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Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (1980 TV Movie)
Decent, but drags
20 May 2008
This BBC version of an Agatha Christie book shows the pitfalls of following a book too closely. Christie's books tend to move at a gentle, sometimes even sedate pace, and "Evans" is one that certainly does. It also has a solid school of red herrings to confuse the plot. This version is extremely faithful to the book, which results in a very slow, involved story. As a Christie fan, I gave it 7 stars, but it takes 3 hours to make its way through a relatively action-free story. I appreciate some of the tightening of plots that the BBC did for its later Christie productions much more.

In the end, this movie is a leisurely pleasure, highlighted by the breathy waif Francesca Annis who brings considerable charisma to her role and plays off James Warwick very well.
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Father Brown (1974– )
Solid pre-Christie storytelling
24 March 2008
If, like my wife and myself, you have run through the BBC's various Christie series, these are a good find. They are a bit dated, but I prefer a good story to a click production. More is an excellent Father Brown, soft-spoken, witty, but sharp and persistent.

These stories are from a bit earlier in the mystery genre than most adaptations, and this dates the series as much as the productions. Chesterfield's stories tend to be more "howdunit" than "whodunit", with the focus less on the characters than on the murder itself. This can be a problem, at times, but it can be very good, especially when combined with good characters.
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Rosemary & Thyme (2003–2006)
Comments from the first season
7 May 2007
I have only seen the first season, and will probably watch more, as my wife and I enjoy British mysteries a lot.

The stories are short (compared to the movie length episodes of Midsomer Murders, Inspector Lynley, or Morse) and the leads have no direct criminal investigative link, so they have to "run into" the crimes. Both of these issues give the show a "Murder, She Wrote" feel. The linkage of the characters to the crimes seems forced, and with a short program, often the clues are slammed into your face, as if there was a red light on your TV set to tell you that "this was a clue!" The leads are both very well done, charismatic and interesting. The episodic characters have, so far, been well thought out and have solid and distinct personalities, not always easy to so in a shorter show.

In the end, it is a lightweight series, but fun. It will not be my first choice for cozy mysteries for my wife and I to watch, but it is decent filler between while we take a break from other series.
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Enjoyable, but disliked the end
17 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I am hardly a Bollywood expert, I have seen Lagaan, and enjoyed it very much. This was my second Bollywood movie.

I enjoyed the movie very much. I am not much for "chick flicks" so I don't know that I would go out of my way to see it again, but I certainly enjoyed it.

I felt it was reasonably well acted. I am totally unfamiliar with any of the actors, so I was able to simply watch them for their roles. Rishi's character was very well done, Rhea and Maya were both beautiful and played their roles with feeling. Dev was simply annoying. The father, Sam was a bit too cliché for me, but not so much that it was annoying.

I am still getting used to the musical numbers in the middle of Bollywood films. I enjoyed the songs in Lagaan much more than the I did the songs in this movie. ***SPOILER*** In particular, the song "Let's Dance", or something like that, with Rhea and Rishi celebrating what they think is the rebirth of their marriages juxtaposed with Maya and Dev consummating their affair, was very poor, and took away from a very well set up scene.

The funny parts of the movie were very funny, the songs were tolerable and I thoroughly enjoyed the first 3 hours of the film, but the ending was clumsy and unsatisfying. ***SPOILER*** I have heard comments that it was "pushing the envelope" for Indian films, to have the divorces followed by the lovers being reunited and living happily (or as happily as anyone can be, when stuck with Dev) every after. From a storytelling angle, punishing the two who broke up the marriages would have been more satisfying, and the way that Rishi and Rhea bring about the reunion seemed very clumsy and not particularly believable.

In the end, I enjoyed the film and look forward to seeing more Indian movies.
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Too long and too bland
22 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
LIke the first movie, this one was about an hour longer than it had material for. The plot wandered and floundered about, then sort of came to a conclusion....but not really.

By the half-way point, I found myself paying more attention to the CGI than to the movie. I wish I had waited until it came to the dollar theater, but in the end, half of the time I was in the theater, I was sort of enjoying myself.

Bloom and Depp were solid if unremarkable. There was little of the flair and panache jack Sparrow had in the first movie. Knightly was gorgeous, and delivered her lines with reasonable effect, but little about her performance was memorable.
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Solid, but unremarkable
18 April 2006
Finally got to watch this last night and, while I enjoyed it, I was underwhelmed. I will admit, right off the top, that I enjoy the LOTR and Harry Potter books more than Narnia. Narnia is aimed at a younger audience, which I am no longer a part of, and are much preachier, which is to be expected.

The story was presented quite well, from what I remember from the book. The talking animals work well, although I felt that the beavers looked a bit cartoonish. The wolves were excellent.

Overall I was surprised at the lack of a WOW factor. There were no scenes that I looked back on as visually impressive. The CGI'd creatures were beautiful, and the flying ones I liked particularly, but good CGI is now a basic expectation of a big budget movie.

The characters are very two dimensional, although well played by the actors. Lucy's grin was annoying at times, but many 6 year olds are annoying at times, in real life. The Snow Queen was striking, the dwarfs were cool, but, in the end, I was left wanting more.

I will watch this again, I am sure, and I will go to the sequel(s), but this will never be a movie that I put into the DVD player myself. If I am in the mood for some epic fantasy, it will be The Two Towers. If I am in the mood for a fantasy aimed at children, I will put in Harry Potter.
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King Kong (2005)
Loved the references to the earlier film
17 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
A fantastic movie, but everyone has talked about that. Kong was amazing, with tons of personality. The great CGI lived up to billing, but I have come to assume that as a minimum. What I liked the most was the time the movie took to flesh out the characters beyond the 1933 version.

I loved the evolution of the perception of Jack Black as Carl Denham. Denham begins as a lovable rogue, who wants to do what it takes to make his movie, without interference from the bean counters. That same narrow vision later makes him a hard, "who cares if some lives are lost" cad, all while using the same character traits.

Naomi Watts gets to be much more than the "scream and faint" heroine that Fay Wray gave us. Strong, funny and sad, she has great depth. Am I the only one who half-expected her to follow Kong over the edge, at the end.

I also enjoyed the little tips of the cap to the original. The restoration of the "spider pit" scene; Kyle Chandler bringing the opening lines between hero and heroine into the current movie; the transplanting of the 1933 "native dance" from Skull Island to the Broadway stage. These are just a few, or what I am sure are many homages and references.
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26 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I went to this film with the low expectations, due to episodes I and II. I had allowed myself some hope, because the trailers looked good and the early reviews were positive. After watching this film, I have to wonder if I actually saw the same film as the reviewers.

The movie did not get off to a good start when McGregor and Christensen fly through an dogfight to get to Dooku's ship. The dogfight effects were visually impressive, but the "banter" between Annikin and Obi-Wan was wooden and bland and the idiotic droids that attacked the ships had to be the worst military concept since the cat-guided bombs of urban legend.

We then have a bit of action adventure slapstick fun in the elevator shaft, with R2D2 doing his best impersonation of Herbie the Love Bug. Eventually we get to see Gen. Greivious, an asthmatic, arthritic droid with a face out of Pink Floyd's "The Wall" animations and a walk borrowed from Groucho Marx.

It is hard to decide who has less chemistry, McGregor and Christensen or Christensen and Portman. I would have to say the latter, as the former redeem themselves somewhat with their dialog in the big fight on the volcanic planet. Watching Annikin and Padme is like watching a 10th grade drama class version of "The Mousetrap".

Even Annikin's conversion to the dark side is given short shrift. It is little more than, "I shouldn't...I shouldn't...OK!" The extermination of the Jedi is amazingly succinct and unemotional. We see Annikin with the troops...we see Annikin with the younglings...we see shocked look of recognition on face of youngling...done. No emotional impact for a segment that should have been horrifying.

In the end, the visuals surpass Lucas's previous creations, but that was to be expected. Nothing jumped out at me and made me go "Wow!". The chase between Greivous's wheel car and Obi-Wan's lizard was cool. The sweeping long shots of the buildings and cities were beautiful and detailed.

The acting and dialog was wooden and clunky. I don't expect Shakespeare or Tennesee Williams, but I expect something that tells me it wasn't written as a collaboration between fans on a website. Samuel L. Jackson mailed in his performance until the fight scene with Palpatine. Once the fanboys stop dropping 10's on this movie, I expect it to drop into the 6.5 range, which is still more than it is worth.
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Solid, but unsatisfying
3 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
To preface, I have read the books and seen the BBC series, but am not a hardcore fan by any means. Until I reread the book, after watching the film, I couldn't have said what followed the book and what didn't.

The movie was very well cast. Mos Def and Martin Freeman were good; Sam Rockwell, as Zaphod, was excellent; and Zooey Deschanel was very good (and very sexy, in a believable way).

I thought the movie worked well through the first hour, but then started to bog down. The Vogons were not funny enough to keep in the movie as long as they did. The entire detour for the encounter with Malkovich's character was pointless and distracting, and broke up an inherently bizarre plot into further fragments, all for some cool effects with the little feet (which reminded me more of Pratchett than Adams).

The ending was abrupt and unsatisfying. In all, I enjoyed it and didn't mind the six bucks for the matinée, but am in no hurry to see this again.
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Lightweight and shallow
23 October 2004
This film obviously takes its casting from the portrayals of Holmes and Watson by Rathbone and Bruce, rather than from the book. Richardson is smarmy, jovial and cheery, with none of Rathbone's cold precision and sharpness. Churchill is more idiotic as Watson than even Nigel Bruce could manage. An insipid and clueless Inspector LeStrade is added for no other reason, apparently, than the writer's feeling that a Holmes story needed him.

The sets looked good. Some of the additional characters are quite well done (with the exception of the butler and his wife, who sleepwalk through their lines.)

This film pales next to almost any of the other film adaptations of Hound. The best is the Rathbone/Bruce version. The Hammer films version gives us Peter Cushing as an excellent Holmes surrounded by those lovely Hammer sets.

The 1988 Jeremy Brett TV film suffers from being filmed on a TV budget, but gives us what is probably the most faithful rendition of Holmes and Watson, with Watson coming off as Holmes' strong right hand, rather than as a buffoon. Watch any and/or all of these, but only watch this version if you have run out of other versions to watch.
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Solid, but uneven
7 June 2004
I saw this with my family on Saturday. We all enjoyed the first two movies, and have read the book. The movie was enjoyable, parts of it were excellent, but there was certainly a feeling of deflation when leaving.

First for the best part of the movie, the new cast members, David Thewlis, as Lupin, Emma Thompson as Trelawney and Micheal Gambon as Dumbledore. Thewlis was excellent, showing a great empathy and friendship for Harry. The scene of Lupin and Harry on the bridge was perfect. Emma Thompson was spot-on as Trelawney, a role that had to be fun to play. Michael Gambon took over the role of Dumbledore seamlessly. Except for his first appearance, when I was specifically looking for the change, throughout the movie he was simply Dumbledore. Dawn French as the Fat Lady, was also fun especially for Brit-com fans.

The pacing of the movie seemed odd, and there did not seem to be the attention to detail that there was in the previous movies. Previous movies had you looking in the nooks and crannies for things you might miss, this one seemed more barren. The movie leaped from introduction to conclusion in a jarringly short time. It felt like it should have been about 30 minutes longer. I don't expect every detail from the books to be included, especially in light of Rowlings increasingly bloated prose, as the series has progressed, but we got very little "life in Hogwarts" and almost no real look at Hogsmeade.

The biggest losers in this rush to the finish line were two of the best cast characters though this series, Maggie Smith's Minerva McGonagall is almost completely absent, and Alan Rickman's Snape is only shown when absolutely necessary to the plot.

In the end, we gave the movie a 7, but it was much closer to sliding to a 6 than it was to an 8.
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Ghostbusters (1984)
Great soundtrack
18 May 2004
Others have sung the praises of this movie's comedy, acting, pacing and writing, all of which were fantastic. The other thing that strikes me, even today, is how good the soundtrack for this movie was.

The soundtrack album for Ghostbusters was one of the few soundtracks I have ever purchased. This was also a time when the soundtrack was actually music played during the movie, not simply some rock songs played during the credits. The music was important for setting the mood and setting up transitions.

From the theme song, to the great drum riff as two of the Ghostbusters discuss the meaning of all that is going on, enjoy the music as you enjoy the show!
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Van Helsing (2004)
many flaws, but ultimately fun
17 May 2004
I took my kids (17 & 13) to see this on Friday. While we all had fun, on the ride back, pointing out parts of the movie that were not done well, in the end we all enjoyed it.

Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsdale were solid, if unspectacular, in the leads. The Friar was very good as comedy relief, Dracula's brides were alternately luscious and vicious, Frankenstein's monster was very well done, even with the steampunk edge to him. This was more the monster from the book than from the old Universal films, but, for me, it worked.

Dracula was a bit insipid and the CGI'd Mr. Hyde was almost cartoonish. As another reviewer pointed out, there were no scary moments, but this was, to me, much more of a CGI action picture, with a horror motif, than a horror movie. (Might as well complain about the lack of science in Star Wars, but then I have done that myself.)

In the end, we had a good time, the movie wasn't great, but it was a fun kickoff to the summer.
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Finding Nemo (2003)
Well animated pablum
18 November 2003
I watched the DVD and finished the film with a very flat feeling. Pieces of the film were amusing, the animation was very good, but, in the end, there was nothing to really like.

DeGeneres's character (Blue?), was a staple sidekick character whose only noticeable character trait was a poor short (and occasionally long term, as the plot required) memory, which did absolutely nothing for the story and was about as uninteresting as Nemo's stunted "lucky fin".

Not an awful film and I am sure that young children will be amused by it as they will be by almost anything animated) but anyone over the age of about 7 or 8 should leave it alone.
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The Rookie (2002)
Solid film, with excellent moments
11 August 2003
I liked the director's comment (on the DVD) that "you couldn't make this movie if it wasn't true". He is absolutely right. It is an unbelievable story, especially for anyone who wishes to have "just one more chance" at their youth.

Quaid gives an excellent restrained performance. An Army brat raised all over the place, but finally in Texas, he has charm and humor and a solid cowboy-like presence. The boy who played his oldest child was wonderful, if at the cost of making the other children cardboard characters.

Surrounding Quaid and his son are a wealth of characters, from Brian Cox (becoming one of my favorite character actors) as his father (as someone who lost several years with his father through mutual bullheadedness this was tough to watch), to the townspeople (especially the guy at the general store), to Rachel Griffiths as his believably attractive wife, all playing against the beautiful background of west Texas, we have a finely crafted piece of cinema.

While bordering on maudlin, it never crosses over, Quaid plays stolid enough that the flashes of his smile are welcomed and his face as he pitches show the fastballer who only knows one way to throw.
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Swashbuckling with flair
11 July 2003
Depp looks like he is having the time of his life playing this role, every gesture is grand and every expression makes the eye move to him. I love swashbuckling movies and this one does not disappoint. While I do not expect an action/adventure movie to he "historically accurate", this movie certainly feels like a pirate movie, rather than some Peter Pan fantasy world.
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I.Q. (1994)
Watchable, loved the geeks
24 January 2003
A solid, if unremarkable film. Matthau, as Einstein, was wonderful. My favorite part, and the only thing that would make me go out of my way to see this again, was the wonderful scene with the physicists playing badmitton, I loved the sweaters and the conversation while they waited for Robbins to retrieve the birdie.
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Breathtaking film
26 December 2001
Even though, as a big Tolkien fan, part of me was saying "that's not the same as the book" and "that's not how I pictured it", the rest of me was going "Ooooh". When I walked out of the theater after my second viewing, I was torn between, "How long should I wait before I go again" and "A whole year before the next one!!".

Now for details. Sean Bean was a showstopper, in a role that could easily have been one dimensional. McKellan, as Gandalf, was, in turns, gruff, menacing, and playful. The hobbits, and Gimli the drarf, looked great, whatever effects or camerawork gave them their smaller stature blended seamlessly with the rest of the cast. My only problem was when Gimli ran, he looked a bit like a child.

Merry and Pippin were not developed to any great degree, but that should come in the next film and the actors did a good job. My only complaint was

Viggo Mortenson(sp?) as Aragorn. He seemed a bit wooden. Part of this was because Bean's character was more active, but some of the blame must fall on the actor.

Great film overall. While there were a couple of scenes I would have liekd to have left in, including every fan's favorites would have bloated the film and made it unwatchable and unmarketable.
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