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vertigo_14

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98 out of 114 people found the following review useful:
A cinematic homage to 17th Century Flemish painters (not just Vermeer). (minor spoilers), 27 April 2004
9/10

Girl with a Pearl Earring is based on the novel by Tracy Chevalier, who tells the story of a forbidden love affair (pardon the cliché) between painting master, Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth), and the only woman who seemed to appreciate his work, a timid young maid named Grit (Scarlett Johansson).

Grit is hired to work in the Vermeer household. Had you not known anything about Vermeer prior to viewing the film, it seems as though he is some deformed creature the family wishes to keep secret. The family always linger near the door to Vermeer's studio, as though something dangerous was contained within. And, as the story goes along, you might get the impression that he is a nasty fellow, the way everyone approaches the studio so delicately, careful not to disturb anything. Says one maid to Grit, he doesn't like people bothering him when he is working.

In a way, Johannes is a real bastard to his wife, children, and mother-in-law. As a painter, they're never sure whether he is going to get the commissions from the arrogant, but jolly rich patron Van Ruijven (Tom Wilkinson), or whether they'll be escaping debtors by fleeing in the middle of the night.

Grit is curious, and at the same time, smitten with Johannes Vermeer, probably because of the initial mystery. She gains an interest in Vermeer, and in a way, also becomes his painting apprentice, helping him to mix paints, making creative suggestions about the paintings, and so forth. Vermeer introduces her to a rather different world that Grit has never known. And the two for a silent bond, a love for each other. Johannes appreciate's Grits company as a comfortable contrast to his mother-in-law, children, and especially his wife, he only seem to try to discourage his silly hobbies.

But, Johannes and Grit cannot act on their feelings for each other, at least not aloud. Divorce was highly out of the question, for one thing. But second, Johanne's was dependent on the arrogant Van Rijn for his commissions, and Van Rijn wanted Grit. Disgusted as Johannes may have been, and only slightly able to protect her (you'll see what I mean in the finale), he can't totally reject his financer. Plus, there is the barrier of master and maid, presenting a rigid social structure. And for Grit, she can only play out her affair with Johannes vicariously through her boyfriend, the Butcher.

Even if the story is not grounded in fact, or is based on little fact, the story of how Vermeer's painting, The Girl With a Pearl Earring came to be is one that presents a little mystery and romance to a painting. You can find something to appreciate it, beyond just consideration of the artistic elements of lighting or coloring, etc. In fact, art is always more fun with an intriguing story behind it (consider the controversy behind Whistler's 'Peacock Room').

I thought the movie did a fantastic job of recreating 17th century Netherlands. But what you may not know without having seen many 17 century painting, is that nearly every scene in the movie is constructed from 17 th century paintings, of Vermeers, Frans Halls, Van Dyke, and many others. The entire movie is, as one other viewer coined it, a "cinematic painting," but not just because it is a movie about the beauty of one painting, but because it is a movie entirely constructed from paintings. It was really incredible how precise everything is. Lighting, placement of figures. The actors would have to walk around a room and then at one point, hit their points precisely (props and all) to capture that one moment reflected in the painting from which it was taken from. This is really a great film for the art direction alone.

81 out of 93 people found the following review useful:
Long live William McKinley High School, 1980! (minor spoilers), 3 April 2005
8/10

I have just finished watching the Complete Series DVD collection of "Freaks and Geeks," one of the best high school television series on televisions that, thanks to idiotic network executives who continue to make the decisions that make network television more and more unbearable to watch, have truly missed out on a gem. And, thanks to a healthy fan network, I was able to enjoy every bit of the series (as short as it was) on DVD.

Freaks and Geeks was one of the most honest portrayals of high school life, pleasantly departing from the overrated attention given to other television series and films who consistently focus on the "untouchable" classes of the dreaded high school social caste system that we are all likely too familiar with. The assorted teen dramas, and the difficulty of just subsisting in the often passively rigid classes within the high school social scene. This television series presented things from two perspectives: a group of freshman friends marked as "The Geeks" and a group of older friends, underachievers known as "The Freaks." The Geeks often provided the comical element to the show, while the Freaks often explore more dramatic story lines such as problems with parents (a constant subplot), self-esteem, drugs, and more. Although the Geeks confronted their own share of problems, their youth and easygoing attitude often made the situation more light-hearted.

Other commentators have often posited the question (on the "Freaks and Geeks" board along with other short-lived television series) why shows like these never last long on television. While "Saved by the Bell" might have been the only show to be quite successful with it (though only after significant retooling of the original series, "Good Morning Mrs. Bliss would NBC even agree to pick up the show), my guess is that this show may have initially had a difficult time finding a loyal audience in the crucial early days of the show. There were issues of drug use and teenage sex which some might not have found ideal for the younger viewers of this show (people in their very early teens as this show tended to sometimes celebrate drug use...even though there was one episode that was clearly anti-drug). Five years ago was a different time, however. And shows like "The O.C." (on Fox) seems to get away with stories surrounding its "young" characters and attitudes towards casual sex. Sadly, however, the network, too, is to blame, as it shifted the show into unrecognizable time slots, airing a show that was ideal for young audiences at a time when they would least likely be watching television--Friday and Sunday evenings. I cannot say that this would be why other television series surrounding high school would also be canceled.

It might also be that the show was never given a fair chance. Some might have quickly judged it as a rip-off of "The Wonder Years" (John Daly and the Geek Gang--especially Neil and Harris--did look like characters you might find on that show, not to mention the high school looking just like that in The Wonder Years).

My other guess for the reason that shows like these are often short-lived is that they are too expensive to produce. "Freaks and Geeks," like "My So-Called Life" filled a lengthy time slot of fifty minutes or so. Filmed partially on location and partially on a set (like "Sqaure Pegs" and "My So-Called Life"), a show like this becomes very expensive to produce and, may unfortunately force some hasty decisions about how long a network would ride out slack ratings.

I still think NBC passed up a good thing, and possibly other networks if it was pitched to them once being canceled. It was a great show that tried to produce a very dynamic set of characters and stories and did well.

I would also like to say while I adored nearly every character on the show (except for Nick who's obsession with Lindsay transformed him into not only a bizarre, but a boring character), I thought Martin Starr was the best as the witty Bill Haverchuck (I love his Bionic Woman bit when he is getting his costume ready in the Halloween episode). Though I thought him to be needlessly bizarre in the beginning (particularly due to his gawky appearance), he turned out to be one of the best characters. He always tried his best to be a good friend to everyone and, he always had some of the funniest lines in th show (Joe Flaherty, as Sam's dad, also had a bunch of good one-liners). And, while he was not in the show but sporadically, I also loved 'Harris,' the Geek mentor who always seemed so confident about everything.

Long live Freaks and Geeks! May the television show's creators reconsider trying this one again (even if you have to start over with a new cast, since everyone has aged six years--as of this writing).

54 out of 54 people found the following review useful:
Simply the best., 12 April 2004
10/10

84 Charing Cross Road is one of my favorite movies. Based on the memoirs of Helene Hanff (the book contains the letters from which they read throughout the film), this is the story of a single New York woman named Helene Hanff (Anne Bancroft) who builds a forty-year friendship with some people who work in a bookstore in England. The movie begins during WWII as Helene, a writer, is searching for out-of-print books and, frustrated at the poor selection in the city's bookstores, starts writing letters to the Marx brother's bookstore in England. Through her letters, she not only becomes a frequent customer, but eventually, becomes quite close with all of the bookstore's employees. And through their letters, they share experiences over the years, which the viewer witnesses through a juxtasposition of two different cultures: American and British.

I like the technique used in this film. The interaction between Helene and her British friends occurs only through letters, so rather than have the characters write a letter and then dub what is written, eventually, the characters just face the camera and say what they would have written, with the camera cutting back and forth for each others response at times as though we suddenly become the recipient of their conversations.

The film also has a wonderful cast with Anne Bancroft as Helene, Anthony Hopkins as the generous Frank P. Doel, Judi Dench as his wife, and Mercedes Ruehl as Helene's neighbor. It is a wonderful story.

Cat City (1986)
50 out of 54 people found the following review useful:
Not your average cartoon kitties..., 29 February 2004
9/10

Cat City was my first non-childrens cartoon. And I absolutely loved it. It was not a giant cornball cliche at all and it was funny as hell. The animation was super in that "A Wrinkle In Time" style and the story was terrific: The Evil Cats of Cat City hypnotize mice to service the evil deeds of the cats. Gumshoe, a Rat, is hired to stop them before it's too late.

My favorite part is at the end when the little fat patrol mouse is caught in the jungle with the bats. And, instead of them feasting on him for dinner (or whatever designated mealtime it should happen to be), he serenades them with a swinging trumpet solo, to which the Mexican bats contribute to. It is most excellent.

I highly recommend Macskafogo (aka. Cat City) for anyone looking for a good 'cartoonie' cartoon.

43 out of 45 people found the following review useful:
Fred Dekkar's Other Cult Classic, 16 March 2004
8/10

Prospective Monster Squad viewers may recognize the name Fred Dekkar, the director of another 80s cult classic, a zombie horror called Night of the Creeps. Monster Squad follows in that tradition as the horror-comedy about a gang of young kids who save their town from Dracula and his goons. In my opinion, Monster Squad is a much more enjoyable movie than Night of the Creeps.

The Monster Squad refers to a tree house club of five kids who are self-proclaimed horror fanatics. Little did they know that their enthusiasm in the genre would suddenly come in handy as their town in suddenly invaded by Dracula and a few other memorable horror villains in their classic form. Drac is terrorizing the town, trying to locate a powerful amulet which has the potential for serious disaster. When no one else believes the kids, or when no one else is powerful enough to stop them using traditional crime fighting methods (arresting the Wolfman didn't seem to work out), the Monster Squad (with the help of Scary German Guy and Frankenstein) takes things upon themselves to save the day.

This movie was great because, although the monsters may appear somewhat corny (not forgetting that it is technically a family horror film), it still has a heap of great qualities. The kids are actually all pretty cool (especially Rudy, even though his wears his pants so tight, you can see what side he tucks on). Great music, great cast (Andre Gower, Robby Kiger, Ryan Lambert, Stephen Macht, and Jon Gries), and great fun!

Fans of obscure 80s movies are sure to add to the cult following. You won't be disappointed. It is loads of fun. Bona Fortuna!

45 out of 49 people found the following review useful:
Who's the Great Bambino?, 17 March 2004
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Sandlot is one of the greatest kids movies ever. It is a refreshing break from the family movies of today that mostly concentrate on stories in that upperclass Reiner-esque suburbanite setting of husband and wife and two and a half obnoxious kids. Instead, The Sandlot falls into a line of memorable adventures like 'House Arrest' and 'The Wizard.'

Flashback to the 1960s. Scotty Smalls, newcomer to the neighborhood, narrates (in a Wonder Years way) the hilarious adventure of how he got he and his baseball playing buddies into the biggest pickle ever. Smalls is the shy brainy kid who makes friends with a bunch of baseball fanatics. While learning the sport of baseball, he learns of an exaggerated legend of something called 'The Beast,' otherwise known as Old Mr. Myrtle's junkyard dog, which is chained up in the fence just behind the ballpark. The kids like to play baseball. And the Beast likes to eat them. Not to give too much away, but, "the pickle" that Scotty gets his friends into, involves a pretty valuable baseball, one slobbering beast, and kids who try to do anything they can to save their buddy from being grounded for an eternity. The mess they get into and the junk they try to get themselves out is simply hilarious. That, and the subplots of a clever move on a lifeguard and the determination to show up some very obnoxious rival baseball players.

It's a funny, fantastic film that most kids will likely enjoy--the boys for baseball and the girls for those noteable teen stars like Mike Vitar, Tom Guiry, Chauncey Leopardi, and Will Horneff. It's loaded with laughs and good time adolescents, despite Tom Guiry hamming it up only slightly. Plus, it's got a good theme about friendship and drive and determination to do what you want to do. I highly recommend it, if for nothing else, then the part where Squints tells the story about the history of the beast.

I can see from the message boards as well as other viewer's comments that it still has a rather memorable following, despite it's age. Definitely a must see!

53 out of 70 people found the following review useful:
Great Scott! Even the Doc Doesn't Take His Own Advice! (spoilers), 23 September 2004
9/10

It's funny that the plot of 'Back to the Future II' should be based on altering Marty McFly's future. Wasn't Doc the one who was so staunchly opposed to knowing too much about their future, preferring instead to let things take a natural course? 'Destiny!' he called it. But that is exactly what the sequel is all about, Doc's proposal to altar the future. And this leads not only to bad news for Doc Brown and Marty, but for the your Density? I mean, Destiny? (flashback humor).

The story focuses on Marty McFly's future. Picking up right where we left off in the first movie, Doc informs Marty that in the year 2015, Marty's son partakes in some unfortunate activities with Griff (Biff's grandson) that lead to his arrest and incarceration. While in the future to fix up that little mishap (again, messing with 'Destiny'), Marty picks up a sports Almanac to take back with him. The Almanac contains all sports scores since something like 1955 (why it is only the size of a magazine, I don't know, considering it covers major college and pro sporting event for a whole lot of years).

The Doc, in disgust at Marty's foolish get-rich-quick desires, throws the magazine out (while still in 2015). Unfortunately, Biff, now an old man, gets hold of both the magazine and the Delorian and travels to his young self in 1955. This sets off a change of events in the past so that when Marty and the Doc, now in the future, are ready to go back to 1985, suddenly find themselves in an unfamiliar hell. With Biff changing the past, he also changed the future, creating a desolate, alternate 1985. One where Biff is the richest man in Hill Valley, though still the sleaziest. And where a lot of other things have changed as well. Now, Marty and the Doc have to go back to 1955 and get the magazine from Biff if they expect to restore the future and erase the alternative 1985.

This is a great sequel to a great movie. You get the 1989 version of the future (I don't know that 2015 will make the kind of progress we see in the movie with cool flying cars and dehydrating pizzas and hoverboards). This is the special effects and visual beauty of the second, whereas in the first one, it was recreating the past. Marty had to once adapt to 1955, now he has to do the same for 2015, even if only for a moment.

But, it also ties in another creative aspect: when Marty and the Doc must return to 1955, they only know the whereabouts of Biff based on where they last saw him in that year--the school dance and all of that which took place in the first movie. Going back to that past means that a Marty "Calvin Klein" McFly is already there, and the events are taking place again just as we saw them in the first movie. And now, the Marty and the Doc from the future are intermingling once again with their past versions of themselves. So, in essence, the filmmakers had to recreate some of the scenes from the old movie, from different angles, and the actors had to play dual roles (which they do often throughout the trilogy) by being added into those scenes. It was a great special effects/visionary project to undertake, and what makes the series so damned creative and really a fun idea. And here, too, the goal is to avoid running into your past self because, yes, it could altar events once again. I wonder how the future changed since Marty and Doc's intervention in 2015?

So, prepare yourself for what may arguably be the best movie out of the trilogy (probably because you get to see the future and past and everything in between; although, I'm still torn between rating the first or the second as my absolute favorite). It is the continuation of a fun first movie, and keeps up the creativity and novelty. I think that was the reason most responsible for its success: the ability to keep offering something new (although some things, are obviously repeated, like the running gag of Marty blacking out and waking up to some version of his mother informing him of what year it is after he tells her what an awful dream he had).

So, sit back and let the Delorean be your guide.

36 out of 39 people found the following review useful:
Funky Teen Sci-Fi (spoilers), 8 August 2004
7/10

80s! I'm living in the 80s! If you love 80s teen movies, then Weird Science ought to be in your catalogue. It is one of director John Hughes most memorable, and one of the 80s most original.

Written in two days, this is a teen science fiction film, the story of two teenage loners, Wyatt (the always grimacing Ilan-Mitchell Smith) and Gary (Anthony Michael Hall before he went deadpan) and their weird way of discovering girls. A variation on Frankenstein, the teenagers create a beautiful woman (the super cool Kelly LeBrock) using their computer and some clever hacking skills (of course, it's exaggerated). Their creation is Lisa, the chic English accent woman who brings a little life to the subtle Illinois suburb. As the antithesis of both Wyatt and Gary's personalities, she's going to show these boys a little adventure, get them to loosen up, and for crying out loud, gain some self-esteem.

Because Lisa is a lady with some supernatural power like freezing grandparents in time, erasing the memory of a bad first impression with Gary's parents, turning Wyatt's obnoxious military school brother Chet (Bill Paxton in his funniest, most arrogant role yet) into a giant pus maggot, or even having a gang of mutant bikers storming a house party. And Lisa's greatest gift to the boys: showing them true love by helping them along to meet the two girls they've been after all along, their high school classmates, Deb and Hilly, who are unfortunately hung up on the dweeb bullies, Max (Robert Russler) and Ian (Robert Downey, Jr.). So essentially, it deals with many aspects of teen angst (but more like just teen self-esteem or self-consciousness issues) within one story. Parents, class status (done subtly here as opposed to Some Kind of Wonderful or Pretty in Pink), relationships, etc. It works well, and is done quite humorously.

One of my favorite scenes is when the trio (Lisa, Gary, and Wyatt) go to the night club looking pretty out of place (they're not only the only white people there, but probably the only ones under thirty). Once Anthony Michael Hall's character, Gary, gets drunk and starts with his slang, it's hilarious. Reminds me a little of Adventures in Babysitting when the gang drops in on the club and they're not allowed to leave until they sing. So eventually, they loosen up and have a little fun.

It's a wonderful movie with a classic John Hughes comic touch (says the mutant biker to Gary and Wyatt after they threaten to kill them if they don't leave, "Please don't tell anyone about this. I'd hate to lose my teaching job.). Plus, it's got a great soundtrack, featuring Killing Joke, Lords of the New Church, and Oingo Boingo doing the title song. The music video for it was fantastic, and not only features clips from the movie, but Kelly LeBrock herself in Oingo Boingo's own rendition of creating the woman via technology.

Although not one of John Hughes' best (I think Sixteen Candles is still his greatest), it is certainly one of his most memorable and one that I will love no matter how old I get. So have yourself a lazy Saturday, pop in the movie, and enjoy.

37 out of 43 people found the following review useful:
Pretty good cop thriller (spoilers within)., 13 May 2004

Looking at the four stern faces of the suited men on the cover, you'd think this was yet another movie about gangsters. But it isn't. Fans of another fantastic period cop drama, L.A. Confidential, should enjoy this film, as they are quite similar in theme. Like Russle Crowe's hard-edged cop character in L.A. Confidential, the four cops in this movie, do what they must to dispense justice. Despite their violent methods, they are nonetheless vigilante about justice.

Unorthodox and often unethical Los Angeles cops, Max Hoover (Nick Notle), Elleroy Coolige (Chaz Palminteri), Eddie Hall (Mike Madsen), and Arthur Relyea (Chris Penn), do what they can from keeping the trash from moving into the city. Tossing gangsters down Mullholland Falls, the symbolic dumping site for the exiled criminals, and tearing up coke dealers and pimps with a handy black jack, these cops don't take crap. (It should be interesting enough at this point to see both Penn and Madsen not playing their usual roles as sadistic gangsters).

The four cops are preoccupied with a new investigation after Max's former lover, Allison Pond (Jennifer Connelly), is discovered dead in a development yard. The case tests Max's limits on the ability to sift out the suspects and overcome whatever obstacles stand in his way of justice. At first, it seems as though this is just another story in which the villain turns out to be zealous leaders of the mafia who go to all ends to get what they wants (usually a profit venture). But that is not the case here. Max and the gang find themselves going up against the government and military, implicating Atomic Energy Commissioner (John Malkovich) and an eager Colonel (Treat Williams), to find out what is what that Allison was involved with that lead to her death. The movie takes place during the 1940s around New Mexico's White Plains nuclear testing site, and makes some challenges to the ethics of nuclear testing.

This movie has a tremendous cast, even in minor roles. Nick Nolte does a fantastic job, as does John Malckovich in the role of the dreamy, dying Atomic Energy Commissioner.

I also compare this film to L.A. Confidential because it seemed like some of the settings (and even the arrangement of scenes) are very similar to those used in the former. For example, Max Hoover's house (especially the living room and bedroom) looked almost identical to the one where Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito break into the house in the beginning to bust up a minor "pot party." The bedroom looked much like that one for Kim Basinger's house as well. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the same people involved in Mullholland Falls likewise worked on L.A. Confidential.

It isn't your traditional cop drama/political thriller because of the nature of the main characters. They don't always play by the rules, but in the end, they are the good guys. And, it's got a good finale.

Big (1988)
40 out of 49 people found the following review useful:
Zoltar says your wish is granted., 5 April 2004
10/10

I often wonder why it's so damn hard to just be a big kid no matter how old you are. Big is a movie about hanging on to that carefree child even when you grow up. It's about not getting caught up in stringent rules and routines, remembering those things that made being young so great, the outlook on life, especially when facing the mundane world of adulthood. Big strikes the balance between the two.

This is one of those movies that nearly everyone has seen. And, I suppose it's the precursor to that movie, 13 Going on 30, despite some differences in how the metamorphosis occurs and the result and everything.

Big is the story of 13 year-old Josh Baskin who is tired of missing out on all the privileges of being an adult. He's tired of simply being a kid. One night, he makes a drastic wish at a carnival arcade machine, and in the next day, he wakes up 30 years-old (or so). So the kid gets his wish, and while trying to return to normal, is a 13 year-old kid faced with a 30-year old's responsibilities. And it's a lot of fun. He works at a toy manufacturer. He gets the most excellent loft. I remember wanting a place like that when I was a teenager. Eventually, the 13-year-old must balance with the responsibilities of being a 30 year-old when Josh falls seriously in love with Susan (Perkins).

Big is one of the greatest movies ever simply because of the idea of a kid trying to be an adult and an adult still trying to hang on to being a kid, and all that things that Josh Baskins gets to experience while doing that.

As one of Penny Marshall's most notable production, this is enjoyable for nearly any age group. Everyone in it is fantastic--Hanks, Perkins, Loggia, Heard, Rheul, Moscow, and Rushton. It's a tough thing trying to hang to being young when you get older, but Big's a good reminder to keep trying.


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