Monthly Archives: May 2007

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END

The extremely uneven third entry in Gore Verbinski’s popular franchise based on the famous Disney amusement park ride begins slow and ascends gradually toward levels of mild entertainment: it’s densely plotted, convoluted, confusing at times, mildly uninteresting at others, and way way way overlong. Let’s see if I’ve got this right: the plot involves rescuing Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from a hallucination-inducing Purgatory; an Asian pirate captain (Chow Yun-Fat) who meets an untimely demise; the ongoing romance between Ms. Swan (Keira Knightly) and William Turner (Orlando Bloom); an attempted truce with the on-again/off-again villain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush); a sea witch/goddess called Calypso; and the Pirate Council’s war against the British Royal Navy armada. Yes, with a sometimes painful, sometimes enjoyable running time of 168 minutes, this film has enough plotlines for an entire season of a TV series (and then some). Still, “Pirates” fans are rabid and might enjoy this on some level. For anyone less than devoted to the Cult of Sparrow, stay away. NOTE: A mildly amusing, much-anticipated cameo by Keith Richards as Sparrow’s father is decent enough.

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ANGEL-A

Luc Besson hadn’t made a film in almost ten years, and then two came along in 2007: the lackluster kid film “Arthur and the Invisibles” and this gorgeous black-and-white entry in the “cinema du look” (ala’ “Diva,” and Besson’s own “La Femme Nikita” and “Subway”). This film is a return to form – somewhat. The serio-comic neo-noir tale of a down on his luck grifter and his supermodel guardian angel (who saves him from suicide, among other things), Besson’s film is above all great to look at, mixing in humor and violence with understated aplomb.

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ONCE

John Carney’s film is winsome yet sometimes profane, heartwarming yet bittersweet; the tiny Irish musical that could. The “plot” is simplicity itself: The “Guy” (Glen Hansard of the Frames) meets the “Girl” (Czech immigrant Marketa Irglova) and they make beautiful music together. But the Devil’s in the details: The “Guy” (Hansard), who alternates his time between working in his father’s vacuum repair shop and singing for pennies on the street with his knowledge of “established songs,” as well as his trusty guitar to guide his original efforts, is a heartbroken Irish troubadour on the streets of Dublin. The “Girl”, a young beauty who has more than one surprise up her sleeve, quickly takes to the sad “old man” who is enchanted by her as well. They decide to at least have a musical relationship, collaborating on some songs; she plays piano, sings background and writes a few lovely lyrics and he bangs out a mean guitar string. But is it meant to be? Writer-director John Carney doesn’t interfere with fancy camerawork or even the typical jittery nature of digital video – despite a heart-stoppingly accelerated shooting schedule and an excruciatingly shoe-string budget. Hansard and Irglova are something approaching magical as two ordinary people in an ordinary world with extraordinary gifts who find each other. The music these two make together is adorable, catchy, and memorable. The results are an utterly lovely experience you won’t soon forget.

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<br/>NOTE: Winner of the 2007 Oscar for Best Song (“Falling Slowly”).

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PARIS, JE’TAIME

A delightful, mostly entertaining and rewarding omnibus film from some of our most celebrated directors, about maybe the most beautiful city in the world. Some 19 different directors (some in pairs) each work to present a story set in a different section of the City of Lights, and the results are generally mixed. A few segments stand out, including an early one by Gurinder Chadha (“Bend It Like Beckham”) about a young Parisian student who quickly falls for a young Muslim woman after his friends tease her when she trips and drops her things. There’s an amusing near-silent segment from the Coen Brothers (“Fargo”) in which Steve Buscemi attracts the wrong kind of attention at a stop in the Metro. Sylvain Chomet (“The Triplets of Belleville”) this time works in colorful live action to present the delightful and warm story of how two mimes met and fell in love, featuring the Eiffel Tower. Alfonso Cuaron (“Children of Men”) follows Nick Nolte as he and daughter Ludivine Sagnier walk (in an unbroken shot) down a long and busy street, covering a range of topics before arriving at Nolte’s destination: to babysit. Vincenzo Natali (“Cube”) directs Elijah Wood in the horrific story of a tourist who gets bitten by a vampire and falls in love. Wes Craven takes a scarcely less supernatural approach as he follows British newlyweds Emily Mortimer and Rufus Sewell through a famous cemetery, discussing their relationship and even meeting the ghost of Oscar Wilde. Olivier Assayas (“Clean”) follows a drug-addicted actress (Maggie Gyllenhaal) on a long night of shooting and snorting cocaine. Famed cinematographer Christopher Doyle (“In the Mood for Love” and “Hero”) directs famous director Barbet Schroeder (“Barfly,” “Reversal of Fortune”) as he makes his way through an Asian district, and gets assaulted. Gus Van Sant follows an American youth who is the object of affection for a young French apprentice, but the language barrier gets in the way of any physical contact. Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”) directs aspiring actress Natalie Portman in the hyperkinetic retrospective of her one-time romance with a blind student. Some are less memorable, from the likes of Bruno Podalydes, Walter Salles, Nobuhiro Suwa, and others. The film ends with Margo Martindale, directed by Alexander Payne (“Election,” “Sideways”), as an American tourist amusingly narrating her trip alone to Paris for her French class – in a Southern accent. All in all, this is a hit and miss affair, but a nice one that makes you want to visit the city as soon as it’s over.

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