July '05

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All Reviews by Jason Aaron

The Machinist

If you’ve already seen Christian Bale as a buff Batman this summer, then you’ll be absolutely shocked to see the film Bale did just before Batman Begins. In The Machinist, Bale looks more like a concentration camp survivor than a superhero, since the actor lost a staggering (and record-setting for an actor) 63 pounds for his role as an insomniac with a dark secret. This film, however, deserves to be known for far more than just a bit of weigh-loss trivia.

Director Brad Anderson follows up 2001’s Session 9 with yet another terrifically creepy film that no one saw (do yourself a real favor and rent them both). Screenwriter Scott Kosar delivers a knockout script that’s dark and eerily dream-like, yet still pays off logically at the end. It may take you a while just to get over Bale’s unbelievable appearance, but once you do, there’s a hell of a movie waiting there. (R) Rating: 5

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Writer/director Wes Anderson films just keep getting weirder. Fortunately, they stay about the same in terms of entertainment value. If you enjoyed Anderson’s previous quirky comedies, like Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, then chances are you’re gonna like his newest quirky comedy.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou stars Bill Murray who’s still enjoying a bit of an acting renaissance (we’ll just forget about Garfield: The Movie). Murray plays Steve Zissou, an oceanographer and adventurer who’s approaching the end of his career but wants to go out by finding and killing the shark that ate his friend. Murray is surrounded by a terrific ensemble cast including Willem Dafoe as Zissou’s jealous, German right-hand man and Owen Wilson as the Southern gentleman who may or may not be Zissou’s son.

The Life Aquatic also comes complete with the type of oddball production design you’d expect from Anderson, like a massive cut-away set of Zissou‚s boat and bizarre stop-motion-animation sea creatures. All in all, it’s another stellar comedy from one of the funniest, most unique filmmakers working today. (R) Rating: 4

The Getaway (Deluxe Edition)

It’s looking like a banner year for fans of maverick director Sam Peckinpah. In March, we saw the DVD debut of Peckinpah’s least-known masterpiece Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia. And August sees the release of Major Dundee, the flawed predecessor to Peckinpah’s best-known masterpiece The Wild Bunch. In between, we get a Deluxe Edition DVD of The Getaway starring Steve McQueen.

Filled with just the type of stylish violence, gritty shoot-outs and incredible editing that was Peckinpah’s trademark, The Getaway is still shamefully better known as the inspiration for Alec Baldwin’s retched 1994 remake. Based on a novel by pulp writer Jim Thompson and scripted by Water Hill (who went on to direct The Warriors and 48 Hrs), The Getaway deserves to be known as a great heist film that showcases a supremely talented director before alcoholism and erratic behavior ruined his career. (PG) Rating: 4

Million Dollar Baby

It racked up at the Oscars and was lauded by critics all over the country; and if you’re into browbeating melodramas, you may like it too. As a director, Clint Eastwood has never been known for his subtlety, but Million Dollar Baby must be his treatise on over-the-top sappiness.

What begins as an average boxing film eventually develops aspirations of social relevance and seeks to bludgeon viewers into a state of sympathy. Oscar winner Hillary Swank plays an immaculately scruffy wannabe-champ whose white trash family is so outrageously callous and disdainful that it’s laughable. Instead of trying to simply tug on your heartstrings, Million Dollar Baby grabs a huge handful and yanks as hard as it can, over and over.

I won‚t spoil the dark surprise of the film’s final act, but will only say that it’s so contrived it diminishes what little credibility the film had to begin with. The performances (from Swank, Eastwood and Morgan Freeman) are all excellent, but that’s the only bright spot. Don’t buy into the hype surrounding this “modern classic.” It’s simply yet another big, dumb example of bad storytelling. (PG-13) Rating: 1



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