Dec 042002
Authors: Eric Todd Patton

Die Another Day – starring Pierce Brosnan.

It was 1962 when Sean Connery brought Ian Flemming’s James Bond character to life in “Dr. No,” which started the most successful film franchise in the history of Hollywood.

After five actors portraying Bond and 40 years since the original wowed audiences worldwide, Pierce Brosnan is back as Bond in “Die Another Day,” the 20th film in the series. It begins with Bond being set up in Korea and captured, and once rescued, he must go after the man that set him up.

He follows leads to the frozen tundra of Iceland (although I hear Iceland is quite nice) where there are, of course, crazy car chases on the ice, fight sequences and plot twists … everything a Bond film should be. But the cast was poor.

The villain is played by Toby Stephens and his henchman is played by Rick Yune (“Fast and the Furious”). They, even as villains in a Bond film where acting should not be an issue, provide empty performances and fail to convincingly deliver a line.

The new Bond girl, which every guy looks forward to come to a new Bond film, is Academy-Award winning Halle Berry. But she received the award by default just as I assume she received this role. Berry plays Jinx, who she claims is the female equivalent of James Bond. I am sorry, but there is no female equivalent to James Bond … there is not even a male equivalent to James Bond … he resides on a plane above all others … that is the lure of Bond. She is probably the worst Bond girl I have seen … and that includes Denise Richards from “The World Is Not Enough.”

But this is Bond, so the question at hand should be the entertainment value and the action. This one is not as good as the first two with Brosnan (“GoldenEye” and “Tomorrow Never Dies”) but it most certainly is better than “The World Is Not Enough.” It would be definitely worth your money if you are a fan of Bond or a fan of quick fun action. C+. Go rent the past ones with Sean Connery, he was the best and had the best Bond girls.

Far From Heaven – starring Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid.

My friend and professor Debby Thompson taught me about the wonderful world of literary criticism, which could be very handy with a movie such as “Far From Heaven.”

This is a piece of media that seems so empty, so flat and yet is more complex than a David Lynch script. This stars Julianne Moore (“Hannibal”) and Dennis Quaid (“The Rookie”) in the 1950s, where everything seems like it is a part of heaven.

It may be a personal criticism of the film, but I can give those and that is why I love this job, but this film calls to attention the continuing disillusionment of society. Cathy Whitaker (Moore) seems to be part of a wonderful life and part of the best parts of society and even as the world she knows begins to dissolve around her, she holds her smile and optimism, even against her best judgment.

Todd Haynes films it brilliantly. It appears like an old 50s film, one that you would expect to see Doris Day in, and by using the 50s society of conservatives and subject matter that people still quibble over today, it now has layers.

Each form of criticism, be it queer theory, new criticism, Marxism or whatever else Dr. Thompson taught me, this could make for a fascinating piece for discussion. So, by understanding what Haynes wished to accomplish by using the 50s to expose problems of modern society, this film was done perfectly. Julianne Moore will hopefully be recognized by the Academy with a nomination (not a statue), the directing has shown much improvement from Haynes previous “Velvet Goldmine,” and his writing is sublime and could very likely achieve that statue for Original Screenplay.

Flaws? Of course there are flaws. Several points of acting could have been better by the supporting cast. Quaid, although convincing, seemed to let the father fall as a slightly flat character. Celia Weston (K-PAX) seemed to simply drift through her role without much consideration for how to achieve any dynamic and although I was really taken by Dennis Haysbert’s (from TV’s 24) performance he made some character choices that I would question.

With that as an ending note, the good far out weighed the flaws, although the flaws are evident. B+.

The Emperor’s Club – starring Kevin Kline

There will be many critics raving about this film. They will be trying desperately to tell you this is not just a “Dead Poets Society” knockoff. I am not one of those critics.

Let me tell you the differences. “Dead Poets Society” was about an enthusiastic teacher in a New England boarding school for boys trying to inspire his students through a ‘Society.’ “The Emperor’s Club” is about an enthusiastic teacher in a New England boarding school for boys trying to inspire his students through a ‘Club.’ See what they did there?

I’m just joking … there are a few more differences. Like Kevin Kline plays this teacher while Robin Williams was the other. (Joking). But what I found is that this would be a decent film if it did not so closely represent a movie that had already achieved such monstrous success. There were a few lines that seemed almost like plagiarism (see the previews with Kline saying “what will your contribution be” and then watch “Society” listening to Williams saying “what will your verse be”).

Kline plays the teacher that is passionate about his material and when one student starts acting up he must try to get through to him and save his class from being distracted by him. So, with all the predictability of a classic attempt at being inspirational, Kline and his students teach each other all they need to know in life and as the film progresses (despite one turn) it is predictable.

I do not know how to describe what went wrong with this film other than saying it failed to evoke any emotion in me. When I watched “Dead Poets Society” and all the students stood on their desks calling to Mr. Keating with “O Captain! My Captain” I got goose bumps and wanted to run out to change the world. In this film, when students all grown up applauded Mr. Hundert it seemed like nothing more than a passing moment in the middle of a dull day.

Without the comparisons to “Dead Poets Society” this film was directed well, Kline, like always, delivers a great performance being a master of dialects and a classic actor (Stanislavski would be proud), but the story is tired and the students seemed as enthusiastic as I am writing this review. So, to keep my loyalties to Kline, this receives a grade higher than I think it deserves … C. If you want to see Kline, rent “A Fish Called Wanda,” “Life As A House,” “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” “Dave” or even “French Kiss.” If you want to be inspired, “Dead Poets Society” is the most inspirational film of all time.

Solaris – starring George Clooney.

The oddest trip into space since Stanley Kubrick’s “2001; A Space Odyssey.” George Clooney goes to a space station above the planet of Solaris in order to coax the team back to Earth … but strange and inexplicable things begin to occur that leads Clooney to want to stay as well.

Dr. Chris Kelvin (Clooney) boards the ship and Solaris begins to read his mind; it fashions a replica of his late wife Rheya (played by Natascha McElhone from “The Truman Show”). Yes, that is right, the planet reads minds. So whatever is the memory of those on the ship is what the planet replicates and shows them, which drives them mad.

As it drags on Kelvin must realize that his wife that is being shown to him is not real. She does realize this and wishes for it all to end, but Kelvin does not wish to lose his wife again and objects to destroying this facsimile of his dead wife.

This film was haunting. It was everything that a science fiction movie is supposed to be. Good characters, great locale and confusing as hell. But stick with it, because you will get it if you do not give up on it.

It was methodical and hypnotic. Steven Soderbergh seems to be mastering the art of film direction. This movie does not show off any writing skills Soderbergh may possess, but the direction is impressive.

The most notable aspect of the film is Clooney. He proves himself here, if he has not done it already with you, as a very credible and talented actor. This is one of his best performances to date, just not one of his best films. He normally picks wonderful scripts to be a part of and this does not live up to what he normally chooses.

But I think you should all see it, if not for entertainment value, just because it will certainly get you thinking. I do not know about you, but I often enjoy films you need to figure out a little bit, I do not want everything laid out clean cut for me. B-.

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