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Participants' names: Shrykespeare, silversurfer, thegreenarrow, transformers, englishozzy, Ron Burgundy, Buscemi, Chienfantome, numbersix, BanksIsDaFuture, BarcaRulz, Geezer, JohnL, leestu, W, NSpan, undeadmonkey and JohnErle.
Shrykespeare's List: http://www.imdb.com/list/m4s5qU37kmc/ Geezer's List (aka redsoxfan683): http://www.imdb.com/list/D9BSz1s94p4/ transformers' List (aka kfcman945): http://www.imdb.com/list/XIMtCx-Jwh8/
Body of Lies (2008)
Ridley does it again
You really have to admire Ridley Scott's moxie.
Even though the 70-year-old director has long established himself as one of Hollywood's best and most durable directors; having helmed some of the most entertaining films of all time, in virtually every genre (including sci-fi classics like Alien and Blade Runner); and having been nominated no less than three times for the Best Director Oscar (Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down), to decide to take on theme that has produced exactly zero blockbusters thus far the Middle East and terrorism takes an incredible amount of chutzpah.
But it does help if you have the help of two of the biggest actors in Hollywood at the moment, those being Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe (who has worked with Scott on two previous films, Gladiator and A Good Year). It's ironic to think that the last time these two actors shared the screen was back in 1995, with the clichéd-but-entertaining oater The Quick and the Dead. Of course, at the time, Crowe was a complete unknown and DiCaprio was a 21-year-old newcomer with only a couple of notable titles under his belt. But oh, how that's all changed now.
It's not easy to describe the plot of Body of Lies without giving too much away. DiCaprio plays CIA operative Roger Ferris, who is trying to flush out a terrorist leader named Al-Saleem in Jordan. He gets his orders from Ed Hoffman (Crowe), a man for whom results are the only satisfactory outcome, delivered with a fair amount of arrogance and a cocky Southern drawl. Ed plays the situation like a kid playing a video game, and has the resources to change the rules anytime he feels like it, dispensing his orders from his office, from his backyard, from his daughter's soccer game, for Pete's sake! This, of course, infuriates Ferris to no end, because he is the one who is in the trenches, chasing the bad guys, dodging bullets, ducking explosions, and procuring the badly-needed intelligence that Hoffman needs. Ferris is also trying to build a productive working relationship with the head of Jordanian Intelligence, Hani Salaam (Mark Strong), a relationship that is made even more tenuous by Hoffman's double-dealings and hidden agendas.
There are so many ways that Scott could have screwed this up. A lesser director might have chosen to ramp up the action, sacrificing intelligence for entertainment. A lesser director could have taken this story of espionage and twisted it into a convoluted and indecipherable Gordian knot. A lesser director would have gotten less convincing performances from his lead actors.
But Ridley Scott is not a lesser director. Though the plot is indeed complex, with many layers and sub-layers, deceit and treachery, Scott never lets you lose sight of the overall picture. He tells a solid, wonderfully entertaining story, without the need to drive home its message with sledgehammer subtlety (after all, very few things are black and white). And most of all, he gets electric performances from Crowe and DiCaprio, whose symbiotic relationship with a thinly-veiled veneer of mutual contempt is a pleasure to watch.
I don't know if Body of Lies will end up breaking through the barrier that every movie in this genre couldn't; but for what it's worth, I hope it does. One thing's for sure if anybody can, Ridley Scott can.
For this and other reviews, please check out www.thelatestmoviereviews.com.
Deja Vu (2006)
I was glued to my seat!
You see the name Denzel Washington, you know you're going to get a well-acted lead character. You see the name Jerry Bruckheimer, you know you're going to get a boatload of action. You see the name Tony Scott, you know you're going to get one hell of a story.
With this recipe, Deja Vu delivered as promised. A taut, tense thriller that I couldn't take my eyes off for a second. Intelligent, visceral, practically vibrating with tension, this film starts with a bang (pun intended) and ends with, ironically the very same bang! In between, you get a well-written story, full of crisp dialogue and plenty of humor, balanced equally with a full measure of action. (NOTE: This movie contains one of the most UNIQUE chase scenes of all time.) We don't know how it will end, as the age-old question rears its head: can one change the past? One of the best movies of the year. 9 out of 10.
Mission: Impossible III (2006)
Not as bad as everybody thinks
As action movie franchises go, MI has had its ups and downs. If you were to compare it to the most successful "pure action" franchise ever, the Die Hard movies, it doesn't hold a candle. In those, the writing is better, the dialogue is better, the hero is easier to identify with, and the action is just as intense. Which is not to say that MI has done badly, but just like with Die Hard, you know going in what you are going to get: great action sequences, an interesting villain and a predictable ending.
But the problem with MI1 was that the plot was too convoluted (it took several viewings to really suss it out), and the problem with MI2 was that the action sequences were used as a crutch to make up for a really lame story (typical John Woo, in other words... and really, has Anthony Hopkins ever been completely wasted in a role like this?).
Now, keeping all this in mind, MI3 really does hold up as the best of the three. The action sequences are very good, the acting is better than usual and the storyline is the most entertaining of the three. We can easily follow what's going on without getting a headache, which is always nice in a "pure action" movie. It's what makes many of the Bond movies entertaining, as well.
It could be that many people have ragged on this movie simply because they don't like Tom Cruise. With all the hoopla surrounding his personal life of late, it's hard to watch his movies with a detached eye. But his performance in MI3 is no better or worse than the other two, with enough convincing requisite emotion given how the bad guy attacks him in the most personal way. I neither love nor hate the guy, just as I neither love nor hate Ethan Hunt, his character. We root for him, sure, but we know he's going to win in the end, so whatever.
If you are reading this review trying to decide whether or not to see the movie, I'll level with you. This is a very good movie. Tense, taut, and full of adrenaline. In other words, your typical summer blockbuster. It's certainly not the best action movie ever made, but if this ends up being the last MI movie, at least it went out on a positive note.
My score: 9/10.
V for Vendetta (2005)
The First Truly Great Film of 2006
I went to the theater expecting to either love this movie or hate it... such as it is with "comic book" movies. Having heard all the "terrorist-as-a-hero" arguments from both sides, and knowing going in that we would never see the protagonist of this film's face (but only the Guy Fawkes mask that he wears throughout), I was not convinced I would connect with the main characters sufficiently to recommend this movie to others.
I am convinced now.
The acting in this film is top-notch. Hugo Weaving, whose strident voice and incredible screen presence, which has been seen in such blockbusters as the "Matrix" trilogy as well as the "LOTR" trilogy, gives such a commanding performance that as V's emotions change, you can almost it registering on the blank facade of the mask he wears. Natalie Portman turns in another stellar performance as Evey, a vulnerable, terrified young woman who, with V's help, breaks through the shell of fear that the totalitarian government that England has become has created around her. The supporting cast is also outstanding: John Hurt as the vile, draconian Chancellor Sutler, Stephen Rea as the intuitive Inspector Finch, and Stephen Fry as Gordon, friend/father-figure to Evey and a local TV celebrity.
This movie is also well-plotted and moves along at a crisp pace. The action sequences are well-choreographed, the "explosions" are well-executed (and are more to lend an air of poignance to the mood of the film rather than to satisfy our need for such things), and the dialogue, while at times over the top, is well-scripted.
But the best moments in the film involve the interaction between V and Evey. The parental love that he feels for her is obvious, even though at one point he has to result to some rather cruel tactics in order to ensure her loyalty to him.
Does the movie end the way you think it's going to? Probably. Will that detract from your enjoyment of it? Not a whit. I would highly recommend this movie to anyone of teenage years and up (young children would probably find it too dark, and one fight scene is particularly gory).
MINI-SPOILER There is one uproariously laugh-out-loud moment, which anyone who was a fan of the old "Benny Hill Show" will recognize immediately.
My score 10/10.
The Ring Two (2005)
Where did it go wrong?
Who can forget the sense of shock and terror that we all felt when we first saw Samara crawling through the TV screen at the end of "The Ring?" Such images are what true scary movies are made of; they inspire genuine emotion and fear. What makes most sequels to horror movies unsuccessful (or at least, critically panned) is the fact that most of them are attempts to repeat the same story. Seeing Samara crawl through the TV a second time, while disturbing, is not that scary anymore, because we are EXPECTING it.
But it's not just the unoriginality that condemns "The Ring 2" to mediocrity, but it is it's lack of a coherent story. While the original had a solid beginning, middle and end, the sequel most assuredly did not.
SPOILERS AHEAD The one problem I had with the first movie was this: all who watch the tape die a week later, unless... they make a copy?? Oooookay. Seems a little strange to have something so otherworldly hinge on a technological contrivance, but I can forgive that because it was such a good movie.
At the beginning of "Ring 2", however, it seems the rules have changed. Now, the way to stave off death from watching the tape is simply to show it to someone else, who then has a week to show it show it to another person, etc., like a REALLY bad chain letter. One hapless teenager misses the deadline because the girl he gets to watch it for him closes her eyes through the video, so he is doomed. Puh-leez.
From there, Rachel has to leap from theory to theory in her attempts to thwart Samara again. Samara wants to become Aidan (her son), right? Maybe... no, wait, she just wants a mother, something she never had before, right? The scene where she "saves" her son was way too short and anticlimactic, and the following tacked-on scene, where Rachel journeys to Samaraland to have a final confrontation with the little girl, seems like the director clutching at straws. And the good guys win, when Rachel commits the heroic act of... closing the lid on the well where Samara is imprisoned. (Gee, why didn't I think of that?) She then wakes up on her floor, in her son's arms, and she tells him, "It's over." I couldn't agree more.
I'm not a Hollywood script writer, and I can't immediately think of a direction they might have taken that would have been ultimately more satisfying, but I know that the direction they took in this case let me down. The Ring 2 was not original, it was not scary, and it was not good. It was, basically, two hours of my life that I'll never get back.
My score: 1 out of 10.
Crossing Jordan (2001)
A rare gem in a sea of forgettable TV
The greatest thing about "Crossing Jordan" is that it never, for even one moment, ceases to make us care about its characters. It seamlessly gives us a mix of tragedy and comedy, as well as humanity and warmth, which is no mean feat, considering the profession all of the main characters have.
With the abundance of shows cropping up in the last few years with a theme of "investigation", the profession of Medical Examiner has been thrust into the limelight of the public's eye that it never has been before. One needs to look no further than the ratings of all of the "CSI" shows to find proof; the minutiae and drudgery of police and forensic work, once thought to be bland, boring and completely without entertainment value, now has viewers glued to their sets.
But "Crossing Jordan" is much more than that. While I applaud shows like "CSI", and to a small extent, "Law & Order" for their ingenious writing and convincing story lines, none of those shows has ever really developed its characters to an extent where we care more about them than about the details of whatever case they happen to be working on at the time. "Crossing Jordan" has developed it's characters very, very well. Consider:
The main character, Jordan Cavanaugh (Jill Hennessy): when the show first started, we knew her to be a mouthy, bitchy, seat-of-the-pants, lives-by-her-own-rules kind of girl, who would always be in trouble but somehow, always gets to the truth. And while the appeal of such a character is undeniable, such a routine would have gotten old really fast, as well as the "haunted-by-her-mother's-as-yet-unsolved-murder" story line. I understand that early on, we knew that this is what drove Jordan to be the person she was, but it felt like that particular story line was used as a crutch to hold the series up. I think her character is now sufficiently developed to get past it now. She's still mouthy, and still lives by her own rules, but not as often as before. She's truly grown up.
Dr. Garret Macy (Miguel Ferrer): Originally played up as the crotchety, curmudgeonly boss, who walked around with the "how-in-hell-did-I-end-up-in-this-line-of-work" look on his face. Despite his somewhat abrasive character, there's no doubt that he possesses a tremendous inner warmth to go with his incredible intelligence. It's those rare occasions when he shows his softer side that make for some of the series' best moments.
Lily Lebowski (Kathryn Hahn): In the beginning, she seemed like a fragile dandelion of a person, nursing a not-too-subtle crush on Dr. Macy. I was afraid that her character would never expand beyond two dimensions, but she has become the moral center of the show.
My two favorite sidekicks, Nigel and Bug (Steve Valentine and Ravi Kapoor): it was these two that kept me coming back, week after week, during this show's growing pains. The tall, lanky Brit and the diminutive entomologist from Bangladesh are without a doubt the best on-screen duo in prime-time. One smiling and ebullient, one moody and sullen, they play off of each other so well... I can't aptly describe it in words.
Det. Woody Hoyt (Jerry O'Connell): Though his character hasn't really developed much, beyond the on-again, off-again relationship he seems to have with Jordan, it's nice to see him get more and more screen time now.
Several other characters have come and gone: Jordan's father (Ken Howard) and M.E.'s Trey Sanders (M. Ali), Peter Winslow (Ivan Sergei), Elaine Duchamps (Lorraine Toussaint), and Dr. Devan Mcguire (Jennifer Finnigan), have all contributed during their brief stints on the show.
Every single character has experienced tragedy and loss, in various degrees, all while helping total strangers deal with their loss, and that has made them all bond together into a very tightly-knit group... almost a family, if you will. It is a family that I wish I could be a part of... and that is the TRUE yardstick of a great show.
Always fresh, never dull. I hope that "Crossing Jordan" will continue to draw the audience it deserves.
Shark Tale (2004)
Great for kids, but...
Most animated movies are aimed specifically at kids or teenagers, as that is the age group that watches the most cartoons. Going to see "Shark Tale," I was hoping that even though my adolescent years are way behind me, I could still enjoy it on the same level that made me enjoy movies like "Shrek 2" and "Finding Nemo".
Mission not accomplished.
For one thing, I wasn't a big fan of the animation. With the exception of the sharks, most of the characters were drawn as if someone just stuck a human face on a fish's body, complete with eyelids and squared-off teeth. It didn't look good to me, and that made me care about the characters less.
The second thing was the story line, which ran about as deep as a puddle. The humor was too juvenile for me to find humor in, and the more adult side of the story, the "mob" story, has been played out too many times for me in too many stories to peak my interest.
If I were 20-25 years younger, I'm sure I would have enjoyed it a lot more. But, for me, "Shark Tale" will get put into the file in my memory labeled "Saw it once, won't see it again."
My score: 6 out of 10.
P.S. Note to the writers: It's about a decade too late for M.C. Hammer take-offs!
Runaway Jury (2003)
Another Grisham Triumph (may contain spoilers)
It is interesting to note that in the novel this book was made from, there were, in fact, NO scenes in which the characters Wendell Rohr and Rankin Fitch had any interaction (that I know of). These two characters were both played by well-respected, much-revered, seasoned film veterans who, believe it or not, had NEVER worked together in a film before. The powers that be, at one point, said "No, no, we simply cannot have these two in a movie together (after all these years!) and not have them do one scene together!" So the filmmakers, with John G.'s permission of course, sat down and wrote a scene in which Dustin and Gene could throw themselves into their characters and really have a ball doing it. The scene, which takes place in the courthouse men's room, was shot nearly a month after shooting had wrapped on the film, and it took nearly a week to get it just right. The end result: I defy anyone to tell me that watching these two legends play off each other didn't make their spine tingle! Imagine watching Elton John and Mick Jagger jam together on the same stage; who wouldn't pay to see that?!
This scene was the highlight of an extremely well-written movie. John Cusack, in my opinion one of the best actors in Hollywood, gave a terrific performance as a good man who must do a bad thing in order to right a terrible wrong. He and his girlfriend, played by Rachel Weisz, exude a palpable warmth. They are in deep, dealing with people who are way out of their league, but they have to do what must be done: score a victory against the gun company in general, and against Rankin Fitch in particular.
Most of the John Grisham movies are well-written and well-acted; he has become this generation's Erle Stanley Gardner. I hope he continues to write many more classic courtroom/political dramas.
My score: 9 out of 10.
Ying xiong (2002)
Been There, Done That
Having seen both "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and both "Kill Bill" movies over the last two years, it's regrettable that acrobatic high-wire swordplay scenes don't impress me as much as they used to.
I know going in to see "Hero" that I would be comparing it to "Crouching Tiger"; most of us who have seen both of these films have in common the fact that we are typical Westerners who don't see very many Asian films. The comparison is inevitable, there simply is no other frame of reference.
That being said, there's no denying the power of the drama that the plot of "Hero" presented. The pageantry, the scope and the depth of the characters justify the many foreign film awards it has won. Add to that the fact that this is the most expensive movie ever produced in China, and you have a textbook definition of the work "epic".
I would like to think that I am capable of seeing the forest for the trees when it comes to movies like this - which is to say, lift my preferences out of the slam-bang action flicks or lowbrow comedies that are the usual fare for summer audiences. But the truth is, by the time "Hero" went into its last half hour, I was bored. Watching the same scenes play out from different perspectives got tiresome. (But I will say that having the characters' outfits change color depending on the mood of the moment was a nice cinematic touch.) The story line became a kind of Kurosawa-meets-Shakespeare plot of betrayal and assassination, and by the time the movie ended, I found myself not even caring which side won or who lived and died.
Take my review for what it's worth - that of a average Joe who tried for two hours to raise his intellectual bar to a level where he could see where all the critics' four- and five-star ratings were coming from, but was ultimately unable to do it. I have no doubt that many people will succeed where I failed, and they will no doubt enjoy this movie a lot more than I did.
My score: 6/10.
Suspect Zero (2004)
Better Than Most Serial Killer movies
Have you ever noticed that nobody is ever "on the fence" about serial killer movies? People either like it or hate it, with very little middle ground.
The trouble with serial killer movies is that it has become a very specific genre. In order to make a good one, the killer's motif has to be interesting and original. Among my favorites are Kevin Spacey's John Doe in "Seven", who killed his victims according to the seven deadly sins; Peter Foley in "Copycat", who copied real-life serial killers in an order pre-determined by one of Sigourney Weaver's speeches; and the killer in "Blink", whose goal it was to murder everyone who received any part of his dead girlfriend (who was an organ donor).
The interesting thing about "Suspect Zero" is that this particular killer had no pattern. He simply traveled from state to state, abducting and killing his victims (mostly children or adolescents) and burying them at his remote house in the Western United States.
Some might question my sanity, but I actually bought the "remote viewing" angle that Ben Kingsley's character was so adept at. Remote viewing is a subject that has been mentioned in other series, such as USA's "The Dead Zone", and on the now defunct (and highly underrated) series "John Doe". He COULD let the proper authorities know that there is a killer out there who has killed in every state in the country, with no conceivable pattern. But with his precarious mental state, who would believe him? The only way to prove that he is right is to draw attention to himself by killing three other serial killers in full view of the FBI; the fact that two of the three murdered killers weren't even known to be killers until well after their death gave weight to O'Ryan's (Kingsley's) abilities.
Aaron Eckhart gave a very good performance as disgraced FBI agent Thomas Mackelway, who has been shunted to the Albuquerque office after going way outside the law to apprehend serial killer Raymond Starkey (the third of O'Ryan's victims). I found the fact that O'Ryan latched onto him a little too convenient, as well as the fact that Mackelway is a fledgeling "remote viewer" himself, but I understand that it was necessary in order to keep the movie from bogging down.
Most of the other characters were pretty ordinary, including Carrie-Anne Moss as Mackelway's former-and-now-suddenly-current partner/love interest. Hers was the kind of role that could have been played by any of two dozen current Hollywood actresses, but it's good to see that she's trying to finally leave Trinity behind her.
Another convenience - O'Ryan leads Mackelway to the killer trucker's hideaway, within minutes of the killer showing up in his truck. A chase ensues, which ends with both vehicles crashing, and Mackelway chasing the killer down on foot and then, with the images of all the victims flashing through his head, beating him to death. I found the fact that we never even got a good look at Suspect Zero's face a little disappointing as well.
The final scene, where O'Ryan begs Mackelway to kill him and end his suffering, is very powerful. One can only imagine what it must be like to be "plugged in" to serial killers' minds for decades; the images of evil and perversion have to be enough to drive most men mad. The whole movie, which one thought was building up to the actual catching of Suspect Zero, was actually building up to this, the playing out of O'Ryan's final "vision". He had seen his death in his mind for years, and there was no escaping it.
This was the third serial killer-type movie I have seen this year - the other two, "Twisted" and "Taking Lives", rank dead last on my list of 2004 movies so far. But "Suspect Zero", despite its inconsistencies and sudden conviences, ranks very near the top for me, because when you combine an interesting story line, suspenseful and disturbing imagery, and a spectacular performance by Ben Kingsley (truthfully, the only kind of performance he EVER gives), i found myself entertained right up to the final credits.
My score: 9 1/2 out of 10.
The Pelican Brief (1993)
The best of the Grisham movies
Forget the plot holes. Forget the implausibility of the story. This is Grisham, the modern-day master of legal and political conspiracy and intrigue.
This movie centers on one thing: the chemistry between the on-screen duo of Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington. And they do not disappoint. Both give absolutely stellar performances, Washington as the reporter who desperately wants his story to see the light of day but is not afraid to let his compassion show through, and Roberts as a terrified law student engulfed in a situation where she is way over her head, trying simultaneously to survive and avenge the death of her lover. There is not one scene, not one bit of dialogue, verbal or non-verbal, that doesn't make be believe everything they say, and that is a testament to the acting abilities of Roberts and Washington, two of Hollywood's best.
For pretty much the entire second half of the movie, Denzel and Julia's characters work together to find proof of the conspiracy that resulted in the assassination of two Supreme Court judges, while at the same time dodging unscrupulous lawyers, heavies and an international hitman.
In their final scene together, when Darby is taking the FBI director's private plane out of the country, the bond that has grown between her and Gray is extremely noticeable. They deplane, and Gray shows Darby the headline exposing the conspiracy. Darby smiles, shakes Gray's hand, and proceeds to walk to the car that will take her to her new location.... but no, a handshake is just not enough, not after what they'd been through... so she goes back and gives Gray a huge hug, which he returns. The mutual respect is there for all to see. No words are spoken throughout the entire scene, they are not necessary.
Having read many of Grisham's books and seen all of the movies adapted from those books, I wondered how "The Pelican Brief" would stack up against all the others in the long run. In my opinion, it is still the best of the bunch.
My score: a solid 10.
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
The single coolest fight scene EVER (may contain spoilers)
"Big Trouble" is a movie that I have watched many times over the years, for one simple reason: the campy spirit and mondo-cool action sequences never get old.
This movie represents John Carpenter's best work. Having had previous success with the "Halloween" series, Mr. Carpenter elected to go with a much more tongue-in-cheek film in order to appeal to a wider audience. And boy, did he deliver.
There's no denying that the general tone of the movie is very menacing and scary. And there's no doubt that most Westerners find the concept of Asian mysticism to be very believable, given how mysterious most Asians are about their culture. Combining those elements make for a spectacular action movie, but the crowning touch was throwing into the mix a character that will forever have a place in film history: Jack Burton. What a character!! Perfectly played by Kurt Russell, Jack Burton is a loud-mouthed, arrogant, swaggering truck driver absolutely convinced of his ability to handle anything, anytime. He's not too bright, though... His obvious confusion during the scenes when he is completely out of his element, and at a loss to explain the supernatural goings-on is delicious to watch.
A kidnapping, a gang war, daring rescues and escapes, butt-ugly monsters, and some top-notch martial arts fight scenes keep the film moving at a torrid pace. (That's one of this film's major strengths. It doesn't stop for a moment to EXPLAIN what's going on: we, like Jack, have to just absorb it and keep going.) And it all leads up to the coolest fight scene ever made.
The scene starts hysterically - the two rival gangs see each other, rattle their weapons and scream at the top of their lungs. Jack, our hero, fires his weapon into the ceiling - which causes several large chunks of stone to dislodge, hitting him in the head and rendering him unconscious BEFORE THE FIGHT EVEN STARTS! Meanwhile, the mid-air duel between Wang and Rain had me hitting the rewind button over and over again.
Of course, the good guys escape, the bad guys die, no surprises there. But by the time this movie is over, you will be gasping for breath.
Watch this one over and over - it's a classic.
My Score: a 10.
M. Night's best (contains spoilers)
"Unbreakable" is one of those films that garners extreme reactions on both ends of the spectrum; either people love it or hate it.
The biggest criticism is that the movie is too long and too slow to develop, which is certainly a understandable argument. I prefer to look at M. Night's films in a different light; I admire the way that he absolutely refuses to rush through a story, and the way that he lets the characters develop at their own pace. Bruce Willis's slow, gradual transformation is a beautiful thing to watch, a testament to Bruce's incredible talent. The aura of sadness that he projects through most of the movie is tangible, and it's only through the teachings (or manipulation, if you will) of Samuel L. Jackson's character, Elijah, that Bruce's character, David, is able to finally realize his full potential, to understand his place in the world, and to connect with his son in a way he never could before.
I would also like to give special kudos to Spencer Clark's performance as David's son, Joseph. Most kids, especially those not close to their parents, have no understanding of what their parents do for a living. It's more comfortable to live a fantasy, where your Dad is a superhero and you will one day follow in his footsteps. It's no wonder that when the possibility presents itself that David is special, Joseph latches onto that notion, and proceeds to stop at nothing to prove it to his father, even coming a hair's-breadth from shooting him.
David's first adventure as a superhero was magnificently done. He walks into a train station, bustling with people, and lets his instincts take over. Just by touching people, he can see what terrible things they've done (kind of like John Smith on USA's "The Dead Zone", but not as extreme), for example, shoplifting, race violence, and date rape. But when he brushes up against a man who had committed cold-blooded murder, David leaps into action. He follows the man to a house he has taken over - both parents are dead, but the two children are still alive. The confrontation is also very well done. No words are spoken; there is no flurry of blows or martial arts moves; simply one man taking another man down in a way that any of us might do in similar circumstances.
The next morning, David shows his son a newspaper detailing the incident. He silently mouths the words "You were right", and his son sheds a tear of joy; his fantasy has been fulfilled, and his connection to his father can only get stronger from here on out. They also agree to keep his double life secret from David's wife, which is another nice touch.
Given Elijah's life and state of mind, it is very reasonable to understand his motives for wanting to find someone like David. That he used such reprehensible methods for doing so makes the ending that much more shocking.
Most people, especially moviegoers, are easily bored. They are addicted to the quick fix, where something dramatic or exciting has to happen every five minutes or they lose interest. That is why "Unbreakable" has elicited such negative praise from some critics. But I am of the opinion that if the view at the top is spectacular enough, it's doesn't matter how long it takes to get up the mountain.
My score: 10.
I, Robot (2004)
Much Better Than I Thought (may contain spoilers)
I went to "I, Robot" simply because I was bored and needed something to do on a Saturday. I was expecting a flick where I was reasonably entertained for two hours, but one that I would probably stick in the "good, not great" bin, which is where so much of the summer movies eventually end up. What I got, however, was an engaging film that managed to maintain my interest and full attention all the way through.
Will Smith is a bonafide movie star. His screen presence and wry wit make him a marketable asset that will continue to land starring roles for years to come. (My God, has he always been that buff??) He was good in Independence Day, very good in Men In Black, and exceptional here.
I was also impressed with the plot. In today's world, where we have become increasingly dependent on machines, and probably will continue to do so, this film did a great job outlining a future society in which mankind's dependence has reached its highest possible level. The unconditional belief and trust in the "3 Laws" has blinded mankind to the fact that one unscrupulous machine with delusions of grandeur can bring the whole system crashing down.
I doubt that robots, like the ones seen in this movie, will be mass-marketed in my lifetime. However, if I was to ever have one in my home, I would not want it to look human. Manufacturers try their best to make machines as "user-friendly" as possible, so that we will more readily accept them. In the future, that may mean giving them a human face, and as close a thing to human emotions and idiosyncracies as technology has come up with. The problem is, technology, ALL technology, is subject to malfunctions. And the larger the scope, the larger the failure. And this movie did a great job illustrating that when a society's dependence on technology has surpassed its ability to cope with such a failure, it's all the more terrifying.
At first, it look like the robot, Sonny, was going to be the antagonist for Will Smith's technology-shunning cop. But gradually, his "character" makes the transition from adversary to ally, eliciting genuine sympathy when it looks like his quest to more thoroughly understand his emotions will be quashed. (Note: Watch the Star Trek: Next Generation episode "Measure of a Man", for a similar storyline.)
I sincerely hope this movie does not spawn a sequel. A large part of the allure of fantasy and sci-fi is the ability for us to ask ourselves "What if...?" At the end of this movie, when mankind's self-imposed veil of ignorance has been shattered, one is left to wonder where the world would go from there. No definitive answers, just more questions. But sci-fi stories like this one don't need to have a definitive ending. We viewers don't need to have everything wrapped up in a big red bow. The future is uncertain... that's why it's the future! Closure is not necessary, because it's not possible.
This movie did not even come close to rivaling "Spider-Man 2" or "Shrek 2" in total box office gross, but I have to admit that I enjoyed "I, Robot" just as much, if not more.
My score: 10/10.
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
An Absolute Classic
If one did not know going in that this was a Tarantino movie, one would be able to discern that fact within five minutes. From the violence of the opening scene segueing to Nancy Sinatra's haunting "Bang Bang", it would be obvious to all who know QT's work.
Then we go right to a fight scene, where she dispatches the 2ND person on her "Death List Five"; what a deliciously funny moment when both characters have to pause their knock-down, drag-out catfight because a school bus carrying Vernita's daughter pulls up right outside!
Then we go back in time to the scene where the Bride wakes from her coma... and she exacts revenge on the orderly who had been pimping the coma patients for a few bucks! (Who but QT would throw something that perverse in just for laughs?) I remember the first time I saw that scene, when Buck is explaining "the rules" to his would-be customer, I said aloud to the screen "Boy, you picked the wrong girl on the wrong goddamn day!"
The Anime segment detailing O-Ren's origins was a very nice touch... it's been said that this whole film is a live-action cartoon, and having actual animation within it seems apropos.
From there we go to Okinawa, where the Bride acquires the services of a retired sword-maker, getting him to relinquish his vow to never create another instrument of death. This scene was a little overly long, but a wonderful precursor to the bloody scene that was to follow.
And then, at last, the final third of the movie: The Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves. One of the best fight scenes ever filmed! Some may find it gratuitously violent, and rightly so, but people offended by such things should have known better than to go see a QT movie in the first place! Such people may also take note that the most gratuitous part of the fight scene switched to B/W, so as to tone down the bloodiness of it without detracting from it.
My best friend, whose name was Larry, sadly, passed away in the year 2000. He was an avid moviegoer - he loved spaghetti westerns, he loved Asian martial-arts movies, and he loved QT. I look at this film and I know without a doubt that it would have made his list of all-time favorites, and it saddens me that he never got to see it.
I must add that I was a little bit disappointed with KB2; though I didn't expect KB2 to be a carbon copy of KB1, it seemed to be lacking the campy spirit that KB1 had. QT's movies all have certain themes in common; violent action, wacky homages to his favorite genres, and memorable dialogue in the scenes that are purely for exposition. In my opinion, KB1 is an outstanding movie because it had all three of these qualities; KB2 is just okay because the exposition far outweighed the action.
If gratuitous violence offends you, or if blood and gore makes you squeamish, then you should probably avoid this movie at all costs. If, on the other hand, you like exploring what I like to call "the dark underbelly of film-making", which is the essence of QT's work, then you will love this movie, and want to watch it over and over again.
My Score: An unqualified 10.
The Secret of NIMH (1982)
An Animated Classic (May Contain Spoilers)
Animated movies have come soooooo far in the last 40 years. Since the invention of the computer and its applications to animated feature films, cartoon characters now look almost as if they were real. The attention to detail that these animators put in is incredible, which is why it takes several years to complete just one animated movie.
Animated and non-animated movies have one very important thing in common; no matter how you slice it, if it isn't a good story, it's not worth seeing, no matter how good the animation is. (For example, Final Fantasy was amazing to look at, but not much fun to watch.)
You can't even compare TSON with modern-day animated films like Shrek and Finding Nemo, in the respect of sophistication. Those films, along with all the other Pixar movies, will stand as classics because of their ground-breaking techniques. On a pure story-line basis, however, I would stack TSON against any animated movie, period.
This movie was specifically aimed at kids, which is what I was when I first saw it. But even with my childhood years well behind me, I am ever amazed by how much I still enjoy watching this movie. The characters are engaging and sympathetic, and the actors playing their voices did so were well chosen for their roles.
Yes, this movie is a lot more serious and dark than any cartoon movie that Disney has ever put out. Yes, small children may well be frightened by it. But where is it written that animated movies, even movies made for children, have to be happy movies? This movie deals with the highly controversial topic of animal experimentation, and that's something that even kids should know about.
Mrs. Brisby, as courageous a mouse as has ever been drawn, has lost her husband and has just learned that her youngest son is seriously ill. He cannot be moved or he might die, which is compounded by the fact that the day the tractor comes to plow the field ("Moving Day") is rapidly approaching.
Many movies have shown what lengths a desperate mother will go to to save her children, but few have done it better than this one. Despite her emotional fragility, Mrs. Brisby takes on the farmer's evil cat and then the tractor itself. She then embarks upon a perilous journey where she must seek the advice of the Great Owl ("Owls EAT mice!"), and from there to the rats who escaped, with her late husband, from NIMH.
There are plenty of scary moments: the chase scene with Dragon; the tractor scene; Mrs. Brisby's encounter with Brutus, the rat guarding the entrance to the rat's lair; and finally, the final scene where she must save her home and her children from a terrible death. But to counteract the darkness of the overall theme, there's one character who was added to lighten the mood and make us laugh: Jeremy, the friendly but clumsy crow, voiced superbly by Dom DeLuise. (The bit at the end where he trips over Cynthia ALWAYS makes me bust out laughing.)
Having read the book, I'm not sure how I felt about the addition of the magical elements the movie incorporated; it was never really explained where the "stones" came from or how the rats got them. But in the big picture, I can forgive this irregularity for the effect the movie had on me.
If you are reading this review, having not yet seen this movie, I would highly recommend watching it. The animation is wonderful (even though it's 20+ years old), and the dialogue and characters are so genuine you'd swear they were real. The story line is bold and intriguing, with enough memorable heroes and villains to make it worth seeing it over and over again.
A definite 10.
Better Off Dead... (1985)
John Cusack is, and always has been, one of America's most underrated actors. He's done comedies (like One Crazy Summer and Grosse Point Blank), dramas (like Identity and Runaway Jury) and action movies (like Con Air). That in itself shows what a range he has, and his face is so expressive that every nuance of emotion comes across as perfectly natural.
Better Off Dead, one of John's first in a starring role, is an incredibly wacky movie, with a predictable plot but enough crazy characters and hilarious lines to make it worth seeing over and over again.
It's always depressing when people come up to you and ask you if they can ask your ex-girlfriend out now, but when such people include: your MUCH OLDER teacher, your mailman, and Barney Rubble....
John does such a great job playing the lovable loser here; we know that everything will work out eventually, but it's a great ride.
Just look at the supporting cast: the shallow-as-hell girlfriend, and the stereotypical blonde jock she dumps him for. The druggie best friend. The absolutely clueless parents. The smarter kid brother. The horrible neighbors from Hell. The Japanese brothers. Lane's boss, who just happens to be Porky! All memorable, and all hysterical. And of course, let us not forget the most determined and fearsome paperboy on the face of the Earth!
And last but not least, Diane Franklin as the scrumptious French exchange-student Monique. I mean, that image of her skiing down the mountain in that cute little pink outfit.... the stuff that teenagers' wet dreams are made of.
9 out of 10. See it over and over again.
Ok, bad pun - couldn't resist.
I am not one of those people who bash movies because they are unrealistic. That's what science FICTION is supposed to be. You think, "Hey, what if....?" If the premise is interesting, the story will be too, no matter how implausible it is. And this movie was interesting, from start to finish.
First, the good things:
1. Uma. 'Nuff said.
2. Paul Giamatti - Stole the show, wish he could have been in more of it.
3. The motorcycle chase scene. Way Cool.
4. The 20 items. I love the way such a complex story centered around the where, when and how to use them all.
Now, the not-go-good:
1. Ben. I'm sorry, but the guy has yet to prove to me that he can actually act. Just like Keanu Reeves, thinking you're cool doesn't make it so.
2. John Woo's trademark of two characters holding guns on each other despite the fact that they are stading only a few feet apart. Check out any John Woo movie, you will see that. In this movie, we saw it twice!
3. Aaron Eckhart's George McFly 'do.
Some movies are enjoyable because they make you think. Others are enjoyable because you don't need to think. And then there are movies like this, which want to make you understand what is going on but it's not required. I liken this movie to "Total Recall"; lots of action (although TR was way more violent), a sci-fi setting, and a plot that made us think. Granted, Ben has about 1/10 the screen presence that Arnie has, but that doesn't make "Paycheck" any less enjoyable.
My score: 9.
Better, Worse... Or Just Different?
I am a little ambivalent when I think about how this movie affected me. I left the theater having not enjoyed myself nearly as much as the first two, that's for sure... but there was a lot to enjoy about the movie anyway.
Let me start by saying that I have not read any of the books; take that in any way you want.
If I didn't already know that there was a different director this time out, it would have been apparent immediately. Chris Columbus did such a magnificent job of translating the first two books to the screen that I expected something very similar here, but that's not the impression POA left on me.
The whole tone of the story was so much darker and scarier than the first two stories, I wasn't sure how to react: it wasn't really scary enough to be called a "scary" movie, but it was also not "fun" enough to really call it enjoyable. Maybe that was the point, because I've been told that the books are the same way.
Let me list the things that I enjoyed the most:
1. The acting jobs of Daniel, Rupert and Emma. Those three have become the embodiment of their characters, so much so that I hope they won't be typecast once the HP movies are over and done with.
2. Alan Rickman as Prof. Snape. He exudes arrogance and disdain but I am convinced deep down he feels admiration and protective of Harry. I have a feeling that something big will brew between them down the line.
3. The overall atmosphere at Hogwart's. This is a place where supernatural and otherworldly things happen hourly, but until now the place has seemed like a funfair haunted house. Kudos to Cuaron for doing that, although I did miss John Cleese's character!
4. The Dementors - a truly scary sight, and well realized.
What I didn't like:
1. What made the first two movies "fun" were the parts that could be described as "kid stuff" - the innocence and inexperience with doing magic, the Quiddich matches, etc. All of that was missing here. Yes, I know the kids are older and more experienced, but they are STILL KIDS. Emma Thompson's character said it best when she told Hermione that she had the heart of an old maid (or words to that effect). Kids are most enjoyable to watch when they having FUN being kids. Even the Quiddich match in this movie was dreary, an extension of the seriousness of the plot rather than a break from it.
2. Michael Gambon as Dumbledore - granted, stepping into Richard Harris's shoes is a very tall order (no pun intended), and I have nothing against Michael as an actor, but I have come to think of Dumbledore as a warm, charming, kindly character, rather like Santa Claus with magical powers. Michael tried his best to pull it off, but some of the warmth was just missing.
3. The omittance of Maggie Smith's character - it was her matronly demeanor, so typical of schoolmarms the world over, that added such as sense of believability to the first two movies. In this movie, she was practically a non-entity. Let's get this straight; Maggie Smith is a classically-trained, experienced actress with an acting resume that stretches back decades, and I applaud whoever convinced here to play this role, and keep playing it. Again, maybe her diminished role in this movie was in keeping with the book, which I haven't read, but I was very disappointed in her absence.
4. The "Defense Against the Dark Arts" Teacher - three movies, three teachers, with yet another one coming in the fourth installment. It's almost become a running joke that whoever takes the position will not last the movie, rather like the drummers in Spinal Tap!
I don't know in what direction this series is headed; the fourth installment, "The Goblet of Fire", is being filmed as we speak and will probably be released next summer. I am glad that they handed the reins over to Mike Newell, a veteran director with a proved track record for hits. For those who don't know, he has directed such films as "Four Weddings and a Funeral," "Mona Lisa Smile", "Enchanted April", and going further back, the "Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" on TV. I think that this is an excellent choice - I am hoping that he can infuse some of the "fun" back into the series without taking away from the more serious overtones of it.
Just as we enjoy kids grow up on TV, I too enjoy watching these kids grow up on the screen. Next time out, I understand that for the first time there will be romantic interests for both Harry and Hermione. In Harry's case, it will be with an Asian character whose name I don't know; the actress playing her will be a complete unknown, which is just what the director wanted. As for Hermione, maybe she'll hook up with Ron - if she and Harry are not going to become involved, Ron would be the next best choice! The other supporting kids probably won't change their characters much; Neville will still be a bit of a weenie, Draco will be an arrogant prick, etc.
For those reading this who skipped over the body of this review and are only reading the final line, I'll just say this - if you are a stalwart Harry Potter fan, you must see this movie. If you enjoy fantasy movies where kids are the stars, you should see this movie. But if you go expecting the same kind of movie as the first two, you will be disappointed.
My score: 7 out of 10.
Just enjoy it!
I have read all the bad comments about XXX - knocking the movie's unfounded comparisons to the James Bond films, slamming Vin Diesel's acting ability, charisma and screen presence, and thoroughly lambasting the film's cookie-cutter Euro-baddies and illogical story line.
You know what? You are all correct. And you know what else? I couldn't care less.
Comparing Xander Cage to James Bond is like comparing the Incredible Hulk to Superman. Both are comic book "heroes", but they have little in common. Bond is suave and debonair; Cage is muscular and quite throughly un-handsome. But it really doesn't matter. I went to XXX with no illusions about what I was going to see. I expected a 100-minute-long music/extreme-sports video, and that's what I got. And I was entertained every step of the way.
When I was a teenager, I enjoyed all the lowbrow Arnie movies that came out (Commando, Raw Deal, Running Man); you watch them now, and you wonder for a moment why you like them. Then it hits you; because they are simple, good-guy/bad-guy shoot-em-up entertainment. And that's why XXX works; sometimes you need to watch a movie where you can just enjoy it without having to think too much about it! There comes a time in everyone's life when one, for the most part, grows out of movies like that. I will still go see the occasional lowbrow shoot-em-up, but not as often as when I was younger. Sometimes I am entertained, and sometimes not, but that's the risk you take with any movie. In this case, I was entertained. Very much so!
It's a bad pun, but there are two kinds of films: movies with action, and movies with acting. If one goes to a movie and expects one thing but gets another, they will be outraged, and pepper this website with negative reviews. My advice to them: just enjoy it! How can one watch the scene where X snow-surfs down the mountain just seconds ahead of the avalanche and not go "Whoa!" That alone was worth the price of admission!
In this day and age, all movies will be analyzed, dissected and scrutinized down to the microscopic level - that's a fact that won't change. But as far as this movie is concerned, I say only this: put the magnifying glass down, park your butt on the couch and enjoy XXX; a campy, overly macho, thoroughly implausible, completely enjoyable romp.
My score: 9 out of 10.
Greatest Movie of All Time
I figure I have paid to see roughly 500 different movies in theaters over the course of my lifetime, rented hundreds more, and seen a few thousand others on cable. And I can say this without hesitation: The Return of the King is the best movie I have ever seen, hands down.
I won't give a long exposition about the plot, or how deserving it's Oscar sweep was; that's already been done by countless others before me. I will say, however, that if Peter Jackson never made another movie again after this, he will still be remembered 100 years from now.
One of the most beloved and most-read series of books EVER, the LOTR trilogy was thought, many years ago, to be unfilmable; it was too long, too broad in scope. You'd have to cut so much out in order to tell the story. And at the time, it was true. But with movie effects and technology having progressed to the point it has, the time was right for the telling of this story. And, viewing the three movies as a whole, I wouldn't change one thing about it.
There were changes or omissions from the original story, of course: the roles of the female characters, Arwyn and Eowyn, were hugely embellished for cinematic purposes; and the disappearance of Saruman from the 3rd installment is the only real niggle I have about the whole series. But I think that if JRR Tolkien had lived to see his work portrayed on the big screen, he would be more than satisfied with Jackson's work.
Having read the books, I wondered just how much of the "after" story would make it into the final cut. Again, they left a lot out, but when you have a movie that is already 3 1/2 hours long, I guess certain sacrifices must be made! Of course, part of me hoped that the movie would never end.... and I know that's a sentiment shared by many.
It's weird to note that ROTK nabbed 11 Oscars without even a single nomination for acting. Many would say that the story's epic-ness and volume were on such a massive scale, that it became difficult for individual performances to stand out. And that is a shame. Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen and Elijah Wood all did such and incredible job infusing their characters with warmth and inner strength that they almost became members of our family while we were watching them.
The word "epic" is sometimes overused when it comes to movies. Any movie that incorporates thousands of extras, huge sets and big-budget effects these days could be called an "epic", but only history will be the judge of how it will hold up. "Titanic" was an epic, in every sense of the word. And for a year or two, it seemed to be the only movie that people saw, or talked about. But look at it now! Yes, it still stands as the #1 grossing movie of all time, a record that may stand for years to come. But it's already played itself out. Everyone has seen it, and few really have any desire to see it again. LOTR, the whole series, will not suffer the same fate. This movie will generate just as much positive buzz ten, twenty years from now as it does today. True, technology and computer effects will continue to grow, evolve and improve. There will be more "epics". But there will never, ever be another series like this one again.
My score: an unqualified 10.
The Thirteenth Floor (1999)
NOT a Matrix knock-off
When this movie came-out, many people I know called it a "poor man's Matrix". I can see their point, to a degree; Matrix had cooler effects, better action sequences and more notable actors in the lead roles than the 13th Floor. But there the similarity ends.
True, the FX from the first Matrix movie were fantastic and ground-breaking, but what else about it, as well as the two films that followed it, do people give high praise for? Not the story line. And not the acting either. Of the whole cast, only Laurence Fishburne did anything that can be remotely considered "acting".
Don't get me wrong, "The Matrix" is a great movie for what it is; but "The 13th Floor" is a great movie for something else entirely. It is a compelling story with real characters, and it didn't bog itself down by trying to be too apocryphal.
Of all the actors in this movie, only Vincent D'Onofrio (and perhaps Dennis Haysbert, thanks to "24") would be considered a household name, and that's all right too. A movie this intelligent should not be overshadowed by the actors playing it out.
Let me just say at this point that Vincent D'Onofrio is one of the best actors in Hollywood; he simply does not do a bad job, ever. If you haven't seen him on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, check it out; even if you're not an L&O fan, it's worth watching just to see him operate.
But I digress... sci-fi movies, much more often than not, are either wildly overblown, over hyped or over-FX'd, or they are campy and seriously exempt of any intelligent thought at all. The idea behind the Matrix, for example, was a very original idea; it would have stood on its own very well, I think, even without all the wall-walking and slo-mo gun battles. The 13th Floor is similarly crafty, proffering the notion that not only can one create a virtual world, but that a character from that world can re-inhabit our bodies should we die in that world. Kudos to the writers that came up with it.
Had I been casting this movie, I may not have cast Craig Bierko - even though he hasn't had much acting experience in a lead role, you have to admit he's got two of the best eyes in the biz! Gretchen Mol I didn't know much about either, but I think both of them did just fine in the finished product.
As a lifelong fan of the Sci-Fi genre, I highly recommend this movie, as long as you go in with an open mind; if your kind of movie is the kind where you can basically switch your brain off for the duration and you can marvel at all the pretty explosions, than this movie isn't for you. But if you like clever, intelligent cinema, you will like this film.
My score: 9
For similarly well-written and well-acted sci-fi movies, I would also recommend "Dark City" and "The Arrival".
Where to begin?
I put Natalie Portman's performance in this movie alongside Haley Joel Osment's in The Sixth Sense as one of the best acting jobs by a preteen in any movie, ever. The reason is this: when a child has a lead role in a movie that he/she would not be old enough to see in a theater, you know that it would take a superior performance to truly stand out. And Natalie does not disappoint.
One scene says it all - she returns from the grocery to find her family massacred and the cops who did it still there. Trying not to show how visibly shaken he is, she keeps walking to Leon's door as if it's her own, and her plaintive whimpering for him to let her in nearly made my heart rip in two.
Until that moment, Leon had the luxury of keeping the rest of the world outside his door, not getting involved in anyone's life (except to kill them). Initially, he is resistant to having this young waif invading his comfort zone; he even contemplates killing her while she slept! But we know that Leon, like the rest of us, will fall under Mathilda's spell; she's too beautiful, too alone and too in need of a protector for Leon not to fall in love with her.
Much has been made about Luc Besson's using a 12-year-old girl as a sexual icon, but that's subject to broad interpretation in my opinion. Twelve is precisely the age that most young girls discover their ability to draw the eyes of men (of ANY age), and I applaud Mr. Besson for embracing that fact instead of acquiescing to the vagaries of political correctness. Is "Lolita" a great work of literature or simply child pornography? Girls that age have always been, and will always be, desired by older men. Call it what you will: reprehensible, disgusting, perverted; but that doesn't make it less true.
Gary Oldman has built his career on playing villains, and few play them as well as he. Whether a scene calls for him to be quietly menacing or deliciously over-the-top, he can do it. The Professional, Dracula, Hannibal, The Fifth Element... he brings a dramatic flair to his bad guys that makes him stand apart from many who play movie villains.
I don't know what substance it was that Gary's character took (perhaps someone will tell me?), but whatever it was, it set him into an altered state of consciousness wherein killing an entire family was akin to conducting a symphony orchestra. And hearing him scream "EVERYYYYONNNEEEEE!!!" sent chills up my spine!
And last but not least, Jean Reno as Leon, the title character, was perfectly done. Speaking English with a thick enough accent that we were JUST able to understand what he was saying, Jean was able to infuse a depth of character into Leon with seemingly very little effort. Mathilde, in a very short time, transforms Leon from cold remorseless killer into a valiant avenging angel. We want so badly for them to make that daring escape and have that happy ending that they deserve, but we all know deep down that it just wasn't going to happen.
In the final scene, when Mathilde replants Leon's beloved potted plant in the yard of her boarding school, we are left with such a sense of not only happiness but sadness as well, which is accentuated by the haunting strains of Sting's "Shape of My Heart", the perfect ending to a fabulous movie.
My score: 10.
Funniest Movie Ever. Period. End of Story.
Few movies in the history of movies inspire its fans to memorize every scene, every bit of dialogue, every microscopic nuance to be brought out later at social gatherings. Such is Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
The Pythoners once said in an interview that when they wrote their characters, their scripts, it was NEVER about what they thought would make millions of people laugh. It was about what made the six of THEM laugh, and that is a fitting testament to Python's genius.
John Cleese once commented that the British are a people who are desperate to be made fun of. When many people think of England, the first images most people the world over conjure up are either the horrible weather or the stuffed shirts that make up the aristocracy. The best British comedies through the years. Python, Benny Hill and the Black Adder series, to name a few, were all made immortal because they railed against the stiff, boring world they grew up in by displaying the wacky irreverence that made even the status quo laugh.
The Knights Who Say "Nee!" The French Taunter. The Castle Anthrax. The Rabbit. Lancelot's stint at Swamp Castle. "Bring Out Your Dead." The Bridge Keeper. You mention these things to people, and they instantly know what you mean, even if the name of the movie hasn't even come up! But even the smaller bits are worthy of remembrance: The Opening Credits. The Coconuts. The Witch Trial. Sir Robin's Minstrels. The old man clapping on the dungeon wall. The 10-second (PSYCH!) intermission. The Holy Hand Grenade. And the aptly named Sir-Not-Appearing-In-This-Film. The list goes on and on. Every second of this movie belongs in the Comedy Hall of Fame.
I'd bet that his film is on more people's Top 10 Funniest Movies of All Time than any other. It has become a standard in the industry.
"Strange women lying in ponds..." "Bet you're gay!" "No I'm not..." "I got better..." "...silly English Knnnnnnniggets" "Run Away! Run Away!" "Well, perhaps I'll stay a BIT longer..." "We want.... a shrubbery!!"
10 out of 10.
Ice Age (2002)
"We are definitely the weirdest tribe I've ever seen..."
Ice Age was a very entertaining movie, with broad appeal for viewers mature and young. Right from the beginning, when we chuckle at Skrat's futile attempts to crack his prized acorn, we are hooked.
The actors chosen to play the main characters' voices played their parts to the hilt, most notably John Leguizamo as the (extremely) goofy-looking but lovable sloth Sid. How could you not laugh at one of his opening lines... "They migrated without me... they do this EVERY YEAR!!" Sid is joined by Manfred (Ray Romano) and Diego (Denis Leary) as three beasts very atypical of their species, and sure enough, they start to gel as a group when faced with the daunting task of returning a human baby to it's tribe after it's mother dies while fleeing a pack of saber-toothed tigers.
I won't go into great detail about the rest of the story; it is not difficult to predict. The good guys win and there is a happy ending; but hey, this is an animated movie aimed at kids, what other kind of ending could there be? Still, putting that aside, the 75 minutes between start and end are extremely entertaining.
My score: 9.