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Very glad to have seen it, will see it again ASAP.
Here's a clue on how to watch this movie: If you're looking to be disappointed based on any inconsistencies, pay closer attention to the movie. The so-called "inconsistencies" are actually based on a series of events that combine to actually change many of the things you end up seeing happening early on in the movie. Remember: The events that you see happening on the screen aren't happening linearly. The calendar hops all over the place throughout the movie, so it is possible for events that transpire one day to effect what ends up happening in future days. There are two days that are especially noteworthy in terms of what would change the events of the future and they happen toward the end of the movie. Think of how these events will affect the other events that happen in the future and remember that as you see what happens at the end of the movie.
I think the reason this movie hasn't been garnering a lot of critical praise is because movie critics don't really want to have to utilize logic while watching a movie. Another poorly reviewed film starring Sandra Bullock, the truly brilliant The Lake House, was an even bigger victim of movie critics' pathetically anemic logic processing skills. In watching both movies, you really have to keep your faculties alert and not lull yourself into a sense of "okay, I can just turn my brain off now." And really, even though this movie isn't as good as The Lake House, it is equally blessed with the beautiful, talented Ms. Bullock, on top of featuring the beautiful, talented Nia Long, the totally likable Julian McMahon, and some very good acting by the child actors. And the film is very beautiful to look at, too; I now understand why Bullock was raving about the cinematography and direction.
So please do see this movie and don't be dissuaded by the negative remarks. You really do have to pay attention to this film in order to enjoy it, but once you do pay attention, you will be richly rewarded. I'm glad I went to see it and so should you.
Because I Said So (2007)
So bad it makes you want to cry.
I want to cry every time I think of the money and time wasted on this most horrible of all excuses for films. My only hope is that maybe it will garner more than a few Razzie nominations and wins. It was that bad.
First off, the only person whom I felt could do better in the whole shambolic mess was Piper Perabo. Perhaps if she had been cast as the central character in this movie she could have been its saving grace, but instead this vibrant and lively young actress was relegated to the background in favor of -- wait, why is Mandy Moore famous in the first place? For singing? From what I heard in the movie, her vocals are so anemic they make Jessica Simpson sound soulful. For her looks? She's pretty, but in a generic, forgettable way. Halfway through the movie I thought I was seeing Katie Holmes instead.
But Holmes would have looked dubious throughout the movie. Moore hasn't the acting experience or knowhow to do such a thing and so instead she attacked the role with an over-emotive, wholly unbelievable gusto which reminded me of what I would see in any high school dramatic production. She was by no means alone in being cringe-worthy, though. Diane Keaton, who used to shine with every role she played, was completely embarrassing in this mess in perhaps the most hysterical cinematic performance ever captured on film. Lauren Graham was just... there. Not a real thrill to witness, though part of me sensed that perhaps she was trying to hold back some. The other characters in the movie either faded too much into the background or (in the case of the young boy) annoyed to the point of creating a headache, though that could've been due to the writing and direction.
OH GOD, THE WRITING. The writing was -- I've seen better writing from eighth grade "poets". Cliché after cliché followed the most OTT, unrealistic dialogue ever written. This contributed heavily to the unbelievability problem this movie suffered greatly from. Parents do not talk to their children the way this film portrayed, nor do children freely talk about that which the daughters in this flick talked to their mother about. I simply could not believe that anyone was getting away with what they were saying, nor could I believe that what people were saying was what they actually were saying.
The way that virtually all of the non-starring cast was written was in a manner that painted the broadest of strokes. They were portrayed as caricatures, as stereotypes, as mere conveyances for the paper-thin plot to use to move forth. So many types of people have the potential to be hurt by their portrayals in a notable sequence that I won't be surprised if at least one of them institutes legal action against the makers of this film. But then again a judge who views the film might throw the case out on the basis that NO ONE is portrayed in any sort of real, human way. No one's character experiences any sort of transformation, nor are any of them at least as two-dimensional as some of the better animated films being made today.
Now, I come from a lengthy history of viewing romantic comedies. I liked the Meg Ryan vehicle I.Q. I even have fond memories of Must Love Dogs, which in spite of its hysterically OTT dialogue and general depth problems at least had a cast full of people who were really acting their hearts out. You still rooted for Diane Lane's character and everyone was generally likable. And I can find the entertainment value in some movies that are generally regarded as not so good. I thought Big Momma's House II was surprisingly decent fun that was less predictable in certain areas than I thought it'd be. But Because I Said So? This stinker of a movie left no such rewards, and that is depressing. I wonder if I can still ask for my money back.
Big Momma's House 2 (2006)
Middling comedy with some surprises
If you're looking for an intellectual comedy or even something with some actual substance to it, this is not the movie to go to. It is the type of movie you go to, to turn off your brain and just take in some escapist entertainment. It does the job decently, better than most of the other light comedies out there. But what really surprises is how relatively few stupid moments come throughout the movie. A lesser-quality movie would have gone for the easy jokes about dorky white people vs. smooth black people. A lesser flick would have had some of the characters be less perceptive and observant than they actually ended up turning out to be. Poorer-quality fare would have turned this movie into something approaching blaxploitation, where all parties involved ended up humiliated by the experience.
This didn't do any of the aforementioned. Certain characters who could have been written as dumber were actually written as credibly perceptive. Certain scenarios that could have been played out as ridiculous ended up being plausible. There was less of a black/white good vs. evil conundrum going on in this movie, and the suspense involved actually seemed worth it instead of just being suspense for suspense's sake. I don't think there was one moment in the whole film where I was rolling my eyes going, "OH COME ON," the way I was throughout the last film I was obliged to go see, this year's remake of Last Holiday.
Had the premise been more original, had the comedy been more sharply written, more intelligent, I would have been inclined to give this comedy ten stars. It really is one of the better commercial movies to be released in Hollywood over the last five years. It even manages to be better than its predecessor. However, the comedy was actually quite dull, pedestrian, uninvolved, and unintellectual, which means it earns six stars out of ten. Just barely passable, but a heck of a lot better than its contemporaries.
It's a good thing.
** possible minor spoilers ahead **
This being my first Christopher Nolan film, I didn't know exactly what to expect with "Insomnia". "Memento" looked good enough, but a bit too arty to take in along with my film-watching buddy, i.e. my mother. "Insomnia", on the other hand, featured two actors good old Mom and I both like -- Al Pacino and Robin Williams -- so it was definitely something we could take in. And boy did we take it in!
Christopher Nolan seems to me to be a master of using visuals as a means of advancing the plot line, which is something I've rarely experienced before while watching a movie. This is a good thing. Al Pacino so masterfully played an L.A. detective afflicted with severe insomnia as well as something that weighs down his conscience. This is another good thing. Robin Williams is absolutely delicious as a truly evil and psychotic (as well as scarily intelligent) man, something I'm not used to seeing him portray either in movies or in interviews. This is yet another good thing. Hillary Swank does well what she is supposed to do, which is to fawn over Detective Dormer at the same time that she sharpens her own detective skills. This is yet *another* good thing. In fact, the only complaint I have has been raised before by another reviewer, which is the fact that you don't really realize why Will Dormer is so nervous about IA breathing down his neck until almost toward the end of the movie (in that brilliant scene with Rachel Clement, played by Maura "damn fine actress" Tierney).
My mother complained at the end of the movie that it went by too slowly for her, and indeed the main activity seems to be rooted in psychological play vs. pure action-driven adrenaline. If you're someone who likes thrillers to be filled with breathless chases down dark corridors and more turning heads than at a tennis match, this is quite possibly not for you. However, you would be missing an excellent film-going experience, as the movie is breathless for more intellectual reasons and everyone in the film gives their all, which rarely occurs with movies anymore.
In short: brilliant movie, fantastic mental gymnastics, loved the acting, a bit too slow-paced for certain people, revelation occurs too late (but better late than never!), desperately want to see it again sometime soon.
Ground Force (1998)
May The Ground Force Be With You
I'm one of those Yankee Americans who's just recently been introduced to such BBC DIY programs as "Ground Force" and "Changing Rooms", so one might feel as though I shouldn't really be writing a review for "Ground Force". Au contraire -- in fact, since BBC America airs both DIY programs every day on weekdays and at least three times on the weekends, I've gotten to see a fair bit of both DIY programs, even though I've only had BBC America (and the chance to watch said programs) for six months. Even more so -- I'm absolutely addicted to both of them so I make sure I see them every day.
My favorite, though, has got to be "Ground Force". Alan Titchmarsh's personality is just too perfect for a lead host of such a program -- it's big, it's bold, it's not afraid of being cranky when it wants to, it doesn't hold back, and it's colorful. What also helps this personality shine is the fact that Alan's co-hosts are bold and colorful in their own regard, which prevents Alan from overpowering the show and turning the program into "The Alan Titchmarsh Show (with a couple of extra people on the side)". Charlie Dimmock has charmed me many an occasion by counteracting Alan's crankiness with a good kid or a rollicking laughfest. Tommy Walsh is indeed the salt of the earth, and he proves it by being just as big and bold as Alan -- well, at least in the personality aspect of things. (With Tommy being about 6'4" - 6'5", there ain't NO way he and Alan could compare PHYSICALLY.)
Some may complain that a lot of the gardens look basically the same -- decking and/or paving, little bits of grass, fully bloomed plants, gravel, wood chips, painted wooden effects, etc. -- but in reality, it's only the COMPONENTS of the gardens that are the same. Each garden does in fact have its own personality that comes together as a result of the local scenery and of what each surprisee is all about. For example, Nelson Mandela's special surprise garden is nothing like the surprise garden from the "Ground Force Goes Air Force" special, and none of them are like the Southampton garden or the Scottish garden (where Tommy donned the famous kilt and Alan donned the infamous sweatshirt) or the garden by the lake that was really a fancy dock or any of the other and numerous gardens the "Ground Force" team has created over the years. Sure, the components are largely similar, but it's what the team DOES with those components that really makes the garden, which is a lot different than having the actual gardens be the same.
All in all in my view, what's best about the show is that it manages to be a great many things to a great many people. For those people already interested in DIY gardening, it gives ideas and suggestions about what to do in one's own garden. For those such as myself, who previously held no interest in gardening, it draws one in to the world of gardening and makes even those who live in harsh climates (try living in South Texas in the depths of our Heat Stroke Summers) want to find ways of making the time one spends outdoors pleasant. For those dripping in testosterone, there's the lovely Charlie Dimmock, a Renaissance-era beauty who's also a sort of modern feminist heroine. For the lasses, there's either the squinty-eyed Alan Titchmarsh, who charms the gentle with a song and a smile, or the muscular Tommy Walsh, whose burly physique and caring nature make him into a living, scruffy, huggable teddy bear. For the intellectuals in the audience, there are technical descriptions of each and every single plant that goes into the garden. One could go on and on, but hopefully you get the picture.
In short -- I love "Ground Force". I love Alan, Charlie, Tommy, and Willy (Will Shanahan, Tommy Walsh's assistant). I love how there are so many different aspects to this program that there's bound to be something for most people out there. I love how I've even gotten my mother, who usually hates watching anything from Britain, to watch the program with me, even if it's only occasionally. I love this program and I would honestly recommend it to everyone I meet if they're interested in watching a refreshing program that's family friendly and truly engrossing. Now, if only we could get BBC America to have all their programming, including "Ground Force" be closed captioned for the hearing impaired... that would make everything complete.
(p.s.: Just to let you know, I'm a twentysomething who attends college [university to you Brits] and I think this show is cool -- very, very cool. "Ground Force" is just too good to leave to an older audience.)
American Family (2002)
excitement gives way to disappointment
** possible spoilers ahead **
When I saw the previews for this show, I was excited beyond compare because this series promised to be a great study of Mexican-American family life in the 21st century. I was thrilled to be able to finally claim a series as my own, with people who looked like me and families that acted the way that my own family acts. When I saw the very first episode, I was giddy that I was seeing many of the same familial bonds and issues that greet my own family, and I looked forward to viewing many more episodes.
Then, the second episode came. The novelty of viewing this Mexican-American family on regular television quickly wore off, and when my blinders were taken off I was aghast to find myself hating this program. I didn't mind many of the actors -- in fact, Sonia Braga, Edward James Olmos, and Raquel Welch were still as brilliant as ever. However, when I saw what this truly was, I found myself looking at one-dimensional characters and a liberal bias so obvious it makes even the most liberal of previous Hollywood projects look downright moderate.
My first complaint was with the way the series practically canonizes so-called "pure" Latinos but derides Latinos who wish to assimilate into the American culture. This is evidenced by the way Nina and Vangie are portrayed. Nina is the "can do no wrong" daughter of the Gonzalez family, someone who is described as "wanting to save the world" (in Cisco's words). The way she's portrayed in the show, you could practically see the halo glowing above her head! Then there's Vangie. Vangie is a corporate being, someone who's married to a Caucasian, and who is deeply involved with her career. Perhaps it would be different if the show's narrator was the patriarch, Jess, but with the narrator being Cisco, Vangie is poorly treated as a character and as a being. It's as if being a do-gooder is valued over wanting to live in financial security.
Cisco, I suspect, is the main catalyst behind why this program doesn't work. He is, as I've mentioned before, the narrator of the program and thusly the program is seen through his eyes. He ribs the patriarchal character of Jess for being a Republican so much that it seems that it is a bigger blight than the one of Esteban's ex-girlfriend and the mother of Pablito (the same woman), who is a drug addict. I suspect things would be viewed much differently if Jess or the deceased matriarch Berta (perhaps looking down from her heavenly perch?) were the narrator. All I do know is that, being an independent with conservative leanings, having a significant other who just so happens to be Caucasian, and being a capitalist who doesn't want to be like my parents and have to live paycheck to paycheck, the show insults me and people like me bigtime.
All in all, this show was a huge disappointment for me. East L.A. works much the same way as my parents' West Side neighborhood in San Antonio, except the West Side seems to be poorer, so I was incredibly hopeful that I would find shades of my parents' or my families in the Gonzalez family. However, unless I can find another series with more believable three-dimensional characters with goodness and flaws and no agenda to fulfill, I think I'll stick to the programs I *do* watch, with more dimensions than a flat screen. Hmmm. Wonder if "Friends" needs a Latina friend....
The Voyage of the Mimi (1984)
ah, what memories of this little kids' show...
Unlike many of the commentators who've put their two cents in on this show, I didn't become acquainted with "The Voyage of the Mimi" because of it being shown in any of my classes. Instead, I got to watch it because I was a PBS fanatic when I was a little kid and this was one of the shows that aired during the "children's block" of the decade I was a little kid, i.e. the '80s.
My recollections of the show were as follows: little boy gets invited to take part in a sea voyage led by the boy's captain grandfather. Said voyage, including in it several people who looked to be of high school or college age, takes a long while. Voyage takes detours along the way to explore various places relating to sea life and sailing/yachting. The little boy, who was played by a very young Ben Affleck, sticks out in my mind the most because of the fact that I (quite embarrassingly) had wanted to be *friends* with his little boy character when I was a little girl. Ah, what simple and innocent memories.
In terms of the quality of the show -- well, it certainly wasn't going to have great acting or brilliant scripts, but then again its target audience (little children) wasn't going to demand that either. I found myself quite enraptured of that program when I was young because it taught me things while involving me in a story and because I was a PBS nut anyway. "The Voyage of the Mimi" certainly shouldn't be considered prime material for showing to eighth graders -- younger children such as second or third graders would probably be the better viewing audience. It's simple, it's fun, and heck, if your little girl only dreams of being *friends* with a young Ben Affleck, that should be better, right?
Forensic Files (1996)
great program with more pros than cons
"Forensic Files" is one of the more recent entries to the list of forensics programs out there on the TV landscape, but by no means is it weak from it. In fact, the program is the best thing that Court TV offers during its prime-time lineup of factual programming and reruns of dramas such as "NYPD Blue".
Let's look at the advantages "Forensic Files" has to its predecessors and to every other forensics program out there. First of all, it has the most excellent Peter Thomas as its narrator. You know the voice -- he's been the soothing grandfatherly voice behind numerous commercials for years, including some of the recent Visine ads. His calm and patient delivery allows everyone, from those just starting out with forensics programs to full-on fanatics of the genre, to get an easy grasp of the procedure the team of forensics experts used to solve the crime being highlighted in the show. This brings me to another one of the reasons this program succeeds -- it takes its time in presenting every step in the investigation so the viewer won't have any nagging, unanswered questions after the program is over. The recreations and footage used are yet another plus. In other forensics programs, you get the feeling that the people behind the program are taking some liberties with their recreations -- for example, even the dimmest of armchair detectives can tell that forensics experts gathering evidence at the scene of the crime probably don't put their evidence in bulky paper bags, which is what another popular forensics program shows in its recreations. The footage, when presented, is absolutely wonderful to see as it actually lets the viewer see a little of what was on the local news in regards to the crime at hand. One final advantage is the interview process. Investigators, family members, victims, and criminals all are interviewed and the choicest of bits are incorporated in the program. In one episode, a mother who was falsely accused of arson and premeditated murder with regards to her baby son is shown weeping openly in front of the old house that had caught on fire, and then the program ends. This leaves the viewer with the feeling that the woman is to be pitied and you feel genuine sadness at her predicament, but at the same time she was vindicated with the help of some astute forensic investigators so you feel glad because of that.
Not all of what the program is about is great, though. Sometimes, the narration can go through a story in such a plodding pace that a youngun such as myself is tempted to yell at the TV for the pace to quicken up. This usually happens in my case, though, when I'm watching an episode I've already watched about twice before. Then there's the case of the Canadian expatriate con artist who murdered a Canadian business acquaintance of his so he (the con artist) could continue living under the businessman's name in England with his daughter serving as his wife. When the program about this case brought up the fact that the daughter had two children, I wanted to know more about this aspect of the case, but the program never tied up that particular loose end. I suspect, though, that this was purely because of time constraints and so I sincerely hope there's a book out there on the market on this case.
At any length, if you're interested in forensics, this is a great program to watch. I don't watch it as much as I used to because of lack of free time,
but when I do I genuinely enjoy it. I think the key to the program really is Peter Thomas, though. He can do no wrong.
Whose Line Is It Anyway? (1988)
brilliant, madcap fun
The UK version of "Whose Line is it Anyway?" stands out from the rest of the television crowd as its humor and wittiness coming from all levels attests to. "Whose Line is it Anyway?" is an original concept in a land full of warmed-over ideas; take four very talented comedians, place them onto a stage, add host and musician, put in audience, have all participate off the cuff without a script to fall back on, shake up, and ta-da, a brilliant piece of work. This program holds to the premise that it is a comedy game show, with the four comedians being "contestants" and each successive improv bit earning them "points", and the "contestant" with the most "points" at the end of the game gets to do a "prize" credits reading at the end of the program. But that's another gag in and of itself.
There are numerous "games" the "contestants" participate in such as "Party Quirks" (one "contestant" has to guess the quirks the other "contestant" guests possess, all quirks being suggested by the studio audience), "World's Worst" (all four "contestants" stand on a raised area and each of them go down to the performing area when they've each thought of the "world's worst" of the program, such as the "world's worst person to be neighbors with"), and "Whose Line" (two "contestants" are given slips of paper with lines written from the studio audience and are given a scene to act out in, incorporating at random times the lines they were given).
This is a highly addictive program and I would highly recommend everyone see it.