Don't ask why Ninja III: The Domination
begins with a ninja assault on a municipal golf course. Just be
grateful it does. You also may wonder why its sex scene employs a can of
V8: Don't question it. Just lie back and enjoy it.
Tobe Hooper got a raw deal. The director of horror hits The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Poltergeist didn't deserve to be sent to movie jail for 1985's Lifeforce.
It's a well-crafted, well-intentioned work that was mismarketed and
misunderstood, losing a bundle of money and soon sending Hooper into the
lands of episodic television and direct-to-video features.
There's a theory about remakes that perhaps Hollywood should stop
remaking good movies and instead remake the bad ones, so that they may
be improved. The problem with that theory is one runs the risk of the
remake being bad, too. Case in point: The Philadelphia Experiment.
While long impressive on the big screen, from “The Station Agent” to “Brokeback Mountain,” Michelle Williams does her best work yet in “Blue Valentine,” the fractured love story that has earned her a well-deserved Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
She doesn’t have a chance, really, but in another year, amid a different set of nominees, things might be different.
The same shift in luck applies to the couple who comprise this film’s core: one year, blissful; another, miserable. Cindy (Williams) is a nurse, while her husband, Dean (Ryan Gosling, “Lars and the Real Girl”), is a housepainter who makes up in drinking what he lacks in ambition. Together, they have a darling daughter (newcomer Faith Wladyka), but even she can’t bond them tight enough to keep their divide from fatally widening.
“Valentine” starts in the now, then gradually introduces scenes from their courtship that not only show them in happier days, but demonstrate that they likely were doomed from the start. When a relationship begins with deeply rooted feelings of uncertainty and jealousy, no piece of paper will alter that.
It’s a shame that director/co-writer Derek Cinefrance’s film has attracted more attention for its frank sex scenes between its married characters (its initial NC-17 rating was appealed to an R) than its overall dramatic worth, which is hefty. While Gosling occasionally overplays Dean as a Nic Cage cartoon, Williams’ performance is dead-on perfect, remarkably brave and free of vanity.
“Blue Valentine” benefits from an emotionally lo-fi score by indie-folk rockers Grizzly Bear that matches Cinefrance’s visuals. When the end credits explode in fireworks, so do the hairs on your arms. —Rod Lott