The MichaelVox Movie Review Weblog
Proudly Spewing Unsolicited Film Opinion Online Since 1996


O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?
2000


January 13, 2001

AMC Saratoga 14

-->The Coen Brothers [THE BIG LEBOWSKI; FARGO; THE HUDSUCKER PROXY; BARTON FINK; MILLER'S CROSSING; RAISING ARIZONA; BLOOD SIMPLE]
-->George Clooney [THE PERFECT STORM; FAIL SAFE; THREE KINGS; SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER, AND UNCUT; THE THIN RED LINE; OUT OF SIGHT; THE PEACEMAKER; BATMAN & ROBIN; ONE FINE DAY; FROM DUSK TILL DAWN; Doug Ross on E.R.]
-->John Turturro [ROUNDERS; HE GOT GAME; THE BIG LEBOWSKI; GIRL 6; QUIZ SHOW; BASEBALL; FEARLESS; BARTON FINK; JUNGLE FEVER; MILLER'S CROSSING; STATE OF GRACE; MO' BETTER BLUES; DO THE RIGHT THING; GUNG HO; HANNAH AND HER SISTERS; THE COLOR OF MONEY; TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A.; THE FLAMINGO KID; RAGING BULL]
-->Tim Blake Nelson [THE THIN RED LINE; DONNIE BRASCO]
-->John Goodman [THE BIG LEBOWSKI; THE HUDSUCKER PROXY; THE BABE; BARTON FINK; ARACHNOPHOBIA; SEA OF LOVE; ALWAYS; PUNCHLINE; RAISING ARIZONA; THE BIG EASY; REVENGE OF THE NERDS]
-->Holly Hunter [CRASH; HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS; COPYCAT; THE FIRM; THE PIANO; THE POSITIVELY TRUE ADVENTURES OF THE ALLEGED TEXAS CHEERLEADER-MURDERING MOM; ONCE AROUND; MISS FIRECRACKER; ALWAYS; ROE VS. WADE; BROADCAST NEWS; RAISING ARIZONA; BLOOD SIMPLE]
-->Charles Durning [JAZZ; ONE FINE DAY; HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS; I.Q.; THE HUDSUCKER PROXY; DICK TRACY; TOOTSIE; DOG DAY AFTERNOON; THE STING]
-->Michael Badalucco [YOU'VE GOT MAIL; Jimmy on THE PRACTICE; ONE FINE DAY; BASQUIAT; BLUE IN THE FACE; THE PROFESSIONAL; SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE; JUICE; JUNGLE FEVER; MEN OF RESPECT; MILLER'S CROSSING; THE GODFATHER, PART III; BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY; BROADWAY DANNY ROSE; RAGING BULL]

Three men from chain gang escape and travel to find gold hidden from armored car heist.

The Coens do this type of wacky film better than anybody. The love of the language that they show in this and BARTON FINK and THE HUDSUCKER PROXY is fabulous. Clooney is charismatic as the verbose 'leader' of the group of runaways. Goodman is memorable as a bible salesman. Based on Homer's THE ODYSSEY which I don't have to tell you, I've never read. They meet a colorful cast of characters as they make their way towards their goal of buried treasure. The wide-eyed look on Clooney's face when he's fighting or doesn't understand something is priceless. The music was fantastic countrified bluegrass. It was fun and great to look at.


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FIRST PERSON PLURAL
2000


January 7, 2001

P.O.V. on PBS

Produced by Deann Borshay.

Korean-American adoptee finds out she's not who she thinks she is and sets off to find her birth mother.

As an adoptee I was enthralled from start to finish. Borshay grew up all-american in the Bay Area, went to Berkeley, and started her life. As an adult, she felt something missing which started her search. The reunion scenes with her white and Korean families are a bit hard to watch. Borshay can't speak Korean, but the eyes of her birth family tell you all you need to know. Very well done.


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SWEET JANE
1998


January 7, 2001

The Movie Channel

Samantha Mathis. Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Addict Mathis is befriended by sickly kid Gordon-Levitt on the streets of Los Angeles.

This was my second viewing. See full-length review here. Still pretty touching. Clearly a low budget picture. Mathis is charming and Gordon-Levitt is believable and heartbreaking.


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SWEETHEARTS
1996


January 7, 2001

HBO

Janeane Garofalo. Margaret Cho. Bobcat Goldthwait.

Woman at the end of her rope turns blind date into a hostage situation.

The ReplayTV taped this on my Garofalo channel. I had never even heard of it. It had some good things to say about physical appearance and loneliness and had an extremely realistic portrayal of a bipolar person looking for love. Garofalo is heartbreaking and really shows that she can act here without being the sarcastic best friend. Goldthwait is in a nothing role where he sneaks away to the bathroom for a wank now and then. There is no one on the planet that dislikes Cho more than me. Go ahead, ask someone who knows me. However, in this role where she wasn't really allowed to ad-lib or do her 'fake asian voice' she was really pretty good. The several good scenes are overcome by a pretty ludicrous plot. When Garofalo isn't happy with her date, she then takes him hostage so that she doesn't have to spend the night before her birthday alone. Not very uplifting, but not terrible.


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CAST AWAY
2000


January 4, 2001

Century Capitol

Tom Hanks.

Fed Ex go-go employee is stranded on an island after his plane crashes.

Hanks gives another 'performance of the year' as he silently adapts to his surroundings on an isolated island. There isn't much of a plot. Hanks is a busy management type with Fed Ex (There has never been a more sympathetic and rah rah product ever presented in motion picture history). He loves Helen Hunt who we see for a good 4 minutes at the beginning. One of his transport planes crashes in a harrowing water landing (though not as harrowing as FEARLESS). He survives only to wash up on a desert island with no tools and little know-how. We learn along with him how to open cocoanuts, spear fish, and find shelter. Without Hanks here, you'd never be able to take it, especially with little dialogue and no music. Hanks is such a charismatic actor that you watch his every move. His acting is very believable, but we know it's Hanks on an island and peril will not come to him. On a related note, the trailer did a great disservice to the film by showing him 'escape' from the island. I've heard arguments that the story was deeper than 'will he or won't he survive'. But I'm sorry, every time he cuts himself, appears to be starving to death, or almost drowns while on the island, we feel no nervousness because we've seen him get home. Perhaps it was a pre-emptive strike by Zemekis, but I would have enjoyed it a whole lot more if I was worried as he looks over a cliff. I found myself concentrating on the acting and the scenery. They were both pleasing to the eye. From the second a tanker drives by his raft, the movie could have ended. But they pile on a few scenes, some of which hit the mark (Hanks investigates the all-seafood buffet spread in his luxury hotel suite), and some of which are terrible (Hanks sleeps on the floor like Crocodile Dundee). His later scenes with a now-married Hunt are pretty heartbreaking and Hunt finds a way to achieve a clingy wet-t-shirt look that won her an Oscar in AS GOOD AS IT GETS. There is a cross-roads scene that was unnecessary and amateurish with a final smile on Hanks' face.


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TRAFFIC
2000


January 3, 2001

Camera 3 Sneak Preview

Michael Douglas. Don Cheadle. Benicio Del Toro. Luis Guzman. Dennis Quaid. Catherine Zeta-Jones. Erika Christensen. Topher Grace. Miguel Ferrer. Amy Irving.

The traffic of cocaine from Mexico to the US is shown from many angles.

Fabulous, huge cast is believable from top to bottom. The performances are superb. One standout is Christensen as Douglas' drug abusing daughter. She perfectly captures the neediness of teens and their untargeted anger at the world around them. Her descent from prep school student to on-the-lam abuser is fascinating. It's not as stylish as Connelly's descent in REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, but her all-american looks are put to good use. The scene with her first heroin dose when a single tear of joy rolls down her cheek is unforgetable. The kid from THAT 70s SHOW is great as another rich kid who leads her to undesirables. I'm no fan of Zeta-Jones but she does a good job here as the naive wife of a bigwig trafficker. Her radical change from mousy wife to ball-crushing tough chick is one of the more unbelievable parts of the film. Del Toro is getting most of the press for his performance which is quiet and thoughtful and mostly in Spanish. If there's a problem with the film its that everyone can see what they want to in it. That is, if you believe in legalization of drugs, you'll find ammunition to support your idea. By the same token, if you want more border guards and less privacy rights, you'll see all you need on the screen as well. The film finds itself in the strange position of preaching to every choir.


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CHICKENRUN
2000


January 1, 2001

DVD

Voices of Mel Gibson. Miranda Richardson.

Egg-laying hens must escape their coop before being made into chicken pies.

Extremely creative claymation, but after hearing about how it was the best thing produced in 2000, I was left a bit disappointed. The fact that the filmmakers use stop-motion photography is very impressive, but it doesn't make the story any better. It was a pleasant diversion.


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REVERSAL OF FORTUNE
1990


January 1, 2001

HBO

Glenn Close. Jeremy Irons. Ron Silver. Annabella Sciorra. Felicity Huffman.

A European aristocrat, found guilty of attempting to murder his wealthy American wife, hires a brilliant lawyer to mount an appeal against the sentence.

I've probably seen this five times or so. The ReplayTV taped this and I was sucked in again. It's cool in that it's a whodoneit told by someone in a coma. The legal wrangling is interesting and Irons is just plain weird as Von Bulow. Good performances all around, but you can tell that it was based on a book by Dershowitz as his character is a bit too good to be true.


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THE BEACH
2000


December 31, 2000

DVD

Leonardo DiCaprio. Some hot french girl. The he-she from ORLANDO.

An American backpacker discovers that the rumour is true of a hippy community living by a perfect beach on a remote Thailand island.

The book THE BEACH was such a compelling ride that I read it quickly and suffered the tiredness that resulted. The idea of a utopia hidden from view, with responsibilities for each person is such an attractive idea. I really haven't stopped thinking about the book since I put it down. The buzz on this movie was that it was terrible, but shot in a beautiful location. I couldn't agree more. Thank god I read the book first. The film lacked the heart and indeed the entire point of the book. Characters did completely different things than they did in the book, in fact, arguably the second most important character in the book didn't even exist onscreen. But how was the movie on its own? Not bad. The locations were spectacular and the people attractive. There just wasn't much to it and the ending was ridiculous.

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DOUBLE JEOPARDY
1999


December 28, 2000

HBO

Ashley Judd. Tommy Lee Jones. Annabeth Gish.

Sentenced to prison for killing her husband, a wife discovers he framed her and that, when she gets out, she can kill him with impunity because she cannot be tried twice for the same offense.

I'd watch Ashley read the phone book, so the look wasn't the problem. And it wasn't as bad as EYE OF THE BEHOLDER. But it sucked anyway. Wasted talent against a beautiful backdrop. Logic holes everywhere you look.


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CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON
2000


(Wo Hu Zang Long)

December 27, 2000

Century Union City

Chow Yun Fat. Michelle Yeoh. Ziyi Zhang. Chen Chang.

A famous sword is stolen and two warriors fight a young woman and witch to get it and .... oh what's the use, I'm not sure what the plot is.

Every once in awhile a movie is so magical that you smile in the middle of it in spite of yourself. I smiled almost the whole time during this. Plot-wise there is vengence and honor and family tradition which you'd find in any martial arts film. What you don't usually see is an adult love story with separate couples one older, one younger, one unrequited, the other passionately played out. But the plot takes a decidedly back seat to the look and feel of the picture. The photography is magnificent. There are vistas in the desert and green trees swaying. The music is a perfect addition. And let's talk about the action sequences. Fighters fly over walls and skip along water and move their hands and feet so fast that you can barely see them. There are fights in restaurants and in courtyards and in the tree tops. They are quiet and beautiful and you'll grin from ear to ear during them. The women kick just as much ass as the men and they look fantastic doing it. Chow Yun-Fat has a hand-behind-his-back style of fencing that makes him even cooler than you thought he used to be. And the two lead women are so beautiful that you're amazed again and again just how frenetically they can fight. This Ziyi Zhang, in particular is almost tear-inducingly gorgeous, and quite an actress to boot. She finds romance in the desert with a bad-boy with a bachelor pad second to none. Go see this now. You won't regret it.

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TOY STORY 2
1999


December 22, 2000

DVD

Voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack. Kelsey Grammar. Don Rickles. Annie Potts.

A wicked toyshop owner steals the cowboy Woody so that he can complete a set of toys, based on a 50s TV show, and sell them to a Japanese museum.

As magical as the first one. Beautiful to look at. Funny, touching, and believable. Those guys at Pixar are amazing. The DVD transfer is spotless. Fun for the whole family.

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THE PERFECT STORM
2000


December 19, 2000

DVD

George Clooney. Mark Wahlberg. Diane Lane. John C. Reilly.

The swordboat Andrea Gail disappeared in a storm in 1991. This is the story of what probably happened.

The book THE PERFECT STORM was one of the greatest things I've ever read. I passed it around to people and each and every one of them loved it. On opening day, I was at the first showing of this film. This was my second viewing. Let's just say it lost something the second time. The effects weren't quite so stunning, the music was a bit heavy handed, and most of all the story was full of cardboard cutouts and manipulative characters. I still believe that the story is inherently compelling. I recommend Junger's book to everyone and the movie is good for a couple hours diversion. Clooney is a charismatic guy, you can see why his crew would head into a storm for him. It's a big Hollywood popcorn movie adapted from a fantastic, compelling character-driven book.

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I WANT YOU
1998


December 17, 2000

Sundance

Rachel Weisz. A cast of European unknowns.

A mute, voyeuristic youth observes the reunion of a hairdresser and her violent former lover, who has been released from prison after nine years.

My ReplayTV taped this without my consent. I'll be honest, I started watching just in case I could see THE MUMMY's Rachel Weisz with less clothing on than she had in that big budget adventure. I was not disappointed on that score. The movie didn't turn out to be too bad. It won some award for cinematography and it was shot very well. There is a boy who never talks who loves Weisz from a distance, the boy's sister is a singer who has refreshingly open sex with whomever she picks up that day, Weisz's ex-boyfriend is moody and quiet. It's a bit more style than substance, but the substance wasn't hard to look at.


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RETURN TO PARADISE
1998


December 17, 2000

Showtime

Vince Vaughn. Anne Heche. Joaquin Phoenix. Jada Pinkett Smith.

Two American men, who discover that their friend is about to be executed for drug offenses in Malaysia, have to choose between letting him die or returning to testify, and facing possible imprisonment themselves.

This film was much better than I expected. Young people forced to decide something on a huge moral scale. Do they sacrifice the next three years of their lives for a guy that was really no more than an acquaintance? Could they live with themselves if their buddy was killed because of the two of them? These ideas don't come up every day in movies. A romance between Heche and Vaughn is unneccesary but makes everyone's agenda a bit murkier. Vaughn is fantastic as a going-nowhere guy facing a decision that none of us would want.


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REQUIEM FOR A DREAM
2000


December 12, 2000

Camera 3

Jennifer Connelly. Ellen Burstyn. Jared Leto. Marlon Wayans. Christopher MacDonald.

Story of Coney Island drug addicts.

Connelly, Leto, and Wayans are all users who begin the film young and attractive and end up young and permanently messed up. Connelly in particular goes from the goddess that she is, to a heroin slut. All three of the actors are fabulous, but the film belongs to Burstyn. She needs to drop a few pounds to fit into her favorite dress. I crash diet leads to diet pills which leads to hallucinations. Her breakdown is both exhilarating and heartbreaking. The directing is frenetic and quickly edited. Usually this is a distraction, but in this case, it showed that taking drugs can sometimes be fun. Great job all around.


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