Daily Archives: December 3, 2004

The Living World

Writer-director Eugene Green was born in the U.S. but is currently an academic based in France, and this 2003 oddity, his second feature, seems more classically French than many French releases. A charming medieval fairy tale (in partially modern dress) about two knights trying to rescue children from an ogre, it periodically suggests the work of Robert Bresson, though largely stripped of its materiality and violence. The handling of animalsmost notably a dog playing a lionis especially sweet and gentle, and for all its mannerist tics, this has its share of enchantments. In French with subtitles. 75 min. (JR)… Read more »

Bridget Jones’s Diary

Renee Zellweger adopts a plausible English accent to play the title character of Helen Fielding’s popular novel, a lovable nebbish who gets involved with her boss (Hugh Grant) at a London publishing house. As likable as Zellweger is, I could have done without all the pushy tactics of this 2001 romantic comedy, which guarantees at least one complete character reversal every half hour and a golden oldie blasting on the sound track every time your attention threatens to wander. It’s so aggressive you don’t even have to like it; the movie likes itself well enough for the both of you. Sharon Maguire directed a script by Fielding, Andrew Davies, and Richard Curtis. Colin Firth costars; with Gemma Jones and Jim Broadbent. R, 92 min. (JR)… Read more »

Closer

For all his formidable gifts as a performer, Mike Nichols is celebrated mainly as a film director who delivers the goodswhich means something only if the goods are worth delivering. Here he’s applied himself to Patrick Marber’s play about two men (Jude Law and Clive Owen) and two women (Julia Roberts and Natalie Portman) seducing, betraying, and punishing one another in various combinations. (The women never get it on, but in the film’s funniest sequence Law flirts with Owen while posing as Roberts in a chat room.) As in Nichols’s previous chamber works of romantic and sexual flagellation (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Carnal Knowledge), the actors are brilliant, the dialogue extremely clever, and the direction assured. But by the end I couldn’t have cared less about any of the characters (2004). R, 98 min. (JR)… Read more »

I Am David

Said to be based on a real-life event, Anne Holm’s 1962 Danish novel follows a boy as he escapes from a post-World War II labor camp in Bulgaria and heads for Denmark. Unfortunately writer-director Paul Feig has a weakness for artiness in general and hokey art movies in particular, and the overall sluggishness of this 2003 adaptation starring Ben Tibber makes such devices as slow-motion seem like mannered rhetoricnot even Joan Plowright and James Caviezel in smaller roles can lighten it up. PG, 95 min. (JR)… Read more »

Blade: Trinity

Wesley Snipes returns for a third go-round as Blade, a half vampire, half human trying to prevent bloodsuckers from taking over the world. The only one who seems to be having much fun, though, is Parker Posey, camping it up as one of the vampires. Blade teams up with a couple of other vampire hunters (Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds), and Kris Kristofferson, his cohort in the two previous chapters, turns up again. But the true costar here is Dominic Purcell as a vampire who’s said to be even older than Dracula (though he looks like conventional beefcake) and breaks as much glass and kicks as much butt as Snipes. David S. Goyer, who scripted the first Blade movie, directed. R, 105 min. (JR)… Read more »

Bright Leaves

Apart from the groundbreaking Sherman’s March (1986), this is the best entry yet in Ross McElwee’s ongoing autobiographical saga: it’s funny, profound, and beautifully organized, and for once the southern documentary filmmaker seems fully in control of all the inherent ironies. McElwee learns from his second cousin, a movie buff, that the Gary Cooper vehicle Bright Leaf (1950) may be a fictionalized portrait of their great-grandfather, who developed the Bull Durham tobacco brand in North Carolina in the late 19th century but was driven out of business by cigarette pioneer James Buchanan Duke. In the ensuing research McElwee visits sites important to the history of tobacco and interviews many smoking victims, but he also consults Patricia Neal, who costarred in Bright Leaf, and film theorist Vlada Petric. The resulting film explores McElwee’s lineage in all its complexities, noting the subtle relation between smoking and filmgoing as well as people’s tendency to validate themselves through movies (including this one). 105 min. McElwee will introduce the 7:20 and 9:40 screenings on Friday and take questions after the 7:20 show. Music Box. Reviewed this week in Section 1.… Read more »