Damn, I only have time to watch movies on weekends part 06: reviewin' to the oldies

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  • 1. Scarface (1983) - "This town is like a chicken waiting to be plucked" - the edited-for-TV version of "Scarface" (A special feature on the DVD. The original line did not contain the words "chicken" or "plucked." Use your imagination.)
  • This is a big, showy, pretentious, expansive, ambitious film. It has ostentatious direction and an over-the-top, hedonistic performance from Al Pacino doing a fake Cuban accent. This may not work for some, but it actually did work for me. It didn't take long for me to get sucked into the seedy atmosphere that the characters inhabit. Some part of me wants to portray Tony Montana as perhaps the antithesis to Hamlet, as Tony's downfall came as the result of his being ruled by his impulses rather than thinking thing through. Another part of me wants to be like, that was like so cool when he shot that guy in the head, man! The film is not without its problems, the biggest of which being the random mood swings of Michelle Pfeiffer's character; in fact, the whole relationship between Pacino and Pfeiffer felt underdeveloped and often unrealistic. Still, a solid film.
  • 2. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004) - In spite of a ridiculously stupid scene in which the title characters ride a poorly-rendered CGI cheetah, in spite of an overlong, disgusting, just-plain-weird sequence that serves as the film's excuse to get some boobs on screen (but at what cost?), and in spite of the fact that this is a movie with a really stupid sense of humor, I found this popcorn flick really entertaining. It is actually rather clever in skewering the racial stereotypes that society has for Asian-Americans and African-Americans (indeed, one of the funniest moments is the punchline of a speech delivered by an innocent black man in jail). It also features a variation of that stupid scene where prissy girls have massive diarrhea, but it managed to make me guffaw simply by having them play a game called "Battleshits." It features Neil Patrick Harris as a twisted, horny, drugged-up version of himself (though I'm guessing it's probably funnier if you've seen Doogie Howser). It is wild, unhinged, and weird, and I must admit that I laughed pretty damn hard. Turn off your brain and enjoy this film that could only be released in the summer.
  • 3. El Mariachi (1992) - This is a world where you can jump onto other people's cars and have the drivers barely say a word, a world where you can kill four guys and leave them on the street and not have to worry about the cops. It is also a world built on $7000. I am amazed that Robert Rodriguez was able to pull this off, with a bunch of amateur actors, only using first-takes, with a broken wheelchair as his moving camera device, and with a story that is essentially built on a sitcom-esque misunderstanding. But he did it, and we buy into it. The film's 81 minutes go by much too fast.
  • 4. Rules of the Game (1939) - I actually loved this film but even I must say that it is overrated. According to this, it is the 3rd most acclaimed film of all time. That is a title it does not deserve - which is not to say that this is not a wonderful film. It is a fantastic satire of the rules of etiquette dictated by society in France's upper-middle class. It is also a touching character drama of Shakespearean proportions, centered around the love triangle of the emotionally volatile Christine. Finally, it is also a great showcase of Renoir's talents; he knows how to direct enough so that his style shows through but not so much that the style distracts from the rest of the film. That said, I have one or two minor quibbles with some characters' behavior, and some of the mania in the last third feels a little silly at times, but hey. This is not the 3rd best movie of all-time, but it is still a wonderful film, definitely worth seeing.
  • 5. Secretary (2002) - This film could've easily been a dark, twisted film about fetishes and the like, and in fact, it has some elements of dark comedy. But in reality, this is a light, cheerful, romantic film with a few bizarre touches. I mean, really, this is not a film that condemns weird fetishes, but one that embraces them, and the beauty of it is that the two leads find their perfect match in the world, in the best possible situation for them. Despite a few bizarre touches, I don't think this is a black comedy. I think it is one of the most creative, original romantic comedies I have seen in years. Gyllenhaal and Spader are both pitch-perfect in their roles. A wonderful film.
  • 6. Kids in the Hall: Season 1 (1989-1990) - "Saturday Night Live" episodes are generally an hour and a half long. But how much good, funny material is there in them (after the first few great seasons with Belushi, Aykroyd, Murray, etc.)? I think they average at about 33% of the material working. Sure, there are some shows with more winners that may have 40 minutes of quality stuff, or shows with more bombs that may have 20 minutes of quality stuff, but I'd say about 30 minutes of good stuff in a given SNL episode. "Kids in the Hall" is the good 30 minutes.
  • Okay. Maybe that's an exaggeration. There are plenty of sketches that bomb in "Kids in the Hall." But I think it is far more consistently funny than SNL. Keep in mind that this DVD set is more or less my first KITH experience, except for a couple episodes that I watched on Comedy Central long ago. I was really taking a chance with this DVD, and I'm glad I did. It provided loads of laughs.
  • I'll tell ya, watching sketch comedy in season format like this really shows the relative talents of the actors. Dave Foley, for example, has a lot of range, in my opinion. He plays lots of different characters and nails all of them. Bruce McCulloch, on the other hand, is more uneven; though he can be hilarious in some sketches (Cabbage Head, Power of My Cock, Cause of Cancer), he seems awkward as some other characters.
  • Oh, by the way, I think the most convincing woman is Scott Thompson. The least convincing woman is Mark McKinney.
  • Though sketch comedy is always uneven, this show scored far more hits than misses with me. And one sketch (the Nobody Likes Us guys on a double date) actually made me laugh so hard I cried. I will most likely check out Season 2 when it comes out.
  • 7. Midnight Cowboy (1969) - I actually expected this to be a boring, dated, drug-induced movie. But I actually liked this film much more than I expected. It's hard not to sympathize with Jon Voight, coming to New York City from Texas thinking, "I'm gonna be a hustler! Have sex, get lots of money, make it big! Yeeha!" His friendship with Ratso Rizzo is the heart of the film, and their struggle to get by is very interesting. I also really liked the way Joe Buck's past constantly came back to haunt him in ethereal flashbacks (which was a style I didn't really like in "Easy Rider", but I liked it better scattered throughout the film rather than concentrated in one stylistic orgy). Wonderful movie.
  • 8. Bonnie and Clyde (1967) - There are many gorgeous or evocative or just very interesting scenes in "Bonnie and Clyde", but knowing that, one might not expect the episodic structure of the film to come together as a whole. However, somehow, it does; the film never seems to be just a collection of great scenes, and these moments of the lives of Bonnie and Clyde create a consistent atmosphere that really makes the film work. This is a true masterpiece that feels years ahead of its time.
  • 9. Collateral (2004) - I've always thought of Jamie Foxx as an unfunny, no-talent actor. However, it is clear here that he can handle a dramatic role with style, so maybe he only has no talent when it comes to comedy. The veteran here, of course, is Tom Cruise, and he handles his role of the calm, clever, philosophical hit man beautifully. The movie is really about the interactions between these two characters, and if the acting was less than pitch-perfect, the film would not work. But it does work, and right now, I am tempted to call this the best 2004 film I've seen. It is hard to go wrong with Michael Mann as your director, and the film has a message that, while discussed overtly a bit, actually does not feel overstated. Great stuff.
  • 10. Full Metal Jacket (1987) - Great antiwar movies have memorable lines that really get across the overwhelming insanity of war. One character in "Apocalypse Now", overwhelmed by the sheer brutality of it all, moans, "The horror... the horror!" One character in "Bridge on the River Kwai" looks at the destruction and cries, "Madness... madness... madness!" And one character in "Full Metal Jacket", perhaps echoing Aristotle, laments, "I don't know but I've been told, eskimo pussy is mighty cold."
  • The truth is, while this movie feels like two or three stories thrown into one movie, I really don't mind that. I don't think the transition is that jarring. That is, I wouldn't mind the disjointedness, if the second half of the movie were as good as the first. Really, when we get past the brilliant boot camp sequence, the film becomes very uneven, with a few interesting scenes, but many that are conventional or just plain boring. Things do start to pick up in the sniper scenes, but even those aren't nearly as good as the first half of the film. I think it was a mistake to focus on Private Joker, who just isn't that interesting a character.
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    Of course, they couldn't focus on the two most interesting characters of the first half, since they're both dead.
    But the first half of the film is simultaneously horrifically brutal and darkly hilarious, and the film is worth seeing just for that. I'd give the first half a Top Tier rating and the second half a Third Tier rating, which averages to about a Second Tier.
  • 11. M (1931) - It took me a little while to get adjusted to the format of this movie, which doesn't really have any well-developed characters, but three main "bodies" - the police, the criminals, and the child murderer. But once I could accept this and note the social commentary that lies beneath, I really began to love this movie. Funny how Lang was probably talking about Nazism when he has the police arrest a man just for talking to a little girl, but I thought of Bush and his anti-terrorist scare tactics (well, maybe not ha-ha funny). The last scene is freakin' brilliant.
  • 12. Before Sunrise (1995) - I've had limited success with almost-all-dialogue films in the past. I thought "My Dinner With Andre" was pretty good, but it was hindered by boring visuals and a conversation that consisted primarily of monologues by Andre Gregory, with the rare interjected line by Wallace Shawn. I actually hated Linklater's "Waking Life", which I turned off after thirty minutes. The film consists only of random moments of philosophical conversation without any remotely developed characters or context for the dialogue. It does at least have stunning visuals, but I don't think I'll be giving that film another chance any time soon.
  • "Before Sunrise", on the other hand, has well-developed, likable characters who have some context for what they are saying; a nice interplay of dialogue without long monologues; beautiful visuals of Vienna; and really, so much more. It is so realistic that it feels wrong to be writing a review of it, because a review inherently judges the merit of a movie, and this movie is not trying to impress us; it is just an honest, unassuming film. Therefore, I will stop this review right here, because words cannot describe this film. It simply must be seen.
  • I'm sorry, I forgot the usual note that indicates when I'm back from Florida. I came back here, but I've already gone back on vacation again (more pre-college family bonding time). In any case, I watched 27 movies and 1 TV-season on DVD this time in Florida (which was about two and a half weeks), and I did pretty well with the selection.
  • 13. Napoleon Dynamite (2004) - Comedies like this are so rare. Consider this. This is a comedy that (1) is rated PG, so no sex jokes, (2) despite the PG rating, is not a kids' movie, (3) does not rely on gross-out humor, and (4) is consistently hilarious. Think of another movie that meets all these criteria. Just try to. Bet you can't. Bet you can't think of another recent comedy that relies solely on character humor and "era" humor (that is, referencing the late 80's / early 90's) that is so good at inducing laughs. In fact, I think this movie has a higher hit:miss ratio for laughs than almost all movies of recent years.
  • Right now, I am tempted to call this the best movie of the year. It is hilarious and true to life, and what else could you ask for? Okay, it does use that incredibly lame plot device where a dumb misunderstanding causes one character to hate the main character even though a brief explanation could solve the problem, but thankfully this is actually played more for comedy and character development than drama. And those scenes are brief. Perhaps I was just in the right mood, or perhaps this film just hit the right note of quirky humor for me, but I can't think of another 2004 film I've enjoyed more.
  • 14. Ran (1985) - Probably my least favorite Kurosawa film that I've seen so far, but damn, what a great movie. I think it suffers from some pacing problems, and gets a bit confusing at times (mainly in the second half of the first hour). And I was a little disappointed that half of the entire plot of King Lear was removed. But comparing "Ran" with King Lear is just quibbling, as the film stands on its own very well. Shakespeare's verbal poetry is translated into Kurosawa's cinematic poetry; this is a gorgeous movie with many breathtaking scenes. And just as Kurosawa's other films have been masterfully plotted, so is "Ran", even when it breaks from Shakespeare's material. Perhaps an uneven film, but I don't think the bad moments will be enough to lower this film from my Top Tier.
  • 15. Elf (2003) - The beginning of this film (where I felt sorry for a poor Bob Newhart looking bored in a throwaway role) and the end of this film (which was a little too syrupy for me, though the kids probably liked it) weren't very good, but damn, the laughs in the middle! Will Ferrell has certainly been in some sh**ty movies, but I think when you give him the right material, he can be hilarious. Here he really shines as the hyperactive, naive, elf-raised man in a strange new city. James Caan's straight man is also very good. And Ed Asner is, um, interesting as Santa Claus... Sometimes it gets too childish, but since children are its target audience, I should be grateful I laughed as much as I did.
  • 16. The Boondock Saints (1999) - In the senior poll in my high school yearbook, this was our class movie, and here my class has exhibited uncharacteristic good taste. I figured I would have to watch my class movie before going off to college, but I didn't expect to enjoy it this much. However, perhaps I should chalk it up as a guilty pleasure based on its 1 good review out of 10 from rottentomatoes.com. Actually, this is quite peculiar; why aren't there more reviews of the movie than 10? And why hasn't Roger Ebert, who very, very rarely misses a film to review, written a review of this movie? Futhermore, why is there such disconnect between the IMDB rating and the RT rating? Well, in any case, I really liked this movie. It explores moral ambiguity in the form of a stylish crime spree that is very fun to watch. Willem Dafoe plays against type as the bizarre, eccentric, homosexual policeman. Maybe it's just one of those films that audiences like but critics hate.
  • 17. Cheers: The Complete First Season (1982-1983) - The thing about this show is that I kept seeing connections to "Friends", whose first season was also about two potential lovers that you knew were going to get together sooner or later. I think the character of Phoebe was partially based off Coach; in fact, I noticed a Coach line in one "Cheers" episode that was almost identical to a Phoebe line in an episode of "Friends." It's a similar humor to "Friends", and that may be why I like it so much, but of course, noting its influence on later sitcoms really short-changes the wonderful writing and characters in this show. It is stuff we've seen before, but it is really well done for its niche. And since few shows start hitting winners from day one, I'm hoping that later seasons will be even better.
  • 18. Before Sunset (2004) - Just nine years ago, Jesse and Celine were suspended in time for one night, where nothing mattered but their time together. But life goes on, much has changed in nine years... and the events in their lives make them appreciate their time together even more. They had something special, beautiful, and hopeful, and nothing else can live up to that. I guess that is what makes this sequel so wonderful: it delves into the sadness reluctantly revealed by two thirtysomethings, as world-wearied now as they were youthful and optimistic nine years ago - but at the same time, "Before Sunset" is never depressing. It is just as charming and whimsical as "Before Sunrise", and it is over in the blink of an eye ("Before Sunrise" took about 3.5 blinks). It is a bittersweet film that always feels real. It's not getting any Oscars, but in my opinion, it's the best film of the year so far.
  • 19. Garden State (2004) - For some reason, I just never get tired of this formula: introverted guy meets quirky friend(s) / girlfriend who gradually brings him out of his shell. My favorite movie of 2003 (The Station Agent) fit this formula pretty nicely, and so does the wonderful Punch-Drunk Love. Here is another similar film that does a great job of creating memorable characters and, like The Station Agent and Punch-Drunk Love, transcending the aforementioned formula. Zach Braff pulls off a hat trick with style; he could become quite a triple threat in Hollywood if he keeps at it. Natalie Portman, who was decent with sh**ty dialogue in the new Star Wars films, is great here with much better dialogue. The film is very funny, very sad, and very true. Well, for the most part - I do have a few complaints. The dialogue occasionally (though not often) forces the actors to break character, with hokey results. And the ending is very sitcom-esque and cliché. In fact, why don't you try to guess the ending? I'll give you these hints: Zach Braff, a currently out-of-work actor in Hollywood, comes home to New Jersey for his mother's funeral, intending to stay a few days. Along the way he hangs out with some of his old friends and meets Natalie Portman, whom he really hits it off with. There you go. Now, knowing that the ending is really cliché, try to guess it. Feel free to post your guess (use spoiler tags), and I'll tell you if you're right or wrong. Don't worry, this is definitely not a film that is spoiled by knowing the ending.
  • 20. The Leopard (1963) - I may write movie reviews, but I am no critic. I am an average movie viewer. And just as I would expect most top sophisticated critics to call this film a masterpiece, I would expect most average movie viewers to be utterly bored with it, as I was. Oh, this film has the most important prerequisite to be labelled a masterpiece by most critics: it looks gorgeous. The camera work is simply stunning. Every single frame would make an excellent photograph. Unfortunately, this astounding visual beauty isn't enough to make me care about the premise, characters, or plot.
  • Look. This is a 3-hour-long epic film in which very little happens. It is beautiful and some of the acting is very good. If that sounds good to you, more power to you. If you think you will like this film, you probably will. But you might want to read up on some Italian history first. Just a warning.
  • 21. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) - If "The Leopard" was a lushly orchestrated, beautiful symphony, where every note seemed to fall right into place, this movie is Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted. It is raw emotion, extreme close-ups, bare bones sets. It is a movie that draws its character not from its technicolor landscapes but from the wrinkles on a withered old man's face and from the tears welling up in a sad woman's childlike face. It is a moody, haunting film with its centerpiece being a fabulous performance by Renee Maria Falconetti. A real masterpiece of silent cinema.
  • 22. Hero (2002) - Hindered by a bland title, a nameless hero, and the subtitles that will unfortunately turn so many people away, this is not likely to become a hit at the box office. So I encourage you all to go and PROVE MIRAMAX WRONG! Bring your friends, relatives, co-workers; tell everyone to see "Hero." Maybe Harvey Weinstein will finally see what an asshole he is then.
  • Oh yes, you wanted a movie review. The structure of Hero is an updating of Rashomon's, perhaps, if Rashomon were directed with all the fire of a John Woo movie. I think I use the phrase "visually stunning" way too often in these reviews, but damn does it apply here. And come on, who really wants realistic action scenes? If you want realism, go see an independent drama. Realism is fine, but it's not why this film was made. This film was made to look awesome and make viewers think about justice, mercy, and peace. It succeeds at both.
  • Somehow, even with Jim's good influence, this is my first Zhang Yimou film. But will they freakin' release "Raise the Red Lantern" on DVD already?
  • 23. Eureka (2000) - Roger Ebert once said, "No good movie is too long, and no bad movie is short enough." "Eureka", an incredibly slow, 217-minute, but certainly good movie proves him wrong. The truth is that I could think of few films that are more inaccessible than "Eureka." There is little dialogue in the movie, and two characters (who can communicate with each other telepathically) of the four main ones speak very, very rarely. It is a dense, low-key, methodical film. That said, I did enjoy the movie. I actually found it a lot more appealing than "The Leopard." Perhaps the director was more concerned with constructing beautifully composed homages to Ford, Ozu, and Truffaut than actual character development (indeed, having mostly-mute characters prevents all but the subtlest development), but I did find myself engaged by some of the drama. Make no mistake, though; this is first and foremost a gorgeous film, and it may be worth watching just for the cinematography.
  • 24. Futurama: Volume 4 (2002-2003) - I must sadly admit that this is probably the worst season of Futurama I've seen. It's still actually pretty good, but I just don't think it's as funny as the creators think it is. On the other hand, the season did produce a few solid emotional episodes, including the wonderful "Leela's Homeworld", the sad "Jurassic Bark", the bizarre but emotionally grounded "The Sting", and the bittersweet closer "The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings." These episodes are still not as hilarious as some earlier Futurama, but they were able to captivate me though story and characters. Ditto for "The Why of Fry" and "The Farnsworth Parabox", though these sacrifice a little character development to be funnier than the other four; these two are probably the best two episodes of the season, with "The Sting" a close third.
  • Really, no episode here is painful to watch. Most are just plain bland. "Kif Gets Knocked Up a Notch", "Less Than Hero", "A Taste of Freedom", "Bender Should Not Be Allowed on TV", "Bend Her", and other episodes utilize the same creative futuristic world and fantastic animation as better episodes, but just can't think of really interesting things to happen. There are some laughs in all of those episodes, just not enough. For example, in "Three Hundred Big Boys", Fry's coffee-induced state, the end of Fry's story, and the Professor's romance were hilarious, but the subplot with the whale, the Kif and Amy subplot, and Hermes's boots was just kinda lame. Or in "Teenage Mutant Leela's Hurdles", Leela's new relationship with her parents is quite funny, but the main plot is more boring, and the deus ex machina ending is lame.
  • Alas. At its peak, Futurama was one of the most creative, hilarious shows on television. This is rarely Futurama at its peak.
  • 25. A Hard Day's Night (1964) - I love the Beatles, and I love many plotless comedies. That said, I didn't love this film. It's a good movie, to be sure, but it is sometimes touted as a real classic masterpiece, and I just didn't get it. Perhaps the film is just so brilliant and influential that its legacy has been so ingrained in my mind that it has become cliché, so that a 17-year-old watching it in 2004 could possibly appreciate all its glory. Oh well. It's certainly not painful to watch; I just felt it needed a little more. A little more humor, a little more energy, a little more... something. I didn't laugh as much as I expected. Well, at least the music scenes are a delight to watch.
  • 26. The Dark Side of Oz (????) - I put up a poll about whether I should see this one, but I must admit that my ultimate choice was determined largely by coin flip. Anyway, this was a semi-interesting experience, but I think the whole synching up thing is a bit overrated. I mean, there were times when the dancing / walking seemed to be in time with the Pink Floyd music, but that could just be a coincidence; I mean, how many time signatures can you write music in? There were a few little things that I noticed with the lyrics, but the guy introducing the film said that there were over 100 times when the album synched up with the movie, and if so, then most of them are either really subtle or big stretches. There were only two times when I thought, "Okay, maybe this really isn't just a coincidence." The first time was when the dancing munchkins point to Dorothy at the exact moment where Floyd sings the echoing "you" in the line "Me and you" from "Us and Them." The second time was the first time the album ended; it ends with a heart sound effect at the time when the Tin Man is singing "If I Only Had a Heart." That said, maybe there is some argument over where to start the album, as I had heard the scarecrow catches on fire and rolls around at the moment when Floyd sings "The lunatic is on the grass", but that definitely didn't happen when I watched it.
  • On a different note, "Wizard of Oz" is probably the most iconic film of all-time, and everyone knows the story by heart. So just for kicks, here are three things I didn't remember from when I first saw the movie. (1) The tree that scolds Dorothy when she tries to pick one of its apples; (2) The Wash and Brush Up Company in the Emerald City, where the Scarecrow gets more straw, the Tin Man gets shined, and the Lion gets a cute red bow in his hair; (3) Auntie Em's appearance in the Wicked Witch of the West's crystal ball.
  • 27. In a Lonely Place (1950) - Watched due to a two-month-old recommendation here where stooky says that this movie is the best film of 1950 (ironically, his favorite 1950 film has since been changed to Diary of a Country Priest). I'm generally really bad at watching recommended films in a timely fashion, so two months is actually pretty good for me. In any case, I still prefer Rashomon, Sunset Boulevard, and All Aboout Eve (three of my favorite films, really) for 1950, but In a Lonely Place is still a pretty fantastic film. It's an interesting twist on Bogart's typical hotheaded, wise-cracking tough guy character - it explores this enigmatic man in a more introspective film than what Bogart is usually in. I would compare it to what Punch-Drunk Love does for Adam Sandler's character, except any comparison of Humphrey Bogart to Adam Sandler is blasphemous. In any case, you may have heard that this movie is about a murder of some hat check girl, but that is only the McGuffin. See the movie for the great exploration of the relationship between Bogart and Gloria Grahame.
  • P.S. Isn't Dixon Steele the coolest name ever?
  • 28. The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1970) - I recently saw The Leopard, a stylish, gorgeous film by Visconti that utterly bored me. This is a bigger flashback, but I've also seen L'Avventura, a film by Antonioni that is artsy, pretentious, and, yep, it bored me. Aside from Sergio Leone's work, acclaimed Italian films are often hard for me to stomach.
  • Thank God for De Sica. Without sacrificing the camera work, he creates films that are emotionally involving, consistently interesting, and have characters we care about. This film is not as good as The Bicycle Thief (De Sica's masterpiece) but it is still a fantastic movie. The tragic relationship between Georgio and Micol is the centerpiece of the film, and the impending turmoil in Germany surrounds it, but as the film goes on, the walls close in, until the Holocaust has overturned their lives. And the characters never see it coming.
  • 29. In Cold Blood (1967) - Watched as part of a college class on film adaptations from literature. While the book focuses far more on characterizing the community and the family that was killed, the movie chooses to focus mostly on the two killers, Perry and Dick. I think this is actually a wise choice for a movie that obviously cannot include everything from the book; the Clutters are characterized enough by the few scenes they are in. The really interesting characters here are Perry and Dick, especially the former. I think Perry is a great American character. Always thinking about buried treasure and digging for gold - the easy score that comes with a lucky break. It's unlikely, but Perry remains hopeful. Isn't that just the American dream. Where else would lotteries be so popular? Robert Blake is really fantastic as this twisted character.
  • 30. The Station Agent (2003) (watched again) - The first time I saw this film, I was entranced by the characters and dialogue. This time, I paid more attention to the visual style. Many of these shots are really quite gorgeous, and I didn't fully appreciate this the first time around. This movie proves that you don't really need a huge, magical city to create fantastic cinematographic scenery. You can do it in a small town in the middle of nowhere if you're a talented director. Really, despite a couple muddled or miscalculated scenes in the last one-third of the film, this is one of the best films of recent years in my opinion, and you should see it now. Love it, hate it, or apathetic, I'd love to hear your comments.
  • 31. Broadcast News (1987) (watched again) - I rewatched this as part of a film / media program sponsored by my college house. I would talk about the meaning of the film, but the guy who set this screening up said it better than I ever could: it's a film about style vs. substance in news reports, and the love triangle is a symbol for this conflict as well (where Albert Brooks represents substance and William Hurt represents style). This theme is not overstated, but takes a backseat to the story in this wonderful character-driven comedy-drama. James L. Brooks is the master of the witty remark.
  • 32. Mean Girls (2004) - It's a catty, bitchy, gossipy world out there in the high school girl universe, and this movie is best when it pokes fun at that. It's exaggerated, sure, but the basic elements behind the social structure in this movie are actually fairly realistic. And I liked how it examined what would happen if all these secrets that people say behind each others' backs came sprawling out in the same day. On the other hand, the movie is worst when the characters are getting revenge on each other by pulling petty pranks, and when the characters are getting hit by buses. And there was way too much of both things in this movie. The film was hit-or-miss for me, but given the premise and cast (SNL meets teenage girls), it's really a miracle that the movie succeeds as much as it does. I'm convinced Tina Fey could be a very successful comedy screenwriter if she put her mind to it.
  • 33. Bridget Jones's Diary (2001) - Lord help me, after About a Boy and now this, I am becoming a Hugh Grant fan. He has so much natural charisma, it's hard not to enjoy his witty remarks. However, this is not a film about people with the charm and confidence of Hugh Grant. It's a film about shy, awkward Colin Firth, and clumsy, unlucky but hopeful, chubbier (but still pretty thin) Renee Zellweger. This is by far Zellweger's best performance; the movie really does a great job of establishing this real character, who makes bad decisions in spite of herself, who experiences all of real life's obstacles, whose life is often painful and confusing, but who manages to get by nonetheless. One may say that the Hugh Grant character is shallow and one-dimensional (indeed, portrayed by anyone else, and the character would be far less interesting), but perhaps that is the point - his self-righteous philadering serves as a foil to the imperfect REAL people.
  • The movie is often very funny. It is not, however, without flaws. The "twist" regarding the Firth character is incredibly predictable, and Zellweger should've figured it out long ago. The second-to-last sequence is incredibly cliche (
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    Man! I really thought Colin Firth was going to get on that plane with his fiancee and go on to a lucrative career in New York!
    ). And the last scene, though I enjoyed it a little bit, is manipulative and unrealistic. But hey, it's almost cliche to call a romantic comedy predictable, so I'll just leave it at that.
  • 34. Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) - Next on FOX: When Good Directors Go Bad.
  • Actually, the fact is that usually when a good director makes a bad movie, there are still moments that are actually quite brilliant, that it makes it hard to criticize the movie. It is true, Coppola definitely has some good stuff here. Some of the shots are pretty cool. I liked the shaky camera shots from Dracula's POV (which definitely influenced the style of 28 Days Later...), and the pre-credits sequence was pretty awesome and gives some great backstory to Dracula's character. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that this backstory, which worked only to a limited extent, formed the main plot of the movie, diverting it completely away from the novel. This isn't "Bram Stoker's Dracula", it's "Francis Ford Coppola and James V. Hart's Dracula."
  • So this plot didn't really do it for me, but really, this movie's problem isn't its new ideas. The problem is its ridiculously cliché parts. That means Dracula is pasty-faced, talks painfully slowly in that ridiculous Transylvanian accent, wears a laughably long cape, and has that weird hairdo that kinda looks like a buttocks. Not only that, but he also has a shadow that betrays his true emotions (wasn't Mad Magazine doing that in the 50's?), and he utters lines like, "The luckiest man on earth is the one who finds true love..." In addition, the Victorian women are supposed to seem pure and chaste but act more like giggly preteen girls who are just discovering sex for the first time. Also, the acting is pretty bad for such a star-studded cast. I was watching this movie in class, and virtually every time Keanu Reeves spoke, everyone laughed at his poor acting and ridiculous British accent. Winona Ryder is half-decent, Sadie Frost is worse, Bill Campbell is funny but his character is really just a caricature. Tom Waits is much better than I expected but still not great. The only standout performance is Anthony Hopkins's, and he's still been better elsewhere.
  • I might have been more forgiving of all this if the movie had made more sense. Why can Dracula go out in the daylight when he's in his younger version? How or why does Dracula turn into a green cloud of smoke? Why is there the part about a wolf escaping from the zoo as Dracula turns into the wolf? Does he need to possess the wolf? If so, he can turn into a bat, a bunch of rats, a cloud of smoke, a weird demon creature, but he can't manage to just turn into a wolf? How lame is that? Also, why is there no mention of Keanu's escape from Dracula's castle after it happens? Doesn't any character find this experience odd, with the whole being-a-prisoner-in-the-castle and the really bizarre sexual experience he has? Does Keanu even mention it to anyone, or does he just go on like nothing happened?
  • This movie has garnered some acclaim, but I thought it was a mess. It's not good when a horror movie by such a talented director makes me laugh this much. And just recently I told the story about when I was a kid, how I got so scared of one scene in Dracula: Dead and Loving It, I forced my family to leave the theater. I laugh at scary Dracula movies, and funny Dracula movies scare the crap out of me. I guess this just isn't my genre.
  • 35. Team America: World Police (2004) - "I wasn't offended by the movie's content so much as by its nihilism. At a time when the world is in crisis and the country faces an important election, the response of Parker, Stone and company is to sneer at both sides." - Roger Ebert
  • According to the IMDB trivia section: "The movie was originally given a NC-17 Rating by the MPAA. It was reduced to an R, after a sex scene between two puppets was edited."
  • Damn, if Michael Moore was complaining that the conservative MPAA gave Fahrenheit 9/11 an unjust R-rating, I wonder what he'd have to say about them giving this movie an NC-17 for marionette sex. Obviously Team America has really struck a nerve. I am also saddened by Roger Ebert's comment, especially from someone who at one time was considered a radical critic for recognizing the brilliance in Bonnie and Clyde and 2001: A Space Odyssey. I see Ebert's review as a wholehearted endorsement of the movie. Nothing is sacred in this film, and nothing should be. Is Ebert criticizing this movie for not taking sides? If so, then he's falling into the same whirlwind of bullshit that this movie skewers. People are getting so swept up in self-righteousness around this time. Everyone wants you to believe that this is not just a key election, but the single most important decision in the world's history. Ya know what, it's really not. To tell you the truth, Kerry and Bush have far more similarities than differences. The Senate's most liberal member would be considered conservative, or at least centrist, in any other country. But even if the two candidates were more different, this election still wouldn't be as important as some are making it out to be. Sure, yeah, terrorism is bad and we have to fight it. But how is this any more important than when we were fighting the middle east in the early nineties, or when we were competing with the Soviets in the Cold War, or when we were fighting in Vietnam, etc. etc. Nothing ever changes.
  • Sorry for the political rant (I'll try to remain nonpartisan), but this movie just kinda invites it. It pretty much takes on America in general. It mocks our reckless attitudes towards counterterrorism, our celebrities who think they are political experts simply because they are famous, and the Bruckheimer-esque Hollywood blockbuster formula full of volatile heroes, hokey melodrama, secret loves, overbearing catch-phrase-y dialogue, deep-seated childhood trauma, and corny soundtracks - the formula that seems to define America even better than our politics. It skewers all this marvelously, it doesn't back down from the satire with any serious drama like so many Hollywood comedies, and at the same time, it's loads of fun.
  • I recently read an excellent article, meant in gest but certainly with many good points, about America's polarization at this time which leads to petty partisan catfights. In a world where omni-hating, humorous movie critic Mr. Cranky decides that "it seems wrong to attack [Fahrenheit 9/11] with the usual Mr. Cranky disdain, rather than addressing some of the issues it raises and leting the members of our little online community debate them", and where The Onion publishes a serious article urging everyone to vote Democrat, I'm glad that Trey Parker and Matt Stone haven't lost their sense of humor, that they still have the nerve to mock their own side along with everyone else.
  • In closing: "Darling, I need you more than Ben Affleck needs acting school" - "Pearl Harbor Sucked and I Miss You", from the Team America: World Police soundtrack
  • 36. Amadeus (1984) - This kind of upper-class, historical costume drama where everyone wears white wigs can be so boring and stuffy at times. Thankfully, this one is fantastically absorbing. I mean, we've all felt jealous of someone else's extraordinary talent when we, though not incompetent, are just plain ordinary. This movie hooks us in by appealing to that universal theme with which we can empathize and then holds us in its grasp with a whirlwind of whimsical music. The direction is not very showy but really quite awesome. One interesting stylistic choice is to have both Salieri and Mozart have American accents. Ordinarily, films in English that take place in foreign countries try to fake foreign-ness by giving their characters the accents of the country, or, perhaps even more common, by making them use British accents to sound un-American. Many characters here talk British, but Salieri and especially Mozart are quite American. Perhaps it is to make them both seem like outsiders in the royal court, and to simultaneously put them on the same wavelength. In closing,
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    for such a dark situation, I was surprised to find the ending almost uplifting. Salieri has learned that God loves even the mediocre. Though most patron saints are saints that focus on one particular area, Salieri is delighted to be the patron saint of mediocrity.
  • 37. La Dolce Vita (1960) - When I watch a film like this, I feel like I'm only seeing the tip of a massive iceberg. So I kick back, appreciate whatever I can, and try to at least be stimulated by some images in the rest. Fortunately, this is one of the best densely abstract films ever made, and it still gave me much to like as it was flying over my head. It's a character study, and much of it is quite fascinating, actually. Fellini's camera work is great, of course, and this film sports one of the best opening sequences I've ever seen. I'd be lying if I said I was never bored, but damned if much of this film isn't enticing. I'll come back to this in a few years, maybe after taking some film classes, and I bet I'll like it more.
  • 38. American Pie 2 (2001) - Some films hook you into their web of mystery and never let go, so that if you are forced to leave before the film is finished, it leaves you with an empty feeling, leaving you in suspense, all the while yearning to see the ending, until perhaps you get the change to see the film again. Films like "American Pie 2." Yeah, I missed the last half-hour of this, and when placed in a situation with few movie options at my disposal, I chose to watch the ending. I must say, this film does a good job of balancing the "guy movie ending" and the "chick flick ending." I think there are about six resolutions to the various plots of this movie, and three are crude and sexual, while three are sweet and sentimental. This would be fine if the sweet stuff worked better, but instead, we get some out-of-character speeches that kinda throw off the mood. In the end, I will say that this movie definitely has its moments, but it's probably the worst American Pie film. But hey, there are worse things to be.
  • 39. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) - Man, if ever there were a director who can make something out of nothing, it's Sergio Leone. There are moments of dead silence here that are more fascinating than entire movies. Perhaps better than any other director, Leone has an ability to show a furrowed brow, a bead of sweat, a small hand gesture, some piercing blue eyes, and reveal everything in this subtle detail. What's more, he can do all this without making any sacrifices to the plot. He weaves a fantastic yarn and serves it up dripping with style to boot. Damn, what a guy. I just get the feeling that he could take the most dry, uninspired material and make it glimmer like gold.
  • Luckily, he's working with a damn good story here as well, and the result is a true classic that is just as enchanting today as it was in 1968. Everything just seems to go right. The music is catchy yet haunting, the performances are uniformly fantastic, the dialogue hits all the right notes, and the cinematography is gorgeous. Leone could've just rehashed all the established cliches of the spaghetti western, but instead, he creates an explosion of images and ideas that allows the film to take flight. And all this is embodied in one little finger-flick at a pesky fly.
  • 40. Eurotrip (2004) - This is not a film that aspires to be an instant classic, and I wasn't expecting any major insights on life while watching it. But this movie just isn't funny enough. I predicted about half the jokes, and while I was occasionally surprised enough to laugh, this came too little too late. Other parts of the movie go on far too long with few laughs, such as the robot fight. There is some satire of European culture, but mostly this just relies on showing Europeans abiding by every stereotype Americans have for them. And then of course there's the cliche plot of every single movie like this, where the main character is said to be too reserved / shy / predictable / whatever, and he proves he's not by the end, yada yada yada. I did laugh during EuroTrip (there is one hilarious scene in the movie that involves Scott believing he can understand German when he can't), but not nearly enough to recommend it.
  • P.S. Two things I forgot to mention. (1) Another part of the movie I found very funny was the song "Scotty Doesn't Know" and how it becomes an international hit; and (2) Michelle Trachtenberg, whom I liked in the days when I watched Nickelodeon, has become quite a hot little number. She does a pretty good job in this film. I see she has three movies scheduled for 2005 releases. I hope they're better than Eurotrip.
  • 41. American Beauty (1999) - What would happen if all of life's constraints that are constantly imposed upon us were somehow lifted? What would happen if we suddenly stopped caring what other people thought of us and simply said what we meant and did what we wanted to do? If we were in a position to shed all fallacy from our life and simply live truthfully? Would this truth be ugly, or beautiful, or both simultaneously?
  • These are the kinds of questions examined in American Beauty, and though this film is sometimes said to be overrated 'round these parts, I think at least the ambition is bold and brilliant. The film's exploration of these issues is quite fascinating. The performances are amazing and the direction is subtle but still reveals many great stylistic touches (such as the ending sequence of each character's different perspective on the climax). The script is often brilliant but does have a few flaws. Two major plot points rely too heavily on sitcom-esque misunderstandings:
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    when Annette Bening and Peter Gallagher happen to pull into the drive-in window of where Kevin Spacey is working and start hooking up (I mean, didn't she know where he was working? I know they didn't talk much, but surely she would've known that); and when Wes Bentley rolling pot kinda somehow looks like he's giving Kevin Spacey head.
    So the script could use a little work in terms of plotting, but I really liked its treatment of the film's complex characters. American Beauty should be a downer and yet it's strangely uplifting, and I really enjoyed watching it. Overrated? Perhaps, but still a great film.
  • 42. Apocalypse Now (1979) (watched again) - Watched for my film adaptations of literature class, and just as great as when I saw it a couple months ago (well, maybe a little less great because this version was pan-n-scan). A real masterpiece.
  • 43. American Splendor (2003) - More layers of fiction and reality than Adaptation, with heaping helpings of metahumor, American Splendor is an ingeniusly creative film that is firmly grounded in the simple story of an awkward everyman. Harvey Pekar had a great BS detector and wasn't afraid to tell it like it is and write about real life. His comic books may not be as exciting as superhero comics, but the heroes and villains seem more like people we know. The actors take on their roles beautifully and with a dry sense of humor, and the direction is some of the most original of the past few years. In conclusion, I would recommend the peenya colada.
  • 44. Goodfellas (1990) - Every once in a while, a film grips me so well with its characters, storyline, and environment, that I don't even think about what I'm going to write about on this list while I'm watching it. Whenever that happens, I make a note of it here, partially because it shows just how enchanting the film is, and partially because I haven't considered what else to write about and I think that sounds better than a lot of blank space. Sorry guys, but I liked this much better than Raging Bull, especially in terms of character development. And while I did love Scorsese's direction of the boxing scenes in Raging Bull, Scorsese really shines in Goodfellas as well.
  • 45. Halloween (1978) - Hmm... I appear to be one holiday late. Maybe for Christmas, I'll watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.
  • Oh yeah, the review. Some films adhere to clichés; other movies break from them; Halloween invents them. This creates an unfortunate paradox, however, as it is absolutely impossible for me to watch this film as audiences watched it in 1978. Everything in Halloween has become a cliché, to be endlessly lampooned by every parody movie out there - yes, the oversexed teenagers die, big surprise there. Later horror movies lift all of the clichés of Halloween but none of the style.
  • Halloween also has many of the weird logic of horror movies (a house that somehow has all of its doors lock from the inside; a villain that appears to be dead but OH MY GOD HE'S REALLY NOT!!!) as well as pretty underdeveloped victims and villain, but hey, I'm just as guilty for adhering to conventions, since it's cliché to claim a horror movie has logical flaws and underdeveloped characters. What the film does have going for it is really awesome, suspenseful direction by John Carpenter, creating, like most horror movies, a film that is all style and little substance. It may be a given that horror movie characters are flat, but don't you think we would be more engaged in the movie if we knew who the characters were and could therefore care why they were killing and/or being killed? Sure, it's natural to sympathize with a murder victim, but I think this would heighten the experience.
  • Still, horror is pretty far down on my list of preferred genres, and slasher flicks even lower, so the fact that I liked this movie at all is quite an accomplishment.
  • 46. A Christmas Carol (1951) - Dickens's Christmas Carol is a book that was just meant to be a movie. It is probably the most transparent book that is still considered a classic. It's a simple story with an obvious message, and I'm baffled how it has not only survived this long but how it has become so iconic. Just because it's so damn sweet and happy? I mean, this movie adaptation actually adds scenes that try to explain why Scrooge became such a penny-pinching misanthrope, and these scenes work very well. When was the last time you saw a movie adaptation that gave the characters MORE depth than they had in the book? For these reasons and others, this is actually a very good, underrated movie. Not quite a great movie, because the extremely ridiculous overacting gets a little annoying, but I certainly enjoyed it.
  • 47. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) - There were a few times during this movie where I heard some laughs in the theater and wondered what people were laughing at. It's not that I saw a joke that didn't work. It's that I didn't see anything attempting to be a joke at all. I mean, do people consciously think this stuff is funny? Or do they see Bill Murray, see a handful of funny moments, and figure they're supposed to be laughing at the rest?
  • Don't get me wrong - I laughed at this movie. The good news is that Wes Anderson has finally given Bill Murray something funny to do. Murray is at the top of his game as the oceanographer who's much too full of himself to be accomplishing anything nowadays. The movie's funny, just not as funny as Wes Anderson thinks it is. Oh, sure, his fans will disagree, but that's how I felt. Add to this the fact that the supporting cast is uneven, the plot is alright but often muddled and sometimes boring, and the attempts at poignancy largely fall flat, and you've got a pretty mediocre movie. As far as the directing, some shots are pretty interesting, but the depiction of the underwater life confused me even more. The sealife in the movie is all very obvious CGI (albeit very beautiful CGI), but I wasn't sure if it was intended to look real or if it was supposed to look computer-generated as a means of keeping the tongue in the cheek. That's the kind of movie this is - it messes with your mind so much that you begin to wonder if the effects are supposed to look fake.
  • All the Rushmore fans may riot, but as far as I'm concerned, if you've seen The Royal Tenenbaums, you've seen the only Wes Anderson film I'd recommend. To be fair, I haven't seen Bottle Rocket yet.
  • 48. Wag the Dog (1997) - I loved this movie more than I probably should have, and certainly more than most. In my opinion, it's just the kind of movie where everything seems to go right. How can you go wrong with Robert DeNiro (don't answer that)? No, seriously, the acting is superb, and no wonder - it's a star-studded cast (DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, Anne Heche, Denis Leary, Willie Nelson, Kirsten Dunst, William H. Macy, and Woody Harrelson). I actually love David Mamet as a writer, and here is no exception - the script is peppered with fantastic dialogue and many hilarious moments. There's a very nice use of running jokes - Hoffman's persistence ("This is nothing...") and those lame campaign commericals stood out in my mind. This is great satire and great character humor both at once, and it's all directed wonderfully by Barry Levinson. Fans of non-stop action movies may disagree, but in my mind, there's never a dull moment in this film.
  • 49. Seinfeld: Seasons 1 and 2 (1989-1991) - Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David had an idea to deconstruct the sitcom. They knew sitcoms - the rapid-fire wisecracks, the hokey storylines, the neat little endings - and they demolished all those ideas. A postmodern concept, perhaps, but never a pretentious one - the show always seems breezy and down-to-earth. I'm rambling, but when you watch "The Chinese Restaurant" (the 11th episode aired) and then watch the Inside Look into the episode, you realize three things: (1) The episode completely ignores all ideas of dramatic structure and just has the characters waiting around the whole time, (2) NBC hated the episode and strongly requested that they not air it, and (3) NBC was wrong and the episode is hilarious. It was the birth of one of the greatest television shows ever created. Of course, you don't have to think about all this as you're watching the show; most of the time you're too busy laughing. The show hasn't quite found its footing in the first few episodes, but they appear to have caught on quickly. The long wait for these DVDs is finally, finally over, and hopefully they'll release more seasons soon.
  • I've been in Florida for a few days now, but sadly my pace is a bit slower than usual. Here's hoping I pick it up.
  • 50. Diabolique (1955) - Before the movie started, Robert Osborne told me that Clouzot, whom many call the French Hitchcock, tended to use less humor than Hitchcock, keeping his films more serious. I noticed some other differences too – he seems less interested with analyzing the psychology of his characters and is instead more focused on developing the storyline, and he tends to use less music (a great tool in creating suspense). This creates an atmosphere that is more realistic and down-to-earth than most Hitchcock films, and it is all the better for it. Now I’m not saying that Clouzot is a better director than Hitchcock, but Diabolique could give most of Hitch’s films a run for their money. This is a real masterpiece, a suspenseful, creepy film, and the cast is fantastic. Definitely better than Wages of Fear.
  • 51. ½ of Spanglish (2004) - Only saw because of a mix-up at the movie theater as I was waiting to see #52. It seemed like a decent movie. The script was kinda sweet, though it occasionally veered off into cloying or irritating. I wasn’t too impressed with Téa Leoni or Adam Sandler, but Paz Vega was great.
  • 52. Bad Education (2004) - This is why I love foreign films. This kind of movie could never be made in America. It’s too bold, too controversial, too daring, too… gay. Yeah, something tells me this movie won’t be playing too much in the South or Midwest. I’m surprised it played in Boca Raton, in fact, and I’m not sure the old people in the audience knew what they were getting into when they first sat down. The MPAA clearly didn’t like it, as they gave it an NC-17 rating it certainly doesn’t deserve. In any case, there is more to love about the movie than its boldness. It is a character piece first and foremost, with elements of film-noir – indeed, two characters go into a movie during Film-Noir Week at the movie theater and observe that it’s like their lives. I think this is meant to draw attention to the differences from film-noir more than the similarities: Bad Education's lighting is bright; the hardened characters are not simply taken as hardened, but have dark backstory; and the femme fatale is a man in drag. Bad Education is like adding color, both literally and figuratively, to a film-noir. I didn’t like it as much as Talk to Her, but it is still a great movie.
  • 53. Miller’s Crossing (1990) - Some films send you twist after twist and subplot after subplot, and after all that you are so lost that you want to give up and turn it off. Luckily, Miller’s Crossing is not that kind of movie; it remains clear and logical even as the double-crosses are compounding. And it helps that the movie is absolutely gorgeous. I hate to be so unoriginal (at least around here), but I think this is my new favorite Coen Bros. movie.
  • 54. Seinfeld Season 3 (1991-1992) - The show has really found its footing by now, and there are many great episodes here. I don’t really have anything interesting to say about this hilarious show, so instead here are six of my favorite moments from this season (in chronological order): (1) Kramer tries to break Joe DiMaggio’s concentration at Dinky Donuts; (2) Philip Baker Hall as the Dragnet-esque Lt. Bookman lectures Jerry about the library in Jerry’s apartment; (3) Kramer tactlessly tells George’s girlfriend that she needs a nose job; (4) Jerry informs the rental car clerk that she doesn’t know anything about reservations; (5) George preemptively breaks up with his girlfriend; (6) the JFK parody.
  • 55. Stagecoach (1939) - For the first forty minutes, I couldn't really get into the movie. Then I went to filmsite.org, read up on who the characters were and what had happened so far, started watching it again, and loved the rest of the film. I guess this is one reason why I separate "best" and "favorite", because I'm not sure whether to blame this reaction on the film's lack of sufficient character development, or on my lousy attention span. All I can say is it's a good thing I read the article on Stagecoach before the baby was born, because I didn't realize anyone was pregnant. Anyway, I'm going to leave it one notch down from "Masterpiece" for now, but on a rewatch, I might bump it up.
  • Oh, I forgot to mention one thing. D.W. Griffith may have invented the action scene, but John Ford sure as hell perfected it. The action scene towards the end of the movie is thrilling and feels very modern. The editing is fantastic in that scene.
  • 56. The Incredibles (2004) - This movie is very clever, very exciting, beautiful to watch, and probably the most creative movie of the year. It is not, however, very funny. At least not laugh-out-loud funny like Finding Nemo and the Toy Story movies were. It's not punchline-based humor, though you can't help being at least somewhat amused by The Incredibles. The movie has many other strengths though, and it is certainly worth seeing. One question - what exactly was Frozone doing in this movie? He should've either been incorporated more into the plot of the movie or left out entirely. As he is, he serves little purpose to the film. Maybe the Political Correctness Department at Pixar insisted on a token black character. Or maybe they just really wanted Samuel L. Jackson in the movie but couldn't really think of anything for him to do.
  • 57. The Aviator (2004) - I've had a full day to think about this movie and I'm still not sure what to think. This is unlike any Martin Scorsese movie I've ever seen (though granted, I haven't seen all that many) - and yet, it still retains many of the themes that fascinate Marty. Redemption, the antihero, simultaneous rise and fall, it's all here. Leonardo DiCaprio actually pulls off a great performance here, playing Hughes's charisma, eccentricities, and madness very well - even though his accent began to remind me of Will Ferrell's impression of George W. Bush on SNL. Cate Blanchett is a little more spotty; she handles the emotions well, but her Katharine Hepburn impression occasionally veers toward caricature, and she becomes more annoying than charming. The supporting cast is very good, especially Kate Beckinsale and Alan Alda. John C. Reilly is awesome as always. I don't really like Alec Baldwin, but he is good here. Don't blink, or you might miss Jude Law.
  • Still, as much as I think Martin Scorsese deserves his Oscar after all these years, I kinda hope he doesn't win it for this. Because a Best Director Oscar for The Aviator will actually honoring Scorsese's entire career, and this isn't what Scorsese does. He doesn't make biopics, even if they're damn good biopics with fantastic direction to convey Hughes's madness (but why the hell does every biopic end in a trial where the protagonist has his pants sued off for everything he previously did in the movie?). No, Scorsese deserves better than to have a Best Director Oscar for the least Scorsese-esque of his career.
  • But seriously. I bet you could take a bathroom break of normal length and miss Jude Law entirely. That's not an exaggeration.
Author Comments: 

I'm going to pull a total 180 and say that comments are completely unwelcome here.

Nah, just kidding. Comments are, as always, welcome.

Glad you notched up El Mariachi, my favorite $7,000 movie. Even today with much larger budgets it's amazing how much Rodriguez stretches each dollar. He really is a one-man wrecking crew, doing the writing, directing, producing, editing, and scoring himself. I may not always like his movies, but he impresses me.

Agreed. Rodriguez really knows how to stretch his dough. However, in terms of favorite really-low-budget movie, I think I preferred "Following" (which was made on only $6000!).

Whoa, I didn't realize Following was made for so little! Honestly, I didn't realize El Mariachi had any competition in that price range. Very tough to choose which one I preferred.

Yeah, it's hard to find a good movie in that price range. When I looked up Following's budget on the IMDB, I checked a few others that I thought were really low budget. "Clerks" was a staggering $27,000. The original "Little Shop of Horrors" was, coincidentally, also $27,000. Even the notoriously terrible "Manos: The Hands of Fate" was $19,000, or over three times the budget of "Following." Talk about getting more for your money.

Couldn't agree more with your Secretary comments. What a nice surprise that movie was, huh?

Indeed.

You mean Andre Gregory rather than Andre Braugher?

D'oh! I knew I should have looked that one up. I'll change it. Thanks for the catch.

Before Sunrise and Secretary can always use more fans, so I am very happy you enjoyed both. I am the only person in the world who puts Before Sunrise as the best film of 1995... As you know, I found Before Sunset to be even better!

I was quite shocked by just how good Secretary was. I suspect this film's fame will grow as more folks fall for it.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

PS - Your reactions to Full Metal Jacket are very close to mine!

Best film of 1995, eh? Let's see... yeah, I guess it would edge out "Toy Story" and "Get Shorty" (which I think is really underrated) on my list as well. Nonetheless, I don't think it was a very strong year for film (though I haven't seen "Se7en", "Braveheart", or "Casino").

I agree; 1995 was a very weak year for film.

I've seen Seven, Casino, and Braveheart, and I still believe that...

It is always great to know one is not alone!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I don't think '95 was too bad, actually. Compare it to, say '96 or '98 and it'll look better. (For the record, "Before Sunrise" ranks only behind "Toy Story" and "Exotica" in my favorites for that year.)

And that there's a pretty good assessment of "Harold and Kumar" -- uneven, but when it hits it hits big. (I laughed myself sick at Kumar's pot fantasy.)

Okay, I could get on board with 1996 being weak, though I still think it was better than 1995 - maybe the 1995 slump just carried over. But I think 1998 was a lot better than 1995, at least evidenced by my huge Top Tier for the year. Granted, it isn't incredibly difficult to get into my Top Tier, but I think a year that gave us "Run Lola Run", "Zero Effect", "Gods and Monsters", "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels", "Dark City", "The Truman Show", and loads of other popular movies I haven't even seen (e.g., "American History X", "Saving Private Ryan", etc.) can't be that weak.

Ah, Kumar's fantasy was hilarious.

1996 gave us The English Patient, Breaking the Waves, Secrets & Lies, Emma, Sling Blade, Fargo, Swingers, Trainspotting, Shine, Flirting with Disaster, Jerry Maguire, Michael Collins, Fly Away Home, and Big Night, while 1998 sent us Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Out of Sight, After Life, The Thin Red Line, Velvet Goldmine, The Mask of Zorro (one of the best action films of that decade), The Horse Whisperer (laugh - I really liked it), A Bug's Life (still my favorite Pixar film), Rushmore, Pi, Saving Private Ryan, Run Lola Run, and The Truman Show.

1995 did give produce Before Sunrise, Babe, The City of Lost Children, Smoke, Toy Story, Seven, Casino, and The Usual Suspects, but also the over-rated Leaving Las Vegas, Clueless, 12 Monkeys, Braveheart, Sense and Sensibility, and Dead Man Walking.

No doubt, it is simply a call based on taste, but 1995 certainly seemed pretty weak at the time, and even a bit more reflection right now on my part still finds it a bit wanting compared with 1996 and especially compared with 1998 (a pretty good year, I reckon). Perhap this perception is aided by the sheer number of over-rated films that popped up on the top ten lists that year, but still, there ya' go...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

YOU LOVED NAPOLEON DYNAMITE!

I am soooooo thrilled. YAY!

I could see how someone might not like the film, but it really hit a nerve with my sense of humor. I thought it was absolutely hilarious.

"Boondock Saints" didn't get reviewed by many major critics -- Ebert among them -- because it got a crummy one-week NY/LA release prior to being shunted off to video purgatory. Not quite sure exactly when it turned into a massive cult thing, though... see, the system sometimes works despite itself!

That is quite strange! Its rental / sales grosses must have been phenomenal. I mean, come on, they're shooting a sequel!

And dumbass moves like that must be why Artisan got themselves bought out...

Ah, you had the chance to catch Before Sunset. What an great film. Just thinking of it is making me smile right now, and believe me, today ain't the day that is promising very many smiles at the moment.

I am really happy you enjoyed it!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Oh my. Did you get some bad news?

Well, here's something else that might put a smile on your face. Two album mail-orders came in today, and one of them is Adam Again's Perfecta! I realized that, though I had no recollection of seeing it online, I was able to find it pretty easily in the Amazon Marketplace.

The other album is pretty obscure, I don't know if you've heard of it. I guess it's possible though - check the comments section here if you're interested.

Wow!

Do you like them at all, or have you spun them yet?

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I've listened to Dig twice and Perfecta once, and I think it is safe to say

Dig rocks my world

Perfecta I found a bit less enthralling (though still very good) on my first listen, but perhaps subsequent listens will allow me to, er, dig deeper into the album.

I could've sworn I looked everywhere before, but both were surprisingly easy to find (and for a good price) on Amazon Marketplace. So thanks for the recommendations! These albums really help me hear what Adam Again sounds like more than the songs I downloaded.

Ahhhhhh. I am so glad you are digging Dig. On my most recent top 100 albums list (which, at this rate, I will never finish posting), it is now in my number three spot, behind only Blood on the Tracks and This Year's Model.

Of course, I don't expect anybody else to love it quite that much (just like I don't expect everybody to love Amateur to the degree I do), but I am very happy whenever the band gains new fans. For the quality of Dig alone, Adam Again deserves not to be utterly forgotten.

I'm hearing the album play in my head as we speak. "A wink and a sigh / You know more than I..."

I love it!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Damn; you young wimpersnappers on to sixth version of this list already AJ...

How are all my freinds at Listology...it seems like a very long time gone for me.... I hope all is well...

I'm doing great, jgandcag! We've missed you around here. How are things going for you?

AJ,

First off that should have been whippersnapper in the earlier post. I was typing it and it didnt sound right but alas you go away for awhile and things get a little creaky...

Damn what happened to Listology Not the the same place. Changes everwhere, new folk, pictures, sounds ..the times they are changin...

Life has been a litte rough lately. I have stayed away from lots of things including mucho movie watching, grando music listening. basically simplifying and reorganizing...

Hey where did you decide to go to school? Every day I drive by Tufts and wonder if you decided to go there though I highly doubted it considering your other choices..

Heh. Yeah, there's been a lot of new blood while you were gone. The on-site pictures, at least, started happening within the last couple days.

Sounds tough about your movie / music intake. But the family's doing good, right? You've got all that taken care of?

After being deferred early decision, I eventually got into my first choice of Wharton. I still want to get into the film industry though, so I'm hoping to double-major or at least minor with some non-business concentration. Actually, they're starting a film studies major just this year, so that might be a good bet.

I did get into Tufts, but while it is a good school, it was never very high on my list. If you're curious as to the full results of my college apps, they're here.

Congrats on notching your first Zhang Yimou movie! And I second that emotion regarding Raise the Red Lantern (and Red Sorghum and Ju Dou, while we're at it). Thankfully To Live (among other slightly lesser (IMO) works) is available, and Sony Pictures Classics is bringing The House of Flying Daggers to theaters in November. Can't wait!

I was bored by Futurama. I understood its humor and all, the voice acting was good, but for me, the comedic timing always seemed just a bit off, and the combination of traditional animation and 3D CGI was more distracting than cool. I enjoyed the commentaries more than the actualy show, I think!

I agree the comedic timing is occasionally off, but I would disagree about the animation. I think the 3D stuff kicks ass.

Were you able to completely follow Rules of the Game on first viewing?

More or less, but I used Roger Ebert's detailed review to help me.

Regarding the connection between Cheers and Friends : Do you think that there is an actual/conscious connection. If Ross & Rachel = Sam & Diane and Phoebe = Coach then does Joey = Norm (or perhaps Woody), Chandler = Cliff and Monica = Carla (or maybe Rebecca)? I'm fairly certain that I could make that argument but I also have the nagging feeling that I would be pounding square pegs into round holes. I'm not sure I remember the first season of Friends all that well and therefore I can't get a handle on how the show was set up, as opposed to what it became. I do think that both shows were about artificial families, one in the workplace and one in the generational coffee shop. If you could flesh out your insight into the internal dynamics of the shows I'd love to read about it.

On The Wizard of Oz : The apple tree scared the **** and the **** outta me. Slapping Dorothy's wrist and that horrible voice creaking out, "How would you like it if someone came along and picked something off of you?" But what really scarred me emotionally were the monkeys, the evil winged monkeys. Both their shadows against the sky and when they swooped down upon the party to carry off Dorothy. I had nightmares for months after seeing that. We had a B&W television while growing up so I had no idea that Kansas tranformed into Oz so vividly until I saw the movie at the local little arts theater. What a shock! My brother still cites this as a key indictment against our parents. Until I saw it in colour I had no idea that "Now that's what I call a horse of a different colour!" referred to the actual horse and not, in some meta- manner, to the whole Oz experience.

I could definitely see many of the Cheers / Friends connections you make. Having only seen the first season of the show, however, I couldn't speak to the Joey / Woody comparison or Monica / Rebecca.

The first episode of Friends had Rachel coming into the five friends' lives, just getting out of a wedding that failed last-minute, and taking a job as a waitress (very similar to Diane's plight in the pilot). Then the first season focused on Ross's crush on Rachel, keeping them apart even though the audience knew they were going to get together sometime soon. It was more one-sided and also less implied than Sam and Diane, but the idea is the same. Like the first season of Cheers, the episodes tended to be more non-sequitur than later seasons, without plots that continue episode by episode - although the Friends season did include some elements of Ross's lesbian ex-wife's pregnancy frequently. Both had episodes that were structured similarly: the plots were often weird situations based on real problems, but the humor came from the constant one-liners and wisecracks. I do think the first Friends season had more of what you might call "analogy humor" (e.g., when Monica goes shopping with a woman Rachel resents, and there is a scene in which Rachel and Monica act like Monica has cheated on Rachel... though this was actually from the second season; I couldn't think of a good example from the first).

So there ya go. While there certainly are some differences, I do think Friends owes a lot to Cheers.

BTW, if you were wondering what the Coach joke that was repeated by Phoebe was... Coach says something in one episode (I believe "Father Knows Last") about his wife wanted to name his daughter, but how Coach wanted to stick with the original name. Someone asks him what the original name was, and he says, "Baby Girl Pantuso." In the episode of Friends when Rachel has her baby, there is another joke about how the baby's bracelet says "Baby Girl Greene", and then as Rachel tries to think of what she should name her new daughter, Phoebe asks why she doesn't want to stick with "Baby Girl Greene", because that was such a beautiful name.

But wow, the whole magic of The Wizard of Oz must be lost on a black and white TV.

You've given me something to mull. Lemme think more about whether there is anything to the Cheers / Friends comparison... or conception... or evolution... or something.

To put the most positive spin on it: Having a B&W TV meant that when I saw The Wizard of Oz for the first time I came as close as possible to the astonishment that late 30s crowds felt when the screen exploded into colour. I knew that it happened, I just forgot that it was coming when I saw it in the theater for the first time, and was literally agape when it did happen. I mean, who knew that the "Ruby Slippers" were ruby red in color? I thought it was just a descriptive like "Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes". But no, they were very, very ruby red. And the witch's face was green!

Speaking of which I have another sad B&W TV story: when I was just sugar and spice and everything nice I went to a friend's house to play. My mom says that when I got back I told her, in the most awestruck of tones, "Mom! They have a green Oscar." On our TV Oscar the Grouch was merely various shades of grey.

I love that you used the word 'McGuffin."

I'm watching In Cold Blood tomorrow (well, technically today) when it comes up on TCM. Yay.

Great Dracula review! Well, at least it was great to me, since I felt the same way. There are quite a few folks around here that love that movie, and not quite as many of us that don't. As funny as it was to read though, I didn't realize "that weird hairdo that kinda looks like a buttocks" was cliched. I thought that ludicrous touch was unique to this version.

I've been trying to figure out what about that hairdo made me think it was a Dracula standard. Now I think it was probably that Halloween episode of the Simpsons where Mr. Burns is Dracula and he has the same hairdo. That episode actually came out a year after Coppola's version of Dracula, so I guess it's possible that the Simpsons ripped off Gary Oldman's hairdo, but the rest of the episode does not follow the plot of Coppola's Dracula at all. So what's the point of doing a parody of a hairdo alone? Did the hairdo become so attached to Dracula in the one year after the movie's release that people would think this Simpsons joke was funny? Or was the hairdo an already-established cliche that both used? Or is there another possibility I'm not thinking of? I'm really not sure.

I remember that episode, and I always assumed they were lampooning the hairdo. The funny thing is that you can lampoon the whole movie just by showing the hair, and then you're free to move on to other material.

Hmm. Perhaps you're right. Can anyone else confirm that this version invented that Dracula hairdo? Or does anyone have any evidence of a pre-1992 butt cut?

From what I recall of Treehouse of Horror #? and Coppola's Dracula there are at least three direct quotes in The Simpsons episode.

The vampire Burns with his "butt head"-do. Burns licks blood off of his hands ala Oldman slashing his tongue with a razor. Burns' shadow also moves independently (yo-yo, I believe.)

In an instant expiration culture that's plenty for me.

I think the Burns licking blood thing could just be an independent joke and not a direct reference to Gary Oldman. But you are right, I had forgotten about Burns's shadow, which is definitely a reference to this movie. In fact, maybe the popularity of the movie is what inspired the Simpsons to do the parody a year later. I will concede. The butt cut was most likely invented by this movie. It's a small victory in a sea of defeat, however.

Couldn't agree more with your comments on Team America.

Matt Damon was the best thing about Eurotrip in my opinion.

That was funny, but I think the guy saying "I sexually assaulted a horse in Berlin" as the four leads excitedly hop on the truck to Berlin got me laughing harder.

If the 1951 version is the one with Mr. Sim, then I agree - it is an underrated film.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Me too, love the Sim version.

Glad you stuck with Stagecoach! Love that movie.

As for Frozone in The Incredibles, I thought his contribution was just about right. He's a secondary character with secondary purposes, but plays a valuable role. He makes Mr. I's surreptitious super-heroing much more fun (and those scenes are essential), has arguably the funniest scene in the movie ("you tell me where my suit is, woman!"), and his superpowers are highly visual and contribute greatly to the spectacular finish.

Hmm... you might be right about Frozone. But I guess I expected him to come along to rescue Mr. Incredible, and when he got shafted there, I just wondered what the point of this character was. I think the finale could've easily been done without Frozone, but I do agree with you about the secret super-heroing.

Oh, and I thought the funniest part of the movie was probably the running joke of that kid on the tricycle. That was my biggest laugh anyway.

Since watching The Incredibles, my nieces have taken to calling me Uncle Freeze, so I am prejudiced on the issue of that character to begin with.

I love your reviews, and I also am thrilled you stuck with Stagecoach, a film I find a bit richer each time I catch it.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Ah yes, the tricycle kid. He may have been funniest. It's close. Think I have to go with Frozone though, as I can now incorporate that language and tone into my own indignant cries with regards to my car keys, favorite shirt, etc. :-)

I see now where you expected more of Frozone, but it was always key that Mr. I's family save him, in my opinion.

Finally, I have to respectfully disagree about the finale. We had already gotten a mega-dose of the familial superpowers in the jungle, and Frozone adds a needed new dimension to the climactic action.

Sure it's important that his family save him, but couldn't they have brought his best friend along for the ride? As for the finale, I misunderstood what you originally said. I thought you meant they needed Frozone logistically, which they did not (they really didn't need the ice that much for fighting the robot), but you actually meant they needed Frozone artistically, to "add a needed new dimension." I guess that was nice, but not really all that necessary in my opinion.

I think what epitomized how I feel about Frozone is when Mr. Incredible checks Syndrome's database and gasps when he sees that Frozone's location is listed as "KNOWN." Then... this doesn't matter at all, and is never referred to again. I think it was only put in there to remind us of Frozone's existence.

Come to think of it, why didn't Syndrome insist on eradicating all known superheroes before unleashing the robot? I mean, the point is that he's killing them all off so that none of them could destroy the robot, so why not bide his time and kill more of them instead of letting his plan go half-assed? C'mon, he could at least try to kill Frozone, since evidently his location is KNOWN.

Perhaps this is too much analysis of an animated movie for kids, but hey, questions arise.

Yeah, nothing says "geek" like deconstructing a superhero movie! Fortunately it's a badge I wear with pride. :-)

I think he thought once he put together a robot that could take out Mr. I, he was all set. And he was right. If not for that remote, they would have been screwed.

Amen to that, bruthah!

Interesting. So everything else was just testing the robot's strength and perfecting it for Mr. Incredible? Did they say that in the movie? I thought Syndrome said he wanted to kill off superheroes so that none of them would come to stop the robot in his moment of glory. But I like your way better.

I don't know if it's ever overtly stated, but it's hinted at several times that Mr. I is the cream of the crop, superhero-wise. I might be imagining this, but I think Syndrome said something to the effect of "I thought I was ready for you [with the first robot], but you surprised me" and then again something like "even Mr. Incredible is no match for it [the final robot]." Then there's the "Superhero of the Year" awards in Bob's den.

I think I know what lines you're talking about, and yeah, I think you might be right. I think the awards are just a passing joke though.

I dont think you are reading these comments anymore but I had to respond to this:

"This is a comedy that (1) is rated PG, so no sex jokes, (2) despite the PG rating, is not a kids' movie, (3) does not rely on gross-out humor, and (4) is consistently hilarious. Think of another movie that meets all these criteria. Just try to."

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure?

Sorry Jamool, I'm definitely still reading these. I overstated my point because I really meant for this comment to refer to films made after about 1996 or so. I feel like the PG rating was applied to plenty of films intended for adults in the 70s and 80s, but has been relegated to kiddie movies in the past 15 years.