Cinema Psycho

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Archive for November, 2004

The Polar Express

Posted by CinemaPsycho on November 16, 2004

Directed by Robert Zemeckis/Screenplay by William Broyles, Jr./based on the book by Chris van Allsburg/starring Tom Hanks, Peter Scolari, Nona Gaye, Eddie Deezen/Warner Bros-Castle Rock

A young boy boards a magical train that goes to the North Pole on Christmas Eve.

So last month I was sitting through Shark Tale. Kids’ movies are generally not my thing, but I have a young nephew and I occasionally like to treat him to a movie, as a good Uncle should. Plus it’s a good excuse to see movies that I probably would never watch under any other circumstances. Usually these movies are not that bad. But Shark Tale just made me nauseous. The constant pop-culture references, the lame little in-jokes (“Jessica Shrimpson”, ah ha ha that’s so hilarious), the trendy pop music on the soundtrack, most of all the bullshit “message” about how trying to transcend your station in life is a terrible thing. It all made me despair for the future – at least for the future of my moviegoing experiences with the kid, and all the godawful stuff I was going to have to sit through if Shark Tale was any indication of the direction these movies were taking.

I started thinking about all the animated movies (known back then as “cartoons”) that I used to like to watch when I was his age. Even the Disney movies had this timeless quality to them. The best of them will hold up until the end of time, and even “lesser efforts” like The Fox and the Hound would work perfectly today, just as is. They may not be my cup of tea as an adult, but they’re not supposed to be. They’re…you know, for kids! Makes me want to buy a hula hoop…

But today’s kids aren’t supposed to want something timeless. Their attention spans can’t take a leisurely paced journey through the animal kingdom, right? Hollywood has to clutter their family films up with all this horrible crap just to get them to pay attention. Or so they think. “When”, I asked myself as I suffered through that miserable revamp of “Car Wash”, “when is somebody going to make a good children’s movie like they used to make? One without all the in-jokes and pop-culture garbage, one that tells a simple story and does it well, without throwing in the kitchen sink? When will someone finally get that the Grinch is not a shamelessly overacting stand-up comic, and the Cat in the Hat is not a Jewish lady from an SNL sketch? When will they finally do it right, and make a movie that will still hold up years from now?”

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Polar Express is that movie. Thank God.

I say this while being completely unfamiliar with the children’s book the movie is based on. And quite honestly, I haven’t really liked a Zemeckis movie since Back to the Future III, so my expectations weren’t incredibly high. And I know, everybody’s nuts over Pixar, The Incredibles is a huge hit right now, every kid on the planet wants to see it 15 times. That’s fine. I just hope people don’t ignore this exquisitely crafted film, because The Polar Express is the closest thing to a children’s classic in years.

It’s very easy to be cynical about movies like this. Mostly because Hollywood makes it very easy. And yes, I could write several paragraphs about the budget, the boxoffice, the animation techniques. You know what? Who cares? What matters is what’s on the screen. And what’s on the screen is so damn good, that I really don’t care much about any of that other stuff. Save all that for the “Behind the Scenes” feature on the DVD if you’re interested. It’s the results that matter – and too many critics and audience members have lost sight of that.

So what’s it about? Well, you have this little boy who’s starting to lose his belief in Santa Claus. He’s just beginning to be aware of the evidence against the guy’s existence, and as we all know, that moment in a kid’s life really sucks. That’s the perfect time for The Polar Express, a magical train that seems to run on nonexistent tracks, to come along in front of his house, pick him up and take him and several others on an eventful ride to the North Pole to see the big guy up close and in person.

That’s pretty much the basic story. Sure, a lot of stuff happens along the way, but why ruin it for you by telling you about it? Santa would not approve.

The movie looks amazing. That’s a given these days. But more important is how the movie FEELS. It feels exactly like the kind of movie I was desperately wishing for during Shark Tale – an old-fashioned, heartwarming adventure tale. It’s like the old Rankin-Bass Christmas specials with the modern technology of a Jurassic Park movie. Yet it has that timeless sensibility, so it feels like it could’ve been made at any time during the last century. You can’t just put a “November 2004” stamp on it and watch it become dated in 5 years. I expect there to be annual showings on TV around this time of year, right alongside It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story. I’m not saying it’s THAT good…but time will tell.

Zemeckis has been known to be a tad emotionally manipulative with his recent films, but here, it all feels right. Every laugh and every tear feels absolutely earned. You don’t feel like you’ve been put through the wringer or bludgeoned by sentiment, because the movie works exactly as it’s supposed to. You feel it because it’s done well, not because you’re being forced to. Or maybe you won’t – but honestly, if you haven’t teared up a little by the end, you are one cynical bastard. And that’s coming from a cynical bastard.

Sure, I thought it was a little bit eerie at first. The whole idea of children being taught to “believe” in something that defies logic, reason and all rational thought was a little off-putting to my sensibilities. But it’s a Santa Claus movie for christ’s sake. It’s a children’s fantasy. And it’s not like they don’t bring the man himself to center stage. These kids want proof and they get it. So it’s hard to argue with that one. This could be the best Santa-propaganda film ever made.

I’ve heard some complaints about the animation, how it doesn’t seem “real” and so forth. You know what? It’s animation. Very complicated animation, but still…it’s a cartoon. Get over it, people. You want realism, look out the window. Seriously.

I kind of enjoyed the fact that the movie isn’t chock-full of celebrity voices. Quick, who did the voice of Frosty the Snowman? I don’t know either, and I never really cared. What’s important is that the characters are brought to life, and these are done extremely well. I have to warn you though, if you’ve got something against Tom Hanks, you’re really going to dislike this movie, because he’s all over it, playing 5 different characters. I don’t think Hanks necessarily HAD to play so many characters, but one could argue that it adds to the dreamlike quality of the piece that all these male characters resemble the kid’s father (though I’m not saying it’s a dream, because it isn’t…I don’t think). I think you’ll be surprised by some of his work here though, particularly one major character. My favorite voice in the film has to be Eddie Deezen (1941) as the “know-it-all kid” – if you don’t know the name, you’ll know the voice. He’s dead-on perfect.

And yes, I have to admit there’s one little slip towards the end, where a certain veteran rock singer appears as a singing elf (no, it’s not Mick Jagger). But up until then, the Polar Express is refreshingly free of modern touches. No references to other movies or current events. No in-jokes for the parents. No pop remakes of ‘70’s songs on the soundtrack. I’m so sick to death of that stuff in these movies. It’s time to put an end to all that crap, starting now. It’s time for Hollywood to stop making so many references, and start making movies worth referencing again. This movie proves they can still do that. So no more excuses. If the movie’s GOOD, the adults will sit through it willingly with their kids and not complain.

If disposable stuff like Shark Tale is like a McDonald’s Happy Meal, The Polar Express is like a gourmet meal at a four-star restaurant. They’ve finally delivered excellence, let’s reward them by taking our kids, our nephews and nieces, and showing them what a great family movie should be. They shouldn’t have to settle for less.

And thank you, Robert Zemeckis and company. I’m glad you spent a ton of Time Warner’s money to get it right. I hope more filmmakers follow your lead. (I’m looking at you, Ron Howard) You know Mr. Z, you’re pretty good at this fantasy stuff. Maybe you should consider doing it more often.

Oh yeah, my nephew liked it a lot too. He wasn’t bored at all, and neither was I. See Hollywood…this is how you do it.

**** 4 stars. 11/16/04

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OK, no more politics on this site. At least until 2008.

Posted by CinemaPsycho on November 12, 2004

It occurred to me not long after writing that little rant last week that it might not be considered “appropriate” by some for the main page of a movie-review site. And I can understand that. I’m sure that if people are looking for movie reviews, they might be a little surprised to find election commentary staring back at them. No one goes to political sites looking for reviews of the latest films, now do they?

And like many people (myself included), you’re all probably sick of the whole thing and just wish everyone would shut the hell up about it. Believe me, I sympathize.

Having said that, the main reason someone starts a site like this is to communicate something with people. To say things that aren’t being said elsewhere. To provide an alternate viewpoint. And that’s really all I was trying to do, not try to push my political views on an unsuspecting audience. (If that were my intention, I’d have been a bit late.) I don’t believe what anyone says on a website will actually change someone’s vote or political affiliation, any more than putting a sign in your yard will actually influence people to vote for the candidate you support.

And yet it seems that everywhere you go on the Internet, you find nothing but opinions. Yes, even people just looking for movie reviews. Every critic/journalist/whatever out there, from Harry Knowles to Jeffrey Wells feel free to inject their personal opinions and beliefs into their writing, even if they have nothing to do with the subject they’re supposed to be covering. I’m not knocking them for that. What amazes me is that even though people complain about it, they keep coming back and reading those guys anyway. Never mind the fact that there are plenty of places on the Net to get movie news without any commentary. It’s almost as if these people are just looking for someone prominent who they disagree with, someone they can write an angry email to. Someone they can pick a fight with.

For me, arguing about politics is equally as pointless as arguing about religion, sports, the weather or the so-called “battle of the sexes” (does anyone know who’s winning?). The person you’re arguing with is not going to change your mind. Most likely you are not going to change their minds. You can present all the facts, you can use logic and reason until you’re blue in the face. They’re not going to hear it.

You know what the whole thing reminds me of? Here’s an analogy that any film geek can relate to: it’s like the age-old widescreen vs. full-screen debate. I’m sure we all know people who still prefer full-screen, in the misguided belief that they’re seeing “more” of the picture. You can try to argue with these people. You can tell them exactly why widescreen is better, and even get into technical things like aspect ratios if you’re knowledgeable about that stuff. But 99 times out of 100, they’ll come back with, “I don’t like those black bars on the screen” (there ARE no “black bars” dammit, there’s just no picture there!) or something equally nonsensical.

Give it up, man. They’re just not capable of “seeing the picture” the way you do.

So at some point you just have to “agree to disagree” and drop it. Move on. But some people aren’t capable of doing that for some reason. I know there have been several times in my life where someone just can’t give it a rest (especially recently), even though I’ve made it as clear as I possibly can that I’d rather not discuss it any further. It doesn’t take long before I come to dread seeing that person again. What I absolutely don’t want is to become that person for the readers on my site. I need all the readers I can get.

I don’t intend to just write movie reviews, even though that will be a large part of the site. I started this column with the specific purpose of writing about whatever feels relevant, whatever’s on my mind that no one else seems to be saying or thinking about. Since movies generally preoccupy my thoughts most of the time, it stands to reason that most of the columns will be about movies. But occasionally, you can expect me to wander off into some other realm. Be aware that this stuff is being written by a real person, not some kind of movie robot. So trust me, it will happen.

And when it does, feel free to ignore me if you see fit. After all, I’m just a guy writing stuff on the Internet. What the hell do I know?

More reviews are on the way! I promise. You can expect at least one theatrical review, as well as my first couple of reviews of new and recent DVD releases in the next week or so. Talk to you soon!

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“There’s a sucker born every minute.” – P.T. Barnum

Posted by CinemaPsycho on November 5, 2004

“America has spoken – and I won’t imitate its voice at the risk of offending the mentally retarded.” – Lewis Black

Sigh…the last thing I want is to turn this into a political-rant site. This is a site primarily about movies, and I think it should stay that way. There are plenty of places on the Internet where you can find political commentary written by people more intelligent and informed than I. And if I start writing about this, if I start saying everything I want to say, I’m going to write pages and pages of stuff that no one wants to read at this point. Right now, it just doesn’t seem worth it.

So I’ll just say this: I live in a so-called “red state”, the one that half the country is pretty pissed at right now. Yet John Kerry got the most votes in the economically depressed county I live in. I’m proud to say that I voted for Kerry and I encouraged everyone I know (here and elsewhere) to do so. It wasn’t a wasted effort as far as I’m concerned. I did what I was supposed to do. I voiced my opinion, I said my piece. And I’ve been paying attention for the last 4 years. I didn’t just jump on the bandwagon with Michael Moore, Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo. I feel that I know as much about what’s going on as the average person. I didn’t ignore the facts just to follow a misguided agenda.

I strongly believe that a vote for George W. Bush is a vote for 4 more years of war, lies, greed and corruption. I know a LOT of people who feel the same way – people who have never seen Fahrenheit 9/11, never heard Air America and don’t pay attention to what Hollywood celebrities say in the press. They believe this because they watch the news, they read the papers and they pay attention to what’s happening.

And yet I’m not surprised by the election results. Disappointed, yes, but not surprised. The Republicans ran a campaign based on ignorance and fear, and guess what – it worked. I’d have to be awfully naïve to claim to be shocked by this.

But let’s not be fooled into thinking that Bush won over the country. 51 percent of the population is far from a landslide. America is still divided, as we have been for years. All the numbers prove is that more Republicans showed up at the polls. The one good thing about fanatics is that they know how to mobilize their forces. Forget what the media is trying to jam down your throats – they won because they played dirty, and they know how to do it. There are just as many liberals in America as there were on Nov. 1.

John Kerry didn’t lose on Election Day. America lost.

Maybe in 2008, when the war in Iraq is still going, the economy is still in the toilet, many more thousands have lost their jobs, and virtually no social progress has been made in this country, people will finally decide that they’re fed up. Until then, the rest of us will just have to shake our heads in wonder and hope we don’t have another national tragedy because the administration refused to act on the warning signs.

On a lighter note, I finally got my first batch of reviews up (look…over there on the left!) and you can expect more in the weeks ahead. I’ll be doing theatrical releases as well as current DVD releases (thank you Netflix!). I’m still working on ironing out the kinks on the site, but you can expect an update at least once a week. I hope those of you who have found your way here will keep coming back, and I sincerely hope you’re having as much fun reading it as I am writing it.

I haven’t decided whether or not to see Alfie this weekend. I really like the original 1966 film, but the remake kind of disturbs me. A large part of the charm of the original was that Alfie was just an “average bloke” who managed to have developed an extraordinary way with women, despite that fact that he looked like…well, Michael Caine. I look at the remake and it’s like, “well, OF COURSE he’s getting laid all over the place…it’s JUDE LAW for christ’s sake!” If they really wanted to evoke the spirit of the original, they should have cast someone more rough and unrefined, like Jason Statham or any one of those guys from Guy Ritchie’s films. And at the risk of sounding politically incorrect (god forbid, right?) I never understood what’s so bad about being a “womanizer” in the first place. Every guy I know wants to be a womanizer! All that really means is that a guy’s getting laid on a regular basis by more than one woman, right? So what’s so horrible about that, really? (Leaving aside the whole AIDS thing…I assume they mention that in the movie, they almost HAVE to) It’s not like the man’s raping anybody. He’s doing what every single guy wants to do – he just happens to have the gift of persuasion that most of us don’t. In the old days (before I was born) they used to call that ‘a healthy sex life”. Not that I’m anything like either Alfie or ever will be…it just doesn’t seem like such an awful life to me. And didn’t About a Boy cover this territory pretty well not long ago? I don’t know…I just don’t want to sit in the audience with a bunch of shrieking Jude Law fans.

I know, everyone will be at The Incredibles this weekend. Eh. I’ll wait a couple of
weeks and avoid the crowds. I think I’ll live.

Talk to you soon!

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Posted by CinemaPsycho on November 4, 2004

Directed by Oliver Stone/Screenplay by Stone, Christopher Kyle and Laeta Kalogridis/starring Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Anthony Hopkins, Jared Leto, Rosario Dawson/Warner Bros. – Intermedia Films

Oliver Stone is one of my favorite filmmakers of the past two decades. I think he’s made a lot of very good films and a few genuine classics. I always look forward to seeing what he does next, even when I don’t particularly care for the subject matter (as in Any Given Sunday which has its strong points but still didn’t do much for me). So I’m the last person who would bash the guy without reason.

Therefore, I would love to be able to tell you that the critics are wrong about Alexander, that it’s a misunderstood masterpiece, that they “just didn’t get it”. I would love to be able to say that all the bad reviews are just a personal attack on Stone himself, as he’s stated in recent interviews.

But I’d be lying to you. Alexander is just a misguided mess.

I didn’t hate this film so much as I was simply baffled by it. Stone’s artistic choices here are just bizarre. I scarcely know where to begin to describe exactly what’s wrong with this movie, so I’ll just start by saying…damn near everything.

This ambitious biopic/epic of one of the most renowned and controversial figures in history has been a dream project of Stone’s for years, and he obviously has great admiration for his subject. Maybe that’s the problem. He seems to do his best work when he’s pissed off. Never mind the irony of the man behind Platoon, JFK and Born on the Fourth of July crafting a love letter to an unrepentant warmonger. Stone just doesn’t seem to know what to do with the material.

He’s assembled a fine cast here, and left every one of them stranded. Not only does each major character have a different accent, they all seem to be performing in completely different movies. They’re practically speaking different languages. Jolie seems to be in another universe as Alexander’s wicked mother, apparently playing her as a Russian immigrant who’s just received her green card. Kilmer gets to overact wildly, and never seems to get a bead on who exactly his character is. Hopkins is pretty much wasted as the film’s narrator, aka Exposition Guy. His monologues about the state of Greece and “what a great man Alexander was” are generally dull, and often laughable. Given that his younger counterpart plays such a minor role in the events on screen, I’m curious about why we even needed his perspective in the first place.

I think Farrell’s a strong actor, but his performance in the title role is just as miscalculated as the rest of the movie. His Alexander comes off more like a petulant child than a great leader. We’re constantly told what a legend he is, but nothing we see him do seems to back that up. He just decides to go conquer the world, simply because he can, and his followers just kinda show up. We never get a sense of why anyone would so willingly follow him into battle. Why Stone and others find him so fascinating is left a complete mystery. He seems like a guy who goes to war just to get as far away from his crazy parents as possible. That’s understandable, but certainly not admirable.

(Not to get too political here, but Farrell’s Alexander often bears an eerie resemblance to a certain weak-chinned, smirking current leader of the free world. Stone has said that he meant no parallels to modern politics, and I don’t doubt him on that, but I’ll be damned if Farrell doesn’t look like a dead ringer for the guy here, at least from the forehead down. This could be purely coincidental, but even so, it’s awfully weird.)

But you can’t blame the actors for any of this, when Stone clearly doesn’t seem to have any idea what he’s shooting for here. He obviously wants us to identify with Alexander, yet he gives us no reason to care about the man. We’re kept at such a distance from him that we’re never roused by his victories. Even when he delivers his “big speech” to his troops before a major battle, Stone inexplicably cuts away to a literal birds-eye view of the battleground and drowns out the dialogue. A later scene seems to vaguely explain this, but it’s still a bizarre move to make just at the point where we should be developing a rooting interest in Alex and getting an idea of how he inspired his soldiers.

We’re also never really given a solid motivation for doing what he does. After all, the man is conquering nations and committing massacres – it’s a bit difficult to sympathize with Alex if we don’t know why he’s doing it. First we’re told he has a “vision” for uniting the world under one kingdom (yeah, good luck with that). Then it’s to prove himself to his manipulating mother and uncaring stepfather. Then it’s to establish his place in history and whatnot. Maybe it’s all of those things. Maybe it’s none of them. Stone just seems to give up trying to convince us to care at some point, and what we’re left with is a portrait of a man who we never quite understand. Alex becomes a hollow figure at the center of his own story. He’s a cipher, a void, and we’re left to speculate to fill in the blanks. That doesn’t make for a satisfying biopic.

It doesn’t help that the movie’s incoherent stop-and-start structure undermines any sense of narrative drive or cohesive statement. Just when you think Stone’s finally starting to get somewhere with this, he grinds the movie to a halt and goes off in some other direction. Every scene seems to take place “Eight Years Later” than the last. It’s like, “well, first he did this…then 8 years later he did this…then a couple of years later this happened…” Didn’t anything interesting happen in between these story points? We’re here to see this man’s life story, not the highlights of his resume. That we can get out of any history book. Then there’s a whole sequence that seems to have been shoved into the wrong reel. It’s a long flashback that occurs towards the end, taking us out of the battle scenes and back to his life in Greece, “Eight Years Before”. All of this would’ve worked much better in chronological order, and might’ve helped us give a rat’s ass about the guy. Instead we’re given crucial information at a point where we just don’t care anymore.

A lot has been said about the “gay content” of the film. Personally, I think it’s admirable that Stone chose not to ignore the bisexuality that was considered “normal” in that culture and time period, and that Farrell was brave enough to play the role with that in mind. What’s not so admirable is that Stone handles the subject with all the subtle dignity of a Will & Grace episode. There’s a ludicrous scene that takes place in a conquered harem, where a male servant happens to catch Alex’s eye. It’s done with such clumsy obviousness that you half expect Stone to yell out from behind the camera, “Look…he’s in a room full of hot women…and he’s checking out a DUDE!!! Get it? Get it?”

Yes, Oliver, we get it. Put down the sledgehammer.

That’s hardly the only example, just one of the most bizarre. Never mind the fact that if Alex were truly bisexual, he’d be checking out the ladies too. The film is full of odd little references and asides like that, moments where you can’t help but think, “OK, was that meant to be a joke? Or was he trying to be serious and failed miserably?” I can’t speak for any gay moviegoers out there, but I have to imagine that they’ll get quite a chuckle out of the hysterical efforts Stone makes to deal with this subject without…actually dealing with it. It’s not that he didn’t have the freedom to tackle it head-on – it’s that he thinks that’s exactly what he’s doing. That’s the funny part. (I won’t even go into things like the “fade to pink” that take place near the end. Even if you take the “gay context” out of the equation, it just looks stupid and awful, like they shot the scene through a coat of Pepto-Bismol.) Alex’s obvious affection for his buddy Hephastion, played by an extremely effeminate Jared Leto, might actually have been touching and effective – that is, if we actually cared about any of the characters in the film.

Overall, Alexander is pretty much a disaster on every level. There’s very little that actually works in it. Yet it’s not unwatchable or anything – it’s actually fascinating in a way to see a movie fly so completely off the rails and have such confidence in doing so. Love it or hate it, you can’t call this simple hackwork. It’s the kind of ambitious failure that only a great director can come up with, like Spielberg’s 1941 (which I actually have a little affection for) or DePalma’s Bonfire of the Vanities (which I don’t). In a perverse way, I kind of admire it for its resolute, unwavering belief in its own wrongness.

But can I recommend it? Hell no. However, I will look forward to Oliver’s next film, whatever and whenever that may be. And until then, Alexander will be picked apart by both his fans, and by lovers of bad cinema everywhere. Say what you will about Stone – he never does anything halfway.

* 1/2 (1 1/2 stars) 11/28/04

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The Machinist

Posted by CinemaPsycho on November 1, 2004

Directed by Brad Anderson/Screenplay by Scott Kosar/Starring Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, Michael Ironside/Paramount Classics

A remarkably skinny factory worker with insomnia comes to believe that there’s a conspiracy against him. And you thought your life sucked.

The Machinist is one of those movies that a lot of people probably won’t go see in theaters. There are various reasons for this, all of which are pretty much inexplicable. Some people will consider it “too serious”, “too depressing” or “too arthouse”, or some combination of the above. The fact that it’s getting rave reviews across the board will actually be a turnoff to these people, because for some reason they’ve convinced themselves that it’s somehow a subversive act to ignore films that “the intellectual and cultural elite want you to see.” Then they’ll eventually catch up with it on DVD or cable and say, “wow, I really wish I’d seen that in a theater. That was pretty cool.”

So, if you happen to be one of those people, take this advice from someone who’s decidedly NOT one of “the intellectual and cultural elite” (whatever that actually means). Go see The Machinist in a theater. It’s pretty cool.

Seriously though, just because a film is critically acclaimed doesn’t mean it’s a chore to sit through. It’s not a three-hour Iranian documentary about bisexual goat herders. Not only is there nudity and violence, there’s even a car chase! What more do you want? Prostitutes? Industrial accidents? Spooky amusement-park rides? Disturbingly creepy bald men? The awesome Michael Ironside? Well, it’s your lucky day pal, because The Machinist has all of that and more.

Not to mention that Christian Bale lost 63 pounds to play the lead role. I mean, this is one astonishing physical transformation that you have to see to believe. Though a lot of people I know might ask him, “what’s your secret?” it’s pretty amazing that Bale actually manages to give a terrific performance while basically existing as a bony frame. If that were me, I’d be too busy chanting, “hungry…so hungry” to actually focus on anything else but the nearest piece of food. The guy should get an Oscar nomination just for managing not to take a bite out of Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Then there’s the fact that director Brad Anderson is one of the best (oops, I mean coolest) up-and-coming directors working today. If you’ve ever seen Session 9 (the one about the guys working in the haunted mental hospital) or Happy Accidents (the one where Marisa Tomei falls in love with the time-traveling guy, and Anthony Michael Hall plays himself at a party, that’s a good one), then you know what I’m talking about, even if you don’t realize it. Here Anderson creates a bleak, washed-out city that perfectly mirrors the psychological state of the protagonist…I mean, it looks really cool. Yeah.

The plot is actually really interesting as well, even if it does get predictable towards the end. The movie’s one misstep is that we figure out what this guy’s problem is long before he does, so about halfway through we’re waiting for him to catch up with what we already know. We don’t know exactly what happened, but we get the general direction of where it’s going. As subtle as the film is, we get a few too many clues along the way that reveal a little too much. (Can you believe that the guy who wrote this also wrote that lousy Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake? I know, me neither.) I also have to wonder about these conspiracy movies in general. I mean, when pretty much everyone around you is telling you you’re crazy, wouldn’t you have to at least consider the possibility? At least for a few seconds? People in these movies never seem to do that. Oh well.

Despite all that nitpicking, The Machinist is still a ride well worth taking. I don’t want to give away too much about what happens (you can go read the other critics for that), you just have to take my word for it. If this is playing anywhere near you, you should really check it out. You could even take a date, and if she starts drooling over Christian Bale you can say, “hey, that guy’s bulimic or something. That’s what you like? You’re sick.” How often do you get to do that?

And did I mention that Michael Ironside is awesome in it? Michael Ironside should be in every movie. Unlike Lance Henriksen, who actually is in every movie. Don’t deny it, you know it’s true.

***1/2 stars. 11/1/04

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