Movie review

  • 2006-02-15
Memoirs of a Geisha

Quite forgettable, but still entertaining, director Lasse Hallstrom's newest movie is a light-hearted, frenzied comedy with a well-chosen ensemble cast. In my opinion, Hallstrom hasn't made a great movie since "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," but at least "Casanova" isn't as terrible as "Chocolat." Perhaps the most non-sexual movie about this notorious womanizer, "Casanova" sees Heath Ledger as a charming but goofy (and not very seductive) main character. Driven by slapstick and farce, the movie displays a number of intelligently funny moments, although there are scenes when this comic timing fails to hit the mark. The story's twists and mistaken-identity cases are clever, but several scenes should have been cut and dialogue tightened to make "Casanova" a really well-made, entertaining piece of comedy.
3/4 ( Julie Vinten )

Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom ("The Cider House Rules," "The Shipping News") has carved a respectable career out of making entertaining but lightweight films such as "Casanova." Heath Ledger may not seem the most obvious choice to play the mythical 18th century Venetian but he does an admirable job, imbuing his character with amiability and warmth as he chases all around Venice after the feisty Francesca Bruni (Sienna Miller) after falling in love with her. Jeremy Irons is amusing as the Bishop intent on bringing Casanova down, while Oliver Platt gives a small taste of his considerable talents as a wealthy lard merchant. "Casanova" is a good old fashioned farce which gleefully tramples over any attempt at historical fidelity. In fact, it's almost refreshingly old-fashioned and unselfconscious. The Inquisition never looked like such good fun.
( Tim Ochser )

Memoirs of a Geisha
The screen adaptation of American writer Arthur Golden's best-selling novel has all the ingredients of an epic, but it doesn't feel like one. Splendid costumes and set pieces give the movie a boost, but director Rob Marshall is a weak storyteller without much notion of cinematic flow and pace. The depiction of Japan around WWII is one of narrowed, superficial romanticism. The movie feels like a high-budget soap opera with a bland narrative that lacks emotional depth. It's almost painful to watch the actors struggle with their English – something which seriously obstructs their performances. The actresses are strikingly beautiful, but though Marshall might believe his audience is easily fooled, having Chinese actors play Japanese men damages the overall feel of the movie, and ruins its authenticity.
1/2 ( Julie Vinten )

Chiyo (Suzuka Ohgo) is only a little girl when her family sells her to a geisha house in Kyoto. She suffers at the hands of head geisha Hatsumomo (Li Gong) but decides to be the greatest of all geishas after falling in love with a kind and handsome businessman who buys her some candy one day. All in all, "Memoirs of a Geisha" is about as authentically Oriental as "The Karate Kid" and as sagacious as "The Tao of Pooh." It's certainly entertaining but there is something jarring about this decidedly Hollywood take on geisha culture. It confuses lush cinematography with lyricism and banal melodrama with profundity. It will probably win several awards for "Best Kimono" and "Best Bonsai," which is fair enough, but it doesn't merit a gong more than that.
1/2 ( Tim Ochser )

It looks like American director David J. Burke had something like "L.A. Confidential" and "Chinatown" in mind when he wrote "Edison." But instead of turning out anything like those heavyweights, this movie becomes a terribly clumsy misfire. The neo noir has an overload of cliches, alongside generally bad writing and directing. It almost goes without saying that LL Cool J and Justin Timberlake deliver terrible performances. What's more interesting is how, in the hands of an awful director, this film brings Hollywood big-shots Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey down to the level of two hopeless, C-movie actors, who haven't a clue what they're doing. This movie got a wholly deserved straight-to-video release in its home country, but we have to endure it in our theatres – it doesn't seem entirely fair.
( Julie Vinten )

Wow – that's all I can say. Without any doubt "Edison" is one of the most sublimely bad films I've ever seen. Justin Timberlake plays Pollack, a young journalist who stumbles upon a case of police corruption in the fictional city of Edison. With a little help from his cynical editor Ashford (Morgan Freeman) and savvy investigator Wallace (Kevin Spacey), he…no. I'm sorry; I just can't seriously discuss the plot. From the moment LL Cool J declares in the opening scene that reality is "a mother fucker," I knew the film would be bad – but not that bad. I didn't believe that films could be that bad. Even days after seeing it, I kept asking myself: was it really that bad? But "Edison" truly is that bad. An extraordinary achievement by all involved. ( Tim Ochser )

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