Reviews written by registered user

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108 reviews in total 
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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Amazing, 30 June 2013

What's the biggest secret you ever kept? Sneaking out past curfew, smoking pot behind the garage? What if this secret wasn't yours to tell? Do you think that would make it easier or harder to keep?

Jamal Wallace (played by Rob Brown) is a basketball player in the Bronx. When we enter the story, he's recently taken academic assessment tests and, in contrast to his work in class, has scored high enough to gain the attention of the school board. On top of this, it is mentioned that Jamal (Brown) is an exceptional basketball player. One night, after a successful game, he is sharing a meal with friends at a restaurant. They discuss, among other things, a neighborhood resident who is something of an urban legend, referred to simply as "the window" because he never leaves his apartment. A common tradition among the group is for one member to dare another. One of the men dares Jamal to break into "the window's" apartment and return with something from inside. Jamal enters the apartment and sees a letter opener shaped like a knife but, much to his surprise, "the window" catches him, yelling loudly and inspiring Jamal to flee. Until his mother makes him aware of the fact, he never realized that he left his backpack in the apartment. That's set aside, briefly, when he meets with an admissions officer from an expensive private school, as a result of his test scores. When his mother says they couldn't possibly afford the tuition, the school official says that if Jamal were to continue playing basketball with the same skill for his new school, that tuition will not be an issue. In the time since, Jamal's backpack was unceremoniously dropped from "the window's" apartment and the notebooks inside, all containing creative writing of Jamal's, now with editorial comments written with a red pen. Jamal approaches the apartment, this time using the front door, and asks "the window" if he would read more of his writing.

I truly love this movie. Brown as Jamal Wallace is a character you cannot help but like, despite his momentary foray into delinquency. "The Window" who is later identified as a renowned author who became a recluse decades before we're introduced to him. "The Window", played by Sean Connery, is a very sympathetic character and, as he takes on the role of mentor to Brown's character, the audience is given the opportunity to see it change both of their lives for the better. Until recently, I hadn't watched this film for some time. Since watching it again, I have no idea why it took me this long. You should see this movie as soon as you can.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Amazing, 16 June 2013

Have you ever been seriously ill? Once you're told that you'll recover, you probably found it boring, more than anything else. What if you weren't going to get better? What would you do?

Jack Kevorkian (played by Al Pacino) was a pathologist but, by the time we join the story he has left his career behind. His friends and colleagues say he's retired but Kevorkian (Pacino) states that retirement means you are no longer preoccupied with your chosen profession and that he is simply unemployed. Being unemployed, he has a great deal of free time and is intrigued by a local news story. A man who is paralyzed from the neck down wishes to end his life while the hospital caring for him is fighting to prevent it. Kevorkian had written several articles on euthanasia for foreign periodicals by that time and was now determined to make practical use of his theories. The hospital learned of his intentions, stopped him, and the patient died of starvation. Nevertheless, our protagonist continued his search for a patient. Assisting him in this quest, the doctor had longtime friend and colleague, Neal Nicol (played by John Goodman) and his loving sister, Margo (played by Brenda Vaccaro). In time, he is approached by a married couple, a woman suffering from Alzheimer's and her husband. This presents Kevorkian with an ethical dilemma, as Alzheimer's is not a fatal disease. Once Margo (Vaccaro) puts the matter in perspective, they begin devising a plan. While searching for a location, Kevorkian approached a member of the Hemlock Society by the name of Janet Good. Good (played by Susan Sarandon) offers the use of her home but later reneges. In spite of that, the plan is carried out and Kevorkian becomes national news.

If you ask most people about the Right to Die movement, they'd probably tell you that reasonable people could disagree on the matter. Personally, I don't understand that, as I am an advocate of personal choice. Likewise, I believe this movie is incredible and cannot comprehend anyone thinking otherwise. Pacino has partnered with HBO on another project Phil Spector, about the renowned music producer. Maybe it's the fact that, deep down, Kevorkian is a sympathetic figure and Spector is not but, the latter film fell flat, at least for me. The story of You Don't Know Jack and supporting cast are incredible and Pacino himself won an Emmy for his performance, as he should've. I'm not sure how you'd find it, but you should absolutely see this film if you can.

Go Pre!, 9 June 2013

What's the difference between winning and victory? Is it semantics, like religious and spiritual? Maybe there isn't one. On the other hand, some would say there's all the difference in the world.

Steve Prefontaine (played by Billy Crudup), was a distance runner in Eugene, Oregon with scholarship offers from Yale, Brown, Villanova, Princeton and Nebraska. The one school he wishes to attend, however, has remained silent. Two distance runners from the school and its assistant coach make a personal visit to his home but Prefontaine (Crudup) is not impressed. In the less-than-three week period between that visit and the date when he must sign his letter of intent, Bill Bowerman, head coach of the University of Oregon track team, sends a genuine plea to young Prefontaine asking him to attend. On his first day, he shows an amazing inability to notice the obvious by asking a female student, Mary Marckx (played by Monica Potter) to direct him to an area that is clearly visible ahead of him. He enters the building and sees a long line of fellow team members who recount tall tales of Bowerman's exploits in the military. He is summoned from another room and, on the floor in front of him, he finds his head coach. Bowerman (played and earlier voiced by Donald Sutherland) is making outlines of his runners' feet on tracing paper for the purposes of making shoes specifically for them, explaining that taking an ounce off a runner's shoe amounts to pounds they won't have to carry during a race. The freshman athlete sarcastically compliments him and that is the end of their first interaction. The next day, during a simple workout, Steve gives one hundred percent, finishes ahead of his teammates, and, according to Bowerman, with a pulse rate north of one hundred and ninety. So begins the struggle that would define their relationship: a coach's desire to instruct and an athlete's desire to put forth his best effort, regardless of the consequences.

Much has been made of the fact that Without Limits and Prefontaine, a Disney film covering the same subject matter from a different perspective, were released within months of each other. The general consensus seems to be that, while Prefontaine is more accurate, Without Limits is the better film. As I have not seen the former from beginning to end, all I can tell you is that Without Limits is a masterpiece. Sutherland is mesmerizing as Bill Bowerman and Crudup, in the first role I ever saw him play, is just as entertaining, if not more so. The conflict between them rings true and while you understand the position of the coach, you root for the runner who seeks to leave the field knowing he's done his best. I have seen this film many times and, if you haven't even seen it once, you should. Now.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Very Good, 2 June 2013

How many out there look forward to Thanksgiving? The turkey, the stuffing the time spent with family you haven't seen in months, if not longer? What if, when it finally arrives, you just wish it would end?

Claudia Larson (played by Holly Hunter) is a former artist who now works as a restorer in a Chicago museum. She is summoned to her employer's office during work, but does not know why. Her boss, Peter Arnold (played by Austin Pendleton) informs her that, despite overwhelming enthusiasm for her profession, she is being fired. Claudia protests and mentions coworkers that she believes more worthy of termination, only to find out that, for budgetary reasons, those same coworkers will be fired also. For no apparent reason, she proceeds to kiss her now former boss which ends with her unceremoniously sneezing. He then says, "God I hate the holidays" and that is the last we see of him. With Thanksgiving approaching, Claudia is driven to the airport by her daughter Kitt (played by Claire Danes) and told that she intends to lose her virginity over the holiday, as she will be spending it with her long-time boyfriend and his family. After entering the airport, the hustle and bustle of the season causes her to lose her coat. She calls her brother, Tommy (played by Robert Downey Jr.) from the plane and, getting his answering machine, proceeds to dictate all of these recent developments to a cassette tape. When her plane lands, she is greeted by her parents Adele and Henry Larson. Adele (played by Anne Bancroft) is a housewife and, before actually speaking to her daughter she remarks on her looks. Henry (played by Charles Durning) is a retired airport worker who is called Tubby by his wife and who is simply happy to see his daughter. The drive home and the day before Thanksgiving are fairly uneventful. The occasion itself, anything but.

This is a great movie. There is an obvious difference between "holiday movies" and movies that simply take place during the holidays. While A Christmas Story and the Home Alone series would be the former, Millions, another favorite of mine, and Home for the Holidays would be the latter. Members of the family just don't get along; the holiday itself is more nightmarish than heartwarming and, in spite of that, there is still a tearful goodbye as the family departs at the conclusion of the festivities. This is a movie you can, and should, watch year-round.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Very Good, 27 May 2013

Have you ever felt like a disappointment to everyone you know? Someone your parents and peers think of as an anchor dragging the rest of them down or as a mere inconvenience? How do you get past that?

Berk is a small, Viking village located near the Arctic Circle. At least, that's an assumption I made based on the main character's statement that "it snows nine months of the year and hails the other three". That main character, Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) is the only son of the village chief, Stoick the Vast (voiced by Gerard Butler). The village is under near-constant siege by outside forces. Those outside forces being dragons. Hiccup (Baruchel) is short, slim, and in no way strong. The one trade all villagers learn in their lifetime is the art of hunting and killing dragons. Gobber (Hiccup's employer and the proprietor of the village armory, voiced by Craig Ferguson) suggests that Hiccup stop all of "this" while gesturing to all of him. Gobber (Ferguson) is a man who has lost several limbs over the years, all during encounters with dragons. Hiccup, being seriously lacking in physical strength, designs and constructs a machine to propel the weapons that the other villagers simply throw by hand. Of course, during a trial run in front of Gobber, the machine strikes a villager. Hiccup takes that same apparatus to a mountaintop, fires on one of the few species of dragon that's never been captured or seen and, miraculously, causes that dragon to fall to earth. Overjoyed by this victory, Hiccup shouts in triumph but is soon set upon by a species of dragon that can breathe fire and produce fire throughout its entire body. He's rescued by his father who expresses disappointment in his son and disbelief in Hiccup's claim to have landed a blow against a Night Fury. He treks through the woods the next day, determined to find proof of his accomplishment, but finds something far more significant.

Now, unlike a lot of "adults" I maintain my affection for "children's" movies. This is not to say that I like all, or even most, children's movies. For example, Despicable Me, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and Eight Crazy Nights disappointed me to a degree that I cannot express in words. But, in spite of its flaws or maybe because of them, I loved How to Train Your Dragon. Casting Baruchel as Hiccup was genius. Hiccup's peers, voiced by Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, America Ferrara and others, fit the roles they're given perfectly. If you have children who haven't seen this movie, you should take steps to remedy that. If you don't have children but can enjoy movies that are produced for them, like I do, check it out.

Millions (2004)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Great family fun, 19 May 2013

What would you do if you suddenly found yourself with an untraceable fortune? No doubt, many among us would simply waste the entire amount on luxury items while a select few would plan on for retirement. What about the more evolved choice?

The story begins on moving day for the recently widowed Ronald Cunningham (played by James Nesbitt) and his two sons Damian (played by Alex Etel) and Anthony (played by Lewis McGibbon). By way of voice-over, Damian (Etel) informs us that countries such as France, Germany, and Portugal have abandoned their respective currencies in favor of the Euro and that England will soon do the same. Damian is still distraught over his mother's death while Anthony (McGibbon) has seen that the mere mention of it will inspire strangers to bestow gifts upon them. During a neighborhood watch meeting for new residents of their housing development, the Cunninghams and their neighbors, some of whom include Latter-day Saint missionaries, are told by a police officer that some houses will be burgled. The meeting concludes and everyone goes home. On his first day of school, the teacher asks the students to name personal heroes. His was Nelson Mandela, Damian's classmates named soccer players on their favorite teams, and Damian himself named Catholic saints, at least until the teacher deemed one story was not age-appropriate. When they met up between classes, Anthony told Damian that continuing to reference his vast knowledge of saints would cause him to be ostracized. After school, Damian takes the many boxes his family used to move into their home and constructs a fort near the railroad tracks that lie behind it. The fort is destroyed, however, with Damian inside after the passing of one such train. Damian emerges, shaken but otherwise uninjured, and finds a duffel bag was the cause of his fort's destruction and that the bag itself is full of money.

This is a wonderful film. Danny Boyle has become a well-known director in recent years thanks to films like Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours, but, to date, this is the only film he's directed that wasn't given an R rating. Etel makes the character of Damian one of the most endearing characters I've ever seen on film, despite his eccentricities. His response when he discovers the money's true origins, after initially believing it was a gift from God, is near- heartbreaking. And the imaginary friends who appear throughout the film, all taking the form of Catholic saints that Damian knows as a result of research, bring unexpected surprises and twists to the film. I wish I had seen this film in theaters, but that opportunity was not available to me. I would, however, encourage everyone to watch it at home as soon as they can.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Amazing, 12 May 2013

You know "the one that got away"? Everybody has one. For most people, that would refer to a failed romance. For your avid fisherman, it would refer to a fish. To law enforcement professionals, what do you think it means?

The film begins on a ship in San Pedro Bay. One man, Dean Keaton (played by Gabriel Byrne) is sitting down and informs someone who proffers a generic "how you doing, Keaton?" that he can't feel his legs and identifies him as Keyser. Keaton asks the man what time it is and, after answering, the unidentified man shoots him in the head. Said identified man then ignites a trail of gasoline that causes the ship to explode. Cut to a deposition where Roger "Verbal" Kint (played by Kevin Spacey) explains that the events were the ultimate result of a lineup in New York. Dean Keaton (Byrne), a former police officer and a "white whale" of sorts for Special Agent Dave Kujan from the U.S Customs Bureau (played by Chazz Palminteri) is arrested in front of potential investors, thwarting his foray into legitimate business. Another criminal, Michael McManus (played by Stephen Baldwin) is arrested in his bed and doesn't bother to open his eyes, let alone stand up or run, when the police break down his door. His partner, Fred Fenster (played by Benicio del Toro) is arrested on the street and does attempt to evade arrest but the attempt itself is rather feeble. Todd Hockney (played by Kevin Pollak) is working on a car in a garage when he is arrested. The police inform him that he is under arrest and Hockney, not very concerned by the presence of the police, reaches under the car for a rag to wipe his face. The police draw their guns, he wipes his face and asks, "Are you sure you brought enough guys?" We are then shown the lineup and the interrogations that followed. Back in the present, the boat Keaton was on is destroyed and anyone who was on it is dead, or are they?

I love, love, love, this movie. Spacey as Verbal is amazing. This is one of those occasions where I have no problem with the awarding of an Oscar. Baldwin was never this good before and, to my knowledge, hasn't been since. The story requires constant attention and, at the same time, only serves to set up the twist at the end. Palminteri's character is relentless in his pursuit of Keaton and the result of that dogged pursuit is a major moment in American cinematic history. Other critics, among them the late, lamented Roger Ebert, were not fans of this film. While I don't wish to disrespect them, they could not be more wrong. If you haven't seen it, you should. Right now.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Neo-noir masterpiece, 5 May 2013

Have you ever thought about being someone else? Just leaving behind everything you know and diving headfirst into a new name with new friends and new interests? Would that really erase who you were before?

The story begins with several drug users in the midst of a binge. The narrator, "Danny Parker" (played by Val Kilmer) is also the main character. The drug that he and his companions are and have been consuming for several days is methamphetamine. "Danny" (Kilmer) then gives a brief editorial describing the history of methamphetamine, from its initial invention to the changing profile of the user over the years from kamikaze pilots to housewives to truck drivers and motorcycle gangs. We are then returned to the drug den where one of the users, known as Cujo (played by Adam Goldberg) screams to the entire room that their supply has run out. "Danny" and another addict "Jimmy the Finn" (played by Peter Sarsgaard) leave to buy more from a user and dealer that Jimmy is acquainted with. After "Danny" has returned with the drugs and the binge runs its course, he informs on the dealer to officers Gus Morgan (played by Doug Hutchison) and Al Garcetti (played by Anthony LaPaglia). His dealings with law enforcement are a secret he keeps from his fellow users. Once he's alone and in his own apartment, however, we are shown yet another secret which is kept not only from those he injects methamphetamine with, but also the police he informs to. He sheds his jewelry, washes out the Mohawk he regularly sports, and then states to the empty room that his name is Tom Van Allen and that he's a trumpet player.

This is an amazing movie. Kilmer manages to perfectly portray a loving husband and trumpet player and then seamlessly transform into a derelict drug abuser. LaPaglia and Hutchison, as characters whose true nature and motives are not known at first, put forth performances that are almost as compelling, if not equally so. Deborah Kara Unger as the one character that Kilmer bears his soul to brings an entirely different dimension and resolution to the story. By this point, it should be obvious that this film isn't for everyone. Nonetheless, I highly recommend it.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Galifianakis! Who knew?, 29 April 2013

What were your teen years like? Sleepovers, baseball and paper routes? For a startling many, the teen years are the exact opposite of that. But, when all that stress becomes too much to handle, what do you do?

Craig Gilner (played by Keir Gilchrist) is a sixteen year-old who's contemplated suicide many times. One night, he dreams of riding his bike to the Brooklyn Bridge. In the dream, before he can jump, his mother (played by Lauren Graham), father (played by Jim Gaffigan) and little sister appear on the bridge. After a brief conversation, Craig loses his balance and falls to the water below. He wakes up after that and heads to the nearest emergency room. The admitting nurse, who was on the phone at the time of Craig's arrival, hears him state that he intends to kill himself and simply hands him a clipboard with attached admitting forms. While sitting in the waiting area, a man in scrubs in a lab coat (played by Zach Galifianakis) strikes up a conversation and then leaves abruptly. When he is actually examined, his doctor (played by Aasif Mandvi) does not believe that Craig is a threat to himself but Craig is adamant and, as such, is admitted for evaluation. The part of the hospital usually reserved for mentally ill teens is undergoing renovations so Craig is placed with the adults. His roommate, a middle-aged Egyptian named Muqtada (played by Bernard White) rarely leaves his bed and has not left his room in weeks. The initial shock provokes feelings of "buyer's remorse" in Craig but the hospital staff is not permitted to release him without evaluating him, which will take several days. In that time he becomes acquainted with other patients such as fellow teen, Noelle (played by Emma Roberts) and the man he encountered in the waiting room, Bobby (Galifianakis) who regularly leaves the ward, without permission, dressed in scrubs to avoid being escorted back.

I love this movie. Gilchrist masterfully portrays, in my opinion, a young adult grappling with issues that are far beyond his comprehension who is trying desperately to conceal that at the same time. Graham as the caring, over-emotional mother is someone we feel great sympathy for. Zach Galifianakis, for the first time in his acting career, scales back on the eccentricities we usually see in him and, surprisingly enough, shows talent as an actor. It seems odd that the least eccentric character that he's ever portrayed would be a mental patient, but that doesn't make it any less true. To sum up, It's Kind of a Funny Story is a near-brilliant film and I would advise anyone who found my review intriguing in the slightest to see it at their earliest possible convenience.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
One of Cusack's Best, 14 April 2013

What are your passions? Travel, fine food, family and friends? What if you decided to forsake everything else in your life to make a career out of those passions? Looking back, what would you think?

Rob Gordon (played by John Cusack) is a lifelong Chicago resident and owner of his own record store. The store, Championship Vinyl, attracts very few window shoppers and almost as few intentional customers. The staff consists of Rob, Barry (played by Jack Black), and Dick (played by Todd Louiso). Originally hired to work two days a week, Barry (Black) and Dick (Louiso) decided instead to show up every day. Their personalities are complete mirror images of each other, Barry being loud and opinionated (one of many reasons that Jack Black was perfect for the role) and Dick being soft-spoken and deferential. What they and Rob have in common with each other is an almost encyclopedic knowledge of music and a superior attitude as a result. When we join the story, Rob is being dumped by his live-in girlfriend, Laura. Laura (played by Danish actress Iben Hjejle) has chosen to leave in the evening and Rob, vehemently opposed to the idea, elects to shout out the window as Laura drives away. Rob then proceeds to list the five most devastating breakups in his romantic past, purposely excluding Laura from the list. Noticing that all those relationships ended at the urging of the other party, Rob decides that he is doomed to be rejected. He reaches out to his first girlfriend, a girl he kissed for two hours a day for three days before finding her kissing someone else on the fourth day. While he fails to find his middle school love, her sister informs him that the boy Rob saw her kissing on the first day is now her husband and that they live in Australia. In fact, the woman he speaks to is under the impression that her sister's husband was actually her first boyfriend. Rob tries to disabuse her of this notion but the sister, believing him to be delusional, hangs up. Rob, now believing that his circumstances are the result of fate and not any sort of failure on his part, plans to reach out to his other former partners. Penny Hardwick (played by Joelle Carter) who would not allow the intimacy between them to progress past kissing, Charlie Nicholson (played by Catherine Zeta- Jones) who rejected him and began a relationship with a coworker, and Sarah Kendrew (played by Lily Taylor) who found the ideal relationship with each other, both having been rejected and fearing they would never find their true soul mate. Sarah found someone else while still with Rob and ended things with absolutely no warning.

This is one of those rare comedies that displays truly inspiring performances. Jack Black is, well Jack Black, but he is a valuable addition to the cast and the story. Cusack as Rob plays a character that we lose sympathy for on more than one occasion but ultimately find ourselves rooting for. And, as is typically the case with movies that feature multiple music aficionados as characters, the soundtrack is incredible. Thirteen years have passed since the release of this film and I enjoy it just as much if not more than I did when it was first released. THAT is the mark of true greatness.

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