Grizzly's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

The Prestige
The Prestige(2006)
½

[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]The Prestige [img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/45-stars.gif[/img][/size][/i][/font]
[/indent]in a year of one disappointment after another, it's nice that at least some of your most anticipated films don't let you down. Christopher Nolan and his [b]The Prestige[/b] didn't, and it is in fact one of the best films of last year. this makes him 4/4 (or 5/5 if you include his pre-[b]Memento[/b] film [b]Following[/b]). it's not a masterpiece like [b]Memento[/b], but it's another great film from Nolan who continues to impress. the only thing i'd say that keeps [b]The Prestige[/b] from that higher level is that most of it's twists and turns end up very obvious, surprisingly so. but also surprisingly was that i didn't really mind as much as i normally do when films aren't good at hiding their secrets. i guess that's mostly because it's such an entertaining, well-made film that despite it's obvious twists take the story right down the path we want it to. that i liked it as much as i did without the twists being such a major role of it certainly bodes well for future viewing as well, as so many movies with twists usually only are really great that first time. [b]The Prestige[/b] is great entertainment in every way, even more so than [b]The Illusionist[/b], though both are terrific films.[size=1]
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[/size]The Science of Sleep [img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/45-stars.gif[/img][/size][/i][/font]
[/indent]even though [b]Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind[/b] was my favorite film two years ago, i really wasn't looking forward to Michel Gondry's follow-up [b]The Science of Sleep[/b] all that much. i didn't really care for the trailer, and it seemed like Gondry was just trying to capitalize on [b]ESOTM[/b]'s success with another similar film. but now that i've seen it, [b]The Science of Sleep[/b] has to rate as one of very few films of 2006 that actually exceeded my expectations by quite a bit. i didn't just like it, i really liked it, loved it even. it's certainly not close to being on the same level as [b]ESOTM[/b], but it's still a fantastically imaginative ride of a movie. there are aspects of the dream sequences that gets some details exactly right from my own experiences, like how little mundane details of every day life can creep into your dreams. i can't claim that my dreams are as wild as Stephane's in this film, but it still strikes me as the closest visualization of dreams that i've seen. the love story at the heart of the film is very sweet too, and funny, and Gael Garcia Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg make for a very good couple on the screen. don't miss this!

The Science of Sleep
½

[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]The Prestige [img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/45-stars.gif[/img][/size][/i][/font]
[/indent]in a year of one disappointment after another, it's nice that at least some of your most anticipated films don't let you down. Christopher Nolan and his [b]The Prestige[/b] didn't, and it is in fact one of the best films of last year. this makes him 4/4 (or 5/5 if you include his pre-[b]Memento[/b] film [b]Following[/b]). it's not a masterpiece like [b]Memento[/b], but it's another great film from Nolan who continues to impress. the only thing i'd say that keeps [b]The Prestige[/b] from that higher level is that most of it's twists and turns end up very obvious, surprisingly so. but also surprisingly was that i didn't really mind as much as i normally do when films aren't good at hiding their secrets. i guess that's mostly because it's such an entertaining, well-made film that despite it's obvious twists take the story right down the path we want it to. that i liked it as much as i did without the twists being such a major role of it certainly bodes well for future viewing as well, as so many movies with twists usually only are really great that first time. [b]The Prestige[/b] is great entertainment in every way, even more so than [b]The Illusionist[/b], though both are terrific films.[size=1]
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[/size]The Science of Sleep [img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/45-stars.gif[/img][/size][/i][/font]
[/indent]even though [b]Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind[/b] was my favorite film two years ago, i really wasn't looking forward to Michel Gondry's follow-up [b]The Science of Sleep[/b] all that much. i didn't really care for the trailer, and it seemed like Gondry was just trying to capitalize on [b]ESOTM[/b]'s success with another similar film. but now that i've seen it, [b]The Science of Sleep[/b] has to rate as one of very few films of 2006 that actually exceeded my expectations by quite a bit. i didn't just like it, i really liked it, loved it even. it's certainly not close to being on the same level as [b]ESOTM[/b], but it's still a fantastically imaginative ride of a movie. there are aspects of the dream sequences that gets some details exactly right from my own experiences, like how little mundane details of every day life can creep into your dreams. i can't claim that my dreams are as wild as Stephane's in this film, but it still strikes me as the closest visualization of dreams that i've seen. the love story at the heart of the film is very sweet too, and funny, and Gael Garcia Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg make for a very good couple on the screen. don't miss this!

The Departed
The Departed(2006)
½

[center][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/film/departed.jpg[/img]
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when i first heard about the plans to remake [b]Infernal Affairs[/b], a favorite film of mine, i was highly skeptical. even though Martin Scorsese himself, the overlord of crime films, was attached to direct it, it just seemed like a bad idea. why do a remake of such a great film, what could possibly be improved upon? not even the trailers wowed me that much.. but then the reviews came. it went from a potentially good crime film to a potential Best Picture Oscar nominee. even other fans of [b]Infernal Affairs[/b] started to say that Scorsese made the story into his own film, he did it right. my expectations certainly rose hearing such words, but of course i remained a bit skeptical. i figured it'd be a good movie (it's such a great story after all), but i really didn't think it could equal or topple the original.

now i have finally seen [b]The Departed[/b] and it's a great film. consider me a convert. not that i ever loudly expressed displeasure about [b]The Departed[/b] getting made, but i certainly didn't think i'd like it as much as i did. i would actually say that i find both films equal. there are things about the original that are better (and it'll always be the original), but there are plenty of new ingredients and flavors in [b]The Departed[/b] that make it possibly a more entertaining and funny film than the original too. for example, i can't even remember the mob boss in [b]Infernal Affairs[/b], and in [b]The Departed[/b] we get a delicious performance by Jack Nicholson.

and you can't complain about a cast like this either. it's one terrific performance after another, some of them gripping, others just pure fun, and no one sticks out like a sore thumb either. the writing and direction, as well as the film's technical credits are outstanding too, as one would expect from a master filmmaker like Scorsese.

perhaps the most satisfying aspect about this whole project is that it's likely to be the film that finally wins Martin Scorsese a Best Director Oscar. even if i hadn't liked it, that still would've made it all worth while. it'll be a bit weird that he wins it for a remake, but on the other hand, [b]The Departed[/b] is just as much a classic Scorsese film as anything else he's done in his career. it'll definitely be the film i'll root for at the Oscars next month, as one of the best films of 2006.

[img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/45-stars.gif[/img]

Flags of Our Fathers
½

[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Flags of Our Fathers [/size][/i][/font][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/35-stars.gif[/img]
[/indent]there's a truly great film trapped within the confused narrative of [b]Flags of Our Fathers[/b]. there's really no excuse for how Eastwood and editor Joel Cox put this film together, especially when this film has all the right ingredients. it's a great story, it's got solid acting and the technical aspects of it are among the best of the year.. yet the film jumps back and forth in time, and it just doesn't work. had it been told in linear fashion (and execised some unnecessary aspects) it would be a truly great film. if there was a Razzie for editing, this film should be the winner. it's still a good film, worth seeing at the very least. my rating is probably more lenient than it should be, but it probably reflects the movie i pieced together in my head once it was over, and not really how it is presented on screen (if that makes sense). it's all there, they just didn't piece the puzzle together properly.


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[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Flushed Away [/size][/i][/font][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]
[/indent]i was highly skeptical of Aardman doing an digitally animated film, but Flushed Away was actually surprisingly good. with all the water scenes in it, it's perfectly understandable that they opted for digital animation. the film certainly doesn't have quite the charm as their stop-motion animated films, but it's a worthy film. the only real big complaint i have is that it should've been longer. at about 85 minutes, it really just goes straight from A to B, and there's very little surprise or fleshing out of the characters and story. not all films need that, but Flushed Away definitely feels like it would've been a better film had they gone the extra mile. still, there's plenty of great fun to be had here, my favorite bits being scenes featuring the French henchman Le Frog (pictured above). bottom line: a minor film compared to other Aardman films, but still a fun little adventure.

Flushed Away
Flushed Away(2006)

[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Flags of Our Fathers [/size][/i][/font][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/35-stars.gif[/img]
[/indent]there's a truly great film trapped within the confused narrative of [b]Flags of Our Fathers[/b]. there's really no excuse for how Eastwood and editor Joel Cox put this film together, especially when this film has all the right ingredients. it's a great story, it's got solid acting and the technical aspects of it are among the best of the year.. yet the film jumps back and forth in time, and it just doesn't work. had it been told in linear fashion (and execised some unnecessary aspects) it would be a truly great film. if there was a Razzie for editing, this film should be the winner. it's still a good film, worth seeing at the very least. my rating is probably more lenient than it should be, but it probably reflects the movie i pieced together in my head once it was over, and not really how it is presented on screen (if that makes sense). it's all there, they just didn't piece the puzzle together properly.


[center][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/film/flushed-away.jpg[/img]
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[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Flushed Away [/size][/i][/font][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]
[/indent]i was highly skeptical of Aardman doing an digitally animated film, but Flushed Away was actually surprisingly good. with all the water scenes in it, it's perfectly understandable that they opted for digital animation. the film certainly doesn't have quite the charm as their stop-motion animated films, but it's a worthy film. the only real big complaint i have is that it should've been longer. at about 85 minutes, it really just goes straight from A to B, and there's very little surprise or fleshing out of the characters and story. not all films need that, but Flushed Away definitely feels like it would've been a better film had they gone the extra mile. still, there's plenty of great fun to be had here, my favorite bits being scenes featuring the French henchman Le Frog (pictured above). bottom line: a minor film compared to other Aardman films, but still a fun little adventure.

Clerks II
Clerks II(2006)

[indent][size=5][font=Georgia][i]Casino Royale [img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img][/i][/font][/size]
[/indent]while [b]Casino Royale[/b] takes quite a few steps in the right direction, it also feels like the Bond franchise still has quite a ways to go before it's on par with today's gold standard of spy films: the Bourne films. not that Bond should ever be just like the Bourne films, but [b]Casino Royale[/b] feels like a 50/50 mix of standard Bond fare and one of the Bourne films.. and the result is at times schizophrenic. the opening chase is rather hilariously over the top, and in "old style" Bond universe that'd be fine.. but mixed with this grittier, more realistic Bond i have to say it doesn't always work as well as it should. but [b]Casino Royale[/b] is by no means bad in any way. it's an enjoyable action spectacle, and i'm willing to give them a pass for some of my criticisms since they're trying to find their new direction. it also features Eva Green as possibly the hottest and greatest Bond girl ever, and a Daniel Craig as a very suitable, though not as cool, James Bond.[size=1]

[/size] [indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Clerks II [img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img][/size][/i][/font]
[/indent]i've always enjoyed Kevin Smith's films. they've rarely come close to true greatness, but at the same time they're usually very solid, entertaining films. [b]Clerks II[/b] is no different. the only thing that really needs to be said about it is that if you enjoy Smith's films, you'll enjoy this one and if you don't enjoy his films, you won't enjoy this one. what i like about Smith is that he speaks "geek speak". for example, in Clerks II there's a scene where Randal is attacking some guy on his blog. this made me think that i've probably never even heard of blogs being mentioned in a film before. and where else can you get people arguing about which trilogy is the best (Indiana Jones is clearly the best, booya!)? as for the cast, it's solid, with Rosario Dawson making the best impression and a very welcome addition to the View Askewniverse. but anyway, like i said, if you like Smith's films, see this, if you don't, skip it.

Casino Royale

[indent][size=5][font=Georgia][i]Casino Royale [img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img][/i][/font][/size]
[/indent]while [b]Casino Royale[/b] takes quite a few steps in the right direction, it also feels like the Bond franchise still has quite a ways to go before it's on par with today's gold standard of spy films: the Bourne films. not that Bond should ever be just like the Bourne films, but [b]Casino Royale[/b] feels like a 50/50 mix of standard Bond fare and one of the Bourne films.. and the result is at times schizophrenic. the opening chase is rather hilariously over the top, and in "old style" Bond universe that'd be fine.. but mixed with this grittier, more realistic Bond i have to say it doesn't always work as well as it should. but [b]Casino Royale[/b] is by no means bad in any way. it's an enjoyable action spectacle, and i'm willing to give them a pass for some of my criticisms since they're trying to find their new direction. it also features Eva Green as possibly the hottest and greatest Bond girl ever, and a Daniel Craig as a very suitable, though not as cool, James Bond.[size=1]

[/size] [indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Clerks II [img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img][/size][/i][/font]
[/indent]i've always enjoyed Kevin Smith's films. they've rarely come close to true greatness, but at the same time they're usually very solid, entertaining films. [b]Clerks II[/b] is no different. the only thing that really needs to be said about it is that if you enjoy Smith's films, you'll enjoy this one and if you don't enjoy his films, you won't enjoy this one. what i like about Smith is that he speaks "geek speak". for example, in Clerks II there's a scene where Randal is attacking some guy on his blog. this made me think that i've probably never even heard of blogs being mentioned in a film before. and where else can you get people arguing about which trilogy is the best (Indiana Jones is clearly the best, booya!)? as for the cast, it's solid, with Rosario Dawson making the best impression and a very welcome addition to the View Askewniverse. but anyway, like i said, if you like Smith's films, see this, if you don't, skip it.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

if there's one movie this year that's destined for cult status, it's [b]Borat[/b], not [b]Snakes on a Plane[/b] (or anything else you might think of). an equal-opportunity offender mockumentary of sorts, Borat is undoubtedly the funniest film you will see this year, and it is certainly a film that has to be seen to be believed. whether or not Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat Sagdiyev will end up in the pantheon with the likes of Peter Sellers' Jacques Clouseau and Charlie Chaplin's Tramp remains to be seen, but for younger generations he's probably already there.. or will be after this weekend anyway.

for the amount of laughs it gives you, this film would get the highest grade.. but at the same time, there are a few bits here and there that don't work, and i honestly think the film would've benefitted from being a bit longer. not that there is all that much plot to speak of that needs filling out, or characterizations that need to be fleshed out, but more would've nevertheless been better.

and for all the controversy surrounding it, [b]Borat[/b] really isn't taking pot shots at any one particular group of people. it pokes just as much fun at Americans of all kinds, and all bits related to Kazakhstan are just way too over the top to be truly believable. Anyone feeling truly offended by Borat probably should go see films with humor in them.

i'm not giving [b]Borat[/b] the top grade, or even the second-highest grade.. but it's a must-see nevertheless. and i promise you it'll keep you laughing and laughing. there's even a scene in it that might give you a heart attack because you'll be laughing so hard. those of you who've seen it will surely know which scene i'm talking about, and those of you about to see it will probably know exactly which scene it is when you see it.

[img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img] (on the whole)
[img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/5-stars.gif[/img] (laugh-o-meter)

Over the Hedge
½

[center][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/film/monster-house.jpg[/img]
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[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Monster House [/size][/i][/font][size=1][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img][/size] [/indent]i remember [b]Monster House[/b] being compared to [b]The Goonies[/b] and similar type of 80s films when it came out, and that actually wasn't such a bad comparison. it's got a more grown up tone, it's quite a bit scary as well as adventurous and maybe most importantly, the story concept isn't as complicated as it often gets these days. you got a house, it's a monster, adults don't believe you and kids have to save the day. and Monster House pulls it off wonderfully in most ways, even making you feel a bit nostalgic.

what doesn't work for me personally is the character designs and the animation of them (or lack of it). while pretty much everything else about the movie looks just fantastic, the characters are instantly forgettable. like with [b]The Polar Express[/b], they're brough to life through motion capture rather than through the hard work of an animator.. and in the case of films like these i'll take animation artistry over motion capture any day.

but in the case of [b]Monster House[/b], what the characters look like isn't what's most important, and it has the story (which of course is nicely explained and tied together in the end), the scares, laughs and one heck of a bad-ass house.
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[/size][indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Over the Hedge [/size][/i][/font][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/35-stars.gif[/img] [/indent]this one was actually a little bit disappointing. after the very positive reviews this got when it first came out, my expectations rose quite a bit despite some previous reservations. it's still a good film by all means, but it lacks that extra special that i thought it would have. the main problem is that pretty much all of the characters are pretty dull and forgettable, and if it hadn't been for Hammy the Squirrel (a brilliant Steve Carell) i think my rating would've dropped considerably. the two main characters R.J. and Verne are probably the least interesting leads in a long time. the actual look of the film is rather disappointing too, particularly the character design (again with the character design!). only Hammy, once again, strikes me as a memorable character.

but enough negativity. [b]Over the Hedge[/b] is despite it's flaws an entertaining film. it's not nearly as good as the critics said it was, but it's not a disaster either. the characters may not be all they could've been, but the story works well enough and thank the heavens for Hammy, without whom this film probably would've been a snooze.

Monster House

[center][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/film/monster-house.jpg[/img]
[/center]
[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Monster House [/size][/i][/font][size=1][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img][/size] [/indent]i remember [b]Monster House[/b] being compared to [b]The Goonies[/b] and similar type of 80s films when it came out, and that actually wasn't such a bad comparison. it's got a more grown up tone, it's quite a bit scary as well as adventurous and maybe most importantly, the story concept isn't as complicated as it often gets these days. you got a house, it's a monster, adults don't believe you and kids have to save the day. and Monster House pulls it off wonderfully in most ways, even making you feel a bit nostalgic.

what doesn't work for me personally is the character designs and the animation of them (or lack of it). while pretty much everything else about the movie looks just fantastic, the characters are instantly forgettable. like with [b]The Polar Express[/b], they're brough to life through motion capture rather than through the hard work of an animator.. and in the case of films like these i'll take animation artistry over motion capture any day.

but in the case of [b]Monster House[/b], what the characters look like isn't what's most important, and it has the story (which of course is nicely explained and tied together in the end), the scares, laughs and one heck of a bad-ass house.
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[/size][indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Over the Hedge [/size][/i][/font][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/35-stars.gif[/img] [/indent]this one was actually a little bit disappointing. after the very positive reviews this got when it first came out, my expectations rose quite a bit despite some previous reservations. it's still a good film by all means, but it lacks that extra special that i thought it would have. the main problem is that pretty much all of the characters are pretty dull and forgettable, and if it hadn't been for Hammy the Squirrel (a brilliant Steve Carell) i think my rating would've dropped considerably. the two main characters R.J. and Verne are probably the least interesting leads in a long time. the actual look of the film is rather disappointing too, particularly the character design (again with the character design!). only Hammy, once again, strikes me as a memorable character.

but enough negativity. [b]Over the Hedge[/b] is despite it's flaws an entertaining film. it's not nearly as good as the critics said it was, but it's not a disaster either. the characters may not be all they could've been, but the story works well enough and thank the heavens for Hammy, without whom this film probably would've been a snooze.

Thank You for Smoking
½

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[b]Thank You For Smoking[/b] is easily the best satire to come around since 1997's [b]Wag the Dog[/b], and it's also the funniest film so far this year. i was actually surprised by how truly funny it is, because satires tend to be more "grin at how clever it is" films than real laugh out loud films. but [b]Thank You For Smoking[/b] will make most laugh out loud plenty, and it does so with smarts, without not resolving to the lowest common denominator for cheap laughs.

the film has also turned me into a fan of Aaron Eckhart, who plays the fast-talking tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor, our main character. i've liked Eckhart in the films he's been in before, but i never really liked him all that much. until now. Eckhart is absolutely perfect as Naylor, he totally nails (no pun intended) the role. [b]Thank You For Smoking[/b] also marks the first film i've seen with young Cameron Bright where he doesn't creep me out like he has been doing in every other film the past few years. the rest of the cast all have fairly small supporting roles, but there are real gold nuggets to be found, such as Adam Brody as a hyper/whack-o assistant to a Hollywood producer, Rob Lowe as said Hollywood producer, Sam Elliott as a disgruntled Marlboro Man, William H. Macy as a senator, Robert Duvall as the last tobacco tycoon and Maria Bello and David Koechner as Naylor's best friends and fellow "Merchants of Death". none of the supporting characters may be great enough to warrant any kind of awards attention, but it's definitely one of the best ensemble casts of the year.

maybe even more startling is the fact that [b]Thank You For Smoking[/b] is a directorial debut by the son of Ivan Reitman, Jason Reitman. he's only directed shorts before, and here he takes on the job of not only directing it, but adapting the novel as well. in both cases he succeeds brilliantly. dare i even say that with his directorial debut, the son has already surpassed his father? well, maybe not just yet, but it certainly is a very impressive way to launch a career.

everyone must see [b]Thank You For Smoking[/b], if only for the brilliant opening credits. it's sharp, funny, features a great cast and will most likely make my top ten of the year when all is said and done. what more reasons could you want? for those of you in North America, it comes out on DVD tomorrow (October 3rd), so run don't walk to the video store if you haven't already seen it.

[img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/45-stars.gif[/img]

Jet Li's Fearless (Huo Yuan Jia) (Legend of a Fighter)

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while [b]Fearless[/b] doesn't reach the same heights dramatically like films such as [b]Hero[/b] and [b]Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon[/b], it's still easily the best kung fu movie i've seen in recent years. i really didn't expect much going in, pretty much all i knew about it was that it's supposedly Jet Li's final period kung fu film. the ads on tv looked pretty sweet though, so i decided to check it out and i'm glad i did.

whereas the story is a bit lighter than those of [b]Hero[/b] and [b]Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon[/b], it's packs more of a punch and it's certainly more action-oriented. right off the bat we're treated to some pretty spectacular fights and thankfully the filmmakers don't resort to just quick cuts to mask any fighting deficiency on behalf of the actors. it's certainly nice to see two fighters go at it with each other without the editing going all haywire. the film is certainly guilty of that at times as well, but at least it's not trying to hide anything.

i was surprised that the film did have as much of a dramatic and weighty story to it though. i basically expected it to be all brawn and no brains, but there is a good story behind it (one based on actual events, no less), and that adds heaps to the film even if most of us are mainly there for the action. the story could've definitely have been fleshed out even more, especially with the film making a few skips in time that are a bit too big. all in all, a solid story though and even better action.

i will admit that i haven't seen very many of Jet Li's more famous Asian films that he made before turning his eye to Hollywood, but out of the films he's done since becoming famous to the western mainstream, [b]Fearless[/b] definitely ranks among the best films he's done since then (second only to [b]Hero[/b] i'd say). it'll be a shame if this really is his last period epic since he clearly still has the skills, but at least he's going out on top.

[img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]

Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story

[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Friends with Money[/size][/i][/font][size=2]
[/size][/indent]while Nicole Holofcener's films are usually good films, one can't help but feel like they always fall a bit short of true greatness. [b]Friends with Money[/b] is no different. it's a well-written, well-acted and well-made movie, but clocking in at less than 90 minutes (like all of her movies seem to do) it almost always feels like they could've been more fleshed out. that's the main problem with Friends with Money, a film that i still like very much for many reasons, the excellent cast being the primary one. you've got Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener, Joan Cusack and a Jennifer Aniston that's better than usual, plus you've got actors like Simon McBurney whom i've never heard of stealing most scenes he's in. i definitely recommend this film, just don't expect too much.

[size=1][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]

[/size][indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Hard Candy[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]there are plenty of allusions in [b]Hard Candy[/b] to the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, only here she's not quite what you or The Wolf expected. it is a very clever gimmick though, and the title [b]Hard Candy[/b] certainly fits this film to a T. the greatest thing about it is young up-and-comer Ellen Page who plays our Little Red Riding Hood (of sorts). the ferocious performance she gives in this film is undoubtedly the best acting performance i've seen so far this year, and it pains me to think that she'll probably be all but forgotten once the awards season kicks off. Patrick Wilson, our Wolf, fares very well as well, but Page easily overshadows him. it's not a film for the squeamish though, not that it's gory or anything, but it's pretty intense at times so beware.

[size=1][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]

[/size][indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]RV[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]it's a little bit embarrassing to admit this, but [b]RV[/b] exceeded my expectations by quite a bit. maybe my low expectations going into it helped quite a bit, but this is actually a pretty good and occasionally very funny film. it's no [b]Vacation[/b] by any means, of course, but i liked it for what it was. it's a minor film, it's flawed, but it's just nice to see a film that doesn't have a high concept like every other film today does. this film could've more or less have been made 20 years ago or 40 years ago. i know many are (seemingly) sick of Robin Williams, but i've always liked him, and this feels like it's the funniest he's been in a long time. i wouldn't say i highly recommend it to all and everyone, but if you're a bit curious about it, give it a shot.

[size=1][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/35-stars.gif[/img]

[/size][indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story[/size][/i][/font]
[/indent]i'm sure one would get even greater enjoyment out of [b]Tristram Shandy[/b] if they've read the book(s) it's based on, but i haven't and i have to say it's really not key to enjoying this film and laughing your ass off. it's a film about the making of a film, based on a book that's about Tristram Shandy but not really in the end. yeah, it's kinda hard to describe, but just see it, dammit. see it for Steve Coogan (a riot in multiple roles). see it for the glimpse of a naked Steve Coogan in a place you'd never expect to see Steve Coogan in. Michael Winterbottom did the impossible and made a film out of a book that apparently couldn't be adapted into a film, and he succeeded brilliantly. [b]Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story[/b] is a must-see.

[img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]

Friends With Money

[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Friends with Money[/size][/i][/font][size=2]
[/size][/indent]while Nicole Holofcener's films are usually good films, one can't help but feel like they always fall a bit short of true greatness. [b]Friends with Money[/b] is no different. it's a well-written, well-acted and well-made movie, but clocking in at less than 90 minutes (like all of her movies seem to do) it almost always feels like they could've been more fleshed out. that's the main problem with Friends with Money, a film that i still like very much for many reasons, the excellent cast being the primary one. you've got Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener, Joan Cusack and a Jennifer Aniston that's better than usual, plus you've got actors like Simon McBurney whom i've never heard of stealing most scenes he's in. i definitely recommend this film, just don't expect too much.

[size=1][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]

[/size][indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Hard Candy[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]there are plenty of allusions in [b]Hard Candy[/b] to the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, only here she's not quite what you or The Wolf expected. it is a very clever gimmick though, and the title [b]Hard Candy[/b] certainly fits this film to a T. the greatest thing about it is young up-and-comer Ellen Page who plays our Little Red Riding Hood (of sorts). the ferocious performance she gives in this film is undoubtedly the best acting performance i've seen so far this year, and it pains me to think that she'll probably be all but forgotten once the awards season kicks off. Patrick Wilson, our Wolf, fares very well as well, but Page easily overshadows him. it's not a film for the squeamish though, not that it's gory or anything, but it's pretty intense at times so beware.

[size=1][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]

[/size][indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]RV[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]it's a little bit embarrassing to admit this, but [b]RV[/b] exceeded my expectations by quite a bit. maybe my low expectations going into it helped quite a bit, but this is actually a pretty good and occasionally very funny film. it's no [b]Vacation[/b] by any means, of course, but i liked it for what it was. it's a minor film, it's flawed, but it's just nice to see a film that doesn't have a high concept like every other film today does. this film could've more or less have been made 20 years ago or 40 years ago. i know many are (seemingly) sick of Robin Williams, but i've always liked him, and this feels like it's the funniest he's been in a long time. i wouldn't say i highly recommend it to all and everyone, but if you're a bit curious about it, give it a shot.

[size=1][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/35-stars.gif[/img]

[/size][indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story[/size][/i][/font]
[/indent]i'm sure one would get even greater enjoyment out of [b]Tristram Shandy[/b] if they've read the book(s) it's based on, but i haven't and i have to say it's really not key to enjoying this film and laughing your ass off. it's a film about the making of a film, based on a book that's about Tristram Shandy but not really in the end. yeah, it's kinda hard to describe, but just see it, dammit. see it for Steve Coogan (a riot in multiple roles). see it for the glimpse of a naked Steve Coogan in a place you'd never expect to see Steve Coogan in. Michael Winterbottom did the impossible and made a film out of a book that apparently couldn't be adapted into a film, and he succeeded brilliantly. [b]Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story[/b] is a must-see.

[img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]

RV
RV(2006)
½

[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Friends with Money[/size][/i][/font][size=2]
[/size][/indent]while Nicole Holofcener's films are usually good films, one can't help but feel like they always fall a bit short of true greatness. [b]Friends with Money[/b] is no different. it's a well-written, well-acted and well-made movie, but clocking in at less than 90 minutes (like all of her movies seem to do) it almost always feels like they could've been more fleshed out. that's the main problem with Friends with Money, a film that i still like very much for many reasons, the excellent cast being the primary one. you've got Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener, Joan Cusack and a Jennifer Aniston that's better than usual, plus you've got actors like Simon McBurney whom i've never heard of stealing most scenes he's in. i definitely recommend this film, just don't expect too much.

[size=1][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]

[/size][indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Hard Candy[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]there are plenty of allusions in [b]Hard Candy[/b] to the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, only here she's not quite what you or The Wolf expected. it is a very clever gimmick though, and the title [b]Hard Candy[/b] certainly fits this film to a T. the greatest thing about it is young up-and-comer Ellen Page who plays our Little Red Riding Hood (of sorts). the ferocious performance she gives in this film is undoubtedly the best acting performance i've seen so far this year, and it pains me to think that she'll probably be all but forgotten once the awards season kicks off. Patrick Wilson, our Wolf, fares very well as well, but Page easily overshadows him. it's not a film for the squeamish though, not that it's gory or anything, but it's pretty intense at times so beware.

[size=1][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]

[/size][indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]RV[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]it's a little bit embarrassing to admit this, but [b]RV[/b] exceeded my expectations by quite a bit. maybe my low expectations going into it helped quite a bit, but this is actually a pretty good and occasionally very funny film. it's no [b]Vacation[/b] by any means, of course, but i liked it for what it was. it's a minor film, it's flawed, but it's just nice to see a film that doesn't have a high concept like every other film today does. this film could've more or less have been made 20 years ago or 40 years ago. i know many are (seemingly) sick of Robin Williams, but i've always liked him, and this feels like it's the funniest he's been in a long time. i wouldn't say i highly recommend it to all and everyone, but if you're a bit curious about it, give it a shot.

[size=1][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/35-stars.gif[/img]

[/size][indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story[/size][/i][/font]
[/indent]i'm sure one would get even greater enjoyment out of [b]Tristram Shandy[/b] if they've read the book(s) it's based on, but i haven't and i have to say it's really not key to enjoying this film and laughing your ass off. it's a film about the making of a film, based on a book that's about Tristram Shandy but not really in the end. yeah, it's kinda hard to describe, but just see it, dammit. see it for Steve Coogan (a riot in multiple roles). see it for the glimpse of a naked Steve Coogan in a place you'd never expect to see Steve Coogan in. Michael Winterbottom did the impossible and made a film out of a book that apparently couldn't be adapted into a film, and he succeeded brilliantly. [b]Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story[/b] is a must-see.

[img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]

Hard Candy
Hard Candy(2006)

[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Friends with Money[/size][/i][/font][size=2]
[/size][/indent]while Nicole Holofcener's films are usually good films, one can't help but feel like they always fall a bit short of true greatness. [b]Friends with Money[/b] is no different. it's a well-written, well-acted and well-made movie, but clocking in at less than 90 minutes (like all of her movies seem to do) it almost always feels like they could've been more fleshed out. that's the main problem with Friends with Money, a film that i still like very much for many reasons, the excellent cast being the primary one. you've got Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener, Joan Cusack and a Jennifer Aniston that's better than usual, plus you've got actors like Simon McBurney whom i've never heard of stealing most scenes he's in. i definitely recommend this film, just don't expect too much.

[size=1][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]

[/size][indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Hard Candy[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]there are plenty of allusions in [b]Hard Candy[/b] to the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, only here she's not quite what you or The Wolf expected. it is a very clever gimmick though, and the title [b]Hard Candy[/b] certainly fits this film to a T. the greatest thing about it is young up-and-comer Ellen Page who plays our Little Red Riding Hood (of sorts). the ferocious performance she gives in this film is undoubtedly the best acting performance i've seen so far this year, and it pains me to think that she'll probably be all but forgotten once the awards season kicks off. Patrick Wilson, our Wolf, fares very well as well, but Page easily overshadows him. it's not a film for the squeamish though, not that it's gory or anything, but it's pretty intense at times so beware.

[size=1][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]

[/size][indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]RV[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]it's a little bit embarrassing to admit this, but [b]RV[/b] exceeded my expectations by quite a bit. maybe my low expectations going into it helped quite a bit, but this is actually a pretty good and occasionally very funny film. it's no [b]Vacation[/b] by any means, of course, but i liked it for what it was. it's a minor film, it's flawed, but it's just nice to see a film that doesn't have a high concept like every other film today does. this film could've more or less have been made 20 years ago or 40 years ago. i know many are (seemingly) sick of Robin Williams, but i've always liked him, and this feels like it's the funniest he's been in a long time. i wouldn't say i highly recommend it to all and everyone, but if you're a bit curious about it, give it a shot.

[size=1][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/35-stars.gif[/img]

[/size][indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story[/size][/i][/font]
[/indent]i'm sure one would get even greater enjoyment out of [b]Tristram Shandy[/b] if they've read the book(s) it's based on, but i haven't and i have to say it's really not key to enjoying this film and laughing your ass off. it's a film about the making of a film, based on a book that's about Tristram Shandy but not really in the end. yeah, it's kinda hard to describe, but just see it, dammit. see it for Steve Coogan (a riot in multiple roles). see it for the glimpse of a naked Steve Coogan in a place you'd never expect to see Steve Coogan in. Michael Winterbottom did the impossible and made a film out of a book that apparently couldn't be adapted into a film, and he succeeded brilliantly. [b]Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story[/b] is a must-see.

[img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]

Cars
Cars(2006)

[center][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/film/cars.jpg[/img]
[/center]

even though Pixar's [b]Cars[/b] is easily their "worst" film since [b]A Bug's Life[/b], it nevertheless continues their unbeaten streak of putting out top-quality films. and even if [b]Cars[/b] can't live up to the sky-high expectations of a Pixar film, it's still a film that's head and shoulders above what other studios are putting out. besides, even if the film lacks that extra little something it's absolutely stunning to watch, well worth the price of admission for that reason alone. some of the landscapes on display in this film are just breathtaking, bordering on photorealistic.

the voice cast isn't much to write about, but as usual Pixar has assembled a fine group of voices, even if none of them come close to being highly inspired choices. Larry the Cable Guy as Mater the tow truck comes closest though, and Paul Newman is a good choice as town elderly Doc Hudson. also memorable would be Tony Shalhoub as the Italian and severly Ferrari-crazed tire salesman (salescar?) Luigi.

[b]Cars[/b] sputters and stalls (pun intended) in the story department though, unusual for a Pixar film where everything is worked on and polished to the tiniest degree. even if animated family films are just about always very predictable, past Pixar efforts included, this one feels perhaps even more predictable, to the point where it's somewhat annoying. also, the fact is that cars simply can't be as effective and animated as toys, bugs, monsters, fish and humans have been in the past. a humanlike world inhabited by cars is fairly preposterous, though in all fairness the only times it bothers me in the film is during the racing scenes with a stadium filled with cars for audience. it looks completely generic and very odd then, but thankfully it overcomes this during the bulk of the film set in the small town of Radiator Springs.

but [b]Cars[/b], despite it's shortcomings, is still an endearing film filled with humor and laughs and i honestly couldn't stop smiling and feeling all fuzzy-wuzzy inside for the most part of the film. it could've been a little less obvious and by the book, but it's still one of the better films i've seen so far this year.

[img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]


just for the record, my ratings for previous Pixar films: 5 stars for [b]Finding Nemo[/b], [b]The Incredibles[/b], [b]Monsters, Inc.[/b] and [b]Toy Story 2[/b], 4½ for [b]Toy Story[/b] and 4 for [b]A Bug's Life[/b].

Snakes on a Plane
½

what are the odds of seeing two plane-themed films theatrically in the same week? and who imagined [b]Snakes on a Plane[/b] would end up with a 70% fresh rating from the critics and more or less flop at the box office? wasn't it supposed to be the other way around? either way, i can't imagine anyone who surfs the web and is interested in film having missed the [b]Snakes on a Plane[/b] phenomenon.. so does it live up to the hype?

well, yes and no. i have no doubt that i would've liked it far less had it just been a "regular" action B-movie, but the movie does manage to stand on it's own two legs regardless of all the hype. it's still a pretty fun time at the movies. that it's bluntly entitled [b]Snakes on a Plane[/b] and has created it's own cult before it's even been released does help though since in some ways you already kind of love it.

it could and should've been even better though, as it feels like it's lacking in most departments. at times it's really funny, then another time it's deadly serious (no pun intended). it isn't as much cheesy fun as it could've been, nor is it as shocking/thrilling as it could've been either. it's possible this has to do with reshoots and trying to buff up the film. they reshot newly written scenes to bump it from a PG-13 to R, which says a lot. had it been R all along i'm sure it could've been the [b]Snakes on a Plane[/b] of our dreams. now it's a lot of PG-13 with a few R-sprinkles, pretty much.

the cast, the acting, is hardly something you write much about for a film like this, but Sam Jackson does what Sam Jackson does best (though he should've been more muthaf#@¤ing R-rated, dammit) and the rest of the cast do just fine.

maybe the most pleasant surprise of the whole film was it's visual effects. i thought the snakes looked pretty so-so in the trailer(s), so i walked in thinking it'd be something more like [b]Anaconda[/b] rather than something you could really buy into but i was happily wrong on that one. the visual effects are certainly not Oscar-level or anything, but much better than i expected, especially for a film that apparently just cost $35m to make.

[b]Snakes on a Plane[/b] would probably be best enjoyed with a packed theater at a midnight screening. see it with a smaller crowd (or alone at home on DVD) and perhaps it doesn't appear as much fun as you'd hoped. it's still a fun movie though, well worth seeing if only to see what all the fuss was about. it'll be a perfect rental for a lazy Friday night when you're in the mood for some frights and giggles.

[img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/35-stars.gif[/img]

United 93
United 93(2006)
½

[center][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/film/united93.jpg[/img]
[/center]

utilizing the same aesthetics and techniques as he did for the highly and sadly overlooked [b]Bloody Sunday[/b], director Paul Greengrass once again goes for the jugular with his 9/11 drama [b]United 93[/b] and once again he succeeds brilliantly with his gritty realism. while [b]United 93[/b] didn't affect me emotionally as [b]Bloody Sunday[/b] did, there's no denying that my stomach felt like it'd been on a rollercoaster from hell once the lights came up.

i couldn't be happier that Paul Greengrass made this film though, instead of someone with more patriotic sensibilities. Greengrass doesn't manipulate his audience and doesn't make the hijackers out to be pure evil monsters, like i'm certain some filmmakers would. Greengrass plays it straight and for a film dealing with such a sensitive topic that's what the story and film deserves. it's pretty much as close to a documentary you can get with a feature film, with Greengrass even using real people to play themselves.

the decision to use mainly unknown actors and actresses is another thing to be grateful for, since it strips away that layer of it being a movie and puts it even closer to a documentary. surely i recognized a few faces from elsewhere, but i certainly couldn't give you their name. and the cast, of unknowns and even real people playing themselves perform beautifully. there isn't really any performance in the film that stands out, it's just evenly great across the board.

it's a technically accomplished film as well, from the gritty cinematography and editing right down to, believe it or not, visual effects. i'm sure you can guess what element of a 9/11 story had to be created as a visual effect, so i won't be obvious about it but it's seamlessly married to the film.

[b]United 93[/b] certainly isn't a film for everyone, but i couldn't recommend it more. it is certainly the best film that 2006 has offered so far and the first truly great film i've seen all year.

[img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/45-stars.gif[/img]

The Break-Up
The Break-Up(2006)
½

Peyton Reed's [b]The Break-Up[/b] is one of the most peculiar mainstream Hollywood films i've seen in quite some time, much because it doesn't follow the traditional trajectory of 99% of romantic comedies the city of angels produces. it isn't a hard-hitting relationship drama either, but a mix of the two genres which makes for a very unusual result and a film i suspect many end up disliking. i can't blame those who do since the film really never manages to find a proper tone, but i actually liked it, to my surprise.

i'm not really quite sure why i liked it either, since i can clearly acknowledge that this film has way too many flaws to be a truly great movie. it feels like a film i shouldn't be giving a thumbs up to for many reasons, yet here i am doing it and i can't quite explain what exactly it is about it that makes me like it. but i suppose it is refreshing to see a film take turns you might not expect it to take, especially when it's a big budget Hollywood movie, which are notorious for playing it safe. the film also feels pretty honest and realistic about relationships too, not like the romantic fantasies we're usually served. i like those movies as well, but it's nice with something different every once in a while. and while i hate bringing out such a big, pompous word, [b]The Break-Up[/b] even manages to be rather poignant in the end (!).

the main leads also display the film's fractured nature, with Jennifer Aniston's character mainly being driven by dramatic moments and Vince Vaughn's is mainly being driven by comedic ones. they both do a good job, even if neither reaches any kind of career-highs here. they do seem to have chemistry though, which is pretty strange too since they look like such an odd couple in every way (look, acting style, you name it). but maybe in a movie full of mismatching, that's all part of it's charm? the supporting cast do fine as well, with standouts being Judy Davis as Aniston's snobby boss and Vincent D'Onofrio as Vaughn's awkward oddball brother.

i really can't give many reasons for people to run out and see [b]The Break-Up[/b], but it worked for me. it kind of feels like a film where all of it's flaws just kind of come together and makes a positive impression.. which maybe is the cinematic term for a guilty pleasure? either way, it was definitely better than i expected given the reviews it got, so i'll at least have to recommend it for beating expectations.

[img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/35-stars.gif[/img]

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

[center][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/film/zissou.jpg[/img]
[/center]

if you thought Steve Zissou and his team were pretty whacky in [b]The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou[/b], just wait until you see the films of Zissou's real-life inspiration Jacques Cousteau. i recently had the chance to see Cousteau's Oscar and Golden Palm-winning 1956 documentary [b]Le Monde du Silence[/b] ([b]The Silent World[/b]) on tv, and let's just say this is a case where the truth is stranger (and way more fucked up) than the fiction.

surely it's not a surprise that 50 years ago things and attitudes were very different, but in [b]Le Monde du Silence[/b] it's one un-politically correct sequence after another. well, not quite one after another, but let's just say that if you're a sensitive animal-lover used to today's nature documentaries you may want to stay away from Cousteau and his cronies' films. a few of the more dramatic sequences of their flabbergasting disregard for animal life includes using dynamite to bomb a reef in order to collect samples of all the fish that live (lived?) there. they also use giant turtles for seats, and one even tries to ride two of them standing on their backs. oh, and did i mention the part where they kill sharks because "all sailors hate sharks"? the channel that showed it made no mention of how un-PC it was by today's standards either. good thing it aired late at night or i'd imagine upset parents calling them and wondering what the hell kind of sick stuff they're showing, since nature documentaries tend to be pretty family-friendly these days. if you thought Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin was bad, just wait till you see this.

for a fan of [b]The Life Aquatic[/b] it's a blast to see though, just because you can easily spot so many things that so clearly and directly inspired Wes Anderson's film. there's a character with a red hat, the bow of the ship has a looking hole at the bottom and the Calypso (Cousteau's ship) looks quite a lot like the Steve Zissou's Belafonte. and you certainly see where the whackiness comes from, even if Wes Anderson certainly has created his own thing with his own usual unique style and sensibilities.

and of course watching Cousteau in action got me eager to see [b]The Life Aquatic[/b] again, so i popped that one in right after finishing [b]Le Monde du Silence[/b] (and an additional few minutes of shaking my head wondering what the heck that was). i'm sure having watched the inspiration helped me appreciate and enjoy [b]The Life Aquatic[/b] even more, but i have to say i'm liking this movie more and more. when it first came out i thought it was enjoyable but still a far cry from [b]Rushmore[/b] and [b]The Royal Tenenbaums[/b]. granted, i'd still say it's quite a bit away from being as good as those two films, but it's growing on me. it's got all those lovely Wes Anderson details and quirks, a fantastic cast and it's beautifully shot and designed. the story may not be as strong as his previous films, but even that aspect is growing on me.

if you even remotely liked [b]The Life Aquatic[/b], try and find [b]Le Monde du Silence[/b] (unless you're squeamish). you'll be as amazed as you'll be shocked. it is a nature documentary unlike anything else i've ever seen, both in a good and bad way, and it's certainly a must-see for a Steve Zissou fan.

[b]Le Monde du Silence[/b]: [img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img][b]
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou[/b]: [img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

[center][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/film/potc2.jpg[/img]
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the follow-up to the most fun adventure movie in ages can't quite match it's predecessor, but [b]Dead Man's Chest[/b] is nevertheless an entertaining spectacle of a movie, featuring some old favorites and yet another deliciously wicked new villain.

and let's start with Davy Jones, shall we? i have to say when i was watching him on screen i really wasn't sure what was CGI or what was practical makeup effects. it may all be CGI too, i'm not sure. either way, it's absolutely spectacular. Davy Jones actually rivals King Kong himself, and maybe even tops him on some levels since you always knew King Kong was CGI, and here at times i'm not even sure. with Davy Jones (and King Kong), i think we can finally see that CGI is starting to catch up with us, our eyes and senses that is.. and it's pretty amazing. and on top of that, Davy Jones, as played by Bill Nighy is not just a mindless evil villain, he's more than that, just like Barbossa in the first film. the rest of the film's visual effects aren't quite as spectacular as Davy Jones, not even The Kraken, but they're still impressive enough for me to think this will win the Oscar.

as for the cast, it's nice to see they brought so many from the original cast back and added a few new bright spots. Bill Nighy's every bit as good as Geoffrey Rush was, and Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow.. well, what more is there to say, really? he's already an immortal pop culture icon. of the rest of the original cast, i must say i most enjoyed seeing Keira Knightley's Elizabeth taking on more of a hero role instead of being just a damsel in distress (though she gets to play with that too). Orlando Bloom still works very well as Errol Flynnesque Will Turner, and Mackenzie Crook and Lee Arenberg make a great R2D2/C3PO pairing. the newcomers, Stellan Skarsgård, Naomie Harris and Tom Hollanders are pretty good too. Tom Hollander in particular makes for a great sleeze, just like he was in [b]Pride & Prejudice[/b] if i remember correctly.

[b]Dead Man's Chest[/b] suffers the most i think because it's just not as funny as the first film was. of course, that film was a new thing then, and a sequel isn't, but i still think it could've been much funnier than it was. not even Captain Jack Sparrow gets to make us laugh as much as he did in the first film. there are plenty of good laughs to be had during this film though, to be sure. otherwise, plot-wise, it's not that bad actually (though they could've skipped the whole cannibal thing, really). i heard a lot of rumblings from critics about [b]Dead Man's Chest[/b] has no plot, but i think it pretty nicely was able to take some threads from the first film, resolve some questions and segue us along into the next film.

i got pretty much what i expected out of [b]Dead Man's Chest[/b]. it could've certainly been even better, but it could've been much, much worse as well as sequels often are. i also suspect i'll like it more with subsequent viewings too. maybe most importantly, it hasn't ruined my faith in this franchise in any way, so bring on [b]At World's End[/b]!

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Ferris Bueller's Day Off
½

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i hate just about everything from the 80s with a passion, but there were a few things about that decade i really liked (and still like). the teen comedies are one of those things. nowadays a teen comedy is basically a collection of fart jokes, but for a brief period in the 80s they actually made some films about teenagers that weren't just about the lowest common denominator. granted, they still made fart joke type of teen comedies in the 80s as well (Porky's for example), but at least John Hughes tried a little harder and made some films that are still loved today. out of that string of hits for Hughes in the 80s, Ferris Bueller's Day Off is my favorite. it may not say the most about the teenage condition, but it's an absolute blast and not all shallow either.

and who wouldn't just want to blow off work, school or whatever obligation that's keeping them in on a beautiful day? it's the ultimate fantasy. well, maybe not the ultimate fantasy (depends on what tickles your fancy), but like someone says in the bonus features for the film, it's about one of the most basic things in life - freedom - the freedom to do what you want.. and not many of us can do whatever we want on a day to day basis.

watching a John Hughes film always makes me wonder whatever happened to him. surely he's done work for hire as a ghostwriter in the years past since his glory days, but he hasn't directed a film since 1991's Curly Sue, and no one seems to know why he just stopped making movies of his own. surely he may not have made masterpiece cinema in the traditional sense, but i have to say i think his kind of sensibilities are sorely missed in this day and age. then again, maybe John Hughes only worked in the 80s.. maybe he wouldn't work at all now 15-20 years later.

i realize i haven't actually written that much about the actual film, but i'm not sure i need to say all that much. the cast is just great, the writing exceptional and even things like cinematography stand out in my mind (unusual for a non-visual film like this). heck, even the soundtrack is pretty good, which says a lot since that's typically a pet peeve of mine when it comes to anything 80s. but anyway, if you haven't already, see this film!

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X-Men: The Last Stand
½

[i][font=Georgia][size=4]The Writer's Bias:[/size][/font][/i]
[b]Loves[/b]: the previous two [b]X-Men[/b] films
[b]Likes[/b]: Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman
[b]Dislikes[/b]: Halle Berry
[b]Hates[/b]: Bryan Singer for ditching the franchise

it doesn't come as a huge surprise that the final (?) entry in the [b]X-Men[/b] saga can't live up to it's two predecessors. i think everyone's been dreading it ever since Bryan Singer foolishly stepped away in favor of that other, much lamer superhero franchise. i actually don't hate Brett Ratner though, i very much enjoyed the [b]Rush Hour[/b] films, but an [b]X-Men[/b] film clearly isn't his cup of tea. that said, despite all of it's flaws and just being so inferior to the previous films, [b]The Last Stand[/b] is still a pretty good film, mainly because we still like these characters.

the main problem with [b]The Last Stand[/b] is that it doesn't really give any character room to breathe. the influx of new characters doesn't give any of the characters time to develop, and the film suffers greatly because of this. the only character that comes close to really evolving (no pun intended) is Jean Grey. it's easily the best part and performance, and it's the closest we come to any real character development in the film. the other returning characters and mainstays in the previous films are reduced to fragments of what they used to be. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, for example, still do good work but they're sorely underused, especially Stewart. it's sad to see these characters that were so meticulously established in the previous films reduced to just playing along. Ian McKellen still gets to play his great bad guy, and does it well, but i miss more of those little moments.

so what would've made it a better film? well, fewer characters to begin with. all these new characters and the broader scope (like Magneto's army of mutants) just don't work well at all, especially when it's at the expense of the existing characters. it is a classic case of sequelitis, where the filmmakers fool themselves into thinking that more of everything and bigger everything equals better. it doesn't.

despite those disappointments, [b]The Last Stand[/b] still works as a summer popcorn blockbuster though. the action is exciting, and the effects are at times really fantastic. plus, i am sure i would've enjoyed it much more than i did had it been a stand-alone film too. as it is, the shadow cast by Singer's films just loom over this one and makes all of it's flaws stand out even more. as long as you lower your expectations quite a few notches, you might enjoy it. and maybe much of the disappointment isn't really about what's there on screen, but what could've been there. and maybe my rating is more generous than it should be too, only because i still have a soft spot for these mutants.

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The Da Vinci Code

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[font=Georgia][size=4][i]The Writer's Bias:[/i][/size][/font]
[b]Loves[/b]: Mystery-solving, Using real locations, Audrey Tautou, Jean Reno
[b]Likes[/b]: Tom Hanks (a lot), Ian McKellen, Ron Howard
[b]Dislikes[/b]: Unfair critics, Unnecessary flashbacks
[b]Hates[/b]: Exaggerated characters

(i've stolen this bias idea straight from DVD Talk reviewer [url="http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/bio.php?ID=103&reviewID=21793"]Francis Rizzo III[/url], but only because i think it's a great idea. as Rizzo himself puts it, it's ?an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. by knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.? let me know what you think of it, and if i should keep it or not. i'm not sure if i want to call it ?The Bias-O-Meter? either, so name suggestions are also welcome.)


boy, were the critics tough on this one. and now that i've seen the film for myself, i just can't understand it. [b]The Da Vinci Code[/b] has it's fair share of flaws for sure, but it's absolutely nowhere near as bad as the critics may lead you to believe. why they collectively decided to rip this one so brutally, and frankly unfairly, is a mystery almost as big as the plot of the movie. well, maybe not.. but i strongly advise anyone hesitant about checking this film out because of the reviews to really go see for themselves and make up their own mind. you may hate it for all i know, but you might also like it.

when i look at the most common complaints uttered by the critics, i really don't know how those things could've been done so much different and better. yes, it's talky, but doesn't it have to be? it could've been trimmed down, perhaps, but in the end it pretty much has to be talky and explain things because it really couldn't have been done in any other fashion, if you ask me. other complaints were that it's slow and dull, but what were they expecting? [b]National Treasure[/b]? a rollercoaster ride? i didn't think of it as slow or dull myself, and a more fast-paced, action-oriented thriller of this story wouldn't work at all.

but enough of me addressing other people's issues with it.

personally i found [b]The Da Vinci Code[/b] to be a well above average piece of Hollywood entertainment. it isn't high art or masterpiece cinema by any means, but the plot is certainly intriguing and engaging (if preposterous), and it is for the most part solidly crafted and acted. i know many dislike Ron Howard and his films, but i think he works for a project like this. a mainstream director for the adaptation of a mainstream book. it might've been a better film at the hands of an edgier director too, of course, but i think Howard does a good job. well, for the most part anyway.

the only major issues i had with the film are the severe overuse of flashbacks. for the most part they serve as a nice backdrop of what the characters are talking about, and help further the story, but sometimes they're just plain unnecessary. for example, there's one flashback into the childhood of one of the villains, but the character isn't that strongly developed in the film that it's really necessary. that one is tame compared to another flashback involving an escape. those of you who've seen it probably know what i'm talking about.. that one was so heavy-handed and so not needed that i wish they would edit it out for the DVD release. another issue i had with the film is the albino monk villain Silas. did it really have to be an albino monk for a villain? i realize this isn't the fault of the filmmakers, but with the film feeling "realistic" he just sticks out like a sore thumb. he should've been toned down like the costumes were for the [b]X-Men[/b] films.

as for the acting, it's solid but nothing too extraordinary. Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon is kind of a waste, but isn't it often so that the main character is the most boring one and the supporting characters give the film it's flavor? Hanks is by no means bad, but it's not exactly an all too memorable character either. personally i was most fond of Audrey Tautou and Ian McKellen. neither performance is anything of awards calibre, but i just really liked their performances. the rest of the cast does just fine, although Silas is rather silly and just too much, though that's not really Paul Bettany's fault.

i know i am certainly biased towards these type of films, so it's certainly very possible that i liked [b]The Da Vinci Code[/b] better than most will/would, but i still think it's a much much better film than it's being credited for. it's certainly much better than what the 20% Rotten Tomatoes critics average suggests.

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Mission: Impossible III

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and so the summer starts out with a bang. well, sort of. while [b]Mission: Impossible III[/b] is a major step up from the highly disappointing and often atrocious first sequel by John Woo, this third big screen incarnation, while entertaining, fails to really stick with you. there isn't really much of anything in it that you won't feel like you've already seen in other action movies (even other [b]Mission: Impossible[/b] movies) and that's rather disappointing considering they basically could've done just about anything.

but what we get is nevertheless well-made and exciting for the most part, so it's still entertaining while you're watching it.. and maybe one shouldn't expect or hope for more? or maybe we should. since the last film we've been treated to two outstanding, gritty spy thrillers about Jason Bourne and anything Tom Cruise & Co. throws our way simply pales in comparison. on the other hand, the Bourne films are more drama/thriller-ish unlike the [b]Mission: Impossible[/b] films, but [b]Bourne[/b] has nevertheless raised the bar, and [b]M:I:III[/b] simply can't keep up. it's entertaining, but not all too memorable, save for a few scenes.

what i really do like about [b]M:I:III[/b] though is that it actually doesn't rely all that much on digital effects. i'm sure it's rife with CGI enhancements, but for the most part it's never obviously so and most of the stunts and action sequences at least feel like they could've been done practically. far too many action films in the past 5-10 years have relied all too much on CGI, and all too often it just doesn't serve the film at all. in [b]M:I:III[/b], when Ethan Hunt jumps off a building and swings onto another, it actually feels and maybe more importantly looks like he's really doing it (or some stunt double is, anyway). in this age, i think that's commendable since all too many directors seem to think CGI fixes everything. the stuff that clearly is done in CGI is for the most part well done, especially a scene where Hunt puts on one of the [b]Mission: Impossible[/b] trademark face masks.

the supporting cast is servicable through and through, but not exactly memorable. except for Philip Seymour Hoffman as the villain, of course. some have complained he should've been in the film more since he completely steals it, but i kinda like that he's not overplayed in the film. it makes him more mysterious and cold, and makes his actions seem all the more brutal. more of him could've certainly been merrier, but it could've easily made the character less of a menace too.

if you're in the mood for an action spectacle, [b]Mission: Impossible III[/b] is an entertaining ride well worth checking out. it's not particularly memorable in the details, and it's certainly not breaking any new ground, but it's nevertheless enjoyable while you're watching it.

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Inside Man
Inside Man(2006)
½

why does this film have an 89% rating on Rotten Tomatoes? not that i would consider it a "rotten" film by any means, but given what i got out of watching [b]Inside Man[/b], i'm really rather surprised the critics were so universally positive about it.

don't get me wrong, it's a good film, but it's got some serious flaws.. and i have to say i think it would've been a better film at the hands of a director more in tune with the genre. Spike Lee seems to want to infuse the film with his own multi-cultural New Yorker sensibilities and it really doesn't work at all in service of the film. these little infused bits may make it more of a realistic portrayal of New York inhabitants, but i'm not quite sure if it fits in a cops and robbers heist thriller. most notably would have to be the video game sequence, which is so obvious and heavy-handed when you know you're watching a Spike Lee joint. i don't mind him doing his thing, but he shouldn't spell it out so bluntly like that.

the screenplay is really good though, overall, but yeah, i suspect Spike Lee squeezed some of his stylistic commentaries in there and for the most part they don't work (but some do). the editing and cinematography were surprisingly lacking. some parts are really poorly edited together, losing all momentum a film like this ought to have, and the cinematography moved so much at times that you literally just saw a blur (the iPod (!) reveal spin-around the room shot for example). as for the acting, that's actually one of the stronger points, but that's to be expected when you have names like Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster and Clive Owen in the central roles. none of them do anything to blow you away, but they're good. Jodie Foster could've been given more to do though, but i would have to assume she only took the role to get to work with Spike Lee.

[b]Inside Man[/b] is certainly worth checking out, but don't be fooled by the 89% rating on Rotten Tomatoes or the 7.4 rating on IMDb. it isn't anywhere near that good/great.. but yeah, a fairly solid piece of entertainment.

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The World's Fastest Indian
½

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the true-life story of how then 68-year old New Zealander Burt Munro broke the land speed record on his 1920 Indian motorcycle, [b]The World's Fastest Indian[/b] is a film for those of you who enjoy feel-good films but are tired of the usual sugary sweet triumph hero stuff that Hollywood churns out. it's a film that'll make you laugh, excite you and jerk a tear out of you here and there, and it does so without resorting to the usual Hollywood tricks.. or at least it does so without being so obviously feel-goody-goody.

at the center of [b]The World's Fastest Indian[/b] is Anthony Hopkins and his performance as Burt Munro. even though the film only focuses on a short period of Munro's life, Hopkins gives us a fully realized character in every single way. it's certainly one of the finest performances of last year (which was shamefully overlooked by seemingly all and everyone). the supporting cast is mainly made up of lesser known faces, and in this case that's a good thing. it's Hopkins' film, but all of the supporting cast members fit their roles perfectly (most notably Chris Williams as the cross-dressing motel clerk (!) Tina). behind the scenes achievements are also top-notch, especially the terrific period art direction and costumes and the grand cinematography.

[b]The World's Fastest Indian[/b] didn't make much of a splash in theaters sadly, but hopefully it'll reach a broader and it's deserving audience once it hits DVD. make sure to check this one out if you get the chance. the film and Anthony Hopkins hit all the right notes and make for a very enjoyable two hours.

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Match Point
Match Point(2005)

Woody Allen's [b]Match Point[/b] has been hailed as Allen's return to form after a long slump of lesser films, and in some ways it is. i'm not sure it's a Woody Allen masterpiece of the past though, but then again, who he was then isn't who he is now so that's probably a lost era. it is certainly one of the best films he's done in the last ten years or so though, but i do have to admit that i liked his other 2005 film [b]Melinda and Melinda[/b] just as much, if not more. either way, it seems like the Woodster's on an upward trend.

the acting is rather uneven though, and i suspect i would've liked the film a lot more had not Jonathan Rhys Meyers been cast in the lead. he gets better as the movie goes along, but initially i actually wondered if his character was playing a scam, that the character was acting his way into wealth. he really was that bad, just stilted and fake. maybe he was acting his way into this family, but it was never really said to be that way at any point, so i just assume it was the poor acting on behalf of Meyers and not a character trait. on the other hand, we've got Scarlett Johansson who does just beautifully as the young, struggling American actress slash sex pot femme fatale. in a year of many good but few great supporting actress performances, she certainly stands out as one of the best. the rest of the cast all do excellent work, though i'd say only Emily Mortimer is worth noting.

the Oscar-nominated screenplay, by Allen himself of course, also deserves mention. it may not really pop with imagination and wit like Allen screenplays often have done in the past, but it's very well written and i just love the turns it takes and the way the film ends. without spoiling anything, i sat there rooting for it to end the way it does, and i'm glad Allen doesn't cop out with something weaker. the other behind-the-camera achievements are solid as one would expect, but it's not much to write home about either.

with [b]Melinda and Melinda[/b] and now [b]Match Point[/b], it seems like Allen is really bouncing back, and i couldn't be happier myself. after so many years of good to weak efforts, it's nice to have him back and show everyone he's still got it. if you get the chance, certainly check out [b]Match Point[/b] (and rent [b]Melinda and Melinda[/b] too!).

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Syriana
Syriana(2005)

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in a year where political films were more abundant than usual, and many of those films were among the finest of the year, none succeeded greater than Stephen Gaghan's [b]Syriana[/b] in my opinion. while many of them used events of the past to shed light on problems of today, [b]Syriana[/b] is set in today's world of oil, power and corruption. it knits together a yarn of stories that taken seperate may not say much, but then put together shows how everything is connected, how oil propels the world in more ways you might imagine. some critics complained that the film was difficult to follow because of the separate storylines it weaves in between, but i say that's nothing short of bullshit. if you have problem following it, you're not paying enough attention.

so what aspect of this brilliant film do i begin to praise? maybe it's best to begin with the spectacular cast that offers one outstanding performance after another. at the top of that list is George Clooney, who was deservingly Oscar-nominated (and hopefully soon Oscar-winning) for his performance. i've always been a huge fan of him both as an actor and as a person, and he's just fantastic in this film. he doesn't outshine the rest of the cast, but he certainly leads the way. also turning in some of the best work of 2005 is Alexander Siddig as the wise arab crown prince, Matt Damon as the economic adviser to said prince and Jeffrey Wright as an attorney investigating shady circumstances behind an oil company merger. and then there's Christopher Plummer, Amanda Peet, Chris Cooper, Tim Blake Nelson, Tom McCarthy and William Hurt as well as unknowns like Mazhar Munir, Nadim Sawalha, Mark Strong, Akbar Kurtha and the list goes on and on. even people, many completely unknowns in really small parts, do great work. if there ever was an Oscar for best ensemble cast, this would be the one deserving to win it.

then there's Gaghan's Oscar-nominated screenplay, which is a thing of beauty and sheer intelligence. just like [b]Traffic[/b], he weaves all these stories together in a masterful way, and i dare say he does it even better in [b]Syriana[/b] just because it's on an even greater scale here, and because it just feels more urgent and important. Gaghan must also be praised for his direction, which was my biggest fear about the film (seeing as he's really a writer, and the only other film he directed was apparently crap). he may not have the raw directorial talent of someone like Steven Soderbergh, but i'm amazed by how well he did. also deserving of praise of the behind the camera crew would be Tim Squyres' editing which pieces all of this together beautifully, Robert Elswit's cinematography (which is just as good as his Oscar-nominated work in [b]Good Night, and Good Luck.[/b]) and Alexandre Desplat's memorable score. everything else about the movie is top notch too, but those three stand out the most for me.

i cannot for the life of me understand why this brilliant piece of filmmaking didn't earn more acclaim and awards than it have, but then again, many masterpieces take some time before they are fully appreciated by the wider audience. hopefully [b]Syriana[/b] will get the acclaim it so sorely deserves as time goes by, but hopefully by then it won't be too late as it has valuable lessons to teach anyone and everyone interested in the world they live in. it is the most important, intelligent and hands down best film of 2005.

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The Family Stone
½

i'm rather shocked at how much i liked, no, loved, this film. i always thought it looked really good judging by the trailer, but i really didn't expect what i got. i can't even understand why critics and audiences alike didn't respond more strongly to it. it's not a perfect movie masterpiece or anything, but it nearly had me tearing up in 3 different scenes, and that just doesn't happen very often! and it's funny too, like really funny. and sweet, of course. it even manages to surprise, going off in a few directions i really didn't expect. surely some, maybe much, of it is typically feelgood Hollywood stuff, but it has the heart in the right place all along and manages to find a greater depth than i ever imagined.

and what a cast! not only does it feature a whole slew of actors and actresses i really like, but they're all given great material to work with. surely not every single character is fleshed out to the fullest, but considering it's an ensemble movie in every way, all the characters are admirably well-rounded and thought out. it's hard to pick favorites out of such a cast, but Rachel McAdams, Diane Keaton and surprisingly Luke Wilson stand out the most.. then on the other hand, you've got Sarah Jessica Parker, Craig T. Nelson, Claire Danes and Dermot Mulroney also doing just fantastically.. even the unknowns in the cast, Tyrone Giardano, Brian White and Elizabeth Reaser impress just as much. undoubtedly one of the finest cast performances of 2005.

but credit must also go to virtual unknown Thomas Bezucha who wrote and directed it. the screenplay gives all these characters so much life and depth, even if they all have to share the screentime, and it's got more to say than just being a feel-good holiday movie. a few plotlines could've probably been fleshed out a bit better, but on the whole this is one of the finest screenplays of the year. and kudos to Bezucha for putting all of it together as well as he did. he's definitely a talent i look forward to seeing more from in the future. i'd also like to single out the film's art direction, actually. the film mainly takes place at the Stone family's house, but it just felt so lived in and so much like a real home. oh, and Michael Giacchino's score is delightful too.

i couldn't tell you why it didn't get more love than it did, but in my opinion [b]The Family Stone[/b] is not only to be one of the funniest, most touching films of 2005, but also one of the very best. it is by no means flawless, but it's far better than i ever could've expected.

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One Day in September

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what surprises me the most about Steven Spielberg's [b]Munich[/b] is how engaging and entertaining it is, despite it's more serious undertones. it is by no means a "check your brain at the door" action/thriller blockbuster, but it's a thrilling film throughout most of it's 165-minute (or so) running time, and it's never boring or slow either. all this makes me wonder why audiences didn't take to it more.. did they expect, like me to some degree, for it to be more of a drama, more dull? even if you go into it just looking for a thriller and not much else, Spielberg delivers.

headlining a terrific ensemble cast we have Eric Bana, who should've gotten more notice for his performance as Avner than the near-silence it's gotten so far. it's not a BIG performance by any means (hence the lack of attention), but it is what the part requires. of the rest of the cast, all of whom do great work, i'd like to single out Ciaran Hinds who plays one of the hitmen, Ayelet Zorer who plays Avner's wife Daphna and Michael Lonsdale who brings cool intelligence and warmth the mysterious Papa, who sells information on the whereabouts of Avner's targets. oh, and Lynn Cohen who plays Israeli prime minister Golda Meir should also be mentioned.. but really, a really stellar cast. certainly one of the best ensemble performances of last year.

as always, and as one could expect, [b]Munich[/b] looks like a million bucks and more. the 70s is recreated with loving care, both in art direction and costumes, and also with the use of actual news footage from the Munich massacre early in the film. as someone who wasn't around at that time in history, it's not only fascinating to see the real news footage, but it gives the film a greater sense of realism as well. also of note is Janusz Kaminski's outstanding cinematography, which definitely ranks as one of his finest efforts and certainly one of the best of 2005. just like in [b]War of the Worlds[/b], there are a few shots in [b]Munich[/b] that really make you wonder how the heck they did that! that said, the cinematography isn't showing off just for the showing off though, it's just damn nicely filmed and very suitable to the film. Michael Kahn's fine cutting is also worth noting, but then again, isn't it always?

[b]Munich[/b] is not merely a thriller, and it's not just about the Israel/Palestine situation either as the questions it asks still ring true when it comes to more current events. without going into spoiler territory, let me just say that they were just as relevant back then as they are now, if not even more so. as a result, it isn't just top notch cinema, but cinema that'll keep you thinking once it's over. the questions it asks may not be new, but they're worth bringing out into light once more. it's one of the best films of the year that passed for those reasons and many others, and it most definitely deserved it's Best Picture nomination.

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[size=5] [/size][indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]One Day in September[/i][/size][/font] [/indent]this Oscar-winning documentary about the events of the Munich massacre seemed like the perfect double feature to watch after [b]Munich[/b], and it is. it's a pretty straight-forward and conventional documentary about the event, but i'd highly recommend checking it out if watching the film piques your interest about the spark of the (fictionalized) aftermath in Spielberg's film. [b]One Day in September[/b] is also mostly made up of archival footage, some of which appears in [b]Munich[/b], and like i said earlier, it's fascinating to watch for someone who wasn't around at the time.

[img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]

Munich
Munich(2005)
½

[center][img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/film/munich.jpg[/img]
[/center]

what surprises me the most about Steven Spielberg's [b]Munich[/b] is how engaging and entertaining it is, despite it's more serious undertones. it is by no means a "check your brain at the door" action/thriller blockbuster, but it's a thrilling film throughout most of it's 165-minute (or so) running time, and it's never boring or slow either. all this makes me wonder why audiences didn't take to it more.. did they expect, like me to some degree, for it to be more of a drama, more dull? even if you go into it just looking for a thriller and not much else, Spielberg delivers.

headlining a terrific ensemble cast we have Eric Bana, who should've gotten more notice for his performance as Avner than the near-silence it's gotten so far. it's not a BIG performance by any means (hence the lack of attention), but it is what the part requires. of the rest of the cast, all of whom do great work, i'd like to single out Ciaran Hinds who plays one of the hitmen, Ayelet Zorer who plays Avner's wife Daphna and Michael Lonsdale who brings cool intelligence and warmth the mysterious Papa, who sells information on the whereabouts of Avner's targets. oh, and Lynn Cohen who plays Israeli prime minister Golda Meir should also be mentioned.. but really, a really stellar cast. certainly one of the best ensemble performances of last year.

as always, and as one could expect, [b]Munich[/b] looks like a million bucks and more. the 70s is recreated with loving care, both in art direction and costumes, and also with the use of actual news footage from the Munich massacre early in the film. as someone who wasn't around at that time in history, it's not only fascinating to see the real news footage, but it gives the film a greater sense of realism as well. also of note is Janusz Kaminski's outstanding cinematography, which definitely ranks as one of his finest efforts and certainly one of the best of 2005. just like in [b]War of the Worlds[/b], there are a few shots in [b]Munich[/b] that really make you wonder how the heck they did that! that said, the cinematography isn't showing off just for the showing off though, it's just damn nicely filmed and very suitable to the film. Michael Kahn's fine cutting is also worth noting, but then again, isn't it always?

[b]Munich[/b] is not merely a thriller, and it's not just about the Israel/Palestine situation either as the questions it asks still ring true when it comes to more current events. without going into spoiler territory, let me just say that they were just as relevant back then as they are now, if not even more so. as a result, it isn't just top notch cinema, but cinema that'll keep you thinking once it's over. the questions it asks may not be new, but they're worth bringing out into light once more. it's one of the best films of the year that passed for those reasons and many others, and it most definitely deserved it's Best Picture nomination.

[img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/45-stars.gif[/img]

[size=5] [/size][indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]One Day in September[/i][/size][/font] [/indent]this Oscar-winning documentary about the events of the Munich massacre seemed like the perfect double feature to watch after [b]Munich[/b], and it is. it's a pretty straight-forward and conventional documentary about the event, but i'd highly recommend checking it out if watching the film piques your interest about the spark of the (fictionalized) aftermath in Spielberg's film. [b]One Day in September[/b] is also mostly made up of archival footage, some of which appears in [b]Munich[/b], and like i said earlier, it's fascinating to watch for someone who wasn't around at the time.

[img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

[indent][size=1][i][font=Georgia][size=5]Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang [img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]
[/size][/font][/i][/size][/indent]the coolest opening credits since [b]Catch Me If You Can[/b] set the tone for this crime noir comedy of sorts, and does so perfectly. even though at times, [b]Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang[/b] gets a bit too dark, it always bounces back to comedy and it sure is funny, just as it is exciting. Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer makes for one of the oddest, yet most appealing, on-screen duos of 2005 and along with relative newcomer Michelle Monaghan they make this film one of the most entertaining films of the year. it's sharply written by [b]Lethal Weapon[/b] scribe Shane Black (who also directs), and even though it's a relatively small budget film, it looks like a million bucks. it's a shame this didn't find a greater audience in theaters, but it should be a hit on DVD.[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5][size=1]
[/size]Pride & Prejudice [img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]
[/size][/i][/font][/indent]i've never read the book, nor have i seen the infamous mini-series so going in, i really didn't know the ins and outs of this story, though i certainly knew basically what it was about, seeing as it's very famous. what i found was a delightful little film with both plenty of humor and drama in it, much to my surprise (though not THAT surprising giving that was the critical reception). i couldn't tell you what's "missing" from the book or anything like that, but i do know i liked what i saw. Keira Knightley is actually really terrific, and she's got an equally terrific supporting cast. the movie may not be a slam-dunk, but it's enjoyable even for those generally not too interested in these type of films. it's well-acted and well-made (the music is particularly of note), and well worth seeing.[indent][size=1][font=Georgia][i][size=5][size=1]
[/size]Caché [img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img][/size][/i][/font][/size]
[/indent]Michael Haneke is known for jolting and shocking his audience, and [b]Caché[/b] is no different. at one point during the film, there's a scene that had pretty much everyone in the theater recoil in shock and horror, and seeing as it's generally a drama and not a horror film, the shock is greater than it ever would be in a horror film. what drags this finely-acted, directed and written film down though is a simple little insinuation that for me personally, i didn't care for. to me, it made very little sense, and it wasn't satisfying in any way.. but of course, most high-brow critics applaud it since it's ambigious and is supposed to leave you thinking. well, i thought about it, and it doesn't work, period, which is a shame since it drags down a terrific film quite a bit.

Caché
Caché(2005)
½

[indent][size=1][i][font=Georgia][size=5]Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang [img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]
[/size][/font][/i][/size][/indent]the coolest opening credits since [b]Catch Me If You Can[/b] set the tone for this crime noir comedy of sorts, and does so perfectly. even though at times, [b]Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang[/b] gets a bit too dark, it always bounces back to comedy and it sure is funny, just as it is exciting. Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer makes for one of the oddest, yet most appealing, on-screen duos of 2005 and along with relative newcomer Michelle Monaghan they make this film one of the most entertaining films of the year. it's sharply written by [b]Lethal Weapon[/b] scribe Shane Black (who also directs), and even though it's a relatively small budget film, it looks like a million bucks. it's a shame this didn't find a greater audience in theaters, but it should be a hit on DVD.[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5][size=1]
[/size]Pride & Prejudice [img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]
[/size][/i][/font][/indent]i've never read the book, nor have i seen the infamous mini-series so going in, i really didn't know the ins and outs of this story, though i certainly knew basically what it was about, seeing as it's very famous. what i found was a delightful little film with both plenty of humor and drama in it, much to my surprise (though not THAT surprising giving that was the critical reception). i couldn't tell you what's "missing" from the book or anything like that, but i do know i liked what i saw. Keira Knightley is actually really terrific, and she's got an equally terrific supporting cast. the movie may not be a slam-dunk, but it's enjoyable even for those generally not too interested in these type of films. it's well-acted and well-made (the music is particularly of note), and well worth seeing.[indent][size=1][font=Georgia][i][size=5][size=1]
[/size]Caché [img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img][/size][/i][/font][/size]
[/indent]Michael Haneke is known for jolting and shocking his audience, and [b]Caché[/b] is no different. at one point during the film, there's a scene that had pretty much everyone in the theater recoil in shock and horror, and seeing as it's generally a drama and not a horror film, the shock is greater than it ever would be in a horror film. what drags this finely-acted, directed and written film down though is a simple little insinuation that for me personally, i didn't care for. to me, it made very little sense, and it wasn't satisfying in any way.. but of course, most high-brow critics applaud it since it's ambigious and is supposed to leave you thinking. well, i thought about it, and it doesn't work, period, which is a shame since it drags down a terrific film quite a bit.

Pride and Prejudice

[indent][size=1][i][font=Georgia][size=5]Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang [img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]
[/size][/font][/i][/size][/indent]the coolest opening credits since [b]Catch Me If You Can[/b] set the tone for this crime noir comedy of sorts, and does so perfectly. even though at times, [b]Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang[/b] gets a bit too dark, it always bounces back to comedy and it sure is funny, just as it is exciting. Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer makes for one of the oddest, yet most appealing, on-screen duos of 2005 and along with relative newcomer Michelle Monaghan they make this film one of the most entertaining films of the year. it's sharply written by [b]Lethal Weapon[/b] scribe Shane Black (who also directs), and even though it's a relatively small budget film, it looks like a million bucks. it's a shame this didn't find a greater audience in theaters, but it should be a hit on DVD.[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5][size=1]
[/size]Pride & Prejudice [img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]
[/size][/i][/font][/indent]i've never read the book, nor have i seen the infamous mini-series so going in, i really didn't know the ins and outs of this story, though i certainly knew basically what it was about, seeing as it's very famous. what i found was a delightful little film with both plenty of humor and drama in it, much to my surprise (though not THAT surprising giving that was the critical reception). i couldn't tell you what's "missing" from the book or anything like that, but i do know i liked what i saw. Keira Knightley is actually really terrific, and she's got an equally terrific supporting cast. the movie may not be a slam-dunk, but it's enjoyable even for those generally not too interested in these type of films. it's well-acted and well-made (the music is particularly of note), and well worth seeing.[indent][size=1][font=Georgia][i][size=5][size=1]
[/size]Caché [img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img][/size][/i][/font][/size]
[/indent]Michael Haneke is known for jolting and shocking his audience, and [b]Caché[/b] is no different. at one point during the film, there's a scene that had pretty much everyone in the theater recoil in shock and horror, and seeing as it's generally a drama and not a horror film, the shock is greater than it ever would be in a horror film. what drags this finely-acted, directed and written film down though is a simple little insinuation that for me personally, i didn't care for. to me, it made very little sense, and it wasn't satisfying in any way.. but of course, most high-brow critics applaud it since it's ambigious and is supposed to leave you thinking. well, i thought about it, and it doesn't work, period, which is a shame since it drags down a terrific film quite a bit.

Jarhead
Jarhead(2005)

sorry about the lack of updates, but time just flies when you're busy.. and that i have been for the most part of January. all i've been doing lately is sleeping and working.. and now i finally have some time off, and i just don't know what to do with all my free time! how weird, since that has never been a problem in the past. i have been spending some time in front of movies though, naturally, both old ones and new ones..[size=1]

[/size][indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Swingers [img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img][/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]it's been ages since i last saw it, but i always knew i liked it and i found the Special Edition DVD at a price i couldn't refuse.. looking at it now, with the 90s (and the film) a decade away, it just strikes me how very 90s it feels to me. not that the culture on display is so 90s (swing/lounge music certainly isn't) but just the vibe it gives off feels so much like a film of the 90s. i can't really put my finger on it, but if i had to guess it's probably that independent filmmaking spirit and how many of those films in the 90s explored relationships and love.. maybe? anyway, [b]Swingers[/b] is a terrific film in every way, it's funny, it's got heart, a great cast, great music and assured writing and directing. it might not be remembered or considered one of the best films of the 90s, but it's definitely one of the best films about the (early-mid) 90s.[size=1]

[/size][indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Jarhead [img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img][/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]i'm not sure why i'm attempting to review Sam Mendes' [b]Jarhead[/b], since i find myself having difficulty to really explain why i liked it as much as i did.. but here i am, writing away anyway. the thing is, not much happens in Jarhead.. it's not really a war film as much as it is a drama set in and around a war. i do like it though, quite a lot. it features a terrific cast giving understated and underrated performances, it looks fantastic, particularly the oil fire "night" scenes and it's got a director who knows what he's doing, even if it might seem like the film is without aim or goal.. it just clicks, in my mind. it's not a great war film by any means, and i wouldn't expect most people do like it as much as i did, but i definitely feel that it's been unfairly overlooked by most.

Swingers
Swingers(1996)

sorry about the lack of updates, but time just flies when you're busy.. and that i have been for the most part of January. all i've been doing lately is sleeping and working.. and now i finally have some time off, and i just don't know what to do with all my free time! how weird, since that has never been a problem in the past. i have been spending some time in front of movies though, naturally, both old ones and new ones..[size=1]

[/size][indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Swingers [img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img][/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]it's been ages since i last saw it, but i always knew i liked it and i found the Special Edition DVD at a price i couldn't refuse.. looking at it now, with the 90s (and the film) a decade away, it just strikes me how very 90s it feels to me. not that the culture on display is so 90s (swing/lounge music certainly isn't) but just the vibe it gives off feels so much like a film of the 90s. i can't really put my finger on it, but if i had to guess it's probably that independent filmmaking spirit and how many of those films in the 90s explored relationships and love.. maybe? anyway, [b]Swingers[/b] is a terrific film in every way, it's funny, it's got heart, a great cast, great music and assured writing and directing. it might not be remembered or considered one of the best films of the 90s, but it's definitely one of the best films about the (early-mid) 90s.[size=1]

[/size][indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Jarhead [img]http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p169/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img][/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]i'm not sure why i'm attempting to review Sam Mendes' [b]Jarhead[/b], since i find myself having difficulty to really explain why i liked it as much as i did.. but here i am, writing away anyway. the thing is, not much happens in Jarhead.. it's not really a war film as much as it is a drama set in and around a war. i do like it though, quite a lot. it features a terrific cast giving understated and underrated performances, it looks fantastic, particularly the oil fire "night" scenes and it's got a director who knows what he's doing, even if it might seem like the film is without aim or goal.. it just clicks, in my mind. it's not a great war film by any means, and i wouldn't expect most people do like it as much as i did, but i definitely feel that it's been unfairly overlooked by most.

March of the Penguins

[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Chronicles of Narnia [img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img][/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]i think it'd be fair to call [b]Narnia[/b] a "LOTR Light" film, something of a mix between [b]Harry Potter[/b] (children being the central characters) and said Peter Jackson trilogy. it's certainly not a put-down though as Narnia is at times a terrific film filled with wonder and charm. Lucy's first encounter with Narnia and Mr. Tumnus stands out in my mind, for example. it's when the film has to kick into action film mode in the last part that it dips though, as the action is neither as well-played or exciting as the stuff Peter Jackson conjured up in his [b]Lord of the Rings[/b] films. still, the visual effects are mostly solid (Aslan in particular), and the film packs a great deal of charm and a really great first half, so i can forgive it's by-the-book finale that could and should've been so much better.[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i][size=1]
[/size]The Constant Gardener [img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/stars/4.5-stars.gif[/img][/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]seeing Fernando Meirelles' [b]The Constant Gardener[/b] made me realize just how few mature, intelligent thrillers are made these days. it manages to give us plenty of thrills, yet it does it all with intelligence rather than having the main character go into some kind of action hero mode. of course, the film is not all a thriller either, but much more. it is as much a thriller as it is drama and even romance, though the second half of the film most definitely plays out like any exciting, tense thriller would. the film also gives us not only fantastic performances from Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, but a terrific ensemble effort as well. a few minor things might keep me from giving it a higher grade on first viewing, but [b]The Constant Gardener[/b] certainly gets my fullest recommendation.[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i][size=1]
[/size]March of the Penguins [img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img][/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]this documentary is so deceptively simple in what it's about it feels almost criminal to enjoy it as much as i did. we've all seen documentaries about a certain animal's circle of life before, and we've even seen films that have been shot in more spectacular ways ([b]Winged Migration[/b]), yet March of the Penguins just fires on all cylinders with it's beautiful simplicity, lovely music and narration by the always-fantastic Morgan Freeman, who has to be the greatest narrator in the world with that calm, soothing voice of his. [b]March of the Penguins[/b] is a simplistic documentary, but a triumph because of it. when so much in film today is about making the elaborate even more elaborate, [b]March of the Penguins[/b] goes the other way and gives us a simple story well-told instead.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Chronicles of Narnia [img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img][/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]i think it'd be fair to call [b]Narnia[/b] a "LOTR Light" film, something of a mix between [b]Harry Potter[/b] (children being the central characters) and said Peter Jackson trilogy. it's certainly not a put-down though as Narnia is at times a terrific film filled with wonder and charm. Lucy's first encounter with Narnia and Mr. Tumnus stands out in my mind, for example. it's when the film has to kick into action film mode in the last part that it dips though, as the action is neither as well-played or exciting as the stuff Peter Jackson conjured up in his [b]Lord of the Rings[/b] films. still, the visual effects are mostly solid (Aslan in particular), and the film packs a great deal of charm and a really great first half, so i can forgive it's by-the-book finale that could and should've been so much better.[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i][size=1]
[/size]The Constant Gardener [img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/stars/4.5-stars.gif[/img][/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]seeing Fernando Meirelles' [b]The Constant Gardener[/b] made me realize just how few mature, intelligent thrillers are made these days. it manages to give us plenty of thrills, yet it does it all with intelligence rather than having the main character go into some kind of action hero mode. of course, the film is not all a thriller either, but much more. it is as much a thriller as it is drama and even romance, though the second half of the film most definitely plays out like any exciting, tense thriller would. the film also gives us not only fantastic performances from Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, but a terrific ensemble effort as well. a few minor things might keep me from giving it a higher grade on first viewing, but [b]The Constant Gardener[/b] certainly gets my fullest recommendation.[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i][size=1]
[/size]March of the Penguins [img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img][/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]this documentary is so deceptively simple in what it's about it feels almost criminal to enjoy it as much as i did. we've all seen documentaries about a certain animal's circle of life before, and we've even seen films that have been shot in more spectacular ways ([b]Winged Migration[/b]), yet March of the Penguins just fires on all cylinders with it's beautiful simplicity, lovely music and narration by the always-fantastic Morgan Freeman, who has to be the greatest narrator in the world with that calm, soothing voice of his. [b]March of the Penguins[/b] is a simplistic documentary, but a triumph because of it. when so much in film today is about making the elaborate even more elaborate, [b]March of the Penguins[/b] goes the other way and gives us a simple story well-told instead.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!

The Constant Gardener
½

[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Chronicles of Narnia [img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img][/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]i think it'd be fair to call [b]Narnia[/b] a "LOTR Light" film, something of a mix between [b]Harry Potter[/b] (children being the central characters) and said Peter Jackson trilogy. it's certainly not a put-down though as Narnia is at times a terrific film filled with wonder and charm. Lucy's first encounter with Narnia and Mr. Tumnus stands out in my mind, for example. it's when the film has to kick into action film mode in the last part that it dips though, as the action is neither as well-played or exciting as the stuff Peter Jackson conjured up in his [b]Lord of the Rings[/b] films. still, the visual effects are mostly solid (Aslan in particular), and the film packs a great deal of charm and a really great first half, so i can forgive it's by-the-book finale that could and should've been so much better.[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i][size=1]
[/size]The Constant Gardener [img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/stars/4.5-stars.gif[/img][/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]seeing Fernando Meirelles' [b]The Constant Gardener[/b] made me realize just how few mature, intelligent thrillers are made these days. it manages to give us plenty of thrills, yet it does it all with intelligence rather than having the main character go into some kind of action hero mode. of course, the film is not all a thriller either, but much more. it is as much a thriller as it is drama and even romance, though the second half of the film most definitely plays out like any exciting, tense thriller would. the film also gives us not only fantastic performances from Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, but a terrific ensemble effort as well. a few minor things might keep me from giving it a higher grade on first viewing, but [b]The Constant Gardener[/b] certainly gets my fullest recommendation.[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i][size=1]
[/size]March of the Penguins [img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img][/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]this documentary is so deceptively simple in what it's about it feels almost criminal to enjoy it as much as i did. we've all seen documentaries about a certain animal's circle of life before, and we've even seen films that have been shot in more spectacular ways ([b]Winged Migration[/b]), yet March of the Penguins just fires on all cylinders with it's beautiful simplicity, lovely music and narration by the always-fantastic Morgan Freeman, who has to be the greatest narrator in the world with that calm, soothing voice of his. [b]March of the Penguins[/b] is a simplistic documentary, but a triumph because of it. when so much in film today is about making the elaborate even more elaborate, [b]March of the Penguins[/b] goes the other way and gives us a simple story well-told instead.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!

King Kong
King Kong(2005)

[center][img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/kingkong.jpg[/img]
[/center]

if i had to use one word to describe [b]King Kong[/b] it'd be "uneven". if i had to use one word to describe King Kong the character it'd be "spectacular". that pretty much sums up the movie for me ? in some ways it is absolutely masterful but every now and then little things pop up to annoy and make you wonder how on earth Jackson & Co. could ever have thought this little thing was a good idea. still, [b]King Kong[/b] is an entertaining ride and features what has to be considered the greatest CGI creation of all time (to date), so it's definitely recommend, though with some reservations.

Kong himself in CGI form is really rather breathtaking. he's not absolutely flawless, mind you, but whenever they push in and show his face up close, and you see into his eyes and you feel that there's something there it's just amazing. it's during those quiet little moments between Ann and Kong that the film reaches the highest of highs, and sadly the rest of the film doesn't really reach those same heights as often as one would like. the "performance" that Kong gives has to be the best acting of the year though, and Naomi Watts is just great as Ann. the rest of the cast, and the CGI for that matter, isn't quite up to the same level, but they're certainly more than servicable performances and terrific effects. i am especially impressed by the recreation of 1930's New York City, both in terms of art direction and visual effects. i'd also like to compliment Jackson on adding extra layers to Kong's story, layers that make you feel even more for him, that make everything all the more tragic.

the film does contain it's fair share of little things, choices, that are really terribly annoying though. for example, in a handful of scenes Jackson uses some kind of slowmotion, wobble camera shots that push in on skulls and it's just ridiculous. there's another moment with a typewriter and a word being written that uses the same slowmotion effect as if it's the most important thing in the whole movie. and then there's the natives, prime candidates for overacting of the year.. they're just awful, awful. acting-wise, look-wise, everything. and i mean, these aren't just poor decisions either but true hack decisions.. and little decisions like these easily lost the film half a star in my book. there are even a few action scenes that are simply too fantastic to really be engaging. you just can't buy into them on any level, and they just fall flat.

but even if Jackson misses the mark on a few things, he's done Kong himself justice, both in terms of story and as a character, and that's all i could ask for. the character of Kong is so amazing that he's worth the price of admission. all i can say is watch those eyes of his, so full of life, like no digital character before him.

[img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/stars/4-stars.gif[/img]

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
½

[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Wallace & Gromit:
The Curse of the Were-Rabbit[/size][/i][/font]
[/indent]i've very much enjoyed Wallace and Gromit's past adventures, but i really must say they come in full blossom in their first (of many, hopefully) feature-length film. [b]The Curse of the Were-Rabbit[/b] is a sheer delight from start to finish, and has you walking out of the theater with a warm and fuzzy (pun intended) feeling in your stomach.

while not as breathtakingly beautiful as Tim Burton's [b]Corpse Bride[/b], there's an undeniable charm to the animation, complete with fingerprint remains on the heads of the characters (something they even went to great lengths to duplicate for the CGI elements). it may not blow you away by how beautifully animated it is, but that handmade look and feel is right for [b]Wallace & Gromit[/b] since that's how they always looked and moved. the additions of "invisible" CGI only enhance the experience, such as having those adorable little fluffy bunnies swirl around the BunnyVac 6000.

the voice cast is another case of perfection. Peter Sallis as Wallace is as great as ever, and name voices in the form of Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes blend in perfectly with the film. just like with [b]Corpse Bride[/b], the filmmakers went for the right voices and not just the most recognizable, famous voices.

the story itself doesn't offer up any real surprises, perhaps, but there's such a joy in the filmmakers' storytelling that just make you love every twist and turn the film takes. it's got laughs, thrills, adventure, romance.. everything you'd ever want and expect from a [b]Wallace & Gromit[/b] film.. and perhaps most importantly, they've managed to expand the [b]Wallace & Gromit[/b] universe without losing any of the charm and wit the shorts had. a splendid transition to the silver screen, indeed.

[b]The Curse of the Were-Rabbit[/b] along with [b]Corpse Bride[/b] shows that animated films, heck, film in general, is all about having a great story and telling it as well as you can, and not simply about using the latest, most modern techniques. if you haven't already, go see it.

****½ stars out of five.

The Aristocrats

[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Thumbsucker[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]what should be considered one of the year's breakthrough performances comes from [b]Thumbsucker[/b]'s Lou Taylor Pucci who plays Justin, the film's main character. he completely carries the film on his own, although he does have a pretty solid group of supporting actors and actresses, most notably in the form of Keanu Reeves who is actually pretty damn good in this film (!). the film itself, however, isn't wildly original and feels kind of like a typical coming-of-age drama. it doesn't really take off in the way it could've, which is too bad. it's still a good film, well worth watching for those interested in American independent film, but i can't help being a little disappointed it wasn't better than it is. ***½ stars out of five.[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Aristocrats[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]one guy asks the filmmakers in the beginning of [b]The Aristocrats[/b] why they are making a documentary about the filthiest in-joke in the stand-up comedy business. having seen it, i wonder the same, and i wonder why this has such a high rating among critics. yes, i'm giving it a just barely thumbs up, i guess, but it's not really much of a documentary. in fact, it probably kills any enjoyment you could ever get out of hearing someone's rendition of the joke, since it hammers away about it for roughly 90 minutes and just kind of kills the joke. i guess the documentary isn't really supposed to be so much about making you laugh as to just explore this age-old joke.. it does make you laugh, and cringe, and both at the same time. it has some funny bits in it, but 90 minutes of this just doesn't work, and the filmmakers don't seem to know how to even structure a film.. imagine that, comedians that don't know timing. so yeah, it's got a few funny bits, which is enough for it to get an "okay" rating from me, plus it's fun to see how far they push it.. but it's not a well-made documentary in any way, really. a weak *** stars out of five.

Thumbsucker
Thumbsucker(2005)
½

[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Thumbsucker[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]what should be considered one of the year's breakthrough performances comes from [b]Thumbsucker[/b]'s Lou Taylor Pucci who plays Justin, the film's main character. he completely carries the film on his own, although he does have a pretty solid group of supporting actors and actresses, most notably in the form of Keanu Reeves who is actually pretty damn good in this film (!). the film itself, however, isn't wildly original and feels kind of like a typical coming-of-age drama. it doesn't really take off in the way it could've, which is too bad. it's still a good film, well worth watching for those interested in American independent film, but i can't help being a little disappointed it wasn't better than it is. ***½ stars out of five.[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Aristocrats[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]one guy asks the filmmakers in the beginning of [b]The Aristocrats[/b] why they are making a documentary about the filthiest in-joke in the stand-up comedy business. having seen it, i wonder the same, and i wonder why this has such a high rating among critics. yes, i'm giving it a just barely thumbs up, i guess, but it's not really much of a documentary. in fact, it probably kills any enjoyment you could ever get out of hearing someone's rendition of the joke, since it hammers away about it for roughly 90 minutes and just kind of kills the joke. i guess the documentary isn't really supposed to be so much about making you laugh as to just explore this age-old joke.. it does make you laugh, and cringe, and both at the same time. it has some funny bits in it, but 90 minutes of this just doesn't work, and the filmmakers don't seem to know how to even structure a film.. imagine that, comedians that don't know timing. so yeah, it's got a few funny bits, which is enough for it to get an "okay" rating from me, plus it's fun to see how far they push it.. but it's not a well-made documentary in any way, really. a weak *** stars out of five.

Manderlay
Manderlay(2006)
½

[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Murderball[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]it's such a cliché, but [b]Murderball[/b] is an inspirational documentary. there isn't that much too it, really, nor does it go that deeply into the characters we encounter, but it's nevertheless inspiring to see people struck down by tragedy pick themselves up again and keep going and probably end up being more successful and driven than they had been if they'd never lost their ability to walk. perhaps most surprising of all is that MTV co-produced it. whoever thought MTV would ever produce a fine documentary like this? **** stars out of five.[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Manderlay[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]the continued adventures of Grace in [b]Manderlay[/b] sadly pale in comparison to it's predecessor, [b]Dogville[/b]. to be frank, [b]Dogville[/b] is pretty much better in every single way and since it was first, it felt more fresh then than [b]Manderlay[/b] does now. that's not to say that [b]Manderlay[/b] is a bad film though, because it's not, and it's certainly well worth seeing since it actually challenges the audience.. but yeah, most aspects of it don't reach the same high level as [b]Dogville[/b]. Bryce Dallas Howard's performance can't compare to Nicole Kidman's (Howard was better in [b]The Village[/b]), but she certainly proves that she's a highly talented up-and-coming actress. the rest cast do a good job too, with Danny Glover as the only real standout. definitely see this film if you saw and liked [b]Dogville[/b], but don't expect it to be as great as that film was. ***½ stars out of five.

Murderball
Murderball(2005)

[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Murderball[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]it's such a cliché, but [b]Murderball[/b] is an inspirational documentary. there isn't that much too it, really, nor does it go that deeply into the characters we encounter, but it's nevertheless inspiring to see people struck down by tragedy pick themselves up again and keep going and probably end up being more successful and driven than they had been if they'd never lost their ability to walk. perhaps most surprising of all is that MTV co-produced it. whoever thought MTV would ever produce a fine documentary like this? **** stars out of five.[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Manderlay[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]the continued adventures of Grace in [b]Manderlay[/b] sadly pale in comparison to it's predecessor, [b]Dogville[/b]. to be frank, [b]Dogville[/b] is pretty much better in every single way and since it was first, it felt more fresh then than [b]Manderlay[/b] does now. that's not to say that [b]Manderlay[/b] is a bad film though, because it's not, and it's certainly well worth seeing since it actually challenges the audience.. but yeah, most aspects of it don't reach the same high level as [b]Dogville[/b]. Bryce Dallas Howard's performance can't compare to Nicole Kidman's (Howard was better in [b]The Village[/b]), but she certainly proves that she's a highly talented up-and-coming actress. the rest cast do a good job too, with Danny Glover as the only real standout. definitely see this film if you saw and liked [b]Dogville[/b], but don't expect it to be as great as that film was. ***½ stars out of five.

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride

[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Corpse Bride[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]and so it was love at first sight. the [b]Corpse Bride[/b] won my heart and i'm forever hers. actually, it was probably true love at the very first sight of the trailer for it, so that i'd end up loving it isn't exactly a big surprise. Tim Burton's [b]Corpse Bride[/b] is a beautiful film in every way, and the only downside to it is that it's not longer. but the best things in life are short and sweet, perhaps?

i will say straight away though that as great as [b]Corpse Bride[/b] is, it's not on the same masterpiece level as [b]The Nightmare Before Christmas[/b]. the latter has the better songs (and more of them), and just a better story.. but then again, [b]The Nightmare Before Christmas[/b] has had 12 years since it's release so maybe eventually [b]Corpse Bride[/b] will be as highly regarded as it's stop-motion predecessor.

[b]Corpse Bride[/b] is without a doubt the most beautifully made and animated stop-motion film to date in the history of film and animation. it's really quite a marvel to behold, it just takes your breath away, truly. i sure hope Tim Burton (and others) will continue making these type of animated films in the future as it's such a wonderful animation technique. every little detail in the art direction, costume design, character design, etc. is just remarkable and really shows how far stop-motion has come.

the voice cast is outstanding. i'm glad that they didn't hire highly distinct voices (though a few of the supporting characters have them). Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Emily Watson just blend right into their characters. far too often famous actors and actresses are hired because they're supposed to remind you that the film has well-known celebrities doing the voices, but here, even though the cast is mainly made up of famous voices, they don't keep reminding you that you're listening to such and such. bravo!

i could rave on and on about just about everything related to this film, but let's just keep it at that. Tim Burton's [b]Corpse Bride[/b] is an achingly beautiful film and undoubtedly the best film of the year thus far (with Burton's [b]Charlie and the Chocolate Factory[/b] firmly in the no. 2 spot). i think i can safely say that for me, Tim Burton is truly the entertainer of the year, scoring two major homeruns.

***** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Nightmare Before Christmas[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]i've seen this film so many times, but never on the big screen. thankfully the film festival people went the extra mile and dug up an old copy of the film, so we Burton fans could enjoy a back-to-back viewing of [b]Corpse Bride[/b] and [b]The Nightmare Before Christmas[/b]. i won't go into reviewing the film (i'll save it for a later review), but it's truly amazing to get to see it on the big screen. i've seen it so many times, yet when you see it on the big screen, on celluloid, all those little details you may never have really noticed before just pop out.[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Down in the Valley[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]the evening was concluded for me with the yet-to-be-released [b]Down in the Valley[/b], starring Edward Norton and Evan Rachel Wood. i really didn't have particularly high expectations, since not much was really said about it out of the film festivals it's played at, but i actually really liked it. it's not a great film by any stretch, and maybe it doesn't truly deserve the rating i'm giving it, but it just worked for me. Norton is pretty damn terrific, actually, and the rest of the main cast do very well too, and i have to give it very high marks for the cinematography and the music/songs. it's certainly not a film that most will like/love, but i found it charming and amusingly off-beat. maybe not a film that has to be seen in theaters, but i definitely suggest checking it out if you like the cast. **** stars out of five.

Down in the Valley

[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Corpse Bride[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]and so it was love at first sight. the [b]Corpse Bride[/b] won my heart and i'm forever hers. actually, it was probably true love at the very first sight of the trailer for it, so that i'd end up loving it isn't exactly a big surprise. Tim Burton's [b]Corpse Bride[/b] is a beautiful film in every way, and the only downside to it is that it's not longer. but the best things in life are short and sweet, perhaps?

i will say straight away though that as great as [b]Corpse Bride[/b] is, it's not on the same masterpiece level as [b]The Nightmare Before Christmas[/b]. the latter has the better songs (and more of them), and just a better story.. but then again, [b]The Nightmare Before Christmas[/b] has had 12 years since it's release so maybe eventually [b]Corpse Bride[/b] will be as highly regarded as it's stop-motion predecessor.

[b]Corpse Bride[/b] is without a doubt the most beautifully made and animated stop-motion film to date in the history of film and animation. it's really quite a marvel to behold, it just takes your breath away, truly. i sure hope Tim Burton (and others) will continue making these type of animated films in the future as it's such a wonderful animation technique. every little detail in the art direction, costume design, character design, etc. is just remarkable and really shows how far stop-motion has come.

the voice cast is outstanding. i'm glad that they didn't hire highly distinct voices (though a few of the supporting characters have them). Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Emily Watson just blend right into their characters. far too often famous actors and actresses are hired because they're supposed to remind you that the film has well-known celebrities doing the voices, but here, even though the cast is mainly made up of famous voices, they don't keep reminding you that you're listening to such and such. bravo!

i could rave on and on about just about everything related to this film, but let's just keep it at that. Tim Burton's [b]Corpse Bride[/b] is an achingly beautiful film and undoubtedly the best film of the year thus far (with Burton's [b]Charlie and the Chocolate Factory[/b] firmly in the no. 2 spot). i think i can safely say that for me, Tim Burton is truly the entertainer of the year, scoring two major homeruns.

***** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Nightmare Before Christmas[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]i've seen this film so many times, but never on the big screen. thankfully the film festival people went the extra mile and dug up an old copy of the film, so we Burton fans could enjoy a back-to-back viewing of [b]Corpse Bride[/b] and [b]The Nightmare Before Christmas[/b]. i won't go into reviewing the film (i'll save it for a later review), but it's truly amazing to get to see it on the big screen. i've seen it so many times, yet when you see it on the big screen, on celluloid, all those little details you may never have really noticed before just pop out.[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Down in the Valley[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]the evening was concluded for me with the yet-to-be-released [b]Down in the Valley[/b], starring Edward Norton and Evan Rachel Wood. i really didn't have particularly high expectations, since not much was really said about it out of the film festivals it's played at, but i actually really liked it. it's not a great film by any stretch, and maybe it doesn't truly deserve the rating i'm giving it, but it just worked for me. Norton is pretty damn terrific, actually, and the rest of the main cast do very well too, and i have to give it very high marks for the cinematography and the music/songs. it's certainly not a film that most will like/love, but i found it charming and amusingly off-beat. maybe not a film that has to be seen in theaters, but i definitely suggest checking it out if you like the cast. **** stars out of five.

A History of Violence

[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]A History of Violence[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] [b]A History of Violence[/b] is a simple, straight story told in a simple, straight fashion and as such, a tad underwhelming. it's certainly a case of high expectations not being fully met, and that's just how it is living where films usually take awhile to get to. of course, there's also something nice about a simple, straight story being told in a simple, straight fashion, but considering the acclaim it got, color me somewhat disappointed.

even the praised performances of the film felt a tad overcooked, overacted. they're certainly not bad or merely good performances, but neither Viggo Mortensen, Mario Bello or the supporting cast really blew me away the way i expected them to.. at least Bello, which some are saying is prime for an Oscar nomination for this performance. of course, the roles are fairly slim with a 96-minute running time, so they do the best they can with what they've got, especially since they're supposed to be toned down (though as i said, a bit overacted at times).. most praise i could give to anyone in the cast would be William Hurt's cameo of sorts, which is just a juicy little thing that Hurt pulls off deliciously well. in a film of naturalistic acting, he brings the film some spark.

and surely it's not Cronenberg's fault the story isn't juicier than it is. i assume it's more or less adapted straight out of the graphic novel and really doesn't have much more to it.. but then again, maybe Cronenberg and his writer Josh Olsen, in collaboration with the original creators, could've fleshed it out a bit? it might work brilliantly on the page, but as a film i can't help but feel there's something lacking. the main themes certainly come through though, thankfully, so at least they didn't lose anything in the adaptation from page to screen.

nevertheless, despite my mostly negative comments, [b]A History of Violence[/b] is a well-made, well-acted and well-directed piece of storytelling and well worth seeing, if only for William Hurt. the good parts certainly outweigh the bad parts, in the end. just remember to lower your expectations a bit first.

a weak **** stars out of five.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

the latest [b]Harry Potter[/b] film is supposedly the darkest and scariest of the series so far, though i guess that's mainly something the younger viewers might take notice of since i can't say i found it to be particularly scary, dark or intense. frankly, the spider burrow sequence in whichever film it was came off as a lot scarier and creepier than anything [b]The Goblet of Fire[/b] has to offer. it's certainly more grown up than the previous films though, and in more ways than one as teenage lust has entered the world of Hogwarts. yes, Harry Potter and friends have finally opened their eyes to the wonderful world of the opposite sex. it seemed like only yesterday they were just kids, didn't it? so is [b]The Goblet of Fire[/b] the best film yet? well.. no. [b]The Prisoner of Azkaban[/b] is still the superior film as a whole (mainly because of a more rewarding plot), but [b]The Goblet of Fire[/b] is certainly not without merits.

the thing that mainly lowers my opinion of it is that the plot really isn't much of a plot. things certainly happen, and new clues and mysteries are revealed, but in the end, there really isn't a whole lot more there in terms of plot. there's a tournament in three parts, a ball, the emergence of a great foe.. and that's about that. perhaps the book is far more filling and rewarding, but the plot as presented in the film leaves some to be desired. the film is by no means incoherent, but it feels a bit simple and rather fragmented too, especially as it is supposed to represent a whole year (!).

as for the cast, they're all back, of course, along with a few new additions such as Brendan Gleeson as Madeye Moody. the returning cast pretty much know their characters inside and out by now and no one really stands out either, though i am quite fond of the performances Emma Watson and Rupert Grint puts forth once again, they remain the best thing about the acting. perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the whole film, acting-wise at least, is how you-know-who is presented. i by far preferred him as the unknown, unseen menace he was in previous films, and now that he's finally revealed it's rather anticlimactic and really one of the film's lower points. for such a hyped archvillain, it's just disappointing.

still, the film looks great, both in terms of art direction and costumes as well as the splendid visual effects, which ought to be the best the series has seen so far. it's a tough year for the visual effects category, so [b]The Goblet of Fire[/b] probably won't make it, but personally i think it's the best of the bunch. the underwater sequence is really quite amazing, and so is the dragon. there are a few aspects of the visual effects that could've been so much better, but the major visual effects set pieces look fantastic. other tech credits are commendable too, though nothing really that stands out too much. Patrick Doyle should get a mention though for carrying on the good work started by John Williams on the previous films.

[b]The Goblet of Fire[/b] is, in the end, a satisfying entry into the Harry Potter series, even though it's severly lacking in the plot department. it has enough good parts to outweigh the bad though, and i'm sure as the series progresses, [b]The Goblet of Fire[/b] will feel more like a satisfying part of the [b]Harry Potter[/b] saga.

**** stars out of five.

The 40 Year Old Virgin
½

to be honest, [b]The 40 Year Old Virgin[/b] is somewhat of a disappointment. after all the glowing reviews, wildly positive word of mouth and box office success, your expectations naturally get ramped up and maybe that's why i can't say i find it quite as good or funny as i hoped and expected it to be. it's still a good film, a very good one even occasionally, but yeah, it could've been so much more.

and of course, the main problem is that it's not as funny as you wish it would be. instead of taking a "higher path" with it's comedy, it goes for the lowest common denominator with it's fuck, shit, cock, pussy, etc. jokes. yes, some of it is really funny, some even very funny, but eventually it's just too much and it just doesn't mesh together with the really sweet, almost touching, love story at the heart of the film. i'm sure mixing it is what made it such a success, since it caters to most people, but for me it's just painful when the really low-brow humor just falls flat. they could've toned it down, gone for more "serious" comedy and it would've been so much better. i like my fair share of fuck, shit, cock, pussy jokes, but it quickly gets tired in this film and it just steals away attention from the main story which is what actually makes me like this movie.

Steve Carell does a fine job at leading the film.. and Carell actually better when he's just playing it straight in this film rather than when he has a few of his key humor scenes, because those mostly just fall flat, much like the painfully unfunny Anchorman, which is a classic case of trying too hard. i mean, i'm sure it hurts like hell to get your chest hair ripped off, but no way you curse the way Carell does in this film.. it's just a kind of unnatural, forced comedy. i mean, yeah, the first time it's funny but then it's just done to death and really, increasing the vulgarity doesn't equal funnier.

but i'm coming off as harsh. i really liked the film, despite of far too much of it's comedy falling short, but that's much because of Carell as the straight man, the surprisingly sweet love story that eventually conquers the low-brow humor and of course, Catherine Keener as the love interest. it may not be an enormous stretch for her as an actress, but i think she and Carell are terrific together. my recommendation is see it, but really, lower your expectations. or lower your comedic standards.

***½ stars out of five.

Broken Flowers
½

as sad and quiet as it is funny, Jim Jarmusch's [b]Broken Flowers[/b] is a film i really shouldn't be writing a review for after just one viewing. i feel like it has so many subtle nuances to it and Bill Murray's performance that i really need to see it at least one more time just to take all of it in.. and it's not like it's a heavy film in any way either, much thanks to Jarmusch's good sense of mixing the bleak and depressing with the humorous. i can say one thing for sure though, and that is that it only takes one viewing to recognize it's greatness.

if you thought Bill Murray was toned down in [b]Lost in Translation[/b] though, that's nothing compared to his performance as Don Johnston in this film. his performance that 2003 film seems wildly exuberant by comparison. Murray's performance in [b]Broken Flowers[/b] is such a sad, quiet and still performance that i really can't tell whether it's a great performance or just Bill Murray mocking us by non-acting. i'm leaning towards the former though, for sure. with the Murray comedic drive disabled, the humor in the film comes from the situations Don ends up in, as well as from Winston, Don's neighbour and an amateur sleuth, a performance Jeffrey Wright takes to great comedic heights. the rest of the cast is primarily made up of a group of very talented actresses, but none of them really get enough time on screen to really register. it is a fine ensemble effort though.

visually (and sonically), the film is accomplished, at least for a smaller, independent film. i found myself particularly impressed by the art direction and set decoration of the homes Don finds himself ending up in. it may go past most people in such a film like this one, but i loved the look they created. i also found myself very impressed by Jarmusch's eclectic selection of music for the film, though that's not all too surprising considering Jarmusch always pays careful attention to the way his films sound.

[b]Broken Flowers[/b] may not really be a film for everyone, but it gets my wholehearted recommendation. there's enough humor in the film to keep it from becoming a downer, and Jarmusch walks that fine line between tragedy and comedy just perfectly. it has a few flaws (such as a pair of unnecessary flashback dreams), but all things told it's certainly one of the best films of the year so far.

****½ stars out of five.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
½

[center][img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/charlie-chocolate.jpg[/img]
[/center]

about two weeks ago i complained about my town only getting [b]Charlie and the Chocolate Factory[/b] in a dubbed version, and i was pretty pissed about it since i wouldn't get to see it on the big screen. someone must've listened and smiled upon me because today, two weeks after it originally opened, my theater got the English-language version as well, to my great surprise and joy! and boy am i happy i got to see it, because Tim Burton's version of the classic Roald Dahl tale is the best film i've seen so far this year.

this news should come as no great surprise though as i am a bonafide Tim Burton fan. i've loved his films from before i was a film geek and i continue to love them. it has been awhile since a new Tim Burton film made my heart skip though, as [b]Planet of the Apes[/b] was something of a substandard Burton film (though i do like it to some degree) and [b]Big Fish[/b] felt a bit too tame and conventional for this Tim Burton fanboy (it never ceases to amaze me that it's his highest rated feature film on IMDb). Tim Burton and the story of [b]Charlie and the Chocolate Factory[/b] is just a match made in heaven though, and Burton doesn't mess it up. from the first frame to the last, the world he creates is just eye-popping and he (along with Johnny Depp) has the good fortune of countering the sugary sweet story with a bit of darkness and weirdness in the form of Willy Wonka, as completely reimagined by Johnny Depp, the by far most unique and daring actor in the world. Depp's Wonka is completely and utterly bizarre, but i for one just love it when Depp goes off the deep end like that. the rest of the cast is very well put together as well. as Charlie, Freddie Highmore wins me over. i actually didn't like him all that much in Finding Neverland, despite the heaps of acclaim he won, but here he's just the perfect match. other highlights from the cast would have to be Julia Winter as Veruca Salt (who's Swedish, actually), David Kelly as Grandpa Joe, Geoffrey Holder as the narrator and of course Deep Roy as the Oompa-Loompas.

visually and technically, it's a feast. you'll know that just by looking at the trailer, but it sure is a delight to see it on the big screen. criminally underrated (and still not Oscar-nominated) production designer Alex McDowell once again outdoes himself and if his work here isn't recognized by the Academy i don't know what i'll do. the costumes by Allan McCosky and Garbriella Pescucci, the cinematography by Philippe Rousselot and the score and songs by Danny Elfman are also all delectable to use a suitable word.

i'm surely biased, but Tim Burton's version of [b]Charlie and the Chocolate Factory[/b] completely renders the 1971 "original" obsolete. as much as i've enjoyed that adaptation and Wilder's performance as Willy Wonka over the years, i really can't imagine me seeing it too often now that there is this "definitive" version by Tim Burton. pretty much everything about Burton's film is bigger and better than the 1971 version, and i sure hope you all, just like me (finally), got or get to see it on the big screen.

a strong ****½ stars out of five.

Cinderella Man

among the cinematically hip it's not cool to like Ron Howard or his films. to them, Ron Howard is a hack who makes bland, sugary-sweet feel-good movies that pander to the Oscar Academy. nothing Ron Howard ever does will be good enough or hip enough because he's not on the cutting edge of filmmaking or a risktaker. i'm certainly not saying everything Ron Howard makes is solid gold, or that his films aren't a certain way, but i think he's becoming a better and better director. his latest film, [b]Cinderella Man[/b] is a fine piece of work in every way. surely it's very traditional and hardly surprising or hip, but it works and accomplishes more than well what it set out to do.

playing legendary boxer Jim Braddock, Russell Crowe once again shows us and proves that he's quite possibly the greatest actor in the world currently. like with his previous major performances, he just slips into the character so effortlessly and just becomes him. even if his performance isn't as powerful as Maximus in [b]Gladiator[/b] or intricate as his performance as John Nash in [b]A Beautiful Mind[/b], Crowe nevertheless fires on all cylinders and gives one of the best acting performances so far this year. by his side for [b]Cinderella Man[/b] is Renée Zellweger as his loving wife and Paul Giamatti as his coach and friend. both do fine work with what they're given, but they (along with the rest of the cast) are certainly overshadowed by Crowe. Craig Bierko, playing foe Max Baer, adds a bit of spark and menace to the movie, but all things told, [b]Cinderella Man[/b] completely and totally belongs to Crowe.

another thing that surprised me about [b]Cinderella Man[/b] is that it really isn't that sugary sweet and "Oscar baity" as one would assume. it's obviously the type of film that the Academy loves, but i thought Howard keeps it fairly straight-forward, almost simple, and avoids packing it with those really weepy Oscar scenes and high drama. there are certainly such scenes, but not enough to make you want to gag or roll your eyes. Howard also surrounds himself with top notch filmmakers behind the camera, and the result is on the high level one would expect from such a film. while the art direction and costumes (or cinematography) is not as glitzy as in other period films of late (such as [b]The Aviator[/b]), it's a nicely crafted, authentic-feeling film both visually and sonically.

it's not a popular opinion, but i'm starting to really like Ron Howard as a filmmaker. surely he mostly keeps to his typical "safe" films, but i think he does what he does very well. [b]Cinderella Man[/b] may be a typical Hollywood feel-good drama, but it reaches higher ground much thanks to Russell Crowe and the cast, as well as Ron Howard knowing just what it takes to makes these type of films. he may not be an exciting filmmaker, but [b]Cinderella Man[/b] is a fine film in every way.

a strong **** stars out of five.

Red Eye
Red Eye(2005)

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while Wes Craven's [b]Red Eye[/b] may be far from a perfect film, it does feel like a welcome change from the usual high concept thrillers we're mostly subjected to these days. clocking in at a mere 85 minutes, it doesn't waste much time to get to the heart of the story, and even though we don't exactly get to know the characters deeply, the actors portraying them do a very fine job at making them seem like real and fully believable.

both Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy are red-hot at the moment, and while their performances in [b]Red Eye[/b] isn't likely to garner them any awards, it's their strong, believable acting that really make the film take off (pun intended). McAdams once again proves that she's not just another It-girl with a pretty face, but that she's really got the acting chops as well. i gotta say it's been a long time since i've been so impressed by a young, up and coming actress and she's yet to let me down. Murphy does an even better job in this film than he did playing a villain in [b]Batman Begins[/b], and he's a pretty natural fit as a villain too looking as creepy as he does. the rest of the cast isn't much to speak of, especially since Brian Cox is the only one outside of the two main actors with a name we recognize. Cox is more or less wasted in a tiny little role, but on the other hand, he's always a welcome presence in any film.

the story is rather conventional and straight-forward, but it works well and while there are a few implausible plot elements, why mess it up by making it more complicated for the sake of making it more complicated? in a Hollywood where overindulgence is more or less a disease, it's nice to see a film and story like this once in awhile where the fuss is stripped away. the best word i think i could use for this film is that it's economic, but not at the expense of the film. it still looks good, nicely shot in close quarters by (the underrated) Robert Yeoman and even the few visual effects shots look nice for such a low budget film.

Craven pretty much squeezes all he can squeeze out of [b]Red Eye[/b], and the end result is success across the board. surely there are things that could've been better that might've elevated it to greatness, but as it stands, [b]Red Eye[/b] packs a solid punch and doesn't overstay it's welcome. and while it may not be saying all that much,it's is probably my favorite Wes Craven film to date.

**** stars out of five.


p.s. has anyone else seen 1995's [b]Nick of Time[/b] with Johnny Depp? i've been a fan of it for quite some time, and i just rewatched it the other night by sheer coincidence and it feels like it'd be a perfect double bill with [b]Red Eye[/b], both clocking in at 85 minutes and both featuring well above average performances and (somewhat similar) storylines. if you haven't seen it and enjoyed [b]Red Eye[/b], i highly recommend giving it a rental.

Fever Pitch
Fever Pitch(2005)
½

[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Fantastic Four[/size][/i][/font]
[/indent]i've never read a [b]Fantastic Four[/b] comic in my life, and prior to the film i really didn't even know any of the characters (though i had heard of some of them). going in, i didn't have many expectations on this film either, and maybe that's why i liked it. [b]Fantastic Four[/b] isn't close to being a great film, and giving it 3½ stars may be very generous but for the most part it's a more than passable action adventure with some good action sequences, nice visual effects and a terrific performance by Michael Chiklis as The Thing, who manages to shine through all that makeup. while [b]Fantastic Four[/b] certainly can't compete with the top comic book adaptations, as a comic book B-movie you could do a lot worse. ***½ stars out of five.[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Fever Pitch[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]now this was a pleasant surprise, actually. again, i didn't have many expectations on it, but i always liked Drew Barrymore in romantic comedies and while this one doesn't exactly sparkle with romantic chemistry, Jimmy Fallon is surprisingly good as her romantic opposite. as with most romantic comedies, it's about as clichéd and predictable as it gets, but on the other hand, both lead characters are likeable thanks to Barrymore and Fallon. the way the Farrelly Brothers incorporated the historical Red Sox World Series victory is also admirable as they literally had to re-write and re-shoot their film as the Red Sox were making history. those expecting the usual Farrelly Brothers brand of humor will be sorely disappointed though as this is more sweet than funny. ***½ stars out of five.[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]The Skeleton Key[/size][/i][/font]
[/indent]i'm not into horror movies at all, generally, and i usually don't watch or like them but i wanted to see [b]The Skeleton Key[/b] because of it's cast. a horror film with the likes of Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, John Hurt and Peter Sarsgaard is certainly a better cast than most films get. surely none of them give great performances, but they certainly lend the film some gravitas. the plot is also better than average for a horror film, and actually feels like something new and different.. and if the film gets one big thing right it's the way it ends, which really tilted me over to giving it the rating i'm giving it. it may not be a great horror film, but it's well above average thanks to the cast, the plot, it's look and the ending. ***½ stars out of five.

The Skeleton Key
½

[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Fantastic Four[/size][/i][/font]
[/indent]i've never read a [b]Fantastic Four[/b] comic in my life, and prior to the film i really didn't even know any of the characters (though i had heard of some of them). going in, i didn't have many expectations on this film either, and maybe that's why i liked it. [b]Fantastic Four[/b] isn't close to being a great film, and giving it 3½ stars may be very generous but for the most part it's a more than passable action adventure with some good action sequences, nice visual effects and a terrific performance by Michael Chiklis as The Thing, who manages to shine through all that makeup. while [b]Fantastic Four[/b] certainly can't compete with the top comic book adaptations, as a comic book B-movie you could do a lot worse. ***½ stars out of five.[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Fever Pitch[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]now this was a pleasant surprise, actually. again, i didn't have many expectations on it, but i always liked Drew Barrymore in romantic comedies and while this one doesn't exactly sparkle with romantic chemistry, Jimmy Fallon is surprisingly good as her romantic opposite. as with most romantic comedies, it's about as clichéd and predictable as it gets, but on the other hand, both lead characters are likeable thanks to Barrymore and Fallon. the way the Farrelly Brothers incorporated the historical Red Sox World Series victory is also admirable as they literally had to re-write and re-shoot their film as the Red Sox were making history. those expecting the usual Farrelly Brothers brand of humor will be sorely disappointed though as this is more sweet than funny. ***½ stars out of five.[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]The Skeleton Key[/size][/i][/font]
[/indent]i'm not into horror movies at all, generally, and i usually don't watch or like them but i wanted to see [b]The Skeleton Key[/b] because of it's cast. a horror film with the likes of Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, John Hurt and Peter Sarsgaard is certainly a better cast than most films get. surely none of them give great performances, but they certainly lend the film some gravitas. the plot is also better than average for a horror film, and actually feels like something new and different.. and if the film gets one big thing right it's the way it ends, which really tilted me over to giving it the rating i'm giving it. it may not be a great horror film, but it's well above average thanks to the cast, the plot, it's look and the ending. ***½ stars out of five.

Fantastic Four
½

[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Fantastic Four[/size][/i][/font]
[/indent]i've never read a [b]Fantastic Four[/b] comic in my life, and prior to the film i really didn't even know any of the characters (though i had heard of some of them). going in, i didn't have many expectations on this film either, and maybe that's why i liked it. [b]Fantastic Four[/b] isn't close to being a great film, and giving it 3½ stars may be very generous but for the most part it's a more than passable action adventure with some good action sequences, nice visual effects and a terrific performance by Michael Chiklis as The Thing, who manages to shine through all that makeup. while [b]Fantastic Four[/b] certainly can't compete with the top comic book adaptations, as a comic book B-movie you could do a lot worse. ***½ stars out of five.[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Fever Pitch[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]now this was a pleasant surprise, actually. again, i didn't have many expectations on it, but i always liked Drew Barrymore in romantic comedies and while this one doesn't exactly sparkle with romantic chemistry, Jimmy Fallon is surprisingly good as her romantic opposite. as with most romantic comedies, it's about as clichéd and predictable as it gets, but on the other hand, both lead characters are likeable thanks to Barrymore and Fallon. the way the Farrelly Brothers incorporated the historical Red Sox World Series victory is also admirable as they literally had to re-write and re-shoot their film as the Red Sox were making history. those expecting the usual Farrelly Brothers brand of humor will be sorely disappointed though as this is more sweet than funny. ***½ stars out of five.[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]The Skeleton Key[/size][/i][/font]
[/indent]i'm not into horror movies at all, generally, and i usually don't watch or like them but i wanted to see [b]The Skeleton Key[/b] because of it's cast. a horror film with the likes of Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, John Hurt and Peter Sarsgaard is certainly a better cast than most films get. surely none of them give great performances, but they certainly lend the film some gravitas. the plot is also better than average for a horror film, and actually feels like something new and different.. and if the film gets one big thing right it's the way it ends, which really tilted me over to giving it the rating i'm giving it. it may not be a great horror film, but it's well above average thanks to the cast, the plot, it's look and the ending. ***½ stars out of five.

The Island
The Island(2005)

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everyone says they hate Michael Bay and his "MTV-style ADD" films, but how many don't secretly find a few of them guilty pleasures? i've personally enjoyed (and still do) [b]Bad Boys[/b], [b]The Rock[/b] and [b]Armageddon[/b]. they may not be high art, but as far as popcorn blockbusters go, they're among the better ones.. and even if Michael Bay is no director for the ages, he sure knows how to work the camera and come up with terrific visuals and great action setpieces. [b]The Island[/b] is his first film without Jerry Bruckheimer, and i must say that despite what the critics said and how it did at the North American box office, [b]The Island[/b] is for the most part a winner as far as popcorn blockbusters go. i don't even feel guilty for liking it.

one of the film's biggest strengths are naturally the visual aspect of it. the movie simply looks great. one aspect of it is very futuristic, but minimalistically so and while not wholly original, different enough to be memorable.. another aspect of it is more of a combination of this time, just with a few high tech aspects thrown in here and there to make it look like it's based on our times, just a few decades into the future (the movie is said to take place in 2019).. so while still futuristic and "cool", it looks like a believable world built on the foundation on an older world. despite this, the film actually doesn't feel absolutely jam-packed with digital effects. a great deal of it naturally has visual effects, especially the action set pieces, but compared to I, Robot or War of the Worlds this felt far less "effectsy".

as for the cast (which has recently been blamed for the film's failure at the domestic box office), i gotta say i quite like seeing actors not typically known for action films in these roles. i like both Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson and even if they're no natural action stars or give us great performances in this film, i'd definitely take them over the likes of Vin Diesel or some other more action-oriented actors. the supporting cast is pretty good too, with Steve Buscemi and Djimon Hounsou being the most memorable. the only real objection i've got with the cast is having Sean Bean playing YET another villain. he's been cast so many times as the villain lately that you just naturally assume he's the bad guy, and it'd be much more fun if they'd cast someone playing against their type for the role instead.

the bottom line is that [b]The Island[/b] is a much better film than many would have you believe. it's well-made, with a better-than-average plot (for such a film) and it features some really terrific action set pieces and a likeable cast. it's certainly not without flaws, but you could do a lot worse when it comes to popcorn blockbusters. a four star rating may seem high in the grand scheme of things, but on the action movie scale, i think it deserves it.

**** stars out of five.

Why We Fight
Why We Fight(2006)

last year was a major year for documentaries, especially those relating to (US) politics in all it's shapes, and i saw a whole slew of them, including the usual suspects ([b]Fahrenheit 9/11[/b], [b]Control Room[/b], etc.). [b]Why We Fight[/b] comes on the heels of those, with a subject not too unfamiliar, yet with a somewhat different angle and approach.

[b]Why We Fight[/b] focuses on how America's military power has gone astray in favor of capitalist interests and basically asking the question why America keeps on fighting and what for. the film ranges from interviews with the high and mighty (like Bush advisors and Senator John McCain) down to interviews, for example, with a retired New York police officer whose son died on 9/11 and how he wanted the army to write his son's name on a bomb and a down-on-his-luck young man who has decided to enlist in the army, mainly out of desperation over his current living situation.. it also mixes in some very wise words by Eisenhower, who in 1961, when he left the office, gave a speech warning the people about letting the military-industrial complex take over the military interests.. something that has now, clearly, happened.

some things you've heard before (like the Cheney/Halliburton thing), while other things are new (at least to me, like the US building 14 permanent bases in Iraq).. and the film nicely intercuts between all various aspects of how America basically is driven into war after war because of capitalist interests that an enormous amount of Congress leaders have some stake in.. some parts are downright scary too, like how Congress gave Bush the freedom to start a war all on his own, a priviledge only given to Congress in all of American history before then and never to a single human being.

[b]Why We Fight[/b] won the Grand Jury Prize earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival and deservingly so. in my opinion, this is a must-see documentary. it may not be the single greatest documentary ever or anything, but the subject is important and very topical, and certainly something i would want everyone to know more about. i have no idea when it's due to come out in North America, or anywhere else in the world, but consider this an early heads up to keep an eye out for it because it most definitely deserves your time and attention and as big of an audience as it can get.

**** stars out of five.

Batman Begins
½

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simply put, [b]Batman Begins[/b] is one of the best comic book adaptations ever made. i've never been a huge fan of films based on comic book superheroes, but of the ones i've liked the most it's always been the ones that tone down the colorful comic book aspect (like the [b]X-Men[/b] films) that have struck me as the best of the bunch and that certainly goes for [b]Batman Begins[/b], which feels like the least comic book-y adaptation yet. surely Batman still looks like a comic book superhero, but thankfully he's not wearing colorful spandex.

when i first heard that Christopher Nolan was going to make a Batman film, i wasn't too pleased. i am an enormously huge fan of his [b]Memento[/b], and [b]Insomnia[/b] was a well above average thriller too.. but [b]Batman[/b] just felt wrong. now that i've seen it, i can thankfully say that my fears were uncalled for. surely it may not have been all thanks to Nolan that [b]Batman Begins[/b] is what it is and looks the way it looks, but he certainly did a fantastic job at bringing the caped crusader back from the dead. it certainly solidifies, to me at least, that Nolan is one of the finest directors of the younger generation. hopefully he won't get stuck directing comic book movies (a la Bryan Singer), though i hope and certainly wouldn't mind if he directs the inevitable [b]Batman Begins[/b] sequel.

as for the acting, it's as good as you can ask for. surely no one besides Christian Bale really get enough screen time to really make a huge impression, but having the likes of Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman et al. in these parts certainly doesn't hurt. plus, it's supposed to be Bale's show anyway and even if the cast is star-studded, they don't try to steal Bale's thunder. and Bale is good as Batman. an excellent choice, since he can really act as well as convince you that he could be Batman and beat the living crap out of you.

visually, it's a delight. it's dark, gritty, elegant and bleak. grown up. i certainly loved what Tim Burton did visually with his [b]Batman[/b] films, but here it looks more realistic, believable.. maybe not quite as fantastical as the Burton films, but with it's own sense of style. a whole new universe, really. a whole new Gotham (nicely rendered through the supporting visual effects). and speaking of visual effects, i'm glad they decided to go for a less is more approach. here, the effects are of a supporting nature that enrich and enlarge our experience, but they never take over. Begins is more about characters and mood than extravagant effects, and in my opinion that's a good choice.

so is [b]Batman Begins[/b] THE best comic book adaptation? maybe. it's certainly up there at the very top, but i'll wait to decide on whether it's the best of the best until i see it a few more times. while i'm surely one of the last to see this film at this point, it goes without saying that my recommendation is to go see it.

****½ stars out of five.

Wedding Crashers

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the best thing i can say about [b]Wedding Crashers[/b] is that it gave my abs a good workout. this is definitely the funniest movie to come along in quite some time, period. while not every single scene is a gutbuster and the movie is far from comedy perfection, there are plenty of laughs to be had, including a few that'll really make your stomach hurt.

as pretty much all the reviews have said, it's Vince Vaughn who steals the show and i can't disagree with that. Owen Wilson has the straight part, the more serious romantic part and it's up to Vaughn to makes us laugh. Wilson has some funny stuff too, naturally, but it's Vaughn that gets all the uproariously funny scenes and he just rolls with it. this is definitely one of his finest comedic performances. it should be said that he has a formidable comedic partner in Isla Fisher though, who plays Gloria, the kooky sister of Claire (Rachel McAdams), the girl John (Wilson) is wooing. Jeremy (Vaughn) quickly notices she's a bit crazy and tries to abort, but ends up stuck with her over the weekend at the parents house. i've never seen Fisher in anything else, but she sure plays a crazy girlfriend very well. Wilson and McAdams, and the rest of the cast, do well with what they've got but it really is Vaughn's (and Fisher's) show. if there's one complaint i have, it's that they didn't give McAdams any comedic scenes because she can be very funny.

it's not a perfect movie though, which is particularly noticable in the third act when there's too much romantic stuff and not enough comedy.. that part also goes on for a bit too long, and they could've easily skipped a few bits towards the end to really get to the finale we all know is coming. at close to 2 hours, the first 1½ is fantastic, but the last 30 minutes or so drags it down a bit. there's still funny stuff (like a cameo by someone i'm not mentioning), but there's nothing like the comedy in the earlier acts of the film.. had they trimmed the third act a bit, i'm sure i'd have given it a higher rating.

but don't let the "we knew it's gonna end this way" ending discourage you.. if you want to laugh, see this film. that is an order. Vince Vaughn is at the top of his game, and while Wilson is a bit pale, Vaughn along with Isla Fisher is enough to give your abs a good workout.

a strong **** stars out of five.

Sin City
Sin City(2005)
½

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for years and years i've said (and felt) that Robert Rodriguez was a Quentin Tarantino, but he just didn't have that same raw talent for filmmaking. not that their films have been wildly similar other than their violent nature, but he always struck me as someone that wanted to make "cool" films the way Tarantino makes cool films. i've enjoyed a few of his films ([b]Desperado[/b] and [b]From Dusk Till Dawn[/b]), but for the most part they've been letdowns. with [b]Sin City[/b], and the help of Frank Miller, he's finally made his first truly great film and finally i can let go of the idea, at least for now, that he's something of a hack.

one very major reason why i think he finally managed to make a great film is that it's adapted from great source material, and he stayed out of writing it. writing, as witnessed by the horrible [b]Spy Kids[/b] films, is not Rodriguez's main strength. he's capable of pretty much everything else he does, but writing has always been his major weakness and when the writing is bad, he just can't escape it. the writing, adaptation, of [b]Sin City[/b] is one of it's greatest strengths along with being so relentlessly faithful to it's source material's look and style. having a great cast and Frank Miller as your co-director didn't hurt either.

the cast is uniformly excellent. the only real weak link would be Brittany Murphy, who while not a terrible actress, just doesn't fit the part or the film. she, just like everyone else, isn't in the film for all that much though so it's certainly nothing that hurts the film all too much. personal favorite in the cast would certainly be Mickey Rourke as Marv though, and having now finally seen it, i imagine he's most people's favorite. his storyline was my favorite as well, and i'd even go so far to say that Jaime King was my favorite among the females in the film too, even if she doesn't have that big of a role. the whole cast is really top notch though.

visually, we all know it was mostly shot against a green screen, with digital effects filling out the rest. a few films so far have done this, including the fantastic and wildly underrated and overlooked [b]Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow[/b], and for [b]Sin City[/b]'s look it certainly works. surely there's more than a few scenes where the visual effects looked kinda cheap and not quite up to par with what money can buy these days, but on the whole it works very nicely and looks great. had the film not had it's stylized, stark black and white look, it probably wouldn't have looked half as good though.

so why am i not giving this film five stars? well, for one it is three seperate stories from the world of [b]Sin City[/b], and even if all parts are great, they're shown one after another in their entirety rather than interspliced, which kinda feels like you're watching three short films rather than one whole film. i know it doesn't sound like much of a criticism (and don't let it dissuade you from seeing it), but that does bring it down a little for me. still, it's certainly the best film i've seen so far this year, and i wouldn't be surprised if it's still in my top ten list at the end of the year either. see it.

****½ stars out of five.

War of the Worlds

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if there's one thing Steven Spielberg's wildly entertaining adaptation of [b]War of the Worlds[/b] did wrong, it's probably being too faithful to it's source material. since i haven't read H.G. Wells' novel (nor seen the 1953 film) i can't confirm this, but from all i've heard it's pretty faithful and by being so, it loses a couple of points in my book. the issues i have with it are obvious plot spoilers, so i won't get into them.. but let's just say it has some elements in it that feel more like a 50s sci-fi movie than the "realistic" modern sci-fi film i expected. but fear not, even with these flaws (in my opinion anyway), it's still a tremendously entertaining film.

it's also a pretty grim film, especially for a PG-13 film, but there is plenty of humor in it, though some terrorist-related comments might've been unintentionally funny.. can't say for sure. acting-wise, it's really nothing special. Dakota Fanning is the best of the bunch, yet again proving to be wise beyond her years as an actress. quite remarkable, really. it's certainly not any award-winning work by any means, but she and her character are certainly the emotional center of the film. Tom Cruise is.. Tom Cruise. it's not really a performance as it is just Tom Cruise in a movie. i did like the fact that his character was something of a screwup and lazy bum though. as for the rest of the cast, only Tim Robbins as the paranoid looney really stands out in my mind.. but overall the cast does a fine job.. and we all know we're there for the special effects anyway, right?

visually, the film is a feast for the eyes. there were certain wide shots (none of which you've seen in any trailers) in the film that i so totally would want to hang on my wall if i could.. one in particular stands out in my mind. i won't describe it, but it felt like an instantly iconic shot. just perfect. the visual effects range from mindblowing to kinda shoddy though, which surprised me. maybe i was just expecting EVEN more, but there were a few shots throughout the film that didn't look as well-made and polished as one would've expected.

so was it worth the 100 mile roadtrip i had to take to see it? most definitely. if you have any interest at all to see this film, it's certainly worth checking out on a big screen. the main problems i have with the film mostly relate to H.G. Wells' original story too, so if you are more familiar with it, some aspects of it won't seem quite as cheesy as i thought they were.

**** stars out of five.

Office Space
Office Space(1999)

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"[i]..if they take my stapler then I'll set the building on fire.[/i]"
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while i've personally never had the pleasure of working in a tiny cubicle, working with stuff you couldn't care less about and surrounded by middle-management bosses that don't listen, i don't think you really need to have lived that life to appreciate [b]Office Space[/b]. like Jennifer Aniston's character says in the film, "most people don't like their jobs". how true. while i'm hit sure it hits closer to home for cubicle prisoners, this is a film for all to enjoy.

there are very few comedies that make me laugh every time i watch them, and this is one of them. it's even attained something of a cult status since hitting home video and DVD, and it's easy to see why since the film is so endlessly quotable. at just under 90 minutes, it's lean and mean and just packs it in with laughs, one after another. Ron Livingston play the lead character Peter, but the weight of the movie isn't squarely on his shoulders since pretty much the whole cast is a riot (well, except maybe Jennifer Aniston, but she's supposed to have the "straight" role). funniest of the bunch is easily Stephen Root (pictured above), who plays Milton Waddams, a quiet mumbling.. something. the movie is actually based on an animated short about Milton also entitled [b]Office Space[/b], but here he's a supporting character. the rest of the cast is made up of the likes of John C. McGinley, Diedrich Bader and Gary Cole to name a few of those with recognizable names but the film also features great comedic performances from lesser-known David Herman and Ajay Naidu. all in all, a fantastic cast and of course, a terribly funny screenplay that just keeps going.

[b]Office Space[/b] may not really be a 10 in that it's a great cinematic masterpiece, but it easily deserves a 10 for making me laugh every single time i watch it. so much of it's office-related humor is so right on the money it's scary, and the whole thing is just like a rollercoaster of laughs. after [b]The Big Lebowski[/b], it's probably the funniest film ever.

***** stars out of five.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith

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despite a running time close to two hours, i actually wish that [b]Mr. and Mrs. Smith[/b] would be a bit longer than it is. time flies by watching it, but then it comes to a rather abrupt, somewhat unsatisfying ending. it's a fun movie to watch, especially during the second act but it definitely feels like it's missing a real finale in third act.

it's probably a movie most people will see for the character interaction rather than plot anyway though, and in the chemistry department it certainly delivers and makes up for the plot's weakness (most notable towards the end). Pitt and Jolie play off of each other very nicely, especially in the second act when they've both figured out who the other person truly is, and they're both turned on by it. it may not be a movie that sizzles (it's PG-13 after all), but the chemistry is certainly there and they do make for a good team on screen. other than them, the only one with any kind of distinguishable character is Vince Vaughn. he delivers some solid laughs but not even he is in the movie all that much. of course, it's meant to be all about Pitt and Jolie, and thankfully that pairing works out very well.

technically, it's certainly a film pleasing to the eyes, and i'm not just talking about the leads (though i won't complain.. Angelina Jolie in a leather dominatrix outfit, hubba hubba!). Doug Liman, the director, certainly knows how to make a film like this now following the success of [b]The Bourne Identity[/b] and even if it's not quite as exciting and fresh as that film was, there are certainly some very exciting and nicely done action setpieces. another thing that also left an impression was the music score by John Powell (which sadly doesn't seem to be getting a proper release on CD). with the movie being a romantic comedy and an action film, it's got both those sweet melodic comedy tracks and the more adrenaline-pumped action tracks. no idea how it'd sound on a CD, but it sounds great in the film.

if you're looking for a fun action/comedy, [b]Mr. and Mrs. Smith[/b] should satisfy most. i don't imagine people will love it (mainly because of that darn third act), but they should certainly be entertained. it's definitely worth seeing for the second act action sequence between the two leads which gives domestic violence a whole new meaning.

(a weak) **** stars out of five.

Layer Cake
Layer Cake(2005)

[indent][i][font=Georgia][size=5]Layer Cake[/size][/font][/i][/indent] if you liked [b]Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels[/b] and [b]Snatch[/b], chances are you will like [b]Layer Cake[/b] as well, despite the lame (but in the movie explained in a way it makes good sense) title. [b]Layer Cake[/b] wasn't directed by Guy Ritchie though, but by the producer of said films, Matthew Vaughn. the difference less style and more maturity, though [b]Layer Cake[/b] most definitely has style. and by mature, well, maybe that's primarily because this one isn't part-comedy like the others were, so it feels more mature that way.

first things first, this is a terrific cast. i've only seen Daniel Craig as far as i can remember in one other film (the next one reviewed as it so happens), but he's just great in the lead role. it may not be an award-winning role, but he infuses XXXX (that's the character's "name") with more depth than most films like these do. Craig has a fine supporting cast too, with Colm Meaney, Michael Gambon and Sienna Miller as the most notable from those with names you actually might know. the one who impressed me the most was George Harris though, whom i'm not really familiar with from any other films.

bottom line though is that if you like a good crime movie, check this one out. heck, if you just like yourself a good movie period, check this one out. it may not be a revelation, but it's a terrific film. **** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]The Jacket[/size][/i][/font]
[/indent] while [b]The Jacket[/b] is a minor film in the realm of mindbending movies, i found it to be better than expected. the story may not make much sense, but it is something of a fantasy film after all, and as long as you just let yourself go with it and not bother too much with specifics, you might like being along for the ride just like i was.

what impressed me the most about the film was Kiera Knightley actually. so far i've only seen her in lighter roles, so it was nice to see her take on a more dramatic "darker" role. again, this isn't some magnificent performance for the ages, but i enjoyed seeing her in a dramatic role and it bodes well for her future as an actress. Adrien Brody does a great job here as well, as does Daniel Craig in a small supporting role as a looney.

[b]The Jacket[/b] isn't some must-see film, but if you're in the mood for something like it on a friday night, it's not a bad rental at all. the film looks nice visually, has some good performances and an intriguing (if implausible) story. **** stars out of five.

The Jacket
The Jacket(2005)

[indent][i][font=Georgia][size=5]Layer Cake[/size][/font][/i][/indent] if you liked [b]Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels[/b] and [b]Snatch[/b], chances are you will like [b]Layer Cake[/b] as well, despite the lame (but in the movie explained in a way it makes good sense) title. [b]Layer Cake[/b] wasn't directed by Guy Ritchie though, but by the producer of said films, Matthew Vaughn. the difference less style and more maturity, though [b]Layer Cake[/b] most definitely has style. and by mature, well, maybe that's primarily because this one isn't part-comedy like the others were, so it feels more mature that way.

first things first, this is a terrific cast. i've only seen Daniel Craig as far as i can remember in one other film (the next one reviewed as it so happens), but he's just great in the lead role. it may not be an award-winning role, but he infuses XXXX (that's the character's "name") with more depth than most films like these do. Craig has a fine supporting cast too, with Colm Meaney, Michael Gambon and Sienna Miller as the most notable from those with names you actually might know. the one who impressed me the most was George Harris though, whom i'm not really familiar with from any other films.

bottom line though is that if you like a good crime movie, check this one out. heck, if you just like yourself a good movie period, check this one out. it may not be a revelation, but it's a terrific film. **** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][i][size=5]The Jacket[/size][/i][/font]
[/indent] while [b]The Jacket[/b] is a minor film in the realm of mindbending movies, i found it to be better than expected. the story may not make much sense, but it is something of a fantasy film after all, and as long as you just let yourself go with it and not bother too much with specifics, you might like being along for the ride just like i was.

what impressed me the most about the film was Kiera Knightley actually. so far i've only seen her in lighter roles, so it was nice to see her take on a more dramatic "darker" role. again, this isn't some magnificent performance for the ages, but i enjoyed seeing her in a dramatic role and it bodes well for her future as an actress. Adrien Brody does a great job here as well, as does Daniel Craig in a small supporting role as a looney.

[b]The Jacket[/b] isn't some must-see film, but if you're in the mood for something like it on a friday night, it's not a bad rental at all. the film looks nice visually, has some good performances and an intriguing (if implausible) story. **** stars out of five.

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

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while the third and final prequel far surpasses the other two that came before it, i'm sad to say it really can't touch the films from the original trilogy, not even [b]Return of the Jedi[/b]. George Lucas certainly does more rights than wrongs this time around, and [b]Revenge of the Sith[/b] is undeniably very entertaining, but past mistakes certainly haunt this episode as well, sadly, primarily the casting of Hayden Christensen, which has to go down as one of the worst miscastings in the history of cinema.

Christensen is still far better here than he was in [b]Attack of the Clones[/b], not being as whiny but there are a handful of moments in [b]Revenge of the Sith[/b] when he should be presented far more menacing and dark, and Christensen (with that voice especially) just can't make it sound threatening. kinda like a soprano when the part requires a baritone. there weren't any real cringe-moments this time around though, so don't be discouraged by my comments. and thankfully Christensen is surrounded by better actors and actresses who also get more to work with here. the best performance comes from the guy who's been the anchor of the entire prequel trilogy, Ewan McGregor. maybe it's not a performance he'll win awards for, but he's easily the best of the bunch. Ian McDiarmid finally gets his moment in the sun, and just rolls with it. Natalie Portman thankfully gets more to do here as well, though i've liked her in all three prequels. as for the rest of the cast, i don't really have any objections or critiques.. most of them do what they're asked to do, pretty much. it's only too bad Lucas' poor choice in Hayden Christensen has to drag down this episode as well. oh, and i mustn't forget to mention the beloved characters of Yoda and R2-D2 (and C-3PO but to lesser extent), since they certainly we're part of the highlights of the film, beyond the action sequences.

storywise, this is where it all ties together and in the end, i think it does all those things very well. i don't want to spoil anything, so i won't go into too specific detail, but once the final credits rolled, the resolution certainly felt like a good one. the whole finale is exciting. there are times during the film that the editing feels very choppy and strange though (like intercutting between a wild chase and dialogue scenes). Lucas also opted to include some bits and pieces of the fate of minor character, but totally overdid it. i guess it satisfies those who actually know the names of these characters, but he should've cut some out of that.

visually, it's a feast. it's pretty much as good as you can get, and it's all up there on screen. it may not contain the most visually spectacular CGI we've ever seen, but it serves it's purpose the whole time and does that very well. other technical aspects are, as one would expect, top of the line as well, such as art direction, costumes and of course the sound. heck, the sound design and mix is almost as impressive as the visual effects.

i'm not sure how negative or positive this review seems at this point, but don't get me wrong, despite Hayden Christensen's weak performance, it's still a highly exciting film to experience, and certainly one to see on the big screen, if only for once. you can't help but be thrilled when you see that [b]Star Wars[/b] logo appear and the music starts, or when they're duelling with those lightsabers. i guess that's probably why i've liked the prequels more than maybe they deserved to be liked, since there is that love for much of it already implanted in me. [b]Revenge of the Sith[/b], while not a truly great film, is a solid film to end the prequel trilogy with and tie together the entire saga.

**** stars out of five.

Trekkies
Trekkies(1999)
½

this week is officially Geek Week in my house. i'll be watching both [b]Star Wars[/b] prequels in the two days leading up to [b]Revenge of the Sith[/b]'s release on thursday, and this past weekend i watched [b]Trekkies[/b] (a documentary about the [b]Star Trek[/b]-obsessed. i've never felt so well-adjusted and normal in my life as i did after this movie), and i checked out the new [b]Spaceballs: Special Edition[/b] DVD that i just bought (first time seeing it in 10 years or so, and it's held up very well!). nothing like a little [b]Star Wars[/b] spoof to get you jazzed up for the week's main event. also, as long as [b]Revenge of the Sith[/b] doesn't suck (fat chance with the reviews it's getting!), i'll probably end up watching the (kinda-) original trilogy next weekend as well, just to see the whole saga in chronological order.

i won't be dressing up as any character, or even going to the midnight show though (to get those tickets you'd have to stand in line for a long time to get a good seat so i decided it wasn't worth the time and effort) so i'm just settling for a normal thursday night show.

anyone else geekin' it up this week?

Spaceballs
Spaceballs(1987)

this week is officially Geek Week in my house. i'll be watching both [b]Star Wars[/b] prequels in the two days leading up to [b]Revenge of the Sith[/b]'s release on thursday, and this past weekend i watched [b]Trekkies[/b] (a documentary about the [b]Star Trek[/b]-obsessed. i've never felt so well-adjusted and normal in my life as i did after this movie), and i checked out the new [b]Spaceballs: Special Edition[/b] DVD that i just bought (first time seeing it in 10 years or so, and it's held up very well!). nothing like a little [b]Star Wars[/b] spoof to get you jazzed up for the week's main event. also, as long as [b]Revenge of the Sith[/b] doesn't suck (fat chance with the reviews it's getting!), i'll probably end up watching the (kinda-) original trilogy next weekend as well, just to see the whole saga in chronological order.

i won't be dressing up as any character, or even going to the midnight show though (to get those tickets you'd have to stand in line for a long time to get a good seat so i decided it wasn't worth the time and effort) so i'm just settling for a normal thursday night show.

anyone else geekin' it up this week?

Rush Hour 2
Rush Hour 2(2001)

looking back at the two [b]Rush Hour[/b] films, especially in light of recent years output of similar type of films, really makes me appreciate them both a lot more than i used to when they were first released. i always loved the first [b]Rush Hour[/b] film, and it's still just as good but i gotta say even [b]Rush Hour 2[/b] feels like it's a lot better than i remembered it to be. in this day and age of effects-filled action films, they feel like a throwback to the action movies of the 80's, like [b]Lethal Weapon[/b] (obviously) and the like, when it was more about characters and just straight action instead of elaborate visual effects trickery. i mean, i like a good effects movie too, but they're so common these days that "retro" films like [b]Rush Hour[/b] and [b]Rush Hour 2[/b] feel like a much welcomed change of pace.

of course, a lot of the success of these films comes from the pairing of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. they're definitely one of the oddest couples in the buddy-cop subgenre, and they just work. Tucker can be way too over the top and grating, and i don't think i could muster a film with him in the lead, but here with Chan he's more balanced out and he's mostly funny rather than grating. as for Chan, he does his usual thing and it's what made him a superstar.. i can't say i've seen that many of his films, but the [b]Rush Hours[/b] are certainly among his best.

i'd also like to praise Brett Ratner (yes, [i]praise[/i] Brett Ratner) for actually making films that aren't totally ADD and "MTV". he got his start in music videos, yet his films feel more traditional.. i know he gets a lot of flack, and i'm not saying he's some brilliant director, but compared to some other music video directors turned feature film directors of late, he almost does seem like he's on a whole other (better) level. just look at [b]Torque[/b] for example, directed by hot-shot music video director Joseph Kahn, and it's basically a 90 minute music video. Ratner may not be the best director in the world, but i'm glad he's not hopped up on making music video-like films. the fact that his films don't use much CGI makes him seem more traditional than most directors these days (directors of major blockbuster films that is).

i actually read just this past week that [b]Rush Hour 3[/b] seems to be headed to the screen for release next year, and i must say i look forward to it. i just hope Ratner, Chan and Tucker will be able to keep it on the same level and not let it suffer too much from sequelitis. [b]Rush Hour 2[/b] was bigger in basically every way, but i still thought they kept it on a similar level and i really hope [b]Rush Hour 3[/b] won't be some effects-laden spectacular just because everyone involved is earning $20m+. the only thing i've heard so far about it beyond the fact that Ratner, Chan and Tucker are returned is that it'll supposedly take place (in part probably) in Paris, so they'll be fishes out of water together.. well, it could work.

i hope it does.

Rush Hour
Rush Hour(1998)

looking back at the two [b]Rush Hour[/b] films, especially in light of recent years output of similar type of films, really makes me appreciate them both a lot more than i used to when they were first released. i always loved the first [b]Rush Hour[/b] film, and it's still just as good but i gotta say even [b]Rush Hour 2[/b] feels like it's a lot better than i remembered it to be. in this day and age of effects-filled action films, they feel like a throwback to the action movies of the 80's, like [b]Lethal Weapon[/b] (obviously) and the like, when it was more about characters and just straight action instead of elaborate visual effects trickery. i mean, i like a good effects movie too, but they're so common these days that "retro" films like [b]Rush Hour[/b] and [b]Rush Hour 2[/b] feel like a much welcomed change of pace.

of course, a lot of the success of these films comes from the pairing of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. they're definitely one of the oddest couples in the buddy-cop subgenre, and they just work. Tucker can be way too over the top and grating, and i don't think i could muster a film with him in the lead, but here with Chan he's more balanced out and he's mostly funny rather than grating. as for Chan, he does his usual thing and it's what made him a superstar.. i can't say i've seen that many of his films, but the [b]Rush Hours[/b] are certainly among his best.

i'd also like to praise Brett Ratner (yes, [i]praise[/i] Brett Ratner) for actually making films that aren't totally ADD and "MTV". he got his start in music videos, yet his films feel more traditional.. i know he gets a lot of flack, and i'm not saying he's some brilliant director, but compared to some other music video directors turned feature film directors of late, he almost does seem like he's on a whole other (better) level. just look at [b]Torque[/b] for example, directed by hot-shot music video director Joseph Kahn, and it's basically a 90 minute music video. Ratner may not be the best director in the world, but i'm glad he's not hopped up on making music video-like films. the fact that his films don't use much CGI makes him seem more traditional than most directors these days (directors of major blockbuster films that is).

i actually read just this past week that [b]Rush Hour 3[/b] seems to be headed to the screen for release next year, and i must say i look forward to it. i just hope Ratner, Chan and Tucker will be able to keep it on the same level and not let it suffer too much from sequelitis. [b]Rush Hour 2[/b] was bigger in basically every way, but i still thought they kept it on a similar level and i really hope [b]Rush Hour 3[/b] won't be some effects-laden spectacular just because everyone involved is earning $20m+. the only thing i've heard so far about it beyond the fact that Ratner, Chan and Tucker are returned is that it'll supposedly take place (in part probably) in Paris, so they'll be fishes out of water together.. well, it could work.

i hope it does.

Kingdom of Heaven
½

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after several lackluster "sword and sandal" epics, Ridley Scott once again steps up to the plate to show who's the king, and yet again, he shows it. [b]Kingdom of Heaven[/b] isn't quite as great as [b]Gladiator[/b] was (just for reference, i loved [b]Gladiator[/b], and it was in my top ten that year), but it is nevertheless heads and shoulders above previous offerings, such as [b]Troy[/b], [b]King Arthur[/b] and certainly [b]Alexander[/b]. that said, i fear that [b]Kingdom of Heaven[/b] will not be as well liked and popular as it deserves to be for a number of reasons i'll return to later.

the biggest question mark i think everyone's been having about this film is that Orlando Bloom is carrying it solely on his shoulders. Bloom has been in a number of blockbusters, but he's never had to carry one and the most frequent worry has been whether or not he can do it. personally, i think Bloom has done just fine in his career so far. he may not be the greatest actor ever, but he's worked well for the most part in the films he's been in, especially in [b]Pirates of the Caribbean[/b]. as for his performance in [b]Kingdom of Heaven[/b], i think he did just fine. more than fine, actually. surely there may have been a better choice to lend it greater depth, but if the character is supposed to be in his mid-20's or so, there really aren't many headliner actors to pick from. i honestly can't think of anyone roughly the same age that could've done it that much better. that said, he does have a terrific supporting cast to back him up, and that helps a lot. none of the supporting cast get that much screen time unfortunately, not even Eva Green, but they bring what they got and do it well. out of the supporting cast, previously mentioned Green, Edward Norton and Liam Neeson stand out in particular. i'd like to commend Norton in particular, since not many A-list actors would have the guts to take on a role like the one he has.

technically and visually, the film is a wonder to behold. there really isn't much of anything i could point to that felt subpar, but that truly is one of Ridley Scott's trademarks these days, top notch techs and visuals. effects, art direction, costume design, cinematography, music, etc. are all among the best you can ever get. cinematographer John Mathieson, who also worked on [b]Gladiator[/b], do just as good a job here and he did then, and the same goes for Arthur Max (the art director) and Janty Yates (the costume designer). Hans Zimmer did not make the music for [b]Kingdom of Heaven[/b] though like he did for Gladiator, but Harry Gregson-Williams does a more than admirable job. his score may not have the same amount of instantly memorable cues, but it's a very good score, with one scene i won't spoil in particular standing out for me, musically. lastly, the effects blend in effortlessly with the live-action, and i know i'll probably raise hell for saying it, but i find the big epic battle shots in [b]Kingdom of Heaven[/b] superior to most we saw in the [b]Lord of the Rings[/b] films.

[b]Kingdom of Heaven[/b] is not a perfect film though. if i had any real major complaint, it would be that i would've liked it to be a little longer. some aspects of it aren't as fleshed out as i would've liked them to be. i would've in particular liked to have seen several of the supporting characters been given more screen time. thankfully, there's already talk that there's going be a much longer extended edition of it released next year, so maybe that'll resolve and add to some of the things i felt were missing. i don't have any huge problems, but it'd probably do the film some good if some aspects of it were expanded upon.

so do i recommend this film to all, and expect everyone to like it as much as i do? well, probably not. the reason i like it as much as i do has much to do with my own beliefs and feelings about certain things, and i know for certain that there are a great number of people in this world that don't. the film appeals greatly to my beliefs, but i don't expect that it will among many if not most Christians (in particular). the film is not a non-stop rollercoaster of action either, which will likely disappoint those wanting something like that. if you go in expecting a film about good vs. evil you're likely to be disappointed. what [b]Kingdom of Heaven[/b] is, in my mind, is an unusually intelligent epic. it speaks greatly to me as a person, and i can only hope it will do the same to many others.

****½ stars out of five.

Kung Fu Hustle

the ads have Roger Ebert claiming that [b]Kung Fu Hustle[/b] is a mix of Jackie Chan, Bugs Bunny, Buster Keaton and Quentin Tarantino. it's not. it's actually a really enjoyable and occasionally funny film, but it's hardly some comedic masterpiece. then again, i never saw [b]Shaolin Soccer[/b] either because i thought it looked beyond silly, so i'm sure those more at home with Chow's comedic stylings will find it a lot more funny than i did.

thankfully, there is more to [b]Kung Fu Hustle[/b] than just laughs and i actually found myself enjoying the inventive fight sequences the most of any part of the film. they're insane, but surprisingly effective and well-done (in some cases even surprisingly restrained given the film's general style and energy). there is no shortage of action in the film either, so even for those mildly amused by the humor, there's enough to go around to make a trip to the wacky world of [b]Kung Fu Hustle[/b] worthwhile. there isn't too much to say about the acting.. i thought the cast did a good job, even if it's not always riotously funny.

it's also a nicely made film from a technical standpoint, though the visual effects range from excellent to "kinda crappy". for the most part they're good though, but there are a few scenes and shots here and there look more fake than they should. music, costumes, cinematography and art direction was all top notch as well, especially the last two. they actually built the whole slum apartment building by the looks of it (think [b]Rear Window[/b]), and that's not something you see very often in films these days so that was a very nice touch.

[b]Kung Fu Hustle[/b] is an enjoyable spectacle of a film, mainly because of the action and the swift pace in my case. others will probably enjoy it more for it's humor, but even for me, i thought it was a worthwhile experience. certainly not the best or funniest film i ever saw, but it's definitely different from the usual and if even i can enjoy it as much as i did, chances are you will too if you give it a shot.

**** stars out of five.

A Very Long Engagement

it feels like i waited just as long to see this film as it takes the lead character Mathilde to find out the truth in [b]A Very Long Engagement[/b], but now i've finally been able to see it after many months of waiting. did it live up to expectations? well, no, but on the other hand my expectations were sky high considering Jean-Pierre Jeunet's previous film [b]Amélie[/b] probably is one of my all-time top ten favorite films.. so those expectations on [b]A Very Long Engagement[/b] were probably unreachable to begin with.. but it's certainly not a bad film or a failure in any way, it's just not the movie magic that was and still is [b]Amélie[/b].

fans of Jeunet films will recognize the trademark Jeunet style though, and will feel right at home with it too. from quirky character introductions to great art direction, cinematography and pure style, it's very much a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film and he surely delivers 100% in the visuals departments.. it's actually in the story and how it is presented that the film stumbles a bit, with the film just not flowing as well as it should.. that could surely have something to do with the large scope of it all, so i can't really pinpoint anything exact, it's just a feeling you get from watching it.. nothing major or anything, but it could've been streamlined a bit better. the story felt like it skimped a little on the character development too, especially in showing the two lovers before they were seperated by the way. the film does tell you and show you how they met and fell in love, but it's mainly done visually so we don't really get to know the characters as well as i would've liked and that's too bad because the acting is very good all around. Audrey Tautou does a fine job carrying the film on her shoulders but in every part of the film, from the trenches to the Bretagne seaside to the streets of Paris, there are terrific little performances and characters to be found. and like i said earlier, visually it's just great. the wonderful art direction and lush cinematography were Oscar-nominated and rightfully so, but the costumes, music and visual effects deserve praise as well.

bottom line is that [b]A Very Long Engagement[/b] is deserving of your time. it's no [b]Amélie[/b], but it's still a really good film that works in the end despite a rocky start and being a bit uneven from time to time. if you enjoy Jeunet's trademark visual style, you should certainly find it to be a feast for the eyes and a joy to watch.

**** stars out of five.

Hitch
Hitch(2005)

it seems 2005 is off to a pretty good start. first [b]Melinda and Melinda[/b] which was really good, and now these two films that were better than expected. surely i haven't seen any of the other dreck that's been released in the past 2½ months, but 2005 could've certainly started off worse.[indent][i][font=Georgia][size=5]Constantine[/size][/font][/i]
[/indent]i really don't know much of anything about the comic book or how faithful or not it is to it (i know they changed quite a bit though) so i really walked into it with no expectations.. and what did i get? a decently entertaining big budget action thriller, but it was actually more toned down than i expected. i fully expected it to be much more of an action film, so it was nice that it wasn't that full-blown. the effects were generally good too, although at times very mixed and here and there pretty lousy.. but i guess basically every effects film has ups and downs. as for the acting, Reeves can play that part, but i would've loved to see someone grittier do a take on it instead, like Clive Owen. Reeves is mostly just servicable, but at least he had pretty good company. i particularly enjoyed seeing Peter Stormare as Satan. all in all, a pretty entertaining film as long as you keep expectations down. it probably doesn't deserve the grade i'm giving it, but i quite enjoyed it. a weak **** stars out of five.[indent][i][font=Georgia][size=5]Hitch[/size][/font][/i]
[/indent]i was surprised this was the first venture into romantic comedy by Will Smith, since it's a shoe that fits pretty well. [b]Hitch[/b] isn't a great romantic comedy for the ages or anything, but the pairing of Smith and Eva Mendes works, as does the pairing of Smith and Kevin James as the comedic sidekick. actually, James kinda steals the show. not that it's a dull or unfunny film when he's not around, but he definitely delivered. and of course, it's always nice to see a nice-guy dweeb character like James' get the Girl with a capital G. if there's any real complaint i have about the film, it'd be that the story (or should i say stories) are a bit all over the place. there are several storylines, and it kinda fractures the film. it all comes together nicely in the end of course, but it probably could've been put together a bit better than this. as a whole, while it's certainly nothing new, it's mostly entertaining thanks to the cast and worth a recommendation. **** stars out of five.

Constantine
Constantine(2005)

it seems 2005 is off to a pretty good start. first [b]Melinda and Melinda[/b] which was really good, and now these two films that were better than expected. surely i haven't seen any of the other dreck that's been released in the past 2½ months, but 2005 could've certainly started off worse.[indent][i][font=Georgia][size=5]Constantine[/size][/font][/i]
[/indent]i really don't know much of anything about the comic book or how faithful or not it is to it (i know they changed quite a bit though) so i really walked into it with no expectations.. and what did i get? a decently entertaining big budget action thriller, but it was actually more toned down than i expected. i fully expected it to be much more of an action film, so it was nice that it wasn't that full-blown. the effects were generally good too, although at times very mixed and here and there pretty lousy.. but i guess basically every effects film has ups and downs. as for the acting, Reeves can play that part, but i would've loved to see someone grittier do a take on it instead, like Clive Owen. Reeves is mostly just servicable, but at least he had pretty good company. i particularly enjoyed seeing Peter Stormare as Satan. all in all, a pretty entertaining film as long as you keep expectations down. it probably doesn't deserve the grade i'm giving it, but i quite enjoyed it. a weak **** stars out of five.[indent][i][font=Georgia][size=5]Hitch[/size][/font][/i]
[/indent]i was surprised this was the first venture into romantic comedy by Will Smith, since it's a shoe that fits pretty well. [b]Hitch[/b] isn't a great romantic comedy for the ages or anything, but the pairing of Smith and Eva Mendes works, as does the pairing of Smith and Kevin James as the comedic sidekick. actually, James kinda steals the show. not that it's a dull or unfunny film when he's not around, but he definitely delivered. and of course, it's always nice to see a nice-guy dweeb character like James' get the Girl with a capital G. if there's any real complaint i have about the film, it'd be that the story (or should i say stories) are a bit all over the place. there are several storylines, and it kinda fractures the film. it all comes together nicely in the end of course, but it probably could've been put together a bit better than this. as a whole, while it's certainly nothing new, it's mostly entertaining thanks to the cast and worth a recommendation. **** stars out of five.

Melinda and Melinda

a group of friends sit and talk over dinner in a Manhattan restaurant and the subject of whether life is comical or tragic is brought up. it also just so happens that two of the friends are playwrights. one writes tragedies while the other writes comedies. both have been very successful doing their own thing, and they would like to think the audience prefers their own genre. "tragedy is confrontational, comedy is escape", argues the comedic playwright. a third friend butts in with a story that happened to someone he knows, where an old friend named Melinda crashed a dinner party. the comedy writer finds it to be a great setup for a romantic comedy, while the tragedy writer thinks she must've been desperate and depressed to crash a party like that. with that as their starting point, they both begin telling how the story of Melinda would go on from there, one looking at it from his comedic viewpoint, and the other from his tragic, more dramatic viewpoint.

and that's how [b]Melinda and Melinda[/b], Woody Allen's best films in quite some time, begins. it's actually the best film he's done since [b]Deconstructing Harry[/b] (of which i am a bigger fan than most) and certainly his most ambitious film in even longer than that. not only is it wickedly funny and features a really outstanding performance by Radha Mitchell, but it's such a terrific, yet so deceptively simple story, cleverly written by Allen and effortlessly weaved together by editor Alisa Lepselter. Allen hasn't always been able to bring the potential most of his films have to screen, but he definitely does this time. i'm not saying it's Woody Allen back to the 70's or even the 80's, but it's definitely the best Allen film in a great many years.

the highlight of the film is Radha Mitchell (who plays Melinda if you hadn't guessed that already). she handles all aspects of the two Melindas wonderfully, giving a good comedic performance and an even better dramatic performance. it's especially the tragic Melinda that shows us what a terrific performance this is, so lots of kudos to Mitchell for hitting it out of the park. the rest of the cast deserve praise too though, especially Will Ferrell who plays the Woody Allen film persona in the comedic parts. he plays a failed actor whose marriage is falling apart as he finds himself falling for Melinda. i've always liked Ferrell as a comedian, and i have to say this is the funniest he's been since [b]Elf[/b]. it's a very good rebound role from that terribly unfunny [b]Anchorman[/b], for sure. Ferrell doesn't take on all the neurotic ticks of Allen, but i think that's good. we can all see he's playing Allen's part, but it's not too much of an imitation, which i greatly appreciated. Ferrell goes with it, and makes it his own. the rest of the cast, made up of the likes of Amanda Peet, Chloë Sevigny, Jonny Lee Miller and Chiwetel Ejiofor perform well with what they're given, but it's really all about Radha Mitchell (and Will Ferrell to lesser extent to provide the humor).

i also found myself impressed by the visual look of the film. it's a small budgeted contemporary drama/comedy, so it's not exactly lavish sets, costumes and all that, but for this type of film, i really liked the way it looked. Vilmos Zsigmond lit and shot the film very nicely with a soft glow, and the art director and set decorator did a very good job at bringing to life all these various apartments much of the film takes place in.

if you even remotely like Woody Allen (or good movies for that matter), i suggest keeping an eye out for this one. it's definitely the best, most insightful, ambitious and funny film that Allen has produced in quite some time. it may not be a masterpiece, but it's damn good.

**** stars out of five.

Lawrence of Arabia

so how on earth do i follow up such an entry as the one below about the Academy Awards, which got so many interested in replying? 35 replies (many of them my own, of course) so far.. yikes. no wonder i haven't written anything in nearly a week..[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Animal House[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]while i can't say i find [b]Animal House[/b] to quite be the comedy classic it's often made out to be, it is definitely a funny film and should go down in history as the film that set the benchmark for all those 80's comedies that followed. i'm not sure if [b]Animal House[/b] can be considered the very first film that spurred 80's comedy, but it sure started the careers of many people who'd become very big in the 80's: John Landis, Ivan Reitman and Harold Ramis. it also propelled John Belushi into the stratosphere, but as we all know, he didn't get to fulfill the promise he showed in the late 70's and early 80's. imagine what a comedic giant he would've been in the 80's. but back to the film at hand.. i think everyone knows the basic plot, so no need to recite that.. quality of the acting? forget about it. Belushi is wonderful though, even though he has so little screen time.. and he without a doubt provides the film with some of the best laughs. my own reservations about it could very well be as simple as the fact that i've never had the US college experience to recognize it with, but i can certainly understand why so many love it. **** stars out of five. [size=2][size=1]
[/size][/size][indent] [left][size=2][font=Franklin Gothic Medium][size=5][i][font=Georgia][size=5]Lawrence of Arabia[/size][/font][/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/left]
[/indent]and now, over to.. [b]Lawrence of Arabia[/b]. some double feature that turned out to be. this was actually my very first real viewing of [b]Lawrence of Arabia[/b] too, something i've held off on for way too long. so is this the classic it's made out to be or not? well, yes and no. while i can clearly see and understand why it's such a classic, i guess in some ways it just couldn't truly live up to expectations either. what did amaze me though was the sheer scope of this film. it's just unparalleled. knowing that all those people in all those magnificent shots are truly there and not just a special effect adds so much to the film as well, which really makes me think that films like this will never be made again. to put it very bluntly, [b]Lawrence of Arabia[/b] puts films like [b]The Lord of the Rings[/b] trilogy to complete and utter shame. yes, the [b]LOTR[/b] films couldn't have been made with all physically present extras, but something is definitely lost when using CGI, no matter how good it is. Peter O'Toole is of course just splendid, and if i had any real major objection (beyond it just not quite living up to the high expectations) it would be that it could've been a little shorter without losing a great deal. it does go on for quite long, and it honestly didn't need all of it. **** stars out of five.

National Lampoon's Animal House

so how on earth do i follow up such an entry as the one below about the Academy Awards, which got so many interested in replying? 35 replies (many of them my own, of course) so far.. yikes. no wonder i haven't written anything in nearly a week..[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Animal House[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]while i can't say i find [b]Animal House[/b] to quite be the comedy classic it's often made out to be, it is definitely a funny film and should go down in history as the film that set the benchmark for all those 80's comedies that followed. i'm not sure if [b]Animal House[/b] can be considered the very first film that spurred 80's comedy, but it sure started the careers of many people who'd become very big in the 80's: John Landis, Ivan Reitman and Harold Ramis. it also propelled John Belushi into the stratosphere, but as we all know, he didn't get to fulfill the promise he showed in the late 70's and early 80's. imagine what a comedic giant he would've been in the 80's. but back to the film at hand.. i think everyone knows the basic plot, so no need to recite that.. quality of the acting? forget about it. Belushi is wonderful though, even though he has so little screen time.. and he without a doubt provides the film with some of the best laughs. my own reservations about it could very well be as simple as the fact that i've never had the US college experience to recognize it with, but i can certainly understand why so many love it. **** stars out of five. [size=2][size=1]
[/size][/size][indent] [left][size=2][font=Franklin Gothic Medium][size=5][i][font=Georgia][size=5]Lawrence of Arabia[/size][/font][/i][/size][/font][/size]
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[/indent]and now, over to.. [b]Lawrence of Arabia[/b]. some double feature that turned out to be. this was actually my very first real viewing of [b]Lawrence of Arabia[/b] too, something i've held off on for way too long. so is this the classic it's made out to be or not? well, yes and no. while i can clearly see and understand why it's such a classic, i guess in some ways it just couldn't truly live up to expectations either. what did amaze me though was the sheer scope of this film. it's just unparalleled. knowing that all those people in all those magnificent shots are truly there and not just a special effect adds so much to the film as well, which really makes me think that films like this will never be made again. to put it very bluntly, [b]Lawrence of Arabia[/b] puts films like [b]The Lord of the Rings[/b] trilogy to complete and utter shame. yes, the [b]LOTR[/b] films couldn't have been made with all physically present extras, but something is definitely lost when using CGI, no matter how good it is. Peter O'Toole is of course just splendid, and if i had any real major objection (beyond it just not quite living up to the high expectations) it would be that it could've been a little shorter without losing a great deal. it does go on for quite long, and it honestly didn't need all of it. **** stars out of five.

Meet the Fockers

i'm as surprised as anyone to be saying this, but [b]Meet the Fockers[/b] is actually a much funnier and better film than it's predecessor. i actually didn't expect that at all, even though it's a major audience hit, since it didn't get that good reviews nor has anyone else really hinted to me that it was a better (and most importantly funnier) film. but there you have it, [b]Meet the Fockers[/b] takes a place among the rare few sequels that are better than their predecessors.

and why is [b]Meet the Fockers[/b] a better, funnier film? well, to be honest, i think one major reason is that it's able to broaden it's comedic scope a bit from the first film. [b]Meet the Parents[/b] was pretty much all about Ben Stiller's characters getting into embarrassing situations and looking like a fool in front of his future in-laws. surely it was funny for the most part, but thinking about it, and comparing it to this sequel, it does seem rather limited. that's not to say that [b]Meet the Fockers[/b] doesn't put Stiller in embarrassing situations and makes him suffer, but it's not all there is to the film either and that's a major step up in my book.

as for the acting, the talent of Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand is definitely a welcome addition, but i think the cast from the first film do better too. surely Teri Polo (and to a lesser degree Blythe Danner) get the straight parts, but that's what they had in the first film too, and at least in the sequel Danner gets to be a little bit more in the film, comedy-wise. Stiller does his usual shtick, and i guess you could say he's wasted too, but that's his lot in life (or these films anyway) so the comedy has to come from Robert De Niro (who is just as good as in the first film) and the new combo of Hoffman and Streisand. and it works too, for the most part. i wouldn't say all the best jokes come from Hoffman and Streisand, but they definitely work very nicely in breaking with De Niro's strict character.

if there were any negative things i would say about [b]Meet the Fockers[/b], it's that it gets itself dragged down in the second half, when certain plot points are introduced and explained. the comedy dies down a bit from the very funny first half, but overall it's still a worthwhile experience. even if you didn't love the first film, i say give [b]Meet the Fockers[/b] a try. you might walk out pleasantly surprised, just like me.

**** stars out of five.

The Phantom of the Opera

[indent][size=1][i][font=Georgia][size=5]The Terminal[/size][/font][/i][/size]
[/indent] i've actually seen this once twice already, but i just never got around to actually writing anything about it here on RT. anyway, [b]The Terminal[/b] is actually a really good film, despite all the negativity that's surrounded it ever since it's release. surely it's not one of Steven Spielberg's very best films, but it's not nearly as bad as it's been made out to be. it has more than a fair share of flaws (some rather annoying too, like Tucci's character being more evil than necessary) but the movie rests solidly on Tom Hanks' fine performance. he walks a fine line between making this foreign guy someone you laugh at, or someone you care about. the rest of the cast do okay, though nothing special (except for Kumar Pallana who finally gets a fuller role, and just goes with it to great effect). the film's technical aspects should be lauded too, from the amazing art direction (that set!), Janusz Kaminski's splendid cinematography and John Williams' ever trust-worthy scoring (love that made-up national anthem). bottom line is, unless you go in expecting a Spielberg masterpiece, you should be able to enjoy [b]The Terminal[/b], flaws and all. **** stars out of five.[size=1]
[/size] [indent][size=1][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Ray[/size][/i][/font][/size]
[/indent] [size=1] [/size]i have to say i was very surprised by [b]Ray[/b]. i fully expected Jamie Foxx to be great, but i had heard a lot of talk that while Foxx was outstanding, the rest of the film wasn't quite up to par. wrong. i actually find everything surrounding Foxx to be maybe not equal, but certainly very good. yes, [b]Ray[/b] is a rather conventional, unsurprising bio-pic, but could it really ever be much different? i think Hackford did a very good job at bringing Ray Charles' life to the screen, and it doesn't shy away from the darker aspects of his life too. as for Jamie Foxx, he just owns the screen. definitely the best lead actor performance of the year (this coming from someone who rarely agrees with the Oscar winners, like Charlize Theron last year for example). the glasses certainly help in covering Foxx's face and making him seem more like Charles, but i never felt i was watching Foxx acting, it was as i if i was watching the real Ray Charles. amazing, really. the rest of the cast are uniformly excellent too, though it's definitely Foxx's show. another smart move by Hackford is including many music scenes as well, which certainly had me tapping my foot and enjoying throughout the film. the techs are great too, from the cinematography to the art direction and costume design. [b]Ray[/b] isn't a flawless, perfect film, but i was pleasantly surprised by the whole package. ****½ stars out of five.[size=1]
[/size] [indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Phantom of the Opera[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent] [size=1] [/size]i've never seen the stage musical of [b]The Phantom of the Opera[/b], so not only was it a completely new experience (though i am familiar with some of the songs) but i have no idea if it's a good replication of the stage version either. musicals have never really been my thing either, though i have enjoyed several.. and out of the few i have seen, it's probably the weakest one.. but on the other hand, it's definitely watchable and several of the songs are undeniably very good. the film's true saving grace is the casting of Emmy Rossum in the lead role. the girl can most definitely sing (and act) and fits the part very nicely as best as i can tell. the rest of the cast are unspectacular, and merely do a servicable job with their roles so had it not been for Rossum, it'd probably not have been as enjoyable as it was. another strongpoint are the technicals, of course, with outstanding art direction, cinematography and costumes. all in all, it's a perfectly watchable film, but probably not one i'd recommend to people in general, just for fans of this musical in particular and musicals in general. it doesn't quite have the energy and "go" that [b]Moulin Rouge![/b] and [b]Chicago[/b] had, but maybe that's how it's supposed to be? *** stars out of five.

The Terminal
The Terminal(2004)

[indent][size=1][i][font=Georgia][size=5]The Terminal[/size][/font][/i][/size]
[/indent] i've actually seen this once twice already, but i just never got around to actually writing anything about it here on RT. anyway, [b]The Terminal[/b] is actually a really good film, despite all the negativity that's surrounded it ever since it's release. surely it's not one of Steven Spielberg's very best films, but it's not nearly as bad as it's been made out to be. it has more than a fair share of flaws (some rather annoying too, like Tucci's character being more evil than necessary) but the movie rests solidly on Tom Hanks' fine performance. he walks a fine line between making this foreign guy someone you laugh at, or someone you care about. the rest of the cast do okay, though nothing special (except for Kumar Pallana who finally gets a fuller role, and just goes with it to great effect). the film's technical aspects should be lauded too, from the amazing art direction (that set!), Janusz Kaminski's splendid cinematography and John Williams' ever trust-worthy scoring (love that made-up national anthem). bottom line is, unless you go in expecting a Spielberg masterpiece, you should be able to enjoy [b]The Terminal[/b], flaws and all. **** stars out of five.[size=1]
[/size] [indent][size=1][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Ray[/size][/i][/font][/size]
[/indent] [size=1] [/size]i have to say i was very surprised by [b]Ray[/b]. i fully expected Jamie Foxx to be great, but i had heard a lot of talk that while Foxx was outstanding, the rest of the film wasn't quite up to par. wrong. i actually find everything surrounding Foxx to be maybe not equal, but certainly very good. yes, [b]Ray[/b] is a rather conventional, unsurprising bio-pic, but could it really ever be much different? i think Hackford did a very good job at bringing Ray Charles' life to the screen, and it doesn't shy away from the darker aspects of his life too. as for Jamie Foxx, he just owns the screen. definitely the best lead actor performance of the year (this coming from someone who rarely agrees with the Oscar winners, like Charlize Theron last year for example). the glasses certainly help in covering Foxx's face and making him seem more like Charles, but i never felt i was watching Foxx acting, it was as i if i was watching the real Ray Charles. amazing, really. the rest of the cast are uniformly excellent too, though it's definitely Foxx's show. another smart move by Hackford is including many music scenes as well, which certainly had me tapping my foot and enjoying throughout the film. the techs are great too, from the cinematography to the art direction and costume design. [b]Ray[/b] isn't a flawless, perfect film, but i was pleasantly surprised by the whole package. ****½ stars out of five.[size=1]
[/size] [indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Phantom of the Opera[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent] [size=1] [/size]i've never seen the stage musical of [b]The Phantom of the Opera[/b], so not only was it a completely new experience (though i am familiar with some of the songs) but i have no idea if it's a good replication of the stage version either. musicals have never really been my thing either, though i have enjoyed several.. and out of the few i have seen, it's probably the weakest one.. but on the other hand, it's definitely watchable and several of the songs are undeniably very good. the film's true saving grace is the casting of Emmy Rossum in the lead role. the girl can most definitely sing (and act) and fits the part very nicely as best as i can tell. the rest of the cast are unspectacular, and merely do a servicable job with their roles so had it not been for Rossum, it'd probably not have been as enjoyable as it was. another strongpoint are the technicals, of course, with outstanding art direction, cinematography and costumes. all in all, it's a perfectly watchable film, but probably not one i'd recommend to people in general, just for fans of this musical in particular and musicals in general. it doesn't quite have the energy and "go" that [b]Moulin Rouge![/b] and [b]Chicago[/b] had, but maybe that's how it's supposed to be? *** stars out of five.

Ray
Ray(2004)
½

[indent][size=1][i][font=Georgia][size=5]The Terminal[/size][/font][/i][/size]
[/indent] i've actually seen this once twice already, but i just never got around to actually writing anything about it here on RT. anyway, [b]The Terminal[/b] is actually a really good film, despite all the negativity that's surrounded it ever since it's release. surely it's not one of Steven Spielberg's very best films, but it's not nearly as bad as it's been made out to be. it has more than a fair share of flaws (some rather annoying too, like Tucci's character being more evil than necessary) but the movie rests solidly on Tom Hanks' fine performance. he walks a fine line between making this foreign guy someone you laugh at, or someone you care about. the rest of the cast do okay, though nothing special (except for Kumar Pallana who finally gets a fuller role, and just goes with it to great effect). the film's technical aspects should be lauded too, from the amazing art direction (that set!), Janusz Kaminski's splendid cinematography and John Williams' ever trust-worthy scoring (love that made-up national anthem). bottom line is, unless you go in expecting a Spielberg masterpiece, you should be able to enjoy [b]The Terminal[/b], flaws and all. **** stars out of five.[size=1]
[/size] [indent][size=1][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Ray[/size][/i][/font][/size]
[/indent] [size=1] [/size]i have to say i was very surprised by [b]Ray[/b]. i fully expected Jamie Foxx to be great, but i had heard a lot of talk that while Foxx was outstanding, the rest of the film wasn't quite up to par. wrong. i actually find everything surrounding Foxx to be maybe not equal, but certainly very good. yes, [b]Ray[/b] is a rather conventional, unsurprising bio-pic, but could it really ever be much different? i think Hackford did a very good job at bringing Ray Charles' life to the screen, and it doesn't shy away from the darker aspects of his life too. as for Jamie Foxx, he just owns the screen. definitely the best lead actor performance of the year (this coming from someone who rarely agrees with the Oscar winners, like Charlize Theron last year for example). the glasses certainly help in covering Foxx's face and making him seem more like Charles, but i never felt i was watching Foxx acting, it was as i if i was watching the real Ray Charles. amazing, really. the rest of the cast are uniformly excellent too, though it's definitely Foxx's show. another smart move by Hackford is including many music scenes as well, which certainly had me tapping my foot and enjoying throughout the film. the techs are great too, from the cinematography to the art direction and costume design. [b]Ray[/b] isn't a flawless, perfect film, but i was pleasantly surprised by the whole package. ****½ stars out of five.[size=1]
[/size] [indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Phantom of the Opera[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent] [size=1] [/size]i've never seen the stage musical of [b]The Phantom of the Opera[/b], so not only was it a completely new experience (though i am familiar with some of the songs) but i have no idea if it's a good replication of the stage version either. musicals have never really been my thing either, though i have enjoyed several.. and out of the few i have seen, it's probably the weakest one.. but on the other hand, it's definitely watchable and several of the songs are undeniably very good. the film's true saving grace is the casting of Emmy Rossum in the lead role. the girl can most definitely sing (and act) and fits the part very nicely as best as i can tell. the rest of the cast are unspectacular, and merely do a servicable job with their roles so had it not been for Rossum, it'd probably not have been as enjoyable as it was. another strongpoint are the technicals, of course, with outstanding art direction, cinematography and costumes. all in all, it's a perfectly watchable film, but probably not one i'd recommend to people in general, just for fans of this musical in particular and musicals in general. it doesn't quite have the energy and "go" that [b]Moulin Rouge![/b] and [b]Chicago[/b] had, but maybe that's how it's supposed to be? *** stars out of five.

2046
2046(2005)
½

[center][img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/2046-zhang.jpg[/img][size=2]
[/size][/center]
[size=2]
[/size]after many years of shooting, re-shooting and re-re-shooting, Wong Kar-Wai is finally back with his follow-up and sequel of sorts to 2001's [b]In the Mood for Love[/b]. in [b]2046[/b] he we once again meet Chow (Tony Leung). some years have passed since the events of [b]In the Mood for Love[/b], but it seems that he's never fully been able to leave those experiences behind him, and it's turned him cold. he still socializes with women, more than a few too, but he's a changed man. one night he meets a woman he knew some years ago, and though she doesn't recognize him, he follows her to her hotel room. he notices her room number is 2046, the same hotel room number he and Su Li Zhen shared in In the Mood for Love. when he returns a few days later, the woman is gone, and he decides to take up residence at the hotel, only he has to move into room 2047. while there he begins to write a science fiction book where people take a train to the year 2046 to find their lost memories, inspired by people he's known and people he meet at the hotel. and that's how [b]2046[/b] begins, sort of..

it's not too easy to categorize or explain [b]2046[/b], but i was actually surprised by how easily to follow it was. i really expected it to be much more dense and abstract, but there is a very well-defined storyline, even if it jumps in time now and then (and in and out of his book's futuristic world). surprising considering (from what i've heard) Wong Kar-Wai doesn't write a complete screenplay, but just lets everything evolve from shooting it. that certainly shows what a talent he is, since i would think [b]2046[/b] could've been a lot more complicated than it is. there is certainly a lot more to it than meets the eye, but at least it's a film that can be enjoyed on a basic level first time you see it, and then eventually you can start exploring it in greater detail with subsequent viewings.

the highlight of the film, acting-wise, is Zhang Ziyi. even though it's Tony Leung's movie, the film didn't really take off until Ziyi enters the film. i've always liked her ever since [b]Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon[/b], but i've never felt she's given another truly great performance until now. her character is definitely the most likeable character in the film, and she pretty much goes through every kind of emotion available. if you feel the movie starts out slow and a bit confusing, just stick around.. i promise it'll take off once Ziyi appears on screen. it's a terrific cast though, with pretty much all of the supporting actresses, Faye Wong, Gong Li and Carina Lau, doing great work. and of course, Leung is great as ever. his character is a bit colder in this film than he was in [b]In the Mood for Love[/b] though, and i'd probably consider his performance in that film superior to this one.

it is a spectacular film visually as well. the cinematography by Christopher Doyle (and a few others i don't know the name of at the moment) is just spectacular. definitely the best cinematography of 2004 (or 2005 if you are or will consider it a 2005 release). Doyle is certainly on a roll lately, with this topping my 2004 list, and his work on [b]Hero[/b] topping my "best cinematography of 2003" list. of course, it's impossible to say what was done by Doyle and what was done by the other cinematographers (the film had several cinematographers because the shoot was so long), but they all pulled together to create some really startingly beautiful images. the film's art direction and costumes, both the 60's period stuff and the futuristic bits, are just top notch as well, as are the rest of the film's tech credits (including the music/song choices).

[b]2046[/b] isn't a film you can fully grasp or digest in just one viewing, so this is by no means a final review. it'll certainly take me more than a few views to fully explore all of the themes and meanings that is has. i greatly enjoyed it though, and i look forward to seeing it again, some time in the future.

****½ stars out of five.

Last Life in the Universe

[size=1][font=Verdana][size=2]sorry i haven't written anything lately.. i just haven't seen that much i felt like writing about, nor have i felt like writing anything else either for that matter.. here are a few brief "reviews" of some really good Asian films. they all come highly recommended from yours truly.[/size][/font][/size] [indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i] Last Life in the Universe[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent] [size=1] [/size]a beautifully shot love story of sorts that actually reminded me of [b]Lost in Translation[/b], even though they are probably more different than similar. there is an element of two people coming together for a brief period in time, and even a language problem part too, but that's about as close as they come. i'm not sure how to critique this film, but i really enjoyed it for what it was. i'm sure plenty more can be read into it for those who want to as well. there was definitely an arc and a story to it, even though it's a very relaxed film. it's not something for everyone though, although i'm sure everyone would enjoy Christopher Doyle's lovely cinematography. **** stars out of five.[size=1]
[/size] [indent][size=1][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Millennium Mambo[/size][/i][/font][/size]
[/indent] here's another film (i'd like to call them Village Voice films, cause they're the films Village Voice and such critics usually enjoy). thematically it's very different from the above- mentioned film, but it's also very free in terms of plot.. it just kinda drifts around during a time in this young, troubled woman's life, and shows us how she's trying to escape an abusive relationship. the highlight of the film is the lead actress Shu Qi, who's really wonderful in this film. i've never seen her in anything else (i think), and she really did a great job with it. also noteworthy is the film's cinematography, especially all the different colors that just pop out of the screen. **** stars out of five.[size=1]
[/size] [indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent] [size=1] [/size]if you enjoy revenge films, this is a film for you. it's not just about one person's revenge but several, and it's also one of the most unusual, unique revenge films i've seen, much like the director Chan-wook Park's more recent film, [b]Oldboy[/b]. both films are disturbing though.. they're not unwatchable a la Miike films, but they're certainly disturbing, especially in the way that there's basically no normal, sane character at all in the films that you can identify with and root for. if you've seen [b]Oldboy[/b], then definitely check this film out as well. if you enjoy revenge films, check this film out. heck, if you just enjoy unusual, original films, check this one out. **** stars out of five.

Millennium Mambo (Qianxi Manbo)

[size=1][font=Verdana][size=2]sorry i haven't written anything lately.. i just haven't seen that much i felt like writing about, nor have i felt like writing anything else either for that matter.. here are a few brief "reviews" of some really good Asian films. they all come highly recommended from yours truly.[/size][/font][/size] [indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i] Last Life in the Universe[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent] [size=1] [/size]a beautifully shot love story of sorts that actually reminded me of [b]Lost in Translation[/b], even though they are probably more different than similar. there is an element of two people coming together for a brief period in time, and even a language problem part too, but that's about as close as they come. i'm not sure how to critique this film, but i really enjoyed it for what it was. i'm sure plenty more can be read into it for those who want to as well. there was definitely an arc and a story to it, even though it's a very relaxed film. it's not something for everyone though, although i'm sure everyone would enjoy Christopher Doyle's lovely cinematography. **** stars out of five.[size=1]
[/size] [indent][size=1][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Millennium Mambo[/size][/i][/font][/size]
[/indent] here's another film (i'd like to call them Village Voice films, cause they're the films Village Voice and such critics usually enjoy). thematically it's very different from the above- mentioned film, but it's also very free in terms of plot.. it just kinda drifts around during a time in this young, troubled woman's life, and shows us how she's trying to escape an abusive relationship. the highlight of the film is the lead actress Shu Qi, who's really wonderful in this film. i've never seen her in anything else (i think), and she really did a great job with it. also noteworthy is the film's cinematography, especially all the different colors that just pop out of the screen. **** stars out of five.[size=1]
[/size] [indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent] [size=1] [/size]if you enjoy revenge films, this is a film for you. it's not just about one person's revenge but several, and it's also one of the most unusual, unique revenge films i've seen, much like the director Chan-wook Park's more recent film, [b]Oldboy[/b]. both films are disturbing though.. they're not unwatchable a la Miike films, but they're certainly disturbing, especially in the way that there's basically no normal, sane character at all in the films that you can identify with and root for. if you've seen [b]Oldboy[/b], then definitely check this film out as well. if you enjoy revenge films, check this film out. heck, if you just enjoy unusual, original films, check this one out. **** stars out of five.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

[size=1][font=Verdana][size=2]sorry i haven't written anything lately.. i just haven't seen that much i felt like writing about, nor have i felt like writing anything else either for that matter.. here are a few brief "reviews" of some really good Asian films. they all come highly recommended from yours truly.[/size][/font][/size] [indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i] Last Life in the Universe[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent] [size=1] [/size]a beautifully shot love story of sorts that actually reminded me of [b]Lost in Translation[/b], even though they are probably more different than similar. there is an element of two people coming together for a brief period in time, and even a language problem part too, but that's about as close as they come. i'm not sure how to critique this film, but i really enjoyed it for what it was. i'm sure plenty more can be read into it for those who want to as well. there was definitely an arc and a story to it, even though it's a very relaxed film. it's not something for everyone though, although i'm sure everyone would enjoy Christopher Doyle's lovely cinematography. **** stars out of five.[size=1]
[/size] [indent][size=1][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Millennium Mambo[/size][/i][/font][/size]
[/indent] here's another film (i'd like to call them Village Voice films, cause they're the films Village Voice and such critics usually enjoy). thematically it's very different from the above- mentioned film, but it's also very free in terms of plot.. it just kinda drifts around during a time in this young, troubled woman's life, and shows us how she's trying to escape an abusive relationship. the highlight of the film is the lead actress Shu Qi, who's really wonderful in this film. i've never seen her in anything else (i think), and she really did a great job with it. also noteworthy is the film's cinematography, especially all the different colors that just pop out of the screen. **** stars out of five.[size=1]
[/size] [indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent] [size=1] [/size]if you enjoy revenge films, this is a film for you. it's not just about one person's revenge but several, and it's also one of the most unusual, unique revenge films i've seen, much like the director Chan-wook Park's more recent film, [b]Oldboy[/b]. both films are disturbing though.. they're not unwatchable a la Miike films, but they're certainly disturbing, especially in the way that there's basically no normal, sane character at all in the films that you can identify with and root for. if you've seen [b]Oldboy[/b], then definitely check this film out as well. if you enjoy revenge films, check this film out. heck, if you just enjoy unusual, original films, check this one out. **** stars out of five.

National Treasure

first, i should explain myself:

1. i love adventure movies. i just love them, but sadly there aren't that many adventure movies made these days (i guess Indiana Jones scared away people from the genre since it'd be impossible to top). of the few adventure movies made, few of them are any good so i'm pretty much always starved for a good adventure movie.

2. i have a secret love for history, and especially things such as Freemasons, hidden societies, treasures, myths and legends. i.e., basically everything that makes up for the adventure and mystery of this film.

so, when it comes to [b]National Treasure[/b], i'm biased walking in compared to the average person, and maybe that's why i walked out feeling it was a pretty darn good movie, and not just in a guilty pleasure, "check your brain at the door" kind of way either. now i'm certainly not going to say that it's a smart, genius film because there certainly are elements that take artistic liberty (in some cases A LOT of it), and there are other elements that are downright implausible and silly (like stealing the Declaration of Independence with very little time to plan and prepare, and actually pulling it off) but on the other hand, i really enjoyed how the writers brought together all these elements of history and these historical and real artifacts into an entertaining yarn that you almost wish was real. for example, if you look at a real dollar bill, you do see that pyramid and the eye. it's for real, and it's always been there, and if you really think about it and look at it, it is pretty weird and mysterious and probably not something most people know what it means. another thing i appreciate about the film is that i get the sense that it actually could make people interested in history. surely the pyramid and eye might not mean the exact thing they talk about in the film, but maybe people will get interested to find out more about it. i already know that Washington and Philadelphia tourist agencies have joined forces and made a [url="http://www.movietour.org/"]free tour guide[/url] inspired by the film, so hopefully that points to the movie actually getting people interested in history.

but what about the film then? it's definitely an enjoyable film, but like i said earlier, i'm definitely biased since i just eat stuff like this up. it certainly takes artistic liberties in tying all these historical items, facts and events together, and there are certainly more than a few moments in the film that definitely count as a "check your brain at the door" moments but overall it's an enjoyable piece of entertainment. and not to sound like i'm reviewing the film for some family website, but i actually like the fact that the movie is about smart people solving puzzles and it's the smartest one that prevails. usually in films it's all about the one that beats the crap out of the other one, so it's a nice change of pace when a movie is about outsmarting rather than outbeating each other. that doesn't mean it's a deeply intelligent, highly logical and clever film or anything, but i think you understand what i mean and i thought it was a welcome change from the usual.

Nicolas Cage has always been a capable actor for these type of movies, but of course the acting in such a film isn't really anything to speak of. Cage does his thing well like always, and even if none of the other in the cast feel perfectly cast, i'd say none of them stick out like a sore thumb either. as for the production, well, it's a Jerry Bruckheimer film so it's naturally very well-made in pretty much every way. nothing really stands out as extraordinary, although i did like that so much of the movie was actually shot on location (as far as i can tell). i've always loved it when films actually shoot at the real locations where they take place, and in that sense [b]National Treasure[/b] certainly succeeds.

if you enjoy a good adventure movie, and history as well (especially the stuff i mentioned above) then [b]National Treasure[/b] is certainly a movie to check out. it's certainly no [b]Raiders of the Lost Ark[/b], and it's certainly not a brilliant film in any way, but i really enjoyed the yarn they created. i would call it my favorite guilty pleasure of the year, only i don't feel guilty for liking it as much as i did.

**** stars out of five.

Elf
Elf(2003)

[indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Elf[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]a recent favorite. surely it's sweet and heartwarming (maybe even too much at times), but Will Ferrell is so hilarious in this film. i've always enjoyed his comedy a whole lot, but i've got to say this is probably my favorite Ferrell performance just because it's so sweet and innocent, yet so riotously funny. as a Christmas movie, it's got pretty much everything you want in one too, everything you need to really get in the mood.[size=1]
[/size][indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Bad Santa[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]another recent favorite, but very, VERY, different from the film above. this is the movie you watch when you're sick of the usual Christmas movies. it's crude, it's rude and so hilarious! Billy Bob Thornton is just as perfect in this film as Ferrell was in his, only they are polar opposites. despite the film's undeniably darker tone, it still manages to actually be quite heartwarming in the end. despite that, it's not one to watch with the family.[indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Nightmare Before Christmas[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]okay, so maybe it's not really a Christmas movie to 100%, but i'd say it's just as perfect to watch on Christmas as it is to watch on Halloween. it's such a beautifully made film with such awesome music by Danny Elfman. it's certainly one of my all-time favorites and a movie i try to watch once on Halloween and once on Christmas. if you're going to watch one movie about the theft of Christmas, this is most certainly the one to watch.[indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Apartment[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]again, not really a Christmas movie in the truest sense, but i just have to mention this one as it is one of my absolute favorites.. it's set during the Christmas and New Year holidays so even if it's not a Christmas spirit movie, it does incorporate plenty of Christmas (and New Year)-related things. but really, it's just a movie i absolutely adore so this is a general recommendation.. if you haven't seen it, see it! on Christmas or any other time![size=1]
[/size][indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]While You Were Sleeping[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]this is another film set around the holidays.. this one actually has some Christmas themes rolled into it (about being alone on Christmas) so it actually is much more of a Christmas film than you'd think.. but really, it's just a nice little romantic comedy, one that i've liked for a long time. if you're tired of watching the same old Christmas classics year by year, this is definitely a good alternative even if it's not a "pure" Christmas movie.


what Christmas movies do you usually watch around the holidays?

Bad Santa
Bad Santa(2003)

[indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Elf[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]a recent favorite. surely it's sweet and heartwarming (maybe even too much at times), but Will Ferrell is so hilarious in this film. i've always enjoyed his comedy a whole lot, but i've got to say this is probably my favorite Ferrell performance just because it's so sweet and innocent, yet so riotously funny. as a Christmas movie, it's got pretty much everything you want in one too, everything you need to really get in the mood.[size=1]
[/size][indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Bad Santa[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]another recent favorite, but very, VERY, different from the film above. this is the movie you watch when you're sick of the usual Christmas movies. it's crude, it's rude and so hilarious! Billy Bob Thornton is just as perfect in this film as Ferrell was in his, only they are polar opposites. despite the film's undeniably darker tone, it still manages to actually be quite heartwarming in the end. despite that, it's not one to watch with the family.[indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Nightmare Before Christmas[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]okay, so maybe it's not really a Christmas movie to 100%, but i'd say it's just as perfect to watch on Christmas as it is to watch on Halloween. it's such a beautifully made film with such awesome music by Danny Elfman. it's certainly one of my all-time favorites and a movie i try to watch once on Halloween and once on Christmas. if you're going to watch one movie about the theft of Christmas, this is most certainly the one to watch.[indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Apartment[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]again, not really a Christmas movie in the truest sense, but i just have to mention this one as it is one of my absolute favorites.. it's set during the Christmas and New Year holidays so even if it's not a Christmas spirit movie, it does incorporate plenty of Christmas (and New Year)-related things. but really, it's just a movie i absolutely adore so this is a general recommendation.. if you haven't seen it, see it! on Christmas or any other time![size=1]
[/size][indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]While You Were Sleeping[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]this is another film set around the holidays.. this one actually has some Christmas themes rolled into it (about being alone on Christmas) so it actually is much more of a Christmas film than you'd think.. but really, it's just a nice little romantic comedy, one that i've liked for a long time. if you're tired of watching the same old Christmas classics year by year, this is definitely a good alternative even if it's not a "pure" Christmas movie.


what Christmas movies do you usually watch around the holidays?

While You Were Sleeping

[indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Elf[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]a recent favorite. surely it's sweet and heartwarming (maybe even too much at times), but Will Ferrell is so hilarious in this film. i've always enjoyed his comedy a whole lot, but i've got to say this is probably my favorite Ferrell performance just because it's so sweet and innocent, yet so riotously funny. as a Christmas movie, it's got pretty much everything you want in one too, everything you need to really get in the mood.[size=1]
[/size][indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Bad Santa[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]another recent favorite, but very, VERY, different from the film above. this is the movie you watch when you're sick of the usual Christmas movies. it's crude, it's rude and so hilarious! Billy Bob Thornton is just as perfect in this film as Ferrell was in his, only they are polar opposites. despite the film's undeniably darker tone, it still manages to actually be quite heartwarming in the end. despite that, it's not one to watch with the family.[indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Nightmare Before Christmas[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]okay, so maybe it's not really a Christmas movie to 100%, but i'd say it's just as perfect to watch on Christmas as it is to watch on Halloween. it's such a beautifully made film with such awesome music by Danny Elfman. it's certainly one of my all-time favorites and a movie i try to watch once on Halloween and once on Christmas. if you're going to watch one movie about the theft of Christmas, this is most certainly the one to watch.[indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Apartment[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]again, not really a Christmas movie in the truest sense, but i just have to mention this one as it is one of my absolute favorites.. it's set during the Christmas and New Year holidays so even if it's not a Christmas spirit movie, it does incorporate plenty of Christmas (and New Year)-related things. but really, it's just a movie i absolutely adore so this is a general recommendation.. if you haven't seen it, see it! on Christmas or any other time![size=1]
[/size][indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]While You Were Sleeping[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]this is another film set around the holidays.. this one actually has some Christmas themes rolled into it (about being alone on Christmas) so it actually is much more of a Christmas film than you'd think.. but really, it's just a nice little romantic comedy, one that i've liked for a long time. if you're tired of watching the same old Christmas classics year by year, this is definitely a good alternative even if it's not a "pure" Christmas movie.


what Christmas movies do you usually watch around the holidays?

The Apartment

[indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Elf[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]a recent favorite. surely it's sweet and heartwarming (maybe even too much at times), but Will Ferrell is so hilarious in this film. i've always enjoyed his comedy a whole lot, but i've got to say this is probably my favorite Ferrell performance just because it's so sweet and innocent, yet so riotously funny. as a Christmas movie, it's got pretty much everything you want in one too, everything you need to really get in the mood.[size=1]
[/size][indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Bad Santa[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]another recent favorite, but very, VERY, different from the film above. this is the movie you watch when you're sick of the usual Christmas movies. it's crude, it's rude and so hilarious! Billy Bob Thornton is just as perfect in this film as Ferrell was in his, only they are polar opposites. despite the film's undeniably darker tone, it still manages to actually be quite heartwarming in the end. despite that, it's not one to watch with the family.[indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Nightmare Before Christmas[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]okay, so maybe it's not really a Christmas movie to 100%, but i'd say it's just as perfect to watch on Christmas as it is to watch on Halloween. it's such a beautifully made film with such awesome music by Danny Elfman. it's certainly one of my all-time favorites and a movie i try to watch once on Halloween and once on Christmas. if you're going to watch one movie about the theft of Christmas, this is most certainly the one to watch.[indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Apartment[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]again, not really a Christmas movie in the truest sense, but i just have to mention this one as it is one of my absolute favorites.. it's set during the Christmas and New Year holidays so even if it's not a Christmas spirit movie, it does incorporate plenty of Christmas (and New Year)-related things. but really, it's just a movie i absolutely adore so this is a general recommendation.. if you haven't seen it, see it! on Christmas or any other time![size=1]
[/size][indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]While You Were Sleeping[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]this is another film set around the holidays.. this one actually has some Christmas themes rolled into it (about being alone on Christmas) so it actually is much more of a Christmas film than you'd think.. but really, it's just a nice little romantic comedy, one that i've liked for a long time. if you're tired of watching the same old Christmas classics year by year, this is definitely a good alternative even if it's not a "pure" Christmas movie.


what Christmas movies do you usually watch around the holidays?

The Nightmare Before Christmas

[indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Elf[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]a recent favorite. surely it's sweet and heartwarming (maybe even too much at times), but Will Ferrell is so hilarious in this film. i've always enjoyed his comedy a whole lot, but i've got to say this is probably my favorite Ferrell performance just because it's so sweet and innocent, yet so riotously funny. as a Christmas movie, it's got pretty much everything you want in one too, everything you need to really get in the mood.[size=1]
[/size][indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Bad Santa[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]another recent favorite, but very, VERY, different from the film above. this is the movie you watch when you're sick of the usual Christmas movies. it's crude, it's rude and so hilarious! Billy Bob Thornton is just as perfect in this film as Ferrell was in his, only they are polar opposites. despite the film's undeniably darker tone, it still manages to actually be quite heartwarming in the end. despite that, it's not one to watch with the family.[indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Nightmare Before Christmas[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]okay, so maybe it's not really a Christmas movie to 100%, but i'd say it's just as perfect to watch on Christmas as it is to watch on Halloween. it's such a beautifully made film with such awesome music by Danny Elfman. it's certainly one of my all-time favorites and a movie i try to watch once on Halloween and once on Christmas. if you're going to watch one movie about the theft of Christmas, this is most certainly the one to watch.[indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Apartment[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]again, not really a Christmas movie in the truest sense, but i just have to mention this one as it is one of my absolute favorites.. it's set during the Christmas and New Year holidays so even if it's not a Christmas spirit movie, it does incorporate plenty of Christmas (and New Year)-related things. but really, it's just a movie i absolutely adore so this is a general recommendation.. if you haven't seen it, see it! on Christmas or any other time![size=1]
[/size][indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]While You Were Sleeping[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent]this is another film set around the holidays.. this one actually has some Christmas themes rolled into it (about being alone on Christmas) so it actually is much more of a Christmas film than you'd think.. but really, it's just a nice little romantic comedy, one that i've liked for a long time. if you're tired of watching the same old Christmas classics year by year, this is definitely a good alternative even if it's not a "pure" Christmas movie.


what Christmas movies do you usually watch around the holidays?

Team America: World Police

somewhat can i say other than that [b]Team America: World Police[/b] is by far the worst film of 2004? i was going to write a much longer review, but i really can't muster up the energy to do it even though i genuinely dislike this movie. how did Trey Parker and Matt Stone manage to make such a gruesomely and painfully unfunny film? i absolutely loved the [b]South Park[/b] movie and [b]Team America[/b] is so unfunny it hurts. rather than spoofing Jerry Bruckheimer movies, it comes off as the lamest, cheesiest Bruckheimer movie ever made.. the Kim Jong-Il scenes (especially the song) are basically the only redeemable features this film has.

and don't even get me started on the political agenda of the film and ramifications of that..

* star out of five.

Ocean's Twelve

now here's an oddball of a movie. i can't even really put it to words, but there's just something about [b]Ocean's Twelve[/b] that feels odd. it's not that it's a bad movie though, i quite liked it (as you can see by the rating above), but it certainly feels very different from [b]Ocean's Eleven[/b]. Soderbergh & co. certainly didn't use the same mold with the sequel, that's for sure. as to what exactly it is that's making the movie feel "odd", i suppose it's a mixture of many elements (editing, story, acting, general structure and style, etc.). i certainly enjoyed it for the most part though, even if it's flawed and doesn't come close to the greatness of [b]Ocean's Eleven[/b] (which was a top ten film for me that year).

what's likely to impress the most about [b]Ocean's Twelve[/b] (other than the cast list), has got to be the settings, actually. no offense to Hollywood setmakers, or shooting films in the US, but there's just something extra you get from shooting a film on location in Europe. not every single location in this movie is Kodak moment gorgeous or anything, but it certainly lends itself to the film wonderfully, and Soderbergh (as Peter Andrews) did a great job at capturing it. it might sound weird, but the sets, locations and cinematography was what impressed me the most about the film and felt like a leg up from the previous film.

as for the acting, it's not really much to speak of. most of the actors that make up Ocean's gang just act, really.. only Matt Damon and Elliot Gould seem to really have a distinct character they play (and not surprisingly, they're the most memorable). it's not necessarily such a bad thing in the case of George Clooney and Brad Pitt though, who just kinda glide through the movie. it's not so much acting as it's star power and sheer charisma. it'd never work in another film, but here it actually does. of the new additions to the cast, Catherine Zeta-Jones is the most welcome one. surely it's a more than a bit implausible to have her as a Europol agent, but i was very pleasantly surprised by her in this movie.

[b]Ocean's Twelve[/b] is far from a perfect film though. it cuts a few too many corners plot-wise, it's not as funny as it could and should've been (though there is a great, great joke towards the end) and it actually lacks some of the elements i relish in about caper movies and those things certainly drag it down a bit and makes it pale in comparison to the film film.. but on the other hand, it's a mostly enjoyable, entertaining piece of fluff though, and certainly worth seeing if you're in the mood for something utterly forgettable yet enjoyable while you're taking it all in. i'm being generous giving it 4 stars, but i'll let it be until i see it again, and see how it holds up.. that'll decide what it's final rating will be.

**** stars out of five.

The Door in the Floor
½

[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Kill Bill: Vol. 2[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] [size=1] [/size] this has got to be the first movie to be reviewed a second time in my journal! i just rewatched it for the first time since i saw it that one and only time theatrically, and i just have to say my feelings for it greatly improved with a second viewing, something i most certainly would attribute with the extreme expectations i had on it (and them not being met) following the knock-out punch that was [b]Kill Bill: Vol. 1[/b]. [b]Vol. 2[/b] still isn't quite as awesome as [b]Vol. 1[/b] is, but at least now i don't feel like it's a disappointment which i did a bit right after i saw it the first time. the best part of movie (besides the Elle/Bride fight) is the interaction between The Bride and Bill, and the focus on genuine emotion on behalf of Uma Thurman's character.. it definitely shows a maturation in Tarantino, i must say. Carradine is just terrific as Bill too. i didn't even like him that much the first time around, yet this time i thought he was just fantastic. [b]Vol. 2[/b] is altogether just a great film, even if it's not quite the spectacular knock-out punch that the first volume was.[size=1][size=2] ****½ stars out of five.[/size]
[/size] [indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Collateral[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent] [size=1] [/size] this is actually my second viewing of [b]Collateral[/b], but i never got around to reviewing it here in the journal after the first time i saw it.. this film too got a lower grade from me the first viewing, but watching it again (on DVD this time) made me feel like it was a much better film than i initially thought. i still hate digital photography for the most part in other films, but Michael Mann certainly made the most of it, and some scenes, outdoor nighttime scenes in particular, look just fantastic in digital. it usually creates a colder, crisper picture than regular celluloid photography does, and for the most part that looks terrible in my opinion, but it actually works in the majority of [b]Collateral[/b] (with the exception of a few scenes here and there). but the film is not just about the cinematography of course, it's a really good story too (one that has a lot more to offer than initially meets the eye) plus it also comes with two really good performances by Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. Mann is certainly a master of his craft, and [b]Collateral[/b] is a great display of his enormous talent as a director even if it doesn't quite come close to the masterpiece that is [b]Heat[/b].[size=1][size=2] ****½ stars out of five.[/size]
[/size] [indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Door in the Floor[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent] [size=1] [/size]did anyone at all see this one? being a major fan of Jeff Bridges, i'd naturally been expecting this one for quite some time now, and i was not disappointed. in fact, [b]The Door in the Floor[/b] surprised me in many ways. most notably was the ample amount of frank, often sexually related, humor. it's a drama, yet it had me laughing more than many comedies have this year.. with the relatively dark tale it was telling, it was a nice break and only enhanced the film. as for the acting, Bridges is at the top of his game, as always, and this time he's got a really good character to work with too. Kim Basinger surprised me the most though, in arguably her best performance ever (!), even topping her Academy Award-winning work in [b]L.A. Confidential[/b]. a magnificent work of body language.. it's all in the eyes and face. wonderful work. Jon Foster and Elle Fanning were both terrific as well. lastly, i'd like to commend the film from a visual standpoint. i just loved the art direction, the overall look and setting of it, as well as the cinematography and score. these type of films usually don't stand out that much, but i felt this one really did.[size=1][size=2] ****½ stars out of five.[/size][/size]

Collateral
Collateral(2004)
½

[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Kill Bill: Vol. 2[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] [size=1] [/size] this has got to be the first movie to be reviewed a second time in my journal! i just rewatched it for the first time since i saw it that one and only time theatrically, and i just have to say my feelings for it greatly improved with a second viewing, something i most certainly would attribute with the extreme expectations i had on it (and them not being met) following the knock-out punch that was [b]Kill Bill: Vol. 1[/b]. [b]Vol. 2[/b] still isn't quite as awesome as [b]Vol. 1[/b] is, but at least now i don't feel like it's a disappointment which i did a bit right after i saw it the first time. the best part of movie (besides the Elle/Bride fight) is the interaction between The Bride and Bill, and the focus on genuine emotion on behalf of Uma Thurman's character.. it definitely shows a maturation in Tarantino, i must say. Carradine is just terrific as Bill too. i didn't even like him that much the first time around, yet this time i thought he was just fantastic. [b]Vol. 2[/b] is altogether just a great film, even if it's not quite the spectacular knock-out punch that the first volume was.[size=1][size=2] ****½ stars out of five.[/size]
[/size] [indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Collateral[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent] [size=1] [/size] this is actually my second viewing of [b]Collateral[/b], but i never got around to reviewing it here in the journal after the first time i saw it.. this film too got a lower grade from me the first viewing, but watching it again (on DVD this time) made me feel like it was a much better film than i initially thought. i still hate digital photography for the most part in other films, but Michael Mann certainly made the most of it, and some scenes, outdoor nighttime scenes in particular, look just fantastic in digital. it usually creates a colder, crisper picture than regular celluloid photography does, and for the most part that looks terrible in my opinion, but it actually works in the majority of [b]Collateral[/b] (with the exception of a few scenes here and there). but the film is not just about the cinematography of course, it's a really good story too (one that has a lot more to offer than initially meets the eye) plus it also comes with two really good performances by Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. Mann is certainly a master of his craft, and [b]Collateral[/b] is a great display of his enormous talent as a director even if it doesn't quite come close to the masterpiece that is [b]Heat[/b].[size=1][size=2] ****½ stars out of five.[/size]
[/size] [indent][size=1][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Door in the Floor[/i][/size][/font][/size]
[/indent] [size=1] [/size]did anyone at all see this one? being a major fan of Jeff Bridges, i'd naturally been expecting this one for quite some time now, and i was not disappointed. in fact, [b]The Door in the Floor[/b] surprised me in many ways. most notably was the ample amount of frank, often sexually related, humor. it's a drama, yet it had me laughing more than many comedies have this year.. with the relatively dark tale it was telling, it was a nice break and only enhanced the film. as for the acting, Bridges is at the top of his game, as always, and this time he's got a really good character to work with too. Kim Basinger surprised me the most though, in arguably her best performance ever (!), even topping her Academy Award-winning work in [b]L.A. Confidential[/b]. a magnificent work of body language.. it's all in the eyes and face. wonderful work. Jon Foster and Elle Fanning were both terrific as well. lastly, i'd like to commend the film from a visual standpoint. i just loved the art direction, the overall look and setting of it, as well as the cinematography and score. these type of films usually don't stand out that much, but i felt this one really did.[size=1][size=2] ****½ stars out of five.[/size][/size]

Garden State
Garden State(2004)
½

what a lovely little film. i've been anticipating [b]Garden State[/b] for the most part of the year (ever since hearing about it during the '04 Sundance Film Festival), and i'm glad it lived up to my expectations since so many films can be crushed by high hopes and expectations. Zach Braff's film won't end up the directorial debut of the year (that'll go to Kerry Conran and his [b]Sky Captain[/b]), but Braff isn't far behind, let me tell you. i've watched and enjoyed him on his tv-show [b]Scrubs[/b], and it's clear now that he's a great talent, not just in front of the camera, but behind it as well. surely [b]Garden State[/b] suffers a little bit from trying to be hip (like the soundtrack, it's good but feels like it's trying to be hip), but for the most part Braff steers his film in the right direction, mixing the tragic and dramatic with the (often absurdly) humorous. it's not a film of enormous emotional or dramatic depth, but there are certainly many things in it to take with you, conveyed nicely through some key dramatic moments.

the by far best part of [b]Garden State[/b] is Natalie Portman and her character Sam. every now and then there comes along a character and performance that you just fall in love with, and this was one of those. i'll probably always consider her performance in [b]Léon[/b] 10 years ago her best, but this is certainly right behind that. with her performance in [b]Closer[/b] being buzzed for an Oscar nomination, i think it's safe to say that 2004 will be her breakthrough year as an adult actress. the other actors and actresses in the film do fine work too, especially Braff and Peter Sarsgaard. oh, and the ever-reliable Ian Holm too, of course. i was also particularly impressed by the very fine cinematography by Lawrence Sher and Braff's terrific screenplay.

like i said earlier, [b]Garden State[/b] suffers a little from trying to be hip, but for the most part it's a very good blend of drama and humor. it doesn't delve too deeply into the characters problems, but i think that was a wise decision because it would've bogged down the movie too much and made it too depressing. as it stands, it's a great work for a first-time writer and director, and certainly worth seeing just for Natalie Portman's performance alone.

****½ stars out of five.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
½

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it was worth the wait. it was most definitely worth the wait. [b]Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow[/b] even managed to exceed my sky high expectations (pun intended), which is pretty amazing since it's been atop of my must-see list ever since i first heard of it. i was even nervous that my high expectations would diminish my enjoyment of the film, but i'm so happy all my hopes and dreams were completely fulfilled. i am admittedly a sucker for films of great visual beauty and uniqueness so this really is my sort of movie, but damn, what a ride! from frame 1 it just grabbed me, and never let go until the end credits rolled.

the digital effects, and the style Kerry Conran used, certainly is an acquired taste.. i can understand that it didn't attract the audiences, but boy did they miss out on something sweet. this is how you use digital effects on a large scale.. all too often films just toss in effects for effects sake, with little point or purpose.. restraint is rarely shown and even if [b]Sky Captain[/b] isn't exactly restrained, it feels like a whole other beast than so many other visual effects-driven films of the last 5 years or so. Conran used the digital effects as a tool to achieve something he couldn't possibly have done with physical sets, and it's the opinion of this reviewer that he pulled it of splendidly. surely not every single effect in every single frame is photorealistically perfect, but i honestly haven't seen many films that have been flawless ([b]A.I. Artificial Intelligence[/b] would be the only one, i think). 99% of the visual effects in [b]Sky Captain[/b] are as great as i could've hoped for though, which is quite the accomplishment since almost everything, aside from the actors and a few props, was done digitally. groundbreaking work, really, even if the technique isn't necessarily a new invention. as for the style, i have heard some saw they made it look soft to cover up flaws in the visual effects.. honestly, i don't buy that. i wouldn't claim to be an expert on older films, but i have certainly seen a whole handful of films from the era the film takes place in (late 30's, early 40's) that have a soft, dim look to them, and it seems rather clear that this was what Conran always wanted and intended. and for me, that works wonderfully since it gives the film that truly different look from anything else we've seen in.. forever?

[b]Sky Captain[/b] isn't all about the visual effects though, it does have a plot, actors and a whole lot of other elements in it too. if we start with the story, surely it's perhaps nothing revolutionary but it does it's job for sure and that is to offer up a whole lot of action and adventure. the film may be a little too slimmed down, with not enough slower, character building parts, but that's a minor complaint because it really offered up one amazing sequence after another, hurdling towards it's finale. and considering how much it'd probably cost them just to add another 10 minutes, given all of it is done digitally, it's understandable that they slimmed the story down to the bare necessities (though i read the upcoming DVD release will have deleted scenes.. hmm). [b]Sky Captain[/b] is no [b]Raiders of the Lost Ark[/b], but it offered up an interesting and exciting story that certainly works for me.

as for the acting, well, it's not really that much to speak of since it's not exactly an actor's movie. i actually thought all of them did a good job with it though, especially considering it was all shot on a bluescreen stage (which tends to make actors stiffen up a bit since they have nothing to really draw from in their surroundings). not sure if any one of them have done any other films that have been shot this much against bluescreen, but i think they did well with it, even if it's not really anything worth mentioning as career-topping performances or anything. Jude Law made for a pretty damn good hero in Sky Captain, and i was surprised by how much i liked Gwyneth Paltrow in this film.

lastly, i'd like to mention the film's other technical aspects, especially the art direction, sound and score in particular. the art direction on this film deserves to be nominated for the Oscar if you ask me, but of course it most likely won't since it didn't really have any tangiable art direction or physical sets.. i say, art direction is art direction, whether it's digitally or physically achieved. for my money, this is the art direction to beat for 2004. if the Academy can't recognize great design for what it is, then screw them! one can only hope that they sense that it's time to take a step into the future, and i hope they sense it with this film. the sound (sound editing in particular) should also be commended since it had to be done completely from scratch, much like any animated film.. maybe it's not quite as sharp as [b]The Incredibles[/b], but it's certainly terrific work. finally, there's Edward Shearmur's great, great adventurous score.. i'd been listening to this for weeks before i actually got to see the film, and the main theme is one of the best adventure themes i've heard since John Williams' score for [b]Raiders of the Lost Ark[/b]. again, this isn't as good as [b]Raiders of the Lost Ark[/b] or anything, but i definitely think it deserves to be mentioned.

[b]Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow[/b] might not be for everyone, but i hope more people give it a shot once it's out on DVD because it's one hell of a fun ride. like i said, it just grabs hold and doesn't let go, a rollercoaster ride of a movie, really. and a total visual feast too in the meantime. if you're looking for a film experience that's both exhilarating and unique, this is the film to watch. i had such a blast watching this, and i can't wait to watch it over and over again once i get the DVD.

****½ stars out of five.

The Incredibles
½

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Pixar ARE most certainly six for six. [b]The Incredibles[/b] certainly lived up to my expectations, but on the other hand, my expectations weren't as high for this as it was for their other more recent films. it doesn't quite get all the way like the previous three Pixar films ([b]Toy Story 2[/b], [b]Monsters, Inc.[/b] and [b]Finding Nemo[/b]) have. why? well, i just got back from seeing it, so it's all fresh in my head but i'm thinking it's a mix of that it's about humans (unlike all previous Pixar films) and that it's about superheroes (not really a favorite "genre" if one can call it that).. still, [b]The Incredibles[/b] offers up a whole lot of fun and excitement and i can certainly not expect every film Pixar makes to be a 10-pointer, 5 star film.

one thing is for sure though, Pixar are getting better and better at the visuals. this film looks absolutely spectacular, especially the elements, sets and surroundings.. the secret island and it's nature is dazzling. as for the characters, well, like i said above, i'm more of a toys / ants / monsters / fish kind of Pixar geek, BUT these human characters are nevertheless the most accomplished humans i've seen in any digitally animated films (yes, that includes [b]The Polar Express[/b] too, which i haven't seen, but is already judging). so the humans, their movement and all that most certainly works, and certainly shows how far Pixar has come, considering human movement, especially in CGI, has often been considered one of the most difficult things to do well. i was definitely most impressed by the effects, lightning, hair (!) and such though but it's all most definitely top notch in terms of design and animation.

an animated film is nothing without the voices though, and Pixar has put together another fine group of voice actors yet again. the only one i thought was poorly cast was Samuel L. Jackson. not only is he grossly underused, but his character didn't really have to be in the movie, and to be perfectly honest, Frozone was kinda lame as a superhero. there's nothing wrong with Jackson's voice work though, but the character was kinda superfluous which rubs off on him too, i guess. the best voice work of the film comes from Brad Bird himself as Edna Mode, probably because it's such an out-there character amongst mostly "normal" ones, and i'd also like to give props to Sarah Vowell, who does the voice of shy Violet and of course the ever-recognizable Holly Hunter. Craig Nelson has a good voice, but it's not really distinct (or famous) enough to really stand out. oh, i'd also like to give a shout-out to Wallace Shawn who plays Mr. Incredible's short-statured insurance company boss.

moving on to the story, it's certainly a wild ride. i did miss the typical Pixar elements though, you know the ones that tug at the heart strings. [b]The Incredibles[/b] certainly isn't without it's sweet moments, but it's obviously a very different film and a big departure from Pixar's previous efforts. it's an action movie pure and simple, and i wouldn't say that about any of the other Pixar films, even though they all have action of some sort in them. it's more akin to James Bond movies, in a surprisingly big way i didn't expect. it's certainly not a bad thing though since it's probably the best Bond-like movie in ages, but i guess i just favor buddy comedies that tug at the heart strings that Bond-like superhero action films.

i hope i haven't sounded too negative in this review, because the (relatively minor) issues i have with it aren't as major as they might sound.. [b]The Incredibles[/b] certainly met the high expectations i had on it, and even surpassed them as well in several aspects. sure, it didn't quite blow me away, but it's a great, beautifully crafted film nevertheless and another winner from Pixar for sure. if you're looking for an exciting, fun time at the movies, you really can't go wrong with [b]The Incredibles[/b].

****½ stars out of five.

The Manchurian Candidate

i'm sure it was no accident that i was able to attend a free preview screening of [b]The Manchurian Candidate[/b] today of all days, November 2nd, 2004.. and having seen it, it certainly was the perfect day to see it, even if it doesn't exactly parallell the events currently taking place off-screen. the screenwriters of this remake of the 1962 film got it right in upgrading it to our times though. as much of the original that's in it, there's just as much taken from the current US administration. i'm sure anyone who's followed the Bush administration can guess that the Manchurian Global company of the film is the Halliburton company of reality. but enough real-world politics..

i gotta say, i wasn't particularly excited about Jonathan Demme doing yet another remake of yet another 60's classic. his previous, [b]The Truth About Charlie[/b], a remake of [b]Charade[/b], was less than stellar.. so i really didn't look forward to what he'd do to [b]The Manchurian Candidate[/b].. but i'm happy to say that it certainly exceeded my expectations, and i suspect much of that is thanks to the screenwriters' ability to upgrade the story to fit the way the world is these days, sans the Cold War. Demme is certainly an able director, but he's definitely a director that needs a solid script to be able to make a good movie. the movie certainly isn't without flaws in the plot though, with some plot holes just leaving you wondering how that happened.. overall though, a solid script.. and Demme actually manages to make it a rather creepy film at times as well. there were quite a few instances of the audience ooh-ing and ahh-ing. i also enjoyed his use of some extreme closeup shots when Washington's character and Jeffrey Wright meet in the beginning of the film.

as for the acting, the best of the bunch is of course Meryl Streep. when i first heard of the casting, i thought it was a role beneath her. not because it's not a juicy part, it is, but i wasn't confident the film would be good at all, and that it'd just be a mistake to star in such a film.. Streep is good though, easily on par with Lansbury from the original.. it should be interesting to see if she too can pull off an Oscar nomination for this role.. it's only a shame they got rid of that wonderful moniker Lansbury had though, The Red Queen. as for Denzel Washington and Liev Schreiber, they're both as good as they could be. both are certainly great actors, but the parts aren't really the stuff dreams are made of either. i certainly prefer them to Sinatra and Harvey of the original though. as for the rest of the cast, no one really stand out, except for the ever excellent Jeffrey Wright in a small supporting role.

all things told, [b]The Manchurian Candidate[/b] certainly isn't as good or great as the original film is. Washington and Schreiber are better than their respectives, but overall, the original still rules. the remake is a worthy film though, and a nicely done upgrade to a good story. it's not flawless, and it has plot holes but it's an enjoyable thriller for sure and it's well worth checking out, but only after you see the 1962 original.

**** stars out of five.

The Motorcycle Diaries
½

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[b]
The Motorcycle Diaries[/b] is about the journey through South America that a young Ernesto "Che" Guevara took with his good friend Alberto Granado in 1952. while their trip also contained many joyous moments, it was most of all a journey that shaped Guevara into the man he became later in his life, as he witnessed firsthand the hardships of people throughout the continent. the rest is, as they say, history.

i'm not particularly knowledgeable when it comes to Che Guevara's more well-known life, so i'm not going to talk at all about what eventually happened.. i think it's safe to say that Guevara has as many admirers as he has detractors. having seen the film i definitely feel that he at the very least started out wanting to do good, and to help the people. i'm sure some die-hard detractors of his try to make out [b]The Motorcycle Diaries[/b] to be propaganda to soften up his image, but i honestly didn't feel like i was getting pro-Che propaganda shoved down my throat. it could really be the story of any young man, and his coming of age.. this one just so happens to be the coming of age story for Che Guevara.

as Ernesto we have quite possibly the most well-known Latin American actor at the moment, Gael García Bernal. he's had a remarkable run in the past couple of years, and with [b]The Motorcycle Diaries[/b] he proves yet again that he's one of the most talented young actors out there. it is by no means a flashy character or performance though, and maybe not his very best either, but he is really great in this film.. the kid can act, it's as simple as that. with him on the journey, as his sidekick Alberto Granado, is Rodrigo de la Serna, whom i'd never seen in anything else prior to this film, nor even heard of. Serna provides the film with plenty of humor, although it's not a laugh a minute slapstick or anything. his character and performance is obviously not a flashy one either, nor does the character have the same kind of arc as Bernal's but Serna does a very good opposite Bernal for sure.

one of the joys of the film is that it shows you a slice of the world you haven't seen, or at least one you haven't seen very much of. as a road trip film, the scenery is often absolutely gorgeous. i wouldn't call the cinematography startling or anything, but it captures the film very nicely, from the large South American vistas down to the smaller scenes. another thing that stuck in my head is the wonderful score by Gustavo Santaolalla. the theme repeats throughout the film, and really sticks with you. as for the film's other technical aspects they are all superb as you would expect. it's never flashy (notice how i keep using that phrase?) but it always looks just right, and that's all you should ask for.

a film like [b]The Motorcycle Diaries[/b], being what it's about, could've easily gotten bogged down in it's deeper messages and meanings, but i have to applaud director Walter Salles for steering it in the right direction, never letting it get too heavy-handed, and mixing in plenty of lighter, less serious aspects into it. the end result is a film that both from an entertainment and dramatic standpoint. it's not a masterpiece, but it certainly is a great film.

****½ stars out of five.

Bonnie and Clyde
½

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to be honest, i don't think [b]Bonnie and Clyde[/b] is a classic in the truest sense. i'm sure it had a major impact of American film in the late 60's, but it's violence is tame by today's standards and there isn't even that much violence in it.. not like it would have had it been made in 1997 instead of 1967 anyway. it may not have held up as well as other well-known classics, but it is a good film though, a great film even.

since i imagine most people are familiar with the legend of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, i don't think i need to tell you what the film is about. it wouldn't require much explaining though since it's basically all about how they met, got famous and ended up being chased across states after robbing banks. it is worth noting though that the film version has taken some artistic liberties as it is so popularly called, so it's not a fully accurate account of what really happened. with the exception of what i've read on IMDb's trivia page (such as the character of C.W. Moss being a composite of two real-life members of the Barrow gang), i couldn't tell you what's different from the real tale since i don't really know any exact details about the actual Bonnie and Clyde's escapades.

personally, the acting highlight of the film is Faye Dunaway's performance as Bonnie Parker. looking at just the bare facts, Clyde was the one doing the most of the bad things, but the film certainly gives you (me at least) the feeling that Bonnie is the more wicked one of the two, and that Clyde, at least initially, just acted tougher than he really was to impress her. the film makes him out to be the troublemaker, but it felt like Bonnie's the one getting him into it. anyway, back to Dunaway.. she's just ravishing! granted, i haven't seen her in that many films, but this feels like the best i've seen from her. the film got 5 nominations for acting, but in all honesty i only feel she's the only truly deserving of being nominated. all the others, Warren Beatty, Michael J. Pollard, Gene Hackman and Estelle Parsons were great, but i'm not sure i think they all deserved nominations.. okay, Parsons does, she even won the Oscar.. but it's Dunaway that truly shines in my book. Bonnie and Clyde are both fascinating characters, but i feel that Dunaway gave Bonnie that little bit of extra.

as for the production values, it's certainly a nicely done film. i do find it very surprising considering it's Academy Award acclaim that it didn't get nominated for editing or art direction since they're both very splendid. the final sequence in the film in particular has some brilliant editing that totally energizes the climax. the costumes were nominated though, and rightfully so. the cinematography, while very nice, oddly enough won the Oscar.. don't get me wrong, it's a very nicely lit and shot film (as you can see in the capture i took from the DVD above) but i'm not sure i'd consider it worthy of winning the Oscar.

[b]Bonnie and Clyde[/b] is a classic.. sort of. i do feel that it's dated in that it's not really shocking at all to a modern audience, but on the other hand, it's a well-made, well-acted exciting and sometimes even fun film. whether you agree or not about it's status as a classic, i'm sure we can certainly agree that it is one of the (many) must-see films of the 1960's.

****½ stars out of five.

Vanilla Sky
Vanilla Sky(2001)

[indent] [left][i][font=Georgia][size=5]Princess Mononoke[/size][/font][/i]
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[/indent] this film was really so much better than i expected it to be. i've never really cared for the Asian animation styles, and [b]Spirited Away[/b] (my first Hayao Miyazaki experience) was a real disappointment given all the acclaim it had gotten. so naturally, i went into [b]Princess Mononoke[/b] with great hesitation but i sure came out more than very pleased. this time, in the epic world that he's created i could actually buy into all the fantastical creatures and this magical world. the visuals are at times just amazing, and most importantly, the story it was telling was excellent. even if i'm still not a huge fan of the animation style (the humans in particular), this is a great rousing, exciting adventure film. ****½ stars out of five.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Vanilla Sky[/size][/i][/font]
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[/indent] while i'd be the first to acknowledge that [b]Vanilla Sky[/b] is a flawed film, i have to say it i enjoyed it a great deal more this time than the first time i saw it in theaters. surely there's that big flaw towards the end, but i honestly didn't mind it as much as i maybe should've.. and maybe that's just because i enjoy the rest of the film as much as i do. i surely wouldn't have minded at all if the film had been more cryptic in the end, but in some ways i can understand the point of why they chose to reveal everything. anyway, Tom Cruise is pretty perfect and i have to say i find Cameron Diaz surprisingly terrific in this. the technicals are top notch, and it has one of the better soundtracks in latter years. **** stars out of five.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Shall We Dansu?[/size][/i][/font]
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[/indent] whoever thought a film about a Japanese guy learning to dance could ever be so charming, so heartwarming and so much fun? i honestly didn't expect to like this film as much as i did, but it was literally impossible not to smile and laugh. the best thing about the film is that it actually feels absolutely genuine. it could've easily been cheesy but it's not at all. the second best thing about it is it's cast. it's really an ensemble comedy, and it has some of the funniest, sweetest, most charming characters in it. also, that it's set in Japan, with social rules, that adds an extra dimension to the film. most of all though, it's a film that will make you laugh and make you smile and give you a very good time. **** stars out of five.

Shall We Dance? (Shall We Dansu?)

[indent] [left][i][font=Georgia][size=5]Princess Mononoke[/size][/font][/i]
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[/indent] this film was really so much better than i expected it to be. i've never really cared for the Asian animation styles, and [b]Spirited Away[/b] (my first Hayao Miyazaki experience) was a real disappointment given all the acclaim it had gotten. so naturally, i went into [b]Princess Mononoke[/b] with great hesitation but i sure came out more than very pleased. this time, in the epic world that he's created i could actually buy into all the fantastical creatures and this magical world. the visuals are at times just amazing, and most importantly, the story it was telling was excellent. even if i'm still not a huge fan of the animation style (the humans in particular), this is a great rousing, exciting adventure film. ****½ stars out of five.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Vanilla Sky[/size][/i][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] while i'd be the first to acknowledge that [b]Vanilla Sky[/b] is a flawed film, i have to say it i enjoyed it a great deal more this time than the first time i saw it in theaters. surely there's that big flaw towards the end, but i honestly didn't mind it as much as i maybe should've.. and maybe that's just because i enjoy the rest of the film as much as i do. i surely wouldn't have minded at all if the film had been more cryptic in the end, but in some ways i can understand the point of why they chose to reveal everything. anyway, Tom Cruise is pretty perfect and i have to say i find Cameron Diaz surprisingly terrific in this. the technicals are top notch, and it has one of the better soundtracks in latter years. **** stars out of five.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Shall We Dansu?[/size][/i][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] whoever thought a film about a Japanese guy learning to dance could ever be so charming, so heartwarming and so much fun? i honestly didn't expect to like this film as much as i did, but it was literally impossible not to smile and laugh. the best thing about the film is that it actually feels absolutely genuine. it could've easily been cheesy but it's not at all. the second best thing about it is it's cast. it's really an ensemble comedy, and it has some of the funniest, sweetest, most charming characters in it. also, that it's set in Japan, with social rules, that adds an extra dimension to the film. most of all though, it's a film that will make you laugh and make you smile and give you a very good time. **** stars out of five.

Princess Mononoke (Mononoke-hime)
½

[indent] [left][i][font=Georgia][size=5]Princess Mononoke[/size][/font][/i]
[/left]
[/indent] this film was really so much better than i expected it to be. i've never really cared for the Asian animation styles, and [b]Spirited Away[/b] (my first Hayao Miyazaki experience) was a real disappointment given all the acclaim it had gotten. so naturally, i went into [b]Princess Mononoke[/b] with great hesitation but i sure came out more than very pleased. this time, in the epic world that he's created i could actually buy into all the fantastical creatures and this magical world. the visuals are at times just amazing, and most importantly, the story it was telling was excellent. even if i'm still not a huge fan of the animation style (the humans in particular), this is a great rousing, exciting adventure film. ****½ stars out of five.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Vanilla Sky[/size][/i][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] while i'd be the first to acknowledge that [b]Vanilla Sky[/b] is a flawed film, i have to say it i enjoyed it a great deal more this time than the first time i saw it in theaters. surely there's that big flaw towards the end, but i honestly didn't mind it as much as i maybe should've.. and maybe that's just because i enjoy the rest of the film as much as i do. i surely wouldn't have minded at all if the film had been more cryptic in the end, but in some ways i can understand the point of why they chose to reveal everything. anyway, Tom Cruise is pretty perfect and i have to say i find Cameron Diaz surprisingly terrific in this. the technicals are top notch, and it has one of the better soundtracks in latter years. **** stars out of five.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][i][size=5]Shall We Dansu?[/size][/i][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] whoever thought a film about a Japanese guy learning to dance could ever be so charming, so heartwarming and so much fun? i honestly didn't expect to like this film as much as i did, but it was literally impossible not to smile and laugh. the best thing about the film is that it actually feels absolutely genuine. it could've easily been cheesy but it's not at all. the second best thing about it is it's cast. it's really an ensemble comedy, and it has some of the funniest, sweetest, most charming characters in it. also, that it's set in Japan, with social rules, that adds an extra dimension to the film. most of all though, it's a film that will make you laugh and make you smile and give you a very good time. **** stars out of five.

The Bourne Supremacy
½

following in [b]The Bourne Identity[/b]'s footsteps isn't an easy task. it is simply put one of the best action/thrillers to come out of Hollywood in a long, long time and it featured everything you want out of such a film.. action, thrills, mystery and even some romance and all of it was well-balanced and always exciting. when i heard that [b]Bloody Sunday[/b]'s Paul Greengrass was going to direct the sequel, [b]The Bourne Supremacy[/b], i wasn't sure what to think but i'm happy to report that Greengrass did every bit as good of a job as his predecessor Doug Liman with the [b]Bourne[/b] franchise. [b]The Bourne Supremacy[/b] is just as exciting and just as well-made as the first film and one of the better action movie sequels.. well, ever.

starting out a few years after the events of the first film, Jason Bourne finds himself on the run again, although this time he's running towards his enemies, not from them. framed for a killing he didn't commit, he has to figure out who's behind it before the CIA gets to him. Matt Damon returns in the lead role of course and he's terrific as Bourne. surely it's an action film, and maybe Bourne isn't a James Bond but his character certainly has depth and a story and Damon handles both the action and the drama with excellence. with him he's got a few old friends from the first film, such as Franka Potente, Brian Cox and Julia Stiles as well as some new faces like Joan Allen and Karl Urban. while it's clearly Damon's show, the others do well, especially the ever reliable and excellent Brian Cox and Joan Allen.

the [b]Bourne[/b] films aren't really about the acting though, now are they? they're about the action, the thrills, the mystery of Bourne's past, and yet more action. the first film featured some great action sequences, and the sequel features just as many. the action highlight of both films are car chases, both some of the best put on celluloid. not since 1998's [b]Ronin[/b] has there been car chase sequences as exciting and well made as these. any doubts i had about Greengrass (and Liman for the first film) being able to handle the action is completely blown away. Hollywood action directors could certainly learn a thing or two from these guys. okay, the action isn't groundbreakingly different or anything, but it definitely feels like heads and shoulders above most of the other action films being made these days.

there's only one little thing about [b]The Bourne Supremacy[/b] that i didn't like but it's a major spoiler so i won't reveal it. it was one of my favorite parts of the first film though, and it's barely there in the sequel. i'd still consider the two films equal in quality, but if i had to pick one over the other, i'd go with the first film for this element alone. [b]The Bourne Supremacy[/b] is still an outstanding film though, and i'm very happy they've both been as successful as they have. all i can say is, bring on [b]The Bourne Ultimatum[/b]!

****½ stars out of five (for both films).

The Notebook
The Notebook(2004)
½

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it's always nice to be surprised by a film. for the most part, i usually know by the time i walk into the theater how i'll most likely feel about the film walking out of it.. in the case of [b]The Notebook[/b], i walked in hoping to see a good movie, and walked out having seen a great movie. i honestly don't understand why the critics were as harsh as they were with it (it only has 50% here on RT), but i guess some of them must have hearts of stone because it's hard not to get drawn into this film. but i mean, surely it tugs at our heartstrings more often than not, and surely the story is your standard "great love" story but this has got to be one of the best romantic films i've seen in quite some time.

what lifts it above the others is the uniformly strong acting by everyone in the cast. the brightest shining star of the film is relative newcomer Rachel McAdams, who has also enjoyed recent success with [b]Mean Girls[/b]. to say the least, her role in this film is nothing like the role in [b]Mean Girls[/b], and if you thought she was good in that film, wait till you see her in this one.. i mean, really, this has to be one of the finest breakthrough performances in a long, long time.. she's just.. luminous. not since Audrey Tautou in [b]Amélie[/b] has a character been so instantly lovable. even better is that McAdams handles every aspect of her character perfectly, pulling off the romance, humor and most importantly the drama with ease. for me, this is the performance of the year so far. i'm in love.

the rest of the cast are superb too, although Ryan Gosling probably has the trickiest part since he's pretty much always acting with McAdams, and she pretty much automatically becomes the focus. he does a very fine job, though, and he and McAdams certainly has the right chemistry together. James Garner and Gena Rowlands might not have the roles of a lifetime, but as veteran actors with decades of experience they just make it look so easy and so believable. it's certainly the best performances by them in recent times. Joan Allen and Sam Shepard are given even less to work with, but they make the most of it and Allen actually manages to get in a few great scenes of her own in the little screen time she has.

the film's technical aspects are also worth noting, like the beautiful cinematography by Robert Fraisse, who captures the time, the place and the people just splendidly. it's not flashy cinematography, but it's solid craftsmanship for sure. that could also be said of the film's art direction and costume design, both of which do their job more than well, even if there might not be as many stunning locations and costumes as there are in other similar period films. also worth noting is the music, both the lovely little score by Aroon Zigman and the great selection of songs from the era. all those elements put together and you have a very nice-looking film for sure.

you know, i wasn't even planning on going to see [b]The Notebook[/b] in theaters. it's not really the type of film i see in the theaters, but i found a free pass about to expire, and of the films that were playing, it seemed like the best bet considering what a word of mouth box office success it has been in North America. thankfully, the people were right and the critics wrong on this one. [b]The Notebook[/b] exceeded my expectations and then some, and it even had me shedding more than a few tears at times as well. considering how rarely that happens, i'd say that tears are about the best recommendation i can give any film.

****½ stars out of five.

Before Sunset
½

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i have to say, after all the acclaim and praise [b]Before Sunset[/b] has gotten, it did disappoint me, if only ever so slightly. every ingredient from the first film is there: the snappy, intelligent dialogue, delivered by the very capable Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke.. the locations and scenery, and Richard Linklater behind the wheel.. yet, it just didn't do it for me the way [b]Before Sunrise[/b] does. i didn't flat-out love [b]Before Sunrise[/b] the first time i saw it though, so i suspect that [b]Before Sunset[/b] will grown on me with a few more viewings.

the one major problem with the film is that these characters are simply not the optimistic youth they once were. it's inevitable of course and completely realistic as the plot takes place nine years later and they've grown up considerably, but i have to say in parts, [b]Before Sunset[/b] actually depressed me. there's plenty of talk about their failed loves and lives, about how they used to be so optimistic and now it's all different.. i guess it's an age thing (me still being in my mid-20's, more in tune with the characters as they were in the first film) but it made me feel like.. is that what i have to look forward to? the first film was so completely and utterly romantic, optimistic and warm, and even if this film isn't a complete downer of a film or anything, i couldn't help but feel a bit depressed by it at times. it's not as romantic as the first film was, and even the characters don't seem to have the same spark they once had.. it's realistic, i guess, but as a huge huge fan of the first film.. this is kind of a downer by comparison. it's certainly not a huge film-wrecking problem though, but i definitely feel (at the moment anyway) that the first film is the superior one.

the actors are ever so great though.. Delpy and Hawke jump right back into their parts, and Delpy especially shines here. of the two films, and the four performances in between them, her Celine in this film is certainly the strongest acting amongst them. she's funny, intelligent, vulnerable and completely realistic and believable. Hawke does a fine job too, of course, but i do feel that Delpy is the main shining light in this film. as for the writing, this time Linklater wrote it with the two actors, but you can clearly sense that it's a Linklater script just in how things are said and the intelligence of them. he's no David Mamet of dialogue, but he's definitely on his way to establishing a very distinct style of his own.

i know i've sounded mostly negative about the film in this review, but i'm just focusing on the minor problems i did have with it.. the few problems i have with it do drop the grade down from what [b]Before Sunrise[/b] got, but it's still a terrific film and certainly one of the very best so far this year (even if it didn't sound like that in most of my review).

****½ stars out of five.

Shrek 2
Shrek 2(2004)

the good news is that [b]Shrek 2[/b] is just as funny and clever as it's predecessor. it had me laughing more often than not, and it's certainly wondrous to look at. the voice cast all do a good job (except for Julie Christie and Rupert Everett who are wasted), and Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots is a welcome addition. [b]Shrek 2[/b] suffers from the same fatal flaws as the first film though, and that's the overabundance of pop culture references. the references are funny now, as they are current, but who'll ever find that Justin Timberlake poster, or Joan Rivers, funny in 25 years? the problem is that the film is set in a timeless period, yet it features references to our current time period, and that's where it really doesn't mix. i wouldn't have any problem with it if the story had been set in present day, but as it is now, it's just a bad, terrible mix. i feel that [b]Shrek[/b] and [b]Shrek 2[/b] really could've been timeless animation classics had they only skipped the pop culture crap. the original [b]Shrek[/b] already feels terribly dated in parts, and i suspect [b]Shrek 2[/b] will feel the same eventually. whereas Pixar's films so far all will be just as good in 25 years and beyond as they are now, [b]Shrek[/b] and [b]Shrek 2[/b] will barely survive a few years. the end result is that no matter how gloriously animated and funny these films are, they just feel cheaper and more slight than their Pixar counterparts. it's like comparing Rolex to Rollex.

but i'm coming off as being very negative here (well i am, about some things). i do enjoy both films a great deal, in spite of their flaws. the animation is, as i've said, just wondrous to look at and Dreamworks has certainly picked good actors and actresses to provide the voices. Eddie Murphy provides us with plenty of laugh at, and here in the sequel he's got Antonio Banderas alongside him to provide just as many laughs. Cameron Diaz feels like she's used better in this film, and John Cleese does a great job as the king. Julie Christie and Rupert Everett feel completely wasted in their respective roles, but i suspect they just wanted to be in it so badly that they were willing to take any part no matter how small.

[b]Shrek 2[/b] is a very enjoyable time at the movies, and it really is too bad they can't keep the gazillion pop culture references out of it. had they not been there, this (and the original) would be animation classics and it's a real shame that they had to ruin that potential like this.

**** stars out of five.

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

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[size=4][font=Georgia]"[/font][i][font=Georgia]How happy is the blameless vestal's lot
The world forgetting, by the world forgot
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind
Each prayer accepted, and each wish resigned.[/font][/i][font=Georgia]"[/font][/size]
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what more can be written about [b]Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind[/b] that hasn't already been written? the arguably most acclaimed film lives up to it's reputation, and even exceeds them. Charlie Kaufman yet again takes us on a wild, mind-bending trip and this time, he brings more heart into it than he has in any of his previous screenplays and that's probably why [b]Eternal Sunshine[/b] is his best screenplay and film so far.

Kaufman's got a lot of help in creating such a success though, with the highly talented former music video director Michel Gondry at the helm and Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet doing career-peaking work. Gondry, who previously directed the so-so mixed bag [b]Human Nature[/b] (also written by Kaufman), does much better here and his background in music videos probably helps a lot when it comes to bringing the screenplays of Charlie Kaufman to screen. finally he shows us the full potential on display but not fully used in [b]Human Nature[/b], and the result is a dazzling, fun, moving and wholly unique film. it does certainly help that both Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet give their performances of a lifetime too.. okay, maybe that's a strong statement to make, but it's certainly some of the very best they've ever done, and they're backed up by a talented, albeit not fully used, supporting cast. seeing Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo and Elijah Wood in such small parts does demonstrate the drawing power of a Kaufman script though.. had it been by any other, i really don't think they would've taken such small parts. they, along with steady supporting player Tom Wilkinson, all do fine work with what they are given, but it's clearly Carrey and Winslet's show.

it's not just the writing, directing and acting that deserves praise in this film though.. much of it should also go to Ellen Kuras, the cinematographer, who shoots some of the most memorable shots, scenes and sequences of the year in this film. it may not be an overly flashy film, but the work is fantastic and the images lasting. also worth singling out are the visual effects, which i just loved. i'm personally growing tired of every blockbuster using CGI to death, and it's just so refreshing to see someone use visual effects in a different, more subtle way. it never takes center stage in this film, it merely enhances the experience and that's how it should be. last, but not the least, i'd also like to single out Jon Brion's fun, unusual score of this film. he always does great work, and this film is no different.

[b]Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind[/b] is certainly the most unique experience of the year in a movie theater, and will most certainly be the one to beat at the end of the year, at least in my book. it's the best work (ever) of pretty much everyone involved, and without a doubt the best film of the year so far.

***** stars out of five.

Dead Like Me - The Complete First Season
½

i don't watch a lot of tv, and i only really follow a handful of shows at best, like [b]The West Wing[/b] (whoever knew politics could be this interesting and fun?), [b]The Simpsons[/b] (although it's mostly reruns over here), [b]Alias[/b], [b]CSI[/b] (on occasion) and more recently [b]Las Vegas[/b] with the great James Caan. to be honest, i don't find many shows interesting enough to want to sit my ass down in front of the tube once a week.

i'll happily do it for my new favorite show though, [b]Dead Like Me[/b]. if you've never seen it, it's a dark fantasy comedy/drama about a young girl who gets hit in the head by a toilet seat from a defunct space station (!). instead of moving on into the afterlife, she has to become a grim reaper and help others who are about to die and make their transition into the afterlife easier and less painful. to top it off, being a grim reaper doesn't pay anything, so she's also stuck in a cubicle with a dead-end desk job. as the tagline for the shows puts it, it's about life after life. and i gotta say, the life after life is pretty funny. the cast is excellent (especially Ellen Muth, who plays the main character), the show is funny and so far i'm absolutely loving it (i've only seen like 4 episodes of season 1 so far). it seems to often be compared (infavorably) to [b]Six Feet Under[/b], but personally i find [b]Dead Like Me[/b] the better show. it doesn't have as much drama as [b]Six Feet Under[/b] (of which i only saw half the pilot episode of before i turned it off) does, but i think that's a good thing. also, being on cable, they're allowed to "drop the F-bomb" (as it is so popularly called) every now and then and that's always welcome since it actually makes it seem more realistic.

oddly enough, i never ever see or hear anyone talk about [b]Dead Like Me[/b] though (hence why i'm plugging here in my journal now) and that's just too bad since it's a very good and definitely funny show. maybe that it airs on Showtime in the US is why not that many have been able to see it. season 1 is out on DVD now in North America though so if you can, rent it. it comes highly recommend from me.

I, Robot
I, Robot(2004)

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when i first heard of [b]I, Robot[/b] being in production i got very excited since i'm a sucker for anything that involves science fiction. as trailers came out earlier this year, i really was disappointed in what was shown, as they made it seem like any other Will Smith action vehicle. granted, [b]I, Robot[/b] is still very much a Will Smith action vehicle, but it's definitely a better movie than the trailers made it out to be.

this being an effects-heavy film, it's probably wisest to discuss that part first.. and the effects range from fantastic to so-so, although it's never truly bad. the robots themselves, especially the NS-5 robot (the new model that goes bonkers) is really well done and even if it's no Gollum, it's certainly very believable. the only real problem i had with them was that they were a bit too agile (think monkeys) but one can't fault the effects themselves for that. as for the rest, we're given skyline shots of Chicago anno 2035 and that looks good too, even if it's nothing spectacular.. as for the so-so effects.. there's a car chase sequence, and well.. it's just a bit too much effects in that sequence and it didn't look as good as it could've.

as for the acting.. Will Smith is at home with his character.. the character isn't completely flat, he's got some secrets and such but there's not particularly much in terms of character development and that goes for the rest of the characters too. no one embarrasses themselves, but the acting is nothing to write home about (even though i'm doing that right now, sorta). Bridget Moynahan is fully adequate as the brainy scientist/love interest, and Alan Tudyk, who plays Sonny the (main) robot does a very good job acting his part in a blue motion capture suit. he provides both the voice, facial expressions and movement.. again, it's not a Gollum performance but it was certainly one of the best aspects of the film. it's only too bad they didn't make better use of James Cromwell, who plays the inventor of the robots that dies early in the film (he's only seen as a hologram).

[b]I, Robot[/b] surely is no [b]Minority Report[/b], but for a Will Smith summer blockbuster, it's certainly one of the better in his filmography. the effects are excellent for the most part, and the whole murder mystery plot is appealing. i personally love the sci-fi stuff, so i'd say if you do to, chances are greater you'll enjoy it. just don't go in thinking it'll be anything deeper though. the film says it best in the end credits.. "[i]inspired[/i] by Isaac Asimov's novel".

**** stars out of five (just barely though).

Open Range
Open Range(2003)

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i think i should start this review by saying that i'm not and never have been a particularly big fan of Kevin Costner, neither behind or in front of the camera. even in the great films he's been in (like [b]JFK[/b]) he's often felt like the weakest link. that being said, [b]Open Range[/b] is his finest directorial effort so far (yes, besting the Oscar Best Picture winner [b]Dances with Wolves[/b]), and thankfully here he lets the wonderful Robert Duvall take reigns and doesn't turn this into a star vehicle for himself, like he very well could've had he wanted.

the story revolves around a group of "freerangers", i.e. cattlers not bound to a particular area of land. in typical western fashion, they run into trouble in a town where the law is crooked and run by a villainous ranch owner. when it gets ugly, they feel obliged to seek out justice for themselves. yes, it's very much a classic western story, and in all honesty, i don't mind at all, at least not when it's as well-made as this film. and speaking of well-made.. it sure is that. it's not as filled with extravagant locations (for the most part), but it's all nicely made in it's simplicity. also, major kudos have to go to the cinematographer James Muro (and whoever found all the locations) for capturing so many gorgeous landscapes. just fantastic work, really. seeing those vistas almost make me wish i was out there on a horse myself, camping out under the stars. considering i'm not a horseback riding kind of person, that's saying a lot!

as i said earlier, the film is headlined by Robert Duvall and Costner himself, as two old friends, men who've done bad things in the past but are still honorable. Duvall is just great here. he deserved an Oscar nomination, plain and simple. even Costner is good here, probably because he's surrounded by so much talent but also because his character isn't all that complicated to begin with. he can certainly play a gruff cowboy, even if Duvall outshines him in that department. also, there's a love story subplot, and the love interest is played by Annette Bening who also does a good job as a strong woman living under tough conditions. she doesn't turn into some gun-slinging cowgirl or anything, but at least her character isn't portrayed as a weak victim-type of woman. also rounding out the cast are Michael Jeter (in his final film, RIP), Diego Luna as a young freeranger and Michael Gambon as the main villain. Duvall is the only award-worthy performance, but they all do good work.

[b]Open Range[/b] is quite possibly the best western from the past ten years, surely the best one since 1993's [b]Tombstone[/b]. granted, there obviously hasn't been that many westerns made in those ten years, and even fewer quality ones, but it's nice to see that there can still be great westerns made today, even if it's such a minor genre nowadays. if you enjoy westerns (or just a good movie), [b]Open Range[/b] is certainly worthy of your time and attention.

a strong **** stars out of five (almost ****½).

Coffee and Cigarettes
½

it's not really surprising that a film made up of segments completely unrelated to each other is an uneven one, and [b]Coffee and Cigarettes[/b] most certainly is an uneven film. the positives are more than the negatives in the end, so i'm giving it a thumbs up but i would think it probably works much better on DVD where you could just skip a segment or two if you don't like them and just watch the segments you do like.

one thing i find interesting about this film is how everyone seems to have their own favorites.. it's a great display how people's taste can be so different. a segment i found uninteresting, or disappointing might be awesome to someone else. for me, i'd say my favorite segment was the one with Cate Blanchett, where she's playing a version of herself AND an imaginary relative.. the discussion veers mainly into the whole movie star thing, and i just thought it was delightful, especially since she's acting against herself. i also found it very refreshing to hear her speak in her native tongue, something i can't even remember having heard before in a film. anyway, that was my favorite, followed by the Alfred Molina/Steve Coogan segment which was very funny (loved how they drank tea instead of coffee) and in third the one with Bill Murray and the RZA/GZA guys, with Murray being such a big wacky goofball. as for the others, they pretty much ranged from good to okay to lacking.. i can't say i hated any of them, but some were certainly not that good.. worst one has to be the one with the White Stripes kids since they can't act plus their whole segment is just plain stupid, really. lastly i'd like to praise the nice black & white cinematography.. nothing flashy, but nicely shot. i especially enjoyed those overhead shots put in there every now and then.

so do i recommend [b]Coffee and Cigarettes[/b]? i guess i do, but with some reservations.. if you like Jim Jarmusch and his films you'll want to see it of course, also check it out if you enjoy films that don't really follow a plot or story (which i do). i'd probably recommend waiting for the DVD though (which comes out September 21st in North America) so you can skip the segments that don't interest you.

***½ stars out of five.

Die Hard
Die Hard(1988)

[center][img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/die-hard.jpg[/img]
[/center]

for me, [b]Die Hard[/b] is the ultimate action film. it was surely not the first modern action film, but you can just feel how every film since was shaped by it. it certainly set the standard for the modern blockbuster action film, and it's still the top dog if you ask me. it has been one of my favorite films for as long as i can remember, even when i was younger and wasn't a full-blooded movie geek like i am now.. and even as my taste in film has progressed and has become more refined, it remains a favorite and i suspect it'll always be.

the story is simple.. a highrise in Los Angeles is taken over by terrorists as they celebrate christmas, and one man on a visit to his estranged wife ends up having to fight back from the inside.. and that man is John McClane, who also happens to be a New York police officer. mayhem ensues. that the story as relatively simple as it is probably is a strength since it doesn't overly complicate things, and just keep it a lean, mean action movie machine. it's not balls to the walls action either, there's plenty of humor ("now i know what a tv-dinner feels like") and some drama too.. but it is of course primarily an action film, and what an action film it is! made in the time before CGI, the action is just fantastic and there are so many classic scenes. it is just a little over 15 years old by now, yet it still holds up wonderfully AND it's not affected much at all by having made in the 80's either, unlike many (if not most) films from that decade. the cinematography (wonderfully shot by Jan de Bont), editing, art direction, visual effects, etc. are all absolutely top notch for a film of this caliber. it got four Oscar nominations for it's technical achievements and very deservedly so.

as for the acting, Bruce Willis as John McClane has always been a favorite action hero of mine.. he was always the more realistic anti-hero action hero to the ones Schwarzenegger and Stallone played and i always preferred Willis. he was the everyday man hero, and McClane is obviously his trademark role that he pulls off wonderfully.. comically, dramatically and physically. most people most likely think of Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber when they think of [b]Die Hard[/b] and the acting though.. it is unlikely that the film had been as good had he not been in it and created this classic villain. he's not the most original villain ever, but Rickman plays him perfectly and memorably. the rest of the cast all do fine work too (well, for an action film) but it's really all about Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman in my book, as i would imagine it is for just about everyone else too.

the [b]Die Hard[/b] trilogy is definitely one of my favorite trilogies.. i'd probably only rank the [b]Indiana Jones[/b] trilogy higher than the [b]Die Hard[/b] one in fact. the sequels are obviously not as good or as classic as the first film, but i think they are both top notch action films (yes, [b]Die Hard 2: Die Harder[/b] too!). as for [b]Die Hard[/b], it remains the film to be beat, and in all honesty, i don't see any action film beating it anytime soon, especially since the glory days of action films seem to be long gone by now.

***** stars out of five.

Before Sunrise

[center][img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/before-sunrise.jpg[/img]
[/center]

as i'm sitting here anxiously and impatiently waiting the sequel to this film (the just released [b]Before Sunset[/b]), i naturally got the urge to revisit and rewatch the film that came before it, [b]Before Sunrise[/b], which is one of my favorite romantic films of the 90's and of all time, just to try and quench my thirst for the sequel. i'm not quite sure it worked out the way i had hoped since i'm even more anxious to see [b]Before Sunset[/b] now, but it's always nice to revisit a film you love that you haven't seen in a while.

[b]Before Sunrise[/b] is one of the simplest contructed films there are, yet there's so much to be found in it.. i've never seen any other film come close to it (although i guess/hope [b]Before Sunset[/b] will for obvious reasons). it's just an absolute delight, and like i said, unlike any other film about love that i have yet to see.. it puts these two people, strangers, together, barely knowing each other but clearly clicking and we get to follow them around their one night together, walking the streets of Vienna, discussing relationships, love, expectations on life and themselves, growing up and just about anything else you can think of.. and it's all done in such a wonderful, naturalistic, unforced way. granted, i haven't met particularly many people with such deep thoughts as these two, but they and their thoughts certainly don't feel unrealistic either.. i guess most of us just rarely ever chose to talk about the deeper things? in any case, what amazes me about this film is that it's so simplistic in how it's done, yet it's so full of so many wonderful thoughts and ideas. it was rare then and it still is to find a film like this.. it truly is a gem. everytime i see it, it's like i fall in love with it all over again since i'd forgotten how much i really loved it the last time i saw it..

i really could go on and on about how wonderful i think this film is, but it's late so i'll spare you, at least for now.. just let me finish by say that this really is a film you have to see, it's an absolute must-see, and it comes with my highest recommendation.

***** stars out of five.

Spider-Man 2
Spider-Man 2(2004)

critics were quick to call [b]Spider-Man 2[/b] the greatest comic book movie ever, but i'm afraid i'm just going to have to disagree. [b]X-Men 2[/b] still holds that title for me, and in all honesty, i find the first [b]X-Men[/b] movie superior to [b]Spider-Man 2[/b] as well. i guess the X-Men universe just does it for me more than Spider-Man's does. however, that is not to say that [b]Spider-Man 2[/b] is a bad movie, because it's not at all, not even close.

Spidey still looks fake though, just as he did in the first one, and that does bother me. the visual effects are far better in this sequel, but i can't help but feel like he looks all made of rubber when he's swinging from building to building.. to me, it's a perfect example of how visual effects still have a very long way to go before they are 100% believable (at least when it comes to human animation). of course, a man swinging from building to building could never ever be completely believable since the act itself is unbelievable, but you know what i mean. on the upside, there's Doc Ock and if Spider-Man looked fake, he looks much better in CGI form, and i definitely bought into those effects more than i did for Spider-Man's. there are still flaws, of course.. but on the whole, Doc Ock is very nicely done.

as for the acting.. what's there to say? to be honest, there isn't one memorable performance in the film, but none of them are bad either. Tobey Maguire fits Peter Parker pretty well, and so does Alfred Molina who adds great intelligence and warmth to his character (well, in the beginning at least). it's always appreciated when there's a capable actor in a film like this, to add depth and believability. as Mary Jane we again have Kirsten Dunst, and she does fine too, even though i know she can do better than this. oh, and i have to mention J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson.. he's even better (and funnier) here than he was in the first one.. and he is quite memorable so maybe there was one memorable performance in this film after all.

lastly, speaking of the story.. it advances the Spider-Man saga nicely as new adversaries are made and lost, secrets are revealed and just the general "everything" of the universe expands and moves forward. it definitely makes you feel like it's closely tied in with the whole saga, as well as having an interesting and exciting story of it's own to tell. it's almost shocking to see that it's the Oscar-nominated writer of films like [b]Paper Moon[/b] and [b]Ordinary People[/b], Alvin Sargent, that wrote this.. don't get me wrong, it's a nicely written story and good dialogue, it's just such a vastly different thing all together. i don't think he'll be getting another nomination with this one though.

i'll admit that i'm not the ideal person to see a comic book movie. maybe some of the touches Sam Raimi & Co put into this film are things comic book people get and appreciate that i don't.. if you ask me, [b]Spider-Man 2[/b] is definitely flawed, and far from perfect but at the same time, at over 2 hours i never looked at my watch once and the film moved along at a swift pace. there wasn't a dull moment in it, but it's not wall-to-wall action either. there are thankfully plenty of things in it to give depth to it's characters and story, and that makes this one of the better comic book adaptations out there, even if it's not the best one ever.

**** stars out of five.

The Ladykillers
½

[center][img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/ladykillers.jpg[/img]
[size=1]redeeming qualities × 3: Hanks, Hall and the art direction.
[/size][/center]
[size=1]
[/size]even though i'm giving both versions of [b]The Ladykillers[/b] a thumbs up and a positive rating, i have to say both films turned out to be disappointments with the original 1955 version surprising me by being far weaker than i expected given it's reputation and very high rating on IMDb. i already knew that the recent Coen remake wasn't going to be a top-notch film so my hopes for it weren't as high as they usually are for Coen films, but i really expected more out of the original and truth be told, i think i prefer the remake in just about every single way. neither film is great though, merely good.

granted, that i just saw the remake less than a week ago might've affected my appreciation of the original but i really don't think i would've thought any different had i seen them in reverse order. the Coen's version outdoes the original in just about every way.. the little old lady is far funnier and memorable in the remake, and Tom Hanks' character is far more eccentric and funny than Alec Guiness' character is.. in fact, the whole remake is much funnier than the original, the latter which barely got a single laugh out of me, despite the presence of the brilliant Peter Sellers. the cinematography, art direction and setting are also much better in the remake, and i really can't think of anything that i found superior in the original, to be honest. even the heist element was more interesting in the remake.

the remake is definitely a disappointment by Coen standards though, and certainly their weakest effort since [b]The Hudsucker Proxy[/b].. on a universal scale it's still a good movie with several redeeming qualities (Irma P. Hall, Hanks, cinematography and art direction in particular) but as a huge fan of the Coens, i've come to expect more from them than your usual filmmakers.. still, they managed to make a better film out of the concept than the original did, so it makes me feel a bit better now having seen the original since it was far from a masterpiece too. they both get the same rating, but let's just say if i had to pick which one i'll see again, i'd go with the Coen version without a doubt.

***½ stars out of five (for both films).

The Ladykillers
½

[center][img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/ladykillers.jpg[/img]
[size=1]redeeming qualities × 3: Hanks, Hall and the art direction.
[/size][/center]
[size=1]
[/size]even though i'm giving both versions of [b]The Ladykillers[/b] a thumbs up and a positive rating, i have to say both films turned out to be disappointments with the original 1955 version surprising me by being far weaker than i expected given it's reputation and very high rating on IMDb. i already knew that the recent Coen remake wasn't going to be a top-notch film so my hopes for it weren't as high as they usually are for Coen films, but i really expected more out of the original and truth be told, i think i prefer the remake in just about every single way. neither film is great though, merely good.

granted, that i just saw the remake less than a week ago might've affected my appreciation of the original but i really don't think i would've thought any different had i seen them in reverse order. the Coen's version outdoes the original in just about every way.. the little old lady is far funnier and memorable in the remake, and Tom Hanks' character is far more eccentric and funny than Alec Guiness' character is.. in fact, the whole remake is much funnier than the original, the latter which barely got a single laugh out of me, despite the presence of the brilliant Peter Sellers. the cinematography, art direction and setting are also much better in the remake, and i really can't think of anything that i found superior in the original, to be honest. even the heist element was more interesting in the remake.

the remake is definitely a disappointment by Coen standards though, and certainly their weakest effort since [b]The Hudsucker Proxy[/b].. on a universal scale it's still a good movie with several redeeming qualities (Irma P. Hall, Hanks, cinematography and art direction in particular) but as a huge fan of the Coens, i've come to expect more from them than your usual filmmakers.. still, they managed to make a better film out of the concept than the original did, so it makes me feel a bit better now having seen the original since it was far from a masterpiece too. they both get the same rating, but let's just say if i had to pick which one i'll see again, i'd go with the Coen version without a doubt.

***½ stars out of five (for both films).

The Corporation

[left] [center][url="http://www.unbrandamerica.org/unbrandamerica.html"][img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/corporateflag.jpg[/img][/url]
[/center]

no offense to Michael Moore or [b]Fahrenheit 9/11[/b] but this is the best and most important documentary you'll see all year and quite possibly ever. i haven't even seen [b]Fahrenheit 9/11[/b] yet, but i can't imagine it topping [b]The Corporation[/b], nor can i imagine any other documentary doing so. [b]The Corporation[/b] is an eye opener in the biggest of ways, and a film that every single living human being on this planet needs to see. i knew some of the things it talks about beforehand, so i wasn't completely out of the loop but many of the things i learned over the course of [b]The Corporation[/b]'s lengthy presentation are certainly things i appreciate having gotten to know, and things i want everyone else to know too. it may not have the personal touch, charm and wit of Michael Moore's films, but it makes up for it in spades with it's enormous wealth of intelligence and information. it is the by far best film of 2004 so far, and definitely a film you do not want to miss.

***** stars out of five.
[/left]

Lake Placid
Lake Placid(1999)
½

my only criteria for this is that these all have a rating of 6.0 or under on IMDb, which would certainly constitute as at least a poor rating. i haven't exactly heard many others speak very positively about these films either, so here are a few "bad" films that i like.
[indent] [left][i][size=5][font=Georgia]Twister[/font][/size][/i]
[/left]
[/indent] this one isn't even a "so bad it's good" film for me. yes, as i've said several times before, i have a great love for disaster films and i just love [b]Twister[/b]. it offers a mindless effects extravaganza for nearly 2 hours and it does it well, if you ask me. it's got a great cast (Bill Paxton, Helen Hunt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lois Smith) but of course they all take the back seat for the effects.. it's got a 5.9 rating on IMDb but personally, i'd rank it much higher.. and i have to say i genuine like this film, even if it's probably very implausible. so what? it's a movie, and it offers up some terrific thrills and excellent visual effects.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Peacemaker[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] here's another one i genuinely like.. an early George Clooney film he made just as he was about to go from television to film.. he teams up with Nicole Kidman, and is helmed by a woman (!) here and this has to be one of my favorite action films in the past 10 years. i've always loved when films actually go to the trouble of actually shooting in the locations they take place, which they did here. the same was done with [b]The Bourne Identity[/b] and [b]Ronin[/b], and i appreciate that since too many films these days just take place in bland, non-descript places. anyway, the action is solid, the plot is believable and so is Clooney as the hero.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Lake Placid[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] now this is a "so bad it's funny" movie, although i think the filmmakers didn't actually aim to make this something other than the campy horror comedy that it is. considering how absurd and outrageous some of the stuff in this film is, you gotta understand that it was done intentionally, so it's not really unintentionally funny for the most part. it's been quite a long time since i last saw it, but i mean, come on, that kooky lady who can't stop cursing (played by Betty White of [b]The Golden Girls[/b]) leading a cow to the water, as a sacrifice to the monster in the lake? that's just so the material of a camp classic.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Barbarella[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] ah.. an oldie camp classic! why this has such a low rating, i don't know.. people must take to them the campy nature of this film, and if they do they wouldn't rate it so low since it's meant to be bad in a funny kind of way. Jane Fonda stripping in zero gravity over the opening credits ought to be a good enough indicator.. and that orgasmatron (or what it was called) that played a woman and gave her orgasms until she died? i crack up just thinking about how brilliantly campy it is. i for one enjoy it a whole lot, and i'm impatiently waiting for to get the Special Edition DVD treatment it so truly deserves as one of the greatest camp classics ever made. Drew Barrymore even wants to remake it, ya know!
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Hollywood Homicide[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] okay, so pretty much everyone on this planet but me HATED this film with a passion, but if you ask me it feels like people misunderstood that it was a spoof and intentionally silly.. so okay, it's not really that good of a film, but i'll be damned if it didn't make me laugh a lot more than i expected it to do, so chalk this one down as a guilty pleasure. the shot of an aging Harrison Ford chasing bad guys on a girl's little teeny tiny pink bike is an image that will live on for all eternity in the hearts and souls of mankind. some day, mark my words, people will acknowledge how campy, dumb and fun this film really is. you just watch and see!

yes, you may make fun of my taste in film now. ;)

The Peacemaker
½

my only criteria for this is that these all have a rating of 6.0 or under on IMDb, which would certainly constitute as at least a poor rating. i haven't exactly heard many others speak very positively about these films either, so here are a few "bad" films that i like.
[indent] [left][i][size=5][font=Georgia]Twister[/font][/size][/i]
[/left]
[/indent] this one isn't even a "so bad it's good" film for me. yes, as i've said several times before, i have a great love for disaster films and i just love [b]Twister[/b]. it offers a mindless effects extravaganza for nearly 2 hours and it does it well, if you ask me. it's got a great cast (Bill Paxton, Helen Hunt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lois Smith) but of course they all take the back seat for the effects.. it's got a 5.9 rating on IMDb but personally, i'd rank it much higher.. and i have to say i genuine like this film, even if it's probably very implausible. so what? it's a movie, and it offers up some terrific thrills and excellent visual effects.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Peacemaker[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] here's another one i genuinely like.. an early George Clooney film he made just as he was about to go from television to film.. he teams up with Nicole Kidman, and is helmed by a woman (!) here and this has to be one of my favorite action films in the past 10 years. i've always loved when films actually go to the trouble of actually shooting in the locations they take place, which they did here. the same was done with [b]The Bourne Identity[/b] and [b]Ronin[/b], and i appreciate that since too many films these days just take place in bland, non-descript places. anyway, the action is solid, the plot is believable and so is Clooney as the hero.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Lake Placid[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] now this is a "so bad it's funny" movie, although i think the filmmakers didn't actually aim to make this something other than the campy horror comedy that it is. considering how absurd and outrageous some of the stuff in this film is, you gotta understand that it was done intentionally, so it's not really unintentionally funny for the most part. it's been quite a long time since i last saw it, but i mean, come on, that kooky lady who can't stop cursing (played by Betty White of [b]The Golden Girls[/b]) leading a cow to the water, as a sacrifice to the monster in the lake? that's just so the material of a camp classic.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Barbarella[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] ah.. an oldie camp classic! why this has such a low rating, i don't know.. people must take to them the campy nature of this film, and if they do they wouldn't rate it so low since it's meant to be bad in a funny kind of way. Jane Fonda stripping in zero gravity over the opening credits ought to be a good enough indicator.. and that orgasmatron (or what it was called) that played a woman and gave her orgasms until she died? i crack up just thinking about how brilliantly campy it is. i for one enjoy it a whole lot, and i'm impatiently waiting for to get the Special Edition DVD treatment it so truly deserves as one of the greatest camp classics ever made. Drew Barrymore even wants to remake it, ya know!
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Hollywood Homicide[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] okay, so pretty much everyone on this planet but me HATED this film with a passion, but if you ask me it feels like people misunderstood that it was a spoof and intentionally silly.. so okay, it's not really that good of a film, but i'll be damned if it didn't make me laugh a lot more than i expected it to do, so chalk this one down as a guilty pleasure. the shot of an aging Harrison Ford chasing bad guys on a girl's little teeny tiny pink bike is an image that will live on for all eternity in the hearts and souls of mankind. some day, mark my words, people will acknowledge how campy, dumb and fun this film really is. you just watch and see!

yes, you may make fun of my taste in film now. ;)

Barbarella
Barbarella(1968)

my only criteria for this is that these all have a rating of 6.0 or under on IMDb, which would certainly constitute as at least a poor rating. i haven't exactly heard many others speak very positively about these films either, so here are a few "bad" films that i like.
[indent] [left][i][size=5][font=Georgia]Twister[/font][/size][/i]
[/left]
[/indent] this one isn't even a "so bad it's good" film for me. yes, as i've said several times before, i have a great love for disaster films and i just love [b]Twister[/b]. it offers a mindless effects extravaganza for nearly 2 hours and it does it well, if you ask me. it's got a great cast (Bill Paxton, Helen Hunt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lois Smith) but of course they all take the back seat for the effects.. it's got a 5.9 rating on IMDb but personally, i'd rank it much higher.. and i have to say i genuine like this film, even if it's probably very implausible. so what? it's a movie, and it offers up some terrific thrills and excellent visual effects.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Peacemaker[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] here's another one i genuinely like.. an early George Clooney film he made just as he was about to go from television to film.. he teams up with Nicole Kidman, and is helmed by a woman (!) here and this has to be one of my favorite action films in the past 10 years. i've always loved when films actually go to the trouble of actually shooting in the locations they take place, which they did here. the same was done with [b]The Bourne Identity[/b] and [b]Ronin[/b], and i appreciate that since too many films these days just take place in bland, non-descript places. anyway, the action is solid, the plot is believable and so is Clooney as the hero.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Lake Placid[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] now this is a "so bad it's funny" movie, although i think the filmmakers didn't actually aim to make this something other than the campy horror comedy that it is. considering how absurd and outrageous some of the stuff in this film is, you gotta understand that it was done intentionally, so it's not really unintentionally funny for the most part. it's been quite a long time since i last saw it, but i mean, come on, that kooky lady who can't stop cursing (played by Betty White of [b]The Golden Girls[/b]) leading a cow to the water, as a sacrifice to the monster in the lake? that's just so the material of a camp classic.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Barbarella[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] ah.. an oldie camp classic! why this has such a low rating, i don't know.. people must take to them the campy nature of this film, and if they do they wouldn't rate it so low since it's meant to be bad in a funny kind of way. Jane Fonda stripping in zero gravity over the opening credits ought to be a good enough indicator.. and that orgasmatron (or what it was called) that played a woman and gave her orgasms until she died? i crack up just thinking about how brilliantly campy it is. i for one enjoy it a whole lot, and i'm impatiently waiting for to get the Special Edition DVD treatment it so truly deserves as one of the greatest camp classics ever made. Drew Barrymore even wants to remake it, ya know!
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Hollywood Homicide[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] okay, so pretty much everyone on this planet but me HATED this film with a passion, but if you ask me it feels like people misunderstood that it was a spoof and intentionally silly.. so okay, it's not really that good of a film, but i'll be damned if it didn't make me laugh a lot more than i expected it to do, so chalk this one down as a guilty pleasure. the shot of an aging Harrison Ford chasing bad guys on a girl's little teeny tiny pink bike is an image that will live on for all eternity in the hearts and souls of mankind. some day, mark my words, people will acknowledge how campy, dumb and fun this film really is. you just watch and see!

yes, you may make fun of my taste in film now. ;)

Twister
Twister(1996)
½

my only criteria for this is that these all have a rating of 6.0 or under on IMDb, which would certainly constitute as at least a poor rating. i haven't exactly heard many others speak very positively about these films either, so here are a few "bad" films that i like.
[indent] [left][i][size=5][font=Georgia]Twister[/font][/size][/i]
[/left]
[/indent] this one isn't even a "so bad it's good" film for me. yes, as i've said several times before, i have a great love for disaster films and i just love [b]Twister[/b]. it offers a mindless effects extravaganza for nearly 2 hours and it does it well, if you ask me. it's got a great cast (Bill Paxton, Helen Hunt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lois Smith) but of course they all take the back seat for the effects.. it's got a 5.9 rating on IMDb but personally, i'd rank it much higher.. and i have to say i genuine like this film, even if it's probably very implausible. so what? it's a movie, and it offers up some terrific thrills and excellent visual effects.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Peacemaker[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] here's another one i genuinely like.. an early George Clooney film he made just as he was about to go from television to film.. he teams up with Nicole Kidman, and is helmed by a woman (!) here and this has to be one of my favorite action films in the past 10 years. i've always loved when films actually go to the trouble of actually shooting in the locations they take place, which they did here. the same was done with [b]The Bourne Identity[/b] and [b]Ronin[/b], and i appreciate that since too many films these days just take place in bland, non-descript places. anyway, the action is solid, the plot is believable and so is Clooney as the hero.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Lake Placid[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] now this is a "so bad it's funny" movie, although i think the filmmakers didn't actually aim to make this something other than the campy horror comedy that it is. considering how absurd and outrageous some of the stuff in this film is, you gotta understand that it was done intentionally, so it's not really unintentionally funny for the most part. it's been quite a long time since i last saw it, but i mean, come on, that kooky lady who can't stop cursing (played by Betty White of [b]The Golden Girls[/b]) leading a cow to the water, as a sacrifice to the monster in the lake? that's just so the material of a camp classic.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Barbarella[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] ah.. an oldie camp classic! why this has such a low rating, i don't know.. people must take to them the campy nature of this film, and if they do they wouldn't rate it so low since it's meant to be bad in a funny kind of way. Jane Fonda stripping in zero gravity over the opening credits ought to be a good enough indicator.. and that orgasmatron (or what it was called) that played a woman and gave her orgasms until she died? i crack up just thinking about how brilliantly campy it is. i for one enjoy it a whole lot, and i'm impatiently waiting for to get the Special Edition DVD treatment it so truly deserves as one of the greatest camp classics ever made. Drew Barrymore even wants to remake it, ya know!
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Hollywood Homicide[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] okay, so pretty much everyone on this planet but me HATED this film with a passion, but if you ask me it feels like people misunderstood that it was a spoof and intentionally silly.. so okay, it's not really that good of a film, but i'll be damned if it didn't make me laugh a lot more than i expected it to do, so chalk this one down as a guilty pleasure. the shot of an aging Harrison Ford chasing bad guys on a girl's little teeny tiny pink bike is an image that will live on for all eternity in the hearts and souls of mankind. some day, mark my words, people will acknowledge how campy, dumb and fun this film really is. you just watch and see!

yes, you may make fun of my taste in film now. ;)

Hollywood Homicide
½

my only criteria for this is that these all have a rating of 6.0 or under on IMDb, which would certainly constitute as at least a poor rating. i haven't exactly heard many others speak very positively about these films either, so here are a few "bad" films that i like.
[indent] [left][i][size=5][font=Georgia]Twister[/font][/size][/i]
[/left]
[/indent] this one isn't even a "so bad it's good" film for me. yes, as i've said several times before, i have a great love for disaster films and i just love [b]Twister[/b]. it offers a mindless effects extravaganza for nearly 2 hours and it does it well, if you ask me. it's got a great cast (Bill Paxton, Helen Hunt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lois Smith) but of course they all take the back seat for the effects.. it's got a 5.9 rating on IMDb but personally, i'd rank it much higher.. and i have to say i genuine like this film, even if it's probably very implausible. so what? it's a movie, and it offers up some terrific thrills and excellent visual effects.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Peacemaker[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] here's another one i genuinely like.. an early George Clooney film he made just as he was about to go from television to film.. he teams up with Nicole Kidman, and is helmed by a woman (!) here and this has to be one of my favorite action films in the past 10 years. i've always loved when films actually go to the trouble of actually shooting in the locations they take place, which they did here. the same was done with [b]The Bourne Identity[/b] and [b]Ronin[/b], and i appreciate that since too many films these days just take place in bland, non-descript places. anyway, the action is solid, the plot is believable and so is Clooney as the hero.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Lake Placid[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] now this is a "so bad it's funny" movie, although i think the filmmakers didn't actually aim to make this something other than the campy horror comedy that it is. considering how absurd and outrageous some of the stuff in this film is, you gotta understand that it was done intentionally, so it's not really unintentionally funny for the most part. it's been quite a long time since i last saw it, but i mean, come on, that kooky lady who can't stop cursing (played by Betty White of [b]The Golden Girls[/b]) leading a cow to the water, as a sacrifice to the monster in the lake? that's just so the material of a camp classic.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Barbarella[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] ah.. an oldie camp classic! why this has such a low rating, i don't know.. people must take to them the campy nature of this film, and if they do they wouldn't rate it so low since it's meant to be bad in a funny kind of way. Jane Fonda stripping in zero gravity over the opening credits ought to be a good enough indicator.. and that orgasmatron (or what it was called) that played a woman and gave her orgasms until she died? i crack up just thinking about how brilliantly campy it is. i for one enjoy it a whole lot, and i'm impatiently waiting for to get the Special Edition DVD treatment it so truly deserves as one of the greatest camp classics ever made. Drew Barrymore even wants to remake it, ya know!
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Hollywood Homicide[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] okay, so pretty much everyone on this planet but me HATED this film with a passion, but if you ask me it feels like people misunderstood that it was a spoof and intentionally silly.. so okay, it's not really that good of a film, but i'll be damned if it didn't make me laugh a lot more than i expected it to do, so chalk this one down as a guilty pleasure. the shot of an aging Harrison Ford chasing bad guys on a girl's little teeny tiny pink bike is an image that will live on for all eternity in the hearts and souls of mankind. some day, mark my words, people will acknowledge how campy, dumb and fun this film really is. you just watch and see!

yes, you may make fun of my taste in film now. ;)

CQ
CQ(2002)

[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Barbarian Invasions[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent]last year's (well this year's, but it won for last year) Oscar winner for Best Foreign-Language Film is both a delight and a disappointment. okay, disappointment is a strong word since i really didn't have much expectations on it (despite all it's acclaim) but i guess it just wasn't really what i expected. at just over 90 minutes, [b]The Barbarian Invasions[/b] is over before you know it, and that's what i thought was the problem. where the depth? i thought it'd be deeper than i wound up thinking it was. it's nevertheless an enjoyable drama comedy about family, friends, life and death though. the discussions the group of friends and family have with Rémy, the dying man at the center of the story are usually interesting, humorous and dramatic. also, it was very candid in some of what it talked about and dealt with, so i'm surprised they even got to release it in the United States of Prudes.. er.. America. there's talk of blowjobs, old mistresses come and visit and drug use in this film.. certainly not what i expected, but thumbs up for that candid, fun stuff. ultimately, despite being enjoyable both dramatically and comically, i have to say i don't quite get all the acclaim it got. it's a very good film for sure, with some very good performances (from Rémy Girard and Marie-Josée Croze in particular) but maybe not all the rage. still, definitely worth a rental. **** stars out of five.


[center][img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/cq.jpg[/img]
[/center]
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]CQ[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent]Roman Coppola's debut film [b]CQ[/b] isn't as strong as his sister Sofia's debut film [b]The Virgin Suicides[/b] but it's still a very fine film with some fantastic visuals, which suggests that Francis has taught his children well in the art of filmmaking. it's not really about all that much, and lacks the depth and insight of his sister's films but he certainly shows he has a unique touch and obvious talent. [b]CQ[/b] is the story of an American film editor working on a [b]Barbarella[/b]-type of film named [b]Codename: Dragonfly[/b]. a daydreamer, his life mixes with that of the film and makes for a delightful throwback to the swinging 60's. Coppola obviously knows exactly what he wants, and it shows in how awesome the film looks in terms of costumes, art direction and cinematography.. just a delight to watch, really. it's a bit lacking in the story and depth of character department though, but i honestly didn't mind so much. the performances are good, with Angela Lindvall spot-on as agent Dragonfly of the film within the film. Jeremy Davies, whom i started out hating in [b]Saving Private Ryan[/b], grows on me with each film and performance. granted, they're all this quiet, introverted type of characters, but he's growing on me for sure even if he's a bit one-note. it's not anywhere near as great as his sisters first two films, but it's well worth a look, especially for the tasty, fully accomplished visuals. i certainly look forward to seeing what he'll do next. **** stars out of five.

The Barbarian Invasions (Les Invasions barbares)

[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Barbarian Invasions[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent]last year's (well this year's, but it won for last year) Oscar winner for Best Foreign-Language Film is both a delight and a disappointment. okay, disappointment is a strong word since i really didn't have much expectations on it (despite all it's acclaim) but i guess it just wasn't really what i expected. at just over 90 minutes, [b]The Barbarian Invasions[/b] is over before you know it, and that's what i thought was the problem. where the depth? i thought it'd be deeper than i wound up thinking it was. it's nevertheless an enjoyable drama comedy about family, friends, life and death though. the discussions the group of friends and family have with Rémy, the dying man at the center of the story are usually interesting, humorous and dramatic. also, it was very candid in some of what it talked about and dealt with, so i'm surprised they even got to release it in the United States of Prudes.. er.. America. there's talk of blowjobs, old mistresses come and visit and drug use in this film.. certainly not what i expected, but thumbs up for that candid, fun stuff. ultimately, despite being enjoyable both dramatically and comically, i have to say i don't quite get all the acclaim it got. it's a very good film for sure, with some very good performances (from Rémy Girard and Marie-Josée Croze in particular) but maybe not all the rage. still, definitely worth a rental. **** stars out of five.


[center][img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/cq.jpg[/img]
[/center]
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]CQ[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent]Roman Coppola's debut film [b]CQ[/b] isn't as strong as his sister Sofia's debut film [b]The Virgin Suicides[/b] but it's still a very fine film with some fantastic visuals, which suggests that Francis has taught his children well in the art of filmmaking. it's not really about all that much, and lacks the depth and insight of his sister's films but he certainly shows he has a unique touch and obvious talent. [b]CQ[/b] is the story of an American film editor working on a [b]Barbarella[/b]-type of film named [b]Codename: Dragonfly[/b]. a daydreamer, his life mixes with that of the film and makes for a delightful throwback to the swinging 60's. Coppola obviously knows exactly what he wants, and it shows in how awesome the film looks in terms of costumes, art direction and cinematography.. just a delight to watch, really. it's a bit lacking in the story and depth of character department though, but i honestly didn't mind so much. the performances are good, with Angela Lindvall spot-on as agent Dragonfly of the film within the film. Jeremy Davies, whom i started out hating in [b]Saving Private Ryan[/b], grows on me with each film and performance. granted, they're all this quiet, introverted type of characters, but he's growing on me for sure even if he's a bit one-note. it's not anywhere near as great as his sisters first two films, but it's well worth a look, especially for the tasty, fully accomplished visuals. i certainly look forward to seeing what he'll do next. **** stars out of five.

Trainspotting
½

i don't have the time / energy at the moment to be making any lengthy, interesting entries (i know you're all so sad to hear that) so here's just a list of the DVDs i've acquired this week.. gotta feed that DVD addiction, ya know.

[center][font=Georgia][size=5][i][b]The Station Agent[/b][/i][/size][/font]
(Tom McCarthy, 2003)

[img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/dvd/dvd-station.jpg[/img]

[size=1]one of the finest, little independent films of last year. see it if you haven't.[/size]


[font=Georgia][size=5][i][b]Trainspotting[/b][/i][/size][/font]
(Danny Boyle, 1996)

[img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/dvd/dvd-train.jpg[/img]

[size=1]one of the best films of the 90's finally got a worthy DVD release.[/size]


[font=Georgia][i][size=5][b]Eyes Wide Shut[/b][/size][/i][/font]
(Stanley Kubrick, 1999)

[img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/dvd/dvd-eyes.jpg[/img]

[size=1]so underrated.. one of the best films of '99 (and that's saying something!).[/size]


[font=Georgia][i][size=5][b]Wag the Dog[/b][/size][/i][/font]
(Barry Levinson, 1997)

[img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/dvd/dvd-wag.jpg[/img]

[size=1]a fantastic political comedy up there with the best of them.[/size]
[/center]

Wag the Dog
Wag the Dog(1997)
½

i don't have the time / energy at the moment to be making any lengthy, interesting entries (i know you're all so sad to hear that) so here's just a list of the DVDs i've acquired this week.. gotta feed that DVD addiction, ya know.

[center][font=Georgia][size=5][i][b]The Station Agent[/b][/i][/size][/font]
(Tom McCarthy, 2003)

[img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/dvd/dvd-station.jpg[/img]

[size=1]one of the finest, little independent films of last year. see it if you haven't.[/size]


[font=Georgia][size=5][i][b]Trainspotting[/b][/i][/size][/font]
(Danny Boyle, 1996)

[img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/dvd/dvd-train.jpg[/img]

[size=1]one of the best films of the 90's finally got a worthy DVD release.[/size]


[font=Georgia][i][size=5][b]Eyes Wide Shut[/b][/size][/i][/font]
(Stanley Kubrick, 1999)

[img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/dvd/dvd-eyes.jpg[/img]

[size=1]so underrated.. one of the best films of '99 (and that's saying something!).[/size]


[font=Georgia][i][size=5][b]Wag the Dog[/b][/size][/i][/font]
(Barry Levinson, 1997)

[img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/dvd/dvd-wag.jpg[/img]

[size=1]a fantastic political comedy up there with the best of them.[/size]
[/center]

Eyes Wide Shut
½

i don't have the time / energy at the moment to be making any lengthy, interesting entries (i know you're all so sad to hear that) so here's just a list of the DVDs i've acquired this week.. gotta feed that DVD addiction, ya know.

[center][font=Georgia][size=5][i][b]The Station Agent[/b][/i][/size][/font]
(Tom McCarthy, 2003)

[img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/dvd/dvd-station.jpg[/img]

[size=1]one of the finest, little independent films of last year. see it if you haven't.[/size]


[font=Georgia][size=5][i][b]Trainspotting[/b][/i][/size][/font]
(Danny Boyle, 1996)

[img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/dvd/dvd-train.jpg[/img]

[size=1]one of the best films of the 90's finally got a worthy DVD release.[/size]


[font=Georgia][i][size=5][b]Eyes Wide Shut[/b][/size][/i][/font]
(Stanley Kubrick, 1999)

[img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/dvd/dvd-eyes.jpg[/img]

[size=1]so underrated.. one of the best films of '99 (and that's saying something!).[/size]


[font=Georgia][i][size=5][b]Wag the Dog[/b][/size][/i][/font]
(Barry Levinson, 1997)

[img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/dvd/dvd-wag.jpg[/img]

[size=1]a fantastic political comedy up there with the best of them.[/size]
[/center]

Full Frontal
Full Frontal(2002)

i haven't felt very inspired to write any new, interesting entries the past couple of days, so i may as well do another entry in which i recommend some films i feel are underrated and/or overlooked so you don't think i've completely given up on my journal. all of these films come highly recommended by yours truly.
[indent] [left][size=5][i][font=Georgia]Bloody Sunday[/font][/i][/size]
[/left]
[/indent] one of the best films of 2002, an otherwise lackluster year, [b]Bloody Sunday[/b] is quite possibly the most emotional experience i've ever had in a movie theater. i rarely ever cry watching films, and usually it's not more than just getting a bit misty-eyes but i cried many tears when i saw this film. i cried during the end credits (which play to the tune of U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday"), i cried walking to my car and i even cried in my car on the way home. if you don't know what it's about, it's basically about the day notoriously named Bloody Sunday: January 30th, 1972 when a protest march for peace in Derry, Northern Ireland turned into a bloodbath. shot in a gritty documentary style with mostly amateurs and unknowns it's a shocking, brilliant look at the events of that day. ****½ stars out of five.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Full Frontal[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] i admit it, i am a huge fan of Steven Soderbergh and sure, [b]Full Frontal[/b] isn't one of his best films but at the same time, this film got a terrible reception and it really isn't as bad as just about everyone made it out to be. an experimental, low-budget film starring quite a few names and shot in digital [b]Full Frontal[/b] isn't really about much of anything. all it does is follow a group of people around in a [b]Short Cuts[/b] type of way you could say, and i just found it to be interesting and often funny in how these people's lives interweave. the performances may not be award-worthy but i think they all did well with their respective parts and it's far more interesting and better a film than most say it is. it's an experimental little film well worth seeing, especially for fans of Soderbergh. **** stars out of five.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Kissing Jessica Stein[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] if you ask me, this is one of the best (and funniest) romantic comedies in the past couple of years or so. it was released the same year as another low-budget romantic comedy by the name of [b]My Big Fat Greek Wedding[/b] and this one is by far the superior film. the most wonderful aspect of the film, other than it's sharp screenplay, is the lead performance by (recent Tony nominee) Jennifer Westfeldt. her performance here is like she's channeling Woody Allen and she's just wickedly funny and neurotic as the Jessica Stein of the title. fed up with men, she winds up experimenting with another woman even though she doesn't even think of herself as bisexual. it may not be the most original premise ever, but it's executed wonderfully with plenty of hilarity. ****½ stars out of five.

[size=1]PS[/size]. it's purely coincidental that they were all from 2002.

Kissing Jessica Stein
½

i haven't felt very inspired to write any new, interesting entries the past couple of days, so i may as well do another entry in which i recommend some films i feel are underrated and/or overlooked so you don't think i've completely given up on my journal. all of these films come highly recommended by yours truly.
[indent] [left][size=5][i][font=Georgia]Bloody Sunday[/font][/i][/size]
[/left]
[/indent] one of the best films of 2002, an otherwise lackluster year, [b]Bloody Sunday[/b] is quite possibly the most emotional experience i've ever had in a movie theater. i rarely ever cry watching films, and usually it's not more than just getting a bit misty-eyes but i cried many tears when i saw this film. i cried during the end credits (which play to the tune of U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday"), i cried walking to my car and i even cried in my car on the way home. if you don't know what it's about, it's basically about the day notoriously named Bloody Sunday: January 30th, 1972 when a protest march for peace in Derry, Northern Ireland turned into a bloodbath. shot in a gritty documentary style with mostly amateurs and unknowns it's a shocking, brilliant look at the events of that day. ****½ stars out of five.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Full Frontal[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] i admit it, i am a huge fan of Steven Soderbergh and sure, [b]Full Frontal[/b] isn't one of his best films but at the same time, this film got a terrible reception and it really isn't as bad as just about everyone made it out to be. an experimental, low-budget film starring quite a few names and shot in digital [b]Full Frontal[/b] isn't really about much of anything. all it does is follow a group of people around in a [b]Short Cuts[/b] type of way you could say, and i just found it to be interesting and often funny in how these people's lives interweave. the performances may not be award-worthy but i think they all did well with their respective parts and it's far more interesting and better a film than most say it is. it's an experimental little film well worth seeing, especially for fans of Soderbergh. **** stars out of five.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Kissing Jessica Stein[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] if you ask me, this is one of the best (and funniest) romantic comedies in the past couple of years or so. it was released the same year as another low-budget romantic comedy by the name of [b]My Big Fat Greek Wedding[/b] and this one is by far the superior film. the most wonderful aspect of the film, other than it's sharp screenplay, is the lead performance by (recent Tony nominee) Jennifer Westfeldt. her performance here is like she's channeling Woody Allen and she's just wickedly funny and neurotic as the Jessica Stein of the title. fed up with men, she winds up experimenting with another woman even though she doesn't even think of herself as bisexual. it may not be the most original premise ever, but it's executed wonderfully with plenty of hilarity. ****½ stars out of five.

[size=1]PS[/size]. it's purely coincidental that they were all from 2002.

Bloody Sunday
½

i haven't felt very inspired to write any new, interesting entries the past couple of days, so i may as well do another entry in which i recommend some films i feel are underrated and/or overlooked so you don't think i've completely given up on my journal. all of these films come highly recommended by yours truly.
[indent] [left][size=5][i][font=Georgia]Bloody Sunday[/font][/i][/size]
[/left]
[/indent] one of the best films of 2002, an otherwise lackluster year, [b]Bloody Sunday[/b] is quite possibly the most emotional experience i've ever had in a movie theater. i rarely ever cry watching films, and usually it's not more than just getting a bit misty-eyes but i cried many tears when i saw this film. i cried during the end credits (which play to the tune of U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday"), i cried walking to my car and i even cried in my car on the way home. if you don't know what it's about, it's basically about the day notoriously named Bloody Sunday: January 30th, 1972 when a protest march for peace in Derry, Northern Ireland turned into a bloodbath. shot in a gritty documentary style with mostly amateurs and unknowns it's a shocking, brilliant look at the events of that day. ****½ stars out of five.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Full Frontal[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] i admit it, i am a huge fan of Steven Soderbergh and sure, [b]Full Frontal[/b] isn't one of his best films but at the same time, this film got a terrible reception and it really isn't as bad as just about everyone made it out to be. an experimental, low-budget film starring quite a few names and shot in digital [b]Full Frontal[/b] isn't really about much of anything. all it does is follow a group of people around in a [b]Short Cuts[/b] type of way you could say, and i just found it to be interesting and often funny in how these people's lives interweave. the performances may not be award-worthy but i think they all did well with their respective parts and it's far more interesting and better a film than most say it is. it's an experimental little film well worth seeing, especially for fans of Soderbergh. **** stars out of five.
[indent] [left][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Kissing Jessica Stein[/i][/size][/font]
[/left]
[/indent] if you ask me, this is one of the best (and funniest) romantic comedies in the past couple of years or so. it was released the same year as another low-budget romantic comedy by the name of [b]My Big Fat Greek Wedding[/b] and this one is by far the superior film. the most wonderful aspect of the film, other than it's sharp screenplay, is the lead performance by (recent Tony nominee) Jennifer Westfeldt. her performance here is like she's channeling Woody Allen and she's just wickedly funny and neurotic as the Jessica Stein of the title. fed up with men, she winds up experimenting with another woman even though she doesn't even think of herself as bisexual. it may not be the most original premise ever, but it's executed wonderfully with plenty of hilarity. ****½ stars out of five.

[size=1]PS[/size]. it's purely coincidental that they were all from 2002.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

[center][img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/azkaban.jpg[/img]
[/center]

unlike [b]The Lord of the Ring[/b] films, where the first film was by far the best, it seems to me like the [b]Harry Potter[/b] films are just getting better and better. the first one suffered somewhat from having to introduce all the characters and the settings to those (few?) of us who hadn't read the book. it offered some great moments for sure, but it was basically an introductory lesson into the magical world of Harry Potter & Co. the second film didn't have to bother with that, and provided a good adventure headlighted by a phenomenal (and hilarious) supporting performance by Kenneth Branagh. and now here comes [b]The Prisoner of Azkaban[/b], the best of the bunch so far, but certainly not without some flaws.

unlike many others, i greatly enjoyed the first two films. i had never (and still haven't) read the books, and i honestly had no expectations or demands on them. it has become clear that many others had minor and major problems with them though, such as Chris Columbus's directorial style (or lack of it). it's obviously very clear having seen [b]The Prisoner of Azkaban[/b] that Columbus didn't put as much style into it, but i still think the films he made were entertaining, even if they were a bit overlong. Cuarón on the other hand, brings plenty of himself to the table and i almost started laughing during the opening scene where the camera is shaky handheld and moves in close on the actors.. it really had me wondering what i was about to see but thankfully Cuarón switches to a format that feels more at home for a film such as this. don't get me wrong, i don't mind shaky handheld cinematography, it just felt out of place.. maybe Cuarón just wanted to give us a little startle.

it's the style of the film that impresses me the most though. i really didn't think the trailer or the publicity photos showed just how wonderful this film looks.. i thought the previous films looked good (albeit not mind-blowingly spectacular) and here everything's changed a little bit, tweaked a little bit and it shows. during the winter sequence in Hogsmeade, we see our three heroes standing in front of this street and it's snowing and i just thought wow. such a beautiful snapshot right there.. and the film has plenty of them as the world around the Hogwarts school is expanded on. the cinematography, art direction and visual effects are all wonderful and it's all put together nicely by Cuarón and his team. if there's any problem i have with the art direction it's that in many ways Hogwarts looks completely different (or shows completely different sides) so it feels a bit unfamiliar. i don't mind it that much, but it would've been nice had it felt a bit more like it still was the same place as in the first two films. as for the visual effects, they are uniformly excellent. some effects obviously look fake, but i'd say they are about as good as they get. also, i mustn't forget to mention John Williams' score which is undoubtedly the best one in the series so far.

as for the acting, no one here really stands out the way Kenneth Branagh did in [b]The Chamber of Secrets[/b], but they're all doing as best as they can. thankfully Emma Watson gets more screen time in this one after having been dormant for much of [b]The Chamber of Secrets[/b] and since her character is by far the most interesting and lively of the main three, that's a good thing. i'm still not sold on Radcliffe but he certainly doesn't embarrass himself, and neither does Rupert Grint. of the newcomers, Gary Oldman fares the best by far. he's terrific in his part, even though it was a role far smaller than i expected. Oldman doesn't need much to persuade us though, i just wish he had more screen time. David Thewlis as Professor Lupin also does a fine job, although it's not a particularly memorable performance or character. as for Emma Thompson, i had heard many great things about her but i must say i was disappointed. not so much in her performance per se, but it's not much more than a cameo. she's not bad at all, but it's not a performance that deserves raves either.

so why am i only giving [b]The Prisoner of Azkaban[/b] four stars? well, it's a problem that goes all the way back to J.K. Rowling i imagine and that's the lack of a climax. i loved the story the whole way through but then the film just ends without much peril or oomph. the story is obviously the way it was written, so it's not the fault of Cuarón or Steven Kloves (the screenwriter).. it's just the way it is and that actually knocks it down half a star for me, unfortunately. i still think it's a better film than the first two, but a climax is sorely missed and a more exciting one (or one at all) had certainly garnered the film a higher rating from me.

[b]The Prisoner of Azkaban[/b] is a terrific film though, and visually stimulating for sure. the return of Hermoine is a very welcome one, and the story is definitely a good one. except for a weak ending and the lack of colorful characters that brings it down a notch, it's much better than the previous films in every single way.

**** stars out of five.

Zatôichi (The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi)

[center][img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/zatoichi.jpg[/img]
[/center]

this sure isn't your ordinary samurai film, let me tell you. Takeshi Kitano's adaptation of [b]Zatoichi[/b] features crossdressing geishas, peasants dancing in their fields to the beat of the music, group tapdancing and a blind masseur/swordsman. if you're expecting this to be a somber Kurosawa-style samurai epic, you are in for a major surprise.

the biggest surprise for those not familiar with Takeshi Kitano is the amount of comedy he puts into it. Kitano himself started out as a comedian, and pretty much all of his films have comedy in them even though they are not actual comedies. [b]Zatoichi[/b] isn't a comedy either, but it has more than it's fair share of hilarious moments such as the blind swordsman chopping wood and piling them (by throwing them behind his back), and the slow nephew of a neighbor who wants to become a samurai and charges around the house screaming "waaaahh!" wearing only his underwear, a helmet, a flag and a spear. the film is most certainly not a comedy though and the level of gore is up there, even though it's nowhere near as brutal and graphic as for example [b]Kill Bill[/b].

as for the acting, it's hard to say considering it's a foreign language, and one as foreign from the ones i speak myself as Japanese. it surely makes it harder to know if lines and such are delivered right, but since i can't make that judgement i don't have any complaints either. everyone in the cast do a great job as far as i can tell, especially Kitano of course who is a powerhouse on screen and a total badass as the blind swordsman Zatoichi.

in terms of technicals, i have to say some bits of the art direction looked too clean, like it wasn't worn the way it should've been. maybe i'm just being picky, but it felt a bit sometimes like things weren't worn and rugged enough.. the sets, costumes and such are definitely top notch though but they should've aged some of the sets a bit more. another thing worth noting is that the film uses CGI, which is highly unusual to see in a film like this that doesn't exactly require it.. thankfully, the CGI isn't terrible, but it's not quite realistic either. it's odd that they didn't decide to do it with physical effects instead though since it's mostly just splattering blood. as for other technical aspects, such as cinematography and editing, they're all good albeit maybe nothing to sing praises to.

i haven't seen too many films by Kitano yet, but i have to say [b]Zatoichi[/b] is my favorite so far of the few i have seen. it may not deal with deeper personal things like some of his other films have, but it's nevertheless a spectacular, unique samurai film. it also has one of the most bizarre endings i've ever seen in a film, but i'll leave that for you to find out. if you like Kitano and/or samurai films, by all means check this one out.

**** stars out of five.

Out of Sight
Out of Sight(1998)

[center][img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/out-of-sight.jpg[/img]
[/center]

one of my all-time favorite films, [b]Out of Sight[/b] is probably the coolest film i know. i know that word doesn't exactly mean as much as "greatest" or "best" to the die-hard movie geeks, but it just is cool. that's the one word i'd use to describe it, and that word pretty much everything about it matches that description.

for those who don't know what the film is about, it's a heist movie, a comedy, a drama, a thriller and most of all a love story.. a love story about an escaped bank robber and the female federal marshal who just happens to be right in his way when he makes his escape. they end up together in the trunk of a car, and everything just instantly clicks between them even though they are on opposite sides of the law. as the film's tagline says: "opposites attract". i think that captures it perfectly.

[b]Out of Sight[/b] was also the first film done by Steven Soderbergh version 2.0 as i'd like to call him. i have sometimes wondered if somewhere around '96 and '97 Soderbergh sold his soul to the devil because with [b]Out of Sight[/b] and the films that followed it was like a whole other director. of course his earlier films have qualities, but to me he became a whole new director with [b]Out of Sight[/b]. the larva became a butterfly. i still enjoy some of the films he made before this one, such as [b]Schizopolis[/b], but they don't match what he's done since in my book. [b]Out of Sight[/b] remains my favorite of his though, and i can't imagine him ever topping it even though he's done some fantastic films since. the film's success isn't all thanks to Soderbergh of course since he had some great people to work with here, but he most certainly tied everything together and had the vision to make it the fantastic film that it is.

first, let's talk a bit about the acting. in the lead we have George Clooney, at the start of his career as a movie star and although it wasn't his first film as a star, it was most certainly the role that solidified him as a leading man.. at least in my opinion. when i see his Jack Foley on the screen, i really can't imagine anyone alive playing him with the same wit, charm and delight. he IS Jack Foley and you can really believe he could do the things he does in the film. next up we have Jennifer Lopez as his romantic interest. now i'm not much of a fan of her acting, but i think she's just perfect in this film. it might not be a dazzling acting performance or anything, but i think she is the character she portrays and i think she pulled it off perfectly, mixing tenderness and toughness effortlessly. it's a real shame people might be turned off from seeing this film just because they think she'll ruin it. news flash, she doesn't. this is definitely without a doubt her finest part so far in her career.

after them we have quite possibly the finest acting ensemble of 1998. if i wrote at length about them all, this review would be very long. you've got a hilarious Steve Zahn, also doing his best work ever, as a bumbling criminal. you've got Ving Rhames as Clooney's sidekick and conscience. you've got Don Cheadle as a ruthless former boxer turned home invader and all-around criminal. you've got Luis Guzmán as an escaped gay Cuban convict. you've got Albert Brooks as a filthy rich, cowardly big-time swindler plus Catherine Keener, Dennis Farina, Isaiah Washington, Viola Davis and Michael Keaton in a cameo role. and guess what? they are all just fantastic. nothing that might've given them an Oscar nomination or anything, but in my eyes they're just perfect. it sure isn't often you see such a fine ensemble cast.

the technical aspect of the film is noteworthy too, especially the Oscar-nominated editing by Anne V. Coates which beautifully incorporates little stylistic touches to enhance the film, and effortlessly moves the non-linear story forward perfectly coherent. i don't know how much, if any, of this was in Scott Frank's wonderful adapted screenplay (also Oscar nominated) of Elmore Leonard's novel but it really is a thing of beauty how this film is edited and i'm not usually one who really notices things like that. for those who've seen it, just think about the love scene at the hotel, the way it cuts back and forth in time. just awesome. the cinematography by Elliot Davis is also worth mentioning as it was the film that has set the tone for Soderbergh ever since, especially in terms of using tinting. this is where he started with this almost-trademark style of his that he later perfected in [b]Traffic[/b] and [b]Erin Brockovich[/b]. another thing worth noting and praising for sure is the amazing, funky, delightful score by David Holmes. this score certainly adds a great deal to why i think this film is the coolest because it's just such an unusual and terrific score that just works wonders. along with some great songs, the film has one of the best soundtracks i can think of.

[b]Out of Sight[/b] is kinda hard to describe.. it's part heist film but mainly a love story about two people who know that they really can never be together. that's the film's main story, but it's got just about everything.. drama, humor, romance, thrills, you name it. i really can't praise this film enough.. Soderbergh and his team in front and behind of the camera just created a wonderful film in every single way. i honestly can't think of a single flaw that this film has, it is that perfect. if you've held off seeing this because you don't like Jennifer Lopez then you're not only missing out on her one great performance but also on one of the best films of the 90's and of all time. films don't get much better than this.

***** stars out of five.

Battle of Britain

[center][img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/d-day.jpg[/img]
[/center]

as i'm sure you are all aware of, today is the 60th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy and D-Day. in honor of this day, this is the perfect opportunity to list a few of my favorite World War II films. these all come warmly and highly recommended.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]A Bridge Too Far[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] quite simply, an epic war film starring a whole slew of well-known stars, such as Gene Hackman, Sean Connery, Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine, Robert Redford and Laurence Olivier (to name a few.. really). [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b] focuses on World War II's Operation Market Garden which was about, you guessed it, bridges! it's been quite some time since i last saw it so i may not remember every little specific thing but i do know that it's a remarkable war film. also considering it was made in the pre-CGI era just makes it's scope staggering since so much of it is real and not just CGI. none of the stars hog the screen either, unlike they probably would if they made a film like this today.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Battle of Britain[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] to me, this could be a sibling of [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b], even though they were made nearly 10 years apart. this one on the other hand focuses on the notorious [b]Battle of Britain[/b] (as i'm sure you already figured out) and is mainly about the German attack on London and the Brits fighting back. again, it's got a huge cast of famous faces (many of whom starred in [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b]).. most notably Michael Caine. the same thing goes for this as with previously mentioned film.. it's sheer scope is remarkable. CGI is great and all, but when they can actually put real planes in the air and film it, CGI really can't beat it still! i prefer [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b], but this is a perfect companion.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Longest Day[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] i just rewatched this tonight.. i've seen it once before and this is definitely the most definitive film about D-Day. that fact does hurt it though.. it's just as big in scope and spectacular sights as the other two films i just wrote about, but i felt like it was trying to tell too much of everything. it would probably have benefitted cinematically had they tried to focus it more, but i can understand that they wanted to cover all aspects of D-Day with it. for a film 40+ years old, the visuals are remarkable. [b]Saving Private Ryan[/b] is more realistic and in your face, but given it's age it's a terrific film, even though it's more flawed than [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b] and [b]Battle of Britain[/b].
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Saving Private Ryan[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] can there be a list without this film in it, really? you knew it was coming.. [b]Saving Private Ryan[/b]'s main strength is definitely it's visual side. it puts you right there. while [b]The Longest Day[/b] had longer shots from a distance, this puts you right in there and it's quite frightening. definitely one of Spielberg's finest films to date, it's got a very unique and different approach to World War II and D-Day in that it's got a "little" story and doesnn't focus as much the big picture. also, if you haven't already.. check out the Spielberg/Hanks produced mini-series [b]Band of Brothers[/b]. it's one of the greatest mini-series i've ever seen.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Stalag 17[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] okay, so it takes place in a WWII prison camp and doesn't really feature any real war stuff, but it's one of my all-time favorite films so i just have to mention it. one of the earlier WWII films, this one was different because it was also a comedy. a very funny one at that too. it blended drama and comedy perfectly and it won William Holden an Oscar for Best Actor. it's also noteworthy for the hilarious performance of Robert Strauss who played Animal (he was Oscar-nominated). it has been sadly overlooked in favor of [b]The Great Escape[/b] though, which is considered the definitive prison camp film and while [b]The Great Escape[/b] is a fantastic film, my heart belongs to Sefton and the guys in [b]Stalag 17[/b].


so if you haven't seen these yet, go out and rent 'em!

Stalag 17
Stalag 17(1953)

[center][img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/d-day.jpg[/img]
[/center]

as i'm sure you are all aware of, today is the 60th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy and D-Day. in honor of this day, this is the perfect opportunity to list a few of my favorite World War II films. these all come warmly and highly recommended.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]A Bridge Too Far[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] quite simply, an epic war film starring a whole slew of well-known stars, such as Gene Hackman, Sean Connery, Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine, Robert Redford and Laurence Olivier (to name a few.. really). [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b] focuses on World War II's Operation Market Garden which was about, you guessed it, bridges! it's been quite some time since i last saw it so i may not remember every little specific thing but i do know that it's a remarkable war film. also considering it was made in the pre-CGI era just makes it's scope staggering since so much of it is real and not just CGI. none of the stars hog the screen either, unlike they probably would if they made a film like this today.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Battle of Britain[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] to me, this could be a sibling of [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b], even though they were made nearly 10 years apart. this one on the other hand focuses on the notorious [b]Battle of Britain[/b] (as i'm sure you already figured out) and is mainly about the German attack on London and the Brits fighting back. again, it's got a huge cast of famous faces (many of whom starred in [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b]).. most notably Michael Caine. the same thing goes for this as with previously mentioned film.. it's sheer scope is remarkable. CGI is great and all, but when they can actually put real planes in the air and film it, CGI really can't beat it still! i prefer [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b], but this is a perfect companion.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Longest Day[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] i just rewatched this tonight.. i've seen it once before and this is definitely the most definitive film about D-Day. that fact does hurt it though.. it's just as big in scope and spectacular sights as the other two films i just wrote about, but i felt like it was trying to tell too much of everything. it would probably have benefitted cinematically had they tried to focus it more, but i can understand that they wanted to cover all aspects of D-Day with it. for a film 40+ years old, the visuals are remarkable. [b]Saving Private Ryan[/b] is more realistic and in your face, but given it's age it's a terrific film, even though it's more flawed than [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b] and [b]Battle of Britain[/b].
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Saving Private Ryan[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] can there be a list without this film in it, really? you knew it was coming.. [b]Saving Private Ryan[/b]'s main strength is definitely it's visual side. it puts you right there. while [b]The Longest Day[/b] had longer shots from a distance, this puts you right in there and it's quite frightening. definitely one of Spielberg's finest films to date, it's got a very unique and different approach to World War II and D-Day in that it's got a "little" story and doesnn't focus as much the big picture. also, if you haven't already.. check out the Spielberg/Hanks produced mini-series [b]Band of Brothers[/b]. it's one of the greatest mini-series i've ever seen.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Stalag 17[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] okay, so it takes place in a WWII prison camp and doesn't really feature any real war stuff, but it's one of my all-time favorite films so i just have to mention it. one of the earlier WWII films, this one was different because it was also a comedy. a very funny one at that too. it blended drama and comedy perfectly and it won William Holden an Oscar for Best Actor. it's also noteworthy for the hilarious performance of Robert Strauss who played Animal (he was Oscar-nominated). it has been sadly overlooked in favor of [b]The Great Escape[/b] though, which is considered the definitive prison camp film and while [b]The Great Escape[/b] is a fantastic film, my heart belongs to Sefton and the guys in [b]Stalag 17[/b].


so if you haven't seen these yet, go out and rent 'em!

Saving Private Ryan
½

[center][img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/d-day.jpg[/img]
[/center]

as i'm sure you are all aware of, today is the 60th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy and D-Day. in honor of this day, this is the perfect opportunity to list a few of my favorite World War II films. these all come warmly and highly recommended.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]A Bridge Too Far[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] quite simply, an epic war film starring a whole slew of well-known stars, such as Gene Hackman, Sean Connery, Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine, Robert Redford and Laurence Olivier (to name a few.. really). [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b] focuses on World War II's Operation Market Garden which was about, you guessed it, bridges! it's been quite some time since i last saw it so i may not remember every little specific thing but i do know that it's a remarkable war film. also considering it was made in the pre-CGI era just makes it's scope staggering since so much of it is real and not just CGI. none of the stars hog the screen either, unlike they probably would if they made a film like this today.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Battle of Britain[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] to me, this could be a sibling of [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b], even though they were made nearly 10 years apart. this one on the other hand focuses on the notorious [b]Battle of Britain[/b] (as i'm sure you already figured out) and is mainly about the German attack on London and the Brits fighting back. again, it's got a huge cast of famous faces (many of whom starred in [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b]).. most notably Michael Caine. the same thing goes for this as with previously mentioned film.. it's sheer scope is remarkable. CGI is great and all, but when they can actually put real planes in the air and film it, CGI really can't beat it still! i prefer [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b], but this is a perfect companion.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Longest Day[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] i just rewatched this tonight.. i've seen it once before and this is definitely the most definitive film about D-Day. that fact does hurt it though.. it's just as big in scope and spectacular sights as the other two films i just wrote about, but i felt like it was trying to tell too much of everything. it would probably have benefitted cinematically had they tried to focus it more, but i can understand that they wanted to cover all aspects of D-Day with it. for a film 40+ years old, the visuals are remarkable. [b]Saving Private Ryan[/b] is more realistic and in your face, but given it's age it's a terrific film, even though it's more flawed than [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b] and [b]Battle of Britain[/b].
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Saving Private Ryan[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] can there be a list without this film in it, really? you knew it was coming.. [b]Saving Private Ryan[/b]'s main strength is definitely it's visual side. it puts you right there. while [b]The Longest Day[/b] had longer shots from a distance, this puts you right in there and it's quite frightening. definitely one of Spielberg's finest films to date, it's got a very unique and different approach to World War II and D-Day in that it's got a "little" story and doesnn't focus as much the big picture. also, if you haven't already.. check out the Spielberg/Hanks produced mini-series [b]Band of Brothers[/b]. it's one of the greatest mini-series i've ever seen.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Stalag 17[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] okay, so it takes place in a WWII prison camp and doesn't really feature any real war stuff, but it's one of my all-time favorite films so i just have to mention it. one of the earlier WWII films, this one was different because it was also a comedy. a very funny one at that too. it blended drama and comedy perfectly and it won William Holden an Oscar for Best Actor. it's also noteworthy for the hilarious performance of Robert Strauss who played Animal (he was Oscar-nominated). it has been sadly overlooked in favor of [b]The Great Escape[/b] though, which is considered the definitive prison camp film and while [b]The Great Escape[/b] is a fantastic film, my heart belongs to Sefton and the guys in [b]Stalag 17[/b].


so if you haven't seen these yet, go out and rent 'em!

A Bridge Too Far
½

[center][img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/d-day.jpg[/img]
[/center]

as i'm sure you are all aware of, today is the 60th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy and D-Day. in honor of this day, this is the perfect opportunity to list a few of my favorite World War II films. these all come warmly and highly recommended.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]A Bridge Too Far[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] quite simply, an epic war film starring a whole slew of well-known stars, such as Gene Hackman, Sean Connery, Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine, Robert Redford and Laurence Olivier (to name a few.. really). [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b] focuses on World War II's Operation Market Garden which was about, you guessed it, bridges! it's been quite some time since i last saw it so i may not remember every little specific thing but i do know that it's a remarkable war film. also considering it was made in the pre-CGI era just makes it's scope staggering since so much of it is real and not just CGI. none of the stars hog the screen either, unlike they probably would if they made a film like this today.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Battle of Britain[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] to me, this could be a sibling of [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b], even though they were made nearly 10 years apart. this one on the other hand focuses on the notorious [b]Battle of Britain[/b] (as i'm sure you already figured out) and is mainly about the German attack on London and the Brits fighting back. again, it's got a huge cast of famous faces (many of whom starred in [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b]).. most notably Michael Caine. the same thing goes for this as with previously mentioned film.. it's sheer scope is remarkable. CGI is great and all, but when they can actually put real planes in the air and film it, CGI really can't beat it still! i prefer [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b], but this is a perfect companion.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Longest Day[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] i just rewatched this tonight.. i've seen it once before and this is definitely the most definitive film about D-Day. that fact does hurt it though.. it's just as big in scope and spectacular sights as the other two films i just wrote about, but i felt like it was trying to tell too much of everything. it would probably have benefitted cinematically had they tried to focus it more, but i can understand that they wanted to cover all aspects of D-Day with it. for a film 40+ years old, the visuals are remarkable. [b]Saving Private Ryan[/b] is more realistic and in your face, but given it's age it's a terrific film, even though it's more flawed than [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b] and [b]Battle of Britain[/b].
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Saving Private Ryan[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] can there be a list without this film in it, really? you knew it was coming.. [b]Saving Private Ryan[/b]'s main strength is definitely it's visual side. it puts you right there. while [b]The Longest Day[/b] had longer shots from a distance, this puts you right in there and it's quite frightening. definitely one of Spielberg's finest films to date, it's got a very unique and different approach to World War II and D-Day in that it's got a "little" story and doesnn't focus as much the big picture. also, if you haven't already.. check out the Spielberg/Hanks produced mini-series [b]Band of Brothers[/b]. it's one of the greatest mini-series i've ever seen.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Stalag 17[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] okay, so it takes place in a WWII prison camp and doesn't really feature any real war stuff, but it's one of my all-time favorite films so i just have to mention it. one of the earlier WWII films, this one was different because it was also a comedy. a very funny one at that too. it blended drama and comedy perfectly and it won William Holden an Oscar for Best Actor. it's also noteworthy for the hilarious performance of Robert Strauss who played Animal (he was Oscar-nominated). it has been sadly overlooked in favor of [b]The Great Escape[/b] though, which is considered the definitive prison camp film and while [b]The Great Escape[/b] is a fantastic film, my heart belongs to Sefton and the guys in [b]Stalag 17[/b].


so if you haven't seen these yet, go out and rent 'em!

The Longest Day

[center][img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/d-day.jpg[/img]
[/center]

as i'm sure you are all aware of, today is the 60th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy and D-Day. in honor of this day, this is the perfect opportunity to list a few of my favorite World War II films. these all come warmly and highly recommended.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]A Bridge Too Far[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] quite simply, an epic war film starring a whole slew of well-known stars, such as Gene Hackman, Sean Connery, Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine, Robert Redford and Laurence Olivier (to name a few.. really). [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b] focuses on World War II's Operation Market Garden which was about, you guessed it, bridges! it's been quite some time since i last saw it so i may not remember every little specific thing but i do know that it's a remarkable war film. also considering it was made in the pre-CGI era just makes it's scope staggering since so much of it is real and not just CGI. none of the stars hog the screen either, unlike they probably would if they made a film like this today.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Battle of Britain[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] to me, this could be a sibling of [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b], even though they were made nearly 10 years apart. this one on the other hand focuses on the notorious [b]Battle of Britain[/b] (as i'm sure you already figured out) and is mainly about the German attack on London and the Brits fighting back. again, it's got a huge cast of famous faces (many of whom starred in [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b]).. most notably Michael Caine. the same thing goes for this as with previously mentioned film.. it's sheer scope is remarkable. CGI is great and all, but when they can actually put real planes in the air and film it, CGI really can't beat it still! i prefer [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b], but this is a perfect companion.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Longest Day[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] i just rewatched this tonight.. i've seen it once before and this is definitely the most definitive film about D-Day. that fact does hurt it though.. it's just as big in scope and spectacular sights as the other two films i just wrote about, but i felt like it was trying to tell too much of everything. it would probably have benefitted cinematically had they tried to focus it more, but i can understand that they wanted to cover all aspects of D-Day with it. for a film 40+ years old, the visuals are remarkable. [b]Saving Private Ryan[/b] is more realistic and in your face, but given it's age it's a terrific film, even though it's more flawed than [b]A Bridge Too Far[/b] and [b]Battle of Britain[/b].
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Saving Private Ryan[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] can there be a list without this film in it, really? you knew it was coming.. [b]Saving Private Ryan[/b]'s main strength is definitely it's visual side. it puts you right there. while [b]The Longest Day[/b] had longer shots from a distance, this puts you right in there and it's quite frightening. definitely one of Spielberg's finest films to date, it's got a very unique and different approach to World War II and D-Day in that it's got a "little" story and doesnn't focus as much the big picture. also, if you haven't already.. check out the Spielberg/Hanks produced mini-series [b]Band of Brothers[/b]. it's one of the greatest mini-series i've ever seen.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Stalag 17[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] okay, so it takes place in a WWII prison camp and doesn't really feature any real war stuff, but it's one of my all-time favorite films so i just have to mention it. one of the earlier WWII films, this one was different because it was also a comedy. a very funny one at that too. it blended drama and comedy perfectly and it won William Holden an Oscar for Best Actor. it's also noteworthy for the hilarious performance of Robert Strauss who played Animal (he was Oscar-nominated). it has been sadly overlooked in favor of [b]The Great Escape[/b] though, which is considered the definitive prison camp film and while [b]The Great Escape[/b] is a fantastic film, my heart belongs to Sefton and the guys in [b]Stalag 17[/b].


so if you haven't seen these yet, go out and rent 'em!

The Birdcage
The Birdcage(1996)

[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Enter the Dragon[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]even though i still haven't seen all (of the few) films that Bruce Lee made, i'm pretty confident that [b]Enter the Dragon[/b] is the only one that's truly good. surely it has problems with poor dubbing, but at least it's not anywhere near as bad as it is in his other films.. but in a way, some of the charm of these films is their poor dubbing. a childhood favorite, [b]Enter the Dragon[/b] is still very entertaining. the story isn't really anything to write home about, but it does have its fair share of excellent action set pieces, a very decent villain and of course Bruce Lee at the very top of his game. it also features one of the most memorable final showdowns in the history of action films and that's of course the infamous mirror room duel. if you've never seen a Bruce Lee film before and would at least want to see one before you die, this is most definitely the one to see. what are you waiting for? chop-chop![indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Birdcage[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]i don't know if this film is considered insulting for playing on the usual stereotypes of gay men but i have to say i find it absolutely hilarious, and it's mostly because of one man, Nathan Lane. here he plays the "woman" in the couple, opposite a surprisingly restrained Robin Williams and he's absolutely hysterical in every sense of the word. the whole sequence of Williams teaching Lane to be a man's man is a riot! Lane's got a good cast with him though, including a very funny Hank Azaria as a Latin American maid, previously mentioned Robin Williams and also Gene Hackman and Diane Wiest who plays the conservative parents of the girl Williams' son wants to marry. all of them together, with the terrific screenplay is a match made in heaven, really. so sure it plays on some heavy stereotypes, but i think most straight and gay finds Lane absolutely hilarious in this film. why wasn't he nominated for an Oscar?

Enter the Dragon

[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Enter the Dragon[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]even though i still haven't seen all (of the few) films that Bruce Lee made, i'm pretty confident that [b]Enter the Dragon[/b] is the only one that's truly good. surely it has problems with poor dubbing, but at least it's not anywhere near as bad as it is in his other films.. but in a way, some of the charm of these films is their poor dubbing. a childhood favorite, [b]Enter the Dragon[/b] is still very entertaining. the story isn't really anything to write home about, but it does have its fair share of excellent action set pieces, a very decent villain and of course Bruce Lee at the very top of his game. it also features one of the most memorable final showdowns in the history of action films and that's of course the infamous mirror room duel. if you've never seen a Bruce Lee film before and would at least want to see one before you die, this is most definitely the one to see. what are you waiting for? chop-chop![indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Birdcage[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent]i don't know if this film is considered insulting for playing on the usual stereotypes of gay men but i have to say i find it absolutely hilarious, and it's mostly because of one man, Nathan Lane. here he plays the "woman" in the couple, opposite a surprisingly restrained Robin Williams and he's absolutely hysterical in every sense of the word. the whole sequence of Williams teaching Lane to be a man's man is a riot! Lane's got a good cast with him though, including a very funny Hank Azaria as a Latin American maid, previously mentioned Robin Williams and also Gene Hackman and Diane Wiest who plays the conservative parents of the girl Williams' son wants to marry. all of them together, with the terrific screenplay is a match made in heaven, really. so sure it plays on some heavy stereotypes, but i think most straight and gay finds Lane absolutely hilarious in this film. why wasn't he nominated for an Oscar?

The Day After Tomorrow

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[b]The Day After Tomorrow[/b] is not a perfect film by any means, but it's certainly the best blockbuster so far this summer. much like Roland Emmerich's previous disaster film [b]Independence Day[/b], it follows a handful of people in various places in their struggle to stay alive, with plenty of action sequences and money shots in between. if you enjoy these type of films like i do, then you ought to enjoy this one too.

one of it's strengths is that the cast is pretty much entirely made up of "normal" actors, not action superstars. Dennis Quaid has the top billing, but even though he's had an upswing the past two years or so, you'd hardly call him a huge star either and the same goes for Jake Gyllenhaal who plays his son. along with Quaid and Gyllenhaal, we find some very decent actors here, such as Ian Holm most notably and also newcomer Emmy Rossum and Sela Ward. all of the actors and actresses do well with what they are given (even though it's not that much) and are believable in their respective parts. being a major summer tentpole though, there's obviously not a lot of character development and things like that in it, but then again that's not really something you should expect from a film like this anyway.

another strength, well sort of, is that the screenplay (gasp!) is surprisingly sparse on cheesy dialogue and long-winding, preachy speeches, something that plagued [b]Independence Day[/b]. it's obviously not devoid of cheesy, bad and corny dialogue, but at least the cheese is kept to a minimum and as for the corny dialogue, films like these don't ever come with sparkling dialogue in the first place so that it has corny dialogue is pretty much what you would expect from a film like this. for the most part, what is said feels believable and things that people could realistically say. also, speaking of believability.. i have no idea how much of what's in this film is plausible and realistic in terms of the cataclysmic events that take place. i'd say that most of it is most likely completely made up, or stretching the truth a great deal but i never really thought "yeah, [size=1]RIGHT![/size]" to myself either. the film doesn't exactly load up on logic and realism, but it didn't feel completely idiotic either.. and i mean, at the end of the day you have to realize that it's just a cinematic fantasy after all.

the visual effects are, as you can imagine if you've seen the trailer, very well done. they may not always look entirely believable, but then again visual effects are still a long way from complete photorealism. they are certainly as good as they get these days and there are quite a few goosebump-inducing moments throughout the film. the only effects sequence that wasn't completely satisfactory involves a pack of wolves (!) who are all done CGI.. they're not as awful as i've heard some describe them, but i don't see how they couldn't have done most of it with real animals. it certainly would've looked better. anyway, other than the visual effects i must also say i quite liked the production design. for the most part it's nothing flashy or memorable, but the film doesn't require that either for the most part. there are a few really wonderful sets in the film though, like the one in the photo above for example. using a bluescreen and doing sets digitally may be becoming more and more common these days, but i have to say there's nothing quite like having a real well-made set that the actors can interact with.

as for negative things, well.. the film does shoot off it's best fireworks relatively early on and the lack of a suspenseful, climactic ending is sorely missed. it's not a bad ending.. it just ends without any fireworks and that's a shame since they really should've had something to end it with a bang. there's nothing that can top what we have already seen since the end is during the aftermath, but something more than what we're given would certainly have been nice. i guess you could say that it's a film that's about the journey to the end, not the end itself. as for other things negative.. that the film lacks in logic, realism and character development are surely things i don't need to go into any further, do i? these are obviously things we'd all love for every film to have in spades, but that doesn't mean one should expect to find it in a Hollywood blockbuster in this day and age. yes, it sucks and all since they didn't try harder to flesh out these characters and make these things more realistic and logical.. but you gotta take a film like this at face value. it's all about the spectacle and the effects, not the human drama, and that's what people will go see it for.

if you have any interest in seeing [b]The Day After Tomorrow[/b], even in the slightest, then you should definitely see it in the theater on a big screen just to be able to enjoy the effects in all their glory. Emmerich keeps the ham and cheese to a minimum thankfully, puts some very decent actors in it and then sprinkles it with solid visual effects and well-done action sequences. it's far from a perfect film, but it's definitely better than [b]Independence Day[/b] in my opinion.

**** stars out of five.

Repulsion
Repulsion(1965)

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[b]Repulsion[/b] kinda defies description. is it a horror film? a character study? a thriller? a little bit of all those things is probably correct. it's is the story of a young sexually repressed woman, who lives with her much more outgoing sister and works in a beauty salon in London. she often daydreams, and men just confuse and well.. repulse her. when her sister goes on a trip to Italy with her lover and she is left all alone in their apartment, her world falls apart, as she falls deeper into depression and psychosis.

it takes a while for the film to take off, but once it does it's rather shocking and certainly very disturbing. had there not been a famous film entitled [b]Psycho[/b] released some years before this, that could certainly have been a good title for this. i've seen quite many films that deal with mentally disturbed individuals but i have to say that Carole in this film has to rank as one of the top loonies in film history. she's not really a villain though.. she does some truly bad things, but i wouldn't call her a villain even though i'm more disturbed than sympathetic of her. a big round of applause need to go out to a very very young Catherine Deneuve (she was only 21 when they made it) for being so brave and just jumping into such a character. there are a handful of supporting characters, but this film is all about her and Deneuve is absolute fantastic as Carole.

i haven't seen too many of Polanski's early films but i was very impressed by this. [b]Repulsion[/b] may not amount to that much at the end of the day in terms of depth, but it's a very interesting, often creepy and disturbing horror/thriller that is most definitely worth seeing for Deneuve's performance alone.

**** stars out of five.

Spartan
Spartan(2004)

David Mamet is one of my favorite writer/directors, and his latest film, [b]Spartan[/b], is another fine entry into his filmography. it's far from a perfect film, it's got a handful of flaws but it's nevertheless a very fine thriller and one of the better ones i've seen in quite some time.

the premise is relatively simple. a girl has been taken, and a military man named Scott (played by Val Kilmer) is assigned to retrieve her. the girl is not just any girl though, she's the daughter of the US president.. it's not all straight forward though, and the film offers up quite a few twists and turns.. it's probably not twists that'll shock and surprise you, but it's a nice ride of a movie and whatever turns and twists it takes, they don't feel like they are taken out of thin air and have no logic to them.

it's primary strength is Mamet's writing skill and ability to handle the film. it's not packed with the usual razzle-dazzle dialogue Mamet usually fills his films with, but the film really doesn't need it and it shouldn't have it either. this doesn't mean the dialogue is dull though, and as again Mamet shows why he's probably one of the finest writers out there.. not many can write dialogue the way he can. the cast do a fine job too, although some of them seem a bit miscast. Val Kilmer in the lead is not though, and as always he inhabits his character perfectly. it's not a flashy performance or a character though so in that sense it's Kilmer Lite but the man is always very watchable. the one who impressed me the most though was a young, unknown actress by the name of Kristen Bell, who plays the kidnapped girl. she doesn't have a lot of dialogue or time in the film but she was absolutely fantastic. it's really too bad she didn't have more screentime.. but i'll most certainly remember her name, and hope she gets a big break because she deserves it if this performance is a good indicator of her talent. the rest of the cast do well with their parts, but i couldn't help but feel that Derek Luke, Tia Texada (both playing young soldiers) and William H. Macy (playing some security service boss type of guy) were a bit wrong for their parts. neither of them embarrass themselves, but i didn't completely buy them in their roles either the way i did for Kilmer, Bell and the others.

as for flaws, the film is tight and absolutely right until the end.. the finale isn't awful, but it felt a bit simple and not too exciting compared to the rest of the film.. a bit anti-climactic in a way. in this very sequence there's a Swedish news team involved too, which was really odd since the bureau they were from, aptly titled "Swedish News Bureau" (but in Swedish), doesn't exist at all and seemed very generic a name.. thankfully they spelled it right though, and the female reporter even spoke actual Swedish, but of course they had a young blonde blue-eyed Swedish woman playing the reporter.. which doesn't help against the stereotype image. this isn't something that's likely to bother anyone else, but it was just weird for me and kinda took me out of the film.

the anti-climactic finale, with the Swedish news crew thing added into it, and the somewhat miscast actors mentioned earlier drops the grade down a notch, but otherwise [b]Spartan[/b] is a very fine film and definitely worth checking out. it's well-written, well-acted and just robustly crafted.. plus it's very entertaining and engaging. considering it made like $5 at the box office, far too many missed it in theaters so when it's out on DVD, give this one a spin. this [b]Spartan[/b] deserves a far better fate than it got.

a solid **** stars out of five.

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

i saw a little film called [b]They Shoot Horses, Don't They?[/b] the other day and it has to be one of the oddest, yet compelling films i've seen in a long, long time. i really didn't know what to think at the start of it, but it just sucked me in and i ended up liking it a lot more than i thought i would.

the story revolves around this marathon dance during the depression era 30's and when i say marathon we're talking 45-50 days or something like that.. the contestants get breaks to rest, eat and whatnot, and get to sleep too but other than that they are on display and the winning couple gets $1,500. Jane Fonda plays this cynical young woman who loses her partner at the sign-up and is put together with a young man, a drifter, who just happened to walk into the place without knowing anything.. together, along with a bunch of other couples we see them struggle and being paraded in front of wealthy celebrities and other people not desperate enough to participate.

that's the whole film.. there's obviously more to it but the whole film takes place during this marathon dance and follows a handful of participants and the M.C. in charge of the whole thing. i have no idea if it's based on any kind of truth, so i don't know if these extreme marathon dances existed in real life but the first thing that came to mind is that it's like a reality show of today, like Big Brother or something like that.. the contestants are made to do things, like sing or do a dance number to get extra pennies thrown at them from the crowd, and every now and then they'd have to do some kind of race too.. all very degrading and as the dance progresses they all look worse and worse by the hour. the acting is all very good, with Jane Fonda leading the way.. she was nominated for an Oscar for it and so were several of the others in it too. one of them, Gig Young, won the Oscar for playing the M.C.

[b]They Shoot Horses, Don't They?[/b] has a title that doesn't make much sense at first glance, and the film seems really odd too at first but if you give it a try i think you'll be rewarded at the end of this grim, powerful film. in this age of television shows that wallow in the real pain and suffering of others, it seems lightyears ahead of it's time. just give it time and it'll suck you right in.

**** stars out of five.

Troy
Troy(2004)
½

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hmm.. where to start? well, i may as well begin by saying that [b]Troy[/b] is no [b]Gladiator[/b]. not even close. i've always enjoyed sword & sandal films but [b]Troy[/b] felt like it was lacking in some departments. it's certainly very watchable though, and often very enjoyable too but it's not as rousing or spectacular as it should've been, save for some sequences here and there.

the biggest problem is probably the lack of a true main character. you could say that Brad Pitt (as Achilles) is the main character, but while he surely gets most screen time it never really feels like it was his film in the way you felt [b]Gladiator[/b] was Russell Crowe's film. it's not really Pitt's fault either, although he does feel a bit miscast (dare i say he's too pretty?). there just isn't a Maximus in [b]Troy[/b]. there are certainly good actors and actresses to be found in [b]Troy[/b] though, but they aren't really given anything to work with, except for Peter O'Toole who has one big scene that's really good in terms of acting. i can't imagine him getting nominated for anything for this though, and that goes for everyone else too. no one embarrasses themselves, but no one really stands out either.

the second biggest problem is that Wolfgang Petersen isn't a Ridley Scott. Scott really set the bar up high with [b]Gladiator[/b], and [b]Troy[/b] can't match it in any way. not in story, not in visuals, not in acting. it was actually rather disappointing to see [b]Troy[/b] lacking so much in the visuals department.. it's a period film after all and Scott made it look so gorgeous in [b]Gladiator[/b] and here it looks more plain and not very spectacular.. the cinematography didn't really stand out, and then the settings and costumes don't really stand out either. there are certainly some very beautiful shots in the movie, like seeing a sea of burning arrows fly across the nighttime sky and then seeing giant balls of hay being set on fire and rolled into the enemy.. but [b]Gladiator[/b] is like a postcard in every frame and [b]Troy[/b] isn't.

as for positive things, i really liked how both sides are portrayed as being good (and evil). it's pretty rare to see both sides in a Hollywood film being more or less equals. surely Brian Cox' Greek king Agamemnon is portrayed more or less as purely evil, but both sides are shown as being good and bad and that's definitely refreshing to see. just don't go in expecting this to be an accurate history lesson though. i'm not particularly savvy when it comes to the Trojan war but it's quite clear that it's not trying to represent this in a historically accurate way. this is a big budget Hollywood action film after all. i guess it can bother people who know more about the Trojan war, the characters and all that but since i don't really know what's accurate and what's not, i had no problems with the story.

the effects were also very good, so good in fact that i hardly noticed they were there. actually, i never thought once that a certain scene felt too obviously CGI-powered. surely i understand that those massive battle scenes are enhanced digitally and so on, but thankfully it never showed. since i couldn't really tell, i have no idea how much effects work this film has.. walking out i thought to myself that it had surprisingly little visual effects so while i'm sure there's plenty of it in there, it's been used with great restraint and for that it gets two big thumbs up since it could certainly have been wrecked if they had gone overboard.

so who should go see [b]Troy[/b]? well, if you enjoy these type of films, this one certainly has all the right ingredients: battles, duels, intrigue, romance, etc. also, the film definitely isn't boring and moves a long at a good pace. it's about 2 hours and 40 minutes long but it went by very fast. it's not as good as i hoped it would be or as good as it could've been but i was never bored by it, and it's definitely entertaining for the greater part of it's length. i think you may enjoy it quite a bit as long as you don't go in expecting it to be another [b]Gladiator[/b].

***½ stars out of five.

The Third Man

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having heard so much acclaim for [b]The Third Man[/b] on RT and elsewhere over the years, i have to say it's somewhat of a disappointment. it's beautifully shot (it won the Oscar and deservedly so) and well-acted but i can't help but feel like it wasn't much of a mystery or a noir (besides the textbook noir cinematography).

the biggest problem for me is simply that the story wasn't really all that interesting.. i enjoy the film noir genre a great deal, but [b]The Third Man[/b] lacked some vital noir elements, most notably a lead character that fits the film noir "rules". it would've been more film noir had Harry Lime been the lead character, but instead we're "stuck" with Holly Martins who is a relatively uninteresting character and doesn't really fit the film noir lead character blueprint. that it takes about 5 seconds to figure out the story doesn't help either. oh, another thing i really didn't like at all was the score. sure it's a good score, but if this is supposed to be a film noir it's just completely out of place since it often sounds like a comedy score.

but okay, i've been sounding too negative now.. it's still a very good film, even though it fails in the film noir department quite a bit. certainly the most enjoyable aspect of it is the cinematography (the angles! THE ANGLES!), which is really fantastic and uses the light and shadows to great extent. the sets and settings are all very good too (loved the bombed out buildings) and the acting is uniformly good, although it's disappointing and a shame that the infamous Harry Lime barely is in it, since Orson Welles is obviously having fun playing him. with him on the poster/cover too, you can't help but feel a bit cheated.

[b]The Third Man[/b] is a very enjoyable and sometimes thrilling film noir/mystery and well worth watching for the cinematography and mood alone, but i really can't understand what makes this so fantastic that it deserves the no. 38 spot on IMDb's top 250. anyone feel like filling me in on what i'm missing? the 4 stars may seem high considering how negative i've probably been in this review, but i really expected it to be 5 or 4½ at least.

**** stars out of five.

Duck Soup
Duck Soup(1933)

as shocking as it may seem, i hadn't seen a single Marx brothers film before i saw [b]Duck Soup[/b] yesterday.. in fact, until recently i didn't really know who they were other than knowing the name and that they were famous comedians. having seen [b]Duck Soup[/b] though, i'm not sure i'm that interested in seeing any more of their films though, especially since this is supposed to be their best film (it's the highest rated one on IMDb at least).

granted, the humor of ye olde days doesn't always make me laugh. i enjoy Charlie Chaplin films, but i can't say he makes me laugh out loud very often and neither did [b]Duck Soup[/b]. surely Groucho's witty comebacks are clever, and i'm sure back then they were more or less shockingly blunt, but these days it seems like regular comedy that's been done. surely that may have all been influenced by Groucho for all i know, but it doesn't help the film. it's an amusing film though, and not a bad one by any means.. but while many or most think it's a comedic masterpiece, i only find it merely a good film at best. best scene in the film has to be when the three main Marxes are dressed up as Groucho in sleepwear, and the mirror scene was really funny and very well done.

is [b]Duck Soup[/b] a classic? i personally don't think it is.. maybe the expectations were too high. it's got it's fair share of funny stuff but it didn't really crack me up, which was what i had hoped for. should i give another one of their films a try, or am i likely to feel the same way about all of their films?

*** stars out of five.

Wet Hot American Summer
½

i know you're all shocked to see me actually giving a film a negative rating, but that's really only because i usually don't feel like wasting time writing about a bad film. i prefer to write about the ones i liked and/or loved. [b]Wet Hot American Summer[/b] however was so bad that i think i should express it in written form.

the saddest thing about this film is that it had potential. just a lot of wasted potential. the setting is a great one, and the cast is chockful with real comedic talent.. and then to see all this go to more or less complete waste is such a shame. the film has funny parts in it, no doubt about that, but most of the time it's just ridiculous, silly and unfunny. what could've been a great summer camp comedy just takes the most bizarre turns (like one bit about a satellite that is supposed to fall right on their main hall, and another with kids being trapped on a river). you can't really just blame it on the screenwriters either, even though it's mainly their fault for writing such a poor screenplay but what were all these actors thinking? did they seriously find this funny? Janeane Garofalo, a great comedienne and smart woman, has some laughably bad scenes that are just beneath her.. i don't know what these people were thinking when they made this.

aside for a few funny bits here and there, and actually nailing the visual look (costumes, sets, hair and such looked great and very authentic to the time), [b]Wet Hot American Summer[/b] is just a comedic train wreck.. and like i've said, the worst part is that there was so much potential and talent involved that it's such a shame. it's not necessarily painful to sit through, but it's certainly not a good movie.

*½ star out of five.

Down by Law
Down by Law(1986)
½

[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]High Noon[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] certainly the classic it is said to be. the best part is that they trimmed out all the fat, down to a lean, mean 85 or so minutes. usually i want more meat on the bones, but in this case it works perfectly as it more or less takes place in real time. Gary Cooper (who i haven't seen in much else) is really excellent, and Grace Kelly.. oh my. she has to be one of the most classic beauties there ever were, plus she could really act too. such a shame she left acting so quickly. anyway, great film, and Will Kane is a true hero. i totally cheered when he threw down his tin star in disgust. ****½ stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Family Man[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] i suppose i feel a bit guilty for giving this film such a high rating, but what can i say, it just worked for me.. and i might even have given it a higher rating had the ending been better (more fantasy). Nicolas Cage does a good job, and he has good chemistry with Tea Leoni too, who plays his suburban wife. sure, it's no [b]It's a Wonderful Life[/b] or anything, but i really enjoyed this film (far more than i probably should have). a guilty pleasure if you may. it's certainly my favorite film directed by Brett Ratner, although that isn't saying much i guess given his filmography. ***½ stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Arthur[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] it's pretty amazing that a film (a comedy!) like this could garner 4 Academy Award nominations (and win two!) since it could virtually never happen today. it's certainly a very funny film though, and both Dudley Moore and John Gielgud deserved their nominations since they are just so so funny in this movie. Moore with his drunken ranting all the time, and Gielgud with his snobbish butler remarks that are some of the best comebacks you'll ever hear in a film. the plot is average, but it's certainly well worth seeing for the comedy stylings of these two fine gentlemen. ***½ stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Down by Law[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] off-beat is certainly the proper word to describe a Jim Jarmusch film, and this is no different.. what i was most surprised by was how funny this film is though. surely i should've expected that since it stars Roberto Benigni but much of this film was flat-out hilarious, much thanks to previously mentioned Italian comedian. and before anyone complains, i realize that this film has more depth to it than meets the eye, but it was late when i saw it and i really wasn't in the mood to decipher deeper, more subtle meanings to it.. hopefully subsequent viewings will do that. ***½ stars out of five.

Arthur
Arthur(1981)
½

[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]High Noon[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] certainly the classic it is said to be. the best part is that they trimmed out all the fat, down to a lean, mean 85 or so minutes. usually i want more meat on the bones, but in this case it works perfectly as it more or less takes place in real time. Gary Cooper (who i haven't seen in much else) is really excellent, and Grace Kelly.. oh my. she has to be one of the most classic beauties there ever were, plus she could really act too. such a shame she left acting so quickly. anyway, great film, and Will Kane is a true hero. i totally cheered when he threw down his tin star in disgust. ****½ stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Family Man[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] i suppose i feel a bit guilty for giving this film such a high rating, but what can i say, it just worked for me.. and i might even have given it a higher rating had the ending been better (more fantasy). Nicolas Cage does a good job, and he has good chemistry with Tea Leoni too, who plays his suburban wife. sure, it's no [b]It's a Wonderful Life[/b] or anything, but i really enjoyed this film (far more than i probably should have). a guilty pleasure if you may. it's certainly my favorite film directed by Brett Ratner, although that isn't saying much i guess given his filmography. ***½ stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Arthur[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] it's pretty amazing that a film (a comedy!) like this could garner 4 Academy Award nominations (and win two!) since it could virtually never happen today. it's certainly a very funny film though, and both Dudley Moore and John Gielgud deserved their nominations since they are just so so funny in this movie. Moore with his drunken ranting all the time, and Gielgud with his snobbish butler remarks that are some of the best comebacks you'll ever hear in a film. the plot is average, but it's certainly well worth seeing for the comedy stylings of these two fine gentlemen. ***½ stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Down by Law[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] off-beat is certainly the proper word to describe a Jim Jarmusch film, and this is no different.. what i was most surprised by was how funny this film is though. surely i should've expected that since it stars Roberto Benigni but much of this film was flat-out hilarious, much thanks to previously mentioned Italian comedian. and before anyone complains, i realize that this film has more depth to it than meets the eye, but it was late when i saw it and i really wasn't in the mood to decipher deeper, more subtle meanings to it.. hopefully subsequent viewings will do that. ***½ stars out of five.

The Family Man
½

[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]High Noon[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] certainly the classic it is said to be. the best part is that they trimmed out all the fat, down to a lean, mean 85 or so minutes. usually i want more meat on the bones, but in this case it works perfectly as it more or less takes place in real time. Gary Cooper (who i haven't seen in much else) is really excellent, and Grace Kelly.. oh my. she has to be one of the most classic beauties there ever were, plus she could really act too. such a shame she left acting so quickly. anyway, great film, and Will Kane is a true hero. i totally cheered when he threw down his tin star in disgust. ****½ stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Family Man[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] i suppose i feel a bit guilty for giving this film such a high rating, but what can i say, it just worked for me.. and i might even have given it a higher rating had the ending been better (more fantasy). Nicolas Cage does a good job, and he has good chemistry with Tea Leoni too, who plays his suburban wife. sure, it's no [b]It's a Wonderful Life[/b] or anything, but i really enjoyed this film (far more than i probably should have). a guilty pleasure if you may. it's certainly my favorite film directed by Brett Ratner, although that isn't saying much i guess given his filmography. ***½ stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Arthur[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] it's pretty amazing that a film (a comedy!) like this could garner 4 Academy Award nominations (and win two!) since it could virtually never happen today. it's certainly a very funny film though, and both Dudley Moore and John Gielgud deserved their nominations since they are just so so funny in this movie. Moore with his drunken ranting all the time, and Gielgud with his snobbish butler remarks that are some of the best comebacks you'll ever hear in a film. the plot is average, but it's certainly well worth seeing for the comedy stylings of these two fine gentlemen. ***½ stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Down by Law[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] off-beat is certainly the proper word to describe a Jim Jarmusch film, and this is no different.. what i was most surprised by was how funny this film is though. surely i should've expected that since it stars Roberto Benigni but much of this film was flat-out hilarious, much thanks to previously mentioned Italian comedian. and before anyone complains, i realize that this film has more depth to it than meets the eye, but it was late when i saw it and i really wasn't in the mood to decipher deeper, more subtle meanings to it.. hopefully subsequent viewings will do that. ***½ stars out of five.

High Noon
High Noon(1952)
½

[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]High Noon[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] certainly the classic it is said to be. the best part is that they trimmed out all the fat, down to a lean, mean 85 or so minutes. usually i want more meat on the bones, but in this case it works perfectly as it more or less takes place in real time. Gary Cooper (who i haven't seen in much else) is really excellent, and Grace Kelly.. oh my. she has to be one of the most classic beauties there ever were, plus she could really act too. such a shame she left acting so quickly. anyway, great film, and Will Kane is a true hero. i totally cheered when he threw down his tin star in disgust. ****½ stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Family Man[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] i suppose i feel a bit guilty for giving this film such a high rating, but what can i say, it just worked for me.. and i might even have given it a higher rating had the ending been better (more fantasy). Nicolas Cage does a good job, and he has good chemistry with Tea Leoni too, who plays his suburban wife. sure, it's no [b]It's a Wonderful Life[/b] or anything, but i really enjoyed this film (far more than i probably should have). a guilty pleasure if you may. it's certainly my favorite film directed by Brett Ratner, although that isn't saying much i guess given his filmography. ***½ stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Arthur[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] it's pretty amazing that a film (a comedy!) like this could garner 4 Academy Award nominations (and win two!) since it could virtually never happen today. it's certainly a very funny film though, and both Dudley Moore and John Gielgud deserved their nominations since they are just so so funny in this movie. Moore with his drunken ranting all the time, and Gielgud with his snobbish butler remarks that are some of the best comebacks you'll ever hear in a film. the plot is average, but it's certainly well worth seeing for the comedy stylings of these two fine gentlemen. ***½ stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Down by Law[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] off-beat is certainly the proper word to describe a Jim Jarmusch film, and this is no different.. what i was most surprised by was how funny this film is though. surely i should've expected that since it stars Roberto Benigni but much of this film was flat-out hilarious, much thanks to previously mentioned Italian comedian. and before anyone complains, i realize that this film has more depth to it than meets the eye, but it was late when i saw it and i really wasn't in the mood to decipher deeper, more subtle meanings to it.. hopefully subsequent viewings will do that. ***½ stars out of five.

Frankenstein
Frankenstein(1931)
½

while this is not a bad film, it is certainly a disappointment and not anywhere near as good as i thought it would be.. in some aspects, it's even laughably bad but that's probably to do with my inability to appreciate the acting of those times. i did think that Colin Clive, who plays Dr. Frankenstein, and Frederick Kerr, who plays his father, did well though.. Kerr in particular. [b]Frankenstein[/b] isn't a bad film though, and the makeup and visual effects are remarkably well done considering the age of the film.. it's only too bad the monster of Frankenstein isn't anywhere near as scary as he should be.. i'm sure at the time this was scary but it isn't in any way now. i realize i sound very negative reviewing it so far, yet i'm giving it a thumbs up.. well, it's a classic after all and i guess i feel nostalgic about it rather than thinking it's a genuinely good film. i feel the same way about [b]King Kong[/b], which is impossible to suspend disbelief for, yet i really like it. i didn't enjoy [b]Frankenstein[/b] as much as i enjoy [b]King Kong[/b] though, and it's really a disappointment despite the thumbs up rating.. but it's a must-see no matter what, if only to see Boris Karloff in monster makeup, something which actually to this day looks very "authentic" if that word can be used to describe it.

a disappointing ***½ stars out of five.

The Last Detail

i've only seen two other Hal Ashby films before i saw [b]The Last Detail[/b], and i'm happy to report that he's still batting a 1.000 average in my book. [b]The Last Detail[/b] isn't as good as [b]Harold and Maude[/b] or [b]Being There[/b], but it's still a really fun movie with some drama mixed into it.. i really wouldn't know what to call it though.. a buddy film? a road movie? much like previously mentioned films, it just kinda goes beyond classification.

the story of [b]The Last Detail[/b] is that there isn't much story. it follows two navy men assigned to escort a former navy man to a prison further up the east coast and on their way they visit Washington, New York and Boston, where they more or less get shitfaced, beat up army grunts, get laid and just basically give the kid a memorable send-off before he has to go away to prison for the next 8 years.

the highlight of the film is obviously Jack Nicholson in one of his wackiest roles.. granted, he's been playing those kind of roles all his career, but his Buddusky, nicknamed Bad Ass sure is a memorable character and has a lot of memorable (and very funny) lines.. he doesn't play the felon though, but one of the guards, or shore police as they are called. the other guard is played by Otis Young, whom i've never heard of nor seen in anything else.. he's got the most straight role of the three though so he doesn't really get to do much, but he's good even if he doesn't have a memorable character.. and lastly, as the prisoner we have none other than Randy Quaid, who along with Nicholson was Oscar-nominated for this film. i've only seen him in comedic roles, and he's surprising in this since he's playing this young, innocent boy basically.. i don't know if he deserved an Oscar nomination for it, but he was surprisingly good.

so who should see [b]The Last Detail[/b]? well any fan of Jack Nicholson obviously.. any fan of Hal Ashby too (if there are any.. not many seem to know him or his work, unfortunately). i really enjoyed it myself, much because of the Nicholson character and i warmly recommend it.

**** stars out of five.

Kill Bill: Volume 2

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[size=2]
WARNING: THERE WILL BE [b]SPOILERS[/b] IN THIS REVIEW![/size]

hmm.. where do i start? well right off the bat i'll say that i don't think [b]Vol. 2[/b] is anywhere near as fantastic as i thought [b]Vol. 1[/b] was. that film completely blew me away, and i didn't expect it to. with this second part not being much of anything like the first, it's hardly surprising that [b]Vol. 2[/b] didn't wow me. it's still a very good film, and may become a great one with subsequent viewings but i'm not dying to see it again like i was after i had seen [b]Vol. 1[/b].

the oddest thing about them is that i really can't see how they could've ever made one film out of this.. not because of length but simply because of how different they are. maybe it really was a better idea after all to make it two parts since the sum of both parts together feels like it would've been such an uneven blend. Tarantino apparently intends to make one lengthy cut of it though, so i guess i'll find out if it works or not when or if the full cut surfaces. another weird thing is that most of the time (99% of the time) i absolutely prefer drama to action... but in the case of [b]Kill Bill[/b], it's the action that i loved, not the drama. the drama was good, but the action was better.

Uma Thurman is as good as ever.. but i think she was better in the first part, and i'm not just talking in terms of her being a bad-ass either but i thought she was funnier and just had better dramatic scenes in it. the feeling that everything was better in [b]Vol. 1[/b] seems to run through everything about it though.. maybe it's just because i enjoyed the first film so much more, but i really feel like the art direction, set design, costumes, fights and even story structure was better in [b]Vol. 1[/b]. it's all still very good, but it felt like it was just better in every way in the first one.

David Carradine as Bill.. what can i say, he did a fine job, but didn't really blew me away. i can't say i've seen him in much of anything else that could be compared to this (i.e. dramatic acting) but he pulled it off as good as he could. i really wonder how Warren Beatty, who was originally cast as Bill, would've been. after Uma, my favorite would have to be Daryl Hannah as Elle Driver. once she pops up at Budd's place, the movie feels a bit more like [b]Vol. 1[/b] and their fight was just as good as any of the ones from the previous volume. Bill's demise on the other hand felt cheesy (many laughed) and completely out of place. it may fit in the films that inspired this film, but it sure didn't fit here.

one thing i really loved about it though was when The Bride reaches Bill's house (great house by the way, i want it!) and sees her daughter.. and then when she's with her in her bedroom watching what got the biggest laugh of both films combined (Shogun Assassin). even though i obviously seem to prefer the action to the drama in the [b]Kill Bill[/b] series, those scenes were just lovely.

all things told, [b]Kill Bill: Vol. 2[/b] is a very good film, and will probably rise in esteem for me once i see it a few more times. i don't think i will ever put it on par with [b]Vol. 1[/b] though. maybe the expectations were too high, but then again, they were high for Vol. 1 too. no matter what, it's definitely a must-see if you've seen [b]Vol. 1[/b], just to flesh out the story and background, and find out how it ends.

**** stars out of five.

Secret Window
½

[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Starsky & Hutch[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] i've always liked the comedic stylings of Mr. Stiller and Mr. Wilson, and i have to say [b]Starsky & Hutch[/b] is somewhat disappointing. i still liked it, as witnessed by the rating above, but they can certainly be funnier and i thought i'd like it more than i did. the problem isn't really Ben and Owen though, they work well together as always.. the problem is definitely the script, which could've made it a lot funnier than it was.. although i suppose that's a matter of opinion as i had the displeasure of sitting next to the guy who laughed at everything and laughed so loud it borderlined on distracting. i didn't laugh as much as he did though. believe it or not but the funniest thing in the whole film was Stiller as a mafioso repeating "do it" in his best Sylvester Stallone voice. it's not terrible though, i quite enjoyed it even though there weren't that many laugh out loud jokes to be found. the Stiller/Wilson duo still works well together.. now they just need a better screenwriter to come up with better jokes.

***½ stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Secret Window[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] i had no idea for the longest time that [b]Secret Window[/b] was based on a Stephen King story. i only found out like a month before it's US release, and even though i wasn't dying to see it, the fact that it was based on a King story couldn't be a bad thing.. and having seen it, i have to say it's a pretty good King story, even though it's no [b]Stand By Me[/b] or [b]The Shawshank Redemption[/b]. the main reason to see the film is because of Johnny Depp who makes for an appealing writer/bum and makes it look easy. surely it's no acting challenge here, but he nevertheless does a good job as always and his character Mort Rainey is a pretty funny guy for the most part, constantly talking to himself in his cabin. other than Depp we get John Turturro who plays the villain you could say.. nothing i've seen him play before and he plays one convincingly. as for the plot.. i have to give it credit for not wussing out in the end.. i won't spoil anything, but those who've seen it know what i'm talking about (i hope). it's no bad film by any means.. definitely recommended as a friday night rental.

***½ stars out of five.

Starsky & Hutch
½

[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Starsky & Hutch[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] i've always liked the comedic stylings of Mr. Stiller and Mr. Wilson, and i have to say [b]Starsky & Hutch[/b] is somewhat disappointing. i still liked it, as witnessed by the rating above, but they can certainly be funnier and i thought i'd like it more than i did. the problem isn't really Ben and Owen though, they work well together as always.. the problem is definitely the script, which could've made it a lot funnier than it was.. although i suppose that's a matter of opinion as i had the displeasure of sitting next to the guy who laughed at everything and laughed so loud it borderlined on distracting. i didn't laugh as much as he did though. believe it or not but the funniest thing in the whole film was Stiller as a mafioso repeating "do it" in his best Sylvester Stallone voice. it's not terrible though, i quite enjoyed it even though there weren't that many laugh out loud jokes to be found. the Stiller/Wilson duo still works well together.. now they just need a better screenwriter to come up with better jokes.

***½ stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Secret Window[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] i had no idea for the longest time that [b]Secret Window[/b] was based on a Stephen King story. i only found out like a month before it's US release, and even though i wasn't dying to see it, the fact that it was based on a King story couldn't be a bad thing.. and having seen it, i have to say it's a pretty good King story, even though it's no [b]Stand By Me[/b] or [b]The Shawshank Redemption[/b]. the main reason to see the film is because of Johnny Depp who makes for an appealing writer/bum and makes it look easy. surely it's no acting challenge here, but he nevertheless does a good job as always and his character Mort Rainey is a pretty funny guy for the most part, constantly talking to himself in his cabin. other than Depp we get John Turturro who plays the villain you could say.. nothing i've seen him play before and he plays one convincingly. as for the plot.. i have to give it credit for not wussing out in the end.. i won't spoil anything, but those who've seen it know what i'm talking about (i hope). it's no bad film by any means.. definitely recommended as a friday night rental.

***½ stars out of five.

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara
½

wow! really, wow! all i can say is that you need to see this documentary. everyone should see this if they have any interest in history, politics, war and such.. and i'd like to think most people do, especially in these times. the subject of [b]The Fog of War[/b] is Robert S. McNamara who was the US secretary of defense under presidents Kennedy and Johnson from 1961 to 1968, and was a key player during the Cuban missile crisis and the Vietnam War. over the course of the documentary's 107 minutes, he offers us 11 lessons from his life, all of them relating to war in one way or another.

other than recognizing his name and knowing his place in history (at least during the 60's), i can't say i knew much about him going into this documentary.. going out of it, i may not know that much more about him as a person, except that his middle initial stands for "Strange", but i do know that i respect him a great deal and that he seems like a highly intelligent, well-spoken man. i honestly have no idea if what he says in this documentary is old news to those more familiar with US political climate of the 1960's but he tells a lot of great truths, some if not most of them things i wish today's politicians would listen to. the man was right in the middle of it during the Vietnam war after all so he obviously knows what he's talking about, and the lessons he gives us are certainly worth thinking about.

it may have sound like a dry, boring documentary but trust me, it's not thanks to Errol Morris' terrific skills as a documentary filmmaker. Morris intercuts his footage of McNamara talking with great amounts of stock footage, photographs, graphics as well as taped conversations between McNamara and Kennedy, Johnson and other people in high places that took place back in the day. not that what McNamara has to say would put you to sleep or anything, but all this certainly makes it a great deal more interesting for sure.

i know i already posted my list of the top ten films of last year, but this film is going into a revised version of it for sure. [b]The Fog of War[/b] simply has to be seen, so this is a direct order. the DVD comes out in the US on May 11th, and i read that on it, McNamara will offer an additional number of lessons that didn't make it into the film.. i can't wait to hear them.

****½ stars out of five.

Shattered Glass

[center][img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/shattered.jpg[/img]
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[center][size=1]Peter Sarsgaard as Chuck Lane[size=3].[/size][/size]
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[b]Shattered Glass[/b] may sound like a dry, plain film about a political journalist who doctored and made up stories, but it's actually a really riveting film, and it's never boring. it's no perfect film, but if you're interested in good drama, then this is for you.

the biggest reason i like this film as much as i do is Peter Sarsgaard and his outstanding performance as Chuck Lane. at first, the character seems like a boring, dry and rather humorless guy but as we find out as the story progresses, you pretty much realize what a complete hero he is. Sarsgaard's wonderful acting, mixed with such an honorable, heroic character makes for one of the best performances of last year, and one of the best i've seen in many years. it's truly a shame the Academy didn't nominate him. it's not a flashy part though, so maybe that's why.. but you'll be cheering for him at the end as if he was a racehorse.

the film to me is a good example of where you can see a truly outstanding actor meeting up with one who isn't at all. Hayden Christensen (of [b]Star Wars[/b] fame) doesn't ruin the movie by any means, but i really have to say he has to be one of the worst i can think of.. there's just something in his delivery that just seems so incredibly hammy. his character, Stephen Glass, is a weasel though so in some ways, his nervous, bad acting kinda works for the character since Glass was a total liar. if Chuck Lane is one of the greatest everyday guy movie heroes in a long time, Glass is to put it frankly, one of the most despicable characters i've seen in a film. it's certainly rare for me to almost be shouting profanity at the tv when i'm watching a film.. that usually only happens when i'm watching the Academy Awards (and the one i root for lose) and sports.

the rest of the cast is surprisingly made up of many familiar faces, like Hank Azaria, Chlöe Sevigny and Steve Zahn. maybe they just really wanted to be a part of the film, because neither one of them really has a big part. they all do fine jobs with their parts, so i'm not knocking anyone or complaining but their parts could've just as easily have been done by lesser known actors and it wouldn't have made much difference.

[b]Shattered Glass[/b] would easily have gotten half a star more had there been a better actor to play Glass, but Christensen isn't completely awful and here it sorta works for him that he's just as bad of an actor as Glass was.. but thankfully there's Peter Sarsgaard here to completely steamroll not only Christensen but the character of Stephen Glass also. even if Christensen was a bad choice, it's without a doubt worth seeing for Sarsgaard. his Chuck Lane is like an Atticus Finch of the 21st century.

**** stars out of five.

Ed Wood
Ed Wood(1994)

[center][img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/ed-wood-coffin.jpg[/img]
[/center]
[center][size=1]"This[size=1] [/size]is the most uncomfortable coffin I've ever been in[size=3].[/size]"[/size]
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i have to admit that i've actually never seen any of the real Ed Wood's films, nor am i particularly familiar with him as a person, so i can't really say how much of Tim Burton's [b]Ed Wood[/b] is true or false but no matter what, i sure love this film.

the most amazing thing about it is definitely Martin Landau. i absolutely adore Johnny Depp as an actor, and he is indeed fantastic (and brave) as Edward D. Wood Jr. but it's Landau as the over-the-hill Bela Lugosi who steals the movie, both dramatically and comically. he won the Oscar for best supporting actor in 1995 and he absolutely deserved it. Landau doesn't make fun of him, or plays him too straight.. just perfectly. with the terrific makeup (that also won an Oscar) it's virtually impossible to see that it's Landau too, which lends itself to the performance as we never once see the actor, just Bela. the whole cast is fantastic though, with Johnny Depp as a total maniac, dressing in drag and always putting on the biggest smile. others include Bill Murray in a small part as an actor wanting to become a woman, Lisa Marie (Burton's girlfriend at the time) who looks just perfect as Vampira and Jeffrey Jones as the psychic Criswell. Sarah Jessica Parker and Patricia Arquette play Ed's girlfriends, and they do well too, but kinda get lost among the many outlandish characters this film has.

the production values should get praised within their own paragraph too, most notably the gorgeous, very contrasted black & white cinematography by Stefan Czapsky. Burton's films are always visually stimulating, and this one is no different. the costumes and art direction may not be as flashy as in [b]Sleepy Hollow[/b] or [b]Edward Scissorhands[/b] but they do their job, and Tom Duffield, the production designer, should get a lot of credit for re-creating the sets of Wood's films. Howard Shore's very fitting musical score is one of my favorites of his too.. you'd really have to hear it, cause i really can't describe it. it sounds very much like what you'd hear in sci-fi films from the era the film takes place though.

[b]Ed Wood[/b] is one of my favorite Tim Burton films (i'd say it's only second to [b]Sleepy Hollow[/b]). it's very off-beat, but with a good fun-loving heart and lots of great jokes. if you haven't seen it yet, make sure you do as soon as you can (i.e. as soon as Touchstone finally releases the Region 1 DVD).

***** stars out of five.

12 Angry Men (Twelve Angry Men)
½

isn't it rather amusing that this film is entitled [b]12 Angry Men[/b] even though there really is just one that is truly angry? Henry Fonda's character, the only one who has doubt about the accused man's guilt at the onset of this classic film, certainly has no anger in him so to entitle this film [b]12 Angry Men[/b] is really rather odd. thankfully, nothing else about this riveting drama is a misstep though. it certainly deserves it's status as a classic.

one interesting aspect of this film is that it begins right at the very end of the trial, as the jurors are about to go to the jury room and decide the fate of the accused. instead of having a 30-minute intro with the trial to provide us the viewers with the same information as the jurors now have, they instead opted to have the jurors present the facts of the case inside the jury room and i must say that was a fantastic idea. you can be sure that had the film been made in this day and age, it would've included trial scenes, flashbacks of the crime AND have the jurors repeat the same information later, just to make sure everything is obvious for the viewers. instead we're in this room with these men throughout the film, and everything unravels for us at the same time it does for them.

the acting is uniformly excellent. at the time, Henry Fonda was more or less the only one in the cast who was really famous and well-known, but thankfully this film is not a star vehicle and even though he naturally gets the most screentime and dialogue, he doesn't outshine the rest of the cast. Fonda may have been the only one famous at the time, but several of the other faces are certainly recognizable though, like Martin Balsam and Jack Warden, whose faces you may recognize even if you don't know them by name. after Fonda, Lee J. Cobb is the one with the most character, playing the only truly angry man. i don't think i've seen him in anything else, but he was really fantastic in this. it's really odd that such a fantastically acted film didn't get a single Oscar nomination for acting. Fonda and Cobb certainly deserved a nomination each for their performances this film.

[b]12 Angry Men[/b] really is the classic it is made out to be, and one of the most intriguing, riveting and well-made films set in just one place. director Sidney Lumet may be trapped in one room with this film, but he makes the most with it and does it in good style, without resorting to flashbacks and other cheap tricks. if you haven't seen it, make sure you do.

****½ stars out of five.

Matchstick Men
½

i love crime films. many of my very favorite films often have some element of it in them. if you just look at my top ten movies list on the right, you'll see that most of them have some form of crime in them, whether it's about criminals or criminal acts. i also love the crime subgenres, in particular the heist film and the con man film.

[b]Matchstick Men[/b] is not a straight con man movie though, it's actually something more like 3 different films. one part of it is obviously that it's about con men, and them conning people, but it's also a film about a man with some really bad personal problems, and it's a film about a father and a daughter. this makes for not only a very entertaining film, but also a very sweet, touching film as we see our main character get better once his newly-found daughter is in his life. the best parts in the movie is not the ones about the con, but the little moments where the father and daughter are bonding. the con element of the film is obviously very entertaining and such, but the most memorable scenes are those little scenes. those are the ones that make the film for me.

Nicolas Cage is just wonderful in this film. i'm so happy he's gotten back to doing more serious work after years of action films. if you ask me, this performance is only topped by the ones he gave in Leaving Las Vegas and Adaptation and he deserved an Oscar nomination for this one as well. just as wonderful is fresh-faced Alison Lohman playing his 14-year old daughter. she's just so good in this film, and if it were up to me i'd give her an Oscar nomination for this too. together they just have this great spark and it's such a joy to see them together. rounding out the main cast is the ever-reliable Sam Rockwell who does a good job here like he always does. it's not the biggest role, but he does a fine job with it.

the whole production is just a damn fine job. with Ridley Scott pulling the strings, you know you're getting a top-notch film in every sense of the word, and that's just as true here as it was in [b]Black Hawk Down[/b] and [b]Gladiator[/b], even though it's not as flashy. the music, cinematography, editing, production design, etc. all work perfectly together to give this film a nice sense of style and look. the cinematography in particular, especially the lighting, is really something special.

one of the best films of 2003, and without a doubt the most underrated, [b]Matchstick Men[/b] is a film i'd recommend to anyone, not just those who enjoy a good con man movie. it's very entertaining and it's got a lot more heart than you'd imagine.

****½ stars out of five.

Paper Moon
Paper Moon(1973)
½

headlined by an irresistibly charming Tatum O'Neal, [b]Paper Moon[/b] is a real treat for young and old. i never saw it as a kid, but as an adult i just love this little gem of a film. for some reason, i never was able to see it until now even though it's one of very few films i remember having heard of even as a kid, back in the day before i became the true movie geek standing before you today. yes, as shocking as it sounds and as hard as it may be to imagine it, i have not been a movie geek all my life.

uhm.. anyway, [b]Paper Moon[/b] is pretty much all about Tatum O'Neal's performance of Addie Loggins. she's cute as a button, spunkier than Pippi Longstocking and just terrific. i can't say if she deserved to win the Oscar for it or not, since i don't think i've seen any of the other nominated performances from that year (besides Madeline Kahn's from this very same film of course) but her performance is definitely one of the best child performances i've seen. Ryan O'Neal, her real-life father, also does a great job (i haven't liked him in much of anything else) but is obviously upstaged by his daughter, as is previously mentioned Madeline Kahn who's got a fun little part as Trixie Delight (what a name!).

pretty much everything about the film is top-notch. the cinematography didn't win any awards, but back then there weren't much more than the Globes and the Oscars. it's a mighty finely shot film though. funny how so many of the post-B/W era films shot in black and white often come out looking absolutely fantastic (think [b]Ed Wood[/b] and [b]The Man Who Wasn't There[/b] for example). must be because we're not used to seeing black and white in new films these days.. we've forgotten how great a film can look using just black, white and greys. anyway, it's a great-looking film, with terrific cinematography, production design, costumes, etc. it's too bad it didn't get more Oscar nominations than it did cause it deserved it, especially Peter Bogdanovich, the director.

i just discovered [b]Paper Moon[/b], and i'm glad i did. it's a great, fun entertaining film that both young and old can enjoy. if you still haven't discovered it for yourself, i suggest planning a trip to the local video store to rent it cause this is a damn fine film.

****½ stars out of five.

A Mighty Wind
½

it saddens me to say it, but Christopher Guest needs to find a new shtick. [b]A Mighty Wind[/b] may take on another subject, but with more or less the same cast as [b]Waiting for Guffman[/b] and [b]Best in Show[/b], it's just more or the same and it's growing old fast. that doesn't mean [b]A Mighty Wind[/b] is a bad film, it's not, but it feels recycled. granted, i don't know anything about folk music, nor is it music i listen to, so just by that it doesn't interest me as much as [b]Best in Show[/b] did (since i love dogs) but my main problem with this film is definitely that it's retreading ground Guest & Co have already covered.

the best part about the film is easily the parts that have Mitch & Mickey in them. Eugene Levy's creation of Mitch Cohen is something to behold, and it's quite possibly Levy's finest performance to date. everything about Mitch, from the way he talks to facial expressions, just make you wonder from what planet he's from. he gets some of the best and funniest jokes in the film too ("[i]you know, 35 years ago, preparing for a concert meant playing "find the cobra" with the hotel chambermaid.[/i]"). as his counterpart we have Catherine O'Hara as Mickey and to be honest, this would've been a better film had it only been about the two of them. O'Hara's almost as terrific as Levy and their relationship is easily the best part about the film, and on top of that they have the best songs too.

Guest and Levy, who wrote it, are obviously very talented comedy writers, and the cast that Guest assembles for his films are all very talented comedians so it's really a shame that he's gotten himself stuck doing the same thing over and over again. i'd love to see them make a "regular" comedy because the talent is there, both in writing, direction and acting. [b]A Mighty Wind[/b] is worth watching if you enjoy his previous mockumentaries, but it definitely feels like something i've seen before. i'll recommend it for Eugene Levy's performance though. if you're going to see it, see it for that.

***½ stars out of five.

Memento
Memento(2000)

taking a page from Roger Ebert (my hero!), here's the very first of my "Great Movies" entries, although i've changed the title to "My Favorite Films" instead so i won't come off as a complete copycat. i have no idea how often (or not) i will do this.. but here's the start of it. hopefully i can do one of these every now and then... they won't be any essays or anything.. just a review of some of my absolute favorite films of all time.

[center][img]http://members.lycos.co.uk/zerogrizzly/memento.jpg[/img]
[/center]

anyone who has peeked at my "top ten movies" list on the right will know that [b]Memento[/b] is one of my very favorite films. i think the most amazing thing about it is the fact that it's such a pure film's film. the story it tells really can't be told in any other form, at least not so that it'd work in the same brilliant way it does on celluloid. to me, it's pretty much a story that only works the way it does as a film, thus it's a film's film. a film to remind me of why i love the medium of cinema so much.

[b]Memento[/b] is a twist movie, as it's so popular to dub them these days. unlike most twist movies, the twist is constant throughout, and not just one big twist at the end, a la [b]The Sixth Sense[/b]. while it can be argued that this film only works at it's highest level the first time you see it, something i agree about, i still think that it's such a beautifully made film that i can watch it over and over again, and still enjoy it for not only being a really awesome story, but just be in awe of how unique it is. i think to call it's storytelling structure simply a gimmick is not fair at all to this film, and to just dismiss it's reversed structure as a gimmick is something someone who didn't quite get the full picture would say. not that i am trying to insult anyone here, but there truly is more to it than you might think and that's the way it toys with our own memory. like Leonard, our main character, the way the film is told gives us a mind puzzle that won't resolve for most people until the very end. that it's being told backwards also gives us a film that we can't possibly predict what'll happen. we see one sequence, and we learn one truth. then we see what lead up to the previous scene and it just turns everything on it's head. surely the film could still have worked had it been told in a chronologic order, but a lot of the film's true power and brilliance lies in how it toys with our head just as Leonard's head is being toyed with.

Guy Pearce in the lead is fantastic as Leonard. it's not a flashy part, but Pearce is just perfect. it's really too bad so many overlooked his understated, fine performance in this. he's also supported by a wonderful group of supporting actors and actresses, and i'm not just talking about Joe Pantoliano and Carrie-Anne Moss but also Stephen Tobolowsky and Harriet Sansom Harris who play Sammy Jankis and his wife in flashbacks that Leonard has. for the most part, they are ones that have the most emotional scenes in the film. while Leonard, Teddy and Natalie are more or less all driven by greed and revenge, the Jankis' provide the love. they are small parts, but just perfectly acted.

i could probably go on and on about how i love every single thing about this film, from the acting to directing, from writing to editing but i think you get the idea. it's wonderful that it got nominated for two Oscars, but a shame it didn't get nominated for more, and that it didn't win the two it was nominated for. [b]Memento[/b] is easily the best film of the 2000's, and will most likely stay there for a long, long time. it's simply one of the best, most unique and brilliant films ever made. it's one of my favorite films.

***** stars out of five.

Crumb
Crumb(1995)
½

i've been watching a whole lot of documentaries lately, so i thought i would inaugurate the new multi-rating function with a little special entry about them. luckily, they were all worth watching too, covering all types of documentaries available.. from biography to nature to crime.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Spellbound[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] this warm, wonderful documentary follows a handful of young teenagers, all of whom have qualified through regional spelling bees to compete at the national spelling bee in Washington D.C. while many documentaries are about darker subjects such as corruption, social problems and crime, this one's all happy as we get to follow how all of these hard-working, bright young kids make their way to the final, and then finally compete against each other in a duel of spelling words that i don't even know half the time. each teen has a different background, and come from all over the US. while you may find yourself rooting for a favorite, there's no denying that you feel for all of them. at the end of the day, one of them will be declared the winner, but the others are not sore losers either. it's definitely refreshing to see such a fun, happy and positive documentary for once. **** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Capturing the Friedmans[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] now here's a gem of a documentary. it follows the true story of the Friedman family, whose father was exposed as a pedophile out of the blue, something that destroyed this family forever. while the story it tells isn't exactly a new subject, it certainly has a lot going for it that many other documentaries don't and that's it's abundance of home video footage, shot by the Friedman family themselves, who for some reason let the camera roll even during some of their absolutely darkest moments. this gives us the viewers insight to what it truly was like for them during this difficult time, something you really can't get from 15+ years later interviews. the documentary has those too, obviously, but the most fascinating thing is definitely the home video footage that truly captured the Friedmans. it's a fascinating film, and one that let's you decide what you think is the truth or not. **** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Thin Blue Line[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] Errol Morris (recently Oscar-nominated for [b]The Fog of War[/b]) made this famous documentary back in the 80's about a man named Randall Adams who was framed and wrongfully convicted of murdering a police officer in Dallas, Texas in 1975. having watched this documentary, it truly boggles the mind how it could go so wrong, and how this innocent man could end up in prison for over 10 years when this documentary gives us the truth of what really happened in such a simple, logical way. Morris blends interviews with everyone involved with the case, some of who tell the truth, some who bend it, and some who flat-out lie. mixed with that is recreations of what happened that night, and it's all set to music by Philip Glass. while it's a relatively straight-forward documentary, the most powerful and gratifying thing about it is the fact that it got Randall Adams' case reopened, and got him exonorated for the crime. **** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Winged Migration[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] it's possible you'll never see a more beautifully filmed nature documentary than this, to be honest. while watching it, you may think to yourself that you can't quite understand how they actually managed to film it the way they did. it's not a documentary that gives us much of any new knowledge of why birds migrate, but it sure is visually outstanding and thankfully it's not ruined by a narrator talking throughout. Jacques Perrin, the director, chose to set it to music instead and for that i'm thankful. while certain parts of the documentary is obviously staged for dramatic effect, for example to show the perils birds face, both natural and unnatural, those bits don't ruin the film at all, even if i would've preferred one without anything staged. Winged Migration is a wonderful nature documentary that really shows us some of the most majestic images you'll ever likely to see on celluloid. **** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Crumb[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] i honestly didn't know too much about Robert Crumb the person before watching this, and besides learning that he's a pervert with some seriously bizarre things mixed into it, i didn't really know that much more about him when i walked out. that's not to say that this is a waste of time or anything, but definitely a tad disappointing as it felt a bit aimless in it's depiction of Crumb and his family. something it does deserve praise for though is that it's almost brutally honest about just about everything. Crumb is likely one of the most twisted artists you can find, and this documentary sure doesn't sugarcoat him. he's not a bad person or anything, but he's certainly not the most well-adapted normal person you'd ever meet. but then again, had he been normal, he probably would never have made the comics he is now world famous for, and many of the comics he's made in the past 40 years are certainly very good. it's too bad the documentary didn't turn out to be as good as i imagined, but it's definitely worth watching anyway, if only for it's brutal honesty. ***½ stars out of five.

Capturing the Friedmans

i've been watching a whole lot of documentaries lately, so i thought i would inaugurate the new multi-rating function with a little special entry about them. luckily, they were all worth watching too, covering all types of documentaries available.. from biography to nature to crime.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Spellbound[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] this warm, wonderful documentary follows a handful of young teenagers, all of whom have qualified through regional spelling bees to compete at the national spelling bee in Washington D.C. while many documentaries are about darker subjects such as corruption, social problems and crime, this one's all happy as we get to follow how all of these hard-working, bright young kids make their way to the final, and then finally compete against each other in a duel of spelling words that i don't even know half the time. each teen has a different background, and come from all over the US. while you may find yourself rooting for a favorite, there's no denying that you feel for all of them. at the end of the day, one of them will be declared the winner, but the others are not sore losers either. it's definitely refreshing to see such a fun, happy and positive documentary for once. **** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Capturing the Friedmans[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] now here's a gem of a documentary. it follows the true story of the Friedman family, whose father was exposed as a pedophile out of the blue, something that destroyed this family forever. while the story it tells isn't exactly a new subject, it certainly has a lot going for it that many other documentaries don't and that's it's abundance of home video footage, shot by the Friedman family themselves, who for some reason let the camera roll even during some of their absolutely darkest moments. this gives us the viewers insight to what it truly was like for them during this difficult time, something you really can't get from 15+ years later interviews. the documentary has those too, obviously, but the most fascinating thing is definitely the home video footage that truly captured the Friedmans. it's a fascinating film, and one that let's you decide what you think is the truth or not. **** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Thin Blue Line[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] Errol Morris (recently Oscar-nominated for [b]The Fog of War[/b]) made this famous documentary back in the 80's about a man named Randall Adams who was framed and wrongfully convicted of murdering a police officer in Dallas, Texas in 1975. having watched this documentary, it truly boggles the mind how it could go so wrong, and how this innocent man could end up in prison for over 10 years when this documentary gives us the truth of what really happened in such a simple, logical way. Morris blends interviews with everyone involved with the case, some of who tell the truth, some who bend it, and some who flat-out lie. mixed with that is recreations of what happened that night, and it's all set to music by Philip Glass. while it's a relatively straight-forward documentary, the most powerful and gratifying thing about it is the fact that it got Randall Adams' case reopened, and got him exonorated for the crime. **** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Winged Migration[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] it's possible you'll never see a more beautifully filmed nature documentary than this, to be honest. while watching it, you may think to yourself that you can't quite understand how they actually managed to film it the way they did. it's not a documentary that gives us much of any new knowledge of why birds migrate, but it sure is visually outstanding and thankfully it's not ruined by a narrator talking throughout. Jacques Perrin, the director, chose to set it to music instead and for that i'm thankful. while certain parts of the documentary is obviously staged for dramatic effect, for example to show the perils birds face, both natural and unnatural, those bits don't ruin the film at all, even if i would've preferred one without anything staged. Winged Migration is a wonderful nature documentary that really shows us some of the most majestic images you'll ever likely to see on celluloid. **** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Crumb[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] i honestly didn't know too much about Robert Crumb the person before watching this, and besides learning that he's a pervert with some seriously bizarre things mixed into it, i didn't really know that much more about him when i walked out. that's not to say that this is a waste of time or anything, but definitely a tad disappointing as it felt a bit aimless in it's depiction of Crumb and his family. something it does deserve praise for though is that it's almost brutally honest about just about everything. Crumb is likely one of the most twisted artists you can find, and this documentary sure doesn't sugarcoat him. he's not a bad person or anything, but he's certainly not the most well-adapted normal person you'd ever meet. but then again, had he been normal, he probably would never have made the comics he is now world famous for, and many of the comics he's made in the past 40 years are certainly very good. it's too bad the documentary didn't turn out to be as good as i imagined, but it's definitely worth watching anyway, if only for it's brutal honesty. ***½ stars out of five.

The Thin Blue Line

i've been watching a whole lot of documentaries lately, so i thought i would inaugurate the new multi-rating function with a little special entry about them. luckily, they were all worth watching too, covering all types of documentaries available.. from biography to nature to crime.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Spellbound[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] this warm, wonderful documentary follows a handful of young teenagers, all of whom have qualified through regional spelling bees to compete at the national spelling bee in Washington D.C. while many documentaries are about darker subjects such as corruption, social problems and crime, this one's all happy as we get to follow how all of these hard-working, bright young kids make their way to the final, and then finally compete against each other in a duel of spelling words that i don't even know half the time. each teen has a different background, and come from all over the US. while you may find yourself rooting for a favorite, there's no denying that you feel for all of them. at the end of the day, one of them will be declared the winner, but the others are not sore losers either. it's definitely refreshing to see such a fun, happy and positive documentary for once. **** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Capturing the Friedmans[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] now here's a gem of a documentary. it follows the true story of the Friedman family, whose father was exposed as a pedophile out of the blue, something that destroyed this family forever. while the story it tells isn't exactly a new subject, it certainly has a lot going for it that many other documentaries don't and that's it's abundance of home video footage, shot by the Friedman family themselves, who for some reason let the camera roll even during some of their absolutely darkest moments. this gives us the viewers insight to what it truly was like for them during this difficult time, something you really can't get from 15+ years later interviews. the documentary has those too, obviously, but the most fascinating thing is definitely the home video footage that truly captured the Friedmans. it's a fascinating film, and one that let's you decide what you think is the truth or not. **** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Thin Blue Line[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] Errol Morris (recently Oscar-nominated for [b]The Fog of War[/b]) made this famous documentary back in the 80's about a man named Randall Adams who was framed and wrongfully convicted of murdering a police officer in Dallas, Texas in 1975. having watched this documentary, it truly boggles the mind how it could go so wrong, and how this innocent man could end up in prison for over 10 years when this documentary gives us the truth of what really happened in such a simple, logical way. Morris blends interviews with everyone involved with the case, some of who tell the truth, some who bend it, and some who flat-out lie. mixed with that is recreations of what happened that night, and it's all set to music by Philip Glass. while it's a relatively straight-forward documentary, the most powerful and gratifying thing about it is the fact that it got Randall Adams' case reopened, and got him exonorated for the crime. **** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Winged Migration[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] it's possible you'll never see a more beautifully filmed nature documentary than this, to be honest. while watching it, you may think to yourself that you can't quite understand how they actually managed to film it the way they did. it's not a documentary that gives us much of any new knowledge of why birds migrate, but it sure is visually outstanding and thankfully it's not ruined by a narrator talking throughout. Jacques Perrin, the director, chose to set it to music instead and for that i'm thankful. while certain parts of the documentary is obviously staged for dramatic effect, for example to show the perils birds face, both natural and unnatural, those bits don't ruin the film at all, even if i would've preferred one without anything staged. Winged Migration is a wonderful nature documentary that really shows us some of the most majestic images you'll ever likely to see on celluloid. **** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Crumb[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] i honestly didn't know too much about Robert Crumb the person before watching this, and besides learning that he's a pervert with some seriously bizarre things mixed into it, i didn't really know that much more about him when i walked out. that's not to say that this is a waste of time or anything, but definitely a tad disappointing as it felt a bit aimless in it's depiction of Crumb and his family. something it does deserve praise for though is that it's almost brutally honest about just about everything. Crumb is likely one of the most twisted artists you can find, and this documentary sure doesn't sugarcoat him. he's not a bad person or anything, but he's certainly not the most well-adapted normal person you'd ever meet. but then again, had he been normal, he probably would never have made the comics he is now world famous for, and many of the comics he's made in the past 40 years are certainly very good. it's too bad the documentary didn't turn out to be as good as i imagined, but it's definitely worth watching anyway, if only for it's brutal honesty. ***½ stars out of five.

Winged Migration

i've been watching a whole lot of documentaries lately, so i thought i would inaugurate the new multi-rating function with a little special entry about them. luckily, they were all worth watching too, covering all types of documentaries available.. from biography to nature to crime.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Spellbound[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] this warm, wonderful documentary follows a handful of young teenagers, all of whom have qualified through regional spelling bees to compete at the national spelling bee in Washington D.C. while many documentaries are about darker subjects such as corruption, social problems and crime, this one's all happy as we get to follow how all of these hard-working, bright young kids make their way to the final, and then finally compete against each other in a duel of spelling words that i don't even know half the time. each teen has a different background, and come from all over the US. while you may find yourself rooting for a favorite, there's no denying that you feel for all of them. at the end of the day, one of them will be declared the winner, but the others are not sore losers either. it's definitely refreshing to see such a fun, happy and positive documentary for once. **** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Capturing the Friedmans[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] now here's a gem of a documentary. it follows the true story of the Friedman family, whose father was exposed as a pedophile out of the blue, something that destroyed this family forever. while the story it tells isn't exactly a new subject, it certainly has a lot going for it that many other documentaries don't and that's it's abundance of home video footage, shot by the Friedman family themselves, who for some reason let the camera roll even during some of their absolutely darkest moments. this gives us the viewers insight to what it truly was like for them during this difficult time, something you really can't get from 15+ years later interviews. the documentary has those too, obviously, but the most fascinating thing is definitely the home video footage that truly captured the Friedmans. it's a fascinating film, and one that let's you decide what you think is the truth or not. **** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Thin Blue Line[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] Errol Morris (recently Oscar-nominated for [b]The Fog of War[/b]) made this famous documentary back in the 80's about a man named Randall Adams who was framed and wrongfully convicted of murdering a police officer in Dallas, Texas in 1975. having watched this documentary, it truly boggles the mind how it could go so wrong, and how this innocent man could end up in prison for over 10 years when this documentary gives us the truth of what really happened in such a simple, logical way. Morris blends interviews with everyone involved with the case, some of who tell the truth, some who bend it, and some who flat-out lie. mixed with that is recreations of what happened that night, and it's all set to music by Philip Glass. while it's a relatively straight-forward documentary, the most powerful and gratifying thing about it is the fact that it got Randall Adams' case reopened, and got him exonorated for the crime. **** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Winged Migration[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] it's possible you'll never see a more beautifully filmed nature documentary than this, to be honest. while watching it, you may think to yourself that you can't quite understand how they actually managed to film it the way they did. it's not a documentary that gives us much of any new knowledge of why birds migrate, but it sure is visually outstanding and thankfully it's not ruined by a narrator talking throughout. Jacques Perrin, the director, chose to set it to music instead and for that i'm thankful. while certain parts of the documentary is obviously staged for dramatic effect, for example to show the perils birds face, both natural and unnatural, those bits don't ruin the film at all, even if i would've preferred one without anything staged. Winged Migration is a wonderful nature documentary that really shows us some of the most majestic images you'll ever likely to see on celluloid. **** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Crumb[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] i honestly didn't know too much about Robert Crumb the person before watching this, and besides learning that he's a pervert with some seriously bizarre things mixed into it, i didn't really know that much more about him when i walked out. that's not to say that this is a waste of time or anything, but definitely a tad disappointing as it felt a bit aimless in it's depiction of Crumb and his family. something it does deserve praise for though is that it's almost brutally honest about just about everything. Crumb is likely one of the most twisted artists you can find, and this documentary sure doesn't sugarcoat him. he's not a bad person or anything, but he's certainly not the most well-adapted normal person you'd ever meet. but then again, had he been normal, he probably would never have made the comics he is now world famous for, and many of the comics he's made in the past 40 years are certainly very good. it's too bad the documentary didn't turn out to be as good as i imagined, but it's definitely worth watching anyway, if only for it's brutal honesty. ***½ stars out of five.

Spellbound
Spellbound(2002)

i've been watching a whole lot of documentaries lately, so i thought i would inaugurate the new multi-rating function with a little special entry about them. luckily, they were all worth watching too, covering all types of documentaries available.. from biography to nature to crime.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Spellbound[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] this warm, wonderful documentary follows a handful of young teenagers, all of whom have qualified through regional spelling bees to compete at the national spelling bee in Washington D.C. while many documentaries are about darker subjects such as corruption, social problems and crime, this one's all happy as we get to follow how all of these hard-working, bright young kids make their way to the final, and then finally compete against each other in a duel of spelling words that i don't even know half the time. each teen has a different background, and come from all over the US. while you may find yourself rooting for a favorite, there's no denying that you feel for all of them. at the end of the day, one of them will be declared the winner, but the others are not sore losers either. it's definitely refreshing to see such a fun, happy and positive documentary for once. **** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Capturing the Friedmans[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] now here's a gem of a documentary. it follows the true story of the Friedman family, whose father was exposed as a pedophile out of the blue, something that destroyed this family forever. while the story it tells isn't exactly a new subject, it certainly has a lot going for it that many other documentaries don't and that's it's abundance of home video footage, shot by the Friedman family themselves, who for some reason let the camera roll even during some of their absolutely darkest moments. this gives us the viewers insight to what it truly was like for them during this difficult time, something you really can't get from 15+ years later interviews. the documentary has those too, obviously, but the most fascinating thing is definitely the home video footage that truly captured the Friedmans. it's a fascinating film, and one that let's you decide what you think is the truth or not. **** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]The Thin Blue Line[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] Errol Morris (recently Oscar-nominated for [b]The Fog of War[/b]) made this famous documentary back in the 80's about a man named Randall Adams who was framed and wrongfully convicted of murdering a police officer in Dallas, Texas in 1975. having watched this documentary, it truly boggles the mind how it could go so wrong, and how this innocent man could end up in prison for over 10 years when this documentary gives us the truth of what really happened in such a simple, logical way. Morris blends interviews with everyone involved with the case, some of who tell the truth, some who bend it, and some who flat-out lie. mixed with that is recreations of what happened that night, and it's all set to music by Philip Glass. while it's a relatively straight-forward documentary, the most powerful and gratifying thing about it is the fact that it got Randall Adams' case reopened, and got him exonorated for the crime. **** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Winged Migration[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] it's possible you'll never see a more beautifully filmed nature documentary than this, to be honest. while watching it, you may think to yourself that you can't quite understand how they actually managed to film it the way they did. it's not a documentary that gives us much of any new knowledge of why birds migrate, but it sure is visually outstanding and thankfully it's not ruined by a narrator talking throughout. Jacques Perrin, the director, chose to set it to music instead and for that i'm thankful. while certain parts of the documentary is obviously staged for dramatic effect, for example to show the perils birds face, both natural and unnatural, those bits don't ruin the film at all, even if i would've preferred one without anything staged. Winged Migration is a wonderful nature documentary that really shows us some of the most majestic images you'll ever likely to see on celluloid. **** stars out of five.
[indent][font=Georgia][size=5][i]Crumb[/i][/size][/font]
[/indent] i honestly didn't know too much about Robert Crumb the person before watching this, and besides learning that he's a pervert with some seriously bizarre things mixed into it, i didn't really know that much more about him when i walked out. that's not to say that this is a waste of time or anything, but definitely a tad disappointing as it felt a bit aimless in it's depiction of Crumb and his family. something it does deserve praise for though is that it's almost brutally honest about just about everything. Crumb is likely one of the most twisted artists you can find, and this documentary sure doesn't sugarcoat him. he's not a bad person or anything, but he's certainly not the most well-adapted normal person you'd ever meet. but then again, had he been normal, he probably would never have made the comics he is now world famous for, and many of the comics he's made in the past 40 years are certainly very good. it's too bad the documentary didn't turn out to be as good as i imagined, but it's definitely worth watching anyway, if only for it's brutal honesty. ***½ stars out of five.

American Splendor
½

[b]American Splendor[/b] is the mostly-true story of Harvey Pekar, a file clerk at a hospital in Cleveland. for those unfamiliar with Harvey Pekar, they'd immediately wonder why on earth anyone would want to make a film about the life of an everyday man working as a file clerk. well Harvey's claim to fame is that he's the creator of the underground comic book by the same name as the film. but that still doesn't sound like reason enough for him to get his own movie right? i mean, they never made a film about Stan Lee. American Splendor is not about any superheroes and villains though, but Pekar himself and his ordinary life "off the streets of Cleveland". while that probably still doesn't sound too intriguing to most, the filmmakers Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini have crafted a really unique and wonderful adaptation of the comic book and one that's well worth watching.

the stroke of genious here is that Berman and Pulcini, former documentarians, mixes all kinds of elements into this one of a kind bio-pic. first we have the real Harvey Pekar narrating the film, but he doesn't play himself, Paul Giamatti does (and wonderfully so). there are even times when he's pointing out to the audience that it's a guy playing him. then all of a sudden we see the real Harvey Pekar on film, doing his narration and being interviewed by the filmmakers, which in turn adds this documentary element into it. lastly, the final element is adding animation to it, giving us one part live-action feature film, one part documentary and one part animation. this all adds to the film, and keeps the film visually and verbally interesting throughout.

the acting is terrific throughout, certainly one of the best casts in a film last year. first we have Paul Giamatti as Harvey Pekar, which you could call his big breakthrough role despite having been in movies for many, many years. playing Joyce, his wife, we find Hope Davis who does an equally good job as Giamatti. we got James Urbaniak playing Robert Crumb (yes, the famous Crumb) and last but not least we have Judah Friedlander playing the Genuine Nerd Toby Radloff. at first glimpse, we think this character (who is a real person) is a complete exaggeration but thanks to the brilliance of the film, a little while later in the film we see the real Toby Radloff and we realize that he really is that weird, and that Judah Friedlander totally nails it perfectly. as Toby, he truly steals the show and provides the biggest laughs.

[b]American Splendor[/b] is an adaptation, and the filmmakers really adapted it brilliantly. it's certainly the most unique and inventive adaptation since.. well.. [b]Adaptation[/b]. and those two movies are in a league of their own, i'd say. it sure is nice to see some uniqueness and inventiveness among adaptations, since usually we have to turn to original screenplays for that. the life of Harvey Pekar may not be as exciting as the one of a Hollywood superstar, but it's a life well worth checking out. [b]American Splendor[/b] is one of the best films of 2003.

****½ stars out of five.

Irréversible
½

everything you heard about this movie is probably true. yes, it's got some of the most brutal scenes you'll ever see on film (unless you're a fan of those bizarre, sick asian horror films of late), and yes, it's damn good. that the film plays in reverse felt gimmicky at first, but having seen the whole thing i must say it was the right choice, as it brings the film an even more devastating effect.

much has been said about the cinematography and the long takes. right at the start of the film, the camera is as if the cameraman is drunk, and i have to say in the beginning of the film i felt sick, and even got a slight headache from all the spinning around of the camera. i even read after seeing it that they even had an inaudible sound playing over the film in the beginning, one that supposedly makes people feel nauseous. no idea if there's any truth to it, or if it's myth but i certainly felt terrible in the beginning of the film. thankfully, as the film progresses, the camera stabilizes itself. another thing i thought was brilliant about it was that the long takes without cuts made me feel like i really was there in the room. for a brief moment during a scene in the apartment of two of the lead characters, i completely forgot i was watching a movie.

the acting was uniformly excellent. the long takes without any cuts must've put a lot of pressure on the actors and actresses not to screw up, and there's even a flub by Vincent Cassel in the film, where he is asked his name and he accidentally says his own name, and not the characters name. he makes a nice improv save though, so they wouldn't have to do the whole long take all over again. Monica Bellucci proves once again that she's a terrific actress and not just a pretty face. Vincent Cassel is great too, although i think he was even better in the brilliant [b]La Haine[/b]. the third member of the main cast is Albert Dupontel, whom i've never heard of before, nor seen in anything else but this film. he's good too, but Cassel and Bellucci easily outshine him.

[b]Irréversible[/b] is not for the faint of heart, but for those who think they can muster it, there's a great little film here outside of the infamous fight and rape scenes. it does shock and disturb, but there's more to this film than just that, and it's certainly not glorifying the violence.

****½ stars out of five.

The Last Samurai
½

i have to admit right up from that i love the whole samurai thing. some of my very favorite films are the samurai films that Akira Kurosawa made, especially [b]Seven Samurai[/b] (of course) and [b]Yojimbo[/b]. i just love the whole samurai myth, so it wasn't that much of a surprise that i enjoyed [b]The Last Samurai[/b] a whole lot too. it's may not be a new [b]Seven Samurai[/b] or anything, but it's a well-made modern day Hollywood epic.

if the film has any problem it's that Tom Cruise isn't really the best choice for the part. i didn't hate him in it or anything, but i think the part could've been played by someone else and it would've been better. the Brad Pitt hair looked out of place too, even if it isn't necessarily wrong for the time period. no matter if it had been Tom Cruise or someone else, they would be (and in the case of Cruise, were) outshined by Oscar nominated Ken Watanabe who plays Katsumoto, the leader of the samurai. it may not be so much about his acting as it is that the character is so appealing but i have to say Katsumoto is a really wonderful character, and Watanabe plays him perfect. Katsumoto comes off as the perfect embodiment of the samurai code of honor. you just feel it in everything he says and does.

the craftsmanship of the film is terrific as well, as one would expect. the art direction, cinematography, score and costume design are all award-deserving, and thankfully some of them were honored with Oscar nominations earlier today. Ngila Dickson's samurai costumes looked really fantastic. Cruise looked a bit silly in one, but Watanabe in his samurai get-up was the best "man in armor" since [b]Gladiator[/b]. John Toll films it very nicely. surely the beautiful landscape help, but the action sequences are very well-filmed, and so is everything else about it. Hans Zimmer provided the film with one of his best scores in a long, long time too. you always know a score is great when you can still hum it days after you saw the film.. and i'm still humming his score.

it was refreshing to see a film where pretty much everything we see is real and not CGI too. there are obviously CGI moments in the film, but they are far and few apart thankfully, and in those places where they are present, they add nicely to the grandeur of those scenes. you really can't escape the fact that having real sets on a real location adds so much more to a film instead of them being CGI.

[b]The Last Samurai[/b] is a terrific, entertaining, well-made epic spectacular. it may not be a high point in Tom Cruise's acting career, but Ken Watanabe makes up for Cruise's shortcomings as Katsumoto. if you enjoy epics, and samurai i highly recommend you to check it out.

****½ stars out of five.

The Station Agent
½

[b]The Station Agent[/b] is a charming little film that features one of the best ensemble casts of the year, headlined by the trio of Peter Dinklage, Bobby Cannavale and the always-terrific Patricia Clarkson. it may not have that much of a plot, but it doesn't matter as it's something of a sheer delight seeing these three social misfits get together and become good friends.

the story starts with the death of Fin's only friend Henry, whom he works with at a miniature train shop. with Henry dead, Fin's got nowhere to go but it seems that old Henry left him an actual train station out in New Jersey somewhere. since he can't take over the shop, he decides to take all his belongings and move into the train station, where he hopes he will get some peace and quiet, and be left alone. you see, Fin is a man with dwarfism so wherever he goes, people stare and comment. soon in New Jersey he finds himself trapped with a talkative Italian and a woman who nearly ran him over - twice!

the cast here is really terrific. the only one i had any prior experiences with was Patricia Clarkson and she's terrific in this as well. Peter Dinklage is obviously tailormade for the part, and he plays it bravely and flawlessly. it's a shame that such a terrific actor will probably have to settle for the only type of roles he'll be offered 99.5% of the time though. rounding out the main trio is a complete unknown to me, Bobby Cannavale who successfully managed to make me go from being annoyed by him into liking him - much like the film's main character Fin. all other roles are small, but one noteworthy castmember is Michelle Williams (of [b]Dawson's Creek[/b] fame) who does a really good job with her small part as a librarian.

[b]The Station Agent[/b] is a warm, lovely film about the importance and joy of friendship and one man's journey to come out of the shell he's surrounded himself with. it's certainly one of the best films of 2003. make sure you watch this one if you can - whether it be in the theater or on DVD.

****½ stars out of five.

Looney Tunes: Back in Action

sometimes it's really refreshing to walk into a movie with no or very little expectations because then you might walk out pleasantly surprised. such was the case with the new [b]Looney Tunes[/b] movie, which isn't half bad even though it's got it's fair share of flaws and jokes that fall flat. now, don't get me wrong, [b]Looney Tunes: Back in Action[/b] is certainly no masterpiece of cinema or anything, but it was certainly not anywhere near as bad as it has been made out to be. having a great love for the [b]Looney Tunes[/b] cartoons and characters certainly helps, too.

the most refreshing part of it is that it's jam-packed with clever in-jokes, references to so many other movies and two cartoon characters at the top of their game. how Joe Dante got away with poking so much fun at Warner Bros. themselves is surprising considering how uptight studio executives can be. he's even put two droll-looking identical twin brothers in the movie, who play the Warner brothers that run the studio.

the movie itself is a spoof of sorts of spy movies, most namely James Bond of course. not that it reeks of James Bond, but it's even got former James Bond Timothy Dalton playing a kidnapped spy (who also happen to be the father of Brendan Fraser's character). this movie isn't really about plot though, and anyone who walks in hoping for one will be sorely missed. the film doesn't really need one though, as it is basically a [b]Looney Tunes[/b] cartoon, only much longer. it's fast-paced, funny and the title certainly lives up to it's name: plenty of action.

as for the human actors.. you've got Brendan Fraser and Jenna Elfman in the lead. neither of them is spectacular here, but considering they were acting against nothing you gotta give them credit for pulling it off nicely. and it's all about Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck anyway so that they aren't too great doesn't really matter. then we have Steve Martin playing the chairman of the ACME corporation. i don't think he's been any more whacky and bizarre as he is here, and while his performance might seem too over the top, you have to remember that he's basically a live-action version of a [b]Looney Tunes[/b] villain and he fits in pretty well with Wile E. Coyote, Yosemite Sam, etc. he's wildly over the top, as he should be.

as for the animated [b]Looney Tunes[/b] characters.. they're all here. Bugs and Daffy of course, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Tweety and Sylvester, Elmer Fudd, Marvin, etc. etc. my favorite in the film is Daffy Duck who's as great as ever. he's always been my favorite character though, so that he's my favorite here is hardly a surprise.

for me, the highlight of the movie is chase sequence set in the Louvre museum in Paris. in it we see Bugs and Daffy being chased by Elmer, and while that's nothing new, here he's chasing them through various famous paintings and the brilliance of it is that the characters look the same style as the painting. i'll stop before i give too much away, but trust me, this chase has to be one of the most inventive and inspired sequences of 2003.

[b]Looney Tunes: Back in Action[/b] is not the greatest film, and it certainly could have been a lot better but for what it is, i have to say i enjoyed it far more than i thought i would. it's fast-packed and fun. a guilty pleasure, perhaps, even though i don't really feel (that) guilty for liking it. it's flawed and could have been even better, but at least it's a vast improvement over the abysmal [b]Space Jam[/b].

**** stars out of five.

Tombstone
Tombstone(1993)
½

this is one of my favorite westerns ever, and even though there are many classics i haven't seen, and the fact that the western genre isn't one of my favorites i have to say this is an outstanding film and probably the best western Hollywood has produced since the glory days of the western genre. i'm sure many will disagree, and proclaim Clint Eastwood's best picture winner [b]Unforgiven[/b] the best one in recent history but for me, [b]Tombstone[/b] is the clear favorite, even if [b]Unforgiven[/b] might be the "better", "deeper" film.

if you ask me, one of the biggest travesties when it comes to the Oscars was it's failure back in 1993/1994 to nominate Val Kilmer's truly marvellous performance as Doc Holliday in this film. i've always liked Kilmer, and i think he's a very underrated actor overall, but Tombstone remains to this day his shining moment. have you ever seen a more classy western character than his Doc Holliday? always dry and sarcastic, something of a crook but with a good heart, this Doc Holliday is for me one of the most memorable characters in any western ever.

Kurt Russell is really good here too though, even if he doesn't own the film. he fits the character of Wyatt Earp to a tee, and he's backed up by the wonderful Sam Elliott and the always watchable Bill Paxton as his brothers Virgil and Morgan. Powers Boothe, as the villain Curly Bill is memorable too.

my hope is that i am not alone in loving this film.. and i hope that in time, even though it already is 10 years old, will become considered a classic of it's time because it is a damn fine, well-acted and well-made western retelling of the classic Wyatt Earp tale.

****½ stars out of five.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

[size=1]WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD (IN THE COMMENTS TOO)![/size]

i have to say, after hearing so much positive stuff about [b]The Return of the King[/b] being without a doubt the best film in the trilogy, i was somewhat disappointed to find that i did not agree with that statement. after having seen the first film i was really excited about the trilogy, but both sequels have been something of a disappointment. [b]The Return of the King[/b] is better than [b]The Two Towers[/b], but none of them match [b]The Fellowship of the Ring[/b] in my book, a film that can almost be considered minimalistic by comparison. now don't get me wrong, i still think [b]The Two Towers[/b] was a very good film, and i happen to think [b]The Return of the King[/b] is great.. but i'm definitely not on the bandwagon of big fans. it's a fine trilogy that i'm sure i'll watch many times over, but i can't feel that critics and audiences alike are hyping this beyond what it is. or maybe i just don't get it, as i haven't even read the books and can't quite grasp what an achievement it is.

so what about [b]The Return of the King[/b] then.. well, i saw it 2 days ago and i still don't really feel like reviewing it. there are some truly great scenes in it that had my blood pumping but i still fail to see it's true greatness other than being a well-made CGI-heavy action/adventure film. i guess it's just not my thing.. i felt like it was going to be my thing after the first film though, and that bugs me.

even the demise of the lead character was disappointing. i obviously haven't read the books, but it felt like Frodo pussied out in a big way by basically committing suicide. i figure he'd sacrifice his life at Mt. Doom to destroy the ring but nope, he carries on living for a bit and then kills himself (sort of). yeah, he was strong enough to take the one ring to Mt. Doom but he couldn't face living life? at least he could've died like a hero. and what about Legolas and Gimli? they were barely in this film. Gimli got some great jokes and all, but Legolas only has that one sequence in the whole movie.. otherwise he's barely in it.

well okay.. i've been harsh now. i really don't think it's a bad film. it's a very good film even, despite being disappointing.

my favorite part in the film would have to be Sam vs. Shelob, and Sam being brave in general. i really liked seeing his character go beyond just being some "yes, mister Frodo" dimwit and come into his own. i don't think Astin was good enough for an Oscar nomination, but he and his character was easily the best thing about the film. in fact, the whole Shelob part was really great, and they did a great job with the visual effects for that. and of couse, Gollum was another great job by the effects crew and Andy Serkis.

i think a recent New York Times article summed it up the best: "technologically impressive but soulless". that's how i feel about the last two films in the trilogy. as a spectacle action film trilogy it's terrific, but after the first film, it's soul vanished in favor of hordes of CGI Uruk-Hai.

[b]The Return of the King[/b] won't be on my top ten of the year, but i can live with it being on everyone elses as i take comfort in knowing this was the end of the trilogy and i don't have to face another [b]Lord of the Rings[/b] film not being able to live up to expectations.

**** stars out of five.

Lost In Translation

so i finally ([size=2][i]finally![/i][/size]) got to see the film everyone's been talking about for months and months and months. i finally got to see [b]Lost in Translation[/b]. the big question is, after having heard so many raves from critics and audiences alike, and having seen it grab award after award, does it live up to the expectations? yes, it really does actually. i'm sure i would've blown me away more had i seen it when it was relatively new, but i already want to see it again and in my book that's a very good sign.

Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, both Golden Globe nominees for the film today, are fantastic in it. it's been a wonderful thing to see Murray turn into a fine dramatic actor in the last 5 years or so and i hope the success he's had with this will encourage him to keep going. Johansson proves once again that she's a talent to be reckoned with (i already called 2001 her breakthrough year when she was splendid in [b]Ghost World[/b] and [b]The Man Who Wasn't There[/b]). i really hope they both get Oscar nominations.

i love how Coppola's screenplay doesn't go for the easy film solutions and the big happy ending where everything is resolved. it would've been so easy to have Bob and Charlotte sleep with each other but instead it just shows us this companionship of two lonely, lost souls, holding on to each other to get by in a strange world. together they find hope for the future. the ending is one of the most wonderful endings of the year, and had me shedding a few tears, just like Charlotte.

i've always been intrigued by the japanese culture, and i just love how this film displays it and shows how really different it is from Europe and North America. i've actually heard some complain about the cinematography but i think it captured the film wonderfully, both the Tokyo landscape and the interiors. the cinematography may not draw attention to itself, but it serves the film wonderfully.

the only "negative" thing i can say about the film is the pretty much the same thing my best friend said after she saw it.. i was almost sad when the film was over because i wish they could've stayed longer in Tokyo and that the movie was longer. Bob and Charlotte are two characters i would've loved to spend more time with.

Sofia Coppola has created a magnificent film in [b]Lost in Translation[/b], and she deserves a big round of applause for it (along with multiple Oscar nominations, of course). bravo, Sofia!

***** stars out of five.

Kill Bill: Volume 1

well i finally got to see [b]Kill Bill: Volume 1[/b]. it's been a long wait, but now that i've seen it i have to say it was well worth the wait.

despite hearing all the raves from critics and audiences alike for the past two months, i still wasn't sure how i'd react to the film. i don't mind violent films, but [b]Kill Bill[/b] never seemed like it could ever match the brilliant [b]Pulp Fiction[/b] and [b]Jackie Brown[/b]. yet, after walking out of it i was just blown away and almost shocked that Tarantino had pulled it off and blown my mind once again. just like with [b]Pulp Fiction[/b], i felt like [b]Kill Bill[/b] was something so unlike anything i've seen before. like Tarantino reinvented the wheel once again. now don't get me wrong, the film (well, half a film) isn't on par with [b]Pulp Fiction[/b] but that's a film impossible to be on par with really. i do think that if [b]Volume 2[/b] is as awesome as the first part, [b]Kill Bill[/b] will top [b]Jackie Brown[/b] (and i love [b]Jackie Brown[/b] with a capital L).

one thing that surprised me was how strong Uma Thurman was in the film. not only does she convince in the fight scenes, but she had some terrific acting scenes too, both dramatic and comedic and she pulls off every aspect of the role in a tremendous way. i'm absolutely convinced that her performance is the best lead actress performance this year so far. the supporting cast is equally terrific, especially Lucy Liu as O-Ren Ishii, Sonny Chiba as Hattori Hanzo and Chiaki Kuriyama as Go-Go. it was really too bad Vivica Fox didn't get more screen time though, i wouldn't have minded seeing some more of her and The Bride duking it out.

the only downside i can think of was the fact that the Crazy 88 fight turns into black & white a little while into it.. it just all of a sudden go from color to black & white and to me that just screamed pussying out. damn those lucky Japanese getting the full color version. i hope the full color version will be released on DVD. i didn't mind the black & white in the flashbacks of the wedding massacre since that fitted with it being a flashback, a memory and all that. what struck me as odd was that the part of the Crazy 88 fight that's in black & white didn't seem any more violent than the rest of it. the fight still works even if it's in black & white, and it doesn't bother me that much but i look forward to the opportunity to see it in full color.

what can i say, Quentin Tarantino has done it again. surely he still has half the movie left, but if it's anywhere nearly as good as the first part, [b]Kill Bill[/b] is going to be one gorgeous epic. that [b]Volume 1[/b] doesn't really have an end didn't really bother me either. when the credits started to roll i felt totally satisfied (although i could easily have sat through [b]Volume 1[/b] and [b]2[/b] back to back at that point).

[b]Kill Bill: Volume 1[/b] is a sprawling, unique masterpiece, an operatic orgy of violence and (further) proof that Quentin Tarantino is one of the most gifted writer/directors of his generation. i long for [b]Volume 2[/b].

[left] ***** stars out of five.[/left]

Laurel Canyon

[font=Georgia][size=3][i]
film festival reviews[/i] | [b]day five[/b][/size][/font]


the main reason i enjoyed [b]Laurel Canyon[/b] as much as i did is definitely because of one woman and her name is Frances McDormand. she's one of my very favorite actresses so i'm obviously biased in that way. [b]Laurel Canyon[/b] isn't a deep, moving film about marital problems but i rather enjoyed it actually and mostly because of McDormand's free-spirited performance as the hippie rockstar mom.

it doesn't hurt that i do like the actors in the supporting cast though. Kate Beckinsale, Christian Bale, Alessandro Nivola and Natascha McElhone are all actors i've enjoyed in other films, and they are all fairly good in this film too, even if none of them give any memorable performances. i do have to give Alessandro Nivola some kudos for actually singing the two songs himself though. i was rather surprised when i saw the credits that he sung them himself since the songs were actually really good!

i'd recommend [b]Laurel Canyon[/b] to fans of Frances McDormand. she even threw in a really big surprise in the film too, which kinda had me going "whoa!". yes, it involves nudity, hehe. i didn't expect to see that at all. anyway, if you are a fan of McDormand then see it because i loved her performance in this. it's a minor movie, but i enjoyed it a lot more than i thought i would.

**** stars out of five.


and now for the biggest disappointment of the festival, [b]Elephant[/b], winner of this year's top prize at Cannes. having heard so many great things, i went in expecting grand things but walked out underwhelmed. while others praise it, there simply was too much dead air in this film for me. there are these long takes of characters walking around the school, and doing various things. don't get me wrong, i don't mind slow-paced films but here it felt more like van Sant was trying too hard to be artsy rather than it having much relevance. i would've much preferred if he had trimmed some of those takes, and added another character to follow around instead, or something to that extent.

it's certainly not a bad film though. it's subject matter elevates it. another high point with the film is it's terrific structure. it follows a handful of high school teenagers around, but it constantly skips in time. for example, there is one scene that is shown three times, each time from a various persons perspective and at different times through the film. it may not be dazzling like [b]Memento[/b]'s structure, but it's certainly one of the finest structured films of the year (despite it's abundance of long tedious takes). another high point is the cinematography. it may not be of Oscar-nomination quality, but it was very nicely filmed. there's a driving sequence right in the beginning of the film, and i just found the way it was shot wonderfully refreshing. the mostly amateur actors also do a fine job, but then again they're mostly just playing a variation of themselves - a teenager. not exactly that much of a stretch but none of them came off as being wooden though so thumbs up for that too.

even though i didn't find [b]Elephant[/b] to be all it was cracked up to be, it still gets a thumbs up and my warm recommendation. i certainly wouldn't discourage anyone from seeing it just because it didn't live up to my expectations.

***½ stars out of five.

Elephant
Elephant(2003)
½

[font=Georgia][size=3][i]
film festival reviews[/i] | [b]day five[/b][/size][/font]


the main reason i enjoyed [b]Laurel Canyon[/b] as much as i did is definitely because of one woman and her name is Frances McDormand. she's one of my very favorite actresses so i'm obviously biased in that way. [b]Laurel Canyon[/b] isn't a deep, moving film about marital problems but i rather enjoyed it actually and mostly because of McDormand's free-spirited performance as the hippie rockstar mom.

it doesn't hurt that i do like the actors in the supporting cast though. Kate Beckinsale, Christian Bale, Alessandro Nivola and Natascha McElhone are all actors i've enjoyed in other films, and they are all fairly good in this film too, even if none of them give any memorable performances. i do have to give Alessandro Nivola some kudos for actually singing the two songs himself though. i was rather surprised when i saw the credits that he sung them himself since the songs were actually really good!

i'd recommend [b]Laurel Canyon[/b] to fans of Frances McDormand. she even threw in a really big surprise in the film too, which kinda had me going "whoa!". yes, it involves nudity, hehe. i didn't expect to see that at all. anyway, if you are a fan of McDormand then see it because i loved her performance in this. it's a minor movie, but i enjoyed it a lot more than i thought i would.

**** stars out of five.


and now for the biggest disappointment of the festival, [b]Elephant[/b], winner of this year's top prize at Cannes. having heard so many great things, i went in expecting grand things but walked out underwhelmed. while others praise it, there simply was too much dead air in this film for me. there are these long takes of characters walking around the school, and doing various things. don't get me wrong, i don't mind slow-paced films but here it felt more like van Sant was trying too hard to be artsy rather than it having much relevance. i would've much preferred if he had trimmed some of those takes, and added another character to follow around instead, or something to that extent.

it's certainly not a bad film though. it's subject matter elevates it. another high point with the film is it's terrific structure. it follows a handful of high school teenagers around, but it constantly skips in time. for example, there is one scene that is shown three times, each time from a various persons perspective and at different times through the film. it may not be dazzling like [b]Memento[/b]'s structure, but it's certainly one of the finest structured films of the year (despite it's abundance of long tedious takes). another high point is the cinematography. it may not be of Oscar-nomination quality, but it was very nicely filmed. there's a driving sequence right in the beginning of the film, and i just found the way it was shot wonderfully refreshing. the mostly amateur actors also do a fine job, but then again they're mostly just playing a variation of themselves - a teenager. not exactly that much of a stretch but none of them came off as being wooden though so thumbs up for that too.

even though i didn't find [b]Elephant[/b] to be all it was cracked up to be, it still gets a thumbs up and my warm recommendation. i certainly wouldn't discourage anyone from seeing it just because it didn't live up to my expectations.

***½ stars out of five.

Roger Dodger
Roger Dodger(2002)

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film festival reviews[/i] | [b]day four

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for some reason, [b]Prozac Nation[/b] never got a proper release in north america after it's debut at the 2001 Toronto Film Festival. yes, 2001! at the moment i hear it'll come out in april next year, but it's been said to come out so many times over the years that there really is no knowing if it'll ever be released. why Miramax just doesn't ship it straight to video is beyond me if they have such little faith in it.

[b]Prozac Nation[/b] is not the greatest film i ever saw, but it's not a bad one either. i quite liked it myself even if it doesn't delve deep into the problem of depression. in it, Christina Ricci plays a young woman whose mother has done everything for her to get into Harvard as a journalism major. while there, after some success she gets writer's block and thus her depression begins which doesn't have just to do with writer's block. i've never been a huge fan of Ricci, but she does a very capable job here even if i wouldn't say it's a stellar performance. Jessica Lange, who plays her mother, did better and had more than a few juicy scenes despite just being a supporting role.

there really isn't a whole lot to say about [b]Prozac Nation[/b]. it's a fairly decent film, despite it's failure to go into the depression problem as deep as it probably could and should. it's certainly not a bad film though, and it deserves a release, whether it's in theaters or on home video.

***½ stars out of five.


[b]Roger Dodger[/b] from last year (but never released here) was far better. i've heard many great things about it, but i have to say it was a lot better than i expected it to be and certainly a whole lot funnier too. some of the things that come out of Roger's mouth are at the same time so preposterous, yet recognizable in some way that it's just so funny. that he's a complete womanizing jerk who truly believes the things he says makes it even funnier.

i've always enjoyed Campbell Scott's work, both as an actor and director and he's really a tour de force in this film even if it may not be a role that hard to play as long as you can talk really fast. he's definitely right on the edge though, showing off how intelligent and sharp, but at the same time ignorant, his character is. his character does have a nice arc too, even if he may still be something of a jerk still when the credits roll. Jesse Eisenberg who plays his nephew is just as good in his part. nervous, shy teenager.. it may be easy to be one, but to play one? good job. the rest of the cast do able work too, although i find it really odd to have Isabella Rosselini (with her swedish/italian accent) play a woman named Joyce though. Joyce's don't have accents like that.

[b]Roger Dodger[/b] is an entertaining film with a fiercly witty and quick screenplay that Campbell Scott just feeds off of. not only did it speak many truths (albeit many times exaggerated truths) but it made me laugh a lot more than i thought i would.. and i mean that in a good way.

**** stars out of five.

Prozac Nation
½

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film festival reviews[/i] | [b]day four

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for some reason, [b]Prozac Nation[/b] never got a proper release in north america after it's debut at the 2001 Toronto Film Festival. yes, 2001! at the moment i hear it'll come out in april next year, but it's been said to come out so many times over the years that there really is no knowing if it'll ever be released. why Miramax just doesn't ship it straight to video is beyond me if they have such little faith in it.

[b]Prozac Nation[/b] is not the greatest film i ever saw, but it's not a bad one either. i quite liked it myself even if it doesn't delve deep into the problem of depression. in it, Christina Ricci plays a young woman whose mother has done everything for her to get into Harvard as a journalism major. while there, after some success she gets writer's block and thus her depression begins which doesn't have just to do with writer's block. i've never been a huge fan of Ricci, but she does a very capable job here even if i wouldn't say it's a stellar performance. Jessica Lange, who plays her mother, did better and had more than a few juicy scenes despite just being a supporting role.

there really isn't a whole lot to say about [b]Prozac Nation[/b]. it's a fairly decent film, despite it's failure to go into the depression problem as deep as it probably could and should. it's certainly not a bad film though, and it deserves a release, whether it's in theaters or on home video.

***½ stars out of five.


[b]Roger Dodger[/b] from last year (but never released here) was far better. i've heard many great things about it, but i have to say it was a lot better than i expected it to be and certainly a whole lot funnier too. some of the things that come out of Roger's mouth are at the same time so preposterous, yet recognizable in some way that it's just so funny. that he's a complete womanizing jerk who truly believes the things he says makes it even funnier.

i've always enjoyed Campbell Scott's work, both as an actor and director and he's really a tour de force in this film even if it may not be a role that hard to play as long as you can talk really fast. he's definitely right on the edge though, showing off how intelligent and sharp, but at the same time ignorant, his character is. his character does have a nice arc too, even if he may still be something of a jerk still when the credits roll. Jesse Eisenberg who plays his nephew is just as good in his part. nervous, shy teenager.. it may be easy to be one, but to play one? good job. the rest of the cast do able work too, although i find it really odd to have Isabella Rosselini (with her swedish/italian accent) play a woman named Joyce though. Joyce's don't have accents like that.

[b]Roger Dodger[/b] is an entertaining film with a fiercly witty and quick screenplay that Campbell Scott just feeds off of. not only did it speak many truths (albeit many times exaggerated truths) but it made me laugh a lot more than i thought i would.. and i mean that in a good way.

**** stars out of five.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
½

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[size=3] film festival reviews[/size][/i][size=3] | [b]day three[/b][/size][/font]


[b]Master and Commander[/b] is a masterfully crafted adventure film. those going in expecting wall-to-wall action will sorely be disappointed as the lights come up though, as this film focus more on the life on a battleship rather than action sequence after action sequence. the action sequences the film does have though are spectacular, especially the opening battle which gave me goosebumps.

the thing that awed me the most initially was actually the craftsmanship of the film. the ones in charge of it's art direction and set decoration deserve major kudos for fully realizing this ship in every little detail. so many have said it before me, but you almost felt like you were there onboard. the cinematography is equally terrific. there's a scene right at the beginning of the film, where a man is walking through the pitch black bowels of the ship as the crew sleeps, and with him he only has a lantern to illuminate his surroundings... beautiful!

as for the acting, i must say i was really impressed by Russell Crowe. i haven't really heard anyone giving him Oscar-buzz type raves, and maybe it's not really that kind of performance but he did a fantastic job here, far better than i thought he would be. the performance/part may be a bit light on the heavy drama, but Crowe is certainly a commandeering presence on the screen. Paul Bettany, playing his conscience you could say, has more juicy acting scenes and does a terrific job. having dazzled in [b]Dogville[/b] this year too, i am confident that he is going to become a big star. the rest of the cast, mostly complete unknowns to me, also do a fantastic job. the child actors may not be on the level of the Bolger sisters in [b]In America[/b] but they came across as geniuine. they never felt fake like many child performance often can.

i've never been a huge fan of Peter Weir but [b]Master and Commander[/b] is certainly one of the highlights from his filmography for me, along with [b]The Truman Show[/b]. if they decide to make another one, i'd definitely look forward to it, provided they can get Weir back as well as Crowe and Bettany.

****½ stars out of five.

In America
In America(2003)

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film festival reviews[/i] | [b]day two[/b][/size][/size][/font]


let me just start by saying what a wonderful film!

[b]In America[/b] actually lived up to the hype. going in i was actually a little bit afraid that it might not live up to the high expectations in my head due to having heard and read so many raves for it. maybe it's not like that for others, but i can almost kill a film just by having too high expectations. luckily with [b]In America[/b], the high expectations were met. Jim Sheridan has crafted a very moving family tale that had me laughing and crying throughout. it's not an original film by any means, and you're not likely to find anything new or "wow" about it but for what it is, it's simply wonderful.

the greatest part about it the casting of real-life sisters Sarah and Emma Bolger to play the two daughters in the film. they are the absolute highlight of the film for me. both of them come off as so completely realistic and natural it's hard to imagine they're acting in a film. surely young Emma Bolger might be more reacting than acting, but she does it wonderfully and has some of the best and funniest lines in the film. Sarah, playing the elder sister, is given more to work with and while Emma is so adorable you just want to hug her, Sarah is the one who has the bigger scenes. just like her sister, she pulls it off marvelously. it's been a real long time since i saw child actors this good, and here we get two in the same film!

after them, i was most impressed by Samantha Morton who once again turns in a fantastic performance. the more films with her in them i see, the more i realize that she's mainly an expressional actress because just like many of her other roles, here she really doesn't have that many lines. she does have some "Oscar clip" scenes though, and they are beautifully acted. Paddy Considine plays the father, and he does a really terrific job too even though he didn't seem to have any really strong emotional scenes like Morton does. then again, much of the film is about his inability to feel after having lost their son. rounding out the main ensemble is Djimon Hounsou, an actor i've always liked but never felt like he was given a really good role. here, thankfully, he does playing a artist neighbor dying from AIDS. he isn't given that much screen time, but he uses it well.

[b]In America[/b] is a really fantastic film, and it just grows on me the more i think about it. it may be too small to grab a Best Picture nomination next january, but i sure hope it does. it's is Jim Sheridan's best film to date, and without a doubt one of the very best films of the year!

***** stars out of fiv[size=2]e[/size][size=1][size=2].[/size]
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Mou gaan dou (Infernal Affairs)

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film festival reviews[/i] | [b]day one[/b][/font][/size][/size]


today was the first day of the local mini film festival and i saw [b]Ripley's Game[/b] (which already has been shown in the US, as it went straight to video) and Hong Kong's official Oscar submission this year, [b]Infernal Affairs[/b].

[b]Ripley's Game[/b] stars John Malkovich as Tom Ripley and this time he's older as the story takes place in present time. the whole story revolves around Ripley setting up a man to commit a murder because he spoke ill of him. the story had it's twists and turns (the biggest one of all got a laugh from the audience as it's almost comedically absurd and surprising). it's actually not a bad story at all, it has a bit of personality for sure but in the end, the film isn't really anything to write home about. if you enjoy thrillers with some twists and turns, by all means give it a rental but it's hardly a must-see. Malkovich is his excellent self though, i must say. he definitely has a look unlike others and you could just feel his icy cold persona in the scene where he is offended by the man he sets up. it's been too long since i saw [b]The Talented Mr. Ripley[/b] so i don't really remember the character all too well, but Malkovich's Ripley is as cold-hearted as they come. not a bad film, by any means. i quite enjoyed it but it's not particularly memorable either.

***½ stars out of five.

[b]Infernal Affairs[/b] on the other hand was far better, and the first thought that popped up in my head after i walked out of the theater was that i'm absolutely positive that this will be remade into a US film sooner rather than later. the story follows two men, one recruited by the triads to become a police (but secretly sabotage when they go after the triad) and another who is recruited to become a mole for the police, working undercover inside the triad. it may sound really cliché described like that but i thought it actually was quite clever the way they played it out. being a fan of cop thrillers this one had one of the best stories for such a film in quite a while. both lead actors, Andy Lau (whom i hadn't seen in anything else prior to this) and Tony Leung ([b]Hero[/b], [b]In the Mood for Love[/b], etc.) do a terrific job, turning this into a very above average police thriller with quite a few thrills, twists and turns. if you get a chance to see it, and you enjoy the genre check this one out for sure.

**** stars out of five.

Ripley's Game
½

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film festival reviews[/i] | [b]day one[/b][/font][/size][/size]


today was the first day of the local mini film festival and i saw [b]Ripley's Game[/b] (which already has been shown in the US, as it went straight to video) and Hong Kong's official Oscar submission this year, [b]Infernal Affairs[/b].

[b]Ripley's Game[/b] stars John Malkovich as Tom Ripley and this time he's older as the story takes place in present time. the whole story revolves around Ripley setting up a man to commit a murder because he spoke ill of him. the story had it's twists and turns (the biggest one of all got a laugh from the audience as it's almost comedically absurd and surprising). it's actually not a bad story at all, it has a bit of personality for sure but in the end, the film isn't really anything to write home about. if you enjoy thrillers with some twists and turns, by all means give it a rental but it's hardly a must-see. Malkovich is his excellent self though, i must say. he definitely has a look unlike others and you could just feel his icy cold persona in the scene where he is offended by the man he sets up. it's been too long since i saw [b]The Talented Mr. Ripley[/b] so i don't really remember the character all too well, but Malkovich's Ripley is as cold-hearted as they come. not a bad film, by any means. i quite enjoyed it but it's not particularly memorable either.

***½ stars out of five.

[b]Infernal Affairs[/b] on the other hand was far better, and the first thought that popped up in my head after i walked out of the theater was that i'm absolutely positive that this will be remade into a US film sooner rather than later. the story follows two men, one recruited by the triads to become a police (but secretly sabotage when they go after the triad) and another who is recruited to become a mole for the police, working undercover inside the triad. it may sound really cliché described like that but i thought it actually was quite clever the way they played it out. being a fan of cop thrillers this one had one of the best stories for such a film in quite a while. both lead actors, Andy Lau (whom i hadn't seen in anything else prior to this) and Tony Leung ([b]Hero[/b], [b]In the Mood for Love[/b], etc.) do a terrific job, turning this into a very above average police thriller with quite a few thrills, twists and turns. if you get a chance to see it, and you enjoy the genre check this one out for sure.

**** stars out of five.

Love Actually
½

i have to admit i'm a major sucker for romantic comedies. i even manage to enjoy many romantic comedies that most people didn't think were particularly good too. i don't think i'm alone when it comes to Richard Curtis' directorial debut [b]Love Actually[/b] though. it's a terrific and very enjoyable, not to mention very funny, mish-mash of a romantic comedy.

what sets [b]Love Actually[/b] apart from just about all other romantic comedies is that it doesn't follow the typical romantic comedy formula. while it certainly focuses mostly on that typical type of romance found in just about every romantic comedy, it also focuses on many other types of love.[b] Love Actually[/b] is an ode to love in all it's forms and incarnations.

having so many various stories of love does mean that none of them are given too much screen time though. maybe the film would've worked even better had some storylines been cut out, but at the same time that's what it's all about and that's what sets it apart from other romantic comedies. i can certainly see that having so many stories might bother some. i for one didn't mind all the stories though. we may not get fully realized character arcs, and a fully satisfying end to each and every story but the end result is still outstanding. the film actually surpassed my expectations, and worked much better than i thought it would.

the cast here is formidable, with just about half of England's acting elite starring in it as well as a whole bunch of Americans and several unknowns. i'm not even going to bother trying to mention what i thought about everyone's performance because there are just far too many starring in this. let me just say though that everyone in this film do a fine job. it's actually only Billy Bob Thornton, normally one of my favorites, who doesn't come through too well. here he plays a sleezy womanizing US president, but i thought his performance wasn't sleezy enough, as odd as that may sound. he just came off as being kind of tame, which is too bad since i know he could've done better than this. thankfully we have Bill Nighy to make up for Thornton's lack of sleeze, providing us with a diabolically funny performance as an over-the-hill rockstar trying to make a comeback.

when i walked out of [b]Love Actually[/b] i probably had on the biggest smile since i saw [b]Amélie[/b] for the first time. this film isn't anywhere near as masterful as that film, but it's the funniest, cutest and most endearing romantic comedy ever since if you were to ask me. if you're in the mood for some good laughs and a wonderful time at the movies, make sure you go see [b]Love Actually[/b]. it actually is [size=1]THAT[/size] good, actually.

****½ stars out of five.

Mystic River
Mystic River(2003)
½

there will be major spoilers in this review.

what surprised me the most about Clint Eastwood's [b]Mystic River[/b] is that it was more of a straight crime thriller than the "heavy" drama i expected it to be, given how much acclaim it has been getting ever since opening. don't get me wrong, i thought it was a terrific movie for what it is, but a part of me has a hard time thinking of it as a Best Picture nominee type of film (which it has been made out to be by just about everyone lately). i wouldn't mind it if it did get nominated for Best Picture next year, i'm merely a bit surprised.

it is a great film for what it is though, and it elevates itself far beyond most crime thrillers by having a story that allows itself to focus on other things than just the murder investigation and by having a fantastically talented cast giving performances that outshine most performances so far this year. i have to say though, it wasn't Sean Penn who wowed me the most but Tim Robbins. i've always been a big fan of his, both as an actor and director, and here he just knocked me out. not only does he deserve to get an Oscar nomination, but he deserves to win too. his character Dave doesn't even need to speak for you to be able to see what a broken, tormented person he is. you see it in his eyes, his face, the way he moves. i don't think i've ever seen Tim Robbins better than he is here. Sean Penn is fantastic too, but with him it's not as much wow because we're used to seeing him giving powerful performances. the scene on the porch with Jimmy and Dave, with Jimmy breaking down is a thing of beauty. i bet that's the scene they'll show a clip from at the Academy Awards next year, when presenting Penn's Best Actor nominated performance.

Marcia Gay Harden provides the third best performance in the film as Dave's wife. i've always thought she was an excellent actress and her performance here is certainly one of her best, right up there with her Oscar-winning performance in [b]Pollock[/b]. Laura Linney on the other hand isn't given too much to work with, and her character isn't fleshed out much at all. she does a good job with what she is given (most notably her big speech, of course) but i wish her character had gotten more screen time as just that very speech kind of seemed out of character for her. Kevin Bacon does a good job, but he's pretty much stuck with the straight guy role and we don't get to know his character too well either. as for the rest of the cast, they all do fine jobs, especially Tom Guiry who plays the boyfriend. i'm sure that'll be someone to keep an eye out for in the future.

as for the story.. i did have some problems with it. there were more than a few things about it that went by unexplained or left me scratching my head. for example, the pedophile priest in the beginning. it was shown very prominently with the ring and his cross necklace, almost exaggeratedly so yet it doesn't have to any relevance to the story whatsoever. i'm not saying it needs to, but it just seemed odd that something so prominent ending up having no importance to anything else in the story. also, i have to say i found it not only surprised but also confusing that Sean (Bacon's character) let Jimmy off the hook for what he did. they may have been childhood friends, but they hardly seemed that close that Sean would just let something like that go. all the theories i've been able to think of so far haven't really explained his motivations/reasons for doing it either. did he let it go because he as a father knew he too would do anything he felt was right to protect his family? or was his reasons something else?

the bottom line is that [b]Mystic River[/b] is a terrific film with far greater depth than your ordinary crime thriller. it's without a doubt Clint Eastwood's best film so far.

****½ stars out of five.

Dogville
Dogville(2003)
½

Lars von Trier's latest film [b]Dogville[/b] has been accused of being strongly anti-American and while i agree to some extent that it is, i don't think it's as extreme as i've heard some describe the film. this is a minor spoiler, but it's said that the events in the film supposedly mirrors the US as a whole but i find that to be preposterous as that sort of despicable behavior exists in every country on this planet. that von Trier's own country Denmark in recent times have grown more and more hostile to immigration and immigrants should show him that he's in no situation to point fingers regarding intolerance to strangers.

as for the film, i'm surprised i enjoyed it as much as i do considering i have a love-hate relation with many of von Trier's other films (most notably [b]Dancer in the Dark[/b] which i hate with a passion). i guess in a way it shouldn't be so surprising though as [b]Dogville[/b] to me is a complete 180º from his dogma-films. those films followed strict rules (were supposed to anyway) but this film on the other hand is more of a completely controlled minimalism film. for those who don't know, the whole film is set on a large stage, with houses (and Dogville's only dog) drawn in chalk on the floor. only a few essential props are present. it might not be right to call it a unique film, as it in many ways feels like a filmed theater play but it's certainly very different from 99% of all other films and that's commendable. i thought i'd have a problem with the chalk-houses but it works very nicely and lets you focus on the story and the acting.

speaking of the acting.. Nicole Kidman owns this film. her performance is definitely the best lead actress performance i've seen so far this year. Paul Bettany is the closest to a male lead in the film and he does a very fine job too, continuing to prove that he's a new talent to reckon with. the rest of the cast, headed by Lauren Bacall, Ben Gazzarra, Stellan Skarsgård, Chloë Sevigny, etc. all do a very fine job with their respective parts but it really is Kidman's film and i applaud that she's willing to do different films such as this and not just do the big paycheck, Oscar-weepy roles.

i still haven't decided how much i like this film. it's certainly a film that makes you think, and the story is certainly far more throught-provoking than most films that get made today. it's not a film for the average joe either. at nearly 3 hours and with chalk-drawn houses i can imagine people walking out after 10 minutes if they thought it was going to be something else. if you get the chance to see [b]Dogville[/b], my recommendation is to take it. whether you love it or hate it it's bound to make you think and in this day and age that's a very good thing.

****½ stars out of five.

The Good Thief

ignorant as i am, i didn't know that Neil Jordan's terrific heist film [b]The Good Thief[/b] actually was a remake of the classic film [b]Bob Le Flambeur[/b] (which i haven't seen but know of) until after i had seen it. i have to say, knowing that this is a remake makes me feel even more fond of it, especially considering how terrible most remakes turn out these days.

i didn't care much for the trailer when i saw first it, but the heist subgenre is one of my favorites so naturally i had to check it out. thankfully, the film turned out to be far greater than the trailer was. Nick Nolte has never been one of my favorite actors, but he's pretty perfect in the part of Bob. it may not be a performance deserving of an Academy Award nomination, but in my opinion it's his best role in a very long time and it's good to see such a gifted actor giving a fine performance once again. he's backed up by a fine supporting cast too, mainly in the form of Tchéky Karyo, Saïd Taghmaoui ([b]Three Kings[/b], [b]La Haine[/b]) and a wonderful young actress by the name of Nutsa Kukhianidze. a mere 18-19 years old at the time of filming she's absolutely terrific as the streetwalking teenager Anne.

another big plus is that the film was shot on location in the southern parts of France where it takes place, rather in some substitute location/backlot in the US. no offense to you Americans, but having a film be shot on location in Europe adds so much to a film's atmosphere, just take Richard Linklater's [b]Before Sunrise[/b] for example. having been to Monaco and Monte Carlo many times myself, i have to say they have captured the location wonderfully here. i've never been much of a fan of the Neil Jordan films but i have to say this is probably his best film out of the ones i've seen so far. it's got a good heist plot, solid production values and great characters performed by a very talented cast.

if you enjoy heist films as much as i do, please do yourself the favor of checking this one out. [b]The Good Thief[/b] is a very worthy entry into the heist subgenre.

**** stars out of five.

The Matrix Revolutions
½

unlike my review in the general forum's official thread, this one will be spoiler free.

let me just start by saying i was pleasantly surprised by [b]The Matrix Revolutions[/b]. i absolutely loved the first film (and still do), but [b]The Matrix Reloaded[/b] was a big disappointment. the disappointment of that film made it clear to me that the sequels weren't going to be able to do the first film justice in any way and that in turn lowered my expectations for this final part of the trilogy to the degree that i could enjoy it purely as a big budget sci-fi action spectacle without any emotional investments in how it ends. it simply didn't matter to me how it ended since i already knew it wasn't going to be up to par.

and purely as a big budget sci-fi action spectacle i have to say that [b]The Matrix Revolutions[/b] is pretty damn good entertainment. it's got plenty of terrific action sequences that might not blow your mind but still manage to thrill you plenty. also, i thought the action sequences overall were far more enjoyable in [b]Revolutions[/b] than they were in [b]Reloaded[/b]. [b]Reloaded[/b] may have the more spectacular action sequences but most of those felt too fake to me. here they take a step back, and now it works so much better. [b]Revolutions[/b] thankfully rids itself of any kind of awkward scenes that marred [b]Reloaded[/b], like the painfully drawn-out jungle drum "cave rave" sequence.

if you ask me i'd say that [b]The Matrix Revolutions[/b] is a superior and far more enjoyable film than [b]The Matrix Reloaded[/b]. i can't understand why this one is getting such bad reviews when the hope of the trilogy being able to do [b]The Matrix[/b] justice was already crushed with [b]The Matrix Reloaded[/b]. [b]The Matrix Revolutions[/b] is solid big budget action entertainment as long as you don't have such high hopes for the outcome.

****½ stars out of five.

Groundhog Day
½

celebrating it's ten year anniversary this year is one of Bill Murray's greatest and funniest films. i hadn't seen [b]Groundhog Day[/b] it in a long time when i saw it today, and i'd forgotten what an absolute riot this film really is, even though i've seen it many times before.

now i don't know if it had ever been done before in terms of the "live the same day over and over" plot gimmick, but it works absolutely fantastic in this film. i think my favorite "day" is the one right after he figures out that he doesn't have to follow the rules. what an absolute riot! and Bill Murray.. he's had some ups and downs over the course of his career (mostly ups, if you ask me) but this film is definitely one of his biggest ups. i can't understand why it wasn't more popular back in 1993 (it didn't even get a single Golden Globe nomination!). i'm glad this film has become the appreciated comedy classic it is considered to be today because it truly deserves it's reputation as one of the funniest films ever.

****½ stars out of five (and one of the top ten films of 1993).