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The Rocket (2005)
10 December 2007
As a hockey fan who also happens to love movies, the two combined made seeing "The Rocket" a must for me. It was playing only for a week in a tiny theater in NYC so I saw it the day after it opened. I was surprised to find out that it had been out awhile and only just arrived here two weeks ago.

Roy Dupuis is a tower of dignity as Maurice Richard. I don't know what Richard looked like in real life, or what he was like, but Dupuis is a terrific actor, a great skater, and he cannot be faulted for anything. I have to admit that although I have naturally heard of Richard, I did not know much about his life and struggles, but now I am very interested in reading up on him. I was lucky enough to have seen three games at the Montreal Forum, which is where he would have played and have an enormous amount of respect for the tradition of the Canadians. They are still to hockey what the Yankees are to baseball, even though they are not always a playoff team. But its men like Richard that have created that tradition.

The whole movie is very well done and it was nice seeing current NHL players in small parts. It is a better movie than all the other hockey movies I've seen (not that there are that many to choose from) and that includes "Slap Shot" which I love since its hilarious but its not even close to this, as far as the story it tells about a real stand-up guy, facing many obstacles and playing the greatest sport in the world. Hats off (since no one wore helmets back then..) to all involved. 10/10.
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Billy the Kid (2007)
Oh, the humanity
10 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Billy is not that different from the rest of the world who happen to also be fifteen years old. He has an active fantasy life, he wants a girlfriend, he wants to know he has a place in the world, somewhere. He is fortunate enough to have an extremely supportive and loving mother who says that they are 'best friends' and the evidence of that is clear, once you see how they relate to one another. His life is not that fascinating but whose is at that age. There are moments of extreme boredom and many of happiness, too. Billy become interested in a girl who works at a local diner whose name is Heather. She does not have much to say, or maybe she just does not have that much to say while she's on camera. Not everyone in the world is completely at ease under those circumstances..I know I wouldn't be. But Billy seems to be, and he tries to charm Heather and at first it works and then it kind of doesn't. They break up and he is not too happy, but he pushes on. The best moment in the movie is when he asks her out, off-camera, and then gets a round of applause from some guys who happen to be hanging out near the diner. Billy is an interesting guy. I'm three times his age, plus some, and I can relate to much of what he feels. I wouldn't mind knowing what happens to him next. 8/10.
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Enchanted (2007)
Started out good...
1 December 2007
The animation was fun. Looked dated but it was probably supposed to. When she arrived in Times Square it was funny. For about 45 minutes it was very funny and very clever. It did not stay that way. It became the very thing it was making fun of so the beginning and the end were like two separate movies for me.

I do think that Amy Adams is extremely good and has enough talent and screen presence to keep the movie intact even when things go slightly corny. If she's not real good, the whole thing pretty much can fall apart.

James Marsden is also very good as Prince Edward. Having seen him in this and in "Hairspray" I am beginning to think I should be a fan. What was a little funny to me what that one day last summer I saw him in Central Park, and then he had that scene in Central Park when the guys on bikes run over him...

Went with several family members, all female, and they really loved this a lot. I cannot quite join them in that sentiment, but I did enjoy it more often than not. I could have done without Pip, completely. A little too cutesy for me, really. 8/10.
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A brilliant mess
18 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I can't begin to describe the plot or anything that happened on the screen. After two minutes I thought my head would explode. After twenty minutes I considered leaving. Then I guess I got used to it all and by the end, I knew I had seen something really brilliant, even though I have no idea what it all is. You can't categorize this movie. You have not seen anything else like it, and take that anyway you choose to. But Richard Kelly is, at the very least, taking a chance making a movie like this. I'd sooner spend time watching what someone like him has to say as opposed to what passes as 'cinematic entertainment' these days. I don't suggest taking it all too seriously if you decide to see this movie. I don't think that if your leading man is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson you're supposed to confuse him with Sir Anthony Hopkins anyway. I don't think you hire a lot of people who used to work on "Saturday Night Live" as your supporting cast and confuse them with the Royal Shakespeare Theater, too. So relax! I don't know if I can recommend it to anyone but if you're feeling experimental, then by all means, run! I'd see it again in a second. I am a big fan of "Donnie Darko" and if that was not to your liking, then stay far away. This makes "Donnie" look like "The Sound of Music" but as I said, I didn't love it all, but I did.
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Despite some problems, it was good
5 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
**HUGE Spoilers WITHIN**

It is a good movie, practically a great one. There's not a chance in the world I would state anything else. But its also highly improbable. The actors are all really terrific and I didn't think Ethan Hawke could be that good. Hoffman has been great (and will be again) so that was expected. I left the movie feeling the effects of it. I went into a Rite Aid to get a pack of Marlboros and wouldn't have been surprised if the clerk or another customer pulled a gun in the store. The violence in the movie is very realistic and makes you realize its part of the world we live in. I kept thinking that Shakespeare would have liked this movie and it feels like something he might have written. The tragedy of it is real, also.


-Andy and Hank worked in their parents jewelry store, so why didn't they know about the gun? Why does no one exhibit any surprise that their Mother actually used it to kill Bobby? Andy questions why she was working there that Saturday, it seemed to me that someone would have asked a rhetorical question about the gun and its use.

-What does Charles hope to find out from the cops? The identity of the robber is known.

-Why did Andy admit to Charles that he was responsible for the robbery? Is he covering for Hank? If this is a death-bed confession then I guess I get it.

-Why are Andy and Hank surprised that their Mother is in the hospital? I know the UPS truck blocked Hank's view of who went into the store that morning but it seemed conceivable that it was her. Unless they were unaware Charles had his drivers license by that time..

-I also have to question Andy leaving his business card w/that old jeweler. It reeks of stupidity, but maybe that's the point. Its not like these were career criminals. Furthermore, why do Andy and then Charles go to the jeweler anyway? No jewels were taken! The robber died in the act!

-Bobby's widow would have been contacted once the law identified Bobby as the robber, and she would have given up Hank in a heartbeat. If she hadn't, then her and her brother would have been able to blackmail Hank with the fact that the cops know Bobby did it but did or did not have an accomplice.

I had a problem with Gina's departure. Asking Andy for money made me want to laugh. If you're skipping out on your spouse, you should at least have had pocket money for a cab. It also seemed to me that Gina might have suspected that Andy was somehow involved in the robbery. The way she's looking at him when she's doing the dishes as Andy is speaking with Charles in the backyard led me to believe that she thought that this was possible. I might have believed her reasons for leaving him if this was part of what she was hoping to avoid being party to.

I also wanted to mention another memorable performance by Michael Shannon. He was the best thing in "World Trade Center" and is quickly becoming an actor whose career may be worth following. He has only two scenes here but I was glad to see him again.

In summary, its worth seeing but if you look too deeply into it, it may not all make logical sense. But I did feel as though I had actually seen a movie when it was over, and that's something that does not happen as often as one would hope. 8/10.
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I have one thing to say..are you listening? .... PLASTICS
17 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
An uncommonly touching, funny and fantastic movie, "Lars and the Real Girl" really hits all its marks. With a perfect performance by Ryan Gosling in the lead role and memorable supporting work from the rest of the cast, I can wholeheartedly recommend this movie, and I already have.

Lars is a loner. He lives in the garage on the property owned by him and his brother Gus. Gus has a wife, Karin, who is extremely giving and goes out of her way to extend herself and her home to Lars. Lars overhears a co-worker talk about a website that sells plastic dolls. There is another co-worker named Margo who has a crush on Lars but he seems a little oblivious to that. Lars purchases a doll named Bianca, much to the horror of Karin and especially Gus. Lars does not see anything unusual about this and it brings him out of his shell in a big way. Everyone that surrounds him accepts this relationship without reservation. Soon Bianca is included in the community as a real person, which is both a good and bad thing as far as Lars is concerned. When she becomes ill, Lars takes her to a very understanding doctor named Dagmar. As she is treating Bianca, she is also speaking to Lars and getting insight into his reasoning.

The movie is incredibly touching, mostly because of Gosling. I'd never seen him before but he's a very good actor. Its a tricky thing, playing a role like this, because if he makes one wrong move, the whole thing falls apart. You cannot feel like you want to laugh at him, and you don't.

10/10. See it!
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Shoot 'Em Up (2007)
Gunplay has never been this much fun
24 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Wow, I really loved this movie. I snuck in to see it after seeing "In the Valley of Elah" which was good but extremely downbeat. This helped me get over that in a great way.

From the opening minutes, "Shoot 'Em Up" is over the top and earns its title immediately. It makes the generic 'action' films seem stupid by comparison. Smith shoots and then shoots some more, usually under ridiculous circumstances. Even the dialogue, the one-liners, are sometimes stupid, but you don't mind since they are supposed to be.

Clive and Giamatti are perfectly cast, Monica is beautiful to look at, and they make a fun movie better than it has any right to be. Its smart enough not to overstay its length - its just long enough to entertain but not too long to become a drag.

The pro-carrot people now have a favorite movie. Thanks to all who were able to put this extremely entertaining movie together. 10/10.
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Knocked Up (2007)
Funny, but not consistently so
6 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I had a good time watching this movie. It was a spur of the moment movie decision to even go to see it and luckily it was at a very convenient time so we went, the day after it opened.

I can't go along with all the raves and user comments that suggest its this hilarious movie. Its just not. That's not to say its awful because its not, its just not what I would label a hysterically funny movie. Its funny but hardly consistently so. There are many lapses in the comedy. Its too long - if it were edited better, the movie would have benefited.

I could also complain about the believability of the characters. I did not believe for a moment that Alison really liked Ben all that much, even after she said she did. Maybe that was the script, maybe that was Heigl, but I didn't buy it.

A lot of the enjoyment I got from the movie came from Leslie Mann, who played Alison's sister Debbie. I liked her a lot in "Orange County" even though she didn't have that big a role in that movie. She's very easy going, very likable. I like Paul Rudd, too, and he's very good.

I also enjoyed Kristen Wiig as Alison's co-worker Jill. She has only two scenes but she makes the most of them.

The actors that have cameos are also fun, notably Ryan Seacrest and James Franco.

I have to confess that I find it a very beautiful thing to see a woman give birth, and that scene was very well done and very touching for me.

Again, it was a good time, but I can't go quite overboard as some of the other users and critics seem to be able to do. 7/10.
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Spider-Man 3 (2007)
21 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Having seen the first of the installment, and pretty much hating it did not dampen my spirits going into this one. I was with a friend who had seen them all and was very excited to see this one, so I was basically just being nice and cooperative seeing this movie. Its not like there is a ton of other stuff worth seeing anyway...

But it was very good. I think it could have lost twenty minutes along the way, somewhere, but what's there is very interesting. I liked that it seemed to concentrate quite a bit on friendship - the importance of it, the loss of it and the idea that it should weather anything that might get in the way of it.

Mary Jane has the hardest time of it, in many ways. This girl cannot get a break. After being fired from her Broadway debut (there's not a chance in the world that would have happened the way it happened, but if the main character in your movie flies through the air, you cannot expect full logic and you cannot ask for the things you might normally expect to get from a movie) and then getting a total lack of attention from Peter right when she needed it the most, she's lacking several things necessary for one's happiness. Dunst does not have a whole lot to do other than look pretty annoyed most of the time. Its not exactly her movie anyway but you kind of want the leading lady to be a little less joyless.

Harry is also at a crossroads. Having battled Peter and then conveniently forgetting it ever happened, he's re-born as a nice guy following his 'accident' and then as his memory returns, he realizes that..'oh yeah, I want Peter Parker to be dead', things of that nature. When they are unable to reach an understanding, they battle again but Harry's elderly butler butts in, telling Harry that Peter was not responsible for his father's death, and this does not happen a moment too soon, since Peter needs Harry's help in order to rescue Mary Jane from not one but two evil dudes who are out to remove her from not only his life but her own as well.

The f/x for the emergence of the Thomas Haden Church Evil Dude character are very well done. The same cannot be said for the Topher Grace character, since they are fairly cut and dried.

Laughs are provided by Elizabeth Banks, as J.K. Simmons assistant. Bill Nunn, Theresa Russell and Rosemary Harris have a little to do with the proceedings, but not much.

Its not a bad movie, its just not that memorable. Its rather somber at times and even sad. It does seem open-ended in its conclusion, so many there really will not be a sequel. Okay with me. Better to end while you're ahead, I always say. 8/10.
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Grindhouse (2007)
I'm thrilled this hit the screen
30 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I am old enough to have seen something exactly like these movies when they would have come out in the 70s. After "The Exorcist", all bets were off for me. I saw everything, even garbage like "Abby", "The Devil's Rain" and I might have seen that Juliet Mills "Exorist"-knockoff, the title of which escapes me right now, but if I didn't it was probably a mistake. I also saw movies at a drive-in, and if I have to explain what that means to anyone who may read this, I am going to feel older than I already do.

I enjoyed the first movie quite a lot. It was glorifying the blood and guts of its subject matter. Zombies, the undead, and those who want to destroy them..boy do I miss it! I enjoyed Marley Shelton a lot; Josh Brolin and Jeff Fahey, too. I always liked Freddy Rodriguez, especially after seeing his Oscar-worthy performance in "Bobby" and I thought he was terrific, too.

Quasi-coming attractions were fun! Especially "Don't", that one had me laughing a lot.

The other movie..well let's just say I wish someone had switched the order so that I would have seen the second movie first. It was too talky, too much yak yak yak yak yak then fifteen movies of stupid action. Why didn't THEY JUST PULL THE CAR OVER and that way Stuntman Mike had nothing to chase anymore?! It was not too much fun. I did like the girls giving it back to Mike, though, but not enough to overcome the boredom I was suffering from at that point.

Sorry that this didn't do better. I was expecting large crowds (saw it opening weekend, Sunday afternoon) but the theater was sparse at best.
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Zodiac (2007)
12 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The friend I went to see this with remembers when this case was in the news. I don't remember it at all but I was not much of a news junkie back then. With that in mind, the only thing that kind of spoiled this for me was that after reading all the reviews, I was told that the movie has no closure for the viewer, that the killer was never caught so you might leave it feeling a bit cheated. If the real killer was never caught and the movie is faithful to the actual events, why is this even mentioned? I liked the other David Fincher movies I've seen and this is probably better than all of them, in many ways. Its a careful, detailed telling of this serial killer that terrorized various communities in California for years. He's up to the task and did not glorify the acts or the criminal.

After cops David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and William Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) investigate this case for years, it goes cold, as it would. Then the cartoonist Jake plays sets his sights on picking up the pieces. He's always been interested in it, but as a cartoonist (not even a reporter!), he's been very limited on what evidence he was privy to. He dedicates himself to it and unearths things that the cops missed. The movie makes the point several times that the police on the case, from a number of different precincts, do not always have their efforts coordinated.

Two scenes are very memorable. The first when Toschi, Armstrong and another cop named Jack Mulanax (played by Elias Koteas) interview a man named Arthur Leigh Allen (he is played by John Carroll Lynch, who I enjoyed in "Fargo" and "Volcano" and "Bubble Boy" which starred Jake) at his place of work. The cops 'like' him for the crime and the scene is very well done at creating tension from all the points of view.

That's nothing compared to the other great scene. Its near the end and Robert (Jake) is going at the evidence with a vengeance. He interviews a man named Bob Vaughn (played by Charles Fleisher) at this home. This scene is straight out of Alfred Hitchcock..just terrific.

Really great movie..don't get turned off by the length of it. It needs that much time because its complex. You will not get bored by the details either. 9/10.
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Ghost Rider (2007)
Fun and not to be taken too seriously
12 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The second popcorn movie I saw yesterday with a friend ("300" was the first), "Ghost Rider" is another good time at the movies. Not too demanding and with nothing to leave any kind of an impression when its all said and done, you just have fun with it. I wish some of the actors were onto that sentiment, especially Peter Fonda as Mephistopheles. He's too deadly serious (pun intended) for what amounts to a comic book movie. At least Wes Bentley as Blackheart figured out the best way to play a larger than life character and has a huge amount of fun as the son of the main bad guy.

Motorcycler Johnny Blaze sells his should to Fonda after he discovers his father has been diagnosed with cancer. He did not figure that although his father would be cured, he would die anyway, following a motorcycle jump. His entire life is naturally clouded by and altered by this act. Blackheart shows up, starts killing people, then Johnny discovers his alter ego, Ghost Rider, who makes Blackheart look like Bambi.

Eva is along for the ride and she's lovely to look at but its just the 'girlfriend' role and she doesn't have much to do.

A couple more laughs might have been nice, but like I said, its forgettable but not unpleasant. 7/10.
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300 (2006)
Pass the popcorn
12 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I enjoyed this movie a lot more than I was expecting to. Its fun, its a popcorn movie. Sit back, watch the thing and then don't think about it too much afterward.

Its not "Gladiator" though I think it was aiming that high. The scenes of characters in fields reminded me of that epic. Also some of the dialogue makes profound statements about glory and honor and all that kind of thing.

Gerard Butler has the whole movie in his hands and is up to the task. He did not say or do anything ridiculous, contrary to some of the nastier reviews I've read. He seems perfectly cast in this sort of thing.

I'm not a teenager, I've never even played a video game so I don't pretend to know a lot about one looks like, but I enjoyed it anyway. 8/10.
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Like a cool breeze on a hot day
10 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I was in Paris for a week in 1994. It was a golden opportunity to travel - only $300. round trip for air fare!! - and I loved every single second of it. There is something about that city that I find completely inviting. I would move there in a heartbeat if everyone there would learn English so I don't have to learn French - I am kidding of course..but not really.

With that in mind, I went to see this movie, expecting it to be everything that made me love being there, and it does not disappoint.

Plot mainly centers around Jessica, who is at a crossroads in her life. She has no place to live and no job. She quickly gets a job in a café that traditionally hires only men. Other characters are gradually introduced .. all of them are at a crossroads of one kind or another.. the concert pianist who is sick of it, the actress who is employed on a soap opera and hates it, the art collector who is selling it all off, and others as well. She finds her way into their lives, in either a large or a small way, and soon finds herself in love with the son of the former art collector.

I enjoyed the actress the most. She's kind of funny looking and has the funniest dialogue. She's in a play that she doesn't really want to be in, in addition to the soap, and is just having a hard time of all of it. She meets a director (Sydney Pollack) who she wants to work with but does not think she has the reputation necessary to get hired by him. Eventually they meet and then he is desperate to hire her.

There is something so easy, so anything-is-possible quality about this movie and its characters that I find impossible to resist. Its not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination but I just cry "UNCLE", give in to its charms, and enjoy the hell out of it.
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Breach (2007)
No big deal
5 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This movie was just okay. Nothing to scream about. It was not boring but that's not exactly an endorsement.

The problems? In their first meeting, Robert asks Eric to tell him five things about himself, and make one of them untrue. Eric does this and Robert can tell which one was a lie. Obviously he's quick and smart and knows how to read a person. He's also committed major indiscretions and gotten away with them for years, so he's no dummy. He might be stupid, but he's no fool. With that in mind, it seems fairly unrealistic for me to believe that Robert was not onto Eric the entire time.

Telling the entire story from Eric's point of view also does not allow you to get into Robert's motives at all. You end up not really knowing why he did what he did. Not even a little. A confession scene of some sort would have been nice, if only to give him and the audience a chance for some much-needed insight.

I didn't have a problem with the acting, though I am not entirely sure Ryan has the acting chops to pull off a character like this. Chris Cooper has them, in spades, but the movie lets him down. I did enjoy Laura Linney, a lot, and she has some funny moments too.

Like I said, nothing offensive, but nothing really memorable either. 5/10.
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5 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I read the half dozen other user comments on this board and it seems as though the opinions vary greatly. I have to agree with those who found this movie to be awful. It pains me to write that since I would have hoped this would have been great, or I wouldn't have bothered to see it the other day. I like supporting indie cinema, especially if they are gay-themed, but this movie is almost too much to tolerate. Those that walked out, as I considered doing after about three minutes, probably didn't mind shelling out $11.00, or just figured it was going nowhere, fast, and not going to improve. Maybe I am slightly more optimistic than they are..either that or they didn't pay to get in in the first place.

Logan is bored. He's a klutz. He's gay. I'm okay with that. The problem is that because the main character in a movie is bored does not necessarily mean that the movie about him has to be boring also! There are ENDLESS scenes of this kid just laying around like a load of laundry, re-establishing everything that you already learned in the first scene, and the second scene, etc., etc...Nothing or no one goes anywhere. NO ONE says anything even remotely insightful or funny or interesting. Probably most appalling of all is that I didn't feel the slightest bit of empathy for Logan. That in itself is a major accomplishment. He didn't grow, he didn't change, he didn't learn (there is no one to teach him anything), he DIDN'T DO ANYTHING, and neither did the movie! Scene after scene of the same thing do not a movie make.

Additionally, the title makes no sense at all. 1/10.
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"Notes" earns several gold stars
10 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
SPOILER ALERT! Dear Diary, Last Saturday I went to see "Notes on a Scandal" with my best friend. We had been meaning to see it for a long time and finally got around to it. It started out a tad slow as it introduces Barbara (Dench) and Sheba (Cate) to the audience. Barbara's been a teacher since the dawn of man and does not have to exert a lot in order to do her job well. When Sheba arrives in the school as a new art teacher, Barbara is very quick to judge her as it soon becomes apparent that she is embittered toward the entire world and every one of its inhabitants. This is a defense mechanism as much as anything and it also becomes apparent that Barbara is uncompromisingly needy, desperate for human contact but unfortunately does not have a lot to offer another person. She's stuck. She's old. She's alone except for her cat, Portia.

One day Barbara has to intervene when Sheba is unsuccessfully dealing with a brawl between two students, and it serves as their formal introduction. They begin to socialize and a friendship develops. When Sheba invites Barbara to her home for Sunday lunch (is it 'tea' in England?), Barbara gets her hair done and overdresses, so much so that Sheba's teen aged daughter is forced to inquire about her outfit. The invite means too much, in Barbara's world.

During a school play, Barbara goes in search of Sheba (she'd been saving a seat for her), and finds her performing a sexual act on one of the students involved in the brawl, Steven. She confronts her in an abrupt manner and soon realizes 'all she has to do is nothing' because now Barbara has leverage in their relationship. Sheba can't leave her. They're sharing something, hiding something and they're going to do it together. Sheba agrees to stop seeing the boy, when Barbara demands it. You don't know if Barbara demands it because she thinks its a bad idea, or maybe she just doesn't want to have to share her with anyone else. Its bad enough Sheba has a husband and too children.

It kind of all goes downhill from there. Portia has to be put down and Barbara needs comfort and it comes at the worst possible time, as Sheba is on her way to see her son perform in a school play (are school plays required as a monthly exercise in England?) and cannot give Barbara the emotional support she needs. It makes for an extremely uncomfortable scene, for the characters and the audience, too.

Steven eventually breaks off his relationship with Sheba because it stopped being fun for him. Imagine a fifteen year old giving you the brush off! Sheba is found out, thanks to Barbara, and that's when the pooh really hits the fan.

I liked the movie a lot. It made me think about a lot of things. Dench is just brilliant and the movie is a showcase for her considerable talents. Barbara is a real human being, and Dench is unafraid to show you 'warts and all' where her character is concerned. Barbara is one of the most complex characters I've seen in a long time and I thought about her a lot when the movie was over.

I did not enjoy Cate at all, and that was too bad since normally I think she is fantastic also. It just felt as though she made some unsound choices as an actor.

On the down side, Philip Glass needs to rethink the entire score. Its overwhelming and did not deserve a nomination.

Also I did not buy into certain things..its enough that Sheba developed a sex thing with a minor, but am I supposed to believe she's willing to carry it out next to the railroad tracks? No can do. Also it was unrealistic that Sheba discovers Barbara's journals by a page found in in wastepaper basket. If you've ever kept a journal, you don't rip pages out of it. And you CERTAINLY don't rip pages out of it when the person you're consumed with writing about is living with you at the time! There should have been a better way to deal with this. Plus, some of the lines are laughable.

For the most part, its great, though. 8/10.
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The "Gong" Show
8 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The coming attractions shown endlessly before any movie can be annoying or can make you want to see the movie. Seeing the coming attractions for "Curse.." made me HAVE TO see the movie. I did not hesitate when the showing was perfectly timed for me this past Saturday afternoon.

The first thing that caught my eye, naturally, was the set design. Beautiful to look at. Then there was something about the way Gong Li was just walking through those beautiful sets that made me have to see what she was all about. She appeared to be a woman possessed, obsessed and on a mission. She really did give off that much in a five second clip.

And she does not disappoint! I had never seen her before, but I am now a fan. She owns the screen. As the Empress, she is also beautiful to look at but she is much more than that, too. She's intelligent, she knows what she wants..she's also fed up, because eventually she realizes that her life is out of her hands, and that her husband is trying to get rid of her, inexplicably, and she's none too thrilled with the idea of anyone getting in her way. She's also having an affair with her stepson that is not going as well as she might have hoped. This is probably understandable because, well..LOOK AT HER! He's getting rid of her by spiking the medicine she has to take, and it makes her light-headed and sweaty and who wants that? Since its HIS idea, she has nothing to say in the matter, and that's why, in part at least, why she's fed up. But you know what they say about a woman scorned..she's not having any of it, and good for her.

The movie is kind of "The Lion in Winter"-ish, but prettier. Some of the acting is laughably over the top but that didn't bother me all that much. Chow is very good, too, but for me this one is all about the lady. Oh, and there are action sequences toward the end, when the inevitable pooh hits the fan, and they are very good for those in the audience who like that kind of thing, but anything that took my eyes off the Empress was a distraction, truth be told. It is not a great movie and I did not experience that I-just-saw-a-great-movie feeling that all true fans of cinema hope for once they hit the street, but as I've gone on about ad nauseum, I have to give it up for Gong Li, a true screen goddess who owns every single frame of film I had the honor of seeing. 8/10.
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Volver (I) (2006)
I liked it .. I think I did..did I?
30 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Well I didn't hate it. Its not a bad movie, its just not that great or that memorable. I guess I think its being overpraised but that's okay with me. If you like it, fine with me.

Is it a comedy? Is it a family drama/soap opera? Is it a ghost story? Its all of these things and none of these things.

It didn't make me think of "Mildred Pierce" or Joan Crawford, if it made me think of anyone it would have to be Sophia Loren, cause she might have played a role like this forty-odd years ago.

Raimunda is the glue that holds her family together. Her sister is a, and her husband is up to no good, and her daughter is a teenager so therefore still finding her own place in the world. She visits her relatives, both alive and dead, and just tries to do what is right. She's a good person but she has secrets, and is accumulating more as the movie progresses.

Her daughter kills her husband because she says he was coming onto her. So she has to hide the body, after she cleans him up from the kitchen floor. Meanwhile there is family stuff going on, too. Its a lot of things, like I said, and none of them are unpleasant to watch, I just don't think any of it is that big a deal. Penelope is a good actress, judging from this one performance. I had never seen her before. I saw only one of Pedro's other movies, "Women on the Verge.." and I don't think I was crazy about that one, either, but who really remembers. 7/10.
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The Queen (2006)
Royalty ain't all its cracked up to be
14 December 2006
"The Queen" is an interesting look at the election of Tony Blair as British Prime Minister followed by the tragedy of the accidental death of Princess Diana, and how the two events effected the Royal Family and the whole country of Britian.

Blair is looking to 'modernize' British politics, which has already placed him at odds with the Queen. He shows her the proper respect even though it seems the thing to do rather than a heartfelt, genuine gesture. He's not much on protocol either and has suggested that everyone in the cabinet be on a first name basis. He gives every appearance of being a real person, whose wife does not know or care how to act in the presence of Royalty and drops an 'f-bomb' not twenty feel from Her Majesty.

Blair was elected in may 1997. In August of that year, Diana died. She was already divorced from Charles, so no longer a Royal. Its never stated by anyone, but the divorce was obviously quite an embarrassment and Diana's public life after wards even more so. No regret or emotion over her death is felt by the Queen or Prince Philip, but Prince Charles is devastated, and to a lesser degree of course, so is Tony Blair. Subsequently, the Royals offer no response of any kind, which is viewed more harshly as the days go by. Since 'there is no precedent' and standing firmly behind the fact that she was no longer HRH, the Royals are steadfast in their belief and stand their ground. Prince Philip and the Queen Mum seem to have the only views that the Queen can hear; she has only proverbial 'yes-men' surrounding her, and all that tradition of honor and dignity, and the belief that she knows the Brits better than anyone and what they expect from her and, more importantly, what they don't expect. Tony Blair finds himself in the difficult position of wanting to enlighten the Queen while having to respect her title. She's oblivious to the fact that Diana was deeply loved, apart from her marriage, and he knows she's making a mistake. Prince Charles is seen as something of a simp and never confronts his Mother about his wish for a public funeral - that's left largely to Tony Blair to do. She's none too pleased with him but one day realizes he's right. She's finally able to bend without breaking. The Queen makes a public statement, expressing a lot of emotion while actually showing none at all.

Helen Mirren is an actress I've enjoyed in several movies such as "Some Mother's Son", "Greenfingers" and "Calendar Girls" and of course she's very good in this movie. It appears as though its an easy part to play and you're not exactly stretching every acting muscle you've got so I can't quite jump on the she-has-to-win-the-Oscar bandwagon, although I suspect she will. Lately it seems all you have to do is portray a real person. In the fifties, playing a prostitute got you one. Times change. I have to say I was a little disappointed with the scene in which she finally breaks down long enough to cry. Mirren is seen from behind, and I always think an actor can cheat by not having to be shown shedding any real tears. Either that or the director finally gave up hoping for the ideal shot and caved in by request. After I thought about it I realized that by not seeing her cry was the perfect way to show her crying, as its consistent with the 'stiff-upper lip', stone-face image seen by the public.

I also enjoyed Michael Sheen, who I just saw in "Blood Diamond" a couple of days ago. He also merits awards attention. James Cromwell and Sylvia Syms are very good, too, although like I mentioned before, underplaying seems less impressive, especially when everyone is doing it.

The thing I got to most out of was the that the events showed all angles, and the difference between feeling what you want to feel about anything and what you think you're supposed to be feeling. The fact that the Royals only viewed Diana in terms of how she effected them and their legacy seemed grossly unfair, both to her and to themselves. She was a remarkable woman and the world lost a real treasure when she died prematurely.

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Blood Diamond (2006)
"Diamond" in the rough
8 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The second-best Leonardo DiCaprio movie in which the search for a diamond drives the plot, "Blood Diamond" should not be written off as an 'old-fashioned adventure movie', or, for that matter, just another Leonardo DiCaprio movie..although, in all honesty, if it starred anyone else, I probably would not have seen it this morning.

Leo plays Danny Archer, diamond smuggler and part-time jerk. He lands in prison for smuggling and overhears an accusation that Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) has unearthed a pink diamond so huge it could accommodate a hockey team (preferably the New Jersey Devils) skating on it. Danny arranges for Solomon to get bailed out and strikes up a deal with him - Danny gets the rock, Solomon gets his family back (they'd been taken hostage earlier) and that's how the two start their reluctant relationship. Meanwhile Danny has struck up a another friendship with Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), who wants the truth behind the civil wars ravaging the country; she knows the international diamond trade is behind it and she also knows Danny is involved with that. She needs facts to write the story that has to be written in order to shine a light on this tragedy, all the whole acknowledging that "Americans might see sixty seconds of this between sports and the weather on CNN." None of the plot is far-fetched, unfortunately, and none of the action, either, most unfortunately. There is a huge body count of innocent people, women and children included, and children are additionally seen being recruited to join the rebels, so it makes the movie less than enjoyable, if you're just looking for escapism. I found it very well done and painfully realistic. If you have even the slightest bit of conscience in your head, you will be effected by the movie. You might not run home and throw all your jewelry in the garbage, but as the movie suggests, you might want to inquire before your next purchase.

The three leads are all terrific. Leonardo is incapable of delivering a bad performance. Here he is as good as he's ever been. If he's not, the movie fails, and he also wisely realizes that he's not the emotional centerpiece of the movie. He allows Hounsou to occupy that space. Djimon is one of those actors whose soul is apparent on the screen and he can and does communicate without saying anything - my favorite type of actor. Connelly is not just 'the girl' or just around to look pretty - she has a lot to offer on screen and also never phones it in.

In the useless trivia department - all three have co-starred with Russell Crowe - Leo in "The Quick and the Dead", Djimon in "Gladiator" and Connelly in "A Beautiful Mind", and Djimon just won the National Board of Review Best Supporting Actor award, which Leo won for "What's Eating Gilbert Grape." As I mentioned, I respect the movie and am glad that it got made as it may change some grievous wrongs that have occurred, but with so much killing and violence, its impossible for me to say I 'like' it, although that does not mean that I 'dislike' it either. Its a helluva journey, with all that that entails. 10/10.
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Bobby (I) (2006)
Its really great, critical responses notwithstanding
28 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The first thing I have to address is the amount of extraordinarily horrible reviews I've read for this movie in the print press. Usually I can understand why a movie takes a beating. More often than not, the reviews are justified and even if I see the movie and I disagree, I can objectively see what a reviewer dislikes. With "Bobby", I honestly have no clue as to what was so damn offensive. This is a heartfelt, extremely well done movie and I thought it was just terrific. Its not "Airport" with a gunshot finale..yes it takes place in a HOTEL. People stay at HOTELS. There is an event that night. You get snapshots into the lives of the PEOPLE. What should it have been about, Sirhan Sirhan's MOTHER? Its about how everyone FELT. It was five years after JFK and right after Martin Luther King. Viet Nam was a war in not a place anymore. This country was raw and in deep need of a hero. Bobby Kennedy could have been that hero. The magnitude of that loss is captured with a capital "L"; Emilio has great respect for his audience and his subject matter.Its also not over-populated with stars in an effort to cover up the fact that there is nothing significant on the screen. I will admit that due to the bad press, I was somewhat skeptical going in but Emilio did it, he made a great movie that I am more than happy to praise. Didn't know he had it in him, but he does. Good for him, good for those who appreciate this movie, and if you don't, hey, your loss.

Two of the performances are outstanding and deserve Oscar nominations, if not the statues themselves. Demi Moore as lounge singer/drunk Virginia Falloon has never given any indication, in my book anyway, that she had this performance in her. She's totally mesmerizing as she talks back to her husband about what she wants and why she should get it, and then insults her hairdresser.

Better than that is Freddy Rodriguez as busboy Jose. His day didn't start out well. He has tickets, good ones, to see the Dodgers, and more specifically, Don Drysdale, that night. He's told he has to work a double shift so he'll miss the game. He gives the tickets to co-worker Ed (Laurence Fishburne) and Ed is grateful. He sees the potential in Jose, anoints him The Once and Future King, and these two terrific actors share a scene that is so incredibly exquisite that's its almost unbelievable and it makes me think I could cry again to re-think it. Cinematic perfection. I mean it too.

I cried, my mother cried, my aunt cried. Its very emotionally powerful, if you are open to it. Judging from a couple of the reviews I've read on this site, at least some of the people who've seen this agree with me. I'd see it if I were you. 10/10, obviously.
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Glorious Ignorance
3 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I didn't like the Borat character when I used to watch the "Ali G" show on HBO. He made me uncomfortable but then again I think that's part of the point. He says and asks things that you can't believe, some of which make the unsuspecting interviewee squirm, and some of the audience as least, me.

But I've not read such glowing reviews for a movie since..."The Departed" came out a couple of weeks ago. A reviewer said he's seen it three times and plans on seeing it again this weekend. Reviewers rarely gush over a movie. I wouldn't have been surprised if he said he'd like to kiss the hem of Sacha's garment.

So I saw the first show on West 23rd Street..minutes ago.

The movie is hilarious. Not consistently, but hilarious enough to recommend. There are a couple of dry spots and some of the jokes do not get the desired effect. However, the stuff that is funny is very funny. And when its not very funny, its deliriously funny.

Borat is an innocent. He does not know what he is talking about. Until he is channel surfing and sees the image of Pamela Anderson on "Baywatch" and then his trip to America, his entire life, has new meaning. He and his companion/producer leave NYC immediately and head for California, via Atlanta. He meets all kinds of people, most of which are scary as hell. The ones he does not humiliate, humiliate themselves, unintentionally. The ones he charms would not recognize charm if it had a neon sign. A lot of the trip goes wrong and he has a disagreement with his companion/producer and they part ways. He has no passport, no money, and accidentally burns his ticket back to his country (don't expect me to remember that particular place or how to spell it) so he's at a total loss..more than usual. He ends up in California and meets up with his companion and they find that, miracle of miracles, Pam is signing autographs for her fans. He can't even propose marriage to a total stranger correctly. But he ends up with one of the only decent people he meets, who, by the way, is the only person he meets that I could even imagine having a cup of coffee with. This country is SCARY. Land of the free my ***.

Again, I recommend the movie. Highly. Several of the 'user comments' on this site seem to have missed the point. Their loss. For the rest of us, enjoy enjoy enjoy. The laughter will do you good.

A reporter from the New York Post asked me questions about the movie upon leaving the theater. I told her I'd give it an '8' out of '10', which is what I am doing.
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Vacancy and fulfillment, guilt and more guilt
9 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
WOW, this was really good. A tad boring in spots and nothing much really happens but it all adds up to a fulfilling experience at the movies. I didn't like "In the Bedroom" at all and from the ads/reviews for this one I figured it might be more of the same, and in some ways it is and in many ways its a lot more.

All of the characters are unfulfilled. Seems to be a suburban trend, like mini-vans. Winslet is front and center as an outcast within her own marriage, as a Mother and as a 'successful' person. The other mothers at the playground either pity or blame her for herself. She can't even remember to pack snacks for the kid when they go to the playground. What a pity. Truth is she really is not much of a Mother and her husband is worse. Brad (Wilson) seems to have it all together and he is a good stay-at-home Dad but his wife Kathy (Connelly) is intent on cutting off his masculinity at every turn (though I don't think she even knew she was doing it), as she's the breadwinner and seems to call all the shots within the home.

In the background, beneath all this 'bliss' lies Ronnie, who recently was let out of prison for indecency charges. Everyone is outraged that he has to live in their neighborhood. On the day he shows up at the public swimming pool, 'just to cool off', a stampede of caregivers remove their kids from the pool as soon as they possibly can. Meanwhile he IS supposed to have stayed away from where children gather. Ronnie's mom, (he calls her Mommie), is extraordinarily understanding and forgiving, and not in a psycho way either. The scene where she is talking to him about people and how we go on despite the knowledge that at any moment, anything precious in our lives can be taken from us, is the most sensitive, heartfelt scene in the movie. She says 'we are all miracles' and I thought of that line a lot when I left the movie. Ronnie's Mom is the most well-balanced person in the entire movie. I'm glad the screenwriter did not choose to base his problems on her and her upbringing. She really does love her son so much that it was touching to me to see their relationship.

We also have Larry, who has made it his business to tell the neighbors that they have a sexual predator in their midst, as if they didn't know. Meanwhile, he's no saint himself. He has things to atone for in his past, too. All the characters do. They are all guilty of something. They all have things they are better off hiding from themselves.

All the actors are fantastic. Winslet makes every movie she's in better than it would normally be. Wilson is the perfect embodiment of a Ken doll but he's a screw-up, too, especially at the end. Connelly has her moments but she does not get a ton of screen time. Jackie is really great and I can easily see him getting a nomination for his portrayal of Ronnie. A friend of mine used to say that if you can nail your 'big' scenes, you have a pretty good chance, and the scene where he lets it all go, lets all his frustration and sadness loose, is very well done.

I can recommend this movie to anyone with patience. Todd seems to fashion himself a director of small and intimate dramas and he's good at that based on this movie. At least he is making worthwhile movies that give you something to chew on when you leave the cinema.
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The Departed (2006)
See it and you won't be sorry
6 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I just saw it this morning. 10:00am, Upper East Side. Not what I would call a crowded theater, so that was great.

I'm not going to go into the plot or the details, because you've read all the reviews by now.

After about an hour, I said to myself "well this is not so great, what's all the fuss about?" I started to think that everyone is so desperate for a good movie they've gone overboard in its praise. I know that the last two Marty/Leo movies had their fans but they had their detractors, too. Scorsese has been accused of trying too hard to appeal to the Academy, and Leo has as many fans as he has people who cannot stand the sight of him.

At one point it all just came together. I guess you could say it snuck up on me, had an 'accumulative' effect. The last 45 minutes are just remarkable. Its so great to leave a movie with that rare 'I just saw a great movie' feeling. I'm still pretty buzzed from it.

I didn't fell like Jack was just being Jack (playing to his audience, with whom he shares some sort of secret that just they know..WINK WINK), I felt like he created a larger-than-life character who's, of course, memorable as hell. Costello is perfectly suited to his legendary ability, and he delivers, and then some.

The real substance is the contributions by Leo and Matt. Playing two sides of the same coin could not have been easy (how did they know what the other was doing? they rarely are on the screen at the same time) but it goes to Scorsese's skill as a director that they work so well together, even though, like I said, they are almost never together. Once review I read put it perfectly - Leo is fire, Matt is ice. You see all of Leo's turmoil just by looking at his eyes. They show you Billy's soul, his conscience. You do not see Matt's conscience, because he does not have one.

Much as I love and respect "Gangs of New York" and "The Aviator", let's be truthful here..Scorsese is at his very best with this type of thing, and "The Departed" makes that point again and again. Nothing wrong with that either.

A movie like this makes it hard to consider seeing something else. Why would you bother? So don't! I might not be able to go on reading that lousy book I started the other day for a couple of days. The movie really does stay with you. 10/10.
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