Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Great Movies Archive

Because Ebert has one.

Ok, everyone has an opinion as to which is or isn't a great movie. Roger Ebert certainly has ! And so do I! Starting from today, this archive will consist of short reviews of some really special movies I've watched, mostly on DVD or video (rather than some newly released movie running in theaters). I also plan to limit it to movies that have come and gone under the radar, something that a "lay" moviegoer would not have heard of or at the very least, not seen. So here goes...

#1. Changing Lanes (2002)

Changing Lanes is a Ben Affleck movie unlike any other. It is a movie in which Ben Affleck doesn't overact or underact and instead just acts! And unlike his other movies, this one has an extremely dark and complex plot that is unrelenting up until the very end! There is also the added bonus of a fantastic supporting cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson and Sydney Pollack (Yes, the Sydney Pollack, who doesn't direct this one) along with Toni Collette and Amanda Peet who shine in relatively small roles.

New York lawyer Gavin Banek (Affleck) has to deliver some all important papers to court; recovering alcoholic and insurance salesman Doyle Gipson (Jackson) has to attend a custody hearing that will decide if he ever gets to see his children again. Fate intervenes however as they get involved in a collision while changing lanes, leaving Gipson's car crippled. Young, hotshot Banek is not very considerate and after a short exchange of words with Gipson drives away leaving him stranded, causing him to miss the hearing! Aah, but he's accidently left his papers behind which Gipson helps himself to!

The rest of the plot shows how each man now finding himself in a desparate situation starts doing some really awful things to the other person - Gavin, to get back his papers and Gipson, to take revenge for the cruel blow his life has taken. A chain of events gets set in motion as each man tries to outdo the other, taking their lives into a seemingly unstoppable downward spiral, all in the course of a single day!

An expertly tailored script convincingly shows the (mis)deeds of these two men as logical, if terrible, recourses. Gavin, the lawyer, has to answer to his boss, an extremely scary Sydney Pollack who is also his father-in-law. This is one boss you wouldn't want to piss off! Gipson, meanwhile, just seemed to be getting his life back on track and a reconcillation with his estranged wife and children seemed possible (The opening scene shows him picking out a new apartment for all of them to live in). You absolutely believe that when these men do what they do, they are under unbelievable duress!

Sadly, however, the movie is all but spoilt by the ending which is so amazingly Hollywood-esque that it almost seems like a different movie! Disregard this ending! It was no doubt the work of an empty-headed studio exectuive afraid of the commercial consequences of a real ending! This movie deserves to be judged by everything it is up to that point and in that, it is one of the best character driven thrillers in he last few years! Watch it!

NOTE: It is true that Ben Affleck really does some acting in this movie! Atrocious performances in some big blockbusters, however, and the whole "Bennifer" thing have led most to dismiss him as just another "pretty boy"... which I agreed with until I looked up his profile at IMDB and came across some of the quotes attributed to him! Man, this guy IS eloquent! Just read some of the stuff he's said, especially during the 2004 Democratic National Convention. You WILL be blown away!


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