (Billy Drago), is tempted into corruption and sees members of his team picked off by the violence that was Chicago in the early 1930s. While I continue to find the music of this film obtrusive to the nth degree, De Palma has captured the drama perfectly, despite the violence, and every star is pitch perfect, despite Costner’s rather one-dimensional approach. For showing us the seedy side of an ugly America, my rating 8 out of 10.
What does one do after filming, arguably, the greatest trilogy of all time? If you’re director Peter Jackson you tackle King Kong but of course. Jackson’s version of King Kong stays true to the original and takes it to new heights – and depths – with thanks to the wonder that is CG!. When struggling vaudeville actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) is picked up by the morally-bereft filmmaker Carl Denham (Jack Black) and convinced to join him on a steamer to Singapore, the stage is set. Denham has a layover planned en route to the notorious Skull Island and there, with the convenient advent of a quick love affair between Darrow and screen writer Jack Driscoll (Adrian Brody), the King Kong adventure really takes shape. Jackson pulls out all the stops and gives us an action packed, seat-of-your-pants ride alla Jurassic Park that towers above the wooden acting of Black (who is just dreadful) and Brody (who’s ability to convey any passion is as empty as King Kong is tall). But who cares really, the story here is about Kong and his girl and that story sells this film. While it was beauty that killed the beast true, the real beauty here is in Jackson’s magnificent world. My rating for the thrill of it all 9 out of 10.
Under the Tuscan Sun
Under the Tuscan Sun can be added to a short list of films so quintessential in their ability to portray areas of Italy they’ve become screen gems – A Room With a View, Death in Venice and Cinema Paradiso are three that pop immediately to mind. Directed by Audrey Wells, it stars Diane Lane as Frances, a recently divorced San Franciscan who builds a new life by buying a crumbling Italian villa while on a bus tour of Tuscany. Suspend reality sure. With the help of a local restate agent, she cobbles together a misfit crew of contractors to help her restore the villa and there, amid the ruins and rain, she finds a new lease on life that includes a new lover, Marcello (Raoul Bova), and the arrival of her best friend Patti (Sandra Oh) with baby in tow. Based on Frances Mayes’ novel of the same, Under the Tuscan Sun brims with joy and the truth there is always life after trauma. My rating 9 out of 10.
Antitrust requires us to suspend reality and believe the next big computer breakthrough rests with a fresh-from-high-school-tech-geek Ryan Philippe (as Milo) recruited to work for Tim Robbins (as the Bill Gates-like bad guy, Gary Winston). This thriller is directed by Peter Howitt and it starts strong and get the viewer hooked before crashing – so to speak – as it morphs from being a War Games-like thriller (without the social commentary edge) to a Mission Impossible escapade and a woefully bad one at at. When Rachel Leigh Cook, who stars as Milo’s conniving girlfriend with a secret life Lisa, adds her twist to the story half way through, we’re beyond really caring what happens but like a computer stuck with a virus, we sit and watch it in befuddled awe till the screen goes black. Thankfully black. For giving us 2 hours of blatantly anti-Microsoft bashing posing as a film, my rating 5 out of 10.
A film built on the back of its predecessors, Pitch Black roots itself on the whatever-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong vein of alien movie-making. Cue spacecraft on deep space mission. Cue crew on said spacecraft in hibernation. Cue one member of the crew actually a mean prisoner who should have been executed eons ago. Cue children. Cue crash landing of said spacecraft on creepy planet with too many suns and a perpetual Saharan look. And, of course, cue alien wasplike creatures that are hungry for them all when the suns finally drop below the horizon and plunge our actors in Pitch Black. Directed by David Twohy, the film is essentially a vehicle for Vin Diesel (as bad guy with no morals or heart Richard Riddick) and – frankly – it all works well. Diesel is good going about his duties and the film uses light and dark and shadow perfectly. While the character development pales|fails (take your pick), there is enough suspense and alien creepiness to make even the die hard tough guy turn on a light to rid themselves of the black. My rating 7 out of 10.