Pepper's Movie Commentary

I wrote online movie reviews from 1995-1996, and resumed in 2002.

Incredible Hulk (2008)

2008/12/31: 2008/12/31: Lou Ferigno's cameo, along with appropriate use of the TV theme song and hitchhiking motif, were sadly insufficient to compensate for Liv Tyler as a cellular biologist in a wet shirt. She doesn't look like a music video refugee during the rest of the movie, at least. Making Bruce (and even the Hulk) an innocent patsy in the original gamma radiation experiment is an interesting idea, but just the beginning of Marvel's plot to make General Ross as evil as possible (waging war on the quad? and why wasn't the gunship on station?), while Bruce becomes too pure for this mortal coil. Underneath the awkward General Ross, I kept seeing The Accidental Tourist, and wondering whose brilliant concept it was for a US general to give Super-Soldier Serum to a foreign national. On the other character, who decided the Hulk would be too dumb to recognize lightning, but smart enough to use a sonic boom as a fire extinguisher? (Yes, I know there's an explanation, but it's still weak.) I want to know how the teeth grew to Hulk proportions, and why the conveniently placed chain was even more conveniently spiked. Technical gaffe: they approached NYC and the Statue of Liberty in a helicopter from the wrong direction. At the end, I kept waiting for the Hulk to crash through a roof as he barreled across the city.

Brick (2005)

2008/12/28: High school students who never attend classes. The dialog is fun -- Dashiell Mamet.

In Bruges (2008)

2008/12/27: Very well done.

Nerdcore Rising (2008)

2008/12/24: Amy was pleasantly surprised. I've downloaded some Frontalot, but didn't know any backstory, so this was fun.

2046 (2004)

2008/12/24: Excellent, although (deliberately) confusing.

Children of Men (2006)

2008/11/20: Quite good, although predictable in many ways.

Get Smart (2008)

2008/11/17: Amy groaned a lot during the first half, but we both enjoyed the second half. I particularly enjoyed Anne Hathaway doing Barbara Feldon's 99 voice.

Solaris (1972)

2008/11/16: Dark and strange, but I kept marveling at the absurdity of bringing all that clothing (monogrammed, so it wasn't already on the station -- and why did he have women's clothing in his room?) up into space, or a large wood-paneled room on a space station, or not freaking out about a burning candelabra floating & falling.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (2002)

2008/11/13: A beautiful story of the Cultural Revolution.

Earthsea (2004)

2008/11/11: Great books, which I read as a child (on the flights to India at 13, IIRC). That couldn't make up for the not-even-trying CGI or the whiff of cheez whiz -- I bailed after the first big spell.

Alias (first ~5 episodes) (2001)

2008/11/9: I was interested, until he broke the guy's arm. Then I acknowledged that there's no way being a counterspy in a homicidal counterspy agency is going to be entertainment for me, and stopped. This let me stop chanting "Om" while suspending disbelif, so I could accept that said superspy agency only has 2 field agents, and runs all fieldwork out of its LA office. Oh, and the prophecy. Again with not understanding an industrial base or supply chain (see Eureka). No more Alias for me.

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

2008/11/11: Twisted.

Dead Man (1995)

2008/11/29: Strange and interesting. Amy thought it was pretty pointless, though.

Rachel Getting Married (2008)

2008/11/29: Good, but disturbing (as intended). A whole, whole, lot of music in this wedding & family. The graininess of the shooting combined with the lousy theater (Teaneck, NJ) to produce an overly gritty cinematographic experience -- capped with not one, but two occasions where the film burned through, nobody noticed, and the concessionnaires didn't know what to do about it.

Heroes (2006-2008...)

2008/11/26: Amy and I watched the first and second seasons together, and really enjoyed them. This season started badly -- ironically with the same problem as Terminator: the Sara Connor Chronicles -- nothing mattered, because all events were guaranteed to be rewritten. Terminator stepped back from this edge, and so did Heroes, with a few good episodes. But "It's Coming" was weak, and after Amy watched "The Eclipse, part 1", we decided to let the shark rest in peace. I am compulsive enough that it bothered me to be missing out on all the other Heroes media (comic books and other spin-offs), but there is no way I'd waste that much time on a TV show -- this made it easier for me to write the show off.

Rock N Rolla (2008)

2008/11/26: Extremely violent and remarkably well shot. Less graphic and dark than I expected. It ends with a plug for a sequel: The Real Rock N Rolla.

Eureka, season 1-2 (2006-2007...)

2008/11/26: I just finished watching the first couple seasons of Eureka. I also saw 301 (free iTunes download). I enjoy the show, despite the fact that the science is often absurd -- they're attributing magical effects to science, so (as is often the case), conservation of mass/energy is forgotten. More disturbing (and more unusual) is how everything outside the characters' personal interactions is so vague and inconsistent -- they don't even know who works for who. Sheriff Carter is in charge of security at the DoD General Dynamics facility, except when the anonymous guards step in and push him around. Who runs GD is always fluid, depending on the immediate dramatic situation. Carl is redacted and scheduled for memory wipe, while Abby just drives into town. And, of course, Henry and Stark are experts in every aspect of science, often with a history of ground-breaking research projects, and can typically look at a new problem and figure it out immediately. Overall, despite a clear desire to take the science seriously, the writers end up just using it as a setting for stories. And (aside from the looming military absence), apparently the whole town was built by 3,000 scientists/engineers -- no construction workers, or even manufacturers for all the unique equipment. I guess they've never heard of a supply chain or an industrial base.

Quantum of Solace (2008)

2008/11/25: Fun, but who scares off the British government with an oil bath? The movie brought to you by the element H. Pretty silly to see Craig bashed up, then healed so he can get bashed up again a few hours later; wash, rinse, repeat. Uh-oh! When Toyota customers see that anything powered by fuel cells is 100% explosive & flammable, Prius sales are going to [gas] tank.

Appaloosa (2008)

2008/11/18: It's definitely a mainstream western, although the female angle is decidedly non-standard, as is seeing Renee Zellweger at her least attractive. Still, she plays a walking psychiatric diagnosis (nymphomaniac, low self-esteem, best described as a horse...), and the other two women (with barely speaking parts) are a whore and a maid, so it's not quite a fully 3-dimensional cast.

True Colors (1991)

2008/11/?: Amy kept groaning about the music and clothes. I kept wondering why Spader didn't think being friends with a complete liar might not be problematic.

Mad Men, season 1 (2007)

2008/11/9: We watched the first episode shortly after it aired, but decided not to watch the series. Alex harangued us, so we gave it another try. Amy was instantly addicted. Good stuff.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

2008/9/27: Subtitle: "Woody's Wet Dream." The whole movie was mostly obvious and cliche (although still watchable), with the exception of the Maria Elena relationship, which was complicated enough to be interesting.

The Girl from Monday (2005)

2008/9/19: What's the Goldman tower doing in this movie? I like their brokerage image. Amy liked it so much more than The Book of Life.

MysteryMen (1999)

2008/9/11: Apparently I'm the only person who liked it, but I'm a sucker for superhero movies, and it was amusing.

Broken Flowers (2005)

2008/9/8: So mellow and understated. I just kept saying, "This is so much more a Jarmusch movie than a Murray movie."

Bowling for Columbine (2002)

2008/9/6: Interesting and successfully depressing, although at this point I'm a bit tired of Michael Moore going in-your-face while claiming to be a friendly interviewer.

Vampiros en la Habana! (1985)

2008/9/3: Surreal, and enjoyable. Old-style gang fight between Mafia and European money -- all vampires -- over Vampisol, the formula that lets vampires go to the beach, all set in revolutionary Cuba.

Sneakers (1992)

2008/8/31: Amy hadn't seen it yet -- classic. Very odd to see President Laura Roslin as a young teacher, and overall a great cast.

Tropic Thunder (2008)

2008/8/30: It was fun, but soo stupid.

Flushed away (2006)

2008/8/29: The side jokes were enough for me to enjoy the movie. Aardman Animation, and the visual references to Wallace & Gromit were also welcome. A weaker story than the original W&Gs, though.

Be Kind Rewind (2008)

2008/8/26: Funny, but there really wasn't much going for it, aside from silliness.

Patlabor (1989)

2008/8/23: Pretty good, but dated, especially compared to the newer Appleseed movies.

Hitman (2007)

2008/8/20: Another one, like Wanted, which must have been less absurd as a comic book. An international order of assassins who take orders from a loom? Easier to take on paper. Similarly here, shaving heads and tattooing barcodes on the backs of skulls makes it easier for readers to tell assasins from targets, but is obviously counterproductive when you see them walking around. It doesn't help that I was feeling insulted from the beginning, when they told us that London was in England -- and what Russia - Turkey border?? How can the Organization be linked into tied into every government on the planet, without those governments knowing it exists? Micro review: The Professional did it first, and much better

Appleseed: Ex Machina (2007)

2008/7/19: With John Woo directing and better music, they ratchet the cool level way up. But no attempt is made to explain why our heroes keep holding poses (or flipping in place) before resuming fighting -- the sheer joy of being mostly alive, perhaps? The incredible wedgies Deunan gets from her armor, carried over intact from the previous movie?

The Dark Knight (2008)

2008/7/11: Such a struggle to see this movie! Amy and I couldn't get it together in NJ. I went to the Pavilion to see a late show, which was sold out. I went to Lincoln Plaza Cinemas to see the IMAX showing last Tuesday, but it was sold out. I bought tickets for the 6pm today, but decided to see the 2pm instead, so I could be home with Julia and go to bed early. Despite being told I that exchanging my tickets would be no problem, at 1:33pm I was informed that the 2pm IMAX was sold out! I got a refund and saw the 2:15 non-IMAX, which was good, and Dark (as promised). It's interesting how much more disturbing up close and personal knife-work is than huge firefights. But the characters were all so dysfunctional -- Batman is willing to do anything except stop the Joker for good, despite the body count. The Joker has unlimited resources and assistance, but doesn't actually want to win anything -- just get his opposition off-balance.

Appleseed (2004)

2008/7/10: Gorgeous, with cool music, but they (or at least the translators) are a bit confused between the definitions of clone, cyborg, and android. Also, there's a strange dichotomy between the almost photo-realistic scenery and the pretty but less realistic characters (asparagus hair, check!). I liked seeing elements in common with the much older version (different plot, from the same manga, which I never read), and the mobile fortress was clearly the inspiration for Halo's Scarab.

Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog (2008)

2008/7/6: Fun, but not awesome. On the other hand, I'm not a huge Buffy fan (movie was lots of fun; I never really watched the TV show) and never watched Angel. I was hoping for something more like Firefly, which this was in some ways.

Paprika (2006)

2008/7/6: Fun, until the dream machine started rewriting reality. That was too much for me to stomach.

Miracles (1989)

2008/7/5: Fun, though not great. Interesting to see Jackie when he wasn't such a huge deal anywhere.

War Games (1983)

2008/7/24: A fun evening, and a good film. It's aged relatively gracefully, although the sight of 2 8" floppy drives breaking into NORAD is pretty funny.

Steamboy (2004)

2008/7/23: It was beautiful and fun, but I never got past the fundamental stupidity of a perpetual motion steam ball, or the laughable idea of a private company building Steam Tower (Steam Mountain in the English dub). I watched in Japanese with subtitles, but would probably have watched the English dub if I'd known the voice actors were Patrick Stewart, Alfred Molina, & Anna Paquin.

Jumper (2008)

2008/7/20: Thanks to Rich setting my expectations to "steaming pile left behind by an embarrassed rottweiler with a tapeworm", I was not too bothered by this movie. Instead I just spent 90 minutes saying, "How sad that some people who obviously wanted to make a cool smart sci-fi movie, instead produced one of the stupidest things I've ever watched." Stupid on so many levels -- plot, heroes, villains, family, physics, lack of cameras at national and international attractions, etc. I suspect they wanted to make Highlander (the TV series), but someone said "Lambert did it!" They couldn't come up with another idea, so they frosted Samuel L. Jackson's hair and called him a "paladin", hoping we wouldn't notice he was a re-heated watcher. It's a sad day when you're eclipsed by the quality of Highlander, and not even the original movie.

Wanted (2008)

2008/7/16: Ricky Ricardo says: "It's just so ridiculous!"

Eight Men Out (1998)

2008/7/15: Very good, although it's quite confusing with all the various bookies / scammers and reporters. Sad, but hard to believe the clear world champions thought they could get away clean with taking a dive. Favorite part: watching half the White Sox play to win against the other half (trying to lose), with the Cincinatti Cubs just looking on like cattle. I realize there's some poetic license, but according to the film, this was the most talented team of ballplayers ever, with the greediest manager and worst compensation ever, playing the most important series, and also half of them were the most gullible Gullivers ever.

Hancock (2008)

2008/7/12: The first half was a simplistic slightly non-standard super hero tale. Then the annoyingly obvious love interest became a pivot point, around which the whole story rearranged itself. I was pleased overall.

You Don't Mess with the Zohan (2008)

2008/7/4: It was weird to see Judd Apatow descend to Adam Sandler's level of idiocy. Funny, but we much prefer Freaks & Geeks, Undeclared and even Superbad to 40 First Dates, Big Daddy or (unseen) Chuck & Larry. Obviously Sandler audiences like the stupidity, which is why he's been steadily descending for years -- Opera Man and Billy Madison were less dumb than his more recent characters. The sexual innuendo was funny/outrageous to start, but tired and tiresome long before the end. On the other hand, Rob Schneider (in feeble "Palestinian" make-up) and Sandler's crotch-bulging costumes were weak to start.

Enchanted (2008)

2008/7/2: We liked it, including the many side references to Disney's other princess movies. The singing was too much, and they dumbed it down in fairly obvious ways for the youngerl audience (for whom the gratuitous shopping scene was obviously thrown in).

WALL-E (2008)

2008/6/28: Lots of fun. Julia and I saw it with school friends, and she oscillated between sad and worried. She's a trooper, though -- we saw the whole thing. Back to DVDs for Julia for a while. I wasn't amazed as many others were, although perhaps I would have been if I'd been with only grown-ups.

The Book of Life (1998)

2008/6/22: Nice Duo placement! Ah, Good Times™. As with other Hal Hartley, the dialog is often overly flowery and fanciful (stilted), but it works okay here. All silly (in a very serious manner) but entertaining.

Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)

2008/6/17: Now that Amy works at the Fed, we had to watch this. She goes to lunch in that building. Such a silly movie. I like Willis popping up like a gopher as Jackson drives by.

The Tick vs. (1994)

2008/6/7: Often hysterical. These are the cartoon series -- I started watching the live action series, realized these cartoons were first, and stopped watching Puddy (Patrick Warburton) until I watch all the available cartoons -- Netflix only has the first couple cartoon seasons; it seems later seasons are unavailable. I never read any of the comics, but Dan was a fan.

Iron Man (2008)

2008/5/31: Nothing else good, and Amy and I wanted to see a movie. She enjoyed it, and I caught the ~~10sec SHIELD/Avengers intro this time. I had not realized how heavily branded this movie is -- that stank a bit.

Heroes, Season 2 (2007)

2008/5/30: Caught up. It's an excellent series, although they don't even try to justify some of the ridiculous things (positioning A & P to chat -- and not monitoring their discussions; H making a personal appeal to P about A, rather than mentioning the much more powerful ethical/survival argument, etc.).

Airwolf, Season 1 (1984-1987)

2008/5/27: The dialog says clearly and repeatedly that they have to stop the propeller at high speed, but it's visibly spinning throughout all the discussion of spinning up and shutting down. Perhaps it was easier to hire someone on-set with the job of walking around, fingers in ears, saying "Lalala. I see nothing. I see no propeller. We live in Imaginationland, kids!", than to tell the Hollywood scriptwriter that it was not going to be possible to fly and film a helicopter with immobilized propeller. I was too young to care what a stud Stringfellow Hawke was supposed to be -- who watched it to see him say things like "I never wear underwear!"? I love his intense look -- staring out of a helmet that covers most of his face, practicing a deranged-psychotic-hunter-on-the-blood-trail expression. The politics are now cartoonishly simplitic, but the show is still amusing -- and there's no Hasselhoff, certainly a saving grace. I also love that the intro voice-over tells us that Hawke is sensitive. So I can accept the concept of a helicopter which flies above mach 1 with better maneuverability than an airplane. But the original model is better armed and armored than a figher jet??? They do acknowledge that a helicopter cannot fly to Russia (or Paraguay) and back without refueling, but we're required to accept that USAF tankers would refuel a stolen and very-much-wanted helicopter. But it is Airwolf. I had the theme song going through my head for a few days -- it's appropriate, but not so good I want it lodged in there.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

2008/5/24: We enjoyed it, although Amy was annoyed by how much of the movie was recycled from Lucas' and Spielberg's earlier movies (E.T. phoned. He wants his skull back!). I was annoyed by how much of it made no sense at all. It's a set-up -- the Russians want me to decode it. So I'll decode it out loud in a bar, and we'll go there. But there's no need to cover our tracks. And the lamps are only magnetic when we open the wooden crate. This from an OSS man? But it was a lot of fun. Amy liked the fact that Karen Allen ("Marion Ravenwood") was allowed to look real, and not cosmetically un-aged.

Iron Man (2008)

2008/5/2: Surprisingly good, considering how many feeble Marvel movies there have been (Hulk [remake previewed, and plentifully referenced by this movie], Fantastic Four [both], Punisher, the Iron Man cartoon movie, etc.). Sam and I were both impressed with the movie (including the music usage). Some things that bothered me: the hole went halfway through; the sonic weapon was obviously non-lethal and facial recovery was immediate; he didn't hack any of the weapons!

An Evening with Kevin Smith (2002)

2008/4/11: Lots of fun. He obviously enjoys being paid by colleges to curse and tell dirty stories. But they're good stories and he's an excellent storyteller.

Transformers (2007)

2008/4/7: Another triumph for appropriately setting expectations. As a kid, I dislike Transformers and G.I. Joe TV shows and comics, so I had no expectations to disappoint. I do remember that Megatron was a giant gun, though, not a strange-not-quite-plane thingy. Flaws were many and profound. Why are the good guys all land-bound, while the bad guys have air support? The US armed forces couldn't find a better way to hunt giant alien robots than big harpoons??? Why not attack the giant evil monster while he's frozen solid? They needs a computer to transmit -- wait for it -- it's too obvious -- you see it coming ... Morse Code? Convoy! Sure -- go hide the McGuffin from murderous giant robots in a city -- that won't cause massive casualties!

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)

2008/3/22: Lots of fun and well done, although ultimately overly simple.

Knight Rider (2008)

2008/3/22: I watched the new pilot on hulu, which was problematic (it refused to play the first 3 times) but otherwise more convenient than watching on a physical TV. The new show is somewhat less cheesy than the original (except when the Hoff reappears, at which point they gain several levels of cheesiness). No real logic -- nanites are not bulletproof, and don't protect passengars!) and the bad guys don't find it odd that their quarry drove over 200mph. They also apparently don't think better than to attempt a kidnapping in a casino (witnesses, cameras, security, Nevada SWAT protecting the take, and organized crime -- wait until she's outside, guys!). Oh, and the dialog and characters are all rather silly, although they managed to avoid "Gimme all you got, KITT!" in the pilot, at least.

Heroes, Season 1 (2006-2007)

2008/3/15: We watched the first couple episodes, and are enjoying it -- pretty obsessed with suicide at this point, eh?

Robin Hood (2006)

2008/3/12: I watched 3 episodes. I like most of it, but the built-in fundamental irresolvable tension (living a short distance away from a murderer/torturer, yet not doing anything to stop him; shooting arrows all the time but never at/into people...) became to much to ignore. No more for me.

And Starting Pancho Villa As Himself (2003)

2008/3/10: Very good.

The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)

2008/3/7: So he went from canny criminal to (anti-)super-hero, only hope to save the universe? And he gets magical powers of hatred, which save him from guns, but doesn't do anything else with them. Weak weak weak.

Appleseed (1998)

2008/2/25: It's odd to hear profanity in animation, as I'm used to them being kept clean for kids. Not bad, but not amazing either; the writer(s) (or at least the translators) weren't really trying to make sense.

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2008)

2008/2/22: Neat. Freaky that people are so obsessional about high scores, but people do read the Guinness Book of World Records about lots of sillier things than video games. After reading Billy Mitchell's AV Club interview, I am left thinking the only person who hasn't been sleazy in any way (including the friends and hangers-on and referees) is Steve Wiebe.

Doctor Strange (2007)

2008/2/21: Who knew sorcery was really martial arts with magical weapons? Pretty, but shallow (relative to the comic book, for those who expect nothing more from funny books).

No Country for Old Men (2007)

2008/2/21: Quite good, but I keep wondering if the Coens were confused about Bardem's weapons. It seems like his shotgun was doing distinctly un-shotgun-like things.

Hackers (1995)

2008/2/20: Amy hadn't seen it. We were amazed by the ridiculous clothes, and the strange idea that hackers are nerds are social outcasts, and social outcasts are club fiends. I was amazed at the graphics effects attributed to this (9600bps) world.

Helvetica (2007)

2008/2/20: Very interesting. As a type weenie who designed (computer-friendly, of course) faces as a child and enjoyed Font & Function, this was fun (if not exciting).

Pitch Black (2000)

2008/2/8: I managed to enjoy this movie, but it was a challenge, due to the: 1) Large number of large monsters, with no food source; 2) Dominant creatures which can't stand light on a planet with one night every 22 years; 3) Cave dwellers with large wingspans; and 4) Crash-landing exactly one eclipse after the last visitors. Not even awake when writing this sucker.

Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man (2005)

2008/1/23: Excellent overall, although we wished they were clearer about who's who -- we haven't seen many of the performers before.

Doctor Who (2007)

2008/1/22: Amy and I just finished season 3, disc 6 (special features with David Tennant and Freema Agyeman). She's now seen all 3 years of the 'new' series (and the year of Torchwood), and I'm hoping to interest her in Tom Baker vintage Dr. Who. Good stuff, although when the science goes off the rails (a tunnel to the center of the Earth?!?) I get distressed.

Juno (2008)

2008/1/15: Fun. We liked the ref-dripping dialog and the music (which Alex pointed out Juno would have hated). Excellent cast.

Shogun Samurai (1978)

2008/1/9: Interesting -- the last Sonny Chiba movie I watched (part of), I stopped when Chiba (presumably the hero) started raping a girl. I didn't love it -- I found many of the characters (particularly Lord Yagyu) wooden and inexpressive, but that may actually have been good acting. I was amused to see Hattori Hanzo and Sony Chiba on opposite sides, considering that I first heard of Hattori Hanzo in Kill Bill, where Chiba was playing a character by that name. I obviously didn't fully appreciate the joke back then (and am probably still missing much of the irony). Set about the same time as Ninja Scroll, concerning the same war of succession as Basilisk.

Ninja Scroll (1993)

2008/1/5: Wow. I had to stop watching this on the train, because it seemed to pornographic, but I enjoyed it (although the hero was ridiculously immune to everything. Most incongruous element: Strong Sylvester Stallone/Rambo influence in the endgame. It reminded me of Basilisk, a TV series I watched part of on IFC, concerning a war over a pair of ninja scrolls and several of the same magical ninja.

Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

2008/1/5: Very good. I called it Forrest Gore.

Donnie Brasco (1997)

2007/12/3: Amy hadn't seen it before. Very good, although not light-hearted.

Ghostbusters (1984)

2007/12/30: Wow! The hair! The clothes! The CGI! Time flies.

You Can Count on Me (2000)

2007/12/28: Pretty well-done, but amazingly messed-up. Definitely Lifetime material. It was very odd to see the Shooting Gallery logo after all this time (one of the reasons it's been on my to-see list since 2000).

Little Children (2006)

2007/12/25: Amy had read the book, and we both enjoyed it. While I found the first half fascinatingly messy, I felt a bit dragged down by the weight of craziness and misery in the second half.

I Am Legend (2007)

2007/12/22: We agreed it was well done -- the cinematography was excellent, as was the scenic CGI -- but I found the logical inconsistencies annoying, and Amy found the creepiness creepy. Shades of Telempath and The Terminator, with a bit of Planet Terror. It was a remarkable vanity piece for Will Smith -- soldier, scientist, savior, sainted martyr -- but he did act well.

You Kill Me (2007)

2007/12/17: We loved the dry humor and the understatedness.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)

2007/12/9: Very well made, but amazingly sordid. After seeing how malformed the surviving characters' personalities are, I had to wonder if the lost mother had been as corrupted. And what happens to Hank?

Slacker (1991)

2007/11/23: We bailed at the half.

Smokin' Aces (2007)

2007/11/17: I enjoyed it, despite the over-the-top grotesquerie. I got the obvious zinger, but not the un-telegraphed one. I think there was actually a flashback to a scene that was never show, presumably an editing mistake -- that could have provided a hint.

Martian Child (2007)

2007/11/10: I really liked it. I hadn't known Gerrold was out, but now the comment about widowers being under even single men on (below) the adoption totem pole makes more sense. I wonder how Gerrold felt about being given a crush on Amanda Peet and a thing for girls. I was reminded that there are many Gerrold books I want to read, which are only available in larger trade paperback format. Drat -- those are harder to carry in pockets!

Purple Rain (1984)

2007/11/1: Interesting. I kept wondering how much of that pathos was real, and how much mystique, and how much custom concocted for this movie.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

2007/10/27: Very good, although more overblown than the original (although we all know how the armada came out, so they're playing with a handicap). I was amused at how heavily all the ladies breathe in close-up. I was amused at the idea that Raleigh apparently personally saved the nation, and Amy was annoyed at the liberties taken with his naval career.

Revolution OS (2002)

2007/10/24: Great to see the history; I knew much of it, but much was also new to me. The end just petered out -- perhaps they hit a wall of funding or time, and had to stop without finishing; or perhaps it was deliberate.

Paris Is Burning (1990)

2007/10/22: Fascinating, and only slightly depressing. Amy kept saying she couldn't believe I hadn't seen it before.

Michael Clayton (2007)

2007/10/20: Very very well done. I found the obsession with Tilda Swinton's dressing overly cliche, while Amy thought it was an effective way to highlight her lack of self-confidence. I still don't get the call to the firm -- I guess he was just crazy.

Mr. Nice Guy (1997)

2007/10/19: I had forgotten seeing this before. The monstrous truck was pretty memorable, although I had forgotten that just seeing it was enough to knock people off their feet.

Multiplicity (1996)

2007/10/18: Not bad, but amazingly shallow. They just gloss over almost everything. The deep highlight of the movie is a personal-scale construction project.

Cinema Paradiso (1998)

2007/10/7: I found the first 45 minutes overly slow; things really pick up with the almost riot. Sweet and meandering.

The Constant Gardener (2005)

2007/10/14: The first third was surprisingly tangled and confusing; the rest was a much more mainstream (though still affecting) wrap-up of the mysteries that have just been laid out, and rant against drug companies and government. I thought it was a bit overboard, though -- I would be surprised if even cynical bureaucrats could be that dismissive of African deaths, or anyone would expect such a massive cover-up to stay covered.

Magilla Gorilla (1964)

2007/10/9: I used to watch this show, despite disliking Magilla intensely, for Ricochet Rabbit. Fortunately Ricochet (and Droop-a-long!) appeared in this episode -- watching a half-hour of MG only to discover at the end that RR was not to appear was always a disappointment. Pretty dumb as an adult, but fortunately still amusing -- not everything is!

Bad Boys II (2003)

2007/10/9: Subtitled: Miami Vice: the Remake, or Big Budget Blockbuster, Ba-Boom!, this movie shows what you can do with a large wad of money and no concerns about reality. "Cops Invade Cuba: No Expose at Eleven!" Why did Martin Lawrence agree to be the doormat in this movie? Not that I would turn down whatever he made for the part. The crosses were more than a bit much, though. Did Will Smith commission this as a vanity piece or something?

3:10 to Yuma (2007)

2007/10/6: Good, although the last scene was overbaked.

Short Cuts (1993)

2007/10/5: It's somehow wrong to see Tom Waits without hearing his (decidely non-dulcet) tones. The transitions (complete and incomplete) were particularly well done. I can't tell if there was a unifying thread for this collection of characters, and I missed the common link, or they're just interesting.

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)

2007/10/4: Excellent, although I thought the cheetah was a bit much.

The Promise (2005)

2007/10/2: Magical not realism.

Bionic Woman (2007)

2007/9/27: Better than I expected -- partially because it's some of the BSG people, although I thought putting 2 in the pilot episode was overmuch. I was disgusted at the idea that prosthetics would have preprogrammed combat skills, but the actual explanation (implanting lethal skills to an unwilling and uncommitted recipient) wasn't really more credible. Amusing (and annoying) that in the beginning they kept focusing on her green eyes, and in the latter parts they instead kept focusing on her chest bouncing up and down -- even when she wasn't running. Given the pedigree, I want to see her spine glow red!

Romance & Cigarettes (2005)

2007/9/22: Crazy, funny, & fun. I wished they had chosen actors who could sing. The poor singing by stars, and the obviously incongruous overdubs, were both annoying at different times. Who thinks smoking is a fundamental right ot happiness??

Slaughterhouse-Five (1972)

2007/9/20: I enjoyed it; I don't remember the book that well, but think it was simultaneously much more disorienting (since the movie couldn't go into full detail and had to be film-able), and less (since it's not immersive in the same way). The book could also be darker, while not being as visceral and immediate as the movie.

Shanghai Knights (2003)

2007/9/18: Pretty dumb, but fun. A nice demonstration of how much better the iPhone is as a video playback device than the Treo, which had about half as many usable pixels and couldn't do H.264 (or even MPEG-4 over 1mbps).

Superbad (2007)

2007/9/15: We saw this with Lynne, a high school friend of Amy's, and asked each other at least a half-dozen times how Joyce (Amy's mother) could have watched it. Still, it was fun and silly. I kept wondering how Seth could have been such a colossal oaf, and so blithely obnoxious to everybody he speaks to. Of course there are people with such lack of social skills, but (despite the spitting) he skated through his idiocy with tremendous good fortune.

Josie and the Pussycats (2001)

2007/9/14: A friend gave me the DuJour "Backdoor Lover" track a while ago, and I've always wondered how it got into a movie targetted at kids. The introductory scene was hysterical, with DuJour looking like a prequel to Robot Chicken, and I like Rosario Dawson, but that's not enough to make up for all the branding -- even if it's officially a parody. Aborted.

Match Point (2005)

2007/9/14: Interesting and well-made, although I found it uncomfortable to watch. I kept asking Amy, how could anyone expect this to end well? How stupid are they?

Philadelphia (1993)

2007/9/14: Very good, although not always (often) comfortable. It's especially interesting to see how much more open homophobia was, and how different perceptions of homosexuality were. In retrospect it's very heavy-handed, though not so much as catching HIV. Neat casting of people I vaguely recognize but wouldn't expect to be in this movie -- all the men are hearty and macho in their own ways.

The Recruit (2003)

2007/9/8: We liked it, but couldn't figure out any way to explain Layla's (Bridget Moynahan's) actions that fit the final explanation. I kept thinking of Colin Farrell as Bullseye in Daredevil (which Amy didn't see).

Shoot 'Em up (2007)

2007/9/7: Ever since Croupier came out while I worked at Shooting Gallery, I've felt like I have a connection to Clive Owen -- I am also amused whenever I see a mention of Sling Blade, You Can Count on Me, or their other productions. This is despite the fact that I had nothing to do with Croupier (aside from seeing it in a theater) or Clive Owen. Amy was horrified that Paul Giamatti took this part, and would not have enjoyed it much. I was disturbed by the oil slick which instantly cleaned itself, and less so by the newborn which wasn't (fortunately nobody would let them use a real day-old infant in a movie). This prepared me for the fantasy nature of this film, in which 50 people with guns are completely unable to hit a target, even when he rolls in a straight line at constant velocity for dozens of feet (apparently they never heard of "leading" the target), and the government is both willing and able to cover up dozens of deaths and thousands of gunshots in a city, and medical murder. I thought the sex scene was purely gratuitous -- then realized it was really worked into the movie (but still gratuitous). This movie was obviously made by someone who was obsessed with guns (at least during its making), which made the over-arching premise especially absurd.

Stan Lee's Lightspeed (2006)

2007/9/5: Abort! Abort! I didn't even make it as far as the opening credits.

Hulk (2003)

2007/9/3: C'mon, guys. I know you like Hulk green, but green gamma radiation? You can't see gamma rays -- that's what "gamma rays" means! Green explosions for Hulkified deaths, and green glowing eyes? Green cheese! Even Stan & Ang Lee must have heard of the Law of Conservation of Mass, but apparently they are in denial. I will acknowledge being amused by the Hulk hammers (rock, then tank barrel/turrent). How much must the Lees have hated their fathers, to create the two dads in this movie -- General Ross (Sam Elliot, who seems like a caricature of a Soviet military governor) and David Banner (Nick Nolte, doing the Spider-Man villain bit)? Q: What exactly is the excuse for that little non-fireside chat??? A: There is none.

A Few Good Men (1992)

2007/9/3: Very good, although quite over-the-top

The Simpsons Movie (2007)

2007/9/1: Very good, although it's hard for a cartoon to escape the description 'slight'. Amy is still singing "Spider-Pig, Spider-Pig, does whatever a Spider-Pig does...", as was a kid at the plaground this afternoon (we didn't get it).

C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America (2004)

2007/8/21: Creepy.

Cars (2006)

2007/8/20: Amy liked it much more this time around. Julia keeps pestering us to tell her Lightning McQueen stories now (before she insisted on calling him "Lightning TheQueen").

Paycheck (2003)

2007/8/18: I keep calling this movie "Payback" (a James Brown song, among other things). Generally very good, although the seemed to throw away the whole premise for the finale. Uma is an amazingly cool character riding the Beemer, and then freaked out a minute later when the memory lack (which she already knew about) is confirmed. What's up with that? The "signed for 20 items" bit is bogus in multiple ways. I like that a character is named "Decker".

Death to Smoochy (2002)

2007/8/16: Notably weak; I watched it because Jon Stewart was in it, and I was hoping to see a continuation of the Barney jihad (ah, alt.barney.dinosaur.die.die.die, back in the day), but no such luck. Instead Edward Norton (of all people) plays a straight dweeb, and the movie lionizes (rhinoizes) him. Who came up with the idea of knocking Robin Williams around for fun??

Flash Gordon (pilot) (2007)

2007/8/14: I can't decide if they think cheese makes it good, or if Sci-Fi was just cheap -- the fake blood was shockingly feeble. Penny pinching is clearly explains why the army of Ming is so small, and I don't mean on the part of Ming the Milquetoast. Flash is written and acted as an archetype of a dumb jock, +5 IQ points. Alas, the show looks like they went down to Venice Beach and asked a bunch of surfers/models/actors who wanted some easy money.

21 Grams (2003)

2007/8/13: We thought it was all about drug addicts, until I remembered "21 grams" was something (silly, as it turned out) about death. A semi-coherent campaign against lucidity. What a bunch of losers.

Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill! (1965)

2007/8/13: Dorothy (Hi, DWS, wherever you are) really liked this movie, IIRC. I was amused (and perturbed). The whole karate-chop thing was annoyingly dumb, but otherwise it was successful at its goals.

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

2007/8/11: Very enjoyable. It was good to see their idea of a car chase, apparently intend to deflate Bruce Willis' idea of a "Hard" car chase. Bourne's awareness of people's locations as they run around out of sight was nothing less than magical. The whole focus on killing Americans as the only (important) bad thing the US Government has done was rather simplistic, given the many other things it has been exposed doing to Americans and foreigners -- but I have to concede that it's much more Congressional-hearing-sound-byte-worthy than extraordinary rendition. A few critical things were retconned (retroactively changed) from the first movie, most significantly the Jason Bourne Identity itself. The "Ultimatum" title doesn't really make sense for this movie -- it would for a linear continuation of the second movie, but Ultimatum has its own plot which goes off in a very different direction. We were disturbed by the "assets" (assassins) -- non-speaking unshaven middle-eastern-looking men, in an apparent effort to pander to the same prejudices the movie is supposedly railing against.

Impostor (2002)

2007/8/10: Good, but creepy. We kept asking each other how we missed such a slick movie with 2 name actors. Appropriately creepy for a Philip K. Dick story, although I was only semi-surprised by the twist. Who knew that military research scientists were so physically lethal (and bulletproof!)?

Barcelona (1994)

2007/8/8: We liked it, although we've seen those two actors playing those two characters enough times (not that they've been in so many movies) that we kept feeling like we had seen the movie before. We also kept laughing at Fred y Ted. Update: We saw it in 2001, but forgot (Amy kept thinking we had seen the movie, but eventually conceded we hadn't); now we know why they seemed so familiar.

An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

2007/8/5: I was surprised by how much of it is plugging Gore, rather than about the environment. I realize this reinforces his arguments, and I don't argue with the portrayal, but it seemed a bit jarring in something which is so pointedly about a larger issue. Very good presentation. Very bad reality.

K-PAX (2001)

2007/8/3: It wasn't quite what we expected, but we both enjoyed it. Much quieter and more psychological than we'd anticipated. The story arc (especially Jeff Bridges' familial plight, cured ironically by his work obsession) was annoyingly obvious from early on. The central ambiguity (alien or delusion) only works one way for me. Despite all the set-up for a secret human astronomy prodigy, they never really justify the level of knowledge, two disappearances, camera fuzz-out, and basically unexplained loss of function/communications on the 5-year anniversary. The science-fiction explanation doesn't need as much explanation -- if one posits an invisible/controlling alien, everything fits from a sci fi perspective.

Doctor Who, New Season 2 (2006)

2007/7/2: Excellent, although I wish they wouldn't just push the odds of survival way beyond any point of credibility. "Runaway Bride", the second Christmas special, was particularly funny, but loses the label 'science' fiction, for not knowing about magma or water levels & infill.

One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

2007/8/1: Very good and frequently disturbing (Amy didn't want to see it again). I was struck by the emotional dynamic range -- from discovering the Chief's cool secret to shock therapy, highs and lows in ping-pong alternation. I was also struck by the miserable/punitive nature of Nicholson's experience, but the lack of examination of the different perspectives. Obviously some people work in mental hospitals and jails because their victims cannot fight back, but obviously many doctors and nurses who administered ECT and lobotomies honestly wanted to help their patients. The movie thrust this conflict in our face, but didn't really address the dissonance.

Basic Instinct (1992)

2007/7/29: Amy had never seen it for political reasons; I hadn't seen it in 15 years. We watched a version from the TiVo, notably lacking the notoroius bit and much of the 'spicy' language. A pretty good movie, if you're not bothered by the melodrama or the politics, or the many implausible bits. The Wikipedia entry is as interesting as the movie itself.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

2007/7/24: Very good. ISTR this is where things began to get dark, culminating in the just-released Book 7: Harry Potter and Lots of Dead People. I wish we remembered the series better -- Amy has just missed her golden opportunity to re-read te whole thing. Now we'll have to wait years to re-read it with Julia, and we'll probably each miss half.

Take the Money and Run (1969)

2007/7/15: Sad but pretty funny. Nowhere near as sophisticated as his later stuff.

Lord of War (2005)

2007/7/12: Very well made, and very nihilistic.

The Negotiator (1998)

2007/7/12: Considerably better than I expected, although there were a few points where I felt like Samuel L. Jackson was dropping back to A Time to Kill (which we didn't see), incongruous for this much more sophisticated character. David Morse, of course, is the creepy thug.

Field of Dreams (1989)

2007/7/10: Better than we expected, although they didn't even try to excuse the absurdity.

Shaft's Big Score (1972)

2007/7/9: Not great, not awful. It really shows up how absurd James Bond is, but I don't notice it because I grew up with it. Most of the things that are cheesy and absurd here are cheesy in 007 movies, no less because they have more budget.

Ghost Rider (2007)

2007/7/8: What's with all the melodramatic pointing?? Being soulless inexplicably has no effect upon Johnny Blaze's life; he still loves and gives presents to kids. Perhaps that's what's wrong with his on-again/off-again Texas drawl? Apparently circus people are all freaks -- they are unrecognizable after passing the teen years. Cage's screaming during demonic possession by hellfire is pretty weak, and his transformation is overly informed by the Hulk and Terminator 2. The CGI is neat, but the skull looks wrong (wrong size, no expresions, etc.). The philosophy and fascination with the Penance Stare(TM) are both juvenile.

Ratatouille (2007)

2007/7/7: We liked it, although the rats in kitchens were decidedly (as intended) icky. The changing eyes were a neat trick, although Linguini's personality changes were a bit much. Julia was quite uncomfortable with both the sad and scary parts, but overall enjoyed it. We hadn't reckoned with how much more immersive a big-screen movie is in a dark and loud theater, compared to watching DVDs (including The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, and Cars) on a TV set in a bright room with family or friends.

Soul Plane (2004)

2007/7/5: As a string of low-brow jokes and blatant stereotypes, it was quite funny. Not much else there, but I didn't expect more. The only thing that really bugged me was the turbaned Arab who accidentally utters 'bomb', and the fact that the four white people are named the Honkeys from CrackerLand -- not even trying there.

A Mighty Wind (2003)

2007/7/5: Amy and I kept asking each other how she saw this but I didn't. Very silly; very funny. Parker Posey was alas largely wasted (not drunk, just barely in the movie).

My Summer of Love (2004)

2007/7/4: Interesting, and messed up.

The Matador (2005)

2007/7/1: Interesting, frequently uncomfortable, and rather inscrutable.

Knocked up (2007)

2007/6/30: Excellent, although it made us sad that there are no more Freaks & Geeks or Undeclared.

An American Werewolf in Paris (1997)

2007/6/29: Not awful, but really nothing to recommend it either. For a movie premised upon forbidden love and set in Paris, it's remarkably ugly -- especially the ghosts. The wargs don't look like people or wolves -- just bad CGI. The WolfVision isn't sharper or IR, just odd. Watching on my Treo at 320x240, everything was ugly; when I watched the end on a TV, things got less ugly, but more obviously fake.

Money for Nothing (1993)

2007/6/28: Not great, but it picked up towards the end. We were terribly amused to see James Gandolfini young and (relatively) thin.

The Jerk (1979)

2007/6/24: We had both forgotten the whole movie, except the basic premise. Funny, but overly broad.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

2007/6/23: Better than I expected. I was particularly amused to see them stealing Syndrome's wrist gadget back from The Incredibles, who stole family/configuration/powers from FF. The product placements were stupid and offensively dumb, as were Jessica Alba's "smart glasses", which she obviously didn't need to see, but did need when she was briefly stepping out of eye-catching bimbo mode. Knocked up would have been better.

Cannonball! (1976)

2007/6/21: Is this the true story behind the Cannonball Run movies, converted into a fairly weak and inexplicable "action" / "adventure" movie?? Most aggravating: Why doesn't anyone realize that two identical cars can cause confusion? Second-most aggravating: The twist (early in the movie) invalidates the opening nightmare and driving arrangements through the whole movie. Third-most aggravating: Why does the super racer (David Carradine) keep taking more and more clothing off, and why isn't he any good at it?

Dungeons & Dragons (2000)

2007/6/20: I couldn't get past the first scene.

Howl's Moving Castle (2004)

2007/6/19: Very good, although it was distracting to keep hearing Billy Crystal as the fire elemental.

16 Blocks (1955)

2007/6/17: Better than I expected, but that isn't a strong statement. The subtitle was apparently Transformations: an Only in Hollywood Story. It was amusing to see Willis flip from drunk to crack shot (with pose). Later his apparent ex-wife suddenly becomes his sister, and Willis transforms from cop/escort to hero/witness. Willis drives a buss pretty well for someone who doesn't know which side the windshield is on. David Morse has amazing precognition, which only lets him down the one time...

The Brown Bunny (2004)

2007/6/16: Amy hated it, and we aren't sure how much of it is person and how much persona, but we don't think much of Vincent Gallo either.

Lady and the Tramp (1955)

2007/6/12: Good family fun.

The Sopranos (1999-2007)

2007/6/10: Amy was aggravated about the ending for days. A great series, though. In the finale, AJ becomes Livia, and

Swordfish (2001)

2007/6/9: Ah, where to begin? When this movie came out, we were hosting a vendor system with an unchangable root password: swordf1sh. Apparently this worked on all their deployed systems. I don't believe that's why the vendor went out of business a few years ago, but one can hope. I can't decide if Jackman's Stan the Super Hacker character (with Neo-like unconscious skillz) here is more or less credible than Wolverine the Metallic Mutant. Wolverine is completely impossible with today's technology, and not really credible with future technology. Stan, on the other hand, is just flat out impossible. There are ways you'd break into a system with 512-bit encryption, but using a canned "hydra" from college is not one of them. A janitor's uniform (or job application, given a few months) is a much better bet. "Gabriel" is awfully chatty for a super-competent (counter-)terrorist, giving away a lot of relevant clues to no purpose. Given the similarities, it's remarkable how different this movie felt than Firewall, largely due to the fun/silly/sexy tone of this one, versus the terrified tone of Firewall.

Casino Royale (2006)

2007/6/7: Fun, and they obviously bothered to actually write down a plot for this one, which is a distinct improvement over several Bond pics. Unfortunately, nobody bothered to ensure that after all the twists and reversals, there was any possible explanation for all the facts (particularly her actions). A respectable effort at explaining several of Bond's historical tendencies and behaviors, although this was hampered by the high-tech plot's impossibility until after all the earlier movies which supposedly follow this one. The lack of any Q was keenly felt, and the car chase felt like fulfillment of an obligation. The silenced pistol was too silenced for that pistol, and the shocking kit was no substitute for an exploding pen. Why did he go gaga over that girl, and is this the first Bond movie where he doesn't boink the evil girlfriend?

Firewall (2006)

2007/6/7: A movie I had to see -- professional curiosity. Geeks know we're fully assimilated into pop culture when Harrison Ford impresses people with his Mad Firewall Signature Skillz! Well made, as any Harrison Ford movie must be, and they managed to largely avoid any technical gaffes by almost entirely avoiding technology. Surprisingly dark and nasty for Harrison Ford, except where they got carried away with their own excitement. But no, a cheap black-on-white fax scanner could not handle the low-res green-on-white of a computer terminal, and he never did any OCR, much less built an adaptor or wrote an iPod driver for it. Getting the account numbers is a small part of the problem. Obviously nobody on the writing staff has ever broken or disassembled an iPod or a fax machine and looked at the connectors. I liked that they were setting up his fall in advance, although this was somewhat underplayed. It reminded me a bit of The Fugitive, for several of the conspiracy/lunatic plot elements. For an old desk jockey, Harrison accrues quite a body count. This could have been nodded at with some reference to physical security being a prerequisite for cyber security (and the appropriate martial arts training), if they had cared to bother. The villain was absurdly omniscient and omnipresent at the beginning but later he lost this power, and our hero didn't fully capitalize.

Blade: Trinity (2004)

2007/6/4: Kris Kristofferson as a recovering vampire: okay, in a movie. Parker Posey as a hard-assed vampire princess? Having trouble with that. Vampire viagra was amusing, as was Whistler's un-Mother, the second-generation archer. But why would she hunt Dracula by flashlight, rather than turning on the lights? Similarly, why do the human "Nightstalkers" (who are of course slower and weaker than their prey) like fighting vampires hand-to-hand so much, instead of using all their weapons? Why does the regenerating wrestler vampire keep flinching from face punches (feints, even!)? Why does the ancient evil that is Dracula have a built-in costume with low-rise pants? Why does Blade look like a Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot when he's beating people up? We just won't think about the pseudo-science behind their vampire plague. And worst of all, they forgot all about cute little Zoe!

Toy Story (1995)

2007/5/31: Julia really enjoyed it, although she didn't understand it all, and asked us to explain what was going on.

Waitress (2007)

2007/5/31: Fun, although the characters all tended to one-dimensionality. We wondered why the author/director/actress decided to use makeup to look like a less attractive person trying to be more attractive. It was also funny to see "Mickey" (small-time thug, implicated in everything, from The Punisher), as 'Ogie', the sweet clod suitor, here. Shades of Spike Lee's acting career. Similarly, everybody was involved in adultery (often inexplicably), which has obvious negative implications for relationships; not much subtlety there.

Doom (2005)

2007/5/31: Amusing: 6 geeky scientists are doing weapons research, and don't need anyone to actually fire the weapons, but they do need a huge amount of office space. Dungeon-crawling gun perspective was briefly amusing, but (again), seeing it with real actors showed how absurd a chainsaw is as a weapon. Superman would know better than to wrestle a wrestler -- even in tights. I still want to know when AOL buys Mars. The US military Rapid Response Tactical Squad had an unexpected and unjustified secret agenda; I don't remember anything about this from the games.

The Punisher (2004)

2007/5/29: Marvel follows their strong (not quite ironclad) tradition of picking unknown actors in a transparent attempt to save money. It was funny to see Will Patton as a badass, rather than Officer Droopy. I no longer remember the unreleased Dolph Lundgren version, but this one was typified by the Punisher being the one who takes (survives) the most punishment. Who knew explosions were so effective at shielding you from their own blasts? But what I wanna know is: How did they get the red pickup on the speedboat? And does getting shot and beat up always give you abdominal definition, or only in Hollywood and on tiny resort islands? I don't want to test it... For a dead man with no interest in life, Frank Castle sure enjoys collecting tools (including weapons), and killing incidental guards, and for someone protecting humanity through simplistic negative reinforcement, he's got a real flair for the dramatic. In contrast, the opposition is amazingly dumb and incredibly predictable. A couple planted clues, and they follow the script perfectly.

Hot Fuzz (2007)

2007/5/27: Excellent. My favorite subtlety is the desk sergeants reading Iain Banks novels.

Solaris (2002)

2007/5/25: Fascinating, although overly inscrutable. The original is on order from Netflix; I don't think I ever read the original Lem novel.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

2007/5/24: Amusing but feebleminded. Bama Boy has *no* impulse control, so it's a good thing the movie cocoons him from all consequences. He knows nothing but cars, yet learns Japanese quickly and perfectly. Their 'concept' of underculture is plain hysterical -- a bunch of drug runners with nothing better to do than tune their cars and party with high schoolers, getting stinking rich without ever actually seeing any drugs -- just cash & clubs, full of all the models in Asia, apparently. Go Sonny Chiba! So much for family loyalty. So much for preserving his investment. This is a man with a perverse streak a mile wide, apparently. And so much for our noble not-too-bright hero's father's responsibility and efforts to keep Sean out of trouble and alive -- by the end he's actively aiding & abetting. The noble hero can't even save the girl -- he gets distracted and asks for a race instead. Why avoiding bloodshed is such a priority for the Yakuza is never fully explored. I did smile at the Vin Diesel cameo.

Habit (1997)

2007/5/22: Interesting, but if you remove the (more explicit than average for a vampire movie) sex, there isn't a whole lot left. In fairness, this is true of many vampire stories. I was disappointed there weren't more vampires; I got as high as 4 in my speculation during the movie. It would have been better if they'd managed a bit better on the technical details of vampirism (particularly daylight). Nice photographic attention to teeth & tongues.

About Schmidt (2002)

2007/5/12: Well made, but not fun to watch, and nothing really happens.

Idiocracy (2006)

2007/5/10: Funny, and a bit scary. I'm pretty sure they would all have died long before reaching that point...

Spider-Man 3 (2007)

2007/5/8: It definitely was a spectacle. 3 villains, and 2 inactive villains. Lots of glossing over decades of history, and the revised "Sandman" is really more of a "Sandstorm". The Harry Hobgoblin angle felt more like a particularly weak movie -- even comic books aren't normally that elastic with characters and plotting. Mary Jane is a notable sap, although during the (well choreographed) tag team session (Unlimited Class wrestling, anyone?) she gets to at least roll around productively. Tobey Maguire doing "dead sexy" is "dead funny". Tobey Maguire as The Mask?? No question: they really really broke (rather than simply pushed) the whole concept of coincidence. Not to mention the mad scientists, who apparently wanted to make animated sand, but didn't bother to observe (or even roof over!) their experiment. The relationship troubles / stuff, which has always been a strong point of Spider-Man, at least got attention, and it was a strength relative to other super-hero movies, but tremendously distorted by the super power levels on screen. Each of the three closing mini-scenes was weak in its own way.

Finding Neverland (2004)

2007/5/4: Very good, although it was entirely reactions to critical events left unaddressed and unexplicated.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters (2007)

2007/5/2: Ridiculous, but if you like ATHF (as we do), you will probably enjoy the movie (as I did). I liked seeing the credits characters at least briefly used in the intro, and the theater welcome was excellent. I'm not convinced anyone has bothered to come up with complete plot for this movie -- I imagine it wasn't a priority for the creators.

Six-String Samurai (1998)

2007/4/30: Absurdist, but that was not enough to elevate it above mildly amusing. I'm pretty sure he had fun making this, and I hope he made some money, but that's about all I have to say about it.

Shane (1953)

2007/4/29: Not bad, not great.

Aeon Flux (2005)

2007/4/27: Watchable, but the plot didn't live up to the atmosphere. It must have been tough to make a live action movie out of something as bizarre and nonsensical as the original Aeon Flux cartoon (I'm sure they would never have tried had not The Matrix been there to set an example), but they did a decent job of carrying the atmosphere over -- they also didn't worry much about recreating the comic. I watched it on my Treo on the subway (how I watch movies & TV Amy's not interested in), and then re-watched the fight scenes on a descent monitor; when I re-watched, I was struck by how ridiculous Aeon's & Sithandra's costumes are (trying for Trinity without being obviously derivative?). There was definitely some cinematic invulnerability here -- the dart auto-guns can't hit beans, and the heroes aren't significantly slowed down by gatling fire (without armor). The thing that bugged me the most was the ghost phenomenon, though. There's some non-physical personality transference going on, and they don't even make an effort with it -- it's just strange & spooky, and central to the plot, but they obviously do not care.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

2007/4/24: Cool.

Saturday Night Live: Season 1, Disc 1 (1975)

2007/4/24: Wow, that's (impressive, TV) history. I especially liked the Blowfish kidnappers in the Blaine Hotel, in room (18)22, but don't know if anyone who reads this will ever get the joke -- if you do, please drop me a line!

Blades of Glory (2007)

2007/4/7: Fun. Amy thought it was much better than Talladega Nights; I did not, although they did a better job with the homosexual angle than I thought possible in such a movie -- including Coach's (Mr. Incredible's) stained-plastic window decoration. Continuity: we're shown a highlight reel of Chazz (Ferrell) practicing in a warehouse, but later Coach shows them the borrowed warehouse to practice in.

Saturday Night Live: the Best of TV Funhouse (2006)

2007/4/9: I actually worked with the people who did TV Funhouse for a while -- Amy and I were in awe -- although I never had anything to do with it. During my 10-week stint at Zuma Digital (long gone, and not missed), Tape House bought a chunk of Zuma, and I helped organized the move to Tape House's building; Tape House Tunes did the TV Funhouse animation. I kept asking Amy, "Why do they say Ambiguously Gay? There's nothing Ambiguous about them!" We were even more amused when we realized it was Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell, who we didn't know when TV Funhouse was on the air.

Grindhouse (Planet Terror & Death Proof) (2007)

2007/4/7: F'excellent. The first movie I've seen on Friday opening night in a long long time. The finale of Death Proof was a bit overly over the top for me, actually. The cameos were impressive, and I was forewarned by Salon's review. What a PSA for recycling they make! Not only do they recycle actors from an earlier era, and actors across movies, they even recycle character names and costumes, although the characters change. Thank you to Machete in the first preview for showing what a firmpoint-mounted LMG on a motorcycle looks like. Mmm, Shadowrun! Continuity: Dakota breaks her hand in Planet Terror, but later it's fine.

The Incredibles (2004)

2007/4/3: Third time I've seen it, and the third time Julia's made it to the end of a feature (over 3 days). Still excellent, although I wasn't really surprised by its non-comic-book depth this time.

Return of the Secaucus 7 (1980)

2007/4/1: One of Amy's favorite movies; I liked it, but didn't love it.

The Namesake (2007)

2007/3/31: Beautiful. I felt bad for Maxine, and afterwards realized we knew nothing about Gogol aside from how he related to his family (including girlfriend). Amy had read the book, and was disappointed so much of it was left out of the movie -- including the rest of Gogol's life. Props to the makeup team for aging the actors.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

2007/3/2: Great the second time, too.

Jersey Girl (2004)

2007/2/12: We enjoyed it, although it was a bit overbaked. Neither Amy nor myself knows why it was reviled.

Bubba Ho-tep (2002)

2007/2/8: Amusing, although deliberately not much there. A Tortelvis apperance would have been good.

From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999)

2007/2/7: We enjoyed the original, but this one was so bad I decided it wasn't worth spending an hour of subway ride on.

A History of Violence (2005)

2007/2/6: Amazingly predictable -- there was exactly one thing I didn't see coming. Amy hated the trite dialogue. We agree it smelled about as bad as the character after the drive from Indiana to Philadelphia, but probably not as bad as the drive back.

Gas Food Lodging (1992)

2007/2/4: One of Amy's favorites. I found it a bit arbitrary & predictable, but quite enjoyable.

The Incredibly True Adventure of 2 Girls in Love (1995)

2007/1/28: Very good.

The Queen (2007)

2007/1/27: A very good movie. Not my thing at all; this was Amy's pick, but she more often sees mine. Neither of us really follows Diana or the royals, but there's a real dearth of good stuff out right now. Somewhat painful to watch, but obviously well done. It's odd that Charles is so aweful -- weak, cowardly, whiny, etc. The boys are charicatures of innocent victims -- they have no lines, and are sheltered by their family, and supposedly don't know about the underlying problems. They shoot for stress relief, and slam doors in pique. In this context, Diana is obviously a victim, although the movie is rife with references to her harming her family earlier. Photographers and editors are the villains, but of course that also tars their audiences with the same brush -- including those who watch dramatized documentaries about Diana (and her death)...

The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization, Part 2: The Metal Years (1991)

2007/1/15: Very interesting, and somewhat depressing. Ironically, I have a story about this movie, even though I'd never seen it before. The Karen Horney Clinic does a monthly movie series with analysis of the movie (according to Horneyan principles) at the end. They showed This Is Spinal Tap (which we enjoyed), and then the woman who'd picked the movie for this month's showing began reading from her notes about the movie. My parents and I started looking at each other when she started talking about "the baggy pants", and after a few minutes of speaking, she realized she was reading from the wrong notes (about The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization). Oops! Still, we liked Spinal Tap.

The Commitments (1991)

2007/1/11: Amy, who's Irish at heart, just read the Roddy Doyle trilogy so we re-watched The Commitments -- excellent music, excellent movie.

Ronin (1998)

2007/1/7: We wanted to see it again. It's fun to pick out the subtle plot touches, not that it's really a subtle movie, or it all holds together...

Around the World in 80 Days (2004)

2007/1/6: Notably weak. There were a couple funny bits, but nothing good enough to compensate for the surfeit of stupidity.

Beauty and the Geek (TV) (2006)

2007/1/4: Very very funny. Reaffirmed my revulsion for "reality" TV -- there was too much deliberate cruelty and voyeurism. This is season 3, but I hadn't heard about it before last week. Deeply ironic to see all these people talking about the opportunity for learning & growth if they stay on the show. It's an opportunity for notoriety, prize money, possibly sex (more of a lure for the geeks, obviously), and to learn how to attract/manipulate the other side.

Destination Moon (1950)

2007/1/3: Heinlein is one of my favorite writers. I wish I could have seen it when it was in glorious color and not scientifically dated, but it's still a pretty good story well-told. I read Heinlein's account of working on the movie, which added depth to the viewing experience.


Office Space (1999)

2006/12/30: Amy wanted to see it again.

Days of Thunder (1990)

2006/12/28: Fun, although I kept telling Amy it was just Top Gun without wings (and missiles, although they acted armed). She hasn't seen Top Gun -- some other time.

Eragon (2006)

2006/12/28: I enjoyed it, but it's fortunate Amy wasn't there, as the whizzical cheese would've caused her acute pain. Yet another inexplicably ineffective and snail-like (though apparently highly motivated) pursuit. Interestingly, although magic requires is supposed to require learning the elven words, the star seems to get them instinctively. It's one thing to have a bonfire in a rainstorm, but why wasn't it under watch?? The super-magical-undead villains were remarkably incompetent, and the giant army of evil fit through two holes in the wall and all onscreen at one time, and the defenders of good didn't even try to slow their advance, but none of that's as obvious as the name -- one letter, off by one place in the alphabet?!? They aren't trying very hard.

The Amateur (1994)

2006/12/23: I thought Amy had seen this with me years ago, but apparently she just told me about Hal Hartley, because she hadn't. I liked it, although was struck by how stagey certain lines (couplets) were, and the collosal 'coincidence' of the nunnery being by the summer house, covered by the same Manhattan precinct. Amy was unimpressed.

What's up, Tiger Lily? (1966)

2006/12/6: Very very silly, although not quite enough plot or concept to keep it going that long. Some amusing foreshadowing for Woody's later life.

Underworld: Evolution (2006)

2006/11/21: Weak. I have historical reasons for watching this, but even the remarkably transparent introduction failed to identify the characters, or provide any reason why old vampires look so fugly. But who's the colorless Sgt. Pepper? The first sex scene never rose above the level of peeling a rubber banana. The writers don't know the difference between bodyguards and (feral) guard dogs, or see any reason why these bullet-proof monsters shouldn't be vulnerable to knives. In this slower and plot-heavier flim, the question of why she's wearing a corset comes up even more; in fairness, the male characters spend a lot of time ripping off their shirts and jackets, and putting them back on. At the end, it looks like there's no more series, but they can't avoid a voice-over narration setting up the next one. They really like the look of wet hair, so the dryest anyone manages to be is on a ship or in a snowstorm.

Infernal Affairs (2002)

2006/11/15: Excellent. This movie was the inspiration for The Departed, and it was neat to see the similarities (cameraderie, with two levels; the envelopes, etc.) and differences (no FBI in IA). Best line of the movie: "Mommy, I'm already six." Even the title was good.

The Departed (2006)

2006/10/22: Remarkably good. Amy felt drained after 150 minutes of tension. Chris kept expecting LdC to be the bad guy, and MD (Good Will) to be the hero. Is he being typecast as a chamelon, after The Talented Mr. Ripley (a very similar character in a very different milieu), and Jason Bourne (a similar character & milieu, but a radically different movie). The final image was gratuitous, but otherwise we had no complaints.

Cerebrus (1997)

2006/10/18: I wasn't expecting much, but I did like BJ and the Bear. Apparently brainy girls are dumb (Huh, the Mob told to fly me to Bucharest to lean on me for a $2k debt? I'd better go!) pushovers (He showed me a fake ID, and started shooting at the people who have my brother, so I'd better go with him!). That's some butt-ugly animation, and the jokes are about 15 proof. Dave Sim must be sad. Wow, checking IMDB, that's an amazingly B-list cast. The central plot device is an amazingly awkward sword -- you can't clean or sheathe it, and who knew Attilla the non-Hun was a pentagram-drawing Satanist who looked more like Kevin Sorbo. The nominal heroes have recurring discussions of why people would want the Sword of Mars. So later, when fighting a three-headed dog from the aforementioned legends, why do they have arguments about whether something strange is going on? Just stupidity, I guess.

Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)

2006/10/14: Fun rewatch. It's a neat blend of girl/boy romance with shoot-em-up, both sides dosed with comedy and drowned in good 80s music.

The Interpreter (2005)

2006/10/7: A very odd movie. Dialogue was overblown, characters were overly dysfunctional, and there seemed to be a surfeit of death and murderers.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

2006/9/25: The nod to the Terminator as embodied by Willy Wonka was odd, but it supported the White Mountains/Tripod cameo. We Are Not Men: We Are the Oompa-Loompa! I also liked Kubrick's obelisk (of chocolate, naturally). The movie was weakened by the diverging direction it tried to take, but this was mostly dropped after the beginning, which just ignored some of the undercurrents of the beginning in favor of a simplified arc.

Undeclared (2001-2002)

2006/9: It didn't last 2 years, so you know it's good. Freaks & Geeks goes to college -- apparently largely ad-libbed.

Inventing the Abbots (1997)

2006/9/9: Good, although a bit overbaked, both in the baroque plot and the over-done faces in a few scenes.

Crank (2006)

2006/9/8: Funnier (much more ironic) than Transporter 1/2, and much more violent (sometimes grotesquely). The closing credits are emblematic -- they just show ways you could kill someone (most of which are used in the movie). Kind of Speed with adrenaline instead of a city bus. Amusing use of Google Maps, but that may date the movie very quickly -- perhaps they don't care.

Man on Fire (2004)

2006/9/8: I thought it was going to be very disturbing and grim, but it was a fairly predictable action movie (somewhat darker than normal, given that it's about kidnapping kids, which is more disturbing to us now that we have one of our own); it was for-real dark and grim for about 10 minutes, then bounced back into knight in tarnished armor mode. The plot arc is almost a straight line -- miserable American (Denzel Washington) is the only one who can save all the helpless Mexicans from all the corrupt and murderous Mexicans, and as he kills more he gets stronger (despite bullet holes) and dresses better. The ending was not telegraphed, but it was a logical extension of the rest of the movie, so no real surprise. I really

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

2006/9/2: Excellently perverse.

City of Angels (1998)

2006/9/1: What a chick flick! I liked the imagery of angels as a flock of crows, but did they have to pick the most cliche (and stupid, and obvious) ending? Meg Ryan was beyond fickle, and Cage was dumb (and pretty, but not blonde).

Transporter 2 (2005)

2006/8/31: Fun, but mentally feeble. Why carry a priceless antidote in a glass jar? Why can't she wear pants? Skirts okay too. This movie had a martial arts choreographer, a car stunt choreographer, and a "fight choreographer: reshoots". They all earned their money, but there is something wrong with the Pinnochio hose. Hero wraps bad guy in end of hose, magically finds more hose at end to wrap next bad guy in, lathers, rinses, repeats -- never running out of hose. The airplane obviously had never heard of physics, and I'm sure every pilot who has ever seen this movie has laughed in agony at the idea that a plane could move that way, piloted or out of control. Silly, but still fun. It took itself too seriously to get away with Xena's blasé ignorance of reality.

The Aviator (2004)

2006/8/26: Very interesting. Well made -- Leonardo, who I don't particularly like, was good. I felt not mentioning syphilis did a disservice to Howard and his mother, as it implicitly attributed most of his insanity to his upbringing -- while there were apparently several other causes as well.

The Conversation (1974)

2006/8/24: Very good. It's aged well.

Talladega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)

2006/8/19: Fun. Not as novel as Anchorman, but very very silly.

The Squid and the Whale (2005)

2006/8/16: Miserable, but well done. It's horrifying to think there could be a father as dysfunctional as that, although of course they exist, but depressing to think of him paired with a mother so dysfunctional (not as much as the father, but bad enough to make things worse instead of better). It helped me a bit that things were obvious, and that apparently Noah Baumbach grew up and gained an understanding of the whole situation.

Amelie (2001)

2006/8/12: I liked it, although Amy was unimpressed. Somewhat scattered, but interesting.

Melinda and Melinda (2004)

2006/8/9: Quite watchable, although the framing conceit (that a comedian and a tragedist would tell different stories from the same set-up) is such an obvious non-starter that it detracted from the whole movie, as did watching two different sets of characters dealing with similar situations, in alternation. Will Ferrel channelling Woody Allen was worth seeing, though.

Land of the Dead (2005)

2006/8/7: Fun, although not a deep movie. The zombie king made no sense in so many ways.

Shark Tale (2004)

2006/8/4: Casting was great (I particularly liked "seeing" Martin Scorsese); animation was very pretty, and plot was feeble.

Cool World (1992)

2006/7/28: Nasty, and somewhat bleak, and profane, but to no real point.

My Super Ex-Girlfriend (2006)

2006/7/27: I managed to enjoy it, despite the complete lack of effort that went into the plot. There was exactly one surprise in the movie, several fairly funny lines, and otherwise 90 minutes of following a single trajectory (with good technical production values). Fundamentally weak.

Black Hawk down (2002)

2006/7/24: Excellent.

Clerks II (2006)

2006/7/15: Very good. There were again a few awkward set speeches like Chasing Amy, but they weren't bad.

Madagascar (2005)

2006/7/15: Amusing.

50 First Dates (2004)

2006/7/11: Weak, but entertaining. The soundtrack was the best part, and Rob Schneider was the worst.

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

2006/7/3: We all enjoyed it.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

2006/6/29: Strange. Somewhat difficult to get behind at first, because it was so off-kilter, but we were drawn into this very strange scene by the middle. Recommended.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

2006/6/20: What if you and your buddy were playing Doom, and this time when you said "Oh, man, I wish we could be in the game!" it happened? Despite a slow start, they made a really fun movie from this basic premise. Wisely, the difficult level was set to "Please, don't hurt me!", since most gamers would be a brown stain in a few minutes at the harder levels. In the movie, the zombies are both shockingly stupid and amazingly slow. Despite their unholy animation, they're remarkably fragile too.

The 3-Penny Opera (play)

2006/6/17: Amy's birthday present. We both enjoyed it, although in retrospect given Mac the Knife's ability to resist any (obvious) temptation, or any woman or man, the arc of the story was simply predictable, except the ending, which was a political statement and had nothing to do with the plot...

Forever Young (1992)

2006/6/13: Approximately as subtle and sophisticated as a Humvee at full throttle (at night, with headlights & military spot on). It seemed like they had 5-10 ideas, and just filled in the blanks to connect them. It's strange to see so much makeup on Mel Gibson at the beginning (when he's emerging from a crash, obviously fully primped), and then the bad age makeup later, and the hair which whitens in real time. What's that about?

Cars (2006)

2006/6/10: Clearly Pixar's weakest movie. The characters were over-caricaturized, and it wasn't well suited for viewers who don't like looking at cars for their own sake (Amy).

I (Heart) Huckabees (2004)

2006/5/29: Strange and interesting. Scattered and frequently unpleasant, but not bad.

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

2006/5/27: We were going to avoid it, due to flaming reviews, but there was nothing else to see. It was fun, although the recycled Lawnmower Man effect was annoying, the Professor was suddenly a nutball, and they did inexplicable things to Jean, her hair, and her skin. Since Marvel is constitutionally incapable of restraining itself from making another movie, there will be a lot of plot-torturing digging and retconning to explain the reappearance of characters killed off in this one (note last scene). It's annoying that in this movie it looks like half the population is mutants, but there are apparently none with simply bad mutations, who would be well served by the "cure". Magneto didn't make much sense -- he was needlessly evil to Mystique, and inexplicably surprised by Phoenix. In true Marvel style, Jean Grey is apparently a goddess of unlimited power -- in this movie they changed her backstory, removing the distinct phoenix creature, so the power levels make less sense.

Leap of Faith (1992)

2006/5/24: Fun, but shallow. Alternately sad, smug, and simple. If I was from Kansas (or anywhere in the Midwest) or religious, I might find it very offensive.

The Terminal (2004)

2006/5/19: Pleasant to watch, but soft. Guy spends 9 months in an airport, and never has anything stolen? Why not claim asylum? Catherine Zeta-Jones was so dressed down, I couldn't place her. Her character was also out of place -- her entry and exit didn't quite fit with the rest of the plot.

Chinatown (1974)

2006/5/17: Well done and twisted, although the twist was a bit of a surprise to me, after most of the movie had been straight.

Closer (2004)

2006/5/15: Very good, and almost too dark to be American. In the beginning, I thought it was all going to be predictable clichés, but after the first five minutes, things settled down. Interestingly, the verbal & emotional violence and threats had a greater impact on me that the physical violence I more often see in movies.

Teen Titans (2003-)

2006/5/10: Pretty, but too silly. The anime-tion of the characters when they're laughing or embarrassed or sick was distracting. The cartoon physics were annoying though. In a world where humans are thrown into walls, and the walls crumble but the people just get up swinging, what's the point of all the fighting? They're all invulnerable, so it's all a game. I gave up over Slade, though. The Titans are obviously outclassed, but he never accomplishes anything, except to make them sweat. Slade is obviously unstoppable, not because of anything in their universe, but simply because he's a recurring character. If the Titans took themselves seriously, they'd stop throwing themselves at Slade to be pummelled, and he'd go somewhere else to break things. Also, there are no civilians! The occasionally walk by, but apparently can't speak, or scream, or shoot...

Mission: Impossible III (2006)

2006/5/6: Lots of fun, although as Tom Cruise rips through set-ups and traps, it's inexplicable why there's always another trap waiting for the previous one to fail, but nobody bothers to shoot him. Even the inexplicable attack chopper and strike team doesn't seem to shake anything loose. The outside world remains forcefully oblivious of the secret International Monetary Fund. Priceless moment: When Cruise is explaining to an innocent, tells her that he works for an agency, and isn't joking, and then explains that his agency is called the "Impossible Mission Force"! Mostly, it's so full of action that plot doesn't really figure.

Alternative Freedom (2006)

2006/4/29: Brendan and I saw this at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater. The Pioneer is a bit smaller than one of the Film Forum's theaters; there was an introduction by the theater's programmer (not the same kind as much of the audience), then another by someone from, and another by Lawrence Lessing, who was there to see the movie (for the first time) and take questions afterwards. The movie was interesting, but definitely preaching to the choir. If there was anyone there who wasn't already convinced of the value of Creative Commons, they were almost certainly either a date or spying for the opposition.

The movie was split between interviews (in black & white or very low color) and public-domain follow-on footage. The lack of color added some ambiguity to Modest Mouse's ethnicity, but mostly made things harder to see, and the lack of time-sync on the initial interview with RMS didn't help either. The free-associational follow-on clips after each interview obviously had relevance to the filmmakers, but were largely inscrutable to the audience; although Lessig pointed out that very very little such film & video will be entering the public domain over the next several decades, due to the Sonny Bono Act's extension of copyright. It was interesting to see these people speak -- I'd read stuff by Stallman & Lessig, but never seen more than stills. Someone in the audience thought RMS was too far out for people who might otherwise agree with his arguments, and I was reminded that he's fighting for good and freedom, against an entire industry. If one loses sight of the fact that this is about as important to him as God or a congregation is to a rabbi, Stallman does seem round the bend. The Q&A was better than the film itself, which was only an hour; 2 hours would've been too much.

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

2006/4/26: Very good, although from all the discussion when it came out, I thought it was a deeply subtle story of mostly unfulfilled love. In the very first scene, they were checking each other out, and the genital wash wasn't subtle at all, nor was its follow-up. Well done.

Robots (2005)

2006/4/25: Juvenile and silly, but such a great voice cast! Fun, although I wished I could see more than 320x240 of it.

Inside Man (2006)

2006/4/8: Very good. Amy thinks Denzel Washington does his best work with Spike Lee, and I have no argument. Ken Leung was in it! We hadn't seen him in a movie since AI. It bothered me that the uniformed white cops were so stupid (Dafoe) and openly racist & brutal (Vikram), but I guess Spike Lee has a different perspective.

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

2006/4/2: Good, but depressing. The first movie I've ever seen, where I was embarrassed to get the in-jokes. Lighter hearted than Welcome to the Dollhouse, and less difficult to watch.

Soldier (1998)

2006/3/28: Slight but very watch-able. No obviously bogus effects, although the dust storms had notably cinematic timing.

V for Vendetta (2006)

2006/3/25: We took Alex & Devjani. Devjani had read 2.5 negative reviews, so we were all pleasantly surprised. It probably helps that only one of us had ever read the comic, and I didn't remember it (15-20 years ago, and I was impressed with how good, and how dark it was, but not much more detail).

Rollerball (2002)

2006/3/17: I stopped watching this -- don't remember the last time I did that, although it was on the Treo, so I wasn't walking out of a theater. The hypocrisy of doing a movie about the evils of sensationalized violence in sports, and building the movie on sensationalized violence, was just too much for me.

The Last Samurai (2003)

2006/3/9: Spoilers. So it was beautiful, but apparently the most important thing about Japan is that the scenery and small-village life are (were) mellow. Who knew? And Tom Cruise as a cavalry officer is a better swordfighter than a whole mess of samurai -- what?? The slow-mo flashback/flashforward envisioning the fights is cool, but tossed off without any explanation. Oh, what irony: TC falls in love with his hostess, whose husband he killed (and of course she reciprocates, as do her children); this doesn't prevent him from being a Spartan later. He gets the last proper katana in Japan. He's the only one who can do tactics (forget the "leader" he's "following"), and he has to fight back-to-back with the same guy. Unfortunately, he forgets the part about not charging into (musket/cannon fire), and does open-field formation fighting for no conceivable reason. And, being TC, he picks up the full sword-fighting skills, bushido code, and spirituality of the samurai over the course of a snowbound winter. But how are trees in blossom, and why does it look more like summer in Hawaii? He quickly picks the fine art of bowing, less than everybody else (especially to women). I was a little surprised he didn't personally save the emperor from assassins (only spiritually and politically). In true heroic fashion, TC (and his buddies) leave the helmets off their armor to be more photogenic, once they're all on the same side (when they're on opposite sides, the samurai wear their bestial helmets). For various reasons, TC frequently has to prove that he's more (sword-fighting) man than a bunch of Japanese. Fortunately, bullets apparently don't hurt much in Japan. In the end, everybody acknowledges he's super-boss, and Japan is saved by the ugly American.

Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)

2006/3/3: Fun. Very violent (there are apparently 40-50 characters through movie, most of them dead by 2/3 through). It's funny to see Ethan Hawke as a worn-out hardass. It's silly to see all the good guys running around in the snow, and not noticing it's cold. It's absurd that the hardass bad guys are so incompetent (dropping ID to start, and giving up all those identifiable assault weapons). I like that Bishop (the sergeant from the original) is the name of the criminal in the remake. I wonder how much else would be funny if I'd seen the original...

Ultraviolet (2006)

2006/3/3: Given that Ultraviolet can apparently kill anybody (or everybody) she wants, why go through this complicated plot? She's at war with the humans, and could apparently kill every single one herself. Interesting to see Milla Jovovich in a more complete role than The Fifth Element, where she mostly just posed in and out of mummy bandages, and barely spoke English. It felt a bit like an Aeon Flux knockoff. The movie is beautiful (how much of the design is from the original comic book design, and how much from the movie designer?), although I have to hope the color transformations were explained in the comic book, because they were just dropped into the movie. Why would a government courier dress like that, and why would anyone turn their own hair purple when trying to elude pursuit? The final save makes the penultimate save make no sense -- if she knew what was going on, why was she so unhappy? Enjoyable overall, even without any knowledge of the books. Somewhat silly to see a vampire movie where the word is ("vampire" is almost unused, and no blood is drunk.

Transamerica (2005)

2006/2/18: Very complex and very good, although it was hard to figure out how washing dishes and making unsuccessful cold calls would pay for gender reassignment surgery, much less the hormones or the preparatory plastic surgery. The main character ('Breen) was also surprisingly incapable in masculine areas for someone born male, but perhaps this was intended to be part of the deep unhappiness which led to the change.

Curious George (2005)

2006/2/18: Julia's first movie! Fun for the whole family.

Say Anything (1989)

2006/2/5: One of Amy's favorites, which I had never seen. It's amazing how young John Cusack was. Lots of fun, although Ione Skye seems overly clueless. "You could've told me!"??? Not really.

Torque (2000)

2006/2/2: Was that Iggy Pop on stage? Amy's disappointed in him. The bike fights were fun, the photography was fun. The movie was silly. Fed in building, a few feet from murderer, who thinks she's dead. Calls for backup at normal speaking voice. Later tells him she's alive, and blows both of them up. I'm thinking she never made it through the academy (or first grade!). Apparently riding a motorcycle teaches you martial arts, but Ice-T isn't smart enough to suspect the crooks he knows of doing crimes -- he prefers to suspect people he respects. Not a shining moment for anyone.

The Art of War (2000)

2006/2/1: I didn't remember that I'd already seen it, but it wasn't bad. Not great, either. James Hong's credit list is scary (and probably incomplete)!

King Kong (1933)

2006/1/30: Fun, although very very dated. It was amusing seeing the changes from small claymation to large statue, and real sets to "blue-screen" (what did they call it in the days of black & white?). And watching Fay Wray swapped back and forth with a Barbie doll... It was also odd seeing the racial subtext. Kong is pretty clearly a caricatured black man in some of his scenes, although not really in clay. It was also funny seeing the "hair" flopping back & forth as they posed the models.

Catwoman (2004)

2006/1/27: The plot is weak. The premise is weak. The choreography (basketball and fight/dancing) is fun. The cattish bits (movement, jumping) are absurd, not well-animated, and not very catlike, so not a whole lot of fun. I'll never get the chance to test it, but I'm pretty sure that if I mystically lost all my inhibitions and fears, I wouldn't start by spending a few hours straightening and bleach my hair before going out to raise mayhem -- even if I was a girl! Apparently the two sides of Catwoman's personality are time-sharing, so she can spend half the day making up new costumes (with claws), and the other half changing between them and "street" clothes, without sleeping longer than it takes to swap minds.

Monty Python's Spamalot (musical play) (1940)

2006/1/7: The first half was mostly a direct lift from the Holy Grail, set to campy music (loved the lumberjack insertion). The second half diverged more. We both really enjoyed it.


His Girl Friday (1940)

2005/12/31: We both really enjoyed it. Amy think's she'd never seen a Cary Grant movie before, and I certainly haven't seen more than a few. I wish Rosalind Russell hadn't been such a doormat for CG, and that the death-row inmate hadn't gotten such short shrift in favor of the romance angle. But the bit where CG describes "Bruce Baldwin" (played by Ralph Bellamy) to his cronies by saying he looks like the actor Ralph Bellamy is great, and the rapid-fire dialog (Netflix claims it's twice as fast as normal speech) was mental exercise to keep up with. We had no idea this plot had been done so many times (twice as The Front Page, once as Switching Channels, and originally as a play -- all the other times with Hildy [Russell] as a man).

Anchorman: the Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

2005/12/29: Amy loved it; I liked it.

Amazon Women on the Moon (1987)

2005/12/18: Amy had never seen it, and was pleasantly surprised at how funny (and cheesy) it is.

King Kong (2005)

2005/12/17: Very good, although overly long. Chris liked where they seemed to be going with the ending, but the actual ending was pretty good, except the strange comment from Jack Black. The huge number of ridiculously obvious bluescreens were a shock, especially considering how well-done the Kong & dinosaur animation were. Chris is somewhat disturbed at the (elided) arrival in New York, where Jack Black obviously makes all his own dreams come true, despite the other involved parties.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1998)

2005/12/10: Excellent. Amy reread the books a few years ago, and missed parts they left out. I haven't read them in decades, and had no such trouble. ;)

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

2005/11/28: Very well done. Very violent, but not horrifying. Sting visibly loved his cameo. So much coincidence strains credulity a bit, but not a serious problem.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

2005/11/25: Fun. Amy thought it was the best of the lot.

Diner (1982)

2005/11/23: I'd never seen this one before, which disturbed Amy. It was funny to see the beginning of so many careers, and see these actors when they were young, and see Steve Guttenberg not playing Police Academy. I can't tell if Ellen Barkin's character was supposed to be repressed, dumb, simply lost, or something else.

Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)

2005/11/19: Very good, but in retrospect it was a bit too lean. There was really nothing beyond the newsroom or 1953-1954, except the beginning/ending speech about the dangers of demagoguery from 1958, and obviously talking about the Bush administration's anti-terror terror. It would've been better with a bit more than 2-5 sentences per half-hour show, or a little more historical context, or more lead-up or follow-up...

Prime (2005)

2005/11/5: [spoiler] We liked it, but a strange movie. Streep spends the first half of the movie betraying her patient and responsibility as a therapist, and pushing her 23-year-old son around. Then she spends the second half talking to her ex-patient about the age gap, and to her son about marrying a Jew. The four roles barely overlap, and she never has the balls to acknowledge to Thurman that she wants a Jewish daughter, or any of her disapproval is about religion (even to herself, or her son who should know better). Suddenly she goes from being the overbearing PITA mother to the confidant, without any assessment or consideration of her conflicting roles. Neither of us liked the ending, where they end up taking Streep's (bad? certainly self-serving) advice, giving up on their previous plans and determination. Ironically, I was a year older when we started going out, but Amy was younger than Thurman, and is older now.

Serenity (2005)

2005/10/29: Very good, but after all the wonderful things we'd heard, this wasn't a surprise. We Netflixed Firefly (the TV series) in preparation for seeing the movie, and both Amy and I had the same couple reactions five minutes in. First, "What the heck is going on here?" and second, "This could never stay on TV -- it's too good." We saw it at a theater in North Bergen, guided purely (and successfully) by the new GPS. The tickets cost $4, Saturday night!!! They're $10.50 at our local theater. This theater was mostly showing Bollywood romances we'd never heard of.

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

2005/10/22: Fun, but it was a bit thin to hang an entire 4-person evening on, including $42 in tickets. The movie didn't benefit from the implicit comparison to Good Night, and Good Luck (Alex's pick), either.

Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane (1998)

2005/10/10: Interesting. Violent, but more by aura than gore or action. Dark in a very artistic way.

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)

2005/10/7: Silly but fun. It was annoying that the minor characters spend most of the movie being losers, with a brief moment of joy at the end, but we enjoyed it. The zinger ending didn't really work chronologically, but had an appropriate feel.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

2005/10/5: Ridiculous. Why does Johnny Depp's mad and bad pirate mince??

The Nightmare before Christmas (1993)

2005/10/3: Very good, although it would've been better to see before Corpse Bride. Stronger in some ways, and less sophisticated in others, neither surprisingly.

Corpse Bride (2005)

2005/9/25: Fun, although Amy & Alex didn't love it. Amy really liked the animation, and wished there more current stop-motion was still being made. We're looking forward to The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. I thought the ending was a bit odd, but it did answer the movie's fundamental dilemma, and was unanticipated (at least by me).

About a Boy (2002)

2005/9/18: Quite good; the ending was decidedly odd and unexpected, but I suppose it fit in with the direction of the movie.

Wedding Crashers (2005)

2005/9/10: Well done, but that doesn't change the fact that the plot itself was trite, transparent, and dumb.

The Player (1992)

2005/9/2: Not what I expected at all. Had I not had such expectations, it might've simply been a decent movie with cameos from everybody in Hollywood; as it is, I was continually surprised with where things went.

The Brothers Grimm (2005)

2005/8/28: A silly flim[sic]. Bad accents, bad acting, bad hair. Interesting, but not coherent enough to be offer much that way.

The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)

2005/8/26: One joke, drawn out to 2 hours, with assorted sub-jokes grafted onto it. Funny, but not great.

Hustle & Flow (2005)

2005/8/15: Excellent, but occasionally hard to watch particularly when the young boy is on-screen, but this isn't much of the movie. Powerful, but of course ambivalent -- the hero of the movie is a pimp, and he's not a hero in any normal sense, but it is his movie...

The Soong Sisters (1997)

2005/8/11: Fascinating. We both wished we knew more history, so we understood more. I also wondered what made the real Soong Sisters so special -- were they smarter or prettier than everybody else? They certainly were remarkable. It's interesting to see a serious historical piece done by a martial arts cast (& presumably crew).

The Dukes of Hazzard (2005)

2005/8/11: Fun. Aside from stupid/crazy & pained/ugly (Bo & Luke, very much Dumb & Dumberer with exploding arrows), excellent casting. Good music, too, although it seems a shame they missed Georgia Peach from the soundtrack, and why's the AC/DC missing from the CD? Self-awareness is generally better -- Daisy understands that her role in life/movie/show is to provide a T&A distraction, and they break the doors closed, but the explanation/excuse for the Stars & Bars (Confederate Flag) flag is feeble. The actual profanity, as opposed to fake TV profanity, felt a bit jarring.

The Piano (1992)

2005/7/30: Strange, then twisted, then bizarre.

Fantastic Four (2005)

2005/7/28: Flimsy but very fun. The core characters were fine, but they changed Doctor Doom and Alicia Masters. I suppose Doom's transformation was simpler and easier to convey, and more X-Men, and Alicia worked well this way, but it was pretty jarring (and I never even really followed the comic!).

March of the Penguins (2005)

2005/7/24: Fascinating and beautiful. I kept thinking "what an inhospitable place -- why do they live there, under those conditions?" and coming to the evolutionary conclusion: because if they didn't, they wouldn't live at all. The ones who left Antarctica are ensconced in their own (easier) ecological niches (unless they've gone extinct for totally different reasons), and as populations these are just the ones who didn't choose such an alternative.
That said, the movie had a total lack of subtlety, and would've been better with a bit more factual/scientific information, rather than just reiterating how tough & dangerous their existence is. From the narration, it sounds like there's exactly one species of penguins (Emperors) in Antarctica, with a single breeding ground, and no others exist. What about all the other penguin species? How many Emperors are there, and how many of the adults & chicks survive the winter and the first year? Most of the movie was gorgeous, but some bits were grainy or color-shifting -- probably an effect of the inhospitable filming conditions. Everybody in the audience stayed for the closing credits, showing the film crew among the penguins; this gives a much different sense of scale than the movie itself, which is notably lacking in size indications.

The Cider House Rules (1999)

2005/7/20: Very good. The end wrapped up a bit too neatly, and Amy pointed out that they left a lot out of the book (even a bunch on Dr. Larch, which I barely remembered from Part I of the excellent play), making this much more of a feel-good movie. At the end, many things go horribly wrong, but singing children lighten the mood considerably.

Kill Bill, vol. 2 (2004)

2005/7/17: The second time, I wasn't as conscious of the plot's failings; likely because I already knew what happens, and was now just along for the ride.

Kill Bill, vol. 1 (2003)

2005/7/16: Great the second time, too. Too gory for Amy this time (almost but not quite last time) -- she stopped watching about halfway through, and (unfortunately) will probably never see vol. 2, which has more plot and somewhat less violence (but the non-surprise zinger would probably disturb her even more).

Johnny Dangerously (1984)

2005/7/15: Amy had never seen it, so it was essential to introduce her to the genesis of "fargin iceholes" and various other non-swear-jar epithets. A very funny movie, and it has a Weird Al theme song!

War of the Worlds (2005)

2005/7/9: Excellent. Good effects, good acting. I wish they'd dispensed with the silly crests, and accepted that the aliens look just like E.T. There are two finales. The alien one was absurd, as was the human one, but the movie was still very enjoyable. Ray (Tom Cruise) was notably smarter than every other character in the movie, except as a father. It starts with him operating a big crane -- I was disappointed he never got to use it against the Martians. One of those movies that's much more disturbing to the parents in the audience.

The Human Stain (2003)

2005/7/3: Spoilers. Anthony Hopkins is a black man who passes as white. I can see Hopkins passing as white, but he's a remarkably unlikely black man. My main take-away from this movie is that if you throw 3 basket cases (Hopkins, Kidman, and Harris) and the three 3 ghosts who haunt them together, things might go dramatically bad.

There's some deep irony here, which may or may not be deliberate. Hopkins has passed for white so successfully that he's accused of being a racist, and ostracized by all his "friends". But he tries to hard to get away from black people and identity (including himself and his family) that he lies, passes, disowns his wonderful family, generally makes an ass of himself (including to black people), and avoids children (without telling his wife why), so the idea of him as an innocent non-racist doesn't really work. He's clearly against himself as a black man, and willing to hurt his family to 'become' white'.

After an hour of dredging through the pity of his poor dishonest life, we can tell he finally told the truth to Kidman (although we don't get to hear it) immediately before they're both killed. This provides some dramatic relief, but also makes all the wind-up seem a bit wasted. There's a remarkable irony: he goes to all this trouble to avoid being seen as the first black Classics professor at some college, but instead is consistently described as the first Jewish classics professor at some college. So he got exactly what he wanted to avoid, except it's false and he's constantly made a liar of. This, alas, is just left out there -- never addressed in the movie (dunno about the book). The champion of PC, who politically and personally persecutes him, is given a face (white woman with perhaps-highlighted hair), but mostly just shown as a papier-mache villain.

Lots of good acting. Perhaps because it's based on a novel, there's a lot about writing books (about the unfair accusations & dismissal, The Human Stain about Hopkins' life story), but none of it seems to have any value or purpose, aside from entertainment.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005)

2005/6/30: Fun. The first half-hour or so was lots of Angelina Jolie posing, and a bit of Brad Pit posing. They there was a lot of shooting at other people, followed by a bunch of shooting each other (they suddenly lost lots of accuracy...), and then beating each other up pretty brutally. Then they shoot lots of other people again. The underlying goal/mission was handled in the absolute worst way possible, as demonstrated by the fact that it completely failed, and there's good no reason for the bosses to have done it this way, except to make a movie,,,.

Butterfly Sword (2993)

2005/6/29: Cheese, of the whizzical variety. Poor effects, absurd gore, plot goes nowhere.

Batman Begins (2005)

2005/6/24: Excellent. Fun for the whole audience (not Julia).

The Protector (1985)

2005/6/18: Fun, but not great. The first part was a very funny Hong Kong director's idea of what downtown NYC must be like, and the second was a fairly mindless romp through the bad guys.

Angels in America, Part I (2003)

2005/6/17: Excellent -- I'd seen one episode live years ago, but Amy had never seen any of it. It's a bit bizarre to be reminded of times back before everybody was familiar with AIDS. A bit difficult. Powerful, but very over-the-top (partially because it's from a play, and partially because that's just the way it is).

Crash (2005)

2005/6/12: A matinee -- first I've seen in at least 5 years. I felt like it could've fit all of Training Day into one story arc (Dillon & Phillipe and their main encounter); somewhat like Magnolia, but much tougher to watch. Dark & disturbing, but excellently done, with a remarkable cast. Once again, I had trouble with how self-destructive people were (Cheadle's white/Mexican bit, Cameron during his personal crisis at the end, Flanagan putting the squeeze on, Toub throughout, Bullock's lack of comprehension at the end). It rang a bit false and over-dramatic to me, but perhaps that's just optimism.

Monsoon Wedding (2001)

2005/5/30: Good. I had thought it was a lovely piece on the beautiful style of Indian marriages, and was surprised to watch a movie on how stormy family life, relationships, and interactions can be. Amy wishes there had been a bit less going on, so the movie (and Amy) could focus a bit.

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

2005/5/21: A huge improvement over episodes I & II, although frankly that's not saying a whole lot. The light-saber and space battles made it much more fun. The Jedi were collectively pathetic in this episode, though -- most of them were oblivious to the evil they were allegedly searching for, and completely unprepared for the betrayals. Anakin, in particular, who had been brilliant and powerful, at the end of this episode was clueless, weak-willed, obviously completely deluded, and desperately grabbing after a ridiculous fantasy of Amidala. I wondered whether his dreams were planted or just trivially obvious to everyone around him.

The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

2005/5/13: A pretty good remake. Lots of failures of logic (especially on the part of the good guys) -- but I doubt this troubled the majority of the audience. In particular, the good Senator/VP candidate was remarkably dumb, and the villain takes absurdly stupid risks. Brain surgery in 20 minutes?? Why were the victims shown brain models, and told about them?? The creators of the remake obviously thought about whether Ray Shaw should be a racist or just a general misanthrope, and either couldn't make up their minds or wimped out.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

2005/5/7: Better than I expected, after reading three ambivalent reviews. Slight, and they left out a lot, but starting with the dolphin intro, fun and reminiscent to watch. Due to time constraints, short shrift was given to the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, towels, the Pan-galactic Gargle Blaster, and doubtless hundreds of other things I don't remember. I didn't much like the ending -- kept waiting for Scrabble pieces. I also didn't like Zaphod -- ISTR he was more amusing and less irritating, although perhaps he was supposed to be more irritating, and it's just the difference between reading about a twit and seeing one; the pop-up heads thing seemed wrong, but I don't know if the two necks I expected were described in the book, or just my assumption.

Last Tango in Paris (1972)

2005/4/30: Two people show how damaged they are by having sex with each other. Marlon Brando wins the contest, but doesn't win the war.

The House of Flying Daggers (2004)

2005/4/25: Lots of fun, although a bit too cinematic (impossible) for a non-fantasy movie. At the end, though, it went completely off the rails, with bad snow, magically appearing (and disappearing) horses, and magically non-fatal wounds.

The Incredibles (2004)

2005/4/20: Another re-watch for me (Amy hadn't seen it). Watching it again, I was struck by the family bits that wouldn't resonate with several of our friends, the James Bond connections (again), and the Fantastic Four & Endor nods. I hadn't realized that Syndrome is Banky from Chasing Amy, or that E was Brad Bird (writer/director). "Jack Jack Attack" on disc 2 confirms Jack's excellence.

Chasing Amy (1997)

2005/4/17: A rare re-watch. Broken in many ways, but still worth seeing and interesting. We remembered some of the personal relevance, but had both forgotten (or not seen at the time) many connections to another friend.

Kung Fu Hustle (2005)

2005/4/16: Lots of fun. Less openly absurd than Shaolin Soccer, but still unabashedly ridiculous. Not strong on subtlety or depth, but the spirit of Bruce Lee was palpable.

The Animatrix (2005)

2005/4/10: Fun blank filling for the Matrix world. No more logical than the main trilogy, and all disconnected from each other (except for "The Second Renaissance, Part I" & "The Second Renaissance, Part II"). The Matrix lends itself well to animation. Somehow, it was not a surprise that Peter Chung, of Aeon Flux, was involved.

Sin City (2005)

2005/4/2: I really enjoyed it, but perhaps Amy shouldn't have gone. There were several types of men: hard cases with ethics (3 protagonists), rapist/torturer/murders (2 villains), shadowy evil power brokers (2), and cops (mostly in riot gear, ineffective, and corrupt). Men were black & white, with color generally just for blood (their own & others'). Women were almost all prostitutes in underwear, with more color, including their eyes. Given this fundamental aesthetic, and the terms "noir" and "ultra-violence" from most of the reviews, you should have a good sense of the movie, whether or not you've seen it. Unfortunately, the plotting hinged on some exceedingly weak bits, such as a bit of trivial detective work (matchbook) which drove the second half of one story, and a character with a new face and identity -- who everybody knew.

When Will I Be Loved? (2004)

2005/4/1: Execrable.

Ray (2004)

2005/3/29: Great.

Once upon a Time in Mexico (2003)

2005/3/23: Not as good as Desperado. Even considering its lineage, remarkably gory and gross. Much of the characters' behavior made no sense at all.

Spirited Away (2001)

2005/1/17: Very good, although I did wonder if the novelty was because I'm just not familiar with the culture, and this stuff would have been much more familiar to a native audience.

Sideways (2004)

2005/1/16: Excellent. It was interesting to see how much different Giamatti's character was from Harvey Pekar, while retaining lots of similarities.


Meet the Fockers (2004)

2004/12/29: As expected, seriously stupid, but also funnier than anticipated. Unfortunately, Ben Stiller was (predictably) a complete loser, which meant the dynamic between him and future father-in-law de Niro (who's hated him since the previous movie) completely lacked tension, and was just a convenient place to hang jokes. Did like the Pacino/Scarface cameo, though.

Ocean's Twelve (2004)

2004/12/18: Ironically, in this movie with ever more thieves popping out of the woodwork, Amy's wallet was stolen.

Hero (2002)

2004/12/17: Good. They seemed to lose the line between reality and fantasy a few times, but I realize this isn't as important to everybody else. I wasn't terribly impressed by the message, but it was lots of fun to watch.

The Incredibles (2004)

2004/12/9: Great. The plot was fleshed out, nothing was absurd because they didn't care, and the genuflections to the whole comic book genre and James Bond added to the experience. The body shapes were whack, partially because the adults are pointedly middle-aged, but also for some other reason I don't get. This was more than compensated for by the real attention to family relationships, and the most excellent Jack Jack.

Team America: World Police (2004)

2004/10/30: Amy and I enjoyed it, although in the Salon interview they describe their minimal message, which I didn't much like. South Park is like that too, though -- morbidly fascinating, but certainly not a plan for living. The thing that really offended me, though, was the helicopter racing to Europe in convoy with a jet. Double bogus! Alas(?), I don't believe I ever saw Thunderbirds, TA's inspiration.

Sexy Beast (2001)

2004/9/19: Very good, and quite strange.

The Street Fighter (1974)

2004/9/16: Wow, the version I have is a bad dub! Back to Saturday afternoons, but I don't remember them using multiple voice actors per character (in a single scene!). I think the humorous aspect is deliberate, but don't know for sure. Sonny Chiba reminds me of Bruce Lee in the role of a sneering Treasure Troll. In the spirit of feet of clay, Chiba's character's made out of old Play-Doh.

Die Another Day (2002)

2004/9/12: Fun, and we're of course used to working hard at suspension of disbelief in Bond movies, but solid ice on steaming water??? The initial surf scene was a ridiculous insertion but part of the cliché, but the second one was both absurd and bad special effects. The intro/credits/torture scene was seriously gratuitous. They did right by (most of) the cars and the quotes ("Diamonds are Forever", and Art of War twice), though. I also amused by Halle Berry wearing a uniform with a Korean nametag, so nobody would realize she wasn't a Korean soldier, but the disrobing swordfight was painful.

Collateral (2004)

2004/9/11: Enjoyable, and definitely a successful acting reach for both Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. Unfortunately, the writers took themselves too seriously, and realism too lightly. The ouroboros coincidences, the refusal to abandon the cab (and cabbie), the apparent decision to attack everybody with a gun at the club, are all ridiculous; similarly, the priorities and actions on the last hit are totally (and obviously) counterproductive. A federal drug witness goes to a club where the security carries automatic weapons, and has 2 girls sitting on his lap without the feds knowing where he is? And he tells his wife where he's going?? Not even trying. Also, the Cruise/Foxx bonding was a bit much.

Pale Rider (1985)

2004/9/9: Very good, and it aged pretty well too.

Hellboy (2004)

2004/9/7: Fun. A bit silly over-the-top with the mystical references, but enjoyable. In the cold light of the next day, the silliness and absurdity are pretty strong, though.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

2004/9/6: Whodathunkit? Frank Sinatra, who I don't like, was fine, but I'd never seen him in a movie before. The central character's accent and Frank's effect on the ladies were painfully incongruous, but overall quite good. There were several short scenes, starting with Frank's proposal in the latter half, which were particularly funny and well-written.

The Italian Job (2003)

2004/9/2: Lots of fun, although the (more elaborate) plot didn't hold together as well as the original.

Garden State (2004)

2004/8/29: Very good. Several people have told us that it epitomzes NJ, but I (who went to high school in Bergen County) thought it epitomized suburban life, not particularly Jersey. It was also odd that he was so close to these people, but knew so little about them, and vice-versa.

Magnolias (1999)

2004/8/25: F'ing wierd. We didn't even realize how wierd until we checked out the trivia on IMDB, a whole 'nother set of oddities we mostly weren't aware of. Very abstract, and what happened to Marcie?

Pootie Tang (2001)

2004/8/21: I enjoyed it, despite the lack of sense, but Amy probably wouldn't have. I found myself wondering what made Pootie Tang ("too cool for words") so cool, as it wasn't looks or patter -- the best I could come up with is divine (writer's) dispensation.

The Italian Job (1969)

2004/8/19: I enjoyed it, and felt like it was obviously a dated movie by the lack of (ignored) gaping plot holes. Not a lot of substance, though.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)

2004/8/15: Strange and fascinating, and very confusing. My first thought was that a German drag queen had decided to make Tommy look relatively plain. There's a strong Rocky Horror aspect as well.

The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

2004/8/1: Fun, but not nearly as good as the first. Not as much surprise or suspense, or emotion, although there was explanation and closure (even stupidly arranged in the penultimate case). The fights were completely incomprehensible due to jerky camerawork; this was obviously deliberate, but accomplished nothing worthwhile -- perhaps they couldn't afford stuntmen, so just had two actors stand in a room while the camera operators pretended they were playing zero-g racquetball?

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

2004/7/29: Lots of fun. Nia Vardalos is obviously both very talented and brave.

The Bourne Identity (2002)

2004/7/27: Lots of fun. No problematic holes, except that the protagonist is superhuman, and the antagonists (who know him better than he himself) somehow don't know it.

The Magnificent Seven (1960)

2004/7/23: Amy had never seen this, and I didn't remember it well. Excellent.

I, Robot (2004)

2004/7/17: Very loosely lifted from Asimov's excellent novel (time to dig out one of my copies). Good production, good effects, and a real plot (with substantial holes). This movie had 2 extra villains, and a completely unempathetic character (Dr. Susan Calvin). Since she was obviously serving as the formula love interest (she even checks out his scar), there was no reason to make Calvin such a clueless cold fish, except Hollywood SOP for scientists (especially female ones). The First Law of Robotics was broken by the creators of the movie, who start with a major Asimovian theme, but then go completely off the rails into photogenic Hollywood absurdity (like the little red lights). A few good lines, and very entertaining, but still plenty of holes (like why does Will Smith hate robots? and why and how were these breadcrumbs left?).

The Rocketeer (1991)

2004/7/15: This movie was somewhat simple (like the hero), and a bit like watching dominoes fall -- each bit followed predictably from the previous bit -- but still plenty of fun. In the final battle, the mere presence of the enemies would have been a much bigger problem than their nominal target, but more explication would constitute a spoiler.

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

2004/7/10: I really enjoyed it, although Amy and her family thought it was considerably longer than it needed to be (perhaps because they weren't readers of the comics -- not that I ever read it a lot). I got a little whiplash from the speed with which they rushed through the evolution of Spidey's character and relationships at the end -- seemed like about 10 years (at 12 * 5 = 30 issues/year, that's 300 issues of various Spider-Man comic books) in 10 minutes of screen time. Whoosh! The bits about losing his powers (and vision) were absurd -- this version of Spider-Man seems to get all his weakness (and power -- including indestructibility) from his own head... Doc Oc was more interesting and disturbing than ever in the comics, although the larval Hobgoblin was mostly pathetic. Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) didn't look well through much of the movie, and I wondered if Alfred Molina gained weight to become the rotund Dr. O.

Perfect Blue (1997)

2004/7/5: Zuma Digital did the DVD pre-mastering when I worked there. Not something I'd normally watch, and as it turned out not very good. In process of getting confusingly complicated, they seemed to lose track of which character was being crazy at any given point, and which level of reality was supposed to be real. Embarrassingly (as a Zuma ex-employee) the DVD transfer wasn't even anamophic, so it was letterboxed on all 4 sides on the widescreen PB G4 15" -- glad I no longer work there (actually nobody works at Zuma any more). There's apparently a dearth of US anime voice actors, as Spike & Faye from Cowboy Bebop show up together again in this movie, as well as Megas XLR and who knows how many others. Give Boon more work!

Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)

2004/7/3: Fascinating, disturbing, and depressing. Very well done, but we wish it had been a little less one-sided, as such an obvious (and admitted -- Moore is clear about pushing his own perspective) feels less like a documentary and more like an anti-Bush campaign, albeit one with which we agree). The bits about the Saudi royals were shocking, and the music and juxtapositions were powerful, but the obvious strong agenda saps some of the strength which an objective documentary can have.

Wrinkle in Time (2004)

2004/6/20: Surprisingly good for a Disney movie. Watching the movie made me wish I remembered more of the books, but we probably enjoyed it more because we'd both forgotten most of the originals, so we weren't as aware of the discrepancies and missing bits.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

2004/6/19: Very good -- much better than the first and second movies, which were fine but somewhat wooden. It may have helped that Amy and I didn't remember the book very well, but the only real problems we had were a) no explanation of who Messrs. Mooney, Wormtail, Proudfoot, and Prongs were (we remembered, but this would've been confusing otherwise) and b) not enough quidditch!

Stepford Wives (2004)

2004/6/18: This was really a sociological/gender roles story, and the sci-fi aspect was just a scaffold to hang it on. In the first quarter, Nicole Kidman descends into horror and evil (reality TV), while the movie milks it for all it's worth. In the next two quarters, Kidman and her two best friends (plus her husband) discover that the Stepford Wives are actually robotic sex toys. Interestingly, through this repeated process of murder/kidnapping and replacement/enslavement, there's a notable lack of effective objection. In the final quarter, the story invisibly twists, and the women are no longer robots -- instead they're under mind control. Alas, the writers & director fail to reconcile the discrepancy, so I was continually distracted trying to reconcile their confusion. At the end, when it was clear they just couldn't count to three (bodies in a room), my confusion was resolved, to be replaced by disappointment. This was somewhat alleviated by an unforeseen finale (not the tacked-on interview, which was also ridiculous), but not saved. Alas, the surprise ending revealed similar confusion over collaborators, which didn't help. I did enjoy the slight reminder of Project X, though.

Brother from Another Planet (1984)

2004/6/12: Very good, and very very strange. Joe Morton is good, although the role is limited by being a non-talking part, and some of the oddities of his alien nature. We had no idea that John Sayles (writer/director/editor) was also one of the MIBs.

Bulletproof Monk (2003)

2004/6/4: Enjoyable, but less than completely together. The omnipresent, egomaniacal Nazis commit murder in a supposed attempt to elicit information but then abandon the scene, without a thorough search or bothering with a stakeout, but there's lots more nonsense. In the closing credits, it's mentioned that this is adapted from a comic book (Image/Flypaper Press), and suddenly the overarching conspiracy, magical realism, baroque torture scheme, and many other elements are explained. The Netflix sleeve claims he's physically invulnerable, while the dialogue claims special relationships with time and air. It's all rather confusing and ill-defined; perhaps the magical parameters (and the reason so many people with aforementioned special relationship with air are repeatedly at risk of falling to their deaths) are fleshed out in the comic -- or perhaps not.

Matrix Revolutions (2004)

2004/6/2: In summary, not very good, although some fun. They seem to have finally decided that the submarines are now really anti-grav + vectored-thrust hovercraft.

Super Size Me (2004)

2004/5/15: A fascinating (and disturbing) look at fast food culture. The basic premise is that America is undergoing an obesity epidemic, and fast food is the cause. As an 'experiment', Morgan Spurlock eats nothing but McDonald's food for a month. It's flawed as an experiment, as the title telegraphs the result, but the effects of a pure fast-food diet are worse than expected by three doctors (sample size, 1). There's a lot of "don't do this -- it's hurting you", which is both powerful and a bit obvious. I originally suspected the experiment & movie were subsidized by lawyers suing McDonald's, but this didn't seem to be the case. One of the drivers is the 'debate' between McDonald's claim that doctors say their food is fine to eat, and various doctors and health professionals claiming fast food should be eaten little or not at all. Spurlock does a good job of showing how people continually have fast food pushed at them, with commercials, school cafeterias, etc., vs. feeble 'education' efforts by parents, schools, and doctors. There's a good point made about how much more money goes into marketing fast food & junk food, vs. the effort towards healthy diet & exercise. Unfortunately, some of the more abstract material is glossed over a bit, such as apparent testimony in aforementioned lawsuit where Spurlock claims McDonald's lawyers said it's known to all citizens that each step of 'processing' makes food worse for you -- first I've heard this, anyway.

Van Helsing (2004)

2004/5/8: Fun, but too long. Sort of a combination of Dracula, Underworld (Beckinsale, werewolves vs. vampires), League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Hyde, secret technology), and Alien (slavering monster babies). So much fake hair! So much disregard for reality! How many little arrows fit inside that barrel, and why does a gas-powered gun need a crossbow arm? Then there's disregard for myth and legend -- these vampires are awfully unconcerned about daylight, and seem able to fly beyond the horizon while clouds are revealing the sun. The ending was fairly feeble, and too obvious a sequel set-up.

Shaolin Soccer (2001)

2004/5/2: This is a really fun movie. They don't try that hard with the plot, but the (silly) kung fu & (silly) soccer are a treat. Those balls are tough! They break through walls, knock multiple people down, and never need air! I was disappointed that the characters weren't too bright, but that was decidedly secondary to the action. Much different than Beckham!

Kill Bill, vol. 2 (2004)

2004/5/1: Lots of fun, although I (of course) have some issues. Most importantly, I don't see why neither side decided to skip all the preliminaries and skip straight to the final scene -- there was no need to go through most of those characters to get to Bill. Also, it strikes me as decidedly odd that of the 6 assassins at the big hit, 4 of them felt serious remorse afterwards, but had no inkling of this before. The ending was telegraphed through the whole movie -- not bad, but this makes it clear that the (very enjoyable) details are more important than the plot itself. On a technical note, there's lots of sword-fighting and a fair bit of gunfighting. This is fine -- typically, sword-fighting is for affairs of honor, and to avoid drawing the attention of outsiders. In this movie, though, nearby people seem almost never to actually hear the gunshots. Pai Mei was a great caricature, especially considering Gordon Liu's credits; I thought the beard was a bit over the top, though. The Onion had a good interview with Carradine; it sounds like he's the star of his own life story, but I'm left wondering about its resemblance to reality...

Bullitt (1968)

2004/4/24: 90% of the plot is obvious, but I didn't spot the zinger. The car chase is truly great, but the beetle obsession & magically regenerating hubcaps are pretty funny.

Kill Bill, vol. 1 (2003)

2004/4/23: This is a good (very violent) movie, with a very good soundtrack. Hopefully in the second movie we'll get an inkling of what prompted the initial event, from which everything else follows. Looking at the DVD box, though, I'm struck by the allocation of words. There are 16 words on the cover; 4 of them are QT's name, 4 are the title and segment, and the other 8 relate the movie to QT. This strikes me as noteworthy. Even more, I'm struck by the odd hang-ups of the nefarious assassins.

Heist (2001)

2004/4: In general, an excellent crime movie, with characters who generally seem much better at this than I can imagine being. Unfortunately, there are several bits that simply don't jibe with the rest. For example, why do the people who know with absurd specificity where the combination's kept, not know where the security cameras are or connect to? These geniuses of crime appear to rely completely on backup plans -- they have a great idea, which doesn't quite work, so Plan B is implemented, which doesn't quite work, so switch to Plan C, et cetera. This works, but not perfectly. Said geniuses seem pretty stupid for returning to the same place over and over, where everybody and their lame nephew knows to find 'em. Granted, they expect some plans will fall through (thus the backups), but never seem to put any effort into making a particular plan work...

Bend It Like Beckham (2002)

2004/4/1: Excellent. The premise is not a surprise, but the details are fascinating, and surprising to us. And it reminds one what a big deal a single goal is in soccer/football.

X2: X-Men United (2003)

2004/3/31: Pretty good. Good effects, and a real plot, although I was again (admittedly less) disturbed by the sweeping (and apparently pointless) changes to the 'original' story. The whole Phoenix thing was absurdly overblown, too. The villain suffered badly from compression -- he was a blocky amalgam of brilliance, evil, madness, bad luck, megalomania, and creepiness. Magneto was obviously torn between being old Magneto (evil) and new Magneto (sympathetic but misguided). I wonder what Sabertooth thought of his/her makeover?

I Spy (2002)

2004/3/28: Amusing, but too dumb to be much of anything else.

Ice Age (2002)

2004/3/25: Good animation, and a real plot, although there were enough really absurd bits to bug me.

Life or Something Like It (2002)

2004/3/21: Eh. No surprises, except that they didn't capitalize on the whole 'legally dead' thing. It was odd, though, that Angelina Jolie, in her role as the vainest and most-primped woman on earth, looked so much worse than every other role I've seen her in.

Spartan (2004)

2004/3/20: Very good. Spare, but potent. Interestingly, the disturbing ending made the middle much more disturbing as well. Karuna didn't like it -- too dark -- but we did.

Starsky & Hutch (2004)

2004/3/16: Not a very good movie. Coolio was amusing as Huggy Bear, but I couldn't think of any motivation for him to be an informant, or any excuse for Starsky & Hutch to keep jobs on the force. I also found myself wondering what Ben Stiller's contribution was. I expected him to be the star, and Wilson to be the sidekick, but Stiller's two roles seemed to be a) acting dumb and b) Own Wilson's straight man. I did like the ending cameo by the original S&H (and the Torino?). There were lots of California girls (legitimately worked into the plot) but they and the car weren't enough to carry the movie.

Road to Perdition (2002)

2004/3: Very good. Well acted (as you'd expect from this cast), with an interesting plot that manages to work in plenty of unexpected bits around the basic thrust. It was nice to see Jude Law as an un-pretty-boy. I didn't get much out of the fore-and-aft narration, and found the denouement weak -- I felt disappointed that it had gotten to that stage.

Heartbreak Ridge (1986)

2004/2: I can't say why, but I really liked this movie, except the 80's shorts, which pained me.

Femme Fatale (2002)

2004/2: A shadow of Basic Instinct until the end, when it got surreal (and ridiculous).

Daredevil (2003)

2004/2/20: Fun, but not great. The swinging between buildings seemed like an out-of-place Spider-Man reference, and I know just enough about Daredevil to think Elektra got short shrift. The ending was way too comic-cliché, but the Kevin Smith cameo (as Jack Kirby, coroner) was cute.


Collateral Damage (2002)

2003/12/15: Eh. The basic plot was known in advance of the deferred release, and there weren't many surprises. They do get points for never giving Arnold (the Governator!) a gun. Unfortunately, the end of the movie makes no sense whatsoever. Villain #1 ("El Lobo") makes a bit of sense, but Villain #2's actions have no point; they are risky and completely without purpose so far as I can tell. Also, the ending is a radio announcer telling us that Arnold is avoiding fame and being honored by the U.S. President -- more than a bit over the top.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

2003/12/6: Very good, although not a genre Amy and I normally go for. I'm sure John Bianchi had a great time, though. Amy liked the historical aspect -- does anyone know if in the books the doctor ever catches (and brings to England) the flightless cormorant? We haven't seen any movies in a while -- all stinky, except a couple one but not both of us want to see. Hopefully thinks will improve soon -- we're overdue for good movies!

School of Rock (2003)

2003/10/25: Lots of fun, with a good soundtrack, but I kept thinking "Jeez, they're screwed when they take exams, or the next teacher comes in." Amy points out that this makes it a kids movie -- the kids in the audience (the majority when we saw it) didn't seem to notice or mind.

Lost in Translation (2003)

2003/10/11: Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson were both very good, strongly conveying out-of-place -- in Tokyo and their lives in general. The music was good and went well.

Matchstick Men (2003)

2003/9/27: Pretty good. Amy saw the twist, but I didn't. The ending was awfully mild, and the plot was very complicated -- a bit if judicious violence would've simplified things a lot.

Underworld (2003)

2003/9/20: Four of us went, and we all enjoyed it. The cosmology is much different than the World of Darkness which I (we all?) had in mind; less sophisticated and actually less 'logical', and more intended to drive an action/violence flick. Someone called it a rewrite of Romeo and Juliet, and I agree. There also should've been a credit to The Matrix.

One irony is that the werewolves were nominally 'better' than the vampires, but did considerably more harm to humans (a total reversal of WoD). Kate Beckinsale was pretty good in her role, and the production was pretty good, but the deliberately poor lighting was problematic. The ending (sequel lead-in) was painfully transparent.

Step into Liquid (2003)

2003/8/30: Beautiful. The over-/under-water camerawork was extraordinary. Not much of a plot, and we were left wondering why there were so few women, but it served well as an homage to the ocean, life, and famous surfers (friends of the writer/narrator)? It made me wish I could surf, a little; perhaps I'll try to wind-surf again next summer -- I haven't tried since camp, when I barely weighed enough to lift the sail. Foil board, who would have believed it??

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

2003/8/29: Enjoyable, although not as good as the first two (not that it was expected to be, especially considering the absence of James Cameron and Linda Hamilton). It was quite irritating to see supposedly efficient killing machines spend so much time trying to kill people by throwing them around, or taking time to pose before racing to save or destroy humanity; towards the end, the humans took over, staring at destruction while waiting for the robots to come after them, before deciding to run away. The writers and characters seemed a little confused on what the 'message' of the movie is, or even the meaning of terms like 'destiny' and 'fate'. It was bizarre to see a self-described 'obsolete' giant robot on a motorcycle chasing a newer, smarter robot driving a crane, but apparently Arnold didn't take his own assessment seriously -- perhaps he knew he was both hero and star, and logic wasn't relevant. Also, it was simply whack to see a gubernatorial candidate going ape on a truck for national entertainment.

The Medallion (2003)

2003/8/28: Following Rush Hour 1/2 (and to a lesser extent Shanghai Noon & Nights), Jackie Chan sticks with the annoying-Westerner gag. It works a bit better here than in Rush Hour, but the stupid British Interpol agent who gives him a hard time still spends 5 minutes early in the movie telling statues to freeze, and reprises the 'performance' near the end. There is a plot, it's not very substantial, and it looks like they wanted to make a superhero pic, but decided to tone that aspect down (almost out of existence) in editing. The fighting is hard to see, and works better as dance, but it is impressive. Not a terrible film, but you'd should only see it if you're a Chan fan.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)

2003/7/17: Not bad, but not very good either. It was cartoony-silly, but didn't rise above the genre. The idea of a solar-powered submarine moving that fast in 1899 was ludicrous, the plot was overly absurd. To typify the problems, Mr. Hyde was indeed ugly (as we all know he must be), but he looked scarred -- no explanation of why he'd get scars when transforming, or lose them when changing back to Dr. Jekyll. They did a nice bit on the psychological aspects of the schism, but it was very small, and didn't do justice to the original story; we were left with an shallow and opaque Hulk alternative.

Charlie's Angels 2: Full Throttle (2003)

2003/7/10: Fun but dumb, as expected. Much skin and bimbo bouncing. I liked the Stick Chicks, which I only recognized from Mad TV -- was this lifted directly from the original series, or were the Charlie's Angels people astute enough to double-spoof? Much bad hair -- lots of ugly & ridiculous wigs, which I don't remember from the original. Lowlights of the plot: As seen in the preview, a helicopter falls off a dam; on the way down, the angels open the blades, start the engine, have a conversation, and manage to get into the helicopter, so they can fly away. This is even worse than the James Bond scene where he chases an airplane and flies away, since if you could actually free-fall faster than an airplane, lift would be available even without the engine. Later, the angels must catch a bad guy who's driving down a mountain road in a Porsche; they catch up, okay, but somehow Bosley manages to get in front of this guy and set up a roadblock; does he have another helicopter, which we don't see? The movie is best summarized by the closing credits, though. This doesn't have anything to do with the plot, but someone decided this movie really needed a car-wash scene, so the angels hose a car (and each other) down, wearing bikinis under open jumpsuits. It's amusing, gratuitous, and emblematic of the whole movie. Demi Moore was fun as the villainess; overplayed just like the rest of the movie.
PS-Quite a website, although they ought to know better than to use spaces in paths.

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982)

2003/3: Black & white detective comedy. Strangest thing: Steve Martin with brown hair. They went beyond silly well into absurd, but it eventually made sense. Much of the dialog was Steve Martin talking, intercut with dialog of famous actors in other movies; it made me wish I knew the other movies, so I could figure out what they were going to say.


Celebrity (1998)

2002/10/30: What is it that Woody Allen and Spike Lee have in common, that makes them both write such bad (not simply evil, or dumb, or pathetic, but still thoroughly unpleasant) characters out of themselves (Giant in Mo Better Blues, for example)? Kenneth Branagh does a great Allen, and simultaneously makes himself pathetic, irritating, and slimy -- interestingly, none of these are done in ways which remind me particularly of Allen. And I still don't know what Leonardo DiCaprio was doing there, aside from being in an Allen picture.

The Transporter (2002)

2002/10/26: Shout out to all my Riggers in the Shadows! Fun, although decidedly and obviously cheesy. Excellent use of tracers, although again the heroes were untouched by "thousands" of rounds. Really no explanation for how the initial situation could ever have come about, but good driving, and some choreographer who couldn't afford zero gravity is getting a head start with oil.

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

2002/10/20: Good, interesting, and depressing. I had never seen this before, and I'm now convinced it formed the kernel for Natural Born Killers. I found myself wondering if there were pictures and a poem about Bonnie & Clyde, which the creators revisited in the movie -- no idea if this is actually so. It seemed pretty obvious to me that B & C were headed for a bad end -- makes me wonder what the originals expected for themselves.

Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002)

2002/10/9: My initial reaction to this movie was "fun!". This lasted for about 40 minutes. Good actors, some original concepts for the plot, nice choreography, excellent coordination with the music. Then I realized the premise didn't hold together, it became obvious that the villains were never going to hit anything, and the (anti-)heroes made it obvious they had no interest in attacking their declared enemy. Pfui! Nice use of ordnance, but I can't give it much more.

PS-If you don't have a TiVo, you should have Netflix -- it makes movie rental much more pleasant, although we largely ignore it since we got the TiVo up and running. No sponsorship, affiliation, or kickback (either). See also:

Old Reviews