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movie reviews

He Loves Me... He Loves Me Not   ...   movie reviews
tue 2005-nov-08 01:37:41 pst   ...   permalink

Sunday night we watched He Loves Me... He Loves Me Not (French title: A la folie... pas du tout). It was good, though it suffered a bit from the "plot summary reveals too much" problem -- I think I would have liked it better if I'd known less going in.

<spoiler detail="medium">
what I would have preferred not to have known )

In any case, as usual, Audrey Tautou gives a good performance, and she's reason enough to see it.

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Serenity   ...   movie reviews , spoiler_low
sun 2005-oct-23 23:20:22 pdt   ...   permalink

After watching the Firefly series DVDs over the last six weeks or so, last night we went to see Serenity. It rocked.

<spoiler detail="low">
a few thoughts )

Definitely highly recommended, along with the series -- even to people who are not fans of science fiction. (Of course, I suspect that a good deal of my readership is comprised of bigger sci-fi fans than me, and saw both the series and the film well before I did!)

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Panic   ...   movie reviews
sun 2005-oct-16 12:20:10 pdt   ...   permalink

Yesterday we watched the strangely-titled Panic. I'd never heard of it before, but based on the description -- something like, "a hitman (William H. Macy) having a midlife crisis starts seeing a therapist (John Ritter), and falls in love with another patient (Neve Campbell)" -- I thought it sounded interesting, though my expectations were not high. It actually turned out to be quite good.

I think I've generally seen William H. Macy in supporting roles; not sure if I've seen him as the central character of anything. But in any case, the idea of him playing a hitman struck me as humorously incongruous when I heard the plot summary. But his character turns out to be fairly similar to other roles he's played in how he relates to other people, if not in occupation. And he really makes the story believable even though when you think about it, it's fairly absurd.

The boy who plays his son is also great. He's the actor who later played the kid in The Ring. Also good performances by Donald Sutherland (as Macy's father) and Neve Campbell.

Anyway, the story drew me in. The premise could have been "hitman sees a therapist, hilarity ensues", but it didn't go that route. And that was a good thing.

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Run Lola Run   ...   movie reviews
sun 2005-sep-11 12:54:16 pdt   ...   permalink

On Wednesday (on the airplane) I watched Run Lola Run, which I'd been intending to see for a long time. The concept and structure of the film are original and effective, but I won't say too much about that aspect. The story is engaging and the acting is strong. I also really enjoyed the music -- something I don't usually particularly notice. I guess it's more prominent than in most films.

One thing worth noting is that the film really only gives a rather limited glimpse into the characters' lives, leaving a lot of context unexplained. But somehow this actually works really well, I suppose in sort of a "less is more" kind of way. In effect, we get only as much detail -- regarding who these people are, how they got here -- as is truly essential to the story.

So overall, nice concept, well-executed...

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Vertigo   ...   movie reviews , spoiler_verylow
thu 2005-aug-25 01:42:27 pdt   ...   permalink

I'm not sure how many data points I actually have for this theory, but I'm going to go ahead and boldly claim that classic films tend to defy my expectations of them. Last saturday we saw Vertigo, which I'd never seen. Not sure whether I'd seen any Hitchcock at all, in fact. Anyway, so I guess I didn't really know what to expect, but I'm pretty sure that, to whatever extent I could have verbalized any expectation at all, I would have been wrong. Heck, even during the film, it continued to defy my expectations.

Overall, I enjoyed it. I liked most of the story, and I liked that the direction it took surprised me a few times. And I think I thought the acting was decent. But I thought Hitchcock beat the audience over the head a bit more than necessary with certain things. <spoiler detail="verylow">And I'm afraid I was fairly disappointed by the ending.</spoiler>

Certainly worth seeing, anyway.

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Primer   ...   movie reviews , spoiler_low , spoiler_high
sun 2005-aug-14 14:19:20 pdt   ...   permalink

So friday night, we watched Primer. I had put it into the NetFlix queue based solely on Dominic's recommendation. He didn't actually say much about it beyond that he really enjoyed it, and that it's a low-budget indie film. I also found out that it involved time travel. That was basically all I knew before watching it. As I've mentioned before, I generally prefer to know as little as possible going into a movie.

Overall I loved it. Certainly it's not perfect, and there are aspects that I was a little disappointed by. But for me, those things were easily outweighed by the ways in which it's great.

<spoiler detail="low">
some general thoughts )
<spoiler detail="HIGH">
don't read this part until you've seen the film! )

So ... strongly recommended without hesitation. Just maybe with a few caveats.

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A Home at the End of the World   ...   movie reviews
thu 2005-aug-04 13:02:55 pdt   ...   permalink

Sunday night we watched A Home at the End of the World. It was really good. It tells a lovely story, a story that makes it one of the (if not the) most poly-accepting movies I've seen. The acting is also consistently strong.

Colin Farrell in particular gives an outstanding performance as adult Bobby, and the actors playing Bobby at ages 9 and 16 also do a great job. All three have this perfect look of innocence in their eyes, that just fits the character so well.

Robin Wright Penn (who played Buttercup in The Princess Bride) is also quite good, though I would have liked to have better understood, or at least seen more of, her inner struggle. Perhaps we don't get to see that very much because the film really is telling Bobby's story. I dunno.

Anyway, highly recommended.

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory   ...   movie reviews , spoiler_low
mon 2005-aug-01 15:32:14 pdt   ...   permalink

Saturday we went to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was great fun! Naturally it invites comparison to the 1971 film, though unfortunately I don't really remember that version all that well...

<spoiler detail="low">
things I liked, and some comparison to the original )

All in all, a very well done adaptation.

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Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events   ...   movie reviews
tue 2005-jul-26 21:00:43 pdt   ...   permalink

I'm way behind writing this review, but on the 16th, we watched Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. It's really well done! It has a fabulously Edward Gorey look and feel.

Jim Carrey, not surprisingly, carries off the bizarre insane villain thing quite well, but really, I thought the kids actually gave the better performance. Then again, maybe it's just that Carrey's performance is simply less noteworthy because the role seems so well-suited to him. In any case, the kids are definitely quite good.

The story was fun, suspenseful, and entertaining. But in retrospect afterward, it seemed like they could have done more with the kids' particular skills that are established at the beginning of the film. I wonder whether the books do more with that...

Anyway, definitely gets my stamp of approval.

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The Sting   ...   movie reviews , spoiler_low
tue 2005-jul-05 18:21:08 pdt   ...   permalink

Sunday night we watched The Sting. I had seen it maybe seven years ago or so.

<spoiler detail="low">
fairly vague discussion of the plot )

Anyway, you know, it's a classic and all that. It certainly deserves that status -- it's really well done. Paul Newman and Robert Redford are good of course, but Robert Shaw I thought gave an even better performance, albeit in a smaller role. Perhaps most worthy of note is that the script (and the film in general) still holds up as well as it does when compared to its more recent counterparts -- unlike certain other films from the 1970's, you don't have to point out how ground-breaking it was "back then".

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Thirteen Conversations About One Thing   ...   movie reviews
thu 2005-jun-30 13:34:01 pdt   ...   permalink

Last Saturday we watched Thirteen Conversations About One Thing. It's one of these ensemble-cast films with a large-ish group of characters whose lives and stories happen to overlap and intersect in interesting ways. I tend to like those kinds of movies, and this one is no exception.

One interesting thing about it is the chronology. When it jumps between the different characters' stories, it never gives any indication of the relative temporal placement, but as the movie progresses and the different stories begin to intersect, you gradually piece together the "when" of these intersections, sometimes mentally shifting whole storylines forward or back to make them fit.

musings on the missing DVD feature and why it's missing )

Anyway, putting aside the interesting structure of the film, I guess I should talk about content. The "one thing" of the title is "happiness". And for a film ostensibly about happiness, you might say the film is kind of dark -- some might even go so far as to call it depressing. But I really enjoyed it, and not in the way that I would enjoy a depressing movie (well, a good one, anyway), more in the way that I would enjoy a light romantic comedy (well, a good one anyway). Maybe this is just another example of me being somehow simultaneously optimistic and cynical or something. I dunno, certain kinds of "dark" just make me happy. (Hm. Does that make me goth?)

So I guess I recommend it to other fans of dark. Or something. I mean, I recommend it in general. I'm just not sure whether you should believe my recommendation. I tend to forget the fact that "dark makes me happy" is not considered "normal"... Then again, maybe I'm portraying the film as much darker than it really is, just by harping on its being dark in the first place.

Well, there you go.

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Napoleon Dynamite   ...   movie reviews
sun 2005-jun-12 22:52:33 pdt   ...   permalink

Wednesday night we watched Napoleon Dynamite. It's ... um ... odd. And not like The American Astronaut kind of strange (which I dig). I guess its main problem is that the plot is kind of lacking direction; it just sort of rambles along for a while.

On the other hand, the characters are fabulous. Good thing too, because their eccentricities (mostly Napoleon's, but the other characters' as well) basically have to sustain the film. They do manage to do so, but really, putting those characters into a stronger story would have made a much better film. (And I don't think that statement is quite vacuous, though it may be close.)

Another thing, which I could see someone complaining about, but which I think I actually liked, is the fact that you can't really place it in time -- it's kind of a retro-present-day setting, where many elements come across as very 1980's (or perhaps early 1990's?), but with things like cell phones and the internet thrown in as well.

So anyway, I did enjoy it, just with minor caveats.

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In Good Company   ...   movie reviews
wed 2005-jun-08 15:22:40 pdt   ...   permalink

On Sunday we watched In Good Company. It's an engaging story, pretty well written, and the acting is great. The three major characters and their interactions are all very believable. And the portrayal of corporate culture seemed satirical yet accurate (based on my experiences in corporate culture, which granted have been limited to the world of internet/software engineering, which I expect is rather different from the world of print advertising sales).

Anyway, I thought it looked good based on the trailer, and it was pretty much the movie that the trailer made it out to be. So there you go.

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The American Astronaut   ...   movie reviews
wed 2005-jun-01 15:43:00 pdt   ...   permalink

Last Saturday I saw The American Astronaut. I knew virtually nothing about it going in.

It was brilliant. On some level, I suppose I was bound to love a sci-fi western rock musical comedy. I mean, what's not to love, right? It's kind of like Six-String Samurai in space, only ... weirder. But it's really so much more than just that.

There were dozens of little details of what things are like in this particular universe, all of which I thought were great, both in concept and execution. And I especially liked the Professor character.

Anyway, I really don't want to reveal too much about it, as I definitely recommend it, and I recommend not knowing too much about it.

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Lost in La Mancha   ...   movie reviews
mon 2005-may-30 12:24:33 pdt   ...   permalink

Friday night we watched Lost in La Mancha. It's a documentary about Terry Gilliam's ill-fated attempt to make a film of Don Quixote...

It's an amazing story of everything that can possibly go wrong going wrong -- the kind of true story of which people say "you just can't make this stuff up". (When you think about it, that's rather an odd statement since people make up comparable stories all the time... I think what they really mean is just that it might seem contrived and unbelievable if it were made-up -- in other words, they say "you can't make this stuff up" of true stories which, as fiction, might receive a comment like "that could never really happen". How odd. But I digress.)

Anyway, as a film in itself, the documentary is a little slow. It spends quite a while on the last several weeks of pre-production, when not very much goes particularly wrong. The really amazing one-thing-after-another, kick-them-when-they're-down disasters begin when filming begins, more than halfway into the documentary.

So basically I thought it was worth seeing, but, like many things, would have been better at about two-thirds the length (about an hour instead of 90 minutes). Some might even say it only warranted about one-third the length, but I think there were a lot of details that were worth including, that couldn't really have all fit into a half hour.

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The Iron Giant   ...   movie reviews , spoiler_medium
sat 2005-may-28 13:10:03 pdt   ...   permalink

Monday we watched The Iron Giant. It's written and directed by Brad Bird, who later did The Incredibles (though this one is traditional animation).

<spoiler detail="medium">
thing that actually spoiled it for me a little )

In any case, it is quite well done. It's one of those stories that's written for children, but without being too simplistic. Actually, come to think of it, I guess it is somewhat simplistic in that the characters do fit "good guys vs. bad guys" archetypes. So I guess what I really mean to say is just that although it's clearly intended for children, as with The Incredibles, it's compelling enough for grownups too. (Although it's certainly not as good as The Incredibles.)

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Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith   ...   movie reviews
tue 2005-may-24 11:07:33 pdt   ...   permalink

Last Thursday I went to see Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. Now, before I give my review, I should first explain my relationship with the whole "Star Wars" phenomenon.

all about me and Star Wars )

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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy   ...   movie reviews , spoiler_medium
sun 2005-may-01 11:24:52 pdt   ...   permalink

So friday night we went to see The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and naturally we brought our towels. As a long-time fan of the books, I of course had high hopes for the film version, though I tried not to set my expectations too high for fear of being disappointed.

<spoiler detail="medium">
more details )

So in the end I was not in the least disappointed. It not only lived up to my hopes, it actually exceeded them: I thought it was brilliantly done, and captures the spirit and humor of the books beautifully. My biggest complaint was simply that it ended too soon -- I wanted more.

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In America   ...   movie reviews
tue 2005-apr-26 11:24:54 pdt   ...   permalink

Saturday we watched In America. I knew almost nothing about it going in, which of course is how I like to see movies. It was really great. The story is engrossing, and the actors are great, especially the two little girls.

Really minor complaint -- it's not really clear when the film is supposed to be set. Presumably because it's partially autobiographical, certain things are clearly drawn from the early eighties when the director/co-writer himself actually came to the US, such as E.T. being in theaters and popular. But then other things -- the 10-year-old's camcorder, for example -- kind of require placing it more like late nineties or early zeroties (or whatever we're supposed to be calling this decade).

But in the end, such details don't really matter. The story, as I mentioned, is quite engrossing, regardless of time. The very last scene (and one moment in particular) actually made shed a few tears, something I haven't done in a movie in a very long time; I've felt a bit teary-eyed now and then -- for example, during My Life Without Me, I think -- but haven't actually had tears going down my cheeks. Anyway, it wasn't really that this moment was so incredibly sad, it was just the way it was done, I guess. Or perhaps it's more just about the particular kind of sad, or something. I dunno.

In any case, highly recommended.

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Split Second   ...   movie reviews
sun 2005-apr-17 15:12:27 pdt   ...   permalink

So last night at Eric and Lee's movie night, we watched Split Second. Actually, first they watched Ladyhawke (the theme was Rutger Hauer), but we arrived fairly near the end of that. Anyway, Split Second was billed as a so-bad-it's-funny kind of movie, and it certainly delivered on that promise. I actually quite enjoyed it. My favorite part was the "big big fucking guns" scene. That and the oh-so-futuristic world of 2008 that it's set in, which is kind of funny too. (In fact, his partner died on March 14, 2005 -- just last month!)

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