April 2005

Crash Is A Wreck

by Aaron on April 22, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Crash
  • IMDB: link

crash-posterRacism is a difficult subject to broach cinematically. It’s all too easy to reduce it’s complexities and ignore the underlying reasons for racial tensions all together. Pithy moments of clarity and harsh realizations may make for good viewing, but they hardly touch on the lasting and deep seated effects of our prejudices. Paul Haggis (screenwriter of Million Dollar Baby) makes his directorial debut with Crash, a sprawling look at the seemingly endless well of racism in L.A., but for all its multiple storylines and enlightened moments all that’s left in the end is the idea that deep down we’re all just fundamentally damaged beyond repair, just simmering until that one moment brings our inner racist to the forefront.

Crash tells the story of a various L.A. residents as they careen into one another in what makes for a mind-boggling series of coincidences. Seemingly random events emerge into a pattern of overlapping storylines which are too rushed and slighted to serve as anything more than a cursory glance at these characters’ lives.

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Everyone is a racist!

by Aaron on April 22, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

Crash tells the story of a various L.A. residents as they careen into one another in what makes for a mind-boggling series of coincidences. Seemingly random events emerge into a pattern of overlapping storylines which are too rushed and slighted to serve as anything more than a cursory glance at these characters’ lives.

Crash
2 & 1/2 Stars

Racism is a difficult subject to broach cinematically. It’s all too easy to reduce it’s complexities and ignore the underlying reasons for racial tensions all together. Pithy moments of clarity and harsh realizations may make for good viewing, but they hardly touch on the lasting and deep seated effects of our prejudices. Paul Haggis (screenwriter of Million Dollar Baby) makes his directorial debut with Crash, a sprawling look at the seemingly endless well of racism in L.A., but for all its multiple storylines and enlightened moments all that’s left in the end is the idea that deep down we’re all just fundamentally damaged beyond repair, just simmering until that one moment brings our inner racist to the forefront.

Crash tells the story of a various L.A. residents as they careen into one another in what makes for a mind-boggling series of coincidences. Seemingly random events emerge into a pattern of overlapping storylines which are too rushed and slighted to serve as anything more than a cursory glance at these characters’ lives.

A detective (Don Cheadle) deals with the political bargaining of racism while two beat cops (Matt Dillion and Ryan Phillippe) both transcend and exemplify the almost institutionalized racism of the L.A. police department. A district attorney (Brendan Frasier) spins his recent carjacking to political advantage while his wife (Sandra Bullock) discovers her privileged life is nothing more than a never-ending pattern of anger and fear directed at everyone around her.

A television director (Terrance Howard) and his wife (Thandie Newton) suffer the humiliation of overt and discreet racial bias both professional and personal, while two carjackers expound on the racial overtones of seemingly ordinary events while ignoring their own racist views. And finally, a Persian man’s (Shaun Toub) perceived and experienced attacks result in an unfocused need for revenge.

With Crash’s massive cast, sprawling storylines, and L.A. setting, the comparisons to Paul Thomas Anderson’s far superior Magnolia are pretty easy to make. Haggis further blurs the line by including a montage sequence set to a very Aimee Mann-esque tune and a finale that’s more plausible than a rain of frogs, but just as miraculous. But where Magnolia dealt with our need for personal redemption, Crash gives us characters who are irredeemable. Haggis’s view of racial tension in America is one that’s both incredibly myopic and overly simple. Everyone is a racist in this world. All it takes is the right moment for those prejudices to come through and when confronted with implicit and explicit racial bias, his characters act only in their immediate self-interest seemingly unable to stand up against what they know to be wrong.

To be sure the technical aspects of this film work exceptionally well, as the storylines bleed into one another with ease, and the use of transitions makes for a seamless blend. I can’t imagine I’d have ever praised the acting in a film starring Brendan Fraiser, Sandra Bullock, and Tony Danza, but the performances in Crash work to the extent the writing lets them. Cheadle is excellent as always, as is a surprising Matt Dillion. Rapper Chris “Ludacris” Bridges makes a fine serious film debut as the philosophizing carjacker forced to deal with the damage he commits. Ryan Phillipe’s mostly silent perfomance as the young cop trying to do the right thing only to be confronted with his own misconceptions is particularly powerful, but with so little screen time his character’s actions seem almost random. It’s obvious these actors know they are dealing with an important subject, and they do their best to lend the film what weight and impact it manages to convey, but with so many stories and such a heavy-handed approach to such a delicate subject, it’s impossible for these actors to break out from the thumbnail sketches and caricatures Haggis has saddled them with.

Broken down into ever thinning slices, every life can be reduced to sainthood or damnation. Context is everything. Even the most vile character can be sympathetic when we’re shown their point of view, but Crash relies only on confrontation and it’s after effects to explore it’s characters. The idea that we’re all just one bad moment away from displaying our deepest prejudices is too cynical a conclusion that this film makes again and again. A few lines of expository dialogue is no substitute for context and background, and without them it’s unfair to draw conclusions about characters at their most vulnerable or worst. It would be easy to dismiss Crash as an outsider’s view of American racial relations (Writer/Director Paul Haggis is Canadian), but judging from his work on Million Dollar Baby, Haggis takes a dim view of humanity overall and that almost-misanthropy comes through in nearly every scene.

Crash fits into 100 minutes a subject that even a 12 part mini-series couldn’t do justice, and while I certainly think the state of racial relations in the U.S. is a worthy topic of discussion and exploration, I’m left thinking that perhaps Haggis should have left well enough alone. It’s almost unworthy as a discussion starter, as Crash offers no explanations, alternatives, nor solutions instead merely content to highlight our worst behaviors while ignoring our ability to rise above those instincts.

We Crash Into Each Other

by Alan Rapp on April 22, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Crash
  • IMDb: link

crash-posterIntertwining tales of violence and bubbling racial tensions crash into each other as residents of L.A. deal with issues of hate, bigotry, and racism that present themselves sometimes subtly and sometimes not-so-subtly throughout the course of the film.  Crash tries to show how many people live their lives with certain ideas and notions that they might not even be aware of until they are forced to confront them.  Many people won’t like the film for it’s bleak look at the human condition, but in examining this small group of people the film works for me as it shows how easily ill-will and prejudice can be passed on from one person to the next through angry or hateful exchanges.

There is a cop (Don Cheadle) who is sleeping with his partner (Jennifer Esposito) and dealing with a drug addict mother and a younger brother (Larenz Tate) who likes to carjack white folks with his friend (Ludacris).  The car they choose one night belongs to the District Attorney (Brendan Fraiser) whose wife (Sandra Bullock) is tramatized by the incident and takes it out on her husband and the Hispanic (Michael Pena) locksmith they hire to change the locks who she takes for a gangbanger and has an Iranian customer (Shaun Toub) who thinks he is ripping him off and then when his shop gets robbed he takes the gun his daughter (Bahar Soomekh) bought him and searches for revenge.  Then there’s the racist cop (Matt Dylan) who can’t get his father the health care he needs and takes it out on a young black couple he pulls over (Terrence Howard and Thandie Newton) to the disgust of his partner (Ryan Phillipe).

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Dragons’ World: A Fantasy Made Real

by December Lambeth on April 19, 2005

in DVD Reviews 

Everybody has their own opinion on myths and fairy-tales; true, most of us don’t think any of it could be real, but Dragons’ World does a pretty convincing job. If the special effects and scientific effort doesn’t hook ya, then check it out for the T-Rex and Dragon fight, that’s pretty cool.

Dragons’ World: A Fantasy Made Real
2 & 1/2 Stars

Released on DVD Spring 2005

Everybody has their own opinion on myths and fairy-tales; true, most of us don’t think any of it could be real, but Dragons’ World does a pretty convincing job. If the special effects and scientific effort doesn’t hook ya, then check it out for the T-Rex and Dragon fight, that’s pretty cool.

A scientist, Dr. Tanner (Paul Hilton), discovers the frozen bodies of medieval knights and the remains of an unknown creature in the Carpathian mountains. Watch as he unravels the mystery behind the creature with ‘scientific’ explanations and probabilities to substantiate the possibility of the existence of dragons. With a team of a biologist and data analyst working through theories while performing an autopsy investigation on the mysteries behind what made this creature fly, breath fire and outlive the dinosaurs. The documentary is shown through very realistic computer animated scenes, almost convincing the audience that dragons are not legends of fantasy, but possibly real.

The inspiration behind such a marvelous spectacle is the fact that dragons are described in great detail amongst multiple cultures that had no way of communicating with each other at that time in history. The Aztecs, the Polynesians, Chinese, and Europeans all recorded similar creatures identified as dragons that existed past the life of dinosaurs.

Animal Planet brings together a mockumentary through scientific facts of explaining the logistics of how the dragons existed and how their bodies worked.  Explanations are provided about how they were able to take flight with the discovery of an extra set of bags or guts that were filled with hydrogen and helped lighten the load. Dr. Tanner goes on to explain that the hydrogen, already existing within their body, mixed with flint that they would chew on caused a spark giving them the ability to breath fire.

The show goes as far as explaining a less romantic reason to why dragons and humans could not coexist; it gives a different twist to the virgin being sacrificed for the good of the village.

If you liked Animal Planet’s Walking with Dinosaurs then Dragons’ World is the show for you. The idea they try to plant in our heads, that these mythical beasts could have existed, is very entertaining and worth a gander. I am more impressed with the CGI FX specialist, Framestore CFC, the same studio who created FX for “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”, it’s visual stunning to see how far we have come since Jurassic Park.

Westerns in the Good Old Days

by December Lambeth on April 19, 2005

in DVD Reviews 

Showdowns, stampedes, stunning horsemanship, bank robbing, slap-stick comedy, fist fights and plenty of cheesy dialogue like “Whippersnapper” and “Golly Gee”  is all part of the experience of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s style spaghetti westerns.

Some of this oldtime western collection is in black and white goodness that will take you back to the good old days of cap guns and no blood gut shots; the good guys always win and get the girl in the end. A few of the films are in glorious 60’s technicolor and captures a few great cinematic moments in western film history.

Westerns in the Good Old Days
1 Star

(Giddy Up!)


Showdowns, stampedes, stunning horsemanship, bank robbing, slap-stick comedy, fist fights and plenty of cheesy dialogue like “Whippersnapper” and “Golly Gee”  is all part of the experience of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s style spaghetti westerns.

Some of this oldtime western collection is in black and white goodness that will take you back to the good old days of cap guns and no blood gut shots; the good guys always win and get the girl in the end. A few of the films are in glorious 60’s technicolor and captures a few great cinematic moments in western film history.

Bonanza Town (1951)
Atop his trusty white steed, The Durango Kid (Charles Starrett) saddles up once again to save the day. A silly slap stick sing along western about a $30,000 Dodge City hold up and murderous vigilantes of Bonanza Town. The Durango Kid and his silly side kick, Smiley Burnette, work together to rid Bonanza Town of the evildoers, Henry Hardison (Fred F. Sears) and Krag Boseman (Myron Healey). Charles Starrett was among the top ten western stars until his retirement in 1952.

Texas (1941)
Dan Thomas (William Holden) and Tod Ramsey (Glenn Ford) are two adventurous friends looking for fortune and glory, but their little trip in the Lone Star state goes awry. Witnessing a stagecoach hold up, the rough and tumble drifters decide to take the loot for themselves and head their separate ways. Crossing each others path on down the line, the two friends find themselves in love with the same woman and on opposite sides of the law. Snappy dialogue and bare knuckle boxing gives the right amount of old time western goodness to Texas.

The Texican (1966)
A story about a reformed gunfighter, Jess Carlin (Audie Murphy), coming out of hiding to bring justice to the villain who killed his brother, Roy (Victor Vilanova). Jess sets out to capture Luke Starr (Broderick Crawford), land baron and the man to blame for his brother’s untimely death. Jess must side step the attempts on his life by Luke’s goons and keep his neck from the noose from a bounty on his head for a murder he did not commit. Along the way he falls in love with a beautiful dance hall girl Kit O’Neal (Diana Lorys) and saves the day in the end.

The Desperadoes (1943)
The Desperadoes has it all, wild horse stampedes, barroom brawls, action, romance, and yes, it’s even in color; it’s Columbia’s first Technicolor film. The Desperadoes is, at the very most, a film engrossed in western movie cliches and icons. Cheyenne Rogers (Glenn Ford), a hunted gunman, rides into Red Valley, to find himself head over hills for the seductive Allison McLeod (Evelyn Keyes) and up to his holsters with underhanded town folk. Cheyenne takes on the job of cleaning up the lawlessness of Red Valley.

Good Day For A Hanging (1959)
Eddie ‘The Kid’ Campbell (Robert Vaughn) started out as a young rowdy buck in a low down dirty bank robbing gang. With a little help from Marshal Ben Cutler (Fred MacMurray), Eddie cleans up his act and tries the straight and narrow. Many years later the gang comes back to rob the bank again and Marshal Ben gets shot in the mix. The gang’s lawyer, being the only eye witness, frames Eddie for the murder and gets him a meeting with the noose. With the help of his sweetheart, the dead marshal’s daughter, Laurie Cutler (Joan Blackman), Eddie convinces the town of his innocence and brings the murderer to justice.

The Professionals (1966)
The Professionals is an adaptation from Frank O’Rourke’s novel, [I]A Mule for the Marquesa[/I]. J.W. Grant (Ralph Bellamy), Texas oil tycoon, hires a group of men to rescue his wife, Maria (Claudia Cardinale) from the Mexican revolutionary Raza (Jack Palance). The group of men hired includes Rico Farden (Lee Marvin) a weapons expert, Jake Sharp (Woody Strode) long bow expert and tracker, Hans Ehrengard (Robert Ryan) kick ass horseman and Bill Dolworth (Burt Lancaster) an explosives expert. The Professionals was nominated for 3 Oscars between cinematography, direction and screenplay. This film has it all, beautiful cinematic scenery, a talented cast, western action adventure and plenty of heroes out to save the day and the girl.

Oldtime western goodness. Most, if not all, of the westerns made in the 40’s and 50’s were lacking authenticity. The creators would use modern props, clothing and dialogue with out any consideration to the true style of the old west. There would be electrical lighting and gadgets, well pressed pants and sparkling new boots in a black and white western; it’s hard to watch such a film and really be able to put yourself into that fantasy world. We have come along way in film and it shows; research is put into scripts and stage setting and our acting abilities have more than tripled. Many old western actors are just that, only actors reading dialogue with little natural response to each other. It’s hard to believe that the silent films looked more real in on screen scenarios with out dialogue than the films that came shortly after. Then again it is only the movies.