Category Archives: 2004

Nobody Knows (2004)

Wow! This review is two months overdue. I was burned out by watching crappy movies and having to writer about them. It was exhausting. I am slowly getting back to the swing of things. I read an article about 10 Criminally Overlooked Movies You Should See Now from Anomalous Material at the end of May. There were some movies that I have seen and watch they would watch more. I heard about Nobody Knows when I listened to the Cinebanter podcast about it. Hearing Castor’s recommendation, I wanted to check it out from the library. I’m glad I did.

Yûya Yagira was the youngest actor to win the Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his portrayal of Akira Fukushima. He is the eldest of four siblings when his mother, Keiko (You) has to move to a new apartment. The catch is that she has to pretend that she has one child. So, the two have to smuggle Yuki (Momoko Shimizu) and Shigeru (Hiei Kimura) in suitcases into the apartment and have another sibling, Kyoko (Ayu Kitaura) come in by train.

When the family is all together, Keiko has to explain to the little ones that they cannot leave the apartment or make any noises to expose them. None of the kids go to school, so that would not be a problem. Akira looks after his siblings like the father figure. He buys the groceries for his family so they could eat something.

One day, Keiko leaves a note for Akira saying that she had to leave to work in another town, but has left plenty for the kids to live off for a while. Akira does visit his father, but he has another life that is separate from theirs. He cannot help them. Keiko is gone for a month before she returns before Christmas with presents for everyone. The reunion doesn’t last long when Keiko leaves again with no explanation.

The kids think that their mother is coming back. When the weeks turn into months, they realize that their mother is not coming back to them. They have to survive on their own. Akira is left being the primary caregiver to his little brother and sisters. This is a heavy burden for Akira. When he meets a neighborhood girl named Saki (Hanae Kan), things becomes even more complicated.

I was glad that I saw this movie, because this shows a side of life that is rarely seen or portrayed onscreen. I read that this movie is based on true life events. The depths of despair that these kids have to go through is unbearable. How could a mother be so thoughtless and uncaring over her own children? It makes you question how come people would walk away from their responsibility as a parent? It boggles the mind. I don’t have children. There are plenty of couples out there who want children and not being able to have them and people would have them and they throw them away like trash.

Judgment: This movie made me question would you do in the same situation.

Rating: 8.5/10

Monsieur Ibrahim (2004)

A man’s heart is like a caged bird. When you dance, your heart sings… and then rises to heaven.

— Monsieur Ibrahim

After the utter disappointment of Doctor Zhivago, I wanted to watch one of Omar Sharif’s recent flicks. I picked up Monsieur Ibrahim thinking that it couldn’t get any worse that the three-hour monstrosity that I just saw. I knew that it was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film. I was surprised that I enjoyed the movie, very much.

Living in poor neighborhood in Paris, a young Jewish boy named Moses (Pierre Boulanger) is trying to find his way in the world. He thinks that it is chasing the local prostitutes would make him a man when he turned sixteen. He is living with his father (Gilbert Melki) that is very hard on him. The father compares Momo as he is nicknamed to his older brother, like he is not good enough of a child. The mother is noticeably absent in his life.

Momo buys the daily groceries to cook for the two them across the street at the conveience store of Monsieur Ibrahim Deneji (Omar Sharif). Sometimes he does shoplift a couple of items because they have that much money to spend on food. Momo thinks that Monsieur thinks that he is slick about his pilfering, but Monsieur Ibrahim is a wise man who knows everything.

Monsieur Ibrahim and Momo begin to have a close friendship. Momo becomes a surrogate son to him when Momo’s father abandons him and he has to fend for himself. Their lives are forever changed as they grow a common bond with each other. Momo teaches Ibrahim how to be young again and Ibrahim teaches Momo about life and the meaning of it.

This movie is very imitate in its storytelling that I wanted to get to know the characters more. I wanted to have a Ibrahim in my life to teach me the ways of the world and how to go about it.

Judgment: This movie will make have a deep appreciation for the older people in your lives.

Rating: 8/10

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Can you hear me? I don’t want this any more! I want to call it off!

— Joel

Everybody had been talking about how great the #61 Film of All-Time on IMDb, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is. I have only seen bits and pieces of the movie through the years of its release back in 2004. My greatest fear was that the movie was not gonna live up to the hype. The movie won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and it should have won a couple of more. I wish I could own this movie and watch it repeatedly.

A social awkward man, Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) is reeling over the break up with his tangerine-tinted girlfriend, Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet). When he is venting his frustration over Clementine seemingly ignoring him to Rob and Carrie (David Cross, Jane Adams) when Rob hands Joel a card from a company called Lacuna. The card says that Clementine has had a procedure to erase Joel from her mind.

Joel is heartbroken and intrigued to see what this procedure is all about. He finds the office of Lacuna where Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wikinson) is performing the procedure of the heartbroken patients. He wants to have the procedure done as a way of getting back at Clementine for being so heartless to erase him from her mind.

The process of mind erasure is to gather all the items that remind you of the person that you are trying to have wiped from your memory so it could build a road map to which sections of the brain to target the memories. Mierzwiak’s associates from the clinic, Stan (Mark Ruffalo) and Partrick (Elijah Wood) arrive at Joel’s apartment while he sleeps to begin the erasure process.

As the erasure happens, Joel is fine having the end of their relationship cleaned off. When the erasure starts going into the happiest moments of their relationship, Joel want to be able to keep the memories, because she still holds a torch for Clementine. He tries to find clever ways to hide the good Clementine inside the inner workings of his brain.

This movie is visceral and devastating to watch. Everyone knows the feeling of heartbreak and wish that there was a procedure to help erasure the bad memories out. Those bad memories are a life lessons to find out what you don’t want in the next relationship so you won’t repeat the same dating pattern. Those bad times shape you into who you are as a person and what you can give to a relationship.

People call this one of the greatest love stories of all-time. I wouldn’t go that far, but identity to the plight these characters are in. My life was on-screen. The movie was off-kilter, surreal and mind fuck. This is Charlie Kaufman we are talking about. This is his M.O.

There is one thing about this movie that I didn’t get or maybe I am reading too much into it. What happened with the relationship with Patrick? If you know what I mean, then you’ll understand. Was that a dropped plot line?

Judgment: This is a raw, beautiful, self-destructive story about love.

Rating: 9.5/10

Yesterday (2004)

Powerless to change the past . . . She lived to change the future.

To close out the SIL Festival, I wanted to watched the only movie in history to nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Made for TV Movie, Yesterday. I didn’t know that much about the movie. I heard a summary for the movie and I was intrigued to see it.

During blistering South African summer, a young Zulu woman named Yesterday (Leleti Khumalo) is walking two hours from her village of Roohiek to Kromdraai with her daughter, Beauty (Lihle Mvelase) by her side.

She has had a serious cough for a while and she wanted it check out by the Doctor (Camilla Walker). Being the only doctor in miles, there is a long line to see the Doctor and she is eventually turned away. she had to wait a week to come back to the Doctor.

Yesterday waits toiling through farmland near her house until she nearly collapses. She goes back to the clinic a little earlier, but she is turned away again for being in the long line. Frustrated, she tries to satay strong for her daughter by fetching water from the communal water pump and wait for the day that her husband, John (Kenneth Khambula) to come back from a mining assignment in Johannesburg.

One day, Yesterday passes out in the doorway of her house and is take to a Sagoma to check out. A Sagoma is a kind of witch doctor. She tells Yesterday that she is holding on to some residual anger that is causing her systems. Yesterday doesn’t feel that she is angry at all.

A local Teacher (Harriet Lenabe) Yesterday has befriended gives her the money to take a taxi to the clinic so she would be the one of first in line. When she is finally examined by the Doctor, the Doctor wants to take her blood. On a follow-up visit, Yesterday receives the devastating news that she is HIV+. She has been faithful to her husband. How could she get the virus? It is now her mission to find her husband.

Being that this is the first Zulu full-length feature is  a pleasant surprise for me. I never thought that this woman who cannot read or write could be stricken with the virus that would eventually kill her. During the course of the movie, the movie becomes like The Scarlet Letter, but Yesterday wants to fight to survive. I applaud her for her courage.

Judgment: This is a great story that you wish that this disease would be gone from our lives.

Rating: 8.5/10

A Home at the End of the World (2004)

The best thing about Philadelphia is you can leave it.

— Jonathan Glover

I was surprised that I got the chance to see A Home at the End of the World, because I heard about the infamous Colin Farrell full frontal scene that was cut out of the movie. I wanted to see Farrell play gay because I had the biggest crush on him at the time. The bad boy persona was inviting. It was nice to watch the movie on Logo.

Based on the book by Michael Cunningham who penned the script, the movie is about a trio of friends who grow in and out of love with each other. There is the sardonic Jonathan (Dallas Roberts) who grew up with his hippie friend Bobby (Farrell). They have been interested in each other since they were kids.

They reconnect in 1980s New York where Jonathan is an out gay man where he is rooming with the free spirited, Claire (Robin Wright Penn). Their relationships are tested where the plan of Jonathan of fathering Claire’s kid is derailed when Claire decides to bed the inexperienced Bobby who is bisexual.

The three of them become a family of their own when they are trying to raise the baby.

I’m surprised that I don’t have anything more to say about this movie. The storyline is straightforward. Nothing compelling goes on with it. It was a nice treat to see Colin kiss another man.

The thing that takes me out of the film is that Claire is supposed to be the same age range as Jonathan and Bobby. I don’t buy her being a free spirit when she is clearly a good decade older than them. I’m sorry but I need to say that.

Judgment: It’s a throwaway movie that is nice to see when flipping channels.

Rating: 6.5/10

Mysterious Skin (2004)

I hate it when they look like Tarzan but sound like Jane.

–Neil

The genesis of me watching writer/director Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin was that I was in a forum and people were talking about Joseph Gordon Levitt’s performance in that movie. It had me intrigued to see it with his career going up with his Golden Globe nominated performance in (500) Days of Summer and being in Inception, which I plan to see. Hearing that this movie was tough to watch is an understatement, it was painfully derivative that I pity the actors in this movie.

The movie revolves around two boys Brian Lackey (George Webster) and Neil McCormick (Chase Ellison) beginning in 1981, when they were nine. Brian is an ordinary dorky kid with Jeffery Dahmer glasses that suffers from nightmares, frequent nosebleeds and constant blackouts. He doesn’t know why they are happening. I wasn’t until one night when he is with his mom (Lisa Long) and sister, Deborah (Rachael Nastassja Kraft) are visited by a UFO on their roof.

Neil is the complete opposite. He comes from a broke home with his mother (Elisabeth Shue) is going out with different guys every night. Neil finds himself attracted to the Marlboro Man types that his mom brings home. When his mom enlists Neil into pee-wee baseball, Neil becomes infatuated with the Coach (Bill Sage). The feeling is mutual when Neil becomes the star player of the team. He is invited to the Coach’s house where he grooms and seduces Neil.

Brian, now Brady Corbet, grows up to be a bright young man, but he is haunted by his experience when he was younger. He wants to find answers to questions that he seeks. Looking at the television one day on a program called “World of Mystery”; Brian watched the story of Avalyn Friesen (Mary Lynn Rajskub) who recounted her experience being abducted. He tries to seek her out to bond over their shared experiences.

Neil, now Joseph Gordon Levitt, grows up to be a hustler for older men which doesn’t sit too well with his childhood friend, Wendy (Michelle Trachtenberg) who is constantly worried about his safety and his health sleeping with random men who pick him up. Neil’s other gay friend, Eric (Jeffrey Licon) has a little crush on him, but he knows nothing with happen between them because Neil is focused on making money. It seems like these two stories are different, but it intersects in the most mundane way possible.

I am baffled about the praise that has been bestowed upon this movie. It’s ranked in the movie seventies on IMDb and Metacritic. Personally, I was pissed off at the movie for perpetuating gay stereotypes. Being a gay man myself, I hate it when a kid is molested or raped, they turn out gay. That is not always the case. For some reason, they have to be a hustler craving for male attention.

I am pissed off at the “mystery” of this movie. There is no mystery. I knew what was going to happen before it did. It was like the director was talking down to the audience. I was not swept up by the narrative to care about the obvious ending. Sure, it was sad and disgusting, but I was not happy with the movie. Neil is not the brightest bulb in the pack, but he should have some common sense about the Johns he brings home. He’s not the greatest hustler ever. I don’t know why guys went for him. Wasn’t it because he looked like a prepubescent kid?

The whole storyline with Brian was completely one side and poorly done. I thought the movie was about Neil’s journey. He is on the poster and everything. I thought Neil was toying with the audience with his voice-overs, but it was suppose to be integral to the ending of the movie.

Judgment: I cannot recommend this movie. If you want to see a movie this subject done better, I would suggest L.I.E.

Rating: *1/2

National Treasure (2004)

If there’s something wrong, those who have the ability to take action have the responsibility to take action.

— Ben Gates

National Treasure is a movie that I was intending to see when it came out 2004. I haven’t had to the chance to until now. People were saying that it was a good action/adventure film. I would agree with that.

Descending from a family of treasure hunters, Ben (Nicolas Cage) continues the quest that was told by his grandfather (Christopher Plummer) to find a long lost treasure that were left behind by a secret organization the Free Masons centuries before. His father, Patrick (Jon Voight) tries to dissuade Ben for pursuing the treasure further. The fame and the glory become intoxicating for him.

The story that his grandpa told him years before life with the phrase “the secret lies with Charlotte” brings him to Antarctica with Ben’s sidekick, Riley (Justin Bartha) and his boss, Ian (Sean Bean) to find the Charlotte. They discovered that it is a shipwreck buried under the ice. The team investigates the wreckage to discover a usual pipe hidden inside a barrel of gunpowder. It has a ridden written on it

Ben’s brain deciphers that the invisible map to the ultimate treasure on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Ian wants that document by any means necessary. Ben doesn’t want to steal the Declaration, but Ian has others ideas. He double crosses Ben and leaves him and Riley behind to die there. At the last minute, they escape; their new mission is to stop Ian for getting to the Declaration first.

In Washington DC, the duo tries to warn various government officials about the future theft. They are not hearing it, because they are confident that nothing will happen to the document with it’s high security. The twosome heads over the National Archives where Ben assumes an identity of Paul Brown, because his family has horrible reputation to meet Dr. Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger). Ben tells her about the plan. She doesn’t believe that there is an invisible map on the back of the document.

Ben is tired of getting resistance and sideways glances about the plot. Ben decides to steal the Declaration himself. Riley is uneasy about it. Their plan is steal the document when it is treated in the Preservation Room when the National Archives when they are having their 70th anniversary gala.

That night, Ben has a subtle way in by sneaking in as Paul Brown. His boss, Ian wants to go in guns blazing. Ben gets the document first, which is a chase for Ian to get the document back. When Abigail realizes that Paul Brown was not on the guest list, she confronts him. He blindly gives the Declaration to her and Ian kidnaps her. Ian gets the Declaration. Now, that they have to have a plan to get it back from Ian.

This movie is a cross between Ocean’s Eleven, The DaVinci Code and Night at the Museum. This is a film takes the audience on an adventure, but can also open up the viewer’s mind on history told in a fun way. It was nice to see Nicolas be decent in movie, instead of his schizophrenic acting he does now. I personally did not get the tacked on love story between Ben and Abigail. It was atypical that the leads would hook up. I don’t understand that rationale.

Judgment: A nice, tight action/adventure film for the entire family to enjoy.

Rating: ****

Ocean’s Twelve (2004)

Terry, I can’t predict the future. I pay professionals to do that, and even they get it wrong sometimes.

— Reuben

After the massive success of the first movie, Soderburgh and company came back together for Ocean’s Twelve. This setting and story are dramatically different from the glitz and glamour from the first incarnation. Instead of the bright lights of the Las Vegas, the Eleven are focused their attention on Europe. I think that this was a mistake, because it hurt the caper aspect of the story.

When the Eleven successful pilfered Terry Benedict out of his $150 million dollars at the ending of the first movie, (spoiler alert) the beginning show how the gang was doing during the three and a half since the heist. Most of them spent some or all of their $13 million dollars cut.

They get a rude awakening when Benedict tracks them all down wherever they were hiding. He offers them a chance to correct their mistakes by stealing his money. Benedict gives them two weeks to return the money with interest, which is roughly $200 million dollars, or he will kill them.

The gang has a pow-wow to discuss how they could get the money is that short amount of time. They decide to go to Amsterdam to meet up with Matsui (Robbie Coltrane), who gives them an assignment to steal the world’s oldest stock certificate from 1602 worth $2.5 million Euros.

When they do, they realize that a famous cat burglar named “The Night Fox” (Vincent Cassel) got the stock first. Not only that, but the team realizes that The Night Fox made the call to Benedict that ratted them out.

The Night Fox issues a challenge to the Ocean’s Eleven to steal a Coronation Faberge Egg from exhibit in Paris. They want to beat The Night Fox at their own game. Eleven becomes Twelve when they enlist the help of Roman (Eddie Izzard) to help pull off the switch-a-roo.

This movie as a whole is not well executed. The dialogue was not up to par. The scenes dragged on way too long. I was bored to tears. The movie looks grainy. The interaction with the members felt clunky and stagy. There wasn’t the synergy from the first outing. I was disappointed with this movie, especially the last thirty that fell off the tracks.

Judgment: This is one of the instances that the sequel is not better than the original.

Rating: **1/2

Closer (2004)

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Where is this love? I can’t see it, I can’t touch it. I can’t feel it. I can hear it. I can hear some words, but I can’t do anything with your easy words.

— Alice

Patrick Marber adapted his play into the Mike Nichols’ directed feature, Closer. It takes an unflinching look at love, desire, deception, infidelity and happiness in relationships. It has been years since I have seen this movie. It still holds up. It’s a powerful narrative with some outstanding performances from Natalie Portman and Clive Owen who were nominated for Oscars for their portrayals.

The movie starts with the chance meeting on a London street when a New York transplant and former stripper, Alice (Portman) catches the eyes with an obituary writer, Dan (Jude Law), then she is struck by cab. While in the waiting room, the two begin to have a sweet flirtation that turns into something more.

A couple of months pass, Dan is the studio apartment of Anna’s (Julia Roberts) getting his picture done for the jacket of his book that is loosely based on Alice’s life. During their session, Dan flirts with the recently divorced woman and convinces himself that he loves her. He wants to see her, but he is in a relationship with Alice. Anna rebuffs Dan’s advances.

One night in retaliation, Dan corresponds on sex chat room with a dermatologist, Larry (Owen) pretending to be Anna. During the course of the session, Dan asks Larry to meet Anna at the local aquarium that he knows that she frequents for a quick shag at a nearby hotel.

Larry meets the real Anna at the aquarium where the miscommunication of the previous night leads to an unexpected romance between the two. The four players finally meet each other on the night of Anna’s photo exhibit, “Strangers.” They size each other up.

This movie deals with beginnings and ends. There is no boring middle. None of these four people wanted to be close to one another. They want to keep a safe distance from each other to string each other along to torture the other.

This movie is brutally honest to a fault. These damaged people are nasty to each other. It pommels you as a viewer that you have to look away from the screen to save yourself. The performances from Law and Roberts ring false. You don’t believe that these people were in aguish.

Judgment: A relationship movie that you shouldn’t see with the person that you are going to break up with.

Rating: ****

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

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Ohh, for God’s sake! He’s got an arm off!

— Shaun

After being disappointed with Hot Fuzz, there was some trepidation watching the movie that started the Wright/Pegg/Frost invasion, Shaun of the Dead.  This movie is send up of the films of George A. Romero and the schlocky movies about zombies. By the ending credits,my feelings completely changed.

Shaun (Simon Pegg) is the everyman. He is a customer service representative at a small electronic shop. He lives his mundane life with his roommate, Pete (Peter Serafinowicz) and his mooching friend, Ed (Nick Frost).

Shaun is having troubles with the relationship with his girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield) who wants Shaun to change his ways in order to move forward in their relationship. She breaks up with him.

He is also have a difficult time dealing with his mother (Nicola Cunningham) being married to his stepfather (Bill Nighy).

Slowly their sleepy neighborhood is overrun by the living dead. At first, Shaun and the others are compltely oblivious to this situation until one of the group is bitten by zombie and slowly turns. It’s up to Shaun to fight off the undead, win his girlfriend back, save his mother and friends.

This movie is not trying too hard to be the end all be all of zombie movie. It made fun of the zombie movie, but put a different twist on it. It was refreshing.

There were some jokes that fell flat. They were few and far between.

Judgment: If you want to see a humorous zombie movie, watch this flick.

Rating: ***1/2

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