20 May 2003

A Quintet of Love

Five, yes five movies from last Thursday to Saturday....let's just say it was a long week at work by Wednesday, and I needed to decompress....

The Matrix Reloaded: 3 Stars. I actually enjoyed this one a bit more than the original. That's not saying a ton, however, since I wasn't one of those huge Matrixphiles. I felt it was a good film, with a lousy performance by one of the most overrated and overpaid men in film today. Sadly, this film will only further Keanu's career as a bankable leading man. Basically, this movie continues where the first left off....the humans are battling the robots and their übermachine/brain/slaver, the Matrix, and ends with less of a cliffhanger than the trailer would have you believe. It's a good, stylish sci-fi film, full of philosophical ramblings on the relationships between man and machine (which aren't as tedious as they sound). Fortunately, Keanu plays the superhero role for most of the film, and we're spared his pontificating most of the time. Decent performances by all other characters, including Carrie-Anne Moss (who I hope appreciates how lucky she is) and Laurence Fishburne. The special effects are simply amazing, easily worth the price of admission alone. Kudos to Jada Pinkett-Smith for actually not being fingernails-on-chalkboard annoying.

Down With Love: 3 Stars. Another film heavy on style and light on all else, Down pits lothario journalist Catcher Block (Ewan MacGregor) against librarian-turned-author Barbara Novak (Renée Zellweger). Novak has written a bestselling tome telling women to forsake love and live by sex and chocolate alone. Block blows off a few interviews with her to shag some sexy stewardesses, and is forever placed on Novak's shit list. Then he decides to pretend to be a dumb, unsophisticated, hick astronaut to get Novak to fall for him. Fairly standard plot. Fairly unusual resolution. The last ten minutes or so turn the genre on its ear, and I'm not entirely sure that was a good move, although I didn't mind it so much (my librarian girlfriend, also Barbara, was less forgiving). MacGregor turns in a standard stellar performance, dripping with charisma. Zellweger is watchable, but I've never been a huge fan of hers except for Bridget Jones. David Hyde Pierce is clearly typecast, but I don't think anyone minds.

Bend it Like Beckham: 3 Stars. This cute indie about a Britishized Indian girl who just wants to play soccer is being talked about as the next Greek Wedding. No disrespect to anyone involved, but while it's a good film, it ain't gonna make $200M. I'm actually a bit disappointed that they played the romantic card so much in this film....the soccer angle was compelling enough without muddling the waters with a romantic duo lacking in chemistry. That said, I really enjoyed Beckham. The lead, Jess (Parminder K. Nagra), is like a bratpacker reborn....lovely, talented, and confused. She wants to play soccer. Her traditional and religious Sikh parents want her to find a man like her sister did. Chaos (comedic and otherwise) ensues. It wraps up like a John Hughes movie, but there's nothing wrong with that. Kudos to the lovely, talented, and smokin' hot Keira Knightley, who was clearly wasted as Padme's double in The Phantom Menace.

Identity: 3 Stars. It's not often I'm completely befuddled in a horror film, but this one managed it for about 85 of its 100 minutes. Folks were dying. I had no idea why, or who was doing it. All I knew was that Liotta wasn't a cop. Overall, this was a pretty clever film, and its smartest move was putting together such a talented cast to perform it. Liotta, John Cusack, Clea DuVall, John C. McGinley, Alfred Molina, Rebecca DeMornay (looking boobalicious) and (personal fave) Pruitt Taylor Vince all shine in their roles, and Amanda Peet is actually more than just eye candy, which is nice to see. Kudos to McGinley, for the best death scene since Daniel Stern got offed in Very Bad Things.

Yep, that's 4 3-star films in a row. Guess I got lucky. But I saved the best for last.

Holes: 3.25 Stars. If this film were a bit less predictable, it'd be 3.5 stars, but it got to where it was a bit hokey towards the end. Holes is marketed as a kids film, but if this story of kids stuck at a juvenile reform camp is rated PG, there's no reason at all for The Matrix Reloaded to be rated R. Clearly Disney has more pull with Jack Valenti than the Wachowski brothers. While this movie takes place during the wrongful imprisonment of Stanley Yelnats IV (Shia LaBeouf), the eras of his great-grandfather Stanley Yelnats and his great-great-grandfather Elya Yelnats are well-represented. The result is kind of a mixed-genre fantasy. Elya lives in the old country (Lithuania), a land steeped in mysticism. Stanley I inhabits the old west. Stanley IV is isolated in a world with only children, save the cruel Warden (Sigorney Weaver) and her henchmen (Jon Voight and Tim Blake Nelson). These stories interweave, along with a seemlingly unrelated story arc starring schoolteacher Kate Barlow (Patricia Arquette), to introduce the viewer to the Yelnats family curse and how it has affected the generations of men. It's a Disney film, though, so of course it will have a happy ending. It's the getting there that's all the fun. This is probably the best kids film I've seen in years, but I don't know if I'd want young kids to see it...it's pretty violent at times. Kudos to Henry Winkler (yes, the Fonz) for figuring out how to act outside of Adam Sandler films.

11 May 2003

Dude, Nightcrawler is soooooo cool!

X-Men 2: 3 Stars. By its very nature, the X-Men franchise will suffer the same problem that the Batman films have -- too many people, not enough screen time for any of 'em. That's especially true with this newest film by Bryan Singer. With such a bang-up cast of some of the best actors working today (Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Anna Paquin, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, Alan Cumming, Brian Cox, etc...), it was inevitable that everyone had to play in the same sandbox, and, when it's over, you wished they all had a little more to do. That said, this was a heck of a fun film. Alan Cumming stole the show with his portrayal of the teleporter, Nightcrawler. Both his acting and the effects they gave to his character were simply awesome. I'd like to see him get his own film out of this -- although with the 8 hours of makeup needed to suit him up, I doubt that'll happen. Anyway, not too much to say. Good story, good dialogue, good acting. Just a fun film. Go out and see it.
And Cheers!

Either the voters in Barstow, California are just doing a bang-up job with their elected officials, or the officials are doing a good job hiring their staffs, but the folks in the Barstow City Hall are just about the nicest bunch of civil servants I've ever had the pleasure of dealing with. About 2 days after I returned from France, I managed to lose my passport, and since I'm going to Toronto in June, I needed to get a new one. Since the office in Lancaster is open an oh-so-convenient 9:30am-1:30pm, I decided to use the Barstow office en route to my brother's bachelor party in Vegas. According to their website, they are closed from 12-2pm, but when I showed up at 1pm, everyone was home and just as pleasant as can be. The nice woman at the desk informed me that I needed to make an appointment to get a passport. Crestfallen, I explained that the website mentioned nothing about an appointment. She tells me to hang on, and rings up the City Clerk, JoAnne Cousino, who, while busy, agreed to let me file my passport paperwork (which I'd already brought and filled out, to her delight). So she swears me in, dots the i's and crosses the t's, and I'm on my way!

Thanks so much!