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Chessack

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14 reviews in total 
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Lucas blows the audience away again., 17 May 2002
10/10

Well, for the first time ever, I went to an opening-day showing of a Star Wars movie. The crowd was into it from the beginning, as I have not head a crowd into a movie since Empire Strikes Back. When the opening titles came up, everyone cheered. And there were many more cheers to be had, especially during he climax, where the audience roared its approval more than once. When the end credits came up there was a final ovation as people got up to leave.

This was perhaps the best of the 5 movies so far, but it is hard for me to say after only one sitting. There is so much going on in every scene that it will take at least 2 or 3 viewings to catch it all. I am certain I missed little tidbits here and there. But of course I was able to follow the movie just fine and enjoyed it thoroughly. The scenery and effects are breath-taking. Once again a Lucas movie sets the standard as the greatest effects achievement to date -- which will stand probably until 3 years from now, when he beats himself yet again.

Many people, particularly critics, have complained about the acting and dialog. I do not understand the problem. I thought Hayden Christiansen in particular was an outstanding Anakin. In one scene in particular, where he recounts some very un-Jedi-like behavior to a stunned Amidala, he shows definite signs of the future -- the fall to Darkness and his transmogrification into the evil Lord Darth Vader. Oh, he's not there yet -- but you can see he's well on his way down that road, and perhaps so far that even if Obi-wan realized it, he wouldn't have been able to stop him.

The other actors turned in fine performances in my opinion. The dialog was a bit stilted at times, but in what Star Wars movie, including the "classic" three, was this not the case? I am not sure why people who know and love these other movies, have found fault with the very same items in this movie, that appear not to bother them in the others.

The story is good in this movie, perhaps the most intriguing of all. You will see, as things unfold, the seeds being laid for many things. You will find out why many of the things that existed in Episode 4 (Star Wars) but not in Episode 1 (Phantom Menace) came to be. After Episode 1 it seemed odd that in so short a time we could have Star Destroyers, Stormtroopers, Bounty Hunters, and Dark Sith Lords. In this current installment, some of that is explained, some is hinted and foreshadowed.

In all I found many of the scenes excellent, and of course the lightsaber battles are wonderful as always. I am still not sure if the "primary" saber battle in this movie or in Episode 1 (with Darth Maul) is the best... I think I will have to view it several more times to be sure. But it is very close, and it is exciting and fun to watch. The crowd cheered multiple times at this part, too.

I have only good to say about this movie. Not one thing was bad about it. It had a great balance of action and drama, fast scenes and slow, excitement and tense personal interaction. It was visually stunning. The sound was great. The sound track was, as always, magnificent. In all, this movie is a proud addition to the greatest series of movies ever made.

Great job, George. Hats off to the entire cast and crew. I can't wait till Episode 3.

My score: 10/10

So funny my sides hurt., 7 January 2002
8/10

America's Sweethearts was probably the funniest movie of 2001, along with being one of the best of the year. It was so funny that my jaws ached from smiling and my sides hurt from laughing by the time it was over. The humor was relentless... every scene was funny, and all the actors turned in good comedic performances. Julia Roberts, the real star of the film, did a magnificent job of playing her part. She delivered so many lines with such perfect timing and inflection that it was a thing of beauty. I would not be surprised if her performance in this film is shown to aspiring young actors and actresses, to show them just what great acting really is. I have seen Julia in other (better) films, but I have never seen her turn in a better performance. I really believed she was "KiKi", the under-rated sister of glamorous movie star Gwen Harrison (played wonderfully by Catherine Zeta-Jones).

The directing and supporting acting in this film were outstanding, and the script was clever, witty, and full of laughs. This one is a keeper (I already own the DVD, and it's just barely into 2002).

My score: 8/10

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
An adorable addition to the Pixar repertoire, 3 November 2001
8/10

Monsters Inc. follows in the footsteps of its predecessors in being an extremely charming movie that is fun for the whole family. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and would recommend it to both children and adults. Pixar has had many great hits in the past, the most shining examples being the Toy Story movies. Monsters Inc. is clearly designed to be similar to those movies, and to appeal to the same crowd that they did -- and for the most part, it succeeds.

The performances (vocal) by Billy Crystal and John Goodman are excellent, as one would expect. There are a few other recognizable voices that make cameos as well (can you figure out who plays the Abominable Snow man? It took me a few minutes). The animation is, of course, first rate (if you get a chance, perhaps on a second viewing, which this movie is worth, pay attention to the way Mike's one eye shows so much expression, and to how the fur movies on Sully with the breeze).

This movie isn't quite as good as Toy Story, though. Where it lags behind its predecessors is that the story is a bit, well... obvious, once you get the feel for it, and it is slightly slow in the beginning. The ending is exciting, however, and that makes up for the slow start. The one real disappointment (if you can call it that, since it is minor) is that the movie doesn't have very many interesting supporting characters. Boo, Sully, and Mike are the main stars, but other than one or two slimy villain-types, there really aren't many other interesting characters in the movie. And that's a shame, since the monster world certainly could have given us plenty of nifty personalities.

That said, Monsters Inc. was fun, and gives the viewer much to laugh at, and maybe even a thing or two to sniffle at along the way. Boo, the little human girl, was absolutely precious -- I wanted to take her home with me. I recommend this one to children of all ages -- especially those of us over the hill.

My score: 8/10

A movie with lots of potential that only partly delivers, 9 September 2001
6/10

I found 'The Musketeer' to be less exciting and enjoyable than I had hoped . While it had an excellent plot ('The Three Musketeers' is one of my favorites), and gave, in general, an interesting slant to the story, it was a poorly executed film. The idea was apparently to have a bunch of Chinese martial-arts style fighting seamlessly merged with the old Musketeers plot -- sort of a 21st century 'upgrade' or 'retelling' of the story, much the way Planet of the Apes was supposed to do this year for that movie.

The martial sword fighting sequences might have been good. I'm not really sure, because, frankly, I couldn't tell what was going on. The action sequences were all filmed with the camera too tightly focused or "zoomed" -- it was impossible to get a sense of what was going on between the combatants. In a movie with less action scenes this might not have been a problem, but for a movie about swashbuckling and sword fighting, it left me feeling rather deprived. After all, that's what I went to the movie for, and they did not deliver.

I found the script to be rather contrived and the acting stale and wooden. The accents were odd and didn't fit right -- almost everyone in the movie is "French" (in theory) but most have British-sounding accents, except for the Queen, who sounded reasonably French, and a few of the side characters, who had various accents including just about everything *but* French.

All of that said, it did move pretty quickly and there were some fun horse chasing scenes -- these were filmed without too tight of a "zoom" and were fun to watch. In all, I consider The Musketeer to have been worth a viewing at matinee prices (which is how I saw it)... but that's about it. My score: 6/10

10 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
A strange and boring movie, 21 July 2001
1/10

I can honestly say I do not understand why anyone would like this film. It's incredibly strange and surreal, and some people like that, but even if one does, I can't imagine how one would not be bored out of one's skull by this intellect-impoverished movie.

The story starts out with a struggling puppeteer, who gets an office job. But the office is located on "floor 7 1/2", which is between floors 7 and 8 in an office building. Although there is a bit in the movie that gives a pseudo-explanation for it, the characters don't really believe what they are told, and neither did I. We never find out where floor 7 1/2 came from, which I might have found mildly annoying, if I were interested enough to care (which I wasn't).

While working, the puppeteer finds a small doorway, that leads him into John Malkovich's brain. The story, if it weren't strange already, just gets stranger from there. They charge people money to "be John Malkovich" for 15 minutes, and when you're done, you end up on the New Jersey Turnpike (how you get there, is never explained). I don't mind a bit of the surreal in a film, but to have the whole entire movie be stranger than your oddest dreams, is just unpleasant.

But it's not just the weird goings-on in the movie that made me dislike it. The movie was utterly boring. I did not care a fig about any of the characters in it. I fell asleep twice watching the DVD, and had to re-wind and watch the parts I'd slept through; the second time, I almost just shut it off instead. If I hadn't paid my hard-earned money for it, I probably wouldn't have finished it, to be honest. There's very little reason to keep watching, and I spent most of the time eyeballing the clock and hoping for it to be over.

If you like strange, weird movies with no plot, not much character development, and no explanation of what is happening or why, and where almost nothing happens through the whole movie, then you'd probably like Being John Malkovich. If you don't like those things, then you probably won't. I don't like them, so I did not like this movie.

My score: 1/10 (and that's only because IMDB doesn't let you give zeros).

64 out of 77 people found the following review useful:
An utter delight, 7 July 2001
10/10

This movie is an utter delight to watch. I have probably seen it a dozen times, and I never get tired of it. Everything about it is perfect: it's well-directed, well-acted, beautifully filmed, has great music, and the script and story are wonderful.

Agneiszka Holland does an outstanding job directing this film. Each character is separate and unique; each one has little personality quirks that makes it seem real. Just about every scene in the movie includes children, animals, or both -- which must have been a nightmare to coordinate. Ms. Holland pulls it off without a hitch. Everything melds perfectly, and we are transported to a distant place and time, and fall in love with real, human characters.

The primary three characters in this story -- Mary Lennox, Colin Craven, and Dickon -- are all children, played by actors who are around 10 years old. Ordinarily having one child in a movie is difficult enough, but again, somehow they pull it off. All three kids -- especially Kate Maberly -- do a fine job of acting, and they are quite credible. Kate is simply divine as Mary Lennox, and Heydon Prowse was a good counter-point to her as Colin.

The story is touching and charming, and I think you'd have to be almost inhuman not to have a tear in your eye by the end of it. I absolutely fell in love with these children, and came to care very much about their characters. The "secret garden" really does seem to be a magical place (and I will say no more about it, since otherwise that would spoil things), and at the end I found myself wishing I could go and visit it first-hand. The accompanying music is wonderful -- I find myself humming it for days and days after watching it.

In short, everything comes together to make this film a masterpiece. It is easily one of the 10 or 12 best movies ever made, perhaps *the* best movie ever made. I love it so much that I went out and bought the DVD of it, even though I'd seen it 8 or 10 times already. If you have not seen it I give it my highest possible recommendation. My score: 10/10.

An interesting premise, but missing something., 26 June 2001
6/10

This movie has a very interesting beginning: a man (Bruce Willis) survives a train wreck without a scratch. It turns out there are other curiosities about this man, and we get caught up in a mystery that takes some unexpected turns. Where the mystery ends up, I won't reveal, since that would spoil the plot -- I will say that it ends up in a very interesting place.

However, that said, I have a number of problems with the execution of the movie. First of all, I didn't care for the directing style at all. Many of the scenes felt needlessly "gimmicked" or "obfuscated." For instance, there was one scene where two characters are sitting in front of a TV talking to each other. Instead of seeing the characters directly, we see their reflections in the TV screen. I'm sure there's an artistic explanation for why he did that, but it felt goofy and pretentious to me -- like the director was trying too hard to do something "different." In another scene, we see about 60 seconds of activity through billowing curtains from outside the room. Most of what you see is the curtains, with only glimpses of what is going on inside. Again, I'm sure it appealed to the "artistic" crowd, but I found it annoying and artificial. I've always felt that true artistry should not call attention to itself -- you shouldn't notice it until you watch the film a second or even third time. So the director was too "present" in how the scene was played out.

Second, and much worse, many of the scenes were lethargic and slow. Long pauses were taken between the actors' lines -- far longer than required for a dramatic pause, far to frequently. Things felt "slow" through the entire movie. It was interesting in terms of the overall plot line, but the many of the individual scenes were utterly boring. I saw this movie for the first time on DVD (not in the theater), and more than once I almost reached for the remote and hit the "fast forward" button. I will say, it was interesting enough that I didn't actually hit the button; but the fact that I eyed the remote at least 5 different times speaks volumes. If it were a truly riveting movie, I wouldn't have been able to tell you where the remote *was*.

Finally, while I won't reveal the ending or what happens in the climax, I will say it felt like not enough happened. After the movie was over, I said out loud to myself, "That's it?" It felt incomplete to me. Not in the way that screams "sequel," because things are wrapped up, but the way in which they were wrapped up felt too quick. The way the general plot was structured, if you had read a 1-page treatment of the movie, you'd have said, "Wow! I bet this final scene will be packed with power and emotion." While it was surprising, it was not powerful or emotional. It was rather slow and stale, which, sadly, is how the entire rest of the movie felt.

Ultimately, Unbreakable was intellectually interesting, but emotionally empty. The performances were wooden. None of the characters really moved me or made me like them. It felt like everyone from the director to the actors to the cinematographer, could have used some caffeine or perhaps some energy bars -- the entire production lacked "energy." Unbreakable's probably worth seeing once, but if you don't see it, you haven't missed much -- and it's certainly not worth seeing more than once.

My score: 6/10

Historical fiction that delivers, 26 May 2001
8/10

Too often, movies predicted to be block-busters end up fizzling. Too often, Hollywood takes a historical event, makes a fictitious film based on it, and ruins both the event and the film. Happily, neither problem occurred with "Pearl Harbor." This is a film well worth a theater viewing, and not just for the special effects (which it has in plenty). It's long (about 3 hours), so be prepared, but unlike most long films I have seen, it does not drag. You wouldn't think an event as well known to us as Pearl Harbor would keep you on the edge of your seat, but at least for me, it did. I really felt like I was watching the actual attack on Pearl Harbor during the battle sequence. There are a few slightly graphic, bloody scenes in the hospital during and after the attack that perhaps we could have done without, but there wasn't too much gore -- nothing like "Saving Private Ryan" or "Patriot."

I found the acting to be reasonably good. Kate Beckinsale has been a favorite of mine since her surprising performance in Kenneth Branagh's "Much Ado About Nothing," and she did an excellent job in "Pearl Harbor" as well. Ben Affleck turned in a good performance also, as did most of the supporting cast. There is of course the typical Hollywood love story in the film, but they managed to do it gracefully enough that it did not seem *too* trite (though it was a bit annoying at times). The directing was outstanding, the script was good, and the music was excellent. "Pearl Harbor" won't go down in history as the greatest movie ever made, but it's the best film I've seen so far this year, and it was good enough that I will probably buy the DVD when it comes out -- which means it was good enough to watch several times, since otherwise I would not wish to own it.

My score: 8/10

A truly great film in many respects., 27 December 2000
10/10

Watching "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is almost like watching your own dream evolve on the screen. I mean this in only the most positive sense. It is pleasantly surreal, and works like the best of the dreams you have ever had. It follows the story of fictional characters a couple of hundred years ago in China, revolving around the theft of a legendary sword, and the revenge of a student for the death of his master. It is extremely satisfying on so many levels. I will try to name just a few of them.

First of all, the acting is superb. Michelle Yeoh doesn't actually get top billing in this movie, but she deserves to. She is utterly outstanding, and shows her talents as both an actress, and a martial artist. In one scene, she uses just about every martial arts weapon you've ever seen, each with equal skill. Add to that an earlier scene where she fights bare-handed, and you have some of the most highly skilled martial arts acting ever filmed. Newcomer Zhang Zi Yi is also wonderful. Not a martial artist herself, she clearly took her training for the film seriously, and learned well -- well enough to hold her own credibly with the likes of Michelle Yeoh. Zhang is also a terrific actress, portraying an extremely complex character very credibly.

The cinematography and directing are also outstanding -- nothing new for director Ang Lee. The fight scene I mentioned above, where Michelle Yeoh uses just about every martial arts weapon known to Man, also includes some very clever camera work. My favorite part is where they showed a rather long part of the fight sequence from directly over-head -- a rare angle in any fight sequence, whether in a martial arts movie, or in Star Wars or Zorro, and it worked well. I hope other directors follow the lead of Ang Lee and show that angle more often. But Ang Lee didn't just do a good job filming fight sequences. There is a ton of feeling and emotion in this movie, including two different love affairs, and equal attention and care was given to the quiet scenes. Ang's directing was both subtle and skillful.

The sound track also bears comment. It is moody and dream-like, adding to the impression that you are almost watching someone's dream unfold before you.

The combination of the factors mentioned above makes for a truly great movie. Ang Lee intermixed drama and comedy so cleverly that I was amazed. I found myself thinking, "I wish I could dream like this once in a while." I know Ang Lee not only has no plans for a sequel, but has vociferously rejected the idea, since he likes to try something new each time he makes a film. Personally, I hope he changes his mind. These are wonderful characters, it is a wonderful world... and it is a wonderful film. I want more, and I'm sure you will feel the same, after seeing it.

My score: 10/10.

Titanic (1997)
3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Pathetic, high-budget, glorified version of Love Boat, 11 October 2000
1/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As normal, I break with most people I know, since they generally loved this movie. I didn't like it at all, for a large number of reasons.

First of all, it was too long. They showed detail in scenes that did not need detail, and even within the movie, they re-hashed scenes multiple times. In fact, it almost felt like the second half of the movie was a poorly-done sequel to the first half of the movie. In the first half, we saw way too much detail about the 'daily life' on the ship, most of which I found boring and not worthy of my time to watch. In the second half, we saw a 90 minute pseudo-documentary of the sinking of the Titanic, an event which even in real life only took 2 hours. So basically, James Cameron showed us almost every single minute of the sinking. This is poor from a technical dramatic standpoint. Good drama glosses over the boring, nitty-gritty details, to focus on the important stuff. Cameron decided to show the nitty-gritty details with as much care and attention as the important sequences. Some interpret this as "great attention to detail." I don't see it that way. I see it as boring depiction of events that are neither relevant to the plot nor worthy of my time to witness.

This brings us to my second complaint about this movie: the plot. Basically, this was a glorified, very expensive version of the old TV show "The Love Boat." Indeed, most episodes of "Love Boat" that I can recall were of a higher caliber, plot-wise and dialog-wise, than this movie was. I thought the dialog was forced, and stale, and did not "ring true" at all. Cameron was too "present" in the movie -- that is, I felt that he was forcing the characters to do exactly what he wanted, rather than having events take their "natural" course. Probably, this is because he was depicting something based in truth (the sinking of the Titanic), and so he had no choice about where the overall story would end up (the ship sinks -- I assume this is not a spoiler for anyone, heh heh). Thus, he had to force the part of the story that leads up to the sinking in a certain direction, and he did this in a poor manner that was too blatant, and made the whole thing seem artificial.

I also thought both the principle actors (Kate Winslett, Leo DiCaprio) turned in terrible performances. I didn't really believe in either of them. Worse yet, they annoyed me, and their characters really irritated me. This is a terrible flaw in a disaster movie: if you dislike the characters to which the disaster (in this case, the sinking of the ship) is going to happen, then you really don't care whether they live or die. In fact, I was actually rooting for BOTH of them to die, because by the end of the film, they had irritated me enough that it was the only way I thought I'd get any satisfaction.

I will admit that the film had excellent special effects. Normally, I like special effects movies. I even don't mind ones that openly, honestly have no interest in plot, characters, or story. However, Titanic had none of those things except special effects, but tried to pretend like it did. It's that presumptuousness that really irritated me. The movie so blatantly lavish, scenes were so clearly done "just to show they could do it," that I could sense the arrogance of Cameron and the entire cast and crew in every scene.

This movie was a big waste of more than 3 hours of my time. My rating: 1/10.


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