Tag: Penelope Cruz

Nine — Review



by Ken B.

Nine is a big, lavish, colorful production. I didn’t really like it. It is, as many of you know, based off a wildly acclaimed 1982 Broadway musical, which in turn is based off Federico Fellini’s great (1963). One of the defining factors of Fellini’s film about the mind of a faded director was its surreal imagery and feel. Nine is the antithesis of this, whether intentional or not. It is alive, possibly grotesquely alive, with hints of sensuality, memory, and depression nearly buried by an overstuffed execution at the movie’s very worst moments.

Daniel Day-Lewis stars, and is of course wonderful, as Guido Contini, an Italian filmmaker nearing the age of fifty in 1962 Italy. (Much like Guido Anselimi  in , he is ill, aggravated by his chaotic career and lifestyle.) He has a wife, Luisa (Marion Cotillard), and a mistress, Carla (Penélope Cruz). Guido is faced with directing a project he has no motivation to create. His most recent pictures have been flops, and many who see him imply that he made his greatest films long ago. At a press conference, only two bits of information concerning the film are made available (possibly because these are the only things that Guido knows): It will be called Italia, which a reporter points out is a pretty bold title, and it will star who is considered Contini’s muse, actress Claudia Jenssen (Nicole Kidman).

This 118 minute movie revolves around Guido coping with his struggle, with memories from his childhood, and balancing this with the facets of the dissolving equilibrium of his personal and professional lives, all interspersed with lush musical numbers. They all vary in memorability, quality, and ease of placement (there are only two I can actively remember, even less than 24 hours after viewing it), but share the same type of blaring style.

The point of Nine is not to have quiet, intimate sequences of character development, but it’s worth wondering how much more enjoyable the film would have been if director Rob Marshall and screenwriters Michael Tolkin and Anthony Minghella had attempted to work a little more of it in. Such a suggestion works its way through in early scenes, like between Guido and a costume designer (Judi Dench).

For every positive quality about Nine, there is a corresponding negative. You could see it for the grand production design and the great acting, or be scared off due to the bloated nature and forgetability. I don’t know what exactly you want in a movie, and it is easy to see people quickly falling passionately for what Nine resonates. However, it is my experience that the poorer aspects of the film end up weighing the entire production just under the line of calling it a good movie.


Sahara – Review


Matthew McConaughey and Steve Zahn are still in shock over the fact that “Sahara” lost money at the box office.


by Ken B.

You know how sometimes you’re at a party, and someone corners you and forces you to a listen to an annoying inconsequential story that you have no investment or interest in? Sahara is the movie version of that kind of thing. While it can’t be denied that this movie has its fair share of well-shot action scenes, it’s disconnected, boring at times, and features not very interesting people you’re supposed to like. For 124 minutes, we as the viewer are subjected to mostly pointless dialogue scenes, occasionally broken by the fascinating shootout, chase, or explosion.

The movie starts with Eva Rojas (PENELOPE CRUZ), a doctor for the World Heath Organization, who is in Africa investigating a spreading disease. Don’t worry, if you don’t like this plot, it’s forgotten quickly, because when an attempt is made on her life, she’s saved by adventurer Dirk Pitt (MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY). (Also, if you choose to watch this, you’ll notice that abandoning plotlines and plot points is a recurring event). Dirk Pitt works for NUMA (National Underwater and Marine Agency), with his comic relief friend, Al. This is a comic relief friend, so he’s played by none other than Steve Zahn. Dirk is on a mission to find a Confederate coin that was lost on the ship known as the Texas at the end of the Civil War. He recruits Eva on the mission.

The main thing missing from Sahara is joy. There’s a kind of fun that everyone wants from a popcorn blockbuster, and I’m sad to report that just can’t be found here. Another negative driving into this one is the absolutely senseless plot. I’m not talking about a fun senseless, like Independence Day (Emmerich, 1996), I’m talking about an unfinished senseless, like the screenplay, adapted from a 1992 novel, really hadn’t worked everything out itself. And while it has recognizable names, like Cruz, McConaughey, Zahn, and Rainn Wilson (also, the head of NUSA is played by William H. Macy), these parts could have been played by near anyone, as they don’t really call for much talent aside from yelling a few one-liners and reacting to surprise attacks. Visually, Sahara carries its best material. Everything contains a fair amount of detail and fascination. If this had been two hours of nonstop overhead shots, car chases, and stuff blowing up, this would have been a marginally more enjoyable experience, but Sahara really only has these things spread disappointingly apart.

When it comes to movies, it hurts me the most when something has good potential, but it doesn’t pay off. I could have easily seen Sahara as an exciting adventure movie about the search for a century-old coin, but the truth is so far from this wish that I find it slightly distressing to think about. This movie is equal parts pitiful and disappointing. I’ve sometimes wondered if these two feelings go hand in hand.