Friday, August 23, 2002

Possession / *** (2002)

Freudian theories, as demonstrated in Neil LaBute's "Possession," have altered modern romance perhaps more dramatically than society cares to imagine. No longer is the mere essence of love the single most important thing about relationships or commitments; people dictate their lives according to fears and insecurities, pulling away when the chemistry gets intense or the passion escalates beyond their expectations. Lovers analyze and nitpick on minute details, emphasize things that need not to be stressed, and look for excuses not to completely devote themselves to romantic obligations. No, love isn't the entire package anymore; it's a mere detail.

Simone / ***1/2 (2002)

The line that divides reality from fantasy is so shattered like a flimsy pane of glass in Andrew Niccol's "Simone," not even a child could mistake it for being authentic. Crossing boundaries and suspending the simplest morsels of logic in nearly every single frame, the movie tells the story of a big Hollywood director whose career is on the downswing until a young and unknown blond actress cast in the lead role of his latest film captures the hearts of millions. The catch? She's a digital illusion, manipulated via microphones and keyboard commands almost as easily as I'm typing this review, who looks so real on the screen that it's as if special effects have advanced literally overnight, allowing computer-generated thespians to come across without ever being questioned for legitimacy. Show me proof that this is all possible and I'll show you where to stuff it.

Friday, August 9, 2002

XXX / *** (2002)

If the summer action blockbusters are only as good as their lead stars, then the filmmakers of "XXX" are lucky that they have a man like Vin Diesel at their disposal. In a movie which asks the audience to believe that a man can swipe a senator's car and drive it off a bridge without dying, prevent a diner from being taken hostage, elude Colombian government enforcers who think he's a drug lord, and save the world from nuclear war in just under two hours (in movie time, of course), the actor has to be defined by a rather monstrous physique, otherwise the film's plausibility is overridden by unconvincing scenarios in which stunt doubles on wires pretend to look like they're pulling off dangerous tricks on a blue screen. Luckily, Diesel is a large, muscular, firm and foreboding screen presence, ideal for these kinds of physically demanding movies just as the Greeks were for the early athletics. It's nearly impossible to imagine anyone else filling the role as believably as he does.

Friday, August 2, 2002

Signs / ***1/2 (2002)

Theories about extraterrestrials have been used for entertainment as far back as movie cameras have been in operation, sometimes being so relentlessly exercised that the novelty of the concept quickly and easily becomes just another cliché in most modern motion picture circuits. In the literal dawn of mankind's space exploration, however, concern with movie formula is traditionally suspended because of the countless unanswered questions that continue to result from our uncertainty, and audiences continue to flock to the multiplex in search of new ideas and assumptions on the topic. As fascinating as it all may be, however, we still can't forget that movies are not always the most accurate reflections of reality, either; although there is much room to speculate on what exists beyond the Earth's atmosphere, especially in art, there is only so many times an idea can be twisted and reshaped before it begins to lose its elasticity.