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

2000 Eyes: The Way of the Gun

[Written for The Herald]

“Fifteen million dollars is not money,” says a grizzled veteran of the criminal life. “It’s a motive with a universal adapter on it.” 

The tang of that dialogue signals the return of Christopher McQuarrie, whose screenplay for The Usual Suspects created the cult of Keyser Soze and won the unknown writer an Oscar. McQuarrie makes his directing debut with The Way of the Gun, another investigation of the criminal code. Though not destined to be as beloved as The Usual Suspects, this brutal, wickedly funny film is every bit as accomplished a piece of work. 

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

2000 Eyes: Film Noir (aka Koroshi)

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

Given world enough and time, Jim Thompson the pulp Camus (The Getaway, After Dark My Sweet) would have got round to writing about a poor Thompsonian schlub in Hokkaido, in the snowy north of Japan. Meanwhile, the protagonist of Masahiro Kobayashi’s Film Noir will do. He lost his job a while ago but, instead of admitting it to his wife, has been leaving their nifty A-frame every morning and pretending to drive off to work. Real destination: a mini–Las Vegas at a nearby mall, where he sits all day playing pachinko and hoping to win enough to keep them afloat. One day the place is unexpectedly closed. As our hero sits in his car trying to decide what else to do with his life, a spooky loner appears out of nowhere and makes him an offer. Why not turn hitman? Here’s a guy’s picture, here’s a gun, here’s even a set of instructional videos to get you started….

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

2000 Eyes: The Patriot

[Written for Film.com]

How can a filmmaker with this much bad taste be blessed with such a dazzling gift for making images? That’s the puzzle posed by The Patriot, directed by Roland Emmerich, the German-born creator of Independence Day and Godzilla. Emmerich is like a database of classic compositions and camera angles, spewing out gorgeous tableaux with a punch of his visual keyboard. When South Carolina plantation owner Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson) goes to his front door, and opens it to see a night battle waged in the trees on his farm, it’s an image out of a dream: musket-fire lighting up the darkness with white flashes, powder rising, the ghostly sound of voices.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Tom Keogh

2000 Eyes: Small Time Crooks

[Written for Film.com]

“My husband Otto was dyslexic,” recalls Elaine May’s sweet but ditzy character, May, in Woody Allen’s new film. “The only word he could read correctly was his own name.”

Ah, bliss. The return of an Allen trademark: a layered-in, conceptual one-liner counterpointing the hard narrative thrust of a scene. In this case, a scene in which both May and Allen’s characters are exercised about some criminal plans. The tossed-off gag gives the moment a shot more oxygen as only Allen can do, delighting in May’s surreal urgency unrelated to the crisis at hand.

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

2000 Eyes: Gladiator

[Written for Film.com]

Gladiator, a blockbuster-budgeted behemoth about ancient Rome, begins with a lyrical closeup of a man’s hand rippling through the wheat in a sun-dappled field. Yes, this has the look of director Ridley Scott, in that exciting/maddening way of his: it’s an image that could come from a tone poem, or from a TV commercial. Scott has always had both sides to his directorial personality, which I think is why I have a hard time referring to Alien and Blade Runner as classics (having never gotten over the thud of disappointment I felt on their opening days). In fact, for a highly regarded filmmaker, Scott has an awful lot to answer for, including G.I. Jane, 1492, and that horned fantasy Legend.

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