24 December 2002

Oscar season commences...

The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers: 4 Stars. I originally gave this 3.99 stars since I felt it's not as good as the first, which was a full four-star extravaganza, so I had to knock it down a smidgeon. Then my buddy Frank pointed out that, were that the case, I'd be saying that other films that I've rated 4 Stars this year, like Insomnia and Minority Report, were better. Which they ain't.

TTT feels like the middle of a book with the ends chopped off (which, of course, it is). There were a few changes from the text. One of which I loved...the adding of the elves to the fight at Helm's Deep. I wish the setup for that had been a bit briefer, though. The 15 minute flashback/flashforward/reflection/Galadriel/Elrond thing was such a contrast to the pace of the rest of the film that it seemed excruciatingly slow...sort of like the Ewok scenes in Jedi, but worse. Some of it was great, though, like seeing Arwen at Aragorn's death bed. The other changes I didn't really mind, although I don't know why they had Faramir bring Frodo to Osgiliath.

Gimli's dangerously close to becoming a caricature, but a little humor in such a dark tale is kind of nice. I love that they kept the counting of dead at Helm's Deep between him and Legolas...it was probably my favorite thing in the text. The same thing goes for Samwise's reflection on how future generations will tell stories about them.

All the acting was great, although Faramir seems such a little wuss next to Boromir. It's fine that he's less tortured, but let's see some feeling, some anger, something. Eowyn was fantastic. I can't wait to see her kick ass in the next movie.

The battles were, of course, spectacular. The ent battle was amazing. I loved when one ent smashed two orc's heads together. Also the one ent, aflame, running into the flood was fun.

Ok, that's enough for now. I want to see it again.

Adaptation: 3.5 Stars. I have to make a confession here. Until my girlfriend explained it to me, I didn't really understand the last 20 minutes of this movie. In my defense, I believe she read the explanation she gave in a review by a pro movie guy, so it's not like it was glaringly obvious. That revelation alone, which I'll refrain from telling you about (feel free to ask, though), bumped this amazingly weird film up a good half a star. Charlie Kaufman, the genius who wrote Being John Malkovich. Has written a movie about his attempt to write a screenplay of the book The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean. Nicholas Cage stars as both Charlie Kaufman and his twin brother Donald, who gets co-screenwriting credit in this labyrinthine production. Cage gives two amazing performances, both of which he'll surely get Oscar nominations for. What you should know, to get you started here, is that Charlie Kaufman has no brother, twin or otherwise. He's been invented for this movie. That info alone wasn't quite enough for me, but it probably will be for you, Rachel (I'm assuming no one else reads this). Anyway, this was a damned fine movie, well acted, written, and directed. Special kudos to one of my favorite actresses, Judy Greer, for showing the world her lovely breasts.

About Schmidt: 3.25 Stars. There's a line in Adaptation from a supposed screenwriter extraordinaire played by Brian Cox where he says something like, "If you end a movie really well, the audience will forgive just about anything questionable that came before." He's totally right about that in this slice-of-life film about newly retired Warren R. Schmidt (Jack Nicholson). In a typically bravura performance, Nicholson hides all of his charm and charisma to portray a doddering, listless, bored new retiree who's life is about to head further into the shitter. This movie suffers a bit due to the pacing, which is dead-stop at times, but otherwise it's wonderful. That's all I want to say, except be prepared to see Kathy Bates naked. It's not the easiest thing in the world.

Two Weeks Notice: 3 Stars. This is a cute little fluffy tale of opposites attracting, flawlessly acted by the always-great Hugh Grant, and the great-when-not-trying-to-stretch Sandra Bullock. Perfect date film. Nice to see Robert Klein's still got some stuff. No Oscar contention here, but it managed to squeak into my schedule this weekend.

03 December 2002

My ears are bleeding

Die Another Day: 3 Stars. Despite the truly dismal Madonna-sung theme, this film was a worthy addition to the Bond franchise. This 20th entry was a whole lot of fun, with all the gizmos, babes, and shaken martinis I've come to love. The addition of Halle Berry as Jinx started off a little rough, despite the coral-colored bikini she so ably wore, with some leaden dialogue, but she picked things up nicely once everyone visited Iceland and the action kicked into high gear. Overall, a quality flick with a good story and extra-fun bad guys. Kudos to Rosamund Pike as Miranda Frost, who managed to get hotter with every passing scene.

21 November 2002

Harry Potterrific

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: 3.25 Stars. Another faithful rendition of Joanne Rowling's superlative series hit the silver screen last weekend and made (not surprisingly) a ton of money. And, for the the most part, it earned it. This movie, like the book, isn't really for little kids, which, I suppose, is why I enjoy the series so much. It was especially nice to see the kids aging a bit, including the supporting cast like Seamus and Neville. I wish they could keep up the pace and do one of these a year; we could really watch all of them grow up, but it appears unlikely. Overall, I really enjoyed this flick. It was exciting, well-acted, and had decent dialogue. They, by necessity, had to cut out a bunch of stuff from the book, but the movie doesn't really suffer for it. Kenneth Branagh was especially fun to watch as Gilderoy Lockheart. I'd originally envisioned him as too old for the role, but he fit it perfectly. I also really enjoyed Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy. He clearly enjoyed playing malevolence personified. The only complaint I have is the sappy roundup at the end, with the cheering and the tears. I understand that the book ended similarly, but it works better in print than in melodrama. Perhaps Alfonso Cuarón (the director of the next film) will figure out a better way to depict it. Also, someone tell Rupert Grint to stop mugging for the camera or he'll have a pretty short career outside of the Harry Potter septology. Special kudos to Emma Watson, who is going to be a first-class hottie someday and will likely have the acting chops as well (à la Kate Winslet).

14 November 2002

I'm Sorry Mama

8 Mile: 2.75 Stars. Good flick, overall. Just didn't really move me emotionally. Eminem's a decent actor, especially with Mekhi Phifer picking up the slack. They went for a Rocky-like storyline of local bum makes good, but not too good. However, the climax wasn't set up well enough or executed well enough. Kudos to Kim Basinger for still having a marvelous ass.

Mr. Deeds: 1.5 Stars. Ugh. The only things worth watching in this movie were Winona Rider's luminous beauty and John Turturro's best character since Jesus in The Big Lebowski.

Road to Perdition: 3 Stars. Sam Mendes shows us that American Beauty wasn't just a fluke with this moody, dark tale of Irish mobster Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks). Unfortunately, the material doesn't rise quiet enough to the occasion...the story needed something more to get the audience emotionally involved. Paul Newman was his wonderful self, as was perennial stick-up-the-ass Dylan Baker. I doubt they could've underused Jennifer Jason Leigh more if they'd tried.

28 October 2002

Oops, forgot two...

Almost forgot the two films I saw in-flight last month.

Big Fat Liar: 0.5 Stars. I can see Malcolm in the Middle's Frankie Muniz being shanghaied into this turkey, but Paul Giamatti? He knows better. Pretty much dreck from beginning to end. Special kudos to the casting staff for bringing in American Pie MILF-lover John Cho. I love that guy.

The Rookie: 3 Stars. Just a quality, feel-good sports flick. I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that this is the highest grossing film that Dennis Quaid's ever done. I find that pretty amazing, for as long as he's been around.
I'm a Hounsou fan. Are you?

One Hour Photo: 2.5 Stars. I'm not really sure what story this picture was supposed to tell. I guess it's supposed to be a character study of a mild-mannered, obsessive, lonely man, Robin Williams, who is driven over the edge by various circumstances. All it did was creep me out, though.

The Four Feathers: 3 Stars. I'm not sure if this film benefitted from my low expectations (principally concerning lead/heartthrob Heath Ledger), but I found it a pretty darned entertaining story of two men, a woman, and the war in the Sudan in 1840s Britain. I think the director was trying to do an epic in the mold of The English Patient; in that, he failed. However, the story is solid on its own merits. The acting is solid, and the cinematography was superb. Special kudos to Djimon Hounsou for being the most charismatic black man in film today, even if he only gets beefy sidekick roles and guest-shots on ER. This guy was born to be the next Terminator. Are we reading, James Cameron?

15 October 2002

Back on Track

This weekend was more like it...3 more to the database:

Punch-Drunk Love: 3.5 Stars. There's not many actors that could've pulled off the role Adam Sandler played in this film. Fortunately, the role was written explicitly for him, and his "quiet, repressed" character that he's managed to cultivate in most of his comedies clearly is the template for this one. This is by all accounts a weird film, and at times overstylized (the visuals from ILM were particularly unnecessary), but this tale of troubled souls finding happiness is one of the surprises of the year. Further, it's evidence that Paul Thomas Anderson is honing his craft, much like Wes Anderson (no relation), and much unlike M. Night Shyamalan. Bonus points to Emily Watson for managing to be, well, just absolutely wonderful.

Red Dragon: 2.5 Stars. With a four-star cast like the one assembled for this film, it's a crime that I can only give it 2.5 stars. I can only lay the blame here on the screenwriter and the director (Brett Ratner, of Rush Hour fame). Edward Norton, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Watson, Ralph Fiennes, and Anthony Heald (a personal favorite) were their usual talented selves. Philip Seymour Hoffman was a bit of a disappointment, considering how good he was in Punch Drunk Love, but he didn't have much to work with. Basically, the story wasn't very compelling, wasn't very suspenseful, and was overly formulaeic (especially the end). If the source material wasn't up to snuff, it should've been over-tweaked by the screenwriter. If it was, the director should've done more with it, as Jonathan Demme did in The Silence of the Lambs. It'll make a fortune, but that doesn't make it good.

Spirited Away: 2.5 Stars. There's something about Japanese animation that lends itself to bad stories. Most of the heralded pinnacles of Anime have plot holes you could drive a Hummer through. It seems that they think that impressive visuals will cover for the shockingly incoherent directions that the tale takes. Spirited Away is no exception. At times it is visually amazing. At times the story is compelling. At times it's incoherent. At times it makes you start checking your watch. Overall I thought it was okay....it wasn't a waste of 2 hours. But it could've been so much better.

09 October 2002

About Friggin' Time

Finally caught up on a few flicks after my Burning Man adventure, the high holidays, and various activities with the new girlfriend....

Secretary: 2.75 Stars. I caught this little S&M comedy Friday afternoon, and I was pleasantly surprised that the director actually got it to work. Maggie Gyllenhaal was great as the wallflower/masochist who embraces James Spader's twisted, emotionally-repressed sadism. Spader was a bit wooden, but that's partially attributable to the character he was playing. Once they had built up the relationship between them, I cringed at the thought of some sort of rosy romance blooming, and the script also rejected such a saccharine ending in favor of one which was, for lack of a better word, more realistic. There were lots of problems, but it was a solid effort in an underrepresented genre.

Sweet Home Alabama: 3 Stars. There were no surprises in this film. You knew from the opening credits (hell, from the trailer) how this movie would wrap up, and it didn't disappoint. The hallmark of quality filmmaking in the sappy romantic comedy arena, though, is making such a predictable journey seem fresh and fun. Reese Witherspoon continues her climb to Julia Roberts-level fame and paychecks with a winning performance as an Alabama country girl whose turned her back on her roots (and her lout of a husband) and become a successful fashion designer in New York. When she returns to get a divorce to marry her handsome socialite boyfriend (an all-growed up Patrick Dempsey), the lout (a scruffy Josh Lucas) has cleaned himself up a bit and is so charming you wonder how he could've been such a dick 7 years ago. Chaos, romance, and a decent southern soundtrack follows until the inevitable conclusion. Overall, a solid film. Special kudos to Ethan Embry for a consistently scene-stealing performance.

The Tuxedo: 1.5 Stars. Jackie Chan can make movies till the end of time, and I'll still go watch him, but that doesn't mean I'll see his movies twice. He's pretty much wasted in this effects-laden bomb of a film. I come to watch him kick ass, not to watch him being suspended on wires or sped up to blurring speed in his special tux. Jennifer Love Hewitt should stick to movies that highlight her charm and beauty, not make her look as ridiculous as physicist Elizabeth Shue in The Saint. All involved should be embarassed.

Eight Legged Freaks: 2 Stars. I was talking to my peeps just the other day, saying, "Whatever happened to Cool Runnings star Doug E. Doug?" Turns out he made a crappy spider flick with über-silly David Arquette and über-hottie Kari Wuhrer. While I certainly enjoy watching Arquette and Wuhrer (albeit for different reasons), this seeming homage to classic B-movie horror films falls flat from the start and never really gets up. Even future-hottie Scarlett Johannson couldn't add much to help this turkey along.

21 August 2002

Overuse, of, commas.,

Clearly the folks at SoulTrain.com have to start using Ye Olde MS Worde Grammar Checker.

First, a little background. California high-school sophomore Rommel Zamora, unhappy with Soul Train's decision to award Ashanti their annual Aretha Franklin Lady of Soul Entertainer of the Year award, started up a webpetition to give it to his choice, India Arie. Folks liked the petition so much that it got a mention on BET and ended up with more than 18,000 web signatures. Then Soultrain.com got funky. In a response Zamora says was sent to him on August 9 from the Soultrain.com's Webmaster email address, the entertainment site alternately suggested that Zamora's Internet campaign be called, "I'm a fucking loser, I'm not talented or successful, I don't know shit about the music industry and I need to get a motherfucking life!!"

SoulTrain apparantly calmed down and decided to address the petition and the flood of emails they were getting. Then the commas started flying...(I'll include the full text here in case they get pulled later):

1. Please see our response to all e-mails received, recently, at this Web site, from persons wishing to address any issues surrounding a petition, the purpose of which, we have roundly expressed our opposition to.

It is our view that (with the exception of the majority of such e-mails received, which are in, full, support of our position) all such e-mailers should, not only be concerned but outraged, over the fact that a people, whose ancestry suffered 400 years of slavery, can be herded, so easily, into a, virtually, bottomless mud hole and be taught to sling such mud therein, on command, at parties who, essentially, mean them no harm, whatsoever.

Indeed, we at Soultrain.com, are very saddened to learn that, during an age when suicide terrorists have been able to level skyscrapers, in America, more than eighteen-thousand (18,000) mud-slinging, petition signers and a handful of, hateful and negative, e-mail writers, have nothing better to do with the precious time they all have left on Earth.

May we take this opportunity to make it very clear, that during an era when a number of Internet Web sites are visited or clicked onto by tens of millions of persons, worldwide, every single month and many, many TV outlets are viewed by tens of millions of viewers each day and each week, eighteen-thousand (18,000) responses to anything, on the worldwide Internet, cannot and must not be construed, in a relative sense, as a large number.

2. Why are the overall creative decision-making instincts and abilities and even, the integrity of the professionals who have crafted and guided Soul Train into becoming the longest running TV program, of any genre, in the entire history of American television’s first-run, national syndication programming category (i.e., Oprah, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, Hollywood Squares, the Arsenio Hall Show, and countless others) – being disrespected and challenged, so aggressively, by such a large group of individuals, having, virtually, no insight or information as to how "Soul Train people" have managed to accomplish their jobs and objectives, so effectively, for so many years?

Indeed, we were astonished to learn of the existence of such a large group of individuals, who are under the belief that they, as mere, although, extremely valued, music fans and record buyers, could even, imagine having an honest justification for, aggressively, challenging a, fairly, routine creative decision, made by people who have been, enormously, successful at making sound creative decisions, for more than three decades.

While not, in any way, intending to promote racism, we must concede that we are also, quite, amazed that such a large group of individuals, undoubtedly, mostly African-American, can be provoked toward such vivid expressions of disrespect and hateful speech (against a young, Black recording artist, as well as Soul Train), under the leadership of an individual whose foreign-sounding name (Rommel Zamora), may be an indication that he is not African-American.

Accordingly and regardless of whether Zamora is African-American or not, we are no longer angry over what has been a turmoil of insults. We remain, however, much saddened and we will, probably, never understand the psychology which breeds such mass Black-on-Black disrespect and hatred. Nonetheless, we will continue to pursue our original dream and to follow our own creative instincts, while remaining committed to an idea of resisting outside interference from those having a tendency to overvalue their personal opinions. A commitment, which we have, miraculously, succeeded in maintaining, for all of thirty-two (32), consecutive, years.

I'm not even bothering to take issue with the logically ridiculous and blatantly racist content. It's, the, commas, that, bother, me, the, most.,

13 August 2002

Network TV Sucks.

After watching the latest wonderful episode of the soon-to-be-cancelled Greg the Bunny, I have finally accepted that the folks who run the 4 major networks simply have no ability to accept original ideas and are just more comfortable rehashing whatever they see doing well on other networks. So now all we have are various incarnations of the "reality" show, where real folks, not actors or comedians, are shown being humiliated, starved, tortured, or whatever all for the hopes of making a quick buck and possibly breaking into show business. I can understand the motivation of the "contestants," and the morbid fascination of the watchers (who are the same folks who slow down to a crawl for accidents on the 405 and drop everything to watch a car chase through downtown LA), but what happened to telling a story? I'd rather watch Three's Company circa Jennilee Harrison than see whatever miniskirted, synthesized dreck they're serving up on American Idol. So keep cancelling great shows like Greg the Bunny and Family Guy, and I'll just go to cable for good and watch The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, and South Park.
Wait, this isn't porn!

xXx: 3 Stars. Vin Diesel is here, and clearly he's here to stay. Frankly, this movie was exactly what I'd hoped...good story, great stunts, beautiful women, and it basically rates as the best Bond film since True Lies (and if you want to call that an indictment of the Pierce Brosnan era, feel free...I miss Timothy Dalton). Vin was great as an extreme-sports athlete/political prankster forced into NSA servitude to avoid jailtime. He was believably intelligent, resourceful, and, yes, patriotic and seemed to be having a good time throughout. I look more forward to xXx-2 than to Die Another Day.

05 August 2002


Signs: 3 Stars. M. Night Shyamalan likes to take his time. He builds up the suspense, minute by minute, into a crescendo, when he releases it all at once. Or so he believes, anyway. This movie was saved by its last 30 minutes, which were just great, but for the first hour and change, I was so bored, it was all I could do to stop from fidgeting in my seat. Great performances all around, but Shyamalan needs a co-writer, or co-producer, or co-director, or someone, anyone, to help him out, rein him in, and make sure he doesn't sink into the destructive self-adulation that George Lucas is entrenched in and J.K. Rowling seems to be on the cusp of. Still, I walked out happy.

28 July 2002

71.5 Million Dollars Can't Be Wrong

Austin Powers in Goldmember: 2.5 Stars. I was really disappointed when I walked out of the theater after seeing this one, but, upon reflection, I remembered that I spent quite a bit of time laughing. It's not a great Austin Powers movie, but it didn't really need to be. Even a decent Austin Powers movie is better than most of the dreck that passes for comedy out there (see The Sweetest Thing review below). Mike Myers is probably the funniest guy alive, and when he struts his stuff, it's a wonder, and a pleasure, to behold. Here's to the next sequel...Live and Let Shag?

Minority Report: 4 Stars. Wow. Steven Spielberg is still the best director out there after almost 30 years, and he struts his stuff with authority in this masterful science fiction tale. Everyone's good in this one: Tom Cruise, Max von Sydow, and especially Samantha Morton, who's building quite a resume for herself with some of the better directors out there. Couldn't say enough good things about this one...so just go and see it. Now.

25 July 2002

I waited so long for this

The Emperor's New Clothes: 3 Stars. When I first saw the trailer for this film, I was totally hooked. The always excellent Ian Holm plays both Napoleon and the commoner chosen to replace him on Elba. Napoleon escapes to France, expecting his double to reveal himself as a fraud, which he never does. Then his double dies, leaving the real Napoleon wandering through Paris with the masses mourning their Emperor. Then he meets a girl.... What a wonderful premise for a movie, and it almost works. First, it's a bit slow at times. Second, choosing Iben Hjejle (from High Fidelity) as his female opposite was a mistake. While she's a solid actress, and undeniably beautiful, she's far too young to play his love interest. Other than that, it's a good script, a masterful performance by Holm, and a wonderful score by Rachel Portman. This, my dear readers, is why I go to the movies.

22 July 2002

Harrison's Starting to Show His Years

K-19: The Widowmaker: 3 Stars. Good, exciting submarine flick. It was fun to see the 61-year-old Indiana Jones star strutting his stuff as a tough Russian sub captain, complete with a decent accent. Why he chose to use an accent is a mystery, though, since no one else in the film bothered. I suspect we'll be getting more and more of these "inspired by actual events" stories as more and more of the Cold War's archives are opened.

15 July 2002

Playing a Little Catch-up

Lilo and Stitch: 3.25 Stars. It's about time Disney got back on the horse. This crazy romp is the best thing Disney's put out since The Lion King, and while it doesn't quite match the majesty of that grand film, it has lots of fun trying. Stitch is a riot, especially when he starts rolling around like Sonic the Hedgehog. Ving Rhames' character seems a bit misplaced, but he's fun to watch. Congrats to Tia Carrere and Kevin McDonald (from Kids in the Hall) for getting to work again.

Men in Black 2: 2.5 Stars. Unfortunately in movies, lightning rarely strikes twice. This film is no exception. It's fun and occasionally funny with great effects, but the story is a bit light and could use a few more minutes of screen time for exposition at the least (at less than 90 minutes, it hardly gets going before the world is saved). Props to Rosario Dawson for being as lovely as ever and to Lara Flynn Boyle for finally looking like she's having fun in a film (first time since Wayne's World, by my count...maybe Threesome, though.

Reign of Fire: 2.5 Stars. They had the makings for a really good movie here, and it started out pretty well, but it sort of lost itself about halfway through. The victory was too easy and with too little fanfare. I was hoping for grand battles between fighter planes and dragons, not seeing Christian Bale, Matthew McConaughey (whose goatee shortens and lengthens with alacrity), and Izabella Scorupco go at it alone against the uberbeast. The "dragon slaying" scene by McConaughey's men is freaking amazing...they just needed more.

18 June 2002

The year of the indie film?

The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys: 3.5 Stars. This is yet another wonderful independent film to come out this year, demonstrating that this may just be the year that smaller, independent films finally come into their own en masse and start to appeal to a larger audience (specifically not the goth, gay, or anti-George Lucas and James Cameron crowd). This gem focuses on the lives, both real and imaginary, of a quartet of Catholic school boys. Jena Malone is simply amazing as the object of one of the altar boy's affection, and Jodie Foster (who also produced) and Vincent D'Onofrio (son of my former high school video and drama teacher) display their considerable talent in supporting roles.

15 June 2002

Bad Identity

The Bourne Identity: 3 Stars. After all the lousy reviews I'd heard about this flick, I'd expected to see a pretty piss-poor bit of filmmaking, but Doug Liman, director of Swingers, has put together a taut, suspenseful, well-acted bit of popcorn entertainment, which is all I was hoping for. Here's hoping that Franka Potente finally gets noticed and gets a few tasty foreign-chick roles generally going to the far less talented (and less cute) Penelope Cruz.

Bad Company: 3 Stars. I think it's fair to say that my initial expectations of this were so low, that it succeeded in such a high score simply by being better than awful. On the other hand, maybe Chris Rock is finally becoming a decent actor, and maybe Joel Schumaker, under the thumb of uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, is capable of directing more than just crap. This is true popcorn filmmaking, true, but well-done, exciting, and most of all, fun. Kudos to Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon for being wholly hot.

12 June 2002

Seek You

CQ: 3 Stars. Entertaining, if sometimes uneven tale about aspiring "serious" filmmaker Jeremy Davies, his girlfriend, and the schlock sci-fi epic, Dragonfly, he's working on to pay the bills. Angela Lindvall is both stunning and luminous as Valentine and her secret-agent alter-ego, Dragonfly, and Billy Zane is, as always, fantastic as her nemesis, Mr. E.

06 June 2002

Can't sleep...

Insomnia: 4 Stars. I can't recall the last time I saw a movie with such a consistent atmosphere...although The Others comes close. Christopher Nolan proved that Memento was no fluke in this amazing, twisty tale of murder, corruption, betrayal, and sleep deprivation based on the Finnish film of the same name. In a familiar role as a seasoned cop that he could have phoned in, if he'd chosen to, Al Pacino simply shines, and Robin Williams is über-creepy as the murderer. Pretty much a flawless suspense thriller, with amazing cinematography to boot (check out the last scene if you doubt that).

03 June 2002

Andrew W.K.

So I saw this guy in concert on Friday night. I expected, no, wanted to loathe him, but on the contrary, I really, really enjoyed the show. He's loud and lowbrow, but very entertaining. His album, I Get Wet, is now in my car as I type.
This weekend's haul.

The Importance of Being Earnest: 2.75 Stars. Somewhat disappointing version of the Oscar Wilde Play. Great performances by Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Judi Dench, and Reese Witherspoon, but the story was a bit too light (even by Oscar Wilde standards) and uneven to hold my interest. Also, it loses an extra quarter-star because of an egregious editing error.

Undercover Brother: 3 Stars. This great comedy will be a franchise-builder for (sometimes) funnyman Eddie Griffin. Lando Calrissian, er, Billy Dee Williams was hysterical as a brainwashed Colin Powell-like character. I'm just hoping that Dave Chapelle, whose work I really enjoy, is toned down for the sequel....his "Conspiracy Brother" was more than a bit grating.

The Sum of All Fears: 3.5 Stars. Easily the best Tom Clancy film since The Hunt for Red October, and it was all the more harrowing in this (pardon the cliche) Post 9/11 World. The shots of my hometown Baltimore going up in a nuclear blast were particularly disturbing, especially in how well done they were. Special kudos to Ben Affleck for showing us all that he can act, and to the casting folks for giving Liev Schrieber a chance to shine as uber-spy John Clark.

20 May 2002

An English Trio...

About A Boy: 4 Stars. Wonderful adaptation of the book by Nick Hornby. About time a decent writer got some screen time. Great story, great acting, great directing by the Weitz brothers (of American Pie fame). Best English-language film of the year.

Enigma: 3.5 Stars. Love, sex, intrigue, double-crossing, and 40s-era technogeeks all play a part in this British wartime spy thriller. Another great story with stellar acting (especially in support by Jeremy Northam). I'm starting to think that foreign filmmakers are starting to overcome their American counterparts.

Gosford Park: 3 Stars. Finally caught this one at the local dollar theater, and was pleasantly surprised. It took awhile to figure out who was who, but once accomplished, this British aristocratic slice-of-live/murder mystery movie was rather fun to behold. Kudos again to Jeremy Northam for another great role in support, and here's hoping that Kelly MacDonald's considerable talents (and beauty) are oneday realized and rewarded.

16 May 2002

I gotta get me some of that

The Padme Amidala action figure is sure to become the poster girl for S&M clubs everywhere....I can't believe they actually got this one into production, not that I mind, of course. Be sure to check out the zoom-in pics.
By George, he's done it!

Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones: 3.5 Stars. I went to see the 12:02 showing last night (the 12:01 was sold out), and had some of the best seats I've ever had for a movie premiere. I've got to say that I totally loved this film. Yes, it had its problems, but they were contained, in my opinion, solely to the love story part (ugh, some of that dialogue, but at least the end result was believable). I thought the story was great, the acting was surprisingly solid, and the butt-kicking was the best since the lightsaber duel at the end of RotJ. Kudos to Christopher Lee for managing to get himself into two of the greatest movie series in history.

07 May 2002

Heavenly bodies

Spent about an hour last night watching the planetary conjunction....turns out that it's higher in the horizon than I'd been lead to believe. At about 8:15, way out in west Lancaster (just north of 90th West and Ave I, in case you were curious), pretty much the only things visible in the western sky were Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Saturn, and Mercury. It was a warm night, with a strong, cool breeze, and it was just about as close to heaven as I've been in quite some time. Made me wish I had someone to share it with, but, as always, I'm workin' on that ;).

06 May 2002

Another weekend, 3 more movies

Nine Queens: 4 Stars. Fantastic, gritty Argentinian conman film. You never know who's conning who till the end. Another real Spanish language treat in a year when the American fare is less than stellar.

Beauty and the Beast: SE: 4 Stars. Updated, remastered, and projected onto a GIANT screen, this true masterpiece of the Disney library shines in its re-release, clearly part of a multi-year plan as there was a trailer for the giant screen Lion King before this film. Disney's never done anything better, and it was a real treat to see it in such a stunning format.

Spider-Man: 3.5 Stars. Fantastic superhero movie from Sam Raimi. Great acting, amazing special effects, and the first original approach to a superhero since Tim Burton's Batman. Tobey Maguire is perfect as the tights-wearing webslinger, and Willem Dafoe does some fine work as the menacing, split-personality Norman Osborn/Green Goblin. Saw this one on the GIANT screen, too....I highly recommend it.

02 May 2002

Forgot one...

Big Trouble: 2.75 Stars. I really wanted to like this, which is probably part of why I was somewhat disappointed. The curse of high expectations. Great acting, great dialogue, and amazing pacing (this movie never slows down for more than a few seconds). Rene Russo also has to be the sexiest woman alive over the age of 40.
More and More movies

Still catching them en masse....

Y Tu Mamá También: 4 Stars. Amazing road-trip, coming-of-age, wild sexual fantasy movie. Tons of sex for both boys and girls to enjoy. Great performances, great story, great dialogue (even subtitled). Didn't much care for the voiceover technique (turning off all other sound in favor of the dialogue), but that wasn't enough to detract from thie wonderful film.

Death to Smoochy: 2 Stars. Some snappy dialogue and decent acting can't save this turkey. The story's just too damned weak.

Life, or Something Like It: 3.5 Stars. Angelina Jolie and Edward Burns shine in this predictable romantic comedy. Nice to see Jimmy Eat World getting some movie soundtrack work.

Jason X: 2.25 Stars. Not a good film, but certainly an entertaining, over-the-top horror. Got an extra half star for an inspired sleeping-bag beating on the holodeck towards the end.

Van Wilder: 2.75 Stars. Nice little throwback to the early 80s comedies no one seems to know how to make any more. Ryan Reynolds seems to be channeling Jason Lee here, but that's not a bad thing. Tara Reid is watchable, which is nice for a change. More props to the soundtrack team for more Jimmy Eat World.

The Scorpion King: 2.5 Stars. One of the biggest surprises of the year, this movie was actually pretty good and very entertaining. Sort of a Conan-esque fantasy smash-up with a great, charismatic lead in The Rock and a hot babe in Kelly Hu. What more could you ask for? My main man Jimmy wants y'all to know he thought this movie was pretty much the worst thing since vegemite.

15 April 2002

Weekend Movie Reviews

Had a busy weekend catching the latest on the silver screen:

Human Nature: 3 Stars. This quirky comedy from the writer of Being John Malkovich is not for everyone, especially those who are repulsed by (temporary) excessive female body hair.

Ice Age: 3 Stars. I was a little late seeing this cute animated comedy, but it was worth the delay. The brief interludes with a squirrellike creature were worth the price of admission alone.

Frailty: 2.5 Stars. Bill Paxton's acting suffered considerably as a result of his commendable performance behind the camera. This thriller with the requisite twists at the end (one predictable, the other two surprises) was diminished by the curse of unintended comedy. Laughter was heard throughout the theater every time Paxton uttered the word "demon."

Changing Lanes: 2 Stars. The two guys in this film consistently choose the most complex, herculean efforts to get even with one another after a morning fender bender screws up both of their lives. But they both are better people for it 12 hours later.

The Sweetest Thing: 0.5 Stars. Worst film of the year thus far. The There's Something About Mary-style humor with girls instead of guys fails miserably, despite the charisma of Cameron Diaz and Christina Applegate, who seems to be undergoing a long-delayed career resurgence. This film won't help.

03 April 2002

Quiet Day

Save for the dumbass college student riots on the news last night, all I did was catch up on watching Six Feet Under, which has now surpassed The Sopranos as my favorite show. Blessedly, there was an entire episode without Claire's dipshit boyfriend, who's so annoying that even his Hyundai commercials make me want to throw a shoe at the TV.

02 April 2002

Quick Movie Review

Panic Room: 3 Stars. Decent thriller by uber-dark and suspenseful director David Fincher (of Seven, Fight Club, and Alien 3). Weak plot and somewhat lame climax (I imagine several scenarios were shown to test-audiences) are saved by great performances by Jodie Foster and Forrest Whittaker. Goes from 2.5 to 3 Stars thanks to amazing opening credits.