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Craig's Movie Club
Film/Video Reviews

Stylish films reviewed with a discerning eye.

Amelie (2001)

Superlatives fail me! A sweet, romantic comedy (from the director of The City of Lost Children) with a very creative use of special effects (not usually found in such films), Amelie is one of those movies where you leave feeling good. Audrey Tautou delivers a lovable performance; even while she is meddling in other people's lives, you can't help but find her adorable and want to her to find love. There is even a small mystery involved with a perfect solution.

Amelie decides to help people change their lives without them knowing it, but forgets about her own. Until she meets a man at a photo booth and... but that would be giving it away. And one of the pleasures I got from Amelie was that I knew almost nothing about it going in (other than it was receiving critical and audience acclaim). That is a rarity in today's world where trailers tell you the whole story before you've even decided you want to see the thing.

In short, what I'm trying to say is: buy it! Now! So you can watch it over and over again, because you will want to, especially if you have any Francophilic tendencies whatsoever.

The City of Lost Children (1995)

The City of Lost Children, from the directing team of Jeunet & Caro (also behind Delicatessen), is best approached on its own terms. You have seen nothing like it, and probably will not--at least not from Hollywood.

The bare bones of the plot is as follows: an old man who can't dream kidnaps children from the streets of France and brings them to his laboratory where he hooks them up to a complicated machine designed to show him their dreams. Working for him in the lab are his wife (a near dwarf) and six clones (all played by Jeunet regular Dominique Pinon, who you may recognize from Amelie).

That's basically it. Of course, the children have to be rescued, so why not have circus strongman Ron Perlman do it? After all, his little brother was one of the kidnapped. (I have now seen Perlman in a Spanish film--Guillermo Del Toro's Cronos--and this French film, as well as his English work. Do other actors do this kind of thing?)

I was enthralled by the visuals in The City of Lost Children. The effects involving having three or more clones onscreen at the same time are particularly impressive. Obviously the plot is a bit odd, but it's the way the story is told that is so engrossing. And the acting is superb, specifically the young heroine, who seems years beyond her age.

You will fall into this picture.

Dick Tracy (1990)

The art direction is the real star in Dick Tracy, Warren Beatty's adaptation of the Chester Gould comic strip. Beatty himself plays Tracy and comes across brilliantly. Glenne Headly is also perfect as Tess Trueheart. But the big surprise is Al Pacino's movie-stealing turn as Big Boy Caprice. Pacino is obviously having a lot of fun here (he reportedly designed his own look), and overacts to his heart's content. (Hey, it's a comic strip movie, overacting is called for.)

A slew of big names are on board for cameos and featured roles: Dustin Hoffman, Dick van Dyke, Charles Durning, William Forsythe, even a pre-Misery Kathy Bates as a befuddled stenographer trying to transcribe Mumbles' testimony.

Madonna's portrayal of Breathless Mahoney is not really a benefit or a detriment, it simply is. I'm not sure about director Beatty's idea of making Breathless as trampy as he does and then attempting to make her be vulnerable at the end, especially the scene in the see-through robe (come on, it's basically a kids' film, Warren, get your frustrations out off the set, please!).

It's also a little disturbing to remember that she and Beatty were "dating" during filming, especially with the innocent tone the film takes on, but all in all Dick Tracy is a light-hearted film with a lot of action, great characters, and a happy ending that doesn't feel tacked on.

Killing Zoe (1994)

Roger Avary is the true talent behind Quentin Tarantino (at least according to Natural Born Killers producer--and Killer Instinct author--Jane Hamsher). Killing Zoe, his first solo job, is impressive, if a bit slow in spots. The main heist doesn't really get going until the halfway point. But it's really a character study, anyway.

Zed (Eric Stoltz) is called by Parisian buddy Eric (Jean-Hugues Anglade) to help him break into a reserve bank vault on Bastille Day, one of the few banks open on that day.

Zed falls for a student/escort supplied to him through a cab driver, takes several recreational drugs with Eric and his friends (including Spandau Ballet's Gary Kemp), and wakes up the next morning, not quite ready for the job. The job keeps Zed downstairs surrounded by the noise of the drill, so he never notices that things go very wrong.

And who happens to have a part-time job at the bank?

Avary is quoted as saying that producer Lawrence Bender (Pulp Fiction) called him up and said he had a bank set free for a few weeks, did he have a script involving a bank he wanted to film? Avary said yes, he did. Then he wrote one...this.

Comparisons to Reservoir Dogs are inescapable (even on the video box), but the two films are very different, although similarly dark in tone. I think Killing Zoe is actually better.

  • Prospero's Books -- Peter Greenaway's version of Shakespeare's The Tempest has John Gielgud voicing all the roles. A truly sensual feast.
  • The Thin Man Series -- The mysteries are secondary to watching William Powell and Myrna Loy banter their way through high society, giving new meaning to the word "class."
  • ...more to come...