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Archive for April 2008

Movie Review: IN BRUGES (2008)

by Christopher Beaubien • April 20, 2008 • 2 Comments


Murderers… Twisting and Turning… in a “Fairy Tale Place”…

In early February 2008, the debut of writer-director John McDonagh floored me. In Bruges started a trend following David Fincher’s Zodiac in 2007 that at least one movie released in February was a masterpiece. What surprised me most about this gutsy film was how elegantly it focused on two Irish hit men from London. The youngest is Raymond (Colin Farrell), a cocky bloke who comes across as curt to others (“You’re a bunch of fucking elephants!”), but he isn’t mean-spirited, just thoughtless. Ken (Brendan Gleeson), a jovial soul masking a deep sadness, accompanies Raymond as his mentor in their line work and acts in some ways like a surrogate father figure. In a moment of great duress, Ken breaks the silence by reassuring Raymond, “You look good.”

For perhaps the first time in Raymond’s life, he is affected by gnawing guilt over an unforgivable accident he caused. His manic depression has made him suicidal. Their relationship is a fascinating because Farrell and Gleeson work so effortlessly together. A comradery of wit, pain and compassion. Killing for hire to Ken is surmised simply, “It’s what I do.”

Their boss Harry Waters (Ralph Fiennes) sends them away to hide in Bruges (“It’s in Belgium.”) after the last job got botched. With his nose in the guide book, Ken explains that “Bruges is the most well preserved medieval town of all of Belgium apparently.” On a wintry canal ride, Ken marvels at the old buildings and churches while Raymond sits with his shoulders hunched, bored out of his mind. Here Bruges is a setting closest to one can ever get to purgatory on Earth. It’s a perfect stage for these killers to reflect and act upon their trespasses. At one point in the Basilica of the Holy Blood, Ken accuses Raymond of “Throwing a fucking moody like a five-year-old who’s dropped all his sweets!”

While standing before Hieronymus Bosch’s oil painting The Garden of Earthly Delights, Raymond is compelled to ask Ken about his views of the afterlife. Ken is at a loss of words at first. A lesser movie would have moved on from there. Instead, we go outside where Ken honestly tries to answer Raymond’s questions. It is a perfect scene. Note how Raymond demonstrates his self-interest when he speculates about a boy never able to go to Bruges and says “I don’t know why.” These characters are so well-written that their own point-of-view is always evident.


The Best Films of 1999

by Christopher Beaubien • April 19, 2008 • Start the Discussion!


Being John Malkovich (dir. Spike Jonze)
The Iron Giant (dir. Brad Bird)
Magnolia (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)
After Life (dir. Hirokazu Koreeda)
Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A Leuchter Jr. (dir. Errol Morris)
The War Zone (dir. Tim Roth)
Election (dir. Alexander Payne)
Boys Don’t Cry (dir. Kimberly Peirce)
Titus (dir. Julie Taymor)
Three Kings (dir. David O. Russell)
Eyes Wide Shut (dir. Stanley Kubrick)
American Beauty (dir. Sam Mendes)
All About My Mother (dir. Pedro Almodóvar)
Summer of Sam (dir. Spike Lee)
Sleepy Hollow (dir. Tim Burton)
Limbo (dir. John Sayles)
Fight Club (dir. David Fincher)
The Straight Story (dir. David Lynch)
The Virgin Suicides (dir. Sofia Coppola)
Ravenous (dir. Antonia Bird)
The Talented Mr. Ripley (dir. Anthony Minghella)
Twin Falls Idaho (dir. Michael and Mark Polish)
Ratcatcher (dir. Lynne Ramsay)
Topsy-Turvy (dir. Mike Leigh)
Bringing Out the Dead (dir. Martin Scorsese)
Dogma (dir. Kevin Smith)
Man on the Moon (dir. Milos Forman)
Wonderland (dir. Michael Winterbottom)
The Green Mile (dir. Frank Darabont)
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (dir. Trey Parker)
American Movie (dir. Chis Smith)
eXistenZ (dir. David Cronenberg)
The Sixth Sense (dir. M. Night Shyamalan)
Jesus’ Son (dir. Alison Maclean)
The Blair Witch Project (dir. Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez)
Rosetta (dir. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)
Guinevere (dir. Audrey Wells)
October Sky (dir. Joe Johnston)
The Cider House Rules (dir. Lasse Hallström)
House on Haunted Hill (dir. William Malone)
Rollercoaster (dir. Scott Smith)
Croupier (dir. Mike Hodges)
The General’s Daughter (dir. Simon West)
8½ Women (dir. Peter Greenaway)
The Big Kahuna (dir. John Swanbeck)
Arlington Road (dir. Mark Pellington)
The Matrix (dir. Andy and Larry Wachowski)
Bowfinger (dir. Frank Oz)
Office Space (dir. Mike Judge)
Cruel Intentions (dir. Roger Jumble)
Romance (dir. Catherine Breillat)
The Hurricane (dir. Norman Jewison)
Dick (dir. Andrew Fleming)
Mystery Men (dir. Kinka Usher)
Julien Donkey-Boy (dir. Harmony Korine)

The Best Films of 1998

by Christopher Beaubien • April 18, 2008 • Start the Discussion!


A Simple Plan (dir. Sam Raimi)
Dark City (dir. Alex Proyas)
Love and Death on Long Island (dir. Richard Kwietniowski)
The Truman Show (dir. Peter Weir)
Pleasantville (dir. Gary Ross)
Babe: Pig in the City (dir. George Miller)
Affliction (dir. Paul Schrader)
Rushmore (dir. Wes Anderson)
Happiness (dir. Todd Solondz)
Gods and Monsters (dir. Bill Condon)
Hilary and Jackie (dir. Anand Tucker)
Antz (dir. Eric Darnell and Tim Johnson)
The Red Violin (dir. (dir. François Girard)
Dangerous Beauty (dir. Marshall Herskovitz)
The Prince of Egypt (dir. Brenda Chapman and Steve Hickner)
Life is Beautiful (dir. Roberto Begnini)
Pi (dir. Darren Aronofsky)
Claire Dolan (dir. Lodge Kerrigan)
Your Friends And Neighbors (dir. Neil LaBute)
The Last Days of Disco (dir. Whit Stillman)
The Spanish Prisoner (dir. David Mamet)
Nil by Mouth (dir. Gary Oldman)
Shakespeare in Love (dir. John Madden)
The Thin Red Line (dir. Terrance Malick)
The Big Lebowski (dir. Joel Coen)
Beloved (dir. Jonathan Demme)
Great Expectations (dir. Alfonso Cuarón)
Bulworth (dir. Warren Beatty)
Living Out Loud (dir. Richard LaGravenese)
Out of Sight (dir. Steven Soderbergh)
There’s Something About Mary (dir. Bobby and Peter Farrelly)
Saving Private Ryan (dir. Steven Spielberg)
The Negotiator (dir. F. Gary Gray)
He Got Game (dir. Spike Lee)
Last Night (dir. Don McKellar)
High Art (dir. Lisa Cholodenko)
Simon Birch (dir. Mark Steven Johnson)
Primary Colors (dir. Mike Nichols)
Perfect Blue (dir. Satoshi Kon)
American History X (dir. Tony Kaye)
Run Lola Run (dir. Tom Tykwer)
The Celebration (dir. Thomas Vinterberg)
What Dreams May Come (dir. Vincent Ward)
The Mask of Zorro (dir. Martin Campbell)
Little Voice (dir. Mark Herman)
Insomnia (dir. Erik Skjoldbjaerg)
Small Soldiers (dir. Joe Dante)
The Opposite of Sex (dir. Don Roos)
Madeline (dir. Daisy von Scherler Mayer)

The Best Films of 1997

by Christopher Beaubien • April 17, 2008 • Start the Discussion!


Gattaca (dir. Andrew Niccol)
Boogie Nights (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)
L.A. Confidential (dir. Curtis Hanson)
In The Company of Men (dir. Neil LaBute)
Fast, Cheap and Out of Control (dir. Errol Morris)
The Sweet Hereafter (dir. Atom Egoyan)
Men In Black (dir. Barry Sonnenfeld)
Children of Heaven (dir. Majid Majidi)
The Ice Storm (dir. Ang Lee)
Jackie Brown (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
Wag the Dog (dir. Barry Levinson)
Princess Mononoke (dir. Hayao Miyazaki)
Eve’s Bayou (dir. Kasi Lemmons)
The Apostle (dir. Robert Duvall)
Sick: The Life & Death Of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist (dir. Kirby Dick)
Contact (dir. Robert Zemeckis)
Rosewood (dir. John Singleton)
Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown (dir. John Madden)
The Butcher Boy (dir. Neil Jordan)
Maborosi (dir. Hirokazu Kore-Eda)
Funny Games | The Castle (dir. Michael Haneke)
Titanic (dir. James Cameron)
Donnie Brasco (dir. Mike Newell)
Kissed (dir. Lynne Stopkewich)
Chasing Amy (dir. Kevin Smith)
Ponette (dir. Jacques Doillon)
Shiloh (dir. Dale Rosenbloom)
Clockwatchers (dir. Jill Sprecher)
Career Girls (dir. Mike Leigh)
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (dir. Jay Roach)
Suicide Kings (dir. Peter O’Fallon)
Breast Men (dir. Lawrence O’Neil)
Good Will Hunting (dir. Gus Van Sant)
Cube (dir. Vincenzo Natali)
Shall We Dance (dir. Masayuki Suo)
Buffalo ’66 (dir. Vincent Gallo)
Bliss (dir. Lance Young)
Microcosmos: Le Peuple de L’herbe (dir. Claude Nuridsany)
SubUrbia (dir. Richard Linklater)
The Game (dir. David Fincher)
Deconstructing Harry (dir. Woody Allen)
Kundun (dir. Martin Scorsese)
The Full Monty (dir. Peter Cattaneo)
Breakdown (dir. Jonathan Mostow)
Mimic (dir. Guillermo del Toro)
Anastasia (dir. Don Bluth)
As Good as It Gets (dir. James L. Brooks)
My Best Friend’s Wedding (dir. PJ Hogan)
U Turn (dir. Oliver Stone)
Absolute Power | Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
(dir. Clint Eastwood)
Mousehunt (dir. Gore Verbinski)

The Best Films of 1996

by Christopher Beaubien • April 16, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

Fargo (dir. Joel and Ethan Coen)
Shine (dir. Scott Hicks)
Breaking the Waves (dir. Lars von Trier)
The People vs. Larry Flint (dir. Miloš Forman)
Welcome to the Dollhouse (dir. Todd Solondz)
Secrets and Lies (dir. Mike Leigh)
Sydney (aka Hard Eight) (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)
Bound (dir. Andy and Larry Wachowski)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (dir. Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise)
Sling Blade (dir. Billy Bob Thornton)
Big Night (dir. Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott)
Freeway (dir. Matthew Bright)
The English Patient (dir. Anthony Minghella)
Lone Star (dir. John Sayles)
Hamlet (dir. Kenneth Branagh)
La Promesse (dir. Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne)
Matilda (dir. Danny DeVito)
The Pillow Book (dir. Peter Greenaway)
The Frighteners (dir. Peter Jackson)
Walking and Talking (dir. Nicole Holofcener)
The Arrival (dir. David Twohy)
Bottle Rocket (dir. Wes Anderson)
Looking for Richard (dir. Al Pacino)
Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills
(dir. Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky)
Ridicule (dir. Patrice Leconte)
Courage Under Fire (dir. Edward Zwick)
Kissed (dir. Lynne Stopkewich)
Fear (dir. James Foley)
The Portrait of a Lady (dir. Jane Campion)
Primal Fear (dir. Gregory Hoblit)
Deep Crimson (dir. Arturo Ripstein)
Trainspotting (dir. Danny Boyle)
Sleepers (dir. Barry Levinson)
Jerry Maguire (dir. Cameron Crowe)
The Truth About Cats & Dogs (dir. Michael Lehmann)
James and the Giant Peach (dir. Henry Selick)
Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (dir. Mike Judge)
Flirting with Disaster (dir. David O. Russell)
Citizen Ruth (dir. Alexander Payne)
Blood and Wine (dir. Bob Rafelson)
Mars Attacks! (dir. Tim Burton)
The Rock (dir. Michael Bay)
Kingpin (dir. Bobby and Peter Farrelly)
Mission: Impossible (dir. Brian De Palma)
That Thing You Do! (dir. Tom Hanks)
The Craft (dir. Andrew Fleming)
Eraser (dir. Chuck Russell)
The Birdcage (dir. Mike Nichols)
Fly Away Home (dir. Carroll Ballard)
Steven Soderbergh’s Schizopolis (dir. Steven Soderbergh)
Mother (dir. Albert Brooks)
The Cable Guy (dir. Ben Stiller)
Long Kiss Goodnight (dir. Renny Harlin)