Sunday, December 15, 2002

Treasure Planet

In a Nutshell: Perfectly watchable, if not spectacular.

Quick Plot: Read Treasure Island? 'Nuff said. Haven't read it? Me neither. A troubled teen named Jim finds a map to the mythical Treasure Planet. He and his benefactor, Dr. Doppler, set out in search of said planet, with a less than trustworthy crew. Will they find it before the pirates? Stay tuned.

In Detail: It was a fine movie, really. It was beautiful to watch, and I loved the Captain and Dr. Doppler. Captain Amelia's appearance is made all the more comical when you realize who voices her. While I am normally a fan of the extraneous "comic relief" characters, Morph (think parrot) and B.E.N. just didn't do it for me this time. The film itself was okay. I thought it seemed a bit disjointed for some reason, but I can't really put my finger on why. I've never read the book; I'm wondering if it would have helped. While often criticized for this particular phenomenon, I think the film could have benefited from the characters breaking out into song on occasion. A well spend afternoon, all in all, though not destined to become one of my favorites. Keep your ears open for a fantastic Star Trek reference. And Disney, give up on the teen boy market. You're trying to compete with video games, Harry Potter, and The Matrix; lay off and stick to what you do best: movies for children, with enough to keep the adults entertained as well. Let's hope this film isn't the death of "traditional" animation.

Will I Buy It? Most likely. You know I like to keep my collections complete, and I liked it fine.

Star Trek: Nemesis

In a Nutshell: Unsatisfying. I wish the news was better. Perhaps seeing it with lower expectations will help?

Quick Plot: The Romulans have a new Praetor, Shinzon of Reman (their sister world). They have asked the Federation to send the Enterprise under the pretence of opening negotiations for a truce (yeah right). The Praetor, however, is not Reman, he is human, and all too familiar. He also has no plans for peace. Picard and the Enterprise must stop Shinzon before he leads the combined Romulan/Reman forces to an overthrow of the Federation.

In Detail: I'm not really sure what else to say, I just found the whole experience unsatisfying. I'm a Trekker, you all know that. I have at least been satisfied, if not happy, with each of the last 6 films (well, except maybe Trek V). This one was just missing *something.* I think it suffered greatly from the lack of Jonathan Frakes as director. I know he was tired, I know he was busy, but the new guy (an admitted non-follower of the shows or films) really messed things up. Even managed to break cannon at least twice by getting two major facts wrong, which irks me to no end, and seriously bent cannon in other spots to serve his own purposes. Where were the continuity people when you needed them? It also lacked the feeling of family that you usually sense in these films, and no great engineering solutions or amazing battle strategies. Perhaps it was just too straight-forward? I don't know.

The whole movie seemed almost pointless. I really saw no great motivation for Shinzon to do what he did, and there was really no sub-plot to speak of. Instead of the pieces clicking into place in the final moments, many plot points seemed contrived and forced. The humor, generally speaking, didn't work at all; it was ill-timed and out of place. It wasn't a bad movie, but I didn't think it was particularly good either. It seemed like a big episode with better sets, costumes, make-up, and effects. And while this is not all-together bad, it's not really all that good either. I think "All Good Things" (the final TNG episode) was MUCH better. And though a nice neat ending is not necessary for me to like a film, I think this movie could have used one. If it is to be the last voyage of the TNG cast, and perhaps the Enterprise herself, shouldn't we have left feeling complete? I sure didn't.

Will I Buy It? Yes, but I will probably treat it like Star Trek V, on the shelf to have a complete collection, but rarely (if ever) watched.

Monday, November 25, 2002

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

In a Nutshell: To borrow from my friend Annette, it's grand! Better than the first, in my opinion.

Quick Plot: Harry, Ron, and Hermione are back, ready to learn more witchcraft and wizardry, and save the school (and the wizarding world) from evil once more. This time, a strange force is roaming the grounds, hunting "muggle-borns." Several school inhabitants have already been petrified, with promises to kill scrawled on the walls in blood. If the culprit is not caught, Hogwarts will have to be closed.

In Detail: Wow! I had so much fun at this movie. Again, filmmakers seemed to have plucked characters and settings straight out of my imagination and pasted them directly on the screen. Chamber of Secrets (CoS) is, in fact, my least favorite book, and I still loved the movie. Better than the first by far. It was still a kids movie, without being quite so childish. Perhaps this is aided by the maturity of the stars. The voices of Harry and Ron have now broken, though Harry wears his new tones a bit more easily than Ron. Less "baby fat" appears on all three stars, especially Hermione. Watch out, she'll be breaking hearts soon! Draco Malfoy, once the smallest of the group, is now the tallest, adding even more menace. My second favorite character in the series makes his debut in CoS: Mr. Weasley. (Sirius Black is my fav; we'll see him next time.) Though cut to even less of a part than he had in the book, Mr. Weasley's geniality, generosity, and fascination with muggles is not in question. Lucius Malfoy, played by Jason Isaacs, also makes his first appearance, and what a brilliant casting job that was. His patented sneer was perfect, and he pulls off the white-blond hair as if he were born with it. Wonderful! Even Dobby was less annoying than I expected. Sadly, this is one of the last performances by Richard Harris. It will be interesting to see who is chosen to replace him. Several names are being thrown around (Christopher Lee, Ian McKellen, and Patrick Stewart (my fav), to name a few), but nothing definite has been announced. There is no "in memory of" because the film had already gone to print when he passed away.

The film is 2.5 hours, but I did not find it dragging in the slightest (unlike the film for Sorcerer's Stone). Several of the, um, oversized creatures were enough to give me the willies, especially at the very end. Quite creepy. I certainly don't recommend this film for children under 5 or 6, but you know your kids best. Be sure you stay through all of the credits (and there are a ton of them) for a small little clip at the end.

Will I Buy It? Absolutely! I really do love this world created by J.K. Rowling, and watching the movie is a great reminder of how much (and why) I love these books. Can't wait for the DVD!

Die Another Day

In a Nutshell: It was fine; your typical James Bond flick. Not my favorite, not the worst. Worth the price of admission for two scenes.

Quick Plot: James Bond to save the world again; need we say more? There's really not much else to say. Bad Guy is laundering illegal conflict diamonds to finance an all-powerful satellite weapon.

In Detail: Hmmm... I wasn't kidding when I said there really isn't much to say about this movie (though I'm sure I'll manage something!). :-) It's a pretty generic James Bond film. No great bad guys, no great Bond girls. Halle Berry was fine, but not great, IMO. Brosnan is starting to show his age, but he still does quite well. There seemed to be more extraneous stuff in this movie than in most. I can't tell you too much more of the plot without giving other plot points away (not that they're hard to figure out). Most of the effects were good to great, with one scene pretty poor. Most of the stunts were pretty good, but with a few too cheesy, even for a James Bond. There were also more "yeah right" moments than there should be. When you stretch beyond even Bond-level willing suspension of disbelief, you know there's a problem. Even the theme was a little off. I think the song as a song is okay, but I don't care for it as a Bond theme. The credit sequence is dazzling, if a little strange (even for a Bond).

This being the 20th Bond film, there were plenty of little things to watch for in tribute to the 19 films that came before. One of these tribute scenes is the "show Bond his new gizmos" scene with Q (played by John Cleese, formerly R). Look around that scene very carefully; lots of fun stuff for the Bond junkie. Also yields one of my favorite Bond-Q barb exchanges. Bond: "you're cleverer than you look." Q: "better than looking cleverer than you are." LOL! The funniest, most fantastic scene comes near the very end, and I can't tell you more than that without giving something away. But it is SOOO funny!! The whole theater fell apart laughing. Those two scenes alone made it worth seeing.

Will I Buy It? Yes, but only because I'm a Bond junkie myself, and I have to own them all. Were it a stand-alone film, it would be a difficult decision. It was okay to good, not great by any means, but still fun.

Tuesday, November 5, 2002

The Santa Clause 2

In a Nutshell: Perfectly pleasant, but a little hit and miss. The original is better.

Quick Plot: When we last left Scott Calvin, he had become Santa Claus by virtue of the first "Santa Clause." However, his elvin help forgot to mention the second clause, which states that he must get married, or he ceases to be Santa, and he only has 28 days to find a wife. He must hurry! The "de-Santa-fication" process has already begun.

In Detail: I love the original "The Santa Clause" movie, and amazingly, the entire cast returned. I do wish I had been able to see it again before we went to see the sequel, but I had to make due without. (And I can't go buy it now because it's too close to Christmas. Sheesh!) Perhaps the original isn't as wonderful as I remember, but this movie didn't fully live up. It was fine, good for kids, but it just seemed to be missing something. I think it was the sense of wonder as you watched Tim Allen follow a pretty strong character arc from Mr. Businessman to Santa, discovering the intricacies of the North Pole along the way. The scenes where he is back "on earth" are pretty good (better in the wife department than the son department), but the scenes with the substitute Santa (left to keep the elves working) felt strained, and I didn't find them especially funny. I know part of the point was that he only had 28 days to find a wife, but the whole movie felt a bit rushed. Some touching moments, and a great scene with the council of "other mythical beings," but it just wasn't the same, or even as good, as the original. Again, perfectly fine, but not great. Trekkies, keep your eyes open!

Will I Buy It? Perhaps when I'm in the market for films my kids can watch that I don't mind watching, we'll invest in this one, but I don't predict us picking it up before then.

Spirited Away

In a Nutshell: Interesting, but I don't think I fully "got it."

Quick Plot: (Brief but important background: This is a film from a Japanese master of Anime. This is the most successful film of all time in Japan, distributed in the US by Disney. It is dubbed, not subtitled.) A girl and her family stumble upon a resort for the spirits. When her parents become enchanted by the place and are kidnapped, Chihiro must take on the witch Yubaba to save them and herself, with the help of a variety of unusual friends.

In Detail: Um, yeah. It was, ah, interesting. Honestly, I think the cultural gap is too large, at least for me. The film was fine, meaning that it made sense and followed a "normal" progression. The story was different (though perhaps common in Japan). But when it was finished, I just thought "okay, I have no idea what the point of that really was." I think there were lots of references, both visual and perhaps in the names, that were simply lost on me since I don't have any kind of understanding of Japanese culture and spirituality. Even my brother, who is a great fan of Anime/Japanimation, said he didn't really get it either. An interesting cultural experience, one I am happy to have had, but not one I care to repeat any time soon.

Will I Buy It? No. It didn't make enough sense to me, so I would not enjoy repeat viewings.

Gone in 60 Seconds

In a Nutshell: Typical no-brainer action flick, a fun 2 hours.

Quick Plot: Memphis Raines is a retired (but still infamous) car thief. When his kid brother signs a deal to "boost" 50 cars and can't deliver, Memphis assembles his old crew in order to "acquire" the goods, and save his brother's life.

In Detail: Well, I don't have much detail to give. Another predictable film, this time in the action department. A perfectly fun 2-hours, with nothing deep to linger with you once it's finished. Nothing wrong with those kinds of films, but I like others in this genre better. The car chase was quite good, and I'm a sucker for those for some strange reason (must be all those James Bond films and Dukes of Hazzard episodes I watched as a kid). Not a bad outing for Nicolas Cage, not a great role for Angelina Jolie, and everyone else was pretty ho-hum. Not even a great villain. ::shrug:: If you're looking for a fun action flick you haven't seen, give this one a try. Just know what to expect.

Will I Buy It? Doubtful. I wouldn't watch it enough to make it worth it. As I said, there are others I like better in this genre.

Return To Me

In a Nutshell: A perfectly pleasant rom-com (romantic comedy), with some funny, touching, and sweet moments.

Quick Plot: Following the death of his wife, Bob (David Duchovney) meets and falls for Grace (Minnie Driver), only to discover that Grace has had a heart transplant, and the heart she received was his wife's.

In Detail: I call this a fluff movie, but that is in no way a bad thing! Everything is scripted and predictable, and you know how it's going to end before it even starts. But that doesn't make the journey any less sweet or pleasant. In a way, it's a throw-back to the older formula films, and it's just as comforting. Minnie Driver is charming as ever, Bonnie Hunt and James Belushi have small but wonderful parts, and Robert Loggia and Carroll O'Connor (along with their kooky bunch of friends) steal the show. Very cute, with some great scenes. Worth renting for a nice sweet escape for a couple of hours.

Will I Buy It? Hmm... I don't know. I have several films already that fall into this "fluff" category, and as I prefer some others to this one, I don't intend to rush right out and get it. But if I found it on a sale rack for a reasonable price, I would certainly pick it up.


In a Nutshell: Typical Philip K. Dick story, extremely well cast in most respects, and quite well done.

Quick Plot: Spencer Olham is a premiere scientist who has designed the ultimate weapon against the aliens that threaten to take over the earth. He arrives at work, only to be taken into custody by the ESA (Earth Security Agency), accused of being a genetic replica with a bomb in his heart, set to detonate upon meeting the chancellor. He escapes, trying to prove his innocence, while being hunted by the ESA as the city's most wanted criminal.

In Detail: You know me, I love sci-fi, and I'm quite fond of Philip K. Dick stories. They always have great worlds and good plot twists. While not the best in the world, there was still plenty for me to like in this film, primarily the casting. I adore Gary Sinise, and he's great as always. Madeline Stowe plays her typical part, but I like her anyway. And new to my "favorite actors" list is Vincent D'Onofrio. The more I see him, the more I like him, and he is perfect for the lead ESA investigator. I don't care much for Mehki Pheiffer, though this role wasn’t bad for him. I was able to predict the majority of the plot twists this time, but that didn't make it any less fun, and I only ended up being partly right. Better than Minority Report, IMO. If you like Gary Sinise, Vincent D'Onofrio, Philip K. Dick, or sci-fi in general, you'd probably like this movie. A good rental.

Will I Buy It? Mmm.... I'm not sure. I think I’m starting to get picky in my old age! I'm more likely to buy this one than Minority Report (also a Philip K. Dick story), but it's not a must have.

The Cat's Meow

In a Nutshell: Great cast, fairly good movie. Definitely fun if you love the roarin' 20s.

Quick Plot: William Randolph Hurst throws a party for his friend Tom, a formerly in-demand film producer who's career has hit a rough patch. Assembling various famous figures from Hurst's real-life exploits (including his mistress Marion Davies and her rumored lover Charlie Chaplin), this film tells the story of that weekend, and a much-rumored murder that supposedly took place.

In Detail: Strangely, this film strikes me much like the American version of Gosford Park. Perhaps I connected more with "Cat" than "Gosford" simply due to culture. I know a bit about Hurst and Davies and Chaplin, and the lives they lead in the mid-1920's, so maybe that gave it more weight and relevance to me personally. The casting is exquisite, the direction and set-up quite good. I thought it was fun, but I know it won't be everyone's cup of tea (or glass of bathtub gin, as the case may be). Kirsten Dunst shines! She was perfect for this role. Edward Herrmann is great as Hurst (I've always thought they favored each other a bit). The other characters are quite good, though I personally could have done without Jennifer Tilly. A great study into the era, and a great theory about what really happened on that yachting trip.

Will I Buy It? I'm not sure. I liked it more than my husband, even enough to buy it, but again, I'm not sure I'd watch it enough to make it worthwhile. It's on my "thinking about" list.

Monday, August 12, 2002

x X x

In a Nutshell: A surprisingly good (but certainly not deep) action flick.

Quick Plot: Xander Cage is given the choice to serve time for his latest X-games type crime, or work off his sentence by becoming a spy for the US government. Throw in scuzzy bad guys, a slinky girl with an accent, a plot to take over the world, and about a million gallons each of adrenaline and testosterone, and you've got yourself x X x.

In Detail: I'm sure the fact that I even went to see this movie has raised eyebrows among some of you. I wasn't sure if I wanted to or not, but it was the only thing out I was even remotely interested in seeing. Mr. Diesel (couldn't even type that with a straight face) struck me as merely a no-neck thug who couldn't act his way out of a paper bag, and I had absolutely zero expectations for this movie. It is a totally brainless adrenaline film, and there's nothing wrong with that! (Speed is one of my favorite films, and it's pretty brainless.) I knew that going in, and it certainly didn't disappoint. The stunts are simply amazing (and occasionally believable), and the action (along with the deafening music) is non-stop. Vin Diesel even manages to convince you he might have a few of brain cells to rub together, which was a pleasant surprise. Occasionally, some of the dialog/acting was laughable, but what do you expect from such a genre? Some of the song lyrics were a little too, um, "much" for me, and I'm always slightly irked by putting in a girl just so the male lead has someone to oogle. "Gadget guy" (think Q, for Bond fans) is way fun, and definitely my favorite character. A deep movie? No. Predictable? Yes. But I still had a fabulously fun time!! Looking forward to the next installment in the franchise.

Will I Buy It? Mmmm.... I'd say it's on the "yes" side of maybe. I think I'll have to see it again to decide if there's enough in there to warrant watching over and over, but it was certainly fun enough to make me seriously consider it.

Monday, August 5, 2002


In a Nutshell: Quite different, quite funny; worth seeing.

Quick Plot: Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton escape from prison and decide to knock off a bank to get the cash needed to flee to Mexico. They become dubbed "The Sleepover Bandits" due to their tactic of holding the bank manager hostage over night, then accompanying him/her to the vault the next morning. Throw in Kate Blanchett as a hostage/love interest (and the inevitable love triangle), and you've got quite a mix.

In Detail: It's different. Not really what I was expecting, but still very good. I thought it would be more of a straight comedy, but there was quite a bit of drama to it. Plenty of laughs as well, though. Willis is the delightfully slightly-psycho action man of the group, and never ceases to amaze with his wild notions. Thornton is fantastic as the hypochondriac brain of the operation. Blanchett is kooky as the disgruntled wife/hostage/borderline nutcase and amazing to watch. The way the pieces fit together in the end is great!

Will I Buy It? Probably not. I liked the movie, but I didn't love it. A great rental, though.

3000 Miles to Graceland

In a Nutshell: Grade F; so bad, we didn't even finish it.

Quick Plot: Kurt Russell, Kevin Costner, and others enter a Las Vegas casino dressed as Elvis impersonators. A heist (and lots of carnage) ensues, followed by bickering among the group members. What happens after that? I don't know, and I don't care.

In Detail: This movie was not what I was expecting, and if I had known what to expect, we wouldn't have rented it. I had wanted to see it for a while, thinking it was a comedy about the heist pulled by Elvis impersonators. Maybe more along the lines of "Ocean's 11," but totally different in tone and style. NOT! The heist takes place in the first 20 minutes or so, and I think it was trying to imitate John Woo. It was violent and bloody, though not really gory per se. After 40 minutes, we had smiled once, not laughed at all, and were totally unimpressed. We still had two other rentals to get through in the weekend, and we didn't want to waste any more time on this one, so we pushed stop. I should have known better, since it had David Arquette in it (there is only one film with him in it that I like, and that is in spite of his role). If you like his style plus dark black humor (if you can call it that), you might like this; perhaps Quentin Tarantino fans? Personally, I can't recommend this film to anyone for any reason.

Will I Buy It? Do you really even need to ask? NO!

K-19: The Widowmaker

In a Nutshell: Very good movie, borders on greatness; definitely worth seeing.

Quick Plot: The Soviet Union launches the world's most elite nuclear submarine, K-19, in the middle of the Cold War. During the first sea trials, the crew is faced with multiple malfunctions, including a potential core meltdown.

In Detail: Wow; what a powerful film! A word of warning: do not go to see this movie with the expectation of a lot of action. It is very dialog, character, and situation driven. There's nothing wrong with that! I like those kinds of movies. From that perspective, it is a very adult film. Don't take younger kids who are only interested in fights and chases; none are to be found here. It is tense, taught, and heart-wrenching, possibly too much so for the young. Makes me all the more frightened for our nuclear sub sailors, including my brother-in-law, who is a nuclear engine tech (sorry Mike, I know that's not your technical title). I thought the counterpoint between Harrison Ford's grizzled old veteran and Liam Neeson's protective fatherly type was excellent. Ford is showing his age, but it gives him even more presence. A genuinely good-to-great movie, made all the more powerful by knowing it is based on a real event.

Will I Buy It? I'm not sure that we would watch it enough to make it worth buying, but it's definitely worth seeing.

Monday, July 15, 2002

The Powerpuff Girls

In a Nutshell: Saving the world (before bedtime) has never been so fun! And I don't even watch the show.

Quick Plot: How the girls came to be (happens during the opening credits, so don't be late!) and all about their first days, both at school and kicking butt.

In Detail: I liked this movie a lot. I have seen the show occasionally; I find it very "hit and miss" for me, so I wasn't sure what I would think of the film. It was so much fun! It tells the story of how the Powerpuff Girls came to be in the first place, so you don't feel left out if you haven't seen the show. There may be some in jokes I missed, but I still had a ball. I do think that a couple of segments (playing tag, fight the monkeys) went on a bit too long. Too violent (though roughly on par with the show) for parents sensitive about such things. The flow and pace were excellent, and it wasn't too childish (for the most part); plenty of adult only humor available here. Great fun! Won't lose anything on the small screen, but that driving techno music in the background just won't be the same at home.

Will I Buy It? Mmmm, I don't know. More than likely, we will own it eventually, but perhaps not as soon as it comes out.

Gosford Park

In a Nutshell: Toooooooooooo slow. Possible rental if you like slow British drama, otherwise skip it.

Quick Plot: A tale of the interactions among and between the "above stairs" (servants) and "below stairs" (wealthy socialites) guests at an English country manor in the early 1930s, including clandestine meetings and murder.

In Detail: I really wanted to like this movie. The previews looked pretty good. A witty comedy intertwined with a whodunit murder mystery. The few witty lines were in the previews, and they came off better there than in context. How can it be a murder mystery if the murder didn't happen until 45 minutes from the end, and even then there was no set up per se IMO? Add to that the fact that I had the "mystery" figured out as soon as they gave the blatantly obvious clues, so there was not even that to carry me through the rest of the film. Though I am normally good with accents, I often found the constant British mumbling difficult to follow. This may have come off better in a theater where the background noise would have been "behind you" due to the surround sound, while the dialog was "in front of you," but I'm not convinced that would have wholly solved the problem. And I do know after watching this film that Robert Altman has very little use for Americans, and significantly less for the police. Mostly a waste of my 2+ hours.

Will I Buy It? No way.

Ocean's 11 (2002)

In a Nutshell: Fun film, great cast. Didn't love it, but liked it a lot. Definite rent!

Quick Plot: Danny Ocean, recently released from prison, gathers together a group of 11 to help knock off three of the biggest casinos in Las Vegas.

In Detail: A pretty good movie. Better than I can say for some I've seen lately! First of all, the cast is outstanding. Just to see all of these people in the same movie is worth the price of the rental. I'm not a particular George Clooney fan (don't like or dislike him), but he was perfect for this role. I think it could have used a couple of extra twists, but that's okay. I may have just lucked up figuring out the last couple in advance. Some good humor, some good tension, some good mystery, and some fabulous one liners! Certainly worth seeing.

Will I Buy It? Probably not. I prefer similar type films in other genres. Still good, though.

Reign of Fire

In a Nutshell: Okay, but needed more dragons!

Quick Plot: Dragons, awakened after hundreds of years lying dormant, have obliterated most traces of life from the Earth. A small band of humans just try to survive, until a dragonslayer comes with the promise of hope and freedom from fiery terror. (Hey, I just made that up on the spot. Sounds pretty good, if I do say so myself!)

In Detail: Well, it certainly wasn't the worst film I've ever seen, but not the best either. It had tension, it had humor (especially the little play they put on for the kids), it had awesome dragons. OTOH, the film is uneven and really really really needs more dragons! Almost every dragon shot in the film is in the trailer, so if the dragons are all you're going for, be prepared. However, if you are interested in seeing it, do see it in the theater, because what little dragon awesomeness there is will be lost on the small screen. Their roar is bone chilling, and you hear it a good bit. Seeing them is scary as *&%$, but you just don't see enough of them. We won't even talk about the plot holes that are big enough to drive a truck (or in this case, a tank) through. And, on a more personal note, what the heck is the point of going to see a Matthew McConaughey movie if there's no blonde curls and dimples to be found? He's all buffed up with an awesome body, but I found it really hard to make that be him. Bummer. Bottom line: it's a fun ride. See it in the theater if you're a dragon lover, but don't pay full price. Rental would be fine if it won't hurt you to miss big-screen beasts.

Will I Buy It? Doubtful, unless the special edition adds *lots* more dragons.

Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius

In a Nutshell: I'm glad we waited to rent; not sure it was worth even that.

Quick Plot: Jimmy Neutron (boy genius) discovers that aliens have captured all the parents in town. He leads the kids out into space (on converted amusement park rides) to rescue them.

In Detail: As a fan of most animation, I found this one to be a major disappointment. This might be fun for kids, but I didn't find it particularly enjoyable. The few laughs I did have did not outweigh the borderline boredom created by the rest of the film. I think what bothers me the most about this film is that it could have been so much better. It just had no depth, and it's hard to carry off something so shallow for 1.5 hours. It also contained 7 year old versions of gross-out humor that I could really have done without (as I'm sure you all know by now). The one surprise that almost made the film worthwhile (but not quite) was the voice of the head bad guy. I nearly fell off the sofa when I realized who it was, over an hour into it. If you have little kids, they might enjoy it, but check it for content to make sure you find nothing objectionable. Otherwise, don't bother. There are too many good movies out there for kids to bother with this one.

Will I Buy It? Nope.

Men in Black II

In a Nutshell: Enjoyable, but the original is better. See the matinee or wait for video.

Quick Plot: An interstellar baddie from K's past returns to find "the light" she believes was hidden there 25 years earlier by K. MIB cannot fight her without his help, so J collects his former partner in order to "de-neuralize" him and save the world, again.

In Detail: Comedies are always better when seen with a bunch of people, so if you want to see it, do so in the theater. Just don't pay full price or you might be disappointed. Sadly, most of the best gags have been seen in the various trailers for the film. I found the ending to be quite blah, and the obvious opening for a sequel irked me a bit. My biggest problem with the film was the portrayal of J (Will Smith). The beginning of the film sets up J as the "it man" now that K (Tommy Lee Jones) is gone. Everyone respects, even reveres him. Once K does come back, he's back to making rookie mistakes and comments like he did in the original. How does the return of K take away his competence as an agent? Anyway, the film is a bit uneven. Pay attention for brief, sometimes important, references to the first film (such as what happened to the coroner who became his partner at the end of the first film). Frank (the dog) steals the show; he should get a raise and definitely return for MIB3, which has already been confirmed by studios.

Will I Buy It? Haven't decided yet. Might need to wait and rent it again before such a decision is made.

Monday, June 24, 2002

The Bourne Identity

In a Nutshell: Not bad for a different twist on the spy thriller genre.

Quick Plot: Matt Damon wakes up on a ship with no clue as to who he is, except that he was pulled out of the sea with bullets in his back and a tiny cylinder embedded in his hip listing a Swiss bank account. People are after him, trying to kill him, and he has no idea why. He is also trained in many skills, not the least of which incapacitating people without much fuss or fanfare.

In Detail: I liked this movie fine. It had good suspense, and great car chases (reminded me of older James Bond films). I love films set in Europe, so this was an additional plus in my book. I do feel that it was missing something, though. It's like someone gave the screenwriter a 5-minute synopsis of the book, and he wrote the screenplay from that. Now, I have *not* read the book, this is just my feeling. I'm sure the book has all of the intricacies that I'm looking for that the movie was missing. It was still a fine 2 hours spent in the theater. Possibly worth full price, but a matinee is best. Again, wouldn't lose much on the small screen if you chose to wait. And I definitely want to read the book!

Will I Buy It? Probably not, unless the sequels are good and I need this one for the set.

Bad Company

In a Nutshell: Funny in spots, not really a waste of 2 hours per se, but mainly blah.

Quick Plot: This is the latest "mismatched buddy cop" movie, this time starring Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock. Rock and his twin brother were separated at birth, the refined works-for-the-CIA brother gets killed, and street hustler brother is recruited to take his place to finish out that last mission.

In Detail: Not much detail to give really. It had its moments. I think Chris Rock has it in his contract that he is allowed a 3-minute spiel on the topic of his choosing in each film; that said, this one's pretty funny. We laughed, and we didn't feel like we had wasted 2 hours. Is it worth full price ($7.50 here)? Probably not. Will it lose anything on video? I doubt it. Anthony Hopkins was disappointing in this role, so if that's you're only reason for seeing it, don't bother. It was like he went through the whole movie with the "I can't believe I'm doing this" attitude, and it showed.

Will I Buy It? Nope.

The Sum of All Fears

In a Nutshell: Not a bad addition to the Jack Ryan series, but I definitely prefer Ford or Baldwin.

Quick Plot: Jack Ryan is a new recruit the CIA (14 months, I believe they said). There's a 3rd party out there making the US and Russians think they are attacking each other. A nuclear device has been purchased by said 3rd party and shipped to the US. It goes off, bringing the US and Russia to the brink of full-scale nuclear war. Can Jack convince his superiors and the President that it's not the Russians?

In Detail: You know, I used to wonder why there was such anxiety by some people about Cold War films, such as Hunt for Red October. The thought of nuclear war seemed so far-fetched to me by the late-80s and early-90s. "Like that would ever really happen." Well, after September 11, those movies are not nearly so much fun. I had heard critics saying that it might be too soon, and I didn't believe them. After seeing it, perhaps they are right. The scariest part is knowing that it depicts precisely the actions that I would expect the US and Russian governments to take should such an event ever take place. Very scary indeed.

**Warning, here comes a rant.** Why was the film set in 2002? I am willing to suspend disbelief enough to accept Ben Affleck as a young Jack Ryan. Marketing kept pushing it as the "Jack Ryan prequel." Then shouldn't it have been set in the 80s?! I know the book is a sequel, not a prequel. I know the screenplay was written for Harrison Ford, then altered to accept a "younger" Ryan and formulated as a prequel. Fine. But there is NO way that Hunt could be early 90s, Clear and Present Danger and Patriot Games could be mid-late 90s, and this prequel could be 2002. If you were already tinkering enough with it, then you could have simply shifted the timeline. But then you wouldn't have had cell phones and PDAs and stuff. GRRR! Either it's a prequel, or it's the next one with a different actor as Ryan (a la James Bond). You can't have it both ways! /end rant.

Is it good? Yes. Did I like it? Reserved yes. Worth full price? Probably. Lose much on small screen? I don't think so. And the real question....

Will I Buy It? I'm not sure yet.

Lilo and Stitch

In a Nutshell: Or should I say, coconut shell? Cute film, but feels a little off-kilter from its more "normal" Disney brothers and sisters.

Quick Plot: Genetically created alien to be put in prison as a danger to intergalactic society. Escapes to Earth (Hawaii specifically); creator and sidekick sent to bring it back. Meanwhile, alien adopted from a pound by badly behaved Hawaiian girl obsessed with Elvis, who lives with her sister after their parents' death, and is about to be taken away by child services.

In Detail: If you haven't seen the film and/or you don't know much about it, after reading that plot summary, I'm sure by now you're saying, um, okay. I'm still saying that after having seen the movie! It was different. :) I thought it was very pretty to look at, especially with the watercolor backgrounds. It had plenty of laugh out loud moments, plenty of "poor alien" moments, and plenty of "family is important" moments. I liked it fine (I think), but I don't think I loved it, and I'm not sure I ever will. And "stupid-head" is not a phrase I would like my 4 year old to pick up from any film, and certainly not a Disney movie. (Can you tell that irked me?)

It was fine, really. It just feels a little "off" for a Disney. And my brain is still having trouble meshing Hawaii and Elvis with deep space. LOL Almost like they spliced a Hawaii movie and a space movie together, then had to write a story to make the pieces fit. Having said that, it fit pretty well! Again, not a bad execution, just very different. I loved the 2 Hawaiian songs (especially Hawaiian Roller Coaster) enough that I plan to buy the soundtrack just for them. (Alan Silvestri, in case you were wondering).

Will I Buy It? I'm leaning towards yes.

Minority Report

In a Nutshell: Good, but not great. I was expecting more from Cruise/Spielberg.

Quick Plot: Cruise is the head of the experimental "pre-crime" unit in Washington, DC, where three "pre-cognitives" predict murders before they happen. Pre-crime officers then move in an arrest the suspect before the murder has taken place. When Cruise is accused of murdering a man he doesn't even know, he becomes the hunted and must find the flaw in the system before they get him.

In Detail: I guess this film was just not quite what I was expecting. Not really sure what I was expecting, but this wasn't really it. There were no traces of Spielberg's trademark humor. A couple of smiles, one small chuckle, and that's it! The rest is all action and drama. Seeing as it's based on a Phillip K. Dick story, the same guy who wrote the book that Blade Runner is based on, it's not surprising it has much the same tone and feel. And you know that sort-of whitewashed look all the previews have had? The entire film is that way. I thought it might be used for some parts to make a point, thematically or tonally, but it is present is some way throughout the film. It does get stronger or weaker, but it is always there. Another "good but I'm not sure I liked it" film. Definitely worth seeing, though. A little icky in some places (not blood and guts, but other squeamish things), NOT a movie for kids without parental preview, IMO.

Will I Buy It? I don't think so.

Wednesday, June 5, 2002

Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles

In a Nutshell: Cute and very funny vignettes, absolutely no plot.

Quick Plot: Sue is offered a temporary assignment at the Los Angeles division of her father's newspaper. She and Mick decide it would be good to expose their son (age 8-ish) to more of the world, so they make the trip a family affair. Fish out of water funnies follow, along with jokes that only viewers of the first two films will get.

In Detail: Was this movie supposed to have a plot? I guess it had a little, 20 minutes worth perhaps. So I guess it's to their credit that they only spent about 20 minutes on the plot. The rest of the film is composed were "fish out of water" vignettes, starring Mick and Mikey. Now, don't misunderstand me; it was a funny movie! I love both of the previous Crocodile Dundee flicks. Many of the laughs in this one simply cannot be enjoyed unless you've seen the other two films, so if you're new to the franchise, this is not the film to start with. It is, however, a good way to remind yourself of how good the other two films really are. Probably worth the cost of a rental if you're seeing it in a group. Would be better to catch it if it comes on television one day. Notably absent is Wally; John Meillon died in 1989. Not sure if it would have helped the movie any to have him, but he was missed all the same.

Will I Buy It? Probably not. The other two movies so much better, I don't feel the need to have this one to complete the collection. It just doesn't add enough.

Monday, May 20, 2002

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

In a Nutshell: Corny! Now, all of the movies are a little hokey (and I love them anyway), but this was awful, even painful to watch at some points. Only for the most diehard of Star Wars fans.

Quick Plot: Former queen, now Ambassador Padme Amidala is being threatened. The Counsel sends two Jedi to protect her, both old friends. Anakin chafes against the restrictions placed upon him by the fatherly Obi-Wan, while still carrying his boyhood torch for Padme. Obi-Wan spends his time trying to figure out who is ordering clones of a bounty hunter, and why.

In Detail: OMG, the acting was just so bad! It makes Adam West's Batman look like Oscar-winning performances! I so wanted this movie to be good, and it really did have some interesting points and story elements, but the execution left MUCH to be desired. As far as overall watch-ability goes, Episode I was better. (Believe me, I never thought I would say that, though Ep. I has grown on me each time I've seen it.) It does need to be seen on the big screen, so do see it if you have any interest. But don't pay full price, and don't go expecting much from it; you might come out less disappointed that way.

I thought the Vader aspects of Anakin were well done. John Williams is a truly brilliant man, and he aids in telling the story simply through his use of various musical themes from previous Star Wars films in some places. For instance, I got chills when it suddenly transitions from "Luke's theme" to "Darth Maul's theme." Very effective at foreshadowing, without saying a single word. I also thought Ewan McGregor did a great job as Obi-Wan. I predict that while watching the Episodes in order in the future, the transition from Ewan McGregor to Alec Guinness will be practically seamless. The innocent aspects of Anakin and the love story were handled poorly. Natalie Portman was so wooden! She didn't show hardly any spunk until the very end. I was beginning to wonder where Leia got it from. Most of the scenes between her and Hayden Christensen were terrible, more due to the writing than their acting, though that could have used a bit of help as well. "I've died a little each day since you came back into my life." Oh, pu-lease! And did we really need the girl in the flowing dress to run through the meadow? Come now, Mr. Lucas, there's hopeless romantic and then there's too much. I did way too much eye-rolling (much more than Spider-Man, which is sad). I thought the editing was way too choppy, especially for the first hour or so (it's right at 2.5 hours, with previews and everything). No one had a conversation longer than a couple of lines for a while. The overwhelming need to state the blatantly obvious was also annoying. Again, it caused too much eye rolling. And don't expect much of the two-saber dual. It wasn't long enough to be satisfying, IMHO.

So, as you can see, I was very disappointed in the movie, though I am certainly still pondering how all the pieces are going to fit together in the next movie. As much as I disliked it, it has kept me thinking for 3 days now, with no signs of stopping, so that tells you how much I liked the new story points. Some good info, but not a good film. He has a bunch of things to work out in Episode III to avoid some messy complications and inconsistencies with Episodes IV-VI, but I'm sure he can do it. I just hope it's a bit more watch-able than this one.

Will I Buy It? Yes, but only to complete the set.