The MichaelVox Movie Review Weblog
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BEAUTIFUL THING
1996


May 30, 2001
Showtime

Two teenage schoolboys on a South London housing estate fall in love with each other.

Stars a bunch of people I've never seen before using very strong accents. But as I watched, I could not imagine anyone in America making a film quite this sweet. The two boys come out at their own pace, playing sports at school, watching musicals at home. One has a mostly understanding crass mother, the other an abusive drunk father. It just seemed so real. There was no saxaphone-enhanced first kiss scene or montage of their relationship. It was an enjoyable little gem.

8.30 Critical Consensus
7.50 Ebert
7.50 Maltin


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THE PATRIOT
2000


May 28, 2001
HBO

-->Directed.....Roland Emmerich [Independence Day, Godzilla]
-->Written.....Robert Rodat [Fly Away Home, Saving Private Ryan]
-->Cinematography.....Caleb Deschanel [Apocalypse Now, The Black Stallion, Being There, The Right Stuff, Twin Peaks, Visions Of Light, Fly Away Home, Titanic, Hope Floats, Message In A Bottle]
-->Ben Martin.....Mel Gibson [Mad Max, The Road Warrior, The Bounty, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Lethal Weapon, Lethal Weapon 2, Bird On A Wire, Air America, Hamlet, Lethal Weapon 3, The Man Without A Face, Maverick, Braveheart, Pocahontas, Ransom, Lethal Weapon 4, Payback, Chicken Run]

A South Carolina farmer, who had success in previous battles, is reluctantly drawn into the Revolutionary War after one of his sons is killed by an English officer.

Not quite as bad as I thought it would be. Gibson is fine, as are the actors comprising his motley crew of militiamen. Every possible movie convention was used to bring out our cheers or tears, depending on the circumstances. Gibson's Ben Martin is the James Bond of musket-warfare, single-handledly taking on several dozen of the enemy. There was some remarkable brutality and personal vendettas that seemed more modern-day than old-school. People are burned alive and shot for no reason. I will say this, I was never bored throughout its almost 3 hour running time.

7.50 Ebert
7.50 Maltin
6.40 A Critical Consensus


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LOVE AND DEATH ON LONG ISLAND
1997


May 27, 2001
Independent Film Channel

-->Written And Directed.....Richard Kwietniowski
-->Giles De'Ath.....John Hurt [Midnight Express, Alien, The Elephant Man, The Osterman Weekend, Space Balls, White Mischief, Aria, Scandal, Rob Roy, Dead Man, Contact]
-->Ronnie Bostock.....Jason Priestley [Beverly Hills 90210, Tombstone, Eye Of The Beholder, Homicide: The Movie]

A reclusive intellectual British novelist becomes obsessed with a good-looking American actor, who appears in trashy movies, and goes to America to try to seduce him.

Fantastic from start to finish. John Hurt is some kind of actor. He goes to the movies to see how E.M. Forrester is translated to film. By mistake he ends up in a film called HOT PANTS COLLEGE II, which makes PORKY'S look like POTEMKIN. He is about to walk out when Ronnie Bostock appears onscreen. Hurt is forced to follow his crush with schoolgirl abandon. He buys teen beat magazines (wrapped in auto magazines, of course). He buys his first television set and VCR. He has his housekeeper go home early so that he can work on the scrapbooks he's made. He flys to Long Island hoping to meet him.

Hurt is normal and nice and polite and pitch-perfect. Priestley is a good sport, playing a young actor easily swayed by a compliment. When the two of them get together for a story-meeting, it is hilarious. Catch this one.

8.80 A Critical Consensus
8.75 Ebert
8.75 Maltin
** Halliwells


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DOLPHINS
1998


May 27, 2001
DVD

-->Written and Directed.....Farhad Yawari
-->Lara.....Julia Brendler
-->Jakob.....Marco Hofschneider [Immortal Beloved]

Surely the greatest 40 minute film in history. No dialogue. Beautiful music. Spectacular cinematography. This is not a nature film, but the story of a young woman in a mental institution who can only feel free when she dreams of swimming with dolphins. It is pure magic from start to finish. It is never slow. This was my fourth time watching and it effects me the same way each time. The colors are fabulous, the young woman (Julia Brendler) an absolute doll, and the feelings this film expresses do not require any character to speak. It's on a Film Fest DVD which is well worth the price for this short alone.


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THE ANNIVERSARY PARTY
2001


May 27, 2001
Camera Cinema Club

-->Written and Directed.....Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming
-->Cinematography.....John Bailey [3 Women, American Gigalo, Ordinary People, Continental Divide, The Big Chill, Racing With The Moon, The Pope Of Greenwich Village, Silverado, Brighton Beach Memoirs, The Accidental Tourist, Visions Of Life, Groundhog Day, In The Line Of Fire, Nobody's Fool, As Good As It Gets, Living Out Loud]
-->Sally Therrian.....Jennifer Jason Leigh [MichaelVox's Bravest Actress, MichaelVox's Highest Ratio of Sexiness to Inherent Attractiveness, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, Last Exit To Brooklyn, The Big Picture, Miami Blues, Backdraft, Rush, Single White Female, Short Cuts, The Hudsucker Proxy, Mrs. Parker And The Vicious Circle, Georgia, Boogie Nights, A Thousand Acres, eXistenZ, O Brother Where Art Thou?]
-->Also with Alan Cumming, Parker Posey, Phoebe Cates, Kevin Kline, the Kline kids, Jane Adams, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Beals, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

An estranged Hollywood couple is back together just in time for their sixth anniversary, and they invite all their friends up to the house of a party.

The incredible cast (including our bravest actress Leigh), couldn't rise above the feeling I got that this was one of those famous people writing a story for their famous friends in which the famous would talk about being famous. The people come to a party, there is drinking and screaming and crying and drug taking and secrets are told and jokes are cracked, but nothing really happens. There are funny bits, especially the ongoing feud with the neighbors about a barking dog, but the serious parts are just famous people yelling at themselves. The parts were almost all written for the individual actors and Kline seems to be having the most fun as a totally self-absorbed Oscar-winning actor. It was nice to see all this talent in one room, but as we watched them play Charades and drink Champagne, I thought is was more of a famous person's home movie, than an actual film. Besides that, who can believe Cumming as a womanizer? Shot digitally, the movie does look closer to film than any other digital feature I've seen. Maybe they're right about this format taking over all film exhibition.

Opens June 8 in selected cities.


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FELICIA'S JOURNEY
1999


May 26, 2001
Sundance Channel

A pregnant Irish girl comes to England to search for the father of her child, and is taken in by a middle-aged catering manager who lives alone in the family house once occupied by his mother, a TV cook.

7.50 Halliwells
7.50 Videohound
6.30 40 Critics
5.00 Maltin


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THE MAN WHO CRIED
2000


May 26, 2001
Camera 3


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THE VIRGIN SUICIDES
1999


May 25, 2001
DVD

-->Written and Directed.....Sofia Coppola [wife of Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich), daughter of Francis, neice of Talia Shire (Rocky), cousin of Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore), The Godfather, The Godfather, Part II, The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, Peggy Sue Got Married, New York Stories, The Godfather, Part III, Hearts Of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse, The Phantom Menace]
-->Lux Lisbon.....Kirsten Dunst [New York Stories, Little Women, Interview With The Vampire, Wag The Dog, Dick, Bring It On]
-->Trip Fontaine.....Josh Hartnett [Cracker, Pearl Harbor]
-->Mr. Lisbon.....James Woods [The Way We Were, The Onion Field, Against All Odds, Once Upon A Time In America, The Boost, Immediate Family, True Believer, The Hard Way, Straight Talk, Chaplin, The Specialist, Casino, Contact, The General's Daughter]

Interesting adaptation of one of my favorite books in that the writer/director (another Coppola) takes the material and changes it into a female-centered piece. Although the story is about a family of five attractive daughters who all kill themselves, the book focused mostly on how it affected the town and especially the boys who were smitten by them. In Coppola's hands, we see more of the inside of the Lisbons' house than we ever did in the book. It works because it's obvious that the book was special to Coppola. She loves the material. The book focused on how a pubescent crush can continue throughout a man's life. I am one of those men. It was thrilling to see someone put it down on the page as well as Jeffrey Eugenides did in the book. I recommend it highly.

The performances are all great, the music superb, and the sense of time and place authentic. Kirsten Dunst plays the sluttiest of the girls, Lux, and this is another in a long line of funky, off-beat characters that she has been playing lately. She is so absolutely charismatic that I look forward to every film she appears in.

As with any book-to-film adaptation, the reasons behind behavior are not fully fleshed out, but as a stand-alone film, it's worth a look, if only for Dunst, Hartnett, and James Woods as the goofiest dad/teacher you'll ever see.

40 Critics: 7.50
Maltin: 6.25
Videohound: 5.00


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WAKING THE DEAD
2000


May 23, 2001
Sundance Channel

Fielding Pierce.....Billy Crudup [Sleepers, Everyone Says I Love You, Inventing The Abbotts, Almost Famous]
Sarah Williams.....Jennifer Connelly [MichaelVox Top Five, Once Upon A Time In America, The Hot Spot, Career Opportunities, The Rocketeer, Higher Learning, Mulholland Falls, Inventing The Abbotts, Dark City, Requiem For A Dream]
Cinematography by Tom Richmond [Repo Man, Night Of The Comet, Hardbodies, Stand And Deliver, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, The Chocolate War, Pastime, Killing Zoe, Little Odessa, Slums of Beverly Hills]
Written by Scott Spencer and Robert Dillon
Directed by Keith Gordon [Jaws 2, Dressed To Kill, Christine, The Legend Of Billie Jean, Back To School, The Chocolate War, MichaelVox Top Drama of All Time: Homicide: Life On The Street (TBDSOTV), Wild Palms, Gideon's Crossing]

Young lovers want to make the world better in opposite ways, until the woman is killed, and the man begins thinking he sees her.

Completely romantic. Incredibly sexy leads are so convincingly in love, that if I was one of their significant others, I'd be asking some questions. The relationship grows at its own pace, slowly, like in real life. There are long discussions and dialogue-heavy scenes that add, rather than take away. One scene in particular takes place on the subway after she has made a scene at a political fundraiser. She apologizes, quietly at first, until they argue, and then make up, all in one uncut scene. It made me smile.

Fielding is a Coast Guard veteran who has aspirations to be President. Sarah is a leftist, who wants to change the world by her own hand. They embarrass each other at functions, they challenge the other one's view, but there is never any doubt that they love each other. I liked this one a lot.

40 Critics: 5.1


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L.A.P.D. BLUES
2001


May 19, 2001
Frontline


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LIBERTY HEIGHTS
1999


May 13, 2001
HBO

40 Critics: 7.8


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28 DAYS
2000


May 12, 2001
HBO

-->Gwen Cummings.....Sandra Bullock [Action, Demolition Man, The Vanishing, The Thing Called Love, Speed, While You Were Sleeping, The Net, A Time To Kill, Speed 2: Cruise Control, Hope Floats, The Prince of Egypt, Forces Of Nature]

Sandra Bullock is that rarest of actresses. She's probably number 50 or so on my 'stars I'd like to bonk' list, but she's number one on my 'stars I'd like to have a beer and hang out with' list. She just seems so normal and nice and not so incredibly hot that you couldn't form simple sentences.

Having said that, this is not a great film. She plays a writer of some kind sentenced to rehab after stealing her sister's limo and crashing it during her sister's wedding. We follow her as she gets the shakes and runs away and smuggles stuff in. All the acting is good, but she's a spoiled writer when she goes in and she sort of remains one when she comes out. Moral of the story: addiction is a tough thing to overcome. End of story. Good points for using Indie God Steve Buscemi in a small supporting role.

40 Critics: 4.2


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SE7EN
1995


May 12, 2001
DVD

-->Directed.....David Fincher [Return Of The Jedi, Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, Alien 3, The Game, Being John Malkovich, Fight Club, Keeping The Faith]
-->Cinematography.....Darius Khondji [Stealing Beauty, Evita, Alien Resurrection, The Beach]
-->William Somerset.....Morgan Freeman [Street Smart, Clean and Sober, Lean On Me, Driving Miss Daisy, Glory (MichaelVox Top Ten), Johnny Handsome, The Civil War, Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, Unforgiven, The Shawshank Redemption, Outbreak, Moll Flanders, Chain Reaction, Kiss The Girls, Amistad, Deep Impact]
-->David Mills.....Brad Pitt [Less Than Zero, Thelma And Louise, A River Runs Through It, True Romance, Kalifornia, Interview With The Vampire, Legends Of The Fall, Twelve Monkeys, Sleepers, The Devil's Own, Being John Makovich, Fight Club]
-->Tracy Mills.....Gwnyth Paltrow [Hook, Malice, Flesh And Bone, Mrs. Parker And The Vicious Circle, Jefferson In Paris, Moonlight And Valentino, The Pallbearer, Emma, Sydney, Great Expectations, Sliding Doors, Shakespeare In Love, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Bounce]

Old detective's last and young detective's first case is a killer who uses the seven deadly sins for his motive.

Among the most depressing films ever made, it's also thrilling in a way. Made by the same guy who did FIGHT CLUB, one of my all time favorites. The New Line DVD is packed with all kinds of stuff including different endings, cut scenes, and a music only track. The unbilled killer is perfection. Morgan Freeman is cranky and believable. Brad Pitt is all hyperness and we see his tender scenes with then lover Gwyneth Paltrow.

40 Critics: 7.0


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DICK
1999


May 12, 2001
Showtime

-->Directed.....Andrew Fleming
-->Written.....Andrew Fleming and Sheryl Longin
-->Cinematography.....Alexander Gruszynski [Tremors, I Like It Like That]
-->Betsy Jobs.....Kirsten Dunst [E.R., Gun, New York Stories, Little Women, Interview With The Vampire, Wag The Dog, Bring It On]
-->Arlene Lorenzo.....Michelle Williams [Dawson's Creek, A Thousand Acres, If These Walls Could Talk 2]
-->President Richard M. Nixon.....Dan Hedaya [Hill St. Blues, St. Elsewhere, L.A. Law, Cheers, NYPD Blue, Homicide: Life On The Street (TBDSOTV), Reckless, Blood Simple, Running Scared, The Flamingo Kid, Tune In Tomorrow, Pacific Heights, The Addams Family, Benny & Joon, Searching For Bobby Fisher, Mr. Wonderful, For Love Or Money, Maverick, The Usual Suspects, Clueless, To Die For, The First Wives Club, Freeway, Ransom, Daylight, Marvin's Room, In & Out, Alien Resurrection]

Two ditzy teenagers bumble their way into being President Nixon's dogwalkers, while observing the White House in the midst of the Watergate crisis.

Extremely creative and funny. The women are witnesses (although they have no idea) to every major event of Watergate. They see shredding, they prank call Woodward and Bernstein who think they're sources, they get the Secret Service high by mistake. Much much better than I thought it would be. Williams has a sweet quality, and Dunst is absolutely something special in everything she does. I shook my head at the creative ways they moved the plot along. The reason for the 18 minutes of black tape is extremely funny. Check it out.

40 Critics: 7.6


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LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
1962


May 9, 2001
DVD

-->Directed.....David Lean [Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, The Bridge On The River Kwai]
-->Cinematography.....Freddie Young
-->T.E. Lawrence.....Peter O'Toole [Caligula, The Last Emperor]
-->Prince Feisal.....Alec Guinness [Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, The Bridge On The River Kwai, Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back]
-->Auda abu Tayi.....Anthony Quinn [Mobsters, Only The Lonely, Jungle Fever, A Walk In The Clouds]

An adventurer's life with the Arabs, told in flashback, after his accidental death in the thirties.

The DVD looks great. The widescreen is really wide. The story is long, but never boring. We aren't told why some bands of Arabs are nice and some are not. We also don't really ever know Mr. Lawrence himself. It's a remarkable achievement, what with the raking the sand between takes and all. Everyone is good. Omar Sharif in particular. The extras on the double-DVD are pretty good, including old black and white promotional films.

Ratings:
Halliwell's: 10
Videohound: 10
Videohound War: 10
Maltin: 10

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THE TAO OF STEVE
2000


May 6, 2001
DVD

-->Directed.....Jenniphr Goodman
-->Written.....Duncan North and Greer Goodman
-->Dex.....Donal Logue [X-Files, Northern Exposure, Gun, The Practice, Felicity, Sneakers, And The Band Played On, Gettysburg, Little Women, Disclosure, Diabolique, Jerry Maguire, Metro, Blade, The Thin Red Line, Runaway Bride]

Obese, underacheiving teacher uses the ideas of the great philosophers to pick up chicks.

Logue inhabits the role of huge guy, whose charm woos women, with flair. The dialogue is natural and hilarious. Logue's Dex has all the comebacks that you'd expect an underachieving slacker to have when faced with responsibility. It is clear he's smart, just not driven. His many ethical rules pretty much boil down to "pretend like you don't want her, and she'll chase you". Shot in and around Santa Fe, NM. The beauty of the landscape sort of puts you at ease at once.

The DVD commentary is so funny that I had to rewind on several occasions. The real Dex is the guy who wrote it and he and Logue and the sister team of director and writer/star all try to shout over each other to make a point. You can tell they had a great time making it.


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REMEMBER THE TITANS
2000


May 4, 2001
DVD

-->Directed.....Boaz Yakin [The Rookie, Fresh, A Price Above Rubies]
-->Written.....Gregory Allen Howard
-->Cinematography.....Philippe Rousselot [Hope And Glory, Dangerous Liaisons, Trop Belle Pour Toi (Too Beautiful For You), We're No Angels, Henry & June, A River Runs Through It, Flesh And Bone, La Reine Margot (Queen Margot), Interview With The Vampire, Mary Reilly, The People Vs. Larry Flynt]
-->Coach Herman Boone.....Denzel Washington [St. Elsewhere, A Soldier's Story, Power, Cry Freedom, Glory, The Mighty Quinn, Mo' Better Blues, Mississippi Masala, Richochet, Malcolm X, Much Ado About Nothing, The Pelican Brief, Philadelphia, Crimson Tide, Virtuosity, Devil In A Blue Dress, Courage Under Fire, He Got Game, The Siege]

Black coach is selected to take over integrated high school football program from very popular white coach.

Denzel could read the phone book and I'd watch. In the spirit of Rudy, watch this film without thinking about it. Every possible cliche in football film or black-and-white-race relations film history is redone here. It's funny and never boring. The football is pretty cool. The bad guys are bad and the good guys are good. Denzel makes you want to suit up and play for him, that's for sure. Nothing objectionable here and yes, I teared up a few times, but then again I'm a sap.


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BOILER ROOM
2000


May 4, 2001
DVD

-->Written and Directed.....Ben Younger [Walking And Talking]
-->Cinematography.....Enrique Chediak [Hurricane Streets]
-->Seth Davis.....Giovanni Ribisi [The Wonder Years, NYPD Blue, X-Files, Friends, The Positively True Adventures Of The Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom, That Thing You Do, Saving Private Ryan, Gone In Sixty Seconds]
-->Chris Varick.....Vin Diesel [Saving Private Ryan, The Iron Giant]
-->Abby.....Nia Long [E.R., Boyz N The Hood, Made In America, Love Jones, Soul Food, If These Walls Could Talk 2]
-->Greg.....Nicky Katt [V, Friends, Gremlins, Sister Act, Dazed and Confused, The Cure, Strange Days, A Time To Kill, Batman & Robin, One True Thing, Boston Public]
-->Jim Young.....Ben Affleck [Megaforce, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, School Ties, Dazed And Confused, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Good Will Hunting, Armageddon, Shakespeare In Love, Forces Of Nature, Dogma, Bounce]

Ambitious young man joins a shady securities firm.

Ribisi is a fine actor and the story begins in a very exciting manner. Haven't you ever wondered what the people are like on the other end of that sales call you've been getting at home? Ribisi is taken into a take-no-prisoner securities firm. We learn how the game is played as he does. His supervisor (Katt) is miserable, his trainer (Affleck) could sell snow to Eskimos. It's best not to think too much about it. Why Nia Long's character picks Ribisi out of the hundreds of well-groomed white boys at the firm is never fully explained. It had a good hip hop style. Absolutely fell apart about 2/3 of the way through.



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BADKONAKE SEFID
(THE WHITE BALLOON)
1995


May 3, 2001
The Sundance Channel

-->Directed.....Jafar Panahi
-->Written.....Abbas Kiarostami [Taste Of Cherry]

Young Iranian girl sets out to buy a goldfish for New Year's with money her mother has given her.

Absolutely Iranian. Slow, collection of set pieces. Girl walks until she meets a character, then they talk until she meets the next person. All actors non-professional. A bit suspenseful with girl on her own for much of the film. Colorful cast of characters with different accents. Girl and her older brother absolute dolls. Told in real time.


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