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43 reviews in total 
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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
It's that day... again., 5 May 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Bill Murray plays a complete jerk. That's okay because you know that it's going to come out all right in the end.

The fun in this movie is seeing the character arc of Phil Conners. We're never told in so many words just why he's condemned to live the same day over and over. It seems that it does have something to do with how very nasty Phil is at the start of things.

He hates his job, doesn't care for his co-workers and really doesn't want to be covering Groundhog Day again. So fate steps in and stops time for Phil. He's not going to get past that day until he reforms.

It doesn't happen overnight. He spends dozens, if not hundreds of Groundhog Days in Punxatawney. At first he just acts worse, taking advantage of the simple people of the town. But then he realizes that he's in love with his producer (Andie McDowall).

So he's got this same day to run over and over again to convince her that he's not a total jerk. And, in order to do that, he needs to reform himself. At first it's just superficial stuff, like remembering her favorite ice cream. But then he has to go beyond that and truly become the man of her dreams. And do it in the few hours that he's got until the whole thing resets again.

Bill Murray works wonderfully in this role. His low-key style of humor fits in well with his road to rehabilitation.

This film is one of the "few" I have in my collection. I only buy titles that I'm likely to play over and over. And, about once a month, I do watch it over again.

A wonderful movie. I recommend it highly.

2 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
All drama, no conspiracy, 13 August 2006

During World War II, there were many movies purporting to tell the story of what happened at Anzio or on Normandy beach. But what you ended up getting were a few fictional characters dropped in the middle of this or that battle.

And now we have Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center", which focuses on two real-life heroes of the 9/11 tragedy.

After the conspiracy-laden "JFK", I keep expecting Stone to have an agenda behind all his films. When I heard that he had done a film about 9/11, I wondered what kind of film it would be. How much conspiracy theory or jingoism would be injected in with the drama? What I saw on the screen was a very human drama. Two Port Authority cops go in to the WTC to help free the trapped victims only to be trapped themselves.

The action switches back and forth between the trapped cops and their families. I appreciated this because it would otherwise have left me hopelessly claustrophobic. The family scenes also helped to round out the characters of the two heroes. The tension is also eased by a few instances of humor (Not jokes) which broke the tension a little.

Any politics in the film are kept to a minimum. Despite it's subject matter, this is not a political movie. This is a story about survival and hope. I recommend it highly.

5 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Don't forget your towel, 30 April 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was first exposed to the "Hitch-hiker" series when I attended the 1979 World Science Fiction convention.

The convention that year was in Brighton, England. When I got my ballot for the Hugo Award I saw this radio show listed among the nominees and thought it a bit of ballot box stuffing by the host country.

When I got to the convention it seemed as if at least one quarter of the people I met were encouraging me to check out the show. Each would tell me a comedy bit from the show, but no spoilers.

The show ran twice: once broken up into two three hour sittings and then a six hour marathon. I missed the first runthrough but caught the second. Douglas Adams came on beforehand and talked about the genesis of the story and he answered questions.

It was incredible. Funny is hard to do in science fiction: some stuff that was intended serious turns out ridiculous, and the comedy bits often fall flat.

Once I got back to Texas, I told all my friends about this great show I had heard. I would have to wait a year to get my first tapes -- a two tape set that covered the first four episodes. Eventually there were the books, the TV series, and more books. Oh, and two albums (a double and a single) that covered the first six episodes.

One of the fun things about all these versions was their inconsistency. The chief one of these was what happened to our heroes after they left the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. In both the radio and TV versions, they steal a spaceship. But in the former it belongs to the commander of an alien battle group and in the latter it was Hotblack Desiato's stuntship.

So, considering this changeability, I wasn't too upset with any changes to the storyline. Even the slight changes to the characters didn't bother me. I got 80-90 per cent of the original version, and most of the rest was consistent with what I've come to expect from the series.

I once saw Stephen King. This was just before "The Shining" came out. My friend Larry Lankford asked King if he was concerned about what Kubrick might do to the story. He said no, that there was always the original book.

That's the way I feel about this movie. It was as good as I could have expected from a Disney movie: tone down the cynicism of the original a bit, and give it a happy ending. But, at the end of the day, there's always the TV show, those records, the books and the original radio incarnation. There's more bits, funny lines, and adventures waiting for the newly initiated.

I kind of envy them the journey. But I hope that they won't forget to bring their towels.

Nine stars. Can't wait for the DVD.

The perfect musical... or darn close, 20 July 2004

I'm not a big fan of musicals. Of the 60 or 70 movies I currently have on DVD, only a dozen or so are musicals. But, as a child of the 50s, I'm a big fan of the music that fills this movie.

And how it fills it! Dan Aykroyd's script specifies nearly continuous music: either it's coming out of the 8 track tape in the Bluesmobile, or it's being sung by a who's who of blues-rock.

A loose plot is quickly thrown together: the boys need to raise some money to save the orphanage where they grew up.To do this, Jake and Elwood go on an unusual two part road trip. The first has them rounding up the scattered members of the band and the last part is a frantic chase back to Chicago to pay the tax money. (Watch for Steven Spielberg as the tax agent)

Both parts are enjoyable in their own way: the first half has them encountering John Lee Hooker, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles. And the chase scene effectively parodies movies made many years after this one. A neat trick, indeed.

But through it all, the music. This makes the DVD one of those (like "Woodstock" or "HAIR") that I might put on just to listen to while I work at the computer.

Oh yeah, the DVD version has a few extra minutes running time over the version that had the widest release.

Nine stars, just for the music. The fact that the movie itself is a whole lot of fun is just gravy. One of my faves.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Thought provoking and moving, 30 June 2004

I submitted a review of this film after seeing it on opening night. For some reason IMDB chose not to post it. I'm sorta glad. It gave me a chance to read a bunch of other reviews on this site.

I notice that, even though over 90 percent of the reviews I read were positive, the film only gets around an eight. A number of people rated the film a minimal score of one. I wonder if they saw this film before rating it. I doubt it.

All the negative takes on the film seem to have a couple of things in common: either they indulge in ad hominem attacks on Moore ("This is a terrible film. And Michael Moore is fat") or they say that the film is full of lies without providing any examples.

Documentary films, more than any other form, are made about subjects that the filmmaker feels strongly about. And Moore is obviously upset about the "pass" that the media has given to Bush and his Administration.

There was very little in this film that was new to me. But I've had to go looking for it. The So-called Liberal Media, if it reports on it at all, buries it deep in the paper. Most of what I know is from newspapers in other countries, like England, Canada and Australia.

The truth, like water, always finds an outlet. If the newspapers and broadcast media (the latter in the hands of just 6 corporations now) had been doing their job, there would be no need for the avalanche of books that have come out in the last year or two. And there would have been no need for a film like "Fahrenheit 9/11".

I hope that every voter (especially those who didn't cast a ballot in the 2000 race) sees this film with an open mind. If he/she disagrees with Moore's position, that's fine. But don't do so on the basis of the knee-jerk reaction of the right that says that if you disagree with what the President is doing, then you must be anti-American, a terrorist sympathizer or someone who "doesn't support Our Troops".

Freedom of Speech is one of our most treasured rights as Americans. Without it, and the free and open debate that flows from it, democracy itself is at risk.

See this movie with a friend. Argue and debate what it says. But don't condemn it out of hand because it contradicts your world view. That's un-American.

A must-see. Ten stars.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
The most intense movie experience in..., 16 April 2004
9/10 long? I'd say at least ten years.

QT has given us another gem. He combines a classic revenge story with a pastiche of the kung fu movies he grew up on.

The only weakness is in the backstory. With the exception of Lucy Liu's character, we know nothing of the other character's past.

Tarantino wisely pushes such things to the back burner. We know that Bill and his assassins killed nine innocents and nearly killed The Bride.

There it is. She has no name. The only time she mentions her name in Part 1, it is bleeped. (And again an moment later when Viveca A Fox says the name) She doesn't need a name. She isn't a person so much as a force of nature.

There are two main set-pieces: the Bride's fight with Vernita Green (Viveca A Fox)and the big battle at the House of Blue Leaves. Both are intense and will leave you limp.

Not enough goodies on the DVD, though. <sigh>

Nine stars. Watch the DVD, then go watch Part 2.

Not with a bang..., 16 April 2004

Tarantino left himself with a hell of a problem by dividing this story in two.

For one thing, he had left almost all the rest of the back story for the second movie. Oh yeah, and a lot of the character touches.

So that leaves Part 2 at a disadvantage as far as pacing is concerned. Admittedly, few movies could keep up the pacing of the first part without completely leaving any pretense of plot behind.

So we get to alternate between current time and flashbacks... so much so that, at first, I got a little tired of it. But unlike Part 1, the flashbacks made more direct sense.

And we finally get to meet characters that were waiting offstage in Part 1, like Bill and his brother, Budd.

There's a lot of good stuff here. The film is about 2 and a half hours long, but it didn't make me real antsy and The Bride was riding off into the sunset almost before I knew it.

A lot of fun.

Dark Star (1974)
26 out of 38 people found the following review useful:
Science fiction with a funny bone, 7 April 2004

I saw this movie for the first time at the USA Film Festival. Held here in Big D every spring, the USAFF showcases films produced here in the USA. (No foreign films)

Each night they would show two new films, plus a retrospective film from the actor or director being honored that year. After the film, the film critic who selected the film would interview one or more of the people involved with the film's production.

Towards the end of the week, I arrived at the Bob Hope Theatre (on the SMU campus) to find a notice on the chalkboard: one of the films had cancelled out, and "Dark Star" a "sci-fi comedy" would be shown in its place.

Bringing science fiction and comedy together is a tricky business: usually either the SF content or the humor suffers. Or both.

I ended up being pleasantly surprised. The special effects were a little cheesy (Carpenter originally shot it as a film student, on a film students "budget"), but the characters were funny, and they got off some nice riffs.

Carpenter and O'Bannon (who also co-wrote the first "Alien" movie) produce a collection of odd characters on an extended mission. For the last 20 years they've been travelling the galaxies in search of "unstable planets" to destroy.

Unfortunately, the crew is falling apart. Boredom, apathy, mechanical malfunctions and a puckish alien mascot ensure that things only get worse and worse.

There's a clever parody of a scene from "2001" occurs when one of the bombs can't be released and has to be talked out of exploding.

And there's a reverse reference to one of O'Bannon's own script for "Alien" when the alien gets free and one of the crew has to track the thing down. (O'Bannon refers to this as "Alien" turned upside-down: instead of the alien chasing the crew, one of the crew chases the alien)

Lots of fun. Eight stars.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Classic film noir, 29 November 2003

When I discover a new director or actor (or writer for that matter), I get that double-whammy of enjoyment. First, because I have a new name (or, in this case, names) that I can look for in the credits. But, secondly, it means that I can then turn to the films already in the vault (or previous books).

Anyone familiar with the Cohen brothers' movies knows that they are populated with vivid characters with strong emotions and goals. The only thing that they have in common is their stylishness.

In this movie, Joel and Ethan dip into the film noir genre. At it's core, the movie tells about a jealous husband (Dan Hedaya) who hires a private detective (M. Emmett Walsh) to find out if his wife has been cheating.

What follows is a tragic series of misunderstandings and a fatal double-cross. To say much more would spoil too much of the plot. Suffice it to say that, in classic film noir fashion, few survive and those who do will remember the experience forever.

For students of film, this is a treasure as well. It shows how to do a movie on a small budget but without looking cheap.

The DVD is loads of fun, too. It starts with an opening sequence from some bogus film preservation society in which a windbag talks a lot, but says little. Here is "Blood Simple", fully restored "with all the boring parts" removed.

But wait! He isn't finished yet. If you switch on the commentary, you get this same guy. And he's the worst "film historian" you could hope for. The comments he makes are ill-informed at best, and completely off-the-wall stupid at the worst. Amusing,yes. But, honestly, I could only take ten or fifteen minutes of it.

Movie 9 stars. Commentary: one-half star (if that).

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Sayles does it again, 30 September 2003

John Sayles seems to do two different kinds of movies. One involves just a few central characters and few actual sets, as in "Limbo". And in the other kind of movie he brings together a dozen or more characters in a single locale, and using more locations, like "City of Hope" and "Sunshine State".

In this movie Sayles uses the fictional community of Delrona Beach, Florida to tell his story. The threads of the plot include a compulsive gambler (Gordon Clapp) and his wife (Mary Steenbergen), A newlywed woman coming home to confront her past, the annual Buccaneer Days festival/celebration, and the efforts by a developer to buy out the residents in order to build a proper tourist trap (not just one that gears up once a year).

As in all Sayles films, the characters drive the plot (not vice versa). He has pulled together a cast of easily recognizable character actors like Clapp and Miguel Ferrer (when is he gonna play a nice guy?) plus some local talent. All do a remarkable job.

So, what are you waiting for, an engraved invitation? Get up, drive over to the video store and rent this one. And get one or two of Sayles' other films as well.

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