Recent Movies: Second Round

Let’s continue our movie discussions here–that other post is really, really long, and while I don’t know how Movable Type handles very long files, I’d rather something happen (if it’s going to happen) to the movie word-association post than the recent-movies post. So I’m closing the other movie post to comments.

I saw Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow last night and it was nearly as good as I thought. Visually, I have seen few films to rival this movie–American Beauty and The Road to Perdition are the only ones that leap to mind. It is shot in a sort of half-color, half-sepia style that makes it immediately feel like an old film. In fact, this may be the most black-and-white-feeling color movie ever. There’s a lot of attention paid here to light and shadow. In a lot of scenes, just watching the way the shadows moved across faces and the way faces moved into and out of shadows was as interesting as anything going on in the story.

The writing and acting styles, for the most part, are loyal to styles prevalent in the late thirties and early forties, but a few silly surprises remind the viewer that this is NOT a film created in the thirties and forties (at least, that’s my take). I’d see this film again just to get another look at what the director and cinematographer do here.

One non-spoiler note: According to Roger Ebert’s review of this picture, most of the film was shot in front of a blue screen, with backgrounds added later. With that in mind, I wonder how much of the light/shadow stuff was actually filmed and how much was put in by a person at a computer.

205 Responses to “Recent Movies: Second Round”

  1. Reid

    So how did you like the overall action and story?

  2. Reid

    I watched the first two episodes of the short-lived, Jos Whedon TV series, Firefly I really liked the characters in the film. You got these side-romances, took, that I admit are appealing. One of the female leads has a dark-haired, slightly Middle-Eastern, Ashely Judd look.

    If we don’t watch anymore episodes, maybe we can do a Firefly marathon when we get back.

  3. Reid

    I haven’t watched any movies for what seems like a long time. There was a John Waters film festival that I was contemplating seeing, but after describing his films to Larri, she wasn’t too thrilled. Can’t say I blame her. There was also the complete version of Burn!, a film with Brando (one I had never heard of), but it was about 3 hrs.

    What? Has no one been to any films lately?

  4. Tony

    I did see Sky Captain a couple of weeks ago. I enjoyed it for what it was: a fun, frolicking movie. The effects were pretty cool. And the story was cool enough to carry the whole thing. Other than that, I’ve been strangely absent from the theater of late. Which may not be a bad thing. Heh heh.

  5. Reid

    The restructured version of The Big Red One and Undertow.

    Of the two, I think Undertow is better, although it was really a thrill to see The Big Red One at the NY Film Festival.

    I don’t feel like thinking about Undertow much right now. Do you have any comments, Kevin?

  6. Reid

    On the plane, I watched Spider-Man 2 and Bobby Jones (can’t remember the exact title). The story of golfer Bobby Jones is really remarkable, but the movie itself was somehow not. It was OK. I think my brother would like the film.

    Last night Penny, Grace and I saw two short films: one called, Unconstitutional, a film about the USA Patriot Act, and another one called, The Carlyle Group. I think I liked the latter more than the former.

    Go to the thread Security vs. Individual Liberties to talk about Unconstitutional and the issues raised by the film.

    As for Carlyle Group, I was fascinated and a bit discouraged to learn about this multi-national corporation–which by the way is planning to buy out Verizon in Hawaii–and what is called, “The Iron Triangle.” The Iron Triangle is basically the interlocking relationship between the military, business and government. It refers to military industrial complex. The film shows the origins of the corporation and partly the way they function. There are ties with the bin Laden family in Saudi Arabia.

    But the group also has former political leaders, such as George Bush, Sr., John Major of GB and other key business leaders around the world. They use their political connections and relationships to help the corporation–which focusses on business contracts. It’s a really scary kind of relationship that doesn’t get much attention because politicians (and I daresay the media) don’t want to bring up the subject.

    One of the other things that Carlyle group does is buy companies and do things to the company to make a profitable sale of the company later. It’s likely they’ll do something like that to Verizon if they take over. The question for me is that bad for Hawaii? If it is bad (and I would bet it’s not good), in what specific ways would it hurt Hawaii? I hope some good investigative journalist in Hawaii can reveal some of these things. (Everybody’s gotta have a dream.)

  7. Reid

    I watched Mean Creek yesterday. It’s a film that looks a lot like River’s Edge (although I never saw RE and am only vaguely familiar with what it’s about).

    I thought it was OK. I won’t write much about it, unless someone wants to hear more about it or discuss the film.

  8. Tony

    The movie got quite a bit of critical acclaim, but I never got around to seeing it. Do you think it adds anything “new” to the debate about kids and why they act the way they do?

  9. Reid

    That’s a tough one to answer, Tony. My immediate answer is that the film doesn’t add anything new ot the debate about how and why kids behave the way they do. However, perhaps I feel that way because I work with kids, and I have experience with challenging kids.

    (slight spoilers)

    I guess the best part of the film for me was treatment of the “bad” kid in the film. I think the film gives a more sympathetic portrayal of kids who are troublemakers or obnoxious.

  10. Reid

    Just as conincidence I just watched another movie, George Washington, with similar subject matter as Mean Creek.

    The director, David Gordon Green, also directed the film Undertow. Both films have teenagers and children as the main characters of the film.

    Although I can’t strongly recommend these films (including his other film, All the Real Girls), I wish other people would see them in the hopes that they would understand these films and be able to explain them to me.

    These films are different, and I get the sense that he puts whatever he wants in the movie–moments of humor, drama, horror, romance–in ways that seem to have little regard for genre. I like that about these films.

    On the other hand, the films seem sort of disorganized and incoherrent. In a way, they seem to be more about stmosphere and slices of life, rather than a really tight story.

    The acting is unnusual in that it seems unrefined and not of a very high quality. Yet, they don’t have the kind of realism and authenticity that can make up for this lack of polished acting. Perhaps, it’s because the movies are more low key. There’s a langour to his films, and maybe the type of langor doesn’t appeal to me for some reason.

    Anyway, I feel like these are films that could be very good, but I’m not getting due to my own limitations. There interesting cinematic moments, and uses of music and sound in his films, but nothing that I would call outstanding. I was listening to an interview with Charlie Rose and Green spoke about making the film look interesting and not like a low-budget film (even though I assume it was a low-budget film). Well, I think for a low-budget film he does achieve some nice cinematic level, nothing on the level of Terrence Malick’s films which Green has been said to be a huge influence.

    Kevin, do you have any thoughts about Undertow?

  11. kevin

    Hmm…. Undertow. (mini-spoiler.) Maybe Id make a reach and say its about trying to break out of the cycle of poverty, through some sort of persistent emotional risk and vulnerability that the Billy Elliot fella tries to extend, but is repeatedly threatened to be dragged under by the various dysfunctional situations that befall him. But in the end theres some sort of hope of an emotional promised land that they reach. I think this idea of redemption only through a true recognition of the darkness of sin around is consistent w/ the Southern Catholic /Gothic genre, isnt it? I dunno. Or I could be totally high.

    Reid, if wed not heard David Gordon Greene talk at that after-movie panel, Id have taken a different POV of the director motives more Flannery OConnor-ish, less Huck Finn. But Id agree w/ what you said on the subway home, that once the work of art is out there, it takes on a life of its own that can be larger than what its maker intended.

    The sense of slow, painful emotional growth via trauma, loss, etc., seems to be also present in All the Real Girls. I saw it a while ago, but i remember these movies have in their physical setting a sense of Rust-Belt decay that somehow corresponds to some sense of emotional disarray that is the challenge to the main characters. I always thought that movie should be called All the Real Guys, I thot was very male-centered.

    Ill post later on two movies I rented recently, Spring Summer… & Spring, and Eternal Sunshine… They’re both pretty “large.”

  12. Reid

    The interpretation makes sense to me, Kevin. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Greene was influenced by O’Connor, although someone in the audience did ask him about being influenced by Southern writers I believe, and he said something like he wasn’t as well-read as he’d like to be. Still, that doesn’t mean he hadn’t read O’Connor.

    You mention “rust belt decay,” and in the Charlie Rose interview, it’s something Greene said he liked about the setting in George Washington.

    I feel a little frustrated by his films–like I’m not getting something. I probably need to watch it again, and be more thoughtful about them.

    Speaking of which, I feel the same way towards Spring. I think I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to fully appreciate the film. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on both films. (If it’s a long review or you think we’re going to have an interesting discussion, maybe you can start a separate thread.)

  13. Reid

    Bubba Ho-Tep

    The premise is so wild that the film sounded interesting. The execution of the idea was not because the film was silly or inconceivable. The film was bad because it was so slow and boring.

  14. Reid

    Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman

    This is Takeshi Kitano’s remake of the popular Japanese TV or film series. Takeshi plays Zatoichi, a blind swordsman and maseur. The action scenes are pretty exciting (although I’d like to see more of the action). The sound of the drawing sword, clanging steel and slashing flesh is pretty cool. There’s a lot spraying blood (done via cgi and not that good0). Takeshi is good as Zatoichi, but the movie drags in certain parts. I’m still a little puzzled by the scenes Takeshi feels compelled to show (he also directed the film). Still, if you like samurai movies, I think I could recommend this one. Larri liked it, too.

  15. joel

    I recently saw the movie “the forgotten.” Most of the time I’ll give films an average rating of “6” because it usually entertains me without being terrible bad or incredibly great. But this particular film left me with some dissappointment because I expected so much just looking at the previews. Without giving away anything for those of you who haven’t seen the film, I just felt the overall plot of the film was bad. The actors did their job, the visual effects were good, there are a few jarring scenes…in which case if you haven’t already seen the previews you know what I’m talking about. But the story was just bad. I feel like they could’ve done more with the story.

  16. Reid


    We saw The Notebook yesterday. I pretty much agree with your review, and I was actually surprised that I liked it as much as I did. Why? Well, it was very sappy, and the relationship in the film was one of those love-at-first-site type of relationships. Usually, I prefer to watch characters fall in love or how they relate to each other. You see that in When Harry Met Sally, for example. You also see scenes like that in The Notebook, such as when the two characters fight. But those arguments–which are supposed to be what makes the relationship the way it is–come out of context. The film doesn’t build to those moments in the scenes. The narrator just tells you they fought and would love each other.

    The film is basically a fantasy for any romantic-minded person. Think of the most romantic circumstances and situations and pile them all together and that’s what you’ve got. Some of the situations and circumstances are ridiculously romantic that it gets a bit much, but If you’re in the mood for a romantic fantasy–meaning, you want to get caught up in a fantasy and not worry about reality–then this is the film for you.

    I’d probably give it an 7 or 8.I actually liked this a little more than Larrilynn.

    Truly, Madly, Deeply

    I’ve been wanting to watch this film for a long time since I’ve heard so many people on line talk about how great this film was. I was reluctant to watch it because I had no interest in watching a film about lover returning as a ghost.

    The film is actually pretty good despite this well-worn premise. I think a lot of can be attributed to the performance of Juliet Stephenson (Nina) who does a wonderful job of showing the sorrow over the lost of her lover. Credit must also go to David Ryall (George) who plays Nina’s new lover. He’s wonderful alive, and fun-loving. I just wish he had more screen time and developed his character a lot more.

    I wouldn’t strongly recommend this film, although it was decent.

  17. Reid

    Blue Car (6 out of 10)

    This is a film that received a nomination for best picture in 2003 from some magazine or film organization. You can see the list at metacritic or here at the “Village-Idiot Movie Award Nominees”

    Should You See This Film?
    I would cautiously recommend this film to other people. If you’ve seen Ruby In Paradise , the subject matter of the film is similar–about a young woman (in this case a teenager)–struggling through life and finding her way.

    To know more about why I would cautiously recommend this film, you’re going to have to read my comments on the film. (I’ll try to put spoiler warnings.)

    Personal Comments

    I really loved the performances of Agnes Bruckner (as Meg) and Margret Colin (as Meg’s mom, Diane). Meg is a basically a good kid—smart, pretty, but definitely longing for love and attention. Bruckner plays this is a quiet way that really pulled won my sympathy. At the same time she can talk back to her mom–there’s a level of resentment that comes out in these episodes.

    In those moments, Colin can be quite harsh and cruel in her response, but in an over-the-top fashion. She doesn’t look like a low-income, uneducated, grubby-looking single-mother. Colin is pretty and looks liike any old middle-class mother. It’s just that she’s working in the days, going to school at night and has to raise two children. She just doesn’t have much patience or love to give Meg or her other daughter, Lily. Her sharp retorts to Meg indicate she just has very little to give.

    Both actors–and the writer/director should get credit for this, too–balance harsh treatment of each other with moments of civility and affection. Bruckner could have gotten an award or at least a nomination for her performance here.

    So why did I cautiously recommend the film?


    The film moved in a direction that I didn’t want it to–in a darker area. The film starts off with an ap English teacher encouraging Meg to write poems. The teacher, Mr. Auster (David Strathairn), agrees to meet with Meg during lunch to tutor her. There are two scenes where he gives her comments about her poetry, and at that point it seems like this film is going to be a Good Will Hunting or Finding Forester type of movie.

    At the same time, I’m concerned about the film taking a Lolita turn. And it does. That’s why I would cautiously recommend the film.

    In the end the film seems to be a day in the life of an at-risk kid, one full of promise and her struggle to make it through. However, I didn’t get the same sort of good feeling that I did at the end of Ruby in Paradise. There’s more of a feeling of strength and triumph at the end of that movie.

    At the end of the Blue Car, Meg just seems beat up and worn down. I did like her last scene with her mother, a reconciliation scene that wasn’t pat or treacly. Sttill, you don’t get a strong hopeful sense about Meg. She survived, but she’s beaten and her future seems pretty unclear.

  18. Reid

    I also forgot to say that I recently watched Harold and Maude.

    This is basically about a rich young man who has lost the zest for life. He meets an almost 80 year old woman, Maude–played superbly by Ruth Gordon–who helps him get back that zest. Gordon creates one of the most improbable free-spirits in film. Gordon is incredibly charming and alive! Truly a remarkable performance and remarkable actor.


    In the film, Harold and Maude eventually get married. It’s a kooky relationship to begin with, but fairly plausible, too–which is no small feat.

  19. Reid

    The Wind Will Carry Us

    Bad ma ra khahad bord

    Another Kiarostami film. One commentator at IMDB compared this to Waiting for Godot, and there are definitely similarities. But I’m really confused about the film. I would have to see it again to understand what’s going on.

    On the other hand, the film mainly takes place in the little village–like a pueblo homes or something: buildings made of some mud substance, and almost connected to each other with tiny, meandering walkways for the residents. The reviewer said this was not an ethnographic study, but that’s the only part that made sense to me.

    I really would have to watch this again to figure it out. The problem is, the film didn’t interest me enough to do that.

    Btw, I said, “another Kiarostami film” because I had seen one a couple days before this. Now that film, I really liked. Hopefully, I’ll have a review for that soon.

    Motorcycle Diaries (7 out of 10)

    Should You See the Film?

    The film is about two friends traveling the length of South America. They go through humorous and difficult situations. The viewer gets to see different people and places in South America. If that appeals to you, go see the film. If you like buddy-pictures, you may like this film (although I didn’t think of it as a “buddy” film).

    The movie is almost 2 and a half hours, and may be a bit slow for some. (I thought it was OK in that department.)

    Personal Comments

    When the trailers came out, I had no interest to see this film, but I read some favorable reviews and one comment, in particular, changed my mind. The critic said something like this movie will change you or something to that effect.
    I know very little about Ernesto “Che” Guevara, but I do know that he was a Communist revolutionary in Cuba. This film, based on Guevara’s diaries, chronicles a journey he and a friend took the length of South America.

    I saw this movie alone, and it made me think about my own life. Guevara saw the injustices towards the lower classes on his travels; he worked with lepers as well. If I had been him, how would that have affected me?

    I wonder if I would be doing what I’m doing, living the way I’m living now. The film made me think about my own life, and the priorities I have. I don’t really want to say much more.

    But I will say that I liked how the experiences with poverty, injustice, etc. slowly progessed in a way where you could tell Guevara was changed and in the way to do something about the poor conditions.

    Rodrigo De la Serna, as Guevara’s friend, Alberto, played the perfect “sidekick” in the film. His funny and charming performance could earn him a best supporting actor nomination.

  20. Tony

    I saw the movie yesterday with the geriatric crowd at Dole Cannery. I was drawn to the Motorcycle Diaries because of the trailer. I don’t know much about South American history, so it was the whole “two guys on a journey” thing that drew me in.

    I, too, saw it by myself. And I had a difficult time articulating anything afterwards. I met a friend for lunch after the show and found myself not really wanting to say much of anything. I thought the movie was well-shot and well-acted. I think “the point” was pretty clear. Couple that with some stuff I’ve been thinking on my own and it’s a recipe for thinking about what the heck I’m doing with my life. I thought the final scene at the river was very cool.

    I think it would be cool to just up and go on a trip like that (visions of the mainland). But not just to be a tourist, but to allow myself to be changed by the experience. I was reminded some of Donald Miller’s Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance. “We travel just to travel.” Ouch. The scene with the mining couple was pretty potent.

    Anyway, good movie. Lots to think about. I now really want to read more of Che Guevara’s story.

  21. Reid

    I was at Dole Cannery for the 3:15 movie, Tony. How about you?

    I agree with most of your comments. I’d still like to here what you thought the point was though. I did like the scene at the river, too.

    You’re not 30 yet, and you’re not married, right? Go do it! I think I just missed my chance for doing something like that.

  22. Chris

    Woa, keep it up moviegoers. I haven’t seen an actual MOVIE for a while. Back in the swing of school. I’m interested to know what Kevin thought of Spring . . . and Spring, though.

  23. kevin

    It’s beautiful. There seemed to be something reassuring to me about the timelessness of this struggle & journey, from self-centeredness towards a kind of centeredness, but one not about self, that’s strangely comforting, like we’re not alone in doing so. It’s somewhat Buddhist in its cyclical nature, but not in a way that I think excludes Christian theology about dying to self.

    The Wind Will Carry Us reminds me a bit about this too. Both movies resonated with me, as if the expansiveness of both (in the first one temporal, the other one spatial) shows the hand of God directing us to where beauty is found, in choosing life. The final image of the director riding w/ the doctor on the moped through the meadows still sticks w/ me.

  24. Reid

    Kevin, you saw The Wind Will Carry Us?! Man, explain that movies to me. I pretty clueless about what’s going on.

    As for Spring…, I really think that I should see that again. The film does have some beautiful images, and I feel like I might like it more a second time around. As for the Buddhist notion of “dying to the self,” I think it’s totally compatible with Christianity.

  25. Reid

    The Night of the Shooting Stars (8 out of 10)

    La Notte di San Lorenzo
    dir. Paolo Taviani and Vittorio Taviani

    Should You See the Film?
    The Nazis tell some Italian villagers they must stay inside the church. Anyone found outside will be shot. Some of them do not trust the Nazis, so they leave the church to look for Americans. A woman, who was a girl at the time, retells the story from her memories.

    If you’ve seen the Poseidon Adventure (and if you haven’t, you may not want to read on), this film is like that except we see people living their lives amdist the fear and threat around them.

    Personal Comments

    On the journey, the vilagers are always afraid of being spotted by the Fascists or the Nazis, so there is a constant anxiety. But amidst this tension the people manage to live fully. Perhaps it’s this tension that heightens their senses and the natural beauty of the Italian countryside. Moments of simple pleasure are heightened. I liked the scene when the two ladies are washing their feet in the stream. There’s something simple and beautiful at the same time. The feeling of urgency electrifies their lives, sometimes in quiet ways. Moments of tragedy seem muted, however. At times people die, and the people seem almost too tired and stressed out to care. These moments seem strange when I recall them, but at the time, they seemed to make sense.

    If there was a problem I had, it had to do with some of the staging and composition of the scenes. There’s a kind of cheap, campy quality–sort of like staging in a Monty Python sketch that take away from magic of some of these scenes. Perhaps, the really old vhs copy was to blame for this.

    Still, there are some magical human moments in this film, and that’s what made me like it so much.

  26. Reid

    I forgot to add that I saw the film because, according to Entertainment Weekly’s: The Greatest Films Ever Made, The Night of the Shooting Stars was the fifth best film in the foreign film of all time. Only The Battleship Potemkin(4); The Earrings of Madame de…(3); 8 1/2(2) and Cries and Whispers beat out The Night of the Shooting Stars. That really surprised me, espeically because of the film was made in 1982.

    I think the movie is good, but I don’t think it’s the fifth best foreign film. On the other hand, I never saw Battleship Potemkim or Earrings of Madame de… yet. (I should watch Earring soon.) I did like NIght, but I’ve seen other foreign language films that I prefer more.

  27. Reid

    Thieves Like Us (5 out of 10)

    dir. Robert Altman

    I didn’t care for this film very much. The film does a good job of recreating the feel of the 1930’s, but the story and characters didn’t interest me enough. Well, I did like the performance of Keith Carradine and Shelly Duvall. They both played a simple country and guy well. I also liked the subtle portrayals of characters that aren’t so bright.

    Btw, Altman did not use his style of showing a constellation of characters and the intersections with each other other.

    Bourne Identity (4 out of 10)

    The general idea of these films are really good: the CIA hunting down their top agent who happens to have amensia. But the of the concept really falls short. I have a lot of complaints about this film, and I get annoyed because I feel the filmmakers missed a golden opportunity for making a great action film.

    Before I start complaining, let me tell you what I liked. As I said I like the general concept of the film. I also like Matt Damon as Jason Bourne.


    I also liked the way the film showed Bourne figuring out who was after him and why. The film did a pretty good job in that respect.

    Now on to my complaints. The villians and their motivations were not very compelling in this film. The fact that the CIA, specifically Joan Allen’s character, is hunting Bourne provides a tension between Bourne and the CIA. But the film does a poor job of developing the villians and their story–particularly with the way they’re linked to Bourne (actually, they’re not linked to Bourne which didn’t provided needed antagonism between the hero and the villians). The audience knows very little about motivations of the villians and their links to Bourne and the CIA, and when we do find out, it’s not very interesting.

    Another problem had to do with the way the action scenes were shot. The car chase scenes were right of the Jerry Bruckheimer school of confusion through fast-cutting (editing). Understanding what’s going on was so difficult you lose interest.

    Another problem was the confrontation between Bourne and one of the villians. Again, there’s no link between the two: the villian is just hired to kill Bourne. That’s fine, but if there were some link it would make the confrontation more dramatic and compelling. Second, the way this villian finds Bourne is really dissatisfying. Basically, he finds Bourne by chance. Then, the way Bourne escapes and eventually defeats the enemy is not very satisfying either.

    Most successful action stories have a strong tension between the hero(s) and the villian(s). The more dramatic and creative you can make these tensions, the more excitement the actions scenes will have. You also need to stage and create cool action scenes, ones where the hero gets into a challenging situation and finds creative, but satisfying ways of getting out of them. Bourne has a great premise, but it’s unfortuante that the filmmakers could not ultimately develope a great story or great action sequences.

  28. pen

    I saw Taxi with Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah and it was so-so. There were some funny moments (most of them in the trailer). Queen Latifah has great screen presence and I liked her.

    I also saw Shark’s Tale, which didn’t have the “depth” of Finding Nemo, but was quite enjoyable. It was fun picking out the “Godfather” and “Scarface” moments in the film.

  29. Tony


    I just missed you. I caught the 12:05 of the Motorcycle Diaries. I did go out and buy the book, but haven’t gotten very far into it yet.

    Concerning the point of the movie… I’m not sure it’s really obvious. It reminded me of Blackhawk Down (the movie) in so much as it seemed to report the story but not really force you to feel any particular thing. The ending was kind of anti-climactic like that. I think it’s just to show how encounters in life can shape your view of it.

    Yes, under thirty and not married. One of these days I’d love to make that kind of trip. Devil’s advocate question: why can’t/shouldn’t a married couple take such a trip? I think it would be just as potent. But I speak from total lack of experience in everything.

    Anyone interested in the HIFF? David Wenham will be around (Faramir from LOTR).

    Pen- I really wanted to see Taxi, and probably will eventually. I really like Queen Latifah, which I never thought I’d hear myself saying (not being much for rap and all).

  30. Reid


    I asked you about the point of the movie because you said that it was pretty clear. I wasn’t totally clear about the point, so that’s why I asked.

    As for taking a trip with my wife, we could do that, but I think it wouldn’t be the same as taking a trip, single and in my 20’s. Who I was as a person was not as formed as it is now. Plus, I’m getting older and fatter. 🙂

  31. Reid

    Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

    The visuals and the whole recreation of the 40’s Saturday action film or whatever you call it was interesting.I liked how the blended the live actors in into the animated background, especially the way they achieved the color and shadows on the characters. The whole look reminded me of Tamara de Lempicka paintings. I also liked the witty moments between Law and Paltrow. Having said that, the movie felt flat to me for some reason. I didn’t care about the story or the way it ended. I didn’t have any strong emotional attachment to any of the characters, although they were likeable enough. Maybe the director didn’t do a good job of developing them, particuarly the villians. The action sequences weren’t so exciting for me, for some reason as well.

    Perhaps the film felt flat because it just seemed to be a re-creation of the 30’s and 40’s films of this genre and that’s it. It was sort of like the Coen Brother’s Hudsucker Proxy. But I liked that film a lot more even though it was pretty derivative.


    Rivers and Tides: Working with Time
    (8 out of 10)

      Should You See the Film?

    This is the second time I saw the film, and I didn’t regret it. I really love Goldworthy’s art. I wouldn’t recommend this film who do not enjoy looking at art. For those that do, don’t go unless you’re in the mood to look at art, which is to say be patient.

    (If you think you’re never go to see the film or would need a lot of encouragement to see this, I would encourage you to read more. If you know you want to watch this, stop reading. I’m pretty sure Kevin would really like this film.)

      Personal Comments


    I especially like the art that he creates in partnership with nature. I like the fact that he almost exclusively uses his hands in his work, and he sees his work as a dialogue with nature–specially because his work requires an understanding of nature. For example, while building a egg shaped sculpture out of found rocks, he stacks the rocks upon each other with only the weight of the rocks holding the piece together. It’s like he’s playing jenga.

    To be successful he must understand the nature and propertities of the rock, and the ground the rock sits on, among other things. The process of building, watching the piece wobble or even crumble(!) constitutes a dialogue and an understanding of the material he utilizes. After four attempts to build the piece (This was on the beach, and he had to complete the piece before the tide came in, so there was a pressure element.)–the first attempt ended in the piece reaching a foot in height, and the second attempt two feet–he talked about the way the progress of the piece represented his growing understanding of the rocks and the environment.

    Another beautiful way his pieces interact with nature is the way nature break down his pieces. After he makes a piece, nature takes over and often ends up “destroying” the piece. But he doesn’t see this as destruction, so much as an offering that nature accepts and takes in. The film shows several beautiful examples of this using time-elapsed photography.

    I also loved the fact that his pieces are unstable. The fact that they can fall apart any time really adds an energy to his work that doesn’t exist in other works. He mentions how too much control from any artist (i.e. using materials to ensuring a piece won’t fall a part) can take away from the piece. Because of this, when you see Goldsworthy’s art, the energy (potential energy) is present and more palpable. The excitement is the similar to the thrill I get when listening to jazz or other improvised music. The greater risk of messing up adds an extra level of excitement to the music.

    Finally, beyond the conceptual level and the approach of Goldsworthy, I just loved the way his pieces looked. Whether standing still (although even when the pieces does not exhibit visible movement, you sense the movemen “hidden” beneath, as I mentioend earlier) or in motion, I enjoyed them both equally.

    I also recently re-watched Unforgiven. I’ll writing some comments for that, and I’ll post it soon.

  32. Tony

    Saw I Heart Huckabees today.

    The movie may not be for everyone, but it was definitely for me.

  33. Reid

    I watched Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and Barry Lyndon. I enjoyed Alice, and I think many of you here would as well. Hopefully, I have a more thorough review in a couple of days.

    I have some comments about Barry Lyndon in the “Visually Appealing Films” thread. Other than those comments, I thought the story and acting were not very interesting. Ryan O’Neal plays the lead, and I’m not a big fan of his. Still, as one review said, he doesn’t ruin the film. The biggest reason for seeing the film is the visuals. Be warned though: the film is 3 hours, and it’s not exactly fast-paced.

  34. Tony

    I saw a sneak preview of Finding Neverland Saturday night. The movie tells the story of J. M. Barrie (sp?), the author of Peter Pan. The movie was very well-made and highly enjoyable. Beautifully shot and wonderfully acted. Granted, you could make a movie of somebody painting an outhouse in the middle of the English countryside and I would be amazed at its beauty. I highly recommend the movie. Solid production with lots of neat moments along the way. It’s strange watching a movie that doesn’t have some big “twist” moment at the end, though. This is straight-forward storytelling at its best.

  35. Chris

    We’ve watched a few movies lately:

    Taking Pelham 1,2,3. We liked it a fair amount. It was a pleasure to see an action movie with a truly unpredictable structure. Walter Matthau was the perfect lead to pull off this odd movie.

    Welcome to Collinwood. Not bad, but only watch if you are already disposed to like weird independently-made fiasco movies without a strong plot.

    Italian for Beginners. This was a surprise. I had no idea that it was Danish, or that it was ‘Dogma 95’-certified or whatever. I assumed it was a glowy schmaltzy movie about falling in love in beatiful places. Anyway, both Abra and I really like this. I assume most people out there have already seen it — I’ve seen it mentioned on this site a number of times.

    Once More, With Feeling. This is the brilliant musical that came out in Buffy’s season six. It was a 70 minute TV show that had all the actual actors singing their parts under an enchantment by some kind of weird entertainment-demon guy. They said and did all kinds of things that were under the surface in their relationships. I saw the whole thing a couple of years ago, but hadn’t seen it since. Truly ingenious. Joss Whedon wrote all the songs, and they are as good as many musical numbers (which maybe isn’t saying much).

  36. Reid

    I never saw Italian for Beginners, but I have the same impression of the film you had. That’s why I never saw it. But you’re at least the second person I’ve heard who has said it was good, so I’ll try to check it out.

    I’m glad you like Taking. The casting is unusual by today’s standards, but it’s really spot on.
    (small spoilers)

    How about Jerry Stiller as the side-kick cop and Hector Elizondo as the psycho villian? Of course, Matthau was wonderful in this. It made me want to see more films with him as a detective or some thriller. (There are a few, which I have yet to see.)

    All in the all the movie has very few flaws, imo. I like how different twists keep the audience engaged. Plus, they take some time to develop the characters and the relationships between the protagonists and villians. I thought the music was really effective, too. How’d you like the ending?

    I saw a couple of films recently. Last night I finally watched 28 Days Later (4 out of 10) I was really disappointed by this. I must confess that during some of the slower scenes (i.e. driving a vehicle from one place to another), I sped the movie up, but I don’t think that took away from the film.


    The film had a creepy look, and I thought the premise was interesting, but director did a poor job of setting up the scary scenes. There was very little build up and the editing had so many cuts that you couldn’t see what was going on.

    In addition, I didn’t like the way the story progressed, especially when the protagonists get to the military camp. That really detracted from the “infected” people because it turned the military into the villians.

    13 Days (7 out of 10) was a lot better. This is the film about the Cuban Missile Crisis.


    I’d like to know what was made up and what was factual in the film. It’s pretty scary stuff. (While watching the film, I kept thinking about Robert McNamara’s exclamation about the incident: “We were lucky!”) Of course, I thought about our current situations in Iraq and Al Qaeda.

    One of the biggest problems in the crisis was that we never really talked much with the Russians and vice-versa. That was the craziest part. Without talking directly to people, creating the most terrible–and often false–impressions of the other side is easy to do. We made the same mistake when we went to Vietnam later (which the film forseshadows).

    This made me think of Osama bin Laden and other Muslims that are out to attack us. I think it’s critical that we–our leaders as well as the general public– have an accurate picture of who they are and what they want.

    The guy who played Bobby Kennedy did a really good job.

  37. Chris

    I thought 13 days was pretty good too — I’m so drawn to Bobby Kennedy. It is SO SAD that he was killed also. I just tears me up.

    Max, you might enjoy *Italian for Beginners*. I’m not sure though. It might be a bit on the trifling side for your tastes. Interesting to see.

  38. Reid

    I watched Italian for Beginners. Several comments:

    1. The trailers to this film are pretty misleading. Like you said, Max, they make this film look like a romance with beautiful settings.
    2. I thought the stories and characters were OK, but not very compelling. Well, I like the Giulia character, just because she was attractive, so I followed that story with some interest.
    3. I didn’t really care for the video look of the film. It sort of made the film look like a cheap soap opera. I know this was a dogma95 film, but Breaking the Waves didn’t look like this.

    The Incredibles (8 out of 10)

    The film has some flaws, but I enjoyed it. I’ll try to right more later. I would recommend it to almost anyone here.

  39. sean nakasone

    incredibles had the best graphics i’ve ever seen, better than nemo. it’s a must see for that reason alone. the scenes were very fast-paced, witty and madcap. my only complaint is that the characters weren’t very interesting, nor funny, and the story was just okay. but the action was entertaining from start to finish.

    i give it a 7.5 out of 10.

  40. sean nakasone

    the movie is exciting from start to finish, sort of like speed. it’s sort of humorous and has good looking actors and actresses all over the place, prancing around in bikinis. it seemed like a long commercial for nokia.

    7.5 out of 10.

  41. sean nakasone

    that was ‘cellular’

  42. Reid

    Hey good to see you here, Swan.

    Cellular gets a 7.5? You’re description doesn’t sound too appealing, and the previews of the film make the film look really stupid. But you’re not the only one to give this film positive reviews. I might check it out at the 50 cent theater.

  43. Chris

    Just which actor can I look forward to seeing prancing around in a bikini — William H Macy I hope (Mitchell, you must have already seen this for the Macy-in-a-bikini scene). Seriously though: it’s halfway decent? I wish we had a $.50 theater here. Our discount theater is 6 bucks.

    Max, I thought you’d like *Italian* a little more. Oh well. The unconventionality of the people and their weird troubles didn’t charm you? It did me.

  44. Reid

    The characters didn’t seem unconventional nor their troubles very weird. Helvfinn was sort of interesting, but the filmmaker never really got below the surface of the character. That’s true for all of them in fact. Am I missing something?

    Did you like the whole “long-lost sisters” bit? I thought of you and, of course, the never executed long lost brothers scheme.

  45. Mitchell

    I didn’t know William H. Macy was in that. The film had absolutely no appeal to me whatsoever, but now I have to see it. Especially if William H. Macy prances around in a bikini.

    Not that there wasn’t enough of William H. Macy’s body to last me a lifetime in The Cooler.

    As for Italian for Beginners, it was genuinely sweet with likable characters who spoke a language I almost never hear. That’s good enough for thumbs up from me. Dogma95 aside, I appreciated the way the film was put together. The Dogma95 conventions were gravy, as far as I was concerned. Adding a soundtrack would have taken away from the film, and I don’t think a film should get big ups for NOT doing something that would make it worse.

  46. Reid

    The Addiction (5 out of 10)
    dir. Abel Ferrara

    OK, this is not a great movie, but there are some things about it that I really, really appreciate. If we were doing a festival on Christianity in film, this might be a good one to have.

    (small spoilers)

    Like Bad Lieutenant, I loved the treatment of sprirituality in this film. The film expresses Christian themes in a somewhat positive light, without shame or a sneer. I say “somewhat” because I would gingerly call both films a Christian films. Ferrara doesn’t mind going overboard depicting sin, if you get my drift. Still, graphic depiction falls closely within Christian thelogical notions of sin. On some level I could see the Pope (and I cringe writing that) approve of both films.

    The other part I appreciate it is that grace does not come cheaply, particularly in Bad Lieutenant. I was a bit disappointed by the rushed feeling at the end of The Addiction.

    If there’s a problem I have with both films, it’s the length of time and amount of energy Ferrara uses to make his case about sin. It’s overkill, especially in BL, and it can make the films tough to watch. In general, he could make his point much sooner.

    But, again, I find the Chrisitian spirituality really refreshing, even if it’s surrounded by pretty violent and debauched images.

  47. Reid

    More on The Addiction


    Another thing I liked about the film was the take on vampires. Ferrara eschewed the fangs, and underplayed the supernatural elements. Instead, he portrayed the vampirism as an addiction. At one point, Lili Taylor injects herself with someone’s making her look like a addict.

    Ferrara used the vampire motif to represent our side. When Taylor is first attacked by a vampire, the vampire tells Taylor to tell her to go away. After Taylor becomes a vampire, she says the same thing to at least one of her victims. It seems that the vampires represent the impulses that serve as temptation. None of the victims tell the vampire to just leave.

  48. Chris

    Yes, long-lost sisters . . . yes, that seemed a bit much. Nothing else did, though, which is why I liked it. There wasn’t TOO much effort to ‘deepen’ everyone’s character in 90 minutes, and by unusual w/ unusual problems I guess I just meant sort of odd for the movies in that the probs didn’t feel overly set up.

    I just added Bad Lieutenant to my queue, but The Addiction was not available, sadly. I’ve been meaning to catch BL for a long time.

    Hey, did any of you idiots ever hear from our person moving out to HI?


  49. Reid

    I actually liked the long-lost sisters thing. I just wished the film dug deeper into the characters.

    Let me know what you think of BL. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but I cautiously recommend the film. There are aspects that make it worth seeing, but there are some major flaws, which I raised in the previous posts. Still, it’s good to know there’s someone like Ferrara out there.

  50. Reid


    I forgot to tell you that I did communicate with Ellen via email. She just seemed to want restaurant recommendations though. If she needs other help or wants to get together with the idiots, let me know.

  51. Reid

    Lagos/Koolhaas (2 out of 10)

    This was a one hour documentary on architect, Rem Koolhaas’ visit and “study” of the city of Lagos in Nigeria. Koolhaas’ interest in Lagos lies in the fact that the city is growing so fast, and he wanted to see the effects of planning on this growth.

    Unfortunately, the film feels more like a travelogue or “home videos” from a trip to Lagos. There is very little analysis or thorough research of the city (i.e. economic, historical, cultural, etc.) presented in the film. There is also very little discussion about Koolhaas’ ideas about architecture and planning.

    To top it off, Koolhaas and other speakers in the film had an accent that made what they said hard to understand.

  52. Chris

    We saw I heart Huckabees the other day. It was stranger than I suspected. It was quite entertaining, but like Tony said, it isn’t for everyone. I think it might really annoy Reid. But who knows.

  53. Reid

    I wanted to see this, but it’s only playing at one theater now on the other side of the island.

    Larri and I are half way through the first season of Six Feet Under. What an interesting series. The last two episodes were just OK, but we’ve really liked everything else so far.

  54. Tony

    I really liked the end of the first episode of that series. Peter Krause’s character is just so well-rendered.

  55. Chris

    I’ve seen the first year and some of the second, and found it very engaging (for the most part). It will be interesting to hear what you think of it as the 2nd season gets rolling . . .

  56. Reid

    I saw Dreyer’s Ordet, and I really liked it. Chris, you should watch this one. I’ll try to write more about it later. Man, those Scandinavians are the masters of Christian films!

  57. Chris

    Netflix doesn’t have it — do you know if it is only available on VHS?? I want to some how remind myself to see this film . . .

  58. Reid

    I rented on vhs from the library. Why don’t you check Harvard library?

  59. Reid

    Grace and I watched Enduring Love yesterday. I thought it was OK, except I don’t think I have a complete grasp of the film yet. The director, Roger Michell, also directed Changing Lanes and Notting Hill.

  60. joel

    I just saw “the grudge” recently and well…for what it’s worth it’s very reminicent of “the ring.” That style of japanese horror you see in old “obake” films where the ghost has these wide eyes and blank stares really jump at you when you add them to the traditional “scare tactics” you see in more contemporary horror films.

    Other than the fact that the film left some opened ended questions about certain characters, “the grudge” gave me a good scare and was quite entertaining. I hear they have a “tv series” based on the film as well. But I don’t think I’d be motivated enough to see it.

    (6 out of 10)

  61. Chris


    Good idea. I requested Ordet from the library. I think it may be on order but they’ll have it soon.


  62. Reid

    Check out the discussion of Ordet at the artsandfaith site after you see it. (I’m planning to check out most, if not all, of Dreyer’s films.)

    Btw, I finally saw Shaolin Soccer (6 out of 10).


    I loved the go-for-broke zaniness of the film and the fact that it didn’t take itself so seriously. Besides the effects, there was a b-quality and cheesiness that the film embraced fully without shame, and helped the film. The lead character really seemed to have that spirit, and I enjoyed his performance.

    I also really liked the effects in the film. It’s over-the-top in a comic book sort of way, and I wish the comics-to-movies film would take more advantage of these kinds of possibilities in the film medium to adapt those comics.

    I also loved the mixing genres concept, especially putting shaolin kung-fu characters in a sports film. Like Moulin Rouge (mixing contemporary pop songs into a totally different context), I wondered why no one thought to do it earlier.

    I would have liked to see them follow, thereby teasing, kung-fu movies. For example, in many Kung Fu movies, the master of a Shaolin Temple is killed by a traitor or enemies, and his disciples seek revenge. You sort of had that in the film, but they didn’t build that sub=plot in a way that clearly referred to kung-fu movies. Also, the villians often have a special kind of technique that the hero(s) cannot beat in the beginning of the film. In the middle of the film, the hero(s) train to beat that technique. I wished they did the same thing except do it within the context of sports.

    There were sub-plots that they could have eliminated in the beginning and use the time saved to do these things. For example, the sub-plot about wanting to promote Shaolin could have been eliminated, and you could have cut out the scenes at the bar (with the singing; fighting with the rival gang-and then you could take out the gang from the film).

    They also could have done a better job developing the backstory of the villians a little more. The final game is the first time we see “Team Evil” If they developed the vilians–making them despicable, establishing their prowess and making some of kind of tension between the protagonists–this would have built up the drama and made the final game that much more satisfying.

  63. Chris

    No frikin way could they take out the promotin Shaolin theme. This seemed really important, because it had to do w/ the other them about not adopting all the ‘western’ ways to succeed — rapacious greed, performance enhancing drugs, etc. Vs. Chinese values of family fidelity, respect for tradition, etc.

    This was a great aspect of this movie and ditching it would have made the plot less interesting!!

    I think the villians were just supposed to be extensions of the owner’s ruthless sell-out ways. For this reason, I didn’t really care that they were not developed.

    Maybe I feel a little too strongly about such a popcorn movie!

    Incidentally, it made quite an impression on my 3-year old niece. Weeks after seeing it, when her dad was having a really hard time zipping up her raincoat, she whispered “shaolin . . . “

  64. Reid

    Wait there’s “no frickin way” they could take out the Shaolin promotion theme? I think you are getting too wrapped up in this.

    I’m surprised that you thought the traditional Chinese values (i.e. family values, etc.) versus Western values was such a significan part of the film. I didn’t get that at all, nor did I get the impression the values sub-text was a big part of the director’s intent. The conflict over values seemed to be more of a plot device to add to the rivalry–but those issues were barely touched upon, imo.

    Besides, the film could have promoted traditional Chinese values (which they didn’t really do very well, imo) without the sub-plot of promoting Shaolin. And isn’t going the route of playing soccer (i.e. becoming famous, using the media, getting endorsements, etc.) using a Western/Capitalist mechanism that the traditional values are at odds with?

    Personally, I thought the values sub-text was a really minor part of the film–in terms of the intent of the filmmaker.

  65. Reid

    Btw, I think I forgot to mention that I watched Yi-Yi (A One and a Two). It got really great reviews, including a selection as one of the top 100 spiritual films of all-time. Read the metacritic reviews here

    I thought it was a pretty good film, but I have trouble remembering it (It was also 3 hours long.).

    I also watched Day of Wrath by Carl Dreyer yesterday. I didn’t like it as much as Ordet, but I’m really not sure what to think. I’d love to talk about it with anyone who has seen it.

  66. Chris

    I couldn’t disagree with you more, Max. How did the film begin and end? What was the secret weapon of Team Evil? Who were the protagonists? What was their weapon? Sure, it is a comedy, and it is about soccer — but it seemed like one of the points is that soccer can be done in authentic Chinese way or you can do it in a value-less empty way. Once again, way too many feelings about this. I have no idea why.

  67. Reid

    Well, I’d be interested in hearing a case for you point of view. Why do you think this is a serious point that the filmmaker wants to make versus just adding in a minor sub-plot or theme to the film?

  68. Reid

    I saw La Dolce Vita. I don’t know what to think just yet.

  69. pen

    Reid, that’s how I felt after I saw La Dolce Vita!

    Anyway, I also saw National Treasure which was not as bad as the reviews would have you believe. It was a fun popcorn movie and I enjoyed the adventure. It wasn’t like an “Indiana Jones,” but quite likeable in its own way. It did start me thinking about the documents upon which our nation was founded and about our current Administration. Tyranny in one person’s eyes was a fight for liberty in another’s. Hmmm…

  70. Reid


    I would have to spend time thinking about La Dolce Vita to get a better grasp of it, but I don’t know if I want to do that. I just watched 8 1/2, and I had a similar reaction, except I took the time to think about the film and even watch it a second time. I definitely discovered a lot more to the film and gained a better understanding of it. (Review to appear soon.) I’m interested in watching more of his films as I feel like there are recurring themes and motifs that would help you understand art a lot more. I think he’s definitely an interesting director (not to mention important to many people) that would warrant more thought and attention.

    I also saw Hidalgo (4 out of 10) yesterday.


    I think the race in the film disappointed me. There was very little drama because the horse were often just walking. The drama was also broken to me when there was a delay in the race. The pacing in general was a little slow, too.

    The dramatic moments also centered around a Shiek, his daughter and her rescue, and I didn’t find that very exciting or interesting. The main character–and the Native American sub-plot–was not very interesting and/or well-developed either, imo. The whole “pure breed” versus “half-breed” while appealing to me on some level, just seemed superficial. I also didn’t care for the political correctness in the film.

  71. sean nakasone

    school of rock, rate 7.5

    jack black’s character makes the movie, and he was perfect for the role–unbridled enthusiasm to the max. black’s character had a hilarious spontaneity about it, which black totally pulls off. the children also have interesting and unique characters and they have good chemistry with black. the movie was entertaining from beginning to end.

  72. Reid

    There’s a short discussion of the film in the “Underrate/Overrated” thread, if you’re interested.

  73. sean nakasone

    in the realm of the senses, rate 4.

    a japanese movie, almost like porn, they were having sex about 95% of the time. they did perverse stuff like she choked him while they had sex. and at the end of the movie, he tells her to choke him to death, which she does. after he dies, she cuts off his penis and balls. they show it too, really really disgusting and graphic.

  74. Reid


    How about some *spoiler warnings* if you’re going to reveal details in the plot–particuarly the ending!

  75. sean nakasone

    oops, sorry all. i hope noone was planning to rent this movie. i guess not now, huh.

  76. Reid

    (Posts by Sean moved from another thread)

    alexander. rate 6 out of 10. 3 hours long, very tedious and tiring to watch. i thought the story-line was repititious and pointless. it lacked a likeable character.

    the cinematography and costumes were great. it had some very passionate and inspiring speeches but they beat the horse to death with it.

    grave of the fireflies, rate 7 out of 10.
    a boy and his little sister find hardship after world war II in japan.

    sad and meloncholy. great character development. the girl was adorably cute and the boy was very likeable. the artwork is comparable to spirited away. the story and events are realistic, no fantasy like your average animation.

  77. Reid


    So why’d you give Alexander a “6?” Was because of the costumes and cinematography?

    My impression of Grave of Fireflies is that it is slow and depressing. Is that accurate?

  78. Reid

    (Posted by Sean; moved from another thread)


    Regarding my rating, anything less than a 7 is not worth seeing. I would not recommend Alexander to anyone. Although I did think the action and effects were comparable to Gladiator which warranted a 6.

    (Small spoilers)

    Regarding grave of the fireflies, i wouldn’t say it’s slow and depressing but rather peaceful and thought provoking. to me, it’s the little scenes that makes this movie worth seeing. the movie is filled with peaceful “pillow shots” and cute things that kids do. i would recommend watching it in japanese with english subtitles. the who did the japanese voice was only 5 years old and the animation was built around her voice recordings.

  79. pen

    I enjoyed Searching for Debra Winger, although it was a bit self-indulgent. It was clearly a personal quest of Rosanna Arquette, so I don’t want to be too harsh. Like Reid mentioned, there are some nice moments. Mostly, Arquette is looking for a sense of community. She wants to know that she is not the only actress over 40 who feels the way she does and struggles with the same issues. This is not a “documentary” and shouldn’t be viewed as a search for some truth or answer, because it would disappoint.

    Tony, I saw National Treasure. I posted something (very brief!) on Nov. 24. Also, did you read my kudos to you for recommending Klosterman’s book in the “What are you reading now” section? Thumbs up!

  80. Reid

    The thing is it could have been a lot more insightful, but again, I don’t want to be too harsh on Arquette.

    I just watched Dogville. Man, there’s a lot of to digest and talk about with this one. This has a great cast (Nicole Kidman, who’s great; Paul Bettany; Ben Gazarra; Lauren Bacall; Patricia Clarkson; Philip Baker Hall and more), lots of symbolism, really cool sets and just a tone of stuff to talk about. I don’t know what to think about his just yet–I’m way overloaded on movies that require a lot of thought–but I would recommend this just for the fact that it’s going to make you think. Hmm, there are some scenes that would make me cautiously recommend it to Grace, though.

    Hopefully, I’ll have a more thorough review sometimes soon, although there are bunch of difficult reviews ahead of this one.

  81. joel

    I just saw “supersize me.” the documentary about a man who decides to eat mcdonalds food for an entire month…that’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner, for 30 days. During this time he’s going to try to simulate the daily routine of an average human being while being routinely checked out by doctors to monitor his health.

    Without getting into to much detail. The film has many obvious loop holes…(1) nobody eats Mcdonalds everyday.(2)you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that fast food isn’t the best food for you.(3)everybodies routine and body style/types are different so they are gonna react differently no matter what.

    What I did like about the film is that it raised some important questions about our own food choices. How our government decides on our food programs etc. So from an entertainment stanpoint I liked it very much. If anything it will make the view think twice before “supersizing” their food or even eatting Mcdonalds food at all.

  82. joel

    I just saw “supersize me.” the documentary about a man who decides to eat mcdonalds food for an entire month…that’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner, for 30 days. During this time he’s going to try to simulate the daily routine of an average human being while being routinely checked out by doctors to monitor his health.

    Without getting into to much detail. The film has many obvious loop holes…(1) nobody eats Mcdonalds everyday.(2)you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that fast food isn’t the best food for you.(3)everybodies routine and body style/types are different so they are gonna react differently no matter what.

    What I did like about the film is that it raised some important questions about our own food choices. How our government decides on our food programs etc. So from an entertainment stanpoint I liked it very much. If anything it will make the view think twice before “supersizing” their food or even eatting Mcdonalds food at all.

  83. joel

    I give “supersize me” a solid 6 out of 10

  84. Tony

    I have to be honest, the movie was one of the funniest and scariest that I saw all summer! The scene where they talk about the surgery with the classical music was just amazing! Enjoyment factor: way up there. Obvious logic: you are probably correct.

    Rumor has it they are rewriting parts of it so it can be redistributed to middle and high schools.

  85. Reid

    Equilibrium (3 out of 10)
    Starring: Christian Bale, Taye Diggs, Sean Bean and Emily Watson

    This is the sci-fi film that looks like a Matrix rip-off (costuming and some other things which I won’t reveal). I think some people may like it just a little more than I did, but not much.

    (Plot details and some small spoilers)

    Don’t let the big names in the film fool you. This is one of those films that they made to put some money in their pockets. That’s it.

    The film combines the plot elements of Logan’s Run and THX 1138. In the future, emotions are outlawed because it is the source of all wars. (I don’t know if that’s necessarily true, but no matter.) So the state (set up to resemble the nazis) requires everyone to take a drug that suppresses their emotions. All art and anything that arouses the senses are banned. To enforce this ban, a special force is set up to hunt down and kill people who break these laws.

    These special forces are run by “clerics” who are specially trained in the fighting art of (don’t laugh) “gun kata.” Gun kata, as the name suggests is a martial arts style using guns. Masters of gun kata know use angles and body positions to maximize killing. A part of me thinks that the idea is not so silly, but I can’t help snickering a bit when I hear the term “gun-kata.” (Doesn’t it make you snicker?)

    These clerics also know how to use samurai swords and there are a couple of scenes with those. I didn’t care for these action scenes very much, but the fact that I didn’t really care for the characters at all, didn’t help matters.

    One other thing. In a way the film had a low budget look. You could tell by a lot of the different settings that shot the film (i.e. buildings that looked the same). I think this took away from the film.

  86. sean nakasone

    along came polly. rate 5. the entertainment value comes from the personality clashes between an uptight stiller who is a consumate worrwort and everyone else who seems to be oblivious to common sanitation or safety practices. the first 1/3 of the movie is somewhat funny providing a couple of knee slapping scenes, then it tails off from there with an occasional bathroom joke. i would wait until it comes out on TV.

  87. Mitchell

    I saw National Treasure on Saturday. It was pretty much nonstop entertainment and well-done for what it was. I was never bored; I was always engaged. I was always curious about what was going to happen next. Nicholas Cage can be an easy actor to watch. Nothing ground-breaking or life-changing here, but a good, solid two hours of undemanding pleasure.

  88. Reid

    Dersu Uzala
    (7 out of 10)
    dir. Akira Kurosawa

    The film really kept my attention throughout the film, and Larri watched the film with interest, too.

    (small spoilers)

    Here’s the general plot (which I don’t think will ruin the film): A Russian expedition meets up with an Asian mountain man (some other reviewer mentioned Yoda, and that’s not a bad description of the guy, sans the “force.”)The relationship between this Asian mountain man and the captain of the expedition is a pretty appealing one. If you footage of nature (I believe they shot in Siberia), then you might also like this film. A solid film, but it’s not amoung my favorite Kurosawa films. Btw, Dersu Uzala is the name of the Asian mountain man.

  89. Chris

    Abra and I saw “Zhou Yu’s Train” a couple of nights ago. It was one of the more visually appealing films I’ve seen in a long time. The plot was much more challenging than I expected, so I was a little surprised. It is the kind of film I would probably benefit from seeing again. Anyone else out there seen this one??

  90. Reid


    I never saw it, but I’ll let you know what I think if I do (although you may not want to, after my comments about Buffalo ’66–which were fairly positive, btw).

    I saw Floating Weeds and Early Summer recently. Ozu is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorite directors.

  91. Mitchell

    Oooh. I want to see Floating Weeds. I’m just not sure I’m ready for it.

  92. Reid

    I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “I’m not ready for it,” but, for what it’s worth, I don’t think you have to work really hard to maintain interest in the film. Unlike other foreign or art films, I find Ozu’s films engaging and not estoteric or abstract at all. It’s not like they require a lot of discipline and will to complete. Then again, I’ve been watching a ton of foreign/art films, so I guess what I say should be taken with an extra grain of salt.

    If you mean that you don’t think you’re at a point in your life where you will fully appreciate the film, I would say you are. Then again, I don’t I’m not sure I picked up everything in the film, so who am I to say? I may not have been ready for the film!

    On the criterion collection, Ebert does the commentary.

    Would you be interested in selecting Ozu for a V-I film festival? He has made a ton of films, but he would be an excellent director to feature for our group.

  93. Reid

    All That Heaven Allows
    dir. Douglas Sirk

    If you liked Far From Heaven, the recent film by Todd Haynes, then I would recommend this film. You can definitely see the influence and connection. I didn’t really care for it, myself, but I wouldn’t say it was a bad film.

    Landscape in the Mist (See review)


    Wow, this was a really good documentary. I should have a review soon.

  94. Mitchell

    I’ve always thought of Ozu as one of those guys you get into when you’re “ready,” whatever that means. Possibly, I have thought him esoteric, since it seems only guys like Roger Ebert ever consistently mention him. It sounds from your review, though, that he’s fairly accessible, and since I have a predisposition in favor of Japanese film, perhaps that would be really cool.

    Let’s start with Mulholland Drive, though, which I will pick up and rent over the break.

  95. Reid

    I saw Air Force One (5 out of 10). See my comments in the

    I also saw Lemony Snicket: A Series of Unfortunate Events (6 out of 10)

    Should You See It?

    I think people who like Harry Potter might want to check out the books. I think the characters would appeal to Mitchell and Grace, in particular. I’ve heard the author also appreciates language, and has a fastidiousness about language that Mitchell would appreciate.

    Personal Comments

    I gave the score a 6 because I liked the characters (both heroes and villian), otherwise I would have gave the film a 5 because the story wasn’t very interesting, particularly the last episode in the film. Others of you may not have the same problem, but I don’t think Larri liked the story very much either. (She said it got boring, and I know what she means.)

    I loved Jim Carey as Count Olaf. It reminded me of Robin Williams performance as the Genie in [I]Aladdin[/I] (although I prefer Williams’ role).

    I loved the premise of the three children and their different talents. (I liked the way the spine of the books popped up whenever Klaus drew from his knowledge.) Yeah, it’s not very original, but I was excited by the possibilities. Some of the predicaments the children get in and out of were pretty interesting, but not as inspired as I had hoped.

    Speaking of uninspired, I thought the overall story was lacking. The story basically seemed like a series of situations where the children foil Count Olaf’s plans. The last episode was probably the dullest. Still, I like both the heroes and the villian in this. I’d probably give the film a 6 out of 10.

  96. Reid

    Ivan the Terrible

    This the Eisenstein film that made all-time greatest lists. Actually the film has some parallels with the Hero as both are very nationalistic. Actually the most interesting thing about the film came from my father’s comments about Russian history and his point about the way this film was probably used as propaganda by Stalin. In that light, some of the speeches from Ivan are pretty chilling.


    At the end Ivan–who begins killing the Boyars–talks about how the Czar must be willing to the purge the nation of it’s enemies or he is not fit to be Czar. I got chills thinking about that line and the Stalin’s own purging of the Soviet Union.

    City Light
    Charlie Chaplin

    Except for a few exceptions, I didn’t find the slapstick very funny in this, although I really like Chaplin’s Tramp persona. I found the end very touching as well.

  97. Reid

    I saw Closer a few weeks ago. I give it an 8. It’s a solid film. Hopefully, I finish the review soon.

    I also watched Blood of the Poet, a very arty film about artists and the artistic process. Jean Cocteau directed the film, and relies on creative, but low-budget effects. A very abstract and surreal film about the creative process for only those into art films.

    Last night we watched the original Norwegian version of Insomnia. (Small spoilers) This is one of those dark thrillers where the actual thriller storyline is secondary and not the darkest parts of the film. Sean Penn’s The Pledge is also in that vein.

    Larry, Penny and I have also watched Twin Peaks the TV series. We really had some problems, as the 1st season dvd did not have the two-hour pilot. We didn’t realize how crucial that pilot was (nor that it was 2 hrs. of information) until we saw it. Luckily, Diamond Head video had a copy (although when I first called, they said they didn’t have it).

    The other sucky thing happened when I found out later that there are 29 episodes, and no video store or library caries them. Argh! I have no idea when we’ll be able to complete the series.

    Anyway, the series started off really great. I really loved Kyle MacLachlan’s performance of Dale Cooper. What a great character! As the series involves more characters, I started to lose a little interest, but I still want to see the resolution.

    I think the series also sheds light on Lynch’s films and his development as a filmmaker. Start from Blue Velvet and watch all his films up to Mulholland Drive and you can see how his ideas developed over time.

  98. Mitchell

    Spanglish. Go see it.

  99. Reid

    Is it that good or worthwhile?

    I saw a bunch of films this weekend:

    House of Flying Daggers(6 out of 10)
    Carnal Knowledge(8 out of 10)
    Magdalene Sisters(7 out of 10)
    Last Year at Marienbad?

    (Small spoilers)

    A bunch of us went to see House of Flying Daggers on Christmas day. I know Jill and Grace really liked it. I didn’t care for it much. I think for me the relationship wasn’t convincing or compelling enough for me to enjoy the film. Like Hero, color plays a key role in the film, and the costumes, set-pieces and landscapes are gorgeous. (I’d like to see the film that beats this one for best costume design.)

    I was telling the people I went with that I felt the action sequences were sort of a waste, and people asked why. I wasn’t able to totally articulate my feelings at the time, but having thought about it a little more, I think that the answer lies in the lack of dramatic undercurrent in the fighting sequences. Without a real interesting dramatic or emotional conflict between the two sides fighting, the fighting just gets boring, even meaningless. For example, we know almost nothing about the general who sends the troops to attack the two main characters. If the general were developed and had some interesting tension with the main characters, that might make the fight sequences more compelling.

    The other thing that makes kung-fu fight sequences interesting is the different employed by the combatants. At one point, Mei (Zhang Zi-yi) mentions that Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) has diferent techniques. We never get to see exactly what those techniques are, nor do we see different techniques used by the enemies.

    I will say that the Chinese are the best at choreographing hand-to-hand fight sequences. Bar-none. Why the filmmakers that adapt Marvel comics aren’t hiring these people is a beyond me. The Warshowski(sp?) brothers did it in the Matrix series, so I don’t know what the problem is. Picture the X-Men with the kind of choreography in these Kung-Fu films and you’d really thrill audiences. And if there’s any circumstances where the “flying” would be appropriate it would be with super=heroes.

    I liked Carnal Knowledge a lot more. I was reluctant to watch the film because it seemed pretty depressing (no characters to really sympathize with), but, after seeing Closer, I was interested in seeing this film, which Mike Nichols also directed.

    The dialogue and the delivery of the dialogue is really great. Candice Bergen is very good, even Art Garfunkel is good (although his character’s development is not so interesting). Nicholson and Ann Margret (particularly the latter) stood out for me. I believe Margret got nominated, and she deserved it.

    I think it’s a good film to see along with Closer as both films are in a similar vein. Nichols spoke about his early sketch comedy work with Elaine May, particularly skits that involved men and women. Both Closer and Carnal Knowledge seem like a series of sketches, with a story and character development added in to create continuity.

    Closer is supposed to be a comedy, but I didn’t find it funny at all. Carnal Knowledge worked a lot better. I think Nicholson and Bergen were funny in their roles, in ways that the actors in Closer were not. Then again, my mindset going in Carnal Knowledge was a little different. I think I was more open to seeing the comedic elements in the film. It was hysterically funny, but I could appreciate the humor (mostly dark).

    There are some pretty dark moments that aren’t funny at all, Ann Margret’s character, for example. The film combines both serious dark moments with humourous dark moments that don’t seem to fit with me. Maybe that’s Nichols’ intention; maybe I need to readjust my approach. I don’t know. I do think the acting and writing are top notch and are worth the price of admission.

    I’ll talk more about the other films later.

  100. Mitchell

    Is it that good or worthwhile?

    I’m seriously not being sarcastic, here, so don’t read it that way. I just want to know why you think I’d say “go see it” and that’s all, if I didn’t think it was “that good” or “worthwhile.” I didn’t say “go see it unless you’re Reid.” I didn’t say, “Go see it unless you don’t like movies that aren’t very good or worthwhile.” I just said go see it.

    So yeah. Don’t read the reviews. The reviewers don’t do a good job of sayiing why they like it, and in a way I’m glad. Just go see it.

  101. Reid

    I ask because simply saying, “Go see it” is a very strong statement. I would not write what you did (with no caveats) unless I felt absolutely certain that others should see the film as well. Because if I did write that, my credibility would be on the line, and I would risk the ire of people who did not feel the exhortation was warranted. I just wanted to make sure you were certain.

  102. Mitchell

    The last time I gave an unqualified recommendation, it was for Mystic River, a movie not everyone liked, but whether people liked it or not, it is still my belief that they should see it.

  103. Reid

    I thought Mystic River was one of the better films of last year, but I don’t think it’s a film people should see whether they would like or not. I’m curious to hear the reasons you were so emphatic about this film.

    (Btw, is the “Village Idiots Movie Award” thread closed? I can’t seem to post in it.)

  104. Mitchell

    That’s fine. So would you say it was “worthwhile” or “that good?” Or would you say it was a waste of time or not that good?

    By the way, I never said people “should” see Spanglish or Mystic River. All I said was “go see it.” That could mean you “should” see it, or it could mean you “must” see it, or it could mean I want you to see it. In this case, it certainly didn’t mean “should” or “must.” But you see, now I’ve already said more about it than I wanted to–this is the kind of discussion I was trying to avoid when I merely said “go see it.”

    I saw Mystic River three times in theaters, with three different friends, and none of them loved it nearly as much as I did, yet I do not regret the recommendation; neither do I feel my “credibility” was damaged in any way–I didn’t promise anyone he or she would love it; I just said that I loved it and this is why I wanted these others to see it. Mystic River was a great example of something I yearn for when I see a movie, and I wanted a few people who were close to me to see it, partly so they’d know what I love about movies (I actually called Grace and Penny up and said, “Make plans to go see this.”).

    That’s not why I say “Go see Spanglish.” But yeah. Go see it.

  105. Reid

    By the way, I never said people “should” see Spanglish or Mystic River. All I said was “go see it.” That could mean you “should” see it, or it could mean you “must” see it, or it could mean I want you to see it. In this case, it certainly didn’t mean “should” or “must.”

    But now you understand why I would ask for clarification, right? Now, you may have intended to be vague, but how could I know that.

    As for Mystic River, I thought it was a good film, but I wouldn’t say it’s a film that one should see regardless if one “would like it or not.” Now, you said you wanted your good friends to see it so that they could understand what you yearn for in films. That’s totally cool, but that’s the kind of qualification that I would want to know (unless you had a specific reason you didn’t want the person to know this).

    I’m sorry if this annoys you, but what specifically did you love about that film?

  106. Reid

    Orpheus is a modern update of the Orpheus myth by filmmaker Jean Cocteau. It’s also the second film in a triology about art. I don’t want to rank the score because I really don’t know what the think of the film.

  107. Reid

    Here’s the link to my review of Last Year at Marienbad

  108. Mitchell

    Believe it or not, I saw Beverly Hills Cop for the first time yesterday (edited for television). When I was in high school, I never saw R-rated films except for The Breakfast Club, which my father recommended, and Up in Smoke, which was the second half of a double feature at the Royal Sunset Drive-In. My father thought his friend was taking me only to see Meatballs, but we stayed for the Cheech and Chong flick, too.

    I am surprised at how good it is. Because of his recent box-office disasters, not to mention his critical flops, I think I’d forgotten how magnetic and charming Eddie Murphy can be. I think, too, that there are today so many Black comic-actors who were obviously inspired by Murphy that it’s easy to forget how unique he was in his time. Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, and Chris Tucker should all give parts of their royalties to Murphy, who, I guess, should give some of that to Richard Pryor.

    Generally, movies like this are a big yawn for me–I’ve pretty much had my fill of the renegade-cop thing, but Eddie Murphy makes this film interesting, pretty much from its beginning to its predictable end. This is not a better film than his 1987 The Golden Child, but it is a solid reminder of what made him the huge star that he was, once upon a time. 7 out of 10.

  109. Reid

    I think one of the things he started was the idea of a stand-up comedian playing an action role. Did you see 48 hours? I think that’s better than Beverly Hills Cop, although I don’t think either are super great. \

    Well, I recently watched the following films:

    Open City
    Spanglish (review to follow soon)

    The other two films are the last two films I will see from the UH library. My card expired at the end of the year, so I won’t be seeing so many films. Man, I’ve been spoiled: a great collection of dvds and videos to choose from that I could hold onto of eight days at a time all for free! (Well, my tuition covered the cost.) I don’t know how I’ll be able to handle it. I really enjoyed the run though.

  110. Chris

    Has anyone out there seen the incredibly painful and funny Office series that the BBC produced? It is a mockumentary thing that ended up winning some golden globes a few years ago I guess. Oh dear — if any of you idiots like the awkward-moment kind of situation comedy, this is it for you; look no further. There are 2 6-episode season (each episode is 1/2 hour) and a couple of follow-up specials.

    Max, you could probably complete your Twink Peaks thing with a simple Netflix trial membership. Not what it’s intended for probably, but you get the idea . . . (the prices went down recently to because of competition).

  111. Reid


    I don’t think Twin Peaks is out on dvd, besides the first season. So basically we’re screwed.

    I’m glad you liked The Office. I heard an interview with the actor who plays the obnoxious boss and some clips. I immediately thought that you would like this. Hopefully, I’ll watch it soon.

  112. Mitchell

    The Office: David Letterman says he thinks this is the funniest TV series ever.

    NetFlix: Now that NetFlix has a Hawaii mailing center, it might be much more worth the cost of membership.

  113. Chris

    That was what I was wondering: How long does it usually take to turn around a film from the west coast? SF to Hawaii — back to SF? Or whatever. I hope the Hawaii dist. center has a good variety. I suppose Reid will insure that if he subscribes . . .

    I plan to see A Very Long Engagement tonight. I won’t probably try to write a review, but I’ll let you know what I think.


  114. Reid


    I saw A Very Long Engagement, and I would see something else like Closer. I haven’t written a review for A Very Long Engagement, but I would give it a 4 (5 at best), and I really like Jeunet.


    I think the public library has the first season of the Office.

  115. Tony

    Only a 4 for A Very Long Engagement?? Heh heh, I suppose I understand. I think I’d bump it up to about a 7. Beautifully shot. The characters were a little difficult to keep track of, but I think the movie followed all the rules that it set for itself.

  116. Reid


    Have you seen other films by Jeunet (i.e. Delicatessen, Amelie, City of Lost Children)?

    small spoilers

    Having seen those other films was a big reason I didn’t care for A Very Long Engagement. The quirky charm and energy thar are present in the other films seems neutralized in this one. I think the Hollywood backing has something to do with it. The “bigness” of this filim took away from the Jeunet’s style, for example, dramatic aerial shots just didn’t seemed out of place for Jeunet’s films.

    I also didn’t find the side stories that served as clues very interesting at all. Also, I thought we saw too little of Manech and his relationship with Mathilde for the climax to move me.

  117. Chris

    I’d give it a little more than a four. You see, I give a 4 to a movie that truly sucks, even though there is room to suck more. Maybe, Reid, you are working on a logarithmic scale rather than a linear one?

    Anyway, it was rewarding to watch, even though it was convoluted. I wasn’t prepared for the complexity, but even if I had been, I don’t think I would have been up for it: that’s not what I enjoy about Jeunet’s films. He does such a good job of telling a simple story in a strange, detailed way. I’ve liked his other films, and even found Aliens IV to be tolerable (though maybe I gave it too much credit to begin with because the script was Joss Whedon’s).

    Certain scenes were pretty impressive: shooting the mirror (I’ll say no more for those who haven’t seen it).

  118. Tony

    I’m not sure holding a creator’s other work against him is such a great thing, man. I saw Amelie and loved it. The quirkiness fit the piece. In A Very Long Engagement, the quirkiness is subdued, but I think that reflects the fact that the content is subdued. All that self-mutilation? Good grief! Not much levity in that. Still, there were some wonderful shots and moments, which is more that you get in lots of other movies.

  119. Reid


    I’m not sure what you mean by a “logarithmic scale versus a linear one,” unless you’re just pulling my leg. (If you’re interested, I just posted my scaling in the “10 Point Rating Scale” thread.)

    (small spoilers)

    For me the “complex” elements (if we’re thinking of the same thing) didn’t make the film less enjoyable because it was difficult to understand. The problem was that it was boring. All the side-characters and their side stories weren’t very interesting at all. Plus, the main relationship just wasn’t very convincing to me. If I believed a they had a great love, than that would have made it more interesting. In a way, this makes me think of the movie, Titanic. That wasn’t a great story, but I really liked DiCaprio and Winslet in those roles. They made an appealing and convincing couple for me. I didn’t think the movie deserved the hype, but I did enjoy that film primarily because of those two actors.


    I asked you about this other films because I what made those other films interesting is not really there. As I said, I think it was “neutralized” by Hollywood. I could say the same for Alien: Resurrection, which I thought was utterly terrible, even though you had some cool visuals, just as A Very Long Engagement did. The point is that I feel like he wasn’t able to truly make a film that he wanted to. It seems like he would have done things differently if he had more control, but I could be wrong about that.

    On a slightly related note, I believe there was a debate in France about calling this film a French movie. I guess, some people said that it wasn’t a French film because it was backed by Hollywood.

    I’m not sure what you mean by the content being “subdued,” unless you’re being facetious. Or do you mean that the content was pretty grim so it called for a less zany and whimsical approach? If that’s what you mean, than I would guess you didn’t watch Delicatessen. I’ll say no more, but I think it’s his (and co-director Marc Caro’s) best film.

  120. Chris


    I was sort of pulling your leg, sort of not. For your scale to be logarithmic, the amount of difference between a 4 and a 5 would be smaller than the amount of difference between 5 and 6, 6 and 7, etc. Like the Richter scale (where, if I have this right) an 8 magnitude quake is 10 times stronger than a 7. So a 4 and a 5 movie are closer together in quality than a 7 and an 8.

    All this is super nerdy, so I apologize, but, am I just a little bit right about your scale?

    I think I basically agree with your problems with Engagement, but I felt more confused than bored by the complexity. Confused by the information, but also aesthetically by the rapid sweeping in and out of perspective on intimate and historical and ‘throw away’ details.


  121. Reid


    Hmm, I don’t think my scale works that way. The difference between a 5 and 6 would be about the same as the difference between a 7 and 8. I’m puzzled as to how this relates. (What’s the advantage of rating films in a “logarithmic” way?)

    I saw a bunch of movies this weekend:

    Umberto D (6 out of 10)
    Beauty and the Beast (Cocteau)(6 out of 10)
    Yojimbo (7 out of 10)
    Quick and the (5 out of 10)
    Battleship Potemkin

    I also saw Finding Neverland, which I will review shortly. I should also have a short review for Quick and the in the action/adventure thread.

    Umberto D is a film by Vittorio De Sica, director of Bicycle Thief (which I liked a lot more).

    Cocteau’s version of Beauty and the Beast is different from the Disney one. I think there is symbolic images that I haven’t spent time thinking about, so it’s hard to give a fair rating. My niece enjoyed the film, though.

    I liked the humor and Toshiro Mifune’s performance in Yojimbo (although I think Clint Eastwood is better), but I didn’t care for the showdown at the end.

    Potemkin is harder to rate. I can say that I didn’t find the film very enjoyable to watch, although it made me think a lot about editing and the way that Eisenstein put together the different shots. I would say it’s more of a film to watch for those techniques than to enjoy as a film in and of itself.

  122. Tony

    Gosh, things have been quiet here lately. Ah well.

    If you’re looking for a good, cheap movie to catch this weekend, I Heart Huckabees is supposed to be showing at Restaurant Row. One of the three most enjoyable movies of the year, in my humble opinion. So if you missed it the first time, here’s a chance to redeem your misfortune!

  123. Mitchell

    …just don’t take the bus there, because they won’t let you in with a backpack.

  124. Mitchell

    (in case anyone forgot I was running a personal boycott against the Row)

  125. Mitchell

    Well, I finallly saw Amelie this weekend, mostly because of your conversations here. I don’t have much to say about it–it was amusing and engaging, but I didn’t care much about the characters and didn’t think the acting was particularly good. The writing was good, though, and that goes a long way with me. A weak 7.

    Elektra. I am a slave to my lusts, I tellya. Anyway, it’s total guilty-pleasure material, pretty much by any measures, unless you’re thirteen, in which case you’ll think this movie rocks. I enjoyed it, but man, it wasn’t good. A hearty 3.

  126. Mitchell

    more about Elektra. reid, stay away from this movie, because you’ll hate it. you’ll hate every stinking frame of it. there is absolutely nothing in this film you will like. grace will find it boring. penny will find it stupid but fairly entertaining. tony already knows how he feels about it, based on his knowledge of and/or fondness for the comic book added to what he’s already heard of the film. for john it depends on what he thinks of jennifer garner’s lips, face, and, you know.

  127. Mitchell

    a few links to interesting Roger Ebert pieces, for those of you who aren’t regular readers of his online edition:

    Ebert’s Ten Best Films lists for each year from 1967 to 2004, with links to his summaries about the individual years.

    An interesting analysis of the ten-best lists compiled by the AFI and the National Society of Film Critics, and how these lists might affect the Oscars.

    An article about the Ozu retrospective playing through March 3 in Chicago (24 of his 33 extant films), in which Ebert says, “Ozu’s famous style makes his films more, not less, accessible.”

  128. Chris

    I just watched the documentary When We Were Kings for the third time. This is an excellent documentary–very entertaining and infomative. It is about the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in 1974: the fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire. It is quite an extraordinary tale, one I was almost angry to be ignorant of when I first saw the film. It brings together so many ‘themes’ of the 60’s and early 70s from a totally unique perspective . . . anybody care for this film? There is one element in it I thought unnecessary, but oh well.

    Has there ever been Best Documentaries thread? I’ve lost my password so I can’t make one myself, but it might be an interesting one . . .

  129. Reid

    I’d probably give Amelie a 7, too. I can’t remember a lot about the film except for Jeunet’s style, which is what I liked the most about it, that and Audrey Tatou as the title character.

    I was a bit excited about this film because it had mainstream appeal. I’m still a puzzled as to why Delicatessen doesn’t appeal to more people.

  130. Mitchell

    …well, there’s the bizarre frogmen-in-the-sewers thing. But we saw it in a neato old theater on a decent-sized screen. I’m sure that has something to do with our liking it as much as we did.

    I haven’t seen When We Were Kings, but I have seen the Rumble in the Jungle in its entirety, with the original blow-by-blow announcing, and yeah. It was just…amazing. Makes me wish I still watched boxing, which I love but don’t allow myself to watch anymore.

  131. Chris

    I would recommend When We Were Kings, but there is a bit of boxing. George Plimpton and Norman Mailer do a lot in it — they were both there to cover it. And plenty of Ali’s unreal improvisation.

    Abra and I are continuing to watch the excellent BBC series on DVD called MI-5. These are very good action/espionage episodes, better than any other TV of this nature that I can think of. There are two seasons available on disc and the third is currently airing. It has the snappiness of a show like Alias, without all the costume changes and corniness (and better characters in general). Also, not quite the gratuitous cliffhanger/soap opera deal every week.

  132. pen

    Mitchell, I did see Elektra and thought it was okay in a mediocre sort of way. Geez, could I give a blander review? Ho-hum. Reid would definitely be ranting, so please don’t see it. It may have been especially disappointing after seeing movies like Spanglish, Finding Neverland and Closer.

  133. Reid

    Bummer. I wanted to see and like Elektra. I really liked the Daredevil issues that covers the same story.

    I saw two films yesterday:

    Night and Fog
    Five Obstructions

    The first film is a short documentary by Alain Resnais about the Holocaust. I wasn’t sure what the film was about, but I knew Resnais directed it, and I’ve been wanting to watch his films. I fell asleep in the middle of the film, so I don’t know if I can fairly anaylze it. It didn’t seem to add much to what I know of the Holocaust.

    The Five Obstructions is a kind of documentary about Lars von Trier and one of his favorite directors, Jorgen Leth. Von Trier gets Leth to remake a short film Leth made in ’67 five different times, each time with certain constraints or obstructions.

    I found the film interesting to watch. Von Trier comes up with creative obstructions. Naturally, you want to see the way that Leth ultimately deals with these obstructions, and I enjoyed the results.

    The difficulty with analyzing this film is that Leth’s films (the original and the following films) are not straight-foward and require interpretation from the viewer. I haven’t really put that much thought in analyzing the films, so I really can’t comment much.

    The film does sort of make you think about the artistics process–the way constraints can hinder or help a piece, the relationship between the artist and the work, and some other themes that I may not have noticed. If this sounds interesting, I would recommend the film. Without analyzing Leth’s films, I’d give the movie a 7.

  134. Chris

    I saw The Aviator yesterday, and a Korean anime thing called Blue Sky the night before that. Blue Sky wasn’t all that good, but it was pretty to watch — it was the usual thing for me of being drawn to anime, probably hoping to recapture the 11-year old watching Star Blazers before going to school thing, and it never really works out, and so it was also the usual thing of feeling let down/disappointed.

    The Aviator was too long, and a little painful to watch at times. But the performances were all quite good, and the sets/costumes/feel of the movie was really good. I wouldn’t rate it highly, but it has stuck with me in a mildly haunting way. Anybody out there see this one?

  135. Reid

    I’ve been planning to see The Aviator.

    I just finished watching Diary of a Country Priest. I was really tired while watching it, and had a hard time keeping my eyes open during some of the scenes. I thought it was just OK.

    I also watched Beat Takeshi’s Boiling Point. I’m pretty mystified by his films. It’s almost experimental. I appreciate the fact they are not easy to pidgeon hole, but I wasn’t sure about the narrative. It seems as if this film is a meditation on what pushes people over the edge, and the narrative is secondary.

  136. Reid

    I saw an Iranian film called, Crimson Gold, that reminded me of Close-Up, but wasn’t as good.

    I finally saw Fast Runner, and was surprised that the film kept my attention even though it was almost three hours. I’d give the film a 7.

  137. Reid

    I saw Vera Drake and Million Dollar Baby. I’ll try to write a review later, but I can say that both films are worth watching. I think Million Dollar Baby is a legitimate nominee for best picture.

    I also watched A Tale of Winter with Grace, Penny and Larri, and I enjoyed the conversation afterwards. It’s a film by Eric Rohmer. I liked the dialogue and the lead character, not because she was likeable, but because I rarely see a not-so-bright character portrayed in a complex and subtle way. The film also has some good dialogue and thoughts on romantic love and life.

  138. kevin

    Curious to hear what observations you guys came up with. That one and The Green Ray are on my list, but haven’t been motivated to watch though they’re such well regarded. I did rent Pauline on the Beach a year ago, which is a bit more playful but equally philisophical about the nature of romance and relationships, another one that invites discussion. Rohmer’s definitely an interesting director.

    FYI if anyone’s interested, there’s a good & short NYTimes article in today’s Sunday section about Kore-eda’s new film coming out, which I’m eagerly awaiting. Maborosi is on my top 5 list of all time. Afterlife wasn’t as good, but I think I like his style most of all the current generation of Japanese filmmakers.

  139. Reid


    I think I might start a thread on A Tale of Winter. I didn’t realize that it is one part of four films. Grace pointed out that the title in French said, “The Four Seasons.” (In fact, the film might have used the music from Vilvaldi’s Four Seasons.) I believe the first film in the series came out in 1990: A Tale of Summer. The Autumn and Spring tales came out in the late 90s. Winter came out in ’92.

    I agree that Rohmer is an interesting director, particularly for his characters and dialogue. There’s a film in the early 70s called My Night at Maud’s or something like that, that I wanted to see. The conversations in A Tale of Winter reminded me of the conversations in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Have you seen those films? I highly recommend both if you haven’t seen them.

    I’ve request Maborosi from the library, so hopefully I’ll watch it soon. I liked the concept in Afterlife, but it wasn’t as good as I had hoped for some reason.

  140. Reid

    I finally got around to watching Beau Travail. I need help from anyone who saw and understood this film.

  141. Reid

    Dancer in the Dark (6 out of 10)
    dir. Lars von Trier


    Many people seemed to love Bjork’s performance (including the Canne jury), but I thought it was OK. Maybe if I didn’t here about her performance beforehand, I would have liked it more. I can’t help but feel that a part of the acclaim comes from the fact that she’s not a professional actor. She pulled off some harrowing scenes, and for someone who is not a professional actor, that is impressive.

    I also love Bjork’s voice, and the music in general (I like the way she utilizes industrial sounds in the “rhythm section.”), but I had a hard time understanding the lyrics. For some strange reason, the subtitles didn’t print the lyrics, so I finally switched the TV to close-captioning. That really helped.

    The idea behind filming the song and dance numbers was interesting (using a 100 cameras filming at one time in one take), but I don’t think it worked really well. I don’t think a lot of cutting works well with dance sequences. (Moulin Rouge had the same problem, imo.) Or perhaps, the final editing and choreography didn’t work for me.

    I liked the attempt at blending drama and a musical, but I feel a bit dissatisfied with the film overall. It just seemed a bit pretentious and flat–e.g. the sacrifice the criticism of American culture. Speaking of which, I definitely saw parallels between this film and Dogville.

  142. Chris

    I just watched The Barbarian Invasions last night. I found it enjoyable — the plot moved well, even though it had a leisurely feel. I thought there were too many characters, but this is probably because I had not seen the preceding movie.

    I also watched The Searchers the other night. It didn’t blow me away, but I did enjoy it. I did wonder why this film is regarded so highly — is mostly because of the cinematography and the Joseph Conrad kind of feel? I just didn’t see the glory.

  143. Reid

    I saw The Searchers a long time ago, but I remember liking the film. I think it deserves being called one of the better Westerns of all-time. From my faded memory, here are some of the reasons:

    1. The visual aspect particularly shots of the scenery were very appealing. I think of David Lean films such as Lawerence of Arabia when I think of the shots in this film. There’s also that famous beginning and ending shot of Ethan (John Wayne) in the door frame.
    2. Speaking of Wayne’s character, it may be one of his best roles (up there with Rooster Cockburn, if not better) and one of the more complex and interesting characters of all-time in a Western film. I was surprised at the dark side–specifically the racism and hatred–in his character. I liked the way the character involved in the film, too. I liked his interactions with his nephew, Martin. Because of this complexity, there is a tension that runs up until the very end of the film.
      Wayne also utters that famous cool line: “That’ll be the day” (which I kept wondering if that’s where Buddy Holly got it from).
    3. I thought the story was both original and exceptional, too. Overall when I think of great Westerns, I think of Shane, The Wild Bunch, The Searchers and a handful of other films.
    4. I think the “glory” or at least the good feeling is because of what is revealed about Ethan at the very end. The last shot is also a very effective dramatic scene. (I wonder if Francis Ford Coppola had this shot in mind with the last shot of the first Godfather.)

  144. Reid

    My Beautiful Laundrette
    (5 out of 10)
    dir. Stephen Frears

    This film might have some really interesting insights into class, race, uality and culture in the 80’s UK, but I’m not interested enough to analyze them. If I did, I might give the film a higher score.

    Beyond that, I had a hard time relating to the main character, Omar. I had no idea what his motivations were, and he seemed to switch from one set of feelings to another. I also didn’t buy his relationship with Johnny.

  145. Tony

    Glad someone brought up the Barbarian Invasions. I did not see the first film either, but I enjoyed the movie nonetheless. What I found even more interesting was the comparison you could make between it and Tim Burton’s Big Fish, which was released around the same time. Both deal with the death of a father. The sensibilities are so different, but much of the pathos is the same. Both great movies that deserved more attention, I think.

    Caught Million Dollar Baby this past weekend. I had planned on not seeing based on the fact that I hate when movies get released at the last possible moment to still get Oscar nods. Still, I saw it and really enjoyed it. And it IS one of those movies where it’s not what you think it’s about.

    Saw In Good Company a couple of weeks ago and really enjoyed it. It’s a nice balance between humor and real-world practicality. The idea of Big Business and Corporate Mergers is an interesting setting for a movie. The acting was great all-around. Scarlet Johannson is such an interesting actor. Never know quite what to make of her.

  146. Reid


    You’d miss a lot of the good movies if you didn’t see movies that were released late. Hotel Rwanda and Vera Drake were also good movies.

    Man, I want to talk about Million Dollar Baby, and Kurosawa’s Stray Dog, but I don’t want any conversation to get buried in this thread, and I don’t have the time to write a review for them.

    Let me just make a few comments on Stray Dog (7 out of 10).

    This is about a rookie homicide detective looking for his stolen gun. The film starts off slow, but once Mifune’s character teams up with the other detective, the film gets really good. The other character is played by the same actor who is the lead in Ikiru and the leader in the Seven Samurai. I think his last name is Shimada. Anyway, I really love that actor. I hate to be cruel, but he’s not the most physically attractive guy–for both men or women. He doesn’t have a super tough look. But he has a wisdom and inner strength that convinces you that other men would listen to and follow this guy.

    Anyway, I was suprised at how an effective suspense-thriller this film was. I loved the fact that Kurosawa adds in pyschological observations about human nature, too. I can’t help but think that the original version of Insomnia was inspired by this film.

  147. Tony

    Wow. Over a week without new comments. People must be busy.

    Caught two movies this past weekend: Hitch and The Aviator. I enjoyed them both. Neither was earth-shattering, but I do understand why The Aviator is up for so many awards.

    Anyone else caught the two trailers for the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Looks to be pretty interesting and fun. Probably no where near as fun as the radio show, but still fun.

    And if anyone didn’t know, I Heart Huckabees came out on video yesterday. Good times.

    Hope all is well with your worlds.

  148. Mitchell

    Some comments on recent films, with no spoilers.

    The Aviator. Well-acted, well-directed, well-photographed. Loved Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner–she’s more beautiful than Ava at her best. Leo is still a great actor. 8.

    Million Dollar Baby. 2004’s Mystic River, but not as good. I’d say Eastwood himself is the weak link in this film. 9.

    Hitch. A good romantic comedy, with some sincerely funny moments. Kevin James is a pleasant surprise. 7.

    Hotel Rwanda. Should be required viewing. I have always loved Don Cheadle and am happy to see him getting Oscar props here. 8.

  149. joel

    “Million Dollar Baby.” Strong performances…good story…love Morgan Freeman’s voiceovers…how he deliver’s his monologues throughout the film. Inspiring comes to mind…heartfelt… (8 out of 10)

    Typical romantic comedy…insightful in some of it’s observations about datting and the opposite sex. Romantic. (6 out of 10) my typical “entertain” rating.

    “Whoa” Neo is back…no wait it just sounds like him. But this not so “innocent” character caught between good and evil gives a “decent” performance. The special effects are pretty cool…some of the fighting sequences are good as well. (6 out of 10)

  150. kevin

    Anyone have post-Oscar thoughts, having watched the contenders? I’ve still to watch most of them, so am soliciting comments. ( I can only afford to watch 1 or 2 at the theater; the rest I’ll wait till video.)

  151. Mitchell

    (no spoilers)

    I spent the entirety of spring break cleaning house, and found that the work went by less miserably if I did it while I had a movie on. So while I can’t honestly say I WATCHED these, I did mostly pay attention while they were on. These were all 99-cent rentals from Longs:

    Le Divorce
    You’d think Naomi Watts and Kate Hudson (rowr!) would be enough, but this American comedy of manners was kinda lame. I admired what it attempted, but there was too much (far, far too much) time spent on a subplot involving a painting. Hudson, who normally glows and illluminates everything around her, is in this film just mildly interesting. I wonder if understated is the best way to direct her; you can tell the director tried. Naomi Watts was a bit more interesting, but her character was annoying. That’s not good. 4/10.

    Shallow Hal
    I hate ugly duckling stories. In fact, I hate THE Ugly Ducking story. Still, I love Jack Black and Gwynyth Paltrow, so I had to give this one a try. It was much, much better than I expected (but I expected very little; keep that in mind), with Black coming through again, charming his audience and the characters around him. This character was believable, and the transformation he makes is believable, too (unlike the so-called transformation made by the title character in Jerry Maguire). The Jason Alexander character was a distraction and I thought he was sorta gimmicky even in a movie that was all gimmick. Paltrow plays it safe–I think the script made it too easy for her. In fact, the film spends not enough time at all on her character, and not enough on the relationship between Black and Paltrow; the focus is, as the title would suggest, entirely on Black. I would like to have seen a little more development of the relationship. I am quite fond of this film–it’s not an ugly duckling story at all. Something I thought would be lame was the Tony Robbins thing (is that his name? the motivational speaker?), but that turned out kind of cool, actually. 7/10.

    Freaky Friday
    This is the remake with Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis. It’s not very good, but I’ll admit that I was sorta moved. I’d watch this with my tweeners, if I had tweeners. Lohan is genuinely talented (did you see her in that Parent Trap remake?), if a bit overhyped and overexposed, and Curtis is her usual classy self. In many ways, it’s better than the original, but it lacks the heart of the novel (in fact, this has very little in common with the novel, plot-wise), although there are a few nice surprises. For a family film, you could do a lot worse. 6/10.

    Bringing Down the House
    Here’s a movie I thought I would never pay to see, but the price was right at less than a buck. You know, this is not really the black/white-cultural-difference movie it was marketed as. The film’s got a brain and is rather thoughtfully put-together. It’s still not great–especially the last half hour–but it does a good job of letting us see how the Steve Martin and Queen Latifah characters could grow to like each other. Each is admirable and each has something to learn from the other; the characters surrounding them recognize this too, including kids who (pretty much) respect and obey their father and co-workers who sincerely care about the main characters. Eugene Levy is wonderful, as usual; Martin could probably have toned it down a bit (especially in that last thirty minutes, which really stink). Latifah, too, probably plays it a bit over-the-top in the first half. 6/10.

    The Banger Sisters
    The reviews for this weren’t very good, which is probably what kept me from seeing it in theaters despite leading actresses I’ve always liked, Susan Sarandon and Goldie Hawn. For those of you up on your groupie history (or perhaps for KISS fans), you’ll probably think what I thought: these characters must have been inspired by the Plaster Casters, those groupies who made plaster casts of rock stars’ privates. There’s a scene in this film that was almost certainly inspired by them, unless this kind of thing was more rampant that I know. I never thought I’d see a film where the Hawn character is more believable than the Sarandon character (unless the Sarandon in question was Chris), but here you are. It’s fun and thoughtful and not as airheaded as it would seem. It’s got a bit of darkness to it, and it holds to that thoughtful line pretty well until the final half hour where it gets predictable and almost formulaic. For an actress who has convinced me of a lot of things, Sarandon here doesn’t convince me of very much. Much more interesting is the dynamic between Hawn and a secondary character she picks up on her way to Phoenix. I’d like to have seen more done with THAT relationship, and maybe a little less with Sarandon and her family. Interesting (or not) note: Until last week, when I saw her on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, I’d never heard of Erika Christenson, but now I’m seeing her all over the place. She’s pretty interesting as Sarandon’s oldest daughter in this picture–she’s got almost a Julia Stiles thing going on, but a little less classy and a little more, um, juicy. 7/10 (but keep in mind that I like movies about rock and roll, even if they’re marginally about rock and roll).

    Legally Blonde 2
    I wanted to like this; I really, really liked the original and I don’t have to tell you what I think of Reese Witherspoon (rowr!). I do think she’s the next Julia Roberts, but man, she needs to pick some better films. Her character in this picture is nearly as disarming and nearly as likable as in the original, but the difference here is that what passed as naivete in Legally Blond comes across as too self-aware in its sequel; it’s as if the character knows she doesn’t have to convince you that she’s going to pull off whatever ridiculously impossible task she’s undertaking, because she knows you know she did it before; hence, she there doesn’t seem to be that tension, that possibility of failure, that helped us care about her in the first movie. Shrek 2 was the same way for me. Additionally, the WAY Witherspoon’s character wins over her enemies in this film isn’t nearly as believable, and is sometimes too sudden. PLUS the very premise the plot hangs on is just ludicrous. I like this character and I like this actress, but I don’t like what the film does with either of them. The only real surprise is a very nice supporting performance by Bob Newhart. 5/10.

  152. Mitchell

    Okay. More cleaning tonight, so more movies.

    A Guy Thing
    Julia Stiles. Yum. Seriously, yum. And Jason Lee in maybe the first non-Kevin-Smith movie I’ve seen him in (nothing comes to mind, anyway). Not a great movie, but decent for what it is. Fairly amusing and entertaining, and the actors seemed to have quite a bit of fun. And you know, I like romantic comedies. 6/10.

    Alex and Emma
    I avoided this thing because critics didn’t like it, but I’m only fifty minutes into it so far and I am LOVING it. Man, Luke Wilson is a likable actor. Seems like an effort was made to un-pretty Kate Hudson–she’s almost hangdog, if a woman can be described that way. She’s slightly jowly and her lips are done so that it looks like her whole mouth is pointing down. She still looks great, but she looks plain-great. Not celestial-great, you know? I like here in this film. You can see her character thinking. I like that. The whole tale-within-a-tale thing really works for me, too. These two should work together more–I said after seeing Maid in Manhattan that Luke Wilson should get more romantic leads, and this movie totally cements that for me. Plus, there can’t be such a thing as too many Kate Hudson movies. Early verdict: 8/10.

  153. Mitchell

    So Kevin, which of those Oscar movies did you end up seeing?

  154. Reid

    Penny, Grace, Larri and I watched two films Saturday night:

    I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead
    Searching for Debra Winger

    I’ll try to write a short review of ISWID, but here are some comments about SFDW:

    For those of you who don’t know, Rosanna Arquette interviews many different famous actresses (most in their 40s), and talks to them about two things: 1.) can they have a career and raise a family?; 2.) how do they deal with being shut out of Hollywood once then turn 40?

    I liked the idea, and there were some good moments in the film, but I thought the answers got a little repetitive. I don’t want to be too harsh on Rosanna Arquette because this was a great idea, and she’s not a professional interviewer, but I think she’s partly to blame for this. I think she could have asked questions that got the interviewees to dig a little deeper.

    For example, when many of the actresses talked about the difficulties of raising a family and having a career, none of them talked about their thoughts about the male influence in this. If they were married or had a boyfriend, did they help out with raising a family? Did the man expect the woman to do everything? Did the women prefer to raise a family without much help from the man? I think those are the most obvious questions to ask after hearing how it was such a struggle to raise a family and have a career.

    Besides that answer is so banal. What is about being a movie actor that makes this situation unique from other career women? Maybe there is nothing unique, but these questions should be asked.

    As for the second question, I agree with Roger Ebert’s comments that the film industry is catering to teenager boys, and that’s why there are no really interesting parts for woman over 30. I also like Martha Plimpton’s comments about just wanting to have interesting characters regardless of age or anything. Personally, I would love to see intersting female characters in their 40s. But like her, I just want good characters–people who don’t fit into Hollywood stereotypes. Real people.

    One last comment. I really loved Jane Fonda’s description of what she missed about acting. She described the feeling you get–before and during–a pivotal scene in the movie where everything just clicks. The only thing is she talked about how this only happened eight times in her career, and I want to know what those eight scenes were. I would also be interested in hearing pivotal scenes she played where it didn’t work out.

  155. Reid

    I saw Ocean’s Twelve last night. Read the review here

    I also tried to watch Fellin’s Amachord, but I had to return it before I couuld finish it.

    A few days I watched A Letter From an Unknown Woman by Msx Ophuls. This film appears on the Sight and Sound Poll. I thought it was a pretty good film, although I don’t think I’d put it on an all-time list.

  156. Reid

    Here’s a brief synopsis of the 2005 films I’ve seen so far (32 of them).

    The best of the bunch:
    Crash (8/10) by Paul Haggis (screenwriter of Million Dollar Baby. This is best movie on racism that I’ve seen (or at least that comes to mind). I’ve never seen a portray the complexity of racism and stereotyping, and I really loved the crash metaphor.
    Howl’s Moving Castle (8/10) Great storytelling. I love the way the scenes move from one to the next in such as way to keep your interest. My nieces and nephews were riveted to the screen for the most part. Slightly below Spirited Away in my opinion, but not by much. The animation seemed kinda rough in some parts. I love how his films can be so poignant (although this is based on a children’s book, I believe). There are some really appealing supporting characters in this film. A great children’s fantasy film.

    Entertaining films that aren’t necessarily great:
    The Interpreter (7/10) by Syndey Pollack; starring Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman. A solid thriller that does not offend one’s intelligence (not usually a given, so a big plus for me). Both Penn and Kidman were solid in this. I really liked Catherine Keener as Penn’s FBI partner, Dot (that name just totally matches her, too).

    Red Eye (7/10) by Wes Craven. I’ve read reviews praising Craven’s direction, and it does stand out for me, too–particularly the fact that there is no wasted moment in the movie. The script is not that great (particularly the resoluion, which is anti-climatic) but Craven cuts away any wasted and executes it very competantly. The film deomonstrates that even a mediocre script can turn into a relatively satisfying movie with efficient and competant directing and good actors. Speaking of acting, I think I had a discussion with someone complaining about Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy, but their acting really made the movie, especially McAdams. (She’s one to I’ll keep my eye on.)

    Small spoiler

    I thought they had pretty good chemistry as a couple in the early scenes. In fact, Murphy menacing personality seemed to weakened as the film got nearer the end (He just seemed incompetant.). But the film may have been interesting if it turned into a straight romance.

    Decent art films:
    Me, You and Everyone We Know (7/10) I don’t feel like talking about this film, except to say that it’s quirky film that feels like strung together performance art pieces. Well, there’s more of story and traditional characters that I’m making it sound. There are several scenes that involve children and sex that the director pulls off in a way that is uncomfortable on one hand, but genuinely touching and sweet in another way. Not an easy feat to pull off. Man, recalling that I might have to give this an 8.
    Broken Flowers(7/10) by Jim Jarmusch. If you’re a Jarmusch fan, this is a must. I don’t really care for Bill Murray in this mode,. similar to his performance in Lost in Translation. Actually, any zaniness is completely gone in this character and it’s sort of interesting. Jarmusch finds humor, drama and strangeness in quiet moments. That’s his M.O. and it’s in this film, too. I think it’s one of his better (in the sense of being entertaining) films.
    My dark horse pick of the year so far is Hustle and Flow an MTV productions film. The film feels a lot like a film biography of a musician even though I don’t think it’s based on any real life person. If you like those types of movies, I’d recommend this. I’m not usually enthusiastic about these types of films, even though I sometimes enjoy watching them (i.e. Sweet Dreams about Patsy Cline–well, it was the first time I heard her music, and that’s some great music)

    But there are two things that I really liked about this film (probably should be read after you see the film, although there aren’t any spoilers per se):

    I liked the way they showed way songs came together–from the basic rhythms, lyrics and the chorus, etc. They also showed the way different people contributed to that process. (There are one or two scenes in the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown that are like this, and I love those scenes.)
    The other thing I liked was the music’s message. I have some ambivalence about the stereotypes and the treatment of women in the film, but what tips me to a favorable viewing of this film is the theme: everyone wants to be a part of something meaningful–and more importantly, everyone wants to contribute something meaningful to an important work/endeavor. That resally resonated with me, and I think it will resonate with a lot of people.

    Robots (3/10) I believe a lot of critics gave good marks for this film. The animation is pretty good (and there’s one pretty cool scene), but the story is a big mess. The villian is lame, and there’s a side story evolving a great robot inventor that is also very poorly developed and not very interesting. The characters in the film are forgetable, too, particuarly the side characters.
    Four Brothers (I think John Singleton directed this.) (4/10) I actually wanted to see this film (as opposed to seeing it because there was nothing else to see). I liked the whole premise of 2 white and 2 black siblings. But the movie was just dumb. (It reminded of silly things that I associate with 70’s revenge/action films.) First of all, the dialogue where characters state their love and loyalty to their brothers of different a different race: “That’s my brother that you’re hurting. I’m going mess you up!” or some such other kind of thing. I would have liked that when I was eight, but it sounds silly now. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the director established the bond between the brothers in other scenes, but that didn’t happen, at least imo. Second, Mark Walbberg plays this super tough, violent guy. For one thing, that’s not his forte. He’s more of a likeable, sensitive, boyish tough guy, not a hard-as-nails, street type (even though that may be his real-life background). What’s worse is that he does these ridiculous things in the movie (like walking on the court of a basketball game and pulling out a gun). That’s the silly 70’s revenge/action film stuff I was referring to. Finally, I was disappointed with Chiwetel Ejiofor as the villian. He was a terrible villian. He was clownish, over-the-top and phony as a tough ghetto gang leader. The thing is he’s great as a good guy in Dirty Pretty Things It’s a shame really.

  157. Reid

    North Country

    The score reflects the fact that I was moderately entertained. But this is not a very good film. Think of an a well-made Lifetime network movie, and you’ll have an idea of what this film is about. There are no outstanding performances. There is nothing exceptional about the writing or directing. But you know how critical I can be, so I’m sure some of you will be more entertained and moved than I was. (Actually, Larri gave the film the same score and agreed with me about a lot of it–although maybe she enjoyed it more than me.)

    Here’s what the film is about: a single mother (Charlize Theron) decides to work in a mine to raise her family. The men in the company sexually harass the women employees. Theron’s character sues the company on grounds of sexual harassment. The film is inspired by a true story.

    I wouldn’t bother with the film unless you’re in the mood for a good lifetime network type of movie. Oh, but what about the movies treatment of sexual harassment? Well, it’s a typical Hollywood movie. I imagine it will get some people riled up and eventually feel good but the film felt so over-the-top and silly at times. (There’s even a “If-you’s-can-change-we’s-alls-can-change” scene.)

    This fim is in the Norma Rae vein, although Norma Rae, while not a great film, is better than this. An even better film that is similar to both films is Bread and Roses, which is about a Mexican immigrant who helps unionize hotel workers in California.

  158. Mitchell

    I’m mostly curious about Andre Benjamin in Four Brothers — he was the only reason I was mildly interested in seeing this film. He’s going to be Jimi Hendrix in an upcoming film, and he’s just one of the coolest, coolest guys in all of music right now.

  159. Reid

    I Heart Huckabees

    Maybe I enjoyed this because I saw two Mel Brooks films virtually almost back-to-back. Like David O. Russell’s other film, Flirting With Disaster, it’s a bit uneven and messy with some funny moments. The script just seems to be sprawling. For example, why have the dinner scene with the African guy’s adopted family? Yes, there were some funny moments, but it didn’t seem too connected with the story. Generally, both films feel like Rusell includes scenes and characters that are irrelevant to the main story and character(s).


    I liked the way the two different philosophical approaches really work together at the end. There’s a bit of good acting by Law, particularly when he listen to himself repeat the same humorous story about Shania Twain. His facial reactions and body language really show the progression of his feelings.

    If I was annoyed at anything, it was how messy the the story and character arc seems to be.Still, the film was pretty entertaining, and there were some funny moments. My expectations were pretty low coming into this film, though.

  160. Reid

    Good Night and Good Luck

    Should You See This Film?
    Well, I think some of the scenes are worth it, so I guess I would say yes, even though I didn’t think it was a great film.

    Personal Comments (no spoilers)
    Penny, Grace and I saw this last weekend. I think the consensus was that the actual footage used and the editorial monologues by Morrow were the best part of the movie. The other parts of the film that dealt with side characters and sub-plots just weren’t that interesting (although not terrible). Because of that, I thought making a documentary would have been a better approach. Plus, they would have had a better chance of capturing the the time period, which is something the film didn’t do quite well.

    The film was also shot in black-and-white, and it wasn’t especially appealing visually (although Penny liked the look of it).

  161. Reid

    Three Colors: Blue, White and Red

    I saw this over the weekend with Penny and Grace. These are films that I would have to watch again and take time to digest before I formulate any meaningful opinions. There are two things that I can say about the series that I liked:

    1. I liked the way the director, Kieslowski, relied on visuals to tell the story more than dialogue;

    2. Each of the colors represents a different principle–blue=liberty; white=equality; red=fraternity–yet, Kieslowski expresses these prinicples in ways that aren’t obvious or direct.

    I’m going to try and watch these films again, before I write more about them.

    During the same weekend, we also watched Masculin-Feminin (with Kevin joining us for this one). Like almost every film by Jean-Luc Godard, I felt very confused and a disoriented after the film. But with some time, my opinion of this film has gone up. The film basically looks at the French young adults in the 60’s (specifically 1965). Some of the commentors mentioned the way the film focuses on the banality of life, and I think that’s accurate. We see the characters hanging around doing nothing. This made me thing about comparisons to Generation X and movies about Gen-Xers. In a way, you could call this one of the first Gen-X films, but there are differences, too. Godard also uses a totally original style. Other filmmakers have taken similar elements, but I haven’t seen another film shot with the same style. Like the Kieslowski films, I hope I can write something more coherrent and meaningful about this one.

    Man, seeing all of these films in two days was not a wise thing to do. I’ve been watching a lot of films lately, but most of them have been mainstream films that are very accessible–unlike these films.

  162. Reid

    Fireman’s Ball (7/10)
    Loves of a Blonde (5/10)

    Two movies by Milos Forman made in the 50’s (I think). Fireman’s Ball is sort of like a Catch-22, except the setting takes place in small town at ball overseen by fireman.

    Loves of a Blonde is about the romances (one in particular) of a young factory working female. There are moments of humor that just didn’t work as well on me form some reason.

  163. Reid

    I saw Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices at the Next Door on Hotel Street. I came late and the place was packed. Luckily they didn’t start the film. The place is a lot bigger than it looks from the outside–particularly the ceiling (about as tall as one’s in movie theaters). A large screen (not quite the size of the smaller screens in movie theaters) was set up in the front. I couldn’t find a seat so I had to stand at the bar. They owners set up folding chairs on the main floor and there was a little living room space on the side. The walls were made of old brick. Everything was cool, except it was super hot; no air-conditioning, only fans. I don’t know how they will be able to show films during the summer.

  164. Reid

    Ninotchka (6/10)
    To Be or Not to Be (5/10)

    Two films directed by Ernst Lubitsch. The former stars the beautiful Greta Garbo, and Melvyn Douglas, while the former stars Jack Benny and Carole Lombard. There’s a lot of one-liners in both films, but I rarely found myself laughing. Perhaps, I’m just numb from watching any movies, but I just couldn’t really get into these films, although there were some moments.

    (plot explanation and small spoilers)

    Ninotchka is about soviet agents that lose the jewels of a Russian Countess. The Countess’ lover manages to get the jewels back. Russia sends a formidable official, Ninotchka (Garbo), to fix this mess by getting back the jewels. In the process, Garbo and Douglas fall in love. I liked the relationship between the two stars the best. Garbo first appears as an android. She is super knowledgeable and efficient, and expresses almost no emotion. There are some funny moments with her deadpan approach played against others, particularly Douglas. Douglas eventually breaks through, and the effect of seeing Garbo’s joy and laughter is pretty appealing–the beauty really comes out.

    Carole Lombard, in To Be or Not to Be is also very beautiful (not as appealing as Garbo though). In this film, she plays an actor married to Jack Benny, a ham-fisted and vain actor. They get tied up with international espionage, basically trying to prevent a traitor from revealing crucial secrets about the Polish underground to the Nazis. There are some tense moments, which is surprising, given the film is mostly a comedy with Jack Benny in it. Again, I rarely found myself laughing at many of the scenes.

    One small anecdote. I believe Billy Wilder’s Stalag 17 was the inspiration to Hogan’s Heroes, but the the gag of Colonel Klink yelling, “Schultz!” has got to have come from this film.

  165. Reid

    Pride and Prejudice

    If you liked the other film adaptations of Jane Austen novels, then I think you will like this. I agree with Grace that TV series are a better format for adaptations of novels. With that in mind, I do think the A&E version has advantages–it doesn’t feel as compressed. However, I preferred Keira Knightley in the “Lizzie” role over Jennifer Ehle in the A&E version. Ehle seemed a bit older for the part. (I did like Colin Firth as Darcy in the A&E version, although I also like Mattew Macfayden as Darcy in the most recent version.) The chemistry between Knightley and Macfayden was palpable just by the looks they gave each other.

    Judi Dench is good as Dary’s aunt, particuarly in a scene with Elizabeth. I preferred the A&E actor for Mr. Bennet, except in one scene.

    If there are some complaints, I thought Knightley was a bit too giggly. Her nose scrunches in a way that I can see people perceiving as cute. It got a little annoying (but not much). The bigger complaint is that the film had no subtitle option! I had a hard time understanding what the characters were saying in key moments (not so with the A&E version which I saw on DVD).

    All in all, a good romantic movie, if you’re in the mood. Although seeing this on dvd–with subtitle option–might be more preferrable.

  166. Reid

    Code Unknown

    This was one of the dvds that I really enjoyed this year–particularly in terms of its direction. It’s one of those movies where describing the film’s plot and meaning–actually take away from the experience of those who have not seen the film.

    The film makes me feel like Haneke is influenced by Godard and Kieslowski (particularly the latter). The film is very visual and requires active viewing on the audience.

    Because I liked this film so much, I wanted to check out other Haneke films. (Prior to Code Unknown I had seen Haneke’s Time of the Wolf which I didn’t like as much.) So I put Funny Games in my netflix queue.

    Funny Games

    I would not recommend this film to a lot of you–except for Penny, maybe. The film is well-directed, although I found the overall experience annoying. Haneke creates a film that is hard to turn away from. (Larri got sucked in right away.)

    (small spoilers)

    There’s a scene in the film that reminded me of Irreversible–not in it’s blatant brutally, but lingering camera that sort of let a disturbing scene sink in. In other ways, the film reminded me of the original version of The Vanishing.

    (Big spoilers)

    It is hard to not feel ripped off at the end of the film. What is the point of showing these punks brutalize a family and then go on to do it again? I’m not really sure. One commentator says that Haneke wants the audience to question our strong curiosity in watching brutality. If I had known the ending of the film, I would have had little interest in watching the film. I only watched because I wanted to see if there was an interesting pay-off at the end: either the family escapes and gets back at the villians or Haneke has some interesting insights. I didn’t see either.

    If anyone else sees this film and has some other interpretation, please let me know.

  167. Reid

    So what? Has no one seen any moives lately?

  168. Marc

    Well, I’m up snowboarding at Whistler right now and caught the most recent Harry Potter movie (Goblet of Fire), which on Reid’s 10 point scale I’d give a 7/10. For comparison sake, I’d rate the other three Potter movies like this:
    1. (Sorcerer’s stone) 5/10
    2. (Chamber of Secrets) 5/10
    3. (Prisoner of Azkaban) 8/10

    I saw “The Constant Gardner” about a month ago and would give that a 6.

    I figure if I watch another 75 movies, I can catch up to Reid in his top 100 of all time quest.

  169. Reid

    Uh, try multiplying that by 8. We’re talking 8 top 100 lists here, bub. (I’m actually down to about 50; I counted wrong. Argh!)

    I liked the Sorcerer’s Stone the best out of the first three films. (I’d probably give it a 7/10; “Chamber” and “Prinsoner” both getting 4/10.) I haven’t seen the new one, and, for what it’s worth, I have only read the first book.

    I saw the Constant Gardner, and I think I gave it a 5 or a 6. I can’t remember exactly remember the specific reasons.

  170. Mitchell

    I can’t believe you’re using Reid’s scale and not mine. Mine is so much more clearly articulated!

  171. Mitchell

    Is one of your lists the most recent Signt and Sound survey result?

  172. Reid

    I’m using a Sight and soundL list, but I don’t know if it’s the most recent.

  173. Marc

    My apologies to Mitchell…sort of. I just looked again at the ten point rating scale thread and should not have credited Reid solely for it’s creation. My bad. My kudos to you and Reid for making the conversation that you guys carried out on that thread sound like the way you guys talk….

    I’m a little surprised at Reid’s choice of the first Potter movie over the third, which I thought was the best acted and best plotted. I thought the fourth was the most exciting, but that there were a few too many small things that were poorly explained. Reid would probably be a good test case for this movie, since he hasn’t read the book.

  174. Marc

    Oh, thanks for correcting me on the top 100 lists, Reid. Now I probably have 700 films to go, not 75. I feel much better about my chances now.

  175. Reid

    Join the club. Shoot, every time I think I’m getting close, I recount my list and finding out that I have more than I thought.

    And no apologize to Mitchell! It’s perfectly understandable why you would choose my rating system. Even after many of his explanations his system is not clear to me. 🙂

    As for the Potter movies, all the acting in the films are just serviceable to me. But I liked the plot and execution in the first film the most. I thought they did a decent, if unspectacular, job of translating the book to the screen.

  176. Mitchell

    3 Recent Films (no spoilers).

    Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
    The fourth-best of the HP films, and a really, really good addition. Judged strictly on its own merits (and not in comparison to the novel), it is thrilling and exciting in a way that more teen movies should be; something on the level of the Goonies, but with a lot more angst.

    Strengths: Emma Watson as Hermione is turning into quite an actress. Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley is quite strong, too. The visuals are as terrific as always (especially the Quidditch World Cup sequence), the soundtrack is one of the best I’ve heard in recent years, and the action breakneck and creative. Miranda Richardson as Rita Skeeter and Brendan Gleeson as Mad-Eye Moody are terrific in roles that should have been given more time. The story is great. The setting is fantastic, as always.

    Weaknesses: I’m not sure that someone who hasn’t read the novel will get everything. Daniel Radcliffe doesn’t seem to be developing particularly well as an actor. The movie seems to happen to him. I’m not particularly fond of this Dumbledore.

    I definitely need to see it again, but in my first viewing, my heart raced, I had difficulty keeping still, and I found myself wanting to embrace the characters. That’s not a common occurrence for me, leading me to give this an early rating of 9/10.



    I finally saw this, after hearing so much about it for so many years. Vince Vaughn is pretty good, but Jon Favreau is very good. The actors seem to really like their characters and have a lot of fun; the director does some pretty neat stuff, with a couple of nice, long, extended takes. It’s not a particularly rewarding film, but it’s certainly more than just one of those movies guys like to quote all the time: there’s something kind of nice about the story of a guy trying to get over a girl he dated for six years.

    The parade of supporting characters is not as interesting as the director and writer obviously think; this is where the movie oversteps its own limitations.

    Still you could do a lot worse with ninety minutes of your time. 7/10.


    Punch-Drunk Love.

    Saw this when it hit theaters and really liked it. Grace totally, totally hated it, rating it just above Event Horizon, but this has been on my “rent it and see it again” list for a long time, so I watched it again this weekend.

    And I like it even more.

    Tony’s always saying that in order for him to connect with a movie, he’s got to connect in some way with a character, and while I have seen a lot of movies with a lot of characters I could relate to, this is really the first movie I thought could have been about me. The complete alienation the Adam Sandler character seems to feel around the very people he should feel the most bonded to, plus his serious detachment from the rest of the world — these are things I can relate to. I don’t know very many people who are like me in this way, but for Paul Thomas Anderson and Adam Sandler to nail it as well as they do makes me think I’m not as strange as I think I must be.

    8/10 and climbing.

  177. Reid

    What was the meaning or significance of the organ/keyboard that fell off the truck?

  178. Mitchell

    I don’t have time to get into this in great detail, but quickly:

    The violent car crash that opens the film and the harmonium that gets placed (it doesn’t fall; this is an important detail) alongside the same stretch of road go together. They represent the conflicting aspects of Barry Egan’s character. The harmonium is representative of the way the Emily Watson character is dropped into his life and how it eventually takes over so that, while his raging side is still there, it is the sensitive, quiet side that he embraces, probably saving him.

  179. Reid

    Not really a movie, but I saw a TV(?) version of the opera, La Traviata (7/10). I wanted to watch the film because I learned that it was also an adaptation of the novel, Camille, and I really liked the film version. (Read my comments in the Quest for Top 100 Films thread.)

    I watched the Franco Veffirelli version. There are really good moments in this, my favorite being the music when Alfredo declares his love for Violetta. But I prefer the story structure in Camille.

    However, like good musicals, I think the more you become familliar with the music, the more you will like it. I listened to some scenes two or three times, and I could feel myself liking them more, the more I became familiar with them.

  180. Reid

    Did anyone see and can you recommend the following films?

    Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe

    Or anything else that you can recommend?

  181. Tony

    Capote was a great movie. Pretty sobering subject matter, well-acted. There’s an interesting connection to To Kill A Mockingbird that I didn’t know existed. Good movie.

    The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was well-done. The small scenes got to me. Visually brilliant. The acting was solid. Still, I prefer the book.

    The other two I have not seen (and probably won’t get to as I’m about to head to the mainland . . . no arthouse theaters in small-town TN). I really would’ve liked to catch Peace Tomorrow (or whatever that suicide bomber movie is called. Looked interesting.

  182. Mitchell

    moved here at Reid’s request.

  183. Mitchell

    Ice Princess

    Slightly better than typical tweener fare; certainly not something the whole family will love, but this film doesn’t treat its intended audience like it’s full of idiots. I like how the main character, played by Michelle Trachtenberg, is successful in school but dreams of ice-skating, while her best friend, played by Hayden Panettiere, is successful on the ice but wishes her mom would let her spend time on homework so people wouldn’t think she’s so dumb in math. That’s a little more depth than you usually see in films aimed strictly at twelve-year-olds.

    The moms, played by Kim Catrall and Joan Cusack, are also more than two-dimensional. They’re stuck in a formula story, but they bring a certain realness.

    If I were twelve, I’d give this an 8/10, but I’m not, so 7/8.

  184. Marc

    I saw Syriana. Didn’t like it that much. Rather obvious political slant, which was fine, but I think the plot tried to do too much and didn’t quite pull together at the end for me.

  185. Joel

    “The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe” (4/10)

    If anybody is familiar with my rating scale getting a “4” is pretty bad. I thought the character development along with the fighting sequences looked to unrealistic…some of them were comical….although you could tell it wasn’t intended to be.. I disliked the acting from many of the characters in the film…to many to mention really.

    I liked the scenery…layouts…although it was obviously cg’d, it did give me a sense of escape…that “Alice in wonderland” sort of feel. The fighting scenes are pretty graphic…especially at the end…and I would not recommend it for children. With the overall film being boring as it was I probably wouldn’t recommend it to adults either.

  186. Joel

    “Fever Pitch” (6/10)

    This film tackles many conflicts that we encounter in our modern life style. SPOILER ALERT: Drew Barrymore’s Character wrestles with the idea that she has to balance her relationship with her career…While Jimmy Fallon’s character wrestles with the idea of balancing his passion for the Red Soxs over his relationship. Now most sane/reasonable people would agree that the latter predicament seems rediculous to pounder, but when you’re really passionate about something no matter how trival it may seem , it is gonna be hard to give up.

    I loved the comical follies that ensued during their courtship period, not to mention the balancing act they both tried to pull off with each other.. However I don’t see how Drew Barrymore’s character would fall for Jimmy Fallon’s one at all. That seemed like the only far fetched thing to me.

    Nice romantic comedy/date movie, but nothing spectacular about it.

  187. Reid

    I disappointed to hear that you did not like Syriana, Marc. I was looking foward to seeing that.

    Mitchell, I have some comments to your response to Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, but I’ll post them in the thread on that film. Would you mind moving your comments to that thread?

    Hey Tony,
    Glad you like the Narnia film. It gives me hope especially since I heard that it wasn’t good from Joel.

    Larri and I saw Walk the Line(7/10) yesterday. It was a worth watching, and I think most of you would agree. I’ll have a review up soon.

  188. Mitchell

    Joel, how was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe compared to the earlier, animated movie? What about in comparison to the novel?

  189. Mitchell


    Wow. Now here is an atypical superhero movie. I confess, I didn’t get it all. It was interesting and sorta compelling, but I can see why those expecting a popcorn movie would have disliked it. I went in hoping to see an Ang Lee film, and that’s what I got. Unfortunately, like most comic-book superhero movies, the first installment is the origins story, and I have a feeling that’s just not as interesting as a second Hulk movie might be, because I liked this character a lot, I really did, but I just wished he was in the middle of a story that wasn’t about how he came to be.

    There are characters and people with interesting backstories but even MORE interesting afterstories. I imagine a movie about the Beatles’ origins would be interesting, but I’d rather see two hours on the Last Days of the Beatles, and I have a feeling that’s what’s missing from this film. I don’t think we needed this movie, and I want to know more about this character.

    7/10 for being a pretty good movie, but I probably enjoyed this quite a bit less than most 7s.

  190. Reid

    Larrilynn guaranteed that I would hate the Hulk. I’ve never seen her so sure about a recommendation to me. She was adamant. But I was watching some of it on TV, and I was liking it. (I was too tired to finish it though.)

    I also recently saw Kingdom of Heaven, which I found pretty stupid.

  191. Mitchell

    Plan 9 From Outer Space

    You know, for all its publicized badness, this movie’s not really that bad. I mean, it’s bad, but I think I could name ten films much, much worse. The thing is, this movie is what it is, and within the framework of what it is, it’s fine. I mean, if Vampira and a dying Bela Lugosi are bad, well, what the heck did you expect? It is a far greater crime against humanity when guys like Laurence Fishboure, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Will Smith, and Tommy Lee Jones are bad.

    So yeah, it’s kinda hilarious when the actor who was hired to replace Lugosi walks through the film with his cape folded over his face because he doesn’t look a thing like Lugosi, and the flying saucers with their strings clearly visible zipping around in front of a movie screen are hilarious, but for all this movie’s total badness, there is a thinking man behind the camera, and while he may have been a strange man with a strange vision, he had a vision. Was Edward Wood an artist? I would venture to say yes.

    So Event Horizon still rates as the worst movie of all time, and it’s not even close. Men in Black II, while technically a better film, is a piece of crap and a waste of celluloid, and that cannot be said of Plan 9 From Outer Space, which, by the very fact that we still discuss it today, is a work of surely longer-lasting significance. Ultimately, this is a film you see because of what it is, whereas a film like Men in Black II is a film you see because of what its predecessor is, and in this way is Men in Black II a far, far, far less successful movie.

    In the ten-point-rating-system thread, I mention that a bad movie that is a guilty pleasure could rate a 3, and that’s a great place for Plan 9 From Outer Space, a film I enjoyed at least as much as my benchmark 3, Charlie’s Angels Full Throttle.

    3/10 and recommended.

  192. Mitchell

    (no spoilers)

    I am predisposed to favoring romantic comedies and also to favoring sports movies, and here is a movie that tries to be both. Generally, I wish sports movies would keep the romance out, but tennis seems especially well-suited to be the backdrop for a romantic comedy (or maybe romance seems well-suited to be the backdrop for a tennis movie), and I think it works in Wimbledon.

    Paul Bettany is quite good as a mid-thirties, fading former tennis star, and Kirsten Dunst is quite good as a rising tennis star in her first Wimbledon. I don’t think Dunst is yet where she can carry a movie, and she’s used well here, because the focus of this film is really on the Bettany character.

    The romantic comedy stuff is good — perhaps slightly better than formulaic — and the tennis stuff is at least interesting, but even a casual tennis fan will find something kinda irritating about one detail I won’t reveal here.

    I don’t think I buy the love, but I definitely buy the like. These two characters really are fond of each other and they’ve got fun chemistry. This is one of the strongest Kirsten Dunst performances I’ve seen.


  193. Reid

    I saw Wimbeldon on the plane, and remeber thinking it wasn’t a very good film, but I can’t remember the specific reasons.

    The Fantastic Four

    I had pretty low expectations of the film based on reviews and feedback from peopel who saw the film. I was surprised to find myself like the actors in the various roles, particularly Ioan Gruffud, who played Reed Richards. I liked his chemistry with Michael Chiklis, and all the other actors actually. Chris Evans was pretty funny as Johnny Storm, aka “The Human Torch.”

    I also liked the way they used their powers to defeat Dr. Doom. But Doom was a weak part in the film. He wasn’t a very formidable or menancing villian, imo. The story wasn’t very strong either.

    I want to see a follow-up with Galactus.

  194. Mitchell

    Vanity Fair

    Here’s something I wasn’t expecting: A costume drama with Reese Witherspoon. This version of the 19th-century novel by William Makepeace Thackery is very well-done, but difficult to sit through. The characters aren’t particularly admirable, except for one supporting character. This isn’t usually a problem for me (see Pulp Fiction or Dangerous Liaisons), but at least there are other things to root for in those films.

    Witherspoon is made up here in a way I found unpleasant. Normally radiant, here she seems to have been prettied-down, with an almost hawkish look. This is worth a rental, especially if you’re like me and want to see everything Reese Witherspoon is in; the costumes and scenery are lovely, and the dialogue sharp and engaging. The director and actors do a fair job of making us sympathize with the Witherspoon character, but only fair; I’m not sure it was anyone’s intention to go beyond that, as in her efforts to climb the social ladder (one character says of her, “I thought her a social climber; I see now that she is a mountaineer”) she is willing to do things we don’t wish to sympathize with.

    It’s also worthwhile for its (I think) statements about class and society.

    A weak 7/10.

  195. Mitchell

    My Neighbor Tottoro

    Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, the guy who did Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. I’ve been hearing about this film for years and finally picked it up. It is one of the best animated feature-length films ever, I think. Not as good as Mononoke or Spirited, but definitely in their league.

    To talk about it too much would be a crime against future viewers, but I will say that the Japanese aesthetic of appreciating a moment for its impermanence seems to work especially well in animation, as demonstrated by Miyazaki all the time. A beautiful skyline or a funny word or a unique vision are allowed to settle in, quietly, almost meditatively, and in a time when films switch takes twenty times a minute, it is refreshing to take a deep, contemplative breath of air in Miyazaki’s world.

    There’s more to love about this wonderful film, but you really do need to see it for yourself. A wonderful movie that works magically for all ages, I’d imagine.

    9/10 and an unqualified recommendation.

  196. Reid

    I’d give “Totoro” a 7 or 8. I thought the film dragged in some parts, but the tone, feel and the way the film addresses certain themes is very good. The animation was not as good as some of the more recent stuff by Miyazaki, but, what makes Miyazaki so good versus American animation (like Disney) is the way his films address rather serious themes in complex and rich ways.

  197. Mitchell

    Days of Wine and Roses

    Holy mackerel. What a great movie.

    Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick star in this 1962 film about a “social drinker” who leads his (former teetotaller) wife down the self-destructive path of alcoholism. Lemmon and Remick, greatly in love, don’t notice alcohol abuse threatening their relationship, their lifestyle, and their lives, even as they lose jobs, alienate family, and set their house on fire.

    The acting is first-rate; I can’t think of when Lemmon has been better, and Remick is mesmerizing. Also terrific is Jack Klugman as a friend of Lemmon’s. I couldn’t help thinking, “Hey, it’s Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison,” but only briefly, because the performances are so strong in this film.

    If you haven’t seen this, you just gotta. I guarantee that you won’t consider it a waste of time, at the very least, and I think you’ll be impressed with the quality of the story and film (directed by Blake Edwards).

    I am tempted to give this a 9/10, but want to let some time pass before I give it a for-sure rating.

    For now, 9/10 and the best film I’ve rented in a year.

  198. Reid

    Haven’t seen that one, but I’ll try to get to it (somehow in between the films of the “mad” quest.”)

    Family Stone (2005)

    For some reason I was willing to see this. The cast and the trailer got me interested, I guess. Basically, the characters and script are just not strong enough to make this film rise above an slightly-better-than-average TV movie. The acting is not the problem. There are good actors here. I particularly liked the moments with Claire Danes. (She should be in more films!) I also like Craig T. Nelson, particularly that “look” he gives when he’s a little annoyed.

    There is one fairly funny moment in the film, which I won’t give away. It’s just the sub-plots around the characters just aren’t that very compelling. Perhaps, a better director could have improved the film, but I think the problem lies in the script. Rachel McAdams, an upcoming star, imo, was wasted in the film. (There were actually too many characters in the film. The pregnant sister could have been cut out entirely.) The film lacked a center and focus. It felt like the script shouldn’t have been re-worked several more times.

    On the other hand, I don’t feel like this is a film that should never have been made. With the right actors (and I think they had the right actors), this could have been a very entertaining film. It’s not a complete failure, and it’s not offensive, but it’s not very entertaining either. I think many would give this a 6 (Larri gave it a 6 and Marc a 5.)

  199. Mitchell

    I don’t know what came over me, but I saw two films in theaters yesterday, a day I had planned to spend quietly at home.

    The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
    This will be a non-spoiler review if you’ve read the book. If you haven’t read the book, I will be revealing a few plot details that I don’t think are spoilers, but Reid and Grace would consider them so (but then, they’ve read the book).

    A film based on a novel as widely read and much-beloved at this begs comparison, and I think it’s worth comparing to its animated predecessor, as well.

    But first, on its own merits:

    This is a big film and viewers will be hard-pressed not to compare it to The Lord of the Rings. There are sweeping, overhead, flying views of the Pevensie siblings as they trudge through the snow (led by two beavers, of course), forests with trees who might be spying, and a sense of reluctance on the parts of the heroes, thrust into this ancient war they would never have imagined in their previous lives.

    The actors are quite good; I was especially pleased with the Pevensie girls, Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Susan (Anna Popplewell). Popplewell looks exactly like an adolescent Jeanine Garofalo, and plays the brainy older sister with a mix of disbelief and wonder. Henley took a while to win me over, but her charm eventually did it. As for Edmund (Skander Keynes) and Peter (William Moseley), the roles didn’t ask much of them, range-wise, but they played their parts just fine. In fact, I thought Edmund was not obnoxious enough and Peter not charismatic or confident enough, but as the film moved along, I realized that these were good interpretations of the characters. I first read the novel in fourth grade, so of course I saw Peter as a much older, much cooler almost-grownup and Edmund as a jerky contemporary, but I think now that the film’s portrayal is probably a lot more likely.

    The professor was a slight disappointment, and I disagree with the way he’s presented near the end, but I’ll have to save that for after you’ve all seen the film.

    The White Witch is played by Tilda Swinton, whom I’d never heard of (though she was in Adaptation, a movie I enjoyed), and she is terrific. At the same time sexy and horrifying, I think she plays it a little too coolly; I would like to have seen a little more psycho-ness at the Stone Table. Her icy crown was kinda dumb-looking, but it is replaced in the battle sequence by what looks like a crown designed to resemble the skull of an animal — perhaps a lion — and a strange cloak (or something) that is either her long hair worn down or the mane of a lion. In fact, I couldn’t tell where her hair ended and the “mane” begain. It was really cool.

    The armies are pretty neat, but overall, the CGI characters were a little cartoony. One minotaur and one centaur are pretty dang cool, though; the minotaur is the White Witch’s general, and the centaur is Peter’s general. There’s one cool shot of the centaur weilding two longswords, one in each hand, and it would make a great poster. I’d hang that poster on my bedroom wall.

    Now, here’s where the film becomes a children’s movie (‘though certainly not for young children) and not a grownup movie. The animals talk. Of course they do. That’s Narnia. Here’s the thing, though. It looks dumb when the animals talk, and I’m ALMOST sold on it by the end of the film, but not quite. Once the animals talk, they join a long history of goofy talking-animal films and it’s going to take a LOT to convince me that this isn’t one of those. Perhaps with the beavers and wolves, I wouldn’t have minded to much, but Aslan, mighty, regal Aslan, looks kinda dumb when he talks. All by itself, that was bad, but when he talks, it’s the voice of Liam Neeson, which is a GREAT (or should I say, “Grrrrrrrrrreat!”) voice for Aslan, except that it’s LIAM NEESON. I just couldn’t get that out of my head, and neither could most adults, I’d guess.

    For someone who’s never read the novel, I guess it would be fine, but my feeling has always been that Aslan talks to your heart. It would have been a far more effective movie for me if Aslan’s mouth never moved while he was talking, if instead his words came to your from within yourself. There’s something more majestic and mysterious about that, but that would have made it not as good for kids.

    In fact, my general feeling about this movie is that it LOOKS magical and SOUNDS magical, but it’s missing the heart of the novel: It doesn’t FEEL magical. The story by itself is maybe enough to make this a successful film, but if you love the novel and love the characters, I think you will feel slightly disappointed. While the Stone Table sequence is pretty dang good, the sequence immediately preceding it, where Aslan takes Susan and Lucy through the woods, doesn’t communicate the love that these girls have for Aslan.

    One really nice moment that I thought maybe the film might have overlooked: The mice still come to Aslan at the Stone Table. It was kinda cool, and my eyes got watery.

    Okay. One major divergence from the novel: Caer Paravel. The kids don’t get their weapons there, and I can’t tell you where they get them, but I think it’s kinda lame.

    I’m leaving something out, but I can’t tell what it is. Anyway, it is a good movie, and I want to see it again. It’s tough to mess up a great story like this.


  200. Mitchell

    We were going to see something else and we had gift certificates to use up, so some friends and I checked out The Ringer. It was pretty good. Johnny Knoxville plays a guy who fakes being developmentally disabled so he can win money betting on himself in the Special Olympics.

    It’s produced by the Farrelly brothers, if you couldn’t guess.

    And it was actually produced with the help of the Special Olympics, because here’s a movie that has a heart. The Knoxville character, in surrounding himself with these Special Olympians, learns about his own moral, physical, and personal shortcomings and grows to honestly consider these guys his friends.

    It doesn’t let him off the hook for his actions, but it leaves room for forgiveness, and I think that’s kinda cool.

    Anyway,5/10 and there are worse ways you could use a gift certificate or spend ninety minutes of your life.

    Oh, wait a minute. Katherine Heigl is in it. 6/10.

  201. burgess

    I watched Days of Wine and Roses a few days ago. I almost returned it without actually watching it because I’m not much of a fan of old movies, which might be a strike against the movie before I even saw it.

    I didn’t like the movie, though I’m not sure this is a movie that’s supposed to be likeable. I wouldn’t go as far to say “Holy Mackerel! What a great movie”, but I thought it was a good movie. I didn’t think there was enough of a story for a two hour movie.

    The acting performances were superb, especially with Remick and Lemmon as angry drunks.

    There were some interesting moments in the film, based on the date of the movie. It was almost like entering another world–the lack of cell phones, computers, AC; people smoking in buildings and offices, and the notion that beer is more of a poor man’s drink and liquor is for the more well off, this was especially noticeable when Lemmon’s character is away on business, and gets an invite to a barbeque and the host promises Lemmon all the Bourbon he can drink.

  202. Joel

    “November” The suspense/mystery starring Cortney Cox that has a “memento” feel to it. I am not saying that this film rates anywhere near “memento,” but for it’s efforts the stories deals a lot with repetition and perception. If I say anymore it may ruin the experience.

    This small budget indie film gets 5/10 from me. Only watch if you’re thirsting for a film with an interesting twist.

  203. Joel

    Ever had a movie that was so motivating it inspired you to immiate it, duplicate it, or in some shape or form light a fire under your butt to do something about it?

    I know this topic should be under it’s seperate heading, but AMC was showing a few “inspirational” movies this past week and it got me thinking to what my fellow “idiots” may have seen and have been inspired to do after seeing a great movie, or any movie for that matter? Ever dressed up as a favorite movie character for halloween? How about instilled some of the mannerisms/philosophies

    I can remember my brother eatting raw eggs and waking up at 5:30 AM just to work on his basketball game…but a lot of that must have come from watching the movie rocky. I still remember when he and his friend “chris?” dressed up as navy pilots goose and maverick singing “you’ve lost that loving feeling” to Mrs. Edwards during one halloween.

    As for my personal files, the one most remenicent to me is jumping off the cliff into a stream of water on the big island, like butch casidy and the sundance kid. My friend jumped off with me at the same time. It was great!

    But my most inspirational memory probably comes from “Karate Kid.” When Daniel san is forced to do all the chores around Mr. Miyagi’s house, and he is finally fed up with it all thinking he’s just being Mr. Miyagi’s slave. Mr. Miyagi shows him that he was training for karate all along. It just kind of “clicked” for me that that’s what hard work translates into…Results. I don’t think I would ever complain about running sprints or doing extra ball handling drills, passing drills ever again in basketball. I knew it would make me a better player. I knew that that type of “pain” although temporary would tranlate into me being the best I could be.

  204. mitchell

    I still remember when he and his friend “chris?” dressed up as navy pilots goose and maverick singing “you’ve lost that loving feeling” to Mrs. Edwards during one halloween.

    That was Kurt Wanner.

  205. Reid

    Joel, maybe you should start a separate thread or are you having trouble starting one?

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