Thursday, December 18, 2003

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

In a Nutshell: Very good. Not quite as good as Fellowship, but infinitely better than Towers. Certainly didn't feel like 3.5 hours, that's for sure.

Quick Plot: Do you really need one? Frodo and Sam are off to destroy the ring, Aragorn must lead the race of men to victory over the Orcs and the forces of Sauron.

In Detail: Quite good, if a little confusing for non-readers (like myself; no stone-throwing, please, I'll get to it one day). I have some serious timeline issues with how it all works out, but it does work out, in some highly unexpected ways. I think the absolute best compliment I can give is that it sure didn't feel like it was 3.5 hours long. It held my interest, it rarely slowed to the point of checking a watch (which I did twice, I think), and there is really no good place to go to the restroom, so don't drink *anything* before going to see it.

Will I Buy It? Yep.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Down With Love

In a Nutshell: Visually wonderful, fairly cute story. Fairly good, I'd say.

Quick Plot: Barbara Novak has written a book, teaching women to be like men in the bedroom department (all fun, no emotional commitment). Catcher Block (ladies man, man's man, man about town) is a journalist determined to make the scoop of the year by proving that Ms. Novak needs love, too, by making her fall for him.

In Detail: This movie was quite fun. It starts off rather slow, and it is by no means a great movie, but if you love the classic "pillow talk" type films, you'll find this one quite entertaining. It is visually stunning, but I love the classic 50s/60s style to begin with. So fun! Both Ewan McGregor and Renee Zelweger can deliver those wonderfully corny lines with enough tongue in cheek (pun intended) to pull them off. Both the dialog and the pace of the film picks up 30-45 minutes through, with one amazing soliloquy by Renee near the end. Worth seeing if you like the old Doris Day films. It is quite over the top in many places (similar to Soapdish in some ways), but it is intended to be, so just take it with a grain of salt.

Will I Buy It? I can't decide. It was a lot of fun, but I didn't love it. I would probably buy it if I found it for a good price, perhaps previewed.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

In a Nutshell: Boring! Some good acting, but not enough plot to make me care.

Quick Plot: Captain Aubrey is on the hunt for a French vessel that has managed to corner him twice, barely escaping each time. All hands hope the third time's the charm as they go after the French ship again.

In Detail: There is really no detail to give. It's like a study of what sailing/the British Navy was like back then. It has some nice moments, and some really fine acting, but there was virtually no story. I found it very boring, and so did my husband (so it's not just that it was a "guy movie"; I tend to like "guy movies" anyway, but not this one). Rent it if you feel you must see it, but otherwise, don't bother.

Will I Buy It? No.

Monday, November 10, 2003

The Animatrix

In a Nutshell: Different. Interesting. Not sure I liked it, but worth seeing if you're a Matrix fan. NOT for children.

Quick Plot: Nine animated shorts, in all styles from virtually photo-realistic CG to almost static black and white graphics, that relate to the Matrix, sometimes via backstory, sometimes expanding on other concepts. An interesting experiment.

In Detail: Basically, the Wachowski Brothers had some "aside" type things relating to The Matrix and its story, so they gave the 8 stories (one is in two parts) to different people and said "here, animate this." As a fan of animation in general, it was truly fascinating to see the different styles. Each is as different from the other as night and day. Some styles I liked, some I didn't. Some stories I liked, some I didn't. But it was a very interesting experiment. It certainly does things to "expand the universe," so to speak, though I think I liked most of the backstory I had made up in my head better, so be prepared for that.

Will I Buy It? Probably not.

The Matrix Revolutions

In a Nutshell: It's a semi-good action flick. Expecting something deep, or some answers? Don't bother.

Quick Plot: Picks up exactly where the previous film left off, with Neo and Bane in comas and Zion under attack.

In Detail: When I walked out of the theater after seeing this film the first time, I had no idea what to say about it. Even my husband commented, "I don't envy you trying to write *that* up." After seeing it a second time, I am able to wrap some words around it, even if they are inadequate to express how I feel. The ultimate verdict: Extremely disappointing final chapter to what should have been an awesome trilogy. At this point, I would rather them have just left it with the original Matrix film. I wasn't overly impressed with Reloaded, except with the last few minutes. The conversation with The Architect truly saved it. I was hoping that Revolutions would continue with such a promising and wonderfully complex philosophy, and perhaps give us a few answers in the process. Instead, Revolutions seems to have dumped any depth it possibly could have had (except the train station scene with the Indian family) in favor of becoming a testosterone-driven action flick. How sad. And even then, it wasn't a very good one. Don't get me wrong, the Battle for Zion is *awesome.* There is no other word for it. Visually stunning, with plenty of action. But as an action film, the non-action parts flopped. So it was neither a good action film, nor a good Matrix film. It ignored too many of its own parameters and constructs to close the deal. I'm embarrassed to admit that, at this point, I liked Reloaded better, and I wasn't all that kind to it the first time around. (I saw it again on Saturday, and it's growing on me. Not sure if that's because it's growing on me, or if it's just better than Revolutions.) Did I just miss something? Perhaps my friend Kelli, the philosophy major, could shed some light, because I think the film is missing a whole heck of a lot! As long as you see it with the understanding that it's an action flick with a momentary lapse of insight and a good bit of other pointless stuff, you will probably like it better than I did.

I would like to say a quick word about seeing this film in IMAX format. WOW! The movie was still so-so, but when they talk about "the IMAX experience," they are not kidding. The clarity of the film is jaw-dropping. You could see the texture on the olive in a martini glass, for goodness sake. I was truly amazed. And I hadn't realized how astounding IMAX surround sound is. I caught myself looking over my shoulder occasionally, it was that believable. It was expensive ($11.50, compared to the usual $8.50, or $6.50 matinee), but ultimately worth it, I think. It was the first time I tried seeing a "standard" film converted to IMAX, and I was very pleased. Not something I would spend that kind of money on for every film, but for the special ones, definitely worth it!

Will I Buy It? Undecided. I can't be any more specific than that at this point.

Addendum: We have decided to pretend that only the first Matrix film exists, no others.

Monday, November 3, 2003

Brother Bear

In a Nutshell: I wanted to love it, but I didn't. Still good though.

Quick Plot: Kenai, an Inuit young man in search of vengeance for his brother, is transformed by the spirits into a bear so that he may "walk a mile in his enemy's shoes," so to speak, and Koda (an abandoned cub) tags along. But Kenai's other brother is also seeking vengeance, and assumes Bear-Kenai is the enemy.

In Detail: A beautiful film, to be sure, eh? The Aurora Borealis animation is fantastic. I especially liked the "Great Spirits" song segment, sung by Tina Turner. Beyond that, it was just, well, okay. I really wanted to love this film, and I didn't. Liked it, yes, but not love. Sadly, most of the best stuff, you've seen in the trailers. Beyond the stunning visuals (with extensive multi-plane camera use, yay!), the story is just a touch blah. Fine for kids, I think. Worth seeing, but perhaps with slightly lower expectations. If you like ending Kodas, I mean codas, stay through the credits.

Will I Buy It? Most likely. You know I'm a Disney nut!

Runaway Jury

In a Nutshell: It's a Grisham. Good, keeps your interest, not spectacular.

Quick Plot: A high profile case in New Orleans draws the top jury consultant in the nation to insure victory for the defense, but another party "owns" a jury member, and is willing to push the verdict either way, for a price.

In Detail: It was a Grisham, which means it is bound to be entertaining and tense. It also means that it is unlikely to be spectacular, and this wasn't. My two favorite Grisham films are The Client and The Pelican Brief. The ending here, while a surprise, just seemed to be a bit of a let down. I was geared up for something much more. I'd say worth seeing, but rent it.

Will I Buy It? Doubtful.

Love Actually

In a Nutshell: Fun cast, great cameos (especially The President). Quite good! The kind of non-traditional rom-com I like.

Quick Plot: The intertwined lives (and loves) of couples and singles at Christmas.

In Detail: Not as good as Playing By Heart (if you haven't seen this film, go rent it right now!), but still very well done. The lives were actually not quite as intertwined as I would have liked, but enough people touched enough others to keep it interesting. Probably all within Six Degrees of Kevin Bac.... er, Separation, but I didn't check. Left one loose end, which I found frustrating. Even if it wasn't wrapped up neatly (fine, given the circumstances), it should have been mentioned at the end, I think. And Sam, the little boy, steals the *entire* movie!

Will I Buy It? Not sure. I'll have to think about it a little more.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Out of Time

In a Nutshell: Great suspense flick! The previews are slightly misleading, but it works around that nicely.

Quick Plot: Matt Whitlock, chief of police in Banyan Key, Florida, is trying to solve a murder. To use the tag line for the film (which sums it up nicely): "How do you solve a murder when all the evidence points to you?"

In Detail: I haven't seen a really good suspense film in a long time. To me, there is a difference in a thriller and a suspense film. A thriller relies on both suspense as well as "jumpy surprises" and making you feel a little creepy. A suspense film, on the other hand, is actually harder to do well. You have to keep the "will he make it? can he figure it out? how will he get out of/around this?" going much longer, plus put in several (hopefully clever) red herrings. The misdirection in this case was a little lacking; I had it figured out even before the murder happened. The suspense, however, was quite well done. Lots of fun! If you're going to see it, do so in the theater. Suspense films are always better in a large group.

Will I Buy It? Probably not. It was good, but I don't think it would stand up as well to repeat viewings.

Roman Holiday

In a Nutshell: Is there really a more perfect film? Simply wonderful!

Quick Plot: Princess Ann is tired of royal life. After a whirlwind tour of Europe, she runs away to try and experience something of the "real world" while in Rome. But unbeknownst to her, the man who offers to show her around is an American reporter, hoping for the scoop of the decade.

In Detail: How can a movie get better than this? Audrey Hepburn (in her film debut) and Gregory Peck. That should be enough to cause you to run out and see this movie right now. The story is sweet and charming, and even manages to rise above it's 1950s sanitizing to be very "real." We've all had an experience like this, where duty (or morals) leads us away from something we want. Just a wonderful wonderful film! I'm ashamed it took me this long to see it.

Will I Buy It? Yep!

Funny Girl

In a Nutshell: No doubt about how Streisand became a star, with this as her first film. A touching story with some wonderful humor and fabulous songs.

Quick Plot: Fannie Brice has taken Broadway by storm, but her personal life has been a little stormy. Follow her journey from unwanted chorus girl to "Mr. Ziegfield is waiting" diva....

In Detail: I'm very glad I actually got to see this movie, and on the big screen no less. Quite the showwoman is Ms. Streisand. The story is pretty good, the costumes are exquisite, and the songs fantastic. The tone was actually not quite what I was expecting. It was much more serious than I had been lead to believe, especially by the title. While it was funny in places, it is also very dramatic. I question the G rating, in fact. I probably would have given it a PG, though a soft one. Definitely worth seeing.

Will I Buy It? Probably not. I prefer other musicals.

Friday, October 3, 2003

A Mighty Wind

In a Nutshell: Great music! Okay movie. The concert saved it for me.

Quick Plot: Another "mockumentary" from Christopher Guest, this time targeting the folk music scene. Fictional folk music icon Irving Steinbloom has passed away. His children organize a memorial concert starring all of the acts he represented over the years. Comprised of "interviews" with the groups as well as concert footage (both during and behind the scenes).

In Detail: Interesting. This was my first Christopher Guest film, and it was certainly interesting. I certainly didn't love it, but I think I liked it. LOL Okay, so not the most glowing review. Let's see if I can be a little more specific. It was pretty much what I expected, so I guess that was good. But I expected most of the humor to NOT be the kind I liked, and I was right. It wasn't the gross-out humor that I hate, but most of it was "I don't really see why all these people are laughing about that." It's not that I didn't get the jokes, I just didn't think they were funny.

Don't get me wrong, it had its laugh out loud moments! And we certainly enjoyed ourselves. We were obviously engaged in the story to a certain extend, because we cared whether or not a certain event took place during the concert (nope, sorry, I ain't tellin'!). The concert at the end saved it for me. If it has been mostly like the "documentary parts" at the beginning, I would have been disappointed. I'm glad I saw it, the music was *wonderful*, and I don't care to see it again. Nor will I probably see any further Christopher Guest films (unless he is spoofing something close to my heart, like Star Trek or something). I also think Eugene Levy should quit acting and sing for a living. WOW!

Will I Buy It? Probably not, but I might pick up the soundtrack.

The Rundown

In a Nutshell: It was fine. Certainly entertaining (and I have seen a film or two that couldn't even claim that), an quite funny in some places. And it certainly lives up to its billing: The Rock has definitely arrived with this film.

Quick Plot: Some time ago, Beck got in with the wrong people. In order to get out, and start a restaurant like he's always wanted, he has to do one last "job": find the boss's son, who has disappeared into the jungle.

In Detail: Not really much to say. It was entertaining, it was funny. It shows that The Rock is capable of carrying a film pretty much on his own, and he does equally well at comedy and action. Beyond that, it was your basic action popcorn flick. I do think some of the violence was out of line with the overall tone of the film, but perhaps that was part of the point (for it to be shocking). There wasn't a lot of it, and it wasn't gory, it just didn't seem to fit the tone. I also thought he would get out of the movie without actually shooting anyone with a gun. Sadly, not so. I think it would have been more difficult to write, but also more rewarding. As for the rest of the cast, the kid (can't even remember his name) was just annoying, IMO, though I didn't expect it to be otherwise. Rosario Dawson was good, just not really a big enough part. Many critics have been commending Christopher Walken's performance. It was fine, but I've seen better from him, including Catch Me If You Can. If you like brainless action and/or The Rock, then see it. We mainly caught it because we haven't seen a new film in the theater since mid-August! Not bad, but could certainly wait to be rented as well.

Will I Buy It? Doubtful!


In a Nutshell: Interesting. Strange. I'm still pondering it several days later, so it must have been pretty good.

Quick Plot: A group of strangers (or are they?) stop at a lone hotel after being randomly (or is it?) stranded in the middle of nowhere during a torrential rainstorm. And one by one, they are being killed. Who is next? Who will survive?

In Detail: Um, yeah. Wow. I'm not really sure what to say about this movie. I can't really say too much or I might give something away. Some very interesting twists, I assure you. I had one figured out almost immediately, and I was actually kind-of disappointed that I had it within 20 minutes or so of the start of the film. Then they totally broadsided me with another twist that had me completely spinning in circles. Very cool. I didn't see this movie originally because I was afraid it would be too scary or too gory (or both). But, I did take my brother's word for it that it was mostly psychological/thriller type stuff (I trust his judgement on these matters completely), and he was right. They generally imply a lot more than you actually see. But the little bits they do show were borderline on the "Erin Gore Tolerance" scale, especially the first murder. Worth seeing, though, if you like "thrillers with twists."

Will I Buy It? Probably not. I'm glad I saw it, but I wouldn't watch it over and over.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003


In a Nutshell: Very good. Chris Cooper and William H. Macy give particularly memorable performances.

Quick Plot: A rich man who knows more about cars than horses hires a down on his luck "weird" horse trainer and a "huge" jockey to take his runt of a race horse to victory.

In Detail: I have heard nothing but good things about this movie, and I really have nothing but good things to say about it, except that it wasn't as great of a movie as I was expecting. However, I usually feel disappointed when I leave a film that was not all I hoped for, and that was NOT the case here. I left the theater very satisfied and not disappointed at all. Chris Cooper is just down-right wonderful! All of the other performances are very good, but his stands out particularly in my mind. So does William H. Macy's role; such a character! Gary Stevens (plays jockey George Woolf) also particularly sticks out as a wonderful performance, made all the more amazing when you consider that he *is* a professional Hall of Fame jockey (won the Kentucky Derby 3 times) and not an actor. I will say that I found the film a bit slow; not a bad thing in and of itself, just something to be ready for. Wouldn't lose much on the small screen, I don't think.

Will I Buy It? Probably not.

The Italian Job (2003)

In a Nutshell: Fun flick. One of the better heist films I've seen in a while, and *fabulous* chase scenes.

Quick Plot: Charlie is the ringleader of a band of high-tech thieves. When Steve, his second in command, double crosses the team and takes the gold they worked so hard to steal, they are determined to seek revenge the best way they know how: steal it back. Please note that I have not seen the original version of this film (1969), so I cannot compare the two.

In Detail: Not really a lot of details to give. I enjoyed this movie a lot. Thanks to everyone who told me I should see it! I wasn't really interested until I heard my friends raving about it. As I have mentioned before, I love chase scenes, and this has one good one (speed boats in Venice) and one excellent one (Mini Coopers through LA). Great cast of quirky characters, though I think Wrench was my favorite. Hilarious scene with Handsome Rob and the "cable guy"; if that really was Seth Green doing the voices, he should do voice work for a living and give up acting. Too funny! I know this film is about out of the theaters in most areas (I was surprised to find it still around here this weekend), but see it if you can. Video would be fine, but it would be more impressive on the big screen, even with the very few special effects.

Will I Buy It? Don't know yet. It's a solid maybe. :-)

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

The Pianist

In a Nutshell: A good movie, but not as powerful (or as gruesome) as Schindler's List.

Quick Plot: The story of Polish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman and his survival as a Jew in the Warsaw Ghettos during World War II.

In Detail: This movie did manage to hold my interest for it's entire 2.5 hours, despite not really having a "story" per se. And in this case (unlike Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life), I think that's okay. The style was done that way for a reason; it is more of a "fly on the wall" approach here, simply telling each major event as it occurred, without need of a coherent narrative. Makes you feel more like you are experiencing it with him. This film is also unique in that it does not really have a hero. Szpilman did not organize the resistance (though he did help some), he did not hide people or help save anyone else, he didn't mount a daring rescue of his family; he simply existed and tried to survive. That alone took courage, but he is not a hero in the typical (or should I say stereotypical) film sense.

Adrien Brody did an excellent job, I must say, but I didn't see any of the other Best Actor Oscar performances, so I am unable to comment on whether or not he deserved it. As far as European WWII stories go, Schindler's List is both better and worse: better in that there is more of a cohesive narrative and story, and I found it both powerful and moving; worse in that it is much more graphic, traumatic, and difficult to watch. To its credit, The Pianist manages to effectively portray the violence and hatred without much gore and with surprisingly little blood given the atrocities shown. Still hard to watch, but not nearly as gut-wrenching for me as Schindler. Bottom line: The Pianist is a good movie to see once, but I don't think I would like to see it again.

Will I Buy It? No.

A Simple Twist of Fate

In a Nutshell: A sweet, sometimes funny, quite dramatic film that waits until the last possible instant to pull it all together. Worth seeing.

Quick Plot: Michael McCann had a great life, until fate dealt him quite a blow, after which he moved to a small town, living a hermit-like existence. But, fate comes knocking once again; his money is stolen and a little girl turns up on his doorstep, her mother dead from exposure in his yard. He receives custody of the child, bringing a spark to his life, only to have to fight for her in court when her "real" father comes calling 10 years later.

In Detail: This movie really has a lot going for it, primarily the cast. Steve Martin, Gabriel Byrne, Laura Linney, and Catherine O'Hara are all wonderful. However, do not assume that this is a comedy. It is primarily a drama, with some funny moments. I was not prepared for the seriousness; it looked more like a cute "comedic single person inherits mischievous child who upsets stodgy life" film. And you keep wondering when and how this one character is going to come back into play. You know he *must,* but they sure wait a long time to do it. It is appropriate to the story, though, so it's okay. A very sweet and touching story.

Will I Buy It? I hadn't even seen it until after we bought it on DH's recommendation, and we bought it for about what it would have cost to rent it. I am glad we own it, though.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life

In a Nutshell: Feels empty. The first one is better, and I didn't think the first one was all that great.

Quick Plot: Lady Croft returns, this time to protect the world from ultimate evil: Pandora's Box. Can she find it before the bad guys?

In Detail: Big sigh. I really wanted this movie to be better. I believe I said exactly the same thing after the first one, too. Both are perfectly acceptable, forgettable action flicks. I thought the first one lacked story, and even Jolie herself agreed. Sadly, I don't think this one had any more story than the first. Have you seen the Turner Classic Movies commercial with the couple trying to buy movie tickets? Where the title of one of the films is "Visually Stunning But Ultimately Pointless Sequel"? That is exactly what this movie felt like. (Hilarious commercial, BTW! Might have to add their fake titles to my review criteria when appropriate.) I could excuse lack of story for an enjoyable ride in film one, simply to get its foot in the door. But Cradle of Life should have drastically improved in more than budget and effects; it needed story! This is NOT the female Indiana Jones I was hoping for. The reason centers around my biggest bone to pick with this entire franchise: the figuring out part is as much fun as (and sometimes more fun than) the journey and the action, and the writers seem to have forgotten this. Even the first Tomb Raider had a tiny bit of figuring out (like the mirror image in the temple, or how to complete the triangle). This one had nothing! It was all explained in the first 30 minutes, and the rest of the film is just watching them do it. Very disappointing. Rent it if you must, otherwise don't bother.

Will I Buy It? No.


In a Nutshell: An interesting movie; worth seeing. Some great performances and awesome casting, but I didn't love it.

Quick Plot: The life story of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, turning her physical and emotional adversity into art.

In Detail: I know this film was nominated for several Oscars, but I don't feel it was nominated for the right ones. Personally, I feel that Salma Hayek was acting mainly like herself. That's not to say that's a bad thing, and she may be much like Frida (which could be why she felt so close to the material and pushed so hard to get the film made), but I don't consider that "acting." (I felt the same way about Julia Roberts in Erin Brockavich.) However, Alfred Molina turns in an outstanding performance! In fact, if I hadn't known that he was the male lead in the film before I saw it, I'm not sure I would have placed him. There are three other "super-star" cameos in the film, and they are all wonderful. And despite being an art film, it managed to avoid going too far over the "too arts-y" edge; very enjoyable for mass audiences, I think, though the ambiguity of Frida's sexuality may make some people uncomfortable. The story was interesting, and I saw enough of her art to know that I am not a fan of her art. Again, that's not a bad thing, just the way it is. Worth seeing.

Will I Buy It? I don't think so. I'm glad I saw it, but I don't think I want to see it again.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

In a Nutshell: Not quite what I was expecting, but pretty good. T2 still better.

Quick Plot: The original Judgment Day has come and gone with no end of the world in site, but the now 20-something John Conner is once again targeted for termination, this time by the lethal-as-she-is-lovely T-X, the most advanced killing machine yet. Once again, the now antiquated T-101 (that would be Arnold) is sent back to protect the future leader of the resistance.

In Detail: Warning! I have to admit that I have only seen T2, not the original, so I may be missing some important reference of some kind. I am still pondering this movie, trying to decide how much I liked it. To warn you, most of it is simply non-stop action (and virtually zero dialog). I was convinced for a while that this movie is really a Jerry Bruckheimer, but I think he demolished less stuff in Pearl Harbor, Armageddon, Con Air, and The Rock, *combined*. Once they did finally get down to philosophizing, combined with the ending, it completely changed my outlook on the film, and I haven't quite digested everything. I can say that without the twists they threw in, I would not have liked this movie nearly as much, but there's a lot to sit through to get there. I can't say any more without giving things away. It certainly does get (and more or less keep) your attention though. Could have done without the T-X driving the car from the back seat (if you've seen the movie, you know of what I speak). T2 didn't require that, so did we really need it? Ewww! Worth seeing, theater or video acceptable.

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

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas

In a Nutshell: It was just okay. Nothing really outstanding about it in any way, but it wasn't bad either.

Quick Plot: When Sinbad is accused of stealing the Book of Peace, the protectorate of the Twelve Cities, his best friend Proteus takes his place in jail. He will be put to death in 10 days if Sinbad does not return with the Book. Sinbad and his ship of thieves, along with Proteus's fiancee, set sail, determined to recapture the book from Eris, the Goddess of Chaos, no matter what obstacles she puts in their way.

In Detail: Really not much to say about this film. It was just okay. I didn't find it overly humorous or adventurous, nor particularly beautiful to watch. Eris was the best thing about the film, and I don't think she had a big enough or significant enough part, despite being responsible for most of the chaos going on. It was really an odd film in that way; plenty happened while it seemed that nothing happened. I left the theater feeling pretty much nothing. Not bad, not good, not happy, not thrilled, not energetic; bored is the best way I can describe it, but it wasn't really that either. Underwhelmed, perhaps? I simply felt nothing, which I don't think is any film's goal. See it if you want to, perhaps rent, but there's no reason to rush right out and catch it in the theater.

Will I Buy It? Probably not. As much as I loved Antz and The Prince of Egypt (both Dreamworks films, like this one), many of their recent offerings (The Road to El Dorado, Shrek (which I really disliked), Spirit), including this one, just haven't done it for me.


In a Nutshell: Bad. Just bad. Don't waste your time or your money. And my brother earned the right to say "I told you so," not that *I* didn't believe him (my husband made me go).

Quick Plot: Do I have to? I just don't want to think about this film anymore! Oh, all right. Big screen adaptation of the comic book favorite "The Incredible Hulk," though from what I understand from readers of the comic, only the names and the fact that the lead turns into a green monster when angry were taken from it. The rest is different, even the cause of the transformation.

In Detail: I am going to try to be positive here for a moment, so here are four good things I can say about the film (as my brother picks himself up off the floor; I'm sure he couldn't come up with four good things about the movie if he tried). 1) Believe it or not, this is not the worst movie I've ever seen, though it ranks right up there. 2) The CG Hulk looks better than I thought it would, based on the previews where he looked terrible. 3) The visual style of the film was interesting; it effectively recreates the look and feel of a comic book in places. 4) The credits were done in an interesting manner. Probably the best part of the film actually, because a) they were interesting, and b) it meant the film was over.

This movie just went too far beyond my realm of "willing suspension of disbelief," and that's saying something coming from a lifelong fantasy and sci-fi fan! And it kept going farther and farther into the deep end as the film progressed. It was either slow or wild, and most action sequences went on and on for way too long. The dog fight was so over the top in violence that it made me feel sick and I almost left the theater (wish I had now, as it only went downhill from there). It was just bizarre. My brother told me how bad it was (though I think he thinks it's even worse than I do), and I was all set not to go, but my husband insisted. Not only does he regret it, he had to take me to see Pirates of the Caribbean again as penance, to wash away the residue left by such a bad movie. Please don't see Hulk. It's 138 minutes of your life you'll wish you had back, not to mention the money you could have spent on something (anything!) else.

Will I Buy It? ROTFL!! Oh yeah, that's funny. I am disinclined to acquiesce to such a request. (That means no.) :p

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

In a Nutshell: Fairly entertaining, visually stunning. All in all, not a bad flick, but it may have helped that I didn't go into this film with high expectations.

Quick Plot: The mysterious M recruits various Victorian literary heroes (Allan Quatermain, Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll (and his alter-ego), Mina Harker, The Invisible Man, Dorian Gray, and Tom Sawyer) to protect a summit of world leaders from peril at the hands of a mysterious nemesis, The Phantom.

In Detail: Allow me to preface this review with the following statements: I have not read the graphic novels this film is based on, and I have not read most of the literature the characters are based on, though I certainly will after seeing this film. Now, like I said, it was fairly entertaining (even with Stuart Townsend trying (and failing miserably) to be Johnny Depp). Based on the previews, I was skeptical of this movie. It could have been so so bad. Thankfully, it wasn't (though I don't think anything would seem bad after seeing Hulk). Wasn't overly good, mind you, but it wasn't bad. It was a visually amazing film. Very dark and gothic, and the Nautilus is beautiful; over the top and totally out of place, truly stretching that "willing suspension of disbelief" boundary, but beautiful nonetheless. If you like the visual aspects of movies, then see it in the theater (preferably a matinee), or much of the amazing detail will be lost. If that's not such a big thing for you, then just rent. Not really recommended for children; the end creature is quite disturbing, as is the Jekyll/Hyde transformation.

Will I Buy It? No. Fine for a one-time viewing, but I don't care to see it again.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

In a Nutshell: Fabulous fun fluff flick! Nothing deep, and great references to the ride (especially the Disneyland version). No sex, no language, but a fair bit of violence (more than just swordplay), and the skeletons were really quite creepy; definitely not recommended for young children.

Quick Plot: Disney makes history with its first ever PG-13 film released on the Walt Disney Pictures label. Cursed pirates capture the governor's daughter, Elizabeth, and the medallion she "borrowed" from Will Turner when her ship rescued him from the wreckage of a pirate attack years earlier. Will, long in love with her from afar, enlists the help of Jack Sparrow (that's *Captain* Sparrow!), a pirate of questionable abilities, to rescue her before it's too late.

In Detail: I really really liked this movie (upgraded to "I love this movie" upon repeat viewings). No deep thoughts, just fun fun fun! And it is a Jerry Bruckheimer film, so you can expect at least an explosion or two. Tips it's hat to the inspirational ride, but doesn't restrict itself to those images alone. Some great one-liners ("they're really more like guidelines"), some fun banter ("there's a lot of big words in there, miss"), lots of swashbuckling action, the obligatory romance, and way awesome special effects (ILM, in case you were wondering). The fight scenes with pirates running in and out of the moonlight (thus switching between flesh and bones) is flawlessly executed, with seamless transitions between the two forms. Johnny Depp totally steals the show (did you really expect less from him?). Quirky, kooky, and totally unpredictable. Geoffrey Rush attacks his part with gusto, reveling in the classic "pirate language" he gets to throw out here and there. Orlando Bloom's part could have been played by most anyone young and handsome, but he does fit that description quite nicely (much sexier as a blond elf, though). And Kiera Knightly is fairly spunky, given her limited options in the context of the film. It is 143 minutes long, but I never once looked at my watch or wondered when it would be over, and you really do want to stay through the end of the credits to find out the end fate of one character. A great no-brainer. Just see it! And be on time!! There are no, I repeat, NO opening credits. Just the title (no Disney castle, or 'a film by', or cast, or anything), and then it's off an running.

Will I Buy It? Yep, yep, yep! When will the DVD be out? (I'm hearing December.) Can I get in line already? I need this movie!

Finding Nemo

In a Nutshell: Cute, great for children, but not as clever as previous Pixar/Disney offerings.

Quick Plot: Nemo, a young clown fish, is captured from his reef home and plunked into a dentist office aquarium. His frantic and fraidy-cat father, Marlin, makes the trans-ocean journey into the unknown to try and rescue his only child. Along the way, he befriends Dory, a memory-challenged blue tang. Meanwhile, Nemo and the fellow occupants of the fish tank hatch their own plan to escape.

In Detail: A perfectly fine film, very sweet, and beautifully rendered. But it did not join the ranks of the Toy Story films and Monsters, Inc., in my mind. (Though, admittedly, Monsters, Inc. grew on me over time.) It lacked the small but delightful moments of adult appeal, and the story just didn't flow as smoothly as I thought it should have. It seemed a little more like running an obstacle course than a progression of story elements and conflicts. And too many body function jokes; Pixar should be above that. I do think children will love it, though. It is about a child, so they will readily identify with Nemo. It is bright and colorful, with lots of movement and sparkle; simply a beautiful film to watch.

Will I Buy It? Most likely. You know me and owning a complete set. It really is a good movie, and I did like it, but it just fell slightly below the incredibly high bar that Pixar has set for themselves.

Addendum: Like most Pixar movies, this one has grown on me the more I see it. You can see that I reviewed this movie before the child was even a thought on our horizon. It was his most favorite movie for nearly 2 years (roughly age 1-3), so I have now seen it many many times, and I recommend it to everyone.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

The Iron Giant

In a Nutshell: Quite good, but not a favorite.

Quick Plot: A fireball falls to earth, prompting a call to the government. In that fireball was a metal man. Hogarth Hughes find him while roaming in the woods. He befriends the giant, feeding him and teaching him to speak (well, sort-of). But the government is after the metal man as well, intent on destroying him.

In Detail: As I said, it really was pretty good. The animation was very well done. The story made its points without being too heavy-handed. It really had everything: laughter, tears, fun, and heart, but it is still missing just a little touch of.... well, something, that prevents it from reaching "great" in my book. Might change my mind when looking for good stuff for my children to watch. I know it was rated PG, but I really think it could have done without the language. There wasn't much, and it was very mild, but it simply wasn't necessary, and the film would have been perfectly fine without it.

Will I Buy It? Maybe. I won't run right out and buy it, but if we need a good movie for the kids, we'll probably pick it up.

I Spy

In a Nutshell: Not good. We had a busy weekend, so we didn't even finish it; not that it was so bad we turned it off, but it just wasn't good enough to keep watching when we had other important things to do (like see The Matrix Reloaded).

Quick Plot: Alex Scott (Owen Wilson) needs to get to Hungary to recover a stolen military prototype for an "invisible" jet. But he needs cover. Enter Kelly Robinson (Eddie Murphy), the reigning undefeated boxing champion, happens to have a match coming up there. Alex will attend as Robinson's assistant. But Robinson wants in on the "spy stuff," too. Much mayhem ensues.

In Detail: I think my husband summed it up best: Owen Wilson is much better as a sidekick to Jackie Chan (Shanghai Noon, Shanghai Knights) than he is as lead to an Eddie Murphy sidekick. I know Murphy's character was supposed to be arrogant and rude and obnoxious, but it just wasn't funny to me, at all. By almost an hour into the film, we hadn't even laughed, and Murphy was just getting more an more annoying. Even Famke Jansen wasn't enough to make things interesting (sure hope she had a bigger role in the last half of the film than she had in the first). We just turned it off. We had two other rentals to get through, plus The Matrix Reloaded, so we decided not to waste any more time on this movie. It was simply average, with nothing at all exciting about it to recommend. Glad we didn't bother seeing it at the theater.

Will I Buy It? Nope.

The Emperor's Club

In a Nutshell: A perfectly fine movie. Not as good as Dead Poets, IMO.

Quick Plot: Chronicles two slices of the life of Mr. Hundert (Kevin Klein), a history professor at an all-boys Catholic school, and his interactions with students, including one who is more interested in getting into trouble, and taking his classmates down with him.

In Detail: It was quite good, if mostly predictable. (Remember, I don't mind predictable movies, but this one was more predictable than most. I could say lines before they got there.) I did not find it to be as profound, as moving, or as dramatic as Dead Poets Society, for me personally. I wish it had focused a little more on some of the other boys in the group (as opposed to just the main one). Perhaps there was more that got cut. It made the points it wanted to make without browbeating you (except in one place), but it just didn't strike me the way DPS did. Might have something to do with the fact that I consider DPS almost life-changing for me in some ways. Compared with that, how could Emperor's Club possibly measure up? :) But even DH agreed that it was not as good. Still good; not a bad rental.

Will I Buy It? No, it wasn't meaningful enough to me.

The Matrix Reloaded

In a Nutshell: Good, but not as good as the first. Not as consistent or as tightly written as the original. Still manages to throw you for a loop at the end. If you haven't seen it yet, there is a preview for The Matrix Revolutions after all of the credits (but there are a ton of credits (like 8 minutes or so), so be prepared to sit for a while to see it.

Quick Plot: The Machines are attacking Zion, and only Neo can stop them. Along the way, he bumps into some old "friends" (Agent Smith and The Oracle), and a few new ones (you'll see). That about covers it.

In Detail: A touch disappointing, but then again, what film could possibly live up to that kind of hype? But seriously, I simply don't think it was as good of a movie. It was lacking much of the fun philosophy of the first one, IMO, until near the very end. I think there were some fights and effects just for the sake of having them, as opposed to the original where they were purposeful. Due to the restrained budget on the first one, they had to use the effects for just that, maximum effect. Here, they could use them "just because," and I really feel it detracts from the film. I also found the ending quite lame. There were two other places they could have ended it before they actually did. (We were really convinced it would end at the later of those two, but it just kept going.) The "mostly talk" portions of the film dragged on for too long without saying anything important (well, anything important to this movie; might be important later). There were other facts or facets that they just threw out there without much explanation, and they never came back to them. Maybe they will in Revolutions, but if not, they missed some great potential moments and they left us hanging on some aspects. Quite frustrating. Mainly, it was a good action flick, but it lacked the tautness and delightful discoveries of the first. Go with lower expectations, and you might enjoy it more. And I'm serious about having enough time to go to the bathroom during the credits and still make it back for the Revolutions preview; my brother did just that when we saw it with him. I have a slightly more in depth view of what disappointed me about the movie, but it contains spoilers that I don't want to include here. Let me know if you're interested. It also includes some thoughts and opinions about what might happen in the next movie (all personal theories, though; nothing official in any way).

Will I Buy It? Honestly, it depends on the third film (The Matrix Revolutions, opening in November 2003). If I don't like the way the whole series finishes up, then I'll just stick with the original and let the next two pass; it stands alone just fine, IMO. If I like Revolutions, then I'll have to have this one, for the sake of continuity.

Addendum: We didn't care for Revolutions either. As far as we are concerned, there is only the first movie, no sequels.

Tuesday, May 6, 2003

X2: X-Men United

In a Nutshell: WOW! Not sure what else to say, but WOW!

Quick Plot: General Stryker puts a plan in motion to wipe mutants from the face of the earth. He also seems to hold the key to Logan's past. Can the X-Men stop him? What will Logan learn, and at what cost?

In Detail: My oh my. That was a whale of a lot of plot and story to fit into that amount of time and space. And it is a 2.5 hour movie with previews. They sure cover a lot of territory. The budget is noticeably larger, but it's not wasted. The opening scene is just WOW! (I know I keep using that word, but it means *precisely* what I think it means, and it's the only word for it.) It is darker, more violent, and a bit more unsettling than the first film, but WOW! (Okay, okay, I'll try to stop.) Some plot holes, of course, but what do you expect. It is, after all, still a comic book film. I definitely need to see it again, preferably on the big screen. Bring on X3!

Will I Buy It? Yep. WOW! (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Ghosts of the Abyss

In a Nutshell: Amazing, too short, and too much yapping.

Quick Plot: James Cameron's 3D IMAX film about the Titanic, the *real* one, at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean.

In Detail: The footage was simply breathtaking, what little it had. The film was about 45 minutes long, and only 20-25 minutes of it was actually footage of the ship. I understand he's proud of the technology, and I understand that lots of people worked hard on the expedition so you want to show them in the movie, but I went to this move to see the ship, not the people! And when people talk, you can have them talk over ship footage; we don't actually need to *see* them speak. But even with these complaints, it was totally worth the experience. What footage they did have of Titanic (both the bow and the stern) was just a wonder to behold. So beautiful, so etherial, so tragic. See it if you are a Titanic fan at all.

Will I Buy It? Many IMAX films are available now, including the first IMAX Titanic feature "Titanica," which I still haven't seen. May or may not buy it when the time comes; would lose a lot without the 3D.

Wednesday, April 9, 2003

The Core

In a Nutshell: Good brainless action/sci-fi flick. Better than I thought it would be.

Quick Plot: The Earth's core has stopped spinning, affecting the magnetic fields, causing problems ranging from watches stopping to GPS unit malfunctions (and worse). A group of scientists must now travel to the very center of the planet to detonate a series of nuclear bombs and set things right.

In Detail: It really was much better than I thought it would be. It had the potential to be a total B-movie (despite several A-list actors), but it pulled things off amazingly well. Even some of the science was accurate (note I said some, not all). The effects were impressive, though not groundbreaking IMO, and many of the concepts were quite cool. It was also both funnier and more dramatic than I expected. Stanly Tucci is annoying, and Rat is awesome! He provides one of the all-time funniest scenes I have ever seen in any movie. Techies will love it. Our particular screening was full of computer geeks, and we were all just dying laughing; we even missed part of the next scene because we were laughing so hard. And I would personally like to thank the filmmakers for NOT ending the movie in the "traditional" way. You'll see. I may have even liked The Core better than Armageddon. Not that Armageddon is one of my most favorite films, but I do like it. I think I need to see them both again and close to each other to decide.

Will I Buy It? I'd say it's on the yes side of maybe. I think I need to see it again. Definitely see it on the big screen if it interests you.

Phone Booth

In a Nutshell: An interesting movie, to be sure. Good, I suppose, but not overwhelmingly so.

Quick Plot: When Stu picks up a ringing pay phone, he has no idea that it will change his life. On the other end of the line is a sniper who has his sites on Stu, and who seems to know an awful lot about Stu's life. When the sniper shoots someone on the street, witnesses assume it was Stu. Now the police and the media are involved in the frenzy, but Stu will be shot if he hangs up or if he tells them what is going on. Will Stu get out alive?

In Detail: A very interesting movie. I had mistakenly ID'd the voice from the previews, but I got it right off after just a few lines of dialog at the theater. First off, the style is very interesting. It utilized "picture in picture" and split screen (4 quadrants) throughout much of the film. I liked this aspect, DH didn't. As far as the story, it takes longer than I think it should for him to get to the phone booth, and the whole thing with the hookers drags on much longer than it should without advancing the plot. It's much better once the police and the media arrive. It was also *much* funnier than I thought it would be, and not quite as intense (though that may have had something to do with the rest of our particular audience). I do think the film is hampered somewhat by the fact that you don't much care about Stu; he's a real jerk! And the ending was a little lame; even Stu should have known better. Overall an okay to good movie. I'm glad I saw it. Not sure if it needs the big screen or not. DH thinks that seeing the phone booth on that huge scale manages to actually reinforce how small it is. In a room full of people, it may have more tension. The picture in picture or split screen will not be nearly as effective if you have a small television, but it doesn't have sweeping vistas or awesome special effects that would be lost either.

Will I Buy It? No. I'm glad I saw it, but I wouldn't watch it over and over.

Monday, February 17, 2003

25th Hour

In a Nutshell: Surprisingly good for this genre (which I don't usually care for). Well done, but not a must see IMO.

Quick Plot: In Spike Lee's latest offering, Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) faces his last day of freedom before heading off to prison for 7 years for drug dealing. He spends his last hours with his dog, girlfriend, father, and two best friends. Backstory is provided in flashbacks.

In Detail: Let me say up front that I don't usually like this type of film. I go to the movies generally to escape. If I wanted reality (and I don't mean Survivor), I'd turn on the news. Films like this also tend to be too intense for me. This one, however, was an exception. I'm not sure I'd say I liked it, but I didn't dislike it either (which surprised me, I thought I would). I was concerned by the opening scene, but it all turned out fine. Every part is well acted, the subject matter a bit controversial (but not as much as is normal for a Spike Lee Joint), and the intersplicing of present and past is well done. Pay attention for the small things; they make a big impact if you catch them. This film certainly isn't for everyone, but for the genre, it's quite good. Worth seeing, but not a must see. Would lose nothing on the small screen.

Will I Buy It? Unlikely. I'm glad I saw it, but it's not the kind of film I would enjoy watching again and again.

Sweet Home Alabama

In a Nutshell: Very generic, very blah. I was disappointed.

Quick Plot: Melanie Carmichael (Reese Witherspoon) is an emerging NYC fashion designer. When her boyfriend, the mayor's son, proposes, she must return home to Alabama to divorce one of the many skeletons in her closet, who is not feeling very cooperative. As Melanie reconnects with her southern roots, she must choose between the new life and the old.

In Detail: ::shrug:: It was fine, really. It was just so generic that it was almost boring. Definitely some smiles and some touching romantic moments, but it was really pretty blah. I was hoping for more. My best friend pointed out something very interesting, and I really have to agree with her. I think this film was much funnier to those not from the South. There is something very particular and peculiar about Southern life (and I can say that, being born and raised here), and if you've never experienced it first hand, you'll probably find much of it hilarious. I'm sure folks in the mid-west and the north-east probably got a big kick out of coon dog cemeteries and babies in bars and Civil War reenactments and stopping to talk to random people in the middle of a run down street full of pick up trucks. For me, that's just life! So, you might want to watch it if it comes on television, but I wouldn't even bother renting it. Just too blah.

Will I Buy It? Nope.

Shanghi Knights

In a Nutshell: Classic Jackie Chan, and oh so much fun. The anachronisms alone are hilarious (if quite over the top), the stunts and fights are amazing, and Lin kicks butt!

Quick Plot: In this sequel to Shanghi Noon, Chon Wang's (Jackie Chan) estranged father is killed in China. The murderer escapes to England, and Chon's sister Lin (Fann Wong) follows, after sending word to her brother back in the American west. Chon enlists the help of "his favorite side kick" Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson), who is more than happy to help out "his favorite side kick" Chon on this adventure.

In Detail: I really like Jackie Chan. I should thank my husband more often for introducing he to his films. He is so much fun, and such an amazing athlete. Many of the fight scenes look almost like dances (and it even plays on this theme at one point), they are so beautifully choreographed and, as always, exceptionally well executed. So the plot is hokey, that's not why you go to see movies like this. You go for the amazing Jackie Chan, and the wonderful interaction between him and Owen Wilson. I also liked the spark that Fann Wong added to the mix. She's beautiful, she's tough, and she's an amazing fighter in her own right. An all-round good time, and a very enjoyable afternoon. Also, you don't really have to have seen the first film to enjoy the second. You may miss a couple of passing references, but it's mostly a separate entity. We haven't seen Shanghi Noon since we saw it in the theater in 2000, despite how much we liked it. I wish I had seen it again before watching this film, but I don't think we really missed anything major. I just hoped to be able to compare it to the first, but it's been too long. Maybe we'll catch "Noon" again soon, and I'll let you know. And yes, outtakes are shown at the end of the film before the credits.

Will I Buy It? Probably; we'll most likely wait for the inevitable box set and get the two together.

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

In a Nutshell: Excellent for children, fairly good for adults. A perfectly pleasant film.

Quick Plot: Follow the adventures of Spirit through the pioneering old west, from capture by the army to living with Native Americans, through childhood and love. (And no talking animals, though Spirit does "narrate" over the action occasionally.)

In Detail: I liked this film fine. I think it is a great movie for kids, though if you aren't ready to explain "why the mama horse is laying down like she's hurt, and then a baby horse suddenly appears," then you may want to wait. It's not icky, and nothing inappropriate is shown, but it's not Bambi either. The music is by Bryan Adams, and it's fine, but not spectacular. I think the songs at the beginning were a little close together. I was also disappointed in the blending of the hand drawn elements and the CG elements. It may have come off better on the big screen, but it was clearly obvious what was what on the television. It was funny, it was a little sad, it was tense, it was happy. Quite good, but never truly making it to great status for me. If the audience is just adults, then it's worth seeing, but don't rush right out and rent it. If you have kids, you really should try it. I think they'll like it a lot.

Will I Buy It? Probably, eventually, but mainly for my (future) kids. I liked it fine, and we may watch it now and again, but it doesn't make it to my list for tons of repeat viewings like many Disneys.

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

In a Nutshell: Funnier than it should have been. Good for girls and guys. Fun, but nothing fabulous.

Quick Plot: Andie Anderson, who aspires to be a great journalist, is stuck writing "How To" stories for a ladies' magazine. Her latest assignment: "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days," or everything women do wrong in relationships. For her case study, she picks up a guy named Benjamin Barry (Matthew McConaughey) in a bar. Little does she know that Ben has made a bet that he can make a girl fall in love with him in 10 days as part of an advertising campaign. All's fair in love and war, and the battle is on!

In Detail: Billed as "a chick flick for guys," this movie does have quite a lot going for it. Not the least of which is Matthew McConaughey (sigh). Because of his parallel plot line, there is plenty here for guys to enjoy as well. Still a chick flick, but there were lots of guys laughing and nodding through the entire movie (as opposed to sleeping, like normal). It was definitely laugh out loud funny in spots, and it had plenty of great moments. But despite all of this, it never managed to elevate itself above generic rom-com status. Better laughs, perhaps, but not really a better story. This is neither bad nor good, just know what to expect before you see it. To me, comedies are always better with a group, so either go to a matinee, or rent it with a group of girl *and* guy friends.

Will I Buy It? I don't know. I own several of my favorite rom-coms, and this one didn't rank much above average, so I'd say probably not (despite a very pretty Matt McC).


In a Nutshell: Worth seeing, once. A little long, a little slow, but still pretty good. Loved the horse. Probably won't lose anything on the small screen if you want to wait.

Quick Plot: "Legendary" horseman Frank Hopkins is invited to participate in the world's greatest horse race across the 3000-mile dessert called the Ocean of Fire in Arabia. Can his mixed-blood Mustang Hidalgo compete against the purest Arabian equine bloodlines in the world?

In Detail: Like I said, it is worth seeing. I definitely think it was too long. It is over two hours, and by more than a few minutes. There is only so much "it's hot and we're in the barren dessert" footage you can stand, ya know? I also found the film a little choppy. Most segments didn't seem to flow well into the next segments. And beware the "based on a true story" moniker. It is based on the life of Frank Hopkins, as told by Frank Hopkins, as legendary for his tall tales as for his reputed horseman skills. Does that make the story any less interesting? No, not really. Just makes it slightly less than true. Still worth seeing, and it's great to see Omar Shariff on screen again, even if it is in a small part beneath his skills. And for the record, I think the PG-13 is for violence and several (fake) animal injuries, including one participant killing (stabbing) his horse when it breaks a leg. I don't distinctly recall any language, and there is no sex at all.

Will I Buy It? Probably not. Worth seeing *once*, maybe twice, not repeatedly IMO.

The Recruit

In a Nutshell: Fairly average suspense flick. I guessed the twist before we ever entered the theater. Whether I'm that good or just lucky, you decide.

Quick Plot: James Clayton (Colin Farrell) is recruited into the CIA by Walter Burke (Al Pacino). James shows much promise, but is bounced out of the program. Or so it seems. Burke recruits him once again, indicating that his expulsion is actually his cover. His mission: to get close to the beautiful Layla, a colleague from training camp. She's really a mole (or is she?) stealing top secret files, and James must stop her.

In Detail: Really, there isn't much detail to give. It was a perfectly acceptable film, but there really wasn't anything to distinguish it from many others like it. It was just very typical. It was fairly suspenseful, fairly fun in places, and seemed to surprise some people at the end. As I mentioned, I already had it figured out, but I think it was just a lucky guess on my part. I didn't have it exactly right, but I was awfully darn close. I don't really recommend this as a big screen film. Rent if you think you need to see it.

Will I Buy It? Doubtful. Not enough for me for repeated viewings.


In a Nutshell: A very sweet film (no pun intended). Nothing heavy or deep, it was a wonderfully pleasant film to sit back, relax, and enjoy.

Quick Plot: Vianne (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter Anouk move to a very rigid little French town just at the start of Lent and open a chocolate shop. Not only does the shop tempt people during a time of abstinence from all pleasures, but it's open on Sunday! The mayor does his best to shut her down, including having the priest speak out against her (indirectly of course), but one by one, the townspeople open up and welcome her.

In Detail: I really liked this movie. It reminded me in many ways of Mary Poppins (one of my favorite films of all time). Instead of a nanny who fixes up a broken household, you have a sweets shop owner who fixes up a whole town with her special treats and special touch with people. In the process, she exorcises her own demons (figuratively, of course), and reconnects with her daughter. For those of you who are interested in the film only because of Johnny Depp (or for those avoiding the film because of Johnny Depp), he isn't really in the film very much; maybe 20 minutes total, and he plays a remarkably normal person. Plenty of other recognizable folks in the film give good to great performances. I can see where some religious fanatics would be upset with the film. I can hear it now, "that movie says that you don't need church because chocolate can cure all your problems." Um, no, did you even *watch* the film? These are the same people who think the Wizard of Oz promotes witchcraft (?!). If you are one of those people, then this is not the film for you. But for everyone else, it is a wonderfully light romantic film. Do see it if you can.

Will I Buy It? I'm seriously thinking about it. I can't say "yes, definitely," but I did like it a lot, and I can see that I would watch it more than once. We'll see.

Addendum: After seeing this movie a couple more times on television, I did decide to buy it. It really is a joy to watch.


In a Nutshell: It had its nice moments, but generally speaking, it was too dark, too violent, too bloody, and too unbelievable (even for a comic book film). Almost a throwback to the "old fashioned" coming book genre films that I don't like. Disappointing. :( And absolutely NOT a film for children, unless you don't mind borderline R-rating levels of violence and blood.

Quick Plot: Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) is blinded as a child, but his other senses give him a hyperactive awareness of the world around him. A lawyer by day, he fights for those who need his help both in the courtroom and on the streets.

In Detail: DH and I are both still shaking our heads about this one. We had such high hopes for this movie. But, it was SOOOO dark and SOOOO violent, I just can't believe it. If you're expecting an X-Men or Spider-Man type film, you will be shocked. I thought the final Spider-Man fight scene was too violent, especially considering how many children would want to see it. (To me, X-Men is fine for kids, but understand I don't yet have kids of my own.) Now, take that last Spider-Man fight scene, and make that the violence level of the whole film. Now you have Daredevil. I understand that the filmmakers wanted things to be more "realistic," but it's a fantasy film by nature. I think they should have backed off somewhat (if not a lot). Even the moments where you laughed weren't really "funny ha-ha" moments; they were more like nervous tension release laughs. I did like the way he could "see." Very effective, both visually and technically, but that certainly couldn't make up for the rest of the film. Too much too obvious CG; always a pet peeve of mine. Now, most of you know that I have a very high threshold of "willing suspension of disbelief," but this movie went way beyond the line in a couple of places. Little things that just totally jerked you out of the reality of the film, which is always jarring. My best example: look at the construction of his mask and the placement of the horns. There is no way it could cast a shadow with horns on it unless he had his head tilted back until his nose pointed almost straight up, but it does. Too many little blatant issues like that. Just really disappointing.

Will I Buy It? Nope. I have no desire to see this film again.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

The Hours

In a Nutshell: Extremely well acted, good story. I liked it (didn't love it), DH not so much. Not wow like I was expecting.

Quick Plot: The story of three lives, all revolving around the Virginia Woolf novel Mrs. Dalloway in one way or another: Virginia herself writing the novel in 1928, housewife Laura reading the novel in 1951, and editor Clarissa, nicknamed Mrs. Dalloway by a friend.

In Detail: I liked this movie, though I didn't love it. It had its moments, it had some great lines, it had a fantastic cast (virtually everyone is "somebody"), and the acting was amazing. How all of that could lead to just an okay movie, I'm not quite sure, but it did. It was very slow, which isn't always a bad thing, but I did feel the pacing could have picked up just a touch. While I found it uplifting, despite its grim moments, I didn't find it truly inspiring or powerful. DH got very little if anything out of it, except that all women are lesbians, either secretly or openly (he's kidding; sort-of). There may have been some subtext that we missed, since neither of us knows much about Woolf or the book. It's certainly not for everyone, but it is interesting to watch. Rent if you aren't sure you would like it.

Will I Buy It? Highly doubtful. It was good, I'm glad I saw it, but there is not enough there for me to watch it over and over.


In a Nutshell: So much fun! Very very good, a definite must see.

Quick Plot: Velma Kelly, a vaudeville star, is arrested for double murder in jazz-era Chicago. Now notorious, it gives her what she needs to be an even bigger star, after she's acquitted of course. Roxie Hart, a vaudeville wannabe, shoots her lover, and starts giving Velma a run for her publicity. Who will make it out first, and win the spotlight both so desperately seek? Stay tuned. What about justice? Who cares!!

In Detail: DH and I both enjoyed this film immensely. It was dazzling, and so very much fun. The songs are catchy (I'm still humming "Cell Block Tango," must get the soundtrack), the singing is good to great (everyone is doing their own singing and dancing), the dancing is excellent (when it is edited such that you can see it well), and the acting is so over the top as to fit in perfectly with the outlandish story. I was also very happy to see that they kept some of the stage aspects in the film. For instance, when the women sing about why they’re on "murderess row," they use red handkerchiefs for the blood of the injuries. Obviously, being a film, they didn't have to, but they did, and I loved it. The movie is also very funny. Just fun, fun, fun! While not absolutely the best film I've ever seen, we both liked it a lot. But please let me say, despite the relatively "soft" rating of PG-13, this is NOT a film for children!! I wouldn't even want to see it with a 13-year-old, much less anyone younger. It is quite provocative and suggestive, in more ways than one. If you won't let your kids watch MTV, then you certainly don't want them watching this.

Will I Buy It? I really want to say yes, but I'll have to think about it a bit more. Maybe I need to see it again. I can't decide if I would watch it repeatedly, but it is certainly a must see, preferably on the big screen.

Addendum: Chicago upgraded to must buy! The more times I see it, the more I like it.

Thursday, January 2, 2003

Catch Me If You Can

In a Nutshell: A terrifically fun two hours, totally worth seeing.

Quick Plot: In this offering from Steven Spielberg, Leonardo DiCaprio plays Frank Abignale, the consummate con artist who impersonates a doctor, a lawyer, a pilot, and various other professions, all while cashing millions of dollars in fake checks all across the US and Europe, and all before his 21st birthday. That puts the FBI on his trail, with Tom Hanks as the agent who's after him. Sound far-fetched? It's a true story!

In Detail: Please allow me to preface this review by saying that I was sick when I saw this. I had been feeling terrible for an hour or so, but we had already bought the tickets. And I still enjoyed the movie! Makes me wonder what I would have thought if I was well. I really did like this movie; it doesn't reach the heights of greatness, but it is very good. While I'm not a huge Leo DiCaprio fan, I thought he was well cast here. This is an unusual role for Tom Hanks, but he's great as always. Humor is the name of the game here, the most lighthearted Spielberg film in years. Laugh out loud funny in numerous places. You know I'm all about seeing films on the big screen, especially comedies (something about laughing with other people), but this one really wouldn't lose anything on the small screen if you really feel you need to wait for video. Regardless of what format, you really should see it.

Will I Buy It? Maybe. I know, I know, I sit here and talk about how good it was, but then I'm not sure if I'll buy it. Believe it or not, we're pretty picky about what we buy. I need to see this one again to decide if there is enough there for many repeated viewings. But it is absolutely worth seeing once.

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

In a Nutshell: Fellowship was better, but this one isn't bad. (Remember, I'm a non-reader of this series.) Quite funny, actually. As my father put it, not the best three hours I ever spent at the theater, and certainly not the worst.

Quick Plot: When we last left the Fellowship, two members were gone, and the rest had split into three groups. Frodo and Sam head to Mordor to destroy the ring, Merry and Pippin were hobbit-napped by orcs, and Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are off to rescue them. We now continue this adventure, already in progress.....

In Detail: I am not kidding about the "already in progress" thing. No preamble, no recap (except one very brief scene), no nothing! The movie just picks up and runs, as if there was only a short commercial break between FOTR and TTT, not an entire year. If you’re fuzzy on the details, you may want to watch FOTR before you come, and the extended edition if it is available to you (it explains a few things more clearly than the theatrical version did). This is neither bad nor good, IMO, I just thought you should be prepared.

Personally, I found this one a little, um, pointless? I mean, I understand where it is going (mostly), and I understand why they showed what they showed, but I don't understand why it took 3 hours to show it. It would have been fine in less than two, I think. If you view it the way the film-makers do, then the Lord of the Rings is just one great big long (LLLOOOONNNNGGGG) movie that they chopped up into three pieces. Think about a 90 minute film. The first half hour is set up (and FOTR did a fine job; definitely got me hooked). The middle half hour is "okay, this is what we have done, this is where we are, let's throw some kinks in, and this is where we're going." Often the most boring part of the movie, but in most cases, it lasts 30 minutes or less. Here, it's three hours and the entire film. The last half hour is resolution, and I think ROTK (Return of the King) will be very good and interesting in that respect. I am really looking forward to it! So, I expect this is the weakest of the three films (having not seen the third, of course). It's still worth seeing, definitely on the big screen if you can manage, but not as good as FOTR. The humor (mainly between Legolas and Gimli) is worth the price of admission. Toss me! ;)

Will I Buy It? Yep. It is the middle of the story, and we already own the beginning. Just hope the end is worth it (though I'm pretty sure it will be). Only 349 days to go!!