Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: The Widow of Saint-Pierre

[Written for The Stranger]

In 1849, on Saint-Pierre, a French-ruled island off the Newfoundland coast, two sailors rescued from the thickest winter fog in memory celebrate their deliverance by getting drunk and killing a man as a kind of stupid prank. One is sentenced to die; the other isn’t but dies anyway through a stroke of dumb luck. The survivor, Neel Auguste, has to be kept alive through the following spring because, unlike in the old days, the authorities can’t just shoot him or hang him. The law demands death by guillotine — “the widow” — and the nearest one is far to the south, in Martinique.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Shanghai Noon

[Written for Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A Chinese guy wearing Indian war paint, a braided waist-length ponytail, and a blue silk robe walks into an Old West saloon … and it’s Jackie Chan! Trust me, it’s funny. Cowboys snicker, barmaids stand agog, and human dynamo Jackie transforms a simple barfight into a night at the Chinese Opera.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: What Lies Beneath

[Written for Film.com]

Many of Robert Zemeckis’s films derive their energy from a technical challenge: how to combine real people with cartoons (Who Framed Roger Rabbit), how to reconfigure human bodies (Death Becomes Her), how to depict an alien world (Contact), how to make a fictional hero interact with news footage (Forrest Gump), how to put the same actor in the frame twice (Back to the Future Part II, an authentic piece of American weirdness and a movie that deserves better than to be lost in the middle of a popcorn trilogy).

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: X-Men

[Written for Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

When comic book movies get a bad rap, it’s largely because most comic book movies never quite understand their source. Director Brian Singer (The Usual Suspects) knows exactly what X-Men is about: it’s the pulp superhero version of Rebel Without a Cause, played as a parable in prejudice.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Bruce Reid, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: 8 1/2 Women

[Written for The Stranger]

All of Peter Greenaway’s films depend less on human emotion than they do on a particularly fierce adherence to preordained patterns. Because of this insistence, they are curiously immune to criticism. Call them callous, misanthropic, inhuman (all of which they certainly are), whatever you like; for the Greenaway fan, such objections have simply missed the point. Depending on your belief — is art about people, or simply a way of ordering an incoherent universe? — he is either a fraud or one of the greatest filmmakers currently working. 8 1/2 Women, his latest film, is no exception. For his fans, it may well be the finest thing he’s done; the rest of us will find it as grotesque and unwatchable as the rest of the director’s output.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: The Perfect Storm

[Written for Film.com]

The most authentic thing in The Perfect Storm is the fishing. The movie’s strong on process:  the fixing of bait, the hauling up of lines, the stowing of gutted swordfish in ice. The detail in these sequences is briny and gunky, like the matted beards of the fishermen; it has a natural cinematic appeal, because movies excel at showing how things work.

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Posted in: by Kathleen Murphy, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

Bobby Roth’s ‘Pearl’

Bobby Roth appeared on the film scene in the mid/late Seventies with a handful of insightful and clearly personal indie movies, a decade or so before “American independent cinema” became an official designation. The Boss’ Son and Circle of Power in particular impressed us, though they hardly prepared us for this writer-director’s breakout moment, the 1984 Heartbreakers — a sharply observed account of some trendy L.A. lives in crisis, featuring Peter Coyote in an Oscarworthy performance and commanding Ten Best acknowledgment (though, of course, no Oscar nominations). From then on, a Bobby Roth credit has been an earnest of quality and commitment above and beyond, whether on made-for-cable features — Baja Oklahoma, Dead Solid Perfect, Rainbow Drive — or episodes of smart shows such as Miami Vice, Crime Story, or (an especially memorable hour) the late, lamented Boomtown. Over the years, he’s continued to work in commercial television but squirreling away financing for his own, too-infrequent personal films: Jack the Dog, Manhood, and now Pearl — streaming August 11 on Amazon, Vudu, FandangoNow, iTunes, Comcast, et al. —Richard T. Jameson

Pearl tenderly unravels the ties that break and bind a colorfully flawed family—beautiful wild-child mom (Sarah Carter); suicidal father (Anthony LaPaglia), orphaned Beverly Hills princess-turned-pauper and her wonderfully boozy grandma (Barbara Williams). At the heart of Bobby Roth’s wise and redemptive film is Pearl, a 15-year-old who struggles out of horrific tragedy to stumble toward hard-earned maturity. (Larsen Thompson, the striking young actress who plays Pearl, presents her expressive face to the camera like a beautiful and precious gift.) Pearl quietly celebrates purpose regained for a lost father and daughter. It will ring true for any soul who has learned that life, blighted by terrible loss, may still flow on, seeking green pastures. —Kathleen Murphy

Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Trixie

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

Alan Rudolph has long evinced a tolerance, even love, for fringies, oddballs, and occasionally the clinically deranged. Hence it’s no great surprise that he should have dreamed up so addlepated and pixilated a character as Trixie Zurbo, a low-rent rent-a-cop with aspirations of becoming a wisecracking private eye and sleuthing her way to “the truth, the hole in the truth, and nothing but the truth.” Nor should there be more than momentary amazement that he managed to snare Shakespearean-trained and twice-Oscar-nominated Emily Watson for the part. Despite having remained a proud fringie himself for his quarter-century writing-directing career, Rudolph has an unimpeachable record of sticking to his utterly singular, artistically adventurous guns, and he’s earned the love of actors for offering them richly idiosyncratic opportunities and then supporting them to the max.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Wonderland

[Written for Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

Michael Winterbottom’s checkered career has been inconsistent at best, misdirected at worst. The stylistic chameleon practically remakes himself for each film, from the handsome but chilly restraint of the Thomas Hardy adaptation Jude to the hysterical explosion of sexual obsession in I Want You. The result is a career of fascinating failures driven by moments of pure cinematic passion.

In Wonderland, Winterbottom has found a script worthy of his passion. Writer Laurence Coriat mines the British social realist territory of Mike Leigh and Ken Loach — the travails of working class Brits kicking around their grimy cities — but leaves out the politics for a portrait of characters over the course of a long weekend, grasping for love in a bustling but indifferent world.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: The Claim

[Written for Film.com]

The Claim takes shape from two sources. The plot is from Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge, a great and beautiful novel that seems reasonably available for adaptation to the frozen California Gold Rush era. The style is taken from Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller, that gorgeous 1971 revisionist western shot in the Northwest rain and snow.

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