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Like so many others, I was looking forward to this film. And considering most aspects, viewers will not be disappointed. The action is relentless. The pace is breathtaking. The betrayals and reversals are heart-wrenching. It is exactly as predicted: the darkest of all 6 Star Wars movies.
Lucas has been a stickler for perfection in his movies and in this case, I feel I've been let down. Darth Sidious tells Anakin "Good and evil are just a point of view." Then Obi-Wan Kenobi tells Anakin, "Only a Sith lord deals in absolutes." Well, Mr. Lucas, which is it? Are Darth Sidious and his apprentice truly relativists, as so many who are evil use relativism to justify themselves? Or are the Sith *absolutely* dealing in absolutes. And here's the true logical contradiction...if ONLY a Sith lord deals in absolutes, and Kenobi said "only," meaning absolutely no one else, isn't that a logical fallacy? It's amazing how one misplaced line can make a terrific movie into something far less than it could be.
The Rookie (2002)
Respectable Movie Worth A Look
Usually I review a movie just after I've seen it, but the last time I saw this one was a full 2 weeks ago. Yet it still sticks in my mind and heart.
Baseball movies are inspirational by nature and seem to have all kinds of application to life (for example, my review of Field of Dreams). Jimmy Morris challenges the losing baseball team he's coaching to not give up on their dreams and has the challenge thrown right back at him. This wouldn't make for such drama if the majority of the movie up to that point hadn't been to show how Jimmy's own dream had been systematically dismantled. Such movies anyone can write, but when I found out it was a true story, it put the movie in a higher bracket altogether.
The conflict between Jimmy and his father is played very well by both Quaid and Cox. At one point or another, you can just feel coldness of the walls built up between them. They're reaching out (Hunter's baseball glove, Jimmy's asking advice), but can they ever connect?
While some might balk (sorry) at the presence of Hunter, Jimmy's son, I think the kid adds a lot to the film. Baseball is all about kids, anyway. And it's good to see a son who looks up to and believes in his dad. That phase is over far too soon for most fathers to enjoy it enough. I think the dream is as much Hunter's as it is his father's.
The theme of the Rookie is "never give up on your dreams." That's laudable. But the affirmation of the importance of families, even through broken relationships, as well as a clean script, makes this one that families can buy to watch every now and then. Disney surprised me with this believable, down-to-earth tale. I'm definitely picking this one up on DVD.
We Were Soldiers (2002)
Unique Vietnam War Movie
Okay, let's leave out that one of my favorite movies, Braveheart, comes from the Gibson/Wallace team. This is still a good flick. Every Vietnam War movie I've seen before this one seems to have some angle, some statement to be made. Just like Job's friends, when we see something that doesn't make sense, it's human nature to put out our own take on it to try to reconcile what we have experienced. Yet, this is one of the few movies that hesitates to carry that burden. It doesn't overtly accuse the politicians, the press or the military for Vietnam's ultimate failure. It tells a story from a Lt. Colonel's perspective, not coming from some frightened kid's coming-of-age perspective and not with some leftist ideological blinders like Born on the Fourth of July, or Platoon, or--shudder--Apocalypse Now. It's told by a man who understands battle, the killing, and the maiming. It's told to pay tribute to men who answered their country's call to go and fight.
And men they were. They were men with families and friends. They were men who risked seeing their children grow up because of their willingness to go fight. As a father, that hits home. Few war movies pause to address the internal conflict a soldier must face prior to deployment and the turmoil it creates with those who love them. Fewer still recognize faith and religion's impact on the whole equation. It only adds depth to their characters and makes them more real. Man is a spiritual being, and far too often, that fact is overlooked for telling a story or to keep from making people "uncomfortable."
There are some intense moments and very graphic violence. The casual viewer may overlook one scene where a guy is struck by phosphorous. But burning phosphorous is like little chunks of the sun and it won't stop burning for anything. The aftermath where his buddy helps him still chills me because I know a little about what has to happen for him to survive. On the whole, the gore is significant and extensive. Braveheart and Saving Private Ryan are comparably tame by some measures. So unless you *live* for that sort of thing, you may come away with a queasy stomach.
I watched this during the second Persian Gulf War, so the ramifications of soldiers dying hit with much more force. Consider this when you make your movie choices. You may want a comedy or a classic instead of this, considering.
A Walk to Remember (2002)
Highschool Movie Gets An A-Minus
From someone who just attended his 10th High School reunion, this film reminded me that the more things change with high school--and especially movies about high school--the more they stay the same. Yet something about this movie is profoundly different and warrants attention.
The leads are believable and both remind me of several friends I knew back then. The dynamics of faith, worldview, and upbringing don't hit you over the head. Shining moments show up throughout. Mandy Moore brings across Jamie as believable, not a caricature of some religious nut. In contrast, the father--think Rev. Moore in Footloose (what did I say about the more things change?)--is pretty over-the-top. Still, there is change even in him, and all good movies are about changes to people. Landon's father's attempts to reach his son are well intentioned and his love for him wins out in the end. The rest of the supporting cast is stuck to the "predictable" that Jamie and Landon are loath to, right down to the ditzy drama teacher.
Most importantly, the movie is surprisingly clean. None of the so-common-its-required sex is present or even implied, just kissin'. Cussing was minimal and served the situation. There's a single-punch fight, but it underscores Landon's desire to protect Jamie.
For me, The Fugitive, Braveheart, and Lord of the Rings are staples. Yet when you need a movie to squeeze your honey with, this is a great choice. Guys, you may need to blame your allergies for your eyes watering.
Field of Dreams (1989)
Baseball? Yes, but much more
Okay, let's forget the catchy phrases, the whispering corn, the strawman argument from the right-wing soccer mom, and the flower child wife. That's what's bad about this movie.
This movie endears itself to many because it touches on enough issues that affect us. It raises questions like, `What is my calling?' `What if I turn out just like my father?' `Can I go home again?'
There is some spiritualistic, almost-but-not-quite fodder I could tear into, but instead, I'll mention the good points I took home from this movie.
People may think you're crazy if you plow up a field for a dream. Plow it up, or you'll spend the rest of your life wondering.
Take care of your relationships, and invest in them, or you just might have to journey across the country as penance.
Decisions to alter the course of your life out of love for others seldom turn out to be the wrong ones.
Be honest with your spouse and listen to him or her.
When this movie came out, I admit that I got very little out of it other than the importance of Ray's father and the closing scene. A few years later, I got more out of it. This time, I think I've gotten even more out of it. That's one of the marks of a good movie. Look past some glaring problems with the movie and withhold some skepticism, and let the movie speak to you.
But I'd still run for my life from whispering corn.
A Walk in the Clouds (1995)
Cynicism Kills Any Good Movie, Especially This One
This movie is for the romantics, not the cynics. It's for those who believe in treating a woman with honor and respect. It's for those who believe that love is about sacrifice and commitment, not consumption and convenience. It's for the ones who believe that there is someone out there for them.
A Walk In the Clouds talks about the importance of family, belonging, and love, love even for the imperfect parent who doesn't know how to show love back. And that is something no cynic dares confront seriously. I see a little bit of the characters in the people I know around me. That's the mark of a good movie.
Vertical Limit (2000)
Oxygen Deprived Writers Fail to Connect with Audience
The writers must have been at altitude when they put this one in their laptops, because the writing was just a little too canned and the characters just a little too dingy to be in a dramatic action flick. The telegraphed delivery of the deaths of "expendible" characters was so over-used that it was difficult to connect with any character at all. Even the plot device of orphaning the two main characters fails to build enough of a sympathy bond. Heck, it works for Disney, so you can't blame them for trying.
I have climbed long class III's (difficult, but no ropes required) and I was suckered in by the stunts in the previews. Given my exposure to the sport, the technical gaffes and medical screw-ups were distracting enough to overcome any lasting impact of the stunts. For example, not everyone reacts to altitude the exact same way, even well below the altitude of K2.
Bill Paxton plays an eeeevil villain and Scott Glenn plays (what else?) a grizzled old man who knows everything. The rest of the characters just don't make the leap from the screen to the audience. Aside from a few great one-liners (all seen in memorable quotes--at left) and some fantastic stunts, this movie is missable. Maybe we should cut the rope again, just to be sure.
The Princess Diaries (2001)
The Princess Diaries has something for everyone
It's difficult to let Eisner's Disney in the house with small kids these days without strapping the mouse to the lie detector and asking him some very pointed questions. Not all of what comes out on the Disney label is appropriate for the under-14 set.
So with just a touch of skepticism, I asked around about it after hearing a good review from another source and I was surprised to find everyone liked it well enough to recommend it. So I took my daughter on a date to her very first movie, complete with popcorn, Coke and candy. And I only had to take out a modest bank loan to cover the concession costs. But I digress...
The Princess Diaries is a movie that everyone over 5 can enjoy. Remarks that explode the left coast's loss of touch with reality may sail over kids--and some adults'--heads (i.e. a high school PA system asks, "Would the Feng Shui club please stop moving the tables on the lawn?"). As with Garry Marshall's other recent film, Runaway Bride, Hector Alizondo comes away with some of the best lines and certainly the best delivery. Julie Andrews pulls of the role of Queen nicely, although the emotional separation she feels is a bit underplayed. The kids can really relate to Mia, who comes off as, well...a princess. A happy ending seals the deal. Others have said the acting is mediocre, but what can you expect from a mouse? I stand up and applaud this movie, if only because it provided a wonderful date for me and my baby girl.
Lost in Space (1998)
Remake Doesn't Quite Shake the B-movie Feel
For those born in the age of Star Trek and Star Wars, the novelty of Lost In Space TV series falls in the same category of most sci-fi B-movies of the 50's and 60's. Unfortunately, the movie remake doesn't seem to shake these cobwebs off it's tail, despite the eye-popping special effects.
I'm always suspicious of the remake syndrome that surfaces every year in Hollywood. It's appealing to the producers and investors because it's easier to predict the outcome than what comes from some hack with a script and an unproven storyline. This was a noble effort, but it's no blockbuster.
Shining stars? There's Gary Oldman, whose Zachary Smith is just as sinister and pretentious as the original, and William Hurt, whose father-commander character is ridden with tension but doesn't lapse into the brooding that was characteristic of his other notable film, The Doctor. The others make an effort, but they don't quite pull it off. It feels like a day at the office.
If you are absolutely desparate for a movie, this would be a nominal "dollar rental" but not worth buying in any frame of mind.
It was a dark and stormy night...
Unbreakable was a movie that uses darkness and shadows to it's advantage. Like comic books that are 90 percent blue and black ink, this one leaves you with that gritty ink feel. I appreciate that the movie was not spelled out in all dialogue, but the predictable plot, dark scenes (where did they shoot this movie, Seattle with lots of tarps?) and slow tension build makes this film less than recommendable.
Fans of comic books and superheroes undoubtedly enjoy the film for it's comic book tie-in. But the comic book theme is only superimposed, which makes it a lose-lose for all audiences. It was great with character development of the hero, to which we can and should relate. But as usual, criminal insanity is used to cover a poorly constructed villain, as it's difficult to identify with the insane, even if you're insane yourself. Robin Wright Penn seems to be type-cast as the forlorn love (i.e. Princess Bride, Message in a Bottle). The father-son relationship should have developed more as Dunn (Willis) discovered his purpose (to become "Security Man!"). Willis shines, albeit for his brooding. The rest of the movie is lost somewhere in the shadows.