Though Not Exactly Anti-Semitic, Its Gore Is Very Anti-Audience; Is
It Commerce or Self-Therapy?
FEBRUARY 27, 2004
"Mel Gibson has said that he wanted THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST to
show the enormity of Christ's sacrifice through scenes so shocking as to
push us 'over the edge.' The film does that, though where we land depends on
who we are. Some will be inspired by the message of love and hope that
emerges from torture depicted in hideous detail. I found myself stunned,
then horrified, then defensively benumbed, by a level of violence that
would, in another genre, be branded as pornographic. No one who watches Mr.
Gibson's dramatization of Christ's final hours will come away unaffected by
its intensity. His direction combines the fluency of modern techniques --
the craftsmanship is impressive -- with a central performance, by Jim
Caviezel, that sometimes evokes the primal, ecstatic style of the silent
era. Yet this work of manifest devotion, financed by Mr. Gibson himself, is
overwhelmed by his obsession with physical suffering to the exclusion of
social, political and metaphysical context."
JUNE 18, 2004
"THE TERMINAL is a terminally fraudulent and all-but-interminable
comedy starring Tom Hanks. He plays Viktor Navorski, a traveler from
Eastern Europe who is forced to spend a year living in the international
transit lounge at JFK. (A revolution back home has rendered him
stateless, so he can't enter the United States.)...From an implausible
start, the story meanders through a succession of perfunctory episodes. It's
patently absurd that airport authorities, represented by a rigid bureaucrat
named Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci), can't provide an interpreter -- Viktor's
English is rudimentary -- let alone cope with the urgent needs of a
political refugee. But belief is strained to the breaking point throughout:
by the explosive growth of the hero's vocabulary (Viktor learns English
faster than Tom Cruise learned Japanese in THE LAST SAMURAI); by the ease
with which he finds a good job inside the terminal; by the blossoming of his
artistry (he builds a fancy decorative fountain out of love for the flight
attendant, Amelia), and by Amelia's own pitiable plight. (She's been waiting
seven years for a phone call of commitment from her boyfriend.)"
Overheated Polemic Trades Logic For a Couple of Good Zingers
JUNE 25, 2004
"At one point in the course of Michael Moore's rambling, troubling
and sometimes rousing FAHRENHEIT 9/11, I recalled a remark that the
media-savvy satirist Harry Shearer made years ago about the newspapers
of the time in San Francisco. Reading them, he said, was "like getting
your news from the crazy lady in the laundromat." Well, watching Mr.
Moore's film means getting your news from the media village's most
famous or infamous bomb-thrower, self-promoter, used-theory salesman,
glib falsifier, discomfiting truth-teller, aggrieved patriot, shrewd
lampooner, serial ambusher and, in his latest feature-length polemic,
Bush-beater with a seething vengeance."
OCTOBER 22, 2004
"Each character is a vivid creation in a film that's as droll as it
is wise about loneliness and the search for true love. The most earnest
searcher is Miles. Last year Mr. Giamatti gave a gloriously prickly
performance as the comic-book writer Harvey Pekar in AMERICAN SPLENDOR.
Now he has brought another flavor of perfection (that doesn't qualify as a
wine reference) to the role of a middle-school English teacher who has too
many fancy words at his disposal, and too few accessible feelings. Miles's
verdict on one wine: "quaffable but far from transcendent." My verdict on
Miles: Lovable and transcendent, thanks to Mr. Giamatti's ability to rise
above the Woody Allen stereotype of nebbishy neurosis by playing Miles
absolutely straight and fiercely smart."
Pixar's Dazzling Satire of Suburbs Takes Flight With Director Bird
NOVEMBER 5, 2004
"The disconsolate suburbanite, Bob Parr, once chased around saving
the world, or significant parts of it, as the masked and red-underweared Mr.
Incredible. Now, gone to fat and working as a clerk at an HMO, Bob
(voiced by Craig T. Nelson) lives in a modest tract house with his wife,
Helen (Holly Hunter), formerly the supersvelte Elastigirl, and their
three superkids, who must pretend to be normal so as not to attract
attention. ... Bob takes a dim view of his new community's bogus values.
Refusing to attend his son's graduation from fourth to fifth grade, he
grumbles, 'They keep inventing new ways to celebrate mediocrity.' Still
yearning for another shot at heroism, he sneaks out at night, on the
pretext of going bowling, to do good deeds and perform risky rescues
with another defrocked superhero, his buddy Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson),
who used to encase his enemies in ice. Sneaking back home from a
collapsed building late at night, Bob is trapped in one of those scenes
where the wife finds a strand of another woman's hair on her husband's
clothes, except that here it isn't hair. Picking at his sweater, Helen
asks suspiciously, 'Is this... rubble?'"