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?