Nov: The Incredibles | BJ The Edge of Reason | The Manchurian Candidate | Birth | I Heart Huckabees

January 06: Walk The Line | Shopgirl | A Cock and Bull Story | Memoirs Of A Geisha
Forthcoming: Syriana
December 05: The Producers
November: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang | The Constant Gardener
November continued: Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire | Stoned | Mrs Henderson Presents
October: The Brothers Grimm | Tim Burton's 'Corpse Bride' | Lord Of War
September: Howl's Moving Castle | Goal! | On a Clear Day | Cinderella Man
August 2005 - Further Reviews: Red Eye | Bewitched
August: Asylum | The Island | Me And You And Everyone We Know | Green Street | The Skeleton Key
July: Fantastic Four | War Of The Worlds | Festival | Overnight | Batman Begins
June: Undertow | We Don't Live Here Anymore | The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse | Sin City
April/May: Star Wars III | Millions | Strings | Kingdom Of Heaven | The Interpreter
March: The Ring Two | Be Cool | Maria Full Of Grace | Les Choristes (The Chorus)
February 2005: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou | In Good Company
January 2005: Million Dollar Baby | Oceans Twelve
December: Vera Drake | The Merchant Of Venice
Nov: The Incredibles | BJ The Edge of Reason | The Manchurian Candidate | Birth | I Heart Huckabees
October: Finding Neverland | Alien vs Predator | Alfie
September: Wimbledon | The Life and Death of Peter Sellers | Dead Man's Shoes
September (more): Collateral | Exorcist: The Beginning | Ae Fond Kiss | Open Water
August: The Chronicles of Riddick | Catwoman | Spartan | The Terminal
August - more reviews: The Village | The Bourne Supremacy
July - I, Robot | The Stepford Wives | Fahrenheit 9/11 | Twisted
June: Godsend | The Ladykillers | Shrek 2 | Freeze Frame | Confidences Trop Intimes
May: The Day After Tomorrow | Troy
May: I'll Sleep When I'm Dead | The Football Factory | Van Helsing | The Company | Shattered Glass
April Film of the Month: Kill Bill Vol. 2
Guest Reviewer Page: Alternative takes by exceptional new writers
April Releases: The Cat In The Hat | Capturing The Friedmans | Monster
March Releases: Starsky & Hutch | Northfork
The Passion of the Christ
Movie Masterworks: Glengarry Glen Ross
Great Lost Movies: Waiting For Guffman
New on Screen: Something's Gotta Give | Big Fish | Lost In Translation
New Releases: Feb/March 2004 - Elephant | 21 Grams | House of Sand and Fog
January 2004: Reviews inc. A Mighty Wind/Runaway Jury/The Last Samurai/Dogville/Cold Mountain
Reviews: Master and Commander
Reviews: Love Actually | Matrix Revolutions | The Mother | Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Hollywood Educates!
Reviews: Seabiscuit | In The Cut | Mystic River | Down With Love | LXG
Kill Bill
Great Lost Movies: Wonderwall
Great Lost Movies: David Lynch's "Hotel Room"
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Celluloid Hot!
Wide, Pan and Scan
The Great Films - Visconti's "Death In Venice"
Forgotten Classics 1 - The Magic Christian
Forgotten Classics 2 - The Rebel
Forgotten Classics 3 - Being There
The One That Got Away

The Incredibles



Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible: Craig T. Nelson
Helen Parr/Elastigirl: Holly Hunter
Lucius Best/Frozone: Samuel L. Jackson
Syndrome: Jason Lee
Violet Parr: Sarah Vowell
Mirage: Elizabeth Pena
Dash Parr: Spencer Fox
Gilbert Huph: Wallace Shawn
Written and Directed by: Brad Bird

When it comes to animation, it doesn't get any better than this. From the award winning pool of talent at Pixar that brought us "Toy Story," Monsters, Inc." and "Finding Nemo," comes "The Incredibles," a hilarious and thrilling adventure about a family of former superheroes rediscovering their super skills. There's Mr. Incredible with his amazing strength, his wife Elastigirl with her flexibility, son Dash with his super speed, and daughter Violet with her invisibility and force field. This fantastic foursome gets pulled back into crime fighting action by a curious villain named Syndrome who is intent on world domination.

Written and directed by Brad Bird, known for his work on "The Iron Giant" and contributions to the highly successful TV series "The Simpsons," the film addresses underlying family and social issues while spoofing superhero comics and suburban sitcoms. It's great fun too. With state-of-the-art CGI, delicious humour, and spectacular action sequences, "The Incredibles" exceeds expectations with a superhuman experience.

Bob Parr, aka Mr. Incredible, used to be one of the world's greatest superheroes, rescuing kittens from trees, children from burning buildings, and the world from super villains. But that was fifteen years ago, before a sue-crazy society began sueing these good Samaritans and forcing them into an early retirement. Now, Bob and his wife Helen, formerly Elastigirl, have taken on civilian identities, forced to live normal routine lives with their three gifted children and have to make every effort to act normally. It's a struggle, particularly for Bob. As a clock-punching insurance claims adjuster, he becomes easily frustrated with his boss, his waistline, and his overall inability to help people. So it's no surprise that when offered the chance to play hero again by the mysterious Mirage, he jumps at the opportunity and doesn't tell a soul.

Back and forth, Mr. Incredible goes between secret missions and home, all under the guise of insurance business. Progressively, the missions get more difficult - bigger, stronger, faster robots to defeat. Ones that mimic and learn the moves of their opponents. Inevitably, Mr. Incredible meets his match and fails to return home. This worries his wife Helen - and after making a few phone calls, she is shocked to discover the truth about her husband - that he has been lying to her and resuming his secret identity. Rather than sit idle, she immediately goes back into action as Elastigirl. With her kids in tow, she heads to a secret tropical island to rescue her husband. Unknown to her, the fate of the world hangs on the mission and the only way to save the world is for the family to come out from the shadows and rediscover the incredible powers that have been missing in their lives.

Since "Toy Story" first graced the screen back in 1995, Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios have been the perfect duo, dominating the box office while reshaping and pioneering the computer animation landscape. "The Incredibles" marks the 6th collaborative effort between the two and it is easily the most ambitious. For instance, it's the first time an outsider has been asked to direct a Pixar project, and the first time a Pixar film has featured an all human cast. Coming in at 115 minutes, the film is a technical marvel - the longest and most sophisticated CG animated film to date.

The technical achievement is literally enough to make you speechless. Out of the most difficult things to do in animation, Pixar takes on each one with unbridled enthusiasm. Clothing, water, skin tones, eye definition - all taken to the next level. Most prominently, you will notice the effects involving hair - Mr. Incredible's receding tuft, Violet's shadowy locks, Dash's blonde hair whipping in the wind, or Syndrome's pointy tonsorial look. Each is handled with masculine or feminine movements and occasionally, the texture is so finite that you can glimpse the individual strands. If that doesn't amaze you, try the scenes in which multiple effects are combined, like the scene in which Dash, Elastigirl, and Violet are floating in open water with their hair altered and weighed down by the moisture. Not only does "The Incredibles" advance the art of animation, it takes the genre to a previously unimagined standard.

The film was written and directed by Brad Bird, who was also responsible for "The Iron Giant," an underrated gem about a young boy and a robot caught in the middle of the Cold War era. Much like "The Iron Giant," "The Incredibles" has a 1950's noir-ish feel. The story is based on reality, with a twist of course. The father is bored and dissatisfied with his job, the mother is stretched in all kinds of directions, the son is hyperactive, and their teenage daughter is shy and withdrawn. The importance of emphasising normality is that, while the characters have superpowers, they are limited by their routine lives. These lives connect with audiences, who in many ways can relate and laugh at the exaggerations. It's a simple technique, but one that goes a long way in relaying its message - that it's important to balance dreams with family obligations and responsibility. And that a family is strongest and most powerful when it stays together.

Providing the voice for Mr. Incredible is Craig T. Nelson, who is great as the fallible hero, coping with his weight, his job, and his family duties. And his voice teeters expertly between mid-life crisis and youthful exuberance. The glue that holds the family together is Holly Hunter. And Hunter's character stands out because of the warmth and motherly nature she brings to the role along with flashes of confidence and ingenuity. The film also benefits from a slew of complementary characters with distinctive voices: Samuel L. Jackson as Mr. Incredible's supportive old pal, Frozone; director Brad Bird as the sensationally funny, riotous, cape sensitive Edna 'E' Mode; and Jason Lee as the diabolical Syndrome, delightfully rich when he swoons with superiority.

"The Incredibles" is everything that an animated film should be. It's great looking, has marvellous characters, and terrific action and humour in between. Additionally, it has a story that deals with modern family issues and individuals who are relatable, despite the appearance of super powers. Says Bob, "No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again!" But that's what makes action comics so much fun. For every superhero around to clean things up, there is an equally dynamic super villain to mess things up again. And who would want anything else to clean up the world when you have "The Incredibles" around to save the day?

This really is fabulous - don't miss it.

Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason


(Spare us part three - please!) © MediaEye Design
Bridget Jones: Renee Zellweger
Daniel Cleaver: Hugh Grant
Mark Darcy: Colin Firth
Mum: Gemma Jones
Dad: Jim Broadbent
Rebecca: Jacinda Barrett
Shazzer: Sally Phillips
Tom: James Callis
Jude: Shirley Henderson

Directed by Beeban Kidron.
Written by Andrew Davies, Helen Fielding, Richard Curtis and Adam Brooks, based on the novel by Fielding.
Running time: 108 minutes.

'Another year, another diary," Renée Zellweger intones in her now flawless English accent at the start of "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason." Really, though, it reads like the previous book, only written in a slightly different shade of ink.

This follow-up to the enormously successful "Bridget Jones's Diary," which was smarter and funnier that its innate chick-flick tendencies would suggest, is more of a remake than a sequel. Certain scenes, images and pieces of dialogue are almost identical to the 2001 original; including Bridget's mum's Christmas turkey-curry buffet at the film's start; which perhaps is intended to provide the audience with a sense of familiarity and comfort, but instead it simply smacks of laziness.

"Bridget Jones" author Helen Fielding and Richard Curtis ("Four Weddings and a Funeral") are among the four people credited with concocting the script, which is fairly mind-boggling when you think about it. Four writers, over three years, with returning stars Zellweger, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant, now under the direction of Beeban Kidron and this is the best they could come up with? It's all so disappointing, especially if you've slapped in a dvd and revisited the first "Bridget Jones" to get geared up for part two and are riding a wave of expectation.

"Edge of Reason" picks up several weeks later, with the once miserably single Bridget now blissfully dating Mark Darcy (Firth), the sweet but seriously uptight human-rights lawyer. She's still making an idiot of herself on cue as a roving reporter for the TV show "Sit Up, Britain!" which (far too conveniently) has hired her sleazy ex, Daniel Cleaver (Grant), as a travel correspondent.

Is it wrong to want Bridget to hook up with Daniel again, even just casually? Sure, he cheated on her and deceived her, but he's certainly much more fun than the stuffy Mr. Darcy. He's a cad, but he and Bridget enjoy such fabulously flirty banter, it makes "Edge of Reason" a great deal more watchable when Shug's around.)

They have plenty of opportunities for banter when (again, far too conveniently) they're sent on assignment together to Thailand. The trip happens to take place just as Bridget is eager for Mark to propose; though, after only about eight weeks of dating, isn't it a shade too previous for such talk? She's also worried about their inherent class differences, as well as the perceived threat of Rebecca (Jacinda Barrett), Mark's beautiful, leggy co-worker, who seems to be round at his house all the time.

Thankfully, Bridget's trio of eccentric pals (Sally Phillips, James Callis and Shirley Henderson, back for round two) have been there with a drink, a fag and a well-timed quip to make it all better.

Once in Thailand, though, all that security is chucked out the window, and Bridget suddenly is being arrested at the airport on her way home after cops find a huge amount of cocaine in her bag (the result of a fling her girlfriend, Shazzer, enjoyed while along for the break).

At this point, it's as if Kidron yanked an enormous emergency brake; "Edge of Reason" becomes a totally different film. Bridget ends up spending time in a Thai prison, where she teaches her English-challenged female cellmates the correct words to Madonna's "Like a Virgin" and leads them in an awkward sing-along. She also listens to their tales of woe: boyfriends who beat them up, got them hooked on drugs, turned them out on the streets. Both these experiences are played for strained laughs - frankly they're not amusing.

Nevertheless, Zellweger continues to prove herself game for every humiliating physical predicament. It's just hard to care about these people this time around; maybe because they're all a little less likeable, or maybe because the entire experience simply feels too formulaic.

The Manchurian Candidate


Cast: Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber, Meryl Streep, Jon Voight , Kimbery Elise, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright
Director: Jonathan Demme
Producers: Scott Rudin, Tina Sinatra
Screenplay: Daniel Pyne and Dean Georgaris, based on the 1962 screenplay by George Alexelrod and the novel by Richard Condon
Cinematography: Tak Fujimoto
Music: Rachel Portman
Running Time: 2hrs 10min

Initially when I heard that Jonathan Demme planned to remake John Frankenheimer's sensational 1962 thriller The Manchurian Candidate, I thought, here's a guy who has lost his way totally (see/don't see "The Truth About Charlie") and is having yet another go at remaking a classic. The new "TMC" doesn't have anything approaching the audacious cynicism of Frankenheimer's (and screenwriter George Axelrod's) original, and the climax doesn't make you similarly sick with suspense. But it is a work of passionate conviction with some of Fahrenheit 9/11's fire in the belly, and an aura of tragedy to go with it. Beautifully made and unsurpassingly creepy, it's the rare remake with something contemporary to add.

Of course, it would have to have something new to add, wouldn't it? The Frankenheimer-Axelrod adaptation of Richard Condon's bracingly unsentimental novel is indelibly early '60s: when fear of the Red Menace collided head-on with revulsion for the Red-baiting legacy of Senator Joseph McCarthy; when the themes of brainwashing and the bomb and '50s ultrasensitive mummy's boys and Freudian monster-mamas all coalesced into the freakiest paranoid melodrama the USA had ever seen and it was released during the Cuban missile crisis, when most American heads were already messed up.

The terrible new threat in Demme's remake isn't Reds or terrorists but a multinational conglomerate. The "Manchurian" of the title is now "Manchurian Global," a corporation obviously modelled on Halliburton, down to the no-bid contracts and overcharges in Iraq. And the title character is different, too. In the original, he's the buffoonish, McCarthy-like vice-presidential nominee John Iselin, who's poised to win the presidency once his brainwashed stepson assassinates his running mate. Here, that stepson, the mummy's boy and alleged war hero, Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber), is himself the Manchurian Candidate - a senator who's a candidate for his party's vice-presidential nomination.

This upends much of what we recall from the original, so that, at every turn, Demme and his screenwriters, Daniel Pyne and Dean Georgaris, are using our expectations to pull the rug out from under us. However, because Demme and Schreiber haven't rethought the character all the way through, this Raymond is, if anything, an even more charmless, abrasive rich boy than Condon's; and if there are moments when Schreiber's nerdy solipsism is desperately poignant, there are others when he doesn't even try to make Raymond a plausible politician; thereby blowing the chance for some good, nasty satire. Some reports mention Schreiber as a major actor (he isn't), and Schreiber himself is so intent on proving it to the world that he gives us full-on Method actor cerebral contortions in the middle of his big political speeches. Is it possible to use the 'method' to portray a 'method'? Discuss.

Meryl Streep as Raymond's mother, Eleanor Prentiss Shaw, a God-and-country conservative senator, puts in a high-wire, borderline-camp theatricality performance, packing extravagant business into every second. The way she disgustedly spits out the description of the liberal Sen. Jordan, played by Jon Voight, as a one-wwwworlder is brilliant, and she stops the film, just by crunching down on some ice cubes with a mixture of cruelty and insouciance.

The work of Denzel Washington as Army Maj. Ben Marco is in an entirely different key. The actor who won an Oscar for his charismatic grandstanding in Training Day (2002) is here a messed-up, mumbling, sweat-drenched shell of a man, his eyes pulling back in anguish from the words coming out of his mouth; words that he knows he has been programmed to say. I've never before seen this actor play a character who doesn't seize the space. The role must have taken something out of him, and the performance is a personal triumph.

It's also a testament to Demme's humanism, which makes actors like Washington feel safe to go into themselves. There are no bit parts in a Demme movie, no expendable characters, no cannon fodder. The Manchurian Candidate is full of Demme stock-company players; Kimberly Elise (doing a big variation on the Janet Leigh role), Ted Levine, Dean Stockwell, Charles Napier, Paul Lazar, even Robyn Hitchcock as an English guide in Kuwait. And everyone registers. As Sen. Jordan, Jon Voight weighs his words like a man whose life has been spent trying to reconcile his intellect and his awareness of political realities. For an actor who has, on occasion, seemed more than a little bonkers, it's an amazingly grounded performance; perfectly judged. Even Simon McBurney's Atticus Noyle; the mad neuroscientist who pops up in dreams and behind the false walls in the back of closets; is a fascinatingly complex little slug, a soothing sadist.

Maybe Demme isn't enough of a sadist to make a thriller that drills into your skull with the same ruthless efficiency as Noyle (or, for that matter, Frankenheimer). And the movie does slacken and go a little soft in the climax. But the dread that permeates it almost compensates. The scenes of the soldiers in Raymond's old squadron (among them Jeffrey Wright) who know that something terrible is in their heads (but not what) linger and give the whole film the feel of a post-traumatic-stress-disorder nightmare, a bad dream of losing one's mind and body while the powerful look on with monstrous indifference. No, this isn't the twisted, sexy, tragicomic stick of dynamite that Frankenheimer gave us in 1962. It's more like a toxin that eats at you slowly from within. With the current demise of USAUK world standing in 2004 Iraq and the farce of American political choice in the White House, it's a valid piece of work.



Cast: Nicole Kidman, Cameron Bright, Danny Huston, Lauren Bacall. Written by Jean-Claude Carriere, Milo Addica
Directed by Jonathan Glazer
Running time: 1hr 40m

Preparing to remarry, a widow is confronted by a boy who claims to be her reincarnated late husband. A creepily atmospheric, unresolved but despite that quite a memorable film guaranteed to make second, third and fourth husbands queasy and uneasy, "Birth" puts a not-entirely-fresh twist in the time-honoured cocktail of Love and Death. What happens to the mind of the beloved one left behind - the one who simply can't pick up, move on, leave the past behind and get on with life - if death suddenly seems to be a swinging door?

In a convergence of talent as odd as "Birth" itself, Nicole Kidman stars in this, directed by Jonathan Glazer (of 2000's brutish, fabulous, hair-raising "Sexy Beast") and co-written by Jean-Claude Carriere, who helped script the most famous films of the late Spanish surrealist Luis Buñuel ("Belle du Jour," "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie," amd "That Obscure Object of Desire"). The results, shot in a damp, late autumnal Manhattan of perpetual rawness and color-drained streets, is an austerely creepy, ethereal spooky piece in which the things that go unexplained - which are many - are far more unnerving than the things that are.

What we do learn is that Anna (Kidman), who lost her husband, Sean, 10 years earlier, is finally going to marry the persistent and frankly grim looking Joseph (Danny Huston, who may as well have "chuck me" tattooed on his forehead). At a party celebrating the impending nuptials, a young boy, also named Sean (Cameron Bright), shows up and matter-of-factly tells Anna he is really her dead husband. Rather than laugh him off, Anna is troubled, then intrigued, and finally wants to believe him so badly that she ultimately becomes convinced he is what he claims.

Despite his age and her seemingly slippery sanity, she even makes a plan to run away with the boy. (The much-discussed bath-tub scene involving Anna and Sean is fairly chaste and innocuous, implying far more than it ever shows). Of course, the question is, what will she do with him till he's 18 or 21? She asks herself the question, and the fact that she's able to argue it away shows how madly she loves a man who's dead.

The film relies as much on its tremendous sound design as it does on looks, even though Kidman has what is surely one of the longest close-ups in movie history in an audience theatre shot, which you might well replicate as you peer at her countenance! There is so much going on in her face that when Huston leans into the frame at one point, he doesn't relieve the tension; he intrudes.

Without giving away much else, "Birth" takes a preposterous premise into some fairly pedestrian territory. How would a situation like this turn out? But as mentioned above, the unresolved aspects of the story leave one feeling crawly, unnerved and generally jangled.

I Heart Huckabees


Directed by David O. Russell.
Screenplay by David O. Russell and Jeff Baena.
Starring Jason Schwartzman, Dustin Hoffman, Isabelle Huppert, Jude Law, Lily Tomlin, Mark Wahlberg and Naomi Watts

"You just can't handle my infinite nature, can you?" "That is so not true - wait, what does that even mean?"

Everyone has had moments where they've felt cosmically cheated or knackered by life, some so much so that they will go to the most absurd lengths to create their own sense of justice. In "I (heart) Huckabees,"(aka I love Huckabees with the cheesy 'heart' graphic) the very funny new film from David O. Russell, an environmental lobbyist (Jason Schwartzman) and a spokesperson for a department store chain (Jude Law) enlist the help of what the film calls 'existential detectives' (Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin) to make sense of their personal mysteries. Along for the carnival ride are a pensive and lonely fireman (Mark Wahlberg), an insecure print-and-TV spokeswoman girlfriend (Naomi Watts) and a French philosopher (Isabelle Huppert) who seems to embody Rand, Nietzsche and an array of sexual fetishes. And that is only the beginning.

"If only we had detectives like this in real life," you may well think as you peruse and view in the cinema. The film exists entirely on a plane of its own design: it's a social satire about how adults apply philosophy and pop culture psychology to their personal and professional lives in superficial ways. It's also bizarre and wonderful slapstick, but not really an existential comedy but an observational one. It's not so much interested in the belief systems but in the believers, and in why they believe. What many critics and audiences may have missed was how Russell approaches his material, which in many cases so often results in the standby "so what's it about?" "What's he 'saying' with this film?" response. Well - he has stated in interviews that such systems of thought are maddening, and that the screenplay (which is very dialogue-based) takes place in a post-9/11 world. What he may be 'saying' with "Huckabees" is that the search for answers leads nowhere, so we would all do ourselves a favour if we lightened up. He doesn't want you to think, but to laugh.

He's also notorious for directing actors in manic, unconventional ways, and it shows. Wahlberg has the best performance in the film, plays it 100% percent straight, and almost steals the movie in an hilarious dinner scene. Watts gets the film's biggest laugh, in a scene where she must perform for a Huckabees television ad after having adopted a new 'outlook on life.' Law has a breakdown that reveals an identity conflict beneath his makeshift self confidence ("How am I not myself?"). And Hoffman drives home the film's central idea with its best line: "Everything that you want and could be, you already have and are."

"I (heart) Huckabees" is the kind of film that spoils you for others, in the way it pokes fun at modern man's search for pedestrian profundities that aren't there - unless he manufactures them in his own mind. Any practical person who has studied existential philosophy would find more comedy than tragedy in it, and that is what Russell has done here (the film has drawn comparisons to "Fight Club").

His film doesn't sanctimoniously impose any 'big answers' on you, nor is it desperate to be profound. This film at least knows that it knows nothing.