Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Match Point, Shakespeare Behind Bars, Goal: The Dream Begins

Match Point
Easily the best thing Woody's done in ages. Strangely, it doesn't even feel like a Woody film--gone are the comic neuroses, the NYC backdrop and Woody himself (at long last). Did he take a cue from Robert Altman--the other longtime American auteur who has made scads of movies despite never really making any money--and find inspiration in London? (Paris was good to him with Everyone Says I Love You, but not nearly this good. Then again, Paris was sharing muse-duty with Venice and Manhattan that time--she was hoping to have his sole attention in his next project, but London has stolen him away again.)

Confidently directed, beautifully filmed in its London locations (in that we'll show off your city in the best light for tourists if you'll help fund our film kind of way). Smart casting (though as usual he wastes talented actors like Brian Cox in small roles). The image of a ball (and later a ring) bouncing off a net (and later a fence) is one to savor, with a witty layer of irony. Still, for a man of Allen's smarts, talent and experience, I actually expect him to be farther along artistically. Maybe that's unfair, but this has the maturity level (to me) of a director in maybe his 30s or 40s.
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars.

Shakespeare Behind Bars - Men behind bars explore their thespian urges and ponder the meaning of Shakespeare's work as they prepare their annual production. Sounds uplifting, and it sometimes is, but these men are behind bars for very good reasons--they've committed some seriously heinous crimes, so don't expect the film to be comfy-cozy. Aside from the kind of rivalry and preening common to every community theater, what's on display here is men nobly working through their inner demons but also (at times, some of them) ignobly trying to put the best spin on their past and present, quite self-servingly. Do expect to ask yourself which tears are of the crocodile variety. The Tempest (the production documented in this film) is an excellent vehicle for this drama, and one certainly shares the hopes of those behind the film and the rehabilitative program itself that the Bard is offering these men an opportunity to mature and improve as individuals. Their teacher/director is an incredibly gifted interpreter--he'd be a sensational English professor (if he isn't). Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the prisoners drawn to the Shakespeare program are gay (a truth which is only gradually and subtly revealed), so the film almost indirectly serves as a portrait of a subculture of prison life.
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars.

Goal: The Dream Begins - The story of a Mexican-born soccer player raised from youth in Los Angeles, practicing his sport in the parks. He's spotted by a former talent scout from Ireland and given a one-in-a-million shot at trying out for one of the big U.K. clubs. The film is unfashionably cornball, hokey even, but watchable and sweet. It's also bland and cliche-ridden (the stern father who frowns on his son's far-fetched dream, the jaded footballers' wife). Lead Kuno Becker is handsome yet forgettable. A surprisingly hirsute Alessandro Nivola has a too-small part as the team bad boy struggling to contain his inner good boy. (Fight it, Allesandro!) First of a trilogy! Blame it on the soccer lovers of the globe.
Rating: 1 ½ out of 4 stars.



Post a Comment

<< Home