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Editor's rating: 
Friday, 29 October 2004 ,  Written by Bill Warren
“Ray” is not as exceptional as Ray Charles, its subject—how could it be?—but it’s a terrific movie biography, engrossing and involving for its entire two and a half hour length. The time slides by so gracefully that at the end you’re likely to wish it were even longer; partly because it comes to a surprisingly abrupt end, thirty years before Ray Charles died. He died this year, of course, so he was able to participate in the creation of this movie. I’m sure he did; for all his charm and ingratiating ways, he was a tough businessman—as the movie depicts—and I’m sure nothing got into this movie that he didn’t approve. In one sense, that’s surprising, because it really is a warts-and-all depiction of his life. It deals straightforwardly with his less admirable traits, such as his drug addiction, womanizing and ...
Editor's rating: 
Friday, 15 October 2004 ,  Written by Bill Warren
Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the “South Park” guys, launch a new direction with “Team America.” “South Park” proudly features extremely limited animation; this features extremely limited marionettes—puppets dangling on strings (and the strings are always visible). It is something of a spoof of the various puppet TV series of Gerry & Sylvia Anderson; ironically, the “Thunderbirds” movie released in the U.S., based on their TV series, is live action. If you’re familiar with Parker & Stone, you know that they’re blunt and brutal satirists who have no point of view other than “everything stinks but us.” Here, the overall point is to spoof big, blundering action movies, the America-is-king attitude all too prevalent today, and movie actors who have the temerity to actually speak their political views publicly. Parker and Stone share the unshakable conviction that celebrities have no right ...
Editor's rating: 
Friday, 01 October 2004 ,  Written by Abbie Bernstein
“I Heart Huckabees” covers a remarkable amount of turf. It is entirely up to date, yet in some ways, it’s reminiscent of a Robert Altman film, with its off-the-wall humor and ensemble cast (with Altman rep member Lily Tomlin prominently featured). It is smart, inventive, slightly surreal and oddly seductive as it envelops us in its skewed but familiar world views. Ecological activist Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) is absolutely miserable. He can handle fighting City Hall to save a neighborhood forest and marsh from an incursion by mega-store chain Huckabees, but when Huckabees corporate rep Brad Stand (Jude Law) first charms Albert, then co-opts his grassroots organization right out from under him, it’s just too much. In an attempt to figure out why his life is such a mess and what he ought to do about it, Albert enlists the services ...
Editor's rating: 
Friday, 01 October 2004 ,  Written by Bill Warren
In 1903, pioneering director Edwin S. Porter made one of the first narrative movies, “Life of an American Fireman.” That title would fit “Ladder 49” equally well, as it shows us the life of a particular fireman. This is the first major movie about firefighters made since 9/11, an event which, if it did nothing else, raised the regard in which Americans hold firefighters. This movie virtually enshrines them, which is both its weakness and its strength. The firefighting scenes are varied and spectacular; visual effects supervisor Peter Donan (who died soon after the film was completed) demonstrates conclusively there’s still a lot of life left in conventional, non-CGI effects. The fires here aren’t as mysteriously haunting as those in “Backdraft” of a few years ago, but that movie was structured as a melodrama, with heightened emotions, heroes and villains. Fire ...
Editor's rating: 
Friday, 24 September 2004 ,  Written by Abbie Bernstein
“The Motorcycle Diaries” is a surprisingly gentle period road movie, laced more with comedy than drama. It might, in fact, come off as another entry in the period memoir genre – albeit a very agreeable and well-done one – if the main character was not the young Ernesto “Che” Guevara, who became one of architects of the violent Cuban Revolution. “Motorcycle Diaries” is based on books by both Guevara (played here by Gael Garcia Bernal) and his traveling companion Alberto Granado (Rodrigo de la Serna) and director Walter Salles and screenwriter Jose Rivera adopt the two men’s viewpoints fairly faithfully and very respectfully. On the one hand, this gives “Motorcycle” an unexpected and beguiling warmth; on the other, we don’t get a whole lot of insight into how the adventures chronicled here made Guevara decide that he could best help the ...
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