Friday, October 1, 2004

Wow, don't post for a few days and I break the 5,000 visits mark anyway. Not bad for only doing this thing since mid-April. Thanks to all who stop by here and hopefully I provide some small diversion with my goofy ramblings. Have been swamped at work all week (half the editorial desk is on vacation and we've got a position open right now, so I'm doing the job of about three people), but to at least get somethin' up on this blog, here's a few of this week's video reviews:

‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’
A brain-twisting love story, a head trip and a strange science-fiction film, “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind” is one of the best and boldest movies of 2004.
Imagine that there was a machine where you could willingly erase your memories, and what it might do to the fragile emotion of love.
Joel (Jim Carrey) is a lonely, dull and quiet man who meets an outgoing, quirky and opinionated woman, Clementine (Kate Winslet). The couple have fun for a year or so, but when the relationship goes sour, Clementine wants to move on.
In screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s quirky world, Clementine can do this literally, by going to the mysterious company Lacuna, Inc. and having all memories of Joel’s relationship with her erased from her brain. But when Joel finds out Clementine has done this, he decides to have the procedure done himself, tit for tat.
Yet memory erasing isn’t quite as easy as flicking a switch, and when Joel changes his mind in mid-procedure, things get really weird, unleashing a torrent of fantasy and reality as Joel struggles to hold on to all he’s got left of Clementine — her memory.
Stuffed to the brim with heady ideas, “Eternal Sunshine” is funny and heartfelt, but it’s also twisted and oddball, and invites the kind of serious thought few Hollywood movies do. You have to keep up with it.
That’s mostly thanks to Kaufman (“Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation”). It grafts a love story to a “Twilight Zone” idea and creates a dizzyingly creative movie directed by Michel Gondry in a down-to-earth fashion that works well with the story’s constantly shifting visions of reality and fantasy.
Fans of Carrey only in wacky “Bruce Almighty” type roles, stay far away. Carrey is in his “serious actor” mode here, a far cry from Ace Ventura. But it’s a great, heartfelt and raw performance of a desperate man.
Despite all the plot trickery and layered metaphors, in the end, “Sunshine” is a hopeful love story grounded in gritty, imperfect reality. Love ain’t perfect, Kaufman seems to say, but it beats the alternatives.
**** of four

‘Mean Girls’
High school is another world. You tend to develop amnesia about it when you leave, but teen movies like “Mean Girls” are there to remind us how strange and unreal it really is.
Smart and funny, “Mean Girls,” written by and co-starring “Saturday Night Live” veteran Tina Fey, is in the sorority of teen movies that includes “Heathers” and “Clueless,” skewering girl fights with witty absurdity. It’s got a wit and style that set it apart from the pack.
Cady (Lindsey Lohan) is a sheltered teen who grew up in Africa with her researcher parents. Now the family has moved back to the U.S., and at age 16 Cady’s off to her first American high school. When she gets there, she discovers it’s a mess of cliques, rules and conventions, with firmly entrenched social groups from outcasts to jocks to the popular “Plastics,” snooty pretty rich girls who rule the school.
As a joke put on by her less popular friends, Cady decides to “infiltrate” the Plastics and become one of them, destroying them from the inside. But she soon discovers that the difference between hating the popular girls and becoming one of them is a thin line indeed.
Lohan, who’s shown the kind of comic spark and acting chops other teen-lite stars like Hilary Duff haven’t even discovered yet, is funny and charismatic here. She’s meant to be an innocent, but of course by story’s end she’s learned the ropes. Her charming performance goes a long way toward making “Mean Girls” work.
Fey’s script is a wry highlight, and she has a good role here as a sympathetic teacher working with Cady. “Mean Girls” has a crackling deadpan humor that is refreshing, and it’s the kind of movie both teens and adults can enjoy. Despite the title, it’s not really that mean, but it does point out the viciousness that runs through high school society.
“Mean Girls” loses momentum toward the end, as it dissolves into a few too many feel-good lessons and peculiar plot leaps.
“Mean Girls” doesn’t rewrite the book on high school humor — it’s neither as raunchy as “American Pie” or as satirical as “Heathers” was. A fairly familiar story hits the clich├ęs, but there’s enough spark to keep it humming along as it takes you through that unique, alien world known as high school.
*** of four

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