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Quickie Reviews - The Hunter & Life Itself

The Hunter is easily one of Willem Dafoe's worst performances. He obviously owed someone a favor or, at the very least, was picturing a different product. Aside from the fact that almost no research seemed to have been done on tracking, Dafoe never comes close to playing the part. What bothered me most is,here is a lifelong loner, a hired gun, mercenary and within 30 minutes, he's so attached to this strange family, he can't stand to be away. Aside from the ridiculous plot, the character development all goes south in the final 25 minutes. Neill goes from being the ominous shady character that is tracking the tracker, to the weepy, nobody understands what I stand for loner. The mistake filled movie then decides to have the worst and in many ways, most predictable ending possible, but instead of leaving the audience with a sense of wonder, it not only displays it, it drags it out for every pretentious second it can. When it's over, you breathe a sigh of relief and then they actually "go there." I love Dafoe, I like Neill and O'Connor is a solid actress when she actually gets a role, but this was a mess.

 Life Itself - I couldn't wait to see this. Then I found out who was directing and all desire was lost. I am in a very small group of people who hated Hoop Dreams. I love the story, but I hated the way it was told. Ebert, whom I respect almost more than any film critic, couldn't get enough of it. The best movie of the 90's he proclaimed. It's not even in the top ten documentaries of the 90's, but that's an argument for another day. Steve James plays to Roger's weakness and that's exploitation. Roger loves exploitation and that's why he hired him. He knew, James would take Roger's wonderful life and depict it in a way that showed Roger as some Lone Ranger type, who bucked tradition and did it his way. The irony is, Roger rarely liked movies that weren't commercial success ready. He did push documentary filmmakers ahead, because he enjoyed the juicy bits of ho hum life, but for the most part he picked big name directors, with big named actors in big budget films and to throw us off his scent, he threw in documentaries and foreign films. Roger was Hollywood, in every sense of the word, he was simply located in Chicago.

 Where the documentary fails is in that it never goes into what made him tick from his childhood. It never really touched on why he settled down, aside from bashing people who drink and it never tells us how he dealt with replacing Siskel with Roeper. Richard Roeper doesn't even appear in the film. The problem with the film is it's two hour and an hour is about his wife, who seems like a loving companion, but frankly, she's not why I or anyone else tuned in. I do appreciate that they didn't shy away from his suffering, although the man took it in stride and I know from his blogs, his attitude was second to none. I know this will sound shallow, but I couldn't help but think, James' real movie about Roger is in the can, waiting for some statutes of copyright limitations to run out. I just can't imagine that a man who meant that much to film and to whom film meant everything, led such a boring life.

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