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Sacrifices and requital
23 April 2007
A well written, well acted film that does not fear to venture into the uncharted waters of examining our taboos and sexual hang-ups. Lots of themeatic areas in this film are not included often enough in cinema, for instance this story does not attach to a clearly heroic protagonist. All the characters exist in a grey area, as purely dark or light personas are just as rare in life. Most of the less likable characters have clear merits and believable redemption.In my opinion, even the narration actually works well here to help expand the story as it comes to light.

My major bone of contention with this film is purely in the final scenes, for a movie that had carefully proceeded so well without trying to sell the audience on a viewpoint, the last sequences feel gratuitous and unnecessary.
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Grindhouse (2007)
Rodriguez tributes the zombie apocalypse genre; Tarantino pays homage to himself
23 April 2007
The concept of Grindhouse is superb. Take short exploitation style films from two highly admired directors, mix in some mock trailers and whackiness, and you could have a delightful night of entertainment.

For me, Rodriguez's installment was very enjoyable. There are a few obvious inconsistencies with characters randomly resurfacing, but the draw of this feature was never meant to be a deeply developed plot or dialogue. "Planet Terror" works exactly on the level it is supposed to, as a witty half-serious zombie horde shoot-em-up. Everyone I was with seemed to have a good time during "Planet Terror", a nice mix of laughs to compliment the groans elicited by some of the gallows humor.

Unfortunately, I felt the effort involved in "Death Proof" was not quite worthy of the Tarantino legacy. Love him or hate him, QT typically brings something unique to a picture. This time around, not so much. A significant amount of the footage in "Death Proof" is used as a platform for Tarantino to pay homage to himself. If you've seen Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, and other previous works by QT you will recognize the dialogue references, and there are many of them. The first few instances of QT-tributes-QT made me laugh, but eventually the extent of the self adulation just seemed annoying. Certainly it took a skillful eye to recreate the camera shots of R.D.'s diner conversation so faithfully in "Death Proof", but I longed for more of the clever and original dialogue that is usually present in a Tarantino film. Nobody walked out at my theatre, but the audience certainly wasn't as involved in "Death Proof" as it had been for "Planet Terror".

The two-for-one special and the great fake trailers make me hesitantly still recommend "Grindhouse" as an enjoyable detour, but Death Proof seems like it might have missed the exit sign.
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Casino Royale (2006)
Bond reinvented: hits and misses
13 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This latest installment of the Bond series marks yet another new face in the lead role. Bond is portrayed here as a slightly more fallible, less polished hero. I thoroughly enjoyed this take on the 007 character. Similar to what 2005's "Batman Begins" did for that franchise, this does for Ian Fleming's brainchild. We see a Bond who is not refined, often errs in judgement, and begins to learn what it really means to be a spy. The writers took a huge chance with this departure from the traditional Bond role, and in my opinion it was the right move. Rather than have Daniel Craig try to live up to a Sean Connery standard, they take him in a direction that is non competitive, yet compelling on its own merits.

Where Bond films usually awe us with action, this film throws us a change-up. The post-opening sequence is quite spectacular, and would make this an enjoyable Saturday afternoon distraction even without the rest of the film. From here we change course, into a slightly less than compelling tale surrounding a poker tournament.

A big miss in this installment is the product shilling. If you're reading this Hollywood, please knock it off. No seriously, just stop. It's insulting. I did not feel the need to buy a new Ford, a cell phone, a Sony laptop, or book a stay in one of your Vegas casinos to drop my life savings at the poker tables after watching this movie. If anything, I have more understanding of why the kids are unapologetically downloading movies. Your customers are getting sick of forking over cash to watch marketing drivel dressed up in cinema robes.

Despite some of the missed plot devices and story pacing, this movie is worth the rental. I found the tale of a Bond who is learning the ropes, and growing into his role very watchable. Perhaps in the next film we might see Craig put away the brand name items and continue in his evolution toward Bond.
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Blood Diamond (2006)
Good, but not Golden.
31 January 2007
First, let me comment on the ratings skew given to movies by "Astroturfing". When a movie is released, industry shills assault supposedly impartial rating sites in an effort to adjust public perception. And IMDb is a prime target for such faux reviews.

As I write this, Blood Diamond appears to be an epic of the decade with a 8.2/10 average score. At the moment, calling this movie anything less than artistic perfection would seem to be the minority opinion. Help 'weed out' the astroturfing, watch this movie for yourself and rate it appropriately.

In my opinion this film is good, but not exceptional. Blood Diamond trips slightly on its own ambition. We have too many mixed themes that won't quite blend together into greatness. Some schizophrenia as to whether this movie wants to be a reality based drama, or an action flick spoil the final brew.

I generally enjoy DiCaprio's work, but his role and dialogue seem a tad forced in this setting.

I *do* like the movie. It tackles a thorny subject with zeal, and may open some eyes to the darker aspects of a commodity market.

This movie can be enjoyable, thought provoking and entertaining, as long as you aren't expecting authentic cinematic gold from it.
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A cute movie ruined by gratuitous product placement
12 September 2006
Sandler & Spade humor is not for everyone. The bathroom humor can be a bit overdone, and some of the schticks get repetitive. That being said, this movie provided me with some enjoyable laughs and a good hearted storyline.

The only thing I found truly distasteful in this picture was the excessiveness of product shilling to be found. Large parts of the film are essentially a commodity vehicle for a certain soft drinker maker and its subsidiary corporations.

The playful parable of principle prevailing over persecution hits a home run. However, the profuse portion of pandering product promotion is just foul.
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Firewall (2006)
A Forgettable Popcorn Flick
15 June 2006
As someone with an interest in computers, I was looking forward to the release of this movie for quite a while. Seeing Harrsion Ford in the cast of a movie typically guarantees at least a minimum standard of quality. I couldn't help feeling somewhat underwhelmed by it's progression.

The movie has some positive points that I should highlight first. I had hoped a movie titled "Firewall" would portray accurate use of technology where other computer genre movies such as "Hackers" missed the boat. And for the most part it does, we see VPN, unix terminals, and other real technology set up to deliver what could have been an intriguing story about a techno-heist. There are a few glaring flaws, but generally accurate enough to draw me into a believable and entertaining story.

If the movie had kept with the technology theme for the remainder of it's run, I think it could have been a hit (at least with the IT sect). But it devolves into another mindless chase movie.

If they had fixed the bugs and not applied the 'action flick' patch, this film might have staved off obsolence and had a place in the server room.
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