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Movie review

  • 2005-04-20
FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX
BEING JULIA
BOXING A SHADOW

FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX

Director: John Moore

"Flight of the Phoenix" is directed by John Moore, who also made the intolerable "Behind Enemy Lines" (2001). Sadly, there isn't noticeable improvement from that film to this. The remake of a 1965 movie is sometimes amusing, but mostly awkward and unstructured. The flat-action flick is full of missed opportunities and failed attempts. Moore fiercely avoids every chance to tell an involving story or to make the characters three-dimensional. What the movie basically amounts to is 10 smiling people in a burning desert who - with very little water and almost no chance of survival - have a hell-of-a-time partying around to the tunes of "Hey Ya!" Though you might in glimpses feel entertained by the movie, you just don't believe a word of it.
1/2 (Julie Vinten)

Who would have thought that a film set in the middle of an endless sand-filled desert could be so entertaining? Mind you, this is no epic "Lawrence of Arabia" or even "The English Patient" 's far from it. Nevertheless, you may just find yourself enjoying this outlandish and adventurous tale. A spectacularly realistic crash-landing allows our senses (further enhanced by special effects) into momentarily participating in this exhilarating roller-coaster experience. You'll feel as if you're sitting together with those hapless passengers being tossed about in a savage electrical storm. This movie works because the actors skillfully manipulate their characters to life. Most notable is Giovanni Ribisi, who masterfully portrays a rather nondescript, but utterly believable character. You'll either be holding onto the edge of your seat or totally bored, nodding away.
(Laimons Juris G)

BEING JULIA

Director: Istvan Szabo

Based on the 1937 novella "Theatre" by W. Somerset Maugham, "Being Julia" is a movie about reality versus art and how theater melts together with the real world for successful actress Julia Lambert. Annette Bening truly captures the frenzied life of the spoiled actress in 1930s London. She finds herself in a midlife crisis, escaping through a passionate affair with a younger man. It is a harsh, melodramatic and bittersweet comedy with a sharp, satirical nerve. In this glossy theater world, everybody struggles to become, or remain, popular. The movie, like the characters, is at times superficial and conceited, but to our own entertainment. Bening carries the film on her shoulders, and the fact that her portrayal of Julia is almost unbearably annoying is exactly the point. But, boy, is she annoying.
3/4 (Julie Vinten)

Julia Lambert (Annette Bening) is the reigning queen of theater in London's West End circa 1938, suffering from a mid-life crisis. One of the silver screen's finest actresses turns Somerset Maugham's novella into a brilliant one-woman show. After watching Bening's mesmerizing performance in this British trifle, it makes you wonder what the Academy voting members in Hollywood have going through their heads. My best guesses are straw, cotton candy or (most likely) nothing in there at all. To give Hillary Swank an Oscar for her melodramatic portrayal of a soap-heroine in "Million Dollar Baby" is a downright crime. Hungarian director Istvan Szabo's ("Mephisto") effective collaboration with screenwriter Ronald Harwood ("The Pianist") delivers a polished little gem, allowing Bening to beautifully steal the show.
(Laimons Juris G)

BOXING A SHADOW

Director: Aleksei Sidorov

This Russian boxing movie was made by writer/director Aleksei Sidorov, who directed the extremely popular Russian TV mini-series "Brigada." This is Sidorov's first feature, and it shows. The editing doesn't quite flow, and the overall pace of the movie is uneven. The script is predictable and formulaic. However, to be fair, "Boxing a Shadow" is heartfelt and doesn't entirely lack charm. The movie is just a little helpless, never able to rise above the cliches and stereotypes, and present a voice of its own. The film has been thoroughly hyped because it has a big budget for Russian standards ($3.5 million.) That, however, doesn't change the fact that "Boxing a Shadow" is quite primitive and messy. It's the kind of movie you could imagine Van Damme playing in 15 years ago.
1/2 (Julie Vinten)

Yours truly was actually looking forward to seeing this flick after watching the action-packed trailer. "Wow," he thought to himself, "a Russian movie featuring a championship boxing match in Las Vegas. It could be interesting." Well, it appears this reviewer was dead wrong. Yes, there is a little ring action at the start, but it quickly gets KO'd and becomes an incomprehensible footnote to a confusing plot. All the characters are so grotesquely stereotyped that, eventually, the entire mess becomes an awkward embarrassment. The technical side of this production is accomplished and professional. However, there are only glints of dollar signs sparkling in the corner of this crass and commercially oriented fabrication. In the long run, there is absolutely no reason to care about anyone or anything in "Shadow Boxing."
(Laimons Juris G)
 

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