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Curb Your Enthusiasm: The N Word (2007)
"Curb" follows the path of other successful sitcoms: down!
It is a shame that a once great show has fallen into the pattern that besets so many shows after they've creatively peaked. That is, many shows descend into annoying mediocrity when they start lazily incorporating weak and obvious comedic ideas and the actors' neuroses are overly exaggerated to the point that they are not only annoying but unlikeable. I can't help but sympathize with Cheryl in last week's episode when she said, and I'm paraphrasing, "Larry, people ask me why I stay with you and I tell them that you have another side. Well, Larry, the truth is, you HAVE NO other side"
**Spoiler Ahead!** This episode while having a few extremely funny sight gags(a bald Jeff...brilliant!, the living room of a doctor arranged like the doctor's waiting room) often resorts to predictable situations, e.g. a passerby overhearing Larry use the forbidden "N-Word" out of context, Larry unable to read a doctor's scrawl which undoubtedly contains something important, Larry hugging the most visually unappealing cast member and getting an erection, etc.
So I can't tell if the real-life actor/writer Larry David has basically exhausted "plumbing the depths" of his neuroses for a seventh season and is just getting by, reusing old ideas without telling us anything new or whether there "really is no other side to Larry".
The Polar Express (2004)
A Storybook Comes Alive
What a wonderful film! Having seen this in all it's IMAX 3-D glory, it is hard to imagine how this film would play out in plain ol'2-D. I assume that most everybody know the story: kid is just at that age where he's pretty sure Santa is an elaborate deception, yet his little sister and presumably some of his friends haven't yet stopped believing. Kid spends Christmas Eve on a magical train and encounters all sorts of characters and experiences which ultimately reaffirm the power of friendship, innocence, and faith.
Now you've seen these themes explored before: Miracle on 34th St, A Christmas Carol, even E.T. However, The Polar Express manages to approach its subject with so much energy, freshness, and wide-eye fascination, that you will find yourself wishing you were eight years old again, climbing aboard that powerful locomotive along with Hero Boy, if only for a couple of hours.
A word or two about the animation. It is truly amazing, creating an almost dream-like quality that, will have you examining every aspect of a scene: the reflections on the windows in the passenger cars, the steamy breath of a young boy waiting in the snow, the brown bubbling of a mug of hot chocolate, etc. This effect is unlike anything that I've seen, and in it's own way rivals the painstaking composition and attention to visual detail you'll find in a Franco Zeffirelli production (or in a more whimsical fashion, Fellini!)
This film is not doing well commercially. Partly it is due to production costs, partly because of poor marketing decisions. Perhaps it is also because the film lacks the ambiguity, relativism, and "edginess" that seem so prevalent in popular entertainment. In the IMAX theatre that this film was playing, the performances have been consistently sold out. The audience consisted of parents and their young (five to eleven-ish) children, teenagers, and aging baby boomers, like yours truly. I was expecting the worst experience: crying toddlers, wisecracking teens, and bored, restless adults. I was shocked at what I experienced. Although the crowd was a bit skeptical at first, within 20minutes the audience became completely captivated by the film and I swear there were tears on not a few cheeks by the time the credits were rolling.
So do yourself and somebody you love a favor and take them to see The Polar Express (IMAX 3-D!!!). You will believe again.
Wo hu cang long (2000)
Ang Lee is not George Lucas! This is a Good but not Great film.
Ang Lee is not George Lucas! This is a Good but not Great film. I've read comparisons of this film to "Titanic" and "The Matrix", but it is so much more closely related to the "Star War" series, in aspiration, philosphy and mood. It is however far inferior to any of George Lucas's work and about on par with overinflated pulp like Titantic and/or Matrix. The plot is simplistic, the theme and tone, very dark giving the film an unresolved feeling, like a suspended chord, and leaving this filmgoer depressed. On the other hand, the cinematography is stunning, the action scenes are relatively convincing, although the freshness of the choreography has been blunted by similar fight scenes in Charlie's Angels (Argh!)and the heretofore mentioned The Matrix. In that CTHD is considered one of the top films of the year is more of a statement of the state of the cinema than of its inherent greatness.