Showing posts with label Kirsten Dunst. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kirsten Dunst. Show all posts

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Review: Netflix's "THE POWER OF THE DOG" is Certainly a Movie

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 74 of 2022 (No. 1886) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Power of the Dog (2021)
Running time:  128 minutes (2 hours, 8 minutes)
MPA – R for strong sexuality and language
DIRECTOR:  Jane Campion
WRITER:  Jane Campion (based on a novel by Thomas Savage)
PRODUCERS:  Jane Chapman, Iain Canning, Roger Frappier, Tanya Seghatchian, and Emile Sherman
EDITOR:  Peter Sciberras
COMPOSER:  Jonny Greenwood
Academy Award winner


Starring:  Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Genevieve Lemon, Peter Carroll, Frances Conroy, Alison Bruce, Keith Carradine, Thomasin McKenzie, Ramontay McConnell, Adam Beach, and Maeson Stone Skuggedal

The Power of the Dog is a 2021 Western drama film from writer-director Jane Campion.  It is based on the1967 novel, The Power of the Dog, from author Thomas Savage.  The Power of the Dog the movie focuses on a charismatic rancher who torments his brother, his brother's new wife, and her son.

The Power of the Dog opens in rural Montana, 1925 and focuses on Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch).  Phil is, along with brother, George Burbank (Jesse Plemons), wealthy ranch-owners.  George meets Rose Gordon (Kirsten Dunst), a widow and inn owner, during a cattle drive.  The kindhearted George is quickly smitten with Rose, but Phil, always coarse and volatile, dislikes her and considers her nothing more than a gold-digger who wants George's money.

Phil also belittles Rose's teenage son, Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee), whom he derides as weak and effeminate – a sissy.  George and Rose soon marry, and Rose comes to live at the Burbank brothers' isolated ranch estate and manor home. However, Rose withers under Phil's torment.  Sometimes later, Peter comes to stay and things begin to change...

The Power of the Dog is a ridiculous title for a film, but I like it for a novel.  The film is a psychological drama dressed in the rags of a Western.  Its narrative focuses on two despicable characters (Phil and Pete) and two meek, but lovable and sympathetic characters (George and Rose).

I would not describe any of the characters as vague so much as they reflect a narrative that is oblique, which in turn reflects on characters with pinched personalities.  Benedict Cumberbatch's Phil Burbank is mean and spiteful, but just like that, one day, he turns all … gay over a weirdo kid he only hated just a few seconds ago.  Kodi Smit-McPhee's Peter may be the film's most well-developed character; it is obvious that there is a lot going on with him.  He is more than the audience can imagine and apparently quite the litle psycho-sociopath.

As I said, Kirsten's Dunst's Rose and Jessie Plemons' George are lovable, but are slight characters.  They both received Oscar nominations in supporting acting categories; whether they deserved them or not is a matter of opinion.  I will say that Dunst spends most of the film crying and sniveling and yelling and stumbling around.  Jesse Plemons is barely a whisper in the wind as George, and sometimes it seems as if George's entire screen time amounts to only a few minutes.  Of course, he is onscreen more than that; it's just that he seems to be on it much less...

I can see why actor Sam Elliot questioned The Power of the Dog's credibility as a Western.  The film lacks a central, focused voice, and girl, Westerns have voice.  It is not a bad film.  The Power of the Dog does indeed have some power and some powerful moments, but director Jane Campion sublimates the passion and the urges she says define this film.  The film lacks heart and is unhurried to the point of being meandering.

My original plan was to write a review of The Power of the Dog that was comprised of a single question mark.  However, the film's shock ending gave me a reason to say more.  I guess I'm one critic who is not buying into The Power of the Dog.

5 of 10
★★½ out of 4 stars

Saturday, December 10, 2022

2022 Academy Awards, USA:  1 win: “Best Achievement in Directing” (Jane Campion); 11 nominations: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Jane Campion, Tanya Seghatchian, Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, and Roger Frappier), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Kodi Smit-McPhee), “Best Adapted Screenplay” (Jane Campion), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Jesse Plemons), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Benedict Cumberbatch), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Kirsten Dunst), “Best Achievement in Production Design” (Grant Major-production design and Amber Richards-set decoration), “Best Sound” (Richard Flynn, Robert Mackenzie, and Tara Webb), “Best Achievement in Cinematography” (Ari Wegner), “Best Achievement in Film Editing” (Peter Sciberras), and “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures-Original Score” (Jonny Greenwood)

2022 BAFTA Awards:  2 wins: “Best Film” (Jane Campion, Iain Canning, Roger Frappier, Tanya Seghatchian, and Emile Sherman) and “Best Director” (Jane Campion); 6 nominations: “Best Screenplay-Adapted” (Jane Campion), “Best Leading Actor” (Benedict Cumberbatch), “Best Supporting Actor” (Jesse Plemons), “Best Supporting Actor” (Kodi Smit-McPhee), “Best Cinematography” (Ari Wegner), and “Original Score” (Jonny Greenwood)

2022 Golden Globes, USA:  3 wins:  “Best Motion Picture-Drama,” “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Kodi Smit-McPhee), and “Best Director-Motion Picture” (Jane Campion); 4 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Benedict Cumberbatch), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Kirsten Dunst), “Best Screenplay-Motion Picture” (Jane Campion), and “Best Original Score-Motion Picture” (Jonny Greenwood)

The text is copyright © 2022 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



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Monday, January 30, 2017

2017 SAG Award Winners Announced; "Hidden Figues" Wins "Best Ensemble"

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) is an American labor union that represents film and television performers worldwide.  Most people probably know SAG for the various actors’ strikes or for the Screen Actors Guild Award, which SAG uses to honor outstanding performances by its members.  The first SAG Awards ceremony was held in February 1995 (for films released in 1994).

Nominations for the 23rd Screen Actors Guild Awards were announced on Wednesday, December 14, 2016.  Winners were announced during the Sunday, January 29, 2017 awards ceremony that was simultaneously telecast on TBS and TNT.

The “Ensemble” categories are SAG's equivalent of a “Best Picture” or “Best Television Series” award.

2017 / 23rd Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations:


Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
DENZEL WASHINGTON / Troy Maxson – “FENCES” (Paramount Pictures)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
EMMA STONE / Mia – “LA LA LAND” (Lionsgate)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
VIOLA DAVIS / Rose Maxson – “FENCES” (Paramount Pictures)

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
HIDDEN FIGURES (20th Century Fox)
MAHERSHALA ALI / Col. Jim Johnson
KIRSTEN DUNST / Vivian Mitchell
TARAJI P. HENSON / Katherine G. Johnson
ALDIS HODGE / Levi Jackson
JANELLE MONÁE / Mary Jackson
JIM PARSONS / Paul Stafford
GLEN POWELL / John Glenn
OCTAVIA SPENCER / Dorothy Vaughan


Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series
BRYAN CRANSTON / President Lyndon B. Johnson – “ALL THE WAY” (HBO)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
JOHN LITHGOW / Winston Churchill – “THE CROWN” (Netflix)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
CLAIRE FOY / Queen Elizabeth II – “THE CROWN” (Netflix)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
WILLIAM H. MACY / Frank Gallagher – “SHAMELESS” (Showtime)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS / President Selina Meyer – “VEEP” (HBO)

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series:
CARA BUONO / Karen Wheeler
JOE CHREST / Ted Wheeler
NATALIA DYER / Nancy Wheeler
CHARLIE HEATON / Jonathan Byers
JOE KEERY / Steve Harrington
GATEN MATARAZZO / Dustin Henderson
CALEB McLAUGHLIN / Lucas Sinclair
MATTHEW MODINE / Dr. Martin Brenner
ROB MORGAN / Officer Powell
JOHN PAUL REYNOLDS / Officer Callahan
WINONA RYDER / Joyce Byers
MARK STEGER / The Monster
FINN WOLFHARD / Mike Wheeler

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series:
UZO ADUBA / Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren
ALAN AISENBERG / Baxter “Gerber” Bayley
DANIELLE BROOKS / Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson
JACKIE CRUZ / Marisol “Flaca” Gonzales
BETH DOVER / Linda Ferguson
ANNIE GOLDEN / Norma Romano
LAURA GOMEZ / Blanca Flores
DIANE GUERRERO / Maritza Ramos
BRAD WILLIAM HENKE / Desi Piscatella
VICKY JEUDY / Janae Watson
JULIE LAKE / Angie Rice
SELENIS LEYVA / Gloria Mendoza
NATASHA LYONNE / Nicky Nichols
TARYN MANNING / Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett
JAMES McMENAMIN / Charlie “Donuts” Coates
ADRIENNE C. MOORE / Cindy “Black Cindy” Hayes
KATE MULGREW / Galina “Red” Reznikov
EMMA MYLES / Leanne Taylor
MATT PETERS / Joel Luschek
LORI PETTY / Lolly Whitehill
DASCHA POLANCO / Dayanara “Daya” Diaz
JOLENE PURDY / Stephanie Hapakuka
NICK SANDOW / Joe Caputo
CONSTANCE SHULMAN / Erica “Yoga” Jones
DALE SOULES / Frieda Berlin
YAEL STONE / Lorna Morello
LIN TUCCI / Anita DeMarco
SAMIRA WILEY / Poussey Washington


Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture
“HACKSAW RIDGE” (Lionsgate)

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Comedy or Drama Series


53rd Annual SAG Life Achievement Award


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

2016 Cannes Film Festival Winners Announced; Ken Loach Wins Second Palme d'Or

The 69th annual Cannes Film Festival was held in Cannes, France from May 11 to May 22, 2016.  The closing ceremony and the 2016 awards ceremony were held on Sunday, May 22, 2016.

I’ve included a list of winners from the “In Competition” categories; this is the main competition in which films compete for the festival’s top prize, the “Palme d’Or” (Golden Palm).  I’ve included the winners from other Cannes award competitions, including “Un Certain Regard” and the “Golden Camera.”

The “Grand Prix” is the second most prestigious prize given at Cannes, after the Palme d’Or.  The competition known as “Un Certain Regard” is a part of Cannes that runs parallel to the competition for the Palme d’Or.

Judges for the 2016 Main Competition – “In Competiton”:
George Miller, Australian film director (President)
Arnaud Desplechin, French film director
Kirsten Dunst, American actress
Valeria Golino, Italian actress and film director
Mads Mikkelsen, Danish actor
László Nemes, Hungarian film director
Vanessa Paradis, French actress and singer
Katayoon Shahabi, Iranian film producer
Donald Sutherland, Canadian actor

2016/69th Cannes Film Festival winners:

COMPETITION – Feature Films

Palme d’Or: “I, Daniel Blake” (Ken Loach, U.K.)

Grand Prix: “It’s Only the End of the World” (Xavier Dolan, Canada-France)

Director: TIE
Olivier Assayas, “Personal Shopper” (France)
Cristian Mungiu, “Graduation” (Romania)

Actor: Shahab Hosseini, “The Salesman” (Iran)

Actress: Jaclyn Jose, “Ma ‘Rosa” (Philippines)

Jury Prize: Andrea Arnold, “American Honey” (U.K.-U.S.)

Screenplay: Asghar Farhadi, “The Salesman” (Iran)


Palme d’Honneur: Jean-Pierre Léaud

Camera d’Or: “Divines” (Houda Benyamina, France-Qatar)

Short Films Palme d’Or: “Timecode” (Juanjo Jimenez, Spain)

Special Mention – Short Films Palme d’Or: “The Girl Who Danced With the Devil” (Joao Paulo Miranda Maria, Brazil)

Ecumenical Jury Prize: “It’s Only the End of the World” (Xavier Dolan, Canada-France)


Un Certain Regard Prize: “The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki” (Juho Kuosmanen, Finland)

Jury prize: “Harmonium” (Koji Fukada, Japan)

Director: Matt Ross, “Captain Fantastic” (United States)

Screenplay: Delphine and Muriel Coulin, “The Stopover” (France)

Special Jury Prize: Michael Dudok de Wit, “The Red Turtle” (France-Japan)


Art Cinema Award: “Wolf and Sheep” (Shahrbanoo Sadat)

Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers Prize: “The Together Project” (Solveig Anspach)

Europa Cinemas Label: “Mercernary” (Sacha Wolff)


Grand Prize: “Mimosas” (Oliver Saxe)

Visionary Prize: “Album” (Mehmet Can Mertoğlu)

Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers Prize: “Diamond Island” (Day Chou)


Competition: “Toni Erdmann” (Maren Ade, Germany-Austria)

Un Certain Regard: “Dogs” (Bogdan Mirică, Romania-France)

Critics’ Week: “Raw” (Julia Ducournau, France-Belgium)


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Warner Bros. Expands Jeff Nichols' "Midnight Special"

Jeff Nichols’ Sci-Fi Thriller “Midnight Special” Expands U.S. Theatrical Release April 1st Amidst Enthusiastic Early Reaction

Film garners rave reviews and strong numbers in early engagements

BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Following impressive critical and audience response, the sci-fi thriller “Midnight Special,” from acclaimed writer/director Jeff Nichols, will launch the second wave of its North American release on Friday, April 1st, 2016. The film earned an outstanding $38,000 per-screen average across only five theaters in its March 18th, 2016 debut in New York, Los Angeles and Austin, for an approximate opening weekend total of $190,000 in only five theaters, making it one of the year’s most successful limited openings.

“Midnight Special” will next expand to approximately 55 screens in 17 total markets, with additional openings set for Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, Washington DC, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Boston, Seattle, Minneapolis, Portland, Little Rock, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

The film, starring Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Jaeden Lieberher and Sam Shepard, first played to overwhelming acclaim at its February 12th, 2016 world premiere in competition at the Berlin International Film Festival, and again at SXSW on March 12th. Stellar reviews have top critics calling it “brilliant,” “gripping,” “spell-binding” and “ambitious,” citing great performances and proclaiming Nichols “a master filmmaker.”

Beyond its April 1st expansion, “Midnight Special” will continue its theatrical rollout with additional screens and markets on April 8th, April 15th and April 22nd, 2016.

Writer/director Jeff Nichols proves again that he is one of the most compelling storytellers of our time with the sci-fi thriller “Midnight Special.” A provocative, genre-defying film as supernatural as it is intimately human, it follows a father, Roy (Michael Shannon), who goes on the run to protect his young son, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), a boy with mysterious powers that even Roy himself cannot comprehend. What starts as a race from religious extremists and local law enforcement quickly escalates to a nationwide manhunt involving the highest levels of the Federal Government. Risking everything, Roy is committed to helping Alton reach his ultimate purpose, whatever that might be and whatever it costs, in a story that takes audiences on a perilous journey from Texas to the Florida coast, while exploring the bonds of love and trust, and the nature of faith.

Midnight Special” stars Oscar nominee Michael Shannon (“99 Homes,” “Revolutionary Road”), Joel Edgerton (“Black Mass”), Kirsten Dunst (TV’s “Fargo”), Adam Driver (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”), Jaeden Lieberher (“St. Vincent”) and Oscar nominee Sam Shepard (“The Right Stuff,” “August Osage County”).

Jeff Nichols (“Mud,” “Take Shelter”) directed the film from his own screenplay. It is produced by Oscar nominee Sarah Green (“The Tree of Life,” “Mud”) and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones (the “Insidious” films, “Sinister”), who previously collaborated with Nichols on his critically acclaimed thriller “Take Shelter.” Glen Basner, Hans Graffunder and Christos V. Konstantakopoulos served as executive producers.

Also reuniting with Nichols behind the scenes were director of photography Adam Stone, production designer Chad Keith and editor Julie Monroe. David Wingo composed the score.

A Warner Bros. Pictures presentation, in association with Faliro House Productions, a Tri-State Production, “Midnight Special,” will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

“Midnight Special” has been rated PG-13 for some action and violence.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Review: Director Peyton Reed Brought It with "Bring It On"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 111 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Bring It On (2000)
Running time:  98 minutes (1 hour, 38 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sex-related material and language
DIRECTOR:  Peyton Reed
WRITER:  Jessica Bendinger
PRODUCERS:  Marc Abraham and Thomas A. Bliss
EDITOR:  Larry Bock
COMPOSER:  Christophe Beck
Black Reel Awards winner


Starring:  Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku, Jesse Bradford, Gabrielle Union, Clare Kramer, Tsianina Joelson, Rini Bell, Nathan West, Shamari Fears, Natina Reed, Brandi Williams, Lindsay Sloane, Holmes Osborne, Sherry Hursey, and Cody McMains

The subject of this movie review is Bring It On, a 2000 high school sports comedy from director Peyton Reed.  The film spawned four direct-to-DVD sequels and a stage musical.  Bring It On (the original film) focuses on a head cheerleader who makes a shocking discovery just before the upcoming cheerleading championship tournament:  the previous captain of her high school’s cheerleading squad stole their best cheer routines from an inner-city school.

All-American girl Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst) sees her dream finally come true.  She is now the head cheerleader of the Rancho Carne Toros, at her high school in suburban San Diego.  The Toros have won The Nationals of the high school cheerleading championship the last five years, and Torrance is not about to let anything – her parents, her little brother, her grades, or her college future – get in the way of a sixth consecutive title.

The big shocker comes when Torrance learns that her predecessor was stealing the routines that earned the Toros their reputation from an inner-city high school hip-hop cheerleading squad, the Clovers of East Compton.  And the Clovers and their captain, Isis (Gabrielle Union), are looking to get even with the Toros at the 2000 Nationals.  Now, Torrance and her Toros are going to have to learn all-new routines, all while dealing with the trials and tribulations of high school life.

Bring It On was a hit with ‘tweens, teens, and 20-somethings back in 2000.  Although it’s competently directed and the writing doesn’t do much in the character department, the Machiavellian-lite, cutthroat world of competitive youth events, in this case, the world of competitive cheerleading, provides this movie’s fireworks.  It’s fun to watch the catfights, preening dumb jocks, and every kid with a smart aleck attitude.

The cheerleading performances, from the practices to the championship, are rousing enough to make you stand up and cheer.  The acting isn’t all that great, and the script doesn’t give the black cheerleaders enough room to show that there is actually character behind their sass.  Kirsten Dunst’s performance is serviceable for this flick, and Eliza Dushku’s hot babe, Missy Pantone, makes what started out as a dull Disney-like teen movie into a real movie the moment she struts on stage.

6 of 10

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Updated:  Wednesday, June 11, 2014

2001 Black Reel Awards:  1 win: “Theatrical - Best Supporting Actress” (Gabrielle Union)

The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Review: "Jumanji" Holds Onto its Charms (Happy B'day, Joe Johnston)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 26 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Jumanji (1995)
Running time:  104 minutes (1 hour, 44 minutes)
MPAA – PG for menacing fantasy action and some mild language
DIRECTOR:  Joe Johnston
WRITERS:  Jonathan Hensleigh, Greg Taylor, and Jim Strain; from a screenstory by Chris Van Allsburg, Greg Taylor, and Jim Strain (based upon the book by Chris Van Allsburg)
PRODUCERS:  Scott Kroopf and William Teitler
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Thomas Ackerman (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Robert Dalva
COMPOSER:  James Horner

FANTASY/ADVENTURE/FAMILY with elements of action and comedy

Starring:  Robin Williams, Jonathan Hyde, Kirsten Dunst, Bradley Pierce, Bonnie Hunt, Bebe Neuwirth, David Alan Grier, Patricia Clarkson, Adam Hann-Byrd, and Laura Bundy

The subject of this movie review is Jumanji, a 1995 fantasy adventure and family film directed by Joe Johnston.  The film is based on the Caldecott Medal-winning children’s picture book, Jumanji, which was first published in 1981 and was written and drawn by author Chris Van Allsburg.  This was the first of three films based on Van Allsburg’s books (as of this updated review).  Jumanji the movie focus on two children who must help a strange man finish playing a magical board game.

In 1969, Alan Parrish (Adam Hann-Byrd) and his friend Sarah Whittle (Laura Bundy) find an old board game, a jungle adventure called Jumanji, in Alan’s attic.  After rolling the dice, Alan somehow unleashes some kind of magical force and is sucked into the board game.  In 1995, two other children, Judy (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter Shepherd (Bradley Pierce) find the cursed board game and play it, unwittingly releasing the man-child, Alan (Robin Williams).

However, the game Alan began 26 years ago must be finished.  Also, from the bowels of Jumanji’s magical board, comes a stampeding horde of jungle creatures and a fearsome huntsman, Hunter Van Pelt (Jonathan Hyde), who has stalked Alan for decades.  Now, Alan joins the adult Sarah (Bonnie Hunt) in a magical adventure to save the town and end the game.

Even back in 1995, the computer generated images (CGI) for the film Jumanji seemed too obviously fake.  Many of the film’s scenes required animals of various sizes (giraffes, elephants, rambunctious monkeys) to run through, run over, and destroy the streets, homes, and buildings of a small township.  Getting that many live animals to cooperate would have been a logistical nightmare and likely impossible, so CGI animals were used.  The artificial animals all have a bluish tint on their bodies, heightening the sense of unreality.  The glitch was perfect; that the animals look so artificial could be taken to imply that the animals are part of a fantastical and magical nightmare.

Otherwise, the film is a fairly well directed and well-acted comic fantasy/adventure.  Robin Williams is, of course, his usual manic self, but this time it’s the franticness of an almost-action hero, rather than that of some attention-seeking clown.  It’s a fun family picture full of inspired zaniness, with very good performances from the entirety of the supporting cast, especially from the young cast.  I’ve seen it several times.  It’s silly, and the script bounces from one scene to another, but I recommend it as an excellent adventure film for the young and young at heart.

6 of 10

Updated:  Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Review: "Small Soldiers" is Hugely Entertaining (Remembering Jerry Goldsmith)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 60 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Small Soldiers (1998)
Running time:  110 minutes (1 hour, 50 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some menacing violence/action and brief drug references
DIRECTOR:  Joe Dante
WRITERS:  Gavin Scott, Adam Rifkin, and Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio
PRODUCERS:  Michael Finnell and Colin Wilson
EDITORS:  Marshall Harvey and Michael Thau
COMPOSER:  Jerry Goldsmith


Starring:  Gregory Smith, Kirsten Dunst, Jay Mohr, David Cross, Denis Leary, Kevin Dunn, Ann Magnuson, Phil Hartman, Jacob Smith, Wendy Schaal, and Dick Miler and the voices of Tommy Lee Jones, Frank Langella, Ernest Borgnine, Jim Brown, Bruce Dern, George Kennedy, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Clint Walker, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Christina Ricci, and Harry Shearer

The subject of this movie review is Small Soldiers, a 1998 science fiction, fantasy, and action film from director Joe Dante.  The film depicts a small war between two groups of action figures brought to life by new technology.  Small Soldiers remains one of my all-time favorite films.

Joe Dante directed Gremlins, the tale of toy-like creatures besieging a small town.  He returned to a similar toys-come-to-life theme in the 1998 DreamWorks film, Small Soldiers.  When computer chips manufactured for military use end up in a line of action figures, the toys come to life with minds of their own.  One group, the Commando Elite, is composed of military action figures, kind of like an extreme version of G.I. Joe.  The second group is a collection of monsters and creatures called the Gorgonites.  The Commando Elite, led by Major Chip Hazard (voice of Tommy Lee Jones), are programmed to destroy the Gorgonites, led by the wise Archer (voice of Frank Langella), who are programmed to lose to the Commando Elite.

Alan Abernathy (Gregory Smith) is manning the counter of his father, Stuart’s (Kevin Dunn) old-fashioned toy store, The Inner Child, when he spots a shipment of Commando Elite and Gorgonite toys on a delivery truck.  He convinces the delivery driver to give him a case of each toy set, but he doesn’t know that once he opens the box, he’s also activated the toys, which are actually intelligent because of the military chips in them.  Then, the Commando Elite begin hunting Archer.  When Alan unknowingly takes Archer (who’s hiding in Alan’s bag) home with him, Chip Hazard and the rest of the Elite mark him for annihilation along with the Gorgonites.  Soon Alan’s neighbors, including a classmate to whom he’s attracted, Christy Fimple (Kirsten Dunst), are marked for death as collaborationists with the Gorgonites.  Now, Alan, Christy, both their families, and two developers from the toy manufacturer (Jay Mohr and David Cross) must not only defend themselves from the Commando Elite, they must also stop the toys for good.

The characters in Small Soldiers aren’t that well developed, but they’re more broad archetypes than caricatures.  Gregory Smith’s Alan is the outsider boy, one with a bit of a rebellious streak, and he’s more spirited and strong-willed than his slight build would suggest.  Kirsten Dunst’s Christy Fimple is the all-American girl-next-door who is much wiser and more open minded than her contemporaries.  They make a good screen couple, and Smith and Ms. Dunst act as if they’ve done this before.  Tommy Lee Jones’ voice over performance as Major Chip Hazard is surprisingly good and really sells the film.  His Hazard voice is a mixture of tongue-in-cheek humor, sarcasm, laid-back disdain, and menace.  The rest of the cast fits in well, but really don’t do much until the final act.

Small Soldiers was a moderate box office success.  The film is a bit old for the small children who would play with toys like the Commando Elite and Gorgonites, and would certainly not interest the older teens and twenty-something males who see war action/adventure films.  Still, it’s a good satire of the violent mentality that says we must hate, fight, kill, and destroy those who are supposed to be our enemies or those we were taught or programmed to believe deserve destruction.

The film really is fun (I’ve seen it twice.), and Joe Dante has the knack for never taking his films too seriously.  He can both make his point and make entertaining films with fantastical settings or creatures.  Dante fills Small Soldiers with references to other films that augment the tale he’s telling.  Like his other films, the aforementioned Gremlins and Piranha and The Howling, he takes the ridiculous and gives it humor and bite, and Small Soldiers surely is an edgy little comedy about a small war and the small-minded reasons for fighting it.

8 of 10

Updated: Sunday, July 21, 2013


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Kansas City Film Critics Chose "The Descendants" in 2011

by Leroy Douresseaux

I'm still playing catch-up on the 2012 film awards season.  I discovered that I missed the Kansas City Film Critics Circle (KCFCC) in 2011, although I covered them in 2010.  So here are their 2011 awards:

2011 Loutzenhiser Awards:

Best Film: The Descendants

Robert Altman Award for Best Director: Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life

Best Actor: George Clooney, The Descendants

Best Actress: Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain, The Tree of Life

Best Original Screenplay: Mike Mills, Beginners

Best Adapted Screenplay: Steven Zaillian & Aaron Sorkin, Moneyball

Best Animated Film: Rango

Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation (Iran)

Best Documentary: Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Vince Koehler Award for Best Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror Film: Hugo

Monday, January 9, 2012

National Society of Film Critics Feeling "Melancholia"

The National Society of Film Critics was founded in New York City in 1966 and is made up of 58 of the country’s most prominent movie critics. Known for their highbrow tastes, these critics form one of the most prestigious film groups on the United States. Current members include some of my favorite film critics: Roger Ebert, David Edelstein, and J. Hoberman, among others. The society has produced several anthologies about movies, including the must-have for film fans, Produced and Abandoned: The Best Films You’ve Never Seen (1990).

The 46th annual awards used a weighted ballot system. Scrolls will be sent to the winners.

46th Annual (2011) National Society of Film Critics Awards (* denotes winner):

*1. Melancholia – 29 (Lars von Trier)
2. The Tree of Life – 28 (Terrence Malick)
3. A Separation – 20 (Asghar Farhadi)

*1. Terrence Malick – 31 (The Tree of Life)
2. Martin Scorsese – 29 (Hugo)
3. Lars von Trier – 23 (Melancholia)

*1. Brad Pitt – 35 (Moneyball, The Tree of Life)
2. Gary Oldman – 22 (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
3. Jean Dujardin – 19 (The Artist)

*1. Kirsten Dunst – 39 (Melancholia)
2. Yun Jung-hee – 25 (Poetry)
3. Meryl Streep – 20 (The Iron Lady)

*1. Albert Brooks – 38 (Drive)
2. Christopher Plummer – 24 (Beginners)
3. Patton Oswalt – 19 (Young Adult)

*1. Jessica Chastain – 30 (The Tree of Life, Take Shelter, The Help)
2. Jeannie Berlin – 19 (Margaret)
3. Shailene Woodley – 17 (The Descendants)

*1. Cave of Forgotten Dreams – 35 (Werner Herzog)
2. The Interrupters – 26 (Steve James)
3. Into the Abyss – 18 (Werner Herzog)

*1. A Separation – 39 (Asghar Farhadi)
2. Moneyball – 22 (Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin)
3. Midnight in Paris – 16 (Woody Allen)

*1. A Separation – 67 (Asghar Farhadi)
2. Mysteries of Lisbon – 28 (Raoul Ruiz)
3. Le Havre – 22 (Aki Kaurismäki)

*1. The Tree of Life – 76 (Emanuel Lubezki)
2. Melancholia – 41 (Manuel Alberto Claro)
3. Hugo – 33 (Robert Richardson)

Ken Jacobs, for “Seeking the Monkey King.”

1. BAMcinématek for its complete Vincente Minnelli retrospective with all titles shown on 16 mm. or 35 mm. film.

2. Lobster Films, Groupama Gan Foundation for Cinema and the Technicolor Foundation for Cinema for the restoration of the color version of George Méliès’s “A Trip to the Moon.”

3. New York’s Museum of Modern Art for its extensive retrospective of Weimar Cinema.

4. Flicker Alley for their box set “Landmarks of Early Soviet Film.”

5. Criterion Collecton for its 2-disc DVD package “The Complete Jean Vigo.”

Monday, May 23, 2011

Terrence Malick's "Tree of Life" Wins Palme d'Or.

The 64th annual Cannes Film Festival closed yesterday, Sunday, May 22, 2011. Below is a list of winners in the category “In Competition,” the 20 films competing for the festival’s top prize, the Palme d'Or.


Palme D’Or: The Tree of Life by Terrence Malick

Grand Prix: Bir Zamanlar Anadolu’da (Once Upon A Time In Anatolia) by Nuri Bilge Ceylan and The Kid With a Bike by Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne

Award for Best Director: Nicolas Winding Refn for Drive

Jury Prize: Poliss by Maiwenn

Award for Best Actor: Jean Dujardin in The Artist

Award for Best Actress: Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia

Award for Best Screenplay: Joseph Cedar for Footnote

Film School Rejects offers commentary and has a complete list of winners.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Review: "Eternal Sunshine" is a Spotless Delight

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 196 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Running time: 108 minutes (1 hour, 48 minutes)
MPAA – R for language, some drug and sexual content
DIRECTOR: Michael Gondry
WRITERS: Charlie Kaufman; based upon a story by Charlie Kaufman, Michael Gondry, and Pierre Bismuth
PRODUCERS: Anthony Bregman and Steve Golin
EDITOR: Valdìs Óskarsdóttir
Academy Award winner

DRAMA/ROMANCE/SCI-FI with elements of comedy

Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, and Tom Wilkinson

Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) has just had a really bad break up with his girlfriend, Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet), but there is still more bad news. Clementine has undergone a psychiatrist’s (Tom Wilkinson) experimental procedure in which all her memories of Joel were removed. Joel is frustrated by the fact that he still loves Clementine deeply, although she often irritates him greatly, so he undergoes the same procedure to erase his memories of her. The film then moves into Joel’s mind as the setting, and the procedure works backwards in time, removing the most recent memories first. So we see a memory, watch as it fades or is destroyed, and Joel’s mind moves backwards to the next oldest memory before that one is likewise scragged. Midway through the process, Joel decides realizes how much he still loves Clementine and doesn’t want to lose his memories of her. He begins to move parts of his time with her into places of his memory where she doesn’t belong, like his childhood. That only alters his other memories, and as his mind travels farther back in time, he wonders if he’ll retain any memories of Clementine when he awakens in the morning and the procedure has finished.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is another brilliant screenplay from the mind of Charlie Kaufman, author of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. As usual, his scripts are directed by excellent filmmakers; in this instance, the director is Michael Gondry, known for his work directing music videos for Björk and The Chemical Brothers. Gondry expertly directs the inspired madness of Kaufman’s script. The film, for all its surreal moments and shifts both in “real time” and dream time,” makes sense. Gondry also weaves out of this a poignant and genuinely heartfelt romantic drama.

The performances in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind range from great to pretty good. This is Jim Carrey’s best work and one of the few times he completely looses the clown and turns his creative energy and his longing for acceptance into a fierce, dramatic performance worthy of standing with the best “serious” actors. Kate Winslet is good…of course, and she does a better working class or ordinary American woman than most American actresses her age. The supporting roles are great with Kirsten Dunst making the most of a small part, but Tom Wilkinson is either a bit too aloof or too distant, or maybe the script didn’t give him enough.

At times, the film seems like a nightmare from the mind of the late, great sci-fi author and writer of speculative and mind-bending fiction, Philip K. Dick. In fact, Eternal Sunshine has a better PKD flavor than the films allegedly adapted from Dick’s books and short fiction. All things aside, this is excellent cinema. The time shifts and surrealism in Charlie Kaufman’s screenplays are practical and move the narrative similar to the way Quentin Tarantino does with his films. As of the closing days of September 2004, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the best film of the year.

10 of 10

2005 Academy Awards: 1 win “Best Writing, Original Screenplay” (Charlie Kaufman-screenplay/story, Michel Gondry-story, and Pierre Bismuth-story); 1 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Kate Winslet)

2005 BAFTA Awards: 2 wins: “Best Editing” (Valdís Óskarsdóttir) and “Best Screenplay – Original” (Charlie Kaufman); 4 nominations: “Best Film” (Steve Golin and Anthony Bregman), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Jim Carrey), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Kate Winslet), and “David Lean Award for Direction” (Michel Gondry)

2005 Golden Globes: 4 nominations: “Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy,” “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Jim Carrey), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Kate Winslet), “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Charlie Kaufman)


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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sofia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette" Pretty, Empty

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 39 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

Marie Antoinette (2006)
Running time: 123 minutes (2 hours, 3 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sexual content, partial nudity, and innuendo
DIRECTOR: Sofia Coppola
WRITER: Sofia Coppola (based upon the book Maria Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser)
PRODUCERS: Ross Katz and Sophia Coppola
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lance Acord, A.S.C. (director of photography)
EDITOR: Sarah Flack
2007 Academy Award nominee


Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Judy Davis, Rip Torn, Rose Byrne, Asia Argento, Molly Shannon, Shirley Henderson, Danny Huston, Jamie Dornan, Marianne Faithful, and Steve Coogan

In her film, Marie Antoinette, Sofia Coppola directs a stylized portrait of a naïve princess, who became Queen of France when she was 19 years old.

Austria, 1768: Austrian princess Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) becomes betrothed to the dauphin (heir) of the French crown, Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman). At the age of 14, Marie is stripped of all her possessions and thrown into the opulent French court at Versailles (near Paris) where vicious gossip defines everyone. Marie is alone and mostly without guidance, and Louis remains distant even after marriage – even refusing to consummate their union. By 19, Marie is Queen.

Adrift in Versailles’ dangerous world of conspiracy and scandal, Marie dives into the decadent life of French aristocracy, living the lavish life of a young royal. She buys extravagant clothing and jewelry for herself and has hugely expensive tastes when it comes to decorating the estate. She even has an affair with an alluring Swede, Count Fersen (Jamie Dornan). Many, however, view Marie as out of touch with her subjects, and the youthful indiscretions and frivolity that are her only releases from the confining life as Queen also become her undoing.

Coppola, who won a screenplay Oscar for her film, Lost in Translation, focuses Marie Antoinette on the life of the super wealthy and aimless. Coppola’s stated goal was to capture life in 18th century Versailles from the point of view of a lonely foreigner, so the narrative follows Marie through a whirlwind of extravagant costumes, opulent surroundings, and luxurious foodstuffs. In fact, one might consider this movie to be a lavish soufflé of kaleidoscopic operas, revelries, and even a costume ball that looks like a 21st century bash. Watching the film, you might get hungry for this pastel-colored world where cookies, candies, and cakes, and other sweets are so abundant, even a chamber pot might hold a multi-tiered cake.

Don’t think of Marie Antoinette even as historical fiction. It has little or no historical or political weight; this is all about the look. Visual anachronisms (as well as the modern rock, new wave, alternative soundtrack) mark this as more Coppola’s personal cinematic vision (a colorful art project) than it does cinema as history or even docu-drama. To that end, Marie Antoinette sure is a beautiful film. The costumes (Oscar-nominated), art direction/set decoration, cinematography, and makeup are some of the most stunningly beautiful that I’ve ever seen on film. So while the acting (Kirsten Dunst is wooden, except for a moment here and there) and the story are dry, stiff, and sometimes missing in action, the setting is splendid eye candy. Two hours of pretty style and no substance, however, is just too much to bear.

5 of 10

2007 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Achievement in Costume Design” (Milena Canonero)

2007 BAFTA Awards: 3 nominations: “Best Costume Design” (Milena Canonero), “Best Make Up & Hair” (Jean-Luc Russier and Desiree Corridoni), and “Best Production Design” (K.K. Barrett and Véronique Melery)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Review: "Spider-Man 3" is Too Crowded

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 76 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Running time: 140 minutes (2 hours, 20 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence
WRITERS: Sam Raimi & Ivan Raimi and Alvin Sargent; from a screen story by Sam Raimi and Ivan Raimi (based upon the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko)
PRODUCERS: Laura Ziskin, Avi Arad, and Grant Curtis
EDITOR: Bob Muraski
BAFTA Award nominee


Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, James Cromwell, Theresa Russell, Dylan Baker, Bill Nunn, Bruce Campbell, Elizabeth Banks, Cliff Robertson, Ted Raimi, Perla Haney-Jardine, Elya Baskin, and Mageina Tovah

Sam Raimi returns to direct Spider-Man 3, and this time he has the hero and film juggling a gaggle of new characters, which ultimately weighs down this film and denies the best villain of this installment, Venom, the substantial screen time that would have made SpM3 as good as Spider-Man 2.

Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) has finally struck a balance between his life as the costumed superhero, Spider-Man, and his civilian life, which includes his girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) or M.J., but there are so many troubles brewing on his horizon. First, Harry Osborn (James Franco), the son of Spider-Man’s most dangerous enemy, the villainous Green Goblin, strikes at him using some of his father’s technology. Next, Peter learns that Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) was the man who really killed Peter’s beloved Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson). A freak scientific accident fuses Marko’s DNA with sand, and he becomes the shape-shifting Sandman. If that weren’t enough, Peter, a photographer for the Daily Bugle meets his new rival, Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), a sneaky twerp willing to do just about anything to impress the Bugle’s editor-in-chief, J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons), in order to get the fulltime photographer position Peter wants.

Peter and M.J. (who knows that Peter is also Spider-Man) are also at odds because M.J. feels that whenever she needs a shoulder to cry on, Pete is too busy talking about being Spider-Man and how popular the hero has become with the general public. Their relationship crumbles when M.J. sees Spider-Man/Peter Parker kissing Eddie Brock’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard). Meanwhile, Peter has encountered an alien substance, a symbiotic creature, which merges with Spider-Man and his traditional red and blue costume and turns it black. The union also changes Peter’s personality, and it is the new, more aggressive and selfish Peter who publicly humiliates Brock. Unbeknownst to Pete, Brock will play a major part in bringing forth Spider-Man’s arch-nemesis, Venom. As Peter Parker tries to repair the rifts between he and his closet friends and also rediscover his compassion, Sandman and Venom form an unholy union to have their revenge against the wall-crawling hero.

Spider-Man 3 is a special effects extravaganza, featuring dizzying chase scenes in which characters are whirling, twirling, spinning, soaring, plunging, etc. between the buildings and structures of New York City. Above the street and below, Spider-Man and his adversaries defy gravity and avoid destruction even when gravity or the force of their own punches and kicks send them spiraling toward an extra hard landing. Computer rendered characters including CGI version of Spider-Man, Sandman, Venom, “Goblin, Jr. Harry Osborn, and the civilians they endanger (including M.J. and Gwen) account for the bulk of the complex action scenes, which couldn’t be pulled off with such dazzling, dizzying flair using real actors.

In the end, however, Spider-Man 3 is like the original 2002 Spider-Man movie – a lot of sound and fury dropped in between poignant character drama. The core of this movie is the message of compassion, forgiveness, and heroism. Early in the film, things are going so well for Peter – he’s going to propose to M.J. and the public adores Spider-Man – that when an obstacle presents itself or a little rain falls in his life, he’s turns to anger, pride, envy, and vengeance. In fact, most of the characters are looking for retribution or dealing with bitterness and personal defeat.

Try as Raimi, his co-writers, and cast might, the film has no soul, however. It’s simply a loud, superhero action fantasy built on CGI. There are too many characters and subplots to allow the drama and message to fully bloom into hearty flowers. Spider-Man 3 has the thrills and chills of superhero and villains colliding, but it is exceedingly dark and gloomy, which doesn’t allow the heroism to come through until the end. Of course, if this is really just popcorn entertainment, who cares if the human drama is just window dressing?

5 of 10

Friday, May 11, 2007

2008 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Special Visual Effects” (Scott Stokdyk, Peter Nofz, John Frazier, and Spencer Cook)


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Review: "Spider-Man 2" is a Superb Sequel

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 112 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Running time: 127 minutes (2 hours, 7 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for stylized action violence
WRITERS: Alvin Sargent, from a screen story by Alfred Gough & Miles Millar and Michael Chabon (based upon the comic book created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko)
PRODUCERS: Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin
EDITOR: Bob Murawski (D.o.P.)
COMPOSER: Danny Elfman
Academy Award winner

SUPERHERO/ACTION/DRAMA/ROMANCE with elements of sci-fi

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, Donna Murphy, Daniel Gillies, Dylan Baker, Bill Nunn, Willem Dafoe, and Cliff Robertson

I had mixed feelings about the first Spider-Man, released in 2002. The action sequences featuring Spider-Man rescuing folks, being his Spidey self, and fighting the Green Goblin were for the most part pretty cool. The (melo)drama was well conceived, but was too dry and flat. Director Sam (Evil Dead) Raimi’s sequel, Spider-Man 2, doesn’t suffer from flat drama, and the action is even better than the first time. After X2: X-Men United, this may be the best superhero movie ever.

As SM2 starts, a myriad of personal problems beset our hero, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), and being Spider-Man doesn’t help any of them. He’s broke, and the bank is about to foreclose on his Aunt May’s (Rosemary Harris) home. He isn’t making enough money taking photos for the Daily Bugle, and his newspaper boss, J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons), doesn’t cut him any slack. Parker is in love with his longtime friend Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), but he’s afraid to let her into his life for fear that one of Spider-Man’s enemies will eventually use her as a pawn in their revenge schemes against him. His best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco) believes that Peter and Spider-Man have a close professional relationship, and Harry hungers to avenge his father Norman’s aka, the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) death (he believes) at the hands of the web-slinger. Peter’s also still haunted by the death of his Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson), for which he blames himself. If that weren’t enough, Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), a scientist Peter admires, becomes a dangerous fiend known as Dr. Octopus, who has four monstrous mechanical arms attached to his body and who blames Spider-Man for his fate.

For years, my friends and I wondered if any Hollywood studio could make a good Spider-Man movie. Thanks to computer generated imagery and computer rendered images, at least the gravity defying antics of superheroes can be seamlessly translated from the four-color page of the comic book to the big screen. The SFX filmmakers on Spider-Man do extraordinary work creating a CGI Spider-Man who soars, spins, dips, hops, leaps, slides, dives, jumps, flips, and break dances across, through, and over the landscape of NYC, the city that is a very well used character in this film.

The writing, the second element very necessary for translation of superhero to screen, is much improved over the first film, likely because the three writers of the screen story are very familiar with superheroes. The strong writing of this film is combined with the fine acting of the first film, which carries over to SM2, and that’s what makes the drama so palatable. Of particular note is Rosemary Harris as Aunt May; Harris not only brings a solemn note to this fantasy film, but she also helps to humanize the Peter Parker character and lend credence to the idea of the hero as a regular guy dealing with the ups and downs of life.

Much credit to Sam Raimi, known for his horror and fantasy films, he is actually a very talented director who is equally at home with drama as he is with the fantastique. If he didn’t prove it in A Simple Plan, he certainly proves it with Spider-Man 2. Raimi can bring tears to your eyes with the drama and romance, and he can knock you back into the seat with heart-stopping action. Raimi’s new film will make your spirit soar vicariously with Spider-Man as he swings on his magical webbing over the city.

8 of 10

2005 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Achievement in Visual Effects” (John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Anthony LaMolinara, John Frazier); and 2 nominations: “Best Achievement in Sound Editing” (Paul N.J. Ottosson) and “Best Achievement in Sound Mixing” (Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell, Jeffrey J. Haboush, and Joseph Geisinger)

2005 BAFTA Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects” (John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Anthony LaMolinara, and John Frazier) and “Best Sound” (Paul N.J. Ottosson, Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell, and Jeffrey J. Haboush)