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A Pink Christmas (1978)
I adored this
I watched "The Pink Panther" when I was young, but had almost forgotten about it until my sister lent me her DVD of this special...and special it was. The entire story was about the homeless Pink Panther (was this made before or after he was an Olympic skier?) wanting just to eat and getting thwarted along the way. It's a sad story and I very much "felt" for the Pink Panther along the way (an old woman compassionate enough to feed birds couldn't recognize that the Panther was hungry? The man angry about the snow on his steps couldn't have hired The Pink Panther to shovel his steps?)there were many wonderful moments of (well done) slapstick humor that kept the story from becoming depressing. The ending was wonderful and even the singing children didn't completely distract.
Wonderfully moving, "A Pink Christmas" sends an unexpectedly powerful message about hunger and poverty and the lengths somebody will go to to provide for himself. It more than exceeded my expectations and I will make a point to watch it every Christmas.
Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
It's no comedy, and to be a tragedy would probably require emotion, which this movie has none
This was not a movie I chose to see, but rather agreed to sit in the room while it played. My biggest fear was that it would be stupid, or grating, or annoying, seeing as Will Ferrell is the star. Of course, another alternative was that it might have been a work of genius. Little did I know(the not-very-inspired phrase that is repeated in this movie) was how hideously boring this movie would turn out to be.
If I had seen Will Ferrell in any other movies, he hasn't made enough of an impression on me to... know that I have. His acting style appears grating in the trailers of his movies I have chosen not to see. I wouldn't say it was in this movie. Yet, little did I know, I would have actually Preferred that to the completely emotionless performance he turns in as Harold Crick, the lonely IRS agent whose routine life is disrupted by the sudden overhearing of a British-accented voice who seems to know what will happen next in Harold's dull little life (which wouldn't be that hard to figure out, considering he brushes his teeth the same amount of stroke, walks the same amount of steps to the bus stop.. etc). At first Harold thinks he's crazy, but somehow realizes it's not some mental impairment he's suffering from, some British lady is actually mapping out Harold's life for a story. Somehow this confirms Harold's sanity and makes him the focus of interest for a literature professor who's really hung up on the phrase "little did he know." Instead of trying to figure out WHY HAROLD CAN SUDDENLY HEAR HER, or why Harold is COMPLETELY ACCEPTING OF HER NARRATING PRESENCE, Harold just tries to figure out if it's a comedy or tragedy she's writing about him.
I remember this movie being marketed as a comedy and the few attempts at humor making it into the trailer, but it much more seems to be aiming at the "tragedy" angle with the feel-good "live like you were dying" moral thrown in, minus any inspiration or warm feelings. This movie is essentially without any feeling, particularly as it plods along at its annoying slow pace in its annoyingly bland colors, with its annoyingly limited background sound. I'm not a fan of endless soundtracks, but music can add to a movie and it might have woken this one up a little.
Instead, "Stranger Than Fiction" drags along with it's not-that-original-as-it-thinks concept of boring, narrated Harold, who, little did he know, finds the voice narrating him belongs to a real-life author (which "we" knew thanks to the random scenes of her trying to get an understanding of death) who just happens to live in the same city and finds her contact information. Little did she know, EVEN THOUGH SHE WAS WRITING OUT THE PHONE CALL HE WOULD MAKE TO HER, Harold Crick is real, as well. Instead of wondering, say, HOW she had been able to narrate Harold, or wondering if she wasn't completely insane, or HE wasn't some complete nut who had somehow caught wind of her book and was trying to get to her, she completely accepts that he must be the Harold Crick she was writing about and feels bad because she's written some death scene for him that's apparently so wonderful she can't change it. (Harold also completely accepts this, though he has the ability to invade her apartment and even READS her book, he doesn't think to destroy it or "make" her change it.) Considering it seemed to take an eternity for the characters to even meet (Harold should have learned about her LONG before he did, especially about her "little quirk" of always killing her characters. It comes so late in the movie, after he "knows" he is going to die and the audience knows the author likes to think about death, that it really feels redundant) another eternity follows with the author having a nagging conscience and Harold having a creepy, emotionless acceptance of his impending doom. We also see "why" a kid on a bike and a lady bus driver kept appearing in this movie in the first place (er, why else would they keep showing them if they were not to have played a role in "the end") and Harold's Mentioned So Often You Know It Will Be Significant in the End wristwatch... also has a significant "role" (you would think she was writing a kiddie novel about "Harold and the Amazing Wristwatch." It seems to be almost as bright as Herbie the Lovebug). Oh yes, and then the movie goes on for another about fifteen minutes or so. Instead of being "inspired" by the not-very-good narration of the author, I felt about as alert and invigorated as Will Ferrell appears to be throughout the movie.
This isn't exactly a showcase of brilliant performances, but they're not all bad....
Harrison Ford appears in this movie as the same type of "family man in duress" character he's played in... a lot of other movies. I never thought he was all that diverse. If you can't play a whole range of roles, pick one and do it well. He's perfectly inoffensive in this movie and I actually liked this character more than the ... similar ones he has played.
Speaking of similar characters, there's "Chloe from 24" playing... er, Chloe from '24' only her name is Janet and her 'assistant to a man named Jack' job is not as impressive. I haven't seen Mary Lynn Rajskab enough to know the extent of her range, but if she can play little more than Chloe O'Brien (that's basically what this character is), she does it well.
The rest of the performances run more along the course of average. Virginia Madsen as the generic wife-in-peril is generically 'fine.' She somewhat resembles "Audrey Ranes" from "24" in the promo pictures and to be honest, Kim Raver could have played the role without a hint of difference... Paul Bettany was also 'fine' as the villain. As Paul Bettany seems to be in every other movie that is released, I ... expected more... It could be that I found his character rather one-dimensional and stupid, but still... What I noticed the most about Paul Bettany is that he looks like Anthony Michael Hall meets my mental picture of what Nicolae Carpathia, the anti Christ in the "Left Behind" series would look like. To be honest, they could have cast Anthony Michael Hall as the villain, and like the wife... their probably wouldn't have been a difference (and this doesn't exactly leave me wanting Paul Bettany as Carpathia should they ever do a movie version of "Left Behind" that would be more to the authors' liking...) ANYWAY, so the not multi-dimensional characters take us through the not exactly groundbreaking plot of Jack (Stanfield, not Bauer...) and Chloe... I mean Janet, having to save... not the world, but Jack's family from aspiring bank robbers who have kidnapped Jack's family because they would like Jack to rob the bank for them. The bank robber, whose name for some reason morphs from William Rayburn to William Cox and his rather useless gang of accomplices (who really serve as little more than babysitters) essentially move into the Stanfield house (which in usual movie fashion is about ten times the size of regular family home, as though "Hollywood people" think that because they live in mansions, everybody else must live in mansions) and ... more-or-less leave the family alone save for the fact that nobody but Jack can leave the house. I live in Washington and one of my 'gripes' is that people seem a little too wrapped up in their own business. "Firewall" is a good testament to this: absolutely none of the Stanfield's neighbors seem to notice or care about all of the extra guests, the lack of action from the Stanfield's house, gunfire... etc..
Anyway, Jack of course refuses at first... until villain Bill 'baits' him into helping, but of course there's no way Jack would just help without some catch... some way to make things right and keep his family safe in the process.
I won't bother with spoilers, it's not that hard to figure out what happens. It's certainly not the movie to watch for anybody looking for something new... or really unique performances. Jack and "Chloe" are entertaining together (Harrison Ford and Kiefer Sutherland are extremely comparable as actors and Kiefer Sutherland is another who could have played this Jack just as well as Harrison Ford) and while the movie definitely seemed longer than it's running time, I wouldn't say it lulled me to sleep.
If all else, it's 'fun' to watch "Firewall" to see how many other actors could play these roles.
Left Behind: World at War (2005)
It's no 'Nicolae." but it's pretty good for what it is
I actually saw this movie months before I had read any of the "Left Behind" books, so I give it props for not, say, turning me off of the Tim Lahaye/Jerry B. Jenkins series, which I really, really enjoy.
I had ... not bothered with the first two movies (and still have yet to see them, though I am more curious having since read the books) and since what I had heard about them was less than positive, I expected absolutely nothing from this movie. I think that perhaps I should go into EVERY movie expecting nothing, because I actually rather liked "Left Behind 3." Revelations is "scary (but it has a great ending)," but has always been one of my favorite passages in the Bible, so it was nice to see it depicted. I thought Louis Gosset, as President Fitzhugh was quite good, I enjoyed seeing Charles Martin Smith (for the about two seconds he was in there). Kirk Cameron bears the curse of having appeared in a show I watched as a child, which means I can never really take him seriously in any other role (the casts of such shows as "Saved By the Bell" and "Just the Ten of Us" share the same fate), but he was fine as Buck, "Chloe," "Ray," and Mrs. Kirk Cameron as "Hattie" were fine, as well(although, "there's just no other way to say this," Mrs. Cameron is a little too old to be Hattie, who was supposed to be about 27). Considering I had heard less-than-complimentary remarks about the acting, I was rather satisfied with the performances of everybody and actually rather pleasantly surprised with Gordan Currie ,who I knew from the oh-so-distinguished guest starring role of paralyzed Cousin Bobby in "Beverly Hills 90210," and has... come a long way since then. Before reading the books, I considered his performance (besides Gosset's, who, with all due respect, was clearly in another league) the most impressive, and now having read the books.. his eerily smooth portrayal is the most how I would imagine Nicolae from the books would like and act like.
What's not really faithful to the series is the script. Part 3 of the series is definitely not one-in-the-same as "Nicolae," the third book in the series. Instead of the Wrath of the Lamb and Tsion Ben-Judah, President Fitzhugh, who is the film's main character, joining in the militia-lead resistance movement against the Supreme Regional Potentate ('sadly,' I don't think he was referred to by that title) Nicolae "Jetty" Carpathia, while newlyweds Chloe and Buck and Rayford and Amanda (and Pastor Bruce Barnes) are faced with assisting the President in the resistance (and in changing his non-religious ways) and dealing with a mysterious virus that seems to be hitting the churches... The story more than passes the time and included some meaningful scenes that made me (and hopefully others) 'think.' While I wouldn't have minded if they had stuck more to the books (why were there no witnesses at the Wailing Wall, for example) and they'd best not do any more of these movies without including Tsion Ben-Judah, who is only one of the most pivotal characters for the rest of the series, I thought they well with this movie. I was pleased with the direction of Craig Baxley (who directed "The Storm of the Century," which, while not a masterpiece by any account, was entertaining and well worth a viewing) and I hope that as long as they make these, they will bring in some more strong performers, not stray so far from the stories that they are not being faithful to Revelations, and that they will not "leave behind" such important characters as Chaim Rosenweig, Moishe and Eli, and especially Tsion Ben-Judah.
Superman Returns (2006)
I wasn't expecting much, so it wasn't too bad
Movies are terrible anymore, but I still occasionally like to go to theaters (especially when the weather is forecast at 96 degrees) so I have been reduced to seeing movies like "Superman," even though I don't like action films, or read comic books, and two hour and 49 minute running times are not exactly a turn on, either...
In spite of that, this wasn't the worst movie ever made. Like about 90% of the movie going public, I had never heard of Brandon Routh, and since he's a young "pretty boy," I was expecting him to be pretty awful, so while I don't exactly expect him to clean up at that Academy Awards (as if that's really a measure of talent anymore, anyway) he wasn't that bad. Kevin Spacey, as evil Lex Luthor, was a little happy and over-the-top, but was kind of written as such and I enjoyed the 'team' of Parker Posey and him. (I think the film could have saved a couple of million dollars in the budget by eliminating Luthor's other friends, however (except perhaps that man with the skeleton tattoo) as they mostly just stood around and scowled.) As for Kate Bosworth... I didn't exactly find her endearing, though a little of that may have been the character of Lois Lane. This wasn't exactly my first exposure to "Superman," but it came close enough, and, well... I can only hope Lois Lane was more likable in the older versions. I couldn't imagine why one man would find her appealing, let alone two...
As I cannot judge a movie on acting and characters alone, this one was fair. Movies like "Superman" are never made for their wonderful scripts and this one... wasn't the best, my biggest complaint being lack of development. While I will credit "Superman" above such films as "War of the Worlds" with having at least SOME development and continuity, there were definitely a lot of things that went unanswered. I didn't especially care for all of the past tense referrals in the beginning, which, combined with the somewhat strange title of what is assumingly part one of a series made me feel like I was actually seeing a sequel first. I also would have liked to have seen more Clark Kent, who I felt was hideously underdeveloped. I would have gladly traded the numerous scenes of rocks flying through the sky (what was with that?) for more scenes of Clark and "Earth" mother(especially an explanation of his first scene where he came falling into the farmhouse yard appearing on the verge of death... and was completely fine and suddenly in "Metropolis" in the next scene.) I wouldn't have minded learning more about the Lex Luthor character, who vaguely moved about with no rhyme or reason. While I was entertained enough by Lex Luthor, and I don't exactly mind 'not' being scared by a villain, the character was almost a little bit too silly and not exactly a role Kevin Spacey is going to get taken seriously for.
I don't think "Superman Returns" will ever be taken seriously by anybody and it doesn't exactly have the makings of a film that will even be much remembered in years to come. With it's (needlessly) long running time, I honestly don't even know if I'll be watching it again (at least not in its entirety), but it was likely better than most of the other junk that's out these days and was a perfectly inoffensive way to spend a 90+ degree afternoon.
Left Luggage (1998)
one of the best movies I've seen in a long time
I wanted to see this when it came out in the late 1990s, but thanks to the ridiculously limited distribution this movie had in the United States, I was unable to do so until late 2005 (it was my first 'netflick'). Be as it may, it was well worth the wait.
In short: there was really nothing about this movie I didn't like (except the nudity was not necessary and keeps this from being a movie the whole family could watch) Excellent characters (and I was NOT expecting to like "Chaya" at all!),excellent acting, excellent story teller, wonderful, brilliantly subtle film-making (especially the "window shot" towards the end)...overall, a wonderful, meaningful film that I am quite glad I was finally able to see!
War of the Worlds (2005)
possibly one of the worst movies I have ever seen
*likely to contain a spoiler* If this movie weren't so over-rated I would almost feel sorry for it. It is one of those movies that seems to earnestly try to be exciting, dramatic, and entertaining...and fails to be any of them.
The "excitement" comes from the impending threat of aliens invading the town of Tom Cruise and his two estranged children. "Drama" abounds as they steal a car, have it stolen from them, ride on a really crowded boat, have the brooding son leave them (for virtually no reason), hide in a hole and on and on.... "Entertainment" comes from, well...
"War of the Worlds" does not prove to be that entertaining of a movie. The closest thing coming to viewing pleasure is pointing out the ASTONISHING lack of plot and character development (a woman named Carol and her daughter Nora are "introduced" when getting on the boat. There is no room for Carol to get on the boat. Carol is never seen or mentioned again...); the poor pacing, the amateurish lighting choice, the fact that the "aliens roaming the basement" scene was right out of "Jurassic Park (only it was kind of scary then); the fact that the aliens are not frightening in the absolute LEAST (the little silver eye..thing that scanned the basement practically looked like a happy face, and the "sick" alien could almost be described as cute)and on and on...
In short: there is nothing about this movie I found well-done. The grade-Z sci fi channel movies are literal MASTERPIECES in comparison... and yet, those remain relegated as kitschy grade-Z films, while this so-called blockbuster bizarrely gets fawned over, for reasons absolutely...alien to me.
I wasn't expecting this to be a good movie and I don't think anybody involved in it was either, or else they would have--for one--called it something else. At the very least, I was expecting this movie to be amusing in a campy way. Instead it was dreary, boring, and downright OFFENSIVE in its extremely gratuitous attack on religion.
Yes, yes, it was the 80s and with Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker, I could see what it would be tempting to Hollywood to portray televangelists in a not-so-positive light. The aunt? No excuse. Maybe she was supposed to be "amusing" and "over the top," but I didn't see it at all. It was just disgusting.
The best thing about this movie was that I saw it at home for "free." If I had paid even a CENT, I probably would have demanded my money back.
One Christmas (1994)
Buddy is a brat!
I can't really enjoy a film if I do not care for the main character. This one is a bratty little kid named Buddy who gets sent to live with his father during the Depression-era Christmas season. Buddy had previously been living with some older-by-about-60-years cousin(the only character I kind of liked) due to the fact that his father is basically a scheming criminal. The father(Henry Winkler) pretends to be some great success for Buddy, but Buddy doesn't really buy it and neither does the rest of the town, which looks down on the dad. Although the father makes an enormous effort with Buddy, Buddy the monster never really accepts his father or his new living situation. This means Buddy yells, complains and has outbursts similar to annoying Kevin Arnold's at the end of a Wonder Years episode. Instead of people yelling at Buddy and teaching him to appreciate his life, constant praise is heaped upon him and it is clear that Buddy is supposed to be some wonderful, charming child. I didn't buy it and did not appreciate being subjected to the little brat! (for the record, the rest of the film is disinteresting, slow-moving and not worth investing one's time in)
All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 (1996)
Like most films involving Heaven, this one is to be avoided *may contain spoilers*
Hollywood's take on religion is usually not that nice, and this film, about a dead dog who gets bored with Heaven, is no exception, especially since the character is supposed to be the likable hero of the bunch.
The dog ends up getting sent back to Earth to rescue the Angel Gabriel's horn, which a very bad dog, who also somehow managed to make it to Heaven (they're obviously not kidding when they say ALL dogs go to Heaven)stole before HE somehow managed to float back down to Earth. The good dog finds he enjoys the Earthly life that he missed. He even meets a girlfriend and a potential new owner. Audiences are supposed to be very happy for him, especially when.....
In the end of the film, the dog is casually allowed to live back on Earth....
Nice way to confuse and trouble any little church-going children that might stumble across this film. What kind of a moral message is that, anyway? Basically people are being told that it's far more pleasurable to live however carelessly and selfishly they want on thrilling old Earth. Far better that than stifling old Heaven. It doesn't help that the Angel whom the "good dog" occasionally communicates with (and rudely snubs) is made for audiences to laugh at. I wasn't laughing. I was more thinking about Michael Medved's book, "Hollywood Versus America," which this movie would have fit in very well as a discussion piece.