way did ‘dey go?”
Masturbatory moviemaking has always been
around, but each year, it becomes more and more prevalent in the medium of
film. Recently, we’ve seen it done in a cool manner (Kill Bill) and
we’ve seen it done in a not-so-cool manner (Something’s Gotta Give).
The director of Torque, Joseph Kahn, is a first-timer. However, he
clearly arouses himself like a professional. It’s too bad the audience
couldn’t have some fun while watching him do it, as we can with
Q.T.’s work. In this movie, bikers pee off cliffs, bikers lick themselves,
and bikers fight in weird sorts of dementedly ironic ways. Despite this,
the movie only carries a PG-13 rating, because as long as Kahn does it
with himself, it’s perfectly okay by the MPAA. I’m not sure what Torque
wants to be exactly, and I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be taken
seriously or not, but it’s so over-the-top and laughably bad, I almost
Plot-wise, Torque is lacking substance,
but I don’t think that many of its viewers will be expecting anything more
than it provides in the department. There’s a biker gang who hates another
biker gang who hates another biker gang. Or, at least, I think that’s how
it goes. Then there are some drugs, bike parts, and rivalries involved in
a cheesy mystery that Kahn would like to be able to call twisty, which is
set up later in the film. In between all the gaps that this leaves, we get
a few ruthless stunts, predictable chases, and funny expressions and
one-liners. Oh, and then there’s the pierced biker chick, who, by the end
of the movie, begins to really freak you out. Am I forgetting anything?
Right, how could I forget that? There’s nothing to forget in the first
The buzz surrounding Torque is the
honest-to-god truth. It’s stupid, poorly acted, and terribly written.
Still, I’m not exactly sure that it doesn’t want to be bad. I
wouldn’t go so far as to call Torque a parody of biker movies, but
it clearly likes to kid with its audience.
Take, for example, supporting actor Ice Cube’s
performance. Half of me loves his work, and takes it as a hysterically
wondrous mocking of stupidly serious flicks with lame-brained
motorcyclists. The other half thinks that it is a pitiful part of one of
those stupidly serious flicks with lame-brained motorcyclists. This
doesn’t much matter, though. We have a good time watching Torque,
and an even better one making fun of it. Clocking in at just eighty-two
minutes, it’s a completely tolerable and somewhat refreshing, dopey
There’s always a movie each year that opens up
to one of the best beginnings in film’s history, but then ends up being
disappointing. And I don’t mean for you to take that lightly, either.
Cold Mountain starts with dynamite, a gigantic blast of success on the
parts of director Anthony Minghella and cast members Nicole Kidman and
Jude Law, whose natural chemistry overflows the screen in a sensuous and
touching, graceful manner. The greatness of the picture continues on for
almost an hour and a half, captivating us with the genuine emotions of
love, war, and confliction, in a brutal and uncertain time. However, when
Minghella brings a few more characters into the mix, the experience
becomes more rough and unpolished than it should be. Cold Mountain
is the 2003 equivalent of Martin Scrosese’s Gangs of New York,
which was released around the same time in 2002. Both films startle and
baffle us with epic premises and visceral plots, but they stumble into
unsatisfying conclusions, failing to recognize how great they could’ve
been. The two are still very good movies, however. This one certainly
deserves to be watched by many.
The characters here aren’t as deep as the tale
in which they embody, but being the talented man that he is, Minghella is
able to cover this up, with his illusive storytelling abilities.
Kidman plays Ada Monroe, a young woman who
moves from Charleston, West Virginia to Cold Mountain, North Carolina soon
before the breakout of the Civil War. There, she falls in love with Inman
(Jude Law), and the two only begin to develop a relationship, even though
it’s evident that the sparks between them are flying high. However, when
the War Between the States does commence, Inman, like all the other
Southern males, must go and fight. Through the many hardships, Ada sends
him letters, constantly expressing her passion towards him. When he
becomes injured in the war, and the sweet southern voice of the woman
aiding him begins to read a piece of his mail from his lover, slowly
transferring into Ada’s herself, it becomes apparent to him that he should
try return home. Even though it may be chocked full of melodramatic,
hallmark Hollywood moments up to this point in time, Cold Mountain
is one hell of an exhilarating picture.
But, of course, Minghella must maintain an epic
feel, and this is where he goes wrong. Since he still has some empty space
to fill up before his film reaches a conclusion, he throws some dry
material into the mix, making the movie feel more like an experimental
concoction than an accomplished piece of art.
So what does he decide to add in to kill some
time? A comedic relief—by the name of Ruby Thewes (Renée Zellweger)—the
character from hell. Along with Ruby comes her father and his posse, whose
personalities are almost as generic as hers. In fact, they negatively
influence the ending of the film in such a prominent way, it’s hard to
deny that their creation was nothing short of a devastating mistake.
I suppose you could call Zellweger brilliant,
because, somehow, she keeps a character who should’ve ruined the movie
from doing so. Her co-stars’ work often comes off as better because the
quality of their roles is much purer, but she’s the real star of
the film. The one thing that Ruby taught me during this film was that an
actor’s performance has a greater impact on the end result of a film than
the written personality that they capture. Good roles are hard to come by,
but great acting is what should really be remembered. If I was solely
grading the script of Cold Mountain, I’d rate it about two buckets.
Instead, I give the movie three. This, alone, proves that it’s been
brought to life in good hands.
It would be a crime if I didn’t mention the
realism of the war scenes somewhere, also. The gruesomeness of the opening
battle, in particular, is striking. Too many movies about the Civil War
try to depict it as being a clean event. That material has a place on the
History Channel, but not in multiplexes (with the exception of
Gettysburg, which I consider to be one of the greatest war films of
all-time). In a sense, the contrast between these gritty and accurate
battle sequences, showcased in this film, and the somewhat superficial
excess scenes, works to its advantage. Cold Mountain almost thrives
upon its mistakes. It may have taken me writing this review to realize it,
but this movie deserves a significant place in every moviegoer’s heart,
even though it’s desperately imperfect. Whatever Cold Mountain’s
flaws, we can accept and appreciate it. I can only hope that this will be
enough for the majority of moviegoers.
“It's funny how people see me and treat me,
since I'm really just a simply, boring person,” says Finbar McBride
(played by a wonderful Peter Dinklage). Born with dwarfism, his short
stature has constantly made him the subject of society’s tasteless sense
of humor, leaving him isolated from all but one person—his only friend—who
owns the shop he works in. There, the two sell every model-train
associated product in existence.
In the opening scene of the film, Fin’s boss
and companion dies as a result of heart failure, when working. Shortly
afterwards, Fin is told that he has inherited an old train station depot.
He decides to live in it, to both satisfy his love of the method of
transportation and the budget in which he lives on. He makes his way out
to the rural New Jersey community on foot, getting there in about a day’s
time. There, he becomes acquainted with Joe (Bobby Cannavale), a talkative
and friendly hotdog vendor, who sells items in front of his new home, and
Olivia (Patricia Clarkson), a middle-aged woman who is still coping with
divorcing her husband and losing her son. The dialogue exchanged between
these three is magical; the evolution of their relationship feels humanely
natural. From the very first frame of the flick until long past the last
one, we sympathize with Fin, and believe that he’s just a normal guy, as
he truly is. We, the audience, warm-heartedly welcome him, in the same
fashion his two new friends do.
When people poke fun of Fin, the audience
realizes that he’s used to it. He has built up a wall between himself and
the stereotypical population, to minimize explosions of his anger. Because
we are aware of this, each time a rude comment is made about him, we
almost feel sorry for the people making them, rather than Fin himself.
They’ve merely fallen into the conformist attitude of society, which
mindlessly detracts from their personalities.
Writer/director Thomas McCarthy created this
role for Dinklage, who is a dwarf in real life. Even though Dinklage
admits to being less angered about different people’s unacceptable jokes
regarding him, he has, in a sense, lived this role. His experience
translates into the very greatness he captures in his work, leaving
viewers amazed. Clarkson and Cannavale are also terrific; the former
bringing out the feelings of sorrow of her character, and the latter with
those of humor.
The ending of the picture, which I will not
divulge for your sake, is, in a word, miraculous. I chose to interpret it
as upbeat, even though one could certainly say it’s quite pessimistic.
But, the most important aspect of it is that it stresses the importance of
friendship. The Station Agent is honest in every sense, and in
order to appreciate it, we must accept and cherish every part of it, just
the way it is—kind of like how we should with Fin himself.
Every emotion that anyone has ever experienced
on earth is somewhere in this movie’s contents, waiting to be discovered.
It’s as poignant as reality—a jigsaw puzzle of desire, ecstasy, and
despair—mystically captivating everyone who is willing to embrace it.
With one touch of the table, an
unflinching presence, and a fearful gaze, the luck is gone, the
winning streak down the toilet. The cooler strikes again. He has a
suave and fateful grin almost; so serious, it’s outrageously comedic
and sort of sorrowing, as well. This movie is profoundly hysterical
and deeply moving in such an odd way, I couldn’t help but look at
the screen in a manner I never had before. I was nervous and
disturbed by the contents of the film, but still had a smirk on my
face, despite that. The Cooler is uncomfortably hilarious,
the kind of thing that you know how to react to, but don’t want to
believe that you do. It’s a tremendous work and a not-so-tremendous
work. It’s something that you only like because of the shock factor;
a movie so snaky and wicked should be much appreciated any time it
plays on a multiplex’s screen.
Director Wayne Kramer takes us into the world
of Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy), a cooler at an old-school style casino.
It’s a “study” of how his wonderful ability to lose affects his personal
life (or visa-versa). The story is simply meant to be experienced; I can’t
even put my finger on why the whole thing comes across as so visceral,
albeit utterly engaging.
Part of it has got to be the supporting
performances by Alec Baldwin, who plays Bernie’s boss, and Maria Bello,
his newfound romance. The two’s work is so insanely contradictory, the
fact that they’re in the same flick is almost wacky. Baldwin plays a man
who’s violent and stern, the kind of guy you’d never want to find yourself
associating with. Bello is more sentimental and helplessly independent in
her role, thriving upon an undistinguished vulnerability. She’s my
favorite in the film, capturing real feelings, within the contrived plot.
Her work, ironically, blends into the picture well, though, making for
much of its success. It’s inspiring to see her do something so indifferent
in such a daring movie, bringing a beautiful sense of humanity to the
If it’s unique ingeniousness you want, I can’t
think of a better flick to attend. The creativity of The Cooler is
what makes it the ideal picture that it is. The film is slowly expanding,
and is now in most major markets; hopefully it will receive the warped
success that it deserves.
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