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Goblet IS Awesome, 26 November 2005

First, a warning. If you're one of those people, the ones that call themselves "purists", and you scream bloody murder if a single detail is changed or omitted when a book is made into a film, you probably won't like this film. However, if you're a bit more realistic, and realize that something on a page doesn't always make a good transition to a screen, and if you are a fan of movies, you will love this film.

This is, hands down, the best Potter film to date. Up until now, most have considered PoA the best film; this one leaves it in the dust. It's all there. Action, drama, and art.

The film is artfully done, the sets and cinematography are beautiful, carefully set up, but not as self-aware as PoA, which is a good thing. At times PoA could be a bit contrived.

The 147 minute running time goes by like a breeze. I felt that I had been in the theater for an hour instead of nearly 2 1/2. The film moves quickly, especially in the beginning. But this is only to it's credit. The action is non-stop. You simply can't catch your breath. The Triwizard tasks were magnificent. If J.K. Rowling has one fault, it's that she doesn't write action particularly well. No hint of that here.

And the acting? Incredible. Only one slightly false note jangles in the performance of Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. His Dumbledore is a bit rough, a little off the character we know from the books. But one cannot help but feel that the fault lays not with Gambon, but with the decision of the writers and director to show us the weaker, more frightened side of Dumbledore that we don't glimpse until Half-Blood Prince.

There was one person, however, who made this film with their performance, and it may come as a shock to you.

Daniel Radcliffe. He absolutely blew my socks off. His acting has improved so much I couldn't believe it. Before this film, I probably would have said that Rupert Grint or even Emma Watson was the most natural performer of the three. But after this, I can say that if people give him a chance, especially the chance to expand and perform in other roles besides Potter, Radcliffe will be really something to watch in the coming years. He should really be proud. This was a difficult performance to give, and the risk for an unexperienced actor to make it a cheesy cringe fest was great, but he rose to the occasion splendidly. Well done.

So there you have it. Don't listen to me, though. Go and see it yourself. In the words of Hagrid (from the film), "You'll be glad you came".

Flightplan (2005)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Panic Room Clone, 26 November 2005

I was looking forward to this movie because I love Jodie Foster. Basic premise: Jodie Foster plays a grieving widow named Kyle Pratt who is taking her daughter and her husband's body back to the United States via a state of the art passenger jet that was designed by none other than Ms. Pratt herself. Then her daughter goes missing, and the crew have no record of the child having ever been on board. She begins a frantic search for her daughter, hampered by the suspicions of the captain (played by character actor Sean Bean), crew, passengers, and Air Marshal Gene Carson (Peter Sarsgaard), who all think she is lying. The fun ensues, and she must fight for the lives of her daughter and herself.

Hmm. A woman and her daughter, stuck in a inescapable area, fighting for their lives. Anyone seen Panic Room? I admit I was disappointed in how similar the two movies are both in situation and in tone. The film has a few other problems as well. There are some massive plot holes here as well as some clunky sentiment at the end of the film. When the last scene played out I asked myself, "What, did they just go to heaven?". Watch the film and you'll see what I mean.

It wasn't all bad. Jodie Foster is still a great actress, and she doesn't pull any of her punches, in a thespian sense or literally. If you want to see a woman empowering movie, this is it. And there's enough interest generated by the plot to keep you awake until the end. If I did the stars thing, I'd probably give it 3 and 3/4 stars out of five.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Fairy Tales Gone Wild, 12 September 2005

I went to see The Brothers Grimm on Saturday night. I rarely go out to the theater to see a movie. I dislike the sticky floors, the smell of stale popcorn, the outrageous price of both the tickets and the concession stand, and the inability to rewind. Once in a while though, a movie intrigues me enough to venture out and see it on the big screen. I had seen the previews for this one and thought it looked promising.

The Brothers Grimm is a tale that mixes history with fantasy. It portrays the Grimm brothers (who wrote such fairy tales as Hansel And Gretel, Rapunzel, and Snow White), as a couple of con artists (played by Matt Damon and Heath Ledger), who travel around Europe separating the superstitious peasantry from their money by claiming that their villages are enchanted or inhabited by various monsters, witches, vampires, etc. They are then forced by the French army to confront the evil in a small Bavarian hamlet, which turns out to be all too real.

This film has a few problems. It's a bit hard to follow, lacking any expository characters. The story changes locations a lot, and with few explanations it's hard to keep up. Many of the characters say things that make absolutely no sense, or that you can't make out at all. A fantasy, which this clearly is, has got to have a little logic thrown into it, or it makes no sense; with this there are no rules, no themes, and a plot that struggles to stay on task. I only vaguely know what Jacob Grimm was writing in his book the entire time, and have only a cloudy understanding of what allowed the Brothers to triumph in the end. Hell, I don't even really know who ended up with the girl! (Because of course there's a girl).

There are some redemptions. It's a very good premise. Do you remember being scared of some of the fairy tales you read when you were a child? This film takes that fear, that essential sinister quality that most so-called fairy tales possess, and runs with it. There are some quite chilling moments (check out the "gingerbread man" scene) which definitely make this out of bounds for young children, in my opinion. The effects, while not awe-inspiring, are certainly entertaining.

Overall, this film, like the authors which inspired it, seems to have a fantastic imagination that ran away with itself, leaving the audience in the dust, mildly entertained but more than a little confused.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
American Psycho; Great Film With A Lot To Say, 5 July 2005

I highly recommend it. The movie is based on the controversial 1991 novel by Bret Easton Ellis.

The film stars Christian Bale (Little Women, Batman Begins) as Patrick Bateman, a young, handsome, affluent executive in late 1980's New York City. He seems to have it all, cushy job, pretty fiancé (Reese Witherspoon), posh apartment, powerful friends. What he doesn't have is a soul. As he says in the beginning of the film, "There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman; some kind of abstraction. But there is no real me: only an entity, something illusory. And though I can hide my cold gaze, and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable... I simply am not there." Patrick is a serial killer (or is he? watch the film, what do you think?). The film graphically portrays his nightly homicidal habits, without becoming too slasher flick about it. This film isn't for the faint at heart, besides blood and gore, there are some pretty graphic sexual encounters and nudity. But there is comedy here as well. You'll find yourself laughing at some sequences and feeling terribly guilty about it. The next moment you're wincing at it's raw violence.

If Patrick is the hyper prototype of the 80's yuppie male, then his friends are more realistic reflections of it. In one scene, he and his friends are discussing women. One of his friends asserts that the ideal woman "consists of a chick with a little hard body, who will satisfy all sexual demands without being too slutty about things, and who essentially will keep her dumb f***ing mouth shut". In another scene, he and his friends are discussing some of the world's problems. When Patrick lists some of the ills that society needs to solve (he doesn't really care, he just wants to be seen as knowledgeable), his friends are amused. The people around him in this yuppie society are obsessed with surfaces. They keep all of their real thoughts, concerns, and emotions buried, and only care about what people wear, drive, own, and buy. For this reason, Patrick, who actually has no inner emotions, is able to move undetected among them.

The film is an exposition of the morally bankrupt 1980's male dominated corporate culture. But this theme is still relevant today. Our culture idealizes the macho, ruthless businessman who treats women as objects and possessions. In a scene of the movie, Patrick tells a woman that he later murders that he's into "murders and executions" and she mishears him, thinking he said, "mergers and acquisitions"; it really comes to the same thing. It is these same men who are now running corporate America. Is it any wonder that corporations seem to feel so little responsibility to their employees, stockholders, the public, the environment, the law, or virtually anything at all? Indeed, Patrick's broad choice of victims in the film (even more in the book) mirror those who are often victimized by corporate America. Women, the poor, the homeless, minorities, the elderly, even animals.

Overall, this is a great film with superb acting by Christian Bale and a few others, including Chloe Sevigny who plays Jean, Patrick's secretary. The end is perplexing and will cause you to watch the entire movie again to see if you can figure it out.

Godsend (2004)
6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Close, But No Cigar, 7 June 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I liked the premise, although the character development was pretty non-existent. Even affable, ever likable, Greg Kinnear came off as completely one-dimensional. You just couldn't empathize with anybody in this movie.

The only thing I'll say about Rebecca Romijn Stamos is that I really wish this useless piece of fluff would stop getting acting roles just because she's pretty.

I did enjoy some of the symbolism, ie. the little boy's name being Adam, the fight in the church where the Bible gets burned, etc. But I felt the ending was redundant. They had a perfect opportunity to end it with a great final statement, but instead they chose to drag it out another minute. The final "closeting" of whatever remained of the boy Adam would have been perfect. If you've seen the film, you know what I'm talking about.

The moral question posed by the film is just because we can do something, does that mean we should? In fact Robert DeNiro's character actually utters this, albeit in reverse. "If I'm not supposed to do it, then how come I can?", he says. But this question is ultimately obscured by the film's reliance on horror movie conventions. In short, this could have been a great movie about the moral problems posed by human cloning. Instead it's a C movie about a creepy mad scientist and a creepier kid. Worth seeing but only for a three dollar rental.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Seductive And Compelling, 7 June 2005

I found the movie Mary Reilly at the store last night, so I bought it. I've seen it about 20 times, and I like it more every time I see it.

If you've never heard of it, it's because it had awful promotion (read: no promotion), and it didn't do well at the box office, probably due to the fact that period dramas are hopelessly out of style.

Essentially, the movie is Robert Louis Stevenson's tale, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde turned on its' head. The story is told from the point of view of the title character, Dr. Jekyll's housemaid, Mary Reilly, played by Julia Roberts. Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde are terrifyingly portrayed by John Malkovich. His transformation between the two characters is stunning. He actually looks like a different man, but only his clothes and hair color have changed. And although Julia Roberts' accent leaves much to be desired (that unmistakable twang somehow works its' way through), her portrayal of the character is actually rather brilliant. She perfectly shows us a woman who is at once surrounded by fear, but also touchingly courageous.

This movie makes a careful examination of the rigid Victorian mores that inspired Stevenson's classic, and of the lengths the human heart will go to escape them.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Oldie But Goodie, 7 June 2005

You can't get any better than Grant and Hepburn. The basic plot goes like this: Tracy Lord (Hepburn) is a frosty, unforgiving Philadelphia socialite about to be married. Her ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant) works for Spy magazine, a gossipy tabloid rag. With his help, budding writer Macaulay Connor (Jimmy Stewart) and photographer Liz Embry (Ruth Hussey) gain entrance to the Lord home and pre-wedding festivities. There the antics begin and continue right up until the end of the movie. This is a classic picture straight out of Hollywood's glory days. The stars are stars and the supporting roles played by Stewart, Hussey, and young Virginia Weidler, who plays Tracy's younger sister Dinah, are stellar. This movie never drags, and has you rooting for "true love" all the way through. I hope you'll put it on your list of must see movies.

Gattaca (1997)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Incredible Story That Will Make You Think, 7 June 2005

Vincent (Ethan Hawke) is one of the last "natural" babies born into a genetically-enhanced world, where life expectancy and disease likelihood are ascertained at birth. Due to die at 30, he has no chance of a career in a society that now discriminates against your genes, instead of your gender, race or religion. Going underground, he assumes the identity of Jerome (Jude Law), who was genetically engineered but was crippled in an accident, and achieves prominence in the Gattaca Corporation, where he is selected for his lifelong desire: a manned mission to the planet Titan. Constantly passing gene tests by using samples of Jerome's hair, skin, blood and urine, his dream is within reach, when the mission director is killed - and Vincent's eyelash is found at the scene. With the once-in-a-lifetime launch only days away, Vincent must avoid arousing suspicion, while passing the tests, evading the police, and not knowing who he can trust.

This movie covers many themes; imperfection (and whether there is such a thing), mortality, prejudice, and the power of human determination. The movie opens with a quote from the bible, "What God hath made crooked, let no man make straight." The jacket of the movie will tell you that it stars Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, but the real star of the movie and the character with the most depth, is Jerome, played by Jude Law. Law gives a poignant performance as Jerome, once a genetically perfect, award winning athlete who was hit by a car and crippled from the waist down. He is a complex character, at once eager to once more have a purpose in helping Vincent achieve his dream, but at the same time, angry at the way his value as a person disappeared after his accident. In the end, when his help is no longer needed by Vincent, he makes a stunning decision that shows the audience the real impact of the society's hostility towards imperfection.

John Q (2002)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Good Film, 7 June 2005

John Q., starring Denzel Washington, who is one of the finest actors around.I really liked this movie. I thought it especially interesting that John Q. (as in John Q. Public) and his family are African-Americans. I think that the director wanted to challenge the audience's perception of the average American family. Admit it, unless you are a member of a minority group, when someone says "American family", you probably think of a white family with 2.5 kids, a picket fence, and maybe a dog. I know I do. But I enjoy having my perceptions turned on end. The only potential problem I have with this movie is that I don't know if all the circumstances of the movie are based in reality or not. For example, in the movie, the hospital informs John Q. that his son needs a heart transplant to save his life, but that heart transplant surgery is "elective" and so they can't proceed or even put him on the organ donor's list until they receive $75,000 as a down payment. Now I said this was a potential problem because I don't know if this is true or not. If it is, than I have no problem, (other than the fact that I am appalled at our health care system), but if it isn't true, than the movie may be guilty of a little bit of emotional manipulation. But even if that's the case, it's still a great movie that has a lot to say about the health care system in this country. It takes a look at the issue from many aspects, including the effects of HMO's and so-called "managed care" health plans to the fact that hospitals are now in the business of making money instead of curing patients. The end of the movie crosses dangerously into sentimentality, but there's enough substance here to keep us from rolling our eyes. All in all a worthy effort.

Terrific, 7 June 2005

This movie is a great. Hip, smart, but heartwarming, About A Boy is the tale of Will, an English womanizer who will do literally anything to get women. In the course of these endeavors, he meets Marcus, a troubled boy with a hippy vegan single mother. As their friendship develops they teach each other something about love, friendship, family, and how to love and be loved is the most important thing on earth.

Hugh Grant is superb as Will. This character could have been written with him in mind. His dry wit and comic timing will have you laughing. Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, Emma) shines as Marcus' mother, a clinically depressed single mum struggling to stay sane for her son. The young Nicholas Hoult is a natural as Marcus, a lonely school outcast wiser than his years.

The music, performed by British band Badly Drawn Boy is excellent, the soundtrack standing on it's own as a must-have album. Definitely a film worth adding to the shelf.

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