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151 reviews in total 
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Changeling (2008)
156 out of 204 people found the following review useful:
Grueling and scary search for truth., 2 November 2008

Changeling - In 1928, Single mother Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) returns home one day to discover her nine-year-old son, Walter, is missing. She calls the police and, after enduring a grueling 24 hours, they search for her son. But the boy they return to her is not her son. After confronting corrupt city authorities, Collins is vilified as an unfit mother and sent to an asylum.

This is a grueling film to watch. I have not felt this hideous since North Country, a film which also dealt with misogyny within the power structure. Women are treated as fragile, emotional, and not believable. This film tackles corruption to boot, as the LAPD is accused of being a gang of thugs that answer to no one. Eastwood is old school with the violence, understanding that the mind can fill in the very brutal gaps.

Angelina Jolie delivers another great performance. But unlike A Mighty Heart, this film actually deserves her presence. I don't think she really should have so much press coverage, but there is definitely reason for her acclaim as an actress. The situation her character goes through is so surreal and the film captures it perfectly. It gives you chills from the second Christine is given this pretender to raise and rarely lets up. And if for one moment you tell yourself "It's just a movie" as I tried to, this s*** actually happened. Characters were composited or changed, a disclaimer at the end states, but the events were the same.

An odd praise goes out to Jason Butler Harner, who plays Gordon Northcott, a kidnapper and murderer of many children. He has played one of the monsters of everyone's nightmares to perfection. Also of note is Jeffrey Donovan for his portrayal of J. J. Jones, corruption personified. Jones is a man able to whisk people away to asylums with no need of warrants. Scary indeed.

Changeling shares a theme with several of Clint Eastwood's other films. Unforgiven and Flags of Our Fathers come most readily to mind. His lesson concerns truth and lies, and exposing the hypocrisy of falsehoods for want of the truth. The truth is rarely pretty, but generally preferable to lies, and will often come to surface, if given enough time. I doubt I will watch this struggle for truth for a long time to come (it's not one for casual viewing), but it's a very good film.


78 out of 88 people found the following review useful:
It was a gamble, but good film!, 11 April 2008

Smart People - Smart People had a 46% on Rotten Tomatoes, but it's far better than that. Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennie Quaid) is a "holier than thou" widowed professor you unfortunately meet once in awhile. He's the sort who's deeply invested in his subject but can neither make it accessible nor allow the students any time to discuss it. He's a brilliant asshole essentially. He meets a physician in a hospital after a head injury and begins to reevaluate his life and his happiness. He has a dead-beat brother-in-law (Thomas Haden Church who steals every scene he's in), a daughter (Ellen Page) who is a young Ann Coulter in the making, and a son (Ashton Holmes) to whom he never talks.

This film is quite funny! Page and Church were definitely the stand-outs, but I appreciated Dennis Quaid and Sarah Jessica Parker, two actors who I rarely ever have liked. It deals with a couple familiar rom-com problems (pregnancy, the "other woman" thing), but the film never feels overly sentimental or cliché. It's satisfying watching Quaid's character get some richly deserved socks to the stomach once in awhile, but you're with him anyway by the end. The humor is a little on the biting cold side, which goes well with my tastes, maybe not with some. Smart People overstays it's welcome a bit near the end, but a good movie overall.


107 out of 149 people found the following review useful:
Do what makes you happy. This film actually believes it., 8 November 2008

Role Models - Two energy drink spokesmen, Wheeler and Danny (Seann William Scott and Paul Rudd) get in trouble with the law after Danny has a break-up with his girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks who is in everything these days). They are given the choice of jail or community service with troubled kids, and choose the latter. Danny is given a boy Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse of Superbad) who wears a cape and is into role-playing games. Wheeler is given a foul mouthed terror of a boy (Bobb'e J. Thompson).

Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott have good chemistry. Rudd has dry sarcasm to spare and Scott plays a sex-addled numbskull. Their interactions with the two talented young boys are funny and occasionally sweet. Bobb'e J. Thompson is one of the better child actors of his age and makes the nightmare of every teacher a cool often wickedly funny little character. Christopher Mintz-Plasse, or "McLovin'" as he's known throughout America, plays essentially the same character but sweeter and shy and, funny enough, less creepy. So yeah, he's pretty firmly typecast as "dork" at this point. But he's a very palatable dork and may help raise the image of dorks everywhere above the status of subhuman. I heard many girls in the audience very sensitive to his plight in the audience.

A few parts of the plot are contrived. But aside from a few film snobs, who goes to see a comedy for its original plot? The important thing is the laughs, and this is where the film delivers. Directed by David Wain, maker of The Ten (funny cult film), and written by Wain and Paul Rudd, this film is hilarious. The laughs were frequent and hearty. One of the films defining elements is the showcasing of role-playing games such as Dungeons&Dragons (here it is known as L.A.I.R.E). Role Models takes a surprisingly even handed look at it. It pokes fun, of course (so easy). But there is also respect ingrained. The result is a case of "so lame it's awesome" where the absurdity of D&D is given the gravitas of your average Hollywood blockbuster. It's hilarious, and does look terribly fun.

And it's here that the film makes it's stand. Do what makes you happy, no matter what your parents or anyone else tells you. It's been said in so many films that the message seems false at this point. But in Role Model's extreme example of people doing what makes them happy, it really does ring true. You got to give a bunch of people playing with foam swords in the forest their due. They're doing what makes them happy. Can you say the same for yourself? I can't right now.

This was a delightful film. It may be a bad year for movies, but it's a damn fine one for comedy. A-

130 out of 203 people found the following review useful:
Sherlock Holmes for the remake generation, 25 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Sherlock Holmes - Based on the books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the popular detective is portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. His loyal companion Watson (played superbly by Jude Law) is getting married and Holmes is none too happy. Their antics are put on the shelf because Lord Blackwood (ice cold Mark Strong), a powerful man of the occult world, has committed a series of murders. When he is hung, he rises from the grave and promises to drastically change the world with himself as master. With the future of several countries at stake, it is up to Holmes to stop Blackwood. Downey Jr. disappears into the role like the character does with various disguises. He is completely believable as a detective whose deductive skills are so powerful that, without focus, mundane situations are overwhelming to his psyche. The film and role are his.

Holmes is portrayed as a borderline manic depressive eccentric who cannot function unless he has a goal to accomplish. In other words: Robert Downey Jr. The film has fun exploring the part of Holmes left untouched by the films done by varying Television productions for many years. Namely: the physical side of Holmes. Yes, Holmes is a boxer, stick/sword fighter, and a martial artist. It was in the books, and it is done in this film as well. He flung Moriarty down a chasm with jujitsu in one of the stories for God's sake! It always bothered me that Holmes's eccentricities and drug-use seemed to be shelved on the screen in favor of a more well-put together stern man who would never deign to get his hands dirty. Holmes was never meant to be a symbol of stiff-upper lip Britain, yet that's what he became. The obvious reasons behind these choices were probably finances (or lack thereof concerning fight co-ordination) and censorship. It's funny how interpretations work. Icons are taken down such a strange path that, when someone decides to bring them to where they started, the old looks new. Batman was always noir. Bond was a quipless suave killer. Holmes could fight.

A down and dirty Holmes is more interesting (surprise!) to a 21st century audience than an omniscient uppercrust man eternally in a bathrobe. This Holmes is fairly true to the original character. It may not be true to the Holmes some people have in their heads, but that version cherry picks elements of Doyle's original creation. Actually this Watson is not as close to the original version (younger with no limp), but this Watson ties Holmes to reality, is less of an audience fill-in (read: a dumb shmoe) and kicks some major ass.

The film is riveting with only a few parts that actually lag. Huge explanations are saved until the end. We realize we have seem more or less all that Holmes has seen, and yet he gleaned far far more with his powerful intellect. Guy Ritchie's directing is vast and yet detail oriented. It's fairly comprehensible yet there is enough in the dialogue and character relationships to warrant future viewings.

Sherlock Holmes is smart and entertaining, a combination which always works better than either adjective by itself. This is an invigorating re-boot that reminds us why the detective is such an icon. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law have perfect chemistry like an old married couple. Mark Strong plays a chilling villain and one lament is that, as part of the film is spent trying to find him, his performance is surprisingly brief. Rachel McAdams is the one part of casting that feels disingenuous. She's not quite devilish or sensuous enough to be the one woman that outsmarted Sherlock Holmes. Still, a thoroughly entertaining film for the head and heart. I look forward to the inevitable sequel. A-

136 out of 225 people found the following review useful:
Dark, and funny., 18 November 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - Harry (Dan Radcliffe) enters his fourth year of Hogwarts and is entered into the incredibly dangerous Triwizard tournament by an anonymous stranger. All hail to Mike Newell, the director of this masterpiece! The movie forgoes the happiness and frivolity of the previous movies and replaces it with teen problems (done very funnily of course), epic action sequences and hilarious British humor.

Coming back to the show are the fantastic three. Dan has come into his own. He is Harry. He is vulnerable, angry, not always sure what to do, and has actually gotten quite good at comedy routines. Rupert Grint is not just used for comedic relief this time. He gets jealous of Harry for getting into the tournament, and is tired of being referred to as "Harry Potter's Stupid Friend". Emma Watson is beautiful and plays the supporter of Harry largely, but does it well. The other children are a blast to watch, especially Neville and Fred and George. I liked how more attention came to the character of Cedric Diggory, and his brief relationship to Harry.

The adult actors are sparingly but well used. Alan Rickman only has two main scenes (He probably did about one day of filming) but it's just enough. Maggie Smith is equally funny and Micheal Gambon is used more than in the previous film. He thankfully has one fatherly scene in this film, which was lacking in PoA. Brendan Gleeson is hilariously over-the-top as "Mad-Eye", a vicious old dark wizard catcher assigned to be the new Dark Arts teacher.

The humor has grown more adult, which fits the growing audience better. Sexuality and Excellent Writing replace most of the repetition gags and silly physical humor of Columbus and Cuaron. This fits J.K. Rowling's style much better actually. It's all very funny and very British, as it should be. As for the teen problems? Getting a date for the dance, and learning to dance. Dealing with rejection and hormones. We've all been there. It's all very real and well done. These kids feel like real people, not mythical elves or gods.

The movie is close to 3 hours, but chances are you'll spend most of it either laughing or terrified. Harry's round with the dragon is intensely scary but amazing. His second task, slightly less so, but the dragon was a tough act to follow. The maze is scary, easily a villain by itself. Think "The Shining" on crack. The finale will leave pretty much anyone with a soul breathless and crying. Ralph Fiennes is terrifying as Voldemort. Dark times indeed.

Not for anyone who hasn't seen the other movies or read the books (or doesn't want to because it's not "cool"), but who gives a crap about them? Not for kids under 12 (they'll go to see it anyway, I've seen 7 year olds read the 6th book), but this stuff is scary for anyone. Diehards who want every side-plot of the book included will be disappointed. C'mon guys, the movie's almost 3 hours anyway (Though I was genuinely disappointed at the lack of further exposition about Neville Longbottom)! The movie does the best at being comprehensible without aid of reference from the books of it's predecessors, and is a genuinely exceptional comedy/thriller, and feels epic and yet real. And that's a tall order to deliver for a story about magic and a wizard. Mike Newell is a god truly.

Not for the faint of heart, this gets an A

86 out of 126 people found the following review useful:
Not bad, but not great, 1 July 2005

Land of the Dead - The 4th part of George A. Romero's zombie quadrillogy. It's been decades since the dead began to walk the Earth, and now they practically own it (except for Canada for some reason). There is one last little mega-city that is surrounded by electric fences, armed patrols and barbed wire on one side, and nothing but water on all other four sides, because the dead supposedly don't like water. Despite the fact that the surrounding lands are rife with zombies, this metropolis is incredibly corrupt. All thanks to evil bureaucrat Kaufman (Dennis Hooper, who I had a ball watching) who makes all but a select few rich folks (who have never seen or fought a real zombie) live in slums. There you can get your picture taken with zombies, or watch zombie fights (they fight over animals and the occasional human). There are a few mercenaries paid to make runs in a giant tank truck for precious commodities in the outside world.

Now I like George and could thank him endlessly for starting the zombie franchise, but he has always favored gore just a little more over character development, and has always liked his zombies just a LOT more than his humans. Heck in this movie, the zombies are practically the good-guys! They're just like you and me, except they rip people's arms in two (and I do mean length-wise) and tear belly button rings out of people. They are actually pretty intelligent and moderately fast at walking. By far the biggest threats in Romero's movies (most notably "Big Daddy" (Eugene Clark). For the most part though, it works, and it's good gory fun. Except the character development thingy. While I don't begrudge Romero for having fun with his zombies, I wasn't too sympathetic to Riley (Simon Baker) or Slack (Asia Argento). Riley, like Romero it seems, is just tired of character development as he has Riley say "I'm fed up with back-stories". But Riley dear boy, that's how the audience grows to care about you. Slack almost kills several of her fellow team-mates and does not grow at all, but that's the script's fault. Both of these characters, however are played well for what the actors are given.

Surprisingly the secondary characters are far more endearing. Cholo (John Leguizamo) was not only believable as a merc, but I was quite sympathetic to him as he realized that he was a pon. "Pilsbury" (Pedro Miguel Arce) and Charlie (Robert Joy) are endearing and funny.

So the effects are good. The story is iffy. The acting is good. The character development is iffy. The ending is really lame. This gets an overall B

"Pokémon" (1998)
38 out of 39 people found the following review useful:
Lost interest, but it was still a cute show., 22 August 2006

A 4. something on IMDb? It was better than that. If everyone's going to diss their childhood, w/e. But I'm not going to act like I didn't like I didn't watch the show and play the games every Saturday. The early episodes were best. Best episodes where the ones involving Charmander (and his forms to come), Primeape, The Cinnabar Island gym match, and the Indigo Plateau finals. Also that one where Ash fights the gym owner that has the Dragonite. The Johto episodes were just too drawn out. I mean, there are like 20 cities inbetweeen EACH gym battle, when they're all so close together in the games. It's ridiculous. And yes, those damn Pokemon were damn cute. By the end Team Rocket was just really annoying. But I just stopped caring near the end of it. They just kept adding to the list of Pokemon. First it was 150, than 250, and the list just kept growing higher and higher.......The games where better by the end of it. But it was still a fine fad, and still good for little kids.

67 out of 101 people found the following review useful:
Would "High Octane" be a Cliché here?, 3 August 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Bourne Ultimatum - Jason Bourne (Matt Damon in his best role ever), the newest spy kid on the block, brings his quest for his identity to a close as he also seeks to end the CIA's latest program "Blackbriar" to make super assassins like himself.

I was so psyched for this one that I watched it's predecessors yesterday and today. Identity was as brilliant as I recall and Supremacy remains the weak (but still enjoyable) link in the chain for the weakest plot and, aside from a car chase which this film's chase easily tops, slight lacking in action and suspense.

Hoo boy, does Ultimatum have suspense! Even when you know Bourne will escape the authorities (and boy do these films spotlight the police as inept), it's still brilliant watching him do it. It's mind-boggling to think that two guys with handguns and mopeds can create 10x more suspense than anything those $150 million giant robots did in Transformers.

Chalk it up to Paul Greengrass, who has this idiosyncratic style of shooting stedicam a la documentary, even though he's filming characters that are far from ordinary, in places like CIA headquarters where no one within 10 miles would be allowed with a camcorder. He seemed to listen to my various complaints with Supremacy, as the action in Ultimatum is nothing less than awe-inspiring, with various implements used as weapons being a candlestick, a hardcover book (I'll never look at those the same way again) and an electric fan (Don't ask). The music also helped generate much suspense, and there was hardly ever a moment to not nail-bite over.

The acting is good, and the evolution of Julia Stiles' character "Nicky" put her situation into a new highly sympathetic light. Damon plays his signature role with reserve but competency (which sounds minor but that it genuinely looks like Matt Damon could evade the CIA and Interpol is something), but noticeable moments of poignancy as he still struggles to find his humanity. This longing of his for a real life could get boring, and almost did in Supremacy, but just works better in Ultimatum (better script).

I am reminded of a scene in "Goldeneye" (the only good Pierce Brosnan Bond film) in which Sean Bean's character asks James if the martinis ever silence the screams of all the men he's killed. Bourne regrets all the people he killed, and he considers (or at least made me consider) the meaning of action without purpose, life without meaning, and how the government has transformed men into resources. Albeit, resources that know Krav Maga and can make weapons out of anything.

Sidenote: it's always bothered me that, despite being a superspy and hunted by the CIA, Interpol, and the police nearly ANYWHERE he goes, that Bourne never thought to make even the smallest attempts to disguise his features or forge some new passports. Sunglasses maybe?

If you have a pulse and love action movies, than Bourne Ultimatum is for you. Hell, it's probably the best action film to come out this year. Of course, you'd be a fool to see it without watching the others first. It kind of drags a touch near the end, but I almost feel tempted to overlook that. This is the first "3" movie this summer to at least match, if not exceed, the original and that is saying something.


43 out of 62 people found the following review useful:
Funny and sweet without seeming too formulaic, 13 November 2008

Forgetting Sarah Marshall - A slacker composer Peter (Jason Segel from "Knocked Up") has a breakdown after his girlfriend Sarah (Kristen Bell of "Heroes"), the star of a hit TV show, dumps him for a British pop star. Peter goes to Hawaii to try and forget about Sarah, which proves to be a poor choice when he finds Sarah is not only in Hawaii, but they are staying at the same hotel. Paul Rudd, Bill Hader, Jonah Hill and Mila Kunis co-star.

This was a funny movie! It's a more mature than your average comedy. It survives comedically without leeching off too many other bits of pop culture, unlike Knocked Up. There is the exception of some funny spoofs of CSI and Ghost Whisperer, two fatted calfs rip for killing. Everyone is allowed to be funny, even the women, and they are. I enjoyed the occasional "Scrubs" style cut-aways which were frequently funny. The best one has to be the week Peter spent in the same pair of sweat pants.

This was a lucky stroke from from first time director Nicholas Stoller and first time writer (in addition to lead actor) Jason Segel. I hate making comparisons to other actors, but I kept thinking of Judge Reinhold when I saw Segel. Not that that's a strike against him.

Segel is a fresh face in the comedy genre, and is adept at playing sympathetic slacker and funny man in one. Kirsten Bell acts much better in this than Heroes, and it's a nice change of pace to not recognize Paul Rudd in appearance and character immediately. Bill Hader is funny as always. What really comes across in this film is that everyone, even Sarah Marshall, seems like a 3-dimensional character. Hopefully the days in comedies when people are bitchy or vile just for the hell of it are gone. Even the shallow pop star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), who is the rival to Peter, is likable. There's no animosity between the two men. It's nice to have a comedy where we don't have to demonize anyone.

It's a cute film, sometimes hilarious, but the first half is definitely funnier than the second half. I might pick it up on DVD sometime.


112 out of 202 people found the following review useful:
Dark, funny, and not weighed down by too much exposition., 19 July 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - A footnote: Funny thing about Harry Potter reviews. If you peruse enough of them, you'll notice that "lack of nit-picks" is a substitute for praise. Everyone comes from different points of view when they go in to see these films. Some people read the books, some haven't. Everyone has their favorites, or hates the films in general. I have never experienced the films without having read the books first so I cannot comment on how hard it is to follow any of them. For some they are too long, for some not enough. I have enjoyed all of the films to varying degrees all for different reasons. David Yates continues from where he left Order of the Phoenix, arguably the weakest of the seven books but one of the stronger films.

In the sixth Harry Potter, Harry works with Dumbledore to unlock a key secret about Voldemort. To do this, Harry has to get close to Professor Slughorn (played with aplomb by Jim Broadbent). What interested me most about the way this is played out are the quiet similarities presented between Harry and Tom Riddle. Dumbledore actively wants Harry to act more like Tom in an attempt to defeat him. This enhances the idea posited back in the 2nd film and book. The sub-plots surrounding this are delightful. Quidditch has never been done so well. The Slug Party is also delightful. Harry's fancying Ginny and Ron's troubles between Lavender and Hermione round out the film. A small downside of this is there is less room for some of the best talent in the UK, many of whom merely supply the garnish on a good meal.

Michael Gambon is wonderful in this turn as the greatest wizard Dumbledore. He just needed the screen time to shine. I hope this nails the lid on the doubters. Alan Rickman plays Snape to perfection, much as it would have been fun to see him momentarily lose his cool. Maggie Smith and Robbie Coltrane have wonderful cameos. I seem to be the only person that appreciates Daniel Radcliffe post-Equus. I think the young man has really come into his own. Rupert Grint has also become a fine comedic actor. Tom Felton slowly freaks the hell out as a young man given an impossible task. My favorite little scene stealer is Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood.

The film plays fast and loose with the source material, and, unlike with Prisoner of Azkaban, the results are not disappointing. On the contrary, this might be, next to Goblet of Fire, my favorite of the films. Part of the reason this time is the film's atmosphere is so appropriate, the characters so well acted and written, that it makes us yearn for more of everything that IS in the film, not lament what was cast aside. I can forgive plot simplification as film is a different medium. I would not have made all the choices Yates has, but he nails the beginning and end of the film, includes many touching character moments, and the movie on the whole is FUNNY damnit! True Potter fans should see that Yates has broken the letter to preserve the spirit of Harry Potter.

One note from the Potter die-hard within the competent film critic: it is disappointing to miss out on one crucial flashback that would have given Ralph Fiennes a terribly awesome scene to do with Michael Gambon. As for the rest. Potter-ites, Yates has this well in hand. Put aside the canon-charts, and enjoy watching small variations on a story you know and love. I know, given the choice, I prefer a story that pops to life over one nailed down to a strict regiment of plot points and exposition. A-

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