Reviews written by registered user
DanB-4

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127 reviews in total 
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The Best Trek, 30 August 2002
10/10

First Contact is the best Star Trek has been, and likely the best it will ever be. This movie has a great plot (Earth discovering warp in the past) the greatest villain in the Borg, spectacular supporting performances from James Cromwell and Alfre Woodard and wall to wall action.

In the peak-and-valley Star Trek franchise, this is the highest peak. It can be easily enjoyed by anyone who has not seen or is not familiar with Star Trek, but is still meaty enough for the ardent fan.

One mishandled scene involving Steppenwolf stops this movie from being perfect. But still, a strong recommendation. **** out of ****.

Traffic (2000)
Should Have Won Best Picture, 29 August 2002
10/10

Best Director and Screenplay, but not picture? Oh well, Soderberg's stunning win as Best Director for this amazing film locks its place in history. Gladiator may have taken the big prize, but this was the best film of 2000.

This is a long a complex film that you need to see more than once - the kind that is worth owning on DVD and watching again and again. It has no real plot, but just tells interweaving stories that show, as the director has said, that the war on drugs is a constant losing battle that acts as a price support system for the cocaine and heroine trade.

There are three parallel stories about characters who never meet, but who are all affected by the drug trade. Benecio del Toro is brilliant as a Mexican cop who is a straight as he can be and as crooked as he needs to be, trying to bring down a drug cartel. Michael Douglas plays a judge recently appointed to the federal commission on drugs, who is unaware that his own daughter is a junkie. Catherine Zeta Jones has the performance of a lifetime as a country club wife who comes to realize that her husband is not the pillar of society she thought he was.

None of these people meet, but their lives are controlled by the same evil, but in different ways. What needs to be observed in this film is how these characters all draw the essentially same conclusions via different avenues.

This movie is a directorial triumph. Soderberg threads these plots in and out of eachother without making the movie messy or confusing. A lesser director would have had some giant conflict or shoot out scene where everyone meets at the end so we can see all the big stars at the same time. But "Traffic" is more concerned on showing how widespread the cancer of the drug trade is, that the same narrow avenue can completely consume so many people without them ever knowing who eachother are.

Migeul Ferrer, Luis Guzman (miss him on "Oz"), Don Cheadle, Erika Christensen and Benjamin Bratt all play key supporting roles with ease.

There is no Hollywood ending here - but a film that ends with a sense of futility and frustration. The tone is perfect from start to finish.

As strong a recommendation as I can make. **** out of ****.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Mixed Feelings, 29 August 2002
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

WARNING: MILD SPOILERS

I have mixed feelings about this movie. I'll say that I liked it and was disappointed at the same time.

On one hand, there is a very touching tale about the high cost of fame. As cool as it may seem to be a movie star, I can't help but strongly believe that Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts long for a simple walk in the park. Maybe not, but having every move monitored by the world must grow tiresome. This side of the story, told through Julia Roberts autobiographical character Ana Scott is told well and poignantly.

The love story is mishandled at every step. This film exists in that annoying parallel universe that Roger Ebert describes as the world "where Julia Roberts can't get a date." When Hugh Grant turns down Julia Roberts, I did not admire his integrity, I questioned his sanity.

The love story portion of this film plays out exactly as you expect and takes forever to get there.

That said, Hugh's friends and family provide some good chuckles, Alec Baldwin's cameo is wonderful and the movie gets a mild recommendation from me. Good date flick. **1/2 out of ****.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A Good Film Made Better by Its Timeliness, 28 July 2002
8/10

Five years ago, you would leave this film saying "this could happen". Today, in the post 9/11 world, you leave this film saying "when will this happen."

The movie follows Jack Ryan, now played by Ben Affleck as a young low level CIA operative on the trail of a missing nuclear weapon. Where is it, who has it, where are they sending it. The clock is ticking, you as a viewer know without a doubt that the bomb will go off, but this skillfully crafted film still packs great suspense and intrigue.

The Sum of All Fears points out all to clearly that our free society is vulnerable. Changing the villains from Arab terrorists in the book to right-wing extremists in the film may have been an political correctness move, but it undoubtedly adds to the film. Think about it, is not a threat from a group of American born citizens scarier? We are dealing in this movie with a villain who believes that Hitler was "not crazy, just stupid."

There is a parade of veteran character actors, all giving great performances as high ranking government officials. There are numerous speaking roles, and a wonderfully assembled timeline without once being crowded or confusing. From the opening sequence, which flashes back 30 years to explain the origins of the bomb, to conclusion, The Sum of All Fears combines action and special effect with the exact dosage or paranoia to make a great film. It plays with our fears of another horrible domestic terrorist attack, but does not exploit them.

The relationship between Ryan and his girlfriend could have and should have been cut. The girlfriend wades through the checklist of female companion plot devices from start to finish and adds nothing to the film.

Pay close attention to how the film is cut and how the director neatly unfolds the plot lines (the construction of the bomb, its value as a simple commodity on the black market, the American/Russian politics, the search for the terrorists and the plot of the extremists) all to one point - the detonation - and then scrambles everything into chaos.

I did not like the ending of this film - the final scene not the conclusion of the plot. It is a little too sugar coated when you remember that at least 100,000 people were likely killed.

It is hard to say how well this movie would play in a different world. We can only judge in the world we know. ***1/2 out of ****.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Perfectly Executed, Horribly Written, 28 July 2002
8/10

Dear Mr. Lucas.

Please direct and produce films and stop writing. You are a great visionary but you are not funny and you have no romantic or passionate sensibility. Please stick to your strengths and hire a writer for Episode III. You can afford it. Yours truly, danb-4.

That sums this movie up for me. As dumb as Phantom Menace, maybe even dumber, but wow, what a ride. This movie was so much fun to watch and very entertaining. The much maligned romantic plot between Anakin and whats-her-name deserves all the bashing it is getting and more. And the pitiful attempts at comedy with 3CPO and the "witty banter" between Obiwan and Anikan are so bad they hurt.

But, unlike Episode I, there is more that enough style to make up for the lack of substance. The rain planet and the aliens that make the clones are the best thing this series has put on screen. There are great action sequences and the extended use of Yoda was very gratifying.

As Yoda says to Count Dookoo, "Much to learn, you still have." Mr. Lucas should heed these words himself. He cannot write. If you look for plot and character substance in this film, you will be gravely disappointed. The romantic scene between Anakin and Padme where he talks about sand is so bad, it looks like it was cut from a Naked Gun film.

See this on a digital screen if you get the chance. I saw this in Waterloo Ontario at the Galaxy Cinema and the entire film was crisp and sharp from corner to corner, with brilliant sound and sound editing. I cannot give Attack of the Clones too high a rating, but it is a movie that will need to be seen on a big screen. Go and enjoy - making fun of it later will be part of the fun. *** out of ****.

Great, but Not Vintage Spielberg, 28 July 2002
9/10

When you have Schindler's List, Jaws, Color Purple, and SPR on your C.V., anything you do creates great expectations. To that extent, Minority Report was a tad disappointing because I was hoping to be blown out of my seat. When I look at it in its own right, it is great entertainment, but not in Spielberg's top 5.

The plot is simple and complex all at once, and is the most intriguing part of the film. The Department of Pre-crime is run by Tom Cruise in the city of Washington DC. With the aid of three psychic "pre-cogs", murders are anticipated and prevented, but the would be perpetrators are still arrested and imprisoned. Out of nowhere, the pre-cogs predict that Cruise will murder a man he does not know. Now it seems that the system which for six years has been perfect, has a flaw. Or does it?

That description does not do the plot or the themes in this film any justice. What may be most entertaining about this film is the extraordinary emotion, conversation and debate it generates. Can you punish someone for an intended crime? Can that person not control his fate? Is the pre-cog a willing participant in all this? How can such a system be beat? Moral, technical, and legal issues abound around this film, while it carries on as a great action movie. Extremely complex.

We could debate all day about possible tiny plot holes dealing with the visions of the pre-cogs, Tom Cruise's eyes, his run from the law and other points of the film. But when you watch this film, remember that exposing flaws of pre-crime is a goal of many of the characters. Perhaps that is simply what it being done.

As with every Speilbergian outing, you have a stunning technical achievement in this film. Janusz Kaminsky can see a film like no other person on Earth, and the special effects serve the plot, not the other way around. The scene with the spiders is worth the price of admission alone. Special mention to Samantha Morton is wonderful supporting role as Agatha, one of the pre-cogs.

I give a strong recommendation to this film, but don't go in looking for a future classic. ***1/2 out of ****

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A Better Jerry Maguire, 28 July 2002
8/10

For me this movie had a very strong parallel to Jerry Maguire. In both movies, you have handsome, self-involved male leads leading perfect lives. They both have an epiphany that is based on their relationship with a woman and a young boy and the film concentrates on the transformation of the lead character.

I liked About a Boy much better for a couple of reasons. First, Will (Hugh Grant)'s epiphany is much more subtle and happens throughout the film, and happens as a result of him indulging his own character flaws (ie this all starts due to his grand idea of picking up single mothers at a support group meeting). Second, the relationship with the boy is not a slam dunk. Who wouldn't love the kid in Jerry Maguire? The boy here is annoying, self-righteous, talkative and understandably friendless. Dumping him and getting on with his life would have been much more in character for Will - we feel almost like a proud parent as we watch him grow more and more attached to him.

This movie is Hugh Grant's finest hour. He gets to play his handsome, bumbling polite Englishman, but this time, it is wrapped in a selfish playboy with lots of money and no apparant job. A dream life, or so it would seem. Grant effortlessly draws us into this character and allows us to feel the emptiness of his life, but also his frustration and lack of will to change it. As he says, " I was the star of the Will show and it was not an ensemble drama."

About a boy is not a chick flick. It is a good-hearted comedy about a man who makes decisions against every selfish instinct that has dictated his life. It is a breath of fresh air in the world of car chases and special effects. I enjoyed this film immensely. ***1/2 out of ****.

Sexy Beast (2000)
Ben Kingsley's Movie, 29 March 2002
8/10

This is an undefinable film, probably best described as a gangster movie. I would not use the word comedy at all. But what it really is is a showcase for Ben Kingsley, who leaps from Ghandi to Meyer Lansky Itzhak Stern to Don Logan, a psychopathic gangster that brought to mind Joe Pesci of Goodfellas.

Sexy Beast is all about mood, style, characters and conversation. It is at its heart a love story, the love of Gal (Ray Winstone) and his wife DeeDee. Both have skeletons in their closets - Ray is retired career criminal and DeeDee is a former Porn Star. All they want out of life is solitude. They are happy, until Don Logan (Kingsley) pops back in to their lives to offer Ray a job. About one third of the film is Logan not taking "no" for an answer, without every growing a tiny bit tedious.

Kingsley is amazing and should have won the Oscar. He sits on edge, almost at attention, talks in constant babble, swears almost poetically (although he reprimands Gal for swearing) and is focused clearly on his task. In one of the DVD extra features, Kingsley decribes his character as someone who, at the flip of a coin, could have just as easily become a cop.

This is not a movie for the faint of heart (some violence and non-stop profanity), and to be honest, I had a very tough time getting through the accents. (I watched twice, the first time with the subtitles on). A strongly recommended rental if for nothing else, seeing Ben Kingley demonstrate one of the greatest ranges in acting history. ***1/2 out of ****.

Single Minded War Film, 25 March 2002
9/10

This is a truly single minded film. The purpose here is to do nothing more than, as accurately as possible, recreate a terribly failed US military action. Those who call this pro-war propoganda saw the wrong film. This movie pulls no punches in its belief that the mission was a failure and the US presence in Somalia was questionable at best.

Ridley Scott is a good at the epic as anyone. And here, he has cleansed himself of characters and plot and stuck with the book almost real time. From minute one, we are tossed mercilessly into the streets and markets of Mogadishu and left stranded with the cast. Black Hawk Down is a major technical achievement, and though I was suprised to see it win two Oscars, I felt they were earned.

This movie cannot be compared to Platoon, SPR, Born on the Fourth of July or most other war movies for that matter. It focuses solely on a mission and a failed one at that. For me, if this movie brought any message to the screen, it was that America did not know what it was doing in Somalia. But don't trust my opinion. This is a film worth seeing and judging for yourself. **** out of ****.

11 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Wonderful, 25 March 2002
9/10

To appreciate a small miracle like For the Birds, see it with children. Observe them as they watch, understand, empathize and laugh out loud to a quirky short with no dialogue. When a director can combine a visually joyful piece that is poignant as well as entertaining to anyone of any age, an Oscar is deserved. For the Birds ranks with its Oscar Winning predecessor Geri's Game as a tiny slice of genius. Bravo. let's hope it ends up on the Monster's Inc DVD. **** out of ****.


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