Wryan's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

Peter Pan
Peter Pan(2003)

Okay: Quick Review . . .

Not expecting much of the film, I was rather taken by surprise to read all the glowing reviews of the film, calling it the most mature and one the best incarnations of the story yet seen. So I gave it a whirl. There to my surprise was one of the most disarming and shining adaptations from a children's story I had ever seen. I, too, felt like I was flying for the entire duration. The story is sharp, cunning, shrewd, and - most of all - quietly, effectively sensual. Yes, sensual. There are bits of imagery and dialogue, glances cast in the most unusual ways, and smirks to fill a psychology textbook. I think the biggest reason I enjoyed the film is [i]because[/i] its more subtle subtleties will probably go over most of the kids' heads. However, even were they to miss the mature tension and intellectual insight bestowed by the film, there is still much else to marvel.

Jason Isaacs has what [i]should[/i] be a career-launching role(s), one that starts to earn him some real accolades and terrific parts. He's just outstanding, perfectly suited for this world. Newcomer Rachel Hurd-Wood charms the hearts of the audience with nearly effortless gentility and presence. Jeremy Sumpter, though, clearly has a difficult time holding the screen with these other two, and his performance is the only one that can't keep up. However, he's still perfectly suitable and actually works well when he's not saying anything at all. The rest of the cast fill out their admittedly thin roles with gusto and glee.

Donald McAlpine shamelessly daubs the screen with color and light, beauty magnificent and majestic enough to inspire nightmarishly ebullient dreams. His work is tonally appropriate and sets up the film with exactly the right feel, down to the last snowflake, the last exotic flower, and the last glowing bit of faerie dust. The art direction is excellent, though it doesn't have much to work with except a ship, a jungle, and an England so crisp it elicits chills. James Newton Howard's score hits a few curious notes (ones that sound almost dated on first listen), but the bulk of his work soars above the characters with style and spirit.

The story is obviously quite thin on the outside, though it knows just the right elements to emphasize and spotlight. The film progresses quickly, rushing us headlong into the depth and meaning of its characters, guided continuously by a warm and pleasing narration. The film is a first-rate children's movie, though it has enough brains and heart to allow older folks to watch it and just have fun. I couldn't keep myself from smiling. There's just too much to enjoy here. If filmmakers made more movies like this, I dare say we would have a hard time of growing up. We would never want to leave the rich tapestry of worlds like this, full of meaning and beauty and joy and even great sadness. True knowledge of the world will always set some people free, while it will only weigh others down further.

[color=red][b]3.5[/b] out of [b]4[/b][/color]


Cat People
Cat People(1942)



I haven't seen as many Jacques Tourneur films as I would have liked, but I've seen a handful, and I dig the way he's able to pull a thrilling, frightening, beautiful film out of a collection of could-have-been-bad acting and scenes. C[i]at People[/i] (1942) is one that I had always heard of, and wanted to see badly. It's an excellent film not because the moments of horror are genuinely horrifying, but rather because it offers much more than that. The story [that some might find perfunctory] isn't just window dressing for the spooks, but rather interesting, engaging and thoughtful. Granted, the performances feel dated today (the husband seems to cluck the wife on the chin a lot, all the while saying things like "oh you crazy little thing, you"), and the movie is short and fast. Some might feel the film wears its sexual symbolism and meaning on its sleeve a little too heavily (when, oh when will she let that panther out of its cage!?), but I found it all works rather well in the end. Given time to set up and lay the groundwork only amplifies the terrific scares, of which there are surprisingly few. They work like lightning though, illuminating the thougtful and clever interior.

[color=red][b]3.5[/b] out of [b]4[/b][/color]


The Last Samurai



Not a full review, exams and all, but here we go:

Tom Cruise and Edward Zwick clearly had honorable intentions to treat the material and the story right here. You can feel that. There's a spirit of appreciation and wonderment on screen. They wanted to do this up right. Unfortunately, in their minds, "doing it up right" apparently meant watering down themes, simplifying characters and plot points, mythologizing chaotically, and repeatedly stating the already-obvious. Zwick has the audience [b]so[/b] tightly in his hand, leading them along at every single step, you start to feel sore.

The film is far too preachy and condescending to let the audience make up its own mind about damn near anything. Timothy Spall, a fine actor, has the ridiculous role of a man named "Exposition," or thereabouts, given his penchant for rote voiceovers and "tell me again" lines of dialogue. Cruise himself acquits himself about as well as he can, and he pulls off a few game moments, though the rest of his performance rings rather hollow AND rather showy, a feat indeed worthy of his stature..

The film is never anything less than gorgeous to look at and listen to, given John Toll's always-enjoyable cinematography, excellent art direction and costume design, and Zimmer's unusual score. Other than the expected technical burnish, what else is left? Well, Ken Watanabe shoves Cruise off the scene with a mere raise of the eyebrow. He's outstanding in a sticky role. The requisite romance, stunningly enough, is outstanding. Nary a moment of overt action is to be had, intead relying on those furtive slips of the eyes and wary dialogue. I wish the rest of the film was as subtle about things as it was with the central romance. Alas, it just ain't.

There are moments of stunning audacity. The already infamous scene where Cruise fights a samurai with a practice-stick, gets knocked on his tufted ass, and then repeats ad infinitum is just stunning in its temerity to ask for our obliging support of Cruise's "indefatigable" character. We are meant to boo-hiss the samurai for his savageness, though he was completely in the right. The movie is full of these moments. Little spots where the director sticks his giant head straight into the room, slaps you across the face, and shouts out the motivation and reactions that he expects from his audience.

Still, you can see from the rating that this is a POSITIVE review. Funny, huh? I suppose there's enough here for me to recommend it, but by the skin of its freaking teeth.


P.S. Oh by the way, during the climax, there is (nearly literally) an uninterrupted scene of slow motion that lasts for about ten minutes. If you need a nap, take one. When you wake up, the horses will still be charging and the samurai will still be screaming. No big loss.

The Station Agent



Even though I caught this much later than I wanted to, I was still enamored with the delicacy and warmth of this film. The three leads have a whimsical, small-town triangular relationship that grows in surprisingly effective ways throughout the film. There is unusually confident and unassuming humor in the film, and Peter Dinklage truly shines as the quiet, wearied loner who inherits a train depot. Patricia Clarkson continues to deliver exceptional indie work as a mother coping with loss and divorce. Bobby Cannavale steals nearly every scene he's in as the overzealous, sweet-natured fast-food vendor.

Though the film owns up to its own formula roots (brooding loner learns to lower his guard in order to establish friendships with others), it succeeds through expertly acted and directed character work and superb storytelling. However, there is a certain lack of focus and coherence that makes the film seem rather arbitrary and nebulous. Though it doesn't degrade the film to any significant degree, it does give the audience a rather hazy vision, enough so that the film feels disjointed at times. Certainly not a scarring fault, it keeps the film from securing complete pleasure and wonderment.

[color=black][b]3.5 [/b]out of [b]4[/b][/color]


Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World



[size=2]We are living in a filmmaking age where very few directors would try their hand at a serious seafaring film. Surely, we can make do (spectacularly so) with a farcical, skewed vision of the genre, as seen in [u]Pirates of the Caribbean[/u]. However, today, a director is loathe to attempt a dramatic sea-worthy story. I am, of course, speaking in specific terms -- submarine films and the like don't really count when talking about "the high seas" since the term has chronological connotations. One of the last worthy films to extensively use "the high seas" was the made-for-tv-movie [u]Longitude[/u] with Michael Gambon -- quite a worthy film indeed. Perhaps it is the somewhat inherent silliness in the genre? Or the dated quality? After all, we are not running around on enormous, rickety, wooden boats anymore, firing canons at the French (we've at least moved on to iron boats). However, Peter Weir has made the bold and foolish move of putting us on one of those wooden boats, and he has made the even bolder and even more foolish move of making us take it seriously.[/size]

[size=2][u]Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World[/u] is based on the equally voluminously titled-and-catalogued set of books written by Patrick O'Brien. I have not read them. Might as well get that out. I can, however, imagine their likeness and quality if the film gives me anything to go on. Given the series, one would expect a possible franchise festering in the wings as we speak. However, I find this somewhat unlikely for a few reasons: one, there are just too many of them to do justice; two, they seem more historically satisfying than temporarily entertaining in nature; three, the current film may not make back its reported $120 million or more. Peter Weir's film is far too broad, rich, patient -- and therefore excellent -- for it to succeed with the masses in the same way that the aforementioned [u]Pirates[/u] has. Of course, I may be proven wrong. I hope I'm proven wrong. A film does not need to make back its budget to be a success. However, at my screening, the audience was not of the repeat-attenders variety, if you know what I mean.[/size]

[size=2]That being addressed, I had somewhat tempered hopes for [u]M & C[/u]. The exciting trailer gives the impression of a high-stakes cat and mouse game between two cunning sea-captains during a time of political unrest. While this accurately describes the surface of the film, there is [b]so[/b] much more that one could ascribe a kind of near-false-advertising to the marketing. The film is only bookended by gripping action setpieces. Well-directed and executed in that loud, realistically chaotic fashion, the action sequences serve the film much as the supports at each end serve a rope bridge drawn between them. To those complaining of the "boring" middle-passage, I say to them, "One could not walk across a bridge without planks, no?" Weir understands this basic concept, and uses the action sequences to prop up the planks: his characters, his story, his ship. [/size]

[size=2]First and foremost, Weir is one hell of an underrated and underseen director. The Aussie oddity has made films since the 70s yet has only [b]truly[/b] become popular in the last few years with the release of such crowd-pleasers as [u]Dead Poet's Society[/u] and [u]The Truman Show[/u]. Note the use of the phrase "crowd pleasers." Sadly enough, his acclaimed-but-stranger work in [u]Picnic at Hanging Rock[/u], [u]Gallipoli[/u], [u]Witness[/u], [u]The Mosquito Coast[/u], and others, has not become general household knowledge. Certainly, some of this comes from his "foreign" background (foreign to Americans at least). However, I predict and hope that [u]Master and Commander[/u] will catapult him into a domestic light he richly deserves. His work here is assured, modest, and above all, thoroughly rewarding. [/size]

[size=2]The film concerns the legendary Captain "Lucky" Jack Aubrey, his ship the H.M.S. [i]Surprise[/i], and the orders he so willfully attempts to carry out over the course of several weeks' sailing. Charged to find the French [i]Acheron[/i] and detain or secure it, Aubrey becomes more and more distressed (and probably secretly pleased) to find so worthy a foe in the phantomish French ship and captain. The film opens with the [i]Surprise[/i] being caught offguard and paying savagely for it. His foe being thus revealed to him, Aubrey exceeds his orders in his progressively dangerous attempts to find his quarry. My one wish for the film is a small one: take out the first three words of the title. The series may extol the virtues of this heroic and inspiring captain, and the film may use him decidedly as the primary focus of the story, but the situation here more accurately reflects an adventure-epic, one with many characters, problems, relationships, and solutions. Crowe beautifully and quaintly commands the audience's attention, certainly, but isn't that to be expected in the first place? What surprised me even more than Crowe's usually-excellent performance was the outright and splendid distinction of the entire cast. [/size]

[size=2]Weir has crafted a sprawling film indeed. The ashen photography, authentic art direction, and jittery score give a palpable magnitude to the proceedings. It goes without saying, of course, that there is a certain familiarity to those proceedings. There is a certain identifiable triteness to all of this. However, I was most pleased to discover that this did not lessen my admiration for the film at all. I simply took it in stride, confident that these archetypal characters and events were typical, everyday occurences of the time. You simply can't have a film about the high seas without including a scene where the ship gets stranded for days in the hot sun with no wind to assist. It would lessen the impact of the atmosphere. It would reduce the power of the chase. The hunter and the hunted would have things too easy. [/size]

[size=2]However many cliches Weir employs, he never makes the mistake of relying on them entirely. The freshness of the film comes from the personality of the characters, the vividness of their plight, and the purity of the actors. Again, the film would have sunk right to the bottom if it had not the universally excellent supporting cast. Paul Bettany in particular adds a low-key, heartfelt element to the film. I also fully believe that the "supporting ensemble" worked so well because there were so many unknown actors. Only Billy Boyd stuck out as an identifiable movie actor, and he was still quite good. The rest blend in with their ragged clothes, their rotten teeth, their red facial scars. The younger actors in particular show no signs of cloying-child-actor behavior, and one in particular gives an outright amazing performance. [/size]

[size=2]The heart of the film is the ship, the hundred some souls stranded on it, and the relationships between them, particularly Crowe's and Bettany's. It would have been easy for Weir to cut out everything but the cat and mouse game, and the relationship between the Captain and his best friend. They are the primary reasons for the film's success, and they are indeed finely textured, nuances portions. However, in keeping the rest of the ship's crew so front and center, Weir adds substantially to the weight and impact of the film. It's a striking, fully-realized, believable world. It's a world that has the time to sit down and play a few tunes, sing a few songs, tell a few jokes. That is not to say there is no fat, no excess. Of course there is. What accomplished, fully-realized, thoroughly-detailed world could do without that, too? [/size]

[color=#ff6639][color=red]**** out of ****[/color] [/color][color=black](upon reflection)[/color]


The Matrix Revolutions



Watching [b]The Matrix Revolutions[/b], I had a sinking feeling. No, it wasn't "this movie wallows in cliches and wasted opportunities," or "this movie is all special effects and no heart, soul, or brain." It wasn't even "this movie makes me hungry." Rather, it was this: "What was [b]The Matrix Reloaded[/b] about again?" Despite the cleverly-engineered tactic of releasing the two sequels within a few months from each other, there is something undeniably missing from [b]Revolutions[/b]. Even if one were to scruntinze the entire series, end to end, portentous line to portentous line, and even if everything makes perfect logical sense, there would still be the feeling that the rugs are being pulled out from under you because it entertains the filmmakers and not the audience. Watching the third film in the sci-fi series made me wonder just what was the point of the second film. In fact, I don't even recall, and I didn't even see the film that long ago! After [b]Revolutions[/b], I kept feeling like I was being jerked around for no apparent reason.

The fact of the matter is that there [u]are[/u] missed opportunities. That the film leaves so many gaping holes in its context, its subject, its tone, and its intent is rather depressing. However, it's optimistically depressing. The Wachowski's really have tried to jump as high and as far as they could. I applaud that wild, apparently abandon-less ambition that resulted in such an uneven film. Few filmmakers would attempt things so grandiose and unerringly [u]weird[/u] as the Wachowski's have delivered in what is ostensibly accepted as a mainstream film. That in and of itself is something to be admired in our culture. Or is it? Should our cultural acceptance of the film be attributed to shiny, eye-glossing action and effects, or to the weighty, layered philosophical goings-on? Frankly, I have no idea, but if [b]The Matrix Revolutions[/b] does well, it's probably (and unfortunately) the former. Isn't it just possible that the reason so many people loved the first film was due to its relative audacity and freshness as an action-effects-spectacle? For mainstream American audiences, it was something very, very new. When people rightly started attributing heady philosophical/metaphysical/socio-religious underpinnings to the film, it was suddenly deigned more "serious" than initially conceived. Or was it? There's that damned "What If" stuff again.

Though [b]The Matrix Revolutions[/b] picks up where [b]Reloaded[/b] left off, I got the feeling that the filmmakers sort of forgot what they had just achieved and were content to start off on a nearly fresh foothold. There are new characters to behold, indeed. But there are also older characters that make perfunctory and wholly unsatisfying appearances, or there are veteran characters that find themselves in constant danger of being pushed out of the film altogether! There are plot points that become redundant, unnecessary, or unnecessarily redundant. It's quite astonishing come to think of it. It feels like the Wachowski Brothers were content that the first two films set up 95% of the entire story so the third film could be nothing but climactic action and overcooked, repetitive musings, and to a degree this is true. However, when the filmmakers execute the film like they do, they pull the rug out from under themselves. They are so very enamored with the world they've created, they are so excited about pushing forward new and constantly evolving ideas, their honorable intentions tend to get lost in an amorphous muddle of scenery-chewing, embarassing dialoque, hoary cliches, an overpowering action overload, and even an all-too obvious reverse-pc-ification of strong female characters to boot.

Reeves is, if possible, even more woodenly stoic than in previous films, though it works to a slight advantage this time as he becomes more and more involved with the machine world, up until the point where he essentially [u]becomes[/u] a machine, or at least the best personification of a tool. Moss is a little underused and should probably feel bad about playing little more than a rote "woman in love." Fishburne, it seems, has disappeared entirely from view, though I'm not sure how that happened given his ever-widening girth. Where is he finding all that food in Zion? He must know Sally Struthers. Hugo Weaving continues to excessively expand his heavy role into something better than mere mustache-twirling. He is a joy to watch onscreen. Mary Alice is the most notable Matrix neophyte, and aquits herself fairly well when she's not trying desperately to channel the late, great Gloria Foster (who will be missed). Most of the other actors in the film have become near-parodies of themselves in former films, most notably the Merovingian and the gruff, no-nonsense Commander Lock. Additionally, doesn't it say something that I thought the best relationship in the entire series belonged to Link and Zee?

However, there is something to be said for the film. In fact, there are quite a few somethings. There is no denying the artistry, the majesty, the command of the medium's most excessively opulent possibilities. Even though the foundation is noticeably lacking or crumbling, the action holds the audience tightly, and the effects are well worth the time and price of a ticket. There is a certain glorious charisma that the film achieves: you are drawn to it though you don't entirely know why. I was still questioning myself long after I had left the theatre: if I can identify and qualify so many of its problems, then why did I still enjoy the hell out of it? The Wachowskis are brilliant in this regard. They know exactly when to end the film. They know exactly how long after the action to throw the credits onscreen. The excitement is still lingering in your mind's eye. It's only after reflection does the movie's watered down taste get into your stomach. There are sights in the film as epic and visually triumphant as it gets. There are moments of pure, unfiltered, uncensored [u]cinema[/u]. The Wachowskis are talented filmmakers. There is no denying it. So why did they leave so much to chance?

Some will say the film should just be enjoyed without pretense and without heavy lifting in the cranial area. However, I think this would reduce the potential power of the series. That the film does not, in my opinion, fulfill many or even some of its initial promises hurts its chances of remaining a tried and true staple of the science fiction genre. The best in the genre remain viable today because of [u]how[/u] they think and because of what they encourage in the viewer. [b]Logan's Run[/b] is not enjoyed today because of its "effects" (and I use the term as loosely as possible). The original [b]Matrix[/b] can still be enjoyed as a full and contemplative film, and that film will survive long after its effects have worn out. [b]Revolutions[/b], however, will probably sputter and drown given enough time. Even should the film be remembered solely for its capability as an all-out, fire-in-the-belly, balls-to-the-wall action-and-effects extravangza . . . do we really want it to? I don't. Didn't, at least.

[color=green]**1/2 out of ****[/color]



Finding Nemo
Finding Nemo(2003)



A friend just took advantage of Blockbuster's (grrrrr) new deal where if you buy a certain DVD ([b]Finding Nemo[/b] now, and [b]Pirates of the Carribbean[/b] soon), then you get like 7 free rentals. Anyway, he brought the DVD over to a friends apartment and we crowded about six people in the living room to watch it.

Geez, this was even better than I remembered. The animation is just jaw-dropping. This may be one of the most colorful and beautiful animated films I've ever seen. It may even edge out the none-too-ugly [b]Spirited Away[/b]. I think [b]FN[/b] got some bad flack because it wasn't Pixar's VERY best. Shamefully, people are probably going to keep expecting Jesus Christ himself to materialize out of Pixar's films. It ain't gonna happen. Well, maybe in [b]The Incredibles[/b], but I digress.

[b]Nemo[/b] is a complete triumph. This may be the new owner of the record for "Best Use of Voice Talent in a Pixar Film." All across the board, the voicework is sterling. Not a bad one in the lot. Once again, Pixar cuts to the heart of what may appear to be a remarkably (even tediously?) simply story. However, therein lies the brilliance of Pixar. Using subtlety almost never seen in a children's film, Pixar continues to deliver rollicking and touching stories that miraculously appeal to both children and the adults that generally accompany them. Children will love the wild, raucous (but not insipid) humor and the funny, soaring stories. Adults can slice open the endless layers of quality filmmaking, of any level: abundant heart, beautiful visions, honorable life-lessons, and above all, the lack of sappy, hokum-driven, doe-eyed drivel that a certain company has been putting out for years (when it's not being saved by Pixar).

People have complained that the story is too "simplistic" for a Pixar film, and therefore not as worthy as, say, the [b]Toy Stories[/b], or [b]Monster's, Inc[/b][i].[/i] Well, the former was about "children's playthings" and the latter was about "monsters in the closet." By the same logic, carried to its vapid conclusion, [b]The Lion King[/b] is about a pride of lions surviving in the animal world. You could spin the story in any fashion you would care to, but the fact remains that [b]Nemo[/b] is unlike any other Pixar-pic to date. It's approach is more low-key and delicate than perhaps any of their previous films. The best stories have applications beyond the surface level and [b]Nemo[/b]fulfills this in spades. And why not? The story is really about the [u]adults[/u] stuck in their situation. The subplot with Nemo's tank adventures is a clever, entertaining, [b]Stalag-17[/b]-esque joyride, but it clearly takes a backseat to the more prominent and pointed meaning of Marlin and Dory's search. These are [u]adults[/u], prominently leading a children's story. These are two adults working out their problems with each other and the world.

The film moved by to near tears twice now. It may be the most heart-rending-for-adults kids movie ever. And yet . . . and yet kids will still sit and watch the film unfold, thanks to the trademark Pixar wit and wisdom. They don't even have to be [u]told[/u] to identify with the characters just because they are not children. It is automatic, and the effortless creativity and depth of imagination in the Pixar-crew still staggers me. We may be looking at a kind of renaissance in children's cinema.

Eye-popping, jaw-dropping animation and color, a remarkably subtle and funny script, honest, wounding voicework, and a timeless story make for another Pixar masterwork.



Forgotten Silver

A Visionary Mock-Doc.

8/10 for sheer style, energy, and consistent wit.