FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Francis Ford Coppola |||
Francis Ford Coppola

Coppola is an amazing talent whose inspiration and influence spans many generations. Virtually the link between the studio system of yesteryear and the independent minded filmmaker of the modern age, Coppola became the first major film director to emerge from a university degree program in filmmaking, thus legitimizing a now common route for many future filmmakers.

This Academy Award winner continues to enjoy an enormous critical and popular success due in large part to Coppola’s ability to break down an epic saga of crime and the struggle for power into the basic story of a father and his sons, punctuating the prevalent theme throughout Coppola’s oeuvre: the importance of family in today’s world. His personal portrait mixed tender moments with harsh brutality and redefined the genre of gangster films.

This intense, yet unassuming thriller has an impact that touches the viewer on a personal level and raises the question of privacy and security in a world of technology – thirty years ago! Coppola’s then virtually unknown cast is a roster of inevitable superstars, including Gene Hackman, Harrison Ford, and Robert Duvall. This Academy Award nominee for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Sound lost out to Coppola’s other great effort of the year, The Godfather: Part II.

Coppola's masterful Vietnam War-updating of Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" was the first major motion picture about the infamous “conflict”. This colossal epic was shot on location in the Philippines over the course of more than a year and contains some of the most extraordinary combat footage ever filmed. Unforgettable battle sequences and sterling performances from every cast member (including Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Laurence Fishburne, Harrison Ford, Scott Glenn, and Martin Sheen) mark this Academy Award-winning drama as a must-see for any true film fanatic.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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Material Girls

By BrianOrndorf

August 19th, 2006

“Material Girls” turns the lights out on Hilary Duff’s movie career for good. A stale, poorly mapped out comedy, the film doesn’t feature much of a personality, and it seems cruel to suggest that sister Haylie has better acting chops.

Material Girls

Tanzie (Hilary Duff) and Ava (Haylie Duff) are sisters basking in the fame of their late father’s cosmetics fortune. When news breaks that the products might actually be harmful to customers, the empire falls quickly, leaving the sisters broke, homeless, and confused on how to act without their wealth. Taking the lead set by “Erin Brockovich,” the duo and their push-up bras set out to find the creep who torpedoed their dream life, finding love and responsibility on the road to celebrity redemption.

“Material Girls” is the kind of routine, sluggish film that usually signals the end of an actor’s career. In this case, we have Hilary Duff, the charming teenage basic cable actress who always seems to strike out at the cinemas. This time out, she’s got a little family on her side in sister Haylie, and the two aspire to satirize the Hiltonesque cyclone of narcissistic, pampered socialites. Seriously, as bad as “Material” can be at times, at least look at the sunny side of the street: it doesn’t star Paris and Nicky.

There’s little doubt that the Duffs know their way around the pop idol theme of the film, and in short bursts, their performances approach the outer realm of charming. At the very least, “Material” answers the question everyone wants to know: yes, Haylie is the better actress. Still, you could cast Brando and Olivier in the lead roles, and they would still have to work uphill battling this lethargic screenplay.

Using “Erin Brockovich” as inspiration, the story of “Material” is actually quite elaborate considering the limits of the leads and the attention span of the target demo. I’m not exactly talking “Mulholland Dr.” here, but the story is all over the map with rival cosmetic corporation owners, muckraking television journalists, and South American maids with immigration problems. Combine that with far too many scenes of the Duffs riffing their way to dead comedy ends, and the whole enterprise wears out its welcome fast.

There are some laughs in “Material” that pop up out of nowhere. I was particularly fond of watching Tanzie discover the joys of Easy Spirit shoes – a rare scene that finds Hilary breaking out of her teen queen coma and enjoying herself for once.

Has-been director Martha Coolidge calls in a big favor for the supporting cast, asking Anjelica Huston to step in as the heavy. At least she looks like she’s having fun. Indie cheeseball actor Lukas Haas also kicks in a little unpredictability with his performance as Ava’s pro bono lawyer love interest. Haas is a bizarre one here, always smirking into the camera as though he’s wearing silky red panties underneath his suit, giggling that he’s getting away with murder. That brand of mischief is welcome.

“Material Girls” just might be the final nail in the Hilary Duff movie career coffin. Her tween charms have been erased by plastic surgery, and her scripts are getting lazier with every passing year. If there’s one substantial upside to this film, at least the production didn’t bother put any snakes on any planes.

My rating: C-