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movie reviews

Matchstick Men   ...   movie reviews
sun 2005-jan-02 03:46:04 pst   ...   permalink

Just watched Matchstick Men on DVD. I guess I like con artist movies in general, but this one in particular was quite good. Cleverly written, even when you go into it expecting it to be clever simply because it's a con artist movie. Nicolas Cage's character is great, and he gives a fine performance. Alison Lohman is also quite good.

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School of Rock   ...   movie reviews
thu 2004-dec-30 14:36:01 pst   ...   permalink

Monday evening, we watched School of Rock. It starts off looking like kind of a lame premise, but then once the setup is out of the way, it actually turns out to be quite funny, in a goofy sort of way. Jack Black is wonderfully insane, and judging from the DVD bonus features, he's really like that! Joan Cusack is also quite funny, and the kids are good (and they even actualy play their instruments, so that's cool). Overall, thumbs up.

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Kinsey   ...   movie reviews
sat 2004-dec-11 01:24:28 pst   ...   permalink

Went to see Kinsey tonight. It's really well done. For one thing, it includes probably one of the best poly scenes of modern American cinema!

But that particular aspect (which is not really central) aside, the story is very well told, and the cast are all terrific. And I'd say it conveys pretty well the message that our society's puritanism is ridiculous... Though I suppose mainstream puritanical America probably wouldn't see it that way. Ah well.

Anyway, I definitely recommend it without hesitation.

Plus, well, it's about sex.

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Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason   ...   movie reviews
sun 2004-nov-28 00:13:36 pst   ...   permalink

Tonight we went to see Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason -- it was quite good. In fact, I think I actually liked it better than the first one. Though maybe that was because I had read (listened to) the first book before seeing the first movie, whereas I haven't read the second book. I dunno.

I thought I'd heard something about how in the second book, she meets Colin Firth, and that, what with Colin Firth playing Mark Darcy, they had actually worked Colin Firth as himself into the movie as well. Turns out in fact they just left that part of the book out. Not sure where I heard that though.

Oh, come to think of it, I do have a complaint though. I think Bridget's ineptitude is meant to be endearing -- I certainly find it so (though in real life, I'm not sure I would), and I think in the first movie Mark Darcy seemed to. But this time he seemed more to love her in spite of her ineptitude, and to be more frustrated or annoyed by it. Which was kind of too bad.

Regardless, my recommendation is basically just that if you liked the first one, you'll probably like this one too.

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The Incredibles   ...   movie reviews
sat 2004-nov-20 11:10:36 pst   ...   permalink

Just realized I hadn't written an entry about The Incredibles, which we saw last Saturday. It was excellent. I tell ya, those folks at Pixar sure know what they're doing. The premise is fabulous, the story is compelling. And Jason Lee is great as the villain. But I think the best aspect of the film is the powers that the various superheroes have, and all the clever ways that they wind up using them. I guess it's kind of similar to the X-Men movie in that respect.

Oh, and the graphics are pretty impressive -- I noticed a few shots (with no people in them) that were pretty nearly photorealistic. Of course they're still pretty far off from doing photorealistic people; in this case the people are all fairly comic-book-like, but obviously that's appropriate for this film.

Anyway, highly recommended.

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I Heart Huckabees   ...   movie reviews
mon 2004-nov-01 23:44:31 pst   ...   permalink

On Friday night we went to see I Heart Huckabees. It was excellent! As I was laughing to myself during the end credits, Lisa commented that it was a very me movie. I think it goes right up there with Being John Malkovich in terms of the "How would anyone think to write that script??" factor, though it's very differently weird. Maybe less surreal and more ... well, no, just differently surreal, I suppose.

I must say, the concept of the existential detective agency is just completely brilliant, and the execution of that premise far exceeded the expectations that I had formed based on a preview which gave away very little beyond that premise and the ensemble cast of many big names, all of whom did a great job.

So I definitely recommend it, and like many films I recommend, I don't want to say too much about it, because I think knowing less about it going in is probably better. But I feel that my recommendation must come with the caveat that people who wouldn't like this kind of movie probably wouldn't like it. However, I'm really not sure what "this kind of movie" is, or how to describe the set of people who wouldn't like it in a less tautological way. Maybe a good litmus test is whether or not the notion of an existential detective agency seems like a great idea to you. Then again, if you're not sure why it might be, you still might love the film.

So, um, yeah. Draw your own conclusions. Or just go see it.

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Bridget Jones's Diary   ...   movie reviews
sun 2004-oct-24 01:43:59 pdt   ...   permalink

Last night we rented Bridget Jones's Diary. I had listened to the audiobook, but not seen the movie before. It was quite funny. Good cast, good script. Although (not surprisingly) I think I would probably say that the book is better, since the characters are much further developed. Still, Renee Zellweger does a good job, especially considering she's not even really British... Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are also very good (and really are British, obviously).

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Shaun of the Dead   ...   movie reviews
mon 2004-oct-18 21:40:43 pdt   ...   permalink

On Saturday night we went to see Shaun of the Dead. It was great! Good acting, clever script... Overall, it's just brilliantly executed.

I think my favorite aspect was all the little things going on in the background near the beginning of the film, before Shaun has figured out what's going on, when he's too preoccupied with the stuff going on in his life to notice.

I've never seen any serious (not trying to be funny) zombie movies, but I suspect that I probably would have found them more funny than scary anyway... Shaun of the Dead does a great job of playing up exactly the aspects that make the genre funny in the first place, while also creating believable characters that we care about.

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Saved!   ...   movie reviews
mon 2004-oct-11 01:03:58 pdt   ...   permalink

Last night we watched Saved! (rented the DVD). It was fun, the cast all did a great job, and the script was mostly very well done. Plus it was nice to see that Macaulay Culkin can actually act. My only real complaint is that at a couple points it got a little heavy-handed in banging you over the head with the message. But overall, it didn't really do that too too much.

I'm inclined to compare it to But I'm A Cheerleader, though it was quite a while ago that I saw that. But from what I remember, this is a similar sort of silly-funny, though I think it's not taken to quite the same degree of silliness. But on the other hand, it's perhaps a little more compelling of a story, probably in part due to being less silly.

Anyway, I recommend it. Especially for any intolerant, bigoted, fundamentalist Christians (of whom I'm sure tons will read this). Well, okay, probably the film wouldn't really convince such people of anything, but hey, it couldn't hurt to have them watch it.

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Love Liza   ...   movie reviews
sat 2004-sep-18 01:54:40 pdt   ...   permalink

Tonight we went to our local indie DVD rental place and walked out with Love Liza. I remembered seeing a trailer for it, but didn't remember much about it other than what's on the box -- Philip Seymour Hoffman looking depressed.

Anyway, it was good. I mean, I enjoyed it, although some parts are kind of painful to watch and a lot is fairly depressing. I would complain that the story is really unfocused and meandering, except that I think that that is very much by design. The film's depiction of the feeling of being emotionally lost after the suicide of a loved one certainly feels believable (though clearly I can't speak to whether it's accurate). Hoffman's performance is terrific, and his brother's script is at least in this respect quite well-written.

I guess the question is whether conveying this one single feeling is enough to carry a whole movie... And in the end, I think it was. But it would have been nice (and probably would have made for a better film) if there had been more of an arc, more personal growth. To the extent that anything changes over the course of the story, it doesn't really feel like we get to see it change, to see what effects the change...

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We Don't Live Here Anymore   ...   movie reviews
sun 2004-sep-12 00:25:59 pdt   ...   permalink

Tonight we went to see We Don't Live Here Anymore (at the spiffy new theater at Santana Row). It was really good -- the four lead actors all do a great job, especially Mark Ruffalo. Also the cinematography and editing are great; many really nice shots and cuts.

The characters' relationships are very real, and their communication issues very believable. On the rare occasions when one person tries to actually open up some communication, the other quickly shuts it down... Really my only complaint, which isn't really a complaint about the film, is that watching people fucking up their relationships -- especially with lies and cheating -- is frustrating, most of all when they clearly never even begin to question the assumption of monogamy. In particular, the notion that "I love this one person" is always considered to imply "I don't love this other person", that notion always bugs me.

In any case, the movie is very well done, and I very much enjoyed it.

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Office Space   ...   movie reviews
sat 2004-sep-11 02:11:00 pdt   ...   permalink

Just went to a midnight showing of Office Space, which I hadn't seen before. It was great. It was also rather a different movie than I was expecting -- I thought it was about what happens when he decides he doesn't give a shit anymore and starts doing everything he'd always wanted to do rather than doing what he's supposed to do... Instead that's just sort of the setup for the film, rather than what it's actually about.

Anyway, it was a fun movie. One odd thing was that the crowd seemed to be almost entirely comprised of college (or perhaps even high school) kids, who've probably never worked in an office at all, and yet had apparently seen this movie many times. Actually, I guess maybe that's not so odd -- accurate portrayal of corporate America wasn't the main thing that I enjoyed about it...

I think the best thing about it is the characters. The writing is good, though more for how it paints these great characters than for the plot. Come to think of it, I'm kind of surprised they didn't make a sitcom of it. Not that it probably would have been all that good a sitcom (for very long), but it certainly seems like the set of characters would, I dunno, lend themselves to the realm of sitcoms.

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Garden State   ...   movie reviews
sun 2004-aug-22 02:34:42 pdt   ...   permalink

Tonight we went to see Garden State -- it was great! I'm not really sure where to begin in explaining what I liked about it. I guess to a great extent it's lots of little details about it that I enjoyed. But no, I think that makes it sound more frivolous or something than it is. The overall, I dunno, gestalt of the film just worked really well.

One of the details I liked was, near the beginning of the movie, all the different people that he comes across who he knew back in high school and who never left town, and their reactions to seeing him again, and what they've heard about him or what they remember about him, or whatever... All those little interactions were great. Another thing was all the various seemingly random quirks that the different characters had, which made them seem very real, not just generic stock mid-twenties suburban characters, or whatever. Natalie Portman's character is especially fabulous, and her acting is great.

So yeah, overall, it's not really a plot movie, it's more a character-development movie, with characters that are compelling enough to make it work. Good writing, good acting, and even some nice cinematography to boot. There should be more films like this.

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S1m0ne   ...   movie reviews
thu 2004-aug-12 01:33:06 pdt   ...   permalink

Last night we watched S1m0ne (on DVD). Now, knowing the premise -- a totally computer-generated actress becomes a huge sensation, with everyone believing she's a real person -- I wasn't expecting much. I guess I figured the premise sounded kind of dumb, or at least, likely to lead to a fairly dumb movie.

But the movie turned out to be much better than I was expecting. Almost immediately, a great deal of suspension-of-disbelief was required with respect to notions of how computers work. But then as things developed, this deficiency was annulled as it became clear that in fact they were really just going for silliness on many different axes. And so the story followed a nice progression, a nice crescendo of absurdity.

So in the end, I guess I was expecting a different kind of movie, which I don't think they could have pulled off. But campy satire they pulled off quite well.

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Miranda   ...   movie reviews
sun 2004-aug-08 02:32:03 pdt   ...   permalink

Last night we watched Miranda (rented the DVD). It was quite good. Christina Ricci was excellent as usual. Actually all of the acting was good. And the script was well-written too.

I should probably try to write up my thoughts on movies right after watching them; maybe then I would have more interesting things to say.

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The Station Agent   ...   movie reviews , spoiler_low
sun 2004-aug-01 00:29:49 pdt   ...   permalink

Just watched The Station Agent (rented the DVD). It was excellent! The characters are very real and compelling, and the acting is great.

<spoiler detail="low">
what I liked )

Plus it was nice that the fact that he's a dwarf isn't really all that central to the plot. In fact, I wonder whether the script was written to be about a dwarf from the beginning...

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Coffee and Cigarettes   ...   movie reviews
sun 2004-jul-25 02:16:26 pdt   ...   permalink

Went to see Coffee and Cigarettes tonight. It was great. I think my favorite vignette is the tesla coil one. Though the opening one, with Steven Wright and Roberto Benigni was also pretty awesome. Anyway, I really liked the concept, structure, and execution...

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The Nightmare Before Christmas   ...   movie reviews
sun 2004-jul-04 21:33:33 pdt   ...   permalink

I watched The Nightmare Before Christmas DVD on my PowerBook on the airplane last Thursday night. I'd never seen it, but had been hearing good things about it for ages. It was really fun! I think my favorite part was "Kidnapping the Sandy Claws". Among the DVD bonus features, besides a making-of documentary, were two early shorts by Tim Burton, Vincent and Frankenweenie, which were pretty odd.

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This Is Spinal Tap   ...   movie reviews
sun 2004-jun-13 16:52:25 pdt   ...   permalink

The night before last we watched This Is Spinal Tap on DVD. Somewhat amazingly, I had never seen it, even after all these years and years of having heard many of the funny lines from it dozens of times ("this one goes to 11"). It was pretty awesome.

The deleted scenes on the DVD we have weren't all that great, though there was some good stuff in there. Apparently one of the other DVDs of it has some other deleted scenes (including the explanation for the cold sores on all the band members' lips), so I wonder whether those are any better... Ah well.

Anyway, Christopher Guest and Michael McKean are great as usual. And Rob Reiner as the film-maker is also quite funny. But I still think Christopher Guest's best work is Best in Show.

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban   ...   movie reviews
sun 2004-jun-06 14:25:56 pdt   ...   permalink

Last night we saw Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It was excellent! I think it was even better than the first two. Of course, I haven't read the books, but I assume this is true there as well, that this one (the third one) is a more compelling, more intricate story than the first two.

I did notice during some of the early part of the film that it felt kind of rushed, and like they were including the bare minimum necessary to convey a particular scene from the book. But unlike the first couple movies (I think), I stopped noticing that a little ways in.

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