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28 reviews in total 
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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Joint custody blows., 25 July 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'm not a collector of movies, but every once in a while a movie is just so good I have to own it. The Squid and the Whale made it into my very small DVD library very unexpectedly. It all started with a movie night at my last apartment. I didn't have anything in from Netflix, so Chris brings this movie out to screen. Of everyone I know, Chris's opinion of movies is probably the least heeded. He seems to find the worst films in the world and cherishes them while he doesn't like the best made, most entertaining, or otherwise brilliant movies. So I wasn't expecting much of anything but a sorry borefest like all his other films (for example, But I'm a Cheerleader, to be reviewed later on). When the film ended, Joe and Brian said, "Chris, never make me watch a movie like that again," but I was cheering.

To be sure, this is not your typical film. It doesn't start like other films, the dialog isn't like other films, the cinematic style isn't like other films, and the end is definitely unlike other films. This is the story of divorce from the perspective of two young brothers whose parents are both accomplished authors living in Brooklyn. Divorce isn't entertaining, but story telling isn't about entertainment nearly as much as it is in telling a story (obviously). Noah Baumbach did a fantastic job writing the quirky characters and their eccentric language. They aren't speaking English as you or I would speak it for they come from a literary family where they speak of Jean-Luc Godard, Orson Welles, and Franz Kafka in depth, but in a way that is non sequitur to the story but makes sense to the conversation they're having.

There is a lot of similarity between Baumbach's style and that of Wes Anderson, which can be credited to Anderson's producing this particular film (Baumbach also co-wrote Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou). It is a very serious film, but it treats the subject in a way I can only describe as "real." Anderson makes films that are normal things, but they're funny things, and Baumbach has this in Squid perfectly. We aren't in a comedy, we're in life, but life is funny, life is sad, life is depressing. There are points in the film where we are laughing, and other parts where we're crying, and others where we're uncomfortable - real.

"Joan, let me ask you something. All that work I did at the end of our marriage, making dinners, cleaning up, being more attentive. It never was going to make a difference, was it? You were leaving no matter what..."

"You never made a dinner."

"I made burgers that time you had pneumonia."

Some movies you'll watch do put you int he depressing situation, but they usually all resolve in the Hollywood fashion. This one is much more like Little Miss Sunshine in that it has a melancholy ending. But the ending is still very strong and powerful.

4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Well produced kitsch, 2 April 2007

I went to see One Night with the King with my brother-in-law and his wife. It was basically what you would expect from TBN when they throw a bunch of money at a movie. It was well made and the CGI wasn't entirely cheesy, but it was still piles of kitsch and over-acting.

One Night... is the story of Esther, except she's apparently oblivious to the fact that women of her day didn't speak in public, and certainly didn't prance about the marketplace cheerfully. Also, nobody told her that she wasn't supposed to hold western democratic philosophies and Anglo-Protestant individualism. Also, the writer of the story must not have read the original story because they threw in a sub-plot that involved a young male friend who has a crush on her that ends up a eunuch in her court. There is a level of tension between Esther and the King that hints at what the story could have been, but they dwelt much too long on side events that never happened for the story to blossom the way it should have.

Hard Candy (2005)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Low budget greatness, 2 April 2007

There are only six actors in this film and two of them are extras. But when you have loads of talent and a creative story, great things can happen.

Hard Candy is an interesting look at the child predator. Hayley Stark is a 14-year-old girl who meets a charming 32-year-old for coffee and goes back to his place to listen to music. The roles of predator and prey are smashed and the thrilling story is heart-pounding and sad.

"Ah, so you and your mother are both whacked?" The dialog is crafted with care, and the acting is delivered expertly.

"That's that whole nature versus nurture question, isn't it? Was I born a cute, vindictive, little bitch or... did society make me that way? I go back and forth on that..." This isn't a spoon-fed story, it unwraps in pieces throughout the film with a stunning conclusion that left my agape. Everything is well paced and designed with careful precision. The set is beautiful and the camera angles are interesting and beautiful. I especially loved the work with bright primary colors and muted tones as contrast.

Hard Candy proves you don't have to have a huge budget and high priced actors to create a masterpiece. The only caveat I have is how ridiculous the story gets at times, but this is forgettable.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Yawn inducing melodrama, 15 September 2006

Jared Hess is the creator/director the suckfest Napoleon Dynamite, and he's joined forces with Jack Black for this tour de force, and the results are predictable: 100 minutes of awkwardness with moments of wannabe rock-star. I don't imagine the preceding is very kind, but what can I say? Sensationalism sells.

Jack Black is an orphan who grows up to work in the orphanage, but his real passion is Los Luchadores (wrestling). When the orphanage comes across bad times, he finds an accomplice and competes for money. It is a story of tension between who he is and who he wishes he was. It's actually a great story, I don't don't like the pacing Hess uses, and his inability to invoke any emotion out of the actors other than awkwardness.

A few parts were pretty funny, but overall it was yawntastic.

Bananas (1971)
6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
One-liners aplenty, and definitely worth a watch., 24 August 2006

At the recommendation of a friend, I watched Woody Allen's Bananas. Allen is often portrayed in the media and by critics as an albatross of Hollywood, and I really don't have a lot of experience with his films. Besides Bananas, I have only seen Match Point, which is one of the best films I've ever seen. Being made in 1971, Bananas touches on the activism culture of the time, and the USA's involvement in South American politics. Focused around the the fictitious country of San Marcos, presumably any number of nation-states the USA was involved in destroying. It opens with the president of San Marcos being assassinated and a general taking the reigns of power in the country.

Good afternoon. Wide World of Sports is in the republic of San Marcos where we are going to bring you a live on the spot assassination. They're going to kill the president of this lovely Latin American country and replace him with a military dictatorship.

A strong-handed dictator, a group of (apparently marxist) rebels ban together in opposition. Woody Allen's character is living in the States and falls in love with an activist who is looking for support of the people of San Marcos. They make plans together to fly down there in a show of solidarity, but his girlfriend breaks up with him (in one of the most humorous moments of dialog recorded on film). Because he already had plans to go, he visits San Marcos where he is unwittingly joined to the rebel cause.

This is a very funny movie, especially is you are a fan of Groucho Marx - Allen's influence is quite obvious through lines such as, "I object, your honor! This trial is a travesty. It's a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham." But Woody also brings his own spin, which is pretty political - "You cannot bash in the head of an American citizen without written permission from the State Department." Most of it is one-liners or character comedy, but there are also cleverly composed dialog sequences and wacky settings. The film making is somewhat weak, and the musical score is odd, but this is about on par with early 70s movies. The story was flimsy, but apparently most of the movie was filmed improv. It is definitely worth a watch if only for the last scene alone.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Moral conflict, sunny skies, that's all., 15 August 2006

Themes of moral ambiguity have been around for centuries. Since Hollywood began making films, this theme has played out across the silver screen countless times. The best use of this element comes in the form of Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers; the worst would be The Princess Diaries and She's The Man. It really shows up in any movie with some sort of moral conflict, sometimes it is overt, and other times it is in the subliminal story. In The Matador, I'm not sure where it is. It seems to be right in the front, but this is definitely not the focus.

Pierce Brosnan plays a hit-man who has no pleasure in life, so he drinks, smokes, and finds the occasional brothel. In Mexico City, he finds himself in the hotel bar making the acquaintance of Greg Kinnear, a blooming entrepreneur who may have just scored the deal of a lifetime. The two of them spend the following day together at a bull fight where Greg learns Brosnan's profession. He thinks it is a joke until Pierce includes him unwittingly in making a score. This is where I will end my telling of the story and start telling what I thought of it.

The actors' performances were superb, given the material they had to work with. The story lacked depth, and was a lengthened tale centered around one event. The story was sloppy, and felt like it was reaching out to where it would have been good, but never reached that point. The cinematography was pretty, but nothing new.

I don't think they elevated it much higher than a scripted "reality TV show". It showed a few people interact in joyful dialog, and in conflicting dialog - and none of it really helped the story along. Perhaps I just expected more out of it.

Seriously, watch it, 14 August 2006

This movie is pretty genius. It was written by the same screenwriter of Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Charlie Kaufman), and if you've seen those you know how original and quirky it is, and what kind of humor is underneath the tragic story. Adaptation was, in my opinion, better than both of those other films.

Nicolas Cage plays Charlie Kaufman, and his fictitious twin brother Donald Kaufman. Charlie is adapting a book, The Orchid Thief (a real book by Susan Orlean), but is having trouble writing the screenplay. He ends up writing himself into the movie. The completed product is this genius movie, Adaptation.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Not worth its weight in controversy, 14 August 2006

It was better than the critics said, but not as good as the hype. I agree with the critics when they said it wasn't a good role for Tom Hanks (it seemed forced), but disagreed when they said it was plodding, boring or worse. It was two-and-a-half hours long, but the suspenseful pace was quick, even if the dialog was heavy (lots of talking - it was a book at one point after all). It was interesting to see how the story involves real events, places and things with fiction and conspiracy. That was really cool. A lot of it didn't make sense, but that's what you get when you try to make things exciting (why was this random guy interested in the cryptex?).

The Christians made a huge fuss over the movie, and I feel only one organization was justified in it - Opus Dei. They officially didn't make a huge deal out of it, they pretty much just opened up to explain what they're about,a nd re-released their founder's book, The Way. There really isn't a need for the Church to expend so much energy fighting Dan Brown when they should be focusing on teaching scriptures and sound doctrine. The secular world has been doing a stellar job discounting all of Dan Brown's claims - just watch The History Channel to see.

Overall, this movie is a solid rental, but that's about it.

Capote (2005)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Deserving of reward, 14 August 2006

This is a film about Truman Capote's research into a quadruple murder in a small Kansas town. Not the murder itself, but how it affected the people in the town, and who the murderers were. Capote is an eccentric character, and somewhat infectious. I don't want to give away too much of the story, so I'll go right to my thoughts.

This film deserves all of the awards and nominations it received. Every character was perfectly cast, and the acting was superb. Each shot was carefully framed, and the colors were balanced and saturated beautifully. Capote is the best film I've seen (from a technical standpoint) since Brokeback Mountain. But unlike the latter movie, Capote did manage to be compelling, and connected the characters to me, the viewer.

This is not one film I would rave about, but it is worth watching for those who enjoy a beautifully crafted movie.

Seabiscuit (2003)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
American drama, 14 August 2006

It is a grand story starting with one man, at the turn of the 19th century, moving out west to pursue the American dream. He repairs bicycles. There wasn't much bicycle business, but a man comes to him to fix his Stanley Steamer. He ends up reworking the thing, boosting its performance. He turns his business into this and soon creates race cars. He is quite successful, and amasses quite a fortune. Around this time, the stock market crashes, throwing the country into turmoil. His son dies in an automobile accident, and he locks up the cars in his barn and quits his work on them. He gets a divorce from his wife (quite common when a child dies, actually), and lives a melancholy life until he ends up at a horse track in Tijuana. He meets a nice young lady there, and they marry. Together they hire a trainer, jockey, and buy a horse (Seabiscut). They train this thing to race, and it wins, and keeps on winning. They then pursue the triple-crown winner, War Admiral.

This film is really pretty good. It has a good story arc, great acting, and great cinematography with beautiful landscapes. It makes you feel good, it really does. But the whole time, I kept thinking I was cheering for a horse. Oh yeah, apparently horses are people too. I guess I should have watched Black Beauty one more time. At times, they try to be philosophical, and the whole time they're working on the ultimate underdog story. The horse is about half the size of War Admiral, the jockey is too tall, blind in one eye, and broke his leg (for a minute I expected him to wind up with leukemia or something), and the trainer was a loner. But they had spirit ... American spirit. They do make this quite an American film, full of American underdogism, American pride, and the American dream. But, really, this is a great movie. I honestly would watch it again.

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