This is the movie review arena of Dave Mitchell and Trevor Taylor. We are fed up with stupid critics who pick the movies that nobody goes to watch. (BEWARE: PLOT-DETAILS/SPOILERS INCLUDED!!!)

Monday, February 02, 2004

Video Capsule Reviews

The Ninth Gate (R): contains lots of badness, and not the good kind

I'll admit that I rented this pile and actually watched it all the way through. It kept me moderately interested, for a few reasons:
--Johnny Depp as a book expert
--the entire plot revolved around antique/rare books
--I really didn't know how they would resolve it all

Turns out, they didn't really.

I won't go into too much detail, because the film doesn't deserve it. I should have stayed away, just based on the premise (rare book can conjure up the Prince of Darkness???), but fool of a Took that I am, I plunged on.

And now I regret it.

Besides being rather perverse, and practically a celebration of Satan worship, it's also kinda lame, and a premise that had interesting elements winds up being dull dull dull. I kept hanging on to catch a glimpse of the Grand Imp himself, but he never showed. The best I got was some naked chick who is apparently the Whore of Babylon from Revelation. I don't know. This pile is wretched, awful, and a horrible mistake on my part.

The sacrifices I make for you people.

RATING: "Don't walk out, RUN OUT, through as many gates as you can!!!"


Love Liza (R): contains pervasive drug use, brief nudity, language

One of my favorite character actors is Phillip Seymour Hoffman. In this film, he plays a computer programmer who is struggling to understand his wife's unexpected suicide. He finds a suicide note in a sealed envelope under his pillow, and spends the rest of the movie trying not to read it. In the process, he tries to ease his emotional pain by becoming addicted to the middle-school drug of choice--gas fumes. Yes, that's right, P.S. Hoffman becomes a "huffer."

This sounds stupid, yes, and on some levels, it is absurd. But it is also very very sad. This film is the directorial debut of Todd Louiso, veteran of stage and screen (dude, it's Dick from High Fidelity!!!), and Louiso really sees this as a character study. The story of a man who falls apart, and loses every ounce of dignity he has.

Kathy Bates plays Hoffman's mother-in-law, who gives a decent performance, but is really marginalized by the focus on Hoffman's deep pain. This pain is portrayed through silence and huffing fumes.

Sorry. I'm trying to be serious. I probably would have been more impatient with this film, if I hadn't just finished Seabiscuit and was craving some catharsis.

Hoffman's search for a better high leads him to find fuel for RC airplanes, and in order to justify buying all the fuel, he has to get a plane to go with it. This eventually leads him to meeting fellow "RC enthusiasts", and he struggles to maintain the charade.

This is a tough film to watch, because, for all his faults, you really empathize with Hoffman. And you get to see the private hell of addiction, much as you do in Nicholas Cage's performance in "Leaving Las Vegas." [In fact, there is a comparison blurb on the box cover of Love Liza. Maybe that's where i got the comparison. Grrr.] The last twenty minutes are just tough, as you helplessly watch Hoffman run into each new trainwreck, getting caught in his own web of deceit and falling apart. In the end, he loses everything. And the letter, which he hopes will give him meaning and understanding and some sense of peace, leaves him empty and offers no real comfort.

This is just a depressing film. Through and through. But if you are looking for depressing movies, or good character study material, this is a good option.

(Parents' note: The only time Liza is seen is in flashback, and, yes, she's the "brief nudity." But it's nothing overtly sexual, which is a nice change.)

RATING: "Rock on sadly, but quit sniffing that--it'll get you high."


SNEAK PREVIEW: Next week, look for "Lost in Translation", "Miracle", and maybe some classic films. Mixing it up a bit, eh?
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