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Eugene Weekly : Movies : 09.22.05



.MOVIE LISTINGS | NEW VIDEO RELEASES | MOVIE REVIEW ARCHIVE | THEATER INFO

Forgiveness

When all else fails to work

BY LOIS WADSWORTH

AN UNFINISHED LIFE: Directed by Lasse Hallstom. Written by Mark Spragg, Virginia Korus Spragg, based on Mark Spraggs's novel. Produced by Alan Ladd Jr., Kelliann Ladd, Leslie Holleran. Executive producers Joe Roth, Harvey Weinstein, Graham King, Matthew Rhodes, Mark Rydell, Su Armstrong, Michelle Raimo, Meryl Poster, Bob Weinstein. Cinematography, Oliver Stapleton. Production design, David Gropman. Editor, Andrew Mondshein. Costume design, Tish Monaghan. Music, Deborah Lurie. Music supervisor, G. Marq Roswell. Starring Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez, Morgan Freeman and Becca Gardner. With Josh Lucas, Camryn Manheim, Damian Lewis, and Bart the Bear. Miramax Pictures, 2005. PG-13, 100 minutes.

Last fall when I finished reading Mark Spragg's excellent contemporary Western novel, An Unfinished Life, I read in a movie trade journal that it was being made into a movie starring Jennifer Lopez, Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman. I was furious. No way could I imagine JenLo as a battered woman putting her kid first and trying to clean up her past. Although I admired Redford, I thought he had played the pretty guy too long to let himself appear onscreen as a crusty, aged rancher. And I'd nearly given up on Morgan Freeman ever getting a role that brought out his warmth as well as his incisive wit. (Remember, Million Dollar Baby didn't open here until late January '05). Well, I was wrong. Under director Lasse Hallstrom's gentle direction, all three are perfectly cast.

Lopez still might not be my first choice to play Jean — Hilary Swank would have been — but Lopez's performance here suggests she might return to serious acting instead of settling for being an emotionally shallow, rich celebrity.

Redford gives the performance I've been waiting years to see. Einar's more than crusty, he's a true crank, tolerated by people in town because he's had a hard life as a rancher, but loved by no one except his oldest friend, Mitch (Freeman). Einar's been stuck more than 10 years mourning for his dead son, Jean's husband, and he can't move on. Redford's beautiful craggy face looks lived in, real, wrinkles and all.

Freeman gets Mitch just right, considering that in the movie, Mitch gets to move around, while in the book his injuries from a grizzly bear attack a year earlier are so serious he can't walk even with a cane. Freeman has at least one delicious scene with Becca Gardner who plays Griff, Jean's daughter and Einar's granddaughter, with just the right mix of tomboy and vulnerable but resilient girl. The old cowboy and the young girl have a loving relationship that helps each heal their wounds.

This character-driven drama also has excellent supporting actors in Camryn Manheim, Josh Lucas and Damian Lewis. They play Nina (Manheim), Jean's friend in town who helps her with a job; Sheriff Crane Curtis (Lucas), who becomes involved with the family; and Gary (Lewis), the batterer who thinks he loves Jean. Bart the Bear is owned and trained by Doug Seus at Wasatch Rocky Mountain Wildlife, Inc. A 3-year-old grizzly, Bart performed his part so well that he was included in the cast photo at the end of shooting.

There's very little chance this thoughtful, old-fashioned movie will be seen by Hollywood's target demographic, a mostly male audience with an emotional age of about 12. Unfinished Life's narrative plot, traditional characters and genuine emotions don't work for cinema's hipper-than-thou crowd. Nothing suits trend followers except more of the same — more inane sci-fi plots tricked out with special effects, more teen slasher flicks, more action adventure lookalikes, more violence, less subtlety.

The audience for the sneak at Cinemark a couple of weeks ago liked the film, but what do they know? They were grown-ups, you know, that's the stage that comes after irony has worn a hole in your soul and being cool has turned your feelings into indifference toward others, or worse.

An Unfinished Life is not a great film. Its flaws include a cloying soundtrack and a wardrobe for Lopez that makes her look tawdry, more a small-town hooker than a woman with responsibilities. Both Lopez and Redford are such iconic figures, it is amazing they can set aside their egos long enough to look out at the world through the eyes of characters so different from themselves.

To its credit, the film shows forgiveness, especially forgiveness within families, to be a task even the most close-minded among us should attempt. An Unfinished Life is now playing at Cinema World and Cinemark.

 

 




Extra Pulp

Violent, without a hint of logic

BY LOIS WADSWORTH

THE BEAT THAT MY HEART SKIPPED: Directed by Jacques Audiard. Written by Audiard and Toinino Beanacquista, based on James Toback's screenplay for Fingers (1978). Produced by Pascal Caucheteux. Cinematography, Stephane Fontaine. Editor, Juliette Welfling. Producetion design, Francois Emmanuelli. Costume design, Virginie Montel. Original music, Alexandre Desplat. Starring Romain Duris, Niels Arestrup, Jonathan Zaccai, Gilles Cohen, Linh Dan Phamm Aure Atika, Emmanuelle Devos. Wellspring, 2005. R. 107 minutes.

This is a remake of a 1978 film, Fingers, which was James Toback's directorial debut and written by him. It starred Harvey Keitel as a confused enforcer who also wanted to be a concert pianist. For The Beat That My Heart Skipped, French director Jacques Audiard enlisted writer Toinino Beanacquista to help re-write the screenplay based on Toback's script. Now that's where some creative thinking should have gone on. A man in his 30s, Thomas Seyr (Romain Duris), a thug like his father Robert (Niels Arestrup) since his mother died when he was 16, suddenly wants to change careers and become a concert pianist — that's an idea dumber than dirt.

Thomas Seyr (Romain Duris) is suffering a big identity crisis.

Regardless, the absurd plot is transplanted to Parisian soil, where we find Thomas up to his eyeballs in dirty tricks as an enforcer in the real estate market. Thomas and his buddies, Fabrice (Jonathan Zaccai) and Sami (Gilles Cohen), chase squatters out of buildings by planting hungry rats outside their doors, then beating the (often-unemployed) immigrants with baseball bats. A nasty piece of work is our Thomas, despite his fashionable leather jacket, ubiquitous headphones and fancy car. The lad's quirky, jerky energy will either invigorate you or bore you quickly enough.

Following a chance meeting, Thomas sits down at the baby grand piano in his trendy apartment and knocks out a few Bach pieces and finds God. Armed with the self-referential attitude of his generation, Thomas decides to pursue a career onstage, even though he has not practiced the piano in 10 years. His hubris is so blatant the unsavory characters he does business with soon put the kibosh on his concert plans and attempt to drag him back to earth.

Throughout Thomas's schizoid conflict between art and thuggery, his father remains his most complicated relationship. Thomas also gets involved in an affair with Aline (Aure Atika) and twice insults his father's lover, Chris (Emmanuelle Devos). His crudeness far outweighs whatever lofty ambitions he may harbor. Thomas's only realistic move is to begin piano lessons with a recent Asian émigré, Miao Lin (Linh Dan Pham), who speaks no French. The way they communicate with no common language shows a side of Thomas that is likable, creative and relaxed.

Audiard's earlier film set around office politics, Read My Lips (2001), played at the Bijou in 2002. Devos starred as a hearing-impaired worker in a larcenous corporation who takes as her assistant a recently released convict (Vincent Cassel). He realizes he can employ her lipreading ability in an ambitious scam.

That film built slowly and was remarkably droll, even if some of its ideas were daft. I wish I could say the same for The Beat That My Heart Skipped, which opens Friday at the Bijou. Some of you will love it, while others will not.    

 

 




OPENING OR RETURNING:

Films open the Friday following date of EW publication unless otherwise noted. See archived movie reviews.

Beat That My Heart Skipped: Sleazy real estate enforcer (Romain Duris) in Paris longs to be a classical pianist. Disjunction between his real job — intimidating squatters — and his lofty desires make him very nervous. Directed by Jacques Audiard, but not as droll as his previous film, Read My Lips. Violent. R. Bijou. See review this issue.

Cans Film Festival: Benefits Food for Lane County. For a donation of three or more non-perishable food items, free admission to most movies all day on Thurs. 9/22 at Cinema World.

Corpse Bride, Tim Burton's: Stop-motion animated film set in a 19th century European village is voiced by Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham-Carter and Emily Watson. PG. Cinemark. Cinema World.

Deuce Bigalow, European Gigolo: Rob Schneider stars in this sequel to Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigalo. Bigalow goes back to work after his former pimp is accused of murdering Europe's Greatest Gigalos. R. Movies 12.

Flightplan: Jody Foster stars in this Brian Grazer-produced psychological thriller about a woman whose 6-year old daughter disappears without a trace mid-flight in a state-of-the-art aircraft. Directed by Robert Swenke, film also stars Peter Sarsgaard and Sean Bean. PG-13. Cinemark. Cinema World.

Ichi The Killer: Plenty of onscreen violence from director Takashi Miike (Audition) in a film said to be simultaneously funny and horrific. Not for the violence-averse. NR. LateNite Bijou.

Island, The: Michael Bay directs Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johanson in an action thriller, futuristic fable of two residents of a carefully controlled environment who discover shocking news about their reality and their fate. PG-13. Movies 12.

King of Masks, The (1996): This Chinese film tells the story of an aged street performer whose talent is being able to change masks with lightening speed. He adopts a child whom he mistakenly believes will become his male heir only to discover that the child is actually a girl. NR. Plays at 7 pm on 9/28 in 18- PLC, UO. Free.

Peace of Anarchy, Ammon Hennacy and Other Angelic Troublemakers in the US: Benefit for Lane County Catholic Worker project, St. John Bosco House. At 8 pm on 9/28 at Cozmic Pizza. $5.

Port Townsend WA Film Festival: Features three independent movies with low budget and high quality. Festival runs 9/23-9/25. For info, call 360/379-1333.

Roll Bounce: Directed by Malcolm Lee, this athletic, roller jam skate-off comedy stars Bow Wow, Chi McBride, Mike Epps. PG-13. Cinemark.

Serenity: Galactic outcasts 500 years in the future squabble through outer space until they meet the cannibalistic fury of savages who roam the very edge of space. Filmmaker Josh Whedon directs Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin, David Krumholtz and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

PG-13. Midnight sneak 9/29. Cinemark.

Skeleton Key: Something wicked lurks in the Louisiana mansion where Kate Hudson works as a live-in nurse. PG-13. Movies 12.

Solitude of Blood: Directed by Roman Prygunov, this 2002 about a series of brutal murders of women, and one woman who is terrorized. Plays at 7 pm on 9/28 in 115 Pacific, UO. In Russian with English subtitles. Free.

Steps: All-local, independent skateboarding film gets its premiere at 1 pm on 9/24 at the Bijou. $4.

Who is Bozo Taxino?: Portland film artist Bill Daniel's documentary film plays with Waldo Point (Saul Rouda) and Britton, South Dakota (Vanessa Renwick) at 8 pm 9/24 At DIVA. $5.

 

CONTINUING:

Batman Begins: Christopher Nolan (Insomnia, Memento) directs an all star cast to bring you the story of how young Bruce Wayne (Christopher Hale) becomes the Dark Knight. Also stars Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Katie Holmes. PG13. Movies 12. Online archives.

Bewitched: Nora Ephron (You've Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle) directs this story about the remaking of the classic 1960s sitcom "Bewitched" starring Will Ferrell as Darrin and Nicole Kidman as Samantha. Best when it's a sweet love story but always watchable. PG-13. Movies 12. Online archives.

Broken Flowers: Bill Murray plays a man who looks up all his ex-girlfriends, searching for a son he might have fathered. Jim Jarmusch's minimalist film is touted as his most accessible yet, which would be good news for most filmmakers but not for this iconoclast. Also stars Julie Delpy, Jeffrey Wright, Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton. R. Bijou. Online archives.

Brothers Grimm, The: Terry Gilliam directs this tale of the legendary brothers who brought fairytales to the world, Will Grimm (Matt Damon) and Jake Grimm (Heath Ledger). Set in the Napoleonic countryside, the brothers have to wrestle with the demons and magical characters their imaginations have brought to life. Also stars Jonathan Pryce, Lena Headey, Peter Stormare and Monic Bellucci. PG-13. Cinemark.

Constant Gardener, The: Directed by Fernando Meirelles (City of God) and adapted from a John Le Carre novel, this thriller also stars the excellent Rachel Weisz (pronounced Vice) and the ever masterful Ralph Fiennes, playing a career diplomat who plunges into the mystery of his wife's murder. He uncovers a world-wide pharmaceutical industry criminal conspiracy. Also stars Danny Huston, Bill Nighy. One of the best of 2005. R. Cinema World. Cinemark. Online archives.

Cry Wolf: Yet another teen horror flick, this one's about high schoolers who spread the rumor that a murdered woman found near their school was killed by "the Wolf," a serial killer. Then the lie comes true. Stars Julian Morris, Lindy Booth and Jared Padalecki. PG-13. Cinema World. Cinemark.

Exorcism of Emily Rose, The: Scott Derrickson directs this unusual film, which incorporates horror with a compelling courtroom drama. Stars Laura Linney as an ambitious attorney, Jennifer Carpenter as a murder victim. With Tom Wilkinson, Colm Feore, Campbell Scott and Shohreh Aghdashloo. PG-13. Cinema World. Cinemark.

Fantastic Four: Marvel Comic's superheroes, transformed by cosmic rays while on an outer space mission, battle the evil powers of Doctor Doom. Directed by Tim Story, movie stars Jessica Alba, Ioan Gruffudd, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon. PG-13. Movies 12.

Forty-Year Old Virgin: Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell) has lived a life of involuntary chastity, and his friends are determined to do something about his state. Directed by Judd Apatow, the film stars Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd and others. R. Cinemark. Online archives.

Herbie, Fully Loaded: More hijinx and shennanigans from that animated, but so unlike Christine, VW bug, Herbie as he heads to NASCAR. Starring Lindsay Lohan and Justin Long. G. Movies 12.

Junebug: One of the year's best films, a strange, sweet film about a Southern family and the prodigal son who returns to visit, with his cultured wife of six months. Going home is an humbling experience. Stars Embeth Davidtz, Alessandro Nivolla and Amy Adams. Directed by Phil Morrison, and written by Angus MacLachlan, North Carolinians who get it just right. Very highest recommendations. R. Bijou. Online archives.

Just Like Heaven: Romantic comedy starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo is set in San Francisco, where both claim a charming apartment is theirs alone. When she discovers she can walk through walls, they determine to solve the mystery. Directed by Mark Waters (Mean Girls, Freaky Friday). PG-13. Cinemark. Cinema World.

Lord of War: International arms dealer (Nicolas Cage) tries to stay ahead of an Interpol agent (Ethan Hawke), his competitors and his ruthless customers. Also stars Bridget Moynahan, Jared Leto, Ian Holm. R. Cinema World. Cinemark.

Madagascar: Computer-animated comedy stars voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett Smith as animals who escape from the Central Park Zoo for a big city adventure. But they are captured and put on a ship headed for Africa, where they must survive in the wild. Directed by Eric Darnell (Antz) and Tom McGrath ("The Ren and Stimpy Show"). PG. Movies 12.

March of the Penguins: Documentary director Luc Jacquet's film chronicles the oft-repeated survival of the species in the wind-strewn wilderness of Antarctica. Film tracks a pair of Emperor Penguins across continent. Includes intimate scenes of the big birds mating. The female lays one egg, passes it to the male and takes off for a three months round trip to the sea and food. Meanwhile, the male penguins don't eat but focus exclusively on keeping the eggs alive for the gestation period. G. Cinemark. Cinema World.

Mr & Mrs Smith: An action adventure romantic comedy thriller about a bored married couple (Angelia Jolie and Brad Pitt) who is surprised to learn that they are assassins hired to kill each other. Directed by Doug Liman (Bourne Identity). PG-13. Movies 12. Online archives.

Murderball: Documentary about quadriplegic rugby players and their intense competitive drive to be the world's best. With action footage on the court, intimate conversations about sex and unprecedented access to these strong personalities and their families, this is a great film. Very highest recommendations. R. Bijou. Online archives.

Red Eye: You've all seen the trailer: Rachel McAdams is horrified to learn that her father has been kidnapped and the monster (Cillian Murphy) who's in on it is seated right next to her on a red eye to Miami. Directed by Wes Craven. PG-13. Cinemark.

Stealth: Commanding officer Sam Shepard orders test pilots Jamie Foxx, Josh Lucas and Jessica Biel to bring an AI-based auto-pilot onboard. Then the machine turns renegade and takes over, right, like in Kubrick's 2001. PG-13. Movies 12.

Transporter 2, The: Former Special Forces operative (Jason Statham) must find the kidnapper who took a boy from the wealthy family he works for. Written and produced by Lu Besson, directed by Louis Leterrier, film also stars Alessandro Gassman, Amber Valetta, Mathew Modine and Kate Nauta. PG-13. Cinemark.

Unfinished Life, An: Contemporary Western directed by Lasse Hallstrom working from a screenplay by Mark Spragg, based on his excellent 2004 novel (EW movie archives12/9/04). Life changes for two hard-working cowboys (Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman) who have lived on the same piece of Wyoming ranch land for 40 years when a young mother, Jean Gilkyson (Jennifer Lopez), and her 10-year old daughter, Griffin (Becca Gardner), invade their familiar routine. Jean is fleeing an abusive boyfriend (Damian Lewis). Cinemark. Cinema World. See review this issue.

Venom: Teens run for their lives through Louisiana swamps, chased by a creature with 13 evil souls. Strong horror, violence, gore. TV ads are cheesy. R. Cinemark.

Wedding Crashers: Hyper pranksters Owen Wilson and Vince Vaghn star in this throwback to a rowdier time in movies. Things go well for the boys until they meet up with Rachel McAdams and Isla Fisher and their parents, Christopher Walken and Jane Seymour. R. Cinemark.

 

MOVIE THEATERS

Use the links provided below for specific show times.

Bijou Art Cinemas

Bijou Theater 686-2458 | 492 E. 13th

Regal Cinemas

Cinema World 342-6536 | Valley River Center

Springfield Quad 726-9073 |

Cinemark Theaters

Movies 12 741-1231 | Gateway Mall

Cinemark 17 741-1231 | Gateway Mall