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1. The Joy Luck Club
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2. The Center of the World
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3. Maid in Manhattan
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4. Smoke
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5. Anywhere But Here
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13. The Center of The World

1. The Joy Luck Club
Director: Wayne Wang
list price: $14.99
our price: $11.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B00005JKGK
Catlog: DVD
Sales Rank: 2501
Average Customer Review: 4.13 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (101)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Heartbreaking and Powerful Testament to the Human Spirit
"The Joy Luck Club" is a ground-breaking film with universal themes that anyone can relate to regardless of age, gender or nationality. Truly epic in its scope and haunting vision, the movie is also deeply heartfelt and familial, enhancing its ability to speak to the audience in myriad, boundless ways. This is an intimate portrait of two generations of Asian women - the mothers who risked everything to create a better life for their daughters in the United States. At this juncture in American history, the movie resonates more than ever by reminding the viewer of our fore-mother's immigrant experience. In doing so, "The Joy Luck Club" serves as a vibrant contemporary document on freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

Ming-Na Wen (now known to millions as Ming-Na or Deb Chen on NBC's top rated drama "ER") is superb in the central role of June, greiving for her recently deceased mother with the 3 "aunties" who miantain her place at the mah-jon table. Their gatherings continue, with June's presence, and in the process form the backdrop from which these women's personal stories and life-journies are shared. Each auntie - and their now-adult Americanized daughters - explain their often-harrowing attempt to escape Communist China and their difficult transition to an American way of life in the U.S. Tears flow in both generations, not only for what has been lost, but also for what has been found here - a society with different values that challenges these women in unexpected but nearly universal ways. As both generations - and all eight women eventually - share their stories, the viewer literaly steps into each life, aware of where the characters end up, yet fully experiencing the challenges each of them faces. Set against the backdrop of June's trip to China to find her long-lost sisters (whom her mother was forced to leave behind in one of the film's most powerful sub-plots) "The JOy Luck Club" can be ANY family's story, regardless of how long they or their ancestors have lived in this country. In doing so, it succeeds at building bridges to the past, while staunchly looking ahead to the future. This is the sort of film that embraces real life and human themes, but also puts a face on what it means to be a zero-generation immigrant, or an exile in a land far from one's home and culture. Like the current spate of Latin and Soviet block immigrants and the last century's explosion of new Americans from Europe and Africa, we recognize through the characters the meaning and value of freedom, family and peace as well as the unimaginable challenges our elders faced in coming to this land of opportunity.

The cast of Asian-American actresses is uniformly superb, straddling a delicate balance for the viewer that requires they be both accessible AND remote at once. Although long seen as a "woman's movie" the film deserves to be widely experienced by all people, including men, who might otherwise reject the film as nothing more than handkerchief fluff. In fact, since few similar films exist with central male characters, "The Joy Luck Club" stands as a film I believe many men would embrace if they give it a chance. The film speaks for our fathers and brothers, not just our sisters, mothers or wives. This is grand, epic storytelling with a heart, beautifully directed by Wayne Wang and amazingly accessible in every way, due to its stellar cast. Had there been a Best Ensemble Oscar designed to honor the contribution of a group of actors at the top of their form, "The Joy Luck Club" cast would have surely been honored.

A magnificent film that fully captures what it means to be an American of any descent.

4-0 out of 5 stars One of the great overlooked gems! Deserves a DVD release!
This and the Ang Lee film "Eat Drink Man Woman" were both released at about the same time. And I think they may have cancelled out each other. Both are great but like any wonderful film, if another equally great film with a similar theme is released at the same time it can cause an overload. People won't go see either.

So why should you see the Joy Luck Club? Because the acting is wonderful. Really top notch. If the current affection for having asian women in films lasts then maybe we could see more of these fine actresses. Too bad that so many wonderful actors can get typecast because of race but there is hope. I'd absolutely love some more films like this.

Wayne Wang's direction is great. This story goes from funny to sad to touching without being cliche. This movie might be marketed more toward women, and it does hit on great female relationships, but it's not to sappy the boyfriend will cry from boredom.

4-0 out of 5 stars This is not only about being Chinese
Plenty of people have pointed out the movie's good points but beyond the mother - daughter theme that is so wonderfully dealt with, this movie is also about the immigrant experience. In this world today, so many people immigrate and must contend with the difficult process of watching their children grow up in another culture - wonderful, different, distant, restive - and they have to figure out how to connect with their children. "Joy Luck Club" portrays this poignantly. How many children of refugees really have any idea what their parents went through? Many people from a variety of cultures will appreciate the film for that reason alone.
As for those who say Tan is "male-bashing", keep in mind the very loving character of June's father. Also, if you've read Tan's other books, (The Kitchen God's Wife, for example), there are both good and bad men with great depth of character.
Let's remember, too, that history is not exactly littered with the stories of women, and Tan is just trying to rectify that imbalance. Having lived in Asia for 8 years, I'd say that male privilege is still alive and well...and in support of Tan's story, the (lack of) legal rights of women alone in pre-war China should illustrate the possiblity that four women might have had such experiences.

5-0 out of 5 stars A great movie from a story by a wonderful writer


Having spent a year in China (1948), I admit to a soft spot for the Chinese people and their stories, and especially for Amy Tan, whose books I have read and loved. This superlative movie was based on her book of the same name.

In this story (the script was written by Tan and Ronald Bass) the tension between four Chinese women, who were born in China and later came to the United States, and their Americanized daughters, is the foundation of the story, and is the theme that epitomizes Amy Tan's stories. She has noted in an interview that such tension existed in her own life between her and her own mother.

Much of the tension is due to the cultural clash. Times in China were hard a few short decades ago, and life was harsh. Starvation and disease was rife even in later years, when I was there in the late 'forties. When Americans today refer to poverty or hunger in this country, they have no conception of the real poverty and hunger that existed in China in the 'thirties and 'forties, or customs like the very painful historical binding of women's feet, which in effect crippled them for life, in the name of beauty, or the custom of wealthy Chinese men often having multiple wives and concubines, or the total degradation of women which existed and was totally accepted throughout the culture. Not to mention the impact of continuing warfare between warlords, the nationalists (Kuomintang) and communists, and the Japanese occupation all of which lasted for generations.

This is an emotion evoking story. It is more than simply entertainment; it is a story with which you will identify, with characters with which you will empathize.

Amy Tan knows whereof she writes, and her stories are compelling and sympathy evoking. Another Chinese woman who wrote her autobiography which touched on some of the same themes, who was in Tsingtao when I was, and whose tale enchanted me, was Dr. H. Mei Lu, who now lives in Honolulu, and whose book was titled, "Grandfather's Microscope" q.v. Coming from a humble background, in China, she became an esteemed pathologist in the United States. I heartily recommend her book as well as Amy Tan's, for any Sinophile. These ladies both write extremely well, and have immensely interesting things to say.

Joseph (Joe) Pierre, USN (Ret)

author of The Road to Damascus
and other books

2-0 out of 5 stars Not Very Impressed with EITHER the Book or the Movie
I had to read the Book and watch the movie in school and I did not like either of them. I had to also write a movie review for it so im gunna publish it to the whole world to see. Hope this helps anyone who is thinking about watching this movie or buying the book. Also there are a few spoilers in this review so be forwarned but their isnt anything that really ruins the story, wait what am i saying the story is to mixed up to really understand in the first place that it shouldnt make much of a difference. O well here goes nothing:

The "Joy Luck Club" was just an average film due to its soap opera-like quality and random flashbacks. This made me confused by sending the plot into all different tangents and directions. When a book changes time frames, the reader can go back and re-read sections if need be. In a movie setting, however, the viewer cannot turn back and rewind the lost moments and the time frames quickly occur. The movie features only fine looking Chinese daughters who are part of this "Joy Luck Club." I felt that this was an unrealistic portrayal, as in the real world; there are many types of people. The "Joy Luck Club" is not explained to the audience and assumes that all have read the book prior to this movie. This movie was directed by Wayne Wang and the screen play was written by Amy Tan, who also wrote the book.

This movie begins in San Francisco where a party is being held for Jing-Mei "June Woo". She has been given money to go to China to see her two lost sisters. Jing-Mei June Woo is played by Ming-Na. The movie followed closely to the book in some respects by not others. For instance, during the red candle scene in the movie, there was no mention of the importance of the candle. The chapters in the book were scrambled when they appeared in the movie.

The acting was inconsistent. At the end of the film when she meets her sisters for the first time they do not seem to be reacting to each other. One of the women who is supposed to be the sister, also played the mother of June in a flashback. Andrew McCarthy who played Ted Jordan did a good acting performance and sold the scenes he was in, such as the scene where he told his mother off. Some of the mothers, such as Ying Ying and Lena Saint Clair who were played by France Nuyen and Lauren Tom respectively, made me want to laugh because of some of their unrealistic portrayals of overly broken Chinese accented English.

The plot was sporadic at times and seemed to take away from the original story line to the point that was irritating. The whole movie was a series of flashbacks that each person lived through. There was originally a party at the beginning of the movie, but then the scenes would quickly shift backwards in time to each person's life. I liked the transition that the director made when June's father talked about her mother's past because he explained what the mother had experienced. The flashback of best quality, however, didn't quite fit into the movie where it had been placed. It seemed to throw the viewer into the scene without hesitation. This movie was also quite choppy with too many events occurring in rapid sequence which began to lose steam while becoming dull and redundant. Three out of the four mothers seem to have lived the same story comprised of a bad marriage followed by a divorce and remarriage with many trials and tribulations along the way.

The themes were spelled out much more in the movie than in the book. The feather that was given to June was explained to her by her father without subtlety. The mother who sacrificed her life for her daughter was also played out and the reasons for it were amply described by the daughter. There was one theme that was explained in the end of "Best Quality". The scene was not portrayed or shown in the beginning of the flash back scene.

This book, turned movie, would be better for an older audience, such as 40 and up. It is more of a "woman's movie" with a sappy ending that most men probably wouldn't like, me included. I give this movie a C, but would probably receive a B from a more mature viewer who may be more interested in true life situations as opposed to comedy or action movies that a younger viewer might enjoy.

I would give this 2 1/2 stars but I could only select either 2 or 3 which is why I selected 2. Hope this helps! ... Read more


2. The Center of the World
Director: Wayne Wang
list price: $24.98
our price: $22.48
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B00005LPZW
Catlog: DVD
Sales Rank: 14418
Average Customer Review: 3.34 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

The titular center of the world is a matter of perspective in WayneWang's (The Joy Luck Club, Smoke) notorious, explicit drama ofemotional isolation and sexual commerce in the modern world. According to rich,apathetic cyber-geek Peter Sarsgaard (Boys Don't Cry), it's his homecomputer. Amateur rock & roll drummer and part-time stripper Molly Parker(Wonderland) deems it an erotic part of the female anatomy. Their "date"is merely a sexual contract that takes them to Las Vegas, a place as phony andimpersonal as their so-called romance. "You know it's just an act, right?" shereminds him between her slinky bump-and-grind striptease shows and their sweatysexual gymnastics.

The Internet makes a great metaphor for modern social alienation, with itsimpersonal communication and virtual sex, but there's not much else new in thisfamiliar story other than the erotic content. Shot on dimly lit, high-definitionvideo, the gray, washed palette sucks the glamour and titillation right out ofthe spectacle, turning it into an empty, soulless exercise in physical sensationand self delusion--appropriate to this story of lonely souls unable to breakthrough their own isolation. --Sean Axmaker ... Read more

Reviews (38)

3-0 out of 5 stars Weird Sexual Film Leaves One Dry
This was a weird movie. Wayne Wang is one of the most famous directors of "no budget films" (films that shoot on 16mm and video with no connection to Hollywood) and popularized by Rick Schmidt. On that recommendation, I went to see this movie.

The plot centers around a rich tech-geek who hires a stripper to go with him to Las Vegas. During the trip, sex mixes with (maybe) love and eventually all hell breaks lose with each side realizing what they really are.

There are plenty of reasons to view this movie. The characters are very complex, with truly subtle perfomances given by all involved. The story also is engaging with enough twists to keep one puzzled. This is a sexual film that is the complete opposite of "Showgirls." It is a view of the sex industry with both it's appeal and its horrible toll of the minds of its partisipants. You will real want to discuss this film.

So far, it sounds like a five star movie, but it isn't. The lowbudgetness of the movie makes the sex scenes look like porn, which actually draws the audiance out of the emotions Wang is looking for. It also is a movie that becomes increasingly vulgar to melodramatic effect, so as to almost parody itself at times.

It appears that there were two sides to Director Wayne Wang on this piece.

Director Wayne made a profound study of the sex industry.

Director WANG made a cheap vulgar porno.

It's too bad that they're the same movie.

4-0 out of 5 stars Reality check.
Touted as the modern "Last Tango in Paris", a movie I neither understood nor enjoyed, this unrated film still caught my eye. I was intrigued enough by the plot synopsis of "Center of the World" - computer geek hires stripper for a $10k paid trip to Vegas. The strip related scenes were tasteful and focused on the psychology more than the detailed physiology. The stripper was very real, no Pam Anderson look alike. These two elements made the entire film more inviting to me. A film that provoked some thought and discussion. Money and sex -- when the power changes hands? What is the gender difference between love and sex? When does a man think of a woman's pleasure? Sexual deviance, over sexed desensitization, when does a man say "no"? What will become of the guy who watches 3 computer screens at work - work, stocks, and ..., and yet has no time to have a normal social life? This film also dares to show the most real woman's ... -- about time! Films truly do give us impressions about what sex is supposed to be like, and hello - most films are directed by men - so how often do we actually see a realistic female ... and not some male interpretive fantasy?

4-0 out of 5 stars Exploring the boundaries between reality and fantasy
Think the premise of "Pretty Woman," but more firmly grounded in the real world, and you might get close to what "The Center of the World" is all about. This film abandons the glamourized Hollywood notions of sex workers, and doesn't engage in the pat, happy ending that we saw in "Pretty Woman"... and it is a far better film for it. Furthermore, Molly Parker is far more exotically lovely than Julia Roberts could even hope to be, and a better actress to boot.

In short, if you're looking for a romantic escapist fantasy about a sex worker redeemed by the love of a good man, look elsewhere -- this film is far more complex than that.

Comparisons to "Pretty Woman" do seem inevitable however, to the point that I wonder if the director and writers weren't crafting this film as a direct response to that one, a way of saying, "Whoa boy, reality check!" The premise is familiar at least. Richard (Peter Saarsgard) is wealthy but lonely after a breakup with his girlfriend two years before. He meets Florence (Molly Parker) in a coffee shop and finds out that she is a stripper. He visits her at the strip club where she works (nicely named Pandora's Box), and is so intrigued by her that he offers her $10,000 to spend three days with him in Las Vegas. She agrees, with a number of strict conditions, including limiting the number of hours she is required to "work," and limiting the acts she will perform. "No kissing on the mouth" (sounds familiar, no?) and "no penetration" are among her limitations.

From this familiar territory, though, the film explores new ground. Richard and Florence get to know one another as they spend more time together, and Florence finds out that Richard isn't such a bad guy, just lonely. "Why do you have to be so nice?" she asks him at one point, partially angry and partially not. Richard, in the meantime, is becoming more and more deeply entranced by this woman he has hired, which becomes part of the conflict.

Given the subject of the film, there is of course a great deal of sexuality portrayed in it. It is handled pretty tastefully, and none of it is there for its own sake. It is partially through their sexual relationship that we see the growth and the limitations of the characters' relationship in general. The sex scenes are handsomely shot and are not the typical sort of scenes one might expect from an erotic film; nevertheless (perhaps because they are unique), they are extremely erotic.

The acting is quite good. We spend most of the film only seeing Richard and Florence interacting together, with just a few other characters showing up here and there, but the two lead actors have the chops to sustain the film from beginning to end. Peter Saarsgard plays a "nice guy" well, and it's good to see that he doesn't overplay it at all. He's a very real nice guy, with flaws and points where he stops being nice out of frustration or anger. Molly Parker, as Florence, lends a similar depth to her role. From the first moment you see her you can see why Richard becomes infatuated with her: she is ethereally lovely, with a husky voice that is simply enthralling. But it is her personality that Richard really falls for, and that too is portrayed believably. She is played with a genuine warmth and likeability that is often missing from erotic films, but not overly sweet like "Pretty Woman" and many other Hollywood attempts at a similar story. I suspect that Molly Parker will be a talent to watch carefully in the next few years.

The nature and limitations of the relationship between these two people -- in one sense employer and employee and in another far more intimate than that -- becomes the main subject of the film as it progresses. How much of what Florence is giving to Richard is real, and how much is an act? How does the aspect of money change what happens over that three days? Are his feelings based in reality? Are hers?

Some of these questions are answered at the end, others are left open to the viewer's interpretation. There is nothing about the end, however, that is trite or simple, and as in life, there is a great deal that will depend on the perspective of the person watching the story unfold. This is a film very much grounded in reality, dealing with real people in a realistic (if unique) situation, and in the end it avoids the typical Hollywood fantasy notions that are so common.

Comparisons to "Pretty Woman" may well be inevitable for this film, but in such comparisons "The Center of the World" comes out ahead in every category. It's not a perfect film, but it is an excellent one. It is both sexier and more realistic, and that makes it well worth watching in my book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Hidden gem!
This movie was totally not what I was expecting but I just loved it. It examines the meaning of relationship (at least that's how I understood it) and does it with such delicacy and subtlety that it's very rare in american movies (it rather characteristic for french movies). The movie is very erotic and sensual even without (or almost without) nudity. The acting by Peter Sargaard and Molly Parker was superb. Highly recommended to all fans of european cinema that can accept a movie without much outside action.

3-0 out of 5 stars The penetration of bought company...
Where is the center of the world? This is a rhetorical question as it is often perceived to be in the mind of the individual with the notion. In this film the center of the world surrounds the interpersonal relationship between a man, Richard (Peter Sarsgaard) and a woman, Florence (Molly Parker). This relationship has a monetary foundation as Richard has rented Florence for a three day trip to Las Vegas. Richard has developed a depression that is consuming his life as he is on the brink of making a big business deal, but his world is now obsessed with Florence and the erotic favors that she is performing for him. The notion "where is the center of the world" is apparent as the story unfolds, however, it is Florence's callousness and Richard's passion that spins the story as it brings the audience a decadent cinematic experience that is worth watching. ... Read more


3. Maid in Manhattan
Director: Wayne Wang
list price: $14.94
our price: $11.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B0000897EG
Catlog: DVD
Sales Rank: 2800
Average Customer Review: 3 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (164)

3-0 out of 5 stars Perfectly Harmless, By The Numbers
J'Lo's latest offering, the romantic comedy "Maid In Manhattan," is yet another addition to the long-standing "chick" romantic comedy genre. Overall, it's perfectly harmless if not exactly original. In all, it's a nice flick to check-out on a Friday night if nothing else good is on.

THE STORY:

Marissa Ventura (J'Lo) is a single-mother who works as a maid in one of Manhattan's top hotels. A hard working, intelligent woman she is up for promotion and is a sure lock in to "represent" all the working class women of the travel industry when she makes a pretty big faux pas at the behest of a co-worker, she tries on the posh outfit of a socialite guest and is happened upon by a Senatorial candidate staying at the hotel, Chris Marshall (Ralph Fiennes). From there the by-the-numbers storybook romance takes place.

THE ANALYSIS:

Overall, this is a perfectly harmless and sweet love story cookie cut from the same mold like all others in the genre. There are a handful of touching scenes with the couple and Marissa's son Tyler (Tyler Posey) provides a lot of the best scenes in the film. The interaction between the main characters and between Marissa and her co-workers, particularly the butler and security guard, are superb. In all, this is a nice picture to see.

THE VERDICT:

Overall, this probably won't qualify as a "must-see" but it definitely ranks as a "good viewing choice." Overall, this flick will probably work best for, young couples on a date, younger crowds on an outing or of course, J'Lo fans. In all, you probably won't be (too) disappointed if you see it but then again if you choose to pass on it, you won't exactly really miss much either.

Recommended

5-0 out of 5 stars An Instant Classic
Maid in Manhattan is a gem, a romantic comedy destined to be one of the classics. The story of a hotel maid who accidentally meets an aspiring senator and contrives to have him believe she is actually a wealthy hotel guest harkens back to the romantic comedies of the 1940's. Indeed, Liam Neeson is a modern-day Cary Grant in this film.

The movie, in addition to all the fun, points out serious issues of class and race differences. And in a very touching way, the movie asks us to take a look at ourselves: our jobs, our lives, and to ask ourselves, are we holding back from our dreams because we have been taught that this is as far as we can go? Maid in Manhattan is inspiring to anyone who has looked wistfully at a star, but did not believe she deserved to try to reach it.

Bob Hoskins turns in a wonderful performance as a hotel butler. He has some of the best lines in the film.

5-0 out of 5 stars Maid in Manhattan
Maid in Manhattan DVD ~ Jennifer Lopez is your average romatic comedy and I love it for being this. There is no social comentary, no pretense and loads of fun. 5/5.

2-0 out of 5 stars average chick flick
well all ive got to say about this movie is its another chick flick. guy sees women. women sees guy, they meet in some awkward situation, they fall in love eventually, the end. the movie doesnt really have anything special about it (except that it has jlo in it of course...... lol) but i honestly wouldnt even rent it unless u rent movies a lot. but if u got like comcast digital cable look for it on there.

3-0 out of 5 stars J-Lo in an Apron?
This is based on the old Cinderella theme. J-Lo plays a maid in a hotel in Manhatten, meets an Assemblyman played by Ralph Finnes but pretends to be someone else, gets found out, loses job but Ralph finds her and they fall in love - ah sweet. J-Lo is not a bad actress but Ralph Finnes is rubbish - how does he get the parts? Does he tell the taxman he's an actor? Natasha Richardson plays a stereotypical English snob (what, never!) and Bob Hoskins as a non-part, doesn't really contribute anything to the story.

Seems that some parts of the story were edited out - there always seems to be something missing.

Not too bad but not worth buying unless your a big J-Lo fan. ... Read more


4. Smoke
Director: Paul Auster, Wayne Wang
list price: $19.99
our price: $17.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B000089770
Catlog: DVD
Sales Rank: 12979
Average Customer Review: 4.65 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (23)

5-0 out of 5 stars Ensemble Cast, First-Rate Acting, and Raw Storytelling Power
In a world where Big-Budgeted Blockbusters rule,....it's a nice refreshing turn to see "little films" soar! I had the distinct pleasure of viewing this simplistically, yet elegantly shot masterpiece in the art-house theaters,.and it's just damn good storytelling,with NO special digital effects or CGIs from ILM!
William Hurt and Harvey Keitel (in his best performance since Mean Streets and Bad Lieutenant) are incredible followed by a bunch of supporters like Stockard Channing, Forrest Whitaker,Ashley Judd (like you've never seen her!)and Oz's Harold Perrineau Jr. All of these characters are intertwined like the best Robert Altman film you've ever seen plus some! Be warned! It IS slowly paced,.but the highlight of the film is the story Keitel tells Hurt in the coffee shop at the end. Just notice how slowly Keitel tells the story,and the slowest dolly push in shot, and how beautifully framed that one shot that covers the whole scene pretty much looks. It's ALL character-driven performances are top-notch all around,and Auggie's(Keitel)Brooklyn Cigar Shop (the central setpiece) will mesmerize you long after the credits roll! Once again,.this film is not for kids, or Steven Segal or Van Damme fans with 1/2 hour Springer time-slot-esque attention spans! Enjoy, and e-mail me with your opinions!( Also check out the sequel called Blue in the Face!It's from the same writer/director team (Paul Auster and Wayne Wang) who brought us Smoke. New music from the Jerry Garcia Band,too!)

5-0 out of 5 stars Sleeper Smoke fine example of great movie story-telling
In an era where big budget glitz rules the film industry, a well crafted movie like Smoke is a breath of fresh air. Harvey Keitel, who plays the central character of Augie, is the one constant in an ever-moving stream of humanity that is Brooklyn. Augie is both witness and participant,and through the lens of his street corner perched camera, we realize that the world is made up of millions of stories, nearly all of which are in some way compelling. William Hurt's character is one such story. Once a prolific writer, Hurt's talent has been thwarted by life's brutality, one which we are reminded of constantly thoughout the film. Finally, he is able to deal with the grief of his wife's loss throught the selfless act of helping a young runaway. The scene where Hurt spots his wife in one of Augie's street corner photographs is one of the films many poignant moments. Great performances are delivered without exception by all the actors, but as is the case in so many of his films,Mr. Keitel steals the show. Probably more so than any actor of his generation, Harvey Keitel has mastered the ability to create characters who are both human, warts and all, yet also sympathetic. The telling of his Christmas story to the faithful customers of the smoke shop is probably the highlight of this film and is simply a brilliant piece of story-telling. What makes Smoke so different from mainstream movies is the fact that one can't help but feel that one is watching a well acted play, in that every line of dialog is so crucial, every character so meaningful.Not a scene could have been deleted without seriously damaging the final product, and when was the last time you could say that about a film? Smoke portrays Brooklyn convincingly as an exotic stew of diverse cultures and personalities, and in at least some of these personalities we must surely see a bit of ourselves.

4-0 out of 5 stars It's hard to be a writer in New York City
This film is one of the strangest films you may encounter. The search for a father that turns sour-sweet, sour first because the father does not want to believe the boy is his son, sweet then because after some negociating with several witnesses of the meeting he will accept the idea and come to some fatherly agreement. The search for a father by a mother for her daughter in order to attempt her salvation from drugs and the salvation of the baby she is carrying. It turns frankly sour if not even bitter without any hope for recognition from the daughter and any salvation. The search for some financial success that has to do with hard work on the side of Auggie and pure luck on the side of Thomas, aka Rashid. And the good luck of one will compensate for his negligence that turned the hard work of the other into destruction and loss. And it all ends with a strange Christmas story, for the New York Times, mind you, where Auggie assumes the identity of a shoplifter of his and celebrates Christmas with the shoplifter's blind grandmother and shoplifts her apartment of a brand new camera that was probably stolen anyway in the first place. The film ends thus on pictures of the obvious pleasure of the black grandmother kissing and hugging the white Auggie as if he were her black grandson who had of course forgotten to come and celebrate Christmas with his grandmother, too busy he was shoplifting magazines, or other valueless goods, here and there.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU

4-0 out of 5 stars Harvey's Butt Takes Second Stage
"Smoke" is one of those movies that you'd probably be better off buying rather than renting. It deserves --perhaps even requires-- multiple viewings. 'Great,' you may say, 'another movie that I have to watch a dozen times to understand.' No, no. Don't be afraid. The reason I suggest this is not because the film is presented in a haphazard format (like the double helix-like antics of "Pulp Fiction"). It's not because the dialogue is cryptic or scant, the story unfolding with minimal explanation. And, no, don't worry, it's not because it's so damned pretentiously quirky that things seem to be going absolutely nowhere, reminiscent of highly overrated films such as "The Royal Tennenbaums", "Punch Drunk Love", and "Adaptation": those where ultimately, you learn virtually nothing about the plot and characters. So why do I recommend that "Smoke" be watched more than once? There are actually a couple of primary reasons: First, I'll explain why it 'deserves' multiple viewings, and secondly, why it may 'require' them:

1) Simply put: This is a comforting film. If you need to be loved or wanted, or just want to hang out with some friends who have been in your shoes and will listen and provide solace... then this is the story for you.

Compassion is the essential theme of "Smoke". We have a drugged-out girl (Ashley Judd) who gets pregnant, with an alcoholic mother (Stockard Channing) struggling to reunite with her ex-boyfriend (Harvey Keitel) --who is also the purported father of her daughter-- in order to assist Judd's character with raising her child, and to provide a family atmosphere. Enter next a seventeen year-old boy (Harold Perrineau Jr.) attempting desperately to obtain employment from an amputee owner of a nearly bankrupt gas station (Forrest Whitaker) whom he believes to be his long, lost father. The boy ends up befriending -the last of the six characters-- a once popular writer (William Hurt) who, as a result of multiple traumas (mainly because of the loss of his wife), has lost his literary mojo; consequently, he is reclusive and somewhat paranoid of others. These are all seriously confused people, folks. But as the story progresses --at a pace that is neither hurried nor lagging behind, echoing the pace of the characters' deep thought and introspection, and thus allowing the viewer time to synthesize the consequences of their realizations-- these people become involved with others that share their pain and loss, and they console one another. There really are no antagonists in this film. Of course, none of the characters are even close to perfect, evidenced when they engage in some questionable and objectionable acts (never extending the scope of realism as to make them ridiculously quirky, I must add); but the important thing is that they all learn from their mishaps and paranoias, and bequeath their knowledge to influence positively each others' lives. To conclude why "Smoke" deserve multiple viewings: There's a lasting effect that I liken to listening to a comforting song, over and over and over again.

2) Though the pace of "Smoke" was concurrent with the goings-on in the characters' lives, these people are nonetheless complex. They are intellegent, introspective, and contemplative --and also great storytellers and listeners, to boot. But complex stories and complex characters both demand a high degree of attentiveness, and as a result, there is a greater probability of something being missed. For this reason, additional viewings may be required.

For whatever reason, I highly recommend at least one viewing of "Smoke". The acting is highly realistic --even improvised many times during the film, eliciting an occasional chuckle. Few times have I seen a film where personal highs and lows are so well-balanced. Then why only four stars? Well, the improvisation seems to get a little out-of-character sometimes, and the direction is occasionally shoddy. But overall, this is a great DVD to buy -not rent.

4-0 out of 5 stars Great Film, Even Though Harvey's Butt Wasn't Shown
"Smoke" is one of those movies that you'd probably be better off buying rather than renting. It deserves --perhaps even requires-- multiple viewings. 'Great,' you may say, 'another movie that I have to watch a dozen times to understand.' No, no. Don't be afraid. The reason I suggest this is not because the film is presented in a haphazard format (like the double helix-like antics of "Pulp Fiction"). It's not because the dialogue is cryptic or scant, the story unfolding with minimal explanation. And, no, don't worry, it's not because it's so damned pretentiously quirky that things seem to be going absolutely nowhere, reminiscent of highly overrated films such as "The Royal Tennenbaums", "Punch Drunk Love", and "Adaptation": those where ultimately, you learn virtually nothing about the plot and characters. So why do I recommend that "Smoke" be watched more than once? There are actually a couple of primary reasons: First, I'll explain why it 'deserves' multiple viewings, and secondly, why it may 'require' them:

Simply put: This is a comforting film. If you need to be loved or wanted, or just want to hang out with some friends who have been in your shoes and will listen and provide solace... then this is the film for you.

Compassion is the essential theme of "Smoke". We have a drugged-out girl (Ashley Judd) who gets pregnant, with an alcoholic mother (Stockard Channing) struggling to reunite with her ex-boyfriend (Harvey Keitel) --who is also the purported father of her daughter-- in order to assist Judd's character with raising her child. Enter next a seventeen year-old boy (Harold Perrineau Jr.) attempting desperately to obtain employment from an amputee owner of a nearly bankrupt gas station (Forrest Whitaker) whom he believes to be his long, lost father. The boy is befriended by a once popular writer (William Hurt) who, as a result of multiple traumas (mainly because of the loss of his wife), has lost his mojo for writing; consequently, he is reclusive and somewhat paranoid of others. These are all seriously confused people, folks. But as the story progresses, their lives intertwine, and they console one another. There really are no antagonists in this film. Of course, none of the characters are even close to perfect, evidenced when they engage in some questionable and objectionable acts (never extending the scope of realism as to make them ridiculously quirky, I must add); but the important thing is that they all learn from their mishaps and paranoias, and bequeath their knowledge to influence positively each others' lives.

The pace of "Smoke" is neither hurried nor lagging behind, echoing the pace of the characters' deep thought and introspection, as well as the hypnotic lucidity of their storytelling, thus allowing the viewer time to synthesize the consequences of their realizations. Indeed, a rapid or slothy pace are often why movies are ineffective; but "Smoke" is a refreshing exception. Additionally, the empathetic vibe of the film can be likened to that of a comforting song. There's a lasting effect that grabs you inside, and will not let go; or, perhaps better put: nicotine is addictive, is it not?

Though the pace of "Smoke" was concurrent with the goings-on in the characters' lives, these people are nonetheless complex. They are intellegent, introspective, and contemplative --and also great storytellers and listeners, to boot. But complex stories and complex characters both demand a high degree of attentiveness, and as a result, there is a greater probability of something being missed. For this reason, additional viewings may be required.

For whatever reason, I highly recommend at least one viewing of "Smoke". The acting is highly realistic --even improvised many times during the film, eliciting an occasional chuckle. Few times have I seen a film where personal highs and lows are so well-balanced. Then why only four stars? Well, the improvisation seems to get a little out-of-character sometimes, and the direction is occasionally shoddy. But overall, this is a great DVD to buy -not rent. ... Read more


5. Anywhere But Here
Director: Wayne Wang
list price: $14.98
our price: $13.48
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B000067J20
Catlog: DVD
Sales Rank: 10245
Average Customer Review: 3.91 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (67)

3-0 out of 5 stars Sarandon and Portman shines!!!
Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman are two very talented actress. They are the reason that makes me buy this DVD. And their performances are superb. However, the script is a little loose.
It is about a Mom Adele who is a little bit wild and crazy, who loves so much about her daughter and thinks her planning on her will simply be the best for her. While the daughter Ann has her own preferences, which makes her always wants to escape from her mom. What makes this simple story even more flat (unfortunate) is the script does not provide any chemistry and dynamics between these 2 characters. We know their conflicts, but sometimes, we see the daughter hates her mom, and suddenly, she is be-friending with her. Even both actress tries hard to make them 2 believable characters, still the story lacks certain sparkle to make this a 'real good' movie. Fortunately, the performance of Sarandon and Portman never disappoints you throughout the whole movie.
The ending concludes the movie very well:
Ann: "Even if you can't stand her (the Mom). Even if you hate her. Even if she's ruining your life. There's something about my mother. Some romance, some power. And when she dies, the world will be flat. Too simple, too fair... Too reasonable."

5-0 out of 5 stars Sarandon in Fine Form Per Usual!
I was a bit leery of this movie when I ordered it because, frankly, I had never heard of it, but was not disappointed when it arrived and I watched it. I love Sarandon and would probably buy anything she was in, and I guess one of these days I will be disappointed in one of her movies. But it didn't happen with this one. The relationship between the mother and daughter is right on! Have you ever known of a teenage daughter who doesn't get irritated with her mother, and yes, even sometimes embarassed by her? And Susan's character does do a lot to try her staid daughter's patience! The beautiful Natalie Portman shows so much sensitivity in this role, as well. Coming of age and coping with all the teenage problems is hard enough but add a mother who is a bit flaky, and you have a big problem! Ann copes and does a fine job of handling things, although a few of life's problems almost get her down. This is the perfect film for mothers and teenage daughters to watch together. A mother's love never fails when push comes to shove, as Ann finds out.

2-0 out of 5 stars Unlikeable
Unmemorable except for the fact that I remember it was depressing without being introspective, very meaningful, or even likeable.

5-0 out of 5 stars best movie ever!!!!!
i loved this movie, it is my favorite movie and always will be. The only film i've ver cried in, and never forgot about from when i first saw it in theaters when i was 8. The plot in this movie is inspiring and unforgetable. The cast (sarandan,portman) were truly amazing and once again bringing mothers and daughters close. I would have to say portmans best performance ever with the lines she was given: "even if you hate her, you can't stand her,there's something about my mother, because when she dies the world will be flat".

3-0 out of 5 stars JUST PLAIN OL' GOOD MOVIE
I like this movie a lot. However, I just don't get the point of the Mothers character. Yeah, she's a free-spirit with quirky tendencies, but they never really get to any point with why she acts like that, or if anything exciting will happen to her. For a moment I thought she was suffering depression in the scene where she just decides to vacuum rather than join her daughter (Portman) to a Christmas party. Besides that its a good movie. Lots of different scenes, which I like in all movies. Natalie Portman is a terrific actress and I will continue to collect all her great films like Beautiful Girls and Where The Heart Is. ... Read more


6. Blue in the Face
Director: Wayne Wang, Paul Auster
list price: $19.99
our price: $17.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B00008976Z
Catlog: DVD
Sales Rank: 27059
Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars
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Description

In the uproarious follow-up to the hit comedy SMOKE, Harvey Keitel (PULP FICTION) returns with a red-hot all-star cast that includes Michael J. Fox -- SPIN CITY, STUART LITTLE), Roseanne (ABC-TV's ROSEANNE), and Academy Award(R)-winner Mira Sorvino (1995 Best Supporting Actress -- MIGHTY APHRODITE). It's nonstop laughs when a wacky group of locals visits the neighborhood cigar shop, looking for good times ... and finding plenty of hilarious fun! But when the greedy owner threatens to close the shop for good -- and turn it into a trendy vegetarian restaurant -- the neighborhood proves they'll do just about anything to save their favorite hangout! Don't miss the highly original and entertaining comedy that had critics and audiences cheering! ... Read more

Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars Interesting diversion from the Hollywood norm....
'Blue In The Face' chronicles a snapshot of life in Brooklyn NY. At the centre of this life is a cigar store that is frequented by a parade of weird and wonderful people. So that is it - there is no story line, or indeed it appears there is no script - just a series of 'situations' designed to be a wonderful showcase for the actors involved.

And what a cast of actors!!! Memorable performances by Lou Reed, Michael J. Fox, Madonna, Roseanne and a host of others make this movie a must see. They don't appear to have to operate within the confines of a script so their full ad-lib abilities shine. At the centre of the action is Harvey Keitel who gives a wonderful performance as the laid back cigar store worker.

Another fascinating angle to this movie is the inclusion of real Brooklyn residents describing Brooklyn and their lives. Even though the unstructured aspect of the movie makes for no story lines, it does seem as though it is a homage to Brooklyn and its residents.

The picture quality on this DVD is outstanding. Perhaps a little too soft in places, but otherwise it is hard to fault. No special features are included which is a shame. It would have been great to have interviews with the cast to hear their thoughts on the movie.

'Blue In The Face' is a bizarre movie, but with it featuring some very well known faces in roles they have not been seen in before, made Blue in the face riveting viewing for me. ... Read more


7. Chinese Box
Director: Wayne Wang
list price: $24.98
our price: $22.48
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 6305078521
Catlog: DVD
Sales Rank: 21504
Average Customer Review: 3.23 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

Set during the Chinese takeover of Hong Kong in 1997, this fascinating film uses that urgent and grandly ceremonial political backdrop for an intimate study of personal transition. Jeremy Irons plays a seasoned journalist who discovers he is terminally ill, causing him to be torn between his obsessive love for a former prostitute (Chinese film star Li Gong) and a streetwise hustler (Maggie Cheung) whom he has chosen as the subject of a video documentary. Through his involvement in the lives of these two very different women, director Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club) creates a cinematic "love-hate letter" to his native Hong Kong, where each character is allegorical and suffers an identity crisis much like Hong Kong itself. The film's love story is somewhat aimless and ultimately unimportant, but Chinese Box (even the title suggests a place that holds secrets within its borders) remains a fascinating film in the semi-documentary tradition, capturing the psychology of its time and place with compelling immediacy. Musician/actor/politician Ruben Blades is featured in a memorable supporting role. --Jeff Shannon ... Read more

Reviews (26)

4-0 out of 5 stars A quiet but memorable film...
I say "quiet" because, as other reviewers have noted, it was slow. Still, that didn't bother me. I was drawn into it, and if the story itself seemed weak, the characters and setting were not. Jeremy Irons played the role he plays best -- a man obsessed with one who is "forbidden," and in this case, it's the city as much as the woman that draws him. Gong Li and Maggie Cheung both gave memorable performances as well, and the seduction-scene between Li and Irons is both tender and titillating. I also want to praise the soundtrack. The sequences by Graeme Revell, featuring "Dadawa," were haunting and evocative, and I ended up buying the soundtrack soon after I saw the movie. You may find the movie dull if you're expecting action or high drama, but its voyeuristic feel, the underlying love story, and the actors themselves make the film worthwhile.

3-0 out of 5 stars a place called home
I watched this film by "accident." One night I turned on the TV and "The Chinese Box" movie was on. I watched it because it is a film about Hong Kong. The story is only average, not too excited but close enough to real life. However, some scenes are unreasonable exaggerated. For instance, two customers drank and talked about the northern girl in a very bad slang. Their attitudes were so rude. They embarrassed Gong Li because she is from the northern part of China. I hope that the audience who watched this film do not have an impression that the Hong Kong people are rude. It is not turth. Generally speaking, most Hong Kong people are polite and conservative. The photographers did a very good job. They successfully depicted the lankmarks of Hong Kong, including the City Hall, The Shanghai and Hong Kong Corporation Banking Headquarter, Mandarin Hotel, Temple Street, Mongkok, Central District, etc.

1-0 out of 5 stars A Travesty
Once again, Wayne Wang is a disappointment. As a third-generation Chinese American woman, I can't fathom how a fellow Chinese American can create such stereotypical films such as Chinese Box and the Joy Luck Club (although Amy Tan is largely to blame for the latter--I won't get started).

The one thing I enjoyed about this film was the artful use of hand-held filming. But more of note is the bad. First, in general, the storyline is superficial and simplistic, with no perceptible deeper meaning. The romance and "chenistry" between Jeremy Irons and Gong Li feels contrived.

Second is the irking, too-familiar Miss Saigon/Sayonara/World of Suzie Wong-esque portrayal of the leading lady as a prostitute for a Caucasian man. This is extremely aggravating to me as an APA woman--it seems to me that rarely are Asian women ever seen in an American film other than as a lotus blossom prostitute or as a dragon lady (even if the latter is a "better" stereotype). Coupled with the poor portrayal of Asian men in TJLC, I really wonder how Wayne Wang directs these films with a clear conscience, knowing that he is promoting Asian stereotypes.

Third is the travesty that Gong Li was made to even act in this film. Anyone who has watched a masterpiece such as "To Live" knows she is an extraordinary actress, and this film does not do her justice by a long shot. It is unfortunate that her English probably limited her already insubstantial role.

Finally, I can't speak to any inaccuracies in portraying Hong Kong, but if it's anything like the time/setting/cultural incongruities of TJLC--exploited to make the story more "interesting,"--viewers including myself are in big trouble. In a culture where Joy Luck Club is lauded for its "true" north-south-east-west "portrayal of the Chinese American experience", I am saddened to think this film will similarly add to the false picture about Asians held by so many.

If you are in the mood for an Asian film, please watch "To Live", by director Zhang Yimou or "Picture Bride", a truly BEAUTIFUL film by Asian American director Kayo Hatta, rather than this travesty of a movie.

1-0 out of 5 stars A Fan of Both Irons and Ruben Blades, But "CB" Was the PITS!
I watched about the first excruciating half hour and then gave up. I am glad I did not get to the scenes of animal cruelty that some reviewers here made reference to -- then it would not have been just a bad movie, but an upsetting one.

What a waste of two fine actors, and an interesting idea. Screenwriters and directors just don't seem, many a time, up to snuff nowadays.

Want a good Chinese-themed movie? Try "The Last Emperor." Based on a true story, and very well done.

P.S. The movie really deserves NO STARS, but as we all know, that is not an option here.

5-0 out of 5 stars An Exceptional Movie, Can't Wait for the Signature DVD!!
I first saw this film in Scottsdale, AZ at the local arthouse movie theatre, and it really left me with a feeling. Couldn't immediately put it into words or identify it, but a feeling nonetheless...an impact...a strange sensation. The more time that passed, the more I thought about the film and the more I liked the experiece while watching it. Although I have never been to HK, I believe that Wayne Wang has captured the breath and soul of Hong Kong and the mysteries that it carries. It has put in me, a hope and a dream that one day I can visit this exotic city and breathe in the aroma, the sounds and sights of its vibrant, pulsing atmosphere. Even with Ms. Li's newly budding English skills, this is still a remarkable piece and dazzles with metaphors and rich character-driven fabric. Ruben Blades is a marvelous choice as Iron's ex-pat friend and strums a beautiful song, Across the Borderline. Mr. Wang, if you are listening, this is fine piece of work and I hope that you continue to make these wonderful films that evoke a canvas of feelings and stimulate the senses. ... Read more


8. Slamdance
Director: Wayne Wang
list price: $14.95
our price: $13.46
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B00008R9KO
Catlog: DVD
Sales Rank: 27217
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars Adam Ant Movie Lover
I originally watched this movie only becuase I'm an avid Adam Ant fan. I was totally suprised at what a sleeper hit this was. I'm not sure how a movie with Tom Hulce, hot off his Amadeus film, and Mary Elizabeth Mastratonio could have been missed at the box office. Adam Ant play his typical bad boy part with great zeal. A movie that will keep you watching and wondering. Also, a great part of the Police Detective played admirably by Harry Dean Stanton.

4-0 out of 5 stars Hitchcock gets the big Wang treatment
Indie director Wayne Wang ("Chan Is Missing") was given a shot at a higher budget film and proved to be quite a stylish moviemaker with this largely ignored thriller from the late 80's. Almost universally panned by critics at the time of release (for no readily apparent reasons) this is one movie that deserves a second appraisal; I think it's one of the better of the 80's crop of stylish "neo noirs"--on a par with "Someone To Watch Over Me", "The Bedroom Window" and "Something Wild". Wang uses the classic Hitchcock "wrong man" scenario to push his hapless cartoonist turned murder suspect Tom Hulce through a twisty Kafkaesque nightmare with a Los Angeles backdrop.A fair amount of subtle black humor gives the film a unique flavor, as well as an excellent supporting cast. There's a bit of 80's rock star stunt casting with X's John Doe as a corrupt cop, Adam Ant (surprisingly effective) as Hulce's shady pal, and you'll have to look fast for a dreadlocked Mark Anthony Thompson in a cameo as a bartender. Not for all tastes, but a sleeper worth waking up for.

5-0 out of 5 stars Hitchcock-style Thriller Grabs On and Doesn't Let Go
Charles Drood (Tom Hulce) is in the wrong place at the wrong time. By no fault of his own, he is caught in the middle of a tangled web of murder, deceit, and police corruption. With few clues to go on, he must untangle the web before it entraps him completely. The plot twists in this video wend unceasingly right to the end of the movie. If you like Hitchcock, you just might enjoy this video. It's one of my favorites.

4-0 out of 5 stars A man learns who his friends are and what's really important
This is an excellent story of a soft, weak willed man who learns that actions do have consequences, and that life has meaning. He learns what's truly important in life, and how to truly judge who are his friends. The people in the movie are almost all bad, and along with Mr. Drood (hulce) we learn how to tell the truly evil from the decent people who like us have made a couple mistakes. Drood regains a sense, not only of what's right, but passion for it as well. ... Read more


9. Anywhere But Here
Director: Wayne Wang
list price: $19.98
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B00003W8NN
Catlog: DVD
Sales Rank: 19930
Average Customer Review: 3.91 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

In Wayne Wang's star-driven adaptation ofMona Simpson's tragicomicbestseller about a mismatched mother and daughter, fortysomething AdeleAugust (Susan Sarandon) is every adolescent's nightmare: over- (orunder-) dressed, always and loudly "on," forgetful of mundane matters such asbills, more colorful kid than reliable mum. In contrast, 14-year-old Ann(Natalie Portman) yearns for stability, roots, understated hues. Transplantedfrom Wisconsin small town and extended family to a Beverly Hills, California,address of choice for American Dreamers like Adele, Ann comes painfully ofage--sometimes blighted but also enriched by the fictions of a charismaticparent afraid to be alone in the dark.

Wang has always shown a sure, caring hand when it comes to cross-generationalangst (see Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart, The Joy Luck Club, Smoke). Here,he encourages Sarandon in a remarkably brave, exposed performance as an agingadventuress whose imagination continually outstrips her ability to makedreams come true, whose charm is both her ticket to ride and a dead end.Portman's pout of strained adolescent distaste soon wears thin, but when The Phantom Menace's kabuki princess momentarily thaws, she projects a lost child'sterrible shock and confusion. Hollywood-sized and scripted by the numbers, Anywhere but Here lost ground to Tumbleweeds, a similarly themed but more nuancedindie (with Oscar-nominated Janet McTeer), and it can't hold a candle toBarbara Stanwyck's Stella Dallas (1937), top of the line in this particulargenre. But for any daughter who's looked into her mother's faceand--yikes!--seen a possible future, this trip's definitely worth taking. --Kathleen Murphy ... Read more

Reviews (67)

3-0 out of 5 stars Sarandon and Portman shines!!!
Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman are two very talented actress. They are the reason that makes me buy this DVD. And their performances are superb. However, the script is a little loose.
It is about a Mom Adele who is a little bit wild and crazy, who loves so much about her daughter and thinks her planning on her will simply be the best for her. While the daughter Ann has her own preferences, which makes her always wants to escape from her mom. What makes this simple story even more flat (unfortunate) is the script does not provide any chemistry and dynamics between these 2 characters. We know their conflicts, but sometimes, we see the daughter hates her mom, and suddenly, she is be-friending with her. Even both actress tries hard to make them 2 believable characters, still the story lacks certain sparkle to make this a 'real good' movie. Fortunately, the performance of Sarandon and Portman never disappoints you throughout the whole movie.
The ending concludes the movie very well:
Ann: "Even if you can't stand her (the Mom). Even if you hate her. Even if she's ruining your life. There's something about my mother. Some romance, some power. And when she dies, the world will be flat. Too simple, too fair... Too reasonable."

5-0 out of 5 stars Sarandon in Fine Form Per Usual!
I was a bit leery of this movie when I ordered it because, frankly, I had never heard of it, but was not disappointed when it arrived and I watched it. I love Sarandon and would probably buy anything she was in, and I guess one of these days I will be disappointed in one of her movies. But it didn't happen with this one. The relationship between the mother and daughter is right on! Have you ever known of a teenage daughter who doesn't get irritated with her mother, and yes, even sometimes embarassed by her? And Susan's character does do a lot to try her staid daughter's patience! The beautiful Natalie Portman shows so much sensitivity in this role, as well. Coming of age and coping with all the teenage problems is hard enough but add a mother who is a bit flaky, and you have a big problem! Ann copes and does a fine job of handling things, although a few of life's problems almost get her down. This is the perfect film for mothers and teenage daughters to watch together. A mother's love never fails when push comes to shove, as Ann finds out.

2-0 out of 5 stars Unlikeable
Unmemorable except for the fact that I remember it was depressing without being introspective, very meaningful, or even likeable.

5-0 out of 5 stars best movie ever!!!!!
i loved this movie, it is my favorite movie and always will be. The only film i've ver cried in, and never forgot about from when i first saw it in theaters when i was 8. The plot in this movie is inspiring and unforgetable. The cast (sarandan,portman) were truly amazing and once again bringing mothers and daughters close. I would have to say portmans best performance ever with the lines she was given: "even if you hate her, you can't stand her,there's something about my mother, because when she dies the world will be flat".

3-0 out of 5 stars JUST PLAIN OL' GOOD MOVIE
I like this movie a lot. However, I just don't get the point of the Mothers character. Yeah, she's a free-spirit with quirky tendencies, but they never really get to any point with why she acts like that, or if anything exciting will happen to her. For a moment I thought she was suffering depression in the scene where she just decides to vacuum rather than join her daughter (Portman) to a Christmas party. Besides that its a good movie. Lots of different scenes, which I like in all movies. Natalie Portman is a terrific actress and I will continue to collect all her great films like Beautiful Girls and Where The Heart Is. ... Read more


10. Eat a Bowl of Tea
Director: Wayne Wang
list price: $24.95
our price: $22.46
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B00008YLVC
Catlog: DVD
Sales Rank: 26451
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Amazon.com

Director Wayne Wang is in his appealingly low-key groove with this wry comedy-drama, a precursor to his later success with The Joy Luck Club. It's set in the aftermath of World War II, when the restrictive U.S. immigration laws had finally been relaxed. WWII vet Russell Wong is a young Chinese-American hepcat, strong-armed by his dad (the wonderfully gnarled character actor Victor Wong) into an arranged marriage with a Chinese girl (Cora Miao). The trip to China, and the atmosphere of New York's Chinatown, are neatly mounted. The film's central joke, and metaphor, is the bridegroom's impotence after marriage; he's cowed by the expectations of his traditional culture, which don't necessarily match his own ideas. In its quiet way, Eat a Bowl of Tea examines the larger issues of ethnic identity while poking affectionate fun at its floundering characters--a distinctly modern attitude for a 1940s story. --Robert Horton ... Read more


11. Chinese Box
Director: Wayne Wang
list price: $19.98
our price: $17.98
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B000092T3H
Catlog: DVD
Sales Rank: 26945
Average Customer Review: 3.23 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (26)

4-0 out of 5 stars A quiet but memorable film...
I say "quiet" because, as other reviewers have noted, it was slow. Still, that didn't bother me. I was drawn into it, and if the story itself seemed weak, the characters and setting were not. Jeremy Irons played the role he plays best -- a man obsessed with one who is "forbidden," and in this case, it's the city as much as the woman that draws him. Gong Li and Maggie Cheung both gave memorable performances as well, and the seduction-scene between Li and Irons is both tender and titillating. I also want to praise the soundtrack. The sequences by Graeme Revell, featuring "Dadawa," were haunting and evocative, and I ended up buying the soundtrack soon after I saw the movie. You may find the movie dull if you're expecting action or high drama, but its voyeuristic feel, the underlying love story, and the actors themselves make the film worthwhile.

3-0 out of 5 stars a place called home
I watched this film by "accident." One night I turned on the TV and "The Chinese Box" movie was on. I watched it because it is a film about Hong Kong. The story is only average, not too excited but close enough to real life. However, some scenes are unreasonable exaggerated. For instance, two customers drank and talked about the northern girl in a very bad slang. Their attitudes were so rude. They embarrassed Gong Li because she is from the northern part of China. I hope that the audience who watched this film do not have an impression that the Hong Kong people are rude. It is not turth. Generally speaking, most Hong Kong people are polite and conservative. The photographers did a very good job. They successfully depicted the lankmarks of Hong Kong, including the City Hall, The Shanghai and Hong Kong Corporation Banking Headquarter, Mandarin Hotel, Temple Street, Mongkok, Central District, etc.

1-0 out of 5 stars A Travesty
Once again, Wayne Wang is a disappointment. As a third-generation Chinese American woman, I can't fathom how a fellow Chinese American can create such stereotypical films such as Chinese Box and the Joy Luck Club (although Amy Tan is largely to blame for the latter--I won't get started).

The one thing I enjoyed about this film was the artful use of hand-held filming. But more of note is the bad. First, in general, the storyline is superficial and simplistic, with no perceptible deeper meaning. The romance and "chenistry" between Jeremy Irons and Gong Li feels contrived.

Second is the irking, too-familiar Miss Saigon/Sayonara/World of Suzie Wong-esque portrayal of the leading lady as a prostitute for a Caucasian man. This is extremely aggravating to me as an APA woman--it seems to me that rarely are Asian women ever seen in an American film other than as a lotus blossom prostitute or as a dragon lady (even if the latter is a "better" stereotype). Coupled with the poor portrayal of Asian men in TJLC, I really wonder how Wayne Wang directs these films with a clear conscience, knowing that he is promoting Asian stereotypes.

Third is the travesty that Gong Li was made to even act in this film. Anyone who has watched a masterpiece such as "To Live" knows she is an extraordinary actress, and this film does not do her justice by a long shot. It is unfortunate that her English probably limited her already insubstantial role.

Finally, I can't speak to any inaccuracies in portraying Hong Kong, but if it's anything like the time/setting/cultural incongruities of TJLC--exploited to make the story more "interesting,"--viewers including myself are in big trouble. In a culture where Joy Luck Club is lauded for its "true" north-south-east-west "portrayal of the Chinese American experience", I am saddened to think this film will similarly add to the false picture about Asians held by so many.

If you are in the mood for an Asian film, please watch "To Live", by director Zhang Yimou or "Picture Bride", a truly BEAUTIFUL film by Asian American director Kayo Hatta, rather than this travesty of a movie.

1-0 out of 5 stars A Fan of Both Irons and Ruben Blades, But "CB" Was the PITS!
I watched about the first excruciating half hour and then gave up. I am glad I did not get to the scenes of animal cruelty that some reviewers here made reference to -- then it would not have been just a bad movie, but an upsetting one.

What a waste of two fine actors, and an interesting idea. Screenwriters and directors just don't seem, many a time, up to snuff nowadays.

Want a good Chinese-themed movie? Try "The Last Emperor." Based on a true story, and very well done.

P.S. The movie really deserves NO STARS, but as we all know, that is not an option here.

5-0 out of 5 stars An Exceptional Movie, Can't Wait for the Signature DVD!!
I first saw this film in Scottsdale, AZ at the local arthouse movie theatre, and it really left me with a feeling. Couldn't immediately put it into words or identify it, but a feeling nonetheless...an impact...a strange sensation. The more time that passed, the more I thought about the film and the more I liked the experiece while watching it. Although I have never been to HK, I believe that Wayne Wang has captured the breath and soul of Hong Kong and the mysteries that it carries. It has put in me, a hope and a dream that one day I can visit this exotic city and breathe in the aroma, the sounds and sights of its vibrant, pulsing atmosphere. Even with Ms. Li's newly budding English skills, this is still a remarkable piece and dazzles with metaphors and rich character-driven fabric. Ruben Blades is a marvelous choice as Iron's ex-pat friend and strums a beautiful song, Across the Borderline. Mr. Wang, if you are listening, this is fine piece of work and I hope that you continue to make these wonderful films that evoke a canvas of feelings and stimulate the senses. ... Read more


12. When a Man Loves a Woman / The Joy Luck Club
Director: Wayne Wang
list price: $29.99
our price: $26.99
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Asin: B00006FDCZ
Catlog: DVD
Sales Rank: 25054
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13. The Center of The World
Director: Wayne Wang
list price: $24.98
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B00008G5R7
Catlog: DVD
Sales Rank: 56878
Average Customer Review: 3.34 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (38)

3-0 out of 5 stars Weird Sexual Film Leaves One Dry
This was a weird movie. Wayne Wang is one of the most famous directors of "no budget films" (films that shoot on 16mm and video with no connection to Hollywood) and popularized by Rick Schmidt. On that recommendation, I went to see this movie.

The plot centers around a rich tech-geek who hires a stripper to go with him to Las Vegas. During the trip, sex mixes with (maybe) love and eventually all hell breaks lose with each side realizing what they really are.

There are plenty of reasons to view this movie. The characters are very complex, with truly subtle perfomances given by all involved. The story also is engaging with enough twists to keep one puzzled. This is a sexual film that is the complete opposite of "Showgirls." It is a view of the sex industry with both it's appeal and its horrible toll of the minds of its partisipants. You will real want to discuss this film.

So far, it sounds like a five star movie, but it isn't. The lowbudgetness of the movie makes the sex scenes look like porn, which actually draws the audiance out of the emotions Wang is looking for. It also is a movie that becomes increasingly vulgar to melodramatic effect, so as to almost parody itself at times.

It appears that there were two sides to Director Wayne Wang on this piece.

Director Wayne made a profound study of the sex industry.

Director WANG made a cheap vulgar porno.

It's too bad that they're the same movie.

4-0 out of 5 stars Reality check.
Touted as the modern "Last Tango in Paris", a movie I neither understood nor enjoyed, this unrated film still caught my eye. I was intrigued enough by the plot synopsis of "Center of the World" - computer geek hires stripper for a $10k paid trip to Vegas. The strip related scenes were tasteful and focused on the psychology more than the detailed physiology. The stripper was very real, no Pam Anderson look alike. These two elements made the entire film more inviting to me. A film that provoked some thought and discussion. Money and sex -- when the power changes hands? What is the gender difference between love and sex? When does a man think of a woman's pleasure? Sexual deviance, over sexed desensitization, when does a man say "no"? What will become of the guy who watches 3 computer screens at work - work, stocks, and ..., and yet has no time to have a normal social life? This film also dares to show the most real woman's ... -- about time! Films truly do give us impressions about what sex is supposed to be like, and hello - most films are directed by men - so how often do we actually see a realistic female ... and not some male interpretive fantasy?

4-0 out of 5 stars Exploring the boundaries between reality and fantasy
Think the premise of "Pretty Woman," but more firmly grounded in the real world, and you might get close to what "The Center of the World" is all about. This film abandons the glamourized Hollywood notions of sex workers, and doesn't engage in the pat, happy ending that we saw in "Pretty Woman"... and it is a far better film for it. Furthermore, Molly Parker is far more exotically lovely than Julia Roberts could even hope to be, and a better actress to boot.

In short, if you're looking for a romantic escapist fantasy about a sex worker redeemed by the love of a good man, look elsewhere -- this film is far more complex than that.

Comparisons to "Pretty Woman" do seem inevitable however, to the point that I wonder if the director and writers weren't crafting this film as a direct response to that one, a way of saying, "Whoa boy, reality check!" The premise is familiar at least. Richard (Peter Saarsgard) is wealthy but lonely after a breakup with his girlfriend two years before. He meets Florence (Molly Parker) in a coffee shop and finds out that she is a stripper. He visits her at the strip club where she works (nicely named Pandora's Box), and is so intrigued by her that he offers her $10,000 to spend three days with him in Las Vegas. She agrees, with a number of strict conditions, including limiting the number of hours she is required to "work," and limiting the acts she will perform. "No kissing on the mouth" (sounds familiar, no?) and "no penetration" are among her limitations.

From this familiar territory, though, the film explores new ground. Richard and Florence get to know one another as they spend more time together, and Florence finds out that Richard isn't such a bad guy, just lonely. "Why do you have to be so nice?" she asks him at one point, partially angry and partially not. Richard, in the meantime, is becoming more and more deeply entranced by this woman he has hired, which becomes part of the conflict.

Given the subject of the film, there is of course a great deal of sexuality portrayed in it. It is handled pretty tastefully, and none of it is there for its own sake. It is partially through their sexual relationship that we see the growth and the limitations of the characters' relationship in general. The sex scenes are handsomely shot and are not the typical sort of scenes one might expect from an erotic film; nevertheless (perhaps because they are unique), they are extremely erotic.

The acting is quite good. We spend most of the film only seeing Richard and Florence interacting together, with just a few other characters showing up here and there, but the two lead actors have the chops to sustain the film from beginning to end. Peter Saarsgard plays a "nice guy" well, and it's good to see that he doesn't overplay it at all. He's a very real nice guy, with flaws and points where he stops being nice out of frustration or anger. Molly Parker, as Florence, lends a similar depth to her role. From the first moment you see her you can see why Richard becomes infatuated with her: she is ethereally lovely, with a husky voice that is simply enthralling. But it is her personality that Richard really falls for, and that too is portrayed believably. She is played with a genuine warmth and likeability that is often missing from erotic films, but not overly sweet like "Pretty Woman" and many other Hollywood attempts at a similar story. I suspect that Molly Parker will be a talent to watch carefully in the next few years.

The nature and limitations of the relationship between these two people -- in one sense employer and employee and in another far more intimate than that -- becomes the main subject of the film as it progresses. How much of what Florence is giving to Richard is real, and how much is an act? How does the aspect of money change what happens over that three days? Are his feelings based in reality? Are hers?

Some of these questions are answered at the end, others are left open to the viewer's interpretation. There is nothing about the end, however, that is trite or simple, and as in life, there is a great deal that will depend on the perspective of the person watching the story unfold. This is a film very much grounded in reality, dealing with real people in a realistic (if unique) situation, and in the end it avoids the typical Hollywood fantasy notions that are so common.

Comparisons to "Pretty Woman" may well be inevitable for this film, but in such comparisons "The Center of the World" comes out ahead in every category. It's not a perfect film, but it is an excellent one. It is both sexier and more realistic, and that makes it well worth watching in my book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Hidden gem!
This movie was totally not what I was expecting but I just loved it. It examines the meaning of relationship (at least that's how I understood it) and does it with such delicacy and subtlety that it's very rare in american movies (it rather characteristic for french movies). The movie is very erotic and sensual even without (or almost without) nudity. The acting by Peter Sargaard and Molly Parker was superb. Highly recommended to all fans of european cinema that can accept a movie without much outside action.

3-0 out of 5 stars The penetration of bought company...
Where is the center of the world? This is a rhetorical question as it is often perceived to be in the mind of the individual with the notion. In this film the center of the world surrounds the interpersonal relationship between a man, Richard (Peter Sarsgaard) and a woman, Florence (Molly Parker). This relationship has a monetary foundation as Richard has rented Florence for a three day trip to Las Vegas. Richard has developed a depression that is consuming his life as he is on the brink of making a big business deal, but his world is now obsessed with Florence and the erotic favors that she is performing for him. The notion "where is the center of the world" is apparent as the story unfolds, however, it is Florence's callousness and Richard's passion that spins the story as it brings the audience a decadent cinematic experience that is worth watching. ... Read more


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