Recommended: Lightweights, Tier 3
Submitted by jim on Thu, 05/24/2001 - 12:19
- Bandits (2001) ... I'm not sure why this took such a critical beating. Sure, we've seen characters like these before in similar situations, but that doesn't make this particular iteration less enjoyable. While there were few belly laughs, I found myself chuckling through most of the movie (and their first "sleepover" dinner was hysterical). If you like Willis in general, you'll like him here. Thornton and Blanchett were very good, as usual. And it's probably the least-violent crime spree movie you could ever hope to see.
- Barbershop (2002) ... Can you make a nostalgic movie set in the present day? The sense of community I got out of this movie seemed drawn from another age. Cedric the Entertainer lived up to his moniker, and everybody else fared well too. The humor is light and consistent, the dialog snappy, and the pacing even and quick. A very accessible feel-good comedy that I fear was not seen by as broad an audience as would have enjoyed it.
- Bend It Like Beckham (2002) ... I tend to like a well-done formula picture, so it should come as no surprise that I dug this one. Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley really do a wonderful job conveying the friendship of their characters merely by looking like they're having fun together, and it saves lots of exposition that would likely bog the movie down. The soccer scenes are really too choppy to convey the game, but it's all stylishly shot and still conveys a nice sense of excitement. And lets face it, soccer doesn't translate to TV well, so the choppy MTV approach is probably a good one for a movie like this. The only real downer in this feel-good movie is reminding me how sad I was when the WUSA foundered. Here's hoping they can put the pieces back together.
- Catch Me If You Can (2002) ... It's pretty easy to score extra points if you're making a movie about a true story. All you have to do is not fuck it up. I'm going to allow myself the F-word here because if Tom Hanks can say it, gosh darn it, so can I. Aside from Tom cussing (which just feels wrong), this movie does a good-enough job of bringing Abignale's extraordinary coming-of-age exploits to the screen. I doubt I would have liked it as much if it were purely fictional. I haven't thought much of DiCaprio since his remarkable performance in What's Eating Gilbert Grape, but I quite enjoyed him here, even if he is a little long in the tooth to play an 18-year-old.
- Clueless (1995) ... I expect this movie will date rapidly, but I really enjoyed it when it came out.
- Cocoon (1985) ... Awaiting a rewatch.
- The Dish (2001) ... A charming comedy about a little town swept up in world-changing events. Character development happens almost magically, as it takes very few scenes/lines before we know each individual in the town. It's just good clean easy-going fun, with just enough lightly poignant moments to add a bit of depth.
- Evolution (2001) ... Goofy fun. Some of the juvenile humor seems a touch forced at times, but otherwise a pleasant surprise, given the mixed reviews.
- The Family Man (2000) ... A shameless retread of Capraesque fare that I happened to enjoy quite a bit. Nicolas Cage's fish-out-of-water performance in the first 45 minutes carries the movie to many laugh-out-loud moments, and the momentum carries pretty well through the rest. Beyond Cage, Tea Leoni was surprisingly good, and I think it was on the Out of Sight featurette where Steven Soderbergh said something like, "you should always have Don Cheadle in your movie, if possible." I agree. A bit part here, but enjoyable. There are few actors I'd forgive for Mission to Mars, but he's one of them.
- Ghostbusters (1984) ... Having rewatched this in 2002, I can say it's still quite a bit of fun, but it hasn't aged nearly as well for me as 1984's other big comedy, Beverly Hills Cop. What struck me this time around is how terrific Harold Ramis and Sigourney Weaver are. Nobody tops Bill Murray at being simultaneously endearing and smarmy, but he's gotten better at it over the years. I have to guiltily admit that Ray Parker Jr.'s title track was one of the highlights of this rewatch for me.
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) ... The book is for kids but can easily seduce and immerse adults. The movie is more strictly for kids. An enjoyable adventure, and the look is perfect, but most of the little details that flesh out the characters is missing, leaving us with a fun ride, but no real involvement.
- His Girl Friday (1940) ... A fabulous script, delivered with rapid-fire precision and flair. This is a good one to just pop in and marvel at what you can do with mere dialog and charisma. Grant and Russell are very good, as you'd expect, but I never really felt the chemistry between them. Of course, she spends much of the movie rebuffing him, so that's probably by design, but I just couldn't help feeling, as often happens to me with these old screwball comedies, that the ending just wraps itself up abruptly, somewhat discordantly, and in mere accordance with the way it was preordained. Some of this feeling in this case probably happened because Ralph Bellamy seems a decent fellow and totally gets the shaft. Still, how could they resist each other? I mean, just *look* at 'em, fer Pete's sake!
- An Ideal Husband (1999) ... See my review of Oliver Parker's more recent Oscar Wilde adapation, The Importance of Being Earnest, below. Judi Densch wasn't in this one, so ignore that part, but everything else is applicable (although I'm sure if she had been given a small part she would have nailed it, milking it for all it's worth. Again.). Rupert Everett rocks, and is even more enjoyable here than he was in Earnest. He should be having a bigger career. What's holding him back? A rather geekish first name? Being openly gay? Eminating an air of intellectual superiority? Well anyway, I like him.
- The Importance of Being Earnest (2002) ... I remember not really caring for this play much in it's written form, but now I think I must have been an idiot. I realize this film took some liberties with the script, but not so much that the timelessness of Wilde's wit doesn't deserve the credit for how much fun this is. Good cast, too. Here's a shocker: Judi Densch takes a rather small role and nails it, milking it for all it's worth. Again. Tell you what, from now on just assume she nails it in any movie I review, and I'll make special note of it if she doesn't. Runner-up honors go to Rupert Everett, who I always enjoy. I'm filled with trepidation for Shrek II, but I'm nonetheless looking forward to his Prince Charming.
- Keeping the Faith (2000) ... I'm convinced we're going to see lots of Edward Norton over the next 20 years. So talented, so versatile. I haven't seen as many James Stewart movies as I should, but Norton kinda reminds me of Stewart. He brings lots of heart and an inspired bit of physical comedy to this role. And Ben Stiller and Jenna Elfman weren't bad either.
- A Life Less Ordinary (1997) ... An enjoyable screwball romantic comedy. Bizarre without being overly dark.
- Man of the Century (1999) ... While I don't know if I'd go so far as to give it my highest recommendation, I can't add much to dgeiser13's excellent review. I rarely found this movie laugh-out-loud funny, but my wife and I smiled through the whole thing. I was also pleased to see that the movie brought together the worlds of the twenties and the nineties without making value judgements on either.
- Me Myself I (1999) ... I had to put this on the same list as The Family Man as it's practically the same movie. This has the advantages of coming first, being less mawkish, tying up the loose ends tighter, and being dominated by a very good performance from Rachel Griffiths (who I understand is now enjoying some deserved popularity for Six Feet Under). I laughed more at The Family Man though.
- The Muppet Movie (1979) ...
- Mystery Men (1999) ... I have no excuse. Well, perhaps except enjoyment of William H. Macy, Janene Garafalo, and Greg Kinnear. And Casanova Frankenstein has to be one of the finest spoof-villian names ever. But hey, I kinda liked Hudson Hawk too. There, that oughta scare 'em away.
- Return of the Jedi (1983) ... Best effects of the three, but lacking the exuberance/groundbreakingness of A New Hope, and the darkness/depth of The Empire Strikes Back (I won't even mention that OTHER SW movie). Still, this one at least successfully rides the shoulders of its predecessors.
- The Rookie (2002) ... I'm a sucker for baseball movies, feel-good movies, and remarkable true stories, so I was destined to like this. Hell, it's two feel-good movies for the price of one, which is a bargain at any price. I felt good during the movie, and it left me feeling that way for the rest of the evening. And if I aided Dennis Quaid's comeback in some small way by renting this that's good too; I've always liked him (I suppose his comeback has plenty of steam now without my help, but I like to think I matter :-).
- Saving Grace (2000) ... A decent quirky British comedy about a widow and ace gardener that turns to marijuana to solve her sudden financial woes. Everybody is terrific, and pleasant tension builds as you wonder how the movie can possibly turn out well.
- Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) ... Not one of my favorite Buster Keaton movies, but still a list-worthy entry from the man who deserves Chaplain's cinematic reputation. It's still a nice romantic comedy, and it includes the scene where a wall falls on him and he's luckily standing where the window is. Keaton was the original Jackie Chan.
- Strictly Ballroom (1992) ... Give me Moulin Rouge any day, but this wasn't a bad early effort from Luhrmann by any means. Definitely quirky and stylized, but pretty fun, and the final act is strong enough that it made me like the whole movie more in hindsight.
- Sullivan's Travels (1941) ... What a run Preston Sturges had going there in the early 40s. While I liked The Lady Eve quite a bit better that this one, it should in no way diminish what an enjoyable social commentary/comedy this is. Of course, the thing that makes this particularly interesting is the abrupt tonal swerve about 2/3 of the way through the picture, which keeps you wondering just how dark Sturges is going to allow things to get. Joel McCrea was quite enjoyable, and Veronica Lake was of course beautiful and also quite talented (no match for Barbara Stanwyck though, in my limited Sturges experience).
- There's Something About Mary (1998) ... I will happily crown this king of the cringe-humor genre, and I'd rank it much higher if it were a genre I cared for. Even so, I found myself laughing at many scenes in spite of myself. Suffered some pacing problems, but the laughs come regularly enough to compensate. And there's something to offend everyone; who could object to that?
- This is Spinal Tap (1984), Waiting for Guffman (1996), Best in Show (2000) and A Mighty Wind (2003) ... So far I've enjoyed all the Christopher Guest and gang mockumentaries. Each reliably provides several laugh-out-loud moments, and the performances are enjoyable. Fred Willard is easily my favorite recurring actor in these movies. The more of these I watch, however, the more I realize the really good lines are spread just a bit too thin, but I still find it remarkable how often they hit with improvised dialog!
- Where the Money Is (2000) ... I never had any doubt that Paul Newman could elevate even passable material, and he gets a nice boost for Linda Fiorentino here. The plot doesn't really have much to offer, but it doesn't really get in the way either. Fun enough that I'd watch it again.
- The Whole Nine Yards (2000) ... I never thought I'd like a Matthew Perry movie, but I just found myself laughing and enjoying our poor dentist's predicament. Hated the romantic angle, but there was no avoiding it I suppose. Willis mails it in, but I like him even when he's coasting, so that didn't hurt the movie for me.
If you're going to use these lists for recommendations, you really should read how they're organized.