December 1st, 2003



'Little Nicky' on Comedy Central. This was panned by just about the entire free world, but I like this movie. I think no one really got it. Like Dogma, it takes religion head-on, always a tricky move in a country with as much drum-beating public piety as the US. But it is brilliant as a 14-year-old headbanger Dante's vision of heaven and hell. It's stupid in ways that doesn't become tedious, and it's relaxed in a way that manic joke-a-minute movies like the Police Academy and Scary Movie franchises never are.

'Love Actually' -- I don't know why no one I've read has made the connection between this movie and American TV series like Love American Style and The Love Boat, (or even Fantasy Island), but it really plays to me like a slightly (very slightly) higher-brow British version. But it's a pleasant diversion, and for as many subplots as it has, the pace is much less manic than I'd thought it would be.

There's at least one point at which the movie cuts to a particular pair of lovebirds and I was frankly baffled as to who they were. Gradually I realized that they were the porn body doubles, and that the film-maker wants you a little lost because it's the first time you see them not simulating sex. But at that point my first reaction was that the movie had lost me.

'Love Actually' avoids being the disaster it by all rights should be by getting clever, likeable peformances from Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, and Colin Firth. They have the stories that you want to come back when the less interesting ones are going on. Lucia Moniz' as the Portugese housekeeper Colin Firth falls for does a lot with a pretty minimal part.

'The Missing' is almost a really grand Western. Beautifully photographed, at turns tender and incredibly violent; I found it compelling to look at for 2-odd hours. Tommy Lee Jones is riveting to watch; his deadpan squint serves him well here. It has a great ogre of a villain. It's not a capital G Great Movie -- there is too much that is derivative, and it takes itself way too seriously. But I'd see it again, if only because it's photographed well and the lead actors give good performances.

Both 'The Missing' and 'Love Actually' depend on suspiciously idiomatic subtitling of foreign languages for their humor. 'The Missing' wins with the line "Who is this squashed dick?"