Tuesday, September 27, 2005

13 Going on 30

In a Nutshell: Very cute film, absolutely worth seeing! Jennifer Garner is delightful. Even given its similarities to Tom Hanks' Big, it still has its own charm and its own points to make.

Quick Plot: Jenna makes a wish on her 13th birthday, and wakes up the next day "30, flirty, and thriving." She remembers nothing of the last 17 years, and looks up an old middle school pal to try and figure out what she's been up to, and where she is going in life.

In Detail: I am so glad I finally saw this movie. People kept telling me I would like it, and they were right. Very cute, very sweet, very well done. I was totally amazed by Jennifer Garner. I don't know if this film reflects her personality at all, but I *totally* believed she was looking at the world as though she were 13. Even the nuances of being a "tween" in the 80s were perfectly carried (not surprising, since I guess she was that age in that era). I was also quite charmed by Mark Ruffalo, which makes me much more interested in seeing Just Like Heaven (aka the new Reese Witherspoon movie). A somewhat chick-flick, definitely feel good flick worth watching if you ever get the chance.

Will I Buy It? Perhaps. I don't buy a lot of these types of films, as they do start to get repetitive, and I'm not in the mood to rewatch them often, but this one certainly has potential. We'll see how many times I look into the DVD case and say "I wish we had 13 Going on 30" before I decide.

Red Eye

In a Nutshell: Very good for a B-movie; not bad for a regular movie even. Worth renting, but don't rush out and see it.

Quick Plot: Lisa just wants to get home to see her dad, and she's rather anxious after her flight to Miami has been seriously delayed. After numerous run-ins with a charming stranger, she discovers she is sitting next to him on the plane. It is not a happy accident. If she does not help him to assassinate a high profile politician before they land, he will have her father killed. But what can she do about it at 30,000 feet?

In Detail: First off, let me dispel what seems to be a common misconception about this film, which stems from a combination of the television commercial and the director. Yes, it is a Wes Craven film. Yes, it is a thriller. But NO, there are not *any* supernatural elements of any kind in this movie. I knew what the film was about before I saw the trailer, so I didn't think anything of it. It was only when my brother commented on being surprised about them just being "normal" people, and then my husband commenting that it "doesn't seem like your kind of movie" that I realized that the television commercial could be misleading if you didn't know the plot, particularly when it is a Craven film. No demons, no "monsters," just your average everyday wacko. ;) Having said all of that, the film is quite tense. Not as tense as War of the Worlds, but well done none the less. I was willing to suspend disbelief until the very end, when things started getting a little out of hand. And one particular element of the ending was quite disappointing. Other than that, I'd say it's worth seeing. Rent it, maybe, or catch it on television, but worth seeing none the less. A fun, brainless, rainy afternoon type flick.

Will I Buy It? No. Worth seeing once. That's about it.


In a Nutshell: Your typical B-movie. (Might have been better if I hadn't *just* seen the much better B-movie Red Eye.) Not great, not bad. Semi-tense, had some humor to it, but other than that, it was just kind-of there.

Quick Plot: Jessica has been kidnapped. Her captors have locked her in a room with a smashed phone. After clicking the wires together, she is connected with Ryan's cell phone. She begs for help, and tries to enlist his help to protect her family. If the connection is lost, so is any chance of rescue.

In Detail: Like I said, it was okay. Not good, not bad; just existing. Kim Basinger gives a much better performance than the material calls for, and it did let me see some of the appeal of Jason Statham (I'm certainly more interested in seeing The Transporter after seeing this film). Chris Evans' performance, on the other hand, was rather goofy. I realize this may have been what the part called for, but interestingly enough, the other parts were played too seriously for his performance to fit in. Even William H. Macy, whose character was a little silly, took his part seriously. Evans treated it like a joy ride. Either everyone should have treated it like that, or Evans should have been a little more serious. I realize it was not an incredibly serious part or film, it was just glaringly out of sync. Might have been better with a different lead, and perhaps a slightly beefed up story line, including a somewhat slower reveal.

Will I Buy It? Nope.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

The Forgotten

In a Nutshell: Certainly keeps your brain on its toes, trying to figure out exactly who is involved, how, and why. A bit disappointed with the resolution, as the "why" part seems to be missing.

Quick Plot: Telly Paretta lost her son in a plane crash 14 months ago. Or so she thought, until everyone around her tells her that she imagined him. She never had a son; she's had a psychotic break. But when she meets the father of another child who was on that plane, and he does (finally) remember his own child, they must discover why everyone else has forgotten.

In Detail: Wow, I was really pumped about this movie. The whole way through, when I got a moment to breathe, all I could think was "if it can just hold on and continue to be this good, I'll be ready to buy the DVD tomorrow." (I was watching it using OnDemand cable, which is way cool, BTW.) And it did. Right up until the end. A taught, tense, emotional psychological thriller, my favorite kind! But the end just fell flat. It's not that I had a problem with the who or the how, it's that the why is never explained, not even a little bit (or if it was, I certainly missed it). Well, I take that back, they did "explain;" I just don't think "because" is a sufficient answer. :p So it was good, and it kept me engaged, and I certainly wanted to know where it was going and how it was going to get there, as well as who all was involved and who wasn't. I'm just a little let down. Worth a cheap rental or catch it on television.

Will I Buy It? No. Really wanted to for most of the film, but not now.

Friday, August 5, 2005


In a Nutshell: I haven't laughed this hard at a comedy, certainly not a rom-com, in ages. Way funnier than it had any right to be, which is one of the best compliments I can give any comedy film.

Quick Plot: Alex Hitchens ("call me Hitch") is a date doctor. Show him a woman, pay him your fee, and give him three dates, and the woman is yours. But when he falls for someone himself, things don't go exactly according to plan.

In Detail: I really like Will Smith. Granted, I haven't seen everything he's done (haven't seen Ali, for one), but everything of his I have seen, I really like, largely due to his role in it. This movie is the perfect vehicle for him. It lets Will Smith be Will Smith, and at his best! As I said, one of the best compliments I can give any comedy film is when it ends up being not only funnier than I thought it would be, but funnier than even the premise or the situations can account for. That means that the actors themselves have made it what it is, and *that* is great comedy. I laughed out loud so many times, I was afraid I was going to wake up the child sleeping in the next room. Not only is Will Smith brilliant, but the main guy he is helping is someone I know. Not really; I don't know the actor. But he is portraying so many of the guys I went to school with (Georgia Tech, for those who don't know), guys I have seen try and fail in just these ways, that it's just priceless. I haven't laughed like that in a long time. Thanks, little brother, for renting that one for me! Definitely a must see.

Will I Buy It? Thinking about it. I need to see it again to see if it would still be funny on multiple viewings.

Addendum: Not only is it still funny, it gets funnier every time we see it. Absolutely had to buy it, and it is now one of my favorite rom-coms of all time.


In a Nutshell: It has its moments, but the rest of the film is rather boring.

Quick Plot: A quartet of pampered zoo animals (lion, zebra, hippo, giraffe) are off on an adventure in "the wild" and must learn to cope with their new environment, and instincts, while trying to deal with a zany group of island primates.

In Detail: I honestly don't have much to say about this film. First, let me state for the record that I don't care for Shrek. I will pause while several of you pick yourselves up off the floor. It's just not my kind of humor. I sat through virtually the entire film being disgusted, either at what was happening on screen, or at the people who found things funny that (to me) simply were not (or should not have been, IMO). Madagascar didn't have that kind of problem for me, I just didn't find its particular style of humor funny. Ah well. I should have known better, but I wanted to give it a chance. Sadly, the *vast* majority of the good stuff was in the previews, so you only smiled at it in context, instead of being caught off guard and genuinely laughing. (When *will* the studios stop putting the best stuff in the previews?! Save some for the movie.) I appreciated what it was trying to say about friendship and stuff, but I just really didn't care for the movie. And the lemurs (or whatever they are) were just annoying, as was the song. I know some people really liked that part, particularly the children, but after the first time, it just wasn't funny anymore.

Will I Buy It? No.

Monday, August 1, 2005

War of the Worlds (2005)

In a Nutshell: Worth seeing. Very tense, quite creepy, rather dark, extremely well acted, beautifully shot, stunning special effects. A great ride for the first 90-120 minutes, then falls flat in the last 10.

Quick Plot: A dead-beat dad and his two children try to escape from robotic interstellar invaders intent on exterminating humanity and converting Earth into a planet fit for alien colonization.

In Detail: Well, I liked this film better than DH, and except for the very end, I was rather wowed. So I'll talk about the good points first. But I want to start out by saying that if you are expecting a film like Independence Day (Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum), to which all of the reviews kept comparing this movie, you will be rather surprised. Other than some basic plot similarities, they are NOTHING alike, in tone or in scope. This is not an action/adventure/save the world film with a healthy dose of comedy. It is a very personal drama, haunting and sad. I was also genuinely creeped out, even for a couple of days after, which Spielberg said was one of his goals for the film. With me, at least, he succeeded (which, admittedly, isn't all that difficult). DH agreed with me that it was edge-of-your-seat tense for almost the entire length of the film. It's almost relentless, in an excellent way. Superb acting on the parts of everyone involved, particularly in Tim Robbins' basement (didn't even know he was in the movie until we saw him on screen). Other than one point of "I don't think so" (which falls under my "please follow the rules you have established for your film" annoyance), and the way too pat ending, I thought it was an excellent movie. Or I did when we left the theater. But the more I thought about it afterward, the less and less things made sense, the less and less things stuck to the rules established in the premise of the film, and the less and less I liked it. I now think it is a great ride, and as long as you don't think about it *at all* afterward, you'll be okay. Still worth seeing once, IMO, just for the fantastic acting and effects, but do either a discount theater or rent it.

Will I Buy It? Unlikely.

Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

In a Nutshell: Better than the other two, but not stellar. Exceptional eye candy, wraps up most of the loose ends, but still leaves a few holes. Not a movie for young children, but definitely to be seen on the big screen if possible.

Quick Plot: The rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker and the rest of the Jedi Knights.

In Detail: Well, it has been almost two months since I've seen this film. My apologies for not reviewing it sooner. I actually saw it twice over Memorial Day weekend, and seeing it twice is almost necessary. The first time, you are just oogling over the visuals, and you also spend a lot of time going "but wait...." The second time, once you have come to terms with how the film did or did not meet your expectations, you can actually take the time to appreciate it for what it is. Too many things happen to quickly for me to find them completely believable, and my perception of how they happened based on limited information to date was really off. There was at least a *touch* of chemistry here and there between Hayden and Natalie, but not much, so don't go expecting a tragic love story. The tragic is there, but much of the love is missing until the very very end. And I must publicly say that if it weren't for Ewan McGregor, the film would have failed miserably.

I think a fair bit of what happened was superfluous and Lucas's time and efforts could have been spent elsewhere, but it is what it is. Oh, and please do not judge General Grievous by this film. He should have been so much more... I don't know; cool, slick, intimidating, powerful, skilled... I could go on and on. To see him at his most awesome, be sure you check out the Cartoon Network series Clone Wars (Volume 1 currently out on DVD, Volume 2 due out in November, IIRC). Definitely worth watching, and you see a lot more of Grievous as he was intended to be. The light saber battle at the end is much closer to the kind of battle that has been missing from the other films, and though it doesn't quite measure up to the ultra-coolness of Darth Maul (Lucas really messed himself up by putting Maul in Ep. I; no way to top that), it has an emotional impact that is undeniable. And once the final battle is over, I cried. Both times. *That* scene broke my heart. I found the wrap-up scenes quite stilted, but necessary, and seeing the old sets come back still makes my heart flutter.

Ultimately, I am slightly dissatisfied with the film, particularly as the ending to the saga (despite technically being part 3 of 6). Some things were too easy, some were too fast, some were to pat. It answered questions, and it was emotionally engaging occasionally, but not enough to make me feel fulfilled. The best of the three, certainly, and a vast improvement over the last one (which had great info and hideous execution). I can't help but wonder how things would have improved under a "real" director. For those who don't know, Lucas only directed Star Wars (that's Ep. IV to you non-purists) himself; he left the other two to other directors. I definitely think this series could have benefited greatly from a similar arrangement. But, what's done is done, and it is worth seeing. Just don't set your sights, or your hopes, too high. May the force be with you.

Will I Buy It? Yes. Did you expect otherwise?

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Interpreter

In a Nutshell: Eh. It was okay. Rent it if you really feel the need, but I found it neither overly political nor overly thrilling. Wasn't it supposed to be a political thriller? It wasn't bad, it just wasn't good. It was just... there.

Quick Plot: A UN interpreter overhears an assassination plot after hours being discussed in a language that only she and a few other people speak. The Secret Service is finding it difficult to believe her, especially considering that she is less than forthcoming about various aspects of her possible involvement.

In Detail: I really thought this film had potential. I love the psychological Hitchcock-type thrillers, and I felt this one had a good chance, particularly given the setting (the UN), the director (Sydney Pollack), and the leads (Kidman and Penn). It had all the right pieces, they just didn't work for some reason. I'm not quite sure how the whole can add up to be less than the sum of its parts, but it did. I think they tried very hard to be politically correct, which took out any possible political punch of this self-styled political thriller. Fine by me, though, as I'm not a very political person, and I rarely enjoy those types of films. But, I also felt that Nicole Kidman came off very cold, which didn't allow me to connect with her or, ultimately, feel much concern for her. Hard to get worked up about the fate of someone you don't care about. Same for Sean Penn; I didn't really care about his character either, no matter how tragic they tried to make him. There was also no chemistry between them, so even the possible tension aspect was lost, in spite of attempts to allude to it. I think that was ultimately the main problem with the film: I just didn't care about any of the characters. It was also a very slowly paced film. Now, this in and of itself is not bad, but combined with little action, flat characters, and a plot that tried too hard not to offend, I was left simply *watching* the film, without really being engaged on any level, and even being rather bored in places. I can't really even say that it's worth seeing. I just found it quite blah. As I said, it wasn't bad, but it wasn't good.

Will I Buy It? No.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005


In a Nutshell: Fun flick, but nothing spectacular. Great banter between the two male leads. Definitely worth seeing, though no blockbuster effects that absolutely require the theater, if you'd like to wait until DVD. "They did a Panama." :-p

Quick Plot: A professional treasure hunter, I mean, deep sea discoverer, finds clues to his pet project in Africa. Can he really find a long lost Confederate ironside ship in the middle of the dessert, especially without getting killed?

In Detail: I really rather liked this movie, quite a bit more so that DH. Well, I mean, two hours of clean-cut muscles-cut Matthew McConaughey, how bad can it be, right? LOL It was just loads of fun. That's not to say that it wasn't missing something. First off, there was too much luck and not enough skill/solving involved. As this movie has been compared to National Treasure, I will say that NT has the upper hand here. I missed that aspect of it. Second, there was absolutely NO explanation as to how the boat would have gotten there in the first place. I don't think that is an unreasonable question. And lastly, the whole "put the woman in peril so she can be rescued" subplot just seemed tacked on, as opposed to integrated in. They tried, it just wasn't very smooth. Not sure if the book does better or not. However, I felt when watching National Treasure that it was missing.... something. Something I was never able to put my finger on. But whatever it was that NT was missing, Sahara had it. Something about the chemistry and the camaraderie and the banter that was just incredibly enthralling. If you could have combined the two films, you would have had just about the *perfect* summer popcorn flick, ranking right up there with Indiana Jones. Sahara doesn't quite make it, though with some improvements, the next film in the franchise could (oh come now, you know they'll do it, if it makes a single nickle of profit). Looking forward to the next installment.

Will I Buy It? I'd like to, for a reasonable price (under $15,
I'd say). Not sure if DH will agree, though.

Monday, January 17, 2005

The Bourne Supremacy

In a Nutshell: The next film in the Jason Bourne saga, this one has an interesting story, if less effective execution, though I'm not sure why it was slightly less entertaining than the original. Worth renting for fans of the first one.

Quick Plot: Treadstone is gone, but Jason Bourne still lives, and someone wants him eliminated. Bourne is willing to keep running, until they cross the line. In order to survive and hopefully clear his name, Bourne must take on the government and his former Treadstone foes, returning to his operative ways.

In Detail: The story here is rather interesting. I thought
Treadstone has been reinstated from the previews, but this is not the case. Instead, Joan Allen is put in charge of the investigation, in which two of her own operatives were killed. She is an effective investigator; she wants the truth, not just revenge. And the truth she finds is rather interesting. I love the interactions between her character and Bourne, and the story does go in some interesting directions. But it just didn't seem as good to me, and I can't really say why. The chase scene was lesser, that's for sure (LOVED the first one). The acting was fine for this type of film, the story was better, but it was still.... lacking some how. Worth renting if you liked the first one.

Will I Buy It? No, it doesn't quite make the cut. Glad I saw it, don't care to see it again.

The Aviator

In a Nutshell: Well filmed, well acted, beautiful costuming, very enjoyable, definitely worth seeing.

Quick Plot: Bio-pic of Howard Hughes spanning his early successes and his mid-life breakdown. Certainly a brilliant and innovative man, despite his eventual madness.

In Detail: I really enjoyed this film. I wasn't sure what I would get. I'm not a huge fan of Martin Scorsese films anyway (the subject matter rarely appeals to me), so I was concerned, particularly with it being 2 hours and 45 minutes long. It certainly didn't feel that way though. I have no idea how accurate any of the facts are (we all know how reliable Hollywood version facts are), but if even half of what is portrayed is the truth, then he was a truly visionary man decades ahead of his time. As for the film itself, I think the casting was inspired, most especially Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn. However, in a way, by casting so many well known people, it is hard sometimes to get past who the actor is and down to the performance. Some of this is a function of what could have been better acting, but some is purely the visual of such recognizable people in relatively one-dimensional roles. Take Cate Blanchett, for instance. Many have put down her performance as lacking depth, but I disagree. To have attempted to portray someone as famous as "Kate" accurately would have been difficult, and she would have been dogged for her inaccuracies. To instead do her up as a bit of a caricature, she captured the essence without detracting from DiCaprio's performance. DiCaprio, for the most part, does transcend his recognizability, but it pops up every now and then, particularly during the "isolationist" period of the film. Overall, though, his performance is excellent. Having seen virtually no Scorsese films, I don't know if this is a trademark of his or not, but I did also want to comment on the use of silence in this film. In an era where louder is better, the periods of quiet in this movie are amazing. "Listen" for them, if you see it; it is incredibly effective at saying all there is to say.

Sorry, I'm not usually so "formal" and heavy-handed with my reviews, but this film certainly deserved it. I wasn't thinking that it necessarily deserved a potential Oscar nomination (or Golden Globe win) for Best Picture, but rereading my observations above, perhaps it really does.

Will I Buy It? It is *worth* buying, but I know I wouldn't watch it a whole lot, so no. Absolutely worth seeing, though would lose very little on DVD (except a couple of remarkable surround sound sequences for those of us not home-equipped).

King Kong (2005)

In a Nutshell: Too long. The good parts were very good, and the rest of it wasn't bad in any way, there was just too much of it all the way around.

Quick Plot: A 1930s film crew searches for the mysterious Skull Island and its strange inhabitants, and find the giant gorilla called Kong. After kidnapping the beautiful star of the film, the ape is captured and transported to New York City, with disastrous results.

In Detail: First, please let me say that this is not a bad movie. It was just badly edited, or should I say, not edited at all. It is 3 hours long, no joke, and that does NOT include any commercials or previews. If there is a "director's cut" of this film, I might have to faint. An hour could *easily* have been cut out (dinosaurs *and* giant bugs, was that really necessary?), perhaps even an additional 15-30 minutes if you wanted to be a little more ruthless. Parts of it were so well done, so glorious, it is a shame it had to be dragged down by the excess footage. I think the biggest problem it has is that Peter Jackson wasn't sure what kind of movie he wanted, fun action or dramatic and heartfelt, so he tried to make both, and ended up making neither very well. What a shame. Either would have been excellent, but both together just didn't work. The film never settled on a rhythm or pace. You never knew if the next scene would be heart-wrenching or silly, so you were never fully comfortable in the world he presented. The effects were phenomenal in almost every aspect, and my hat is completely off to Naomi Watts, who did a mighty chunk of her work acting with *nothing* but a green screen and a ball on a stick for eye line purposes. Simply amazing acting from that perspective. But that alone could not make this film all that it was intended to be. Worth seeing, on the big screen if you are really interested (the effects may suffer on smaller televisions), just not the spectacular tribute we were all hoping for.

Will I Buy It? Unlikely.