Wed, Feb 28, 2007

: The 40-Year-Old Virgin

I missed this in theatres (can’t imagine why), but was curious about it when it was a huge hit. I expected silly dreck and I did get some of that, with a lot (a lot) of pointless bad language and crude jokes, but to my surprise the gimmicky premise is treated seriously as the main character finds romance later in life but is afraid to reveal his secret. I liked that aspect of the story; I could have done without a lot of the crude humor that served no purpose (like the one character who swore constantly).

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Sat, Feb 24, 2007

: The Interpreter

Nicole Kidman plays a U.N. interpreter who accidentally overhears a plot, in an African tongue she understands, to kill a controversial African leader, and then becomes a target herself. Nicely done by her and I was really impressed by Sean Penn as the Secret Service agent assigned to investigate/protect her. Things get a bit convoluted and probably go on too long, but it wraps up nicely and is a decent conclusion. Pretty good, overall. I liked it.

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Fri, Feb 23, 2007

: The Number 23

This film wants to be more clever and bizarre than it actually is. It’s not really bad, but it’s not great either. The story’s about a guy who becomes obsessed with the number 23 and thinks he’s going to kill his wife like a character in a novel he’s reading. The most interesting aspect is the whole obsession aspect, and the question of whether you notice coincidental connections because they are really there or because you are looking for them. Unfortunately, the film gets overly convoluted toward the end, with several false endings (it reminded me of The Black Dahlia in that regard). Though the final explanation is fine, with all the red herrings it doesn’t feel concrete. In the end, disappointing.

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: Reno 911: Miami

I was going to a different movie but traffic slowed and I missed it, so I went to this one, which looked mildly interesting. As I feared, it had more crudity than I appreciate, but it also had some really funny bits. I’ve never watched the comedy series on TV so I didn’t know what to expect; it’s basically incompetent cops doing really stupid stuff. The plot’s thinner than a Miami bikini, but that’s part of the joke. Overall, not as bad as I expected with a few hilarious scenes.

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Thu, Feb 22, 2007

: Cursed

Director: Wes Craven

This is apparently supposed to be a fun spoof of werewolf films but it’s just flat and terrible. Not a single joke works and the horror stuff is just weird — too realistic for comedy and too corny for horror. There are a handful of mildly interesting moments, but mostly this is just dreary.

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Wed, Feb 21, 2007

: Breach

This is a good movie, but it’s so by-the-numbers it ends with a whimper and felt flat. It’s the fascinating story of an American CIA agent who is really a double selling secrets to foreigners. A young kid is brought in to pretend to be the guy’s new assistant, but really he’s assigned to spy on him. The play between the two is the key aspect of the film and most of the scenes shine brightly. However the ending felt strange and lifeless, with the spy’s actions incomprehensible. Did he want to get caught? Why, after all those years? Worth seeing if you’re into acting; otherwise, wait for the DVD.

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Tue, Feb 20, 2007

: John Tucker Must Die

The story’s about a group of girls all dating the same superstar school athlete and when they find out, they try to destroy him in revenge. In some ways this wasn’t as bad as I expected: there were aspects to the story that were surprisingly well-done and some good humor that wasn’t revealed in the trailers. But the film’s flaw is that it’s much too predictable: within a few minutes of the opening I knew everything that would happen.

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Fri, Feb 16, 2007

: Ghost Rider

Strange film about a biker who sells his soul to the Devil and becomes the Devil’s Bounty Hunter, whatever that means. It’s visually different — at night the rider has a flaming skull — but the whole thing’s rather meaningless, with an incomprehensible and feeble “legend” supposedly explaining everything. There are some fun moments with the casting and the performances are decent enough, but the story is so flimsy as to be see-through, and we aren’t sure if the rider’s a good guy or not, since he gets his powers from the Devil and apparently must do his bidding. Though the ending kind of explains that and sets up sequels, it’s a bit too late. Overall it’s mildly entertaining but it only wants to be innovative (or thinks it is).

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: Bridge to Terabithia

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! Did I mention this is a wonderful film? It’s just beautifully simple and elegant. The lives of children are flawlessly portrayed, capturing that awkward time between childhood and adulthood. I knew nothing about this going in, but thought it was about a fantasy world like Narnia or something, and I didn’t expect it to be as good. It turns out the bulk of the story’s set in the real world, with the main characters two picked on kids who become best friends and use an imaginary place in the woods as their escape. It reminded me of a lighter version of Pan’s Labyrinth, without that movie’s grim undertone, though Bridge also has serious underpining’s. My absolutely favorite thing was the terrific ending, which, though somber, completely changes the meaning of the title. I love it when stories do that. Two thumbs up, a Must See. High recommended.

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Wed, Feb 14, 2007

: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Definitely a girly film, and the concept — one summer as they are apart four girls trade a pair of magical jeans that fits each of them perfectly — occasionally comes across as forced and juvenile. But the heart of of the story isn’t the jeans but the lives of the teenage girls as they grow up, and that part is very interesting and well-done. Each of the girls is unique and their experiences are interesting. One girl visits her grandparents in Greece and learns to unwind and falls in love. Another struggles with her father’s remarriage. Another meets a 12-year-old brat and resents her, until she learns the girl’s dying of lukemia. The fourth struggles with handling her mother’s sucide. It’s at times overly dramatic but the cast is excellent, and the resolutions to the stories are very well done — no sitcom quick fix here. I liked that the girls are all real with flaws, but not evil or really bad (i.e. no descent into drugs or alcohol abuse). Their problems are not necessarily huge (except to them), which is realistic. Overall, I was surprised and impressed.

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Tue, Feb 13, 2007

: The Descent

Much better than I expected. I thought it was merely a gory horror film but it took its time developing the characters and had a lot of intelligence behind the scenes. The story’s simple on the surface (pun intended): a group of adrenaline junkies, female athletes who decide to go caving in a remote cave, get trapped underground, and suddenly find themselves beset by strange, humanoid cave creatures (who are really creepy). That sounds silly and it should be — but the relationships of the women (and even the fact that these are all women) reduces the importance of the “monsters” to inconsequence. The real story here is the relationship. Granted the film doesn’t get into real depth, but it does enough that you actually care about the characters and the events of the story are raised above mere horror shlock. Not bad at all. Visually interesting with some really shocking moments.

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Fri, Feb 09, 2007

: Hannibal Rising

I’d just finished the book when I heard the movie was coming out; unusual timing. Unfortunately, though I really wanted to like the film, I can’t recommend it. It has a lot of good things — the cast, though unknown, is decent, and it’s well-done from a technical perspective. Unfortunately all the book’s profundity is lost and all that’s left is a mere revenge story, a meaningless and extremely ugly story of violence and hate. In the book there were aspects of the story that revealed things about Hannibal’s character; in the movie those are forgotten as the story’s reduced to mere action plot points.

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: Cross

Author: James Patterson

This is supposed to be the story of detective-psychologist Alex Cross’s most dangerous opponent, the man who killed his wife. Unfortunately I found the antagonist to be weakly done; he wasn’t that scary (he’s merely an efficient mob hitman), and Patterson ineptly plays with the time-line of events making everything quite confusing (like one day his wife is killed and suddenly it’s ten years later). Patterson’s generally a poor writer (so much so that I’ve started avoiding his books), but in this one he has a few moments of decency. A couple times I was shocked to almost hear genuine insight. Unfortunately, all is ruined by the book’s dismal finale, which is competely anticlimatic, boring, and unsatisfying. The book should be cut in half as it’s way too long for the material, with lots of pointless meandering (like whole storylines of his counseling patients that are just dropped with no resolution). The whole thing felt like so much melodrama, overhyped and overdone. Note: I listened to the unabridged audiobook, so some of this could have been the presentation, which was definitely over-the-top, but then again, it’s probably just the poor writing.

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Tue, Feb 06, 2007

: Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse

Author: Lee Goldberg

Another good read, though not quite up to the level of the first one. It dragged a little in the middle as Monk early on identifies the killer but then has to figure out how to prove it. This gets a little tedious as there’s little suspense. But the resolution is excellent, and there’s plenty of entertaining Monk adventures in the process.

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Fri, Feb 02, 2007

: Pan’s Labyrinth

A fascinating, dark tale, nothing like what I expected. I thought it was about a young girl’s fantasy, but it turned out that’s only a small part of the story which is mostly about life in Spain after their Civil War and how she imagines a world to escape the horrors of real life. In that respect it reminded a lot of Life is Beautiful, though it’s a totally different story. It’s a difficult film to categorize. The child and fantasy elements imply it might be good for children, but it’s definitely not geared for children: it’s extremely violent and gory and dark, and deals with mature subject matter. But I still liked it: it’s not a pleasant film, not something you want to see every day, but profound, mysterious, and breath-taking. Recommended for those who can handle thinking about uncomfortable topics like death.

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Thu, Feb 01, 2007

: Dreamgirls

I really didn’t know what to expect of this; I had little interest even though it had a good reviews and I’m not anti-musical. But it turned out to be pretty good. I wasn’t that into the music — most of the songs were rather anonymous, though a couple were excellent — but I really liked the story, about a group of female singers and their rise to fame and manipulation by unscrupulous others. The character development was well-done. I also liked the way some of the same songs were presented in different styles by different characters. I’m not a musician and it was fascinating to see the way the same songs can be modified to sound so different.

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