The Movies
Robert Vaessen's collection of movies and such.
Spoiler warning - Some of my reviews contain key plot details.

Saw it recently: Here's a list of movies I've seen this year (2005). The list (by month) contains a short review, synopsis, commentary on each movie. Something like that. I subscribe to NetFlix, watch movies from my own collection, and sometimes get out to the theater. The movies from my collection are titled in italics. The rest (unless noted otherwise) are NetFlix rentals. I update this listing throughout the month. Hopefully you'll find a movie or two to watch after perusing my reviews. (See below for instructions on viewing last years movie reviews)

(Monthly numbers in parenthesis indicate sources as: NetFlix, my movies, seen in theater, and other sources (in that order). If there's only one number it's probably all NetFlix. Only two numbers? I probably didn't see any movies at the theater. My movies are in italics, and movies from Kim's queue are colored Green. Movies in Orange were watched on one of Comcast's free OnDemand channels. Series discs - Grey in color (The Office, Star Trek (The Original Series), count as one movie per episode. The movies with Red titles are selections from my movie of the month club. I won't be reviewing short movies (30 minutes or less), unless they deserve special attention.)


Movies seen/reviewed this year (2005)
[ Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]

Dec (21/5/5)

  • The General: (Silent movie - 1927). Another movie from the silent era of cinema. Some of my friends would rather watch the recent slop served out by hollywood than take a chance on a movie with sub-titles, let alone a black and white, or god forbid - Silent movie! Well, I'm not afraid. This movie starring Buster Keaton is a great adventure flick. Rejected by the Confederate draft board, Keaton as railroad engineer is spurred by his love interest. Later his train is hijack along with his girl. As he pursues the two loves of his life, he battles union soldiers, evades pursuit, executes a rescue, recovery and helps the confederate forces thwart a planned union attack. Filled with slapstick humor, some pretty daring stunts and a very well written story. This movie deserves plenty of praise. I give it a 4 out of 5.
  • Suicide Kings: Christopher Walken is the man. His acting (despite being bound to a chair) in this intense character based drama was great. A group of young rich guys kidnap a 'former' mobster in an effort to use his influence to pay off kidnapers who've abducted a sister. Walken's character stays relatively calm while he works a dual path - Catching the kidnapers (to recover the girl), while simultaneously attempting to make his kidnapers crack in order to facilitate his escape. In the end, Walken manages to talk his way out of his kidnapers clutches, tracks down the kidnapers (and the girl), and dispenses your typical mobster justice to the misguided morons. The directing was great, the music was good, and the supporting cast did a good job as well. Denis Leary was great as an enforcer, but I didn't care for Johnny Galecki as Ira. His acting seemed a bit pretentious and out of place. Almost like he was trying to make it seem like he was acting. In the end, it's the ending that pushes this one past the 3.0 mark. I give it a 4 out of 5.
  • Deuce Bigalow - European Gigolo: Here's a good piece of advice. Don't watch this movie. It sucked. No original jokes. No original characters. No original plot. O.k. you want more details. Here's the plot. Deuce travels to Europe to help solve a murder mystery. T.J. becomes implicated in the murders, and Deuce goes back to Man-Whoring to help solve the crime. In an incredibly odd twist (Not!) it turns out that the murderer is actually the chief investigator dressed up like a woman! Oh how shocking, I never would have guessed that. Or at least I wouldn't have guessed that until 10 minutes into the movie. This movie sucked! I give it 1 out of 5. Somebody slap me for watching this crap.
  • Garden State: A highly stylized drama. A light hearted romance about loss, love, moving on and coping. Written, directed, and starring Zach Braff. Co-starring Natalie Portman as the compulsive liar love interest. The lead character 'wakes up' one day to learn that his mother has died. Reluctantly, he leaves his zanax behind, returns home to his home town, and attempts to unravel his past so he can move on. While home he realizes many truths, falls in love, forgives himself and his father. The film was highly stylized and a bit pretentious, but I liked it a lot. The camera work was excellent. The pacing was great, the casting was terrific. There could have been less profanity, and I didn't care for the way that drug use was glorified. The writing was excellent and the music was fantastic. Sad, happy and sappy funny all at the same time. The ending was great. I loved it. 5 out of 5. I'm planning on buying a copy.
  • High Fidelity: As pleasing as a newly pressed piece of vinyl. This movie was a tragic comedic love story. The kind that cast John Cusack in the role of romantic lead. A tribute to the music of the 80's. This movie hit a soft spot in my heart. The characters are quirky but real. Todd Louiso and Jack Black were both fantastic in two completely different ways. In an odd approach, the movie is Narrated to the audience by the main character as he attempts to unravel the romance mistakes that led him to his sad state of affairs. In the end we're left with a happy ending despite the lack of a conclusive closer. I give it a 5 out of 5.
  • The Beast (of war): This movie is set in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. A rag-tag group of Afghan Rebels pursues the bloodthirsty commander of a Soviet tank crew (The Beast). Unfortunately it was filmed in English an Pashtu instead of Russian and Pashtu. I would have preferred it in Russian with English subtitles. The narrow theme of the movie allows the director to focus our attention on character related details, personal drama and some important themes. Very well directed, the acting was pretty good, and the pacing was excellent. There was some unfortunate racial stereotyping but the movie overcame those defects to score a 4 out of 5. I watched this movie using Comcast's OnDemand service.
  • Star Trek - The original series - Vol. 12, episodes 23 & 24: [A Taste of Armageddon / Space Seed]: I've started viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series. I it as a kid wwatchedhen I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), and I loved it back then. You know what? I still love it. My friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. A taste of armageddon must have been the 'incident' that convinced the UFP to establish a 'Prime Directive'. Kirk is at his arrogant best. He comes to this planet - on a diplomatic mission to open peaceful relations with the inhabitants of this star system - He beams down to the surface despite the inhabitants insistence that they don't want them there, and proceeds to intentionally instigate a nuclear powered shooting war which will likely result in the total annihilation of the inhabitants, their culture, and the end of their civilization. Space seed was one of my all-time favorite original series episodes. With Ricardo Montalban as Khan Noonien Singh, this episode was about the 'Eugenics Wars'. Khan and his crew are awakened from cryogenic sleep aboard the Botany Bay (named after a penal colony in Australia). The crew and it's leader immediately set out to conquer the Enterprise and implement their plans to reestablish a world dominating empire. Kirk will have none of it, defeats Khan, and banishes him and his crew to a remote planet as punishment. These characters are revisited several times in Star Trek history, and every episode tied to this one has been a smashing success.
  • The Crow: A violent movie where a young rock star and his fiance are brutally murdered as part of some evil crime lords master plan. The story was ridiculous, the characters paper thin, and the acting mediocre. The best part of the movie was the film work. Excellent camera angles, and some outstanding work 'as the crow flies'. The use of a real crow, and the way the camera followed it in flight was awesome. The 'birds eye' camera shots were also outstanding. Aside from the great camera work, The music was pretty good, but the excessive violence, and lack of anything resembling thought in the story/plot prohibit me from giving this one anything higher than a 3 out of 5. I watched this movie using Comcast's OnDemand service.
  • The trouble with Harry: A movie by Alfred Hitchcock. Supposedly, it was a dark comedy. A very dry, British humor sort of comedy, about a dead guy. I'm sorry, but I didn't get it. I just didn't laugh once. Perhaps I smiled on occasion, but I must admit, I didn't find it all that funny. Slightly humorous, but funny? No not really. The acting wasn't all that good (it was inconsistent across the actors), and the story wasn't that good either. The best part of the movie. The camera work. We're immediately put into the location, the establishment of the location was extremely well done, and there was one particular scene near the very beginning of the movie that was quite memorable. A small boy standing over the body of 'Harry'. The shot is from the ground looking up towards the small child as he stands near Harry's head. The result is a shot that looks like a small boy with the torso and legs of an adult man. This movie was plain boring, the story wasn't the least bit interesting, and I gave up on the movie with something like 20 minutes to go. I just couldn't take it any longer. Despite the boring nature of the film, the non-funny aspects of this 'comedy', and the "dragging on an on forever" pacing, I did like the camera work and the music. For that it gets a 2 out of 5.
  • The 7th voyage of Sinbad: A fantastic tale. An adventure of Sinbad the sailor - citizen of Baghdad, swashbuckler, hero. This is a great movie. It's been quite some time since I've seen it, but I'm sure this movie had a big impact on the selection of my favorite pastime (Dungeons & Dragons). Made in 1958, this movie featured a bunch of no-name hack actors, and the direction wasn't all that good, but the story was fantastic. Featuring a Giant Cyclops, two-headed Roc's, an animate skeletal warrior, a Genie in a lamp, a miniature (shrunken) princess, a snake woman, a magician, a Dragon, and an island full of Harpies, this movie was chock full of early D&D influences. I was glued to the screen, waiting to see the next claymation monster. The music was pretty good to boot. This one gets a 4 out of 5. If only the acting were a little better.
  • Assault at West Point - The Court-Martial of Johnson Whittaker: Wow, that's a long title for a movie. A historical drama. Another military courtroom drama. Made for TV this movie recounts the true to life events surrounding the court martial of Johnson Whittaker, one of the first African-American cadets admitted to West Point. Tied down and beaten by his fellow cadets, the Academy actually court-martialed Whittaker, claiming that he'd beaten himself up in order to avoid failing a course in philosophy. The acting by Samuel L. Jackson and John Glover on opposing sides of the case was great. Unfortunately, the acting by Sam Waterston wasn't that good. A well written screen-play revealed the true life hypocrisy of those who found whatever excuse they could to persecute others. Worth watching 4 out of 5.
  • Lord of illusions: Great acting, spectacular special effects, written and directed by the horror master Clive Barker, who could ask for more? This movie blends horror, the supernatural and visual effects in one of the best Clive Barker films I've seen. The acting was outstanding. Even the performance by Scott Bakula was above average. The performance by Daniel von Bargen was outstanding. In this exceedingly creepy film, the story begins with the murder of a cult leader in the Mojave desert. The members scatter, the founder is buried, and the survivors try to live a normal life. Unfortunately, one of the former cult members just won't let the dead rest. As the planned resurrection moves forward, things heat up and a deadly confrontation is imminent. This favorite gets a 5 out of 5.
  • The Island: A sci-fi thriller that felt like the Matrix crossed with Minority report. A visually impressive movie. Featuring a great view of a not-to-distant future. The movie starts out great, and the chase scenes were gripping. Unfortunately, the story was paper thin, and the acting (by all the perfect people) lacked conviction. The acting by Steve Buscemi (Notably not a perfect person) was the only bright spot in that regard. Here's the plot: Bigtime pharmaceutical conglomerate makes clones for rich clients. Clones live in an underground controlled utopia. Safe from 'Contamination', they long to win the lottery, so they can go to 'The Island'. That's it. The rest you can fill in. There wasn't a single surprise in the entire movie. Once I knew the principal theme was 'Clones', I pretty much figured out everything else. Despite the fact that I loved the visual aspects of the movie, the action couldn't make up for the lackluster acting and paper thin story. 3 out of 5.
  • The Office - Series 1: (British) A television series produced by BBC. I took a chance on this one, and it's paid off. A rather unusual sitcom. A paper company is facing lay-offs, and a film crew is making a documentary about the effect it's having on the workers. Some of the characters talk to the camera, some ignore it, and in the end I eventually forgot the premise of the documentary, and got mixed feelings about my role. At times I felt like part of the camera crew, at others I thought I might be one of the office workers, I even got the feeling that I might be an unseen eavesdropper. A totally dysfunctional social climate constitutes the stage where this drama takes place. The characters are absolutely fantastic. It's hard to believe that these are actors. Honestly, these must be non-actors simply culled from cubicles to play themselves. Great acting. The writing is witty, biting, funny and very close to the real thing. I've experienced many of the 'scenarios' enacted in this four episode disc. It's connecting, and I plan to watch the other shows. So far it's a 4 out of 5. A great start, but can it maintain it's unique flavor through ten more episodes? (I'm counting this disc (4 episodes) as four movies, just in case your curious).
  • Valiant: Disney animation. Another movie I was forced to watch by my beloved wife. An incredibly boring story. Pigeons deliver secret messages during WWII. Hawks attack them. Hawks are Luftwaffe, Pigeons are RAF. What was the point of this movie? Where was I? Yawn... The bug eating scenes were disgusting and pointless. The animation was standard, the story crappy, and the voiceover lacked any conviction what-so-ever. What a terrible waste of time. Oh, I almost forgot. As justification for making this crappy movie, we're reminded - in closing credits - that many animals gave their lives during WWII. Crap! it gets a 1 out of 5.
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre: A trio of down-and-out Americans in Mexico strike out in search of gold. In the remote back country of Mexico, the group becomes friends quickly, but pretty soon greed gets the best of them. With paranoia and interlopers and bandits disturbing their dig, the group doesn't fare too well when it comes to fidelity, reserve and friendship. Starring Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston and Tim Holt, the acting was fantastic. The location, sets and costumes did much to make me feel at home in the mexican countryside. A terrific story and great directing capped this movie. I really liked it. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
  • The Professionals: Another classic 'over-the-border' movie. Watching this movie just after The Treasure of the Sierra Madre was strictly a coincidence, but it certainly enhanced the experience for both movies. Here's a classic formula for an adventure movie. Wealthy railroad baron hires acclaimed adventurer to rescue a kidnapped trophy wife. Starring Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan and Burt Lancaster as a money motivated mercenary group. They set out across the dangerous landscape of post revolutionary mexico to rescue Claudia Cardinale (playing the feisty expatriate) from the ruthless revolutionary bandit played by Jack Palance. In this classic adventure template, all the characters are more than we bargained for. The ending is classic turnabout. The group releases the trophy wife to be with her true love, eschewing the obvious motivation for men such as they. Great action, great acting and great music. This one rates 4 out of 5.
  • Shrek 2: A sequel to the 2001 hit by Dreamworks studio. A solid fairy tale story, with the same message as the first one. Unfortunately, they didn't tamper whatsoever with the formula. The result is technically perfect, but lacking in originality. All the same characters, plus a few new ones (much more humans), and a dull plot left me wondering what all the fuss is about. Story? Two ogres Shrek & Fiona return to the castle of Fiona's parents to celebrate their recent wedding. Apparently, the parents are surprised that both bride and groom are ogres. The the king (Fiona's father) attempts to undo the love of the newlyweds by trickery. Like I said earlier, this movie lacks originality. It's a rehash of the same characters, the same jokes, the same message. Thanks to production value and great animation, it gets a 3 out of 5.
  • Serenity: First of all, yes I've seen the television series (FireFly). I thought it was rather well done. I liked the stories, the characters and the premise. The future can be a frontier, not all science fiction is porcelain coated stainless steel. This movie was great. Take away the pulse pounding action scenes, the astonishing special effects, the gritty post-apocalyptic environment, and all your left with is above par acting, fantastic writing and a great story. Mix in some outstanding music and rock solid directing and you've got yourself a winner. The involved story was something I couldn't predict, and the characters were far more complex than your typical Star-Trek cookie cutter crew. Not only did I love it, I'm gonna get a copy. This one gets 5 out of 5.
  • The exorcism of Emily Rose: A horror movie/courtroom drama? Supposedly based on true events, this movie was made in bit of an odd format. Half the movie was a supernatural horror story featuring a possessed young woman (Emily Rose). It was scary spooky and eery. Jennifer Carpenter did a good job convincing me. Without too much CGI, I was convinced by her portrayal. The second half of the movie was a courtroom drama. The priest who attempted the exorcism is put on trial for murder! The court room drama was o.k. Starting with the ending, we keep switching back and forth from exorcism to court room drama. All in all, I think it would have been a better movie if they'd just stuck to the exorcism/horror aspect of the movie. They could've followed the movie with crawlers to tell people about the courtroom part. I give it a 4 out of 5.
  • The Sentinel: A strange horror movie. A great cast, poor acting, a poor story, and somewhat wandering direction. This was one of those 70's movie where throwing a high paid cast at it didn't help the story. Aside from some old time classic actors like John Carradine, Jose Ferrer, Ava Gardner, Arthur Kennedy, Burgess Meredith and Sylvia Miles, there were some very early roles by Christopher Walken (dubbed?) and Jeff Goldblum in this movie. The story was strange indeed. A model finds a fantastic deal and moves into a creepy old apartment building. She immediately meets a group of misfit characters which are actually inhabitants of hell trying to get into our world. Eventually the lead character learns that because she attempted suicide she must become a nun/guardian for the rest of her life. Her job will be to keep the denizens of hell from getting into our world. Mix in some real 'freaks' as denizens of hell a bunch of nudity and a full frontal lesbian masturbation scene and you end up with a really strange story. This one gets a 2 out of 5.
  • Freddy got fingered: Oh my god what a horrible movie! It was a recommendation from someone at work. Someone who I will no longer look to for movie recommendations. Tom Green, I guess you either like him or you don't. Well, I liked some of the skits in this movie, but there were some 'WAY OVER THE TOP' grotesque displays of vulgar behavior, which I can't characterize as humor. Completely lacking in any decency or humor. This movie was one of the worst I have ever seen. The movie itself was just a bunch of comedy sketches stitched together with a very weak common theme. A young illustrator (living in his parents basement) is trying to find someone to buy his artwork and give him a job. Some of the skits in this movie were extremely vulgar, crude, racist, sexist, violent, and disgusting. I wanted to turn it off, and intentionally left the room on several occasions (without pausing it). Afterwards, I wondered why I bothered watching the whole thing. Tom Green can be funny, but he needs some adult supervision. Unlike Roadtrip, this movie was all Tom Green. Written, directed and starring Tom Green. Someone gave him the money, they got what they deserved. I give this one a 1 out of 5. The good parts of the movie were completely destroyed by the horrible content of some skits. I would like a list of people who like this movie. So I can avoid them.
  • The Ring Two: The American version of Ringu 2. This time the remake is directed by Hideo Nakata, the director of the first two Japanese movies (Ringu & Ringu 2). Hideo's movies are suspense thriller psychological horror. Not the American slasher chainsaw wielding horror. I prefer this type of horror to the simple violent stereotypes that I've seen in American film. I enjoyed this movie quite a bit. It wasn't as good as the Ring, but it was spooky. The story was a bit stale though. Because I already knew the entire back story. Thankfully the movie still had the creepy feel that Hideo is so good at. Unfortunately, the acting wasn't that good. David Dorfman did a crappy job in this role, if there's another Ring movie, I hope they don't cast him again. The 'Rings' short movie on the DVD was also pretty good. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
  • The Bone Collector: A pretty good movie. A murder mystery detective thriller starring Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie, Queen Latifah, Michael Rooker, Luis Guzman and Ed O'Neill. The best acting actually came from Ed O'Neill and Angelina Jolie. Denzel Washington indulged his most arrogant personality in this movie, and I didn't like it one bit. The story was o.k. but there really weren't that many surprises. The use of a rookie cop to take on a murder case of this importance made no sense at all, and the other cops in the movie seemed helpless compared to rookie Jolie and the Brilliant Denzel. I think the egos got a little too big for this movie. The music and directing were excellent, they really established a creepy feel for this suspense thriller murder mystery. It gets a 3 out of 5.
  • Anytown USA: My fifth movie from This one is a documentary about local politics. I didn't care for it. It was well directed, but there wasn't much to it. O.k. a three way race for Mayor in a tiny po-dunk town. I expected there to be some low-level self-serving back-stabbing and there was. Nothing really surprising about this movie. Two of the characters were partially blind, and one had a yellow tint under his eyes, which led me to believe that he might have some type of liver ailment. He did, and his opponents used it to advance their campaigns. I had to stop half way through the movie. It was literally boring me to death. I picked it up again later, and watched it through to the end. The director managed to make a foregone conclusion into a tense ten minutes as we await the verdict. The incumbent was reelected by a landslide. Surprised? Neither was I. The direction and pacing were well done, but the subject matter just wasn't all that interesting - Actually, it was downright boring, painfully so. The addition of Juxtaposition with a local winning football team was worthless. A team where everyone pulls together (The local high school football team) is threatened by a team of back stabbing politicians who don't know the first thing about team work. Yeah it was a nice juxtaposition, but it didn't go anywhere. I give this one a 2 out of 5.
  • The Hunt for Red October: An excellent movie. To bad it wasn't done by Russians in Russian. John McTiernan does a fine job directing an all-star cast in this taught action packed thriller. Starring Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Scott Glenn, James Earl Jones and several others, the casting helps immensely. Despite the fact that the dialog was done primarily in English, I really liked the way they transitioned from the original Russian dialog (admittedly strained by Connery's accent) to English. There was some very good camera work here. The plot! What a fantastic story. Thank you Tom Clancy! Commander of the latest Soviet submarine decides to defect, taking a super-silent nuclear sub with him. How will he manage to evade the combined ire of the motherland and the cautionary nature of the American military? An invisible nuclear threat off the coast of Washington DC! Sound the klaxon, non-stop thrills ahead! Excellent movie. I give it a solid 5 out of 5.
  • Blood & Black Lace: (Italian - Sei Donne Per L'Assassino) An Italian suspense thriller murder mystery where everyone's got a little black secret, and no one's above suspicion. A masked murderer is killing beautiful models, but we have no idea why? Not quite. The Masked murderer is probably masked because it's one of the main characters. The masked murderer never speaks. Probably because the dichotomy of voice with role (murderer) would give us a huge hint as to the murderers identity. I immediately sense that the murderer must be a woman. Despite the exhibited incongruity of the actors (male) strength opposed to the victims, I'm pretty much convinced that the killer is a woman. Guess what? The killer turns out to be a woman. This movie certainly contains some classic murder mystery elements. Elements which reappear time and again in American murder mystery thrillers. Unfortunately, the acting wasn't all that good, and I've seen the plot before - Even if this was an original exhibition of that particular twist. I wasn't all that impressed. The sound work on this DVD transfer was horrible, and the dialog wasn't properly synchronized with the video. I couldn't tell what the original language was? Was it Italian, English, Spanish? They all sounded abysmally poor. I have to give this one a 2 out of 5.
  • Scratch: A documentary about Hip-Hop and the musical revolution which transformed the turntable into an instrument. A well done documentary about a relatively new form of music. The DJ becomes musician. Featuring some movers and shakers in the Hip Hop scene, this documentary has captured this new phenomenon on the crest of the wave. Well shot and well directed, told from the first person point of view, this documentary does an excellent job of evoking an adventurous spirit and an energetic enthusiasm about the subject at hand. I give it a 4 out of 5.

Movies seen/reviewed this year (2005)
[ Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]

Nov (19/9/1)

  • La Strada: (Italian) 'The Circus'. An old black & white movie movie, dating from 1954, but it's timeless. A movie directed by the Italian master Federico Fellini. The characters in this movie are haunting and memorable. A tragic story about a wandering strongman and the woman who can't help but love him. It's tragic and moving. A movie packed full of emotion. I felt like I had been drawn into their personal lives, a participant and a victim. I was definitely touched by the power of this movie. No question 5 out of 5.
  • Van Helsing: Crap - Spew from the hollywood. The cinematography was pretty good. The costumes were just a bit to hollywood. The writing was horrible. The story was a mix of all the hollywood monster movies. They tried to combine werewolves, vampires and Frankenstine's monster in to the same story. I think they were trying to make the Van Helsing character into something of a renaissance 'Ghost Buster'. The movie also stole elements from 'Men in Black'. There wasn't a single original theme in the entire movie. The acting was mediocre and the directing was weak. The special effects were terrible. Here's a couple of rules for special effects. Hollywood, I hope you're listening.
    • Special effects should never be a substitute for good writting
    • The audience shouldn't be able to tell that it's a special effect.
    • Special effects shouldn't look cartoonish in a live action movie.
    Basically, this movie sucked. The characters were paper-thin, and I really didn't care for the 'we must explain everything to the viewer' attitude of the writing. The only good thing about it was the cinematograhy - and that wasn't all that good either. 1 out of 5.
  • Eyes wide shut: I'm sorry, but this is not that good of a movie. As a matter of fact, this is the second time I've seen it, and I'm downgrading it from 3 stars to 2. After seeing it again, I realize that there really isn't much of a story here. There are lots of good looking nudes, but you need more than nudes to make a good movie. Ever seen a porno? The story is lacking, and the mystery is still a mystery by the end of the movie. The two actors (Tom Cruise and Nicole Kiddman) seem to be sleepwalking through this movie. Add some downright depressing music, and some plunking piano tunes and the whole thing had a hypnotizing effect. After two and a half hours I was literally bored to tears. I forced myself to watch the whole thing, and I guess the best part of the movie was the last word uttered before the credits. What a disappointment from Stanley Kubrik. I'm sure he'd come back to make just one more, if he could. 2 out of 5.
  • Undead: (Australian) Zombies, Aliens, and a viral outbreak, surely these themes go together? A movie shot in a style similar to the 'Dead Alive' flick that I saw last month. Unfortunately for this movie, the lines weren't as funny, the acting wasn't as good, and the writing was really poor. This half-hearted attempt at creating a campy zombie flick completely missed the mark. Instead of laughing, I spent most of my time groaning. I honestly thought that the lead character's eyes were going to pop out of her head at some point. I think she was some kind of mutant. Some of the characters were well depicted, but the movie overall just stank. I can't believe that someone had to tell them (the characters, and us) that aiming for the head would kill a zombie. Dhuh! everyone knows you have to "Hit 'em in the head". Oh wait, there was a plot twist. The zombies eventually revert to normal, after the Aliens have cured them of the extra-terrestrial virus that they're infected with... What?! A horrible movie. I give it a 1 out of 5.
  • Master and Commander - The far side of the world: A terrific movie. Victorian naval warfare, and high seas adventure. Starring Russell Crowe, and directed by Peter Weir. This movie is well worth the money. Outstanding acting, powerful directing, a gripping musical score, and edge of your seat action. The scenes where canon shot rips through the rigging of the ship is astonishing. Very realistic. This is the sort of special effects that I enjoy. So realistic I thought it was real, until I watched some special feature footage. It fit the scene, it wasn't out of place, it wasn't 'over-the-top', and I had no idea that I was seeing a 'special-effect'. The level of detail in this movie was amazing. The costumes, sets and locations were all so authentic and gorgeous that the movie took me to 'the far side of the world' with the characters. Very well done. This one deserves a 5 out of 5.
  • Star Trek - The original series - Vol. 11 [Tomorrow is yesterday / The return of the Archon's ]: I've started viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), and I loved it back then. You know what? I still love it. My friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. In Tomorrow is yesterday, the crew of the Enterprise inadvertently travels back to 1960's Earth, and must correct damage they caused to the timeline. It's another time travel episode. I sure liked the time travel episodes. Looking back on this episode now, it's something of a time travel movie itself. The 60's costumes, the Air Force uniforms, the jets, everything seems like a period movie. When it was made it was cutting edge present. The ridiculous circular logic presented as a consequence of time travel may have helped me formulate my 'No Time/No Motion' theory. In 'The return of the Archon's', the crew of the Enterprise encounters a world controlled by an unseen leader. The unseen leader turns out to be a machine, which Kirk and Spock destroy in order to 'liberate' the citizens from it's stable but stale control. I believe this episode may have been the first to mention the 'Prime Directive'.
  • Punk - Attitude (Bonus materials): This companion to a documentary contains additional documentaries and interviews. Narrower in scope than the feature, these bonus materials are nonetheless (is this English or German?) worth watching. I especially enjoyed the interview with Henry Rolins former front man for Black Flag. I rate the bonus material 3 out of 5.
  • The 13th warrior: I own this, but I had no idea that it was a screen adaptation of a Michael Crichton novel. Based on the book "Eaters of the Dead". There are plenty of references to cannibalism in the movie, but I'll bet that the book focuses much more on cannibalism. After all, a movie about cannibalism would be quite shocking! Overall it was a pretty good movie. I enjoyed it immensely, the only drawback are the stereotypical depiction of an Arab by Antonio Banderas. His drinking 'Mead' - It's not made with grapes or wheat... His sleeping with a Viking woman? I liked the performance of the actor playing the lead viking (Vladimir Kulich). Stoic, strong, no-nonsense, willing to take a stand - to defend his people despite any personal danger. The plot, despite being based on Crichton's "Eaters of the Dead", was very much a "Beowulf" movie. The beast like enemy, the 'Wendel" are a fairly direct translation of the mysterious beast like "Grendel" that plagued the Scandinavian inhabitants of "Beowulf". The lead Norseman is named "Buliwyf", umm, sounds sort of like "Beowulf" to me.. It would have been better if the story was more original. Another problem was the use of language in the film. Switching from Arabic to Norse to English was definitely a challenge, but I don't think they pulled it off very well. In the beginning, the Norseman speaking 'Greek' was actually speaking 'Latin', and it was unrealistic to expect that the Arab prince learned the Norse language by listening to it for a few minutes. I liked the Norse burial ceremony, and it's use in the climactic conflict. The costumes, sets and locations made this movie feel like a Conan classic - and that's a good thing. That's why I own a copy, that's why I rate it 4 out of 5.
  • Dark Water: (Japanese - Honogurai mizu no soko kara) A very frightening horror flick from that Japanese master director, Hideo Nakata. Just slightly off mark. This movie contained all the necessary elements to scare me out of my wits, but it didn't hit head on. The music was eery, but could have been done a little better, it seemed slightly off cue. The pacing was right, but it was missing some crucial close ups. This movie was great. It created a very creepy feeling of dread that seemed to ooze out of every corner. Well directed, excellent acting and a great score. Hideo keeps getting better. I can't wait to see his next movie. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
  • A midnight clear: A movie about WWII. They're getting a bit rarer these days, but they're still getting made. This movie is about the insanity of war - The cruel reality of it, the parasites that make it their home, and the personal consequences of it. The human side of war. Set in the Ardennes forest as the Americans are rolling towards Berlin. A group of American soldiers is bivouacked in an abandoned mansion, where they're supposed to report on any enemy activity in their sector. Strange things start happening while they're there, and eventually they encounter a group of German soldiers (Old men and teenaged boys) who want to surrender in the face of their nations impending defeat. An intricate plan is devised, but as you can imagine. It doesn't work out quite the way they planned. Fantastic acting with a terrific set and location. Excellent directing, pacing and writing. I give this one a 5 out of 5.
  • The Haunting: A movie about a haunted house. This one could have been much better. The cinematography was awesome. The house was an excellent set, the location was downright chilling and the music helped create a drenching feeling of dread. Unfortunately, some of the acting was horrible, the directing was very poor, and I didn't care for the monologues. The stretching door effect was quite creepy, given the fact that this black and white movie was released in 1963. Sure I said it was black & white. I'd like to correct that. It was shot in richly saturated monochrome shades of dread. An excellent DVD transfer. Aside from the poor acting and directing, the music was slightly off queue and this timing problem helped dampen a movie that could have been much more suspenseful. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
  • Conspiracy theory: A spy thriller murder mystery romance. The story was pretty good. A conspiracy theory to be sure. The plot is a bit unbelievable, but given the subject matter (title), I gave it the benefit of suspending my disbelief. The action was believable - if not a bit too violent, and the pacing was thrilling. The acting by Patric Stewart was great as the heavy, but Mel Gibson played his slightly off center 'crazy cop' persona - which didn't help any. Julia Roberts' performance was a little flat. The directing was well done and the music was great. I admit that I'm a sucker for a good conspiracy theory, and this movie pulls a point for sitting in that spot. 4 out of 5.
  • Hang 'Em High: A Clint Eastwood western in the tradition of the Sergio Leonne. While this western wasn't directed by Sergio Leonne , it certainly seemed like it was written for him. Apparently, he was busy working on 'Once upon a time in the west'. The lead character is the classic western loner. Trying to survive on his wits and his guns when he runs in to a lynch mob who think he's a cattle rustler and a murderer - A fatally tragic case of mistaken identities. The version I watched was aired on TV, and several scenes were missing. My DVD copy runs 115 minutes. Obviously, the TV edit had to be shortened to accommodate commercials. The missing footage moves the story forward too quickly and we lose some essential character development when those extra scenes are dumped on the cutting room floor. The judge is a hanging judge, and the protagonist uses the law to exact vengeance on those who wronged him. The west was a harsh place. Nowhere near as clean and clear cut as the Lone Ranger would have you believe. The directing was pretty good, and the soundtrack was well done. I really liked the signature staccato sound effects that punctuated the movie. The TV version gets a 3 out of 5, but the full version gets 4 out of 5.
  • The Gold Rush: A silent era Charlie Chaplin movie. Shot in the 1920's, the DVD restoration is fantastic. I've seen some bad transfer from films shot in the 80's, but this transfer was excellent. Charles Chaplin wrote, directed, and starred in this movie. So far I've only seen three of his movies, but it's very apparent that he was a genius when it came to cinema. This movie puts the tramp in Alaska, where he endures the harsh climate, a handful of despicable characters, starvation and forsaken love. Truly a master of comedy, I found myself laughing raucously at many of the preposterous situations in which the Tramp found himself. The scene where he uses forks and dinner rolls to perform a dance number was incredible. The version that I saw had some narration done by Charlie Chaplin (added in 1942). The narration was extremely well done. Right on queue, minimalist, highly succinct. I felt that it actually added to the movie. If you want, you can also watch it without the voice over narration. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
  • The Conversation: Starring Gene Hackman, Harrison Ford, John Cazale, and an uncredited appearance by Robert Duvall. This movie is a conspiracy buffs dream. A tense suspense thriller murder mystery like no other. Keeps you guessing, gasping and clenching the edge of your seat. Gene Hackman plays a paranoid surveillance specialist who's reached a point in his career where he can no longer remain disinterested in the subjects he spies on. A great cast, superb writing and direction by Francis Ford Coppola, music that fit the movie like a glove, and a thoroughly engrossing story. I really loved the way that the movie kept you guessing, and we weren't subjected to unnecessary violence or plot revelation. Coppola made this movie between the Godfather and Godfather II, and it didn't get a lot of promotion by the production studios, so it's no surprise that so few people have heard of/or seen this movie. Once you've seen it, you'll recommend it to others – I'm sure of it. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
  • Winchester '73 : A movie about a rifle? Not hardly. This classic western tale is a story about good and evil with a couple of twists. The lead character is played by James Stewart, but I thought 'B-Actor' Stephen McNally as the heavy, gave a better performance. He was more believable in his role, and it's a shame he wasn't more recognized during his career. John McIntire playing the 'Indian Trader' also gave an outstanding performance. It was somewhat amusing to see Rock Hudson playing an Indian Chief, but this cast was just a bit too big for this movie. As early westerns go, this was a pretty good movie. It forsook the usual white hat character and provided us with a more complicated tale of the west. Unfortunately, a few societal stereotypes dragged the movie down. The American Indians were depicted as bloodthirsty savages bent on revenge and destruction, the dance hall gal was marked as damaged goods, and the Indian trader got his 'just rewards'. Oh yeah, the characters had to meet in a town where 'Wyatt Earp' was the law... I give it a 3 out of 5.
  • Charlie & the Chocolate Factory: This one was on Kim's list, and I couldn't resist. Despite the juvenile theme of the movie, it was directed by Tim Burton, starred Johnny Depp, and featured music by Danny Elfman. A combination I'm quite pleased with. Thankfully, I wasn't disappointed. Remaking such a classic was certainly a risky proposition, but Tim Burton did a pretty good job. Like most Tim Burton films, this one features beautiful imagery, crazy characters, and gut busting laughs. Johnny Depp's portrayal of Willy Wonka was wonderful. The character certainly reminded me of Michael Jackson though; what with the gloves, the pale skin, the gaunt face, the company of children, the 'wonderland' factory. Talk about a kooky character.. The Oompa Loompas were o.k. I didn't care for the fact that they were all the same, and they were just a bit too small. I give the movie a 4 out of 5.
  • Schindler's List: There are some people who don't like this movie, because it focused too much on the strife of the Jew's. I've got news for those people; That's what the movie is about! It's about how the Jewish people survived the Holocaust. A fantastic movie. Moving, powerful, unforgettable. Crafted with the utmost respect and care. The performances (by Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsle and Ralph Fiennes (among others)) were great, the directing (by Steven Spielberg) sublime. The music permeated the movie giving it a life all of it's own. I can imagine watching this movie with only the soundtrack playing. The locations, sets and costumes were as authentic as they could have been. An epic film where the real world melted away, and I was consumed by a struggle to survive. This one gets top notch billing. 5 out of 5 - We must never forget.
  • Bread & Tulips: (Italian - Pane e tulipani) This one probably wouldn't have made my NetFlix queue if it wasn't for my friends recommendation - Thanks Kim. Set in Italy (Mostly Venice), this charming romantic dramedy (Drama/Comedy) reminded me a lot of Italy (My wife (another Kim) and I spent seven years in southern Italy). The acting was a bit sophomorish; covered by the comedic aspects of the film, and the only actor I was familiar with was Bruno Ganz. He actually had a speaking role in the remake of the Manchurian Candidate. The directing was very good, and the music was good as well. An Italian house-wife decides she's had enough of the stereotypical Italian woman's life. She rebels against her husband, leaves her spoiled teenage children to fend for themselves, and does what 'She' wants to do. What would have been a vacation becomes a self-actualizing journey. Great characters, sets, locations and music. This movie left a smile on my face. I give it a 5 out of 5.
  • Ikiru: (Japan - Living) Another movie from my favorite director - Akira Kurosawa. Set in post WWII Japan. The protagonist of the movie is a mid level bureaucrat who has just about run his course. Stuck in a dead end job, waiting for his retirement, pension and old age. On a rare occasion he visits the hospital where he is diagnosed with a 'mild ulcer'. Convinced that he has cancer, and only six months to live, Watanabe-San starts off in a melancholy mood, is redirected by a struggling artist, re-discovers love, finds purpose, struggles against insurmountable odds (the bureaucracy of city government and his own illness), and leaves behind a legacy in more than one form. The movie includes a considerable amount of narration, more so than any other Kurosawa films (that I've seen), and there is a vivid split in the middle of the movie. The division in the center of the movie helps to focus our attentions on what we might do if we we're placed in Watanabe-San's position. The ending scene with Watanabe singing on a swing was fantastic. The only low mark on this movie was the poor transfer and inadequate translation. Made in 1952, some of the sound and color (It was black & white. We could discuss color in a black and white movie. But you'll know what I mean if you've seen enough 'black & white' movies) was lacking in the transfer. This one gets a 4 out of 5. A better transfer and translation could easily make this into a five star movie.
  • The Big Chill: A great drama. This movie came out in the 80's. It's a reunion movie. A buddy movie. A comedic drama. A dramedy. It seems like I've been watching a lot of dramedies lately. A group of people get together ten years after their college days. They get together because one of their friends killed himself. In the week that follows, they examine themselves, their motives, their values and their regrets. If you didn't grow up during the 60's - 70's, you might have a hard time believing the characters. Great acting, fantastic music, terrific directing and an all-star cast make this a gem of a movie. Adult version of 'Breakfast Club'. The only drawback is the talking. There's just way too much of it. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
  • The Professional: (French - Léon) Another great movie by Luc Besson. Starring Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman and Danny Aiello. Watch the uncut version if you can, if you're not 'disturbed' by the implications of the additional scenes. This movie is an action flick and comedic love story. Jean Reno stars as the steely hit man, Natalie Portman is an orphaned girl who's wreaked by the violence of her world. When Leon sees the damage inflicted on her, he breaks down and allows her into his heart. Oldman plays a truly despicable crooked cop who doesn't care about the little people that get in his way. The three together play great in this fantastically directed movie. 5 out of 5.
  • Spare Parts: (Slovenia - Rezervni deli) My fourth movie from Another character based drama. The movie is about two smugglers. They smuggle illegal immigrants across the border from Croatia to Italy. It's a cold harsh look at life in Slovenia. Industrial pollution, the dark side of romance, abuse of power, life in the gutter of society. The characters are struggling to remain human, to be loved and to stay above the high tide line in their cesspool of existence. Some manage, some don't. Some surrender, some become numb. It was very well acted and directed. I was caught up in their petty lives, hoping they'd do what was right, hoping they'd find a life line. The bad guys in this movie were the good guys. We really felt bad for them despite the fact that they were responsible for some pretty despicable things. I give it a 4 out of 5.
  • La Femme Nikita: (French - Nikita) Brilliant - A masterpiece. A work of art. Directed by Luc Besson. This 80's action flick created an entire genre of action movies, an American remake (Point of no return with Bridget Fonda), and a television series. Starring Anne Parillaud, Tchéky Karyo and Jean Reno. The movie cruises along at a quickening pace, and your pulse never lets up. The action is non-stop, but this isn't a one-sided movie. There's plenty of drama and emotion as well. The plots, characters, and world that they live in are truly believable - Not like some 'Action' movies. The characters are well developed, and the acting is top notch. The music is great, well suited to the moods and properly paced as well. The direction is fantastic. Luc Besson really knows how to make it seem like the characters live in the movie, that they belong in the setting. He blends the setting, characters and story together to create a believable, wholly functioning world. The ending of this movie is beautiful and fitting. 5 out of 5.
  • The man with the screaming brain: Written, directed, and starring Bruce Campbell, who did a very good job in the 'Evil Dead' series (He didn't write or direct that though). I really like Campbell, I think he's a good character actor; He's done some good work, but I can't recommend this movie (even if you are a Bruce Campbell fan) under any circumstances. Unfortunately, the best part of this movie is the title. An absolutely abysmal movie. It was supposed to be funny, but I can't recall laughing at all. There was nothing original in the plot what so ever - The setting in Bulgaria was the only original aspect of this movie. The overuse of Bruce Campbell's 'Good self vs Evil self' bit from the 'Evil Dead' series was egregious and poorly done. A slapstick B-Movie where the laughs were flat and the B-Movie science was lame. The pacing was poor, the acting, script and sound work were terrible. The best acting came from a little known Bulgarian actor - Vladimir Kolev, who's character dies twenty minutes into the movie. There were a couple of scenes that were well scored, but it felt like two different companies produced this movie. It was painful to watch, it wasn't recommended by NetFlix, but I'm a Bruce Campbell fan, so I stuck it out. When the movie ended I breathed a sigh of relief. This one gets a 1 out of 5.
  • The Caine mutiny: An early color movie made in 1954. This movie is a military courtroom drama, preceded by a naval adventure onboard the 'USS Caine'. The Caine is a minesweeper on duty during WWII in the Pacific, and it's crew is faced with a strictly 'by the book' commander who endangers the crew with his "I'm in charge!" attitude. There was some really good acting in this movie, and my viewing of it comes at a time when I can clearly see the dilemma that the crew had in their Captain (but that's not for this review). Starring Humphrey Bogart, Fred MacMurray, Van Johnson and José Ferrer. This movie was a joy to watch. A taught feeling of dread carries the crew forward after the crew meets their new Captain. A series of ridiculous disciplinary incidents leads to a nearly destructive storm where the crew mutinies to prevent the ship from capsizing. After the mutiny occurs the movie moves to a courtroom drama format where the outcome is anything but certain. Bogart's performance was excellent. All in all it was a well done movie that lacked a good musical score. I give it a 4 out of 5.
  • Kingdom of Heaven: This one showed up on Kim's list before mine. Her queue is significantly shorter. Directed by Ridley Scott, this is by far the best movie I have ever seen about the crusades. A peasant blacksmith, by way of royal inheritance becomes a knight, a lord, a defender of Jerusalem and a man in this visually stunning epic film. Great direction, acting, action, music, sets, locations, costumes, film-work and a story as old as the Holy land. I'm certainly no historian, but I'll bet it wasn't just a few bad Christians that caused all the Holy wars. Pretty much all the Muslim's were depicted as refined, sophisticated and tolerant. While most of the Christians were depicted as brutish slobs, religious fanatics, bloodthirsty murderers. Not a very even depiction. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I'll leave the political debate to historians.
  • With a friend like Harry: (French - Harry, un ami qui vous veut du bien) As a suspense thriller this movie delivers a disturbing scenario of obsession and murder. A dark, twisted little psycho-drama. The acting was great. The setting/sets, and costumes were all unpretentious and believable. The story was very well written and very well directed. The movie starts out innocently enough with a chance meeting in a rest-stop bathroom, but it doesn't stay that way for long. By the end of the movie there are four dead bodies, and no one's crying... This one rates 5 out of 5.
  • The Cable Guy: A dark comedy with a great cast - Jim Carey, Matthew Broderick, Leslie Mann and Jack Black. I really like this dark, tragic comedy. I had no idea it was directed by Ben Stiller! He did a surprisingly good job. This movie is a bold and striking tale of dramatic tragedy. Jim Carey dared to play a dark disturbed individual with a twisted sense of humor. I think he pulled it off perfectly. The movie did an excellent job of blending bitter and sweet, creating a dark chocolate cinematic confection with just the right bitter bite for a Saturday night. The music was great, there were plenty of fan favorite cameo appearance (Jeneane Garofalo - as a serving wench, Ben Stiller - as twin murderer/victim, Andy Dick - as MC of Medieval Times, and Owen Wilson - as an abused boyfriend), and I can't imagine anyone other than Carey playing the role of the socially mal-adjusted cable guy. I could care less for Matthew Broderick. I find all his performances whiny, lacking in substance, a little bit patronizing and slightly sophomoric. Despite his bumbling 'loveable charm' cast-type acting, this movie gets a 5 out of 5.

Movies seen/reviewed this year (2005)
[ Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]

Oct (18/6/-/3)

  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid: Released in 1969, this is a classic genre defining movie. What genre? you may be thinking. Buddy movies. A comedic western where the two characters are very close friends. These two bandits would do anything for each other. The pairing was not only character based but actor based as well. Robert Redford and Paul Newman worked wonderfully together. Combine the casting with great writing, some absolutely gorgeous locations, and a winning sound track and you've got a hit. The story wasn't momentous, it wasn't an earth shaking epic, but it was a very entertaining movie. "Who are those guys?" I give it a 4 out of 5.
  • White Noise: I like Michael Keaton, but this movie stank. A great premise. Something original. EVP - Electronic Voice Phenomenon. The dead communicating through off-tuned electronic devices. Unfortunately, the writers didn't do anything worthwhile with this movie. The sound effects were o.k. but I expected them to be paired with a good sound track - They weren't. This was supposed to be a horror movie? It was more drama and less suspense than I was hoping for. The previews were better than the movie. The botched ending was anti-climactic, predictable and unsatisfying. I give it a 2 out of 5.
  • Bad day at black rock: Ripe for a remake. Made in the mid 50's, I'm surprised by the political content of this movie. Released in the midst of the McCarthy era, most of Hollywood was hiding under a rock, trying to avoid the tribunals and black listing. Yet here's a movie that dares to call Americans racists! It points out the hypocrisy of nationalistic fervor and reminds us what patriotism is really about. A great drama set in the forgotten western town of 'Black Rock', a one-armed stranger steps off the Slipstream and straight into the frying pan. A taught mystery, this drama didn't leave much to the imagination, but there certainly is potential for a remake. A great cast (Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Walter Brennan, Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin) was held back by period directing and writing I give this excellent transfer a 4 out of 5.
  • Alexander Nevsky: (Russian - Александр Невский) This is one serious piece of propaganda. Made in the Soviet Union during the height of Stalin's reign, this film was directed by one of the greats (Sergei Eisenstein). Produced as a warning to the Third Reich, parts of this film were brilliant despite the narrow confines the director was forced to work within. This movie is supposed to be about Alexander Nevksy defending Russia from an invading Teutonic army. In truth it's actually a heavy duty propaganda film. It portrays the Teutonic Knights (Read German officers) as evil conquerors. In one scene a leader of the Teutonic Knights is shown throwing defenseless (naked) and crying children into a fire! The Russians are portrayed in larger than life idealized roles. In some scenes the German troops are played by children against the Russian actors in order to make the Germans seem small and frail in comparison. In a romantic? sub-plot the Russian man (two suitors vie for the same maiden) who displays the greatest valor in combat, is promised to a beautiful virgin. The invaders are depicted as being led by a holier-than-thou group of priests. Some of the battle scenes are remarkable given the resources available to the director. There was a lot of large scale combat with numerous extras. The final battle takes place on a frozen Russian lake, and a large portion of the invading army drowns to death amongst flailing bodies, thrashing horses, and bobbing chunks of broken ice. The musical score by Sergei Prokofiev was excellent. The acting was stage like and forced at times. The costumes were great. The sets were excellent, and the locations great. Unfortunately all of the long camera shots were poorly framed, and we were often left wondering what we were looking at as an army marches ant like way off in the distance. A great movie diminished only by a poor transfer, some ill advised camera shots and a poor translation. I give it a 4 out of 5.
  • Layer Cake: (British - L4yer Cake) A fantastic mobster movie with pulse pounding pacing and ruthless double-crossing, down-right rotten characters. Set in England, the main character (with no name) is the leader of a small-time gang peddling cocaine. As the movie progresses, the main character (and his crew) gets played by bigger and bigger gangsters. As he desperately tries to get out from under their thumb (and retire), he ends up getting deeper and deeper into the shit. Eventually, he ends up as the big fish in the pond. The ending is poetically tragic and a fantastic climax to the movie. Daniel Craig plays the main character and the casting, characters, and acting were all outstanding. The writing brilliant and the plot was as convoluted as the twist tie on my loaf of bread! There's a lot of layers here, and it was pure joy watching the director peel them back one at a time. Despite the excessive violence, this was a very well told story. I give it a 5 out of 5.
  • Brazil: (British) This one was on my radar for a long time, and I finally got around to watching it. Directed by Terry Gilliam (Of Monty Python fame). Reminiscent of 1984, the characters in this movie are trapped in a constricting retro-futuristic society. The main character falls in love while trying to correct an administrative error. The penalties for bucking the system can be quite extreme! A strange otherworldly movie filled with social commentary. Very current despite it's release date. Today's society is beginning to look a lot like the paranoid paralyzed and distracted populace of 'Brazil'. With the fear of terrorists around every corner, we've pretty much given up on individual freedom or expression. This movie portrays a dark picture of what tomorrow could look like. Robert DeNiro does a really good job playing a rogue repairman; an enemy of the state who refuses to fill out paperwork! Jonathan Pryce did a bang-up job as a Ministry of Information officer who's so good at his job that it threatens the establishment. Full of crazy visuals, social commentary, and a pretty good sound track. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
  • Taxi: Why oh why did I let Kim talk me into watching this? Starring Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon, this second rate movie had me groaning from the the opening sequence. O.k. here's the plot: Wanna-be Nascar driver (Queen Latifah) quits her bicycle courier job in order to become a cab driver (what a great career move). Misfit police officer (Jimmy Fallon) has his license taken away after one too many department embarrassing accidents. They team up when Fallon's character commandeers Latifah's cab. From then on out they pursue a gang of - Get this - Brazilian Super-Model bank robbers. Oh my god! I can't take it any more. Just writing about this movie is painful. I give it a 1 out of 5.
  • Timeline: (Canadian) This movie (borrowed from a friend) is based on a Michael Crichton novel (which I read). Unfortunately, like most Crichton adaptations, it sucks. The movie didn't follow the book (which I liked) very closely, and the writing wasn't very good at all. The acting was also poor. It was a time travel movie, which is a theme that I enjoy, but I'm not sure why they bothered. They used the 'Time Travel' theme as a weak excuse to make a typical action/romance movie. There wasn't much passion in the acting and the pacing was way to fast. The dialog was pathetic, and there wasn't much science in this science fiction movie. It reminded me a lot of the new 'Time Machine'. I give it a 1 out of 5.
  • Dungeons and Dragons - Wrath of the Dragon god: A direct to DVD release that aired on the Sci-Fi channel (I recorded it and watched it later). It wasn't really a sequel (Bruce Payne does return in a bad guy role), but it is another D&D movie. The first one sucked, and this one wasn't much better. The characters were simple stereotypes, but lacked the comic relief style of the original movie. The acting (for the most part) was horrible, the writing ridiculously linear and unimaginative. The plot? Evil guy obtains orb which controls slumbering bad-ass evil dragon. Dragon will wake up soon unless the good guys get the orb back. Dragon wakes up, starts wrecking havoc, and in the end the good guys manage to save the day with another orb. The writers spent to much time explaining things to the audience. Wouldn't be better if they just concentrated on making a 'good' movie? Most of the people who'll watch this movie already know what D&D is, or they've played it at some point. Here's another movie that makes D&D seem like a badly written comic book. I give it a 2 out of 5.
  • Star Trek - The original series - Vol. 10 [Arena / The alternative factor]: I've started viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), and I loved it back then. You know what? I still love it. My friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. Arena is easily one of my all time favorite Star Trek episodes. First it's got great music, second it pits Kirk against the 'Gorn'. The reptilian commander of an alien space ship. Kirk's first instinct is to kill the lizard man, and he builds a canon out of raw materials in order to carry out his blood-thirsty plan. The alternative factor features some classic over the top acting by Robert Brown, and very cheesy special effects. The story isn't all that good, and I count this as one of the worst original series episodes. Of note: I'm fairly certain the 'simultaneously coexisting universes' explored in this episode must have been an influence in my 'No Time/No Motion' theory.
  • High Tension: (French - Haute tension) A well done (but extremely violent) horror flick. This psychological thriller features some really good camera work, some fine acting and a great sound track with really creepy sound effects. The direction is also top notch. What's the problem with this movie? Aside from the ultra-violent murders and incredibly gory special effects? The plot twist; yeah, it blew me away, but it didn't make any sense. No sense at all. There were holes as big as the Titanic in the plot. It made the ending a complete reversal on the good work done by the director and camera work. The disc also had some technical problems. It starts out in a default dubbed version - Yuck! and the subtitles aren't the best. Be sure to watch it in French. I give it 3 out of 5.
  • Ringu 2: (Japanese) A sequel like other sequels. It didn't impress me, and it won't go on my 'Must buy' list. The music was great, and the combination of camera work and direction made for a very suspenseful horror flick. Unfortunately, this sequel fell into the 'explanation' trap. They felt that they had to explain everything that happened in the original movie. That, plus a meandering unfocussed plot left me somewhat confused. This one doesn't carry the scary the way the first one did. Too much explanation, too much trying to tie complete fantasy to some sort of paranormal plausibility. I give this one a 2 out of 5.
  • Rules of Engagement: Politically charged, military justice, courtroom drama, action film. I'll admit that my views are biased by 20 years in the military, but I really liked this movie. The casting was great. Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson did a good job in this movie, Ben Kingsley was great as the weak self serving Ambassador, Bruce Greenwood played a truly amoral National Security Advisor, and the performance of Anne Archer as the Ambassador's wife was probably the best in the movie. This movie was definitely full of politically charged content. How U.S. soldiers treat the civilian population (regardless of location) will always be the subject of political debate and heated passions on all sides. I tried to focus on the military justice aspects of the movie. Soldiers are always considered expendable in combat, in peacetime they're seen as potential liabilities. Our military (The U.S.) has a strong judicial system that treats the soldier fairly, and for that I am very grateful. Hopefully that judicial process will never become compromised by political convenience. The writers treated this movie as if it were some sort of historical depiction. Especially noteworthy was the epilogue at the end of the film, where the fate of the characters (after the events depicted in the movie) are revealed. The only real drawback for me was the stereotypical and negative light cast on all the Arabs in the film. I give this one a 4 out of 5.
  • The Jack Bull: This movie (borrowed from a friend) was an HBO original based on a novel. It was a pretty good western starring John Cusack and John Goodman. John Cusak plays a horse trader in the Wyoming territory. When he's denied justice by a corrupt system, he goes vigilante to exact revenge. The movie was highly formulatic, and there were no surprises or plot twists to speak of. The best part of the movie was the ending - Very fitting. The locations were spectacular, but a few plot twists and some ambiguity in the characters would have helped this movie. It was too black and white. I give it a 3 out of 5.
  • Batman Begins: (It came up in Kim's queue before mine) A darker Batman. A tale of corruption and redemption. Another comic book made into a movie. It was very well done. Mixing romance, drama, and action. Christian Bale plays Batman, but I thought Val Kilmer was better in the role (See Batman Forever). Liam Neeson was great as the villain. The action was well choreographed and the 'Tumbler' chase scenes were spectacular. The direction was very good, and this movie is damn good entertainment. I give it 4 of 5.
  • A soldiers story: A fantastic tale. Another military themed movie. This one is more than that. It's an exploration of the black soldier's experience at the onset of WWII and pre-integration of the military. Here the characters are complex and though provoking. Much time was spent on character development and the result sets the stage for some excellent acting by a fantastic cast. A murder mystery military investigation where the suspects are suspect. This movie had a great back story, excellent directing and it earns a 5 out of 5 for it's candor, authenticity, and complex plot.
  • Punk - Attitude: A documentary about the origins of Punk. I lived it and as a result, I loved this movie. The Punk/New Wave scene was something spawned during my formative years. Late 70's through the 80's. It did a great job of chronicling the origins of this counter-culture musical movement. With lots of stage footage, interviews and video clips, this movie was a Kick-Ass tribute to the bands who kicked Rock-N-Roll in the groin and gave it a whole new point of view. Henry Rolins (former front man for Black Flag) has an outstanding screen presence and needs to be involved in more motion picture projects. I give this documentary a 4 out of 5.
  • Drifters: (Chinese - Ed Di) My second movie. Produced in Hong-Kong, this is something of a propaganda movie. A movie about a young man who's deported from the U.S. He had a child while he was there, and now he's unhappy back home in China. His son returns to China and is staying with his mother's parents. He tries to see the boy, but the grandparents do their best to keep him away. Slow moving during the first half of the movie, the pace doesn't pick up until the Er Di (Little (or Younger) Brother) learns that his son has been brought to China. The acting was pretty good, but the main characters melancholy mood was a bit too much. It's an interesting film, a human drama about traditional Chinese values and the desires of its younger generation. A complicated thing. Well done, but less than satisfying. I give it a 3 out of 5.
  • Sneakers: One of my favorites. A light hearted spy thriller with a great cast. Starring Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd, River Phoenix, Mary McDonnell, Donal Logue, James Craven, Ben Kingsley and James Earl Jones, this movie was a great spy thriller about computers, cryptography and the government (with a small amount of political commentary). A misfit group of 'security experts' make a living testing bank security until they're contacted by the 'NSA' to recover a 'Black-Box'. From then on it's a twisted tale of deception, danger and espionage where you don't know who to trust. The writing is fantastic, the technical details are great and the pacing is perfect. The acting is a bit lighthearted and there are no explosions or scenes of gushing blood. The director did a bang-up job, and this movie is a joy to watch. I give it a 5 out of 5.
  • The Big Blue: (French - Grand Bleu, Le) Stunning, an intense story, a beautifully shot adventure. Writen and directed by Luc Besson, this movie is pure pleasure. I have two versions of this movie. The theatrical release, and the directors cut. The theatrical version is actually a better version to watch. The cinematography is fantastic. The music, locations, sets, costumes and casting were perfect. The performances by Jean Reno, Jean-Marc Barr and Rosanna Arquette were outstanding. Watching this movie is like being transported to a magical world across the sea. I only wish my television was bigger - So big that it wrapped all the way around my living room. The characters are unforgettable, life like, utterly convincing and genuine. This movie gets a 5 out of 5.
  • Sharpe's company: (British - English) This was my second helping of a British television series. Unfortunately, it wasn't as good as the original series opener. The acting wasn't as good, and the production value was off. There wasn't anything special about the plot. As a movie it was disappointing, as a t.v. series it wasn't too bad. A period piece set during the British struggle against Napoleon (this episode is set in Portugal). The character development is contrived and somewhat shallow. The costumes, music and sets were well done and the action sequences were well done. I give it a 3 out of 5, but I won't be watching any more of this series. It needs to rise above a 3 to compel my attention. Another negative was the DVD production value. Notably irritating was the lack of an English subtitle track.
  • Bewitched: Why do I torture myself so? Surely it's for love alone. This was another one of Kim's picks. It wasn't on my list, and you'd have to pay me to watch it again. The writing was weak. They couldn't come up with an actual plot, so the movie was about the movie. Yeah, it was that lame. O.k. they were remaking the series, and didn't want to redo the series, so instead they came up with the worst possible alternative. A movie about the making of a movie based on an old t.v. series. The casting of Will Ferrell as Jack Wyatt/Darrin was a huge mistake. I kept thinking 'Why is he trying to do Jim Carrey'? Surely this role was meant for someone else... I actually had to stop watching it about half way through. Had to stop mind you, we had an appointment to go to. Thankfully, my wife didn't force me to watch the rest of it. The acting was lacking and the direction was missing. No one seemed to care whether they were believable. Nicole Kidman was embarrassing in her role, and the whole thing stank. I give it a 1 out of 5.
  • Dead Alive: (New Zealand - aka Braindead) I didn't even know they made movies in New Zealand. This one was made in 1992, but it's a period piece, depicting a viral induced zombie outbreak that occurred in the 50's? The costumes, locations and sets were great. The acting was 'Over the top, tongue in cheek campy". The special effects were abysmal but effective. This was definitely the most egregious slasher splatter gore-fest I've ever seen. The story is plausible, if not a bit thin. Sumatran rat monkey is infected with some sort of disease, bites someone's mother, she turns into a zombie (after someone symptoms develop), and then the twist comes in. Instead of immediately destroying her, or her infecting the rest of the town, the lead character tries to hide her in his basement. She bites others and the situation spirals out of control. The giant 'Mother Zombie' in the climactic battle reminds me of the 'Mother Alien' from the 'Alien' series of movies. Buckets of blood, undead zombies, and campy acting. The characters were delightfully stereotyped, and the lines delivered were pretty good. I especially liked the 'Kung-Fu minister'. His line of "I kick ass for the Lord" and supernatural Kung-fu moves were hysterical. It. Another memorable scene is the main character coming through the front door of the house with a lawn mower strapped to his chest. He says "Party's over", starts the lawnmower, and becomes a human Cuisinart blending up an 'Undead daiquiri". If this movie wasn't so funny it would have been a disaster. Heavily influenced by 'Evil Dead' and 'Army of Darkness' movies. I give it 4 out of 5.
  • I'm not scared: (Italian - Io non ho paura) Directed by Gabriele Salvatores, this suspenseful thriller features some great child actors, and a lush environment. In an idyllic Italian countryside, the lead character discovers a child imprisoned in a hole in the ground. The story is told through the eyes of children, and it was very well done. The music was great, but it wasn't suspenseful enough. It didn't match the mood of the events unfolding on the screen. While the title was "I'm not scared", the main character should've been. If he knew what was good for him. I give it a 4 out of 5.
  • Anchorman: Will Ferrell at his funiest.What a laugh fest. Written by Adam McKay & Will Ferrel, Directed by Adam McKay. I thought it was just going to be another one of those extended 'Saturday Night Live' skits. You know, some yucks, and a 'little' story. Well, it was much more. A LOT of laughs, and a little story. Seriously though, the story was thin at best. I could care less about 'Ron Burgundy', he was just a good reason to poke fun at the 70's, ourselves and goofy anchormen. 'Great Odin's beard' this was a funny movie. Everyone in the movie was funny. The news team fight scene was awesome. The soundtrack was great. This movie gets a 5 out of 5.
  • Campfire: (Israel - Medurat Hashevet) My third movie from - This one came on time. It's November's selection, but the movies are supposed to be shipped half way through the previous month. A splendid drama filmed in Israel. Fantastic directing and acting in a story about a young mother who's trying to restart her life a year after the death of her husband. Can she fall in love for the first time? Will she be able to provide safety and parenting to her two young daughters? At the same time her two daughters are learning about love, friendship and sex? Will her community accept a single mother as a peer? Examines several critical themes in a male dominated society. Very well done. I give it a 4 out of 5.

Movies seen/reviewed this year (2005)
[ Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]

Sep (20/1/1)

  • Napoleon Dynamite: Sheer delight. Geeks rule! This movie chronicles one geeks journey through a week of high school hell. It brought back a lot of memories for me, the characters were full of flavor. Quirky and real, tragic and truthful. Yeah it was funny, but is was also satirical and dramatic. The pacing and directing were fantastic. The music and characters transported me back to 1982 (just like one of the characters in the movie). I graduated in 1982, and this movie was my time machine. Gets better with repeat viewings. A 5 out of 5.
  • The station agent: Far better than I anticipated. At first I shied away from this movie because of it's main actor. I thought - A Dwarf in the lead role? Surely it's just a gimmick to get you to watch it. Not so! Peter Dinklage does an absolutely fantastic job, and the movie isn't a parody or joke. It's a serious character based drama. A romantic idealization of life's miseries. Peter Dinklage plays the inheritor of a train depot. With his best friend dead, and no other prospects, he packs up his bag and walks to his new 'home', where he takes up residence as the 'Station Agent'. This one gets a 5 out of 5. A recommendation from someone who rode in the back seat during this years World Forum.
  • Kontroll: (Hungarian) Wow! I was blown away. What a great movie! A character based drama, with a little romance and a murder mystery mixed in. Filmed on location in the subways of Budapest and starring complete unknowns (to American audiences); the main characters are subway 'Control' officers. Their job, eject the freeloaders and control the flow. The subways are a place where all the cities citizens converge. It's a melting pot of drama where the characters range the gamut from mundane to murderous. I found myself riveted to the screen as this subterranean cinema careened past my retinas. A 5 out of 5 for sure.
  • Once upon a time in the west: (Italian - C'era una volta il West) A movie by the legendary Sergio Leone (Director of the original spaghetti westerns starring Clint Eastwood). The characters are all misfits, renegades, murderers and opportunists. Out to make a buck off their fellow man, the characters lie, cheat, steal, and kill in order to stay one step ahead of the next guy. In the end, even the cold-blooded are seeking redemption of some sort or another, unfortunately - redemption comes at a very heavy price. Some great acting (Henry Fonda as a heavy was great casting), excellent directing, and best of all was the camera work. The movie was a bit long and drawn out at times, but overall it was a joy to watch. The character intros at the beginning of the film were great, and the music by Ennio Morricone was perfectly suited to this fable of the west. This flick earns 4 out of 5.
  • The night of the generals: (British) Not yet released on DVD (and I can see why), this movie lacked any compelling performances. It moved slowly, and it was difficult watching Peter O'Toole as a Nazi general. Listening to a German officer with a heavy British accent was a real mood killer for me. It starts out o.k. but it fails to reach it's potential. A narrated movie set in WWII and the 1960's, this movie jumped back and forth with no transition pieces. Sometimes I lost track of the era as the film style, coloring and costumes were nearly identical from one setting to the next. What could have been a pretty good murder mystery, ends up as a movie about a plot to kill Hitler. It ended up feeling more like a History Channel special than a dramatic suspense mystery. The only redeaming part of this movie were the sets, locations and costumes, which were authentic, realistic and thouroughly researched. I give it a 2 out of 5. I watched this movie using Comcast's OnDemand service.
  • THX 1138: George Lucas' first feature length film. This is a dark vision of the future. Living in an underground city, the citizens are treated more like inmates and machinery than individuals. Sex and free thought are strictly controlled, monitored and regulated with drugs and psycho therapy. The main character (Robert Duval) rebels against this rigorous structure, and is thrown into a 'prison' with other malcontents and social delinquents. The language, sets and costumes create a truly alternative view of our future. Visionary and daring, this movie deserves more attention. 4 out of 5.
  • The Machinist: (Spanish - Maquinista, El) This one surprised me. First of all, the performance by Christian Bale, was awesome. (I can't believe he lost all that weight to take this role) I thought it was just another serial killer murder mystery where the lead character ends up being the murderer. The lead character hasn't slept in over a year. Is his amnesia causing him to do things he wouldn't do otherwise, or - does he have amnesia because of the things he's done? Filled with powerful imagery and intriguing plot twists, I was very surprised by the ending and the significant hidden plot. I though I'd seen it all, but this was definitely a first. I've never seen a movie with this 'theme' before. A powerful story, masterfully told. Suspenseful throughout. This is one of those few movies that I can honestly say 'I never saw it coming'. Great characters, sets, locations and sound work. The ending actually ties up all the lose ends in a graceful climax that leaves you stunned. A recommendation from a friend prompted me to move this one up on my list, and I'm glad I did. 5 out of 5.
  • Crash: I liked the casting, I loved the direction, the music was excellent, the characters were great, but I hated the story. I despise the disjointed multiple stories equals a story concept. I don't buy it. A recent trend, let's just take a bunch of disconnected characters, tie them together through scripting connections and we'll make a movie out of it. It's almost as if someone bought up the rights to a bunch of unfinished stories, and rather than develop one of them, they simply connected them together with some connect-the-dot writing. What was the plot? Umm, there were something like eight plots... The premise? Something that unites all these movies? The world is full of racist shit bags, and people who hate everyone including themselves. There's really nothing new or special about this movie. As a matter of fact, I wish I hadn't seen it. It's just another waste of time and talent. I give it a 2 out of 5.
  • Gunner Palace: A documentary. A well done documentary that focused on the soldiers point of view. Shot on location in Uday Husein's bombed out pleasure palace. A view of Iraq as a post modern shell crater. Non-pretentious, but avoiding any real danger. A little bit controversial, it felt like the soldiers were holding back their true feelings. How would I know? I served 20 years in the military. Excellent camera work, editing and direction. I give it 3 out of 5.
  • Star Trek - The original series - Vol. 9 [Shore Leave / The squire of Gothos ]: I've started viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), and I loved it back then. You know what? I still love it. My friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. Shore Leave features more of the Star Trek lovelies. One crew member gives Kirk a back massage on the bridge, two others accompany the away team to the planet. Speaking of the back massage on the bridge, it's amazing how unacceptable that sort of behavior is in today's military. As a mater any physical contact is shunned. Is it just today's military, or is our society now unwilling to allow us to touch each other? The locations in this episode are truly beautiful. The squire includes an exceptional performance by William Campbell as Trelane an alien child who appears to be much older than he is (a common theme in TOS). This is a pretty good episode, it seems to set the stage for the 'Q' character of later Star Trek series.
  • Henry & June: A very sensual film with a great cast. A character based drama/romance. The characters are writers and lovers. Infidelity seems to have no bearing on the conscience of the characters, and they find themselves in each others beds quite often. The main character is discovering her sexuality in the arms of some experientialists - Those who believe that life is best when you have more 'experiences' than the next person. A story based on the true life diaries of someone who 'knew' the American novelist Henry Miller. While the movie was well directed, the dialog was agonizingly like a novel - No one would actually talk like that. There didn't seem to be any real plot, and the movie suffered from that. Despite the exploratory risk taking treatise of the movie, the movie took no risks, and it failed to achieve the artistic expression it was reaching for. I give it a 3 out of 5.
  • 12 Angry Men: Shot in black & white, this 1957 release is the quintessential courtroom drama. A magnificent piece of writing, directing and acting. Outstanding performances by an all-star cast (Martin Balsam, John Fiedler, Lee J. Cobb, E.G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Ed Binns, Jack Warden, Henry Fonda, Joseph Sweeney, Ed Begley, George Voskovec, Robert Webber). A triumphant film. No special effects, pure drama - movie making with a purpose. The plot? Twelve men are sequestered in a death sentence murder case. The initial vote shows an eleven to one bias for guilty. What will the outcome be? Guilty or Innocent? A man's life hangs in the balance. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
  • I Heart Huckabees: (aka I Love Huckabees) This movie seems to be modeled after the Wes Anderson style of direction. A crazy film which explores several philosophical views. The characters are angst ridden cogs, dripping with uncertainty, insecurities and inner conflict, they seek the assistance of a group of existential investigators in an effort to see the 'Big Picture'. With some funny moments, quirky characters, and deep thought, this movie fails to deliver a polished product. The cast was great, and enjoyed the movie, but in the end it was a pale reflection of a Wes Anderson movie. I give it 3 out of 5.
  • For a few dollars more: (Italian - Per qualche dollaro in più) Directed by Sergio Leone , starring Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef, this is another classic 'Spaghetti Western'. The dialog is great, the music (by Ennio Morricone) is absolutely fantastic. The story is worthy of any classic western, and the movie drips with atmosphere. The sets, locations and costumes create an authentic feeling that never fails to satisfy. The introspective close-ups and flashbacks add immeasurably to the drama, and the performances are genre casting. I give it a 5 out o5.
  • The Great Dictator: A black and white gem from the early age of cinema. I thought this was going to be a silent film, but I was pleasantly surprised to find Charles Chaplin has a voice. Not only does Chaplin take on several roles in this movie. He also wrote, directed, and produced the film. This movie was one of only two American movies to ridicule/condemn Hitler prior to U.S. involvement in WWII. The dialog is fantastic, creating a sociopolitical statement with imagery and some very sparse lines, while maintaining a lighthearted comedic edge. I give it a 4 out of 5.
  • Donovan's Reef: Movie released in 1963. Directed by John Ford, starring John Wayne and Lee Marvin. Horrific writing, poor acting, great locations, sets and costumes. This knock-about comedy was a ridiculous half hearted attempt to place the cast together. Ten minutes worth of actual plot development, followed by an hour and 20 minutes of filler (singing, dancing, badly staged brawling, and stereotyped characters). Continuity and plot holes big enough to drive a Destroyer through, and a horrid sound track. It seems as if this movie might have been one of those 'I wrote it on a paper napkin' scripts. The last movie John Wayne did with John Ford - Thank god! John Wayne simply walked through this movie, exerting no effort, producing no performances whatsoever. I give it a 1 out of 5.
  • Nói the Albino: (Icelandic - Nói albínói) A charming character based drama. The best part was the locations, the costumes and the characters. Hmmm, that's about right. The plot? Teenage boy is a misunderstood savant trying to cope in a boring backwater village. Teen angst Icelandic style. Acting by the lead wasn't bad. A bit depressing at times. The landscape, cinematography and colors really helped establish a mood of listlessness and despair. I give it a 3 out of 5.
  • Sin City: O.k. I admit it. I broke one of my rules, and I paid for it. This movie was on my 'must watch' list, but I bumped it to 'must buy' based on reviews and comments from friends. I made a mistake. While this movie was well done. I liked the Film Noir detective style, I liked the colors, I liked the characters, I liked the casting, the music was fantastic and the directing was great. What didn't I like? What was wrong with this movie? Violence. That's it - The plot? I have no idea, maybe the plot was violence. That must have been it. Violence in 'Sin City'. All the stories were dripping in violence. The other thing I didn't like about the movie? The story. There wasn't one. Not one but several. It was another one of those 'several stories equals one story' movies. Take a bunch of separate stories and tie them together. It's a recently resurrected trend, and I don't care for it at all. Despite all the things I liked about this movie, I give it a 3 out of 5. The violence was really repulsive.
  • Closer: A character based drama. A chick flick. A same old story love story. Four people decieve themselves and each other. In the end it's a wash. Two people find love, two people end up unhappy. It's a tie. The writting was excellent, the sets locations and costumes were right on target, the casting and acting were great, the directing felt forced and artificial. I never really believed in the situations or characters. I know it was based on a play, but it shouldn't have been shot like a play. Way, way, way to much talking! Constant dialog pretty much ruined what could have been a great movie. There wasn't anything new here, and the opportunity to make a moving drama about love and betrayal was wasted. I give it a 3 out of 5.
  • Zatôichi: (Japanese) Written, directed, produced, and starring - Shintarô Katsu as Zatoichi the blind swordsman. The origin of dozens of movies, this is the original blind swordsman movie. A great action flick. Fantastic choreography, an epic film with social context and powerful images. The locations, sets and costumes were all authentic. The casting, acting and writing were excellent. An aging blind man wanders the country side in search of? Viewers are left wondering about the main characters background, but his motives and morals are clear - A powerful proponent of the Bushido code. With a lightning fast fighting style, Zatoichi remains warm and loving despite the harsh arrogance of a world ruled by Yakuza and corrupt politicians. This movie is a compilation of various Zatoichi movies, edited and updated in 1989, it's a masterful work. The music (including a live Japanese performance of traditional ethnic music) is great. Many of the camera shots are memorable, and the action is non-stop. I give it 4 out of 5.
  • Open City: (Italian - Roma, città aperta) Written (in part) by Federico Fellini and directed by Roberto Rossellini. This black and white movie was made in 1945. The embers of WWII were still hot when it was made, and the wounds had barely begun to heal. When it was released in theaters, this movie was as current as the rubble on the side of the road. A drama set in Nazi occupied Italy. Partisan's risked their lives to liberate Italy, to restore some semblance of order, and unite a humiliated nation. The casting and acting were pretty good. The sets, locations and costumes were as genuine as it gets. A powerful movie about pain, suffering, hope and resolve. Set a year earlier than it was shot, the movie focused on the Nazi capture of a resistance leader. The production quality wasn't that good, and the film suffered from a horrible translation (subtitles) job. There were long stretches of conversation (in Italian (or German)) that either weren't translated at all, or they were reduced to a single sentence. Thankfully; having spent seven years in Italy, I was able to follow some of the Italian, despite the atrocious subtitling. A great movie that deserves a better restoration. I give it a 4 out of 5.

Movies seen/reviewed this year (2005)
[ Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]

Aug (22/9)

  • Be Cool: One of Kim's picks - I watched it because I didn't have any movies to watch from my NetFlix queue. A disaster of epic proportions. It wasn't a disaster movie, the movie was a disaster. Was there a plot? I'm not quite sure. There were a couple of jokes, but the jokes kept repeating over and over and over and over. The acting was terrible, the directing a sham, the music was o.k. This movie was so bad that I found myself fast forwarding through various scenes Musical talent singing, dance scene between Travolta and Uma Thurman (we've seen that before), scene where singer does duet with aging rock star Steven Tyler (From Aerosmith) - not a good choice for a duet, there were other scenes I fast forwarded through as well. Thankfully I don't remember those parts very well. A total of a 1/2 hour went the way of the fast forward button, as I struggled to stay awake during this incredibly bad and boring movie. It's a shame really, because John Travolta's acting wasn't all that bad in this movie (he wasn't forcing it at all). The characters were highly stereotyped, and there were no redeeming features in this movie. I rate it 1 out of 5.
  • Ran: An epic cinematic vision from Akira Kurosawa. This is a Japanese adaptation of Shakespere's King Lear. It's not King Lear, it's a rendering of King Lear. King Lear's premise, wrapped in Japanese history, social context, characters, and principles. A long movie (160 minutes), but well worth the reward. The stylized fight scenes are excellent. The locations and costumes superb. When an elderly lord steps aside to let his son's rule in his stead, they plot against him and each other. The outcome is tragic in the Shakesperean sense. Well worth the watching. 5 out of 5.
  • Monty Python live: (A 2 disc set) All their best stuff. Great skits from the shows, plus some live appearances. The appearance in Aspen, Colorado was quite memorable. Unfortunately the production value wasn't that good. It was actually four different productions cobbled together on two discs. Throw in some extra menu items, and call it a new movie? Although I love the skits, I guess the movies have always been better. I felt a little bit cheated, as the live portion of this release was all material that I've seen before. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
  • Star Trek - The original series - Vol. 6 [Miri / The conscience of the king ]: I've started viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), and I loved it back then. You know what? I still love it. My friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. The acting was stage like and corny, but the stories grabbed you by the hand phaser and applied the Vulcan nerve pinch. Miri was a very interesting episode. One of my favorites. The Enterprise encounters an identical earth where all the adults died over 300 years ago, but the children live on? Aging only 1 month for every 100 years, their immortality ends when they enter puberty. Kirk and the crew soon find that they are infected with the biologically engineered 'disease' that killed all the adults. The conscience of the king is about a mass murderer. A dictator who's decisions resulted in the slaughter of millions just in time for supplies to show up. As he skirts the law by hiding in a traveling Shakespearean acting troupe, his daughter has been methodically killing off all the witnesses. This episode featured some great twists, excellent acting and more social content. As usual the Original Series never fails to entertain, enlighten, and challenge the social status quo.
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: I've seen this movie before. Directed by Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python fame), I thought I'd give it another try. This movie glorifies the drug culture, and that's probably why I despise it so much. The plot? I don't think there really is one. A drug crazed couple - Writer/reporter and his 'Attorney' - are on a journey across America. I think their goal was self indulgence beyond all excess. The director is one of my favorites. I truly enjoyed some of his other work: Monty Python & the Quest for the Holy Grail, Brazil, The Meaning of Life, Life of Brian, Time Bandits, Twelve monkeys, The Fischer king. In addition to Terry Gilliam's direction, the movie starred Johnny Depp, an actor I hate to admit liking. Despite these two high marks, this movie earned a begrudging 2 out of 5. I actually stopped watching with about 15 minutes to go. I can't imagine any ending justifying continued viewing. I did not like this movie.
  • The lower depths: (Japanese - Donzoko) Another classic by a master of the art: Akira Kurosawa. Based on a play by Maxim Gorky, this movie portrays the life of Japan's lower caste. Bankrupt occupant's (in more than one sense) of an Edo era communal tenement struggle with their handicaps to overcome the hardships of life. A spectacular character based drama. All the action takes place in/around a dilapidated building that would better suit horses than humans. At the beginning of the film, a strange old man comes to stay with them for a short time. While he's there, he reminds them of their dreams, reinforces their self determination, and reminds them that despite their short comings, they're lives are just as valuable as the landlord next door. At times the movie moves a bit slowly, but as an American, I guess I've been indoctrinated to expect a rapidly moving show that doesn't waste time on frivolous things - like 'character development'. The comic singing and dancing in this movie must be the origins of Rap music. Traditional Edo percussion and improvised music lift your spirits in an otherwise dark comedy. The acting was terrific, and the ending was fantastic - way ahead of its time. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
  • Lord of the Rings - Fellowship of the Ring: The debut of a new type of fantasy movie. This movie is a hallmark production in the fantasy genre. Tolkien and other authors have defined a genre which the movies have tried in vain to reflect. Until the release of this movie, those reflections were pale, pallid, and distorted. Like eating fat free ice cream on a hot summer night. This movie got it right, everything felt real. Outstanding cast, dramatic performances, magnificent direction, spectacular effects, fantastic costumes, make-up, sets, locations - my god, the locations!, music that charged the soul and a story like something out of the bible. The fantasy genre has a new high water mark. This film will set a standard that others can only dream of reaching. This movie does for the fantasy genre what blade runner did for the sci-fi genre. I give it a 5 out of 5. I bought a copy as soon as it came out.
  • Mister Roberts: Released in 1955, this comedy is tops. A fantastic cast (Henry Fonda, James Cagney, Jack Lemmon), excellent directing, and a great story. One of the US Navy's humble supply ships sets the stage for this dramedy. A comedic drama with a great cast of characters. The guys a going stir crazy, the Captain can't stand his crew, the first mate wants off this 'Bucket' and into combat, the nurses are 'Oo-la-la', and the ensign is trying his best to stay under the radar. Based on a play, this movie earns a 4 out of 5 in my book.
  • Rear Window: Directed by Alfred Hitchcock - That gets it two stars automatically, add a great cast, some terrific acting and some chair gripping suspense and you've got yourself one hell of a movie. James Stewart plays a world hopping photographer laid up at home due to a crippling injury. Grace Kelly plays the knock-out (my god is she gorgeous!) girlfriend, Wendell Corey plays the reluctant detective, and Raymond Burr plays the presumed murderer. Watching the world pass by outside his window, James Stewart's character thinks his neighbor might have murdered his wife. Paranoia turns tragic as events unfold. This one earns 4 stars.
  • House of flying daggers: (Chinese - Shi mian mai fu / Ambushed from Ten Directions) Warning - This one is a chick flick! Might go over well with the female audience, but I felt a little bit deceived. The name conjured up something entirely different. While the camera work, costumes, locations and sets were fantastic, the story suffered greatly. There was a pretty good plot involving infiltration, some nasty plot twists and surprises in the characters. In the end the sub-plots, settings and background were all useless flavoring for a pretty basic triangular betrayal love story with a tragic ending. This movie gets a 3 out of 5 based on the music, camera work, costumes, sets and locations. Basically the dressing. Well dressed, but lacking in substance.
  • Young Frankenstein: A comedy classic. Directed by Mel Brooks, starring Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn and Teri Garr. You've seen this movie before, but never like this. Non-stop laughs, great lines and fantastic direction. Shot in black and white, the lack of color never even enters your mind as your bowled over by this comical adaptation of Mary Shelley's original. This one earns a 5 out of 5.
  • Hide and Seek: A disappointing thriller. The movie starts o.k. With Robert DeNiro playing the unlikely father of a nine year old girl (played by Dakota Fanning). Mom dies - She commits suicide - and the daughter is having a hard time coping with the loss. The father insists on taking his daughter away from everything familiar, moving to the country and starting over. The movie was a bit slow at times, and the ending was abysmal. I saw the 'Secret Window' twist coming about fifteen minutes out, and DeNiro had a hard time playing the role once the subterfuge was revealed. Not worthy. Lacking energy, originality and distinction. What's up with DeNiro? These roles suck and his performance hasn't been that good of late. This one gets a 2 out of 5.
  • Hukkle: (Hungarian) A foreign gem, this stylish movie is shot without dialog in vivid scenes of exceptional quality. The camera work, sound work, and production are flawless. At first, one wonders what it's all about. Just in case you weren't paying attention, it's a murder mystery. Pastoral and pedantic scenes of seemingly harmless villagers going about their boring lives. These seemingly mundane scenes of citizenry are interwoven with fateful glimpses into the natural world. As the reel unravels, I began to notice that a lot of people were dying. There were no scenes of violence, no glimpses into the killers psychotic and twisted mind, and the investigator didn't strike me as being all that smart. In the end, it's a couple of folk songs, sung at a wedding that reveal the true nature of the murders. The revelation without dialog was well worth the journey. This movie definitely deserves high marks. I'd like to see more by this director (György Pálfi) his ability to tell a story without dialog speaks well for his talent. 5 out of 5.
  • Tombstone: A classic tale of the west. This story has been told before, but never with this much gusto. The cast was fantastic: Kurt Russell .... Wyatt Earp, Val Kilmer .... Doc Holliday, Sam Elliott .... Virgil Earp, Bill Paxton .... Morgan Earp, Powers Boothe .... Curly Bill Brocious, Michael Biehn .... Johnny Ringo, Charlton Heston .... Henry Hooker. The acting was simply superb. The directing sublime, and the story was classic. What more could you ask for? How about some great lines?
    • Johnny Ringo: Isn't anyone here man enough to play for blood?
      Doc Holliday: I'm your huckleberry.
    • Ike Clanton: What is that Holiday? Twelve hands in a row? Ain't nobody that lucky.
      Doc Holliday: Why Ike, whatever do you mean? Maybe poker's just not your game. I know! Let's have a spelling contest!
    • Sherman McMasters: Where is he?
      Doc Holliday: Down by the creek, walking on water.
    I could go on all day. One of the best exchanges takes place in Latin. Can you believe it? Latin in a western? The writing by Kevin Jarre was exceptional. This is a great movie. The movies based on historical figures always seem to be winners with me. This one gets, can you guess it? Of course; 5 out of 5.
  • The Man who knew too little: A comedy that still makes me laugh. Starring Bill Murray, one of my favorites, as an unwitting spy in a comic thriller/parody about espionage and the cold war. Bill Murray's plays a video store clerk who drops in on his brother unexpectedly. As a birthday gift, his brother gets him a 'Theater of Life' experience. The 'Theater of Life' turns real when Murray's character mistakenly answers a phone call meant for an assassin. Thinking he's in some great act, the character becomes involved in a cold war spy caper. The directing is very good, the writing is terrific, and Murray delivers like no other. This film is a comic riot run amok. Murray doing the Russian dance act was great. Reminiscent of Chevy Chase's 'Fletch' movies. Not to be compared with 'The Game'. Very little relationship to 'The man who knew too much'. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
  • Time of the Wolf (French - Le Temps du Loup) This movie moves as slowly as a post holocaust reconstruction effort. A family does their best to cope in a post holocaust world (The cause of this destruction is never revealed). Right off the bat, the husband/father character is murdered by squatters when the family tries to move into their summer home, and the movie looks like it's off to a good start. Unfortunately, the movie slows way down after that. This movie delivers no resolution, no character arc completion, and nothing satisfying comes from it. At the end of the movie we're left wondering what happened to the family, did the train ever come? It was well shot cinematically, but if there was any writing - it was lacking. They killed a few animals to make this movie. I remember at least three scenes where animals are killed, and there are other scenes where 'dead' animals are featured. One scene in particular was somewhat disturbing. The killing of a horse, where it was shot several times, and then just to shock the audience, it's jugular was sliced open with a knife. This part was covered very closely by the camera. Perhaps the killing of horses (animals) is an acceptable practice in French cinema, but I'm guessing that it was done more to shock American audiences than it was to advance the story. Either that or the person who wrote the screenplay really hated animals. No soundtrack? This one gets a 2 out of 5. I watched this movie on Comcast's OnDemand - Palm Pictures channel.
  • Star Trek - The original series - Vol. 8 [The Menagerie, Part I / The Menagerie, Part II ]: I've started viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), and I loved it back then. You know what? I still love it. My friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. The acting was stage like and corny, but the stories grabbed you by the hand phaser and applied the Vulcan nerve pinch. The Menagerie was the only two part episode in the Original Series. Roddenberry did a very good job of incorporating the original pilot episode (The Cage) into the Star Trek storyline as part of the Enterprise's earlier history. In this two part show, Spock hijacks the Enterprise, taking it to a nearby Star Base. Once there he kidnaps his wheelchair bound former Captain (Christopher Pike), and heads for Talos IV. Kirk & Commodore Mendez pursue in a shuttle craft. When they run out of fuel, Spock takes them aboard and places himself under arrest! From that point on we witness Spock's court martial. As events unfold we learn what happened to Capt Pike, Spock and the rest of the Enterprise on Talos IV. A great show. A courtroom drama that could decide the fate of the Enterprise crew as Kirk is eventually drawn into a murder charge!
  • Roads to Koktebel: (Russian - Коктебель) The first movie I've received as part of my membership in the DVD club (see "What's New" for more details). This movie was pretty good. It was a winner at the Moscow International Film Festival, and it hasn't been released to general audiences yet. A character based drama, a father son story. The camera work was good, the locations were great, the characters and acting were truly authentic. The story was moving, and the ending splendid. Father and son set out from Moscow. They're walking to the father's sister's house in the Crimea. The journey is the story. I give it a 4 out of 5. Not a bad start.
  • The Thirteenth Floor: This movie came out a month after The Matrix (April 1999). Unfortunately, it got completely drowned out by that film. This is a fantastic piece of work. Written by and directed by Jeff Rusnak. This movie is a twisted Sci-Fi film-noir detective story where the characters are on the verge of a momentous truth. When the final layer of this onion was peeled back I was blown away. A skillfully sculpted piece of art. Great acting and characters with substance and depth. Dramatic, subtle, colorful, touching and deep, this movie deserves more regard. 5 out of 5.
  • Malevolence: Slasher horror flick. Large time rip-off of the usual genre. Nothing original, poor acting and mediocre directing. Ten years after some 10 year old boy is kidnapped; a group of misfits attempts a bank robbery - which goes wrong. The hideout happens to be next door to an old slaughter house, where - you guessed it - a serial killer lurks. The twist in this movie is so straight I predicted it in the first five minutes of the movie. The music/sound effects was garish and irritating . The lighting was horrible... Oh my god! they set it up for a sequel! I think I've said enough. 1 out of 5.
  • Gandhi: Astonishing. A very moving picture. I never saw this movie when it first came out. To think, one man achieved so much without violence or the threat of violence. Could it truly be possible? In today's world, I wonder whether anyone can achieve anything without resorting to violence. He did so much in his life time, yet nations of dedicated millions can achieve nothing but destruction, violence, and loss. When will we learn the lessons that Gandhi taught? A cinematic masterpiece, featuring excellent acting by Ben Kingsley and a cast of astonishing actors, and fantastic directing by Richard Attenborough. A movie based on the real life of one of the most amazing men ever. Why did this movie win eight academy awards? Watch it and you'll know why. 5 out of 5.
  • Papillon: Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman in the greatest prison escape movie ever made. Another one of those great movies made in the 70's, where character development, plot, and acting counted for something. No explosions, no morphing cgi shots, no fancy camera tricks. This movie is 'The Great Escape'. The acting is top notch, the writing fantastic and the music was perfectly matched to the moods of the movie. Steve McQueen & Dustin Hoffman play prisoners at a penal colony in the jungles of French Guyana. Forced labor, threats of murder, malnutrition and torture. These two become partners in survival. One has money, one has a keen survival instinct. No one could escape from Devil's Island, but Papillon wasn't 'nobody'. This movie gets a 5 out of 5.
  • The Mystery of Picasso: (French - Le Mystère Picasso). Filmed in 1956, this movie certainly was different. I give it points for that. The mix of color and monochrome film was great. A documentary of sorts. The plot? Pablo Picasso paints. Yes, that's it. For 75 minutes, we watch Picasso draw, sketch and paint. Pablo Picasso may have been a great artist, and Henri-Georges Clouzot may have been a great director, but this "Movie" sucked. I fast forwarded through the whole thing. There was virtually no dialog, and the worst part of the whole movie was the fact that all the original artwork from this movie was destroyed in filming. 2 out of 5.
  • The Money Pit: A fantastic comedy starring Tom Hanks (one of my favorites) and Shelly Long (as cold in this movie as she was in Cheers). Hanks produces non-stop laughs as half of a couple who buys a lemon of a house out of desperation, and they have to suffer through it's reconstruction. The part where Hanks is stuck in the floor is hilarious. His hysterical laughing after the bathtub crashes through the floor felt genuine beyond the normal performance. This romantic comedy is worth watching again and again. That's why I bought a copy. I give it 4 out of 5.
  • The Jerk: Steve Martin at his best. Side splitting comedy. Directed by Carl Reiner, this classic is a gem from the 70's. Steve Martin as the adopted son of a black sharecropper's family. He sets off to find himself; ends up hunted by a deranged killer, becomes a ladies man, makes millions off a goofy invention, and then loses it all. In the end it's a movie about family ties. M. Emmet Walsh as the 'Phone Book Killer' was great. The writing was great, and this movie features several memorable lines (not necessarily in this order) and ridiculous bits:
    • Navin R. Johnson: The new phone book's here. The new phone book's here. This is the kind of spontaneous publicity I need. My name in print. That really makes somebody. Things are going to start happening to me now.
    • Sniper: Navin R. Johnson... Sounds like a typical asshole.
    • Sniper: Die gas pumper!
    • Navin R. Johnson: He hates these cans. Stay away from the cans!
    • Sniper: Die, you random son of a bitch.
    The laughs go on and on and on. It made me laugh so much I puked (just kidding). If you don't have a copy you should. Go buy one today! 5 out of 5 (of course).
  • Death in Gaza: A documentary, made in Palestinian Israel. An HBO production. Journalists are covering the Intifada, and the uprising is running at full speed. What makes a Martyr? How do the Palestinian children cope in this atmosphere of hate? This documentary covers a pretty intense slice of life under the gun. So intense, that one of the journalists was killed by an Israeli bullet during the filming of this movie. Not for the faint of heart, this movie features a lot of violence, blood shed and hate. I give it a 3 out of 5.
  • A face in the crowd: This one took me a long time to watch. I work 12 hour shifts, and I tried to watch this one during my work week. Made in 1957, it's only 125 minutes long, but the shift work was a killer, and the movie moved slowly at times. A fantastic cast, starring: Andy Griffith .... Lonesome Rhodes, Patricia Neal .... Marcia Jeffries, Anthony Franciosa .... Joey, Walter Matthau .... Mel Miller, Lee Remick .... Betty Lou Fleckum. Andy Griffith is remarkable in the role of an Arkansas redneck turned media sensation. Very reminiscent of 'Network'. A movie with a lot of depth. The hobo starts out in a jail cell. A somewhat reluctant entrant on a radio program, this 'Face in the crowd' becomes more than he is, as the public eats up his media persona. Made by media, he is undone by it in the end. A discourse on the abuse of power and the power of television. The performances were very dramatic, and the message was poignant yet pertinent and timely. I give it a 4 out of 5.
  • Rashomon: (Japanese - Rashômon) Another film directed by Akira Kurosawa (The best film maker ever!). Subtitled in english and produced in 1950, this black and white movie contained some groundbreaking camera work. The opening scenes where the axeman walks through the woods is just fantastic. The use of weather as an element of the film is great. The locations and sets are beautiful, and the story is terrific. A murder mystery where everyone sees things differently. Another 5 out of 5 for Akira Kurosawa.
  • Control: Released in 2004, this movie was a direct to DVD release. I'm pretty sure this movie was produced for the US market by the Czech/Slovak film industry. That might explain why it went straight to DVD. It wasn't all that good of a movie, but I'm a fan of Ray Liotta and Willem Dafoe. A convicted murderer on death row is given a second chance. His execution is faked, and then he's offered the 'Second Chance'. He can enter an experimental drug/therapy treatment program, or die. Umm, faced with this vexing choice, the killer chooses to live. The drugs are supposed to control his rage and suppress his violent tendencies. From the opening premise the movie devolves into a typical drama action thriller where the Russian Mafia tracks him down in his new life, so they can try to kill him... The direction wasn't all that great either, and the ending was a great disappointment. The movie gets high marks for the first half of the movie, as Ray Liotta plays the 'still violent' patient. Once he becomes more 'sedate' the film slides into mediocrity. This one gets a 3 out of 5 based on the first half of the movie.

Movies seen/reviewed this year (2005)
[ Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]

July (24/3)

  • Star Trek - The original series - Vol. 5 [What are little girls made of? / Dagger of the mind]: I've started viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), and I loved it back then. You know what? I still love it. My friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. The acting was stage like and corny, but the stories grabbed you by the hand phaser and applied the Vulcan nerve pinch. What are little girls made of? was made in 1966 and it was a racy episode. We start out with a mixed race couple on the bridge of the Enterprise. A social statement for the times, and immediately move to androids and the implication that humans were having 'relations' with androids . The android Andrea played by a very sexy looking Sherry Jackson. Dressed in a very revealing "X" shaped jumper, she certainly had me "Confused". The episode was written by Robert Bloch - author of "Psycho" and one of my favorite lovecraftian horror novelists. In this episode we learn that Kirk has an older brother named "George", that Kirk has always called "Sam". In this episode, Nurse Chapel's (played by Majel Barrett (Wife of Gene Roddenberry)) fiance is a mad scientist who's transferred his consciousness into an android, and has plans to convert humanity into a race of androids. Needless to say, Kirk doesn't go along with his plans. Yes - Kirk manages to get his shirt (all his clothes for that matter) off in this episode. Dagger of the mind is a rather lame episode dealing with psychiatry and a "Neuralizer" ray. The only exciting part of this episode is Dr. Helen Noel, the ship's psychiatrist - Played by Marianna Hill. Apparently she and Kirk previously met at a Christmas (apparently the future is politically incorrect) Party; Ahem, he stopped by her room afterwards... During the episode, Kirk is forced by the "Neuralizer" ray to make out with the hot Dr. who spends a lot of time crawling around in ventilation ducts. Is it just me, or are the skirts getting a lot shorter as the season progresses?
  • Ray: A BioPic about Ray Charles. The performance by Jamie Foxx was outstanding (He won an Oscar for his performance) - His performance was better than the movie itself. The movie was very well done, but it pretty much reduced Ray to a heroin using piano player who cheated on his wife. I would have liked to see something about his life after heroin. A story about perseverance, overcoming obstacles, and being true to yourself. The movie pretty much ended just as Ray got that monkey off his back. The production value was fantastic. The casting was great. The writing was great. I was absorbed by the movie - just couldn't stop watching; and listening - What a great soundtrack. Inspiration for anyone - Entertainment for everyone. A 5 out of 5.
  • The Jacket: A time travel movie - I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for all things related to time and time travel. I bought this one after reading the jacket. I'm glad I did. I wasn't disappointed. Adrien Brody plays a gulf war veteran who's already died once. In a tragic turn of events, he's convicted of murder and stuck in a hospital for the criminally insane. While he's there, one of the doctors puts him in a straight jacket and locks him in a cadaver drawer. The results are totally unexpected: Time travel - Obtaining personal knowledge of the future, he attempts to avoid the mistakes of his past and repair his present. Great casting, excellent pacing, great directing. fantastic sets and locations. The directing by John Maybury was exceptional. Creating a dark and detailed atmosphere, the characters are dripping with hidden secrets and rich with innuendo. The lighting, sound and decor immediately sucks you in to the movie. The music sets a mood, and the acting carries you through. I give it a 5 out of 5.
  • The Tingler: It's horrible! Astonishing! Incredibly bad. I absolutely despise a movie that talks to me, but pretends that I'm not there. This movie sucked. Vincent price sucked in this movie. The acting was terrible, the directing terrible, the music sucked. This movie was just all around bad. Some kind of parasite (the size of a prop mans forearm) lives inside all of us. Snuggled up along our backbone, it lives on fear, and screaming prevents it from killing you...? This movie was created as a set-up in order to electrocute the audience. The shows producers put vibration devices in the seats of the theater, and encouraged people to scream whenever they felt fear. I can't imagine anyone being frightened by this movie. It sucked. 1 out of 1.
  • Central Station: (Central do Brasil - Brazil) A fantastic foreign film. A character based drama. A single woman lives by writing letters for people at Rio's central station (she doesn't actually send the letters she writes), and a young boy wants to meet his father. The boys mothers has a letter written, and dies soon afterwards. With no relatives in Rio, the letter writer reluctantly takes up the task of re-uniting the boy and his father. A very touching tale of redemption and mercy in a place that's as rough as the streets of Rio. The writing is fantastic, the sets, locations and costumes are all authentic. The acting and casting are surprisingly genuine. I was caught up in their journey. Very well directed by Walter Salles. This movie was nominated for two oscars, and it's won several other awards. I give it a 4 out of 5.
  • Le Trou: (French - The Hole) Terrific movie. Shot in black & white, this prison break movie features a great cast, some fantastic acting, but lacking in passion, and simply brilliant directing (Jacques Becker's last film). The long receding camera shots down the basement passages are sublime. Five inmates conspire to escape from an ancient prison by digging a hole through the floor of their cell. One of the inmates later learns that the charges in his case have been dropped. Not the type of prison movie you'd expect to see given today's social context. Hardly and violence, drugs, sex, or profanity. The scenes of the inmates sharing their food is simply astonishing. I give it a 4 out of 5.
  • Spartan: Lacking in content - There were no performances in this movie, just actors reading lines. I was very disappointed in Val Kilmer's role in this movie - frankly, he did a piss poor job (I liked him in other roles - Tombstone, Batman Forever, The Ghost and the Darkness and The Salton Sea, ). I don't think there was a soundtrack at all, and the directing by David Mamet was pretty bad (another surprise. I really liked Heist). How many times have we seen this movie? Someone kidnaps the presidents daughter. O.k. I have to give the author some credit for turning the political tables on the characters, and casting the white house itself as the criminals in this one. Granted, no one wanted to see a movie that cast a pallor on the white house, but you've gotta given them credit for daring to tread there. With an 'R' rating, this movie stooped so low as to give us a 'from behind' shot as Kristen Bell (who seemed to be the only one trying to make this movie work) took off her top in a cliche'd attempt to get what she wanted. Her character was cast as being sexually loose and wanton (in a bid for attention from her parents?), but they wouldn't even give us a nude shot? I was disappointed. This one gets a 2 out of 5.
  • Assault on precinct 13: A fairly cliched move, with a somewhat worthy twist. This was a character based drama set in a run-down police station. A big bad crime lord is captured and he's on his way to trial. On the way there a storm hits the city and they have to detour the prisoner bus at a nearly deserted police station (Why does it have to be new years eve?). Anyway the crime lord and the cities 'usual suspects' are all thrown into a cell to weather the storm. The twist comes when someone shows up to break the crime lord out of the jail. It's a pretty good twist, and I have to give credit for that. The acting was ok, but some of the casting was off base (Ethan Hawke as Sgt. Roeneck). The acting by Laurence Fishburne and John Leguizamo was pretty good. The directing was alright. The music (until the closing score) was very good. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
  • The fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara. A documentary about (and starring) the political life and times of Robert S. McNamara. Technically well achieved, this documentary was very well produced, but it failed to take a critical look at the life and times of it's subject. He was treated with kid gloves throughout. His presence however, pretty much carried the film. Even at 85 years of age, he's still a very charismatic presence. The music was really good and the direction was well done. Like many other documentaries, this one suffered somewhat from pacing. I found myself nodding off at times. This one gets a 3 of 5.
  • Serpico: An awesome film - It sure looks like NetFlix has me pegged. If I like this movie, it recommends eight different movies; all of which I've seen, all of which I've rated five stars. This is another five star film. The performance by Al Pacino was spirited, genuine and visceral. A story about a straight cop in a corrupt system. Based on a true story, the writing and directing (Sidney Lumet) are exceptional. The music was great. The costumes, locations and sets gave the entire story an authenticity that's hard to capture now days. Another one of those great 70's movies. Another 5 out of 5.
  • Duplex: With Ben Stiller & Drew Barrymore. Another silly comedy - One of those lets make money on their names/reputations movies. It sucked. Directing by Danny Devito made it marginally better. Some of the film work was memorable. A completely predictable plot, characters and acting. These two have been so typecast that I can't possibly imagine them in any role other than the roles they played in this movie. If you've seen the previews for this movie, you've seen the movie. This one gets a 2 out of 5.
  • The Punisher: Another comic book movie. A remake of a 1989 movie. A marvel comic brought to the screen. This time around, we see a little better acting. Will Patton delivered the best performances; "You're killing me - Why are you killing me?" Mark Collie gave a memorable musical and theatrical performance as the bounty hunter. Definitely some better casting this time around. I enjoyed John Travolta as the villain (Howard Saint). This movie also featured a better ride for the punisher. In the original movie, the Punisher rides a motorcycle throughout the film. This time around he's driving a heavy duty Pontiac GTO with armor plating. Special effects were done the old fashioned way - In many ways they're better than some of the CGI crap we've seen of late. Despite all the good things, the directing was poor, and the story stale. This one gets a 2 out of 5.
  • The life aquatic: Charming, character based drama with subtle humor and great characters. I really, really, enjoyed this movie. The attention to detail is unbelievable, the fantastic creatures, the drama, the action sequences (Yes there were action sequences), everything was spectacular. An absolutely fantastic cast, great acting, awesome directing, moving music and more. I have three movies by Wes Anderson, and I've loved every one of them. This one moved from must watch to 'I bought it' as soon as it became available. Actors included: Bill Murray (Comic master), Owen Wilson (A favorite who got his start in another Wes Anderson movie), Cate Blanchett (Galadriel from 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy), Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe and Jeff Goldblum. The plot? A strange twisted one - Aging deep sea explorer uses the tragic demise of his partner to create a final 'last but best' documentary. While tracking down sea monster that ate his partner, he suffers a mid-life crisis, discovers a son he never had, his wide leaves him, he rescues a 'bond company stooge' from pirates, etc, etc, etc... The movie kept me glued to the couch while I was immersed in a totally self-contained magical world. I give it a 5 out of 5.
  • Blue collar comedy tour: Made in 2003, this movie captures four comedians on tour. Four comedians who cannot escape their redneck past make you laugh for 106 minutes. It's crude, abusive and downright raunchy, but damn, it's funny. These four 'gentleman' cracked my smile and made me laugh. What's the plot? Hell, they're trying to make you laugh. Very funny stuff. I gave it a 3 out of 5.
  • Close your eyes: (British - Also known as Hypnotic or Doctor Sleep) A great movie with no explosions or mind numbing CGI. A serial killer thriller with supernatural themes. The protagonist is a hypnotist with psychic powers. He's becomes involved in a murder mystery when a patient (trying to quit smoking) turns out to be a detective on the case. There are some pretty cool supernatural themes involved in this movie. Not only is the main character something of a psychic, the killer turns out to be someone quite unexpected. Great acting, excellent directing, and fantastic writing. I give it a 4 out 5.
  • Star Trek - The original series - Vol. 7 [The Galileo Seven / Court Martial ]: I've started viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), and I loved it back then. You know what? I still love it. My friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. The acting was stage like and corny, but the stories grabbed you by the hand phaser and applied the Vulcan nerve pinch. For some reason, NetFlix shipped me Vol. 6 but it never arrived. A week later, they claimed it had been returned. Damned post office - They must have delivered it to the wrong address, and then marked it 'No forwarding address', or some such crap. The Galileo Seven episode featured the first use of the Shuttle craft in the series (I think). We got a really good look at the Shuttle craft, both interior and exterior, as well as the hanger bay . The episode featured a crash landing on a planet inhabited by giant Neanderthal like giants. The inhabitants turn out to be hostile and some of the landing party are killed. Unfortunately Scotty has to use the phasers as an energy supply to get the shuttle back into orbit. In the meantime, Kirk is being hounded by some diplomat who keeps reminding him about their mission to provide supplies to stop a plague. In the end, Spock makes an 'Illogical' decision which results in the rescue of the away team at the last possible moment. Not one of the better episodes, the only redeeming part was Spock's use of 'instinct' to save the day. The Court Martial episode was a court room drama with a small fight sequence thrown in just to bare Kirk's chest for a minute or two. In this one Kirk is accused of negligence, and very nearly ends up loosing his command and going to prison. Luckily, Spock checks the computers capacity for error by playing against in a chess match. After he wins four times in a row, it becomes evident that someone has reprogrammed the computer. They then postulate that crew member that Kirk supposedly killed is behind it all. They manage to isolate his heart beat, and locate him in the engineering section. Bring on the fight music. This episode was another disappointment. No aliens, no sexy costumes, not much fighting.
  • Walking Tall: A remake of a 1973 classic. This movie, starring "Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson" suffered from lack of depth. The Rock did a good job acting (did I actually say that?) towards the beginning of the movie. Unfortunately, as the movie progressed the action increased, the acting decreased, and the writing fell by the way side. Eventually the movie became one giant shoot-em-up at the old lumber mill. There were some subplots in the movie (Vaughn for Sheriff, The old flame, The lumber mill, The main characters father), but they were brushed away by good old 'WWE' fight scenes. The film was written and directed like a pro-wrestling match. I give it a 2 out of 5.
  • The girl next door (Unrated version): A teen angst movie. Boy meets girl, but the girl is a porn star? A pleasant reminder of youth. Good acting by a fresh young cast. Some of the best acting came from Timothy Olyphant as the macho tough guy porn producer. Elisha Cuthbert was very sexy as the former porn star. Unfortunately, this movie (even the unrated one) fails to feature any nudity by the Elisha Cuthbert. I was a bit disappointed. Very reminiscent of Risky Business, but far more risque. Well written, with good directing and great music. Worth watching if your feeling randy. I give it a 3 out of 5.
  • Hotel Rwanda: A powerful and moving movie with excellent directing, acting and writing. Deserving of the praise that it's won, and the accolades it accumulated. This tale of Rwanda's suffering draws you into the personal lives of the characters involved, leaves you wondering why the rest of the world did nothing, and tells a very disturbing tale that's so compelling that you just can't look away. I give it a 5 out of 5. Unfortunately, it's not the sort of movie you'd want to own, or watch again.
  • Elektra: Another comic book made into a movie. Another mistake of a movie. Very reminiscent of 'Mortal Kombat', but nowhere near as good. A martial arts flick with supernatural flavor. The story was pretty lame, the love interest wasn't all that interesting. All the actors were beautiful people. The directing was forced and the acting was lackluster. The only bright spot in the movie was Terrance Stamp as 'Stick'. Just not that good of a movie. The music was pretty good. This one only gets a 2 out of 5.
  • Sideways: The story suffers some - Out of work writer and best friend depart on a 'last great adventure' in California wine country before one of them gets married (Smells of 'Four weddings and a funeral'). Thankfully, there's some pretty good writting and terrific characters. A believable slice of reality. This character based drama was refreshing but hardly worth the raves the critics gave it. The casting was good, but I didn't care for the acting that much - it was just a little too rehearsed. The music was really good. The ending was predictable and flat. This one gets a 3 out of 5 despite the over hyped expectations.
  • Bottle Rocket: How many Owen brothers are there? Another Wes Anderson movie. Quirky characters, a ridiculous plot, and subtle humor that borders on British. This is another one of those "you either get it - or you don't" movies. A group of common suburban buddies gang up to commit crimes. Unfortunately none of them is any good at crime, or much else for that matter, and their gang is a disaster waiting to happen. A great friendship movie. A Dramedy of non-epic proportions. The directing was excellent, the music was great, and the characters were Wes Anderson classic. I give it a 4 out of 5.
  • Bird Man of Alcatraz: A classic movie. Black and white, released in 1962. This is a true story. A movie based on a novel. The story is captivating, compelling and telling. A tale of American justice, individuality, perseverance and dignity. The writting was top notch. The acting outstanding, and the music was simply sublime. The directing was deliberate and focused. You couldn't help but watch as the drama unfolded. The balance of narration and traditional acting was perfect. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
  • Runaway Jury: A courtroom drama, similar in some respects to the pelican brief. Based on a John Grisham novel. The good guy in this movie is trying to sell a jury decision in a wrongful death suit against the gun industry. The courtroom arguments didn't carry much weight, but the character development and action outside the courtroom made up for that. Some great casting (John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz) and acting made this movie one worth watching. The ending had a twist, but, like most of Grisham's novels, I saw the twist coming quite a ways out. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
  • Blazing saddles: Ground breaking and politically incorrect. You may know this movie from the "Cowboys eating beans scene". It's a riot - a gag a minute, but funny as hell. With this movie we didn't come expecting a plot, and there wasn't much of that. Knowing that Mel Brooks made the movie I was prepared for mayhem, and he didn't disappoint. Some of the scenes are absolutely hilarious - Fantastic casting, writing and directing. There wasn't much acting to speak of, just actor-comedians delivering some damn funny lines. The plot? Save a town from evil rail-roaders by enlisting a black Sheriff! This one gets a 4 out of 5.

Movies seen/reviewed this year (2005)
[ Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]

June (22/2)

  • Good bye Lenin!: (German) This is a great movie. A staunch socialist suffers a heart attack and falls into a coma. While she's in the hospital, events outside unravel. The Berlin wall falls, the communist empire crumbles and her children grow up. She comes out of the coma eight months later and her son constructs an elaborate charade in order to shelter her from the shock of reality. Character based drama at it's best. The acting and directing were great, the casting, locations and sets terrific. Don't pass it up. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
  • In cold blood: Based on a Truman Capote non-fiction novel. The music (By Quincy Jones), cinematography and directing set this movie apart. Dark moody and brooding with a great cast. Robert Blake (Yes Baretta) and Scott Wilson give great performances in this drama about two low lifes who set out on a 'sure thing' only to end up taking a trip to the 'corner'. Shot in black & white (1967), this chilling tale recounts (in a subtle documentary style) the true life crime of two social derelicts. This one gets 5 out 5.
  • The Bourne Identity: The original (1988) made for TV movie. Based on Robert Ludlum's novel. This movie was a horrible production. Richard Chamberlain was unconvincing as the lead character (Jason Bourne). While it may have been a faithful adaptation of the novel, it wasn't very entertaining. Lacking the adrenalin pumping action of the remake, the casting suffered as well. It took a lot of imagination to believe in the characters. I swear, if I hear Jacklyn Smith scream just one more time... This one scored 2 out of 5.
  • Hud: Paul Newman gives us a hands down despicable portrayal of a lost cowboy at the end of the frontier era. Filmed in black and white, this western is a contemporary story of clashing cultures. With a great cast and great characters, Paul Newman truly shines as the outrageous and unstoppable Hud Bannon. The pacing was dead on, the locations, costumes and sets were terrific. Best of all was the writing. Based on a Lary McMurty novel, this tale of the west the past and the future spells out just waht it is that makes a man a real cowboy (Principles). 5 out of 5.
  • Star Trek - The original series - Vol. 2 [Mudd's women/The enemy within]: I've started viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), and I loved it back then. You know what? I still love it. My friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. The acting was stage like and corny, but the stories grabbed you by the hand phaser and applied the Vulcan nerve pinch. In "Mudd's women" we start to see a more light hearted episode, but the social context is still present. The enemy within gave us an evil Kirk that was a spectacular performance by Shatner. The overacting was never better. It was a lot of fun watching these two episodes and I'd buy the whole series, if I could afford it! I'll rate the first season (Volumes 1-15) after I've seen them all.
  • Godsend: One word well describes this movie. Flatulent (Without an Exclamation mark). What a dud. A socio-political comment on the ethics and morals of cloning. Medical ethics and horror with a clear political message. The acting in this movie was terrible, the casting was poor, and the direction wasn't very good. The ending was definitely anticlimactic. Although it was billed as a horror, the scariest part of this movie was the hint at a sequel! This one gets a 2 out of 5.
  • The big empty: A self titled movie? Humorous but hollow. Presumptuous and stale. A comedy with quirky characters. I'd describe this movie as 'Repo-Man' meets 'The big Lebowski' Great characters, good casting, but the performances came across as a little strained. The plot was some ridiculous story about a guy who delivers a briefcase to a cowboy in the middle of the desert. Rumors of aliens abound and the characters are highly disturbed. The best part of this movie was Rachael Leigh Cook as the hard drinking underage free spirit in search of something bigger than this hick town. The worst part of the movie, an R rating without getting to see Rachael Leigh Cook in the raw! I give this one a 2 out of 5.
  • Meet the Fockers: A sequel to a great movie. Most sequels don't live up to the original, and this one solidifies the stereotype. Good casting, but the writing and production stunk. It's like this movie was just a string of gags. No substance. The plot? The couple travel to see meet his parents. Yep, that's it. The rest was gag shots and bad jokes. Old, re-used jokes. This movie has been done before, now it's really done. If I were you I wouldn't give it a chance. I gave it a 2 out of 5.
  • Spanglish: A heartwarming comedy. A really good movie. The best part about this movie? It wasn't about Adam Sandler. This was a mother daughter movie. A great family movie. The casting was good but it would have been better without the big names of Adam Sandler and Tea Leoni. I'm really glad that Adam Sandler is breaking out of his type cast roles, and this movie joins 'Punch Drunk Love' as another example of how to do that. The movie was well directed and deserving of the 'Chick Flick' crowd. I enjoyed it as well. I give it a 4 out of 5.
  • Goodfellas: Stellar performances by Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Paul Sorvino. Another classic gangster flick. A bit long but well worth it. The locations, sets, costumes and music really bring you back to the 70's and 80's. Directed by Martin Scorsese, this movie joins a long list of favorites from this master of the silver screen. The story is based on real life people and events. It seems like all the best movies are based on true stories. I've seen this one before, and I forgot how much I enjoyed it. 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Oceans Twelve: A complete waste of my time. What a terrible movie. Way to many big names and bigger egos. The writing was horrible. You know what? A convoluted and twisted plot does not make for a good heist movie, and apparently, neither do the people who produced this piece of crap! I gave up on who was stealing what and tried to concentrate on the music. The only redeeming aspect of this movie. I wish I had never watched it. The mambo dancing sequence, where one of the crooks dances through a laser filled room was the height of stupidity. Nearly ten minutes of some lanky guy (a stand in) doing free form dance in a laser filled room. There were several instances where I had to force myself not to simply give up and call it a night. This one gets one. 1 out of 5 that is.
  • Blade - Trinity: Wesley Snipes is Blade. His portrayal of the character is subliminal. It's almost as if he believes he is Blade. The casting of Ryan Reynolds as Hannibal King was a mistake. This is not a comedy. I didn't appreciate the direction in this regard. An excellent action flick. The bad guy was bad, Blade was... Well Blade is blade. The good guy was. Wait a minute, who was the good guy in this movie? Anyway, like I was saying a damn good action flick. Great fight scenes. The car chase at the beginning of the movie was great, the music was great, so were the costumes. This one gets a 3 out of 5. Not as good as the original, but a match with the second one.
  • Eye of the Needle: I'm a sucker for a good espionage thriller. Based on a best-selling novel by Ken Follet, this movie is a well written screen adaptation. A roller coaster ride - a chase and evade romp across the English countryside. Donald Sutherland plays a German spy in London during World War II. An interesting turn of roles. Here we're treated to an opposite character view. Normally, american movies portray the 'good guy' behind enemy lines. In this movie we follow the bad guy's point of view. The love scene with Kate Nelligan was quite steamy, and it was a good movie overall. A bit too short to do the novel justice, but worth watching. I give it a 3 out of 5.
  • Star Trek - The original series - Vol. 3 [The man trap/The naked time]: I've started viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), and I loved it back then. You know what? I still love it. My friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. The acting was stage like and corny, but the stories grabbed you by the hand phaser and applied the Vulcan nerve pinch. The bio suits they wore in 'The man trap' look like something designed by a top notch fashion designer. More like pajamas than bio hazard suits. A really good looking Jeanne Bal played Nancy Crater (the M113 creature - aka the Salt Vampire) in this episode. The naked time feauted a few notable quotes. Spock is noted saying - "It's like nothing we've ever encountered before." Bruce Hyde, playing Lt. Kevin Riley get's two great quotes - "Have no fear, O'Riley's here, and one Irishman is worth 10,000 of you..." the other quote - "You know what Joe's mistake was? He wasn't born an Irishman." A great performance came from Stewart Moss, playing crewman Joey Tormolen. Unfortunately, his character dies in this episode. Fortunately, he comes back as a differenct character in "The conscience of the King". I sure had a lot of fun watching these two episodes and I'd buy the whole series, if I could afford it! I'll rate the first season (Volumes 1-15) after I've seen them all.
  • Conan the Barbarian: Pure Sword & Sorcery. Non-political Schwarzenegger. A great movie with great lines and no complicated plots. It's all about revenge - They killed his parents, his entire tribe, burned down his village, and enslaved all the children. Did they really think he'd just forget about it? "Conan, what is best in life? To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!" Imortal leaders of a snakc cult reap what they have sown. Great casting. James Earl Jones as Thulsa Doom was an unmistakable stroke of genius. A genre defining movie. This one gets 5 of 5.
  • Gallipoli: Starring Mel Gibson before he was big. This movie deserves some recognition in the anti-war category. Based on historical WWI events and the futility of war , this movie depicts the Australian asault during the Gallipoli campaign in German allied Turkey. While Mel Gibson wasn't the intended star of the movie, he ends up stealling the show. There's some humourous points - The Donkey brigade - to this serious movie, and the directing is really good. I give it a 4 out of 5.
  • Conan the Destroyer: Crap. Nowhere near as good as the first movie. Lacking in acting, writing, directing and special effects. This movie was the reason there were no more Conan movies. It sucked, and sucked badly. Played more for laughs than drama, the format change was a big mistake. The new thief wasn't as good as the original, and the acting and directing were very poor. The only good part of the movie is when Conan jumps on the back of the 'sleeping god', and pulls out its horn. That and Grace Jones in a thong. Just terrible. This one gets a 2 out of 5. No wonder it's packaged with Conan the Barbarian. No one would buy it otherwise.
  • Star Trek - The original series - Vol. 4 [Charlie X / Balance of Terror]: I've started viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), and I loved it back then. You know what? I still love it. My friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. The acting was stage like and corny, but the stories grabbed you by the hand phaser and applied the Vulcan nerve pinch. Charlie X contained some great lighting and camera work. The acting by Lawrence Dobkin (as Charlie X) was pretty good. We saw Spock playing a Vulcan Lyre, and Uhuru sang a couple limericks. Later Spock is forced to recite poetry. A pretty good episode. The balance of terror introduces the Romulan's. This show was a nuclear deterrent show, with anti-racist teachings. It also introduced Vincent McEveety to the series as a Romulan commander who goes down with his ship. He ends up appearing in six episodes and even plays Spock's father.
  • Cool Hand Luke: Magnificent film. Truly classic. Paul Newman's performance in this movie goes way beyond the standard performance. Understated and flippant; Newman plays the character like a concert pianist. The writing (Novel and screenplay) by Don Pearce was fantastic. The directing by Stuart Rosenburg (aka Alan Smithee) was outstanding. The main character is convicted of destroying public property and sent to a rural southern prison camp, where he works on a chain gang and strives to maintain his identity in a destructive atmosphere. He attempts escape on several occasions, and the warden is not happy. "What we have here is a failure to communicate." This one gets a 5 out of 5. Netflix sure has me figured out. It recommended this movie based on my rating of the following movies: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, On the Waterfront, Deliverance, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Dirty Dozen, Dog Day Afternoon and Chinatown. I rated all these movies 5 out of 5. Keep up the good work NetFlix.
  • The Great Escape: A true tale of WWII - The Nazi's have put all there 'rotten eggs' in one basket. Hundreds of downed flyers who've tried to escape are together in one POW camp. A great escape movie. The allied flyers (Mostly downed RAF pilots) try a daring mass escape from the most secure camp ever created. Tunneling day & night, they do their best to escape from their Nazi captors. Less brutal than the sadistic guards in 'Cool hand luke', the German guards seem downright likeable in this movie. A great cast, good music, and fantastic directing (by John Sturges). This movie dragged on a bit too long for my tastes (2 hrs, 54 mins). locations, costumes and set design lend an authentic air to this movie. The cast (Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, ) was too large to support adequate character development, and they're reduced to gimmicks (limps with cane, baseball thrower, scottish accent, claustrophobic, myopic bird watcher) to mark them as individuals. Despite some weaknesses, the story is strong, the pacing is good and the directing is fantastic. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
  • Marathon Man: Another classic from the seventies. My impression of film making in the seventies has definitely changed. The last few movies I saw from the seventies were great. Perhaps I was biased by disco and my first experiences with movies of the seventies (That would have been in the seventies). Starring Dustin Hoffman, Sir Laurence Olivier, Roy Scheider and William Devane. This is another Nazi thriller. Former Nazi war criminal comes out of hiding in order to collect his ill-gotten loot. A taught thriller set in New York, this movie starts out a bit slow, but the pacing picks up and the action keeps you guessing. It's a big conspiracy - "Is it safe?" Great story, terrific acting, casting and directing make for another 70's classic. This one gets a 5 out of 5. The dental scene is very chilling.
Movies seen/reviewed this year (2005)
[ Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]

May (16/1/1)

  • The third man : Black & White Film Noir from the 1940's. This murder mystery is a gem. The story is quaint, an American travels to occupied Vienna to take a job offered by a friend. When he arrives he finds that the friend has died in an accident. His inquisitive nature then leads him on a quest to discover the truth about 'Harry Lime'. Starring Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, and Trevor Howard. Directed by Carol Reed this Black & White thriller is as vivid as any technicolor release. The acting by Orson Welles was just amazing. The chase scenes were a bit long and forgone, but the mystery was quite engrossing. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
  • La Femme Nikita: (French) Brilliant - A masterpiece. A work of art. Directed by Luc Besson, this 80's action flick created an entire genre of action movies, an American remake (Point of no return), and a television series. Starring Anne Parillaud, Tchéky Karyo and Jean Reno. The movie cruises along at a quickening pace, and your pulse never lets up. The action is non-stop, but this isn't a one-sided movie. There's plenty of drama and emotion as well. The characters are well developed, and the acting is top notch. The ending of this movie is beautiful. I liked this one so much (5 out of 5), I've added it to my 'must buy' list.
  • The Weather Underground: A documentary about a radical student group that believed that 'Not taking action is an act of violence'. They bombed buildings, robbed banks, and engaged in an active campaign of terror intent on bringing down 'The System'. A movie about ideals, youth, personal beliefs and the counter-revolutionary left. Well done technically, but lacking fervor. A movie about the radical left really should grab the viewer by the throat and shake you until blood forms in your spittle. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
  • Saw: An excellent story, written and directed by James Wan. Good direction, but poor acting. The casting wasn't the best. I just wasn't convinced by the actors. A psycho drama thriller, where the killer doesn't actually kill anyone. They kill each other. I really liked the premise of the plot, the sets, locations & costumes. The ending had a twist that I didn't expect. Unfortunately, they waited until the end of the movie to surprise me. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
  • Anchorman: Will Ferrell at his funiest.What a laugh fest. Written by Adam McKay & Will Ferrel, Directed by Adam McKay. I thought it was just going to be another one of those extended 'Saturday Night Live' skits. You know, some yucks, and a 'little' story. Well, it was much more. A LOT of laughs, and a little story. Seriously though, the story was thin at best. I could care less about 'Ron Burgundy', he was just a good reason to poke fun at the 70's, ourselves and goofy anchormen. 'Great Odin's beard' this was a funny movie. Everyone in the movie was funny. The news team fight scene was awesome. The soundtrack was great. This movie gets a 5 out of 5.
  • Darkness: Mediocre rerun of the usual haunted house horror story. The only highlight of this movie was Anna Paquin's bouncing breasts. A few camera tricks were used to spice up the visual elements, but we've already seen the creepy walking on the ceiling gag. There wasn't much of a story here, and I felt like there was something missing at the conclusion of the film. This one gets a 2 out of 2.
  • Supersize me: A documentary of epicurean portions! A splendid documentary about the dangers of fast food. Morgan Spurlock (Writer, Director, Actor) embarks on a dangerous experiment. What would happen if he ate fast food for every meal? Is there any substance behind the claims that fast food is bad for you? This eye opening documentary is well crafted, well thought out, and well executed. An excellent effort. I give it a 5 out of 5.
  • Employee of the month: I've gone back and forth on this movie. In the end, it's not funny enough to be a funny movie, and not good enough to be a good movie. The only shinning part of the movie is Steve Zahn, playing himself (as usual). The last ten minutes of the movie are extremely convoluted (I didn't mind it too much, but others might), as double cross after double cross leaves you reeling and spinning. The writing wasn't all that good, but the casting was. Unfortunately, it never breaks out of the 'what might have been' category. I give it a 2 out of 5 (It was recommended by someone at work).
  • Blow out: With John Travolta, John Lithgow and Nancy Allen, this movie was a well cast murder mystery conspiracy thriller. B-Movie sound man (Travolta) records the sounds of a gunshot as a presidential candidate is murdered. As he starts to peel back the layers, things start to get a bit dicey. This is a great conspiracy movie where the pacing keeps you glued to the screen. I give it a 4 out of 5.
  • The bicycle thief: (Italian) Black & white production from 1949. Post World War II Italy is a bit bleak. Jobs are hard to come by, and the lead character lands a job that requires a bicycle. Unfortunately, the bicycle is stolen the first day on the job. As the leads start to slip away, the main character gets more and more desperate in the search for his bicycle. A terrific movie with fantastic casting. The acting by a very young Enzo Staiola is truly remarkable.
  • Hidalgo: (The 2004 version) Over hyped. This movie wasn't as good as it was billed to be. A typical hollywood blockbuster, this adventure movie contains some obviously glaring historical/continuity errors. There are mountains in the background when we see the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. The lead female character would be a 'fifth wife' - That's not permitted under Islam. Iraq is mentioned several times, but the country wasn't known by that name until 1919. Anyway, the movie was well produced. The acting wasn't the best but the music was good. The camera work was good, but this movie lacked any sustenance. Nothing to really sink your teeth into. Just meaningless action/adventure. Good entertainment. I rate it 3 out of 5.
  • House: This was a horrible movie. The sound track was absolutely terrible, the sound effects were b-grade, the acting was atrocious. Even the special effects, make-up, and camera work was sub-standard. I very nearly stopped watching it, but forced my way through to the end. A comedic haunted house story. The lead character fights the haunted denizens of the house and his Vietnam war memories to free his long lost son. I rate it 1 out of 5. Don't add this movie to your list. Someone at work recommended it!
  • China Syndrome: Courageous film making. In an era where nuclear power was king, this movie illustrated the dangers inherent in running a nuclear power plant. When it comes to profit over safety, which one always wins in America? A great movie with a stellar cast (Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon and Michael Douglas). The acting was pretty good, the music was fantastic. The sets, costumes, and locations were authentic. News crew surreptitiously films an 'accident' at a nuclear power plant. The 'fallout' is deadly, and the consequences are ground shaking. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
  • The Godfather, part III: The conclusion of a trilogy. Longer, slower, boring. This movie moved like molasses. At two and a half hours, I had trouble staying awake for this one. Well directed, great casting and spectacular locations. This movie did a good job at finalizing the trilogy. Unfortunately it doesn't stand well on it's own. The writing was tired and cliched, but the directing was spot on. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
  • Star Trek - The original series - Vol. 1 [Where no man has gone before/The Corbomite maneuver]: I've started viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), and I loved it back then. You know what? I still love it. My friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. The acting was stage like and corny, but the stories grabbed you by the hand phaser and applied the Vulcan nerve pinch. These were the first two episodes after the series premier. In 'Where no man has gone before', the costumes were a bit odd, and Spock's eyebrows were very angular. It was a lot of fun watching these two episodes and I'd buy the whole series, if I could afford it! I'll rate the first season (Volumes 1-15) after I've seen them all.
  • Curse of the Demon/Night of the Demon: A DVD double feature. I only watched one of the features. They're both the same movie. One (Night of the Demon) is an original version, the other (Curse of the Demon) is an edited version intended for American audiences. I'm pretty sure I put this on my list as the result of a search for 'Cult Classics'. The movie wasn't bad. Black & White, produced in 1957, this movie is a horror movie about a scientist intent on exposing a cult leader as a fraud. The cult leader puts a death curse on the scientist and he's got 72 hours to unravel the mystery. A well paced story, with some classic lines. I really loved it when the scientist was trying to reassure the lead female that witchcraft isn't real. Scientist (Dr. John Holden - Played by Dana Andrews): "I can assure you that as a scientist, these things don't exist". There are lots of memorable quotes. Another favorite - Scientist (Dr. John Holden - Played by Dana Andrews): "Prunes gave him the runes, but passing them used lots of skill". Despite the somewhat campy dialog, the directing was great and the camera work was superb. The music helped create a very tense atmosphere, and the special effects were quite impressive for such an early movie. The Demon's method of arrival was truly frightening. The films 'bad guy' wasn't very convincing, and it's hard to imagine that he would ever summon a Demon to kill someone. I give it a 3 out of 5.
  • Tommy Boy: A true comedy classic. This movie makes me roll on the floor. It is hysterical.Chris Farley and David Spade make a memorable duo in this movie. Tommy Boy graduates from college (with a D+!), and returns home to work in Dad's factory. Unfortunately, Dad dies and Tommy boy must save the company. As he goes on a road trip to sell brake parts, his evil stepmother (Bo Derek) tries to sell the company out from under him. The road trip is hilarious. The laughs are non-stop and the casting was top notch. I give this one a 5 out of 5.
  • Star Wars - Episode III - Revenge of the Sith: How many titles does one movie need? It's the first movie I've seen at the theater in quite a while. Kim and I used some free movie passes, went to a nearby theater and plunked down some money. It's a good thing we had a $10.00 gift certificate as well or this whole outing would have cost us $33.25. I can't believe the cost of movies these days! The movie was good. Not as good as the first three, but better than the last two. I liked the characters, the drama was good, but this movie lacked depth. It was a recap, a synopsis, built to tie together the other movies. It spent too much time on battle sequences. I would have preferred more character development. Now we all need to take a breather, step back and look at all the movies in sequence. I smell a boxed DVD set in the making. I liked the costumes and the casting. The action was too fast paced... Yeah I know that seems like an odd statement, but I got the feeling that the action scenes were more like a video game than a movie. I give it a 4 out of 5.

Movies seen/reviewed this year (2005)
[ Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]

Apr (8/2)

  • M: (German) A black and white movie from the early days of sound. Directed by Fritz Lang, this movie was the first movie about a serial killer. The first half of the movie was slow, but the second half moved at a satisfying clip. There was no soundtrack, and the sound production was terrible. The direction was great, and the acting was pretty good for the era. The movie features a plot twist that I haven't seen since. An astonishing accomplishment, given today's copycat cinema industry. Another plot twist — The killer is caught as a result of a blind persons testimony — has been copied so often that it's become cliched. This movie gets a 3 out of 5.
  • Anatomy: (German - Anatomie) Starring Franka Potente, this German movie does a good job of copying the crappy American cookie cutter movie formula. With some unbelievable character plots, a ridiculously transparent secret society, and very little suspense, the killer in this movie exudes no passion, and we're left yawning for the duration. The only bright spot was the production. The sound, lighting, costumes, and sets were excellent. I get the feeling that the script was written for a much longer movie, but they tried to make the movie an hour shorter than it needed to be. This movie gets a 2 out of 5.
  • Paths of glory: Directed by Stanley Kubrik, this black and white war movie is a powerful anti-war statement. Corrupt officers, inept staff, and a kangaroo court help explain why WWI lasted as long as it did. Set along the French-German trench front of WWI, this movie is a great movie for those interested in military law and history. Some pretty good performances by Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, and George Macready mark this as a film worth watching. 3 out of 5.
  • Dawn of the Dead: The original George Romero directed movie (1978). A great zombie movie. I own the remake. Two Philadelphia SWAT members, a TV reporter, and a helicopter pilot seek refuge from a world overrun by zombies. Seeking shelter in a shopping mall, everything looks like it's going to work out o.k... Tense, well paced, great writing, well developed characters and fantastic locations. This one sets the standard for many zombie movies to come. I give it a 3 out of 5.
  • The 300 Spartans: (Released in 1962) A historic epic. The story of a great battle. A battle I read about in a book called 'The Gates of Fire' by Steven Pressfield. This movie is based on an actual battle. A group of Greek warriors (appx 1,000) hold back an invading Persian army of more than 20,000. A great story with fantastic locations. Unfortunately, the acting is pretty bad, and the writing isn't the best. The sound track is terrible. This movie gets a 3 out of 5 based almost exclusively on the strength of the story.
  • Suspect Zero: An excellent crime drama. A serial killer is on the loose, abducting hundreds of children, someone who murders completely at random. Who is this 'Suspect Zero'? An original murder mystery? I don't think I've seen this plot before. Ben Kingsley provides a stellar performance, while the others pale in comparison. The story is great, the props were fantastic. The art direction was superb. It could have had a little more character development. Trying to figure out what was going on was something of a challenge, but the ending wasn't much of a surprise. Very well executed. The plot was very tightly woven, and this movie could lead to a television series. I give it a 4 out of 5.
  • Stalingrad: (German) There are several movies by this name, and this one is pretty good. A powerful and gripping tale. Told from the point of view of German foot soldiers. Not all Nazi's were fanatic Jew haters. Many were professional soldiers, fighting for their country. This is a powerful anti-war movie, depicting the futility and senseless slaughter that is war. The ending is very poignant and fitting. Great costumes, locations, sets and acting. An excellent reproduction of what must have been a hellacious battlefront. I give this one 4 out of 5.
  • Ravenous: A cannibalism movie?! Astonishing. This movie shocked me. It's actually a tale about a native American spirit — the Wendigo. A reluctant war hero (in the Spanish American war) is "Rewarded" with a remote posting to t wilderness area. Soon after he reports for duty, a man stumbles into the fort with tales of cannibalism. That's when the fun starts. A great movie, with some unexpected turns. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
  • Event Horizon: Recommended by a friend. I've seen this movie before, but I never fully appreciated the film. A great sci-fi horror flick. The crew of a spaceship is on a rescue mission. When they find a derelict spacecraft, they soon experience concentrated evil onboard the "Event Horizon". Excellent special effects and sound. The acting was pretty good as well. I wouldn't mind owning a copy of this movie. This one gets 5 of 5.
  • The Spanish prisoner: I forgot that this was a movie about a con. The acting was very stilted. I suppose it was intentional, a kind of film noir style. I'll tell you this; I'm tired of con movies that use that acting style. Everyone was so very perfect — Their mannerisms, their speech patterns, their emotions, I'm tired of it. It's just a bit too pretentious. This movie is full of twists and turns. It's a who dunnit that lacks a crime? Sure, someone stole something, but it was so well obfuscated, that I didn't notice it when it happened, and the impact was lost in subtlety. Despite the great cast, this one only gets a 2 out of 5.

Movies seen/reviewed this year (2005)
[ Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]

Mar (12/5/-/1)

  • Session 9: Spooky. A modern day horror story. Asbestos removal in a condemned insane asylum. The sets, costumes, music, lighting and location were phenomenal. An actual abandoned insane asylum is used in the movie. The real-life place where the 'lobotomy' was first developed. The location is the scariest character in the movie. The other characters are asbestos abatement specialists. Hired to remove asbestos from this abandoned insane asylum, something makes one of them crack, or did they all crack? A taught psycho drama. Unfortunately, it had David Caruso (From CSI Miami) in it. I can't stand him. He's so conceited and arrogant that he makes me want to cave his head in. Or is that the asylum talking? The characters and story are great. The telling was a bit scripted. I give it a 3 out of 5.
  • Blow up: (British/Italian) Made in 1966, this early color movie was directed by an Italian director (Michelangelo Antonioni) regarded by many as a master of cinema. Something of a murder mystery, something of an art film. The lead character (played by David Hemmings) is a self-indulgent photographer. Hemmings plays a self centered playboy, who cares about very little outside his own vain life. When he inadvertently photographs a murder scene, he begins to realize that the world might be about more than him. The story itself is disconnected, non-linear and chaotic. At times it's an art movie, at times it's a murder mystery. Visually it was a treat to watch. Plot wise it was very frustrating, as the main character doesn't follow up on rather obvious leads, he never calls the police, and we're left wondering 'who, what, why'? The setting is the swinging artists scene of London in the late 60's. Great costumes, a fantastic soundtrack, and some splendid camera work, the artistic and philosophical aspects of this movie make it worth watching. I give it a 3 out of 5.
  • The Stepford wives: Another OnDemand rental. This remake (made in 2004) of a classic dark drama (made in 1963) with a sci-fi core, didn't thrill me all that much. What was obviously meant to be a dark drama was crafted as a comedy instead. The casting was great. Starring Nicole Kidman (Overbearing turned endearing and caring), Matthew Broderick (Hapless and lackluster), Bette Midler (Captivating, comedic and unpracticed), Glenn Close (Simple turned treacherous and twisted), Christopher Walken (Subdued, subduing and surprising), Roger Bart (Listless and forgettable), David Marshall Grant (Living, vibrant and compelling), Jon Lovitz (Simply silly). The performances were worthy of a better screenplay. The characters were worthy but misplaced in this comedic treatment of a somber subject. The laughs were all character and performance driven, and the movie lacked from subject treatment. Most of the content and attention was focused on the actors rather than the story. Too much glitz, not enough guts. This one gets a 2 out of 5.
  • Cold Mountain: A war story, a love story, a chick flick. Great locations, sets, costumes, characters and props. The fake snow almost had me fooled! The casting was very good. Starring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman (that's two flicks that she's been in so far this month), Renée Zellweger, Eileen Atkins, Brendan Gleeson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Giovanni Ribisi, Donald Sutherland, and others. The story is the real star. In the waning days of the civil war, a wounded southern soldier skips out on the failing front to return home to a love he left in waiting. The performances matched a wonderful story and I'm glad I watched this 'chick flick'. It gets a 5 out of 5, but don't tell Kim I said so.
  • Twelve O'Clock High: A movie that used to be on my 'Buy' list. I bought two copies, but both were defective. Eventually, I settled on a rental (NetFlix). I'm glad I did. The movie wasn't quite as good as I'd anticipated. I originally saw some clips from the movie when I attended the Air Force's NCO academy. This black and white war movie is good, that's for sure. It's just not good enough to earn a spot on my DVD shelf. The acting lacks conviction, but the direction and writing were spot on. The inclusion of actual air combat footage was nice, but there wasn't enough of it. An excellent portrayal of what it took to win the war over Europe during World War II. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
  • Croupier: (British) Excellent writing. A dark noir style tale of love, deceit, gambling and ambition. The characters were stoic in the British tradition. The main character was numb to the world. The sets, locations, costumes and acting were top notch. A writer accepts a job as a dealer to cover some expenses. The ending is a bit unexpected, but we're not given much time to think about it. The movie left a 'What the heck?' taste in my mouth. It wasn't until later when I realized what had happened. The only real criticism I have for this movie is the lack of subtitles, and occasional poor sound production. Come on folks, get with the program! This one gets a 4 out of 5.
  • The Texas chainsaw massacre: The remake. Made in 2003, this movie was a pretty good horror flick. Unlike most of your hollywood horror mistakes, this one doesn't rely on cgi or supernatural suppositions for simulated terror. Here's a home brewed horror story, something that could happen today. Supposedly set in the 70's, the dialogue felt more recent. The acting in this one was much better than the original. I liked the characters, the costumes, the sets and location. The camera work was great. The lighting and music really helped to create an eerie mood. Jessica Biel as Erin (The lead) was boob-alicious in a tank top. I enjoyed R. Lee Ermy as the Sheriff. If you've ever been in the military, you can easily imagine your drill instructor being a sadistic twisted murderous cop. The story was more believable this time around. Unfortunately, the twisted familial relationships were strained, and the 'baby rescue' sub-plot was ludicrous. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
  • Exorcist - The beginning: The second time around and I was still frightened by this movie. I had to stop the movie twice in order to take a breather and uncoil. The soundtrack, sound production, and sound effects were awesome. Stellan Skarsgård as Father Merrin was an excellent casting choice, but the acting in this movie wasn't all that good. The best performance came from Alan Ford as the ill-fated Jeffries (A hard drinking, racist, abusive, dig director with a penchant for the good looking doctor). Directed by Renny Harlin, this movie was well executed. The writing for this movie was pretty good; If you overlooked the obviously 'added-for-shock-value' parts, you'll find a tense supernatural drama with plenty of suspense and gripping horror. This movie had a lot of production problems. The original choice for director (John Frankenheimer), died during pre-production, and the first choice to play Fr. Merrin (Liam Neeson), balked at the last moment necessitating re-casting. Despite the critics bemoaning the fact that this isn't the Exorcist resurrected, I thought it was a very scary movie worthy of a 5 out of 5. I liked it so much that I bought a copy when it came out on DVD. For those who are wondering. No, it's not as good as the original. It can't compare. It's a great fright fest and I enjoyed it immensely, but the original is a much better movie on many levels. How come I rated them both 5 out of 5? Because I can!
  • The Stepford wives: The original movie. Made in 1975, this was a really good movie. Better than the remake. It starts out a bit slow, but the end game pays for the slow motion in the first half of the movie. Starring Katharine Ross, Paula Prentiss and Peter Masterson, the acting was good. The script was tight and and well written. The sets, locations and costumes (the 70's was an era of short, shorts and revealing tops) were good as well. The music was far superior to that of the remake. The drama turned dark and tragic towards the end, a much more suitable presentation of the subject, compared to the remake. I also like the fact that the producer and director didn't explain what was going on. I'd rather draw my own conclusions, I'd rather leave the movie with a sense of foreboding and speculation. I really despise it when the characters explain everything that's going on. Why ruin a good mystery with unnecessary explanations? The remake (see above) really blew it. The original gets a 4 out of 5.
  • Midnight crossing: Intrigue, drama, deception. What starts out as a tropical vacation cruise on a chartered yacht, turns into murderous greed and a pretty good drama. Some good acting by: Faye Dunaway, Daniel J. Travanti, Kim Cattrall, John Laughlin, Ned Beatty and Pedro De Pool. The story is pretty transparent, but the twist at the end is a nice touch. The music/soundtrack was lacking, but the sets/locations were great. I give it a 3 out of 5.
  • Men in black: Great entertainment. A hollywood blockbuster with some great characters. Starring, Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino, Vincent D'Onofrio, Rip Torn and Tony Shalhoub, the acting by D'Onofrio and Shalhoub was excellent. As usual, Will Smith played himself, or the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or himself? Two super secret special agents are keeping the peace among extraterrestrial refugees. Saving the earth from a giant bug is just part of the job. Some great cgi, costumes, sets, props and locations add to the vivid comic-book character of this movie. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
  • Unforgiven: Directed by Clint Eastwood, this is a great movie that one numerous Academy Award honors. It's a movie about the twilight of the gunslinger. Two retired gunslingers (Played by Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman) team up with a green behind the ears assassin for one last job. The Sheriff (played by Gene Hackman) is bound and determined to 'disarm' these good-for-nothing murderous low-life scum. Great casting, acting, and character depth. Fantastic sets, locations and costumes. Pretty good soundtrack, and a great story. Who's the hero in this story? I'm glad that the story wasn't a rehash of your usual black and white white hat black hat western. A movie about changing values and progress in America. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
  • Dersu Uzala: (Russian - Pronounced 'Dare-Sue' 'Ooze-ala') Another movie by Akira Kurosawa. Another cinematic masterpiece! Produced in Russia (with Soviet film industry), This movie tells the tale of a Russian officer leading a group of soldiers through the Siberian wilderness on a survey mission. With a native guide leading the way, they overcome hardships, form bonds of friendship, and take us with them on a great journey. Visually breathtaking, the Siberian Wilderness is untouched and beautiful.The acting is pretty good, the music is o.k. but the story is the star here. Survival, friendship, adventure. Wonderful direction and camera work. This one gets a 5 out of 5, and I'm seriously thinking about adding it to the queue.
  • Starsky & Hutch: Hollywood blockbuster. Crap. Television series made into feature length movie. Starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. The best casting was Snoop Dogg as Huggy Bear. The acting was mediocre, the laughs felt forced, and the contrived plot was lukewarm at best. After a few laughs I found myself checking the clock, and wondering how much longer this movie would last. I like Owen Wilson, and Ben Stiller, but neither one had a good role in this movie. The writing was marginal, and this one barely gets a 2 out of 5. Watch a re-run of the series instead.
  • 5o first dates: A good romantic movie, cheapened by crude humor. The writing was good, the acting mediocre, and the camera work was pretty good. Starring Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore and Rob Schneider, the casting wasn't the best. The characters (other than the leads), as typical for an Adam Sandler movie, are spastic. Sandler is a 'love em and leave em romeo', who falls for Barrymore's character. Unfortunately, she has no long term memory. Unfortunately, the detractors out weigh the good points in this movie, and the treatment of the scripts (for poor jokes) finer points is drowned out by the cheap theatrics. 2 out of 5.
  • Samurai Trilogy 1 - Musashi Miyamoto: (Japan) Directed by Hiroshi Inagaki and starring one of my favorites: Toshiro Mifune, this movie is the first in a three part story. A villager vows to become a samurai. Leaving his village (with his boyhood friend) to fight in a failed war, he comes out of the conflict bitter and disheartened. A priest and a girl become his salvation as he is captured and imprisoned. As the first movie ends he's set out on a new journey. Intent on a purposeful and more disciplined path. This is a good start to a Samurai story. The story was good, and the character treatment was excellent. Unfortunately some of the lighting was sub par. The music was good as were costumes and sets. The locations were awesome. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
  • Tampopo: (Japan) A noodle western? Written and directed by Juzo Itami and starring Tsutomu Yamazaki. This strange film follows Tsutomu - playing a Japanese truck driver with an American western style, and Nobuko Miyamoto - playing the owner of a third rate ramen shop, as they try to transform mediocre noodles into a culinary masterpiece. With strange cutouts and characters, this charming movie is heartwarming and humorous. The pacing, directing and casting are excellent. Throw in some rather peculiar direction (and some strange buy sexy sidebars) and you've got a very good movie. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
  • My big fat Geek wedding: Directed by Joel Zwick; starring Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, and Michael Constantine. This was a great movie. The writting was absolutely fantastic. Despite the fact that this movie is about a Greek family, growing up Greek, and a Greek wedding, it's a story about America. How can a Greek American find happiness and still honor her Greek heritage? Nia Vardalos is brilliant as Toula Portokalos. Sad, funny, and happy, this is a great romantic drama. Not a comedy, but full of laughs. This movie doesn't mock or belittle another culture, but it lets us laugh at the eccentricities of every American family. The direction had a decided sitcom feel that worked well with this movie. The casting, costumes, sets and locations were spot on, and the music accentuated the movie perfectly. This one gets a 5 out of 5.

Movies seen/reviewed this year (2005)
[ Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]

Feb (15/8/1/1)

  • The big hit: Absolutely horrible. Directed by Kirk Wong (Otherwise known as: Zhiqiang Huang, Alan Smithee, Che Kirk Wong, Che-Kirk Wong, or Chi Keung Wong). This is a classic example of American hollywood blockbuster movies. O.k. It's a Chinese director, but it's an American movie. A glitzy, cliched, shoot-em up, movie with lots of explosions. Starring Lou Diamond Phillips (Bad acting), Antonio Sabato Jr. (Overlooked), Mark Wahlberg (Sucky character for lead role), Bokeen Woodbine (Not bad) and Christina Applegate (Obvious eye candy), I'm not quite sure why I bought this, but I won't make the mistake of watching it again. If you're looking for a movie to avoid, add this one to your list. I give it a 1 out of 5.
  • Indiana Jones and the temple of doom: The second film in the George Lucas (Writing) / Steven Spielberg (Directing) Indiana Jones Trilogy. Harrison Ford reprises his role as Indiana Jones. Unfortunately, he takes two annoying co-stars along for the ride. Kate Capshaw as the annoying songbird, and Jonathan Ke Quan as the sidekick Short Round. In this sequel, Indiana rescues an Indian village and their children from slavery under the thumb of a cult of Kali worshipping thugs. Some of the best acting came from Amrish Puri playing Mola Ram the evil high priest. The music and costumes are great, and it makes for a fantastic action flick. Unfortunately, the limited story and over-acting drag the rating down to a 3 out of 5.
  • Hidden fortress: (Japanese - Kakushi toride no san akunin) Another movie by Akira Kurosawa. Excellent directing, camera work, sets, locations, costumes, and a great story. It's an escape story. Toshirô Mifune plays a general trying to smuggle the princess out of enemy territory. Two bumbling peasants happen upon the refugees and are pressed into service by the lure of gold. Intricate, lush and laughable. This movie had a large number of extras, and some really good acting. One of Kurosawa's best. I give it a 5 out of 7.
  • Veronica Guerin: A crime drama about an Irish journalist who goes after a drug lord in Dublin. Based on actual events, this thriller included some excellent directing (by Joel Schumacher) but the screenplay could have been better. One of the primary characters (The bad guy) lacks for motivation, and many of the others have a distinct feeling of incompleteness. The best acting came from a supporting actor - Ciarán Hinds, playing John Traynor, a seedy underworld figure with connections on both sides of the street. The pacing was too fast at times, but the story was great. As was the casting, locations and costumes. I give it a 4 out of 5.
  • The day after tomorrow: A hollywood blockbuster with some astonishing visual effects (computer generated). This movie was primarily a character based drama. It's set in a world gone awry with ice-age inducing weather. Ruining the movie are unbelievable event pacing and less than convincing behaviors. On the plus side is a good sound track, some good acting and some pretty good production, despite a difficult to work with medium (Massive amounts of digital effects). This one gets a 3 out of 5 based primarily on the first half of the movie.
  • The Grudge: A remake of the Japanese movie Ju-On. By the same director (Takashi Shimizu) as the original movie. This remake is a good scare, the music, pacing and cinematography are great. I enjoyed it quite a bit. Unfortunately, the American actors are out of place in a Japanese setting, and their alien quality in the setting reduces their ability to properly portray a role that was originally written for Japanese characters. That plus the scaled down scare factor drives the rating down another notch. If I hadn't seen 'Ju-On' first, I might have been just as scared by this remake. The effects are polished somewhat, but the order of events is still somewhat difficult to follow. Perhaps I shouldn't have purchased this one. The original is much better. I give the remake a 3 out of 5.
  • Psycho: The original black and white Alfred Hitchcock thriller. The novel is written by one of my favorite 'lovecraftian' authors; Robert Bloch (See my books page). His work is tense, frightening and rich with detail. This movie is masterpiece of modern horror. The genesis of many spin-offs and wannabes. Spectacular acting, a terrific script, suspenseful music, and a great set/location. It's been quite some time since I've seen this psychological thriller. I'd completely forgotten most of the movie. The beginning and ending of the movie are just as good as the shower scene. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
  • Shaun of the dead: (British) A spoof on zombie flicks, or is it a romantic comedy set in a Zombie movie? Hugely hilarious. Kim and I went and saw this one at the theater. It was quite humorous. Shaun and his friends are so wrapped up in their own personal little dramas, that they fail to see the bigger picture. It takes a 'Dawn of the Dead' to wake them from their suburban stupor. A comic, horror, drama, romance. Great music, a fantastic cast, and a great story. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
  • SLC Punk: A movie about growing up. Despite the Punk underpinnings and the Salt Lake City settings. This movie is about growing up, about rebellion, about responsibility, about life and learning what that's all about. Two punkers think they're going to teach this town a thing or two. The dynamic duo soon discovers that life has other plans for them. Great characters, outstanding music (I'm an old punker myself), and a fantastic performance by Matthew Lillard as Stevo. I really enjoyed the narrative. A fantastic coming of age movie. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
  • The Cooler: William H. Macy plays Bernie Lootz, a walking streak of bad luck; a cooler. Employed off-the-books by Shelly Kaplow, played by Alec Baldwin, the manager of an old-school Las Vegas casino. The casino business is changing, and Bernie's luck is about to change. A noir classic hard luck turned good luck story. This is one well directed movie. The lighting, music, costumes and settings are all fantastic. Add in a outstanding cast, some good acting by Alec Baldwin (for a change), and a role that seems to fit William H. Macy like a glove and you've got one hell of a movie. Maria Bello looks really hot as 'Lady luck', and the story unfolds like a classic mobster drama where the truth hurts more than the kneecappings dished out by the old gangster who runs the casino. I give this one a 5 out of 5.
  • The triplets of Belleville: (French - Les Triplettes de Belleville) Animated. You may well know that I'm no fan of animation. Thankfully this story was very well told. Full of colorful images and enticing music. The story seemed to drift effortlessly from theme to theme as the characters somba'd across the screen. A dog that daydreams about trains, a bicyclist characterized as a race horse, an un-aging grandmother with a gimp leg, and three crooning sisters help rescue the grandson from the clutches of a strange little man, his goon squad and a surreal life of gambling. Unfortunately, the I detected an anti-american slant in the artistic representation of some characters. The statue of liberty is depicted as a fat woman holding aloft an ice cream cone and a big mac. Aside from the negative depiction of Americans, the DVD also had a production defect that prevented me from viewing the subtitles. This movie gets a 4 out of 5. It's a shame really. The first animated movie that I've enjoyed in a long time has to depict Americans in such a derogatory manner. Other ethnic/national characterizations are there but they're not as blatantly offensive.
  • In America: Boring, but well made. Good acting, and fine directing. Sugar coated placebo. What exactly was this movie about? I watched an immigrant family (were they in America illegally?) scratching out an existence in New York. Irish immigrants running from the loss of a child. Touching, heartfelt, crap. I liked it, but it lacked substance. The characters were well formed, believable and full of vigor. A well made movie lacking in purpose. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
  • Straw Dogs: A very violent movie. Shot in the U.K. with Dustin Hoffman in the lead role. Directed by Sam Peckinpah this was another well directed film that was lacking in direction. Typical for movies of the 70's, this movie sort of meandered about, before settling on a violent path. Reminiscent of Clockwork Orange, this home invasion movie is a bit odd. I found the characters believable and rich, but the plot was lacking. What exactly was this movie about? Just a home invasion? Containing scenes depicting rape, a child molester, murder, and a lynch mob, this movie depicted the English countryside in an unfavorable light. The movie was even banned in the U.K. for some time. I cant give this movie more than a 3 out of 5.
  • Chunhyang: (Korean) As beautiful as a peach blossom. Filled with truth, love, beauty, and loyalty. This movie is as moving as it is refreshing. Filmed in two styles, a narrative traditional Korean theatrical presentation slips into a modern cinematic presentation with a fantastic cast, some wonderful acting, wondrous locations, authentic costumes and a moving tale worthy of praise. A story of love, corruption, fidelity, and perseverance. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
  • Audition: (Japanese - Odishon) The acting was good, the sound production and direction very good. The sets and costumes were good, the casting was good. The lighting was horrible. All the outdoor shots were well lit. The indoor scenes were all abysmally dark. The story was a bit odd. A middle-aged Japanese man starts to think about getting remarried after his son suggests it. With the help of a co-worker he holds a mock audition, where the actual goal of the audition is to pick a date. Unfortunately for the main character, he ends up selecting a psycho hose beast! The premise is a bit stretched given today's computer dating age, and the psycho hose beast part has been done to death. The women picked as a date eventually poisons, paralyzes, and impales the protagonist before cutting off one of his feet. The ending arrives rather bluntly and anti-climactically afterwards. The character development was rather well done, but the movie lacked passion. Oh yeah, I don't think there was any soundtrack. If there was, it was so subdued or uninspiring that I didn't notice it at all. This movie gets a 2 out of 5. It's unusual that a recommended movie doesn't get at least a 3...
  • The dirty dozen: What a classic! A great war movie. Directed by Robert Aldrich, starring Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, Richard Jaeckel, George Kennedy, Trini Lopez, Ralph Meeker, Robert Ryan, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, Clint Walker and Robert Webber. The mission: Train twelve military convicts to go behind enemy lines and destroy a chateau filled with Nazi military leaders. Sure it's a suicide mission, but if they make it out alive they're sentence is commuted. A fantastic action flick with some terrific acting. The pacing is very good. The camera and sound work were excellent, the sets, the costumes, the locations, the supporting cast, all fitting of a top notch production. I'm sure I'll watch it over and over. Give em' hell boys! This one was on my must 'buy' list. I give it a 5 out of 5.
  • City of god: (Brazil - Cidade de Deus) Typically, I detest movies that glorify violence, drugs, or aberrant (read violent) sexual behavior. This movie is very violent, but it's not about behavior. It's about reality. Based on the true life story of a man who escaped the violent environment where he grew up. This is a documentary disguised as a movie. It grabbed me like a pit-bull, shook me like a rag doll, and left me reeling like I just finished ten rounds with a heavy weight champion. A realistic depiction of life in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. I completely forgot that theses were actors depicting a role. Everything in this movie felt genuine. I certainly hope no one lost their lives filming this work. If you thought an American inner city was violent, you've got another thing coming. This one gets a 5 out of 5 for its realistic depiction of life in the impoverished third world, and what it takes to claw your way out.
  • Open your eyes: (Spain - Abre los Ojos) This one starts off kind of slow. A very vain playboy treats women and his friends like hired help. Basking in his self-importance, his wake up call arrives in the form of a disfiguring car accident. Without giving away the 'secret' of this movie, I'll say this. It's mind blowing. I really didn't know what was coming. I thought it was going to be your typical self absorption meets introspection character based drama. Not so, there's a science fiction edge just inches away from the surface. Once you go over that edge you'll find a much more interesting movie than the pretentious first half of this movie. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
  • Dodgeball: Kim rented this one using Comcast's 'On Demand' service; something I've been avoiding. It's a bit expensive $4.00 for a new release, and somewhat difficult to use. The movie was in my NetFlix queue, so I decided to get my money's worth. The story is incredibly shallow. A typical hollywood underdog story. A group of stereotypical losers, led by Vince Vaughn, inhabit "Joe's average gym". The group next door is lead by Ben Stiller (playing the heavy?). When "Globo-Gym' decides to take out the competition, the only thing that can save the misfits is a $50,000 prize from a 'Dodgeball' competition. Despite the incredibly shallow premise, and lack of any depth, this movie does contain a lot of laughs. Vince Vaughn was absolutely apathetic in his role. I can't imagine anyone, not even the rejects that inhabit his run-down establishment following him into anything other than an unemployment line. Thankfully, good writing and some very funny moments make up for a typical hollywood get-cash-quick movie formula. This movie would have been better served with a cast of complete unknowns. I watched the unrated version, and the sexually charged ending really didn't make the movie any better. The bit after the credits was sad but laughable. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
  • Miracle: A cinderella story. The U.S. Amateur hockey team defeats the reigning Soviet team. Hard work, dedication, and team work is just what we needed in the dark days of the carter administration. The story was worthy, but I don't think this movie did it as much justice as it deserves. Kurt Russel gave a outstanding performance as Herb Brooks, coach of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. Unlike some sports movies, this one doesn't rely on slow-motion or special camera angles to heighten the tension. This is a depiction of Americans overcoming the odds to come out on top. I remember following the U.S. Hockey team that winter, and there's no doubt in my mind; this was the first American 'Dream team'. This movie gets a 4 out of 5. Excellent directing and some great writing.
  • The experiment: (German - Das experiment) With english subtitles. This movie is based on the infamous "Stanford Prison Experiment" conducted in 1971. A makeshift prison is set up in a research lab and volunteers are divided into two groups. Prisoners and Guards. They are given uniforms, and a very simple set of instructions. Act according to your roles, but there is to be no violence. Well, things get out of hand. Way out of hand! A tense psycho drama with some excellent acting. The lead character (Prisoner 77) is played by Moritz Bleibtreu. He starred in Run Lola Run as well. Another one of my favorites. This one gets a 5 out of 5. Rent it and own it. I had no idea it was this good.
  • Baadasssss!: (aka - Gettin' the Man's Foot Outta Your Baadasssss!) A documentary about Melvin Van Peebles struggle to make a movie about the Black Man's struggle. A socio-political statement unlike any other. This documentary stars Mario Van Peebles, playing his father. The acting in this movie is great. The costumes are terrific, the pacing and direction were excellent. A fantastic story (worth watching) explores the treatment of African American's in hollywood cinema prior to the 70's. Sensational. I give it a 4 out of 5.
  • Constantine: Another comic book character brought to the big screen. Something like 'The Matrix meets Hellboy'. Unfortunately, it lacked emotion. The acting was pretty good, the costumes, sets, and locations were great, but the characters (Played by Keanu Reeves and Rachel Weisz) were flat. I didn't feel anything for them. It was a great visual fest; the demons sure were popin! But this movie didn't leave much to the imagination. Everything was explained, and revealed. Everything was handed to you on a platter, there was no mystery, no passion, no compulsion, no compassion. This one gets a 3 out of 5. If they'd any hope for a sequel, they pretty much ruined that chance by concluding everything in a single movie, there's nothing left to tell about the characters in this movie.
  • Spellbound: Not the Alfred Hitchcock movie. (Which I added to the queue after I looked up this spellbound) This movie is a documentary. The story of eight young finalists in the National Spelling Bee. Real-life drama unlike any hollywood movie. The characters are fantastic! This documentary was very well done. Telling a story of America through the eyes of the average citizen. Immigrant, worker, inner city kid, backwater sleepy town. What makes America great? Opportunity, competition, and drive. These kids, and their parents just never give up. This movie gets a 3 out of 5.
  • Baraka: Man and nature. A completely non verbal emotive journey. Religious ceremonies, ethnic variation, the natural world, the man made world. A very artisitc depiction of mans relationship with the world around him. Beautifully directed and produced. Great music and video work. No acting. This one gets a 3 out of 5 for its artistic qualitiy and production value.
Movies seen/reviewed this year (2005)
[ Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]

Jan (17/10)

  • Sports Illustrated - 2003 Swimsuit edition: Yes, I'm a red-blooded American man. I like to look at beautiful women, and they're easier to see when they're wearing itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikinis. This movie, documentary, presentation, is a well made piece of work. Excellent locations, costumes (ahem), beautiful women, fantastic narration, great sound production, music, and some really fine camera work. I hope that the folks who worked on this presentation are involved in full-blown movie production, because they sure know how to put together a well produced piece of entertainment. I give this entertaining documentary a 4 out of 5.
  • Interstate 60: A fine movie. A bit slow, the pacing could have been a little faster, but the story was well told. Unfortunately, it was very formulaic. I was pretty close on guessing what was coming next. This movie was something of a 'Twilight Zone' meets 'Road Trip'. The protagonist gets tangled up in a little American folklore while trying to decide whether he should follow his own path, or take the path laid out before him by others. A moralistic story, told through a series of vignettes or tests, with a happy ending. Just a little bit too sweet, a little bit too sugar coated. I give it a 3 of 5 for technical production aspects.
  • Blood Simple: Written by Joel & Ethan Coen, directed by Joel Coen, and starring John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, and M. Emmet Walsh. This is a great drama. Love triangle becomes a square when a private investigator is hired. Seeking easy money, the investigator decides to cash in on his employer. What follows are some dramatic events. Believable but surprising, this crime thriller about love, revenge, murder and money kept me wondering who was next. Great acting for a junior cast, and some top notch camera work. I enjoyed this movie immensely. It gets a 4 out of 5.
  • Me myself & Irene: If it hadn't been for Jim Carrey, I wouldn't have watched this movie. I can't stand the Farrelly brothers. Peter and Bobby seem to think that poking fun at the handicapped is somehow funny. All their movies disgust me, they're crass, vulgar, riddled with profanity and not all that funny. I like this movie because of Carrey. He's talented and he makes me laugh. Despite the horrid stereotyping and racial overtones of this movie, Carrey, the music and the supporting cast make this movie worth watching. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
  • The Manchurian Candidate: A remake of the classic 1962 black & white political thriller. Is it as good as the original? Hell no! Is it fair to compare the two? Sort of, but not really. To be fair, it's a different movie. The mind control plot is intact, the sleeper in the White House is still the premise of the movie. The bad guys are different, and it's set in modern times. Post Gulf War I. The political context is fresh and dead on relevant. The acting is great, especially Meryl Streep as Eleanor Shaw. Denzel Washington plays his usual intense paranoid character, and Liev Schrieber plays his typical laconic character. The ending is very predictable, but getting there with this cast was worth the anticlimactic ending. This one gets a 4 out of 5. It was on my 'Watch' list, but I jumped the gun and bought a copy.
  • Primal Fear: A fantastic cast. Starring: Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Edward Norton, John Mahoney, Frances McDormand. You just can't go wrong with talent like this. This courtroom drama/thriller blends the best parts of both movies. A choir boy (Believe it or not, played by Edward Norton) is suspected of murdering a prominent Catholic Priest. Richard Gere's character defends the suspect pro-bono. An ex-flame heads up the defense, and there are skeletons in the closet. The twist at the end leaves the movie with a ending befitting of an involved and complex plot. Superbly executed. Despite my dislike for Richard Gere, I have to give this one a 5 out of 5.
  • Dirty Pretty Things: The underside of London. Illegal immigrants have a rough go of it in London's seedy underside. When your in the country illegally, people really take advantage of you. In this movie, a pair of illegal immigrants do their best to survive from day to day. Taking the jobs that no one else will, they look the other way until they can't take it any longer. Great acting, a fantastic story, and superb casting. This movie deserves wider acclaim. I give it a 5 out of 5.
  • Shattered Glass: A movie based on the true story about a writer for the New Republic (Stephan Glass) who fabricated more than half of the stories published under his name. A great movie about journalistic ethics, honesty and the pressure to be 'entertaining'. Excellent writing and acting. But more importantly, a story that had to be told. I remember reading about the events that led to this movie. I remember thinking to myself, 'How naive have we become?" Are we only interested in entertainment? The magazine industry is constantly competing with the glitzy television version of reality. A five second sound bite, a shiny perfect people snippet where the facts are less important than the graphic images that rivet viewers to their couches during the prime time news hour. Thanks for reminding me that some things are more important than the glamour. This movie gets a 5 out of 5.
  • Troy: As expected, this movie drew quite a bit of criticism. Why? Probably because it's based on the Iliad. Or maybe, just maybe, it's because Brad Pitt is in it? The movie is highly inaccurate; not true to the facts; etc, etc, etc. The facts? Most of the facts of the Hellenic age are based on conjecture and sparse journalism of the age. The movie was good. The characters were heroic. Visually stunning, the sets and locations were evocative. The action was mesmerizing, especially the personal combat. It was very well choreographed. The acting was excellent. The only problem was the accents. Hearing the Irish and English accents coming out of Greeks and Trojans was a bit disconcerting. A worthy summer treat. I give it a 4 out of 5.
  • The House of Sand and Fog: A powerful drama, filled with exceptional performances. Starring Jennifer Connelly, Ben Kingsley, Ron Eldard, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Jonathan Ahdout. This movie is a dark tragedy. Populated with people spiraling towards a less than hopeful ending, they stick to their convictions the whole way down. The locations, costumes, casting and music were perfectly suited to the atmosphere lent by the script. The best part of this movie was the acting. If the ending hadn't been such a downer, I would have enjoyed it more. I give it a 4 out of 5.
  • Bug: Not the cutesy animated story about a bug. This 1970's horror flick is a 'B' movie in the 1950's sense. full of preposterous plot material, poor acting, and cheesy synthesizer music. The best part about this movie was the book it was based on. I read the book ages and ages ago, and I saw the movie about as long ago. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten just how bad the movie was. While the screen play did a pretty good job of sticking with the book, it was nowhere as good as the book. I give this movie a 1 out of 5. It's been a while since something earned a 1, but this one is a definite 'must avoid' masterpiece.
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Gruesome! Ghastly! Gratuitous! - This gore fest didn't offer much in the way of acting, but the story, costumes, and camera work were superb. Be prepared for a lot of screaming, and some truly disgusting characters. A group of young adults on a road trip stumble upon a truly twisted family of murderous misfits. This movie set the standard for thousands of knock-off gore-fest films. If it hadn't been for the horrible acting, this one would have earned a higher rating. I give it a 3 out of 5.
  • Battleship Potemkin: (Soviet Union/Georgian - Bronenosets Potyomkin) Produced in 1925 by one of the greatest early motion picture directors (Sergei Einstein), this movie was restored in 1976 by the Soviet film industry (Wouldn't it be wonderful if this movie were re-made!). Black and white and silent, this movie contains some stunning portrayals of disenfranchised workers and an aristocratic upper class. A cinematic landmark that documented some of the events that led to the Bolshevik revolution. Sailor's fed up with maggot infested meat and ill treatment rise up in mutiny which leads to an uprising in Odessa. Czarist troops are called in and a rather gruesome slaughter ensues. One scene from this movie was particularly striking, and it's been reproduced in the movie 'The Untouchables'. A mother is shot dead on the steps of the port in Odessa, she falls to the ground, and an occupied baby carriage teeters precariously before finally tilting over the edge and beginning a slow motion focused scene where the baby carriage careens down the steps. This visually stunning movie gets a 4 out of 5.
  • Napoleon Dynamite: Another movie where I jumped the gun. After seeing previews, and having friends recommend the movie, this selection jumped from must see (on my Netflix queue) to must buy. I bought a copy the other day, and I'm glad I did. Geeks rule! This movie chronicles one geeks journey through a week of high school hell. It brought back a lot of memories for me, the characters were full of flavor. Quirky and real, tragic and truthful. Yeah it was funny, but is was also satirical and dramatic. The pacing and directing were fantastic. The music and characters transported me back to 1982 (just like one of the characters in the movie). I graduated in 1982, and this movie was my time machine. I give it a 3 out of 5.
  • Road to Perdition: A classic gangster movie. Tom Hanks cranks out a terrific performance. Sam Mendes did a bang-up job directing this all star cast which included: Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law and Jennifer Jason Leigh. A hit man for the mob is on the run after the son of a mob boss marks him and his family for death. Technically flawless, this masterpiece is quite an accomplishment. Dark and dramatic, the story is tightly wound and perfectly paced. The tension and drama uncoil in classic mobster style. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
  • 15 Minutes: Yes I own this movie. I'm not quite sure why I bought it. A waste of good talent. Starring Robert De Niro and Edward Burns, the writing and directing are lacking. Two 'Tourists' from Eastern Europe come to New York to collect on a debt. When their 'friend' can't pay up, one of them goes on a killing spree while the other video tapes everything. In a media inspired spin. The psycho killer thinks he can claim he was insane, pay a lawyer a big pile of money, earned from the writes to the video, and get away with the whole thing. It ends badly for the 'psycho killer'. Russian actor, Oleg Taktarov did a pretty good job as the psycho killers partner. All in all, this movie gets a 2 out of 5.
  • The Wicker Man: (British/Scottish) A good detective thriller. A Scottish police detective is dispatched to a remote island after a young girl is reported missing. His investigation reveals an island full of pagan's who don't appreciate his meddling. He soon uncovers the gruesome 'truth' of a murder. As his investigation progresses, he finds himself in a progressively more dangerous environment. When the May day celebration arrives, the movie climaxes in a surprising twist. The acting was pretty good. Edward Woodward did a good job as the police detective, and Christopher Lee was definitely worth watching as well. I give this movie a 3 out of 5. This movie definitely kept me watching as the original story unraveled.
  • Halloween: Directed by John Carpenter, the master of horror suspense (The Fog, The Thing, They Live, In the mouth of madness), this movie set the standard for suspense slashers. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis in her debut role, the real star of this movie was the direction and music, both by John Carpenter. The combination of these two creates a sense of suspense unlike any other. Even the most mundane scenes; teenagers walking home from school, are dripping with suspense. The acting played third string to music, mood and setting. This movie gets a 4 out of 5.
  • Edward Scissorhands: A magical tale. A fairy tale fable, a wondrous piece of work from Tim Burton. Written by Tim Burton and Caroline Thompson, this highly visual movie was directed by Tim Burton. The original score by Danny Elfman is evocative and soulful. Combine the writing, direction, music and acting talent of Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Vincent Price and Dianne Weist and you've got a great movie. Johnny Depp plays an unfinished outcast in a nearly perfect world. Created by a 'mad' scientist, who dies before he can affix real hands to his creation, Edward is left to fend for himself in a world that's not as non-judgmental as it claims to be. Befriended by the local Avon lady, everything starts out rosy, but quickly turns south when petty jealousies and insecurities begin to take there toll on the protagonist. The costumes, sets, and makeup are perfectly matched to the characters and milieu of this fictional suburban village. A must see for Tim Burton fans. I give it a 5 out of 5.
  • Prophecy 3 - The ascent: A fantastic cast in a relatively poor movie. The story wasn't that good. The pacing was good but there really wasn't any development. We're left wondering what's going on throughout the movie. Luckily, I've seen the other two movies. My wife on the other hand, was constantly asking questions regarding the characters and plot line. Starring Christopher Walken and a bunch of other actors who get overshadowed by Christopher Walken's screen presence. The only other actor of note was Kayren Butler, who played the girlfriend of a Nephalim (Half human half angel). While her acting wasn't that good, she sure looked hot! The effects were pretty good, some of the visuals/camera work was pretty good. The music was o.k. The direction was o.k. This movie was something of a let down considering the fact that it was the final part of a trilogy. The ending was anticlimactic, rushed, and abbreviated. This one gets a 3 out of 5, based primarily on Christopher Walken's performance.
  • The Village: Another movie written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. One of my favorite directors. Shyamalan also did Sixth Sense, Signs and Unbreakable. I rated all of these 5 out of 5, and may come as no surprise that I'm giving 'The Village' a 5 out of 5 as well. A love story inside a story inside a story. Very well written. The cast was fantastic. With names like: Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrian Brody, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, and Brendon Gleeson, this movie contains some top notch acting. The costumes are vivid, evocative and splendid in period. The sets and locations take you back to a simpler time. The music moves you, catching your breath, lifting your spirits and giving you hope. The direction is impeccable. This movie has more emotion and reason in it than M. Night Shyamalan's previous films. Despite the reviews of a couple of nay saying friends, I thought this was a fantastic movie. I'm glad I bought a copy and I look forward to his next film.
  • Richard III: (British) An alternate history adaptation of Shakespeare's play. Visually stunning, inventive and tense. This retelling contains a fantastic cast, some splendid acting, and a good piece of directing. The music wasn't all that good and the writer couldn't possibly create a movie in under three hours that would do this story justice. This one gets a three out of five.
  • The Killing: Black and white heist drama by Stanley Kubrick. This crime thriller is styled like a classic film noir heist film. With some innovative production, here we see a very early example of non-linear structure. You can see it's influence in movies such as Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. If it hadn't been for the offensive and excessive use of narration, this movie would have been much better. The acting was great, even for the time. The script was great, some really good lines, and a pretty tight story. The framing and pacing were well done, and the music was exceptional. I give it a 3 out of 5.
  • Deliverance: One of the few great movies to make it out of the 70's. This gripping story of man against nature against man's nature is a classic tale of caution, risk, and adventure. Absolutely perfect pacing and sensational acting carry this movie forward through the rapids of an adventure based drama. Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, and a Ned Beatty (In a debut role) all deliver unforgettable performances. The dueling banjos segment is a great introduction to the tense journey ahead. The location was as raw as it gets. This wasn't shot on a sound stage with some jury rigged rapids, this was real backwaters footage from the deep woods of Georgia. Places that no longer exist stand as the backdrop to a masterful movie, directed by Roger Boorman. This movie will make you 'squeal like a pig'. I give it a 5 out of 5. I'm glad I bought it.
  • The Terminal: Directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Tom Hanks. This movie is a charming comedic drama about a foreigner trapped in a U.S. airport. Stranded between countries, the protagonist is forced to live in an airport terminal. Tormented by the director of security, Tom's character has to fend for himself. He finds employment, love, and finally liberty in this light hearted comedy. The camera work in this movie was absolutely fantastic. One such detail includes a scene where the security director is using a joystick to pan a security camera, as the shot transitions from the security monitor to actors, it transitions from a jerky joystick like motion to a smooth pan & scan motion. The direction was fantastic. The only drawback was the less than satisfactory ending to the love interest. I give it a 4 out of 5.
  • Akira Kurosawa's Dreams: (Japanese - Yume) A series of eight vignettes by the master director, Akira Kurosawa. If you're not a fan of Kurosawa's work, I'd recommend that you watch one of his feature length movies first. This is an artistic wellspring of inspirational material. One could easily adapt any of the short stories presented here as a feature length film. Visually stunning, absolutely breathtaking locations, and masterfully composed moving picture artwork. I give this one a 4 out of 5.

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