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.