Recent Movies: 2006 Edition

I was tempted to find out if a thread can have too many responses, but anyone joining this conversation late will be daunted by a message with 201 responses, so let’s continue here. Feel free to continue there any conversation that is already in progress, but let’s put new movie comments here.

113 Responses to “Recent Movies: 2006 Edition”


  1. Mitchell

    Alphaville

    So I finally checked out a Jean-Luc Godard film, and I didn’t think a whole lot of it. It’s kinda like a well-done B-movie. I can see definite auteurism, of course, especially with the locations Godard chooses and the interesting intercut shots of clocks and neon signs and mysterious symbols, not to mention the creepy voice-over and the way it’s sorta impossible to tell what’s going on, but I couldn’t help thinking that it wasn’t a WHOLE lot better than Plan 9 From Outer Space, to be honest. I mean, I think Ed Wood and Jean-Luc Godard were coming from the same film-as-exploration neighborhood.

    The acting is, I believe, intentionally stiff and melodramatic, almost in a late-forties style, and not at all like what you’d expect from a sixties movie, post-Brando. I’m not saying this as a bad thing, but it’s noticable. In fact, I wondered if Godard was trying to make this a forties-style noir-ish piece, but I couldn’t really tell.

    An interesting movie and worth checking out, but ultimately not very rewarding.

    5/10.

  2. Reid

    Do you have any idea of what the film is about? I still don’t have a clue, and I wish someone could at least tell me what it’s about.

    FWIW, I would recommend seeing Breathless or A Band of Outsiders first.

  3. Mitchell

    Well, I think a huge part of it is the conflict between reason and emotion. In this future society, a centralized computer tells you what to think; this liberates you from the burdens that come with feeling. I think there’s a lot more to it, of course, such as the fact that despite the power of the government (it puts to death people who dare to admit they have felt love), it is folly to attempt to quash your feelings.

  4. Reid

    Shoot, I can’t remember enough of the film to know if I agree with this or not. Thanks for the comments though. I’ll keep them in mind if I see this again.

  5. Reid

    Happy Together(1997)
    Dir. Wong kar-Wai
    Starring: Tony Leung, Leslie Cheung, etc.
    96 minutes

    7/10
    I enjoyed this film, and I’m not exactly sure why. Wong certainly has an individual style, but I’m not consciously blown away by it. Yet, the film and style has a subtle effect on me. I didn’t really care for the characters or the relationship, but the situation and the way Wong films the emotions are effective. The film is a like a portrait of an emotion.

    In some ways the film reminds me of Murnau’s Sunrise or Vigo’s L’Atalante. All these films focus on these universal situations that are simple and without intricate plots, but the way they film these scenes are really significant.

    I would probably give this a higher score after I think about it more.

    (small spoiler)

    I’m still not sure what to think about the third character and his abrupt introduction in the film, but the relationship that develops appealed to me for some reason.

  6. Reid

    Larri and I finally finished the Last Exile series (7/10). It’s a pretty good series, and I would recommend it to anime fans. For those interested, it’s about a boy pilot and his navigator/mechanic. They fly these planes as messengers because the world they live in has not developed communication technology beyond the morse code. They are advanced in other ways though. Great animation (with some shoddy work at times) and a solid story.

  7. Chris

    Battlestar Galactica
    (new series)

    So, are there any idiots out there who have become hooked on this show? It hasn’t showed up on the site at all, but I’ve got to believe someone out there is watching it. I have watched through all of it now and am all caught up. It’s way better-than-average TV, let alone sci-fi. The creators are a little too driven to shock and surprise sometimes (in my opinion) but it moves along well almost all the time and has some actually interesting things going on.

    Anyone?

  8. Reid

    Hey stranger! Sorry, I haven’t seen that, but once again, this is another series that Grace seems to like. (Maybe this will be the final straw that will get her to post online.)

    I’m interested in the series, but I’m waiting to see it on dvd. Plus, I have a lot of other stuff to watch right now.

    Hope all is well with you and Abra, and that you can add some of your comments on the films and threads here.

  9. Chris

    Max —

    Yes, back to looking at the site. I have missed it but been very busy with school. The series is really quite good — you can catch the miniseries (pilot) and first season on DVD now. The second season is available on iTunes or via file-sharing (shhhhh).

    We saw *The Constant Gardener* the other night — a surprising film in many ways. I would recommend it. Interestingly, I’ve been reading through a bunch of LeCarre cold war novels (they’re great), and forgot that this movie is based on one of his books.

    I don’t think anyone in the idiots have commented on *Constant Gardener*, have you?

  10. Reid

    Marc and I made a few comments about it in the “Recent Movies (Second Round)” thread. There were parts of film I liked and others I didn’t. What stood out for you?

    I just got back from watching In the Company of Men and Oleanna with Grace, Mitchell, Kevin and Larri. Penny recommended that we watch both films together. Oleanna was an excellent choice because it lead to a good discussion afterwards. I’ll try to write more comments about it later.

    Max, if you have time check out the “V-I Movie Index” and comment on some of the films that you’ve seen in the reviews.

  11. Reid

    The River (1951)
    Dir. Jean Renoir
    99 minutes

    7/10
    According to Scorsese in an interview on the dvd some of the scenes have the same look as his father’s paintings. I liked this film not so much for the color and light–although the digital transfer makes this film look gorgeous–but for the humanity of Renoir. Some of the scenes display a poignant sensitivity and understanding of people and growing up. (This is a coming of age film.)

    A good film to watch for young girls between the ages of 10-13. My neice (10) watched the film and liked it so much she watched it twice. Mitchell, I think you will like this one.

    This was one of the films in Martin Scorsese’s all-time best films that use color and light. See “Visually Appeaing Fillms” thread.

  12. Mitchell

    The River

    I come from down in the valley
    where mister when you’re young
    They bring you up to do like your daddy done
    Me and Mary we met in high school
    when she was just seventeen
    We’d ride out of that valley down to where the fields were green

    We’d go down to the river
    And into the river we’d dive
    Oh down to the river we’d ride

    Then I got Mary pregnant
    and man that was all she wrote
    And for my nineteenth birthday I got a union card and a wedding coat
    We went down to the courthouse
    and the judge put it all to rest
    No wedding day smiles no walk down the aisle
    No flowers no wedding dress

    That night we went down to the river
    And into the river we’d dive
    Oh down to the river we did ride

    I got a job working construction for the Johnstown Company
    But lately there ain’t been much work on account of the economy
    Now all them things that seemed so important
    Well mister they vanished right into the air
    Now I just act like I don’t remember
    Mary acts like she don’t care

    But I remember us riding in my brother’s car
    Her body tan and wet down at the reservoir
    At night on them banks I’d lie awake
    And pull her close just to feel each breath she’d take
    Now those memories come back to haunt me
    they haunt me like a curse
    Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true
    Or is it something worse
    that sends me down to the river
    though I know the river is dry
    That sends me down to the river tonight
    Down to the river
    my baby and I
    Oh down to the river we ride…

    Bruce Springsteen

  13. Reid

    The New World (2005)

    10/10
    There are certain films that I really wish I could have seen on the big screen. If I had waited to see this on dvd (which I almost did), I would have been kicking myself. It’s playing on one of the bigger screens at Dole. If you’re going to see it, see it there before it’s too late. I want to see it again.

    Not a film I would recommend to everyone, but I loved it. I’ll get a review up soon.

  14. Reid

    Mitchell,

    I recently watched Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, and I want to post my comments in that thread. For some reason there is no comment box. What’s the deal?

  15. Mitchell

    Try it now. And let me know if this happens again to another thread.

  16. Reid

    OK.

    Munich(2005)
    5/10

    Just an OK movie. I guess Spielberg should get credit for making the point he makes. It’s not very insightful or profound, but the message coming from a Speilberg film may have a positive impact.

    While the film wasn’t boring, I didn’t find it very thrilling or compelling, although there is one or two harrowing scenes. I don’t know maybe I missed something.

    The film also has the parent-child themes that seem so critical. As other Spielberg films, I find these moments to be awkward and often overly sentimental. The scenes seem to have big emotional significance and import for Spielberg, but they feel either flat or they feel overly sentimental. It almost feels like he’s playing out personal family issues/relations that would have deep significance to the him and his family, but not to a larger audience. In this film, I’m thinking of Eric Bana’s relationship with the French underworld guy. Then again, I’m not sure I totally understand it, nor have I thought a lot about it.

    Brokeback Mountain(2005)
    5/10

    Basically, my score mainly reflects the fact that I had a hard time buying the relationship. Perhaps, the homosexual nature of the relationship explains part of the reason, but I tend not to think so. I know of at least one other film with a gay relationship that I found compelling.

    (small spoilers)
    I just felt like the filmmakers didn’t do enough to show that they were really in love. I also didn’t think the actors had a lot of chemistry. The movie would have had a much bigger impact if I really believed they had a profound relationship.

    I liked the fact that Ang Lee didn’t turn the women into simplistic villians. I really felt for Ennis’ wife. Actually, a part of me wished they spent more time on the relationship between the husbands and wives. The inability of Ennis and his wife to communicate was really one of the more moving parts of the film for me. It would have been interesting to see their relationship developed a little more. Even Jack’s relationship to his wife was interesting. What did he really feel for her? How did she feel about her? There was a lot of complexity in the characters and their relationship to the spouses that I wished was fleshed out a little more. I think this would have made the movie more poignant and interesting.

  17. Reid

    Cabaret (1972)
    Dir. Bob Fosse
    Starring: Liza Minelli, Michael York, Joel Grey
    125 minutes
    (Winner of eight Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Minelli) and Best Supporting Actor (Grey)
    8/10

    I was surprised to discover that this film beat out The Godfather. Is it a better film? No way. However, I think it’s a good film, definitely a good musical. (My personal enjoyment of the film is a 7, but the quality an 8. I gave the film the benefit of the doubt and rounded to 8.) Someone said that this is the best musical of the 70’s, which isn’t saying much, but they may be right.

    **
    There are two aspects that make this film worth watching, imo: the songs and the performances of them and the acting and chemistry between Liza Minelli and Michael York. The actual dramatic story line between the two characters they play could have been interesting as a drama and not a musical. Indeed, Fosse makes the film as a straight drama with musical interludes describing the characters, scenes or situations. He’s very effective, and this is another reason to see the film.

    ***
    ‘While watching the movie, I couldn’t help, but compare it to Chicago, another written by the same writers, including Bob Fosse. What makes Cabaret better film are the songs and the performances. Maybe I didn’t care for the singing in Chicago, but the songs felt flat and didn’t really interest me. In Cabaret, the songs may not be great, but they’re performed well, and they’re more catchy, imo. To be fair, I was more familiar with the music of Cabaret, before seeing the film. That’s a big difference.

    Still, none of the performances in Chicago come close to Joel Grey or LIza Minelli in this film. I particularly liked the way Grey and his scenes were used as separate commentary from the story. Many musicals blend in the musical numbers with the actual story, but in Cabaret, the musical numbers are performed in the night club and, for the most part, don’t involve the main characters. It is basically story that uses musical numbers as commentary on the action and the situation in 1931 Germany.

    The political undertones didn’t really interest me much, but I was interested in the story of Sally Bowles (LIza Minelli) and Brian Roberts (Michael York). The two characters have instant chemistry. i totally believed they had a connection with each other. LIza Minellis is such a curious actor. She has the vocal quality, facial features and innocence of her famous mother, but she has her own quality to her, too. Maybe she’s a modern version of her mother. She’s interesting because she has a vitality, innocence to her. There’s something big about her spirit, but at the same time she seems to lack depth in her acting, too.

    I’m saying that because I would have liked to have seen the relationship and the characters explored a little more, or I thought there could have been more nuance to the characters.

    Spoilers

    I’m thinking specifically of the scene where Brian reveals that he has been sleeping with the Baron, too. Sally seems to sort of shrug this off, and Fosse doesn’t explore the issue any further. I felt this was a bit false, at least without further revelation about Sally.

  18. Reid

    The Passenger (1975)
    Dir. Michelangelo Antonioni
    Starring: Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider
    119 minutes

    6/10

    This film was just re-released and shown at the Doris Duke Theater. I’m not sure why they re-released this as there didn’t seem to be any improvement in the film or sound quality. (Then again, the lack of quality could be due to the Doris Duke equipment.)

    I had a hard time connecting or understanding the film. Near the ending Nicholson’s character tells an anecdotal story that seems to indicate the meaning of the film, but if that’s the case, the explanation seems a bit simplistic and commonplace. The film also doen’t do a good job of estblishing this either. Specifically, I don’t think I felt or related to the main character and his sense of weariness and desire to get away from himself–if that’s indeed what he was trying to do.

    This is the second time I’ve seen the film, and I not only am I not sure of its meaning, but it was the Antonioni film that connected with me the least.

    I also had a hard time buying Maria Schneider entrance into the main character’s life.

  19. Reid

    One other thing I learned about The Passenger is that the Italian title was something like, “Profession: Reporter,” which colors my interpretation of the film.

    Savior (1999)
    Starring: Dennis Quaid

    6/10

    This is based on the true story of an American solidier in the Bosnia during the recent conflict. He meets a young woman and basically helps her to get to a destination. Some of the scenes made me react with concern and a bit of stress and that surprised me. Quard was not bad in this either.

  20. Reid

    The Heartbreak Kid (1972)
    Dir. Elaine May
    Starring: Charles Grodin, Jeannie Berlin, Sybil Sheppard, Eddie Albert, Audra Lindley, etc.
    106 minutes

    7/10

    I never heard of this film until I saw in the 1001 Movies You Must See book. I liked Elaine May’s script in Primary Colors and I heard her work in sketch comedies with director Mike Nichols was really good, so I was intrigued about this film.

    **
    The film is basically about a newly married husband who sees and falls for a beautiful woman (Sheppard) during his honeymoon. The supporting cast is solid (Mrs. Roeper (Audra Lindley), from Three’s Company, in a straight role, has a small part), but Charles Grodin makes everything work.

    I liked Charles Grodin in Midnight Run as a foil for Robert De Niro and also his interactions with David Letterman. If you’ve wondered if he has enough presence and humor to carry a film, check this one out. His performance and character amkes this film worth watching, even though the cover tauts Eddie Albert and Jeannie Berlin. I don’t know who the nominees were in 1972 for best actor, but I think Grodin deserved at least a nomination.

    Personal Comments and Analysis

    There are many scenes that made me squirm. Grodin’s humor is more of the sit-com, Hollywood variety, but the situations are bit disturbing, especially given May’s treatment of the situations. Usually, filmmakers will make fun of victims or make them deserving of cruelty, but May doesn’t do that. Grodin’s character is a jerk, and, in the end, May seems to let him get away with it. Actually, I am unclear about May’s attitude towards Grodin’s character.

    I don’t think the dark elements of the film gell the more comedic ones. Still, Grodin’s performance and his interactions with Berlin and Albert, in particular, more than make-up for it.

  21. Mitchell

    The Dark Passage. 1947. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

    This is the only Bogart/Bacall film I hadn’t seen, until last night. It’s good. Not great, but good. Bogart plays a convicted murderer who escapes from San Quentin, then meets Lauren Bacall, who believes Bogart is innocent of the crime, and was in fact present every day of the trial. In a bizarre (and unbelievable, to be honest) series of events and meet-ups, Bogart and Bacall scheme to get Bogart exonerated or quickly out of the country.

    An interesting gimmick is that we don’t see Bogart’s face throughout the first third of the movie, as that portion of the film is shot from a first-person perspective. It’s kind of distracting, and not especially impressive, but otherwise, the film is shot with great lighting and shadows, although there are times when Bacall is over-lighted.

    Agnes Moorehead plays a despised neighbor, and she’s just one of several very good supporting actors in a movie filled with interesting characters.

    The Bogart/Bacall chemistry is wonderful, of course, and when the characters finally kiss, it’s like a huge relief. Bacall does some nice acting here; you can see her lips tremble slightly as the kiss winds down to its conclusion, and she is overcome with the sadness of Bogart’s departure. It’s quite terrific.

    The extras are really good, too. There’s a little mini-doc about the making of this film, plus an old Merrie Melodies short with Elmer Fudd trying to prepare Bugs Bunny as Bogart and Bacall’s dinner. There are some quick animated cameos of Alfred Hitchcock, Carmen Miranda, and other stars of the era, too.

    Of the four films Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall did together, I’d put this fourth, but one of them had to be fourth. In order of preference:

    Key Largo (their final film together)
    To Have and Have Not (Bacall’s debut)
    The Big Sleep (hot as heck, but confusing story)
    Dark Passage (their first post-marriage collaboration)

    7/10, but a bonus point for starring my favorite actor and favorite actress makes it 8/10.

  22. joel

    I recently saw two films this past week “Inside man,” and “lucky number sleven.” Both films were entertaining enough to keep my attention, but none were really all that they were hyped up to be.

    “Inside Man,” was a pretty typical “heist” type of film. The so called “twists and turns” within the story were nothing really to rave about. I was actually a little irritated at the Jody foster character. All in all I give this film a “ho hum 6 our of 10.”

    “Lucky number sleven” is a story driven by dialogue. I admire it’s attempts at trying to be witty, charming and clever….much like the type of playful banter you might see in say an old episode of “moonlighting.” Still the characters weren’t as likeable. In fact, I found Josh Hartnett’s character alittle anoying. He came across as this smug punk kid to me. But that’s just me. Still there was enough “intrigue” and “violence” to keep the story moving along which makes me give “lucky number slevin” a 6 out of 10.

  23. Reid

    Inside Man 5/10
    Dir. Spike Lee
    Starring: Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Chiwetel Ojiofor, Christopher Plummer.

    In the past this would have probably got a 6, but my ratings have changed a bit after seeing so many films in a relatively short period of time. I mostly agree with Joel’s take, except I would add a few other comments. The cast is great, but so little is done with them, imo.

    (small spoilers)

    Besides the typical heist elements of the film, Lee infuses the film with comic moments and, of course, social commentary. I found these scenes a bit awkward. In line with my normal reaction, I find Lee’s social commentary obvious and didactic. May eStill, some of the heist elements were fairly entertaining.

    Btw, I’m really disapointed in Chiwetel Ojiofor. I can’t think of another actor who was so great in his first performance (at least I think it was his first performance)–Dirty Pretty Things–and so bad in his following roles–Four Brothers or Serenity. It’s not that he’s terrible in this film, but he’s not good either, at least not compared to his role in Dirty Pretty Things. He’s being miscast, choosing bad roles or a combination of both. I just saw him in Melinda Melinda, and while he was OK, he wasn’t great.

    16 Blocks (6/10)
    Dir. Richard Donner
    Starring: Bruce Willis, Mos Def, David Morse
    I’m surprised to say that I enjoyed this more than Inside Man. 16 Blocks actually provided me with decent entertainment. It’s a good film to watch when you’re really desperate to rent an action/thriller. Basically, the film takes the same idea as The Gauntlet, and actually may have improved on the idea. Eastwood has some moments (particuarly surprisingly funny one liners), but he’s not really appropriate for the role of a broken down cop. Willis, an actor I have not enjoyed in his later years, is actually not bad in this and is more appropriate for the part than Eastwood. I thought he also had decent chemistry with Mos Def.

    One of the things I like about action/fhrillers is the situations the protagonists get into and the clever, but believable ways they get out of them. 16 Blocks doesn’t have great situations-solutions, but it’s not super silly or irritating either–at least I didnt’ think so. Not a great film, but if you’re like me, and get desperate for a decent action/thriller, this is not a bad one to watch. .

  24. Reid

    Finally finished the first season of the new Battlestar Galatica series. I would probably give the series a 7/10 although I debated giving it a 6. The creators set up the series with very intriguing possibilities with the story arcs of the characters and the overall series in the first episode (the 3 hour miniseries), but I felt there were some false steps or at least disappointments in the later episodes. The mini-series signaled to me that the series would cover the practical survial challenges faced by a government and the military in a way that allowed for the complexity and tough choices the leaders would face. I also thought James Olmos and Mary McDonnell had the acting chops and charisma to make this really interesting and appealing, too. For the most part, they have done a good job, but the writers disappointed me at times.

    (spoilers)

    For example, I thought Adama lost some of his stature as a serious leader in the episode where he endangers the whole fleet for Starbuck. There’s no way he would do that if he were a serious leader. Yes, his concern and love for Starbuck (in a fatherly way) is touching and appealing, but it broke the sort of seriousness the series started off with, specially in an earlier epsiode the President and Adama leave back ships to be killed by the cylons in order to preserve the human race. Colonel Tygh also allows people to die to save the Galatica. I like the way the writers allowed for this, but then they go for sentimentality in the episode the Starbuck is stranded. There’s other things like that that come up, but it’s till pretty entertaining and relatively ambitious.

    I’m also a little disappointed by the other actors like the ones that play Apollo, Starbuck, Baltar and #6 (the latter is annoying). I don’t think they’re very good actors, but some of it could be due to the writers. Still, I’ve gotten used to them enough where I’ve become somewhat attached.

    I also saw Manderlay last night with Kevin and Grace. I thought it was pretty good. I’d give it somewhere between a 6 and 7. I’ll try to start a thread to discuss the film later.

  25. joel

    “the greatest game ever played” (7/10) My judgement towards inspirational sports films may always be “slanted” being a big fan of sports and overachieving…doing more with what you have. This film is no different from many of the other films in this genre, and the fact that it deals with golf…well…made it all the more worth while for me being a big golfing fan.

    One of the biggest reasons I love these types of films is the metamorphasis the main character(s) go through in overcomming the odds or just being a better person. We all have our personal goals and triumphs we’d like to “chalk-up” and “tally” in our lives. And looking and how Francis Ouimet (pronounced ” we-met”) did this was as much entertaining as it was inspirational.

    Even if you’re not familar with golf you can appreciate the sportsmanship, confrontation, and challenge each character faced in the course of the story. If you’re looking for a nice sports/inspirational film “the greatest game ever played” would be a good choice.

  26. Reid

    Millions(2005)
    Dir. Danny Boyle
    4/10

    The premise is these two brothers find a sack of English money before conversion to the euro. The younger brother is sort of a misfit, but he is super sweet–with a strong moral sense. That’s what the film is got going for it. Oh, another cool think is the effects that are similar to what you see if the film Amelie.

    However, the story and characters really lack development. The script really feels like it needs to be worked on a lot more. There are some interesting elements: the brothers finding the money and what happens afterward, the really sweet kid and the way he and his family copes without their mother. But it doesn’t come together. It’s like Boyle was satisfied to have those elements without developing a strong story.

    Caché(2005)
    Dir. Michael Haneke
    Starring: Daniel Auteil, Juliet Binoche, etc.
    7/10

    Haneke is one of the more interesting and talented directors out there.
    If you want to know the general plot, the film is about a couple that is receiving video tapes of their home–indicating that someone has been watching them. They also receive menacing childlike drawings. Haneke is a director that will not give any easy explanations and has a lot of faith in the audience’s ability to figure out what’s going on.

    While I liked the direction, I felt a little underwhelmed after seeing the film, at leat until I read another person’s comments on the film–which really opened me up to the meaning. (The following is a brief discussion of another person’s interpretation of the film.)

    What the person said was that the film was about France’s guilt–and covering of their guilt–over the way they treated Algerians. The film also refers to the current immigration problems in the country. I did not see the film in those terms at all, but the interpretation does fit. I would probably give the film a 6, although after hearing that interpretation the film probably gets a 7.

  27. Mitchell

    Recently watched A Midsummer Night’s Dream with my students for the second time. This is the 1999 film with Kevin Kline (Botttom), Calista Flockhart (Helena), Rupert Everett (Oberon), Michelle Pfeiffer (Titania), Christian Bale (Demetrius), and Stanley Tucci (Puck).

    Good casting, very good acting, a nice soundtrack, and great-looking people. Flockart’s Helena is exactly as I’ve always pictured it, and Pfeiffer’s Titania is dreamily beautiful. I am not fond of Everett’s interpretation of Oberon, but he has a few very good moments — mostly annoyed glances in Puck’s direction.

    The modernization of Shakespeare’s play (this film is set in the early 1800s) is a nice touch, and the director’s extra information about Bottom and about Oberon’s relationship with Titania makes sense without taking over the play.

    This is maybe my second-favorite movie-version of a Shakespearean play.

    Oh wait…I saw this in theaters. So that means today was the third time.

    I’m wavering between an 8 and a 9 (it is a very good play), but I’ll go with 8 out of 10.

  28. Reid

    Is Franco Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet the first?

    Bram Stoker’s Dracula(1992)
    Dir. Francis Ford Coppola
    Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Richard E. Grant, Cary Elwes, Gary Oldman, etc.
    2/10

    I generally feel like the writers of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die make solid picks. I don’t know if I would select the same films, but I don’t generally complain about their picks–until now, that is. Dracula was absolutely dreadful. It almost feels as if Coppola wants to recreate the vibe of the 1930’s version of Dracula, including the campy sets, effects and acting. I still wonder if Coppola was partly trying to make a comedy (if so, the film still gets a “2) because the film wasn’t funny in the slightest). With Richard E. Grant and Cary Elwes and Keanu Reeves (not that he’s intentionally trying to be comedic; he can’t help it) in the cast, you could make a case. Even Anthony Hopkins comes across as really goofy, and Oldman really seems to be recreating the Bela Lagosi version–“I vant to suck your blood!”

    Part of the problem is that I believe this film came out right before cgi effects really developed. The effects really do not stand up well when you compare them to the contemporary cgi. Even the Oscar award winning costuming and set-pieces, don’t stand up. They’re garish and well, campy.

    Maybe he was going for campiness, and had a good reason for doing so. That would be better than genuinely trying to make a serious horror/drama. The more I think about it, the more I want to give this film a 1.

  29. Mitchell

    Yes.

  30. Reid

    Sherman’s March (1986)
    Dir. Ross McElwee
    157 minutes
    8/10

    This may not be a great film, but I believe it deserves attention from idiots here, especially since many may have never heard of the film. The fillm is unlike anything out of the 400 plus films I’ve seen in the last few years. The fact that it is well done and would entertain many here is another reason to see the film. I would have enjoyed the film more if not for some dead spots, but the film gets an 8 because of its uniqueness and many qualities that I really like (more on that later).

    I can reommend this film to most idiots here–although I thought of Mitchell the most, probably because if Mitchell was a filmmaker I could see him making a film like this or wanting to. I think the film will appeal to enough of you that I can say it’s safe to see this without knowing anything more.

    The film also appears in 1001 MYMSBYD, and it deserves to be, imo. (I also agreed with the review.)

    **
    Now the title of the film is not a good one because it’s not going to draw people who may like this film to see it, and it is misleading. You don’t have to be interested in history to like this film. In fact, if that’s why you’re seeing it, the film will disappoint you. (The subtitle of the film gives a better idea of the content, but I’m leaving that out in the spirit of giving viewers as “pure” an experience of the film as possible.)

    Here’s what the film is about: a documentary filmmaker (Ross McElwee) who sets out to make a film about Sherman’s March during the Civil War and it’s after effects in the South gets distracted by real life events, which leads him to make a very different film than he originally intended.

    ***
    There are several aspects of the film that I really liked (some spoilers):

    1. I’m a little tired of filmmakers who take a mean-spirited approach to people in their film. They seem to relish their subjects doing things that make them look stupid. McElwee is not like that. Yes, he does show people doing things that look foolish, but he’s not mean spirited about it either. There’s a kind of acceptance of his subjects that comes out of fondness for them (which may come out of a kind of physical attraction). You don’t get the feeling that he thinks these people are stupid or ridiculous and that he can’t wait to show others. That was really refreshing.

    2. I loved the fact that this was a documentary that works like a romantic-comedy. That’s partly what makes it so unique. What makes it even more unique and special is that McElwee is the lead character in his film! His filmming of conversations–that he is one part of and which often involve his attempt at starting a relatiosnhip with them!–are amazing in the way they are natural. The scenes are funny, initimate and painful and that’s not a small accomplishment. Indeed, 1001 MYMSBYD mentions that some critics hailed this as the “Citizen Kane” of “diary films,” and I don’t think that’s an outrageous statement.

    3. Going back to the first point about McElwee’s approach to his subjects, what’s refreshing about this film is that McElwee has the courage to put his life on film, too, and, just as his subjects, he can and does appear foolish and even pathetic at times.

    4. Some favorite moments and characters:
    –I enjoyed his teacher friend,Charlene Swansea, athough I couldn’t tell how much of her behavior was natural or playing up to the camera. Still, she was funny and charming;
    –The scenes with his old flame were poignant and sad. By that time, I was really rooting for both of them to get together, even though I knew it wouldn’t happen.

    Btw, the film is at the Hawaii public library.

  31. Reid

    I’ve seen a few movies that I really didn’t care for, some of them winners of awards and critical acclaim.

    The Lost Weekend* (1945)
    Dir. Billy Wilder
    Starring: Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, etc.
    101 minutes
    (*Oscar for best picture)
    3/10

    Not here’s a best picture winner that I thought was not deserving of the award. I’m probably in the minority here, but I just don’t care for Hollywood films that seem to primarily want to educate the public about a social condition or issue, and put chararcter and story in the back-seat. It’s as if they want the audience to leave saying, “Oh, so that’s what it’s like to be (fill in the blank).” In this case the subject is alcoholism. Now, in 1945, this film may have been bold and revelatory for many people. I don’t think it would be for many 2006 audiences.

    The other problem I had was the acting. Like Days of Wine and Roses, I just found the acting too dramatic and self-conscious. Maybe I’ve seen addicts in real life or maybe I’ve seen many more realistic performances (One of the best off the top of my head is Samuel L. Jackson’s performance in Jungle Fever–probably his best performance, imo.). I guess you could say the film is a bit dated.

    The film also doesn’t have Wilder’s excellent dialogue–although this is not a film where his wit and use of double-entendre would be appropriate. If you take away the shock and revelatory power of the film, and you don’t think the acting is that great, there’s really very little to recommend in the film.

    Project A, part II (1987)
    Dir. Jackie Chan
    Starring: Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, etc.
    2/10

    I saw this film because it appears in the 1001 book, and it suggested that there would be a strong connection to Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, et. al. I can’t remember much about the film except the story wasn’t very interesting–which didn’t surprise me–and it was boring, including the action sequences. I think that says it all.

    Oh, that has to be one of the weirdest film titles ever. Then again, it’s a English version of a Chinese film, so…

    Sunless (1983)
    Dir. Chris Marker
    2/10

    Another film mentioned in the 1001 book, and hailed as a masterpiece of French director, Chris Marker. I really like Marker’s La Jetee, so that description intrigued me. Unfortunately, the film really disappointed me. I should say that I really didn’t understand the film very much, so I hesitate blasting it completely. The 2 does reflect my reaction to the film, however.

    **
    Basically the film is a series of photographs and footage of Marker’s travels around the world, coveringparts of Africa and other countries, but mainly focusing on Japan and Japanese people. The film is narrated by a editored who reads quotes from Marker’s letters (not sure if these are actual letters or a device strictly for the film). These quotes are random musings about existence, culture, time and whatever else. The musings are stream of consciousness and very pretentious. It is very similar to other European intellectuals I’ve read or heard like Zizek or Bernard Henri Levy. The writing is not very well-orgarnized and the language is very abstract.

    One part of the film–the photography–could have made this film more interesting, but I didn’t find it very interesting. I know Kevin liked this film, so maybe he can shed some light on it for me.

  32. kevin

    Reid:

    While preparing for class earlier this term I came across a short essay I wrote in grad school on Vertov, Lang, & Marker’s Sans Soleil. I’ll let you read it sometime; it’s hilarious. I have no recollection of writing this paper, nor what it was that I was actually trying to say. (It’s still not very clear.) My first reaction to rediscovering this was, “What was I smoking?”

  33. Reid

    I want to read it. It would be funny if that essay totally cleared things up for me.

  34. Reid

    I’m too lazy to write reviews for all the films I’ve seen in March and April, so I’m going to give a rating a brief comment.

    Olympia (parts I and II) (1938)
    8/10
    Leni Riefenstahl documentary of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Riefenstahl goes beyond simply “documenting” what happened or even finding the interesting story. Instead she uses the event to celebrate the wonders of the human physique. Her ediiting, composition, use of slow motion are this documentary feel like a work of art.

    High School (1968)
    6/10
    The thing that stands out for this Frederick Wiseman documentary is that I felt tired of the one-sided approached to documentaries. The filmmaker has a viewpoint and stacks the deck. In this case, it’s the authoritarian nature of high school. The film has something to recommend for it, but that was the first thing that came to mind. This film appears in the 1001 Movies book as well as a top 100 list that I’ve been using.

    The Music Room (1958)
    6/10
    I might love this Satyajit Ray film more if I took the time to think about it.(I could see myself liking this more than Ray’s Apu Triology) I didn’t, so it gets a 6. I sensed that Ray dealing with some interesting themes in an interesting way, but I haven’t sorted them all out. One thing about this film is that it was hard to find. Sinclair library is the only place that carries this that I know of, and it’s not on dvd.

    Man, that took longer than I thought. I’ll have to work on this later.

  35. Reid

    Take the Lead (2006)
    Dir. Liz Friedlander
    Starring: Antonio Banderas, etc.
    108 minutes
    3/10

    OK, here’s my excuse: I’ve been offering salsa and swing classes to high school students. In struggling to build the program the thought occured to me that having a social dance based on contemporary pop music and incoporating contemporary moves would be a cool thing. Enter Take the Lead, a film about a classy ballroom teacher that reaches some NYC delinquents through the foxtrot. The trailers made it look bad, but what hooked me was the mixing of hip-hop and ballroom dancing.

    Well, the combination was lame. Not only that, but the way the filmming of all the dance sequences was lame. Well, the dancing wasn’t that great either, so maybe the filmming was a way to deal with that.

    The characters and sub-plots were cliched, boring and unrealistic. (small spoiler). The way the ballroom teacher gets the the kids to finally start dancing–blasting his music, refusing to turn it down unless they partnered up–was not believeable.

    I feel like this movie is a 2, but I gave it a 3 because it wasn’t that painful or boring to watch. There was a ever so slight sliver of interest. Still, this is not worth watching, even for 50 cents.

  36. Mitchell

    Take the Lead was a better movie than The Rookie? Man…I can see how MAYBE The Rookie might have bored you, but you really must have thought it was stupid. I’m flabbergasted!

  37. Reid

    I think they’re both at about the same level. If I watched both again, I could probably fine tune my ratings. The other thing is that I’ve been seeing so many films in a relatively short period of time that the way I rate films would have to change. For example, many films that I gave a 6 would probably now get a 5 or a 4.

  38. Mitchell

    What has led to the recent tsunami of films for you? I can’t remember the last movie I saw…

  39. Reid

    Actually, those are films I watched in March and April, but never wrote anything about.

  40. Tony

    Well, summer movie season unofficially opened this weekend with Mission: Impossible 3. It was my first M:I movie, mainly because JJ Abrams co-wrote and directed it (Alias and Lost are often top-notch TV watching). The movie was pretty good, exactly what “summer movies” are all about: lots of action, blowing things up, and hey– we even get to see Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead) in a fun scene or two.

    Honestly, this was a nice change of pace after this spring’s (slightly disappointing) comedy-satires. American Dreamz was cute, slightly heavy-handed, and not as funny as it could have been. Thank You for Smoking was similar. And just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you have to turn your brain off, right?

  41. Reid

    Thanks for the reviews. I was curious about all the films you mentioned. Jill just watched MI:3, and she liked it. She told me that she thinks most people will like it, so now I’m kind of interested in seeing it. FWIW, I didn’t care for the previous MI films.

    I would be interested in hearing some feedback for the following films:

    The Sentinel
    Lord of War

  42. Reid

    Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973)
    Dir. Sam Peckinpah
    Strarring: James Coburn, Kris Kristoffersen, etc.
    115 minutes (2005 DVD)
    6/10

    Garrett (Coburn) and Billy (Kristofferson) are really good friends, but Garrett becomes a sherriff for a corrupt cattle rancher, and that rancher wants Billy to either leave the country, be arrested or killed. The film is very deliberately paced, which adds a sad quality to the film. I gave it a 6 because it was a little slow, and I didn’t think Pecknipah did enough with the themes in the film.

    (small spoiler)

    I agree with reviewers who have called this a film that says farewell to the Westerns.

    Fat City (1972)
    Dir. John Huston
    Starring: Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges, Susan Tyrrell, Candy Clark, Nicholas Collasanto, etc.
    100 minutes
    7/10

    If this film were made now, it would be considered an indenpendent film. The characters are people on the fringe of society, but are probably more common and real than the ones Hollywood likes to feature. The setting is in Stockton, a small town–again probably a more typical setting than Hollywood is interested in. The story is not so strong, but the acting is first rate–especially Stacy Keach and Susan Tyrrell. Keach plays someone not so bright, and Tyrrell plays a drunk. Usually actors in those type of roles take it over-the-top and create caricatures. Not so in this film.Tyrrell turns in a really good performances that I felt deserved at least a nomination for best supporting role. She indeed was nominated that year. Keach was also terrific, the best I’ve seen of him, but I don’t think I’ve seen him in very many films. He should have also been nominated at least. The scenes between the two of these actors are first rate. The characters, performance and tone of the film remind me of Louis Malle’s Atlantic City. If you liked that, there’s a good chance you’ll like this.

    Credit should also probably go to Huston for choosing these performances, and keeping the right tone in this film. For example, there are some moments I tnought were comical, but you never felt like Huston was trying to funny. Indeed, some people may not laugh at the scenes I did.
    However, the film is not really a comedy, but a melacholy tale about who dream big, but are really deluded and trapped. It’s certainly not a new theme, but the filmmakers handle it really well.

    I also liked the filming of the bars in the film. The darkness and film stock created the right mood. Those scenes reminded me of the one or two people I used to see in bars on Hotel Street during the day. It’s the same vibe. The film really has the look of the 70s and 70’s films.

    Finally, Nick Colasanto–the actor who played “Coach” in the Cheers–stars in this film, and it’s the only time I’ve seen him in something other than Cheers. At first I thought that connection would distract me, but, in a way, he plays a similar character, but not so over-the-top.

    The film gets a 7 because I liked the performances, particuarly several of the scenes.

  43. Reid

    Man Bites Dog (1992)
    Dir. Remy Belvaux, Andre Bonzel
    Starring: Benoit Poelvoorde, etc.
    5/10

    The film reminded me of both Natural Born Killers and Spinal Tap. The critique of the media was not very sophisticated or nuanced, although I give points to the verve of actor Benoit Poelvoorde–as the subject of the film. He was so over-the-top crude and vicious that it was funny.

    Basically the film is about a group of documentarians following and chronicling the exploits of a psychopathic killer. Yes, that doesn’t sound very funny, but imagine if SNL made a spoof film on the subject, and you get a good idea of the film. However, continue imagining SNL making that sketch into a full length film and you get an idea of why the film doesn’t work–at least for me. Apparently the people at Criterion Collection disagree as this is one of the films they chose to restore.

    Melinda and Melinda (2004)
    Dir. Woody Allen
    Starring: Radha Mitchell, Will Ferrell, Chiwetel Ojiofor, Johnny Lee Miller, Chloe Sevigny, Amanda Peet, etc.
    100 minutes
    5/10

    There’s a cool premise behind this film, which I rather not reveal. Upon learning about the premise, I should have anticipated that the concept would not be dealt with a very satifying way. The premise is appealing in and of itself that I can see filmmakers proceeding even if they know the film as a whole won’t be completely satisfying.

    **
    Radha Mitchell has some very nice moments. I don’t think she’s really a star yet, but I can see why Allen chose her as the lead in the film. Even Will Ferrell does a good plays the “Woody” persona fairly well–although I thought they should have cast someone else. It was like watching Woody Allen’s persona in Will Ferrell’s body; it got kinda distracting. I really laughed at some of the lines though.

    (spoilers)
    ***
    Ultimately, the film is not satisfying because of the resolution. The ending in the “tragic” tale just seems to have no interesting resolution whatsoever. As for ending of the comedic tale, Allen succumbs to the sentimentality over realism–like the penultimate scene in Annie Hall when we see a scene from Alfie Singer’s first play. Singer acknowledges the sappy and unrealistic ending, but he explains it by shrugging and saying, “It was his first play (or something to that effect).” That’s the way this “comedic sketch” ends. In the end, there’s not very little insight revealed about either comedy or tragedy.

  44. Reid

    Capote (2005)
    Dir. Bennett Miller
    Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, etc.
    114 minutes
    6/10

    Hoffman’s performance is solid, and, perhaps, exceptional. I’m not sure why I can’t give it higher praise. I’m not very with the real Capote–as a personality or a writer–so I don’t have any way to compare the two. A part of me feels like Hoffman didnt’ reveal enough of the character in his performance. Perhaps part of my disappointment comes from my desire to see the relationship and dynamic between Capote and Perry Smith explored a little more. Then again, maybe they did explore this, and I just missed it. That’s a good possibility because the director really made a concerted effort to avoid explaining what was going on.

    I don’t know if he did a terrific job at this, but I do give him points for taking this approach. The meat of the movie has to come through the performances; Hoffman’s face and body are like the canvas where the essential action takes place.

  45. Reid

    Last Days of Disco (1996)
    Dir. Whit Stillman
    4/10

    Whit Stillman has a unique sense of humor. You’ve heard of dry humor. Well, he’s the dryest. It’s so dry, jokes just go past you. It’s hard to tell what’s a joke or not. Unfortunately, this film is not one of his better ones. I’d recommend Metropolitan. Part of the reason this is not one of his better ones is that Stillman doesn’t really have a major part in the film. The other reason is that they’re a lot of characters, and Stillman doesn’t introduce or intersect their stories in a very clear or compelling way. I didn’t think the actors were particularly well cast in the film, or they just weren’t able to pull off his humor.

  46. Reid

    Did anyone see Flight 93? It seemed to get really good reviews, but I have no desire to see this film. I don’t feel the need to be reminded of what happened on 9-11, even if the film uplifts the audience by portraying the passengers as heroes. But I’m curious to hear if anyone has seen it, and if they would recommend watching it.

    I’d also be interested in hearing comments about Art School Confidential and the new X-Men.

  47. Reid

    Crash(1996)
    Dir. David Cronenberg
    Starring: James Spader, Holly Hunter, Elias Koteas, Debra Kara Unger, etc.
    100 minutes (NC-17 version)
    8/10

    Not to be confused with the 2005 film, Crash!, Martin Scorsese listed this as one of the ten best films of the 90s. There’s merit to that choice, imo. At the same time, I don’t feel like the film is entirely successful, but it’s a unique film that deserves attention.

    But don’t watch the film for a conventional story or characters. I’ve read some comments about the characters’ motivation and some criticism about the realism of the film. These questions are besides the point of the film. I don’t think Cronenberg cares about the characters and their motivations or the story. I thought of the Bresson and how one writer mentioned Bresson refering to his actors as “models.” The actors are like models. This is appropriate given the subject matter of the film. More on that later.

    So if the film doesn’t have a conventional story or characters, what’s this film about? The film is about one particular metaphor and takes the entire film to expand on this metaphor. The metaphor in question involves sex and cars. We’ve seen advertisers and songwriters make associations between the two. In Crash, Cronenberg takes it a step further by making it more blatant and obvious. Instead of scantifly clad women posing next to suped cars, Cronenberg gives us graphic nudity and sex scenes. Car crashes become synonomous with orgasms. This metaphor is also consistent with another theme that seems to intrest Cronenberg, namely the way machines and humans have influenced each other. Cronenberg seems to like to illustrate this by show converging machines and humans, a la a cyborg.

    Perhaps that’s consistent with the way Cronenberg uses the actors in the film. The actors in the film are more like props or models that Cronenberg uses to create a cinematic poem on cars, sex and violence. By props or models, I mean I don’t see them as “real” people or characters that we should be interested in. The film is almost a feature length performance art piece. One of my favorite scenes is the car wash scene. We see the swishing skirts going over the car; the suds spewing out while the two characters have sex. I also liked the way the covertible roof frames the two characters in the back seat as it’s being put up.

    Earlier I said the film wasn’t entirely successful. I feel like Cronenberg lacks the talent to make this really a great film. I feel like a really talented director could have made more powerful images and perhaps reveal more interesting insights. Still, I think it’s a very interesting film, and the best Cronenberg film I’ve seen.

  48. Reid

    X-Men III: The Last Stand (2006)
    3/10

    I gave this a 3 ultimately because it’s just not a good film. My enjoyment of it was probably more a 4 or 5, but after thinking about this more I think it deserves a 3. I think many of you would probably give this a 5 or 6.

    Perhaps, you’d give it a higher score if you weren’t familar with the original comics.

    (spoilers)

    One of the strengths of the X-Men comics is that they show the way these people are outcasts, but find a home and family with each other; this is especially true with Wolverine. The films do a really bad job of that, partly because they’re introducing new characters and not spending time developing the characters and their relationships. This film is no different. We get new characters in Angel and Colossus. Angel’s character and the sub-plot associated with him is pointless.

    One of the worst mistakes is killing off Cyclops and Professor X. Prof. X and Magneto was one of the best parts of the series, and he gets killed off so quickly. When I think about it, the script is really a mess. Part of the reason is that they’re trying to combine different stories into one, and they don’t do a good job of it.

    The action scenes weren’t really well-executed either. The scenes with Kitty were actually better than I thought they would be though. Still, even though it wasn’t that bad to watch, the overall film kind of sucks, especially as an adaptation.

  49. Mitchell

    The next time there’s a comic-book adaptation, Reid, I’d really love it if you wrote the review first, then saw the movie, then amended your review as necessary. It might be a fun exercise! I’ll do the same for the next Julia Roberts romantic comedy.

  50. Reid

    You mean like write what I think I’m going to see? Why only a comic book adaptation? I’m not trying to be contentious–I’ll be happy to try it, if I remember–but I’m just curious.

    Match-point (2005)
    5/10

    I thought this might be a film that was overlooked and could contend for one of the better films of 2005. I was wrong. I remember watching the trailer to this, feeling sure in the first few seconds that it would be a film I’d never watch. When I find out what film it is and who directed it, I was really shocked. I had heard really great things about the film, so I was curious about it.

    My score mainly reflects my own enjoyment of the film more than the overall quality. Well, then again, while the film is effective in some ways, I think objectively it loses points because of some reasons which I will go into later.

    Personal Comments (some spoiiers)

    My main problem with the film is that the film is almost the same story and themes as Allen’s previous film, Crimes and Misdemeanors. I don’t mind a director revisting certain story-lines or themes as long as they add something significantly new to it. Woody doesn’t do it in this film–at least nothing that I noticed.

    The suspense aspects of the film were effective, however. It’s actually partly what made me enjoy the film less. LIke the novel the main character reads in the film, Crime and Punishment, I anagonized over this film because you watch the protagonist do stupid things that will only harm him or someone else later on. Of course, he’s not hurt, and I guess that is supposed impact the audience. It didn’t have an impact on me, partly because it seemed so trite and simplistic. People do evil things and get away with it. I understand that life seems to be about luck or the absence of it; that what happens in life is often random. But if that’s all your saying, that’s not really saying much. Well, that was my reaction anyway.

    I thought the acting was pretty good, although not great. I think Scarlett was a little mscast. In the first scene she’s in, she’s this confident seductress. I got excited. It felt like Double Indemnity, but then her character doesn’t turn out to be a bad, and Johansson just seemed out place in that role.

  51. Mitchell

    I think you head into comic-book adaptations set for disappointment. It’s because you care so much about the source material itself and its genre. There are ways a film can increase your enjoyment of the genre, but it becomes clearer and clearer with each successive film that directors and writers disagree with you about these issues. Thus, you can sort of predict the ways a film will fail to live up to your hopes before you see it. It would be especially interesting if you went out on a limb and REALLY predicted some specific way the film was going to disappoint you.

    I love romantic comedies, but hate one of the romantic-comedy stand-bys: The music video sequence. Whether it be the introspective-gotta-think-things-over video (Notting Hill) or the we’re-learning-to-get-along video (10 Things I Hate About You), I just hate them. So one thing I do is predict what the song is going to be before I go in. Then, at least, when that scene shows up (and it will!), I’ll at least be able to approach it wish some amount of good humor.

  52. Reid

    Hmm, I wonder if there are any of those scenes in Before Surise/Sunset. I don’t think so. Have you seen those films? If I haven’t said it before, I’ll say it now: I highly recommend those films to you.

    As for the comic-book adaptations, as crazy as it may sound, I actually go in hoping, maybe even expecting them to be good. I think that because I think that someone of the stories are really terrific. Usually, actions films aren’t bad because of the action sequences (well, that’s not totally true), but often the problems stems from a lack of story or interesting characters. The X-Men series (at least the ones the films are based on) had really great action stories with solid characters. If they stuck close to the story line, those films could have been terrific. I’m just going to have to wait until an anime version comes out or some other director gives it another shot.

    As for predicting how I would be disappointed, I probably could have done that with the X-men films. I like the Spiderman films, especially the first one (8/10). I haven’t seen Hulk, but I want to.

  53. Reid

    Someone directed me to this–X-Facts: The X-Men Comics vs. X-Men: The Last Stand. It’s kinda funny.

  54. Reid

    Mission Impossible: III (2006)
    4/10

    Half way through this film I leaned over to Larri and said, “This is pretty good.” This had a 6 written all over it, until the ending of the film.(More later.) I think a lot of you would probably give this film a 5 or 6, and would be satisfied if you’re looking for a “popcorn” movie. No great story, direction or acting. Still, I’m picky about action films, and I almost gave this film a 5, but there’s too many things that bugged me.

    (spoilers)

    The ending is ridiculous: Julia guns down trained killers with no explanation to make this plausible. She’s not even the least bit traumatized and stressed out when Ethan dies in front of her. Then we have the magical “pounding-on-the-chest-to-bring-a-loved-one-back” trick. Ugh.

    The character development is non-existent or just not very interesting. I was especially disappointed in Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character, Owen Davian. With a great script, PSH will one day be one of the best villians of all-time. You could see it in this film. He was formidable and spooky. To bad, if the filmmakers spent more time on developing the relationships and tension between Ethan Hunt and Owen Davian.

    The action scenes were OK, but would have been better if the characters and story were better developed.

  55. Mitchell

    Then we have the magical “pounding-on-the-chest-to-bring-a-loved-one-back” trick. Ugh.

    I hate seeing this in movies, but did you know that before there was CPR, that’s one of the things people did to try go get hearts started again? Another popular method was to put the patient on horseback and have the horse gallop about for a bit.

    I’m seeing X3 tonight. As long as there’s plenty of Rogue and Storm, I’ll be fine.

  56. Reid

    Well, my problem is not just that the act seems silly, but that it’s often performed in a very melodramatic way–the living loved one shouting and swearing, “C’mon breathe you (beep)! Fight!” I don’t know, it’s so cliche and cheesy.

    You must be catching the 10:00 film. If you don’t have high expectations, you could enjoy the film.

  57. Reid

    The Thin Red Line (1998)
    Dir. Terrence Malick
    170 minutes
    6/10

    This is the second time I saw the film. I never cared for it the first time, but after loving The New World, I wanted to give this another shot.

    The basic plot involves Charlie Company and the taking of a key hill in Guadalcanal during WWII. There is a ton of characters–played by well-known actors–in this film. However, imo, this is not really a war film–although it can be seen as such. Malick seems to be more concerned about philosophical questions–the nature of good and evil, immortality and other existentail questions. To me, Malick structures the film as a “slice of life” of life. There are many of his poetic use of images that he also employs in The New World. It doesn’t seem as coherrent and focused as the latter, however.

    Definitely a spiritual-philosophical film. I wuuld to hear from anyone who feels they understand and can “explain” this film.

  58. Reid

    Decalogue (1988)
    Dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski
    Written by Krysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz
    8/10

    This is series of ten one hour films on each of the Ten Commandments, originally made for Polish TV. If you count this as a TV show, I’d say it’s has to be one of the best of all time, especially if we’re thinking of artistic merit. I think that’s enough information for you to make a decision to see the film(s) or not.

    Oh, one more thing. FWIW, at the IMDB site, out of 1,700+ votes this film gets a 9.3. That’s pretty dang high.

    Personal Reaction

    What I liked about the series was the way Kieslowski and Piesiewicz avoid dealing with each commandment in a predictable or moralizing way. The episodes aren’t made by priests trying to show the truth and power of these commandments. The filmmakers deal with moral issues to some extent, but they’re not preachy, and they often go deeper then the moral issues. What is at the heart of the commandments? The filmmakers also explore aspects of the commandments in less obvious ways.

    (Some spoilers)

    Decalogue 1: Thou shalt have no other god before me.

    Probably the most straight-forward story of the bunch. The child actor is really good in this: he’s cute, appealing, believable and has one or two pretty difficult scenes to pull off–specifically the scene where he talks about seeing the dog die and feeling like there’s no point in life.
    Liked the ending shot of the father touching the frozen holy water on his forehead. The shot contains several emotions at once: the broken ice is what causes him suffering and pain and it indicates that he has put too much faith in science. The scene could also indicate his repentance and return to God.

    Decalogue 2: Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain

    I’m not really sure how this story connects to the second commandment, but here’s my guess. The doctor and the practice of medicine is sort of the equivalent to God’s name and power. He does not want to use the authority of a doctor unwisely but telling the woman when her husband will die.

    At this point, I’m not sure how the loss of the doctor’s family (presumably during WWII relates to the other couple, except that the Doctor “save” or prevents the woman from having an abortion).

    Decalogue 3: Remember the Sabbath, to keep it a holy day

    Once again I have a really hard time connecting the commandment to the actual story. A woman deceives her former lover to come with her to look for her new lover. It’s Christmas Eve and the man spends the whole night with this woman. The woman doesn’t want to be alone until 7 AM the next morning.

    The ending: the wife asks if he’s going to go out every night (implying that he’s going to start having affairs). He says, “No, ” he’s never going out. She looks a little surprised. Not sure what that all means.

    Decalogue 4: Honor thy father and mother

    A story that explores the nature of parents and children. What makes a parent a parent? I had a hard time relating to this story on one level, namely the fact that there would be any chance that the father in this scene would even consider being attracted to the daughter, simply because the daughter is not his biological daughter.

    Decalogue 5: Thou shall not kill

    I liked the way this story turned the notion on capital punishment. It reminded me of Dead Man Walking.

    Decalogue 6: Thou shall not steal

    I liked the situation they chose to illustrate this commandment. Theft can certainly be emotional.

    Decalogue 7: Thou shall not commit adultery

    This was probably my favorite so far. I interpreted this to mean that love is more than sex, and that sex without love is empty.

    Decaloque 8: Thou shall not give false testimony

    Here’s one where there is a ethical conundrum: do you lie about one’s faith to save a life or is saving a life through lying about one’s faith acceptable?

    Decalogue 9: Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife

    Once again another twist on the commandment. Can a husband covet his own wife? That seems to be the way Kieslowski wants to examine the question, at least in part.

    Decalogue 10 Thou shall not covet another man’s possessions

    Probably the funniest and the most charming of all the episodes. The two lead actors starring as brothers is the main reason for this.

  59. Reid

    Catching up on reviewing some films I’ve seen a while ago, but never reviewed:

    Straw Dogs (1970)
    Dir. Sam Peckinpah
    Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Susan George, etc.
    6/10

    This has one of the more disturbing and harrowing scenes I’ve seen. This film is over thirty years old and I have seen enough disturbing scenes that I can be a bit jaded; yet, this film still managed to disturb me and make me uncomfortable. I think a big reason is that the notion of a civilized and somewhat genteel man confronting violence and the implications on his manhood hits home for me.

    The plot involves a mathematician, David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) and his British wife Amy Sumner (Susan George) being harassed by the local village toughs. (The film takes place in England.)

    There are some interesting ideas that Peckinpah explores–civilization and violence; sexuality and its relation to power and violence. I felt like there were some false notes in the acting, particularly at the end. Not only was a bit confused about the motivation and inner workings of David and Amy, but the filmmakers couldn’t capture the complexity of different emotions and motivations in a convincing way. The thought I had was that the director and actors didn’t have the talent (or didn’t succeed) at portraying that complexity very well. Still, the film has interesting ideas and some pretty good moments, but I felt the film wasn’t entirely successful in reaching it’s objective.

  60. Reid

    What summer movies have you guys watched? Has anyone seen Al Gore’s The Inconvenient Truth? It’s getting some pretty rave reviews.

  61. Reid

    Playtime (1967)
    Dir. Jacques Tati
    5/10

    If there’s a film to demonstrate the value of letterboxing, it’s this film. The film was shot in 70mm and many key activities are hidden on the sides of the screen. One commentator at IMDB also said that the seeing the film on big screen also helps pick out the details. This person saw it on the big screen first, then later saw when he saw in on TV, he thought the film was mediocre. (He saw it again the big screen and loved it.)

    Well, except for a few moments, I thought it was a mediocre film. The film has little plot and involves a Tati’s main character, Monsieur Hulot–a Chaplinesque character–and an American tourist in modern Paris. This is basically a silent film–all the action takes place in the visuals. Tati is unique in the type of visuals he sets up, too. The visual scenarios are just as much amusing and charming as they are laugh-out-loud funny. (My personal favorite of the Tati films is Mr. Hulot’s Vacation.

    The 1001 book mentions that the film helps “viewers see with new eyes.” I see what they mean as I began to feel a little disoriented based on the set-up of certain scenes.

    Criterion Collection is coming out with a release in September, so for those interested, you might want to wait for that version.

  62. Tony

    Get thee all to the Varsity to catch A Prairie Home Companion. It may not be life-changing, but it’s one enjoyable movie (and a philosphical companion to Pixar’s Cars.

    Other than that, all I’ve seen this summer are the “big release” movies, with X-Men: The Final Stand being the most enjoyable (notice I said enjoyable and not well-made). I’m holding hope out for Superman Returns right now. I have the feeling it’s gonna be great (though reviews have been a little mixed).

  63. Reid

    Well, with regard to X-men: The Final Stand that makes you and Mitchell who enjoyed the film. I wonder if my brother saw the film. I can’t imagine him liking it that much.

    Tony, how do you like Hugh Jackman as Wolverine?

    I want to see Prairie Home Companion and the Al Gore film.

    Cars (2006)
    6/10

    The first act of this film was just not working for me. Everything felt flat; the characters weren’t very interesting and the story just didn’t seem to be moving very well. Then for some reason, I started liking the characters more and story seemed to pick up a bit. The weird thing is I can’t quite articulate why the characters started winning me over more. My feelings did a pretty significant turnaround–I went from being bored to feeling touched at some of the later scenes. Pretty weird.

  64. Joel

    “nacho libre” (6 out of 10) If you’re in the mood for “stupid humor” a.k.a. (dumb and dumber) then “nacho libre” may be your only quick fix for new movies this summer. I was hoping for better character development within the story, but none really transpired. I laughed at the antics and mannerisms of Jack Black. I must admit looking at him in that silly outfit makes me catch the giggles. Still, if I were trying to be objective about my review I’d say the majority of people who saw the film would say that they didn’t like it. I, on the other hand, was entertained and laughed quite a bit throughout the film.

  65. Tony

    Reid-

    Concerning Hugh Jackman as Wolverine: he’s the best he is at what he does. heh. Seriously, I think he does the canuckle-head really well. Sure, in the comic Logan is a good deal shorter, but that’s okay. I think the solo Wolverine flick will be done well with Jackman in the lead.

    And about Cars: I felt the exact same way about the first half of the film. I was bored and a little frustrated. Just wasn’t feeling it. But about half-way through? bang! Whole new movie. Totally into it. What’s strange is that I’ve felt this way about a couple of other recent computer-animated movies: Madagascar and Over the Hedge. Both movies were somewhat slow at the beginning, but by the last half, I was totally into it. You could probably clump Hoodwinked in there as well, but it’s kind of in its own category based on its storytelling style.

  66. Reid

    Tony,

    Jackman’s height is the biggest problem I have with him. Wolverine is a like a wild animal with a bloolust for fighting. Jackman just doesn’t convey that as much. (If you ever get into anime, see Samurai Champloo series for a character who’s like Wolverine.) Wolverine also has a softer side, and the films and Jackman just don’t capture the playing out of that dynamic very well.

    My initial pick for Wolverine was Harvey Keitel. He not only has the stature and physique, but I think he could convey the ferocity and mannerisms of Wolverine. (I can just here him saying words like, “Bub.”) He’s also old, and Wolverine’s sort of an older guy whose age is unknown.

  67. Mitchell

    I don\’t see how after all that, Jackman\\\’s height can be your biggest problem with him. It sounds like the least of your concerns. Is Wolverine supposed to be short? Stanley Yelnats in Holes was supposed to be fat, but Shia Labeuf\\\’s performance was so good that I think even the most ardent fans of Louis Sachar\\\’s novel were probably won over.

    We saw A Prairie Home Companion Saturday night, and I really enjoyed it. It definitely captured the spirit of the radio program, except for two major transgressions: First, Guy Noir as a character in the movie rather than a character in the radio program really messed things up for me. Second, Keillor really could have found a way to work a \\\”News from Lake Woebegone\\\” monologue into the screenplay. He could have done a lot with it, drawing paralleles between the characters in his fictitious town \\\”where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average,\\\” and the situation this radio program has found itself in. We are effectively telling this radio program goodbye in this film, and without a chance to say goodbye to the residents of Lake Woebegone, I felt kinda gypped.

    Something Robert Altman does really well is manage his space. In both A Prairie Home Companion and Gosford Park, we really get a sense of the geography of the setting: the backstage space of the Fitzgerald Theater in the former and a mansion\\\’s upstairs/downstairs space in the latter. It makes me wonder how the heck this was filmed, because I don\\\’t think there\\\’s any way there could have been enough room in the narrow hallways and dressing rooms of this fictitious theater for cameras, lights, directors, and sound guys. Yet we are taken from room through hallway to stage, or from stage through hallway to small room to smaller room to closet. If it is all illusion, it is pretty dang convincing.

    Another of Altman\\\’s signatures, the overlapping dialogues, is wonderful in this film, especially between Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep. You really get convinced that these two women have been performing together for their whole lives, and even their discussions in the dressing room sound as choreographed as their onstage banter and performance.

    Another problem I have is with the Virginia Madsen character. Again, I thought she should be a character in a radio show, but not in this film. The dynamic between the Guy Noir and Dangerous Lady characters makes the rest of the film difficult to believe, and that was a disappointment.

    But the highlight of the movie is the music itself. The house band (Keillor\\\’s real-life house band) is very good, and the performances are delightful, especially Lefty and Dusty, played by Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly. Lindsey Lohan was a nice surprise; she may have received too much Lolita attention these past several years, but she\\\’s got some chops. Have you seen her in The Parent Trap? She was almost in Mara Wilson territory, if you ask me. She can act. And yeah. The camera really likes her.

    I give it a solid 7 out of 10 and worth seeing just for the Streep/Tomlin dynamic. I hope they get to sing at the Oscars next spring.

  68. Reid

    Sorry, I meant that the his height was *not* my biggest problem with him.

    Prairie Home Companion (2006)
    Dir. Robert Altman
    5/10

    I’ve never listened to the radio program. I like Robert Altman. I did not care for this film. If the film did a good job of capturing the humor, music and overall vibe of the radio program, then I probably wouldn’t care for it. The music was OK, but nothing that got me excited. Same with the humor.

    The film started off by seeming to develop the backstory of the characters, but then never really took initial developments anywhere. It’s almost like Altman intially thought of making a film with conventional character development and then just deciding midway through to chuck the idea and just try to capture the essence of the radio program. (What was the whole storyline of the “angel of death” anyway?)

    A word about the performances. I thought they weren’t very exceptional. Streep’s performance made me think of what makes a performance invisible and draws the viewer into the film’s world versus a performance that is obvious and consequently keeps the viewer out of it. Unfortunately, Streep’s performance was the latter for me, and I’m not quite sure why that was. There were some moments where she displayed her skill–like the scene where she’s singing a duet with GK and you know she’s sad and troubled by the experience. The acting seemed good, but I was aware of the skill, and it didn’t draw me in. I’m not really sure why. A lot of the other performances felt the same way for me. The performances felt flat for some reason, lacking the ability to really draw me into the film.

  69. Reid

    An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

    This is an important film–not necessarily in terms of its relationship to other films–but the subject of this film matters. About this film Ebert said something like, “In my 39 years of writing reviews I’ve never uttered these words, but here it is–you owe it to yourself to see this film.” The statement is justified to me.

    Even if you don’t like documentaries or you’re not interested in seeing this film, at the very least, you won’t regret seeing this film. Larri is not a fan of documentaries (to say the least), but she decided to see it, and she’s glad she did.

    (I’ll try to review the film later.)

  70. Joel

    “fearless” (7-10)

    I was thirsting for good action film to come out in theaters and with all due respect to “Superman” and “X3,” “Fearless” definitely did it for me.

    This filmed is billed as Jet Li’s last “action” or “kung fu” style films. Supposedly he is going to focus on doing more dramatic work that is less taxing on the body.

    There is definitely something very charasmatic about Jet Li and aura about him. You just know that when he is placed in confrontations that he’s going to kick some ass and do it well. “fearless” is a film that seems to be *mini spoiler* the foundation of all the street fighter games where he has to fight guys of different disciplines. Although, the story really focuses around him and his growth and development as a person.

    *high points of the film*

    *the panoramic views, landscapes. The director made great choices for their respective locations.*

    *top notch fighting…again much like crouching tiger, but without all the “godlike bounding.” *

    I would like to explain more, but will wait til more of you see it. The film won’t be released until a little later on this year in theaters, but you can rent or buy the Asain theatrical release in stores now. (which is where I got my copy)

    The quality, scenery, and panorama of the film is all great. Remenicent of “Crouching tiger hidden dragon” or “the house of flying daggers.”

  71. Jenn

    It’s also worthy to note that the character Jet Li plays in this film is another historical figure (he’s done Wong Fei Hung in the “Once Upon a Time in China” series). If you’ve seen “Fist of Legend”, you may find it interesting that Jet plays Huo Yuan Jia in “Fearless” because in FoL Jet’s character was a student of Huo Yuan Jia.

    I liked the fight sequences in this film, and Jet’s performance, especially post-journey, struck me as profound. The landcapes weren’t as awesome as in “Hero”, but I felt the simple style of the countryside sequences better fit the story in “Fearless”.

  72. Reid

    I\’ve been in the mood to see films that are entertaining and fluffy (mostly action movies). So here\’s the run down of what I saw so far, including some not-so-light films:

    Pirates of the Carribean (2003)
    Dir. Gore Verbinski
    6/10

    Yes, Johnny Depp is good in this. He\’s the main reason the film is entertaining. The story, fight sequences (pretty boring) and other performances are not particuarly interesting, but they don\’t ruin the film either. Depp performance reminds me of Kurt Russell role of Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China. He\’s goofy, but not as much of a smart-aleck. The film clocks in at 143 minutes, and I thought it could have been shorter.

    Lord of War (2005)
    Dir. Andrew Niccol
    Starring: Nicholas Cage, Jared Leto, Ethan Hawke, etc.
    6/10

    I was expecting more of an action film, but that\’s not what I got. Like other films (Gattaca and he wrote the screenplay to The Truman Show) by writer/director Anrew Niccol this is a film that actually has something serious to say. Here\’s a filmmaker that shouldn\’t be judged solely on the fact that his films don\\\’t last long in the theaters. Mainstream audiences may not be interested the subjects he wants to address. To be fair to mainstream audiences, his films may not entirely succeed in entertainment or serious treatment of larger themes.

    In this case, the film deals with arms dealing and the political and moral implications of this, and that\\\’s really at the heart of the film. (It does have very much action.).Cage plays Yuri Orlov, a son of working class immigrants that works his way up to becoming a successful (and amoral) weapons dealer. Cage doesn\’t care who he sells arms to; it\’s none of his business what buyers use the money for.

    small spoilers

    The film is dark satire on the international weapons trade and the US role in it. I didn\\\’t find the subject very shocking or revelatory, so I think that lessened the satiric impact and, therefore, my overall appreciation of the film. The themes (the perversion of the American Dream and the price one pays, along similiar lines as the Godfather films) were pretty well-worn.

    Still, I admire Niccol because he actually wants to make films that say something rather than just present mindless entertainment to the masses, but I don\\\’t know if he has the talent to really pull off his ambitions. Niccol also directed S1mone, and I\\\’m probably going to check that out.

  73. Reid

    Akeelah and the Bee (2006)
    6/10

    There were some silly moments in the film, but not so much to prevent me from mildly enjoying this film. The actors, especially the girl that plays the lead character did a good enough job to make me care and root for her.

    If you don’t know this is about a Middle-school girl from Compton who attempts to compete in the National Spelling Bee. Encouraged by her principal and coached by a former UCLA professor (Laurence Fisburne), Akeelah works really hard to make it. Along the way she makes a friend, Javier,from a more affluent community. He was a likeable character that helped make me enjoy the film a lot more. The emotional moments are pretty well-done, with some decent acting from Fishburne. It’s always nice to see Angela Basset in a film, but she’s kind of wasted in this. Still, a decent diversion of a film, certainly worth the $1 at the Restaurant Row Theater.

  74. cindy

    I went to see “An Inconvenient Truth” yesterday and at turns felt heartbroken, deeply touched by Al Gore’s wit and vulnerability, and actually hopeful by the end.

    It was amazing to me to see how his life, in looking back, has been so intertwined with a certain kind of “calling.” I also really wondered what he would have been like as President and what it means to speak to the world now. Maybe his message has become more powerful.

  75. Joel

    “Superman Returns” (6 out of 10)

    This is suposed to be the biggest blockbuster of the year! But as it turns out, I feel like it just became a medeocre “entertaining” film. I thought the story was okay nothing spectacular or worth noting. There are few “cool” action sequences further showing the extent of Superman’s powers…which I wish they would’ve explored more of…but in the end all the visual effects or fighting sequences in the world cannot get you involved as good as a great storyline…which this saddly did not have.

    I thought Kevin Spacey did a good job of playing Lex Luther. The actor that played superman played him very much like the Christopher Reeve did…it was very remenicent of him. Still there was no performance that was great.

  76. Mitchell

    Clerks II.
    I really disliked the first two-thirds of this movie, but I really like the final third. This is the crudest movie I’ve ever seen, far surpassing the crudity of the first film, but it’s not the crudity that bugged me. It was the bad filmmaking. Kevin Smith is really hit-or-miss, and while I appreciated what he was trying to do early in the movie, it wasn’t until the final two sequences that I thought he was doing something interesting, creative, and meaningful. Smith has something to say about his generation, and I like what he’s trying to get to here. I do not recommend this film for anyone except people who REALLY like Kevin Smith.

    Monster House
    I meant to see Clerks II again this afternoon, but I misread the schedule and didn’t want to wait ninety minutes for the next show, so I bought a ticket instead for Monster House. Man, the animation in this film is fantastic. It’s also a scary movie, so don’t take little kids. I’m just guessing, but I’m thinking third or fourth graders could handle it, but I don’t think I’d take kids younger than third. This was entertaining, with some laugh-out-loud moments, but nothing to get too excited about, if you ask me. Nice animation, though. Watch that basketball in one of the early sequences and tell me you’ve seen that before.

  77. Reid

    I saw my brother’s copy of Fearless. I’d give it a 6/10. I just didn’t think the story or the action was exceptional. On the other hand, the film wasn’t boring or silly. It’s more of a bio-pic. Think of the Dragon, the film about Bruce Lee (although I liked that film better).

  78. joel

    “miami vice” (6 out of 10)

    Maybe I’ve just been thirsting for a great movie for so long that all of these other mundane films are just getting harder to critique. But then again, it’s “miami vice” so I really wasn’t expecting all that much from this film anyway.

    First the bad news…

    *spoiler* The acting between all of the characters seemed pretty plain and stereotypical. Sonny is just not the same to me without Don Johnson…ditto for tubbs.

    Although the film was spoken in english there were three different “accents” you needed to stay “atuned” to. It was irritating hearing an asian person speaking english with an asian accent to a colombian speaking english with a “spanish” accent.

    The good…

    The grainy feel of the film–remenicent of the movie “traffic”–gave it an earthy grundgy quality that I liked. The violence, though over the top at times, was enough to keep me entertained.

    The storyline surprised me a little because I thought it had potential to be pretty good. I liked the conflicts and life/death questions this film raised. There was potential for the sunny character and his love interest to go somewhere, but the acting saddly wasn’t there for me.

  79. Reid

    Doesn’t sound like I would like it.

    Anybody see A Scanner Darkly

    Tony, how was the Lady in the Lake?

  80. Joel

    “the devil wears prada” (6 out of 10)

    I wasn’t expecting much out of this film, and I’m not trying to say this film should be up for any oscars, but “the devil wears prada” did surprise me. I thought it was going to be a lighthearted comedic film about the fashion industry. But this film is about much more than that. It’s about making choices in your life, what sacrifices your willing to make to get what you want. I thought Meryl Streep did a great job in her roll. Ann Hathaway was still to adorable for me (mini spoiler) even when her character starts to “sell out.”

    There were a few subplot/loose ends that were not tied up, it made for contrived assumptions as you follow along in the film.

    Still it was entertaining enough to see. I actually think I would see it again.

  81. Tony

    Lady in the Water? Well, it’s the first multiple-viewing I’ve done in quite some time. I get choked up at a number of places. America hates it. It’s only showing two times a day at Dole. None of that matters. It could be my favorite of Shyamalan’s. It is, above all, his take on the fairy tale, just like Unbreakable was about super-heroes and Signs about alien invasions. Best movie of the summer for me.

  82. Reid

    Thanks for the review, Tony.

    Karate Kid(1984)
    8/10

    I was excited to watch this with my niece, until I found out she had already seen it. I gave this a 9 before, but I think it slipped a bit. I still love the chemistry between Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita, but it’s a bit cheesier than I remember. Morita is also totally within that Asian stereotype. I wonder what other Asians here feel about his performance. I mean, he’s definitely portrayed in a positive light, but he’s totally within that stereotype.

    I know Mitchell doesn’t like the “music video” moments, but I thought these sequences in the film were highly effective–once when we see Daniel and Allie getting to know each other and the other time during the karate matches. The use of music, editing, actors facial reactions (particularly Morita and Martin Kove, the corbra kai sensei) and the director’s organization of all of this is very effective.

  83. Mitchell

    The Karate Kid is forgiven for its music videos for two reasons. First, it is not a romantic comedy, and second, I didn’t know enough about films to have an opinion about that when I was sixteen. I agree about how cheesy it is — I showed it to some students a few years ago and was surprised by that, too.

  84. Reid

    But when you recently watched it, did you find those montage sequences bad? While the film was not a romantic comedy, one of those sequences involved the romance between Daniel and Alli. Personally, I thought they were well-done and effective.

  85. Mitchell

    No, I thought they were fine.

    Word Play
    Saw this with Grace and Penny last weekend, and it’s the best movie of the year for me so far. Like other good documentaries we’ve seen recently, this movie is really about people. What these people all have in common is that they love crossword puzzles, so we get to see Jon Stewart, Bill Clinton, Indigo Girls, Mike Mussina, and (my favorite of the bunch) Daniel Okrent working separately on the same puzzle — a puzzle we watched the puzzle-writer create! It was cool.

    And those loonies who dominate the competition at the American Crossword Puzzle Championships are wonderful. Like anyone who’s geeky and passionate about something, these people are all interesting and impressive, each in different ways.

    The film is put together really well, with close-ups of crossword grids being filled out and their clues suspended above in a split-screen, so that you can try to figure out a lot of the words as the solvers are figuring out words.

    The “star,” I guess, is Will Shortz, the long-time editor of the New York Times Crossword Puzzle and a weekly contributor to NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday. He is the only person in the country with a degree in enigmatology (oh, if I’d only known!) and I love the easy way he moves among and about the puzzle-lovers he’s sort of the ringmaster for. A guy like this could be arrogant, especially among these people who knew who he was before he knew who they were, but he seems like a gentle, unassuming man. I want to be him.

    My favorite thing about the documentary is the way it tries not only to get at what kind of people are devoted to the puzzles, but what it is in puzzles that such a diverse group of people connects with. I love when President Clinton explains that he seldom solves the puzzle from one end to the other, in order. He find the clues he feels pretty good about, fills the words in, and works from there, and says that in real-life situations with complex problems, we do the same thing — start with what we know, with what we’re familiar with, and proceed from there.

    I have taught puzzle-solving in my math classes for as long as I’ve taught that subject, hoping that my students will learn that this is the reason we study mathematics — not to get the answer to some problem some textbook-writer came up with, but to learn to examine problems from different angles, to apply what we know and figure out the rest. When we get stumped, we consult with others, we check our resources, and we see if we can come up with at least a defensible solution.

    The more I think about it, the more I think puzzles are both metaphor and method in education. Shortz explains that his approach in editing the puzzles is that if it’s something a reader of the Times would be interested in, it’s fair game for the puzzle, so he refuses to rule out pop culture or entertainment as subject matter. “This is life,” he seems to say.

    I can’t wait to see this again.

  86. Joel

    “talladega nights: the ballad of ricky bobby” (7 out of 10)

    I couldn’t stop laughing at the stupid humor in this film. It reminded me of “dumb and dummer.” The humor admittingly not for all. If you are accustomed to will farrell humor then I think this is one of his better films.

  87. Jenn

    I also saw Talladega Nights and thought it was most hilarious. Of course it helped that Wendell and I actually watch Formula 1 racing, so it was that much more hilarious to see the “popular view” of F1 on film.

    Can’t wait to see Borat.

    I finally saw Pirates: Dead Man’s Chest. It was okay….I didn’t think it was very fun, though. Sure Johnny’s always wonderful to look at but I felt as if nothing was really going on except all the CG effects.

    Also went to Snakes on a Plane. Yes, I did. It was funny! It reminded me of how People Under the Stairs was supposed to be a horror movie, but I just couldn’t stop laughing at it. SoaP was the same way. And dangit, that was SO NOT the Hawaii Federal Building!!!

    I have a friend who is/was a Rocky Horror fan, and he predicts SoaP will be the next audience participation film. I haven’t seen the AP script, but he says it’s funny.

  88. Chris

    *Little Miss Sunshine* is much better and funnier than I expected. Had my crying. Theater (on 3 screens) was packed out. I want to see the Word Play movie. Anybody out there see *Little Miss*?

    note:  originally posted Aug 31, 10:45 AM; comment date changed to bump this comment up in queue.

  89. Reid

    Matador (2005)
    Dir. Richard Sheppard
    Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Hope Davis, etc.
    7/10

    The buzz on this film was that Brosnan’s performance was really good. Yes, I agree it was good, if not very good. The film is very a good independent film (or has the feel of one). The film is about characters, particuarly the relationship between two men. The plot is just OK although there are one or two elements about it that I found satisfying. It’s not weird or arty, so I can recommend this to any idiot here.

    If you don’t know the film is about a hitman (Brosnan) who randomly meets up with a salesperson (Kinnear). A relationship develops.

    This is not a great film, but it’s good and if you’re in the mood, this is worth seeing.

  90. Reid

    Brick (2005)
    Written and Directed: Rian Jordan
    7/10

    I read about this in the Honolulu Weekly, as it was playing at the Movie Museum. The premise interested me, which I will reveal later. Along with Hustle and Flow, this would have been a dark-horse pick for 2005. I think Mitchell and Tony would like this film.

    This is an independent film that looks like a bunch of college students could have made–particulary the sets, which incoporated little or not extras. The script and the concept for the film is probably the strongest part of the film. Actually, the dialogue which utilizes a lot of street slang, often delivered in a rapid fire way, is both a strong and weak point. It’s strong because it sounds cool; it’s weak because it’s difficult to understand and often made the film difficult for me to understand. The lead–Joseph Gordon-Leavitt–was well cast. Otherwise the acting and directing is not so great, although there are some pretty solid creative efforts in the direction.

    So far I haven’t told you anything about the story, because I’m trying to figure out a way to let readers see the film without me telling you anything about the story. The film is about a High School loner searching to find answers to…if you want to know more read on.

    More details, including some analysis

    I’m going to talk about the approach used in the film, and I would recommend not reading this until you’ve seen the film, although it won’t spoil the story. The director takes on a similar approach to Robert Altman in The Long Goodbye and the Coen Brothers in The Big Lebowski and Fargo–which is basically to take make put film noir into another setting. Altman does this in The Long Goodbye by putting the characters and story in 70’s California. The Coen’s go a bit farther in The Big Lebowski by making the “detective” a burned out surfer and a female rural cop in Fargo. Jordan places his story and characters in a high school setting. In all these films, I like the way the directors use the setting to alter the film noir conventions. Instead of the hard-boiled detective in the fedora and trenchcoat, we see a loner student in jeans and long hair. High school also provides an excellent array of motley rogues and femme fatales that usually inhabit conventional noir. Jordan success at transfering setting is one of the reason this films deserves attention. The other is a solid entertaining story with a lead (Gordon-Leavitt, the kid in the TV show Third Rock from the Sun) that I found appealing. Lukas Haas also makes a pretty effective appearance at least for comic moments, which were amusing.

    Naked Lunch (1991)
    Dir. David Cronenberg
    5/10

    An ambitious movie that reminded me of 8 1/2, except instead of Fellini and filmmaking the subject of the film is William S. Burroughs and writing. I think I may have liked the film more if I knew more about Burroughs and read some of his work. I also might of liked it more had I spent more time trying to analyze this film. Fans of Burroughs and 8 1/2 would probably want to check this out.

  91. Reid

    The Illusionist (2006)
    5/10
    Starring: Ed Norton, Paul Giamatti, Jessica Biehl, etc.

    I may be a little hard on this film, giving it a five, but with the cast, premise and the fact that the film has stayed in Honolulu theaters for a while, I was expecting more than a better-than-average TV movie. (Larri initially gave it an 8 and dropped it to a 7.) I would guess Penny and Grace would like this more than I did, and maybe Mitchell, Tony and Don, too. Taking a guess, I’d say you guys would give this a 6 or 7.

    The film is about a magician, his long lost love, an evil prince and his lackey of a police inspectator. The film takes place in Vienna (?) in the 19th Century (maybe early 20th).

    The film was slow in part, but that wasn’t the main problem. I just found the acting, story and overall direction stale and flat (partly the basis for the TV remark).

    (spoiler)

    The whole “trick” in the film was also unsatisfying. I think getting me excited about a film with a “con job” is going to take a lot.

  92. Tony

    Saw two movies over the weekend. First, I saw The Departed over at Ward. I’ve only seen one other movie by Scorcese (The Aviator), so I didn’t quite know what to expect. The movie was well-made. The acting was great. Some of the scenes that were pretty potent actually got chuckles out of the crowd, which is always interesting to see. The movie was about 30 minutes too long, but it was a good flick.

    Sunday I caught The Science of Sleep over at the Varsity. I had high hopes for the film. Visually it was amazing. . . probably just short of overly-obvious. The story was good, but ended up being something of a beat-down.

    I keep thinking I should see The Illusionist, but I think I’ll wait for The Prestige, which looks to have a similar feel. I also keep meaning to see Brick, which I’ve heard great things about.

    Meanwhile, Superman Returns has been at the dollar theater for two weeks, and I still haven’t seen it (I keep telling myself it’s worth a second viewing). Anyone else see it this summer and have some thoughts on it?

  93. Mitchell

    I spontaneously was invited to Employee of the Month this past weekend. Dane Cook is the current hot stand-up comic (he hosted the season premiere of SNL a couple of weeks ago) and he was a pretty solid comedic lead, but the material, while very well-intentioned, was sorta weak. Part of it is that the villain is rather unbelievable in a movie that for the most part tries to stay in real-land. Jessica Simpson is lovely in this movie, though she is not called upon to do too much acting. In all, not a waste of time or money, but I’m sure there’s something else out there more worth the $8.75.

    5/10.

  94. Reid

    Glory Road (2005)
    4/10

    Based on a true story of the 1966 NCAA Basketball Championship game between Kentucky and Texas-Western, the first all black starting line-up. It’s a great story, but this is really terrible movie-making. The writing, directing and acting are pretty crappy. I know people who like sports films will be more forgiving than me. Actually, the only reason this didn’t get a three for me was the fact that I liked the general story.

    On an unrelated note, did anyone every see LIttle Miss Sunshine?

  95. Reid

    Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)
    Dir. Russ Meyer
    3/10

    I’m just not into trash movies. Maybe if I really broke the movie down, I’d appreciate it a lot more.

  96. Mitchell

    I could have told you you would not like this picture. But it is a better representative of his work, I think.

    Tony wrote about Little Miss Sunshine here.

  97. Reid

    Faster was followed by another Meyer picture called Mudhoney, which worked a lot better for some reason, but I didn’t get to finish it.

    I couldn’t find Tony’s post.

  98. Mitchell

    Sorry. I wrote that “here” as a link and I guess we have links turned off for comments, which is dumb. I’ll see if I can fix that.

    I meant to point to
    http://awtraughber.blogdrive.com/archive/352.html where Tony writes one paragraph about how much he likes that film.

  99. Reid

    Americanese (2006)
    Dir. Eric Byler
    3/10

    Man, I wanted to like this film. Byler graduated from Moanalua HS (’90) and had a great debut film in Charlotte Sometimes. I was curious to see how Byler would make this film because I liked CS because race was in the background, whereas the book on which this filim is based was heavily about race.

    The movie is about a middle-aged American man and his relationship with two women. To me, Byler didn’t do a good job of managing time to develop the characters. There are more characters in this film, and I didn’t feel like I really knew them or bought into the relationships. Part of the problem (again I hate to say this) is that the acting wasn’t very good. Joan Chen was an exception, but I thought Byler didn’t use her performance well, or at least I didn’t like his take on her character. Chen plays Betty and she’s kinda neurotic bordering on psychotic, whereas in the book I found her to be a strong, noble character.

    I saw this film at the Honolulu Film Festival, and I learned that a producer friend had asked Byler to write a script and then he eventually got the directing job.

    I was really disappointed after seeing the film. I wanted to like it, but I just couldn’t. Despite that, I look foward to what he’s going to do in the future.

    Junebug (2005)
    Dir. Phillip Morrison
    Starring: Embeth Davidtz, Amy Adams, Celia Weston, Scott Wilson, Alessandro Nivola, Benjamin McKenzie,. etc.
    8/10

    This was so refreshing after seeing Americanese. It had everything that the other film didn’t–really sensitive and effective directed, terrific acting and an interesting film on culuture. Tony called this a clash between Red and Blue states, and I agree with that; I think that’s at the heart of this movie. Thankfully, Morrison avoids an cheap-shots or mean-spritededness. He had a lot of opportunity as the characters are not-so-bright, make poor decisions…in short, flawed. His approach is balanced and almost loving towards his characters. The characters are characters, not caricatures.

    He also doesn’t try to give easy explanations or resolutions to the films. Part of the reason this approach works is that the acting is so good, particularly Embeth Davidtz, as the main character of Madeleine, and Amy Adams as Ashley–who deservedly received an Academy nomination. Adams gets close to caricature at times, but for the most part she avoids that, and she definitely gives a moving performance and credible performance.

    A painful film to watch, in a way, as we see clash of cultures and misunderstandings. Yet, the direction is so good that the film succeeds. I’m a bit surprised that I liked it so much, since the heart of the film seems to be about these different sub-cultures. I guess the film is so well-done, and I ended up caring about the characters so much.

    Touching the Void (2003)
    Dir. Kevin MacDonald
    6/10

    This is a documentary about two mountain climbers and their climb in South America. There’s a compelling story here which I won’t reveal, but the direction is notable, too. MacDonald has the climbers tell the story, while cutting to recreations of the climb. This technique worked well to create an entertaining tale. (I got a little antsy towards the end, but I don’t if that was because I was tired.) A good film if you’re in the mood for an incredible adventure story.

  100. kevin

    Borat (2006)
    Dir. Sacha Cohen & Larry Charles
    2/10

    So I went to see “Borat” last weekend, and I’m not sure what I was expecting (I’d seen Da Ali G Show before), but I was pretty disappointed. I was thinking the humor would be more sophisticated, in a sardonic way, like Waiting for Guffman, etc, but it was pretty crude & sophomoric instead. There were some funny moments, admittedly, but somehow I’d expected more from an alumnus of Footlights. It’s almost as if the humor IQ had decreased from the days of “Monty Python.” I also think it’s a little problematic, that it’s not sophisticated enough to pull off ethnic humor in a satirical way – it just comes off as dumb & offensive, not even quite as good as Frank Delima. (and that’s a low bar.)

    Anyone that has a different take, pl. comment. I really wanted to like it a little more, really I did. But I just felt gross and ripped-off afterwards.

  101. Reid

    The Fountain (2006)
    Dir. Darren Aronofsky
    Starring: Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn, etc.
    6/10

    Of all the “idiots” I would say Grace has the highest chance of liking this film. Her really liking Pi is one reason I say that. I don’t think other idiots would like the film very much, so I wouldn’t strongly recommend the film. So why did I give the film a “6?” The film is complicated,.somewhat ambitious, although ultimately unsatsifying for me, yet manages to be conherent at the same time. In addition, I kept my interest, for the most part, and didn’t strongly offend my sensibilities.

    **
    I don’t know if I can describe the plot of the film without giving too much away. But here goes. There are three separate stories going on. One takes place in the 16th Century, dealing with a Queen who sends a Conquistador to look for the famed Tree of Life that appeared in the Garden of Eden. Another story takes place in the present with a scientist trying to eradicate the brain tumor in his wife’s brain. The third story takes place in a nebula or perhaps a spirit world. A spirit or person is attempting to preserve the Tree of LIfe.

    Personal Comments
    Based on the Honolulu Weekly review by Bob Green and the interview with Aronofsky in the same publication, I was expecting an a film with cool images but difficult to understand (something along the lines of 2001). In a way the film is similar in that it tackles big themes, but it doesn’t come close to the images or sound in Kubrick’s classic film.

    I also found the film much more “straight-forward” than I was expecting; I didn’t really feel lost throughout the film and by the ending, I felt I had a pretty good grasp of it. However, calling the film abstract and difficult is not an unfair description. The film tries to weave in three different inter-related storylines–actually similar (the same?) characters in three different time periods, sort of. For some reason I didn’t find the film too difficult.

    In a nutshell, the film is about a person accepting death, specifically the death of his beloved, and in doing so, we can somehow have freedom and eternal life. That’s the basic message I got anyway, and I found a bit dissatisfying. As I watched the film, I realized that this would be a tough film to really work on me. The film is competing with gospels narrative and its explantation of life, death and the afterlife. As a Christian, the Biblical narrative is the most compelling “story” and explanation I’ve heard.

    But even if I weren’t a Christian, I don’t know if I would have felt the fim was very successful. The spiritual elements of the film feel like a pastiche of different religions and myths, almost in a New Age-y sort of way. That’s my impression, although maybe I shouldn’t say that until I fully analyze all the religious-mythic symbols and references. (It might be fun to dissect the film and analyze it on this level, and maybe I would appreciate it more.) You could describe the film as a Joseph Campbell film.

    I also didn’t find the visuals very impressive either. But maybe it’s just me. I never cared for Aronosfsky’s Pi.

  102. Reid

    Babel (2006)
    Dir. Alejandro Gonzalez-Inarritu
    Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, etc.
    5/10

    I’m not a big fan of Inarritu. Amoros Perros was alright, but over-hyped, imo. 21 Grams felt like it was trying to be deep, but just felt flat. Now, if you disagree with these opinions then you might like Babel. I know Penny liked Inarritu’s first two films, so I’d say she’d probably like this. I think chances are most “idiots” would like it more than me; how much more, I don’t know.

    **
    The film is comprised of four separate vignettes that are loosely tied together (or maybe I did’t see a deeper significance). One story involves a Mexican nanny that takes her charges to a Mexican wedding; another story involves an American man and his wife in Morocco and the trial they face (They are the parents of the children that go to Mexico); a goat herder and his two sons and the way they are linked to the hardship the American couple; finally, a story about a deaf-mute Japanese girl.

    Personal Comments

    I liked the story of the Japanese deaf-mute the best. I thought the actor who played the girl did a solid job. I also liked her father, played by the actor in the original Shall We Dance?. The guy instantly wins my sympathy with just his look.

    The story of the Mexican nanny felt like a political expose on the plight of immigrants crossing the border. I don’t really have much to say about the other stories. They were bad or poorly executed, but just not much there, imo. The stories seem to be connected by the characters to effectively communicate and understand each other, leading to tragic consequences in some cases and, in others, some kind of reconciliation, when communication finally occurs. (I don’t know if it’s significant, but the characters from the Modern countries do well, while the others get screwed–another political comment, perhaps). The political themes as well as more universal themes (estrangement between husband and wife and father and daughter) seem simplistic and shallow. That’s sort of how I felt in 21 Grams. I’d love to hear some who has better insight into the film.

    One thing I liked is the way he creates tension and suspense in some scenes. I can’t remember specifics right now though.

    Monster House (2006)
    Dir. Gil Kenan
    4/10

    I didn’t care for this. I thought Mitchell really liked this, but I went back and read his review. Story, animation, characters and action sequences just were mediocre to poor. That about sums it up for me.

  103. Reid

    The World’s Fastest Indian (2005)
    Dir. Roger Donaldson
    Starring: Anthony Hopkins
    5/10

    This is one of those independent films that could be entertaining (as opposed to be arty), but just went under the radar for some reason. A lot of times with these movies, I leave the film feeling two things: 1.) The subject matter or story was worthy–as opposed to a film made for purely commercial reasons; 2.) The film has some good moments, but some significant flaws as well. When this happens I don’t feel like I’ve wasted my money, but I also have to feel in the mood for these type of films, too.

    Well, the above applies to this movie. There are some good moments, and there’s potential for a really entertaining and popular movie, but there are things that prevent that from happening. Having said that, I think most people here would give the film more than a “5”–maybe as high as 7 or 8. Of the idiots that I know, I can see Don and Joel having the best chance of liking this. FWIW, 5,000+ voters at IMDB gave this an 8.

    **
    The story is sort of a cross between The Straight Story and Rocky. (One of my problems was the The Straight Story aspect of it.) Here’s what it’s about. The movie is based on a true-story of an Australian biker/mechanic whose dream is to time his 1920’s model Indian motorcycle in the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. He’s an old eccentric guy who makes the long journey to the Bonneville. The film takes place in three parts: 1.) Prepartion in Australia; 2.) the journey to Bonneville; 3.) the time trials.

    ***
    I liked the third part best, and I wished the filmmakers didn’t take so long to get there. Anthony Hopkins was a bit disappointing in this role, partly because he didn’t pull off the accent (as if I’m an expert, but it didn’t sound right). Like Straight Story, I didn’t find the journey that interesting. It was OK, but I thought the director could have skipped it. Then again, that might have made the movie an hour long (but what’s wrong with that). This is a film that might have played better as a documentary perhaps with this recenacted footage.

    I can see my brother sort of liking the third part of the film. Hopkins’ character does have determination, and it’s cool to see the generosity of some people around him and then finally the whole crowd cheering him on. It would be hard not to.

    Layercake (2004)
    Dir. Matthew Vaughn
    Starring: Daniel Craig,
    3/10

    Another film in the same category as the one above. Whereas the above looks more like a drama, this one looks like a hip cool action/thriller. If you’re desperate for an entertaining, but not necessarily great, action film this would be the type of film I’d consider. Daniel Craig was also a big reason I saw this, plus, for some stupid reason the way Michael Chabon would say, “Welcome to the layercake.” Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this film–even if you’re desperate for an action/thiller.I don’t think many of you would enjoy this, so I’ll just start making some comments (not spoilers per se). The film (British) has the look of films by Guy Ritchie (Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels–films I didn’t like, but see above for reasons I saw this). “Lock, Stock” is not that great, and this is not as good.

    **
    The film is about a drug-dealer (Craig) who gets asked to find a daughter of his main buyer’s friend. The buyer also wants him to purchase a boat load of drugs from a local hood. Let me stop right there because I’m already getting tired of trying to explain the plot and that was one of the biggest problems in the film. The plot was too hard to follow and even if you could, I don’t think you would care. There’s not enough story or character development to understand the motivations or personalities enough for you to really care. I don’t really feel like writing more, except I’ll say that the film is not really an action film or thriller. The dialogue is also not exceptional.

  104. Reid

    The Assassination of President Nixon (2004)
    Dir. Niels Muller
    Starring: Sean Penn, Don Cheadle, Naomi Watts.
    5/10

    There are so many Hollywood films I leave asking myself why they bothered making the film. That happens with independent films, and I felt that way about this one. The film is not bad: there’s some good acting; I cared about Penn’s character and what to see where the story would lead. But it ultimately didn’t lead to any place very interesting. Other films have been made to cover the themes and characters in this film, and I don’t think this one brings anything new to the table.

    Again this is not a bad film. I think most of you would think it’s just OK. But there’s so many films to see, this is definitely something you can pass on.

    **
    The film is about a frustrated man who has finally had it with the world. He’s a decent, honest man tired of the dishonesty in his work life (he’s a salesman) and frustrated by his separation from his wife. These frustration builds until he finally reaches the conclusion of killing the President (Nixon).

    ***
    The film is mostly a character study and Penn’s acting is solid. I was interested in seeing the transformation of the character from this nice, decent, gentle guy who loses it. The whole transformation was predictable, and I didn’t see anything new or interesting.

  105. Reid

    A couple of weeks ago we watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy over two weekends. While I liked the movies for the most part, my regard for them diminished. Two things that stand out:

    1. The cgi just doesn’t stand up so well for me. I don’t know if my eyes are keener at distinguishing cgi from actual things, but it just doesn’t look as good to me. I think the cgi doesn’t work as well when the whole shot–characters, creatures and setting–are cgi. Cgi works better when there is some real things in the frame. To me, the fx of Star Wars holds up better;

    2. I like Viggo as Aragorn less and less. Jackson and the writers deserve some blame as they do a terrible job of showing the Aragorn gradually accept and become a King. That’s a part of the story I really liked and it’s just not there.

  106. Mitchell

    Did anyone see the new All the King’s Men?

  107. Reid

    2046 (2004)
    Dir. Wong kar-Wai
    Starring: Tony Leung, Zhang Yi-yi, Gong-Li, Faye Wong, etc.
    8/10

    This film screened either this year or last. It would have probably been one of my favorites in either year. The idiots into foreign art films would be interested in this film, although I think Mitchell has the most potential for liking this. His previous films should be seen prior to this one.

    Wong is becoming a favorite of mine. I’m not sure what it is about his films. I like his sense of time and storytelling, really a unique flow. What he chooses to spend time on and his sense of editing and selection of camera shots seem a bit off-beat and unconventional. It’s as if he’s not locked into conventional storytelling devices and approaches; he seems comfortable with leaving a story to focus on things that are interesting to him–maybe a character, mood, emotion or even a certain image. Yet the film has a unity and logic to it. I also like the look of his films although it’s the entire filmmaking style that’s compelling.

    In this film, there’s a Chinese Breakfast at Tiffany’s vibe to the movie–specifically the costumes, hairstyles and characters. I(While watching the film, I felt like Wong set the movie in the 60s, so he could have an excuse to recreate that vibe.) While there some superficial similiarities to Breakfast, this is much more interesting film thematically, and character-wise.

    The story is about a man, a sort of playboy, and three women in his life. In the commentary, Wong talked about how each relationship reveals something about the man (and the other women).

    (spoiler)

    I was really blown away and excited by the fact that this was a continuation of In the Mood for Love. I had no idea until almos the end of the picture. This revelation put a spin on the first 3/4 of the film. Instead of seeing Chow (Leung) as a shallow womanizer, I saw him as a man wanting to approach women without emotions or trying to escape from his past. He became more sympathetic in my eyes. He was a sort of James Bond character. He becomes a womanizer after he’s hurt by someone he really loved and trusted.

  108. Reid

    The Good Shepherd (2006)
    Dir. Robert DeNiro
    Starring: Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, John Tuturro
    160 minutes
    5/10

    My brother, sister and Larri had to keep our tradition of seeing a movie on Christmas day alive, even though we didn’t have any movie we were dying to see. The movie felt a little long for me and yet I didn’t really feel bored. Still, I don’t think there’s enough here to really recommend. I think most idiots would give this a 5 or 6 at the highest.

    One of the problems with film is Matt Damon. He’s playing a character holding in everything a la Michael Corelone in the Godfather films except there doesn’t seem to be anything in there; he just seemed like a quiet, serious person. (Jolie was a lot better, but nothing extraordinary).

    The script was a little long, and I think it wasn’t very successful on the two key fronts of the film–the stuff about the CIA and the dramatic arc of Damon’s character and his family.

    Clerks (1994)
    Dir. Kevin Smith
    4/10

    The writing is probably too clever to warrant a 4, but the score probably reflects my personal weariness with the kind of script filled with clever and witty dialogue, the kind you would hear from a good stand-up comedian. The quality of the acting was another reason the dialogue wasn’t so successful, imo. There were many moments were I felt like I was watching acting from a high school play or community theater. Yet, the two leads had the right look and feel for their roles, but they just didn’t have the acting chops to pull it off successfully, imo. I probably would have liked this a lot more had I seen it when it first came out. But I’ve seen many films since then and I’m oversaturated with the clever, but self-conscious analysis and culture that have been considered hip for so long in film. I’m don’t think I’ll be seeing Clerks II

  109. Reid

    Yes (2004)
    Directed/Written: Sally Potter
    Starring: Joan Allen, Simon Abkarian, Sam Neil, etc.
    100 minutes
    8/10

    I definitely think Kevin, Mitchell, Penny and Grace would find this film worth seeing. I can see Penny and Grace liking it the most. I really liked this film for reasons I won’t reveal, as it was a surprise to me. This was such a refreshing experience. Did this film get any attention? I consider it a film that fell through the cracks. This film deserves more attention imo.

    With most films that I don’t fully grasp, but sense substance underneath, I want to dig deeper to “figure out the film.” With this film, I’m pretty content at just enjoying it without the fully analysis–although I think repeated viewing and analysis would be rewarding. The film is ike reading a poem that just sounds good, even though you don’t fully understand it. This is an ambitious film and I’m not sure if Potter completely succeeds (although she may have), but it was a such an delightful experience watching the film.

    **
    On the surface the film deals with a woman in an estranged marriage who has an affair. But the director, Potter (who I was very impressed with), wants to explore important themes, which I won’t reveal. I like her use of the camera, editing and some of the music. But the dialogue is what really stands out. If you’re in the mood for a drama with art leanings, and something not entirely conventional, then check this film out.

    ***
    (spoilers)

    Can iambic pentameter be used with contemporary language in a film? I think the answer is Yes! Wow, what a delight it was to hear verse in the dialogue; the acting was also first rate, which didn’t hurt. The verse is also quite good. Just for that alone, I really enjoyed the film. (I also liked the scenes where Potter used characters with accents and slangs and fit that into the verse. Show off!)

    I also loved the filmmaking and the ambition of dealing with huge issues–global politics, God, life, relationships, etc. Again, I don’t know if Potter succeeds–I’ll have to analyze and think about the film more–but the verse and her guts, just made me enjoy watching this. I almost re-watched the film right after seeing it.

    Update:

    I checked out some comments from the metacritic sight and, strangely, I sympathesize with the comments from reviewers who gave the film lower ratings. Here are some:

    Parse the philosophy behind the spill of words, though, and you’ll find intellectual jumble, junk. Better to nod to Yes as a drowsing chant than take it seriously as a statement of global concerns. Lisa Schwartzbaum–Entertainment Weekly

    “The more serious Potter gets (there are several earnest soliloquies about dirt), the harder it is not to laugh.” –Kyle Smith New York Post

    “Ultimately has nothing of any real depth or profundity to say, but a thousand self-consciously complex ways of saying it.” Scott Foundras Variety

    Yes is not just a movie, in other words, it’s a poem. A bad poem. There is no denying Ms. Potter’s skill at versifying – or for that matter, at composing clear, striking visual images – but her intricate, measured lines amount to doggerel, not art.” The New York Times Dana Stevens

    I understand how the critics could say this (although I don’t entirely agree with everything they’re saying), but to me, you have to appreciate Potter’s talent–in writing and direction–and ambition. Does the film fully succeed? Perhaps not. Is it earnest and pretentious? Perhaps. But she’s really trying to make an interesting film and succeeds in doing that. What? Is writing good dialogue in iambic pentameter such a everyday skill? What about the actors who have to pull off reading those lines? Maybe I lack sophistication, but that’s a big deal for me and it was thrilling to hear. The images and Potter’s storytelling is very fresh and compelling, too. When you see a lot of films (as a lot of these critics), that has to count for something.

    That’s why I liked this film so much, despite the fact that the philosophical, geopoltical and gender issues may be lacking. Films like that disappoint and/or annoy me, but talent, ambition and the thrill this film gave me made this an enjoyable experience, if not made for a super-great film.
  110. Mitchell

    R:

    I find it mildly curious that you see Clerks more as a “witty dialogue” movie and do not comment at all on the film as an image of Gen-X sensibility. Kevin Smith was born in 1970: His film-making and writing reflect a certain worldview that other directors (except maybe that Donnie Darko guy) don’t touch on, and I’m not just talking about the cultural references (although that’s huge, if you ask me).

    That’s why you should see Clerks 2 if you’ve seen Clerks. Not for its clever dialogue or lame movie references (and there are many, and they are lame), but because Smith has something to say about the twenty-somethings of the early nineties and what happens a decade later.

  111. Reid

    Mitchell,

    I guess I could have added that I am weary of the films whose value lies in depicting “Gen-X” sensibility. I also didn’t care for Garden State for the same reason. Besides I think there are other directors/films that have addressed that worldview–Richard Linklater, Quentin Tarantino and films like Kicking and Screaming (which nailed the mood and feeling of my post-college life). Am I thinking of the same worldview you are?

    Btw, I do think that the film reflects a “Gen-X” sensibility, but I didn’t think to mention it, probably because I’m tired of that approach–especially when there’s not much else to recommend in the film.

  112. Reid

    Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
    Dir. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
    Starring: Greg Kinnear, Toni Collete, Alan Arkin, Steve Carrell, Paul Dano, and Abigail Breslin.
    101 minutes
    4/10

    I know Chris and Tony liked this film, but the film just didn’t work for me. I think Penny could like this and perhaps Mitchell and Grace. Don and Joel may like this, but it’s hard to say.

    **
    The film is about a very eccentric family going on a trip to take the youngest girl to a beauty pagent.

    ***
    I like Alan Arkin in general, and he was the best part of the movie for me: his scenes were the funniest and, perhaps, the most touching. My problem may stem from the fact that I had a hard time believing all these strange characters were grouped in one place. Perhaps if the filmmakers set up a context or backstory to show the way these characters came to be the way they were, the film would have pulled me in. It felt like the filmmakers said let’s just take really eccentric characters and throw them together, without any kind of development to them. I think that’s part of the reason the film didn’t work so well for me.

    Although this seems like an independent film, the comedy and drama are in the Hollywood vein. That’s not necessarily bad, but here it didn’t work for me. There were scenes that were just silly and not funny–for example the climax.

  113. Reid

    OK, to finish off the year I’m going to try and give some quick comments on a bunch of films I saw recently:

    Grizzly Man (2005)
    Dir. Werner Herzog
    103 minutes
    7/10

    A solid documentary that kept my attention throughout. I don’t think other idiots are going to love this film, but most would find it interesting.

    **
    This is a documentary about a man who “lived” with bears out in the wild for over ten years. The man, Timothy Treadwell, filmed many of his encounters with the bears, and that’s what makes up the majority of the film as well as interviews of people who knew him. I agree with Herzog that the film was more interesting in what it reveals about the man and people in general, more than the bears.

    ***
    Herzog doesn’t a lot of narration throughout the film, unlike other films of his I’ve seen, and I found it a bit intrusive. His commentary, in this film and others, have been interesting, but this time, as narration I felt he wasn’t letting the film speak for itself enough.

    Still, Treadwell is an interesting and sad figure, someone who found a place and purpose out in the wild, something he could never find in civilization. The confessional scenes are the most interesting, But I was also touched by scenes were he expresses gratitude to the animals (“Thank you for being my friend,” he says to the bears and foxes.) and his bursting enthusiasm and passion for the bears and the wildlife in general.

    Aileen Wuornos: the Selling of a Serial Killer (1992)
    Dir. Nick Broomfield
    87 minutes
    5/10

    If you’ve seen Monster the film that is based on the real Aileen Wuronos, I don’t think you really need to see this film. Like other good documentaries there are people in this that make “truth more stranger” and more interesting than fiction. So why the “5” rating? I think the main reason was Broomfield’s inability to get key interviews. A big portion of the documentary seemed to be a chronicle his failure to talk to key people, including Wuornos (until the very end). That was sort of frustrating as you really don’t get to know the information you want. In addition, I kept wanting Broomfield to dig deeper to find out more details and facts about Wuornos’ trials and the way police handled the situation. I got too little of that from the film.

    **
    Most of you know the story already. Wuronos was a prostitute who shot and killed seven men. Broomfield tries to get an interview with her and along the way meets up with her lawyer and “adopted mother” in the process.

    ***
    To me, Aileen Wuronos seemed the most sane and human of all the people in the film. I don’t know if that makes me crazy or what, but her remarks and reactions seemed the most appropriate. Yes, she yells at the judge and swears at him, but if you were being sentenced to death because you killed people who you felt were trying to rape you, wouldn’t you be enraged? The situation is a bit complex as we don’t know if these people tried to rape her and what is rape in a situation with a prostitute? Anyway, I really felt sorry for her and just weirded out by her lawyer and “adoptive mother.”

    Squid and the Whale (2005)
    Dir. Noah Baumbach
    Starring: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney,
    81 minutes
    7/10

    The score reflects more the quality of the film than my actual enjoyment of it. I think many other idiots would at least agree that the film is well-done, particularly the acting.

    **
    The film is about a dysfunctional family and the children dealing with the recent separation of the parents. The film is basically a psychological case study, a very well-done one at that. If that appeals to you, I would recommend this film.

    ***
    The film also something else to recommend and that is Jeff Daniels. I saw a film with Sean Penn in it before this one, and I recalled how people consider the best actor of his generation. Seeing Squid and the Whale made me think that Daniels should be considered as well. He certainly has versatility (roles in Something Wild, Dumb and Dumber and Bloodwork) attest to that. He’s so unique–good looking, but probably not macho enough for leading man material (although he was solid as a police officer in Speed); he has a quality that allows him to be goofy or serious. Anyway, Daniels is good in this. His passive agressiveness and his inappropriate behavior is played wiht subtlety. He should have gotten nominated for an award, imo. Baumbach does a good job of depicting the characters in a non-judgmental way: it’s clear (at least to me) that the the parents are really terrible at parenting, but Baumbach doesn’t beat you over the head with it. The parents do not create appropriate boundaries for their kids. Indeed, they seem to not understand the importance of boundaries, seeing their children as adults or peers.

    The Proposition (2005)
    Dir. John Hillcoat
    Starring: Guy Pearce, Emily Watson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Richard Wilson, etc.
    104 minutes
    6/10

    It’s seems clear to me that Hillcoat is a fan of Terrance Malick. The film has panoramic scenes in the wild and myth-like morality tale. If you like Days of Heaven, you might be interested in this film (although it can’t compare to the composition, cinematography, etc.). This is a type of film where the more you think about, the more you’ll probably appreciate. (It went from a 4 to a 6 while I wrote this review.) Still, the film is slow and I didn’t find it very engaging.

    **
    The film is a Western that takes places in Australia. The story is simple. Two brothers of an outlaw family are captured by a sheriff, Capt. Stanley (Ray Winstone). Stanley tells the older of the two Charlie Burns (Pearce) that if he brings back the oldest brother, Arthur (Danny Huston), he will let Charlie and his younger brother, Mike (Richard Wilson) go free. If he doesn’t, they will hang Mike. Arthur is a violent man who has escaped into the outback and become this wild man, lover of nature. Charlie must decide what he will do.

    ***
    This is a type of film that could get better the more you think about it. Charlie must decide what he must do. While he his loyal to his brother (and probably fears him a little), he and Mike have actually left (escaped) from the gang, Mike being fearful brother. So there’s this issue of loyalty versus saving his younger brother and probably confronting the evil that he knows that Arthur embodies.

    The other part of the story that is interesting is the Captain Stanley character and his wife Martha (Emily Watson). The Captain is an interesting character. He wants to civilize that part of Australia–there is this tension between the wild (Arthur)/nature and civilization (Martha, their gardened and picket fenced home). There’s also the pressure for the bureaucrats/politicians to get Arthur, in a way that’s not so civilized.

    The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005)
    Dir. Tommy Lee Jones
    Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Barry Pepper, etc.
    121 minutes
    7/10

    Another contemporary Western, that’s basically a road movie (more later). If you’re in the mood for a serious drama with a deliberate pace, then this might be the movie for you. Mitchell called is a solid film, and I concur.

    **
    The story is about a cowboy, Pete Perkins (Tommy Lee Jones) who takes his dead friend, Melquiades (Julio Cedillo), back to Mexico to be bury him. With him, he takes the border patrolman, Mike Norton (Barry Pepper) who shot and killed his friend. This film is similar to The Proposition, but less allegorical.

    ***
    My favorite part of the film is when we begin to realize that perhaps Melquiades was not honest about his family and his hometown–namely, he doesn’t have a family and the hometown which he tells Pete about. Pete’s decision to bury his friend and call that place his hometown is interesting. Jones, in the commentary, spoke about this scene as the “mechanics of faith.” Pete believes in his friend, even though the reality suggests to him he shouldn’t.

    The other part that was interesting, although not entirely successful, imo (or else this would have been a better movie), was the redemption of Mike Norton. Pete takes him along, not to kill him, but to save him, his soul as it were. I liked the concept, and I liked the scene of contritition at the end. Why wasn’t this story arc entirely successful? I guess I didn’t see the transformation happening as much as I would like. I don’t know, maybe I’m being too hard on the film. Something seemed lacking though.

    Thank You for Smoking (2006)
    Dir. Jason Reitman
    Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Camerson Bright,
    6/10

    I think I liked the direction best of all in this film. Just good some cute and clever use of voice-over and graphics, particularly in the beginning of the film. I really liked Eckhart’s performance in In the Company of Men, and he seemed like he was going to be in the same mode in this film. He was, but something was missing for me. To me, the other film was played a little more straight and serious, whereas this one seemed teetered into a farce and obvious attempts at humor at times, William H. Macy for example. I think the satire would have worked better if it was played like a serious drama.

    The Son’s Room (2001)
    Dir. Nanni Moretti
    4/10

    Some of the great films of all-time are more situational than story-oriented. These films make universal situations–like the dying of one’s parents; getting into an argument with a spouse, etc.–the story. Some of those are really powerful, yet, at the same time, I could see some viewers underwhelmed. Nothing really seems to be on in the plot or story.

    That’s what happened to me in this film. Here are reasons I think the film didn’t work so much. I didn’t really connect with the characters. Part of that had to do with the editing and director’s decisions to jump from one scene and time to another. This cutting disoriented me and kept me from connecting with the characters, I think. That’s partly why the film didn’t have the kind of power it could have. Well, that’s my theory anyway.

    (slight spoiler)

    The film is about a family coming to grips with the death of their son.

    Foreign Correspondent (1940)
    Dir. Alfred Hitchcock
    Starring: Joel McCrea, Larraine Day, Herbert Marshall, George Stevens, etc.
    120 minutes
    7/10

    Not a great Hitchcock film, but entertaining. Worth watching when it comes on TV.

    **
    The film is about a reporter sent to Europe to get a story about the seemingly imminent war in Europe (WWII).

    ***
    (small spoilers)
    Stevens steals the show in this film. He’s charming and funny. I was surprised and entertained more by the humor than the suspense–although the crash sequence was very effective, especially considering this is 1940 f/x. I also loved the ending lines to the film where McCrea’s character speaks to the American people about “keeping the lights on.” This happened in 1940, before the US got involved, so it’s inspiring in that context.

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