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Worth Seeing on a Sunny Autumn Afternoon
I went into this movie hopeful but not expecting too much, given the poor reviews I had seen for it. I walked out impressed and touched, surprised by how much I really enjoyed it, and wondering if other people would give it a chance and enjoy it, as well. Time will tell.
The things that I liked about this movie are easy to feel but not so easy to describe. There were moments that really got to me, bits of scenes that touched me and caught in my memory, and time and again I found myself nodding and smiling and thinking, "I know exactly how he feels," or "I remember that feeling." Somehow, this story was good in a different way than Garden State was good. I loved Garden State, and the plot of Elizabethtown is enough like Garden State that it was hard not to have it in mind when I sat down in the theatre, but the two movies are really quite different. Crowe's Elizabethtown felt more real than Braf's Garden State, and somewhat less contrived.
Elizabethtown is the kind of movie you should see on a sunny autumn afternoon after a walk with an old friend. It has a joy to it, a basic sense of optimism and a light touch, so that it never crossed the line from sadness into tragedy and melodrama. Crowe doesn't let us fall into sentiment, but he deftly weaves a story that could have been corny and sentimental in lesser hands. I read critics who said he let the music play the emotions for us, but I can't agree, because I think that the cast did an excellent job portraying people I could really feel for and with, especially Orlando Bloom.
Orlando Bloom's Drew Baylor is introduced in a moment of pain and panic, utterly emotionally blocked, repeating "I'm fine" while feeling suicidal and saying "My condolences" to strangers and distant relatives as if the loss of his father belongs to them and not to him. In the film, he relaxes and grows emotionally under the tutelage of Kirsten Dunst's Claire, and together they work their way through the American heartland into a tender relationship and a new perspective on the meaning and value of life and success. His American accent and her Southern drawl might both be a little off at times, but it was easy to forgive in the interest of watching what happened next.
From the side stories of the secondary characters (Susan Sarandon is delightful, as always, in a turn as a widow whose reaction to her husband's death is to reach out and grab life with both hands) to the road trip into Americana, all the quirky little moments that felt real and sincere made this movie one that I enjoyed watching and will think about and remember. I hope you enjoy it, too!
Since You Went Away (1944)
All Quiet on the Home Front
'Since You Went Away' is one of the better wartime films I have seen. The only comparison I can draw is with 'The Best Years of Our Lives.' It's a similar kind of intimate look into the lives of people who are deeply affected by the fact that our country was at war. Of course, when 'Since You Went Away' was released, the war was ongoing, so the perspective is very different.
Claudette Colbert impresses as always with her feeling portrayal of a wife and mother trying to carry on after her husband leaves for military service in WWII. Even on the home front, however, life is far from boring. Her oldest daughter, Jane, played feelingly, if a bit dramatically, by Jennifer Jones, is overflowing with passion and patriotism. The younger daughter, Shirley Temple, does a good job as the cute younger kid who misses her father. Joseph Cotton was charming and likable in a supporting role as surrogate father/ husband, and Agnes Moorehead in her pre-Bewitched days was wonderfully despicable as a hoarding, selfish socialite. Hattie McDaniel was good as usual, while Lionel Barrymore had a surprisingly small part. A very young-looking Robert Walker was cute and winsome in a substantial role as the young soldier preparing to go off to war while falling in love and dealing with problems with his curmudgeon of a grandfather. Having seen him before in 'Strangers on a Train,' I was amazed at his versatility.
The highlights of the film for me were small things. A lonely motorcycle cop, a class ring that doesn't fit, Hattie McDaniels exclaiming 'That's how I always wanted to look!,' and one bowling pin going down. I also loved the moments where the mic moves through a crowd of people, picking up bits of conversation and giving us a small glimpse into the busy lives of the passerby as they deal with the war in small and personal ways.
With so many famous faces from classic films, this is a sure bet, and although the movie is long, it's worthwhile.
Hard Ball (2001)
Not a good film
At first, I expected this to be another Mighty Ducks-type of movie, with heartwarming interaction between a messed-up guy and a lovable group of kids who teach him about teamwork and the love of the game. But no. In Hardball, Keanu Reeves started out grumpy, and he stayed grumpy. The kids, despite the trauma in their lives that could be pretty sympathetic, weren't lovable, and you didn't feel like you got to know them on any kind of personal level. If Keanu's character had grown, if his coaching had seemed to mean anything to the kids or if you could in any way understand Diane Lane's contention that the kids trusted him and they're never wrong, then this movie might have been okay. As it is, however the story was bad, and the weak acting only added to that to make this movie less than enjoyable.
I'm a huge baseball fan, but even so, I'd say skip this and go rent The Mighty Ducks. Or, if you want to stick to the baseball storyline and you aren't so hung up on the 'down-on-his-luck curmudgeonly coach with a team of spunky kids' plot, then Little Big League or Rookie of the Year are both fun family films with cute kids and good baseball. All of these movies are far superior to Hardball.
Four stars out of ten
I knew this film under an alternate title: "Tiger at the Gates."
This is an interesting version of Jean Gireaudoux's play "There will be no Trojan War." It doesn't have particularly good acting, sets, or costumes, but it can be good for ideas if doing a stage production on your own. I did not like the added character of Iris, the rainbow goddess, but it did provide a few laughs.
Note: Paris is played, interestingly enough, by Lambert Wilson, otherwise known as the Merovingian, whom you may recognize from the Matrix: Reloaded movie.
The Best Pirate In the World!
This movie was fabulous. I don't think I've enjoyed a movie in the theater this much in a really long time, and I see lots of movies. The critics mostly gave this movie mediocre to good ratings, but I wonder if they were at the same movie I was, because it was great!
I have heard that this is the first PG-13 Disney movie, and it certainly has more blood and violence in it than most Disney live-action films, but compared to most adventure movies it's quite tame. The skeletons and sword-fights are realistic and well-done without being real enough to be scary to anyone but small children. I'd recommend it as a family movie, having watched it with my parents and friends.
It's also a teen/twenty-something movie, with particular appeal for fans of Johnny Depp, as well as for everyone who drooled over Orlando Bloom as Legolas in "The Lord of the Rings." My male friends, who found Keira Knightly so attractive in "Bend It Like Beckham," may not even recognize her in this movie because she has such a different look, but it's a look that's much more typical of a romantic heroine.
In "Pirates of the Caribbean:The Curse of the Black Pearl," Orlando Bloom shines as the very good-looking Will Turner, and Keira Knightly as Elizabeth Swann plays opposite him with vim and verve. Will has some wonderfully swashbuckling duels, and just the right touch of romance, adventure, derring-do and endless courage as he faces up to his personal tragedies and revelations about the past without dwelling on it or making the movie sad. Elizabeth is a little different from the usual fainting females whom men are trying to rescue, because she isn't afraid to get in a boat alone and row after Will when he needs rescuing.
One of the best special effects is when the pirates are moving in and out of shafts of moonlight, particularly the duel between Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush. Johnny Depp, who played Captain Swallow, seemed a bit tipsy throughout the movie, and his odd behavior and wry wit cracked me up time and again. Jonathan Pryce, though his part is small, is quite enjoyable as the prissy governor, Elizabeth's father. Another highlight is the monkey, whose antics are possibly the most freaky of any in the movie. I couldn't understand the talking parrot most of the time, and the guy with the glass eye who was supposed to be comic relief wasn't all that funny, but generally the humor in this movie was great; not too heavy-handed or dirty, just highly entertaining.
If you get a chance to watch it, I hope that you enjoy the Pirates of the Caribbean as much as I did! Go see it! 10 out of 10.
Russkiy kovcheg (2002)
While this movie was fairly confusing and unstructured, it had a simplicity and elegance about it that was very appealing. The film opens with blackness and a voice-over, then a carriage with noisy 18th century party guests arriving at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. Before a minute passes, you realize that the shot is continuous, and you begin to get an idea of what's ahead. There is a constant flow of people passing the camera, then being passed by it; reappearing and disappearing, then vanishing forever into the history books. Russian Ark brings figures from the past alive in the halls of the Hermitage, sometimes a palace, sometimes a museum, as the time period changes and shifts around the unflinching camera. Moving from room to room, almost every doorway ushers in a new age and new characters, to strut and fret across the stage, make entrances and exits, all in lavish and beautiful period costumes.
Although I probably would have gotten more out of it if I knew more Russian history, the movie is so fragmented and jumps back and forth through time so much that knowing a chronological history of the palace itself wouldn't have added much to the structure. There are a few recurring characters, despite the jumpiness, and one central character to provide a certain tone and continuity. The staging, scenes and costumes are so beautiful that it's easy to overlook the lack of structure, plot, or characters and just sit back and enjoy the sight of it all. I really enjoyed it.
Sherlock Holmes in a new light!
A new view of Sherlock Holmes!
Although this is a made-for-TV movie which appeared without a lot of fanfare, mystery lovers who manage to see it are sure to appreciate the spin on an old, beloved character. Watch and see a Sherlock Holmes who is not perfect, who is not a cold, calculating machine but a flesh-and-blood man. Straying a bit from the tradition of Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, the makers of this movie put together a confrontation between a sinister Moriarty, played by Vincent D'Onofrio, and a very young Holmes, trying to prove himself in the London public eye.
The seamy underside of London, filled with Moriarty's henchmen and his traffic in dangerous drugs, provides a background for the young Holmes as he becomes bewitched by a mystery woman who is not what she seems, played by Gabrielle Anwar. You may recognize her from "The Three Musketeers" or "Scent of a Woman." She works well as a love interest for Holmes, who in many of his other incarnations is a loveless and solitary figure. In this movie, Holmes for once plays opposite, not Watson, but a woman, with all of the associated drama and heartache. If you like Sherlock Holmes, try looking at him from the new and interesting perspective of "A Case of Evil."
The Great Race (1965)
Push the "Play" Button, Max!
This movie is quite simply a side-splitter. If you can watch this movie without laughing, then you need to have your head examined. That or you might be going deaf and blind. From the suffragette who handcuffs herself to the door of the men's room to the royal food fight that breaks out after the coronation, there's just nothing this movie won't do to make you chuckle.
It's all good clean fun- well, except for the pie filling that drenches Natalie Wood, who is in her underwear but not exactly alluring covered in whipped cream and mashed cake. Tony Curtis is great as the hero dressed all in white who manages to remain immaculate in the midst of the craziest situations. Jack Lemmon is hysterical in all of his parts, especially when he comes face to face with himself. I think I like him best as the too-maniacal-to-be-believed Prof. Fate, with his crazy and disastrous schemes, reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote. His sidekick, Max, chips in some of the funniest lines of the film, while always being a patient helper in the Professor's villanous plans, through thick and thin.
So, as Dr. Fate says, "Push the Button, Max!" Specifically, the Play button, and WATCH THIS MOVIE!! Definitely a 10.
Valley Girl (1983)
Light movie with an 'airy' subject
For a lighthearted Nick Cage movie (he's SO young in this one!) with a teen angst theme, it's not too bad. But John Cusack did basically the same story in "Say Anything" and Molly Ringwald did the same story in "Pretty In Pink," and they were both better than this. It's kind of a cute romance about two kids from different backgrounds having trouble being accepted in each other's worlds, but the two protagonists do not seem to share much and their attraction is not very believable. However, it works better as a teen angst movie than a romance: there are some fine examples of peer pressure and the way that airheads can try to force their shallow opinions on others. However, if you want to see a real stereotypical Valley Girl movie, watch "Clueless" instead.
Holiday Affair (1996)
As a holiday film, this movie was worthwhile. It's not huge on plot and the character development needed some work. The one dimensional lawyer friend Paul was particularly cliched and inexpressive. The high point was the Christmas spirit. What's better than a 6-year old with an electric train or two for Christmas, and grandparents for Christmas dinner? While the love story isn't the greatest, it does have some moments of tension and a sweet premise. Good for viewing during the holiday season.
Space Cowboys (2000)
Not enough laughs, but quite an adventure.
This movie has plenty of action, likeable characters, and a fun, if unrealistic, plot premise. What it doesn't have are enough laughs.
Space Cowboys is an action movie about sending four old Air Force flyers into space to rescue a doomed satellite. The premise could have made a great comedy, but instead we get some save-the-world action and a heavy story with a few funny lines.
The laughs we do get are hearty chuckles, but they're simply spread too thin. There's a Baptist minister with a Hawaiian hula dancer fetish, a little fun with baby food, and a wacky Jay Leno cameo. Other highlights are the outer space segments, complete with lots of space lingo and the occasional feel-good moment.
A few times, the drama verges too far on the heavy side, with predictably depressing consequences. Confrontations between Frank Corvin (Eastwood) and Bob Gerson (James Cromwell) are tense but not explosive. The enmity is just a bit flat, since we can never quite believe that Gerson is as evil as Frank wants to think he is. Gerson himself is a walking contradiction, a sometimes-ally who would be a villain in any other movie but doesn't manage it in this one. It was a difficult role, but James Cromwell makes the most of it, for which I applaud him. Despite the contradictions, I almost always found him believable in the part.
Tommy Lee Jones was probably the most sympathetic character, for reasons that I cannot divulge but which will quickly become clear if you see the film. Moreover, his brisk, sincere style really developed his character, "Hawk" Hawkins, pilot extraordinaire. I have nothing but praise for his performance.
Clint Eastwood, James Garner, and Donald Sutherland all make the most of the old fogy stereotypes: grumpy old man, kindly old man, and dirty old man. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's not, but most of the time it feels genuine. They're oddballs, but they're real people.
The same cannot be said for Loren Dean, who plays a competitive young astronaut named Ethan. Ethan's professional animosity goes far beyond reasonable bounds, partly for the sake of the drama, but there should be more to it. It's wooden, it's forced, and it isn't explained adequately.
Overall, I recommend this movie as an action flick, but don't go in expecting a comedy or you'll be a little disappointed.
The Paleface (1948)
This movie was hysterical!
Bob Hope is always a joy to watch, but this movie epitomizes all that is funny about him. He gets into one scrape after another, typically after being dragged in by his co-star. She proceeds to save the day, while saddling Bob with all the credit, both good and bad. The best part of the movie is related to a boot tied to a tree... but I won't give it away! If you're looking for some belly laughs, this is a good place to start.
George Lucas in Love (1999)
What a great idea!
This short film is a spoof of the movie "Shakespeare In Love" with George Lucas as the main character and a lot of Star Wars thrown in. George is a USC student in 1967 experiencing writer's block who finds his inspiration in the people around him. My favorite part was the professor, Patrick Kerr, who gives a great rendition of Yoda-speak with his "Too much already I have said." If there's any possible way for you to see this movie, do it.
A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)
An excellent rendition
I have never seen a better production of this play. The depth of Kevin Kline's character in particular stands out as a touch of excellence. The addition of a wife for his character, Bottom, gives new dimension to an otherwise largely slapstick role, and Kline's Bottom is whimsical and wistful, capturing the imagination and the hearts of the audience. The two pairs of lovers, lost in the woods, are all remarkably convincing in their very changeable moods and roles as the love quadrangle undergoes its twists and turns. Christian Bale is, as usual, gorgeous and eminently watchable, while Rupert Everett as Oberon is sultry and fascinating as he lounges in the greenery and directs the goings-on. Everett's relationship with Michelle Pfeiffer, as Titania, underlies the plot of the play and also carries the movie. As a beautiful, aesthetic piece of art, this movie fits the bill and pleases to no end. I recommend this movie in every way.
This movie wasn't something I set out to see, I just happened on it accidentally while channel surfing when I saw a whole bunch of familiar faces in strange outfits. Just for the eclectic cast, this movie was worth some of my time. Practically every face was familiar; these people also did movies that I'd seen before. It's not exactly a old classic, but it was moderately funny and had a lot of good actors who weren't exactly at their best, but who made the movie much more enjoyable. So for a funny, very light-hearted movie, with a lot of actors who will ring a bell, watch Airheads.
In Love and War (1996)
This was a fabulous war/ biography movie!
For those of you who have read Hemingway, you will be surprised and captivated by the boyishness of the pre-war Hemingway that O'Donnell gives us so beautifully. The episodes in the life of the author that are covered by In Love and War are for the most part, not pretty. However, they give an insight into the writing of America's greatest author that no other movie of his work has ever done. Those who expected a movie version of A Farewell to Arms did not receive it, because the autobiographical In Love and War does not tell the same story that the semi-autobiographical book, A Farewell to Arms did. In Love and War is far closer to the truth, as other Hemingway scholars will attest. In that way, this movie is a valuable historical and biographical resource for people interested in Hemingway and his experiences in WWII Italy.
If you are watching this movie just for fun, however, and not to gain insight into a book or an author's life, there is much here for you as well. Bullock and O'Donnell have a wonderful chemistry, and the lighthearted moments are weighed against a tale of great agony and suffering without being preachy or too painful. There are serious moments, when the reality of life and war come home to Ernest, and there are beautiful moments, when Catherine explores Italy. It's a wonderful mix of the dramatic and the light, without being overdone or showy. The realism is striking. I hope that everyone who watches this movie enjoys it as much as I did.
The Harvey Girls (1946)
A musical masterpiece
While the non-subtle male chauvinism in this movie becomes a bit much in places, the lovely songs, particularly 'The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe,' sung by Judy Garland, make up for it all. The historical Harvey Girls probably didn't sing that well, but this is a sweet movie in tribute to one of the few female presences in the Old West worthy of commemoration. The spark between Judy Garland and John Hodiak is tangible, and makes this movie really worth watching.
This is one of the best movies in existence
This movie is one of the best movies that Disney has ever made. Not only is there a heart-warming storyline and a collection of endearing characters, there are some really adorable actors that completely converted even my most cynical friends.
This is the story of the newsboys of New York City at the turn of the century, and their couragous struggle against the most powerful man in the city. Fighting for the right not to be ignored, to be treated fairly, they pull a David and Golliath worthy of the most exacting in movie critics. There are some evil villains that keep you alert, and several heroes that supply endless thrills. Of course, above all else, are the wonderful songs in the movie. Hear them once and you'll be singing for weeks on end. I cannot say enough about this truly wonderful (though underrated) movie.