Fri, Mar 30, 2007

: Blades of Glory

This really surprised me. I expected silliness along the lines of Will Ferrell’s Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby but not as good, but I actually liked this one better! It’s funnier, more absurd, and less crass. The pace is snappier, the humor both more biting and more subtle, as well as being on target (most of the humor is ice skating related, whereas in Talladega very little was racing related). I loved the cameos by famous ice skaters and the hilarious skating commentary during the competitions. Of course this isn’t earth-changing filmography here, but it is rather fun and totally entertaining.

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: The Lookout

I knew little of this but it was getting good reviews and it turned out to be more dramatic than I expected. It’s the story of a high school kid who’s in a bad car accident and suffers brain damage that makes him dysfunctional. He has trouble “sequencing,” that is, getting the order of things right. So he might put on his shoes first and then try to put on his socks, etc. This makes it hard to hold a job. He works as a night janitor at a bank and hopes to be a teller someday, but struggles with the money counting. He’s befriended by a guy at a bar who claims he used to know the kid when he was a high school hockey star, but soon we realize that he’s just using the kid to help him rob the bank. The climax is pretty good: we aren’t sure how the kid’s going to worm his way out of all the trouble he’s gotten himself into, but the resolution works. There’s a lot of neat stuff in the film: the kid’s roommate, a blind guy played by Jeff Daniels, is a brilliant character, full of insight; the pacing of the film is excellent, with a good balance of drama, humor, and thought-provoking; it’s well-directed, too, though there are occasions where it tries too hard and almost resorts to melodrama. I also liked the way the kid changes and grows throughout the film. Overall, an excellent, thinking film. It ultimately is a little lighter weight than it should be, perhaps because of the action-oriented ending, but the majority of the film is character-based, with interesting people and terrific performances.

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Tue, Mar 27, 2007

: Zodiac

Director: David Fincher

This is an extremely well done film: good direction, acting, writing, etc. The topic is also stirring: a mysterious killer haunts the Bay Area in the late sixties and throughout the 1970s, sending cryptic coded messages to the SF Chronicle. Unfortunately, real life tends to interfere with a good story: the film never ends because the mystery’s never been solved. The film does a great job creating atmosphere and helping us to understand the chaos and bureaucracy that made catching the killer so difficult, but in the end I was left with a sort of “Why did I just sit through three hours of that?” Yes, that’s right — the film is nearly three hours long. It actually didn’t feel that long during it as I was fascinated, but the lackluster ending — basically everyone in the story gets old and eventually dies and the mystery’s never solved — really made it disappointing. I was waiting for a payoff I never received. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad film, just that I think it could have been better shorter and tighter. As it is it just keeps and building and building and then… nothing. That’s a bit frustrating, especially when everything else about the film is so good. It’s not really the filmmaker’s fault — it’s a real life story and that’s what happened — but the film could have been done differently to make the ending less of a letdown. For instance, the film ends with several screens of text description of what happened to the various characters. Some of that would have been better dramatized, showing a scene of what happened. That would have been more satisfying than just reading about it.

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: The Long Good Friday

Good British gangster film. I’m not normally a big fan of the genre, but this one is good: the plot’s simple enough I could follow it. It’s basically the story of a ganster on Good Friday when his men start dying right and left, bombs going off, etc. Someone is trying to kill him and he has no idea who, so he sets out to find out and exact his rather grim justice. The ganster is played by the fabulous Bob Hoskins who is truly at his remarkable best in this film. The final scene of the film is a long closeup of Bob’s face as he goes through a series of expressions. It’s just amazing. You can practically see the cogs and wheels in his head turning as he’s trying to come to terms with the situation and various emotions flitter across his face like images on a TV screen. Just incredible. Worth watching just for his performance.

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Mon, Mar 26, 2007

: The Last Mimzy

Not bad at all. A bit convoluted and odd, and the mystery lasts a bit longer than it should, and though the resolution makes sense, it’s a bit mundane. It’s hard to reveal much without spoiling things, but the story’s about a brother and sister who find some “toys” on a beach and these toys basically give them superpowers. The boy’s suddenly smarter, the girl can float, etc. There’s a lot of odd things happening and the viewer has no idea what’s going on, but apparently the toys are there for a reason: the children need to use them to save the earth. Of course all the adults have no idea what’s going on and don’t believe the kids anyway, so it’s all up to the children. While the film does a great job setting atmosphere with mere odd sounds and strange lights and such, it leaves things a bit murky for the audience: it’s sometimes difficult to tell exactly what’s happening. For instance, at times I wasn’t sure if the sounds were sounds the characters were hearing or merely a spooky soundtrack for the film. But overall the film’s really good. Kids would definitely enjoy it (there were a lot at the theatre were I went and they seemed entertained) but adults will find it enjoyable as well (fortunately, the adult characters in the film are not idiots, but realistically draw parents and teachers).

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: Summer of the Monkeys

Author: Wilson Rawls (novel)

Terrific film! My favorite book of all time is Rawls’ Where the Red Fern Grows and the movie version was horribly butchered — it changed the ending which is the book’s title and entire premise — so I was nervous about this one. Fortunately, it’s remarkably faithful to the source material, acted with charm and dignity, and is just a beautiful movie about a boy becoming a man one summer. Wonderful, suitable for the whole family. I actually liked it better than the book!

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Fri, Mar 23, 2007

: Shooter

A bit silly and convoluted with a rather obvious approach to politically correct conspiracy theory 101, this is the story of a former sniper recruited by a shadowy government organization supposedly to help stop a presidential assasination, but then it turns out it’s all a setup and the sniper is the fall guy for the assasination. From that point it’s just a mild action-adventure film with a few nice set pieces and a predictable, so-so ending. Entertaining, but not much beyond that.

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Wed, Mar 21, 2007

: Casonova

This was apparently meant to be a farce about the famous lover. It doesn’t take itself very seriously and is basically in line with Shakespearean identity comedy. Unfortunately, it falls flat and doesn’t quite succeed as a love story or a comedy. There are some good moments, and it has its charm — it certainly was not as bad as I expected from the previews — and the cinematography and recreation of ancient Venice is stunning. But the plot was too convoluted to be taken seriously, and though that was intentional, it still demeaned the whole project as a nothing but a broad joke. It’s fun, but frivolous.

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Mon, Mar 19, 2007

: Carol leaves for Togo

This morning I took my mom to the airport. She’s flying to Togo, West Africa, for three months. She’ll be staying with a missionary friend and helping her. It’s been a ton of work getting everything she needed: passport and visa, innoculations, medicines for three months, setting up automatic bill paying for during her absense, packing, etc. She’s been working very hard. But today was culmination and she’s off. She hasn’t traveled internationally for years, and with her recent health issues, wasn’t sure if she’d be able to do so, but a short-term mission trip like this seemed an ideal way to try it.

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Sun, Mar 18, 2007

: Because of Winn-Dixie

I guess the Winn-Dixie grocery story chain is an East coast phenomena, because I’d never heard of it and thus the title and premise of this film turned me off. The story sounded generically sachrine — a girl finds a stray dog at the local Winn-Dixie and he changes her life. Big deal, another dog film. The critics raved, but I wasn’t too excited. But it turns out to be not only a charming family film, but has some surprising depth and reality to it. The dog isn’t magical or anything. In fact, he has minimal personality and a lot of negatives (chews things up, barks and howls all the time, is terrified of thunderstorms). He’s like a real mutt. But the ten-year-old girl, of course, falls in love with him. Her mother left her and she’s alone in the world. Her dad’s kind but distant, and as he’s a preacher they move frequently, and she has no friends. But the dog opens the door to friends as he helps her meet all sorts of people throughout the tiny town and eventually, everyone is won over by the bubbly little girl and her mangy dog. The film isn’t as dark or tragic as others (like the fabulous Bridge to Terabithia, which stars the same amazing young actress) and it occasionally drifts into slapstick territory, but it has its serious moments. Overall it was much better than I expected. It’s not the best film ever made, but it’s fun, interesting, gets an excellent performance from the little girl (she’s going to be a huge star), and has heart without overdoing the schmaltz.

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Sat, Mar 17, 2007

: Strangers with Candy

Pretty funny parody-style movie. The humor’s a little odd and takes some getting used to — it’s not laugh-out-loud comedy, but more word and absurd situation comedy. The premise is a (rather moronic) middle-aged woman returns home after a failed life culminating with a stint in prison and finds her father’s remarried and is now in a coma. She decides to “restart” her life by going back to high school and getting the diploma she never got. This sets up all sorts of bizarre situations where the older woman mixes with teens and tries to pretend to be one. There is a rough plot — winning a science fair to be “special” to her father will come out of her coma — but mostly the story’s just an excuse for silliness. Some fun cameos and casting, and overall the film’s entertaining. Not brilliant, but I can see where this would get a cult following.

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Fri, Mar 16, 2007

: Premonition

The key problem with this film is that the setup — a woman alternately waking to find her husband dead and later alive and later dead again, leading her to realize that somehow she’s getting a glimpse of the future and he’s not really dead yet — takes way too much time to establish and the film has little to happen in the meantime. The filmmakers therefore added in red herrings which just confuse an already confusing mess. In the end things do make sense, but the journey takes too long. Too much of the film is bewildering, leaving the audience frustrated. Sometimes such a story can work, if the main character is just as confused as we are and is searching for answers too, but only in the hands of a masterful director, which is decidely not the case here. The film feels slipshod to the point of embarrassment. In several scenes the director resorts to cheap techniques such as handheld cameras to indictate tension, with the result being audience nausea from the awkward movement and a complete breakdown of the story (like the coffin scene, which was so ineptly handled it was difficult to figure out what was going on). This is all unfortunate, because the story had some potential. I liked the resolution, and some aspects of the characters was good. But it was poorly written and directed. For example (and I’ll spoil a few minor plot details here), in the opening scene we see the loving couple buying their first home. Then we see them with their children and realize that years have passed. But then they act odd: the woman’s reaction to hearing her husband’s dead is under-dramatic, and later, when her husband is alive again, she does not rush to embrace him, but simply stares at him in bewilderment. He leaves for work without any affection toward his wife: no kiss, no good-bye, not even a wave. This seems very odd. Of course the film by this point is deep into the whole “premonition” plot thing, and so we’re wondering if this behavior has something to do with that. No, it turns out their relationship is on the rocks and has been for some time. Once we understand that, of course, their behavior fits perfectly. It’s well-done, actually. The problem is that because we don’t know that in advance, those scenes feel off and don’t work for us. The film has several instances of this problem by nature of the gimmicky plot, which gradually reveals information from the future and the past. The producers obviously thought this revealing of new information would be shocking or interesting or dramatic, but because it’s all arriving out of context, it’s not: it’s just confusing or lame. A better director would have realized this and compensated by giving us subtle clues and signals. For instance, just add in an earlier scene that shows the tension between the couple — then the death announcement scene and her subdued reaction makes sense. Instead, we see it and are wondering all sorts of theories, connecting her reaction with the plot, which it’s not. It’s merely the director holding back information from us. Pretty lame and inept.

There are other problems, too. The whole “premonition” thing does not fit the definition of premonition. Instead, this is more like Groundhog Day, where every time the woman goes to bed, the next day is either the future or the present. In the future world her husband has already died. In the present, he’s still alive, but she knows he’ll die soon. Traditionally premonition is a vague feeling that something bad is going to happen, but in this film, it’s more like a vivid dream or alternate reality. That is confusing to the audience and should have been explained or foreshadowed.

The bottom line is that despite a handful of good scenes and a potentially good concept, the movie’s so incompetently written and directed that anything good is washed away to nothing. Sad.

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Thu, Mar 15, 2007

: The House of Mirth

Author: Edith Wharton

This is an incredible book. I think it will change my writing forever. Wharton has a blunt, clear style encased in poetic metaphors that is a joy to hear (I listened to the audiobook). Every line is full of insightful truths and perceptions. The pace of the story is glacier; a two minute conversation might be spread over dozens of pages as Wharton delves into important backstory of the characters, detailing each’s perceptions of the conversation, so that we are fully aware of the dramatic import each line provides. It’s an amazing way of writing and it’s a kind of writing I would like to do; I feel it’s a style near my own (I tend to be extremely detailed).

The story of the novel is about the clash between money and morals in the early 1900s. It is set in the extremely wealthy New York aristocracy, with a beautiful young lady, Lilly Bart, struggling to find her way. Her whole life she’s been trained to be an ornament, a pretty thing destined to be the trophy wife of a wealthy man, yet that conflicts with something deep inside her which she cannot name. Her suitors are many, yet she is reluctant to marry. Her parents are dead and she’s got expensive tastes and no money; she lives off rich friends, traveling on their yahts to Europe, going to fancy balls and operas and restaurants, and racking up debt to dressmakers for expensive gowns she cannot afford. She is a tragic figure, beautifully lonely, yet her prison is of her own making, for she is too self-centered and naive to see her way out. Wharton paints an amazing picture of old New York society. We get to see, in precise detail, what makes such people click, and how words don’t mean what they seem on the surface. The morals of the day are complex. Sexual standards for a young girl, of course, are strict, and Lilly finds herself in the middle of complicated circumstances. She’s faced with difficult problems: she’s inadvertantly offended wealthy friends who make life hard for her, she’s spurning suitors who could help her, and she’s got deep financial worries. But worse is that there are so many solutions to Lilly’s problems: Should she marry a man she dislikes just for his money? Should she use secret information she has to blackmail a former friend who is hurting her? Should she marry a man she loves though he is not wealthy? These are a few of the moral quandries Lilly struggles with. The story is beautiful, complex, tragic, and amazingly believable. Wharton is witty and wonderful, and this novel is one of the best I’ve ever read (heard). Highly recommended.

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: Black Snake Moan

Author: Craig Brewer

Director: Craig Brewer

Wow, this is a really wild film. I’m still digesting it. There are just so many ways to interpret this. On the surface it’s a lurid gimmick: the story’s about a white trash slut who winds up at a religious black farmer’s house where he chains her up to keep her from running away and intends to “tame the wildness out of her.” The promos are graphic images of a nearly naked tiny white girl with a thirty foot long iron chain around her waist and a giant black man leering over her. But the film’s not exploitative at all. Instead it’s a serious study of relationships, religion, race, meaning and purpose, forgiveness, God, sin, life, sex. The cast is phenomenal: Christina Ricci is utterly convincing in her role, somehow both stunningly beautiful yet filthy and slutty and yet adorably appealing. It’s truly an amazing performance that I hope gets recognized, though I doubt that it will, considering the controversial nature and seemingly demeaning nature of the role. Samuel Jackson is also incredible as a flawed but genuine man, a simple farmer (and former bar singer), smoothly switching between furious vengeance and tenderness. It’s tough to come across as both gentle and violent, yet he does it convincingly. The supporting cast is also terrific, with a surprisingly good job by singer Justin Timberlake as Ricci’s troubled boyfriend.

This is not a pleasant film. It’s violent, blatantly sexual, and occasionally shocking, especially as the film’s tone morphs throughout. I was struck by the film’s verisimilitude: the actors and storyline are utterly convincing and that’s what makes the film work so well. For instance, one is shocked by Ricci’s overly sexual character as it seems excessive — we aren’t just shown a token scene of her slutty lifestyle, but scene after scene after scene. The shock and horror and disgust just builds and suddenly most films, which do try to establish radical character with a single scene, seem inadequate and unrealistic, and that makes this film feels intensely genuine, which exacerbates our horror.

In the hands of a less capable filmmaker this easily could have been turned into B-movie dreck; instead, this is an edgy film that takes huge risks and the payoffs are massive, with tremendous emotion and profundity revealed. I just loved the way the movie kept evolving, never quite going where you thought it would. It reminded me a lot of Crash in that respect. Except in Crash is was a key gimmick, done with manipulative editing; here it’s just part of the presentation and represents genuine aspects of the characters. For instance, in a pivotal scene, the town preacher stops by the black man’s home. Our minds immediately go to what’s going to happen if the girl reveals herself chained to the radiator. The scene culminates in the girl and preacher having one of the best conversations about God and forgiveness I have ever witnessed. It’s just amazing and brings tears to my eyes even now, the next day. That scene is the heart of the film but it doesn’t telegraph itself: there is no musical cue or grand widescreen shot announcing “big scene coming up.” It just happens, out of the blue, which is so much like real life. The scene is a perfect encapsulation of the film: it’s a heady mixture of surreal and real, an oxymoron brought to life. On the one hand you’ve got a half-naked girl, the town slut, chained to a radiator. On the other you’ve got a black preacher man, friendly and genuine, not particularly educated, but tremendously wise. The two sit at the kitchen table and talk as though this is normal. The girl’s bitter and angry, rebellious, curses constantly, and distains religion. The two seem like polar opposites, yet somehow they connect in a way that’s natural and believable. We see a vulnerable side to the girl, worldly understanding from the preacher. Each are true to their nature, yet each are deeper than we realized. The whole film’s like that, with several scenes that repeat such contradictory tones.

This is truly a breakthrough film, unlike anything you’ve seen. It’s harsh, it’s real, it’s tender, it’s emotional. It’s not flawless, but it’s damned impressive. Considering he had to handle such tricky material, the direction and writing of Craig Brewer is amazing. All that said, this is a difficult film to recommend. It’s violent and sexual, and not everyone is able to handle such material. If you can, however, I recommend you try. The payoff is worth it. Unfortunately, the film underrated and hard to find, which is a shame. This is a gem of a film. Ignore the lurid posters and trailer; this is a film of startling depth.

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: Ice Age 2: The Meltdown

I was disappointed by this sequel. It had a handful of good moments, but seems desperately stretched for material, and the 90 minute length felt like more than two hours. This time the ice age is melting and the characters from the first film have to figure out how to adapt and get along. The voice work is very good, there are some great new characters (such as the hilarious vulture), and the old ones are fairly reliable, but in the end, you sort of go, “Why bother?”

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Wed, Mar 14, 2007

: She’s the Man

While the idea of turning Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” into a modern story about a girl soccer player who pretends to be a boy to get on the boy’s soccer team isn’t terrible, this dreadfully unfunny and cheesily over-acted dreck just makes a mockery out of everything: love and relationships, soccer, life, reality. It has some neat ideas and a decent cast (though the lead can’t even kick a soccer ball convincingly) but everything is so ham-handled the result would bore 9-year-olds.

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: The Ant Bully

I heard horrible things about this animated movie when it came out and stayed away. It seemed too predictable: a picked-on wimp takes out his vengeance on an ant colony (the bullied becomes bully) and the ant colony retaliates by shrinking him to their size and forcing him to live like they do, whereby he learns life-changing lessons. While the film takes too many shortcuts for cheap humor (like butt jokes) and the story is lightweight, there’s enough interesting characters (I loved the glow worm and beetle) and unusual things going on and the heart of the story actually is pretty good, and in the end, I decided I liked the film. Not bad.

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Mon, Mar 12, 2007

: Sketches of Frank Gehry

Director: Sydney Pollack

Wow, this is what a documentary is supposed to be like! Pollack’s a personal friend of architect Gehry and we get amazing insight into what makes the man tick. My favorite parts were the scenes when we watch Gehry working on architectural models, playing with paper shapes and adjusting things to some unknown inner censor that tells him if it works or doesn’t. To see a sketch turn into a model and then come to life as a building is awe-inspiring. Gehry’s sketches are startling vague line scribbles that look nothing like a building… until you compare the sketch to the three-dimensional building and somehow it matches. Really weird! But what really makes this a great documentary is that there’s impressive perception in interviews with other architects, artists, and Gehry fans. This isn’t a puff piece or mere video recording of history, but an analysis of the creative spirit. We learn a lot about Frank Gehry, but also a lot about ourselves. Terrific film. Highly recommended.

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Sun, Mar 11, 2007

: Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii

Author: Lee Goldberg

Another good Monk book. This one is okay. We don’t get to see enough mystery solving as it takes the whole book to solve the two main crimes. While spending time with Monk is interesting, it’s also tedious, as he is predictably neurotic (and compulsive). Fortunately, it reads quickly. In this story, Monk’s assistant Natalie goes to Hawaii for a wedding and Monk tags along (you’ll have to read it to find out the how and why). While there Monk causes amusing chaos with the hotel staff and solves the murder of a hotel guest. The most important thing in a mystery is the resolution and at least this one has a good payoff, but the build-up is a little long for me.

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: Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine

I wanted to like this as the “chess master loses to computer” topic fascinates, but it’s one of the worst documentary’s I’ve ever seen. Things go bad from the opening, when the narrator speaks in a horrible harsh whisper that’s so faint I had to pump up the volume to hear him and even then a lot of what he said was inaudible (and oh, the film has no subtitles or closed caption support). It just gets worse from there. Throughout the film time is confused: we aren’t sure if the scenes are history or current. Some of the recent footage is dreary: scenes of Kasparov standing in a hotel room where the big match took place years earlier and remembering mundane details like “There was a table over there.” are just pointless and boring. There is some good chess info, and interviews of the IBM programming team edge on perceptive, but unfortunately Kasparov himself, despite being heavily featured throughout, remains an enigma. Apparently he beat himself in the big loss (the machine didn’t win, Kasparov lost), but the why is never revealed though that’s the core question of the film. Very strange. I came away not knowing much more than I started with, which is not a good sign for a documentary. And there are lots of irrelevant stylistic techniques the film employs to gratuitous effect, such as the overly dramatic shots of the “Turk” (a famous manniquin chess-playing machine from centuries ago), which are confusing and never enlightening. The bottom line: the film’s a muddle. You’d do better to read a good article on the topic.

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Sat, Mar 10, 2007

: Little Miss Sunshine

This was actually better than I expected, but my expectations weren’t that high. It’s a decent movie, enjoyably harmless, about a dysfunctional family going a disasterous road trip. It’s somewhat predictable and the payoff at the ending isn’t quite worth the wait, but it is fun, and there are some excellent moments. Pretty good.

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: RV

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

The promos for this film made it seem like just another comedy about idiots: idiotic dad shows up with a giant RV to take the family on a trip where everything goes wrong. But while there’s an annoying touch of that in a scene or two, the film is actually pretty tame overall, and it has a good-though-predictable storyline: dad has to work instead of taking the family to Hawaii so he rents an RV and drives to Colorado for his critical meeting, not telling them what he’s really doing. I actually really liked the movie: it’s harmless fun, has some wacky characters, and a bit of heart. Once again promotion distorts a good film.

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Fri, Mar 09, 2007

: 300

Author: Frank Miller (graphic novel)

Terrific! I have not read the graphic novel and the promos intrigued me a little but not that much as it seemed like just a film about a battle. Then I watched a TV show about the author and the project and found out the story is based on a real historical battle in ancient Greece, where 300 Spartans fought an army of a million. The story sounded a bit dreary to me — after all, I knew the Spartans died, though it seemed obvious they won in the long run. But the film, it turns out, is much more complicated than such a simple telling. There are fascinating political reasons of why a mere 300 Spartans tried to fight off the army of a million, and a big part of the story is the king’s wife, who faces a moral dilemma as she tries to save the life of her husband. The story’s got everything: action, a flashy visual style, intense emotion, betrayal, horror, and a touch of the fantastic (the Spartans are practically superhuman fighting machines and some of their enemies are nearly demonic). So though I only expected a good movie I got a great one. Highly recommended.

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Thu, Mar 08, 2007

: The Covenant

This is a movie about teenage male witches and though it got dreadful reviews, it wasn’t that bad. Granted, the plot’s idiotic and the climatic “battle” between two witches is just lame, but I found the premise intriguing. Rich New England teens, with the world at their feet, also have superpowers? Isn’t that the ultimate guy’s fantasy? The film also had a few striking visuals — unfortunately these are wasted early on and the film has nothing left for the climax. Certainly not recommended, but one of those Hollywood movies that irritates me due to its waste of a good idea.

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Tue, Mar 06, 2007

: Amazing Grace

I knew little about this going in; I thought it was about John Newton, the man who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace. Instead it turned to be the story of Wilbur Wilberforce, a contemporary of Newton, who struggles for years trying to get the British Parliment to abolish the slave trade. Very well done, with authentic performances and surprisingly clear and interesting political debates, but a bit slow at times, and in the end a bit too predictable for the length.

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: The Astronaut Farmer

This was surprisingly good. I didn’t know what to expect as the trailer didn’t explain if this was a comedy or serious drama. It’s about a farmer in Texas who builds his own rocket and plans to shoot himself into orbit. It turned out to be a serious story, with the guy completely legitimate (a former Air Force pilot, he dropped out of NASA and gave up his space dreams when his family needed him at home). A big part of the story — my favorite part — is his relationship with his loyal wife, who puts up with ridicule from people who think her husband’s a nut and endures financial hardship and the potential of losing her husband if his rocket were to explode or crash. It’s realistically done with wonderful husband-wife dialog and dynamic: even when fighting you can tell the two love each other. Unfortunately, the story’s a bit predictable — like any story of this nature, there are only so many ways it can end — and that gives it a more lightweight feel than it deserves. But overall I liked it quite a bit. It’s an excellent family film about good old-fashioned values and the value of hard work.

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Mon, Mar 05, 2007

: Wild Hogs

The best thing about this film is that you get exactly what the trailer tells you to expect: four guys having a middle-age crisis go on a motorcycle road trip. Preposterous, predictable at times, occasionally dumb, occasionally hilarious, with fun casting choices, it’s just a decent, feel-good comedy, completely harmless. There are a few crude scenes I found oddly out-of-place, and the ending’s too pat, but overall it’s just fun.

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: Scoop

Director: Woody Allen

I liked this. It’s typical Woody, with fast-paced humorous dialog, fantastic elements, and a moderately clever plot. In this case we’ve got a young girl journalist played by the stunning Scarlet Johanson who’s recruited by a recently deceased famous journalist who has a scoop for her: a certain millionaire playboy is the famous Tarot Card Killer. The only problem is the journalist has no proof, so the girl will have to find that. In trying to get close to the man she falls in love with him and then isn’t sure if her suspicions that he’s a serial killer are her imagination or reality. The girl’s partner in this adventure is Woody Allen playing a talky stage magician, who’s hilarious. Overall it’s a lightweight story, but there are some classic Allen lines. My favorite is when the girl’s debating over her boyfriend’s guilt and Allen says in classic deadpan style something like, “Your parents will have a problem with having a serial killer in the family?” Fun stuff.

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Sun, Mar 04, 2007

: Barnyard

I read something about this before it came out and it had me mildly intrigued, but I missed it in the theatres. Now I’m glad I did. This was horrible. We’re talking barnyard manure pile horrible. It’s just a bizarre mess of talking animals and weird humans, with male cows having udders (huh?), jokes that fall flatter than featherless chickens (A cow surfing off a mountain cliff?), and a touchy-feely obvious plot about a young bull learning to become an adult and take responsibility. An incomprehensible mess. I got distracted doing other things and realized I’d missed a portion of the film and I didn’t even care.

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Sat, Mar 03, 2007

: Wordplay

This is a documentary on crossword puzzles and I wanted to see this as I hoped it would explain crosswords to me. I’ve never understood crosswords and it annoys me terribly. I’m a very analytical person and crosswords just baffle me. The clues have no rhyme or reason behind them and I find them utterly frustrating (to me they often cheat, being purposely obscure to the point of unfairness). Unfortunately, this film did not help me there. No mysteries were explained. Crosswords are still just as opaque to me. However, I still found the documentary rivoting — the interviews were mostly interesting and I found the competition exciting — but my favorite was the guy who explained how he creates crosswords, as he proceeded to write one just for the film, and the insights gained into his process were fascinating. But in the end my bafflement wins out. What the heck’s the deal with crosswords? Why do people like them? How do they solve them? No answers.

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Fri, Mar 02, 2007

: The Queen

Despite the terrific reviews I wasn’t that interested in this; who wants to watch a 90-year-old queen for two hours? But it turns out the story is a fascinating look at Britain after Princess Diana’s death, and is much more about the politics and purpose of the monarchy and the Queen’s role. At the time Britain had just elected a new prime minister, Tony Blair, who was a young kid, essentially, and he’s really at the core of the film, the buffer between the people and the Queen. Really interesting and excellently done.

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Thu, Mar 01, 2007

: Hoot

I dreaded the left-wing agenda the movie seemed to have, but it actually was rather low-key as the whole “save the owls” thing wasn’t that big a deal. Actually it was a decent film. Definitely aimed a kids — the film doesn’t even try to be intelligent for adults — and I found the Tarzan boy to be a bizarre inclusion and not believable. But this is a kid’s film and in that regard it works and is harmless.

Topic: [/movie]

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