Category Archives: 2001

Memento (2001)

Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They’re just an interpretation, they’re not a record, and they’re irrelevant if you have the facts.

— Leonard Shelby

It has been a while since I have seen the film that put Christopher Nolan’s name out front and center, the #29 Film of All-Time on IMDb, Memento. It was nominated for two Oscars, including Best Original Screenplay and  Film Editing. The strange thing is that the story is based on Jonathan Nolan’s short story, Memento Mori. Personally, I don’t like movies that go backwards through the narrative. There is something tragically simple about this movie that make me forget about my past grievances with this way of storytelling.

I don’t know how to approach this review without spoiling the ending, which is in the beginning of the movie. Hmm… Be forewarned. A man who has short-term memory loss, Leonard (Guy Pearce) had just shot a cop named Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) in head. He takes a Polaroid for a little reminder that the person that he thinks raped and murdered his wife (Jorja Fox) and lost him with his memories will be documented.

As you know the narrative is backward to retrace the events that lead to Teddy’s demise. The puzzle is slowly being put together. Leonard has an arm full of Polaroids. All of the clues to find the killer has been either in the Polaroids or have been tattooed on his body as a reminder of his ultimate goal of revenge.

Was Teddy telling the truth? Because a person named “John G.” was the person that was there that night his life changes. Teddy is not his real name. Leonard realizes this from Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss), a woman who Leonard befriends while he is investigating. Is she working for him or against him? He cannot trust anybody unless it was written on the back of the Polaroids.

He tries to remember Sammy Jankis (Stephen Tobolowsky), a former case of his when he was an insurance investigator. He thought that Sammy was faking his condition which it is exactly like his. Everything that Sammy remembers before the accident, he knows. He has trouble building new memories like Leonard. His wife (Harriet Sansom Harris) thinks at she could do something to trigger his memories, but nothing happens.

Leonard has to deal with betrayal, manipulation, murder, drugs, and theft all for the ultimate goal of solving his wife’s murder.

The movie is carefully thought out about what happens next. I thought the flashbacks in black and white broke up the movie in a good way to see how Leonard knows certain things and not others. This is probably the best performance of Guy Pearce’s career. I thought that the ending was different from what I remember. It blows my mind that the movie about memories and not making new ones could make me questions how the ending or beginning was.

But I did have some questions about certain elements of the movies that didn’t make any sense to me. What happened to the drug money? How did Leonard get those items that belonged to his wife? I cannot think of how that happened. I went over the movie again.

Judgment: I know that Nolan is capable of making movies outside of the Batman franchise that could still be good.

Rating: 9/10

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Moulin Rouge! (2001)

The show must go on, Satine. We’re creatures of the underworld. We can’t afford to love.

— Zidler

It wasn’t my intention of doing a Ewan McGregor double feature, but Moulin Rouge! was starts on Logo when I finished watching The Ghost Writer. I thought why the hell not. This is one of those movies that everybody saw when it came out, but I didn’t. A movie set in the turn of the 20th century with music ranging from Elton John to Gloria Estefan to LaBelle to Madonna. How the hell would that work?

I saw the film later that year when Nicole Kidman was getting a lot of Oscar buzz for her lead performance. The movie landed her an Oscar nomination and won two for the beautiful set design and the lush costumes. This is a gay movie through and through. It has gorgeous lead actors, recognizable pop songs and vibrant costumes. What more could you want in a film?

A penniless writer, Christian (McGregor) sits at his typewriter banging away at the keys. He re-tells the past year of his life. His time at the infamous Paris nightspot, the Moulin Rouge, a dance hall and bordello. He tells about the great love of his life, the “Sparkling Diamond”, Satine (Kidman), who is the star of the Moulin Rouge.

Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent) has an idea of turning the club into a reputable theater. To do so, they need the help of a financier named The Duke (Richard Roxburgh). The Bohemians behind the show: Audrey (David Wenham), Satie (Matthew Whittet), The Doctor (Garry McDonald),  Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo) and the Argentinian (Jacek Koman) are trying to put on a pitch for their show, “Spectacular, Spectacular”. They need Chrisitan’s help to do it.

During the performance of Satine’s entrance number, Satine mistakes Christian for The Duke because they have a similar tux on. In her private Arabian elephant boudoir, Satine seduces Christian, but Christian thinks that he is audition to be the writer of the show. Christian woos her with his rendition of “Your Song” and she falls instantly in love with him. Satine realizes that she seduced the wrong man and hilarity ensues when The Duke comes to her elephant for their love session.

The main characters try to distract The Duke for finding out the love between Christian and Satine by pitching the plot of “Spectacular, Spectacular.” The Duke is impressed by it and decides to invest. The others didn’t realize that Satine had bewitched The Duke by delivering the same song that wooed her, making The Duke fall in love with her. The most unlikely of love triangles.

Whenever I see this movie, I have a big smile on my face. I am following along with the dialogue, the dance moves and the journey that the characters go on. Director Baz Luhrmann had the ability to turn a conventional genre on its head like he did with the rest of his Red Curtain trilogy with Strictly Ballroom and Romeo + Juliet. I was surprised that he wasn’t nominated for Best Director at the Oscars.

I am not saying that this movie is flawless. There were a couple of gaps that had me scratching my head like why didn’t The Duke pulls Satine aside when she was shaking her tail feathers at Christian? He was right next to him. Or when Satine was delivering her “smoldering temptress” look with the red dress who Satine thinks is the Duke, she arrives in a black night gown and has the same dress on after the pitch section?

I don’t like the “Like a Virgin” moment of the film. I know that it’s supposed to be comedic, but I was cringing at the thought of it.

Judgment: How could you not have fun with this movie?

Rating: 8.5/10

Training Day (2001)

Believe it or not, I do try to do some good in the community.

— Alonzo Harris

Director Antoine Fuqua made a big splash with Training Day. The movie was largely ignored when it initially came out in theaters, because the quality of movies in the year 2001 was not that good. It got an extra boost when Denzel Washington won the Oscar for Best Actor over perennial frontrunner Russell Crowe. This is a different take on the cop genre, but a good take on it.

As the title suggests, this movie chronicles the day in the life of a rookie cop, Jake (Ethan Hawke) on his first day on the beat. He is nervous about impressing Alonzo (Washington) who might give him leg up in the chain of command.

Jake wants everything that he needs to know about the beat. Alonzo wants to give the noob a reality check about what it’s like to be a real narcotics cop in Los Angeles.

They drive all day in Alonzo’s tricked out black Cadillac. Alonzo’s numerous lessons to Jake are to unlearn what the textbook protocol from the academy. Think with his gut and not with his mind. Not bring his personal life into his job. Have a keen eye on how to handle a shakedown.

The more that Jake gets to know the work ethic of Alonzo, the more he realizes that Alonzo is not a good role model of what it’s like to a narcotics officer. Some of his tactics doesn’t rub Hoyt the right way. If you want to be a good undercover narcotics officer, you have to know what it’s like to be drugs. You have to bends the rules a little bit.

Jake thinks that maybe doing what Alonzo would get him in his good graces, but going against Alonzo might be him killed.

There are two strong performances here from Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. The movie deals with the duality of what’s right and what’s wrong. Denzel’s Alonzo character is morally reprehensible that you don’t feel any sympathy for him. This is the biggest flaw about the movie.

Judgment: If you want to see Denzel be villain, watch this movie.

Rating: ***1/2

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

You guys are pros. The best. I’m sure you can make it out of the casino. Of course, lest we forget, once you’re out the front door, you’re still in the middle of the fucking desert!

— Reuben

Breaking away from his trademark quirky sensibility, Steven Soderbergh remade the 1960s Rat Pack classic heist film, Ocean’s Eleven. Instead of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammie Davis, Jr., the main leads are George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon. Quite a departure. Soderbergh has some success with mainstream movies; I think that his subsequent Ocean’s trilogy exposed himself more to the mainstream consciousness.

Re-channeling his Out of Sight persona, George Clooney plays the titular Danny Ocean that is recently paroled after four years. When he is released, he goes to old stomping grounds to reconnect with his former crewmembers, travel across the country to reconnect with the poker teacher to the stars, Rusty (Pitt).

Ocean’s plan is to steal “x” amount dollars from three casinos, the Bellagio, the Mirage and the MGM Grand all of them owned Las Vegas casino owner, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). He would need a large crew at least a dozen to pull off the multiple cons needed to pull off the heist.

Seeing that they need a way inside the way, Danny and Rusty pay a visit to a former casino owner that was wronged by Benedict and knows the ins and outs of the security system, Reuben (Elliott Gould). After he is in, the rest of the crew is assembled like Frank (Bernie Mac), two drivers the twins, Virgil and Turk (Casey Affleck, Scott Caan), electronic expert Livingston (Eddie Jemison), explosives Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle), a “grease man” Yen (Shaobo Qin), Saul (Carl Reiner) and last but not least, master of disguise, Linus (Damon).

They have pow-wow to lay out the foundation of this impossible feat. If they succeed, they stand to get 150 million dollars when the casinos are distracted from an upcoming fight between Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko that same day. In order to let the heist run slowly, they have to lay the groundwork like plant a device on the casino’s closed circuit camera, recreating the vault to practice, the daily routine of their mark.

While relaying the routine of Benedict, Linus thought it would be a good idea to enlist the help of Benedict’s main squeeze, Tess (Julia Roberts) who was also Danny’s ex-wife. Danny’s ulterior motive becomes clear that steals the money is not his only motivation. He wants to get Tess back.

The movie is slick and a little too polished. I had the same problem with this movie as I did with Spike Lee’s Inside Man. I don’t like it when a filmmaker talks down the audience. We don’t need to know every single detail that needed to be explained. When the heist was taking place, I didn’t believe that these people would be able to pull that off. The only person that I liked was Andy Garcia. He has a permanent stoic look on his face that works well with his dickish Terry Benedict.

Judgment: Have a good time with Ocean and the gang in this solid remake.

Rating: ****

Donnie Darko (2001)

donnie_darko_ver1

Do you want your sister to lose weight? Tell her to get off the couch, stop eating twinkies and maybe go out for field hockey. You know what? No one ever knows what they want to be when they grow up. You know it takes a little, little while to find that out, right, Jim? And you… yeah, you. Sick of some jerk shoving your head down the toilet? Well, you know what? Maybe… you should lift some weights, or uh, take a karate lesson and the next time he’s tries to do it, you kick him in the balls.

— Donnie

I have no interest in seeing Richard Kelly’s latest movie, The Box. I thought I would go back to the movie that launched his career, Donnie Darko. Seeing this movie a mere handful of times over the years, I still find little nuggets that I hadn’t noticed in previous viewings. Overall, the movie that currently sits at #124 movie of All Time on IMdb is showing its age.

Taking place during October 1988, Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a Middlesex young man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. He has stopped taking his medication. He begins getting strange visits from a guy in a deranged-looking bunny suit, Frank (James Duval) that tells him that the world will end on All Hollow’s Eve.

Frank instructs Donnie as he sleepwalks to ask him to do bad things around the neighborhood, which afterwards he doesn’t remember what he has done the previous night. During one of his sleepwalks; a 747-airplane engine mysteriously crashes through Donnie’s bedroom. Dr. Thurman (Katharine Ross), the therapist that tries to help Donnie hypnotizes him to get to the core of his delusions.

During English teacher Karen Pomeroy’s (Drew Barrymore) discussion about Graham Greene’s short story “The Destructors”; a new girl, Gretchen Ross (Jena Malone) comes into class. Donnie is immediately drawn to the emotionally damaged girl.

On the drive home, Darko car almost hits Ms. Sparrow aka “Grandma Death” (Patience Cleveland) when she is constantly checking her mailbox. She whispered some chilling words in his ear that set the movie into motion. Donnie seeks the advice of Dr. Monnitoff (Noah Wyle) about time travel and portals.

The conservative gym teacher, Miss Farmer (Beth Grant), who teaches the ways of self-help guru Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze) urges the parents to help stop “subversive materials” in the classroom that influences the kids. She might have a point when Donnie is urged from Frank to break the water main at his private school.

Donnie begins to lose control of reality when small wormholes form from the chests people around him. The intentions of Frank become more sinister as the 30th comes up. Life begins to spin out of control.

The themes of life, faith, the very existence on this Earth went completely over my head the other times that I have seen this movie. The movie is still as disturbing as ever about a boy that doesn’t want to exist in this world. The only complain I have is that the CGI is a little wonky.

Judgment: An impressive film about a troubled young man.

Rating: ****

FB Recommendation: “Lagaan” (2001)

lagaan

Let me remind you all of one thing: this is not a game we are playing for fun and entertainment – this is a fight we must win.

— Bhuvan

I first heard of Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India when it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for India. I saw the movie a year or two afterward. This is a 3 1/2 hour long movie that a variable poo-poo platter of genres. It mixes musical sequences with cricket matches, romance and drama.

This Ashutosh Gowariker vehicle deals with a bunch of villagers that are upset with the new taxes or lagaans. It takes place in the late 19th century where the British Empire ruled India. The villagers decide to oppose the new taxes. There is a makeshift leader named Bhuvan (Aamir Khan) that leads the rebellion.

The fate of the villagers is decided with a game of cricket. The problem is that Bhuvan has never played cricket in his life. He has a crash course in order to try to defeat the seasoned cricket players lead by Capt. Russell (Paul Blackthrone). Russell tries everything in his power to make sure that the villagers do not win the cricket game.

Besides, the lead guy Aamir Khan is easy of the eyes.

Judgment: Film buffs should enjoy this movie.

Rating: ****

FB Recommendation: Lantana (2001)

lantana

For Christ’s sake, I don’t have a weak heart. All right? This is not an affair. It’s a one-night stand that happened twice.

— Leon Zat

I was going to review Kingdom of Heaven yesterday, but I was bored to tears with the film. I decided not to waste my time lambasting it. I thought that I would recommend a movie that I caught a glimpse of Saturday afternoon on IFC, Lantana.

It has been a long time since I saw this Ray Lawrence second directorial effort. This is adapted by Andrew Bovell’s own play, “Speaking In Tongues.” It was renamed “lantana” for a couple of reasons that I will not spoil here.

It’s about the intertwining relationships between all of the main characters. It’s toxicity. The way it corrodes peoples souls.

The movie opens with Detective Leon Zat (Anthony LaPaglia) is in the throes of lovemaking with Jane O’May (Rachael Blake) in a hotel room. The thing is that they are both married.

Leon’s wife, Sonja (Kerry Armstrong) suspects that he is cheating, but she does not confront him. She seeks the advice of Dr. Valerie Somers (Barbara Hershey).

Valerie also suspects her husband, John (Geoffrey Rush) of cheating on her.

The central mystery of the movie is, who was the woman’s body that was discovered at the beginning of the movie? What were the circumstances that lead to her demise?

All of this is revealed is slight plot twists that leads the characters to their revelations.

Judgment: An enthralling character piece that deserves to be looked at.

Rating: ****

FB Recommendation: In The Bedroom (2001)


On the CW last night, they showed a movie that I loved when it was released back in 2001, In The Bedroom. This movie is vastly underrated as a great film. It was nominated for five Oscars. Deservedly so.

I thought that it was strange that the movie was nominated for Best Picture, but Todd Field was not nominated for directing. The Academy put Ridley Scott and David Lynch in his place. I don’t get that logic.

The movie is about the Fowler family who lives are irrevocably affected a tragic event in their Maine town. Matt Fowler (Tom Wilkinson) is a doctor and Ruth (Sissy Spacek) is a choir director. They are concerned by their college age only child, Frank (Nick Stahl) is having a affair with an older married woman, Natalie Stout (Marisa Tomei).

Their quiet life is rocked to the core when Natalie’s estranged husband, Richard (William Mapother) kills Frank during a fight. The tragedy truly begins when Richard does not go to jail for his crime. This leaves the Fowlers through a path of anger, grief, betrayal and revenge.

A fantastic movie that people should see.

My rating: ****1/2 stars.

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