The Three Colors: Blue (1993) (Rating Undecided)- This first film of Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Three Colors" trilogy left me bewildered. Juliette Binoche's performance is incredibly painful to watch (in that good way), as her Julie slowly scrapes her way out of a horrible tradgedy and tries to move on. The film is incredible in how it shows every devastating moment of Julie's recovery, not flinching for a moment and never offering an easy solution. Watching Julie becomes doubly painful as she goes through what we know are the wrong decisions-- she tries to destroy every living remenant of her family's existence. We wish to death she'd stop, but we completely and totally understand her decisions. Add to this some jarring surrealism and beautifully filmed cinematography, and this may very well be a masterpiece.
The Party's Over (2003) **1/2- This political documentary, a followup to the 1993 Robert-Downey Jr. documentary "The Party's Over", follows the 2000 presidential election. It theorizes that in truth, there really is no difference between the Democratic and Republican parties. It features some great interviews from such different subjects as Jesse Jackson, Bill Maher and Scott Weiland of the Stone Temple Pilots. It trumps itself as being incredibly unbiased, and for a good portion of the film, Phillip Seymour Hoffman (who narrates and leads the film), does a good job of making it so. Unfortunately, the film is much too short to come to any comprehensive conclusion without seemingly injecting a huge amount of bias into it at the last second (even if I do agree with the points they are making).
The Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) *1/2- A joke, through and through. The kung-fu interlaced with a 1700's setting is not the primary issue here, although that isn't the best premise for a film to begin with. Dramatic tension is so skewed that the entire thing becomes instantly silly. This isn't "so-bad-it's good". This isn't fun, B-movie trash. It's just plain bad, and chore to sit through at that. Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel, two of France's most popular (and best) actors, embarrass themselves here.
The Pact of Silence (2003) **- It's getting to the point where I'm struggling to remember the last time that Gérard Depardieu really impressed me in a film. His performance is only one of the faults of this dull Hitchcockian rip-off. Yes, it's got all the usual stupid, awkwardly placed twists. Yawn. The film does such a pathetic editing job that it convinces us that two characters are really one and the same person. That's no psychological trick, it's unnecessary confusion that clutters a good deal of the film. The end of the film seems plucked right out of Vertigo and even contains bits of Agatha Christie's signature tricks. This unoriginality could be forgivable if the film was at all entertaining, but unsurprisingly, it's seriously lacking.
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003) ****- Woah. I'm still trying to get my head entirely around this film, this monumental, greatest-fantasy-film-ever-made event. I will throw all the superlatives at you once I write my gushing full review, but one of the things that especially impressed me was the way Peter Jackson handled the aftermath of the film's climax. People may complain about the ending's legnth, but it impressed me to see that this film did not miss out on the real depth behind J.R.R. Tolkein's masterpiece. Yes, these Rings do have something going for them behind what you may think. More on that in my full review later on.
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003) **** (Second Viewing)- The first time I saw this I was almost overwhelmed by all that was going on. The second viewing made it a much more complete experience.
The Triplets of Belleville (2003) ***1/2- Now, I took some of the images in this film a little more seriously than some of my friends did-- I saw this film as a much more biting, specific satire than most. (I'll elaborate in a full review later). But whether you agree with me or not, this is still a wonderfully fun time at the movies, with enough visual insanity, invention, and humor to burst the seams of many other animated films. And they say traditional animation is dead.
Mystic River (2003) ***1/2- Clint Eastwood does right in adapting this popular novel. The film is constantly strong in its choices-- this will not only destroy expectations or predictions, but make you forget that this is a movie at all. However, there are some flaws. Most of them, to my surprise, came from Sean Penn's much-praised performance, which had the energy but not the realism to make us truly see beyond the actor playing it.
Cold Mountain (2003) **- This film is a turn-off almost immediately after the first scene. Jude Law and Nicole Kidman, along with many ill-placed celebrity and semi/celebrity bit parts, are terribly miscast. These performances are so fake as to be cringe-worthy. Director Anthony Minghella also unfortunately misses out on a huge amount of the meat of the story; Ada Monroe's real suffering is passed over for some more heroic or crowd-manipulating elements.