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Movie review

  • 2005-10-19
Must Love Dogs
March Of The Penguins
The Merchant of Venice

Must Love Dogs
Though they don't share any on-screen chemistry, both Diane Lane and John Cusack are charming and capable actors. The same can't be said about this redundant American comedy. Constant wisecracking and supposedly hilarious remarks about failed marriages and yearning for real love become rather irritating when, as in "Must Love Dogs," there is little or no truth in it. The audience has to put up with embarrassingly frenzied and cocky dialogue - nobody in the movie talks like real people do, unless you take bogus Hollywood comedies as reality. Predictable scenarios and classic rom-com cliches are in abundance and the characters remain sketchy from beginning to end. At the conclusion of this movie, which doesn't offer a single honest moment, we haven't learned anything valuable about, nor gotten one step closer to love. 
1/2 ( Julie Vinten )

Jake (John Cusack) is recently divorced. He makes beautiful wooden rowing boats for a living in between endlessly re-watching "Dr. Zhivago" and ruing his sorrowful love life. Sarah (Diane Lane) is recently divorced. She works as a kindergarten teacher in between endlessly talking to her family and friends about her sorrowful love life. And then they meet. End of story, really. "Must Love Dogs" has all the romance of a canine rendezvous in a park, in which two strange dogs bound up to each other and enthusiastically sniff each other's behinds. The dialogue is witty in places, and the film is good-natured enough, but the whole thing quietly reeks of desperation. If ever a film was forced into fitting a genre, it's this utterly pointless example of a romantic comedy. 
( Tim Ochser )

March of the Penguins
Penguins are undeniably adorable creatures, and this lovely French nature documentary does an excellent job giving them personality. We identify with them and recognize a lot of our own behavior in theirs. Boasting beautifully poetic visuals, this is an aesthetic, dramatic and sometimes even humorous movie. You frequently ask yourself just how they managed to get those amazing shots. The doc boasts overall good narrative flow and structure, though the 85-minute running time feels a little long. Since the striking pictures, the effective soundtrack and the emotional music supply all the information we need, providing the penguins with soft and cuddly human voices seems somewhat surplus. It's kind of silly, and it interferes more than it helps the movie. I imagine Morgan Freeman's narration in the American version is less trying. 
1/2 ( Julie Vinten )

As an ardent lover of nature documentaries, I found this bizarre film painful to watch. "Finding Nemo" and "Madagascar" were more scientifically sound than this excruciatingly twee attempt to make a multiplex-friendly documentary about a colony of Emperor penguins. The biggest problem is that the filmmakers decided to give these majestic animals human voices, so that Mrs. Penguin talks in nauseating language about love, while Penguin Junior talks in a cutesy voice about how great his dad is. Any serious questions about the animals remain totally unanswered. If I wanted to see such shameless anthropomorphism, I'd go watch a cartoon. It's really a shame because the scenery is breathtaking and the footage of these beautiful birds is magnificent. The American version is supposedly better, so wait for that to come out.
( Tim Ochser )

The Merchant of Venice
Writer/director Michael Radford didn't set himself an easy task bringing Shakespeare's most ambiguous play to the screen. Thus this has become a flawed movie, although it's undeniably visually beautiful and aesthetically composed. The marvelous cast delivers strong performances in a very conventional adaptation of Shakespeare's play. In 1996 Al Pacino directed "Looking for Richard," a modern interpretation of Shakespeare's "Richard III." It was driven by fascination and strong personal feelings. Somehow that's what's missing here. Shakespeare's attitude toward his main character in "The Merchant of Venice" is tricky – should we feel pity or contempt? – and this feature becomes rather tedious because the filmmaker doesn't offer his own analysis. One gets the feeling he isn't entirely sure what he wants to say with his movie or why he made it.
1/2 ( Julie Vinten )

Director Michael Radford has produced a solid and engaging version of Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice," but there is something altogether too staid about it to really elevate it above being yet another Shakespeare-inspired film. Al Pacino brings his customary intensity to the fascinating character of Shylock, and while he clearly relishes the role, there is a slightly jarring theatricality to it. But then that is the inherent risk in any cinematic treatment of Shakespeare. Jeremy Irons is especially impressive as the melancholy Antonio, and a strong supporting cast lends the film the necessary gravitas. The film is beautifully shot and convincingly depicts the ghastly world of 16th century Venice in which Jews and Catholics lived uneasily side by side. But once again, the poetry of Shakespeare becomes strangely diluted in caricature.
 

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