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Posts Tagged ‘five stars’


Review: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Directed by Michel Gondry.
Written by Charlie Kaufman from a story by Charlie Kaufman & Michel Gondry & Pierre Bismuth.
Starring Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, and Tom Wilkinson.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind centers on Joel (Jim Carrey), who, upon learning that his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has undergone a procedure to completely erase him from her memory, undergoes the same procedure himself — but as both his bad and good memories of her begin to fade away, he changes his mind and he begins to hide her away in other memories where she doesn’t belong, in hopes of protecting his memory of her from the erasure. It gets weirder from there.

Charlie Kaufman is without doubt the most imaginative screenwriter working in Hollywood today. His resumé gets more impressive every year: Being John Malkovich, Human Nature, Adaptation, and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind are all terrific, funny and highly imaginative movies, though each is flawed in its own way. Michel Gondry’s previous attempt to turn a Charlie Kaufman screenplay into a movie, Human Nature, though definitely enjoyable, was the weakest of the four, mostly due to surprisingly uninspired work from the director of several wonderfully inventive music videos (for Björk, Radiohead and the Chemical Brothers, among others).

With Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, working from a story developed with Michel Gondry and artist Pierre Bismuth, Kaufman improves on all of his previous scripts by adding a touching, melancholy love story, as well as several achingly beautiful, often fleeting, insights into the nature of memories and relationships. It also benefits from having the strongest ending of any of his scripts — Being John Malkovich, in particular, suffered from a somewhat disappointing final act that didn’t live up to the promise of its nearly flawless first hour. Eternal Sunshine is at the same time his most coherent, most insightful and most out-there script to date. For Mr. Gondry’s part, he has filmed not only the best Charlie Kaufman film to date, but one of the most visually exciting films in years.

Review: Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation
movie: | DVD:
Written and directed by Sofia Coppola.
Starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson.

Remember how with back in the olden days of videotapes you had to fast forward through the trailers to get to the movie? Well, those days are back with the Lost in Translation DVD, a textbook example of annoying DVD authoring. You get a self-promo ad for Focus Features (the production company), trailers for 21 Grams, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Swimming Pool — five and a half minutes in all, if you choose to watch it all. I wouldn’t have minded much if you could skip it easily, but the Menu buttons on your DVD player are disabled; the Track/Skip buttons are disabled, too; hell, even if you wanted to hit Pause (to check out Kirsten Dunst … er, I mean, read the credits in the Eternal Sunshine trailer, perhaps) — that’s disabled, too. You can Fast Forward past the trailers, but I thought that never having to do that again was part of the charm of the DVD format.

Once you get to the movie, it’s brilliant, of course. For those who haven’t seen it yet (shame on you, it was in theaters forever), Lost in Translation is about two Americans, aging has-been movie star Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and aimless photographer’s wife Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), who meet in Tokyo and find a strange, deep connection with each other that is beautifully romantic yet almost totally platonic. Some will argue that Lost in Translation is all atmosphere and no plot, but so what? The fact that they don’t profess their undying love for each other and cheat on their spouses doesn’t make for very good melodrama, but under Ms. Coppola’s guiding hand, Bill Murray and the far-too-talented-for-being-only-19-years-old Scarlett Johansson communicate volumes with just a glance or a gesture; sometimes, in both movies and relationships, words just get in the way.

Review: THX 1138: The George Lucas Director’s Cut

Directed by George Lucas.
Starring Robert Duvall, Donald Pleasance, Don Pedro Colley, Maggie McOmie and Ian Wolfe.

Here are just a few of the innumerable instances that have slyly referred to this film: “THX 138” was the license plate of Harrison Ford’s car in American Graffiti, Han bluffs that Chewbacca is being transferred from cell block 1138 in Star Wars, “THX = 1138” was the answer to the equation Brain was writing on the chalkboard in the opening for Lucas’ pal Steven Spielberg’s Animaniacs cartoon series, and Dr. Jennings’ office was number 1138 in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. When I first saw THX 1138 on video several years ago, I didn’t particularly care for it, but I felt that I at least got the joke, and that was worth something — sort of like when I sat through Midnight Cowboy, with the sole reward of getting the joke behind Rizzo the Rat from the Muppets TV shows and films. But when I recently sat down to watch THX 1138: The George Lucas Director’s Cut, which was released earlier this month on DVD (coinciding with a brief theatrical run), I absolutely loved it and now regret having missed seeing it on the big screen.

What changed between then and now…?