Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Movie Review: Meet the Fockers

United States, 2004
U.S. Release Date: 12/22/04 (wide)
Running Time: 1:55
Rated: PG-13 (Profanity, sexual situations)
Cast: Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo

Director: Jay Roach
Producers: Robert De Niro, Jay Roach, Jane Rosenthal
Screenplay: John Hamburg, Jim Herzfeld
Music: Randy Newman
Studio: Universal Pictures

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If you obtained a decent abdominal workout courtesy of Meet the Parents, then Meet the Fockers will almost certainly satisfy. Meet the Fockers is for the most part more of the same, but it adds a few novel jokes and twists on memorable circumstances. With the inclusion of three new zany characters, it stays afloat. Beyond a doubt, Meet the Fockers is a mildly hilarious sequel – that has the indication it was made for the sole purpose of making money – to a riotous antecedent. Meet the Fockers is a tad lower in stature than its predecessor; it still has moments of mirth, but on the whole, it barely contains enough chortles on a consistent basis to keep you entertained and amused.

The happy yet unlucky couple of Gaylord and Pamela (soon-to-be Mr. and Mrs. Focker) are back in full swing and ready to have both of their mothers and fathers meet before they tie the knot. Only this time, things seem to be running quite smoothly for Greg (Ben Stiller) and Pam (Teri Polo)—that is...until the parents come into play.

Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro), the intimidating and nearly unapproachable father of Pam, has been spending most of his days teaching his grandson, Little Jack (Bradley and Spencer Pickren), how to speak with his hands. While still under the care of Jack and his wife Dina (Blythe Danner), L.J. comes along for the ride to meet Greg’s parents Bernie (Dustin Hoffman) and Roz (Barbra Streisand). Bernie is a retired stay-at-home eccentric father, while Roz is a full-time sex therapist for the elderly. As one can imagine, Bernie and Roz supply an insanely awkward and embarrassing series of events for Greg, as he hopes to extend Jack’s tight-knit “circle of trust” beyond Byrnes country and into Focker territory.

De Niro plays the part of Jack, the retired CIA agent, with such unwavering ardor as if Meet the Parents was shot yesterday. In fact, most members of the cast perfectly match their portrayals of the very same characters they played four years ago—excluding Teri Polo. Teri seems to lose a little luster in playing the part of Pam; this could be accredited to her lack of screen time, but regardless “Pam-cake” comes off unexpectedly flat.

As for the new additions to the cast, Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand pretty much carry the picture. Both of them work wonders as Greg Focker’s hippie-intensive parents. Hoffman is just as odd here as he was in I Heart Huckabees, and it is not a surprise to see Streisand playing a loose, liberal, yet lovable, mother.

Counteracting Hoffman’s and Streisand’s powerhouse performances, Meet the Fockers injudiciously adds a baby to the scene. The picture poorly relies on a blonde tike for a few laughs in a Baby’s Day Out kind of way, and because the child is not a part of any of the main characters’ nuclear family, he represents a wanton piece to the at times worn-out screenplay.

It is truly a downright shame that the screenwriter duo could not muster up a few more belly laughs, but it seems as though they were too adamant with pressing the same jokes over and over again. The Focker puns are literally beat to death with Randy, Orny, and the term “Fockerized”, and once more, Greg is pummeled into the ground for his profession. Also, in the effect of the screenwriter’s attempts to pound every last joke to a pulp, the running time takes a thrashing for going a little long.

Nonetheless, even with its tendencies to be both a bit incoherent and excessive as well as its cheesy happy ending, Meet the Fockers contains spurts of welcomed highlights. Nothing in the sequel comes as close to the best moments of the original, but Meet the Fockers still manages to cleverly rehash the same humor of Meet the Parents without directly reiterating its scenes and segments.

In general, Meet the Fockers is well-written stupidity (if that can exist) that mainly provides gauche guffaws. The film may be a tad formulaic and trite, but it’s still amusing. In short, to what extent you will enjoy Meet the Fockers is really contingent on how much you valued the first film. (**1/2 out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2004

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Movie Review: Blade: Trinity

United States, 2004
U.S. Release Date: 12/8/04 (wide)
Running Time: 1:45
Rated: R (Violence, profanity)
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Ryan Reynolds, Jessica Biel, Parker Posey, Dominic Purcell, Kris Kristofferson, Natasha Lyonne, Cascy Beddow, Callum Keith Rennie

Director: David S. Goyer
Producers: David S. Goyer, Wesley Snipes, Lynn Harris
Screenplay: David S. Goyer
Music: Ramin Djawadi, the Rza
Studio: New Line Cinema

Posted by Hello
In the first two Blade pictures, David S. Goyer served as the one and only screenwriter, and rewardingly, he was not at the helm as director. However, with Blade: Trinity (the third and presumably final chapter), Goyer makes his directorial debut, and even though he most likely knows the story of the Marvel comic hero Blade better than anyone else, as a director, he basically just rehashes what Del Toro’s did in the superior Blade II and what Norrington achieved in the entertaining original. The only difference the third time around is that with Goyer in the chair, the picture takes on a wholly different tone and unfortunately brings more laughs to the table than anything else.

Blade: Trinity mainly consists of the same old car chases, fight sequences, and vampire butchery (followed by the usual molten ash) that could be found in the previous Blade films; however, the third installment brings along an innovative set of weapons, a brand new villain, and a fresh team of sidekicks for the leather-strapped hybrid. Even so, because of its lighter nature and paltry plot, Blade: Trinity is sure to be both an overall frustration to fans of the series and the dullest Blade in the box.

After defeating the vampire wannabe-leader Deacon Frost in Blade and a pack of unruly mutant vampires in II, Blade (Wesley Snipes) now finds himself set up by a new vampire-in-charge named Danica Talos (Parker Posey). Danica purposely sets Blade up to kill a human, and in doing so, he ends up getting caught by the FBI. However, help is on the way in the form of a group of vampire assassins who call themselves "the Nightstalkers". The acerbic Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds) and the sexy daughter of Whistler, Abigail (Jessica Biel), lead "the Nightstalkers" to both rescue Blade from the FEDs and to join forces.

Meanwhile, Danica and friends have found the first and purest vampire of them all, Dracula, a.k.a. Drake (Dominic Purcell). The entire vampire race believes that if they can match their own genetic codes with Drake’s untainted helix, then they can acquire the ability to be “daywalkers”. However, "the Nightstalkers" have something else in mind for the fate of Drake’s blood.

Sommerfield (Natasha Lyonne), the Nightstalkers’ scientist, has developed a virus that could potentially wipe out the entire bloodsucking populace--including the almighty Dracula. The only catch is that the virus needs to be interfused with Drake’s blood, and by doing so, Blade (who is half vampire) may be killed in the process.

Blade: Trinity’s plot (if you can even call it that) is poor. It mostly consists of a deafening techno soundtrack playing over repetitive action sequences, and in between those, it’s all relatively boring and tends to comes off more as clowning around than anything stylish.

The storyline is so cluttered with characters that Goyer obviously can’t stay focused. The new cast members muddle the script and take all of the attention away from the paper-thin plot and the very lead that the picture is named after.

With Wesley Snipes returning as Blade, he gives yet another martial arts performance that all will surely find impressive; however, his dialogue is largely limited, which both immensely takes away from his character and allows the new additions to shine.

In general, Blade’s “help” in Trinity is a bit disappointing. Nevertheless, Jessica Beil plays her part well as Abigail—again, proving that in the third part of a trilogy a family member of a main character is revealed and comes in handy down the stretch. Beil’s moves work, but still, her character is just as unnecessary as both her shower scene and the iPod plug. Ryan Reynolds, who plays the Hannibal King (whatever that means), literally provides a joke-a-minute; his one-liners (most of which he wrote himself) keep the film semi-entertaining, but at the same time, they urbanize and practically ruin what the gritty and gothic first two films stood for. The Blade franchise was never about comedy, and by allowing the former Van Wilder to spew out wise-crack after wise-crack, Goyer drops Blade: Trinity to a quality that is near self-parody—versus the action-pumping and unremitting precursors.

Both Purcell and Posey provide for a bit more upscale leads. Parker Posey jumps from independent to mainstream and fairs quite well, while Dominic looks great as Goyer’s body-builder version of Dracula. (Speaking of which, it actually appears as if Goyer combined the look of Shao Kahn from Mortal Kombat with the mouth motions of the creature from Predator to create the perfect fanged villain. On a side note, I’d hate to see Goyer’s interpretation of an alien; it would probably turn out worse than Stephen King’s vision from Dreamcatcher.)

In addition, Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) returns for yet another part in the series, but thankfully his screen-time is snipped short. Furthermore, with the inclusion of Triple H as Grimwood, Danica’s vampire henchman, Goyer furthers lowers the picture’s grade. Without a doubt, the man who goes by Hunter Hurst Helmsley puts up some of the worst acting ever captured on film. However, it is promising to note that Triple H has not signed on to star in any more features, and the fact that he had to ask Blade: Trinity's production team to fit him into the script shows how pathetic his involvement really was.

The main thing that irked me about Blade: Trinity (aside from Triple H’s absurd role) is that there is virtually no suspense. At no time does Blade take a blow and appear as if he is had, and considering he is facing the greatest challenge of his life – defeating the immortal Dracula – one would think he would have to operate under a bit more difficulty. Also, because Goyer both skips over the story of Vlad the Impaler– and instead fabricates a tale about “Drake” – and uses Rza to head up the loud techno score, Blade: Trinity further results in a picture that is not recommendable and merely average. Moreover, is it just me or did they forget about the little girl that they intended to save at the end?

Because of all of these jutting factors of scanty craftsmanship, Blade: Trinity is, in comparison to its two recommended predecessors, poorly made; truthfully, Blade: Trinity is a dissatisfying way to end a trilogy. Should Goyer and company really end on a bad note and quit while they’re behind? Is it wise to end with a sloppy choppy film that skips all forms of tension and certainly undercuts fans’ expectations? (** out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2004

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Movie Review: Christmas with the Kranks

United States, 2004
U.S. Release Date: 11/24/04 (wide)
Running Time: 1:34
Rated: PG
Cast: Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, M. Emmet Walsh, Elizabeth Franz, Erik Per Sullivan, Cheech Marin, Jake Busey, Julie Gonzalo

Director: Joe Roth
Producers: Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan, Mark Radcliffe
Screenplay: Chris Columbus, based on the novel “Skipping Christmas” by John Grisham
Music: John Debney
Studio: Columbia Pictures

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In 2002, John Grisham deviated from his usual law-intensive court dramas and penned an atypical Christmas tale entitled, “Skipping Christmas”. “Skipping Christmas” plays out exactly as its title reads; the main characters plan to skip Christmas and take a cruise with the cash they usually “waste” on holiday expenditures. Apparently, those at Columbia Pictures saw potential in this nominal novel and decided to adapt the book into a major motion-picture. From that point on, the production team was entirely erroneous.

Not to belittle Grisham’s work, but "Skipping Christmas" is a mediocre Christmas story that basically only has a brisk page count (177) going for it. Its story is straightforward and pleasant to read around the holiday season, but for the most part this Christmas chronicle is congealed and congested with cynicism and utterly unfit for the big-screen.

Shortly after Miramax declared their early (October 2004) release of Surviving Christmas, another dull holiday piece, those at Columbia decided to change the title of Skipping Christmas to Christmas with the Kranks in order to avoid common confusion between the two opposing holiday-oriented pictures. Evidently, the best they could come up with was playing the alliteration card, and truthfully, the alliterated title is one of the most intelligent aspects of this lump of coal of a picture. The rest mainly accounts for stale scorn and ridiculously retarded attempts for laughs.

As far as the plot goes, the picture, for the most part, follows that of the book’s. It's that time of the year again for Luther Krank (Tim Allen) and his wife Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) to step full swing into the holiday season. They need to buy a tree, a boatload of gifts, and a honey baked ham (among other things) for their yearly Christmas Eve bash. But this year, things will not be the same for the Krank household at Christmastime. Luther and Nora’s daughter Blair (Julie Gonzalo) is heading to Peru to follow the Peace Corps; sadly, she will be absent from all of the traditional holiday festivities. Nora is saddened by Blair’s departure, but Luther locates opportunity.

Luther proposes a plan to Nora to skip Christmas entirely—no tree, no gifts, and no party; instead—a cruise. At first, Nora is apprehensive, but later she agrees with Luther’s arrangement. They both boycott the Christmas season entirely, and refuse to spend a dime on any holiday-related lavishness; instead, they invest in swimwear, tanning, and botox. However, with the Kranks announcing their Yuletide prohibition, and making all fully aware of their plans, what will their neighbors think? Will Vic Frohmeyer (Dan Akroyd), the community leader, stop the Kranks’ passing over of December 25th and all that comes with? And, if Blair decides to come home for the holidays with a South American man named Enrique (Rene Lavan), how will Luther and Nora ever be able to cancel their cruise plans, whip up a good old-fashioned Krank Christmas for their daughter, and retain the Christmas spirit for themselves?

The bottom line and the answer to all of these questions is: who cares? With two totally disparaging main characters, who emit more humbug than Scrooge himself, we honestly could not care less if their Xmas works out or not. Because of the Kranks’ selfishness, viewers are more likely to be withered by their egocentricity than strengthened by their extremely limited compassion.

Maybe it is just me, but when I think of a “Christmas” movie, I think of one that puts me into the spirit of the season. As far as Christmas with the Kranks’s capability of filling that objective goes, the film fails in nearly every way possible. Instead, Christmas with the Kranks is more annoying and disheartening than uplifting. With a series of nonsensical scenes that are pathetically pieced together, this disgraceful feature does not contain one ounce of spunk and only hints at the true spirit of the holiday in haste.

In this feeble film, almost every attempt at either a heartfelt sequence or a cheap laugh is downright despicable. When Blair gets sent off, it is laughably ridiculous; when the Kranks’ tightly knit neighbors turn on them, it is utterly outlandish; when both Nora and Luther hide in the basement from the carolers, it is outright moronic; when Cheech Marin strums a guitar, while Dan Akroyd plays the accordion and a priest joins in on tambourine, it is absolutely dreadful; when the characters stoop as low as stealing trees, panhandling for hams, and lying down screaming in the middle of parking lots, it is completely pitiful; when Nora pulls out of her driveway with her window down (when it is mid-December and frigid) just to set up the scene where Vic’s gloves get caught, it is beyond piss-poor; and when the cat is shown frozen solid, yet it still blinks, it is just another part of this unpardonable picture that makes you want to both chuck a projectile at the screen and upchuck all over the theater.

Along with an inexcusable set of sit-com-esque sequences, Christmas with the Kranks also possesses a cast worthy of knocking. Is Dan Akroyd really intimidating enough to pass for a character like Vic Frohmeyer? When Vic starts to bark orders at his fellow neighbors, instead of oozing with leadership, Akroyd drips with deplorability. As for Jamie Lee Curtis and Tim Allen, both are equally condemnable. Jamie Lee Curtis unfortunately lends credence to the concept that once an actress reaches middle-age, it is difficult to land a respectable role. Furthermore, Tim Allen involves himself in yet another Christmas movie, only to come to the realization that his film career has indefinitely crashed (that is, if it ever got off the ground). Is Christmas with the Kranks even close to being a merry and moderate production? “I don’t think so Tim.”

Christmas with the Kranks closes with the line “Skipping Christmas—what a stupid idea”. Truthfully I couldn’t agree more. This poor narrative boasts a little too less joy and heart and focuses a little too much on the pessimism of the season, and for that reason alone, it makes for a Christmas dish that no one should sample. But then again, if you pile on an awful screenplay, trashy direction, and a handful of actors at their absolute worst, you get one hunk of holiday junk that should be tossed out along with the leftover fruitcake, or better yet, shoved directly down the garbage disposal. (1/2 out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2004

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Movie Review: Saw

United States, 2004
U.S. Release Date: 10/29/04 (wide)
Running Time: 1:40
Rated: R (Violence, gore, profanity)
Cast: Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell, Danny Glover, Ken Leung, Dina Meyer, Michael Emerson, Monica Potter, Makenzie Vega

Director: James Wan
Producers: Mark Burg, Gregg Hoffman, Oren Koules
Screenplay: Leigh Whannell
Music: Charlie Clouser, Danny Lohner
Studio: Lions Gate Films

Posted by Hello
Are you one of those people who, like me, consider horror to be a fading form of cinema? Since the onset of horror, films like Psycho and Halloween have set the standards with upending originality, but since then, almost every horror picture has been a so-so “who-done-it?” mix of blood, gore, and suspense. Subsequently, if you plan on seeing Saw – that is, if you weren’t too disturbed by its trailer and tagline – let me tell you this: Saw is surprisingly innovative given its genre, but with its inconsistent pacing, under par acting, and cynical final twist, it's a film that most will surely downgrade. Although, I wouldn't be surprised to see a select few hail Saw and its inconsistencies as a cult classic.

When asked, “Is Saw a picture that I appreciate or depreciate?” my answer is: I’m on the fence. Immediately after leaving the theatre, I felt like I just witnessed a recommendable psychological horror. However, during the drive home, as the time ticked by, less and less of the film started to make sense. As far as the final twist is concerned, it’s seems as though freshman screenwriter Leigh Whannell tried to take Nickelback’s advice of “let’s rewrite an ending that fits, instead of a Hollywood horror”, but instead Whannell came up a few pennies short. Not only is the ending overcooked, but it also tries to drive home a message about the importance of appreciating life, health, and family. Even so, despite all of Saw’s flaws, it is still a disturbing, encompassing, and enthralling motion-picture--if you like this sort of film. In terms of the end result, Saw basically presents a good premise that could have been better produced.

The film opens with Adam (Leigh Whannell – who also wrote the screenplay) and Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes – who hasn’t been in anything worthy of note since The Princess Bride) trapped in an old abandoned restroom that doesn’t look like it has seen Mr. Clean’s shiny bald head in a few decades. Both Adam and Dr. Gordon find themselves chained to pipes on opposite sides of the room—unable to reach each other or the lifeless body that lies between them in the middle of the floor. They both are given various clues including a key, a bullet, a tape recorder, two tapes with instructions, two saws, and so on. The men are told they are going to play a game and that the only way to win the game is for Dr. Gordon to kill Adam by 6:00pm. Already dumb-founded at how they even ended up in the room, the two men attempt to maintain their composure, solve the puzzle, and make it out of the nightmare alive.

Soon, Adam and Dr. Gordon realize that they are the latest prey of “The Jigsaw Killer"—a madman who takes people captive in order to teach them life’s lessons. Regrettably, Dr. Gordon knows that only one of Jigsaw’s victims won her respective game and survived—making his and Adam’s chances slim-to-none. To further worsen things, Dr. Gordon realizes that there is a lot more at stake than just his and Adam's life. His wife Allyson (Monica Potter) and daughter Diana (Makenzie Vega) are also being held at the mercy of the killer’s hand, and as a consequence, if Dr. Gordon doesn’t work out a way to kill Adam, then his wife and child will be slain.

In terms of acting, the slender budget shines through—especially considering one of the leads is the very screenwriter himself and a first time actor. Both Cary Elwes and Danny Glover are equally distressing in their portrayals--making it clear that the two of them seem to be, for the most part, washed up. As for the inclusion of Dina Meyer, as Zep, he couldn’t have appeared any more suspicious considering he has played a wide-eyed psychopath in the past on ABC’s “The Practice”. Is Meyer a dead ringer for the psychopath part? Does Danny Glover’s voice sound too close to the killer’s distortion? Or are these just ways Whannell keeps us guessing?

Just as one would figure, the picture’s climax and main revelation occurs closer to crunch time (6:00pm). However, the film’s finale – while built up appropriately – is a bit overwrought. During the final 15 minutes, the title of the film comes in handy and the picture literally goes from refreshingly psychological to unequivocally psycho in a matter of minutes.

Nevertheless, Whannell’s whole design of two men trapped in a room – restricted to only a few clues and objects – is undeniably intriguing. The film’s first 90 minutes play out much like an RPG game for survival—trying to put the Jigsaw Killer’s pieces into place. However, the freshman screenwriter’s first feature unfolds in its conclusion much like Tarantino’s first, and by proposing this comparison, the film’s final twist should almost be a dead giveaway.

With its in-need-of-improvement director, James Wan, and its unseemly hardcore score, Saw unfortunately dulls and decreases in tooth count. Nonetheless, given its budget, it is a horror feature worth seeing with some minor restrictions. In the long run, there may be too many topics left unclear and one twist too many, but this picture is by no means bad. It’s far more original and involving than most Halloween-oriented gore fests, but alas, it’s a tad too rusty to function on every level. With some sharpening, Saw could have most definitely made a cleaner cut. (**1/2 out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2004

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Movie Review: Closer

United States, 2004
U.S. Release Date: 12/3/04 (wide)
Running Time: 1:40
Rated: R (Profanity, sexual situations, nudity)
Cast: Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Julia Roberts, Clive Owen

Director: Mike Nichols
Producers: Cary Brokaw, John Calley, Robert Fox, Mike Nichols, Scott Rudin
Screenplay: Patrick Marber, based on his play
Studio: Columbia Pictures

Posted by Hello
With Closer being such an intelligent and sophisticated motion-picture, one would think that an age-old adage of some sort could sum it up best; on the other hand, the title of an 80’s glam rock Pat Benatar song seems to suit better: "Love is a battlefield". In this film, four ruthless warriors discover that love not only hurts, but it also destroys the very fabric of the human heart. Closer may be considered a war-zone of modern romance, but it’s far more honest, clever, and poetic than any other genre-bending tale featuring both the brutalities and commonalties of sex and love.

Closer begins with two strangers walking towards each other in slow-motion. The unfamiliar man and woman exchange glances of interest and coy smiles; then unexpectedly, the woman is struck by a passing car. She passes out for a few moments and then regains consciousness to find herself starring back into the same handsome man’s eyes. She says, “Hello stranger”, and from that point on, the two form a relationship.

The man introduces himself as Dan (Jude Law), a journalist of the least respectable status (a.k.a. an obituary writer). Dan soon adores Alice (Natalie Portman), the stripper/waitress, and feels both smitten by her charm and struck with serendipity. Over time, Dan and Alice develop a lasting love for each other, which inspires Dan to write a novel based on her life. However, Dan's love for Alice does not last for long.

While at a photo-shoot for his book, Dan meets Anna (Julia Roberts) a quiet, yet sexy photographer. Dan becomes obsessed over Anna to the point where he jokingly pretends to be her in an Internet chat room—telling a doctor, among other things, to meet her at the aquarium. Unfortunately for Dan, his practical joke backfires; when the horny doctor Larry (Clive Owen) and the gorgeous photographer Anna meet, they hit it off, and wind up getting married.

The remainder of the picture is full of flip-flopping between couples—watching them fall in and out of love with each other. The characters are obviously unsure of what they want. Their emotions overcome them, and by outwardly hurting others, they in turn demean themselves. Closer becomes a twisted tale of obsession, manipulation, lies, and truth that snowballs upon itself until all four sides of the love rectangle end up as equally broken-hearted and used as the others.

While sex can be a God-given gift that is devoted, passionate, and sensual, it can also be a deceitful tool and a forlorn monster that reeks of anguish and revenge. With Closer, the four main characters intertwine and share in their own infidelities—causing nothing but additional angst for their rival partners.

Surely, critics reviewing this picture will exercise the words provocative, seductive, and sexual, to describe it in general, but I find it entirely respectable that a film like this can garner such stifling adjectives from so many, and yet not contain one scene of steamy passion or indiscreet nudity. Closer avoids all of the physical images of sex, but it covers the politics and emotions that arise from it at length.

Without a doubt, the picture’s dominant strength is its phenomenal dialogue. The one mechanism that makes Closer, closer to perfect than not, is perhaps the fact that the picture trusts its foursome of intelligent characters and lets the perverted verbiage roll right off of their sumptuous lips. In particular, both the simultaneous sequence of Dan breaking up with Alice and Larry losing Anna, which ends with, “He tastes just like you, but sweeter”, and Dan’s reference of lying as the currency of the world, both show how a sultry script can really flavor a motion-picture to the quality of fine.

Also contributing in making Closer a fine film is the nominee-worthy acting from four good-looking thespians. Clive Owen – the least illustrious of the four names in America – easily dishes out his greatest work and is by far the star of the show. His role as Larry will most surely earn at least a nomination come January. As for the other three, Portman certainly proves that she is in fact a mature and well-developed actress, while Law and Roberts actually appear the most lackadaisical of the foursome. However, in comparison to other acting efforts this year, both “The Sexiest Man Alive” and the former “Pretty Woman” are still titillating.

All things considered, with its superb sexual style supported by its intriguing discourse and its fitting soundtrack featuring Damien Rice’s smooth song, “The Blower’s Daughter” (during both the film’s opening and closing), Closer is an enticing film that is worth every cent of your ticket fee. And, even though it may come off as a tad stagy and scripted at points, it is still a rare adult romance that should be considered a true gift of voluptuous verve. Closer is a film that comes close to being without flaw, and particularly it is a film that I fancy from top to bottom. (***1/2 out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2004