Movie reviews - 2004-04-22

  • 2004-04-22
Secret Window
Director: David Koepp

Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) is a writer struggling both with a divorce, and an ominous stranger who accuses Rainey of having stolen and published his story. "Secret Window" is based on a Stephen King novella, and if you know even a little about King's stories, it doesn't take long to figure out the outcome of this film. However, "Secret Window" is neither boring nor without suspense. Though the ending might be obvious, there is a lot of fun to be had along the way. The film has its fair share of mild scares, and all the actors are well chosen for their roles. John Turturro is especially great as the menacing man with the black hat. There isn't much that's new in this film, but it's an enjoyable way to pass the time nonetheless. ***
Julie Vinten

Once again the charismatic Johnny Depp enlivens a completely forgettable movie. The Kentucky-born actor is eerily believable in this corny suspense thriller written by the master of horror, Stephen King. Director David Koepp is better known for his writing and screenplays: "Death Becomes Her," "Jurassic Park," "Mission: Impossible," "Spider-Man" and a string of others. Basically this is a motion picture desperately looking for a more suitable ending. But that is of little consequence as this flick is Depp-charged from start to finish. "Secret Window" would be a major pain to sit through with any other actor. If you don't like Depp - which is actually difficult to imagine - then stay away. John Turturro is perfectly irritating in one of his best performances to date. Philip Glass provides appropriate mood music. ***

Laimons Juris G

The School of Rock
Director: Richard Linklater

"School of Rock" is the funniest and most clever comedy to come out of Hollywood for some time. Jack Black is a fourth grade substitute teacher who brings excitement into his students' lives through his enthusiastic teaching of rock music. The part was written specifically for Black, who is also a musician in the band Tenacious D, and it is obvious that his character's passion for rock is more than just acting. What makes this film stand out is Black's massively funny and charming performance, and director Linklater's out of the ordinary approach to the Hollywood comedy genre. What's more, for once we have a comedy that is sure to keep both kids and grown-ups entertained, and which is not condescending toward its young audience, but meets them at their own level. ****
Julie Vinten

Director Richard Linklater is one of the innovative independent filmmakers from the 1990s whose insightful and inspiring works, such as "Slacker," "Dazed and Confused" and "Waking Life," defined a generation. It's a bit of a surprise to discover that Linklater is responsible for this mainstream, commercially oriented family feature. Don't get me wrong, "School of Rock" is fun-filled entertainment for both kids and adults to laugh at and enjoy. Jack Black plays a wannabe rock-star who succeeds in shaking up a whole lot of parents when he pretends to be a substitute teacher at a stuffy prep school. Joan Cusack is terrific as the uptight principal and the children in the cast are charming. Black is a great ball of fire who proves that rock 'n' roll can save your soul. *** 1/2

Laimons Juris G

21 Grams
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez

Pain, remorse, revenge and liberation are "21 Grams'" weighty themes, which bring together a grief-stricken woman, a heart transplant patient and an ex-convict/born-again Christian. This eyeful of a film is the American debut from Mexican director Alejandro Inarritu who gave us "Amores Perros" ("Love's a Bitch"), which was amazingly forceful and mercilessly raw. So is "21 Grams," but it has its problems. Some dialogue and elements of the story are unrealistic and what is worse, unbelievable. It tries to capture the entire spectrum of emotion and tell every true story ever told in two hours. This, in some places, makes it a pretentious melodrama. That said, the acting is a true tour de force, and there is no doubt Inarritu is a skilled director and one to keep an eye on in the future. *** 1/2
Julie Vinten

This reviewer readily admits that he found more wrongs than rights in this horrendous muddle of a movie. However, "21 Grams" is an ideal example in which the supernatural brilliance of the actors miraculously pulls this film out of its self-indulgent banality. It is even more difficult to determine which player shines brighter: Naomi Watts, Benicio Del Toro, Sean Penn or Melissa Leo. Apparently Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu shot the entire story in chronological order. He should have kept it that way, instead of jumping around. If you don't mind feeling like a yo-yo on a fast-moving string then go for it. The constant handheld camera is nausea inducing. Slick packaging may keep many filmgoers away, but it's worth watching at least once because of the incredible acting. *** 3/4
Laimons Juris G