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The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)
Outstanding adult comedy
Taking out untouchable comedy classics (mainly Coen brothers' works, Monty Python stuff, Young Frankenstein, and Annie Hall which I think are flawless and beyond compare at this point) "The 40 Year Old Virgin" might be the funniest movie I have seen in my entire life. Better than recent screwballs: Wedding Crashers, Old School, Elf, and There's Something About Mary. All of which I loved. In 40V, there's not a bad bit or wasted gag or line of dialogue in the whole thing and it's riotously funny and bawdy from the first minute to the closing credits. Clearly, you have to be in the right mood and probably need to be in the target audience (as the title suggests children of the '80s). If you were born between 1965 and 1975, can handle a little modern Vaudeville and are impossible to offend, this movie is damn near perfect. It's just wrong on so many levels. (And if you love Catherine Keener as I do, that's a big plus.)-gig
Charlie's Angels (2000)
Low expectations lead to high returns.
This flick really pulls a whole bunch of good stuff together and delivers actresses who are as fun to watch as they are hot with hilarious, well-written lines and visuals that entertain with their absurdity. Believe the hype. This is one of the best movies I have seen all year. Everything in it was on time and on target. What a blast!
The Tao of Steve (2000)
Lao Tzu would have loved this romantic comedy
Here's a well-written, light and funny movie that, according to the Taoist of principles, just keeps it simple. It's probably easier to enjoy if you have a few smarts and know a little about being in your late 20s, falling in love, avoiding love, and a whole range of eastern and western philosophy, but you can just as easily get by if you like a cute story with a few endearing characters. The three lines at the beginning of the credits say it all, "Based on a story by Duncan North/Based on an idea by Duncan North/Based on Duncan North."
Cecil B. DeMented (2000)
Should have rented Pecker -- for the fourth time.
John Waters probably doesn't care that I didn't like this movie. He might dismiss my disappointed and shrug it off with a "Well, you just didn't get it." But I did get it. It just wasn't all that funny or entertaining. It had its moments. Ironically, in its attempt to bash Hollywood factory films, it wound up being one. Alicia Witt was pretty cool, as she usually is, but the rest of the cast wasn't even that good at playing amateurs. I guess this would have been worth a rental but only if you are some serious devotee to Waters. The inside jokes were not obscure enough to be interesting, and, except for two or three scenes, not much of this was remotely interesting, let alone tasteless and freakish. Basically, if you paid full price to see this movie, you got teabagged.
The erotic meets the macabre to form an interesting romance.
This film has nothing to do with cottage cheese. It's about a cleaning service in Miami that goes in after murders. The naive Gabreila, played by Angela Jones, is obsessed with a head-hunting serial killer for reasons that go back to her childhood in Colombia. (That part is a little forced but excusable.) Except for Jones and Billy Baldwin, the acting ranges from so-so (Daisy Fuentes and Barry Corbin) to poor (just about everyone else), and the script is adequate without being too inspired. What really drives this film is the morbid fascination and curiosity that most of Quentin Tarantino's fans were born with for some reason. Tarantino was the executive producer on the film, but apparently did little more than shell out some money and guide Reb Braddock, the movie's writer and director, through his first and only feature to date. Tarantino saw Braddock's 1991 20-minute short upon which Curdled is based and encouraged him to turn it into a feature and to make sure he used the same actress in the lead. A great piece of advice. Tarantino also cast Jones as Bruce Willis' cab driver in Pulp Fiction. Curdled is a must-see for Tarantino fans, not because of Tarantino, but because it approaches his big three (Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, and Pulp Fiction) though on a much smaller scale and without the incredible dialogue. The violence and sex are present but only implied, which gives the film some of its charm. The climactic, choreographed last half hour or so makes this a piece of truly delightful filmmaking.
A really sweet, hard to resist film.
Like a lot of people, I was drawn to Tumbleweeds by Janet McTeer's Oscar nomination, and she certainly showed why she drew so much praise from the critics and her peers. And while she is clearly the star, this movie really holds up with the help of the other cast members. It's essentially a mother-daughter buddy movie with a fairly predictable plot, but it's easy to forgive its minor faults because when it is good, it is really, really good. McTeer got all the accolades, but there were excellent performances by 15-year-old Kimberly Brown as Ava, McTeer's 12-year-old (?) daughter, and Gavin O'Connor (who wrote and directed the movie and played McTeer's well-meaning but gruff boyfriend). The characters in this movie are so genuine and appealing that it was easy to laugh when they were laughing and all too easy to cry when they were crying.
Chicken Run (2000)
If you've got dancing chickens, you've got entertainment.
This is a great movie on all levels, but especially for its amazing clamation. Even people unfamiliar with Wallace and Gromit (Nick Park's other plasticine stars and Oscar winners) will enjoy this. It starts a little slow, but just sit back, relax and wait for it to kick in to high gear. By the last half-hour you will be slumping over in your chair busting a gut. It's just so sweet, so well-written and so simply amazing to watch these animated creatures do their work. The humor slides from light to slapstick and, as with all good actors, these creations hit their marks. Their timing is perfect. What a delightful adventure to watch unfold on the screen.
Small Time Crooks (2000)
Like most of recent Woody, nothing bad but nothing brilliant
Like a lot of Woody Allen's movies of the past five or six years, Small Time Crooks is serviceable and entertaining. It offers likeable, quirky characters who make you snicker every few minutes and actually laugh out loud every 20 or so. Allen is - well, the same. Tracey Ullman does a good job of trading in her English accent for a Jersey one. Hugh Grant gets to play up his effete British snobbery and does so quite well. (You gotta love it when straight men wear neckerchiefs.) And Michael Rapaport, as always, just made me smile every time he was on camera. As for the film itself, there's not a whole lot to say. Cute turns with clever one-liners and a happy ending. Like a well-cooked meal of linguine and turkey meatballs, it tastes just fine but certainly doesn't dazzle the palate.
The Virgin Suicides (1999)
Styx, The Bee Gees, and not one, but two Heart songs!
I went to this movie because my wife read the book and it was long past her turn to pick the flick. She made a great choice. The Virgin Suicides is a very good film. Because it makes no secret of its pending doom, it never allows you to watch in comfort. Even so, you still get caught up in the frenzy of the high school homecoming dance and you can't help but revisit your adolescence no matter when you actually lived it.
At the same time, you watch with a knot in your stomach and you almost resent the innocence playing out before you. At points, it is brilliant movie making with a wonderful soundtrack that is often diegetic (like in Rear Window, which this film clearly nods to). As far as the screenplay, my wife said Sophia Coppola's writing credit is laughable, since she lifted all but maybe five lines straight from the novel. No matter. The wonderful performances by so many young and green actors suggests that Coppola had to have done some pretty good directing. (Better than that death scene in Godfather III, no doubt.) Given the timing of its release, I doubt this will happen. But James Woods might deserve a Best Supporting Actor nomination for the job he does as the "virgins" father.
Keeping the Faith (2000)
Provides a steady one-hour giggle with an occasional guffaw.
Keeping the Faith, like any romantic comedy, is harmlessly trite and completely predictable. Just forgive the formulaic approach to what actually is a pretty clever story line and a really good movie. Stuart Blumberg's script (first?) has so many little treats and references -- arcane and accessible -- that the viewer who watches and listens carefully will be richly rewarded. I judge smartness of a film by how many different people scattered in a theater get to laugh alone. I had three solo snickers, jokes that only I got or found funny, and the people around me got some of their own, too. It probably helped that I am Catholic with a Jewish father and several Jewish friends, but I'm guessing the movie can entertain most folks.
Jenna Elfman is a delightful minx/ingenue combination. She basically plays Dharma with a high-powered job. ("She analyzes synergy or synthesizes analogies," Norton explains to Stiller) Keeping the Faith is loads of fun. It does stall at the 90-minute mark. Just wait a few minutes, the lift on the wings returns in time (barely) to stop the free fall and prevent vomiting. Dialogue, physical comedy, and, obviously, the denominational humor are outstanding. Hardly iconoclastic or irreverent, but naughty enough to enjoy.