Movie Log 2006 (With Mini-Reviews!) - Vol. 1

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  1. 1/1: Layer Cake (2004, Matthew Vaughn) - An uninspired retread of the same kinds of themes and ideas we've seen a million times before in similar gangster pictures. Veteran producer and first-time director Vaughn knows his stuff, and perhaps too well; you'd think someone as talented as he is behind the camera could maybe be able to come up with something a mite more interesting. The only real find here is impressive star Daniel Craig, who is now slated to become Pierce Brosnan's James Bond successor. C-

  2. 1/2: Ong-bak/Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior (2003, Prachya Pinkaew) - It may not be that smart, and the storyline may be as thin as an Olsen twin, but Ong-Bak is an exciting, funny, and completely engaging martial arts film from beginning to end. Tony Jaa's stunts are absolutely amazing, and the fight scenes are visceral and mind-blowing. Not great, but certainly one to check out with your friends on a Saturday night. Mark my words, Tony Jaa is the next Bruce Lee. B+

  3. 1/3: Mean Creek (2004, Jacob Aaron Estes) - First-time director Estes makes a superb debut with this quiet, unsettling, and ultimately disturbing exploration of adolescent cruelty. The small, quiet moments build tension even more so than the powerful sequences of verbal battery; the young actors, especially Rory Culkin and Carly Schroeder, are absolutely fantastic. A different, darker, yet more realistic kind of coming-of-age movie. B+ (Full review)

  4. 1/3: Mean Creek (2004, Jacob Aaron Estes) - Exact same take on the movie, except for that I watched it with the commentary this time. As far as commentaries go, it was pretty entertaining, but not that great or insightful. Still, it's a very good, recommended movie, and it was nice to hear the filmmakers and cast members talk about the behind-the-scenes action. It's just too bad that none of the deleted material they mentioned was actually on the DVD. B+ (Full review)

  5. 1/3: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998, Guy Ritchie) - Layer Cake hinted at the fact that I don't like British gangster movies; Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels just proves it. While quite a bit better than Layer Cake (the irony being that Cake director Matthew Vaughn produced this one), Two Smoking Barrels is just as derivative and needlessly flashy. There are a few bits of genuinely funny comedy, but on the whole it really is a subpar, only mildly interesting film about wholly uninteresting people. C+

  6. 1/4: The Right Stuff (1983, Philip Kaufman) - An absolutely stellar film in every respect. The large, varied cast is terrific, Kaufman's screenplay (from the book by Tom Wolfe) elevates the plot from the realm of sappy patriotism to stirring Americana, the score by Bill Conti is beautiful, and the visuals and the photography are stunning to behold. Engaging, funny, moving, devastating, and at last inspiring; the definitive space race film. A+

  7. 1/4: Clue (1985, Jonathan Lynn) - I don't even know if this has enough of a following to be regarded as a cult movie, but it deserves to be. Trashed by critics upon its initial release and ignored at the box office (not even making back its $15m production budget), Clue is one of the most underrated, overlooked comedies I've seen. It has enough problems to keep it from greatness, but with such a great comedic cast featuring the likes of Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, Eileen Brennan, Madeline Kahn, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, and Lesley Ann Warren, the laughs are plentiful. With a story devised by comic mastermind John Landis, it's absolutely wacky madcap murder mystery fun...maybe not as exciting as playing the board game, but certainly different (and that's a good thing). B

  8. 1/7: Melinda and Melinda (2004, Woody Allen) - Say what you will about Allen's more recent fare (excluding the acclaimed Match Point which I have yet to see), but he still knows what he's doing. Melinda and Melinda is a unique film whose story unfolds as a dinner conversation between two playwrights about the different values of comedy and drama. Thus, we get the same story told twice, once in a comedic fashion, once in a tragic fashion. It's an interesting idea, and one that Allen uses to good effect. The film is awkward at first, but once it becomes comfortable with itself, it is quite a joy, especially considering the talents of Will Ferrell and Chiwetel Ejiofor. You're guaranteed to never look at storytelling the same way again. B+

  9. 1/8: Garfield: The Movie (2004, Peter Hewitt) - I'm a big fan of Jim Davis' Garfield comic strips. I think that they're even better and funnier than Charles Schultz's classic Peanuts strips. Bill Murray is also my favorite actor, so I was elated to hear that he would be voicing Garfield. Unfortunately, apart from Murray's wry, witty voice-over that perfectly captures the spirit of the flabby tabby, the film is like a nightmarish Garfield Bizarro World that I sincerely hope Davis wasn't approving of. Mixing the CGI Garfield with live-action animals was a doomed concept from the start, and the story and the screenplay are terribly bland. The only reason one should think twice before putting this cat to sleep is good ol' Bill Murray's energetic and humorous voice-over. D+

  10. 1/11: Around the Bend (2004, Jordan Roberts) - Hollywood pap masquerading as "serious indie filmmaking," Around the Bend features an excellent cast (Christopher Walken, Michael Caine, and Josh Lucas) and then proceeds to do nothing with it. The script from first-time writer-director Roberts is about as clichéd as they come, hitting all of the familiar notes without zest. The wildly eccentric behavior of the characters and the down-to-earth, real emotion the film sets out to evoke creates something very uneven. I honestly believe that Roberts was well-intentioned, but next time I hope he knows what he's doing. Don't even get me started on the little kid. C-

  11. 1/11: Carlito's Way (1993, Brian De Palma) - The first De Palma film I've seen that I've actually enjoyed, Carlito's Way is a snappy--if somewhat formulaic--crime flick that culls its mood and atmosphere from various sources: It sometimes seems like a hard-boiled noir with a hardened hero that still looks for love (Al Pacino's Carlito even likens himself to Humphrey Bogart at one point), sometimes an ambitious Goodfellas-esque gangster opera, and sometimes like the early 90's action movies screenwriter David Koepp (taking from two novels by Edwin Torres) is most known for. In the end, it's far from great, but it is certainly very entertaining. Plus it's also one of the few films where Sean Penn is tolerable. B

  12. 1/12: The Girl in the Café (2005, David Yates) - What a completely pleasant surprise. I was just cruising HBO On Demand, and found that this film was expiring on 1/15, so I figured that I may as well watch it. And, might I say, "Wow." Bill Nighy is absolutely brilliant in this film; I've liked him before, but now I really respect him. Kelly Macdonald was also superb. While halfway through the movie goes from softspoken love story to political propaganda, I don't really care because the politics were so intertwined with the characters that it really made sense. Powerful, important, and with fantastic acting. A-

  13. 1/13: Johnson Family Vacation (2004, Christopher Erskin) - I am stunned by this film's complete and utter awfulness. There's not one positive thing I can say about it, except for maybe that it taught me to avoid any future movies featuring Lil' Bow Wow. The script is hackneyed and moronic, the direction is flat, and the acting is some of the worst I have seen in recent memory. The entire cast acted like they were playing in a tenth-rate high school play. At least I didn't pay to see it. I feel sorry for anyone that did. The only decent part of the film is when the kids watch the fantastic Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Chosen." F

  14. 1/13: The Man Without a Face (1993, Mel Gibson) - Gibson's directorial debut may suffer from some Hollywood conventions, and at times it seems overly familiar, but the performances make things very interesting, as does the surprisingly sharp dialogue. Nick Stahl, in his very first big screen role, is extremely impressive; it's rare that I actually take a liking to child actors. Gibson himself is absolutely mesmerizing...you won't be able to take your eyes off him. B+

  15. 1/14: Menace II Society (1993, Albert & Allen Hughes) - From the tiny ghetto film revolution in the early 90's comes its very best example, the Hughes brothers' powerful Menace II Society. It may lack the raw intensity of John Singleton's great Boyz n the Hood, but it deals with the subject just as powerfully and with more finesse. It's amazing that the Hughes brothers had never made a film before this (and, like Singleton, the rest of their filmography pales in comparison). A powerful lead performance from Tyrin Turner compliments the Hughes' excellent screenplay. It's like the black Goodfellas. A+

  16. 1/14: Munich (2005, Steven Spielberg) - An absolutely stunning film. One of the most powerful, brutally realistic films yet made about terrorism, violence, and what kind of moral prices those doing either of them must pay. Eric Bana is brilliant enough for me to forget that he was ever in Troy (no small feat), and the rest of the actors, including the reliable Daniel Craig, are just as great. The explosions and gunshots are harsh and jarring, but in a good way; they automatically make one uncomfortable and are that much more frightening for it. Not as good as Schindler's List or Saving Private Ryan, but surprisingly close. A+

  17. 1/15: Lakposhtha hâm parvaz mikonand/Turtles Can Fly (2004, Bahman Ghobadi) - An Iraqi film set in Kurdistan a week or more before the start of the U.S./Iraq war, Turtles Can Fly is startling, bold, and an absolute must-see. The urgency with which this needs to be seen is enormous. What decisions Americans make in war affect U.S. citizens, but indirectly, through things such as escalating gasoline prices. To see the real-life situations that people--especially children--suffer through in Iraq compared with our petty complaints, and to see those that we rain our fiery war upon, is eye-opening. Director Ghobadi has made a beautiful film with an amazing child cast and a sincere sense of despair, confusion, and frustration. These emotions and reactions are what made the filmmaker want to make Turtles Can Fly in the first place, and oh what a film he has made. A+

  18. 1/15: Paparazzi (2004, Paul Abascal) - After The Passion of the Christ, the next film Mel Gibson had a hand in (as producer) was this completely preposterous and unexciting thriller. It asks us to sympathize with a prettyboy, spoon-fed rich actor who decides to take revenge upon badgering members of the paparazzi. This wouldn't be so difficult if he didn't come off as such as a raving loony whom the law eventually sides with. There are no insights into the characters or the code of revenge as in the Kill Bill films...there's just a madman killing bottom-rung vultures who look a lot more sympathetic than they should. That does not a good revenge flick make. And maybe they should've cast decent actors. Just a thought. D

  19. 1/15: She Hate Me (2004, Spike Lee) - This is my first Spike Lee "joint," and I'm thinking that maybe it wasn't a good idea to start with this one. After a horrible opening credits sequence displayed on rippling money bills, and which riffs on both George W. Bush and Enron, the film proceeds to only get worse. The acting is terrible, the screenplay is a waste of paper, and Lee's direction bluntly hammers home his far-too-obvious intentions. He bashes the viewer over the head with his political sentiments...and then has a completely useless storyline about a man who gets paid by lesbians to impregnate them. "Arrogant" is too kind a word. The only decent bits are Chiwetel Ejiofor's brief appearances. Atrocious. F

  20. 1/17: The Big Bounce (2004, George Armitage) - Owen Wilson and Sara Foster are well-cast as two lazy beach bunnies adrift in a wave of deceit, sex, love, and robbery. Yet despite all of that, the plotting itself is never as complex as the plot; by time the movie was over, I still had no idea what the point of the heist was. And, though I'm maybe being too fair, it doesn't really matter for most of the flick. Wilson, Foster, and the rest of the amusing cast (Charlie Sheen, Morgan Freeman, Gary Sinise, Willie Nelson, and Bebe Neuwirth) make it a pleasant if rarely engaging 88 minutes. It's as lazy as its characters, and just as undemanding...I'm thinking that was the point. As far as Elmore Leonard adaptations go (and I've read none of his actual novels), this one lacks the masterful panache of Tarantino's Jackie Brown or the crazy cool hipster attitude of Sonnenfeld's Get Shorty or the clever energy of Soderbergh's Out of Sight, but it is what it is: Stoned fun. B-

  21. 1/19: Lord of War (2005, Andrew Niccol) - This movie has potential greatness oozing from every frame...it's just that Niccol misuses it. After a great opening dialogue from Nicolas Cage, followed by a clever opening credits sequence that tracks a bullet from its birth to its deployment and eventually to its use, the film sinks into a kind of rhythmic mediocrity. It has panache, it has style, but it doesn't work. The first half of Lord of War is almost unbearable, even with the always-entertaining Cage. The second half fares much better, but Niccol does something here that Cage's gunrunning Yuri Orlov never would've: He brings the big guns in too late. C+

  22. 1/19: Junebug (2005, Phil Morrison) - A sweet little directorial debut from Morrison, Junebug is a realistic film about family reuniting, and a new bride meeting her in-laws. Morrison finds power in the smallest things, shots of quiet trees and houses and air mattresses and bedrooms conveying more emotion than you'd think. This brings with it an inviting sense of nostalgia and belonging; my family is almost exactly like the one portrayed here. The film is filled with fine acting (especially from the charming Amy Adams, who played a surprisingly similar sister character in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Family"), and though nothing is resolved and there are no big revelations, such is the way of life, and living. A-

  23. 1/20: Persona (1966, Ingmar Bergman) - The best I've yet seen from Bergman, Persona is an astounding psychological profile that remains riveting from beginning to end. It is photographed beautifully, and its imagery is alternately breathtaking and disturbing, oftentimes both at once. Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullman are fantastic, and the parallels and contrasts between their performances and their characters needs to be thought about and slowly sifted through if you want to come to a conclusion as to what the film means. Do I know what it really means? No. Does anyone but Bergman know? No. Should it be any other way? Absolutely not. A+

  24. 1/20: Snatch. (2000, Guy Ritchie) - While Snatch. is by no means any more original than Ritchie's first feature, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, it is certainly much cleaner and tidier. Unfortunately, it's still not much better. However, there are quite a few comedic moments that really hit the nail on the head, and Brad Pitt is hilarious as a gypsy with an unintelligible dialect. While the movie is really nothing more than yet another riff on the Tarantino style, it has a certain undeniable energy...still, that energy can't cover up the fact that the movie is rather pointless and rarely comes up aces. B-

  25. 1/21: Fun with Dick and Jane (2005, Dean Parisot) - It's not focused enough to be a sharp corporate satire, and it never shows enough courage to wade into darker waters to be a black comedy. What it is, however, is Jim Carrey going absolutely bonkers in his first real comedic role since 2003's Bruce Almighty. It's one of Carrey's lesser vehicles, but this is more because of the awkward script, which still manages to hit enough right notes to make Fun with Dick and Jane a breezy, amusing 90 minutes. I've never seen the 1977 original, but this one is fairly entertaining. Plus, bonus points for including Carlos Jacott, one of the three actors to appear on all three of Joss Whedon's television series (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly), and Six Feet Under's dead patriach, Richard Jenkins. B-

  26. 1/23: Lolita (1962, Stanley Kubrick) - First it opens with an incredible scene, then goes on to tell how things led up to it. In this, it is a film about perspective as well as paranoia and obsession...by the end of the film, you will not feel the same about the first scene as you did at the beginning. James Mason is terrific as Professor Humbert Humbert, and the late Shelley Winters also shines in her rather brief role as the mother of the title character, Lolita. Lolita herself, Sue Lyon, is also fantastic; it's hard to believe she was only 16 at the time. Lolita is a fascinating, compelling web of desire and madness that is near unforgettable. Kubrick's best after 2001: A Space Odyssey. A+

  27. 1/24: Primal Fear (1996, James Mason) - Edward Norton, at the time only 27 and in his first film role, manages to steal the show away from Richard Gere, who turns in an impressive performance as well. The film has an excellent cast besides (with the likes of Laura Linney, Frances McDormand, and Alfre Woodard), but it's Norton and Gere who will command most of your attention. Hoblit manages to create a taut, tense atmosphere, but it is Norton who makes it a twisting, twirling, crazy, complex maze of fact and fiction. A-

  28. 1/25: Greed (1924, Eric von Stroheim) - Turner Entertainment's four-hour reconstruction of von Stroheim's original nine-hour cut (which was butchered by the newly-founded MGM into a more commercial two-and-a-half-hour cut) is a dutiful attempt, but it still feels as if something has been lost from the original cut, which was only shown once and then lost forever. It is an impressive, operatic rumination on wealth and the obesessive nature of the desire to attain it, but I would not call it one of the best silents I've seen. It's really a shame what happened to von Stroheim's original cut, and I pray beyond hope that some day it is recovered, even though it most likely does not exist today, for I have the feeling that it's something really amazing. Still, this is a much better four-hour soap opera than Gone with the Wind. B

  29. 1/27: The Aristocrats (2005, Paul Provenza) - The idea behind The Aristocrats is an intriguing one: Many different comedians tell the same joke ending with the same punchline, but the way they get there is completely different. Unfortunately for Provenza and the many different funnymen (and women) that appear, the joke itself is not actually funny. Very few of the comedians give it a good delivery and make it work; those that do are Gilbert Gottfried, Trey Parker and Matt Stone with an animated South Park segment, Sarah Silverman, and the surprising show-stealer Bob Saget (what a sick and disturbing man). The weakness of the joke lies in its punchline; there is a segment halfway through the film that explains in depth why the punchline is supposed to work and how to deliver it. This gives a greater understanding of the joke that maybe should've been at the beginning so that the first half wasn't so laughless. C+

  30. 1/27: Thumbsucker (2005, Mike Mills) - A grossly underappreciated indie, Thumbsucker belongs to the school of Wes Anderson-type quirkiness, only more grounded in reality, like what David O. Russell did with I Heart Huckabees or Flirting with Disaster. But writer-director Mills manages to take that combination and blend it into a style all his own, fresh and unique and weird and touching and funny and oh so human. With appropriately funky music provided by The Polyphonic Spree, Thumbsucker manages to expertly pick out its characters' flaws and surprisingly finds reason to celebrate them. It's one thing for a movie to make me smile, but it's another entirely for a movie to make me rejoice in the fact that, yes, I am a gloriously flawed human being. A

  31. 1/27: Brokeback Mountain (2005, Ang Lee) - Most likely the pinnacle of Lee's career, Brokeback Mountain is a somber, evocative film that manages to highlight the underlying themes of fear, guilt, and violence that pervade its homosexual romance without distracting from the romance itself as a single, beautiful entity that pulses in the heart of the film. The actors are unanimously fantastic, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in particular as the two ranching cowboys hiding their love in the face of a society that won't accept them and families they love too much to hurt with the truth. Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway (finally leaving behind her wretched Disney years and getting the chance to prove what a wonderful actress she really is) are also stand-outs, and even Randy Quaid gets to shine in his brief yet important role. A beautiful film with quietly expressive direction, powerful music by Gustavo Santaolalla, and simply fantastic acting. A+

  32. 1/28: Hustle & Flow (2005, Craig Brewer) - If you think rap music is a braindead, soulless enterprise requiring little to no talent, I've a hunch this highly impressive second feature from writer-director Brewer will completely blow your mind. With the gritty, grungy vibes of an underground 70's flick, Hustle & Flow is an authentic-feeling tale of a pimp who attempts to escape poverty through his rap. It sounds like the most horrible clichéd plot one could think up, but Hustle & Flow accurately captures the southern style desperation of its antagonist, played by Terrence Howard in a frankly amazing breakthrough performance. Without Howard, the film would be a good enough, well-made movie; but with Howard, it's a searing record of the fight for success and the obstacles that lie in the way. A-

  33. 1/30: Stagecoach (1939, John Ford) - After starring in a string of 79 B-pictures, legendary actor John Wayne finally hit it big with this, the first of his many collaborations with director Ford. While Stagecoach is not their best work (for that, see The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, the greatest western ever made), nor even a great film, it is still very entertaining and is host to a fabulous chase sequence between the Apache Indians and the stagecoach of the title. Wayne has the strongest screen presence of any actor to ever perform, and it serves him well here. Even if the film occasionally lulls, once Wayne appears, your eyes are immediately glued back to the scren. B+

  34. 1/30: Whale Rider (2002, Niki Caro) - It is the amazing Keisha Castle-Hughes, the youngest actress ever nominated for the Best Actress Oscar, in a magnificent performance that breathes life into what is an otherwise familiar story. There are few beats in Whale Rider that you won't know, but Castle-Hughes' lovely performance accompanied with Caro's beautiful imagery (superbly captured by cinematographer Leon Narbey) make it worth your time. The last act, in particular, is very affecting and quite beautiful. Whale Rider is a pretty good movie, but Castle-Hughes is frankly amazing. B

  35. 2/1: The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005, Judd Apatow) - I put off seeing this movie for the longest time. After all, Wedding Crashers had been similarly lauded by critics, but I thought that one was a terrible waste of money. But Apatow's The 40 Year Old Virgin is a different kind of sex comedy, vulgar but not crude and funny but not mean. The title virgin, Andy, is played with a certain sweetness and relatable awkwardness by Steve Carell that really makes the film. Carell, so great on The Daily Show and the American version of The Office, and who also co-wrote the film with Apatow, provides a certain depth to his character that most wouldn't have. Apatow and Carell have concocted an unusally clever sex farce, and here's to seeing more of them! B+

  36. 2/2: The Untouchables (1987, Brian De Palma) - Ah, so here's the kind of De Palma stuff I've been missing. The Untouchables, an exhilarating kind of old-school-meets-new-school crime flick, covers the street and political warfare of Prohibition-era Chicago with unmatched wit and vibrancy. Taking from a number of real-life events, a novel, and the old television series of the same name, the film is both a simple, entertaining cops-and-robbers yarn and a brutally violent drama that paints its characters in broad strokes that have a kind of subtlety unto themselves. Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Andy Garcia, and Charles Martin Smith are all fine as the "Untouchables" of the title, but it's Robert De Niro in a brilliant supporting performance as gangster bigwig Al Capone that steals the film...and that is quite a feat, considering the film is one of the very best on crime prevention ever made. A+

  37. 2/3: Fanny och Alexander/Fanny and Alexander (1982, Ingmar Bergman) - Bergman again pecks away at the dark corners of our minds, and the result is an absolutely fabulous, mysterious, and completely enthralling web of times past, old age, youth, and memories half-remembered as well as those never to be forgotten. Fanny and Alexander has a kind of magic all its own, not the cheery, desensitized variety that permeates every other studio picture put out today, but the kind of cruel, dark, seeds-of-the-earth magic that is found in the very best fairy tales. And that, though grounded in reality, the film may be: An atmospheric, strangely enchanting fairy tale of one's life as remembered through the fuzzy, escapist lens of troubled childhood. A+

  38. 2/3: Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005, George Clooney) - After the excellent and underrated Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Clooney returns to the director's chair for an even better sophomore outing, Good Night, and Good Luck., a stirring, topical look at legendary 1950's newscaster Edward R. Murrow's battle against Junior Senator Joseph McCarthy. The black-and-white cinematography is harsh but it accurately conveys the atmosphere of that period in time, especially with all of the mesmerizing cigarette smoke wafting through every scene. It has some pacing problems--its over-reliance on archive footage is sometimes labored--and while the performances are good, David Strathairn's at times feels much too big for the film and out of synch with the rest of the cast. But maybe that's the way a true American media hero like Murrow would make the rest of us feel as we sit and watch his weekly news revolution: Like we're not playing a significant enough role in the way our government shepherds us. A-

  39. 2/4: Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003, Quentin Tarantino) - I've seen each volume of Tarantino's Kill Bill epic at least a dozen times, but this was my first time watching the Japanese cut of Vol. 1 that my good buddy Mike sent me as a gift. There aren't many changes, except for a slightly gorier anime sequence (some of Boss Matsumoto's guts spill out) and a full-color, extended version of the climactic House of Blue Leaves sequence. I'm not sure if this version is any more or less effective than the American cut, but it still remains the amazing, colorful, eye-popping extravaganza that I became so attached to back in October 2003. It manages to do what so few action movies today do: It conveys its character, emotion, and humor through its action. No one's going to accuse Vol. 1 of being subtle, but it's definitely one of the most clever kung fu slaughteramas out there. A+ (Full review)

  40. 2/4: Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004, Quentin Tarantino) - As great as Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is, Vol. 2 destroys it on almost every count except for action...Vol. 1 may have been a patchwork of Tarantino's old school kung fu favorites, loaded with gallons of flying red stuff, but Vol. 2 feels sincerely and uniquely Tarantino, though played on the same scale as a spaghetti western. It plumbs the emotional depths of the characters and the Bride's situation, with Uma Thurman giving one of her very best performances. Vol. 1 wasn't much for Tarantino's trademark dialogue, but here he gets back to his forte, providing some of the most mesmerizing conversations yet filmed this decade. The chapel sequence at the beginning ("Massacre at Two Pines," the sixth chapter of the story) may very well be the best Tarantino has ever made. In the end, neither Kill Bill volume tops Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs, but they both--especially Vol. 2--come very close. A+ (Full review)

  41. 2/6: Memoirs of a Geisha (2005, Rob Marshall) - Starring Chinese actresses as Japanese characters who speak English the entire film, Memoirs of a Geisha is just as confused and sloppy as you'd expect. Arthur Golden's novel was a beautiful, vibrant look back at a very special kind of woman's life which really resonated with a huge audience of readers across the globe (myself included). Director Marshall, familiar with stage and film musicals (his only other big screen feature, the 2002 Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Chicago, is my favorite musical after Singin' in the Rain), lacks the kind of subtlety and emotional shading to deal with the film; everything he tries to convey comes across blunt and leadfooted. The screenplay by Robin Swicord doesn't help much, being soapier than an entire year's worth of The Young and the Restless. Note to studio: Let the characters be Japanese, get someone who understands characters..and who can be bothered to pick up a book. D

  42. 2/8: The Thin Man (1934, W.S. Van Dyke) - Like the later Dashiell Hammett adaptation The Big Sleep, The Thin Man's plot makes little to no real sense, but it's all about the stars and the oh so biting wit. William Powell and Myrna Loy have some of the best screen chemistry of all time as Nick and Nora Charles, who drink freely and without hesitation all day long. Yet they're not really portrayed as alcoholics; they just use the booze to liven things up a bit. The Thin Man is a light and breezy murder mystery in which the murder doesn't really matter, except for the nonchalant method that Nick solves the case with. Long before the Coen brothers came around, Van Dyke was the master of the murder comedy. A+

  43. 2/9: Frankenstein (1931, James Whale) - Not only the best of the classic Universal horror films that I've seen, but quite possibly the best ever made in the genre, Whale's Frankenstein is completely haunting, chilling, and unforgettable. There is no musical score, which heightens the tension and adds to the already high amount of fright contributed by the brilliant cinematography, atmospheric direction, and an amazingly nuanced and painstakingly detailed performance by Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's misunderstood monster. If you're a horror fan, and haven't seen this movie...well, that's pretty much like committing a crime. A+

  44. 2/9: Bride of Frankenstein (1935, James Whale) - Director Whale originally did not want to make a sequel to his wildly popular masterpiece Frankenstein. Actor Boris Karloff did not want the monster to talk. It's just a shame that neither of them got their way. Bride of Franksntein is just your same-old, same-old Hollywood sequel, only worse in that it seems determined to destroy the haunting mood and atmosphere of the original. The screenplay is far too silly (what's up with those pointless tiny people in jars?), the musical score doesn't match the film at all, and it reeks of the kind of sappy sentimentality the first completely avoided. What a monumental waste. C-

  45. 2/10: Cinderella Man (2005, Ron Howard) - I'm still surprised by this film's lack of success at the box office and the Oscar nominations. But in any case, it is an excellent film, and definitely Howard's best since A Beautiful Mind. The screenplay by Cliff Hollingsworth and Akiva Goldsman, based on the real-life story of pugilist James J. Braddock, is a mite a corny at times, but suceeds due to strong, assured perormances by Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger, and Paul Giamatti, as well as gutsy, oftentimes brutal direction by Howard. It's probably his best use of the camera yet, if not his best film. But, apart from Rocky, this is probably the best boxing movie I've ever seen (and, yes, I've seen Raging Bull and Million Dollar Baby). A-

  46. 2/10: Underworld: Evolution (2006, Len Wiseman) - The original 2003 Underworld was completely forgettable. Its pathetic excuse for a sequel, Underworld: Evolution, is even forgettable-er. And...yes...that's a word. A totally new word. Anyway, the film itself has horrid acting and some of the worst dialogue of all time, not to mention a needlessly complicated plot and confusing editing. It's barely even worth the time I've spent typing this. Yuck. F (Full review)

  47. 2/10: Firewall (2006, Richard Loncraine) - You know...at this point...does Harrison Ford still need to make movies? Seriously. Every movie in the past 20 years where he hasn't played Indiana Jones has sucked, and royally. Firewall, his new, incredibly leadfooted and dull thriller, is no exception. In fact, it's one of the dumbest thrillers of the decade, and that's saying something. Something very very bad. Ford mutters and growls his way through his role, and very unfortunately, Virginia Madsen (whom I loved in Sideways; there was no way Cate Blanchett's poor Katharine Hepburn imitation in The Aviator was better than Madsen's quiet, subtle performance) is the absolute worst part of the film. She's simply, horribly awful. Paul Bettany is the only saving grace here, and even he disappoints. D (Full review)

  48. 2/13: Diarios de motocicleta/The Motorcycle Diaries (2004, Walter Salles) - While The Motorcycle Diaries may sidestep the heavier political issues associated with Che Guevara, I am not qualified enough to really comment on them, so, from my viewpoint, as a film about a personal journey and awakening, it succeeds. Salles really captures the atmosphere of the dirt-poor countries that Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado trekked through. As always, Gael García Bernal is excellent as Che, and this may very well be his best performance (if not his best film, as that would be Amores perros). There are several shortcomings, like its political shortsightedness and some awkward pacing, but on the whole, it is a very good, worthwhile film, if not wholly remarkable. B+

  49. 2/16: Judgment at Nuremberg (1961, Stanley Kramer) - By all means, this should have been the amazing, profound political masterpiece that everyone else thinks it is. Unfortunately, it moves at a snail's pace and very rarely seems to find its footing. The performances are interesting (especially Maximilian Schell's), as are the weighty moral questions raised, but on the whole the film is only as interesting as reading the courtroom transcripts...which I could've read at my own pace and without the semi-successful attempts at character development. There are a few truly effective scenes, such as when film of Nazi concentration camps are shown, but Judgment at Nuremberg manages to dull all of the sharp points it raises with a sheer lack of energy. C

  50. 2/16: Kinsey (2004, Bill Condon) - In a world where talking frankly and openly about sex is still frowned upon by the majority, revisiting the life and work of biologist Alfred Kinsey was a wise decision by director Condon. Unfortunately, while I did come away a bit more educated, and while there were many amusing bits about the sexual nature of humans, the film fails to really explore Kinsey's life in a satisfactory manner. The actors are all pretty decent (Laura Linney in particular), but the characters are little more than exaggerated stereotypes. Kinsey himself has very little depth or dimension, but Neeson's performance is so strong it manages to fill in most of the blanks. Alas, the same cannot be said for John Lithgow as Kinsey's father nor Tim Curry as rival professor Thurman Rice, both of which are strictly one-note roles. The script also wanders too much for its own good, prominently featuring some storylines that it never bothers to pick back up (whatever happened to the conflict between Kinsey and his son?). Kinsey is not a bad movie, and definitely has its moments, but I can't fully recommend it. B-

  51. 2/18: Capote (2005, Bennett Miller) - Capote has one of the greatest openings in recent memory. It's very quiet, very cold, and very chilling, and perfectly replicates the first few paragraphs of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. All it takes for director Miller to gain his audience's trust and assurance is within these first two or three minutes. From there, he continues to masterfully recall the years of Capote's life during which he researched and wrote In Cold Blood. It is a fascinating character study, and the fact that it glosses over how Capote came along some of the more crucial bits of information in the book is completely forgivable. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is amazing, and gives what has to be the greatest performance of 2005 (and for me to say that someone tops Bill Murray is amazing unto itself). This rounds out the best Oscar nominees in years. A+

  52. 2/19: Contact (1997, Robert Zemeckis) - Carl Sagan's novel Contact was a mediocre tale of epic proportions...it had great scientific facts and thought, but little emotion or believable character development. Zemeckis' film version is exactly the opposite: It is oozing with familiar Hollywood sentimentality, but the science is often glossed-over or, at its worst, extremely flimsy. Zemeckis' technical wizardry, though, makes the film much more effective than the book, even though underneath all of its "Gee whiz!" trappings there is little to nothing worth drooling over. No one would tell you that I am a great fan of Jodie Foster, and as such, her performance here is adequate, but nothing special. There are some breathtaking sequences (Foster's trip through space recalls 2001: A Space Odyssey), but it is mild entertainment. It may simplify the book, but hey, the book was too complicated for its own good in the first place. B-

  53. 2/21: Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949, Robert Hamer) - I am usually a huge fan of British comedy, so I was expecting this to be another masterpiece of dry wit and sardonic humor. However, despite a brilliant premise and a very funny Alec Guinness (in eight different roles, no less!), Kind Hearts and Coronets falls completely on its face. The laughs are few and far between, and even when they do come, they're usually pretty amusing, but never hilarious. I don't know what went wrong with this one. It could've been genius comedy, but instead it's one of the most boring films I've ever sat through. A shame. C-

  54. 2/22: Sullivan's Travels (1941, Preston Sturges) - The film takes a little while to get off the ground, but once it does, it is a very enjoyable little farce with a very intriguing premise. The only real problem is that there are--especially at the beginning--too many slapstick sequences, including the amusing but far too long RV chase. However, Sturges' dialogue is top notch, dripping with wit and sarcasm. The last section of the film, when it unexpectedly turns into a drama of sorts, is brilliant and actually very moving. The rest of the movie's not as good, but it's still worth your while. And, while Joel McCrea is all well and good, the real catch here is Veronica Lake. Yowza. What a beauty. B

  55. 2/23: Welcome to Mooseport (2004, Donald Petrie) - Who knew that a movie featuring the always enjoyable Gene Hackman and the winning star of TV's Everybody Loves Raymond (one of the few great sitcoms of the 90's) could be so boring? The premise is rather interesting, and could've made for wonderful poltical satire...but director Petrie and screenwriter Tom Schulman obviously aren't hip to that, creating a dumbed-down, rarely funny sitcom for the big screen. It's not that Welcome to Mooseport is overwhelmingly bad, it's just that it's so "blah." Everything feels twice-tread and what few laughs there are feel tired and well-worn. Such a boring comedy, and such a shame to see Hackman's and Romano's talents so misused. D+

  56. 2/27: Sommarnattens leende/Smiles of a Summer Night (1955, Ingmar Bergman) - Smiles of a Summer Night was Bergman's sixteenth film as director, and his first real success (it exploded at Cannes, though he wasn't even aware it had been submitted). It's also not what one would expect from Bergman, being far more lighthearted and delicate than most of his later films, but it is still an excellent and delightful work. It is, as the opening credits say, a "romantisk komedi," but luckily, it's not the daft, airheaded fare that the genre is associated with today. It is instead a completely charming and very funny study of the way we love, the way we make love, and the way spouses (married, extra-marital, or otherwise) control each other. A-

  57. 2/28: Being There (1979, Hal Ashby) - Peter Sellers stars as Chance the gardener (or, as is later misconstrued in the film, "Chauncey Gardener"), a very simple man...and trust me, "simple" is the name of the game here. Being There is at once a political satire and a delicate farce, but it is far too simple for either. It's never full-blooded enough for the political satire; the script is too easy, too convenient, and Chance just walks through everything far too simply (as opposed to the later Forrest Gump, where Forrest walked through hallmarks of American history, yet there was always a complexity, some kind of internal difficulty, in getting there). It rarely juggles its comedic elements deftly enough to attain comic gold...and when it does, it often feels as if it's at the expense of Chance. Sellers' performance itself is also too simple, and lacks any kind of depth or true complcations. As evidenced by the hilarious outtakes, it seems that everyone involved had a good time making this, and seem proud of their product. I guess you had to be there. C+

  58. 3/3: Tenkû no shiro Rapyuta/Castle in the Sky (1986, Hayao Miyazaki) - Ah, if only all animated movies could be this effortlessly enchanting and altogether magical. But that's not to say that Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky is simply a Japanese Disney movie...it has important things to say, about us, the world we live in, and even politics, all wrapped up in an epic, absolutely enthralling piece of brilliant fantasy (punctuated with some delightful bits of humor). The animation is beautiful, and the music is just perfect; if there's not a moment in the film that pulls at your heartstrings or makes you long for Miyazaki's fantastical world of whimsy, magic, and sheer genius invention, you would have to be dead (and even at that, a really boring dead person). Probably the best Miyazaki film I've yet seen...how's he gonna top this? A

  59. 3/4: Walk the Line (2005, James Mangold) - While not as electrifying as it was in a darkened movie theater on a huge canvas, Walk the Line is just as good on the small screen. Mangold's stirring biopic may be marred by some inevitable Hollywood conventions (the early childhood sequences are a bit questionable), but it's still much more successful than 2004's Ray. Much of this is due to the solid performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon who, as Johnny Cash and June Carter, manage to find the kind of depth and emotional subtlety in recognizable American icons which Jamie Foxx continuously eluded in his fine impersonation of Ray Charles. Phoenix's performance is especially remarkable because, though he really looks nothing like Cash besides the clothing, hair, and eyes, he makes the audience believe that he is the Man in Black. The music sequences are riveting and actually integral to the story, and I'd be surprised if you didn't come out of this humming at least one of the tunes. B+

  60. 3/5: Flightplan (2005, Robert Schwentke) - Flightplan in my household is better known as The Movie That Kept Serenity from #1 in the BDM's Opening Week of Release, While It Was Already in Its Second. Still, I thought I'd approach this with an open mind. Didn't help. All Whedon-clobbering aside, Flightplan is a remarkably unsuspenseful thriller which hits its peak during the opening credits. I've never thought too highly of Jodie Foster (except for in The Silence of the Lambs), and her average work here doesn't really help to change that. More disappointing is the fact that the talented Peter Sarsgaard looks stoned and mumbles most of his lines; his performance bears all the hallmarks of an actor phoning it in except for, y'know, he was actually onset. Director Schwentke never lets the tension build, and when we realize what little tension there is leads to an utterly boring climactic twist, all the air is let out of its tiny little Ziplock bag of anxiety. Flightplan is never truly bad enough to crash and burn, but it hits turbulence early on and never recovers. C-

  61. 3/6: Hauru no ugoku shiro/Howl's Moving Castle (2004, Hayao Miyazaki) - It may be the lesser of the four Miyazaki films I've seen, but Howl's Moving Castle is still a delightful fantasy. Unusually for Miyazaki, the film takes a little while to really hit its stride, with much of the first 20 or so minutes being fairly hit-and-miss. But once it gets off its feet, it rarely stumbles again. Though the plot is a tad too convoluted for its own good--some subplots never really seem to work--Miyazaki's animation is beautiful, and the emotion he has put into his work shines brightly onscreen. After all these years, Miyazaki still has important things to say and he says them in the most entertaining and fantastical ways possible. B

  62. 3/7: Sin City (2005, Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino) - This is the third time I've watched Sin City, and it's still as entertaining as ever. While I am very familiar with Miller's comic book work, I have ashamedly never read his Sin City books, but taking in mind that Rodriguez copied the comics panel-for-panel, I can definitely notice many stylistic similarities between the film and stuff like Ronin or The Dark Knight Returns. Sin City isn't the most highbrow movie ever made, but it is just a wild, exuberant blast of bloodsoaked enjoyment, and I can't help but love it, its tortured characters, and their rough-edged, poetical dialogue and narration, all to pieces. Simply great stuff. (And the fact that Tarantino directed the crazy scene in the car between Clive Owen's Dwight and Benicio del Toro's Jack doesn't hurt either.) A+

  63. 3/8: The African Queen (1951, John Huston) - I had to wait so long to see this because it has amazingly never been released on DVD. So imagine my surprise when I found an old VHS copy at my library. And let me tell you...the wait was more than worth it! The African Queen is a delightful adventure from the always-great Huston (well, besides Beat the Devil and The Unforgiven) with great performances by Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Luckily for the two stars, this one little film is not too big for the both of them and their equally mega-watt brilliance. They have great chemistry together, and keep the film anchored during times when anyone else would've gone a little too over-the-top or taken things a little too seriously. It's a classic: Exciting, dramatic, funny, and with some very fine romance. It pretty much defines the proverbial movie that "has it all"...'cuz it sorta does. A+

  64. 3/9: Curious George (2006, Matthew O'Callaghan) - Ah, what a pleasant surprise. Curious George is nothing great, but can't something just be pleasant for a change? If you grew up reading the books, prepare for a whiff of nostalgia as the soft-toned, pastel-colored, and so gosh-darned cute George swings around above Manhattan. He's a much more engaging and likable simian than last year's CGI Kong, and if you watch this and do not want to immediately buy a stuffed animal of him, you are heartless. Curious George, in its sunny and innocent way, brings us back to a time when money didn't have to be spent to have fun, and learning and simple love was all the rage. The movie's actually a fair bit witter than you'd expect, and the voice-overs from Will Farrell, David Cross, and Dick Van Dyke are spot-on, plus the songs by Jack Johnson are light and soothing. But the real magic lies in the way George looks at everything in the world with a sense of discovery and child-like wonder, and in that he can give that kind of innocence back to us as we watch and smile. B (Full review)

  65. 3/11: Scary Movie 3 (2003, David Zucker) - Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Director Zucker seems to have lost all of his spoofy goodness from the 1980 comedy classic Airplane! Charlie Sheen, so hilarious in Hot Shots! Part Deux (I have not seen the first), seems lost and confused. Queen Latifah, coming off a brilliant and energetic performance in 2002's Chicago, is mis- and under-used. Zucker seems to be lost without Airplane! collaborators Jerry Zucker (his brother) and Jim Abrahams. Without them, he manages to deliver less than one-third of the fun in Airplane! or any of their other efforts. It's a sloppy mish-mash of parodies that don't gel and which sometimes are so idiotic as to be offensive to anyone with at least the slightest inkling of good taste. It lacks the novelty of the otherwise shoddy original Scary Movie, but it's a million times better than Scary Movie 2. But then again, that's not much of a commendation. D+

  66. 3/14: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004, Wes Anderson) - Whenever I think of the phrase "grossly underrated," The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou comes to mind. There was much fawning over Anderson's previous two features (and for good reason), Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. Then, for some reason, everybody decided that Anderson sucked. I've heard many complaints about Anderson making the exact same movie every time (especially from James Rocchi, though his inclusion of it on his bottom 10 for 2004 is a mite much), and I understand. But just because I understand doesn't mean I agree. I think that The Life Aquatic is a wacky, offbeat, and inventive little oddity that is tailor-made for the cult community. At the same time, it is a poignant and bittersweet look at the life of one man, and his finding validation in the discovery of his son, whether or not it's his real son. The first time I saw this, the last scene with Bill Murray brought tears to my eyes. He needs to win an Oscar, plain and simple. A

  67. 3/15: The Godfather (1972, Francis Ford Coppola) - Ah, a true masterpiece of American cinema, and undoubtedly one of the finest gangster flicks ever made. Marlon Brando gives what is quite possibly the greatest performance ever committed to film as Don Vito Corleone, and the rest of the cast, especially Al Pacino and Diane Keaton, are nearly on par. Much like Coppola's later Apocalypse Now (his last good film), The Godfather romanticizes its subject and creates an almost mythical reproduction of its time period, ripe with all kinds of great mythology ("Luca Brazzi sleeps with the fishes," the horse head, etc.). It may not be as genuine or realistic as something like Goodfellas, but, as he often did when he was great, Coppola paints in broad strokes that manage to capture the realism and essence of the Mafia in an oddly more genuine way. Ah, how I cherish this film. No matter that Coppola's talent dissolved after 1979; we can always remember him with this, an offer I can't refuse. A+

  68. 3/16: Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974, Martin Scorsese) - Oh boy. What a mess. Scorsese's direction is jarring and distracting, and doesn't fit the film at all. While it's true that he sometimes manages to capture Ellen Burstyn's raw emotion, most of the time is just comes across as sloppy and far too simple-minded. There are no layers to Burstyn's title character, and though the film sports authentic settings and locales, everything here is torn to pieces by Scorsese who, for once, has no idea at all as to what he's trying to do. The previous year he had made the unforgettable urban masterpiece Mean Streets, and it was soaked in grit and glowed with the shine of an insider's knowledge of the streets and the city. Unfortunately, it seems that Scorsese has no inkling as to what life is like in the south, and if screenwriter Robert Getchell does, he makes a mistake by simplifying every character in the screenplay. Yes, it's realistic, and yes, I appreciate the unconventonal ending, but the road that the characters take to get there is of the one-way, dead end variety in terms of depth. C-

  69. 3/17: What Dreams May Come (1998, Vincent Ward) - Oh, how my heart weeps for this film! It's got a brilliant concept. It's got a solid, if not excellent, script. It's got a talented cast. Unfortunately, it's also got a director with more than just a slight penchant for the overwrought, and a score that bashes everything through our skulls and back out again (why Ennie Morricone's original score was rejected I know not). You could take the same script (maybe doctored a bit) and the same cast and give it to a director better suited to the project--my mind thought up Michel Gondry or Mike Nichols--and come out with a true masterpiece for the ages. But, as it stands now, What Dreams May Come is a highly saccharine, offensively manipulative Hollywood studio flick that hammers out all of the idea's potential for creativity, wit, and real drama. I always feel bad for Robin Williams when I see him stuck in something like this. D

  70. 3/18: V for Vendetta (2005, James McTeigue) - I'm a huge comic book fan, and yet I've never read Alan Moore's V for Vendetta. But I know full well that Moore is a genius, and I recognize his trademarks...especially due to my obsession with Watchmen and my love for his ongoing series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the film version of which was horrid). Thus, I can recognize all of Moore's dense plotting, detailed environs, political combat, and character shading...and I can also recognize all of it getting far too simplified. Director McTeigue, who served as first assistant director on the Matrix trilogy, and who made the film with a screenplay by Matrix creators Andy and Larry Wachowski, should not be the one calling the shots. He can not control the camera well. At all. Much of the film is rather overblown, silly, and needlessly flashy. The last ten minutes are brilliant...the rest really isn't. But Hugo Weaving is cool (isn't he always?). C-

  71. 3/18: Friday Night Lights (2004, Peter Berg) - While Friday Night Lights is by no means a sports masterpiece of Rocky proportions, and indeed it even muddles up its own historical accuracy (and that history is only 1988), it is a surprisingly well-made and enjoyable treat. It's shot like an indie but has a script that exudes Hollywood-ness; director Berg is to thank for much of the film's intensity and sense of emotional truth and honesty. Billy Bob Thornton is a good coach, and the cast of kids are pretty talented...but what makes the film as winning as it is, is Berg's way of capturing the local heat and atmosphere, and in that he manages to make this Odessa town of 18 years ago feel real and present. One of the best sports flicks in recent years; a slight accomplishment, but still a very commendable one. B

  72. 3/19: Fa yeung nin wa/In the Mood for Love (2000, Kar Wai Wong) - The film looks stunning, and is just as great from a storytelling and emotional level as well. It's a beautiful, exquisite romance, yet also a very subtle one; director Wong lets it unfold organically, and the fact that he didn't use a script and just developed the mood and feel of the film with gifted actors Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung works wonders for the film's atmosphere and natural sense of beauty. The cinematography is unbelievably beautiful; the musical score is rich, textured, and undeniably lovely. Tears were welling in my eyes by time this one was over, folks; one of the greatest romances I've ever seen portrayed on the big screen. Genius work! A+

  73. 3/20: Sophie Scholl - Die letzten Tage/Sophie Scholl - The Last Days (2005, Marc Rothemund) - Director Rothemund's film about anti-Nazi activist Sophie Scholl's last days on this earth is a noble effort--paying tribute to the determination and sacrifice of a German heroine who never gets much attention here in the States--and while the acting is impressive (particularly remarkable is the way that Julia Jentsch, in the title role, seems to be able to control her tear ducts), the interrogation scenes, which make up the bulk of the film, are pedestrian and uninvolving; they feel almost like clips from a TV movie. As with 1963's famous Judgment at Nuremberg, which left me similarly disappointed (but more so), the transcripts are just followed too closely here. However, that ending is a real emotional knock-out. B-

  74. 3/21: Apaga y vámonos/Switch Off (2005, Manel Mayo) - Director Mayo's award-winning documentary attempts to take on Spain's leading hydro-electric corporation, Endesa, which is on the cusp of committing the genocide of the Pehuenche-Mapuche people in Chile. Unfortunately, Mayo spends too much time meandering, recounting the same historical facts over and over again, and showing us endless tracking shots of nature and cities. While it's an appreciable effort to show the devastation of the land, all it does is help to dull the film's impact...and by time we get to the credits, it's just about as dull as can be. The news footage is fascinating, as is Mayo's repeated failed attempts to get ahold of someone involved with Endesa to interview. But unfortunately, much of the film doesn't work as well. C+

  75. 3/23: The Last Picture Show (1971, Peter Bogdanovich) - It's rare for a film to be as accurate in capturing the small joys, big pains, bleakness, and monotony of life, as well as the emotional torture and sexual yearning of teenage years, as The Last Picture Show is. It also creates a detailed southern environment, generating in myself a wave of nostalgia for all of my older relatives' homes and lives. The large cast is brilliant, and to highlight any one actor in particular would be a most heinous crime. The Last Picture Show is alternately funny, poignant, sad, erotic...and wholly, completely honest and realistic. This one really bowled me over in a big way. A+

  76. 3/24: Batoru roiyaru/Battle Royale (2000, Kinji Fukasaku) - What a devilishly cruel film! The concept of a school class being pitted against each other in a battle to the death, taken from the novel by Koushun Takami, is excellent, as is director Fukasaku's execution (despite some acting quibbles and a strange first act). On the surface, Battle Royale may merely seem like an horrific yet entertaining bloodbath, and it certainly functions very well on that level. But there's a lot more to it: It satirizes stuff like Survivor, and it also has a deep message about politics and the degradation of society. The Japan in Battle Royale is on the brink of societal collapse, and it looks terrifyingly plausible. An intelligent, terrifying, harrowing, meaningful, and intense (both psychologically and physically) moral study. B+

  77. 3/24: À nous la liberté (1931, René Clair) - A slight French film that flirts with Charlie Chaplin's humor stylings, À nous la liberté is a strange failure. It has a lot of the right elements, but no one in the film has the chops of a Chaplin or a Keaton to keep things moving, and the strange, random songs don't help much either. The film's original distributor, Tobis, had a decades-long legal battle with Chaplin over the similarities between À nous la liberté and Modern Times...but who cares if Modern Times ripped it off? Modern Times is much, much better (and the similarities are superficial, at best). Director Clair was a wise man; he remained close friends with Chaplin throughout the whole debacle. C

  78. Continued in Vol. 2
Author Comments: 

Italics indicate a repeat viewing.

Mean Creek is on my too see list!

The first De Palma film I've seen that I've actually enjoyed - This mean you disliked Scarface?

you have my endorsment BTW, keep up the good work

I haven't actually seen Scarface, though I want to. People who know me, though, have told me I'd probably hate it...so I dunno. I still want to see it.

And thanks for the endorsement!

-"I haven't actually seen Scarface..."

Naturally. Who's got time for piffling films like that when Garfield: The Movie and Layer Cake are just begging for a viewing?

When approving this I chose to read it as having an implicit smiley on the end.

Yeesh.

I think I'll do the same...

Cool. I always try to be as permissive as possible, and only delete blatantly abusive stuff, but as I get older and crotchetier I find myself tempted more mightly by the "delete" button. But a post like this is all about tone, and tone is impossible to judge in text. Anyway, glad you sound okay with it. Didn't want you to think I just passed this through without giving it a second glance.

I am very cool with it.

Yay free speech! :-D

But don't you just love people who pop onto a forum for the sole purpose of slamming someone they've never met before? ;-)

Yes...and, hey, it's his only post. Ever.

He must hate me! :-D

:-) One of the things I like about the moderation system here is that when trolls show up, they post once, realize moderation is in place, and then go away.

I'd be happy to delete this little diversionary thread, if you like.

It's CapMal's list so it's his call, but I like the idea of keeping the comment up. Potential trolls will see it and know that their type of bad behavior is not tolerated. :-)

I'd like to keep it up, pretty much for the same reason dayfornight stated.

Fighting for the truth, justice, and the moderation-y way!

I haven't seen She Hate Me, but from what I've heard it's probably not the best Spike Lee movie to start with. See if Do the Right Thing washes the taste out of your mouth.

Thanks for the suggestion; I'm pretty sure it's on my Netflix queue (which I would upload here if I could find the friggin' customer ID cookie).

I don't know what browser you're using, but if you install Firefox you can just navigate to your queue and then to go "Tools" --> "Options" --> "Privacy" --> "Cookies" --> "View Cookies".

You're right -- "She Hate Me" is the wrong film with which to introduce oneself to the world o' Spike. It's scattershot and silly, but I think there's a genuine anger and passion in it that almost makes it worthwhile. (The lesbian-impregnation plotline, far from being useless, is Spike's metaphorical assertation that Enron-style capitalism turns everyone into whores.) However, looking at the critical response to that film, I may be going it alone here...

Yeah, I understood his intentions with the lesbian-impregnation story, but I thought that it really detracted from the film, which--to me--wasn't that great to begin with. It was just too blunt. I don't like being bashed over the head by filmmakers.

And you do not know how much I would pay to never again have to watch those animated sperm bits...

Well... yeah. The sperm was goofy.

And wait... you haven't seen "25th Hour"?

Can't say that I have, but I want to. One of my friends just asked me about that same movie, as well...

See it post haste. It's everything "She Hate Me" isn't.

You'll be amazed that 25th Hour and She Hate Me were made by the same guy.

Also: I found the opening credits visually beautiful, but then I saw it on a huge screen.

John Wayne was in 79 B-movies before Stagecoach?! Wow. I love stories that remind me how many years of work often goes into overnight success.

So do I, jim...it's amazing how many attempts so many of our legendary creators and performers made before they struck gold.

Another one of my favorite stories like that is the tale of two kids from Cleveland, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shushter, who were turned away by 26 publishers before one finally picked up their creation.

The company? DC Comics. The creation? Superman.

Oh yes, that's another favorite of mine as well. There are a million examples. Chester Carlson, who invented the photocopier, was turned down by IBM, Kodak, General Electric, and RCA. I can't recall how long it took him before he finally hooked up with Xerox. Six years, maybe?

Three quick notes:

I recently rewatched The Untouchables, and while I still liked it, I didn't love it nearly as much as when I first saw it years ago.

Nice to see Confessions of a Dangerous Mind described as "excellent and underrated".

Here's one of the bigger Kill Bill 1 vs. 2 Listology discussions.

Yes, I loved Confessions of a Dangerous Mind; Charlie Kaufman is a brilliant writer, and I was surprised by how assured and spot-on Clooney's direction was.

Gahhh, I think my head would explode if I got in another debate over which Kill Bill volume was better. They're both great, but if you ask me, Vol. 2 is by far the best one.

Isn't The Thin Man grand? "He didn't come anywhere near my tabloids."

It really is.

William Powell and Myrna Loy...will anyone ever top the chemistry they had together?

The original 2003 Underworld was completely unforgettable. Its pathetic excuse for a sequel, Underworld: Evolution, is even unforgettable-er.
Unforgettable or actually... forgettable? ;)

Wow.

I...um...I suck.

Ay... no you don't... neither do your capsules. :)

Haha, thanks.

Wow, what a surprising rating for Kind Hearts & Coronets; it seems like a movie that would be right up your alley (if I may presume to know you so well :-). As impressed as I was with Alec Guiness, I thought Dennis Price stole the show (or rather, protected the show, since as the lead it was his to begin with). Such a dry cad. I thought he was great.

I was surprised too. It sounded great, and I've always been a big fan of British humor. I don't really know why I didn't like it...I was just very bored and fidgety the entire time, which doesn't usually happen to me very often.

*Styles clash you*

Howdy there, Mike. ;-)

Looks like you're having fun with listing those films you saw so far, my friend.

Which Miyazaki movies have you seen?

I have seen Castle in the Sky, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away. Tonight I'm watching Howl's Moving Castle.

Kiki's Delivery Service and My Neighbor Totoro are also fantastic. Younger and gentler than anything else you've seen so far, but magnificent nonetheless. It amazes me how these movies in particular improve on repeat viewings, as my initial viewings left me with "very good, but too young and too slow" feelings.

I'm pretty sure they are both in my Netflix queue; can't wait!

I don't know if I can be friends with someone who gives Sullivan's Travels a B, what I not only consider a masterpiece of cinema, but probably in the top 10 greatest American films I've seen.

Hey, I liked it!!!

^_^;;;

It should have gotten an A++++++++

Did you buy stuffed animal of Curious George? Just wondering.

No, but I really wanna.

And I want a big yellow hat.

You think it would look good on ya?

The first negative review in the world for "V For Vendetta" I think. :) At least the first one that's not on purely political grounds.

I completely agree with its politics. What happens in the film deserves to happen in real life; yes, I hate the government. But then again, I don't want total anarchy either.

...And, yeah, technically, the movie was terrible. It gets even worse the more I think about it.

Your review made me want to see it even more, actually, despite the C -- there's been so many varied reviews about V, about what's good and what's bad, but I think this is the first to say the ending is great.

Oh man, the ending is awesome. It frustrates me when directors know how to stage great beginnings and endinds, but are completely lost when it comes to the actual body of the film.

The ending to V for Vendetta was so great that I wondered if I had perchance stumbled onto a different movie.

I don't think I wanna see V for Vendetta anymore after stack of such highly negative reviews pop to me and I'm fanboy of V graphic novel. Well, there's always Netflix.

I honestly think you would despise it, Mike.

I feel exactly the same way about The Last Picture Show. While there are similarities in our reviews, you said it the way I wish I had.

Thanks! And hey, I really like your review too.

Can't believe I forgot to mention the way in which Anarene slowly transforms into a ghost town! :-O