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The Muse, The Iron Giant, Minus Man, Stir of Echoes

capsule reviews

The Muse

I enjoy Albert Brooks's comic sensibilities tremendously, so this was an easy film for me to like. As I develop a more discerning sensibility for movies that are good versus movies I like, I can tell that while I enjoy a film a lot, it may not be one that I would defend very strongly. Looking at this film against previous Brooks works like Mother and others that were more finely crafted, I must admit to myself that The Muse is not his best film. However, I love watching him on screen–his timing is magnificent, unlike anyone else out there–and I enjoy his writing very much. Films like these which play against part of the Hollywood scene are also lots of fun for me. His idea with the cameos and his choice of fellow cast members was very effective, and although I usually dislike Sharon Stone, I think when she's used in comedy she really shines (see Antz).

The Iron Giant

This is easily among my favorite films. At the time of this writing, I've seen it four times, and absolutely loved it every single frame. While Disney's animated features can be lots of fun to sing along with, the Mouse has never produced anything as thoughtfully crafted and whole as The Iron Giant. It doesn't pander to its child audience; it doesn't bore its adult audience. It takes advantage of animation's ability to capture the imagination without overextending itself. Rather than singing, dancing animals and bouncy comic-style characters, it sets out to create a real world within the animated sphere and that makes the characters all the more endearing. A marvelously assembled and highly talented voiceover cast also makes the film shine.

Minus Man

On the tails of The Blair Witch Project, Minus Man followed the philosophy of selling a bad film on severe overhype. Previews and print ads for the film made it sound like another The Usual Suspects. ("Don't bring a dumb date," they said. Personally I could have used the entertainment.) I fell asleep a number of times during this movie, which is something I never do. Slowly constructed plot, boring characters, and underdeveloped scenes prevented me from accessing the film in any way whatsoever. I was all the more disappointed because the hype had sparked my expectations. What a shame.

Stir of Echoes

Friends, slobbering over Kevin Bacon, went to see this opening night while I went to Minus Man. They returned to report that it was "better than The Sixth Sense," which was hard for me to believe. Cajoled into attending for their second beefcake-fest, I was pleasantly surprised. Pleasantly shocked out of my socks would be more like it. A fan of David Koepp's writing work (anything related to Jurassic Park makes me weak at the knees), I was not overwhelmed by his first directorial effort, The Trigger Effect. But Stir of Echoes was leagues ahead of that. I'm not sure if it beats The Sixth Sense, purely by performance, but it's a very different film. Shyamalan has an entirely brighter outlook on death and ghosts, and the textures of the two films are very different. I was tremendously impressed with the structure and direction of the film, and only one scene of dialogue should have been removed for it to be perfect. (Bacon's wife finds out from the cultists early on what he is experiencing, but then refuses to share it with him. Why bother to tell her? Is Koepp afraid the audience won't keep up?)

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