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Wedding Crashers (2005)
Predictable and somewhat mean-spirited
I didn't find Wedding Crashers to be the lark it appeared to be in promos. Call me old-fashioned, but when the basis of an activity is to lie in order to get something from someone else, then I don't find those who do that admirable or worthy of being the "good guys." The only way that works is is you give back to those you lied to in equal amounts, and that doesn't happen in Wedding Crashers. It is all about using others, and that isn't fun.
On top of that, Wedding Crashers was as predictable a movie as I have seen in the past 10 years. The opening collage of crashed weddings was too long, but it only took about 15 minutes to guess what would happen to the main characters who had spent years callously using others ... they would finally discover love. Duh. It would have been funnier if they had met some women who were better at using them than they were at using women.
Wedding Crashers creates a whole mythology that is interesting, but not really very funny. I gave it a 5.
Not as bad as feared, but incomplete
When Elektra was in theaters, the reviews I read trashed it. Daredevil wasn't very good, and most critics said this spin-off was worse. But when I finally caught up with Electra on HBO, it was better than I expected. It was just incomplete.
The story arc is almost elegant, in a way. (Spoilers) Elektra is a bitter woman whose anger from a childhood tragedy caused her martial arts teacher to boot her out of his school, so she can learn lessons by living them (vs. being taught). She apparently was too angry and therefore could not progress until she dealt with that.
Of course, being kicked out by the person she respects for reasons that to her are unclear just makes her more angry. So, Elektra becomes an assassin. We meet her sometime after she has been successful at her new craft. There is moral ambiguity here, because we don't learn what kinds of people she has killed. If she kills "bad people," then she can retain her innocence. It is hard to root for anyone who kills good people for hire. But what she has done in the past isn't clear. It is incomplete. And as we learn, someone on the side of good is involved with giving her her assignments (through her agent, of all things) ... so I suppose we should assume Elektra only assassinated bad people. That should have been better defined.
We do see her next contract - a father and his teenage daughter, who (not coincidentally) live in a lake cabin near where Elektra has been told to rent a house for a bit. Turns out the daughter is special, and thus ensues the main point of the film - Elektra learns she doesn't have to remain bitter, and does good deeds along the way.
I mention all this because it is classic redemption of a hero, but the holes left by the script don't close the loop. Neither does the ending, in which henchmen are eliminated but not the bosses in charge. No one seems concerned about that. With a tighter script, this movie could have been a 7. I gave it a 5.
The Island (2005)
Great start, then takes the wrong path
After a fascinating first 30 minutes or so, The Island goes big when it should have stayed spare.
Like Gattaca (one of my favorite movies), The Island presents us with a future that asks us questions about where we are headed in our real present. And it asks us to decide whether this future is what we want. Unlike Gattaca, which kept the chases to a minimum and instead capitalized on great performances by its actors as their actions gave us new insights, The Island becomes what seems like one, big chase scene broken into several different parts (depending on the vehicle being chased).
We figure out in the first quarter of the movie what is really going on here. That first quarter is very effective at intriguing and disgusting the viewer. Unfortunately, because we know so quickly what is happening, that leaves the next 90 minutes to essentially follow two characters as they are thrust into new and dangerous situations and then escape them. During all of this time, the viewer wonders when the movie will return to some of the central questions raised during its first 45 minutes. It eventually does, sort of.
The acting is excellent, if a bit disconcerting when characters who appear to be at least 30 years of age and some close to 40 seem to be at best young teenagers in the way they struggle to express questions about their environment and future. Even so, the main characters seem to learn about reality a bit too quickly. They act when they should still be asking questions, preferably when they had time to do so and weren't simply running.
And the movie succumbs to cheap impulses when it allows the security people at "The Institute," who know what is going on there, to laugh or taunt their victims. It would have been far creepier if those security forces had remained professional at all times, because that would have indicated these people were sincere in their support and not just paid lackeys.
If The Island had cut out 20 minutes of chases and replaced it with more discussion among the main characters about who they are and whether that is a feasible answer, it would have been better. As it was, we gave The Island a 6.
Alexander was closer to Clash of the Titans than any of Oliver Stone's typical films. Casting, acting, editing ... they were all sub par. Colin Farrell wasn't at all convincing as Alexander. He seemed more like a child demanding attention than an emperor to be. Angelina Jolie sounded like Morticia (was that her name?) from Rocky and Bullwinkle. Her scheming was mildly interesting, but each time she spoke it was hard not to laugh. In fact, it was hard not to laugh throughout the film, but more importantly, it was hard to be drawn into the film when every actor seemed like they were playing pretend. I always wonder when I see a movie this bad whether the actors knew it while they were making it. I get a sense they might have had an inkling early on. Something went wrong with this production, and it showed up on film. We gave it a 4.
War of the Worlds (2005)
Well done, scary, but ends with a whimper
War of the Worlds is at this point practically an archetype. It is "the" alien invasion premise, and Spielberg does it proud in this updated version of the tale. The acting, the effects, the pacing ... all very good. Yes, the allusions to the Holocaust and 9/11 are a bit too much, but not annoyingly so. They just stand out when they happen. There is one twist regarding how the aliens grow their "red vine" that is so macabre as to be disturbing. I thought it was a nice touch for a scary movie.
The oddest thing about this movie is its ending, or more specifically, how it is handled. If you have read the book, or know anything about any incarnation of War of the Worlds, than you basically know what happens at the end. Spielberg chooses to create a thrilling movie for the first hour and a half, and then it essentially ends off camera. We literally go from thrill ride to safety in a few seconds and we are not sure why. Viewers are brought up to speed quickly, but there is no real emotional impact or sense of relief. There is mostly a lot of, "Huh?" Of course, in all of the War of the Worlds versions, the ending is somewhat silly. It is even more so in Spielberg's movie, which at several points has characters talking about the fact that the aliens must have been planning this invasion for thousands of years. If so, how did they overlook their Achilles heal? Unless that is an allusion to the Bush administration's "planning" of the Iraq war, it makes no sense. These aliens made a major boo-boo.
I enjoyed the first 80 percent of War of the Worlds. If the final 20 percent had been better, it might have earned a 9. As it was, I gave it a 7.
La marche de l'empereur (2005)
Decent documentary, but why all the love?
March of the Penguins is essentially an (over)dramatized documentary. It takes biologically-driven behavior and tries to assign human traits to the penguins' actions. The movie as a documentary was OK. One of the "special features" is, interestingly, a documentary about the documentary which in my opinion was actually better than March of the Penguins. It was shot chronologically and also followed the penguins, but instead of the overly dramatic narration of MOTP (which included Morgan Freeman describing a penguin which lost its chick as if the penguin was in deep anguish and ready to whip out an Uzi and wipe out the colony to erase its pain), it has the French-accented voice of the director describing more clearly and in more informative terms what the penguins are doing. I gave MOTP a 6.
Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
Quirky and amusing but leads nowhere
I'm a sucker for small films with quirky characters who act in ways that are understandable even as they are odd. Napoleon Dynamite is that kind of film.
Just about every main character we meet in the film can be classified as a loser. Male or female, English or Latino, in school or long graduated, these are folks who just don't fit in ... even in a small town in Idaho. That doesn't make them less watchable. In fact, decoding what exactly is off about each character is half the fun of this film. The characters themselves are not necessarily sad or upset they don't fit in. They seem aware of it, but don't take steps to address it.
The film takes a while before it gets to any sort of plot. Just when I started to wonder if there was one, something came along. And the plot is thin, but does tie in to who the main characters are.
My major issue with Napoleon Dynamite was the ending. It made no sense. Avoiding spoilers here ... what the main character does inexplicably seems to make a difference. Why it isn't viewed as something as weird as anything else he does, I don't know. And when the film ended, I was left wondering if there was a message I wasn't getting. Maybe there is, but if so, it is pretty esoteric. I gave ND a 6.
Friday Night Lights (2004)
Decent for what it is, bit no new ground broken here
Ever watched a movie that was technically very good, with fine performances by the actors, but which contained no surprise and even was filled with plot twists you just knew were coming? That's Friday Night Lights.
The movie is put together well. Billy Bob Thornton is very good, as are most of the other actors. There is some confusion that isn't explained when the football team does well or poorly with and without a key player ... is the movie saying that at first the team struggled, but then grew as a team and later was better without him? It isn't clear. But otherwise, everything moves along pretty well.
Minor spoilers - The problem is, we have all seen this before. Small town in which many adult residents overly focus on the local high school football team. Players under intense pressure as a result. Coach who faces comments everywhere he goes about how the team is doing or will do. Even a father trying to relive his life through his son. It has all been done. Nothing in this movie was a surprise. There is a mild one at the end to avoid total cliché.
I expected the movie to be stronger, but instead I felt like I was watching the son of "All the Right Moves" or cousin of "Radio." We gave it a 6.
King Arthur (2004)
Users have it right, worth about a 6 out of 10
Who doesn't love a good King Arthur tale? Excaliber remains my favorite Arthur movie, for its darkness and just plain strangeness at times. This film, King Arthur, claims it is telling the true story behind the Arthurian legend. Well, OK. I didn't check up on the facts but I'll go with it for now.
The Good: The winter scenes are terrific. You practically shiver as the characters make their way through icy, snowy passes. And some of the shots with blowing snow as the characters talk to each other are fantastic. The actor who plays the leader of the Saxons is very good, giving us a confident, yet enigmatic villain.
The Bad: Clive Owen seems too old to be Arthur. And too bleak. He has morals, but we are unsure how he developed them. There is no overarching dream of a Camelot, and there is little in the way of explanation as to why he acts as he does, given the world he lives in.
The Ugly: This is why the movie barely deserves a 6 - editing. Individual scenes are done well, but the transitions from one plot development to another are vague and convenient. You often find yourself saying, hmm, OK, well I guess that happened, but it doesn't seem like it should have been so simple. I would say more but this spoilers rule has me worried about being blackballed for life.
King Arthur is a 6.
Too sweet, too slow, fairly predictable and little sense at the end
Radio has some very good actors giving good performances. Its flaw is its story.
Once the movie introduces us to its main characters, it never really settles on the bad guys to provide us with conflict. Oh, for a brief while one of the football players is mean to Radio, but he learns better. And a big booster doesn't like Radio being around the school's teams, but he never really tries very hard to do much to Radio. The coach's daughter feels abandoned by her dad (who takes such a strong interest in radio). But she never really protests much. Even the school board representative pretty much makes a reasonable case for his interest. And none of the football or basketball games seem to lead to anything. There is no build up or sense of greater purpose.
After a while, you start to wonder where the movie is headed, because there is not really much conflict happening. And when it does end, you are left saying, 'Huh What?' [MINOR SPOILERS] When something happens to Radio's mom, who takes care of Radio? He apparently doesn't come home with the coach. Is it Radio's brother? Why don't we see him? And when the coach makes his surprise announcement, does this lead to adopting Radio? If not, what was the point of the announcement?
There is one strong moment, when the coach tells his daughter about an incident from his childhood that helps explain why he is so interested in Radio. Other than that, this movie is so calm as to be comatose. The acting raised my rating to a 6.
Not as bad as word of mouth
I watched Gigli because I wanted to see how bad it was, and found myself surprised that it was decent. I think the whole Bennifer thing caused some kind of mass hysteria and people have ripped Gigli for reasons that don't have much to do with the movie.
It WAS tiresome, in some ways. The Rain Main guy was just a rip-off. And Affleck's gangster was not believable at all (how did a guy as sensitive as he is ever get this tough guy rep? The movie never says). JLo was surprising good. And the script about a hot lesbian gangster and a dumb male gangster wasn't bad. Well, the ending was bad. I mean, after calling the cops and telling them where the "lost" brother is, JLo and Ben hang around at the scene for a long, long time.
Pacino is excellent. Wish he was in it more. Walken was very good, but a weird character who never shows up again.
It seemed like the major problem with Gigli wasn't the acting or the script, but the way it was edited. It had the nut of a good movie, but somehow didn't pull it off. So I gave it a 5. Honestly, it wasn't Ishtar, or even Fahrenheit 9/11.
Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
Um ... so what?
I'm not a member of either US political party. In fact, I despise the two-party system. I don't like Bush. Don't hate him, but think he isn't intelligent or strong.
So I go see F 9/11 to find out what I don't know. What I discover is, very little. Michael Moore is a man whose motivations I admire. But in F 9/11, after seeing image after image that attempts to say something, anything, negative about the Bush presidency but rarely actually gives proof of why we should think that, I walk away feeling used.
Oh, Moore shows us Bush is a timid man, possibly one who doesn't make a move (literally, in one instance in a classroom) without an advisor, but really, many top CEOs, movie stars and other in charge of large enterprises wait for handlers and assistants to direct them, sometimes to a fault. And he talks about the Bush family's connection to the Bin Ladens (old news for some). And he shows soldiers and parents questioning the Iraq war (just as some did over Vietnam and Korea). And then, in an odd twist, he returns to his Roger & Me roots and goes to Flint, Michigan, where he makes the specific and general point that the poor fight our wars while the elite (in this case, kids of Congress members) don't. Gee, that was true in the Civil War.
OK, so maybe some people don't know this stuff, or haven't thought about it. I can accept that. But the way Moore goes about making some of his points is highly manipulative, on the order of the same things he seems to accuse the Bush presidency of doing.
[Minor spoilers] For instance, he spends a good 10-15 minutes on a woman whose son was killed in Iraq, and on her and her family's grief. She questions why he had to die, and even says what has become a cliche in these case: "The parent should never have to bury the child." But while anyone would have sympathy for this woman and her family, this is nothing new. It happened during the Vietnam War. It happened during the Korean War. Questioning the goals of the US in a war and grieving over lost lives didn't start in 2003. And Moore knows this. But by spending so much time with this woman and her family, Moore tries to emotionally affect -- manipulate -- the viewer. This isn't about new information, or new ideas. This is about making you feel a certain way by appealing to your human emotions. Hitler did it, too. And it says absolutely nothing.
Moore does the same with vets who have lost limbs, and even a Marine who refuses to go back to Iraq. OK, fine. They feel that way. And it is a terrible thing to lose limbs in a questionable war. Not a new thought, and I hope these guys can lead happy lives. Next?
Even the opening credits are designed to manipulate. They show members of the Bush presidency having makeup applied before being interviewed on TV or giving a speech. Ominous music plays in the background. Are we supposed to think they are putting on their game faces, getting ready to perform? It is hard to say. But the truth is, almost everyone who appears on TV -- including Moore -- has makeup applied. It is a visual medium. Bush is no different. So?
Finally, the mini-sermon about how the poor fight our wars is not only old news, but it is easily explained. I graduated high school in the early 80s, and even then I thought -- as did many of my peers -- that those who joined the armed forces after high school did it largely because they had few options. Almost no one who could go to college -- whether on a scholarship or with financial aid or by paying themselves -- joined the military. It was an option of last resort. It wasn't preferred, except by a small percentage of people who wanted the military as a career (and these folks often went to the academies). So, the fact that the poor fight our wars -- and that recuiters go to places where they can find poorer people -- is not some scheme. It is the way it works in our society. The only way to change it would be to either enforce mandatory military service or pay the military so much that people would choose it over other careers. Somehow I doubt Moore would like either option.
In the end, I left F 9/11 dissatisfied, and a little depressed. Because if THIS was the movie that had so many people gasping, then those people either haven't paid attention or don't think about things much. And that was the saddest thought of all. I gave F 9/11 a 5.
Something's Gotta Give (2003)
Becomes too much of a "chick movie"
I like Jack Nicholson a lot. And I like clever dialogue. And both are in "Something's Gotta Give."
But at some point the movie becomes focused on Diane Keaton's character and her goofy reactions to being in love and not knowing what to do to get over it. She makes faces and noises and seems frustrated and then sad. It was as if the film was asking us to think this is somehow significant. The truth is, getting in and out of a relationship can be emotionally draining. That's how it works. All the camera mugging in the world doesn't make it any cuter. Move on already.
The movie also makes the common mistake of claiming men who are older and distinguished and can date much younger women, while women who are older are just old. It conveniently forgets that out-of-shape, average earning older men don't get the 20-something girlfriend. That requires money, power, and reasonably good looks, or some combination. An older woman with the same can also date a younger man ... as the movie then shows, though it doesn't seem to be outraged by that as it is when it comes to men doing it.
(Mild spoiler ahead) The ending is especially a letdown, because it is so conventional. Nicholson's character becomes what I suppose most women think a man his age should be, right down to being a doting grandparent (sort of). The movie was much more interesting when he was being who he had always been, which was different than convention. Why change at age 63? I guess to give viewers the warm and fuzzies. Blah.
I gave it a 5.
Love Actually (2003)
A good movie that was badly named and marketed
I only saw Love, Actually because it was shown on a commercial flight and I was bored. From the TV commercials I had seen for it when it was in theatres, I expected it to be a lightweight, goofy romance almost in a slapstick vein, all set at a sappy time of year (Christmas).
Well, it is set at a sappy time of year, and milks it. But the various storylines involved (following different couples at various stages of relationships) were far more realistic, thoughtful and serious than I had expected.
The movie should have been called "Four Stories," or something that made it less slapstick and more a view of different aspects of relationships. True, some of the relationships were slapstick, but that had a place among the more serious tales. And the way various characters were connected was interesting.
If you are a guy, this movie is better than you think it will be. I gave it a 7.
Swimming Pool (2003)
Interesting film; typically slow-paced, but makes you think
I finally saw Swimming Pool on PPV last weekend. When it was over, I thought it was very clever, though I couldn't fill in several holes. So I went online to see what others said, and the accepted wisdom about what this film REALLY was is ... disappointing. Swimming Pool has a slow pace, like many nonAmerican films. That's not a bad thing. Just different. But it also made me think about it much more than most American films. I gave it a 7.
* SPOILERS BELOW *********
OK, so the accepted analysis of Swimming Pool is that none of the action at the house actually happens, that this is all Sarah's new novel being played out in her head with symbolism all over the place. The cause of all her angst is child abuse by her own father and resulting sexual repression and relationship problems.
OK, fine. But am I the only one who finds that much less interesting that what the film APPEARED to be at first?
That is, Sarah really does go to relax at her publisher's house in France and really does meet a hot blonde girl (her publisher's daughter) who sleeps with everyone and whose mom died years ago? And that because of her lack of direction in life and her bad choices, does end up killing a man, a murder which an eventually sympathetic Sarah (a murder mystery writer)helps her cover up? Then the young girl leaves, and Sarah goes back to London and while at her publisher's office sees his ACTUAL daughter, who is a sweet girl and not the girl who showed up at the house? So Sarah realizes that the girl at the house was a drifter who murdered someone and who got Sarah to help cover up a murder (and do some other things which were out of character for Sarah)? And that Sarah will never know who this drifter was? And will have to live with this secret or expose herself as an accessory to murder? And Sarah will have to hope no one finds out what happened?
That seemed far more interesting to me.
Fun to watch, but too long and lacks purpose
Pirates certainly was interesting. In fact, some of the droll, dark humor was very unDisney-like (and enjoyably so). But the movie ran about two hours, and would have been better at 90 minutes. Much of it involved sword fights and plot twists that didn't add much. The plot was like a thread that would be dropped for 10 minutes, then picked up again. Johnny Depp was superb. What a strange character he created. It begged the question, though, of how this goof could have lived more than 20 minutes as a pirate. Finally, and a minor spoiler. if you end up cursed for stealing Cortez's gold, didn't the governor's daughter steal the gold from the unconscious boy? Just wondering. A good movie, which is a step in the right direction for Disney, but undisciplined and meandering. We gave it a 6.
Lost in Translation (2003)
A very good to great film; if you don't like it, you don't get it
To view Lost in Translation with enough depth to understand it, you have to have some depth yourself. That isn't meant as an insult. In college I took a creative writing class (at the time I wanted to be a writer and I was pretty good, technically) and wrote several short stories as part of the class. After the instructor read three or four of these, he called me aside to talk about my writing and said this: "You know what you need? You need to fail." I was shocked and insulted, but for years wondered about what he said and why he said it. Now, 20 years later, I am sure I know what he meant. He meant that my life had been a pretty good one, with few disappointments, and as a result I didn't have the depth to write something truly emotional and meaningful, yet, no matter how good I was technically. I became a journalist.
The same is true for Lost in Translation. These user reviews which call the movie boring are missing out, probably through no fault of the reviewer. If you have never been isolated in a truly foreign environment (I have, in China, among others), or have never truly wondered whether the path you are beginning or ending was the right one (including marriage or career choices), and have never met up with a stranger who seemed to "get" you even though you both know back home you probably wouldn't even have talked, then this movie will probably seem dull.
To me, it was a moving story about two people who connect briefly but not in the lame Hollywood sexual manner. These people talk, and observe and wonder out loud. And when they part, they are sad beyond all normal expectation.
Lost in Translation had one scene -- involving kareoke -- that I thought went on too long. But everything else was almost perfect. To have people speak in Japanese, often with no translation, drives home the isolation one feels in that environment if you are not Japanese. To see Charlotte pace, and sit, and be bored, shows what happens when you are alone in a strange place with no agenda. I've been there. It is EXACTLY like this.
I think I heard the second half of what Bill Murray whispers at the end. If I did, I liked it. SPOILER ALERT: It sounded like he said, 'No matter what happens, tell the truth."
If he did, that phrase has meaning on several levels, just like the movie. What a great film. I gave it a 9.
About Schmidt (2002)
Something to Ponder
It is true that About Schmidt is a slow-paced film. You keep watching Jack Nicholson, expecting him to suddenly burst out from his sad sack character and be the Jack Nicholson we all laugh with and enjoy. It never happens, though. For some, that's frustrating. For me, it was the only thing that could have happened for this film to remain true to its message.
There are plenty of reviews here that talk about plot, so I will not. What I will add is that, for any person who has worked at the same company for 10 years or more, About Schmidt strikes a little close to home. The truth is, when you retire, all the things that you THOUGHT were so important at work for so many years, aren't. In the grand scheme of things, when you lie on your death bed, you will NOT wish you had done a better job on some work project. No, what matters is your LIFE, and you better be sure to create one that doesn't have to do with your job.
One other point, and this is a spoiler, so if you haven't seen About Schmidt don't read this: I think many reviewers missed the point of the ending. Jack's character wasn't redeemed. He didn't suddenly find purpose because he could help the kid in Tanzania. Listen to the voiceover his character has in the film. He says that when you are gone, and everyone who knows you is gone, and you have left nothing, than what was the point of your life? Ngubu hasn't met Jack's character face-to-face, but he IS someone who "knows" him. So Ngubu falls under the same catagory as the character's daughter. As a result, the end is very sad. The main character realizes that, at age 66, he has done as much for this child to whom he has sent a small amount of money in the past couple months as he has for anyone on Earth, and he cries for that reality.
Three days later my wife and I still talk about About Schmidt, a rarity with today's movies. I give it a 7.
Disappointing; Shocking Lack of Originality
If you want to see T3, just watch T2 again and then add on five minutes worth of plot mythology development. Basically, T3 seems to exist to make money, instead of make money and take us meaningfully forward in the Terminator franchise.
Let's see ... Terminator sent back in time to kill John Connor (and a few others, given lip service but no meaning)? Check. Other Terminator (older model) sent back to protect Connor? Check. War between humans and self-aware machines coming? Check. Car chases involving big, destructive trucks? Check. Bar scene where naked Terminator gets clothes? Check. Organization that will unwittingly allow self-aware machines to control nuclear weapons? Check.
I mean, what was new? Very little. A minor philosophy change involving fate (Sarah Connor turns out to be wrong after all). A very brief bit of reprogramming that causes a good guy to be a bad guy for a few minutes. Even the fancy new Terminator is very similar to the new one in T2. It has an additional weapons ability and one minor wrinkle where it can control machines, but really, who ever thought a Terminator couldn't do that?
That's just the beginning. This movie raises many questions about its own story. For instance, if it is so easy for the machines and humans to send machines back in time, how can this ever end? Why not send a Terminator back to 1961 and kill Sarah Connor as a child? Or kill her parents back in 1930? The franchise really needs to point out that this process is terribly difficult and limited.
Also, John Connor knows how he will die. So now that he knows, why can't he prevent it? It's not like it is a random bomb. There is a very specific set of actions that must occur for Connor to die, and Connor himself must OK one of them. So why would he ever do it?
T3 is very disappointing, and one of the most crass cash grabs I have ever seen from Hollywood.
Hable con ella (2002)
Touching and different
If for no other reason, I had to write this to bump down the silly review that called "Talk to Her" a waste of money.
I won't describe the story, because many other reviewers already do. Instead, I will say that this film, unlike typical American films, remains in your mind for days after viewing it. I am pondering why. It isn't the plot that does it. I believe it is the fact that in "Talk to Her," as in many "foreign" films, you get to know the main characters very well. It isn't about huge surprises and things blowing up. It is about the evolution of, in this case, two men, and their tie to each other.
Yes, there are a couple of minor surprises, but in the end, what you remember about "Talk to Me" are the fact that you have spent a couple of hours with four people and watched as their lives changed. I'm still thinking about them, and am glad I saw Talk to Her. I give it an 8.
Children of Dune (2003)
Better acting that first miniseries, but such a dense story!
A blizzard and 32 inches of snow is the perfect setting to watch a mini-series that has been taped for later viewing. As a long-time Dune book series fan and an owner of the DVD of the Lynch movie and the first Sc-Fi miniseries, I eagerly awaited Children of Dune.
The good: Excellent musical score (hopefully available on amazon.com); better acting in general, especially Alice Krige as Lady Jessica and the young actor who played Leto, son of Paul; better special effects (incredible sandworms!); and just the fact that Sci-Fi took time and money to prodice this miniseries (though I will never forgive the cancellation of Farscape).
The bad: Susan Sarandon, for an alleged fan of the Dune series, was just terrible, all hammy and goofy like some character out of a 60s sitcom; the actress who played Alia, Paul Atreides sister, was OK but seemed to lack the fire that I always envisioned as Paul's sister went mad; and the story, which was a mixture of the second and third books in the series, was so incredibly dense -- even for a Dune veteran like me -- that I wondered if anyone else could watch the mini-series and even figure out what was going on.
Generally speaking, this was a better production than the first miniseries, but the story was harder to tell. I hope that Sci-Fi carries on and does a third mini-series. I rated Children of Dune an 8.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Why is this a "classic"? Basic premise poor
Finally, at the age of 38, I saw "It's A Wonderful Life" in its entirety (after catching a few minutes here and there over the years on TV). When it was over, I found myself puzzled over why this movie is considered such a classic.
I am not talking about the acting, or the film's technical proficiency. All of that seemed fine, even well-done at times. I am talking about its reason for being: Its story.
I'll assume you have seen it, so prepare for spoilers. The basic message of this movie seems to be that a man who never left his home town to pursue his personal dreams nevertheless led a wonderful life due to his kindness and caring for the town and its residents. In fact, when he finally reaches a low point, the town's residents come to bail HIM out, thereby proving what a wonderful person he has been.
A nice story, but the movie misses two logical points. First, was the man who never pursued his personal dreams (George Bailey) HAPPY with the life he DID lead? If he was happy with staying home, helping people afford houses and bailing out his family's business, then the point of the movie is MOOT. He evidently gave up very little for a happy life. Other than a few wistful asides, we never see that George is bothered much that he didn't travel the world. He seems perfectly content where he is. So if he is happy, then the central message of kindness and helping others while sacrificing your own dreams is weak or lost entirely.
Second, if a man spends DECADES helping out residents of his little town (most of whom remain residents over the years), I don't see it as any great act of charity that when the man needs monetary help, all those people he assisted over the years are willing to give him a few dollars to fix his problem. The climactic ending, when people line up to give George 20 bucks here and 75 bucks there, is made to look like some kind of incredible holiday miracle. But think about it: If a man made it possible for YOU to buy your first home (in an era when buying a home was truly a dream), and a few years later he needs some money for his business (which is the entity that helps so many local people) to survive, wouldn't you go donate whatever you could afford to help him? It wouldn't even have to be that painful, really, in a town with several thousand residents.
No, I think the town's true colors are shown earlier, when George's business almost goes under due to a run on the banks and his customers are more than happy to run to his competitor's bank to get 50 cents on a dollar. Some people end up staying ONLY after George uses his own WEDDING MONEY to pay them a fraction of what they sought to withdraw (which, when you think about it, is no real risk ... they can always go to the competitor later if things get worse). THAT seemed to me to also be normal behavior by the local residents, and it was not celebrated like the ending is.
Maybe some people were impressed with the plot device of an angel showing George what life might have been like without him. Maybe that was the first time that had been done in a movie, for all I know. But I found that device not unlike the ghosts who visit Scrooge, and that tale was written long before It's A Wonderful Life was made. So I don't get that, either.
There were some fun moments, and who doesn't like Jimmy Stewart. But a revered classic? I guess I don't get it. I gave it a 5.
Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
I love Trek, but something has happened to it
I've watched Trek since I was 10, when I watched repeats of the original series with my dad (the Gorn especially scared me). Next Generation was terrific. Deep Space Nine was my favorite, because it was so intricate. Voyager was lighter, and I watched though I didn't like it near as much. Then, of course, Enterprise, which I have given up on after a year (I tried to watch, but the characters are so dumb, and their instincts so wrong, that I can't deal with that as well as the recycled plots).
So we get to Nemesis, and while I enjoyed seeing old friends on the screen, the movie seemed to suffer from whatever royally messed up Enterprise. The plot ping-pongs between vague and redone. The main bad guy is sort of a Dr. Evil with no sense of humor. I'm not even sure why he should be scary, because he doesn't seem especially threatening, and the scarier people who run his ship don't seem inclined to usurp him. SPOILER WARNING There is much sloppiness of the like I came to expect from Enterprise, i.e. throwing the Prime Directive away to fly down to an inhabited planet to find andriod parts while in a dune buggy; ramming a ship that still has 70 percent shields (shouldn't that mean the ramming pretty much doesn't work?); Janeway as an admiral, giving order to Picard (OK, Janeway is back on Earth, and maybe they stashed her in a cushy admin job, but she is 20 years Picard's junior with a fraction of his experience); and of course the central point that seemed hard to explain: If you own the ultimate doomsday device and the fleet of a planet, why are you so hell bent on destroying one particular world because you have a problem with the concept of "humanity"? Maybe you should defeat some other, closer, smaller foes first, and build up your arsenal, if this is only about power.
Still, despite it all, I enjoyed the movie. I could get frustrated thinking how it might have been better, but heck, it was better than Enterprise. Much of the wonder of old Trek is gone. It is now more about explosions. Still, I am a softy at heart and gave Nemesis a 7.
Auto Focus (2002)
Interesting film, but doesn't say much new
First, you have to admire all involved for even doing this film. I mean, who is the target audience? Hogan's Heroes fans? Most frequent movie-goers today probably couldn't pick Bob Crane out of a lineup with only two choices. When we saw the movie a few days after it opened, there were about 10 people in the theatre.
That being said, the movie should have been made. It is an interesting story. Unfortunately, it plays more like a documentary than a film that teaches us something new. I am fairly familiar with the Crane real-life story, so the events in the film weren't surprising. I kep waiting for some kind of enlightenment, or insight, but it never happened. Basically, a likeable guy who needed to be liked had a sex addiction and it cost him his career and (apparently) his life.
I wondered if Crane had always shown an unusual interest in porn, and if his wife or anyone else ever knew it. The film shows early on Crane had a collection of porn magazines he hid from his wife, but there are probably a good number of men who do the same. The question was, what took Crane from that to taping himself and Carpenter having sex ... and not caring who knew he was into that? I couldn't be sure even if Crane was a weak person who couldn't control a latent urge that was always there (and enabled by Carpenter), or a strong person who led a life he liked and didn't care what others thought. As Crane said (sort of) in the movie, just because society doesn't like something doesn't make it wrong, if no one is getting hurt and all are adult.
I thought Kinnear did a nice job, though at times he played Crane just a little over-the-top in cluenessness. The guy wasn't deep, but the wide-eyed, ignorant routine seemed a bit much.
Still, I gave it a 7. I wish more films would take these kind of chances with subject matter that doesn't appeal to everyone.
Not a bad effort, but check this out ...
I can't add much to other comments here. I think Krull, like the original Dune, is a movie with ambition and falls short but still makes a solid effort.
The think that freaked me out is this (and probably no one else cares). One of my favorite movie soundtracks is the orchaestral soundtrack from Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan. I have owned it for years and played it many times. The themes and arrangements build on each other and it is a fine piece of music.
So I start watching Krull on late night HBO, and after about 10 minutes realize the music sounds familiar. I listen some more and I find myself FILLING IN musical passages before we get there! It sounds like Wrath of Khan!
So I go to IMDB to see who did the music for Krull, and it is THE SAME PERSON as Wrath of Khan. Has anyone noticed this similarity? I think Khan was 1982 and Krull was 1983. Perhaps there was some attempt to save some time by borrowing themes? I was just stunned, because I never would have guessed the composers were the same.
Anyway, I rated Krull a 5.