Magnolia

In the San Fernando Valley, a selection seemingly disconnected group of people are going through some fairly heavy moments in their live. Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) is dying in bed, being cared for by his nurse Phil (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who is tasked with finding Earl’s estranged son. Earl’s much-younger trophy wife, Linda (Julianne Moore), is struggling to deal with the imminent death of her husband. Officer Jim (John C. Reilly) is called to investigate a disturbance, which leads to a potential murder case. Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman) is a genius child contestant on the TV Game Show What Do Kids Know?, and is just a few days away from breaking that show’s record of most consecutive wins. Jimmy Gator hosts the show, and has done for decades, but has just been diagnosed with cancer, with just months to live. Jimmy’s daughter, Claudia (Melora Walters), has a difficult relationship with her father, as well as a cocaine habit and various other issues in her life, whilst Donnie Smith (William H. Macy), a former child star contestant on the aforementioned TV show, has seen his fame squandered and life thrown in turmoil when he loses his job at an electronics store. Finally, Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise) runs a self-help seminar on men who wish to be more successful with ladies. Mid-show, he gives an interview to a reporter (April Grace) that doesn’t necessarily go as he plans. All these stories, and more besides, will become interwoven over the course of the film’s next 24 hours.
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Raiders of the Lost Ark

I think I may be approaching the 1001 Movies List (and the other lists I’m going through) from something of a skewed perspective, in that I may be crossing off a few too many of the “better” movies before I get to the ones I’m not looking forward to as much. Bearing in mind yesterday I reviewed Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and today sees me tackling Raiders of the Lost Ark, I need to make sure I don’t eat all of my dessert before getting to the vegetables, as I also recently crossed off Back to the Future, Taxi Driver, RoboCop, To Kill A Mockingbird, Fargo and Boogie Nights as well. That being said, Bueller and Raiders made for a most enjoyable weekend of movie watching, with a little Jurassic Park: The Lost World thrown in for good measure (I’ll be writing something about that for French Toast Sunday this weekend, where we’re celebrating July with a month dedicated to Steven Spielberg, hence the Raiders viewing). Spielberg is one of my favourite directors, which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise considering he’s the guy behind Jurassic Park, the greatest movie ever made, but now I get the chance to talk about another one of the masterpieces he brought into cinemas. Continue reading

Boogie Nights

At the tail end of the 70s, times were a-changin’ for many folks, including those involved in the production of adult films. Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg) is bussing tables in a nightclub, regularly frequented by porn director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), his cast and crew. Adams, who later will become known as Dirk Diggler, is somewhat gifted in a manner that would be beneficial in adult cinema, so he soon finds himself working in Jack’s pictures. This film chronicles the highs and lows of working in such an industry, not just for Dirk, but Jack, his leading lady Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), other cast members Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly), Buck Swope (Don Cheadle), Becky Barnett (Nicole Ari Parker) and Rollergirl (Heather Graham) and their crew, including Little Bill (William H. Macy) and Scotty J. (Philip Seymour Hoffman).Boogie 04 Continue reading

Unlisted: Chocolat

That’s right, some weeks I don’t go to the cinema or watch a new DVD release, I’ve got a fairly large and ever-increasing stack of non-List DVDs I either haven’t seen before or haven’t really watched properly (I have films on in the background a lot, especially when I was at university) and this regular feature gives me some motivation to get through them.
Just in time for Easter, and after a messy, sticky but god damn delicious bout of chocolate egg making, we sat down to watch Chocolat, a film that’s been on my radar ever since it was discussed with much vigour in the disappointing Paul Rudd vehicle I Love You, Man, as his character’s favourite film. Just like when I rushed out to watch Point Break on Danny Butterman’s recommendation (I’ve been known to enjoy Bad Boys 2) I was more than a little disappointed, as I went in with higher hopes than I probably should.
Chocolat sees Juliette Binoche’s master chocolatier opening up a cocoa boutique in a sleepy little French village, just at the start of lent. The villagers initially shun her temptations, before gradually growing to accept them and their delicious ways, assisted by her worldly knowledge, kind soul and the fact that some of her products act as an extreme aphrodisiac, an aspect that was severely underused, and could have led to a much more light hearted and entertaining piece, as at one point it seemed to be heading towards.
Overall, the tone was far too unbalanced; whimsical at times and overly serious at others, and the myriad of diversions – Alfred Molina’s stern mayor attempting to My Fair Lady Peter Stormare’s abusive barman, Binoche’s unfulfilling fling with sailing drifter Johnny Depp – leave the palate tempted but wanting for more depth. The outer shell is sweet and smooth, but alas where a rich praline centre should be there is nought but a hollow cavity. Everything looks delicious though, and I picked up a few tips for my own chocolate making.
Choose life 5/10

Spiderman 1 & 2

Never has a film been more squarely aimed at the nerds and outsiders of the world (OK, maybe Revenge of the Nerds), the guys with the smarts but not the brawn, good looks, athletic bodies and hot girlfriends. Fortunately, this description neatly encapsulates the majority of the superhero genre’s existing fanbase.
Tobey Maguire is Peter Parker, the afore-mentioned science nerd with a prolonged crush on Kirsten Dunst’s girl-next-door MJ, but lacking the confidence, wealth, strength and social standing required to do anything about it. After being bitten by a radioactive spider during a class field trip, he acquires some of the spider’s abilities, including wall crawling, mild precognition, shooting webs from his wrists, a vastly improved body and the ability to dangle from the ceiling into your mouth while you sleep. In real life, spider’s shoot the webs from an aperture closer to their posterior. This would have made for a much stranger film, I feel.  Unfortunately, Parker’s transformation occurs around the same time as Parker’s lazy rich kid best friend Harry’s businessman father trials a new super serum on himself, with predictably disastrous results, transforming him into a suped-up madman, terrorising the city in the form of fan favourite villain the Green Goblin.