Mon, Jul 31, 2000

: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Author: J.K. Rowling

I finally got some time to finish this. Excellent, excellent book. Best of the series, though they are all very good. I was most impressed at how Rowling reinvents the series with each sequel, including enough familiar elements we’re all comfortable with it, but with plenty of new stuff to delight us all over again. For instance, in the first three books a major part of the story was the annual Quidditch tournament. By the third book I was getting pretty tired of reading about Quidditch matches. But in this book the Quidditch tournament is canceled in favor of something else (I’ll let you read to find out what) — brilliant. And once again, Rowling surprises us with the twisting ending. Another change: this book ends with an ominous opening for plenty of sequels. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I can see that she’s set herself up for major changes in the wizardy world.

Topic: [/book]

Link

Sat, Jul 29, 2000

: Galaxy Quest (rewatch)

I watched

Topic: [/movie]

Link

Tue, Jul 25, 2000

: The Monster (El Monstre)

A huge fan of Roberto Benini’s Life, and a touch crude in places (it’s about a guy mistaken for a notorious sex-killer, where all the “innocent” situations he gets himself into are perceived as perverted and bizarre by the police), but funny and filled with charm and wacky physical humor.

Topic: [/movie]

Link

Sun, Jul 23, 2000

: Site Change

I’ve made a number of changes in how I create this site and that’s enabled me to rearrange the material available here. (I wrote my own database program that exports the necessary HTML.) Now you will find the Past News sorted by month or alphabetical listing, and there’s even a complete listing of everything I’ve posted here. I’ve set this up to make it easier to maintain, especially over the long term, which should make me update it more frequently and allow you to find what interests you. Hope you like it! Be sure to let me know if you experience any problems or broken links.

Topic: [/zweb]

Link

: Caddyshack

After watching Tiger Woods complete the Grand Slam this morning, I had to watch a golf movie, right? Pretty dumb fun, but Rodney Dangerfield was great as obnoxious wealthy golfer.

Topic: [/movie]

Link

Fri, Jul 21, 2000

: Terminal

Author: Robin Cook

So so Cook thriller, with an obnoxious lead character you want to punch yourself, a chapter that’s ninety percent incomprehensible medical terms, and a plot that’s ridiculously obvious (I figured it out reading the back cover blurb) but “held” to the end to build suspense. Can’t really think much to recommend it, other than it’s still better than wasting a few hours watching TV.

Topic: [/book]

Link

Mon, Jul 17, 2000

: The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc

Director: Luc Besson

This film astonished me. I’d expected something terrible, based on the vicious remarks of the critics, but this film wasn’t bad at all. In fact, I liked it. It’s not a great film, but even the somewhat miscast Milla Jovovich is likable as Joan. I wasn’t impressed with the overdone dream sequences (which are strangely unexciting and listless) or the elaborate but boring battle scenes, but by the story. The line between faith and insanity is a narrow one, and every religious person has at one time or another questioned their faith, asking the same questions Joan asks herself in this film. How many of us could face a panel of learned judges and defend our faith? The power of the story of Joan comes from her mystery: was she really a messenger from God? Insane? Self-deluded? Asking those questions of Joan tests our own faith, and forces us to answer the same questions about ourself.

Topic: [/movie]

Link

Sun, Jul 16, 2000

: American Beauty

Excellent film. Not as brilliantly original as some said (it rehashes themes from many other works, including Death of a Salesman), nor especially scandalous, but well done and well directed. The ending was predictable, and there wasn’t as much depth as could have been included, but I liked the characters (especially Ricky) and the structure of the story. The casting of the much talked about Mena Suvari was a mistake, as she’s unique-looking and her character’s supposed to be pretty, but not extraordinary. Thus her character’s revelation at the end fell flat, like when you see a beauty complaining about how ugly she is. I also didn’t like the one-dimensional portrait of Ricky’s father, a stereotypical gay-hater (Please, Hollywood, can’t we come up with an original idea?), but overall it’s worth seeing.

Topic: [/movie]

Link

Fri, Jul 14, 2000

: Eye of the Beholder

What in the world is this about? I still don’t know. Guy chases serial killer girlfriend, but we don’t know why. Is he in love with her? I guess, but why? She’s a serial killer! Not exactly uninteresting film, but pointless. And the ending just ends, with no resolution or anything. Lame. As usual, Ashley Judd is fun, but they could have trimmed out all the scenes she wasn’t in and the movie would have made just as much sense.

Topic: [/movie]

Link

Wed, Jul 12, 2000

: Vacation 2000 (ending)

I’m back from vacation (today’s the first time I’ve had to catch my breath) and I’ve posted some cool pictures from my trip!

Topic: [/travel]

Link

Sat, Jul 08, 2000

: Dogma

This film tries too hard to be too many things and fails at all of them. It’s not particularly clever, not a great satire, and not especially profound. It does bring up some unusual religious issues, but with so much material to work with, I expected much more. It’s basically a much weaker version of Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens (I expect that film to be terrific). Seems writer/director Kevin Smith either didn’t have much to say or shied away from real controversy. The only thing even faintly controversial about this one is Smith’s typical overuse of profanity, this time coming from the mouths of angels and religious people (which comes across as more silly than satirical).

Topic: [/movie]

Link

Fri, Jul 07, 2000

: Mighty Aphrodite

Hilarious, surrealistic, somewhat profound, and occasionally crude Woody Allen film. Terrific performance by Mira Sorvino.

Topic: [/movie]

Link

Thu, Jul 06, 2000

: The Tin Drum

Bizarre German film about a three-year-old boy who sees the absurdity of adulthood and decides to stop growing. Set during WWII, this is not a film that could ever be made in America, especially considering the child-adult sexual themes. The Tin Drum primarily deals with the infantilism of adults as seen through the eyes of an overly mature boy, but touches on dozens of other profound themes and has some of the most visually striking images I’ve ever seen. Best scene? My favorite is where the boy sneaks into a Nazi rally and begins playing his toy drum and gradually turns the dull march into a rousing tune and soon has everyone waltzing to Blue Danube!

Topic: [/movie]

Link

: Chasing Amy

Of course I saw the Kevin Smith films in the wrong order, but I did remember I liked this one the best; on reviewing, it has all of the brash wit and intellectual wordplay of Clerks but with an actual plot. The conclusion is weak, but you don’t really mind as you don’t expect Kevin to actually answer the large questions he proposes.

Topic: [/movie]

Link

: Rebecca

An absolute masterpiece. In retrospect there’s minimal plot — a shy newly-wed finds her new life haunted by the memory of her husband’s beautiful late wife, Rebecca — but Hitchcock paints such vivid, sympathetic characters that we’re on seat’s edge until the dramatic finale.

Topic: [/movie]

Link

: Casablanca

Another one of those “I’ll see it someday” films. This happened to be the someday, and it was well worth the wait. I was expecting a routine mellodramatic romance along the lines of the supposedly great Gone With the Wind and discovered several surprises: 1) the main plot was WWII intrigue, not romance; 2) the romance was mostly handled in flashback, which minimized it’s focus; and 3) plenty of witty humor, which modernized the movie considerably. Terrific film, with dozens of familiar lines. The romance angle was minimal, which I preferred, as the driving plot was much more interesting and that made the romance more significant.

Topic: [/movie]

Link

Wed, Jul 05, 2000

: Seven Samurai

Interesting film about a tiny village hiring some Samurai warriors to protect them from a bandit army. Obviously a classic, but a touch overlong from a Western perspective. (In many ways I actually preferred the Western remake [The Magnificent Seven] mostly because it was easier to understand, though the American film obviously was just a mere action flick.) Definitely a film to see multiple times as there’s plenty of depth.

Topic: [/movie]

Link

Tue, Jul 04, 2000

: Toxin

An above average Robin Cook novel. Preachy against the meat industry, and tries to be disgusting in places, but surprisingly moving in characterization. The weak ending deteriorates into a traditional thriller that clashes with the emotional aspects of the first half of the book.

Topic: [/book]

Link

Mon, Jul 03, 2000

: The Sixth Sense

Even better the second time around. Amazing performances, and this time I was really impressed with the direction. There were many places the suspense was heightened by excellent camera-placement decisions. This is a film that most dismiss as a mere gimmick, but the reason it works is because the film is excellently written with profound characters. My favorite is the way the little boy didn’t want to tell his secret to his mother — the person he was closest to in the whole world — because it would change the way she looked at him. Meanwhile the mother is in agony because her son won’t even tell her what’s wrong. What a fantastic dilemma! Profound and heart-wrenching.

Topic: [/movie]

Link

: The Limey

Unusual film presentation of a revenge story, excellently directed, but a little weak on meaning.

Topic: [/movie]

Link

Sun, Jul 02, 2000

: An American in Paris

Rather pointless musical, though full of excellent performances. None of the songs were memorable, though overall the music wasn’t bad. I just couldn’t figure out what all the dancing had to do with the nearly non-existent plot.

Topic: [/movie]

Link

Sat, Jul 01, 2000

: License to Kill

Excellent Bond adventure, one of my favorites because the plot is different from the regular Bond cliche. Darker than normal, but with plenty of cool Bond action.

Topic: [/movie]

Link