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Starwoids (2001)
Star Wars The Hype: Episode 1
11 October 2001
With all the hype and hoopla around the DVD release of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, it's easy to forget the amazing frenzy that occurred around the theatrical release of the movie. Waiting a few minutes in line this week at your local retail store or a couple of days for your DVD to arrive from an online retailer just doesn't compare to the Star Wars Fanatics who spent as long as six weeks waiting in line to be the first to see Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Starwoids is a very entertaining look at what it's like to be a Star Wars Fanatic, to not only get caught up in Star Wars frenzy but be a part of it. Watching Starwoids I couldn't help drawing comparisons to Trekkies, a documentary about Star Trek Fandom. While I think Trekkies was a fantastic documentary I enjoyed Starwoids even more. Trekkies felt like it was showing the absurdity of Extreme Fandom while in many ways Starwoids celebrates it. The makers of Starwoids waited in line along side other fans for 42 days, and their film really feels like its 'from the trenches'.

Starwoids is introduced by Kevin Smith who also does an interview on the DVD about the influence of Star Wars on his movies (ever thought that Jay and Silent Bob are a lot like C3PO and R2D2?). It's an interesting interview, and I would have liked to have seen even more. So after you watch Star Wars: The Phantom Menace on DVD be sure to check out Starwoids for a great look at the entire movie phenomenon.
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Haiku Tunnel (2001)
Laugh Out Loud Funny
11 October 2001
Laugh out loud funny, Haiku Tunnel is a dry and witty look at the universe of the temporary employee and how that world is effected when a job becomes permanent. At the center of Haiku Tunnel is Josh Kornbluth, a 'fictional character' played by writer director Josh Kornbluth who narrates, comments, and pontificates about his life as a temp. Kornbluth is somewhere between Woody Allen, Spaulding Grey and Dilbert with a profound sense of comic timing.

One of the stand-out aspects of Haiku Tunnel is Kornbluth's spot-on characterizations of the different type of office people, especially the head secretary of S&M (a law firm), Marlina, played brilliantly by Helen Shumaker. Kornbluth goes beyond the office stereotypes and instead of portraying his fellow co-workers and bosses as 'evil' he manages to find the quirky element in each one which makes them endearing.

It's easy to want to draw comparisons between The Haiku Tunnel and a movie like Office Space but the two films are more different than alike. Haiku Tunnel ultimately is less about working in an office, and more about feeling impermanent and transitionary. When it does lampoon the working world, the results are hilarious, but the real core comes out of Josh's search for himself. Haiku Tunnel is extremely funny and completely enjoyable, and I highly recommend it. [Geoffrey Kleinman,]
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A Treat For David Lynch Fans
11 October 2001
Honestly, I didn't know exactly what to expect with Mulholland Drive, which was made around the same time as David Lynch's completely approachable and uncharacteristic non-bizarre The Straight Story. Shot originally as a pilot for a mini-series, and then re-worked and expanded when it was rejected by ABC, Mulholland Drive is a wonderfully strange and quirky film which combines some of the best of David Lynch's style.

At first you could call Mulholland Drive a Twin Peaks in LA, as it has the same style of dialogue, feels very approachable, and, aside from some bizarre turns and twists, has a pretty defined story. Then everything changes. You can't go see a David Lynch movie without being totally prepared to walk out scratching your head. Mulholland Drive is certainly no exception. If found myself at a complete loss to understand what exactly happens in the 'third act' of Mulholland Drive - it's strange, disjointed and pretty bizarre. I felt like someone had switched movies and we went from Twin Peaks in LA to Lost Highway 2! But that's part of David Lynch's charm, the ability to constantly challenge his audiences, and turn everything we see on its head.

As a whole I really liked Mulholland Drive. The characters are extremely interesting and the story is compelling enough to carry us through Lynch's bizarro third act. If you're a David Lynch fan I highly recommend Mulholland Drive; if not, Twin Peaks finally comes to DVD in December, so I'd recommend cutting your teeth on that before giving Mulholland Drive a try [Geoffrey Kleinman]
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A Kung-Fu Joy Ride!
11 October 2001
It definitely takes a little bit of 'orientation' when watching a Hong Kong Flick. The characters can be a bit cartooney, the performances are over the top, and the stories, well... a bit foreign. But once you get past this, you'll be hard pressed to find films with more breath-taking action and excitement. One of the crown jewels of Hong Kong Action Films is Iron Monkey, directed by Woo-ping Yuen, who also did all the action choreography for The Matrix.

Originally released in 1993, Buena Vista has gone back and completely restored Iron Monkey with fantastic results. The print of the re-release has deep rich colors and very little imperfections (only a few shots look as if the color timing is a little off). In addition to restoring the picture, they've refined the audio including an update to the score. The end result is an Iron Monkey which is on par with current Hollywood theatrical releases. Before seeing Iron Monkey I read a lot of concern from DVD Talk Members in The DVD Talk Forum about the re-release being dubbed. I'm happy to report that it ISN'T dubbed! Iron Monkey is presented in its original Cantonese audio with really excellent new subtitles.

But the reason to see Iron Monkey isn't for its great picture and sound. Iron Monkey has some of the best martial arts action you'll see on film. If you liked the action and swordplay of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or enjoy the action of stars like Jackie Chan or Jet Li, do yourself a favor and see Iron Monkey. It's a complex Kung-fu joy ride from beginning to end! [Geoffrey Kleinman,]
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Jump Tomorrow (2001)
A Perfect 'Indie' Date Movie
26 July 2001
Jump Tomorrow is one of those smart and funny films you just can't help but like. A first time effort from writer/director Joel Hopkins , Jump Tomorrow is a fresh breath of air and an absolute relief from the bevy of re-hashed romantic comedies which find their way into theaters. At the center of Jump Tomorrow is George (portrayed by first time star Tunde Adebimpe), a very serious, composed, and all too contained Nigerian. At times George reminds me of Woody Allen or M. Hulot as he awkwardly stumbles through his life on a journey to the inevitable. But it's the journey that has an impact on George and watching that change is both humorous and entertaining.

Joel Hopkins has a lot of the same qualities as director Wes Anderson (who directed the fantabulous Rushmore) - he has a sense of framing, music and pacing that is funny, but not at the expense of the characters. Over the course of the movie you really get to know and like these characters, feel for their struggle and can revel in their personal triumphs. It's rare that you get that from a Romantic Comedy, and for that I'd definitely recommend Jump Tomorrow. Think of it as the perfect 'indie' date movie!
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The Others (2001)
A Unique Ghost Story
26 July 2001
The Others isn't your typical ghost story; there isn't the quantity of jump-out-of-your-seat thrills you'd expect to find in a film like this. In fact, The Others is virtually chill-free for the first hour. But what The Others lacks in quantity, it makes up in quality. Instead of a roller coaster of cheap chills and thrills, The Others takes a much denser and darker approach to the ghost story.

The Others takes a considerable amount of time to set everything up - almost too much. Halfway through the movie I wondered if there was going to be a pay off. Ultimately there is quite a pay off, but it takes so long to get there you might not feel it's 'worth it'. Despite the fact that I found The Others to be quite slow, I did enjoy it. Nicole Kidman does a great job as the neurotic and tortured lead, and she's backed up by a strong supporting cast. Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar lights almost the entire movie by candle light, something I haven't seen since Barry Lyndon. This gives The Others a soft and warm look that is uncommon to the genre. Amenabar also makes light a character in the film, where daylight becomes much scarier than the warmth and comfort of the dark. If you're planning on seeing The Others, I'd advise you to avoid reading any reviews which talk about the plot. The film takes a number of twists and turns which can easily be spoiled. This might be a good film to wait for DVD, except for the risk of the plot getting spoiled before you get a chance to see it.
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See it for the Apes
26 July 2001
I really enjoyed The Planet of The Apes, if for nothing more than the dark and brilliant world created by Tim Burton. Every frame is packed with so much detail and so much action you won't want to blink. What Burton paints with images, Danny Elfman matches with sound, with yet another excellent score. But it's clear from the get-go that the real stars here are the apes who look and move so wonderfully realistically, you'll forget that they're not. The makeup is so good in The Planet of The Apes, it's hard to see the actor behind the mask. But this seems more an asset than a liability for the ape actors who all put in very strong performances. Unfortunately the 'human' actors are another story: Mark Wahlberg is clearly out of his league and depth here and really struggles to carry the lead. There's a scene where Wahlberg tries to rally the troops and he was so bad, it's funny. Estella Warren looks great but does very little in a role that is really not much more than window dressing.

As with many visually stunning films, more care and attention was paid to the look of The Planet of The Apes than the script, so we're asked to make some pretty big leaps of faith. The Planet of The Apes it's definitely NOT a movie to think a lot about when you leave the theater, as many plot points don't hold up well on re-examination. That said, I recommend The Planet of The Apes; it's a very enjoyable movie with a look you won't soon forget!
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