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Stranger Than Fiction (1999) Review


OK
I am beginning to detect a very strange associate with the surreal and the sub par. This is not to say that I have repented and become a born-again fanatic of American cheese-factory films and will worship John Hughes until my knees bleed. Instead, it is only to say that the last several films that I have watched that have had the intent of being surreal have ended up being sub par. For example, take The Sixth Sense, Naked Lunch, The Blair Witch Project and numerous other oddities that escape me at the moment, each film supposedly working off of the weird but instead going into the realm of the noddy viewer (or, in the case of The Blair Witch Project, the physical embodiment of a Pepto Bismol commercial).

The latest in this string of disappointments comes in the form of Stranger Than Fiction, a film which has countless plot twists that are not only predictable but come with predictable regularity. All one must keep in mind to crack this film open like the WWII Enigma cipher is that Stranger Than Fiction works off of the idea that Stranger Than Fiction does not bare any resemblance to actual life (aside from being a perfect demonstration of Murphy's Law) but instead goes more along the lines of every single B-movie mystery you have ever watched. With that implanted in your head, you will not have to sit through the boring second half of the movie which the narrator spends explaining what goes on.

Continue reading: Stranger Than Fiction (1999) Review

Conversations With Other Women Review


Excellent
Try to watch director Hans Canosa's Conversations with Other Women twice and in quick succession. The memories that haunt the film's reunited lovers subtly inform every look, line, and gesture between them. For that reason, the film not only stands up to, it demands subsequent viewings if one wants to fully appreciate its layers of double meanings and shaded subtext. What immediately sets Conversations apart is how, over its 85 minutes, it makes such fun and inventive use of the split-screen technique. The technique's most obvious function is to convey how the story's man and woman (Aaron Eckhart and Helena Bonham Carter), no matter their passion for each other, inhabit disparate and irreconcilable worlds. But it goes brilliantly beyond that, using split-screen also for flashbacks, triggered by memory, in which younger versions of the characters (Erik Eidem and Nora Zehetner), play out the halcyon days of their long-ago romance. What's more, the details of these flashbacks warp and alter, depending on who's doing the remembering. In an intriguing twist, the split-screen projects not only alternate versions of the past, but of the present too -- showing variations on small but important moments either as a character perceives they happened or he/she wishes they had. It's a sensationally expressive use of a tired cinematic device, now revitalized and itself revitalizing a tired genre.Conversations opens as a wedding reception at a posh New York City hotel winds down. A man and woman -- each alone, bored, slightly drunk -- strike up a conversation. Their manner is flirtatious, but the back-and-forth is barbed with sarcastic half-truths, and, at least from the woman's side, with the thorns of years-old grievances. The woman, we learn, was one of the bridesmaids. She's traveled here from London where she has a well-to-do cardiologist husband and three children waiting for her. The man has a 22-year-old girlfriend back at home, but he isn't sweating it; we get the sense he's had many a 22-year-old girlfriend waiting on him at one time or another. Rather, he's more taken with the woman, who's clearly more than a passing fancy.The two don't have much time; the woman's flight leaves at dawn. They repair to her hotel room where their bittersweet, often humorous verbal dance continues with a break for the inevitable catch-up sex. On the page, this all sounds corny. But, as remembrances layer one upon the other, this relationship takes on the darkness and depth of an epic love. Screenwriter Gabrielle Zavin freshens up stale love story conventions, and does so the right way: By creating distinct, well rounded characters. We piece together, bit by bit, the circumstances of the woman fleeing their troubled affair for safe harbor in London, and what perhaps followed in the years following their breakup. At times, Zavin's scenes can feel stagy and amateurish, forcing her characters from one beat to another as each seeks to fill the decade-plus gap since they were last together.Luckily, she's got Canosa's playful direction and two exceedingly likeable performers in Eckhart and Bonham Carter to help smooth out the crimps in her script. Eckhart works away his characters' mischievous charm till, tentatively, the man's emotional wounds begin to bare and bleed. To my mind, this is also the worthiest part Bonham Carter's had since 1997's The Wings of the Dove, and here she reminds us what an engaging dramatic presence she can be, and that she holds her own with today's best screen actors.Like Richard Linklater's Before Sunset and André Téchiné's Changing Times, Conversations is actually interested in the joys and pains of human relationships. Each of these films is about sensitive, intelligent adults negotiating with that least selfish of human ideals: Eternal Love. In every significant way, these films are rare gems in an age of impersonal, cookie-cutter filmmaking, a soothing salve for blockbuster-bruised cinemagoers starved, like Conversations' own lovers, for something real and substantial.Why would you talk to another woman anyway?

Zoe Review


Good
Think of it as Stand by She.

This all-female road movie/coming-of-age movie improves dramatically on the last attempt at this genre -- the Britney Spears vehicle Crossroads -- but unfortunately once Zoe (Vanessa Zima) loses her punk friends and hooks up with a British woman named Cecilia (Jenny Seagrove) and her cremated mother, the film loses some of its luster.

Continue reading: Zoe Review

Stranger Than Fiction Review


OK
I am beginning to detect a very strange associate with the surreal and the sub par. This is not to say that I have repented and become a born-again fanatic of American cheese-factory films and will worship John Hughes until my knees bleed. Instead, it is only to say that the last several films that I have watched that have had the intent of being surreal have ended up being sub par. For example, take The Sixth Sense, Naked Lunch, The Blair Witch Project and numerous other oddities that escape me at the moment, each film supposedly working off of the weird but instead going into the realm of the noddy viewer (or, in the case of The Blair Witch Project, the physical embodiment of a Pepto Bismol commercial).

The latest in this string of disappointments comes in the form of Stranger Than Fiction, a film which has countless plot twists that are not only predictable but come with predictable regularity. All one must keep in mind to crack this film open like the WWII Enigma cipher is that Stranger Than Fiction works off of the idea that Stranger Than Fiction does not bare any resemblance to actual life (aside from being a perfect demonstration of Murphy's Law) but instead goes more along the lines of every single B-movie mystery you have ever watched. With that implanted in your head, you will not have to sit through the boring second half of the movie which the narrator spends explaining what goes on.

Continue reading: Stranger Than Fiction Review

Dancing At The Blue Iguana Review


OK
I'm jaded enough as a film critic to be unsurprised when I see a movie about five strippers, all leading melodramatic and tragic lives.

But when those five strippers are all reasonably B-level or former A-level movie stars, even my ears start to perk up. Even more amazing -- they're all naked.

Continue reading: Dancing At The Blue Iguana Review

Kill Me Later Review


Terrible
Just about scrapes bottom, if for no other reason than the obnoxious camerawork and editing which has every scene re-enacted rapid-fire multiple times from multiple angles, usually with pulsing music over the whole thing. The story is wholesale idiotic, too: bank robber takes suicidal bank clerk hostage; she demands her death, he refuses. Oh, the hilarity! Anyway, Mr. Lustig, this isn't a music video, pal. Get it together.

Black & White (1998) Review


Weak
A promising thriller noir is ruined in its second half by a meandering plot that tries to get clever but ends up being pretty dumb. Gina Gershon and Rory Cochrane as cops investigating the elusive "inside job" are pretty bland and have no chemistry, even if Gina spends most of the film naked. Never mind the plot.
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Conversations With Other Women Movie Review

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Try to watch director Hans Canosa's Conversations with Other Women twice and in quick succession....

Conversations With Other Women Movie Review

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