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I had always heard good things about this film, but had never gotten the chance to check it out. I am a fan of Danny Boyle’s work from Transpotting to 28 Days Later. A Life Less Ordinary has a lot of aspects that Boyle later used in his child fairy-tale Millions from inventive camera tricks to a melding of fantasy sequences with reality. The main thing taken from this viewing however is the tragedy that Ewan McGregor and Boyle may never work together again. Ewan proves here again to have done some of his best work, and the work that got him noticed, with his old friend and producing partner. It is a real shame that after their differences, stemming from Boyle’s casting of Leo DiCaprio instead of McGregor on The Beach, causes their creativity to never join again. At least we have some great films to show from it while it lasted.

McGregor’s and Cameron Diaz’s characters are fated to fall in love. God has deemed it so and the chief of police in Heaven has got his best team on the job to make sure it happens. Unfortunately for them, the hysterical Delroy Lindo and Holly Hunter, if they fail at their job they must stay on Earth forever. Let’s just say they think out of the box and do everything in their powers to make love strike. After a botched powertrip turns into a kidnapping, McGregor soon finds that his victim is starting to call the shots in order to make the crime successful. Comedy ensues as the two leads go on their journey to get back at Diaz’s rich father and make some money in the mean time. Whether their time together results in a Cupid’s arrow sort of love remains to be seen, but as the two orchestrate the crime while Heaven’s police conduct the circumstances, the audience just goes along for the ride.

Boyle uses an enormous cast of great actors that come and go through the proceedings. Stanley Tucci is fantastic, Tony Shaloub is great in a role that at first seemed unbelievably wasted, but, in a turn like that of Silent Bob in Chasing Amy, comes through with the poignant and funny anecdote needed to continue the plot, and Timothy Olyphant is a welcome face and humorous in a very bit part. The sheer number of cameos are too many to mention, but Maury Chaykin deserves singling out as the hick country man who’s simple mind adds many laughs, including the song and dance number he introduces with McGregor and Diaz singing Beyond the Sea. While filled with clichés and homage galore, the film moves along at a fast pace utilizing each aspect to full effect creating a satire on both the kidnap and romantic comedy genres. We even get treated to a reenactment of the memorable Tim Roth/Harvey Keitel getaway scene from Reservoir Dogs. The film gets everything right with pitch-perfect timing and tongue-in-cheek acting mixed with some real emotional performances when called upon. Every song enhances the visuals on screen, especially a nicely placed REM tune while our characters are in peril. Even the claymation ending credit sequence is a joy to watch.

Boyle proves to me here that he can do it all: the gritty drug lifestyle drama, the romantic comedy, the socially conscious zombie kill spree, and the family-friendly morality tale. Those are just the ones I’ve seen from his filmography, so it will be a pleasure to see how he continues on his string of successes without yet going to the same well. We’ll see how his first foray into the science fiction genre turns out when Sunshine is released in the coming months. While he and old friend McGregor had a great run, we can always hope that one day they will reconcile and bring us that sequel to Trainspotting that has been bandied about the rumormill.

A Life Less Ordinary 8/10

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I will start out by saying if you have any reservations about seeing explicit sex depicted on screen, or if you want to watch the explicit sex on display for arousal, don’t see this film. Director John Cameron Mitchell has woven together a tapestry set to the “language of sex” (as stated by actor Peter Stickles during a short Q&A which occurred after the screening at the Dipson Amherst Theatre) that shows a frankness of sexuality with all its inhibitions, awkwardness, and truth. These people are real, wonderfully fleshed out, and interesting to follow around for the few days we are able to watch their lives. As learned from the entertaining anecdotes post-viewing, the cast was all picked around 2003 and after years of workshops, the movie is mostly ad-libbed and written collectively, and financial hardships finally shot during the summer of 2005 for its debut at Cannes. Every character, at least of the core group, being that most others played themselves, created a persona that soon became them. With Shortbus, Mitchell and company created a story of love, friendship, and life in general. There is joy, frustration, depression, and hope all mixed together to create one of the best movies of the year.

The story is centered around a woman couples counselor’s journey to experience an orgasm and a gay couple’s, both named Jamie, need to open up in order to find the true love they share. Add to this the counselor’s husband’s feelings of inadequacy, the couple’s inclusion of a third man to their relationship, a quiet voyeur following them, and a dominatrix who desperately wants to connect with someone on a personal level and be a woman. Intercutting this group of seven strangers’ stories that soon converge into the attending of an underground salon called Shortbus is a beautiful camera swooping trek through a 3D model of an expressionistically painted New York City. We as an audience fly through the skyscrapers and land at the buildings where our next scene is set, all on this fateful weekend in 2003 during the East Coast blackout. In a post-911 NYC, these characters go on with their lives needing to find more, to make them whole by picking up the broken pieces and being with those who truly care about them.

Every performance in the film is amazingly stark and real. Our entry into the story begins with our leads engaging in unsimulated sexual activities. Paul Dawson, as one of the Jamies, is engaging in autofellacio while filming his video project, Sook-Yin Lee, the sex therapist, is making love in all sorts of ways with her husband, and Lindsay Beamish is dominating a John in a hotel room. All three culminate with a release and every audience member finds out what’s in store for them for the duration. Lee is good as the confused sex counselor who herself can’t reach climax. The performance began a bit weak, where you could tell she’s not quite an actress, actually she was a VJ on Canada’s Much Music, but as the movie continues the job becomes fitting to her role and successful as a result. Beamish is magnificent as Severin. She is isolated from the world, taking photos of sad images she passes through her travels. Her character is multi-faceted and surprising poignant once we learn the story of who she is. The real scene-stealer is Dawson, however. Along with his lover, played with real heartfelt love by PJ DeBoy, Dawson really carries the most interesting story thread. He is a broken man who has realized everything he wrote about doing when he was twelve is still waiting to be accomplished. His life’s story is a sad one that has made him hardened to the outside world. Dawson’s character knows and sees the love around him, but it just can’t penetrate to his core. The performance is amazing as he tries to orchestrate the lives around him so that all will be well once his film has been completed.

Kudos must go to all involved, as they have created what they set out to do. Each performer is asked to portray their emotions and feelings, not only through words, but also through the physicality of their sexual endeavors. You know exactly what they are thinking and what the encounter means to the character’s development, none of which would have happened if the sex was not real. Mitchell has shown us life on film, all the imperfections and every small moment of humanity and love which occurs on a daily basis through life. Shortbus is a place for misfits to come together for art, music, film, and sex, to be with equals, never being questioned for what their motives are, but instead accepted for just being human. There are many laugh-out-loud moments to counteract the brash sexuality, yet also set us up for the emotionally wrenching scenes at the film’s climax. Mitchell is a true artistic genius, framing it all close-up and invitingly, mixing in the artsy indie tricks that only prove to enhance the story. Besides the gorgeous model being lit and darkened with the changing of the day’s hour, we are shown surreal moments like one of a lamppost on the beach and interesting shooting positions inside a sense-depravation tank, as well as a great soundtrack compiled by Yo La Tengo. Each quirk and story arc culminates into a final scene of raucous absurdity and found life, without any words but the singing of Shortbus’s host(ess). Sexual energy proves to be able to fuel a city lost and help it find its way.

Shortbus 9/10

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photography:
[1] Raphael Barker as Bob and Sook-Yin Lee as Sofia in ThinkFilms’, Shortbus – 2006
[2] PJ DeBoy as Jamie and Paul Dawson as James in ThinkFilms’, Shortbus – 2006

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Sofia Coppola has risen in Hollywood to A-list status after her magnificent debut, The Virgin Suicides, and the over-long, funny at times, critical darling Lost in Translation. Due to the enormous success of Translation, she was able to rework the production, with a bigger budget, on her passion project Marie Antoinette. While trying to stick to historical accuracies when able, she crafted a loose interpretation of the young Queen’s life from leaving Austria for marriage until the fateful storming of the Bastille. Coppola’s father had success with directing a period piece in his adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but I must say Sophia has outdone him on style. The scenery and costumes are straight out of Versailles circa the late 1700’s and really are beautiful to behold. To counteract this look of the past, we are treated to a soundtrack of contemporary music: loud, hard-hitting rock nicely juxtaposed with the life of excess onscreen. While it worked to great effect, it is a shame that it worked better as a way to keep me awake during the long and boring tale, which contained not a shred of plot. This was perhaps the most luscious film I’ve seen as far as the senses go; it’s just too bad there was no substance behind it.

If you have kept up with the hoopla surrounding its release at Cannes, you will know about the booing that the French people gave it upon completion. Then we had the obligatory retorts by its’ creator and actors explaining how this was a vision of her life and not a history lesson. Unfortunately I can’t give that statement credit due to the fact that the movie played like a history lesson. We have long takes of the royalty’s activities, small vignettes of life cut together without any progression besides the passing of time. There is no struggle, there is no reason to care for these spoiled children as they play; we as an audience are voyeurs, looking through a window at the life of the Queen, not emotionally involved in anything happening. Now I thought Lost in Translation had a too thin a script and plot to warrant an Oscar nomination let alone the victory it achieved, Marie Antoinette, however, has even less. Coppola can write perfect dialogue for these people as they live their lives in the limelight and under archane rules and regulations, but dialogue is not enough. We need a story to be interested in, complete with problems and suspense where one can make a decision about what they hope will happen next. Instead we are given a reenactment of life, a history lesson written and then made alive.

It is hard to really hate this film, though, as even though there was no story whatsoever to warrant a running time of two hours, the visuals and acting are superb. Kirsten Dunst is so calm and infectious to watch, that it seems she might have just been ad-libbing the entire time and saying what she herself would say in that situation. The comfort level is great and really adds to the believability of the character. Coppola’s cousin Jason Schwartzman is brilliantly shy and unconfident as the young heir to the throne before his gradual evolution into a man with principles and a real love for his wife and children. Most of the other big names have small roles that they excel in; nothing too memorable, but nothing glaringly out of place. The radiant Rose Byrne is comically perpetually inebriated, Asia Argento has a nicely complex role that never is built upon to maybe spice the story up a little with, and Rip Torn, although his usual loud and obnoxious self, is rather subdued and effective. Credit is given to Steve Coogan, who is almost unrecognizable as straight man unlike previous comedic roles, and to Danny Huston, who leaves his mark on a part that lasts maybe five total minutes.

Coppola has talent—there is no question—and at times here shows us some gorgeous moments. The composition of shots early on to show Antoinette’s isolation are superb, a slow-motion action shot of a soldier on horseback at the end is exactly what’s needed for the emotional resonance at that time, and a quick shot of Dunst in the fields at Versailles with a ladybug taking flight from her fingertip show a keen eye for detail. Another thing she has going for her is the use of music. Throughout all three of her movies, the soundtrack has been a great enhancer, here especially during the second half, right about when I Want Candy plays. I just feel she needs to work on her writing a bit more. Lost in Translation was a sprawling tale that could have used some fine-tuning to create interest in the characters rather than relying on Bill Murray’s natural charisma, and with this film she desperately needed a script doctor to help her construct an interesting beginning to go with the magnificent final fifteen minutes. The end of this film is some of the best filmmaking I’ve seen all year, the emotions displayed by both Dunst and Schwartzman are heartfelt and real. To see the results of the evolution into honor and responsibility that they took is astonishing, as well as the pitch-perfect final frame. It is just a shame that the first two hours of the movie did nothing to show that process. I still hold out hope that Sophia will make the masterpiece that is buried inside her. Also, maybe her brother Roman, who was Assistant Director here, will recover the directing bug and finally film a sophomore effort to go along with, one of my favorite films, CQ. Hopefully after such a well-written and produced debut he won’t lose his way like his sister seems to have thus far.

Marie Antoinette 5/10

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photography:
[1] Kirsten Dunst (center, as Marie-Antoinette) in Sofia Coppola drama biography
‘Marie Antoinette’ 2006
[2] Jason Schwartzman star as Louis XVI and Kirsten Dunst as Marie-Antoinette in Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment ‘Marie Antoinette’ 2006

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Maybe people do like having the devil around more than God. Maybe we like that safety net of a reason; making a mistake only to blame the devil for the pain and suffering in the world. There is so much hardship, spilling out into the masses, that it is difficult to not see the sadness on the faces of all you pass. Leland P. Fitzgerald understands all of this; he knows that maybe everything won’t be ok, and maybe helping someone leave this Earth to avoid the pain their life has waiting for them is a risk he needs to take for someone he loves. Credit goes to screenwriter/director Matthew Ryan Hoge for creating a lyrical prose about two suburban families who have crossed paths in good times and bad with his second film The United States of Leland. Just looking at the cast of almost all A and B list actors shows that the material really resonates with its audience. Emotions don’t need to be worn on one’s sleeve to exist. Sometimes all we want to do is end the suffering.

Ryan Gosling brings an understated performance to the table here that encompasses the inwardness of his character Leland’s emotions. He is a very passionate and intelligent young man, cutting through the BS of life, knowing what he sees and accepting the worse with the better. The film is a catharsis for the souls of those affected by the horrific event of Leland killing his ex-girlfriend’s mentally challenged brother. In the confused mind of this teen, he goes into the incident knowing full well what he was going to do, he was going to stop the pain that he sees everywhere, but most of all on the face of young Ryan Pollard. Almost immediately he realizes that he has made a mistake, that maybe playing God is not a job he has been put on Earth to do. Whether or not this is true will soon be put to debate as the murder begins a chain of events, which finally bring meaning to many people’s lives as they wake up to the tangential fragility of life. This boy has opened their eyes to both sorrow and rebirth.

With haunting ballads sung by former Sunny Day Real Estate frontman Jeremy Enigk, the movie goes through a journey of small vignettes of two families’ lives in the aftermath of tragedy. The acting is superb throughout with special mention to a few. For someone who plays the naïve lug in most films, Chris Klein actually does well with much the same material here, yet also with an evolution into a man of purpose. His aloofness is effective when utilized in the right part, similar to his success in Election, and I am interested to see if directors will be allow him to expand his talents and sink his teeth into something more substantial. Jena Malone is effective in much the same effect as well, playing the role of troubled youth as she has in Donnie Darko and Life as a House; Don Cheadle is a stalwart of professionalism giving us a different take on the compassionate therapist from the one he did in Manic; and Martin Donovan is brilliant as the grieving father trying to keep his wits together and eventually realizing he must keep his family from falling apart as well. Also, it is great seeing the beautiful Sherilyn Fenn in a small but important role.

When tragedy hits, people band together to get through it all. As Leland astutely points out at one point, you see men and women helping others out and hugging when they see the pain and suffering surrounding them, but after a couple of days everything goes back to normal. Cheadle’s character extrapolates the optimistic viewpoint that at least we get a glimpse of people’s true nature of wanting to help and be good to each other, only to be shot back at with the retort, “well at least we do during tragedy.” Maybe we don’t want to think we are good natured because it does make us feel we should be good all the time, and that when bad, must have in-turn meant to be so. By being flawed we allow ourselves to rebound and try again. Leland’s mistake lets him see the love he had for those close to him as well as opening the eyes of others to wake up and not let their loved ones drift any further from them. One can’t focus on the sadness of others when they must first come to grips with their own. Hoge has crafted a parable for this and a truly effective piece of filmmaking with hopefully many more to come.

The United States of Leland 9/10

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photography:
[1] Ryan Gosling and Jena Malone in Paramount Classics’ United States of Leland, directed by Matthew Ryan Hoge.
[2] Don Cheadle as Pearl Madison in Paramount Classics’ United States of Leland, directed by Matthew Ryan Hoge.

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Well it appears Oscar season is upon us. The release of all the films studios have been hiding from projectors until they can be freshly ingrained in voters’ minds has commenced. We had the obligatory Scorsese film a couple weeks ago and now we have the return of one of Hollywood’s new favorite sons (who also began with intelligent and original indie visions like Marty) with Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige. Known for uniquely dark and smart suspense thrillers, Nolan has crafted a tale of mysterious intrigue concerning two rival magicians vying to be the greatest to have ever lived. One is a performer of high esteem (Hugh Jackman), if not talented enough to create his own tricks, and the other a wizard with sleight of hand (Christian Bale) yet stoic and matter-of-fact with his audience. Obsession overcomes the humanity of each as they soon delve into the darkness of their core beings to prove themselves superior. If you truly wish to succeed, you must be willing to get your hands dirty.

I must say that I usually hate figuring out a movie’s secret before its’ big reveal at the conclusion. To say that Nolan has laid his out for all to see purposely might not be far from the truth. I hope he has done so consciously as it adds immensely to the film’s enjoyability. This is a film about illusion and tricks that can be explained if necessary. The beauty of magic, however, is the audience’s unconscious desire to never find out what really happened. As one character says in the film, it becomes so obvious once the trick has been unraveled. What a movie like The Illusionist failed to do was accept the intelligence of its audience. They tried so hard to hide the telestrated finale that when it finally happened you felt cheated. Nolan understands what is so appealing about illusion, we want to figure out what happens ourselves, to see the obvious and apply it to the cloaked result. He tells the tale like a magic trick, showing his hand the entire way yet still being able to keep the film suspenseful and enjoyable right to the final frame as we wait to see what direction we are led.

Bale and Jackman prove themselves to be the heavyweights that they are in the acting field. They embody their characters fully and are able to go from friendly comradery to bitter hatred throughout the course of this labyrinthine story bouncing from flashback to flashback. The rivalry is tautly told as they begin to discover a new layer of the other with each diary page turn, stolen from their counterpart. These are actors playing performers who have chosen a life for themselves, where they must act every single day. Their personas for stage and family are not the same, and this disparity helps to slowly destroy them both. Sacrifice and pain will always supercede love and happiness for a person driven to be the best at what they do.

Surprising applause goes to Scarlett Johansson for a performance that doesn’t try to be more than it is. She is not bad as a supporting character when there isn’t much for her to destroy. The half-smile/pursed lips look runs rampant, but doesn’t reek amateurism as it usually does when she attempts to carry a film herself. The true supporting roles, however, lie with Andy Serkis and David Bowie as assistant to and Nikola Tesla respectively. It is a real shame that Bowie doesn’t act more, as I have never seen a bad performance from him thus far after now five films. He embodies the mysterious enigma that Tesla was: a mad-scientist of sorts trying to help the world with his often-irregular ideas. It is also a pleasure to see Serkis not being just a prop like he has been as Golem and King Kong in Peter Jackson’s last two epics. The guy has some real screen presence and the ability to transform into whatever a director needs for his film.

It is also good to see Nolan go back to the inventive storytelling that he became noticed for. While not as intricate as his debut Following (told in a story pattern consisting of three timeframes going a, b, c, a, b, c) and his masterpiece sophomore effort Memento (told backwards in small chunks), The Prestige is not a straight-forward story like his last film Batman Begins or the lone-blemish on his resume, the inferior remake to a great Norwegian suspenser, Insomnia. The use of flashback, while both characters read the diary of each other, is a nice device which never feels gimmicky. These are stories of intelligent men and who better to narrate for the audience then the leads themselves as they narrate for each other. Dark thrillers don’t come better than this one very often and while the touches of science fiction and the supernatural may turn some realists off towards the film’s conclusion, I believe they work well within the confines of the world we are being shown. Every sacrifice taken is the obvious conclusion to its’ string of events, leading up to the final dénouement that will leave your minds in contemplation, not from confusion so much as an evaluation of your own ways of living and lengths you are willing to go, for hours to follow.

The Prestige 9/10

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[1] Andy Serkis, David Bowie and Hugh Jackman
[2] Christian Bale as Alfred Borden

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This is a question posed to Andy Lau’s character, by his live-in girlfriend, in the brilliant Cantonese film Infernal Affairs. She is a writer plodding through the plot of her new novel, which eerily mirrors the double life lived by her significant other. A small detail like this helped create characters that live and breathe with a history behind them. Unfortunately, while adding almost an hour of length, Martin Scorsese’s new remake, The Departed, fails to make the audience feel for the protagonists, as we never really know who they are. While this is a crutch making it an inferior re-envisioning, (what remake is better than its predecessor anyways?), The Departed still thrills and entertains with the best of them. I’m sure if I hadn’t seen Infernal Affairs I’d be proclaiming masterpiece along with the throngs of moviegoers of late. However, I have seen both, and even great films can still be inferior copies.

I had heard somewhere that Scorsese is a huge Asian-made film fan, causing him to decide to direct his first remake of already existing material. Upon hearing this news I have to admit I shuddered a bit; one of the greatest filmmakers who has ever lived was selling-out. I had to give him the benefit of the doubt however, and tell myself that Infernal Affairs must be superb for him to want to bring it to American audiences. With this I would usually argue the fact that we in the US are intelligent enough; just release the original with subtitles. I will refrain from that observation here, as during the one moment of Chinese in The Departed, there were numerous laughs from the crowd as it must be hilarious to hear someone speak a foreign language. I know I had a real tough time composing myself…right. Unfortunately for America, we aren’t ready for the international world, fortunately for Scorsese, he chose not to do the “new-vision film” but retain pretty much scene for scene what made the original the success it was. Kudos to Marty for sticking to what he loved about it and putting his own flair in to do homage to something he held adoration to.

The jist of the story goes as follows: One man has been turned onto the mob and asked to go undercover by joining the police academy to help all illegal doings go off risk-free. Another man has done so well in cadet school that he is approached to do a dangerous mission of infiltrating the mob, being a mole to help bring down an illustrious mob-boss. What works so well in Infernal Affairs is the fact that these two men have started on their paths at a very young age, wanting to be in the mob/police respectively and becoming the opposite at around 18 years of age. These men cross paths in the academy and 10-15 years later, we see their lives evolve and begin to care for both characters. In the American version there is a dumbing down of back-story in order for the conflict to start as soon as it possibly can. It works in so far as Matt Damon and Leo DiCaprio being young and driven for a fast rise in their fields. As a result, though, we see a comparison of them being boys to the men played with real emotional resonance by Lau and the incomparable Tony Leung. These two are just so good that their English-speaking counterparts could never live up to them, and as a result I commend Marty for not trying to have them. Leung and Lau have been leading two lives for almost two decades of their adulthood, their troubles are etched to their faces for the world to see. The cop has become criminal and the criminal has become cop.

Both films are feats to behold, but of course there are always points of contention between movies from the same source material. One thing, and probably the only thing, that succeeded better in the remake is the role of mob-boss Frank Costello. Much of this is credit to the over-the-top performance by Jack Nicholson. The man is a god among actors and his facial expressions and delivery of the comical/poignant/serious dialogue is spot-on. Being a role that was mostly background plot-forwarding in the original, letting him really drive the film was a success. Of course it was a necessity, as Marty knew Damon and Leo couldn’t carry the emotional weight of the film on their shoulders alone like their Chinese counterparts. Also, major props go to screenwriter William Monagan for creating some beautiful deflection in the final elevator scene of the movie, as anyone who has viewed the original film will be thinking they know what will happen when the door opens, but be wrong. It was very satisfying to myself as I was thinking in my head, oh it’s going to play out the same, yet in fact still got to enjoy the sense of surprise with the other audience members experiencing it for the first time.

What the remake did wrong was making the girlfriends of our protagonists into the same person, adding a love triangle, which was unnecessary and distracting. Whereas the original showed us a sensitive side to these duplicitous characters, the remake wants to add tension by contrasting the two men instead of showing them as similar, if not the same. With no illwill to Vera Farmiga who does a great job here, she is contrived and used to separate the two men from each other, to make us, as the audience, choose a favorite. The beauty of the first film is that both men have their moments of good and bad, and we relate to their hardships as a result. Also, leave it to Hollywood, USA (probably the most prudish nation on earth) to want to inject a thriller with unnecessary sex scenes and then not have the guts to show anything even though the film is R. If the nudity is integral to the plot, don’t copout and only allude to it. The movie theater encounter didn’t need to be at a porn house, and the camera didn’t need to show the screen while carefully cropping anything offensive out of frame. I am hoping the producers asked for the addition to appease the male audience and not Scorsese thinking we needed the titillation to fully enjoy the film. To expand on what is wrong with Hollywood some more, having every single role played by a name actor doesn’t make the film better. Instead it just wastes the talent of great actors like Anthony Anderson, Ray Winstone, and Alec Baldwin. While Baldwin uses what little time he has to have maybe the best performance of the film, (very Glengarry Glen Ross-ish), the other roles are acted well, but under-utilized; you want more from them.

The use of morse code, path-crossing, and trust issues for their father figures (mob-boss and police chief) really make every event that transpires suspenseful and edge-of-your-seat exciting in Infernal Affairs. The Departed becomes over-blown and bloated at times, using cell phones and computers as a means of communicating without going far enough to use methods that can’t be tracked easily. There is a lack of danger, almost, as the cops and mobsters play a game where life is expendable. The original held life in high respect and as a result made every moment important and serious. Stakes just aren’t as high when no one seems to have a strong relationship with those around them. Mark Wahlberg seems to be the only one who really cares for the men he risks his life with. The smartass comments and brilliant sarcasm is what he does best, (this is probably my second favorite role of his behind I Heart Huckabees), and while I disagree with the final use of his character in the film (a far less effective ending than the original as the death toll becomes comically extensive), he was a nice addition to the script the second time around.

So, while The Departed is one of the best films of the year thus far, being a remake inherently makes it privy to scrutinization. Do yourself a favor and see the true masterpiece it was culled from and find out that foreign films can be great. While maybe the best example of a remake I’ve seen, even Scorsese can’t improve upon a classic. He can only show his love and affection for it and pay tribute. One last jab, to counteract the praise, when a movie comes out in 2002, does it really need a retelling in 2006? I’ll forgive them this time for a job well done.

Infernal Affairs 9/10
The Departed 8/10

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photography:
[1] Andy Lau and Tony Leung in Infernal Affairs.
[2] Undercover cop Billy Costigan (LEONARDO DiCAPRIO) infiltrates the Irish mob led by Costello (JACK NICHOLSON) in Warner Bros. Pictures’ crime drama “The Departed.” Photo by Andrew Cooper
[3] Andy Lau in Infernal Affairs.
[4] Sergeant Dignam (MARK WAHLBERG) has a heated exchange with Colin Sullivan (MATT DAMON) over the identity of the mob infiltrator in Warner Bros. Pictures’ crime drama “The Departed.” Photo by Andrew Cooper

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