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More Reviews of the hottest releases in Arts and Entertainment.

Independent Film Release

"In the Bedroom"
Directed by Todd Field


Banality in the Bedroom
2 stars out of 4
Written by Jeff M. Barr

The Oscar nominated and critically praised In the Bedroom (2001) is a dark and disturbing family drama in rural America. The independent film has been heralded for its impressive acting and down to earth story. This is all true but Todd Field's directorial debut is far from an entertaining or good.

Director Field has long been an actor in the independent and Hollywood scene, starring in such famous films like Stanley Kubricks Eyes Wide Shut (1999) and mostly small films. This is Fields first foray into writing and directing and he does an admirable but flawed job. It is either hit (beautiful cinematography and acting) or miss (extremely slow pacing and editing) with director Field in this picture.

The story based off the bestseller by Andre Dubus is an intense family drama that leaks with incredible characters and situations that are very realistic. But by Field adapting the story into screenplay hurts this tale by slowing down the camera and dragging out many scenes of some extraordinary moments in the movie. The film loses its edge in the middle half and just becomes another boring Oscar nominated film, like A Beautiful Mind (2001) and Moulin Rouge (2001).

The acting by Sissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson, and Marisa Tomei are all some of the best of the year with Wilkinson shining the brightest. All three were nominated and won numerous awards this award season but none took home the coveted Oscar statue. Tomei plays a young mother who has fallen in love with Spacek and Wilkinson's son Frank (Nick Stahl). Tomei finally breaks through the Hollywood door of crappy roles that has been holding her down since her breakout ands award winning role in My Cousin Vinny (1992).

Sissy Spacek plays a flawed but loving mother that looks like she could erupt in every scene. Spacek plays her most respected and groundbreaking role since Carrie (1976); yes its been awhile. Wilkinson is the main character and his role brings maturity and revenge to the movie that is the driving force of the story. Wilkinson acting in the movie was so first-class that he makes In the Bedroom worth watching maybe twice if you have four hours to throw around.

I do not see all the fuss about In the Bedroom. The acting is great but this movie screams the word banality. It is nice to see that this movie could be made in this special effects and big budget age, but the ten-year struggle to make this film is wasted by Todd Fields editing and pacing. Worthy for its acting and some remarkable low budget cinematography but not a winner.


"Resident Evil"
Directed/written/produced by Paul W.S. Anderson


Zombies+Milla=Great Flick
3 stars out of 4
Written by Jeff Barr

The first fifteen minutes of the new videogame turned motion picture, Resident Evil (2002), is some of the most creative filmmaking in recent years. The cinematography from David Johnson III is astonishing and original and the action is relentless and intense. The opening of Screen Gems' newest zombie-horror flick is incredible to experience and easily outshines the rest of the movie. This picture is pretty much recommended only for fans of the zombie genre and the Resident Evil videogames, but newcomers may find something to like in this scarefest from fledging director/writer Paul W.S. Anderson.

Anderson has a short but successful film record with the 1995 videogame hit Mortal Kombat, that put his name in the spotlight and also the sci-fi horror flick Event Horizon (1997), as well as Kurt Russel's action epic Soldier (1998). Anderson has progressed nicely from a cheesy special effects driven director of his early films to a genuine visual storyteller with Resident Evil.

Anderson also wrote the screenplay based of the videogame. He created an original story that uses some names and characters from the Capcom produced games. His writing is nothing special; there are some plot holes and scenes where people escape from zombies in supernatural ways, but the action is so persistent that the audience forgives these mistakes. His script even takes scenes and lines from other cult favorite zombie flicks like Night of the Living Dead, but uses them creatively and respectfully. Originality aside, Anderson is so confident of the success of his new movie that he is already penning the sequel and hopes to have the movie finished within a few years for Constantine films.

Three things make this movie so much fun-- zombies, Anderson, and actress Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element). Jovovich plays the heroine and she kicks major butt.  She gives depth and intrigue to a character that would normally be a stereotyped action hero. Besides looking incredible and being nude she knows karate and can jump on the side of walls and kick mutant dogs across the room. Everything we would all like to do, and something she surprisingly makes look easy. She simply looks like an aggressive martial arts-beating chic that no one would want to find in a dark alley. All this from a woman that weighs just over one hundred pounds.

Milla shines but so does her supporting actress Michelle Rodriguez, from last year's blockbuster The Fast and the Furious (2001). Her role comes off one-dimensional, but actually shines with the depth and character that she brings to the screen charismatically and brilliantly. The guys in the film take a major back seat to the strong but sensitive females.

Resident Evil is a must see this spring season, from the astonishing cinematography of Johnson III, to the incredible special effects and surprisingly good acting. The movie moves quick and has a running time of just over 90 minutes. Critics have mostly panned it, but they come from a different generation; one that wouldnt understand this is just simply awesome. One of the biggest surprises of this new year and quite an accomplishment for Paul W. S. Anderson.

"Y Tu Mama Tambien"
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron


A sensual and exotic road trip

Written by Jeff Mark Barr

Independent film is different for a reason, because it brings something innovative to the silver screen that no mainstream film can do, and that is exactly what the Mexican film Y Tu Mama Tambien (And Your Mother Too) does with American cinema. It changes the viewers perspective of what a coming-of-age road trip story can be about and shatters all previous clichés. This film is so organic and truthful in its nature that its a wonder more films by script writers Alfonso Cuaron and his brother Carlos havent been more successful in the U.S.

The film starts off with a graphic sex scene between two high school students, Tenoch Iturbide (Diego Luna) and his soon to be leaving girlfriend for Europe. The next scene is of Tenochs best friend Julio Zapata (Gael Garcia Bernal) having a quickie with his soon departed girlfriend as well. The sex scenes border on pornography but are authentic for the movie. These first two scenes show audience that this film is about sex and friendships and the battles that come from them.

The two young men during their workless and carefree summer meet a gorgeous Spanish woman named Luisa Cortez (Maribel Verdu) and invite her to an imagery beach called Heavens Mouth. The guys think they can seduce Luisa during the trip and get that Summer action they have been waiting for, boy are they ready for a surprise. Luisa agrees to the trip and the three of them embark on a journey that includes every human emotion possible. The story is well written but may be a bit to vague and slow paced for American audiences, but hey thats what the sex is there for.

Stylish director Alfonso Cuaron takes the road trip movie to a whole new realm thats not totally entertaining but original the entire time. He shows what modern day Mexico really is filled with rich political class and industrialized cities and then the peasants and backcountry void of any infrastructure. He shows a new reemerging country that is being westernized whether it wants to or not. One of the most beautiful and haunting scenes in the film is when boys are on a beautiful abandoned beach that will soon become a winter resort for rich Americans.

Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki shoots an elegant and engaging film that makes even the crowded and polluted streets of Mexico City look good. The camera is almost always moving creating a fourth set of eyes that the audience can relate to and interact with in the film. Many dialogue driven scenes are just one long shot that allows those young but talented actors to strut their acting muscle. Even with the beautiful imagery the camera does tend to stay on a shot too long and thus makes the film five minutes longer than it should be.

Almost, everything about this movie is brilliant from the talented actors to the striking camera work, but the film just seems a little hollow and insensitive to the people of Mexico. During the threesomes road trip they pass through many poor and devastated towns and ignore the hardships of the lower class, instead focusing on their sexual appetite. Director Cuaron creates a visually splendid if not shallow film that will enchant American audiences this summer.

2 stars out of 4