Movies seen/reviewed this year (2006)
[ Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]
* * Star Trek - The original series - Vol. 13, episodes 25 & 26: [This side of paradise / The devil in the dark]: 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'. This side of paradise had Spock kissing a woman, exhibiting 'Happiness' and generally acting like a Human. A space-borne plant sprayed the planets colonists with 'spores' which healed them and made them docile. Another episode about stagnation of imagination and the Human drive to achieve, create, explore and dominate their surroundings. In this episode we also learn that Vulcans have more than one name. According to Spock, the second name is typically unpronounceable by humans. The devil in the dark was one of my favorite 'Alien' episodes. Miners on Janus VI have a deadly encounter with a silicon based life form who only wants to coexist peacefully with the humans. The human miners want the monstrous rock-thing destroyed. Spock mind melds with the creature and Bones patches up it's wounds with concrete!
* Pump up the volume: Starring a very hot looking Christian Slater (Umm, don't tell all my Homophobic friends that I said that). This movie is about pirate radio. I love it. The acting is actually pretty good for one of those typical teen angst movies. Samantha Mathis does a great job playing the typical teenage love interest. Her topless scene was completely unexpected. But as some of my friends are prone to arguing 'You gotta love that gratuitous nudity". What was it with her hair? The 80's (yeah I know it was released in 1990) sure had some strange hairdo's.. Anyway back to the movie. Excellent writing and directing by Allan Moyle. Too bad he didn't do to well afterwards. The story was a little thin, but the message was great. A single voice can affect the masses, your voice counts. A very inspirational message for the young target audience. You pretty much knew he was gonna get caught in the end, but so did the characters, so it wasn't completely unrealistic in that sense. Excellent music as well. I'm glad I own a copy. Solid 4 of 5.
* Sling Blade: An absolutely fantastic movie. Written, directed and starring Billy Bob Thornton as a morally simple moronic murderer who's got it more together than many 'normal' people. This movie was definitely the pinnacle of Thornton's career. I've yet to see him do anything this good, and it's a shame. The casting (Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakam, J. T. Walsh, John Ritter, Lucas Black, Natalie Canerday, James Hampton, Robert Duvall), music, costumes, sets, locations, dialog, acting; everything about this movie was outstanding. A landmark film which everyone should see. A highly synergistic film where all the pieces fit together just right. The story is uncomplicated and powerful. It's like an art film without trying to be. That's what movie making is all about. 5 out of 5.
* High plains drifter: Directed by, and starring, Clint Eastwood. A very good movie. It's evident that Clint Eastwood learned a lot from working with Sergio Leonne, and it comes out in this movie. I can even see connections to Akira Kurosawa movies in this one. A great tale of good and evil. Well, mostly evil. A corrupt town hires a complete stranger in an attempt to cleanse it's soul and save their lives. The stranger (who is never named), turns out to be a catalyst for evil, drawing it out into the open on a blood red day of reckoning. A great movie. One of Eastwood's early directing roles. Showed his true potential. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
* Raid on Entebbe: The true story of a hijacking. An Air France plane full of Israelis is hijacked from Athens and flown to Uganda. The story is a page from history, and it is thrilling. A gripping saga about terrorism and how Israel stays it's course. This movie is a great illustration of what has made Israel into the state it is today. The acting (Aside from the typically lackluster performance by Charles Bronson) was pretty good. A great cast (other than Charles Bronson), some good music, and excellent direction. Some of the dialogue wasn't the best, but overall it's an excellent movie. I give it a 4 out of 5.
* Stray Dog: (Japanese - Nora Inu) Another fantastic movie by Akira Kurosawa. Starring Toshirô Mifune, this is a movie about a newly appointed homicide detective who has his gun stolen on a crowded bus. Frantic, ashamed and concerned, he sets out on a relentless quest to recover his 'stray dog' before it kills again. A great social drama and commentary on the sense of responsibility amidst declining moral values during the reconstruction era of post WWII Japan. Featuring great music, acting, writing, locations, sets and costumes, this is one of Kurosawa's early works. I give it a 4 out of 5.
* Broken Flowers: Written and directed by Jim Jarmush, this movie stars Bill Murray as a declining, comfortably sedate bachelor who can't seem to care about anything. After another typical break-up, he learns that he has a son from a previous relationship. What he doesn't know is who the mother is. A neighbor arranges a cross-country quest to discover the identity of the mother. Despite his protestations, Murray's character is compelled to complete the quest, and in return he regains some sense of what emotions are. A wonderfully shot movie with great acting and a splendid soundtrack. Unfortunately, the movie lacks conviction. Like most of the characters, it lacks any ambition. I was so numb by the end of the movie, that the anti-climactic ending didn't really disappoint me too much. The highlight of the movie comes about 40 minutes in, when Alexis Dziena, playing 'Lolita' gives us a full frontal nude shot as the teenage tease of a former love interest. The gratuitous nudity was without merit, but nonetheless appreciated, as one of the brighter spots in this ho-hum drama. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
* High & Low: (Japanese - Tengoku to jigoku) Another fantastic piece of cinematic mastery by none other than Akira Kurosawa. A detective thriller that grabs you by the throat. The movie gets off to a blazing fast beginning. After a heated business meeting, terror strikes the family of a successful businessman - His son is kidnapped in broad daylight just outside his apartment. Moments later we learn that the kidnappers have abducted the wrong kid. The main character (Played by Toshirô Mifune), a self-centered industrialist is relieved at first, then learns that the young son of his chauffeur will die if he doesn't put up the money earmarked for a financial coup in his business affairs. A gripping tale of morals, consequences and the excesses of a materialistic life. A taut thriller where the pacing music and acting fuse together into an exhilarating train ride of suspense - Filled with real human drama and tension, this movie is way more than a slam bam action flick. A 5 out of 5.
* * * The Office - Series 2: (U.K.) A television series produced by BBC. 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. The writing is witty, biting, funny and very close to the real thing. I've experienced many of the 'scenarios' enacted in this multi-episode disc. Series 2 consisted of four or five episodes. I can't quite remember, as I stopped watching with one episode left to go, after what felt like four episodes... I was falling asleep. The second series is not as good as the first. The acting is just as good, the characters are joined by an entirely new cast of integrees from another branch, which made things a bit hectic, and this time the overall feel is much more like that of a slow-motion train wreck, the desperate controlling boss is about to go down in flames, and everyone in the office is acting like something bad is about to happen. After the downhill slide began, I continued to watch out of sheer morbid curiosity. Series two was way less funny and much more pathetic. Much ruder, cruder and darker than the first series. (I'm counting this disc (4 or 5 episodes) as four movies, just in case your curious). This one gets a 3 out of 5.
* Neighbors: Starring John Belushi and Dan Akroyd, this movie was a comedy? Strange folks move in next door, one's a psychopathic liar, and the other is a sultry temptress who taunts you and plays you like a kitten with a ball of yarn. Set at the end of the road in a swamp infested suburb, this tale lacks reason. I'm not sure what the point was, other than 'Hey! let's make a movie!' The acting was over the top, the characters were weak. The music was alright, and the sound production didn't suck. The movie did though. I give it a 2 out of 5.
* Trekkies: A documentary about the fans of Star Trek. You know what? I'm a fan of Star Trek. It's one of the few television shows I've ever liked. What I didn't like about this documentary was it's focus on the freaks of Star Trek. By focusing on the oddballs, they've given everyone the impression that science-fiction fans, Star Trek fans, are a bunch of nuts. It's almost as if they intentionally sought out the fringe element in an effort to give their documentary more 'color'. In the end, the ended up coloring all Star Trek fans into a very strange corner. The documentary was well directed, and I enjoyed the interviews with the former cast members, but the distorted focus on the fans put me off. I give it a 2 out of 5.
* The Blind Swordsman - Zatoichi: (Japanese - Zatôichi) There have been several movies made with this name, and this one must be one of the best. Directed by and starring, Takeshi Kitano, this highly stylized picture is a moving work of art. The music, choreography, acting, sets, costumes, locations, etc, etc, etc. It was very obvious that everything was planned to the most exacting level of detail. A finely woven tale with several complex characters created a truly deserving remake of a classic Japanese tale. The choreographed musical pieces were fantastic. The sword fights were new, fresh and unpredictable. The lighting and colors were remarkable. This movie is much more than a standard Samurai tale. Stage like, comic, tragic drama, at times Kabuki like. This one definitely gets a 5 out of 5, and I'm adding it to my list.
* Star Trek - The original series - Vol. 14, episodes 27 & 28: [Errand of Mercy / The City on the Edge of Forever]: 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'. Errand of mercy finds Kirk and Spock alone on a planet of pacifists when a war with the Klingons breaks out. As the Klingons invade the planet Kirk and Spock go underground to 'convince' the planet's inhabitants that the Klingons are here to do them harm. Despite their arrogant assurances and superior attitudes, both sides (Federation & Klingon) in this dispute soon learn that the pacifist inhabitant's have a lesson for the warring parties. The city on the edge of forever is another one of those time travel episodes that I love so much. Here McCoy rushes headlong through a time portal on an abandoned planet. Kirk and Spock have no option but to follow. Soon all three are embroiled in a complex web which will lead to the death of an innocent, or destruction of a civilization. Excellent writing.
* The Tesseract: (Honk Kong/Thailand) This movie, directed by Oxide Pang Chun (A Hong Kong based director) was filmed in Thailand in Chinese, English and Thai. Good thing the subtitles were obligatory! The screen play was adapted from a novel (The Tesseract) by Alex Garland. Unfortunately, this movie has nothing to do with a 'Tesseract', and virtually nothing to do with the novel which bears the name. A Tesseract is a four dimensional cube, and the movie initially claimed to have a multi-dimensional theme. It doesn't. The novel wove four characters into a whole story. Maybe the four 'dimensions' of the four characters as they overlapped into a single story was the basis of the title? While the novel may have been quite good (I haven't read it), this movie wasn't. It contained some neat visuals, color treatment, slow motion and pretty good acting, but the story was severely lacking. The plot was pretty thin - Someone stole my drugs and I want them back - your typical Hong Kong gangster theme. Despite all the big explosions and fancy camera work, in the end this one plays out with a disappointing whimper. 2 out of 5.
* The Constant gardener: I'm a sucker for a good conspiracy theory, and here's one that never quits. Filmed primarily in Kenya. This romance, murder mystery, conspiracy thriller, features British Diplomats, Pharmaceutical executives, Missionaries and deadly bandits in a wild conspiracy involving corporate corruption and the highest levels of government. Masterfully directed and acted. This movie was a tour-de-force work by director Fernando Meirelles. A 5 out of 5.
* Judgment at Nuremberg: A black & white movie made in 1961, but it feels as current as the middle east is violent. In the wake of violence, justice and liberty are threatened with subjugation at the hands of 'protecting' a nation from it's 'enemies'. At what point does the protection become the threat? This movie contains great acting by Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich, Maximilian Schell, Judy Garland, Montgomery Clift, Ed Binns, Werner Klemperer, Torben Meyer, Martin Brandt and a very young William Shatner. The writing and direction (by Stanley Kramer) are magnificent, the music is great. The best part of this movie is the story - highly relevant, very important. How easy is it to become what you despise, when you're surrounded by 'enemies'? The only flaw was pacing. At times this movie moved as quickly as our judicial system. 4 out of 5.
* A Streetcar named Desire: Dramatic and passionate. This classic play made movie contains some fantastic acting (Starring: Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter & Karl Malden), great music and a dramatic story about love, guilt, loss, dreams, despair and destiny. If you haven't seen this one yet, you need to put it on your list. A classic play made into a movie. The music is top notch, the casting superb. Only one thing makes this movie less than perfect. It's pacing is too fast. Life simply doesn't happen in fast forward. Not one minutes goes by without an entire page of dialogue. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
* Bat 21: A movie I saw a long time ago, and then I saw parts of it again when I attended the Air Force NCO academy back in 2002. A pretty good vietnam war movie. An evade and survive/behind enemy lines movie. I've seen this plot before, and there really wasn't anything new or surprising . Starring Danny Glover and Gene Hackman, this movie, directed by Peter Markle, features excellent pacing, good music, excellent sets and locations, as well as some excellent acting by both Hackman and Glover. Based on a true story, this is an early example of the survive and evade genre. Thankfully, we're not led to believe that Hackman is an in the field military officer. Instead, he plays a semi-retired golf playing behind the lines pencil pusher who ends up in a situation where he's way over his head. I give this one a 4 out of 5.
* Cinema Paradiso: (Italian - Nuovo cinema Paradiso) I watched this movie with subtitles, but I was surprised to find that I could still understand a lot of the dialog without the subtitles. Kim and I enjoyed our seven years in Southern Italy, and this movie certainly brought back a lot of those memories. Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, an unknown director (to Americans) until this movie came out. This movie is long, something like 170 minutes. I watched the directors cut. It's a journey through childhood. A famous film producer grows up in his village's movie theater, where he falls in love with a father figure, the movies, and a beautiful girl who breaks his heart. A touching and wonderful film. A character based drama about the big screen, and how it influenced one little boys life. This one gets a 5 out of 5. Splendid directing, good acting, and a touching story.
* Screamers: A sci-fi feature from Comcast's free 'On-Demand' offerings. Starring Peter Weller, Roy Dupuis, Jennifer Rubin & Andrew Lauer, this is a pretty good movie. The sci-fi war story is based on a novel by 'Philip K. Dick', and the movie 'borrows' elements from quite a few sci-fi classics. Unfortunately, it's lacking anything original. The acting by Peter Weller is pretty good, and I liked the way the movie created a futuristic feeling without resorting to odd costumes. This one gets 3 out of 5.
* Doctor Zhivago: With a cast consisting of Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin, Rod Steiger, Alec Guinness and Tom Courtenay, it's no wonder that this movie contained some brilliant acting. Astonishingly, this movie, set in the midst of the Bolshevik revolution, isn't much of a political statement. What it is however, is a brilliant dramatic epic set in the midst of a war ravaged nation. Full of character development, love, hate, death, war, and a search for reconciliation keep this movie moving forward at a pace akin to the Russian revolution. This movie contains some fantastic music, locations, sets, and costumes. The writing, directing and acting are unequaled. Deserving of the five oscars that it won and so much more. It's may be a long movie, but it's well worth it. I'm going to buy a copy and watch it over and over. 5 out of 5.
* King of New York: Despite a terrific cast, and some great directing. This movie lacked purpose or vision. What was the point? Pointless violence; the screen was spattered with copious amounts of blood, sex, drugs and abusive language. A glimpse into the most violent aspects of the drug trade in New York city. The Hollywood drug trade that is. The one we viewers are shown in countless movies. Movies that depict a gangster ruled world of violence. The movies (like this one) always depict the drug trade in a glorious but violent manner. The best thing about this 'movie' was the acting. Christopher Walken, David Caruso, Laurence Fishburne, Victor Argo, Wesley Snipes, Janet Julian, Joey Chin, Giancarlo Esposito, Paul Calderon, Steve Buscemi and many others. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
* The Chumscrubber: A different kind of drug trade. This movie portrays teen drug trade in a typical high school. What does it drive the characters to do? Another teen angst movie, where the adults ignore the increasingly desperate pleas of their offspring. The adults are all depicted as neurotic, self absorbed over-achievers. The hero is, as expected, a misunderstood, depressed male (played by Jamie Bell), who contemplates suicide, is convinced that no one can hear him, and no one really cares. In the end though, he does the right thing; rescuing the kidnapped innocent, and winning the kiss of the hot chick (played by Camilla Belle) who longs for his loins. Another waste of suburban angst. I've seen this movie far to many times to be impressed by this lackluster remix. Despite the talented cast, this flick didn't contain anything to separate it from the chaff. 2 out of 5.
Movies seen/reviewed this year (2006)
[ Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]
* Robots: An animated movie. This one was in Kim's queue, but I thought I'd give it a try. This film is a perfect example of why these CG movies are drawing smaller and smaller audiences. Cute characters, simple and predictable plots, smoothly perfect animation, completely innocuous music. Nothing stands out in this movie. As a matter of fact, the best part of the movie was the voice of Robin Williams. Did you catch that? The best part was 'a voice'? This genre is pretty much dead. I group this type of movie in the 'Saturday Morning Cartoons' category. Not worth the effort. This one gets a 2 out of 5.
* Hawaii - Oslo: (Norway) Another one of those 'Many stories equals one movie' movies. I don't care for this style of movie, and this is just another example of why I don't like this type of movie. Lacking a cohesive plot, we're treated to a movie about a 'seer'. One of the characters in this movie has prophetic dreams. His dreams affect the lives of people in Oslo, Norway. He doesn't necessarily know the people, and they don't necessarily know him, but for some reason he's having prophetic dreams about them. I get the feeling that this 'Crash' style movie lacked anything original, so the author added the 'seer' as an after thought. The characters were great, the direction was great. The music was pretty good, but the story was lacking. Slow, without purpose, and meandering. I felt like 'I' dreamed the whole movie. Typical of the 'Synchronicity' genre. I give it a 3 out of 5.
* Mr. & Mrs. Smith: This one was on Kim's queue, but I didn't have anything else to watch. As expected, it was a waste of time. A typical hollywood waste of time. An excuse to put two good looking actors on screen together. Start with a worthless script (no plot to speak of), add lots of explosions, show some skin, dish up some corny dialog, and call it a movie. This is the typical hollywood formula for 'Crap'. The only thing worth watching in this movie was Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie. Their chemistry in this movie was very good. 2 out of 5.
* From here to eternity: (Made in 1953, I watched the original Black & White version). A great drama, dressed in Army green. Set just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. This movie portrays the lives of the men in a typical Army unit. A seldom seen point of view. Life in the Army isn't quite the same today, but this was one fantastic drama. The directing (by Fred Zinneman), acting (by Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, Frank Sinatra, Philip Ober, Ernest Borgnine) and character development were terrific. Great locations, sets and some fantastic music. This movie was more than a War movie, more than a love story. A dramatic portrayal of life in the military. Characters struggle with honor, duty, love and devotion. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
* * Star Trek - The original series - Vol. 15, episodes 29 & 30: [Operation: Annihilate! / Catspaw ]: 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'. Episode 29 is one of my all-time favorite Star Trek episodes. Featuring 'Flying Vomit' as a menacing pain inducing alien, mind-controlled colonists, and a determined crew. Kirk and Spock never relent in this episode. Some great (campy) dialog keeps the edge off. Kirk shouts "Spread out, follow-me", and everyone follows him in a relatively straight line (in order to stay in the shot). In one classic shot, Kirk beams down to the planet and the camera shot was set up with an extremely low camera angle, looking up at Kirk. Kirk stands for a moment, fists on hips, legs apart - The classic "I am Kirk - I am a God" stance. Episode 30 was fun as well. Featuring a pair of magic wielding aliens, a giant stalking cat, and the crew in manacles. This disc marks the end of season one, and I'm rating it 5 out of 5.
* Agnes of god: A religious toned murder mystery. This one reminds me of 'Order of the Rose', another great religious murder mystery. The newborn infant of a nun is found in a convent trash can. The mother is a mysterious character who exhibits stigmata, hears angelic voices, and sings like an angel. The best part of this movie is the unsolved ending. It doesn't stoop to the 'We must answer every question' cliche. Featuring some excellent acting, a great cast and a terrific story. This one was definitely worth watching. I rate it 4 out of 5.
* Stander: (South Africa) An amazing film about Andre Stander, a South African cop who turns to robbing banks after he becomes disillusioned and disgusted by his governments corrupt and unjust system. This movie was filmed on location in Africa, and the actors spoke accented English. It felt very authentic and I was taken in by the feeling of apartheid falling apart as I watched the movie. A great drama disguised as an action film. Terrific acting by Thomas Jane, Ashley Taylor, David O'Hara, Dexter Fletcher, Deborah Kara Unger, Marius Weyers and At Botha. perfect direction by Bronwen Hughes, and a great soundtrack. Everything in this movie clicked. I give it a 5 out of 5 despite the violent nature of the film.
* Alexander: (Director's Cut (Shorter than the theatrical version?)) O.k. I finally got around to watching this movie, and I have to say, I didn't like it. The acting by Angelina Jolie and Anthony Hopkins was exceptional. They both did a fantastic job. The direction by Oliver Stone was fair, but the writing and dialog were poor. The sets, locations and costumes were outstanding. The problem with this movie was it's scope. It tried to be too much. Historical, but not focused on the historical aspects. Dramatic, but not just a drama. I liked the narration aspects (as told by Old Ptolemy (played by Anthony Hopkins)), but the story strayed too much from this format, and the numerous time shifts left me wondering 'why?'. Overall I rate it a 2 out of 5.
* The Kid: A Black & White silent picture (1921) with/by Charles Chaplin. Not a Disney movie with Bruce Willis. Another movie written by, directed by, and starring Charlie Chaplin. This time he goes one better. This time he even composed the score for the movie. In this dramatic comedy. Chaplin costars with Jackie Coogan (playing Jack Coogan). A child actor who's talent is immediately obvious and who's career is all but assured after the debut of this movie. The story is that of an orphan taken in by down-and-out Chaplin. Doing his best to support the duo in a depression era economy. The two end up involved in a rather complex set of comedic circumstances. At less than an hour in duration, this movie was a joy to watch. I give it a 4 out of 5.
* March of the Penguins: (France - Marche de l'empereur, La) A documentary shot in the eternally cold and utterly unforgiving antarctica. This movie is incredibly well shot considering the location. I can't imagine the hardships encountered making this movie. Extremely well narrated movie covers the first journey of a young Emperor penguin in Antarctica. Great directing, production, location, and acting :-) This movie gets a 4 out of 5.
* Red Eye: A psychological thriller directed by Wes Craven. Not very thrilling. Poor writing. The plot? Preposterous. Terrorists want to kill the Secretary of Homeland Defense, we're not sure why. Probably because they're terrorists. Part of their plot requires them to kidnap some innocent woman, threaten to kill her dad, and force her to move the politician into a different hotel room. Rachel McAdams as the damsel in distress surprises us with her vigorous self defense moves, but aside from that, there were no surprises is this flat thriller. I give it a 2 out of 5.
* Walk the line: I watched this movie while flying back from Hawaii. A documentary about rock/country legend Johnny Cash. Juaquin Phoenix gave a stunning performance as the god of the enigmatic country rocker. Reese Witherspoon delivers an unforgettable June Carter. The direction by James Mangold was great. The costumes, sets, locations and casting were all well done. While this picture was less bio-pic and more love story than some would prefer, I found it utterly convincing, compelling and deeply moving. The musical performances by Phoenix and Witherspoon were top notch, the acting was outstanding, the music was used to move the story forward, and I rate this movie 5 out of 5. I'm adding it to my must buy list.
* Z-Channel - A magnificent obsession: A totally captivating documentary about the man and the station. Back in the late 70's, a maverick by the name of Jerry Harvey took the reins of the nation's first pay cable channel. The undeniable genius that drove Z-Channel was driven to program the best movies he could for an audience that was hungry for something smarter that the industry standard broadcast community could provide. Featuring groundbreaking uncut, directors cuts and independent movies, Z-Channel became an icon of sophistication amidst a nation of pabulum sated american moviegoers. I made a list of over fifty movies while watching this amazing documentary. A fantastic movie worthy of a 5 out of 5.
* The forest for the trees: (German - Wald vor lauter Bäumen, Der) Another selection from Filmmovement.com. This one shows a lot of potential, but poor camera work and an unfinished and amateur feel detracted from my experience. The story follows a young and enthusiastic college graduate as she embarks on her new career as a teacher in a new town. Leaving friends and family behind, the character soon finds herself in a downward spiral of deepening depression. A social misfit, the character makes several mistakes as she desperately seeks to make friends in this new city. The movie's ending is a surprisingly symbolic scene where she completely loses control of her life as it careens out of control into a completely uncertain future. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
Movies seen/reviewed this year (2006)
[ Jan | Feb
| Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]
* The Ladykillers: DVD borrowed from a friend. A remake of a 50's comedy (which I haven't seen). Starring Tom Hanks, this witty comedy features some fantastic characters with great lines. The writing and directing by the Coen Brothers (Ethan & Joel) is top notch. Unfortunately, the scope is a bit to narrow. The plot? An eccentric southern professor takes a sabbatical in order to assemble an unlikely crew to rob a floating casino. They tunnel to the cash from the basement of a nearby home. Unfortunately, the landlady discovers their crime. So, she must be eliminated... Easier said than done. Clever and well done. The problem with this movie isn't the characters, it's the story. The story is just a bit to mundane for the characters. I rate this movie a 3 out of 5.
* Wolf: This is the second time I've seen this movie, and I must say, I'd forgotten how good it was. Here's a classic horror theme (werewolf) turned current by setting it in today's competitive business world. The direction by Mike Nichols was fantastic. The acting by Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer and James Spader was great. The lines were pretty good, and the camera work and lighting was perfect. The opening sequence was outstanding. It really set a good mood for the movie. This was a wonderful mix of horror and drama with excellent pacing. The music by Ennio Moriccone was outstanding. This is a horror movie in the classic mode. Where dramatic character interplay, good camera work and great music all work together. You won't find flashy eye candy, skin tight black leather or any CGI effects. I give this movie a 5 out of 5, and I'm adding it to my 'must buy' list.
* Il Grido: (Italian - The Outcry) Made in 1957, this black & white movie was co-written and directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. Starring American actor Steve Cochran and several Italian beauties, the movie is set in post-WWII industrial Italy during a period of social displacement. The main character, Aldo (played by Steve Cochran) learns that his live in lovers husband has died, but she's concealed another lover from him all this while. Despite the fact that they have a daughter together, she decides to leave him for this other lover. Unable to convince her to stay he instigates a very public break-up. Afterwards he begins a wandering journey across a bleak and desolate countryside. As he falls into one disastrous relationship after another he finally realizes that leaving his home town gained him nothing. He returns only to find his foundation condemned to destruction by the government. Convinced that fate has set his course he sees no alternative and commits suicide is a truly fitting ending. This tragic tale of love spurned and an inability to communicate results in a downward spiral of tragic consequences. The camera work is fantastic, the framing exceptional, the locations reflect the mood of the movie and the acting is great. Despite a poor translation (subtitles), this one gets a 4 out of 5.
* Four Brothers: The best part about this movie was the casting and the soul music. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, André Benjamin, Garrett Hedlund and many others, the acting was pretty good, but this movie didn't contain anything new. The plot? Someone killed an elderly "Hell's Kitchen of Detroit" adoptive parent, the 'Brothers' (Two black, two white) return for the funeral and some vengeance. There's a bad cop subplot, a brother in trouble sub-plot, and a pair of bumbling detectives sub-plot. Add in lot's of violence, some catchy music, profanity and some sex and you've got yourself a hollywood blockbuster. I didn't care for it. 2 out of 5.
* Captain Blood: A classic pirate movie. This black and white movie made in 1935 is an early 'talky' featuring quite a few 'narration' screens. This was Errol Flynn's breakout role in American cinema. As a pirate movie this one was great. The plot used several historical facts and characters, the sets, locations, costumes and music were fantastic. While the acting was typical for the era, the chemistry between Errol Flynn and Olivia de Hallivand (as the high born love interest) was terrific. The actions scenes were amazing (for the time), and the story was the best. Containing all the iconic contents of a classic pirate movie: Political persecution, slavery in the west indies, an evil plantation owner, sacking of port towns, naval battles, tropical islands, drunken debauchery, sword fights, duels, chivalry, sieges, fair maidens and redemption. The plot contained plenty of stunning twists and turns and this light hearted pirate movie is one of the best I've ever seen. I give it a 4 out of 5.
* Europa Europa: (Germany) An incredibly powerful movie, based on a true story about the survival of a young jewish boy during WWI. What he had to do to survive Hitler's nightmare. How he had to subvert his own identity and live a life of lies. The direction, writing and acting were outstanding. The sets, locations and costumes perfect. How long could a jew possibly escape detection from within the ranks of the third reich? This one gets a 5 out of 5.
* Mr. Smith goes to Washington: Black & White political drama from 1939. A very well done movie with a positive message. A movie about political graft, corruption and American ideals. Starring James Stewart, Claude Rains and Jean Arthur, this movie featured some great direction by Frank Capra as well as a great script and terrific lines. Thoroughly enjoyable throughout. The only downside was the confining aspects of the movie. Too much of the action takes place on the floor of the U.S. Senate, and the ending left me wanting more. I rate this one 4 out of 5.
* Malena: (Italian - Malèna) Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore (See Cinema Paradiso), this is a movie about a young boys unrequited first love. An older woman, the most beautiful in the entire town becomes the object of his fantasies, love, lust, an obsession. As he grows into a man she is his focal point for the formulation of his ideals regarding love and adult relationships. The romantic, comedic drama is a fantastic coming of age story wrapped up in the setting of war-torn Italy. The music is fantastic, the characters completely authentic, the direction is superb and the story memorable. I give it a 5 out of 5.
* Man on fire: Another typical hollywood kidnapping drama/action flick for the "Let's get some revenge!" crowd. Denzel Washington plays Denzel Washington as a washed-up alcoholic ex-military/mercenary assassin. Dakota Fanning provides an overacting lesson as the kidnapped child. Thankfully, Christopher Walken, Rachel Ticotin and some of the other cast members help ground the performances. The plot? Mexico city, someone kidnaps rich guys kid. Denzel gets shot up. The ransom goes bad and the kid is killed. Denzel pulls himself out of the hospital and goes on a blood-bath rampage. The extreme violence that follows was repulsive and did not serve to enhance the story in any way. As Denzel closes in on the 'leaders', the plot twists are revealed. Guess what? The kid is still alive! Guess what? The kids dad and his lawyer were the masterminds behind the kidnapping! Stunned silence follows... Gee. I would have never guessed. I figured out these plot twists before I even watched the movie. The camera work overused stylized shooting and the editing was a bit dizzying. The only thing that saved this movie from getting a 2 was the setting in Mexico City, which afforded some great location shots and really added to the movie. I give it a 3 out of 5.
* The Weather Man: From Kim's queue. I don't really care for Nicolas Cage, as his acting style is too stage like and his demeanor always strikes me as a bit too smug. This movie is a great drama, it's too bad they didn't cast somebody else in the lead. Cage's style wasn't right for this role. The acting by Michael Caine was superb. The pacing and directing (by Gore Verbinski) were excellent. The location shots were great, as was the music. Unfortunately the sound track wasn't well matched to the moods of the movie. The story is deep, dark, personal and carried a lot of unspoken dialog. The main character is tormented by his demons, he's on a downward spiral, desperately seeking a way up and out. When the transition comes for the main character it's hard to spot - That's the sore spot in this movie. 3 out of 5.
* The boys from Brazil: (U.K.) Starring Gregory Peck as Dr. Josef Mengele (Notorious Nazi) and Laurence Olivier as Ezra Lieberman (Nazi Hunter), this is fantastic movie. A dramatic thriller with a sci-fi slant. This movie, released in 1978, explored a sci-fi concept which is now accepted as fact. Human cloning. I remember seeing this movie back in the 70's. The audience was shocked by the possibility of human cloning. The story broached a scary concept involving cloning in a very believable way. While watching the movie, you're intrigued by the possibilities and then shocked to find that the Nazi's had actually achieved their goals. They'd already cloned Hitler! The acting was pretty good, the direction fine, the music added considerable propulsion, but the story was the star of this movie. As the movie begins with an investigation, the mysterious conspiracy thickens and an eventual confrontation between the resolute hunter and his elusive quarry ensues. The showdown involving the Doberman's is a very tense scene, and the ending leaves you guessing about the future of humanity. 5 out of 5.
* Lady in the lake: Released in 1947, this film noir detective story starred Robert Montgomery and Audrey Totter. The story was your usual film noir detective story. The characters were cardboard cutouts from any film noir detective story. There were two things that set this movie apart. First of all, the pacing was so quick and the plot so convoluted, that I had no idea who did what to whom. I found myself dragged along mercilessly through this fast-forward detective story. I got lost within the first 15 minutes, and never got back on track. With all honesty though, I was warned not to blink at the begining of the film. The other thing that set this movie apart was the way it was told/filmed. It was presented entirely from a first person point of view. The view that we're presented is what the main character sees. The only time we saw 'Philip Marlowe', was when he stood near or looked into a mirror. I give it a 3 out of 5 for the novel manner in which the story was told.
* Amelie: (France - Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, Le) A great movie. A charming romance, a fantastic fairy tale. A naive young woman is alone in Paris. She reaches a turning point in her life and decides to help those around her. In helping others she helps herself and falls in love. Great characters, great casting, excellent direction and splendid camera work. The traveling Gnome thread was brilliant. The ending was terrific. This is the second time I've seen this movie. It gets a 5 out of 5 and I've added it to my 'Must Buy' list.
* The Star Maker : (Italy - Uomo delle stelle, L') Another movie by Giuseppe Tornatore. This director's films all feel like they were made in the 50's - 60's, even though they're relatively new (80's - 90's). His highly visual style of story telling creates stirring pictures full of raw emotion. This is the story of a self-proclaimed 'Talent Scout'. The main character is a huckster disguised as a movie industry insider. Traveling from town to town in a depressed and bombed out post WWII Sicily, he sells dreams to the eager masses for a mere 1,500 lira. Never staying in one town for very long, this con-man bounces from town to town the way he bounces in and out of relationships. He skillfully navigates the mine-field of potential traps until he stumbles upon the one trap that targets his heart. Fantastic characters, stunning visuals, terrific music, and unrivaled direction make this a movie on par with Cinema Paradiso. (This movie is rated "R" for good reasons. Don't let the kids watch this one.) I give it a 5 out of 5. Added to the 'Must Buy' list.
* War of the worlds: The remake that doesn't equal the original in any way. Directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning and the underratedJustin Chatwin. This remake places alien invaders in a present tense. We're asked to believe that Aliens capable of interstellar travel wouldn't think about or take precautions to avoid contamination by alien life forms. For all their sophistication, these aliens are killed by the same thing that killed the original aliens. Audiences bought it back then because they weren't as knowledgeable about science and infectious diseases. Fast forward through the Aids epidemic, several 'Outbreak' style movies and 'Mad Cow' disease. Today's audience is just not gullible enough to believe the 'Germs' killed them ending. Rather than re-run the original 1950's naivete setting, Spielberg chooses to give us a different spin on the invasion. Unfortunately it's just not enough of a twist to monopolize our attention. Follow that with a deflecting drama about a man and his family and we've completely given up on the sci-fi aspects of the film. The acting by Cruise and Dakota was a bit overwhelming at times, and the best parts of this movie received very little attention. The pacing, effects and set work were fantastic. This one takes a monumental film, and remakes it to feel run of the mill. 3 out of 5.
* 2046: (China/Hong-Kong) Disappointing bait-and-switch. After reading a brief synopsis of this movie, I got the feeling that it was a sci-fi drama. The sci-fi in this movie was something like sci-fi in an episode of 'The Young and the Restless'. Dress in a costume, and show a poorly rendered CGI exterior shot. This narrated first person drama recounts the story of a lackluster writer's lousy love life. The story supposedly takes places in different times, but I didn't see it that way. I saw it as a bunch of unrelated dramas about love lost. The loser in this story can't seem to commit, and as a result he's destined to make a lot of women unhappy in an endless loop of time-traveling purgatory? The direction was well done, and the narrative prose was well written, but as a movie it failed. Maybe the book is better? The title? I really haven't got a clue, and frankly, I could care less. This one got a 2 out of 5.
* The 40 year-old virgin: Very funny, but too risque. American comedy is becoming too raunchy. I don't need continuous profanity and sex jokes to make me laugh. Am I the only one who doesn't swear twice a minute? Steve Carell is great in this coming of age - at 40! comedy (He reminds me a lot of Daniel Auteuil in The Closet (France - Le Placard)). The supporting cast and characters were very well matched. The music was great and there were a lot of great lines; Jay: [to Andy, in a bar] All you got to do is use your instincts. How do you think a lion knows to tackle a gazelle? It's written, it's a code written in his DNA, says, "tackle the gazelle." And believe it or not, in every man there's a code written that says, "tackle drunk bitches." Umm, wasn't I the one who said I didn't need profanity to make me laugh? Anyway, this was one hilarious comedy. I rate it 4 out of 5.
* Fahrenheit 9/11: O.k. some people refuse to watch this movie. What's up with that? Are they afraid that it might make them think? That it might change their perception of reality? That the movie might cast our President in a poor light? Come on people. We live in a democracy with (last time I checked) freedom of speech. I liked it. Yes it's a documentary, but it's obviously biased. Must all documentaries be unbiased? Really, says who? I thought it was artfully crafted. A well done documentary. Not the best documentary ever, but still. It was well done. Insightful, creative, and somewhat humorous, given the gravity of the issues it addressed. Whether you like or dislike Michael Moore, you have to give him credit for taking an extremely complex set of data, events and opinions, and converting them into a single cogent point of view. I give it a 4 out of 5.
* Polar Express: At last an animated movie that's not another stupid story about some talking animal or toy. This one is clearly aimed at a younger audience (Well, younger than me!), and I applaud it for not 'trying' to appeal to both adult and child. It made me laugh, nearly cry, and I watched intently as my inner child stared in wonder! Here we see animation used to help tell the story. It wasn't just a substitute for live action, and it certainly wasn't a cartoon. Tom Hanks was great in all the characters he voiced, and the direction by Robert Zemeckis was excellent. The only detraction from this movie was the obvious play to political correctness by inserting characters of distinctly diverse racial/ethnic types. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
* The motorcycle diaries: (Argentina - Diarios de motocicleta) This was a great movie, until it started getting political. If this movie hadn't tried to illustrate Che' Guevara's political motivations, it would have been a much better movie. The movie is a recounting of a great journey. Two young men set off on a grand adventure to ride a motorcycle across South America in the early 50's. It was a great travel movie, the main characters were great, and the acting by Rodrigo De la Serna (in the secondary role) was outstanding. The cinematography and the locations splendid. The direction was fine, but there were times when the movie slipped into 'documentary' mode. That detracted from the pure adventure and discovery aspects of the movie. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
* Horizons - Where the sea meets the sky: DVD Trio/Polynesian collection. This DVD contains three videos. Welcome to Polynesia, Fa'a Samoa, and the Horizon's Evening Show. All three videos are productions of the Polynesian cultural center located on the North shore of Oahu, Hawai'i. Of the three videos, Fa'a Samoa was by far the most entertaining and had the best production quality. The Horizon's show is much better when experienced live, and the Welcome to Polynesia video suffered from poor production and narration. Rating all three videos: Welcome to Polynesia - 2, Fa'a Samoa - 4, Horizon's evening show - 2. Overall: 3.
* The man who would be king: A film co-written and directed by John Huston. This movie is based on a Rudyard Kippling novel. Starring Sean Connery, Michael Caine and Christopher Plummer, this a fantastic adventure story. The type of movie that inspires one to write something like an Indiana Jones movie. Grand adventure, exotic locations, Masonic mysteries, ancient history, military conquest and a fatalistic ending. A perfect treat for a Saturday afternoon. I give this one a 4 out of 5.
* I'll sleep when I'm dead: A dud - This one never gets out of first gear. The plot is as follows: Retired gangsters son is found dead, dad comes out of retirement to find those responsible and kill them. The pacing was incredibly slow, and the acting was un-inspiring. The plot was extremely predictable, and the ending was terrible. I think they actually forgot what they were doing when they edited the movie. This one gets a 2 out of 5.
* The Aviator: The remake directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett and Alec Baldwin. The casting wasn't the best. I'm not much of a DiCaprio fan. He did a good job in this movie, but I don't think he was the best casting choice for the lead. Regardless of the age depicted, his voice made me think of a pimply faced teenage boy. In my opinion, the best acting and casting came from Alec Baldwin as Howard Hughes' arch-nemesis. While the movie followed the expected portrayal of Mr. Hughes, Howard Hughes may not have been as odd as the press made him out to be. I think that our perception of some historical figures is clouded by sensationalistic journalists. This bio-pic felt like a fictional film. It didn't feel like a documentary at all. Scorsese did a really good job. I was caught up in the story, which flew by. I give this one a 4 out of 5.
* Aaltra: (France - Aaltra) A Filmmovement.com selection, this movie was billed as a witty comedy, this dark drama had some funny moments, but it wasn't really a comedy. Two men collide when their petty problems overcome their senses. They become injured during a fight and seek revenge against the manufacturer of a piece of farm machinery (The name of the movie is the name of the manufacturer). The acting was pretty good, and the directing was very good. The movie lacked a decent soundtrack, and the video production was off. Lacking color (shot in black and white), depth or motion. It felt like I was reading a book. The only redeeming feature of this movie was it's treatment of the handicapped. They were definitely treated in a realistic manner, and I left the film with a greater sense of understanding for their day to day struggle with prejudice. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
* * Star Trek - The original series - Vol. 16, episodes 31 & 32: [Metamorphosis / Friday's Child ]: I've started viewing episodes from the second season 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'. Metamorphosis features Zephram Cochrane at 235 years old! He's been kept alive by an alien that's fallen in love with him. There sure was a lot of interspecies love in the show! Friday's Child featured more interspecies love. The Federation and the Klingon empire compete for a rare mineral and McCoy is the parent of the planets next ruler! The bow and arrow ambush in Friday's Child was a pretty tense combat scene, thanks to great music. I can't believe they needed a stunt man to handle the difficult task of 'falling down'. I'm sure he earned every sent from that scene...
* Derailed: One from Kim's queue. I really wasn't paying much attention (reading my book on the couch) until the second half of the movie. That's when the plot really heated up. Just before things got interesting, I made some silly remark like... "O.k. I've got the entire plot figured out. Here's what's going to happen." I couldn't have been more wrong. At first I thought this was just going to be some sappy romantic drama, what with Jennifer Aniston and Clive Owen playing opposite each other. What I didn't count on was the fact that this was actually a suspense thriller, and a really good one at that. The best acting actually came from Vincent Cassel, who plays a blackmailing low life scumbag. The acting (overall) wasn't the best, and the directing was good, but the lighting, music and writing were really good. This surprising thriller gets a 4 out of 5.
* Kurosawa: A documentary on the acclaimed director. As far as documentary's go, there really wasn't anything spectacular about this one. Disappointing, considering the astonishing personality that was the subject. Akira Kurasawa's films have always been listed as some of the world's best, and he's my personal favorite. This documentary on the other hand, will be forgotten by the thousands who see it in less than an hour. A simple recap of movies he made, and some personal insight into his life. This movie was produced, directed and shot with a surprising lack of vision. There was nothing here about Kurosawa's contribution to the art of film, how his techniques and vision advanced the cinema. There's an extreme lack of focus when it comes to the schism between Kurasawa and his leading man, 'Toshiro Mifune'. I give this documentary a 3 out of 5. It had some good stylistic elements (reuse of Kurosawa film footage), but lacked in substance. Note: I only watched the main title on the disc. There were two other interviews, but I didn't watch those.
* November: Very stylistic murder mystery. Excellent photography, lighting, music and composition. The acting was o.k., the direction and music were good. A movie about a tragic event. Replayed over and over, the main character (played by Courteney Cox) tries to make sense out of a sense violent incident. A loved one is murdered in a convenience store hold-up, and the consequences test the sanity of the survivor. The ending was great, but the scope was too limited. I give it a 3 out of 5.
* Dark Water: The American version, directed by Walter Salles. Slightly better than the Japanese version by Hideo Nakata. Much more screaming, but still not enough! Great pacing, fantastic lighting, good camera work, very eerie music. Great acting by child actor Ariel Gade and Pete Postlethwaite as the handy man. This horror movie is very creepy, with fetid, dank, dark water oozing from every corner of the screen. Unfortunately, it didn't delve deep enough into the origins of the haunting. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
Movies seen/reviewed this year (2006)
[ Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]
* Harry Potter and the goblet of fire: A sad excuse for a movie. I think that this series has run it's course. 85% of the movie was the same old Harry Potter that we've seen before. A sorcerous contest featuring wizards flying about on broomsticks. Oh, wait a Dragon, that's new right? Yawn... The new part wasn't even new. Same old villains, same old plot twists, same characters, same special effects, everything was pretty much the same. I really didn't see much point in making this movie. The best part of the movie was the opening ten minutes. Beyond that I was bored senseless by the apparent lack of plot and originality. I know there's another coming, but I'm just not interested anymore. I'm deleting the Prisoner of Azkaban from my queue, and I'm certainly not planning to watch Order of the Phoenix. 2 out of 5.
* Reservoir Dogs: Written, directed by and starring; Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino's directorial debut is an excellent example of what I don't like in American movies. The only redeeming feature to this movie are the great lines and the excellent acting by Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, Lawrence Tierney, and Kirk Baltz (the tortured cop). The sets were another highlight in this extremely violent tale of a mobster robbery gone awry. A short story made into motion picture. The amount of violence in this movies caters to some of the basest instincts in the audience. It's difficult to tell a good story that draws the viewer in. It's difficult to look the other way when you see a car wreak on the side of the road. The opening scene (despite Tarantino's self-indulgent inclusion) was one of the best parts of this movie. I give it a 3 out of 5.
* Trees Lounge: Steve Buscemi's directorial debut. Written, directed by and starring Steve Buscemi. Now this is an example of what I like in American films. Thoughtful, introspective characters with more than two dimensions. Less hollywood appeal, but more to my liking. In this character based drama, Steve Buscemi plays a chronic loser who's questionable behavior leads to a life of misery. The movie ends with the main character on the brink of revelation. Moments away from a crucial decision. The best part of the movie? By the end of the movie we all know what happens seconds after the closing credits begin to roll. Fantastic acting, great characters, terrific writing. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
* The longest yard: (2005 remake of the 1974 movie starring Burt Reynolds) This movie was a typical hollywood remake. An attempt to suck money out of an audience reminiscing about the 70's. The acting by Adam Sandler was flat, but there were plenty of laughs. Unfortunately, most of the social context and commentary was gone. The writers stuck pretty close to the story line from 1974. Basically, it was a recreation with current social context, correctness, characters and comedy. Comfortable and predictable, smooth and bland, sort of like Poi. 2 out of 5.
* The wages of fear: (France - Salaire de la peur, Le) This black & white movie from 1955 is very multi-lingual. Scenes include dialog in French, Italian, Spanish, German and English. There may have been other languages, but I stopped trying to keep count. This movie is directed by a renowned french director: Henri-Georges Clouzot. The movie is set in central or south america (Nicaragua or Venezuela?). The setting is a backwater village where there is very little work. Foreigners abound, but there is no explanation as to why they are there. The beginning of the movie is a little slow. Eventually we get to the meat of the movie. An American oil company (who cares for nothing but profits) must hire drivers (who will go to any lengths to escape the life they've made for themselves) to transport nitroglycerin across rugged terrain in order to put out an oil well fire on the other side of the mountains. Many of the desperate foreigners apply for the job, and two crews are selected for the suicide mission. Once this phase of the movie gets under way, the movie gets much better. Washboard roads, narrow defiles, wastelands, hair-pin turns, avalanches and explosions. The tension becomes so taught at times that characters are more volatile than their cargo. It's a dark movie, with obvious anti-American socialist leanings, but it's a fantastic movie. The ending is very nihilistic and a bit of a downer. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
* The Village: 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 it 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 (Lady in the Water).
* The Thumbsucker: A movie with an odd title. This is a coming of age drama. A teen boy is trying to become a man, but something is holding him back. A great drama with some splendid acting from a great cast (Lou Taylor Pucci, Vincent D'Onofrio, Keanu Reeves, Vince Vaughn, Kelli Garner). If you're looking for a Napoleon Dynamite, you've definitely got the wrong film. This is more like Donnie Darko. The music, directing and energy all support a mature undertone. A coming of age revelation, not a drunken frat party. The focus is on the lead character, but the supporting characters are truly splendid as well. Some great 'tongue-in-cheek' lines, and a wonderful ending. Sorry, no explosions, but a great movie. 4 out of 5.
* The brothers Grimm: Awful. Disappointing. A colossal waste of time. It'll be quite some time before I consider Terry Gilliam to be one of my favorite directors. What happened to the brilliance that drove the Monty Python machine? The films Time Bandits, Brazil and 12 Monkeys were great. This was horrible, as was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Starring Matt Damon and Heath Ledger, the best acting came from Monica Bellucci as the mirror queen. A mish-mash of unfocussed energy drove hyperventilating characters this way and that across a landscape set in overdrive. The plot is... rescue the children, destroy the evil queen, escape from the sadistic French count, engage in drunken debauchery, swindle the villagers, redeem yourself for the 'magic beans' episode? I was happy to see it end. 1 out of 5. (Aaron was right)
• Lolita: (The 1962 version directed by Stanley Kubrick) A movie about a middle-aged writer who falls in love with his land lady's teenaged (15?) daughter. The movie is based on a novel by Vladimir Nabokov. Admittedly, I haven't read the book, but I'm glad that the author wrote the screenplay. Adaptations by screen writters aren't always that good. This movie contains some excellent acting by James Mason, Shelly Winters, Sue Lyon and Peter Sellers. Due to the subject matter of the movie, there was a lot of unspoken (scenes not shown) subtext in this movie. Surely the 1979 version must be more explicit. The main character does whatever he needs to in order to keep his Lolita by his side. Guilt and obsession soon take over his life, and things end badly as his fantasy comes to an end. An excellent movie, but the prudish times in which it was shot detracted quite a bit from the subject matter. 3 out of 5.
* Salvador: A historically based thriller on speed. Directed by Oliver Stone, starring James Woods and James Belushi. Not for the timid, this violent movie focuses the camera on the men behind the lens. A movie about journalists on the razor's edge in war ravaged El Salvador, this picture cruises along fueled by adrenalin and stray bullets. The main characters enter the scene after fleeing no-win scenarios in the states. The movie starts out in 5th gear and never relents. This depiction of political corruption and violent death squads feels so real that I found myself flinching when the bullets started whizzing past. An outstanding achievement. I'm glad I bought a copy. 4 out of 5.
* Notorious: A movie by Alfred Hitchcock. Starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains; this romantic thriller contains some really good camera work, and the characters were magnificent. Full of complicated themes, motivations, and triggers. The problem with this movie was the sub-plot. Don't be mistaken, this is first and foremost a love triangle drama, and secondly a spy thriller. That's the problem. In a romantic drama, a spy-thriller setting is unusual. Unfortunately, when we try to focus on the the 'spy thriller' aspects of this movie, we're continually disappointed. The spy-thriller sub-plot is never fully realized, and I was left feeling like the victim of a hit and run. The character interplay was great, but the climax and sub-plot resolution were sorely lacking. 3 out of 5.
* The War Wagon: An early color western starring John Wayne and Kirk Douglas. This western caper casts our co-stars as the outlaw type (though they don't fit the roles very well), intent on robbing an armored stage coach, the movie is a wonderful Saturday afternoon adventure. A buddy movie, a comedy, a western and a heist caper all wrapped up together. The two actors play off each other wonderfully. They're such a pleasure to watch that the Jewish indian is barely noticed. The music is great, especially the title track: "Ballad of The War Wagon", performed by the actor/singer Ed Ames. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
* Fun with Dick and Jane: (remake) Starring Jim Carrey and Téa Leoni this movie didn't compare with most of Carrey's previous films. Depicting a family who's income evaporates with the loss of both jobs. The couple competes for menial jobs in order to maintain their affluent upper-middle-class lifestyle. Eventually they turn to crime - Stealing the neighbors lawn, robbing banks, and a scam to steal millions from the former executives that sold them down the river. This movie contains a lot of cheek-in-tongue references to the current soci-political climate, but it also contained some good laughs. Unfortunately it never took off. Leoni and Carrey haven't much chemistry together and Carrey's antics are tempered by the soci-political realities that this movie exposes. Having just retired from the military, the possibility of living like Dick & Jane isn't all that far-fetched. 3 out of 5.
* Cindarella man: Directed by Ron Howard, Starring Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger and Paul Giamatti. A fantastic movie. One of those Underdog chick flick movies. American's love to root for the underdog, and this boxer was definitely that. Set in the midst of the great depression, James Braddock fights like every working man in order to keep his family fed. There's nothing new here, but the story is told so well that we can't help but feel for the hero. Ron Howard did a fantastic job directing this movie. The production and acting were top notch. The sets, costumes and props were great. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
* Devil's Playground: A documentary about Amish teenagers. Between the ages of 16 and 21, Amish teens have all church/Amish restrictions lifted. During this time, they must decide whether or not they will join the Amish church. Whether they will continue to be Amish. It's an amazing insight into a completely foreign culture. A civilization within a society that's totally alien to them. The teens struggle with incredibly complex issues, and the cosequences of living in a 'modern' society. Thankfully there's very little influence from the camera crew, and the teens tell their own story. This movie was well done, but the strength was the subject. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
* Ghostbusters: A classic comedy from the 80's. I own this one. The more I watch it, the more I realize the comic genius of Bill Murray. Starring Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Sigourney Weaver (after Alien), Harold Ramis, and Rick Moranis. Sure the 'special effects' were crap. The costumes, make-up and hair were attrocious (it was the 80's). Yeah it was corny. But oh my god, the lines! Very funny writting by Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis. Akroyd's enthusiasm played against Murray's sedate comic comeons quite well. The story was preposterous, but it was original. That, and the comic mastery of Bill Murray made this movie a gem to watch. Murray can get a smile by simply starring at a fellow actor. This movie gets a 5 out of 5.
* Dogtown and Z-Boys: A documentary about surfers turned skaters. The revolutionary Zephyr team and how they created the Skate culture in America. A great documentary. Well directed, great narration, excellent music, and a visual style that complements the rebellious nature of the subject. The video production contained some really good fades, cuts and scene effects. Very well done. Mixing live interviews, vintage film footage, stills and narration - You don't have to be a skate punk to enjoy this documentary. These innovators tore up the pavement with more than polyurethane. This was a documentary about boys who would be kings. Alpha males one and all. They lived the life, became the legends and led a revolution. 5 out of 5.
* Junebug: A character based comedic drama. A 'Meet the Parents reality check'. Not your typical hollywood 'Meet the Parents' comedy. Character that are well developed and superbly acted. More convincing than a sitcom family. Sophisticated 'big city' newlyweds take a trip down south to court an eccentric artist. It's a side trip to his 'back country' parents, where dysfunctional is spelled 'n.o.r.m.a.l.' Fantastic writing. A stylish film in the sense that it doesn't have the words 'Art film' painted across it's face. There's subtlety, emotion, and an unspoken undercurrent that keeps pushing this movie forward. 4 out of 5.
* The hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy: (remake) A remake that shouldn't have bothered. There really wasn't any reason to do this movie. One word describes this movie - Boring! The acting is poor, the characters underdeveloped, the special effects aren't, and the story jumps about so much that it's not really worth sorting out. I woke up towards the end. I dozed off somewhere where the giant computer was about to reveal the big 'question'. I didn't even bother rewinding to find out what the question was. This one gets a 1 out of 5.
* Lords of Dogtown: Based on the lives of the people profiled in 'Dogtown and Z-Boys' (See above) This movie was nowhere near the caliber of Z-Boys. The beginning of the movie moves far to rapidly. We see a life style and a new sport evolve overnight, and characters developed in hyper-speed fast forward. The acting by the adults was pretty bad, but some of the younger actors were really good. Unfortunately, this movie had costume, set and production problems. This feature length film took on too large a scope for format. This one gets a 1 out of 5.
* Good night, and good luck: A hard hitting story about a focal point in history. Edward R. Murrow vs Senator McCarthy. A story about two men. A story about the power of television. A story about absolute power. A story about journalistic integrity. This movie reminds us what television news was like, what it's like, what it should be like. It's a story about integrity, honesty, truth, deception, censorship and courage. Fantastic writing., directing, and acting. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
* The ice harvest: A crime caper shot in film noir style. A very stylish movie with excellent writing. and acting. Every one is out for themselves in this convoluted crime caper where everything unravels. The primary character (played by John Cusack) is surrounded by a group of low class 'me first' characters, who are all bent on bringing him down. The real problem with this movie is its lack of anything original or surprising. On strength of acting alone, this one gets a 3 out of 5.
* Pretty Woman: I watched this on the TBS/Turner channel tonight. Kim was watching it, and I kind or got swept along. Yeah, I've seen it before, but it's been a while. This is a great movie. Well focused, well directed, and well acted. Starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, it's a modern fairy tale. An urban retelling of Cinderella. A cliched, corny, sappy love story. A chick flick for sure. It's a very predictable movie, but it has a certain charm all it's own. Julia Roberts was fantastic in this role, and this movie set a romantic comedy standard for the 90's. I liked it a lot. 4 out of 5.
* Day Break: (Iran) The most recent offering from my Filmmovement.com membership. At this point, I doubt that I will re-subscribe to Filmmovement.com. The movies haven't been all that good. Day Break is a pretty good story, but the movie wasn't directed or produced very well, and the acting wasn't the best. This incredibly depressing film is about capital punishment. Yeah, Iran practices capital punishment in accordance with Islamic law. Is this supposed to be some sort of political statement? The movie starts out in a documentary style, but eventually switches into a standard drama about a convicted murderer. The movie tries to portray the murderer as a victim. His sentence (death by hanging) cannot be carried out unless the family of the victim shows up. Three times he's led to the gallows, twice he's returned to his cell.. The movie ends with the outcome 'hanging' like a depressing but dramatic question. Darkness, boredom and depression ruled this film, and I couldn't help but wonder why I was watching such a depressing movie. There was good contrast between the depressing aspects of the movie and the hope of some redemption. Color and music made some difference in this regard. Unfortunately it didn't help enough. 2 of 5.
* Stir Crazy: A 70's comedy that's still got plenty of laughs left in it. Starring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, this movie was directed by Sidney Poitier of all people. This comedy is a great buddy movie. Wilder and Pryor were great together and this is some of their best work. The costumes, music and hair is definitely early 80's late 70's. There were some good character types in this movie, and I laughed out loud when I saw 'Grossburger' crushing the breath out of Pryor in that tiny jail cell. Two down on their luck actors lose their jobs (I think there might have been some deleted scenes depicting how Wilder lost his job) and decide to move from New York to California - They don't quite make it. Making a pit stop to earn some money, they're fingered as bank robbers in a backwater western town. Wrongly convicted, they attempt a prison break during an inmate rodeo. Many laughs follow. 3 out of 5.
* Æon Flux: A highly stylized futuristic thriller. Charlize Theron does a good job playing an assassin opposite Marton Csokas in this action-packed sci-fi thriller. A group of rebels is trying to overthrow the corrupt government of mankind's only remaining city. Things are hardly what they seem in this thriller. The rebel assassin sent to slay the leader of the corrupt government can't help but feel like she's being played by an invisible hand. Plot twisting revelations move as fast as the action in this stainless steel, latex clad sci-fi thriller. Everything was neatly wrapped up by the end of the movie, but I was still left wanting more. I give it a 3 out of 5.
* Code 46: A sci-fi drama with your obligatory human cloning sub-plot. Does every sci-fi movie have to include a 'cloning' cliche these days? In a not-too-distant future, there are two types of civilization. Protected, highly regulated, secured cities surrounded by an unregulated, frontier-like, outland. Into this world come an outsider, forging papers on the inside, and an insider who's decided to take a walk on the wild side. When they get together it's a violation of Code-46. This sci-fi movie is actually a dramatic romance in disguise. Great direction by Michael Winterbottom. Starring Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton (who gives us a great nude shot (below the waist only?)), the acting is pretty good and the characters were very well written. The locations, sets, costumes and props were all well done. The music helped set a perfect mood, and the use of different languages (flash back to Blade Runner) convinced me that this was a highly plausible future. The makers of this movie did a good job creating a future without resorting to the obvious CGI cityscapes evident in other recent sci-fi movies. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
* Control Room: A documentary about Al Jazeera news. A new news network, who's intended audience is the Islamic world. Who would have suspected that their point of view would be different than Fox's? A look inside the controversial networks coverage in Iraq. With bombs falling all around them, Al Jazeera stuck it out until the U.S. bombed their headquarters. This documentary was pretty well done, and I have to applaud them for taking a critical look at the questions of bias and balance in the media. 3 out of 5.
* Best Seller: An odd sort of police thriller. Starring James Woods and Brian Dennehy, this movie had some pretty lousy pacing, and a weak plot. A former industrial assassin (Woods) has decided to reform. He turns to a cop turned novelist with his murderous story. He's hoping to bring down the corrupt businessman he worked for, and make millions in royalties, by getting the cop to write a tell-all book. The cop (Dennehy) takes forever to convince, and remains doubtful to the end. The ending was a very disappointing shootout. The acting by Woods and Dennehy was pretty good, and the pair worked well together. Unfortunately, the direction was terrible and the story wasn't that good either. With a weak premise, poor support, and plenty of plot holes, it meandered for all but the final 15 minutes. This one gets a 2 out of 5.
* Kung-Fu Hustle: (China/Hong-Kong - Gong fu) Incredible! Xmen meets Mystery Men in a Hong-Kong kung-fu spectacular. An amazing comedy. Dancing, singing, kung-fu! Directed by Stephen Chow. I laughed hysterically. This reminded me a lot of Katakuri-ke no kôfuku (Happiness of the Katakuri's) and Tampopo. At times it seemed like a western, a play, a drama, a Japanese Shogun movie, a comedy and more. A group of misfit kung-fu masters are trying to lead a 'normal' life in a Shanghai slum. Along comes a local gang, intent on shaking things up. As the locals defend themselves I entered a fit of laughing unlike anything since 'The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra'. This one is a solid 5 out of 5.
* Without a paddle: Should have been named 'Without a rudder', 'Without a clue' or 'Without a laugh'. This one was absolute crap. C-Grade actors need C-Grade scripts. This movie was a horrid mistake. Riddled with homophobic references, stereotypical characters, an uninspiring story, poor acting (if not enthusiastic), and bad direction. It's a buddy movie where a group of guys band together to complete a quest in the name of their recently departed fourth. The quest? A treasure hunt in the back woods of Oregon, looking for DB Coopers 'lost treasure'. The stale jokes, cliched scripting and stereotyped characters forced me to remove myself early. I left 20 minutes before the ending. That's 20 minutes I'll never have to regret. The only redeeming part of this movie was the location. 1 out of 5.
Movies seen/reviewed this year (2006)
[ Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]
* Spider Man 2: What's wrong with the Spider Man franchise? It's trying to be two things at once. It's trying to attract both an adult comic fan, and a 12 year old boy. That's a very tall order. The acting and directing is geared towards the juvenile audience, while the writing seems more adult oriented. This entire movie is character development. It's all about Peter Parker. There's nothing new in the way of hero-villain relations. Nothing new in the way of Peter Parker's relationships, nothing new in the special effects department. Nothing new in the acting, casting or production. Direction by Sam Raimi was o.k. I enjoyed the cameo by Bruce Campbell, but found myself wondering why I was watching this movie. 2 out of 5.
* Lagaan - Once upon a time in India: (India - Lagaan) Loaned to me by a co-worker who knows that I enjoy foreign films. A triumphant tale of colonial India. Packed full of culture and courageous lessons in ethics. The story and writing were fantastic. The arrogant British commander of a provincial victorian cantonment presents an impossible challenge to the local people. Beat the British occupiers at cricket, and there will be no tax (lagaan) for three years. Lose, and you'll have to pay three times the normal tax! The results are a foregone conclusion, but getting there is a tour de-force triumph in Bollywood style. Wonderful locations, sets and costumes. Great music, fantastic dance routines, some very good acting and a tale to make you cry, laugh, and shout out in joy! 4 out of 5.
* Taal: (India - Thaalam) Loaned to me by a co-worker who knows that I enjoy foreign films. Another Bollywood spectacular. Despite some terrible editing (film and sound) and abysmal subtitles, this blockbuster was a powder keg of entertainment. Fantastic music, choreography and locations. The story is a good old fashioned love triangle. Nothing new there. The Indian family is a powerful theme in this love story, and the ending is happiness for all. The acting is great, the characters terrific and the direction was great. What american cinema has forgotten how to do, the Indian movie industry has nailed in execution. A movie for the whole family. 4 out of 5.
* Mirror Mask: (U.K.) An ingenious combination of live action and animation. A modern Alice in Wonderland. Following the lead character down this particular rabbit hole was a wonderful experience. Full of unusual characters, witty dialog and a shadowy world full of reflection, introspection, hope and celebration. This movie took place primarily in a black and white world gone out of balance. The main character struggles to right the balance and free herself in the end. The pacing was unhurried, and the direction splendid. The costumes, makeup, sets, cgi and animation were simply amazing. The acting - especially that of Stephanie Leonidas, was great. A 4 out of 5.
* A sound of thunder: Sounds like the sound of stinky smelly dead animal as it is run over by a pick-up truck.. This stinker was based on a novel by Ray Bradbury. I'm certain that the book was 'Much Better'. If it were anywhere as bad as this movie it would never have been made into a movie - even a really bad one. The special effects were 'special' alright - special as in the Tuesday night special at your local heat-lamp buffet. Old leftovers that've been sitting in luke warm grease for far to long. The acting (over and under) was terrible. The plot - which made for good reading back in 1952 - is way past it's prime. There's nothing in the plot that would hold up to modern science, and the holes were large and worn. The direction was stilted, stiff and scene driven. Save yourself from future destruction. Go back into the future now, and prevent yourself from ever seeing this movie. 1 out of 5. I'm a sucker for Time Travel themes.
* Silent Hill: Kim and I went and saw this movie at the theater. It's the first time we've been to a theater in a long time, and the theater 'may' be responsible for an elevation in my rating. I've played the game, and there's really no way it could be directly translated to film without being eight hours long. The best parts of this movie were the way they used light, darkness, and sound to create an other-worldly atmosphere. The sirens signaling an impending 'transformation' were really cool. The darkening which signaled the descent was also a nice touch. The cgi sequences were well done and gave the film a very creepy feel. The 'Creatures' were very well done, very much like the video game. The downside of the film was the narration. Although necessary, the narration broke the pacing and took me out of the movie. Another problem was the casting, there were a lot of female characters - That's fine, but do they all have to look like anorexic models? the main male character was an obvious cut-out who had no real role in the film. The best acting came from Jodelle Ferland (the child actor), and the story was o.k. The end sequence was handled well if not a little rushed, and I was pleased to see that they didn't opt for an obvious hollywood ending. 3 out of 5.
* The memory of a killer: (Belgium - De Zaak Alzheimer) A surprising production with some outstanding acting. Here's the story of a hired killer with a conscience. Unfortunately, he's having a hard time remembering why he has a conscience. This police thriller manhunt is a fine roller-coaster of action, plot and acting. The killer doesn't think of everything, and the cops aren't infallible. It's a conspiracy theory where the only one you can trust is the killer you're trying to catch. Very well done. 4 out of 5.
* Beyond the sea: Co-writen by, directed by, and starring - Kevin Spacey. A bio-pic about 50's pop singer Bobby Darin. The writing wasn't the best. Spacey's performance was very good, but there was no attempt to 'age' the actor. Throughout the movie, we are led to believe that this 40 something actor is portraying the 20 something singer. There's a lot of singing, and Spacey did a very good job there, but there just wasn't a lot to captivate in this movie. There's a lot of sap and crappy lines in this movie, so much so that I found myself groaning and pleading. Is this the story of Bobby Darin, or every lounge singer who ever had a bad marriage and an up and down career? There wasn't anything special about this movie. 2 out of 5.
* Chinatown: Made in 1974, this film noir classic is a masterpiece of the genre. A truly remarkable film. Perfectly cast with Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and John Huston, this movie (directed by Roman Polanski) features excellent directing wrapped around a hard-boiled detective plot. The pacing was perfect and the characters carried more substance than any two movies. Set in L.A. during the late 20's early 30's. The plot is a roller-coaster ride from land scam to murder mystery to deep dark family secrets. I've seen it three times and it still keeps me guessing. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
* Paradise Now: (France/Germany/Netherlands/Israel) This is a Palestinian movie.. A tragic human drama. A thrilling look inside the hearts and minds of a people who don't know how to solve their problems. It's a movie about two young men who volunteer to become suicide bombers. Excellent acting, direction and camera work. Without actually placing blame, this movie attempts to examine a very serious subject. The point of view is powerful. An inside look with honest insight and unblinking truth. 4 out of 5.
* King Solomon's mines: There are three versions of this movie. 1937, 1950, 1987. I watched the 1950 version. This adventure film was shot on location in Africa. The authentic locations and native extras made up for some of the acting and directing. The depictions of native dress, dance and behavior was fantastic. A treasure hunt through the heart of Africa. A great movie. 3 out of 5.
* The 400 blows: (France - Quatre cents coups, Les) I've been waiting a very long time to watch this movie. NetFlix kept moving back the delivery date, and pushing it down towards the bottom of my queue. At one point they removed it from my queue without notifying me. A terrific French film directed by François Truffaut. This movie is a look at the life of a young boy growing up in a broken home. Abused and confused, the lead character (a young boy) is continuously misunderstood and abused by everyone around him. This unhappy boy acts out by turning to petty crime and delinquency. This touching movie portrays youth's freedom through a theme of continual motion and escape. Great location shots around Paris add to the realism of this movie. The ending was fantastic. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
* Oliver Twist: Holy crap! IMDB lists 20 different versions of this movie! I watched the 2005 version, directed by Roman Polanski. An astonishing tale about a young boy growing up as an orphan. Abused and confused... Wow, this movie seems a lot like 'The 400 blows' (see above). An orphan is shuttled from one abusive situation to another. As he's exploited and abused he maintains a sense of hope and dignity throughout. This movie explores the character in many ways, and the story is much richer than earlier versions. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
* The last Samurai: A cinematic masterpiece. A tribute to a culture overwhelmed by change. Superbly directed by Edward Zwick, this movie was an epic drama filled with action, nuance and substance. Starring Ken Watanabe as Katsumoto (Samurai lord) and Tom Cruise as Nathan Algren (Captain in US Army). Cruise's character is fed up with the heavy handed immoral tactics practiced in campaigns against the American Indians. Working on a lifetime of despair and alcoholism, he takes the first job that gets him the hell out of town. He's sent to Japan to train the Japanese military. He's captured during a skirmish, and learns the way of the Samurai. Soon he is ally not foe. This is an absolutely must see movie. I'm sure I'll watch it over and over. The acting was great, especially that of Watanabe. Everything in this movie was worth watching. 5 of 5.
* Jarhead: I have to admit that this was a very good movie. A fantastic character study, great lighting, locations, costumes, and the acting - The acting was great. The story was really good. I liked the fact that it wasn't your typical hollywood "War movie". It didn't portray thousands of people dying, and indestructible heroes dodging bullets. This wasn't a Steven Segal or Chuck Norris screen play. This was something that actually happened. Genuine, unfiltered, black coffee for your soul. This movie depicted service men as people who actually wipe their asses after taking a shit. 4 out of 5.
* Memoirs of a Geisha: Visually perfect. The sets, costumes, makeup, props and location shots were all stunning. The acting was fantastic, and the characters were as rich as a Japanese nobleman. I lived in Japan for three years, and I've actually enjoyed the company of a Geisha (on one occasion). This movie re-kindled some of my fonder memories from that time. It was a fantastic tale. A romantic notion, as devoted to emotion as it was to detail. A tale of love, beauty, frailty, greed and ego. 4 out of 5.
* Corpse Bride: Another visually stunning and musically magnificent vision from the minds of Tim Burton and Danny Elfman. An animated story that's reminiscent of 'The Nightmare Before Christmas'. This animated masterpiece features a perfectly selected cast for voices. The animation is superb. This isn't your ordinary animation, it's a combination of puppets and cgi. Composite effects create a world that looks as real as anyone's dream. The story was a great mix of melancholy and comedy. A tragic love story that ends happily, if not unexpectedly. Unfortunately, it's too much like TNBC. Too similar. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
* The New World: A visual masterpiece. This movie was a stunning work of sets, costumes, locations and props. It managed to create the feeling of a completely new world. It took me out of my living room and moved me into another world. Unfortunately, the story was boring, boring, boring, and the pacing was slow, slow, slow. The only thing that held my interest were the costumes, makeup, sets, etc. I found myself fast forwarding through countless pastoral love scenes. The other thing that annoyed me was the love story angle. Come on, Pocahontas was what, 10 years old when she saved John Smith? What sick sort of game is hollywood playing? Yeah, a young native girl and a European explorer would make a great love story, but we know (I was taught in school) that Pocahontas was 10 or 12 at the most. So why are they trying to imply that there was something more than a platonic relationship? It's a little sickening if you ask me. The actor who played Pocahontas (Q'Orianka Kilcher) was only 15 (when the New World was released), yet they cast her in a romantic love story against an actor (Colin Farrel) who's 30? Here's another gripe. Was it just me, or did it seem like I was listening to the same score throughout the entire movie? The music was very well done, but it was just as boring as the movie. Finally, why weren't any of the native women topless? Right, I get it, we can't show a topless 15 year old girl in a romantic love story with Colin Farrel... How twisted, it's o.k. to imply that there was a sexual/romantic relationship, but it's not o.k. to show nudity. Stupid. This movie reminds me of another film - 'Eyes Wide Shut'. The visual style, pacing and musical notions are nearly identical. This one gets 2 out of 5.
* The Kentucky Fried Movie: A short series of comic skits. John Landis directed this piece of raunchy 70's gross-out humor. This is the sort of thing that Saturday Night Live would do, if the censors would let them. There was a lot of nudity, sexually explicit material and politically controversial stuff in this movie. Funny stuff shot on a shoestring budget. A lot of the skits made me laugh out loud. The shorts format would have been better served without the feature length "A Fistful of Yen" segment. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
* An American werewolf in London: Unfortunately, my VHS copy is in very bad shape. The entire movie seems like it was shot in the dark. Despite the poor quality of my VHS copy, I still enjoyed this movie. Here's another John Landis directed movie (Director of Animal House). This time it's a humorous horror movie. Something that was fairly novel at the time. The acting was pretty good, there were plenty of laughs, and the special effects (for the time) were great. The transformation scenes were particularly graphic. The ending wasn't all that satisfying, but the middle was full of savory meats. 4 out of 5.
* Fantastic Four: The fantastic flop. What a sorry excuse for a movie. Another comic book made into a movie. I'm such a sucker for the genre. The writing, direction, and acting were terrible. The plot was overly simplistic, the editing and production were horrible. The music was mediocre, but the worst part of all? A sequel hinting ending! The story had some really big holes in it. I found myself criticizing the obvious plot discrepancies out loud. The best acting came from Chris Evans (playing Johnny Storm the Human Torch), he actually showed some enthusiasm. There really wasn't any chemistry between Ioan Gruffudd (Playing Reed Richards) and Jessica Alba (playing Sue Storm). The pacing was too fast, and the story too predictable. Typical hollywood treatment of comic book material. I give it 1 out of 5.
* Sonatine: (Japan) Usually, I'm not much of a fan for the violent Japanese gangster genre. However, this is an exception to the genre, an exception to my sensibilities and an exceptional film. At first it appears as if I'm about to be subjected to a stylized gangster movie with stereotyped characters, a typical plot of gangster tit-for-tat turf wars, and poor direction (aka John Woo style). However, that's not what happened. While the movie starts out that way, the characters start evolving, developing before your eyes. The plot coalesces into something that's off the beaten track, and the direction turns into an outstanding effort. At the beginning of this movie, I could care less about the stone faced Japanese Yakuza killers who form the focal point of the movie. As the plot begins to diverge from the typical beaten track, the characters start coming into focus. With direction that punctuates the mundane with absurd, we're drawn into the personal worlds of the characters. Instead of focusing on an inane gangland style conflict, the story focuses on the characters. The result, a group of characters that feel so real that you actually begin to feel for them by the end of the movie. Another success for the Japanese Director: Takeshi 'Beat' Tikano. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
* Match Point: Well directed (by Woody Allen) drivel. Here's a movie with a great cast, great direction, and fantastic atmosphere. Unfortunately, it's a waste of talent. The story is boring and pedantic. A perfect people soap opera where stereotyped characters prey on each other over love and money. The pacing was incredibly slow and the story was worthless. There was a feeble attempt to recover from utter boredom by adding a fairly predictable murder twist at the end, but it was too little and too late. This one gets a 2 out of 5.
* Le Magnifique: (France) While this movie may have rated high on IMDB and NetFlix, it doesn't get such marks in my book. I found the humor outdated, too up front, and rather listless. This film is a satirical spoof on fictional 'James Bond' characters. A struggling writer rushes to churn out a spy thriller novel before his rent comes due. The movie slides back and forth from the writers waking life, to the characters in his novel. This movie was a very fast paced collage of gags, set ups and silly situations. Eventually, I had to quit watching. I came to the conclusion that there really wasn't any point to this movie. 1 out of 5.
* The Da Vinci Code: Kim and I went to see this one at the theater. I read the book, and I for one wasn't disappointed. There were a couple minor deviations from the novel, but overall it was an excellent production. The direction by Ron Howard was spot on, and the casting was magnificent. Unfortunately, the performances by Tom Hanks and Jean Reno just weren't that good. The best acting came from Ian McKellen as a crippled but wealthy 'Grail Expert'. An entertaining, suspenseful story, full of twists and turns, revelations and tribulations. There are some parts of the film where the story becomes narrative in order to present historical facts and figures, these dialogue heavy portions of the movie are essential to the story, but significantly interrupt the pacing. This story of 'The Holy Grail' is great at creating a sense of "Could this be true?" in the audience, and for that it gets high marks. The music was haunting but not very memorable, the sets, locations, props, and costumes were terrific. To those who would rate this movie based on the religious dogma that it examines, presents or 'invents', I would like to remind you that this is a fictional story, not a documentary. The book was much better than the movie. Here's the problem. The book presented thousands of ideas, plot points and twists. The movie doesn't have the time to do that, so the writers did their best to fit as many plot points and historical nuggets as they could into the movie. The result was a lack of character detail, and that's where this movie suffered. 3 out of 5.
* The Skeleton Key: A 'Hoodoo' (aka Voodoo) movie. It's been some time since I've seen a movie that based the premise on this premise, and I have to say I found it very enjoyable. This psychological thriller takes a supernatural track towards suspense and horror. Very reminiscent of 'Fallen'. Here's a story of a hospice worker who hires on to care for an elderly man. She soon discovers that there's some sort of secret keeping the old lady's husband in a stroke like state. The truth is quite a revelation, and the ending is well worth waiting for. The movie was well directed, the cast was great, and the acting splendid. The lighting, music and camera work created a dark and unforgettable mood. Here's a movie made to be a movie. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
* * Star Trek - The original series - (Second Season) Vol. 17, episodes 33 & 34: [Who Mourns for Adonais? / Amok Time]: Slowly but surely, I've been 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'. Who Mourns for Adonais is another one of the classic religion bashing episodes. The Enterprise is seized by a giant hand during a 'routine' planetary survey. Forced to beam down to the surface, the party encounters an old Earth 'god'. An alien being that demands worship and sacrifice. Bones discovers that this 'god' seems to have an extra organ in his chest. That extra organ might in fact be used to channel some sort of power. They then go on to speculate that the old gods of earth might have been space faring beings from this civilization. At one point Kirk mocks the supposed god, stating: "Mankind has no need for gods. We find the One quite adequate." This isn't the only 'god' bashing episode, Kirk made a habit of destroying religions and crushing religious beliefs; 'Your bible is a lie'. I'm not sure where the anti-religion theme stemmed from, but it certainly drew the ire of the religious right back in the 60's and 70's. The second episode on this disk is a classic. Here's one of the best 'Kirk vs Spock' episodes. In this show, Spock becomes highly irrational, and demands shore leave on Vulcan. Kirk agrees, but then the ship is ordered elsewhere. Spock orders the ship to Vulcan after Kirk retires for the day, but Kirk discovers the mutiny. Eventually, we learn about 'Pon Far' otherwise known as 'The seven year itch'. Spock must return to Vulcan in order to mate! Kirk and crew head for Vulcan, where Spock and Kirk are eventually pitted against each other in a 'til the death struggle for Spock's childhood bride. This is a defining Star Trek episode. Not to be missed.
* Stripes: A hilarious military parody. Directed by comedy king (Animal House, Ghostbusters, Stripes) Ivan Reitman. This military spoof puts Bill Murray and Harold Ramis in Army green. After loosing his, job, apartment, car and girlfriend, Murray decides there's nowhere left to turn but the Army. After convincing his best friend to enlist with him, the two of them are off to basic training where they engage in much hi-jinks before a slapstick graduation. Once again we see Bill Murray in his distinctive relaxed comic method. Here's another comic masterpiece for anyone's collection. 4 out of 5.
* The Blind Swordsman - Zatoichi: (Japanese - Zatôichi) There have been several movies made with this name, and this one must be one of the best. Directed by and starring, Takeshi Kitano, this highly stylized picture is a moving work of art. The music, choreography, acting, sets, costumes, locations, etc, etc, etc. It was very obvious that everything was planned to the most exacting level of detail. A finely woven tale with several complex characters created a truly deserving remake of a classic Japanese tale. The choreographed musical pieces were fantastic. The sword fights were new, fresh and unpredictable. The lighting and colors were remarkable. This movie is much more than a standard Samurai tale. Stage like, comic, tragic dramatic, Kabuki like. This one definitely gets a 5 out of 5.
* The chronicles of Riddick: As an action flick, Riddick rises above the tide. A cinematic masterpiece, music that enhances the visual expression, costumes that speak of a deeper vision, sets and special effects worthy of a cinematic experience. There are action scenes unlike any other movie. Combat that is a blur, a montage, a transmogrified visual representation of pain and fury. The characters are swept up in a fast paced story that leaves this audience wishing for more. More background, better acting, and a deeper meaning. The DVD version that I own is an unrated director's cut. The additional scenes add character depth, motivation, and additional background for this sci-fi inferno of non-stop action and thrilling adventure. 5 out of 5.
* I'm gonna git you sucka: A 70's parody of blaxploitation movies. This one is very funny. With an all-star cast featuring names like: Keenen Ivory Wayans, Bernie Casey, Antonio Fargas, Steve James, Isaac Hayes, Ja'net DuBois, Jim Brown, John Vernon, Kadeem Hardison, and Damon Wayans, this movie (written and directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans) was a riot. The writing was spectacular, and really showcased Keenan's talent. The short skits/set-ups are skillfully blended into a cogent overall plot, and the acting was a breath of fresh air. The up front plot. 'Soldier Boy' returns home after his brother dies of an 'OG'. He finds out that that his younger brother was indebted/in-trouble with 'Mr Big' and his gang. He turns to the retired ghetto hero for helps, and together they assemble a crack squad of 'bad mother-brothers' to take down 'The Man'. There's a lot of background comedy here, and you'll need to pay attention to catch all the jokes. Corny, cheesy, cliched blaxploitation parody at its best. This laugh fest get's high marks in my book. 4 out of 5.
* * Star Trek - The original series - (Second Season) Vol. 18, episodes 35 & 36: [The Doomsday machine / Amok Time]: Slowly but surely, I've been viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), my friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. I loved Star Trek back then; You know what? I still love it. The Doomsday machine is an episode about MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction). A treatise on the horrors of nuclear war. I never realized that Star Trek was so heavy. The planet killer in this episode was an incredibly cheesy but intriguing paper mache horn of plenty design. Like many Star Trek ToS episodes, the music was outstanding. In Amok Time, scotty is suspected of being 'Jack the Ripper'. It's not that good of an episode. A rather protracted but foregone conclusion. The crew of the Enterprise is able to ferret out and dispose of the alien creature by dispersing its atoms using the transporter.
* Brokeback mountain: Perfect casting, superb directing (by Ang Lee), flawless cinematography, music that's perfectly matched, and a story that America's been afraid to tell - until now. It seems like this is the first time anyone has taken the time to tell a love story from this point of view. The story is poignant, tragic and touching. A tragic tale of consequences, secrets, prejudices and that undeniable thing called love. Hopefully, viewers can set aside their reservations and prejudice long enough to see this movie as the gem that it is. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
* Familia: A French Canadian drama from my movie of the month club - Filmmovement.com. This movie has just sealed the fate on my movie of the month club. Another listless drama where perfect people f+ck up their lives, and expect pity from those around them. Extremely well produced, superb acting and great direction. Unfortunately, the writing and story were horrible. There was absolutely nothing worthy in the telling. After seeing everyone in California speaking French, and using Canadian currency? I got completely fed up and had to stop watching this complete waste. With 40 minutes left (out of 102). Maybe that's my problem, I'm an American - I expect that a movie should entertain me? 2 out of 5.
* Battle Royale II: (Japanese - Batoru rowaiaru II: Chinkonka) Before we get into the review of this movie, I have to provide something of a background. (My coworkers and I sometimes talk about movies at work - You can just imagine who initiates these discussions. Well, most of my coworkers have little regard or experience when it comes to foreign movies or directors. There are a few exceptions though, and this is the story of one such exception. So, I'm telling my coworkers about a recent Japanese movie I'd watched (Sonatine by Takeshi 'Beat' Tikano), and Mike mentions a Japanese movie that he's seen. He said it was pretty good, and recommended that I watch it. Later, I added Battle Royale to my NetFlix queue, and the movie arrived within a couple of days. Unfortunately, the disc was cracked and it wouldn't play. I had to return it. I asked for a replacement, but NetFlix sent me this movie instead of the one I wanted. I wanted Battle Royale and instead I got Battle Royale II. Now for the review.) This movie is absolute crap! The story was something like a can of convenience store swiss cheese - Unsophisticated, smelly, and full of holes. O.k. it's a sequel, so I'd expect some difficulty with the background, but nothing could explain the utter nonsense I'm expected to endure with regards to this plot. The movie opens with an apocalyptic scene of Tokyo, where a dozen or so skyscrapers are destroyed (Later I figured out that this was done by a group of child terrorists intent on fighting a war against all adults). After the opening scene of a terrorist attack, we cut to a school for juvenile delinquents. We see a group of tough looking kids, with rebel haircuts, anti-establishment clothing, and 'bad-ass' written across their foreheads. They're watching their classmates play Rugby. The anti-establishment classmates wear uniforms, and they're disciplined enough to play a team sport? The government kidnaps these school children, and forces them to chose between instant execution or a suicide mission assault against the island hideout of a group of child terrorists? What follows is an extremely violent movie, where heads explode, gallons of blood spatter everything (including the camera lens), and teenagers are depicted as both blood thirsty terrorists, and helpless victims. The story is an unfocused morass of 'profound' grade school societal sermonizing, punctuated by heavy doses of violence. There were way too many characters (More than 40!), and I had no idea who was who, because the movie spent a lot more time showing people exploding, running, shooting, exploding, blowing up things, diving and dodging bullets, missiles and grenades. The dialog, which was either delivered as a whisper or a shout, was confusing, inane, and highly cliched. Every time someone died (accompanied by an on-screen body count), someone else would jump up and shout their name. With a crowded cast of extras, this went on for an intolerable length of time. Aside from the bad acting, cheesy special effects, poor writing, cliched dialog (usually shouted), poor direction and mediocre music, we also had a heavy dose of anti-American bull-shit! Twice during the movie we're subjected to a completely irrelevant listing of countries that the U.S. has bombed over the past sixty years. Then there's an anti-American discussion between the Japanese Prime Minister (portrayed as a heartless business opportunist) and the students teacher. I'm not complaining about these anti-American threads because I'm an American, I'm complaining about them because they don't seem to have any connection to the story. The double ending was just as ridiculous as the rest of the movie. After a suggested martyr like final stand, there's a post-scripted sequence which depicts a large number of terrorists/students escaping to Afghanistan where they live happily ever after (sequel hint). Overall, this has to be the worst movie I've seen all year. 1 out of 5. Postscript: Unfortunately, Takeshi Kitano played a very short background part in this movie. I say unfortunately, because now he has this movie associated with his name. Battle Royale was directed by Kinj Fukasaku. A director I'm not very familiar with. This movie started out with his direction, but he died the day after filming began. His son, Kenta Fukasaku completed the direction. Since the direction was completed by someone else, I'll give Battle Royale a chance. I'll add it, once again, to my NetFlix queue.
* Downfall: (German - Untergang, Der) A historically based movie about the final days of the Third Reich. Based on the memoirs of Traudl Junge (Hitler's personal secretary), this movie provides an inside look at the Third Reich's final act. This curtain call is a compelling downward spiral of despair and desperation as the characters try to escape or justify their lives as the end approaches. Superb acting, direction (by Oliver Herschbiegel) and writing mark this movie as a must see drama that's more about personal choice than it is about political idealism. The performance by Bruno Ganz as Adolf Hitler was Oscar worthy, and the rest of the cast did an outstanding job as well. The authentic looking costumes, sets, and props were very convincing. Most of the action took place in the command bunker, but the movie maintained an excellent ratio of inside/outside scenes. 5 out of 5.
* A man called Sledge: (Italy) A spaghetti western starring James Garner like you've never seen him before. A heist movie where the protagonists are a group of outlaws after other peoples money. Here's a classic tale of 'what goes around comes around'. The story is a pretty straight-forward bad guys steal gold plot. The characters are fairly well developed and the story has a nice circular motion which leads to a morally justified ending. The acting was surprisingly good, and the music was exceptional. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
* Devdas: (India) Loaned to me by a co-worker who knows that I enjoy foreign films. This three hour Bollywood feature is a slightly off-center romance where the film follows your standard Bollywood formula until the very end. The acting (by the two lead characters) is very good, and the musical numbers were great. Here's a story of child-hood friends who fall in love and fight against strict caste imposed sensibilities in order to realize their life long desires. It's a great story, and the ending is fantastic. Unfortunately, the version that I saw suffered from very poor production. There were several obviously omitted and poorly edited scenes. The subtitles were the absolute worst I have ever experienced, and the sound production was sub-par. This one gets 3 out of 5.
* The Prisoner: (China/Hong Kong - Huo shao dao) This Hong Kong production stars Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung Kam-Bo and Tony Leung Ka Fai. It's a low budget Chinese gangster/action flick. The acting is pretty good and the directing is fair. Thankfully it's not just a bunch of fighting. The writing features a few laughs and surprises. Nothing spectacular, but overall it's a pretty good movie (Too bad I had to watch it dubbed). Most of the movie takes place inside a Chinese prison where five different characters come together to take part in the final gun fight/action sequence. There are quite a few rip offs from other prison movies. Several 'Cool Hand Luke' references, and at least one 'Longest Yard' scene. It's a good mix of drama and action. I give this one 3 out of 5.
* Two mules for sister Sara: Set in Mexico, this movie was directed by Don Siegel (also did Escape from Alcatraz and Dirty Harry). While it isn't the best of the westerns starring Clint Eastwood, and it isn't an Italian/Leone production, it is in keeping with 'Man with no name' series. Eastwood plays a mercenary who stumbles upon Sister Sara (played by Shirley MacLaine) in dire straits. After he saves her from some desperate men, they travel together and help each other to achieve a mutual goal. A gunman and a nun on a quest to help liberate the Mexican people. This movie featured some pretty good writing as well as good acting and direction. The locations, sets, props and costumes made for a highly believable setting. The chemistry between the two leads was great, and The music in this movie (by Ennio Morricone) was absolutely fantastic, and it helped elevate the picture. This one gets 3 out of 5.
Movies seen/reviewed this year (2006)
[ Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]
* Five easy pieces: Directed by Bob Rafelson, and starring Jack Nicholson, this movie is a great character piece. The direction, casting and acting were great. This is a dramatic character piece that really showcased Nicholson's ability. The supporting cast (including Ralph Waite (remember John Walton from 'the Waltons')) helped immensely. A promising musician leaves home to seak his own path. Laboring in the oil industry, the prodigal son returns home when his father is nearing death. Once home he does some sould searching only to discover that he still doesn't have any answers. The ending of the movie is a fitting begining for the tormented character portrayed by Nicholson. 5 out of 5.
* Battle Royale: (Japan - Batoru rowaiaru) Here's the movie that was originally recommended by a co-worker (see review for Battle Royale II above). This one was directed by Kinji Fukasaku and featured Takeshi Kitano in a supporting role. Aside from Takeshi Kitano as a sadistic high-school teacher, the casting and acting were unremarkable. The plot was a ridiculous excuse to portray an ultraviolent future where Japanese children are 'out of control'. The irrational fear of Japanese adults (that their children will be crass, rude and disrespectfull of their parents and traditional Japanese values) has finally manifested itself in this paranoid violent fantasy of a film - Something like 'Lord of the flies' with assault weapons. With very little premise, we're subjected to exploding heads, murderous high school students, and a preposterous plot. A randomly selected class of teenagers is kidnapped and compelled to participate in a psychopathic 'Kill-or-be-killed' drama. I guess that this deserted island death match is supposed to somehow make other children behave? While the writing, acting and directing were far, far, better than the sequel. This movie was filled with pointless violence, and fashionable posturing, all to make a thinly veiled point - Today's kids are shits... Gore and shock is not my genre, and I didn't like this movie. Perhaps the writer/director was trying to make some sort of social statement? Perhaps he was trying to portray the futility of violence, the pointless nature of lives without sacrifice or compassion for others? B.S. I don't care what your message may have been. You don't preach about the senselessness of violence and social alienation in todays society by depicting incredibly violent teenagers forced to kill each other. It's crap. The end or message does not justify the means or method. This film reminds me of those 'comedies' that make fun of the handicapped in order to make a point that it's not funny to make fun of the hadnicapped. Complete hipocrasy that stoops to the lowest level, simply because it migh cause those who think it's funny into a critical examination of their own misguided sensibilities. 2 out of 5.
* X-Men III - The last stand: Kim and I went to see this at the theater. While I liked this movie, it's apparent there isn't much hope for the future of this franchise. Like Spiderman 3, this movie suffered from lack of plot. Once again we're subjected to the 'Mutant vs Normal' theme. It's us vs. them. Watching Magento toss cars around and listening to his "We're not gonna take it" speeches is getting really old. The good parts of the movie? Acting by Hugh Jackman (as Wolverine/Jackman), Ian McKellen (as Magneto), and Patrick Stewart (as professor Charles Xavier); Kelsey Grammar as the Beast/Hank McCoy; The complex relationship between Magnetto and the Proffesor. There was lots of action, lots of special effects, lots of cgi. That stuff just isn't all that important if you ask me. What I want is a story I can sink my teeth into. This movie didn't have one. If you're worried that there won't be a sequel (based on the title), don't be. There will definitely be another. Make sure you stay until the very end of the movie. Watch through all the credits. You won't want to miss the short scene that follows the credits. A passable summer action flick. 3 out of 5.
* Capote: Perfect casting, pacing and direction (by the relatively unknown Bennet Miller). The acting by Philip Seymour Hoffman was outstanding. I was utterly convinced by his portrayal. The story was a compelling tale of obsession. A portrayal of Truman Copote's life while he was writing his non-fiction novel: 'In Cold Blood'. A complex relationship between two outcasts. One who couldn't fit in, and one who refused to fit in. This movie is a masterful stroke of art, a revelation in the telling, a rich and compelling tale of a bond between two men. 5 out of 5.
* Freedomland: A stale thriller ripped from the racially charged headlines of a made-for-television society. This movie featured Samuel L. Jackson and Julianne Moore in a police thriller with a foregone conclusion. The plot was a paper-thin tale of racially charged accusations. Some white woman accuses a 'black man' from the 'projects' of car-jacking and kidnapping. The result is a cliched and racially stereotyped tale. While Samuel L. Jackson did a fairly good job as the concerned community cop. Julianne Moore blew it as an overacting, too old for the role, white trash neglectful mother. After the first 30 minutes I knew everything I needed to about this movie. The remaining 83 minutes were a torturous waste of time. The ending does not contain a 'surprise ending', and there were no 'shocking revelations'. 2 out of 5.
* Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham: (India) Another extravagant production from Bollywood. I'm such a sucker. This one features some terrific acting, and the production wasn't quite so bad. A story of an adopted son who grows up in a millionaire's home. The boy marries a commoner against his fathers wishes, and he's forced to leave India. Living in London, his brother seeks him out in order to reunite the family. It's a typical Bollywood theme, full of extravagant sets, costumes and magnificent musical numbers. The acting really sets this one apart. Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan both deliver some outstanding performances. Unfortunately, the subtitles were poorly done, and the voice overs on the musicals weren't very convincing. Here's another Indian drama about love, the family and traditional values that brought tears to my eyes. Damn them! This one gets a 4 out of 5.
* Shoot the piano player: (France - Tirez sur le pianiste) Another movie directed by François Truffaut. This black & white movie made in 1960 is an odd one to categorize. It's a satirical gangster move, but it's also a dramatic character piece. The movie features a main character who's rejected his classical music background. A former concert pianist, he's hidden away from the world, insulated himself from his past and the criminal elements of his family. Playing for peanuts in a local pub, he ends up involved in an underworld dispute involving his brothers. This movie features some neurotic first person narrative, some fantastic cut aways, very early use of non-linear/out of sequence shots, and character portrayals that give the characters real depth. This charming film is well worth watching. 4 out of 5.
* Land of the dead: George Romero's fourth zombie movie. This time the living dead have taken over the entire world, and the living are isolated in city states protected on all sides by a layered defense, and ruled over by upper-class elitist snobs who couldn't give a damn about anoyone other than themselves (Is that supposed to be some sort of political statement? - Whatever). Here's a fairly intelligent zombie movie where the heroes are just as complex as the zombies (that's not saying much). The best acting came from John Leguizamo, and there were a few memorable camera shots. Especially the scene where the zombies come marching out of the river (it's taken from Herk Harvey's Carnival of Souls). I wasn't happy with the 'thinking' zombie theme. Evolving, thinking zombies that use weapons? Come on - they're supposed to be dead. How much brain function is a dead piece of meat supposed to have? This is a good action flick, but it wasn't that good of a movie. 2 out of 5.
* The Great Raid: A lightning rod of a movie, but a damn good movie. I for one, didn't think that the depictions of the Japanese were overly harsh. The depictions showed soldiers following orders, not a group of ravenous savages raping and killing indiscriminately. The American's weren't depicted as a group of super-human heroes with no flaws, and the Phillipinos were depicted as a people struggling under the oppression of society under occupation. Aside from the theatrical use of a supernova bright prison camp - In the middle of the jungle, during a war - when fuel is a precious commodity? - the film appeared to be historically accurate. The acting was very good. It wasn't over dramatic or overstated. The story was a taught drama, and I for one was thoroughly entertained. Unfortunately, they stuck a lame romance/love story angle into the movie. This concession to the typical hollywood formula detracted from the far more interesting historical aspects of the film. Far better than the 'Pearl Harbor' fiasco, this movie gets high marks for being an honest, erstwhile attempt at a historically accurate depiction. The events of this movie were worthy of this treatment, and this movie did a good job at depicting the historical events, effects, and efforts of those who fought to liberate the Philippines and the Allied POWs held in the Japanese camps. 4 out of 5. * Firewall: Harrison Ford is back at it again. Starring in an action packed MacGyver-esque techno-thriller. Ford plays a head of bank security who's family is kidnapped in a heist caper. The kidnappers force Ford to steal the banks electronic funds in exchange for his families freedom. The plot wasn't very original (a lot of cobbled together reused plot elements), and there were a lot of holes, but overall it was a pretty good movie. The scripting and writing were pretty weak, but Harrison Ford's onscreen presence made up for that. The main antagonist (Played by Paul Bettany) really wasn't too convincing. He threatens to 'Knee-Cap' Ford's son, but instead kills one of his own men? Later, the bad guys are nice enough to take the family dog with them when they make their getaway? There was a lot of on-screen explanations. A lot. It seemed like the entire movie was filled with, "This is what I'm doing, and why" moments. Far too much dialog, and a plot that never stopped. O.k. enough with the nit-picking. What did I like about the movie? The pacing, the acting and the updated technological approach to a bank heist. I tend to overanalyze movies - especially afterwards, but I have to say that I enjoyed this one - while I was watching it. I give it a 3 out of 5.
* The Fog: A remake of John Carpenter's 1980 horror movie. This remake was a horrible movie. The original is less than 30 years old, and the original director is still alive - Why would they want to do a remake? Hollywood must be completely out of ideas. The acting in this movie wasn't that good - but the cast wasn't a group of veterans. The writing on the other hand... Sucked! While the original movie was a very suspenseful horror movie, this thing was a horrible hodgepodge of extensive explanations, cgi special effects and ridiculous plot holes. Once again, we're subjected to a movie where everything has to be explained to us. As a final insult, the ending wasn't explained, and it made no sense whatsoever. The special effects in this movie were horrible. Not so much in a technical sense, but primarily in the use. Just because you can do a scene where a person turns into a 'leperous cadaver which bursts into flames while screaming' - It doesn't mean you should! This movie didn't have any of the tension or dread I experienced while watching the original. On the contrary - I found myself laughing at the ridiculous plot devices, the cgi ghosts, and lame character situations. 1 out of 5.
* Dagon: (Spain - La secta del mar) A Cthulhu mythos movie. Based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft, this is just one of the Cthulhu movies that I own. Directed by Stuart Gordon (He also did Re-Animator and From Beyond), starring Francisco (Paco) Rabal (with over 200 films and plays to his name), Ezra Goden and Raquel Meroño. This movie is gory, scary and bizarre. The production value is actually quite good, the acting is also very good, and the story is compelling, creepy and downright disturbing. The writing and direction injects a little bit of humor into this twisted tale of fish gods and mutating cultists. The location and sets were absolutely fantastic. If that town actually exists, I can only imagine it being inhabited by the half-human, half-fish creatures from this movie. The music was very evocative and it helped set the tone throughout the movie. This one just got upgraded from 4 to 5 stars.
* The Interpreter: (U.K.) An international production (UK/US/France) Starring Nicole Kidman, Catherine Keener, George Harris (II) and Sean Penn. The casting in this movie; aside from Nicole Kidman, was great. The acting by Sean Penn was pretty good, but Nicole Kidman didn't convince me at all. I didn't believe her in the role, and she didn't seem to be emotionally involved in the movie. Why didn't they cast a black actress? The story seemed like it was ripped from real-life headlines, but the writers didn't bother to give us real names, languages or locations. That bothered me (Matobo = Zimbabwe?). The locations and sets were great. The plot was fairly predictable and it contained some rather large holes, but the direction was good and the pacing kept me interested. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
* Mind Hunters: A great cast (containing a mixed cast of great actors and less known pretty faces) but a preposterous plot full of gigantic gaping holes and totally ridiculous situations. What a waste of great talent. Starring Val Kilmer, LL Cool J, Christian Slater, Kathryn Morris, Clifton Collins Jr., Patricia Velasquez, and others. The story is your typical serial-killer set-up where the victims are scheduled to die according to the killers 'plan'. There's nothing special about the plan, or this movie, aside from the fact that it was incredibly bad. 2 out of 5.
* John Ford goes to war: A short documentary about a great american director. Unfortunately, it just didn't do him justice. Confined to some of the war movies that John Ford made, this movie lacked scope and left me wanting more. What it did show didn't really do a good job of showcasing his talent, and it wasn't all that insightful. 2 of 5.
* The New Centurions: There are some movies that you just can't get on NetFlix. This is one of them. This is a great dramatic character piece, but it really lacks in purpose or plot. The story of LA's men in blue. Men who sacrifice their personal lives for the good of the city. Based on a novel by someone who was an actual LA police officer, the movie had the feel of reality, but lacked focus on the theater side of the camera. The characters are well developed and the acting was pretty good. Especially that of George C. Scott. In the end it was the character portrayals and acting that carried this movie, not the story. 3 out of 5.
* A fistful of dynamite: (Spain - Giù la testa) Here's another example of a movie you can't get on NetFlix. Directed by Sergio Leonne, this movie - staring Rod Steiger and James Coburn was a fantastic piece of cinema. Shot on location in Mexico, the locations and sets are absolutely fantastic. The unforgettable music was masterfully handled by Ennio Morricone. The acting, especially that of Rod Steiger (with hair) was terrific, and the direction was great. Comedic, dramatic, action packed and politically charged, this movie was a great western/war movie. Set during the Mexican Revolution, this movie is a great epic that pits two characters together against a world at war, where the stakes are higher than we're led to imagine. A fantastic movie. 4 out of 5.
* * Star Trek - The original series - (Second Season) Vol. 19, episodes 37 & 38: [The Changeling / The Apple]: Slowly but surely, I've been viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), my friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. I loved Star Trek back then; You know what? I still love it. The Changeling is one of my favorite episodes (aren't they all?). Here we have a super-powerful probe (Nomad), seeking out perfect life forms, and sterilizing those that aren't. It thinks Kirk is it's creator, and Kirk has to convince it not to kill everyone on board the Enterprise. The Apple is another one of the classic religion bashing episodes. Here we find a perfect paradise of stagnant humanoids. Content to worship their all-providing machine god. In a pre-prime directive fiat, Kirk finds this distasteful, and decides to destroy their god, and force them to develop like other humanoid races - without the protection of an incredibly powerful 'god'.
* Pink Panther: (2006 remake) Not very funny. This remake, starring Steve Martin, Kevin Kline, Beyoncé Knowles and Jean Reno, was well cast (except for Beyoncé Knowles) but poorly directed. Steve Martin brought some humor to the title, but Jean Reno and Steve Martin both turned in sub-par performances. There was no chemistry at all between these two, and the movie suffered as a result. There are probably three funny moments in the entire movie. The dance number with Steve Martin and Jean Reno, the American accent (hamburger joke) lesson, and... Well, on second thought. Maybe there were only two funny scenes. The story was daft and the direction was terrible. Another typical Hollywood remake. 2 out of 5.
* Soldier of orange: (Netherlands - Soldaat van Oranje) I think that this is the first Dutch movie I've seen, and it was fantastic. A great war movie. Set during WWII. Here's a war spanning tale of five Dutch friends. We're introduced to these college buddies just before the war breaks out, and we follow them through to the very end. Here's a rich tale with a great blend of character and story. It's not just a character piece. The espionage story holds up very well indeed. The acting by Rutger Hauer, Jeroen Krabbé and others was great. The direction was very good and overall this was a very good movie. 4 out of 5.
* Nacho Libre: Hilarious. Kim and I went to see this one at the theater. I've been waiting a long time to see this one. I've told a lot of friends, and I for one wasn't disappointed. Kim isn't much of a Jack Black fan, and she didn't like Napoleon Dynamite (Same director/writers), so she gave it a lower rating than me. I loved it. Not quite as funny as ND, and a bit more juvenile, but still very funny. The stereotyped characters and situations are ridiculously funny. The music, locations, sets, costumes all combined to create a whimsical world just south of the border. Filled with rich visuals and absurd situations, the camera doesn't miss a thing as we watch a moonlighting friar and a chip thief wrestle their way into mediocrity. 4 out of 5.
* Merchant of Venice: This movie didn't have subtitles? Come on - I'm supposed to be able to follow Shakespearean English like it's American accented english? Despite the outstanding acting, fabulous visuals, sets and costumes, I can't help but downgrade the movie. I found myself wondering what was going on with these obviously complex characters. Unfortunately, the only character I really followed was that of the 'Shylock', played by Al Pacino. Following more than that would have required a serious amount of rewind, replay, repeat work. I really don't understand why there weren't subtitles. The story is a classic Shakespeare tale of love, deceit, corruption and redemption. Rich sumptuous and full of drama, this one is worth watching. 3 out of 5.
* Dead Man: How could I have missed this one for so long? With an outstanding cast (Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer, Crispin Glover, Lance Henriksen, Michael Wincott, Eugene Byrd, John Hurt, Robert Mitchum, Iggy Pop and others), this movie, written and directed by Jim Jarmusch was an outstanding tale of the west. The colors and music in this movie were fantastic. The combination of camera work, color and music made the tale ten times better. Primarily a character piece, the tragic story follows an accountant who seeks a new life in the wild west. After being rejected by a prospective employer, the main character starts off on the wrong foot. Moments after making his fresh start, he's shot a man and gone on the run. Hounded by bounty hunters and beset by odd characters, an outcast American Indian helps him find his place. 4 out of 5.
* Two for the money: Starring Al Pacino and Matthew McConaughey, this movie contained some great acting by Al Pacino. The story is about a pro-football hopeful (who suffered a career ending injury) turned numbers man, and the racketeer who tries to turn him into a cash machine. With greed driven characters and dramatic style, this movie moves forward like a pop-star on a caffeine high. Despite the fact that the acting and drama left me drained, the story didn't really go anywhere. The plot was very shallow, and only the acting carried it into the end zone. 3 out of 5.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: Very well directed by Shane Black. A great cast, featuring Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan. Stylish, sexy, funny, hip and smart. With some great lines and laughable situations, this movie is an express-train murder mystery set in the hip hollywood scene of LA. Narrated by Downey's character (A petty thief mistaken for an actor), we're taken for quite a ride as the main character is dragged into a highly convoluted murder mystery scheme where the bodies pile up at a frighteningly fast pace. The plot revelations left my head swirling like an olive in an over-priced martini. The only problem with this new-noir detective piece was the pacing. By the end of the movie, I felt like the naked b-actress who got her head slapped off by that were-rat thing... 4 out of 5.
* Signs: Despite a plot that's very much like 'War of the Worlds', this is a fantastic movie. Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan - One of my favorite directors. Shyamalan also did Sixth Sense, The Village and Unbreakable. Starring Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin. The special effects in this movie are excellent use of lighting, camera angles, music and dialog. Without resorting to explosions, gross-out costumes or cgi, M. Night Shyamalan has managed to create a tense suspenseful thriller with intelligent characters and dramatic interplay. This one gets 5 out of 5.
* Syriana: An extremely well directed movie (directed by Stephen Gaghan), with a great cast (Kayvan Novak, George Clooney, Amr Waked, Christopher Plummer, Jeffrey Wright, Matt Damon). Unfortunately, the execution is poorly performed. Despite the fact that this movie had a rather obvious liberal bias (I'm a liberal), I didn't think that it was all that good. The movie takes several different characters, in different settings, and tries to weave a cohesive tale, but it falls short of making a defining connection. I never got a 'Holly crap' revelation from this movie. If you're the sort of person who believes that the Oil Companies are really the ones controlling our government, then this is your conspiracy movie. The tale smells of corruption from beginning to end. Here's a tale of corporate graft, political corruption, civil strife, espionage, assassination and terrorist plots. The pacing is a bit slow, and we're never really sure who the bad guys are. The ending was quite a let down, and I can't help but wonder, is that it? The movie felt unfinished. Despite all this, I have to admit that the acting, direction, cast, locations and music combined to make for a pretty good movie. I give it a 3 out of 5.
* Rope: An Alfred Hitchcock movie. Very stage like, the entire story unfolds in a single apartment. The plot is one of murder - based on the real-life Leopold-Loeb murder case. In this movie two young men commit a murder - just for the thrill of it. They stash the body in a trunk, and then proceed to throw a party with the trunk sitting center stage as a serving table. Starring James Stewart, John Dall, Farley Granger and Cedric Hardwicke, this movie had some Homosexual overtones, but nothing overt (unfortunately). This highly charged thriller made for a great afternoon show. The movie would have been much better if they hadn't shown the actual murder in the opening scene. 4 of 5.
* Alien Vs. Predator: I watched this film because Kim rented it, and I'm a fan of both of the original franchises. I've got news for the people who produced this steaming pile of excrement. Great story makes for good movies - Not sets, explosions, cgi effects or ugly aliens. I should have known better. In this standard 'Eliminate-A-Cast' plot, the action consisted of chest bursting aliens, unbelievable and expendable characters thrown together in a gore fest b-grade movie. Here are some of the things I found preposterous: The Weyland tracking and data relay station (supposedly located in Silver Leaf, Nebraska) is represented by an obvious shot of the very large astronomy array in New Mexico. The lead character (not much of a lead) is climbing a glacier in Nepal, but she's got cell-phone reception. Isn't it a bit distracting to have your cell-phone on while you're climbing an ice covered glacier? On a zoomed out shot we can see that the top of the glacier is void of any special features, yet moments later she comes over the top and there's a helicopter there. We didn't see the helicopter, and I supposed she didn't hear it. Must have been a stealth helicopter. Supposedly they take a helicopter from Nepal to Antarctica (an island just off the coast), where they land on an Icebreaker just before they get to the site of the action. Boy that's quite the range for a helicopter. I wonder how long that trip took? Did they do in-flight refueling? During the trip their pilot warns them that they're 'about to hit some turbulence'. Wow, that's neat, I wish they could do that in real-life. By the way, there was no point to this 'turbulence' scene. It was just there to irk me. The aliens are hanging out inside a pyramid that was built on Antarctic soil. Presumably this pyramid was built before ice covered Antarctica When was that, something like 25 million years ago? Apparently, there was a human civilization in Antarctica during the Miocene Epoch? The earliest evidence for human civilization is approximately 6-7 thousand years old. Man didn't even exist 25 million years ago! That was just the first 15 minutes of the film... You get the idea. The rest of the movie was a boring, preposterous, unengaging Predator vs Alien hunting plot, where humans were just inadvertent distractions. This movie gets a 1 out of 5. It would've made a better movie without the humans. Unfortunately, the movie left room for a sequel, and there is speculation that the sequel will be made! News flash for Lance Henriksen - You can't kill a predator with an asthma inhaler!
* What's eating Gilbert Grape?: Wow, a great movie. The other day I was talking about Dead Man (Starring Johnny Depp), and someone asked if I had seen WEGG. No, I'd heard of it, but never seen it. Fantastic writing (Peter Hedges - About a boy (screenplay), Pieces of April) and direction (Lasse Hallström - My life as a dog, The Cider House rules, Chocolat). The casting was great, but I don't think Johnny Depp was the star here. Leonardo DiCaprio was definitely outstanding in this role. I had no idea he could act. If I didn't know better, I would have sworn that he wasn't acting! With all the crap roles he's had, I'd formed a poor opinion of his acting ability. In this movie the writing and direction are outstanding, and DiCaprio's acting pushed this one into the 5 of 5 category. A movie about a young man (Depp) struggling with a difficult family life. Faced with an incredibly difficult role, he chooses the right path, despite his desires. A fantastic family film, with a powerful positive image. 5 out of 5.
* The Missouri Breaks: A poorly titled western with some big names. Starring Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Randy Quaid and Harry Dean Stanton. Nicholson plays the leader of a gang of rustlers, and Brando plays the regulator hired to put them down. Some tense drama, great music, excellent acting, and overacting (by Brando). The plot here is pretty thin, but the character portrayals are great. Nicholson and Brando (really stealing the show) do a great job of breathing life into this limited plot. A western that doesn't demand shoot out, law man, or gambling cliches. Should have been titled 'The Regulator'. 4 out of 5 for acting.
* Sahara: Not the 2005 action flick w/same name. This movie (made in 1943) gives us an early look at WWII. Starring Humphrey Bogart and several others in an international cast. This movie depicts an American tank commander (Bogart as Sgt Joe Gunn) and his crew retreating from defeat in a North African desert (Shot in California). While retreating they pick up a rag-tag group of allied soldiers and a few prisoners. Thirsty, they seek a watering hole. Once there, they decide to make a last stand against a battalion of Nazis seeking water. The action sequences aren't all that good, but the international cast and depiction of fighting men is enjoyable. The characters are well developed and well acted, and the music is great as well. 4 out of 5.
* Click: Starring Adam Sandler and Kate Beckinsale. I had really high hopes for this movie. Unfortunately the story was stale and repetitive. The plot: workaholic obtains universal remote to control his universe. Unfortunately, things get out of hand. The remote learns to fast forward through everything other than the boring stuff. If you've seen the previews, you've seen the entire movie. What's left? Casting. With Adam Sandler playing Adam Sandler, David Hasselhoff giving a surprisingly good performance, and Christopher Walken in a cameo role. The laughs are there, but this isn't a comedy. I can't quite figure out why everyone is so 'ga-ga' over this movie. It was too serious to be a comedy, and too funny to take serious. The repetitive theme 'Life is too short to waste - Family first' is a good one, but the repetitive nature of the theme really gets annoying. A good Saturday afternoon movie. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
* Instinct: Starring Anthony Hopkins, Cuba Gooding Jr., Donald Sutherland and Maura Tierney. Cuba Gooding Jr. cannot act. His exaggerated posing and body movements appear stilted and artificial, while his facial expressions are out of sync with the characters dialog and emotional state. The direction in this movie was poor. With numerous instances of cliched character stereotypes and poor use of settings, this movie contained several unbelievable plot holes, starting with an unrealistic encounter with poachers. Supposedly based on the novel 'Ishmael'? A novel I haven't read, I can only assume that this is another case of great book meets hack hollywood producers with dreams of low-budget profits dancing in their heads. The best acting (in my opinion) came from Maura Tierney. While Anthony Hopkins performance was great, he was poorly matched against the rest of the cast, and his lines seemed to belong in a different movie. 2 out of 5.
* Daughters of Darkness: (France - Lèvres rouges, Les) A very stylish and moody film. Beautifully filmed b-grade vampire schlock. A 300 year old lesbian vampire and her lover stay at nearly abandoned victorian hotel. While they're there they attempt to seduce a newlywed couple. The movie has some great visuals, but the performances weren't all that good. An unorthodox vampire movie to be sure. 3 out of 5.
* Stay: An oddball in the same category as 'Sixth Sense and Memento'. A convoluted thriller with a dark and depressing plot. A psychiatrist attempts to prevent a patient from committing suicide while hanging on to his own sanity in the process. The acting was outstanding and the dialog very good. Unfortunately, the plot was a bit to twisted for me to keep up with. 3 out of 5.
* Iceman: Here's an interesting movie starring Timothy Hutton and Lindsay Crouse. If you can get past the preposterous premise - A Neanderthal - dead for several centuries - is discovered in a Canadian glacier, thawed out and revived! The story is compelling and well told, if not preposterous. The acting was pretty good, and the ending was a bit surprising. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
* We were soldiers: Starring Mel Gibson. A fairly typical hollywood presentation of war. Good guys are invincible. A hundred or so American GI's defeat an entire division of viet-cong. Sure, it's based on a true story, but the combat parts of the movie were typical hollywood treatment lacking vision or a sense of realism. The best parts of this movie are the parts that portray the effect of war on the families left behind. Specifically the parts where the wives are notified that their husband has died in combat. There was also some excellent work balancing the view from the viet-cong side of the story. 3 out of 5.
Movies seen/reviewed this year (2006)
[ Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]
* Failure to launch: Kim picked this one. My queue was empty, and we wanted to watch a movie. Unfortunately, I got stuck watching this 'Chick Flick'. I didn't make it. With a half hour to go, I headed for the bedroom. Couldn't stay awake any longer. This movie was very boring. Plot? O.k. As preposterous as it sounds, some 30 something guy lives with his parents. He's good looking, athletic, has a good job, not mentally retarded, etc. etc. Still, he lives with his parents. Uses the 'I live with my parents' line in order to scare away chicks looking for 'commitment'. Arrgghh. I can't go on. The only rewarding feature of this film? Terry Bradshaw and Kathy Bates as the parents. Another cliched perfect people romance. Umm, yeah I left before the end. I wonder whether he eventually moved out on his own? 2 out of 5.
* Night Watch: (Russia - Nochnoy Dozor) The story was one of those eternal good vs evil struggles in the style of Highlander or Constantine. The acting and directing weren't the best, but there was a lot of energy and effort here. The Moscow setting/locations added greatly to the feel of the movie. The characters were well developed, but some of the cgi and the sound production brought it down a notch. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
* A very long engagement: (France - Un long dimanche de fiançailles) Intricately plotted, dramatic, richly narrated. The story of a naive love during WWI. A soldier fighting in the trenches is assumed dead by everyone except his lover. The movie is a quest to discover the truth of the matter. Very well cast, this movie had some terrific acting, directing and music. Very well done. A visual feast that swept me away to france in the 1920's. Harsh yet Idyllic, this war movie never lets us forget how horrific war can be. Yet, at the same time, this romantic drama reveals the beauty of love in Idyllic pastoral settings. 5 out of 5.
* A peck on the cheek: (Indian - Kannathil Muthamittal) The final selection from Filmmovement.com. Unlike some other 'Bollywood' movies, this movie actually tells a story that isn't a romantic 'boy meets girl' fluff piece. Here's a serious drama. Two parents take their adopted child to war torn Sri-Lanka in order to meet her biological mother. It's a sweeping epic with plenty of emotion, choreographed dance numbers and there's even a little action as rebels and government soldiers shoot it out in war torn Sri-Lanka. Set against the Tamil regions of India and Sri-Lanka, the locations are fantastic. The acting was great, the direction splendid. As an independent release, this feature rivals any of the Bollywood industry releases. The only detractor to this movie was subtitles. A typical problem with Indian movies. This time there were two problems with the subtitles. They didn't keep up with the dialog, and the light coloring was washed out by the vivid backgrounds. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
* Munich: It may not be 100% authentic/historically accurate or a documentary, but this movie was awesome. Realistic, hard hitting, nail biting and politically challenging. These are the sort of stories that are worth telling. Superb direction by Steven Spielberg, wonderful writing by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, and great acting by a cast that didn't try to steal the show. Real-life events. Palestinian terrorist group 'Black September' kidnapped and killed Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics of 1972. Fantasy world: The Israeli government commissions a secret hit-squad to take out the leaders who planned the attack in Munich. There may be no inside corroboration to this end of the story, but there's evidence that it occurred in a manner very much like that told in this movie. This movie had a lot of action, drama, suspense and tension. A retrospective, introspective, movie about the politics of murder. Violence always begets more violence. One of the best scenes in the whole movie? The parting shot. I've got to get a copy of this movie. 5 out of 5.
* The 4th man: (Dutch - Vierde man, De) Directed by Paul Verhoeven, this odd film featured some notable Dutch actors (Jeroen Krabbé and Renée Soutendijk), the acting is pretty good, the music is good and the story is very good. A twisting erotic mystery foretold through the visions and hallucinations of the main character. Filled with symbols and interesting camera work, the story unfolds at a satisfying pace, while the main character wanders into a deadly relationship. The unwritten ending is very well done. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
* Saints and Soldiers: A WWII story. Based on true events, here's the story of a small band of allied soldiers trapped behind enemy lines. They're in possession of some critical intelligence, and they have to out maneuver a large German offensive in order to delivery the information to allied commanders. The direction, acting and camera work were great. Unfortunately, there was a sub-plot that detracted from the main story. The sub-plot led me down a path that dead ended abruptly, leaving me dissatisfied and a bit disappointed. The locations, costumes and props led a very authentic feel to the movie. This one gets 3 out of 5.
* Marooned: A suspenseful 1960's sci-fi thriller. A great cast, including: Gregory Peck and Gene Hackman. This movie was slow, plodding, predictable and boring. I would have expected better from director John Sturges. The special effects - despite an Oscar - sucked! Some of the lines were corny, and the story was boring. Watching this movie reminded me of Apollo 13 - A far superior movie, which may have taken some queues from this movie. The acting was the only redeeming feature. 2 out of 5.
* Back to Bataan: Made in 1945, WWII was still underway. The filming of this movie (about the Philippines) coincided with the campaign to liberate the Philippines Patriotic propaganda. That's what this movie was. The entire Hollywood industry was involved in the war effort, and this movie (starring John Wayne) was just one of the many movies made to help the war effort. Oddly, it was made by a couple of communists. Little did they know, that our government would turn against them after the war ended. Full of characterized scenes of violence against women, children and the defenseless. The stereotypical depictions were intended to depict the Japanese as monsters - and they did that job quite well. I didn't like this movie. I know it was a propaganda piece, but as a film it was lacking. There was a good story here, but it fell short in the telling. The liberation of the Philippines was no small task, but this movie attempted to focus on the efforts of one small group. Unfortunately, all we got to see were a bunch of staged fights without any overview of how the battles helped in the liberation of the Philippines The result left us with nothing to focus on except a character sub-plot which was stale and predictable. 2 out of 5.
* Dear Frankie: (U.K./Scottish) Full of feeling, this humanistic drama was full of the things that make separate real people from the hollywood depictions we typically see. Here's a movie that was as well written as it was directed. An outstanding film by Shona Auerbach. The story was heart warming, believable (if slightly improbable), and uplifting. The ending was fantastic. 5 out of 5.
* Deep Blue: (U.K.) A documentary about sea life. The US release is narrated by Pierce Brosnan. This movie featured some fantastic camera work, and great scenes of the world under the waves. Time slipped by as I was mesmerized by the ebb-and-flow of life in the ocean. This movie didn't need any plot, but a little more narration would have been nice. 3 out of 5.
* Man with the movie camera: (Russia - Chelovek s kino-apparatom) Black and white movie made in Soviet Russia. Astonishing! An amazing work of cinema. Directed by Dziga Vertov this movie was really amazing. A artful composition with no dialog. An experimental movie which portrayed a day in the life of one industrious soviet city. From daybreak to sunset. This movie was a masterful composition of color (yeah, even black & white movies have 'color'), motion, emotion and perspective. Combined with an absolutely brilliant musical score, this work of art caressed my senses and stimulated my imagination, without so much as a single word, I was swept away by the movie. Shots of a 'Man with a camera' traveling across the width and breadth of this city. Looking for just the right shot. Giving us countless new perspectives, insights and revelations. This one gets 5 out of 5. I'll have to see what else he's made.
* Nobody knows: (Japan - Dare mo shiranai) Surprisingly, Kim picked this one. A character based drama with a rather tragic setting. A group of four young children (6 - 12?) are left to fend for themselves by a negligent mother. At times the movie is endearing and light-hearted, but most of the time it's a sad tragic tale. The acting (by the children) was fantastic, and the direction marked a talent for the portrayal of the human condition. I liked this movie, but it was quite depressing. 3 out of 5.
* Saboteur: An Alfred Hitchcock movie. Another 'wrongly accused man' movie. This is a rather peculiar one. Made in 1942, It's all American. The characters, actors, locations, and sets. Unmistakably political in it's patriotic images, this tense drama starts off pretty good, but we're soon being spoon fed and led down the yellow-brick road. This movie is a drawn-out, worn-out, rehash of a foregone conclusion. There aren't any surprises here, and I quickly lost interest in this less than thrilling effort. 2 out of 5.
* In My country: (U.K./Irish/South African) A movie about the post apartheid 'Truth and Reconciliation' hearings in South Africa. For the most part it was a great cast. Samuel L. Jackson was miscast in his role, and his performance was over the top at times. Unfortunately, most of the characters are rather boring and stereotypical. The locations and music were great and they helped the movie immensely. Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot going on in this movie. It's a typical character based drama with an unusual setting, until the final revelation. I wish they would have developed on that plot string a bit more. This could have been a movie about the 'Truth and Reconciliation' hearings. Instead it was a drama with a love interest twist. This movie gets a 3 out of 5.
* The three burials of Melquiades Estrada: A modern day western set down on the border. A dramatic cross-border journey which examines revenge, humanity and racism. Starring in his directorial debut, Tommy Lee jones did an excellent job with this movie. The casting, locations and music were great. The excellent writting/script was produced by Guillermo Arriaga. This movie wasn't too pretentious, and the characters were 100% believable. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
* The Yes Men: (2004 - Documentary) Anti-corporate pranksters take on the WTO. After setting up a fake WTO web site, these liberal jokesters are invited to various trade / economy based seminars and meetings. Being the rebellious anarchist types, they attend. Pretending to be WTO representatives, they mock the WTO in a satirical way. Proposing ridiculous, nonsensical solutions to the worlds trade and economic problems. Unfortunately, most of their pranks are seen as serious proposals and they're lauded by the 'yes men' corporate audience. The film production quality was mixed. About half way through the movie, some one must have gotten fired, because the editing, music and pacing improved dramatically. I enjoyed the second half of the movie, especially the part where they 'disbanded' the WTO! I'm the kind of guy who reads 'Adbusters' magazine. I'm a liberal, and I don't believe that corporations should be in charge of our welfare. Sure it's a biased movie, but some of the pranks that these activists perpetrated were quite humorous. I give this movie a 3 out of 5.
* Monster Thursday: ((2004 - Dramatic romance) Norwegian - Monstertorsdag) The final selection from Filmmovement.com? Here's another drama selection. A love triangle that revolves around two men (best friends), and their common love interest (a woman). She started out with the underdog, then she switched to the surfing champion. After marrying, the surfer disappears (on a business trip), leaving his best friend with directions to 'watch out for her'. While surfer dude is gone, the best friend tries to woo the pregnant newlywed back to his camp. Nothing original here. Mixed in with this sordid love affair is a strange second story about a 'perfect wave', where the underdog tries to convince himself that he's just as good as the surfing champion. The acting was great, the pacing very good, and the camera work was subtle and well done. This one gets 3 out of 5.
* The lost skeleton of Cadavra: (2004 - Comedy) A spoof on 1950's sci-fi movies. This little gem had me rolling on the floor. It was incredibly funny. The lines! Oh my god. Whoever wrote this knew what they were doing. The cast were complete unknowns, but that was a good thing. The set and locations were perfect. The film style was extremely well done. A scientist and his 'scientists wife' are investigating a meteorite. An evil-scientist is trying to revive the lost skeleton of Cadavra, and a pair of stranded aliens must refuel their space-ship and recover their mutant. Put all these characters together for dinner and watch what happens! It wasn't just a funny movie, it was also a well crafted parody/homage. Incorporating time tested B (for Bad) movie film techniques, and directing style. This one was well worth the watching. Days later I find myself describing the movie to friends, and falling over with laughter at the comic genius of this movie. I give it a 5 out of 5.
* A beautiful mind: (2001 - Thriller) Directed by Ron Howard. Starring Russel Crowe, Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly. A remarkable movie. A brilliant but autistic mathematician (played by Russel Crowe) accepts work breaking codes and his life becomes a nightmare as madness overtakes him. The directing, acting, and casting were exceptional. The costumes and makeup were great. Especially the aging effects. This movie was a portrayal of a real-life scientist - John Nash. The acting by Russel Crowe was flawless. I give this movie a 4 out of 5.
* Pale Rider: (1985 - Western) Clint Eastwood playing a 'Stranger with no name'. Reviving his most famous role. Here's a movie directed by Clint Eastwood. Not his first direction role, but one of his finest. Some of the best acting came from the supporting cast. The story was enigmatic and powerful. A mysterious stranger (a preacher) shows up in sleepy little mining town, just in time to help the oppressed people throw off the oppression of a local tyrant. A familiar, yet workable theme, which often repeats itself in Clint Eastwood movies. With some supernatural emphasis on the 'Preacher' character, this movie feels like something of a 'High Plains Drifter' remake. 4 out of 5.
* Munich: (2005 - Thriller) Twice in the same month. It may not be 100% authentic/historically accurate or a documentary, but this movie is awesome. Realistic, hard hitting, nail biting and politically challenging. These are the sort of stories that are worth telling. Superb direction by Steven Spielberg, wonderful writing by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, and great acting by a cast that didn't try to steal the show. Real-life events. Palestinian terrorist group 'Black September' kidnapped and killed Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics of 1972. Fantasy world: The Israeli government commissions a secret hit-squad to take out the leaders who planned the attack in Munich. There may be no inside corroboration to this end of the story, but there's evidence that it occurred in a manner very much like that told in this movie. This movie had a lot of action, drama, suspense and tension. A retrospective, introspective, movie about the politics of murder. Violence always begets more violence. One of the best scenes in the whole movie? The parting shot. I've got to get a copy of this movie. 5 out of 5.
* Amityville Horror: (2005 - Horror) A remake that's not as good as the original. How many times have I said that? Once again, this movie is supposedly based on a true story. This 'based on a true story' cliche adds nothing to the movie, and there's no connection to the 'real life' events to make us care. Here's another hollywood remake that fails to live up to it's predecessor. While this movie was supposed to be set in the early 70's, there's very little connection to that time, and the character portrayals didn't feel like the 70's. The acting by Ryan Reynolds was pretty good, but the rest of the cast wasn't all that convincing. While this movie contained a lot of perked up camera/post-production digital effects, it lacked in the content department. Nothing new to see here. Just your typical Hollywood fright fest. Lot's of flash, loud music, profanity and frenetic digital effects designed to disorient your senses. I didn't like it. 2 out of 5.
* Around the bend: (2004 - Comedic drama) A family oriented, reunion style, character based drama. The casting was great. Starring Michael Caine, Christopher Walken, Josh Lucas and Jonah Bobo, the performances were top notch. This is definitely a 'male chick-flick'. Full of emotion and reflection, here's a story about grief and reconciliation. A well crafted multi-generational story about family. While the story is a bit tired, the performances and music were excellent. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
* Why we fight: (2005 - Documentary) Another examination of the motives behind war. War! What are we fighting for? The opening speech by president Eisenhower pretty much sums it up. The rest of the film is an artful attack against abuse of power, deception, corporate greed and political corruption. It's all true. Although biased, against war. This movie is less a political left wing rant than an anti-corporate proof. Here the writer/director uses believable arguments, testimony and facts to push home his point. Much better than Fahrenheit 9/11 in it's delivery and believability. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
* Milwaukee, Minnesota: (2005 - Comedic drama) With a quirky cast, and oddball characters, this comedic drama tells a tale of murder, greed, love and a championship ice-fisher. Despite the flat performance from the lead actor (Troy Garity), the casting was great. The story is an odd tale about a "retarded?" young man who's the world's most successful professional ice-fishing champion. Hoarding a stash of cash in their home. Mom is murdered and the con 'men' move in. This movie had way to many cliched 'indy' movie moments and characters for my taste. Despite the shortcomings in writing, the direction and pacing were flawless. I give it a 3 out of 5.
* Master and Commander - The far side of the world: (2003 - Action/Adventure) 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 gets a 5 out of 5.
* Waiting...: (2005 - Comedy) Here's a movie where someone really took their time to get it right. The writing was fantastic. The casting terrific. The laughs non-stop! A movie about working in the restaurant industry. If you can remember the brief restaurant scenes (with Jennifer Anniston) from 'Office Space', you'll know what this movie is like. Despite the excessive profanity, sex, drugs, and nudity.. Umm, who am I kidding? without that, this movie just wouldn't be the same. I'm glad I've never worked waiting tables. It must suck, but at the same time, this sure made it look like loads of fun... In a sick demented sort of way. Over the top characters living the 'live for today' lifestyle, and ridiculous situations, where the characters are forced to comply, apologize, beg your pardon, 'or else'. Thankfully, they've found plenty of way's to 'stick it to the man' and relieve their boredom. This was a great movie. Warning: Don't watch before dinner. 5 out of 5.
* Trains, planes and automobiles (1987 - Comedy): A great comedy starring Steve Martin and John Candy as an oddcouple pair of reluctant traveling companions. Had nothing in my NetFlix queue, so I started surfing the cable channels. Found this perrenial favorite, and I couldn't resist. Very well written, directed and acted. Non-stop hillarious circumstances conspire to keep these travelers from a Thanksgiving with their families. This is a heartwarming comedy, and one of John Candy's finest performances. I give it a 5 out of 5.
* Cache: (France - Caché / 2005 - Drama) Here's a dramatic psychological thriller that was very well directed and acted, but the ending (typical of this director) was a bit unsatisfying. The wealthy/successful characters grapple with a childhood secret and the circumstances of some vaguely threatening surveillance. This movie plods along at a fair pace (a little slow), creating an excellent suspensful mood, and the acting was great. Unfortunately, the ending isn't very satisfying. I don't require resolution, but this one felt incomplete in a sense other than plot resolution. 3 out of 5.
* The Agronomist: (2003 - Documentary) A movie about Jean Dominique, a Haitian radio personality and human rights activist. A very well executed political history of Haiti in the last half century. This story showed how an ordinary man, concerned about ordinary things, can become the enemy of the state, simply by speaking his opinion. Jean Dominique wasn't a rabid radical, intent on bringing down the system, but he did have a voice. A very powerful voice. A story about Haiti, political corruption and the power of radio. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
* Demonlover: (France / 2002 - Dramatic thriller) An odd movie. Sexy and extremely violent. A story about corporate espionage in an industry that buys and sells illicit images. Struggling to win 'the contract', two firms go head to head in an all out war. The characters are completely amoral. They do double deals, lie, cheat, drug the opposition, burglarize apartments, attempt murder, kidnap, rape and torture. They do all of this in an attempt to win a contract with a Japanese company that produces Manga. I enjoyed the way the ending of the movie was a character reversal on the roles established at the begining of the movie, but the overt sex, violence and lack of morals in the characters really put me off. I disliked this movie. 2 out of 5.
Movies seen/reviewed this year (2006)
[ Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]
* Darwin's Nightmare: (2004 - Documentary / France/Austria/Belgium - Cauchemar de Darwin, Le) Here's a heart-breaking documentary that doesn't have much to do with Darwin, but it does portray a vivid picture of a nightmare. The life of the Tanzanian's portrayed in this movie, would certainly qualify as a nightmare where I'm at. Living on $1.00 a day, the residents of this coastal (shore of lake Victoria) fishing village, survive on whatever they can find. Prostitution, aids, starvation, exploitation. These are all common themes in this documentary. Western countries (EU and Russia) take Tanzania's natural resources (Nile Perch), while the residents are left the scraps to eat. The life expectancy in Tanzania is 52, and this movie illustrates why. Accurately portrayed in this documentary, is the complete lack or regard for the conditions of Tanzanians by the companies operating commercially in Tanzania. Here's a country on the brink of devastation. 3 out of 5.
* Final destination 3: (2006 - Horror) I wish I hadn't. This third installment in the 'Final destination' franchise was a final let down. Your typical teen slasher flick, where the only redeeming feature is a brief nude scene. Here's a rehash of the same plot over and over and over again. You can't really cheat death. Each character dies in pre-ordained order and a grotesque manner. The rube-goldberg machinations behind each death add nothing to the movie (aside from making it longer), and your left with a series of ridiculous and overly gross deaths. Like I said, the only redeeming feature of this movie was the tanning bed titties scene. Hopefully death has finally caught up with this series. 2 out of 5.
* Quatermass and the pit: (1968 - Horror, Sci-Fi / U.K.) First of all I've got to rave a bit about NetFlix...
<rave>Back when I was a little boy, I used to sneak upstairs in the middle of the night to watch "Eerie Street with 'Alexander'", and later "TJ and the ANT". These television programs were hosted horror / late night programs run by the local television stations (WBAY (TV2) and WLUK (TV11)) in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Without my parents permission, I would creep up the stairs, from my bedroom in the basement. Turning on the TV, I would wait for the set to slowly warm. Soon a picture would come into view. A creepy crawly fear fest beamed straight to you. Late night TV was something new to my generation. TJ (Television Jockey) and the ANT (All Night Theater), hosted by Doug Heim, was an experimental program that ran after all the other stations were off the air. This station aired some awesome fright fests that kept me up late into the night. No wonder I slept until noon! My parents must have thought there was something wrong with me. There were hardly any commercials, and the host often opened up the phone lines for callers to chat about the movies (or anything, for that matter). He even aired some amateur and student produced movies. It was a great introduction to film, horror in particular, and I still remember many of the movies I saw back then. Two such movies have stuck in my head for many years. Without a name, I had pretty much given up on ever seeing them again. Until... NetFlix recommended one of them! Amazing. NetFlix had back-tracked my movie preferences to the roots of my formative experiences. NetFlix recommended 'Quatermass and the pit'. I immediately realized that this was one of my favorite horror flicks from way back in my 'TJ and the ANT' days. After adding the movie to the top of my queue, I went searching for another one of my favorites. Armed only with a search string, "bone eating horror movie", Google was able to find the movie in no time at all. Settling in at link number two was, "Island of Terror". A quick trip to IMDB confirmed my search. I'd found the other horror touchstone from my late night roots. A movie about a biologically engineered monster that reproduces by fission, and eats the bones (and only the bones) of it's victims. Unfortunately, it's only available on DVD as a PAL formatted, region 2 disc (U.K./Europe). I guess I'll have to hunt around for a VHS copy, or wait for a release on region 1. Kudos to NetFlix for bringing me full circle. Back to my roots. NetFlix helped me find those long lost favorites without my even asking.</rave>
On with the review. Here's an eclectic horror mix. It's part mystery, part history, part supernatural, part sci-fi. A far cry from slick or filled with fancy tricks. This movie relies solely on a rich imaginative story guaranteed to keep you glued to your seat. Spoiler warning... During a construction dig, workers discover human remains. The local archaeologist is called in. A strange type of human ancestor is reconstructed. The workers keep digging. That's when they discover a 'bomb'. The military is called in, along with a 'rocket scientist'. Eventually the entire bomb is excavated. Clearly an alien space-craft, the thing looks like something from an H.R. Giger drawing (well before anyone had ever heard of H.R. Giger). After an abortive attempt to open a sealed compartment, the metal dissolves on it's own in an unusual metallic fire effect. Inside the sealed compartment are insectoid creatures, which quickly begin to deteriorate when exposed to our atmosphere. At the end of the day, a worker goes back to the site to retrieve his tools. Alone in the dark tunnel, the worker is overcome by psychic impressions emanating from the craft. As Dr. Quatermass and his assistant research the supernatural events surrounding the site of the alien craft, the military man bungles the PR job, by declaring the area 'all clear'. Reporters and curiosity seekers are soon exposed to strange levitating objects and possession by the awoken spirits of the aliens. As the crowd is driven mad and flees, we see the space ship levatating, writhing, and pulsing with power. It's almost as if the vessel itself is alive. Coursing with power, it begins to affect the humans living in the vicinity. In the meantime, Professor Quatermass and a colleague connect a possessed citizen to a 'thought imaging' device. The results are shocking (bad special effects are dismissed as static filled visions of a possessed mind). We see scenes of alien insectoid creatures engaged in a great war. The slaughter lays waste to millions of the creatures, and may go some distance towards an explanation. Did these creatures flee their dying home world? Did they escape a genocidal war by genetically modifying primitive humans? Did they augment the DNA of our ancient ancestors with their own? Are we the result of an extraterrestrial genetics experiment? They couldn't survive in our atmosphere, so they transferred their racial memory into our species by grafting their genetic material onto our genome. In the end, an alien invasion, by way of psychic proxy, is thwarted when Professor Quatermass disrupts a psychic projector (The image of a giant shimmering insectoid is hovering over the city and slowly converting the populace into a disturbed slave race) using a large conductive mass of metal (a construction crane). There was a lot going on in this movie, and it affected me on many levels. The themes in this movie have been seen throughout the years in many of the sci-fi classics we see today. The ideas were far-reaching, sophisticated, and thought provoking. The acting wasn't the best, but the direction, writing and pacing were magnificent. The music helped sustain a feeling of dread and uncertainty as the alien creatures attempted to assert dominion from beyond the flesh and beyond time. 5 out of 5.
* The last picture show: (1971 - Drama) It's amazing how few people have seen this movie. Directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Starring Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman and Randy Quaid. This movie was nominated for eight academy awards, and won two! A fantastic character based drama with a lot of nudity (the late 60's and early 70's weren't afraid of the naked form). Set in a slowly evaporating Texas town, the characters are the last generation of their generation. As the characters grow up in this podunk backwater of Texas, they form bonds, learn about love, break hearts and stay loyal to their friends. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
* The Birdcage: (1996 - Comedy) Despite the fine acting by Robin Williams, Gene Hackman, Nathan Lane and Dianne Wiest, I couldn't get into this movie. I guess it felt too much like 'Meet the (gay) parents'. Two young lovers want to marry, but they need their parents blessing. Arranging a meeting between her conservative, christian, politician parents, and his liberal, gay, father & transvestite lover is a bit over the top. A derivative work, based on 'La Cage aux folles', in a very long time, but this remake isn't an improvement. The casting and acting of Williams and Lane was great, but the rest felt forced and far-fetched. A fair comedy. 3 out of 5.
* Eight Below: (2006 - Family, Adventure) A Disney release. When it comes to family/children's oriented, feel-good movies, I prefer live-action to animation. First of all, I had a difficult time putting aside my expectations for this movie. I expected it to be an unreaslistic depiction of man and sled-dog. An unrealistic depiction of the conditions in Antarctica. I expected it to be a family oriented feel-good movie, where we the dogs acted like people. I expected it to have a sappy happy warm ending. I expected it to tug at my heart-strings. You know what? It was all those things. If you're looking for a good family oriented movie, then this is a good one. If you're looking some sort of documentary about the real conditions in Antarctica, if you're looking for true-to life (not hollywood pretend reality) depictions of working dogs, you're in for a disappointment. The dogs were very well trained, and gave excellent performances. Especially 'Maya'. I was absolutley convinced that she was wounded, feeling down, and ready to give up. How does a trainer get a dog to mimic a 'facial expression'? This one gets a 3 out of 5. FYI: Sled dogs have not been used in Antarctica since 1993 because the Antarctic treaty bans them. This action was taken because of evidence that the canine disease 'distemper' was spreading to Antarctica’s seals. Events in this movie are based on a Japanese Expedition back in 1958. The last country to pull their dogs out was Great Britain. They used their dogs very intensively through the early 1970s, didn't take their dogs out until 1993. This film apparently takes place in 1993 (there's a shot with a calendar in it).
* Don't come knocking: (2005 - Drama) A drama starring Sam Shepard, Jessica Lange, Tim Roth and Eva Marie Saint. Here's the self-discovery story of a bad-boy actor in the sunset of his career. Looking for some substance in his life, the lead character walks away from the shoot, and travels back to his past. Visiting friends, family and old flames, he discovers a family he never knew he had. Unfortunately, they don't jump on the 'we all love you' bandwagon. A great story, and some fine film work, but a bit slow at times. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
* Grandma's Boy (unrated version): (2006 - Comedy) This one was in Kim's queue. She picked it because a friend recommended it. I watched it because NetFlix let me down (sent me the wrong movie, but that's another story). I wish I hadn't. It was like watching someone get kicked in the balls, for 90 minutes. Bowing to the lowest common denominator, this movie was horrible. Premise? Let's see; kids like funny dopers, and kids like video games. All we have to do is make a movie about both. Starring a huge cast of Adam Sandler one-line actors (and a couple of very short cameos by Rob Schneider and David Spade), this hodge podge of bad marijuana jokes, sex and poop jokes makes for a nauseating cocktail. There's no plot to speak of (Dude gets kicked out of apartment and moves in with Grandma), and the movie is simply a series of ridiculous over the top characters in 60 second skit situations. There's so much weed in the movie that it should've been listed in the cast credits. The sound editing/mixing was absolutely horrible, and the camera work was weak. Lame, lame, lame, isn't just a sentimentality in this movie, it's a description of the amount of work that went into the writing. Depicting the entire gaming industry as a bunch of immature, socially retarded potheads - this movie tries to appeal to the of twent-teen gamer/slacker audience by insulting them. I suppose it would have been funnier if I'd been high when I watched the movie... 1 out of 5.
* Oldboy: (2003 - Thriller / Korean) I had a hard time setting the rating for this one. The direction was great, and the camera work was excellent, but in the end I felt bludgeoned into submission by the films irony. After 15 years of imprisonment by an unknown captor, the main character is freed and vows revenge. While seeking out his captors, he's drawn into an intricate plot of revenge. The acting was pretty good, the directing was excellent, but there was too much graphic sex and violence. Some of the scenes - The tooth extraction torture and an incestuous sex scene - made me fast forward. Yeah, I'm a bit squeamish when it comes to that - and shouldn't everyone be? I don't see the point really. I detest violence, and find most film depiction (of violence) to be pointless. Anyway, back to the review. Despite the excessive violence, this was a well crafted story, full of twists and turns. The atmosphere created through costumes, sets and locations was superb. This was a great suspense, thriller, mystery. Unfortunately, I found the plot follow-through to be a bit too much. The heavy character was a bit too overzealous, the circumstances and set-ups a bit too choreographed, the irony was far too thick. The plot and themes driving the story were original, but the execution of the story and behavior of the characters was not in proportion to the motivating themes involved. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
* Torn Curtain: (1966 - Thriller) Directed by Alfred Hithcock, starring Paul Newman and Julie Andrews. Here's a spy thriller set in the midst of the cold war. With the propaganda thick on every side, this movie was made to infuriate, excite, and motivate an audience one our side of the iron curtain. An American scientist publically defects to East Germany in an effort to work towards a goal of peace; hoping to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons. Or at least that's the cover story. Full of suspense and intrigue, you're torn between disgust for the main character and then cheer him on a few minutes later. There were some excellent performances in this movie, but Paul Newman's wasn't one of them. In my opinion, the best acting came from Wolfgang Kieling, who played a member of the East German secret police. Julie Andrews played a throw-away character, and the movie was fairly predicatble in its outcome. Not the best from Alfred Hitchcock. 3 of 5.
* Underworld - Evolution: (2006 - Action) Picking up where the last movie left off, our two unlikely heroes (a Vampire and a Hybrid Werewolf) are on the run after wrecking havoc on the ruling houses of Lycans and Death Dealers. The costumes are just as slick, and we get a little peak at what's under Kate Beckinsale's black latex! The sets, locations and costumes definitely define this franchise. Underneath all the dressing this is an action flick. A lot of action, some misplaced gratuitous sex, some beheadings, a lot of big guns, explosions, etc... The story this time around wasn't all that exciting or interesting. Just the two main characters running from one pissed off vampire, who's on a quest to release his brother (an uncontrollably violent werewolf) from imprisonment. More characters are introduced, and then killed. This sequel added a lot of back story with time jumping scenes (the start of the movie) as well as childhood and blood induced flashbacks. The movie was almost all back story. Maybe a prequel would've been a better idea? Unless you've seen the first one, this movie is going to be pretty confusing. The ending left me highly confused. With the death of the original vampire, doesn't that mean there's no more vampires? All in all. 3 out of 5.
* Tsotsi: (2006 - Drama / U.K./South Africa) Here's a gripping tale of human suffering, and salvation. A thug (Tsotsi) from the townships outside Johannesburg, commits a carjacking which changes his life forever. This drama gives us hope and some understanding of the conditions endured by those outside our high-priced suburban homes. The slums of South Africa are far from the affluent suburbs of Aurora, Colorado, but this movie brought me a little bit closer. Excellent acting, outstanding direction, and great sound work. A fantastic, powerfully told story, worthy of 5 out of 5.
* V for Vendetta: (2006 - Sci-Fi) Screen-play by the Wachowski brothers (of the Matrix trilogy), directed by James McTeigue (assistant director on all three Matrix movies), starring Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving. An explosive, action packed, sci-fi thriller which asks the question; "Are you afraid of your government?". The story is one of conspiracy, deceit, abuse of power, revenge and revolution. An oppressed people are inspired to revolution by a masked crusader intent on exposing corruption in the highest places. There is some incredible dialog in this movie. The sets, locations, and costumes create an eerie near future setting that convinces us that this could happen in our life-time. I bought a copy and I'm happy I did. 5 of 5.
* Monty Python live at the Hollywood Bowl: (1982 - Comedy) Irreverent as always. British humor at it's best. Monty Python's Flying Circus crew live. Hilarious skits, ridiculous characters, and absurd musical dance numbers. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
* It came from beneath the sea: (1955 - Sci-Fi, Horror) B-Grade sci-fi horror movie featuring bad acting, cheesy dialog, poor camera work, and stop action animation by Ray Harryhausen. The best part of this movie, the only reason I watched the movie, was the fantastic animation by Ray Harryhausen. He made me believe in the giant mutant octopus. The plot was a preposterous nuclear era, giant octopus attacks story. Standard fare for the 50's. The science in this sci-fi movie was laughable, and I couldn't wait for this train-wreck to come to an end. 2 out of 5.
* CSA - The Confederate States of America: (2005 - Mock documentary) Here's a satirized documentary. What would America be like if the South had won the civil war. Designed to look like a History Channel special, this mockumentary even included themed commercials every 15 minutes. Unfortunately, the production value was low, and the acting was mediocre. The format was original, and the message was worthwhile. 3 out of 5.
* RV: (2006 - Comedy) Was this a direct to DVD? Starring Robin Williams, I was amazed to find one of my favorite actors in such a shitty production. The writing was pretty crappy, and the acting was a good match. The best part of this movie? Robin Williams. His performance in this sinking ship was the only thing that kept this movie afloat. If it hadn't been for him, I would've stopped watching about 15 minutes in. 2 out of 5.
* The squid and the whale: (2005 - Drama) A dark, humanistic drama about a failed marriage and it's effect on the two boys trying to cope with two incredibly selfish parents. Great directing (by Noah Baumbach) and acting (by Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline, Halley Feiffer, Anna Paquin, and William Baldwin). Superbly crafted screen play, and expertly directed performances are diminished only by the downbeat mood of the movie. I give it a 3 out of 5.
* * Star Trek - The original series - (Second Season) Vol. 20, episodes 39 & 40: [Mirror Mirror / The deadly years]: Slowly but surely, I've been viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), my friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. I loved Star Trek back then; You know what? I still love it. Mirror Mirror was remarkable in the alternate universe themes that it began. A fascinating but dark episode that featured assassination, political backstabbing, torture and genocide. The deadly years was pretty boring. A landing party is exposed to rapid aging radiation that threatens to kill Kirk, Spock, Bones and, Scotty. At the same time, the Enterprise is in peril as a beauracratic admiral steers a course towards war with the Romulans.
* Mohabbatein: (2000 - Drama, Romance, Musical / India)Borrowed from a friend. This movie was directed by Aditya Chopra, and it featured an all-star Bollywood cast. This is a wonderful romantic drama. With a great story, this one deserves better production. The character development is excellent, the song and dance numbers are very well choreographed and the story is a great version of the Bollywood melodrama. The sound work and subtitles were terrible. If Bollywood ever solves those two problems it'll break into the U.S. market in a big way. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
* Freddy vs Ghostbusters: (2004 - Fan film) A coworker pointed me towards this movie; available for download at braxtanfilm.com. Braxtan Film is an independent producer in the Denver area. My coworker stared in the movie (as Freddy), so I had to check it out. As far as fan films go, this tribute was pretty good. The special effects were great, and the writing wasn't half bad. The acting? Well, it's not a hollywood level production. The plot is pretty simple. In a world where Ghostbusters is a franchise, the local team is called in to investigate some particularly disturbing phenomena. Somehow Freddy is causing an increase in paranormal disturbances and hauntings. The Ghostbusters have to enter the 'dreamworld' in order to defeat Freddy. This one actually gets a 3 out of 5. I liked it, it was a great Fan Film.
* The Warrior: (2001 - Action, Adventure, Drama / U.K. France) Filmed on location in the desert regions of Rajasthan, India and near the Himalayas. This movie was filmed in Hindi, but featured very little dialog. The tale was so well told, that I didn't really need the subtitles. If I watch it again, I might just do without the subtitles all together. Enforcer for a despotic warlord has a life-changing moment just as he's about to lop off the head of another innocent villager. This time he decides to call it quits. Unfortunately, the warlord doesn't like that idea, and he send a hit squad out to lop off his head. The adventure that follows is fantastic storytelling at its best. 100% authentic, great acting, music, sets, locations, cinematography, and casting. A little slow at times. 4 out of 5.
* Le Samourai: (1967 - Film Noir / France) Another movie low on dialog. This one makes a Sergio Leone movie seem chatty. This French film noir tale is full of style, substance and subtlety. The lead character is a hired assassin surrounded on all sides by danger. Acting in accordance with his strict code of honor, the protagonist struggles to escape from the trap he's fallen into. Terrific casting, directing and writing The ending is magnificent. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
* Wedding crashers: (2005 - Comedy) Pure escapism. Here's another romantic comedy that follows that 'Meet the Parents' format. Two 30-something lawyers avoid commitment by crashing weddings and sleeping with a different woman every night. That all changes when they finally meet their soul mates during an overnight at a senator's exclusive island retreat. The best part of this movie are the laughs. Most of the acting was worthless; the plot was tired, predictable and ridiculous; but the dialog and a good deal of the comedic situations were hilarious. 4 out of 5.
* Advertising Rules!: (2001 - Comedy / German - Victor Vogel, Commercial Man) Here's a fantastic comedy about values, integrity and corporate maneuvering in the advertising world. Two characters interact to thwart the oppressive regime of a local advertising firm. Creative, artistic and comedic, this film pokes fun at the advertising world while still keeping the laughs coming. Good acting, great writing and some excellent directing. The pacing is perfect and the irony is as thick as peanut butter. This one is worth the subtitles. 4 out of 5.
* Snakes on a plane: (2006 - Action, Comedy) Here's a silly summer escape. An action flick turned comedy. I found myself laughing out loud during many of the scenes. Samuel L. Jackson stars in this completely ridiculous, campy, comedy. A murder witness is being flown from Hawaii to California. On the way to L.A. the plane is overrun by - You guessed it; Snakes on a Plane! The title is the plot. Thankfully, this movie didn't take itself too seriously, and that's what saves it from mediocrity. Catch it in the theater with a bunch of your friends. Whatever you do, don't expect it to be a serious movie. 4 out of 5.
* Blazing saddles: (1974 - Comedy) Ground breaking and politically incorrect. You may know this movie from the 'Cowboys eating beans scene'. It's a riot - a gag a minute, and 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 railroaders by enlisting a black Sheriff! This one gets a 4 out of 5.
* Film Geek: (2005 - Comedy) Way to close to home. A heartwarming comedy that features a geeky protagonist lost in the modern world. This story features 'Scotty', a complete film geek with no social skills whatsoever. Fired from his 'dream-job', Scotty attempts to find a new job and adjust to the pain of a cruel world. He meets a girl, she doesn't immediately spurn him, and he's smitten. Love ensues, pain ensues, truth ensues. I was Scotty, I was swept away in this little gem. Fantastic writing, great dialog, fair direction, and excellent casting. The only let down was the far to idyllic ending. 4 out of 5.
* Delicatessen: (1991 - Drama, Comedy / France) This post-apocalyptic comedy was on my 'must watch' list for quite some time. Just released on DVD in may of 2006, it took a while before it became available via NetFlix. I was very pleased by this recommendation from a co-worker. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (City of lost children, Amelie, A very long engagement, and Alien 4) and Marc Caro (City of lost children). This movie stars a couple of my favorite french actors; Dominique Pinon and Jean-Claude Dreyfus. Bringing back the dark atmosphere introduced with 'City of lost children', this comedy is a charming but dark work of art. With a cast of wonderful characters, and brilliant sets, the former clown protagonist struggles to survive the scheming machinations of a cannibalistic apartment block. Mix in a revolutionary vegetarian underground, and you've got an amazing movie. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
* Annapolis: (2006 - Drama) I was out of movies and Kim had a military themed drama sitting on the shelf. Unfortunately.. This was hollywood eye candy. A showcase for beautiful people, upcoming new actors and that's it. A story that lacked any originality sets the back-drop for a completely unrealistic depiction of life in the Naval Academy. A rebellious son leaves the family business in order to prove himself - to himself, to his dad, in honor of dear old dead mom. He enrolls in the Naval Academy, where he fights racial strife, bonds with his shipmates, fights the power (an overbearing instructor), breaks the rules, and becomes rocky in order to have a fling with the smoking hot GI-Jane instructor and graduate as an officer and a gentleman. Crap! Oh, and by the way, the other thing that sucked in this movie was the politically correct stereotyping. The only 'safe' stereotyping left for hollywood is 'Puerto Ricans' and 'Fat people'? What a waste. The acting was on par with the rest of the film. This one gets the big fat raspberry. 1 out of 5.
* Ladder 49: (2004 - Drama) I was out of movies, so I gave this one a try - from Kim's picks. I know, it was on my 'must watch' list for a while, but I pulled it after reading a couple reviews. Here's an example of a movie where the preview was actually better than the movie. I like Joaquin Phoenix, and grudgingly admit admiration for John Travolta - in a William Shatner kind of way. This movie was poorly directed, the overwrought sound track made me nauseous, and the acting was weak. The story was your standard Firefighter fare. Complete with hollywood stereotypes. All firefighters are Irish Catholics who love bagpipes and drink like fish. Nothing original, completely predictable melodramatic plot. The only saving grace of this movie was the depictions of co-worker camaraderie and firehouse pranks. I can definitely believe the 'goose in the locker' and 'confession' pranks. 2 out of 5.
* The chronicles of Narnia (The lion the witch and the wardrobe): (2005 - Family, Fantasy) This movie wasn't very good. As an adaptation of a novel, the pacing left little time for character development or back story. The movie felt rushed and incomplete. The acting was horrible, and there was far too much blue screen. The worst part of this movie was the acting. I realize that these were child actors, but it seemed to me that they (producers) simply didn't take enough time to get believable performances. The best part of the movie was the CGI lion - Very well done. In the end I didn't like it. 2 out of 5.
* Time after time: (1979 - Sci-Fi, Thriller) When I put this movie on my list, I thought it was the movie based on the novel, "Time and again" by Jack Finney. Unfortunately, it's not the movie I was looking for. It was however, a movie about time travel. After watching it for a few minutes, I realized that I'd seen it a long time ago (before 1985), and seeing it again was a pleasant treat. I'm a sucker for time travel movies/books, and I enjoyed this curious movie. As if the time travel angle wasn't enough, the writers of this movie pitted a time traveling H.G. Wells vs Jack the Ripper. The movie starts out in victorian England, but quickly jumps forward to 1970's San Francisco as Jack the Ripper attempt to escape from Justice. While the script was full of plot holes, the pacing, casting and directing were pretty good. I give it a 3 out of 5. * The first Monty Python's flying circus video cassette: (1969 - 1974 / Comedy) Monty Python's flying circus ran for five years. I found this VHS cassette at a garage sale. Cost? $.25. That's tough to beat. This tape contained two 30 minute episodes from the television show. Containing two classic skits - The Architects and The Ministry of Silly Walks - plus many more laughable minutes. I was very pleased with this legendary lunacy. This one gets 3 out of 5.
* Alphaville: (1965 - Sci-Fi, Drama / France - Alphaville, une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution) Pretentious French New-Wave cinema. Mocking American sensibilities, confused, lacking focus and wallowing in overwrought existentialism. A futuristic alternate reality that looked and tasted like a present tense stale cigarette. I kept falling asleep to the sound of a gravelly voiced computer consciousness. As our hero fought the conformist world of submissive women and antiseptic order, I could help but think - This movie really sucks! The only good thing about the movie? The fact that it lacked any cogent plot or plausible purpose. You may think Godard is a god, I just think he was high. 2 out of 5.
* Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World: (2006 - Comedy) A fantastic premise gone horribly awry. Unfortunately, this great idea for a movie grinds to a halt as we're bored to tears by the poor production. The plot? The US state department sends a Jew to the middle east in order to determine what makes a Muslim laugh? The idea is great. The direction is terrible, the production horrible. While Albert Brooks was supposed to be looking for comedy in the Muslim world, he should have started by being funny in the Western world. Poorly delivered jokes are repeated over and over, never integrated into the plot, and lacking any edge. The preview is actually much better than the movie! 2 out of 5.
* The Sentinel: (2006 - Action, Thriller (Not a remake)) This one started out great. The highly detailed background of a Secret Service detail was well choreographed, beautifully shot and perfectly paced. Follow that with a series of cat-and-mouse pieces that firmly establishes a conspiratorial fog, and you've got a great beginning. Unfortunately, the movie heads downward into predictability after that. Once it's revealed that Michael Douglass isn't the bad guy, the show becomes a Kiefer Sutherland / Jack Bauer episode of 24. The characters are paper thin and the the plot is completely see through.. bad guys (Former KGB agents) want to kill the president (for no apparent reason), the lynch pin is a mole in the Secret Service (despite the logic of background investigations and lifestyle polygraphs). The lead character is fingered as the mole, but he evades custody and the chase is on. This is where the plot falls apart. The action half of the movie contains plenty of unbelievable moments, and in the end this movie is a highly predictable disappointment. I give it a 2 out of 5.
* Duck Soup: (1933 - Comedy) Considered by some to be comic genius. I found it to be a pretty good satire on politics, social strata and the military. Some scenes are very funny, while some of the material is now dated and flat. The story isn't very well edited or directed, but I must say I enjoyed it. Slapstick physical comedy packed with jokes and some great dialog. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
* The Shining: (1980 - Horror, Psychological thriller) More frightening than I remember. It's been some time since I saw this movie, and it's Awesome! A Stephen King story made into a movie (screen play and direction) by Stanley Kubrick. A man in transition (played by Jack Nicholson) brings his family with him to a remote hotel in the rockies in order to play caretaker over the winter. As the weather turns cold and bitter the restless spirits of the hotel start to have an effect on these winter inhabitants. Eventually Jacks character succumbs to the corrupting influences of the malevolent spirits. As he launches into a killing spree, his wife and child must find a way off this frozen mountain or die at the hands of a homicidal axe wielding maniac. Awesome acting by Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall. Fantastic cinematography and an outstanding score. 5 out of 5.
* Big: (1988 - Comedy) Starring Tom Hanks, here's a great story. Angst ridden teen gets fed up with adolescence and wishes to be 'big'. When his wish is granted by a magical Zoltar machine, he learns that being grown up isn't all that great. Eventually he wishes he was a kid again. I've seen this one a bunch of times, and it keeps getting better every time I watch it. 4 out of 5.
Movies seen/reviewed this year (2006)
[ Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]
* Darkman: (1990 - Sci-Fi, Action) A comic book made into a movie. Will I never learn? Here's one of the earliest attempts at a comic book made into a movie. Or was it? While the writer director (Sam Raimi) originally wanted to shoot a movie based on 'the Shadow', the rights could not be obtained. As a result, Raimi came up with the Darkman character. From that, this movie and a comic book were created. There were more movies (II & III), and more comics to follow, but this was the original. While I like Sam Raimi, and I wanted to like this movie, I just couldn't. It was too campy to take seriously, and too serious to be campy horror spoof like the Evil Dead series. Suspension of disbelief was a necessity in this movie, and I just couldn't keep it up. There were way too many "There's no way that could happen!" moments in this movie. The direction was fine. I really liked some of the visuals and cinematography, but the casting was horrible. Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand and Larry Drake were all wrong for their roles. Bruce Campbell should have played the lead. The music by Danny Elfman was great. In the end, the story wasn't original enough (see RoboCop), and the casting was bad. 2 out of 5.
* Matador: (2005 - Crime, Thriller) Starring Pierce Brosnan as a contract killer, this movie was a refreshing change of pace. Not to far off the mark from a Bond flick, this movie was perfectly cast for Brosnan. It allowed him to explore some acting development that he'd been denied in his previously type cast roles. The story was great as well. A contract killer connects with a normal joe. Later the killer needs normal joes help in order to pull one last job. The best part of the movie was definitely Brosnan's portrayal of this amoral killer at the end of his rope. There were some great graphics, visuals, cinematic work and music in this movie. The combination of all these elements made for a thoroughly enjoyable movie. I loved it. 5 out of 5.
* Kelly's Heroes: (1970 - War, Heist) This movie, set during WWII had a large cast, which included: Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Don Rickles, Carroll O'Connor, Donald Sutherland, Gavin MacLeod, and others. It was shot in Yugoslavia, and the locations were awesome. Real tanks, authentic costumes, and a great cast. The only detraction was Clint Eastwood. He really seemed out of his element in this movie. While he did a good job, his performance was counter that of the rest of the cast. Donald Sutherland's character was far too 'Hippy' like to be set in the 40's. The story was an unusual mix of war movie and bank heist. Here we have a group of U.S. soldiers deviating from the front in order to rob a bank. There was never a dull moment in this movie. I give it a 4 out of 5.
* Slaughterhouse Five: (1972 - Sci-Fi, War, drama) A movie about a man who has come 'unstuck' in time. The main character hops back and forth between different moments in his life. From past, present, and future? The main character experiences his life from various points of view. Based on a novel by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. This odd mix of Sci-Fi, War movie, and drama was well directed and adapted. While it moved slowly at times, I was compelled to watch the entire story unfold. The movie featured three main time periods in the characters life. As a POW during WWII, as an optometrist after the war, and as a zoo specimen on the planet Tralfamadore? This movie was worth watching. 3 out of 5.
* Safe House: (2000 - Thriller, Drama) Starring Patrick Stewart, this movie went straight to DVD. A Showtime production that kept hinting at something better. Unfortunately, this movie doesn't deliver until the last 15 minutes. While I enjoyed Stewart's acting, this movie wasn't all that good. A former black-ops operative from the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency), is slowly losing it to Alzheimer's, but he keeps insisting that they're out to get him, and we keep wondering whether there's any truth to his conspiracy leaden innuendos. This movie kept leading me down a false trail, then pulling me back to belief in the main character. Any suspense in this movie was generated through frustration, and the drama lacked conviction. In the final phase of the film we're treated to a five minute exposition, followed by a climax that leaves you wishing you hadn't. 2 out of 5.
* * Star Trek - The original series - (1967 Second Season - Sci-Fi, Television) Vol. 21, episodes 41 & 42: [I, Mudd / The trouble with Tribbles ]: Slowly but surely, I've been viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), my friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. I loved Star Trek back then; You know what? I still love it. I, Mudd marked the return of a previous character. Harry Mudd is an unscrupulous character who cares only of himself. In this episode the Enterprise is hijacked and brought to a planet full of androids. The androids are intent on conquering the galaxy and it's up to Kirk, crew and Mudd to thwart their ridiculous plan. Not one of the better episodes. The second episode on the disc was a fan favorite. The trouble with Tribbles. Here's an episode that features Kirk and crew involved in some comical goings-on at a deep space station. While negotiating a treaty involving the Klingons, Kirk has to deal with Tribbles. Pets peddled to the crew, Tribbles are cute but strange little creature that reproduces rapidly, and soon become a nuisance. Despite their prolific nature, they redeem themselves by uncovering a Klingon spy, and revealing a plot to poison some grain. Since Klingons and Tribbles don't get along well, Scotty solves the 'trouble with Tribbles' by beaming all of them over to the Klingon ship. In Scotty's words; "it was no Tribble at all".
* Kinky Boots: (2005 - Comedy, Drama / U.K.) This movie was great. A real surprise. Despite the fact that the plot was entirely predictable, the characters and performances made it a joy to watch. A 'different' kind of feel good movie. In order to save his inherited shoe factory, Charlie Price turns to an unlikely ally. An out-front cabaret singing drag-queen helps him turn his business around, and in the process his life gets turned upside down. This comedic drama featured some wonderful writing (based on a true story), and great direction. This one gets 4 out of 5.
* Fun with Dick and Jane: (1977 - Comedy) Not the remake. This wasn't that good. Better in some respects than the remake, but lacking any really funny moments. Starring George Segal and Jane Fonda. They were well cast, and they had pretty good chemistry together. Unfortunately, the writing just didn't push the envelope enough to get noticed. It isn't as critical or sharp as I was hoping. The laughs are mild, they don't make as much of a statement (against consumerism, corporate greed, and corruption) as they could have. A funy sunday kind of movie. 3 of 5.
* The Bounty: (1984 - Drama) The mutiny on the Bounty has been done and redone. Here's another go around. Despite that fact, I must admit that this is first version I've seen. An absolutely fantastic story - Based on the true story (a novel recounting the historical events). This version stars Mel Gibson (in a relatively early role) and Anthony Hopkins. Both gave very good performances. The writing (screenplay) was well done, and the pacing was very good. The locations, sets, costumes and supporting cast were all great. The only thing missing was an adequate soundtrack. There wasn't enough tension in the movie, and I believe that was partly the fault of the poor soundtrack. This one gets a 3 out of 5.
* The day of the Triffids: (1962 - Sci-Fi, Horror) Here's a movie that's ripe for a remake; by M. Night Shyamalan or Steven Spielberg. It had a lot of great sci-fi/horror elements in it. An alien invasion, Zombie like behavior, Global destruction; very post-apocalyptic. The story is fairly complex and I believe parts of it have showed up in many later day sci-fi horror movies. The opening sequence features a man in a hospital, who wakes up one day to find London? in Chaos (28 Days Later). World wide destruction is caused by blindness in 90% of the worlds population. Blind victims wander the streets with arms outstretched; looking very much like zombies. Then there's the alien plants. Eight to ten feet tall, flesh eating, poison spraying abominations that have an uncanny ability to home in on their victims. Lashing out with their prehensile tendrils, they threaten to eat the entire cast. It's a great B-movie which I enjoyed quite a bit. Unfortunately the quality of the movie transfer was terrible. Some parts are so washed out and damaged that you can barely follow the dialogue through the hazy images on the screen. 3 out of 5.
* The Island of Dr. Moreau: (1996 - Sci-Fi, Drama) This movie gets pretty low ratings at IMDB, but I like it quite a bit. Adapted from an H.G. Wells novel, directed by John Frankenheimer (Richard Stanley was originally slated to direct, but he got fired?!), and starring David Thewlis, Fairuza Balk, Ron Perlman, Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer. A great cast. Unfortunately, the performances by Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando both seemed a bit unfocussed. In this movie, Thewlis is a castaway, who finds himself stranded on an island where Brando plays a brilliant but mad scientist who is converting animals into humans using genetic manipulation. Kilmer plays Brando's henchman and the experiment goes awry after the 'animals' become too much like 'humans'. I liked it a lot - I'm a sucker for those H.G. Wells adaptations. 4 out of 5. (I hope to watch the earlier versions as well (The Island of Dr. Moreau - 1977 and The Island of Lost Souls - 1933)).
* Winter Light: (1962 - Drama / Sweeden - Nattvardsgästerna) Here's a classic movie directed by Ingmar Bergman. This movie is incredibly slow, dark, and moody, but I couldn't stop watching it. The plot is a perfect circle. The main character is a tortured soul, both physically and spiritually. A Lutheran priest who's losing his religion is beset on all sides by ironic suffering. Blinded by his own emptiness, he fails to realize or see the suffering around him. In the final scene(s) his faith is renewed and the film left me with a feeling of hope. The best part about this movie was the feelings and self examination it invoked afterwards. 4 out of 5.
* This man must die: (1969 - Drama, Crime, Thriller / France - Que la bête meure) Directed bythe French mystery master Claude Chabral, here's a movie that's garnered quite a bit of acclaim. Watching this movie was a slow and painful experience, but thinking about it afterwards, I've come to realize a depth that wasn't visible on the surface. The story is quite simple. A man's son is killed in a hit and run. The agrieved father vows to find and kill the one responsible. At first it appears that there can be only one of two possible outcomes. Of course he finds the responsible party (otherwise the movie would be pointless), but then we're faced with the two possible resolutions. He either kills the person or he doesn't. In the end, the person responsible is dead, but we're never quite sure who did it... I really like these movies that keep you guessing. 4 out of 5.
* Shattered: (1991 - Drama, Thriller) Wow! I've seen this one before, but it came up on the NetFlix recommended list. When I saw it, I honestly couldn't remember the ending, the twist, the plot turning point. I remember that it was quite a surprise, but I just couldn't remember what it was. Directed by one of my favorite directors - Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot and Troy), this movie had a pretty good cast (Tom Berenger, Bob Hoskins and Greta Scacchi), and the acting was o.k. The best part of this movie was the writting and direction. The story involves a man with amnesia. After surviving a horrific car crash, the lead character tries to put his life back together. Unfortunately, he can't escape the feeling that something just doesn't feel right. After a little digging he discovers a deadly plot involving murder, infidelity and money. The ending of this movie is absolutely shattering. Despite the fact that I've seen it before, I was still astonished by the amazing twist at the end. I give it a 5 out of 5, and I've placed it on my 'must buy' list.
* The great Waldo Pepper: (1975 - Drama) Directed by George Roy Hill and starring Robert Redford, this is a post WWI movie about the daredevil days of early aviation. After returing from the war, the main character begins a career of endless risk and adventure, flying stunt planes and acting as a stunt man. Here's a great movie of a bygone era. The locations, sets and cinematography were great. These weren't all blue screen shots (1975), the actors in this movie actually put themselves in the air, and in danger, in order to make this movie. I give it a 3 out of 5.
* * Star Trek - The original series - (1967 Second Season - Sci-Fi, Television) Vol. 22, episodes 43 & 44: [ Bread & Circuses / Journey to Babel ]: Slowly but surely, I've been viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), my friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. I loved Star Trek back then; You know what? I still love it. Episode 43 has an odd name, only after watching the episode do you have any idea what it's referring to. Kirk and crew beam down to an inhabited planet, looking for a Capt. Merrik and the crew of the missing survey vessel, SS. Beagle. After they beam down they're captured and taken as slaves by a modern Roman state which parallels Earth's history, but the Roman empire never fell on this planet. Gladiatorial combat, senatorial conspiracies, and much overacting ensue. This episode features much about the 'Prime Directive', and it ends on a religious note. This Roman empire is bound to be overthrown by 'Son' worshipers (as in Son of god). Episode 44 featured an Enterprise full of aliens engaged in diplomatic maneuvering. At the same time Kirk and crew are busy ferreting out a spy amidst their guests. A deadly spy disguised as an Andorian attempts to disrupt the talks in order to continue illegal mining operations on a particular planet. This episode also features Spock's parents, plenty of inter-character intrigue and a healthy helping of Vulcan rituals and customs.
* Eel: (1997 - Drama / Japan - Unagi) This movie was recommended by a good friend. Aside from a very graphic (although stylistic) beginning, this movie was pretty good. A humanistic tale of redemption, love and friendship. Written and directed by Shohei Imamura, this movie tells the story of a Japanese man who murders his wife in a jealous fit of rage after confirming his suspicions of adultery. After an eight year stint in prison the main character returns to society only to discover that he hasn't dealt with his crime, the loss of his wife, and his own insecurities. When things become difficult he turns to a pet eel for comfort and conversation. Eventually, events force him to deal with the weighty issues in his life. Aside from a bit of bad acting (the gangster / loan shark shake-down), this is a well acted movie that takes a peak beneath the highly polished veneer of Japanese culture. 4 of 5.
* King Kong: (2005 - Adventure, Drama) Directed by Peter Jackson, starring Naomi Watts, Jack Black and Adrien Brody. Here's another sappy romantic re-imagining of a classic movie. The movie starts out pretty good, but it soon becomes bogged down in sad cgi special effects battles with blue screen dinosaurs and giant bugs. A full hour is wasted on this sort of crap, while the initial premise of a rogue producers adventure flick is shelved. Replaced with sensationalistic special effects that didn't really thrill me at all, this movie kind of fell apart in the middle. Jack Black was perfectly cast in his role, as was Thomas Kretschmann as the captain of a run down trans-pacific tramp steamer. Some really good acting was handed out by Evan Parke as a veteran merchant marine, but the long shots of Naomi Watts weeping made me want to ...! You already know the rest of the story, so I won't bother with that. Suffice it to say that it ends badly for the real hero of this movie. 3 out of 5.
* Dr. Strangelove - or How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb: (1964 - Comedy / Satire) Difficult to classify, this dark comedy is a satire aimed squarely at the military industrial complex. A deranged American general orders his bombers to drop their nuclear bombs on Russian targets. This cold war thriller is a taut drama, a dark comedy and a political satire. All the aspects of this movie are perfectly blended and balanced in an amazing work by Stanley Kubrik. Who else could make you laugh at the prospect of armageddon? The casting was perfect, the acting superb, and the dialog was astonishing. The locations, sets and technically perfect props make for a 100% convincing war drama, but the humorous elements convince us it's a comedy. Even though we know that this is a satirical dark comedy, the producers spared no expense to convince us that everything portrayed in the movie could happen. 5 out of 5.
* Crimson Tide: (1995 - Drama, Thriller) Once I realized that it wasn't necessary that the movie be technically perfect in it's depiction of the military, my rating on this movie changed from 2 stars to 4 stars. The movie was very entertaining in a Hollywood way. The casting was great, the performances were great, the drama was great. One part I really despised was the crew cheering when nuclear war was averted. I don't think that would have happened at all. There would have been a huge sense of relief. A brow wiping, deep sigh and sense of relief. Not a Hooray! Happy New Year! type of celebration. Many of the technical aspects were well handled, while others were botched. The best part of the movie - the part to focus on - were the character portrayals and dramatic performances. This story - Two naval officers, one from the old guard, and one of the new breed, go head to head when orders are issued to initiate a nuclear first strike against rebellious Russians who've threatened to attack the U.S. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
* Of mice and men: (1992 - Drama) Directed by Gary Sinise, starring Gary Sinise and John Malcovich. Adapted from the John Steinbeck novel. Here is a story of the great depression. Two unlikely companions travel across the country looking for work and a place of belonging during the great depression. Struggling to cope with the depression of the economy, and their lives, these two try their best to escape to a dream of independence and peace. Unfortunately, the burdens of reality conspire to deny them the freedom that all men seek. Outstanding directing by Gary Sinise, and some great acting by the pair. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
* Hard Candy: (2005 - Suspense, Thriller) A self contained psychological suspense thriller that keeps you in thrall for 103 minutes. This independent movie presents a gripping tale starring a small and relatively unknown cast. Ellen page (at 18) plays a convincing but devastating 14 year old, who poses as candy to a 32 year old pedophile, played by Patrick Wilson. The story is an incredibly complex play of motivations, desperation, depravations and deadly vengeance. Once Wilson lures the prey into lair, he learns the fateful truth. He's been duped by his supposed prey. This candy turns out to be very hard to take. In the end, we're not quite sure who's more dangerous - the pedophile, or the incredibly violent and disturbed teenager. The best acting actually came from a five minute segment featuring Sandra Oh. We never really understood the motivations driving Ellen Page's character and there were a few instances where I was left wondering why she did what she did. This movie gets a 3 out of 5.
* Roman Holiday: (1953 - Romantic comedy) Written by blacklisted author Dalton Trumbo (Papillon, Spartacus), Directed by William Wyler (Ben Hur, Carrie, The desperate hours), and starring Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn and Eddie Albert. This is a feel-good romantic comedy. An American reporter and European princess sweep us away with an unwitting and adventurous love story. Shot on location in Rome, the fantastic cinematography matched the lofty feelings experienced watching these two embrace in honest and endearing love. The ending is an absolute bitter sweet perfection. My god, Hepburn is so incredibly beautiful and expressive. She could have done this entire movie without saying a single word. I give it a 5 out of 5.
* Barry Lyndon: (1975 - Romance, Drama, Historical) This little known movie (It was in my queue, but I borrowed it from a friend), directed by Stanley Kubrik, is the story of a little known historical figure. I'll tell you up front that this movie is incredibly slow. 'Eyes Wide Shut' slow. So slow in fact, that I had to fast forward through parts of the movie. This movie tells the story of an otherwise unknown ambitious son of Ireland. The main character struggles to make more of himself than fate would normally allow. It's an epic movie spanning the entire life of the main character. The main characters life is a struggle which mirrors the struggles and turmoil of Europe during the 18th century. Featuring fantastic locations, cinematography, sets and costumes this movie is as dramatic as the classical score that surrounds it. As the end of the movie approaches, the tidal effect of it's scope begins to dawn on you. If only it wasn't so slow and long. 4 out of 5.
* Zulu: (1964 - Action, Drama, History / U.K.) Recounting a British battle during the Boer wars of South Africa. Outnumbered British soldiers battle Zulu warriors at Rorke's Drift. Based on historical records, this movie is a dramatic re-enactment of that courageous conflict. Starring Stanley Baker and Michael Caine, this movie contained some great acting, a fantastic musical score and some great camera work. Non-stop action. Once you get past the first thirty minutes of the movie, the rest is a small group of British soldiers (a little over a hundred) holding off more than a thousand Zulu warriors. I give it 4 out of 5.
* The Quick and the Dead: (1995 - Western) An all-star cast of Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lance Henriksen and Gary Sinise. Directed by Sam Raimi. This was anything but an authentic cowboy western. A spaghetti western meets blockbuster hollywood. The characters were stereotyped, the plot preposterous and paper thin. I saw everything coming twenty minutes out. Despite the obvious and foregone conclusion of this movie, I found myself enjoying the dialog, character play and some of Sam Raimi's signature camera shots. I give it a 3 out of 5.
* I am trying to break your heart: (2002 - Documentary) Wilco is a band that I like. They're a little bit Rock, a little bit Country, and a little bit Folk. This film covers the production of Wilco's fourth album (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot). Unfortunately, I was hoping for a more biographical movie. More about the band, less about this one album. I liked the color and style of the film, but I didn't like all the hand-held motion. This was a very dry movie. The band isn't much on theatrics, and this film didn't try to make them into something they weren't. This documentary did manage to capture a lot of tension, some of the bands music, and a few performances. A band on the brink of self-destruction. Arguing over artistic differences, and unable to communicate effectively, it made me wonder how they managed to produce this album. What this documentary didn't do, was give us any thing other than a very narrow view of the band. I give it 3 out of 5.
* End of the spear: (2005 - Drama, Adventure) Two stories. One of modern man, one of an ancient people. Based on historical facts, here's a story about 1950's missionaries who attempt to make contact with the Waodani tribesmen of Ecuador. The Waodani were considered violent, murderous, elusive and primitive. The christian missionaries wanted to bring them God's word. A dangerous endeavor to say the least. Here's a great adventure story. How will modern man make contact with primitive man? Wonderful locations, an authentic cast, well executed, and full of drama - Excessively so. Far too much sentimentality. I give it 3 out of 5
* The notorious Bettie Page: (2005 - Biography, Drama) Gretchen Mol plays Bettie Page. Journey back to the 1950's, look behind the scenes at the life of America's famed pin-up queen. I thoroughly enjoyed this tame but thoughtful biography. It tells the story of a shy southern girl who fell into modeling, but became a bondage queen. Her vision of herself was vastly different from America's view. The direction was great, as was the acting. I really liked the mixed use of color and black and white. This movie tells a story of how Bettie Page got swept up in modeling career that she viewed as harmless. However, American sensibilities intervened, labeled it smut, filth, corruption, and went after her with a vengeance. In the end Bettie turns back to the one certain truth of her childhood, Christ. Well worth watching. 4 out of 5.
* The Bourne Identity: (2002 - Action, Suspense, Thriller) Directed by Doug Liman, starring Matt Damon, Franka Potente (from Run Lola Run) among a cast of other great actors. Very well cast, excellent cinematography, locations and sets. Here's a spy thriller based on the novel by Robert Ludlum. A amnesiac assassin is pulled out of the sea by Italian fisherman. As he struggles to unravel the mystery of his identity he discovers an awful truth. He's an assassin programmed by the CIA to perform black bag op's. When he was confronted with the possible murder of several innocent children he snapped. Now the government is out to 'clean up' their mess. The high-speed slow motion choreographed action scenes are fantastic - Incredibly realistic. The car chases made me hold my breath, and Matt Damon's performance was instinctual. Paired with Franka Potente as an unwitting accomplice, the pair run for cover while they try to unravel the disturbing truths behind Jason Bourne's identity. 5 out of 5.
* Bad Boys: (1995 - Action, Comedy) A perfect example of what I despise in Hollywood movies. All flash and no substance. Directed by Michael Bay, starring Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Téa Leoni and Tchéky Karyo. The best thing about this piece of celluloid poop was Tchéky Karyo (from LaFemme Nikita) as the bad guy, the very hot Theresa Randle and the slick production. The plot was as transparent as a Vietnamese spring roll. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence can't act and their egos are bigger than this movies expectations. The plot? Some stupid cop plot where someone kills somebody, or there's some drug deal or something like that. Who knows? It involved enough explosions to pacify the Iraqi insurgency, and the bad guys can't shoot worth shit. Bullet went through the hero's leg? No sweat, the audience won't notice that I seem perfectly fine. The casting was terrible. I didn't see any chemistry between Smith and Martin, and Leoni was just wrong for every reason. It's a Bruckheimer production (action flick) starring two comedians who can't act. The dialog (and profanity) was horrible, and the story was flat. Why Hollywood made a sequel is beyond me. 2 of 5.
Movies seen/reviewed this year (2006)
[ Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]
* The secret war of Harry Frigg: (1968 - War, Comedy) This was a horrible movie. Comcast on Demand suckered me in with Paul Newman, and the rest of the cast. Here's a Hollywood attempt to cash in on an internationally impressive cast. The plot: Five allied generals are captured together (at a Turkish bath in North Africa) and taken to a POW camp. Their presence their is an intolerable public relations problem, so the US Army recruits Joe Blow screw-up private, promotes him to Maj General, and sends him to break the group out of prison. That's enough, any more might be ridiculous. Preposterous, the acting (even by Newman) was pretty bad, and the writing atrocious. I wish I hadn't. This one was even worse than Bad Boys (see above). No wonder it's not available on DVD. 1 out of 5.
* The way home: (2002 - Family, Drama / Korean - Jibeuro) Here's a great feel good film for the whole family. The story - Single working mom ditches her spoiled, ungrateful son at her mom's doorstep so that she can find time to find a new job. Mom's elderly, mute, and physically challenged. Despite her handicaps, she does her best to befriend and care for her grandson. The child on the other hand... It's a great movie. The acting by the kids was pretty good, and the direction was great. I give it a 3 out of 5.
* Dazed and confused: (1993 - Comedy, Drama) Lacking any real plot, and promotional of the drug culture, this movie nonetheless manages to capture the 70's in a way that few other movies have been able to. A fantastic cast gives a great performance in this well directed flashback to a transition. It's a coming of age movie, a look back at a more innocent time. Fantastic costumes, sets and dialog. I'm very glad that the writer/director (Richard Linklater) chose not to use this film as a platform for some sort of 'message'. As a character based drama, it's an amazing movie with an absolutely fantastic soundtrack. 4 out of 5.
* Alien Nation: (1988 - Sci-Fi, Action, Drama) This movie was in my NetFlix queue, but I watched it using Comcast on Demand. I've seen it before (back when it first came out), but thought I'd watch it again. Despite the fact that this movie has a 'Alien' setting, the movie is a basic run of the mill cop buddy film. Aliens have landed on Earth. After clearing quarantine, they're becoming integrated into American society. That's the 'Sci-Fi' hook. The plot: A cop's partner is killed by an alien in a shoot out. The cop's partner hooks up with the departments first 'alien' in order to solve the crime. Replace 'alien' with black man and you've got a rehash or racial integration movies. The only reason this movie gets more than two stars is the 'Sci-Fi' hook. The writers managed to put a fresh spin on an otherwise stale plot. 3 out of 5.
* Kung-Fu Hustle: (China/Hong-Kong - Gong fu) Incredible! Xmen meets Mystery Men in a Hong-Kong kung-fu spectacular. An amazing comedy. Dancing, singing, kung-fu! Directed by Stephen Chow. I laughed hysterically. This reminded me a lot of Katakuri-ke no kôfuku (Happiness of the Katakuri's and Tampopo). At times it seemed like a western, a play, a drama, a Japanese Shogun movie, a comedy and more. A group of misfit kung-fu masters are trying to lead a 'normal' life in a 1930's Shanghai slum. Along comes a local gang, intent on shaking things up. As the locals defend themselves I entered a fit of laughing unlike anything since 'The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra'. This one is a solid 5 out of 5.
* Miller's crossing: (1990 - Crime Drama, Film Noir, Dark Comedy) A Coen brothers film. This movie had more twists than the sexual orientation of a Lesbian's gay lover. If you can figure that one out then you'll like this movie. Very well directed, shot and acted. The only detractors were an incredibly convoluted plot, and some very violent subject matter. A mob war explodes in the midst of prohibition era Boston(?). Densely packed with highly complex characters, relationships and motivations. The characters in this movie are like coins in a Pachinko machine. Rushing to the payoff, I had no time to enjoy the ride. I had a lot of difficulty following the connections and breakneck pacing of this movie. While I spun like a piñata in the sun, the characters screwed, shot, beat and verbally assaulted each other. Maybe I'd get more out of it on a second or third viewing. First time viewing 3 out of 5.
* Warriors of heaven and earth: (2003 - Adventure, Drama / China - Tian di ying xiong) A chinese period piece. Capitalizing on the likes of 'Hero, House of Flying Daggers' and other recent films, this is a well made movie that lacks a little in the production value. The plot is quite good, but a bit too complex. Japanese samurai is subject to a Chinese ruler. In order to be released from 25 years of service, he must complete one last mission before he can go home. He must travel into the wilderness (western territories), and slay the renegade general who dared to refuse imperial orders. What follows is an adventure flick modeled on many western style movies (The Mummy, Raiders of the lost Ark) with the feel of a Conan epic. I give it 3 out of 5.
* Better off dead: (1985 - Comedy) This movie was in my NetFlix queue, but I watched it using Comcast on Demand. A teen angst comedic drama. The characters are your typical cast of stereotyped teen antagonists with a few twists. What makes this movie rise above are the hilarious 'dream' sequences. Cartoons that talk to the main character, dancing hamburgers, and homicidal paperboys who ..."want my two dollars!". The main plot is typical teen angst comedy - Boy obsesses over girl, girl dumps boy, boy mopes, boy contemplates suicide (but fails miserably), boy tries to win back girl, boy wins 'other' girl. No big surprises there, but the punctuation with odd comedic dream sequences and slightly darker comedy gives it a boost beyond your typical 'Ferris Bueller' fare. 4 out of 5.
* Touching the void: (2003 - Documentary) This dramatic re-enactment of a real event is narrated by the two climbers who attempted to climb a previously unscaled bastion named 'Siula Grande' in the Peruvian Andes. Compelling and breathtaking, their journey from top to bottom made a top-notch movie. The filming was done in a very authentic manner, and the production captured an unbelievable true-to-life, near-death mountain thrill. This one gets 4 out of 5.
* * Star Trek - The original series - (1967 Second Season - Sci-Fi, Television) Vol. 23, episodes 45 & 46: [ A private little war / The Gamesters of Triskelion ]: Slowly but surely, I've been viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), my friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. I loved Star Trek back then; You know what? I still love it. Episode 45 featured a black Dr. M'Benga who specializes in Vulcan physiology, Klingons, and a developing race of people. This episode appears to be an allegory for the Vietnam war and/or racial equality/strife. The people on the planet have two different hair colors (and really bad wigs). Black and white, they can't seem to get along, and the Klingon's have decided to give advanced technology to the black haired inhabitants. As a result the conflict escalates when Kirk decides to 'even the playing field'. It's a proxy war between two super-powers. There's also an interesting creature known as the Mugato. Kirk get's his shirt off and makes out with the local raven haired shameness An excellent episode. Episode 46 was another slavery episode. Members of the crew (Kirk, Checkov and Uhuru) are kidnapped by a powerful race of gamblers. Forced to fight in gladiatorial games, the rest of the Enterprise crew searches the galaxy for their missing captain. Eventually, Kirk manages to confront his captors. A race of disembodied neon plastic brains. Kirk challenges these 'Gamesters' to a decisive gladiatorial contest. Kirk has to fight three opponents 'to the death'. Shirtless, Kirk does the dance of death in the arena. After dispatching two of the opponents he manages to spare the life of his third opponent. His sexy silver clad trainer. In the end, Kirk and company prevail and all the slaves are released.
* The Illusionist: (2006 - Mystery, Romance) Starring Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, Jessica Biel and Rufus Sewell. I really had no idea what this movie was about before I entered the theater. The preview did a good job of not spoiling the movie. This movie is a romance. The main character is a magician who's won the heart of a princess. Unfortunately she's promised to an arrogant young prince from a neighboring country (This movie seems to be set in early 1900 Hungary). Soon after the young love is established, they are forcibly separated. Norton's character travels to the orient, and many years pass. Separated for many years, the Illusionist returns to make a living by means of a magic show. When the princess attends one of his shows their love is rekindled. I really liked this movie. The rest of the movie is a struggle to make good on their mutual love while avoiding the wrath of the powerful and arrogant prince. I enjoyed watching the movie unfold and the acting was great. Even Jessica Biel and Paul Giamatti turned out great performances. The music was fantastic and the sets were astonishing. The camera work was slow and graceful, complementing the elegant, dark and moody sets. The only thing I didn't care for was the ending. 4 out of 5.
* Once upon a time in America: (1984 - Crime, Drama) Sergio Leonne's last movie. This film has been praised and criticized. Most criticism is due to a poorly edited/sequenced version. Filmed in a non-linear sequence, this movie was recut to put it in standard sequential order. The result was a disaster which mars Sergio Leonne's reputation to this day. I watched the original (director's version) version of the movie. Told in a 'remembrance' style, this movie captures 50 years worth of violence in America. Spanning prohibition and an era of organized crime, this movie stars some great actors: Robert De Niro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern, Tuesday Weld, Treat Williams, Joe Pesci, Danny Aiello and William Forsythe. The direction was great, but this was a very violent mobster movie. I really enjoyed the dramatic character work, and the music by Ennio Morriconne was fantastic. The only problem was the length of the movie. While it was well paced and appropriate for it's scope. It was still too long. 4 out of 5.
* Gummo: (1997 - Drama) This movie was lent to me by a co-worker. Avoid this movie at all costs. It was an abomination, a bloated abortion of a movie. An excuse to make a movie about abhorrent, aberrant behavior. The movie depicts some socially maladjusted children (focusing on two boys) acting on impulse. Profane, violent and socially reprehensible. There is no plot, just a movie depicting their reprehensible actions and vain attempts to satisfy their sick twisted impulses. This reminds me of violent kids who drive around shooting people. They video tape their actions, and laugh at it afterwards. I had to quit watching the movie (near the end) when two kids were filmed beating a dead cat (dangling from a tree) like some twisted piñata. The director and producers of this movie should be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. I will definitely avoid anything by this director. No amount of poverty or neglect, can explain this embarrassing portrayal of small-town America. Truly the directors real goal must have been provocation. In that it succeeds. 1 out of 5.
* Kwaidan: (1964 - Drama, Horror / Japan) Directed by Masaki Kobayashi. This movie is a collection of four Japanese Horror stories. "Black Hair" A story about a dissatisfied Samurai who leaves his faithful wife to seek fame & fortune elsewhere. After re-marrying and gaining what he sought, he regrets his decision, dislikes his new wife, his new life, and returns to his old wife only to find... "The Woman in the Snow" Two woodcutters are stranded in a snowstorm. An icy female spirit takes the life of one man and spares the other. In return he promises to never tell anyone what happened. Years later he tells his wife. The results are - Chilling. "Hoichi the Earless" A blind musician living in a monastery becomes the conduit for a group of wronged spirits. To prevent them from possessing the musician, and draining his life away, monks cover his body with holy scripture. Unfortunately, there was one spot they forgot to cover. "In a Cup of Tea" The story of a man who keeps seeing a mysterious spirit reflected in a cup of tea. Ignoring the reflection, he drinks the tea anyway. The spirit comes to life and torments the man. In the end the tables are turned on the man who drank the tea. A very well produced movie which predates the recent trend of Japanese horror. Not as frightening as the recent movies, but just as dramatic and moody. Like a well 'oiled' painting, these stories were dramatic and sweeping. Full of tragedy, suspense, and mystery, it kept me watching with wonder. I give it 4 out of 5.
* Interview with the Assassin: (2002 - Mock Documentary) Directed by Neil Burger (The Illusionist), I thought I'd give this movie a try based on the direction of the Illusionist. This movie has a great premise, a wonderful story, and a well executed plot. An out of work camera man is contacted by his neighbor to video tape a confession. He wants to 'tell the truth' before he dies of terminal cancer. The shocking revelation? 'I was the second gunman, I assassinated JFK' What follows is a journey to the truth behind this outrageous claim. While the film was well done, I was disappointed by the movie. Presented in a mock documentary style, similar to 'The Blair Witch Project', this film contained far too many self referential camera shots, contrived camera work, and poor acting to be believable. I immediately became suspicious of the movie, and the feeling that I was watching an amateur hour con-job never left my mind. I did enjoy the ending though. I liked the fact that there was no ending exposition, and the twist was worth the wait. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough. 2 out of 5.
* * Star Trek - The original series - (1967 Second Season - Sci-Fi, Television) Vol. 24, episodes 47 & 48: [ Obsession / The Immunity syndrome ]: Slowly but surely, I've been viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), my friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. I loved Star Trek back then; You know what? I still love it. Episode 47 was a story reminiscent of Moby Dick. Kirk pursues a past enemy with relentless fervor. Intent on destroying a menace to mankind, Kirk nearly destroys the ship and crew. This episode featured the greatest 'Red Shirt' body count of the original series. Four dead, three wounded. Episode 48 features the crew of the Enterprise engaged in a battle with a giant space amoeba. This this is 11,000 miles across. It threatens all of creation by absorbing light, energy and federation starships!
* Rhapsody in August: (1991 - Drama / Japan - Hachi-gatsu no kyôshikyoku) Akira Kurosawa's second to last film. This is my least favorite Kurosawa film. Starring a multi-generational cast, this movie represents a statement against nuclear war, and it is a serious reflection on the use of Atomic weapons. Four grandchildren staying with grandma for the summer. Their parents are in Hawaii, currying favor of a long lost relative (now an American). They contact their mother in an attempt to get her to come to Hawaii to visit her dying brother (one of fifteen children). Still carrying ill will over the death of her husband and the destruction of Nagasaki, she originally refuses to acknowledge the existence of an 'American brother'. As the film progresses the cast explores issues of loss, trust, family and forgiveness. The worst part of the movie? Introducing Richard Gere as the half Japanese grandson. There were some great Kurosawa camera moments in the film, and the performance by Sachiko Murase was magnificent. A good movie. 3 out of 5.
* Benny and Joon: (1993 - Romance, Comedy) Here's a romantic comedy with a great cast - Johnny Depp, Mary Stuart Masterson, Aidan Quinn, Julianne Moore, Oliver Platt, William H. Macy and others. The story is great. A young man and his mentally ill sister have been living together since their parents died in a car accident. She's becoming more of 'problem' recently, and he's missing out on life. The pressure is on to commit her to an asylum. That's when Johnny Depp enters the scene. Won in a hand of cards, Depp's character ends up on the couch and starts working as a house keeper/in home care provider. A romance develops as Depp's quirky character connects with the mentally ill Joon. It's a sappy happy romantic comedy - The hollywood type to be sure. The direction was good, the music was great and the acting outstanding. There was definitely some good chemistry between Depp and Masterson. I give it a 4 out of 5.
* The guns of Navarone: (1961 - War, Drama / U.K.) Starring Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn and others. This WWII drama has some very provocative moments. Fantastic acting and a tense drama combine to make this well written script into a great tale. The only let down was the far too predictable outcome and stereotyped characters. A small group of commandos must climb a 400 foot cliff, make their way across a German controlled Greek Island, slip into a highly guarded military installation and destroy two huge radar controlled guns. If they don't British ships will be destroyed and 2,000 British soldiers will die in a German offensive against the island they're stranded on. 4 out of 5.
* Good Will Hunting: (1997 - Drama) An absolutely brilliant film. With a terrific cast (Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Stellan Skarsgård, Minnie Driver and others), the story and characters are fantastic. Combined with great direction and music (Danny Elfman), this movie is awesome. A mathematical genius works as a janitor in a prestigious university, where he's discovered by one of the professors. Unable to cope with his past, he needs help overcoming a series of personal hurdles in order to achieve a fulfilling life. Believe it or not, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are credited with the story. They wrote this!? The acting by Robin Williams was exceptional. 5 out of 5.
* A Clockwork Orange: (1971 - Drama, Sci-Fi / U.K.) Directed by Stanley Kubrik and starring Malcolm McDowell. This violent drama is set in a not too distant dark future where law has broken down, and gangs of violent youth prowl the night. The main characters are members of such a gang. This movie recounts the adventures of the gangs leader. A boy who loves a bit of the old ultra-violence. Eventually his lads turn on him, leaving him for the law, he's reprogrammed by the government. He's returned to society. Now cured, he falls prey to those he once preyed upon. When the public at large hears of his plight, the government un-programs him, returning him to his 'normal' violent self. A very interesting film, examining the role of government and the cynicism of society. I give it a 4 out of 5.
* High Noon: (1952 - Western, Suspense, Drama) Masterful movie work by Fred Zinnemann. This movie featured brilliant casting - Starring Gary Cooper, Thomas Mitchell, Lloyd Bridges, Katy Jurado, Grace Kelly, Otto Kruger, Lon Chaney Jr, Lee Van Cleef, Robert J. Wilke and many others. The story of a lawman about to retire with his new wife. As he's about to leave town and settle down, he learns that his arch-nemesis has been released from prison. Due in on the noon train, he's looking to settle an old square. The Marshall decides to stick around for the final show-down. Knowing that it may spell certain doom, he sticks to his gun for what he know's is right. If he high-tails it the town will pay dearly. He attempts to recruit some help, but in the end it's him against the gang. This is a fabulous movie. The pacing is absolutely fantastic. A real-time drama that unfolds in a little under 90 minutes. As the clock counts down, the tensions rise and the outlook gets dimmer. The ending is fantastic, and I've got to get a copy of this movie. The writing was simple, tight, taught and thoroughly enjoyable. The camera work was great and the music was truly exceptional. Especially the Tex Ritter ballad. 5 out of 5.
* The Omen 666: (2006 - Horror, Suspense) Another hollywood remake. I've said it before, I'll say it again, 'They're wasting their time' Isn't there anything original out there? Why do I have to turn back to 1952 to find a 5 out of 5? I'm pretty sure they remade this movie simply for marketing reasons. Released on 6/6/06, this remake is a near perfect copy of the original. The only notable change is a scooter replacement for the memorable tricycle. Unfortunately, it's lacking one thing that the original had - The Original! The best part of this remake is the music - Not as good as the original score, but pretty good on it's own. The director created some good mood work, but the camera work wasn't all that good. The worst part was the acting. Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles had no chemistry together, and Liev's acting was limp. The best acting came from Pete Postlethwaite (Fr. Brennan) and David Thewlis (the Reporter). A good try - I'm a sucker for horror, and I loved the original. 3 out of 5.
The Corporation: (2004 - Documentary) A powerful film, but a foregone conclusion. There wasn't much 'news' in this documentary. Was I supposed to be surprised by the level of greed and malice achieved by today's corporations? Aside from the information regarding the antibiotic/hormone drugs in our cattle, I found the movie to be ridiculous. At the beginning of the film, they define the corporation as a legal entity intent on one thing, and one thing only - Making a profit. They then launch into a two hour plus rant about how corporations are socially irresponsible. Yeah? What? You expected them to be charitable, sociable, conscientious? Come on. I'm not surprised. While I find some corporate actions reprehensible, I don't expect them to be something they aren't. Thanks for pointing out the obvious. 2 out of 5.
* Stand by me: (1986 - Drama) This coming of age drama is a great buddy movie. An adolescent adventure. Featuring some great actors (Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell, Kiefer Sutherland, , Casey Siemaszko and Richard Dreyfuss) in early roles. Direction by Rob Reiner, and a pretty good story by Stephen King. A group of four best friends sets out on a journey to see a dead body. The story was more in the journey than the destination. I enjoyed it. 3 out of 5.
* An American haunting: (2005 - Horror, Drama, Mystery) Here's an odd movie. Early 1800's wrapped inside a present day beginning and ending. Supposedly, it's the 'true story' of a person who dies as a result of a haunting. This didn't feel like a true story, and the beginning and end make the story into something that the 'true story' wasn't about at all. The beginning and ending confused me and pretty much spoiled this period piece. The acting by Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek was pretty good, but the 'shaky cam' film style, poor special effects, and poor direction didn't help this movie at all. I didn't like it. 2 out of 5.
* Escanaba in da moonlight: (2001 - Comedy) Written, directed, and starring Jeff Daniels. I had to see this movie. I'm from northern Wisconsin, my parents live very near the upper-peninsula, and I've 'Yupper' friends. I really had to know whether they did the Yupper accent correctly. The lead character is the middle aged son of the Soady clan. Cursed, Rueben Soady returns yet again on the annual deer hunting pilgrimage. The men of the clan gather at the hunting lodge as part of a manhood ritual. Rueben shakes things up in order to lift the curse (never bagged a buck). The results are hilarious. Ridiculous characters, a preposterous plot, lots of fart jokes, and some really funny physical comedy. I liked it. 3 out of 5.
* Judge Dredd: (1995 - Action) Starring Sylvester Stallone, Diane Lane, Armand Assante, Rob Schneider, Jurgen Prochnow (one of my favorites), Max von Sydow (another favorite) and others. Yes it's a movie based on a comic book. Notably one that I read and enjoyed in my youth. It presents a dark distant future of mega-cities surrounded by the 'scorched earth'. Judge Dredd is a cop with ultimate judicial powers - Judge, jury and executioner. Charged with upholding 'The Law', Stallone's character is framed for murder, and must overcome the odds to right the wrongs of those responsible. The acting is actually pretty good, but the lines are the best part of this movie. I love it. This time around (I own it) it gets a 5 out of 5.
* Red Dawn: (1984 - Drama, War) During the height of the cold war, this movie depicted an alternate history of America. In this scenario, the middle of America - From the Rockies to the Mississippi - is captured and held by communists. Starring Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson, Harry Dean Stanton, Powers Boothe and others. Directed by John Milias, this is a fantastic alternate history adventure. After the commies invade, school children become freedom fighters. Hiding out in the mountains, they wage guerrilla warfare on the occupying forces. One of my favorites. 4 out of 5.
* Mr. Deeds goes to town: (1936 - Comedy, Drama) The remake (Mr. Deeds) starring Adam Sandler, is based on this movie. Another movie starring Gary Cooper. I rated this classic higher than the Adam Sandler remake. The acting was great, and the story was pretty good. The end of the movie was better than the first half. This movie is still current today. After a simple tuba player from Vermont inherits a fortune, greedy folks try to take away his money. They try to use the courts as a tool of evil. A fine morality play. I give it a 3 out of 5.
* Things to do in Denver when you're dead: (1995 - Drama, Crime thriller) Featuring an all-star cast of Andy Garcia, Christopher Lloyd, William Forsythe, Bill Nunn, Treat Williams, Jack Warden, Steve Buscemi, Fairuza Balk, Gabrielle Anwar and Christopher Walken. Aside from the unlikely setting of Denver, this movie is a typical gangster movie. Bad guy calls in the marker on a former player. Andy Garcia and crew are forced to pull a strong arm job on an innocent man. In the process, things go completely hay-wire, and they botch the job. In response the mob boss is displeased. He hires some hit men to do in the former friends and they stick around instead of running. The ending of the movie is excellent. This is a character based movie, and the performances were splendid. If it hadn't been for the excessive violence, I would have given it a higher rating. 3 out of 5.
* Sleepy Hollow: (1999 - Fantasy, Horror) Starring a fantastic cast of Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gough, Marc Pickering, Lisa Marie, Steven Waddington, Christopher Walken and Claire Skinner. This movie was directed by Tim Burton, produced by Francis Ford Coppola, and featured music by Danny Elfman. This movie is a gothic masterpiece. A fantastic piece of work. The sets, locations and costumes were amazing. The music was mesmerizing and Johnny Depp did an outstanding job acting the Ichabod Crane character. The story is a forensic murder mystery that becomes a supernatural ghost story about betrayal, love and a headless horseman. Absolutely amazing depth and richness of characters. Tim Burton succeeds in creating an entirely complete world of dread with this movie. 5 out of 5.
* * * * Quatermass - The legendary 70's sci-fi classic: (1979 - Sci-Fi / U.K.) A 2 disc set produced from a British television series. Overcoming low production costs, the creators of this show manage to create a highly believable near future scenario. In the near future, law and order are breaking down. While gangs set up killing zones, the police have turned vigilante. Government hasn't collapsed entirely, and that's part of what sets these shows apart. Disc 1 features four shows which can all be taken together as a single story. After a space station is destroyed, young cultists are swept up in a blistering hot ray from outer space. As they seemed to be brain-washed, it's up to the adults (people over 60?) to save the world from the brink of extinction. Some sort of alien force is harvesting humans, and Quatermass embarks on a crusade to put an end to this threat. 3 out of 5.
* Mission Impossible III: (2006 - Action) This one arrived for Kim, but it was in my queue, so I'll take partially responsibility. Hollywood crap. All bang and no bite. This was a movie which featured huge amounts of special effects and T.C. (Tom Cruise) doing his own stunts. Note to producers - The fact that Tom Cruise can do his own stunts is not an excuse to make a movie. That's what this movie was all about. T.C. Riding high on the shock wave of another pointless action flick. I don't remember the other movies in this trilogy being this bad. Yeah there was a plot. A sorry, sad, stale and pointless plot containing all the usual cliched spy/thriller elements - The secret weapon, A mole in the police department, The nasty overbearing boss, Villain threatens revenge on family, Hero has romantic relationship, Expensive car, Hot women, black outfits, Shiny expensive cars, etc. Shake well and serve with copious amounts of explosion and a hale of bullets. The only redeeming feature of this movie was Philip Seymour Hoffman's excellent acting as the cliched bad guy. That, and the locations (Berlin, Rome, China). The directing was non-existent? This movie was directed by Tom Cruise - overacting, jumping, shooting - Ohh, look at me everyone - I'm T.C! If it hadn't been for Hoffman... 2 out of 5.
Movies seen/reviewed this year (2006)
[ Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]
* An affair to remember: (1957 - Romance, Drama) This movie was recommended by a friend. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to my expectations. Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr lacked chemistry together. Carey Grant's acting was o.k. Deborah Kerr's was flat. This movie was slow at times, and I didn't believe for a minute that they were in love with each other. The ending was the best part of the movie. 2 out of 5.
* Solaris: (1972 - Sci-Fi / Russia (Soviet Union) - Solyaris) Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, this movie is based on a novel by Stanislaw Lem. Scientists have established an outpost on an alien world. After an 'incident' a psychologist is sent to the research station in order to determine the fate of the project. He soon discovers that forces on the planet (perhaps the planet itself) are capable of reading his thoughts and creating vivid hallucinations. What follows is an exploration of desire, obsession, and the human condition. The direction, camera work, and use of colors was fantastic. Gripping and emotional, this movie explores inner space more than outer space. Sci-fi doesn't have to be all about gadgets, rockets and aliens. 4 out of 5.
* The Prestige: (2006 - Drama, Fantasy, Thriller) An awesome movie that fell just short of brilliance. I left the theater feeling cheated. Directed by Christopher Nolan (of Memento, Following and Insomnia), this movie starred a very well cast group of actors: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, David Bowie, and others. The acting was superb. Especially the performance by David Bowie as Nikola Tesla. The costumes, sets and locations were incredible. The music fantastic, and the story was great. A competition in the vaudville tradition of one-upsmanship. Two magician's compete against each other for the thrill of adulation. As the tricks get better, the crowds get larger, and the nasty tricks get rougher. As the competition escalates to murder, the tricks become other worldly, and the consequences more dire. The only let down in this movie was the 'reveal', or the ending. With a mystery spoiling exposition, all is revealed, and I left the theater feeling cheated. I wanted the mystery to continue. I wanted to walk away with my own conclusions, questions and suppositions. The ending of this movie prevented any such notion. Oh, by the way. The stuff about Nikola Tesla in Colorado Springs? It's all true. He lived there for a time, built a laboratory. Lit up Knob hill without the use of wires and who know what other experiments he conducted? 4 out of 5.
* The Blazing sun: (1950 - Western) At 70 minutes, this movie is amazingly short by today's standards. It's an interesting mix of screen actors and radio star conversions. Starring Gene Autry (and Champion the Wonder Horse), Edward Norris and Alan Hale Jr. (The Skipper), the acting was fair. The singing by Gene Autry seemed oddly out of place. This movie seemed very much like a 'silent movie', despite the fact that it was made well into the 'talkie' era. There was a lot of time consumed by traveling - By horse, by train, in an automobile. The story was an interesting mix of betrayal, mistaken identity, deception and multiple murders. Gene Autry is hot on the trail of two outlaws on the run under the blazing hot sky of Arizona? I enjoyed it. 3 out of 5.
* Le Cercle Rouge: (1970 - Crime, Thriller / France) Directed by famed French director: Jean-Pierre Melville. This movie featured a really good sound track, a look and a feel that left me in envy of French culture. The characters are perfect portraits of archetypes in motion. The plot is a classic heist. The paths of two criminals cross by coincidence. One is smooth, sophisticated and sure. The other crude, conniving and brutish. Together they team up to pull off a gem heist, but the celebration is headed for a dead stop because a veteran police detective is on their trail. The pacing is superb and the acting excellent. I was glued to the action as the story unfolded. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
* The Libertine: (2004 - Drama, Historical) A period piece. Directed by an unknown Laurence Dunmore, and starring Johnny Depp and John Malkovich. This movie is historically based on John Wilmot, the 2nd Earl of Rochester. The movie depicts the life of a 17th century poet. A man who constantly acted in a contrary manner. He drank to excess, screwed to excess, and wrote material that would embarrass the crown while thrilling the masses. Johnny Depp is 'the Libertine' in this movie. His portrayal was nothing short of brilliant. The movie is rude, crude and driven to victorian excess. The dialog, character play and story are all outstanding. The movie was exceedingly vulgar at times, but it was all in character. If it hadn't been for the dark nature of the movie, this film would have garnered larger audiences and wider praise. 4 out of 5.
* The nights of Cabiria: (1957 - Drama / Italy - Notti di Cabiria, Le) A film by Federico Fellini, starring Giuletta Masina. In a magnificent performance, Giuletta portrays a loveable prostitute who can't seem to get a lucky break. We're drawn to her warmth, stunned by her innocence, and left rolling in her humor. She's the focus of this movie, and she shines like the klieg light that she is. The movie tells the bittersweet tale of an orphaned prostitute who manages to keep her head above water despite the hardships that life throws at her. Filmed in and around Rome, this is an outstanding piece of work by a master director. 4 out of 5.
* The Omen: (1976 - Horror) The original movie, starring Gregory Peck, Lee Remik, David Warner and Patrick Troughton. Here's an original horror movie. The acting in this movie was far better than that of the remake. Gregory Peck was excellent, and the rest of the cast gave great performances as well. The music was outstanding. The direction, cinematography and music worked wonders on me. The feeling of dread created by this movie was palpable. It created a physical chill, an uneasy feeling, a tingling that ran up my spine and made my hair stand on end. I really liked the fact that they didn't tell you what was going on up front. You had to figure it out, you had to unravel the clues along with Gregory Peck, by the time you figured it out, so had Gregory Peck. That boy is Satan's spawn! 5 out of 5.
* Primer: (2004 - Sci-Fi, Thriller, Drama) Written, directed and starring Shane Carruth. This independent film showcased some great talent in Shane Carruth and a very versatile cast. This incredibly low budget movie ($7,000) manages to create an incredible sci-fi story without resorting to explosions or cheesy special effects. Four friends are working out of a garage, tinkering towards an unspecified secretive goal. In a breakthrough, they manage to create something special. Something none of them expected. As two of the group struggle to keep the secret to themselves, things start to unravel/ This time travel story was compelling, challenging and interesting. The plot was as twisted as the convoluted conundrums created by their quantum box. The music led a thrilling air of mystery, and this movie was a success in it's ability to thrill without revealing too much. 4 out of 5.
* Quatermass - The legendary 70's sci-fi classic: (1979 - Sci-Fi / U.K.) A 2 disc set produced from a British television series. Overcoming low production costs, the creators of this show manage to create a highly believable near future scenario. In the near future, law and order are breaking down. While gangs set up killing zones, the police have turned vigilante. Government hasn't collapsed entirely, and that's part of what sets these shows apart. Disc 2 presents the final chapter as a stand-alone feature. This presentation is preferable in the movie format. While the first disc contained episodes that would have worked well as daily episodes. After a space station is destroyed, young cultists are swept up in a blistering hot ray from outer space. As they seemed to be brain-washed, it's up to Quatermass and a small cadre of scientists to save the world from the brink of extinction. Some sort of alien force is harvesting humans, and Quatermass embarks on a crusade to put an end to this threat. 4 out of 5. The second disc also contains a History Channel special on Stonehenge, but I didn't watch that.
* Private resort: (1985 - Comedy) Stars Johnny Depp, Rob Morrow and Andrew Dice Clay. Is this Johnny Depp's first movie? Horrible. Here's an atrocious T&A comedy. The plot? There isn't much of one. There's a few ridiculous characters, two lead actors, and a location. Two teenage boys having fun at a 'private resort' throw a wrench into a jewel thief's plans. This movie is so horrible it made me laugh a couple of times. It's worth noting that this movie contains plenty of T&A shots. Even Depp bares his ass in this movie. Aside from Depp's performance and lots of gratuitous nudity, this movie is worthless. 2 out of 5.
* Carrie: (1976 - Horror) Brian DePalma directs the first movie based on a Stephen King novel. Here's another original. The pacing, acting (Sissy Spacek, John Travolta, Amy Irving), music and story were great. A young woman is persecuted by her psychotic mother and bullying class mates. As she begins to mature, she develops telekinetic powers. Unfortunately, for those who push her, she 'pushes' back. A truly great horror flick 5 out of 5.
* The Forgotten: (2004 - Sci-Fi, mystery) Starring Julianne Moore, Christopher Kovaleski, Gary Sinise and Dominc West. Here's an interesting story with a dissatisfying ending. A woman is struggling to cope with the loss of her son. Until everyone pretends he never existed - Highly improbable. In her struggle to uncover the truth of this conspiracy, she uncovers a plot of alien abductions and a complicit government agency (The Nashonul Sekurite Agunce (spelling intentionally munged)). The plot was completely unbelievable. The ending was far to sweet for me, and it didn't make much sense in the scope of the movie. 2 out of 5.
* Accepted: (2006 - Comedy) This movie was in both our queues. Due to my long wait (30 days), Kim got it first. A good laugh. Typical hollywood comedy with good intentions. When Bartleby Gaines (played by Justin Long (The 'Apple' in Apple's switcher adds)) can't seem to get into a college he creates his own college. What started out as a gag turns into reality. Good freshman comedy. 3 out of 5.
* Joyeux Noël: (2005 - War, Drama / France) Despite some claims to the contrary, this movie was nothing like "A midnight clear" Starring a great cast (including Diane Kruger, Benno Fürmann, Guillaume Canet, and many more), this is a great Christmas movie. Based on a true story... Down in the trenches during WWI. On Christmas eve 1914, three warring armies (French, Scottish and German) set aside their arms and embrace the spirit of Christmas. Featured some excellent singing (despite the poor lip syncing of Diane Kruger). The set work and costumes were fantastic. 4 out of 5.
* The gods must be crazy: (1980 - Comedy, Adventure / South Africa) This movie, like the Coke bottle that falls out of the sky; arrived out of nowhere (literally). An unknown writer/director (Jamie Uys) creates a fantastic narrated tale full of colorful characters. A humorous and heartfelt story set in the Kalahari. When the gods mistakenly drop something out of the sky, the main character decides to return it to the gods. This is the story of his journey to the 'end of the world', the characters he meets along the way, and his adventure in a very strange land. The characters, acting, and story are all great. The film work is excellent. I really enjoyed the way they sped up some of the scenes. It enhanced the comedic effect tremendously. A very funny modern movie in the tradition of the silent film era. Well worth watching. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
* Collateral: (2004 - Action) Starring Jamie Fox and an overbearing, totally self saturated Tom Cruise. Once again I am amazed by Tom Cruise's presence on the screen. It seems that no matter what role he's in, he has to make the movie all about him. Perhaps that's what the producers/directors were looking for when they cast him in this role? In either case, on with the movie. A pretty good suspense, action flick. It was well written and directed (by Michael Mann), but the plot was very shallow. Hired killer rolls into town, rents cab and proceeds to knock off witnesses for the defense. The plot and character connections were teletyped early, and reinforced often. The dialog was a bit contrived, but I stayed in for the whole ride. The action sequences were very well done. I give it a 3 out of 5.
* Who killed the electric car?: (2006 - Documentary) During the mid 90's, GM produced an electric powered vehicle and leased it to thousands of customers. Then the SUV became popular, and GM killed the electric car. This is a well done documentary. A mix between interviews and live footage, this documentary was loaded with information, but it was pretty much one sided. There was no serious discussion regarding the costs of switching energy costs from gasoline to power production facilities. What would a large scale switch mean in those terms? 3 out of 5.
* Wes Craven presents - They: (2002 - Suspense, Thriller, Horror) I watched this movie while I was home alone - around 3AM. I found myself pausing the movie every now and then, because the house was making strange creaking noises. This movie was very heavy on the atmosphere. Great music, lighting and pacing. Unfortunately, the movie was pretty thin on story. Your standard boogeyman's coming to get you movie. The action only starts when the principles are alone in the dark. Julia Lund was too skinny, but very believable in her vulnerable character portrayal. Apparently, more than ten people worked on the script of this movie, and Wes Craven had absolutely nothing to do with the movie. I give it a 3 out of 5.
* Swamp Thing: (1982 - Action, Drama) Horrible comic book adaptation. I'm such a glutton for punishment. Written and directed by Wes Craven, this piece of crap was so bad that I found myself laughing out loud, and it wasn't supposed to be a comedy. A group of scientists is working on some sort of secret experiment in the swamp. Bad guys show up to steal the secret formula. There's violence. Fire, explosions, and an accidental exposure. The lead scientist is transformed into an avenging 'Swamp Thing' who falls in love with a recent arrival. The plot is a preposterous series of 'Spy meets Swamp Thing' encounters. In the laboratory. In the swamp. In the mansion. In the dungeon. The nude moonlight skinny-dipping scene (with Adrienne Barbeau) - in the swamp? - was really weird. The action was poorly choreographed, the music terrible, and the dialog ridiculous. 1 out of 5.
* Silverado: (1985 - Western) Another reverse roles western. In this movie the outlaws are the good guys, and the lawmen are the bad guys. A terrific cast (starring: Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Kevin Costner, Danny Glover, John Cleese, Brian Dennehy, Jeff Goldblum, and many, many more) manages to act it's way through a poor script. This movie starts out as four main characters. Each with his own story. Then they unite to fight the good fight against a Sheriff gone bad. The action and acting were good. The story was flat and predictable. Worth watching for the cast and acting. 3 out of 5.
* Vampyros Lesbos: (1970 - Horror / France) A French film, shot in Turkey, dubbed into German, with English subtitles. The music, costumes and sets were 100% authentic euro 70's. Very shagadelic baby. This art film had a great concept. Lesbian Vampires! Unfortunately, the premise was the only thing of merit in this movie. The camera shots were interesting, but the camera work was horrible. Often shaky, jerky, and out of focus. The plot is... Good looking woman is psychically seduced by a female vampire. She travels to the vampires lair - on a Turkish island. Once there, she's held prisoner? Then she decides to kill the vampire, by stabbing her through the eye with a steel spike. The plot is disjointed, confusing and preposterous. As you can imagine, there was a lot of good looking nude women touching each other, floating in pools, performing on stage, running on the beach. Despite this nudity, the movie isn't especially erotic. It certainly wasn't scary, and the acting was horrid. 2 out of 5.
* Z - (1969 - Action, suspense, thriller / France) A French produced movie (Screen play by Jorge Semprún and Costa-Gavras, directed by Costa-Gavras), based on a Greek novel about a true-to-life political assassination. This movie was filmed in Algeria to avoid political tension/black-listing in other potential locations. An outstanding story. Based on the political assassination of a Greek leftist; this movie is an excellent political thriller. When an independent minded leftist preaches against nuclear weapons, violence and oppression he's a threat to the ruling party. As part of it's campaign to oppress the political opposition, the government conspires with the military and the police in order to disrupt an otherwise peaceful demonstration. A melee erupts after a political rally, and two senators end up dead. A special judge is appointed to investigate, and the government does it's best to cover their tracks. Unfortunately for them, this judge is extremely efficient, intelligent and he won't back down. The direction and camera work were excellent. I especially liked the action sequences. The fight sequence in the open bed of a speeding delivery truck, and the chase scene where a vehicle tries to run down a witness. Excellent acting all around, and pacing that impressed a sense of urgency and importance. While the music was good, the sound track/work was really poor. The stereo track was incomprehensible, and the mono version sounded dubbed. The subtitles were also sub-par. 4 out of 5.
* An inconvenient truth: (2006 - Documentary) A great documentary (minus the bits about Al Gore), with a very important message. It focuses on the facts, and for that it gets high marks. Al Gore presents the facts in a way that most Americans can understand. Unfortunately, his political background brings a measure of skepticism to the discussion. How likely are you to believe a politician, when he tells you the 'sky is falling'? I don't have anything against Al Gore. As a matter of fact, I'm a liberal/democrat in my social/political views. However, using Al Gore to present these facts makes people question the 'political motives' involved. Even if there was no political motivation for this presentation, Al Gore's background begs the question - "What's his political motive for making this film?". Thankfully, the producers/directors did a fairly good job of presenting the data in a unbiased manner. The evidence is overwhelming, accurate, and convincing. Climatic changes are occurring, and man-kind is partly responsible for these changes. What we need now is 'political will' and a plan. A way to avoid a 'global warming' armageddon. A very well done documentary. 4 out of 5.
* The gods must be crazy II: (1989 - Comedy, Adventure / South Africa) In the gods must be crazy II, we're rewarded with another movie that's as upbeat as the sky is blue. In a time and day when our lives are filled with soberring decisions, important meetings, and impending deadlines - This movie manages to pull us away from that overly important hubub, and reward us with two hours of upbeat adventures. A follow-up to "The gods must be crazy" by Jamie Uys. Not as good, but still fantastic. The vignette motif repeated. Great characters and a splendid story. More satire than the first one. Clashing cultures emphasized. Modern vs traditional. A marvelous sequel to a classic. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
* Shadow Dragon - The Ninja movie: (1984 - Action, home movie) A Thanksgiving Day tradition. Kim and I break out this movie once a year (at a minimum). Here's a movie that my friends and I made back in the day. Before I joined the Air Force. We had a script, scouted locations, rounded up a cast of family and friends, and rented a VHS video camera for a week. What a fantastic time we had. The quality of this VHS to DVD transfer may be poor, but the lines are epic. In 2004, I completed the conversion project, remastered, edited and authored the DVD. Duplicates were provided to many of the original cast members. In my mind this movie gets nothing short of 5 of 5.
* Nightwatch: (1997 - Thriller, horror) This is an American remake of a Danish movie (Nattevagten) written and directed by Ole Bornedal. Not to be confused with (Night Watch / Nochnoy Dozor (Russian movie)). Ole Bornedal wrote and directed this remake starring Ewan McGregor, Nick Nolte, Patricia Arquette, Josh Brolin, Lauren Graham and Brad Dourif. It's a fairly typical fright night thriller/horror movie. A college student gets a job at the morgue in order to help pay the bills. While he's on duty a serial killer is stalking the city. Eventually the killer tries to frame him. The movie contains your typical plot twists and character elements. The ending is typical hollywood. The production and direction were pretty good. This is a good movie, but I've got to see the original. 3 out of 5.
* The ninth gate: (1999 - Horror, mystery) Directed by Roman Polanski, starring Johnny Depp, Frank Langella, and a mesmerizing Emmanuelle Seigner. The music by Wojciech Kilar was fantastic. This gothic noir mystery revolves around the main character's investigation of a book. Supposedly co-authored by Lucifer himself, the 'book detective' is hired out to discover the mystery behind this tome. The plot is incredibly rich and intriguing. The pacing is perfect, and Polanski manages to create an eerie creepy feel throughout - without resorting to exploding special effects or cgi. The supernatural elements of the movie are subtle and extremely well done. The camera work, color, lighting, costumes, locations, sets, artwork and props were all outstanding. The ending of the movie is masterful. 5 out of 5.
* 3:10 to Yuma: (1957 - Western, drama) Here's a great drama. Very much like 'High Noon', but a great movie in it's own right. Starring Glenn Ford and Van Helfin on opposite sides of the same coin. Two independent men trying to eke out an existence in the hardscrabble landscape of Arizona. Both men claim to be interested in money, but their motivations are much deeper. The leader of a gang of outlaws is captured by small town heroes. Fearing retribution by the remaining gang members, a small group of ordinary men turned heroes attempts to move the outlaw leader to a more secure location in Yuma. As this taught drama unwinds, and the clock ticks down, a western drama with amazing depth is played out in near real time. 4 out of 5.
* * Amazing stories: (1985/86 - Television) From a television series produced by Steven Spielberg. This 'movie' consisted of two one hour episodes from the series. The first episode (season 1 - episode 5) - The Mission: A WWII story about a miraculous event that saves the life of a tail gunner on an allied bomber. Starring Kevin Costner and Keifer Sutherland, the story was fairly pedantic. The acting was sophomoric but the production and direction (by Spielberg) were worthy efforts. The second episode (season 2 - episode 8) - Go to the head of the class: A campy horror flick directed by Robert Zemeckis, features Christopher Lloyd in a rather enjoyable performance. When two school kids decide to put a 'spell' on their teacher the results are much more than they bargained for. Overall I give this 'Movie' a 3 out of 5.
* Zardoz: (1974 - Sci-Fi, fantasy / U.K.) Wow! So bad it was good. Mindblowing! My headspace is still expanding. After watching this movie, I talked about it for three days straight. John Boorman (Deliverance and Excalibur) directed this wacky movie which featured Sean Connery as a brutal mutant who wears a red loincloth/diaper and later a wedding dress. With a story that is all over the place, this movie felt a lot like the British 'Quatermass' episode. With lot's of psychedelic hand waving, a gigantic flying god-head (Zardoz), brutal exterminators roaming the outlands, and immortal peaceniks living in communes, this movie sure was one hell of a wild ride. Here's a quote from the movie will resonate in my brain for many years: "Zardoz: The gun is good. Exterminators: The gun is good. Zardoz: The penis is evil. The penis shoots seeds, and makes new life, and poisons the earth with a plague of men, as once it was. But the gun shoots death, and purifies the earth of the filth of brutals. Go forth and kill!" While the acting was poor to fair, the story was a difficult to follow plot involving a post-apocalyptic society of immortals who have managed to stagnate human development. An outside savage (Connery) finds his way (actually the idea was implanted in his psyche) into their utopian community, this primitive mutant eventually becomes the catalyst for human development and a harbinger of death, at the same time! Off the wall weird. 5 out of 5, and I'm going to buy a copy. Rates up their with Naked Lunch and eXistenZ in the category of "Far out Fantastic!". I'm buying a copy!
Movies seen/reviewed this year (2006)
[ Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec ]
* The testament of Dr. Mabuse: (1933 - Mystery, crime, thriller / Germany - Testament des Dr. Mabuse, Das) Directed by famed German director, Fritz Lang. This was a great crime mystery. A stimulating thriller with supernatural elements and great special effects (for it's time). The sets and music were fantastic. The visual style was striking and the plot kept me spinning. A psychotic mastermind is trapped in an asylum, where he manages to 'transmit' his testament/soul into the body of a less than reluctant accomplice. As his physical body dies, he sets about implementing his 'master plan' through his new body. By keeping himself insulated from his co-conspirators, this mad genius is able to set up a criminal empire, and control it through fear and some measure of psychic projection and hypnotic influence. Slowly but surely, the authorities start to unravel his plans and unveil the identity of the mastermind behind the curtain. The ending brings a brilliant symmetry to the story. 5 out of 5.
* Thank you for smoking: (2005 - Satire, comedy, drama) Directed by Jason Reitman, and starring a fantastic cast: Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, Cameron Bright, Adam Brody, Sam Elliott, Katie Holmes, David Koechner, Rob Lowe, William H. Macy, J.K. Simmons, Robert Duvall, and others. This movie has a comedic slant, but it's not really a comedy. It's a story about a lobbyist for big tobacco... Well, not really. This movie is big on subtext. It's really a movie about cynicism, self assurance, personal choice, and responsibility. Don't let anyone fool you into thinking that this movie is about smoking, cigarettes, tobacco, or health issues. It's not that at all. It's a family movie. It's about growing up, making choices, accepting consequences, and living with yourself. I really liked the way that the story moved underneath it's happy hollywood, glossy exterior. Excellent writing by Jason Reitman, based on a novel by Christopher Buckley. Drama disguised as comedic satire? 4 out of 5.
* Hellboy: (2004 - Action, fantasy) Directed by Guillermo del Toro (I like his work), and starring Ron Perlman, the voice of David Hyde Pierce, and others. A little demon finds its way to our world after Nazi's open a portal to Hell. American GI's thwart the Nazi plan, slamming the portal shut, and routing the villains behind the scheme. The little demon that stumbled into our world is adopted by the FBI, and helps fight and banish paranormal creatures. Years later, Rasputin and his side-kicks return in an attempt to open that portal again. Hellboy and his buddies rally to thwart a plan that would bring armageddon to earth. The movie was o.k. A pretty good action/adventure/fantasy flick. It could have been better written. This movie contained elements of the Cthulhu mythos, parts that seemed like Indiana jones, a good measure of history, lots of MiB dressing, and a fair amount of comedic spin on the dialog. The plot was a bit pedantic, predictable and preposterous - It was based on a comic book. Aside from Ron Perlman as Hellboy, there wasn't much in the way of acting. The music was good. The costumes, lighting, and sets were fantastic. The effects were - blasé to say the least, but the monster and set designs made up for it. I liked it, they managed to push all the right buttons. 4 out of 5.
* * WWII - Report from the Aleutians: (1943 - Documentary) This movie is actually two different documentaries. The first was 'Report from the Aleutians' A documentary by John Huston. The second was 'Hook down, Wheels down' a documentary about US naval aviation and the air craft carrier. The first movie was a really good documentary about the only WWII battle that took place on American soil. The Japanese had established a presence on the Aleutian island of Kiska. American GIs, stationed on a barren, desolate rock called Adak, were sent in to deal with these invaders. The documentary starts out slow. Our soldiers had to deal with poor weather, poor living conditions, and vast amounts of boredom. We get a great inside look at what it was like to be a soldier during WWII. Stationed in a place that most American's had never heard of. The story heats up as history moves forward. Plans are firmed up, supplies stream in and eventually the battle commences. The filming of an aerial raid, from the inside of a bomber, was very exciting. A very informative documentary, that also offered an inside glimpse into the bravery, misery and dedication that was never in short supply during WWII. 4 out of 5. The second documentary was an entire history of naval aviation, that focused on the Aircraft carrier, and it's dominating influence on naval power in the 20th century. Another well done documentary. 3 out of 5.
* Swingers: (1996 - Drama, comedy) Filmed and Directed by Doug Liman (Bourne Identity). Starring Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Ron Livingston, Heather Graham, and others. This movie was a great drama. While the dialog was sometimes corny (witty inside hollywood banter), the delivery by Vince Vaughn and other cast members, was great. The characters in this movie were great. Ordinary Joes, pretending, wishing, hoping to be more than they are. They grab life by the horns and choke the life out of it. Demanding satisfaction, demanding something more from their dull, dreary lackluster 9 to 5 existence. I give it a 4 out of 5.
* Pulse: (2006 - Horror, Suspense) Another movie with Wes Craven's name on it. It appears that he did help write the screen play, but so did two other people (including the original author, Kiyoshi Kurosawa). Here's another Japanese suspense horror (Kairo (I haven't seen the original)) remake. A hollywood showcase for young talent. There were a lot of young hotties in this movie. Unfortunately, there wasn't any nudity (I watched the unrated version). The plot is... A virus that infects people is released from a computer and spreads by Wi-Fi and cell phone frequencies. Yeah, that's believable - Not! The people infected through touch of the 'others' die by suicide or they're consumed by the 'others'. Turning into a greasy ash like stain. The antagonists are ghost like pseudo-humans who live in a different 'frequency band'. The protagonists spend most of the movie wondering why their friends and half the people around them are disappearing. Suddenly they decide to do something. They do their best to stop the spread of this 'virus' by introducing a counter virus into the mainframe computer, but that doesn't work. Following that they run! While the music and lighting were great (too much blue), the acting was poor. The special effects weren't the best. Sure they were digitally perfect, but I'm getting tired of the same spooky effects. Blurry, poorly lit ghost like images, moving in a jump-motion manner, combined with static-like noise and overlapping whispers. Add in the droning moan of the 'been-there-done-that' soundtrack and you've duplicated the same effect seen in a half dozen recent 'suspense horror' flicks. The ending (in the unrated director's version) is the best part of this movie. 2 out of 5.
* Versus - Director's cut: (2000 - Action, horror, comedy / Japan) This movie was very gory. A splatter-fest featuring Yakuza zombies in the forest of resurrection. This movie had a good plot... A repeating theme, where three immortals are forced to replay a tragic event. The main characters are surrounded by a group of bumbling extras. Yakuza gangster types, undead zombies, and the pursuing cops. The amount of gore in this movie was phenomenal. Heads are sliced off, bodies cleaved in half, hearts pulled from chests, intestines, blood, slicing, dicing and exploding globs of flesh in every scene. There was a large amount of stylized posing, ridiculous costumes, preposterous props, and over dramatic acting. Some of the camera work was over done. There are many scenes where the camera spirals around the characters. Over and over and over and over and over and over.... The choreography was mediocre, but they made up for it by filming from the back of a rodeo bull on acid. Due to a poorly organized DVD menu, I had a hard time finding the correct audio / subtitle combination. Yuckuza camp horror. 2 out of 5.
* Night Watch: (2004 - Thriller, Horror, Fantasy / Russia - Nochnoy Dozor) The story was one of those eternal good vs evil struggles in the style of Highlander or Constantine. The acting and directing weren't the best, but there was a tremendous amount of energy and effort here. The Moscow setting/locations added greatly to the feel of the movie. The characters were well developed, but some of the cgi and the sound production brought it down a notch. I've seen this one twice this year (the second time was due to a NetFlix screw-up), and it keeps getting better each time I watch it. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
* Nightwing: (1979 - Horror) A low budget horror flick with a social message. Vampire bats invade an Arizona reservation. As the 'evil' bats attack the inhabitants of this isolated desert community, they're blamed for spreading bubonic plague. Eventually a European specialist, funded by the World Health Organization, succeeds in his quest to destroy the most vile creature ever created. Unfortunately, this movie tried to be more than a mediocre 70's horror. It also tried to carry a social justice message. Something about American indians, their culture, religion, and how they're being exploited by greedy industry while the government looks the other way. If they had just stuck to the vampire bats they would've been better off. Horrible special effects, mediocre acting and a crappy plot plague this bloodsucking movie. The only saving grace was the lack of a predictable 'dracula' tie in. 2 of 5.
* Major Dundee: (1965 - Adventure, western) Directed by Sam Pekinpah, this epic adventure film featured a great cast: Charlton Heston, Richard Harris, James Coburn, Brock Peters, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens and many others. As the civil war winds to an end, a Union Major is stationed to command of a prison. Unwilling to accept his 'punishment', the Major decides to pursue, capture or kill a marauding Apache chief and his murderous band of outlaws (it's amazing how stereotyped all American Indians were during the 60's). Due to a shortage of available soldiers, he's forced to enlist the help of criminals, confederate prisoners, and a bunch of irregulars. They set out across the border into Mexico and the adventure begins. At times the story wanders, the character motivations were weak, and the production was poor. In the end the acting and direction kept this movie interesting and worth watching. 3 out of 5.
* * Star Trek - The original series - (1967 Second Season - Sci-Fi, Television) Vol. 25, episodes 49 & 50: [ A piece of the action / By any other name ]: Slowly but surely, I've been viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), my friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. I loved Star Trek back then; You know what? I still love it. Episode 49 had Kirk and Spock visiting a planet where everyone's a Chicago style gangster. They get 'bagged' more times than one can count, and in the end the Federation gets a 'Piece of the action'. Episode 50 was a great alien hijacking episode. Cthulhu style monsters are disguised as humans. They abduct Enterprise and crew in a bid to conquer our galaxy. They transform the crew into styrofoam cubes, and settle in for the long journey home. Kirk strikes upon a plan to stir things up. Eventually their human bodies betray them. In the turmoil of emotions that follow, Kirk and crew are able to overcome these invaders from another galaxy. Kirk gets his shirt off and makes out with a hot alien babe. Some of the dialog from 'The lost skeleton of Cadavra' is obviously based on lines from this episode.
* Far away so close: (1993 - Drama, Fantasy / Germany - In weiter Ferne, so nah!) A group of angels become involved in human affairs. This movie follows the actions of an angel who intercedes on behalf of a child. Becoming human, he struggles to find his place amongst us mortals. Temptation, fate and desire shape his path. Directed by Win Wenders, this movie featured some great acting by: Otto Sander, Bruno Ganz, Nastassja Kinski, Peter Falk, Lou Reed, Willem Dafoe, and many others. A great story, with great locations and camera work. 4 out of 5.
* A Christmas story: (1983 - Comedy, Christmas, Fantasy) A purely fantastic Christmas classic. Ralphie and Randy are growing up in a small midwestern town. As Christmas approaches, Ralphie endeavors on his quest to obtain the holy grail of gifts. The Red Rider 2000 pump action air powered rifle. A great story, narrated from a 12 year old boys point of view. The characters and acting were terrific. Several memorable scenes define this movie. One of my favorites is the Christmas dinner at the Chinese restaurant. 4 out of 5.
* Beverly hills ninja: (1997 - Comedy, mystery) Chris Farley and Chris Rock. An absurd comedy where Chris Farley's presence makes all the difference. Preposterous plot where the holes weren't as big as the laughs. Chris Farley flailing bad guys with two very large fish was very funny. This clunker manages to rise above mediocrity, with Farley's performance. 3 of 5.
* Zardoz: (1974 - Sci-Fi, fantasy / U.K.) Wow! So bad it was good. Mind blowing! My head space is still expanding. This time around I watched the movie with the directors's comments audio. More insight into an amazing movie. See the previous month for my full review. Off the wall weird. 5 out of 5.
* The last dragon: (1985 - Comedy, action) A bad movie with moments of brilliance. Here's a blaxploitation film of awful proportions. The acting was horrid, but some of the lines and set-ups were worthy. The costumes and make up were horrible. How big was hair in the 80's? A lot of music marred this movie. It was partly a vehicle for musical talents (Vanity). There's a lot of musical stage work, and the sound track is pretty good. Despite an incredibly cliched plot. Black master ninja seeks validation in America. Searching for 'the glow' he becomes involved in a contrived plot involving a good looking woman who needs his help? Sound familiar? See beverly hills ninja. Not without it's moments. Some of the lines were classic camp. Kiss my converse. The 'glow' effects were actually pretty good. 3 out of 5.
* Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead man's chest: (2006 - Action, adventure, fantasy) This movie wasn't in my queue. I didn't like the first one, so I was avoiding this one. When someone at work offered to let me watch it, I figured 'Why not?' - Now I know why. A complete waste of talent. Despite an awesome group of actors (Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport, Bill Nighy, Jonathan Pryce, Stellan Skarsgård, Naomie Harris), the story here was a complete waste of time. Completely predictable outcomes that take forever to deliver. The characters are paper thin, and there's no development at all. Just action scene after action scene. Non-stop exploding cgi and technicolor sets, where the net outcome is... nothing? No plot advancement? All the cgi in the world couldn't make this movie into something it isn't - worth watching. The only redeeming feature was the fair cast performances, and the technically flawless cgi. 2 out of 5.
* The devil wears Prada: (2006 - Drama, comedy) This movie wasn't in my queue, but a friend at work offered to let me watch it. It's got Meryl Streep in it. I couldn't resist. I wish I had. A 109 minute foregone conclusion. In the first twenty minutes of the movie, we establish the fact that this job sucks. The remainder of the movie reinforces that fact. In the last 5 minutes the lead character finally quits. Despite the excellent performances (Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Stanley Tucci), this movie lacked any original content. If I were a fashion insider, I might have viewed this cut-throat depiction as something deeper, to me - as red blooded beer drinking, sweat shirt wearing ordinary Joe, I couldn't care less. I should have known better. Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci were outstanding. 2 of 5.
* Un Chien Andalou: (1929 - Fantasy / France) Directed by Luis Buñuel, written by Buñuel and Salvadore Dali. An experimental surrealist experience. Shocking, dreamlike, unusual, experimental. All these words describe the disjointed visions of two visionary artists. This 17 minute collaborative work featured some very unusual images. If you like your plots non-existent, and your senses assaulted by startling images, then this surrealist work will work for you. Aside from the interesting camera work, I found it.. disturbing. 3 out of 5.
* Feast (2005 - Horror, comedy) This one was in Kim's queue. I was avoiding it. I should have. A gorefest horror movie with no excuse for existing. Here's a standard horror plot, or the standard lack thereof, depending on how you look at it. Build a low budget set, hire some second rate actors (excepting Henry Rollins), throw buckets of blood at the cast, and shoot the poorly designed 'monsters' using the tired old 'spastic-cam' technique. Plot? Got a napkin? O.k. How about this? "Monsters want to eat people trapped in bar" An old, worn out plot, with more miles on it than my '87 Wrangler. Ugly ass monster suits. Over use of shaky-cam film techniques. Lot's of humping. Some scantily clad hot babes, and several gallons of fake blood. An absolute waste of time. If this is the best that the vaunted 'project green light' can come up with, they should give up. 1 of 5.
* Sense and sensibility: (1995 - Drama, Romance) Ang Lee directed, based on a novel by Jan Austen. This movie featured a fantastic cast: Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman and many others. The overacting of Kate Winslet was somewhat offset by Emma Thompson, and overall the acting was fantastic. I particularly enjoyed Alan Rickman's performance. A period piece set in 19th century English countryside. The sets, locations and costumes were great. The story was very touching. If I were the 'sensitive' type, it might even bring a tear to my eye. A tale of love, family, relationships and social values. While the pacing was rather slow, it was just right for this movie. 4 out of 5.
* Amarcord: (1973 - Drama, comedy / Italy) Directed by Federico Fellini, this movie is a remembrance of the directors life, the places, the people and situations one might encounter if one lived in Rimini back in the 1930s. A slice of life. Lacking any real plot, this genuine depiction of Italian drama is compelling, but wandering. Lacking any focus, it focuses on characters. Passionate people who can't help but bring drama to every event that life brings their way. 3 out of 5.
* Superman returns: (2006 - Fantasy, Drama) Of course I liked Superman when I was a kid. Here's another comic book adaptation. In an attempt to extend the franchise, hollywood has produced another dud. There was very little passion in this movie and a lot of sap. The story was weak. A rehash of all the old Superman history. Containing all the traditional touchstones, but lacking much in the way of plot. This movie fails to deliver anything original whatsoever. The character portrayals were cold and stiff, nearly as dead as the page of a comic book. Kevin Spacey the most the most likeable villain I've ever seen in the movies. Despite the suspense of disbelief, this movie lacked any substance in way of story. 2 out of 5.
* Voyage to the planet of prehistoric women: (1968 - Sci-Fi, Fantasy) Americans in soviet spacecraft, speaking something other than English, travel to Venus. Once there, they encounter hopping miniature tyrannosaurs, man eating plants, and busty blond aliens wearing skin-tight pants and clamshell bras. Totally preposterous. Using footage from two different movies, this movie, which was redubbed twice, was a horrible mish-mash of reused scenes, nonsensical editing, horrid music, and a simple plot. The best part was the telepathic, aquatic, venusian blond bombshells, and an inexplicably strange anti-religion message? Too bad they didn't go topless. The bizarre juxtaposition of themes garners a cult following and a 3 out of 5 rating.
* V for Vendetta: (2006 - Sci-Fi) Screen-play by the Wachowski brothers (of the Matrix trilogy), directed by James McTeigue (assistant director on all three Matrix movies), starring Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving. An explosive, action packed, sci-fi thriller which asks the question; "Are you afraid of your government?". The story is one of conspiracy, deceit, abuse of power, revenge and revolution. An oppressed people are inspired to revolution by a masked crusader intent on exposing corruption in the highest places. There is some incredible dialog in this movie. The sets, locations, and costumes create an eerie near future setting that convinces us that this could happen in our life-time. I bought a copy and I'm happy I did. 5 of 5.
* Garden State: (2004 - Comedy, drama) A highly stylized comedic 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, and xoloft, 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.
* High Noon: (2000 - Western, Suspense, Drama) A poor substitute for the original. I bought this movie, thinking it was the original 1952 version. Bummer! Despite the fact that this TBS 'Made for Television' remake started with a fantastic tale, they managed to bungle the job. The characters here lack the conviction of the originals, and the treatment felt modern, despite the setting. The music was forgettable, and the casting was second rate. Tom Skerritt is not Gary Cooper. I enjoyed the story enough to give this pretender a 3 out of 5.
* Ravenous: (1999 - Horror, black comedy) A western 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 a remote area of California. 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. If you can get past the brief cannibalistic gore, you'll agree with me. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
* Art school confidential: (2006 - Comedy, drama) A dark comedic drama where the lead character is a nerdy art student who tries to get the girl. I liked this movie a lot. It was courageous enough to point out the ridiculous attitudes of some 'artistic' types. A dark comedic parody that tasted as fresh as 'Office Space'. The 'boy gets girl' sub-plot was hardly needed. Being able to laugh at ourselves is a gift, and I thank the writers of this film for reminding me that some of my attitudes must seem pretentious, preposterous, and best of all funny as hell! The stereotyped characters were well acted, the directing was great and the music was enjoyable. Seeing Sophia Myles nude was an added extra! 4 out of 5.
* The bad sleep well: (1960 - Drama, suspense / Japan - Warui yatsu hodo yoku nemuru) Directed by Akira Kurosawa (My favorite director). This is a film noir style story of corporate corruption and a culture which protects the guilty. Bribery, kidnapping, black mail, forgery, suicides, murder, cover-ups, and other nefarious deeds are committed without blinking an eye. This scathing condemnation of a culture which knowingly excuses such behavior, was made well ahead of it's time. The writing, directing, photography, and acting were all outstanding. The story is one of revenge inside a closed business culture. Immune to justice, an insider sets out on a quest to destroy the business that led to his father's suicide. What he doesn't realize is the scope of his endeavor. He's actually up against an entire cultural system that shields the guilty, destroys the innocent and rewards the culpable. The investigative opening exposition was brilliant. The ending, while abbreviated, is truly outstanding. This one gets a 5 out of 5 and I'm adding it to my list of 'must buy' movies.
* Poseidon: (2006 - Drama, action) This one was in Kim's queue. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen (one of my favorite directors). Starring Kurt Russell, Richard Dreyfuss, Josh Lucas, and a bunch of unknowns. Why was this movie remade? The original, for it's time, was a pretty good movie. Featuring some good sound stage special effects, set pieces and acting. This time around we ho-hum the effects, are bored stiff by the piss poor acting (Kurt Russell excepted), come to expect the technical inaccuracies, and can't help but wonder where the drama went? The characters in this movie receive very little if any development, and the only inter-character conflict is dismissed very early. After that, it's an absurdly fast paced race for the surface. This movie makes a loud sucking noise from beginning to end. 2 out of 5.
* The tin drum: (1979 - Drama / Germany - Blechtrommel, Die) A truly bizarre movie. At age three, the main character (Oskar) sees adults arguing, fighting, and existing in a miserable state of life. That's when he decides to 'never grow up'. He completely stops growing, shut's off the world of adults, and clings to the security of his tin drum. Refusing to grow up during the rise of Nazism, the other characters in this movie are tossed about by political and social change, but Oskar refuses to accept the responsibilities of the adult world. Eventually, despite his sincere attempts, he begins to mature, and realizes that his lack of physical growth cannot insulate him from his emotional development, and the harsh realities of the real world. This movie features some truly bizarre circumstances, some unusual situations (for an 11 year old actor), and some outstanding acting. 4 out of 5.