American Beauty is the story of how Lester Burnham (Spacey) rebels against his boring lifestyle and acts to change it. He’s unhappy with his wife, Carolyn (Bening), while his daughter, Jane (Birch), barely acknowledges his existence. Mendes explores the difference between the image we present to other people and what actually goes on behind the scenes. There’s plenty of dark humor and this might just be Spacey’s best role. All three people make big changes and develop as characters throughout the film. It expresses feelings that a lot of people feel, but never do anything about.
The best Stephen King adaptations are directed by Frank Darabont. The Green Mile is set in a prison in the 1930s and all of the inmates are waiting to be executed in the electric chair. It’s not a traditional prison story as all of the prisoners have their own cell and don’t come into contact with each other. The warders, led by Paul Edgcomb, have their world turned upside down when John Coffey (Duncan) arrives on the scene. Edgcomb, now an old man, narrates the story and everything we see happened when he was a young man. Coffey is a giant of a man, but is exceptionally quiet and gentle. I won’t reveal how he shakes things up because it would ruin the surprise. It’s a wonderful drama and Darabont takes his time telling the story. Don’t be put off by the 189-minute running time because you’ll probably be sorry that it’s over when it ends. It also has the best performance by a mouse in the history of motion pictures.
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David Lynch isn’t the easiest filmmaker to like. He doesn’t like explaining the meaning of anything and insists that you draw your own conclusions. Mulholland Dr. is particularly baffling on the first viewing. It’s unclear what’s happening and the whole film is turned on its head in the last 45 minutes. It makes the viewer question the validity of everything that has happened up to that point. Betty (Watts) plays a bright-eyed aspiring actress who befriends Rita (Harring); a woman suffering from amnesia following a car accident. Part of the story plays like a Nancy Drew mystery as the two try to find Rita’s true identity. In fact, the whole film is about identity. There’s an air of mystery throughout and numerous scenes filled with dark humor. It’s also actually quite frightening in places if you allow yourself to be drawn in. If it works for you, you’ll find yourself reading about the film and watching it again within a couple of days. If it fails, you’ll regret ever seeing it. I watched it two days running and have seen it many times since. This is the film that changed the way I think about cinema.
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