The Ice Storm

Joan Allen’s Elena has been married to Kevin Kline’s Ben for 17 years. Ben is sleeping with Sigourney Weaver’s Jane, who is married to James Sheridan’s Jim. Jim and Jane have two sons, the creepy pyromaniac Sandy (Adam Hann-Byrd) and Elijah Wood’s more normal Mikey, who is sort-of dating Elena and Ben’s genitalia obsessed daughter Wendy (Christina Ricci) who, it transpires, is also the object of Sandy’s affections. Meanwhile, Wendy’s virginal brother Paul (Tobey Maguire) is desperately in love with his college classmate Libbets (Katie Holmes), and vies for her attentions with his much more confident roommate Francis (David Krumholtz). This ridiculously fractured love-dodecahedron forms the plot of this multi-stranded slow-boiler from Ang Lee, director of Brokeback Mountain and Hulk. Both sides of him are shown here, from his delicate handling of love stories to Maguire’s Paul discussing the depths of the Fantastic Four, and he ably handles all the aspects of the plot. There are many similarities with Todd Solondz’ Happiness, most notably the stellar ensemble cast and hard to watch yet easier to recognise situations the characters find themselves in. The film takes place over a relatively short period of time, with all the aforementioned relationships coming to a head during the particularly heavy ice storm of the title, with consequences both small and disastrous, yet a sense of humour is retained throughout, particularly during the swinging party.
Choose film 7/10

Wonder Boys

Always be wary when a DVD cover proclaims the feature it houses is an Oscar winner, yet follows this statement with an asterisk not revealed until the fineprint on the back of the box, for more than likely this will lead to a win for one of the lesser Oscars that, though probably well deserved and awarded to people who are very good at, and have worked very hard on what they do, does not make the associated film any good. And so it is with Wonder Boys, overly proud recipient of the Oscar for Best Original Song for Bob Dylan’s Things Have Changed, so worthy is it that I cannot even remember hearing it, when part of me was specifically listening out after discovering the win. Whilst Michael Douglas gives one of his best performances as the mild-mannered, scarf-wearing, adulterous English professor Grady Tripp, he is let down by a meandering plot involving a dead dog, a 7ft transvestite, a stolen dress and an epic manuscript, and a fairly average cast with Tobey Maguire it’s obvious weak link – impressive when Katie Holmes is also involved as a besotted student. Too much takes place without a reason – is Maguire’s James fascinated with celebrity deaths just because he is weird? – and the script is far from excellent (“I’m not gonna draw you a map, sometimes you need to do your own navigating.”)

Choose life 4/10

Batman Begins

As the title suggests, this predominantly covers Batman’s origin story, from the death of his parents after he becomes scared at the theatre, through his training by Liam Neeson’s Ducard, his development of a crime-fighting persona and his confrontation with his former mentor in a city ridden with toxin-crazed criminals and madmen. This is arguably the most realistic, or at least vaguely plausible comic book movie ever made, with the only real superpowers on display being a gas that makes people insane and a ridiculously vast fortune to funs Bruce Wayne’s double lifestyle. Granted, the secret passage in Wayne Manor is operated by hitting a coded sequence of piano keys, but this can be forgiven, and is at least a variation from the classic sliding of a secret book on a shelf.
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