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Like its characters, flawed but inspiring., 12 May 2002

"Life as a House" isn't perfect. It doesn't even come close to perfection. It is hopelessly bogged down with superfluous plot lines, excessive dialogue, and wacky token characters with no real relevance to the story. And yet, "House" manages to overcome all of those flaws to become a truly heartfelt, emotional movie.

It must be stated, right off the bat, that Hayden Christensen is the star of this movie. As Sam Monroe, the blue-haired, multiple-pierced, hopelessly drug-addicted son of divorced parents George (Kevin Kline) and Robin (a mostly stoic and stone-faced Kristin Scott Thomas), Christensen is given his first camera time huffing paint and throttling himself with a necktie in his closet before jacking off. All of this before he even eats breakfast. This character is essentially unlikable; he antagonizes his mother, hates his oddball father, and dabbles in prostitution for baggies of marijuana. When he is forced to spend the summer with terminally-ill George (who wants desperately to repair their damaged relationship before he dies), Sam is quick to down his father's painkillers and verbally and emotionally attack him. It's amazing what Christensen weaves into this character. Underneath the hostility and hatred is a frightened boy who wants to reach out to George but won't. He is so convincing and believable; the scene after George flushes Sam's drugs was my favorite, sublime acting on both parts. Even when Sam removes his chin ring and stops popping pills, he's still edgy, still needs a shoulder to fall onto. I don't really like Jena Malone in her role as Alyssa (Sam's love interest) but boy, those shower scenes were surprisingly intense.

Of course, you can find fault with this film. There are plot holes that rival the Grand Canyon (exactly what disease does George have again? Oh, wait, they don't actually say). Kristin Scott Thomas was duller than dirt for the first 75% of the movie. She warmed up after a while, but only she could deliver, deadpan, a line confessing that she hates her own son. The whole Mary Steenburgen/Ian Somerhalder line should have ended up on the cutting room floor; it had nothing to do with the plot and didn't involve any relevant characters. Kevin Kline was outstanding, but still, Hayden Christensen stole the entire movie out from under him.

If you're looking for big-name stars and perfect filmmaking, don't come within a mile of this movie. If you want a truly endearing, emotionally intense movie showcasing some very talented newcomers (and veterans), I highly recommend it.

263 out of 319 people found the following review useful:
Middle Earth comes breathtaking detail., 17 February 2002

When I first saw the trailers for "The Fellowship of the Ring," I had never had any interest in reading the lengthy tome of a trilogy. But seeing the possibility of the movie, I immediately went out and read the whole thing, insisted on receiving it for Christmas, and enjoyed every minute of it. The feelings I had while reading the series were heightened seeing it come to life in the stunning movie. I thought it was a fabulous work of art.

I thought that having Galadriel tell what was basically the prologue of the book was a good idea, as it helped those who had never read the story. It also immediately involved me in the film; I felt I had an insider's advantage on the rest of the audience. Cate Blanchett has a wonderfully deep and emotional voice; the way she speaks Galadriel is almost as effective as her appearence as the Elven queen. Also, showing the last battle of Isildur and Sauron helped unfog a part of the novel that had me a trifle confused.

The entire movie is full of beautiful sets and landscapes. The Shire was almost exactly as I'd pictured it. Hobbiton is cute and very whimsical. Mordor was frighteningly well done, extremely real. Rivendell had a little bit of a European-tourist-trap look, but was beautiful all the same. The entire backdrop of the movie (the mountains, Moria, Isengard) was perfect; it's amazing that "Fellowship" was filmed in one country.

Now to the characters. All I can say is, "Wow." I was a little apprehensive about the casting at first; I'd created such real images of the characters in my imagination, I almost didn't want them spoiled for me. However, I was not disapointed in the least. Elijah Wood, though not one of my favorite actors, was believable. You could tell from the first glimpse that Frodo was special; Wood's pale, sharp features contrast sharply with the more ruddy, robust look of the rest of the hobbits. He also cries like a little girl. But his weaknesses and strengths make his Frodo an apt choice for the starring character. The rest of the Hobbiton gang was well-chosen, too. Sean Astin ("Rudy" forever to me) was loyal and a bit bumbling, just like the Gamgee of Tolkien's telling. Pippin and Merry were congenial, slow-witted lads, but very brave nonetheless. Viggo Mortensen is outstanding. He has the ability to make Aragorn both menacing and kind. He physically represents Strider to the nines with his strength and virility; the action sequences of his are very passionate and exciting. Some may have complained about Arwen's character being slightly expanded; I thought it a good change. In the books, you have to read the whole trilogy and then rifle through the appendix in "The Return of the King" to learn the history between Aragorn and Arwen. Liv Tyler is ethereal and breathtaking, but at the same time displays the courage and magic that make the Elves the beings they are. Speaking of Elves, I can't help but gush over the handsome and ever-so-talented Orlando Bloom as noble Legolas. Bloom captured the archer's very movements; he treads lightly and fights fearlessly. Legolas's bowmanship was amazing; he looked so natural loosing his arrows machine-gun style. He was my favorite character in the books, and his essence transcends the film. Gimli was pompous and brave, as well. He is well-represented in the movie. Boromir was hopelessly lost, but at the same time valiant and strong. Sean Bean gave an emotionally-charged performance as the tortured warrior. Hugo Weaving was very good as Elrond. He was noble and cold at the same time. And Gandalf. What more can be said of Ian McKellan's showcase portrayal of the wizard? He was magnificent. He could be Gandalf, the kind old conjurer who set off pyrotechnics for hobbit-children. Then he could turn around and stun the life out of you with Gandalf the powerful wizard, facing the balrog with defiance and an iron will. His Oscar nomination is well-deserved.

Peter Jackson is a brave soul to take on a project that could have backfired in so many places. Instead of bringing us uninspired kitsch, he serves up raw emotion, graphic battles of good and evil, chilling and wonderful characters, and enough special effects (realistic, mind you) to make John Cameron's mouth water. Knowing that "The Two Towers" was my favorite of the books, I eagerly anticipate the second helping of "The Lord of the Rings."

12 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
All I Wanna watch this movie., 27 December 2001

Okay, so that's a little much. But seriously, this is one of the funniest teen-related movies I've seen, and I've seen most of them. The cast is delightful, especially Kirsten Dunst as Verena, the quick-witted ringleader of the Daughters of the American Ravioli. She and her friends Tinka, Tweetie, and Momo take Odette, a new student at Miss Goddard's School for Girls, under their trouble-making, big-dreaming wings and try to stop their beloved school from going co-ed. It sounds like a thin premise for a movie, and maybe it is, but the characters are real and humorous and some of the scenes are extremely funny. The dance, where Verena and Momo spike the punch and intoxicate the choir boys of St. Ambrose, is hilarious, especially if you can pick out Hayden Christensen as a drunken student. And Tom Guiry, Scotty Smalls of "The Sandlot" fame, grew up and got himself some muscles. My one real problem with this movie was Gaby Hoffman as Odette. She was, for the most part, the one dull person in a crowd of comical characters. Her main goal is to be an "ex-virgin" and then become a politician. She's rather boring and expressionless compared to the rest of the DAR. This movie is funny and charming and perfect for a group of girlfriends to watch together. I'd suggest it along the same lines as "Ten Things I Hate About You." I give it 7 stars out of 10.

It's crap, but entertaining crap., 27 December 2001

"A Knight's Tale" is the kind of movie that you laugh at in the theater and then go home and wonder why the heck you did. The premise is cheesy and overused, the historical stuff probably extraordinarily inaccurate, and most of the actors couldn't act their way out of paper bags. But I found myself nonetheless enjoying the film.

Maybe it's because I'm a young woman and find Heath Ledger really, really attractive. Or because I love Queen. But I, um, liked it.

Ledger is actually pretty good at salvaging a role that could have been formulaic-hero-type and turning William into a hopeful, ambitious young man with a clumsy romantic streak. He also makes a dandy knight. Chaucer was funny. Maybe not politically correct for the period, but a nice touch. The sidekicks were unnecessary and rather annoying. And don't get me started on Shannyn Sossamon. I've seen kitchen appliances with more spark than her. Her scenes with Ledger were passable; they had some chemistry. But she couldn't manage to inflect anything but "you have to love me 'cause I'm pretty AND a princess" otherwise.

The jousting scenes were some of my favorites. Something about a medieval sport set to classic rock music just sucked me in. They were the most imaginative part of the film. And the parts about William and his father were touching and sweet. So, in conclusion, not a great piece of work, but a slick and entertaining movie that needs to be watch with great ability to suspend disbelief. And it has blond, bronzed Heath Ledger in armor. See it for him. Otherwise, don't bother.

A Mindless Interpretation of Outstanding Literature, 23 December 2001

I'll admit it; I'm a teenager and have read every one of the "Harry Potter" books several times over. I love J.K. Rowling's subtle, sarcastic wit and clever story-telling, which was completely missing from this movie.

"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" is a beautifully made movie that fails to involve the viewer. It skims over the best parts of the books, which are, sadly, the smallest and most minute details that apparently didn't seem important enough to garner screen time. Case in point: the Weasley twins. Fred and George provide the most entertaining comic relief in the books, and were barely mentioned in the movie, let alone shown. Except for the Quidditch scene, of course. The tiny nuances of Rowling's writing can't be shown on the big screen, and so the film cannot compare to reading the series.

Another qualm I had with it was the fact that Cris Columbus focused mainly on making "Sorcerer's Stone" a child-oriented action flick. If they had spent more time working with the actors, who were, by the way, very good with the small parts allotted them, I might have been more moved.

Don't get me wrong. Some parts were excellent, such as Diagon Alley. The casting was well done; the children work well with each other and the adults all fit their characters' descriptions to the nines. But I thought it was predictable (obviously) and plodding, completely lacking any inspiration. I'm hoping, for the audience's sake, that the makers of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" find the magic that makes the books the marvels they are.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Almost a perfect Ten, 11 December 2001

Take away the beautiful people. The designer clothes. The nifty camera work. What've you got? A really, really cool movie. There's no other word to describe it. It's cool.

George Clooney is ever the charmer as professional thief Danny Ocean. As his go-to guy, Brad Pitt shows all the subtle comic flair that tried really hard to make "The Mexican" a good movie. His wardrobe alone is funny. Matt Damon (as an apprentice pickpocket) and the rest of the title Eleven make a great supporting cast; the Malloy brothers and their chameleon abilities are especially humorous. Julia Roberts is okay. Really, her part is so small that any number of actresses could've played it. But, hey, another big name for the credits. Andy Garcia is menacing and unlikeable. Obviously, we're rooting for Robin Hood and his Merry Men to rob the Sheriff.

Okay. The movie isn't perfect. But it's a fun thrill ride with so many twists that you don't know whether something that appears to go wrong is actually a part of the robbery plan or not. Some parts smack of "Mission, Impossible," but it's easier to delve into and a heck of a lot more entertaining. The ending isn't a surprise, but how the heist is pulled off is clever. You'll be sitting on the edge of your seat by the end of "Ocean's Eleven."