Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Frida (2002) [R] ****

Frida is the story of artist and political radical Frida Kahlo (played by Salma Hayek), how her artistic career began at eighteen years of age as the result of a painful bus accident following which she was confined to bed for several months, her complicated life-long relationship with her much older husband and teacher, famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera (played by Alfred Molina), her brief affair with writer Leon Trotsky (played by Geoffrey Rush), and her romantic relationships with women like Tina Modotti (played by Ashley Judd).

While I had been curious about Frida Kahlo and her artistic connection with the Mexican muralists (Orozco, Rivera and Siqueiros), I was equally interested in how Salma Hayek would portray her. Salma gave an inspired performance, as though she were channeling Frida Kahlo herself, and her 2003 Academy Award nomination for Best Actress was well deserved. If you enjoy period biographical romantic dramas, films like Bright Star and The Young Victoria, you probably will enjoy Frida.

Among the Special Features on the DVD you may find The Interview with Salma, and this gave me as much enjoyment as the film itself. The interviewer’s voice has been edited out, and what remains feels like a 35-minute stream-of-consciousness monologue. Salma talks about her nine-year struggle to make Frida, her discovery of director Julie Taymor and how the project came together so perfectly. Salma also talks about her approach to the art and craft of acting, and about her philosophy of life. It is a beautiful presentation, spoken from her heart, and Salma is absolutely radiant. Don't miss The Interview with Salma. And, finally, if you enjoy Salma Hayek, I can highly recommend Fools Rush In, a cross-cultural, light romantic comedy in which she stars with Matthew Perry. It's a great date movie, so don't miss it. 

Labels: biography, drama, lesbian, romance
Internet Movie Database
Metacritic 61/100
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=69, viewers=74)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Daniel Deronda (2002) [UR] ***

Daniel Deronda (Hugh Dancy) is the ward of a wealthy Englishman. He knows nothing of his origins, and yearns to find a path in life and something meaningful to do. Meanwhile he uses his generous allowance to aid less fortunate young women. Recovering a treasured bracelet for beautiful but arrogant Gwendolyn Harleth (Romola Garai), and saving the life of depressed and drowning Mirah Lapidoth (Jodhi May) involve Deronda in two love triangles, simultaneously.

This BBC production is well acted with gorgeous sets and costumes, but it moves much too slowly, and the plot line hangs much too precariously on chance encounters in the London Jewish ghetto and the Genoa, Italy harbor. Had this been a two-hour production, rather than three-and-one-half hours, and had Hugh Dancy displayed a little more passion and energy in his role, this would have been an even more satisfying romantic drama. Regardless, if you have enjoyed Hugh Dancy in romantic comedies or dramas, films like The Sleeping Dictionary, The Jane Austen Book Club or Adam, then you won’t want to miss Daniel Deronda

Labels: drama, history, romance

Internet Movie Database
Tomatometer (critics=NA, viewers=82)

Life or Something Like It (2002) [PG-13] ***

Lanie (Angelina Jolie) is the Seattle Life lady, a reporter for a Seattle TV station. Pete (Edward Burns) is the cameraman with whom she's had a personal and professional love-hate relationship for several years. One day, Lanie and Pete are doing a local-color piece on Prophet Jack (Tony Shalhoub), a homeless man who sees visions about sports events, weather and financial markets, and makes predictions while standing on a box on a downtown Seattle sidewalk.

On this day, however, Prophet Jack sees something very dark in Lanie's future, and blurts out, apologetically, that she is going to die the following Thursday. Lanie is at first skeptical and then angry; she thinks Pete has paid Jack to shake up her perfect world, as a practical joke. However, when Jack's predictions about football game scores, hailstorms and earthquakes begin to come true, Lanie is forced to take his vision of her death seriously. She begins to examine her life, what's important to her, her personal goals, and her relationships with her father, her sister, her co-workers and especially with Pete.

This film offers a lot of food for thought, and the screenwriting is excellent. The cast is outstanding; Angelina Jolie and Edward Burns have terrific chemistry, Tony Shalhoub is perfect as Prophet Jack, and the supporting cast is great, especially Christian Kane as Lanie's Seattle Mariners baseball player boyfriend Cal Cooper, and Melissa Errico as her reporter girlfriend Andrea. If you enjoy meant-to-be-together romantic comedies in which a third person acts as a catalyst, films like The Family ManSleepless in Seattle, or While You Were Sleeping, you might really enjoy Life or Something Like It. 

Labels: comedy, romance     
Internet Movie Database 5.8/10     
Metacritic 31/100     
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=45, viewers=56)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I'm with Lucy (2002) [R] ****

This is a delicious romantic comedy about the pitfalls of the real-life thirty-something dating scene. After Lucy (Monica Potter) is dumped by the perfect man she goes into a mourning period and refuses to date anyone. Finally her sister Jo (Julianne Nicholson) pushes her into a blind date and over the following year, Lucy goes out on five of them.

The way the film examines each blind date is really inventive. We see the first few minutes of each of the five dates in succession. Then we see some more of each of the dates, and then still more. It's very clever because we learn more and more about Lucy at the same time we are learning about each of the five men. And because the men are so unique and well drawn, we see Lucy responding to each of them in ways she would not respond to any of the others. She gets drunk with one date, has passionate, hot sex with another, gets into a fight with another... and so on.

Monica Potter, besides being achingly beautiful, has an adorable, trusting innocence about her. While this is technically a comedy, the characters play it seriously... because, after all, marriage is a life-changing decision. Screenplay, direction and soundtrack are all excellent. The casting is especially good for Lucy's five dates, including John Hannah, Gael Garcia Bernal, Anthony LaPaglia, David Boreanaz and Henry Thomas. If you enjoyed About Adam with Stuart Townsend and Kate Hudson, Little City with Penelope Ann Miller, Joanna Going and Jon Bon Jovi, or the earlier Monica Potter film The Very Thought of You with Rufus Sewell, you probably will really enjoy I'm with Lucy.

Labels: comedy, romance     
Internet Movie Database     
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=NA, viewers=62)

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Rookie (2002) [G] ****

The game of baseball is a wonderful metaphor for life. Each of us is like a batter, standing at home plate, with our life stretching out before us like the distance along the base paths, and with all of life's tests and trials to be faced, like the opposing team's players arrayed against us in the field. The Rookie uses this metaphor to tell a true story, one that contains all of the elements of the perfect human drama: the man who pursued his childhood dream to be a major league pitcher; the high school kids he challenged and encouraged, and who challenged and encouraged him; the wife who supported him; the son who idolized him; the parents who, belatedly, recognized the greatness in their son.

Don't miss this touching, heart-warming story of dreams and love and fulfillment. The Rookie ranks with the best baseball-themed romances of all times, including The NaturalBull DurhamField of DreamsMr. Baseball and For Love of the GameDennis Quaid is terrific as Jim Morris, a man with a dream. Rachel Griffiths is equally terrific as his wife, Lorri, and there is a wonderful chemistry between them. 

Labels: baseball, biography, drama, family, high school, teenager
Internet Movie Database
Metacritic 72/100
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=72, viewers=66)
Wikipedia - Jim Morris