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The Summer of 02 - At the movies

Paul Newman as Mr Rooney reminds us that he was once the biggest star of them all.

Summer movies have been a pretty mixed bunch this year so far. Everyone was waiting for Men in Black11 and wouldn’t you know all the good stuff had been in the trailer, as ever. Laugh, I thought I’d never start. Good to see Michael Jackson on screen totally fitting in but just where did the money go? Not on the script. Lara Flyn Boyle just isn't very evil. Everyone else looks bored.

So whilst Dragons rule the earth in Reign of Fire directed by Rob Bowman (of the X-Files movie) the trailer luckily shows us just how bloody awful this stupid movie is; so save your pennies and wait for K-19, which as it is directed by Katheryn Bigelow may also be an expensive turkey. We will reserve judgement on that since Harrison Ford is always worth watching.
By the by Is there no way to stop the marketing departments showing ever longer trailers? If you have sat through Mel Gibson’s new trailer for Signs, believe me you have seen all that’s is worth seeing. Can we start a campaign for subtle trailers that leave room for imagination? There were 30 minutes of trailers before Men in Black. Enough is enough. I just don't want to see Van Diesel as a CIA spy in XXX - no matter how many times you show it.

So what is worth seeing?
13 Conversations about One Thing directed by Jill Sprecher.
Starring Alan Arkin, John Turturro, Clea Duvall, Mathew McConaughey it’s a film about fickle fate and unhappiness, although each member of the cast things they have a handle on what happiness really is. It’s inventive, talky, strange and very, very real. You may not come out of the theatre cheered up but you will have seen artistry and gained understanding. Alan Arkin as the luckless manager of an insurance department is particularly worth watching and the film is shot like Momento, out of sequence and backwards which can catch you off guard, but does keep you on your toes.

To come out of the theatre smiling you could try the fluffy but entertaining ‘Emperors New Clothes’
Dir Alan Taylor.

I am not usually enamoured by French movies starring British actors al la ‘Chocolat’ but this is an interesting premise and Ian Holm is reprising his role as Napoleon (first aired in Time Bandits). Holm is funny, bombastic, stubborn and ultimately humanised by the woman who takes pity on him. Yes everyone does look and sound as if they strayed from a Dickens production, but it is pretty, amusing and there are some wonderful photographic moments that really make you believe you are in Napoleon’s belle France.
Skipping over ‘The Sum of All Fears’ which is a dumb Tom Clancy style movie that proves without doubt that Ben Affleck cannot carry a movie and moving right past
Mr Deeds which proved that Adam Sandler and Winona Ryder are critic proof, we desperately search for something with meat on it and we get The Road to Perdition; which almost has meat hanging off it.

At once moody,and brilliantly shot by Conrad L Hall who also shot American Beauty. Sam Mendes has adapted the graphic novel of the same title with all the dark broody cross-hatching of the genre. Tom Hanks as Mike Sullivan is a bully boy and hit man for a rich booze runner, Mr Rooney played with verve and quiet calm by Paul Newman.
We should probably not celebrate gangsters and their lives, but this portrait of the American Irish is immensely subtle and underplayed. Everyone deserves credit. Stanley Tucci as Frank Nitti is very restrained, Daniel Craig as Newman's wayward son is almost to be pitied for his stupidity. It is a tale of loyalty and betrayal. Hanks's wife and one of his children are murdered after Hanks's son Connor witnesses his father and Connor murder some 'business associates'. Now the Connor want's Hank's son Michael killed to protect himself. Hanks feels betrayed because he has come to regard Newman as his 'father mentor' but blood is always thincker than water and the trust evaporates into hatred. This is the tale to two father son relationships with surprises and subtle shifts in emotions
.Tom Hanks as Sullivan on the road, training his son Michael to drive the getaway car so he can rob banks is amusing and evokes a reminder of the brilliant Bonnie and Clyde movie. Michael, the son is sensitively played by Tyler Hoechlin and the two of them are as convincing a portrait of grief, fear, bonding and loyalty between a father and son you’ll ever see. Hanks and Hoechlin work very well together in this prohibiton road movie. Jude Law as the hired killer/photographer is well studied and macabre. His walk and manner innocently menacing.

The plot might be a little thin, but this is a movie about people, like all the best movies and everyone is believable. Sam Mendes may not have come up with something as electrifying as American Beauty but he has come up with the first genuine Oscar film of the year that is stunning to watch. See where the money went on Hanks and son driving into old Chicago. Paul Newman as Mr Rooney reminds us that he was once the biggest star of them all.

Tom Hanks and Paul Newman as Michael Sullivan and Mr Rooney in Road to Perdition

© Sam North July 2002

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