FAVORITE MOVIES FOR 2010
2. Toy Story 3
3. The King's Speech
4. The Town
5. Kick Ass
6. The Social Network
7. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hollows (Part 1)
8. True Grit
9. Art of the Steal
Special Mention: Monsters, Never Let Me Go, The Fighter
FAVORITE MOVIES FOR 2009
1. The Hurt
2. Star Trek
4. In The Loop
7. The Hangover
8. Good Hair
9. Anvil! The Story of Anvil
FAVORITE MOVIES FOR 2008
2. Slumdog Millionaire
3. The Wrestler
4. Let The Right One In
5. Curious Case of Benjamin Button
7. Dark Knight
8. The Visitor
9. Iron Man
10. In Bruges
Special Mention: The Bank Job, Man On Wire, JVCD, Tropic Thunder, Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay
FAVORITE MOVIES FOR 2007
1. Before The
Devil Knows You're Dead
2, Gone Baby Gone
4. Eastern Promises
FAVORITE MOVIES FOR 2006
2. Children Of Men
3. The Departed
4. The Proposition
5. The Illusionist
Below are some random movie reviews I've written in the past year or two (unfortunately I didn't save previous ones). Everything is ranked on a scale of zero to four stars. (I'm pretty tough - three star movies are very good, in my world. 4 star movies are classics.)
August 21, 2009
I Love You Man - Enjoyable comedy about "bromance" (ok, the only time I'm ever going to use that word - I hate it!). The setup - man realizes that he has no best friend/man for his upcoming wedding, so he goes out to find one. A lot of movie cliches get thrown around (the "man-child", the "gay guy", the "desperate girlfriend", the "bonding through music", etc.). But it's salvaged by some decent writing, and likeable lead characters. 2.5 stars.
Valkyrie - A very professionally made movie, with no obvious flaws. But it also never gets very engaging. Part of that problem goes to Tom Cruise. I'm not a Cruise-basher like so many people - I like him in some movies, disappointed with him in others. This is one of the latter, where I feel like I'm watching an actor, not a real character.
Points do go to director Bryan Singer, who somehow manages to wring some suspense out of the story, even when we already know the final outcome. That's a pretty good feat in itself! And the movie looks great as well, kudos to the cinematographer. Overall, could have been better, but could have been worse. 2.5 stars.
House Bunny - Basically, this is a barely-updated re-telling of 'Revenge of the Nerds'. And if you liked that one, then you'll probably enjoy this movie as well. Same recycled characters as 20 years ago. The "loser" sorority sisters who are actually hotties-in-waiting? Check! The preppy/nasty/stuck-up competing sorority? Check! The clueless college administrators? Check!
Despite all this, I actually found myself very entertained. It had the same innocence and good nature as its predecessor. And a good part of the credit goes to Anna Farris as the homeless Playboy Bunny (kicked out of the Mansion for being too old at 27). She just throws herself so fully into the role, with no self-conciousness at all, that I totally bought into it. She was just too fresh and earnest to hate. And let's face it, it doesn't hurt that she looks so good in the little schoolgirl outfit.
I'm not so sure I need to own this on Blu-Ray or anything, it's probably not the kind of comedy you'd watch over and over again. But if you're looking for something that you can just sit back and relax with for 100 minutes, this would do just fine. 2.5 stars.
August 19, 2009
Kings - It's so good, you knew it never had a chance.
This is a television series with depth and ingenuity too rarely seen on television. It might not be quite as amazing as 'The Wire' or 'Dexter', but the ambition it has should be noted and rewarded; unfortunately, ambitious and unique shows rarely find the audience they deserve, especially on network television. (see 'Pushing Daisies')
'Kings' at times reminds me of 'Star Trek', in the way they take an alternate universe and use it in a way to make commentary on today's society. So much is touched upon, from war (secret, invited incursions into 'enemy' territory recall current events in Pakistan) to social issues (universal healthcare - will it overcrowd our hospitals, or save many more lives - or both?). Gay rights, the nature of celebrity, the wielding of corporate power, also touched upon. And of course religion, which is a major factor in the storyline (essentially a modern-day telling of the David and Goliath story.)
With its palace intrigue, double-crossings, and the questionable motives of some characters, this is a drama that's more Shakespearean than soap opera. It can't help by remind one of 'Deadwood' or the writing of Aaron Sorkin, with its flowery, uncynical speech. And I'm a complete sucker for that.
In some small way, I'm glad the show didn't last - this allowed it to have a definitive arc to the storyline; I can't help but imagine this was better overall, as it might have gotten too soap-y over an extended run. But even within its short run, it got better as it went on. My early misgivings about the acting of the young couple of David (Christopher Egan) and Michelle (Allison Miller) was mitigated somewhat, as they seemed to find some depth to their roles. The only real weakness was Macaulay Culkin's scheming-cousin character, which got pushed aside in the rush to tie up all the loose ends.
I'll miss this show. Every time I tuned in, I was instantly transported to another place. I'm not sure I'd want to live there, but I loved watching their story. 4-stars!
Katyn - I gotta tell you, Poland was not a great place to be in 1939. You had the Germans on one side (pretty evil) and the Russians on the other (not much better). This is the true, moving story of the massacre of 22,000 Polish officers by the Russians - who then tried to pawn the deed off on the Germans for the next five decades. The story is not just of the killings, but also the repercussions afterward for the survivors. Disturbing and compelling. 3.5 stars (Nominated for Best Foreign Film in 2007)
Coraline - Awesome visuals dominate this movie, but I wasn't totally enthralled with it. The lead character of Coraline wasn't really all that nice, and it was hard to cheer for her, or even like her very much. I thought the only standout character was the 'Other Mother', voiced by Teri Hatcher (who oddly enough did the real mother as well, but that was less interesting to me). 2.5 stars
War Inc. - Had some amusing moments, but overall this satire misses the mark. For every memorable scene (such as the artificial-leg line dance and the "virtual embedding") there are five more that fall flat. Marisa Tomei looks as great as she always does but is asked to do little; and John Cusack reprises his Grosse Point Blank character, but with far lesser effect. The only surprise was Hilary Duff, who I only know as being a Disney singer - couldn't name a single song - but did a half-decent job as the local wanna-be diva. I really wanted to like this, but just can't really recommend it very highly. 1.5 stars
Night at Museum 2 - Not a bad little comedy, better than expected. This was the perfect airplane movie - nothing to upset my fellow passengers, and made the trip go by quicker. And I'm just becoming such a huge fan of Amy Adams - she's our new Rosalind Russell. They should remake 'His Girl Friday' just so she can star in it! 2.5 stars
Angels & Demons - Ugh. Even worse than the first one, which wasn't that good to begin with. How can the team of Ron Howard and Tom Hanks go so wrong? Dunno, but this was barely watchable. Such a shame, because this was the better of the two books, and the setting is great to look at. 1-star
Poultrygeist - My very first time seeing a Troma movie! About what I expected, I guess. Even with a 15 minute intro and a total run-time of 103 minutes, this was still way too long. Most of the songs needed to be cut down (or cut out completely, imo). But there were some laughable moments - mostly whenever the movie goes so over the top that it becomes silly. I mean, why use a quart of blood when you have 10 gallons just sitting there? Funny enough to watch once, but no need to ever revisit it. 2-stars
Anvil - An all-too-real documentary of the heavy-metal band Anvil, and their struggle to "make it". What these well-meaning man-children don't realize is that they aren't famous for a reason - they're really not very good. But their self-delusion is almost admirable, and leads you to have sympathy for them as they embark on a European tour, only to be playing to clubs with 10 people in the audience, getting stiffed by clubowners, and being left on the platform with no tickets to the sold out train. On one segment, they are booked into an arena that hold 10,000 people, and then only 174 show up. Ouch! Partly sad and partly funny - often at the same time - this is a poignant documentary of friendship and resilience that even non-metal fans will appreciate. 4-stars!
Sunshine Cleaning - I thought I was going to be watching another 'quirky indie' movie, similar to 'Little Miss Sunshine', with which it shares producers and co-star Alan Arkin. Actually, while still very funny in places, it ended up being much more dramatic than expected, and a nice little film about family and growing up. Starring my new favorite actress, a dressed-down Amy Adams, and Emily Blunt as her irresponsible younger sister, it follows their adventures as they start their own business, cleaning up crime scenes. The ride takes them on several side roads, including class reunions and a strange friendship with Mary Lynn Rajskub ("Chloe" of '24'). The overall feel reminds me of another movie I loved last year - 'Waitress'. Maybe not a wall-to-wall laugh riot, but tender and memorable, and still enough smiles to make you walk out happy. 3.5 stars
Knowing - Boy, I had low expectations for this. It got pretty hammered by the critics (except Ebert, who gave it four stars?!?) And the plot sounded like 'National Treasure'(help Nicolas Cage unravel the mystery!) meets 'Next' (Nic Cage does sci-fi!). And both those movies really sucked. Maybe I should have trusted director Alex Proyas more. After all, he did make a true 4-star classic with 'Dark City'; and while this movie may not be in that class, it is an above-average sci-fi/horror/thriller.
While the end-of-the-world storyline is okay, there are a few things that lift this up above the mundane. There is a horrific plane crash; then a little while later there is an equally harrowing train crash. There's the creepy men in the forest, right out of 'Dark City'. And there's the fact that the ending isn't completely Hollywood-ized. Plus, there's the added little bonus that it's supposedly set in Boston, so we can have fun with the geography ("how did he park in the Copley garage and then walk into the Museum of Science?").
I can sit and nitpick at this all day long, but honestly, what's the point? As long as you go in with lowered expectations, you can expect those expectations to be met, you can enjoy the good scenes and laugh t the bad ones, and you won't feel you've wasted the past 2 hours of your life.
I watched this on a double-bill with 'Transformers 2'. I thought that movie would be fun and entertaining, while 'Knowing' might be barely watchable. Who knew that the exact opposite would be true? 'Transformers 2' couldn't even meet my low expectation, while 'Knowing' was far better than expected! 2.5 stars
Watchmen - This action movie sins in the worst possible way - it's boring! There's no sense of fun anywhere (see 'Iron Man'), and the action sequences are dull and predictable (has no one seen the 'Kill Bill' movies? They came out years ago!). Even the acting was pretty stilted - I thought Rorschach was pretty decent, but everyone else was bland, bland, bland.
I dunno - maybe it doesn't help that I never read the comic book (excuse me, "graphic novel"). I wonder if this is what it was like for outsiders to watch 'Lord of the Rings'? In which, for me, it was ultra-cool to all my favorite characters come to life, and I loved every entrance and how faithful it was to the book; I was just overwhelmed. Maybe this movie does that for 'Watchmen' fans, I dunno. But for me, I couldn't wait for the end. 1-star
(The disparity between die-hard fans and everyone else might also explain why the IMDB rating is a very high 7.9, but metacritic is significantly lower at 56)
Terminator: Salvation - Boy, this got hammered by most critics. But I don't know what the problem was - I know it's pretty grim from start of finish, and it doesn't have the humor of the earlier Terminator flicks. But I thought this was really well done, and that both Christian Bale and especially Sam Worthington did a fine job, the story moved along quickly for a 2-hour movie, and there were enough twists and turns to keep me interested throughout. Besides, how can you not love a movie who's leading babe is named Moon Bloodgood (REAL name, not her character!)I think it was unfairly maligned because of the high budget and Bale's on-set rant; but taken as a straight sci-fi action movie, it’s pretty darn good! 3-stars
Race to Witch Mountain - I saw the previews for this, and thought that it looked like it might be nice escapist fun. I also realized it had the potential to be quite terrible. Luckily, it leaned more towards the former than the latter. Quick recap - two alien children have crash landed on earth, and need to get back to their spaceship - currently in the hands of secret arm of the military - or everyone on the planet will die. They enlist a Vegas cab drive (Dwayne Johnson) and a babe scientist (Carla Gugino) to help out. This is decent entertainment, provided you don't think too much, and instead sit back and enjoy the ride. Don't harp on the plot holes, or grind your teeth at the clichéd government baddies, or roll your eyes at the obvious sequel setup. Hey, if you wanted "art", you wouldn't be watching this in the first place, right? It delivers what you expect, and that's more than I can say about some of this summer's blockbusters (and yes, I'm talking to you, "Transformers 2"). BTW, this is a remake of a 1975 Disney movie, but I never saw it and can't comment on any similarities or make any comparisons. 2.5-stars
Alien Trespass - Absolutely hilarious send-up of 1950's monster movies. If you ever watched Creature Double Feature as kid, or loved movies like 'The Blob' and 'Them!" as much as I do, then you'll love this flick as well. It looks great, and I love all the nice little touches (i.e. separate twin beds for the married couple; or how the husband has one foot on the floor when they do sleep together). 3-stars
Finishing the Game - Amusing mockumentary. The setup: Bruce Lee recorded 12 minutes of a new movie before dying. The studio wants to hire a double to finish the project. This is a documentary of those auditions, where we meet varying prospective Bruce Lees (some who look like him, some... not so much.) 2.5-stars
Hurt Locker - One of the year's best films, this follows a team of GIs in Iraq whose job is to defuse and/or detonate potential bombs. Incredibly taut and scary, particularly when you think about the fact that there are hundreds of soldiers still doing this same job right now. 4-stars!
As a side note - I was on a whale watch this week and started talking with the volunteer naturist, Jason. He had just come back from two tours in Iraq, doing this exact job. He said that of 198 men in his outfit, 196 had been wounded. (Including himself - 90% deaf in one ear from an IED blast.) He also said that the outfit was now being re-deployed to Afghanistan. I asked him if he has seen 'The Hurt Locker' yet, and he hadn't; but a lot of his comrades had, and they all raved about it. That alone should be enough of an endorsement - go see this movie!!!
The Hangover - Funniest movie of the year, hands down! I remember seeing 'Knocked Up' in a crowded theater in Chicago, and thought it was one of the funniest movies ever. But seeing it again at home, I thought it was okay, but not The Greatest Comedy of the Decade like it seemed in the packed movie house.
'The Hangover', on the other hand, was just as funny when watched at home, and it didn't need a crowd to egg me on. I'm sitting in my basement and laughing uproaringly into an empty room! And not caring!!
Basic premise - four guys go to Vegas for a bachelor party. They wake up, and no one remembers what happens, and the groom is missing. What follows is kind of 'Memento'-meets-Judd-Apatow-movie, as they try to trace the clues that will lead them to their friend. And don't even ask how Mike Tyson and a tiger get involved! 4-stars!!
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - Just as bad as all the reviews have said. I really enjoyed the first one, it was great summer escapism. But this follow-up just meanders from one sequence to the next, with no attention paid to plot or characters. Even the humor seems canned, and the young lead actors are already phoning it in. 1-star.
24 (Season 7) - A surprisingly enjoyable season. Let's face it, this series really should have run its course by now. How many near deaths can Jack survive? How many government conspiracies can there be? And yes, there are a few times that it's a bit preposterous (i.e. the storming of the White House???). But complaining about such things is like complaining that water is wet - you knew that going in, so what else did you expect?
The first episodes were my favorite, as it had a "let's put the band back together" feeling. "Looks, there's Jack! And Bill and Chloe! And Tony! - hey, wasn't he dead?" The middle bogged down a bit, but then the last 4-5 episodes picked back up. The best part of '24' is guessing who the traitors are, and who's on the up-and-up. They did a good job of camouflaging the bad guy(s), and it came as a shock even to me when the turnabout was played. Cool!
Basically, if you like the show, then you'll like Season 7, it an above average version of the same things you've seen since 2001. If you don't like the show, then this won't convert you (but then again, nothing probably will). 3-stars
February 23, 2009
Che (Part 1) - Interesting biography of a seminal figure in Cuban history,
of which I know very little about. This is a true epic - well over 4 hours long
- and it moves slowly in telling its tale. I have to say though that it's a
little low in the drama department. It's a surprisingly dry telling of his
life, at least so far. Strong acting and directing, but I still feel like I
don't know the man, at least not yet. Maybe I shouldn't judge too much before
seeing Part 2. 3-stars
Frozen River - Unlike 'Wendy and Lucy', for me this movie completely succeeds in telling the story of people who live on the economic fringe of society. Melissa Leo has been getting a lot of attention for her lead role (and deservedly so), but kudos also have to go to her co-star, Misty Upham, who matches her desperation and desire for a better life (at least one where they can afford food for their children). There's an especially harrowing scene involving a bag in the back of a car - won't give anything away, but that scene will definitely stick in my mind. I watched this because it won Best Female Lead at the Independent Spirit Awards (and was nominated for 6 others, including Best Feature) Completely lived up to and exceeded expectations. I'm actually pretty surprised that Melissa Leo didn't win the Oscar, she was truly that good. 4-stars!
February 19, 2009
What Just Happened? - This Hollywood satire misses out on the first rule of comedy - be FUNNY! Yeah, there are a few chuckles on occasion, but for the most part all the "inside" jokes just fall flat. There are some great send-ups of the film industry out there ('Get Shorty', 'State and Main', 'Living in Oblivion', and so many more). This is not one of those movies. Redeemed slightly by the ever-wonderful Catherine Keener. But Bruce Willis is terribly miscast, and even the usually stellar talents of John Turtturo, Sean Penn, and Robin Wright Penna all go for naught. 1.5 stars
Appaloosa - I tried watching this several weeks ago, and it just never grabbed me. I'm still not sure why, or what the problem was at the time. I ended up turning it off about 30 minutes in. But after reading many positive reviews, and taking the advice of friends, I gave it another shot - and I'm glad I did. Whatever issues I had the first time around weren't even apparent on my second viewing. I'm still not the biggest fan of Renee Zellweger, but Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen more than make up for that. Essentially this is the story of a friendship, and the "western" is just the backdrop - it could just as easily be translated to medieval knights or modern cop movie. But with it's nicely understated acting, beautiful cinematography, and minimalist dialogue, it works really well. While this might not be quite up to par with some recent classic westerns ('3:10 to Yuma', 'Open Range', 'Proposition'), it's still quite enjoyable with some memorable moments. 3-stars
February 14, 2009
Started out slowly for me, as I felt like I was watching Philip Seymour Hoffman
and Meryl Streep act, rather than feeling like they
were the actual characters. But as the movie moved along, I did find myself
slowly giving in to the story (and the performances). Amy Adams is adequate in
the third lead role, but the movie is almost stolen away by Viola Davis (even
though she's only on screen for about 8-10 minutes). The film certainly raises
good points that we still grapple with today - personal certainty versus actual
proof (ie. Bush administration and WMD's). The
biggest misstep in the movie for me comes in the very last scene, which I won't
give away, but to me seemed very out of character and weakened the whole movie.
Married To The Mob - Jonathan Demme film that I had never seen before, even though it was released back in 1988. Might have been funnier at the time, but the cliches don't really hold up well through today, especially after having shows such as the Sopranos give us an idea of what a mob wife's life might really be like. 2 stars.
Dark City - Very cool sci-fi-noir flick from 1998, where humans are the rats in some weird experiment. Hadn't seen this one in quite a while, and was glad to see that it still held up to multiple viewings. And I love the look of this film, which comes across great on Blu-Ray. 3.5 stars
Milk - Howard Milk is certainly a very admirable character, but I didn't find him to be very likeable. He seemed selfish and somewhat grandstanding. But then, maybe that's the point of the film, to show him as he truly was - an individual who was a hero to the community, while being a normal, fallible human being at the same time. And on that level, this is an amazing success. Sean Penn completely disappears into and shines in the lead role, and James Franco should also be noted for his strong supporting role. In fact, the only disappointment isn't with the movie itself - it's with the realization that 30 years later, gays are still fighting to assert and keep their civil rights. 4 stars!
RocknRolla - The latest from Guy Ritchie, who is now repeating himself. This movie was really good when it was called 'Lock Stock and Two Smoking Guns'. And it was even better when it was called 'Snatch'. But now the formula is tired. 2 stars
Flash of Genius - Interesting story, made in a less-than-compelling movie. A basic David-and-Goliath theme, this is the true story of the man who invented the intermittent windshield wiper, only to have his idea stolen by Ford. In pursuing "justice", he loses his job and family and his sanity. The story is competently told, but predictable even if it is true. And although I've like Greg Kinnear in many of his previous roles, he just does not have the gravitas to pull this one off. 2 stars
January 29, 2009
Taken - Disappointing vigilante film that wastes a great actor like Liam Neeson. I'm sorry, but he just doesn't cut it as an action hero. And in this day of great action movies like the Bourne Trilogy or 'Casino Royale', or even 'Shoot 'Em Up', there's no reason for this film to be as lame as it actually is. 1-star.
Changeling - Here's a movie that had potential for greatness, but ended up being just good. The greatness comes from Clint Eastwood as director, along with great cinematography and a strong backing cast. The letdown comes from casting Angelina Jolie in the lead role - while she actual does a decent job, and is better than I expected, her performance still isn't strong enough to carry the film. With a different actress, this could have been in the same league as the great 'Mystic River'. Instead, it's a good, but not great, film. 3-stars.
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist - Light, fun teen-romance comedy. The only thing that annoyed me was the fact that the leads are supposed to be high-school students, but talk and act like they're 10 years older. I mean, how do 17-year-olds go clubhopping in NYC on a regular basis, at least often enough where they know everyone and everyone seems to knows them? Not to mention the loser musician that is dating the jailbait-aged Norah. Despite these questions (and others), if you don't think about it too much, and just sit back and relax, it's an enjoyable movie to watch, and it was the perfect flick to watch on an airplane, as I did. 2.5 stars.
Wendy and Lucy - This is the other movie I watched on the plane ride (on a double feature with Nick and Norah). Wonderfully depressing movie, about a aimless loner with no money, no job and no personality. I had a hard time feeling empathy for the lead character, which means I had hard time liking this film. Michelle Williams does a terrific job conveying the desperation and loneliness of Wendy's life, and her minimilist acting is pitch-perfect for the role. I wish I could swap her out with Jolie in the 'Changeling' - one is a great movie with a decent actress, while this is a mediocre film with a great performance. Oh well. 3.5 stars for Michelle Williams, 2 stars for the movie, we'll average that out 2.5 stars overall.
Bolt - Animated Disney movie that has fun with a 'Truman Show' plot, except Truman in this case is a dog who's whole life is based around a TV show in which he stars. This was another movie that was perfect for an plane ride, and it had enough adult humor to keep me entertained throughout. 3-stars.
The Last Templar - First off, let me put in a disclaimer. I really like Mira Sorvino. Not only do I think she's smoking hot, but I like her as an actress as well. I liked her in good movies like 'Mighty Aphrodite', and in bad ones like 'Mimic'. And I think 'Replacement Killers' is a four-star movie, one of my all-time favorite action flicks. I was even glad to see her as a guest star on 'House' last season! Despite all of this interest, I have to admit that I couldn't even get through the first 15 minutes of this TV mini-series. Such a shame - Mira still looks fantastic, but the lame dialog and cheesy directing meant I couldn't even get past the opening action scene. What a waste... Zero stars.
January 17, 2009
Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Wonderous movie that captivated me from the get-go. Which surprised me a bit, since I wasn't overly interested in seeing it, despite the rave reviews. Boy, I was wrong. It's been a long time for me that a 2-1/2 hour movie has gone by so quickly - with so many movies today, I get antsy around the 1-hour mark. Not this one - with it's superb acting and special effects, and especially it's great storytelling, it was like a great book that I couldn't put down. 4-stars!
Let The Right One In - You can call this a vampire movie. But its not like any other one that you've ever seen. Maybe a coming-of-age story. Or even a "two lonely outsiders find each other" story. It's all of those and more, and it's gonna make my "best of" list for 2008. This is a haunting, beautiful tale of two 12-year-olds - the boy is a loner who gets beaten up regularly by the school bully. The girl is a vampire who moves in next door. The feel of the movie almost reminds me of Sophia Coppola's 'The Virgin Suicides', with a beatiful melancholy to it. I don't want to hype it up too much, lest you be disappointed, but put this one at the top of your list. (And I'm not the only one - it's currently #130 in the Top 250 of all time on IMDB!) 4 Stars!!
The Wrestler - Let's not kid ourselves - just give the Best Actor Oscar to Mickey Rourke right now, because there is no competition. This is the role of a lifetime for him, and he plays it to perfection. And luckily, the rest of the movie and cast holds up as well, making this one of the best of 2008. Oh, and the fact that Marisa Tomei gets naked? That's just a bonus on a movie that already rates 4 stars!!
Religulous - Amusing movie from Bill Maher that preaches to the choir. It's not going to change anyones mind one bit, but it might still make you laugh a bit (maybe at the interviewees, hopefully a little bit at yourself if you're religous). However, I have to admit that I feel like a lot of the laugh-moments are staged, or more likely created through clever editing. (Deapan faces, inappropriate laughter, etc. don't always seem to be from the same timeline. Subtle, but I can feel it.) 2.5-stars if like Maher, as I do. Probably a lot less if you're not a regular fan of his.
Defiance - Straigh-forward telling of the true story of three Jewish brotehrs who resisted the Nazis in WWII, both with armed and passive resistance (blowing up trains, hiding out the in the woods). A good movie, although maybe not quite up to the standards of 'Glory', which had the same director and shares a similar storyline of historical heroism that was previously overlooked. 3-stars for the movie, but an extra half-star for bringing the tale to light. 3.5 stars
Encounters at the End of the Earth - It's almost sad how jaded you can get. Here were these absolutely stunning images from Antartica, and I was like "yeah, but I've already seen this in IMAX and Planet Earth"! The more interesting parts were listening to the inhabitants of the region - who knew that there was a small city there, with over a thousand residents? And their mixed background, cultures, and philosophies are both amusing and wonderous, elevating this film from ordinary to deeply interesting and moving. 3 stars
On the Beach - 1959 Cold War film about the end of humanity, based on the classic novel from Neal Shute. Starring Gregory Peck, Fred Astaire and Ava Gardner, this is a nice character study of how people will handle their impending doom - face it square on with acceptance? ignore it completely? drown yourself in alchohol to forget what's coming? All this is represented, and more. It makes me wonder both how I would react. And more interestingly, how today's society would react in comparison to the Australians of 1959. Sadly, I don't think we would quite so stiff-upper-lip as the residents in this movie. 3 stars
Transporter 3 - Not nearly as good as the previous two movies, which I had really enjoyed. The plot is getting tired, and the action is predictable. The ever-reliable Statham does a good job, but just can't carry the whole movie. And the girl in the movie is so obnoxious that I would have let the bad guys kill her, and walked away with a smile. 1.5 stars
City of Ember - Child fantasy movie that recalls 'City of Lost Children' in its production design, crossed with the child heroics of 'The Golden Compass' (adults are all evil or ignorant, only the youngsters can save the day). Some star power with Bill Murray as the corrupt/inept mayor, and Tim Robbins as the mad scientist that used to dream of escape, but gave up. Fun enough to watch once, but nothing earth-shattering. Oh, and one of the worst special effects water ride that I have ever seen on film - did they run out of money at the end or something? Watchable, but nothing more. 2 stars
Revolutionary Road - Exquisitely acted, strong direction, and wonderful cinematography (from the great Roger Deakins) all should add up to one of the best movies of the year. But in fact, I was a bit disappointed. Perhaps the failing is mine - having never been married, the story just never seemed to resonate with me. Throughout most of it, I kept thinking of this classic bit from Denis Leary:
"'I'm just not happy. I'm just not happy. I'm just not happy because my life didn't turn out the way I thought it would.' Hey! Join the fucking club, ok!? I thought I was going to be the starting center fielder for the Boston Red Socks. Life sucks, get a fucking helmet, alright?! 'I'm not happy. I'm not happy.' Nobody's happy, ok!? Happiness comes in small doses folks. It's a cigarette, or a chocolate cookie, or a five second orgasm. That's it, ok! You cum, you eat the cookie, you smoke the butt, you go to sleep, you get up in the morning and go to fucking work, ok!? That is it! End of fucking list!"
I can see why some people are raving about the movie, I really do. It just didn't do it for me. 2.5-stars
December 27, 2008
The Blob - Original classic horror film that I remember liking when I was kid. Doesn't hold up that great, but it's not too bad either. The funniest part is Steve McQueen supposedly playing a teenager, but he's 29 at the time and looks even older. 2.5 stars
Pi - 1998 film that I recently re-watched. I remember being more impressed the first time I saw it. I think the style of film-making was groundbreaking at the time, but now it seems a little more annoying than interesting. Still, an intriguing story and well acted. 2.5 stars
Election - Never saw this one before, really funny, whip-smart satire from 1999 stars Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick. Witherspoon plays a high school girl who thinks winning is everything; Broderick is a teacher who's life is falling apart, and would love to see Witherspoon fail. Really hilarious at some parts, and a good ending as well. 3 stars.
Wall-E - Best movie of 2008, in my opinion! An instant classic, with great animation, storytelling with great depth, and "acting" that's better than most real people achieve! 4-stars!!!
Longest Day - Classic 1962 WWII film, starring John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Peter Lawford, Richard Burton, Robert Mitchum, Rod Steiger, a young Sean Connery, Red Buttons, Eddie Albert, Paul Anka (!), Fabian (!!), and whole lot more. Filmed by three different directors, I can't believe how good this now looks on Blu-Ray - fantastic! This movie also holds up better than 'A Bridge Too Far', also based on a Cornelius Ryan book. (Although I really like 'Bridge', but I recognize that it's not a great movie.) Especially stunning is the one long, single-take assault on Oustreham, which is a precursor to similar shots done 40-years later in 'Children of Men' and 'Atonement'. 4-stars!
Death Race - Fun, turn-off-the-brain-and-enjoy movie starring Jason Stratham as a wrongfully imprisoned man, who is forced to drive in a deadly race by a sadistic warden (Joan Allen!?!?). Plot reminded me of 'The Running Man', but that didn't get in the way of the enjoying it. 3-stars to watch it once, but I probably don't ever need to see it again.
Baby Mama - Amusing movie with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Lot of stereotyping, but some witty dialog, and not as hokey as I thought it might be. 2.5 stars.
Incredible Hulk - Starring Ed Norton, who I almost always like to watch. This wasn't as bad as I thought, but it certainly wasn't that great either. Good airplane movie or if you're stuck in a hotel and don't want to think too much. 2 stars.
Indiana Jones #4 - This one got pretty trashed by the critics, so maybe that lowered my expectation. But I ended up enjoying this more than I thought I would, and actually liked it better than the other two sequels - it seemed closer in spirit to the original. Sure, there were some incredibly silly parts (the fridge, the waterfalls), but it moved along quickly enough that I didn't get bogged down in the inanity. Plus the appearance of Karen Allen helped pick things up immensely. 2.5 stars.
Righteous Kill - This one was just a weak as all the reviews had mentioned. How the hell could you waste the talents of Pacino and DeNiro with such mediocrity? Not awful, but awfully disappointing. 1.5 stars.
Journey to Center of Earth - Entertaining enough to watch once, this must have been really cool on the IMAX in 3-D. Brendan Fraser is reliably affable, and the tour guide is really cute, but the movie special effects are TV-show quality, at least in 2-D. Watchable, but nothing special. 2-stars.
Rounders - Another Ed Norton movie, this one also starring Matt Damon. And John Malkovich, although I almost didn't recognize him at first. Problem is, I'm not a fan of poker or gambling, and none of the characters are particularly likeable, so this did little for me. 1.5 stars.
Read After Burning - Not the Coen Brothers finest work, but still a very amusing little throw-away of a film. Plot is too convoluted to get into, but just sit back and enjoy Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand as the village idiots, and it's all good! 3 stars.
Night James Brown Saved Boston - Interesting documentary about the true story of the nights following Martin Luther King's assassination, where many of the cities in America were in turmoil with riots and looting. But in Boston, things were quiet, in large part due to Mayor Kevin White's decision to broadcast James Brown's show at the Garden live on PBS that night. Some cynics say it was just to keep the black residents away from the white area of North Station, and that might be partly true, but I think for the most part the intentions were good (and it worked). Good documentary pointing out everything from how James insisted on reimbursement ($50k) to the fact that PBS had never done a live rock band before, and wasn't even sure how to mic and mix it! 3 stars.
Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian - I had never read the books, but I really enjoyed the first 'Narnia' movie. Seemed like a pleasant mix of child literature and fantasy writing, and that movie was a pleasant surprise (part 'Harry Potter', part 'Lord of the Rings'). This new one isn't nearly as good though; the acting seems more stilted, the story isn't as interesting, and the religious overtones are much more prevalent. I was looking forward to this, but can't recommend it others. 1.5 stars.
King Lear - 3-hour adaptation from the Royal Shakespeare Company. Ian McKellen in wonderful in the title role, and the rest of the company is pretty strong. But I still prefer this story when it was reworked in 'Ran' by Kurosawa, which is a much better film even without Shakespeare's words. Still, this is the only literal version I've seen, and I enjoyed it. (Someday I'll have to watch Oliver's version, which is supposed to be very good) 2.5 stars.
Traitor - Ably written and directed, this kind of movie could be terrible in lesser hands. But it's pretty darn good, in large part due to the very strong performance by Don Cheadle as a terrorist/double-agent, and also Said Taghmaoui as his fellow terrorist/friend. Shockingly, this was written by Steve Martin (yes, the comedian!). 3 stars.
Exorcism of Emily Rose - Based on a true story of a girl that dies while a priest is performing an exorcism. Was it abuse? Was it a natural death? The always reliable Laura Linney stars as the high-powered lawyer who is defending the priest, nicely played by Tom Wilkinson. The movie's namesake is harrowingly played by Jennifer Carpenter, whom I only new from her role on Dexter (as his sister). She turns in a very strong performance here, showing a different side than her turn as Deb Morgan. The movie overall is pretty good, but I'm always a little cynical, and a big part of me wonders how closely this follows the facts of the true story. But regardless of the truth, the film does raise some interesting questions about the place where religion and law intersect, such as where does belief end, and psychosis begin? Hmmm... 2.5 stars.
Stir of Echoes - I don't remember this movie when it first came out. But it's funny - it reminded me of a poor man's version of 'Sixth Sense', except they were released within weeks of each other, so it wasn't a direct knock-off. Either way, this is not very well told, and good actors only do a mediocre job. I usually like supernatural tales, but this one disappointed. 1.5 stars.
Quantum of Solace - Not quite up to the level of 'Casino Royale', but Daniel Craig continues to impress as Bond. Bond Girl Olga Kurylenko is pretty disappointing (of course she's attractive, but she's not nearly the actress that Eva Green or Halle Berry are, and they are the new standard). Still, plenty of good action, and as I already mentioned, Craig continues to impress. 3 stars.
Eagle Eye - Rarely has so much money and effort been spent for so little in return. This retreads 'War Games', but in a high-tech environment, and with none of that movie's charm. 1 star.
Zack and Miri Make A Porno - Innocent little flick that straddles the line between push-the-limits-comedy and romantic-comedy. Not as good as Kevin Smith's best ('Dogma', 'Chasing Amy'), but still pretty funny with a few laugh-out-loud scenes. 3 stars.
Fort Apache - 1948 John Ford western, starring Henry Fonda, John Wayne, and a 20-year-old Shirley Temple. Mostly a character study of an aging war hero (Fonda) shuffled off to an outlying fort, and wanting one more chance for the fame and glory that he misses. Unfortunately, it's his men that pay the price. Shirley Temple is involved in the sub-plot as his daughter, dragged from the east coast to the wild west, falls for a local soldier. Some pretty funny scenes with the character actors who plays the local soldiers/drunks, and some pretty intense subjects that still resonate today. Based in part on Custer's Last Stand. 3.5 stars.
Rambo: First Blood - Believe it or not, I had never actually this before (or any of the Rambo movies). Didn't do much for me - the directing and editing seem pretty dated, and I never felt much sympathy for the lead character. Not as awful as I thought it might be, not as good as I had hoped. 2 stars.
The Visitor - Wonderful little film that provides Richard Jenkins with the role of a lifetime! His minimalist acting reminds of Bill Murray's latest work, except Murray uses his abilities for comedic ends, while Jenkins broadcasts sadness and loneliness. All the supporting actors are also very strong, making this one of the best movies of the year. 3.5 stars
Man On Wire - I sort of remember this feat as a child, and even back then it totally captured my imagination. This wonderful documentary recounts the months and days leading up to Petit's amazing walk between the twin towers. Plays out almost like a heist movie, but instead of stealing money, they're performing an incredible work of art. Wonderfully evokes the magic that I felt even as a boy. 4-stars!
Day The Earth Stood Still (2008) - Remember when I mentioned about about 'Eagle Eye', and how I couldn't believe how much time & energy were spent on something so bad? Ditto here, but with even lower results. I'm one of the few that actually likes Keanu Reeves as an actor, and most of the movies. But this is dreadful stuff, and even Jennifer Connelly can't make this redeeming. Oh, and especially annoying was Jaden Smith (Will Smith's son). Zero stars.
Seven Pounds - This is a rarity - a movie I actually liked more than most of the critics! For the most part, I was pulled in by Will Smith's torn character; and even though I new the ending well before it was arrived, it didn't matter to me. I liked the ethical dilemmas it brought up, and the questions it raised. The movie definitely tries to hard to tug at the heartstrings, and usually this bothers me. But for some reason, I guess I felt it wasn't overly done, and I even found myself moved at the end. The only unrealistic part of the movie is that Rosario Dawson has no husband, boyfriend, or even friends? I mean, c'mon! 3 stars.
Appoloosa - I actually need to watch this again. I was completely uninterested the first time around, and turned it off about 30 minutes into it. However the reviews are almost universally positive, so maybe it was just me that was off. I'll have to try again sometime before giving it a full review. But in the meantime, I can tell you that - once again - Renee Zellweger continues to be unimpressive. It seems that whenever she plays the secondary lead (wife/girlfriend of main character, i.e. this movie, 'Cinderella Man' or 'Leatherheads'), she's really weak. She's much stronger as a co-lead character ('Jerry McGuire', 'Nurse Betty', 'Bridget Jones', 'Chicago'). Wonder why?
Chicago - Speaking of Zellweger, that just reminded me that I also just watched this movie for the first time. Unfortunately, this did nothing for me (and I tend to actually like musicals!). I can't believe this won all those awards (Best Picture???). It looked great, and the acting was good, but I never gathered any sympathy or empathy with any of the characters, and the music itself didn't do much for me either. 2 stars.
The Fall - Amazing movie to watch, if just for the cinematography! And I read afterward that it was all done without computer-generated effects. Huh??? Holy crap! It's a shame the overall movie isn't as strong as the visuals - I really like Lee Pace in 'Pushing Daisies' (one of my favorite TV shows), but here he is only adequate. Actually, the best acting goes to the little girl, who is a complete newcomer! 4 stars for the visuals, 2 stars for the movie - 3 stars overall.
The Train - Fact-based 1964 movie set in WWII. Paris is about to be recaptured by the Allies, so the Germans try to steal all the great artwork (worth billions) and move them to Berlin. They are all loaded on a train, and it is now the French Underground's mission to stop the train, without damaging the art. Directed by John Frankheimer ('Manchurian Candidate', 'Ronin'), and stars Burt Lancaster. Suspenseful, action-packed, and well directed and acted. 3.5 stars
Paris Je T'aime - A collection of 18 shorts, all based in Paris and loosely based around the various stages of relationships - starting, flourishing, crumbling. Some hit home more than others, and I think that will be different for everyone. But that's okay - if you don't like one segment, it'll be over in 5 minutes, and you can move on to the next! The obvious correlation is a book of short stories, but it actually reminded me more of walking through a museum with cityscapes on the wall, and your mind imagines what the backstory is on each set of characters and locations. This is like having a mini-glimpse into each painting. One thing I did notice is that love stories are often tragic - there are very few laughs in this movie (although the Coen Brothers segment with Steve Buscemi is freakin' hilarious!). I'm not going to review all the segments, but I will say that my favorite one is also one of the simplest, where a young mother leaves her baby at a nursery, then travels by bus and train across the city, just to act as nanny for someone else's baby. Simple, yet incredibly moving, and says more in three minutes than most movies say in two hours. 3 stars.
Gomorra - Italian movie that comes out in the States in 2009. It reminds me of 'Traffic', the way that it tells the story of a scourge that infiltrates society at all levels. In 'Traffic', it was drugs. In 'Gomorra', the problem is the mafia, and it's control over the slums of Naples. It shows corruption at all levels - governmental, business, and even how the youth get corrupted at such a young age. There are several overlapping storylines, and while it can be a little difficult to follow at times, it's worth the effort. The best foreign movie I've seen since this year, and one of the year's best overall. 4 stars!
Frost/Nixon - Remember the movie "A Few Good Men", where Tom Cruise has to rattle Jack Nicholson in order to get him to reveal the truth? Frost/Nixon is basically the same thing, except stretch that 15 minute scene out to 122 minutes. It wasn't awful, but it really was pretty disappointing given the pre-release buzz. 2-stars
Gran Torino - Disappointing tale from Clint Eastwood. Clint plays an grumpy old racist who learns to love his next door immigrants. Yeah, it's just as bad as it sounds. I have to say, I thought the first half was absolutely HILARIOUS! Clint's character was just so over-the-top, I figure it had to be camp/caricature. The way he comes up with new way to insult everyone? And goes around growling like a dog? Too funny! (And here's hoping that it was supposed to be funny, otherwise the movie's worse than I feared.) The second half of the movie really goes downhill, and becomes a kind of 'Karate Kid' in reverse (this time, the adult is American and the kid is Asian). The lone bright spot of the movie is the teenage girl who lives next door - she's a firecracker, and the movie is better every time she is on the screen. But otherwise, this is boring and predictable, something you don't usually get from Eastwood. 1.5 stars.
JCVD - If you had told me that I would ever appreciate a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie this much, I would have laughed in your face. But this funny and quixotic little farce is really one of the best movies of the year, sure to make my top 10! Our hero basically plays himself, who gets caught up in a post office robbery where the police think he is the perpetrator. Utterly hilarious and surreal - especially where JCVD ascends to the "heavens" for a 10-minute soliloquy, where he even cries on cue! Who knew that his guy ever had it in him?? Not me! 3.5 stars!
Slumdog Millionaire - One of the best of 2008, this fairytale of a movie is stunning from beginning to end! Great story, great performances from the entire cast, even a wonderful soundtrack. 4 stars!!
August 14, 2008
Hancock - Mediocre super-hero
movie starring Will Smith. Special effects look like they are straight out of
TV's 'Heroes', and poorly staged fight scenes really mar this movie. The
premise could be an interesting one (unwilling superhero is really just a
drunken bum), but it's all surface and no depth. And the "twist" that
comes halfway into the movie was obvious from the first ten minutes. 2-stars,
Hellboy - Entertaining sueprhero flick that closely follows the footsteps of it's excellent predecessor. Good fighting sequences that are reminiscent of Chinese films like 'Hero' and 'House of Flying Daggers'. The monsters continue to look great and be inventive. And Hellboy is just a fun character to watch at work - his asides remind me of Bruce Willis in the first 'Die Hard' movie. 3-stars.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall - Surprisingly enjoyable and funny movie. Standard plotline, but it's helped immensely by good writing and a like-able cast, especially the minor characters that pop up throughout the movie. And I guess it doesn't hurt that both the female leads are smokin' hot. Although why either would end up with Jason Segel is a fact that would only come up in the movies. The movie is almost stolen by Russell Brand as the hilariously self-absorbed rock star who steals Segel's girlfriend, and there are enough cameos to keep the laugh-out-loud moments coming. Not nearly as crude as 'Superbad', this is closer to being this generation's 'Sleepless in Seattle'-type romantic comedy. 3-stars.
Dexter (Season 2) - With 'The Wire' now retired, I think this is the best show on television at the moment. (I haven't watched 'Mad Men' yet, and it's only other competition in my mind is 'Pushing Daisies', which is a very different show.) With it's hilariously black sense of humor, this is essentially a dark comedy masquerading as a drama. Sure, there are a couple-too-many coincidences on occasion, especially towards the end of the season. But they are minor in comparison to the overall plotline, writing, and especially acting. I feel that I've gotten to know each of these characters, and their depth makes them seem completely real. And especially Michael Hall as the title character, who can go from charming to chilling within a frame. The character of Lila, introduced for this season, had some interesting moments early on, but I do feel like she hung around for too long. But on the other hand, the ongoing chase to catch the Bay Harbor Butcher, and the FBI involvement, worked great as an overall plot arc. And although it was maybe tied up a little too neatly, I still bought into it for the most part. This season: 3.5 stars. Overall: 4 stars.
August 2, 2008
Wanted - Pretty forgettable. After seeing great action films like 'Shoot 'Em Up', this one comes off pretty lame and all smoke-and-mirrors. Barely give it 2-stars, and only because there are a couple action sequences are the decent. But overall, weak.
The Signal - Low-budget indie
film about a signal that comes through your TV and turns people into paranoid
killers. It's always fun to see what directors can do with a truly limited
budget, and this one looked and sounded pretty good, especially considering it
was made for $50,000. Also interesting that it's done in three parts, each one
by a different director. So one section is somewhat comedic, while another is
more standard horror/thriller. 2.5* stars.
Human Nature - Directed by Michael Gondry (Science of Sleep, Eternal Sunshine) and written by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation), you'd think this would be a great film. You'd be wrong. It tries way too hard to send a message about the human race (good and bad), and just about everything falls flat, from the acting to the storyline to the directing. High hopes, but highlyh disappointed. zero stars.
Big Lebowski - I absolutely love most Coen Brothers movies, but when I tried to watch this one when it first came out, I hated it. Wanted to give it another try, given its rise in popular culture to iconic level. Unfortunately, I still hated it. Didn't like 'The Dude', didn't find it funny, and didn't care for the plot. For the second time, I turned it off before getting halfway into it. I just don't get it. zero stars.
21 - Entertaining, if predictable, telling of the MIT kids that took millions from Vegas. Having read the book, I can tell how much the story was Hollywood-ized, and none of it was for the better. Still, not a bad movie, and the fact that it was based on non-fiction is cool. 2 stars.
Orphanage - Creepy tale of missing children and desolation, plays as a cross between 'The Ring' and 'Pan's Labyrinth'. 3 stars.
Bank Job - Old school heist movie, based on true events in 1971, where there was no cool gadgetry ala 'Oceans 11'. Just the olf-fashioned way of digging a tunnel and blowing things up. Well directed, acted, and great pacing makes this a real pleasure to watch. 3.5 stars.
Southland Tale - Eclectic film that I swear I still don't fully understand. Part satire, part thriller, part comedy, part everything. Multiple jumbled-up storylines keep you confused through most of it. Some of the visuals and individual scenes were cool, but I'm still not sure how I feel about the film overall. No rating from me, until I can at least read some outside opinions to help me sort it all out.
Recount - HBO movie about the Florida voting recount in the 2000 presidential election. Especially hard to watch if you're a Democrat, it stirs up frustrations that you thought you had long buried and forgotten. Given the apparent dryness of the material, it's surprising how well this zips along, and with a good balance of comedy and drama. Special marks to Laura Dern for her incredible portrayal of Katherine Harris! 3 stars.
Spy Kids - Not a bad little movie for kids entertainment. Silly, but I'll bet you think it's awesome if you're 10 years old. 2.5 stars.
10000 BC - This could have been a so-bad-that-its-good movie. Unfortunately, it's just bad. Stay far, far away. zero stars.
Be Kind, Rewind - Another Michael Gondry film, this one was a hell of a lot better than 'Human Nature'! Not a great movie, but it was pretty good and entertaining. Hit a little too hard on the anti-commercialism message for my taste. But the scenes where they are filming the replacement videos are a gas, and it's easy to get caught up in their enthusiasm. 2.5 stars.
Grace is Gone - Heartbreaking story starring John Cuasck (playing mostly against type). His wife ('Grace') has been killed serving in Iraq, but he's too overwhelmed himself to bring himself to tell his two young daughters about it. So instead he decides to take them on a road trip to Disneyland (or the generic movie-equivalent). Surprisingly non-political, other than the fact that it helps bring home the message that behind every fleeting headline of war casualties, there are hundreds of lives that are devasted and forever changed. I always have a tough time finding movies to watch on planes, given the violence and/or sexual content of so many adult films. I thought this would be a safe one to watch (and it was), but I'm sure the woman sitting next to me was wondering why I was crying in my seat at the end of the film. 3 stars.
Golden Compass - Mediocre telling of a popular book that I haven't read. After seeing pretty adaptations of other children's books like 'Bridge to Terabithia' and 'Chronicles of Narnia', this one was a pretty big letdown. Everyone seemed like a stock character, and I never got involved with the by-the-numbers storylines. Looked good, though. 1.5 stars.
The Happening - I like most of Shamaylan's movies (ok, 'Lady In The Water' was pretty weak), but this one is pretty mediocre. Mark Wahlberg is pretty weak in the leading role - he's not my favorite actor anyways. And it actually even managed to make Zoeey Deschanel look slightly unappealing (whereas I think she's normally smokin' hot!). 1.5 stars.
Speed Racer - Visual eye candy that I saw on an Imax screen. I realize it's not for everyone, but I thought it was amazing to watch! The colors pop up like 50's faux-modern plastic, the acting is just a stilted as the original cartoon, and the plotline is appropriately silly. I absolutely was enthralled watching it all whiz by like Skittles for the eyes! But here's the thing - I don't think I ever need to see it again. And I also think that if I saw it on a normal screen or on TV, it would lose most of it's punch. So 3-stars for seeing it once in IMAX, but 1.5-stars for replay.
Undeclared (TV Series) - From Judd Aptow, of 'Freaks and Geeks' and '40-Year Old Virgin' fame. Not up to the high level of 'Freaks', which perfectly captured high school (at least the era that I was there). But still an entertaining comedy with some smart writing, a good cast of characters, and some genuine laugh moments. Also, perfect for airplane watching. 3-stars.
Horton Hears A Who - Fun little kids movie that brought back memories of the original book, which I haven't read in 35 years. Nothing special about the movie, and it can't compare to the great Pixar films, but well enough done that I didn't turn it off. 2-stars.
Street Kings - Keanu Reeves stars in this movie where all the cops are bad. Just some are worse than others. Pretty bleak, and none of the characters are very likeable, making it tough to watch. Also, the script is kinda generic, as is the acting. I did like the dark look of the film, and the fact that it really doesn't sell out at the end too much. 2-stars.
Don't Mess With The Zohan - Surprisingly hilarious movie from Adam Sandler, who I don't usually find very funny. (Oddly enough, I like his serious roles in 'Spanglish','Punch-Drunk Love' and 'Reign Over Me' more than any of his previous comedies!) Comedies are hard to predict or review - I can't tell you why I like this movie so much more than all his others, I can just tell you that I do. Maybe it's just so over the top and so shameless that you have to either love it or hate it. In this case, I loved it. (As always, the ending starts to flag as the writers feel the need to wrap up the plotlines, which just get in the way of the jokes. But still very good.) 3-stars.
In Bruges - One of my favorite movies of the year so far, this is a great little tale of two hitmen who have been exiles to Bruges (a nice little town in Belgium that no one seems to have heard of before, either in the movie or in real life). The ending drags on a little long for me, but for most of the movie the leisurely pace matches the beauty of the town, and there's some terrific acting, especially from Brendan Gleeson. 3.5 stars.
Forbidden Kingdom - Lame action movie starring Jackie Chan and Jet Li that combines fanstasy and kung-fu, and fails at both. zero stars.
Leatherheads - Clooney tries to make a film as good as 'His Girl Friday'. 'Leatherheads' isn't as good as that classic, but it is enjoyable enough. Renee Zellweger, who I used to like, was the weak spot of the movie - she's adequate, but she's no Rosalind Russell, that's for sure. (I also thought she was the weak spot in 'Cinderella Man', an otherwise strong film.) Clooney does his typical self-deprecating role, with good comedic effect. And the film looks good, all sepia-toned and Roaring Twenties styles. 2.5 stars.
Presto - Just a 5-minute Pixar short that runs before Wall-E, it can be downloaded from I-Tunes as well. Great, hilarious short that is totally a throwback to the old Warner Brothers. Reminiscient of the all-time Chuck Jones classics like 'Rabbit Seasoning' and 'Duck Rabbit Duck', and bears repeated watching just to catch all the fast-moving action. 4-stars!
Son of Rambow- Cute coming-of-age movie about two outcasts (one bully, one introvert) who team up and become friends while making a home-movie version of Rambo. Tries a little too hard at the end to tug at the heartstrings, but the first three-quarters of the movie are disarmingly charming and fun. 3-stars.
Harold and Kumar: Escape From Gitmo - One of the most hilarious movies I've seen in a long time! I know it got only mediocre reviews, but I was in stitches for almost the entire length of the movie. (Except, like many comedies, it flags a little at the end as it tries to wrap up it's plot.) Mostly a collection of skits, it throws the pair of stoners into an ecclectic mixture of situations (the bottomless pool party, the KKK rally, the Gitmo meat sandwich, the redneck house, the whorehouse, etc. - none of which mean anything unless you've seen the movie. But once you've have seen it, I'm guessing that you're chuckling to yourself just thinking about them). Neil Patrick Harris almost steals the entire movie, and his extended cameo is worth the $9.50 admission alone! 3.5 stars.
Doomsday - The film seems to want to be part 'Escape From NY', part 'Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome'. I understand why you'd want to emulate the former (and does so pretty well at the start), why the latter, which was by far the weakest of the Mad Max films? I thought the first third of the film was really well done, but then I started losing interest once we got involved with the surviving clans in Scotland. Rhona Mitra is a babe, and it's fun to see her kick-ass for a while, but even she can't save the movie overall. 1.5-stars.
X-Files: I Want To Believe - I was a pretty big fan of the TV show, although moreso of the standalone episodes than all the mythology and government plots that plagued the series. This movie is basically like a stand-alone episode, but with a bigger budget. Unfortunately all that doesn't really help much, as both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson looks bored with the characters and the material, and the weak script doesn't give them much to chew on. Overall, a big disappointment. 1.5 stars
March 3, 2008
Assassination of Jesse James By The Cowards Robert Ford - If you think the
title is long, wait until you see the movie! This thing is slooooow,
and at 2 hours 40 minutes long it seems like it goes on forever. Maybe I would
have appreciated this more on a big screen - I watched it on my 17" laptop
on an airplane, and it probably didn't do justice to Roger Deakin's
amazing cinematography (he's the best in the business right now, bar none).
Casey Affleck does a good job here as the coward, but I think he was stronger
in 'Gone Baby Gone', which is also a better movie IMO. 2.5-stars.
February 23, 2008
Weird movie with Anthony Hopkins (starring and directing). I almost turned this
off after the first minute. Managed to make it through the first 15 minutes,
then turned it off. Seemed to me like an exercise in self-indulgence and
bullshit. Or maybe I just didn't get it, I dunno.
From what I can gather from the reviews, its a movie
about a screenwriter who is confusing reality and a movie so that they blend
into one another. From my point of view, it was just a big mess. If you want to
see some great filmmaking about reality confusion, see a Michael Gondry film (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Science
of Sleep). Zero stars.
Dan In Real Life - Such a disappointment. Started out strong enough, but once they hit the beach house it became bad sitcom writing, where people do things that are completely out of character just to get a laugh. The only time I felt like I was watching real people was when the two lead characters were flirting in a book store - that felt real! But then the movie falls apart into cliches and stupidity, and I couldn't get through more than 30 minutes of it. Such a shame to waste the talents of Juliette Binoche, who I've been a big fan of since 'Blue'. 1-star for Juliette, zero stars for the rest of the movie.
Wristcutters - A Love Story - A truly bizarre film that works really well. The plot seems simple enough - guy goes on road trip with a buddy to find his ex-girlfriend, but ends up falling in love with a hottie hitchhiker they pick up. Oh, except that they're all dead. By suicide. Turns out that after you kill yourself, you go to a kind of limbo that looks like the American Southwest, but just a little more washed out, and with no stars at night. As one of the characters puts it "Everything is the same, but worse" (I want to get that put on a t-shirt!). Very dark and very funny and very enjoyable. 3-stars.
February 22, 2008
The Real Girl - I really enjoyed this. As my friend Bill pointed out, the
movie really isn't about Lars, its more about the his brother and sister-in-law
and all the other townspeople, and how they react to Lars. It's kind of like
the ending of "It's a Wonderful Life", where you don't even realize
until it's almost too late that you're surrounded by people who care for you.
Even I found myself getting caught up when Bianca started to "die"!
Charlie Bartlett - Pretty good, but I'm not quite as thrilled with is as some reviewers. Some witty dialogue, and the teens felt like real teenagers in high school, but some of the plot stuff seemed pretty generic. Still, in lesser hands this could have been awful, with the kids coming off and whiners and spoiled brats. Instead they seemed like individuals with real problems (at least with problems that seem real to them). I just could have lived without some of the cliched student-vs-authority plotlines. (Although Robert Downey Jr. does a nice job as a self-loathing principal). 2.5-stars.
February 18, 2008
Hitman - Disappointing thriller about a no-name hitman.
Stars Timothy Olimphant who is so amazing in
'Deadwood', but can't cut it here. Maybe if it were Clive Owen or Jason Statham
as the lead it would have helped. Turned it off about an hour into it. 1-star.
Into The Wild - Quiet docu-drama about Christopher McCandless, a young kid who is searching for himself and where he belongs in the world. If this was done wrong, it the kid would have seemed like a whinny yuppie who needs a good slap. Instead it's done with tenderness and quiet grace, and you feel empathy and sympathy for him. Also has some nice scenes with the people he meets along his journey. Plus a strong soundtrack from Eddie Vedder that fits the mood of the movie perfectly. 3-stars.
Sweeney Todd - Great performances, and a great look. However, with a musical it is all about the songs, and I hated them all! I guess I'm just not a Stephen Soundheim fan, because there wasn't a single number that I liked, and most of them I wanted to mute (except I couldn't, because just about all the dialogue was sung). 2-stars, one for acting and one for the design, but zero stars for the movie over all. (And I like musicals! 'Hairspray' was one of the only movies that I have four stars to last year!)
I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With - Nice, sweet independent movie by Jeff Garlin (written/directed/starred). I guess he's a regular on 'Curb Your Enthusiasm', but I haven't seen that show. Here he plays a lovable comedian who lives in Chicago (with his mom) and performs regularly as part of the Second City troupe. He's also looking for love (maybe with the wild Sarah Silverman? maybe with milder Bonnie Hunt?), and trying to figure out what's next in his life. Reminds me a lot of the John Candy movie 'Only The Lonely', which I also liked a lot. This isn't a movie that's gonna change your life, but you won't regret the 90 minutes you give to it. 3-stars. Oh, almost forgot - there are a lot of references in this film to 'Marty', and old movie with Ernest Borgnine. Unfortunately I've never seen it, so I don't get all the in-jokes. I'll have to check it out some time...
Martian Child - Sticky sweet story about a widower who adopts a kid that no one wants (and who thinks he's from Mars). If this wasn't John Cusack, I wouldn't have made it through the first 15 minutes without throwing up. By-the-book storytelling, cliches abounding, and sappy, happy ending. Cuscack is so watchable though that he can make even this dreck seem okay. This was the perfect airplane movie - it passed the time, but I'm glad I didn't watch it at home when I could be doing something else. 2-stars. Barely.
Across The Universe - Hit and miss musical. It's a hell of a lot better than the last time they tried to make a musical out Beatles songs (Peter Frampton and the Beegees anyone?). The storyline is generic, sort of like a TV miniseries about the Sixties; no cliche left untouched. However, some strong performances and some inventive choreography saves the day. Not everything works, but luckily no act is longer than 3-4 minutes, so just wait for the next song to begin. My favorites included a radical reworking of "I Want To Hold Your Hand" (I hear it in a completely new light now!), and the scenes with the Janis Joplin-like Sadie. Oh yeah, and there's the trippy scenes with Bono as Dr. Robert and Eddie Izzard as Mr. Kite that are both pretty funny. As an added bonus, the soundtrack (when not recorded by the actors) was done by The Secret Machines! I was originally gonna give this 2.5 stars, but I think I'm gonna bump it up to 3-stars. Even with its flaws, it's still quite good.
In The Valley of Elah - strong performance from Tommy Lee Jones makes up for the fact that this movie was already made 10 years ago ('Courage Under Fire' with Meg Ryan and Denzel Washington). Okay, maybe not all that much a copy, but close enough that it felt unoriginal. This movie is a worthfhile watch for two reasons; Jones really is great, and it does make you realize that not all war casualties are physical, and that the 3000+ soldiers killed in Iraq are really just the tip of the iceberg. 2.5-stars.
Michael Clayton - Well told thriller about corporate lawyers and what they do to protect their clients. George Clooney plays a guy you kind of root for, even though he's doing the devil's work, just because he does it so well and so smooth. Even he doesn't like what he does, but he knows that this is his place in life. Until, of course, events occur that make him re-assess himself, and he struggles with the answers. Well acted, and really well directed. 3.5-stars.
The Assassination of Jesse James By The Cowards Robert Ford - If you think the title is long, wait until you see the movie! This thing is slooooow, and at 2 hours 40 minutes long it seems like it goes on forever. Maybe I would have appreciated this more on a big screen - I watched it on my 17" laptop on an airplane, and it probably didn't do justice to Roger Deakin's amazing cinematography (he's the best in the business right now, bar none). Casey Affleck does a good job here as the coward, but I think he was stronger in 'Gone Baby Gone', which is also a better movie IMO. 2.5-stars.
Darjeeling Limited - The latest from Wes Anderson, using a lot of the same troupe as usual (Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, etc.) Light but fun movie about three estranged brothers who are called together by the oldest after he has a bike accident (and the an epiphany). They set off in India on a train ride to find their inner spirits. These comedy is more chuckles than belly laughs, but they come often and a nicely quirky. If you like Wes's previous movies ('Royal Tannenbaums', 'Life Aquatic', etc.), then this is right up your alley. 3-stars.
Boys 'N The Hood - Believe it or not, I had never seen this movie before! Starring the always reliable Larry Fishburne and a very young Cuba Gooding Jr. Simple tale of a young man growing up in South Central LA, with his dad trying to keep him out of trouble by teaching him life lessons, while the young man gets pulled closer to a life of crime by his friends, who don't have the same potential or options in life as him. Well told, moving story that still rings true today. 3.5-stars.
And because I've been reading a biography of William Shakespeare lately, I watched there related movies; one about his ('Shakespeare In Live'), one written by him ('Romeo + Juliet'), and one inspired by him ('Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead'):
'Shakespeare In Love' wasn't as good as remembered it to be; it won seven (!) Oscars including Best Picture, but in retrospect I think that award should have gone to 'Saving Private Ryan'. This it still very likeable though. 3-stars.
'Romeo + Juliet' I like a lot of the first time I saw it, and still liked it a lot. It's not for everyone (some people really hated it), but I thought it was cool. 3.5 stars.
'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead' is another one that got mediocre reviews (including zero stars from Ebert!), but I liked it a lot. Then again, I had never seen it before except on film, whereas most of the reviewers were comparing it to the play. 4-stars for the dialogue, 3-stars for everything else. 3.5 stars overall.
January 4, 2008
weak re-telling of 'Death Wish' with Jodie Foster as the
wronged victim who fights (shoots) back. I'm surprised she was involved in this
movie, both for the topic and the overall weakness of it. Watched the first
hour, then ended up fast-forwarding through the last 45 minutes just to see how
it ended. 1-star.
Charlie Wilson's War - I knew this starred Tom Hanks and had something to do with politics, but I didn't expect to enjoy nearly as much as I did! I also didn't realize it was written by Aaron Sorkin, who I really like. Tom Hanks plays a congressman in the early 80s who decides that the US isn't funding the Afghanistans enough in their fight against the Russians, so he single-handedly tries to increase their aid. The movie is almost written as a farce, except that (most) of the facts are true. It moves along quickly and is really quite funny. Philip Seymour Hoffman is his usual great self as a long-suffering CIA man, and Hanks plays a charming drunk and playboy. The Boston Globe didn't like, but I really don't know why - I thought it was a fun and entertaining movie, with some historical info that I didn't really know that much about. 3-stars.
January 3, 2008
Devil Knows You're Dead - First off, any movie that has Marisa Tomei
naked in three different scenes automatically gets three stars. However, this
movie is even better than that! It's incredible that the guy who made movies
like '12 Angry Men', 'Serpico', 'Dog Day Afternoon',
'Network' and 'The Verdict', can actually come out with one of his best at age
83. This is a nice little crime drama about a heist where everything goes
wrong. But it's not really a heist movie, that's just the outline for the
in-depth character studies. Philip Seymour Hoffman is his usual amazing self,
Ethan Hawke matches him as his brother; Marisa Tomei
is hotter than ever (did I mention that she gets naked? three times?), and does
a good job playing Hoffman's depressive wife. Albert Finney is Oscar-worthy as
their father, and there's even a small role for Amy Ryan, who shined in the
movie I watched the previous evening, 'Gone Baby Gone'. One of Sidney Lumet's
best movies, and that's really saying something. 4-stars!
Drop Dead Sexy - You must have recommended this movie to me, but I can't say the same back (not sure if you had seen it when you had given it to me, my copy was still sealed). The online reviews kind of make it out to be a black comedy like 'Fargo' (did these people even see that movie??). But it's really just a poorly written/directed rip-off of 'Weekend At Bernies'. Turned it off after a half-hour. 0-stars.
January 2, 2008
- Not a very good movie, and I got bored halfway through. And I hated the
Protagonist - great documentary about four individuals who lived their life on the extremes - a religious fanatic, a karate fanatic, a terrorist, and a bank robber. The movie was simply made - it's mostly just the individuals sitting and talking to the camera about their life. They are all extremely eloquent and interesting, and it's put together really well. 3-stars.
I Am Legend - Good movie that is part 'Castaway', part '28 Days Later'. Will Smith does a very good job, but at some point I feel like I'd seen it all before. 2.5-stars.
No Country For Old Men - Most people are calling this the best movie of the year. Not sure why - I think it was good, but not that amazing. Heck, it wasn't even the best movie I watched last night! Good character study, great acting and directing, but it just didn't blow me away. 3-stars. (This currently is ranked as the #18 movie of all-time on IMDB!?!)
Gone Baby Gone - Think of this as the sequel to 'Mystic River' and 'The Departed'. Not quite as good as those 4-star movies, but still a very good movie in its own right. Really strong cast (except Morgan Freeman, show surprisingly seemed to phone it in). Casey Affleck does a really good job as the lead; Michelle Monaghan is give little to do but is okay. Amy Ryan is amazing as the mother of the disappeared girl - several reviews say it's Oscar-worthy, and I agree. Ben Affleck should stick to directing instead of acting! 3.5-stars.
December 18, 2007
Waitress - really funny little
movie that I'd definitely recommend, 3.5 stars
A Dog's Breakfast - Amusing indie film that was made on a short budget, I guess from cast members of the Stargate TV series in their downtime (but this is a light comedy that has NOTHING to do with sci-fi). Not great, but quirky fun. 2.5-stars.
Eagle vs. Shark - Another quirky little comedy from New Zealand. Two social misfits try dating, showing that there's someone for everyone out there, I guess. Think 'Napoleon Dynamite' loser, and you have the basic idea. Funny once, but not sure it would stand up to repeated watching. 2.5-stars.
Stranger Than Fiction - Surprisingly good, funny movie from Will Farrell. His comedies are not usually my style, but here he plays things low-key and it works well. Plus the story is just weird, very much like a Michael Gondry film (Eternal Sunshine, Science of Sleep). Also stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is just so sexy in everything she does. 3-stars
Red Road - Scottish movie about a woman who watches surveillance cameras for a living. One day she spots someone from her past, and then she starts obsessing about him. Quiet film that succeeds mostly due to the strong performance of the lead actress (in her first film role). 3-stars
Rescue Dawn - Real tale of a Vietnam pilot who gets shot down, captured and escapes. Amazing performances from Christian Bale and the entire cast. It makes me want to watch the directors other movies that I've been hearing about ('Fitzcarraldo' and 'Aguirre' are the most highly regarded, I'll have to see them sometime). 3.5-stars.
The Kingdom - A by-the-numbers thriller. although pretty well done. One review called 'Syriana For Dummies', which is probably both unfair and yet appropriate. The best performances in the movie are by the Isreali actor show plays the Saudi secret police chief. 2.5-stars
Wild Hogs - Better than expected, and I like it better than most reviewers, but still not very good. I need to watch something light after 'Rescue Dawn' and this fit the bill. Over-talented cast in a B-movie (John Travolta, William B Macy, John McGinley, Marisa Tomei). 2-stars, but that's 1.5-stars for the movie and another half-star just for Tomei, who still looks great.
Hairspray - This was truly a great movie, one of my only full Four Star ratings so far! Exuberant and totally non-cynical, it was a blast to watch! Never saw the original movie, but I did see the play. This is even better, with a great leading lady in Nikki Blonsky - her first movie role, she just steals every scene she's in. Reminds me of Jennifer Hudson in 'Dreamgirls', but this is an even better movie. Even John Travolta in drag works well. 4-Stars!
Eastern Promises - Another one of the best movies of the year, following up on the amazing 'History of Violence'. Viggo Mortensen has really turned into one of the great actors of this decade. And Naomi Watts looks as great ever, of course. 4-Stars!
July 2, 2007
or Die Hard - decent summer action flick; not quite as good as part one (a
classic), better than part three, about the same as part two (which I enjoyed).
Preposterous plot that means nothing, some really cool actions scenes, and some
amusing dialogue. 3-stars.
Reign Over Me - really good movie about two guys who are trapped in their lives - one by tragedy, one by stagnation. I like Adam Sandler when he does serious roles (Spanglish, Anger Management). He plays the same character a bit, but it works for me. And Don Cheadle is really strong as his counterpart who tries to help Sandler (who has lost his way after losing his family in the 9/11 attacks). Some mediocre subplots get in the way of this being a 4-star movie, but I was still completely sold on the characters, both by the writing and by the acting. A strong 3-stars, maybe even 3.5-stars.
Oceans 13 - Breezy summer fun, very watchable and very forgettable. Much better than Oceans 12, which I thought sucked, this is closer to Oceans 11. And I'd much rather have Ellen Barkin in the movie, who is way hotter than Julia Roberts! 2.5-stars.
June 29, 2007
Mr. Brooks - Pretty good
psychological thriller with Kevin Costner playing a serial killer. He does a
good job playing creepy, and William Hurt is funny and hammy as his alter ego.
Even Dane Cook is decent (I thought someone else could have done a better job,
but he didn't embarrass himself). 3-stars.
Hostel 2 - Stupid fun, not as bad as some of the reviews have made it out to be. The girls are cute, the torture is disgusting, and the movie speeds along for most of the time. Not great, but really not all that bad. 2-stars.
Stagecoach - Classic John Ford/John Wayne western, one of my favorites of all-time (along with the Searchers). 4-stars! (7.9 rating on IMDB)
Seraphim Falls - I watched this modern western as a double-bill with Stagecoach. Started out really great, but lost steam about halfway through. Pierce Brosnan goes a great job, as does his counterpart Liam Neeson. I love the fact that for the first half of the movie, you don't even know why Neeson is chasing after Brosnan and wants to kill him. 3.5 stars for the first half, 2.5 for the second half, 3-stars overall.
Sicko - Michael Moore documentary, as you know. Like most of his movies, I think he's too one-sided, thus negating his overall argument. But this isn't as biased as Fahrenheit 911, where his 10% over-the-top allowed critics to attack the whole movie. You just know that things aren't quite as bad in US health system as he makes out, and not as perfect in the other countries as he makes out. (I'm sure you can find people in Canada, England, France and Cuba that have their own horror stories as well.) That being said, it's still a powerful and persuasive movie that genuinely asks the question - "Is this really the best we can do?" 3-stars.
The Astronaut Farmer - Disney (or Disney-esque, I'm not sure of the studio) movie with Billy Bob Thornton as a failed astronaut who is building his own rocket on a farm in the Midwest, with the intention of launching it. Wouldn't normally watch this one, but I was stuck on a plane on the tarmac with a weather delay for a couple hours and wasn't allowed to turn on my own computer. Entertaining enough as long as you don't think about how unlikely it all is. Normally would be 1-star, but decent acting from BBT and Virginia Madsen help elevate it to maybe even a 2-star movie. Watchable, but not memorable.
Shooter - Mark Wahlberg that was just awful. Made it about half-hour into it before turning it off. Just stupid. Zero stars.
The Reaping - Hilary Swank is wasted in this silly movie that might have made an interesting X-Files episode, but even that would be a stretch. Even the effects are cheesy, as are the dialogue and plotline. 1-star, mostly because Hilary looks good and tries hard to be better than the material.
1408 - Pretty good horror flick based on a Stephen King story. More like 'The Shining' than his later, weak movies. Held together well by a really strong performance from John Cusack as the writer who is trapped in a really evil hotel room. Not usually my kind of movie, and yet I still liked it. 3-stars.
June 6, 2007
Rescue Me (Season 1) - I know
Mike C. really likes this show, but I was still surprised at how good it really
was. I was very quickly taken in by the cast of characters, and it has a nice
balance between funny and serious. Already started watching Season 2.
How I Met Your Mother - Good show, very funny. Sort of like Friends (gang of single NYer's) meets Scrubs (inventive comedy). The only disappointment is that the entire first season revolves around the whole "will-they-or-won't-they-get-together" plotline. Except you know from the very first episode of the series that they don't end up together (when the kids in the future refer to "Aunt Robin"). Still, I really do enjoy the show.
The Host - I know I've mentioned this to you. "Little Miss Sunshine" meets standard horror movie (except this time it was chemicals, not an atomic explosion, that made the over-sized bug). Really fun! 3.5 stars.
Planet Earth - deserving of it's rating on IMDB, this was the best documentary I think I've ever seen on nature. There were a couple that were a little slow for me; the Plains and the Forests weren't as interesting as the Deep Sea and Poles were, but all were worth watching. Some of the shots are incredibly memorable even months later - the great white whale jumping out of the sea, the pod of whales creating a circular bubble, the snow leopard hunting, the pack of tigers taking down an elephant, the hibernating polar bears waking up in the spring, the amazing Bird of Paradise, and many many more. This series alone is a reason to go buy an HD DVD player!!! 4 stars!
Great Expectations - Classic 1946 version, rated 8.2 on IMDB and #245 of the Top 250. I never read the book, so I can't compare it, but I thought it was very well done. Cinematography looked great even by today's standards, and the performances were also strong. Okay, maybe a little over the top, but that was the style back that, and it didn't distract overall. 3 stars.
Carlito's Way - I never had gotten around to seeing this previously. In the end, I don't think I missed much. Pacino reprises his gangster role from Scarface and the Godfather movies; maybe not quite as over-the-top as Scarface, but a similar enough kind of story. Sean Penn plays his sleezebag friend, and I guess he did a good job, because I hated the guy. 2.5 stars.
Children of Dune - made for TV mini-series. Probably not that interesting to you, if you didn't read the Dune books growing up. I did read them, and thought this mini-series did a pretty good job bringing the book to life. Not great, but enjoyable enough, especially considering it's 4.5 hour runtime. 3 stars.
Rainman - I remember when this came out, I thought it was only mediocre, and was surprised when it won Best Picture. Watched it again for the first time since it's original release, and was still disappointed with it. 2 stars.
Blades of Glory - I was happily surprised with this one. I thought I'd turn it off within the first 30 minutes because it would be too stupid. Well, it was stupid, but in the funny kind of way. Not amazing, and probably not worth watching over and over, but still better than expected. 2.5 stars
Pirates of the Caribbean 3 - I had higher hopes, but this third movie was a letdown. Overly long at almost three hours, I actually fell asleep towards the end (although I was drinking, and it was late). 2 stars.
Next - Yet another bad movie from Nicholas Cage. And Julianne Moore sucked too. Only redeeming part of the movie was Jessica Biel, who is a babe and did a pretty good job playing the requisite damsel-in-distress. 1 star.
Bridge to Terabithia - I have never heard of this children's book, watched this on a whim. Pretty good, and there are some surprising twists that I wouldn't expect. One review described it as "Chronicles of Narnia" meets an AfterSchool Special. Pretty accurate, imo. Hits a little too hard upon the Bible a couple times for my taste (at least 'Narnia' was more subtle about it), but otherwise an entertaining movie. 2.5 stars (maybe even 3 stars)
The Bridge - moving documentary about the Golden Gate Bridge, the place where more people have committed suicide than anywhere else in the world. They filmed the bridge for an entire year, capturing almost two dozen people leaping to their death. They intercut with interviews of the victim's friends and family, and in one case, a jumper who survives. The bridge is also show from almost every possible angle, revealing it great, but sad beauty (at least in context) here. I know you said you just got this; definitely check it out when you get the chance. 3.5 stars.