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Utterly infectious fun.
21 September 2004
This one went on my "must-watch" list from the moment I laid eyes on the trailer. It wasn't the cast the caught my eye, as I was a fan of none of them. The visuals grabbed my attention, sure, but visuals alone would not have kept it. No, it was the sheer sense of unabashed, heart-on-your-sleeve delight that the film apparently took in its 1930's serial inspirations.

Six months later, all I can say's been well worth the wait, and more.

This is a gorgeous, rousing hi-tech marvel with good old-fashioned sensibilities at its heart. Every frame is stunningly put together, with a sense of light, color, and composition that elevates it far above any pedestrian depiction of a scene. The characters may suffer no angst, but neither do they need to for a movie like this; we're told just enough, and given enough unspoken hints, for us to get behind the protagonists and cheer them on. The visual effects are incredible--I knew beforehand that much of it was CGI, but not to what extent; during the movie I picked out a handful of scenes (besides the obvious stylized ones) that looked "too" CGI, but in an all-CGI film, a handful is nothing. There are a few things I could quibble with--the resolution of a scene here, some aspects of Polly's character there--but overall I really can't complain.

What drew me into the trailer was ultimately what made the film truly click for me--the movie's whole-hearted revelling in the 1930's adventure serial genre, and its invitation to us to do the same. There's nothing the least bit cold, off-putting, or distancing about a CGI-heavy film with as much heart as this. Flying over maps, giant wing-flapping planes, visible radio waves, dedicated heroes...all are presented with a refreshing lack of irony (and a fabulous supporting score), and I was right along for the ride.
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Funnier than the first
26 July 2002
As someone who laughed only intermittently during the first movie, no one was more surprised than me when I found myself enjoying MIB2 the entire way through. The first movie never quite seems to find a consistent comedic tone, lurching from slapstick (pinballing through HQ) to darker stuff (the Edgar-suit and any number of casual killings) and back again. In separate movies these bits might be funny; placed side-by-side the transition is jarring, and they tend to cancel each other out.

MIB2 finds a much better balance, deploying its humor with a steadier hand. And as a sequel, it works. The villains I didn't find particularly memorable, but they get things moving. Jokes and plot developments that refer back to the first movie aren't simply recycled, they're grinningly sent up (with the exception of the final visual joke, which adds nothing new to its predecessor). New laughs are in plentiful supply. The backwards-clues part of the story is neatly done, and the big twist nicely executed. Best of all, Jones and Smith, despite the changed dynamic between their characters, somehow top even their incredible chemistry from the first movie. That alone is worth the price of admission.
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Moulin Rouge! (2001)
Rush out and see it while it's still on the big screen
5 September 2001
I went into this movie with no more than the barest notions of who the two lead characters were, and the knowledge that this was a musical (or, more accurately, a re-working of the standard movie musical). Since I was afterwards grateful I'd seen it with no pre-conceived ideas, I won't go into detail, except to say that if you haven't viewed it yet, you ought to run out and catch it while it's still playing the big screens.

This is a film to be experienced big. With its gorgeously-detailed sets, swooping cameras, wild colors, and soaring music, MR needs to be seen on the same scale that it's presented. Suspend your disbelief when you walk in the theater door, sit back, and take it in. You're stepping into a different world.

But not so different that it keeps the heart of the film from ringing true. Kidman and McGregor are are both breathtaking, and they sold me on their characters...and, most important, on each other's characters.

And bonus--in this day and age, a film set in a hedonistic nightclub with no gratuitous sex and no gratuitous violence? It's shocking. Absolutely shocking.
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Sharper than warranted.
6 May 1999
It was only on my second viewing, years later, that I realized two things about this movie: 1) I enjoyed it immensely, and 2) that because its execution is decidedly sharper than the premise itself warrants. I had laughed my way through the movie before it occurred to me to renew my initial protests--valleyspeak and loogies and airheadedness (even *good*-natured airheadedness) just aren't inherently funny, especially when drawn out to feature length. But though the movie's momentum does begin to sputter out towards the end, Reeves and Winter and Sadler (and Hal Landon Jr. in an unforgettable scene) display such a remarkable sense of comic timing throughout that even the more clumsily-scripted jokes (e.g. Ted failing to recognize a certain inhabitant of Hell) work as effortlessly as the witter ones (e.g. the challenge). And the teaming of Winter and Reeves clicks so well that the teaming of Bill and Ted (who spend only one scene separated in the entire movie, disaster if they're not well-matched) appears utterly unstrained.

(Side note: I found the first movie to be only sporadically entertaining--sightly different comic sensibilities there, it seems.)

I give it a 7.75. Surprisingly good fun.
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