Movies Reviewed, 2003
REVIEWS, BY YEAR:


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12/30/03
Killing - reason number one (of more than 12,000) to hate poodles. what a fucking film. probably my favorite film noir of all-time. first things first. sterling hayden is absolutely brilliant. his performance here may be even better than his performance in dr. strangelove (which by the way has five of the best 25 comic performances of all-time peter sellers times three, sterling hayden and george c. scott). the direction is completely solid. the scenes between elisha cook and his on screen wife are a great example. when he is dictating the conversation the camera is on his side and when she twists things to his side the camera swings to her side, or they will change physical position within the frame. it's just good film making. the score is well done (by gerald fried who also did paths of glory), especially the finale (top 25 ending of all time?). one of the more noteworthy aspects of the film is the way it played with time. the heist scene was approached from three different angles and kubrick would break the scene right at apex of the action from their viewpoint. for example, we follow timothy carey (more on him later), who is responsible for bringing down the horse, up to the point where he does his job. after his job is done the chronology rewinds and follows another person as they perform their pre-heist duties. the end effect is that we see the moments leading up the actual stealing of the money a few times...thus extending the suspense during the actual act. timothy carey (who is also in paths of glory) is one of those rare actors (like woody allen or steve buscemi) who is completely unique. i love the ending in the movie...it's so thoroughly film noir. there's one really cool shot that i wanted to mention. the camera is on the inside of an office and pointed towards a door. the door has a window on it and the lettering reads something like "chess and checkers club," but the lettering isn't reversed. i thought i had caught kubrick in a mistake here since the lettering is meant to be read from the outside and we're looking at it from the inside. hayden opens the door from the outside, closes it and walks towards the camera. as he gets closer the camera pulls back and we see the the camera had been focusing on a mirror in the corner of the opening hallway. it allowed the audience to easily see what the lettering said, allowed for one static shot that showed the room we're about to enter and also showed that hayden was coming in. efficient, technically sound, artistic and just plain cool film making. A+.

12/29/03
Tillies Punctured Romance - touted as the first feature length comedy, this 1914 charlie chaplin flick has its moments, but isn't his strongest. the film quality is quite bad and i hope someone comes along and cleans it up or restores it...soon. the movie itself could have used some work too. for the time it did a couple neat things. it broke the fourth wall a few times, which i think was fairly uncommon for features. there was also one scene at a movie theater where we see a movie within the movie. that was also probably a less common sight. most of the film was shot with the camera at eye level and stationary. there were only a couple shots (of the keystone cops) where they broke this convention. in these instances the camera was in the car with tight shots on the cops' faces. it was funny and gave the sense of excitement that was appropriate for the scenes. there are some decent laughs in the film, but it's not nearly the same caliber of film that chaplin would go on to make. then again, this one wasn't directed or written by chaplin so... chaplin's acting was the highlight of the movie - he did his usual slapstick schtick and it was right for the part. he plays a con-man of sorts which was different, at least for the half dozen or so films i've seen him in. there were times when is little more exposition would have been nice...there were lots of jumps in action or leaps in time. in some cases time within the film would be rather slow and in other cases a cut would indicate the lapse of several minutes (characters would be wearing different clothes, characters would all of a sudden be in very different settings than in the last cut, etc.). this wasn't totally confusing, but it wasn't smooth either. it has a good score. C+.

12/28/03
Unforgiven - no matter how you look at this film you must acknowledge that it's a landmark in the western genre. from the beginning the film is a study in storytelling 101...within a minute of introducing a character you know what the person is about - what his motivations are, what problems he must solve by the end of the film, etc. this not to say that the characters are simple - they're anything but. in fact i'd say that a major theme in the film, for me anyway, is the grayness of things. eastwood's character (Will) is neither wholly good or wholly bad. the same goes for hackman's (Bill) character, who is supposed to be the opposition to eastwood. i don't think the name selection of will and bill is random. i believe there is a conscious effort to show that in life characters aren't as easily categorized as they normally are in westerns. this western is a sort of bizarro western - it defies all sorts of conventions. eastwood can't ride a horse yet he is the hero. he's killed women and children, yet he is the hero. hackman is the sheriff, but he's no wyatt earp, nor is he the evil and corrupt sheriff. he's certainly not pleasant, but to my eyes he's not an abuser of power to the extent that would be expected from a typical western villian. after all, he's not the one who killed women and children and all he ever wants to do, it seems, is build his house. that doesn't make him jesus either, but you get my point...there's a lot of depth to the film. the cinematography is quite good, but not overly artsy or pedantic. unlike this review, the film isn't completely heavy in its tone. the first half, especially, has a good degree of comic relief which is good considering what comes in the second half. a fine and enjoyable film by any measure. A-. just looked at the allmovie.com info and noticed it got an oscar nomination for best sound. well deserved. it's not often that i notice the sound effects in a film, but this was one of those times. whoever worked on the sound did a great job.

12/27/03
Ed Gein - i'm not sure how realistic this story of ed gein is, it does begin and end with actual footage of ed gein and his neighbors which i thought was a nice touch. it was a pretty well put together film, though it was obvious that there were monetary limitations. however i somehow got the feeling that they left out some of the more frightening things, like it was made for tv or something. as sadistic as this guy was supposed to be in real life i would have expected more of that to translate to the screen. the actor who played ed gein was pretty good, but most of the other actors were only so-so. the direction did a decent job of providing scares without being graphic, which contributed to my thinking it was a made for tv production. not bad, but not great either. C+.
Rollerball - NOT the 2002 version. though now that i've seen this version four or five times i'd like to see the 2002 version...especially since it was directed by john mctiernan (predator, die hard, and hunt for red october). the previews made it look awful. at any rate, this version, the original version, is quite good. i'd describe it as a cross between running man (starring our governor) and clockwork orange. running man because of the futuristic game that centers around violence and a clockwork orange because of a couple of the themes addressed and the good use of classical music. at over two hours rollerball is surprisingly well-paced. there are only three rollerball games that we follow, but they do a good job of keeping things interesting...ironically enough. ironic because part of the point of the film is to make a statement against violence as entertainment. a larger point of the film is to portray a possible future wherein corporations have taken over the role typically associated with governments. in this future decisions are made by the corporation and all individualism is shunned. jewison does a pretty good job of painting a picture of a repressed society. i would have liked it to be even darker, though. with all the repression and lack of individuality i would envision people acting out in all sorts of depraved ways. nonetheless, the film is directed quite well (especially the game sequences) and the allegorical tale of our potential future is a good one. B+.
Rollerball - this time i watched it with commentary because i was too lazy to pick out anything else. commentary didn't really say much. jewison is a pretty good director from what i know of his work, but he didn't say anything all that insightful.

12/26/03
Robocop - a better film than most may remember it being. it's equal parts social commentary, action and humor. verhoven (basic instinct and total recall) strikes a perfect balance here. i don't ever think it's corny, or when it is, then it's for a laugh - usually at the expense of the media or as a social comment. watching this movie now is so much different from the 10/15 times i watched it when i was 12. back then it was a cool action film with some good lines and a couple laughs, but now i notice the commentary on our society. hey, while we're privatizing rebuilding contracts in iraq and social security and everything else why don't we privatize our police force? what entertainment should be. A-. p.s. i'm commenting on the criterion collection edition of the film which includes formerly cut footage.
Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery - i think that this one still stands up as a great 90s comedy. the commentary track was fun and informative. my major problem with it was that they turned off the film soundtrack completely...dvd was introduced in 1997 and this film came out that same year so i have to assume that the dvd came out very early in the history of dvd. i guess they figured out later that during the lulls in the commentary track it would be better to have the film sound come through, rather than complete silence. A-.
Louisiana Story - another film from robert flaherty (nanook of the north and man of aran). the other two films i've seen from him are documentaries, whereas this one is pretty much a straight film (though it won and academy for best documentary). an argument could be made for man of aran as a documentary, but i don't think that this one qualifies. i think that flaherty works better within the documentary confines. perhaps this is because he needn't worry about developing a story or script - that comes naturally given the genre - and so he can focus more on the editing process and capturing the humanity of the characters. it's also possible that his venture into feature films came after he reached his peak. nanook of the north and man of aran had the similar theme of man's struggle to survive within nature. while they followed rather simple people using simple tools (harpoons and fish hooks mostly) this film introduces industry as man's tool in conquering nature. i must admit that this turned me off of the film a bit; it just didn't seem as pure. it's a beautiful film - the black and white photography really looks good (it was restored by the ucla film archive) and the shots are well composed. the story is told through the eyes of a young boy who wanders around the louisiana swamps on his canoe. he comes to admire the crew of the oil rig that has come to his part of the swamp to drill for oil as part of a deal his father has made with a business partner. the oil people's presence is given much more of a positive portrayal than i would have expected from flaherty. as i perused some of the dvd extras i discovered why this is...it turns out that standard oil commissioned the production and requested a film that showed the beauty of humanity and positive impact oil can have while being entertaining all the while. it's flaherty's best looking film and, again, the score is a highlight, but i think it's kind of a shame this had to be his final picture. B.

12/25/03
The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover - there's one thing certain about this film - it's not your standard fare. not only is the subject matter a bit out of the ordinary, but the style, too, is decidedly different. not better, or worse, or over-stylized, really, but different. half of it is shot like a filmed play...lots of scrolling dolly shots in front of three sets that are linked side by side. in the first half there isn't much three-dimensional camera movement like there is in most films and, with the exception of the bathroom scenes, the action takes place in the aforementioned group of three sets (outside, the kitchen, and the dining room). there's a definite concerted effort to use color, though i'm not entirely sure about the reasons. lots of red which i suppose could speak to two of the dominate themes - love and rage. at the half way point the film shifts a bit. in the first half horizontal movement was dominant (that scrolling i talked about) and in the second we see a lot more movement into the scenes (and into different scenery as well). the tone, too, has changed. the second half is decidedly serious whereas the first half, at least for me, was more comic because the excesses of the thief were directed towards less sympathetic characters. once we see his sadistic rage touch his wife in more than a passing way we can't go back to laughing about his tirades. it's a good looking movie that has plenty to like, but didn't resonate with me so much as to consider it great. i like what it offered me while i was watching it and i will remember its style and the some of the subject matter (i don't want to give it away, but it's not easily forgettable), but it didn't have that special something that would have made it great. oh, and i think this was the first film i've seen that was scored by michael nyman (piano - which i still haven't seen) and i liked his stuff...he's a minimalist like philip glass. B.

12/24/03
Crisis: Behind A Presidential Commitment - a political and social document. they really don't make em like this anymore (the war room is the closest anyone has come of late). four camera crews covering the same event at the same time with unprecedented access. it's not amazingly well put together and the cinematography isn't as good as some of the stuff you'll see from frederick wiseman, but it's a solid documentary that's edited well enough and the strength is in the content. B.

12/23/03
Die Hard - a top ten film for me, no doubt. the action is great, the comic relief is unparalleled in the action film genre, all the characters are rich and pop with a life of their own, the music is used well, and the camera movement, cinematography and editing are fantastic. i've seen the film about 40 times by now and it's never disappointed me. i listened to the commentary track for the first time. mctiernan does a good job of telling us what kind of look he was going for and how jan debont helped him achieve it. i've always though of mctiernan as an american director, but he indicates that he is very influenced by european cinematography. it's a lot more of a film than most people give it credit for. A+.

12/22/03
A Christmas Story - the best christmas film of all-time; unless you count die hard as a christmas film which i sometimes do just to throw people off when they ask about my favorite christmas film. it's a top 25 film for me, regardless of genre. this film is just so on the money. the tone is perfect and every detail is spot on. the family is dysfunctional, but in that perfectly familiar and normal way; the look is great and perfectly matches the time period; there are endless "classic" moments; and it's one of those movies that really is for all ages. A+. pretty decent commentary track.

12/21/03
Lilies Of The Field - the strongest point of this film is clearly sidney poitier's performance; the rest is mostly just so-so. his performance is even better considering the fact that he was playing off of a lesser actor (lilia skala)...she was decent, but she didn't step up and provide the counter balance to poitier that would have made the film better. storytelling was straightforward, as was the photography. i thought it was a decent story about humanity, crossing cultural divides and the rest of that fancy stuff, but that's not really my idea of a good film. my idea of a good spiritual film is summarized in the final scene in the graduate when ben uses the cross to block the parents from chasing him and elaine. skala's character was too overbearing and the themes just didn't resonate with me all that much. C+

12/20/03
Lord of the Rings: Return Of The King - i'm new to the lotr story...i never read any of the books, i was a geek, but not that far gone. the first two films really blew me away, as you'll read below i love the balance of comedy, drama, romance, and action. the pacing, especially for films that are over three and half hours longs, is really good. now to the final installment of the trilogy. i'm not going to even comment on the most popular complaint that the film is too long. the second complaint that i anticipate is that the end dragged along too much. it did. but after i left the theater here's what i thought of it - it's an epic with all sorts of storylines to close off so it's going to take a while to properly wind things down. also, it seems the point of the voice-over narration from frodo, that the story never ends....certainly this ending gives this feel while providing a suitable conclusion to the series. the action sequences are pretty fucking crazy and deserve to be seen on the big screen. the philosophy of the series is deepened in the film....though to be honest i was viewing it more with the intent of following the story and such so i didn't have much time to think about the other levels. apparently there's one major scene that's cut out about the razing of the shire, but that should make it into the extended version of the dvd. this film deserves to be nominated for probably about 8-12 academy awards and it'll probably win the effects and sound ones, but i don't have enough faith in the academy to say it'll get picture or director. i don't think this is the best film of the trilogy...i've only seen it once, but i think it's probably about as good as the first one. the second one is my favorite. A-.
Bonnie And Clyde - i don't know what chemistry is or how one goes about creating it, but this movie has it. betty and dunaway are really truly good. sometimes good movies or good performances are time-specific, but i don't think this is one of those cases. in fact, the entire cast is good gene hackman does a good job (though not his best performance) and michael j. pollard is also quite good. it's an action adventure film that has equal parts romance, comedy, and drama. it does them all well, too...you don't get the feeling that the comedy is put in as an afterthought. it has a definite sixties style, some of it is reminiscent of the graduate (especially the opening sequence in bonnie's bedroom). close-up shots, hand held camera, a subdued form of impressionistic acting. i don't know where fact and fiction begin and end, but it's a good and fun, wholly american, story for all times. B+.

12/19/03
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring - the following review is for both the films in their extended versions.
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers - there aren't many movie experiences that even after seven-plus hours, still leave you wanting more. i can't wait until 3:45 tomorrow afternoon when i get to watch the conclusion. it's just such a rich, full and epic tale. every character is appealing in some way. with film i'm a guy who values substance over style and these films have it in spades - thanks of course to the source material. the story is good and timeless in so many ways i won't even begin to document them here. on to the execution...i'm a fan of peter jackson. i thought that dead alive and bad taste were both very well done films, but both (especially bad taste) lacked a real story. granted, they are horror films which are traditionally slim in the plot and character development departments, but i point this out as way of saying how good a match this story is for jackson. i don't know what crazy new line executive hired jackson, whose film credits are rather limited, but they need a raise. putting jackson at the helm of what is probably a $200+ million project seems pretty gutsy to me. my only negative comments about the execution are the over-use of slow motion and that the theatrical cuts were pared back too much. the latter decision was probably made from above because releasing a movie that's 3hours and 43minutes long is tough to do, but there were critical scenes that were cut out of both films (especially the two towers). jackson's pacing was very good, the color coding in some of the scenes was especially efficacious, and the night scenes were shot extraordinarily well. the special effects were almost entirely seamless - gollum, especially, was a brilliant success. non-special (physical) effects were also used well. jackson incorporated a good combination of different camera lenses/angles and smart staging/editing to give the illusion that merry, pippin, frodo and gimli were much smaller that everyone else. gimli is played by the same guy who was sallah (indiana's guide) in raiders of the lost ark - you'll remember that in that movie he was made to appear even taller than harrison ford which makes the effect all the more impressive. i don't know that jackson is an amazing director, but he is gifted and you can tell that he knows his shit. should be interesting to see what he does now that the world has opened up for him. A.

12/18/03
Apt Pupil - it's been quite some time since i first read the novella that this movie is based upon, but (obviously) it had some impact on me since i chose to use aptpupil as my domain name. i remember being disappointed when i saw the movie - not because it wasn't a good film (it is) - but because it wasn't as good as the story. as a whole i think that the film manages to be about as disturbing as the story, but (to me) it has a leg up since film has more tools at its disposal; and bryan singer uses them well. you're probably better off reading the story (it's only about 100 pages long) and it includes 'the body,' 'shawshank redemption,' and some other story that i can't remember (it hasn't been made into a movie, yet) so buying the book is worth your money. B-.

12/17/03
Primary - similar to the war room, but it follows both sides and is in the primary stage of a presidential election. a fine historical document that features some good camerawork and editing. it's short (53 minutes), but still manages to give one a good picture of both candidates involved, the campaign experience, and politics in general. it was a very different time back then. politics hadn't been fully effected by tv yet, big business wasn't as big of an influence, and you get the sense that it was a smaller more intimate world in general. of interest to those who are interested in politics, jfk, or 1960 middle america. B.

12/16/03
Underground Comedy Movie - i should start rating comedies based upon how many laughs it produces relative to episodes of seinfeld. so if a movie is as funny as seinfeld and is about 90 minutes long then it would be three episodes worth of seinfeld (i know that the episodes aren't really 30 minutes long, but it's easier that way). a movie like "planes, trains and automobiles" (probably the funniest movie of all-time) would be worth 9 or 10 seinfeld episodes. the Underground Comedy Movie, would be worth about 30-40 seconds of seinfeld. there are a couple laughs, sure, but for the most part this film is just stupid. it's not that i'm offended by the humor (i don't think i can be offended by humor), it's just that the humor in this movie isn't good. it's a matter of both execution and content...sometimes the idea might be funny, but it lacked execution. sometimes the execution was decent, but the material just wasn't there. i liked the preview for the movie, but the movie itself was just bad. D+.

12/15/03
Man of Aran (pronounced Aaron) - both allmovie.com and imdb.com call this a documentary, but that's a bit iffy. it's real footage of real people, but the action is sorta directed and the people aren't portrayed as they are in real life - the three main characters are supposed to be related, but aren't really. it's more of a documentary than "kids," which is a feature film that is shot like a documentary and most of the actors weren't doing much acting - rather they were sort of just playing themselves. maybe it's a documentary like koyaanisqatsi (or man with a movie camera) is a documentary - things are distorted or shaped by the director, but it's still real life; tough to say. enough of that though, on to the review. the photography is much better in this film than it was in flaherty's first (nanook of the north, which i also own). the black and white images are much sharper and the cinematography is far more advanced. nanook of the north was sort of an accident film for flaherty - he was in northern canada on some sort of expedition and sort of fell into being a filmmaker. at any rate, this film is a definite step up (in a technical sense) from nanook of the north. he uses montage, at least a couple different cameras, and has gotten even better at editing, making this film truly good - especially for its time (1934). i mentioned a few reviews ago that 'triumph of the will' was hardly impressing, even when taking into account the year of release. here's a film that proves my point - it was released in the same year, it's also a documentary (mostly), and it's probably ten to eleven times better than 'triumph of the will.' B+.

12/14/03
Paperboys - shorter than i would have liked, but i suppose that's a good sign. it's ostensibly about a group of paperboys in stillwater minnesota, but it reaches far beyond that. it touches subjects as disparate as family values, generation gaps, american values, growing up, technology and society and the future in general. the film doesn't draw any conclusions or make any judgments. this, coupled with the abrupt ending, make for a film that will probably stay in my thoughts for a while. B.

12/13/03
Waco: The Rules Of Engagement - does an excellent job of staying objective. a lot of the film is structured in a point/counter-point way to further the goal of objectivity. it's a bit longish and has a cheeseball score (there are some real corny violin and piano pieces that are supposed to tug at your heart strings). other than those minor gripes it's a worthwhile film. it presents a lot of information and doesn't make the answers clear. since most people (including myself) didn't get a full picture of what happened before and after those 51 days it's nice that this film exists. i think i know enough, now, to say that the government truly dropped the ball on this one. their reasons for going in were dubious and the way in which they executed the search warrant was excessive and inflammatory. the next 51 days were filled with deceit, politicking, and pr moves that seem pretty shameful in retrospect. the investigation that followed seemed doomed from the start. it's another sad time in the history of our government. despite what koresh and his people did or did not do, the truth remains that they were primarily within their rights and that the burden lies with the government. to me there were clear abuses of power and the agencies involved, namely the atf and fbi, should be reprimanded and ordered to apologize. B.
Guess Who's Coming To Dinner - a good film, of course, but it could have been more. granted we're talking about 1967 and my pushing this film to do more is a little silly - all things considered. the ensemble cast is very good - all the major players settle into their roles quite well. now some quibbles...the dancing scene with one of the black maids and the white delivery guy...what was that? very dated. also, more seriously...why were the two biggest opponents of the marriage both black? tillie and poitier's father were both against it. spencer tracy was also against it, but for seemingly more practical reasons. tillie basically called poitier's character the equivalent of an "uppity nigger." while the father was just plain against it. how realistic is this and what was the purpose? also issues of class were only barely hinted at. spencer tracy's character mentioned that poitier's father was a retired postal worker as if it was a good thing that poitier made something of himself. this was overshadowed by the references to the fact that poitier was a well-to-do doctor (granted he was mostly doing charity work, but he was obviously well off). i liked kramer's ability to meld drama with comedy...i didn't think it inappropriate; in fact i felt it offered a good counter-balance to the weight of the subject. overall a good film and a film that was certainly important for the time, but ultimately it didn't leave the world as harmonious as it came off. that is, the ending seemed to take the attitude of "well isn't it great that we've worked through these problems; we're good (though admittedly flawed) people." when, to me (and Martin Luther King Jr. for that matter), the larger issue of class was barely grazed. B.
Spellbound - shows some of the hitchcockean techniques (the dream sequence, the gun turning towards the camera, etc.) that would become more refined later in his catalogue (since he's a british guy [yes, i know he moved to the us early on] i'll use the british spelling). now i'm not a hitchcock lover or anything, but i have noticed a certain template in his films - the male/female pairing, the mystery that needs solving, the twisted ending, the camera tricks, and more. every film is different, but similar. at any rate, this film was a bit slow at the beginning (i think hitchcock fine tuned story-telling later on), but always intriguing and the second half of the film produced some real quality moments that made it all worth it. B.

12/12/03
Ruggles of Red Gap - the 1935 version. let's just start by saying that when it comes to me and pre-1940s films i am generally not easily impressed. this is a good film for sure. it produces some laughs and a good time is had by all, but it's just not my bag. i didn't notice anything that i considered technically profound and the rest was just pretty good so i can't say i was entirely impressed...though it seems i'm supposed to be. C+.
Triumph Of The Will - 1934. here's another film that was supposed to impress me. i guess i just don't have an eye for some things. i know that some of the cinematography was nice, especially relative to the majority of films for the time...add to that the fact that this was a documentary and you have a film that is regarded as moving forward its genre. maybe the people who watched this movie hadn't seen "man with a movie camera" so they were really impressed, but i wasn't. like i said, it has some nice enough stuff, but nothing that would make me call it the finest of early documentaries. nanook of the north (1922) was a way better film, man with a movie camera (1929) had far better cinematography and neither glorified hitler. while i'm on the subject - what's with everyone's obsession with 'birth of a nation'? because he used montage and refined cinematic storytelling? anyone who's read a book or play could figure out how to tell a story effectively, camera or not. sometimes being first goes a long way. or maybe i was sleeping that day in film class. C. good as a historical document, but it's not entertaining and if you want a lesson on film as propaganda just watch some of the better television commercials - their art and technique are much more refined than this film's. oh and do yourself a favor and watch the film with commentary even if it's your first time...it'll make it more worthwhile.

12/10/03
French Connection - besides the good story, i think that the major accomplishment of the film is the feeling of movement it conveys. there's a lot of energy in the film - either the camera is moving or something within the frame is moving; as a result the film never gets boring or slow. gene hackman did a real good job as an obsessed cop. it's a good film with one pretty decent car chase, but it's not the best film of the year (1971 - clockwork orange). it doesn't even have the best car chase of the year (vanishing point). B.

12/09/03
Se7en - the first commentary track is really good, it features brad pitt, morgan freeman and david fincher. they talk about their approaches to acting (for the actors) or to filming (for fincher), they relay funny/interesting anecdotes, they talk about the technical, the artistic and everything in between. good stuff. the film itself is one of my favorites of all-time. it captures the mood so perfectly, but doesn't put style over substance. there are all sorts of nice fine touches throughout that add richness to the story, character, setting and overall mood. there's also a couple different philosophies that are addressed in the film and, unlike fight club, they present themselves in a subtle and difficult way. it has comic relief in a film that could have easily forgotten about this very important element. it has just about everything i could ask for in a movie like this. A.

12/08/03
Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns) - no it's not a gay porno. it's a documentary about they might be giants, the rock group. it tells their story pretty well. with biography type documentaries like this you have to expect a certain amount of over-stating the group's importance. there was some of that here, but they (the filmmakers) managed to keep that to a minimum. good use of all sorts of source material - from live shows, to videos, to interviews with a wide variety of people. there were also a few sort of chapter stops in the film marked by famous actors reciting TMBG lyrics in a more serious way than you would hear in the song where the songs came from. there were also a couple scenes shot in a typical PBS type documentary style which focused on history (e.g. abraham lincoln and james polk) which actually provided segues into more information about the band (e.g. lincoln is the city where they grew up and they wrote a song about james polk). in other words it was an inventive and well-made documentary. i wasn't all that familiar with the band to start out so i learned a lot, but i'm sure even big fans would enjoy the film and glean at least a few interesting tidbits of info. the band is a pretty geeky beatles/new wave/zappa,but they have a style that's pretty original. B.

12/06/03
Amarcord - a pretty damn funny film. it's not all fun and games, there are some serious moments surrounding growing up, love, politics, etc., but overall it's meant to be a sort of love poem to an italian town and its people. they certainly are an odd group and it makes for a good subject. the acting was good and the direction struck a perfect balance in terms of tone....like i said before, it isn't just a comedy - it does have some poignant moments. B.
Tokyo Drifter - not as good as branded to kill (also directed by suzuki), but shows shades of the same vision. the biggest thing to comment on in this film is the color. branded to kill came out a year later, but was in black and white, this one was in colors as bright as seen in Ran (kurosawa). this, though, was a much more comic film. borrows, again, from the james bond genre...it's about a gangster trying to get out of the gang life, but suzuki has some fun with it. not as free-flowing or fun as branded to kill, but a fine film. B-.
Northfork - first off i should admit that i only watched the first 52 minutes (it's 94 minutes long), but i think i got a good enough picture. it really doesn't even matter what happened in the last half of the film because the first half was utterly uninteresting. if you take a big steamy, stinky dump and there happens to be a diamond in the middle it doesn't really matter. the stink and raunch of the dump is sure to keep me from digging so who cares what's in the middle? that's just my philosophy of art - it has to be interesting, entertaining (at least mildly), and have depth for it to be worthwhile. not everyone would agree with me, in which case they might want to spend a few hours dissecting this grandiose pile. there were two laughs in 52 minutes and they were so deadpan that i barely snorted. it's artsy and has a good cast, but never "gets its wings." D.
oh jeez i realize that i just wasted my time reviewing this movie when i could have just cut and pasted this review from allmovie.com...it hits the nail on the head...
"Northfork would be a textbook case of style over substance, if there were any substance there at all. While Nick Nolte finds true grace notes as a minister tending to a dying boy, the film is more interested in mining awkward laughs from the stilted dialogues between James Woods, Mark Polish, and the other company men hired to clear out the town's citizens. A third story involving the dying boy's hallucinations (or maybe they are real) of afterlife figures could have added a level of philosophical gravity to the proceedings, but only succeed in layering ethereal kookiness on top of the stilted, ridiculous scenes between the men on earth. The entire film is stridently quirky. The monochromatic color scheme is initially striking, but grows repetitious until the look of the film becomes as arch and deadening as the inane dialogue. While a movie should not be expected to answer questions about life and death, any film that wants to discuss these issues needs to pose the questions in an interesting way. The only question Northfork asks of its audience is, "Isn't this all so deep and hip?" The answer is no. Perry Seibert"
Home Movie - a feel good documentary that offers a different perspective. life affirming, or something. B.

12/05/03
Decalogue X - this is the most funny and light-hearted of the series (though i haven't seen numbers 1, 2 and 3). kieslowski operates on several levels in each of his ten stories in this series. his short films also carry a common theme of the past having an impact on the present. in many of the films in the series we don't see something that is integral to what the characters are dealing with. in this one it's the treatment and subsequent death from a curmugeon of a father. we only see the sons dealing with his passing. as it turns out the end up acting much like the father they disliked, but it's dealt with in an uncharacteristically funny way so as to end the series on a lighter note. rather than watching the entire series as i intend on doing, i would recommend this one and number six. B.
Joy Ride - it's a funny and rather well done (by john dahl [dir. rounders]) horror comedy. good stuff. steve zahn is a really good actor. he does all the little stuff that seeps in subconsciously, but isn't necessarily noticed on the conscious level. the way he walks when he's supposed to be scared, for example, is so comic, but also subtle. a fun flick with a better than expected ending. B.
Dersu Uzala - i don't even bother screening kurosawa films before i buy them...despite running the risk of wasting 20-30 bucks for the criterion collection dvds. i know kurosawa will deliver, so when i see a new kurosawa dvd i snatch it up. here, again, kurosawa renewed my faith in him (and in humanity). kurosawa does an excellent job of showing great individuals teaching or helping those in need. from seven samurai to dersu uzala that theme is carried. dersu's character is fantastically rounded and well acted (though i don't know how much acting there actually was). the relationship between dersu and arseniev is so instantly established...and that doesn't come from the opening scene wherein arseniev returns to the burial site of dersu three years after the fact, thus signaling the depth of their friendship. no, it comes from their first meeting and every interaction thereafter. it's not something i can necessarily describe, but it is there. sure their physical position within the frame, relative to the rest of arseniev's expedition, is close (often times dersu and captain arseniev are on one side of the frame and the others are on the other), but it goes much deeper than that. a good story (though not much of a plot) and a great study of man and nature. A-.
Nanook of the North - the perfect companion piece to 'dersu uzala.' i don't know whether it was intentional or not, but kurosawa borrowed heavily from this 1922 documentary. the lead characters are very similar types of "happy-go-lucky" people who live off the land. both are discovered by white men, both of their stories are told knowing that they die in the end (that is, both movies begin by telling the audience that the protagonist dies later on), both dersu and nanook are nicknamed "bear," nanook has an epic battle with a walrus  (aka "tiger of the north") and dersu has a pivotal run in with an actual tiger, nanook and his family take refuge in an abandoned igloo while dersu takes refuge in an abandoned shack...those are the things i noticed in one viewing, i'm sure there are more. all that aside, this documentary is just plain good. the score is great. the subjects are unusual and unusually good people. well worth the 80 minutes. A-.

12/04/03
Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election - a short documentary with 40 minutes of extra interviews that i would have liked included in the film. i suppose that keeping it short is the better choice for schools or tv, so i understand. gives a very straightforward and pretty well balanced account of the events surrounding the 2000 election...specifically what happened in florida. it's a great opportunity for anyone who hasn't been given a clear picture of what happened...and i suspect that that's about 90% of the population. having read two michael moore books since the election, most of the al franken book, listening to lots of npr, and having a general interest in politics i knew about roughly 80% of the major information presented here. so chances are that this movie will deepen just about everybody's understanding of the florida debacle. i highly recommend this to anyone who plans on ever commenting on george bush, miscarriages of justice in general, american politics, racial affairs in america, or investigative journalism. commenting on those things while being ignorant of the matters this film discuses would be unfortunate. you wouldn't want to hear me commenting on the monetary policy of brazil because i don't know anything about it, so get informed so you can have a more full picture of what it is you're talking about. B+.

12/03/03
Decalogue IX - thou shalt not commit adultery. according to allmovie and imdb.com this one is supposed to be thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, but to me that should be decalogue vi. i suppose it could go either way. it's starting to feel like if you've seen one you've seen em all. sure this one had a somewhat interesting story, but it doesn't move much outside of the footprint that the others have created. acting is good as usual and cinematography in this one is better than most of the others. B-.

12/02/03
Branded To Kill - stylized 60s japanese hipster gangster film. probably influenced tarantino, among others. there's one scene wherein the hired killer dispatches a mark by shooting a bullet through the sink piping as the vic is leaning over the drain...not only is that sweet, it also was duplicated in jarmusch's "ghost dog: way of the samurai" thirty years later. the director (seijun suzuki) uses an odd editing style that jumps through time in an unconventional manner. if the rest of the film were as off kilter i'd site it as a weakness, but i think in the context of the rest of visual style it works. it takes getting used to since he also moves characters around between cuts, but i think that ultimately it contributes more to the style than it detracts from the logic of the piece. that is, there is enough gained in style to offset whatever brief confusion it may bring. it has elements of james bond (as i'm learning much asian cinema does...see master of the flying guillotine), german expresionism, and 60s euro hipster cool, but combines them in its own way. its influence can be seen in later films like the aforementioned ghost dog, john woo stuff, tarantino stuff and more. an enjoyable movie with plenty of respectable artistic vision, but doesn't crack the top three of 1967 (see below). looking forward to seeing it a second time. B+.

11/30/03
Decalogue VIII - not as good as the others i've seen so far, probably the most forgettable as well. it's not bad, it just doesn't arouse emotion like the others. B-. thou shalt not bear false witness.

11/29/03
Mr. Arkadin - seems like a movie welles would have made before citizen kane. it has a similar visual style, theme and story, but isn't as well produced. part of the problem is the poor quality of the film transfer, but part of it is the poor quality of the production in general. it's a good film on paper, but none of the acting is very good and there isn't glue holding the thing together like there is in citizen kane. in absolute terms it's a decent flick, but relative to what welles did a decade earlier, this is sad. C.
In The Heat Of The Night - it's a classic, but it was only the third best movie of the year (graduate and cool hand luke are one and two respectively). sidney poitier is good, but rod steiger may have been even better. his character is more complex, plays just as big a role and is less likable, yet the performance is undeniably good - check out all his little ticks and clicks that he adds...good stuff. A.
Creepshow - a fun tribute to the horror genre from two of the guys who added a great deal to it. i don't think that any of the stuff in the film is particularly horrifying, but some of it is creepy - hence the title. a lot of it is funny, some of it is scary or creepy and all of it is well done and enjoyable. B+.

11/28/03
Master of the Flying Guillotine - three times in a week, it's gotta be good. viewed it with the commentary track this time...they did a good job of talking about the context within which the film was made; namely the hong kong film industry at the time (post bruce lee, pre jackie chan). it acted as sort of speed course in kung fu film. of course they talked about the film itself and why it's the classic that it is. a very solid commentary track overall. B+.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World - i honestly didn't expect much from this movie even though it is directed by peter weir. despite awkward shift about half way through, the movie kept me entertained and interested. overall it did a good job of keeping things in balance - action/drama, strategy/explosions, etc. it's no "das boot," though it tries to be, but there aren't many films as great as das boot. would have liked more historical context. C+.

11/27/03
Master of the Flying Guillotine - this one's a classic. the sound effects alone are worth the hour and a half. B+.
12 Angry Men (1957) - i personally think that george c. scott was better than cobb in the role as juror #3, but this one is the better version of the two. it's a great source document and lumet's direction along with the ensemble acting only help the cause. a solid and compelling drama. B+. nominated for three (according to imdb.com, here, and allmovie.com) academy awards, not four as the dvd package leads you to believe.

11/26/03
Stranger Than Paradise - i'm not sure why this is considered one of the most influential films of the latter half of the century...i suppose it's because it defined the deadpan style that so many indie filmmakers went on to imitate. in 1984 i suppose this movie was ahead of its time...now it's just another example of an artsy black and white indie film within which characters don't do much and aren't very happy. as unattractive as that may sound, this film actually does a really good job with it. the three characters are well acted and are given a life of their own as soon as we're introduced to them. the comedy is so deadpan one may not be sure whether to laugh or not, but go right ahead - there's some good stuff in this one. jarmusch deals with negative space like a sculptor might (and like andy warhol did) - he films that which is normally left out and it works somehow. the pacing is well done - he alternates from long shots with little or no camera movement/cutting to almost picture book scenes wherein there will be a few seconds of action followed by a fade to black. it's an interesting style that may or may not have a purpose outside of defining itself; either way it seems right. the ending was a bit of a question mark at first, but made sense after thinking about humorous fates of the hapless characters. i hope that the dvd gets a better treatment somewhere down the line. B.

11/25/03
Manhattan - an over-rated film. i really can't understand why this is considered among the greatest allen films. it has some funny moments and nice photography, but it's not as good as annie hall or radio days or a lot of others. meryl streep is good and so is diane keaton (in an opposite role from her role as annie hall), but acting isn't what draws me to woody allen films - it's about self-deprecating wit and referential humor. since it's woody allen and since everyone else seems to love it we'll just assume i missed something completely. C+.

11/24/03
Scratch- a good overall look at the music of hip-hop. goes from the beginnings and works forward touching on all the major artists of the genre. probably doesn't offer very much new information on the subject for those familiar with the genre, but it's a good place to go if you are interested in learning more about the artform. B.

11/23/03
Winged Migration - it's not an amazing film, but it is good. the cinematography looks good, but i wish they had used better cameras or film because the images weren't as crisp as they could have been and the color wasn't as vibrant as i would have liked. i may be nit-picking there, but for this kind of film paying attention to the technical details is pretty damn important. they used a good combination of capuring techniques - some of the shots were from one person aircrafts that flew alongside the birds, some of the shots were from boats, or from the ground - and they did a good job of drawing the viewer into the life of the birds. the movie itself is a cross between baraka and microcosmos...it doesn't have quite the socio/political commentary of baraka and doesn't have as high a quality of photography as microcosmos. unlike either film, winged migration chooses to have some narration and information. this was nice, but ultimately not very informative. it gave statistics on how far a certain species of bird migrates, but didn't go much beyond that. an overrated movie, but hopefully it'll draw attention to films like it. certainly there were nice things about the film...one can't watch birds for an hour and a half and not be intrigued at least a little bit, but that's testament to the subject matter, not the film. C+.

11/21/03
Master of the Flying Guillotine - a definitive kung-fu film. draws on influences throughout space and time - from enter the dragon to the wizard of oz. a good visual style, nice sound effects and comic relief. don't take it too seriously because the genre and time don't necessarily relate these days, but when viewed correctly this is a good one. B.

11/19/03
Microcosmos - fascinating look at insects, bugs and critters. it really is the kind of movie that people of all ages and cultures and can watch and enjoy. very rich colors and high quality images. a beautiful movie. B+.

11/16/03
Inherit The Wind - bought this on a whim tonight despite having never seen it or heard anything of much import about it. glad i did. this is a film like jfk - it's obvious that the film has a message, it unabashedly carries a certain point of view, and, again, there is nothing wrong with that. there is, however, something wrong with not acknowledging that everyone has a point of view. as far as the film goes...it's just great. it's worthy of the four academy nominations it received and then some. spencer tracy's character is excellent and he fills the shoes very nicely - he's confident, but not cocky, he's spirited, but not over-zealous like those on either side of him. he's the voice of reason, but he has a conscience and holds beliefs i.e., he is rational and adopts a post-modern way, but is NOT a nihilist. on either side of him you have the prosecutor and the newspaper man. the journalist is played fairly well and the prosecutor is played very well by march. both are the extremes that tracy fight both against and for. a very fine story which is committed to film well. B+.

11/15/03
1Love - from the same director as "when we were kings," but much less focused and not as good...though, i must concede conquering the subject of a single fight is much easier that the love and history of an entire sport. a variety of subjects are interviewed - from streetballers like john hammond and pee-wee (forgot his last name) to phil jackson and kobe bryant (a bit laker-centric i thought). it gives the viewer a good overall look at the history and culture of basketball and stays fairly objective - showing both positive and negative sides of the culture and not taking sides when it comes to the old-school/new school or street/nba debates. hoop dreams is a better film with less of a focus on the history of basketball, but gives a more personal look at the effects of basketball culture. oddly it also manages to keep the scope rather wide despite focusing mainly on just two up and coming basketball players. B-.
JFK - like everyone, oliver stone has a point of view and that factors into the product he is creating. he makes this obvious in natural born killers, born on the fourth of july, platoon and others. some might call this a detractor, but it is merely something to bear in mind. jfk is a necessary historical document...whether you agree with any of the conspiracy theories put forth (there are several that are addressed in the film) or not, you must acknowledge its importance as a social document. it brought to light an issue that had been dormant for many years and thus exposed the conspiracy question to another generation. i feel it is important to know the past because it is prologue (as the film points out), some might have you think otherwise. enough about the historical significance of the film onto the movie itself...it's a finely constructed work on all fronts - the screenplay is very well done - it balances several storylines without much confusion and provides varying points of view accurately and in a mostly balanced way. i think it's obvious that stone favors the "military industrial complex" conspiracy theory, but that's not because he contorts of facts to support that conclusion more, rather it's because he places the film within the context of general and president eisenhower's farewell speech (warning against the "military industrial complex"), america's past colonialist behavior, and the vietnam war. conspiracy theory or not, one must be absolutely thick-headed to view the facts presented in the film (and in the accompanying book) and not be very weary of the commissions conclusion that there was only one shooter acting alone. a well-done and compelling drama. A-.
Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy - a documentary that looks at the film and it's impact as well as the real story behind the movie (including interviews with garrison himself as well as many reporters who are on both sides of the conspiracy fence). B-.

11/14/03
Hedwig And The Angry Inch - not my kind of movie. musicals, first of all, don't normally do it for me (there are some exceptions). secondly, the transvestite central character wasn't compelling. there were some funny moments and the music was actually decent (though i didn't really enjoy it), but this movie just never got off the ground for me. i can see how some might enjoy it, but i didn't find much to latch onto - the love story was weak and uninteresting, the musical sequences had some humor, but not enough to keep my interest, and the plot wasn't very active. the direction showed potential and did a decent job of making it into a film (considering it was based on an off broadway play), but, again, did not do enough to engage me as a viewer. C-.
Broadway Danny Rose - pretty straight ahead woody allen through most of the film. his acting was a bit outside of what he usually does and i think suffered slightly as a result, but he's woody and that's always funny to me. the plot wasn't anything to marvel at and the script wasn't his best. the ending was more emotional than i've come to expect with allen. it was good to see that he could do that (outside of annie hall). C+.
Runaway Jury - i didn't like some of the direction in this movie...and i don't say that very often. there were a few scenes that were cut too frenetically or used too much camera movement or the music was a bit much...stuff like that. overall the direction wasn't bad, but there were a few scenes that i thought weren't done well. that aside...i liked the story, even though the end was a bit predictable, it still kept me mostly interested. all the performances were good - i don't think anyone had a career defining performance (especially considering the cast), but they were all solid. the ending lasted a beat too long, but was forgiveable. C+.

11/12/03
Rushmore - just a great movie in so many ways...the ensemble cast is great, the look of the film is perfect, the characterizations are rich and fresh, the screenplay is tight, funny, and original...the list goes on. the commentary track is spliced from three - owen wilson, wes anderson and jason schwartzman - they do a good job of mixing it up between technical information, anecdotes and humorous stories, info on the creative process and other background info. A.

11/11/03
Wages of Fear - another clouzot masterpiece. i'll put this and diabolique up against any two hitchcock films...they're that good. certainly a visionary and uncompromising piece - the ending was especially good and probably wouldn't be accepted by most modern audiences. the setting and overall scope of the picture borrow plenty from 'the treasure of the sierra madre.' treasure is a tighter film with a more obvious main theme, however both are layered in that they deal not only with the results of greed, but also with interpersonal dynamics - on the micro level (as seen between the four men we follow for most of the film) and on the macro level (as evidenced by the presence of the american oil company versus the indigenous laborers trying to unionize). what makes it so successful, for me, is that those things are in the background...the story and characters are in the foreground. just as is true in "skins"...the issues of culture or greed or differing life philosophies are present, but are a layer or two beneath the plot and characters. though a bit slow at the beginning, the film is nicely paced overall - it gives you time to look beneath the basics of the film, but keeps you interested all the while in what is going to happen next. that is, the plot and characters will carry you through the film just fine, but if you choose to examine things more closely you are given space to do that. i hadn't seen a clouzot film until this month, but now that i've seen two i'm hooked...this guy tells good stories, builds suspense about as well as i've seen, and knows how to end a film. B+. fyi: this was a review for the 148 minute unedited version, not the 138min us version.

11/10/03
Skins- now this is a movie whose characters actually connect with the audience. i had an emotional attachment to at least three of the characters in the film and felt what they felt. some films fail to do even that (see below). beyond that the film commented on the condition of native americans in contemporary america. with such a weighty subject one might assume there would a tendency for the filmmaker to beat the viewer over the head with guilt or pity, but (at least to me) it didn't come off like that at all. it wasn't preachy and it didn't beg for sympathy either. the beginning of the film placed the rest of the story in context and from there on it portrayed things fairly straight. as a result the sympathy and sadness that ensue are genuine, not plucked or squeezed out of the viewer. technically it wasn't anything spectacular and that's a good choice - crane shots or artsy montages would have drawn too much attention to the film and thus away from the story and characters. a well done film that's worth watching for more than one reason. a strong B.

11/09/03
Virgin Suicides - just didn't do it for me. this movie came off like it was made by someone who doesn't really have the artistic knack for making movies, but grew up around films a lot so they have ideas about what things might be cool. that is, i dont' think that sophia coppolla is very talented, but she grew up with francis ford coppolla so she's seen good film making and picked up a few things...she just doesn't know when and when not to use certain things. i don't know what the tone of this film was. sometimes it seemed like i was supposed to be effected by what was going on and sometimes it seemed like i was supposed to find things funny. there are movies that can teeter between comedy and drama (the graduate for example), but this one was far from doing that. the performances were okay, but no one really made me feel anything. well, actually, i guess kirsten dunst gave me a woody a couple times, but nothing other than that. even the soundtrack (by air), which is really good in cd form, wasn't that good when left in sophia's hands. she tried, i could tell that much, but that just made it all the more uninteresting to watch. i'll forget this movie by....D+.

11/07/03
Matrix Revolutions - spoilers ahead... the first two opened with trinity kicking ass and ended with a song by rage against the machine, they used the story and characters as a vehicle for the action (not vise-versa), and they let you suspend your disbelief without requiring you to turn off your brain. the third one didn't do any of those things. it went away from the matrix, it didn't have any new ideas, it didn't tie things up in a satisfactory way and as a result it just didn't work. there were too many scenes in zion, neo's powers grew too outlandish, for the first time there were characters i actually found annoying, and the religous motifs became too prevalent. in the first films the religious stuff was there, but it for you to decide what you wanted to do with it - i usually chose to just let it pass. in this film, though, they hit you over the head with it. on paper the end of the final film may have appeared to be the least corny of the three (since the other two were love can cure all type endings), but in reality the third film had the ending that played out to be most corny and, well, kinda lame. i'd like to watch it again, not because i think something will click and i'll all of a sudden love it, but because i want to understand further what they did wrong and what they intended. after the first two i feel i owe them a second viewing with this one. the action sequences were good and trinity kicked some ass, but overall it was a disappointment. C+.
Bowling For Columbine - gotta see it. A.

11/06/03
Matrix - such a good film. A.

11/04/03
Meet The Parents - the second commentary track (with cast) isn't as informative as the first. bob deniro doesn't talk much, but is funny when he does. ben stiller and jay roach do the majority of the talking and are funny and provide some good info about the creative process. it's a great comedy. A-.

11/03/03
Diabolique - what a movie. after the credits roll a warning comes on the screen that reads "don't be a devil and tell your friends what you've seen here. keep it a secret." or something like that. so i won't give anything away...it's reputation is well deserved. a very good screenplay which is well acted and directed. keeps a good balance. B+.

11/02/03
Bad Taste - well, you either like it or you don't. it's a less advanced version of "dead alive" which is also by peter jackson. both are influenced by evil dead, which sort of wrote the book on gore comedy. also check out stuff like re-animator...another classic. the "story" is thin and just serves to advance the action, gore and comedy. but this isn't just a student snuff film...it's got genuinely good production values...the sfx are good for the budget and the gags are so good that it's all worth while. again, not as good as dead alive, but it's his first film so give him a break. i've only seen four peter jackson films, but they all have a hero who sort of falls into more than he bargained for, almost a hero by accident. B.

11/01/03
Intolerable Cruelty - a different kind of coen brothers movie, in my opinion. it's not as dark as they're stuff and none of the cinematography really grabbed me...actually i guess there were a few effective shots near the pools that catherine's character seemed to go to a lot. clooney and zeta-jones had a good on screen chemistry and he did a particularly good job with the character...gave it a certain simple flair similar to his character in "o, brother where art thou." the script was funny, but the end sort of dragged a bit...some false endings got me winding down prematurely, but, in the end, i think the ending was the right one. a good movie for most, but an average movie for the coen brothers. B-.
Mystic River - another movie that had the end drag a bit, but in this instance i don't think it was the right choice. penn and robbins had good performances and seem to have oscar talking about them. it deals with the themes that are present in the other eastwood directed films i've seen - revenge and the darkness in good people/good in bad people. i liked it overall...it was a well made movie, some of the edits were thoughtful, but it didn't strike a chord with me. i liked it when i was watching it, but i don't think i'm going to think about it much more. B-.

10/31/03
Princess Bride - one of the best fantasy films of allt-time. if this were made today, though, the sets would be so digital that it would take away from the charm. no, a movie like this needs to be made on a relatively slim budget in order to caputure the proper tone. the principals are well acted and the story is great. it has comedy, it has emotion, it has pure good and evil and, even though it acknowledges that it's just a fairytale, it still has power. A.
Office Space - most people know that office space is a funny movie, but it's much more than that. it's actually a really well done comedy. given that this is mike judge's only foray into live action directing it's really quite amazing how well the film is put together. it's not played completely straight...there are some good camera moves and creative sequences that move beyond the formula of most hollywood comedies. the main characters are cast well and the soundtrack is good. why mike judge hasn't directed more live action stuff is beyond me. A.
Matrix Reloaded - this is what hollywood is good for. one must respect the production that went into making this film (actually this film and the final were made together so just consider them one production). it's comparable to building a skyscraper - an amazing number of sets (and these are small sets we're talking about - inside zion, the freeway, the museum sequence, etc.), a staggering amount of digital and physical effects, thousands of people from actors to production designers to computer geeks to sound people to...all collaborating to build this epic film. just as a technical achievement i am in awe. however, that's not what impressed me the most....all that was just the means to the end. great films are about much more than displaying their technical prowess...citizen kane isn't just about showing what film can do, it's about telling a great story using film as a medium. to me, the matrix does this. cornell west referred to the depth this film has and that's precisely what makes it such a good film - on the one level it's an amazing technical achievement, on the next level all that technical mastery goes towards a thoroughly enjoying roller coaster ride, and on several levels beyond that the film manages to be a great love story, a great parable of our times, a great philosophical journey, a great testament to the human spirit and on and on. there's seemingly no end to what can be read into this movie. they could have trimmed a few minutes of fat, but not much more than that...the beginning provided a good ramping up period and the action sequences were so exciting that trimming them, although logical, wouldn't have made my id happy. besides, with as much cerebral stuff as is presented throughout (especially near the end) we need a counterbalance. it's cut in a fine enough place for my taste...it's got me wondering what lies ahead. A.
28 Days Later... - owes a lot to dawn of the dead (the idea, the shopping sequence - including the pop music that accompanied it, the themes and more), day of the dead (the zombie on the chain sequence in particular), and a bit to lord of the flies. but it's not a complete rip off film, and even if it were, it's still pretty damn good. the characters are well acted and the direction is very good. the grainy dv "film" used is perfect and goes along with the sets and stilted angles that everything is on. the dvd transfer actually makes the movie look better than it's supposed to. A-.

10/29/03
Battlefield Earth - this movie is overrated - it's actually worse than they say. it fails in almost every way. it's kinda fun to laugh at it, but not as fun as it should have been considering how espeically poor this film really is. F.

10/28/03
How To Get Ahead In Advertising - definitely an oddball film, but it's funny. the strongest point of the film is the lead actor - he does a really good job in a pretty demanding part. B-.

10/26/03
Sammy and Rosie Get Laid - i guess in 1987 this movie may have been profound, but it's not anymore. i'm never very interested in tales that revolve around sex or sexual identity or relationships of this kind. they just don't hold my interest and i always feel like i'm watching the lifetime network. now this film had production values far outweighing that of the lifetime channel, but the story had the same feel and i just don't dig that. however good themes and issues were addressed so... C-.
Sanjuro - this might be my favorite kurosawa film to watch...yojimbo would be high in the running as well. kurosawa tells a story so so well. but the story isn't all this film is about...the characters (especially sanjuro himself) are great. he's such a wiley, thoughtful, and badass hero. there are echoes of westerns throughout, but as usual, it's not too derivative. themes of masculinity/feminity, what makes a true samurai/hero, good/bad, and loyalty are all addressed at interesting angles. sanjuro acknowledges his weaknesses, unlike many western heroes, and takes advice from the two main women characters in the film. he also doesn't care about keeping up proper appearances - he sleeps often, asks for money and doesn't fall into the generally accepted view of a proper samurai. as is true with any kurosawa film, the story has a lot to do with the psychology of humans and the story is very chesslike. the story never feels contrived and characters, though exagerated, are not fake. there's a lot of detail and richness to this film that i'd like to understand, but that'll come later. wipes, squares and doors are all used interestingly, but i don't know to what effect...yet. A.

10/25/03
Nanook of the North - a fantastic 1922 documentary that brings you into another world. one could dissect it as being an impure documentary since the filmmaker influences the subject, but that's all secondary. just watch it for the very sweet and human aspects. definitely worth the time. B+.
Jeepers Creepers - a good commentary track which adds depth and appreciation to an already quality film. if you haven't seen this horror flick yet you probably should. it produces scares, but doesn't follow all the conventions. another worthwhile movie. B.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 - you thought reservior dogs and pulp fiction were violent? i'll show you violent, says tarantino. but a lot of the violence here is cartoon violence, or "evil dead" type violence. it goes over the top for a laugh...at least a lot of it should. i think tarantino is playing with the audience a lot more in this movie than in his other films...and i like it. of course he's up to his old tricks - he plays with time, he references other films (including his own - jules from pulp fiction wanted to walk the earth like cain (sp?) and in this one david carradine plays someone who is trained by a japanese swordsman). the score is real good - combining both japanese cinema and spaghetti western styles. they had been married earlier, of course, but here it has it's own flavor. some will deride the film as too bloody or to referential (they always do), but this is a film made by someone who obviously loves cinema and wants to take you on a ride. so you're either on or not. B+.
Natural Born Killers - a surrealistic and blown up version of society and the media. the characters are truely charactures of reality and as such are extreme. a creative film style which uses a lot of rear projection to provide literal background images of what the figurative background is for different scenes. so, if mickey is killing someone in the foreground you might see images of his childhood or societal violence in the background. a rich avant garde film. B+.
Natural Born Killers - the commentary track is pretty good, doesn't have too many pauses and provides a balance of theory behind the film as well as technical info. incidentally the story is by tarantino and the style reminded me of kill bill, or rather, vise-versa, and that's a big reason i decided to check this one out tonight.

10/24/03
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom - temple of doom seems to be the least favorite of most people - speilberg among them. but to me it's the best of the lot. it goes further on both extremes than either of the other films - it is darker in the temple scenes and also has more of a screwball comedic element throughout.  i can understand how some would dislike the lead lady or "shorty," but i thought both of them were good and only as annoying as necessary. to me it's also the purest adventure film of the trilogy and provides the best ride. A.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - the last crusade mirrors raiders of the lost ark in a lot of ways, and thus is less fresh and creative than the first two. it also has, in my opinion, the weakest leading lady. i like the action sequences and the father/son motif, but overall this one is probably my least favorite of the trilogy. A-.
Indiana Jones: Making the Trilogy - really a compilation of three documentaries on the making of the trilogy. has some interesting tidbits. overall worth the time. B.
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul - fassbinder, in the tradition of douglas sirk, looks at the underbelly of society. in this case it's about the prejudices against interracial relationships. the story isn't anything spectacular, but the acting is exactly what it should be and the direction is very good. the way he sets up the scenes and the sets really add to the confinement and alienation of the characters. good film. B+.
Kaaterskill Falls - film about a couple who go to the country to get away for a weekend. they pick up a hitchhiker and his presence changes the group dynamic. the film's strength lies in its ability to capture the tension between the two males and the husband and wife. it's a slow film overall, but it doesn't feel very slow. i'm not sure how this was accomplished. perhaps the action is slow, but the tension and relationships are so fluid that the slightest movements or speech changes things... the relationships are like weights on a scale and the slightest addition to one side tilts things enough to make watching the scale interesting. a well-acted affair that's not just about individual performances, but also (more so than usual) about the ensemble. strangely reminiscent of blair witch project because of the group dynamics and setting. recommendable. B.

10/23/03
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark - it's a classic no matter how you look at it. the score, in particular the main theme, is very very good. the acting is spot on and doesn't seem to be weak anywhere. and the directing is perfect - it's stylish and lively, but not artsy or childish. not many adventure films are better than this one. A.

10/22/03
Cradle 2 The Grave - it just didn't deliver. tom arnold was the comic relief and that didn't really work, dmx isn't a good actor, and jet li didn't get to really do his thing. all bark no bite. watch kiss of the dragon instead. D.

10/21/03
Texas Chainsaw Massacre - definitely a creepy movie. i think i saw this a long time ago...like when i was eight or something, but i don't really remember, so on my list i listed it as an previously unseen movie. a lot of stuff comes together here. the music is good, the acting is better than you'd expect from a "b" horror film, and the camera work is really good. everything is either slanted, viewed from an odd angle or cut unconventionally - all that keeps the viewer off balance and uneasy. good direction all around. well worth the reputation.  B+.

10/20/03
True Romance - a well-written movie. i don't know that tarantino could have pulled off the romance portion of the movie... the way it was written made it almost fairy tale-ish. in jackie brown there was a romance, but it was a more reasonable sort of affair. on the other hand tarantino would have done a better job with the soundtrack. without nit-picking i'll just say that this a good film, but not great. the story-telling is good and smooth; it kept me engaged and was logical. oh and the dvd has three commentary tracks! B.

10/19/03
Comedian- forget seinfeld this movie is about stand-up comedy. orny adams is the perfect contrast to jerry seinfeld - orny is a cocky wannabe and jerry is humble, hard working and has already been to the top. beyond the tale of those two characters is the story of stand-up comedy in general. it does a real good job of giving the audience an idea of what it's like to be a stand-up comic. it's a well structured and well edited documentary that's worth watching even for people who don't love seinfeld. two commentary tracks, the one with the director is pretty good, didn't listen to the other one yet. B+.

10/18/03
L'Atalante - it's a 30s film and sometimes it's hard to make that transition from newer films to older ones....this was one of those times. the narrative and acting styles are much different. while i was watching the first third of the movie i didn't find much to really get into, but as i adjusted i came to enjoy the film. it's a fine love story with two interesting and rich characters. i'd like to see it again. B.
Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back - decent commentary track which reveals that the actor who plays jay is pretty much playing himself, but i figured that already. they talk about the actors, some technical stuff, some of kevin smith's other films, etc. pretty much the usual commentary. pre-planned commentaries are better, but probably wouldn't suit a film like this. the movie itself is funny so long as you've seen at least one or two of the others that kevin smith has done....lots of in-jokes and smith is well aware of this. B.
City On Fire - this is the inspiration for reservior dogs and the first two thirds doesn't really remind one of dogs, but then again the first two-thirds is almost a different movie. it's about a cop who goes undercover, gets to be part of a gang, is befriended by one of the bad guys and who, in the end, reveals to his new friend that he was a cop all along. so you can see why the comparisons have been drawn. there's also a love story and a back story about his uncle (also a cop) and his friction with a fellow police officer. it's a solid hong kong flick and probably would be well known even if it hadn't drawn the reservior dogs comparisons. chow yun fat is good as usual. my only real beef is that it's dubbed and the voice actors mostly suck. B-.
Stripped- documentary about a woman who becomes a stripper and then interviews her peers on their views of/experiences while stripping. starts out almost as a commercial for stripping, but later on shows the darker side of the business. the women interviewed got into the business for ostensibly the same reason - money, but we discover that it's usually a need for money coupled with other issues - self-esteem problems, power issues, etc. a good portion of them admit to being addicted to the money and sexual power that comes from stripping. it's a poorly produced film, but it raises enough issues (though it doesn't really answer anything) to be worth while. so if you watch a couple hundred movies a year then this is worth checking out, but if you watch 50 movies a year then maybe it's not. C+.

10/17/03
Bloody Sunday - this film, shot in a documentary style, follows the major players in the infamous bloody sunday massacre of the early 70s. it's a good film because it captures the tension pretty well and tries to make the film-making process as transparent as possible. i don't know the details or background of the actual event so i don't know how acurate the film is, but it did seem pretty even keeled on the whole. it's a good story, and one that should be told, and the method was good, but for some reason i couldn't get really invested in it. maybe it's because the film seemed to overblow the proportions of the event....just like U2 have. any time 13 people die it's not a good day, but i don't understand why this event is so epic. but perhaps that's my fault, rather than the filmmakers'. though historical context would be have been nice, it may have gotten in the way. i'll try to learn more. either way the ending was a bit heavy handed, but was forgivable. B.
Glengarry Glen Ross - when he keeps things simple david mamet can really tell a tale, and he proves it here. the all-star cast is great in every respect. not much else to say about this one. great acting and writing make for a good film. B+.
Treasure Of The Sierra Madre - i thought i had seen this film before, but as it turns out i'd seen another bogart film with "sierra" in the title that ends with money blowing away. hmph. high sierra was the movie i was thinking of. as i was watching the movie i was blown away by how utterly bad my memory has grown - i didn't remember any of the scenes in the film and began to worry. luckily the film swept me up and i forgot about my forgetfulness until the end. when the end came and it was different than the one i remembered from high sierra i was vindicated. so that's my story about the treasure of the sierra madre and i think it's more interesting than me rehashing old cliches about the great acting and story telling of this fine film. it's been said better before so i won't try. A-.
Mr. Deeds - the commentary track on this one was pretty fun, but not entirely informative. it had information about locations, actors, script revisions, etc. the movie itself is funny enough once, maybe twice, but it's not anything special. C.

10/16/03
Annie Hall - vintage woody allen. i've seen a pretty good cross section of his stuff and i think this is the best film of his that i've seen. it has a good balance of inventive film making, comedy and romance. good stuff here. B+.

10/15/03
I Spit On Your Grave - follows in the footsteps of 'last house on the left,' but isn't as good. it's not a total rip-off, but it certainly doesn't break new ground either. it has a different style than last house - it slows things down quite a bit and allows things to unfold in front of the camera without much movement or cutting in many cases. it's probably more realistic and should have been more effective, but for some reason it wasn't. it produced some gruesome scenes, but ultimately didn't have the emotion that it should, and could, have had. C.
Last Minute - i don't know what this movie was trying to do. the first two minutes were intriguing, but the rest of it jumped all over the place - from shock shots of anal fisting to an underground gang of kids ala oliver twist to a crazed hairless dog to a singing bad guy. it had a certain style, but it wasn't for any purpose. the story was interesting i suppose, but not in a good way. the acting was mostly just mediocre. the soundtrack, which featured lots of aphex twin and british techno, was the strongest part of the film. D+.
Salesman - when this documentary first begins it introduces the primary characters - four bible salesmen - and proceeds to show a day in their lives. at first i thought i got the movie title incorrect - salesmen, not salesman - but by the end of the movie the title rings true. it's mostly about one of the salesmen - paul brennan - who is having a streak of bad luck. he's a real bitter character and seeing things unfold was just plain interesting. this documentary is like so many others - it's all about content...and this one has it. the four salemen provide compelling contrasts to each other. beyond the salesmen is what they're selling and who is selling it to them. the management is selling the profession to the salesmen so the salesmen can sell the product to you and me. everyone's got a bill of goods they're trying to unload and it's fun watching it all unfold. B.

10/14/03
Back To The Future III- sure it's not as inventive or classic as the first two, but if it weren't in such lofty company it would be considered a better movie than it's currently given credit for. it's well crafted, funny, and ultimately an adventure. it's as well directed as the first two, but doesn't have the newness or screenplay strength that they have. the characters, by now, have become old friends and even manage to evolve in this installment. this one deserves props. A-.

10/13/03
Back To The Future II - the sfx in this movie actually stand the test of time pretty well. of course the movie doesn't rely on sfx, for if it did it would not be the classic that it is. the story and characters allow the adventure to have life as much, if not more, than the sfx. the commentary track is good again and worth checking out. discovered that there are actually two commentary tracks on each movie so that's pretty fun for film geeks like me. one of those sequels that's as good as, and maybe better than, the original. the dvd set that this film comes in is probably the most packed set of dvds i have...next to the lord of the rings trilogy (which hasn't released all the dvds yet, obviously). A.

10/12/03
Back To The Future - it's a classic. the commentary is perfect for the type of film that it is...the commentary includes plenty of factoids about the actors, shooting locations, even adjustments made for international releases of the film; as well as technical information like why they chose 1.85 aspect ratio instead of 2.35. there's a commentary track for all three of the movies and there's plenty of extras so this is a value packed set. worth buying. A.
Great Expectations - the story is good, but that was all that really got me excited. there were some nice shots here and there, the acting was good, but not great. to me the film felt like a sort of cross between citizen kane and the graduate, though not as good as either. it didn't have the technical strength that citizen kane does and it didn't have the emotion that the graduate does. it took me a while to get into pip's character...especially his older incarnation. some of the storytelling was slow and didn't seem to advance the characters or their relationships very well, but that's just me nitpicking. it's a good coming of age story and the characters that surround pip are interesting and useful, but i didn't feel the love in this one. i felt for the convict character, but the other relationships didn't particularly resonate with me. B-.

10/11/03
Last Starfighter - a classic eighties space adventure flick. it has only a couple corny moments, but it's aged fairly well overall. fun for all ages B+.
Reservoir Dogs - a heist movie where you never see the heist. a time structure that borrows somewhat from another heist movie - the killing. but it's not about those oddities or tricks...it's about the characters, the script and the conflict. people always get down on tarantino because he makes movies that seem too familiar or because he "makes movies about movies," but i don't see anything wrong with borrowing from the conventions of a genre and making a good film. he's not wholly a rip-off artist and he's not wholly original. just enjoy the movie. A.

10/10/03
Blow Out - in tarantino's top three films of all-time (the good, the bad and the ugly and rio bravo are the other two). i don't think this is a top three film of all-time...it's not even depalma's best film...but it is good and worth watching. the ending is powerful and the relationship between the two major characters is honest and doesn't seem contrived. it's a good thriller from a guy who's done better stuff. B.
Decalogue VII - another very good film in the series. this one is based on 'thou shalt not steal,' but, as usual, goes beyond that basic premise. it's not stylized to any noticeable degree and thus relies mostly, again, on the acting and story. the story moves along well and the characters grow within it. good film making. B+. woman kidnaps her "sister."

10/05/03
Decalogue VI  - the best of the series that i've seen so far. i guess you could call this one a sort of cinema verite style. the meat of this film is in the story and the characters. so much of the story is told without dialogue and that's sexy. the acting is very good as i've quickly come to expect from kieslowski's crew and the story was just plain good. the changing of roles midway through provided an interesting situation while avoiding a contrived feeling. B+. voyeur kid learns about life.

10/04/03
Fargo - the commentary on this one is thin. it's done by the director of photography who has worked with the coen brothers before so you get a sort of comparative look at the cinematography for fargo. unfortunately he doesn't talk very much, it would have been nice to have a film scholar fill in some of the blank spots. give me a few hundred bucks and i'd find some good stuff to talk about. the film itself is great, of course, and still stands as my favorite coen brothers film, but probably isn't their best. just like strangers on a train is my favorite hitchcock, but vertigo is his best. A.
Lost In Translation - i still haven't seen virgin suicides, but i heard it wasn't all that special. if that's true then sofia coppola has repeated herself. this film has about one and a half good ideas: show johansson's ass a lot and hire bill murray. it was funny for a while, but only really had one gag - make fun of the differences in japanese culture. har har. one might spin it as making fun of americans not understanding japanese culture, in which case coppola would be making fun of her audience, but this claim isn't supported by the film so i conclude that she was just making cheap jokes about how wacky those japanese people can be. i don't know that i'd say she was being mean or hateful, but she wasn't being very creative either. that aside...the characters aren't all that impressive. both johansson and murray are seeking the same thing and it's a rather simple thing - "a simple prop to occupy their time." both were having marital problems and were in a foreign place all alone. i, personally, didn't feel that their connection was very real or deep; their relationship arose, not because of who they are, but because of their situation. i think this is mostly because of the script and/or direction (the acting was decent enough). i just never felt that the two characters really connected in any meaningful way. after about 45 minutes it really started to drag and that umbilical cord between the screen and me, that tarantino refers to, was severed permanently. C-.
Decalogue IV - part four of a ten part series of short films by kieslowski. the work, as a whole, is supposed to be a crowning cinematic achievement (time called it "the greatest film achievement of the past decade"). i've seen two so far and my premature opinion is that it's overrated, but good. kieslowski did this kind of concept cinema later in his career as well with the three colors trilogy (which i haven't seen). maybe the decalogue gets so much credit because it's an unusual piece of work which happens to be pretty good as well...i don't know. at any rate, this one is strange story of a woman who discovers that her father isn't really her father and so she wants to jump his bones claiming it was an impulse she always had, but was never able to act upon. the end is sort of similar to memento's ending in that it involves a deliberate act to be ignorant. the characters are well acted and written, the direction is appropriate, but not amazing. B-.
Decalogue V - part five of the ten part series. this one is about an aimless youth who kills a taxi driver for no apparent reason. he plans it, but we don't know what's going on inside his head - it seems that he doesn't even know why he commits the crime. he is helped by an ambitious young attorney who ends up being no help since our young killer gets the death penalty. a print is fuzzy and tanish at times and i assume it was a conscious choice, but i'm honestly not sure what for. this one had more style that decalogue iv. B-.
Ronin- a very good heist film with famously good car chase scenes. well rounded story. a couple characters have roundness, others lack it, but overall a nice work. B.
South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut - it's still funny. A-.

10/03/03
Iceman Confesses: Secrets of a Mafia Hitman - despite the tv style production and lame music this documentary is good because it's got the goods. documentaries are first and foremost about content - if you're documenting something compelling then it usually doesn't matter how you present it, it's going to be at least decent. this one was about a mafia hitman who was about as hard and cold-blooded as they get, but he did have a set of morals and that always interests me. some people see killers and think that they have no morals, but really they just have different morals. this guy, strange as it may sound, seems like a pretty nice guy overall. it's late and i need to sleep. it's a good view so check it out if you have the chance. B-.
Lord of the Flies - i can't remember the specifics of the book so i don't know where it strayed (they do mention certain instances in the commentary though), but i felt that this rendition did a fine job with the broad strokes that golding laid down. on the whole they did an okay job with the child actors. piggy was very good and everyone else was okay.
Lord of the Flies - the commentary is pretty good. it talks a lot about the method they used to make the film. i noticed when i first watched it that there weren't very many shots that really stood out as being arty or profound. at first i thought this showed a lack of technical mastery, but the commentary track made me realize that this transparency is an integral part of the film. the film making process was not supposed to be part of the film watching experience. i posit that to be more realistic you must first be less cinematic. B-.
Pulp Fiction - i can't say anything about this that hasn't already been said. i love it. i remember when i first watched it in the theater...i remember thinking that i was really watching something great. i love those moments when you're experiencing a piece of art for the first time and, at some point, it hits you - this work is something really special. it's a classic and there's no denying it. i don't know that it's a perfect film, but it's close enough. probably the best ensemble cast in film history. A+.

10/02/03
Sick: The Life And Death Of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist - not an easy documentary to watch. as a film it's not amazingly well made, but it does the job. the middle sags, but the ends make up for it. bob was a moderately funny and intelligent guy under extraordinary circumstances and the film is about documenting the way he deals with them. the film doesn't quite romanticize his coping mechanism and lifestyle, but it comes close. it also doesn't show bob in the truest possible light. the film hints at his darker side, but the director admits in an interview included on the dvd that he didn't show bob's "grouchy side." i think that's a bit of a disservice to the whole operation, which to me is about accepting this guy despite how truly odd he is. at any rate, the movie is worth watching if you don't mind extremely graphic images. B.

10/01/03
A Mighty Wind - christopher guest seems content in doing the same thing over and over again and that's okay by most. what's the purpose of this movie? does it exist to make you laugh or think about folk music or touch your heart, or something else? it made me laugh a few times and on the whole it's funny, but there were so many opportunities for more laughter that i have to assume that either it's not intended to be a laugh riot or guest is just getting really old. he's at his best when he goes completely over the top and there were a few bits in this movie that did that e.g., the color cult couple bit was very funny and had more life in it, but guest didn't explore all its potential. if this was supposed to be an homage to folk music then i think it did a rather poor job...o brother, where art thou? did a far better job of reviving and lauding folk music. the folk music artists/audience in the film seemed to be dealt with in the same mocking manner that the color cult couple were. i can't honestly say that i've ever been really impressed by guest's work. sure i like best in show and waiting for guffman, but they weren't laugh riots. mostly they were funny, but didn't make me laugh. guest seems to have a lot of good ideas, but just can't take them that extra step for me so this one gets a C+.

09/29/03
Life And Debt - it's a really good idea, but sometimes the filmmaker is a little mean to the audience. she assumed the audience was part of the problem and didn't think twice about assuming other (usually negative) things about the viewer. now she may or may not be right and what she says may need to be said, but there are more tactful ways of saying them. that aside, this documentary was slowish, but that's a good thing. the subject matter is sometimes heavy and heady so the audience probably benefits from a break to soak up the information and think about things critically. it does a pretty good job of presenting the jamaican side of what has happened as a result of their involvement with the imf. of course it's almost completely one-sided, but that's fine by me since the other side is the one you probably hear more often anyway. B.

09/25/03
Go Tigers! - another 2001 documentary. a bit like hoop dreams in its subject and scope, but has a different approach, method, and conclusion. it's a really well done (except some of the music) look at high school football in the city where football was born - massillon, ohio. it does a surprisingly good job of staying objective - it presents both the benefits and pressures of being a star football player in a city where the sport is paramount, without casting judgment. there are interviews with townspeople and students who think that the football program has a stranglehold on the community in general and the school specifically. it addresses the issues of school funding, players getting away with more than they should, and more. overall it's just a very comprehensive and objective look at the role the football program plays in this town of 33,000 people. though it follows three players on the team it doesn't get as close to them as hoop dreams did - though intimate things are revealed the audience doesn't get to know the players as well as they do in hoop dreams. as a social studies person i found it really interesting, but i think it appeals to people who are interested in sports (specifically football) or the documentary genre as well. B+.

09/23/03
E-Dreams -very similar to startup.com, but not as good. it's a documentary about a failed venture into the world of e-business. this one doesn't have the human element that startup.com did and isn't as well constructed as either. about two thirds of the way through there is a lull in action, character and business development...one might say this was a device to mirror the same lull that the company faced, but i given the production quality of the rest of the film i don't think that's the case. at any rate it's a minor quibble so...nevermind. i learned a lot about the dotcom bubble and why it burst. it's interesting to compare the two films and the companies that they follow - both made similar mistakes, but had very different people running them. if you liked startup.com then watch this, but if you're just looking for some document of this very interesting time in our business history then watch startup.com first. B-.

09/22/03
Panic Room - good thriller from a director who has done some really fine films and shows here that he's not through. sure the situation is a bit contrived, but if you can't get past that then you're seriously limiting the number of films you're going to see. the direction is creative, but mostly stays within thriller conventions. the comic relief is effective and plentiful, but avoids turning this into a comedy. normalcy is well established and horror is well built. forest whitaker is very good, but so is everyone. his character is more complex than the others though so it's more worth mention. overall a very fine film with plenty of nods to "die hard" (the ultimate trapped-in-a-building movie). B+.

09/21/03
Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai - real solid film. forest whitaker has a good performance. soundtrack is really good and definitely adds another dimension to the film - it helps create the environment and the personality of whitaker's character. a lot of good themes were touched upon in the film from mortality to change and it was all done with style, humor and entertainment in mind. B+.

09/20/03
Down By Law - the first thing that struck me was how good looking a film this was - though some of this can be attributed to the criterion dvd treatment it received. it took a bit of time to get into where it really thrived (the trio together, feeding off each other), but the background was necessary. lurie, waits, and benigni were really great together and their chemistry really allowed the film to breathe and take on a life of its own. i didn't find any great morals or lessons from this film, but the character interactions and the look of the film were beautiful so it was a joy to watch. B.
Once Upon A Time In Mexico - sort of a sequel to desperado, though not as much as a sequel as many sequels are (actors change roles or come back to life and much of the history of the last film relates very little to this one). to me, it's more of a remake of desperado than a sequel to them since it's basically the same situation - someone killed this guy's wife so he has no reason to live other than revenge. johnny depp was, of course, very good and provided some of the comic relief (a strong point of the film). the soundtrack wasn't as good as desperado's and we didn't get to see as much of salma hayek which is a shame. the storylines got a little twisted up towards the end, but were untangled soon enough. the bad guys weren't bad enough and the good guy wasn't as well-rounded or sympathetic as he was in the first two installments. this'll pobably be the most successful of the trio, but each one got progressively worse....that's not to say that any of them were bad. B-. as a side note - i saw all three of the films in their first run in the theater. i'm pretty proud (though it's really my dad's doing) of that considering how few people actually saw el mariachi when it first came out.
Trekkies - a good example of what a documentary can be - funny and entertaining, while introducing the viewer to a new segment of society. this guy is the comic highlight of the documentary. check out the mini bio that he apparently wrote for himself. B.

09/19/03
Matchstick Men - a fine film all-around. great performances from cage and the girl who plays his daughter - they seemed to have a nice chemistry on screen. at first i felt guilty for thinking she was good looking (since she's 14 in the movie), but it turns out that she's born the same year as me so it's okay. at any rate, her performance was grade A, and the movie itself was also very good. worth the admission. B.
Scotland, PA - a remake of macbeth. had some funny times and some good performances. C+.

09/16/03
House Of 1,000 Corpses - a thin story, but it's well directed and the acting doesn't bring it down. mostly a throw back to the likes of texas chainsaw massacre. doesn't produce many scares, but is successful in creating a scary mood. some of it is a bit tongue in cheek or at least acknowledges its cornball nature, and that's expected coming from rob zombie. overall it's not great and it's not bad. shows that rob zombie has some skill as a director and is so so at writing. C+.

09/13/03
Kingpin - mostly funny. B.
Jackie Brown - good flick all-around. tarantino doesn't really make bad movies though, so i guess it should be taken for granted that this one is no exception. while it's not as good as pulp fiction or reservior dogs, it does stand on its own. adapted from a book by the same guy (elmore leonard) who did get shorty and a bunch of other book to film projects. the characters are round and superbly played by everyone on the cast. even though deniro is used to playing gangsters and outcasts he is usually a sympathetic character. in this one and a couple others (cape fear, for example) he shines as an ex-con low life without many redeeming characteristics. i think in most of his roles he plays someone you can at least say is competent in what they do (in cape fear you at least see that he's good at being a smart and creepy ex-con), but in this movie his character is relatively stupid AND a low life. in that respect it's a different role for him. i'm not one for finding plot holes, but why weren't the cops trailing pam greer's character when she was in the mall? seems like that would be s.o.p. when 50K is at stake. B+.

09/12/03
Stevie - heart-felt documentary from the same director as 'hoop dreams' (can't wait for that to be on dvd). this one isn't as good, but it has just as much humanity as hoop dreams. it's mostly darker (though oddly it's about white people, whereas hoop dreams is about mostly blacks), and doesn't leave much hope by the end of the film, but sometimes that's life i guess. a fine film which ramps up the drama slowly and effectively. the dvd has a commentary track that is probably good. B.
Marooned In Iraq - took me a while to get into it, but i think that was more because of my mood than the film itself. nevertheless it's not a great film. as far as middle eastern road films go i'd recommend kandahar or lamerica over this one. C+.

09/11/03
Tart - it's the rich kids version of "kids." same city, same stuff happens. oh wait, the last half hour is a complete waste and tries to end on an up note. bad screenplay, mostly poor acting. just don't watch it. D. or you could believe this person!:
"A convincing tale of Upper East Side spoiled brats ! The story of a group or well of East Side teenagers and how dysfunctional their families really are! Some good performances here! Especially Melanie Griffith in a small but convincing role as the "TARTS" mother! Rent this one for a fun evening!"

09/10/03
Love Liza - directed by the bald guy from high fidelity and jerry maguire, but the highlight of the movie is hoffman's performance...in case anyone still had doubts this performance should expel them pretty quickly. he does a really good job, again, and it's a good thing since he's in about 99% of all the shots. it's a sort of dark comedy, i think. i laughed, except towards the end, but i'm not sure if i was supposed to. a good enough flick. B-.

09/09/03
Jackass - funny. one commentary track down, one to go. B.

09/07/03
Election - the commentary on this disc is rather good...funny and imformative. a few silent patches, but overall definitely worth the time. adds appreciation to the film. A.
Election - just a great film in so many ways...probably more well done than there's something about mary, though not as funny. A.

09/06/03
Jerry Maguire - the thing is you have to give this movie a chance, if you don't then you shouldn't bother watching it. luckily i saw it before the hype and parodies so i didn't have to try to give it a chance (this is why i like to go into a movie with as few preconceived ideas and expectations as possible). this movie has all the right pieces and puts them together well. i don't like cameron crowe, but this is a fine fine film. B+.
Identity - sort of like final destination, but adds an extra layer that makes one think instead of laugh. keeps a good head of steam for the first 45 minutes or so and doesn't poop out towards the end so that's about all you can ask for from a movie of this kind. better than expected. B.
Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition - documentary about an expedition of 28 men who, in the 19-teens, went on a quest to reach the south pole. let's just say they didn't make it. makes the donner party look like a pre-school expedition to the park across the street. what an awesome story. B+.
Rhyme And Reason - a pretty good look at hip-hop culture. seemed a bit scatered at times, not so much at others, but it presented enough of a feel to give a good idea of what hip-hop is about. C+.

09/05/03
Desperado - bigger budget remake of el mariachi which does turn totally hollywood and that's good. we'll see what once upon a time in mexico ends up like. B.
Home Movie - very cool movie from chris smith (american movie/job) about several different people and their unique homes. chris does a good job of finding people like mark borchardt who are offbeat, but very likeable as well. enjoyable and funny. B+.

09/02/03
Italian Job - i don't remember the first one very well, but i do remember it being a bit slow...until the end of course. this one wasn't slow, but also wasn't original. it's your basic heist movie, but it does it well enough. the cast holds up their end and despite some holes it was an entertaining flick. C+.

08/30/03
Brother's Keeper - a documentary that seems to find its legs about a third of the way into the movie. nothing that really moved me, but it intrigues on several levels...small town vs. big city, variations of truth, media coverage, etc. overall it's a good social study, whether it intended to be or not. B-.
Fetishes- nick broomfield doesn't offer up any conspiracy theories this time and given the subject matter this is actually probably his most "tasteful" documentary of the four i've seen. not as entertaining as the others, but still offers insight and information. B-.
Gabriel Over The White House - a really fine 1933 film about a president who has an accident which changes his views on things. he turns into an FDR-esque ideologue. it's a hopeful film and that maybe its only downfall. certainly well done and apparently a little too dangerous since it was apparently banned for some time. very worth while if you can find it. B+.
Hollywood Ending - a fine woody allen film. good script and the eccentric style that you've come to love or hate. B.

08/29/03
Power And Terror: Noam Chomsky In Our Times - a well presented look at a slice of chomsky's view on today's political climate. necessary. B.

08/28/03
Bowling For Columbine - gotta see it. A.

08/27/03
LOTR: The Two Towers - part two of the epic film trilogy of this generation. A.

08/25/03
Chicago - good editing and some good music. no redeeming characters or songs that'll prove timeless (like my fair lady, music man, and mary poppins had). the acting was good only because it was big stars doing it. stage actors would have done better, but wouldn't have gotten oscar nods. in the end it was an oscar production...a period piece (though modernish), an inoffensive musical with costumes and a big time cast. it is what it is. C.

08/24/03
Jackass - funny. B.
Final Destination 2 - comes up with creative ways to kill people. good to laugh at, otherwise awful...thus it is as entertaining as your group makes it. C.

08/23/03
Super Troopers - very funny. B+.
Roger & Me - this movie has a point. it's very difficult not to be frustrated and depresed by this movie. this is reality and it happens all the time. a great document. A.

08/22/03
Punch-Drunk Love - it touches that same balance of comedy and drama that the graduate does. granted it doesn't master it, like the graduate does, but it teeters between comedy and drama really well. it's an oddball film, but that's good and the soundtrack really complements it. adam sandler's best role ever. i love p.t. anderson. A-.

08/21/03
I.M. Pei - interesting documentary on the chinese architect. if you're interested in art or architecture then it's probably worth checking out. B.
Russian Ark - someone please tell me what i'm supposed to get out of this movie. if i knew a lot about russian history and culture i might be able to appreciate this more. as for the novelty of "longest single shot in film history" (the whole movie is one uncut shot about 90 minutes long)...well it's just that, a novelty. it contributes a little bit to the feel, and the camera is active enough so that it's not boring or anything, but it doesn't seem entirely necessary either. it was a nice idea, but it fails because it lacks a point. the journey may be the point, but it wasn't enough for me. C.
Roger & Me - this movie has a point. it's very difficult not to be frustrated and depresed by this movie. this is reality and it happens all the time. a great document. A.
Meet The Parents - very funny and well crafted film. A-.

08/20/03
Irreversible - this movie is hardcore and certainly not for those who can't hack violence. that aside it's a great film. like memento (and the backwards seinfeld episode) in the way it's told. unlike memento, though, this film could have been made conventionally. memento just would have been lame if it was told chronologically...at least i think so. the first act of the film (the last thing that happens chronologically) is given much different meaning when structured this way. overall the reverse time choice is interesting and advantageous. like memento, though, irreversible doesn't rely on just this one trick to make the film worthwhile. the camerawork is integral to the pacing and feel of the film. the acting is very good as well. the soundtrack is done by one of the guys from daft punk. B+.
Once Upon A Time In America - it's a good epic, but the ending is slow. scorsese (casino) and depalma (scarface) knew how to end epic gangster films and unfortunately this one didn't really do it for me. the first three hours were good...the acting was, naturally, very good, but the ending was slugish. B.
Frida - it's a movie about frida and diego. there's nothing fantastic here...although there certainly were some interesting and original visuals (one courtesy of the brothers quay). both the leads did a good job. ultimately, though, i don't feel like i've gotten to know frida very well. i know very little about her art, know a lot about her husband and know a good deal about her physical ailments. there wasn't the personal connection i hoped for, but you can't win em all. B-.
Bowling For Columbine - one of the major critiques of the movie is its ending and in my opinion, having seen it three times, he goes soft on heston. the fact is that heston is a bumbling idiot. he thought he was going to be playing softball with one of his own (moore is a member of the nra) and he was wrong. caught off guard he started giving explanations for gun violence like 'maybe it's the ethnic mixing.' the ending aside, the film is just great. you don't have to agree with its conclusion, but there are some great points and it puts forward an argument in a very cogent and well-prepared way. two of the montages are extremely impactful and the rest of the movie is insightful, funny and honest. A.

08/17/03
Miller's Crossing - a very fine coen brothers film. the cinematography and screenplay are clearly highlights. gets the nod from me. B+.

08/16/03
Day of the Dead - sometimes camp and sometimes genuinely good, but the ending defines the film and in this case that's too bad. watch the first two installments of this trilogy. C-.

08/14/03
Keep The River On Your Right - documentary about a white guy who ventures deep into the forests of peru and comes out a cannibal. well that's the pitch anyway. he really only ate one piece of human meat and i don't understand why there was such a focus on this aspect of his trip. the real charm of the film is seeing him at age 78 going back to peru and new guinea to visit the places he once lived and studied. seeing the changes of the last 45 years. he has changed, the people he studied have changed and so has the landscape. the film really picks up momentum during the second half so stay tuned. i felt that the documentary film makers did a little too much prodding for my taste...i'd prefer they just sit back and document things than actively participate in their course. that aside, it is a well cut documentary which does a good job of presenting all the effects of one man's trip into the jungle.  B.

08/13/03
Fidel - good documentary about a guy who really hasn't gotten a fair trial in the court of U.S. public opinion. a must see for anyone who wants to ever comment on cuba or fidel castro. B.

08/10/03
Killing Fields - a well-acted affair, but definitely has its slow moments. it's good, but i didn't like it that much. seemed to borrow some from koyaanisqatsi, but the music was worse. C+.
Standing In The Shadows of Motown - would have been better suited as an hour long pbs show. the performances of funk brothers songs by artists like ben harper and joan osbourne could have been cut. the information was interesting and the story was compelling so why did it have to be bogged down by full length performances by second rate artists? worth watching because of the magnitude of the content, but could have been presented better. C+.

08/09/03
S.W.A.T. - uninspired performances and a par script. has some moments, but overall isn't strong and sticks to the formula. C.

08/05/03
Boondock Saints- similar to pulp fiction in feeling and overall sweep...also in the sense that it borrows from past films like it. it's well-written and acted and probably just as good as lock stock and two smoking barrels. a worthwhile flick. B.

08/03/03
Old School - definitely had some funny times. kept me laughing throughout and had a decent enough ending. lots of familiar faces. B.
Slam - saul williams and the lead girl make this movie worth watching - the skeleton of the film is only decent. probably only worth watching for fans of saul williams..... C+.

08/02/03
Roger Dodger - didn't entirely do it for me, but it's still recommendable. the script, acting and cinematography were all very solid. a good movie. B.

07/31/03
Jefftowne - documentary about a guy with down's syndrome. i don't know what redeeming qualities it is supposed to have. it's not touching or funny or enlightening. it's also poorly constructed...some things that were at the end should have been at the beginning, the sound was out of sync, etc. D-.

07/25/03
Pirates Of The Caribbean - pretty decent summer flick. k. knightley is hot and so it johnny depp ;) at least one decent fight sequence and some good comic relief. johnny depp does a very good job. B-.

07/23/03
8 Mile - the first scene is the worst and the last scene is the best so that's a good thing. after the first five minutes, which were subpar, i forgot that eminem isn't a real actor...it's not that he was that great, but he did hold his ground and that was good to see. the love stuff didn't get in the way of the movie too much and the ending wasn't completely corny so the film was actually better than the high dvd sales and box office success would have you believe. because the movie was really only about one week in a wannabe rapper's life it didn't have the potential to become a picture about the greatness of eminem or a "look at me now" type of movie. instead it's a more personal look at eminem as a regular guy and because it didn't aim to inflate his image the film turned out to be...well, a film instead of vehicle for his superstardom. this wasn't anywhere near the complete and utter failure that anti-eminem people would have liked it to be. C+.

07/22/03
Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam - don't get caught up in trying to sort out the truth from fiction...in a way it's all fiction. the only truth here is that we're dealing with very fucked up people and some are more or less believable and some are more or less dispicable, but they're all pretty sad. the movie, though, is pretty good. nick broomfield does his usual shtick of getting people to devulge more than they want while not really getting to the bottom of things, but truth is a journey and that's why i like his films. people who demand that a documentary finish with the truth should stick to watching the history channel where they claim to know what really happened. B.

07/21/03
Animatrix - not really a film, but a compilation of anime shorts to fill in the blanks left by the first two installments of the matrix trilogy. they range from quite good to fucking fantastic. some of the animation is really really good and is used to complement the subject matter really well. definitely worth checking these out if you're interested in the matrix at all. B+.

07/20/03
Happiness - as funny as raping little boys can get. B+.

07/18/03
Biggie And Tupac - i liked kurt and courtney more, but this was pretty much the same thing. suge knight is more of a bitch than i previously thought. C+.
Rhapsody In August - the worst kurosawa film i've seen. but then again there's no such thing as bad ice cream. some powerful moments regarding the aftermath of the atomic bomb. also some good probing of inter-generation and inter-cultural phenomena. the ending was a bit oblique. B-.

07/17/03
Barton Fink - more funny than i remember it being after the first time i watched it (when it was in the theaters), but it doesn't approach the fine line that the coen brothers walked in "fargo." the characters are good - turturro, goodman and lerner all do a fine job, but the script isn't as sharp and the film doesn't have the pacing that fargo does. nevertheless it's a decent film. C+.

07/11/03
Secretary - definitely has some sexy moments, but i wanted it to be more than just a sexy s&m movie. i hoped it would really have some deeper intellectual thoughts behind it. unfortunately it seems it got too much credit just for treading on new ground, rather than doing something particularly well. i suppose the film was shot well enough and the acting was certainly on par, but the content just wasn't there for me. i couldn't sympathize with mr. grey and ms. holloway just seemed pathetic. have some self-respect and then do those things, rather than having your self-respect be dependent upon another. C.
Phone Booth - had me going for a while...the beginning used some interesting filming techniques, but the ending fell way short and wasn't very surprising or as daring as the director's commentary might have you think. C.

07/08/03
Uncle Saddam - an interesting, and partly funny, look at someone you wouldn't normally get this kind of coverage on. don't end your sentences with a preposition! C+.

07/05/03
Core - of course it's not entirely believable, but that doesn't really matter. delroy lindo was quite good and no one really sucked. there are only a couple corny moments and overall it's better than armageddon. it is what it is. C+.
28 Days Later... - powerful and meaningful. a good thriller that does more than just thrill...like its predecessor (dawn of the dead) it has social commentary and is thought provoking as well as being scary. very well done - the filming style was right on, the soundtrack was very complementary, and the acting wasn't amateurish at all. this is what indie film making can be. B+.
About Schmidt - weird and partly funny, but not the inspired genius that election was. C+.

07/02/03
Meeting People Is Easy - quit yer wining. if you buy their load of bologna about how tough it is being famous then you have to agree with eminem when he says the same thing. fame isn't easy and we all know that, but it really shouldn't be the main focus of a film. C-.

07/01/03
Rabbit-Proof Fence - not as good as the hype will have you believe, but it certainly is good. it doesn't exagerate the facts which is usually the downfall of films based upon true stories. molly was the only girl whose personality really shined. the other two girls didn't seem to have fully developed characters and i felt that character was a big part of the film. the chase aspect of the film wasn't really enough to drive the action and so i think that it could have done better with more character development. i'm tired. B-.

06/30/03
Coven - there are definitely some good shots in this short film by amateur filmmaker mark borchardt, but the writing is a bit week. i only like it because mark made it. B-.

06/29/03
Lost in La Mancha - good inside look at the making of film that never got made. truth is stranger than fiction sometimes and this may be one of those times. it makes you appreciate what goes into making a film and is a must for any terry gilliam fan. B.
American Movie: The Making of Northwestern - amazing. A.

06/27/03
Kandahar - a lot of frayed edges in this film with the primary one being the ending, or lack thereof. there are some decent moments, but it really tried to be more than it was, which is too bad because the subject matter has a lot of potential. C.
Meaning of Life - the first sequence is absolute crap, luckily the rest is pretty good. a few good laughs and some original material here. C+.

06/21/03
Divine Trash - only covers the early work of john waters, but still gives you a good idea of who he is (by looking at his beginnings). sort of repetitive which made the film drag (no pun intended), but still worth the watch. C+.
Buffalo 66 - i like it. B+.

06/20/03
Body Without Soul - not for the timid. probably the most brutal documentary i've ever seen. it's about boy prostitutes in prague who make their living by turning tricks and acting in gay porn films. we meet several of the kids and one of the most popular porn gay porn directors in the region. this film truly is not for the faint of heart. it's tough to get through, but brutality and depravity are a part of life and that's easy to forget when you have a frig full of food and live in a city of 60,000. artistically the film was shot well, with a score that works well, but is probably over-used. the structure really does a good job of juxtaposing certain images and motifs to rather shocking results. B.
Adaptation - i understood what the last half of the film was doing and what its point was, but i felt that it was unncessary and antithetical to the morals set up earlier in the film. to write the shift off as "adaptation" for the sake of survival is the very definition of selling out and that irked me. i liked the first half of the film a lot and was sorely disappointed by the second half. despite that i recognize the film as a fine piece of work - the acting was very good, the screenplay was inventive and alive, and it certainly does incite discussion so for that i give it a B-.

06/15/03
Romeo + Juliet (96) - damn teenagers. luhrmann takes a dump on shakespeare. a great modern take on an old story. high and low art combined beautifully. whatever. C.

06/14/03
Solaris - it certainly is a longish feature but a day or so later the length doesn't weigh upon you so much. definitely a good story which is well acted and directed, but my personal wish is that it used its time to delve more deeply into the philosophical questions that is poses throughout the film. though they are touched upon and explored a bit, they are not discussed thoroughly enough for my taste...i find that spike lee does this as well - choosing to introduce and issue and prod it a bit, but leave the meat of the matter to the audience. it's not that i crave for answers to be laid out for me, but rather don't have anyone to debate with so would like the movie to do a bit more of it. the ending is a bit nebulous and uncertain and therefore fitting. i don't plan on watching this movie many more times in my life, but i'm glad i saw it at least once. B.

06/13/03
Spirited Away- basically a japanese version of 'alice in wonderland.' technically it's very good - better sound than is usually found in an animated feature, better "camera" movement, more rounded characters, and a longer story. ultimately, though, it is an animated feature and those who claim it's a film that happens to be animated are mistaken - it would not survive or even exist outside of the animated world and that's not necessarily a bad thing, but the claims that it's a great film outside of animation are what make this movie overrated. very imaginative and overall i hope to see animation pursue this course for a while instead of the tired old disney formula. B.

06/07/03
Quiet American - a pretty well-played and written movie. not spectacular in any way, but also better than the usual drivel. B-.
RFK - the usual drivel. D-.

06/06/03
Style Wars - documentary about hip-hop, break dancing, and graffiti culture in nyc circa 1982. presents the subculture in a semi-biased way, but that's a relief from the norm. well put together and anything that provides a good look at something you normally don't hear about is okay in my book. B.
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart - a documentary about the band wilco. they claim to be indie and have the morals indie rockers look up to. they claim to not be the kind of material fit for an episode of "behind the music", but that is all this movie essentially is. at one point (when they drop one of their members from the band) the film seems to take on a mockmentary feel. the manager is suddenly dressed in a turtleneck shirt with sunglasses (he's inside), the band is gathered around in their version of a sewing circle and both parties tell the audience their feelings on the recent loss of their bandmate. one member says "i've been friends with jay (the now ex-band member) for 16 or 17 years and i guess our friendship just ran its course. another member says he's happy jay is gone. the manager adds that the band is better without him. jay, when telling his side of the story, says that the singer told him that the band is a circle and can only have one center...implying that that center is the singer and that jay needs to leave. at first i thought they were having some fun and just playing a joke, but it soon becomes evident that jay is a goner and that this band (for several reasons) isn't that much different from the regular subjects of "behind the music." their talent is undeniable, but don't make them out to be indie rock's moral compass or any of that crap. the movie itself should be condensed into about 10 minutes. you find out very little about the group dynamics, the personalities involved, or the music industry in general. some of those things are lightly touched upon, but much of the time that could have been used exploring those was filled with them playing music. the major drama of the film - them trying to get their record released on their terms was dealt with in a rather murky way and actually reports from other sources are much more enlightening. the film itself is crap and the band leaves me utterly indifferent. i like their music and wish i hadn't sought to learn anything about its origins. D. what it comes down to is this: if you like the band a lot you'll find reason to like the movie, but if you are neutral or against the band then you probably won't be too impressed. they feel sorry for themselves a lot when really they're a pretty big band with lots of options and it's hard to feel bad for them when they got such a sweet deal in so many ways.
just read this one from imdb.com and i think it's pretty much spot on:

"averroes-2
Chicago, IL
 

Date: 8 August 2002
Summary: Self-Important, promotional, shallow dreck

I went into this film with expectations, from the hype, that it would be insightful and uplifting. Certainly something more than a cheap promotional for the band "Wilco."

Instead we get a lot of moping and whining about "the process," a dishonorable and no doubt one-sided portrayal of one band members who was kicked out by the prima donna lead singer/songwriter, a gut-wrenching confession by the fallen member's friend -- for like 18 years -- saying the "friendship had run its course," and this whiny, uncompelling story about how one record label "hurt their feelings" by dumping them, only so that the band could immediately get 50 offers from other labels (oh, the tension...not!) They tried their best to make it look like it was a strain, but I suspect it was all smoke and mirrors to generate a tragedy that didn't exist. This doesn't even take into account the long stretches where we get many of their newest songs shoved at us in full without any storyline, insight or even a decent job at cinematography. The strained attempts at emotional sincerity or reasonable perspective on life made me sick to watch.

From the film, this band sounds like a bunch of vile little babies who poke around to find a voice they don't have and think they're some kind of guardians for the art of music, which they most definitely are not. And I thought the music sucked, and I couldn't even understand the lyrics due to the mumbling style of the lead singer.

I give it a 2/10."

05/31/03
Sex: The Annabel Chong Story - documentary about annabel chong who is the porn star famous for her world record breaking gangbang. not for the faint of heart, but a story you won't be exposed to elsewhere. the documentary is well done and by the end i feel like i connected with the protagonist in a human way so it's a successful film by my standards. B.

05/30/03
Man Who Wasn't There - definitely not fargo, but sort of an attempt towards it. dark humor and film noir type themes. billy bob wasn't very good and the writing wasn't nearly as sharp as it was in fargo. good enough for most, but not the coen brothers. C+.

05/24/03
Matrix Reloaded - this is what big budget flicks should be all about. it's got plenty of great action sequences, uses special effects to the fullest and has the fate of the world hanging in the balance. all this with decent character development, relatively cerebral plotline, and a good sense of balance. if you liked the first one i don't think you'll be disappointed with this one. A-.
Hunted - the fugitive with a twist. the knife fight scenes are pretty decent especially since you don't see that kind of fighting very much. C-.

05/22/03
Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy - good documentary about one of the more infamous figures in pop culture. informative, entertaining and relatively personal. if you want to know more about rj or the porn business watch this. B.

05/19/03
Bringing Down the House - formulaic and mostly dumb. not even steve martin could save this one. D+.

05/17/03
Notorious- it's hitchcock and the ending it good. B.

05/14/03
One Big Trip - a documentary about six knucklehead rich kids in an rv around the turn of the millennium. they go around searching for truth, wisdom and america all the while tripping out on an assortment of the usual 90s drugs and just being kids in general. at times the film succeeds in creating (not capturing) a mood, but that's only sometimes. there's one semi-poignant moment during which one of the kids confronts a heroin addict who stiffed him out of a $25 on a street drug deal. the addict (in this case it's the dealer, not the kid with the camera who is trying to buy weed) tells the guy that he's addicted to heroin and that's why he has to steal money from people. it strikes a chord, but (as one of the females later points out) is ultimately flawed because of the means by which he got the material.  at any rate, the movie is only special if these kids are your friends, in which case it deserves kudos, but as a feature film or anything other than a home video it's only mediocre at best. C.

05/10/03
Preston Sturges: Rise and Fall of an American Dreamer - documentary on the filmmaker. C+.
Army of Darkness - gotta like this one. lots of good shots, plenty of tongue in cheek humor. B+.
"Army of Darkness is a fine finish to a series of films that started with the classic movie The Evil Dead in 1982. The film has horror, action and one liners. Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi have made another great film and I can't wait for Evil Dead 4." does anyone else find this review funny? it's not the finish if there's going to be another installment...

05/09/03
Rashomon - fantastic film, but you probably already know that by now. great great great camera movement, great storytelling, and great direction - the way he structured the whole story, the settings he chose, the music he used, the framing of the shots...everything was purposeful and effective. kurosawa can really tell a story without using words. there's plenty to say about this movie, but it's probably already been said more eloquently elsewhere so i won't be redundant. i will note that he music reminds me a lot of prokofiev's (peter and the wolf) work. the ending gave me more faith in the human spirit and i needed that. A.

05/08/03
They Were Expendable - i still haven't been able to fully get onto the john ford bandwagon. i loved the grapes of wrath and liked the searchers, but nothing else of his has really excited me. C.
Canadian Bacon - moore should stick to non-fiction. this was a disappointment. D+.

05/02/03
Melvin and Howard - kind of an odd movie. the beginning and end were nice enough, but the middle was a different movie. i don't know. C.

05/01/03
Cape Fear- hitchcockean visual style that certainly complements the film. deniro is very scary. it was nice to see mitchum and peck get roles in the remake...i thought that showed class on scorsese's part. maybe could have used a little trimming, but overall a well-acted and well-directed thriller. B.

04/26/03
Better Luck Tomorrow - i'll complain first - the love story portion of the film didn't really do it for me, but then again it wasn't overplayed either so that didn't detract from the film too much. we don't see the parents even once in this film and obviously that's part of the problem, but really the larger problem is the perception that grades are an indicator of anything beyond classroom performance. all in all a good stylish film with some genuine moments and good social commentary. worth a look. B.

04/25/03
Last House On The Left - i can see why wes craven went on to have a good horror career after making this film for it does manufacture some truly scary moments. the plotline is intriguing in its simplicity and horror. as with any indie production there were some major acting problems and the soundtrack was so misplaced at times that it was nearly laughable. i really don't know what he was thinking with some of these honky tonk banjo tunes. that stuff aside it was a good horror flick that delivered some real scares and did so without the use of excessive gore or cats around corners. B.
Bend It Like Beckham - a pretty good flick which reminded me of "my big fat greek wedding." it's a comedy that isn't intellectual, but isn't "american pie" either. it addresses real issues, but just when you think it might get too heavy for it's light hearted frame, it breaks in with another laugh. too often comedies like this try to inject heavy themes or feelings without regard to the tone of the rest of the film...this one, though, knows what it does best and never strays far from that. the protagonist's teammate is really cute and that certainly doesn't hurt the film watching experience. B-.
Confidence - with all the star power you would expect really good things from this movie, but even if you don't expect anything going into this film i think you'll find yourself disappointed. it goes through the usual heist film motions, but a) it doesn't have any really vibrant characters b) lacks the requisite snap in the dialogue and c) fails to outsmart just about anyone. granted it has some funny moments and the details of the twisted ending weren't completely obvious, but it was mostly just a poor attempt. C-.
Friends Forever - documentary about a couple of truly unique musicians who travel the country to play shows in their van. the most similar thing to this is "american movie" which also follows a unique artist pursuing his dreams. this isn't as funny or heartfelt, but is a good film nonetheless. the editing approach didn't seem logical in the beginning, but smoothed out as the film progressed. given the subjects maybe just jumping into it was a good fit. B-.

04/12/03
Ran - one more kurosawa film in the bag. a good retelling of "king lear." really uses color well...the three colors to represent the three sons, the blood red really pops out, etc. a pretty good soundtrack, though not as good as yojimbo. the acting was very good and shakespearean. i don't know why kurosawa chose to use wide shots so often...perhaps to accentuate the times when we do get to see a close up of a character's face. maybe the close up is abused so much that his not abusing it becomes different rather than appropriate. at any rate the story was well done (from what i understand it wasn't an exact copy of king lear), the acting was very good, the score was nice, and the colors were used well. in sum, good film making all around from someone who rarely gives the contrary. B+.
Siege - more applicable and resonate today than when it was made. the first two thirds does a good realistic job and the last third throws in the requisite hollywood twists, turns and explosions. despite that a good movie to watch. B-.

04/11/03
Jackass - you know what it is and you either like it or hate it. this movie is gross, disturbing, and the very definition of drunken debauchery. A-.

04/09/03
Living In Oblivion - this is what "full frontal" tried to be. the big difference between the two (beside that this one is worth watching) is that this one didn't take itself seriously. B.

04/08/03
Salton Sea - a cross between trainspotting and fight club, especially at the beginning. this isn't to say that it's entirely derivative because it's not, but does have a familiar feel. vincent d'onofrio does a really good job (again) with a pretty dynamic character. well directed and you wouldn't expect that from someone who only has tv credits to his name. certainly worth watching if not simply to catch all the (good) "b" actors that show up. B.

04/06/03
Basic - i couldn't figure this movie out so i won't even comment on the twists and turns or plot in general. i felt that the acting and direction were good, but not great. the action scenes weren't all that exciting, but it's a more cerebral detective film that takes place in a military setting as opposed to a military film that happens to have a mystery that needs solving. i think it's clear that mctiernan has lost his touch (after rollerball and then this mostly mediocre film). if i understood it i wouldn't be so distracted by the enigma that is the plot, but i don't so unfortunately it consumes all thoughts of this film. the movie did a good job of getting my wheels turning, but since i didn't end up going anywhere i can't recommend it. C+.

04/05/03
Dreamcatcher- the first two thirds of the film were well paced. kasden took plenty of time to set up some mystery and allow the characters to be fully introduced to the audience. despite the fact that a lot of the elements are borrowed from previous stephen king work (namely creepshow, the shining and stand by me). i was pretty into the movie for most of the way through. the last third, though, seemed to fall apart into some sort of lazy hollywood heap. i don't know exactly how it all went wrong. perhaps it was following the worst actor of the main group of four buddies or maybe it was the independence day twist in the story or maybe it was donnie wahlberg that did it. i'm not sure. having the inside of a character's thoughts and memories as a literal physical place was a pretty good device, but was taken too far and as a result just seemed like lazy writing. C.
from imdb.com:
    "I really liked this movie. I honestly don't thing a movie from Stephen King has ever been about alien invasion. This was very entertaining and very thrilling. I was never bored once. The music was creepy. The acting was very good. This is one of the few Stephen King based book movie that is very good. I recommend this movie to anyone who loves a good horror flick or a movie that is based on Stephen King book."

All Quiet On The Western Front - lengthy and sadly the film quality is badly degraded, but at its core this story is really timeless and special. filmed in a more stylistic and advanced way than i would expect for a film released in 1930 (still the infancy of film). i wish criterion or someone would give this film a good treatment so it will be preserved for the future. B+.
Paths Of Glory - one of the finest war films of all-time. well paced and tightly constructed (under 90 minutes) without suffering much in terms of character development. has some comic moments which are also quite sad. it's mostly a heavy sarcasm that only the good guys get and that's what makes it both so funny and so sad. i'm sure jim thompson had a lot to do with this script turning out as great as it is. this film ended up being a sort of launching point to dr. strangelove for kubrick and it shows. the sarcasm and obvious irony and ridiculous nature of the events in paths of glory are just a prelude to the all out humor that makes for the cornerstone of strangelove. at any rate, douglas is superb, the score is good, the script is great and the camera work is also very good. there were a couple weak performances, but any weaknesses in the film were wiped away by the most human, realistic and uplifting endings of any kubrick work. not the sappy ending of "killer's kiss," not the noirish ending of "the killing" and not the pessimistic (albeit funny and, i think, realistic) ending of" full metal jacket." this ending acknowledges that times aren't likely to change, but also recognizes the potential for beauty in the world - even within the least beautiful times our kind has seen - world war I. A.

04/04/03
South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut - fantastic movie. the songs are great, the commentary is well needed, and the humor is undeniable. A.
Total Recall - PKD wrote the short story that inspired this early 90s gem and it shows. he really knows how to tell a twisted sci-fi tale and with verhoven directing it it comes out very well. the sets are really good. a good balance of comic relief, action, love, and corn. B.
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - very moving film. a very good ensemble cast - one to rival that of any major motion picture i can think of off the top of my head. the ending is great. i love films that make you feel good about the human spirit and this film always does that for me so it'll always be near the top of my list. nurse ratched isn't pure evil and that adds a deeper element to the film which i really enjoyed. the dean of the hospital and the other doctors, like nurse ratched, all feel like they are helping their patients and that's more realistic and scary than if they were just purely evil people. the weakest part of the film (if there is one) is the soundtrack. i'm nitpicking here, but when you're up against films like the graduate it comes down things like that. A.

04/03/03
Great Dictator - this was chaplin's first talkie. he does a pretty good job making the transition and uses the new sense of sound rather than just letting it be there for the sake of having it. he's got some good wordplay and makes fun of the german language.certainly it shows a certain mastery of the technique and art that is cinema, but the story is somehow lacking. i can't put my finger on it...maybe it doesn't do a good job of teetering between drama and comedy. though there are both funny and poignant moments it doesn't go back and forth between them with the same grace that something like "the graduate" does. the final speech scene is quite good and i think pretty revealing of chaplin, but the movie as a whole was more long winded and not as funny as "modern times" (in my opinion his best film) so i give it a B. p.s. politically ahead of its time.
Network- this has a very well done script...so many layers that play upon each other and relay back to the central themes. interesting characters...faye dunaway plays a young female who could easily have been mistaken for an old male - from her sexual attributes (she apparently doesn't last long in bed) to the lack of what most young people possess - idealism and desire to live life. the network is so eager to exploit its one money maker that it doesn't bother to notice the fact that he regularly speaks out against the network....not only does the network take life from everything it touches, it even implodes upon itself. of course with a bit of ingenuity they figure a way out of that and that makes for one hell of an ending. more applicable now than ever. A-.

03/31/03
Clerks - it's indie without being overly pretentious (with the exception of the chapter titles)...it wasn't overstylized and yet it certainly had style. a couple of the actors were weak, but the strong points are clearly the writing and directing. this is what being a monkey sales person is all about and who better than the eloquent and funny kevin smith to bring it to film?
"the writing is biting, edgy and funny." raves chris miller of the aptpupil times.
"if you're looking for an intro to independent cinema your search has ended!" says chris miller of the aptpupil tribune. B+.

03/30/03
Narc - very good acting. the filming style was different enough to be original, but not distracting or overly artsy. the ending was very good and didn't turn out to be the same old predictable dirty cop story that's been done so many times before. B.

03/29/03
Akira - finally got around to seeing this classic anime film and can't say i was totally blown away by it. i think the biggest reason is that i just don't dig on anime...the fantastic sci-fi elements just don't appeal to me. i recognize that this is a good piece of artwork, but it doesn't really float my boat. the score/soundtrack was good and the ending reminded me of "2001: a space odyssey." other than that this won't be all that memorable of a movie for me. it wasn't corny, the artwork, for the time, was very good, the characters were fairly well-rounded and cosidering it's 15 years old it's surprsingly undated. B-.

03/28/03
There's Something About Mary - one of the top ten greatest comedies of all-time. matt dillon actually steals the show here...his character is so great, has so many of the best lines and is so well played. A.

03/26/03
General - steamboat bill jr. was more funny, but this one had more depth. a bit long, but has plenty of good gags, physical humor, and good music to make it worth the time. B-.

03/25/03
Bourne Identity - better the first time on the big screen, but held up to a second screening on my tv. the action sequences are pretty good, but not the cornerstone of the movie. some acting was weak, but overall it was better than the other action films of the year. B-.

03/22/03
Brotherhood of the Wolf - the fight scenes were pretty good and provided a few oohs and ahhs, the cinematography was strong and the acting was good. the story was like beowolf and had shades of predator (especially the indian character and the way the jungle scenes were shot). could have been streamlined, but gets points for depth - religious and political issues were at least touched upon and that sets the script apart from wannabes. i was expecting more, but expectations aren't fair. B.

03/21/03
A Simple Plan - well done film all around. sam raimi does a good job of letting the script unfold and building tension at each turn. i think the direction was what really made the film seem well paced and tragic rather than overdone and contrived (see deep end). all the acting was good, including bill paxton who has a tendency to overact. billy bob is a simpleton in real life and that's why his most successful roles (this one and sling blade) are those of simple people. good casting there. in sum, a good story and well-executed. B.

03/20/03
Dead Alive - i finally got around to watching this oft-recommended movie. if you have a light stomach or are squeamish then i wouldn't suggest you read this review, much less watch this movie. okay...there are two kinds of horror movies: the serious ones that build atmosphere and use psychology, music, camera angles, and everything else to get into your head and make you uneasy; like the shining, the ring or dawn of the dead. then there are those like evil dead (a big influence on this film) and reanimator which go completely over the top with gore and play with the horror film conventions in order to (hopefully) make you laugh. dead alive falls into the latter category. there are times in the first 30 minutes where you might be scared or your skin will crawl, but for the most part this is about laughs, pushing boundaries and doing so intelligently. the important part of that point is the last one - intelligence. this movie, like evil dead, has a strong cinematic undercurrent; that is, throughout the film you are aware that the director know what he's doing - this isn't an amateur who is just making a gore flick for fun. the screenplay, as well as the cinematography and direction, all confirm this fact. the last 10 minutes or so really shine. in fact in the last 30 minutes of the film the most tame thing we experience is a head in a blender. one of the more funny moments is after a zombie's intestines fall on the floor they begin to creep along the ground after the protagonist only to take a break and fart mid-chase. priceless film making. anyone thinking at this point that i'm insane or that this film isn't all its cracked up to be is sorely mistaken. the genius of this film is well-established and certainly contributed to peter jackson being chosen to direct the lord of the rings trilogy. it's a great movie with a well-established 20 minutes of normalcy at the beginning to offer a great contrast to the last 30 minutes of putrescence that cap off the film. oh and the symbolism and surprise ending further confirm my feelings for this fine piece of work. one last note...it definitely was inspired by evil dead - the gore, the feel and the protagonist busting down the door at the end were all totally out of evil dead, but it's important to add that it wasn't too derivative - rather it was its own movie with occasional nods to its mentor. A-.

03/18/03
Better Living Through Circuitry - a pretty good documentary that looks at rave culture. tells the stories of both the ravers and the djs who perform for them. touches upon the do it yourself mentality, the drugs, the philosophy and more. it's up to you to decide how much of it you buy into, but the movie gives you a good place to start while deciding. a few too many graphics and musical interludes which just act as filler rather than selective interludes to provide time for thought. C+

03/16/03
Hot Chick - so you know this is going to be a stupid movie so don't expect a john hughes masterpiece or anything and you'll be fine. i found that with those lowered expectations this movie actually surprised me. the start was slow and the comedy was a bit offbeat, but it has some moments of real humor and rob schneider turns in what has to be his best movie performance i've seen....not that that's saying very much. C+.

03/14/03
Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life - i pretty much agree with the imdb review on this documentary. a) it was too long b) it didn't go into enough depth about her ideas c) there weren't any contrasting ideas presented d) her ideas seemed pretty basic to me e) don't watch this unless you have a hard on for ayn rand. D+.
Blue Kite - very good performances from all involved. i don't know that it's the most politically daring film of all-time as sarris seems to imply, but then i don't know much about the political climate or history of china....though this film has piqued my interest. pretty recommendable on the whole. B.

03/11/03
Prisoners of Hope - documentary about vietnam p.o.w.s reminiscing 30 or so years after they've been released. the idea is good enough and the execution wasn't entirely bad, but it played out like a propaganda film for christianity. much of what the men were saying about surviving was framed by their religious beliefs and the documentary seemed to glorify, rather than simply present, that fact. C-, but an B+ if you're christian.
Phantasm - the score, pacing, cinematography and story are highlights. it's a solid horror film for sure, but there were some rough spots. some of the continuity was messed up...for example when you see blood spurt onto the ground in one shot and the next shot is from a different angle the blood is gone. there were lots of goofs like that which detracted from the movie a bit. the ending was a bit weak. B-.

03/10/03
Meet The Parents - one of those funny movies you can always go back to for a good laugh. deniro expands his repertoire, but doesn't stray far from his tough guy image. uses his past performances to his advantage, but builds on them -- great casting choice for all parties concerned. ben stiller is great and so is owen wilson. A-.
Comedian - two stories take place here - one about jerry seinfeld who has scraped all his old material and tries to build back up from the beginning; the other follows orny adams who is close to his big break. don't watch it for the comedy - there's some good material for sure, but it's more a documentary about stand-up comics, specifically adams and seinfeld, trying to get what they want out of the biz. they are in much different places in their careers and lives and that provides for interesting perspective. surprisingly seinfeld is the grounded one of the two. adams comes off as annoying while seinfeld seems much more of a regular guy who (except for the porsche and private flights) hasn't had nearly the success we know he has. B. B+ if you're a seinfeld fan.

03/08/03
Graduate- likely in my top ten films of all-time. if you're under 25 make sure you watch this one before you get too old. that's not to say it doesn't speak to the older generation, but i think there's even more to gain from the experience when you're younger. some of the most lively and original cinematography you'll ever see; a couple of the greatest performances of film history; an ending that lays shame to all others before it; and a soundtrack that ranks among the very best of all-time. this film defines the line between drama and comedy at any given moment it can tip over into comedy and have you laughing and before you know it can tip back the other way making you want to cry. this is what great cinema is about, this is why art fulfills my spiritual needs. A+.
Tears of the Sun - don't waste your time. it's not a bad movie and it's not a good movie. it has some well-directed scenes, it has plenty of cliche, it has moments of decent acting, but it's mostly just what you'd expect it to be - a hollywood production which only panders to the notion that war, in the end, is worthwhile and good must fight evil or face armageddon. C.
Event Horizon - pretty scary overall, but does have some corny moments which break the flow. certainly has potential and worked for me the first time i watched it, but not so much this time. C+.

03/07/03
What Time Is It There? - what the fuck? is this supposed to have surrealist elements? is this supposed to be funny (as one critic wrote - "sets loose shock waves of comedy!" -elvis mitchell of the new york times) or is it supposed to be deep and heart breaking? okay so let me tell you a bit about this movie. it's a taiwianese film about a watch vendor who loses his father at the beginning of the movie. one day while trying to sell watches a nice looking woman asks to buy the watch he is wearing. he tells her that it's not for sale and that it would be bad luck because his father just died. she doesn't care and eventually gets him to sell the watch. she says goodbye and off to paris she goes. after she leaves he starts setting all the clocks in taiwan to paris time. meanwhile his mother is going insane because she thinks his father is now a ghost who visits them in their apartment from time to time. in the last half of the film the woman and the protagonist seem to have similar experiences...is there a ungodly connection between them or is it just coincidence or maybe just an artistic tool? in the final couple scenes the watch vendor has his suitcase of watches stolen from him. the next shot shows the woman in paris sitting by a fountain and a suitcase floats into frame and then off to the edge of the fountain. after that some random old guy takes the suitcase out of the fountain places it by the fountain ledge and walks away. now you know what i mean when i ask: "what the fuck?" now i'll admit that on one level this story does make sense. you've got the mother trying to reach the father. the son trying to reach the woman and the woman trying to reach him. but why all distractions from those seemingly most important relationships? so we've decided that the story is 1) thin at best 2) probably not the strong part of the film. so what is then? well the acting was pretty good, i suppose. but the strongest aspect of the film was definitely it's cinematogrpahy. a lot of the shots in the film were very very artistic; they were like paintings. the framing was not only good, but an integral part of the film. there are very few cuts in the movie and the director generally kept the camera still...sometimes painfully so. add to that the extended lapses of conversation and you have for a very very slowly paced movie. most unfortunately this was done to no avail because i failed to connect with any of the characters. this movie just didn't have the right parts fitting together...the film's concept could have worked, but not with this direction style. the direction style was inspired and strong, but not for this story. the film turns out to be like building a house out of lincoln logs and legos - they just don't fit and as a result the film falls apart half way through. C-.
03/09/03
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb - some of the strongest comic performances of all-time are in this film...peter sellers has three of them just by himself. A+.

03/05/03
Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey - no better than any of the other "great man" documentaries made over the years. in fact the first 10 minutes sumarize his entire life which leaves the last 90 minutes to fill in the blanks with detail. that, in my opinion, makes for an odd way to make a documentary. the voice over narration made it seem as though it was made for tv rather than a "serious" documentary like the one below or "when we were kings" about ali (the rumble in the jungle specifically). but because of the subject the documentary was guaranteed to be at least passable. bruce lee was truly a rare person. a philosopher of sorts, an extremely motivated, intelligent and highly skilled guy. the last twenty minutes is actually just lost footage of the film he was working on when he died. oh and they didn't mention at all why he died, that is unacceptable and really a missed opportunity because of the mystery surrounding it. C.

03/03/03
Kurosawa - very well-edited documentary on the life and work of the man himself. personally revealing and artistically enlarging. with any documentary like this you're going to come out the other end feeling as though the person was greater than when you went into it, but kurosawa was really great and no one denies that so it's acceptable. be sure to also check out the bonus interviews after the documentary proper is over. B+.

03/01/03
Sullivan's Travels - a very fine film. fun, tight, good script, well-played and overshadowed by the other major release of the year - citizen kane (which isn't as fun to watch). a must see. A.
9/11 - as close as you can get to being in nyc when the shit hit the fan. very impactful and intense even for someone as callous and tired of 9/11 talk as me. could have been edited better, but you can't beat it in terms of content (these guys were the only ones in the building and on the scene when it happened...they were also the only ones to provide pictures of the first plane hitting tower one). an essential american document comes yet again from the french. B+.
don't let reviews like this put you off:
"Martina Smolka
Philadelphia

Date: 16 April 2002
Summary: Most tragic event in American History.

I watched and taped the show March 10 about the World Trade. I can remember get up in the morning and going to work on September the 11th. It was like everyday, that I went to work and earn a living. Then suddenly I heard on the radio one of the World Trade Center buildings had been hit by an airplane, and the second building was hit within minutes. The horror I had felt on this day, I could not believe that someone would destroy the World Trade Center in the act of terrorism. Lots of innocence lives had been lost in this tragedy. I wonder if life in America will ever get back to normal the way it use to be? I wrote something for remembrance: America's Lost Innocence: A moment in time that America lost its innocence. A moment that should not be forgotten. A moment that will live forever in our hearts and minds. September 11, 2001, a date that we should all remember.

Hope something like this never happen again. This should be showed on TV for the one year anniversary of the tragedy on September 11, 2002. God Bless America."

02/27/03
Revolution OS - tells the story behind linux, gnu and the open source/free software movement. it's pretty geeky stuff for sure, but i think most people who know a thing or two about computers could follow it enough to be interesting. besides, the movie, though largely dedicated to talking about computers and their operating systems, is at its core a political and philosophical story of a war fought within the realm of computer technology. it's about the idea that intellectual property (computer programs and their code) should not be property, but should be shared openly with the user so they can adapt it as they like. the first 45 minutes is really the best material, but the whole 80 something minutes is worthwhile. interesting stuff which will one day be (and probably already is) a very important part of our history. well-edited. B.
Startup.com - two good documentaries about computer technology, but approached in different ways. it was a double feature i couldn't resist. this film takes a more personal look at a specific company trying to make it big during the dotcom revolution of the 90s. educational, historically very important, surprisingly intimate and extremely well done. A.

02/26/03
Gods and Generals - okay i only watched the first hour, but i doubt that the last 2hrs 47minutes got any better.  it was really heavy handed, trite, and just poorly executed. the acting was poor and the score seemed to be a bunch of finale pieces strung together...every scene was acompanied by music that made it seem as though god himself was on screen explaining the meaning of life. that is, there was no sense of ebb and flow, everything was treated as being of the utmost importance and i'm sorry but mary beth sewing a confederate flag isn't as important as stonewall jackson giving a rally speech which isn't as important as billy bob's flesh being torn by a ball of lead. i wouldn't have lasted another three hours so i'm glad i walked out....oh and i was the third person to walk out of the theater which only had about 10 people to start. laughable. D-.
Mysterious Object At Noon - there's no real easy way to classify or summarize this movie. at its core there is a story that is developed by many (unrelated) people picking up where the last person left off...a creative game of sorts. the "story" of the film unfolds as villagers of different parts of thailand see fit (with the final cut going to the director, of course). we see not only the creators of the story developing the story that they did not begin, but also the story itself acted out by actors or village people, or sometimes not at all. it's a film experiment more than a film and should be approached as such. the last 15 minutes of the film is more of a documentary of thai people than about the story that has been evolving over the course of the film. it's an interesting view, but not great in any way. C+.
The Way Home - very good korean film about a young boy and his grandmother. the very definition of short, but sweet. lacks plot or cinematic bells and whistles, but is rich in character. wish more films developed relationships like these. B.

02/25/03
Happy Gilmore - classic sandler here. influenced kingpin and made adam sandler big for years to come. B+.

02/24/03
Dawn of the Dead - one of my top five horror films of all-time. not just a good horror film because of romero, savini and argento, but also great because of the social commentary...not many horror films with that. A.

02/23/03
Red Beard - a very epic and emotional kurosawa film that succeeds without being heavy handed. great performances across the board and more social and human commentary than you can shake a stick at. mifune is the best actor ever. A-.
Life of David Gale - a disappointment on the whole, but did keep me thinking. the ending was mostly predictable and the movie had some major plot holes and character inconsistencies which really detracted from the final product. C.
Planes, Trains, And Automobiles - simply one of the best comedies of all-time. A+.

02/22/03
North By Northwest - a great hitchcock film. really does string you along the whole time and thus makes you realize why hitchcock is the master of suspense. B+.
Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels - didn't like it the first time, but did this time. very derivative...if it weren't for pulp fiction and reservior dogs this never would have been made, but it does stand on its own. it's got a unique style, the script is good and the ending is fulfilling. B.
The Game - a great film especially for this generation...a generation that has so much wealth and is so devoid of humanity at the same time. one of the douglas' best performances and another great david fincher film. A-.

02/21/03
Hollywood Ending - classic woody allen.this movie is to woody allen what mulholland drive is to david lynch. B.
Tommy Boy - a modern classic, and not just because chris farley died. even though it's a rip off of planes trains and automobiles, it's still good. B+.

02/19/03
Ever After - it's a better movie than i expected, but it still falls in the chick flick category which means i'm not likely to watch it again. good to watch once and more cerebral than you'd think. C+.

02/17/02
Ratcatcher - felt like a cross between gummo and george washington. wasn't as good as gummo, but was better than george washington. all three films deal with children dealing with adolescence among impoverished and depraved backgrounds. in gummo it was a southern community after a hurricane, in george washington it was an industrial virginia town, and in ratcatcher it was scotland during the 1970s garbage strike. in each case the movie ended up being so much about atmosphere and relationships that the acting was very important...and the acting was quite good in all of them, but george washington and ratcatcher left something to be desired. certainly there were poignant moments, the cinematography was good, there were a few comic moments, a nick drake song, but there was just something missing. maybe the second time i watch it i'll like it more. i do admit that the protagonist did win me over eventually, but there was still something lacking. i'll get back to you on that when i figure it out. B-.

02/16/03
Radio Days - a nostalgic and funny look at woody allen's family in the early forties. plenty of comedy here. B.

02/15/03
Assassins - it's a wannabe terminator 2 which isn't necessarily a bad thing to be, but sly is no arnold and antonio just wastes his talent on this weak screenplay. julianne moore is less annoying that usual. directed by donner, who also did lethal weapon, goonies, and superman....jeesh did he have a bad couple months while making this one. D.
La Cage Aux Folles - takes a while to hit its stride, but when it finally does it proves to be worth the wait. had some good stuff here, including very good performances, but i wish it got into the good stuff earlier. maybe there's hope in the sequel? B-.
In The Bedroom - a film whose fate rests largely on the characters and the actors' portrayal thereof. the characters are realistic and the ensemble cast does a fine job. to me it was a film about, among other things, what we can become under certain circumstances. a good movie to watch once. B.

02/14/03
Gridlock'd - after about 10 minutes i forgot that tupac wasn't really an actor. his performance in this movie is definitely one of the best performances from any of the rappers trying to act. that aside the whole movie has a good steady pulse to it half of that can be attributed to the script which is well paced and the other half to the direction which was very solid. nothing amazing here, but a solid and decent film worth watching. B.

02/12/03
Harder They Come - pretty stylistic film which was something i wasn't expecting. it's a good story, told fairly well and the acting is definitely good enough, but if it wasn't jamaican (and didn't have such a great soundtrack) i don't think it would be a classic. on the whole a good film B-.

02/10/03
Fistful of Dollars - based on yojimbo, though not as good. the two warring factions of the town weren't equally dispicable (like they were in yojimbo) and as a result clint eastwood was a sort of savior of the innocents, rather than a wise warrior teaching two warring families a lesson. kurosawa seems to oversimplify the stupidity of people and even though it may not be realistic, i like it. this movie didn't do that to the same extent. not even eastwood can better mifune's performance from the yojimbo, but he does a fine job. it's hard for me to watch westerns based upon kurosawa movies because i always get caught up with the differences between the two... this one didn't do as good a job as yojimbo in portraying the wanderer as equally intelligent as he is physically strong. the bartender in fistful of dollars wasn't nearly as good as the owner of the sake shop in yojimbo. the bad guy in fistful of dollars wasn't as well-rounded as the one in yojimbo. the town in fistful of dollars wasn't as foreboding as the one in yojimbo, but leone did do a good job with it. the first glimpse of the town we get in yojimbo is of a dog carrying a human hand down the middle of a dusty road...in fistful of dollars it's a small boy being chased away by a couple of thugs shooting at his feet as he runs away. that's fine film making. it's hard trying to followup a film like yojimbo, but fistful of dollars does a good job and actually has a very good ending and better score than the original. B+.

02/08/03
Hours - overly dramatic, none of the characters were sympathetic, the score was good. D+.
Donnie Brasco - a fine ganster film with fine fine acting. characters were sypathetic without being pathetic. it always interests me how we can view killers as sympathetic people. al pacino is great. B+.
Parenthood - a classic for all ages. lots of solid performances here only made better by the very well done script. A.

02/07/03
It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World - had a couple funny moments, more that tried to be funny and plenty of people who have been funny before, but it didn't add up to a funny movie. forty years old and shows every day of its age. C-.

02/05/03
Stripes - the first twenty minutes were funny. too bad it wasn't a 25 minute long movie. C.

02/02/03
High And Low - great from beginning to end. had sort of a hitchcock feel at the beginning, though i couldn't tell you why, and was like fritz lang's "M" during the investigation. mifune is fantastic, the story is well conceived and executed. another very good kurosawa film. B+.

02/01/03
The Recruit - well-written twist on the same idea behind training day. the twists weren't too obvious, but also weren't so amazing or frequent that they got corny or unbelievable. good. B.

01/26/03
Mission to Mars - not as good as the cast and crew might suggest. ennio morricone, depalma, tim robbins, gary sinise and don cheadle couldn't save this week screenplay. and to tell you the truth it didn't look like anyone really cared about the movie...they were just going through the motions. it did have some moments, but overall a weak film. C-.

01/24/03
National Security- not as good as i thought it was going to be. zahn and lawrence are such funny guys and yet this movie didn't seem to use their potential. the race jokes at the beginning were unnecessary and kinda put me off. i suppose it was just being over the top and in the context i shouldn't take it as anything but comedy, but i felt it wasn't that funny and was beneath both lawrence and zahn. i felt that the director did a bad job of moving the plot along...spent too long trying to advance the story and not enough time being funny. good comedy directors are able to move the plot quickly and when the plot needs a little fleshing out they are able to advance it with comedic moments rather than needing long dry scenes. the director was the worst part of this movie. C+.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory - a classic film by any measure. aphex twin (under cuastic window) used a sample of gene wilder's dialogue from the movie which i didn't catch until seeing this time. the best musical of all-time. A.

01/22/03
Witness - well-acted and balanced. the love story amidst a thriller storyline isn't my favorite, but it was executed well enough to work. a fine film. B-. that's three amish movies this month (devil's playground and kingpin being the other two).

01/21/03
Ferris Bueller's Day Off - another john hughes masterstroke. great to view as a kid and just as good as an adult. A.

01/18/03
Moonlight Mile - more of a movie that a middle aged mom might enjoy. wasn't my thing, but wasn't a waste of time either. good acting. C+.
Sliding Doors - not a new idea by any stretch of the imagination, but it's well done and never gets boring or corny. kudos. B-.
Devil's Playground - documentary about the period after amish teenagers turn sixteen and go through a sort of rite of passage...they are allowed to experience the ways of the outside world until they decide to either embrace or shun the amish ways. very interesting peek into a mosly unknown world. not entirely well done technically, but the substance is what matters most in documentaries and this one proves that. rites of passage are one of the more universal aspects across cultures and that makes this journey all the more easy to relate to. it's interesting, though, because the "choice" that the kids are given can hardly be considered such... the amish are interesting - they are willfully ignorant (they reject education past the age of 13 for fear of developing too much pride) and yet seem proud of it. an entirely different culture that should neither be lauded nor criticized. features music from aphex twin and you can't go wrong with him. B.

01/17/03
25th Hour - i was really put off by the ending at first, but after talking and thinking about it i like it a lot.  i saw ed norton's character as a foil for the united states (thus the 9/11 imagery isn't out of place, but rather complementary). our fate, like ed norton's, is uncertain. all his friends who enable his bad habits are like all the citizens who are complacent and enable the country to go on the way it does. ed norton's character has all the potential in the world and wastes it thanks to greed. at one point in the movie ed norton goes off on a bigoted rant reminiscent of "do the right thing" wherein he blames all his problems and the problems of nyc on immigrants, blacks, and just about everyone around him. at the end he realizes that none of what he's said is really true...he only has himself to blame. spike lee is a great filmmaker. very good performances by all. B+.
Life is Beautiful- this isn't a movie that makes light of the holocaust. this isn't a movie that makes fun of the holocaust. this isn't a movie that tries to pretend the holocaust wasn't as horrible as it really was. this is a movie that shows that human spirit can be strong in spite of awful circumstances. this is a movie that shows a father trying desperately to protect his son from the savagely arbitrary and violent world that is reality. for me, this was better than schindler's list because it didn't have such a heavy handed approach. it started light and drew me in closer to the characters. it made life seem beautiful even under the most dire of circumstances. to anyone that thinks this made light of the holocaust i suggest you watch sullivan's travels and take the main conclusion of that film and apply it to the viewing of this one. "shakespeare in love" was a better film than this? fuck no. B+.

01/11/03
Lord of the Rings: Two Towers - not as good as the first, but still good and the ending left me wanting to see the final chapter quite a bit. the sfx were amazing. the beginning lacked a bit in the way of narrative....that is to say that i was lost a bit in the beginning, but half way through a lot of the questions were answered. B+.

01/10/03
Thick As Thieves - stylish, but not overbearing. good screenplay, acting, and length. a solid film on the whole. B.
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (extended version) - a great epic. the cinematography, acting and character development are highlights. A.

01/04/03
Kingpin - it's a farrelly brothers film so you be the judge. B.
Anima Mundi - mostly forgettable half hour film that just shows different species doing their thing. the score wasn't nearly as good as koyaanisqatsi. the subject matter wasn't as powerful, but i think that it did succeed in putting in perspective our place in the world. we're one of many creatures on the earth and the way we live our life makes us forget that fact. C+.

01/03/03
Made - got a bit annoying in the middle...the joke of vince vaughn being a total screw up got old and tired, but right when it started to wear thin and cease to be funny, it seemed they dropped it. the ending was surprising because of the serious tone it took, but it still worked. overall an enjoyable film with strong performances and just an average plot. B-.
 

grading scale:
A+ 4.3
A 4.0
A- 3.7
B+ 3.3
B 3.0
B- 2.7
C+ 2.3
C 2.0
C- 1.7
D+ 1.3
D 1.0
D- 0.7
F+ 0.3
F 0.0
F- -0.3