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Groove (2000)
an unpolished love letter to raves
25 January 2005
Groove is a short film that weaves several characters and stories into one night at a San Fransisco rave. Shot on a bottom-feeding budget, this movie isn't the most compelling or convincing story to be told about raves, but it is a pretty postcard. When you watch this movie you see a rave take place from start to finish, each dj taking over from the last and creating a new vibe.

Groove is an unpolished love letter to raves and ravers alike. Through it's winding narrative, the film carefully balances the positive side of love and unity through music with the realities of drug use and sketchy characters at raves. From the moment the film starts at the pre-rave warehouse, you're taken into a subculture that reveres its music of choice and accepts its substance abuse as normal.

The direction of the film goes from subplot to subplot, often interweaving but never confusing. Along the lines of a postcard, the stories tell the human side against the backdrop of many shots just devoted to people dancing and having fun. Some performances from the main characters were too cliché and underdone for their themes, but on the whole Groove feels real: to those who have been all-nighters and to those who still rave, everyone in the movie is someone you've met along the journey of raving.

Groove had great cinematography and really pulled me into the rave atmosphere, but some of the direction and dialogue was unrealistic. Nevertheless, I suggest renting it. A good subculture flick with enough substance not to leave a bad aftertaste.

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Colorful, clever 50's-like adventure
6 November 2003
Nothing short of the word "colorful" can describe this great "romantic" comedy. Dare I say it, the cast really is an ensemble, focusing not just on George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones' relationship, but the hijinky characters that weave in and out of the story. The Coen brothers are masters at making single-serving characters that do their job and keep you laughing.

Clooney is forever the charmer, and Zeta-Jones is forever the beastly yet fascinating snake. A VERY SPECIAL hands-off to Cedric the Entertainer for his a$$-nailing role as a P.I. The plot twists were fantastic and adventurous. I felt like I was watching a boyishly playful collection of shenanigans from the overdone expressions and mannerisms of some of the characters. And you know something? I enjoyed it.

Bravo to the Coen brothers, even though a lot of people think this is one of their least good. I for one, was rolling in my seat. Very funny.
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Underrated Epic Conclusion
5 November 2003
The third and final movie in the Matrix Trilogy did not disappoint. As controversial as that may sound to a lot of people, the Wachowski brothers ended it the way they saw fit, and I wholeheartedly agree with the ending. The first movie enthralled us with the fascinating philosophical concept of the Matrix, and once we had four years to pour over every detail of what the first movie wanted us to know, the second and third don't worry about fleshing out the world of the Matrix and concentrate on telling the story of the Matrix universe.

Revolutions is not the first "Matrix." It does not owe us completely different overshooting special effects or even more intelligent concepts to mull over. The first movie dealt with the reality of the Matrix, the second dealt with the reality of Zion, and the final movie is the conclusion of the conflict between the two worlds. It is an epic. Those of us who want to pretend the Matrix is a tight, compact movie with a limited physical and mental scope are kidding themselves. The trilogy is a massive epic spanning a huge universe (as fleshed out by the Animatrix) that concludes with a huge leap backward, looking back on all the involved universes of the Matrix, Zion, and the Earth caught in the middle.

Spectacular cinematography... the choreography of the fights was beautiful, and the themes of love and ying/yang are proper. The relationship between forces like Neo/Trinity, Morpheus/Naobi, the Oracle/Architect, machine/human truly pervades the last movie against a backdrop of an amazing fantasy world. The action fits well with this final clash between machines and humans, and Neo's role as the intervention between both forces is spectacular.

As controversial to fans of the first Matrix movie this ending may seem, take a step back and look at the trilogy and the Animatrix as one huge movie telling one huge story in one huge universe. The climax of a truly well-done film is not always anti-climactic and deeply intellectual. The Matrix is an epic; the innovate cinematography and mind-bending philosophy behind it make it stand out above many a film.
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Camp (2003)
brings back golden memories
7 September 2003
Camp was definitely the movie of the year that I would go see again and again and buy the soundtrack the minute I saw it on the shelf. A delightful memoir and tribute to what it's like to be young and hopeful about a career in the arts.

This movie is beyond words when it comes to being a unique feel-good movie. At some points, however, I felt like the kids were almost unbelieveable as angsty teenagers. The plot seemed a little disjointed too; Vlad's character continually reveals more complexity and conflict up until the very end, and I felt like I was just getting to know him when the movie finishes. However, they pale in comparison to the excellent musical numbers and sheer emotion that reaches beyond the kids' ages.

Graff made a gem of a movie. For anyone who's into musical theatre, or was when they were younger, can relate to this movie. If you haven't, you see a pretty picture of a movie, with spectacular musical numbers ("Ladies who Lunch," "Turkey Lurkey Time," "Want of a Nail"). My only qualms with it are the gay stereotypes seemingly sticking here, and a couple other inconsistencies of character. But nothing much. See this film; it's a great release and will keep you inspired for a while.
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Full-circle gumshoe story with a few slips
30 July 2003
From Woody Allen's disjointed imagination comes a real funny detective story, with more wisecracks than a Bob Hope routine. Curse of the Jade Scorpion was incredibly polite in inviting me in for a sweetly-wrapped 90-minute detective story, but it was dulled a little by overexposure to Allen's now stock nervous, bumbling character.

Following a jewel heist whodunit plot, Allen is as always delightful as a nerdy, diminuitive gumshoe caught in the middle when a hypnotist plays foul. The answer to the whodunit? is made very clear from the beginning on, leaving no surprises, but the wind up and resolution of the movie are entertaining and complete; I didn't feel at all pushed by the story or trying to make ends meet. Allen did all the work for me.

Helen Hunt is fantastic as the Femi-Nazi Fitzgerald, establishing herself as a definite counter to every move C.W. Briggs (Allen) makes, yet just roughly submissive enough to make a romantic connection with another character. The supporting cast were all superb; Dan Akroyd's character was a bit underacted, to the point where I thought his was a cold staging.

The thing that didn't strike me until the end of the film was Allen's obvious egocentric approach to the film. A few times I felt the camera was pointed at him to advance a scene when another character was doing that just fine. The ending of course is overtly Allencentric; perhaps a more manly, Eliot Ness-like detective would suffice for the story with Allen as the unlikely victor taking over at the end. Allen's jokes are always charming and funny, but overall at the end of the film I felt the entire picture was one long string of one-liners, mostly from Allen. The moments between Allen and Hunt were gems, however.

Curse of the Jade Scorpion is one of those Allen pictures that is a complete story; a fable that is simply put together then simply deconstructed (no pun intended). I enjoyed the film and I think others both familiar and not familiar with Woody's work would enjoy it immensely for its face value. If anything, see it for the '40s-style wisecracks and the dash of film noir I felt in Charleze Theron's character.
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Cowboy Bebop (1998–2003)
Superbly styled anime
22 July 2003
Cowboy Bebop should need no introduction; it's more than a uniquely defining series on several levels. Shinichi Watanabe crafted this mostly episodic anime with a beautiful plot arc that doesn't detract a bit from any moment in the series.

Following the misadventures of a crew of unlikely bounty hunters through the future solar system, Bebop liberally dabbles in jazz, both the music and the attitude. The lead character, Spike Spiegel, is as much an antihero in the anime tradition as he would be in a Hemingway novel- witty and gutsy, with a twist of nihlistic worldview. Along with Spike, each part of the ensemble main cast do more than enough to stand out on their own, with perfectly human qualities. Jet Black, the gruff pilot, is truly epitomized in the episode "Ganymede Elegy," where he confronts an old flame. Ed and Ein, the genius teenage hacker and her supersmart Corgi dog, throw the limits of standard comic relief out the window. And who could forget Faye Valentine, the eat-your-heart-out sprite of a woman with pizazz, flair, and a penchant for gambling.

If you're not a fan of anime because of its tendency to be far-fetched and downright weird at times, Bebop is the right starter series for you. A melodrama, a jazzy jam session, and a sci-fi detective thriller all wrapped into a tight, upbeat package. Superb.
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Noises Off... (1992)
A comedy for theatre geeks and normal people too
22 July 2003
Quite possibly the funniest movie about Broadway ever, Noises Off is a tireless effort to make you laugh harder than you've ever laughed before. The superstar cast of lovable comics is a true ensemble of yuks, guffaws, and more low-brow comedy than you can shake a cactus at.

The movie revolves around the melodramatic last-minute rehearsal of a play about to open in Des Moines, then its riotus staging in Cleveland on its way to Broadway. Michael Caine is hysterical as the sardonic and tyrannical director attempting to whip the dysfunctional cast into shape, even if it means crushing their souls. Carol Burnett couldn't be crazier as an English housemaid with a memory problem and a lot of sardines on her hands, while John Ritter is the actor with inspirational pep on the tip of his toungue, yet all the wrong words to fuddle it up. The rest of the cast holds up their end of the ensemble without a single falter, notably Denholm Elliot in his final performance as the bumbling booze-hound Selsdon.

The great chemistry of the cast is built by the mixture of high-brow jokes in the play with the crazy slapstick spawned by criss-crossed love affairs backstage between the actors. Although the first "act" of the movie dealing with the rehearsal is golden, nothing compares to the absolute pandemonium of actors taking revenge on actors in the second act, when the lights are up and the audience is listening.

Prepare to giggle your funny bone out with this wonderful flick. Even if you're not familiar with the world of the stage, you get a great insight into what can happen with the wrong actors at the right time. Anyone else who's ever been in a live theatrical production can truly relate to the hyperboled antics of the movie, and laugh even harder.
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Keeping Up Appearances (1990–1995)
excellent British comedy
22 July 2003
The dry humour of the Brits has no problem mixing up the slapstick in Keeping Up Appearances, a delicious series poking fun at the social graces of upper crust English society in the eyes of a lowly middle-class British wife.

Patricia Routledge can't be more perfect as Hyacinth Bucket, the charming and altogether frightening definition of an English lady, despite her mediocre financial status. The series follows her incessant efforts to make a name for herself as a social elite, inviting neighbors and important townsfolk over for "candlelight suppers," among other social events she so daftly names. Of course, the whole Hyacinth image wouldn't be nearly as funny unless the hysterical supporting cast weren't there to ground Mrs. Bucket (pronounced "Bouquet") in her place. Her working class sisters, the hussy Rose and the meek Daisy are perfect as Hyacinth's inescapable link to mediocrity. The image is complete with Daisy's slob of a husband Onslo, who dispenses his frank advice with racous results. Rounding up the innocent bystanders of Hyacinth's misadventures are her nervous neighbor Elizabeth and her brother Emmitt, but most of all Hyacinth's whipped yet sardonic husband, Richard, whom you can't help but pity and root for at the same time.

This is a British comedy to end all comedies. The chances for conflict between Hyacinth's goal as a social mistress and her bourgeois reality are infinite, and the laugh track doesn't lie when Hyacinth is caught between a rock and a hard place - more often literally than figuratively. If you aren't a fan of Brit comedy, you may only be able to stomach a few episodes before the formula seems to wear. However, a true social connoiseur of such a series would scoff at the idea. :-)
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Brilliant, passionate, gut-wrenching
16 July 2003
American History X tore out of me any innocence that might have been left concerning race relations today. There is no doubt that this movie is passionate about the pockets of American people who are so embittered over each other's race. The journey of a Neo-Nazi (Norton) from his first encounter with racism to the spiralling descent into hellish prison ends with an indescribable finale that left me paralyzed in my seat.

Edward Norton is quite possibly the finest actor of his generation, proving yet again that his ability to seep into a dark, uninhibited soul is paramount among his peers. Edward Furlong has come a little ways since the tough kid John Conner of Terminator 2 fame; he has the same attitude, but the context of the movie certainly adds clout to his performance. The surrounding cast is amazing. Beverly D'Angelo is truly amazing as the desperate mother of two lost boys, and Avery Brooks as the determined Principal attempting to free the would-be Neo Nazis scores big.

The cinematography, o the cinematography!!! The non-linear story ties in to Danny's class assignment on his brother wonderfully; the change from color to b&w works very well; all the past events seem even more brutal and honest than the scenes in color do. The one piece I would have to pick on American History X for is a few loose ends that seemed to be asking to be resolved at the end. The angry Neo-Nazi gang, the basketballers from the past, and the high school thugs all had a very equal and probable chance of reentering the plot at the crucial point, but the two left out of the picture were a small distraction when the main focus was staring me in the face.

Overall, this intense and violent portrait of hate in America left me emotionally paralyzed for several minutes. I can't even describe the roller coaster of nihlist-to-optimist-to-confused emotions the movie left in my lap after the climax. The entire movie was a kick in the face and I recommend it be seen by anyone in America doubting or even championing race relations in America today.

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thriller with substance
2 July 2003
28 Days Later saw me leaving the theatre shaking and thinking "simply, wow." Filming it in digital video gave it a real raw ambience, rather than the sort of fake, aesthetic look of traditional celluloid. Quite frankly, this movie just chilled the bejesus out of me.

The storyline goes way beyond a simple rage-against-the-zombie movie... I could feel myself in the Jim's shoes waking up to a devastated London where danger lurks everywhere. Selena's cold-hearted approach to survival really struck me as uber-realistic; the movie really brings out the different facets of humanity that are bound to surface should something this intense ever happen to the world.

It's not a horror flick designed to touch your basic human reactions, but rather to prod your intellect and your own sense of order; one could easily question the soldiers in the movie, and yet agree with them at the same time. If I ever wanted to feel the lawlessness, that fear of noone in position of authority to bail me out of a crisis, this movie was more than happy to give me a taste.

Definately a grade-A thriller. The British have got turning their country into a wasteland on film down pat. See it for a really different shock experience.
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Underrated black comedy guaranteed to deliver
15 June 2003
DeVito does it again with a black comedy worth more cheers than jeers. Stabbing at children's television and the television business in general with huge laughs and exaggerated plot twists make it a movie worth laughing with, not at.

You can't not say any one of Death To Smoochy's characters is not played straight *no pun intended*. The storyline and subtext beneath it demand humor; the television business is so jaded and ugly (represented by Keener, DeVito, and Stewart's characters) that rather than turning this into another "Network" the catch was to make it as outrageous as possible. All the elements of contrast (Smoochy vs. Rainbow Randolph) and added elements of corruption (Tommy Cotter and Spinner) are so uncalled for in such an expose, you can't help but laugh.

Robin Williams tears right at your gut with Rainbow Randolph at the end of his mental rope, while Pam Ferris and Michael Rispoli make me laugh even harder with their totally hilarious Irish Mafia bit. The entire cast comes together as a fabulous ensemble. While this isn't a groundbreaker or a cinematic masterpiece, it's a damn good island of a movie if I ever saw one.

Death to Smoochy doesn't deserve the downplay it got from the critics; the formula for this movie makes it simply funny to watch. It keeps with you for the rest of the week after you see it, and who hasn't been caught humming "Friends Come in all Sizes" once and a while?
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a joke of a comedy
15 June 2003
D'you ever hear this one blonde joke?

Yeah, they made a movie about it.

While Legally Blonde showcases a lovely Reese Witherspoon, sadly it failed to deliver comedy to me. A very simple girl overcomes stereotype flick with little umph to make it stand out, other than the fact that the joke's on blondes. You could almost make the connection with formula Adam Sandler movies: harassed underdog scores big in opponent's home court, all the while ridiculing all obstacles with self-important snide.

Maybe it's just my sense of decency, but the fact that you can still be a bubbly cheerleader and defend a case in a court of law is not exactly how I see one giving a stuffy system a breath of fresh, liberal air. I felt drained throughout the entire movie... nothing but stereotype after stereotype character parading in and out with a lame joke attached to their image... i.e. the gay witness and the fat best friend.

If you want to loosen all intellect and have fun knowing popular kids can still have an influence over hard workers in the real world ...oops... watch this movie. I wouldn't dare catch the sequel.
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Get Real (1998)
As Real as one can Get (MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)
15 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers
This film depicts coming out the truthful way - not shameful martyrdom, nor frivolous celebration or even enlightenment, but rather quiet, neurotic, adolescent anxiety and triumph.

Wilde's story envelops the central teenage coming out story with other seeds of young, angst-ridden romance, to strengthen the idea that coming out and engaging in romantic behavior with someone of the same sex is as real, commonplace, and even as erratic as romance with someone of the opposite sex.

Ben Silverstone is landmark in the role of the proud but fledgling homosexual enduring hardship after hardship in the first crucial weeks of publicly admitting his orientation. Brad Gorton shines as his reluctant lover, bringing tender scenes of frustration and affection to terms in the film. Charlotte Brittain rounds up the three main characters as the most hilarious "fag hag" on celluloid, enamoured of her driving instructor and endlessly dogging her gay best friend.

Get Real is a roller coaster of intensity, getting as close as possible to Steven Carter's fears as an openly gay teenager. You feel the tension and passion in his performance every minute.

A seminal film about adversity, adolescence, and finding your greatest love and relinquishing it with dignity.
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Contact (1997)
brilliant, seminal, touching film
15 June 2003
Contact was by and far cheated for any Oscar nominations in 1997.

The adaptation of Carl Sagan's novel of the same name masterfully slimmed plot lines and complexities from the book into a beautifully cut work of intellect and heart.

Jodie Foster, brilliant as always, works wonders as a freethinking astronomer searching for answers to her own life's meaning through seeking out intelligent life in the universe.

The rest of the cast create Sagan's biting (and in no way completely impartial) cross-section of political and religious forces opposing Foster's imposed heroine efforts. From Tom Skerrit's anti-villain Drumlin to Matt McConaughey's stellar Joss, to James Woods' scathingly funny Kitz and Angela Bassett's hotheaded White House staffer Constantine, everyone pulled their weight as an accurate representation of how the modern world would respond to such a thought-provoking event in history.

Summed up, Contact is a debate on science versus faith that encompasses nearly every nuance of every shell on the topic, from religious viewpoints to scientific standards, to the very message the film tries to deliver: that "in all our searching, the only thing we found to make the emptiness bearable is each other."

See this movie if you want to cry with comfort that you are not alone.
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enjoyable but typical feel-good movie
15 June 2003
Steel Magnolias: A great play with a tepid film adaptation

Revolving around a group of Southern women in modern-day Louisiana, this very typical "feel-good" movie where the acting, plot, and setting are all aimed right at the heart not the head. Granted, this doesn't necessarily make it a bad movie. Anyone who grows up with an inkling of experience in the South can identify these women and their stereotypes instantly; born-again Christian, idealistic young daughter, dad of "steel" yet made of tissue paper, hair-style beauty queen, elegant rich widow, disgruntled eccentric elderly divorcee; the list goes on and on.

Sally Field's typecast role as the overconcerned mother is heartfelt, but again, typecast. However Shirley MacLaine was refreshing as the catch phrase-laden eccentric Ouiser; her antics with Tom Skerrit's Drum were entertaining and nostalgic. Julia Roberts begins her major film debut here with the first of many interpretations of.... herself. I'm sorry, but Roberts' Erin Brakovich is her real acting debut.

Not without charm, Steel Magnolias is a die-hard "chick flick" guaranteed to make you snicker a few times, even if you're a purist. Not the greatest adaptation possible for a superb play, this movie still does a good job at filling in gaps in the play's storyline-- from an embellishing point of view.
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